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The Mandalorian: The Jedi Academy: Part One

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Chapter One

The small x-wing ship had been cramped at best, as the three of them had managed to crowd themselves inside the tiny cockpit of the vessel, which had never been designed for transport as many passengers rather one for a short range fight. Not that the small child of a special species took that much space, sitting on a lap for the duration. But a Mandalorian, with his full gear, the armour and spear and the weaponry he was carrying on him in addition to the pilot. Well, let’s just say, that the ride to Luke Skywalker's hideout in the middle of the unknown galaxy had not been the one to top any lists of the great ways to travel around space, ever. If there would have been a poll, most likely it would not even have made the top hundred on the Jawa hit list. But none of them had complained about it at the time. As a matter of fact, they had all been pretty much silent most of the trip, only uttering a word here and there where needed. The circumstances leading them there had been those of great emotional pain, stress and sadness. After so much had happened before that very point, when deciding to leave the former life as the bounty hunter knew of behind and start all a new, most likely in a strange place and completely foreign existence. But, as he had glanced into those large eyes of the Child sitting on his lap at the very moment, he knew this was the best decision he had ever made. The alternative though, of letting the Foundling go alone with the Jedi, was something he knew he would have regretted for the rest of his life despite the promises made of seeing each other again. It had all been, a last minute decision, leaving all others on the bridge standing in complete disbelief and silence. But it had been his choice to make and now, they were all on their way to what ever destiny awaited them, together.

 

That was now all a memory of what had happened a few years back, when the former bounty hunter, Din Djarin, the baby Grogu and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker had arrived to what was now a thriving Jedi training facility with permanent housing included for all. Situated in a secret location, at least to the known world out there, It had been dubbed rather playfully, as the Jedi Academy by one of the students there. Even if there really was no official name for it, as no one was even supposed to know about it ever existed. In addition to the Kid, fondly named by his father, officially Grogu, there were several other foundlings training there, all whom were able to yield the Force on various levels and were now learning to master the use of it to become fully fledged members of the almost non existent Jedi Order one day. Led by Master Luke Skywalker, who had searched long and hard through the known and even sometimes the unknown galaxy for these, offspring of the Force and then had brought them there. For safety and to train them in the art itself and in the prospect of one day, becoming fully trained Jedi themselves. Possibly even masters and then eventually leave the place and venture out into the wide universe to help others, like those before them had done. At best, these young Jedi would restore order and peace into the world around them, perhaps even manage to raise the Jedi Order to its former glory one day. Bringing peace, being the operative word of it all. But this time, nothing would be forced and there would be no religion, only a dedicated order following the code of the Jedi or at least, that was the plan.

Despite not being one himself, a Force sensitive person, Din Djarin had taken advantage in the teachings of Master Luke and had become a better and calmer fighter and a more well rounded person all in all in the process. He was more in touch with himself and those around him as well, as Luke had put it, ever since partaking in the exercises of self control and discipline. “The Force surrounds us all.” as the guiding motto even for the Mandalorian these days, as surprising at it all sounded. He also understood the ways of the Jedi now, as he had not even heard of them before meeting the Kid. But, he was also understanding Grogu better since becoming an honorary member to this special club himself. Din had also been teaching Grogu in the way of the Mandalore, as he wanted the Kid to have all the knowledge possible available to him. So in essence, the Kid was now bilingual in a way, understanding that there was more than one way in looking at the world. The beskar armour Din had once carried with so much pride, was now stored away with the rest of his past, neatly packed to a closet in their living quarters. Din still sometimes wondered if he would ever don it again. But most of the time, living in the Jedi sanctuary, he simply enjoyed just being a dad to his adoptive son, Grogu. Spending time together and learning more of each other in the process. They were after all, a legitimate family unit now, or then again, they had always been that. But now at least, it could be said out loud, honestly and proudly and without having to run or hide from anyone.

Din had kept in touch with his friends on Nevarro and Tatooine and even the other Mandalorians, who were still fighting the good fight in trying to bring back Mandalore to its former glory and rightful owners and to reunite the people as well, no matter whether they were Mandalorians by birthright or by creed. But during this time in the sanctuary, Din had rarely travelled outside the planet he was now living on, even if he had managed to procure a new ship for his personal use. Mostly, he did some small trips around the closest systems, which were small gigs really, to procure better funding for the Jedi order. No longer bounty hunting, rather hauling cargo and what nots, whatever made the days pay. All and all, life was peaceful and full of daily routines, with exercise and other tasks to do and that was just fine for Din. As he enjoyed spending all the spare time with his adoptive son, which they were able to have between school and other obligations. The one time solemn, solo traveller and former gunslinger, had learnt to wield his talents in other ways now and he never looked back at the life he had once led. Sometimes, he regretted not being able to do more for his own people, the Mandalorians, but he had other priorities now and the Jedi were quickly becoming his people too. After all, his son belonged to that world so why not him too. But maybe, some time later, he could once again travel to the starts with his son and back to Mandalore.

Chapter Two

Not every single day was always sunshine all day everyday long on the small planet where the Jedi master, trainees and supporter now existed. The two adults, Luke and Din, did not always see eye to eye as to the best parenting methods. It was mostly though when it came to their mutual ward, as they were kind of co-parenting the youngling, Grogu. Lately, more often than not, the two of them had gone toe to toe, while arguing about the upbringing of the Child and it was becoming somewhat of a thorn for them both, as it caused a lot of friction between them too. As to the why this was happening now, well, Din really had no answers to that, since more than a few years had passed and things had gone pretty well, well, as it well as it could so far. But there was something about the way Luke was butting in, as Din put it, in the matters of parenting Grogu. Which rubbed Din the wrong way, so, they fought about it, and recently quite often. Luckily, it was only verbal slander though between the two of them not actual combat.

“He is my kid!” Din spat out angrily. “You cannot always tell me what is right or wrong for him.” He paused and tried to take a deep breath, but it was not helping as he was so totally pissed off once again. So, he reached for the one thing he knew would sting the other one, now considered to be the major figure in the life of his son. “I was the one who saved his life and I am the one, who took him in when no one else was there for him. Not a Jedi, not anyone.”

Sometimes, stating the obvious pained him, but during these arguments, he could not help himself to bring up and use it to lash against his, well, opponent at the time. The simple matter was that he had indeed become the Child's surrogate farther during a moment of necessity, which neither of them had expected to happen, considering, that Grogu, had really been his bounty.

The two men stood there, glaring at each other, neither of them winning this argument, which was the only certainty of this all, but still, neither of them would back up either. And it seemed to be the constant and ongoing battle between them lately.

“He, is also a child of the Jedi. And honestly, you have no idea what it really means!” Luke raised his voice slightly, but still, decided to lash out with the one obvious painful remark, which in his opinion, was the divider between Din and Grogu. Meaning that the former bounty hunter was not a Jedi and would never be one, not with all the training in the galaxy. “He needs to learn all that which it means to be a Jedi and your interfering in his training does not help.”

This simple fact, or rather, the snide remark, which was a go to for Luke these days each time they were arguing about this very same thing, knowing all too well it was a sore spot for Din. “You know I am trying to learn what I can.” He threw back then. “But all I got so far from it, is the sense of someone wanting to play god to the rest of the poor confused bastards out there.” Din knew it wasn’t the truth, but then again, Luke was annoying the hell out of him too so lashing back was the thing they did to each other. “The Empire, the Jedi, no matter who is in charge, the little people out there will always suffer, as absolute power always corrupts everyone in the end.” He had seen it so many times before and even if Luke had good intentions himself, which Din knew and trusted he had, there were always those, who thrived on power only and no amount of Jedi code, would be able to protect from that. Not after what he had seen and learnt of what had happened before, and unfortunately, history, always kept on repeating itself.

Luke did not respond. He knew all too well, that it was moot at this point as he had unnecessarily riled up the Mandalorian anyway. Something he should have known better, as he had seen, no, he had felt the bond between Din and Grogu since the very beginning and knew also well, that eventually, Grogu's loyalties would always lie with his adoptive father than the Jedi. And that was what worried him and this was also the very source, why he was always pushing Grogu, sometimes to the brink of trying to lessen the bond between father and son. Most likely a mistake, which would end up costing him his most priced student. But also Luke was painfully aware of the fact, that history had an ugly way of repeating itself. Thinking back to his father, he was acutely aware that he was trying to wedge a rift between them, as he felt a slight jealousy of the bond, something he had never felt before, at least with his own father. But then again, he had had so many parental figures in his life too, so it did not make any sense for him to feel this way. The only option he really had, was to yield to the situation and to let Din be the parent and himself remain as the mentor, nothing more, nothing less. If he would be able to do it was a whole other matter, but ending this fight was on him, at least today. He also feared, that the Mandalorian might pick up the Kid one day and opt to leave, if things got too heated between them, so there was that too.

“Fine!” Luke finally stated, sighing deeply. “You are his father and what ever parental concerns there might be, you are in charge of those.” He glanced at the man in front of him looking quite surprised now at this, sudden change of heart.

“Alright then, guess we are in an agreement.” Din sighed out of relief himself as the argument he did not like to be in at all, had suddenly diffused itself.

“Good.” Luke nodded and decided to leave Din for the moment alone, as this whole fight had them both on edge and looking at each others faces was not the best option at the moment. “I have classes.” He simply excused himself and left without further words, leaving the somewhat confused Mandalorian with his own thoughts.

 

Chapter Three

Grogu was now in his room, doing his meditative exercises, which were part of the Jedi training process. Din was in the kitchen area of the small size lodgings the two of the lived in. It might have been small but it was just enough for the two of them, with the shared space and their private rooms, which was all luxury compared to the cramped spaces of the Razor Crest, which they had spent a long time in after all. They were a family unit by all senses of the word and despite Luke's prior request of having Grogu reside with the rest of the students, the explanation being that Grogu would learn to bond with the other students while spending time with them. But, Din had put his foot down and told Luke there was enough bonding time and getting to know the other kids while going to school and the other exercises each day of the week. What ever time was left over Din wanted to spend it with his son, just the two of them, doing things they both enjoyed. Something of a play time for both of them without any schedules or must to dos on the agenda. Sometimes they simply hung out enjoying the over all silence and each others company, and that was all right in the world around them as they knew it to be. They also did chores together around the house as Din felt it quite important for the Kid to know the value of such things too.

But today, Grogu had come home earlier than usual seemingly upset and even if he did not speak yet, with words, Din and his adoptive son had learnt to communicate no-verbally pretty well. Naturally Din had not been able to fully master the Jedi mind feeling sharing thing, but he was somewhat fluent in in the overall process after years full of practice in the art of it. Besides, during their time together before arriving to this sanctuary, the two of them had formed a bond where understanding each others moods and behaviour was part of it. So whenever the Kid was upset, Din could tell and visa versa. And today especially, he knew there was something wrong, despite the years having gone pretty well all and all, even if the training was rigours and much was demanded of the students and even the father of this specific trainee. But there had been signs of overdoing it at least for the Child, at least in Din's opinion and he had seen the affects on Grogu before this day too. But today had been especially hard on him as he had come home early and then gone straight into his room without so much of a cute gurgle of a hello to his father. That being a first, a fact which was also telling Din things were definitely not OK. And that simple fact worried Din to no end, especially after knowing the cause of this only too well and also having warned Luke about it too. The had also been the very reason for all the angry fights lately with the Jedi Master.

“Grogu, talk to me.” Din urged the Kid after he had sat down by the sulking youngling. “You know you can tell me anything, right?” He tried verbally at first, but despite knowing that Grogu understood the spoken word quite well, he knew he was also stubborn, so, Din decided to switch to the mental exchange instead, hoping to reach the child on his own level.

“Grogu, I know you are upset because of all the hard training you are doing. And I know, it’s all, well a bit too much, especially, since you are still so young. And I know you think it’s not fair.” Din shared his thoughts with his son.

“I know Master Luke sees the greatness in you and well, he told me about the Jedi plenty so far and that there are so few left, so he kind of has an urgency on him to have you join the forces as soon as possible.” He continued speaking in his mind, letting Grogu see all his thoughts just as Luke had trained him.

Grogu sighed out loud, and then, he simply gave a slight nod to his father in response.

“I don’t know if it was anything specific that upset you today, or just, well, the accumulation of it all.” Din then went on. “But I have told Master Luke, that he needs to ease up on you, you know, because he can’t force the training on you. He just, well, needs to let it happen and let you be a kid as long as needed.” Din was trying his best to console the Kid and to show him, that he was on his side not matter what, and most importantly, that no matter what, Din would always defend Grogu and his rights to be or do what he wanted, well, within reason at least.”

Grogu was silent still, but, he visibly relaxed and then like so many times before, he simply showed his emotions and feelings by crawling up to his fathers lap and hugging him as hard as the little guy possibly could. In turn Din put his arm around the Kid and hugged him back.

After a moment of conveying their mutual love for each other Din broke the silence and said out loud this time. “Are you up for dinner? I made your favourite stew.” He smiled at the Kid looking up at him expectantly. “Frog legs and egg stew.” Din stated with a quirky yet proud smile.

And before he could say more, Grogu was already on the floor and grabbing his dad by the hand and leading him into the kitchen area to get to his favourite meal.

“Patu!” He let the familiar garbled word out from his mouth, urging Din to move faster. For foods sake!

Din let out a small laugh and followed him suit, as this was always a good way to bribe Grogu in a way and get him into a better mood by making his favourite dish of all time.
Chapter Four

The next few weeks went in relative peace without too much of a conflict between the Jedi Master and his priced pupil, not to mention the one over concerned father. There were no fights, at least none spoken with words, but Din had been on the receiving end of a few sore feelings from the Kid after Luke having the whole academy take a long trip outside the confines of the academy buildings. It had been a three day trip to the surrounding wilderness to experience nature and also to hone the pupils abilities in an unprotected environment. And while Din and Grogu had plenty of experience in various environments from before even having to fight for their very survival on a few occasion, this was much different to that as Master Luke had devised several Force related obstacles unique for each student to handle, meaning they would be doing their courses all of them individually and no outside help would be acceptable to pass them. It was a graduation of sorts, or at least for the this years trainees of the Jedi school students, a passing grade. As there were several of them and only a few older pupils in the school with whom Luke had started the trainings, much earlier than Din, Grogu and the other students had arrived to the Academy.

Din would be joining them too but he much like Luke, were only observers in the whole process without permission to interfere in anyway. Despite the confidence Din had in Grogu as he had learnt so much of wielding the force during his time in this place and also having travelled with Din extensively before this place, he was sure the youngling would pass and with flying colours at that. But he was also worried of the strain this whole exercise was putting on his son, as it was physically more demanding that any of the training and been so far. And, despite his innate abilities to access the force rather easily Din knew only too well, that his age was still a factor here and that Grogu still tired when the tasks were hard. After all, compared to a humanoid child, he was a preschooler or somewhere there between stages of growth, as it was not really an easy comparison to make for his species, living and up to a thousand years. And he certainly possessed the mental capabilities which could not on any level be compared to those of a human child of similar age or even most adults for that matter. Of course he was much more advanced than most but still, this was a major factor during this training. Something Din had tried to make Luke understand too as Din had seen the results of it first hand by taking care of the sleepy child each night.

They had had breakfast together in the early morning hours, just father and son, before meeting with the others at the gate to the school. Din had sensed the sore feelings in Grogu during their meal time and knew that despite the little pep talk the night before, the Kid was still somewhat frightened of the whole deal. Even if he was adventurous by nature and always on the look out for new things and enjoying life in general, being totally alone in a way as each student was sent to a different local during the training, was something the Kid had not experienced so far at least not in Din's care. At least not in the way this training was going to be as it demanded both survival and mental capabilities to make it through. But also, there were plenty of riddles and tests to solve in the process as it was no simple go and get out there and come back alive after three days kind of adventure at all. No, this was hardcore combat training and also, a huge part was for the mind to solve as it was a lot of the dark versus light side stuff as Luke had put it. Not the best sales pitch in Din's opinion.

“Grogu, you will do great out there.” Din gave a soft squeeze of the small three fingered hand, trying to assure his son, that he would do great even if there were doubts in both their minds.

Grogu looked up from this plate and was staring into his fathers eyes, as he was reading Din, as he was trying to figure out if this was a comment on the absolute trust in his abilities or just some concerned talk before they would get out there. But what he saw was only openness, trust and love, and that Din was mostly confident of Grogu's abilities. As he could also read the doubts there, he knew Din was not lying to him or trying to convince him off the impossible and that made Grogu want to try his hardest to succeed and make his father proud. Whatever Master Luke thought, well, of that Grogu did not care that much but what his adoptive father did, that meant the world to the foundling. After all, the whole Jedi stuff was interesting enough for Grogu, but he was lucky to have other interests as well and those taught to him by Din, well, he hoped that someday, maybe, he could do both of those things. So, after some thinking about what this all meant, he decided to do what he had to do out there, even if alone he knew his father would not be far. Squeezing Din's hand back he let out a small smile making Din smile in turn and then, he completed his almost forgotten food with gusto.

“Glad we had this little talk, Kid.” Din then patted him on the head before picking up his own empty plate and taking it to the sink as they would soon need to leave to meet the others.

Chapter Five

The group of young students with their trainer had reached the area where they were all would be handed out their individual assignments, and then, each of them would prepare themselves to venture out there by themselves, into the wilderness, to complete the given tasks as soon as Master Luke would give the order. There was hustle and bustle all over as the pupils were reading the pads they had received containing some of the details of what the assignments were about. As it was the main goal was survival and using the Force to navigate the labyrinth of various riddles and other tasks to complete during the training exercise. But, not all of it was in the notes as there would be surprises too along the way, meaning the students would need to use their wits and teachings so far and of course their own senses and abilities to solve and cross any of the obstacles presented during the mission. They had been designed to suite each student's skillsets even if real life rarely did present itself in such fashion. Still, Luke had wanted each of them to hone the abilities he had learnt each and every one to possessed to the very best they could master. Or at least that was the plan, as this was a first and unique opportunity to test this specific curriculum out in practice. This was only his second group of pupils to do anything like this as Luke had only had one older batch of trainees before them, so it would be interesting to see, if he could add this particular one to the permanent training schedule in the future.

Luke, who was the Master of course and well, the only teacher currently, had however asked Din for his input in this as despite their sometimes conflicting opinions mostly related to those concerning Grogu and his training. Still, Luke had found the Mandalorian to be quite a skilful and resourceful individual and most to the students had taken a liking to him too while sparring with them during several battle simulations which Din had been a big part of. Luke liked to bounce off Ideas off of Din and sometimes he even took the counter ideas of Din's to practice. Which was saying a lot as Luke had a somewhat condescending demeanour and he and Din, well, they were like the opposite sides of a coin, like day and night. And while Luke did not think of this former bounty hunter as evil or anything like that, rather he thought of Din like a crude version of a noble fighter even after doing his damnedest to save Grogu from whomever had been after him. Luke had thought in the beginning that Din would only serve his own interests first and only second the others. Then again, he could have been wrong about it as day by day the stoic Mandalorian proved him wrong in so many ways and the way he handled the Child. Well, Luke did not want to admit it out loud anyway but he sometimes felt a tad jealous of their bond. Thinking back to his relationship with his own father which never really was there. And, Luke also knew well enough, that he could always trust Din to do the right thing in the end.

Grogu was glaring at the pad in his small hand. Despite his inability not to talk verbally, yet, he had, much to Din's surprise, quite the knack and talent for computers. Even if he had not managed to repair the Razor Crest, or well, follow Din's instructions on unplugging and replugging certain wires way back when, he understood technology more than he had let on before. He could read and even code stuff in here and there which had impressed the hell out of the Mandalorian father of his. He had even improved upon some of the learning programs of the Academy, earning learning points from Master Luke in the process. So, now he was studying the road map so to speak, of the training session. And upon doing so his sounds and facial impressions were constantly changing, amusing the proud father who had been observing his son after their talk about this whole situation and knowing how worried Grogu had been about taking part in this adventure type session. But now he looked much calmer in a way and Din was not receiving any kind of feelings telling him otherwise either. So whatever doubts the Kid had had before, seemed to have vanished completely. He was eagerly studying the assignment and making mental notes, if the sounds were any indication of that. Din had learnt to read the sounds elicited by the youngling over their time together and knew immediately even if Grogu wasn’t sharing his thoughts, how the Kid felt. And today, right now, it was all good. Din could not have been more proud of his adoptive son.

The bell rung, the big looking kind of an ugly thing it was, but according to Luke, it was a traditional artefact of sorts as used by the Jedi Masters in the olden days. So, now it was used here too as Luke wanted everything to be up to par in his school. He banged the gong once, twice and then a third time, indicating that the race was on. Each of the students who had been at the starting line were all now off, taking their separate routes to wherever they were headed to. Grogu, despite moving slowly, was managing just fine and he was making his way towards the first task. Din and Luke were monitoring their progress on the screens set up at the base camp. They would not be making their way into the jungle type setting out there because there was always the possibility of interfering in the training session. They had hovering monitoring equipment all over the area setup for the task so they would be getting live feed of what was happening out there. It wasn’t a big area per se but it was quite dense and with an almost maze like structure. Meaning it was perfect for this specific exercise. The first tasks seemed to be easy ones and the students were completing them quite easily and quickly too, but both Din and Luke knew things would get much harder from this on end. Din, who was naturally rooting for Grogu to make his way out there and complete with flying colours as he was partial of course and was mostly observing him. But Luke was watching them all and nodding in approval when some of them made exceptional progress, including the smallest one, Grogu, making Din smile widely, something, which kind of freaked Luke out a bit as Din rarely did that not in front of strangers anyway, not usually that was.

 

Chapter Six

The race was in full swing now, all of the students making their way across the wilderness and solving the riddles and tasks on their way to the finish line. A youngling called Hesta, who was a Human and somewhat the same age group as Grogu, whom both were among the youngest of the group. And now both she and Grogu were in the lead now. They had been making excellent time not just physically pulling their weight across the land rather mostly because these two were relying on their brain more than their brawn, something which had caused slight problems among those students who were more apt to use their physicality rather than trying to think first. But not this duo who were quick thinking in their feet. And the two of them had actually become very good friends as they both had similar interests. Grogu was in second place while Hesta was in the exact lead position now but not by much. They were quickly solving the riddles alas some of the more physically challenging feats were somewhat of a problem for them. Still they had managed to pass those parts as well. There was still half way to go and soon enough the problems and obstacles would increase in difficulty once again, the nature of the beast, as it was. None of them had indicated that they wanted to give up but there were those, who were only one third in completing the race while others were either midway or close to it. But the lead position was a tight one and even if the racers had no idea of the current score status, Luke was keeping tabs on each one of them making notes in the process.

Luke was monitoring reach and every student keenly while Din was keeping his eye mostly on Grogu but also on the good friend of his. Din did not mind if his son did not finish first or even the top three. What he hoped for was that Grogu would complete the track no matter the time or position. He knew it would do the world of good for the youngling, boost his ego so to speak. Because of the hardships his son had endured before coming to his care and now the sometimes on the surface rising doubts he knew Grogu had, well, this test specifically in Din's opinion, would be the one which would cast all those feelings and doubts aside. At least, that was Din's hope for it as he was pretty sure he knew his son quite well by now. So, for now, he had his fingers crossed and possibly his toes too for his sons success. He could not have been more proud a parent at this moment in time and all his decisions so far in his life seemed to have lead to this very moment. Something he had not seen coming in a million years if someone had asked him a few years ago, whether he would be somewhere safe with a child to take care of. A simple life in away, as a single parent of an adopted son and happily so at that. But, here he was now and all was alright in the small world of the former bounty hunter, Din Djarin.

***

It was close to the end of the day and the first contestants were already close to reaching the finish line. Grogu, Hesta and three other trainees were now neck to neck and it was a close call as to whom would cross the line first. But the point wasn’t really who was first or last in this exercise, rather that the track was completed with all the riddles and tasks done. As per predicted, Grogu had fallen back due to the straining physical parts of it. Because he was still a small child really and small sized one at that, he wasn’t able to be as efficient as the rest of the trainees. There were a few surprises among those in the lead which even Master Luke could not have predicted. But, like he had tried to tell them all before the games had started that the most important thing for this exercise was, to win oneself and to cast all doubt of succeeding aside. He had even given a small speech the day before in class just to remind them of it. And now, he was happy to see that none of them were going to quit rather they would all be finishing the race without any kind of doubt that they could not do so. And that was a total win in itself for them all.

Grogu had had to pull a few Jedi tricks to get through the tasks but he had managed to complete each and every single one of them. But, it had also taken its toll on the youngling and fatigue was setting in. Alas Grogu pushed on to the very extreme. He wanted to complete this exercise no matter what it took from him, first and foremost to prove himself that he could do it. To get rid off all the fear and anger which had been a constant in his life for so long, before he had found his family with Din. And naturally, he wanted to make his father proud of him and lastly, to prove Master Luke that he wasn’t the pig headed little kid he appeared to be when he wasn’t interested in doing the bidding of the Jedi Master. So, here he was, with a lot on his plate he himself had put there and he wouldn’t quit until the plate would be empty with all of which was there was consumed, metaphorically speaking of course. He pushed on knowing there was only three more tasks to complete, and then, he would be done. He did not know how the others were faring as they were instructed not to contact each other during the race, but he suspected that he was not the last one either there.

Grogu pushed on as he finished the two tasks with confidence and good time too and was now reaching the last one, which would be shared by all of them. He could see there was some commotion ahead and was surprised to find two of his classmates already there. Not that he suspected to be the first at this point after taking his time on few of the more physically demanding tasks. But it wasn’t really that which had him on his toes, literally, rather something else. And as he was about to step to the platform where the other two boys already were, he got a bad feeling suddenly. Trusting his Jedi gut he remained hidden in the bushes, his over all green exercise garment and his own green complexion hiding him pretty well in the under growth. He remained there for a moment, observing what his two class mates were doing. They seemed to be working in unison and discussing something even if it was explicitly been told by the Master not to do so during the session. So, that too, made Grogu wonder what was going on. Maybe they were cheating? But then again the other one he recognised to be one of the more skilful ones of the group, a somewhat older by Human standards than Grogu was considered to be. So what could be going on there with the two, he wondered. Thanks to his rather large ears and great hearing he decided, even if it was against the rules, to listen in and find out what was going on. After all, his Jedi gut feeling had yet to let him down, ever.

