I’ve revised my Sequel Trilogy concept.
The Galactic Civil War continued for another 2 decades after Endor, becoming a long, grinding effort to drive back what was left of the Empire. At last, the receding Empire sued for peace with the Republic, with the resulting treaty favoring the Republic and ensuring the Empire could never reclaim its lost territory.
An extremist splinter faction of the Empire, calling themselves the First Order, refused to accept the treaty and launched a surprise attack into Republic space. The First Order was able to devastate the Republic world Mon Calamari before being pushed back by a joint Republic-Empire force. Emperor Roan Fel denounced the First Order as traitors, and aided the Republic in pursuing the First Order into deep space.
Going against the cautionary advice of his uncle Luke, young Jedi Knight Ben Solo joined this military effort, demanding justice for the lives lost on Mon Calamari. Ben quickly rose to the status of war hero as he became a key player in the battles along the edges of the Unknown Regions. The First Order fought with fanaticism, being pushed back planet by planet at a steep cost to both sides.
Then, out of nowhere, the First Order seemingly abandoned the war, and vanished into the Unknown Regions. Ben then spent the next few years working alongside Republic Special Ops officer Poe Dameron to explore and chart the Unknown Regions and track down the First Order fleet. Poe was eventually recalled back to Coruscant, leaving Ben to continue his search alone.
Ben finally discovers where they fled to: the old Imperial prison world of Belsavis. Strangely, the First Order doesn’t fire on his ship when he arrives, instead hailing him and telling him that he is expected at a specific location on the planet. Ben goes along with this, sensing no trap or deception, and arrives at the most heavily locked down place on the planet. A First Order officer greets him as he lands, but Ben notes that something seems off about him, as though he’s not acting of his own free will. The strange officer leads him into the deepest part of the prison, to meet with their new leader. Someone who had been kept in bodily stasis there for several decades, per Emperor Palpatine’s orders.
His name? Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth.
Palpatine considered C’baoth a potential asset due to his unusually powerful battle meditation, and instead of killing him, had him imprisoned and kept in semi-conscious stasis as a form of torture, hoping to break his will and make him serve the Empire. C’baoth never broke, and had remained in stasis all those years after Palpatine’s death. But in his confined state, his mental Force powers grew, until he was able to not just influence people, but outright destroy a person’s identity and enslave their mind to his will. When the First Order fleet arrived over Belsavis, C’baoth sensed their coming, and mentally subjugated their highest ranking members, essentially turning the faction into his own personal army.
Ben spoke with C’baoth for a long time, learning from him about the ancient history of the Jedi and Sith. The two Jedi spoke long on morality and philosophy, and C’baoth showed Ben the remains of dead planets, devastated long ago in the Great Hyperspace War. He led Ben to the same conclusion he had reached: that as long as the Jedi existed, a new Sith would inevitably reemerge, and the resulting war would devastate the galaxy, as had happened many times before. From Ben, C’baoth learns about Luke Skywalker and his new Jedi academy on Yavin IV. C’baoth condemns the new Jedi Order as folly. “It may take 50 years,” C’baoth declared. “It may take 1000 years. It does not matter. This new Order will one day breed a new Sith. It should never have been founded.”
C’baoth then made clear to Ben his plans for the galaxy. He intended to use the First Order to seize control of the Empire, and then sweep across the galaxy, forcefully unifying it under his leadership. The concept of individual freedom would be annihilated. All other Force users would be compelled to sever their own connection to the Force or be put to death. Having found Ben Solo, the heir of Darth Vader, the final piece of C’baoth’s plan was complete, and he could begin his power play.
This is where Episode VII begins. In this rewrite, rather than revering Darth Vader, Ben Solo takes up the mantle of Lord Vader as a calculated move to assert his legitimacy to the Empire. Wearing a mask and suit largely modeled after Vader’s, but modified in several ways to suit his own body, he leads a First Order surprise attack on the Imperial capital world of Bastion. Fighting his way past the Emperor’s elite guards, he hunts down and fatally wounds Emperor Fel before declaring himself publically as Lord Vader and the rightful ruler of the Empire. He then gives an impassioned speech calling for renewed war against the Republic, and the restoration of Imperial authority over the Galactic Core.
The surviving members of the Emperor’s guard are given a choice: kneel or die. Most of them submit to the new Vader, and many stormtroopers on the planet join them, while many others remain loyal to Fel. Civil war breaks out in the streets before the pro-Vader faction secures control of Bastion. Amid the chaos, a small contingent of loyalist stormtroopers break into the Imperial Palace and rescue the badly wounded Emperor. Once it becomes clear that the battle is lost, these troopers attempt to shuttle the dying Emperor off of the planet to safe territory, but their ship is severely damaged as it tries to escape, losing its hyperdrive. The ship is then pursued across space by TIE fighters before being shot down and crash landing on the planet Jakku. Every passenger is killed instantly except for Emperor Fel and a lone stormtrooper. The last trooper tries to pull the Emperor out of the rubble, but to no avail, and right before the Emperor dies, he gives a final command to the stormtrooper: tell the Republic, and Chancellor Organa, what has happened.
The stormtrooper’s name? Finn.
And that’s how I’d begin Episode VII.