His hands deep in the turbine engines of his X-34 landspeeder, sixteen year old Luke Skywalker was doing what he loved best. That is, except for flying his T-16 skyhopper, but the damage he had done to it on his last outing had left it grounded. Thankfully, he still had the speeder to get him around.
If only this last bolt on the starter motor would loosen up. He couldn't see where the nut fit over the bolt, and his hands barely fit in the space. Whoever designed this thing must have hands the size of a jawa's. He'd already dropped his wrench three times, requiring him to crawl around on the floor of the garage in the Lars homestead to find it. Finally he got the wrench head over the bolt, and he pulled up on it with all of his strength, his biceps tight beneath the sleeve of his tunic.
Just when he thought it was starting to give a little, the wrench slipped off, and his hand came flying up straight against the impeller vanes. He withdrew his hand from the engine compartment, and flung the wrench as hard as he could against the back wall of the garage.
As he stuck his bleeding knuckle into his mouth, he tried to remember what it was he enjoyed so much about speeder repair. When the pain in his hand subsided, he began to feel guilty for acting so impulsively. His Aunt Beru always told him his temper would get him in trouble some day.
With a sigh, he went to retrieve his mistreated was difficult getting in to the back room, as it housed not only his skyhopper, but numerous old evaporators, the frontier mindset of never throwing anything out because you might need it someday firmly embedded in his family's traditions.
He reached over the fender of the skyhopper to feel for his wrench. Instead of cool metal, he felt an agonizing blend of heat and pain, and he yanked his hand out of the dark recess with a speed that came from living his whole life in the desert. He examined his fingers, expecting to find the characteristic wheal that came with the sting of a , his hand was completely normal, except for his abraded knuckles, and the burning sensation was already fading.
He crawled on top of the skyhopper, and shined his flashlight down in the suspect area. There was his wrench, all right, but that hadn't bitten only other object down there was a handle, which looked like maybe part of a shifter mechanism. He couldn't imagine that being the culprit.
Carefully he reached down and put his fingers over the handle. As he wrapped his fingers around it, the feeling of heat returned. It was not so intense this time, but he still dropped it because the sensation was not logical. The handle was not connected to any power source, and really looked to be quite ordinary.
His curiosity got the best of him, and he reached for the knob once again. This time he willed himself to hold on to it long enough to bring it out of its hiding place. It was still warm, but not uncomfortably so, as he carried it over to his speeder. In the daylight he could see that it definitely was a shifter knob of some sort. He looked up from his speeder towards the oil bath and out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a young woman. In his surprise he dropped the knob, and it clattered on the floor.
The young woman was gone. He shook his head vigorously. Maybe he needed some fresh air, maybe the lid was off one of the solvents in the garage, and the fumes were making him see things. He bent down to retrieve the shifter. With it firmly nestled in his hand, he looked up and saw the beautiful girl again. It was odd; it was almost like double vision. He could see the oil bath, the real oil bath that was here with him, but also a phantom oil bath behind the mirage of the young woman, as if she was here, but not here.
He found he could see her best by not focusing directly on her, by looking at her with just his peripheral vision. If he set the shifter down, she faded away. Pick it up, there she was. Definitely peculiar. He knew what his Aunt Beru would say; boys his age were always dreaming of he knew was he'd never seen a girl this pretty around Anchorhead.
Maybe he was just tired, maybe it was fumes, maybe it was all a daydream. He set the handle down on top of the speeder. He'd better get his afternoon chores done before dinner, or his uncle would make him regret it.
The next morning, Luke crept down to the garage before breakfast. The shifter was still sitting where he left it. It hadn't sprouted legs and walked away, levitated itself across the floor, or displayed any other magical qualities. He eyed it carefully before deciding to grab hold of it again.
New day, same sensation. Warmth spread throughout his hand, and the ghostly image of the girl reappeared. He concentrated this time, trying to really see her. She was dressed in a long blue tunic that was far more elegant than the Lars homestead warranted. She was carrying a tray of food and drink, and as he gazed at her in his mind's eye, he realized he loved her. Really loved her.
