I was in the middle of fixing an old swoop bike when someone squatted down beside me.
“I hear you’re looking for Luke Skywalker.” The voice was rough and gravely.
I got out from under the bike and sat up, wiping the grease from my hands.
“Well more like being nosey about his life here, actually. “ I said looking up.
“Name’s Fixer, Tosche said you were asking about him, said you had a big interest in local history and the like.” He said holding out his hand. I stood up and shook it.
“Merly.” I said introducing myself. “Yeah I like history, especially about this place and its folk. Though if I were to be honest I’d call it gossip, you know. Can I get you something to drink?”
The tall, stocky man nodded. “That be nice, sure is hot.”
I laughed. “It’s always hot here.”
He ran a hand through his unkempt dark hair and grinned. We headed into the office and I poured two cups of Bel’s iced coffee.
“Tosche wasn’t specific about what you wanted to know, you doing a story on Skywalker or something? I mean is the information worth something?”
“Could be I guess, never thought about it actually.” I said carefully.
“I heard from Tosche that you’re a good mechanic.” He said. “But I haven’t seen you around.”
“I do okay, been off world for over a year.” I told him, “Tosche said the same about you. I didn’t know you worked out at the station, but I haven’t been out there in a long time either.”
He laughed. “Yeah, Tosche don’t call me Fixer for nothing.” He said. “He gave me my first break actually, and then gave me a job. He’s been good to me. He even doesn’t mind that I’m building a podracer on the sly.” He told me proudly.
“You race?” I asked. “I thought the Empire forbid that.”
He grinned. “The Empire doesn’t know spit about what goes on out here, sister. You think they care about a few Rimmers breaking their necks? Besides I ain’t building it to race, I want to sell the thing. I’m getting married and need the cash for the wedding.”
“Oh, well congrats on the engagement then. How can I help you then?” I asked wondering what exactly it was he wanted because he wasn’t actually asking for cash, yet.
“Well, I need a specific part for the racer and Tosche said your dad probably had one to spare. Said your dad keeps all sorts of old parts. Tosche didn’t have what I needed and to order it will cost a fortune. I was thinking maybe we could barter, my stories for the part I need.”
“Well, I’d have to know what the part is. My dad would skin my hide if I gave away something worth a small fortune.” I grinned.
He told me and I laughed. “You can’t find that?”
“Not for this particular engine.” He said handing me the data pad with the part’s image and number on it. “They haven’t been made in years. No one I know around has one. So do you?”
“Let me look.” I left him in the out office with Bel while I went into the store room and searched through the spare parts.
The spare parts room was larger than average because Tosche was right, my father horded engine parts. I guess that’s where I got it form as well. I loved this room, its smell, its atmosphere and its charm. I found what he wanted at the bottom of one of the wall to ceiling shelving units. It was a small thing but Fixer was right, they didn’t make them anymore for the engine he had and without it his engine wouldn’t work. My dad had three of them tucked away so I didn’t think one missing would be a big deal. Brand new still in its original package I carried the little part back into the office.
“This is what you want, yeah?”
His face lit up. “I never thought I’d see one of those, still packaged.” I handed it to him and grinned. Only mechanics got that crazy look in their eyes when they held a much desired engine part in their hands.
“My father is a big packrat. He keeps all kinds of crazy things. I have to fix this stupid swoop, come and talk to me about Luke while I finish up?”
“Sure thing, can I get a coffee refill, this stuff is good.?”
He sat in the dust beside me and talked while I tinkered with the old bike. He fleshed out a lot of Luke’s childhood for me and the tone of his voice let me know that while they had known each other, he had not considered Luke as a friend so much, more like an annoyance that hung around with him and the others. He was like that younger kid brother who tagged after the big kids. I felt sorry for this Luke. His life sounded pretty rough and lonely.
“It’s too bad Biggs ain’t around any more, he and Luke were really good friends. He could have told you more. I never had much time for Wormie, really.” He said rubbing his square chin. “Anyway, I heard that after his aunt and uncle were killed he went off world. I have no idea what happened to him after that. He’s not the letter writing type and we weren’t that close.”
He had talked for the better part of two hours and at the end of it I felt as though I almost knew Luke myself. He might not have liked the Skywalker kid all that much but Fixer was a good story teller.
“How’s Nate doing?” Fixer asked after I had tested the Swoop’s engines and then shut them off.
“Good, I think, I don’t see him much though. He’s busy so we tend to trade off. I work when he’s doing shifts else where and when he’s here I get time off.” I said. “There is a big call for good mechs in Mos Eisley at the moment. I think he’s out at Winstrom’s bay this afternoon, if you want to see him.”
