Rescue the Farmboy: Liberation title image

Chapter Seven

Biggs found he didn’t have much of an appetite for the lunch Old Ben cooked for them. He wanted answers. Luke was in trouble and they had no idea why. Old Ben hadn’t offered any answers other than Luke was the son of a Jedi, whatever that was. He leaned forward and set the half-cleared plate on the small round table in front of the sleeping nook. “Luke’s father gained his freedom winning the Boonta Eve Classic of 968 and became a navigator on a freighter and married an offworlder. He died in a space accident before Luke was born and his mother died in childbirth, so the Lars raised him.”

Old Ben looked up from his plate but didn’t say anything. Leia’s eyebrows knitted thoughtfully but she didn’t say anything either.

“Was Luke’s mother the Jedi you were talking about?” Biggs looked up at Kenobi after he plunged through with the question.

“No, she was not.” Ben sighed as he set his plate on the table and picked up his water glass. “The Lars and I lied to Luke and to the rest of Tatooine. The only things true in that story were about his mother: she wasn’t from Tatooine and she died having him. Anakin Skywalker was a Jedi Knight, a General in the Clone Wars, and a hero on many worlds. It’s a shame that his birth planet knows nothing of his escapades, but it kept Luke safe.”

“Safe from what?”

“The Empire hunts Jedi,” Leia said gently. She sighed and looked back down at her empty plate. “Anakin Skywalker won his freedom in a what? And why?”

“Anakin’s mother was a slave, so he was born into slavery.” Ben sighed again. “These are things Anakin never spoke of. I did not learn of them until coming to Tatooine.” His gaze fell into his cup of water.

“Boonta Eve is a Hutt holiday,” Biggs explained. “They used to celebrate with a big podrace called the Boonta Eve Classic every year before the Clone Wars put an end to the sport circuit. Anakin Skywalker was the only human to ever win it at fourteen years old. He built his own podracer and bet it and his winnings for his freedom.” Leia was mouthing the number fourteen, so Biggs shot a suspicious glare at Ben. “At least that’s the story told on Tatooine. Or is it a lie too?”

“I didn’t get to see the race live, but yes, it happened. And having rode with Anakin when he piloted after he left Tatooine, the stories probably aren’t accurate enough.” Ben stood up and took the dishes to the sonic dishwasher beside the refresher door.

“Why didn’t you tell Luke you knew his father?” Biggs clamped his mouth shut too late. But Old Ben didn’t know because Luke didn’t tell anyone else, not the townspeople and moisture farmers who sneered at his slave name, not the other kids who nicknamed him Wormie. Biggs was the only one who knew how much Luke missed any connection with his parents, especially his famous father. How many times had Luke talked Biggs off some metaphorical cliff with Huff just by reminding Biggs the Darklighter family was more intact than his?

Ben’s shoulders slumped as he dealt with the dishes. “I didn’t because Owen Lars asked it of me. He was afraid the knowledge would endanger Luke. After the Lars died, well, I was waiting for a sign from the Force.”

And the Force waited until it was sandblasted too late. Biggs held in his scream of frustration. It was no one in this hut’s fault that Luke was in danger. He knew better than the pair of them that once Luke made his mind up no one could change it for him. But Biggs’ position was always at Luke’s back protecting him from the latest crazy idea. Until now. He restrained his scream as he stood. “I better go meet the shuttle.”

The afternoon suns were still bright in the sky, but the winds were blowing through the canyons. Not hard enough to disturb the landspeeder steering, but it helped cool a body. Biggs needed to stay calm and cool to impress the Rebel leaders. Otherwise, it might just be him and the Princess rescuing Luke from Imperial clutches. He wanted more bodies on that mission, even if she was a great shot.

The shuttle hadn’t reached the old Lars homestead before he did, so he parked the landspeeder next to the garage dome. Aunt Silya charged out of the entry dome but slowed when she saw who it was. “You need another landspeeder, Aunt Silya?” he asked.

“I suppose another one won’t hurt. Gavin will want to start flying before too long.” She stopped next to it and ran a hand along the faded red side. “This belonged to the Skywalker boy; where is he, Biggs?”

“In trouble and out of reach.” Biggs stared up at the blue sky. The shuttle was in approach now. “Sorry for using your homestead for a meeting place, Aunt Silya.”

“What have you boys done now, Biggs Darklighter?”

“What we always planned to do; it just got accelerated on us. And I dare not tell you any more. Take care.” The shuttle landed and Biggs sprinted up its entry ramp.

Threepio jerkily climbed from the pilot’s station. “Greetings, Master Darklighter. I am most grateful that you are here to resume piloting duties. The geological features of what the locals call the Jundland Wastes look like they would cause no end of damage to a ship or a droid for that matter.”