Wait a minute ! Loved her ? He didn't even know her. This crazy piece of plasteel seemed possessed. It gave him feelings he never knew he had. Maybe it was all in his head. He thought of a true test for the handle; he would show it to his Uncle Owen. Grounded firmly in practicality, his uncle had a little tolerance for Luke's imaginative flights of fancy. If Uncle Owen felt something when he held the shifter knob, its effect was certainly real.
Luke bounded up the stairs to the main level of the home, where his aunt and uncle were already seated at the dining into his seat, he offhandedly set the shifter knob on the table.
"Uncle Owen, I found this down in the garage. Do you know what it goes to ?"
Owen picked up the handle and gave a rare smile. " This looks like the shifter from my old swoop bike.I haven't seen it in probably twenty years. It broke when your..."
Owen's smile abruptly disappeared.
Luke pressed his uncle. "It broke when my what ?"
Owen's tone became guarded. "It broke when a friend of mine borrowed the swoop must have put the old one in the garage after he fixed it."
Luke was feeling daring. "Do you feel anything when you hold on to it ?"
Owen was not amused."Feel anything ? Why would I feel anything ?"
Luke decided it was best not to explain."Never mind. I was just curious about what it was. Can I have it back ? I think I can use it on my speeder."
"Of course you can have it back. It's just an old piece of junk."
The next day Luke was too preoccupied with the mysterious shifter knob to even think about continuing the work on his speeder. With no school, and his morning chores done, he thought himself safe from the reach of his uncle, at least for awhile.
He positioned himself close to the oil bath. He had found that if he stood near it, his own perspective matched the mirage image of the garage exactly. He held the shifter firmly in his hand, and waited. As sure as the rising suns, the girl appeared. He didn't even notice the heat rising from the handle this time. Once more he felt his love for the girl flow over him, love, and something more, an ache that hit him with an intensity beyond his experience. He'd never had the luck to kiss a girl before, but this one he wanted to kiss again, to feel the softness of her skin beneath his hand again.
Interwoven with the feelings inspired by the girl came something else. He missed his often wished he had known his mother, and his father, for that matter, but he'd never felt bone-chilling despair like that which swept over him now. His heart bled like an open wound, filling his eyes with tears, as he mourned the loss of his mother.
Just when he thought he couldn't feel any worse, another emotion shouldered its way in. It was his fault. It was his fault his mother had died. Aunt Beru had never told him how his mother died, but he hadn't thought that he'd been involved in any way. But now he knew the truth. It was his fault, because he hadn't been strong enough. If only he'd been stronger, if only he knew more, had been taught more, he could have saved her.
The weight of these emotions was too much, the intensity far beyond anything Luke had felt in his young to withstand any more, he stepped to the center of the room, and hurled the shifter knob as hard as he could against the back wall of the garage. Before the handle left his hand, he saw a phantom arm, paralleling his. This arm was longer than his, the sleeve hanging from it dark brown rather than the white of his own. It, too, threw the shifter against the back wall of the garage.
With the shifter gone from his hand, the kaleidoscope of emotions subsided. He took in a deep breath and exhaled sharply. He walked over to his skyhopper and shined his light down onto the floor behind it. The shifter handle lay there, in a position near identical to where he'd originally found it.
The shifter had come to be in that spot because someone had thrown it there. Someone who had loved the beautiful girl, someone who had deeply mourned the death of his mother, someone who had raged against his own powerlessness to prevent his mother from dying. Someone who had stood in this very garage.
Luke knew he couldn't talk to his uncle about this. His aunt would be more sympathetic, but he didn't think she'd be much help, either. Even his friends would probably laugh at him. It would have to stay his secret. He decided to keep the shifter in his room. No one else might remember the mysterious someone's pain, but he would.