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Fanfic / Accidental Hero of the Galaxy

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Commander Shepard. Hero of the Skyllian Blitz. First human Spectre. Potential savior of humanity and the known galaxy. Pity no one asked him what HE thought of all this.

Written by Random Equinox, this fanfiction series is a novelization of the Mass Effect series with a spacer/war hero Shepard, with an interesting twist - it is run as a sort of biography compiled and edited by Anderson and later Liara from Shepard's After-Action Reports and personnel evaluations. Thing is, this isn't the brazen badass Shepard that most players know. Instead, Shepard's true personality is not unlike that of Ciaphas Cain - he just wants to be someplace safe and not in the middle of the fighting, having become the hero of the Skyllian Blitz by accidentally leading a ton of batarians into an allied force that he didn't even know was there.


This series runs through the entirety of the Mass Effect trilogy and DLCs, with many side stories and extra content along the way.

    Stories in chronological order 

This fic contains examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: Shepard is only the Hero of the Skyllian Blitz (a title he hates, mainly because it gets him sent into various dangerous missions) because he missed a shuttle, accidentally ran into the slavers he was trying to avoid, and then accidentally led them to the Alliance garrison.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The vast majority of the side-missions and the entire Mass Effect 1 Cerberus side-arc get covered pretty much in the course of a single chapter. Justified because Shepard and his crew regard Hackett calling them up to take out the Alliance's dry cleaning every five minutes to be irritating and distracting from the real mission, although they never turn him down, though Shepard does have incentive in the form of monetary compensation as justification.
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  • Adaptational Origin Connection: Garrus and Nyreen have history together and are Old Flames in the adaptation of the Omega DLC (she was Garrus's flexible sparring partner to his reach) whereas in the game proper they never even meet.
  • And This Is for...: Shepard's brawl with his clone during the Citadel DLC has Shepard doing this to his target, for stealing his identity, trying to kill him, trying to kill his friends, trying to stealing his ship, and taking his sushi.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The work averts the source material's usage of this by splitting Shepard's squad into fire teams. While Shepard is usually heading a three-man team, Kaidan Alenko is heading up the rest. They do travel in a group for the most part.
    • The sequels do the same. Shepard only goes without his full squad a handful of times, like responding to Ronald Taylor's distress call, going on Kasumi's Loyalty Mission (need for stealth), and Grunt's Rite (they decided that if too many came along, it would be too easy and defeat the whole purpose).
    • This turns out to be a great strength for Shepard, as while he breaks the game's rule of "only two squadmates," the enemies don't level up to match. So frequently fights that were rather intense in the game for three people are overwhelmed by a full 12-person squad of soldiers.
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  • A True Story in My Universe: The series is based on the idea that Anderson, and later Liara, compiled all of Shepard's After Action Reports into a biography, with their own footnotes added.
  • Badass Bookworm: On Noveria, Shepard gets talked down to by that asari scientist at Peak 15 who expects him to be a dumb grunt. Shepard proceeds to demonstrate a surprising amount of knowledge about her subject. He later admits that he didn't know much beyond what he said because he couldn't get through a scholarly article without dozing, which explains why he enlisted instead of going to grad school. Also comes with the territory, as he is a sniper.
  • Bad Future:
    • Shepard has a lot of nightmares on this subject during the Reaper War.
    • Stephen Shepard finds himself in one after Time-Traveling to allow himself to stay with his family instead of fleeing the galactic intelligence community... only for a later accidental time travel trip into the future has him find out that doing so turned his son into the xenophobic survivor of Mindoir and going pure Renegade, which ultimately led to the galaxy losing the Reaper War.
  • Becoming the Mask: Despite his self-deprecation, Shepard does genuinely start to act like a hero by the end of the fic. It goes to greater lengths in the sequel, and by the the time The Measure of a Hero rolls around, he's mostly dropped any pretense of being a coward. Kinda like the later Cain novels.
  • BFG: Shepard picks up the Widow in the sequel.
    Shepard: [upon first firing it and one-hit-killing a Collector] Oh baby, where have you been all my life?
