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Saga Starting Again (post-ROTS, Obi-Wan, Beru, dark AU) - reposted

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by GuerreStellari, Jun 30, 2014.

  1. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    After much prodding by the very kind pronker, here is a re-post of my fanfic, Starting Again. I wrote this nine (!) years ago, posting in the glorious year of 2005. It was since lost in the mists of Internet (i.e. the big structural changes of, and was only found in the depths of my hard drive. But no more! Here it is again, out on the wide plains of webbery.

    Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

    Title: Starting Again
    Author: GuerreStellari
    Characters: Obi-Wan, Beru
    Time Period: Post-ROTS
    Summary: An unforeseen Imperial attack has the potential of fundamentally altering the galaxy's fate. And on a human level, two people must deal with the grief. Dark AU.
    Author's Notes: Clunky writing ahead! Purple prose, ahoy! (And do they have tea on Tatooine? Mmmm...)


    Sometimes it feels like the grief is something palpable between them. Something heavy and oozing, hard to control, something which leaves trails in every part of their lives, defining their actions. It seeps into everything, like a stain. Always grieving, always grieving, always with that pressure on top of the spine.

    They eat in silence, and sleep more than they need to. It becomes difficult to get up in the mornings. They rarely speak, and when they do, they say polite and meaningless things.

    "I can do that," she says.

    "You cannot stay here, Beru. They'll come for you next - they are relentless."

    Obi-Wan looks up from the sink. He is holding a plate under the faucet, but there is no water. How long has he been standing there? It is dusk. When did they last eat?

    "Luke... Owen was..."

    Her eyes are bloated from sleep or crying; there are new lines on her face. He wonders what he looks like - decides immediately that he doesn't want to know. Earlier, he had caught a glimpse of a wan-looking stranger in the mirror, but he had dropped his eyes immediately.

    "No, Beru, it's fine," he says in a tired, clipped tone. "Thank you."

    His voice sounds harsh, like he is issuing orders. She gives him a pained look but says nothing.


    Sometimes she dreams of Owen, and the way he laughed. She dreams of how he used to run his callused palm over her collarbone as he whispered her name.

    She dreams of his smell - the metallic sweat. She sees his outline, faint - salt and sand and deep creases around his eyes. His face had always been so open - his eyes always so clear. So clear that when he looked down at you, it seemed like the wide, blue sky was filtering through them.

    She can still feel him sometimes - from the inside out, as if he died and was buried inside of her. And he is trying to get out - trying to force his way out of her, in her tears and in the way her hands sometimes do things she doesn't realize. Like when she will touch Ben's shoulder with the same sort of instinctive affection she had reserved for Owen. Whenever that happens, whenever she realizes Ben isn't Owen, could never be, she jerks her hand away as if burned.


    He, on the other hand, mostly dreams of Luke. He dreams of himself, watching a security camera's footage, only this time the dying children are all Luke. And he will run his hands through the holographic images, distorting them, clutching vainly at the tiny, blue child whose death has changed everything - has sealed their dark fates, condemning them to a galaxy beyond hope, beyond light.

    Other times, he dreams of that morning, when he had felt the Force pull in, pull in painfully to one place - the Lars homestead - before snapping outward with a roar.

    He had gone to the homestead that morning, guided by the Force, and found the end of his hope there. The end of everything. And like a lamp switching off, his life had shut down.

    In his dreams, that morning prolongs itself and the horror never ebbs. Again and again and again, he will see the two charred bodies, one larger and one smaller, both twisted beyond recognition, holding each other. And the smell... Sometimes the smell alone makes him scream.


    He wakes to find Beru hovering over him, her hand on his forehead, repeating: " - up, Ben. Wake up. Please wake up."

    The room is dark, with only a soft stream of moonlight filtering in through the window. Shadows play on the curved ceilings, tiny dots of light, like blue and red stars - the faint lights of ticking machines. His back is sore from sleeping on the floor.

    Beru is no more than a silhouette, but he can feel the tears - he can feel that ball of grief growing like a cancer in her heart. In his heart.

    His elbows tremble as he pushes himself up. "I'm sorry, did I wake you? I... was dreaming."

    "I was too," she whispers unevenly. And she crumples.

    He wants to weep with her, but instead he takes her in his arms and murmurs empty words, waiting for her shudders to stop. And after her sobs have quieted, he waits a moment longer, still holding her, unwilling and unable to let go. Begging himself to cry, trying to force it out, even though he can’t.

    "Shall we make some tea?" he finally offers, pulling away. What an absurd thing to say. But it’s true – no one will be sleeping again tonight.

    "All right," she whispers.


    Silent days. Days when neither of them speak. Days spent in bed – and Beru can’t stand the smell in the pillow, the smell of Ben, an alien smell. Not her Owen. And when Ben tries to coax her into activity – get up, Beru – she will scream something at him.

    Days when she thinks she hears children’s laughter – Luke and Biggs and Tinker and the other kids, laughing and playing and running through the courtyard. Days remembering, days crying.

    And from her bed, days that she will watch Ben grow paler and paler – while his beard becomes untidy. Days that he will move about the house like a ghost, avoiding her. Days he will spend brooding in the kitchen – and she will see the edge of his elbow from her room – entire days spent sitting, stroking his beard, never making a single sound.

    “You must get out of bed, Beru. You musn’t let this conquer you. Please, Beru, come eat something.”

    On and on. Once, when she perceived his own grief, she erupted in anger, “What does it matter to you? What do you know? This wasn’t your family – this isn’t your home! You could never understand!”

    And for the first time in days, he had looked near tears, and so she had apologized immediately. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”


    She and Ben have lived like this for twelve days, ever since that morning. Ben had come to their homestead first - too late - and had been there, sitting on some rubble, blank-faced, waiting for Beru to return home. She had been in Anchorhead, buying groceries. It wasn't part of her usual routine, but it had been her and Owen's anniversary, and they had decided to do something special for dinner. Which called for special ingredients, things they didn’t normally need to buy. So she had gone - and those spices had ended up saving her life. That idea still stuns her - cleaning all thought from her mind, leaving only the grief and the absurdity – that she owes a life-debt to an off-world spice.

    "Vengeance," Ben had said when he saw her, his voice empty. "Vader's hate... he did this. His… terrible memories. Here. I don't think he knew about Luke... stormtroopers might have thought he was… your son. I’m not sure…" And then he had begun running his hand through his hair, scratching, a nervous gesture, over and over, until she saw his fingernails darken to a sticky red.

    “Owen… Luke…”

    "I'm sorry,” he had gasped. “I'm so sorry, Beru."

    "And you?"

    "And me."

    The shock was leeching away at their thoughts – they couldn't focus.

    "Beru, you musn't stay here. Have - do you have any family?"

    "No – my parents… they died two years ago. I don’t have any siblings.”

    “Oh.” Ben had looked so distant, as if distracted. Every so often his brow would furrow. “Well... you cannot stay here, Beru. They'll come for you next - they are relentless."

    She had been shaking then, and he had gazed around as if he had lost something but was unsure as to what.

    That night, she had gone to his home, and there he had explained everything to her - Anakin and Vader, Vader and Anakin - Luke - the Jedi Purge - and his role in all of it. He had assured her that the Empire probably meant to find him next, eliminate him as well. He had invited her to leave. He could take her to Mos Eisley tomorrow – they could find a transport or something – she could go off-world, somewhere, anywhere. It wasn’t safe for her here.

    Instead, Beru had changed the subject: "Do you think he knew about Luke? About his son?"

    "He knew of a child. He... was not present for the birth."

    "So he probably doesn't realize..."

    “No. I - well... he may have felt it. Afterwards.”

    That was when Beru had finally lost her composure, and she had wept for the first time that day.


    Obi-Wan didn’t cry that day, and hasn’t at all since. Instead his grief sits against his spine, sometimes pushing against his ribs. It unravels at night. That’s when his dreams take him by the throat and hold him under, drowning him in a sea of regrets. In the interminable, all-encompassing vacuum – a black, empty galaxy – a galaxy of nothing.

    Sometimes he can feel his Jedi training slipping away from him – just in the way he starts to entertain certain ideas, though he never acts on them for fear of what will happen to Beru. Someone must watch over her, even if it is him. And that is a purpose – that is life. Live to protect life – just one, just hers. He owes her – and Owen, and Luke, and Anakin, and Anakin’s mother, and the entire bleak galaxy, the entire chaotic mess, created at his hands – he owes them all that much. Just keep Beru safe… an end will come soon enough, but not for her. First him, he assures himself, then her. And a peaceful one, at that.

    He doesn’t touch the Force, mostly for their safety, but also for his sanity. Because what will he find there? He might find Vader, or Yoda, or … – right now, he doesn’t want to find any of them. If he must live, let him sever all his ties – death in life, life to protect life, and then death again.

    He wants to disappear – he wants non-existence – something to match the numb feeling coating his insides. The peace of nothing, of dissolving completely into the air. Though that is a selfish desire, and he knows it. And so he repeats again: someone must watch over Beru. Someone must bring her to safety. Focus. Purpose. Life.

    “I must go to Anchorhead,” he suddenly declares. “We need supplies.”

    Beru is standing at the counter, preparing their evening meal. (They’ve faded easily into feigning this domestic normality.) The food processor whizzes as she places vegetable after vegetable after vegetable into it. Watching her is making Obi-Wan nauseous.

    “It’s late.”

    “I will be back in a few hours.”

    She gives him a worried look. “It’s dangerous.”

    “I’ll be fine. And they… no one can reach you here. You’ll be safe.”

    After a moment, as Beru stares at the processor, she murmurs, “Be back soon, Ben.”

    “I will.” He feels a vague flicker of warmth, deep in his stomach.


    She wakes up. After glancing at the clock, she notes that nearly four hours have passed since Ben left. The night lies thick as a blanket – dark and comforting – and she lets herself lie in a hazy half-doze for a few moments.

    She always used to be so set in her patterns – not like now, when everything’s turned upside down – before, everything was patterned. She and Owen would wake within minutes of each other, always just before the first sun rose. They would lie awake for a few minutes, and whisper sleepy good mornings to each other. Then they would get up, dress, brush teeth, clean faces and comb hair. Beru would start preparing the morning meal – if it was a special day, if there was no school, she would make bantha paddies with sticky sugar gel. Luke always adored those.

    If it was a school day, Owen would take the boy into Anchorhead – then sometimes he would go on to the Tosche Station.

    Mornings spent cleaning, resetting all the cleaners and controls. Mornings spent watering the plants with their water imitant – they couldn’t waste too much on just houseplants. Beru’s favorite plant used to be the large fern in the lower courtyard. She had named it Owen, and Owen had laughed to hear that.

    Noon was too hot to work, so Owen would return from outside, and they would share a quiet lunch. This was the time they used to talk about the farm, or Luke’s school, or the happenings in Anchorhead or Mos Eisley or faraway Mos Espa. Then they would relax indoors, waiting for the worst of the heat to fade. Owen usually tinkered with his droids or checked up on the holonews. His hair always looked so ruffled… with highlights bleached from hours in the sun…

    Sleepy afternoons – picking up Luke – dinnertime – once Luke was off to bed, that’s when the real discussions started – arguments about Luke, about Ben Kenobi, about the Empire… and then asleep to start it all over again…

    Beru brushes at the tears which are trailing down her temples into her ears. Come on, Beru. Come on. Get up. Do something.

    She begins to hear noise from the kitchen – soft shuffling sounds. Careful to be quiet, she gets up.

    He is just a silhouette, but she sees him working in the dark, carefully placing the new supplies in the small cupboards. He looks so much smaller than Owen – and she realizes then that Ben is a slight man, thin even. He has his back to her, but when she takes a step into the kitchen, he straightens. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”

    “It’s fine. I wasn’t sleeping well.”

    He turns at that, and his sad smile glows blue in the moonlight. But then the smile seals up, the compassion disappears and he begins rifling through the things on the counter. She sees some food – a pack of grain, some jugs of purified water, loose wires and knobs, a roll of hygienic paper, soap – and Ben is organizing everything, placing everything in neat, little rows.

    “How was Anchorhead?”

    “Mostly asleep.” She can feel his wry look more than see it.

    “Did you have any problems?”

    “No. There was some business with the Sand People further on, towards Mos Eisley. It’s drawn the Empire’s attention away. We’ll be safe… for the next few days, at least.”

    She watches his hands darting over the objects. Her eyes have adjusted to the darkness, but she still can’t see very well – she wonders what everything looks like in his eyes. She wonders if it glows or something.

    After a few moments, she realizes that the noise has stopped. Ben has stopped moving. His back is to her, and he’s looking down at the counter.

    “Ben?” she asks. There’s no response.

    When she goes to him and touches his shoulder, he flinches. And the moonlight catches wet trails on his cheeks – she gasps. He begins to apologize, hiding his face, but instead she wipes at his eyes, hastily, telling him not to cry, even as her own tears start. And soon they’re embracing, both weeping now, both promising each other the pain will pass, even when it can’t and it won’t and it shouldn’t. And Beru presses her eyes into Ben’s shoulder while he weeps loudly, sobbing now – blaming himself, over and over and over again.

    “It’s not, Ben, hush. It’s not.”

    He chokes something out – indecipherable. With his hand in her hair, her arms on him, holding each other – her entire body screaming at how different Ben is from Owen, and how Owen is dead now – she can feel Ben’s tears against her neck, feel his trembling.

    “You must forgive me, Beru. You must.”

    “Don’t say that, please don’t say that.”

    “I can’t – I shouldn’t – there was so much that went wrong – and now – ”

    “Shhh,” and she cups his cheek and kisses his temple. “We just have to start again. Both of us.”

    Lady Mary likes this.
  2. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Chapter 2. The angst, it never ends.


    The suns are too bright for this, he thinks. Too bright for these dark times.

    He’s been thinking like this for the past few days. He will sit in the chair, facing the window, and stare outside. He will imagine all the ways – all the ways that… If he stood, and walked straight out the door, turned right once, kept walking, he would fall to his death. If he stood, and walked back to the dusty container hidden under some junk, he would find his old lightsaber there. There is a man in the Mos Eisley cantina who sells kill-sticks. He could buy as many as needed.

    He could stand, walk outside, keep walking, find a stormtrooper – any stormtrooper (even Cody, if he’s still alive; good, old Cody with the scar running down his temple…) – and present himself to the Empire.

    “Ben? Do you want milk with your lunch, or water?”

    How can she say that? How can she pretend that everything is fine? He feels a surge of something – hate, or jealousy, or pity, or protective love – something strong – when he sees Beru act like this. For the past week, she’s been feigning normality. He knows it’s a façade – it doesn’t take the Force to see the red-rimmed eyes and trembling chin – but she’s still trying.

    He wants to tell her to stop trying. That it doesn’t matter anymore, none of it matters.

    And then there are moments when he thinks: she doesn’t even comprehend any of it. Her grief is simple, ignorant pain. Grieving over the death of loved ones. Pure, untainted, easy grief. Whereas his is soiled with the past, and responsibility, and a thousand personal failures. His is a bit more… all-encompassing. It’s inside and outside and everywhere. Because she lost a husband and a nephew – whereas he has ensured that the galaxy itself has darkened. He has condemned them all to slavery at the hands of a slave – a servant of the Dark – all because he was too slow, too late – and now it will all spread, everywhere the Dark Side, and –

    “Stop that.”

    Obi-Wan nearly jumps from his chair, knocking his knee against the table’s edge. Beru is standing directly over him, her shirt stained with whatever is cooking.

    “Stop what?” he asks, sounding sharper than intended.

    “You know,” she says simply.

    “No, I don’t.”

    Her shoulders slump. “Ben… please. I don’t want to play these games. It doesn’t take one of you Jedis to figure out what… sort of thoughts you’re thinking.”

    Chastised, Obi-Wan opens his mouth to say something, but instead fumbles, looking away from her.

    “And you didn’t answer my question,” Beru adds.

    The bleak emptiness fades a little, and he looks up, genuinely embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Beru. What was the question?”

    “Milk or water?”

    “Water.” He smiles weakly. “Thank you.”

    She doesn’t smile in return, but something in her eyes changes. She bends down and kisses his hair.


    “Owen always used to say that.”

    “Did he? I’m surprised.”

    “Why? He wasn’t as educated as some, but he wasn’t stupid.”

    “I never – Beru, you know I didn’t – ”

    “Oh, I’m just teasing, I know you didn’t mean that. We can tease, can’t we?”

    “Yes, we can tease.”

    “You know, I never thought I’d keep going… I never thought I could… and sometimes it even feels wrong. That I can just sit here and talk about – them.”

    “I know.”

    “Do you feel like that… sometimes? I’m sorry, if I’m – ”

    “Yes. It’s a natural reaction.”

    “It’s… hard.”

    “I… yes, it is.”

    “But sometimes I think he would want this – he wouldn’t want me to just – just quit. He’d want me to – keep going, and maybe smile again – even though I can’t even imagine doing that anymore. But it’s not so wrong, is it? I feel like it is, but I know it can’t be. I wouldn’t want that of him and Luke – I wouldn’t want them to… just stop – if it were the other way around. …Ben? Are you all right?”

    “I’m fine, Beru. I’m sorry.”

    “No, what is it?”

    “Nothing, nothing. Please. Tell me more of Owen… it will do us good.”

    She smiles, and the tears are easier – they glide across skin and drip under her chin but they’re easy now, they’re not bottled up or forced out. The grief used to be something tangled up inside of her, pulling at her lungs and heart and everything. But now the threads are loosening, and even though it’s still there, it doesn’t pull anymore – she can let herself cry. She can talk about Owen and Luke now.


    The antennae modulator is unhinged, and it rattles tock-tock-tock against the outside wall. The sky is turning a warm, orange color. Obi-Wan leans against the window and peers outside.

    He can hear Beru cleaning something behind him. She’s always moving – always doing. Sometimes she moves around him as he sits. He tells her he’s meditating, but he hasn’t meditated for five weeks now. He just sits, eyes closed, and listens to her soft steps. She tries to be quiet when he meditates, and he listens with a pleasant ache in his chest as she moves and cleans and fixes and does.

    “Looks like a storm’s coming,” Beru says.


    “No one would ever come this far up during a storm.” Her voice is slightly high-pitched. “It’s too far. And they wouldn’t come for a good week, week and a half, afterwards…”

    Obi-Wan turns. The lamps have not turned on yet, and so the house glows a dim, warm grey in the coming sandstorm’s light. He can’t see her face – but he can feel something welling inside of her: a cold, nauseous feeling.

    “Don’t worry,” he says. “No one will come. There’s no reason.”

    “I think we should leave,” she says suddenly.

    “We will.” He turns back to the window. “But we can’t leave now – we’ll have to wait for better weather, at the very least.”

    “I – do you know where we could go?”

    “Mos Eisley to begin with.”

    “And then?”

    Obi-Wan frowns, looks back. “I’m not sure.”

    “You said they’d be coming after you, too?” The cold feeling is growing now, spreading into the air.

