It was late in the day, less than a week before Christmas. We were all tired after walking around Disney World all day. The crowds were heavy. The skies were threatening. We were full of churros. And we were all waiting for an app on my phone to alert me that it was finally our turn to ride Rise of the Resistance.
Would it be worth it?
The experience that is Disney World can seem overwhelming. The interminable walking. The endless waiting in lines. The perpetual tug of the shops and food against your wallet.
We had been there since 7am, crowding through the entrance to Hollywood Studios before the sun was fully up. But that day the sun never came. It had been cloudy and overcast, a dark portent of our mood late in the day. We were boarding group 105 and after watching boarding groups topping out in the upper 130s the day before, the current boarding groups had been stuck on 63 for a few hours.
I was in a hot panic, the likes of which a cold beer from an actual Taphouse just up the street from the entrance to Batuu could not cool down. Would we get to experience what was being hailed as the most amazing ride ever created at the self-styled Happiest Place on Earth?
We finished our beer and headed back inside the land of Star Wars to find out.
Walking through the excavated tunnel doesn’t just take the 100-or-so steps to move through the gateway. If you allow yourself, each step will take you further than an X-Wing can skip through hyperspace. If you believe, you too can let yourself be transported to a time and place that is both a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away.
If you let the magic in. If you embrace the force.
We walked over footprints of people, alien races, and stormtroopers alike on the pathway through exotic plants. We passed a grounded A-Wing. No time to stop and gawk. We passed the members of the Resistance guarding the ride. They were milling about, looking about as anxious as I was feeling. The crowd in front of them was growing by the minute. Nobody was getting through.
We carried on.
Into the Black Spire Outpost we went. We entered through the market. The Black Spire Outfitters called to me, but not loud enough. Same with the Creature Stall. We tried to pass Kat Saka’s Kettle but were finally pulled in. A bottled orb soda and some sweet and spicy kettle corn later, we moved on.
They don’t fool me. You can pour Coke in it and slap a new label on it but I recognize a deactivated thermal detonator when I see it.
The boarding group number was unchanged. The ride was still not accepting new members of the resistance.
We walked past unknown hunks of meat being seared by a decommissioned engine from a star ship and turn the corner. There, right in front of us, nestled deep into a docking bay is the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. The old YT-1300 Corellian freighter has been loaned out to a local former pirate turned owner-operator of Ohnaka Transport Solutions.
The larger-than-life Milennium Falcon. The ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.
Yes, parsecs is a measure of distance, not time. Yes, the creator himself, George Lucas even acknowledged this fact in 1977 stating that the pilot, Han Solo, modified “the navigational system to get through hyperspace in the shortest possible distance”. This trivia and much more was running through my mind as we entered a queue next to the ship, winding our way around behind the Falcon and into the building.
I moved through a dreamlike haze. I was standing next to the Milennium Falcon.
I was not prepared for what came next.
The line moved slow. We had time to kill, right? The boarding pass numbers were still not moving.
We moved through the building looking at the scattered tools in the hangar. There was a ship setup in the middle of the garage and every few minutes the workers must have gotten off break and tried to fix something or fire it up. We watched listened and shuffled forward when it was our turn.
The path consisted of a walkway up through the garage with glowing keypads and various ship parts lying around. We ran our hands over everything. Pushed every button. This stuff came off of friggin’ spaceships! Finally we made it to the corridor above the Falcon. The windows overlooked the venerable ship. All of a sudden, they cycled the power and gas lines to the ship. Steam gushed from the vents. The ship breathed.
We breathed with it.
The breathing did not last long. The next room took every last molecule of air from my lungs. After moving deeper in the building we were ushered onto the Milennium Falcon itself. My feet tread upon the same floor that Han, Chewie, and Lando walked. Then we were in the room where Luke first learned of the force and where a Wookie was said to pull people’s arms off when they lost at Dejarik (more commonly known as holochess).
We stepped into the room and the simple act of being there was enough to overflow my cup of geekiness. After waiting for a turn I sat down and ran my hands over the buttons on the chess table and in my vision small stop-motion monsters sprang to life in front of me. The wookie was not going to win this time.
I finally took a breath.
Our time was up and after lining up we were ushered into the cockpit of the Milennium Falcon. The buttons glowed. There were instructions. We took off. We flew a mission. It was a blur.
