He’s so small and innocent. Lying there in his crib, eyes closed in peaceful rest without a care in the galaxy. Was I ever like that? Did my parents ever look down on me and contemplate my existence like I’m doing now? Did they ever think I would end up like this?
My eyes dart back to myself, such a stark contrast to the sleeping infant. I’m bigger and weathered. It’s evident in my eyes. It’s evident on my hands. Life has worn me down like water eroding at a rock. I’ve changed significantly in the past five years. Five years ago, I was a patriotic researcher living on the bustling capital of the galaxy, helping to find a means to end a raging war. Five years ago, I’d never taken another sentient life. Five years ago, I was virtually alone, focused solely on my career, thinking about how rapidly I could advance to become a senior engineer solving the most complex problems in existence.
Much has changed since then. I’m a fugitive from the government, hiding on a remote world on the outskirts of civilization. My career is now centered on finding ways to prepare for a war that I hope never comes. The blood of several other people is on my hands, sentients whom I killed. However, I am also surrounded by friends and family who care for me. If there’s anything positive to come from that, it’s that. They are my highest priority, and while my work has myriad engineering problems to satiate my desire for intellectual challenge, it no longer is all-encompassing. Now my chief challenge is how to raise my son and what kind of example will I display to him. What aspects of me will he grow up emulating?
I never anticipated that events would transpire to bring me here, and yet here I am. I never contemplated what it would be like to behold my son lying in blissful respite. Now, even the largest warship or the most extravagant display of the Force doesn’t captivate my attention the same way that Akleyn does. He is my son, mine and Cassi’s to love and cherish. He is the legacy that we will leave on the galaxy, not whatever other accomplishments we achieve. The question that now fills my mind is what legacy will I pass on to him? There’s something that I’ve been wrestling with, nagging at my mind when I sleep that reminds me of a more sordid part of my past.
My hand reaches down to the hilt of the lightsaber clipped onto my belt, the lightsaber I’ve habitually worn there for the past two years since I completed my training in the ways of the Force. I built the weapon myself and I’m proud of it, but is it symbolic of the example I will be for me son? I may have never used it for evil, but does all defense of good require force of arms? Can I take the life of another sentient then go home and explain that to my son?
What will I do when he looks up at me with his big eyes and asks with youthful curiosity “Daddy, why did you kill those people?” I’m uncertain if I can handle that responsibility. I’ve never desired a warrior’s life and fatherhood has only distanced me from warfare. I can defend myself and my family if absolutely essential, but do I need to carry a weapon as a constant symbol of that conviction?
The question is not would I use my lightsaber and Force powers to defend my family. Of course I would. I would defend them with all my resources and abilities, even at the expense of my own life. There is no discrepancy in my mind as to my resolve on that front, but rather of what lifestyle will I display to my son.
What will he take away from the example that his father sets? Selu has told me that he is strong in the Force and I’ve sensed its power in him as well. Akleyn may have considerable potential, but does that predetermine a destiny of conflict? I hope not, because then all we’ve done is taken the gift of the Force and squandered it on warfare. Even the most justified war has casualties. Even the noblest defense leaves families torn apart and inflicts wounds on a deeper, personal level after all the blasters are silent. I’ve heard it said that the first casualty of war is innocence. Looking down at the tranquil expression of my son, can I bear the responsibility of helping strip him of that?
Have I become so irrevocably tied to direct conflict that the lightsaber must be omnipresent on my person? I may be trained in the ways of the Force, but I am no true Jedi—Jedi do not marry, for one. I may carry a lightsaber and have earned the right to use it, but is it essential to do so?
I don’t know. But if the question is would I choose the lightsaber and the duty it entails over my commitment to Akleyn and Cassi that is a very simple choice. I choose my family without reservation. They have more value to me than any victory, any weapon, or anything else ever will. No starship, no droid design, no Force technique, no other person, no loyalty, whatever it is, is comparable to my bond with them.
Whatever action I undertake to resolve this issue, it cannot be subtle. It is impossible to only demonstrate that a minor amount of conflict is acceptable. I either endorse a martial lifestyle, or I don’t. If I don’t, that means a drastic change from my present habits. It means a departure from daily lightsaber practice, ceasing to actively participate in the Yanibar Guard. And those are sacrifices I can accept, even if means a whole new paradigm in my personal lifestyle.