Chapter Seven

Din got a weird feeling that something was wrong with Grogu. He hadn’t gotten any sort if mental messages from the Kid as it was forbidden during the training session, but now, it seemed to pretty clear something was off. Din glanced sideways at Luke who was busy and totally engaged to the various screens in front of him showing the camera feed from each and every student doing the course today. They were both inside the monitoring area which had been setup for this specific exercise in a makeshift command centre. Din knew it would be wrong and most likely, disqualify the youngling, if Din was to make contact and ask him whether the feeling was just a regular parental concern for their child or something else. But then again Grogu was no ordinary child and he was quite capable these days to hold his own, a fact Din knew well, but most of the times decided to ignore it and help the kid out wherever he could. After all, there was only so long Grogu would stay a kid and then he would be all grown up and would not need Din anymore. A sad future indeed but that was still far far away, at least Din liked to think so. Besides, what he had heard of children they always needed their parents right? Of course being an orphan himself, he did not really have first hand knowledge of that but he hoped he was right about this. But enough of the dwelling of the distant future and more concentrating on the gut feeling and try to figure out why he was getting it now all of a sudden. After all Grogu and the others had been all doing surprisingly well in the competition so far and it was close to an end and it would not have been fair to intervene at this point.

He kept glancing at the screens over Luke's shoulder and checking the one of his son. But in there he could only see the tip of his head and ears poking up as if the kid seemed to be hiding for some reason. Or then he was just taking a whizz in the bushes. Luke did not seem too concerned of Grogu’s behaviour so why would Din have to worry either. After all, he was the Jedi and there was the strong Jedi mind connection between him and all his students and basically the rest of the known universe wherever Jedi existed, right?! So, Din was worrying for nothing then. If there really was something wrong with Grogu, if he was hurt or whatever, Luke would have picked it up. Din kept an eye on the screen and tried to make all kinds of explanations in his mind or rather excuses, for not to think of the worst. Unfortunately, he was failing miserably in this, somewhat simple task. He had never been like this before while doing the bounty hunting, making his point with the gun if there were any issues. And the only worry then had been where from to get his next hunting gig. But that had all changed after the little green dude had entered his life. Oh, the olden days, how easy it all had been back then. But, nevertheless, he did not miss those times, at all. Being a dad might have had its pressures but he loved the job dearly. Like he had been made for it. But, there was still the question of why was Grogu still squatting in the bushes? As he seemed to have been there quite the while now. Maybe it was time to worry after all, right? His eyes shifted between the screen and the back of Luke trying to decide on what to do about it.

“Um, Luke, sorry to disturb here, but, well, did you notice that Grogu has been stationary for a while now.” Din tried to alert the Jedi Master. “I mean it looks kinda odd, right?” He hoped not to sound too overly parental.

Luke turned to Din and did not say anything, but he quickly turned back tot he screen of Grogu's and in mere seconds, he zoomed in the Kid's whereabouts on the screen and glued his eyes on it. Din knowing now that the Master had now also sensed something, most likely having been too occupied before for all the children out there not to concentrate on one specifically. So now, Din was pretty sure Grogu was in some sort of a distress and was letting it bleed through the Force. He hated being right but he usually was where his Kid was concerned and this time it was no different. Luke kept on eye on the screen for a moment longer then he closed his eyes and let the connection take over his mind. Din looked at the Master and knew he was now connected to the Kid, most likely trying to ask him what was going on. Luke seemed pretty concentrated but also frustrated. After having observed Grogu do his Jedi thing for so long, Din recognised the various facial expressions while connecting with the Force and this reminded him of the look, where nothing was happening i.e. there was no response to the call.

“He is not responding to you is he?” Din asked Luke already sure of the answer.

“No, no he is not.” Luke said in a low frustrated voice turning to Din he then asked. “But how do you know that?”

Din smirked at the question. “Well, I have seen the Kid doing it plenty of times to see what is working and what is not.” Din thought for what was going on with his son for a moment then said. “Besides, I’ve got the feeling of something being off and now I suspect Grogu has something on his radar and is trying to solve it by himself.” Din told the surprised looking Jedi Master. “Maybe he thinks it is part of the training.”

“Well, I assure you, that whatever it is he thinks it is it’s not part of my plan or the course.” Luke replied. “So, now, we need to find out what it could be.” He glared at Din like he was supposed to read the Master's mind of what his plan was now but of course he could not. Like the man had put it, he was no Jedi.

“So, what is the plan then?” Din had to ask.

Luke shook his head slightly as he was so used to talking non verbally with this students that he sometimes forgot that Din could not do that, not well anyway. Despite Din practicing this specific ability for a while now, and well, surprisingly for a non-Jedi, he had actually managed to get a working knowledge of using the telepathy mind communication, at least with his son and a few others as well. But it was like he was speaking a foreign language and badly at that when he used it. Still, Luke thought he had great potential in learning the trait after some time, even if he would never ever admit this to the Mandalorian. “I want you to contact him. I am sure he will answer your call.” Luke looked a tad smirky as it was a constant struggle of playing good trooper bad trooper with the Child, where Din, his father usually was the good trooper.

“Oh, ok, well, if you give me permission to do that, then I will certainly try.” Din replied not sure as why Luke was giving him the task all of a sudden.

Getting a nod from Luke in approval and then a, “Please. Go ahead.”

Din closed his eyes and concentrated really hard, finding his way in his mind to his son, Grogu. Even if he was really bad at this, he was able to talk with Grogu in this manner and it was all he needed right now.

 

Chapter Eight

Din was busy concentrating in his mind, trying hard to connect to the Kid. It always took some effort to initiate the shared connection, but once it was started, it got much easier to maintain. He sent out the thought in his mind urging Grogu to respond. After all, what he himself and Luke had witnessed on the monitor where Grogu was displayed it looked very much out of the ordinary and, well trouble. Just hoping his son would not think he was trying to help him cheat in the course as this was the final step.

“Grogu, I know you are in trouble. It’s ok for you to answer me. Master Luke gave me the permission to contact you. We saw on the monitoring device and that there was something going on where you are. Trust me when I tell you that it’s not part of the exercise.” Din conveyed his message through the Force hoping Grogu would hear it. “Please contact me, Kid, I can help you if you are in trouble.” He added hoping Grogu would not ignore him like he had Luke, possibly thinking it was part of the training, them trying to trick him or something like that for him to cheat.

Luke turned to Din in worry: “Is he responding?” He asked.

“No, not yet.” After all, Din had not anticipated an immediate response.”Why, what’s wrong?” He had seen the worry written all over Luke's face.

Luke turned to glance at the screen on more time, but knew there was nothing there, “Grogu's screen just went blank.” He said looking at Din his eyes telling the story rather than the expressionless face.

“Blank?” Din sounded really worried now. “Could it be a malfunction?” He was grasping straws now.

“No, it is not.” Luke shook his head.

Din's eyes darted across the screens as of looking for some answer, any answer, but there was none to be found. Only thing happening then was, that all of the screens started to flick dark, one by one until there was nothing for the two of them to see there. Din turned to Luke in disbelief and waited for answers. But Luke looked like a darkness had descended over him and was only staring right ahead of him, ignoring the other man's gaze.

“What’s going on Luke?” Din then asked.

“I fear, the darkness is among us.” He stated flatly in a low voice.

“Darkness?” Din wasn’t following his train of though at all, but then, he remembered the dark side of the Force from the back of his mid filled with all kinds of other Jedi teachings too he never thought he could use, but were now becoming very much handy, “You mean there is some one here wielding the black, I mean Dark Force here?” He asked confused.

“Yes, and Grogu must have sensed it out there too.” Luke sounded almost defeated.

“Then we need to get to him! ASAP!” Din was already turning to leave.

“No, I will go.” Luke said his voice low and almost sounding defeated for some reason, making Din a tad afraid, for all of them.

“He is my kid.” Din then said. “Where ever he is, I will go.” Din's voice was determined and he would not yield in this matter.

Luke seemed to contemplate their situation for a moment and then he said simply. “Fine, we’ll both go.”

Without further arguments the two of them started towards the area where Grogu had last been spotted by the monitoring device, just moments ago, hoping they were not too late.

Chapter Nine

Luke and Din were running now, or at least trying to do exactly that, making their way through the rough terrain as fast as possible. As it was tightly wound, so to speak with the growth thick at best, there was no chance of any kind of hover craft or vehicle to make through it. So, they had to rely on their own too feet to make it through. They were jumping and ducking on the narrow hardly visible path as there were tree stumps, branches and bushes alongside the low hanging plant life to prevent them from having a clear passage through. Still, they were making good time as both of them were in a fairly good condition after keeping up with physical training each and every day, after all, they had several younglings to keep up with and physical prowess was only one part of that, but a big one nevertheless. Of course the mental disciplines were something the Jedi mostly concentrated on while training and Din had picked up a few tricks along the duration of hanging out with the Jedi and the wannabe Jedis too. Still, right now all those being in control of ones mental faculties and not breaking into tears trainings seem to elude him completely and feeling a great big lump forming in his throat was a sign of that. Pushing on the duo used their large knives to cut through the bigger growth as it kept pushing them back the faster they tried to move. It must have been less difficult for the younglings with shorter height to get through, as the hanging leaves and branches seemed to reach just on the level of an adult head. Also the kids were used to playing in places like this, as from what he had seen and learnt from Grogu, the students sometimes liked to play in these woods for the fun of it. Something Din did not quite understand what the appeal of it was as he had preferred guns and swords play in his youth. Of course, it had also been part of his training for the future, so in essence guess it was all natural for him even then to do something he enjoyed.

Din had only one thing in mind and that was to get to his son as quickly as possible. If there truly was this, dark side in play there as Luke had warned him, then Din did not like the idea of Grogu facing whom ever was wielding the Dark Force, or what ever they called it, alone. Despite his very rigorous training in the academy and proven to have great powers before that even, Grogu would not be a match for those kinds of opponents, even if the Kid had proven to be quite forceful, pun intended, himself. Din was partly blaming himself for letting this happen even if it had all seemed clear and alright on the surface. And Luke had never even once mentioned that anyone from the so called opposite side would have made their way here on this remote planet where the Jedi training place lay hidden from prying eyes, supposedly. So, why had not the Master or anyone of the students noticed this before today was the foremost question bugging Din as he ran after Luke in the plush greenery as it seemed odd they had simply landed there today. Din was pretty sure this was no exercise from his part either as the look on his face had seemed totally authentic and honest, something he rarely let any one see. This was also a first time for Din to see on the similarly yet differently stoic man as he himself was. But these days, without wearing his mask, or rather his helmet anymore Din had seemingly changed his own character and was laughing quite a lot too. At least while in his sons company, even cracking a joke here and there, at least, he thought he was joking as the jokes hardly ever landed, but just the same, it was a change for the good. So, why here and why now, after such a long while would an outsider have come to this small unknown settlement as Luke had assured him that the planet was shielded from the outside worlds. Din did not have the time to think any further as to the whys and what ifs. The main goal was to get to the position Grogu was in as soon as possible and then try to somehow defeat those dark forces there, what ever it took. Something Din kept on thinking as he followed Luke to their awaiting destination.

Chapter Ten

Grogu was hidden in the bushes, dug really deep inside there, but vigilantly on the lookout for what ever was going on out there just some distance away from him. His ears were acting like two antennae directed and tuned to the very scene unfolding over the direction he was listening into. After the initial shock and the bad feeling he had gotten all of a sudden, or as his father put it, gut feeling he was now settled and observant. But, whatever the feeling was called did not matter as Grogu had unfortunately been right about it. With his whole body tensing up while sensing the presence of the Dark Force very close by. His white hairs standing up straight all over his tiny body as the feeling was too strong to ignore. It was as much of a surprise to him as it had been for Luke and Din to have the dark side coming through here, on this, supposedly safe haven of a place for the Jedi children. But at this point Grogu knew there most likely was no place totally secure and safe from the effects of it. After all, he too, had felt the lure of it sometimes when he had not known better of what it was. And the past was still somewhat fuzzy to him and the teachings from before kept eluding him no matter how hard he had tried to remember. But this was not the time to reminisce and think about the past. No, now he needed to fully concentrate on what he had been taught my Master Luke during the past year and what really was going on between the two students close by and if it indeed was the dark side pushing through here and then, Grogu needed to figure out a way to stop it.

After trying to contact Din and Luke without much success, he figured it was the Dark Force close by blocking his attempts. This could only mean that the one forcing it was either one of the two students over the distance away or worse case scenario, both of them. Then that would mean they were quite powerful with the Force and were blocking any light siders around them. The thought wasn’t pleasant but, by now, Grogu had become pretty comfortable in wielding the Force himself, getting less and less tired for the harder efforts too, even if he sometimes got sleepy after. But that was not the case for most times anymore. So just maybe, he could take them on after all. But he had only the training lightsaber on him which wasn’t nearly as powerful as the actual ones used by fully fledged Jedi. As Master Luke had put it. “You don’t give a toddler a gun with ammo, so you are not getting a real working lightsabers until you have graduated the Academy.” Something Grogu cursed now internally, as this was one of those times he really should not have obeyed the rules. He mostly did, with a few convenient exceptions of course, having a mind of his own. And besides, he was much older than the Master anyway, at least when counting in Human years even if he was considered to be a child according to his own species specifications. Nevertheless, he had certain strong opinions about things which he followed despite the clashing of those of the Master's or even those of his fathers sometimes. But Grogu had learnt to wind Din around his tiny fingers, so mostly his father let those few discussions slide. Which he dearly loved him for. But this situation, Grogu feared, would take some effort to solve and he wasn’t entirely certain he could face the Dark Force wielders alone no matter how confident he felt about it sometimes. And certainly that was not the case today and wishing his father was there with him.

So, trying to bide his time, Grogu remained still and hidden for the moment, trying to get a better view of what was going on. He looked around and saw a narrow but covered path leading towards the two students knowing he could utilise it to get closer to them. He made up his mind and started slowly but surely moving along the path and towards those which could cause harm to him and the others in this place. Deciding to do whatever needed to be done, he moved forward and in the process, was sending out silent prayers to the Force, that his father and Master Luke would hear him and come to aid him in what most likely would become a small battle between the darkness and light. Something none of them had been prepared for, not yet anyway and certainly not now during this very training exercise. But Grogu knew, that he had to do what he had to do.

 

Chapter Eleven

“Are we there yet?” Din asked frustrated as he felt the trip over to where his son was had taken forever. He also felt like they had been running around in circles even if Master Luke had boasted in having excellent sense of direction, it certainly did not seem that way right now.

Luke stopped in his tracks just then and there and turned towards Din. He did not say anything immediately but glared at his companion for a moment and then he made a thorough glance around the surroundings and back at Din again. “You think we are lost?” He asked without any accusation in his voice what so ever.

“Well,” Din was surprised Luke had not berated him on his kind of whining streak, “not exactly, but it feels, like…” He paused and he too, took a thorough look around the area they were currently in.

“Feels like what?” Luke asked sensing they both had arrived at the same conclusion.

“Like we have been running in circles.” He replied looking for the reaction in Luke's eyes to his comment. “It should not have taken this long to reach the area where Grogu was at where we saw him on the monitors earlier.”

“No, no you are right.” Luke nodded in agreement and started looking and turning around the immediate area as if there were some hidden clues there. “We should have reached him already.” Luke sounded worried, just a tad, but Din could tell he really was quite worried now.

“There is something at play here definitely, which is preventing us from reaching him.” It did not take too long for Din to piece things together. After all, he knew well the stories of how the Jedi had been treated by the Dark Forces and he knew also well, that his son Grogu, was unusual even for a Jedi, so it would be only natural for those dark forces to try to get to him.

Luke nodded. “There is and I am feeling it now quite strongly at that. It is the Dark Side like I told you before but it is very powerful and it seems to be messing with our approach too.” Luke revealed.

“Why did you not detect it before?” Din half demanded. “I mean aren’t you supposed to feel that thing way before like it’s even there or something?” Din wasn’t exactly sure how the feely thingy worked as he had only managed to understand half of what Grogu was telling him, well, maybe most. But that had taken a lot of practice and concentration to even tune into his Kid's so called frequency, never mind some of the idiosyncrasies the Kid used as it wasn’t exactly always the same language they were speaking, so to speak.

“Well, I am powerful with the Force as you already know. But this, thing, person, who ever it is, is quite powerful and is somehow able to use trickery to deceive even me.”

Luke wasn’t really boasting about his own abilities just stating the facts really and Din knew well, how it was so he took no offence in what his friend was telling him. Still it seemed rather odd as Din was well aware of both Luke and Grogu among a few other of the students of having a keen talent for the Force. So whatever it was out there now using the Jedi mind tricks on them, got him really worried since even the most powerful Jedi could not control it.

“I hear ya!” Din said then. “But if you can’t detect it all the time then how the hell are we supposed to defeat it?” Din looked as worried as he felt. After all, Grogu was still out there all alone against an unknown enemy which even their combined forces most likely could not combat.

“I am not sure yet, but I think we need a new tactic, a page from your book perhaps?” Luke looked expectantly at Din hoping he would come up with some idea on the spot, knowing the former bounty hunter had been in pretty tight situations before and come out victorious. At least, that was how Grogu had played them out while sharing stories with the Master of his and the Mandalorians adventures.

Din looked around and wished he had his armour on as there were several advantages to it. Which were namely all the cool gadgets he was used to utilising. But he was also witty on his own accord. So, deciding to use some more archaic methods he then bent down on the ground and looked for any sings of footfalls from the students who had threaded there before them down this very path. As surely there were several of them who had already walked this same way. And soon enough, he found them, headed east. He pointed at the very spot to Luke.

“This way, fresh tracks from small size boots.” He told Luke. “If we follow them, I am sure we’ll end up closer to the end of the track and find Grogu and maybe others as well.” Din could only hope that since Grogu had been very close to the finishing line as had several other students as well, that following the tracks the two of them would end up where the Kid and the the other students were. So at least then there would be strength in the numbers.

“Please, after you!” Luke offered and Din took the lead vowing internally that this time, they would not wind up astray.

Chapter Twelve

Grogu was aware that other students had started to arrive to this area, which was close to the finishing line as after this task one final one remained. And as good as it may have sounded they were all gathering there, he still worried for their sakes. There had been only three of them in the first class which had started just after Grogu, Din and Luke had arrived to this planet not taking to account the four older students before them, whom were not present today. The rest of the Jedi trainees had been gathered from around the galaxy here as well, but at later points and were not as advanced as the few ahead of them. The few of them which Grogu included, had proven to have extraordinary skills already at this point, but the others were not as honed in their collective skills. One of the few was Grogu’s best friend Hesta and another one, a young boy from the X’hanty home world. The rest, well, according to the Master were all fine only they were a long way from becoming fully trained Jedi, while the three of them could easily, well, somewhat easily, wield the Force. Especially now as Master Luke had taught them so much during the past years. They were natural and nothing needed to be forced, only focused. So, if the others were gathering to this place, they would most likely be in harms way as soon as the Dark Force wielder would sense them and then it would be more difficult for him to try to defeat that person and defend the others. Because Grogu knew it would come down to that, between him and the dark side, or then Hesta could manage to help as well. He wondered where Hesta was now as she had been in the very lead before and Grogu was worried of his friend now too. He tried to focus his mind once again and to contact Hesta or any one of the other students, who would be tuned into their frequency. But just like before, there was no response and it was becoming clear to the young Jedi trainee, that the Dark Force was reflecting all their attempts to communicate back. As for now, he only got an echo of his own thoughts inside of his mind back in response to his message. This was a first for Grogu as he had usually managed to connect to any of them no matter what. After all, he had become quite skilful with that particular trait himself. This was how he had managed to start talking to his father as well after honing his skills at the Academy. Becoming a student at this school had opened up a whole new level of understanding between him and his father among other things he had learnt there too. So, whatever his feelings had been to come here before he thought it was a great thing Master Luke had answered his call all those years ago and that his father had joined him here. Otherwise, this might have ended up a whole different story for Grogu.

Grogu stood still for a brief moment in hiding in the lush of the green, a great camouflage as if it had been made for him specifically. He weighed his options and then deciding it was enough hiding for now and it was time to act. He decided to make his way to where he sensed the darkness to be the strongest most likely finding the culprit there as well. The one wielding the Dark Force was most definitely in the centre of the action and Grogu could clearly feel the Force flowing from a certain direction. He just needed to hone into it and he would easily be able to navigate to the source of it. What he would find there was as good a guess as any and as there really was no plan other than to confront the person with the dark powers, Grogu knew he had to wing it. Taking a page from his father’s book, something he knew had never failed for Din as long as he had known the Mandalorian. Taking a deep breath, the young Jedi wannabe started on his path taking quick strides as he knew that time was off the essence here and he had already wasted enough of it hiding. What also made to his thoughts was that of Din and Master Luke, worried they too might be in bit of a bind themselves as well. But he trusted the Master to take care of his father as he was a powerful Jedi of his own right most likely or at least, Grogu hoped, stronger than the Dark Knight out there. But still, this seemed odd in so many ways to the youngling as he too had faced his share of these, Dark Knights. But this one felt to be of something else and completely different from those he had encountered before. Trusting his own powers and wit, Grogu made haste in making his way to meet the one who was raising all kinds of havoc in this safe haven of theirs. And Grogu was now about to put to a stop to it as he convinced himself while trotting along the narrow path under the growth. Luckily it was still hiding him at least visually quite well. But Grogu knew also that even if he tried to hide his mind, the Dark Knight out there would sense him sooner than later. Most likely they already had, but at least, this way Grogu would fade out for a moment, giving him a tactical advantage for a while at least.

***

“This way.” Din was tracking the footfalls as best he could as he and Luke made their way across the thick undergrowth of the forest. “It’s should be right over there…” Din paused mid sentence as he had just looked up and had come to a stop at a precipice making Luke almost stumble into him as it had been quite an abrupt stop from the Mandalorian to make.

They two of them looked down and they could clearly see an opening in the middle of the area. But the down drop was far too long and steep to possibly make it on foot. At least it looked that way from the top. They were both looking down and around, making a quick sweep of the area in the process. Din squinted his eyes and he was able to make out there was someone down there, or a few at least. He nudged for Luke to look toward the way he was pointing at.

“Over there! Several sitting on the ground.” Din said quietly to Luke who had gotten his attention now.

“Looks like some of the students are sitting there.” Luke stated and tried to make some sense of what he was seeing.

“Why would they gather together like that. Wasn’t that against the rules?” Din asked to be sure as that was what he had understood. That none of the competitors were to make contact with each other while on the training track making through the tasks.

“Yes, yes it was as the whole idea was for each of them to handle the course on their own.” Luke nodded. “But this,” He nodded to the scene below, “this looks off somehow.” He added.

Din and Luke looked on as each of them was trying to make sense of what they were seeing, while keeping an eye on the overall area for any other off-signals. Din thought he spotted something moving in the undergrowth below them. Something which was closing in on the group of students and he honed in on it. After a moment of concentration he knew exactly what he was seeing.

“Look, it’s Grogu!” He pointed at the place where he could see the little green dot moving along, the ears giving him away.

“So it is!” Luke could see him too. “We need to get down there, now!” Luke stated the obvious and walked a few steps closer to the precipice looking for any and all means to get down.

Din too, was checking out the ridge and noticed something in the distance, a sort of a rope but not quite.

“Over there.” He pointed then. “It’s the roots of that tree. We can use it to get down at least part of the way.” He could see the roots weren’t reaching all the way to the bottom and there was quite a long drop after that to reach the ground.

Luke nodded in agreement. “Do you think you can make the jump?” He then asked bit worried as he was pretty sure he could do it, but of Din he wasn’t as confident.

Din took another look and then said: “I can try.” Making note of the other man’s “we”, which was a first for Luke not to show off his superpowers as Din put it each time the Jedi Master showed off his skills which Din could not in any way match.

“Good enough.” Luke said and then, “Come on.” As he started towards the tree and it’s over grown roots, thinking he could always aid the Mandalorian at least, if push came to shove at the end of the rope, so to speak.

***

Grogu was so close now he could literally smell the bad guy. He was pushing all his powers to conceal himself from the threat not sure if he was succeeding in it or not. But he did not want to be discovered quite yet either. First, he needed to assess the whole situation and root out the Dark Force wielder because he still wasn’t sure who it was. Basically, since there were only students there currently, the fact he had detected from the distance, meaning any of them could be the one. He had a fading thought of Hesta too, but he discarded that immediately as Hesta he knew well and Grogu was quite sure she would never fall prey to the Dark Side, she was too strong for that. No, it was either one of the others or then someone else who had come from the outside to disturb this little piece of haven the Jedi had there. Grogu was still following the undergrowth and due to his small statue he could remain hidden for a long while in the foliage on the ground. But if he wanted to get to his comrades he would have to leave the safety as provided by nature soon enough and that was something he wasn’t too keen on doing.

He was close enough now to hear them but no one was talking. Grogu could see from his hideout that the students were seated in a half ring around a fire as it was already dark. Someone had set it up for warmth and light apparently. So, approaching them would be easier now, maybe. Grogu let his eyes gaze on the others watching their blank faces as they sat in complete silence. It was obvious they were all scared and some of them had tear stains on their faces as well. Grogu knew well first hand what effect the Dark Force had on a person and these were just kids. All of them much younger than he was both in years, and well, despite his child like demeanour, Grogu was older than he appeared to be. Sure, there were occasions he still felt like the kid he was according to his species life span. Having taken that role to protect himself for so long was hard to discard just like that. But after years of training now, well, he was starting to feel more and more mature in so many ways and this here now, was one of those ways. Saving his fellow students, well, that was grown up stuff right there.

Grogu made a decision and then as he had done it, which was to step into plain sight, for all to see, he felt it. The darkness so tangible, so scary, so overwhelming, that even he himself felt dizzy for a moment for letting it touch his mind. But soon enough, Grogu went back to his safe place and then, he got his Jedi on. He stepped with much certainty in him towards the others and the camp fire wanting whom ever was the Dark Knight to know, that he, was not afraid. At least, that was the expression on his little face and the attitude he donned for now. Even if he really wasn’t quite as sure about the whole lot but he did not let it guide him, rather the determined to save his friends did. He trusted the Force and also knew, that even if he had not managed to contact Master Luke and his father, they would be come soon enough. He just needed to trust the Force, to not to let him down or these other innocent ones there. No, Grogu just needed to hold off the Dark Knight only for so long, alone, before he would get help.

***

Luke had managed to climb down the bine easily and made the last jump without any effort. Unfortunately Din had some trouble on the way down as he did not have the luxury of the Force at his disposal. It seemed that despite being quite agile in these types of situations, the last jump was too long for him to make. It was a long free fall and not only that, there was a narrow ravine just on the on side which had not been visible from above. There was a big chance of falling into that instead of the rock face where Luke was already waiting for him. If Din was to fall into the crack he would most likely not make it out of there alive. So, estimating the situation roughly, there was a fifty percent chance that he would make the jump, but then there was the other half he wasn’t too keen on. He looked down at Luke who was waving for him to jump as he hung onto the last bit of tree root for dear life. Din closed his eyes and tried to think of some better way to make this work, after all, he could not mess this up, not now, when his son was in trouble. Luke was motioning something to him below when he looked down again. Din wasn’t sure what he was on about, so shaking his head and mouthing “what?” in the process. Luke decided to give it a shout instead.

“Let go, I will catch you!” Luke shouted to Din.

Din was well aware of the Jedi’s powers but catching him mid flight, well, did he really trust Luke to do just that?

