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Saga - ST Foundations of the Force- Pre TFA (Luke, H/L, Ben) **Ch 21 up 12/3**

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Ridley Solo, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much! I enjoy writing baby mush. And this is how I imagine Han to be as a father...totally out of his element,but pushing through the best he knows how.

    And now, back to Luke. Look out, the next couple of chapters are going to be pretty rough on him....such is the danger of going it alone. :(
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Eleven


    Twlight on Arkanis was typically a nonevent. The planet was green but exceptionally rainy, making clear skies a rarity. It just got darker and darker until the only light seen was from the cities. Luke had been drenched just that morning but the skies had miraculously cleared just in time for the most spectacular sunset he had ever seen. He paused for a moment while loading his X-wing and leaned against the fuselage to take it in. Pale pink and orange clouds were aflame with the fading light and the sky was fading from periwinkle to violet.

    Luke smiled wistfully. Sunsets had always given him a strange sense of regret, as if the day had not been long enough to accomplish everything he had planned. As a young man he'd seen them as the sign of another wasted, boring day. Luke didn't often feel the sense of wasted time anymore, but a sadness that it was time to move on.

    It was nearly two years since his search for Jedi knowledge and artifacts had begun. In those last twenty-one months he had visited twenty-two planets, each with their own sets of challenges and rewards. He never stayed long. Since Devaron he hadn't stayed anywhere more than a month, often considerably less. His shortest visit had been on Coruscant. The main Jedi Temple had been housed there for thousands of years...but between Palpatine's twisted influence and the difficulties in retaking the planet, the once proud complex had been all but destroyed. It was a faint, sad shadow of its former self and Luke left with empty hands and a heavy heart after only three days.

    All his visits weren't so depressing or fruitless. Most had turned up something, even if it was only an ancient stone tablet or a single holocron. The real difficulty wasn't in finding the artifacts, but convincing the respective governments to give them up. Those on Tyre had even accused him of trespassing and had him removed from the premises. Luke couldn't help but feel guilty when he snuck back that same evening and secured a few fragile books. Was it stealing if these things belonged to the Jedi, and he was the only Jedi left? If he intended to return the items later, was it considered 'borrowing'? Luke did leave behind such compensation as he could manage, as well as an apology.

    Luke's thoughts continued to wander as he stared at the sunset. There were other jabs to his conscience. His missed his family. He'd seen Leia only twice since leaving; first to return Threepio, and then to meet his baby nephew. He was honored to be asked to name the boy, but even that somehow made it more difficult to leave. Luke had a feeling that as time went on the frequency of the visits would drop.

    It wasn't as if he was completely out of contact. Luke followed through on his promise and sent Leia a video message at least every month. She did the same in return, often bringing Ben into the picture so Luke could keep up with his growth. They hadn't yet caught each other in time for a live conversation. Luke wasn't in one place long enough to set something like that up and Leia had gone back to working full-time now that Han was home. Luke's hope was that someday he could speak to all of them and hold a real conversation again. But for now they had to play a game of holo-tag. What hurt the most was the fact that training Leia long-distance was impossible...and now she had Ben to take care of and the Senate to rebuild.

    Don't dwell on it, Luke told himself as the light continued to fade. Anakin had warned him that it wasn't Leia's destiny to be a Jedi. That didn't keep it from hurting. Sometimes Leia asked questions about the Force that Luke couldn't answer. But she was still learning. Her connection to Ben was strong, and not just as his mother. She knew when he was hurt, or sad, or hungry before even seeing him. The baby was also very strong in the Force. Luke had sensed that much when he was born. Sooner or later Ben was going to have to learn, too. But Luke, Leia, and even Han had agreed that Ben needed to have a childhood before anything else. They had all been forced to grow up too fast and didn't want the same to happen to the baby boy.

    Presently Artoo looked up at his master with a sad little 'oooh'. He gently bumped Luke's hip to get his attention.

    Luke flinched and smiled down at the droid, absently laying a hand on his dome. "Hey, buddy." After six years Artoo was Luke's best friend and self-appointed bodyguard. Luke had offered to let the little droid stay with Rogue Squadron and keep flying in combat as he'd been designed, but Artoo wanted none of it. He insisted on staying with Luke no matter where he went. Luke enjoyed the company. Solitude was made much more bearable when you had someone to talk to. While he had yet to completely crack the code of binary that Artoo spoke in, it was fairly easy to decode the 'emotion' behind the words.

    "I really miss them, Artoo," admitted Luke. "I miss them all, and wish I was with them. I'm not giving up," he added when the droid warbled a surprised question. "What we're doing is important for the galaxy. The Jedi need to return to their place as peacekeepers. I just...I don't know," he sighed, turning away from the beautiful sight to tinker with a panel that didn't need it. "Maybe part of me wishes that Leia could have come with me. She has so much to learn..."

    Artoo seemed to consider this before chittering what sounded like a defense.

    "I know. She has enough to do. Maybe someday-" Luke shook his head. It was a waste of time to worry about maybes and what-ifs. He needed to live in the present, not a future that could have been. "Come on, Artoo. It's time to go." He reached out with the Force and lifted Artoo into the astromech socket in what had become a routine. Tune up, load up, climb up, start up, buckle up, and go. Artoo's anxiety over being lifted had eased somewhat, but he still expressed a wish to load himself rather than rely on Luke. As yet Luke had been unable to find another set of rocket boosters like Artoo had once claimed to own.

    Something else that had become routine in the last year and a half was Artoo's inquiry about their next destination as they exited the atmosphere. He made it right on time, just as Luke was double-checking the coordinates.

    "Well, we're doing something a little different this time. Ever heard of a place called Alpinn?"

    Artoo burbled a curious reply. [Affirmative. It is located in the Outer Rim and little is known of it other than its high mineral content.]

    "Right. Some of the material I found on the HoloNet suggested the Jedi used to visit. There may be Kyber crystals there," explained Luke. He checked the coordinates one last time before finalizing them.

    Artoo seemed confused. [Why do you wish to follow rumor instead of a solid lead? Information suggests Tython as the most logical destination.]
    "I know, but that's in the Deep Core," Luke pointed out. "Alpinn is only a few hours' jump away. Han was right when he said it would take forever to just go hopscotch from planet to planet. I'd rather start in the Outer Rim and work my way in. We'll cover more ground that way." He checked his proximity sensors. "OK, Artoo. Go ahead and make the jump anytime you're ready."

    Artoo seemed uncertain, but obeyed his master. He hadn't led them astray yet. Hopefully Luke's safety record would hold up.

    * * * * *​
    Ten hours later, crouched behind a shipping crate with snow-white minerals crackling under his boots, Luke had to admit that Artoo had been right. The potential gains had not been worth the risks.

    What had once been an archeological dig had turned into a den of spice pirates whose aggression was matched only by the size of their blasters. Luke had gotten into the habit of leaving his lightsaber in the X-wing unless he knew he was heading into trouble. He'd rather not label himself as a Jedi unless there was no choice. Today was the exception to this rule, though the weapon wasn't prominently displayed. It was hidden in the folds of his tunic.

    Luke had tried reasoning with his attackers, but they shot first and asked questions later. Now Luke was outnumbered about twenty to one. Luckily Artoo had stayed with the ship to run routine diagnostics.

    The young man was in a quandary. He didn't really want to hurt anyone, but sooner or later they were going to come for him. He was left with two options; make a run for it, or stay and fight.

    Luke grimaced. Peeking over the top of the crate revealed that the pirates were coming for him. They'd figured out that he wasn't going to shoot back. There was no choice now.

    "Come outta there!" taunted one, throwing various slurs and profanities at the Jedi. "Fight like a man!"

    Luke took a deep breath to center himself in the Force, then showed his hands and rose slowly from behind his shelter. "All right...don't shoot. I'm coming out."

    The pirates slowed to a jog. The leader, a burly human with close-cropped red hair and a cybernetic eye, smirked. "Hah! Givin' up, huh?"

    Luke shook his head. "No. I'm trusting you not to shoot me."

    The pirate laughed loudly. "You're an idiot if you think I won't! What're you doing here, anyway?"

    "I would have told you, if you hadn't been so rude. I'm looking for artifacts and information about the Jedi," explained Luke.

    "The Jedi are dead," scoffed the red-headed pirate. "You wasted your time. There ain't never been nothing had anything to do with the Jedi." He shrugged. "Now I guess you're gonna have to die."

    "Don't be so sure," murmured Luke. He counted thirty men now of varying species, slowly advancing on him. With the Force on his side, he could probably get away without having to seriously hurt anyone. "And don't come any closer."

    "Listen to this guy! What're you gonna do about it, midget? Last I saw, you didn't have no blaster! Ain't nothin' to keep me from killin' you."

    "If you'd wanted to kill me, you would have already fired . Now I'm warning you to stand down. I don't want to hurt anyone."

    So ludicrous was this declaration that the pirate ordered his men to back off and sauntered right up to Luke, making a show of it. Then he drew his blaster and fired.

    With reflexes born only of the Force, Luke drew and ignited his lightsaber in a single motion and sliced right through the pirate's blaster, knocking it out of his hand.

    The pirate squealed in disbelief and stumbled backwards in shock. "He's got a saber!" Wildly he turned to his lackeys while still trying to get clear himself. "Don't just stand there, shoot him!"

    Half of the pirates- those that weren't frozen in fear and shock -raised their blasters at the same moment and began firing. A hail of bolts sailed at Luke.

    Luke blocked most of them. One singed his hair and another nicked his boot, but the rest were either deflected or went wide. His saber whirled like a windmill. Half the bolts deflected went right back to their gunmen, who fell back with a chorus of cries. The Force guided his limbs in a smooth symphony of motion and light like a green disc, forever shifting, sending the red bolts flying in all directions. Another bolt grazed his elbow, but he ignored the pain and fought on.

    In only half a minute, half of the pirates had fallen back, disabled or dumbstruck with horror. Some turned and ran. The rest kept advancing, though their shots were less certain now and came at a slower pace.

    Luke felt the Force flowing through him as he took the time to pause and yank six blasters from their owners' hands. These were treated in the same way as the lead pirate's weapon and reduced to slag.

    Three more pirates fled, and now only six remained, still firing in either desperation or stupidity. Luke continued to block most of the bolts, despite suffering another hit to his shoulder. In another minute those last six were disarmed and stood staring with gaping mouths.

    Luke's breath gushed from him in relief. He had to bite back a wince as he raised his saber into a salute and regarded the pile of fallen pirates and their seething leader. The effort of fighting so many at once left him breathing heavily. "I tried to warn you. I'm sorry you didn't listen. Now, if you'll let me go, I'll be on my way and not trouble you again. You have my word as a Jedi."

    "Jedi?" murmured the pirates in disbelief. Many swore. Those that were mobile turned and ran. Only the leader and the three closest to him remained. The redheaded one got to his feet with a venomous glare and threw the most vile profanity he could in Luke's direction.

    "In that case, I'll leave you now," panted Luke, deactivating his saber. "I hope you've all learned that the Jedi aren't dead. Not anymore." Cautiously he turned, walked, then jogged back out of the pirates' haphazard complex and back toward his ship. After that display, they would have to be crazy or suicidal to follow. He gave a cursory look to his injures as he went.

    Most were just glancing blows. The burn on his shoulder, however, was bleeding and stabbed at him with every step he took. After un-stowing the medical kit, he and Artoo were beating a path out of this system. Hopefully the little droid wouldn't spend too much time saying 'I told you so.'

    The young Jedi had no way of knowing what was going on back in the pirates' camp. The leader's greed began working against him. Lightsabers were rare and could bring a nice payday for all of them. He could only convince ten to come with him, but the boy was tired and wounded. He couldn't last forever.

    * * * * *​
    Luke didn't know that anyone was following him until he was a mere two hundred meters from his ship. Then the impending sense of danger and a faint hum made him wheel about to see twelve pirates approaching on cobbled-together swoop bikes, blasters in hand.

    Luke's heart sank, and he mentally scolded himself for being too complacent. He'd never noticed the swoop bikes. As for the blasters, they must have had spare weapons lying around. Pirates were, as a rule, usually armed to the teeth. He glanced at his ship and the pirates, trying to mentally calculate how long it would take him to run back and close the canopy. But his enemies were coming too fast. He'd never run fast enough to make it. Luke's instincts took over for a moment and made him run anyway. He made it halfway before the first shot was fired.

    It had come from the lead swoop and was close enough to knock the young Jedi off his feet. At the last minute he went into a tuck-and-roll and rose to his feet, lightsaber in hand.

    Artoo turned and gave a loud squeal of alarm. His master was surrounded. He rocked about atop the ship, whistling in dismay.

    "Artoo, get down!" shouted Luke over one shoulder as he blocked the incoming bolts. "Get inside! Now!" Whatever else happened to him, he couldn't let the pirates get hold of anything he had found. And Luke couldn't stand the idea of anything happening to Artoo.

    Artoo protested loudly, but even the little astromech realized he couldn't help. He could fly the ship independently, but safety features prevented a droid from firing any weapons without the pilot. All Artoo could do was duck into his compartment and run. He waited until the last possible minute before firing up the engines and rising off the ground. He purposely buzzed the pirates to throw them off course, and then disappeared over the horizon.

    Luke couldn't watch his droid escape as he continued to fight the pirates back. He sliced the steering vanes off one swoop, disabled the engine of another, and pushed a third off course with his mind. He had to drop flat to avoid being run down by another. His lungs burned and his vision blurred from the exertion. He was tiring quickly. Using both muscles and the Force against so many was exhausting, and he knew that the odds were against him coming out unscathed.

    The leader took full advantage of Luke's distraction and swung around from behind, leveling his large blaster and firing.

    Fortunately for Luke, the pirate wasn't trying to kill him. The bolt was powerful enough that when it hit the back of Luke's arm it wheeled him around and sent him to the ground with a cry. His lightsaber flew from his grip and landed several meters away. When the moaning Luke tried to rise, another bolt caught him in the thigh, doubling his agony. Now he could only lie on the ground, gasping, as the pirates surrounded him. "Help me...help me...help me," he whispered, though he wasn't sure who he was calling to.

