- Vora Meyers
I took the rake to the dried leaves piled outside in the corner between the back room and the garage, the crinkle and slight smell of autumn mold swept around me in the late afternoon light. A twinge from my healing foot made me slide my foot and then my waiting crutches closer to where I was now standing, but I only had an hour of standing at most before I really needed them.
The clock was always ticking.
Healing after foot surgery had to come before I could start driving. There was only so much job interviewing I could do remotely, so I had to wait until I could get to interviews an hour’s drive away. That left me bored, tinkering with my site and rereading favorite books.
The area beside the grill and bench now clear, I dragged the bench closer to the door as a brisk gust threatened to erase my work. The pumpkins were around the corner, and I just didn't have the energy to carve or paint them before tomorrow's trick-or-treaters. Dragging one to place beside the huge bushes at the front door would take longer than I was up to today.
A wave of pending strain went through me and I sidled over to the bench so I could sit down and enjoy the autumn sun.
“Well, hello there. Excuse the interruption, but may I ask for directions?”
A couple of cute guys in excellent costumes were a day early for Halloween and I had to smile. The shorter was fairer with reddish beard and he smiled, while the taller had an excellent makeup scar. It had been too long since I saw any cosplay this good in person, maybe at Buccaneer or Millennium Philcon. “Just did, you have.”
I could not resist, and expected them to laugh with me.
They didn't, they just exchanged glances.
That made me giggle and then I had trouble stopping. I finally managed to stop when their confusion was mixed with amusement and perhaps concern at my laughter. “Sorry, sorry. You should expect that in those costumes. I'm not rabid enough a fan to learn Huttese or anything. So what are you looking for?”
No big parties or costume events happened in this neighborhood, too many cows. I hadn’t seen balloons out for a nearby party along the rural road yesterday.
They exchanged looks again and the taller one spoke. “We need some parts.”
That gave me the feeling he was concerned that the cornfields and cows within eyesight in most directions wouldn't have the spark plugs or the jack they needed. I knew they didn't. “I might have something in the garage that you can have and tools, you're welcome to check.”
“I can make do.” The taller had a full share of a young man’s cockiness and sure of his place in the world. Not yet hit the rocks. Or maybe he was that much a roleplayer.
The other one coughed and met my eyes with a smile. “I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is...”
“Anakin Skywalker, of course.” I laughed, wanting to howl. “Really, guys, good job with the costumes. Is there a contest tonight at the comic shop? Did your car get a flat?” We had an old air compressor for tire repairs, but I wasn’t as sure the jack still worked. Few closer neighbors were home in the daytime. I gestured for them to follow me as I turned inside.
The clock was ticking.
I’d started to chatter, wishing I’d been in the mood to make a costume this year. “My motor-head relatives left a lot of junk that I don’t know much about. Is there an event at the convention center that didn’t make the news?”
Then I realized that they weren't following me.
The taller one with the wavy hair was glaring. “How did you know my name?”
My eyes were watering because I clenched my jaw closed to stop my laughter at his ire. When I was pretty sure I could speak, I waved my hands. “Oooh, Tatooine, Padmé, Palpatine or should I say Darth Sidious, Cloud City, Artoo, Geonosis, Mace Windu, Han Solo… wait, he's later, with Luke and Leia...” I was thinking about Mark Hamill doing both Luke and the Joker.
I got easily distracted with fannish things.
That ended when an electric bugzapper hum snapped my attention back from watching my step. The damn thing was glowing.
That hum wasn't a sound effect from post production.
It was that fourth state of matter: plasma. Close enough to touch and I had to stifle a panicky hiccup and giggle at how stupid touching it was.
Anakin's glare was a menacing snarl. “What do you know about the Senator?”
My blood ran cold as I grabbed at the door frame. Upright had to be better. “She's a nice girl and you're very fond of her?” My voice wobbled. I was freezing up from my fear, staring at the weapon.
“Enough, Anakin. Humor is no threat, is it?” Obi-Wan put a calming hand on the younger man's shoulder and the hum and bright light ended. His blue eyes met mine steadily. “You are?”
I swallowed, trying to handle my dry mouth, wondering if I was the one deluded. “Vora Meyers. You mind if I sit down? I can’t stand much longer.” Passing out was also possible.
Anakin still had plenty of disgruntlement, but the older man smiled and offered his arm. “That will be fine. We have many questions.”