Din still did not let go, so Luke, as of reading his mind tried again. “Trust me, I will catch you.” He tried to assure Din.

Din looked down one more time and then Grogu fighting the unknown enemy all alone, flashed into his mind and then, the decision made, he leapt, trusting the Force and Luke to catch him.

As Din was flying through the air he felt something powerful encase him and then he was floating, gently and surely towards the ledge where Luke was guiding his flight. Soon enough he landed on his own two feet softly and onto the ground beside Luke. The two of them stared at each other for a moment.

“Thank you.” Din finally said after getting his bearings back.

“No problem.” Luke nodded. “Now let’s go and find Grogu and the others. We should reach them at their location soon enough.” Luke told Din.

“Any idea what to expect?” Din asked worried. “I mean have you gotten any scent of the situation what is going on there?” He knew Luke had tried to make the connection with Grogu and the students during their trek here.

“I’ve only gotten glimpses of what is out there as the Dark Force wielder is definitely blocking any connections in and out of the area. Seems like a pretty powerful being has come to our sanctuary, but whatever it is, we can handle it.” Luke seemed quite certain of this now.

Din glanced at Luke not sure if he totally trusted Luke’s word in this particular incident and the over confidence along that. His only comment a “Sure.” As the two of them were quickly making the rest of the way towards the students.

“They are all there now though, somehow gathered to the one place.” Luke revealed.

Din just looked at him, not commenting anything. He was really worried as to what it was out there they were going to step into soon enough. Certainly some really deep shit. But, there were no other options available as the kids needed them.

Chapter Thirteen

Grogu was right here at the scene watching all his new friends sitting by the fire, none of them moving nor speaking at all, which was unusual on its own accord. He could feel how down and beat they all seemed to be. He tried to catch their attention once again, sending out any feelers through the Force. But there was no response and none of them were looking up or acknowledging him in any way. They all seemed too sad and scared to do anything but to be staring at the ground like it was the only thing they could see. Grogu, who was still hiding behind some bushes, was pretty sure that the Dark Knight had already detected his presence. Especially since he was sending signals through the Force which was a dead giveaway despite him trying to direct the calls out to his mates only. Grogu wasn’t sure whether the Dark Force wielder could pin point him yet as Grogu was throwing false signals to the mix to confuse his opponent. But then again, as he had no idea how strong his opponent was this could all be an elaborate trap. Grogu wasn’t sure as to how long he could keep this up. But he was trying to buy some time at least until Luke and Din would get there. At least, that was his plan and hope for the moment. As despite the earlier cockiness, Grogu now knew there was no way he could defeat the bad guy on his own. Grogu kept on throwing the false feelers out there, to the Force, and trying one more time to get the attention of the nearest student. Thinking he was still securely hidden when he heard the low rumbling voice speaking loudly.

“Come out little one. I know you are there so you might as well stop this hide and seek game.” The deep dark voice stated with a hint of amusement in it.

Grogu let out a deep sigh much like the ones his father so fondly threw out there when ever Grogu did something stupid or pretended not to understand him. And then, without wasting further effort, he took a step, then another as he made his trade mark slow walk towards the others and the Dark One, who had called up his bluff. Not totally sure as to what to expect from this adversary as he had still no idea to whom the Dark Knight was. But it sounded more adult than kid to his ears so it most certainly was no student he knew. As Grogu moved close enough the Dark Knight stepped forward and what Grogu saw there right behind him, was Hesta. She was held hostage by someone at a lightsaber point, the Dark Force kind. Grogu got really furious and wanted to lash out at the very sight. But he quickly calmed himself down as he remembered the teachings of his Master. Not wanting to go there where these, Darklings, most likely wanted him to go. He could also see that there were two of them standing there right in front of him.

***

Din and Luke were making good time as they were nearing the place where they had spotted Grogu earlier and they could already see the students sitting by the fire with the sad expressions on their little faces. Din tried to take a better look over the vicinity but he wasn’t able to spot Grogu. Not even if it looked like most of the students were seated there. So where was the little guy? But he noted that Grogu’s good friend Hesta was also missing from the group. The two of them walked quickly past the forest area surrounding the camp fire and soon enough they would be coming out to the open and exposed area and become visible to whomever was there. Luke made a halt gesture and they both stopped. They needed some plan as to what to do when they actually got inside the camp.

“What is it?” Din whispered.

“I see him, over there.” Luke pointed at the direction where Grogu was now walking towards the open area.

Din spotted him too. “What the hell is he doing? He is giving himself away!” Din did not understand why Grogu was exposing himself so easily.

“He is protecting the others.” Luke nodded towards where the students were, “Look!” Luke pointed at the direction of the fire and there they could both see a tall figure standing there. And as that figure stepped aside there was Hesta too, shackled and held at lightsaber point by the second culprit.

“Dammit!” Din cursed under his breath. “We need to get there before something horrible happens.”

“Agreed.” Luke simply told him and pulled out his own trusted lightsaber while Din took out his own weapon.

“Who are these people? Do you know them?” Din asked.

“Contrary to popular belief, not all Force users know each other. It’s not like there is some sort of galaxy wide web where we chat and keep tabs of each other.” Luke said sarcastically.

“Fine.” Din knew it was a stupid question anyway. “So, two bad guys, wielding the Dark Force.” He stated flatly. “Any idea what they want?” The tried again knowing what the answer most likely was.

“Well, usually they are all hell bent on galactic domination and power. So, guess it’s that. Or then, it’s something far worse.” Luke said again in that snide tone of his, as if he was really knowing all the answers to Din’s questions. But thinking he really needed to tone done on the all powerful Jedi Master stuff he was so fond advertising to everyone as apparently it made others think he knew all the secrets to the universe after all.

“Worse? How can it be worse?” One Dark Knight was pretty much the same as the other Dark Knight to Din.

“Yes, they could have been sent by someone very powerful. Someone, I would rather think gone for good.” Luke stated cryptically as he was clearly not willing to share more at this point.

“So, what’s the plan then?” Din asked, suspecting it was most likely winging it as they went along.

“We go and get the kids out and beat the bad guys.” Luke simply respond, only a hint of sarcasm present there. And surely, it was a plan out of a page in Din’s book.

“So, go and save the little ones and kill the dark dudes and try to not to get killed ourselves in the process.” Din summarised the plan. “Got it!”

Luke simply nodded and started towards the camp not even trying to hide, with Din in tow. Both of them ready to raise havoc with the Dark Side. Din only wished he had his bezoar armour on, which he sometimes still missed. But for now, this would have to do as there were plenty of lives at stake here and children no less. Not to mention the most important and valuable person in Din’s life, Grogu, whom he would gladly give his life for any given day.

Chapter Fourteen

“So, you are the one.” The snarky faced tall warrior type who seemed to be the one in charge of this operation remarked as Grogu stepped into the light of the fire and to full view.

Grogu did not say anything, after all he was not talking with words anyway. So why start now, he thought as he glanced at the unfamiliar figure standing in front of him. He then looked at the other one who seemed to be much smaller and the face was hidden behind some kind of veil. Hesta was seated a step away from the others, tied up and seemingly in a more hostage like status than the rest of the students. It was clear to Grogu that these two, whom ever they were, knew of the school and its students. And that they also had filtered out those more powerful Force wielders of the group. Which would tally up to himself, Hesta and two more of the younger students, whom he could see were also separated from the larger group to the left of him. Grogu glanced around the fire and quickly made an assessment of everyone being present and counted for. That meant the Dark Force wielders were certainly not one of their own which he was quite happy about. Then again, this also meant there were new players entering the arena and that in itself, was very disturbing.

“You ain’t much to look at, are you? A tiny little green thing you are.” The tall knight half laughed half snorted. Then moving a step closer to Grogu who had not moved from his spot since his arrival to the space.

Bending downward the snide knight then eyed Grogu all over and only got back the innocent wide eyed look Grogu put on when he was in a “I don’t know what to do” situation. He was certainly not letting his adversary getting any ideas that the little himself should be feared. That he was just a helpless little kid, which usually worked in situations like this giving Grogu the benefit of surprise when he finally would strike. But for now he just let the Dark Knight think he was no threat at all.

As the warrior straightened up and turned to his sidekick which the smaller one clearly was saying: “I can’t believe this!” He pointed back at Grogu with a laugh. “This little thing is something the boss wants us to bring back.”

The sidekick just glared back clearly not the talkative type he was, Grogu thought.

“Now the girl, that one I can understand.” He then nodded towards Hesta and then turned to the rest of the students with his hands out stretched and making a gesture towards them. “These others, well, they’re just a bunch of snivelling cowards!” He sounded a little frustrated as clearly, he had been under the impression there was much to gain from this. Kidnapping of a bunch of Jedi kids heist. “We should put you all out of your misery and that would be a favour.” He went on, but the other one shook his head, so clearly, he had a mind of his own and their instructions did not include killing the resources.

The taller warrior turned back to Grogu and asked him clearly still expecting some answer from the Kid even if he had closed his mind as well as his mouth from the duo. “What the hell are you supposed to be able to do then, huh?” Shaking his head in disbelief.

Grogu simply glared back. The wide eyes his only response. He was a bit confused as the Dark Force he had felt before had been quite strong, blocking all communication between the Jedi in this area. But this one, the fowl mouthed person, ranting in front of him and the tinier minion, well, they did not seem all that powerful at all. So, that made him wonder whether there were more of these Dark Knights here or then something else was going on as now, he could once again feel the others thoughts even if he himself was not broadcasting. He could also feel Master Luke and his father close by, so all worries which he had had before were slowly dissipating. Grogu did not dare letting his guard down just yet as he still wasn’t sure if this, person, in front of him asking all kinds of stupid questions and making even worse remarks of his own was powerful or not. Just as Grogu was still processing it all, the ranting and raving had stopped and the tall warrior grabbed his short arm and was about to start hauling him to where Hesta was, they all heard a calm and cool voice stating simply:

“Put him down. Now!”

Master Luke Skywalker and Din Djarin had arrived to the scene. They both looked fierce and stood there looking fearless and tall and had their weapons drawn. Luke with his trademark lightsaber and Din had his two favourite hand guns pointing at the two culprits. But the Dark Knights did not seem to be too impressed about the duo, at least, not on the surface.

“Why would I?” The tall one holding Grogu asked with his usual snideness back.

“In the fear of having a bullet hit your face.” Din replied calmly.

The tall warrior glared at Luke and Din for a moment but he was not letting his hold of Grogu while the youngster due to his small statue was half hanging in the air after being held rather harshly by the tall culprit. The Dark Knight then started laughing out loud and soon enough his sidekick joined in the loud and somewhat evil laughter. The laughter subsided as quickly as it had started and then the tall one once again, as per established custom for now, took his stance and said:

“Are you two supposed to frighten us?”

“Maybe.” Luke was the one to reply this time.

The four of them stood and stared at each other for a quiet moment as no one was speaking. It was a sort of intergalactic stand off where neither party wanted to make the first move. It took a moment but then Grogu decided to act because he was getting tired of hanging around, literally. In one swell swoop he glanced at the appendix holding him tight and then, without any warning, sank his tiny teeth into the exposed flesh of the wrist there, causing a rather nasty sound from the punched flesh by the small but fierce teeth sinking in and causing quite a tear in the process.

What happened next was, that the supposed warrior type screamed in total agony and pain. The howl of a sound piercing the otherwise quiet moment of the whole area. His grip of Grogu slipped immediately and Grogu fell onto the ground with a thud luckily feet first. After the commotion set into motion by the Kid, Din and Luke used the momentum of the situation and launched themselves towards the tall Dark Knight and his cohort. Hesta, who was quick on her feet ran like hell away from her captors even with her hands tied. And as Grogu got his bearings he was surprisingly fast on his feet and went for his school mates urging them also to get the hell out of the fighting zone as quickly as possible.

His father and Master Luke were now deep in close combat with the would be kidnappers, the Dark Knights. As the lightsabers, swords and knives were drawn out to play Din and Luke were both holding their own. But the two Dark Knights no matter what their mental capabilities might have been, were also quite skilful fighters, so it was a tight fight all and all.

Chapter Fifteen

Grogu had managed to get the other students to a safe distance, joined by Hesta, now freed from the shackles. They were all watching the ongoing combat between the two sides with a keen eye, having their fingers crossed for their Master and Din for the win. As powerful as the Dark Force wielders seemed to be, they were no match for Din and Luke. The two might have been smaller in size, but they had more combined fighting experience and cunning for battle while the two taller knights seemed to only be able to use brute force tactics. Something which was a fatal flaw against a Mandalorian and a Jedi. And in the end after rattling the swords against each other, it was pretty clear as to whom the winner would be.

Din and Luke both were using lightsabers as their chosen weapons. Din had been granted one of the finer lightsabers as well. A sort of a reward from the Jedi Master himself after Din had started training the students too in the art of battle and combat. Luke had felt strongly that the elegant weapon suited better the Mandalorian Master even if he wasn’t a Jedi himself than any kind of blaster gun. And even if Din also liked to use his beskar spier sometimes for the training purposes to have the students try as many options as possible, it wasn’t the best on for the Jedi children to use.

So now, the newly made lightsaber was used in actual combat and Din was enjoying his new toy immensely. Lashing the lightsabers towards their enemy, the duo made a final attack and in one swell swoop, managed to defeat the two Dark Knights who had dared to invade this perfect sanctuary. As Luke and Din had the two warriors at lightsaber point after the final blowout, Din was about to strike the fatal blow onto this opponent, after he had dropped his own saber on the ground during the fight and was now defenceless. But Luke stopped him.

“Don’t!” Luke half shouted. “We need them alive.”

Din took a look at him and then understood what he meant. And nodded in response, even if he wanted to snap the life out of this, this person, who had tried to cause so much harm on his son and the other children. But he retracted his weapon just at the last moment and the culprit would live for now at least.

After that the two captives were shackled and hauled to a safe spot, so they could not escape. Luke motioned for the children to come back to where the fire was as it was now safe again for them. He then gave an order for the two oldest ones to watch over the captives. Luke then pulled Din aside and in a low hushed tone said to him.

“There is something off here and we need to find out what it is.”

“How do you mean? We got them and the kids are safe now.”

Din wasn’t sure if this really was the case as Luke could be overly dramatic sometimes. But then after Grogu had appeared beside him, putting his arms around his leg like he usually did when wanting safety from his father. And Din could feel his thoughts as Grogu was conveying the same worry as Luke was.

“The Dark Force. It’s not these two we felt before.” Luke replied with almost a whisper. “Grogu senses it too.” He nodded towards the Kid still holding on to his father.

“So, these are just some goons for hire someone sent to grab our kids?” Din felt as responsible for the other children as he was of his own at this point after spending so much time in the Academy with all of them.

“Something like that. But, these two are still using the Dark Force on some level so, there is that.” Luke stated not sure as to what was going on really.

“OK. Then we need some answers.” Din stated the obvious again.

“Exactly.” Luke said thoughtfully.

And then glanced at the two captured bad guys wondering who had sent them and what was the ultimate motive behind it. Or maybe it was just to raise havoc and fear in the Jedi trainees, nothing more than a reminder that the Dark Side was still strong out there.

Chapter Sixteen

The two defeated Dark Knights were now in lockup at the Academy premises. Since the interrogation by Din and Luke, but without much success at least for now, the duo had decided to let the situation cool off for a moment. After loosing the battle against the resident Mandalorian and the Jedi Master, the two Dark Knights had been hauled back to the school building having a transport vessel to come and get them all back from the training grounds.

The competition was officially halted now as this situation took priority. After all, messing with the dark side of the Force was no small peanut at the sanctuary for the Jedi. The older students were now taking care of the younglings as most of them were really traumatised and needed some heavy duty counselling after the fact. Grogu and Hesta seemed to be the only ones who had gotten away relatively unscathed by the whole ordeal despite their direct involvement in the whole affair. So now, they were both there to help their comrades in study to pull through this over all scary situation. A state and a place most of them had never been in.

While Luke had let Din do most of the interrogation for now it was clear the usual and even unusual methods were not working on the two thugs they had caught. Luke felt them being dark side wielders themselves too, but there was something completely off with the two of them. Sure, they were powerful in many ways but Luke did not seem to manage to get a hold of them inside the Force itself. And definitely these two had not been the ones affecting the Force block they all had felt earlier. What ever it was Luke knew he needed more power and that meant something he really did not want to do. Which was enlisting some of his students to aid him in the search for the Dark Force yielder. He also did not like to break this news to Din either as one of the students would be Grogu.

“You have no idea who our masters are and they are more powerful than you can ever imagine! You will be sorry you interfered with our work!” The rants had gone on and were the exact same lines basically spoken over and over again. Like the needle had been caught on a data disk corrupting the output in the process. It did not even matter that Din had tried all the tricks in the book on the two culprits. Hitting, extortion, weapons and knives, even bribing them. Basically whatever he could think of but nothing had worked. All this effort for nothing had left the Mandalorian quite frustrated of the outcome of his supposed skill to interrogate a suspect.

“Why the hell would anyone want send these idiots to do anything?” Din was furious after the interrogation had not gone too well not at least the way he had hoped it to go. After all, he had had plenty of practice for this type of thing earlier on in his life even something worth to put on a CV depending on the job application of course. “I mean, they seem like complete dummies to me!” Yammering the same thing all over.” Din vented after leaving the two captives for the moment and checking up with Luke outside the holding room.

“They are, trust me my friend, they are.” Luke responded quietly to Din after observing the effort from the monitors on the outside of the holding cell.

But Luke also seemed deep in thought, his brain trying to scan the Force for some kind of answers. But currently, there were none to be found unfortunately and that in itself, sent all kinds of alarm bells going off in Luke’s mind.

“But you sense more in there?” Din had become better at reading Luke over the years and knowing how capable this Master of a Jedi really was.

“Yes, there certainly is. I feel as if they are conditioned somehow. More robotic than humanoid in their interactions.” Luke revealed to Din.

“Well, I can tell you that they do bleed so they are not droids.” Din stated factually. After all, he had the blood on his hands to prove the point he was making.

“I saw that. But no, that is not it.” Luke’s mind was rattling with all kinds ideas, but unfortunately he could not really grasp onto anything useful right not.

“So, do you want me to continue or what?” Din asked then knowing they would most likely get nothing out of these drone like humanoids at this point.

“No, no.” Luke repeated. “I don’t think it’s a good use of our time as clearly they will not or cannot reveal anything despite what they think they know.” Luke said.

“You don’t think they know who they are working for?” Din asked curiously not sure if that was what Luke had meant.

“I think they have an inkling but most of their memories have been removed or blocked somehow.” Luke was pretty sure that whomever the Dark Force wielder behind this was, was quite powerful and had managed to achieve this feat and even found out where Luke’s Jedi academy now resided. And of this fact, he was worried, really worried.

“You are suggesting some kind of mind control here?” Din asked not exactly privy to all the details how the Force mind control worked exactly in practice.

“I have tried to probe their minds while you, you know, did your thing.” Luke then revealed. “But I had no luck getting through to them. It’s as if there is some sort of impenetrable energy blocking the minds of these warriors.” He told Din.

“So, what do you suggest we do then?” Din asked while rubbing his hands which were raw and hurting from the interrogation. Besides, he needed to clean them up anyway as the enemies blood was leaving a foul stench everywhere.

“I need help.” He glanced at Din. “But you’re not going to like what I have in mind.”

Din looked at Luke and shook his head as the help request dawned on him. “No, that’s not a good idea.” He objected. “He is too young and..” Luke interrupted him abruptly before Din could make his counter view known.

“Grogu and Hesta, they can both do it. With me.” Luke added quickly and then raised his hand as Din was about to protest again. “I will protect them. You have my word. I will not let the situation escalate while the kids are inside the room over there with me.”

Din wasn’t sold on the idea at all. But they had to try something as his method wasn’t working and neither was Luke’s mind reading attempts. So reluctantly he said. “If you can guarantee their safety.” Din half warned the Jedi Master with his tone.

“I can.” Luke said in a stern voice even if he himself wasn’t completely sold on the idea either. But they had to try something as they were all in grave danger. Because as the Dark Forces had found their sanctuary after all the efforts in trying to hide it. And it was all a great loss for Luke again.

“Alright then but I will stay right here.” Din pointed at the spot he was standing on. Which was outside the holding cell right in front of the monitors sending the live feed from the brig. “And if I see any trouble rising in there at any point…” He instinctively touched his sidearm on that note.

“I trust you will.” Luke smiled a little as he was trusting his new friend to have his and the children’s backs too and to jump in their aid at the first sign of trouble.

***

Din was standing outside the holding cell, keeping both eyes on the screens in front of him. He was watching the scene in front unfolding. It wasn’t exactly what he had expected nor was it anything like what he had done while inside. Which was using the more physical means in trying to persuade their captives to reveal their secrets. No, it was far more subtle and almost poetic, as Luke, Grogu and Hesta were seated in a half circle on the floor. Their postures reminiscent of a more meditative state rather than something of an interrogation. The two culprits were sitting silent on the two benches there which served both as seats and beds for those being held inside the room for a lengthy period of time. Why this room was here in the first place was something which Din had asked Luke about earlier. And it turned out the Academy was actually an old military base which had been refurbished to serve as a school now. So, it was bound to still have some reminders of its none too distant past. The building that was. And today, this undone change was serving its purpose once again. So, for now Din could do nothing except to stand by and wait. Like stated by both the grownups before, Din would jump into the situation at the first sign of trouble. Well, not maybe the first sign as that would be so easily misinterpreted. So the second sign would be the one for the jumping. Or whatever the sign was, Din would know when and what it would be. Maybe.

The silence in the holding room was deafening but the only ones who seemed to mind about it, were the two Dark Knights. It had taken some time for the three Jedi sitting there seemingly doing nothing. But Din knew from the relaxed features on all their faces and bodies alike, that all three were connected now and working in sync. They were reaching out to the Force and trying to connect with the two captives. Luke was in the middle of the trio with Grogu and Hesta on either side of him. Having established a connection with each other first Luke now guided the three of them slowly and gently through the Force until they were, literally, knocking on the door to the side which none of them wanted to cross. But it was necessary to let all the information flow through them both light and dark. It would be like that until they would find what they were looking for. Luke held a tight grip on his two best students making sure that he, was the front as they all journeyed down the path in their minds. As Grogu and Hesta only remained as the backseat drivers for the duration, they would not face whatever was coming their way first. Or at least, it was how Luke had explained the situation to Din having it out in such words the Mandalorian best could understand what was actually going on during a Force trip as Din had put it. Of course it all really wasn’t as simple as that but Din had understood the gist of it anyway and knew it was well and a complicated feat to achieve.

“So, basically what you are doing is some kind of a Force trip right?” Din had asked from Luke of what was about to expire between the three Jedi as they entered the connection.

Luke had laughed out loud at the analogy and said simply. “Something like that.” Knowing his friend was worried about the children especially Grogu he had quickly added. “Grogu and Hesta will only be there as my support. They won’t participate in the process of going inside the minds of these two thugs.” He pointed at the brig and the captives.

“So, they are your backseat drivers.” Din summarised the situation.

“Exactly.” Luke was finding this vernacular and the quaint commentary of Din quite endearing actually.
“Alright, I trust you, you know that don’t you.” Din said then. “With my kids life I mean.” He added, but it was the rest of it which went unsaid. Like the fact that Din cared for Hesta too and the rest of the kids and even Luke.

“I know.” Luke patted Din on his back.“And I give you my word they will not be harmed.”

Din then picked up Grogu and hugged him tightly before letting him back down beside Hesta, whom Din patted on the head as a show of affection towards his sons best friend and an honorary member of their small family too.

Nodding at each other, Luke then followed by Grogu and Hesta and went inside the brig. And the currently visible session had started. It continued unchanged with Din keeping guard on the outside waiting for the other shoe to drop, as he knew it would. It always did.

Chapter Seventeen

It took some more time. Even with their combined forces it was difficult to penetrate through the two Dark Knights defences and finally reach their minds through the Force. Luke was the one inside doing the actual probing while his two students provided him the much needed power to be able to navigate and simply hold the position there. This all despite the clear barrier erected by either the two captives or then, someone much more powerful which Luke suspected was the case. There was heavy resistance even now but Luke managed to navigate through that even if it took much effort to do so. But soon enough he had finally reached his goal and was floating inside the darkness which seemed to be what filled the minds of the two he was now engaged with. Even if there was nothing to see or even read at this very moment the mere feeling of the Dark Force inside these two individuals was powerful and strong. It was filled with angst and fear and a lot of hate, a place where Luke had not wanted to visit again. But it was imperative to find the culprit behind this attack as none of them were safe until they would know whom they were up against. At least, then they could make plans on how to protect themselves as it was obvious, they were no longer safe on this planet. Relocation was the only option of course even if that would be tricky at best. But running once again meant all their survival and that was something Luke had gotten pretty good at. Surviving. And there was more than his life at stake here so starting over somewhere else was a small price to pay for the Jedi children’s safety. He trusted Din would help and that was comforting too.

This was not Luke’s first trip to the Dark Side naturally. Now was peeking inside the mind of a wielder of it and he doubted this would be his last time there either. He was more experienced now though than he had been years ago. But it took so much effort to maintain his own essence while spending time there and he was only too lucky to have Grogu and Hesta giving him the power he needed to make sure he would not succumb to the temptations of it. Not the Luke was tempted. He had never really been as the lure wasn’t really talking to him. But still it would be so easy to listen to the promises made there and let oneself go and let the darkness take over. But there was too much at stake for Luke once again. Especially with the young Jedi trainees whom he had no intention letting down. Luke was moving along searching through the memories of the two Dark Knights. It was getting easier the longer he remained in there. But, the harder and closer he looked, the more he was able to find nothing. Which was odd in itself. He pushed on trying to find anything useful but managed to gather only bits and pieces. That was until he reached an area, which he wasn’t able to access. He concentrated really hard and kept on pushing further and harder and at first it seemed that he wasn’t able to push through. He paused and gathered himself. fFeeling Grogu and Hesta also understanding the problem and giving him even more of their own power. After a moment Luke then gave it one last hard push and then he finally managed to reach that one protected spot and instantly he knew that he had hit the jackpot.