    • Gets averted in the ME3 story, as he recluctantly puts down the Black Widow. While it's great and very powerful, it's so powerful that the recoil knocks his aim off.
  • Broken Pedestal: The Hero Who Came In From The Cold has Shepard jump at the chance to join Alliance Intelligence on a mission and become a super spy. He is quickly soured on the amount of Dirty Business it entails.
  • But Now I Must Go: Post-Reaper War, Anderson says that he'll be moving back to Earth to help with the clean-up, so he asks Shepard to house-sit his apartment on the Citadel, which is also to allow Shepard some time to recover from his ordeal.
  • Celibate Hero: Before and during the first story, Shepard's consistently turned down all romantic advances for various reasons: Ashley because of fraternization regs, and Liara because he doesn't want anyone to catch on that he's not the big hero everyone thinks he is, and because at the time, she's barely out of the age bracket her species regards as the teens, making her jailbait-esque in his eyes. Averted in the sequel, when he and Miranda become the Official Couple.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One might have missed the data packet about the Reapers that was beamed to the Normandy after the Omega-4 Relay mission, or the Prothean codex about mass relay power regulation that was the MacGuffin of Hero's Dozen. Turns out, those bits of information, combined with Stephen Shepard's knowledge about the Crucible, allows them to modify the Crucible's destruction pulse to destroy only the Reapers throughout the galaxy and minimize damage to the relay network.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: As Shepard emulates behaviors commonly performed by players in-game, his tendencies to steal anything that isn't nailed down, pry up anything that is, and wander around aimlessly on ship gave his teammates this impression.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Variant. After the Omega-4 Relay mission to the Collector base, TIMmy demands to talk to Shepard immediately, but Shepard only obliges after his and Miranda's Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex.
  • Compensating for Something: The basis of one of Shepard's pranks in The Prankster's Hero. Dealing with General Zhao, the Butcher of Torfan in this timeline, on the night before the unveiling of Zhao's new dreadnaught, he hijacks the painting drones, repaints it a shade of pink, and names it "The Little Zhao".
  • Composite Character: Nyreen Kandros from the Omega DLC takes another role in this story - as Garrus's sparring partner from his "reach and flexibility" story.
  • Constantly Curious: Shepard as per the games asks a lot of seemingly pointless questions. He admits he just likes to know the answers to all the little things in life, but occasionally some of what he learns crop up later and helps out.
  • Cowardly Lion: Shepard, the fully-accredited N7 sniper and infiltrator, just wants boredom and safety. Too bad he keeps getting sent on extremely dangerous missions and providing results. His (usually) Paragon actions are often done in order to maintain his reputation.
  • Crying After Sex: Miranda after her and Shepard's Paramour moment, because she's worried that she's just found happiness right before they're about to fly into certain doom (Omega-4 Relay).
  • Day in the Limelight:
    • Something from the Citadel, Archangels of Light and Darkness and Aria's Lament are side-stories featuring Garrus as the POV character.
    • The Woman with the Raven Hair is a sidestory starring Miranda in between Arrival and ME3.
    • The Hero Who Loved Me runs through a few of the events of The Measure of a Hero (and by extension Mass Effect 2), but takes Miranda's perspective, in addition to fleshing out scenes with her and her sister, as well as those during Shepard's reconstruction.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Just about everyone. Even Legion. Being around Shepard brings out everyone's inner snarker.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: The gambit variant of this trope appears when Stephen Shepard reveals that he had a hand in the Andromeda Initiative being shut down, figuring that all those colonists, personnel and resources that were sent off to the Andromeda Galaxy could've made a huge difference in the Reaper War. As his son Charles puts it, he eliminated the galaxy's last chance to preserve their civilisation in case the Reapers win, in order to give them a better chance of winning outright. It pays off in the end.
  • Disappeared Dad: Apparently, Shepard's dad, Stephen. Nobody knows where he is. He shows up in a side-story - having gone on a huge adventure of his own through time.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: More or less averted for most of the series, but apparently, all those Male Gaze shots from the game were Shepard eyeing up Miranda.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Shepard is in complete denial about this.
