"There is a great disturbance in the Force. Events are moving." Qui-Gon warned. My hermitage is quite small and seemed even smaller with my old Master standing in the middle of the cluttered single room and dominating it.
"Yes, Master." I agreed, ladling stew into a bowl. "I feel it also." I frowned, trying to bring those feelings into clearer focus. "But I can't quite sense what they're moving towards."
That earned me a reproving look. "Focus on the present, Obi-Wan, let the future take care of itself. Be patient."
"Yes, Master." I said resignedly. To my Teacher I will always be his impatient Padawan. Though I do liketo think patience is one lesson I've mastered over these last twenty years.
He smiled. "Are you humoring me, Obi-Wan?"
"Yes, Master." I set the bowl on the stone table. "Would you care to join me?"
He laughed, "No thank you," and settled himself on the bench in the alcove. "I'm sorry, Obi-Wan. I sometimes forget you've grown beyond my tutelage."
"Never that, Master." I disagreed quickly and sincerely. "I still have much to learn."
Qui-Gon looked at the contents of my bowl and grimaced. "Cooking for one."
I woke in the pre-dawn darkness to a prickling presentiment of approaching danger. I hadn't forgotten my conversation with Qui-Gon but the Sand People had become alarmingly bold of late and it seemed most likely the feeling related to them.
At first light I set out to scout the Wastes, quickly running across the trail of a small raiding party. I tracked them to an arroyo not far from my hermitage where I found them busy looting a speeder until I scattered the lot with a Krayt dragon call.
I didn't realize it was young Luke Skywalker they'd caught until I saw him sprawled in an inert heap where the raiders had dropped him. I knelt and quickly felt for a pulse, sighing in relief when I found it, then put a hand to his forehead reaching out to investigate the
damage. Fortunately there was nothing I couldn't easily put right.
Finished I sank back on my heels, heard a tiny sound and turned sharply towards it. It wasn't a Tusken, or any other kind of life form, just a small droid trying to hide in a nearby crevice. I put back my hood to show I was human.
"Hello there!" I smiled reassuringly and beckoned. "Come here, my little friend, don't be afraid."
It emerged, an Artoo unit with blue markings, not unlike Anakin's R2D2 and emitted a series of concerned whistles.
"Don't worry, he'll be all right." I answered it. Luke chose that moment to stir and try to sit up, I steadied him. "Rest easy, son, you've had a busy day. You're fortunate to be all in one piece."
He blinked at me in momentary confusion. "Ben? Ben Kenobi?" we'd known each other well once, before Owen put his foot down. But it'd been several years since I'd seen him except from a distance. He hadn't seen me at all until this moment. "Boy am I glad to see you!"
"The Jundland Wastes are not to be traveled lightly." I scolded, getting to my feet and helping the boy to his. "Tell me, young Luke, what brings you out this far?" I was beginning to suspect my presentiment had nothing to do with Tusken Raiders.
"This little droid," Luke gestured towards the R2 unit. "I think he's searching for his former master, but I've never seen such devotion in a droid before." I had. Surely it couldn't be...
"Ah, he claims to be the property of an Obi-Wan Kenobi." that name, coming unexpectedly out of nowhere, hit me with almost physical force. I couldn't conceal my reaction, sinking back half-stunned onto a convenient boulder.
Luke's eyes narrowed. "Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who he's talking about?"
"Obi-Wan...Obi-Wan..." Coming from Anakin's boy the name sounded alien, unfamiliar like it belonged to somebody else. I've been Old Ben the crazy desert hermit a good many years now, perhaps too many. I pulled myself together with an effort. "Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time, a long time." Not counting last night of course.
Luke's eyes were fixed on me like a targeting beam on an objective. "I think my uncle knows him. He said he was dead."
I couldn't help a snort of amusement. It sounded like something Owen would say, and there may have been more truth in it than he realized. "Oh he's not dead," I told Luke, "not yet." Not quite.
"You know him?" he pressed.
I couldn't help laughing. Obviously the boy had realized the truth but wanted to hear it from me. I obliged. "Of course I know him. He's me!" more or less. "I haven't gone by the name Obi-Wan since - oh before you were born." Twenty years, twenty years.
