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Saga - ST Foundations of the Force: Part 2 (Pre-TFA AU, H/L, Luke, Ben Solo, OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    GENRE: Action, Family, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort.
    SETTING: 21 ABY-27 ABY.
    SUMMARY: After the kidnapping of his fiancée and her little girl, Luke Skywalker and his sixteen year old nephew Ben Solo set off to find them. In the process, things are set in motion that change the Skywalker family- and the galaxy -forever.
    WARNINGS: Depictions of emotional/physical abuse, violence, and tragedy involving children/teenagers.
    Part 1

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 1

    Nothing was colder than space. It was the first thing space-bound parents taught their children. If a small, wandering child grew too curious about an airlock, it could spell disaster for the entire ship. Safety features were put in place, of course, but the nature of toddlers dictated that there was no such thing as too much prevention. Every child who had spent any amount of time traveling in deep space knew and could repeat this rule before they could read.

    Growing up on a battered freighter, Celleen Garvrisom had this fact memorized by the time she had learned how to speak. Habit had made her teach it to her daughter...though she had doubted there would ever be a chance for it to be applied.

    Celleen and Areila were anything but cold. The cargo hold into which they had been unceremoniously dumped was packed full with living, breathing people, all generating a stifling amount of body heat. There had to be at least thirty, all human, ranging in age from toddler to senior. Most seemed to be between twelve and eighteen. All were bound at the ankles. The more stubborn were additionally bound at the wrists and had to rely on the kindness of a stranger for basic necessities. The rest had been too badly beaten to fight back...or they had just given up.

    Celleen had fought with everything she had, kicking, punching, using teeth and nails to beat her captors back, all the while screaming for her daughter to run. A sudden blow to the head had knocked her out. When she woke she was lying in this cramped compartment with Areila weeping at her side. One of the others told her what had happened.

    After her mother had gone unconscious, Areila had given an earsplitting scream while various objects in the room bombarded the pirates. The little girl was later caught and dragged aboard, sobbing. A red mark across her cheek meant someone must have hit her. The very idea enraged Celleen, but there was little she could do while bound hand and foot and lying in a pile of wretched humanity. All she could do was hold her daughter as close as the bindings would allow and ask questions.

    Why were they there? Who were these brutal monsters that held them captive? What was going to happen to them? Few knew the answer to this question and even fewer volunteered to give it. Only one- the older woman somewhere between fifty and sixty who had spoken before -offered anything.

    These men were pirates, all former slaves of the Empire, who hated all humans and wanted revenge. They best way they knew to get it was to hurt or enslave as many as possible. One by one they would be taken to various worlds in the Outer Rim and sold to the highest bidder.

    Horrified at this revelation, Celleen vowed that no such thing would happen to her and especially not her daughter. Of course she knew that they couldn’t escape alone. They would need help to put this hell behind them.

    Luckily mother and daughter knew just the man for the job...Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. Celleen had no doubts that her fiancée would move any mountains necessary to find them and bring them home. The only problem was how to send word to the man.

    Communications were closely monitored, as was the cargo bay door. Sending a traditional distress call was out of the question unless the prisoners managed to hijack the vessel. That was highly unlikely. The only way Celleen knew of to get ahold of Luke was something most people would scoff at.

    They had to use the Force. That meant it was up to Areila.

    Unfortunately the little girl was in no mood to try. At the moment she sat huddled against her mother, still in tears from the traumatic events of the last few hours. Most of the others in the hold were sleeping or staring listlessly at nothing.

    “Areila,” tried Celleen, resting her chin on her daughter’s head. “Rei-rei, look at me.”

    Areila sniffled, wiped her eyes on her shoulder, and turned to her mother.

    Celleen looked her six year old in the eye. “Areila, can I ask you a question?”

    Areila sniffled again and nodded.

    “You know about the Force, right? You remember what Master Luke has been teaching you?”

    Again, a silent nod.

    “Well, remember when he said sometimes people who feel the Force can use it to talk to other people?”

    Areila nodded once more. She remembered. Luke hadn’t taught her much about the powers within, but she did remember the Jedi and his students telling her about it.

    Celleen took a deep breath and brought her daughter close to she could whisper in her ear. “That’s how we’re going to get out of here. You need to call Master Luke with the Force.”

    The girl's eyes grew large and round in astonishment and she bit her lip. This was a switch. Celleen had never asked her daughter to use her powers on purpose. “I ‘fought you were ‘fraid when I use da Force.”

    Celleen cringed and closed her eyes. Luke had long warned her that her reactions to Areila’s talents would complicate the girl’s training. “I know, sweetheart, and I’m sorry. I just didn’t understand. But now I do, and it’s okay. So you have my permission.” She offered a smile and took Areila’s chin in her hand. “I won’t get scared this time. I promise.”

    Areila swallowed hard. “But...but da bad guys said if...if I use it, dey’ll hurt me again,” she said in a tiny voice. Fearful eyes darted toward the door, as if expecting one or more pirates to overhear and come charging in.

    Celleen fought back her anger at that statement. “They don’t have to know you are...besides, they’re not going to hurt you again.” She held her daughter close. “I won’t let them.”

    “But I dunno how,” protested Areila. Tears of frustration filled her eyes. “Master Luke didn’t teach me yet!”

    “Shh,” hushed Celleen, rocking her daughter from side to side. Every moment that passed, she regretted suppressing those special abilities even more. But Areila was right. At Celleen’s request, Luke hadn’t yet taught the little girl anything except how to feel the Force was with her. “I know, Rei-rei. I know. But you can do it. I know you can.”

    “Really?” sniffled Areila. She lifted her head to study her mother’s face. In it she found sincerity and love.

    “Really.” Celleen kissed her daughers’ forehead. “Just try.”

    Areila hiccupped, knitting her brows. “H-how? What do I do?”

    Celleen chewed her lip. She didn’t know any more about the Force than the average citizen did, except that her daughter and fiancée were strong with it. Desperately she wracked her brain for the things Luke did before using the Force. It didn’t seem to take any effort at all. Think, Celleen! Think! What about his students? What’s the first thing he teaches them? Belatedly the woman realized that she hadn’t been paying much attention. “Well...why don’t you start with what you know?”

    Areila sniffled yet again. “You...you sure it’s okay?”

    Poor thing, she’s terrified…all because of the way I reacted. Celleen nodded. “I’m sure, baby. Go ahead.”

    The little girl shuddered and closed her eyes. At first her breathing was shallow and halting. Then, slowly, it grew deeper and her shudders subsided. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she felt the tentative touch of the Force. Its power was frightening, but still she reached for it, brows knit in concentration.

    Suddenly the cargo door slid open and two well-armed pirates- a Weequay and a Devaronian -marched in, sneering at the prisoners. “Hey! Wake up, scum!” yelled the Weequay, knocking the butt of his blaster rifle against the wall to get their attention.

    The chained prisoners all started as if they’d been struck, and scrambled against the back wall, moving as far away from the pirates as possible. The children alternately scowled or shrank away.

    Areila’s concentration broke and she gasped, hiding in her mother’s shoulder. Celleen held her close while glowering at the pirates.

    The toddler, a little redheaded boy with freckles, burst into tears while his mother tried to shush him.

    The Devaron’s smirk faded and he marched up to the pair. “Shaddup, ya little maggot!” he barked.

    The boy’s mother held him closer, trying desperately to quiet him. “Shh...Sean, it’s okay, it’s okay. Hush, little one. Nobody’s gonna hurt you.”

    “Hah!” The Devaroninan barked out a harsh laugh as he walked away. “Just you wait’ll you meet your new masters.”

    “So, how’s our band of bantha fodder, eh?” mocked the Weequay, bending over at the waist to survey the wretched group. “Havin’ a good trip? See what it’s like on the other side ‘a the cred chip? Huh? Huh?” Roughly he nudged the nearest prisoner with his boot, who quickly scooted away.

    No one dared answer, though a few of the teens looked ready to spit blaster bolts.

