Superman Returns by John Ottman
Listen while you read.
I left Earth once.
I was sixteen years old and I was standing on Endor’s fourth moon, surrounded by the dark jungle of giant trees, smelling the damp earth rise from beneath my shoes, and the warm air, still and clingy, engulfing me as I watched Luke finish building the fire pit. He didn’t want help when I offered.
In the distance, I could hear the Ewok and Rebel Alliance celebration: singing, cheering, the clanging of instruments.
I was still in my shimmery red gown, smelling of burnt skin and silk. My flesh felt like it was pulled so tightly over my frame that if I dared to move, it would split and spill my insides out.
Luke didn’t seem to notice his similar injuries. He had finished the fire grave and was levitating his father’s body on top. And then he lit it with a torch. Fire enveloped the wood and soon Darth Vader’s body, the terror of the galaxy, his ashes floating up into the sky.
Luke stood watching in solemn silence. I moved to stand next to him. He didn’t seem to notice me there. I felt his sadness, but beneath it was a sense of hope. It was finally over. And he hadn’t failed. He saved the only father he’d ever known to have, even if their reconciliation lasted for only a few minutes. There was hope still, for him, Leia, Han, and the Alliance. Where they would go from here, who knew?
“I’ll be leaving soon after the celebration,” I said quietly. I had decided my time in this universe had ended. But Luke wouldn’t know that. He would only think I was to disappear somewhere in his galaxy. It didn’t matter what he thought, after all. My adventure—my experience—was over. I had learned what it was like to be outside my world and that I couldn’t change the things to come.
“I’m sorry—“ but that’s all I could make out. What I was going to say sounded stupid and pointless. He won’t care that I tricked him into thinking I was someone else (and I really was someone else anyhow) because he wouldn’t remember me after I left.
I looked at him, his melancholy profile shadowed in firelight. He didn’t look back. This was as close as I’d ever be. And he hated me. I didn’t sense it, so to speak, but I might as well have guessed it.
Without another word, I turned and left Luke alone in the red-orange firelight and returned to the Ewok village. I wanted to feel what the others felt (joy, love, real happiness) before I left.
The celebration was wild and jumping. The bearlike Ewoks singing in a language I could not understand, but it felt like victory words. Leia, Han, the Wookie Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian all gathered in a tight circle, laughing, embracing. Wedge Antilles and the other Rogue Squadron pilots stood off to another side, clapping each other’s backs, playfully pushing each other around. They paid no attention to the girl in the red dress, obviously overdressed and sticking out like a warning beacon in the midst of browns, greens and greys. They didn’t care. The battle was won. But the Empire wasn’t beaten yet. It still had control of the capitol planet, Coruscant, and it was the Alliance’s job to overtake it. That would happen on another day, though.
Tonight, they drank, ate, and cheered each other and their survival.
I stood off to the side, watching in wonderment. R2-D2, the silver and blue astromech droid, bumped into my leg. I glanced down and smiled. R2 tweeted and cooed at me, and remained at my side.
“Luke!” I heard Han call out.
And there he was, smiling and embracing his sister Leia, coming in for another by Han Solo. Everyone gathered around Luke, relief flooding through those who hadn’t known if Luke had survived the destruction or not.
It was time, I thought. I turned away, but then in front of me, flickering into view were the soft white-blue silhouettes of Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and then, finally, Anakin Skywalker. They were looking right at me, smiling. I thought they wouldn’t have recognized me, but somehow they knew who I was.
Then I noticed Luke standing directly beside me. I hadn’t even realized it until he turned to smile at me. All the hurt was gone. He seemed more at peace now.
“Where will you be going?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, although I knew exactly where I was going. “Somewhere away from all of this. To start a new life, I suppose. The Empire will think their only other rightful heir was also killed in the destruction of the Death Star. The Moffs will be fighting for power. It’ll be the perfect time for me to disappear.”
Luke nodded slowly, then said, “You could stay here, with the Alliance. They could use someone with your knowledge. It will definitely help the tide of the war.”
I shook my head no. “I’m not sure if that would be a good idea. If I were discovered alive…well, let’s just say the Moffs won’t stop to try to kill me and anyone near me.”
Luke then turned me to face him, his blue eyes full of sincerity and confidence. “You are now exactly how I met you. Alone, your family killed. If you stay with us, you’ll have somewhere to be. You can start again. Think about it, Christalee. And if you still don’t think it’s a good idea, you can always leave any time you want.”
