We drove to Tosche Station very early in the morning while the air was still relatively cool. The station which was also, among other things, a junk yard was located just outside of Anchorhead. Merl Tosche, who had founded the power and distribution station, was almost never there. He sold all sorts of mechanical bits and pieces including power converters and spare parts for moisture evaporators. I could remember infrequent visits to the station as a child, and spending several hours rummaging around the junk yard looking for interesting things. Surprisingly enough, Tosche was there by the time we arrived.
He and my father got along well. They had known each other for as long as I could remember and Tosche was one of those grown ups that had become a part of my extended family. I was, I think, a source of amusement for him and whenever I had accompanied my father out to the station Tosche had always allowed me to dig out small treasures from the junk pile and keep them.
“Good, you got here early. I don’t want to hang around, too much to do.” Tosche said as he greeted us. “And look at you, little sand bug, all grown up. Have you eaten, want something to drink? I made some sludge, not the greatest coffee in the galaxy but it is drinkable.” He clapped my father on the back and chucked me under the chin as though I were still six and not well past my teens.
I loved the station because it was the homiest wreck of a place I had ever seen. Disorganized chaos, Tosche called it. He poured three mugs of his sludge, his strange version of spiced coffee and we sat down to drink.
The business was discussed and the prices agreed upon fairly fast. My father didn’t dicker around with Tosche for a few reasons, one was that no one else sold at such decent prices and the second was that it didn’t really pay to get on Tosche’s bad side. Once that was all out of the way my father edged the conversation around to what would interest me.
“Quiet out here these days I hear?” he said. “Where are all the kids who used to loiter about the place?”
Tosche laughed. “I never minded them, gave them something to do, kept them out of trouble. Not many left now, though.” He said. “Take it you heard about the Darklighter boy?”
My father nodded. “No details, though.”
Tosche made a noise. “Word I got was he died fighting for them rebels. You know his old man was never happy that Biggs joined the academy. Was talking to Huff not too long ago and he hinted in that direction. Said the boy had chosen the right path, sacrificed himself for the greater good. Sounded like a bunch of bunk to me but you know how it goes. Huff was never one to hold back on what he thought and he made his feelings about the Empire well known. Sad though, Biggs was a good kid, he and his little pal Luke,…what was his nick name now?” he sighed as he thought about it for a minute, “Wormie they called him.”
“Wormie?” I asked. “That’s not very nice.”
Tosche nodded. “Weren’t much to look at that kid, skinny, kinda short always the brunt of the jokes. I always liked the Skywalker kid. He was a gentle kind of boy, good natured, and not a bad pilot either if their stories of racing around Beggars Canyon were to be believed.”
“He still around?” my father asked.
Tosche shook his head. “Nope, went off world, followed his pal Biggs according to Huff. Although Huff didn’t say it in so many words just hinted that the two were together before Biggs died. My guess is it was that dreadful thing about his aunt and uncle what drove him to leave.”
“What happened to his aunt and uncle?” I asked sipping my sludge.
Tosche drew a deep breath and scratched at his stubbled chin. “No one rightly knows, seems they were dealing in stolen goods, not that I believe that for a second, and the Empire came calling. From what I heard the farm was destroyed and Beru and Owen were shot and burnt to death. At first everyone thought it was Tuskens but they don’t use those kind of weapons as a rule and usually don’t burn down the farms either. Don’t know what the world is coming to these days.”
“Where is this farm?” I asked.
“Out near the edge of the Wastes and the Great Western Dune Sea. I can give you a way point in if you want to pay respects, you’d not be the first.” Tosche said. “Fixer went out there and said that folks had been dropping off chulpas as tokens, laid them on a mourning marker someone had put up for the Lars family. Fixer would be able to tell you more about Luke but he won’t be here till noon. I can tell him to stop by the docking bay next time he’s in town though.”
I nodded. “I’d like that.” I said. “Must have been hard for Luke to find his family had been killed.”
