"Hey, Aunt Peli, I'm home!" shouted John Lennohnaka. He scowled at the pit droids loitering in the shadow of the spacecraft parked in the repair dock, then approached his aunt. "How come that lot's not helping you?"
Peli tugged at her wrench, struggling to open the scorched panel that covered the ship's secondary power unit. "The man who owns this ship is a very particular customer," she said through clenched teeth as she slowly loosened a bolt. "He doesn't want any droids touching his vessel."
"That's daft," replied John.
Peli flashed her nephew an exasperated look. "I don't suppose you might consider helping me then?"
John offered her a wan smile. "I would, Auntie, but my mates are dropping by just now so we can rehearse for our gig at the cantina tonight."
Peli sighed and turned back to the damaged ship. "The hallikset's alright, John, but you'll never make a living at it."
"That's not true, Auntie," he replied. "I just stopped by the cantina on the way home, and talked to the manager about taking us on as the house band. He said he was considering it."
Peli snorted and started loosening the next bolt. "Well, you and your friends would be an improvement over that last band they had working there. Every time I dropped by the cantina for a mug of Gamorrean ale, those dolts were playing the same damned song." She started whistling under her breath: "Doo-dah, doo-dah, doo-dah-doo! Doodle-ah, doodle-ah, doooo-doo!"
John shrugged and started walking away. "It was their biggest hit, Auntie. You can't blame them for trying to milk it for all it was worth."
Peli stopped loosening the bolt and called after her nephew. "Hey, I still need your help. The man who owns this ship left his passenger behind with me. I need you to mind him while I try to get this engine back into shape."
"Mind him?" John challenged. "How old is this passenger?"
"Age is deceptive," Peli replied. She set down her wrench and wiped her hands on her coveralls. "C'mon. Judge for yourself. He was napping when I left him, but he's probably awake by now."
"Napping?" John replied. He followed his aunt up the ramp of the ship and into the hold. "Is he sick?"
"No," Peli said. She led John to the back of the cargo bay and pointed to a wooden basket. "He's just tired." She stepped towards the basket and smiled, then leaned down and scooped up a small green creature. "Isn't he just the most adorable little thing you've ever seen?"
John gazed at the big-eyed child with enormous, pointed ears, and smiled in spite of himself. "Damn. He's even cuter than my mate Paul!"
Peli smiled back. "This little one has much bigger eyes than Paul does. And just look at his ears!"
The child cooed, then turned his face towards John and stared at him in wide-eyed wonder.
"I think he likes you," Peli announced. She handed the child to John, then started walking back to the ramp.
"But Auntie, I can't babysit him!" John called after her. "My mates are coming over to rehearse! What'll we do with him while we're playing?"
"Give him an instrument," Peli suggested. "He can join your band." She jogged out of the ship before John could think of an argument.
John looked down at the tiny creature in his arms. The child reached up his three-fingered hand and pulled John's glasses off his face.
"Hey, baby, no, I need those," John said.
The child tightened his grip on the glasses, then tried to place them over his own face. The dim light streaming into the ship's hull from the open hatch reflected off the golden rims of the spectacles and the large shiny eyes of the child, and sparkled back at John like dancing images of broken light.
John chuckled. "Well, okay, my specs look better on you than they do on me," he admitted. "They make you look like you have kaleidoscope eyes. But I still need these to see." He carefully took the glasses away from the creature and placed them back on his own face. "C'mon, little child. Let's go to my auntie's break room and see if my mates have shown up yet. I'll introduce you to the gang."
John smiled at the small child squirming in his arms, then turned towards his friends to make introductions. "This is my drummer, Ringo Starkiller. This is my lead hallikset player, George Harrisonford. And this is Paul Malak'artney. He plays just about everything else, including the nalargon. And this is…"
John examined the curious expression on the child's face and shrugged. "A nameless baby."
"We've got to call him something," George countered.
"A nickname at least," added Ringo.