    The other swoops had dropped back while their riders dismounted to approach on foot. One kicked away the lightsaber while two ran to Luke to haul him painfully up to a kneel in front of their leader. The pirate reared back and punched Luke once in the eye, then once in the chest.

    "Why do you...want to hurt me?" Luke coughed painfully. "I was...leaving."

    "You are a foolish and stupid boy," spat the pirate. "None can insult the great Anton and get away with it. Now you will die alone, and not even your little robot friend can help you."

    "Then why haven't you...killed me yet?" challenged Luke. He lifted his head to peer at Anton. "I don't think you want to. Somewhere...somehow, you know what you're doing...is wrong."

    Anton spat and kicked Luke in the jaw, then lifted him up by his hair. "You know nothing, fool! I do not need to kill you with my hands. The planet will do that for me as you lie, bleeding and helpless, until you starve to death in a ditch!"


    Before Luke could refocus his mind, a sharp blow struck him in the back of his head. Unconsciousness took him away.
     
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  2. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Poor Luke, that was rough.
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Lovely to read of Luke's feelings about sunsets, how they reflect his past growing up but also his growth and current life experiences. [face_thinking]

    Bittersweet that in 18 months he was able to visit Leia only two times, but glad their holo-calls are regular at least.

    Happy to read that Han is still at home too. :D

    Wow, =D= =D= the confrontation with the pirates the first time was pure awesomeness! [face_love] To be followed by a serious :oops: !!!! due to complacency. Teaches you you can never let your guard down too long or too much around thugs.

    Fascinated to read about the Jedi info quest. Facts seem to be collecting but not necessarily prospective students.
     
  4. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Zer0 :(
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha That is literally the best compliment I have ever been paid...pure awesomeness...thank you soooo much! [:D] Don't worry, though Luke tends to be too trusting, he learns from his mistakes.

    And now, to see what has happened to poor Luke...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Twelve


    The young Jedi was disoriented when he awoke, and wasn't sure of the cause. It might have been the frantic whistling of Artoo, or the feel of a cold, wet rag on his forehead. Maybe it had been his throbbing head or the low voice of a stranger. The only thing Luke knew for certain was how much everything hurt. His head, arms, legs, and chest all felt dreadful, and he couldn't remember why.

    But at least he was safe. While tired and sore, Luke felt no fear. The sense of danger was gone. Between the calm presence and quiet, accented voice of the one the one tending him, Luke could almost believe it was his old master. "Obi-Wan?" he mumbled. Turning his head to look was a mistake, and he moaned.

    "Be still now, son," said the concerned voice. He laid a hand on Luke's good arm. "You've quite a few injuries, and treating them is difficult enough without your moving."

    That wasn't Obi-Wan. It couldn't have been. Ghosts didn't have any flesh to speak of. One of Luke's eyes had swollen shut, so he forced the other one open. It took time for his vision to come back into focus. In the meantime he could distinguish the hazy form of a humanoid as well as a worried astromech droid off to one side. The area was dimly lit by a single glowrod and a handful of candles, so his location was a mystery. "Where am I?"

    "Safe, and that is all you need know at the moment," said the man. He was older but not elderly, and busily mixing up several different concoctions at once. "It's good to see you awake. You gave your little friend there quite a fright."

    Artoo whistled an agreement from the corner and gave an electronic scolding to his master.

    "I know, Artoo. You're right. I'm sorry. I should have listened to you." Luke blinked as his vision continued to clear. By then he could distinguish the interior of a cargo ship, albeit a very old one. It was half-rusted and seemed to be cobbled together from spare parts. One side was loaded with a number of shipping crates. He lay on a rough, sling-style cot, stripped to his shorts with a blanket covering him from the waist down. Bloodied bandages lay about.

    Luke could see his benefactor had the body of a young and strong man but his hair was gray and his face was lined with care. He wore the simple homespun garb of a peasant, worn from travel, and a distinguishing necklace of simple wooden beads. If Luke had to hazard a guess the man could have been anywhere between forty and sixty. "Who are you? Why are you helping me?"

    "My name is of little consequence to a man such as yourself, though I have a suspicion as to who you are," replied the man with a spark of humor.

    "Really?" Luke asked, wincing as his rescuer laid a cloth with some sort of salve over his swollen eye.

    "You are, unless I miss my guess, Luke Skywalker, hero pilot of the Rebellion, and among the Empire's most wanted," he replied with a smile. It faded as he spread the sticky ointment on to another bandage. "Though I daresay I hardly recognized you from your 'wanted' holos. You've taken quite a beating, young man."

    Luke grimaced. "No kidding. Will you at least tell me who you are so I can thank you properly?"

    The good Samaritan paused, considered, and shrugged. "My name is Lor San Tekka, though the thanks belong with your droid. He was the one to come and convince me to help you. When I saw the state you were in, of course I obliged. You came quite close to death, young man. I would say the Force was with you."

    Luke's eye widened with interest. That kind of phrasing wasn't used except among former Rebels or Jedi supporters. "You know about the Force?"

    Lor San Tekka chuckled modestly. "It would perhaps be better to say I believe in the Force. I know not many do these days, but my faith in it will not waver. I can see it was the will of the Force that you live. The galaxy needs more of your kind about." He gently probed the area around Luke's burned right shoulder before wrapping it.

    "Well, thank you, Lor San Tekka," said Luke earnestly. "I don't think I could have managed this by myself."

    "As I said, no thanks are needed, but you are most welcome. Lie still," he added when Luke tried sitting up. "I'm not through yet. And with that knock you were dealt on the head, I doubt it would be a good idea right now."

    Luke couldn't argue with that. His head felt terrible, and the only thing worse was his arm. That burned with a deep and biting fire, worsening when San Tekka checked it and tied on a pressure bandage. He gritted his teeth and grunted.

    The older man's brows knit with concern. "Easy now, son. You'll heal, but not without a nasty scar or two. What brought you to this lonely planet?"

    Luke hesitated. Lor San Tekka seemed to have respect for the Jedi. Maybe he could risk the truth. "I'm...looking for Jedi artifacts. I thought I might find Kyber crystals here."

    San Tekka frowned as he tied off the bandage. "Not for a great many years, I'm afraid. I see you ran afoul of those ruffians who have staked a claim here." He reached for another bandage and smeared on more ointment. "And why, might I ask, are you searching for Jedi artifacts...unless you are a Jedi? Or a thief, simply hoping to make a few credits on whatever you find. But I sense that is not your intent," he reassured when Luke bristled. "You speak as if you, too, believe in the Force."

    Luke waited until the worst of the bandaging was over before he reluctantly answered. "You're right. I am a Jedi."

    Lor San Tekka rocked back on his heels. A look of long-forgotten hope came into his clear blue eyes. "So it's true. There are Jedi left in the galaxy. I had suspected you at least had the potential after hearing your name, but...this is wonderful. Oh, thank the Force! Thank the Force!" He shut his eyes, by now full of tears. He opened them and gave Luke's arm a gentle pat. "I see by your eyes you want to know how I know of the Force, and I regret to tell you I have only the most tenuous of bonds with it. Certainly not enough to become a Jedi. The Church of the Force is merely made up of those with faith, not talent. But we have always revered the Jedi. Meeting you, young man, is the greatest honor I have ever had."

    Luke stared at the old man with mixed feelings. While he was happy that the Jedi still had support in the galaxy, Lor San Tekka's reverence made him uncomfortable. He cleared his throat. "I, ah...I don't think I'm the kind of Jedi you've been looking for. I'm only half-trained, you see."

    San Tekka shyly let Luke go. "You must forgive my enthusiasm. I am old enough to remember the days when the Jedi were the peacekeepers of the galaxy, and after the Purge, I feared their days were over. Now you tell me of your quest to restore the order...it's almost too much to hope for."

    Luke blushed. "Well, I want to. The truth is I haven't even started yet. I don't know enough to train anyone else. That's why I'm here. I'm looking for as much information as possible so I can continue to learn, and hopefully...someday...pass it on."

    San Tekka smiled kindly. "Do not sell yourself short, young man. Even a spark is enough to bring light back in the galaxy." And he went back to tending Luke's wounds.

    * * * * *​
    When the last of Luke's injuries had been treated and he had been given a mug of tea to help with the pain, the questions began. Lor San Tekka wanted to know who had trained Luke and if the rumors about his destroying both Death Stars, Darth Vader, and the Emperor singlehanded were true. Luke was quick to dispel them and regretful as he explained just how little he had been trained. Lor San Tekka, in turn, explained the Church of the Force. He was sorry about his inability to instruct Luke in the ways of the Jedi, but did mention several promising leads. San Tekka was a traveling scholar and gathered artifacts and information on the Jedi himself. He promised to share whatever he found with Luke.

    It was only after this and a supper of beans and porridge that Luke noticed his lightsaber was missing. He rolled out of the cot, searching beneath every blanket and pile of clothing. Artoo rolled in and whistled in distress.

    "Artoo, where's my lightsaber?" asked Luke, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt.

    Artoo seemed to sag on his bearings and warbled a very unhappy sentence.

    Luke froze. He had only caught scattered words, but even that was enough to make his heart stop. "Artoo...did you say what I thought you said? Did one of those pirates steal it?"

    Sadly Artoo hooted an affirmative, then what sounded like an apology.

    Luke's free hand went to his head. He shook it in denial. "No...no, they...that's not possible. It has to be here. It has to!" His movements became quick and panicked. Clothing and other items flew about, and the weapon did not come to light. That could only mean that Artoo was telling the truth. His lightsaber, part of his identity as a Jedi, had been stolen. Finally the pain in his burned arm and shoulder forced him to stop. He sat on the floor, doubly frustrated.

    Those greedy pirates were probably going to sell it. Lightsabers, much less working ones, were rare and worth a lot of money. In the hands of one untrained, they were just as deadly to the user as they were to anyone else. A lot of damage could be done.

    It wasn't only that. Luke had built that saber with his own hands, concentrated for hours to perfectly align the crystals with the Force. It felt as much an extension of himself as a hand or foot.

    Luke hurled a wadded up blanket aside in a brief show of anger and let his head fall into his free hand. Now what? He could build another, but that could take months...and why put in all that work if what was rightfully his was still within reach? Luke lifted his head, eyes narrow with determination, and reached for one of his boots. There was only one thing to do.

    Lor San Tekka walked aft to find his patient trying to dress himself. The older man paused and frowned. "Luke, where do you think you're going?"

    "My lightsaber is gone. Artoo says the pirates stole it. I have to get it back," he explained.

    San Tekka firmly shook his head. "No. No, son. Your injuries need to heal first."

    Luke glared as he pulled on his boots. "There's no time." Painfully he began pulling on his tunic.

    The devout man dropped beside the young Jedi. "Luke, you are not in any condition to be walking on your own, let alone fighting off those pirates. And don't forget, it's they who put you in this position."

    "I don't care," grunted Luke as he fastened the tunic. "A lightsaber doesn't belong in the hands of any but a Jedi. It's too dangerous."

    "It is only a tool, young man, and not worth risking your life over."

    "You don't understand..."
    "I understand perfectly. You're not well."

    Luke waved the man's concern off, though his head was already spinning. "I'm all right." He tucked in his tunic and picked up his belt, trying in vain to fasten it with one hand. When that failed he took a deep breath and used the Force to help him. Once this was finished he pushed unsteadily to his feet with a grunt.

    That boy's going to get himself killed. Alarmed, Lor San Tekka hurried after Luke and stood in front of him. "Luke, you are not thinking clearly. Please, sit down-"

    Luke brushed San Tekka aside. "Lor San Tekka, while I appreciate the help you've given me, you have to let me go. Those pirates are either going to seriously hurt someone with that saber, or sell it to someone else who has no business with it."

    San Tekka stood his ground. "Then tell me, young Luke, what makes this tool so important you are willing to go to your death?"

    Luke sighed, rubbing his head. "It's...it's part of what makes a Jedi who he is. My first lightsaber belonged to my father, but I lost it. Part of the trials to become a Jedi Knight is building your own lightsaber. I built this weapon myself. The crystals have to be perfectly aligned, or it won't work. You have to use the Force. I can't really explain it, but that lightsaber is part of me now...as much as one of your arms or legs is part of you. That, and the need to keep it out of unsafe hands is why I have to get it back."

    Luke's impassioned speech only made the elder grimace and take a tighter hold on the boy. "Then wait. You must heal."

    Stubbornly Luke shook his head. "If I don't leave now, it could be too late! The pirates-"

    "You don't know that. Now please. Lie back down."

    "Let me go."

    "Please, Luke. You must rest."

    "Let me go!" Desperate to get away, Luke repelled the older man with the Force, sending him to the deck. As Luke took in the fear in San Tekka's eyes, he sighed. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you. I'm grateful for your help." Luke glanced sadly at his droid. "Look after Artoo, will you? I don't want him following me."

    Lor San Tekka frowned as he rose. "I am not going to sit by and watch the last of the Jedi- the galaxy's last best hope -go to his death!"

    Luke's shoulders sagged. San Tekka had a point. Going against those pirates now was as good as a suicide run. "Then help me! Please. We can't let them sell that lightsaber."

    The scholar hesitated. He was not a warrior. But there were ways of winning battles without firing a single shot. At last he nodded. "Very well. Do you have a plan, then?"

    Oops. Luke had to shake his head. "Not yet."

    "Well, then sit down while we come up with one. Come, Luke," he urged, once again wrapping a supportive arm around the wounded Jedi. "Back to bed...at least for now. And let us think of ideas to recover your weapon from those ruffians."

    * * * * *​
    The 'plan', such as it was, didn't make much progress between Jedi and scholar. Any solutions Luke could come up with involved his moving far sooner than San Tekka would have liked. His plan was to take Luke to the nearest inhabited system and let a medic take over treatment. A bacta tank could get the young man on his feet that much sooner. But Luke couldn't agree to that. Leaving the system, as far as he was concerned, was tantamount to giving up.

    Luke didn't even want to sleep until they had found a 'better' solution to the problem. San Tekka finally volunteered to sneak into the pirate's camp to make sure none of them had left yet. That idea didn't set well with Luke either, but it was better than nothing. He ended up falling asleep before the older man returned.