“Aye, most likely, although I have to tell you, there weren’t much love lost between the boy and his uncle. Owen was a hard man to like, let alone love. Too much of his life spent struggling with the land and fighting the elements. Never saw a man so hell bent on winning against the desert, so against anyone who didn’t agree with his point of view and his way of doing things. It was almost as if, sometimes he was scared the world would come down on his shoulder s if he eased up for just a second. It would not have surprised me to learn that Tuskens attacked the farm. Owen was never one to give the Tuskens much of a thought. He hated them actually. He didn’t much endear himself to the locals that’s for sure, but I saw the farm and that wasn’t Tusken work.” He shook his head. “He and that young nephew of his locked horns many a time, Luke wanted to be a pilot and Owen wanted him to take over the farm. I remember a couple of heated debates between the two and that young boy had a rough life. He was torn between duty to those who had raised him as their own and his desire to be up in space. Never saw anyone more hung up on flying than that kid. The lust for adventure must have come from his mother and father because he sure didn’t get that from his uncle’s side of the family.”
“What happened to his parents?” I asked as Tosche refilled our cups.
Tosche shrugged. “Who knows? The only thing Owen would ever say about the boy’s father was that he was a navigator on a freighter and he never mentioned the boy’s mother. I remember when Cliegg Lars, Owen’s father, remarried a slave he had freed. A quiet woman name of Shmi Skywalker out of Mos Espa, I assumed she was the link to the nephew but she died a long time ago. Tuskens took her. No one knows why. Cliegg had organised search parties, I remember that I went on a couple but there was not a snowballs chance in the desert of finding her. The last one they went out on, only four out of the group came back everyone else was slaughtered and Cliegg lost his leg. After that the search just ended. I guess he gave up hope that she was still alive. I had heard a rumour that someone found her, brought her body back and she’s buried somewhere out at the farm, but Cliegg wouldn’t speak of it. He died of a broken heart I think, and when Owen took over the farm he wiped away all memory of his step mother. He blamed her for the death of his father.” He paused. “Come to think of it, she had a boy of her own. I remember her telling me about him one day when I went out there to visit. She was so proud of him because he had been freed and taken off world to become a Jedi; of course this was all before the bad times. Maybe Luke was a cousin or something, as I understood it Jedi weren’t allowed to have kids and the like. Can’t remember his name now, but seems like there must be a connection in there some place, Skywalker ain’t that common a name.”
My father shook his head. “Sad business that.” He offered.
Tosche nodded. “Aye, well you know how it is out here. Tatooine ain’t for the faint hearted.” He sighed, and then he looked at me with a smile. “Guess this is you catching up on all the gossip. I hear you’re working off world now?”
“Yes, office job on Coruscant, pretty dull really. I am on holiday right now.” I said with a smile.
Tosche grinned. “Well, I can’t say I blame you for leaving, not much on this rock for the young people. I am surprised that Fixer and his girl are still around, but they seem pretty rooted to this place. Can’t complain, he’s a good mechanic and I couldn’t run this place without him. I’ll let him know you’re interested in hearing about the Lars family, he knew Luke better than I did.” He said. “Damn look at the time I have to get going, got another meeting. Come on Kit, I’ll get you your parts and write down the waypoint to the farm so your girl here can go visit.” He looked at me. “I remember you had an interest in tradition and the like.”
“Still do, I doubt that will never change.” I said with a smile as we left the station lounge for the store room.
“Well, you are one of the few I think.” He said as he and my father concluded their business.
In a speeder loaded with spare parts and a box of power converters and an address of how to get to the Lars farm, we made our way home.
