Hi everyone. Here's my disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars, or the characters, and I'm not making money off of this! Hope you enjoy the story!
Chapter One: New Beginnings
The sun set on the horizon of the Endor moon, framed by the stark contrast of the dark, towering pine trees and the brilliantly colored sky. It was the end of an age, and the beginning of a new one. Standing silently beside the docking platform, Luke Skywalker observed all of this, yet not without a hint of bitterness. Life was moving quickly away, forgetting the Empire as it began anew, yet Luke found he was not ready to give up that old age so quickly. Because the new beginning left behind the ancients, forgetting and leaving buried the stories of the wise and great. No longer were the Jedi and their sacrifice remembered, no longer the tragedy and triumph of the Old Republic recalled with reverence. How quickly the world moved on and grew. Was its ability to forget its ancestors a blessing or a curse? All of this weighed upon Luke.
You should be happy that the Empire has fallen, he told himself. These next few months are crucial for forming the new Republic. The past will not be forgotten, but one must not dwell in what was and forget their place in the present.
The loud rumble of ships shook Luke from his thoughts. He looked overhead, where rebel fighters, at the command of the Alliance, were presently flying to retake Coruscant.
"Luke!" a voice nearby made Luke turn.
Leia was heading towards him across the docking platform, clothed in white pants, a white vest, and boots. She smiled at him when she reached him. "Luke, the Falcon is all packed up. Han is ready to go. Are you coming with us?"
Luke nodded, suddenly finding himself unable to speak. Suddenly he felt unready to go. He had buried his father here, and felt like he was leaving behind a large part of himself. He glanced down at the ground beneath him, ashamed at his sudden weakness and unwilling to let his sister see. Leia looked at him with concern. She could sense his distress. Wisely choosing not to say anything on the subject, she grasped his arm. "Come on. We can talk on the Falcon."
Without a word, the twins headed towards the Millennium Falcon and up its loading ramp.
"I cremated him, Leia," Luke told her quietly when they were alone on the Falcon, sitting at the table outside the control room. Leia did not say anything, allowing Luke to continue. "I gave him a proper Jedi burial. He died a Jedi again, Leia." Luke's eyes met his sisters, pleading with her. "He told me to tell you that I was right about him."
"Luke," Leia began slowly, cautiously bringing up their disagreement from the previous night. "That man is not my father." The twins had discussed what happened on the Death Star in detail the prior night, after the celebration with the Ewoks, but had disagreed strongly on the point of their father and his renouncement of the Dark Side.
"Leia, he was repentant," Luke persisted, stubbornly loyal. "You did not know him before his turn. How can you judge the man if you didn't know him?"
"I did know him, Luke. Darth Vader was who he chose to be, whether you like it or not." Leia looked deeply at Luke, sorrow in her eyes. "I cannot accept him as my father. My true father died on Alderaan." Leia could see how much her words hurt Luke, because she knew how much Luke looked up to their father, but she was adamant in her words.
"If you knew the stories of his past," Luke protested. How could he make Leia see? Why was she so stubbornly closed-minded? "Ben told me some of them. He was a great man, a true Jedi, loving and brave…"
Leia shook her head dismissively. "He chose to renounce those when he chose to become Darth Vader. The wrongs he did during his lifetime overshadow any of his good."
"Leia, listen to me," Luke said, more urgently. "He saved me. He brought down the Empire, and killed the Emperor."
Leia set her lips firmly. "Luke, that does not erase the evil he caused. Do you remember what he did to me?" She became more passionate in her words. "To Alderaan? To Obi-Wan? The Empire destroyed your home, your aunt and uncle."
"You're dismissive of a man who you did not know!"
"Luke, everyone knew him!" Leia argued. "Everyone knew him with fear!"
"He was not always like that! And he realized the wrong of his actions!"
"You're making excuses for him!"
"Anakin Skywalker was a great man!"