“Naw, I gotta get back, Tosche let me have the time off to see you and run some errands but he runs a tight ship, even when he’s not there. Someone’s gotta fix all the busted crap the farmers bring in.” he grinned.
“Thanks for coming and talking to me.” I said.
“No problem, I don’t get into town all that often, my girl gave me a huge shopping list so I need to get on that. You know it’s funny about Luke, I mean it’s not like he’s anyone special or anything, just some farmer’s kid who used to get on my nerves, but you are not the only one in the last year or so who’s asked about him. No one even knows if he’s still alive or anything. It wouldn’t surprise me, actually, if he had gotten himself killed like Biggs.” He said. “You’ve been out to the Lars’ homestead yet?”
“Not yet, still trying to figure out the best way and the best time to go out.”
“Some folks find the passage from Wayfar along the ridge easier than from Anchorhead. I’d recommend finding an animal mount over a speeder though.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I had a speeder breakdown once out in the Sea, never again.” I told him. “It’s pretty desolate out that way though, he must have been pretty lonely.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, not much of a life I guess, never thought about it to be honest. The farm is a wreck, you won’t find much there any more. Sad really, Owen had that place doing well. Who knows maybe someone will get it up and running again.” He said. “Look I gotta go, thanks for the part, you sure your old man won’t mind?”
I shook my head. “I’m sure. Anyway, better it gets used than sits and collects dust in storage. Good luck with the racer.”
“Thanks, if you’re out at Tosche’s stop by say hi. I missed you last time, was on late shift the night before.” He said shaking my hand again and leaving.
After I had cleaned up I recorded everything he had told me on a data pad. I really wondered why this kid was of so much interest to Lord Vader. The more I heard about him the more he just sounded like some ordinary farm kid and not some heroic pilot who managed to blow up the Empire’s most ambitious weapon. I sat for a while staring at the little computer screen, lost in thought before Bel yelled that if I wanted to eat I should do it now. With a sigh I went into the kitchen for a late lunch and thought about my next move.
There are three ways to traverse the desert. You can walk, not highly recommended. A human requires a lot of water, at least two litres a day, more in the heat and carrying all that weight would not be helpful if one wanted to wander around the desert for any length of time. You can travel by vehicle, hopefully a decent speeder or swoop that won’t die from the heat or the sand. Sand is very unkind to most machines and unless you can fix your own machine and carry enough spare parts, lube and other accessories around with you along with all the water you need, I never thought travel by this method was all that great. Lastly, you can travel on an animal. The four favourite animals for travelling the deserts on Tatooine are Eopies, dewbacks, Rontos and banthas.
Eopies are ornery creatures that were mainly used be farmers. They were able to carry heavy loads and go long distances. I had bad memories of being bitten by a particularly cantankerous eopie as a small child. Rontos, although a good creature for travelling, were mainly used by jawas. Rontos needed a lot of water and were easily frightened by sudden movements; they were a pain in the ass to go near any urban areas with. Dewbacks were also often used as beasts of burden, great lizard like creatures whose ability to deal with the heat was often the stuff of legends. While I liked dewbacks it was banthas that really had my heart.
I remember the first time I ever saw a bantha; I was very, very young. We still lived in the house out by Bestine and it had been late in the evening, just around sunset. A baby bantha had wandered away from its herd and found its way to our house. I remember listening to it cry and feeling its pain and fear. I had taken a bowl of water and set it near enough to see but far enough away to not be in danger. Banthas could be really fierce when they wanted to and even babies were dangerous especially to small children.
I had sat on the stairs and watched as it considered the water and eventually trusted enough to drink from the bowl. I had watched in fascination as its strange, almost prehensile tongue had scooped the water from the bowl so delicately not a drop had touched the sand. Not long afterwards, its mother had found it. I had thought that the two creatures would just leave but instead they nuzzled each other and then the mother, who was enormous, came right up to me sitting on the steps and gently butted at my hand with her nose. When I lifted my hand up she had licked at it with her tongue and then she turned around with her cub and left to rejoin the herd. I had never spoken on this incident with anyone. It had been magical and private, a kindness shown for a kindness given. Of all the creatures that dwelt on Tatooine, banthas were my favourite.
Most folks would swear that travelling by land speeder or some such machine was the best way to cross the desert. Not me, one bad break down in the middle of nowhere had taught me all I needed to know about how sand and machinery got along. It was no wonder the local storm trooper garrison used dewbacks instead of speeders to get around the place. I had talked at great length about it with my father who wasn’t overly happy about me wanting to go out into the desert on my own. I suppose I could have told him I was fairly capable of taking care of myself by telling him about Myrkr and Rothana but these were things he didn’t need to know. In the end we compromised.