After I had finished helping my father unload and store the spare parts I went and sat on board my ship. I had been provided with a small but powerful portable computer and in that I began to write down all the information Tosche had given me. I finished up and went into the house for a late lunch. Waiting on the table for me was a package with the Imperial courier seal on it. I grinned as I opened it and found two letters inside. I had sent word via the courier to Thrawn that I would be staying on Tatooine for a while, that I would have an office in Bestine mostly because I wasn’t certain where I would be living. It seemed that Thrawn knew me better than I knew myself and his mail had been delivered directly to my family home. I was in the middle of reading the first letter when Bel came in.
“So, how is he?” she asked.
I gave her an ‘I don’t know what you are talking about’ look.
She grinned. “Psshh!” she hissed flapping her hand at me. “I saw how you and that Imperial Captain you dragged here looked at each other…or better to say how you didn’t look at each other. I signed for that package by the way. I saw the sender name, so how is he?” she sat down at the table across from me and helped herself to some tea.
“He is well, extremely busy and somewhere off in space saving the galaxy from evil.” I smiled. “I never could keep anything secret from you, could I?” I said.
“She shook her head. “Nope.”
She nodded and grinned then gave me a look I rarely saw on her face, one of worry. “Missed you, you know. We were all scared to death when you vanished.” She said in a more serious tone.
“I know, me too.” I told her but I didn’t want to get into any great discussions about it now. “We’ll talk about it, I promise, Bel. I just need to, I don’t know, get some distance first, you know?”
She nodded. “Well, your dad filled Bedi and me in on what happened, you knew he would right? I just want to hear you are really okay from you. I know you were really attached to Jyrki.”
“Yeah, well I was an idiot and he was, well… he was something else all together. I’m not attached to him anymore.” I shrugged biting back the surge of anger I felt. I wasn’t sure what else there was to say on this topic. Bel looked at my face for a moment and just as she always had ever since I had known her, she just got it and let the subject drop. She grinned and tugged at the envelope I held in my hand. “He makes you happy?”
I could not help the smile on my lips. “Yes, for what it is worth. He’s kind to me, Bel. I don’t think he’d hurt me. Not without fair warning first, it’s not his style.” I said after a moment’s thought.
“Well, that’s all that counts. After what Jyrki did to you, I am glad to hear someone knows what you are worth. Anyone who sends you letters on real paper via high end courier service must, at least, think you are special. I’d hate to have to add an Imperial captain to the list of people I plan on killing slowly and horribly. And,” she added “I rather enjoyed the debate we had when he was here. Your mother would have really liked meeting him. He’s quite clever, you know.”
I laughed. “That’s putting mildly.” I said.
She looked at me. “Is it serious?”
I gave her a look. “What do you think, he’s a career officer in the Imperial Navy.”
She grinned. “Okay, point taken…” she patted my arm and got up to return to the office. “If he hurts you, you let me know and I’ll put him on my list!” She made a wringing motion with her hands and grinned.
“Okay. I’ll tell him to watch his back, then.” I laughed. Once I had the kitchen to myself again I went back to reading my mail. The first letter was a cheerful account of continuing life in the Unknown Regions, the day to day routines on board the Grey Wolf and a discussion of a book Thrawn promised he would send. The second letter was a challenge. He had written it entirely in Cheunh. I could understand some of what was in the letter but mostly I knew this would require several hours of translation and use of the incredibly extensive dictionary he had included in the language database he had given me. From the few bits I could figure out I knew this was a lot more personal than the first letter. Since I didn’t have much else to do and I wasn’t about to go running out to the Lars homestead this late in the day I decided that a quiet evening studying Cheunh would not be a waste of time.
His letter was a caress. If I had thought him eloquent in his use of basic then that was tease in comparison to his ability to communicate in his native language. It had taken me almost half the night to translate his words. If I had thought he would take it easy on me writing in Cheunh I was sadly mistaken. He had written as though I were already fluent in his language and not just getting my feet wet. Once I was certain I had the translation just so and could read it with out pause or interruption I was in awe. I had grown up in a world of words, through books, plays and poetry, mostly thanks to my mother. I had learned to love language at a very young age but nothing had prepared me for the beauty of this letter.