A Princess Return to War

Thirty-Two Years After the Battle of Yavin IV

The arid landscape was laughing at them. At least, that was how it seemed to Leia Organa-Solo as she gazed out the viewport of the cramped New Republic shuttle.

The planet Jakku was exactly how she remembered it. All around were lifeless deserts littered with the evidence of a galaxy at war. Broken husks of starships lay half-entombed by the ever shifting sands. Canyons of shining black glass glinted brightly in the light of unforgiving suns; evidence of where capital ship weapons had missed their targets and struck the planet instead. Patches of rainbow-colored sands also dotted the landscape where crashed ships had ruptured and leaked toxic chemicals into the ground. All that was missing were the bodies of the soldiers that had died here to complete the tableau of ruin. Those had been swept away and buried entirely under the dunes. Only the tireless scavengers picking the wrecks clean to sustain themselves provided the illusion of life on the blighted world below.

It was the same. Really, the only difference between the Jakku Leia remembered and the one she saw was scale. It had still been mostly a jungle planet when she visited eight years prior. Only the region she now hovered over had been desolate—reduced to lifelessness by a battle of the Clone Wars. Now, though, the entire planet was a desert.

Leia shook free of her ruminations and scolded herself. She had been spending far too much of the past month locked in her own mind. This visit to an all but dead planet had not been an excuse to isolate herself still further. She turned from the viewport and examined the other two individuals that shared the cramped cabin with her.

Mon Mothma tried to force a smile as Leia's gaze fell on her. Mothma was the constant in an ever changing galaxy. She was Supreme Chancellor of the New Republic. Before that, she had been the leader of the Rebel Alliance. Before that, she had been a senator of the Old Republic. The fact that the principles of the New Republic had survived the Galactic Civil War and the tumultuous years that followed was due in large part to the stability her legend provided. People naturally rallied around her. She was the most experienced and longest-serving defender of liberty and democracy that the galaxy had ever seen. It had been the greatest honor of Leia's life to have her as a mentor.

However, the cost of such service had finally begun to catch up to the hero. Mothma's hair had gone pure white and thinned to the point of being wiry. Her skin was sallow and full of wrinkles. Her eyes were perpetually bloodshot. It took visible effort for the woman to hold herself steady as she sat in her supportive, heavily cushioned chair. Leia knew it took multiple stylists several hours each time to make her fit to appear in news broadcasts or in front of the New Republic Senate. At seventy-eight years old, Mon Mothma of Chandrila looked no younger than one hundred-fifty.

The other member of this meeting was less cordial to Leia. Gial Ackbar simply blinked his secondary, translucent eyelids at her—the Mon Calamari equivalent of a curt nod. It was the best that could be expected. The Supreme Commander of the New Republic Military had clashed with her several times over the years and recently their arguments had grown ever more heated and public. This was not to say she did not respect him, of course. Ackbar had lead the Rebel Alliance armada to victory over the Galactic Empire's mighty fleet of Star Destroyers. Mon Mothma had won the peace, true, but her efforts would have been in vain had Ackbar not won the war.

The cost of service had not spared the Mon Calamari any more than it had his human Chancellor. Ackbar's skin had lost the healthy shine it had possessed in its youth. It was too dry and withered for an aquatic species. His eye-stalks, nearly flush with his skull, moved more sluggishly than when he had crushed the Imperial fleet orbiting Endor. His breathing was also more labored. He spent most of his time these days submerged in a water tank, commanding through a communicator while his more developed gills handled the task of respiration. He was seventy-three, but looked no less ancient than Mon Mothma.

Leia realized that she probably looked the healthiest out of all of them. She had only served twenty years as a senator and less than that as a rebel prior to elected office. Her hair was still mostly its natural brown, with only a few streaks of gray breaking through. Her skin was healthy if increasingly stiff. She was by far the youngest of them at fifty-one.

Yet, she felt like the oldest, most wearied being in the galaxy. The last month had seen to that.

A tense silence descended upon the cabin. The three galactic leaders stared at each other as they sat around the small table. Only the whirring of the shuttle's mechanical systems fought a vain battle against the absolute quiet that threatened to swallow them whole.

"So," Mon Mothma said, her strained voice punching through the oppressive stillness. "We have arrived. I propose we commence discussion."