"Then the droid does belong to you?" Luke continued.
"I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid." I mused, eying the R2 unit thoughtfully. "Very interesting."
A bantha cry interrupted my introspection. "I think we better get indoors. The Sand People are easily startled but they will soon be back. And in greater numbers."
We started for the speeder only to be stopped in our tracks by a cacophany of agitated whistles and beeps from the R2 unit.
"Threepio!" Luke gasped and darted off up the arroyo.
I recovered myself and looked at the little droid. "So it is you, Artoo Detoo!" He whistled a cheerful affirmation. "Well let's go see what trouble your counterpart's gotten himself into this time."
Judging by the results See Threepio had gone over the edge of a short drop. He was badly dented and his left arm had broken off at the shoulder. Luke and I helped him to sit up.
"Where am I?" he said with stunning unoriginality. "I'm sorry, sir, I must have taken a bad step."
"Can you stand?" Luke asked anxiously, "We've got to get out of here before the Sand People return."
"I don't think I can make it. You go on, Master Luke. There's no sense in you risking yourself on my account. I'm done for."
Artoo bleeped a disgusted comment from the shelf above. Obviously Threepio hadn't changed a bit.
"No you're not. What kind of talk is that." Luke protested, much moved.
Rather more accustomed to protocol droid histrionics I contented myself with hauling Threepio to his feet. "Quickly...they're on the move."
My hermitage is quite small and rather crowded with odds and ends picked up over twenty years of desert scavenging but it's my home, the only one I've ever had or will have, and I knew with inarguable certainty that if I left it I would never see it again. The
thought was astonishingly painful.
I dug out my toolbox for Luke so he could reattach Threepio's arm and settled myself on a stool leaning back against a post.
"You got some pretty sophisticated equipment here." Anakin's son observed in suprise.
I smiled. "I wasn't always a hermit, Luke." "So what else have you done?" he asked setting to work.
"A great many things." I evaded, "studied, taught, even fought when I had to." that earned me an incredulous look. I laughed, "Is it so hard to believe?"
"Well - uh," the boy stammered, embarrassed.
"I served in the Clone Wars with your father."
"No," he said, startled, "my father didn't fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter."
"That's what your uncle's told you." I sighed. "He didn't hold with your father's ideals. Thought heshould have stayed here and not gotten involved." Owen never could understand that just wasn't an option. Not for the Chosen One, or his son.
"You fought in the Clone Wars?" Luke couldn't quite take it in.
If he thought that was hard to believe... "Yes. I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father." The past tense didn't register until I uttered it. Once? wasn't I still? I'd better be. Events were moving as Qui-Gon had said, my enforced retirement was over.
"I wish I'd known him." Luke said softly. Meaning his father.
"He was the best starpilot in the Galaxy," I remembered, "and a cunning warrior." I smiled at his son. "I understand you've become quite a good pilot yourself," which was only to be expected. "And he was a good friend." I concluded softly and suddenly realized just
how much I'd missed Anakin all these quiet years.
He was a very good friend who'd have good cause to be annoyed with me I recalled guiltily. "Which reminds me," I got up and began to rummage through a chest. "I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have it when you got old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn-fool idealistic crusade like your father did."
As if Anakin had ever followed me anywhere! Quite the reverse as I recall. But I should never have let Luke's training go like this, no matter what Owen threatened. What would his father say? And there it was, near the bottom of the chest, Ani's old lightsabre with outer casing removed to allow for easy disassembly and concealment but otherwise intact. I handed it to Luke.
He stared at it blankly. "What is it?"
"Your father's lightsabre." I explained. "This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. He switched it on, waving the blade cautiously, getting the feel of it, I resumed my seat. "An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knghts were guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire." I heard the bitterness in my voice and stopped myself before I said to much.
It didn't matter, Luke hadn't been listening. "How did my father die?"
I drew a deep breath. Now the difficult explanations began. "He didn't. Anakin Skywalker is still alive."
The boy stared at me in shock, unable to articulate the questions burning in his eyes. I set about answering them as best I could.