    “Good! I got an announcement for ya’...good news. Cap’n don’t want ya starvin, so we gotta feed ya,” he smirked at his companion. “Get the grub.”

    Accordingly the Devaronian cracked open a shipping crate and showed a load of ration packs that looked as if they’d survived several wars.

    “Can’t guarantee how fresh these things are...” The Weequay shrugged. “But food’s food, right?” When no one stirred, he glared and pointed his blaster at them. “Right?

    The meeker of the prisoners quickly nodded their agreement. Several- those who had been aboard the longest -held out their hands beseechingly.

    Both pirates snickered at the sight and grabbed a handful each of the vacuum-sealed ration packs. “Catch!” Roughly they tossed them into the crowd.

    Half of the potential slaves ducked while the other half dove for the food packs. Several fights broke out among the teens as the supplies ran short. Mothers begged for something to feed their children while the elderly did nothing but lick their lips in anticipation. “We’re ten short!” hollered a ragged, bearded man whose age couldn’t be determined.

    The pirates laughed loudly. “Oh, yeah?” The Devaronian made a show of counting out ten more packs and dangling them in front of the hungry crowd. At the last minute he dropped more than half back in the crate and tossed a mere three to the crowd. “Need anything else?” he sneered.

    “Water!” shouted an emboldened young woman. She looked somewhere between eighteen and twenty and traveled with her elderly parents. “We need water.”

    “Water?” laughed the Devaronian. He marched up to the woman, looking her up and down with a leering eye. “I give you more than water, pretty one. I give you the finest wine in the galaxy if you come with me.” He reached out a hand and lifted a lock of her hair, letting it slide through his fingers and bringing it to his nose to sniff.

    “Why should I?” challenged the woman, pulling away. “I’m a human, remember? Don’t you hate humans?”

    “I am not blind. I know beauty when I see it,” he said, circling the young woman and looked her up and down. “And I know what I want. You are a pretty one, aren’t you?” He ran a hand down her shoulder. “Come with me, I treat the others better, eh?”

    “Lara, no!” gasped the woman’s mother in horror.

    The young woman- Lara -cringed and shrugged him off. “What if I don’t?”

    The Devaronian shrugged and casually pointed the blaster at her parents. “Old ones are not worth much.”

    Immediately the hold reacted in different ways. Most cried out and recoiled. Those few noble ones who moved to defend the elderly couple were roughly kicked aside or knocked in the head with the butt of the blaster.

    Lara quickly got in front of her parents, glaring defiantly. “All of us are as good as dead without water,” she said in a quavering voice.

    A leering smile returned to the Devaronian’s face and he took Lara’s chin in his hand. “Tell you what. You come...your papa lives...and the rest get water. Deal?”

    Lara trembled and glanced back at her parents. “How do I know you’ll keep your word?”

    Again the pirate shrugged. He pulled Lara into a rough kiss, then steered her over to the waiting crate. “Good faith gesture. One kiss, one bulb of water.” He picked one out of the crate and shoved it into her hands. “You pick. Who gets water first?”

    Lara fought down the churning of her stomach and held her head high as she stumbled back into the hold. Conflict filled her face as twenty nine others regarded the water bulb with envious eyes. Swallowing, she handed the water bulb to the mother of the toddler. “Here.”

    When the tearful mother had taken the water bulb, the Devaronian whipped Lara around to face him. “Good deal, no? You be hero for other humans...I get what I want. Yes?”

    Lara made a disgusted face and turned away. When her captor raised his blaster again she gasped. “Wait, don't! I’ll go, all right? I’ll go.”

    Slowly, with a self-satisfied grin, the Devaronian holstered his weapon and steered Lara back toward the door. He nodded to the Weequay, who leaned on the doorframe with sick amusement. “Let them have water.”

    The Weequay sneered and dumped an armload of water bulbs on the floor. The prisoners- those not too shocked by the encounter -scrambled for them.

    Meanwhile woman’s father seethed and leaped to his feet. “You get your hands off my daughter, you filthy-” A brutal rifle butt to his temple knocked him senseless to the floor while his wife shrieked and Lara tried breaking away from the Devaronian.

    The horned pirate held the woman fast and regarded the elderly couple. “Filthy? Humans are filthy! They take without asking...hunt without cause...slave anyone who suits them, even their own kind! They are the scourge of the galaxy!” He sneered. “You should thank your daughter, old man. She saved your life.” Without another word the pair left.

    The weequay laughed loudly before following his partner outside. He locked the door behind him.

    Celleen glared at the retreating pair, hardly aware of the ration pack and water bulb one of the kinder ones pressed into her hands. Areila was far too frightened to try using the Force again...at least for while. Escape would have to wait.
     
  2. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    What an excellent start! =D= ^:)^ I hope Celleen and Areila manage to survive their captors long enough for their rescue. Also that Luke and Ben manage to find them in time. :)
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  3. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi Thanks!

    Speaking of Luke and Ben....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter 2

    They stood back to back, sabers ignited, eyes darting left and right, Force senses directing their arms as too many toothed, clawed creatures closed in on them.

    “They’re coming-”

    “I know. Stay calm.”

    “I’m working on it...”

    All at once the creatures attacked. Uncle and nephew were ready and began evasive maneuvers. Adrenaline pumped as verbal and nonverbal directions darted back and forth.

    “Stand your ground. Don’t let them so close.”

    “I’m trying!” The teenager’s eyes widened as one of the creatures leaped at them with a gaping mouth. “Uncle-”

    “I know, I know!” Green blade met leathery skin and the Force pushed the creature back. In seconds the Jedi had resumed his defensive posture. “Don’t kill any of them.”

    The boy gulped and slashed at another. “What!?”

    The man retained a look of calm, though his heart was pounding. “They’re not our enemies. They’re just hungry.”

    Thinking his uncle had lost his mind, the boy groaned. “Just hungry? They’re trying to eat us!

    “Hold them off; I’m going to try something.”

    “You said there is no try!”

    “Ben, trust me!”

    Ben Solo groaned, but nodded his agreement. While scared out of his mind, he was also rather excited. Never before had he worked with his uncle in a situation like this. They were a team, Master and Apprentice working together as the Force flowed through them. Had their situation not been so desperate, he could almost enjoy himself.

    Reality was far too grim. He and his uncle had traveled across the galaxy on a desperate mission to find and rescue two people who had been abducted by pirates. Ben wasn’t especially fond of Celleen or Areila, but knew what they meant to his uncle. Besides, Areila was just a little girl. Ben felt she was somehow important in the grand scheme of things.

    A slim lead had directed uncle and nephew to Vanqor. They had landed a mere half hour ago and wandered straight into a nest of gundarks.

    Ben had badly wanted to see a gundark when he was small. After hearing about their famously long ears, he thought they might look cute, like the pikas on Coreilla. Han Solo laughingly dispelled that notion, but Ben hadn’t paid any attention. His father was always making jokes.

    The young Jedi-in-training shuddered at his naivete. These creatures were not cute. They were monsters with six limbs, long manes, sharp teeth, long claws, and bad attitudes. Ben would have had no qualms about killing all three, but his uncle insisted otherwise. Taking life was not the way of the Jedi.

    What if that life is trying to take yours? Ben wondered with a growl. He Force-pushed another Gundark aside and ducked to avoid a set of teeth. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed his uncle dropping into a deep meditation, eyes closed, brows knit. No doubt he was trying to convince the animals to leave.

    It didn’t seem to be working. If anything the creatures were even more irritated.

    “Uncle,” he called, dropping into a roll as a gundark tried to chomp down on his head.

    Wait,” urged the Jedi.

    “I don’t...think...we can!” Ben swung his lightsaber at one of the approaching monsters and connected, taking off three fingers.

    The gundark howled in pain and reached out one of its other arms to snatch the young human off his feet. Ben managed to avoid the animals’ grasp, but not before two claws connected with his arm. They ripped through cloth and skin.

    Ben cried out and stumbled to one side. Pain and anger made him growl as he turned on the beast, slicing the next paw off at the wrist joint before administering another hard shove with the Force.

