UPDATE 01/15/18 - STORY COMPLETE! A story from Cliegg's childhood about the death of his younger brother. Feedback and concrit welcome. Part I Owen Lars ducked beneath the low hanging door to the Lars homestead and looked out across the vast expanse of desert. The Jundland Wastes stretched away from him like a brown ocean, complete with rippling waves were the wind had swept the sand into furrows. The first of Tatooine’s twin suns was rising, casting its light across the plain to where his father sat in front of a row of grave markers near the homestead. The chill of the desert night hung in the air and Owen blew into his hands to warm them as he walked up to stand beside his father. Cliegg’s head was bowed, staring down at the plain headstone which marked the place of Shmi Skywalker’s final resting place. It had been nearly a year since she had been taken from them but Cliegg’s grief still showed no signs of abating, and Owen doubted he would be able to move on until he stopped blaming himself for her death. ‘The desert takes everything from us,’ said Cliegg without looking up, and Owen now saw that he was staring not at Shmi’s grave but at a smaller headstone, the one belonging to Cliegg’s fourteen-year-old brother. The stone bore a simple inscription: Edern Lars Beloved Son and Brother Cliegg had never spoken of his brother to Owen. If not for the marker, he would not have known he had existed. Grief hung around his father’s shoulders like a thick outback cloak, tangling him with the weight of memory and loss. Owen wished that he could turn away from it but he stayed by his father’s side while the dawn rays spread across the plain, turning everything they touched into gold. The shadows of the grave markers stretched like long black fingers behind them. ‘I should have taken better care of you,’ said Cliegg, staring down at his brother’s headstone and Owen saw that he had tears in his eyes. They streamed down his face and melted into his coarse beard. Owen turned and walked back to the house. There was nothing he could do to reach his father when he was like this. He paused in the doorway and looked back at the man who for most of his life had been indomitable. He looked small now, a hunched figure staring into his own past, burdened by guilt. * Cliegg got to his feet and stretched the aching muscles in his lower back. He had been up since before dawn working on a faulty power relay in one of the farms forty-six GX-8 moisture vaporators. Closing the access panel he sucked at a cut on the back of his hand. Moisture vaporators were complex pieces of equipment and Cliegg was forever cutting and bashing himself while maintaining them. Wrapping his hand in a scrap of cloth he stared out across the flat landscape. A sandstorm was brewing. Cliegg kicked at a stone. Getting sand inside a vaporators refrigeration coils could render the machine inoperable, and it was likely he would be out here again repairing this unit once the storm had blown through. Gathering up his tool kit he lashed it to the back of his speeder bike and headed for home. Each vaporator had to be spaced at least five hundred metres apart for maximum efficiency, meaning that moisture farms could cover dozens of square kilometres, and he seemed to spend his life zipping to and fro between the towering metal structures on his trusty speeder bike. The Lars homestead was situated right on the edge of the Jundland Wastes, one of the farthest flung outposts of the town of Anchorhead. Why his father had left the relative comfort of running a repair shop in Mos Eisley to eke out a living as a moisture farmer Cliegg could never quite comprehend. It was a hard life. At sixteen years old, Cliegg’s skin was already leathered by exposure to the harsh desert winds and relentless sun. He pulled his speeder up at the domed entrance to the homestead and descended the long flight of steps that led to the sink-hole around which the house was built. Dumping his tool-kit, he went across to the dining area and found his little brother sitting at the table with his hands wrapped around a mug of hot chai, still wearing his pyjamas. ‘Have a long lie-in did we?’ asked Cliegg. ‘Leave me alone,’ said Edern in a thick voice. ‘I’m not well.’ Cliegg laughed. Ed could be such a softie sometimes. While Cliegg was clearly his father’s son, Ed took more after their mother Gredda, including her love of chai. Cliegg had never developed a taste for it, unable to fathom the sense behind enjoying a hot drink on a scorched planet like Tatooine. Yet it had become a sort of ritual for mother and son to get up in the morning and sit together drinking their chai before starting work. She liked her chai dark and strong while he drank his with bantha milk and plenty of sweeteners. He might be fourteen, but he was still such a kid. ‘Where’s dad?’ ‘Number seventeen’s got a leaky tank again, he’s out there patching it up.’ Cliegg cursed. A leak in a vaporator tank was a serious malfunction and unit seventeen was a repeat offender. The whole unit needed replacing but they didn’t have the money for that right now. It had been a difficult season and a poor harvest and right now they needed every vaporator in top condition. Ed took a slurp of his chai and yawned. ‘Better not let mom hear you swearing,’ he said. Cliegg shrugged. ‘What’s she gonna do? I’m twice her size.’ ‘You’re not too old for me to put over my knee Cliegg Lars,’ said Gredda, stepping into the room with a handful of washing in her arms. She was a stout woman with kind, crinkly eyes which bunched up when she smiled. She put down the laundry and placed a hand on Ed’s forehead. ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Not too bad,’ he said with an exaggerated cough. Cliegg rolled his eyes, but was prevented from making a scathing remark by the appearance of his father, Lef Lars. The burly man was carrying a large pack on his shoulders and had a grim expression on his face. Like many settlers the desert had aged him beyond his forty-two years, lines of care etched into his skin like deep sandstone canyons. Number seventeen is a complete bust,’ he grunted, sitting down at the table. ‘The condenser system is knackered and the binary brain has shut down.’ ‘Is it repairable?’ asked Cliegg. ‘We’ll need a new central processing unit and condenser, but I should be able to get it up and running again. I need you to head to Tosche Station right away. We need power converters too so you might as well pick those up at the same time.’ ‘Storms coming in,’ said Gredda. Lef steepled his fingers in front of him and sighed heavily. It seemed like the farm was always on the edge of going out of business and the constant stress was starting to take its toll on him. ‘I’ll head back out and take the unit down. We can repair it in the shop when the storm hits, but we need those parts.’ Cliegg got to his feet. ‘I’ll head out just now.’ ‘Can I go too?’ asked Ed. Lef shot him a stern glance. ‘I thought you were too ill to work today.’ ‘I’m not too ill to sit in a speeder. Besides, I really need some new boots. My feet are all squished up in my old ones.’ Lef shot a look at Gredda and Cliegg could tell he was thinking about Ed’s uncanny ability for time-wasting. ‘Let him go dad, I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn’t get side-tracked,’ said Cliegg. ‘Alright. Go and get out of your pyjamas then. I’ll head back out and get started taking unit seventeen down.’ I didn’t take long for Cliegg to drag the family’s old V-35 speeder out of the garage. Lef had bought the battered vehicle several years ago intending to give it a full overhaul but never got around to it. Cliegg stashed the broken binary brain into the starboard cargo compartment. Hopefully they could find someone at Tosche station who would want it for parts. He was about to climb into the pilot seat when Ed bounced through the door. ‘Can I drive?’ ‘No.’ ‘Aw come on. I’m fourteen now.’ ‘You’re still a kid as far as I’m concerned. Besides, I’ve seen your driving.’ ‘Pleeease!’ Cliegg sighed, looking down at his tousle-haired brother. Ed was short for his age, appearing much younger than his fourteen years and he still had the wide-eyed excited expression of a boy half his age. Cliegg rubbed his aching neck. He had been up since before dawn and he already felt dog-tired. The rest of the day was likely to consist of repairing the faulty vaporator in the workshop and he might as well take the opportunity for a break. He saw Ed’s face light up before he’d even opened his mouth, knowing that yet again he’d got his own way. ‘Alright. Get her started.’ Ed grinned and clambered up into the pilot seat while Cliegg unfolded the angular panel in the nose of the craft and climbed inside. Pulling a pair of old goggles out of his tunic, Ed snapped them over his eyes. The speeder rumbled as he brought the repulsor field generator online and gunned the engine. They shot away across the salt flats, heading in the direction of Anchorhead. Craning his neck, Cliegg yelled at his brother to keep the speed down. There were few obstacles in the flat expanse, but every now and again the wind would uncover a rock or piece of wreckage. Cliegg studied the cut on the back of his hand, which was already starting to scab over. He sat back and watched the desert whip past beneath them through the dusty windshield. Sometimes he dreamed about leaving Tatooine and travelling to a planet with oceans. He had read about worlds such as Alderaan and Naboo, places where water stretched from horizon to horizon. Maybe he’d meet some beautiful Alderaanian princess, get married and settle down somewhere near the sea, where he could listen to the sound of running water. He chuckled to himself. Moisture farming was a profession that had very little call for an imagination, yet there had been nights when he and Ed would sit together and talk about what life would be like someplace else. The speeder jolted as it went over a hump in the ground. Cliegg unbuckled himself from his seat and wiggled up beside Ed. ‘So are you gonna tell me what this is about?’ ‘Eh?’ ‘Don’t give me that. You don’t need new boots. Your feet haven’t grown since you were twelve.’ Ed blushed. ‘I just have something I wanted to do.’ A grin cracked on Cliegg’s face. ‘Oh, I see. This is about a girl, isn’t it?’ ‘No!’ said Ed, a little too quickly. ‘So who is it? Freeta Darklighter? Muna Corchas?’ ‘No.’ ‘Who is it then?’ ‘Just leave it.’ ‘Aw come on. Being a big brother has very few perks,’ said Cliegg, nudging his little brother in the ribs. ‘Teasing you is one of my few pleasures in life.’ Ed flashed him a sarcastic smile. ‘I figured that out already. I just don’t think—’ Something in the corner of Cliegg’s eyes snatched his attention away from the conversation. Directly in their path was a long shaft of rusted metal, sticking into the air. He reached towards the steering column but it was too late. The speeder hit the metal object at over a hundred kph. The impact flung Cliegg from his seat as the vehicle spun out of control. The nose hit the ground and the speeder flipped over. He caught a quick glimpse of the sky as he tumbled through the air and an even quicker glimpse of the sand before he smashed into the sandy earth and blacked out.