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Finding Hope

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The angry red of Tatooine’s dual suns setting low on the horizon sent deep shadows across the craggy peaks along the edge of the Jundland Wastes.  A mote of blackness floated high above, the ten-meter wingspan suddenly closing with a glint of gold as the female bonegnawer went into a steep dive to close upon the evening’s hapless meal.

A cloaked figure watched the familiar sight for a moment before turning his attention back to the dying light.  One hand emerged from a long sleeve; two fingers reached beneath the hood to rest against the old man’s temple until darkness draped the land.  He dropped his hand, shrugged.

“So, Luke, do you feel it, too?  Or is it just your father’s restlessness sending your mind skyward?”  A sigh whispered into the harsh air as he turned and retreated into the dirty white synstone hut.

Evening routines passed slowly: a simple meal, a few extra savored sips of carefully husbanded water, cleaning, a last security check, finally kneeling in semi-darkness to meditate.  Routines repeated endlessly almost every day for years that stretched back across dusty obscurity, routines that had come to define the shape of the man’s life.

A yawn escaped dry lips as blue-gray eyes opened to see a blue flickering figure.

“Tired, Obi-Wan?”

“Qui-Gon, it is good to see you.”  A smile lit the Jedi’s face as Obi-Wan ruffled the edge of a beard long since gone white.  “Tired?  Yes, indeed.”  Darkness shaded his eyes as he looked down.  “I’m getting old ... it’s been such a long time, Master ... and I can’t help thinking sometimes about all the pain and suffering I’ve seen.”

“I understand, Obi-Wan.  The Force has asked much of you, but you have persevered all these years.”

“The Force also sustains me and will help us.”  Obi-Wan stood and grinned.  “After all, did the Force not send you to me to teach me the ways of the Order of the Whills?”  His knees creaked as he went to sit in a chair.  “Although I wouldn’t mind a little help with these old joints, too.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do much about the bones,” Qui-Gon’s lips quirked in a familiar half-smile, "but you have certainly proved to be an apt pupil.  I have no doubt that you will be able to join the Force when the time is right and continue your stewardship from there.”

“Thank you.”  Obi-Wan nodded.  “It has been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of your company, Qui-Gon.  Is there another lesson to impart?”

“No, you have learned all that I have to teach you of those things.”  A ghostly hand gestured as Qui-Gon hesitated.  “I came to see you, Obi-Wan.  I have sensed that you have been uneasy recently; is there anything you wish to discuss?”

Obi-Wan leaned back in his chair and sat silently while he rubbed his chin.  Finally he sighed and spoke softly.  “My thoughts and meditations lately have been disturbed with dark currents.  Last night I dreamed of a figure in black, a figure with a lightsaber, but I could not see a face.  It felt more like a foreshadowing than a memory, but I have not been able to find an answer in the Force.”

“Prescience was always far more your strength than mine; I’m afraid I have little guidance to offer on your vision.”  Qui-Gon moved closer.  “But I too have felt stirrings in the Force, hints of movement and events coming together soon.  Perhaps it has to do with Luke?  He is approaching maturity and I doubt he will be content to stay much longer on Tatooine.”

“Ah, yes, young Luke.”  Obi-Wan gave a small snort.  “I worry about that young man.  Although I understand the reasons, I do wish very much I could have had a more direct hand in his upbringing.  Owen and Beru are good people and they have raised him as well they could; I believe he has a will to do the right things, but he understands little of the Force and its ways.  Luke has much of his father in him, a hard worker, loyal to his friends, a tremendous pilot ... but also great impatience and restlessness and so much yet that he needs to be taught.”  Obi-Wan looked at Qui-Gon.  “I don’t know whether to hope or to fear that Luke is that black figure in my dream.  There is potential for him to go either way; if he learns to use all that power he has, he could do either great good or great evil.”

“A difficult question, indeed, but as Master Yoda is fond of pointing out, the future is always in motion.”  Qui-Gon nodded, his expression somber.  “You must be prepared to take action and guide him as best you can when the opportunity arises.”

“I shall do that.”

“I must take my leave, Obi-Wan.  May the Force be with you.”

Obi-Wan sat in the dimness left after the blue light faded for a long time before finally going to his bed.

Sleep proved to be a short-lived blessing.  Obi-Wan sat up abruptly, trying to understand the urgent thrum that had pulled him awake.  He closed his eyes and let his senses open wide but no immediate danger made itself known.  A tiny niggling unease in his gut drove him to dress and head outside; even though he could not explain it, the familiar Force warning was something he had long ago learned to heed.

Obi-Wan munched on a hard biscuit and sipped water as he climbed to the highest point near his hut.  The first sun was a hint of light in the far sky as he settled in to scan the area.  For an hour he watched and waited, making himself small and unseen as the fire of the two suns vanquished the mist along the border of desert sand and rocky cliffs.  The skettos had long since withdrawn to the darkness of their caverns by the time the bonegnawer rose to ride high on the dawn thermals; a rock wart skittered into the shadows.

“What’s that?” muttered Obi-Wan to himself.  He focused on a tiny blur of motion on a barren outcropping.  “Sandpeople ... and they’re moving fast.”  The niggling moved from his gut to the back of his head.  “Better go check it out.”