***

A bright flash of light hit Luke in the eyes even if he wasn’t physically there but he was walking forward in a corridor of a ship. As he looked outside the nearest porthole he could see a planet below. Something he recognised immediately. It was the one he and his students were currently on. Luke moved forward and was aiming for the bridge, clearly knowing where he was headed as he was in the mind and the memories of the two captives and their hidden secrets. He continued the seemingly long walk and passing an area where various stormtroopers had gathered. The were seemingly waiting for orders to strike. He made a mental note of the number of them and moved on. Finally reaching the closed doors leading to the bridge he punched in the code in the console outside. The doors swooshed open and let him step inside. As he did so he could see shadowy figures standing in the far end of the place by the large windows there, looking outside. There were only a few operatives present in addition. No more than four whom were all engaged at their task by the consoles. But what interested Luke more were the two figures still shrouded in the darkness. He moved closer and closer and just as he reached them he felt a sharp numbing pain in his head making him dizzy and disoriented and left him some what immobile and blinded in the process. Luke tried to blink and wish his pain away but whomever was doing this was far more powerful and he wasn’t able to see anything. Who the two where standing there was still a blur. His only option was retreat as clearly, he had been discovered by his enemy. Pushing hard again, Luke managed with much effort to let go of the minds of the two captives. Luke navigated his way back to the light and then opened his eyes as he broke the connection. He glanced around and found that Grogu and Hesta too were fine and present. And it seemed that there was no permanent damage done to any of the three of them. But as Luke looked forward and to the two Dark Knights, he could see that they were both lifeless. Their eyes still wide open and with their tongues hanging out and blood pouring from within the mouth. Their controllers apparently had decided that the warriors were a liability now and killed them. Most likely using Luke while in the Force connection through them with the Dark Side to do it. This wasn’t what Luke had expected to happen. But then again, the Dark Lords had never been predictable. So guess this wasn’t such a surprise after all. Still, even if this hadn’t been as successful of an attempt as it could have been, Luke was now aware of the danger hovering over their planet and they needed to prepare for an attack.

Chapter Eighteen

“A ship? In orbit? Here? Now? Over this very planet?” Din half ranted his multitude of questions.

Din sounded like a parakeet as he seemed to be asking again the same thing. Simply because he still could not believe what he had just heard was right. Not to mention that this had actually happened despite all of them having been so careful and they had even setup all those monitoring devises in orbit and they were really everywhere. Even up the ole’ wazoo to prevent this type of situation from happening in the first place.

“Yes, yes and yes. And we really need to move fast and to get the children into safety.” Luke urged Din. “And I do mean, immediately.” Luke seemed almost agitated which was a first for Din to see in this master of a man as he was always so calm, well most of the time anyway.

Din glared at his friend for a moment. But clearly there was no further information forthcoming his way. So, he then raised his hand in a mock salute. “Aye, aye!” He stated with a hint of humour and went to do his thing.

This of course was to pack up the few vessels they had handy for this exact situation. He would enlist some of the students to help him as time was off the essence. Not that there was much to pack as the Jedi and himself only had few possessions. Most of the ships were already ready with rations, weapons and other supplies needed for a long period of survival. So basically it was just to collect the personal stuff and then the people and the few droids they had working there. Din was fine with Luke giving the orders, but they would have a discussion about this later on that much he was sure of. Din really wanted to know what exactly Luke was not telling him right now.

In the next hour the four small craft were packed up and ready to leave the planet. Luke, Din and two elder students were flying the vessels. They were set to leave and take off, The idea was to take different routes to avoid confrontation or capture as the four ships zigzagged in space before going to hyperspace. Later they were due to rendezvous at a remote outpost in the Outer Rim. There they would then decide their next steps to take. Naturally none of this was going to be easy for any of them but they really had no choice but to leave their current home behind as sad as it was. For most, this was the only home they had known for a long time if ever and it was a big deal at least for the youngest of them.

“Alright, everyone take their seats.” Din ordered those students under his care.

All of them immediately seated in the passenger area of the vessel and put their seatbelts on. They had practiced this very thing as per suggested by Din several times as part of their training process. Din had been the one to suggest the escape plan in the first place. The ships were small in size but modified to accommodate the children and the equipment and their supplies for shorter treks. But Din had also made sure they would make it fine for a longer trip as well. The quarters were close but the children were adapting quickly. After all, their lives were at stake here. And they had almost all been present witnessing the evil ones threatening them. So, they all understood what was at stake. There were no tears. Well, maybe a few or more sad faces but this was nor the time or the place to think about that. They trusted their elders to keep them safe. Din as much as Luke and that was pretty much it.

As the ships were ready they all took off one by one knowing the enemy was waiting in orbit. Most likely their escape would be a surprise or then again not. Din decided to warn, not so much Luke as it was, rather the two teenaged pilots manning the two smaller vessels. The students weren’t evenly divided as there was less room in the two smaller crafts meaning Luke and Din carried the bulk of the passengers in their respective ships.

“Remember! As soon as we hit orbit we push the pedal to the metal.” Din ordered all the other pilots. “The faster we are the better chance we have in escaping the enemy waiting for us up there.” Din wasn’t sure if they were but he wanted to be prepared never the less. “Are we all in agreement?”

He then heard three different ‘aye's over the comms channel, even Luke’s he let a smile smirk linger on his stoic face. And then they all exhilarated the engines the higher the vessels got reaching the orbit in no time. As soon as they were there each vessel took off like they had a fire lit under their collective derrières. Luke and Din though both managed to catch a glimpse of the large size ship in orbit before they too took off. It was big and intimidating looking as hell and clearly not waiting nor prepared for them to escape the planet.

***

The ships managed to escape the planet without being pursued. Each of them taking a different course upon take off. It wasn’t a miracle really that they got off so easy most likely undetected or at least, surprising an unprepared crew. It had been a matter of tactics as they had used the three moons orbiting the planet to hide their ascent from the planet and then following in turn the rotation of said planetary objects to escape. Something Din and Luke had carefully planned before this affair had even taken place in their peaceful corner of the galaxy. So now, all the four ships were en route. Each to their different locations, just to be on the safe side. In those coordinates the crews would then take a respite for a while before heading to their rendezvous point. This was to make sure that the location of said planets had not leaked to the Dark Force, whom had taken a sudden interest on the Jedi Academy and its inhabitants.

A safe haven which all of them, but especially Luke had thought the planet they had been on to be. He had taken it the hardest of them all as the whole setup was his pride and joy. But they would rebuild like they always did. It was after all only a building. The most important cargo were the children and they were all safe now. Luke had several places to choose from to setup the school again. And even the four where they were going now, were known safe havens, but were not on the list of chosen ones. But he wanted to pick a place which was somewhere completely different and out of reach. Which resided in the farthest corners of the galaxy. So, he needed to plan and scan and dig information to be sure this time even if this new home turned out to be only temporary. But he kept on trying and pushing as one day the children would become powerful Jedi in turn and that was his reward from all the hard work.

Din was happily steering his ship filled with the Jedi kids and Grogu towards their designated home for the moment. As the Kid had been with the rest of the children during take off he now sauntered casually up to the cockpit and towards his dad and taking his place beside the Mandalorian piloting the vessel.

Since the incident the two of them had not really been able to have a moment to themselves. And even when Grogu and Hesta had been calm and together while helping both Luke to interrogate and then the rest of the kids to get over this unfortunate situation. Not to mention the fact, that Grogu had been there in the midsts of it all, he seemed totally fine. Din knew his son well by now and being fine outwardly did not aways mean that he was. Also, Din sensed he missed his friend Hesta most of all as she was now going away with Luke. Din was quite proud of Grogu. Then again he had always been proud of his son. Almost since the first day they had met even if he did not really know him well back then. But now they were connected on so many levels and sensing the Kid was acting fine was something Din wanted to address. The sooner the better. He waited until Grogu got seated expecting him to be all cool and calm even in front of his father. Like he had been in front of his classmates. Din pretended to steer the ship and not notice the Kid even if it was now on autopilot. He had set it the moment he had heard Grogu enter the cockpit. He usually preferred to be in control himself where ever he could at least on the spaceship. The rest of the control, well, that he had given up long ago. Especially when it came to matters related to his son. Except when Luke drove Grogu too hard some times. That was when Din put his foot down. So now, he waited for Grogu to settle down now before saying anything.

But then, the oddest thing happened. While Din had expected the Kid to go and take his usual seat at the back of the cockpit like the big boy he had become or was becoming. Anyway, somewhat bigger and more mature than before anyway. What he did next though surprised and also made Din an extremely happy daddy. Grogu, after a moment of standing still on the floor before getting to his seat had made a completely different choice. He had moved close to the pilot seat and was standing right beside Din’s seat. He stood there and stared up to his father at first. Then his short hands reached for Din just like he had always done when he wanted Din to pick him up before. Something which had not happened in a while as he was growing up, supposedly. Din looked at the Kid with tears in his eyes now and then reach for him and picked him to his lap. Hugging the sighing child which he still was no matter how forceful his powers had grown over the time. Din was feeling the emotions coming through Grogu too. The fear, the sadness, all of it. Just pouring from him without words. And Din could read all of it and in turn he conveyed all his love, support and empathy for Grogu. Letting the Kid know in no words but feelings, that as long as Din was around, Grogu, his son, would always be safe. And once again all was well in the world for the Kid. At least for a while now that the two of them were safe and together.

Chapter Nineteen

Four weeks had passed since the incident in the middle of the training course at the Jedi Academy which had resulted to the students to be split up and divide and to be living in safe places around the galaxy on secluded planets. There was no school per se, but the kids kept on their Jedi training as three of the groups had an elder student leading them while Luke was taking care of those under his charge and had Hesta aiding him too. Meanwhile Din and Grogu were doing their own things while on the lam in a way. Even if life had somewhat settled in the four places where the Jedi children and their elders were now residing, it still felt like they were constantly watching out for someone to invade their private sanctums. But Grogu despite taking part in the daily exercises with his group was more invested in spending time with Din. Who was training the Kid as well, teaching Grogu some of his own tricks and moves in the process.

Grogu was and had been interested in learning the Mandalorian ways for a long while now. And playing or rather training with his dad was something he loved to do. After all, the two of them had been on the road together for a long while before coming to Luke’s Academy and they had spent time together there too despite the rigorous training schedule while in school. But still, this was their time now and even if evil was lurking there around each possible corner and Grogu’s BFF was somewhere else completely, he was happy for once, really happy. As was Din. As this was the kind of luxury Din had not had since, well, ever as he had never had a father really nor a kid of his own. Before Grogu had come to his life that was. So, here they were the father and son duo. Doing their routines together each and every day.

Of course they all knew this was only temporary as they were all waiting for the word from Master Luke as to when they would dare to once again venture out there into the galaxy and find a new home for their school. But despite the training Din knew Grogu still needed he was beginning to think of other options too. For himself and hopefully for his son. There had been some indication from Din’s former cohorts, especially the Mandalorian Bo-Katan asking for him to return to Mandalore as there were issues currently there. Then again there aways would be issues on that planet as the Mandalorians were bread to fight. Din had frowned at the thought of going there after hearing the communique from his friend. Also his other friends had contacted him in asking Din to join their ventures whatever they might be. Still, he had not given any answers to any of them so far. But for a month they had been in radio silence anyway so he wasn’t privy to the happenings out there at the moment.

But then there were other options too to consider. Something he wanted to do for himself and Grogu which was to take a long trip around the galaxy never mind the destination. Simply roam the open wide ways out there. That was of course if Luke agreed that Grogu was ready or at least due for a break. But most of all Din was going to present this to Grogu and ask what he wanted to do. As there were the two of them to concern about after all. But this was not yet the time for such talks rather it was the time to enjoy this small respite until it would be over. So bringing this suggestion up now to his son could possibly ruin his time of childhood and fun. As Grogu was finally having one as were some of the other younger kids too. Without the restrict regime of the Jedi school Luke had had them under they were like kids again, all of them. It hadn’t all been bad at the Academy really. It was just that Luke sometimes forgot they were children first and only Jedi second.

But there was still some time for Din and his small group of pupils to spend on this small planet before Luke would summon them. And Din had decided that the last few days would be spent without rigorous training. Instead the children would have time to play and do whatever they wanted, within reason of course. He knew there would most likely be some backlash of this decision but that depended whether any of the kids would tell Luke. And becoming well acquainted with all of them now he knew they would not. So, starting from today school was out and play time would commence. As he and Grogu started their day with preparing breakfast for the rest of them. Well, Din did the job while Grogu monitored. Helping here and there where he could. Then Din alerted for the kids to come and join them at the table. And after they had all eaten he revealed his plans for the time remaining on the planet. Facing nothing but cheers and clapping he was glad he had managed to bring some joy to these children who did not have too much of it in their lives. Not to mention their resent quite upsetting experience with the contact of the Dark Side of the Force during their supposed exam. Something most of them had not encountered before not on this level anyway.

***

Luke had spent the the better part of the day planning for their new school. After all he could not let a small, well, maybe not so small but what ever the size the backlash was interfere with this greater idea of training as many Force sensitive children as possible.The goal was simple enough. To resurrect the Jedi Order from the ashes as there were so few of them left in the galaxy. Having these thirty odd students collected from the various planets all over was quite the feat though. But now Luke knew after having tapped into the Force that there were still many more impressionable children out there. Most of them with some ability to the powers of the Force. In essence his plan was to collect all those potential ones and establish several Jedi Academies around the galaxy.

But then, there was the problem of training them. As he himself could not be in all the places at once. He knew he had to enlist some of the remaining Jedi still around to help him. But it would be difficult as most of them were reluctant to carry on the legacy of the order and preferred to remain in their own hideouts and collective solitude. Something which pissed Luke off to put it mildly, as he could not understand why the other fully trained Jedi would not want to keep their legacy alive. But he was determined to try to convince them over and over again. And then there were the older students of his as well, who could easily become teachers.

Then there was his new friend Din Djarin, who wasn’t a Jedi but in the past years had proven quite the asset around the school. And Luke was sure Din would want to help in the future too despite their differences regarding the handling of Grogu. Of course Luke understood that Din was protective of his adopted son. But sometimes Luke knew he let Grogu get away with far more than Luke would have liked. Whatever the case was as they would most likely never see eye to eye where Grogu was concerned. Specifically the hard parts such as pushing the Kid hard to become a good Jedi. But they had managed to muddle through their conflicts and Din had taken part in quite a few of the training sessions as well. Din had been a bounty hunter meaning he had the knack in tracking down those who wanted to remain untraceable. So, most likely Din would be able to help Luke in that aspect as well. Indeed Luke admired the versatile Mandalorian even if he would never admit it out loud especially to Din. Luke decided to have a chat with Din as soon as they were all reunited again. Suspecting he would most likely be interested in at least the latter job as they had never really discussed the future for either Din or even Grogu for that matte. Not really.

But, first things first. Luke needed to decide what to do next with the current students he had.
And also where possible, to find out which Dark Lord or Lords had been behind the kidnapping attempt. That would be difficult as Luke had already tried to probe the Dark Side using their two captives albeit unsuccessfully. It seemed there was a new player in town with powers more forceful this time than before. So, back to the drawing board. As Luke needed to decide if the planet he had had in mind for the new school premises was safe enough. He needed to decide quickly as time was running out as he felt the Dark Knights probing inside the Force constantly now.

Despite their radio silence for the duration while the groups remained in their safe planets, there had been the odd contact here and there just to update on the status. Now however, it was close to the time which Luke had told the other leads of the groups they would reconvene on the new planet. Luke also needed to leave this safe haven and leave one of the students in charge for the duration as he had some recon to do before he would make his final decision as to where their new destination would finally be at. So now, after all this planning he also needed to decide which of the children could be able to carry that mantel and only one really came to mind. Hesta. Despite her younger age the young Jedi child was the most advanced of them all.

Chapter Twenty

“Master Din! There is a call coming through on the communications channel.” One of the students alerted Din who had been in the middle of a game with a few other of the children in his care. The kids had taken to calling Din Master even if he wasn’t officially a Jedi Master. But he was fine with the title. After all, he was teaching and training them too, alongside the true Master Jedi Luke.

Din looked up from his concentration as he had been anticipating his next move in the game. But now he was all ears to the interruption. “Master Luke?” It wasn’t really a question as no one else knew where they were. Except of Luke Skywalker as he had insisted on being the only one with the full knowledge as to which planets the safe houses existed on.

“Yes sir, it is the Jedi Master.” The student currently in charge of communications replied. Din had been wise in dividing the monitoring of any and all transmissions into short shits just to be on the safe side.

“Alright! I will be there.” Din said and then without further thought he made the move with his pawn and said simply. “Mahal!” And looked with a small but snide smirk around the table as the Jedi kids seemed most surprised. After all, the non-Jedi had beaten them at their very own game.

“Wow!” A few of the kids exclaimed while shaking their collective heads and looking at the board in disbelief.

Din just grinned as he got up and followed the student to the transmission room where they kept the scanning equipment. He went to the comms board and punched in the button to talk to Luke.

“Luke! Good to hear from you.” Din said rather cheerfully.

“Din, my friend.” Luke greeted him. “I trust you and the children are doing well.”

“Indeed.” Din had witnessed the kids spirits being lifted up lately. Especially after ordering the mandatory break. Or rather down time from their studies and to simple play and enjoy life for a while at least. But this wasn’t something he would tell to Luke. “The children have been great and what ever they experienced before during the incident seem to have taken a backseat for now.” Din decided to put it as rather than going into any particular details as to the hows.

“This is great news to hear. The children here aren’t doing half as bad either after I gave them some time off.” Luke revealed all of a sudden which was indeed quite uncharacteristic of the Master Jedi. And surprising as well. Nevertheless, it was good to hear that Luke was loosening the reins for a bit at least. Most likely something which had rubbed off from hanging around Din.

“So, any news yet from our new home?” Din asked knowing this was most likely the call they had been expecting for some time.

“Well, that was actually why I was calling.” He paused. “I have done some research and it’s time to do the leg work now.” Luke then said.

Din knew what it meant. “So you are planning on going on a little scouting trip then?”

“Yes, I am. And that means I will be out of reach for a while. Just to be on the safe side.” Luke revealed his plans then to Din. “I will leave Hesta in charge over here. But I want you to have the overall control and we will break our radio silence as I want you to make the calls to the other three safe houses daily before I return.”

“Understood.” Din simply responded. “Is there anything else you want me to do while you’re out there?”

“No. Just keep these kids safe.” Luke ordered him.

“I will. Don’t you worry they will all be fine.” Of course Din understood this was a big promise to make and he could not really be sure he could keep it. The distances alone causing problems. But he as going to do his damnedest to protect the children whatever the circumstances were.

“Alright then.” Luke said most likely knowing well what Din was thinking about the promise, “I will leave today and try to be quick about it.” Luke then said. “I have updated Hesta on her tasks and duties so if there are any issues just call her.” Luke then added.

“Good to know.” Din said. “And Luke.” He paused. “Good luck and may the Force be with you!” He had learnt the Jedi goodbye good and well during the time spent among them.

“And also with you, my friend!” Luke wished Din before the communication ended.

***

Din was deep in thought for a moment. He was thinking about what awaited for his friend out there as he ventured to space looking for a safe haven. But also a lot about what the future would hold for these children of the Jedi and their training to become full-fledged Force wielders. Especially now as they were scattered across several places. It was not an easy life for any of them to be under constant worry of becoming hunted or threatened with death. Or even worse just because they possessed powers well beyond most other beings capabilities. Din knew well that great powers came with huge responsibilities. Having spent years with the bunch of these kids learning the trade with their Master Din had gotten a better perspective of what it meant to be a Jedi. But also an appreciation for those whom had the powers and why some of them chose to hide in the shadows. He took pride in the fact that his adopted son Grogu had mastered the skills to a point he could help others with their training. Something he had already done to some extent. But the incident at the training mission had shown a completely new and elevated side of the small Jedi trainee. Something which even Luke had acknowledged. It was so much of a different life the Mandalorian now led with these kids. Something he had never imagined to be doing.

They had all enjoyed years of peace and solitude in their little corner of the galaxy. But this had all changed in a blink of an eye. At least in their point of view. Even if Master Luke held long speeches of the dangers of the Dark Side, none of them had expected the Darkness to lurk behind the nearest corner. Well at least the children had not. Din was pretty sure Luke had known all along something was lurking in the shadows. Gathering forces and increasing their powers. Even if he had not said much about the subject before. But it was a choice as it was not a way to live at all. Under constant fear and that was most likely the reason he had not said much about it before. No, the training would always come first and the worries later as Luke had put it. And he had been right. It was far better for the students to train without fear even if the danger was a constant. Just like the attack on them had proved it to be. And whomever it was behind this change of events, they sure looked like a powerful advisory. Even if Luke had not revealed the full truth Din could tell he had been shaken by this turn of events.

Din walked back to the leisure area where the kids were playing games with each other. Most of them anyway. Some of them had chosen to read in the corner of the room. But mostly the room was filled with light chatter and a few sounds of laughter here and there. All and all they seemed like a happy bunch. Regular kids doing normal kid stuff. Playing, doing their chores, running around and sometimes even catching up with their homework even if it wasn’t mandatory. Din wasn’t sure what awaited for them after Luke would find a new planet for them to settle on. But for now he let the students in their peaceful bubble. The news could wait until the next day and anyway there was no hurry for them. It would take a while before Luke would find anything. At least Din hoped so as he had gotten used to this mode they were in now. Mostly without a care in the world on this tiny planet of a safe haven. Tomorrow, he told himself, he would make the call to the other safe houses and they would talk about what was going on. But today they would play their games. Have a few laughs and then gather for a great evening meal like they had done so many times before. And not before tomorrow when they could start worrying what the future would bring.

He glanced around the area and saw Grogu playing a board game with some of his classmates. Din smiled and then decided to join them. As he approach the seating area where they kids had set up the play he asked politely. “Is there room for one more?”

 

***

Unbeknownst to the peacefully playing children and their care taker on the small planetoid a supposed safe haven, a small vessel was high above the skies of it. In orbit and scanning each and every inch of land. The two figures seated in the cockpit had their eyes fixed on the screens in front of them. Watching carefully as the long-range scanning devices were sending the data back from the surface. They had been at it for a while now. Doing this thorough yet boring task to find what they were looking for. It was a planet on the list of many so finding anything wasn’t expected really. But, their master had sent them and several others to hunt down those who had escaped from the Jedi home planet. Despite the tediousness of the job they continued with the seemingly endless search. The other option was to go back to their master without anything to offer and that option would be a far worse fate than dying. So it wasn’t really an option at all. As the final data was coming through the pilot was about to prepare to take off. But then much to their surprise, a green dot started blinking on one of the scanner screens. The two searchers exchanged glances and then without uttering a word, the other one opened a communication channel and waited for the connection to open up.

“We found them.” Was all which was said to the one listening on the other end.

“Understood.” The voice on the end of the comms channel responded. “Stay put for now and await for further orders.” Was the addition before the frequency was closed.

 

Chapter Twenty-one

Luke had been travelling fast and around for some time without much to show for his search. He had managed to rule out a few planets on this list though. As clearly not places safe enough to start a school for the Jed children on. Still, he was far from finding a the perfect planet for just that. And so far it wasn’t looking good for him as he was slowly running out of time. He was well aware that keeping the children separated on various planets would not do them any good in the long run. Sure they could be separately trained there. Some of the older students were close to completing their training and become fully fledged Jedi so that was a choice. But, there was the grave threat of the darkness lurking out there. Therefore none of the planets of the safe houses were completely secure. Being under constant fear of ones lives was not a good way of living. Especially for the Jedi as the lure to the darkness would become too grave after a while. Having only two adults in the mix wasn’t helping the situation either. There had been one thing on the top of Luke’s list while searching the galaxy for Jedi children or rather those with Force sensitivity. Which was being on the lookout for any and all Jedi. All those whom could help him train and restore the Jedi Order. So far he had not found any. The few he had heard of were not willing participants which was a shame and a grave loss.

Luke was headed towards a cluster of stars which housed several uninhabited planets. Some of them small and secure and they supported humanoid life. Also great with resources such as plant life and water. But he needed to get there himself and assess whether one of the two planets on his pre-checked list was suitable or not. Not just for living there but he needed to know how the Force felt in those places too. Simple enough task to find out. But the distances between the two coordinates he had already mapped before were far between. And despite his souped up ride it was still taking time for him to do this job. And all the while being away from the children in his care made it harder and harder for him. He was worried for their safety. Especially those students who were not with Din. He knew well how effectively the Mandalorian was able to fend himself and others too. Luke tried to put all the fear aside and concentrate on the task at hand. Which was hard as it was still building up inside of him. As his mind went back to the events which had happened on the planet of the Academy. And then the Dark Knights who had warned them about their Master. Someone possessing Dark Force powers well beyond those Luke had experienced before in his life. With the Emperor and his father even. But he had felt how strong this new opponent really was first hand. And he worried that even their combined powers with his students would not be enough to defend against the rising darkness.

Luke was closing in on the binary system when there was a rattle on his communication channel. He opened the frequency to answer the call.

“Luke! Are you there? Can you hear me?” The voice sounded faint and faded but Luke recognised Din’s raspy voice anywhere.

“Yes Din! I am but I can barely read you.” Luke replied.

“They have found us!” Din’s voice then said almost a whisper now. “They are here. On the planet.” Luke managed to hear before the connection as cut off.

The only thing Luke was hearing was the static of the blinking message on the console which taunted him in bold red letters.“Connection lost!”

***

“Dammit!” Luke cursed as he punched frantically the command buttons while trying to bring back the connection to the safe house. “Damn! Damn! Damn!” He continued the angry ranting even if it was useless to be so fumed up. But Luke was angry and frustrated and felt helpless too. He was far away from the children in his care and he really should have known better than just to take off like that. Even if the task needed to be done. Still, he kept on berating himself for his choices even if it was all moot at this point to do so.

“R2!” He ordered. “Try to reroute the signal.” Luke was talking to the on droid sitting at the back of hits x-wing vessel. “We need to get the connection back to Din as soon as possible.” Despite the magic touch the droid seem to have Luke doubted whether even R2D2 could pull out such a feat as communication was being jammed at the origin point.

“Beep boop beep!” Were the pretty much standard sounds coming out from the small droid. But even if it sounded like gibberish to most people hearing them Luke was well versed with the lingo of his long standing companion. Understanding perfectly what the droid was telling him.

“Thanks!” Luke replied.

He then punched in the commands of the communication console, trying to re-establish the connection. He wanted to know the full story behind the distress call but he could only hear static in response. Luke listened to the disappointing sounds coming out of the device. It was as if the sound was mocking him for his failure to realise what would happen if he left the children alone. Well, not really alone. But without him to protect them. No, he had really failed this time. The chant in side of his head kept on going berating the man. Luke tried to calm himself down for a moment letting the Force take over and expel his ugly thoughts. He then made the decision to turn the vessel towards the small planet where Din and the students were at.

R2 beeped again and Luke replied: “Yes, we need to get back as soon as possible. And no I have still no clue as to whom it is behind all these attacks. But we need to go and help them.” Luke told his friend even if he was pretty sure R2D2 already knew well the situation being the smart droid it was.

He then punched the buttons and the small ship took a sharp turn and jumped almost instantly in to hyperspace. The only concern, well two concerns really were that he would arrive too late to help them. And the second thing was that Luke had not heard anything from Hesta or the two other safe houses. So this could mean one or two things. They were okay or then, they had already been attacked by the Dark Force Knights and the children had been taken away. Luke tried to make the connection to the place he had left Hesta in charge of. But there was no response. Neither did he get through to the other two sites. But this could be due to being in the hyper space corridor. As rarely did any signals go through while being inside off one. So now he just needed to concentrate on getting back in one piece to the planet as he was pushing the souped up x-wing to the max. Not a safe procedure by far. But he needed to be there so he was pulling all possible power out from the small ship. And hoping it would not break up mid-flight as per pointed out by R2 to him.