    The gundark skidded backward several meters with a loud yelp. Finally it decided it had had enough and turned tail to disappear back into the cave.

    “Ben!” Startled out of the connection he’d been trying to make, Luke Skywalker rushed for his nephew. He didn’t have time to give more than a cursory glance to the twin wounds before he backed up against the teenager once again. “Are you all right?”

    “I’ll live,” grunted the boy, holding his saber with one hand. “No offense, Master Skywalker, but I think the time for negotiations is over,” he spat.

    “Hey. Attitude,” frowned Luke. “But you’re right. I couldn’t connect with any of their minds for more than a second. All I sensed was hunger. They haven’t eaten for a while.”

    “What do you say we get rid of them before they get rid of us?” suggested Ben.

    Luke glanced at the opening beneath the massive creatures’ legs and out the cave entrance. A memory from the rancor pit returned. “I have a better idea.”

    Ben followed his uncle’s gaze. “They’re standing right in our way.”

    Luke reached out again, beckoning to the gundarks’ minds. “I’ll distract them. Once I have their attention, you make a break for the entrance.”

    Ben frowned. “What about you?”

    Luke tried to smile. “Don’t worry about me. Get ready.”

    Ben sighed, but there wasn’t time for an alternate plan. Once Luke had their attention of the gundarks, Ben received a mental nudge. The boy didn’t wait. He edged out of sight, then ran full-tilt toward the entrance. He stopped there, watching as the monsters closed in. Fear rose at what was going to happen. “Uncle...”

    “Just a minute,” Luke’s voice was distant. At the last possible moment when his back was nearly to the wall, he broke contact and dove beneath them. Once clear of their mass he rolled back to his feet and headed straight for the entrance. He waved to his student. “Ben! Bring down the entrance!”

    Is he crazy? Ben’s eyes widened. “You’ll never make it!”

    “Just do it!” hollered Luke. He was keenly aware of the gundarks in pursuit and picked up his pace. “Ben, now!”

    Ben let out another groan as he took mental hold of the rocks around the cave entrance. They were already loose. It didn’t take much to bring them down. His heart pounded as the boulders began to tumble with Luke still inside. Dust rose and clouded his vision. “Uncle!” he cried.

    A faint figure dove through the closing gap, scrambled back to his feet, and joined his powers with Ben’s. In less than a minute the cave was sealed. Muffled screeches of frustration echoed back. After several minutes trying to break through, the gundarks gave up and retreated back into the cave.

    Thank the Force. Ben shuddered in relief and deactivated his blade. The dust made him cough. He stumbled away, tired from mental and physical effort. His left arm began to throb. Vaguely he sensed his uncle come up from behind.

    “Good work,” panted Luke. He clipped his saber back to his belt. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

    “So why didn’t we do that in the first place?” Ben complained. “You and I sensed the danger. We could have just brought the rocks down on them and saved ourselves all this trouble.” He winced and covered the bleeding gashes with a free hand.

    “I’d prefer not to make enemies when there’s no need. Unfortunately those gundarks were more interested in food than friends,” Luke caught his breath and took Ben’s elbow. “Let me take a look.”

    “It’s just a scratch.” Ben pulled away. “And there’s no time. We have to find those pirates first.”

    “We’re not going anywhere until you let me take care of that arm,” insisted Luke. He motioned to a couple of large boulders off to one side. “Sit down.”

    Groaning, the teenager obeyed. He avoided his uncle’s gaze.

    Luke cringed upon parting the torn cloth of Ben’s sleeve. The slashes had gone well past the subcutaneous layer and done some damage to the tricep. “Ben, these are much more than a couple of scratches. Hold still.” He yanked several layers of folded gauze out of his travel bag’s medic kit and pressed them to the bloody wounds. Ben hissed in pain. “I know. It hurts.”

    The lanky teen gritted his teeth. “Kind of.” His eyes widened when he saw how much blood was covering his uncle’s hands. Suddenly he felt dizzy. “Is...that normal?”

    Luke pursed his lips. “They’re deeper than I thought...” He elevated Ben’s arm a bit and rifled through the medical kit. Another layer of gauze was added. “Well, it looks like you’ve discovered one of the occupational hazards of being a Jedi.”

    Ben blinked. “I thought Jedi were injured less than other people ‘cause they can sense danger.”

    “Not exactly. With the amount of danger inherent in keeping others safe, I’d say it evens out,” explained Luke. He pulled the gauze away to see if the bleeding had slowed. It hadn’t. Luke grunted in annoyance and pulled another handful of bandages from his travel bag. One of them was wrapped around his nephew’s arm.

    “Were you injured a lot?”

    “For a while, when I first joined the Alliance, it seemed as if I was getting hurt every other week...but most of that was just me being reckless.”

    “Now I understand what my father meant.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “He said that- OW!” Luke had hit a sore spot “-when you were hurt, he used to say they should roll you in puffy package wrap.”

    Luke cracked a smile. That sounds like Han, all right. “Why am I not surprised?” He secured the pressure bandage, inspecting Ben’s fingertips to check circulation. “I’d rather you get stitches, but this should at least stop the bleeding. Feel any better?”

    Ben eyed the bandage. “It hurts, but I can handle it.”

    Luke knit his brows with mild concern. “It should be in a sling. But, I don’t want to make those pirates think you’re an easy target. Just rest it for now.” He looked back the way they had come. So much for the shortcut under the mountains. They’d have to climb the pass now. Hopefully the ascent wouldn’t be too hard on Ben’s arm.

    The Jedi Master fought back the sense of urgency...the feeling that they couldn’t slow for even one minute, or else risk losing his newfound family. He couldn’t sense either mother or daughter, but then his emotions were probably clouding his senses.

    Ben, noting his uncle’s impatience, returned to his feet. “Well, nothing else to do but go over,” he wavered a little from the blood loss.

    Luke caught Ben’s shoulder again and handed him a canteen. “Easy. Take a drink first. Then we can go.”

    Gratefully Ben took a large swallow of water before handing the canteen back to his uncle. “I can’t sense anything. Think they’re here?”

    Luke pressed his lips together. Areila? Areila, are you there? The lack of an answer further stepped on his morale. “One thing at a time. Let’s just focus on climbing.”

    * * * * *

    Their ascent was more difficult than it looked. The pass was quite steep and they were forced to use their hands. Ben bravely soldiered on despite his injury, but by the time they had crested the hill, it was too painful to move. Luke mentioned finding bacta once all this was over.

    Disappointment nearly crushed them as the valley loomed below. There was nothing there. No ships, no pirates, no sign of sentient life beyond a flimsy little outpost made of tattered tents and rusted framework. A single blue-skinned figure leaned against a pile of crates.

    Ben’s heart sank to his boots. “Uncle...are you sure this is where they landed?”

    Luke pressed his lips into a thin line. “Yes. They must have moved. Perhaps he knows,” he said, motioning to the man with the crates. Hands on sabers, he and his nephew walked down the hill into the valley.

    There were certainly signs of a recent ship landing. The ground was covered in bootprints far too numerous for one person to make, and Ben thought he could make out the indentations from a ship setting down.

    “Excuse me,” called Luke.

    The blue figure froze in his tracks. He noticed that they were Jedi and seemed to go several shades paler. With a gulp, he turned and walked away with a stiff, hurried gait.

    “Hey! You! Get back here!” barked Ben.

    “Ben-” Luke groaned as the blue creature- a Chiss, from the looks of things -yelped and broke into a run. “Great.” When a blaster was drawn on them, he and Ben had no choice but to ignite their sabers.

    The Chiss was a terrible shot. Unfortunately for him, the Jedi were impatient. Before he had gone twelve meters, something unseen tripped him, and he fell against a pile of banked soil. When he looked up the Jedi were on him, sabers pointed at him.

    The blue-skinned man leaned away from the deadly blades, whining and showing his palms in surrender. “Hey, hey, hey! Lets me go! Whatever it is, I didn’t do its!”