Leia took a deep breath, calming herself. She controlled her emotions, and saw that Luke was doing the same in the brief pause. Then Leia continued, "You've only heard what others have told you. Your opinion is based on what you don't know. Mine is based on what I've seen. That's the difference between us."
"I do know. If there was a way I could show you. I pray to the Force that there is a way to make you see how I do, Leia!"
Leia looked down, not wanting to disagree and start an argument between herself and her new-found twin brother. She was unable to accept Darth Vader as her father, but at the same time she knew that Luke was blindly loyal to a man he never knew. So she was silent.
A few seconds later, Han Solo opened the door from the control room, breaking the moment of awkward silence between the siblings. "What's going on?" he asked, seemingly oblivious to the tension. He casually strode over and took a seat beside Leia. Only after he sat down did he seem to realize the silence.
"Why the long face, kid?" he asked Luke.
Luke shook his head. "Just thinking, that's all." He met Han's eyes, but only briefly.
Han, respecting Luke's space, changed the topic. "We're set on the course for Coruscant." Han motioned vaguely behind him. "We'll need to pass through the Minlar Space to get there, but it shouldn't take long. Especially with all the Imperial troops scattered. There'll be no TIE fighters to-"
"Minlar Space?" Leia interrupted. "That's dangerous."
Han shook his head, a crooked smile on his face. "Only for the superstitious. It's just an area with no stars. We'll be fine. Nothing unusual about it."
Leia shook her head in annoyance. Although she did not like the idea of blindly entering the Minlar Space, she trusted Han's piloting more than anyone in the galaxy.
"Never took you to be a superstitious one, Princess," Han said, leaning backward in the seat and stretching his legs out.
"I'm not sure why you would risk it," Leia answered, "There have been people who have been lost in the space, with no stars to guide them. Their compasses fail them and the controls go haywire."
"Those are only stories, Princess. Besides, they have to survive to pass on their tales." Han gave a crooked smile, eliciting a scowl from Leia.
"Don't call me Princess."
Han just chuckled, knowing that that was Leia's reluctant consent. He rose and headed back to the control room. Pausing at the sliding door, Han turned around, grinning at Leia. "Anyway, Your Worship, just wanted to give an update. Oh, and feel free to nap or whatever. There are some blankets in the back." The door then closed behind him.
Luke, deciding that he was too tired to argue further with Leia, rose from his seat in silence. He knew that his sister was watching him closely, but did not acknowledge her concern. He turned and headed to the back cabin, where there were bunks to sleep. More than anything, Luke felt weary. He needed to rest, especially if he was to have enough energy for Coruscant.
A few hours later, a huge jolt shook Luke from his sleep. His head rose from his pillow, and he glanced around the Falcon's cabin. Luke groaned. He had slept longer than he intended, but he supposed he was still exhausted from his ordeal with the Emperor just two days prior. He'd better get up and see what Han and Leia were up to. He swung his legs over the rim of the built-in bunk.
The cabin lurched again, and Luke almost fell over, only grabbing the rim of the bunk to steady himself. Suddenly alarmed, he headed towards the control room, bracing himself against the wall as more and more frequent jolts shook the Falcon.
Luke reached the control room, where he was immediately greeted with panic. Han was pushing buttons all over the Falcon's panels, trying to regain control.
"Leia, take the left stabilizer!" Han shouted, panic evident in his voice as he continued to attempt to level the Falcon. A loud ringing sound suddenly burst into the room. Circulation cut, read the screen on the control panel. "No, no, no!" Han shouted back at the screen.
"Han, Han, what's going on?" Luke shouted.
"I don't know!" Han yelled over the noise. "She was fine a minute ago, and now the controls are going wild! We've already exited the Minlar Space, I don't understand what-!"
Engine failing, read the screen. The blaring grew louder.
"We're going to have to land," yelled Leia from her seat in the rear.
"I don't- I don't know where-" stuttered Han.
Suddenly, as if the darkness had vanished and their front window had been cleared, a huge green and blue planet shone in front of them.