Keeping a low profile, Obi-Wan moved swiftly through a territory he had long since come to know by heart.  He caught up to the pair of Tusken Raiders and followed them carefully.  Eventually they dismounted, leaving their Banthas behind some large boulders as they moved out into a massive canyon, rifles in their arms.  Obi-Wan crept up onto an outcropping and peered out cautiously.  Parked on the floor of the canyon was a dull red and silver landspeeder.

“That looks like Luke’s speeder.  What is he doing out here?”  Obi-Wan crawled out to the very edge and scanned the area.  He nodded as his suspicion was confirmed by the sight of Luke Skywalker with his rifle, but his eyebrows rose in surprise at the unfamiliar droids with him.  Suddenly the smaller unit, an R2, began emitting shrill whistles.  Obi-Wan kept watch as Luke climbed to the top of a rock ridge and began scanning with his electrobinoculars.

“Blast!”  Obi-Wan leapt to his feet as one of the Sand People reared up in front of Luke and swung his axe blade.  He saw Luke block the blow and begin scrambling backward.  Obi-Wan ran down the slope until he could see the Sandpeople, cursing again as he saw one of them carrying Luke, then dumping him near the speeder.  Thinking quickly, he began a howling moan, using a touch of Force to magnify the noise as if a dreaded krayt dragon was approaching.  He ran toward the Raiders, roaring and flapping his arms, not stopping until both of them took to their heels and were out of sight.

Stopping by the supine figure of the young man, Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief at the regular rise and fall of his chest.  An electronic noise drew his attention away to see the R2 unit huddled in a small alcove.  He looked over and smiled.

“Hello there! Come here my little friend. Don’t be afraid,” said Obi-Wan soothingly.  He waited a moment as the droid shuffled over and began to beep, then turned back to Luke, putting his hand on Luke’s forehead and using a touch of healing Force to bring him back to consciousness.  “Don’t worry, he’ll be all right,” he assured the R2.

Luke shook his head groggily.  “Oh, what happened?”

“Rest easy, son, you’ve had a busy day. You’re fortunate to be all in one piece,” Obi-Wan replied.

“Ben? Ben Kenobi!  Boy, am I glad to see you!”

“The Jundland Wastes are not to be traveled lightly. Tell me, young Luke, what brings you out this far?”

“Oh, this little droid!” Luke said, pointing at the R2 unit.  “I think he’s searching for his former master ... But I’ve never seen such devotion in a droid before. He claims to be the property of an Obi-Wan Kenobi. Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who he’s talking about?

Obi-Wan scratched his beard as he pondered for a moment, remembering his discussions with Qui-Gon about what and how much to tell Luke once the time was ripe.  Seeing that the young man was fine, Obi-Wan felt a sudden conviction that this was the opportunity he had been waiting for so many years.  He said gravely, "Obi-Wan Kenobi...Obi-Wan? Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time ... a long time.”

“I think my uncle knows him. He said he was dead.”

“Oh, he’s not dead, not ... not yet.”  Obi-Wan repressed a small grimace at the memories of the times when Owen Lars had probably wished that the Jedi would conveniently die and leave them alone.

“You know him!” Luke’s face lit up with excitement.

Obi-Wan allowed himself a smile.  “Well of course, of course I know him. He’s me! I haven’t gone by the name of Obi-Wan since oh, before you were born.”  A small white lie, but close enough to the truth since it was only shortly after that time he had gone into hiding in the desert.

“Well , then the droid does belong to you.”

“Don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid. Very interesting...”  Obi-Wan looked closely at the R2; he had used many droids before his exile, but this one didn’t seem familiar.  Droids had always been more of Anakin’s province; perhaps this one was indeed somehow related to the past.  Obi-Wan’s ruminations were cut short as suddenly rocks fell from a nearby cliff.  “I think we had better get indoors. The Sandpeople are easily startled, but they’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers.”

Luke sat up and rubbed his head gingerly.  The droid let out a pathetic beep; Luke stared at it a moment before swinging his gaze around.  “Threepio!”

Obi-Wan looked around but didn’t see anything.  “Who or what is Threepio?” he asked.

“My other droid.  I’m gonna catch it if I don’t bring the darned thing back.”

“Very well, let us find it and get out of here.”

Obi-Wan helped Luke to his feet and they quickly began scouting around.  A few minutes later they came across a very dented and tangled droid lying in the sand, a missing arm a few meters away.  After several tries Luke managed to get the droid turned on; they helped it to the landspeeder and began loading it on.

“Quickly, they’re on the move,” Obi-Wan urged as they finished securing both droids.  “Let’s go to my place; it’s not far and you can repair the droid there.”  He gave a small internal sigh of gratitude when Luke nodded.

“All right, thanks.”  Luke adjusted the vehicle’s controls and within a few moments they were speeding away.

They unloaded both droids at Obi-Wan’s hut and took them inside along with tools from the speeder.  Luke began putting on Threepio’s arm and chatting with Obi-Wan, who was sitting in a chair and tossing out carefully considered questions.  He was encouraged by Luke’s interest in the Jedi and the Force, although when he turned over Anakin’s lightsaber to his son, Obi-Wan had to tamp down a twinge of long-repressed pain that tweaked his heart as he remembered the brother that Anakin Skywalker had become to him.  After Luke finished with his repairs to Threepio, they managed to pry the mysterious message out of the R2 unit.