"The Emperor knew the Jedi were a threat to him, especially your father. He hunted down and destroyed as many of us as he could find. Anakin knew you'd share his danger if he kept you with him so he had me bring you here, to Tatooine, where you could grow up in safe annonymity. When you were old enough I was to give you his old lightsabre and teach you the ways ofthe Force."
"The Force?" Luke echoed blankly.
How to explain? "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the Galaxy together." Luke still looked confused. I was about to try again when Artoo interupted, demanding my attention with a piercing bleep.
"I beg your pardon, my little friend," I apologized. "You have a message for me I think?"
"I saw part of it -" Luke began, cut off as a holograph formed on the table top. I had been expecting Anakin instead I saw a slender, dark haired girl in the white of the Alderaanian Royal House. It took me a moment to realize who she must be.
"General Kenobi," Anakin's daughter began formally, "years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire."
Her father Bail? or was this Anakin's idea?
"I regret that I am unable to present my father's request to you in person but my ship has fallen under attack and I fear my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed."
My heart chilled. Attack! Was Leia dead then? or in the hands of the Empire?
"I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory of this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid delivered safely to him on Alderaan."
Which father, I wondered. Had Anakin told Leia who he was? Or did she still believe herself the daughter of Bail Organa?
"This is our most desperate hour." the hologram spread her hands in appeal. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope." and then she vanished in a cloud of glittering static.
Whatever I can do I will, child, for Anakin's daughter, I promised silently, but I fear you've chosen a broken reed to lean upon, my child.
I glanced at Luke who still staring at the bare table-top where his sister's image had stood. I leaned forward. "You must learn the ways of the Force if you're to come with me to Alderaan."
The boy started as if I'd awakened him from a dream, perhaps in a sense I had. "Alderaan!" he gasped, almost laughed, "I'm not going to Alderaan." twenty years of Owen's tutelage reasserted itself. "I've got to get home. It's late, I'm in for it as it is."
"I need your help, Luke." I urged quietly, "She needs your help. I'm getting to old for this sort of thing." he still hesitated. "Your father needs your help."
That did it. "Father." Anakin's son whispered and swallowed. "Will he be on Alderaan."
"Probably." I nodded at the droids. "Artoo and Threepio belong to him. He must have sent them with the Princess."
Artoo burbled a confirmation.
"Princess?" Luke repeated on a rising note.
"Leia Organa of Alderaan. Her father is an old friend of your father's, and mine."
He swallow again, followed by a deep breath. "I still have to go home. To tell them."
I winced inwardly. There was sure to be a scene, Owen might do or say anything, but the boy was right. My brother and Beru were entitled to an explanation and a good-bye. I nodded acceptance. "You must do what you feel is right, of course."
Another feeling washed over me, a warning. "Luke, behind that dune!"
Perhaps he sensed it too, at least he didn't start asking questions until we were under cover. "Why? What's wrong?"
I didn't answer. I couldn't, I didn't know yet. I exited the speeder and clambered to the top of the dune to peer cautiously over its crest.
Luke was right behind me. "Ben, what is it?"
I hushed him, pointed. "Imperial Stormtroopers."
Fourteen of them mounted on dewbacks and heading right for my hermitage.
"Imperials?" Luke squeaked nervously, "what are they doing here?"
"Looking for the droids." I answered grimly. Luke and I would be an unexpected but very welcome bonus.
We had to move fast. Owen and Beru...
"How did they know where to go?" Luke wondered. "Then the obvious answer hit him. "Uncle Owen!" Sand showered everywhere as he scrambled back down to the speeder. I only just managed to keep up with him.
Luke was out of the speeder before it'd come to a full stop, hurtling towards the smoking holes that had once been his home shouting for Owen and Beru. I climbed out slowly, weighed down by age, grief and guilt. Luke's cries cut off suddenly. He'd found them.
Two smoking skeletal shapes in a wrecked speeder were all that was left of my only brother and his sweet, gentle wife. Making a run for it? or charging the enemy? Knowing Owen a bit of both. Luke had turned away from the sight, shaking with harsh, dry sobs. He jumped when I put my hand on his shoulder.
"There's nothing you could have done, Luke, had you been here. You'd have been killed too, and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire." And that goes for you too, Old Man. I continued to myself. Even a Jedi can be overwhelmed by numbers and you are not the man you were.