"Land there!" Luke said, pointing ahead.
"We don't even know which planet that is," protested Leia. "They could be-"
"I don't think we have an option, sweetheart!" Han said, cutting Leia off. Sarcasm dripped from his voice. "Leia, grab that thing! No, that one over there!"
She grabbed a throttle on the control pad, voicing her annoyance towards Han. Luke sat down in one of the rear seats, strapping himself in for what he expected to be a rough ride.
The Falcon burst through the atmosphere of the unknown planet and quickly the mass of green and blue merged to shape cities and buildings. Luke would have been able to admire it if he was not so worried about the alarming speed of the Falcon. The jolting in the cabin had already begun to nauseate him.
"We're coming in hot!" shouted Han as the Falcon dipped dangerously over the city.
"Land there!" Leia commanded, pointing to an empty field a ways away from the city. The field was spread out before them, and was large enough to land a ship as wide as the Millennium Falcon.
"Alright!" Han yelled, sweat beginning to drip from his forehead. He grabbed a throttle in front of him and pulled hard. In response, the Falcon pulled upwards, and then began to drop in altitude. They leveled off for a brief moment, and then the Falcon gave out with an almighty sputter. They skidded into the field, and then finally drew to a stop five seconds later.
Luke released his breath, which he did not realize he had been holding. Han collapsed into his chair, wiping his brow. He looked around the cabin at the others, checking to see if they were okay.
Leia, who was gripping her chair so tightly that her knuckles were white, was the first one to speak. "We'd better go and get help," she volunteered.
"We'd better check her out for damage," Han said, his eyebrows furrowed with worry.
After a half hour spent surveying the extensive damage of the Falcon, they finally decided the best course of action would be to find a trader in the city to exchange for new parts, seeing that many of the ship's parts were heavily or irreversibly damaged. Although Han was generally slow to trust traders, he finally admitted to seeing no alternative, and agreed to come with Luke and Leia to the city. So, leaving the Falcon in the field, the three set off towards the cluster of buildings about a half-mile away.
As they grew closer, Leia studied the city in detail. Its buildings were sandy colored and made of stone, with rounded dome tops. On these buildings, which Leia assumed to be residential, color resided in abundance, from brightly painted window shutters to luscious green ivy growing along the walls. Many things caught Leia's eye, particularly the windows on the buildings. They were large and elegant, made from glass, and hanging plants spilled out of their window boxes. Sunlight was everywhere, glittering off of the domes and playing in the fountains.
The group drew into the city, and the first thing Leia became aware of was the eerie stillness. There was no movement, and little sound. Doves' wings fluttered above their heads, but other than this, the city was still. Leia grew worried. There was something wrong. She felt it.
"Where are we?" asked Han as they drew underneath a stone archway.
"Theed, capital of Naboo," echoed Leia, reading off a plaque on the archway.
"Where is everyone?" asked Luke. Leia could see that he was anxious. She knew him well, and had been with him long enough to be able to read him. Luke's hand was already near his utility belt, where Leia knew his lightsaber was attached. The situation reminded him of the trap at Cloud City, and Luke had learned to be cautious.
In response to his question, Leia's eyes swept over the sandy walls more critically. The brightly colored shutters on the windows were closed. The archways to the homes were bolted shut with crudely wooden doors, as if they had been made in haste.
There was silence for a moment, no one wanting to ruin the peace. Finally, Luke spoke what the group was thinking. "This place gives me the jitters. The sooner we get out the better."
Nearby, a large building gleamed above the rest, with many domed towers and ivy growing along its sides. A broad expanse of stairs led up like a pathway to its entrance. Theed Palace.
"Let's head there," Han said, pulling his blaster from his belt. "There has to be someone here who can help us."
"No, Han," Leia said, realization suddenly spreading over her. She reached for Han's blaster. "These are peaceful people."
Han looked doubtfully at her. "How do you know?"