Obi-Wan sat stunned as the hologram played.  That had to be Leia, the twin sister to Luke who had gone to Bail of Alderaan to be raised by him and his wife.  Time seemed to lurch as his thoughts raced and he had to drag his attention back to the final words.

“... Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

Static distortion killed any remaining words there might have been.

Obi-Wan scratched his chin to buy time.  Desperate times, indeed – if he needed confirmation of the warnings the Force had been trying to give him, then this was surely it.  Events must be spinning even more rapidly than he had imagined; he glanced at Luke and knew it was time to move.

“You must learn the ways of the Force if you’re to come with me to Alderaan,” said Obi-Wan.

“Alderaan?”  Luke laughed.  “I’m not going to Alderaan. I’ve got to get home. It’s late, I’m in for it as it is.”

“I need your help, Luke.”  Obi-Wan pushed a little harder, mindful of the fine line he walked with the sudden request.  “She needs your help. I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.”

“I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do!”  Luke shook his head.  “It’s not that I like the Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.”

“That’s your uncle talking,” Obi-Wan replied, his tone firm, belying his hidden anxieties.

Luke sighed.  “Oh, God, my uncle. How am I ever going to explain this?

“Learn about the Force, Luke.”

“Look, I can take you as far as Anchorhead.”  Luke turned away.  “You, you can get a transport there to Mos Eisley or wherever you’re going.”

“You must do what you feel is right, of course.”  Obi-Wan acquiesced for the moment, but knew he could not let this drop even if it meant finally confronting Owen and Beru Lars in order to persuade Luke to follow his destiny.  He had a fleeting premonition that there was little chance he would be returning to his sanctuary.  Obi-Wan gathered a few necessities, having long since learned how to travel light, then helped Luke load the droids onto the landspeeder.  He set a Force lock in place, then gave one glance as they started off before turning his attention to the future.

Their little group was making good progress when they came across the ravaged remains of a huge Jawa Sandcrawler.  Luke and Obi-Wan dismounted and began walking among the smoldering rubble and scattered bodies.

“It looks like Sandpeople did this, all right. Look, here are Gaffi sticks, Bantha tracks. It’s just ... I never heard of them hitting anything this big before.”

Obi-Wan crouched and looked closely at tracks in the sand.  “They didn’t. But we are meant to think they did. These tracks are side by side. Sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers.”

Luke studied the Sandcrawler and looked closely at some of the bodies.  “These are the same Jawas that sold us Artoo and Threepio,” he informed Obi-Wan.’

“And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople.”  Obi-Wan shook his head.  “Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.”

“Why would Imperial troops want to slaughter Jawas?”  Luke glanced at the two droids who were inspecting the dead Jawas; the look of confusion on his face was replaced by horror.  “If they traced the robots here, they may have learned who they sold them to.”   Sick dismay turned Luke’s face pale.  “And that would lead them back … home!”  Luke raced blindly for the landspeeder, jumped into it and fled.

“Wait, Luke! It’s too dangerous.”  Obi-Wan’s futile call fell on empty air.  “Blast!”  Obi-Wan gazed at the rapidly diminishing speeder, then sighed.  He took a few minutes to direct the droids to gather and burn the Jawa bodies before kneeling in the shade of the wrecked Sandcrawler.

Obi-Wan was unfortunately all too familiar with the typical outcome of encounters with the Empire’s military enforcers.  Leia’s message in the R2 unit implied that there were Imperial ships in the planet’s vicinity; to find the droids they had likely sent down stormtroopers to reinforce the contingent already assigned to the planet.  Shipboard or planetary, though, they were all equally ruthless, as they were bred to be.  Neither Owen nor Beru Lars would be able to provide the answers the troopers were seeking.   Obi-Wan knew that Owen was just as likely to try to fight back as not, but the outcome in either event was no doubt fatal.

Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan concentrated on seeking Luke’s presence in the Force.  The young man should be approaching the Lars homestead very soon; Obi-Wan could feel faint twinges of fear and concern growing rapidly.  A spike of shock radiated in the Force and Obi-Wan knew that Luke was home.  He fought to hold his concentration and reach out further, gradually pulling more sensations from those permeating Luke’s thoughts.

Between his own memories and Luke’s perceptions, Obi-Wan could picture what Luke was probably seeing.  The stormtroopers would have left death and destruction in their wake as they typically did.  The acrid sting of remembered fires filled Obi-Wan’s nose and throat.  A sudden stunning numbness replaced Luke’s fear and Obi-Wan had a vision of what must be happening at the homestead.

Luke stood in horrified silence, staring down at what was left of the only family he had known.  Smoke was rising, rising from the charred bodies, rising from the blasted remains of the buildings, rising through the desert sunlight.  Luke’s throat was tight, his face frozen, and words seem to be trapped behind staring eyes.  Bits and pieces of broken memories littered the ground, unheeded.  Time had stopped.

Obi-Wan’s head snapped up as the void of Luke’s emotions was suddenly ripped by a streak of hatred, red and malignant.  “No, Luke, not you, too,” he whispered.  Seconds, then minutes, passed in agonizing suspense before Obi-Wan felt the resolve that thrust the ugly emotions aside.  The hatred still lingered deep, but finally faded in the white glare of determination, a new purpose as Luke turned away.  Obi-Wan bowed his head and contemplated the enormity of the task still before him in teaching Luke what he could of the Force while stormclouds seemed to be growing ever faster.