We didn't give them to the flames. That wouldn't have suited Owen at all. Instead we wrapped what was left of him and Beru in old cloaks and laid them inside the home they'd made for themselves then climbed back outside. Luke's eyes were streaming from smoke and emotion. I turned back and reached out with the Force to encompass the weight of sand above the house then pushed. The salt plain settled some two meters as the house spaces collapsed sealing my brother and sister in their tomb. I opened my eyes to find Luke staring at me in shocked disbelief.
"You did that!" he blurted.
I blinked at him, putting my sorrow and guilt aside to be delt with later. "You've seen me use the Force before, Luke." I reminded him.
"Yeah." he agreed shakily, "Little stuff, tricks."
"The principle is the same." I shrugged. "Come, the sooner we lose ourselves in the crowds of Mos Eisley the better."
I'd learned to love the Tatooine backcountry over the years but my affection certainly didn't extend to the Hutt controlled port towns. Luke however was all starry eyed at his first glimpse of a 'city'.
"Mos Eisley Spaceport." I half warned, half chided. "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."
I wasn't at all happy about taking Anakin's son into an open port controlled by Jabba the Hutt and doubtless crawling with Imperial stormtroopers but had no viable alternative. Mos Espa or Mos Eol would be no safer. We'd just have to trust in the Force. I directed Luke away from the relatively respectable part of town to the rundown port district. We were soon stopped by a squad of stormtroopers.
My new student paled visibly as the Imperials crowded around us but piped right up when their leader asked; "How long have you had these droids?"
"Three or four seasons," Luke answered.
"They're for sale if you want them." I put in falling back into my desert scavenger persona.
"Let me see your identification." the Trooper demanded.
I exerted the Force. "You don't need to see his identification."
"We don't need to see his identification." the Trooper agreed.
"These aren't the droids you're looking for." I continued.
Luke's eyes flashed from me to the Stormtrooper as the man obediently repeated, "These aren't the droids we're looking for."
"He can go about his business." I suggested.
"You can go about your business." said my echo.
"Move along." I advised Luke.
"Move along, move along." the Trooper chimed in waving us on our way.
"Turn in here." I directed some little time later and got another uncertain look from my student as he obeyed, pulling up in front of a tumbledown blockhouse.
A Jawa scurried up as we parked, fondled the speeder longingly. Luke shooed it away. "Go on, go on."
"I can't abide those Jawas," Threepio sniffed haughtily. "Disgusting creatures."
I'd thought so too once. I'd learned better but there's no point in arguing with a droid.
"I can't understand how we got by those troops." Luke rattled on. "I thought we were dead."
"The Force can have a strong influence on the weak minded." I replied, answering the question he hadn't quite asked.
No doubt about it, his new awareness of my powers was making Luke very uneasy. He changed the subject looking dubiously at the cantina. "Do you really think we'll find a pilot here to take us to Alderaan?"
"Most of the best freighter pilots can be found here." I explained. "Only watch your step, this place can be rough."
I admit I underestimated the impact of the cantina's millieu on young Luke. His father, at age ten, hadn't turned a hair when Qui-Gon and I'd taken him into a similar place on Corellia. But then Anakin had spent his early years in the roughest part of Mos Espa. His son had led a considerably more sheltered life.
I approached a Corellian in a shipsuit and announced I was looking for a charter. He directed me to a seven foot tall Wookie who I managed to greet in my rusty Kashhyk'ka. My accent had always been atrocious and twenty years disuse hadn't improved it. Still it got us off on the right foot. Chewbacca was delighted by my courtesy and warmed to me at once. He readily admitted he and his partner were available for charter, hinting that they were in fact badly in need of one. Naturally I didn't pry. He offered to introduce me to his captain and I accepted, only then realizing my student was in trouble.
Fear attracts the fearful as Ani used to say and poor Luke was definitely fearful in these strange surroundings. An alien and a human even less savory than the usual run of customers, had him cornered against the bar.
I tried to sooth the waters. "This little one's not worth the trouble." I told the human, putting a steadying hand on Luke's shoulder. "Come let me get you something." Nine times out of ten offering to buy a drink will defuse any barroom confrontation. Unfortunately this was one of those tenth times. The human seemingly fastened on me as a more worthy opponent, hurling Luke out of the way as he went for his sidearm.