"They have no weapons in this city. There is no protective wall. For a developed city, they are surprisingly short of defense."
Han looked around, studying the city himself. He did not look any more comfortable, but he slowly lowered his blaster. Although it did not return to his belt, his hand visibly relaxed. "Alright, I trust your judgment, Princess."
Suddenly, a low booming sound vibrated through the square. Startled, a flock of doves arose from the city, flying away from the sound. Leia froze, surprised. The sound seemed to magnify, and Leia recognized it as marching. It was getting closer. Fear spread through her, but she quelled it. Curiosity overrode her instincts to flee.
As the marching grew louder, suddenly a line of soldiers rounded the corner from Theed Palace, becoming visible to Leia and the others. They were clothed in gray uniforms and carried blasters.
Imperials! Leia thought, and her first urge was to run and place herself as far away as possible until the Alliance could call for reinforcements. But something held her in place. They did not look like Imperials, nor were they anything Leia recognized.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Luke muttered under his voice, mostly to himself.
The troops grew closer. They were humanoid, but their heads had distinct markings unlike any other creature. Their heads were bald, and across the left side of their faces were black lines, as if an artist had traced soot swirls on their cheeks. Leia glanced uneasily at the others, unsure what they should do.
The commander of the squadron, who rode on a mount, barked a few unintelligible words to his troops. Four soldiers stepped from the lines, heading straight for Leia and the others. The soldiers pulled out blasters.
Deciding it was best to clearly state his intentions, Han stepped forward, placing his gun on the ground. He held his hands up in surrender and headed towards the advancing soldiers. "Excuse me, we need help. Our ship just crashed to the south of your city and we-"
Abruptly, one of the soldiers shoved his blaster onto Han's temple, forcing Han onto his knees.
"No!" screamed Leia in horror, all of her hopes crashing down at once. "No, we mean no harm! Please, you have to help us!" A soldier hit her in response, roughly drawing her arms behind her back. He spat something unintelligible to Leia, in a language Leia had never heard before.
The other two soldiers motioned for Leia and the others to drop their weapons, which they did. They were then forced onto their knees like Han. Their hands were drawn from behind.
The commander nudged his mount forward, eyeing them with curiosity. His mount had similar markings to the ones on his face, leading Leia to assume that the markings were a way that this race identified one another.
It took the commander a minute, but eventually he spoke, addressing them directly. "These humans," he began in a thick accent, looking down at the three. "They are not from Naboo?" There was no warmth in his features, only hard pride and arrogance.
"No," Luke spoke up. "Our ship has just crashed outside your city. Please, we only came to see if we could trade for new parts." Luke used the Force in his words, stressing that they came in peace.
The commander looked at Luke for a while, his face unreadable. He then snapped his fingers, signaling to a soldier beside him. Exchanging a few words with the soldier in their native language, he then turned back to the group.
"You are not needed," the commander said, lifting his chin with pride. "We ask only that the Republic hear our plea. You will be an example for them. Perhaps then they will listen to us." As she listened, Leia's fear grew. What was he saying? They couldn't die now, not when they had just accomplished all they had ever fought for! Leia began to pull against the soldier holding her, who, in response, struck her across the face. Leia felt something warm trickle from her temple.
"Leia!" Han yelled in anger, struggling against the man who held him. "Don't touch her, you good-for-nothing bastard!" The soldier dealt Han a kick in the ribs.
"We don't understand," Luke protested, desperately still trying to reason. "We mean no harm. We come in peace."
"You are not needed," the commander repeated simply, and then signaled to the soldiers holding them.
"Wha- What does he mean?" Han hissed to the others, who stared back at him with horror and confusion.
"Execute them," the commander ordered, speaking in Basic so they could all hear his command.
Leia felt something cold press against the side of her head.
"No, no, there's some mistake," Leia heard Han yell.
This is the end, thought Leia. They were dying here. She closed her eyes, willing it all to be over.