Another fire burned, putting at rest the Jawas who had been cut down by the Imperial stormtroopers.  Obi-Wan and the droids were just finishing their work when the landspeeder pulled up.  Obi-Wan watched carefully as Luke came to him.

“There’s nothing you could have done, Luke, had you been there. You’d have been killed too, and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire.”

“I want to come with you to Alderaan. There’s nothing here for me now.”  The new-found purpose was written clearly on Luke’s face, a new, harder line to his young features.  “I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”

Obi-Wan nodded somberly.  “I will be honored to be your teacher.”

The trip to Mos Eisley Spaceport was a quiet one.  Obi-Wan hoped to find a ship that could take them to Alderaan, and Mos Eisley was the most likely place to do that without unwanted questions being asked.  There were more stormtroopers than normal on the streets, but Obi-Wan got them past that hurdle with a judicious application of Force to misdirect them.  They pulled to a stop near a rundown cantina and got out.

“I can’t understand how we got by those troopers. I thought we were dead,” said Luke as he shooed away a few curious Jawas.

“The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

“Do you really think we’re going to find a pilot here that’ll take us to Alderaan?”

“Well, most of the best freighter pilots can be found here. Only watch your step.”  Obi-Wan looked at Luke and raised an eyebrow.  “This place can be a little rough.”

“I’m ready for anything.”

Obi-Wan just grunted and led the way into the cantina.  He paused just inside the doorway to scan the dim interior before moving toward the bar.  He spotted a Wookiee standing near a group of humanoids; a flash of recognition made him shift course toward the tall, furry creature.  Can that really be Chewbacca, he thought to himself.  I wonder if he remembers me?  Obi-Wan stopped next to the Wookiee and began cautiously chatting in Basic, only a small part of his attention focused on Luke.

The Wookiee was in fact, Chewbacca, a mighty warrior from Kashyyyk.  He didn’t seem to recognize Obi-Wan, but did remember Master Yoda from fighting together during the Clone Wars.  Obi-Wan found out that Chewbacca was first mate on a ship on a ship that was currently between jobs.  He turned to get Luke, only to find that the droids were gone and Luke was being threatened by an alien and a pugnacious humanoid, both of whom appeared the worse for wear.  He asked Chewbacca to wait and moved over behind Luke.

“You’ll be dead,” sneered the humanoid.

Weapons sprang to the ready as Obi-Wan spoke.  “This little one’s not worth the effort. Come let me get you something ...”

A powerful blow from the humanoid sent Luke sailing across the room, crashing through tables.  A blaster swung toward Obi-Wan.  With the unthinking ease of years of practice, Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber and in one movement cut off the alien’s arm, then turned off the saber and returned it to his belt.  There was a brief moment of silence until the cantina quickly returned to normal, although there was now a noticeably wide gap in Obi-Wan’s immediate area.  A ripple of regret passed through the old Jedi as he glanced down at the blood on the floor, so much violence that only begat ever more violence.

Obi-Wan gathered Luke and they followed Chewbacca to a booth.  He took careful measure of the pilot, a tough-talking rogue named Han Solo, ignoring the distraction of the music and noise in the cantina.  The negotiations were short – they desperately needed to get off the planet and it appeared that Solo needed the money just as badly despite his seeming nonchalance.  Obi-Wan sealed the deal and quickly got Luke out.  It wasn’t the ideal solution, but the Force tended to help those who helped themselves and right now his primary problem was how to get Luke and himself to Alderaan.

A short trip deeper into Mos Eisley enabled them to find a dealer who was willing to buy Luke’s ‘speeder; the money wasn’t much but it would get them on the ship.  Obi-Wan unobtrusively kept a wary watch, frowning a little at the tail they had picked up, but deciding their best defense was to keep moving.  They and the droids made it to the docking bay where they saw the Millenium Falcon; Obi-Wan ignored Luke’s derisive snort at the state of the ship.

The arrival of several stormtroopers speeded up their departure and they took off while the troopers were firing at them.  Obi-Wan, trailed by Luke, went up to the cockpit once in space and Obi-Wan saw the looming presence of Imperial star destroyers.  He noted the pilots entering what must be the hyperspace calculations and balanced himself as shots rocked the ship.

“How long before you can make the jump to light speed?” asked Obi-Wan as the ship took more punishment.  He wasn’t terribly reassured by the answer, especially when a red light on the deflector shield indicator began flashing, but he knew he needed to trust to Solo and Chewbacca.  He took Luke’s arm and steered him back to the center of the ship.  “Come on, we need to get the droids secured quickly and strap in.”  It took only a few moments, but seemed to take much longer before they felt the lurch and moment of displacement that signaled the shift into hyperspace.

Obi-Wan watched Luke as they detached their seatbelts.  He could see the adrenaline from their escape beginning to fade and decided a chat about the Force would be a good distraction to keep the young man from brooding about his recent losses.

“We have several hours before we will arrive at Alderaan, Luke,” said Obi-Wan.  “This would be an excellent opportunity to start your lessons.”

“All right,” nodded Luke.  His eyes lit up a bit more.  “Will I be able to do all those things you did on the planet?”

“All in good time, young Luke,” Obi-Wan replied with a smile.  “There is a good deal that you need to understand and learn, but you are very strong in the Force.  I have no doubt that you will become a good Jedi if you stay focused.”