“I know R2, I know.” Luke replied to the droid. “But I have no choice and I am sure we’ll survive the trip. We have to. There is no option to fail as they ware all in grave danger.”

R2 beeped again.

“I am well aware that they all have powers of their own. And that the Mandalorian is there too. But still I need to be there.” Luke tried hard to assure R2 of this fact. Or himself. Whichever way would work.

And Luke really did believe he could save them all, which was kind of an arrogant mindset he had. But hey, he had proven himself in battle against the Dark Forces before. So he had that extra special Jedi thing going on for him. Whether he sound a tad cocky then so be it. It was the simple fact that he was powerful. And whomever contradicted him. Well, they could easily see his record of wins. It was part of history after all. Luke glared down the hyperspace corridor swirling lights passing by while he tried to meditate and calm himself down before he reached the planet. As nothing good ever came out of anger something he knew first hand.

Chapter Twenty-two

“Everyone! Into the ship! Now!” Din ordered, shouting to the children gathered to the living area of the house.

They were all watching through the windows as the two enemy vessels were fast approaching the small settlement of a hideaway. Their own spaceship was hidden behind the small housing complex where Din and the children had resided for the duration whilst on the planet. It was supposed to be a safe and secure place. But ever since they had met the Dark Knights, it seemed that no place was safe. Even if Master Luke had previously been under the impression the four planets the students were divided onto now would have been. Unfortunately Luke had chosen a bad time to venture in search of a new permanent home for them and the Jedi Academy. They could have really needed his help right about now. But then again Din suspected it wasn’t a coincidence the Dark Forces were hitting them now as they most likely knew that Luke was somewhere else.

After making the call to Luke and not getting through to him, Din had made the decision to leave after seeing the two ships approaching the planet on the radar. Din had also tried to reach the other safe houses, but he wasn’t able to connect with them either. It meant one of two things; which was that they were also under attack or then, the enemy was jamming the connection on this planet. Which ever the scenario was Din wanted to take off as soon as possible. He had decided to get to the closest of the safe planets which was were Hesta and several other of the students were. At least he and the others with him could help fight the enemy there if those planets had already been invaded. Three of the children under Din’s care were older and he had trained them also himself for combat. Something which Luke had asked him to do while at the Academy. So, if push came to shove, they could form a small assault team on the surface. But first they had to get there.

“Alright, everyone, let’s get a move on.” He urged the children once again which was kind of unnecessary as they were already on their way to the back of the house and towards their transport ship.

As the kids rushed by him towards their transport, Din remained the last one inside the house. He was making sure everyone was getting on board. He then took one last look outside the window and could see the ships approaching fast and were just about to land. He left the house and made it quickly to the transport. As he got inside he did a head count of everyone there and satisfied everyone was present and counted for. He moved to the cockpit where his co-pilot was already waiting for him in his usual seat. Din took his seat and made the needed preflight checks before liftoff. As all seemed to be in order and the two enemy ships had landed Din was sure they would be able to make a good head start before those ships could follow them. Even if the transport vessel they were using now was pretty old school it had been modified and improved upon and could easily outrun any smaller ships with less powerful engines. Of course Din had no idea what kind of technology their enemy used as they had only made contact with them twice. But he suspected they were soon about to find out. Din turn to his co-pilot. Well, honorary co-pilot really, as despite all his powers and abilities, Grogu had not yet quite mastered the ability to fly a vessel. Not that Din had not tried to teach him the fine art of piloting, but he was just way too small still and this transport vessel wasn’t the best place to train in either.

“Ready to take off Kid?” Din asked his son sitting there quietly.

A snide and loud snort was the answer from Grogu. And then he telepathically added. “Let’s fly dad!”

Soon enough the transport was lifted off the ground without any trouble. And as soon as they reached the minimal altitude possible, Din hit the pedal to the metal and the ship took off like it was on fire. He wanted to make out of there as quickly as possible and if possible, unnoticed too. As the craft ascended he could see the two ships on the radar as they were also taking off. But if they were lucky enough, the transport could reach hyperspace quickly and then they would be safe for a moment at least. Until they reached the other planet.

***

One of the older students had joined Din and Grogu in the cockpit. Larel as the teenage girl name was. She was a half human Force wielder whom Luke had redeemed to become among the Masters of the Jedi soon enough. She’d got high scores in her studies and then there was the fact that her Force sensitivity was among the top among the students alongside Grogu and Hesta. Din liked the girl and they had sparred together on many occasion while Din had taught the students tactical training. Larel, Grogu and Hesta hung out sometimes during their free time despite their age difference. As they had quite a few things in common and Din had had Hesta and Larel over to dinner plenty of times in their home back at the old planet. They had usually shared vivid conversations of a variety of things and sometimes they played games too. It had become a somewhat of a habit for the four of them to spend time together as a kind of a family unit as Din was the only other parent figure around. Also the three children and even Din had similar types of backgrounds being orphans and all that. There were others visiting at the home of Din and Grogu too and their once a week dinner get togethers had become famous. Luke had even joined on occasion. But mostly the Jedi Master kept to himself and did not socialise much outside of school. But the home of Din and Grogu was always open to anyone needing to have some kind of family connection as the two of them had become quite the family unit themselves over the years. Luke had been against it in the beginning, Din and Grogu living together. One of the on going quarrels Din and Luke had had. But Luke had soon enough come around as he had seen the positive effect having his dad around and living with him was having on the youngling. Not all bonds were bad after all not even for a would be Jedi. Something Luke had to reconsider while expanding the membership for to his Jedi Academy. But then again both Grogu and Din were special each in their own way and their relationship just seemed to work on so many levels.

“Master Din.” Larel said. The nickname had stuck on the Mandalorian even if he was not really a master of anything. Despite possessing wast knowledge of plenty of things and being quite capable in training the students in various marshal art forms and other tactics, he did not consider himself the Master.

“Oh hey Larel.” Din greeted her. “Everything alright?” He asked the girl who had a worried look on her face. Then again, she always had that same weight of the world look present. The children had popped in and out of the cockpit getting updates during the trip to the other planet, but they all had remained in the passenger area letting Din do his job in peace even if he did not mind the interruptions every now and again.

“Yes, well, some of the others…” She paused as she sometimes had difficulties in getting the right words out even if she was always quick on her feet when things needed to be done. “And myself. Well, we have been having some, let’s say feelings from what’s going on out there.”

“Well, guess that was to be excepted. As we know those Dark Knights are not far behind us.” Din replied to Larel. Din then turned to Grogu wanting to know if he had any visions or similar feelings. “Grogu, how about you?”

Grogu had been busy concentrating on aiding his father as he was really interested in the runnings of the spaceship and all its flashing lights and shiny knobs. Even if he wasn’t that kid anymore from years back, he still enjoyed those things even now. But mostly, having some time to spend in the cockpit with his father, which was the best part of all.

“Muwaht?” Grogu had clearly been tuned out from the whole Force thing now.

“The bad guys? Out there?” Din had to clarify as he knew well how concentrated and distracted Grogu sometimes got when there were more interesting things going on for him than that of some force thing.

“Hmm.” He replied or the sound similar to that. And then he too tuned into the Force for a moment trying to figure out what was going on out there in the vastness of space. He was sitting in silence for a moment or two. Then he telepathically replied to both of them. “The two ships from the other planet.” Grogu said. “They are closing in.”

“I agree.” Larel nodded.

“So,” Din was only too happy to have this intel at his disposal. Even if it was still kind of funky that someone could see out someplace else without actually being there themselves or having any kind of technical instruments to be able to detect them. “Any suggestions?” After all, his plan had been simply to get to the planet and go in full force if the bad guys had reached it before them.

“Well, we should try to evade them somehow.” Larel was trying to think of all the tactical training she had received.

“Sure, sure.” Din said thinking of their options now, but it wasn’t exactly what he had meant though. “Sounds good.” He was trying to be polite of course. “But, do you have any feelings or visions of what to expect once we get to the planet?”

Larel exchanged glances with Grogu who simply shook his head in response as it was clear the two young Jedi trainees even with the powerful sense of the Force were not able to see that far away.

“Um, well, nothing so far.” Larel finally said. “But I will keep on looking around.” She told Din sounding somewhat disappointed.

“Okay then. Keep me informed.” Din smiled a little trying to lighten the mood as Larel was more of a serious type and she usually faulted herself if she wasn’t able to provide the person asking with the answer or the aid they needed.

“I will ask the others to join with me in this task too.” She stated then eagerly as if Din had just given her the best job to do, ever.

“Great! I am looking forward to be flying under the radar.” Din replied with a smirk not sure of the youngling understood his reference or not.

Din then concentrated on the consoles in front of him once again expecting the bumpy ride to soon begin. He turned to Grogu and said. “You too; be on the look out yeah?”

He was pretty sure Grogu was still more interested in the piloting stuff and the flashing consoles. But then again, Din needed all the help he could get as he was about to storm into a possible hornets nest with a bunch of wanna be Jedi. And as per learnt from his previous encounter with these new villains, who had come to play, he was pretty certain that even with their combined Force powers and adequate combat skills, him and the students would have a tough time to win. But as always, Din was hoping for the best and being prepared for the worst. A great guideline and a way of doing things in Din’s book. And so it would also be this time too.

Chapter Twenty-three

The children of the Force, as Din sometimes liked to call the students in the Jedi Academy with a nickname of sorts but a most endearing one at that. They were all seated in the passenger area of ship in a circle on the floor with their eyes closed and their hands linked. All of them were linked to the greatness of which was known as the Force. Sharing their collective power and that of the world around them. They had done what Larel had promised Din. That they would be trying to keep the ship safe from those who would want to harm them. As they now had joined all their powers in trying to get them safely into the planet were Hesta and their fellow students resided for the moment. Flying under the radar as Din had put it, was not an easy feat. But they were doing their very best to aid the Mandalorian Master. To make him both proud of them and of course to pilot their transport vessel to the planet safely. Sending out those Jedi thoughts trying to raise a sort of a shield around their ship so it would remain unseen. At least, that was the plan and most of all their hope.

A moment later when the others had started their connection to the Force, Grogu, who was still sitting with Din in the cockpit in his co-pilot seat suddenly got perked up from watching the flickering lights and shiny knobs he so loved. He closed his eyes and felt the tremendous power surging through the ship. It was completely overwhelming but also compelling for the young child of the Jedi to be able to resist the lure of it and to join with it. Then, without a word, he got off from his seat and remained standing for a moment as if contemplating his choices which alerted Din.

“Hey Kid, whassa matter?” Din asked the child who was now on his way out from the cockpit.

“Going with others.” He simply relayed telepathically to Din.

Din glanced after him. The Kid was going pretty fast on his small feet and then he turned back and commented to himself. “Well, that didn’t take too long.” Figuring Grogu had gotten the call of the Force and had decided to join the other children after all.

Soon enough he could see the planet of their destination in clear view from the cockpit window. He was busy glaring at the radar too but there was still no sign of pursuit. Something he was thankful for. He then tried the frequency to connect to the planet below. It took a moment and after some crackling noises on the line, Hesta’s holographic image appeared on the communications transceiver opening the transmission from shore to ship.

“Din?” Hesta’s voice came through loud and clear.

“Yes, it’s me and the rest of our group is with me too.” Din was relieved to see the young girl and Grogu’s best friend live and hopefully well too.

“Thank the Force!” Hesta exclaimed. “We didn’t think you could make it here.” She said clearly aware of the villains after them. “We received a partial message from Master Luke who is on his way here now. We were also sensing the a strong disturbance in the Force momentarily.” She added trying to push all the information out in one go eagerly to spill it all like she usually did.

Din wasn’t really sure he could tell why they felt the disturbance. Maybe the kids below too were sensing the Dark Forces closing in on them or then it could have been the children on board doing their thing to cloak the ship they were on.

“Well, I am not sure if you are sensing the bad guys approaching us or then it could be Larel and the gang here doing their Jedi thing. You know, so we could get here, undetected.” As Din wasn’t that privy of the inner workings of the Force and how those involved would sense the happenings there he tried to explain it as simple as possible.

“Oh, alright.” Hesta most likely wasn’t certain either which it was they causing the spike. “We have been preparing to take off as per instructed by Master Luke. But we will wait for your arrival here then.” Hesta said then.

“No, no!” Din was urged her. He was quickly thinking on his feet as to which move would be the best one. “You better get into the ship and take off as soon as possible. We will be waiting for you in the orbit of the planet. We will all be safer that way.” He knew this was the best and safest choice.

“Understood.” Hesta said. “We will proceed as planned and see you up there.” She said aptly clearly understating the importance in doing so and the communication channel was closed.

Din then made the decision to manoeuvre the ship behind the two moons currently orbiting the small planet and then keep an eye on the transport vessel taking off and making contact with them again as soon as they were in orbit. It was the most safe option for them now. They still had two more planets to get to and pick up the rest of the students and then there was Master Luke, who was on his way too. He was doubtful whether even the toughest kids could keep up with this Jedi mind trick of a thing and keep the bad guys off their backs until they could all get into safety. But they had to at least try. He was lucky to have several strong minded Jedi kids around even now. And as soon as Hesta would join there would be more. He was wondering where Luke was, as most likely the Jedi Master was still some distance away after having searched for the perfect place to stay. But that could not be helped now. Rather Din was the one making the decisions for all of them now in Luke’s absence. So, this would be the way during their current escape mission.

***

“We are ascending now, Master Din.” The pilot, an older Jedi trainee by the name of Jaqee informed Din over the communications channel, which they had opened as soon as the vessel had cleared the planets atmosphere and was headed towards the orbit and the other vessel waiting for them.

“Understood.” Din replied, “We are holding position behind the twin moons. We’ll rendezvous when you reach the orbit.”

“We’ll meet you there then” The pilot concluded the communication for now.

Din opened the internal comms to inform the passengers on his ship what was going on. “We are about to meet up with the other ship in a few, then we’ll head for the other planet. Larel, can you come to the cockpit please.”

Din then asked as he wanted to know what exactly was the situation of the children currently as in could they hold on to their Jedi mind tricks for a while longer or where they exhausted or not and if they could indeed go on then if so for how long. So all and all, a lot of questions and doubts in his mind.

Din ignited the engines as they had been hiding behind the two moons as a precaution and letting inertia move the transport vessel for the duration. Before leaving their safety Din made a quick survey off all the instruments and scanners. Making sure there were no one out there to greet them. No one unexpected of course. The scanners and radar were clear so he manoeuvred the ship with ease to the position where they could see the other of their vessels reaching the orbit of the planet.

Just then Larel entered the cockpit. She patted Din on his shoulder to get his attention.

“You wanted to see me Master.” She politely said.

Din tuned towards the girl and said. “Yes, yes I didn’t want to discuss this over the comms, so. Look I just wanted your opinion in how long you think you and the others can hold up our, well, cover, fending off the enemy so to speak?”

“Well, they are all pretty tired and drained but,” she paused clearly trying to assess the situation over all in her mind, “I think if we rest while inside hyperspace as we don’t really need all to do it there then we should be a to sustain the cover for a longer period.” She answered Din’s question. “Also when the others join us we can alternate between us so that we can take breaks like I am doing now.” Larel revealed.

Din nodded in approval: “This is great news.” He simply stated. ”We’ll coordinate this with the others as soon as they are in orbit.” Din said to Larel.

Larel nodded in agreement. “I will contact them as soon as they are close and inform of the plan.” She said and the added as she pointed towards the back of the ship. “I will get back there.” And she was off.

It did no take too long before the radar started blinking. It was all green and that meant a friendly craft. The other ship had arrived in orbit and Din moved their larger transport towards the smaller one to rejoin them and then for them all to take off to the next planet. Opening the communications channel again Din greeted the others.

“Good to see you again!” He simply stated even if all he could see was the vessel itself.

“Good to see you too.” The pilot responded with a hint of relief in the voice. “We are ready for take off when ever you are.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Din said then. “Do you have the coordinates ready for our destination?” He was really running a checklist rather than thinking the other ships pilot wasn’t prepared as he knew this kids had been born ready.

“We do, Master.” Jaqee replied in an efficient tone. “We stand ready to follow you to the hyperspace corridor as soon as you open it.” He assured Din of the same.

“Excellent.” Din was glad the training he and Luke had give these children had stuck. “Let’s move a bit farther away from the planet and then we’ll jump into hyperspace, together.”

“Understood.” The pilot stated and Din could see the image in his mind of this young Jedi saluting him much like he and the others had done in class too.

“There is one more thing.” Din said. “We need the rest of you to join with Larel and others here in the connection. She’ll contact them now.”

“Alright Master.” Jaqee said. “We were kind of expecting that.” He added and Din should have already known this as the children of the Jedi shared a common understanding most of the time of things happening in their world around them as well as their classmates, a bond of sorts.

“Good, then let’s hit the road. We’ll still have a long way to go.” Din said and piloted the ship away from the planet before opening the hyperspace window for them to enter.

Chapter Twenty-four

Luke was getting really worried after trying to contact the four planets were the Jedi children were stationed at. Especially after the communication with Din had been cut mid sentence. But he wasn’t getting through to any of them no matter what tricks he tried to pull from his sleeve. It seemed that technology did not work for him from this distance. He was still far away from them half way around the galaxy almost and had no idea what was going on with the others. Except that they were in grave danger. He had few options left now and the first option of pushing the engines way over their limit wasn’t really an option at all as it could have easily torn the ship a part and well, that would have been pretty much it for him. The other option was to find some safe and secluded place where he could connect with the Force. So, going ahead with the second option, he started scanning the immediate space for any likely candidates to land on.

After a moment of punching buttons and searching for the perfect spot he found something which could work. It was a small size second moon orbiting a large gas planet. It was relatively secure according to the scans and there was no indication of any humanoid life or even animal life for that matter. The atmosphere was suitable though so, making a quick decision Luke punched in the coordinates to the navigation console and then he was on his way. At this point it was much safer for him to do his meditative connection to the Force in a hideout in the middle of nowhere and safely on solid ground rather than exposed in space while floating on a vessel rather unprotected. Besides, some places in nature were surrounded by the Force and Luke could easily tap into those resources should they exist at his destination. This was not the case in open space as it was void of any such thing. Well, mostly with a few exceptions of course. As there always were exceptions for everything in life.

As he approached the moon in his trusted x-wing of a craft he continued scanning the immediate area. But after a moment of scanning he found nothing suspicious there. He started the landing procedures and soon found himself flying over a green lush forest land. Deciding on the spot to land Luke manoeuvred the vessel down and landed neatly to the seemingly perfect spot. It was a tad tricky though to fit the small craft there as the growth of the land was quite thick and the trees were tall and branching out. But he managed to do it and then as he was down on the ground and switched the engines off. While still seated he listened to the sounds of absolutely nothing. With his eyes closed he felt what he had been looking for. The Force. It was present on this small moon of a thing very powerfully actually. He let it surround him feeling it almost tangible now. Yes indeed, this was the perfect spot he had chosen to make his connection to his children. And this place would make it possible no matter where they were at the moment.
A moment passed and Luke decided to take advantage of the surroundings the gorgeous nature he had seen from above. Even if it did not matter whether he stayed inside the vessel or ventured outside, as the Force flowing there was encompassing everything. But he had been cooped up in the small craft for a while now and stretching his legs for bit and breathing in the clean air was far too tempting to pass by. After all he still had quite the long flight ahead of him to reach the chosen safe planets. Stepping out from the ship Luke took a good look around the immediate area and so far the only thing he could see were tall trees and lots of undergrowth. He got out and started walking around the area. As best as he could see nothing had threaded the area and nature had gone pretty wild there. He stopped and listened for a moment and then, there was a familiar sound that of running water. Luke decided to check it out even if this wasn’t a pleasure outing. Far from it. But he still liked to have the place for connecting to the Force to have a nice view and if possible, a water fall.

***

Luke was deep in the connection. Becoming one with the nature and all the life in there. The power of it all flowing through the Jedi Master while the surroundings were slowly but surely disappearing in the wake of merging completely with the Force. There was no time, no matter, nor sense of self there. Only the self-contained bubble where within Luke could reach out to all those tapping into the Force stream at the very moment. And even to those Force sensitive ones who could sense the “call” of another Jedi and would be able to respond to him. The communication channel through the Force was hardly ever a two way call in the commonly understood way. Rather patience and time were key words for it. Something Luke himself did not always have and having acted impatiently had caused a few issues for him. But this was nor would be one of those times.

Luke had lost all sense of time or the goings on outside of the bubble and he did not know how long had passed on the outside since he had opened the connection. But remaining calm and open minded was key in there so he could not worry of such things at this time and space. He was aware that it had been some time he had gone in there. But he decided to wait a while longer before he would take a break and try again. As it was, that so far he had not had any luck in getting anyone responding to him. Which wasn’t a surprise per se. It was a long shot anyway that anyone would respond to him right away. But maybe later he would get the call back. After all, there were so few Jedi and Force wielders in general out there anymore. So it was always a long shot to connect to any of them anyway.

Another moment passed and then Luke closed his mind and with that the connection was gone too. He opened his eyes and got up from his seated position and stretched his legs. It was pretty taxing even for a trained mind like his to be one with the Force in such concentrated manner for such a long period of time. But he was fine and as he was taking a break before trying again Luke decided to walk about for a bit and admire the views. As even if he was pressed for time there was really nothing more he could do now. Which had been to make the call to the Force and wait for his children to respond. Only then would he be able to find out what was happening with them and then he could act on it. Because he had a long way to go still and little time to spare. He needed to be certain as to where they were and what they were doing if anything before moving along.

Luke was wandering about the area and checking out the immediate surrounding. But he could not get too far as the foliage was quite thick and he needed to chop off some of it to get farther away. But this was not a nature adventure. Not today anyway and he did not want to disturb the planet more than needed to. As his presence on this uninhabited world was already in enough. Balance was key to the Force as it was to all nature and Luke was well aware of that. Maintaining that very balance, well, that was something Luke had learnt early on while training to become a Jedi and he acted according to those teachings through his adult life was always. Those teachings had served him well so far and it was something he passed on to his students too. As the most important thing they could learn, well one of them that is, but still one of the important ones. So, deciding to leave the exploration for now he was about to go back to his ship to pickup something.

That was when he felt it. Someone was calling to him. Through the Force.
Luke halted all movement and steadied himself before closing his eyes. As he did, he was concentrating on the message. He could sense the presence and hear the voices. He waited for them to get more clearer before revealing himself. He was sure there was nothing off or dark side-ish coming through as that was always the possibility too. After all, the same channels were used by both sides of the Force not just the light side wielders.. But then as he listened in, he was able to her all the familiar voices. The ones he had only recently been able to hear in real life.

Luke tapped into he connection, opening up his mind again to it. He reached for this students coming through the Force loud and clear now.

“Master Luke?” It was Hesta’s voice coming through. “Are you there?” The girls voice asked as Luke had disappeared from the connection for a moment.

“Yes, it is me.” Luke replied. “Are you alright? All of you?” He added immediately wanting to know they weren’t under duress or the Force forbid, having been captured.

“Thank the Force!” Hesta exclaimed and Luke was able to hear some of the other students in the background thinking the same. “Yes, we are fine for now.” Hesta told him. “Master Din came to get us and we are on our way to the third planet now.” Hesta revealed their location.

“Good to hear that!” Luke was happy the children were alright and that Din was on top of the situation. But they were still quite vulnerable as they had no idea as to the whom and how many were after them. Which was quite obvious at this point. The point being that the Dark Knights were after them.

“Yes, we should get to the planet soon enough,” Hesta paused and Luke was glad she was in charge. In a way as clearly, she had been most apt for it Din excluded of course. “We are using the Force to hide the ships from those chasing us but we are not sure as to how long we can keep up with this.”

Luke understood well how draining the whole thing could be. But he was also proud of his students of being able to do this. Not to mention how resourceful they really were. “I am sure you can do it for a while. You are all so powerful so I fully believe in you all and that you can pull this off.” Luke assured all of those listing in. “I am still far away but I will catch up with you on the fourth planet.” He wasn’t sure if he could keep his promise. But then again, they really had no place where they could go after picking up the rest of the students. So he had really no other choice than to be there as promised.

“Alright! We’ll see you there.” Hesta replied. “May the Force be with you Master Luke.” Understanding they could not chat on line indefinitely as there could be someone listing in.

“And with you, always.” Luke wished for them and then the connection was severed at both ends.

***

Luke was headed back to the ship. Ready to take off now that he had made the connection with his students and to be on his way to the them as soon as possible. He took one more look around the surrounding nature. Admiring the breathtaking views he was soon about to leave behind and venture back into the darkness of space. This was what he missed most while up there cooped up in his tiny vessel. But also, he felt quite sad about having to leave the planet of the school behind as it too had been a similar type of paradise. Just like this planet was and he knew the children had loved it too. It was similarly strong with the Force as this small moon was. Finding a same type of setting was difficult at best. But also a place filled with the Force was even harder.

But there was more than that to it here now and Luke felt that too. Despite its gorgeous beauty of a nature seemingly untouched and covered with such well lightness. Luke also sensed the darkness there. Which was understandable as it was the needed balance. But usually it was a small part only of the whole. But it seemed that especially now, he felt it as clearly as the Light Side. And it was much, much stronger than before. So much so, it was starting to surround him at this very moment. Or then Luke had simply ignored the signs clearly present earlier. As he had concentrated only on getting his message through to the others to notice it before this moment.

Whichever the case had been he sure was aware of the Dark Side now. There was no doubt about the flow of it on the midst of it all and it was getting stronger by the moment as he remained in his place assessing the situation. The feeling of fear, angst, doom, even death were all now surrounding him like a thick, impenetrable wall he could not get through. Sure Luke had faced this situation before but never this strongly. And never had he felt the panic so tangible inside of him like he did just now. His throat felt like he was being strangled and his head was pounding too for what ever reason. Despite his training and being a forceful Jedi himself, he had not felt like this since he had been an untrained youngling all those years ago. Also, he could not tell whether these feelings he had were actually of his own making. Something he highly doubted to be the case. The most obvious answer was that those were the making of an outside source.

So, what ever it was he could not seem to be able to shake any of it off. Which in itself was disturbing on so many levels. He fought the sensations really hard concentration being key. And then after a moment of struggling internally he finally managed to loosen the hold of those feelings somewhat. Enough to move at least. As he managed that Luke wasn’t going to hang around to find out what or who was behind it all. No, he needed to get the hell out of there. Just as he was about to step into the craft he felt it again. More strong than anything he had felt before. The Dark Side. Turning around he found himself face to face with the enemy he had not expected to find. Not here, not in this place, and certainly not, while being alone. But he had and they were there. Now. And Luke was totally alone. And not quite prepared for this type of confrontation at all. No, he had been compromised and not in any shape to fend for himself. As the fears in the back of his mind started rising once again leaving Luke baffled and helpless for the first time in a long while.

