Chapter XXXII - Epilogue

(One year later)

"I can't do this!" Austin exclaimed, turning and attempting to leave.

"You're doing it, Austin," ordered Anakin, holding an arm out to bar him from leaving. "You've gone this far. You can't get cold feet now."

"Sorry," he replied with a sheepish grin. "I'm just jittery."

"Marriage is a big step," Anakin told him. "Especially a second marriage. But relax. You're a wiser man now and should know how to avoid making the same mistakes this time."

"Sure, he's got the experience," Han grumped as he tried to keep his unruly brown hair from sticking up in the back. "I'm doing this for the first time."

Anakin chuckled. "You'll do fine, Han."

The three men occupied the men's restroom in the recreational area of White Deer Lake, preparing for a lakeside double wedding. It had been Leia's idea, since her parents had married on the shores of a lake on Naboo. And everyone had approved of a Star Wars themed wedding for obvious reasons. After the nuptials, the guests would change into casual attire and have an odd reception -- a barbecue, in true Vader's Elite fashion.

"Ready, Austin?" asked Han.

"Ready as I'm gonna be," Austin answered, donning his freshly waxed Vader helmet.

They walked outside. The guests had already assembled, with the Elite and various Star Wars celebrities gathered on one side, Alliance leaders and other offworld visitors on the other. The summer sun glinted off the surface of the lake as if it were liquid crystal. Luke stood near the shore in his black Jedi attire, and Austin and Han nervously went to stand on either side of him.

Anakin went to join the others in the bridal party, chuckling to himself. How much things could change in one year. He, once an almighty Sith Lord, now lived in an apartment complex in Star City and had purchased an auto repair business, with Patrick and Jason working as employees there, and he spent his spare time restoring a red '66 Corvette. Life was good to him.

The Alliance had been true to its word, aiding in the construction of a beautiful new convention center. A chrome-plated cylindrical building with five spires arranged around its roof like a crown, it was Star City's pride and joy and would host Stellar-Con tomorrow. But the Alliance hadn't stopped there -- they had also established spaceports in four of Earth's major cities. New York City, Tokyo, London, and Berlin were now thriving spaceport cities, and a fifth port was in progress in Sydney. Earth was adapting rather well to intergalactic life for a planet isolated for so long. And the Star Wars movies had gained a galaxy-wide cult following, being hailed as a "dramatized history" of the rise and fall of the Empire and "Return of the Jedi's" altered ending being blamed on "creative license."

The Elite was still as wild as ever, though they, too, had undergone some changes. Three of their members had left, one temporarily, two permanently. Zack had dropped out to start his own fan club, Tattoo Detoo. It reached a grand total of five members before folding a month later, and Zack ended up rejoining the Elite. Sparky had quit in order to free up more time for his new full-time career as a space trucker for Incom Starfighter, and Rachel was now merely considered an honorary member, though she did take breaks from her Jedi training to visit her parents and extended family.

Austin was still working for the newspaper and heading the Elite, and Trapper had lost none of his spunk. Evidently the entire kidnapping incident had smoothed over some of the rough areas in Melissa's relationship with Austin, because the boy was visiting more often now.

A month after the attack on Earth, Liz had left quite suddenly, citing a family emergency as the cause of her departure. She came back a month later wearing a Malastarian blood sapphire the size of a strawberry. Apparently Boba Fett, who had amassed quite a fortune over the years, had taken her to Kamino, where the two had eloped in a private ceremony officiated by Laama Su. Then the two of them had taken a lavish honeymoon around the galaxy.

Steve had gotten a job as a technician for a droid manufacturing firm that was setting up a factory on Earth. Emily was pursuing a degree in alien biology at an interstellar online college, while Darcy served as a spokeswoman for the Elite and had appeared on several holographic talk shows. Mike, meanwhile, met the girl of his dreams on the Holonet and was currently dating her. The problem -- he was human, she was Rodian. But no one discouraged him; indeed, it was about time he got lucky with a woman of any species.