    Ben and Luke both glared. “If you didn’t do anything, then why were you running?” demanded the teenager.

    “Wouldn’t you runs if a coupla Jedis pointed nasty saberses at your neckses?” swallowed the Chiss.

    “These sabers will go right through your ‘neckses’ if you don’t cooperate,” growled Ben.

    “That’s enough, Ben,” warned Luke with a shake of his head. He didn’t want to use fear and intimidation to influence their potential witness. “We don’t mean you any harm. We just want to know where the rest of the pirates have gone and whether or not they still have their prisoners.”

    The Chiss laughed nervously. “Pirateses? What would poor Granid have to do with pirateses?” When Ben edged his blade closer to his neck, Granid gulped. “Yes...yes, pirateses came through here. I deals with them, but...I’s not a pirates!”

    Luke took a deep breath, reaching for patience. “All right. What about the prisoners? Did you get a good look at them?”

    Granid licked his thin lips. “Ehh...maybes...I seen slaveses from distances...not close...many they haves, to many to counts.”

    Luke bit his lip. “What kind of slaves? Old? Young? Human or otherwise?”

    Granid thought hard. “Yes, yesss, humanses. Only humanses, all ages...young ones, old ones, middle ones, males, females, all kindses,” he nodded.

    The Jedi master grimaced and glanced at his nephew. This wasn’t helping very much. “Was there a woman and her young child...a girl?”

    “Many womens...many childrens,” shrugged the Chiss.

    “The woman is in her early thirties; shoulder-length, dark blond hair, amber eyes, a hand or so taller than me. Her daughter is six standard years old, about waist high, with brown hair and brown eyes. They’d be together. Have you seen them?” asked Luke, urgency filling his voice.

    “Hmm...whys Jedis so interested in slaveses?” Granid wanted to know. “Certain slaveses...Granid thinks Jedis wish to free every slaveses. These ones special?”

    “Tell us, you red-eyed creep!” snarled Ben.

    Luke held his nephew back with a firm shake of his head. He waited until the teenager had pulled away before addressing the Chiss again. “Just tell us the truth, and we’ll let you go.”

    Granid licked his lips. “You...you promises? Jedis no hurts Granid if he tells the truths?”

    Luke nodded, forcing himself to be patient. “Yes. We promise. Now, please...”

    After a brief pause, Granid nodded. “Granid sees woman you speak of...he sees child with her...much afraids, like all slaveses.”

    Luke let out the breath he had been holding and lowered his lightsaber, hope returning to his blue eyes. “Where are they now?”

    The Chiss cringed and scratched the back of his neck. “Ehh...please, Jedis not be angry with us, we only sees, does businesses, we not captures slaveses,” he whined.

    That didn’t sound good. Ben exchanged an uneasy glance with his uncle. His eyes lit with anger. “If anything happened to them-”

    Granid paled. “No! No! Not that Granid sees. They leaves...they just leaves! All slaves back on shipses, and they leaves!” He covered his face in dread. “Please no hurts Granid!”

    Ben seethed, while Luke had to work to keep his own anger in check. “When?”

    Granid gulped. “One...days...ago…?” he faltered, still covering his face.

    Yesterday?” exclaimed Ben, pointing his lightsaber back at Granid’s neck. “Why didn’t you tell us in the first place?”

    “Jedis did not ask untils now!” whined the Chiss, miserable with defeat. “But I knows where they heads, Jedis.”

    “Where?” asked Luke. He saw that Granid was terrified and swallowed his anger and impatience. “Granid, I promise, we won’t hurt you. If you tell us, we’ll let you go in peace. Now please, where did the pirates go?”

    “Long...long ways from here...many many lightyearses,” admitted the Chiss slowly. “First slaveses headed to desert planet with two sunses.”

    “Tatooine?” Luke’s blue eyes widened. His home planet had always been known as ‘the backside of the Outer Rim’, and apparently the illegal slave trade still ran rampant despite the defeat of the Hutts. “Is that it?”

    Granid nodded frantically. “Yes! Yes, Tatooines!”

    Luke’s shoulders fell and he let out a long breath. His saber was clipped back to his belt and he motioned for Ben to do the same. “You’re free to go, Granid.”

    The Chiss nearly collapsed at Luke’s feet, bowing and whimpering in relief. “Oh, gracious master Jedis, powerful master Jedis, we knew you would keep promises.”

    Luke pulled away. “But I suggest,” he said in a firm voice, “that you change your line of work. I can’t guarantee the Republic would be so forgiving if they discovered you harboring slavers.” With that he turned to go.

    Granid gulped. “Yes, yes, we changes workses, no more slaveses. Honest businesses, yes, honest-”

    “Shut up, you coward,” grumbled Ben. He fell in step behind his uncle. “Shoulda ran him through-”

    “Enough,” barked Luke in a tone that didn’t allow for argument. He turned to look his nephew in the eye. “Ben Solo, you cannot allow your impatience to dictate how you treat others. Jedi are peacekeepers, not executioners.”

    “But Uncle, he’s-”

    “I know who and what he is. But he kept his word. It’s only fair that we keep ours.” Luke turned away, shaking his head and tugging at Ben’s shoulder. “Perhaps Bez is right...perhaps I do need to teach you more about control. Now, we need to get to Tatooine. In the meantime, promise me you’ll use that mind of yours and consider the consequences before you act. Are we clear on this?”

    Shame took over where aggravation had reigned, and Ben hunched his shoulders. I disappointed him...now, of all times, when he’s trying to find the two people he cares about most. “Yes, Master.” His voice was low.

    Luke softened somewhat as they reached the ship. No one could say the boy wouldn’t accept correction. He put his hand on Ben’s shoulder, though the boy was as tall as he. “After we jump, I’ll see if there’s anything else I can do for that arm of yours. Come on.”

    After meeting Artoo at the loading ramp, hiking aboard, and prepping the ship for takeoff, master and apprentice left Vanqor behind.
     
  4. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I think that Luke is right. Ben needs to learn more about control. It's great they found a lead though. Hopefully they'll find them on Tatooine. :)
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  5. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi Ben's more like his grandpa than he realizes. Both are stubborn, impulsive, and emotional. The question is, who handles it better?

    I know I haven't updated this thing in two weeks, but post-TLJ blues hit me hard. I had to do another rewrite. At least there's only one person to apologize to...[face_blush]
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Three

    If nothing was colder than space, then nothing was hotter than Tatooine. As the only inhabitable binary system in the known universe, it was home to the ragtag, the lowlife, or the colonist still stubbornly trying to scrape out a living on its unforgiving surface. To the latter, it was simply home. To those who had never been, it seemed as close to hell as one could get.

    Celleen had known little of the desert planet before meeting Luke. Until then she had thought of it as another speck in the middle of nowhere. In asking for stories from his childhood her understanding of Tatooine had changed. No longer was it just another desert wasteland. Now it was the boyhood home of her love. Once or twice she mentioned to Luke her desire to visit...or at least see it from orbit. He had laughed and asked why she would want to. She’d responded that since he had spent half his life there, visiting would be just another way of connecting with him. That had made Luke smile and bring her into a warm embrace.

    The slaves hadn’t been told their destination. Celleen had no idea why they had come out of hyperspace at that particular moment, nor why the slaves were forcefully regrouped according to age.

    That had been just another chapter in their ongoing nightmare. Families were split. Any child over the age of about five was torn away from his or her parents. Resistance was met with abuse. The cargo hold echoed with the cries of mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents as their efforts to fight resulted in a slap, a kick, or a rifle butt to the head.

    Finally the leader- a tall Devaronian with several sets of earrings, numerous tattoos, and other body art -fired his blaster straight into the ceiling with a shout. Sparks rained down, making the prisoners duck for cover. “Shut up, slave scum! The next slave who fights is getting hole in their gut. See?” And he pointed the blaster straight into the face of a defiant teenager.

    The teenager’s gaze wavered. He glared, swallowed hard, and hung his head.

