by Aaron Sinner

Category: Short Story

“Where are you going, Luke?” “Looks like I’m going nowhere...”

Owen scowled, something he found himself doing more and more frequently as the years went by. He didn’t like arguing with his nephew. But it seemed every mealtime these days, he and Luke would verbally spar over something.

“Owen, he can’t stay here forever,” Beru chided. “Most of his friends have gone. It means so much to him.”

Owen grimaced. He knew what Beru was really saying. “I’ll make it up to him next year. I promise.”

Beru locked eyes with Owen. “Luke’s just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.”

Owen sighed. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” He ate one more spoonful of vaporator mushroom stew, then pushed his bowl away and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Beru asked. Owen shrugged. “Looks like nowhere.”

***

Owen wandered out toward a broken moisture vaporator and began fiddling with it. What had Kenobi thought he was doing, giving them this young child to care for? Had he truly expected them to raise him, then simply hand him over whenever the Jedi demanded him? Not if Owen could help it. Yes, he’d agreed to the deal, knowing Luke wouldn’t be always his. But it had been his dream to have a son, and he and Beru had been unable to conceive. How could he say no to a child thrust into his arms, fulfilling that wish?

Of course, the blessing had also been a curse. He knew he couldn’t have Luke forever, only until Kenobi asked for him back. So he had raised Luke knowing any day with the boy could be his last. As per the wizard’s request, he had brought him up right, not doting

on him or spoiling him because of this looming pressure. Kenobi had asked that they raise him with discipline and teach him morals. Owen had agreed to whatever it took to have a child of his own to rear.

And Owen did love Luke dearly. So much so that he had tried to guarantee he could keep the boy. He forbade Kenobi from coming near the farm in hopes of preventing Luke and the old Jedi from developing a fondness for one another—and, Owen admitted to himself, in hopes he could forget that someday he would have to give Luke up. To his surprise, Kenobi had actually honored his request. In the meantime, Owen tried as hard as he could to make Luke fall in love with moisture farming so that when Kenobi came calling, Luke might choose to stay here on Tatooine instead of joining the wizard on some damn mission. But in the end, Beru was right: Luke just wasn’t a farmer. There were greater things to come for the boy.

No, not the boy—the man, Owen reminded himself.

And Beru was right again that Luke had too much of his father in him. A shiver ran down Owen’s spine as he thought of Anakin Skywalker’s fate... destroyed, along with the rest of the Jedi at the end of the Clone Wars. A traitor to the Republic. Would Luke walk that same path?

Yet here Owen was doing business with a Jedi. And why? Because it suited Owen’s desire for a son. But also, as the years went on, Owen had grown increasingly frustrated with this Empire, always trying to assert itself into people’s lives. He liked it here on Tatooine precisely because he liked being left alone, and the Empire couldn’t help but make its presence felt more and more with each passing season. Even a frontier planet like Tatooine saw increased patrols, larger garrisons, growing Imperial activity. Perhaps this Empire did need to be replaced, and maybe even the Jedi Order restored. Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t such a bad man after all. And maybe the Jedi actually knew what they were doing when they tried to assassinate the Emperor all those years ago.

Or, Owen reminded himself, maybe I believe these things because I want to believe them.

Whatever the truth, it didn’t matter. At the end of the day, Luke wanted to go to the Academy, and he couldn’t because Owen had promised Obi-Wan that he’d look after the boy (man, he noted again) until the old wizard came for him. Which left Owen spouting excuses he himself could see through, straining his relationship with Luke to near breaking point. They had gotten along so well in his nephew’s younger years, but now every conversation ended in an argument. It had reached the point where Luke wanted to

leave so badly, Owen almost hoped Kenobi would come for him. He just wanted to see his nephew happy.

Owen’s gaze jerked up from the ground, a scowl of determination crossing his face. He knew what he had to do. In the morning, he’d send Luke and the droids to work, to cover for him, and then... then he’d speak with the wizard and ask him to take Luke. As much as it hurt Owen to do so, Luke needed this. Luke was destined for greater things than moisture farming, and Owen had stood in his way for far too long.

Looking to the horizon, Owen saw the second of Tatooine’s suns just as it disappeared, ushering in dusk. Shuffling toward his homestead, he saw Luke just a few sand dunes in the distance, conversing with the new protocol droid.

“Luke!” he shouted, making sure his voice wouldn’t betray his decision. “I’m shutting the power down.”

“Alright, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Luke called back. Owen sighed, and grinned. Usually, he’d insist his nephew come inside immediately, but tonight he’d give Luke his few minutes.