Liberty still worked at her bookstore, which was seeing better days now. Brigham's desire to spread his religion hadn't ceased, and he now served as the president of the LDS Interstellar Mission Program. As for Amethyst and Cody, they had done the unthinkable. They had gotten married. In Brigham's words, "Those two? Whoda thunk?"

Conrad and Diana were immensely proud of their little Padawan, Earth's first contribution to the Jedi Order and Luke Skywalker's first apprentice. Meanwhile, the Churches were expecting another child, due the week after Nova-Con.

As if this weren't enough, the Elite had recruited three new members -- Tina Williams, Gregory Skinner, and Opal Patten. Tina, a daredevil and extreme sports enthusiast, dressed as Aurra Sing and had taken over Sparky's position as second-in-command. She had a real flair for the adventurous and a take-no-prisoners attitude toward life.

Gregory, who wore a Royal Guard costume, was an insomniac and workaholic who threw himself full-force into whatever project he was currently working on. A longtime friend of Zack's, he had joined at his pal's urging and was proving to be an invaluable addition to their numbers. He was suffering a bit of culture shock, having lived all his life in San Francisco before moving to Star City, but he was adjusting to small-city life fairly well.

Opal preferred the garb of a desert-gear clonetrooper and was a shy, poetic type who aspired to be a novelist someday. Native to Boise, Idaho, she lived in the same apartment building that Anakin did and was helping him write his memoirs for publication. That she was even at the wedding was a wonder -- she was a homebody whose preference for solitude bordered on agoraphobic.

At a signal from Luke, Cody turned on the speaker system and cued up the "Star Wars Main Theme" in lieu of a wedding march. Down a strip of red carpet that had been laid on the grass came the flower-girl and flower-droid -- Rachel and Artoo. Rachel wore her Padawan robes and carried her freshly washed Mori and a bouquet of lilies, while Artoo had been polished to a high sheen and had a freshly-cut Nubian flowering vine wrapped around his dome. Their walk down the aisle became a race when Artoo began to edge ahead, then Rachel, and the two of them ran/wheeled the rest of the way down the aisle, giggling and beeping the whole way.

Next came the ring-bearers, Trapper and Chewbacca. Trapper's Vader armor had been spit-shined with Marine precision, and Chewie's fur looked silky from its recent shampoo. It was an amusing sight to see the Wookie stride confidently ahead, with Trapper trying desperately to keep up and not drop the rings at the same time.

Leia's matron of honor, Mon Mothma, and Han's best man, Lando Calrissian, looked as classy as ever as they walked arm-in-arm down the aisle. Beside them, Liberty's "snowtrooper of honor," Emily, held Sparky's hand as Steve pushed the older man's wheelchair. As Austin's best man, Sparky had donned his old Admiral costume for the occasion.

"Father, are you ready?" Leia asked. She wore a white dress that was nearly identical to the one she had worn while giving Luke and Han their medals for destroying the first Death Star. Anakin's eyes filled as he extended an arm to escort his daughter to her soon- to-be husband.

Liberty's father, an elven man with shoulder-length gray hair and an enormous grin, was dwarfed by his abnormally tall daughter, but he didn't seem to mind in the least. The "Lady Vader" stepped forward to match Leia's stride, and the two women made their way to the shore, where Luke waited.

The ceremony was quick and simple, over in a few minutes. Han and Leia Solo and Austin and Liberty Powers exchanged kisses, and the guests proceeded to depart in order to change into more casual attire.

"Ever been to a wedding where the reception was a barbecue?" asked Jason.

Christopher Lee chuckled. "No. And I've never been to a barbecue where champagne was served." He poured himself a glass, then filled a second and extended it to Chewbacca, who was currently raiding the macaroni salad. "Care for a drink, good friend?"

Chewie eyed the glass, barked, picked up the champagne bottle, took a swig from it, and walked off still carrying the bottle. The actor stared a moment after the Wookie, then raised his glass in a toast and called "Cheers!"

Liberty prepared to throw her bouquet, an Earth tradition in which whichever single woman caught it would supposedly be the next one to marry. But Liberty tossed it a bit too hard, and it caught in the branches of a locust tree. Tina immediately climbed up and shook the branches until the bouquet fell into Emily's arms. Emily promptly yelped and hurled the flowers away, and Natalie Portman ended up catching them.

