"Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike." --Madame de Stael
"And it's NOT just a retelling!" –me, five seconds ago
A harsh, baking wind rasped over Owen. To feel it, one would never guess that Tatooine's baleful twin suns had already fled over the horizon, leaving the sky a pleasant, dusky purple. In just an hour, the wasteland would be every bit as lethal for its frigidity as the blistering sunlight had been during the day.
This didn't concern him much, though his wife, Beru, would probably come calling him inside pretty soon. Owen stared into the sky through a pair of macrobinoculars even older than he was (quite an achievement, he'd be the first to admit.) "It could be…" he muttered uncertainly, fiddling with the focus. "Chiyo! Hey, Chiyo, c'mere and take a look at this!"
His niece didn't respond immediately. After a few seconds, though, he could clearly hear Beru saying, "You might as well go see what that idiot wants. I'll watch the food, you go on ahead." He smiled and sighed in good-natured disgruntlement. Ungrateful woman…
"Coming Uncle Owen!" Chiyo called brightly.
There was almost no family resemblance between the two. Where Owen was tall, dark and thickly built, she was small, fair and delicate. Though almost everyone on Tatooine had coarse black hair, hers was fine, a light orange-red, fluttering behind her in pigtails. She very obviously took after Owen's late brother-in-law.
"Here," Owen handed her the binoculars and pointed to a patch of sky. "Take a look over there."
"What am I looking for?" she asked, adjusting them to fit her face.
"You'll know it when you see it," her uncle replied, almost gleefully.
"I think I…" Chiyo stared for a few seconds. "Those green flashes?"
"Yeah, that's it. Doesn't it look like a battle?"
"I guess…" she lowered the macrobinoculars. "But why would anybody fight over Tatooine? It's probably auroras."
"But the auroras aren't due for another month."
"They come early sometimes. They did last year, remember?"
"You're no fun,' Owen said, swatting her head gently. "Where's your sense of adventure, eh? It's all your Aunt's fault."
"Sorry, but-" Chiyo started to respond, but something fell from the sky a few miles distant and made landfall with a dull thunderclap. "Of course, I, uh, I could be wrong…"
"What the hell?" Owen was suddenly dead serious. He snatched the macrobinoculars back and tried to focus on the landing site. "What…? That's not far away! We should go check it out!"
"We--?" Chiyo yelped as Owen grabbed her arm.
The landspeeder ride was only four minutes, but it seemed to take hours. By the time they arrived, a small cluster of speeders had already gathered, their owners standing around them and talking loudly. The whatever-it-was was only visible as a pillar of smoke in the near distance.
Chiyo hopped out as soon as they came to a stop, shivering in the suddenly icy air. The sky had faded to midnight blue and their breath came as little clouds. The desert didn't take very long to shift gears.
"It's Lars!" somebody called, and the other moisture farmers gathered around them. "Hey, Owen, Chiyo! How's it goin'?"
"What's going on?" Owen asked, his voice steely. Chiyo glanced at her uncle in surprise; this was a side of him she rarely saw.
"We're afraid to go near it," another said. Owen helped himself to the man's binoculars (much nicer than his own) and turned towards the crash site as he kept talking. "I mean, what if it's an alien invasion or radioactive or an unexploded torpedo or full of the plague or…"
"You spineless idiots!" Owen suddenly barked. "That's a standard escape pod! Somebody could be dying in there!"
He carelessly tossed the expensive binoculars aside and started towards the pod. Chiyo looked hopefully around at the other farmers, then followed when she saw nobody else would come. Recounting the night later, many of them admitted that her look had shamed them more than any amount of scorn from her uncle.
The controls were in a language that neither recognized, but Chiyo only took a few seconds to figure them out. The hatch hissed open, loosing a blast of over-warm air into the frozen night. Owen grimaced slightly; he knew the smell of a blaster wound when he caught it.
There was only one passenger. A young woman was sprawled on the floor, dressed in some kind of uniform, though it was hard to tell, caked in blood and charred as it was. She'd been shot not once, but twice, and then been banged up further in the pod's botched landing.
"Hey," Owen said softly, kneeling beside her. "You awake?"
"Ugh…!" She weakly gripped his sleeve and implored, "Kenobi…"
"Listen, I'm gonna get you some help, and—" he said, starting to take a hold of her shoulders, but she swatted his hands away with surprising strength and insisted, "Kenobi!"
"Right," Owen replied, "Kenobi, sure thing. Now are you gonna let me help you or what?"
By way of a response, she finally passed out. Chiyo tugged on Owen's sleeve. "I don't think anything's broken," she said. "We can probably move her."
"Thanks…" the woman was surprisingly heavy; she was probably wearing body armor of some kind. After a little arranging, he was able to carry her out into the cold night, under the scrutiny of their fellow moisture farmers. "Go home!" he snarled.
If anything, the ride back was even longer than before. Owen called ahead and let his wife know they were coming back with an injured person. He winced at the sound of their kitchen table being cleared in one sweep as he signed off.
"What happened to her?" Chiyo asked, gently wiping the woman's face clean of blood. She had a sharp, honest face, partially hidden by jagged bangs. "What kind of people would do this?"
"I don't know, Chiyo."
Beru was waiting outside for them, her eyes hard and businesslike. Their guest was carted in without ado and stretched out on the table. Beru put a hand on the collar of the woman's uniform, but then turned a scalding look on her husband.
"Oh. Right," he said diffidently, leaving the room. He heard his wife order, "Chiyo, run me some cold water, as much as you can get." It was going to be a long night.
Some three hours later, they had their guest situated as well as could be hoped and a bone-weary Chiyo was ordered to bed. As tired as she was, though, she just couldn't fall asleep, and overheard her caregivers speaking thus:
"Who could be so barbaric?" Beru sighed. "That poor woman. Chiyo shouldn't have to see things like that."
"Well," she heard Owen sit down heavily. "We can't shelter her forever…"
"I wish you wouldn't try to push her out the door, though."
A slight pause. "What are you talking about?"
"You're always turning her head with your yapping about adventure and other worlds… you know what happened to her father. Are you trying to-?"
"You've got that a little backwards. What do you think got me so excited about space? She's doing it all on her own… you know what Chiyo told me she wants to do? She wants to join the crew of one of those Deep Space Explorers and see the galaxy."
"She… since when…?"
"Where have you been? Good God!You know those correspondence courses she's been taking?"
"From the Imperial Academy of Coruscant?"
"Yeah. Did you know that she's already three-quarters of the way to a degree?"
Hm. Now that she thought about it, Chiyo hadn't told her Aunt much about her academic career…
"A professor there, Kurosawa, she's been paying for Chiyo's textbooks for a year or so now. Everybody's shocked that they're being outdone by a thirteen-year-old moisture farmer studying in her spare time. They've even been talking about letting her go to the Academy next y—"
"But she's just a baby!"
"She's old enough. Don't you want her to have a better life than this? We should really consider letting her go."
"To Coruscant? But she'll be shot!"
"You and I both know that's not fair. Listen, you're still worked up from dealing with our guest over there… we'll talk this over some other time, all right?"
Chiyo rolled over and sighed. She hated overhearing them talk about her, especially when they brought up her father like that. But what could she do? In time, the young prodigy drifted into an uneasy sleep, filled with visions of shadowy figures leaping about with glowing blades under a strange night sky.