    “Don’t be frightened, Beru…” Outside, the modulator knocks tock-tock-tock. “After the storm, I’ll go into Anchorhead and see about where you – where we could go. Together. I’ll help you… if you want.” He looks away. “There are a number of worlds where one may stay hidden.”

    Her silhouette begins to shake – and she takes a slow seat, shuddering. “Did you see them? Do you remember? I – I can still see it – all the time, it’s always there, right – right in front of me – just like that day – ” She starts to sob. But Obi-Wan’s already there, he has rushed forward and he’s hugging her with both arms, pressing his cheek against her hair. “It’s always there! Always… and I’m so scared… I don’t think – I don’t know where I can go – ”

    “Shhh, shhh. It’s all right, Beru. We’ll be fine. Both of us.” He kneels down in front of her, brushing at her eyes, realizing just how young she is – too young, too young to be a widow, to be so bereft, so soon – and he smiles in his own coming tears. “Please don’t do that, my girl. You must trust me. Everything will be fine. You must be strong.”

    He holds her face, rubbing at her tears with his thumbs, and eventually she returns his shaking smile. He drops his hands and holds hers.

    “I’m sorry,” she says. “I don’t know – I’ve always hated storms, just like Luke – and Owen – he,” she laughs tearfully, “he always used to tease us for it.” And then she shakes her head. “I miss them so much.” She screws her face up – she looks like a child, Obi-Wan thinks – and begins to cry again.

    He hugs her, holding her tightly, and she presses her face to his chest. “I know, my dear, I know.”


    “Where are you going?”

    “Well, we won’t be able to see anything if the antennae are knocked off.” He lets the last word end in a clip. This might be the first tinge of humor she’s heard from him in… forever.

    “What?” Beru can feel the pain around her eyes beginning to fade. Ben’s voice is light. “You mean, you want to fix that… now?”

    The winds are howling now, and the sand is blasting up against the windows. The tock-tock-tock stopped a few hours ago, and Beru is straining to hear – she’s afraid the modulator has been blown off the roof. But she can hardly hear Ben over the cacophony of noise coming from outside.

    The light is surreal – like a red twilight. She can just see Ben, sitting cross-legged at her feet, but he looks younger in this dusty darkness. And even though his eyes still look dark and empty and lost, he’s putting on a show for her – teasing her, his expression eased.

    “Well yes,” he frowns, thinking. “It would be good to get news on how long the storm will last, and any – any Imperial activity… you know, all that.” He makes a motion with his hand. “It will give us something to do.”


    He comes clattering back in, goggled and breathless, just as the winds rip the door closed and slam against the windows. Sand is caked into his beard and hair, his face is streaked with thin, red marks.

    “There now,” he says. “We have the HoloNet.”

    With a satisfied exhalation, he goes to the holopad and flips the switch. A tinny voice crackles with static before smoothing out, “- ome to the local evening news. I’m your reader, Piennar Moonrider…”


    “Ben… Ben… come here.”

    And there it is. There, on the news, the homestead, and Luke’s last school pictures, and the emotionless newsreader sitting in front of the Imperial insignia, saying something about an accident and a malfunction in the power converters fire tragic death of Owen and Beru Lars, along with their son, Luke Imperial investigations revealed a faulty latch in the lower courtyard’s converter base reminder for all families to secure their converter bases Imperial safety procedures available local power converter dealer and tech stations in other news an off-world smuggler arrested in Mos Eisley Cantina –

    And Beru is watching blank-faced, letting the firm weight of this revelation press against her heart and bury down into her stomach. Letting this newsreader – his face distorted by holographic static – glide smoothly across the deaths of her husband and son – deaths that have caused her world to explode and implode and continue on and on and on in tatters – while the news just goes on – deaths that are just a news item.

    Dimly, she hears Ben’s ragged gasping beside her.


    He wishes he could hold her. Sometimes he just wants to reach out, find her in the dark and pull her towards him. He wants to murmur condolences into her hair, and whisper promises that everything will be all right. He knows that this would help both of them - and all he needs to do is raise his hand and do it.

    But he can't - Jedi training, Jedi detachment, Jedi rules have left him incapable and awkward. In a lifetime of negating his human heart, denying human touch and losing himself in a ruined Order, he has come out of it with rules and barriers and an inability to cope like a human should - with touch and warm tears. Anakin was right - as he was in so many ways - he was right that all Obi-Wan knew was the Code, that he couldn't understand, that he was more droid than -

    Stop thinking like that, he tells himself.

    Five days after the sandstorm, five days after the wretched HoloNet transmission – another holographic nightmare to add to the first, he thinks – and he is sitting on the floor, cross-legged, exhausting himself with all this useless, philosophical tail-chasing. He should just admit it, he thinks, admit that it's cowardice and selfishness and a stunted, rigid, narrow-minded outlook on life - he just hides in it all, doesn't he? He used to hide in the Order, and now he hides in his grief, and he doesn't let Beru near, doesn't comfort her except in his detached, empty, Jedi way.

    And even though he knows he shouldn't - and logically he tells himself this is just the stress and fatigue talking - but right now, he hates himself. Hates himself, and hates what he has done to Beru, what he's still indirectly doing. Hates what he did to Anakin, his cowardice on that wretched Mustafar hill, where he left his brother, his son, his everything, the Chosen One, to scream and suffer - all because he couldn't do it, he couldn't make the final blow. And now he can't pull Beru into a hug like he wants to. Instead, he just sits here, pretending to meditate, when he's really just staring at a corner of the wall, clenching his teeth and -

    A hand on his shoulder startles him. "Ben?"

    He turns. Beru is holding a cup of steaming liquid. She looks embarrassed. "I'm sorry, did I interrupt...?"

    "No, no, it's fine," Obi-Wan smiles weakly. "I wasn't really meditating. Not really."

    Instead of handing him the cup, she sets it down on the ground and wraps her arms around his neck. He returns the embrace - a small, stilted sigh escaping him - and when they pull away, his voice is thick with the knot in his throat: "What was that for?"

    "You just had that look about you."

    He keeps his hands on her shoulders. “Thank you.”

    She smiles.

  3. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Chapter 3. Empire schmempire.


    Ten days since the sandstorm, and they are sitting at the kitchen table. He’s a little drunk, and she’s angry and trying to hide it.

    Why is it that some days pass by easily, smoothly, without event? And other days, they stutter and stumble to a halt, they pull you back down into the mire of memory – into that wretched denial, that shock, that pain – everything overwhelming you? She was all right before today – she was doing fairly well. She would cry; she would break and heal and cry again. Sometimes she would think it was all just a nightmare – and Owen and Luke were alive. Those were the hardest days – the days of denial, the days of living in a paper-thin fantasy.

    But today it’s different – today she feels the pain like an itch under her skin, like an ache behind her eyes – and today she’s angry with Ben, angry with Owen, and even angry with Luke. Today she’s angry with this Empire she doesn’t understand or want, and this Anakin Skywalker that she only met once – only once. She could hate them all, and she does – because anger stifles grief, and anger hides the weak spots.

    Her anger’s making her think crazy things – she starts to hate the way Ben looks, the lines of his cheekbones and forehead, the crease between his eyes. She used to find him handsome in a plain, kind way, but today she can’t imagine an uglier person.

    And he’s leaning back in his chair, legs crossed, balancing his chair and balancing the glass on his hip. He won’t look at her; instead, he’s staring forward, eyes vacant. What is he thinking about? He keeps clenching and unclenching his jaw. Can he see in her mind or something? The unfairness makes her angrier.

    “We’ll need to start reviewing worlds…” he begins, stroking his beard, “worlds where we may hide. I’ve heard something of Dantooine… ” he trails off, his voice softening.

    And why would I want to go with you? she thinks. Instead, she says, “Well, I don’t know about that sort of thing. So I guess you’ll have to think for both of us.”

    He gives a weary sigh and meets her eyes. “Beru, please don’t be angry.”

    “I’m not angry.”

    “Yes, you are.”

    No, I’m not.

    He exhales through his nose and doesn’t say anything. Instead, he takes a sip from his drink. The ache behind her eyes spreads – and soon there’s something pressing against her from the inside out, her heart’s swelling, something’s got to give – and before she knows it, she stands abruptly. “I thought you Jedi weren’t supposed to drink.”

    At that, he looks amused. “Where did you hear that?”

    “Don’t tease me.”

    “I’m not.”

    “Yes, you are. You always are. You’re always acting like I don’t understand!”

    He lets his chair fall forward and places the glass on the table. “Beru… you know that’s not true…”

    “Yes, it is! And I don’t see what we’re waiting here for! You should have taken me to Mos Eisley weeks ago!” The words start tumbling out, uncontrolled. “And now – now – it might even be too late – just like with Owen and Luke – why didn’t you get to them in time – can’t you – I thought you Jedi could do that sort of thing – feel it or – or something – and now it’s too late – !”

    He interrupts her in stern, authoritative voice. “Don’t go down that path, Beru, don’t. Think. Clear your head. You’re becoming hysterical.” He adds slowly, enunciating crisply: “We are doing the best that we can. Casting blame will not bring them back.”

    She starts to cry, backing away from the table as he starts to stand. “You just don’t understand! You could never understand! I can’t stand it here! I can’t stand any of this!”

    She begins to sob, and immediately his arms are around her, and his breath is hot against her stinging eyes.

    She sobs harshly, screaming, struggling against him even as his embrace tightens. Eventually, her breath evens out, though the tears continue – softer now. His hold on her loosens, but he doesn’t let go, and after a moment she realizes that he’s running his hand through her hair, rocking them back and forth slightly. It gets quiet…

    “I’m sorry,” she croaks.

    “I am too,” he whispers. She looks up and sees that his eyes are glazed. He’s smiling and his voice is thick, “Oh, Beru, I’m so sorry. Promise me that you’ll forgive me – someday, at least.”

    “I do,” she presses her cheek to his shoulder. “I do now. I didn’t mean what I said.”

    He sighs, and the rocking continues. Buried as she is in his shoulder, she smells him – he smells like the off-world liquor he’s been drinking; like his dusty, old clothes; like plain soap and his home. It’s a comforting smell, and it makes her feel terrible for what she said. She’s about to apologize again, right now as she listens to his uneven breathing, feeling it gust warm against her hairline.

    “Ben, I – ”

    “We’ll leave in three days,” he says suddenly. “We’ll find a transport to Dantooine.”


    “Yes. It’s – it’s far, far from here, and we shall be safe there. We’ll find a pilot in Mos Eisley… it shouldn’t be too difficult… or a – perhaps a barge – something…”

    She lets the news sink in, silent. His hand continues to stroke her hair.

    “And no need to apologize, my girl,” he says, pulling back with another shaky smile. “We can’t spend our evenings always apologizing to each other, you know.”

    Despite herself, she smiles. And, on an impulse, she cups his cheek just as a tear trails into his beard.


    “‘You are the pump of my pulse, so the good or bad I do is due to you,’” he recites in a sing-song voice as he picks up each plate. “‘Now my eyesight’s going, which is your fault,” he smiles, “‘since you’re the lightpoints in my eyes.’”

    “W – What?” she laughs. “What’s that from?”

    “I don’t remember. I learned it a long time ago.”

    “Is it a… a Jedi thing or something?”

    “Oh, no, no. I don’t even think it’s Coruscanti. Maybe – oh, who knows. I used to know all the poetry in the Inner Rim – from the second to the eighth century. I loved it. What are you smiling at?”

    “I never would have guessed.”

    “Are you being sarcastic?”


    “Well, hmm, there you have it,” he shrugs. “I do have interests, you know. Or did, at least.” He pauses. “Anyway, I think it’s Alderaani.”

    “It’s nice.” She stifles a grin before adding, “Do you know any more, Master Poet?”

    He launches easily into another lilting poem: “‘Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance… when you’re perfectly free.’” He smiles again and she laughs.


    “Do you mind if I watch the HoloNet?”

    Ben looks visibly uncomfortable, though he’s also swaying a little. He shrugs. “I loathe holo – holographic… things. But watch if you want.”

    She’s sitting at the table, and the holovid projector is across the room. Behind her, she can hear Ben clumsily unrolling his blanket and tossing the two grey pillows he always uses onto the floor. She turns back to see him sitting on the ground, working to remove his boots.


    “Yes, my dear.”

    She almost laughs. “Do you want to sleep in the bed tonight?”

    At that, he raises an eyebrow and grins slyly. “Beru. While I am fond of you, I don’t think…”

    “Not with me, you nerfherder. We’d switch.”

    “Oh.” It takes a moment for the idea to process, but then he just shakes his head, kicking his boots off and leaning onto his side, “No, no, no. That’s silly. You stay where you are, and I where I… am. It’s not – not so uncomfortable.” He grunts as he drops onto his side. “You know, I used to sleep on numerous floors in the early days – the days before the Purge. And after.”

    She doesn’t say anything, just watches him settle down. He turns onto his other side, facing away from her, and pulls the blanket up. A few still moments pass, and she thinks he has fallen asleep. Right as the holovid projector begins to whir, he speaks up.

    “The floor in the Supernova. Now, that was uncomfortably hard.” His voice is drowsy. “We took the Supernova from… what was it? Coruscant to – to somewhere. It was a refugee barge. Luke was such a well-behaved child, thank goodness. He kept quiet… Those were dangerous times… Dangerous times. We couldn’t come directly to Tatooine. Not with the Empire…” He sighs. “Yes, that floor was very hard. Damned ship.

    “Then there was the floor in the Temple. We didn’t sleep there – just some meditation. To – to clear our heads before our… respective departures. Master Yoda to Palpatine, and I to Anakin. A wretched place to meditate – not with those children around. But we couldn’t leave – it wasn’t safe – there was no other place to… gather our energies.”

    Ben turns onto his back, looks down his chest at Beru, who is watching him from the table.

    “Most of the Temple floors were carpeted, you know. One’s steps made hardly a sound… I remember thinking how difficult it would be to clean the – the stains from the carpets.” His voice wavers, but he swallows quickly and looks away. “Well, enough of that.” He turns away from her. “Good night, Beru.”

    “Good night…” She doesn’t turn the HoloNet on, but watches his back as he falls asleep.


    Blue and green darkness darkness darkness - surrounding him, hugging him - bathing his entire body in silence. The terrifying silence, no movement, no noise, nothing except that which comes from him in the blue and green dark. Dark tendrils - black blood - blossom and stream slowly from his shoulder wound. Every stroke of his arm - another dark ribbon curling away from him. Silence silence silence the absolutely terrifying silence emptiness stillness loneliness. Swimming through this silence of space and water and a sick feeling of abandonment betrayal.

    He is back in Utapau, after he crashed into the lake and swam underneath the earth.

    Crawling through fungus-slippery rocks tunnels crags crogs a hidden grotto and he is alone alone alone (and terribly lost). An echoing drip, soft in the distance, and his own harsh breathing, scraping knees against pitch dark rocks - and he is blind as he crawls through this cave while tendrils of green brush past his face and his arm is going softly and coldly numb. Pushing the panic away with the Force, beating the pain into submission and silence - silence to match the silence around him inside him everywhere. He has never before been so terrified by silence before.

    An opening - relief in the light - a shaft of light, faint, refracted against and hidden behind more grotto rock walls everywhere surrounding him. The echoes widen - a pool of stagnant fresh water, and this is where he washes the wound in his shoulder (with trembling fingers and shuddering lungs). He runs over his options. He imagines an army of identical soldiers coming after him - betrayal cloned a thousand times over - he remembers the underwater explosion of blue-black blood as the blaster bolt struck him in the back of the shoulder. How his blood had blossomed out of his shoulder in a cloud – and it had been so cold, colder than ever.

    Crawling again, letting the Force sweep him away in its own quiet tides (trying to stifle his breathing because goodness it's loud, too loud, in this unholy silence) - back to the drip drip drip darkness of another winding tunnel. He starts to consider stopping, just giving up, in this grotto, underneath this Utapau earth, living his days and his nights and dying here - in this silence. But he can see another light further ahead - bluish whitish faint and clean and maybe that leads out of this...

    And that's when the apparition appears. (A part of his consciousness tells him he's drunk and dreaming - and he chides himself not to drink so much again.)

    "Obi-Wan," the apparition says - as it folds in on itself, fragile and fading. Wisps curl away and disappear into the damp air.

    It takes a moment, but he recognizes a nose and a voice, and then he bows, holding his numb arm with his good hand. His teeth clack with cold, "M-m-mast-t-ter."

    "A great darkness is waiting for you outside this cave, Obi-Wan," the apparition continues, blunt. "Suffering and betrayal - it is no longer safe for you."

    "B-b-betray'l? B-b-by wh-whom?"

    The apparition ignores the question. "Close your heart to the Force, Obi-Wan, and you will be lost. You have always known this. Feel - use nothing but your heart as a guide. The heart is a window to the Force - look through it - let it take you where it will, as I taught you. Live only in this moment, always changing. Steel your heart with the armor of Light – you have always been strong in the Light, Obi-Wan – and you must use it now. You will need it."

    Not trusting himself to speak, he bows his head, letting the worms of fresh cave water crawl down his forehead and into his eyes, hiding his tears. When he swallows away the knot in his throat, the apparition is gone.

    There is only the lonely quiet.


    When Obi-Wan wakes, he feels like he's still swimming, floating on the floor. His muscles are stiff, and a vague nauseous feeling crawls up his throat. It's still dark out. Before dawn.

    He gets up to make some caf. A bit unsteady on his feet – and he smiles despite himself. He remembers a time when he and Anakin would descend to the deepest levels of Coruscant to soften their Clone War hurts with a drink and a laugh – however inappropriate for Jedi that would be. But just like Jedi were never meant to be soldiers, generals, politicians – and Jedi were never meant to define themselves as comrades in arms – the atypical coping methods (drinking, laughing, telling stories, sleeping in excess, sleeping in gardens, drinking in gardens, weeping… no, no, meditating was never as helpful as these other non-Jedi behaviors) – well, it all came with the injustice of the times.

    He lets himself remember Anakin for a moment – just a young man’s face, his confident stride, his laughter painted in mischief and youthful exuberance – the strain of a young man aging too quickly, the pain in a young man’s war wounds, the way the young man weeps for his lost comrades… the way he screams and prowls towards you, a caged animal, while red flames lick the sky behind him, while red fury pours all around you…

    Stop. Stop.

    While the caf cools, Obi-Wan concentrates on his breathing, closing his eyes, calming himself. Damn these memories. Damn them that they should sour his moods so abruptly, that they should leave him always with an ashy taste in his mouth, with a tickling sensation on the back of his neck. Every single memory ends like this – with the same Mustafar nightmare.

    He used to think of the Temple as eternal, and now it is nothing but a carcass. He used to think all of that – the Order, Anakin, Coruscant, the Senate, himself – was permanent, and there was comfort in that permanence. Even after a lifetime of being taught impermanence, he still dwells on the pain of loss.