I wanted to stay, more than anything. Looking into his ocean-blue eyes, I felt suddenly like I belonged, that this was where I was meant to be…maybe…possibly. I smiled and Luke embraced me in a warm hug.
“Come on,” he said brightly, “I’ll introduce you to Leia and Han.”
I decided to try it for a couple of days, to see how long I could stay in this universe. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and before I knew it, I was apart of a culture I only ever dreamed of. Luke and I had agreed to keep my identity as the Imperial Princess a secret, even to Leia and Han. I became a Rogue Squadron leader, fighting alongside Wedge Antilles, helping break through the security defenses of Corsucant and fighting the Empire into a little corner of the galaxy. This took years, of course, and before I knew it, I was in my late twenties. I had helped bring up the New Republic after the Empire had been finally beaten. I became Leia’s personal aide and guard when she became Chief of State. When I wasn’t with Leia, I was with Luke, helping him create the Jedi Academy. There were many times when I tried to leave, or when I thought it was a “good idea” to leave. Luke and I would have an argument about his decisions. I would tell him not to do something, or not to trust somebody, and he would fight with me on my reasons. Those reasons being because I couldn’t give him one. I couldn’t tell him how I knew certain things were to happen because I would give away my real identity: which was that I didn’t belong there.
I knew bits and pieces of the future, but it didn’t help. I would save Luke’s life in extremely impossible situations, and he’d wonder how I did it. It pained me that I couldn’t let him know who I really was, or how I was able to seem invincible. And I wondered on that too, how I was able to have nearly unlimited power. The longer I stayed in Skywalker’s world, the more powerful and knowledgeable I became. I slowly began to forget home, becoming fully integrated into this other world.
Before long I was in my thirties. Luke and I had become very close friends, but there was something else. There was romance somewhere, but we both buried it far below. I knew Luke was afraid to let anything more happen between us because of his bad luck with women (every romantic relationship he’d ever had either ended up in betrayal of the worst kind: assassination attempts, death, or mysterious disappearances). I was afraid because I knew I’d have to leave someday.
Luke and I were two of a handful of Jedi Masters at this point, with an academy going strong. Leia and Han had been married and had three children who attended the academy. I was still involved in the political affairs of the New Republic, splitting my time between the Jedi Academy and the capitol. Lando wanted to sweep me off my feet, much to Luke’s annoyance, and I let him take me out on a few wild space nights. Nothing that amounted to anything but a good friendship in the end.
By the time I was in my late thirties almost forties, I had resigned as a personal aide, left the academy temporarily to embark on some “legal” smuggling missions with Mara Jade and Talon Karrde. A year flew by and I had been out of touch with Luke, Leia, and Han. Then a rescue mission forced Luke and I back together. That was when we had decided to forget about our inhibitions (that made no sense anyhow!) and allow ourselves to grow into more than just “close friends.” This rescue mission had me nearly drowning in cave of water when Luke openly cried out, “I love you.”
I found it to be perfect timing.
In all this time, I had been kidnapped, tortured, stabbed, brainwashed, seduced, shot, enslaved, hunted, and exiled.
And in all this, I had fallen in love.
Then the Yuuzhan Vong came, an alien race from another galaxy that existed outside of the Force, and they nearly wiped out our civilization, changing our planets to adapt to their lifestyle. The darkest years of our lives painfully crept by. Every day knowing you survived was a day to be grateful. But then you feared to sleep. Leia lost her youngest son to the Vong. Chewbacca was also lost. Jacen, Leia’s oldest son, and I were captured during a near-fail mission to eradicate one of the Vong’s most brutal weapons to the Jedi: acid spitting wolf-like creatures undetectable by the Force. Jacen was tortured, but after a year, he escaped. I was tortured as well, and became the plaything for the fleet commander Warmaster Tsavong Lah. He was fascinated by the Jedi and the “magic” we could wield. So he kept me as a pet on a leash. I eventually escaped, stabbing the warmaster straight through the heart with his own amphistaff.
Through the years of fighting for our lives, our homes, our planets, Luke and I had a child: a boy we named Ben. I couldn’t believe it! I had a little boy with little blue eyes and a little nose and a little mouth, little feet, hands, toes and fingers.
I never felt anything like it. The feeling of overwhelming love. The connection I felt with him through the Force was unimaginable. He was my child. Every day was a wonder—and a nightmare, because the war hadn’t ended yet. An animalistic side in me grew when I fought against the Vong. I wanted to wipe them out, one by one, so that my baby could grow up in a safer place. I refused to lose my child the way Leia lost hers.