***

Owen scowled. “Luke!” he called again. He couldn’t find his nephew or the two droids anywhere, and without putting them to work by at least midmorning, he wouldn’t have a chance to meet with Kenobi.

Wandering into the kitchen, Owen turned to Beru.

“Have you seen Luke this morning?” he asked. He still hadn’t revealed his plan to her, and didn’t want to just yet.

“He said he had some things to do before he started today, so he left early,” she answered.

“Did he take those two new droids with him?” Owen asked. “I think so.”

“He’d better have those units in the south ridge repaired by midday or there’ll be hell to pay,” Owen announced. If he had to spend the day working on the units, there was no chance he’d be able to hunt down the old wizard and speak with him.

With a sigh, he wandered up the stairs and, with a hand raised to his brow, scanned the surrounding area for any sign of Luke, the droids, or where might have run off to. He caught sight of a cloud of dust in the distance, indicating some form of transport. Owen raised a pair of macrobinoculars and took a closer look.

As the macrobinoculars focused, he could just make out a repulsorlift transport headed directly toward him. It was impossible to tell with certainty from this range, but the transport appeared to be military in nature.

This can’t be good, Owen thought to himself.

***

Kooohhhhh—hhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Darth Vader stared down at the desert planet through the transparisteel window of his Star Destroyer. Tatooine. He rolled the name around in his mind as though it were a piece of filth found in a garbage masher. Vader was a very different man than Anakin Skywalker had been, but there were similarities: Vader still hated sand. It would require forces greater than even Darth Vader could imagine to motivate him to set foot on that planet again.

Besides, his stormtroopers were carrying out their duties well enough. In Captain Terrik’s Zeta squadron, a trooper had found evidence that droids had been in the jettisoned escape pod that held the stolen plans. And right now, those plans were all Vader wanted— needed—to focus on, not past memories brought on by his proximity to Tatooine.

The squadron had traced the droids to a Jawa sandcrawler, and from there to a homestead where the droids were thought to have been sold. They were due to report at any time.

As if on cue, the holoprojector next to Vader hummed to life, projecting an image of Captain Terrik standing outside, in front of a homestead. The figures behind him were also in the image.

Kuh-kuh—hhhhh.

Vader’s mechanized breath seemed to catch in his throat, though he wasn’t sure if his suit had actually malfunctioned or if he had merely imagined it. He realized with a sinking feeling in his mechanical chest that this homestead and its residents were familiar to him.

“...and get off my property!” the man behind Terrik was screaming, unhinged. “You can’t come into someone’s home and make this kind of a mess! You can’t treat us like this!”

“They bought two droids from the Jawas—an astromech and a protocol droid,” Terrik reported, ignoring the raving man behind him. “Now they won’t tell us where the droids are.”

“Haven’t you been listening?” the man roared. “I said I don’t know where they are!”

“Our records indicate the homestead has a third resident—the couple’s nephew,” Terrik continued.

Nephew? Vader wondered. Then—Of course. His wife’s. “And where is the nephew?” Vader asked.

“I don’t... I don’t know that, either,” the man—Darth Vader’s stepbrother Owen in a previous life—responded. His voice had grown quiet, his eyes large. Then the eyes sharpened and the rage returned. “I don’t have to answer your questions!”

“If they won’t answer our questions, they are of no use to us,” Vader intoned. “Restrain them.”

A stormtrooper stepped forward from behind Owen and shoved him and his wife to their knees. Owen resisted, but the trooper forced him down.

“Imperial scum,” Owen muttered, and spat on Terrik’s helmet. The captain made no attempt to remove it.

“Burn the homestead to the ground for their insolence,” Vader sneered. The stormtrooper forced Owen to put his hands on his head. Owen struggled, then mouthed to his wife, “Run!”

She made it all of two meters before the trooper gunned her down.

Owen turned, hot tears burning down his cheeks, and despite the low-quality hologram and thousands of kilometers separating them, it seemed to Vader he was now staring directly into his stepbrother’s eyes. A strange feeling came over the Sith Lord, as though he were without his armor and his bare flesh was exposed before this moisture farmer from his past.

“I hate you,” Owen growled, “and my nephew is going to make you pay for what you’ve done.”

“Kill him,” Vader ordered Captain Terrik, then turned away, deactivating the holoprojector with a wave of his hand.

***

A lone shot rang out across the desert, echoing off the canyon walls. As Owen’s body crumpled to the ground, his last thought consisted of the image of Luke, and one word:

Hope. . . .