    He sighs and drinks his caf, staring out at the bright stars – the silence before dawn…

    …and that’s when he feels it – rolling like an infernal wave from the horizon. The Empire. The Empire. The Empire is coming, they’ll be here in a few hours, closing fast, no time, we have waited too long. Distantly, he hears the cup of caf clattering to the floor as he bolts towards Beru’s room.




    “You must get up, Beru.”

    “What is it?”

    “They’re coming – please, Beru – we have no time. You must leave.”

    “Who? Who’s coming?”

    “The Empire. Listen to me: take the landspeeder – go to Mos Eisley. I’ll meet you in The Modise – please, you must hurry.”

    “What? No! I can’t leave without you!”

    “You must, Beru. There’s no time – they’re searching for me, remember. They don’t know you’re here. Please, Beru – just take the speeder. I promise everything will be fine.”

    “What about you?”

    “Don’t concern yourself with me – I’ll meet you in The Modise. Take only what you need – they’ll be here very soon.”

    “No, no, no, please, don’t make me – ”

    “Shhh, shhh. Go. Get in the speeder.”

    “I can’t – Ben, don’t do this – ”

    “I’ll see you in Mos Eisley. Trust me.”

    “No, no - Ben!

  4. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Chapter (section?) 4. Featuring PG-13 grossness (so, hopefully not too gross).


    Dots on the horizon, crawling slowly down the dune. The pink-orange light of the first sun's dawn. All quiet except for the low hum of those distant Imperial machines.

    Obi-Wan stands outside his door, watching the shuttles crawl along the desert. In twenty or thirty minutes, they'll be here. If he stretches his senses, he can hear the faint sound of Beru's landspeeder as it careens away from all this. That gives him some relief.

    He wonders if they mean to kill him here - no, he can't sense Vader anywhere nearby - no prowling young men with yellow-red eyes, no young men reconstructed into towering, black machines. Vader will want to kill him himself – slowly, painfully, goodness knows how – but not here. These dots - which are now growing into discernable shuttles - are coming to drag him back to their Destroyer.

    A cold line of sweat crawls down his spine. He swallows. They're getting bigger - ten minutes.

    But he's preparing himself - readying the amputation.

    Because isn't that what he's been brooding about all these weeks? A living suicide - the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin went through it, burning his former self away and rising out of the ashes a machine of shadows, a living terror – Darth Vader. And now Obi-Wan will do it too - add his name to the list of fallen Jedi - tear away his insides and replace them with his own metal heart and iron lung – a half-death, a hollowing out, a mutilation and reorganization and –

    Too late, they're here.

    Clouds of sand, and from the dusty haze, a figure emerges.

    "General Kenobi." The tinny voice provokes an onslaught of memories which must be hastily suppressed. The shuttles have formed a perimeter around the hut. Two squadrons of stormtroopers, blasters ready.


    "By order of the Emperor, you are hereby - "

    He never finishes because already Obi-Wan's pounded air into the ground and sent a whirlwind of sand blasting between them. The trooper's helmet is knocked off - there's a moment of recognition, cloneCodyclone? - and then the sand blinds them both, hiding them from each other.

    What happens next: a rain of blaster fire, and Obi-Wan's twisting guns and pushing troopers without touching them, all the while sawing away his ties with the Force. And like pulling wires out of a fuse box, he tears and rips and cuts every thread, every line, everything – severing his heart in half – so that he hears a desperate plea (no!no!no!) from Yoda on Dagobah, a roar (No!) from Qui-Gon Jinn, an enraged howl (NO!) from Anakin – all the voices being cut off as he breaks these connections –

    Pulling bolts out of a shuttle's design and raining them down on more troopers - aiming for the jugular, aiming to kill – tiny explosions; red sprays – right now, right as the Force slips further and further from him - he must time this right, or else this'll be a suicide in earnest. A blaster bolt burns past his thigh, singing his pant leg. He didn’t see that coming; careful, you old fool! – and –

    …it’s like sawing through tendons, thick and muscular. It’s like cutting a piece of the heart away. Breaking your connection with the Force, Obi-Wan, is much like dying inside.

    But, Master, is there no way to reconstruct this bond?

    No, no. Never as it once was. It is suicide.

    Obi-Wan is gasping, he’s doubled over and the sweat is pouring laterally down his face – the sands around him are howling, spraying chaotically – and the lights are flickering, his eyes are rolling – a tremor in the muscles – everywhere shaking – and the Force, receding away from him in tatters. He catches odd, lucid glimpses: fear in Beru catapulting down the dunes towards Mos Eisley almost there – rage in Vader thinking troops have killed old master stealing his vengeance hate.

    He sees a flash of Qui-Gon Jinn – crystalline, solid, alive – before hearing a robotic blast of noise: “Target acquired!”

    A trooper slams into his side and they both go tumbling.

    …Like in the holovids, then? I remember seeing one about some masterless padawans committing that sort of thing. What’d they call it? Something about spiritual suicide – like spiricide, soullicide, ha ha ha!

    Goodness, you have a morbid sense of humor, Anakin. What sort of holovids did you watch?

    Ha! Good ones! That one had that Corellian actor in it – he played all those Jedi – help me out, what was his name?

    Oh, why are we talking about this? Miserable conversation…

    “Base! Base! This is TK three four – ”

    Obi-Wan throws a desperate kick – hitting the stormtrooper squarely in the side of the head. The trooper’s helmet tumbles off, he staggers to the side. Obi-Wan immediately scrambles forward, muttering a hoarse I’m sorry before pulling the blaster out of the trooper’s holster and squeezing the trigger, firing between the plates of his armor. The trooper relaxes back, eyes vacant, dead.

    And then it gets quiet.

    Obi-Wan is trembling all over. For a moment, he remains there, on the ground, leaning on the dead trooper, legs folded in and sweating. He can hear a voice crackling over someone’s comlink.

    “TK 341, are you there? Repeat, TK 341, come in…”

    As the smoke slowly clears, he sees that there were twelve of them. Two had tried to escape in one of the shuttles – the one Obi-Wan had pulled all the bolts from, dismantling it as they had fled. That shuttle is burning now, some of its fuel having leaked out into the sand, ignited by stray blaster fire. Looking further on: he sees a group of troopers lying dead, their blood spreading in the sand, their armor dented and scratched from the bolts.

    He tells himself he had to do it. It was all for Beru – to protect Beru. She is his life now. Otherwise he would have surrendered – gone to Vader – endured whatever had to be endured. But he has to live now – he has to stay with Beru, keep her safe.

    It doesn’t help – the silence is unbearable, and he feels like he’s going to throw up. Emptiness inside - it feels like something inside of him has been forcibly removed – like an organ is missing, something essential has been pulled out – his heart, or his lungs, or something. The pain – the pain is crippling, but it’s not as bad as the paralyzing vulnerability. His reality has been sucked into one point – into his eyes, behind them – and now he can’t see further than any other person. The Force is – right there, right in front of him, but impossible to touch. It lingers before him, around him, like a sheen of his former self, and then it dissolves with the next strong breeze. He’s left a normal human being.

    Things get hazy – he can’t think. His fingers and toes are going numb, and the numbness is creeping slowly up his limbs, bringing panic with it. Sand clings to his face with sweat. He gets up onto unsteady legs. When a soft wind blows by, carrying away some of the smoke, it howls right through him – and the nausea reaches its breaking point. He barely makes it back inside.


    Breathe, she tells herself. Just breathe.

    “Next on TwinVid local news, an accident between an Imperial shuttle and a speederbike has left two dead and four in serious condition. The accident occurred at thirteen hundred hours, ten kilometers from the Mos Eisley spaceport…”

    She can hear the people in the other room laughing and talking about something. Every so often, she hears a thump from the ceiling. Dust falls.

    Ben was supposed to meet her hours ago. Outside her tiny window, the sky is dark and she can hear people speaking loudly from the streets below. And she can hear the music of the Cantina a few doors down; roars and blaster fire and laughter underscored by a heavy, rhythmic beat.

    She told herself to stay calm. She’s been telling herself to stay calm for the past ten hours. Ben is fine. Ben is fine. She is fine, and Ben is fine, and soon he’ll be here and they’ll be fine together. There’s nothing to worry about – absolutely nothing. Think of what Owen would do in this situation? Well? Well?

    Well, she doesn’t want to think of that. Owen and Luke – people buried inside of her, people crawling along her arms and legs and stomach and heart, people embedded under the skin she shed on that silent day with Ben. People – no, names – from her other life, the life that died over a month ago. That was a life when she would never have been in a Mos Eisley inn in the middle of the night waiting for crazy, old Ben Kenobi to come to her bedroom. That was a life when she wouldn’t have feared the news, or the noises outside, or tomorrow.

    There’s another thump from the ceiling, followed closely by a rattling noise. The people in the room beside hers have quieted down.

    “…and for the first time in over sixty years, rain is scheduled to fall in the first and fourth quadrants tonight. The rain is expected to begin at exactly zero hundred hours, and moisture farmers in all quadrants have been advised to prepare for the emergency situation…”

    Oh yes, the rain. People have been talking about it all day – rain day, rain day they keep singing. The woman at the desk downstairs said it was probably because of all those Imperial machines in orbit – because stars know Tatooine hasn’t produced enough moisture for its own genuine rainstorm yet. The next one hadn’t been expected for another ten years.

    “It’s them Imperials, I bet,” the woman at the desk had said. “It’s whatever they’ve been cooking up there in orbit that’s goin’ ta be dumpin’ down on us. Stars know there’ll be hell to pay once it starts. Why, most a these young kids haven’t ever seen rain – they don’t have half a brain to deal with it. You’ve never seen it, right?”

    Beru had been nervous then – her palms had been sweating and her heart had been racing and all she could think of was this jumbled name – BenWenUke, where are you? Oh, Benbenbenben – but she had answered: “Oh… no. I haven’t.”

    “Thought so. You’re too young,” the woman had continued (as she had scanned the room card into the rusty recorder). “Well, I’ve seen it – and let me tell you, it’ll be hell once it starts. Half these power converters aren’t even designed for rain – they’ll just short-circuit,” she had snapped her fingers, “and then half a Mos Eisley’ll be out like a black hole. And I tell ya, once that happens, it’ll be a rogue’s paradise.”

    Owen had never seen rain either, even if he was born off-world. Beru remembers how she and he had sometimes talked about it: what they would do when the rain day came, how they would prepare. That’s a load of moisture, Beru – Owen’s voice, still ringing clear in her ears – the droids’ll be blowing fuses once they see that stuff come down. And it’ll be wet like that for days after, can you imagine?

    She doesn’t want to see rain – not tonight. Not when her whole world is changing anyway, and the creeping sense of detachment – as if this isn’t her homeworld anyway, this is just some bizarre, alien place; cold and unfeeling and violent and hateful and not hers anymore – no, she doesn’t want rain on top of all that. And she especially doesn’t want to see it alone. She was never supposed to see it alone – and never like this, shivering in a grimy port room, watching the lonely hours drag by. Why did everything have to change? Why couldn’t the sky stay clear, clear enough that it could filter down the eyes of her husband like it always used to?

    She’s about to repeat to herself: Stop. Stop, Beru, Owen’s – when thankfully there’s a distraction.

    A siren’s gone off outside, and Beru can hear people talking and spilling out of the Cantina. A deep, low-pitched rhythm pours out, rattling her table, every time the club’s doors slide open and hiss closed. If Beru leans up on the window and presses her face against the screen, she can see people of all races stumbling, half-drunk and dazed, out of the noisy bar. An Imperial shuttle has pulled up and parked outside, and a pair of stormtroopers are walking slowly up to the door. She wonders what’s going on.

    And she’s so immersed in the scene outside that she doesn’t hear the crackling buzz coming from her door. Bzzz… bzzz… bzzz…

    “Oh!” Heart pounding, she bolts from the window and runs towards the door. There’s a cheap holopad, she punches in View – and immediately she sees the blurred image of Ben Kenobi standing in the hallway. His back is to the monitor, and he keeps jerking his head forward, coughing into his fist. Then he stretches out his hand towards the buzzer and – bzzz

    She pads the door open, and it slides open with a high-pitched, unoiled screech. “Ben!”

    He ducks his head, coughs again, and before she can control herself she’s thrown her arms around him. “Ben! Ben! Where were you? What – what happened? Are you all right?”

    He’s not all right – he’s clammy and colorless, his clothes are disheveled, and persistent closed-mouth coughs make him jolt in her arms. “Shhh,” he whispers, voice tight between coughs, “Close the door.”

    Back inside, she can’t stop touching him; checking his shoulders, his face, his hairline, his ribs. And he’s sluggishly pushing at her hands, turning his face away, his breathing still riddled with a wheezy hitch. Outside the window, the siren’s noise has reached an annoyingly loud whine – and the streaming red and blue lights paint the room in dizzying shadows.

    “Ben, Ben – ” she’s touching his face now, palms on his beard, “What happened to you? How did you - ? What happened? Tell me what happened!”

    But he shakes his head, and the cough gets worse. A red stream of light catches his face as he looks toward the window – red, blue, red, blue – and he’s blinking fast, swallowing convulsively. “Be – Beru – where’s the refresher?”

    Beru just points and, without warning, Ben tears himself from her arms and staggers to the other room. She hears a thud and then the coughing grows louder, more violent. Outside, the siren has stopped and someone is announcing on loudspeaker: Rain scheduled to arrive in approximately one hour fifty-three minutes standard Imperial time – emergency personal shields available at designated points. All citizens advised to stay inside in case of machine malfunctions –

    A voice from outside – the crowd from the Cantina – yells above the noise: “Is it acid rain?” Laughter.

    A new noise comes from the refresher: heaving coughs, a splash. Hesitating, Beru takes a step, stops, and then rushes to help Ben in the refresher. She finds him on his knees, bent over the lavatory, hands on the floor and wall. There’s something thick and red in the water below him, and he’s gagging out painful dry heaves.

    “Oh no – ” she grabs his shoulder, rubs his back. “Oh no, no, no,” – why is she crying? Shut up, stop that – “No, no, Ben, stop. What is it? You’re sick – what happened? Please tell me what happened.”

    When he stops heaving, and he reaches to flush, she leans forward and pulls the lever before he does. The siren starts to wail again. He turns shakily to sit on the floor and lean against the wall. There’s only one light in refresher – a rickety, greenish glarebulb that dangles from the ceiling. In this light, with the red-blue-red-blue from the main room and the swaying green here, Beru can see that Ben’s eyes are closed and his mouth’s open. Every so often his throat works to swallow. She backs away from him, wipes her eyes, sits on her heels.

    The Imperial speaker starts up again: Attention, attention. Rain scheduled to arrive in approximately one hour forty - correction, thirty-seven minutes. Emergency personal shields

    “I’m sorry about that,” Ben finally says, opening his eyes.

    “What happened? Did… did they come? After I left, I – I didn’t…”

    He stares at the lavatory for a few moments, swallowing, until he eventually murmurs, “We’re safe now.”

    “But why won’t you tell – ”

    “Please, I can’t – ” he starts to cough again.

    “Later,” she rubs his back as he leans forward. “Later. Ben, I was so worried.”

    “I know – I’m sorry.” His voice is strangled, but he smiles a little. “There were delays.” The smile disappears into another fit.

    “You’re sick.”

    “No, no,” he shakes his head quickly, clears his throat. “It’s just – this is temporary.”

    “But, what did you do? What did they do to you?”

    And in that moment, someone from down in the street cries: “Hey! Hey, look!”

    A soft drumbeat. It rolls in quietly, coming first in scattered taps on the roof and windowsill. And then it thickens – more taps, patters – getting heavier and louder and draining out the siren from outside – the laughter and singing and yelling from outside. Almost as if on cue, the swaying flarebulb flashes once, short-circuiting, and then goes out. Ben and Beru are left only in the alternating red-blue lights of the Imperial siren from outside, sitting in the darkness of the refresher.

    Beru turns to look out the window: at first, she can’t see anything against the backdrop of nighttime Mos Eisley. But then, looking closely, there it is: rain. The rain has arrived.

  5. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 5. Introducing my favorite third wheel.


    Most pilots take one look at them and shake their heads. No way, no thanks, no, no, no. Because Ben's cough has not improved: he can't finish a sentence without hacking into his fist. And Beru can't stop checking over her shoulder or looking around, wide-eyed.

    She knows they must look miserable, penniless, naive and hunted.

    The Cantina is quiet since the band is standing in the doorway, watching the rain. Most of the local patrons are also standing at the door, where they talk and laugh and sometimes step out into the muddy street. Even the bartender is there.

    Meanwhile, the off-worlders watch this crowd in the doorway and laugh amongst themselves. Backwater Tatooine, rain worshippers! they yell now and again. So now it's a muddy hole instead of a sandy one, doesn't change much!

    Beru has long since grown accustomed to the sound and smell and visual spectacle of rain. Now she sits at the bar with Ben and listens to the other, quieter conversations inside. She can hear heckling and drunken exclamations from the people in the doorway; she can hear indecipherable murmurs coming from those shadowy tables in the back. She can hear the soft, continuous patter of the rain outside.

    Ben sits beside her, slouched forward, staring at nothing. Every so often his shoulders tense and he jerks a little with a wheezy cough. He doesn’t say anything. Neither of them has touched their drink.

    Beru leans forward, chin in both hands. She's tired. She wants to get out of this place. A fog of smoke lingers around the back tables, and sometimes she can see a pair of red, insectoid eyes peering out at her. But the long hours and fatigue and persistent rejection have dulled her senses; she doesn't care anymore. She doesn't care about any of this anymore. And (she glances sideways to make sure), Ben doesn't seem to care about it either. She's tired and bored and she just wants to go home - even though she knows there isn't a home to speak of, not anymore.

    What are we going to do? she thinks of asking, but then just exhales. Ben doesn't know.

    So she daydreams. Careful to keep her thoughts away from certain topics, certain names, she cautiously ventures away from Tatooine and into the wide, black space. She imagines all the countless stars blinking back at her, and she imagines picking one of these and flying towards it. It would be a planet of green fields and waterfalls and domed buildings - like the worlds she sees on the HoloNet. She would live in a small house, and the suns would burn against the beautiful, stenciled windows. Ben would be there, coming home at the end of the -

    She stops, a sudden cold gripping her stomach. Ben?

    Beside her, he is coughing a little harder now, and when he finishes, he wipes his palm against his thigh.

    "Do you need water or something?" She makes her voice sound unaffected.

    Ben shakes his head and instead swallows his shot of blue liquor. After exhaling sharply, he shakes his head, "No, thank you. I’m fine." He smiles humorlessly. "Though we certainly have enough water now."

    The joke falls flat, and they lapse back into silence. Outside, the rain thickens and someone starts singing.

    "What are we going to do now?" she finally asks.

    Ben swallows. "I don't know."

    "Maybe we should go to another bar?"

    "Our best chances were here..."

    Another lingering quiet.

    "I think we should leave."

    "And go where?"

    "Another bar."