Leia, too, took a turn at the tradition, and she, too, ended up throwing the bouquet too hard. It was a startled Luke who ended up catching the flowers on his plate as he was preparing a hot dog bun.

Meanwhile, Cody was manning the DJ table and playing one love song after another, while other guests danced, swam in the lake, or rode out on the water in one of the three motorboats a guest had provided. One was towing a water-skiing stormtrooper, while another pulled a wakeboard with an ecstatic Brigham on board.

Anakin chuckled as he paced the boat dock, watching the proceedings. His own wedding day had been a private, clandestine affair, with only him, Padme, the droids, and a Naboo holy man in attendance. It would have been nice to have a large gathering like this. But he had few regrets about that day.

"We would be living a lie," Padme had warned him. "It would destroy us." And she had been right. His illicit marriage to her had hastened his fall to the dark side. But he did not regret their wedding day in the least, for if he hadn't married Padme, he would never have had his children. And his fall to the dark side, though it had been a horrible experience, had been instrumental in bringing balance to the Force. All had worked out eventually through the will of the Force, and he was grateful for that.

His one regret was that Padme could not be here to watch her daughter get married. But he could feel her spirit near, beaming. She, like him, was happy for their child. Anakin closed his eyes and basked in the feel of her radiance. One day, they would be together again in the Force, never to be separated. But for now, he had friends and family that he wished to remain with.

"Hey Anakin!" Harrison Ford shouted. "Care for a boat ride?"

He turned to Opal. "Care to join me?"

"Huh? Oh sure," she replied.

They stepped aboard, and the vehicle tore across the water in a flurry of white spray.

The End

Credits:

Thanks to my brother Keegan for inspiration and input, to the Luke/Vader writers for putting up with my madness, and to my mom for use of a computer and tolerating my obsession.

Star Wars, of course, belongs to George Lucas.

The song lyrics in "Chapter VI -- Introductions" come from the song "The Sound of Music" from the musical by the same name by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

The song lyrics in "Chapter VII -- Different Paths" come from the song "A Spoonful of Sugar" from the movie "Mary Poppins."

The scriptural quote in "Chapter VIII -- Crash Course" is based on "Moses 1:33" in the LDS scriptural book "Pearl of Great Price."

I don't know if there really is a Paris France Outpost in the Fighting 501st fanclub. If there is, they probably aren't anything like their counterparts in "Chapter X -- Aggressive Negotiations."

The love-song quotes in "Chapter XVI -- Family Matters" are based on Ewan McGregor's quote in "Moulin Rogue." Cody's advice to Fett in the same chapter is based on a quote from the book "Gadianton Robbers and the Silver Sword" by Chris Heimerdinger.

The song lyrics in "Chapter XVII -- The Falcon Has Landed" come from the song "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood.

Vader's recitation of his crimes and Steve and Amethyst's replies in "Chapter XXIII -- Awakening Anakin" are based on a quote by Milo (voiced by Michael J. Fox) from the movie "Atlantis: The Lost Empire."

Sergeant TK-259's number comes from a gospel a cappella group from Salt Lake City, Utah named Two Five Nine. TK-577's number is the month and year the first Star Wars movie came out. No significance behind TK-688's number.

The conversation between Sparky and the gamer in "Chapter XXVI -- The Empire Attacks" is based on an actual experience between my brother and a line-sitter in an Episode I ticket campout line.

The song "The Melody Within" in "Chapter XXXI -- Nova-Con" was written by Michael McLean, Kurt Bestor, and Sam Cardon and was included in the movie "Rigoletto" and the album "Michael McLean -- The Collection Volume II." The song Brigham sings is titled "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again" and was written by Jeremiah Rankin and William Tomer.

Chapter quotes come from their cited sources and are accurate to the best of my knowledge.

The persons featured are fictional except for George Lucas and any other mentioned Star Wars celebrities. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Star City, Stellar-Con, Nova-Con, White Deer National Park, and White Deer Lake are fictional locations/events and any resemblance they bear to any actual place/event is also coincidental.

Is anyone actually reading this?