    Late that same evening, the loud grinding of the ship's cargo hatch startled Luke out of his sleep. Drowsily he stared into the darkness. His senses informed him it was his new friend. Luke frowned as the older man tiptoed past. "You're just now getting back?"

    Lor San Tekka smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry to wake you, Skywalker. But yes, I've returned. You can rest easy."
    "Was there trouble?"

    The devout follower waved his hand in dismissal. "Of course not. I did, however, find a way to buy us more time. Now, now," he chided gently to Luke's look of dismay, "you've nothing to worry about. None of them saw me. It seems our friends were celebrating with a drop too many and passed out in camp. I doubt even a snoring bantha could wake them. I couldn't find your weapon, unfortunately, else I would have brought it back."

    By then Luke was curious. He tilted his head to one side. "What did you do?"

    Lor San Tekka spread his hands in a gesture of innocence. "Why, I was concerned for their safety, so I made an exam of their engines. It seems theirs are even in worse repair than mine." He reached into a pair of deep pockets and pulled out several small but essential parts. His eyes twinkled with humor. "Do you suppose they'll be needing these?"

    Luke couldn't help bursting into confused laughter. "How did you...wait a minute, I thought religion condemned stealing."

    San Tekka shrugged. "I believe in this case it's justified. And I do intend on giving the parts back when our work is done. Either way, this should give us the time we need to formulate a better plan...and you, the time you need to heal."

    Luke shook his head in amazement. Then he sighed. "Drunk or not, if you'd been caught, those pirates could have killed you. You shouldn't have taken a risk like that."

    "Perhaps not. But as you remind me, the Jedi must return," said the scholar, resting his hand on Luke's shoulder. "And I wish to do whatever is in my power to help make it happen. But sleep, son. Sleep with your mind at ease so your body can heal." He moved his palm to Luke's forehead and gently pushed him down.

    As if on cue Luke felt his eyes grow heavy. He settled back into the cot. "I'll never forget this, San Tekka."

    "Just rest."


    Luke let his eyes close. One final thought touched his mind as he fell asleep. How was it possible to experience both the best and worst of humanity in a matter of hours? The Force truly was mysterious.
     
    Mistress_Renata likes this.
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Very nice encounter and literally life-saving. Lor is and will be a great ally. @};-
     
    Ridley Solo likes this.
  6. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Luke is still very impetuous. He may have survived Vader and the Emperor, and he may have built a lightsaber, but he has a long way to go to truly be a Jedi. Loved the intro of Lor San Tekka! There is a lot Luke can learn from him if he learns to let go. San Tekka is right. A lightsaber is just a tool.
     
  7. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Even Jedi need help sometimes. :)
    Mistress_Renata Old habits are hard to break. In the old canon I really didn't like how quickly he went from impulsive farmboy to serene Jedi Master. To his mind Luke sees the situation as completely different than racing off to save his friends or confronting Vader. He's not going against other Force-users and still sees his lightsaber as essential to being a Jedi...plus he really doesn't want anyone to end up with lopped-off limbs. But don't worry. He'll learn. ;)

    And now we must leave our hero and check in on his family. Let's have a look at how baby Ben is growing. BTW I think I have messed up on the timing; I may have to edit a previous chapter to make it line up....:oops:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Thirteen


    "Ben, honey, come here so we can put on your clothes."

    "No!"

    "Ben, listen to Mother."

    "No!"

    Leia sighed in annoyance. Life with a toddler was the epitome of frustration, and moreso when she had to deal with it alone. She couldn't blame Han for doing honest work, but...did he have to be gone so much?

    Han hadn't lasted long in his 'retirement' after Ben had been born. Once the family had moved into a more permanent home, he followed through on his dreams and set up a shipping business. It had taken more than six months to get off the ground, but now that it was, he was gone more often than he was home. Leia was left to try juggling her work with raising an active little boy who was fast moving out of his babyhood.

    Ben's days as a happy-go-lucky infant were as good as over. Leia supposed she should have expected this, as he'd showed signs of being an early mover. He had rolled over by four months and started creeping by five months. Then at seven months he began standing. By nine months he had skipped crawling and gone straight to walking. Ben was trotting and nearly running by his first birthday. Han couldn't contain his pride at these accomplishments and happily urged his son on, even over holo-comm.

    With this newfound independence came a stubborn streak. Ben quickly learned that by running he could engage his mother or whoever was watching him in a lively game of chase. He tripped a lot, but at only fourteen months was as fast as a Teek. His favorite thing to do was dash off whenever he felt like it, especially during a diaper change or after his bath. He rarely came when he was called, except for snacks or meals, and Leia had at times resorted to bribery. When caught, Ben would howl and shriek for up to five minutes before settling down. The only method of containment was his crib...and Leia knew those days were numbered.

    This wasn't what Leia had expected motherhood to be. She knew it would be difficult, but this...this was completely draining. She could hardly even use the bathroom without Ben getting into some sort of mischief. If Han even joked about having more children he was given a look cold enough to freeze Mustafar. Threepio couldn't help with much due to Ben's penchant for knocking him over. At the moment the droid was at the other side of the apartment cleaning up.

    It wasn't all bad, of course. Ben was very affectionate and gave out hugs and big wet kisses at random between his wild scrambles, and when Leia simply sat in despair over how far behind everything was or how hard it was to keep up with her son, Ben would climb into her lap, touch her face, and say "Mama." Ben wasn't much of a talker yet and his favorite word was usually 'no'. But that tiny voice completely disarmed her and she would hold him close.

    Leia had finally come to the conclusion that she needed help if she was going to get anything done. Luke was the only one who could manage Ben alone, but he was still off looking for Jedi artifacts. Besides that Ben was far too young for either training or tagging along with his Uncle. So, reluctantly, Leia had signed him up for day care. Today he was going off to a room of children his own age and several adults and droids he'd never met before. Leia's stomach was twisting before she even caught her son to get him ready. Ben, despite his hellion status at home, was really quite shy in public. Meeting new people saw him begging to be held, clinging to her and hiding his face in her shoulder. He never ran off if surrounded by people he didn't know, because he was afraid of them. Strangers often remarked on what a little darling he was...if only they knew. Hopefully the boy would do well in this new environment.

    "Ben, sweetie, come here," urged Leia again. Ben was running around the nursery in only a shirt, socks, and a diaper, as was his habit. In his opinion pants were beneath him and shoes were evil. He couldn't go out in public like that. She groaned and rose from the floor. There was no choice but to catch him. "Ben Solo, you get over here right now."

    Ben's head snapped up and around. He knew that voice. Mommy meant business. But he could sense that there was something different about today and decided to draw things out as long as he could. So he smiled up at her when she approached, waited until she was within reach, and then bolted off to the left with a shriek.
    He hadn't been counting on his mother's speed. She had the same Force that he did, though he didn't know what it was yet.

    Leia dove to the floor in a manner most unbecoming a Princess. But it did the job. In a second she had Ben around the chest and legs and began hauling him up off the floor.

    Ben shrieked and kicked his legs in protest.

    "Oh no, you don't, young man. You're staying right here and getting dressed," declared Leia. Her hold was firm but gentle as she wrestled his wiggly legs into a pair of pants. "We're going somewhere special today. Don't you want to go?"

    "No!" spouted Ben.

    "There are toys and games and lots of other children to play with. You'll have fun."

    "No!"

    Leia shook her head. She should have known better. Often he said 'no' without really meaning it. "Of course you will. You'll have so much fun, playing and laughing and meeting new people. Now let's get your shoes on so we can go."

    * * * * *​
    Ben was usually quiet once Leia had him in the speeder. He sat in his safety seat staring out the window after he'd run out of toys to toss on the floor. Reliably, his thumb went in his mouth and his tiny fingers clung to his favorite blanket. He knew something different was happening today and wasn't sure how he felt about it yet.

    Leia wasn't sure, either. She couldn't shake the feeling that something had or was going to go wrong. The idea that another child would hurt hers- or that he would hurt someone else -hovered in the back of her mind. Telling him about all the neat things at daycare and how quickly time would go did nothing to ease either her or her son's anxiety. The brief thought that it was something else- something related to the Force, perhaps -was nudged aside. Leia hadn't had time to actively practice her abilities since Ben had been born. Luke was on the other side of the galaxy and the idea she could sense him from that far away was ridiculous. He's fine. He can take care of himself. Ben could sense her moods and being upset wasn't going to help him at all.

    Ben was predictably clingy when they arrived at the daycare center. He showed no interest in the teachers or droids and would not let go of his mother all through the checking in process.

    The staff assured Leia that this was normal. Children took time to adjust to new situations. She was welcome to stay with him, of course, just so he could get used to the new environment. Leia hadn't scheduled her next official work day until the next day, so she agreed.

    For the first half hour Ben seemed content to sit in his mothers' lap and watch all the other children as they crawled about playing. There had been something of a postwar baby boom so most of them were younger than him. They barely paid any attention to the newcomer and seemed more interested in the toys.

    Leia, meanwhile, did her best to get her son to engage. She had little success until she showed him a type of puzzle where a set of shapes was put into a box with cutouts in the lid. Ben cracked a grin when he saw that the shapes could be dumped out again and jumped into the act. He loved making messes. By the third round he had snatched up the toy, sat down, and worked the puzzle by himself.

    Leia's relief was profound. With Ben occupied she felt she could start edging her way toward the door. She was not going to leave him without saying goodbye and explaining where she was going, of course, but that was going to be just as hard for her as it was for her baby.

    A sudden sense of urgency and worry gripped Leia when he back was turned and she wheeled about. Ben was fine. But he, too, might have sensed something as he paused and looked around with a puzzled expression.

    Concerned, Leia shut her eyes and reached for that elusive energy field. Then she thought of Luke. What followed was vague, but alarming. Luke was in some kind of distress, but whether it was physical or emotional was impossible to tell. Trying to call for him got no answer, but maybe he was just too far away. She opened her eyes with a deep, troubled frown...now, where had Ben gone? He'd left his puzzle and gone off-

    Oh. He was there, tugging on her pant leg for attention. Leia looked down into the big brown eyes of her son and bit her lip. Luke was in some kind of trouble, and she needed to contact him to see if she could help. Ben seemed to have felt the same things but was too young to know what they meant. He was looking to his mother for comfort and direction. "Oh, Ben," sighed Leia as she dropped into a crouch. "Your Uncle Luke is in trouble, and I need to go talk to him and make sure he's all right. I'll be back soon."

    Ben frowned in confusion and patted Leia's cheek. "Mama?"

    "Mama needs to leave for a little while." She gathered the boy into her arms and kissed his cheek. "See you soon, sweetie. I love you." And she began to walk back toward the front desk. Ben was right behind as Leia gave a brief explanation. "He seems to be settling in pretty well, so I'll go ahead and go." The trouble didn't start until she headed out the safety gate without Ben.

    "Mama..." Ben was leaning of the gate, reaching out both arms. He looked completely bewildered. "Mama!"

    "Bye, Ben," said Leia in what she hoped was a cheerful voice. "See you later. Have fun!" She gave him a single wave and one last kiss on the forehead before resuming her walk. Her throat tightened when Ben began to cry and then scream for her. Any thoughts of love and reassurance sent to him were ignored. He's going to have to get used to it, Leia told herself. After daycare there would be school, and after school, it would be time to grow up. She couldn't hold on to him forever.

    The former Rebellion leader still felt terrible by the time she found a private working vid-comm. Again and again she sent an alert to Luke's X-wing. It wasn't answered. On the tenth try Leia was distressed enough to send another video message. "Luke? Are you there? I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you, but...this is going to sound foolish. I thought I sensed you were in some kind of trouble, and I'm concerned. Ben seemed to sense something, too. I know you probably can't reply right away, but...can you try and send one as soon as you can? Thank you. Take care of yourself, Luke, and...may the Force be with you."

    Leia sent the message even more distressed than before. Logic told her not to worry, that Luke never answered the comm right away.

    Her senses told her otherwise.

    * * * * *​
    At the end of the day when Leia returned to pick up her son, Ben ran to her with a look of something close to desperation. He plowed headfirst into her legs, clung to them, then reached his arms up. "Mama!" He exulted when she obliged. Both of his little arms then latched around Leia's neck.

    "Hello, sweetheart," greeted Leia, a little short on breath. "See? I came back. Did you have fun?"

    "Well, eventually," piped up one of the younger assistants. "It took him a while, but he finally calmed down."

    "How long?" grimaced Leia as she secured Ben's belongings and signed him out.

    "Maybe an hour," cringed the daycare worker in return.

    That report did nothing to improve Leia's confidence in this idea. "That long? Please tell me someone tried to calm him down."

    "Oh, of course," assured another worker, stepping in. "Jani and I tried holding him, rocking him, anything we could to make him feel better. But he just wouldn't until he was ready. After that, though, he was fine."

    "I wouldn't worry about it, ma'am," said the desk worker. "This is completely normal for children his age. They thrive on routine, and any changes can make them fussy. After a few days he'll have a new routine and should settle in nicely."


    Leia pressed her lips together to keep from saying more. It remained to be seen whether or not Ben would be coming back.
     
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Very realistic in the level of frustration and the way kids that age are a trial :rolleyes: =D= Very much in line with the NEU as far as Han's absences :( but Leia feels and might as well be a single parent. :eek:
     
  9. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha After spending the last eleven years babysitting, teaching Sunday School, and running herd on niece and nephew, I *hope* I got it right. Writing toddlers is ridiculously easy for me. :p But don't think Leia is essentially a single parent because of Han's absence. Think of him as an intergalactic truck driver. ;)

    Back to Luke now....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Fourteen


    Luke sat quietly, clearing his mind of all that was distracting. Past mistakes, present worries, and future challenges were all pushed aside. In their place came the Force, a warm and calming blanket settling over his mind and body. Meditation had become Luke's main activity in the last four days.
    After a good deal of talk, Lor San Tekka had finally convinced his young charge that leaving the planet to find a medical station would be the best choice.

