When Luke is little more than a small slip of a human child, he understands that Tatooine has three things in abundance: fear, hate, and sand — so, so much sand.
He fears that the cruel galaxy that stole his mother and father from him will take Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru as well.
He hates the slavers that plague the children of Tatooine, the true desert people.
And he kneels down in the hot sand, a boy of eight standard years, and sinks his hands into the ground. He rises only when he sure he can fit no more sand into his tiny fists, when there are innumerable grains falling through the gaps between his fingers, when he has grown used to the burning touch of it. He pictures himself as Ekkreth the trickster. He swings his arms back and catapults them forward as hard as he can, casting the burning bits of sunlight as far as possible.
He is an easygoing boy, but he knows fear and hate and pain and
as well as any other child of the desert. He hurls fistfuls of sand and imagines he reaches everyone he has ever feared, ever hated, ever despised. He imagines the sand penetrating every barrier between them and the sand.
Even then, he is no stranger to hate.
Years pass in the blink of an eye.
Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed. Ben is killed. Yoda dies.
And Luke’s dead father is the terror that haunts the galaxy, is the slave in the service of the Sith Emperor.
But family is all one has. And Luke has a father and a twin sister he’s been separated from his entire life, a family he hadn’t known existed. For a moment he doesn’t know what to do, how he has gotten here. He is the last Jedi. A rebel. A hero.
He is a boy who hurls burning sand at imagined foes.
Luke knows hate. Hate for the ones who have kept his family apart, who have kept the truth from him. Desert people never forget.
Most of the ones he could blame are dead. But one remains. Luke will defeat the Emperor, he’ll make him pay; he’ll take his revenge.
And if feelings of hate, of vengeance, make him dark, then so be it. Passion has never been the enemy of a desert child.
On Endor, Luke gains a sister. All that is left is to recover his father.
He surrenders himself to the Imperials. He knows they will take him exactly where he wants to go. They will take him to Vader.
And when Vader arrives, he waits for nothing. “Leave us,” he commands after a short conversation with the commander of the troops. He says more, but Luke isn’t listening, he’s quiet, pensive. This is the man that he has looked up to his entire life, this is his
The troopers and their commander walk off to do whatever they do. And Vader and Luke walk in tandem down the hall, Luke to the left of the taller, nightmare of a man.
“The Emperor has been expecting you,” Vader tells him, monotone as ever. But it’s no surprise. Luke has learned the power of the Force.
“I know, Father,” he says, and for the moment he falters. He wants to say more, to ask about Tatooine, ask how and why a freed slave from an Outer Rim planet would ever willingly become a slave once more. But the words freeze in his throat.
“So, you have accepted the truth,” he says.
“I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my
“That name no longer has any meaning for me.”
And oh stars, how that hurts. More than that though, it burns. It sparks a fire of
. For Luke knows hate. And he hates the Emperor. Luke is the first freeborn Skywalker. All his life, he had taken pride in the father who had found freedom and escaped the never-ending cycle of misery. When he had found out his father had been a Jedi as well, his pride had only intensified. But this? This was horrifying. His father was a slave once again, robbed of his own name.
“That sounds an awful lot like slavery to me, father.”
Vader turns to him, and Luke can feel the shift in the force. “I am
Luke looks right at where his eyes would be had he no mask. He says to him, “If you were really my father, you’d know the difference between slavery and freedom. You call him
, you must obey his every
, and you are
of him, I feel it. Father, you are a slave!”
Luke can practically hear him seething at his words.
“I am the Sith Lord Darth Vader! Everything I do, I do willingly! You are my son, and you will listen to me. You must join me, Luke, the power of the dark side is unimaginable.”
His words are final, leaving no room for argument. Luke doesn’t care.
“How about no?” Luke says and when Vader steps towards him, Luke steps back.
“Search your feelings, my son, you know your hate to be an old friend, you belong on the dark side with me, you are no Jedi.” Vader’s presence is all-encompassing, demanding, suffocating. Luke feels like he can’t breathe.