"Here-here!" Ackbar grunted sardonically. This setup was not what he nor Mon Mothma had intended when they proposed this meeting.

It had all been Leia's idea. The shuttle, the attendance being limited to the three of them, the meeting place over Jakku. All of it. She had wanted to remind them, remind all of them, of what had happened here. Eight years ago...

Twenty-four Years After the Battle of Yavin IV

The planet Jakku was dying.

Leia could see the evidence of that all around her. She could see the smoking husks of wrecked Star Destroyers and Mon Calamari Star Cruisers, still sinking into the sands from their recent crashes, leaking their poisons into the soil and air to complete the job their weapons had begun. The horizon was utterly blocked by opaque green fog. Only planetary-scale shields kept the toxic clouds from consuming this arid landscape the way it was consuming the lush forests beyond. Jakku had resembled a gas giant as she approached via shuttle, the swirling miasma of death making the rest of the planet wither and die in front of her eyes. The Ithorian terraformers who provided the shields would do all they could to prevent it from being rendered uninhabitable, but there was only so much they could do without full funding. Jakku was, after all, a backwater. The best that could be hoped for was that the planet would become a massive desert like Tatooine.

The battle that had taken place mere days ago had been that devastating.

"Mistress Leia?" came the familiar, prissy trill of C-3PO. The voice was so out of place given the circumstances it was all the senator could do not to laugh. Her mechanical assistant was clearly oblivious to the enormity of what had happened here and what was about to occur. The feeling of familiarity, even of normalcy, bolstered her spirits in a way she hadn't anticipated. The droid continued delivering his message. "The ceremony is about to begin. Your presence has been requested by Supreme Chancellor Mothma."

Leia smiled gratefully at her old companion. "Thank you, -3PO. I needed that."

"You are most welcome, Mistress," the droid replied, preening at the praise without recognizing the deeper meaning. Leia smiled again and patted him on his gold-colored shoulder as she passed.

The ceremony was simple, but resolute. Leia stood behind Mon Mothma, to the left of the table, alongside Admiral Ackbar, who was struggling to hide his disdain for what he viewed as a hopeless gesture. The senatorial advisers had been adamant that the three great heroes of the Rebellion be visibly on hand for the occasion. They had said it would lend the event greater weight and convince a galaxy grown used to war that now, finally, they would have peace.

Leia believed them. She had to believe them. She looked across the table at those individuals representing the Galactic Empire.

Grand Moff Snoke sat opposite Mon Mothma. This was only natural considering he was, for all intents and purposes, the ruler of the Empire. The throne itself had sat vacant for twenty years following the death of Emperor Palpatine. The Emperor, no doubt believing he would live forever, had not bothered to establish a clear line of succession prior to his death on the second Death Star. As such, there had been an intense struggle among the Imperial elite concerning who would take his place as the new chief of state. In the absence of a true emperor, the Council of Moffs had assumed the mantle of power.

Snoke himself was an enigma. Leia tried once again to pierce the secrecy that surrounded the man like a physical veil. Almost nothing was known about him. The official files concerning his personal history had been discredited; they bore numerous marks of tampering by Imperial Intelligence. No other records or references had been found in all of the galaxy. For all they knew, he had sprung into existence fully formed when he seized control of the Council of Moffs ten years prior.

He was clearly human. His features were average almost to the point of being invisible. He had neatly combed brown hair, no beard, brown eyes, and even features. There were no scars or visible tattoos. His regulation gray uniform featured no medals indicating military service, a rarity among the Moffs who derived much of their prestige from their participation in the Galactic Civil War, nor did they advertise any other prior stations. The only element of his persona that could have provided a hint to his past was his Coruscanti accent, but that could easily have been an affectation.

Snoke's eyes flicked over Mon Mothma's shoulder and locked with Leia's. The contact only lasted a moment, but it nevertheless chilled her to her very core. There was something subtly...wrong about that man. There was no more evidence that he was a Force user than there was for any other element of his history, but still...

Leia once again cursed herself for never having followed through on her promise to undergo her formal Jedi training. Perhaps she could have derived some information on this man from the extra-sensory intuition her latent Force sensitivity suggested. Alas, they would never know. The responsibilities of the State had simply not allowed her the time.

