When she is nine, Leia sits her uncle and auntie down and, small face screwed up with determination, asks for an increase of her allowance. She has prepared points and counterpoints. She cites both local and intergalactic codes of labor law.
Her uncle frowns at her for a long minute once she’s done. She holds his gaze, stare for stare, chin untrembling, because that’s how he’d taught her to when they went to barter for parts at Toshi Station.
“Alright,” he says.
“My bedtime should be pushed an hour later, too,” Leia tries and her aunt laughs and tells her to go do the dishes.
When Leia is twelve, she organizes all of the children of local farms into a union. Their parents think they’re kidding until they hold their first strike.
Luke grows up in a green world. He still learns to fly early, eager to get empty air under his feet and never quite sure why. His father is a senator. His mother is an academic and she tells him stories and stories about faraway worlds– snowy planets and desert ones, lava and ocean, the places fire and ice meet.
Luke does well in schooling, or well enough for how often he spends staring out the window at blue skies, staring at the bottoms of clouds and imagining what they look like from above or within. Every elective he has to turns toward flight– physics, physiology, aeronautics, history.
He listens at the dinner table when his father talks about right and wrong, about justice and democracy, but he responds with engine makes and models and what new simulator scores he’s learned.
His parents wanted a child, though, more than anything, and this is the one they got. They wanted a child and they wanted peace. There are so many ways to save the universe. When Luke asks for their blessing to apply to the flight academy, his father kisses his cheeks and his mother tells him how proud they are of his choices.
When his father’s favorite protege goes off on what is supposed to be a routine diplomatic mission, Luke is the pilot. He sees the Imperial cruiser coming in and cannot outrun them, though he tries.
When he sees the junior senator (Isabel, 22, she came to dinner at his parents’ and made his mother laugh about ancient literature) face Vader and spit calm lies in his face about diplomacy and innocence, Luke wishes he could be so brave.
He is bundled off with the rest of the civilians on board. They are herded into pens like cattle somewhere in the Death Star’s bowels, waiting for shipment to mines or weapons factories or, who knows, gladiatorial arenas– whatever it is the Empire does with prisoners.
Meanwhile, on Tatooine, Leia’s uncle has just bought two new droids. When she cleans the R2 unit she finds a recording of a beautiful young woman in senatorial white calling for Obi Wan Kenobi.
But the R2 is a flight risk and Leia ends up out in the badlands, chasing it down. She is in Old Ben Kenobi’s little house when the Stormtroopers come to burn her farm. She feels it happen, but she doesn’t recognize it in the pit of her belly. She has never lost anything before, nothing that large.
She thinks it must be excitement, as she turns her father’s lightsaber over and over in her hands. Her stomach sinks to her toes. Bile rises in her throat. She smells smoke and she thinks she must just be nervous. New futures do that sometimes, spreading out open wide at your feet.
(Luke feels it when Alderaan dies.
He doesn’t know what it is, but he feels it all the same as he sits crammed in a windowless metal room with the rest of the crew. Someone is crying. Someone is praying.
He gets a waft of his mother’s perfume– lilacs and old pages and dried ink– and it hits him like a blow. A world is dying, gone. He doesn’t know.
He feels his father’s broad hand wrap about his shoulder. He thinks he is just homesick.
He will be homesick for the rest of his life.)
Obi Wan and Leia find Han in the bar, hire the Falcon, hit the sky. Leia’s never been off world before and she feels the ground disappear from under her feet. (The ground vanished the moment she stumbled out of her speeder, smoke on the wind, and saw skeletons fused into the sand).
Luke waits in the dark. He thinks about his mother’s stories of epic adventurers, great deeds, heroes. He feels very small. He thinks about the young senator stuck somewhere in this base in a cold room, secrets buried under her ribs. Someone here in the dark is crying. Someone is praying.
Luke moves once, slowly, around the room. He spots the calmest person he can see (a fifty-something woman with wide hips and her knitting needles out). “We need to figure out what we have among us,” he says. She looks at him and he adds, “I don’t want to die here. Do you?”
“Su-Lin from Maintenance has got a concealed blaster in her purse, I think,” says the woman, whose name he will discover is Mabel. “And Ricky from the cafeteria plays a lot of strategy games. Let me fetch a few people. You go talk to the flight crew.“
The Millennium Falcon arrives as Luke’s escapees are marched onto a supply freighter ship by four of their own in stolen Stormtrooper armor. Luke slips off the freighter right before they close up and Mabel lets him. “I’m going to see if I can get the senator,” he says. “You get these lot off, okay?”