Chapter Twenty-five

The convoy or rather two ships at the moment was now in orbit of the third planet where they would pick up the third party of the students. Din had already been in contact with the leader of the safe house and had gotten word that they were loading the ship and headed to orbit immediately after that. There they would rendezvous with the rest of the group. Din was relieved there had been no sign of pursuit so far at least as the children had combined their efforts in hiding the escaping vessels from those chasing them. Not an easy feat but they all seemed to be quite powerful especially now when danger was real. And they all pulled their best to make it work. Soon enough the others would join them and then there was only one more planet to go to. If this pace kept on going Din was certain they would be able to evacuate all the students within the allotted time he and Luke had previously calculated.

It did help of course that they were pushing the engines to their limit. And they were all pulling together to make things happen as quickly as possible. Also there was the whole Force thing they where utilising, the group of young Jedi children now hiding them all from the bad guys. As the possibility of the dark forces surveying them was quite real still. This of course meant that they could be able to fly a direct route rather than be on the look out and and take detours if being chased. After all there were other fractions out there as well besides the Dark Side who wanted the heads of the Jedi on a stake. Not to mention the children would most likely make excellent trading cargo for any hunters out there too.

So in essence, running as fast as they could was key. The third group was also well aware of the Force meld the children onboard the two ships were doing. Which meant they would also add their own powers to the mix once in orbit. The more there were present of them, the better they would be able to split the participation as well. Meaning they could have more breaks after working in shifts and in addition they would have stronger powers after resting in between the sessions. All and all, they had a great plan in place.

The communications channel crackled to life and the voice of the leader of the third group came through. “We are taking off now. Our pilot has set the coordinates to the orbit.” The young Jedi trainee, Aldeen stated the facts making Din aware of their status.

“Roger that.” Din replied. “We’ll be waiting here for you.” Stating the obvious but it was better than not acknowledging at all.

It did not take too long when Din could already see the ship approaching the stratosphere. Din waited until they too reached the orbit and parked themselves beside the two waiting vessels. He then opened the communication channels once again. This time to both joining ships and said to the comms device. “We are ready to move to the last planet for pickup. The coordinates should be ready for you both.” As he had just sent them over their navigation consoles, just in case.

“Roger that! The coordinates have been received.” The first craft acknowledged.

“Roger! We have them too.” The second one did the same with Aldeen responding again.

“Alright.“ Din acknowledged back and then punched the internal comms open. “We are about to take off again. Everyone ready?” He knew that Hesta in charge of the whole Force thing now also knew what that meant and had waited for her acknowledgement too.

“We are ready.” Hesta’s voice came through loud and clear and somewhat more confident than before as clearly, she and the others were getting the hang of what they were doing.

“Everyone, let’s hit it!” Din ordered as he opened the hyperspace window for them to jumped in. First off was the largest and lead vessel followed suit by the other two smaller craft whooshing into the fast space time corridor on their way to meet up with their comrades on the fourth planet.

***

The trip to the fourth planet had been quick and uneventful as the distance between the last two ones counting from where the first batch had taken off, wasn’t that long. The three vessels exited hyperspace a short distance away from the planet’s orbit as there had been absolutely no indication of any other unidentified craft in the vicinity of it. Neither had here been any bleeps on the radar nor had the children detected anything off inside the Force either. So all and all, it seemed there would be nothing unexpected waiting for them there.

Din had made contact with them shortly before leaving the third safe planet and all had been fine according to the student in charge there who had answered his communication. They had been ready to pack up the place and board the vessel as they had spoken. So, none of them suspected any kind of ugly bumps on the road ahead as the transport ships were flying quite fast through hyperspace to reach the others as soon as possible. Din had been quite antsy about the whole evacuation situation and wanted it to be over as soon as possible. As even despite the kids being divided on several planets, well, it all sounded like a great plan. But the evacuation proved to be somewhat of a hassle, at least in Din’s mind.

But things turned out differently than expected as the transport piloted by Din exited the hyperspace tunnel found out. Being first of the three ships he had no time to react when immediately all the alarms started going off one by one. The whole console of the con station was blinking with red lights and the loud sounds of the klaxons blaring through the small cockpit. Din hit the breaks so fast that the second craft almost crashed into him. As he had little time to but to react and stop all forward motion. Then only was he able to open a channel to the other two transports to warn them about what he was seeing out there.

Hovering over the planet where the rest of the children were. Not that they had most likely seen all the same warnings and enemy ships on their own consoles. Three unknown craft were in orbit around the small planet and there was no sign of their own transports anywhere. Din opened the communication between their own ships scrambling the transmission with a code they had agreed on while training for evacuation on the planet of the Jedi Academy. Trusting that they were all aware of it he then talked with the two pilots regarding their situation and what their next step should be. And most of all how to safely get the rest of the kids out of there if it was even possible now due to their enemies hovering over the planet.

But first, the three vessels needed to make a b-line somewhere to hide before the could hammer up a plan on what to do next. Din was talking with the other pilots regarding their situation.

“We need to get the hell out of here before they detects us. That is, if they haven’t already.” Din sounded hurried as he was punching the navigation console and the vicinity scanners at the same time he was trying to speak and think of a plan for them to go hide.

“The shattered moon’s asteroid belt on the far side of the planet should be able to give us some cover at least.” Aldeen had already been on the situation as soon as he had realised their dilemma being a smart one. “We can get there without passing the planet and those ships.” He added.

“Unless they detected us.” Din had eyes on the radar too as well as keeping on glaring out the windshield of the cockpit. But so far the vessels seemed to be just hovering there, doing nothing.

“I doubt it. If they had, they would have faced us already.” The second pilot Jaqee then said. “Then again, they might just be watching what we do next and then act on it.”

Din wasn’t happy to hear the second option at all. Then again, the situation could have been much worse as the enemy could have accosted the transports immediately after them exiting the hyperspace corridor. There was one more thing Din worried about and that was that maybe there were even more vessels out there. Some of them might have even already landed on the planet’s surface and these three were simply the lookout. There were no sings of further vessels in orbit but the scanners of the old transport were not able to read what exactly was going in the planet either. Especially if they were powered down. What ever the case was they could not get into a firefight right now as the transports had little if no weapons on them. The only option would be a stealthy kind of a hit and run assault and then take care of whomever was on the planet, foe wise. But first, they needed to hide.

“We better get to the asteroids before they come after us.” Din then told the other two. He then got an idea to fool those un-friendlies orbiting the planet. “But let’s open a hyperspace window as we would be exiting the planet and then come back from the other side of the planet.” Din explained his plan.

“Good plan Master!” Jaqee said.

“Agreed.” The second pilot responded.

“Alright, since we are in an agreement.” Din started and before there was a change of heart by the other pilots he started the count down. “In one, two… three!” He exhilarated the vessel to full throttle and disappeared into hyperspace. Followed by the other two craft right on this tail before the three ships in orbit were none the wiser.

***

A quick jump to hyperspace, swirling around the planetary system, but in a tight kind of a pattern and then exiting on the other side of the actual planet while remaining undetected by any enemy vessels. The three craft managed to perform this not an easy task at all in one swell swoop. The three ships having been almost back to back within only short distances between each of them to make sure they would not loose each other for what ever reason which might have happened during this really hard manoeuvre. It took some fine flying and a few specific tricks by the pilots but they all managed to pull it off nevertheless. Din, the most skilled one of them all, naturally, plus the two younger ones who were now following the example and the training received by Master Din as a backbone to pull this no impossible seeming feat. As they all arrived unscathed and in a neat row just at the specified coordinates inside the former moon’s debris field Din once again opened the communication channel between the three transport vessels.

“Everyone still with us and OK?” Even if he already knew what the answer was as they were all showing up on the radar of his ship’s console.

“Present!”

“Aye, Master. We are here too!”

The curt replies echoed through the comms as clearly, the pilots were in awe of what they had just accomplished. Even without too much expertise but using their wits and training received they were proud of their efforts to pull this off.

“Good, then let's make sure we are secure enough inside these rocks here.” Din was already pushing through the larger boulders and settling in for the place he found to be best suited for the lot of them.

The other two pilots followed his lead and soon enough the crafts were snuggled in close proximity to each other inside the debris field of the blasted moon. Or what ever had happened to it in the past. The point being that they would at least for now be undetected by those enemy ships in orbit. What they needed next, was a quick and dirty assault plan as their people were still on the planet and they needed to get to them and fast.

“We are protected.” Hesta’s voice came over the internal coms as she and the rest of the students were wielding their Force powers to secure the ships for now.

“Good! Thanks Hesta.” Din told the girl before stating to himself. “Now the only thing we need to figure out is how to get to the planet unnoticed and help the others to get out of there.”

“Um, Master.” Jaqee was on the other line. “We could try to use two of our ships as a decoy while the third one goes down to the planet.”

Din had actually thought of a similar approach. The only problem was that there might be other foes down there as well as they had no idea who it was they were up against this time even if they assumed it was the Dark Knights. But most likely there was someone else with their own people there as they had yet to emerge to orbit as agreed.

“Is there a way to boost our scanners in such a manner we could detect if there are any un-friendlies down there alongside our own people?” Din asked knowing that both of the current pilots possessed technical aptness and most likely could figure this out.

There was a moment of silence on the airways. Then Aldeen spoke to the ether again. “I might be able to reconfigure the search parameters.” He paused as if thinking it over some more. ”Larel would be the best bet though to do it. She is on your ship.” He added.

“Yeah I know.” Din said and pushed the button for internal comms again. “Larel, can you come to the cockpit.” He then said and waited for the response.

“Sure.” Larel’s reply came in immediately.

As she walked in she took the co-pilot’s seat and then as if knowing already what was going on, she talked to Aldeen over the comms. “I could start configuring the scanner over here and then send the specs over to you.” She turned then to Din just in case if he was wondering how she knew the plan already. “I was listening in to the conversation.” She added rather coyly like she had made a booboo even if there was no protocol in place for this and no secrets being discussed anyway. “So I know already what you are suggesting.”

“Great.” Din told her. “Then we can save some time here as well.” It was supposed to be a snide remark but she admired the way Larel was being proactive so it was all good and sounded rather positive when the words left his mouth.

“Alright. I am starting now…” She did not finish the sentence rather was already typing to the console with full throttle to modify the scanners.

“Guess you could not see through the Force then if anyone was there I mean?” Din asked just to be sure what was going on.

“No, we could not. Someone or something is blocking us.” Larel revealed as much as Din had already suspected the case to be.

“So, how long?” Din asked.

“Thirty minutes, tops.” Larel said never taking her eyes off of the console.

“Alright then.” Din replied sounding happy even.

He took a more relaxed pose in his chair letting Larel complete her task in peace and also quiet. After all, Din knew well how disturbing it could be while working on something important if someone else was chatting beside you constantly. Closing his eyes, just for a brief moment, he was in his power nap mode for a few as it had been a long day. Not just for him but all of them and it was far from over. But for now at least there would be some time for a break, albeit a brief one.

***

The communications channel crackled with static noises as the two other pilots waited patiently and without uttering a word. They were listening in as Larel worked on her task. Doing her magic as it were. Applying her natural skills to alter the scanning devises of the transport ship so they would be able to detect any and all lifeforms below on the planet’s surface and in the immediate surrounding area. But also the orbit as otherwise they would be going in blind and most likely to an ambush situation. The current mode was that they were unable to detect anything further away only at a close proximity. This was simply due to the old school build of these types of vessels as the short range abilities was something of a designed for the old model ships as they had never been intended to be used in outer space. That was until Din his team of students had modified them.

Using the Force was also out of question at least while scanning for anyone or anything near them at this point. It was becoming obviously painfully to them all, that their nemesis was blocking all attempts of using the Force connection at least in this part of space. Whom ever it was out there seemed to be much more powerful than the Jedi children combined. And for now they had ceased all activities in trying to avoid detection as they would be completely vulnerable by themselves when caught. At least where the Force was concerned as Din was pretty sure that most of the kids would be able to handle any of the weapons onboard just fine. If it came to that kind of confrontation that was. Naturally it wasn’t a desirable scenario to think of at any given time. But still, they just might need to be prepared for that option as well soon enough.

Not being able to contact Master Luke was something they all worried about also as Din had tried several times over after making their way to their current hideout. Using the old school physical means sending him several communication pings. But only getting no response to any of the requests. Larel, Grogu and Hesta had tried to contact him through the Force also. Both together and separately, resulting only with the same response as Din had. Being that of a ‘no response’ on the other end of the line. It was as if he had gone completely silent from the galaxy and that was not something he did out of the blue. Not without at least letting the students and Din know about it. Because he sometimes liked to spend some alone time secluded and without any connection to anyone else. Still, this did not seem like the time to do something like that.

And not being able to connect with him also lead to the conclusion that the Dark Side wielders currently out there blocking them was also responsible for the loss of connection with Master Luke. They had simply no idea where he was or when he would be able join them again. The only thing they could do now was to concentrate their efforts in getting the rest of their people out of the last planet. And then to find some place secure enough to hide them all and wait for Luke to contact them instead. As he might simply be so far away at the moment that there was no way to connect with him via conventional means. So, for now Din let it slid and stopped pinging the man constantly.

Or at least that was what Din let the children believe regrinding the Master Luke dilemma. He himself had a much darker suspicion of the situation Luke might be in and had even been formulating a scenario where Luke had been captured by these Dark Knights. Whatever the reason behind this specific idea having popped up into his mind after formulating reasons why he had been unsuccessful in getting Luke on the other end of the transmission was unknown to Din. But he did not want to alert the kids not yet anyway as there was the more pressing matter at hand. Din had tried to slumber in his chair a little shuteye after a long day. But sleep eluded him and he kept going back to the Jedi Academy and the training mission which had failed due to the Dark Knights busting in on it. He wasn’t sure exactly but the whole thing seemed so well, off. In his mind there was something he could not put his finger on. But what ever it was the worst case scenario of it Din knew he would go after Luke and try to figure out what had happened if he did not appear soon enough. But for now he glanced at Larel who was busy at the console still. Reconfiguring the scanners and just little before the allotted time was up she perked up and stated over the comms.

“I am sending the corrections to you now.” And pushed the button to hit send.

“That was fast.” Din smiled at Larel.

“Yes, well, guess you just need to know what to do.” She had a faint smile on her face too, happy of the praise she was getting off course.

“Good job!” Din then told her.

“I am initiating full scan now. Of the planet’s surface and orbit.” She told as much to Din as the other two at the end of the comms. “Please adjust your devices and follow my lead.” She then ordered for the two pilots to do.

“Aye.” She got two replies in almost unison.

Larel then punched a few of the command buttons. And soon enough the low key buzzing sound of the scanners filled the otherwise silent cockpit indicating something was definitely out there other than their own people. Two sets of eyes were glued to the screens of the console now, patiently observing, looking and waiting for the possible results soon to be appearing there.

Chapter Twenty-six

“Well, well, well!” The Dark Knight with their face covered by a fearful looking helmet exclaimed. Standing right in front of the now shackled Luke and clearly gloating over their capture. “If it isn’t the infamous Jedi Master himself.”

The snide remark emanated deep from within the masked figure who was the only one donning such an accessory. While the rest of the dark force wielders, all four in total, had colourful war paint covering their faces only.

The voice had sounded mechanic as the helmet clearly had some sort of a device distorting it to more menacing like, evil if possible. At least that was how it sounded in Luke’s ears at the very moment. He was standing tied up after having been captured. It had happened quite quickly and efficiently too. Having been unaware of the Dark Knights even lurking around while Luke had tried to connect with Din and his Jedi children to find out what was going on with them. As soon as the Dark Knights had been upon him had he only managed to sense the Dark Side’s presence. And then the Dark Side had taken over the space and time around him and there had been nothing he could do about it. Except to yield to the situation. As their leader, which this person now in front of him most likely was, had been wielding a power Luke could not break through. He was currently unable to even move as he was literally frozen in his spot. But his vocal cords were still working. So deciding not to let every insult thrown his way get by without commenting he simply stated.

“If you feel I am that infamous, then how come it took four of your goons,” Luke was pretty sure the tallest with the most fearful mask was the leader, “to capture me?” His voice was quite calm much to his own surprise too. But then again his statement wasn’t quite true either as he had not even managed to put up a fight against them. The Dark Knights had simply surrounded him without any warning and then he had been captured easily as Luke had not been able to put up any kind of resistance at all.

If the leader of the Dark Knights was affected by this comment they certainly did not show it in any way. At least there was no change in their body language nor their voice either as they simply responded to Luke in a calm tone. “Well, as far as your reputation goes, I was surprised how easily we managed to capture you.” There was a snide cackle though which sounded very off to Luke.

Luke did not like to hear that truth at all. Yet he was being detained by the Dark Force wielders and he did not have any idea how it was even possible and why he could not resist them. So, there was that to consider too. But Luke was not about to let this, person of a thing, no matter how dark they seemed to be, see how he really felt. And deciding on keeping all his emotions in check pushing all doubt and fear deep, deep inside of him before answering the clear baited comment.

“Maybe I let you capture me.” Luke simply stated. “After all, what would be the best way to figure out your enemy than to get inside their head.” He tried it even if he knew it sounded quite lame even to him. But this meeting or rather capture of a thing seemed to be that kind of a thing where whatever aces needed to be used.

The masked Dark Knight was either surprised by this comment or then not. There was no immediate response to Luke’s bait either. Rather they stepped aside for a moment taking their distance before making a circle around their captive, Luke, as if assessing what he was all about. Luke wasn’t entirely sure as to what was happening. But even if he tried to remain calm and cool and seemingly unaffected by this, person, he felt the bile rising in his throat. The anger which he had tried to push down was now threatening to surface. And his mind was filling with all kinds of images of the Jedi children lying slaughtered and dead on the very planets they had been on. In supposed safety where Luke had left them.

Luke wasn’t sure what was happening to him but he was ready to lash out. And then as his mind was filled with utter darkness, he managed to break free of his restraints. Grbbing the lightsaber from his belt and slashing the Dark Knight into half. As he did so the other four disappeared out of sight too. Luke glanced around him and then out of no where the same Dark Knight reappeared. Standing in front of him quite whole and unharmed. Glaring into Luke a laughter started echoing through the air. Very loud, evil like and with clear superiority in it making Luke’s skin crawl. He was surprised too as clearly he had no succeeded in doing what he thought he had done. It was rather that the Dark Knight had made him think he did the deed. It was a sort of reversed Jedi mind trick, only done by the Dark Force, still seemingly real for the Jedi Master.

“You really think that you, can defeat me?” The Dark Knight finally asked in a menacing tone.

And then as they were standing there, unharmed in front of the Jedi Master, their mask faded away from their face and the person behind the cover stood standing face to face with Luke. With a smirky and slightly devilish grin on their face. Something Luke had never mastered himself but it seemed to be the trademark for these Dark Side types. The unmasked person was someone, Luke recognised without fault. An image he had not expected to find under all the bravado and dark armour they had worn. It was like looking at a reflection of his own self. The perfect mirror image which was that of himself. It was not what he had expected at all. But there it was, standing in front of him glaring right into his face. And Luke could not decide whether he was seeing things or if this was real.

“Don’t like what you see?” The Dark Luke then asked from the Jedi Master. “This face? So familiar yet worn by someone else now?”. He continued and as there was only shock on the original Luke’s face to be seen, he then let out another loud laugh which echoed in the lush green surroundings. It was the only sound Luke could hear for a long moment making his skin crawl even worse if possible.

 

***

“What do you want me to say?” Original Luke asked from his counterpart.

Their discussion had stalled after all the clever puns had all been used up. Luke was not entirely sure as to what the agenda was here nor the fact that there was another version of him. Or then whom had manufactured this version. Clearly, this person was a clone. He had to be as there was really no other explanation. Similar in every way to the original one. The face, the mannerisms, even the lightsaber was an exact replica of his own. This was all so totally off in Luke’s mind but it was not a topic he was going to discuss with the other Luke either. Not now anyway. But clearly, this version of him was the product of the Dark Side. And as such had very different idealisms to what Luke had been trained and taught in. Being that of a Jedi tried and true. Also the constantly present snide smirky expression was something Luke never had as it was rare for him to even smile these days. And even if he did smile it was never in the manner like this clone counterpart was doing. There was something totally manic about the way he laughed and when he did do so. Pure evil was the word best to describe this bastardised version of himself. And it was quite obvious that this version was using the Dark Force as their source of power. And was doing it quite well too being more powerful than Luke himself was with his own Light Force powers. Blocking them too as it turned out. Which was something Luke was definitely not used to. And he wondered as to how this was even possible as they should have been matched in powers if they really were the same.

“That you are a clone of me?” Original Luke added not sure what the other one expected to hear for him to say as the clone had been silently glaring at him for a while now.

The Dark Luke still glared at his, well, DNA donor. Because that is what this supposed original version of him was in the mind of the cloned twin. After all, his maker had made him after the original had failed in so many ways. And now there was a second chance for this Luke Skywalker to make things right. To serve the darkness like he was supposed to have done in the first place. Just like his father had done before him had failed. Quite miserably too. It was pretty obvious for the Dark Luke now how weak and misguided the original version of Luke Skywalker really was. He was glaring at his own origins deep into the eyes. Seeing the lightness, the side which would never be successful and would always fail in their attempt of bringing peace and harmony to the galaxy. The only way, which was in Dark Luke’s mind was the Dark Side. As only by ruling others could any semblance of harmony be brought to those lower creatures. Those same ones who lived their pathetic little lives without ever understanding what greatness and harmony were all about. And now as he had defeated the origins of his own being. And so simply too. He, the clone, would be the one to do just that and to full fill whatever prophesies waited to be completed. Indeed he, was truly the better one of the Luke Skywalker’s, the Dark Force Knight.

“Yes, I am.” Dark Luke finally replied and raised his hand in objection before Luke could say anything as he clearly was about to do so. “But I am a better version of you. In every, single, way.”

Original Luke wasn’t sure how that was even possible but clearly the arrogance he had once possessed was now heightened in this clone version of him in ten fold. “Why do you think that?” Luke just had to ask not sure as to the why. But as disgusted as he was of the clone he was also curious.

Dark Luke laughed and said simply. “Because I am from and on the Dark Side.”

“Of course you are.” What else was there to say as clearly, this clone had been manufactured and then trained and also conditioned by the Dark Side. And there was nothing the Original Luke could say or do to change this clones mind.

“Yes. And I am living proof that the Light Side is a failure and will fall.” Dark Luke gloated.

Luke wasn’t sure arguing was the best way to go. So, deciding to let the clone lead the conversation as clearly, there was nothing relevant he could tell Original Luke as the only thing he seemed to be able to do was ranting about the Dark Side and how great it all was. “I am not exactly sure what you want me to say at this point.” Yielding pretty much to his captor then.

“Well, you could say thank you.” Dark Luke had that patent snide smirk on his face. Surely, a permanent fixture of his it seemed.

“Thank you?” Original Luke did not understand the comment nor the way of thinking this other Luke seemed to have.

“Yes. Thank you is what I said.” Dark Luke went on as he stepped a little closer to the original version of himself. “For saving the galaxy from such a pitiful and single minded Jedi as yourself.”

Luke did not have time to react to the comment as he felt the sting at the back of his head. A slicing sensation of pain followed as Luke was struck with a sharp object. He had not even realised it had been aimed at him as the clone version of himself was still blocking whatever powers Luke might have had left in him. Something which seemed to have been the case ever since he had become aware of the Dark Force wielders on the planet. It took mere seconds after the blow that he felt the numbing sensation all over his body. But he was unable to control it and fell down onto the ground. And then there was nothing but darkness to follow. And whatever happened after that? Well, Luke wasn’t able to help himself nor anyone else for that matter as clearly the Dark Side had won. At least this round.

Chapter Twenty-seven

“In addition to the two ships with two life signs aboard each of them there are some six more on the planet in addition to our own people.” Larel informed after having done her scans after completing reconfiguring the devices for a longer range.

“That’s not much.” Din stated already planning a scenario in his head on how to defeat the invaders.

“No, I agree. But even if we are more in numbers only a few of us are able to manage a hand to hand combat if I am honest.” Larel told Din flat on.

She was right of course as despite their training at the Academy, most of the students were too young and well, too scared really to handle any kind of real fight with weapons or even using the Force. Not to mention the fact that they were up against the Dark Side.

“That is true.” Din had experienced the reluctance of some of the children when training them tactics and weaponry before and certainly he would not send the younger kids out there to any kind of fire fight either.

“I suggest we use stealth and ploy as we approach the planet as we have no idea what the status of our people is at the moment.” It was true as he scanners could only detect life signs and so far, they were all in one place. Meaning that the Dark Knights had most likely managed to reach the students already and holding them hostage but at least they were all alive still.

“I agree.” Din told the vigilant girl and was thinking what the best strategy would be. To take a small strike team and take care of the Dark Knights perhaps?” He was thinking now and voicing out his questions at the same time. “Are the small flight pods on this vessel still operational?” He then thought of the tiny two fitting landing pods the transports carried which weren’t exactly up to par. But they had tested them back at the Academy at least that there was power to them. Getting them into flight, well, that was another matter all together.

Larel’s face lit up just then and she replied. “Yes, that is a great idea. And in theory they should work.” She added.

“In theory?” Din asked not exactly sure as to what it meant.

“Well, as you may remember we did a preliminary check up on the small craft before leaving. But as we were out of time we only managed to confirm they would power up.” Larel confessed. “We should be able to mask them easily as the effort is minimal compared to our large vessels being masked.” Larel went on.

“So, in theory,” Din recapped their status. “we should be able to take six of us out there on the planet. Armed to the teeth and hopefully land the pods unnoticed?”

“Exactly.” Larel beamed and was half ready to jump onboard and take off.

“Alright then, we need to choose two from each ship to do that then.” Din looked at Larel who seemed so eager to get out there and kick ass at this point in time. And Din knew she was a great fighter too in addition to being the tech savvy power Force user as well. But, there was a but coming after all. “Look, I know you want to get out there and all. But you are the best…” Larel interrupted him before he could finish the sentence.

“Look, Master Din, I know you want me here, just in case. But I am the most qualified out there too. Even more so than Aldeen is,” As he was one of the few Din trusted with weapons. “But Hesta and Grogu can handle things here.” She was adamant of getting on the fight it seemed.

Din was eye to eye with the, well, young woman really at this point as Larel had proven herself on more than one occasion. As had Hesta during this mission too. “Alright, alright!” Din yielded to the situation, knowing argument would be moot. “we two will go.” Din then told Larel.

Smiling she replied to Din. “I will prepare the pod here.” She was off before Din could even respond.

“Aldeen, Jaqee. Please prepare the pods and two from each of your ships armed and ready to take off to the planet on my mark.” Din ordered over the comms to the other ships.