    The Devaronian huffed and pulled his blaster away. “Better. Organize yourselves...or else!”

    Meekly the groups shuffled back into position, some kissing each other goodbye. The sorting continued, with each pirate moving on down the line asking for one’s age and home planet. Some lied, but the pirates didn’t believe them.

    Celleen and Areila were last in line. Areila clung to her mother, tears still staining her cheeks. She threw the dirtiest look she could manage at the pirates. She probably would have spit at them if she wasn’t already so thirsty. Celleen glared at them in turn.

    “How old are you, little maggot?” barked the Devaronian.

    “My beautiful daughter,” answered Celleen with a deep scowl, “is five.” Normally the woman did everything she could to encourage honesty in her daughter. This was different. Areila had just had her sixth birthday two months before, but it wouldn’t do to let the pirates know that. Celleen’s main priority- at least at that point -was to keep the two of them alive...and together.

    “I did not ask you!” The pirate snarled, reaching out to backhand the young mother. He leaned into Areila’s face. “How old are you?”

    Areila leaned away from the horned creature with a grimace. Up until their capture she had never thought of Devaronians as scary. But this pirate was terrifying. She bit her lip and turned to her mother, who nodded. “Five,” she answered in a tiny voice.

    The Devaronian looked from mother to daughter with one eyebrow raised. He seemed to be considering their story. Then he gave a harsh laugh. “Ah, so what? It will be up to the buyer whether to buy you separately. On your feet! All of you!” he shouted into the crowd.

    “Where are you taking us?” demanded one of the taller teenagers. He had a difficult time getting around with both hands and feet shackled.

    “Why, to find you new homes,” said the pirate with mock-sympathy. He pointed his blaster at the boy. “Shut up and get into line with your group.”

    The teen obeyed, throwing a venomous look to his captors all the while.

    With a noisy grind, the cargo hatch opened. Blinding white light streamed in from outside, and the prisoners all shielded their eyes. Heat rose from the ground in turn. It was as if they had walked into an oven. The prisoners whimpered at this change.

    As Celleen’s eyes cleared, she could distinguish a pale brown landscape and a clear blue sky. A desert planet, then. But which one? If Areila somehow managed to contact Luke, he would need to know where they were.

    Celleen had been plotting escape ever since their capture. There was no chance for it on Vanqor with as closely as they had been guarded. But here, if they were to be lined up in some remote spot for sale to slavers, there could be a chance of getting away. The gears in her mind, already rusty through a lack of sleep and food, slowly began turning. Her eyes cleared.

    They were in a deep, wide canyon, being marched along what might have once been a riverbed. Not a single scrap of foliage could be seen, nor any sign of life except themselves. The sun was oppressively hot-

    Celleen blinked, staring at their shadows on the ground. For a moment she wondered if her eyes were crossing. Each person had two shadows, just a bit off center. Slowly her tired mind began to grasp what this meant. Impulsively she looked skyward, blinking rapidly and shading her eyes. In a split second the woman knew where they had landed.

    They were on Tatooine...Luke’s home planet.

    Cautious hope rose within Celleen. Now we just have to contact him.

    Areila looked around at the alien landscape. “Where are we, Mommy?”

    Celleen gave her daughter’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “Tatooine. Remember? This is where Master Luke is from?”

    The girl nodded slowly. “Maybe...maybe he’ll come look for us,” she suggested.

    Celleen bit her lip. “I hope so, baby. But he needs to know we’re here first. Tell him, okay?”

    Areila’s shoulders fell. “But I can’t,” she protested.

    “Yes, you can. You just need to take your time and concentrate.”

    “But-”

    “No buts, Areila. You have to try...please. I know you can do it.”

    The little girl licked her cracked lips before slowly nodding. “OK, Mommy. I’ll try.” And she shut her eyes to begin the breathing exercises Luke had taught her.

    * * * * *

    Between the heat, the jostling, and the crude remarks of their captors, it wasn’t easy for Areila to concentrate. But somewhere in the long march, she once again found the Force and clung to it. Finding Luke and then contacting him would be a challenge. Would she even be able to do it without knowing where he was?

    Luke had said that talking to someone with your mind was very hard to do. Even he had never contacted anyone on a different planet before. He could sense his sister, Leia, from across the galaxy if he concentrated hard enough. He could know if she was hurt or sad or happy. Speaking was another matter. He had only managed a single word so far.

    But Luke said I’m the strongest with the Force he’s ever met, thought Areila. He said I might be able to do things even he can’t. The little girl clung to this belief tightly and continued to reach out in the Force.

    She could feel things on this planet. It was alive, despite its appearance. There were animals hiding in holes and caves to escape the heat, and people somewhere far away. Areila didn’t know who they were, or where they lived, or whether they were good or bad. She just knew they were close enough to feel.

    Ariela felt her mother, walking beside her. Celleen was the only one that the little girl had learned to identify with the Force alone. She was angry and afraid. So was everyone else. As for Areila, she hated the people who had stolen them away and felt sorry for all the poor people that had been captured, especially the little children. She hoped that they could stay with their mothers. Maybe when Master Luke comes, he can set everybody free and make all the bad guys go away, thought Areila. But he’s not gonna come if you don’t talk to him.

    So she concentrated harder.

    The canyon seemed as if it would never end. On and on it wound. Several of the prisoners began to stumble along, overheated and exhausted. The small children whimpered. Celleen tried to take mental note of the canyon layout, but after more than an hour’s march he head was spinning with the intense heat. Even in the shadows it was enough to leave one dazed and disoriented. Her throat felt as if it had begun sticking to itself, her lips cracked and bleeding. Presently she stumbled and barely caught herself. Then she looked at her daughter.

    Areila was clearly tired and afraid but stubbornly kept her eyes closed, reaching for the Force. It was only after she stubbed her toes on an outcropping that she made a sound. “Ow!” yelped the girl. The pain made her concentration vanish like a vapor.

    “Shaddup, ya useless womp rat,” snarled one of the Weequay. He gave a hard yank on the chains that bound the captives together.

    “Leave her alone! She’s hurt,” protested Celleen, coming to her daughter’s aid. “You okay, baby?”

    “Yeah,” choked Areila. Tears of frustration came to her eyes. “But I can’t-”

    “Shh,” Celleen shushed her daughter, tapping her lips with an urgent glance. The pirates had promised further cruelty if they caught Areila using the Force, and she didn’t want to tip them off. “It’s all right, baby. Stay next to me. You can try again later,” added the woman in a whisper.

    Areila looked warily around at their captors. She didn’t want to try again...but she did want to go home. Luke and Mommy were supposed to get married so he could become Areila’s daddy. That couldn’t happen if Luke never found them. So the girl wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and nodded, hobbling along on her sore toes.

    “Rest your foot, baby. That’s my good girl.” Celleen forced a smile, smoothing back her daughter’s tangled hair.

    “Nobody’s restin’ nothin’ ‘till the cap’n says so!” growled the Weequay.

    “Golso!” barked a deep voice from the front of the line. “Let them stop; just long enough for water. We want live merchandise, not corpses. The price won’t be as high if they’re not healthy.”

    “Well, looks like yer in luck,” the Weequay sneered. “Ya hear that? Siddown, all ‘a ya!”

    * * * * *

    True to the pirate’s promises, the short break lasted only long enough to distribute a single water bulb to each prisoner.

    Their destination wasn’t much farther. It was a town somehow built into the sides of the canyon ages ago. Most of it seemed abandoned but there were still a few well-off holdouts clinging to their lifestyles of excess. A motley group of some thirty or forty came down into the square to take a look at the ‘new stock’.

    While the pirates arranged their prisoners by group on a shaded platform and made loud claims about talents or value, Celleen tried to think about something else while she and the rest of her fellow humans were inspected like livestock.

    The children and teenagers were up first, and they sold fast. All but two generated bids that seemed to please the pirates. The only pair of siblings- a boy and a girl aged twelve and sixteen -were nearly split when the girl started to cry. The buyer- a particularly well-off man -almost made a show of having a ‘soft heart’ by buying them both. When the last two teenage boys didn’t get any takers, the next group was put on display; adults and young children.