    To his dismay the nearest inhabited planet did not have very advanced medical facilities. They had been decimated after the war and any kind of bacta, even in bandage form, was almost impossible to find. But there were other methods to speed healing. Nanotechnology to repair damage was available, but expensive. The treatments that Luke opted for were curcumin extracts and meditation. Medics doubted the effectiveness of the latter, but couldn't argue with the effects. It had the same result as sleeping, but in half the time. Maybe there was something to this 'force' after all.

    Despite being a relatively obedient patient, Luke still felt a nagging sense of urgency. They couldn't delay return to Alpinn much longer. It wasn't the pirates' possible escape that bothered him so much as their potential to misuse the weapon. The young Jedi had the feeling that with more time passing, Anton the pirate leader would grow increasingly agitated. Even the Force seemed to urging him on, after a particularly disturbing dream. Luke had already made up his mind that this would be his last day with the medics.

    The one in question- a balding man in his fifties by the name of Dr. Winscott-entered the exam room with datapad in hand and a friendly but tired demeanor. "Skywalker," he greeted tonelessly. "Back again. Getting impatient, are we?"

    Luke opened his eyes with a minute shrug. "I have a lot of work to do."

    "Hmm." Winscott eyed Luke's medical information before walking over to the young man. "Well, let's see how you're healing , then." He waited for Luke to uncover the burns before carefully removing the bandages one by one. After each he nodded and made notes. "Mm-hm. I'll say this for you, Skywalker. You're a fast healer. I don't think I've seen a blaster burn heal this quickly outside bacta treatment. Especially your leg." He peered at the small round wound, fascinated. "No new bandage for that one. I'm glad you've decided to rest instead of pushing things. Makes it that much easier on you, and us medics."

    Luke felt a sense of satisfaction in knowing at least one bandage could be done away with. "How about my shoulder?"

    Dr. Winscott nodded. "Much better. Not quite as good at your leg, but I think that bandage can go in another couple of days. How does it feel?"

    Easily Luke rotated his arm. There was still some discomfort, but nothing he couldn't ignore. "Pretty good."

    "Good. Now your tricep is healing well, but as that burn was deeper, it will take more time. You should be able to get out of the sling. Just don't overdo. I think one more circumin treatment, and-"

    "No. I should go."

    "Really?

    "As I told you, I've still got a lot of work to do. Thank you for your help."

    The medic pursed his lips before replying. "You're welcome, but I don't think much of your Jedi if all of them are as impatient as you are."

    Luke cringed. "There aren't any more...yet."

    Dr. Winscott didn't seem surprised. "Hmm. I'll change your bandages anyway." And he opened a drawer of medical supplies to follow through on that.

    "Thank you." Luke rolled his sleeve back down when the doctor was finished and slid off the table without another word. The sooner he could get out of there, the better.

    "Don't try flying," called Dr. Winscott after him. "That brain of yours is still on the mend."

    Luke cringed but didn't answer. The knock to the head had given him a moderate concussion, which made it unsafe to fly. Without a bacta tank there was little that could be done to speed up healing. As such, that was one thing Luke wouldn't fudge on. The last thing he needed was a crash and even more injuries. In the meantime his new friend had agreed to store the X-wing in the cargo hold.
    After paying the bill he met Lor San Tekka and Artoo outside, both waiting eagerly for a report. Artoo warbled a long, excited sentence while San Tekka just waited patiently.

    For a moment Luke was tempted to lie and say the doctor had given him a clean bill of health. But he suspected Lor San Tekka would call him out on it. Even without the Force the older man was very perceptive. Lying didn't suit him anyway. "I'm healing," he said shortly. "He said I don't need the bandage on my leg anymore, and my shoulder isn't far behind."

    Lor San Tekka nodded as they walked down the street and made for the hangar. "Ah. You see, Skywalker, simple rest can do more good than you realize. And your head and arm?"

    Here Luke cringed. "Not quite there. I'm going to be on restriction for another week. My arm is better," he added in an effort to stay positive. "I don't need the sling anymore."

    "So I see. Be patient. You seem to be a fast healer, but no one should push things too soon. Better to be back at your full strength than overdo and risk further injury." Lor San Tekka seemed content as he and Luke rounded the corner and walked into the hangar. A lack of funds and lodging made them take rest in the ship. It wasn't long before San Tekka realized that his young Jedi friend was concerned about something beyond just flight restriction. He paused as they entered the ship to turn to him. "Something troubles you, Skywalker. And I suspect it is something other than simple impatience."

    Luke sighed before answering. "At first, that's all it was. Now...the last day or so I've had a feeling that something is going to happen, something that could kill several people."

    San Tekka peered at the young man with curiosity. "You speak of the pirates that have your lightsaber."

    Luke nodded. "Yes. I had a dream..." He closed his eyes. "I can still see it. The ship is starting up but...something isn't right...the engines are overheating."

    San Tekka frowned. "I did remove the heat regulation controls. Attempting to lift off without them could cause such a thing, but I would think even they know this."

    "I don't know. Maybe they thought they fixed it, but...there's an explosion and it kills them. All of them." He opened his eyes, disturbed. "I need to go back and help."

    "And you think this dream was a vision from the Force?" inquired Lor San Tekka, "Or was it from a selfish, secret desire for revenge?"

    "No. Jedi don't take revenge, and I'm not going to start now. And I know this was from the Force. I can feel it," insisted Luke.

    The follower of the Force raised his eyebrows. "Hmm. And why would you want to save the lives of those who caused you pain?"

    Luke bit his lip. "As long as a person is alive, they have a chance to change. Once they're dead, it's too late. I don't want to take that chance away from anyone."

    Lor San Tekka gave a pointed look to Luke's arm. "And what do you intend to do? You know the pirates are unlikely to believe you if you warn them of impending danger."

    Luke shrugged. "I have to try."

    "You're still injured. What if the pirates decide to finish what they began and end your life?"

    "I'm not going to turn my back on them again. I made that mistake once. As long as I keep my mind open to the Force, I can avoid them."

    Lor San Tekka searched Luke's face for a long while. The boy was in earnest, of that he had no doubt. Luke held no grudge against the pirates and only wanted to help. He truly believed that this warning was from the Force, and that his calling as a Jedi was in part to save lives. But will he escape again, I wonder? Finally the older man sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Maybe he was the one being selfish. Maybe he wanted so badly to see the Jedi return that he was unwilling to let one fulfill his calling. He did believe Luke was very strong in the Force and had the ability to take care of himself even without a lightsaber.

    Luke took the long pause as a sign of disbelief...or worry. "I'll be careful. All I want is to help them."
    San Tekka nodded. "Yes, Luke. I believe that you will. Very well. I'll return you to Alpinn...and pray that your senses are sharp enough to keep you alive."

    * * * * *​
    Luke was somehow gratified to find the pirate ship in one piece, though the group was in a bit of disarray. There were signs of a recent blaster fight and most everyone seemed to be inside. Only one pirate- a Weequay -stood guard at the perimeter. Upon seeing Luke he immediately raised his blaster.

    "Don't you come no closer, 'less you wanna hole in your gut," he warned with a gravely and heavily accented voice.

    "All right," agreed Luke, showing his palms. "I don't want any trouble. But I would like to speak with your leader, Anton."

    Suddenly a spark of recognition flashed across the Weequay's face. "Hey. I know you...you're that Jedi...but you can't be! There's not a mark on ya!"

    Luke, wearing a different outfit, decided not to advertise that the Weequay was wrong. "I think I recognize you, too. You were on a swoop bike, weren't you?"

    Now the Weequay was visibly shaken. He lowered his blaster with wide eyes. "Nah...it can't be you. Anton said you was dead!"

    Luke's mouth twitched. "Clearly he was mistaken. Now can you either take me to Anton or bring him out here? I'd like to talk to him."

    The Weequay began taking slow steps back, not seeing the electrostaff behind his legs until he tripped and fell backward over it. "Don't you go using that magic on me!" he warned, scrambling away.

    "It's called the Force. But don't be afraid. I won't hurt you," assured Luke. He watched as the Weequay ran back into the awning-covered camp as fast as he could, shouting for help. Five others, two Rodians and three humans, ran back to point their blasters at Luke.

    "Hagwa doopee, jedai," warned a Rodian.

    "It's all right. You're in no danger," said Luke easily, putting a bit of Force persuasion behind his words. He couldn't use his telepathic suggestions on all of them at once, but this might help them not to be so trigger-happy. In response the Rodians lowered the blasters a little while the humans seemed confused.

    It didn't take long for Anton to come pounding out, followed by six more of his lackeys. He stopped in his tracks upon seeing Luke. "Why aren't you dead yet?" he demanded.

    Luke lifted his brows. "I can't say I'm sorry to disappoint you. Thank you for coming out."

    Anton pointed his blaster straight at Luke. "I have nothing to say to you, Jedi."

    "Why do you hate me so much, Anton? What have I done to you?" Luke wanted to know. It was difficult to stay calm with almost twenty pirates pointing their weapons at him, but the last thing he wanted to show was fear.

    "You know what you have done! You use that...that glowing sword to destroy more than half my weapons, and then you try to disable my ship!" spouted Anton.

    "Really." Luke would have smiled at the last accusation if the Force wasn't urging him to get to the point. "While only one of those counts is true, all I want is to help."

    Anton spat and swore in derision. He didn't believe Luke for a moment.

    "Anton, don't try to take off until your engines have been properly repaired. If you do, the explosion will kill all of you."

    "Hah! You think that ruse will stop us? Your attempt at crippling us was pointless. We raise ship in one hour!"

    "Your repairs didn't work."

    Anton would have laughed in Luke's face, but saw something strange in the Jedi's eyes....truth. His amusement glared and he took large, menacing steps toward Luke. "You...know...this...how?" he demanded, pressing the blaster to Luke's temple.

    Luke's heart pounded but he didn't flinch. He looked Anton right in the eye and lifted his brows. "I'm not afraid of death, but I think you are. I can help you repair your ship. If you kill me, I won't be able to save you or your crew."

    The pirate flinched despite himself. There was something unnerving about the way Luke was speaking. It was no bluff, no wild story to further sabotage the group. There was also no fear in his eyes though he knew Anton could blow his brains out any second. This man had courage. That, Anton could respect. Blowing a harsh breath out of his nose, he lowered the blaster just a fraction. "And you want what in return?"

    Now was Luke's chance to ask for his lightsaber, but after a moment's reflection he decided not to. "Nothing but my life, and that you let me leave in peace."

    Anton smirked. He was beginning to think Jedi had no sense of self-preservation. He also figured Luke didn't know who had his valuable weapon. "And how do you know I won't kill you anyway?" He glared when the young Jedi simply smiled.

    "If you'd honestly wanted to kill me, you would have already," answered Luke. "And I believe you're a man who has some sense of honor."

    Something in Luke's tone made the pirate's simmering temper ease. All he knew that he was falling behind schedule and had to get those spice shipments to their buyers before they ran out of patience. Letting the Jedi fix his ship was a better guarantee of a fast payday, especially with that lightsaber. Besides, any man that could heal from his wounds so quickly wasn't to be argued with. Finally Anton growled. "Fine. You fix my ship, I let you live. Now come on, let's go!" And he walked behind Luke and jabbed him between the shoulder blades.

    * * * * *​
    It was difficult to sneak the parts back into the engines without Anton noticing, but a subtle misdirection with the Force did the trick. Luke neither wanted to be accused of theft nor to give away the presence of Lor San Tekka.

    After the repairs were finished, Anton still didn't trust Luke any further than he could throw him and ushered all essential crew off the ship to stand at a safe distance. He then elected one very unlucky pilot to test the ship out and make sure Luke was telling the truth. The crew held their collective breaths as the engines fired up and the ship took off to make a short loop around the area.
    Everyone, including Luke, let out an immense sigh of relief when nothing happened. Some of the crew even cheered as the ship set back down.

    Anton turned begrudgingly to Luke. "You fix good, Jedi. I am already late, so we will not waste time with formalities. Get out of here." He holstered his blaster and turned to his crew. "Now load up and get aboard, you womp rats!"

    Luke gave a polite half-bow before turning and cautiously walking away. As he passed a crate with a loose lid, he sensed something familiar inside. He smiled when he realized what it was. In a single motion he stretched out his hand and called the lightsaber back with the Force. It landed in his palm with no trouble.

    Several minutes later Anton noticed the opened crate, looked inside, and swore with rage. "Jedi scum! Lying Jedi scum! Bashkir, Cae'l, Deek, Estan, Fali, and Gregor, with me! The rest of you, keep loading!" And he and his henchmen took off after Luke.

    Here we go again. Luke cringed and planted his feet wide in a defensive stance. "This isn't safe for you. I'm taking it back." He ignored all the filthy names Anton was calling him and took a deep breath, filling himself with the Force. He was going to need it. "I don't want to hurt you. Go back to your ship."

    There was no answer but blaster fire.

    Luke ignited his saber and released himself completely to the Force. It answered with quick reflexes and blocked every single bolt. As the pirates drew closer he reached out and mentally tripped them, then yanked the blasters from their grip one by one until each pirate was sitting on the ground, stunned and disarmed.

    Four of them got up and ran. Two scrambled for their dropped blasters. Anton, meanwhile, roared in rage and plowed forward with a vibroblade.

    Luke groaned at such a mismatched fight and deactivated his saber, tossing it to his droid for safekeeping. "Artoo!"

    Artoo squealed in alarm as he picked up the saber, then rolled up to the nearest two pirates and sprayed them with fire retardant solution to keep them from finding their blasters. One ran away, coughing. The other was zapped in the crotch and collapsed with a howl.

    Luke braced himself as Anton came up with the speed of a charging reek. He had never been good at fistfights, but neither did he want to permanently maim anyone with the lightsaber. Hopefully he could at least get rid of the knife and slow the pirate down. Luke dodged left at the last moment, then right. The Force enabled him to block Anton's wrist with his arm, then wheel around to duck underneath the larger, heavier man. He avoided the kick that followed, but still ended up off balance and fell backward.

    Anton was undeterred and tackled the young Jedi before he could get back up. He brandished his knife, trying to stab him.