“How long did it take you to become a Jedi?”

“Many years ... and I’m still learning.”  Obi-Wan almost chuckled at the look of dismay on Luke’s face.  “It’s not quite that bad – there are many basic skills you will be able to attain relatively quickly if you work hard.”

“I’ll work very hard, don’t you worry about that,” said Luke earnestly.

“I don’t doubt it.”  Obi-Wan paused for a moment, thinking about where to start given their current circumstances.  “The tradition of the Jedi is for a master to take on an apprentice learner, a padawan, and pass on his knowledge.”  A cold shiver of premonition along his spine shaped Obi-Wan’s next words, changing what he had meant to say.  “There are very few Jedi left in the galaxy, but many years ago I gathered what I could of the Jedi Order’s files and have kept them safe in my home on Tatooine along with materials for making new lightsabers.  Since I am, in essence, your master now, all that I have of the Jedi will be my legacy to you if something should happen to me.  I am trusting you to become the keeper of that knowledge and use it wisely.”

Luke sat silently, stunned as the enormity of Obi-Wan’s words slowly sank in.  “You want me to be responsible for the whole Jedi legacy?”  His voice cracked a little as he shook his head, his doubts clear on his face.

Obi-Wan reached over to grasp Luke’s shoulder; he could feel disbelief, fear and a certain pride churning the young man’s feelings.  “I realize that you’ve been through a great deal in a very short time, Luke, but difficult times demand strong people.  It will not be easy, but you are strong, stronger than you know, and your destiny is to become a Jedi to lead the next generation of Jedi in fighting for justice.  But you have to accept your destiny and the responsibility that goes with it – that is part of what it means to be a Jedi.”  He felt Luke straighten under his hand.

“I want to be a Jedi, like my father before me.”  Luke looked Obi-Wan squarely in the eye.  “I accept that destiny and I’ll do my best.”

“Good, let’s get started on your training then, shall we?”  Obi-Wan clapped Luke’s shoulder with a smile.  He could only guess at the full extent of the challenges awaiting the son of Anakin Skywalker, but he was satisfied that they had made a good start.

For the next few hours Obi-Wan patiently took Luke through a very simplified tutorial about the Force, starting the first of the many lessons that he had honed and re-honed during his years of exile.  He wanted to move on to practical exercises as soon as possible, as much to keep Luke’s attention engaged as anything else.  He rummaged through the ship’s storage compartments, found a blast helmet and small seeker robot, then set Luke to practicing basic sparring against the robot with his lightsaber.

“Good, remember that the lightsaber is a defensive weapon so keep the blade between you and incoming attacks.”  Obi-Wan moved around behind Luke and watched intently for several minutes.  A sudden mental shock wave washed over him and he had to grope for a chair before he fell.  Churning pain ripped him as he tried to understand what had just happened.

“Are you all right? What’s wrong?”

Obi-Wan roused at Luke’s words.  “I felt a great disturbance in the Force ... as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”  He rubbed his forehead, trying to relieve the pain as he regained his focus.  Finally he shook his head and fixed his gaze on Luke.  “You’d better get on with your exercises.”

Han Solo entered the room as Luke turned his lightsaber back on and began sparring again.

“Well, you can forget your troubles with those Imperial slugs. I told you I’d outrun ‘em,” Solo said jauntily.

Obi-Wan and Luke ignored him; even Chewbacca barely glanced up from his three-dimensional holographic game he was playing with the R2 droid.

Solo looked annoyed before he wandered over to watch the game.

Luke deflected some laser blasts from the robots, then froze, lightsaber over his head, as if trying to determine what he should do next.

“Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.”

“You mean it controls your actions?”  Luke looked doubtful.

“Partially. But it also obeys your commands.”  Obi-Wan nodded. 

Luke turned his attention back to the robot, successfully turning away another shot before a laser zinged his leg.

Solo laughed.  “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Luke powered down his saber.  “You don’t believe in the Force, do you?”

Obi-Wan smiled quietly as he watched Solo’s scornful reply.  “I suggest you try it again, Luke.”  He put the helmet on Luke’s head and closed the blast shield.  “This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.”

Luke laughed in disbelief.  “With the blast shield down, I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?”

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.”

Obi-Wan ignored Solo’s skeptical expression as he reactivated the robot.  He watched as Luke flailed with his lightsaber and missed the incoming laser shot that stung him.

“Stretch out with your feelings.”

Luke took a deep breath, audible even under the closed shield, and stood perfectly still.  The robot made a lunge and fired but this time Luke managed to deflect the laser.

“You see, you can do it,” said Obi-Wan quietly.

“I call it luck,” scoffed Solo.

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck,” replied Obi-Wan firmly.

Solo started another disdainful remark but his attention was diverted by an alarm light.  “Looks like we’re coming up on Alderaan.”  He and Chewbacca headed to the cockpit.

“You know, I did feel something.  I could almost see the remote,” said Luke.

“That’s good. You have taken your first step into a larger world.”  Obi-Wan let a small note of encouraging pride slip into his voice as he smiled at his apprentice.

Obi-Wan and Luke strapped down for the exit from hyperspace.  After the familiar displacement, there was a decidedly unfamiliar banging and rocking.  Luke quickly bolted for the cockpit, followed more slowly by Obi-Wan.  They were greeted by the sight of a rocky asteroid field where there should have been a planet. 