The room erupted in applause when the respective Chiefs of State signed the Galactic Concordance. The known galaxy had now officially been divided in two: one half controlled by the New Republic, the other by the Galactic Empire. Tears welled up in Leia's eyes as she felt a rush of euphoria pass through her. Her dreams had finally been realized.

Peace. The galaxy was at peace.

The chilling effect of Snoke's presence pulled at her once again. The feeling of darkness, of menace, tried to swallow the elation and replace it with dread.

Leia pushed back against the feeling with a vicious anger. It was over. The Galactic Civil War was over! It had taken nearly thirty years, billions of innocent dead, scores of ruined planets like Jakku, but it was finally OVER! The galaxy could recover. Han and she could settle down and raise their son without the fear of the war taking him from them. Ben had even started showing signs of force sensitivity. He was only ten (the War had kept them from starting a family until over a decade after they married) but already he was showing signs of being a Jedi on par with his uncle. They were talking about letting him join Luke at his academy on Yavin IV. Their lives could truly begin, now.

The press hounded all attendees of the peace conference for hours. Leia smiled and repeated the prepared lines she was supposed to say, statements calculated to calm and assure the galaxy that all of this was real. That the war that had lasted a generation was now finally behind them. She tried desperately to be convinced herself.

"Your use of this planet's history to dissuade me from my convictions was ill-conceived," Ackbar growled. At least, it sounded like a growl. He could just be struggling to speak in air rather than his native water. "Recent events have only proven that treaty to be the farce I always insisted it was."

Leia stiffened in her seat. She glared across the table at the Admiral.

"The First Order can not be appeased!" the career soldier insisted. His warbling voice rose in volume as he listed off figures from New Republic Intelligence reports. "Ten Super Star Destroyers. Hundreds of capital ships. Thousands of Tie Fighters. Millions upon millions of Storm Troopers. All of this military buildup has been done in brazen violation of the Galactic Concordance. How can you insist that peaceful resolution is possible when Snoke clearly intends to launch an offensive?"

Leia bit her tongue. She wanted her opponent to lay out all of his argument before she struck back. Besides which, there really was no effective counter to what he was saying.

"We need to commit to building up our military!" Ackbar insisted. "We can not afford to be caught unprepared when the First Order's fleets start pouring into our territory! Your sanctions, trade restrictions, and diplomatic decrees will only solidify Snoke's commitment to eradicating the New Republic once and for all! By the Will of the Force, Senator, I implore you to see reason!"

Leia took a deep breath. She allowed the air to still after Ackbar had finished his impassioned plea. When she started, she spoke calmly, clearly, and without emotion. She needed to convey how logical her position truly was. She wished Han were here; he could have provided the fire while she provided the reason.

"The New Republic Fleet is still a match for the First Order's forces, even assuming the Intelligence reports are accurate," she said. "Snoke may be a tyrant, but he is not a fool. He will not commit to renewed hostilities because he knows such a course will merely result in the destruction of both the First Order and the New Republic. Diplomatic measures will be an adequate deterrent so long as this balance is maintained."

"Snoke is not merely a tyrant, he is a megalomaniac!" Ackbar insisted, slamming a finned hand on the table. "He was not content to rule the Empire in effect from his position at the head of the Council of Moffs! He decided—no, he needed—to place himself upon the throne! Have you forgotten his formal announcement?!"

No...no, Leia had not forgotten. How could she?

Twenty-nine Years After the Battle of Yavin IV

The transmission was like a blaster going off in a silent room.

The Empire had gone dark nearly a week ago. All of the diplomatic channels had shut down. Ambassadors had left their posts on 'temporary business', only to never return. Holonet calls were not answered. New Republic Intelligence had reported that nearly all of their sources within the Imperial government had either disappeared or provided no meaningful insight into what was going on.

Ackbar had been the most pessimistic, as always. He had immediately placed the New Republic Military on high alert. Every post had been manned, every ship launched. The Admiral himself was on his new flagship, Home-Two, readying for the invasion he was certain was imminent. Leia didn't believe it; couldn't believe it. It had only been five years since Jakku.

"Has it started?" she asked as she stumbled into the common room. It was early morning by the Falcon's internal chrono. Her hair was still unkempt and her sleeping clothes were ruffled. She had never felt more unprepared.

"Not just yet, Your Highness," Han said sarcastically as he guided her to a seat. He only avoided a slap to the face by handing his wife a steaming cup of caf. The piping hot beverage, prepared exactly the way she liked it, warmed her belly and brought her fully awake.