I believe I’ve solved my dilemma. There are two courses I can take from here. I can continue to demonstrate that capability as a warrior is quintessential to life as a Force-sensitive living on Yanibar. My son will learn to respect the lightsaber and understand its uses, to know that defense is qualified in some scenarios and that sometimes you have to fight to protect that which you love. The alternative involves me laying down my weapon and forsaking a path of violence. My example won’t be one of war. It’ll be one of peace and of personal connection. My son and I will bond over games and conversations and life lessons, not batting away blaster bolts from remote droids. I’ll still practice my skills occasionally, but it won’t be a central part of my life. Instead, I’ll invest in Akleyn and reinforce our family. I won’t be his lightsaber instructor, should he choose to proceed down that road anyway. I’d rather be his father. Anyone with the right training, experience, and attitude can be a competent combat instructor. Only I can be his father. It’s a simple choice.
My lightsaber has served me well. It’s saved me in several battles and it is a symbol of the commitment I’ve made to the light side of the Force. But it is no longer necessary for me to wield it. I not illustrate to my son that violence is an acceptable solution to most problems. I honor those who feel called to defend our freedom and way of life—my brother Selu for example—but that is not my destiny.
Selu won’t understand. Milya might. Spectre won’t. My brother and some of my closest friends will be baffled by my decision, but I’m confident in my choice. Cassi will understand and appreciate the sacrifices I am making for the sake of our son. She’ll probably join me. It’ll be a change. No more missions on the Hawk-bat, flying off to whatever parts of the galaxy to fight the evil of the Empire. At least, not regularly. For special occasions, I don’t think it would compromise my position to assist offworld. But you can’t parent effectively from a distance.
The equation to raising a child is long and complicated beyond my imagination, and I’m only just beginning to see its full scope, much less solving it. But even I know that it’s heavily time and location dependent. I need to be here for my son, being relevant and injected into his life. Cassi knows that, too. As hard as this pregnancy was for her, I think it’ll mean that much more to have me supporting her nonstop as we raise Akleyn. As a parent, you only have one opportunity to raise your first child and Cassi and I intend to fulfill our responsibility to do so well for Akleyn.
If Selu and the others ever have children, maybe they’ll understand the choice that I’m making. Maybe they won’t. Maybe their duty to the Yanibar refuge is too important and they’ll sacrifice some of the time and devotion to their family in order to protect the colony. That’s their choice, and it could be that it’s for the best. Perhaps Yanibar needs defenders committed to that order of magnitude in order to survive. That’s their choice and I won’t denigrate them for it, but I also won’t emulate that example. My decision is that my family comes first.
I slowly unclip the lightsaber from my belt. The smooth metal shaft feels comfortable in my hands, but perhaps it’s almost too comfortable. I don’t want to become too accustomed to having it in my hand like it belongs there. I don’t want to constantly have it ready; because that’s not the example I’m conveying to my son. It’s time to put it away.
The weapon fits neatly in a chest of drawers by my bedside. If I need it, it’ll be there waiting for me. But it won’t be one of the first things people see when they meet me. I want them to think of Sarth Kraen first as a man who loves his family and comes home at night because he cares for them. They can think of me as an engineer, a military equipment expert, and a Force-user second. I’m at peace with that. The drawer closes with a quiet thud, a hushed death knell for a lifestyle that I’ve flirted with for far too long.
My son stirs slightly, perhaps awoken by the sound of me putting the lightsaber away. His features are still peaceful, though and even as he kicks his leg slowly under the blanket, it’s apparent that he’s not through napping. He doesn’t seem too disturbed my presence and I know that he loves being held and rocked gently.
A minute later, though, his blue eyes open to stare up at me with a contented expression. I pick him up and cradle him in my arms, knowing that I’ve made the right choice for him. He will have the freedom to choose his own destiny. If he desires to use his gifts and talents in the active defense of this colony, his mother and I will support him. If he pursues other interests, we will support him. If I have my way, he will never grow up having to face warfare and violence.
Part of the job description of parent is laying down your own interests and desires for the sake of your child. That’s what I’ve done. It’s a shift for me, representing a change from the smuggler, outlaw, and Force-user that I become five years ago, but it’s one I make without reservation. If it means abandoning some of my adventurous tendencies and martial idiosyncrasies, Akleyn is worth it. My first obligation, my highest priority, my most important affiliation, is with my family. Akleyn will be the one to take what we provide him and grow it into something greater. He will be the one whose upbringing we are responsible for. He will be our greatest joy and the pinnacle of our success—no, he already is.