“Our position is correct, except ... no Alderaan!”  Solo growled.  Luke and Han discussed possibilities, but Obi-Wan knew.

“Destroyed, by the Empire,” Obi-Wan said.

Solo glanced up, incredulous.   “The entire starfleet couldn’t destroy the whole planet. It’d take a thousand ships with more fire power than I’ve ...”  His words were cut off by an alarm sounding.  “There’s another ship coming in.”

Obi-Wan’s stomach fluttered as he stared at the small intruder.  Despite the many years since he had last encountered such a vessel, he had no doubts about its identity.  “It’s an Imperial fighter.”

Chewbacca barked as an explosion shook the ship.  An Imperial TIE fighter zipped past the cockpit window.

“It followed us!”  Luke craned his neck trying to get a better view.

“No. It’s a short range fighter,” said Obi-Wan.

“There aren’t any bases around here. Where did it come from?”  Solo asked.  They argued over what to do next, but Solo commanded,  “Chewie ... jam its transmissions.” 

“It’d be as well to let it go. It’s too far out of range,” said Obi-Wan with a shake of his head.

“Not for long ...”  Solo sped up, closing the distance to the fighter.

“A fighter that small couldn’t possibly get this far into space on its own,” said Obi-Wan.  He watched as the Falcon made up more ground on the fighter as it fled toward what appeared to be a small moon.  A grim expression formed on Obi-Wan’s face as he suddenly recognized the large object.  “That’s no moon. It’s a space station.”

“It’s too big to be a space station,” snarled Solo.

“I have a very bad feeling about this,” muttered Luke.

Obi-Wan urged a retreat., and Solo agreed.  “Full reverse!” Solo spat out.  “Chewie, lock in the auxiliary power.”

Obi-Wan could only look on as the Falcon shuddered and continued moving toward what he believed to be an Imperial battle station.  His face betrayed no dire emotions, but inside he was echoing Luke’s words

“We’re caught in a tractor beam,” said Solo.  “It’s pulling us in!”  He began moving switches.  “I’m going to have to shut down.  But they’re not going to get me without a fight!”

Obi-Wan put a hand on Solo’s shoulder.  “You can’t win.  But there are alternatives to fighting.”  Years of diplomatic and battle experience told him he was right, that there were always alternatives even if they weren’t always easy or pleasant, but a sharp Force niggling in the back of his head was rapidly turning into a very bad feeling indeed.

The air was heavy in the cramped confines of the compartment under the deck of the Millenium Falcon with a decided metallic tang.  Obi-Wan lay in the narrow space, his back pressed against a metal wall and his face only inches from the concealed hatch cover above him.  They had retreated into the hideaways as soon as the Falcon touched down inside a huge hangar.

Slowly Obi-Wan reached out, trying to find the source of a troubling Force current he had begun sensing as they were drawn into the belly of the battle station.  There was a faint trace of something vaguely familiar yet it also felt coldly alien.  He paid scant heed to the voices and drumming boots that passed to and fro above them.

Obi-Wan recoiled and immediately drew back as a flash of recognition threw into his mind’s eye a face he had not seen for twenty years.  Anakin ... no, not Anakin, his fellow Jedi and brother-in-arms ... a wave of sadness passed through him for the creature that Anakin had become.  Vader, yes, Darth Vader was how he was called now, Obi-Wan reminded himself.  A creature of blackness, a user of the dark Force – Obi-Wan realized that their situation was even grimmer than he had thought.  Vader was a powerful opponent and no doubt ruthless in carrying out the wishes of his lord and master, the Emperor.  He shuddered to think what might happen if Vader ever got his hands on Luke.  Obi-wan began recalculating his plans to take this new factor into account.

Finally a last muffled voice faded away and all was quiet in the Falcon.  Obi-Wan kept his lightsaber to hand as he reached up to release the catch of the compartment cover.

“Boy, it’s lucky you had these compartments,” said Luke as he freed himself from his own section.

“I use them for smuggling,” Solo replied as he checked his sidearm.  “I never thought I’d be smuggling myself in them. This is ridiculous. Even if I could take off, I’d never get past the tractor beam.”

“Leave that to me!” Obi-Wan said quietly.

Solo snorted and rolled his eyes.  “Damn fool. I knew that you were going to say that!”

“Who’s the more foolish ... the fool or the fool who follows him?”

Solo just shook his head started toward the main door, muttering to himself.

The first part of their hastily conceived plan worked to perfection.  They ambushed the stormtroopers sent in to scan the ship, then dressed Solo and Luke in their armored uniforms.  The entire group then captured a local control room, albeit rather too noisily for Obi-Wan’s peace of mind. 

“You know, between his howling and your blasting everything in sight, it’s a wonder the whole station doesn’t know we’re here,” Luke said in disgust, evidently sharing Obi-Wan’s feelings.

At Obi-Wan’s suggestion, the R2 unit plugged in with an excited whistle, and quickly zoomed in to a new area of the schematic diagrams.  Obi-Wan studied it carefully and noted the locations where he could induce a power loss that would release the tractor beam.

“I don’t think you boys can help,” said Obi-Wan as he turned to the others. "I must go alone.”

“Whatever you say,” Solo tossed out as he claimed a chair.  “I’ve done more than I bargained for on this trip already.”

“I want to go with you,” Luke said.