"Nerf herder," Leia grumbled, trying in vain to hide her grin behind her mug. She heard Chewbacca snort in the cockpit. The furry copilot had always possessed hearing too sensitive for his own good.

Any mirth she might have been feeling vanished when she glanced at the holographic symbol floating above the table. The Imperial symbol was slightly different than it had been in the last official transmission from from the Empire's capital on the planet Bastion. What message was Snoke trying to send?

The mug fell from her hands when the transmission began. The steaming hot liquid splashed unnoticed onto her lap. Even Han failed to respond to his beloved's self-inflicted injury, so riveting was the image now on display.

It was Snoke. At least...she thought it was. It looked more like what one would get if they had dunked Grand Moff Snoke in a vat of boiling acid. His skin could have been described as stretched and wrinkled, but that would fail to encompass the enormity of it. It was raw and red and outright broken in numerous places, with cavernous breaks on his neck and forehead and a small flap of skin stretching over his left eye socket, reminding Leia of severe burn victims. Almost the entirety of his left cheek was simply missing, giving him the appearance of continually tightening his lips. No hair remained on his head. This accentuated the shape of his skull which had been warped almost to the point of being unrecognizable as human. His neck was sinewy to the point where it seemed to be made of high-tension cables wrapped in bare skin. By the Force, what had happened to him?

"Chavit..." Han swore quietly. His face had gone deathly pale in a way Leia hadn't seen since a human-sized block of carbonite had unexpectedly been carted past the Falcon's ramp one day. She would have comforted him if she had been able to move at all.

Snoke's face wasn't the only thing that had changed. Previously, the Grand Moff had made public addresses wearing his plain gray uniform while sitting behind a simple metal desk. A small flag with the Imperial crest had sat atop the furniture's surface along with a stack of printed flimsi to give the impression that the man was always busy with administrative duties. A holo of the new Imperial capital on the planet Bastion, formerly a minor outpost designated as 'Starkiller Base', had hung on the wall behind him. The arrangement was utilitarian, boring, and business-like. It was the setup of a bureaucrat and a functionary.

Now, Snoke was sitting on a throne, flanked by red-clad guards, and wearing an ornate set of black robes with gold trim. The holo of Bastion had been replaced by a massive banner bearing the Imperial crest. The crest itself was black and set against a blood red background and extended high to the unseen ceiling. It took what had been the symbol of oppression and menace for Leia's entire life and made it freshly terrifying.

Snoke spoke. The temperature in the room seemed to drop sharply as his voice, more raspy than before, flowed into the ear. A creeping cold inlaid with menace chilled Leia's bones as she sat frozen in place and listened.

People of the galaxy. A great day is upon us. A day that will mark the return to glory for a nation that has too long languished in mediocrity. For the old Empire has been swept aside to rot in the annals of history where it belongs.

He drew himself higher in his seat, his eyes blazing with fire, and all but shouted the rest of his words with an enraged passion that was overpowering.

I, Supreme Leader Snoke, have taken possession of all territory and resources formerly belonging to the Galactic Empire! I have restructured the state into a more efficient, more powerful form! No longer will we acquiesce to disorder! No longer will we allow ourselves to be exploited and put down by those of weak minds and weaker will! No longer will our strength wane and our pride wither! Peace and prosperity shall return and the Imperial Way that has been abandoned by those too weak to preserve it shall rise once again! Rejoice, you peoples, for a new age has come! The Age of the First Order!

All was chaos then. Chaos, and fear.

"The New Republic Military is in a desiccated state!" Ackbar insisted. "Funding has been diverted from our defenses for far too long! We can barely afford to maintain the ships we have now, much less update and replace them as needed! We are weaker than we have been since the capture of Coruscant! Re-investing in the military is our only hope for survival!"

The angry voice echoed in the small cabin for several seconds. It was then Leai's turn to speak. Again, she took a deep breath. What she was about to say wasn't easy. In fact, had this meeting not been between such close friends and allies, she might not have been able to say it at all. No one in the senate or the military wanted to admit the truth. She took care to once again speak calmly and rationally.

