The Imperial shuttle spun out into normal space off-kilter and unprepared, red lights flashing as the automated systems registered the sudden appearance of atmosphere and a gravity well where none should be. The pilot, injured and grieving already and further disoriented by the sudden spatial dislocation, was forced to scramble to save himself-- there was no time to attempt concealment or to identify himself to whatever local authorities there might be.
The falling craft blazed a trail across the darkened sky of a planetary hemisphere turned away from the local sun, arrowing in for a rough landing that rattled its contents like seeds in a dried gourd. It remained intact, fortunately, though badly damaged-- much like its lone living occupant. Even a Jedi has physical limitations, and this one had pushed himself to those limits that day.
At any given time, at least one television at the Summers School for Gifted Girls could usually be found tuned in to the local news. The city of Cleveland, like Sunnydale in its day, had begun to succumb to the mystical version of NIMBY syndrome: not in my back yard. They didn't want the supernatural to be real, not up close where they might have to deal with it; deaths by barbeque fork and wild dog attack were therefore on the rise. Crazies in "costume" were reported on the full moons. Marauding gangs on PCP became a fixture. It was enough to make a veteran of the old Hellmouth sick-- but at least the deaths were being reported. A little reading between the lines was usually sufficient to tell the resident Slayers what the current threat was and a general idea of where to find it.
When a news report came on one evening describing a strange metal object burning down through the atmosphere, too large to be a falling satellite and clearly not any air- or space-craft maintained by America or any of the other major powers, the Slayer on news-duty in the TV room gave it little attention. If they were reporting its appearance that candidly, there was no way it was a threat-- at least not one of interest to the Slayers. It might make a pretty picture in the night sky, but that was about it.
But then the report changed. "Destination ... Looks like it's going to come down somewhere in Northern Ohio..." Vi bolted from her seat and ran to get Buffy.
By the time they got back to the room, the reports had changed again, losing much of their speculative tone: "...Unusually metallic meteorite... Expected to burn up almost entirely before impact... Residents in or near Cleveland may see a bright flare of light on the near horizon..."
Buffy snorted. "I wonder what the news broadcasts were like the night the Queller came down," she mused aloud. "The first hint of anything supernatural and suddenly everything's peachy with a side of keen."
There was only one thing to be done-- find whatever it was immediately, and deal with the threat. The chances were miniscule that the landing area was accidental, and leaving it for the government's monster squads to deal with wasn't an option, not on their home turf. The last time something extraterrestrial had come calling it had been at the behest of Glorificus' host, trying to cover up the hellgoddess' tracks-- and it had nearly killed Buffy's mother. The residents of the Slayer school were not going to risk someone else losing a mother or any other person they cared about, just because aliens weren't technically under Slayer jurisdiction.
The school kept a Slay-ready SUV stocked and ready for emergencies. Within minutes, half a dozen slayers (four of them veterans of Sunnydale) were crammed into its seats with Andrew along as co-pilot and Watcherly back-up; the witch-in-residence (one of Willow's acolytes) guided them by scrying spell over a cell phone. They reached their goal less than half an hour after the news report had first aired.
Remarkably, they managed to beat both commandos and rubberneckers to the debris-strewn field where the "meteor" came down. Buffy didn't realize why until they exited the vehicle and approached the crash on foot: it exuded an almost tangible sense of not here, a tingling field against her skin that turned back the two youngest slayers before they got within a hundred yards of it and had Andrew rubbing his eyes and trying to squint ahead through his fingers.
Obviously, whatever was in there was strong, and it was not in the market for unannounced visitors. On the bright side, however, at least they knew that it-- whatever the threat was-- was still at the site.
Slowly, carefully, Buffy led the team up to the cooling ship-- for a ship it clearly was, now that they could see it up close. It was hard to tell what the original color had been, but it had wings and windows and exhausts for engines; in fact, it looked remarkably like something a human might have built, if humans had ever managed to travel further out than their planetary moon.
The team spent several minutes patrolling around the crash site and looking for movement or traps before Buffy decided to try going in. It only had one obvious point of ingress, a door on one side, and it was easy enough for Andrew to magick it open once she managed to drag him away from gawking at the engines.
The senior Slayer was, as usual, the first through the door. Weirdly enough, the interior of the ship continued to resemble what she thought a spaceship should look like, except for one thing: the body she nearly tripped over, sprawled on the floor, that appeared to have been battered around in the ship's crash. All identifying characteristics were hidden behind a hideous mask and miles of black cloth, even gender and species, and it was very, very dead. She extended her Slayers senses toward it, making certain it wasn't anything like a vampire that would come back to haunt her later, then dismissed it from her threat-assessment and crept toward the front of the ship. Wherever the pilot was, she was likely to find the source of the strange magic field surrounding the area.
Moments later she reached her goal, Rona hot on her heels.
"Oh, my God," the younger Slayer spoke for both of them, staring at the dark-clothed humanoid form topped with sandy-blond hair sprawled unconscious in the pilot's chair. "He doesn't look like an alien."
Buffy crouched warily beside the man, pressing two fingers to the pulse point at his throat, wondering just what the PTBs had seen fit to throw at her this time. He opened his eyes at her touch, and she nearly flinched at the depth of exhaustion, pain, and grief she could read in that blue gaze. Cautiously, she examined him on the supernatural level much as she had the corpse ouside-- and was nearly knocked off her feet by what she felt. Whatever he was, he registered on an extrasensory level like a fountain of Light; she'd never encountered anything like it.
"Hi," she said uncertainly, not sure what to say to him, or even if he spoke English. "My name is Buffy Summers. Uh, I'm here to rescue you?"
A wide smile blazed suddenly across his features, taking years off his face; he couldn't be any older than she was, really. "Luke Skywalker," he said, his voice a rough whisper, then closed his eyes again, fading back into unconsciousness.
Across the void of space, in a galaxy far, far away, Han Solo, Leia Organa, and sundry other Rebels and allies gazed up at the sky, watching as the Death Star revealed itself in a final flash of self-destruction.
"I'm sure Luke wasn't on that thing when it blew," Han said quietly, after the cheering died down. The princess was still gazing up at the sky as though listening for a silent voice, and Han was pretty sure he knew whose voice it would be.
Leia turned to look back at him in response, and he could see the pinch of grief in her expression. "I think he was," she said, shaking her head. "I can't feel him anymore."
Han held his breath, not sure how to react to that. Luke, gone? After all the crazy stunts the kid had gotten away with in the past, he'd allowed himself to get caught in that explosion? Han couldn't believe it. And what had Leia meant by, she couldn't feel him?
She answered the question before he could ask it; she must have seen the expression on his face.
"He was my brother," she said simply, and then burst into tears.
"Your brother?" he replied, stunned, then reached out and gathered her into his arms. They turned to look back up at the sky together.
So much had changed in the last twenty-four hours. For better or for worse, the galaxy was never going to be the same.