Suddenly the tides had turned, and we finally had the upper hand. After finding a solution between our two peoples, that solution being a living planet called Zonama Sekot, which seemed to be a portion of their homeworld, a wary peace finally spread across the galaxy.
Sitting across from my child playing in our apartment on Ossus, the new home for the Jedi Academy, I watched him attempt to levitate a ball off the floor. He was barely two years old. It reminded me of when I was two years, sitting next to my cousin, fighting over a doll she thought best to pull away from me. My mother surprising both of us. I froze, thinking I was in trouble for “not sharing.” But then my mother pulled out a camera and flashed us with a bright light. Just a picture. She only wanted a picture. So I’m not in trouble after all—
Mother? What mother? I was grown in a tube. —No you weren’t, you were grown in a womb.
I sat, watching my son lift the ball successfully into the air, smiling and giggling as he let it bounce back to the floor.
“I could never do that at two,” I said to Ben, smiling. Ben looked over to me, a wide smile spreading across his face, a few baby teeth glistening in the pale yellow sunlight which flooded the room from the large viewport.
“Momma!” he burst, then crawled towards where his ball rolled away to.
Of course you couldn’t at two because there is no such thing as the Force where you’re from.
I frowned. Where am I from? Coruscant. No. Corellia. No!
I was forty-six years old, with a two year-old child, and—No you’re not! You are not forty-six. Forty-four? No. Forty? No!
Well then WHAT AM I ???
I sat in silence. Ben was staring at me, a tiny little crease indenting his forehead. His big blue eyes showed worry. I gasped in air suddenly, realizing I had not been breathing for a handful amount of seconds, and tears began to burn my eyes. I’m not from here.
“Ben—“ But I stopped, my throat closing in on me. I already knew what needed to be done. I had stayed too long, far too long. I took Ben into my arms, pressing him tightly against my chest, and rushed to a neighboring apartment, one where Ben had spent many nights when Luke and I were away on missions.
Corran Horn’s son, Valin answered the door. Valin was a Jedi Knight. I told him I had to find Master Skywalker quickly and that it was very important. Ben’s little fingers gripped my shirt-blouse and wrapped into my long golden blonde hair. When I tried to place Ben in Valin’s arms, he pulled a part of me with him.
“Mommy,” he called out. He could sense my despair and knew something was wrong. His tiny fingers reached out for me. Valin held Ben tightly, but was becoming worried himself. Valin must have been only thirteen or fourteen.
OR MAYBE SIXTEEN!!!
“No!” I barked. And I realized I made Valin jump away, scaring Ben too. “I’m sorry, Valin. I’m sorry, Ben. It’ll be okay,” I said. My eyes began to burn again. “Valin, I want you to contact Mara Jade quickly. Tell her that—“ My throat closed again. I swallowed a couple of times until it cleared somewhat. “Tell her that I need her to watch over my son.”
I turned away as fast as I could before the look on Ben’s desperate, round face changed my mind. I had to go home. I felt something was wrong there. I had to get back to my family, to my life that I once knew, but couldn’t seem to remember too well.
You don’t belong here. You never have…
I kept going, even as I heard Ben crying for me to come back, and made my way to my ship, the Starfire. From there I sent Luke an urgent message with coordinates for a meeting place.
When I finally arrived on the Sanctuary Moon of Endor, I landed my ship in a field clearing. Exiting the Starfire, I walked up to a hill that looked over into a valley of forest. The breeze was cooler for Endor this time of year. I could still hear the distant tribal hunting calls of the Ewok, the smaller, more subtle clicks of the insects, and the rustle of leaves and creaking tree trunks as the wind played gently through them.
“You know I can feel your panic from thousands of kilometers away,” Luke said from behind me. “’Urgent’ message is rather redundant, don’t you think?”
I smiled. He was nervous. He knew I was thinking of doing something. I could barely hide anything from him these days—these years!
“Where are you going, Christalee?” he said. He was now directly behind me. I could feel his warmth radiate off of him. And I was going to have to give this up?
I turned slowly to look at him, his deep blue eyes accented by subtle creases of age, his mouth bent into a soft smile, but there was tension behind it.
“You know how you’ve always wanted to know how I know things?” I started. “Things that I knew would happen and did happen. And I said to you that I couldn’t tell you. It used to drive you crazy.”
“Yes,” he nodded, still smiling. “I remember. And I decided to stop pressing you about it because I figured eventually you would tell me.” He pulled me in close, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Is this that time?”
