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Heroes and History

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She found him on top of the pyramid, sitting on one of the big stone blocks, watching the sky above. He didn’t acknowledge her presence, but given the stories her father had told her about the uncanny abilities of the Jedi, he had to know she was there.

She found herself reluctant to interrupt his solitude, but they were running short on time. “We’ll be awarding medals to Luke and Captain Solo in a few hours, with all the pomp we can manage.” Leia paused, considering her words. “We would all be honored if you would award them, General Kenobi.”

He had turned to face her as she spoke. He stood, arms folded, watching her. She felt suddenly like a child addressing an elder, and straightened her spine. She was a princess of Alderaan, and not intimidated by anyone. “We will, of course, provide you with better clothes—I’ll talk to the quartermaster about finding you a uniform. General Dodonna will be able to lend you appropriate insignia.”

“Thank you, but no,” General Kenobi said. He was looking … almost through her, as if he saw someone else standing in her place.

“No to what?” Leia asked, confused. “The new clothes?” She eyed his dirty, patched robes with distaste—she couldn’t imagine why he would want to keep them.

“And the ceremony,” he said.

Leia blinked, the diplomatic face her father had drilled into her from a young age slipping into place. “May I ask why? It would be a boost to the Alliance’s morale to have General Kenobi publicly bestow such honors on its new generation of heroes. You were a great soldier of the Old Republic. Such continuity is very important.”

“I understand,” Kenobi replied. “But I am not a soldier, and in truth never was one. It is not my place, nor is it my task.”

“You were a Jedi, a General in the Republic Army,” Leia said. “How can you say you are not a soldier?”

“I am a Jedi,” he replied. “But that does not mean soldier.” Kenobi raised his chin, and suddenly he looked like a man who had led armies into battle and negotiated treaties between warring factions. “We put aside the will of the Force and the traditions of our Order to serve the needs of the Republic, and in the end failed both. I will not make the same mistake again.”

“How can you call it a mistake?” Leia asked. “Even in hindsight. As corrupt as the Republic was, the banking guilds and Trade Federation were worse. And if the Separatists had won, Palpatine would still have tried to build his Empire.” She shook her head, remembering her father’s dealings with the man and his lackeys. “He is altogether too corrupt and power-hungry to have been content to give up his powers once the emergency had passed.”

“A Jedi’s first duty must be to the will of the Force,” Kenobi said. “The Force does not wish the Sith to rule the galaxy, and so I will gladly work alongside your people in their struggle against Palpatine and Vader. But the Force cares little about the specifics of which government rules. We forgot that. If we had been more concerned with serving the Force and less concerned with serving the Republic, Palpatine would not have been able to take us by surprise and much bloodshed and evil might have been averted.”

“But regardless of what happened twenty years ago, the Sith rule the galaxy now,” Leia burst out, impatient with his philosophizing. “You know as well as I do that Palpatine is a Sith, and everyone knows that Vader is one. If the Force doesn’t want them to rule, then the Force must want you to join our cause and fight against them!”

“Sometimes soldiers are necessary,” Kenobi replied. “That does not mean that all who serve must be soldiers.” His face softened, and he gave her a slight smile. “I understand the needs of your Alliance, and you may give Luke his medal. I will provide what counsel and guidance I can, and serve where I am needed. But not as a soldier. Not even as a general.”

“We are trying to build a military out of defectors, malcontents, and civilians,” Leia said. “We need someone like you. Someone with experience. More than that, we need a hero, especially a hero of the Republic we are trying to re-create.”

“You will make new heroes for yourself,” Kenobi replied. “In my experience, a ‘hero’ is most often an ordinary person simply trying to do the right thing in extraordinary circumstances. Most acts of heroism pass almost unnoticed, particularly in such dark times—it is in Palpatine’s interest to ensure that no one ever hears of them. It will do your Alliance much better, in the long run, to find the heroes in your own ranks and make them known, than to hang your morale on the old glories of a bygone era. Make your heroes people that everyone can aspire to be—people everyone can identify with. As they learn to believe in people who are no better than themselves, they will also learn to believe in themselves, and you will find that belief is what will sustain your Alliance through the darkest of times.”

Leia frowned. “Do you believe that the usurpation of the Old Republic by Palpatine’s New Order was enabled by the fact that the Republic’s greatest heroes were the Jedi?”

“To a degree, yes,” Kenobi replied. “Many revered us almost as gods, though we never sought that.”

“And when gods fail, what can mere mortals do?” Leia said. “I see your point.” She did not agree with his insistence that he should not take up his rank as a general again, but she would not win the argument now, so it was time for a compromise. Best to take up the subject again, later, when she could be better prepared for debate. “Very well. Luke will receive his medal, and we would appreciate your presence on the dais by the Alliance’s leadership.”

“That would be acceptable,” Kenobi said.

Leia eyed his shabby clothes once more. “Will you at least agree to accept new civilian clothes, if you will not take a uniform? Perhaps we can find something similar to a Jedi robe.”

Kenobi smiled. “Now, that, your Highness, is an offer I can accept without qualms.”

“I will see to it,” Leia said.