    "Such as?"

    "I don't know..."


    Beru looks away, hurt. Ben sighs.

    "I'm sorry. That was..." he rubs his eyes, "impolite."

    "You always do it, too."

    "No, I don't - "

    "Yes, you do. You know you do." Her stomach drops, like she's just stumbled down a step, as she adds quickly, "You think I'm useless."

    Ben inhales awkwardly, clears his throat and finally mutters, "Beru, I don't think you're useless."

    "Yes, you do," she hisses and then, raising her voice above a whisper, "Anyway, I think waiting here is useless."

    At that, Ben looks tired. "Well, we don't have any other options."

    "We could try another bar..."

    "Beru, I told you - " Ben begins to cough again.

    "To begin with we could go back to the Modise and try again tomorrow."

    Ben is hacking now, but he shakes his head. "Too..." one cough, two coughs, "dangerous."

    Beru lowers her voice, "I thought you said we were safe now."

    His eyes water as he jerks forward, and he nods hastily before Beru can ask her question again. He barely mouths a we are before hacking noisily.

    She begins pounding his back, "Oh, look at you. Listen, forget it, no reason to get your pants in a bunch. Wait here and I'll go get some - "

    "Water, Father?"

    A thin, brown wrist snakes between them, and a bony hand appears, holding a clear glass. Both Ben and Beru jolt around to see a tall, lanky young man standing behind them, glass in hand. His hair is shorn short, an inch of brown fuzz, and his ears are pierced all the way around the lobe and up. His shirt is frayed and stained, his naked arm is scarred in crisscross sections, and the skin around his eyes looks bruised and thin. His shirt collar sinks down below his collarbone, making him look underfed and vulnerable.

    Ben looks at the glass for a moment, hesitating, before taking it with a wheezy thank you.

    "Mother." The young man clasps his hands and makes a short bow to Beru before sidling up alongside Ben. "I come to you - my friend told me you need a pilot."

    Ben finished his water with a pant. "Yes," he says, his voice dropping a register into what Beru has long since realized is his Authoritative Tone, "my name is Ben Inokeb. And this is my wife, Beru. We would need passage to Dantooine."

    "I can take you there. When did you want to leave?"

    "As soon as possible."

    The young man nods (a quick, jerking motion) and scratches compulsively at the space by his eye. "Tonight then. Just you two?"


    "Ten thousand."

    Before she can control herself, Beru scoffs, "Ten thousand? We could buy our own ship with that kind of money!"

    "Many respects, Mother, but who would fly it?"

    "We can pay you seven thousand," Ben says.


    "We have only seven."

    The young man - who looks more like a boy in the overhead glare - looks down at the bar for a moment, his lips moving. He scratches again at the space by his eye. Beru notices how sharp the lines of his face are - how his hipbone juts out as he leans one leg against the counter. His pants look awkward, as if they're a size too large, and his eyes are bloodshot. An uneasy feeling creeps up her spine.

    "Fine, fine," the boy says, nodding again. "Seven. Paying up front."

    Before Beru can kick Ben's shin under the counter, Ben nods. "Deal."

    "My name is Kip Mataa," he bows again, and Ben returns the formality. "My ship is the Shining Stormcloud, and I am in landing bay forty-three southwest. Bring the credits there, in - in two hours."

    "Very well," Ben's voice changes, becoming serene and paternal. "Thank you, Kip."

    Kip smiles disarmingly and then bows again to Beru and strolls away. They watch him walk towards the doorway and muscle through the crowd. Once his lean frame disappears into the rainy street, Beru turns to Ben.

    "Ben! I don't trust him, why did you – how could you trust him so quickly?"

    "Because he's clearly an addict and therefore he'll be as wary of the authorities as we are."

    "An addict?"

    Ben nods slowly. "Possibly a smuggler as well."

    "But... an addict to what?"

    Ben shrugs. "A drug, I suppose." Beru kicks him in the shin and he smiles. He continues seriously, "That would explain the scars and his weight. He may try to steal from us when we're onboard, but apart from that, we'll be quite safe with him. Safe from the Empire."

    They get quiet. After a moment, Beru murmurs, "But he was so young." She looks up at Ben. "Stars, he doesn't even seem old enough to have a license, much less... be addicted to anything."

    Ben smiles sadly. "The injustice of the times."


    The injustice of the times.

    It must be one of Ben's favorite phrases. He says it often enough since they've been together. He said it the... first night - and he's said it now and again for the past month and a half. The contemporary injustice, apparently, applies to all inconveniences - minor and great. When the projector broke, it was the injustice of the times. When the Modise overcharged Beru for her single day in a room, it was the injustice of the times.

    What happened to Luke was the injustice of the times. What is still happening to Ben and Beru is the injustice of the times. The Empire is the injustice of the times.

    And Kip is no exception, according to Ben.

    On the way from the Mos Eisley Cantina to the landing pad, Ben says this about their new pilot. The rain falls in heavy, scattered drops, and the ground is a muddy slide, so that more often than not Beru slips into Ben and he into her. They go to the Lox Arcade first and retrieve all their bags from the safety boxes. Another too-expensive paypad, and even though Ben says nothing, Beru thinks to herself: the injustice of the times.

    After the Arcade, initially carrying but eventually dragging their bags in the mud, they walk down the dark, slippery alleys of Mos Eisley.

    People are still dancing in the rain, and every so often Ben and Beru trip over some beggar in the dark. Imperial shuttles swoop loudly over the rooftops, flying low with sirens blaring. The streets are dark and the mud eventually soaks Beru’s pants up to her calves.

    When they finally reach the artificially lit landing pads, they see a number of people taking shelter from the alien rain and loitering under the awnings surrounding each pad. Medium-sized freighters, enormous barges, sleek Imperial cruisers - engines rumble as these ships take off, and once or twice, Ben and Beru are suddenly blasted with hot air as a ship takes off from the pad they're walking around.

    The rumbling soaks through her, Beru thinks, just like this rain. She's never been on a ship before.

    "Thirty-nine, southwest!" Ben yells, pointing at a nearby sign. "It should be further ahead!"

    Dark silhouettes lean against the walls as they pass. Beru sees hooded figures smoking from fluorescent death-sticks, the tips of these cylinders lighting up with green sparks. Some people are sitting on the ground, huddled amidst rags and old cloaks. There are lovers pushed into shadowed corners, entangled in each other, doing things that make Beru turn her head away quickly.

    Up ahead, Ben walks on, carrying one bag over his shoulder and dragging the larger one behind him. The hoverwheel on one side keeps flickering on and off, so that he has to drag it lopsided, skimming the ground.

    Going in and out of the light, from the harsh bulbs surrounding the pads to the pitch darkness of the alleys between each pad, Beru keeps Ben in her sights. His grey hair is dark and splattered against his forehead. She can see how thin it is. The rain drips off his nose and every time he turns around to speak, he wipes his nose against his shoulder.

    For whatever reason, Beru feels spurred to eventually comment: "You look... wet!"

    "Like a drowned wompa rat, you mean," Ben calls over his shoulder.

    Beru laughs. "Yes."

    "Well, you are just as wet as I, my dear."

    That's true. She can hardly see for how often she has to toss the hair out of her eyes. Right now, the coldest points on her body are her bare hands, her shoes, and her neck where the rainy wind keeps hitting. She hopes their ship has some sort of heater or dryer or something.


    This pad is mostly empty, except for a few beggars who line the far side of the covered walkway. In the center of the pad, with the rain pouring from above and the artificial lights illuminating it from below, the Shining Stormcloud sits like an enormous, dormant monster. A ramp has been lowered on the side – much like a crudely gaping mouth, its rigid tongue cast into the mud. Two lines of tiny portholes look out from its sides – the ribcage – while a thin slit of transparisteel curves around the protruding end of it - the eyes of the face.

    Strange symbols are scrawled on the side facing Beru, and, as she and Ben make their cautious way into the pad and towards the ramp, she stares at these symbols: painted in dark red, swirling colors, they form a rectangle of foreign writing.

    When they get under the protection of the ship's hull, Kip jogs down the ramp to meet them. He and Ben exchange the credits quickly and silently, and Kip steps aside to let them on. Beru can just barely hear Kip’s tenor amidst the cacophony of rain and ships taking off. He’s changed into an old, green sweater with a wide hole on the elbow, and he looks enviably dry.

    Beru looks again at the symbols, and as she passes Kip, he smiles, "Those are the prayer markings. They mean, 'Peace unto he who steps into flight, may he fly to the Eternal Skies.'"

    Unable to think of anything to say, Beru smiles a little and murmurs, "Oh."

    Lady Mary likes this.
  6. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 6. People, they got problems.


    The ship is suspiciously large. That's the first thing Obi-Wan notices once the ramp is closed and their bags are set.

    He can't help but sigh in relief once the weight of the bags is off his hands. During the eternal trudge from the bar to the lockers and then back into the streets to the landing pads, it had felt as if his chest had been slowly coming apart under the stress. Either he's getting old, or it's the...

    He begins to cough unexpectedly hard, and the pain in his chest blossoms into something fiery and wet. He tastes metal on the back of his throat.

    "Bad cough, Father," Kip says, punching the ramp door closed and locking it. "You've been too long in the cold."

    "And rain," Beru says, laughing a little. Her normally blonde hair is plastered flat and brown against her head. It makes her eyes and smile look abnormally large. Obi-Wan keeps coughing. "Ben, are you all right?"

    Swallowing back the metallic thickness in his throat, Obi-Wan nods quickly. He blinks back the tears and motions to the rest of the ship. "Large... ship."

    "Thank you," Kip nods. He looks uncomfortable when he adds, "I... inherited it." He turns. "Come. I'll show you around."

    The ship is on two floors. Upstairs, there is a small kitchenette with a lounge area adjacent. Semicircular couches, a table with a game board etched onto the surface. An overhanging glarebulb, dusty cabinets, some foam poking out from a rip in one seat. A strange odor emanates from the closed freezer.

    Briefly, Obi-Wan wonders how severe Kip’s problem is, and whether he has any drugs aboard. A risky liability. He wonders what Kip uses, running down the list of the more common heavies: glitterstim, sky rock, punch, hi-lo...

    After a low hallway, they pass a number of rooms full of boxes and crates. Obi-Wan sees old pieces of furniture shoved unceremoniously into corners, jumbled amidst boxes containing children's toys. These rooms are unlit, and Kip closes the doors quickly after indicating that they're not to be used. In one room, Obi-Wan catches a glimpse of a skeletal doll, smiling blankly forward, sitting propped up against some old, wiry ship parts.

    Kip's room is small and revealed only briefly, with the opening to the cockpit just around the corner. The rain still batters down on the transparisteel window and, outside, the dark silhouette of Mos Eisley glows faint and blurry.

    "Your room is downstairs," Kip says.

    They each climb down a short ladder, and here the sound of engines reverberates loud in the much grimier environment. Tubes and exhaust pipes crawl along the low ceiling, illuminated orange by the cheap hallway lights. Obi-Wan and Beru's room is at the end of the narrow corridor, a slim door that slides open to reveal a large, bare room.

    Here, there is a hard-looking bed, and another door leading to the refresher. The walls are sheer silver, the bed sheets and pillows are grey. Kip opens the door to the refresher for them, and the room is so small that the three of them can't fit altogether. The rhythmic pulse of the engines drones loudly in the refresher - it rattles the mirror, the sink, the shower's skeleton.

    "Auto'll bring your bags here," Kip says as they squeeze out of the refresher and back into the room. He fingers his commlink: "Auto! Bring the bags to the guestroom." He looks at the two of them. "You want any towels? I have towels."

    Beru nods, still wet and shivering. "Oh, yes, that'd be nice."

    "Towels, Auto," Kip says into his commlink.

    There's a crackling pop in reply, and then Kip turns to them. He smiles; Obi-Wan guesses he must be fifteen years old, maximum. Dark bags under red-rimmed eyes, eyes too old for a fifteen year old. Maybe it’s sky rock...

    "Auto is my droid. I leave you now to settle in. We launch in a half-hour. The Imperials won't let us leave orbit without the ID scans. I'll need your cards."

    Obi-Wan and Beru look at each other.

    "Oh..." Beru begins, "I'm sorry. We - "

    "We lost them," Obi-Wan finishes.

    Kip looks at Obi-Wan for a long moment, but then he nods once. "Okay." He scratches his eye - Obi-Wan thinks he'll develop his own tic soon if Kip doesn't stop doing that. "First time flying?" Kip asks.

    At this, Beru laughs nervously. "Yes, it is. We - I'm sorry, we didn't think we needed our... ID cards."

    "It's fine. I have spares." Kip turns and, as he is leaving, says, "Launch in half-hour, please." The door slides shut behind him.


    Obi-Wan has never liked droids.

    Apart from spending three years fighting them - which always seemed like such an exhausting, immoral task; these things that killed, but couldn't be properly killed; hours and hours of swiping through maroon torsos and spindly arms - Obi-Wan has never liked them and has always had too much to do with them. They have always seemed like vulgar imitations of life - potentially violent thinking machines - and they meddle in things terribly.

    As a boy, he used to be frightened to droids. He often wondered just how intelligent a droid truly was, and - if they were intelligent enough to know you by face or voice or mannerism - why weren't they intelligent enough to seek their own freedom? He used to watch countless holovids about rebellious droids - droids developing emotion, hardwiring themselves, wanting freedom or justice or revenge. The idea used to terrify him, and still terrifies him. The cold logic of a completely immoral being - a being untouched by the Force.

    (Untouched by the Force? The pain in his chest fires up, stinging, and he has a few seconds of difficult breathing.)

    Droids terrify him, because they always make him think: really, what's the difference between their droids and our clones? A droid can think, to a certain extent. As can a clone, to a slightly larger extent. As can a man, to a marginally greater degree. Concentric circles growing larger, but never covering everything... Never fully interpreting reality - the man, just like the droid, is incapable of that. Though the man, unlike the droid, is also doomed by his arrogant ignorance.

    When he was younger (one cough, two coughs), Obi-Wan was always reminded - as a lesson in humility - of how ignorant even the so-called "sentient" species are. As a human, he had emotion and self-perception, yes, but did this entitle him to any more spiritual importance than an emotionless droid or a lesser organic being?

    Did he understand why the galaxy was the way it was? Did he understand the deeper questions any more than a droid or clone or a bush or a tree?

    Why did we live and die? What did the Force want of us? Was the Force regulated by any mortal morality? And if not, if it was truly governed by nothing, if it really was just an independent, binding force... could the Force ever be wrong? Could it ever be harmful or unjust or cruel?

    He starts coughing - and the silver walls seem to move in, encasing his lungs, constricting his windpipe.

    The point of the matter is that droids frighten Obi-Wan. They frighten him on a childish level. They remind him of those horrorvids that he watched as a youngling, they remind him of the Clone Wars. They remind him of the black helmet who used to be his brother - his friend who has now become a rebellious droid himself, more machine than man, tinkering and enlarging and darkening himself into a grotesque machine.

    Droids (and the black helmet) force Obi-Wan to acknowledge his own impotence, his own unimportance, his own human frailty. A droid (or the black helmet) has wires, Obi-Wan has intestines. Where a droid runs on replaceable fuel and oil and black fluids, Obi-Wan's lifeblood is red and thick and so easy to lose. Droids know what they are taught - like Obi-Wan. They live in blissful detachment - as a Jedi should. They are amoral, objective, unbiased, inhuman, terrifying -

    "I am Automatico Three-three-three, Mother," the mechanical voice is saying. "Here are your bags, Mother. Thank you, Mother."

    "Oh, thank you." Beru sounds giggly; she must be tired. "Uh, what can you do, exactly?"

    The droid - Auto - is all spindles and wires. His eyes bulge out, pseudoplastigold.

    "I clean the ship, Mother, and I co-pilot the ship, Mother, and I can cook and perform humanoid dental work and simple medical tasks, Mother, and I speak forty-three dialects of Sector Ninety-two Outer Rim."

    "That's..." Beru glances at Obi-Wan, "helpful."

    "Yes, thank you, Three-three-three," Obi-Wan says.

    "Call me Auto, Father," the droid insists. "For Automatico."


    "Launch in nine minutes, Father."


    "Anything I can do for you, Father?"

    Obi-Wan suddenly can't breathe again; he begins to cough harshly, trying in vain to clear the fluids burning down in his lungs. Auto moves forward and places his cold claws against Obi-Wan's chest.

    "Please be still, Father," Auto instructs as he moves one hand up and then down, scanning Obi-Wan's chest. After a moment of silence, with Beru watching Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan's breath coming in long, rattling inhalations, Auto steps back. "No virus, Father, and no infection, Father. We have cough drink upstairs, Father."

    "What? No virus or infection? How do you know that?" Beru asks with an incredulous grin.

    "X-ray scan and pulmonary sensor, Mother. Launch in six minutes."

    "All right, yes, thank you, and no, I don’t need the cough drink." Obi-Wan says. "We'll be upstairs for the launch."

    Auto folds himself down into a bizarre imitation of a servant's bow, and then he rolls out of the room and slides the door shut behind him. Obi-Wan coughs a little, shifting the towel around his shoulders.

    A hand suddenly presses his chest, warm and human against the damp shirt.

    "How could he do that?" Beru asks wonderingly, staring at Obi-Wan's chest.

    "Rudimentary med add-ons. Or he might have been lying, demonstrating what he can do."

    "Droids don't lie."

    "Some do."

    Beru presses her palm, heel down, into the center of Obi-Wan's chest, the center of the fiery pain. He's about to fumble an embarrassed retreat, but she doesn't seem disturbed by this sudden intimacy. Still looking at his shirt, she asks,

    "Ben… are you all right?"

    Obi-Wan coughs then, stepping away. "Fine, thank you, Mother. Launch in four minutes, Mother." Beru chuckles. "We'd better head upstairs."

    "You big nerfherder."


    The launch is smooth; first, there is the sound of grinding machines followed by a rumbling that is felt in the armrests and seat buckles. The engines ignite and Mos Eisley shimmers before them. Beru looks pale when the first swoosh of gravity hits, right as Kip pulls the ship up and noses out of the landing pad, but then the life control systems kick in and the stomach-dropping sensation fades away.

    Perhaps the change isn't so spectacular - breaking the atmosphere in the night sky. It goes largely unnoticed until suddenly, Kip pulls them around and the planet of Tatooine whirls drunkenly before them.

    Beru gasps, "We're so high up!"

    "We're in orbit now," Kip says.

    Bleak and cold, space surrounds them and Obi-Wan realizes this is his first time off of Tatooine since his arrival - nearly six years ago. He had forgotten the rush of flying - how, even if the life control systems keep the nausea at bay, they don't blind you to the dangerous drops and sudden, tumbling turns. They don't keep the memories at bay - the cold feeling, the stale, re-circulated air, the darkness everywhere. It's like the starfighter all over again.

    Thankfully, Kip is a conservative driver.