    Luke wrestled with Anton's arm for a minute before calling the vibroblade into his own hand. Anton braced himself, but flinched in shock when Luke threw it over his shoulder, aiding its flight with the Force. The vibroblade tumbled end over end in an impossibly long arc until it was out of sight.
    Rather than be frightened at this display of power Anton resorted to using his fists. At first the blows were blocked as fast as he could throw them. He ended up hitting air or the ground beneath them. Enraged, Anton put all his brute force behind one of the hits. While Luke blocked it, his forearm gave a sickening crack and exploded with white-hot pain.

    As Luke pulled back with a yelp, two more quick punches landed on his eye and jaw. That was enough. One deep breath and a hard Force push lifted the startled Anton off of him and sent him flying. Then he called his saber back into his hands.

    The pirate landed hard in a heap. Before he could renew his attack he found a green lightsaber blade pointed at his chest. That got his attention.

    Luke, with his shiner and blood crawling down the corner of his mouth, panted and stared wearily at Anton. "I told you I didn't want to hurt you. Please don't make me."

    Anton glared. "You're strong, Jedi. But without your Force you are nothing more than a weak and foolish boy. If you were a man you would run me through."

    Sadly Luke shook his head. "Killing someone doesn't mean you win. It means you lose things more important than a spoils or a fight, or even your life." He sighed. "The deal was that if I fixed your ship, you'd let me live. Are you going to keep it, or keep trying to kill me?"

    Anton blew out a sharp breath from his nose. "I am not stupid enough to argue with that," he grumbled, staring at the lightsaber. "Two of my men lost limbs to that thing, and I don't have the time. I'm late for a shipment. Are you going to let me go?"

    Luke nodded and deactivated his lightsaber. He watched as Anton ran back to his ship and barked orders at his men. He laid a hand on Artoo's dome as the droid came up from behind with a disgusted whistle. He thought Luke should have killed the man. "It wouldn't change anything," remarked Luke sadly. "I just wish he hadn't wanted to fight."

    Artoo seemed to agree, then gave a softer, more concerned whistle.

    "I'll be all right, Artoo. Come on. Let's get back to Lor San Tekka."
     
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Nice handling of the pirates. Glad Luke got his saber back & at least tried to teach Anton a lesson. :p
     
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  11. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Really great chapter, he did much better the second time in true Luke fashion.
     
  12. Gemma

    Gemma Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 25, 2013
    I am really enjoying this (I'm about half way through). Your Han/Leia is tremendously spot on. Loved the proposal. I adored how you had Leia thinking how much he annoyed her, but at least he was her Scoundrel. I truly for once in my life know that feeling.
     
  13. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Luke really doesn't want to hurt anyone, even nasty old pirates.

    Zer0 If at first you don't succeed...

    Gemma Glad to have you aboard!

    And we finally have another update! Sorry about the delay, but since the day before Thanksgiving I've been super busy. With the holidays coming I'm really hoping I can somehow wrap this up before Episode 8 comes out...no guarantees, though. :(
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Fifteen

    The devout Church of the Force member had plenty to say when he saw Luke return with even more injuries. On one hand he was very unhappy about the confrontation, but pleased with the way it had been handled. Hopefully those pirates would begin to spread word of Luke's mercy toward them and let the galaxy know that the Jedi had been reborn.

    It was only after being patched up again that Luke thought to check his X-wing's comm system and found Leia's worried message. Mentally kicking himself for not checking in sooner- and grimacing to think of her reaction -Luke prepared to leave his own message. Lor San Tekka gave permission to use the ship's comm system so he wouldn't have to climb back up into the X-wing with a broken radius. He was surprised when Leia answered right away.

    "Luke? Is that you?" Her image was grainy, but clearly concerned. "I don't recognize this frequency. Is everything all right?"

    "Yes, it's me. And don't worry, a new friend of mine is letting me use the comm system on his ship."

    "Oh. Well thank them, of course." Leia squinted at something. "Isn't the hologram function working? It says here you can see me, but I can't see you."

    Luke cringed. His face looked much worse than it felt and he'd rather give her fair warning. "It's an older system and doesn't have holo-recording. It does have video, but..." He sighed. "Leia, first I want to tell you that I'm all right and not to worry about me."

    Leia frowned, taking on her 'stern big sister' persona even though they were twins. "Why don't you want me to see your face?"

    "Is Ben with you?"

    "He's playing, but-"

    "Good. I don't want to scare him."

    "Luke, what's going on?"

    Without another word Luke activated the miniature camera. The shock on Leia's face made him immediately regret the decision.

    Leia gasped with alarm. "Luke, what happened to you?"

    Luke grimaced. "The short of it is, one of my leads on kyber crystals turned out to be a dead end and I ran into some very bad-tempered pirates. The good news is, they weren't the only ones on the planet, and I was able to get some help."

    Leia seemed only a little relieved and covered her mouth. "You look terrible. How badly were you hurt?"

    Luke shrugged his good shoulder. "A broken arm and some bruises, but nothing serious. I'll be fine."

    Leia closed her eyes and shuddered. "Luke, please be more careful. I know you need to bring back the Jedi, but to do that you're going to have to stay in one piece."

    Luke nodded in agreement. "I know."

    "And slow down. If you don't take the time to rest before moving on, I'll get Chewbacca out there and have him physically restrain you."

    "Don't worry. I'm planning on taking it easy for a while. No need to bring Chewie into this."

    "You'd better." Leia sighed, glanced behind her at the fuzzy image of Ben playing on the floor, and turned back to her brother. "Where are you?"

    "Headed to Dantooine. They're the nearest system with medics," said Luke.

    Now Leia was visibly relieved. "Good. But how? I know you're not in your X-wing."

    Luke looked over his shoulder and ushered the shy Lor San Tekka forward. "Well, Artoo and I- and the X-wing -are getting a ride with my good Samaritan. He...saved my life," Luke admitted.

    Leia's eyes widened. "He did? I'd like to meet him."

    So Luke tugged his friend into frame. "Leia, meet Lor San Tekka. He's a scholar and member of the Church of the Force. Lor San Tekka, former Princess Leia Organa."

    Lor San Tekka bowed courteously. "It is an honor to meet you, Your Highness. I've heard much of your work and cannot tell you what a blow the loss of Alderaan was. Congratulations on completing the restoration of the Republic."

    Leia blushed. "Don't thank me, Lor San Tekka. It took hundreds of Rebels and many years to realize this peace, and the work isn't over yet. I need to thank you for helping my brother. He says you saved his life."

    San Tekka shrugged easily. "I believe the reason for that lies more with the Force, but you are quite welcome. I'm afraid your brother the Jedi neglected to mention several injuries, including some that have not quite healed. However," he added, glancing at Luke, "I believe he has learned his lesson about overdoing."

    "Again, thank you, San Tekka. If there's ever anything I can do for you, please, don't hesitate to ask."

    "Likewise, Your Highness. And now, I sense that your brother wants to speak, so I'll leave you. May the Force be with you, Princess Leia."

    "And with you, Lor San Tekka." Leia smiled kindly as the old man stepped aside to give the siblings some privacy. Then she turned on Luke. "All right, let's hear it. What, exactly, did you leave out?"

    Luke grimaced. Busted. He listed his injuries, adding quickly that half were almost healed, and then changed the subject by asking about Ben.

    Upon hearing his name the baby clambered into his mother's lap and pointed at the screen with curiosity. He didn't seem to notice Luke's swollen eye. "Oo dah?"

    Leia held the boy. "That's your Uncle Luke, Ben. Say hi!"

    Ben's face lit up immediately and he waved frantically at the screen. "Unca! Wuuuuu!"

    Luke smiled. "I see you, Ben. How are you?"

    "Unca!" declared Ben, pointing a chubby finger at the screen. "Unca, Unca, Unca, Unca!"

    "That's right," Luke chuckled.

    "I think he misses you," smiled Leia, fondly stroking her son's thick hair.

    "I know. I miss him, too. I miss all of you," admitted Luke wistfully. "Is Han there?"

    "Not yet. He'll be home tomorrow. We miss you, too." Leia added.

    Luke's heart ached and he wanted to reach through the screen. "I'll visit as soon as I can...I'd like to be there for Ben's birthday."

    Leia smiled faintly. Ben's birthday wasn't for another ten months. "Do you remember when that is?"

    Luke nodded. "Of course. How could I forget? It's..." His smile faded when he realized. "It was two months ago. Leia...I'm sorry. He's growing so fast!"

    "Don't I know it. He's so active and...Luke..." Leia threw a worried glance to her wiggling son before lowering her voice. "I need to ask you something about the Force."

    "I'll do my best to answer. What is it?"

    "Ben's getting very independent. He won't listen for anything, and has started throwing tantrums. Do you know if it's possible for him to...well, use the Force without realizing it?"

    "I'd be willing to guarantee that, given how strong he is. Why? Have you seen or sensed anything unusual?"

    "I suppose not. But the older he gets, the easier his moods are to sense. Sometimes they're very strong." There was a touch of fear in her voice.

    "Leia," sighed Luke. His sister always had a faint worry that her son was carrying too many of what Han called 'Vader genes'. She'd sensed a slight darkness in Ben while still pregnant with him and had been fretting ever since. Her fears had eased when Ben was tiny, but now they seemed to be coming back. "If anything I've heard is true, throwing tantrums is normal for toddlers."

    Leia seemed annoyed as she answered. "I know that. And I know he should eventually outgrow them. I'm just...I don't know," she groaned, glancing at the ceiling. "Maybe I'm just paranoid."

    Luke offered his sister a patient smile. "Maybe a little. Leia, just because Ben is strong in the Force doesn't mean every tantrum is a path to the Dark Side. Do you sense any anger, or just frustration?"

    Leia shrugged. "I can't tell the difference. What's frustrating to me is that he seems to be able to sense my moods without even thinking."

    Luke pressed his lips together, and then stopped because his jaw was sore. Maybe being receptive to moods was another uncontrollable reflex for Force-sensitive children. "You just need practice. What's he feeling right now?"

    Leia blew out a hard breath from her nose. "I don't need the Force to tell me that. You can see he's happy."

    "Just try, Leia. The more you practice, the easier it'll be."

    Reluctantly Leia closed her eyes to concentrate. A slight smile touched her face. "He is happy, but...there's something else...it feels warm and content and...it's love," she realized, bending over to kiss Ben's head and hold him close.

    Luke smiled at the sweet scene and found himself missing them more than ever. "It's not so hard. See if you can sense what he's feeling when he throws those tantrums. Maybe then you'll be able to help him."

    Leia peered sheepishly at her brother. The answer sounded so obvious when he put it that way. "Well, I'll try...uh-oh," she remarked as a rancid smell tickled her nose. "Do you need a change, mister? Phew!"

    Luke chuckled. "Go ahead and take care of him."

    Leia nodded and tried picking the squirming boy up. "Mmm. It's about his naptime anyway. I'll talk to you later."

    "I think I need a nap, too," admitted Luke. "Take care, Leia. May the Force with you."

    "You, too. Ben, say goodbye to Uncle Luke," urged Leia.

    "Ba-ba!" waved Ben. "Ba-ba!" The image faded out on his smiling little face.
     
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  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful talk with caring and good suggestions. :) Leia has natural concerns about tantrums in general and what they could lead to or imply. The idea of sensing what's behind them is a very good one. That will make things easier /calmer.
     
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  15. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Great chapter. Ben is pretty adorable, it's bittersweet knowing what he becomes though. Leia isn't totally wrong.
     
  16. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha and Zer0 Thank you! I'm trying to make baby Ben as cute and sweet as possible to legitimize Leia's missing him. :( And to drive home that nobody is born bad....they get that way over time. Don't worry, for most if this story Ben is just going to be a normal little boy. [:D]

    And now, back to Luke...for the next two chapters.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Chapter Sixteen


    I haven't been anywhere this hot in a while, thought Luke as he climbed down his X-wing's ladder and vaulted off to the ground. Blue eyes roved over the arid landscape until Artoo whistled a reminder that he wanted down. Luke easily obliged and made a slow visual sweep to take everything in. Few living things were about in the heat of the day except insects. To his back was a dry forest of scraggly evergreens and brown scrub. Directly in front of him, dry mesas shimmered with heat waves and a throng of beings- mostly Twi'leks -stood huddled beneath cloth awnings outside their simple stone houses. The rest were inside to keep from burning their sensitive skin. It was high summer in Nabat.

    Luke wished he had come at a different time of year, but there was no help for it. Most of his wounds had healed quickly on Dantooine. His broken arm, however, took weeks without the aid of a bacta tank. It drove the young Jedi crazy to stay in one place for so long doing little but studying and meditating.

    The time had not been a complete waste, of course. Lor San Tekka had stayed with Luke during his healing period and shared much information about his search for Jedi history. In that time Luke was given another dozen planets to visit where a definite Force presence still lingered. Some held Jedi artifacts, some held promise for students. The scattered members of the Church of the Force took great care to hide any Force sensitive children where it would be difficult for the Empire to find them. Luke was excited about the prospect of finding students and couldn't wait to get started. Even if he couldn't train them yet, he could at least tell them what their talents meant and offer them the chance to learn.

    Luke made Ryloth his next destination. Once again the lead was little more than a hope. Many Twi'leks had been Jedi in the past and so apparently the Force showed something of a preference toward them. After the experience on Alpinn, Artoo was skeptical, but Luke had the feeling that this was more than a hunch. Perhaps the Force was guiding him.

    He felt neither fear nor uncertainty as he slipped out of his G-suit and into his Jedi cloak. He took little with him except a medium size bag to sling over his shoulder- a parting gift from Lor San Tekka. Paired with the cloak they made Luke a rather nondescript figure...which was his preference. It was always better not to attract too much attention. His lightsaber was hidden in the folds on his cloak. Hopefully it would stay there.

    "Ready, Artoo?"

    Artoo beeped an affirmative, and he and his master set off toward the town.

    Nabat was one of the smaller towns on this particular continent. Its people lived simple lives as traders and herders and had little technology. Luke nodded courteously to those he saw but his gesture was returned with mostly frowns. The Clone Wars and then the Galactic Civil War had left them wary of strangers. It would take time to gain their trust.

