Aftermath: Life Debt – New Excerpt
The first Aftermath book was a little bit of a mess in many fans eyes. The style was a little all over the place, and the book was a difficult read. Regardless of what you thought of the style, Aftermath is an important piece of the canon and does a lot to show how the Galaxy got from The Empire Strikes Back to The Force Awakens.
The room is white and mostly empty. The walls are padded. The windows are many, and the sunlight streaming in is bold and bright.
The only things in this room are Leia and a potted plant.
The plant is a sapling of the sanctuary trees of Endor, though some call it a serpent’s puzzle, named so after the way the dark branches weave together in a kind of organic knotwork.
She grew it from a seed—a small knobby acorn given to her by the little Ewok known as Wicket. She grew the plant in a pot of Chandrilan soil, and to her shock and delight, it took.
It has become a focus of her meditations, as suggested by Luke. She decided, after storming out of the meeting room, that it was best to come here. Best for her to focus on something that wasn’t the state of the galaxy, or the nascent New Republic, or that nagging feeling in the deep of her middle that Mon Mothma has betrayed her in some small but significant way.
She sits with it in the middle of the room, hands gently resting on her pregnant belly.
She clears her mind.
And then she tries to feel the tree.
She does this at least once a day.
Leia has never felt the tree.
Not for lack of trying! She sits here. She empties herself of breath, and then she tries to free herself of thought. Just like Luke taught her to. That part works fine most of the time. But he said it was possible to feel the lifeforce of things with the Force.
She swore to him that she just doesn’t have it. It being that mystical, intangible power that her brother possesses and (this thought comes with a set of chills grappling up her spine) that her father—her birth father—possessed, too.
Luke continues to swear that, with time, she will come to feel the Force just as he does. He explained that it was how she felt his pain back during Cloud City—him hanging there, wearied and beaten and about to fall into the roiling clouds below. He said he’d teach her.
And he did teach her. Some things, at least.
Then? He left.
Just like Han left.
She finds her mind wandering to him now. Her thoughts reach for her wayward brother like a living thing, like branches seeking the sun. I need you here. I need your help. Luke sometimes had a farm boy’s naïveté, yes, but right now she feels she could use a little of that.
Her mind is a tangle of thoughts. The complexities of politics, the love of (and anger over) Han, the loss of Luke, and above all else the ever-persistent worry about the life she carries —
Her skin tingles. Her mind feels suddenly unmoored from the rest of her. Leia feels dizzy enough to fall over.
There! There it is. Washing over her and through her — an awareness unlike any she’s ever felt before. A pulsing glow, flickering and strong.
It’s not the plant. It’s not Luke. It’s not even Han.
It’s her child.
This isn’t just a mother’s recognition of the life inside—that, she already knows. She’s already well aware of the bump and tumble of that little person she carries. (And she already knows about the heartburn, and the pre-breakfast nausea, and the post-breakfast nausea, and the post-post-breakfast hunger …)
This goes beyond all that. This is something separate from her. It isn’t a physical feeling. It is all around her. It suffuses her like the perfume from a jungle of flowers. As such, she is suddenly aware of her child’s mind and spirit: She senses pluck and wit and steel blood and a keen mind and by the blood of Alderaan is this one going to be a fighter!
It’s a boy.
It’s a boy.
Her hands fly in front of her mouth as she both laughs and cries at the same time. This, she thinks, is the light side that Luke always goes on about—the promise of light, the promise of a new life . . .
And then, the black edging of the dark side encircles her bliss like a noose. Because what rides swift on the heels of hope but fear — a fear that stretches out far and wide like a growing shadow. Fear of having a child in an unstable galaxy. Fear of whether or not Han is alive — or Luke, too. Will the child grow up with a father? An uncle? A mentor? What is her legacy and what will her boy’s legacy be?
Her breath catches in her chest. She has to force herself to breathe.
Clear your mind. Clear it all. Focus, Leia. Focus.
Are those her thoughts?
Or are they Luke’s?