“I am a son of the desert, just as you are,
I know hate. Maybe I’m not a perfect Jedi, but I will not fall, I swear that to you. You’ll have to kill me.” Luke is sure of this.
But as he looks at Vader’s mask, daring him to say something, say anything at all, the man himself stays silent. Luke looks at his father, more machine than man, and wonders how this came to be. He was imprisoned in his suit. How could he not see that he was a slave?
Luke takes a deep breath and steels himself, “Family or master, father? Son or slaver? Have you forgotten where you come from?” Luke can hear the accusation in his voice, and he knows Vader does too.
And Vader snarls at him, grabbing his wrist, “Desert people
“Then prove it!” Luke exclaims.
“I have nothing to prove, least of all to you.”
Luke bites his lip and prays to all the gods, to the trickster Ekkreth for their wile, to the mighty krayt dragon Leia for her strength, and he prays that he is wrong.
“Then my father is truly dead. Better dead than a slave, at least.”
Luke can feel his anger, but nonetheless, Vader gestures for the stormtroopers to come over, “The Emperor will show you the true nature of the force. He is your master now.”
Luke glares at Vader as the troopers take him to the Emperor. He feels sick, nauseated. But most of all he feels hate. Unlike Vader, he is no one’s slave. He is disgusted with Vader, but his hate is only for the Emperor.
When they arrive in the throne room, Luke can tell he’s supposed to be intimidated, supposed to cower in fear and awe and terror of the Emperor who has enslaved the galaxy. Instead, he walks up the metal stairs with murder on his mind.
“Welcome, young Skywalker,” the Emperor says. And Luke looks at him and sees nothing but a sad, shriveled old man.
The Emperor tries to provoke a reaction in him, tries to arouse his anger and get him to do something. But it is only when the Emperor says “In time, you will call me master,” that Luke bothers to say anything.
“You’re gravely mistaken,” Luke says, and he means it. He will defeat the Emperor, or he will die trying.
Vader turns to him, and Luke can’t tell what is happening in his mind. But the Emperor strolls up to him, and Luke cannot waste a moment on a man in denial about his own slavery. The Emperor takes his lightsaber, tries to intimidate him, and Luke wants to laugh in his face.
“Soon I’ll be dead, and you with me.”
Luke is calm, he is the endless desert before a sandstorm, and he is just a child. He is the first freeborn Skywalker throwing fistfuls of sand at slavers and masters. Except for this time, the sand in his hands is a lightsaber — it is the Force, and the slaver is the Emperor.
“It is pointless to resist, my son,” Vader tells him.
“Fighting for one’s freedom is never pointless,” Luke says. And for once, he thinks that something he has said has reached Vader. He certainly hopes so.
But the Emperor has not learned the futility of his tactics. When he tries to scare him once again, Luke’s anger rises, rises like the desert sands.
“The Alliance will die…” the Emperor says, “As will your friends.”
Han and Leia, Chewie and Lando, Threepio and Artoo, everyone in the rebellion. They were his family now. And family was all one had. He would not fail them.
He looks at his ‘saber and he can feel the Emperor’s pleasure in the Force, he is eager for Luke to turn. Too bad for him.
“Take your weapon,” he says. “Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!”
Luke glares at him before glancing over at Vader. Something is happening.
“Your highness,” he mocks, “if I were to kill you now, it wouldn’t just be out of hate, it would be for justice, for balance, for
, something that you could obviously never comprehend.”
Luke turns to the window before he can see the Emperor’s reaction. Though he cannot see Vader, in the Force he can feel him behind his back. Feel his solemnity, his resolve, his growing acceptance. The Emperor expects Vader to protect him at all costs. He is wrong.
Luke turns around, wills his lightsaber into his hand, and slices the Emperor in half. Vader does not stop him.
The Emperor crumples from his throne onto the ground in an ungraceful heap.
The Emperor is dead. Luke has killed him. And if Anakin Skywalker has not returned to the light, then at the very least he is on his way there.
“Desert people never forget,” Luke says to his father, looking down at the former emperor’s corpse.
“Desert people never forget,” Anakin Skywalker repeats.