"Doing as you suggest would result in the collapse of the New Republic," she said. Ackbar froze in shock. It was unclear if he genuinely didn't know this, didn't believe it, or hadn't expected her to admit it. Regardless, Leia pressed on. "Funding was diverted from the military because it needed to be. I remind you, Admiral, that the Galactic Civil War endured for over twenty years. Infrastructure across the stars has been ravaged. Entire generations have been wiped out on planets across New Republic space. Farming worlds have been burned. Mining colonies, buried. Trading stations have been wiped out. Hyperspace routes rendered meaningless because the planets they lead to simply no longer have people on them. The funding you want is needed for jobs programs, welfare initiatives, breeding incentives, and countless other endeavors. Redirecting them back to the military would deal a fatal blow to the economy. It would also tell the general public in no uncertain terms that the New Republic has failed to keep its promise of peace. It has been a generation, several for the shorter lived races, since the Empire ruled all the galaxy; the memory of its brutality has faded in the minds of many. Say we do as you propose. How long do you think it will be before the financial panics begin? How long before a new Secessionist Movement crops up? How long before people start wondering if the Imperial Way might have the answers after all?"

Ackbar at least had the decency to lower his eyes. Another silence descended upon the cabin.

A shadow passed overhead as one of the patrol ships keeping them safe made its scheduled inspection. It retreated after apparently hearing the all-clear from the pilot. The bright sunlight resumed shining accusingly through the viewport.

No one dared to speak. Ackbar didn't deny what she had said. He couldn't. Yet, he refused to accept her arguments. He refused to see the truth.

"Leia..."

They had almost forgotten that Mon Mothma was there. The Supreme Chancellor had sat silent and let her colleagues debate between themselves. It was easy to not be aware of her presence. Her frail, wraith-like form seemed ready to vanish into the ether at any moment.

Leia resisted meeting Mothma's gaze. She knew she would, knew she had to, but still resisted. She had been resisting for the past month. She didn't want to see. Didn't want to face it.

Leia Organa-Solo looked into her mentor's eyes, and saw her world dying again.

One Month Prior

The Jedi Academy was in ruins.

The buildings were on fire. The bodies of cadets and what few Knights Luke had trained littered the ground. Blaster-marks and the boot-prints of Storm Troopers left no doubt as to what had transpired here. It was a scene out of their darkest nightmares.

Leia was nearly frantic. She had been since the previous night when she had awoken, screaming in her husband's arms, shouting her son's and brother's names. No one had answered the attempts to contact the Academy. It was simple luck that the Millennium Falcon had been the closest ship to investigate. Her senatorial guards had protested strongly at first, but stopped when Han and she had turned their gaze upon them.

The sounds of burning fires and the calls of Han, Chewie, and the guards were all that could be heard. Someone had to have survived. Someone had to tell her what had happened to her son.

Leia cursed. She cursed the First Order. She cursed Snoke. She cursed the galaxy, the Force, and she especially cursed herself for never being trained as a Jedi. She could have done something then. Found survivors, perhaps healed them with her abilities. She wouldn't feel so useless.

Leia...

A sound from decades past nearly stopped her heart. She hadn't heard that plea in her mind since...since Bespin. Her heart soared as she realized that her brother was alive! She stopped in her tracks, desperately trying to center herself so she could follow her brother's 'voice' to find him. It was exceptionally difficult. She was afraid and that made it hard to clear her mind, which made her more frustrated and angry with herself, which made her more afraid, which made it harder to center herself, which—

Her baby needed her.

Leia used that thought like a falling Star Destroyer. It crashed through everything else and left a stillness behind it that would substitute for serenity. She tried to remember the scant few lessons Luke had succeeded in imparting to her over the years. Clear your mind...Trust the Force...

There!

Her legs had carried her half way to her destination before she realized she had started moving. She was equally unaware of having started shouting her brother's name over and over again. She stumbled and choked on the smoke from burning huts as she made her way through the barracks area. Where...where...

The plea in her mind directed her toward a pile of rubble. She only now recognized it as the ruins of her son's personal quarters. Desperately, she reached out, trying to lift the debris off her brother with the Force. There was no effect. She had squandered her potential in this aspect of her life. Her Force abilities were stillborn.

An enormous, brown shape thundered past Leia as she stood despairing. Chewbacca, having deduced what had happened, immediately began lifting huge chunks of debris with his bare hands. The wookiee's thickly muscled, fur-covered limbs hefted thousands of kilograms of stone at a time. His retractable claws slashed at bits of wood when they got stuck. He cleared the obstructions faster than any construction droid could have done.