    As Luke walked slowly through the dusty streets he reached out through the Force to try and sense people with like talents. Anyone untrained should call out to him like a beacon.

    The Jedi had walked several times along the main street and its side passages before feeling a slight pang of disappointment. He hadn't sensed anything but the suspicion of the Twi'leks. There were no distinctive Force signatures, no indication that anyone with Jedi potential was within one kilometer of the place.

    Luke's shoulders sagged and he wondered why. What? You've been here for ten minutes. Did you honestly think a potential student was going to jump out from nowhere, say hello, and ask to become a Jedi? Luke shook his head at his naiveté and came to the end of the road. With a sigh he turned around. Don't give up yet, he told himself. Sometimes the obvious isn't. He began to explore the side streets.

    Unlike Coruscant, Hosnian Prime, or any other highly developed society, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the street arrangements in Nabat. They wound about in random, organic patterns, sometimes curling into a cul-de-sac, sometimes zigzagging along. It would have been easy to get lost if Luke didn't have the Force on his side. Unfortunately it didn't seem to be pointing to any potential Jedi in this corner of town. He might have to start asking questions. But then, what to ask? "Excuse me, do you know of anyone strong in the Force around here?" More than likely they would label him an Inquisitor and revolt.

    This wasn't going to be easy.

    * * * * *​
    Some hours later Luke had explored nearly every single street within a two-kilometer radius and still found no leads. His stomach was growling, so he circled back to the town square to find an eating establishment. His nose led him to a small outdoor cafe, similar to those that had been popular on Tatooine. The food smelled more than edible and the sign read 'seat yourself', so Luke quickly found a place to sit. Artoo settled beside him.

    The blue-skinned waiter flinched upon seeing the Jedi and froze in his tracks. Clearly he hadn't been expecting a human.

    Luke turned to him, trying to be friendly. "Hello. The sign said you were open. I hope I'm not disturbing you."

    The Twi'lek shook his head. His pace was cautious as he approached. "No."

    "I'm glad to hear it," smiled Luke.

    "What brings you here?" The waiter wanted to know.

    "Whatever is cooking back there is making me hungry," answered Luke.

    "No. I mean, are you sure you want to eat here?"

    "Why wouldn't I?"

    The Twi'lek's shoulders fell and he sighed, lowering his voice. "I'll be frank with you. We don't get many humans. Most would rather buy something from the market and eat at home. They are in the minority, and to be honest, most of us would rather keep it that way."

    Luke was sad, but unsurprised. "I'm sorry to hear that. Would you rather I leave?"

    Quickly the Twi'lek showed his palms. "No, no. Do not misunderstand. I have no problem with you. The others might. You see, after the occupation of the speciesist Empire, most have come to distrust humans."

    Luke nodded slowly. "I can understand that. But let me assure you, I mean no one any harm. I just want some lunch."

    The Twi'lek managed something of a smile. "As long as you pay, I will gladly oblige."

    "I'll pay." Luke smiled in thanks as the waiter handed him an old-fashioned printed menu.

    "Would you like a cold beverage to start? Ardees, perhaps?" offered the waiter.

    "No, thank you. Water would be fine." And Luke began to scan the menu. After a short while he selected a simple meal of rycrit stew and then settled in to wait.

    The slightest curiosity- or perhaps a nudge from the Force -directed Luke to watch the passerby. The street was busier than before, as it was late afternoon and somewhat cooler. Most of those who passed seemed to be making a conscious effort to ignore or avoid him. Only a few openly frowned. Luke found himself wondering if his reception would get any warmer if he told them he was a Jedi.
    Upon turning his head to the right Luke saw a very young blue-skinned Twi'lek rummaging around in a waste bin in front of the business next door. He couldn't have been more than five standard years old, and was dressed in a ragged shirt and pants. The child's eyes lit up upon discovering a piece of bruised fruit. He wiped it off on his elbow and prepared to take a huge bite.

    "Hey! You! Get outta there!" called a rough voice from the far right.

    The young Twi'lek fled in fear, still clutching the fruit, and ducked behind a cloth wall near the cafe. Once he was sure that he wasn't being followed, the boy sank down and bit into the fruit. Upon tasting it he made a face and spat out a mouthful of brown mush before throwing the rotten fruit as far as he could. To his astonishment the fruit changed direction mid-flight to land back in the nearest waste bin. That's when the boy saw Luke.

    Luke waved to the boy. "Be careful. You don't want to hit someone."

    Confused, the blue-skinned boy looked from Luke to the waste bin several times. His questioning gaze was very telling. He seemed to know Luke had redirected the rotten fruit and wondered how it was possible.

    Luke just smiled, though it was halfhearted. The poor child was skinny and filthy. Without any guardians in sight, it was likely he was ether orphaned or living with inattentive parents. A bloody, ragged bandage hung loosely around his left shin. Infection threatened unless it was cleaned up. "Are you okay? Do you want something to eat?"

    Cautiously the boy nodded and took a step closer. He watched Luke intently as the Jedi reached into his bag and pulled out a ration bar. When Luke offered this food to the boy, he quickly reached out and snatched it.

    "Den!" called a stern voice from behind. The blue-skinned Twi'lek quickly whipped about with a sheepish expression.

    It was another Twi'lek, peach-toned. He was older than the boy by perhaps eight or nine years and had the frame of a teenager. His clothing was also ragged and patched and his brown eyes held a wary look.

    "What are you doing?" hissed the older boy with a distinctive Twi'leki accent. "Didn't I tell you to stay close? Where did you get this?" he asked, pointing at the ration bar."Did you steal it?"

    "No. I gave it to him," explained Luke.

    The older boy let out a heavy sigh. He took the ration bar and approached Luke. "We cannot accept, sir."

    Luke's face fell in disappointment and confusion. "I'm sorry. Is he allergic?"

    "No, but we cannot accept this." the peach-skinned teen pushed the bar back into Luke's hands. "I am sorry if this offends you."

    "I'm not offended, just a little confused. Can I ask why?" he wanted to know.

    "We have done nothing and given you nothing in return. Accepting would not be right."

    "I'm not expecting anything. Please...keep it."

    All the while the young one's eyes were fixed on the ration bar. His mouth watered. The older one sighed unhappily. "No, Den. We have food at home. We do not accept charity."

    Luke nodded sadly. It was a common attitude among the poor. They were too embarrassed or proud to ask for help. "How old are you?"

    The teen stiffened. "I am old enough to work several jobs to feed us. Does that answer your question?"

    Luke gave the younger one a pointed glance."Are you getting enough?"

    These questions seemed to give the older one distress. He stood protectively in front of the younger one and lowered his voice urgently, as if he didn't want anyone else to hear. "I may be young, but I am older and more experienced than I look. I can care for my brother even if you think otherwise."

    So they're brothers. Luke sensed there was more to the story than that. He badly wanted to hear more of their story. But already the boys were defensive. What Luke couldn't let slide was the condition of the boy's leg. He was walking on it, but it had to hurt. "All right. What about his leg? It looks like the bandage needs to be changed."

    The older Twi'lek's unease grew as he and his little brother backed up. There was fear in his eyes as he looked from Luke to the ragged bandage. "I will. He plays rough and dirties quickly. Please...do not tell anyone."

    "I won't," promised Luke. "I just want to help."

    "Neither you nor anyone else can truly help us. Come, Den. We're going home." Gently the young teen nudged his brother away and set off down the street at a fast walk.

    Luke shoulders fell as he watched them go. Perhaps they were another pair who, like Jaybo Hood, didn't want to be helped. He sensed otherwise. The look on the teen's eyes told of too many squashed hopes, too many heartbreaks...but still, there was something in him that wanted another person to turn to. The little boy certainly wanted to trust someone. Luke's heart ached when he turned around for just a minute to look back before being ushered on.

    "Somebody bothering you?" asked the waiter as he plunked a glass of water and an appetizer of crunchy-but-edible fungus in front of Luke.

    Luke shook his head. "No. Can you tell me who those two boys are?"

    "The little fellow is Den Fylonna. I'm not sure of the other. Now, don't try to help them," sighed the waiter when he saw the look on Luke's face. "Getting involved in the pains of others only leads to pain for you."

    "Maybe, but not doing anything is worse. Can I ask without being nosy, where are their parents?"

    "Huh. Where are the parents of any unwanted children on Ryloth? I only know of Den. His parents were addicted to spice and disappeared some months ago...whether arrested or died is anyone's guess."

    "What about the older one? He said-"

    "No," said the waiter with a frown. "They are not brothers, at least by blood. I do not know the story of the older one, but suspect he took the boy in after his parents disappeared. He is polite enough, but knows nothing of parenting when he is still a child. I doubt even a Jedi could help them," he sighed, shaking his head.

    Luke gave a faint smile as he met the waiter's eyes. "I could try."

    The waiter gave a start as he glimpsed the lightsaber. He stared at Luke for a long while to see if he was telling the truth. Then he shrugged. "I would not advertise it, my friend. Most of us still respect the Jedi, but others are apt to treat you as some sort of savior. If you wish to stay incognito, I suggest you do not tell anyone else."
     
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Interesting with the two boys there. You can tell how wary they are and by extension everyone else is of even genuine sympathy and offers of help. LOL Luke is so eager to find a prospective student that after 10 minutes he's disappointed.
     
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  18. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    It's nice that Luke isn't disheartened yet trying to solve everyone's issues, I can imagine that'd be difficult to deal with.
     
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  19. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Yes, it does kind of reek of desperation....Luke has always proven himself to be VERY enthusiastic when tackling a new task. Sometimes it proves to be his downfall.

    Zer0 That's kind of who Luke is. He's always wanted to help people. Now that he's older and more experienced than the wide-eyed farmboy out to rescue a princess, he knows that he can't help everybody...but if an individual or two crosses his path, he won't stop until he's at least tried to make a difference. Part of why he's my favorite character in Star Wars. [face_love][:D]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Seventeen

    Despite looking all over the town for them, Luke was unable to relocate the two boys after eating. He wanted to find and help them. It was almost as if the Force was telling him not to give up until he had tracked them down.

    It was sunset on Luke's third day in Nabat and he was preparing to move on to another city when a vague sense of worry and urgency touched his mind. Luke paused for a moment in loading a crate, frowned, and looked around. There was no one within sight or earshot. He couldn't sense the presence of anyone nearby.

    Artoo whistled, asking what was wrong.

    "Hold on a minute, Artoo." When there was nothing further, he sighed and shook his head. Wishful thinking again.




    Some minutes later the touch came again. Again Luke paused to look around and listen. Again there was no one around. A minute went by, and yet another touch came...and another.

    Luke straightened his spine and reached out with the Force. Now he was sure someone was trying to mentally contact him. Not knowing who it was complicated matters. Hello?


    The next mental nudge was laced with surprise. There were no words, only emotions of fear and desperation. They didn't seem to have expected a reply.

    Luke felt his hope rise. Someone strong in the Force had found him! They were untrained and probably didn't even know what they were doing, but somehow they had found Luke through the Force! The Jedi had to remind himself that whoever it was had to be in some sort of trouble. He refocused his mind, trying to hone in on them. It's all right. Don't be afraid. What's wrong?


    The next contact was stronger and more desperate than ever. HELP!!! the voice shouted in Luke's mind.

    Luke opened his eyes. "Someone's in trouble," he explained to Artoo. Hurriedly he snatched his travel bag off the ground and slung it over his shoulder. "I need to help them."

    The droid beeped wildly, full of questions.

    "Somehow someone contacted me through the Force." When Artoo squealed another question, Luke sighed and shook his head, loading the bag with various emergency supplies. "I don't know, Artoo. I can't sense what's going on. All I know is someone needs help, and soon." He tossed the newly-restocked medical kit into the bag and shut the canopy on his X-wing before taking off at a run. He stopped and groaned when he saw Artoo was following him. "Artoo, stay there. I'll be back soon, all right?" And the young Jedi disappeared into the night.

    Luke ran as fast as he could, though he wasn't sure of where he was going or what kind of situation he was running into. Tracking someone he didn't know with only vague and intermittent contact was difficult. It was like trying to locate someone in a large, dark, crowded room with only faint flickers of light to go by. Once in town he'd run a few feet, stop, and try to sense them, and then move on. Several times Luke called out, where are you? and only got the desperate Please help! in response.

    Luke had gone through half the streets in town before his Jedi senses finally picked out a direction. They were not more than two and a half kilometers away, somewhere to the East of his location. Luke plunged forward with new determination. I'm coming. Hold on!


    Once outside town Luke picked up a faint sound...someone was crying. He headed in that direction and soon sensed two beings huddled together in a building off to the right. Both of them were afraid, and the call for help was so strong Luke could practically hear it ringing in his ears. Once he'd come a bit closer he could see a pale light inside. Retching sounds mingled with heartbroken crying.

    Luke hesitated for the slightest moment. Sometimes infectious diseases led to death. Most were highly contagious. It took only one reminder of who he was- a Jedi -to bring Luke to lift the blanket door of a haphazard stone hut.

    The interior of the one-room hut was spartan and more or less clean. Supplies sat stacked on makeshift shelves and a pair of crude beds had been made out of some sort of wood. Ancient shipping crates served as a table and chairs. A pitcher and basin were the only visible source of water. A glowlamp that looked older than the Clone Wars flickered faintly to illuminate the scene. Luke almost gasped when he saw who lived here.

    In one of the beds, pale and drawn, was the same young Twi'lek who had been rummaging in the garbage a few days ago. He wasn't moving and looked very weak. Bending over him was his 'brother', on the verge of panic. He gasped upon seeing Luke and grabbed a length of pipe he had been using as a weapon.

    Luke quickly showed his palms. "Easy. I'm here to help."

    The teenaged Twi'lek dropped the pipe from his shaking hand and stared at the man in wonder. "H-how...how did you find us?"

    Luke took cautious steps to approach the pair. "One of you was calling for help. I heard you."

    The boy's mouth hung open. "That was you, then...your voice in my head. How?"

    Luke laid a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "I'll tell you later. What's wrong? Is it Den?" he nodded toward the young Twi'lek.