I looked up into his eyes, my throat constricting on me again. I swallowed hard, my face hardening as I did so.
Luke’s smile melted away. But his body stayed calm, no twitching of nervous muscles, and he kept a solid grip around my waist.
“Yes,” I barely made out. I cleared my throat again. “Yes, this is that time.”
Luke stayed silent.
“I am not who you think I am,” I continued, and as I spoke, I slowly slipped from Luke’s embrace. “I wasn’t supposed to be here this long.”
Luke kept quiet, but I could see the multitude of questions forming on his face.
“The night we met on Endor was supposed to be it,” I said. “But I stayed because I wanted to know what it was like to be a part of this—your—world. The longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave. I fell in love with this place. And I fell in love with you. And it seemed as if everything was okay here, that I was allowed to be here. I forgot about where I came from and the life that I had had. I made a life with you. With Leia and Han. Chewie and Lando. I didn’t want to let it go.
“But the longer I stayed here, the more my world fell away. My world is in danger now and I have to go back. I have to help save it.”
Luke was dumbfounded. “I don’t understand,” he said. “What world? What danger? Let me come with you to help you—“
“No, that’s the thing, you can’t,” I said, and a sudden serenity fell over me, even as I saw the panic grow in Luke’s deep blue eyes. “Where I’m going, you can’t follow. Our two universes can never meet.
“Let me show you who I really am.” I took a step back and a white-gold shimmer haloed around my body. My face, lined with the same age as Luke’s, dissolved into my younger self, and the jumpsuit I wore was replaced by jeans and a simple t-shirt. Then I pointed towards an empty spot on the hill. White light shot from my fingers and opened up a portal. Inside the portal was, at first, black with stars, then, rising into view, my home planet.
Luke stood in completely awe, watching a blue and green planet merge into view on the other side of the portal.
“This is where I’m from,” I said, wistfully watching as the image moved past the planet’s atmosphere, through thick white clouds, racing over the blue-black oceans, reaching city-scape, forests, rolling dunes, deserts, mountains, and then—
“My home,” I said, as a medium-sized house flew into view. “I’m from Earth.” I turned to Luke.
He stood there, unable to move, a deeply sad understanding sinking onto his visage.
“And I can’t come with you,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.
I shook my head no. “It’s too far away from here,” I said. “Luke, I never belonged in your universe. I have to go back and save my world.”
“Don’t do it,” he said suddenly, moving forward ever so slightly, as if afraid one more step would make me run. “Don’t leave us. You can’t.”
I went to him, wrapping my arms around his neck, knowing that this was it, that this was my last chance to feel this, before it all went away.
“Luke, when I leave…” my voice trailed off. I cleared my throat. “After I leave, you won’t remember this.”
“No, you can’t—“
“You won’t remember anything and all will be as it should be,” I said firmly. “The way it was meant to be. But I will always love you. Know that.” I choked and my eyes burned so hotly that I couldn’t stop the tears this time.
“You and Ben will always feel loved,” I continued brokenly, “even if you don’t know where it’s coming from.”
“Don’t…” And then I kissed him before he could try to say anymore. I knew this was my last chance, my last kiss, my last moment to feel this way, before reality sucked me into the portal. It was beyond anything I could imagine, this feeling. Kidnapped, tortured, stabbed, brainwashed, seduced, shot, enslaved, hunted, exiled, and loved.
And loved back.
I broke the connection. I stepped towards the portal. My home was in there. The sun was shining bright in both worlds. The wind picked up, a burst of pine rode with it, and it was even cooler this time in my Earthling t-shirt. I looked back at Luke one last time before stepping through. Clad, still, in all black, his lightsaber dangling at his side, his brown hair ruffled by the wind, and his blue eyes glittering brightly in the sunlight.
“Christanna,” he said. How did he know my real name? “Will you remember?”
I smiled. “I’ll remember everything.” I stepped through the portal.
I was back.
I was nineteen years old. I stood standing in the gravel outside my parents’ house. Time had passed by, but not a lot. The sun beat hotly on my skin and I felt a trickle of sweat trail down my spine.
“Mom? Dad?” I called out. No one was home yet. That was usual. I wondered if they even knew I was gone. That I went to the stars and back.
I looked behind me where the portal had been. There was no trace of it. As if it never happened. But I remembered everything.
Sweat built up on my brow, I made myself move towards my parents’ house and go inside—shut the door—waited for them to come home—and never looked back.
But, every once in a while, I’d look up.