Leia was overjoyed when she saw that her brother was alive. Her heart plummeted when she saw that her son wasn't with him. She rushed to him, waited while Chewie pushed a canteen of water to the injured man's lips, and tried to hope.

"Luke?" she asked, trying not to sound too demanding of the injured man. "Luke, can you hear me?"

"Leia..." he said, his voice barely a whisper.

"Luke, where's Ben?" she asked, unable to wait any longer. "Where is my son?"

The expression of grief and shame told Leia all she needed to know. Really, she had known already. She had sensed it. It wasn't the destruction of the Academy that had woken her in screams of anguish. It wasn't even the deaths of so many she had come to know as friends, or the doom of her brother's dream. No. It was something far worse than that.

It was Ben. Ben had done all of this. Her baby had fallen to the Dark Side of the Force.

Agony. All she had known was agony. She hadn't felt Chewbacca catch her fainting body, hadn't felt Han carry her back to the Falcon under guard, hadn't felt the battered old freighter take her to the Senate's medical wing on Coruscant for treatment. Nor had she cared when she learned of these things. Nothing had mattered to her.

Her baby was lost. Lost to the darkness that had claimed his grandfather.

Tears flowed freely down Leia's face. All pretensions toward objectivity and rationality were abandoned. She couldn't pretend anymore. She couldn't hide from the truth, even by running as far away as Jakku.

Her son had joined the First Order. He was certainly being trained in the Dark Side by the self-proclaimed Supreme Leader. Her marriage had fallen apart; Han left to become a smuggler again a few days prior. Neither of them bore the other any ill will. There just wasn't any going back to the way things had been. Nothing would ever be right again. Even the peace she had dreamed of, had worked to obtain, had deluded herself into believing could last, had slipped through her fingers and been lost to the cosmic winds. Everything had gone...

Ackbar didn't gloat. He had to know he had won, but this was never what he had wanted. He had never hated Leia or wished her harm. Nor were there any recriminations from Mon Mothma. The Supreme Chancellor understood all too well the desperation that had lead her protege into denial. The trio simply sat quietly and waited for the grief to work its way out.

"...Snoke won't stop," Leia admitted. She wiped the tears from her bloodshot eyes. She had a job to do. It was, in fact, all she could do. So she spoke and plotted. "The First Order will go on the offensive. We aren't ready to repulse them. Not without destroying ourselves in the process."

"I agree," Mon Mothma said. Both Leia and Ackbar sat straighter and listened intently. This was the part where their leader shared her wisdom with them all. The Chancellor spoke again, the depth of her experience and knowledge far outweighing the frailty of her voice, imbuing her every word with power. "There are ways the New Republic can be made ready without shattering our fragile nation. They will, however, take time. How can this time be obtained?"

Leia remained silent, not trusting herself to deal with reality again just yet. Thankfully, Ackbar was ready with an answer. This was clearly one of the approaches he had considered over the eight years since the Galactic Concordance.

"I propose a return to our old tactics," he said. "There are many living under the shadow of the First Order who yearn for freedom. We can supply these individuals with the tools and training they need to take the fight to their oppressors. The internal disruption should delay any offensive operations on Snoke's part for several cycles at least. It would also provide new sources of information to compensate for our Intelligence's inability to penetrate the First Order's security."

"I will lead them," Leia heard herself say. The others looked almost as surprised as she felt. "I know more about this kind of warfare than anyone else we can spare. I can rally them and lead them to victory."

"That would be unwise, Senator," Ackbar said, not unkindly. There was none of the recrimination in his voice that had characterized their prior arguments. "This new Rebellion, or whatever it may be called, can not be seen as a part of the New Republic. It would demand an immediate declaration of war on the First Order's part."

"There are ways to avoid that," Mon Mothma declared. She looked at her former protege with a severity tinged with pity. "Are you certain this is what you want?"

Leia grinned sadly.

A month later, Leia Organa-Solo had been removed from office. She suffered a fall from grace that was as dramatic as it was carefully orchestrated. All of her allies publicly denounced her. Even the Supreme Chancellor condemned her scandalous behavior. All rank and privileges were stripped from her and she went into self-imposed exile.