Obi-Wan shook his head.  “Be patient, Luke. Stay and watch over the droids.”

“But he can ...” Luke pointed at Solo, frustration clear on his face.

“They must be delivered safely or other star systems will suffer the same fate as Alderaan. Your destiny lies along a different path than mine.”  Obi-Wan waited until Luke reluctantly nodded agreement.  “The Force will be with you ... always!”

Obi-Wan adjusted the lightsaber on his belt and stepped out of the command room; he took a moment to verify his location then headed down a long grey hallway.  Obi-Wan drew on his Force senses to maintain awareness of his opponents, moving swiftly down passageway after passageway, ever mindful of the need for stealthy silence.  A few times he had to use a Force nudge to shift attention away from his presence but remained undetected.

At least, Obi-Wan thought he was undetected.  Approaching the closest access terminal, Obi-Wan suddenly shrank into a doorway.   A cold chill ran down his back and settled into his gut.  Vader is here!  He’s seen me!  Obi-Wan pulled back from the fleeting contact and took several slow, deep breaths.  A flash of prescience, a vision of clashing red and blue lightsabers followed by a featureless void, came and went.  He puzzled over the image as he tried to decipher its meaning.

Is it going to come to this at the end?  Obi-Wan whispered to himself.  Are we to finally play out what should have ended on Mustafar?  A shadow of doubt murmured uneasy words in the back of his mind.  Was he up to what might be his final task?  What of his duty to Luke?  What if he proved unable to carry out his master’s teachings?

“Obi-Wan, if this is the time, then you will do what you must.”  A long-dead voice softly penetrated Obi-Wan’s momentary fog of uncertainty.  “Focus on the moment.”  An unseen smile colored the final words.  “The Force will be with you.”

The corners of Obi-Wan’s lips tugged upward as he dismissed his misgivings.  “Yes, Master,” he muttered as he felt the comforting presence slip away.   He grinned as he remembered a longstanding argument, however.  “That doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a bad feeling about this.”  A sigh of remembrance for what once was, then Obi-Wan shook his head and gathered his focus.  “Best be getting on with killing that tractor beam.”

It took another ten minutes to reach the computer access terminal Obi-Wan needed.  He successfully negotiated a narrow ledge leading to it; it was then the work of a few moments to break in and make the needed adjustments.  There was a tense moment when a small contingent of stormtroopers went through, leaving two of their number behind on guard, but a bit of misdirection drew their attention elsewhere and Obi-Wan was able to slip away.

Obi-Wan worked his way back through the long passageways, a faint ghost slipping by unseen.  He could not shake the growing foreboding in the back of his mind but kept his attention on the task before him.  When Obi-Wan calculated that one more turn and a final corridor would take him to the hangar bay, he slowed his steps and traveled even more cautiously.

The corner successfully negotiated, Obi-Wan moved forward until he was nearly at the point where he should be able to get to the hangar bay.  He stopped short, however, when he heard a heavy mechanical breathing from ahead.  Suddenly a large, dark figure stepped out of a doorway and blocked his way.  The Force signature was unmistakable and sent a chill down Obi-Wan’s spine.  Obi-Wan automatically reached for his lightsaber.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete.” 

Vader was tall but even heavier than Obi-Wan remembered; the Force eddied about him in black, misty swirls.  When Vader turned on his red lightsaber, Obi-Wan ignited his blue blade and easily shifted into an offensive position, firmly tamping down any stray thoughts about his recent premonition.  Focus, he reminded himself, the past doesn’t matter.  He began silently running through the Jedi Code.

There is no emotion; there is peace.

There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.

There is no passion; there is serenity.

There is no death; there is the Force.”

When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.”  Vader moved into a defensive stance.

“Only a master of evil, Darth,” Obi-Wan replied, ignoring the harsh voice but wary of Vader’s power. 

For a long moment, the Jedi and his former apprentice stood silently regarding each other.  Obi-Wan fended off a mental Force push as he tried to remember details of how Anakin had fought and potential weaknesses.  Obi-Wan was well aware that age had taken its toll on him and he was not the swordsman he once was, but he didn’t know how lethal the combination of Vader’s relative youth and mechanical enhancements might prove to be.

Obi-Wan made the first move, lightsabers clashing as they danced about.  He was able to shift around so he could start backing toward the hangar bay.  If he could hold off Vader long enough to make it to the ship, then hopefully Luke and the others could join him to make their escape.

Another slashing move and the two warriors locked sabers, the humming buzz resonating in the air.

“Your powers are weak, old man.”  Vader’s deep voice was scornful.

A moment of clarity and conviction came to Obi-Wan; if this was indeed to be their final battle he still had one last card to play if necessary.  “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Vader did not deign to answer the taunt and struck again. 

“You should not have come back,” Vader warned, striking once more.

Obi-Wan countered, steadily moving back toward the hangar.  He could see the Falcon now but there were stormtroopers also in the open area.  Obi-Wan began rapidly scanning the space between himself and the ship, trying to find an escape route and wondering where Luke was.

The flash and hum of the lightsabers must have drawn the attention of the soldiers.  Obi-Wan heard a shout, turned his head for a moment and saw stormtroopers moving forward to block any path he might have to the Falcon.  He countered yet another blow as he caught a hint of movement heading toward the ship instead of toward him.  A momentary shock almost distracted him as he recognized Leia among the group making for the bottom of the Falcon’s ramp.

