How Many Tears
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At around 0200 on the fourth day of Kham, Mira Bridger went into labor.

A few hours later, a breathless news anchor on the Lothal HoloNet reported that the Jedi had turned against the Republic in an attempt to seize power, and legions of clone troopers were desperately fighting for their lives alongside their former foes, the Separatists, to prevent a galaxy-wide bloodbath. The Jedi have betrayed us! screamed the pundits from Coruscant. The peacekeepers of the galaxy—traitors! Hypocrites!

Ephraim Bridger didn’t believe a word of it. He couldn’t. And he knew better.

The 41-year-old broadcaster sat hunched on the couch, elbows on his knees, hands clasped together in front of his mouth, watching the footage of fire and destruction with unblinking eyes. One dismal phrase kept repeating itself in his mind:

This is not a good time to be born.

“What’s going on?” Mira called from the bedroom, trying to catch a glimpse of the holoscreen over the protruding dome of her belly.

Unaware that Mira was awake or that he’d left the door open, Ephraim shot up from his seat and clicked the projector off. “Nothing you need to worry about right now,” he said with all the positivity he could summon. He went to his wife and grasped her hand, kissed it, and gave her a comforting smile, gazing up at her through the curls of his long, dark hair. “Everything’s going to be fine, I promise.”

His eyes told a different story.

“Something bad is happening, isn’t it?” Mira said, and tears were suddenly spilling down her face. “Don’t lie to me, Eph. I want to know. How serious is it?”

“Serious enough,” he answered. “But it’s not the end of the galaxy.” Just the galaxy as we know it, he thought grimly. “The last thing you need right now is more stress.” He reached out and thumbed away her tears. “How are you feeling?”

She grimaced. “I’m about to push a fully-formed human being out of my body, motek. Any other silly questions?”

Chuckling, Ephraim wiped his face on his sleeve. “Still think it’s a boy?”

Mira nodded. A few hairs that had come loose from her kerchief fluttered around the edges of her face. “Without a doubt. And don’t ask me how I know this; I’ve been carrying him for forty-one weeks. I just know.”

It was an unusual for expectant parents not to know the sex of their child at this late stage in pregnancy; OB droids offered scans on demand at nearly every medcenter in the galaxy and were available at many satellite clinics. It was a part of any citizen’s basic prenatal care, guaranteed by law. But the Bridgers, being aware of the troubling political shift taking place on Lothal since the beginning of the war, had opted to take their healthcare into their own hands. It was Mira’s preference that the government, which now controlled all the hospitals in the Outer Rim, not even know she was pregnant.

“I don’t want them to be able to use our child against us,” she had told Ephraim shortly after sharing the wonderful, worrying, life-changing news with him. “And they will, Eph. They’ve already shut down our HoloNet channel and refused to renew our public comm applications. It’s only a matter of time before they confiscate our licenses and come after us personally.”

At that point Ephraim had gathered Mira’s small hands in his own, looked her in the eye, and asked her point-blank if she wanted to hang up the mic.

Mira had looked at him as if he were crazy. “No,” she said vehemently. “It’s more important than ever that we keep broadcasting. What kind of a future is our child going to have if we don’t?” She cupped Ephraim’s hands on her stomach. “I’m with you, Eph. We are with you. Always.”

With tears in his eyes, Ephraim had embraced his wife, thankful that her resolve had not faltered; that she was still as dedicated as she had been before they learned they were going to be parents. They would continue to stand together, to speak out against the government that was slowly tightening its noose around the people of Lothal, not just as a couple, but as a family.

They had hope, a renewed hope, and a reason to keep fighting.

And now, seven months later, Ephraim shook the troubling thoughts from mind and crouched down beside the bed. “Since you’re so sure it’s a boy, then, I was thinking we should name him after your father.”

“I was thinking of naming him after your father, Yakov,” Mira suggested.

“I barely knew my father. Your father was more of a father to me than my own. Your mother, too, may they both rest in peace.”

Mira pursed her lips, musing. “Hm. Ezra Bridger. That sounds ni—” Suddenly she hissed and grimaced, clutching Ephraim’s hand. He held on with white knuckles, counting softly under his breath, and exhaled with her as the contraction passed.

“They’re getting closer together now,” she muttered. “And my water still hasn’t broken.”

“Don’t worry,” Ephraim said in as calm a voice as he could summon, even though his nerves blistered and frayed. “We have everything we need to do this ourselves. And if there’s anything else you can think of, our friends have our backs. Just a holocall away.”

Mira gave a tired nod. “I know. Especially Tseebo. I still don’t know how he got his hands on all that medical equipment. I don’t think we can ever thank him enough for what he’s done for us.”

“Yes, especially organizing all the maternity donations.” The Rodian, one of the few people on Lothal who knew that Mira was expecting, has been instrumental in clandestinely supplying the Bridgers with anything they would need to safely bring their child into the world. “Maybe we should ask him to be a godparent.”

“I would like that,” Mira said, “but Tseebo is no safer than we are right now. I’d prefer Ezra to have a guardian that no one could victimize.” She grinned at Ephraim, her blue eyes twinkling with the humor he so loved about her. “Too bad they don’t have Jedi godparents for hire.”

Ephraim swallowed dryly. He itched to turn on the news, to find out more about what was happening, how the Jedi were faring against the combined forces of the GAR and the Separatists. There were so few of them—how could they survive, even with their mystical connection to the Force? But now was not the time. His child—his son, Ezra—was about to arrive.

There would be happiness after today, he assured himself. There would be joy. In just a short time, as the galaxy around them descended into chaos, the cries of a newborn would fill their home, and life would go on.

With a strange look on her face, Mira pushed herself up into a sitting position. The underside of her dress was soaked, and so were the towels beneath her. “Eph!” she cried.

“I see it.” Ephraim jumped to his feet. His heart thudded in his chest like a herd of stampeding banthas. Excitement, terror, joy, love, every emotion a human could possibly feel raced through him as Mira let out a long, low groan and clutched her belly.

“It’s happening!” she declared through gritted teeth.

“See what you get for talking about it?” Ephraim teased, hoping she still had the capacity to smile.

She did. “Well, you know the saying: ask and ye shall receee—owww!”

Ephraim climbed onto the bed and helped her onto her knees. Arranging pillows and towels around them both, he took up position behind her. “Breathe with me,” he murmured. “Just like we practiced. Slow breath in.”

They breathed in together, exhaled together.

Thirty minutes later, Mira, red-faced and dripping with tears and sweat, screamed one last time and delivered their son into Ephraim’s waiting hands.

There was a ripple in the Force when Ezra Bridger took his first breath and wailed. Ephraim laughed, ecstatic. Mira wept. Father and mother cradled their wriggling, complaining son in their arms and gently cleaned his pinched little face, welcoming him into the world with soft oaths and declarations of everlasting love.

Across the galaxy, in a snowy forest on the planet Kaller, a boy named Caleb collapsed to the frozen ground and sobbed, alone.

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