Artoo twittered.

“I was just getting to that. Artoo regrets to inform you that the Tantive IV was taken by the Devastator, and that the Star Destroyer left orbit a half-hour ago.”

Biggs stared bleakly through the viewport at the heat-shimmer over the flat sands. Luke was well and truly out of reach now. Stay safe, Luke. Whatever you have to do, stay alive until I get there. He closed up the entry ramp. “Strap in so we can fly.”

Flying this shuttle was more tricky than his skyhopper, but he managed to get the larger vehicle down to a sheltered valley below old Ben’s hut. Threepio paused at the entry ramp. “Are we supposed to join you, Master Darklighter? I’m not sure Artoo and I can handle that terrain.”

Artoo’s twittering almost sounded like a laugh.

Threepio bent at his waist and looked down at the shorter droid.”I’d like to see how much traction you have over loose sand. I’m having enough problems with my joints without sand getting into the gears.”

“You two just stay with the shuttle. If Leia needs you, she can comm you.” That mollified the droids and Biggs climbed up the incline to Ben’s hut. The dim interior with cooled air was a relief after outdoors.

Old Ben looked up from across the room where he was digging through a battered, wooden chest. “Water is on the ledge, next to the lamp,” he said in a low tone that still carried well. The old man bent back to the chest.

Biggs found the pitcher and a glass next to the lamp and poured himself a full glass before heading down the steps into the room proper. Why Ben was being so quiet was soon visible. Leia was curled up under a woven blanket in the bed niche sound asleep. Biggs continued past, drinking the water, until he was next to the chest. “What happened?”

“The recent events caught up with the Princess.” Ben pulled out a cloth-wrapped cylinder from the chest and stowed it into a bag he had hung from his shoulder without unwrapping it. “You should rest as well. It’s best to fly into Mos Eisley in the morning with all our wits about us for that wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

“You make it sound so fun, Ben.” Biggs turned away. The round table had been pulled further away from the bed niche and another sleeping pallet set up on the floor. He didn’t argue but pulled off his boots and crawled into the blankets. He would find Luke again. The Empire didn’t know it was tangling with Tatooine’s shooting stars.

Spaceport control—such that it was in Mos Eisley—gave them a docking bay in the oldest portion of the city when they flew into its space in the morning. Biggs didn’t have any issues landing the shuttle inside the pourstone crater. He caught Leia’s frown as he stood. “What’s wrong?”

“Renting this place took most of the credits stored on the shuttle. I can get more, but the Isk Grek Besh Cresh account is under my own name.” She shook off the worry. “Let’s go get a price, then finance it.” She instructed her droids to stay with the shuttle again, and she and Biggs caught up with Ben at the street door.

The old man looked pleased. “The cantina’s not far from here.” He set off at a pace Biggs and Leia matched.

“You know Mos Eisley pretty well for someone who barely went into Anchorhead.” Biggs knew he sounded surly and he shouldn’t, not to a General who outranked whatever his rank will be officially and a hero from the Clone Wars too. But it was old Ben who he knew well enough to be surly with.

Ben only smiled. “Glad to know the subterfuge worked. The Empire has been hunting Jedi since before you were born. Do you really think I wouldn’t plan a way to leave in a hurry if needed?” His blue eyes twinkled as he stopped in front of the long, low-slung, pourstone building with multiple domes on top. “Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina, most of the good, independent freighter pilots frequent this place. They can talk freely here, but watch yourselves. This place can be rough.”

Leia’s chin stayed up after she nodded. She followed Ben inside and Biggs followed her. He squinted as they came down the steps into the dim interior. His eyes adjusted and he tried not to stare too long at any strangely shaped shadow. Ninety percent of the shadows were off enough to remind him he wasn’t in Tosche Station.

The oval-shaped bar in the center and the drink dispensing equipment behind the human bartender was brightly lit, but that threw the patrons’ faces into shadows when they turned. The standing room at the bar was fairly crowded. Each table scattered around the room and tucked into the alcoves along the walls had a lamp that barely illuminated the faces around them. Narrow windows let more light into the alcoves. One alcove was a bandstand with a group of Bith musicians playing a lively tune.

An Arcona with salt-addict's gold eyes stepped between them and the bar but continued to the alcove in the corner. The next alcove over had a Bith and a Talz sharing drinks with two beings Biggs couldn't identify. The next table had a Gotal rubbing cones with a H’nemthe, but the Shistavanen had an alcove all to himself. A few of the shapes he could make out clearly around the bar wore environmental suits or breathing apparatus. Jawas' bright eyes shown out of their hoods as they scurried nearly under the tables. A Chadra-Fan whistled for a drink and the bartender supplied a half-full tumbler of something white. A Devaronian male kept his eyes on Leia as they moved inside. A Rodian moved from the bar to a table on the other side.

