The New Republic is on the brink of collapse. The Sith have reemerged, and war is on the horizon. Yet, everything that is happening around him feels utterly wrong... So when Luke Skywalker receives a mysterious offer to go back in time and correct the Galaxy's destiny, how can he refuse?
Setting: Twenty-five years after ROTJ
Primary Character: Luke Skywalker
Secondary Character: Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader
A/N #1: I do not own Star Wars, but I do so enjoy playing in George's Galaxy.
A/N #2: This story would not be what it is without the help of my supremely gifted original beta reader, Deja Vu. I truly appreciated her invaluable critical eye, suggestions, and patience.
A/N #3: I am not terribly familiar with the Star Wars Universe beyond the movies. Thankfully, Wookieepedia has proven to be a tremendous resource to help me fill in the gaps about what occurred in the EU prior to the start of this story. Although most events remain constant, there are some discrepancies. The most striking changes are that the Yuuzhan Vong War never happened. Leia never took the time to prepare as a Jedi, and Luke's marriage to Mara Jade and the birth of their son occurred the EU than what dictated five years earlier. In addition, the Jedi Order eventually returned to the Temple on Coruscant to re-establish their home base. There will also be other inconsistencies as this story progresses. Some established EU characters will eventually appear, but they may have different backgrounds to fit better into this storyline. I hope that these inconsistencies will not be too distracting for you.
A/N #4***: If you have read this chapter prior to July 2013, you might notice some changes. As I attempt to dispel an annoying case of writer's block, I have gone back to the beginning of this story for inspiration. Reluctantly, I could barely get through the ramblings of the early chapters without cringing. Experience has taught me much as a writer since I started this story; it has also made me acutely aware of my past transgressions. With that said, I could not live with myself until I took some time to "clean up" and "clarify" a few things.
Chapter 1 - Shattered:
Coruscanti sunsets had always been spectacular. It was a rather odd anomaly—especially considering the artificially controlled environment. After centuries of being the most populated world in the galaxy, manufactured structures had ultimately covered the entire surface of the planet. To better accommodate such overdevelopment and dense inhabitation, it had been necessary to fill the stratosphere of the city world with a cluttered array of planetary mirrors and atmospheric purifiers. The deployed technology was essentially the only way that Coruscant maintained its place as the capital and undisputed heart of the galaxy.
However, consequential to the fabricated ecology that ensured temperate stability was the complete elimination of all weather variations that would normally denote the natural passing of seasons. Coruscant no longer experienced the sweltering heat and lackadaisical haze of summer. Nor did it undergo the cooling night temperatures that stimulated waning displays of multi-colored foliage, which would indicate the transition into fall. Frosty mornings and thick blankets of snow no longer marked the dormant slumber of winter, and absent was any trace of the flowery blooms and melodious birdsong that would herald in the rebirth of spring.
Instead, there was only the continuous gray of neutrality, as bleak and artificial as the dull plasteel and indistinct ferrocrete that covered most of its landscape. The last remaining hints of Coruscant's past natural splendor were those spectacular sunsets. When, without warning, the sky would burst into a magnificent array of vivid shades spanning from pale ochre to deep magenta before slowly ebbing into the night.
Such a glorious spectacle graced the skies even now. The impressive exhibition befittingly accentuated by somber diaphanous clouds scattered amid the heavens. Even so, nature's grandeur was lost on the solitary occupant of the circular room set high above an ancient ziggurat building. Where normally he would have marveled at such a breathtaking scene, this day, he ignored it.
Grand Master Luke Skywalker sat with unfocused eyes as lengthening shadows crept methodically across faded geometric designs inlaid into the council room's marble floor. Although his impeccably shined boots and meticulously pressed uniform were consistent with the persona of the esteemed leader of the resurrected Jedi Order, his neat appearance was nothing more than a fragile facade. A proffered mask that belied the agonizing sorrow that churned within his mind and burrowed unrelentingly into his soul.
With sinking despondency, Luke lowered his face into callused hands and raked fingers through his short graying blond hair. He wondered how he could manage to endure the next few hours—when he had barely survived the previous two weeks. Struggling to gain control over his overwhelming grief, he attempted to clear his thoughts and concentrate on nothing beyond the rhythmic beats of his broken heart.
As his ragged breathing calmed, he silently noted that all his recent efforts to master his turbulent emotions had ended dismally. Even this secluded retreat had not provided the solace that he earnestly sought. He was like a drowning man, cast adrift on a desolate sea of despair. Luke had been consistently unable to withstand the beguiling allure of sweet memories and bitter regrets that continually buffeted him like tempestuous waves. Even now, he could feel his resistance begin to crumble before their unrelenting assault…
He remembered how his young son, Ben, had spent hours methodically stalking through green meadows, as he fervently searched for grass snakes...