    It was all Celleen could do not to spit directly in the eye of the man who was leering at her. When he tried getting friendly, she kneed him in the groin. After a bark from the pirate captain and some rough handling, they were led down from the platform and shoved into a corner; presumably so the rest of the buyers wouldn’t get cold feet.

    After the auction was over, one of the unsold teens suddenly broke away from his captors and began a mad dash for freedom. His ankles had been unshackled for inspection and he took full advantage of that.

    “Hey!” shouted the captain. “He’s getting away! Grab him, he’s valuable!”

    Two pirates immediately set off at a run to track down the escapee. That left only the captain and his first mate to guard the eleven remaining. Two more prisoners decided to seize the moment and split off running in different directions. The captain shouted profanities in numerous languages and sent his first mate after the younger escapee. Youth was worth more.

    Celleen’s heart leaped with hope at this diversion. Now’s your chance! Go! And so grasping Areila’s hand tightly in hers, she too broke into a run, heading in the opposite direction that the others were.

    Half a minute passed before she heard the pirate’s scream of rage echoing after her.

    Areila looked over her shoulder. “Mommy! They’re chasing us!” she cried.

    “Run, baby! Run!” urged Celleen, tugging her daughter along.

    They fled up the canyon. They took no water, no food, and no shelter. All they had was each other and a fierce determination to escape.
     
  6. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I'm happy they got the chance to escape. Hopefully they won't be captured again. Great update! :)
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  7. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi Thanks! I'm glad someone is still reading this. It's turning into something of a slog and there's a story problem I *still* can't work out in my head....my heart wants things to end one way (a way that you readers would probably like), but my head is screaming "how in the heck is that possible?!" Ugh....:rolleyes:

    We're going to take a brief break from the pursuit to check in on the Solo family....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Four


    “Maaaamaaa,” called a small, plaintive voice from the bathroom.

    Leia sighed and shut her eyes in an expression familiar to all mothers…especially those with toddlers. She had half expected, after raising an incredibly agile and active little boy, raising a noisy little girl would be easy by comparison.

    Being noisy didn’t make Breha any easier to manage. While Ben’s modus operandi had been ‘silent but deadly’, his sister took the ‘raise as much hell as you can in five minutes’ approach. When her mother stopped such escapades after she heard the ruckus, the toddler had learned to close and lock any doors that stood between them. That way she could make a bigger mess before being caught. The game often ended up with Breha locked in a room and unable to get out again. Most locks were two-way to prevent this sort of thing, but Breha was so tiny she couldn’t reach the button that would unlock the door.

    Such was the case again this morning. While Leia had turned her back for one minute to unplug Threepio from the charger, the three year old had used the excuse of ‘going potty’ to shut and lock herself in the bathroom.

    Now, of course, she was frightened and unable to get back out. “Mama,” cried the toddler. “Wanna come ou! Yemme ou’, Mama!”

    Leia rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and sent a panicking Threepio back into the kitchen to start lunch so she could set her daughter free. “Breha,” she said at the door. “Did you lock yourself in here again?”

    “Yeah,” blubbered the little girl. “Yemme ou’!”

    “Hold on, sweetie. This is going to take a while,” said Leia with a frown. The bathroom lock was of course on the inside for privacy. It was the fourth time this week that Breha had accomplished such a feat, but Leia had always had some mechanically-inclined person to help take the door apart.

    Not today. Han was off on another race circuit- for charity, but one Leia did not feel was appropriate for children -and Luke and Ben were on the other side of the galaxy. Threepio couldn’t help and probably would have made things worse. So Leia was on her own. Thus far she had not been able to influence electronics with the Force.

    Presently Breha let out a frightened wail and pounded on the door. “Maaa-maaa!”

    “I know. Hold on,” said Leia, trying to concentrate on the locking mechanism with her mind. She could sense her daughter's fear, and it didn’t help that she too, was uneasy. It was a struggle even to feel the Force in such a state, let alone use it. She had to reach deep into her feelings. How does Luke do this under stress? She wondered.

    It might have been a conditioned reflex. He had intuitively used the Force to aid during flight or space battles and had found it difficult to go back and learn how to use it when there was no immediate danger. For Leia it was the opposite. She used the Force more easily when relaxed, with no pressure.

    Sensing the door itself took time, and longer to sense the mechanism within. The door latch wouldn’t move with a mental nudge; at least any that Leia could muster. While Breha’s protests rose in volume, the young mother deepened her concentration. She bypassed the wires and microchips entirely and instead focused on the button inside the room. Gritting her teeth, Leia pressed the button with the Force.

    Accordingly the door slid open to reveal the tearstained face of Breha, still only half-dressed. “Mama!” she cried, reaching her little arms up to be held.

    “Oh, Breha,” sighed Leia, dropping into a crouch. “When are you going to learn?” After hitching Breha’s trousers back on her hips she gathered her daughter in her arms. “Come here.”

    Breha locked her arms around her mother’s neck and clung to her, sniffling loudly. “I wa’ stucked,” she declared.

    Leia nodded. “I know. And this is why I don’t want you closing doors. Don’t do this again, okay?”

    Breha nodded reluctantly. “Okay.” After submitting to a few more cuddles she squirmed. “Wan’ Daddy. Wheh Daddy, Mama?”

    “Daddy’s off racing, sweetheart. He’ll be back soon,” soothed Leia. While Ben had developed a close attachment to his mother, Breha was clearly ‘daddy’s little girl’. Already she was taking after him in more ways than one. Breha even had a small set of toy tools, which she used on everything. Instead of having a security blanket or a favorite stuffed toy, she carried her little toolkit everywhere she went and was always tinkering with something. Han of course couldn’t be happier and was already planning to teach her how to fly when she was older.

    Leia smiled at the thought of her husband. Despite his protests- and a few missteps -he had turned into a better father than even she had imagined. The man adored both his children and would do anything for them...just as Luke would do anything for his family-to-be.

    Her smile faded as she thought of all her brother had gone through in only a few short days. He had told her of Gavin’s injuries and the subsequent kidnapping of Celleen and Areila. Leia could only imagine the pain Luke was in. It could be heard in his voice when he spoke over the comm, and no surprise. He loved his fiancée and little girl as fiercely as any member of the family and would not rest until he found them.

    Leia prayed that it would be soon. She had learned through bitter experience with politics that the first twenty four hours were critical. After that, the chances of finding the abductee alive dwindled by the minute.

    Breha tugged on her mother’s arm. “Mama sad?” inquired her tiny voice.

    “No,” sighed Leia, lifted her daughter into her arms. “I’m worried about your Uncle Luke.”

    “Why? Unca Yuke huwt?” asked Breha with big eyes.

    “No, but he’s sad and worried. He’s trying to find someone he loves very much, and it isn’t easy.” Leia explained.

    “Is ‘kay, Mama,” Breha assured. “Unca Yuke ca’ fin’ em.”

    I wish I had her faith, thought Leia with a sad smile. Like Ben, Breha practically worshiped the ground her uncle walked on. They figured their uncle could move mountains if he so wished. “I hope so, love. Come on,” said Leia, kissing her daughter’s cheek. “Let’s go eat lunch.”

    * * * * *​

    Neither the taste of food nor the chaos of getting a messy three year old ready for an afternoon nap was enough to push the deepening worry from the corners of Leia’s mind. Breha was unusually quiet and seemed worried about her mother. No doubt she sensed Leia’s unease. She wouldn’t lie down until her mother sat on the bed with her and let her rest her tousled little head in Leia’s lap.

    With the help of the Force Leia was somehow able to lull the toddler to sleep. Absently she stroked Breha’s hair and found her thoughts wandering.

    She wondered how Ben was faring in all this. The teenager was growing into a skilled Jedi. His extreme sensitivity to the emotions of others made him impulsive and often stubborn, and it was still a struggle for him to bring his feelings under control. Leia found comfort in knowing her son’s heart was in the right place...he only wanted to end the suffering of others. Hopefully the worry of Luke wasn’t affecting Ben too much.