“Aye.” Were the quick responses from the pilots as clearly they were either aware of the situation through the Force connection or then they had simply come to the same conclusion. Whichever the way was Din was only too happy they were following his lead on this one as it was imperative they did so. To be successful in rescuing their people on this somewhat half concocted rescue mission of theirs.

***

The pods were flying under the radar towards the planet while dodging space rocks and other debris as the laid in course was somewhat of a winding kind. It was just to be on the safe side of things even if they were approaching from the opposite side where the enemies ships currently hovering above in the orbit. The Jedi children onboard the transport vessels were once again using their combined Force powers to shield the small craft from being detected by their enemy. Now that they had some idea of what to expect on the planet surface resistance wise, they had at least formulated a plan on how to proceed. But then there was the whole matter of the Dark Force behind those would be assailants or kidnappers on the surface of the planet. Would they be able to defeat them? Even if they were matched in numbers to their enemy? The catch was that Din was the only one of the six heading to the planet now, who actually had real life combat experience. The rest of them were, well, children in all the meaning of the word. Even if they were the most skilled and most trained of them all. Still, having them in arms was better than nothing. But Din was not about to let the five kids, no matter how Jedi they thought they were, be there in the firing line. No, his plan was to accost the assailants himself as quickly and stealthily as possible and let the others take care of those children still on the planet. And to make sure they got away safely, all of them. Free them even if needed as they had no idea if they were captured or not. Most likely they were. There was also the fact that they had not been able to alert the others below as the Dark Knights were blocking their Force connection on some level still. Not even poking holes in it had been possible even if they had tried hard to do so. Luckily though, they could still use the Force to prevent their detection if nothing else.

Din had made his plan clear to the rest of his small assault team also. But knowing how stubborn most of them could be he did not trust them to remain in check if anything went wrong once they landed. Rather them running amok on some half assed rescued or similar was a most likely scenario. So, it was his duty to make sure everything would go according to plan once down there. And then to take care of the rest of the Dark Knights once they were all safely off the ground. The weapons of the pods were non existent so what ever they would do had to be done while the other transport ships still invisible to the enemy ships. Din had left clear instructions for the seconds in charge on the ships. The pilots as it where, that they would engage the enemy as soon as Din gave the order. It was only when they were all ready to leave the planet with the rescued children. It needed to happen at the same time as there was no defence against the ships on the pods as the only weapons were on board the transport on the ground still, which he intended to pilot back himself. Therefore this whole operation was a quick ops lasting a matter of moments. Or at least, that was the plan. It was a fine ballet after all which they were doing unrehearsed with too many moving parts to begin with. But Din trusted these kids as they had proven to be a well oiled machine several times over. Working together well and coordinated in training session back on the Academy planet and now, would be the ultimate test of those training sessions. Even if this was a live action moment where things could go horribly wrong and fast at that, there was no second rehearsal option. But, Din was sure they could do this all, together. The kids on the ships out there, the six of them in the pods and those remaining still on the planet, well, he knew deep down they could pull this off. They simply had to as there was no try. The only option was to do it. Simple as that. A lesson he too, had learnt from Master Luke, as handed down to him by his own Master before him.

“There is no try.” The words still echoed within Din’s mind. “Do or do not.” And with that sentiment, he started the decent of his pod followed by the other two right on his tail.

Chapter Twenty-eight

The pods had landed just a short distance away from the settlement under cover of the lush growth there. Hiding the small crafts almost completely. So far it seemed the three pods with their crew had gone unnoticed. At least none of the culprits had approached them. After landing they had made several scans of the premises verifying that the life signs of the extra beings on the planet were still the same count as before. Six unidentified signs to deal with. Their own people were present and counted for, at least in numbers. And they seemed to all be situated in the same spot which indicated one of to two things. First one being that they were inside the vessel and ready to take off from the surface. Or then the second option was, that the culprits had herded them all into a single place to keep any eye on them. The question of whatever it was their captors intended to do with the Jedi children was still unknown. There was the distinct possibility for them being kidnapped as it seemed to have been the intention also before on the Jedi Academy planet. But then again, this was not a fact which had been established yet. It could be even worse though. Which was to kill them. But that option wasn’t something Din or the other members of the strike team did not even want to consider as they were here on a rescue mission after all. So, agreeing in not so many words spoken out loud to go with the last premise. The team ventured out from their hiding and towards the settlement to find out what was going on.

Din was in lead and the other five followed in his footsteps. They quickly made their way through the forest area and emerged from the other side of the barracks where the kids had been staying in. Larel was scanning the area with the small handheld device and determined where the children were at the moment. Which was inside the barracks. As they were only an earshot away from the life signs Larel was using hand signals to her team to convey the information to them. She motioned for the number of the life sings she had detected bunched up together and the pin pointed coordinates to the rest of the crew who all nodded in unison of understanding the message. Din was quite proud of this professionalism the young woman was showing and was only too happy he had been the one to train her. In the art of combat that was. They all moved in a file formation towards the house trying to be as silent and inconspicuous as they could. The other life sings were not in the near vicinity and as Larel kept on scanning. They soon appeared as loud bleeps on the device. Being the second in the row after Din she tapped him on his shoulder and then made the hand gesture of halt to the rest. She made the sign three plus three and motioned towards the direction of the life signs. Din nodded and then pointed to the house indicating he wanted to go in and get he kids as was the plan and then only accost the bad guys, as he had put it earlier. They all continued then. Making their way inside the house in no time. Soon enough they could see the children huddled up in the middle of the living area of the house. Din motioned for three of them to go and get the children as was the plan. Which was for half the team to guide the kids out and then to the transport. While the other three would give cover to them and take care of the assailants. They all nodded in understanding and soon enough the team was split in two. each smaller group taking their agreed positions.

***

Aldeen was leading the team of three now going towards the house where the rest of the Jedi trainees were located moments ago. According to their smaller life sing detectors they were all stationery there. Meaning they had been captured and held under a gun. Zigzagging behind the building in the heavy under growth there to avoid detection from the two armed Dark Knights standing guard in front of the building at the only entrance to the small size dwelling. The team decided to get in through the back windows as there was no other door or entryway visible anywhere.

While the other team was making haste of the rescue of the kids, Din, Larel and Ora, the third of the group were preparing for a shootout with the enemy. Taking their positions quickly around the area surrounding the house and the transport ship they had each taken a spot where they could gun down two of the Dark Knights. Or at least that was their assumption these goons were going to be. The two standing guard by the front door were for Larel to target. Another two were situated beside the ship which were tagged for Ora and then two a bit farther away. Standing beside their own two smaller vessels currently stationery on the ground. Din was headed there. Luckily for the rescue team, nature had pretty much taken over the place even if the children had managed to weed out the court yard. But there was pretty much lush growth everywhere as this was a rainy planet and the green was growing all over with gusto. But for the rescue team it was also a great cover as they quickly made their ways to their designated coordinates.

The first team was at the back of the house and two of them were prying the windows open while one was standing guard. It took mere seconds to open them as there were really no locks on them. After all, no one else was living on this planet so there really was no use for such things. They managed to get inside undetected. Then moving along through the sleeping quarters and and into the general area. The outer doors were open and the two guards were checking into the living area where the kids were all seated in a circle in the middle of the floor. They all looked scared as they were mostly of the younger bunch with only two older students leading the smallest group of the four. Aldeen and the other two ducked behind the sparse furniture laid out on the floor and soon enough they reached the first children. Making the “shh” sound with their fingers, they quickly settled among the kids. They needed to get them out of there but there were the two guards at the door and as soon as Aldeen gave the signal to Larel, Ora and Din. Then the shooting would start as the trio needed to take the assailants all at once. Aldeen looked around the group while he himself and the two other members were blending in hoping the guards would not notice them until it was too late. With simple hand movements Aldeen made their rough plan clear to the children and the nodded in understanding with little as possible movement.

Aldeen pushed the button of the small comms device which was also part of their equipment. But he did not talk rather letting it give out a small static gurgle sounding voice. It was the signal for the other team to start sniping out their enemies, one by one. Soon enough, there was a swooshing sound and another reminiscent of a cork popping. And then a loud thud immediately after. The rescue team immediately knew what was causing it. It was the silencer at the end of the barrel of the gun the team had opted to use on their weapons as this mission needed to be as covert as possible. Soon enough they heard the swooshing again and a second pop and another thud in the process. Rising up a little and peeking through the furniture, Aldeen could see the coast was clear at the door.

“Alright everyone. It is safe to start moving.” He whispered to the kids, whom all started getting up in an organised fashion and heading to the doorway where they remained waiting until the rescue team reached them.

“We need to wait for the others to take care of those knights guarding the transport.” Aldeen whispered again to the kids and then pushed the comms a second time.

Waiting for the transport to be cleared, they all listen in silence as Ora was taking his aim and firing two shots in a row. Taking out the ones guarding the transport quickly and efficiently. When Aldeen could see the two guards were down on the ground, he waved for the children to follow him as he started towards the ship. His two team members taking the rear as they moved quickly in a single file towards the vessel. Just as they reached it and were ready to embark, one of the enemy guards growled and raised his weapon much to the surprise of the rescuers. Aiming at the children haphazardly. Aldeen took one aim and shot the guard again without further thought of taking a life as his friends and family were threatened now. The kids looked at the dead body and then at him but did not make any comments rather made their way quickly inside.

“Good job.” Eliel, one of this team patted Aldeen on his back as he reach his schoolmate.

Aldeen simply nodded. Even If he was a bit shaken for taking a life, he was also happy and prepared to protect his friends and family. Stepping inside as the last of the group, he made sure the doors were closed and then proceeded to check the ship with the other two members to secure it completely.

Meanwhile, Din had reached the last goons and was already aiming as he heard the others taking their shots. It took two quick swooshes and pops and the Dark Knights, or supposed ones, were on the ground without any warning or sound. Dead, all of them. Din went to check on them securing their weapons and making sure they were indeed dead. And as he reached them, he could not see any blood any where. Rather they seemed, well off, on so many levels. Pale in complexion even if they had just dropped dead which they should not have been. And there was no pulse as Din checked to make sure. It seemed that these, people, whomever they were, had been lifeless even before they died. They were all humanoid clearly. There was no question of that. But still, something really strange about them. And they had none of the markings the Dark Knights had had back on the planet of the Academy either. The ones they had encountered the first time around. Shaking his head Din decided not to dwell on this now rather to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible. He was heading towards the transport to make sure everyone was alright and then to leave this place as quickly as possible as it felt haunted on some level now.

***

They Jedi children from the fourth safe house were all safe now and sound as they were securely on the transport ship ready to leave the planet behind. Din had opened a comms channel to the three other vessels still hiding behind the planets former moon. With was now a pile of orbiting space rocks confirming they were about to take off. According to their continued scans, the two remaining hostile vessels were still in orbit. Being not entirely sure whether they were aware of what had happened to their cohorts on the surface the expectation was that the hostiles would most likely open fire on the escaping ships as soon was they would take off and reach orbit. But it could not be helped now. The pods did not have any weapons but the transport had two cannons and that was why Din had decided to stay on board and to man the guns. Their other three vessels up there were also instructed to give cover fire during their ascent. Despite being mostly children with little if no experience in battle, still their resourcefulness and willingness to do what was asked from them even if the impossible, made Din quite proud to be their guardian. After all, he was that now even if it had never been officially stated. After all, it was Luke Skywalker had always been the one main person to be just that, the Jedi Master, their Jedi trainer, their guardian. But then again after joining this group of trainees with Grogu Din had soon become their mentor and trainer in other things as well. Which he had proven to be rather apt for and Luke had been glad of the help as he had been the only adult person there before.

But for now, they had still to find that place where they could continue their training efforts even if this mission gave some of the kids quite the crash course of live action combat. But even if the rescue itself seemed quite easy and straight forward so far, Din still had his own suspicions of the whole situation. As it had seemed so, well, effortless in so many ways. Being able to the land on the planet and get the children too with little if no resistance. Well, it all seemed somehow off. As this had all been an elaborate trap to keep them, Din and the children, in check or away from something else. As to the what, well, he had yet to figure that one out. Even if they were to escape, all of them, with their ships for the second time now from the Dark Knights. They still had no idea where to go next as Master Luke was nowhere to be found. There had been no contact from him in a while now. And even when trying to connect with him either through comms or the Jedi way they could not reach him either way. That in itself was an indication that something was off. But Din did not want to alert the children under his care just yet. First things first he thought. which was to get all of them to safety. Off of this planet and to make sure that the bad guys were not following them. After that they would regroup and the decide on a heading as they needed a place to stay for the moment. Somewhere, together. Only then would Din share his thoughts, his doubts. And then they could decide on how to get to Luke if it was even possible at this point.

“Alright everyone. Ready for take off?” Din’s voice boomed over the comms throughout the transport vessel and the three pods manned by the strike team members sans Din.

“Aye!” Was the unified reply over the comms and Din was pretty sure the children inside the passenger area were strapped in and quite ready to leave after the brief fire fight outside.

“Good! We’ll rendezvous with the rest of our group up there. Behind the planets former moon.” Din then told them. “But just to beware all of you. We still have bogies up there waiting for us. So we are going to exchange some fire again once we get to orbit.” He reminded them all.

And as there were no objections to be heard. Not that he had expected there to be either. He pushed the ignition of the transport vessel and soon enough the engines hummed to life. After a brief moment of sputtering and whining though. The ship then started ascending, taking off the planet. Followed by the three small pod vessels. Soon enough they reached the orbit only to find the other two enemy ships gone much to all their surprise. They made their route to the far side of the planet where they met up with the rest of their ships.

“Nothing on scanners Master.” The co-pilot informed Din.

“Well, that is odd. But lucky for us.” Din simply commented knowing luck had nothing to do with as the plot seemed to be getting thicker and thicker by every passing moment.

“Yes Master.” The pilot replied not sure if it was luck or if the enemy had simply gotten scared after they had killed the six below on the planet.

“Well, what ever the case is, I am sure glad to get out of here and get the gang back together again.” Din forced a small smile as of course he was glad to leave with all the kids now on board. But then again there was that nagging feeling, that something was so wrong with all of this.

Chapter Twenty-nine

The four vessels were in hyperspace making their way across the vastness of space getting as far away as possible from their would be captors. Hoping none of them were in pursuit as they had managed to make a clean getaway from the last safe house planet. Seemingly a clean one as in the scanners did not work in the hyperspace corridor so they could not be sure, not really. Now in search for a new locale to setup camp for the moment at least and then try to figure out what to do next. They had currently no home base in sight nor was there any news from Master Luke. No matter how many times they had tried to contact him. Meaning they had no idea where they could go to except some place preferably uninhabited and safe. For the moment at least. Only there was the question whether any place was safe for them as the Dark Knights seem to have a tight hold on the whole galaxy. At least they had been able to track down the Jedi quite easily. Even the protected planet which the former Jedi Academy was supposed to be had been targeted by them. But, whatever their real agenda was remained unknown for the moment. Whether it was to exterminate all the Jedi or to simply capture them all for whatever purpose they might have for them. Or then it was something completely different. Something none of them was able to foresee.

It was all open and up in the air as Din and Luke had not really had the time or chance to talk about the larger picture after they had fled the Academy planet. And at that point, the Master had left in search for a new home for them. And now Din was basically alone in deciding the faith of these children. Even if he had decided to tell them the truth, or rather his thoughts on what was going on and then having them voicing their own opinions on the matter. At least the older ones would most likely have some comments on that. After all Din did not want to make the choice for them all unless they were all on board as to which way to go. Or even if they still wanted to stay together anymore as their real trainer was gone. At least for now. Din was well aware of the fact that he himself could take care of some of the training. The more physical aspect of it anyway as he had already done so before. But there was so much more in becoming a Jedi he wasn’t privy to. And that part needed to be decided on how to continue if at all. Some of the older kids could train the younger ones of course. But it was risky at best as so many things could go wrong as they had not even completed their own training yet.

It might also have seemed like Din was jumping the gun with his thoughts as Luke could turn up any given moment. Then again, he had a sinking feeling something had happened to the Jedi Master while out there, all alone while looking for a safe haven for them all. But, first things first. Din tried to push all the negative thoughts aside as they needed to scan for a suitable planet at least for a shorter stay. His ship was the first one to exit the hyperspace corridor and then Din immediately started scanning for any such places in the vicinity. The closest option was a small system with seven planets which four of them could sustain humanoid life. He punched the specs up for each individual planet. Comparing notes of them before making his choice which one to pick. After all, they could end up searching for a place for a long time and eventually finding nothing. Knowing full well that the children having been cooped up inside the small vessels needed to stretch their legs and spend time together again. All of them. He then decided on one of the most suitable ones of the lot. He made another more concentrated scan of it and finding out there was plenty of forest and water there as well as minimal life signs, he made his choice. After that he sent the coordinates to the rest of the ships now standing beside the largest transport vessel. Ready for whatever orders Din might have for them as he had clearly been the accepted leader for some time now. Even if he himself was taking on the mantle reluctantly.

“I have found us a respite for the moment.” He then said over the comms calmly. “Let’s check it out so we can have a break from space for a while and stretch our legs on solid ground.” He added. There were no complaints or contradictions of the choice Din had made and soon enough the four ships were headed to the third planet of the system for a much needed rest from all the excitement they had had so far.

***

“Alright everyone! Let’s make ourselves comfortable but not too much so!” Din ordered the kids, after touchdown.

They kids, big and small alike were gushing out from the ships with gusto where they had been cooped up for a while longer than they would have liked to have been. Running out to check the lush green surroundings and well, breathe in some clean air in the process. At least for a moment. As soon enough they were called back to setup the camp before night fall. They had successfully landed the four transport ships on the planet finding the perfect spot for them. An opening in the middle of the thick forest where they could be safe for a moment at least as there seemed to be only animal life inhabiting the planet. They had landed the ships in a circular fashion to act as protection against the elements with their base camp quickly rising in the middle of the fenced off area. Tents were being setup as the ships were way too small to sleep inside of. As everyone was helping, the base was setup rather quickly and they were all partaking in the preparation for the evening meal as the sun was already setting. The younger kids showing fatigue so the older ones made sure all was done before anyone would fall asleep. They all then joined to eat and chat a bit before turning in for the night. Din made sure the camp would be protected enough as they had no idea as to what kind of animals dwelled there. They prepared guard duties for their protection for the night. Four hour shifts for each group with two of them in one group. Din made sure it would be mostly him and the older kids as the younger were, well too young for the task anyway. After they had agreed the steps for the night they wished each other good night leaving the two first ones on duty to make sure the rest of them could have a good nights sleep. As it was planned already, the next day they would had lots to do. First they needed to check out the planet as Din planned to stay there for a while at least. Secondly, they needed to plan the search for Master Luke. Then thirdly, they needed to decide where they would go next. That was of course if this planet did not prove to be secure enough. But for now, it was time to wish for a good night as the younger kids were already starting to nod off as the combination of clean air and a long day was catching up with them. After all, it had been quite the action packed day with flying through space, fighting evil villains and then using the Force to fend off the Dark Side. Not a small feat at all for the group of small wanna be Jedi warriors.

“Alright everyone, have a good night and we’ll see you all in the morning.” Din wished the children after the dinner had been consumed and they were all ready to hit the sack and simply sleep.

Chapter Thirty

There was only darkness surrounding him when he finally woke up from the deep sleep he had been in. He blinked and tried to move. But as his eyes opened he could not see much and moving around seemed impossible at best. He wasn’t aware of his surroundings nor how he had gotten there wherever it was, he was. He has no recollection of anything at the moment. Not even his own name. And that simple fact was disturbing to say the least. There was an inkling however, deep down in the recesses of his mind. That of having all the answers to the what, the whom and the where and even the why. But no matter how hard he was trying to reach them he simply could not. It was as if there was a lock of sorts blocking him of reaching that very information he needed to have. He was beginning to feel quite aggravated and frustrated of the whole situation even angry. And anger was something he could not afford to yield into as this action would be very bad for him. As to the why he knew this to be true was unknown. It was a gut feeling of sorts.

Why it was like that he could not say. But he was quite certain the he should not give into the fear and anger of his situation. It was as if it was hard coded inside of his very being. But how could he not be effected by this, this situation where he was in and simply not try to do something about it. Like try to remember who he was or maybe, if possible, even escape? After all he was a prisoner here wherever this place was, right? Or at least trapped. What else could it be as he had no means to do anything by himself. Not even move around. But the feelings of anger, hate and even failure were there. Constantly present now. Nagging him, taunting him, even bating him. And for now he could do nothing but dwell on them. Not really knowing what to do or what would come next. Or even if there was anything next for him. Maybe this was it, the final curtain? The end for him? Anger seething through him. Thoughts of the why he was being held kept on growing. But also a sense of defeat was part of it. Mixed emotions starting to tear him apart, slowly but surely.

Even if this all frustrated the hell out of him there was nothing he could do but to wait for the inevitable to happen. Be that his demise. Or then for someone most likely his captors to show up and tell him what to go do with himself. Still, he wanted to know it now as the boiling inside of him was forcing him to push hard. Him then trying to access the information buried deep inside. Only never reaching it causing the anger to grow stronger and stronger each passing moment. It was causing a huge conflict within. But that frustrated anger was doing something else to him too. That much he had noticed. Which was that the angrier he got, the better, he could move around. This knowledge alone made him think it was well worth the price for whatever the reason for not to use the anger was. And on that note he decided to use it. To get himself free and more. He continued accessing the source of anger and soon enough he was able to stand up straight. He pushed and pushed letting more of his bad feelings to rise to the surface. Going on until he reached something he had not been able to before. As he did a grin emerged on his face. Feeling strong and bold even that his efforts where finally working.

 

Little was he aware of someone watching him. His every thought and related action now on record. And then, being analysed for whatever purpose they needed to be. The watchers simply letting him do whatever he was doing and for whatever purpose these watchers needed them to be done. But he did not know of this happening of course and kept on going until the very moment, that he was free of his restraints and then, he was able to try something more.

***

They, had been keeping an eye on him for a long, long while until finally managing to capture the elusive Jedi Master. And now, They were still keeping an eye on him. Only this time quite closely and in a confined space. It had not been an easy feat, the capture, but using the children he was training had been the key in tracking him down. As the concentration of the Light Force in one specific place had been the factor to give his location away. Of course he had never been aware he had been tracked or traced even. Rather he had always thought that he needed only to protect those in his care rather than himself. A grave error in judgement on his part. After all as They had managed to get him on his own out there, in space, after leaving the Jedi wannabes in those supposed safe places spread across the system. But They knew all about the children and their locations now too. Then again, Their first attempt to capture Luke Skywalker on the very planet he was training the children on had turned out to be a failure.

If it had not been for the Mandalorian and his pest of a son there They would have caught Master Luke without anyone being the wiser. But then there were the few of the little buggers unfortunately, who were actually able to wield the Force to a great extent. Thus alerting Their operatives being there to the very person They were there to capture. Sure, They were aware that the children could be of some use to Them as per stated even by Their own Master. But, these children appeared to be more trouble than they were worth. As Their Master, the Dark Lord, as they liked to be called for whatever reason, had said as much. Being none too fond of any kind of younglings really, Jedi or otherwise. So for now, there was a hold on capturing the children as They had their ultimate price finally at Their disposal. The Master had plans for the kids for sure having had said as much and would apparently reveal the plan soon enough for Them. But for now They needed to make sure, that Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Master of the Light Side, would stay put where he was. And also that They should try to turn him to the other side of the Force, the Dark Side naturally, or else, perish in the process.

They had gotten word by now that several of Their operatives acting as a decoy on the planet where some of the children had been kept had fallen. But that could not be helped not now anyway. Casualties were a given thing in any operation and this time it was no different. Besides, there were plenty of foot soldiers where those ones came from. So, to get new ones to replace them would certainly be no issue as there was always some dumb schmuck who would join any organisation as long as the pay check was there. All of them were expendable as far as the Master was concerned as there would always be someone else in the line, just waiting for that opportunity to get rich fast. Or at least the soldiers were. As for Them, well They would be safe according to the Master, the Dark Lord. They had also gotten the information that the Jedi children had gotten away from all the planets which the kids had resided on. Something They were fully aware of as it had all been in Their Master’s plan. Which was first of all to find the children and then to keep an eye on them, just in case.

The Mandalorian had made sure though that the Jedi children were safe. It was something that could not be helped as the Mando’s presence had never been in the grand scheme of things. And after Luke Skywalker had recruited him for what ever reason. Something which was still unclear to Them and Their Master. He had brought in the Child after all, which had turned out to have very powerful skills where the Force was concerned. But as Their Master had not worried about it, neither did They. After all it was just an obstacle. And if necessary the two of them could always be killed. For now though, the word was from their Master not to harm any of the children or their current care taker as they could turn out to be useful at some point in time. And that was a fact that the Master had told Them also. He had some underlying plan brewing there that much was sure. What ever the case was They trusted him and that was all that mattered. Their one true Dark Lord, Their only true god and all mighty saviour was the one They trusted and even put Their life in the Dark Lord’s hands if and where needed. The ultimate truth and purpose for Them was being in the service of the Dark Lord.

Chapter Thirty-one

The Dark Side version of the one and only Luke Skywalker. The self anointed Dark Lord was admiring himself in the full-length mirror in his private quarters. The dark ensemble he had donned complete with a cloak and his signature dark red coloured lightsaber standing proud to its full extent now were looking nothing but perfect in his own mind. He truly liked what he saw. And why would he not, right? Despite being a creation, a clone no less off the so called original one, the Dark Lord considered himself to be the only true Luke Skywalker. While the other one was simply a failed, first draft version of the better being that was the one staring right back at him off of the reflection in front of him. The one true heir to the mantle of those who came before him. And even a much better version at that. Long had he remained in the shadows while slowly but surely gathering his forces. Ridding off all those who dared to oppose him. Which even included his former Master who had proven to be weak and delusional and well, old and obsolete if he was quite honest. And he was. Always the honest one. At least in his own mind he was the epitome of the true carrier of the only true form of the Force.

He did not like the splitting of the Force to the Dark and Light as he only saw the one version of it. There was no colour there at all. But those who still saw the galaxy as black and white he had donned the name, Dark Lord. Reminiscent of the old divide as he called it. But now that he had finally caught the impostor he could take on his tasks and rid the galaxies off all non believers, no matter light or dark. He had been dreaming of the moment when the so called original version of him would be captured and put in his place. As the servant of the Dark Lord. If he would not yield his powers and do just that. Well, the other option was to get rid off him permanently. Which would be a shame in a way as the Dark Lord truly valued the other Luke. To some extent at least. If nothing else, he would be a good example as to what not to be. To be presented at some point to the masses or at least, his disciples as the failure he truly was.