His impetuous nephew, Anakin, one-minute brazenly touting his skills at taming a wild krahbu, and in the next, picking himself up from where the beast had tossed him...
His best friend, Han, entertaining everyone while sitting around a blazing bonfire, as he relayed carefully sanitized versions of adventures from his scoundrel past...
His sister, Leia, determinately putting aside the worries of the New Republic, allowing herself a rare moment to relax with her family instead...
His oldest nephew and Padawan, Jacen, arriving with the beautiful Tenel Ka to celebrate his new Jedi knighthood, and then announcing their plans to wed...
Finally, he and Mara, slipping away from the rest of the family, as they attempted to capture a few stolen moments together…
Luke shook his head to dispel the reverie of bittersweet memories; he lifted his head and absent-mindedly smoothed down his gray-peppered beard. Everyone had been so blissfully happy just a few short weeks ago. The Corellian countryside had served as the perfect site for a much-needed family vacation. Mara had made all the arrangements. She had even managed to convince Han, Leia, and their children to join them. Of course, one of Mara's ulterior motives had been to arrange some time for Han and Leia to cement their recent reconciliation. An impromptu family reunion had provided the perfect opportunity for her to put that plan into motion.
During their all too short stay, there was little time to think about the descending darkness that threatened to overshadow the New Republic. It had felt as if a glimmer of light had managed to break through mounting clouds of turmoil, providing all of them a cherished bit of respite. None of them had seemed to be willing to acknowledge any possibility that their fleeting illusion of happiness would be doomed to end in disastrous ruin.
Luke once again chided himself for his lack of vision. He should have heeded the indistinct wariness he felt when receiving the cryptic message that prompted his and Leia's early departure. He should have insisted that they all abbreviate their trip and travel back to Coruscant together.
If only Mara had not averred so passionately for their families to stay behind to finish their vacation as planned. Luke had rarely won an argument opposing his wife when she was set so stubbornly to get her way. Once she had managed to sway his sister to her cause, he knew that he could do nothing but relent.
Consequently, despite the niggling flicker of warning in the back of his mind, he had grudgingly conceded that the majority of their loved ones would remain to enjoy their time in the Corellian countryside. Both Mara and Han had avowed that they would keep everyone safe.
He had been in a meeting with the Jedi Council when he had sensed the explosion through the Force. His mind's eye widened in terror as he psychically watched his life shatter apart on a faraway landing platform. At that interminable moment, he had felt his heart wrench in agony, and part of his soul withered and vanished forever as Mara and Ben's life forces flickered out of existence. Recognizing that they had not had time to suffer was of no comfort to his immeasurable grief.
Once he had managed to recover from his initial shock, he discovered that the tragedy that had befallen Leia's family was just as unfathomable. Jaina, Anakin, and Tenel Ka had also died instantly. Jacen had survived, although severely burned. Han still stubbornly clung to life, but he had sustained such grievous injuries that it would be impossible for him to make a full recovery.
Luke's anguished reverie abruptly ended when the council chamber door quietly retracted. He focused his bleary eyes on his sister standing in the opening. The ornate black brocade dress she wore befitted both her station and her state of mourning. The stark contrast of the heavy onyx material against her waxen complexion made her appear every bit as fragile as her Force presence pronounced her to be.
Wisely, Luke knew it would be pointless to voice any of his concerns. She would not admit to any weakness—not even to him. Instead, she would attempt to remain as steadfast and resilient as her position as Supreme Chancellor demanded her to be. Luke envied her resolve, yet he once again silently vowed to be there for her when that impenetrable facade of strength ultimately crumbled.
Leia slowly stepped forward, her full skirt softly rustling as it swirled around her. Luke stood up as well and proceeded to meet her. The nearer he came, the more he could see the impact of this heart-wrenching ordeal reflected upon his sister's delicate features. The finely netted veil that covered her face did little to disguise her exhausted drawn expression or the puffy redness of her caused by too many sleepless nights and bitter tears of loss. They met mid-room and embraced each other tightly, each willing the other strength and solace.
"Are you okay?" She asked pensively.
"No," Luke replied with a raspy whispered.
Leia tightened her embrace in an apparent effort to ease her brother's emotional pain. After a moment, Luke pulled back from her, his hands still resting on her shoulders.
"How are Jacen and Han?"
"Han was put back into stasis this morning," Leia's voice broke with emotion. "The latest implants caused another stroke—"
"And Jacen?" Luke interrupted, not allowing his sister time to dwell on the dwindling hopes for her husband's recovery.