I held on to his arm and looked at his beard out of the corner of my eyes, feeling so much calmer and able to breathe again. I was thinking furiously as I hobbled inside. We went to the living room, and I wondered how much of my original invitation was mine and how much was encouraged by the Force. Should I reveal what I know? What should I reveal when I didn't know what it was. Time travel often ended badly, so did parallel worlds. I liked them, but I wasn’t a rabid fan of the prequel trilogy. I’d had enough sad at the time with deaths in the family that I aoided watching it since then. I preferred hope.
I felt a large measure of pity for this boy.
And yes, he was a boy compared to me, even Obi-Wan was much younger. Would it be any better if I interfered? This was probably a clear case of the Prime Directive.
But didn't the Force bring them here? Wasn’t Earth the more primitive society? Which of us had to be careful? The Prime Directive was always from the superior culture’s view but it had to be arrogant to think it had to be Earth as the superior.
“The truth, please.” Obi-Wan had only hints that resembled the older Sir Alec as he supported me down the steps into my own living room. His arm was more solid around me than the crutches left at the door.
I gestured to the sofa, taking the end. “Sir, I'm not sure if that's wise. We're far, far away from Republics and Empires. There is much in your future that makes for despair.” I couldn't help feel pity for what was in their near future. Anakin already had the scar and the glove.
“You are troubled.”
That made me want to roll my eyes at that understatement. Instead I held up a hand so I could think for a moment.
Anakin started to speak, but looked around.
I found myself making a flowchart list in my head. If they were Jedi, and I was fairly convinced they were, the Force was real, whether it was god-like or nanotech gone amuck.
The bigger existential issue was whether they had independent existence before George or did the cumulative belief of a billion fans create them?
The clock was ticking.
Bad line of thought, try again. If the Force was real I would have to assume they were real… I was going in circles now. If I was deluded, I might as well act as if they were real until I checked into Bedlam.
So if this was real, it wasn't very benevolent of me to fail to warn them if the Force brought them here to be warned. It would be cruel.
I took a deep breath, might as well try to help despite my own confusion. “It was a time of civil war… for almost forty years people here have been watching and reading about the struggles of your worlds. I saw the first story as a young girl. The story of a princess trying to escape, or just get vital information away from a… Darth Vader. She gave it to...”
Here was the first dangerous point. “To her faithful R2D2 to give to General Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine.” I saw him shaking his head but I rushed onward. “Then the story shifts away from her capture and torture to a young man with sun bleached hair fuming in the sands on that planet. He buys her damaged droids and gets a piece of the message, which makes him wonder if old Ben Kenobi is the intended recipient...”
That made Anakin snicker. “Old man.”
“His name was Luke Skywalker,” I saw that made Anakin pause. “And in that same story you see Darth Vader kill Obi-Wan, with anger on one side and grief on the other.” I wanted to ease them into the prime point, but I could not stall any longer. “Darth Vader Fell when Senator Palpatine, Darth Sidious, convinced him that it was the only way to save Padmé and his child from his nightmares. Palpatine's manipulations caused the war just to get power and another apprentice and he lied, he lied, he lied.”
Anakin winced with every repetition, and it took no skill in the Force to see how this affected him. Obi-Wan looked worried and leaned toward his former student to place a hand on his shoulder while he looked at me with suspicion.
I couldn't prevent a touch of annoyance as I developed a nasty sinus pressure headache. I did not want to give him time to reach denial. “I can't say I give much of a damn about Jedi purity and isolationism, but you should stay in the light. That's the important part.” Then I frowned at Obi-Wan. “Attachment and love do not cause darkness, cruelty and willingness to needlessly harm others, do.”
The older Jedi looked like he wanted to agree and disagree at the same time.
“It's not the love, it's the willingness to do even vile things for the one loved. Even if they don't want it. Would Padmé want children to die for her?”
Obi-Wan's confusion seemed to be clearing and he seemed to be thinking hard as he shook his head. Anakin wilted, as he should. I was sure Padmé was better than that.
I sighed. “You both might be at serious risk from Sidious, and not just your lives.” I gave up on guessing how far they were, how much I really knew. In for a penny, in for a pound. “Anakin, have you married Padmé yet?”
The boy froze, his eyes darting back and forth without meeting mine. With a look at Obi-Wan, he muttered an agreement.
They were too close, after episode two. “Palpatine has been suckering you along the whole time you've known him. He wants an apprentice, just to act as his fist in what used to be a Republic. He won't help protect anyone, he just wants power to obliterate everything good in your Republic. He will whisper in as many ears as it takes until he gets what he wants.” I had to take a breath. “Listen to him and not only will you lose your twin children, but their mother.”
A touch of fear followed by anger chased across the boy.
I empathized with him. It was hard for me to imagine that much loss. “Do you want a hug? This is hard to hear.” I was just glad he seemed to believe me.