Yes, I could remember more if I tried. I don’t really want to. All I know is that sitting there in the right hand pilot’s seat, when the time came, it was my hand that reached out, held onto the silver handle, and pulled back while through the cockpit window the stars outside stretched into streaks of light as we made the jump to hyperspace.
Could it get any better than this???
My grin went from ear to ear as we walked off the ride. Not only had we survived, but I got to send us into hyperspace twice, once to get there and once to get back. On top of that the boarding passes had started to move again. We were up to 85.
We wandered through the rest of the Outpost. Past Oga’s Cantina. While a cold drink from a rancor tooth sounded great right about then, it was not to be. Why there was a line for a hole in the wall backwater bar like that I will never know.
We wandered back past a grounded Tie Fighter. Two Stormtroopers were back there harassing people. I remembered my deactivated thermal detonator and my lack of official papers and stayed well back. Yes, I would move along.
There was a droid depot back there. Parts from dozens of droids circled overhead as visitors lined up to assemble their own personal droid. For navigation, translation, or just to have a willing sidekick there were lots of Imperial credits changing hands. I passed. Give me a good blaster and a fast ship any day.
And then it was time.
After making our way back through the crowds we walked up to the Resistance members and scanned our bands and got the nod. We were in!
We walked into the base.
They must have used the same tunnel boring machines that were used on Hoth. The walkways were carved out of rock instead of ice this time. We passed through many rooms and storage areas. There were supplies, spacesuits, and weapons caches. Finally we were nearing the control center when we spotted a see-through star display.
BB-8 greeted us as we queued up in the briefing room. Then Rey beamed in as an honest to goodness hologram replete with the glowing blue outline. This hologram looked awesome!
After our briefing, the doors in front of us opened and a member of the Resistance urged us to move across the open cavern to a waiting shuttle.
On the shuttle a talkative Mon Calamarian flew us off the world of Batuu to start our time with the Resistance. Our luck did not hold as the First Order happened to pick that time to swing by for a visit.
A cold shudder ran down my spine as the shuttle was trapped in a tractor beam from the Star Destroyer. Upon depositing us in a hangar bay, the doors were wrenched open and an office of the First Order stormed on board. We were unceremoniously herded off the shuttle.
While walking through the door my jaw dropped.
For those of you who have never been in space on a Star Destroyer, well - I don’t know if you can possibly understand the feeling that overcame me standing there in a cavernous hangar bay with the blue light of the magnetic field keeping my oxygen in and the coldness of space out. A tie fighter was parked in a small bay on the wall. Stars twinkled in the void outside. A full troop of stormtroopers stood at attention in front of us. Ships started to transverse the open space in front of the bay.
The officers and stormtroopers would not let me sit down and just take it in. I was accused of being a spy for the Resistance! Then they started herding us towards a detention block. All I wanted to do was sit down and absorb the experience of being there, in that docking bay, in space.
We walked through the corridors of the ship. Around a corner was a control center for detention cells that were were being herded into. What did we do to deserve this treatment?
The guards paced our ragtag lines.
We were not good at following orders. They snapped at us for failure to line up properly. The lased out when a member of our party started touching the glowing buttons on a cell door. Then it was our turn.
12 of us were corralled into a cell and the door closed.
The next few minutes were a blur of action. We were rescued. We were whisked away and boarded a transport led by our own R5 droid. We rode through the ship as it was being attacked. We ended up in the hangar for two AT-AT walkers being prepped for duty by some First Order personnel. They shot at us. They missed.
The wall behind us did not fare so well.
We saw Kylo Ren and General Hux. We watched as turbolaser batters spat bolt after bolt of energy into the battle out in space. We cowered as a real lightsaber carved through the deck above us down towards our small group.
We finally managed to find an escape pod.
Back on Batuu we collected ourselves. We had landed and survived. It had actually started raining on the planet while we were away in space. The Resistance members were wearing camo ponchos. They had the same pattern that the strike force wore for the assault on the moon of Endor.
They would not give me or sell me one of these ponchos.
Instead, as a small token for our long day we were offered thin plastic ponchos. It was better than nothing. As we stepped back out into the world of Batuu in the fading daylight, with rain falling on our hastily donned ponchos we decided to call it a day.
As we headed back out the tunnel and out of Batuu I did not experience a feeling of loss. The magic was still there. It was inside of me. I had felt the force. It flowed through me. I was, and always will be, a member of the Resistance.
It was totally worth it.
Until next time, may the force be with you.