    The sudden beep of the household holo-comm system made Leia flinch, then look back down to her daughter to be sure she was still asleep. Breha stirred, but didn’t awaken. So Leia carefully shifted the little girl’s head to a pillow and adjusted her blanket before striding into the living area.

    Maybe it’s Luke. Maybe he has news about Celleen and Areila…quickly she answered the call. Hope faded into disappointment as Mon Mothma’s image came into focus.

    “Mon Mothma,” greeted Leia with more enthusiasm than she felt. “Good to hear from you.”

    “Hello, Leia. I hope this isn’t a bad time.” The senator-turned-chancellor seemed anxious about something.

    “No, of course not. I just put Breha down for a nap.” Leia’s brows knit in seeing Mothma’s expression. “Is something wrong?”

    “Nothing more than the usual squabbles about priorities and progress,” answered the older woman with a sigh. “I am beginning to understand why you retired.”

    Leia’s smile was strained. “I’m not really retired. Just on hiatus,” she corrected.

    Mon Mothma bit her lip. “Do you know yet when you plan to return?”

    Leia cringed. Not this again. All her old friends from the Alliance had been hinting about her return for months. To some extent they had learned to rely on her. Leia was trying to break them of that. “I’m not indispensable, Mon Mothma. You’ve been getting along fine without me.”

    Mon Mothma gave a patient smile and a sigh, though this time it was strained. “I just wanted to ask and see how that lovely family of yours is getting on.”

    “Very well, thank you. Breha’s growing fast and of course is into everything. Han’s off racing right now. This time he’s raising money for some of the war orphans.”

    “Splendid. And how is your eldest faring in his Jedi training?” the older woman asked with polite interest.

    “He’s learning fast. Luke says he’s the most talented student he has.”

    “Somehow I’m not surprised. You must be very proud of him.”

    Leia’s smile was distant and strained. “Yes...we are...” She wondered about mentioning the kidnapping to her friend. With as quickly as the pirates seemed to be hopping from one planet to the other, calling in the Republic forces wouldn’t do much good. Luke and Ben could handle this...or so Leia fervently hoped.

    If the woman from Chandrilla noticed Leia’s change of expression, she didn’t mention it. “How old are your children now? Ben must be near a young man.”

    Leia was quick to nod. “Yes. Sixteen. And Breha’s a very talkative and outgoing three.”

    The woman lifted her brows. “Will she be starting school soon?”

    At that Leia’s shoulders fell. I should have known. Wanting to shift the focus to her family was the main reason Leia had taken a breather from politics. She hadn’t mentioned any return until after her youngest was in school. “You want me back early, don’t you.”

    Mon Mothma cringed. “That obvious, is it?”

    Leia nodded. “I can’t say I’m surprised, though I wish you’d come out and said it instead of resorting to subterfuge."

    “Oh, dear.” The Chancellor sighed. “If it’s any comfort, it isn’t only myself that wish your return, but many in the senate.”

    “I know. At least three of them have called in the last week.”

    “I’m sorry if we’ve disturbed you, Leia. The last thing we want is to push. But the next generation of politicians had begun to take office, and I’m afraid they haven’t been very well received.”

    “Too green?”

    “They know procedure well enough, but already they seem to forget the rule of the Empire.”

    Leia grunted in agreement. “Memory of hardship fades quickly in an era of peace.”

    Mon Mothma nodded. “Yes. And those who too quickly discount the atrocities of the Empire tread dangerously close to complacency. The older members of the Senate push back hard. They find it difficult to accept such youth. You and other war-era members, however, are still the most popular. The older senators see you as level-headed and experienced, while the younger see you as heroes. All respect you.”

    Slowly Leia shook her head. “Well, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t come back tomorrow. Elections aren’t for another two years.”

    Mon Mothma hopefully lifted her brows. “If you so wished, a special election could be called for. I’m sure any of the Chandrillan or Coruscanti senators would step down-”

    “No. I don’t want special treatment. Politicians didn’t win the war. Pilots did. Soldiers did. Those who paid for our freedom with their lives did.” Leia sighed heavily. “I’m sticking to my original plan. I’ll run in the next elections. Breha will be five then and starting school.”

    While clearly disappointed, Mon Mothma couldn’t raise any protest. She nodded. “Very well. Myself and others eagerly away your return, then.”

    Leia shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I made a promise to my family.”

    The older woman managed something of a smile. “No need to apologize. I understand. Family comes first.” A sound from behind made her turn to look at something, sigh, and turn back to Leia. “Duty calls. It was good to speak with you, Leia. Please give Han my regards.”

    Leia managed a smile. “I will. Good to speak to you, too. Take care.”

    “As should you. May the Force be with you.” And the image of the Chancellor faded out, leaving Leia alone with her thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  8. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    I think it's great that Leia is sticking with her decision for a break with politics. Great update! :)
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  9. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi I think that was one of the mistakes made in the Legends books. Leia *never* took a break from her job and her children were shuttled around between nannies in their younger years. I wanted to make it plain that, this time, Leia holds her children at the *top* of her priority list.

    Time to check back with Celleen and Areila...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Five


    With a shuddering sigh of relief, Celleen crawled into the small Tatooine cave with the daughter by her side. Her strength had waned to the point where, once inside, arms and legs gave out and sent her down into the sand. Beside her a bone-weary Areila followed suit.

    Mother and child had run until their skin was ready to boil, their lungs to burst, and their legs to give out. After they had managed to lose their capors in the maze of canyons and sand dunes, Celleen urged her daughter on. She would not risk recapture at the hands of those monsters.

    Walking for hours under the tremendous heat of the twin suns, Celleen’s next priority had been to find water. Without it they were as good as dead.

    There were no rivers or springs on Tatooine, Luke had said. There was a shallow water table in places- which was where the sparse vegetation came from -but one had to tunnel through three meters of solid rock to get to it. The only potable water to be found on the planet was the dew that collected under rock faces in the evenings, or at moisture farms. Vaporators dragged the reluctant dew from the atmosphere overnight and stored it in reservoirs until it could be bottled and sold. Some of the more creative farmers claimed triple-filtering and electrolytes so they could charge a higher price, but the so-called ‘designer’ water hadn’t found much of a market. Even after the fall of the Empire, Tatooine was a poor system whose inhabitants wanted nothing more than to make a modest living and stay comfortable on their chosen homeworld. Any others were just looking for a place to hide.

    Four and a half hours of searching hadn’t turned up a single vaporator, nor even a friendly face. After leaving the main branch of the canyon, all signs of habitation dissolved like just another mirage.

    Celleen and her daughter were already dehydrated. Water had come sporadically during the trip. She and Areila had only one small water bulb between them at the time of their escape and there was nothing more than a mouthful left. Celleen didn’t want to use that up until they had found an alternate source. Thirst was a constant companion.

    Areila, who lay on her back whimpering softly, rolled over to regard her mother. “Are we safe now, Mommy?” she gasped.

    Celleen pressed her cracked lips together and nodded. “For now, baby. Here...let’s see if we can get those nasty old cuffs off of you.” She forced herself upright and began searching for a pair of rocks with which to break the restraints. She found two sizable boulders and had her daughter lay her cuffs on them. Then she lifted the stone to smash the middle of the cuffs, careful to avoid Areila’s little hands. Once...twice...thrice...and finally on the fourth try the cuffs cracked and sparked. Quickly Celleen pulled the pieces off and rubbed the sore spots on the girl’s wrists. “There you go, Rei-Rei. Did that hurt you?”

    “No. But Mommy, what about you?” asked Areila with a frown.

    “Do you think you’re strong enough to do the same thing with my cuffs?” asked Celleen cautiously.

    “Um...” Areila bit her lip. “I can’t.”

    “Yes you can, sweetheart. It’ll be much easier to take care of us if my hands are free.” She laid her bound wrists upon the wider stone. “Now pick up the rock I used and smash the middle of the cuffs.”