Her family was gone. Her career was gone. Her life was over. No one would be surprised when she turned up at the head of a guerrilla insurgency inside the First Order. It would be the perfect capstone to a historic tragedy: the fall of the galaxy's greatest hero.

Several years later, Leia sat in a bunker, once again a General instead of a Princess. She was reading a report from the commander of her squadron of antiquated X-Wings. It seemed this 'Poe Dameron' might be his generation's Wedge Antilles if half his claims concerning his own performance were true. She would have to see if Ackbar could arrange for a shipment of the newer model fighters to make their way to her Resistance.

She fulfilled her duties admirably. Better than any other leader could have done, given the circumstances. Still, she knew that the optimism and passion that drove her in her youth was gone. The hope that the galaxy could be made a better place was distant and faint; a twinkling star rather than a blazing sun. She was doing this because it was what she was made for. It was all she knew how to do. Much like how Han returned to smuggling because it was all that he knew how to do. A pang of longing echoed in Leia's heart. She buried it in her work. There was a war to fight, after all.

There would always be a war to fight.

Note: The Last Jedi is a terrible movie. There, I said it. I know there are a lot of people who like it and that's fine. We each have the right to enjoy whatever the hell we want. That's a subjective thing. Objectively, however, TLJ suffers from major flaws in storytelling, continuity, and simple logic. I had a similar reaction to watching the film that I had to playing Halo 5. There was so much potential being squandered that I couldn't help thinking about how I would go about fixing it. This oneshot is essentially a setup for my rewrite of Episode VIII. It's also meant to test the waters; let me know if any of you are interested in seeing my spin on things.

Note: For anyone reading my other current fic, Merged Galaxy part 1, don't worry. I'm not abandoning that story at all. My rewrite of TLJ, assuming people want to read it, will be strictly a secondary project. MG will take precedent and that means that if the 3-week deadline between posts is coming up, MG will get the attention.

Note: I've changed a lot of what happened between the Original Trilogy and the new films. One of the most obvious changes is the timeline. I originally started changing the dates because I thought it was dumb to have the Empire surrender only 5 years after Yavin IV. In the original EU it took almost 4 times that for peace to be established. The Thrawn Trilogy showed that even 9 ABY the Rebel Alliance was still in the process of transitioning to a proper government. My AU (do we need a new term for that now that Disney is using it?) combines elements of the old and new continuity.

Note: Operation Cinder didn't happen in my version. This is mostly because I always saw the Emperor as such an egomaniac that it simply wouldn't occur to him that he might die at some point. His lust for power had made him that myopic. Also, it feels pretty silly that anyone in the Empire would actually follow that kind of order. Most people in a dictatorship are scrambling for power when the boss dies, not burning stuff for the lulz. I know that there's some explanation for it in canon. It still feels silly to me.

Note: Ackbar won't go out like a punk in my version. He'll also actually have a role in the plot rather than being a glorified extra.

Note: I decided to give Snoke at least some backstory. I'll probably leave it mostly mysterious to maintain his mystique, but I think the audience deserves at least some explanation for him. This is the guy who undid the triumphant ending of the Original Trilogy, after all. Not giving him any backstory or characterization at all is unsatisfying and just bad storytelling.

Note: I decided to simplify the nature of the Imperial Remnant compared to the new canon. The galaxy isn't literally divided in half because that's not how space works, but generally speaking that's the idea. The canon political makeup of the Empire following the peace is just too complicated considering how little time is actually spent explaining it in the films (i.e., none at all).

Note: Leia flying through space was fucking stupid. Aside from looking ridiculous, there has also never been any indication that Leia received Jedi training of any kind. How does she know how to do this? Luke could barely call his lightsaber to him in Empire and he had at least received some training from Obi-Wan. The Force used to be analogous to a Zen discipline where you had to attain a degree of enlightenment to use it; the new film reduced it to just being superpowers. That scene is also a violation of Checkov's gun because her abilities never come up again. In fact, you could have just killed her there and nothing would have changed because she doesn't do anything for the rest of the story. Did the script originally have her die but her agent demanded she be in future movies or something? Anyway, I've changed it so that she has minimal Force abilities in my story. I'll also be exploring why Rey can do so many Jedi things without ever getting training.

Thanks for reading. Love you guys.

Slispace Anomaly