Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Stories We Leave Behind - A Star Wars Short Story

Rating: PG (discussion of death and murder)
Pairings: None
Disclaimer: The franchise belongs to George Lucas and the Walt Disney Company.

I wrote this story to address several complaints about “The Force Awakens” and a lot of the finger-pointing I've seen in the “Star Wars” fandom. I love the Original Trilogy a lot...but I loved “The Force Awakens,” too. I really like Han and Leia and Luke, but I also like Poe and Finn and especially Rey. What I want to see is them all working TOGETHER, generations having adventures and sharing stories and learning from one another, regardless of whether Han survives or not.

Rey had so many questions she wanted to ask Luke. So much had happened since she'd left Jakku. It was decided from the first that, other than picking up a few personal items and articles of clothing, she would not be returning there. Rey knew now that Maz was right. Her life was ahead of her, not behind. If she could become a Jedi, maybe it would be even easier to find her family. And if she couldn't find them...well, she felt as if she'd already found one.

Luke Skywalker wasn't at all what she expected. Most of the holofilm posters showed him as a chesty blond with high, striking cheekbones and broad shoulders. She definitely had no idea he was a diminutive gray-haired, fifty-something man with twinkling blue eyes and a surprisingly mischievous sense of humor for a Jedi knight.

Many things still troubled her, though. She'd heard through the HoloNet that speculation ran rampant in the Resistance, and even the First Order, that she was the lover of either Finn or Poe, or both...or even Kylo Ren. She liked Finn and Poe a lot. Ever since Finn had recovered from his wounds, they'd both visited as often as they could, often bending over backwards to help her out or bring supplies. She enjoyed their friendship, but she wasn't sure if it was whatever love was yet. Perhaps in a few months, or a year, she'd understand better.

Frankly, she would have been happy to never see Kylo Ren's scarred face again as long as she lived. Many girls in the First Order, and even some in the Resistance, found him to be as dashing and brooding as the prince in the old Jakku folk tale about the peasant girl who released a sand beast from an evil wizard's spell. Rey thought they were nice stories, but she she saw nothing romantic at all about a man who killed his father, knocked her out, and practically tried to mind-rape her. If his cohorts in the First Order wanted him (it was rumored General Hux was rather interested in him), they were more than welcome to him.

Han's death especially troubled her. She and Luke had attended his funeral at the new Resistance base at Mey's Wood, a lonely stretch of land by the sea on the planet of Atlantica. It nearly killed her to see Luke and Leia holding each other, Leia's still-beautiful face awash with tears. She'd come to really admire the General. The General was the strongest woman she knew. She'd been such a comfort for her when she first came back from Starkiller and was feeling lost and lonely, with Han and Finn gone and Chewbacca mourning in his own way.

She couldn't concentrate. She and Luke were supposed to spend hours meditating, but her mind kept wandering back to the events on Starkiller Base. Why did Han do that? Didn't he know his son wasn't automatically going to come home? Didn't he know Kylo loved power (and maybe his First Order comrades) and thought his family hated him? Han was better than that. He deserved better. So did Luke. So did Leia, and Finn, and Poe and Jessika and Snap.

Luke frowned from his perch on the mossy stone of the old Jedi temple. “You're still thinking of Han's death.”

Rey nodded. “I can't help it. It shouldn't have happened, Master Luke. I don't care what Kylo said. Han was a good man and a good friend. He never once disappointed ME. I've seen it in your mind, and in the General's. You both loved him. Finn loved being called 'Big Deal.' Han respected him, didn't treat him like garbage because of the color of his skin or because he'd been with the First Order. He shouldn't have died! I shouldn't have let him die! Finn and Chewie and I should have done something!”

Luke put his arm around the girl as the tears began to fall. “I've wondered the same thing myself over the past ten months or so. Han's death was a blow to us all.”

It's not just us, either.” Rey wiped her eyes on the back of her wrists. “Do you know the things they're saying around the Resistance base? Poe and Jess and Finn tell me when they come here. They say none of this should have happened. We should have had the funeral right when we came back, instead of waiting until the Starkiller Base was destroyed. We should have been more respectful. Han and Leia should have been better parents to Kylo, or Ben, or whatever his silly name is. You should have been a better teacher.”

She gave him a shaky smile. “They don't know you, do they? I've loved having you as my teacher. You're tough, but you're fair, and you've given me so much to think about.” Her little smile was so much like Han's lopsided one, Luke's stomach nearly flip-flopped. “And not many Jedi can claim to have been taught by a man who can mimic sixteen different popular holo-toon characters. Not to mention his sister, student, and several close friends.”