    "Yes. He is very sick. I...I think he's dying," the teen choked out.

    "All right." Luke fought the twist in his stomach as he looked at the prone boy. He didn't look good at all. His skin was ashen and he didn't move a muscle. He could hardly even open his eyes. A foul smell coming from a nearby pot spoke of much vomiting. Carefully Luke laid a hand on the boy's head. It was a little warm, but Luke wasn't sure of the normal body temperature for Twi'leks. His breathing was slow and deep, his pulse steady. While weak, the boy wasn't at death's door. When the young blue-skinned boy registered fear, Luke calmed him. "Don't be afraid. It's all right." He turned to the older boy. "What happened?"

    "I think it might be his leg. I heard when there is infection, it makes a person very sick," he explained, pointing to the wound.

    Luke had never heard of blood poisoning making someone vomit, but he checked the leg anyway. It was a little warm and there was just a bit of infection. The older boy was doing his best to keep the wound open and clean, and the leg did seem to be healing. Clearly this wasn't the cause of the sickness. "No. It's not his leg..." Luke wracked his brain for what might be causing this. "What was the last thing he ate?"

    The older boy shrugged. "It has been hours since he ate anything, but...I think it was dinner last night. It was a can of stew...oh, no. I thought it smelled a bit strange! I'm sorry, Den!"

    Luke grimaced and peered at the older boy. "Have you been sick, too?"

    He shook his head, looking more miserable all the time. "No. There was nothing else," he admitted. "so I let Den have it. I did not eat until the next day." He covered his face in shame. "It was my fault!"

    "Calm down," sighed Luke. No one was in mortal danger, but both boys were afraid. At least he knew how to handle food poisoning. He took off his travel bag and opened the medical kit. In it he found the usual doses of topical antibiotics and few tablets of electrolyte solution. "I'm going to help you, all right? Is there any clean water here?"

    "Yes." The teen jumped up and grabbed a sealed water bulb from a shelf and brought it over to him. "I've been trying to get him to drink, but he only vomits."

    "Well, we'll just keep trying, then." Luke dropped an electrolyte tablet into the water and shook it around until it dissolved. Then he crouched back down next to the blue Twi'lek and lifted his head. "Den...here. You need to drink."

    Den's eyes flickered. Upon tasting the water on his tongue, he tried to slurp it all down.

    Luke pulled it away with a cringe. "Not so fast, Den. Just a little for now. If you hold that down, then you can have more."

    Den moaned in complaint but didn't have the energy to do anything else.

    The older Twi'lek watched anxiously as Luke continued by scrubbing out the leg wound, applying the ointment, and wrapping a bandage around it. "Is he going to die?"

    "No," assured Luke as he washed his hands, "he'll be fine. We just need to make sure he has enough water and electrolytes until he's feeling better."

    "Oh." The peach-skinned youth let out a shuddering sigh of relief. Then he tilted his head at Luke in curiosity. "Are you a medic?"

    "Hardly. I only had a little first-aid training when I was a pilot in the Rebellion." Luke cringed.

    "The Rebellion?" Here the youth sighed wistfully. "The Empire is gone, but so are those who used to fight them."

    Luke turned to the young Twi'lek, curious. The boy was certainly old enough to know what his people had suffered at the hands of the Empire. "What do you mean? Did you lose someone?"

    The boy's shoulders fell. "All of us have lost someone. Most were taken by the Empire. My family was taken by the Rebellion." When Luke was confused, the youth took a deep breath before continuing. "I do not blame the Rebellion for taking my parents. But it was for the fight that they left me in the care of a friend. They never came back, and...the one who cared for me was found by the Empire. I escaped, but he did not."

    It was a story all too common in the galaxy. Luke grimaced and nodded. "It's happened to too many during the war. I lost my parents, and my aunt and uncle. What's your name?"

    "Cham Teldona. My father was Sev Teldona. He was a mechanic. Did you know him?" Cham asked hopefully.

    "No."

    "What about my mother? She was human, Kira Ailess."

    "No, I'm sorry. I never met either of them." Luke glanced toward the ailing Den. "How did you find Den?"

    "Den lost his parents to spice," said Cham bitterly. "They would not even care for him. Now they are gone. No one else would look after Den, so I do." Carefully he pulled a blanket around the younger Twi'lek.

    "You're a very kind and compassionate person, Cham," smiled Luke sadly. "Your parents would be proud of you. But sooner or later you're going to have to ask for help. Isn't there anywhere else you can go...a shelter, or children's home?"

    "All my family is dead. I have no one but Den, and he, no one but me. We are still trying to pick up the pieces the Empire left behind. Orphans are of no concern to governments." Cham fairly spat the words before looking up at Luke. "And you...why would you help us? How did you find us? How did you hear my thoughts?"

    Luke pressed his lips together before looking Cham in the eye. "I'm a Jedi."

    Cham's mouth fell open in astonishment. It was a while before he could speak. "A Jedi," he breathed. "My parents told me of the Jedi...they said years ago, while they were both small, Jedi came to Ryloth and helped free us from evil droids. But then something happened, and all the Jedi disappeared. My parents said that it was the Empire." He turned to Luke with confused eyes. "I thought all the Jedi were dead."

    The lone Jedi shrugged. "Not quite. I only learned a few years ago from a Jedi called Obi-Wan Kenobi."

    Cham nearly jumped to his feet. "Kenobi! That was one of the Jedi who helped my parents! I have always wanted to meet him. Is he still alive?" When Luke sadly shook his head, Cham sagged back down. "I thought not. But you are. That is how you heard me."

    Luke nodded slowly. He badly wanted to tell Cham everything, how he and perhaps Den had that same power in them...but with Den still lying ill in bed, it would have to wait. Soon, Luke promised himself. Soon Cham is going to know what he's capable of.
     
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  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed learning more about Cham and Den and how they wound up taking care of each other. Glad Luke could help make Den better and now he's got a lot to tell Cham eventually. Then Cham (and perhaps Den too) will have new opportunities before them. [face_thinking]
     
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  21. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Yay, a force sensitive. Things are finally looking up for Luke.

    This is such a well done story, you're nailing these characters.
     
  22. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)
    Zer0 Thank you so much! [:D]

    Unfortunately this story is ending up WAY longer than I thought it would! [face_worried] My chances of finishing this monster before Episode 8 are now about 3,720 to 1...:c3po:
    But, here we go again!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Eighteen

    He sat cross-legged on the floor, blindfolded, hands resting on his knees. Not a flicker of doubt plagued his mind or heart. There was no fear, no anger, and no bitterness. He simply was, and the Force was with him.

    That should have been impossible. Of all the things Cham Teldona had imagined about his future, being a Jedi had not been one of them. But now that was going to change. He had a power within, shared with one he called his brother, and together they were going to change the galaxy for good as their teacher had...someday.

    Luke couldn't help but smile as he watched the fifteen year old Twi'lek in meditation. He's learning fast. He's going to be an excellent student. Much had happened in the two months since his arrival on Ryloth.

    Den, aged five, had recovered well from his food poisoning. It didn't take much for Luke to sense the Force within him. The boy was astonished to find himself waking up in the presence of a Jedi. Even more surprising was the news that his surrogate big brother, Cham, was going to be a Jedi, too. And someday, so could he! Den had been delighted to hear about their shared abilities in this thing called the Force, and couldn't wait to start learning.

    As for Luke, he was happy and yet reserved with them. The problem of Cham and Den's living arrangements had to be solved before they could learn properly. That was proving to be an even bigger challenge than anticipated.

    The Jedi of the old order had routinely tested children for Force abilities and inquired of their parents to take them in for training. Often the parents agreed, as having a Jedi in the family was a great honor. Custody then passed to the Jedi, and the child went to train at one of the temples scattered across the galaxy. Luke had supposed it would be easy with orphans.

    Not so, according to Leia and the Ryloth representatives. Orphans were officially wards of the local government whether or not they were in an orphanage. In order to be taken off planet, children had to either be adopted or have the inquiring party get official guardianship...and approval for that was impossible without a permanent address.

    The news was frustrating for Luke. One mistake he had made was never thinking through the process of taking on apprentices. He had assumed they would either be adults or given up freely. Now he realized things were far more complicated than that.

    Luke felt torn. He couldn't stay on Ryloth forever, nor was he qualified to teach anything beyond the basics. Even if the situation was different, he couldn't exactly stuff anyone into his X-wing. He compromised by spending the last two months both teaching Cham about the Force and trying to help the boys out of their current situation. He even used a Jedi mind trick to talk Cham's most reliable employer into giving him a raise. Luke also called whoever he could think of to find a way to keep the young Twi'leks safe and fed until he could take them on full time. No one could take custody of them, but Lor San Tekka did promise to look in on the pair every so often. The only other thing Luke could do was leave the boys with a way to stay in contact.

    Den was another complication. The blue-skinned Twi'lek was too young to understand the commitment that being a Jedi took. Wherever Luke ended up putting down roots, it was going to be isolated and perhaps dangerous; certainly not suited for young children. But neither could Den just be left behind. All he and Cham had were each other.

    Back in the present Luke nodded at Cham's concentration. They were in the middle of an exercise to know one's surroundings...similar to blocking bolts from a training remote, but not as painful. When Cham was ready, Luke had a pile of beanbags, purchased from a street vendor for something to dodge or catch using the Force. They had been going through this for the past week and a half and Cham had yet to catch anything. "Good, Cham. Now, remember what I told you about only relying on the Force. Are you ready?"

    Cham nodded and rose to his feet. "I'm ready, Master Skywalker."

    Luke cringed at the unasked-for title and picked up several beanbags. He waited a moment before tossing the first. It tapped Cham's shoulder before the boy moved. The next swooped past his waist, just missed by his outstretched fingers.

    Cham groaned in frustration. "On second thought...can I take the blindfold off?"

    "I want you to rely only on the Force. Concentrate. Wait until you can sense me, and then tell me when you're ready," instructed Luke.

    Cham sighed through his nose, but nodded. His brow wrinkled as he redirected his focus. After a moment he nodded. "I think I am..."

    "Don't think, Cham. Feel. You can do this." Luke would never admit to how nervous he was. This was something of an unorthodox method, but he wanted Cham to have at least a taste of what consciously using the Force was like.

    "Yes, sir." Cham took another deep breath. Then, suddenly, something seemed to click. He froze with a curious expression on his face. "I'm ready," he murmured in a distant voice.

    Luke sensed the truth in this and pitched the next beanbag. It slipped through Cham's fingers, eliciting another groan. "Keep going," urged Luke. He pitched another, somewhat slower, and was pleased when it landed square in Cham's hand.

    Cham's face lit up at his success. "I did it!"

    "Don't stop now," Luke said. "You still have more to catch."

    "How many more?"

    "You'll find out after you catch them." And without any further warning, Luke began tossing the beanbags at an irregular rate.

    Cham missed the first of this batch, but then knit his brows and let his arms relax. One by one, his hands moved to arrest the flight of each subsequent beanbag. Only after he had a pile in his arms did he frown. "I counted seven, Master Skywalker. Is that right?"

    Luke only smiled and walked over to undo the blindfold. "See for yourself."

    Cham blinked at the incoming light, and looked down at the beanbags he'd caught. A slight smile morphed into a frown as he noticed those he'd missed. "Can you toss again? I'm sure I can catch all of them."

    "I want to try!" piped Den, who up until that point had been sitting quietly on the sidelines to watch. "When can I try?"

    "Not yet, Den. Let Cham go once more, and then we'll see if you can do it." In his heart Luke didn't see Den as ready. He could barely get the boy to sit still long enough to sense the Force, let alone use it. He didn't want to assume too much, though. The Old Order had trained children as young as two years, and Den could always turn out to be a surprise. "In the meantime, sit down and concentrate, as Cham was doing just now. Feel the Force around you."

    Den pouted and plopped back down, reluctantly closing his eyes. He didn't like meditating, but if that was what it took to do the things Cham did, then so be it.

    * * * * *​
    The training session ended with Cham catching all the beanbags at once, and Den catching perhaps two. The young Twi'lek was disappointed, but Luke told him that it just took practice. That he had caught any at all was something to be happy about. It meant he was strong in the Force, and had great potential.

    After this came the moment they had been dreading. It was time for Luke to go. He let the boys help him load the X-wing and then watch as Artoo was put aboard with the Force.

    Cham stood with his arms crossed and a deep frown etched on his face. "The last time someone I cared for left, they did not come back. They promised to come...but they never did."

    Luke briefly touched Cham's shoulder. "I will. I can't promise when, but I am coming back for you, Cham. As soon as I have a place to teach you and Den and whoever else I can find, I'll make the arrangements and take you there." He offered an encouraging smile.

    "Why can't we go now?" Den wanted to know. He looked close to tears. "I wanna go with you!"

    "You wouldn't fit in my X-wing, Den," answered Luke. He crouched in front of the boy. "Besides, some of the places I'm going are very dangerous. I don't want you or Cham getting hurt."

    "Can't we come? Please?" begged Den. "I wanna be a Jedi!"

    "You will, Den. Just not right now. Remember that part of being a Jedi is having patience. Can you do that? Can you be patient and wait?"

    Den nodded, wiping his runny nose on his arm. Without warning, he then launched himself at Luke and wrapped his arms around the Jedi's neck. "Don't forget."

    Luke awkwardly returned the hug. "I won't forget you, Den, or Cham. Now, can you let go so I can talk to him for a minute?"

    Reluctantly Den let go and stepped back behind Cham.

    "Don't disappoint him," warned Cham in a low voice. "He has been let down by too many adults."

    "So have you," observed Luke. "I know it's hard to trust anyone, but you need to trust me. I'm coming back. You have my word. Until I do, I want you to have this." He reached into the pocket of his flightsuit and pulled out a miniature commlink and charging unit. "This is preset to the frequency of my X-wing. If you ever need anything, or even if you just want to talk, don't hesitate. Give me a call. Sometimes I might not answer right away, but I will get back to you."

    Cham stared at the unit with wet eyes and knit brows. After a moment he turned to his teacher with confusion. "Why would you give me this?"