  • Expy: Twofold. One one level, Shepard, and the story in general, is very visibly inspired by Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) as a badass who just wants to stay out of danger. On another, he has the Nice Guy persona (even if it's a front at first) and even the same first, middle and nick names as Charles Irving "Chuck" Bartowski.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Shepard and Miranda starting to do this is a sign of their burgeoning relationship.
  • Friendly Sniper: Being an Infiltrator (tech/combat mixed class that favors sniper rifles) Shepard prefers to stay far away from the shooting. Unfortunately he keeps finding himself charging headfirst into combat wondering what he's doing. The friendly part comes from the fact that he's a (secretly) heroic and incredibly nice guy, if with an equally hilarious prankster streak.
  • Footnote Fever: Justified, as the story is apparently compiled from Shepard's after-action reports, and Shepard (as well as Anderson and Liara) help fill in some of the gaps. In addition, the story is based at least partially on the Ciaphas Cain novels, which made extensive use of footnotes as well, and in much the same manner - snarky asides, clarifying certain points, and interjecting personal opinions on the part of the author of the footnotes.
  • For Want of a Nail: Despite his lesson about You Can't Fight Fate, there is one change that Stephen Shepard enacted during his Time Travel adventure on the final timeline - convincing Jien Garson that the anonymous benefactor that could help her fund the Andromeda Initiative was a fraud, eventually leading to the whole project being scrapped and the resources funneled into the Crucible and the Reaper war effort.
  • Genre Shift:
    • The side story Hero's Dozen, as appropriately named, has the squad engage in a heist of Cerberus intel from one of their hotel/casino front locations.
    • Another side story Heroes of Future Past involves Stephen Shepard telling his son his adventure straight out of a Time Travel thriller.
  • Good Is Not Soft: As friendly as Shepard is, his discipline is sniping, and killing enemy targets with headshots without second thought is second-nature to him. He's also not beyond some Renegade interrupts through the story, such as gunning down Maya Brooks himself when he tries to run.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Shepard really hates being called a hero, and all the medals, accolades, important missions, and especially the god-awful statue that comes with it. In his opinion, heroes are just people who weren't smart enough to be elsewhere at the time of danger, lucky enough to survive something that others weren't, and icons that other people find easier to focus on instead of all the other people that were lost and all the other difficult issues.
  • Hero of Another Story: Heroes of Future Past, the story of how Stephen Shepard tried to change the past to remain with his son, and the lessons he learned from there.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Garrus. He even gets offended when Shepard jokingly refers to an Atlas as his best friend.
  • Hidden Depths: Shepard admits to himself that when he first met Diana Allers, all he noticed was her low-cut dress and a cheesy sales pitch, which is why he chose Emily Wong as the Normandy's war correspondent instead of her. But after reading Diana's last letter she sent to Emily before the fleet she was with was destroyed by the Reapers, he learns that even if Diana didn't fly with him and his team, she still understood that he was only human and he could not be everywhere despite what the rest of the Alliance thought, and her one wish was for that, once this was all over, people could laugh again.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: After Shepard confronts a couple of looters in Omega, his teammates jokingly give him a hard time, forcing Shepard to admit that yes, it's hypocritical of him to condemn looters given his personal predispositions. Zaeed goes so far as to claim he thought Shepard didn't like the competition.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Strangely enough, Zaeed of all people gives this to Miranda.
  • Insistent Terminology: In the sequel, Shepard's working with Cerberus. Not for Cerberus.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Downplayed. Shepard's smart enough to bring stealth experts Thane and Kasumi with him to rescue Kenson, allowing him to escape much earlier than in canon and broadcast warnings to the batarians in-system. It doesn't help much, thanks to the batarians not believing his warnings about the relay.
  • Kill It with Fire: Shepard really likes using the Incinerate power. He references his growing pyromania on more than one occasion.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: As in the games, Shepard will steal anything that's not nailed down, tied to something, or being watched by somebody (and sometimes even then). It gets lampshaded in Chapter 17.