"I once saw a holovid of a creature who looked a lot like him, back when I was in school," Paul said. "He was one of the greatest Jedi Masters of all time. His name was Yoda, and he taught Count Dooku to use the Force, before the bloody bastard turned to the dark side. The two of them squared off in an epic lightsaber duel at the beginning of the Clone Wars!"
"Oh, come on," John laughed. "I can't imagine this little bundle of sweetness ever growing into a Jedi knight who would take up arms against a Sith Lord!"
"Well, you never know," said Paul. "Now put him down, why don't you, so we can practice for tonight's show."
John rested the child on a chair and looked at him sternly. "Now stay there and don't get into any trouble while my friends and I rehearse."
The child nodded and cooed.
John, Paul and George picked up their halliksets and started tuning them while Ringo settled into his seat behind the drum kit.
"What song should we start with?" George asked.
"How about this one?" John replied. He smiled at his young charge and started singing:
Little child, little child,
Little child won't you dance we me?
I'm so sad and lonely,
Baby take a chance with me…
His bandmates joined in as John continued his song. Then George stepped to the front of the group, strummed a few chords, and led his friends in performing another tune:
Well they took some honey from a tree,
Dressed it up, and they called it me!
Everybody's trying to be my baby,
Everybody's trying to be my baby,
Everybody's trying to be my baby now!
The child swayed along to the rhythm of the song, then giggled when it ended.
"Looks like we've got us a new fan!" laughed Paul. "Here, let's see if he likes this one too." He plucked out a quick rhythm on his bass-hallikset, then started to sing:
My baby says she's trav'lin' on the one after 909,
I said, 'Move over, honey, I'm travelin' on that line!'
I said, 'Move over once, move over twice–
C'mon, baby, don't be cold as ice!
I said I'm trav'lin' on the one after 909!'
The child danced happily in his chair while the band played the next verse of the rollicking song. Then he noticed the clarinet-shaped Chindinkalu flute resting on a table in the opposite corner of the break room. He raised his hand and pointed a finger at the flute. The instrument slowly lifted itself off the table, then flew into the child's hands. The child immediately brought the flute to his lips and started playing along with the band.
The four musicians stopped singing and stared at the child with their mouths agape. Then John turned towards his bandmates and signaled for them to stop playing their instruments.
"Did you see that?" John asked. "That baby just made the Chindinkalu fly to him!"
"I think the more important question is, 'Did you hear that?'" replied George. "That kid is a natural!"
"Perhaps he's got Jedi powers, like the late, great Yoda of the Dagobah system," suggested Paul.
"I'd say he's got horn-playing powers, like the late, great King Curtis of the Ousley system," countered Ringo. "C'mon, John, let's do 'Rock and Roll Music.' I want to hear my man a'wailin' sax!"
John smiled, then nodded to George to play the intro. He sang the first verse and chorus, then nodded to the creature. The child nodded back, then started playing a bluesy solo on his flute.
When the song ended, the four musicians bowed to the child.
"We've got us a horn-player!" exclaimed Ringo.
"Though he be but little, he is fierce," added John.
"Our little green man can play the blues," George chimed in.
"Who needs a Jedi master of the lightsaber?" asked Paul. "Baby Yoda here is a Chindinkalu master!"
George furrowed his brow. "But he's not old enough to step inside the cantina, let alone play on the stage. He's just a baby."
"He's fifty years old," said a woman's voice at the far end of the room.
The four young men turned towards the door and saw John's Aunt Peli walking towards them. "The man who left him here this morning told me that," she added. "This little guy might look like a baby, but he's already lived half-a-century."
Paul nodded. "I learned in history class that Master Yoda was more than nine hundred years old when he died. I guess the members of his species must have long, drawn-out childhoods to match their long, drawn-out lifespans."
"Makes sense to me," Ringo concurred.
"So the kid's old enough to play for the boozers in the cantina with us," John said with a smile.
George frowned. "Does that mean we'll have to split our pay five ways?"