“It is time, Obi-Wan.”  Qui-Gon Jinn’s voice broke through the crush of calculations and counter-calculations flooding Obi-Wan’s mind as he tried desperately to find an escape.  “The next step is up to you; I cannot help.”

Time slowed to an infinitesimal crawl as Obi-Wan accepted the truth of his master’s words.  The hum of his lightsaber roared in his ears, the light reflected from Vader’s helmet into his eyes, his cloak hung heavy on his shoulders as a breath of recycled ship’s air drifted down his throat.  The long hours of discussions condensed to crystal clarity:

The path to the Force is compassion, compassion beyond your own being.

There is no self, no selfishness, no personal attachment.

There is only the Force and your focus within it.

A jarring drive from Vader jerked Obi-Wan back to the present as he barely managed to deflect the angry red beam.  His wrists stung from the heavy blow and it was now only too clear to him that he could not win this physical confrontation.  Obi-Wan glanced over his shoulder and saw Luke halfway to the open ramp of the Falcon.  That sight was the final confirmation of his choice.

“There is only the Force,” Obi-Wan murmured to himself, "and my duty is my focus.”  His expression was serene as he lifted his lightsaber and held it in front of him, allowing Darth Vader to cut him in half.

Empty darkness of vague wonderment at the lack of pain ... shifting currents of energy upon which Obi-Wan’s consciousness drifted in shadows. 

A light shone in the far distance, warm, friendly, beckoning to him.  Join with me, the light seemed to whisper, there is no death, there is the Force.

Force?  A sense of belonging, a returning to beginnings, of union.

The warmth pulled at the awareness that had once been a Jedi master named Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Comfortable, pleasant, it summoned him.

Wait ... there is something ... something I must do ...

Join with me, more insistent now as the light burned brighter.

I must ...

From a vague distance, a thought more than a sound ... a young voice called out, “No!”  A voice filled with pain and shocked anguish.

I must... Luke!  Obi-Wan’s remembered words blazed across his rapidly dispersing spirit – My Duty Is My Focus!

With a determined surge, Obi-Wan pulled together the drifting mists of his former being and pulled them into a tight core. 

My Duty Is My Focus! 

Indomitable strength of will rejected the siren call of the promised bliss of peace and happiness.  Brilliant blue light illuminated the soul of the Jedi master as he soared through the heavens.

I am Obi-Wan Kenobi!  A quiet but firmly triumphant confirmation.  I am Obi-Wan Kenobi and I serve the Force.

The former and present Jedi being named Obi-Wan Kenobi hung motionless, or so it seemed to him.  There was no sense of form, no sense of motion; he just was.

“Blast!”  Obi-Wan muttered.  “Qui-Gon could have been a little more forthcoming about how you get around once you get here.”

A ripple of amusement seemed to float past him, through him.

“All right, yes, I should know better.”  Obi-Wan’s irritation turned to self-deprecating humor.  “Still trying to pound things into my thick head, aren’t you, Master?”  Obi-Wan called to mind some of his early lessons:  listen, look, analyze, then act.

It turned out to be surprisingly easy once Obi-Wan thought about it.  Literally thought about it.

“So Qui-Gon was right – your focus does determine your reality!”  Obi-Wan reached out, sorting out sights, sounds and feelings.  He willed himself to move, and he moved.  A familiar niggling from somewhere inside interrupted his delighted explorations.

“What?”  Obi-Wan concentrated a moment.  “Oh!  Luke!  Mustn’t forget why I’m here.”  He directed his effort to trying to find and see Luke. 

It was disorienting at first, as Obi-Wan seemed to viewing events as if through a fuzzy distance hologram.  He worked harder and suddenly the scene he had just left in the battle station popped into clear view.

Squads of stormtroopers were firing at Luke, who seemed to be simply standing still.  His companions were returning fire as they boarded the Millenium Falcon; their shouts seemed to finally awaken Luke, who fired his laser pistol.  His shot destroyed a control panel which evidently controlled a set of blast doors which closed before Darth Vader could join the stormtroopers.  Luke started toward the advancing troopers, firing his weapon.

“No, Luke, you need to get out of there!  Blast, how do I talk to the boy?”

Obi-Wan drew on the Force for energy.  He strove to make sense of the noisy chaos he felt in the hangar bay and began filtering out the various sensory inputs zinging about, blaster bolts from many directions, shouts, and explosions. 

Obi-Wan envisioned his thoughts becoming words and sent forth a calm, reassuring command:  “Run, Luke, run!”

Luke looked around, confusion evident for a moment until he gathered himself and turned toward the Falcon.  He ducked the bolts from the stormtroopers and scrambled up the ramp.

Obi-Wan followed Luke’s progress as the ship powered up and escaped from the battle station.  He watched with almost clinical detachment as Luke and Han Solo fought off the Imperial ships and finally escaped into hyperspace.  Although he knew there was still much work to be done, a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment flooded his being as the full realization of where he was and what he had done finally penetrated.  A joyful laugh became a ripple of silvery blue in the Force.

“I have waited a long time to hear that.”

Obi-Wan shifted his focus again, a smile slowly lighting his face at the appearance of the apparition now facing him.

“Welcome home, Obi-Wan,” said Qui-Gon Jinn with an answering smile.