My lightsabre had ignited and sliced through blaster and human before I'd I chance to think. Then it was the alien's turn to try to draw and I cut away both arm and gun with a backhanded strike. I paused - engard - and scanned the room for further threats. Happily nobody seemed interested in avenging the pair. Eyes veered uneasily away from my gaze as nearby patrons self-consciously resumed their drinks and conversations.
I extinguished my sabre realizing two things; first my Jedi reflexes were in rather better order than I'd thought. Second I'd just made a serious, if unavoidable, mistake. This would be talked about and when the Imperials heard they'd know what it meant. We had to move fast.
I helped a dazed Luke out of the ruins of the table he'd been flung into. "I'm all right." he mumbled, staring at me in disbelief.
"Chewbacca here is first mate on a ship that might suit us." I told him, ignoring what had just happened.
Luke Skywalker: I'd just lost the only home, the
only family I'd ever known which I was doing my best not
to think about it just then. Ben obliged by giving me
a lot else to think about.
I'd known him most of my life, though I hadn't seen
much of him in the last few years, but now I was
realizing I didn't know him at all.
I think I'd always sensed there was more to him
than the crazy hermit act he put on in front of most
people, but he'd never let me see much of the real
Ben. Until now. It was quite a revelation.
The moment I laid eyes on Chewbacca's partner I knew this man was going to be important to Luke's destiny. I didn't know then how important. his Force presence was unusually strong and he seemed just about the right age to have been pulled in by the last drafts before the fall of the Order.
"Han Solo. I'm Captain of the Millenium Falcon." he introduced himself. "Chewie here tells me you're looking for passage to the Alderaan system."
"Yes indeed." I replied, "If it's a fast ship."
He gave me a disbelieving glare. "Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millenium Falcon?"
Restraining a smile I widened my eyes innocently. "Should I have?"
"It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs!" he snapped back, annoyed. I sensed he was telling the truth but knew better than to let him see I was impressed. "I've outrun Imperial starships," he continued with some heat, "not the local bulk cruisers, mind you. I'm talking about the big Corellian ships now. She's fast enough for you, old man." He rubbed thumb against forefinger. "What's the cargo?"
"Only passengers." I responded. "Myself, the boy, two droids," I leaned forward letting my voice drop for emphasis. "and no questions asked."
Han grinned. "What is it? Some kind of local trouble?"
Would that it were. "Let's just say we'd like to avoid any Imperial entanglements." I said settling back in my chair.
"Well that's the real trick isn't it? And it's going to cost you something extra." a pause then - "Ten thousand, all in advance."
Luke, predictably, failed to recognize an opening gambit when he heard it and was appalled. "Ten thousand? We could almost buy our own ship for that!"
"But who's going to fly it, kid? You?" Han mocked.
"You bet I could." Luke snapped back. "I'm not such a bad pilot myself!"
True but I wasn't about to trust him with a hyper-jump. For that matter I had more thousands of hours of flight time than either of them had been alive but that was beside the point.
"We don't have to sit here and listen to this -" Luke told me, starting to rise.
I hauled him back down. "We can pay you two thousand now," I was sure I could scrape that much together - "plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan."
"Seventeen, huh!" he pretended to ponder it but I knew I had him. "Okay. You guys got yourselves a ship. We'll leave as soon as you're ready. Docking bay ninety-four."
"Ninety-four." I repeated.
His eyes slid past me. "Looks like somebody's beginning to take an interest in your handiwork." I glanced over my shoulder. Four stormtroopers were talking to the bartender. I touched Luke's shoulder and he gave me a look of near panic. "We'll be there
within the hour." I told Han, rising unhurriedly as quick movement would only call attention to us. I took Luke by the arm and steered him at the same leisurely pace between tables full of patrons who studiously ignored us and out the back door.
"You'll have to sell your speeder." I told him as we emerged into the street, pulling up my hood against the blazing double sunlight.
I'd half expected an argument but - "That's okay. I'm never coming back to this planet again."
Oh yes you are, I found myself thinking, someday.