John shrugged and walked towards the child. He attempted to take the flute away from him. The child frowned and tightened his grip on the instrument. John engaged in a short tug of war with the creature, then released his grip and looked back at his friends.
"I say we give him the flute as payment," John proposed. "And we split the credits between the four of us, same as always."
Ringo looked out the window at the setting suns. "It's almost nightfall. We should start heading to the cantina soon."
Peli threw a stern look at her nephew. "Take good care of my baby," she warned John. "I don't like the idea of your bringing him with you to that wretched hive of scum and villainy."
"The cantina's not that bad of a place," John protested. "We've never come to any harm there, anyway."
"It's not as bad as the Kaiser Keller," George added. "Or the Indra."
Ringo shuddered at the memory of the sleazy nightclubs the band had played when they were first starting out.
Paul walked up to Peli and rested his hand on her shoulder. "We'll mind him, Mrs. Motto. Don't you worry. We have a vested interest in this little lad now, after all. He's our new saxophonist!"
"The Mandalorian said he'd be returning to Mos Eisley sometime this evening," Peli replied. "He'll be wanting to leave Tatooine as soon as I finish the repairs on his ship."
John's face blanched. "A Mandalorian owns that ship?"
"Those bounty hunters from the galaxy's Outer Rim? Who wear masked helmets?" John continued.
"You've got that right," Peli replied.
John sighed. "I saw a Mandalorian in the cantina this afternoon when I stopped by to speak to the manager. He was sitting at a table with that tosser Toro Calican."
"I went to school with Calican," George said derisively. "He's got the devil in his heart."
"Calican's a bloody womprat, if you ask me," Paul agreed.
Ringo stepped away from the window and shrugged. "Well, that's neither here nor there. We've got a show to do now. C'mon – someone help me load my drum kit on my landspeeder so I can take it to the cantina. Then the rest of you lot can follow along in your own speeders."
The child jumped off the chair and tottled after John.
John picked him up and grinned. "Don't worry, Baby Yoda, we won't leave you behind. You're part of the band now! You're one of us!"
John leaned over the wooden basket and let the child squeeze his finger for comfort.
"It's alright, little child," he whispered. "I know this place seems frightening, but most of the patrons are nice enough underneath their scary surfaces. They just come here to blow off a little steam, that's all."
The child shivered and made a nervous noise.
John slipped his finger out of the child's hand. "Now just sit tight while we warm up the crowd. Then when you feel up to it, you can join in." He walked back to the microphone at the center of the stage and addressed the audience:
"Thank you all for coming here this evening! We're the Carbonite Beatles, and we're gonna start things off tonight with a little space-themed music!" He nodded at George.
George stepped up to his microphone and strummed a simple rhythm on his hallikset. Paul pounded the keys of the nalargon to create some ethereal sounding chords. Then George started to sing:
Everybody's talking up a storm.
Act like they don't notice it,
But here it is and here it comes:
Here comes the moon, the moon, the moon, the moo-oo-oo-oon!
John and Paul joined in with harmonies while Ringo ran his drumstick over a string of bells. When the song came to a close, nobody in the audience responded.
George looked at his bandmates and sighed. "So much for space music. Let's try something less galactic and more atmospheric."
John nodded and shot a quick glance at Ringo. Ringo beat in a staccato rhythm on his drums, then George joined in on his hallikset while John started to sing:
When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead.
When the rain comes…when the raaaaiiiinnn comes…
A trio of moisture farmers sitting in the back of the cantina applauded politely when the song came to an end. John acknowledged them with an exaggerated bow, then turned towards Paul. "Okay, mate, let's see if you can rouse this comatose crowd."
Paul stepped away from the nalargon and picked up his left-handed hallikset. "Righto. Listen up, folks. I wrote this next song about two planets in a galaxy far, far away, and it goes like this!" He started strumming a slow rhythm on the strings of his instrument. George and John joined in on their halliksets, then Paul opened his mouth to sing. But before any words could escape from his lips, a clear, bright tone wafted over the band from the back of the stage. John, Paul, George and Ringo turned their heads and saw the child tottling towards them, holding and playing his Chindinkalu. His song filled the air.