He looked at his Master, whose unsmiling gaze was inscrutable, even if he didn't really look disapproving.
I was surprised Anakin moved and shook a little while we loosely embraced. He'd had so few who didn't want and expect something from him. I wanted him to be happy.
I whispered to him. “Luke is your son, and he will be willing to die to save you from your dark side. The princess with R2 is your daughter. The Force is strong in both of them. I'd really rather you stay with your family.”
He shook, but I didn’t think it was sobs of despair but its opposite, the hope of a happier future, of having family again.
Obi-Wan looked at me strangely but remained quiet.
When the boy started to quiet, I leaned back and stopped rubbing his back. “You really want to check out our junk? It's just through that brown door.”
Anakin's blue eyes looked a little strained but he nodded and fled to the garage.
I sighed yet again.
Obi-Wan removed his hand from his beard and smiled slightly. Then he leaned closer. “Are you a healer, a witch?”
I laughed.“No, I’ve done many things from packing seeds to insurance inspections, but neither of those. A lot of us have daydreamed about being Force sensitive, but I never did. I preferred Star Trek over the Jedi.” I had to look aside. “Now I'm long past feeling immortal and my lack of discipline is impressive. He just needs something tangible to fight for sometimes. No order can fight for abstracts permanently. Even those protected forget their protectors are human and not just replacable droids.”
He smiled warmly enough to make me relax. “So your first comment was an imitation of Master Yoda.”
I nodded. “I think his intentions are good, but the world has changed while you guys were busy studying your belly-buttons. We’ve never met aliens here; we don't have true spaceflight, so this world is all there is. We’ve only gotten to our moon and back.”
“What did you tell him? I am more concerned about whispers I cannot hear.” His blue-gray eyes were insistent as he leaned closer, brushing against my knee.
I liked seeing him smile. “I… He needs hope, rather desperately. He's dying by inches, cut off from people to care for and care for him. He will be a Master of some path, light or dark, he’s that strong. It's better he be an unconventional Jedi by far.”
Speed it up…
He seemed to be listening intently, maybe asking the Force, too.
“In the story, the princess and Luke are his twin children. His son will be willing to die if it can save Anakin from the dark… even after the many dark things that Vader did. Luke succeeds. Much better Anakin stays with them, for their family and the Republic. You can't really be an evil bastard when you're changing diapers and dealing with toddler tantrums.”
That got a chuckle from Obi-Wan before he spoke. “I see your point. I admit I supported for him more than others thought wise.”
I hoped this warning was enough to change the terrible future they faced.
“We are far away, and you seem to know a future of ours. Do you have Force Visions?”
That made me laugh and shake my head, raising my hands to ward off the idea. “No, no. Other people must have had the visions and made movies. They have been almost insanely popular, with books, comics, costumes, and TV shows. They say your future sucks, or will suck… and I hate futility. Your Council is doing the opposite of what would keep him healthy and effective, actually for all of you. Wartime psychology is very different than peacetime. How many others may have been a Chosen One before him but never got found or washed out for anal rules that serve the Sith more than the Jedi?”
“You sound like my old Master.” Obi-Wan sounded regretful. “I haven’t been able to get throu… He's listening to someone else without anger.”
I thought that was hopeful. “All he had as a slave was his affection for his mother. You can't undo attachments like that without ripping apart his soul. Telling him not to breathe would be as reasonable.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I had many questions, but I was still trying to reconcile them being here. Resisting the fangasm and wanting a souvenir warred in my upside-down world.
Or, this was a fantastic dream as my brain starved of oxygen.
Anakin came clattering back in, looking more animated than when he left. “Found what we needed, or close enough. I'll just need some time and space, so can I move the speeder?”
“It never sped that fast, but yeah. If you need any...”
He was gone before I finished. I wondered how he was planning to move the car without the keys, maybe he’d just pick it up with the Force.
“A character I really admire said something along these lines. ‘There's many reasons to fight: survival, honor, power. What about those who feel it's their duty to protect the innocent? There you will find the warrior savage enough to match any dragon. In the end they will retain what the others won't, their humanity.’ Retain the best. Love, agape or eros, builds, but anger and fear never build, they only destroy.”
After a moment, Obi-Wan spoke in an almost gentle voice. “You haven't asked.”
I was afraid to. “I'm not sure I want to know. I'm a bit of a coward. If I was on some remote place as an oracle, I won’t know what happens.” It was like Schrodinger’s Force, until I asked, it was both true and false.
“Ask, Vora.” His tone of voice layered too much to parse but his blue eyes seemed to be changing color.
The clock was always ticking…