Ben had slipped into an empty spot at the bar and was talking in a low tone to a tall, furry biped. Leia stepped up in the wide space next to an Aqualish nursing a short mug of ale. Biggs moved in on her right and frowned at the bartender’s inattention. Leia waved her hand and pursed her lips when the swarthy human moved to the other end of the bar.

The Aqualish petted her arm and said something in a language Biggs didn’t recognize. Leia shifted to the side with a strained smile, but moved her arm out of reach.

The bartender finally circled the equipment within reach. Biggs tugged on the older man's tunic and ordered two Starshines. He pushed one of the tumblers in front of Leia.

Her brown eyes flashed. “I can order my own drink,” she whispered fiercely at him. Her glare transferred to the bartender who was now on the other side of the bar with the drink dispensing equipment hiding him from the patrons on this side. Her cheeks reddened.

Biggs tasted his Starshine and it burned his mouth in all the right ways. “Sip it,” he said. “Starshine can hit hard.”

The Aqualish garbled something. Leia sighed, but her expression still looked annoyed. A disfigured human man moved between the Aqualish and Leia. “My friend wants to buy you a drink, pretty girl.”

Leia smiled tightly and wrapped her fingers around the tumbler of clear liquid. “No thank you, I already have a drink.”

“Then I’ll buy you a drink.” The man tried to smile, but the scar tissue covering the right side of his face and misshaping his nose turned it into a leer.

“No thank you,” Leia said firmly as she shifted further down the bar counter.

The pair of Duros near the bandstand broke off their argument to watch. The Ithorian, Givin, and another Gotal in the alcove behind them focused on Leia and her admirers too. Too much attention, Biggs decided and moved around Leia. “She’s not interested.”

The man scowled at him. “You just watch yourself. We’re wanted men. I,” he tapped his chest, “have the death sentence on twelve systems.” The finger jabbed at Biggs.

“I’ll be careful,” Biggs said with all the gravity that bluster deserved.

The man seized Biggs’ jacket pulling him closer to the angry eye and the blinded one. “You’ll be dead!”

Ben Kenobi was at Biggs’ side. “This young one’s not worth the effort.” The man and the Aqualish both focused on the old man. “Now let me get you something,” Ben continued.

The man let go of Biggs’ jacket to shove him away from the bar. Biggs’ back hit a nearby table and knocked it over. He managed to land on his ass so he could still see. Ben reached under his robe.

The Aqualish and Leia both drew blasters. “No blasters, no blasters!” The bartender dropped to the floor behind the counter.

The blasters never fired. A blue glowing and humming beam of light appeared from the metal hilt Ben held. It moved almost too fast to see. The disfigured man fell back against the bar. The Aqualish screamed as he fell beside his friend. Biggs stared at the severed arm and blaster on the floor. Aqualishes had red blood too, even though most of the wound was cauterized.

Ben glanced around the cantina before killing the energy blade. The other patrons turned away from the scene as the band started a new tune. Leia holstered her blaster and looked up at the furry, bipedal alien who had remained at Ben’s back. Ben offered a hand to Biggs after he put away the strange weapon and asked a question with his blue eyes.

Biggs accepted the pull up from the floor. The old man was stronger than he looked. “I’m alright.” He looked up at their newest companion.

“Chewbacca here is the first mate on a ship that might suit us.” Ben led them around the bar to the other side towards an alcove with only one table.

Han Solo adjusted the chair that put his back under the window in the alcove while Chewie led the prospective clients to him. A lightsaber and the old man knew how to use it, that was interesting. He sat down across the table from Han. Not as interesting as the quick-draw spitfire ready to shoot over being harassed in a cantina. She would’ve been better off shooting first than letting the privileli pulling out the third chair for her deal with it so badly. The younger-than-Han man perched on the bench against the alcove wall next to her and his black mustache quivered with protectiveness. His outfit and manner screamed privilege, such that it was on Tatooine. Chewie slid his bulk down the bench on the other alcove wall closer to Han. Time to get started. “Han Solo, I’m captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you’re looking for passage to the Alderaan system.” He tipped his head at his Wookiee copilot.

“Yes, indeed,” the old man answered, “if it’s a fast ship.”

“Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”

The old man shook his head ever so slightly. “Should I have?”

Han smirked. “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” All three of these potential clients looked skeptical. Han and Chewie leaned closer. “I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers, mind you; I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.” He flicked his eyes over each of them: the old man unreadable, the spitfire unimpressed, and the privileli mentally going over a catalog of ships. “She’s fast enough for you, old man.” He rubbed his thumb against his finger. “What’s the cargo?”