The crowd started shuffling in their seats to get better views of the band. Some gamblers in the back of the room put down their cards and walked towards the stage to examine the tiny flautist.
The child finished his solo, then looked up at Paul with his large, shining eyes and smiled.
Paul smiled back at the child, then started to sing:
Sitting in the stand of the sports arena,
Waiting for the show to begin.
Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine–
A good friend of mine, follows the stars.
Venus and Mars are alright tonight…
John stepped over to the nalargon and played some spacey techno-notes. Then the child lifted the Chindinkalu back to his mouth and played his haunting melody once more. When he put down his instrument, the audience broke into loud cheers.
The child shook with fear at the sudden applause. John ran over to him and gently stroked the soft white hairs on the top of his head. "Hey, don't be frightened, little child. That noise means they like you! C'mon, let's do another song with a flute solo."
John picked up his hallikset and strummed a waltz rhythm, then started singing the opening lines to "You've got to Hide your Love Away." The child played the flute solo at the end of the song. The crowd once again erupted into applause. Then Paul returned to the nalargon and started playing the opening chords to "The Fool on the Hill." The child chimed in with his flute in the bridge between the verses. All of the patrons of the cantina gathered around the stage to cheer for the tiny soloist.
"Let's rock things up a little now!" shouted John. He leaned towards the child and asked him to switch the tone of his instrument to sound more like a saxophone. Then John started belting out the opening lyrics to "Whatever Gets You Through the Night." The child shimmied back and forth while he wailed alongside the band, drawing a bluesy, reedy tone from his Chindinkalu.
"He's a wonder, isn't he?" John asked the audience after he brought his song to an end. The crowd cheered wildly. Then John nodded to his bandmates and started leading them in a chorus of loud "ahs." When they were all four singing in harmony, John lifted his voice into a scream of joy, then belted out:
Well, shake it up baby now!
Twist and shout!
Paul and George echoed his cry of 'Shake it up baby!' while Ringo pounded out a fierce rhythm on his drums. After John finished the first verse and chorus of the song, the child claimed the center of the stage once more and started wailing a glorious saxophone solo on his Chindinkalu. The crowd screamed in ecstasy.
"Let's hear it for Baby Yoda!" John implored the excited audience when the song ended.
"Baba Yaga!" shouted a Cathar in a Rebel pilot's jacket.
"Bubba-Gyumpa!" shrieked a fish-eyed Mon Calamari, lifting his shot glass in salute.
"Bibi-Yeighta!" whirred a round-bottom, dish-washing droid who had rolled in from the cantina's kitchen to catch a glimpse of the pint-sized musician.
"No, he's called 'Baby Yoda'!" John corrected them.
"He's called 'The Child'!" shouted a loud voice from the back of the room. "And I have come here to collect him!"
Toro Calican raised his hand over his head and shot his blaster at the ceiling. The crowd immediately fell silent and cleared a path for him. Calican stepped towards the stage and grabbed the child's hand.
"He's coming with me now!" Calican demanded.
"No, he's not," John protested. "He's part of our band now. He's our horn player."
Calican sneered at John, then threw a nasty look at George. "Still playing your hallikset to impress the girlies, are you, Harrisonford? I'd thought you would have outgrown that stage act by now!"
George glared at Calican. "I'm making my living as a professional musician these days, thank you very much."
Calican spit on the floor. "Well, I'm making a better living than you are then. I'm a professional bounty hunter now." He pulled the child off the stage and held him to his chest with one arm, while he pointed his blaster at the band. "You let him go with me, and nobody gets hurt. You try to stop me, and I'll shoot up this whole goddamned cantina!"
John weighed his options quickly, then shot an apologetic look at the child. "You can take Baby Yoda, you wanker, but not the Chindinkalu. It belonged to Paul's father." He reached over the edge of the stage and carefully pried the instrument out of the child's hand. Then he closed his eyes, stepped back to the center of the stage, and extended his free hand towards the child. "Get out of this cantina, Calican," he said in a calm, steady voice. "You're not wanted here."