A grateful hint of a smile graced Leia's lips as she seemingly recognized her brother's attempt to distract her. "His bacta treatments are helping." She paused to take a deep breath. "Although, the healers have confirmed that much of the scarring will be permanent. He should be released from the burn center and transferred to the Healer's Ward here at the temple by the end of the week."
"That's good to hear," Luke said and supportively squeezed her shoulders.
"Yes, it is," she confirmed. "But... Luke, I'm so worried about him. He seems to be determined to isolate himself from everyone. He refuses to talk to his healers, and he will not allow any of his friends to visit. He doesn't even look at me when I am with him."
"I'll go and see him after the funeral," Luke offered. "He may be a Jedi Knight now, but I'm sure that his old Master can still manage a bit of influence."
"Thank you," Leia said, feigning another slight smile before the shadows of grief returned to her expression. "I—I don't know if I'm strong enough to survive this."
"You will be Leia." He drew her into another embrace, as much for his comfort as for hers. "We will make it through this together."
Remaining in each other's arms for several long moments, they shared their sorrow. Drawing strength from one another, they each intuitively tried to bolster the other's resolve. They were true siblings in spirit as well as blood. Although raised apart, they had grown close ever since they had first found each other. It was as if each one contained a piece of the other within their soul. They had shared both joy and pain through the years. There was no need to voice their understanding, they both knew that this tragedy had irrevocably changed them more profoundly than anyone in the universe could imagine.
As the time for the memorial service drew near, the Force began gently stirring around them. Luke could feel a slight pull on the edge of his awareness as Masters, Knights, Padawans, and secular guests gathered for the observance. Without a word, they simultaneously pulled back—yet kept an arm around the other's waist in a united offer of support. Leaving the council chamber together, they stood in muted reflection as they rode the turbolift down to the main level. When the doors opened, the deep, they could hear the resonating echoes of soft chanting wafting through cavernous halls.
Guided by their shared grief, they traversed the Temple atrium until they reached the adjacent small chamber that was their destination. Despite attendance limited to their closest friends and extended family, the confined space was exceedingly crowded. The room's occupants stood in stoic silence, their grief-stricken faces well hidden beneath dark cowls and heavy shawls as a comforting flow of subdued Force energy softly thrummed around them.
This funeral would be a memorial only. At the front of the dimly lit chamber, a pyre prepared for the impending ceremony stood ominously unlit. As there had been little that remained from the shuttle's explosion, it was barren by necessity. The terrorists had done their jobs all too well.
Jedi tradition long prescribed that it was the duty of the Grand Master to officiate at such functions. Despite the fact that this funeral was to commemorate the loss of so many members of his family, Luke had adamantly refused the compassionate offers of his peers to pass this burden to one of them. As the senior Jedi took his position at the head of the pyre, he grimly reflected that he had presided over this type of service far too often—especially over the past few years.
Luke heard little of the many eulogies. There were no words to ease his grief. All that he would remember of the service was the suffocating silence as each attendant bade a final farewell to five souls whose exceptional presence in their lives had ceased far too prematurely. As the services came to their conclusion, Luke ambiguously waved his hand across his chest, as a signal to ignite the bed of the funeral pyre. He numbly observed the crimson flames begin to rise, consuming their fuel hungrily as they symbolically took the spirits of their loved ones away to reunite with the Force.
As Luke watched with dull eyes, his thoughts flickered to the first time he had lit a pyre for a Jedi's passing. His memory took him back to a lonely clearing on a verdant Endor Moon, to a solitary commemoration erected by a son for his father. Then, he had watched the feral flames free the tormented soul of the father he would never know from the imprisoning armor of his greatest enemy. He had naturally felt grief for the man's passing, yet he had also experienced the joy of knowing that his father had finally found his peace.
Conversely, there was nothing to take comfort in now. No acceptance of fate, no rejoicing at the release a tortured spirit, no tranquil acknowledgment of destiny. This time, there was only grief, sorrow—and a gut-wrenching sense of hopelessness. Each moment that passed seemed to take with it another small bit of light from his shattered soul. He solemnly wondered if his overwhelming suffering would extinguish all that was left of him as well.
As he watched the flames slowly diminish, Luke felt a small hand slip into his. He turned slightly to see the anguished brown eyes of his sister looking to him for support. He attempted to give her a smile to show his appreciation for her concern but probably appeared as more of a grimace.
"Luke," she desperately whispered. "Please tell me that everything will eventually be all right. I need to hear you say that our misery will eventually end, and our lives will be normal again."
"I wish I could, Leia. I wish I could..." It was the only reply he could offer.