    Kaidan: You'll be fine, Garrus. If you're ever in doubt, just ask yourself 'What Would Shepard Do?'
    Garrus: Oh that's easy. Search every nook and cranny, open everything that isn't locked down and hack open anything that is. Even in the middle of a battle.
    • Lampshaded again later, when they point out that his kleptomaniac tendencies are improving - he's not doing it during combat anymore.
    • This is also how Anderson checks that Shepard is okay post-Reaper War. He leaves datapads of his past hidden all over his Citadel apartment, knowing that if Shepard is okay, he would go snooping and find them.
    • Shepard lets Grunt take charge of the team during his Rite. Grunt does fairly well... and then he stops, looks at Shepard, and then orders the team to spread out and secure loot, weapons, and thermal clips in the area. Everyone else is not amused. Shepard was extremely proud.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Shepard is a master of this, at least internally. When it's mentioned that the core of the Citadel is inaccessible (during a discussion about the Keepers) he immediately points out how unsettling that is. On Noveria he also wonders how Benezia snuck multiple geth turrets and armatures past the weapons checks.
    • After Priority: Sur'kesh, it's pointed out that it's really strange that Cerberus managed to attack the STG base, since a) the Salarian Hat is being sneaky and stealthy, and b) it's a Council Homeworld, and is insanely well defended. Dalatress Linron leaked the data on Eve's location to Cerberus to prevent the Genophage Cure from getting out.
  • Large Ham: In The Hero Rises, Shepard hams it up during the Grissom Academy mission while piloting the Atlas mech, belting out a modified version of the Rifleman's Creed. He points out that doing so keeps fire off the students and his teammates, makes sure that everyone knows he's friendly, and it's just fun.
  • Last-Name Basis: Shepard starts calling Kaidan Alenko by his last name in his records after their fraught encounter on Horizon, and through the start of The Hero Rises. He changes back to 'Kaidan' after Kaidan is almost killed on the moon by the Cerberus gynoid.
  • Laugh Themselves Sick: When Shepard, Garrus, Tali and Dr. Michel meet up at the Citadel and Michel asks about Garrus's damaged face, Shepard spins a yarn about Garrus trying to shave with a thresher maw fang that has them all laughing themselves to tears.
  • Lemony Narrator: Shepard freely snarks in his after-action reports that the story is compiled from. The footnotes from Anderson and Liara get in on this occasionally.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: Mixed with Cannot Spit It Out. It isn't until after the Shadow Broker mission (which here takes place after the raid on the Collector base) that Shepard can even vocalize it, let alone tell Miranda. They both finally spit it out after the Arrival DLC.
  • The Lost Lenore: By the end of the Omega DLC, both Aria and Garrus have this towards Nyreen.
  • Ludicrous Precision: Seems to be Miranda's schtick here. EDI also gets in on it thanks to being an AI.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: After the Collector mission, Jack and Zaeed are spotted having loud sex in various parts of the Normandy. Many people go looking for Brain Bleach after that. Shepard and Miranda get in on it too - instead of the canon tryst in the engine room, they do it in the cargo bay.
  • Meaningful Echo: Miranda starts off The Hero Who Loved Me thinking that all heroes are either idiotic, naive and idealistic fools that are willfully ignorant to the real world, or manipulative and cunning enough to make themselves look that way to the gullible public, and spends some time wondering where Shepard fits in. At the story's end, when Shepard tells her why he hates being called a hero, she tells him her original musings on the subject, then tells him that there's also the kind of hero that he is: the kind that is honest, brave, selfless, caring, steadfast and who makes the world and everyone he meets better.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Shepard reveals to Miranda that he views all his decorations this way, thinking of them as rewards for getting into situations that someone smarter would have foreseen and avoided.
  • Mythology Gag: Elevators. After a certain point Shepard just skips over the elevator rides. In the sequel during Miranda's loyalty mission he brings them up again when Miranda zaps the elevator with her omnitool, shutting off the music and speeding up the ride.
  • Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Shepard hates statues, and most specifically the one of him they errected on Elyssium. He shows sympathy for anyone else who gets their own statue.
  • Not in the Face!: On Sur'Kesh, Shepard is desperately trying to find a way to defuse the standoff between his team and Wrex and the salarians. He eventually blurts this trope out, confusing the other side long enough for the tension to subside.
    Shepard: Please don't shoot my face.
  • Oh, Crap!: A humorous variant- when Oriana asks Miranda for romantic advice, she turns the keyboard over to Shepard, since he's obviously more experienced. The two of them get a nice dose of this trope when they realize that neither of them have any idea how they fell for each other and neither has any dating experience.
  • Person as Verb: Zaeed claims that he "pulled a Shepard," on the mercs sent to kill him, by which he means rifle through their pockets for ammo, clues, and money.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The Hero Who Loved Me, an alternate telling of ME2 from Miranda's perspective, and how she fell in love with Shepard.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Many of the persuasion options in the game that avoid fights are used because Shepard really dislikes putting himself in danger.
    • His Kleptomaniac Hero tendencies are also partly this as his looting allows him to continually upgrade his team's weapons/armor. Either by grabbing better gear, or by getting the funds to purchase said better gear.
  • Precision F-Strike: Even in his thoughts, Shepard rarely swears, but one of the few times he does is during the Shadow Broker mission, during which Miranda is knocked out cold by the Broker.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who beamed the data packet about the Reapers to the Normandy right before the Collector Base blew up that ended up being critical to the Reapers' final defeat, and why? The theory is that it was from the Collectors or maybe the Protheans they once were, managing to do their part in helping the galaxy defeat their mortal enemy, but it's never fully confirmed.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous. Shepard's a stated fan of "ancient" music, meaning that he tends to have a lot of music from the 1960s-2000s on his omnitool. He has a habit of playing "Don't Fear The Reaper" over the Normandy's PA before the final missions.
    • The side stories showcase his friends at the academy, Ziva, Tony, and McGee. Shepard also runs into Eli David, Deputy Director of Alliance Intelligence.
    • In The Hero Rises, we get a reference to something called Delta Source.
    • The sidestories also mention Shepard's best friend Morgan Grimes, his surrogate sister Ellie, and her boyfriend-later-husband Devon "Captain Awesome" Woodcomb. Most of all though, is that Shepard's full name is Charles Irving "Chuck" Shepard.
      • Shepard also used the surname "Carmichael" as an alias, and he even has an old friend named Bryce Larkin that manipulated Shepard to Elysium to keep him out of the eyes of the Alliance's wetwork division.
      • In addition, Miranda has an alias named "Sarah Walker", and her middle name is Lisa.
      • And then there's Stephen Shepard, his Disappeared Dad who vanished trying to keep greybox technology from being weaponized, went on a whole adventure trying to reunite with Shepard, and finished up as an Anonymous Benefactor informant named Orion.
    • The Hero Who Loved Me drops another one - Miranda mentions that a Dr. Megan Reed was pushing heavily to make more of Shepard cybernetic than was necessary.
    • The title of the heist-mission side story is Hero's Dozen.
    • "The Hero Rises" is full of Deep Space Nine shout outs.
      • Shepard's speech to Dalatress Linron cribs off of Sisko's speech to the Romulan Ambassador in "In The Pale Moonlight."
      • The space battle for Earth is heavily inspired by the space battle to defeat the Jem'Hadar and retake Deep Space Nine, with characters having the names of actors who played roles on the show, quoting of a poem used, and even has the same name: "Operation Return."
      • The SSV Sao Paoulo gets renamed to the Hong Kong. In Deep Space Nine, Sao Paoulo was the ship that got renamed to the replacement of the Defiant.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Shepard and Miranda's first kiss happens right in the middle of an argument about Miranda being jealous of Shepard.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Emily Wong. She replaces Diana Allers as the war correspondant on the Normandy, as well as in life.
    • David Anderson survives the Crucible mission thanks to Miranda's help and advice from Shepard's surrogate sister Ellie.