    Luke gave Cham's shoulder a squeeze. "Because I don't want you to feel like you're alone. Learning about your powers can be difficult sometimes. Sometimes others can be insensitive or just plain cruel, even when you become a Jedi. But don't be angry with them. Anger only leads to the Dark Side. If you have to, just walk away. Trust the Force. It's always with you."

    Cham, overwhelmed with emotion, managed a nod as he pocketed the gift. "May...can we still use the Force while you're gone, then? How can we learn without you?"

    Luke smiled again. "Remember what you've learned already, and practice when you can. The more you do, the stronger you'll be. Just never use your powers to hurt anyone. All right?"

    Cham wiped his eyes and stood at attention. "Yes, Master Skywalker."

    Luke hid a cringe at the title. "I'm not a master, yet. But I know you'll do your best."

    "Me, too," added Den, not wanting to be forgotten. "Can I practice, too?"

    "Of course. Be good and listen to Cham, all right?"

    "Okay."

    With a deep breath, Luke nodded and began to back toward his X-Wing. He hated the feeling of leaving something half-finished, and he especially hated the idea of leaving these two children so soon after meeting them. The next several months weren't going to be easy on them. But he had faith in their resilience. They'll be all right, he had to remind himself. You still don't know enough to go any farther.



    He paused halfway up the ladder to wave at them. "May the Force be with you."

    Cham and Den waved back sadly. "May the Force be with you also, Master Skywalker," called Cham. He slung a protective arm over Den's shoulder and together they watched as Luke finished the climb, retracted the ladder, and shut the canopy. The young Twi'leks backed away as the starfighter powered up and began to hover above the ground. They saw Luke give one last wave before throttling forward. He skimmed the ground for several meters, then pulled up and shot out of sight.

    Luke didn't blink away the tears burning the backs of his eyes until he had breached at atmosphere and was ready to leap back into hyperspace. He wondered if being a Jedi was always going to be this painful.
     
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [:D] [:D] Ridley Solo -- please don't let any disparity with TLJ derail this wonderful real-to-character fic of yours! Luke is grappling with the bureaucratic side of having students it seems and the emotional downside of having to leave them and move on :eek: [face_thinking] Cham and Den are indeed living up to their potential which is definitely encouraging.
     
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  24. Zer0

    Zer0 Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Luke should really invest in a bigger ship. It's too bad he had to leave so soon.
     
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  25. Ridley Solo

    Ridley Solo Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 27, 2010
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha [:D] Thank you so, so much! I read too many fics (both official and fan) that have my favorite characters acting so unlike themselves, and hearing a compliment like that keeps me going. As long as someone is reading and enjoying, I'll keep writing. :)

    Zer0 Well Luke is kind of caught between a rock and a hard place right now. He's trying to find both knowledge and students at the same time, and I don't think his Rebel retirement salary could afford a bigger ship. But don't worry, he'll figure something out. :cool:

    And now to check in on the Solo family....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter Nineteen


    "Mama."

    Leia grit her teeth and tried to ignore the tiny voice drifting in from the nursery. Please. Not now, she begged silently.

    "Mama...."

    Han didn't seem to hear his son as he kissed and held his wife. He was only home for a few weeks out of the year and wanted to make the most of it.

    "Maa-maa," called Ben again.

    Leia groaned. "Ben..." She'd missed her husband as much as he'd missed her, and did not want to be interrupted...especially now. A child's tiny voice could kill a mood like nothing else.

    Han didn't even look over his shoulder as he continued showing affection. "He'll go back to sleep," he murmured.

    Leia could only sigh in response. "I hope so," she replied, finally giving in to the amorous advances. The concern in the back of her mind about what a waking toddler could do was pushed aside. Five minutes, she thought. Then I'll check on him.

    Those five minutes had long since come and gone before Leia completely relaxed. She was almost ready to go back to sleep when she realized just how quiet it was. "Ben?" she called softly, sitting up.

    Han glanced at her sleepily. "What? I don't hear anything."

    Leia nodded, starting to get dressed. "Toddlers and silence don't mix."

    Han pursed his lips and tried to get Leia back in bed. "C'mon, sweetheart. He probably went back to sleep."

    Leia gave a humorless laugh in response. "Do you know how often that happens? If he's being quiet, that usually spells trouble." After tying on her robe, she leaned over long enough to peck Han's cheek. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

    Han sighed and rolled over, head propped up on his hand to watch her go. He smiled a little in seeing her silhouette through the thin robe, and once again wondered how he'd gotten so lucky. Sure, the last four years hadn't been all cream and sugar, but neither had they been all bad. They hated being apart, but that made their time together that much sweeter. Together they'd made a beautiful little boy who was as hyper and as loving as he could be. Han had never imagined something like this in his years as a smuggler. Now he wouldn't have it any other way. The only thing that would make it better would be more time together...and maybe talking Leia into having one more baby. A little girl would make things just perfect.

    This fantasy fell into pieces as Leia's stern voice echoed from the next room. "Ben Solo, you come back here."

    The next moment a giggling, pajama-clad blur came running into the master bedroom and took a flying leap onto the bed. He landed square on his father's chest.

    "Ow! Oof! Hey!" Han snagged Ben around the waist and picked him up, holding the boy in the air at an arms' length. "Whaddya, trying to break my ribs?"

    "Daddy!" cried Ben, reaching for his father.

    "Hey, pal." Han cracked a grin and sat up to let Ben hug him. "Ya miss me?"

    "Yeah! Ben miss Daddy," agreed Ben.

    "I missed you too, kiddo." Han held the boy close and kissed the top of his head. When he heard Leia call him, he hollered, "He's in here!"

    Leia rounded the corner with a deep frown, but couldn't be too unhappy with the scene before her. Han certainly did love his son. "I haven't changed him yet."

    Han knit his brows and only then noticed a suspicious smell. "Thought he was toilet training."

    Leia nodded in exasperation. "He is, but it's going to take him a while before he can sleep dry."

    Han cringed. This was one part of parenting he was not crazy about...the gross part. "Oh. Well, I've got him. I might as well do it. C'mere, kiddo." He tucked the giggling boy under his arm and swung out of bed.

    Leia lifted an eyebrow at Han's undressed state. "Ah, aren't you missing something?"

    Han's face went red. He swore softly and had to put Ben down to look for his pants.

    Ben gleefully spouted the same curse word, earning Han a look of ire from Leia.

    "No, Ben. That was a bad word," she told her son as she picked him up.

    "Ba' wud," repeated Ben. He turned to his father with an impish grin. "Daddy nakey!"

    Leia tried to cover a smile. "Daddy needs to get dressed, and so do you."

    Ben rocked back and forth to some unheard tune. "Nakey, nakey, nakey, nakey," he sang as Leia carried him out.

    Han could only groan as he hopped into his trousers.

    * * * * *​
    It was shaping up to be a typical morning in the Solo household. Ben essentially ran amok while Han and Leia traded off who showered and who watched the little boy. What stunned Han was how Leia knew exactly where Ben was even when she couldn't see him. There really was something to this Force after all.

    Sometime after Ben was put in his booster seat, Leia decided to have a discussion with her husband. "Han, you're going to have to watch what you say around Ben. He'll repeat anything he hears."

    Han, who was making breakfast, frowned. "Y'know, ya' been sayin' that since he was a year old." He cracked another egg into the mixing bowl.

    "Because I don't want our son saying words like that in public," said Leia with lifted brows. She secured the lid to Ben's cup of milk and handed it to him.

    "He's a toddler," replied Han with a shrug as he scrambled the eggs. "He doesn't know any better."

    "Exactly. Which is why we need to set a good example for him," Leia said.

    "Hey, it's not like I woke up this morning and thought 'I'm gonna cuss right in front of my son'," grumbled Han. "I slipped. Ya think I'm happy about that?"

    "Han, I know it's not easy. When you spend most of your time away-"

    Han whipped around after pouring the eggs into the pan. "Don't start that again. I know I'm not home much. I wanna be home more. Just not workin out that way. I know I'm just a scoundrel, but I'm tryin'." He turned to stir the eggs.

    Leia groaned. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't interrupt. I wasn't finished." She turned around to make some toast. "I was going to say, when you're not around children every day, it's easy to forget to watch your language. That's all."

    The pilot eyed his wife from the corner of his eye, still steaming. "That still goes back to me bein' gone all the time. I know you don't like it."

    The former senator shook her head, lips pressed together. "No. I don't. But we promised we weren't going to turn it into an argument, and I don't want to start."

    Han forced a laugh. "Too late for that."

    "Only because you're making it that way."

    "Whaddya want me to do, huh? Y'know I can't just sit around doin' nothing."

    "I'm not expecting you to!"

    "Ya got a funny way of showin' it!"

    Ben broke in by throwing his cup on the floor and letting out a wail. He cried stormily, before looking at each of his parents.

    Both Han and Leia felt a stab of guilt that made their anger at each other fade away. Leia rushed for the boy while Han covered his eyes with one hand.

    "Oh, Ben. Come here, darling. It's all right." Leia unbuckled her son before lifting him into her arms and rocking side to side.

    Han was sheepish as he picked up the dropped milk cup. "Ah, blast. I blew it."

    Leia was distressed. "We both did. He's afraid."

    Han grimaced at the prospect. Leia, probably because of her Force heritage, was very adept at sensing Ben's moods. "Leia, I am really sorry."

    Leia nodded. "It wasn't just you. Han," she said, meeting his eyes. "He knew we were angry. He could feel it."

    Han hunched his shoulders. Suddenly he felt like crawling in a hole. He kept forgetting that his son had also inherited the Force. Perhaps that was what made him so sensitive. "Ah...yeah. I wasn't even thinkin' about that." Carefully he walked up to his wife and son and wrapped his arms around them. "I'm sorry, buddy. I'm so sorry."

    "I'm sorry too, sweetheart," agreed Leia.

    Ben's outburst had faded quickly into sniffles and he willingly crawled into Han's arms. Then he looked from Han to Leia.

    "It's all right, Ben," assured Leia, stroking his hair. "We still love each other. And we love you...so much."

    Ben hiccupped and continued to look between his parents. He was still uneasy.

    "Hey, c'mere." Han pulled Leia into a kiss of apology, then turned back to Ben. "See? Everything's okay, kiddo."

    Ben looked very relieved and hugged both his parents. He was quiet sitting back in his booster seat and drinking his milk.

    Silence overtook the trio as Han and Leia finished making breakfast.

    Sometime later, after the dishes had been cleared, Leia was in the middle of rescheduling several things over the next week when her comm beeped for attention.

    Han, who was cleaning Ben's messy face, frowned. "Hope that's not Mon Mothma again," he muttered.

    Leia ignored him as she took the call on the home unit. Her annoyance became delight as a short hologram of Luke appeared in front of her. "Luke!"

    Luke smiled, though his eyes were tired. "Hello, Leia. I hope I didn't catch you at a bad time," he added when Ben shrieked in the background.

    Leia quickly shook her head. Luke did his best to stay in regular communication, but only half the time did they have more than two minutes to talk. "No, no, of course not. We just finished having breakfast." Her smile faded as she saw just how tired Luke was. "Are you all right?"

    Luke yawned and tried shaking it off. "Just tired. I just left Devaron again and you know how short their days are. The nights are even shorter." He yawned again and rubbed his eyes. "How is everyone?"

    Leia looked over her shoulder at Han and Ben and smiled. "We're all just fine. Why don't you boys come here and say hello? Ben, do you want to talk to Uncle Luke?"

    Ben squealed with glee and ran over to bounce into view. "Unca Wuke! Hi, Unca Wuke!" Han wasn't far behind.

    "Hi, Ben. Han! I didn't know you were home," smiled Luke.

    "I may be a bonehead, but even I'm not dumb enough to miss my son's birthday...or our anniversary," Han smiled at Leia.

    "Oh! That's right, they're a week apart. Well, happy birthday, Ben. And Happy Anniversary to you two," he added to Han and Leia. Despite himself Luke yawned again.

    "Whoa, you look done in," remarked Han with a frown.

    "It's been a long month. I haven't been sleeping much," admitted Luke.

    Leia sighed, shaking her head. "Luke, you really need to learn to slow down. You can't rebuild the Jedi in a day."

    Han agreed. "Leia's right. I hope you're not flyin' like that."

    Luke was sheepish as he answered. "I'm all right. I've got it on automatic for now and Artoo's ready to take over if he has to."

    Leia still wasn't satisfied. "I want you to set down as soon as you can and get some sleep." Briefly she missed being ahead of Luke in rank so she could make it an order.

    The Jedi didn't argue. Instead he looked embarrassed. "I'm planning on it. In fact, I'm...I'm going to take a break from all this. Just for a while. I think I need it." He cringed.

    Leia nodded in agreement. "That's a good idea. You've been going at it nonstop for more than three years, and even Jedi need rest."

    "That's right, pal. You're not superhuman," added Han.

    "I know."

    "Where you planning on setting down?"

    Luke managed a hopeful smile. "Well, actually, I'm headed for Chandrila. I'd like to visit for a few days, if that's all right."

    Leia's heart rose with happiness. She hadn't seen her brother in person for over a year. "Oh Luke, of course! We'd love to have you!"

    Han rapidly agreed. "Yeah, come on down, kid."

    Leia craned her neck to look at Ben. "What do you think, Ben? Do you want Uncle Luke to come over for a visit?"

    Ben bounced happily on his mother's lap. "Yeah, yeah! Unca Wuke! Unca Wuke! Unca Wuke!"

    All three adults laughed with his enthusiasm. "That makes it unanimous," chuckled Leia. "It's going to be so good to see you again. When do you think you'll arrive?"

    "Another few hours, at least," answered Luke. "I can't wait to see you, either."

    "Well, the same applies, regardless. You get a full nights' worth of sleep first thing after setting down," Leia told him, useing what Han called her 'in charge' voice.

    "Yes, ma'am," saluted Luke with tired smile. He let out yet another yawn and rubbed his face. "See you then."

    "All right, Luke. Get some rest. May the Force be with you," parted Leia.

    Luke couldn't help but smile. "May it be with you too, Leia. See you soon." And he signed off.