“You take care of yourself, kid,” says Mabel. “You need another pair of hands?”
Luke shakes his head. “It’s a long shot either way. Just get them home.” (None of them know yet that home is no longer there.)
He meets Leia and Han in the hallways, because they almost shoot him before he yanks his helmet off and his flailing hands convince them he’s for real.
When they get the senator out of her cell she groans aloud at the sight of Luke. “Your dad’s gonna kill me,” Isabel says, and then she goes pale, remembering. Luke’s belly fills with ice.
She tells him about Alderaan. She stumbles over a sorry but Luke grabs her hand and tries a smile and says, “No, c’mon, Isa, senator, ma'am, we’re going to get you out of here.”
They do. They lose Obi Wan to Vader, none of them knowing it is a fight between brothers happening in the belly of that ship, that it is a death long overdue, one Obi Wan has clutched to his chest for years.
But Obi Wan was the last piece of home Leia had with her, except for the clothes on her back. She cries, curled up in a seat on the Falcon, and not even Han is brave enough to say anything about it.
Luke sits behind Chewy as they fly through the rock and debris that had once been Alderaan. The only thing he has ever wanted to do in life was fly. He closes his eyes. Someone is weeping, here in the dark.
When they reach the base, Luke, an Alderaan pilot’s wings still on his uniform, volunteers for the rebel attack force. Leia shadows Isabel, swallowing up the chaos and rapid-fire conversation of the rebel base as people shove report and requests and questions and admonishment and greetings at the rescued senator.
The first time Leia hands Isabel the report she was looking for before she even reaches for it, Isabel turns and takes it and grins. “What did you say your name was again?”
“Leia,” she says. “Skywalker.”
“Well then, Ensign Skywalker, you stick with me till this over, okay by you?”
When Luke fires the shot that takes out the Death Star, it is not with Obi Wan whispering in his ears. It is his old flight instructors, his fellow pilots– a bunch of adrenalin junkie kids, desperate to fly. He wonder if any of them were off-planet, if a single one survived. When Luke fires that last shot, he hears his father’s voice at the dinner table, talking about right and wrong, diplomacy and faith.
The shot flies true.
Leia touched the lightsaber first, but it’s still Luke who goes to train with Yoda. Leia doesn’t have time for that– she’s stumbled into a rebellion she’d barely even heard rumors of and she’s drowning herself in it. Isabel makes excellent introductions for her. Leia eats breakfast with Biggs, one of her old union buddies, one of her first henchmen, and it’s almost like having a little piece of home with her.
Luke had grown up on his mother’s stories, and he knows how badly she would have wanted to meet the last Jedi living. Yoda tries to teach him to lift planes and face fears, to listen to silences, but Luke keeps on asking him about their Code, their history, how all this came to be. He takes notes. He has Yoda teach him how to build a lightsaber before he ever lets him teach him to wield one.
When the dreams come– about Leia, about Han, about pain– Luke doesn’t let Yoda stop him. He had already been absent, once, when the people he loved had died.
But they lose Han. Luke loses a hand and Leia finds him.
While they plan their attack on Jabba and their rescue of Han, Luke takes a few minutes to digest what Vader told him on that platform and he decides he doesn’t give a crap. He has a father. His name was Bail Organa.
When they attack the second Death Star, Luke does not turn himself in. He gives Anakin Skywalker no second chances. He pilots an X-Wing, guarding the fleet as they wait for Leia and Han to bring down the shields, which they do. Vader and Palpatine burn on the unfinished hull of the second Death Star.
Luke hugs his sister and tells her about Vader. She hugs him back and doesn’t bother with the rest of it. She didn’t have a father, but she had an uncle and an aunt and they had been enough.
After things settle, Luke gets Han to take him on as a third hand on the Falcon. He wants to see every world his mother ever told stories of, and there is Leia to make sure that the Falcon is doing Good in the universe as well as just making the occasional reasonable profit.
Leia goes from rebel lieutenant to politician– it’s a line she’ll cross back and forth many times for the rest of her life, complaining that she doesn’t quite see the difference.
When Leia finally gets important enough to be worth kidnapping, Isabel makes sure she’s in the rescue party that brings her home just so Leia can laugh and roll her eyes and tell her she’s too short to be a Stormtrooper. (”Stormtrooper?” says another rescuer to his friend, glancing down at their New Republic greys.)
Luke writes Mabel every now and then to let her know he’s still breathing. She sends him back pictures of her grandchildren and knitted caps to keep his silly head warm. It’s cold out there, after all.