Calican stumbled backwards for a moment, whispering under his breath, "I am not wanted here." Then he tightened his grip on the child and ran to the door. The child cried out in terror as he left the building.
George, Paul and Ringo glowered at John.
John ignored them and leaned towards the microphone. "Sorry about that interruption, folks. We're gonna take a little break now, but we'll be back with another set soon. Go on back to the bar, why don't you, and get yourself some drinks while you're waiting."
He handed the flute to Paul and ran off the stage. Paul, George and Ringo immediately followed him into the dressing room.
Paul slammed the door shut behind him, then grabbed John by the shoulder with his free hand. "How could you let that bastard take the child?" he screamed.
"How the hell was I supposed to stop him?" John retorted. "He had a blaster in his hands. I just had an acoustic hallikset. But don't worry, I have a plan."
"I'd like to hear that!" scoffed George.
"I sent the kid a message, using the Force," John explained. "I told him to lay low, and promised that we'd come and save him."
"Since when have you been able to use the Force?" challenged Ringo.
"The Force runs through all living things," John replied calmly. "We each of us have the ability to channel its strength." He clenched his right hand into a fist and raised it up. "Power to the people, right on."
George sighed theatrically. "Let's just hope the little bloke could read your thoughts."
Paul shook his head. "So what's the rest of your plan, John? How the hell are we supposed to save Baby Yoda now?"
"I'm sure that womprat Calican is in cahoots with the Mandalorian," John replied. "Or else he's after him. But either way, they're bound to meet up with each other at my auntie's space dock, 'cause that's where the Mando's ship is parked. So we'll go back there and lay in wait for them. But we'll slip in through the bathroom window at the back of the building, so they won't see us coming."
"And what the hell are we supposed to do when we get there?" asked George.
John closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then released it slowly and looked at his bandmates with a serene expression. "We'll use the Force. It will guide us."
George wriggled his right leg to shake out a cramp. "Damn, how much longer are we supposed to lie here under this ship, waiting for that Mandalorian chap to show up?"
"Doesn't matter," Ringo interjected. "I couldn't leave if I wanted to. Both of my feet have fallen asleep."
John scooted to the edge of the large piece of landing gear he was hiding behind. "I don't know what to tell you. But that Mandalorian wanker has to come back here sometime."
Paul scrunched up his nose. "What's that stench?"
Ringo lifted his head. "Smells like a Bantha. Some Tusken Raider must be riding into town."
A set of footfalls echoed through the space dock. A tall man wearing full body armor, a metal face mask, and a long cape stepped into the dock and approached the ship.
"That's one hell of a costume he's got there," George noted, a hint of admiration in his voice.
Ringo nodded. "Not many men can carry off that mask-and-cape look. He must be a superhero."
"It's the Mandalorian," John scoffed. "I recognize him from the cantina."
"We should scoot a little bit to the side, don't you think?" Paul proposed. "Just to stay out of his line of fire? I mean – his line of sight…"
"Good idea," John, George and Ringo replied in unison. They scooched to the right just as John's Aunt Peli started walking down the ramp. Toro Calican followed immediately behind her, holding the child in one arm, and a blaster in the other. He pointed his gun at Peli's back and called out to the Mandalorian.
"Took you long enough, Mando," he said with a sneer. "Looks like I'm calling the shots now, huh, partner? Drop your blaster and raise 'em."
The Mandalorian dropped his gun and lifted his hands behind his head.
Calican shoved Peli forward. "Cuff him," he commanded her.
While Peli walked behind the Mandolian, Calican continued to taunt his prey.
"You're a Guild traitor, Mando, and I'm willing to bet that this here is the target you helped escape." Calican bent his chin towards the child, then resumed his harangue. "Fennec was right. Bringing you in won't just make me a member of the Guild. It will make me legendary."