    After not more than ten minutes in orbit, the Communications Alert light starts blinking. Kip hits a button, and a droid's voice snaps through the speakers:

    "Ship registration code two two four zee, this is Imperial Air and Space Navigation. Three life-forms detected on board, requesting identification cards and flight plan."

    "Copy that, Nav. Sending flight plan now. Give me a nano on the ID cards." Kip loads a three-inch-thick disk into a slot, and the image of a loading bar appears. Above it, a small light starts blinking, Sending... Sending...

    Kip shuts off the commlink and turns to Obi-Wan and Beru. "The fake IDs will cost you extra."

    "What?" Obi-Wan asks.

    "Not too much, Father," Kip soothes. "Three hundred. One fifty each."

    "Three hundred?" Beru exclaims.

    "Fine, fine," Obi-Wan says. "You'd better not keep them waiting."

    Kip nods in agreement. He swings his chair around the cockpit console and punches a few buttons. A metal container emerges, and Kip pulls out three grimy-looking cards. He takes these three and, rubbing one on his pant leg, proceeds to feed them into another comm drive. Obi-Wan catches a glimpse of one: he sees the face of an older man with dark skin like Kip's, black hair and a genial smile. Another goes in, a woman, and then finally, Obi-Wan recognizes a child’s face - a young boy with black hair falling in tufts over his eyes. A wide smile, and the name reads: Kipson Peace Mataa.

    Before Obi-Wan can see the standard date of birth, Kip loads everything in the drive.

    A few moments pass, and then a green light starts blinking from the comm link. The droid's voice returns: "Flight plan and ID cards accepted. Proceed to sunside oh two zero and have a pleasant trip, Commander Mataa."

    "Thank you," Kip says and then shuts off communication.

    While Kip unloads the flight plan disk and ID cards from the console's drives, Obi-Wan turns in his chair. Beside him, Beru is staring down at the warm, beige tones of Tatooine. The twin suns blind them for a moment, but then they rise above the cockpit window, giving Kip, Obi-Wan and Beru a clear view of Tatooine below.

    Kip smiles at her. "It's obvious you've never flown, Mother - your eyes are as big as the two suns above us.”

    "Yes..." Beru says absent-mindedly. She suddenly points to something on the planet; a dark ridge, brown against the glowing yellows and golds. "Look! It's Beggar's Canyon!" Her voice drops, "I didn't know you could see it from space... It looks so small."

    Kip turns the ship away, causing Beru to gasp again and Obi-Wan to clutch at his armrests.

    "Buckle in," Kip instructs, even though they're all already buckled in. "This is our jump point."

    And without further warning, he pulls back a lever and suddenly the stars flash and drag forward - the engines giving a roaring boost as the ship lurches into hyperspace.


    “You can use the shower first, if you want,” Beru says, yawning. “I’ll just get ready here.”

    “Are you sure?”

    Beru nods again, stifling another yawn, and waves him away.

    In the refresher, the engines thrum violently. Rhythmic and low, the noise is all-consuming. It causes the mirror to rattle, so Obi-Wan must hold it still in order to see himself clearly. The man looking back at him has white hair, a graying beard and bloodshot eyes. He can see his cheekbones – they look sharp. He looks underfed. Crazy, old hermit. Bastard.

    He lets go of the mirror and the image blurs.

    Stripping down, shivering in the cold (he has forgotten how cold space is after so many years of burning under Tatooine’s suns), Obi-Wan climbs into the shower. He spends a moment or two trying to close the transplastic doors and, once they are shut, he begins working the knobs and buttons. An unseemly, grey fungus crawls up one of the shower walls.

    Meanwhile, Obi-Wan presses the Shower On button. Nothing happens.

    He begins to cough, and tries pulling at another knob. It twists in his hand and then a sudden jet of icy water spurts from the showerhead.

    “Dammit! Damn, damn, damn!” His voice is drowned out by the thundering engines. Frantically, Obi-Wan fumbles with the other knobs and eventually finds the one regulating temperature. The water sputters once, coming out tepid and dark, but eventually it clears and becomes warmer.

    The grainy soap stings on the scratches and cuts on his legs and arms, but Obi-Wan’s hand stops altogether when it reaches his chest. There, in the middle of his chest, right at the bone, he looks down and sees a dark, nearly black stain. A bruise.

    The coughing starts again.

    Have any Jedi ever done this, Master?

    Few, and they are Jedi no longer. Unfortunately, this was all too common in the Sith Wars, Obi-Wan. Often, they needed to protect information, or, perhaps, they needed to protect themselves – from the Dark Side, from their enemies, whatever - and cutting their sacred ties to the Force seemed the only solution. They suffered for it, and many called them cowards, but we cannot judge.

    But, Master… Master Yoda has said that it is impossible to ignore the Force, even if one tries.

    Ignore it completely, yes. But this mutilation was not about ignoring or destroying the Force around you – no, that is impossible for anyone to achieve. This was about disfiguring oneself enough so that one was no longer recognizable within the Living Force, one could no longer feel it as one did, no longer control it. Indeed, many who tried returning to the Jedi ranks once the Sith had fallen found it impossible to reintegrate themselves into their training. They found they could not do even the most basic tasks that a youngling is taught. And they were incapable of re-learning what they had lost. It was as if they had lost a limb. They were often called the Hollow Ones.

    For a moment of panic, Obi-Wan thinks he is going to die and no one will hear him over the engine’s roar. He is on his knees in the shower, coughing down into the sinkhole. He cannot breathe, stars flash in his eyes. The water beating against him and the fire in his lungs will kill him – he is sure of it. He is going to die, this is how he will die, he cannot breathe, they will kill him for sure…

    He tries calling for Beru, but nothing comes of it. He gags and chokes and feels the fire roaring in his chest, spreading out into his lungs and up into his esophagus.

    Finally, with a final, heaving cough, enough so that tears stream from his eyes and he jerks forward violently, something dark and red splatters against the shower stall and quickly washes away with the water.

    Trembling, he sits back against the wall and wipes his mouth. It comes away bloody.

    He puts his head in his hands, closes his eyes, and croaks, “Damn.”


    The bruise is dark purple in the center, and it spreads out in red prick marks around his chest. The hair hides a little, but not very much. Holding the mirror still, Obi-Wan looks at the reflection, studying it. He pulls back the hairs and stretches his skin. He tests the purple mark with his thumb, and the slightest touch in the center provokes another round of coughing. Frightened that he will cough blood again, he turns on the faucet and drinks hastily from the murky water there. The cough passes.

    The accident. It could have been the accident on the way to Mos Eisley. He remembers slamming into the Imperial shuttle’s controls, and for much of the long walk after that, he had thought one of his ribs was cracked. And then the speederbike – he has never been good with those – it might have been one of the times he bumped the dune’s ridge on the bike. That had jammed his chest into the handlebars.

    It could have been the physical stress of having to drag the bodies and burn them. Or it could have been the stifling air, the heat, the blindness. It could have been Obi-Wan's inability to see past what his eyes told him, to feel more than what he himself felt.

    Every so often, since his suicide, the Force would come to him in unforeseen waves. He would be walking, stumbling along the sand, making his way to Mos Eisley, when suddenly everything would light up, blinding him, and he would understand everything in that one moment: he would see himself, three kilometers from the edge of the spaceport. He would see Beru, frightened and anxious, waiting for him in The Modise. And he would see Qui-Gon's dim silhouette, just a few steps away...

    But he has felt nothing for the last few hours. The air is empty, the energy that used to brighten and crackle around him is gone. Washed away as simply as that. And all he can see is... the refresher wall, the rattling mirror, himself.

    He dries himself and gets dressed.

    Beru is already fast asleep on the bed, and she is using his old brown robe as a blanket. Obi-Wan sneaks quietly towards his bags and begins looking for his sleeping mat. He finds it buried underneath an old, burnt tunic and wrapped around a padlocked container. There is also a small, lumpy pillow near the mat. He takes them out.

    After preparing his makeshift bed a respectable distance from Beru and using his bags as a "wall", Obi-Wan reaches into his bag's side pocket. Inside, there is a jar with some pills in it. He shakes out two yellow ones - thinking of the last time he used these, when he had needed nearly three to fall asleep - and he goes back to the refresher.

    Cupping his hands, he takes a gulp of metal-tasting water and swallows back the tranquipills. The effects are immediate. His head nods forward, his eyes droop, and his legs nearly fold in on themselves before he fumbles clumsily for a grip on the sink. Staggering back, he barely makes it to his mat before stumbling forward and falling asleep as he falls.


    No Dream pills, tranquipills. Pale yellow, yellow for dreamless, peaceful sleep, and they usually sit in the pill jar, rattling with the former General Kenobi’s pain pills and med vaccines and his tiny, little, always avoided (but never ignored) suicide pill.

    Meanwhile, upstairs and three doors down, Kipson Peace Mataa injects a shot of sky rock behind his left ear. It takes approximately three seconds for the drug to hit, and once it does, he flops down onto his back and falls into his own numb sleep.

  7. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 7. But people, they also got big hearts.


    They fall out of hyperspace too soon, and the ship screeches and rumbles and tears itself apart. Only it doesn't - they're still whole - but they've fallen out of lightspeed into a field of debris. Blackened hulls hurtle by the cockpit window; pieces of starfighters, pieces of Imperial starships. The stars blink bright and cold, a background of black water to these spinning grey machines, this fresh destruction.

    "There was a battle here," Ben says. "It must have just ended. It wasn't on the mapscreens."

    Kip says nothing, he's too intent on piloting. He pulls at the controls, causing their ship to lurch forward and down suddenly, and they avoid a block of Star Destroyer as it rumbles past. Another sharp turn; they miss a spray of gas from a crumpled cruiser. Ben sits down quickly, going pale. Beru stands by the door and holds onto the frame.

    "Easy, Kip, easy." Ben mumbles.

    Kip grunts, his eyes glued to the screens around him.

    There's an explosion behind them, the ship rocks forward but not before Kip deftly and silently maneuvers them into empty space.

    "We need to get out of here," Ben says suddenly, urgently. "Imperial probes will be here in a nano - "

    "I know, Father, I know!" Kip barks. Beru sees a trail of sweat glisten against his temple. She moves tentatively forward, and she's about to clutch Ben's shoulder when there's a loud beeping and Kip gasps, "They're here already! Hold on!"

    He pulls a lever and suddenly they're free-floating in the cockpit. Beru screams, even Ben lets out a surprised yelp. The ship goes dark, all the lights on the dashboard disappear, blinking out. And suddenly, there they are, illuminated only by the starlight outside, the temperature dropping fast, their breaths crystallizing before them. Ben floats out of his seat and his head hits Beru's nose; she grabs at him, frantic, and his leg gets tangled in the armrest. Kip hovers over them, his hands holding the seatback, his legs above him.

    "Shhh, shhh," he hisses. "There they are." His breath is audible.

    Beru sees them: black machines, stretched oblong, falling out of hyperspace One, two, three. There are five of them altogether, and they swoop back and forth - lunging past the cockpit's narrow field of vision. The Shining Stormcloud starts to spin slowly, and Beru is squeezing Ben now, terrified. They tremble and their breaths go ragged. Kips' boot bumps Beru's shoulder. Beru can't see anything - she feels like throwing up. She closes her eyes and grabs for anything stable.

    "If - if we h-hit an-n-nother sh-shi - " Ben's teeth are chattering.

    "We won't, we won't," Kip breathes sharply.

    "This sh-ship's not strong enough," Ben continues.

    "I can't afford to keep the shields on! Anything - anything at all and they'll detect us!"

    "Be quiet!" Beru’s voice squeaks.

    She opens her eyes. Further ahead, two ship-remnants meet; a Star Destroyer with a massive hole in its belly and one of the cruisers. Slowly, painfully, the Destroyer tears into the cruiser; belching explosions, crushing into it like a hammer into foil. Kip, Ben and Beru immediately freeze, watching, and Beru can see figures spilling out of the Destroyer's stomach; tiny figures floating out, spinning into space.

    Suddenly Ben's hand is on her face and he's covering her eyes, pushing her head away.

    "Ben - Be - stop it! Let me - !"

    She pulls at his hand, she can see through his fingers; she can see the people falling into space, tiny arms, tiny legs, spinning; dozens of them spurting from the Star Destroyer's open wounds -

    "Be - ! Ben!"

    "Shhh!" Kip hisses. "Silence!"

    Noise: a roar of engines, and a probe speeds past them and towards the Star Destroyer. And suddenly there's an explosion, something that rocks them back and away from the scene. The Shining Stormcloud is knocked back and Beru can feel her stomach drop, pull away from her. Ben makes a noise and starts fumbling around, holding onto her and keeping a hand on the window’s frame. His knuckles are white, he pushes his cheek into her side.

    Meanwhile Kip pulls himself forward, moving towards the controls. Another probe burns past the cockpit window.

    "We need to get out of here, now!" Kip mutters frantically. "If - if we jump immediately - they won't have time to track us –and – and we can jump again – oh Spirit, oh Spirit, we need to go."

    Something crunches into them - noise, blasts; Kip's voice, startlingly high, swearing to the heavens. Ben's rambled instructions, his iron grip. The probes roaring, roaring, screaming past like the people as they spin into space and suffocate to death clutching at their throats; Beru hears herself yelling something, wild and uncontrolled; go, go, go, go - !

    The lights blink once, twice, turn on; Kip shoves a card into a slot, pulls a lever, all the while praying hysterically; Beru thinks she sees a probe jerk around, further afield, and then abruptly the stars field ships everything becomes still before stretching back into long, thin lines.

    Just as they jump into hyperspace, the grav-control kicks in and all three of them are flung back, landing in a painful pile by the cockpit's far wall.


    When they fall out of hyper for the second time, all of space is lit up: orange cresting to deep blood-red, with a craggy opening of black in the middle. The stars are white and yellow, faraway and safe from this ocean of fire.

    They are all in the cockpit, holding onto their armrests with white knuckles, and Kip points out that the black opening is dark energy and to be avoided. His voice trembles, they're still recovering.

    "They should lose us on the third jump... if anyone's following. No one might be following us. Just... precautions."

    He pulls the ship around; they turn their back on the red.

    They jump again.


    Days later, and it is the third time they drop out of hyperspace. Space is green and blue and cold. Beru feels that they are traveling very far, she gets pinpricks on her scalp when she thinks of how life changes, how time changes, how space stretches and turns all these beautiful colors. She is so far from Tatooine, she can't imagine it even though she tries. And she is starting to love and hate space travel; how beautiful and terrible the galaxy is. She starts to understand what Ben meant all those weeks ago, back on Tatooine, about the starfighter.

    Ben doesn't come to the cockpit anymore, since during their last drop he had felt sick. Instead he spends most of his time taking showers. The chrono has broken, time passes unnoted. Days stretch on, and Beru starts to gauge time by the number of showers Ben takes and the number of times Kip disappears into his room.


    "May I sleep in the bed tonight?"

    Is it night?

    Beru looks up at Ben's blunt request. He's standing on his side of the room, looking not at her face but at some point behind her left shoulder.

    "What? I - sure. Yes, of course. I'll take the sleeping mat, it isn't fair if you're always..."

    She doesn't finish, and he doesn't help her. He just shrugs slowly. "We're adults. We could share it. The floor is rather uncomfortable."

    Her first impulse is to say no. No, no, no, no. No. She's married, and Ben is Ben.

    Ben is waiting; he starts to cough his little, breathy jolts.

    "Fine. Yes. But - I don't - we're - "

    "Yes, of course." He exhales. "Don't worry. I wasn't intending anything..." and he smiles. Maybe it's the familiarity and scarcity of his smile, but seeing it relaxes her. Suddenly, she thinks: poor, hurt Ben.

    Later, when they've each had their turn in the refresher, and they're both wearing their most conservative sleep-clothes (Beru having taken care to wear two layers; Ben having buttoned every button), they climb into the single bed, giggling and embarrassed like adolescents. They both lie on their backs, keeping a tiny space between them, even though Beru can feel Ben's warmth and smell his hair and their shoulders are almost touching.

    He becomes serious. She follows suit, but they don't say anything. Instead, she turns on her side, facing him, and watches his profile. He doesn't seem to mind. The lights are bright and glaring in the room; the ship's engines thump-thump under them.

    She doesn't remember falling asleep, but at one point she wakes up to a dark room. She's still on her side, a little stiff now, and Ben has his back to her. She spends some time looking at it, studying his hair and the way it looks blue in this darkness. He seems asleep.

    With one hand, she reaches up and touches his arm. He stirs and turns; his eyes are open.

    "Oh, I'm sorry - did I wake you?"

    "No. I wasn't sleeping."

    They speak in whispers.

    "What are you thinking about?"

    "Nothing in particular."

    "I can't really sleep either."

    "We should talk."

    "Yes..." Beru trails off.

    "What shall we talk about?" Ben shifts onto his back.

    "Is the ship alright? Kip said something hit us at that battle... but he said it wasn't serious. Is that true? Did you go up and look?"

    "No, it's not serious. We may need to stop somewhere for supplies and some repairs. Some debris bumped us, but it didn't break the durasteel."

    "If it broke the durasteel... what would have happened?"

    "Well... I guess Kip must have some sort of locking mechanism on this thing. The area with the break would seal itself off from the rest of the ship."

    "Do most ships have that?"

    "Yes. Most do. Except for the very small ones."


    "...otherwise, we'd be pulled out into space."

    "Like those people, back there."

    Ben doesn't say anything for a long moment, and Beru doesn't look at him. His voice breaks the silence: "Yes. I'm surprised they were still on. Most Star Destroyers have enough escape pods for the entire crew." There's another pause. "They might not have been crew."

    "Who could they have been?"

    Ben shrugs. "Prisoners. Knowing the Empire..."

    "That's terrible."

    Ben doesn't reply.

    "Have you ever seen something like that before?"

    "Yes." Beru waits and Ben continues, "It happened once or twice... during the wars. Mostly single pilots though. It's the first time I've seen a, uh, group of people."

    "I can't wait until we land somewhere. I'm so tired of this ship."

    Ben smiles. He shifts in the bed and his hand find hers. He gives it a squeeze.


    Ben takes three showers a day, and Beru finds this weird. The sound of water slamming against the stall, of squeaking knobs and rickety doors, all becomes very familiar.

    "You're always in there," Beru says to him one day, and he blushes and mumbles something about the steam helping his cough.

    During one of his showers, she looks through his things. Space travel monotony, she thinks, even though it doesn't erase the guilt. She finds a robe, she finds some pajamas, undershirts, trousers, a locked box, and (scandalously) only four pairs of underpants.

    Everything is well-worn, but well taken care of. There are discreet patches, rudimentary stitches. The colors have faded, everything taking on that dull sand color. Everything is clean, disinfected, placed into orderly piles. Beru takes a moment to admire Ben's folding - even his underpants are folded into neat triangles.

    She wonders if this is all he has, or thought to bring. She wonders how he lives, and not just because of the underpants. But that's Ben: clean and orderly and well-worn, with discreet patches and discreet scars.