    Areila’s shoulders sagged and she shrank back, shaking her head. “What if I miss? I don’t wanna hurt you!”

    Celleen blew out a sharp breath from her nose, trying to be patient. “You won’t. Just try, ok?”

    Reluctantly the little girl picked up the stone and brought it down over the center of her mother’s cuffs. Chink! Nothing happened.

    Celleen nodded with encouragement. “Good girl. Try again.”

    Chink! Chink! Twice more Areila tried, grunting with effort. On the fourth she started to cry. “Mommy, I can’t!”

    “Yes, you can! You have to!” Celleen bit back on her raised voice and took a deep breath. “Areila, please. I know I promised to take care of you, but sometimes Mommy needs help, too. And I know you can do this. You are the strongest little girl I’ve ever met, and….and if Luke were here, he’d say the same thing. Try again.”

    “OK.” Choking back further tears, Areila lifted the rock above her head and brought it down, wincing as it came within milimeters of her mother’s hands. The chink was louder and the metal showed a visible dent.

    “Good girl. Do it again.”

    Chink!

    “Again...”

    Chink!

    “One more time, Areila. Lift it real high, and bring it down as hard as you can. Go!”

    Grimacing in concentration, Areila swung the stone above her head and brought it down hard on the cuffs with a grunt. Several sparks flew as the cuffs fell apart.

    Celleen sighed with relief. The left cuff still hung from her wrist, but the right was free...and now she could use her arms. She offered a smile to her tired daughter. “Good girl, Areila. I knew you could do it.”

    Areila dropped the rock into the sand and shuddered, leaning on her mother. “I’m thirsty.”

    The woman cringed. “I know. I’m thirsty, too. But we’ve only got a little bit of water left. We need to find more so we have something to drink until Luke finds us.”

    Areila nodded, though the doubt was obvious on her little face. Three times now she had tried to call out to the man who was supposed to be “Daddy” through the power they shared...the Force. Three times she had failed. “How?” The question of course was twofold; how would they find more water, and how would Luke find them?

    Celleen stroked her daughter’s hair. “You let me worry about that. For now, take a little drink.” She picked up the water bulb and handed it to Areila. “Just a sip, now.”

    Areila gratefully brought the bulb to her lips and pulled eagerly at the water. Tears came to her eyes when Celleen pulled it away. “I’m still thirsty!”

    “I know, Areila. I know. Just wait a little while, and you can have some more.” Celleen kissed the top of her daughter’s head and rose painfully to her feet. “Come on. Let’s take a look around.” Together they rose to inspect their shelter. Hopefully there were no krayt dragons or other unsavory creatures about and they had the place to themselves.

    The cave was relatively small- no more than six meters in diameter -and showed no signs of habitation by anything larger than a scurrier. This relieved Celleen to no end. Luke had spoken of the fearsome creatures on his home planet. Unless they were domesticated, most were either venomous or big enough to eat you. Lack of planet life meant up to eighty percent were carnivorous. Having the cave as shelter against both heat and wild beasts was good, though Celleen wished there was some way to barricade the entrance in case something else wanted to take up residence.

    Afternoon was waning. Soon the suns would begin their long journey below the horizon. Celleen was counting on that evening dew to collect on the walls. Just a few more hours, she told herself. Just a few...

    * * * * *

    The next forty-eight hours were the definition of misery. The water collected from the walls of the cave- wiped off with a scrap of cloth and then sucked out -amounted to no more than a liter, most of which evaporated minutes after the suns had risen. In such a hot and dry climate that was nowhere near enough, especially for two people. Celleen learned this lesson the hard way, and they wound up waterless for most of their first full day in the cave. Only then did the woman realize how much she had taken water for granted.

    Now Celleen would have given her right arm for a cupful. Areila didn’t take long to grow lethargic, her mouth dry, her eyes unable to produce more than two tears despite her crying. Celleen felt helpless to ease her daughter’s suffering, and she wasn’t doing any better. By the second morning Celleen was so tired and dizzy that she barely had enough energy to wipe the cave walls and squeeze the dew into the water bulb to drink. She took just a sip herself before wiping Areila’s feverish forehead with the cool cloth to wake her up.

    Areila flinched awake and moaned. Upon seeing the cloth she grabbed her mothers’ arms and pulled it to her lips to suck out the moisture.

    “Slow down, baby,” whispered Celleen through her dry mouth. She resolved to let Areila drink first, and she would take whatever was left. Children were more susceptible to heat exhaustion than adults. It was critical for Areila to get enough water, or she would soon become delirious and pass out. Celleen refused to let her daughter reach that state. She was the only one who could tell Luke where they were.

    The trade-off was that Celleen could already feel severe dehydration setting in. Her head throbbed and spun. Her skin was dry and wouldn’t go flat after pinching the back of her hand. Mouth, eyes, and throat were painfully dry. It took deep concentration and determination to keep from fainting.

    When Areila had sucked the cloth dry, Celleen let her drink half of what was in the water bulb. The other half would be saved for later in the day, otherwise the girl might just sweat it all out once the temperature rose.

    By the time she was finished drinking, Areila felt better. Then she noticed how tired her mother was. “Mommy, are you okay?”

    Celleen flinched and turned drowsily to her daughter. “Hmm? Um...um...yeah, Mommy’s okay,” she stuttered.

    Areila frowned. She knew her mother hadn’t been drinking much and pushed the water bulb into her hands. “You have the rest.”

    Celleen offered a drowsy smile. “No...sweetheart, that’s for you, for later.”

    Areila stared sadly into the water bulb and put it down. She had felt so much better after having water, and knew her mother would, too. Why wouldn’t she listen? The little girl sat up and looked around at the cave. Water droplets still glistened on the ceiling. “There’s more up there,” she pointed out.

    Celleen directed a delayed gaze upward and felt foolish for not noticing before. I must be out of it. It took several tries to gather her feet beneath her and reach her arm up to the ceiling. She soaked the drops into the cloth and hurriedly sucked it out, picking up the pace as the cool water touched her parched lips and tongue. When the last drop was gone, she sagged back into the sandy floor, panting in desperation. It hadn’t even been a cup and she was still so thirsty. For one split second she considered drinking what was rest in the water bulb…

    No! Do that, and your little girl will die, she told herself, angry that the idea had even entered her mind. So she lay down in the sand and rubbed Areila’s arm. “There. Mommy had a drink.”

    Satisfied for the moment, Areila lay next to her mother, holding her hand. “Is Luke ever gonna find us?” she wondered aloud.

    Celleen took time to process Areila’s words before nodding. “He will. If anyone can find us, Luke can. Are you strong enough to try talking to him again?”

    Areila bit her cracked lip, doubful. “I dunno...” She gazed at her mother in concern. She was having one of those feelings again...feeling what her mother was feeling. She knew her mother was tired, and thirsty, and just not feeling good. Luke said those feelings came from the Force. It was scary to think what might happen if her mother got worse. At last she nodded. “OK. I’ll try again.”

    Celleen offered a minute smile in return and patted Areila’s arm. “Good girl.” She lay back, using her arm as a pillow. “Good girl….” Her heavy eyes began to close. “Good…girl….”

    Worried, the little girl closed her eyes and reached down deep inside herself to find the Force. Luke was the only one who could save them, and the only way to talk to him was with this gift.

    Luke? Luke, please come...please help us...please!
     
  10. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    Celleen and Areila are really having a bad time of it. Hopefully they'll connect with Luke and Ben soon.
     
  11. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    @Sara_Kenobi Yes, I know....

    Unfortunately with re-writing the *other* Fic, I've completely lost my motivation to even work on this one. :( I don't want to do anything else with it. It's gotten too depressing.

    I may come back someday and finish it...but not any time soon.
     
  12. Sara_Kenobi

    Sara_Kenobi Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 21, 2000
    Oh that is understandable. I loved this story. Both parts were very well written. I hope you decide to return to it again someday. Thank you for all your hard work. It was a great read. =D=