“Only passengers: myself, the two young ones.” They both straightened and looked so serious. “Two droids.” The old man leaned forward. “And no questions asked.”

The old man’s seriousness he believed, but Han grinned. “What is it, some kind of local trouble?” Credits hadn’t changed hands yet.

“Let’s just say we’d like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.”

Han leaned back from the old man’s look. “Well, that’s the real trick, isn’t it? It’s gonna cost you something extra. Ten thousand, all in advance.”

“Ten thousand?” the spitfire demanded. She had a cultured voice. She turned to the old man. “We could almost buy our own ship for that.”

The old man flicked his eyes to Han’s rebuttal.

Han leaned forward again, a smirk playing at his lips. “But who’s going to fly it, sweetheart, you? Him?” Han tilted his head at the glowering young man.

The privileli finally spoke. “I can.”

The spitfire’s chin thrust up and she started to stand as she turned to the old man. “We don’t have to sit here and listen—”

The old man patted her shoulder so she’d sit back down. He looked back at Han. “We can pay you five thousand now plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan.”

Han realized that both he and the spitfire were giving the old man the same incredulous expression for bargaining the wrong way. Han recovered first before she wrecked it. “Twenty thousand?”

The old man nodded.

“Okay, you got yourselves a ship.” The old man smiled through his sparse white beard. “We’ll leave as soon as you’re ready,” Han continued. “Docking bay ninety-four.”

“Ninety-four,” the old man repeated.

Movement on the other side of the bar caught Han’s eye. “Looks like somebody’s beginning to take an interest in your handiwork.” They looked over their shoulders at the stormtroopers questioning the bartender. The bartender pointed toward their alcove.

The old man silently but efficiently hustled the two young ones out the door. By the time the white armored stormtroopers circled around the bar and reached their alcove, only Han and Chewie were sitting there to stare back at the black polarizing lenses of their helmets.

Chewie growled an insult at their white backs as lowly as the Wookiee throat could.

Han didn’t let that ruin the sudden relief filling him. “Twenty thousand.” He slapped his thigh. “Those guys must really be desperate. This could really save our necks. Get back to the ship, get her ready.”

Chewie nodded as they stood and headed to the door. Han lingered to finish off his drink. With a smack of his lips, he set the glass back on the table. A couple of strides toward the door was all he managed before a green Rodian slipped out of the shadows and pressed a blaster against Han’s chest. “Koona t’chuta Solo? {Going somewhere, Solo?}” He jabbed the blaster.

Han moved back to the empty alcove. “Yes, Greedo, as a matter of fact I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba that I’ve got his money.” He sat down in the spot the privileli had been in.

Greedo sat on the other bench holding his blaster over the table aimed straight at Han. “Song peetch alay. Mala tram pee chock makacheesa. {It’s too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance.}" Han continued to settle against the bench, slouching down to be comfortable and propping his left calf on the edge of the table. Greedo continued, “Jabba wah ning chee kosthpa murishani tytung ye wanya yookah. {Jabba put a price on your head so large every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you.}" He chuckled. "Chas kee nyowyee koo chooskoo. {I’m lucky I found you first.}"

Han waved his left hand. “Yeah, but this time I’ve got the money.”

"Keh lee chalya chulkah in ting cooing koosooah. {If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.}" Greedo bobbed his head agreeably, but the blaster never wavered.

Han brought his left hand up to the wall beside his head and looked for an interesting spot of rough duracrete to poke. Out of sight, his right hand unholstered his heavy blaster pistol. “I don’t have it with me. Tell Jabba—”

“Jabba hari tish ding, {Jabba’s through with you,}” Greedo interrupted. Han watched his hand poke the duracrete again. “Song kul rul yay pul-yaya ulwan spastika kushunkoo oponowa tweepi. {He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.}”

“Even I get boarded sometimes.” Han held the heavy blaster pistol against his right leg. “You think I had a choice?” He moved it higher.

“Klop Jabba poo pah. Goo pankee ata pankpa. {You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.}”

Han dropped his left hand. Take the Falcon? There was only one way that would ever happen. “Over my dead body.”

“Uth laynuma. Chespo kutata kreesta krenko nyakooka. {That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.}”

“Yes, I bet you have,” Han said before firing.

Smoke filled the alcove. When it cleared, Greedo fell face first on the table and didn’t move as the patrons of the cantina looked their way. Han stood up and holstered his blaster. Then he moved toward the bar. “Sorry about the mess.” He tossed the bartender a credit chip that would cover his and Chewie’s tab and Greedo’s removal and didn’t look back as he left.

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