    It's been a long time since they've seen Kip, and Obi-Wan is starting to wonder. Sky-rock kills, and Kip is young. Instinctively, he reaches out with the wounded part of himself, only to recoil in hurt. No, that won't work; it can't and it shouldn't be trusted. So he does it the old-fashioned way.

    He walks to Kip's room, knocks on the door, waits for a response. When he knocks again, he hears movement and some shuffling. That's enough to satisfy.

    On his way back, Obi-Wan gazes out of the cockpit window and watches the tunnels of light and dark as they flash past. The lights in the larger room are off, and so there is only the light of hyperspace.

    The Jedi are like the stars and the suns and all the light in the galaxy, and the Sith are the darkness, the black, empty spaces. Light energy and dark energy. They are even and they exist one with the other. They do not touch, cannot mix, you are either light or dark. You cannot be neither, you cannot be both.

    But why is it easier to look into the dark than it is into the light, Master?

    It is an easier path. Remember Master Yoda's teachings: the path to darkness is easy, it is convenient. Light takes work, Obi-Wan, it takes energy and time. You will suffer for it - just as your eyes suffer to look directly at the sun above you. And there the shadows may give you comfort, but you cannot let them call you in.

    But why should the light make us suffer so? Wouldn't it make more sense for it to be more natural to us, more... right-feeling?

    (Qui-Gon laughs.) It is - just think of your nights and think of your days. Think of your morning mood and your evening mood. The plant can only live with sunshine - or some form of light, anyway - and the same with the human, the Twylek, the Bothan, even the gondark. (Obi-Wan laughs now.) We cannot live without light. And yet light makes us suffer, as well, just as life is suffering. These are cyclical teachings, Obi-Wan, you've heard this all before.

    Yes, Master.

    Think of what love is, how we must sometimes suffer for it. Think of the poets I always find you reading; don't they speak of how love is both a pleasure and a torture?

    Yes, Master.

    Yet the rewards are great. Compassion, love, light, truth. These are all difficult things - not to recognize or appreciate - but to practice. Every day and every moment, in everything you do, it is hard to practice tolerance, to speak out against lies, but it is the only way if you are to be one with the light. Mindful living, Obi-Wan, that is the righteous path

    Obi-Wan stares at the light of hyperspace, thinking. He contemplates how now light and dark mix, and there are so many shades of grey. He contemplates Jedi detachment, and how he took it the wrong way: how he let it make him aloof and blind, how he had receded into his own shadows. Ignorance is the source of much suffering, the Jedi used to say, ignorance is an indirect path to the Dark Side. And Obi-Wan thinks of his own willful ignorance. His pride, his arrogance, his casual and dangerous assumption that everything was all right and he was on the right side.

    A door slides open and Kip emerges from his room, disheveled and grumpy. "Did you want something...?"

    "No, no," Obi-Wan says, feeling ashamed for something he doesn't understand. He can't look at Kip. "Sorry to bother."

    The door slides shut without another word.


    They choose Odeira Ten. The tenth moon of Odeir, the only habitable point in the entire Odra system. They choose it because, as Kip puts it, it is a poor planet and the Empire ignores the poor. It is also dominated by humans, meaning the Empire sees no opportunity for slaves (thanks to its non-human slave policies). It is practically untouched.

    Obi-Wan, Beru and Kip study the charts and maps and free Holopedia entries. They learn that Odeira Ten was an artistic center in the days of the Old Republic, but that after a grand civil war and a mass exodus of most of its inhabitants seven hundred years ago the moon has fallen into economic regress. They learn that over seventy percent of the population lives at the bare subsistence level, and that almost everyone is involved in agriculture. The land masses are large, punctured by thousands of large, deep fresh-water lakes. There is only one spaceport, and they don't even check Kip's nav codes when Kip requests a landing site.

    The Holopedia entry continues: organized crime dominates the three small urban centers, but most of the population lives in the rural areas. Disease is widespread. The last recorded famine was three standard years ago, and it killed one third of the moon's population.

    Odeira Ten is the receiver of Imperial aid, though it's less than what they received under the Republic.

    It is small, poor, almost forgotten and perfect for Kip, Obi-Wan and Beru.

    Kip pulls a lever and the landing gear unfolds.


    "Oh, no..." Kip groans.

    "What is it?"

    Beru comes around the other side of the ship to where Kip is standing. Her footsteps are light and buoyant; she feels weightless.

    Kip has his hands on his hips and he is looking up. The warm wind rustles the tall grasses surrounding the tiny landing pad. In the distance, blue mountains rear up from the ground. The sun is large and up close, but it's nonetheless cooler than Tatooine. Ben is somewhere in the fields.

    "Look," Kip motions.

    The dent in the ship is smaller than Beru expected; the durasteel folded in like cheap foil. She sees some markings which have been scratched off.

    "Oh... I'm sorry, Kip. The prayer markings."

    "That's an ill omen, you know. Very bad sign."

    "Do you believe in that sort of thing?"

    Kip shrugs and sighs. He has dark circles under his eyes.

    All around, the spaceport feels empty. Beru hugs a shawl around her shoulders and searches the fields for Ben; she finds him faraway and small, walking away from them.

    "I'll send Auto for water and supplies. And to see if there's anyone who could fix it..." Kip glances around. The spaceport is surrounded by fields. "Though I doubt it." He scratches behind his ear.


    His steps are light, like walking on air. The sky is cloudless, the grasses sway and reach up to his chest. Logic attributes this to a temperate moon with low gravity, but Obi-Wan likes to think the warm air and weightlessness come from being off the ship and on the ground again. He feels mildly pleasant.

    He makes a tentative jump and finds that he soars in the air, leaving the field and nearly meeting the too-close sun, before he comes gliding back down. Obi-Wan smiles, remembering a lighter moment from his childhood.

    The comlink buzzes.



    "There was a village close by. I saw it while we were landing. I'm going to investigate."

    "Be careful."

    "I will."

    "Call if you need anything."

    "I will."

    "Kip and I will probably stay here - he's found someone who can help with the ship. Ben... be back soon."

    "Yes, Mother."

    The comlink crackles with laughter and Obi-Wan hears Beru clicking off.


    The sun is large and red by the time he leaves the fields and reaches a wide dirt path. Insectoids have been pecking at his neck for the last hour, destroying some of the pleasantness and no doubt giving him a rash. They keep nestling in his beard and then making tiny pricks, so that he has to shake his head and slap his cheeks to get them out. He longs for a shower.

    The village is made of stone and wood houses. Old, recycled glowlamps hang on curved poles which line the streets. People are talking, Obi-Wan can hear voices in the twilight, he can see rooms lighting up in the evening. Children play, and a group of them immediately spot him and start crowding around, their hands pushing against his pockets, tugging at his robes.

    Rustles in the air around him cause him to start coughing. Gently, he pushes his way through the crowd of children and makes his way towards the center of the village. Most people eye him for a moment before going back to their conversations; no one is alarmed.

    But the air is moving, in a way that brushes past Obi-Wan's wounded part, and he is coughing very hard now. Like the insects buzzing by his mouth, he feels something nagging at his subconscious - something tight and yearning, like an itch at the back of the throat or a sting right in the palm. Something impossible to ignore; Obi-Wan keeps coughing.


    The square is paved. A large mosaic's tentacles reach out from the center and spiral down into every surrounding street. It is the time of silhouettes, when the sky keeps some of its delicate blues while the ground is cast in black. A market is ending, merchant shadows move around as they pack up all the stalls.

    Obi-Wan's cough continues; annoying and iron-tasting. Embarrassed, he tries to hold it in, keeps his fist to his mouth, smiles gently at the passing people.

    But now the itch has become something stronger and something is pushing at his brain hard and insistent. He knows what this is now; but he tells himself to ignore it, that the ties are broken and the severance is done and he can already imagine the bruise in his chest turning an angry red and spreading, he coughs again and has to stop to cough and cough and cough -

    "Di lect, ruil-han?"

    A brown hand appears, jug of water in hand.

    Clearing his throat, he nods and takes it with a hoarse, "Thank you..." (thinking this is becoming a trend in his life lately).

    As he drinks, he turns to see who handed him the water. A young woman stands before him, shorter than him and in her late teens. She stands awkwardly, as if her hips are misaligned, and when she shifts there is a low whirring of machinery. She is staring at him with large, frightened eyes, and he wonders if he's broken some unspoken cultural rule.

    He racks his brain for a minute; rapidly sifting through all he knows about Mid-Rim dialects in the one hundred plus sector, and he begins to mouth a tentative reply when the girl cuts him off, whispering softly,

    "Master... Kenobi?"​

  8. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 8. We got a case o' the sads.


    Moire was a youngling during the Purge, she says. Her legs disintegrated under her, she says, when the first clonetroopers stormed the sacred halls. An older padawan helped her. The boy dragged her out of the Temple and cut his braid and covered them both in dirty robes and found the first public trans-car to a hospital, she says. They lived on the streets after that, she says, for three months. She says it was hard, and the government-issue artificial legs were uneven and used. Like these old ones, she adds with a self-conscious laugh. She was eight years old then, she says, which makes her sixteen now, Obi-Wan calculates.

    Obi-Wan watches this young woman as she hobbles down the hill towards her home, he lagging a few steps behind her. He sees a flash of duraplastic under ragged robes, and he can hear the painful clicking of the machines she uses for legs. He tries not to stare.

    She says she didn't recognize him at first, but she doesn't say why.

    She says she's honored to have met him finally, if strangely and by accident, since they never actually met in the Temple, but she remembers him well - especially his voice - which in the days of the Clone Wars used to ring out from every HoloNet transmitter in the Temple. He was always on the news. She even heard him give a seminar once, on mindful breathing and the impermanence of everything or something like that- but mostly she remembers him from the HoloNet broadcasts, bright lights flashing in his face, microphones hovering around his head like a halo.

    She doesn't ask what he's doing on Odeira but treats him respectfully, keeping her eyes down, bowing her head, always ending every phrase with Master.

    She invites him to dinner with her family.


    Moire came to Odeira Ten because her parents were from here and they came to Coruscant as soon as they discovered what had happened to the Jedi Temple. They spent all the money they had for transport into the Inner Rim and had to borrow more to get back. They spent four weeks searching for their daughter in the lower levels of Coruscant before finally finding her. It had been an unhappy reunion.

    Moire didn't want to call them mother and father, she didn't want to leave Coruscant. She had never known Odeira Ten, she didn't speak the local dialects, she was afraid and in shock. By then she had become a child of the lower levels, part of the undergrowth, hard and mean. She had learned how to steal, she had pushed away everything she had learned in the Jedi Temple. Being young, she had already absorbed the lower level dialect - with all its vulgarities and discriminatory remarks - she had absorbed a lot of new things.

    But they had left on a smelly refugee barge, her parents practically dragging her, and Moire had started her second life, here on Odeira Ten, as a farmer's daughter and not a Jedi padawan.


    Moire says all this matter-of-factly, almost embarrassed. She keeps glancing back at Obi-Wan, and then smiling with hints of poorly concealed nervousness, suspicion.

    Obi-Wan tries not to stare, but one leg is notably longer than the other. It makes the girl limp, makes her gait sound like kha-schhh kha-schhhh. He feels the vein in his forehead throbbing, distracting him from Moire's stories. He sees colorful explosions behind his eyelids; dancing lights in the dark flesh when he squeezes his eyes shut. He can imagine all the sordid details of her story, and he finds himself unable to offer support.

    In the dark of night, Moire lights a glowlamp on a stick and uses this to lean on. From behind, she looks like an old woman. Obi-Wan lags.


    "That? Oh... that's my father."

    Kip smiles a little, indicating Beru can keep looking. She clicks forward and the hologallery skips to another grainy image: this one of a good-looking couple standing in front of a large statue. The man in the image has dark hair and a long nose. He smiles handsomely, while the image jumps with static. The woman has her arm wrapped around his waist and she is shielding her eyes from the light coming from behind the camera.

    "Both my parents," Kip murmurs.

    "I'm sorry - you show me if you want to," Beru grins, moving away, "I feel embarrassed - I was just looking for the heater."

    "Oh, it's that too, Mother!" Kip chuckles. "We - well, my parents bought it a long time ago. It's supposed to be a hologallery, a travel-heater, and a wi-fi recorder, all in one. They purchased it on Coruscant, this was when they visited... a long time ago. It probably costs a quarter of its original price now." His voice softens, but then picks up again, "Look. Watch this."

    Kip presses a button and the top of the machine opens up, spinning. A container appears, lids open. Kip places Beru's plate into it and then presses another button. The food disappears into the machine.

    "Just don't let it heat too long," Kip says. "Or else the food will explode."


    Moire's parents don't speak Basic, and Obi-Wan doesn't speak the dialect. This saves him a difficult exchange, he imagines, since their reaction to his presence is less than welcoming. When Moire tells them something, her voice hard and desperate, they yield and Obi-Wan feels even less wanted.

    Their home is a two-room hut. Ancient carvings decorate the earthen walls. A few rusty glowlamps sit in small niches. Outside, insects chirp.

    Obi-Wan sees Coruscant again. He sees streaming lights dragged across the night sky. He sees impossible skyscrapers piercing the atmosphere, reaching their hands into space, reaching towards a deity or an ideal. He can hear the whine of engines, the thrum of recycled air and homogenous carpeting. Everything bustled outside, pilots and drug dealers crawling over each other in alleys thick with urban creatures. The private corners in the Temple, reserved for the deepest, highest meditation - meditation into the night sky, meditation to join the stars with. Mindful breathing and silence. He can see it all again.

    They sit to eat.


    "This is very good," Beru says, and Kip smiles.

    "It's an old dish. Red firepods with pentains. Auto makes this all the time when it's just me and him."

    Beru chews. She glances around the ship. Kip smiles; he seems to be in a good mood. He's not eating, though. Beru frowns, and asks tentatively,

    "And... how long has it been...? Just you and Auto, I mean."

    Kip shifts in his seat, crossing his arms. "Oh... a standard year... or so. About... such." He exhales. "Auto should be getting back with the water now. You know, Mother, the dials were very low - we had barely any water left."

    "Oh, I'm sorry," Beru says, relieved for the change of topic. "That's probably Ben - he's very fond of... well, showering."

    Kip chuckles. "He is very orderly, Mother." He makes a motion with his hand, juts his chin out with an air of mock-discipline. "He is very regular."

    Beru smiles. "Yes, he is."


    "I try, sometimes, Master, I think I should," Moire murmurs. "But they won't let me. They say it's dangerous and... useless, too."

    The ceiling is low and the single glowlamp makes the room feel small and stuffy. Obi-Wan watches the girl fumble with an old Jedi training ball - a soft ball used on younglings. She is trying to make it levitate, but never succeeds in keeping it up for more than a few, trembling seconds. He can imagine her clutching it to her chest in a Coruscanti niche.

    "It's best if you let go, young one," Obi-Wan says.

    Moire lets the ball drop and looks at him.

    "It's finished. We shouldn't cling."

    She looks away. "I know... I understand."

    They stand in awkward silence.

    "Did you ever hear of others who survived?" Moire asks.


    Moire's face hardens, she starts breathing fast. Obi-Wan wonders if his own emotions have become so transparent, if the shields he built over so many years have now dissolved into something as pathetic, blatant, and shameful as this. Just as he thinks this, Moire's resolve fails and she presses her knuckles to her eyes, keening like an animal, like a young girl.


    The music rambles on, fast and ridiculous. Insanity given rhythms and beats, it's maddening to listen to, and so loud that Obi-Wan can't hear anything other than vibrating bass, slamming percussion. The blue glass shivers as he rolls his fingers around the cup's rim, swallows into internal silence. Everything trembles and shakes, da dum da dumdumdumdumdddd-d-d-d-d. He can feel the music in his stomach and in his thighs, in the burning.

    People are dancing under frantic strobelights, and amidst the crowd, Kip's face flashes one two bright red white. The young man's arms glow as he resupplies the ship's drug stock. Just a pretty little something to keep us all going, thank you.

    Beru's mouth moves.

    "____?" Obi-Wan asks, straining his lungs.


    Obi-Wan shakes his head and points to his ears. There's no use talking. Let's just listen to the noise. He drinks and punches a code into the bar. A machine whizzes by, tentacles outspread, to refill his drink. Beru picks a slimy noodle out of the bowl and bites the end of it.

    Kip slips into the chair on Obi-Wan's other side.

    "_____," Kip shouts. "______!"

    Obi-Wan wants to smash the machine's tentacles. He wants to rip things apart and tear his knuckles off in the process. He thinks about squeezing something so hard that it explodes into his face. Breathing one two three even as the room shakes doesn't help. One two three four.

    Suddenly, Beru pulls Obi-Wan by the collar and yells into his ear: "So who was this person again?"


    "You said she was from Coruscant? How did you know this girl?"


    "Come on. Come outside."

    She pulls him by the sleeve, pulls him through the crowd. Swivel hips and tray edges right into the temple. Shimmering drinks laugh together, mirroring each other. Gloomy farmers - what is there to do but drug yourself, hard and softly? Obi-Wan can already imagine this den of thieves, the mafia connections spreading their tentacles from village to village, sucking the poor dry with false satisfaction. It's a spider's web, and the well-off and not-so-well-off come to the music hall to show off what they do and do not really have.

    Outside, the air is cool, and Obi-Wan is reminded again of the low-gravity (which he keeps forgetting). His steps spring by their own accord.

    "Thank the stars." Beru says, exasperated. Bzzzzzzz. Those are the ear cells dying.

    "What is it, Beru? You weren't enjoying yourself?"

    Beru ignores the barb. She eyes him. "Why won't you tell me who you were with?"

    "I did. It was a young girl from the Temple."

    "The Jedi..."

    "Yes, the Jedi Temple. The former Jedi Temple of Coruscant. Where I'm from, too."

    "Sure, some coincidence... What's wrong with you?"

    "Nothing is. What do you mean?"

    "Look, just be straight with me."

    "What are you talking about?"



    Beru flings her arms into the air. "I don't know what to think. Why are you acting like this? Is something wrong? Who was this girl?"

    "Acting like what?" Obi-Wan smiles, wanting to push it further even as his conscience tells him not to. "Forgive me, Beru. I don't know what you're talking about."

    Kip steps out into the gloom. His skin shines with green and pink flourescence, he still carries the haze of deaf drug dealing with him. He pupils are dilated.

    "Are we going home?" he asks, smiling.

    "I am," Beru says.

    "I'll be a little longer," Obi-Wan says before she's finishes. She glares at him.

    "So I'll just walk back alone then."

    "Course not, Mother!" Kip grins, bounding by her. "I'll walk you back. Careful, Father, this place is a bit dodgy."


    They walk through tall, swaying fields. The bright moon leads them on, pale blue luminescence. They walk in silence, thinking about things. Beru watches her legs push through the grass. Both of them have their hands in their pockets. Kip zig-zags a little, scratches behind his ear. They can hear buzzing in the distance, and still the relentless bass from the village center, from the music hall, pounds through the soil. Beru wonders if it keeps the older people up at night, if all of Odeira Ten has to listen to that.