Thank you, Rey.” He sighed. “I can't say this in a nicer way. Death is hard. It's hard to digest. It's harder to understand. Especially when it seems as senseless as Han's looked.” His blue eyes gazed into her hazel ones. “I've struggled with the same questions. Could I have done something? Should I have? Could I have come out and saved him? I don't know.”

Why did you lie to Kylo about his grandfather?” She frowned. “I picked that up in his head. He's still really angry about that.”

Luke rolled his eyes. “I didn't want to. That was Leia. The whole deal with Vader is still a very touchy subject with her...and unfortunately, it's backfired on her son and on the entire galaxy.” He looked directly into her eyes. “People make mistakes, Rey. Sometimes, they make big mistakes. I've done many things over the years I regret. Mistakes make us human.” He gave her his sunny smile. “The thing about mistakes is, you can let them take over your life, like I almost did...or you can learn from them.”

Rey looked thoughtful. “I was almost considering it when Han offered me a job. I was hoping...” She bit her lip. “I guess I was hoping I'd found someone who could help me. Someone who was kind to me, and who could teach me more about machines, and maybe even help me find my family. But Kylo...”

She pulled her knees under her. “I can't help it, Master Luke. I hate him! I hate Kylo Ren! I wish I'd been able to tear him to ribbons at Starkiller Base! He shouldn't be trying to imitate Darth Vader. He should imitate you. You forgave your father. You let it go. He wouldn't, or couldn't.”

Luke put a hand on her shoulder. “I'm not going to give you a lecture about 'hate leads to the Dark Side.' We've all been through a lot in the past months. Rey, you have every right to be angry. I have every right to be angry. I lost my school, and we both lost a dear friend. Ben went through a difficult childhood, but it still doesn't excuse what he did. No amount of childhood difficulty excuses cold-blooded murder.”

Some of the members of the Resistance are wondering if he can be redeemed, for Leia's sake.” Rey shrugged. “I don't know if he can, or if he can't. I still don't think that means what he's done is good. He's killed people. That merits some form of punishment. Maybe jail time, or working in the mines of Kessel.” She smirked. “In Jakku, they'd probably string him up by that skinny neck of his to the nearest rafter, if they didn't shoot him outright.”

Luke nodded. “Sounds like Tatoonie. I saw a lot of people strung up for even worse crimes.”

Rey picked at her brown nerf-wool cloak. It was way too big for her, but it was the only cloak they could find in the shops at Mey's Wood that even closely resembled anything a Jedi wore. “I want to honor Han in some way, and not just by continuing to run the Falcon. Everyone I've talked to had some story about him, something he did or said. The stories I've heard from you, and Leia, and Poe, and all the older Resistance staff, they make me feel closer to him.”

That's why we tell stories.” Luke drew his own legs up to his chest. “Han, Leia, and I used to spend hours on the Falcon between battles, talking about Alderaan and Corellia and Leia's family and my aunt and uncle. Han was sort-of raised by an old female Wookie who was the cook for the pirates who shanghaied him as a child, and he had a lot of great stories about her. Talking about the people and places we'd lost made them feel closer, and their loss a little easier to bear.”

Could we tell stories about Han?” Rey looked up at him. “Maybe we could even gather them somewhere, on a holo-port, or on the holo-net somewhere. So no one will ever forget him, or what he meant to people.”

I'd like that.” Luke nodded. “We could talk to Leia, and to the people at the Resistance who knew him.”

I could talk to Poe when he comes,” Rey added excitedly. “He said he knew Han and Leia when he was little. His parents were good friends of theirs. And we could try to get in touch with Maz Kantana again. She seemed to know him really well.”

Luke stood. She got up with him. “Stories help us to heal. They help by relating memories and keeping them alive. I miss Han. I miss him more every day. But I know he's in here,” he touched his chest, where his heart was, “and in there.” He touched Rey's chest. “And as long as he's in our hearts, and in our stories, he's not really gone.”

Rey nodded. “Could we work together? Maybe get Leia and Finn and Poe to help?”

He put an arm around her shoulders. “Now you're thinking the Jedi way. That's why there's the master-padawan relationship. Stories are better when they're shared...and when they're passed on to the next generation.”

He grinned, adding in an uncanny version of a familiar gruff voice, “'Cause I ain't gonna let ya take all the credit an' get all the reward, kid!”

Rey laughed. “You sound just like him! You should do voices on holo-toons.”

Luke chuckled. “Now, that's an idea....” 

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