  • Spy Catsuit: Invoked and justified. One chapter of The Hero Who Loved Me illustrates how Miranda designed and developed the catsuit she wears in gameplay to be as alluring and distracting as possible while still possessing all the functionality and defensiveness of a military-grade hardsuit. As the footnotes point out, however, it says nothing about how she manages four-inch Combat Stilettos. She later drops this during the Reaper War, as the foes they're facing won't be distracted by a catsuit.
  • Stations of the Canon: It's a novelization of Mass Effect as told through a Paragon Expy of Caiaphas Cain, so most of the canon events remain firmly where they are, with two notable exceptions. First is that the Andromeda Project never got off the ground. The second is that the Citadel DLC (and all the sidestories that go with it take place after the war is over.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Shepard and Miranda's thought processes go through the exact same phrasing in both The Hero We Deserve and The Hero Who Loved Me - including the exact same number of "oh god"s - after their Slap-Slap-Kiss moment mentioned above.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Shepard's solution to the dilemma at the end of Legion's loyalty mission. Instead of rewriting or deleting the Geth Heretics, he chooses to use the virus to deliver a What the Hell, Hero? speech at the entire Heretic collective, briefly inflicting it on them to show "This is what you were going to do to your fellow Geth. How does this feel?"
    • A variation - Change Option A. With his long-lost father's know-how and some random data packets obtained through his adventures, Shepard manages to enact the Crucible's Destroy option without committing synthetic genocide and minimizing the collateral damage to the mass relays.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Shepard gives a scathing one to the Quarians after getting involved in another conflict with the Geth. Specifically, how no one has any sympathy for their victimhood complex, their short-sighted constant shirking of any form of responsibility, and how their stupidity is about to destroy their entire species.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After Shepard kills Kai Leng, he empties a full clip from his SMG into him, fries him with an EMP, blows his head apart with his sniper rifle, and then sets him on fire. He claims its just to make sure, because he's read the Evil Overlord List.
  • Tranquil Fury: Miranda, upon finding out what Gavin Archer did to his brother. Even Jack takes a step back.
    Miranda: Then we're going to find Archer. I think I'd like a word with him.
  • Too Much Alike: Both Shepard and Kasumi are sneaky, infiltrating, kleptomaniacs with a puckish sense of humour, which is exactly why Kasumi isn't interested in Shepard; if they did hook up, she gives it a few weeks before their antics, directed at each other, would just end up driving both of them bonkers.
  • True Companions: As in the games, Shepard and his squad. It's one of the reasons he takes Kaidan's What the Hell, Hero? on Horizon so personally. It comes to a head during the escape from the Collector base, when it's not just his two in-use squadmates providing cover, but every member of the team that's certified in the use of long-range weapons. And Joker.
    • At the end of In the Hero's Shadow, Shepard finds all the Broker's info on his squad-mates, and in contrast to his snooping personality, decides to let them know about it instead of looking. All of them invite him to read them with them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Shepard's teammates often crack jokes at Shepard's kleptomania. He's eventually forced to concede that giving a couple of looters a hard time is hypocritical (Shepard has literally made millions of credits doing so at this point).
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • How the story opens. Anderson believes Shepard's not quite the messianic savior the galaxy views him as but also not the coward he views himself as, but rather a very humble and intelligent man overwhelmed by the responsibility thrust upon him.
    • Also Miranda's Meaningful Echo above, where she gets Shepard to realize that true heroes do exist, and that he is without a doubt one.
    • Even Shepard is awed when Wrex declares that for his actions (curing the Genophage and killing a Reaper), his name will forever mean "Hero" to the Krogan.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The lesson that Stephen Shepard learns in Heroes of Future Past when he finds a time machine and tries to change the past to allow himself to stay with his son and family instead of being pursued by galactic intelligence for his greybox research. Every attempt only results in a Bad Future that either kills Charles Shepard, turns him bad or worse; 607 attempts later, he concludes that his only option is to never change the past, remain away from his family, and watch proudly as his son grows into the hero the galaxy needs.

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