    "The air's nice here, isn't it?" Kip says.

    "How do you mean?"

    Kip springs up from the ground in a jump; he soars above Beru's hair and then comes gliding down several yards away. Beru laughs. Kip runs back and, before she can say no, grabs her by the hips and throws her. She lands on her shoulder.

    "Oh! Are you all right, Mother?"

    He rushes by her side, but she's giggling and pushing dirt off her clothes. She pushes him away, and he lets himself fall deep into the grass and soil. He doesn't get up. Beru falls back onto the ground, too, and they lie there, perpendicular to each other, watching the stars.

    "I like the ground too. It's like a bed."

    "You want to stay here?"

    "No... we should probably leave tomorrow or the next day. We couldn't live here, Mother."

    "No, you're right. I was just joking."


    Back at the ship, Kip scratches his hair, scratches his ear. He stands by the ramp and watches Beru walk in. The pool of light is gold on the aging cement landing pad.

    "Aren't you coming?"

    "Let me go back and get Father. He had a black look about him."


    Hours later, Kip is walking with Obi-Wan through the same field. The older man also walks with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ground. He zig-zags, Kip walks straight. Kip keeps an eye on him, and he sees Obi-Wan's face twisting up in the moonlight. He keeps pace, he watches, but he doesn't say anything. Eventually, Obi-Wan wipes his eyes, and then mutters,

    "Wait here. Just a moment, please."

    He walks off. Kip watches the silhouette become small and dim, and then he sits in the grass to give Obi-Wan some privacy. If he arches his spine, he can just see over the tops of each swaying tide. But he looks the other way and watches the stars melt into the horizon.

    Some time later, Obi-Wan returns. He wipes his face with his hand, clears his throat, and asks, "What do you think, Kip? You're a young man. What do you think?"

    "What does me being a young man have anything to do with your question?"

    "Just tell me, Kip."

    "I don't know what you want me to say."

    "What do you think of... our situation? Of everyone's situation? The politics... the Empire."

    "That it's ****."

    Obi-Wan smiles humorlessly. "Yes. I've never heard you swear before."

    "You asked me my opinion."

    Kip looks up at Obi-Wan and waits for another question. Eventually: "What do you take, Kip?"

    "Let's go, Father. Come on." Kip begins to stand.

    "No, no, I don't... I'm just curious - I'm worried for you, Kip. You're a young man, younger than me. What are you taking?" Kip has him by the elbow.

    "I take sky rock."

    Obi-Wan's stares at him. "That's very dangerous."

    "I know."

    "Do you want to... We could help with, you know... You don't deserve it, Kip."

    "Sure, Father, sure. Let's get back, though. I'm tired. We can talk about this tomorrow."


    Beru's eyes ache when the door slides open. Ben walks in and sits to take his boots off. Her eyes adjust to the light from the hall, and she can see blades of grass stuck to his jacket. Once he has his shoes off, he stands and removes his coat. He walks over to the bed and climbs in without changing and without asking first. The door slides shut.

    "I'm very attached to you. We were always taught attachment was... sinful."

    Beru pushes the hair out of his eyes and laughs. "I like you too. I've always liked you."

    "Your husband never did."

    "Well, he was practical."

    Ben snorts.

    "Kip takes sky rock."

    "What's that?"

    "It's... a hallucinogenic, a stimulant. Very dangerous. If he's addicted... sky rock addicts don't live very long."

    Beru makes a lamenting noise. She leans her head on her elbow and hugs him.

    "The girl, Moire... something. I don't know her last name. She was an apprentice in the Jedi Temple, right before the fall. I'm not lying to you. She lost both her legs. Her parents found her... and now she's here. I suppose she's one of the lucky ones." Ben chokes on something. He touches his chest and screws up his face.

    "Shhh. Don't do that. There's nothing you can do about it."

    "Imagine the phantom limb pain... she must still have it. Even children can get it, you know." He pushes his face into the pillow to be more quiet, but the mattress still shudders. "Think how many of them there must be."

    Beru hushes him, makes comforting gestures. She hugs him from behind.


    Beru dreams of being sucked out of the ship. Space's arms crawl inside and pull her out, they tear her away from Ben and Kip, and she's tossed into the abyss. She spins around, arms and legs like spindles on a wheel. She explodes. She implodes. She's not sure what happens to her.

    Luke used to snort blue milk out of his nose when he laughed. It made Owen laugh too, just seeing him do that. They'd both be at it, slapping their knees, out-laughing each other. Luke would try to do it again, but it never worked. Hush now, hush, stop doing that, oh, look, you're getting your pants all dirty. Luke!

    Children's voices in the courtyard. Beru called them in for naptime, she made them get out of the hot midday suns. Luke liked tinkering with the old droids, he made things. He once programmed the garbage processor to say "Yum!" every time Beru pressed Process. He giggled like a maniac the first time she did it, he was standing behind the fridge.

    His hair smelled like sand and little boy sweat. He was an affectionate child. He loved to hug, he grabbed Beru from behind and squeezed.


    " other news, a tragedy for Alderaan: Princess Leia Organa, daughter of Prince Bail Organa and Queen Breha Organa, was killed today in an accident involving the Princess' escort ship and a freight rider. The princess was on her way to take up a prestigious internship at the Intergalactic Communications Center on Praesitlyn. The accident occurred in the Sluis Sector, of which Praesitlyn system is a part, near the convergence of the Praesitlyn, Dagobah, and Orto systems. The area is renowned for its high incidence of interstellar accidents due to the poor enforcement of anti-congestion routing laws. It is believed the freight rider pilot was intoxicated. None aboard the princess' ship survived."

    Beru changes the channels. Ben practically jumps from his seat.

    "What's wrong with you?" she asks.

    "Nothing," he murmurs, "nothing. Why did you change it?"

    "I'm tired of waiting to hear about ourselves on the HoloNet. Let's watch something else for a change."

    Tinny music plays, a humanoid soap opera is starting. Ben keeps rubbing his palms on his thighs, he's making odd sounds. Beru looks at him from the other side of the couch.

    "What? What is it?"

    "Nothing." He gets up and leaves.


    They flew too close. They burned themselves on sunstrips and left black debris in their wake. The ship shrank as time went on, the air becoming more recycled, personalities clashing. Obi-Wan watched Kip inject himself with sky rock when the latter thought he couldn't see. Until one day.

    Kip comes storming into the kitchen, where Beru is cooking dinner.

    "Where's Father?"

    "Watching the HoloNet, I think, why - "

    Kip disappears, and she can hear him clattering down the ladder. After a few seconds, loud voices. Kip is yelling, his voice sounds high-pitched and teenage. Beru turns the stove down and goes to the ladder to lean over the railing. She listens:

    "Where did you put it? What did you do?"

    "I told you, Kip, I threw it out. It's all out of the airlock now."

    "All of it? You threw all of it?"


    "Why?" He starts keening like an animal. "Why? Why?"

    "Kip, you need to calm down. You'll frighten Beru if she hears - "

    "I never did anything like this to you! I always helped you!" More crying. "None of the other pilots took you, I did! How could you do this to me!"

    "I'm only trying to help - "

    "Do you know how much that rock cost? Do you know how much money you threw away? Why did you do this to me!"

    "You had already thrown the money away - "

    The squeak of shoes, a soft thump of impact and then tumbling, books falling off shelves. Beru climbs down the ladder, stumbling over her steps. She jumps down and runs into the main room, where Kip has Ben pinned to the ground, one hand pushing Ben's collar into the floor and the other fist smashing his temple.

    "Kip!" She grabs him from behind and pulls him away.


    "Why did you do it?"

    Ben doesn't reply, but sits silently. She sprays the bandage with antiseptic and presses it against his swollen eye. They can hear crashes from Kip's room, every so often a scream and the sound of things falling.

    "And now what do we do? Who's going to pilot the ship?"

    Ben clears his throat. "Auto."

    "Auto can't land."

    "Kip's health is more important than landing."

    "All our lives are more important than your self-righteous meddling."

    Beru wants to apologize immediately, but she doesn't. Ben says nothing and stares at her shoulder.


    The ship tips down suddenly, lurching forward. When Obi-Wan and Beru run into the cockpit, they find Kip, disheveled and pale, at the controls. A giant sun looms ahead of them, blinding them in its light. Kip swings the ship around, just fast enough so that Obi-Wan gasps and Beru holds onto the doorframe. A tiny planet sits in space below, waiting for them, welcoming them with clouds and grey sweeping landscapes.

  9. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 9. CLIMAX!


    They sit, staring out the cockpit windows. Kip's breathing is audible. Rain patters against the ship; in other times, Obi-Wan would have welcomed the sound of rain. But all he can think of now is Beru sitting in it, and the wasteland outside. There isn't a single building, a tree, a mountain, anything. Instead, in every direction, endless plains of grey mud. He thinks he can see a light glinting far off on the horizon, but he's not sure.

    "Off. You're off."

    "No, Kip, no, no, please!" Beru gasps.

    "Here?" Obi-Wan tries to sound calm.

    Kip holds a button down on his panel, he speaks into a microphone. "Auto, get Father and Mother's luggage. Clear their room. They're leaving us here."

    A metallic voice chirps its reply. Obi-Wan can feel his heart pounding. He doesn't dare look at Beru. "Kip, you need us. Especially now - we - I can help you..."

    "You're going to get off my ship. I'm going to go back to the 3H Mark Station, and resupply. You owe me six hundred credits and thirty cents."

    "We - we don't have that much!" Beru exclaims.

    "Kip, be reasonable!"

    The door slides open and both Obi-Wan and Beru flinch. Auto stands there, dragging a large luggage behind him. Thunder rumbles through the ship's floor.


    The landing ramp pulls up into the ship's underbelly, and, without warning, the engines fire and the Shining Stormcloud lifts up from the ground. The rain pours on them, no longer blocked by Kip's wing. They watch the ship fly away, disappearing quickly into the black and white storm. And then they stand there, not knowing what to do. The sky bleeds white on one side, the sun must be very large and very close. The ground is muddy and colorless, and it seems the gravity is far stronger on this nameless planet than it was on Odeira Ten.

    Something tickles the back of Obi-Wan's throat, a strange sensation of foreboding, he can feel a tingling in his chest, he wonders what... before he suddenly receives a hard blow to the temple. It's where Kip had punched him days ago, and so he yelps in surprise and pain, cupping blood as it trickles quickly down his cheek. He stumbles back.

    "You stupid - stupid old man! What a stupid thing to do! Do you have some sort of obsession with meddling? Look at us! I came with you because I trusted you! I thought you could help! What in star's name are we supposed to do now?" Beru is sobbing. "What do we do now? What do we do?" She sits on the luggage and cries.

    There is a lightning crack. Obi-Wan frowns. "It was unfair of him to leave you here as well."

    Beru doesn't look up. "It's all unfair."

    "Now, I don't think we need any more melodramatics - "

    A high-pitched whine starts gathering at the horizon. Obi-Wan notices it first. He stops talking. He can feel the blood pounding in his head, matching the waves of noise, and then the whine becomes a groan. Beru notices. She looks up. In the eastward sky, they can see something approaching. A ship - too far away to make out any markings. It makes a beating sound as it flies, as if the engine is too old.

    It roars past them, overhead, and Obi-Wan catches one, terrifying glimpse of the Imperial insignia. He has just enough time to look back at Beru, wide-eyed, before the ship swerves around, coming back towards them. It hovers above them for a moment, blocking the rain, engines blasting. And then it slowly descends.

    "Oh no, oh no, oh no..."

    "Calm down, Beru. Don't say anything. Let me - "

    The landing ramp drops down with a thud, and four stormtroopers come jogging out. The two in the back keep their weapons drawn. The first one approaching has a small insignia on his helmet: captain's bars.

    "Basic? Basic?" The stormtrooper yells.

    "Yes, we speak Basic." Obi-Wan's says, hating how his voice shakes.

    "Names and ID cards, please."

    "We - we lost our ID cards. Ben and Luna Holiday..."

    The stormtroopers surround them on all sides. One if them takes out a full-body scanner and starts waving it up and down; beep, beep. The captain stands in front of Obi-Wan, a head taller.

    "May I ask what you're doing out here in the wastelands, Mr. Holiday?"

    Beep. Beep.

    "We're actually stranded... a transport... we paid for transport to Ord Mantell..."

    "What happened to your face, Mr. Holiday?"

    "Hand, please," another stormtrooper says to Beru. He has a small gun. She puts out a trembling hand, he presses the gun against her palm and fires. She squeaks, but the stormtrooper immediately places a small piece of gauze against the wound. "Blood sample, ma'am. We'll get your ID cards back from the O-Database."

    "There was a... disagreement on the transport."

    "So you were dumped?"


    The blood sample stormtrooper arrives, takes Obi-Wan's hand and fires. It feels like a sharp pin being quickly jabbed in and pulled out.

    "Well, we can give you a lift to Chiu Mai. You should be able to find another transport from there. We just need to run a few checks and issue you the new cards. You won't be getting far without ID cards."

    "No, of course not. Thank you."

    "You picked a helluva planet to get stranded on."

    "Where are we?" Beru asks, voice scratchy.

    "Chi-hwa-seon, just a few parsecs from Boz Pity."


    The stormtroopers take surprisingly good care of them. They tend to Obi-Wan's temple and eye, they give Beru a Coruscanti woman's magazine to read. Obi-Wan and Beru sit in plush cushions and have their luggage dried and cleaned of mud. The flight is smooth and uneventful. Getting the blood sample cleared at the O-Database on Coruscant takes approximately thirty minutes, and the first stormtrooper said Chiu Mai is only a ten-minute flight away. Obi-Wan is already planning their escape, fumbling with ideas and possibilities. He tries to remember some common Jedi tactics, but they feel clumsy now. So he just prays to his unknown fate, to the Force, to the universal archetype of mercy, for help.

    Beru's hands shake as he reads the magazine. Obi-Wan shifts in his seat and puts his arm around her. She doesn't shrug it off.


    Chiu Mai comprises of a dozen scattered buildings, one of which is the Imperial command center. There is also a research institute dedicated to understanding the limited biology, ecosystem, and economy of the planet, and next door is a barracks. Obi-Wan and Beru can see all this from the top of the ramp. A stormtrooper stands by them.

    "Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Holiday," he says, his voice thin and metallic. "Just a few more minutes while we wait for clearance. There's the official space port just at the end of the street; you can find some transportation there."

    "We're a bit low on cash," Obi-Wan mutters.

    The stormtrooper he tilts his head to one side.

    "Uh huh," he says. "Yeah. Yeah. OK. No, I can see them. Yeah. Right." He straightens. "Just a minute, sir. It looks like there's a bit of a problem with the computer; your ID cards are jamming the airwaves." Obi-Wan thinks he can hear a smile. "And I'm the resident computer expert. Just wait here a parsec, E3-111 will be down to look after you."

    He turns and jogs back into the ship; they listen to his boots echoing against the aluminum. Once he's out of sight, Beru turns to Obi-Wan. Without speaking, Obi-Wan grabs two thermal detonators from the near wall and they run down the ramp, clattering too loud. They creep around the side of the ship, away from the cockpit window's view. There's what looks to be a small hospital across the road. A large Imperial cross stands above the third floor window. It flickers in the rain.

    "Go, go!" Obi-Wan urges, whispering. They both sprint across the street and around the hospital. Beru slips on the mud and Obi-Wan catches her. The rain falls in sheets of water, it blocks their view. All they can see is grey mud, grey buildings. They can already hear voices coming from the Imperial ship.

    Once they're around the side of the building, Obi-Wan says, "Stay here."

    Beru crouches in the mud, hiding behind the corner. Obi-Wan creeps back through the alley to where he can see the main street: the stormtroopers are walking down in pairs from the landing ramp, guns drawn. He waits, he waits, he swallows back the acid taste in his throat. He waits until they're just far enough to be hurt, not killed, and then he presses the button with his thumb and hurls one of the detonators.

    It lands right at their feet, and in one terrible second, everything goes still.

    The blast blows out the windows of the hospital and nearby buildings. It knocks Obi-Wan back against the wall, spine and skull slamming. The silent town comes alive with screaming, thunder and lightning join in, almost on cue. Beru comes scrambling through the mud towards Obi-Wan, yelling something.

    Come on, come on! she mouths.

    Black skeletons dot the street, still on fire, the ship lies in burning ruins. The explosion knocked part of the research station's roof off, and there are minor bursts of flame from within as computers and technical equipment spit sparks and fire. Everywhere there is screaming, and men and women in Imperial uniforms pour out of the surrounding buildings. A siren begins to wail.

    Beru pulls Obi-Wan to his feet, both their ears are bleeding. They stumble against each other, and more than once trip and fall into the mud. In the chaos, they pass several people running towards the scene of the explosion. One person asks if they're all right, and Beru starts crying, saying quickly, Yes, yes, but it's bad back there, it's really bad.

    Obi-Wan's hearing starts coming back, he can hear people shouting in the main street: "What was it? Engine malfunction? That damned ship was too old - oh stars, oh no! Look!"

    "What happened? Did you see it? Is everyone OK? Per, what's going on? Tell me!"

    "Stay back, stay back!"

    And one familiar voice, a young man, yelling: "Don't get too close! If it was an engine malfunction, the rest of it could blow! Wait! You shouldn't get too close!"

    "Kip!" Beru nearly screams. She pulls Obi-Wan along and they turn onto an alley leading back to the main street. As they approach, there are crowds of people running this way and that. The siren still wails, it's joined by the ringing bells of a fireship. From this far, they can see the clouds of black smoke blossoming over the rooftops, they can see the blinking lights of a fireship approaching in the distance. There are a number of people clearly in shock, stumbling around wide-eyed and staring. There are people with concussions, blood streaming from broken hairlines, covered in the black dust, muddy with rain.

    Obi-Wan and Beru push their way through. Beru keeps calling, "Kip! Kip!"

    Stormtrooper helmets bob over the crowds. Obi-Wan and Beru begin scrambling. A hand appears and grabs Beru by the arm. They are pulled away from one direction and into Kip.

    "Kip!" Beru screams. He looks at both of them, and is about to open his mouth when:

    "There they are!" The crowds move to reveal a stormtrooper squadron pushing through. "Back! Back! Everyone back! There they are! There!" The squadron leader points, straight at Obi-Wan, Beru, and Kip.

    "My ship!" Kip yells frantically. "Come on!"

    They start running, but the crowds are shifting, parting in the wake of stormtroopers and everywhere confusion: Who is it? Who? When the stormtroopers draw their guns and fire into the air, the screaming starts. Suddenly people are running in every direction.

    "Get out of the way! Move! Move!"