Calican aimed his blaster at the Mandalorian and put his finger to the trigger, just as a bright flash of intense light burst forth in front of the Mandalorian. Calican shot blindly and missed his target.
"That Mandalorian must have dropped a flash grenade!" Paul exclaimed excitedly. "Bloody brilliant tactical move!"
John ignored his friend and reached out his right arm towards the ramp. He closed his eyes and concentrated with all his strength. Then, in the space of two seconds, Calican shot three more blasts blindly from his gun, the Mandalorian grabbed the blaster he had just dropped and shouted, "Stay back!" at Peli, and the child flew out of Calican's grasp, into the safety of John's arms.
"Baby, it's you!" John exclaimed. He looked down at the terrified child shivering in his embrace and smiled. "I told you I'd get you in the end, didn't I?"
A shot rang out from the Mandalorian's blaster.
"He shot Calican in the heart!" George exclaimed. "That Mandalorian is one smoking hot marksman!"
"Happiness is a warm gun," Ringo noted.
The child trembled in John's arms. Paul tried to shield the creature's large ears from the noise with the palms of his hands while John whispered in a soothing, sing-song voice, "Bang, bang, shoot, shoot."
Calican dropped his blaster, clutched his chest, and fell off the ramp, landing prone on the ground.
Peli ran to Calican's lifeless body. "We've got to get it!" she shouted.
The Mandalorian approached his defeated assailant and rolled him over. He searched Calican's pockets and pulled out his bag of credits.
"Where is it?" Peli screamed.
John stroked the fine white hairs on the top of the child's head, then reluctantly released him. "Now I will set you free. Go to him."
The child tottled away from John, then looked out from behind the landing gear and smiled at Peli.
"There you are! Are you hiding from us?" Peli exclaimed, her voice tinged with equal parts relief and joy. She approached the child cautiously and picked him up. "Look at you. That's alright. I know, that was really loud for your big old ears, wasn't it? That's okay. Sshh…"
She carried the child to the open area of the dock and handed him to the Mandalorian. "Be careful with him," she said. Then she stepped back and looked at the ground. "So, I take it you didn't get paid."
The Mandalorian poured the credits he had taken from Calican into her hands. "Will that cover me?"
Peli's eyes grew wide with disbelief. "Yeah. That's gonna cover you," she replied.
The Mandalorian started walking up the ramp.
Peli called to her crew of assistants. "Alright pit droids, let's drag this out of here!"
One of the droids responded with a series of electronic clicks.
"I don't know," Peli admitted. "Let's drag it to Beggars Canyon."
The pit droids start lifting the ramp, but then Paul ran out from behind the landing gear. "Wait, Mrs. Motto, this belongs to the child!" He held out the Chindinkalu flute and handed it to her.
Peli tilted her head and spotted her nephew's face in the shadow of the ship. "Were you spying on us?"
John stepped away from the landing gear and approached her. George and Ringo fell into place behind him. "We just had to make sure the child was going to be safe," John explained.
Peli rolled her eyes. "What were you thinking? Were you and your musician friends planning to fight off these two professional gunslingers with your halliksets?"
"We would have if we'd had to," George boasted.
"He's a member of the band now," Ringo added. "He's one of us."
The child let loose an excited squeal. He raised his right hand and pointed a finger at Peli, then closed his eyes and assumed an expression of intense contemplation. The Chindinkalu flew out of Peli's grasp and into his own. The child giggled.
John, Paul, George and Ringo stepped to the bottom of the ramp and smiled at Baby Yoda.
"You come on back any time you want," Paul called up to him. "Our band needs a good horn player."
"It's not safe for him here," The Mandalorian replied, tightening his grip on the child.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know," John admitted sadly. "But if you should discover, he doesn't need your cover, then send my baby back home to me."
Inspired by Episode 5 of the Disney+ television show "The Mandalorian," screenplay by Dave Filoni (2019). Based on characters created by Jon Favreau and George Lucas.