    Move, move, move! They fire into the air again. The rain makes running difficult. Obi-Wan pushes as hard as he can, he pulls Beru along with him, he keeps a hold of Kip and slides in the mud. The survival instinct kicks in: go, go, go! Obi-Wan can hear the thudding boots, and suddenly there is pink fire beside him, a man falls to the ground, writhing. Another shot - but the crowd is too thick - they break free and start running towards the side - a rain of pink fire - Kip is saying, "My ship! My ship! This way!" when something hot sears past Obi-Wan's arm and hits Kip in the side. He falls into the mud. Without thinking, Obi-Wan presses the second detonator charge. Beru cries at him, and she pulls his arm back just as he is meant to swing it forward, "No, don't!"

    But the detonator is thrown, awkwardly, it soars high over the crowd amid random blaster fire and rain. It lands squarely in the center of the street, in the center of everything, too close. Again that pause, when everyone sees what it is, red light blinking, and holds their breath.


    Her hands are wrapped in fire. She sits in darkness and touches her fingers, feeling them foreign and painful. She pulls at something and it comes a little loose, letting more fire in. She can imagine her skin burning off. When she yells, someone arrives and says something in a language she doesn't understand. Steps disappearing and reappearing, she can hear shuffling bodies but she cannot see anything. She hears only on the right.

    "You're awake. How do you feel?" An old woman's voice.

    "Where's Kip? Ben?"

    "We are no friends of the Empire. If you're companions were Imperials, we left them there."

    "No, no - they weren't - why do my hands hurt? I can't see anything. I can't hear you very well."

    "There are bandages on your hands, don't touch them. We will bring you some light soon."

    "Where am I?"


    His eyes throb in time with the dripping. He lays on his back and runs his fingers along the wall's paintings for the blind, trying to distract himself. He feels whorls in the stone, curves and human figures. He knows where he is; they introduced themselves as soon as he woke up. He never thought he'd return to this place, and there is some comfort in being somewhere at least vaguely familiar. But so much has changed since the last time he was here.

    In his dreams, Qui-Gon Jinn's face appears behind flickering shadows. It's hard to tell dreams from waking, especially with no light and half-drugged. He waits.

    Eventually, the elderly man arrives; Obi-Wan recognizes him by his particular gait. The man speaks in a foreign language, Obi-Wan can just barely remember the basics.

    "We brought you light."

    "Many thanks..." A little embarrassed, he adds: "I can't see it."

    "Too dim? Let me - "

    "No... no, there's nothing."

    He feels heat on his face, and the old man's hands touching his chin.

    "Nothing? Do you feel this?"

    "Yes. But I don't see any light." Obi-Wan already knows what this means, but he wants to hear the old man say it.

    The man sighs. "We are not familiar with the eye's development and structure... as you know. We did everything we could, but..."

    "I understand."


    When they bring her a light, she sees that they have no eyes. Their faces are smooth from forehead to nose, and without meaning to, she gasps dramatically. The old woman smiles in understanding.

    "Yes, most sound like that when they meet us. Especially if they knew nothing of us before." The woman becomes serious. "We have Kenobi. Would you like to speak with him?"

    The orb of light stands in Beru's hands, weightless. She sees that she is in a wide, colorless room, and the walls are covered in tiny furrows, waves of ridges spiralling in every direction. There is no modern technology that she can identify, except a small machine in the side of the room which steams and sputters. There are holes above it, and Beru can just faintly pick up the hollow sound of echoing voices. Every so often, there is a bell from the corridor.

    The woman is explaining who they are, their origin as **** sapiens and they're eventual evolution over millions of years to become sightless, eyeless and very isolated. We really do share a lot, genetically, you and I. Don't be frightened. (Beru's ears buzz.)

    They have highly developed their olfactory and auditory senses, naturally, and have lost nearly all pigment in their skin thanks to living deep in the planet's stomach. Only a small percentage of the million-strong community has ever ventured outside of their caves, and this woman is one of the few hundred who can speak Basic fluently. They have a complicated esoteric religion, and generally are mistrustful of outsiders. They have only recently heard of the tumultuous interstellar politics - the fall of the ancient Jedi order, the establishment of a galaxy-wide Empire - from Ben, who knew them from before.

    "Your friend Kenobi came to us once, many years ago. I remember that he called this place 'a strategic vantage point'." The woman's laugh is dry, genuine. "How he annoyed me back then! I was one of the few who could speak with him, and it was nothing but missions and politics and wars in his head. He used us, but he helped us, too, so we cannot complain. Are you his woman?"

    "What?" Beru asks. Her voice sounds strange, coming only from the right. "Oh, no."


    "We have no ships, Kenobi. You know this as well."

    "Yes, I do." Obi-Wan sighs, feeling a weight press against his chest. "It seems we're rather helpless."

    The old man sits in sympathetic silence, or at least it sounds that way to Obi-Wan. Everything is starting to sound a 'certain' way; every drip an excruciating reminder of what has happened, every footfall a source of anxiety. It's all so acute, so resonant, and any moment, Obi-Wan still thinks he can blink away his blindness and see again.

    "We can tell you of the surface movements," the old man suggests.

    "We would be grateful."

    "And you can stay here as long as you like. You helped us many years ago, we have a debt to pay."

    "Thank you." Obi-Wan reaches for the glass of water on the nearby table, but he misjudges the distance and knocks it to the ground. A wave of frustration passes through him, hot and painful. Frustration coupled with a terrible and very unfunny irony. He can hear the old man shuffling, picking up the pieces and going to find a towel.

    Far off, there is a familiar voice: "In there."


  10. GuerreStellari

    GuerreStellari Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 23, 2003
    Section 10. The end? Close to the end now. Or blending into the sequel a bit.


    "We suspect it was a terrorist attack. We suspect the Rebels, Senator."

    Mon Mothma is taller than most men, and she towers above the pear-shaped corporal. She watches him, serene and unflinching, and lets him fill in all the details without prompt. The hospital reeks of disinfectant, medical droids hover in the air around their heads, fat black flies with metal wings. The corporal keeps talking - he's nervous. Who wouldn't be? Twenty seven dead and over a hundred wounded in what the HoloNet is calling the Chiu Mai Massacre.

    "Rebel sympathizers maybe," Mon Mothma says coolly, "but not Rebels themselves. They are too few and without enough weapons to engage in anything but symbolic attacks. I see no symbolism in Chiu Mai."

    "We're very near Boz Pity, ma'am... it might be..."

    The corporal trails off, and Mon Mothma raises an eyebrow. "Yes, it might be Boz Pity."

    "Uh, our main suspect," the corporal turns, indicating for Mon Mothma to follow him, "has just woken up. We haven't had many good leads - well, I'll be honest, Senator, we were waiting for him to come out of the coma so we could question him. His name's Kipson Mataa, Dashmiri kid. Sixteen standard years. Piloted the Shining Stormcloud, a class-IV family transport ship. Ship registry says he left Tatooine three months ago with his parents."

    A sweeper droid buzzes past, dragging a mop behind it. A blurred voice over the intercom repeats, Paging 225 to level six, surgery room A, paging 225... The corporal waddles when he walks.

    "The funny thing is, Senator," he continues, "that a background check revealed his parents to be deceased. He was using some expired cards, don't know how they got past Tatooine security, but you know how those Outer Rim guard stations are... Anyway, seems his parents were regular Blues from the Dashmiri People's Movement."

    "So you think anti-Imperial terrorism was a family business?" Mon Mothma asks. "As I recall, the DPM were pacifists."

    "Sure, but the Dashmir debacle... well, I think we have a number of angry young Dashmiris out there, angry at the Empire and what happened two years ago. It would give him a motivation." They reach a closed door, and the corporal stops. He leans in and lowers his voice. "Actually, we're not so sure Mataa's our boy. We think he was smuggling some illegal passengers with him - why else would he have used those old ID cards? A few witnesses say he was running with a man and woman right before the explosion."

    "A man and woman?"

    "Well, we've got better descriptions than that. The droids are working on it."

    "Isn't there any security camera footage?"

    "A little, ma'am, but pretty low quality. The first explosion blew out some of the command center's mainframe, so we lost most of the cameras on Chiu Mai Square. We're trying to piece it all together using witness reports for help."

    "Witness reports don't go over well in Imperial High Courts, Corporal."

    "I know, Senator, I know - sure, people lie, machines don't, right? But it's all we have."

    "I understand. I'll want to see the work when it's finished."

    "Of course, of course."

    "This is his room?"

    "Yes, ma'am." The corporal presses the side panel and the door slides open. Two stormtroopers stand immediately at attention. There is a bed encased in a plastic bubble on the far side of the room. The windows have bars on them. Machines beep.

    "I'd like to speak with him alone first," Mon Mothma says.

    The corporal coughs. "I wouldn't advise... Breach of protocol, Senator. A trooper's supposed to be with him at all times."

    "For his protection or the visitor's?"

    "I..." the corporal's voice trails off. He nods to the two stormtroopers and they file past Mon Mothma. "Knock on the window when you've finished."


    The young man has no legs. Tubes run in and out from under his hospital gown, poking through the plastic casing and running up to machines in the wall. A number of monitors display rolling dots: heart rate, blood pressure, neurological activity. The young man's face is blank, eyes closed. A breathing tube runs into his mouth. Mon Mothma glances at his neurological chart and sees scattered lines and sharp spikes: he's awake.

    She walks to the side of the bed and sits. With a gentle tap, she knocks on the plastic casing. His eyes roll open; she hopes he's not drugged.

    Flipping the audio switch, she bends a little to the left so that her voice can be picked up by the microphone.

    "Good afternoon. I'm Senator Mon Mothma of the Imperial Grand Senate. Nod if you can understand me."

    He nods.

    "If you're in pain, tap the window twice and I'll get a droid. I only want to speak with you for a few moments. Do you know why I'm here?"

    The boy shakes his head, slowly.

    "I don't know what you remember, Kipson, but you're in Chiu Mai Imperial Hospital. There was an attack several weeks ago in the center of Chiu Mai; two thermal detonators were launched, destroying an Imperial patrol shuttle and a number of nearby buildings. Nearly a hundred people were killed, perhaps two hundred were wounded. Do you remember this incident?"

    He nods. Mon Mothma notices his eyes travelling to the barred windows behind her.

    "I won't lie to you, then. We believe you had connections with the attack; Corporal Hidd wants to send you back to Coruscant, where you may stand trial before the Imperial High Court. You would be tried on terrorism charges."

    The machine which breathes for Kip exhales, wheezing. He stops looking at the barred windows and meets Mon Mothma's eyes. For a moment, she watches him in admiration - sixteen years old and meeting her head on.

    "As you know, it is fairly straightforward for Imperial investigators to chemically induce a confession from you, so you have nothing to fear if you are innocent and no reasonable method of escape if you are not. As you may not know, the drugs they use can be fairly unpleasant... they are designed to attack the brain, after all. So we try not to resort to them, and often when we do... well, the accused was guilty in the end, and this was a last measure. But I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, Kipson. Maybe you didn't know the man and woman you were giving transport to. Maybe you had no idea what they intended to do, what sort of people you had picked up on Tatooine. By the look in your eyes, Kipson, I'm hitting the mark. You didn't know them before Tatooine?"

    Kip shakes his head.

    "They weren't your parents, then, you admit?"

    He shakes his head again, eyes red-rimmed and glistening.

    "That's fine, son. Forging ID cards is a minor offense, and if you can help us, we'll be happy to ignore it altogether. Do you think you can help us? Do you think you could help me, Kipson?"


    Beru doesn't want to see him, so they spend their days apart. Obi-Wan doesn't mention how much this makes him suffer, alone in the dark, but his reportoire of stoic looks serves him well, preserving at least his dignity. Tar-Lal, the old man who has since become Obi-Wan's friend and confindant, visits him and brings him news of Beru. Like adolescent boys, they gossip about her movements: where she goes, who she meets. Obi-Wan tries not to care, and he tries not to inquire after her, but it seems there is nothing else he can talk about.

    Mapu-Mal, Beru's caretaker and Tar-Lal's wife, brings the rare message from Beru herself.

    "Beru asks Kenobi where the Dantooine star system is."

    "Kenobi tells Beru to stop sending messages through Mapu-Mal!"

    She is planning to leave without him, and Tar-Lal tells Obi-Wan that indeed there is movement on the Surface. Some very large ships have landed, their engines rumbling so deep into the earth that some upper-level dwellers have complained about the noise. Here, deep in the caves, Obi-Wan hears nothing. He wishes he was closer to the surface; an engine's thrum would be a comfort. He wishes Beru would speak with him. Instead, she is planning to resurface, to go back up once her hands have healed and meet the Empire head on.

    Their briefest meeting was only that: "No, don't touch - " she had pulled her bandaged hands away. In that instant, Beru had disappeared into the darkness, becoming only a voice, a rustling of robes, and then finally nothing. Nothing but messages sent through a translator.

    The Chi Wai, as these eyeless people are called, have picked up on the rift between Obi-Wan and Beru. Using all diplomacy, the two are usually introduced separately to the same dignitaries: the Queen of Chi Wai, the gurus, the cave architects and healers. Mapu-Mal often has had to sit in on double translation sessions. But she doesn't complain. Apparently something of a friendship is developing between her and Beru, and she's said more than once that she finds Obi-Wan fascinating.

    The explosion blew part of Obi-Wan's arm off, his throwing arm. Beru had been holding that arm, pulling it back, which explains why her hands shrivelled up like black charcoal. Both their wounds cauterized, and the Chi Wai apologized to Obi-Wan as soon as he awoke, "We can't replace it, but it will heal."

    So he is learning to do things with his left hand, to fumble blindly for a glass of water, to touch the braille images on the wall. But he is clumsy, and the Force is gone now, washed out of him completely. He entertains new thoughts, he feels new things. He doesn't worry about the Dark Side, all that has been neutralized. Instead he lays on his back and stares into the darkness, thinking about morality. He tries not to think about the thermal detonators.

    The phantom limb pain wakes him in the evenings (though the Chi Wai measure time by bell tolls). After the First Hour of Warmth, when it is customary to sleep, Obi-Wan jerks awake, convinced he is on Mustafar again, convinced Anakin is picking him apart with swift lightsaber strokes. He tries to reach out with his right arm, he feels the right hand knock against the bed and ignite in pain. When Tar-Lal asks him about it, Obi-Wan confesses, "It's as if my arm is too short. Sometimes I think I see it, shrivelled up at the elbow."

    One night he feels his right hand twitching, moving when he doesn't want it to, moving when he knows it's gone. A tingling starts in the phantom fingers, a pinprick feeling like when blood rushes back into his legs after meditation. He shifts in his bed, hating the room, and hears the third bell: Peak Hour. He decides to get up.

    The corridor is empty, he can feel drafts of damp air on his cheek. The dripping sound, pervasive to the Chi Wai's caves, guides him - he knows Beru lives in the room further down the slope, walking away from the noise. His steps echo loudly, he skims his left hand against the wall and recites old Jedi techniques: welcome the pain, watch it rise and fall. His right arm burns now, he flinches away from the other wall, fearful that he'll knock against it.

    He can hear their voices, and when he reaches their room, chimes.

    "May I come in?"

    He hears the sound of rustling paper, and Mapu-Mal's voice: "Kenobi. You didn't call."

    "No, I'm sorry," Obi-Wan says. He bows, Chi Wai graciousness. "Am I interrupting...?"

    "We were making paper flutes."


    He finally hears her; shifting slightly; the sounds of a cushion.

    "I'm here, Ben."

    "I'd like to speak with you."

    She sighs. Something warm to his right; he thinks he can imagine colors again: red, orange. And then Beru's hands at his left elbow, guiding him forward. She sits him down on the bed.

    "I'll go make ajit," Mapu-Mal suggests and quickly gets up. Obi-Wan feels the foam shift under him, he hears her steps echoing out the door (chimes again) and down the hall.

    When she's gone, he feels the warm thing move to his left, around by his ear. He tries not to flinch, but eventually asks, "You have a lamp bug?"

    "It's hard to make these paper things without any light," Beru says, "and with these hands."

    "You two get on well then," Obi-Wan says, trying not to sound jealous. He doesn't want to talk about Beru's hands.

    "Yes. Mapu-Mal's very wise; I like talking with her." She pauses before adding, "I'll miss her."

    "And when are you planning to go?"

    Beru doesn't answer. Instead she says, "Lie down, Ben, you look pale."

    He obeys, and he thinks about apologizing, and saying, I never meant for any of this to happen. I never meant for the Empire, for Luke's death, for Kip's death, for what happened in Chiu Mai. He wants to say that it's right for her to leave, and he'll let her go and never contact her again, unless she wants him to. He wants to reach out with his left hand and touch her face, touch her cheek with his living, solid fingers.

    But he doesn't know where she is; she's completely silent now. Sounding more desperate than he intends, he blurts out, "I think it's madness, turning yourself in to the Empire."

    "I won't tell them about you, Ben."

    "Yes, you think it's that simple, don't you? If they want to know, they either know already or they'll find means of getting it out of you."

    He can hear Beru picking at her bandages, and, barely audible, "What do you expect me to do? Stay here?" With you? he imagines her asking.

    "At least see if Mapu-Mal or Tar-Lal can go up before you, see what the situation is like. I'm only asking you to be rational."

    "Be rational?" Beru sputters. "Ben, you remember what we called you back on Tatooine? You remember what people used to say?"

    Crazy old wizard, yes.

    "Half the time I can't tell what you're thinking, the other half I don't want to imagine it. It's like there's something going on up there that I just can't understand. It doesn't make sense. I used to think it was part of being a Jedi, but now..."


    "Now I just worry about you, Ben. I worry about what you do to yourself, and what you can do to other people."

    "You seem to imply that I'm insane."

    "You've done some crazy things. Chiu Mai was crazy," Beru's voice shakes. "What you did to Kip was crazy - "

    "I didn't mean for that, Beru, you know I didn't!"

    "I'm not talking about - about that - I'm talking about the sky rock." Beru is to his right now. He feels her take his right hand, stroking it.

    "The boy was killing himself with that filth."

    "Well, it doesn't matter now, does it?"

    pronker likes this.
  11. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    All caught up now rereading -- Ben and Beru's dynamic is so interesting and the grief, now faded, has given way to the tiniest bit of camaraderie. I like how Kip calls them Mother and Father, *an old, old way of referring to one's elders, but then you knew that*, and how sometimes they three seem the loyal family that everyone needs, maybe doesn't want, but needs.
  12. ThreadSketch

    ThreadSketch Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 22, 2013
    ...Oh my. The grit and bleakness of this story is so tangible. Clunky and purple, my foot - I think it's magnificent. Bravo, and I hope a resolution of sorts will be posted?
    pronker likes this.
  13. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Jun 22, 2006
    I'm thrilled beyond words to see this in un-truncated form again! I loved this dark, dystopic and very human story the first time I read it. I don't think I've ever read anything that made me ache so much for poor Obi-Wan, and your Beru is far and away the best I have ever come across.

    Any chance you'll be resuming the sequel too? I seem to recall you had a couple of posts of that one up a few years ago.
    pronker likes this.