But for now, he had a plan in place for the original Luke and that was, to make him turn to embrace that which he was lacking. The darkness alongside the light. The two could exist together but the balance needed always to be on the dark side. Otherwise, the goodness would get to be too much and restricting their actions. The end justified the means. Always. It was the Dark Lord’s guideline and as long as everyone else understood that then the galaxy could be united. Even now there was so much death and chaos all around. Everyone, all the small beings out there were only considered with their own pitiful lives. Not that death was unnecessary. No far from it as there were still those ones whom did not deserve to live. And who got to decide that? Well, the Dark Lord and those whom served him, naturally. It was a given thing that his word, was always the right one.

Contemplating on this plan further the Dark Lord made a few poses with this weapon of choice in front of the mirror. Admiring his own reflection for a moment longer. Yes, indeed he would succeed. But there were many steps before he was where he wanted to be. The larger one now completed he was busy thinking on his next move. Which would be no small feat for him to accomplish. But, he was quite sure he could. After all, he was the real Chosen One. The only option for them all. And he would prevail. He glared at himself for a moment longer. His plans falling into place making him smile, a tad evilly though. Feeling good about himself. It was then, when the console beeped.

“Master, he is finally ready.” The minion informed his Master over the comms.

“Good! I will be there momentarily.” The Master replied curtly and then and cut off the transmission.

A wicked grin formed on his face as he glared at his own image in the mirror again. He then nodded to the reflection and stated. “Indeed you will be ready to service me. Like you were always meant to be. There can be only one, Luke Skywalker, and that is me.”

And with that final comment the Dark Lord walked out of his quarters. He was about to finally set things in their proper place once and for all. And nothing would stop him now. It had been after all, years in the making, but he was finally there. He was going to meet the other one, the lesser one, who would not be carrying the name he had once been given for any longer. No, it was time for the Dark Lord to be reclaiming his one and true mantle as the one Saviour, the true God of the Force.

Chapter Thirty-two

The x-wing was gushing through space. The hyperspace corridor was making the small craft fly fast across the vastness of the galaxy with the heading never more clear. It had taken some effort and time but he was finally on his way towards the planet where the Jedi trainees had setup a temporary camp with the aid of their current guardian, Din Djarin. The Mandalorian former bounty hunter and the father of one of the more Force sensitive children, Grogu. Of course there were several others among the trainees with the abilities to become Masters themselves one day while the others would become simple soldiers led by said Masters. But all of them were quite capable in wielding the Force. But they were a far cry from being all they could be without proper training. And getting back to schedule was the priority now as so many things were going on out there in the galaxy which needed their help.

After tracking down the coordinates to the planet Luke had set his coordinates towards the children he knew needed his help. After all, having them hanging doing most likely only the fun stuff kids liked to do. Well, it really was time to get back to the regime of Force training to the max. At least that was what Luke was thinking now as he had been away for far too long. And Din Djarin was not the best fit to train a bunch of wanna be Jedis, that much was for sure. As his idealisms was more on the punch and shoot and ask questions later kind of mode rather than having a more harmonious connection with the world around him. Still, he had plenty of desirable abilities useful for the cause even if he himself was not Force sensitive. Besides, the children seemed to like him. Quite a lot and that in itself was a huge plus point for the Mandalorian.

The lights on the console of the small craft were blinking as Luke steered the vessel towards his destination. It would not be long now before he would be able to land. He had sent a short encoded transmission to the small settlement before entering the hyperspace window. Letting them know he was finally on his way. He knew he had lots of explaining to do of his, well rather lengthy absence and being incommunicado for the duration. But he knew that they would all be pleased to see him again. After all, he was Master Luke Skywalker, the one and only solution for the children down there. Most likely waiting for his return and for his guidance to lead them towards their ultimate future. And that would have to be enough for now as he did not want to make any excuses of what he had done or where he had been. After all, he was there in the here and now and that should be enough.

The light on the console blinked once again. This time indicating he was reaching the end of the hyperspace corridor. The vessel jumped out from the fast speed with a huff and puff sound. Approaching the planet he then steered the x-wing with precession and accuracy. Finding the location of the settlement quite easily and doing final adjustments before landing onto the small opening in the forest area. It was there where he could see the other ships surrounding a small camp with their tents serving as dwellings for the kids and their guardian. Luke had already found the perfect place for them to setup their training facility but first things first. Which were to reacquaint himself with the children and then break the news to them. After all, this planet, no matter its beauty and off grid location, was not a safe place to stay on for too long. And it did not have the similar Force qualities some of the other planets in the galaxy had. But for today, reunion was on the list and relocation would take presence at a later point in time.

 

***

“Master Luke!” One of the students shouted out as he noticed the familiar figure walking towards the small camp site. “Everyone! Everyone! Master Luke is back!” He turned to shout to the other children of his discovery as they were all doing their stuff in various places of the small makeshift settlement. But soon enough they were all caught in the attention of their mentor making his way to the camp.

Rushing to meet up with him as he approached them was something he wasn’t expecting to happen. Nor was it anything that he usually did either but he could not help himself. As all the kids made it pretty clear he had been missed and that he was welcome and that they were so happy to see him that they simply crowded him in a mass of a circular form while the first ones to meet him latched on to his body. Hugging him and the rest of them simply piled on making it a one huge mass of Force hung stuck together. It was the smaller kids who where there right next to him while the older ones remained at the back. Even Grogu and Hesta were somewhere there, making sure their teacher, mentor and over all Master knew he was indeed loved. It was an overwhelming moment for all, but mostly for Luke himself. Almost bringing tears to his eyes. Which was again something he did not do, not anymore anyway. Maybe when he was younger. But these days, certainly not. Alas the overwhelming feeling of the moment which they were all caught up in was catching on him too, so guess it was alright to let the principles go for once and hug them all back.

Din had also noticed the commotion as he had been doing some repairs on their vessels. Not that there was much wrong currently with them other than being quite old. But he was doing some upgrades and what-nots which had been pending for quite a while. And as there was plenty of time since they had landed on this planet of a safe haven for the moment without finding a better destination or even Luke himself. Well, there were those odd jobs which he occupied himself with as the kids helped with from time to time. It was all good to do while waiting for some of the feelers they had sent out there to their trusted contacts to come back with either information on Master Luke. Or then, a possible Force sensitive or rather concentrated planet to settle on. But for the time being they had agreed all to wait a while before moving along.

Then, the transmission had come through from out of the blue from no other than Master Luke Skywalker himself. Telling them he was on his way to the planet. As to where he had been and the whys included plus the fact that he had found them. Well, there had been nothing on those things in there at all. Only the comment of him being on his way back. The kids had been cheering and grateful. Not that they did not like spending some time off on the nice planet they were currently on. And Din was as good a surrogate father to them as anyone could be and they all loved him for that. But, like so many other things going on for a while there, everyone eventually got used to their situation. And the kids and Din had been no different in that regard. So, it had been quite the surprise when Luke had appeared out of nowhere after the long while he had been a way.

“Hey kids!” Was all Luke managed after getting crowded by them all. “It is good to be here!” The kids still holding on to him for dear life it seemed as they were clearly happy he was back. All of them that was.

Din was walking towards the mass of hugs and he smiled and waved to the Jedi Master who waved back at him. Clearly overwhelmed with the amount of affection he was receiving too.

“Glad to have you back Luke!” Din shouted over the crowd. “As you can see, you have been missed here!” He added with a crocked smile to his friend whom he too was happy to see. After all it had been a while and as much as he had enjoyed spending time with the kids on his own he was glad to have the other adult back again.

***

Luke was settled in his tent. The makeshift dwelling had been setup for him to join the rest of the crew as they were now living on the planet before finding their permanent locale to settle in. After all, it had been the reason which Luke had ventured out there in the first place. To find them a new Force sensitive planet to settle and build a new school on. But those plans had been delayed somewhat after the unfortunate happenings while doing just that. Alas, he was back now and had some data acquired as to which way he and his followers could go. Despite their current choice in its isolation and beauty, the planet was still far too close to other settlements and was not enough Force wise to be the place to stay on. As Luke was back now things would move forward and the next day he would put forward some of the locations he had managed to map out and then they would choose and move to the best one and start rebuilding.

It seemed, that the kids were happy and well kept. Running around playing even, as clearly Din had been keeping a more of a slack order for them than Luke would have liked. But that would all change as soon as they would make their new home possible. And then they would go back to the training regime as there seemed to be a lot of catching up to do in that area. Of course Luke was impressed by the kids ability to fight and fend for themselves while being alone and then on the run. The older students had handled their responsibilities aptly and were to be commended for that. But they were still all children and it was Luke’s responsibility as the adult, their mentor and trainer, to make sure they would go back to their training and to become the best Force wielders they could be. And starting as soon as possible even while on this planet.

“Tomorrow.” Luke thought before dozing off to a light slumber. “Tomorrow I will restore order and we’ll start with the proven regimen and then move up from that.”

He was making mental notes in his mind about all the things he wanted to done now and then, while moving towards their new heading. A checklist of sorts existing only in his head. Things he had gone through several times while being away, out there. But now, he was back and things would have to change. After all, that was his mission and that had never changed. Only this time, he would push full force and get his way. It was the reason he was here now. He would implement the changes slowly and gradually. And then, when the time was right, he would push to full throttle. Still, he did not expect any issues with the overall plan at all. Then again, all of the children in his care would become the best they could. Under his tutorage, there would be nothing mediocre only the best they could be. Luke smiled widely into the darkness. Patting himself on the back of what he was about to achieve. And then he fell asleep, much like everyone in the camp was already doing.

Chapter Thirty-three

A few weeks had passed since Master Luke’s return. A reunion for both Master and students alike. As soon as Luke had settled in their interim camp, he had broken down his search data and then they had chosen a new planet. A new home where on to settle. This was the one where they would build their new school. And it was also to be the one with the promise of great connection to the Force. They had chosen wisely too. As for now after coming there it had been nothing but peace and quiet and lots of meditation for most of them. Even Din had tried on some for size despite him not being a big fan of the process. But he had succeeded in getting into the zone with the rest of them after a few failed attempts.

After getting familiar with their surroundings they had finally started building their new Academy. For some reason Luke had wanted to drop the Jedi from the name and simply call it the Academy for those using the Force. Ao Academy it was. They had gotten some aid from a fraction which Luke had made acquaintances with during his time flying out there in space. People whom supported all those able to wield the Force. But they were also willing to help the children with both material and labour. A real nice coincidence Din had commented to the Master, but Luke had told him not to worry and to simply trust them. So he had and they did. And now, the building of the dwellings was in full force of getting completed, as living in tents was becoming a bit tiresome for the kids and adults alike. Even if some of them liked it, it was not secure enough. And they were rather small to have any kind of school going on inside of the cramped tents. No, they needed a sturdy structure for both training and living. So luckily, they now had the means again to gain this with the aid of their new benefactors.

The loud noises of tools used for construction such as hammers, saws and others were filling the landscape momentarily. But the foreman of the helpers had been telling Luke and Din, that the work would soon be completed with the tasks. Even if the children were helping out here and there where they could, they still had plenty of free time on their hands. They were running about, playing, exercising and having mock battles under the guise of play too. Luke, who had scorned Din for letting the kids be too much of, well kids, had gotten quite the argument back from him. As much to Luke’s surprise, Din Djarin had finally put his foot down. And he had let it go. For now at least. Telling the Mandalorian, that he could have his way as far as parenting went for now.

But as soon as the school building was up and running, well, then they would return to a more strict regime. Din had tried to persuade Luke that he needed to give the kids a tad more slack. But had lost that battle. He had yielded to the Master then. But he had also decided that he would try to talk about this again, soon enough. Din had enjoyed being the guardian of the kids while Luke had been, well, where ever he had been. As the Jedi Master had never really revealed why it had taken his so long to search out this one specific planet. Especially, since the choices he had were three and he had pretty much told the others which one they would pick. But, again, Din let this slide as Luke was after all, the Master. And this was his place, his idea, even if Din had been quite a big part of the whole project for the last few years.

Having a discussion with Luke, however, seemed pretty one sided after his return. And Din was fearing his time was running out. As in he might no longer be welcome to stay at the Academy since Luke seemed even more strong willed, if possible, after his return. Something had certainly changed for him during his trip. But whatever it was, Din suspected Luke would not share that information with him. So from now on, Din decided to be less forthcoming himself and keep out of the Masters way. And then, rethink his options and choices as he most likely needed to make some changes after all. And soon enough. But today was not that day and deciding on giving it some time. Seeing how things would turn out for them all. For now at least.

***

It took two more weeks before the building was completed and the school with its surrounding living quarters were officially opened for business. The children could finally move into their respective rooms. And most importantly, they could return to their training schedule. As so far it had been only a part of their activities during the construction as the kids had been doing their share in resurrecting the place of study for them. Din had pushed Luke to give them some leisure time too. And eventually, after several heated arguments, he had relented in letting the children have some free time. Time for play and simply be and do whatever as the children they still were. After all, most of them were less than teen agers despite being of different races and ages.

It was also something Din had never really had himself. As being trained as a Mandalorian from an early age, not even a teenager really. So he never really enjoyed a childhood while growing up. Not that he complained, ever. After all, he had been well taken care of and all that. But still, seeing all these kids in the here and now, how their faces lit up while playing games, was good for him to see. It was much like Grogu had been ever since the time their paths had met. A kid at heart and a playful one at that. So, pushing the matter was something Din did. Until the time when Luke was willing to give in. At least, a little. An hour or two per day, that wasn’t too much to ask now was it?

But it was becoming somewhat of an issue between the two caretakers in the more recent days. As they seemed to butt more and more heads each passing day. It seemed to Din that Luke was more harsh with the children than before, He was also determined to have his way not matter what. It seemed that what ever he had endured during his somewhat lengthy and still unexplained absence was the reason. The duration of it or where he had been even or if anything had happened to him was still a huge question mark. He had indeed changed. And not towards a good direction at that. As he seemed more withdrawn and reluctant to yield to anything really than before.

Din and Luke had not seen eye to eye since day one as far as the training and treatment of Grogu went. But over the passage of time, they had managed to form a working and even mutually respective friendship of a sorts. Not that Din wanted to be best friends with the Jedi Master. But still, it felt good to have someone to talk with once in a while. Other than the kids that was. They had worked together quite well and the division between the training had worked for them both and the trainees as well. But then, the ordeal at the former training facility had happened causing them to have to flee and stay in hiding for a while. But now, things were supposed to be back to normal. Or at least as normal as anything in this galaxy could be. And that much Luke had assured him and the kids too. That they would rebuild and continue doing what they had before. Business as usual so to speak.

Still, despite what had been before, now, everything seemed to have changed and not for the better. At least, not where the Jedi Master seemed to push his agenda at the expense of the children. Making them grow up faster than it was necessary for any of them. After all, the galaxy had always needed saving and it could wait a few more years more. Just so that the kids would grow up. Complete their training and become the Jedi Luke wanted them to be. There was no more hurry for that than there had been before. There were always those who wanted to inflict harm on others and there would always be. But luckily there were those also, who would do the opposite. And Din was pretty sure there were others out there right now helping out. So these kids could be at peace at least for a moment longer. Taking their time in becoming all they could be.

All this was starting to weigh down on the Mandalorian. And the idea of leaving this place was becoming more and more dominant in his thoughts, as the days went on. But leaving Grogu behind and the way things were now? Well, that was something Din did not particularly like either. Even though Grogu had grown and was able to fend for himself. Then there were the other of course. Hesta, Grogu’s best friend and a sort of a family member too. Din knew the older students had proven themselves to be quite capable too and could step in if there would be any issues rising. So, he really should not have to worry about it at all. Rather to make his own plans if needed.

Then again, he could stay for a while longer and see how things turned out. After all, it wasn’t a decision he needed to do today, right? The things were going pretty well now. And besides, Luke’s mindset could be simply a temporary worry of getting everything on course. No big deal right? Soon enough, things would go back to normal again as the kids returned to school and Din could do his training for them as planned. So, taking a few days, weeks even to see how things turned out. Well, Din could do that, easily. This was just temporary, things happening, people blowing off steam and all that. It would all pass, soon enough. For the moment, this was the answer Din was trying to sell himself.
Chapter Thirty-four

Din was giving his usual class for the older students. That of defence fighting which included various methods and techniques. A proven regime he had already taught them on their previous home planet. He had also added classes for some of the younger kids too. The students which included Hesta and Grogu also. At least officially since he had already given his son and his best friend various lessons in the art form of defence and handling weapons. It had been out of the children’s interest and not by his own accord that he had gradually given the two children in his care this training. And now, as they were getting older and the hunger for more growing by each training session. Din had decided to make it official and added more willing kids to the fold of these specific sessions as well. It wasn’t something he had done behind Luke’s back as they had already discussed this some time ago. And even if the Jedi Master had been reluctant at first, Din had managed to convince him it was a good thing for the kids as well as they would be familiar with all fighting forms. Defensive, offensive and weaponry alike, even if they did not use the methods or guns themselves as the lightsaber was the choice armament. Luke had finally yielded and let Din plan the schedule and activities accordingly.

This had been before the Dark Knights had attacked their previous settlement and causing all kinds of breaks and issues for the Jedi Academy in general. Not to mention them all having to be on the run and in hiding for a while. But now, as things were finally back to normal. Well, so called normal anyway. It was when everything planned was supposed to resume. Business as usual as Luke had put it. So now, today, Din was staring the regime. But, only to have Luke bursting into the classroom in the middle of their session. Looking angry and well out of sorts. This behaviour was new as Din had never really seen Luke acting angry or sad or laughing for that matter. The range of emotions he usually was showing were basically calm, calm and a slight calm smirk. That was if something amused him, slightly. But today, he was off the charts. As he burst into the room like a dark storm cloud with thunder and lightning not far behind. Which really was the best to describe the Jedi Master’s appearance and mood.

“What the hell is going on?” Luke half shouted as he entered making the kids jump up in the air in the process as they too were totally unprepared of this kind of behaviour from their Master.

Din too looked pretty confused at the man. But somehow, he was not surprised. It was as Luke had once again shown signs of, well, unbalance. Something Din had observed immediately upon their arrival to this new home planet. But it had faded after a while and Din thought it had simply been a phase or whatever causing the Master to be, well, off balance. But today. And even a few days before there had been some tell tale signs, that the mood, as Din put it internally, was back.

“Um, we were sparring?” Din wasn’t sure if Luke was referring to the method they were using or something else completely.

“That’s what this is?” Luke pointed at the general direction of the space where the children and Din were.

Din was getting more and more confused by each passing moment, so he finally had to ask: “You mean the training session?” Putting two and two together from the ramblings.

“Yes! Of course is what I meant! What the hell do you think you are doing?” Luke shouted the question this time.

“Training the kids as per agreed.” Din was on the defensive now. “Remember? We talked about this several months back?”

Luke’s eyes were bulging out of their sockets as he glared at Din. And then at the kids and back at Din again. His whole being flaring if even possible as he was clearly very, very angry.

“I did not approve of this.” Luke spat out as he was objecting to what Din was doing. Teaching, Training. His children. They were children of the Force not of Mandalore and Luke would not have this. At all.

Din looked stumped and wasn’t sure where this was going. But he also did not want to argue over this in front of the children. As whatever was going on with Luke? Well, that was a whole other can of worms he wasn’t prepared to deal with. But it looked like he just might have to do so anyway. Deciding to try and defuse the situation, he then calmly walked to Luke and said in a low voice.

“Why don’t we talk about this, privately.” It wasn’t a question though.

Luke glared at him for a moment and then as if realising what had happened, he quickly calmed down and nodded in approval.

Din turned to the kids and then said. “Class dismissed! For today.”

The kids took their cue from him and quickly made their way out of the classroom leaving the adults to talk amongst themselves.

 

***

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Din just had to. He simply had to ask, as Luke was really getting on his nerves with his constant mood swings, And as the Jedi Master had not been forthcoming about what the hell was going on with him up and til now, Din was at the end of his understanding rope of things.

The two of them were now alone in the classroom after the children had been dismissed for the day as Din had seen it a wiser choice rather than argue with their Master right in front of them. If Luke wanted confrontation. Well, he would most certainly get it. But in private as whatever was going on between the two of them or rather with Luke. Din really did not have any issues other than the constant negative attitude and changing of mind with the man. The seemingly norm these days for the Master rather than anything else. No, it was Luke who needed the shaking up rather than Din. He had kept his end of the bargain as per agreed months back. And was giving the children the training they needed. And if Luke was against it? Well, he should have informed Din before the lessons took place, not after the fact.

Luke was starting to fume again as he was fed up with this, this person. This outsider. A Mandalorian no less. Who was trying to tell him, the Master, what to do and how to treat his children. Yes, they were his to train and take care of and not Din’s. Even the one he was the supposed father of. Even if it wasn’t really the case. Not by far as Luke had gotten all irked about that as well now. At the time calling Grogu “his kid” or “his son”. Well, he wasn’t. So what if Din had saved the Child from whomever in the past. This was now and Grogu was part of the Force and would be treated as such. This whole thing letting Din take charge of the children had gone too far in Luke’s opinion and it needed to stop. If he wanted to stay on board then he needed to follow the rules set by Luke and not go doing stuff on his own. And if he wasn’t happy about it? Well, then, he could very well leave. As neither Luke nor the children did not really need him to stay anyway.

“Why are you training these children in these… well, barbaric manners?” Was all Luke managed as clearly he had no idea where to start berating the man and what was actually wrong with the scene he had walked in on.

“What do you mean barbarian?” Din held his hands on his hips and his stance was menacing for sure.

“You are teaching them ways to fight which are not according to the Force.” Luke tried but he wasn’t even himself sure if this was the case. He only knew he wanted Din to stop teaching his kids and that was it.

“What are you on about?” Din wasn’t sure what he was hearing now. But it seemed so off and far from what they had already discussed way back when and agreed what Din could do.

“These fighting methods. You should not really train them. At all.” Luke finally said.

Din was silent for a moment. Completely blown off by this, well change of hearts from the supposed Master. Feeling a sharp stab in his back too, like a knife twisting there. Even if there was nothing there. Nothing he could get to at least.

“So what you are really telling me is, that you have changed your mind about me training the kids in various forms of martial art and fighting techniques.” Din responded.

Din had pretty much summarised what he had understood about the mindless rantings of Luke at the moment. The Jedi Master, who was clearly suffering from whatever it was. Either from what had happened to him while missing in action or then it was something else entirely. Din could not be sure.

“Yes.” Luke finally stated as he was no longer interested in fighting or discussing the matter at all. As he was sure he had been pretty clear on what he wanted and if Din wanted to go on with this mostly pointless argument. Then, well, Luke was really tell him off.

“I see.” Din stated calmly.

Even if Din did not see it or even agree to any of it. He knew he had lost this battle and if he was quite honest with himself, he was pretty sure there would not be a new one ahead for them. Not the one he could win anyway. So yielding was the best option for him. And then, Din would make up his own mind about what he was going to do from now on end.

“Good.” Luke said calming down too. “Then this matter is closed.” He stated and before there was another word from him, he left Din standing dumb struck in the middle of the room not sure as to what would follow next. If there even was a next for him in this place of places.

Chapter Thirty-five

Several months had passed since settling in and building the home and school on the small planet. Finally also the normalcy had fallen upon the settlement where the new Academy now resided on. The children were having a regular routine for themselves. Which was following mostly the schedule set by Master Luke. While Din Djarin was still giving a few lessons here and there of his own to a selected group of students. As the two adults in charge had finally come to some sort of an agreement to the kind of activity Din could teach. Which had been only after several clashes to be had and lots of head butting done by the twosome. Still, it had been only after the one hard battle between the two strong minds to settle on to this flimsy and fragile truce they now shared. Even if the two of them were not seeing eye to eye in the matter, Luke had let Din do a small part even if he did not like it at all. Which much was now clear to Din as well.

At least, some of the kids were benefitting from his teachings even if Luke did not allow all of the students to continue under Dins tutelage like they had done before. These were the older students who had indicated to their Master they would benefit from Din’s training. So Luke had to let them. Grogu, naturally, who was Din's ward was one of them. Therefore there had been absolutely no discussion over his situation at all. But the younger kids were not able to attend much to Dins chagrin. He knew Hesta wanted to learn from him too. But she had been redeemed as a younger student so she had no say in the matter. And legally, if there even was such a thing applicable at the Academy Din had no say. After all they were all technically Luke Skywalker's wards. Still, the girl was fond of both Grogu and Din and sometimes Din could see she wasn't as happy as she had been at one time. Just when they had first arrived to the school and things had been different for a long while. Still, Din thought, it would be only a few years and she too would be grown up enough to decide for herself what she wanted to do.

Din wasn't happy about the situation as it was. But he was at least grateful to be able to train some of the kids with his expertise. He was however growing tiresome of having too much time on his hands and not spending enough of it with Grogu either. It was after Luke had increased the Force specific training for all kids. Din had thought about the situation long and hard and made some decisions already. He had also contacted some of his former associates in regards of taking back on the road again. Checking up if there was any odd jobs or tasks he could do. Bounty hunting even. Simply to pass up the time. But mostly he was asking if he could help them with anything they had going on at the moment as boredom was kicking in, fast.

But, there was still, a slight snafu in that plan. Which was his son Grogu. After all, Din had enjoyed spending time with him. Wherever they were. So, if he was now about to take off for an unforeseeable extent of time? Well then he would need to leave Grogu behind. He was still in the middle of his training even if he was fast becoming the most Force sensitive kid out there. Or then he already was. Maybe it would be OK if Din was only out there a few months and then he could come back and see what was going on? And if Luke was still, well out of it, as Din thought him to be now. As even if they had settled to some sort of an agreement now, Din had noticed the subtle changes in Luke. Nothing major so far. But there were those he could clearly see happening. And each passing day Luke had become even more recluse and distant. Only appearing when there were lectures to be held. But it wasn't really Dins problem, now was it? At least as far as Grogu was fine, Din did not complain. But other times, he wished they could leave. Together and be a family, just the two of them again. Just like they had been before.

Chapter Thirty-six

“Grogu,” Din started not sure how to break the news to his son.

It was just the two of them tonight having dinner as per usual. Hesta was with the other children sharing their evening meal together. Something requested by Luke. As in his opinion, Hesta was spending far too much time with Din and Grogu. Din did not understand where this point of view was coming from. But as long as Luke held his tongue about Grogu and let the kid stay with his dad, Din was not about to argue the case any further. He had given up on standing against the all mighty Master as even their so called truce was wearing thin. The mood swings and decisions Luke was making kept going back and forth from day to day. Increasingly so it seemed of late.

So now, after a lengthy and somewhat heavy internal contemplation. Taking stock of all that which had happened ever since they had come to live on this new planet and setting up the new school. Din had finally come to a conclusion as to what he was going to do. He was going to tell Grogu the news first before saying anything to either Luke or the other students. It was no secret that Din had been in touch with the Mandalorians and other friends and acquaintances from his past as he had sort of kept in touch with them on and off again. But, before this week, there had been little if any interest out there which Din would have been tempted to go and check out.

That was until yesterday when a message, a brief one at that, from one of this Mandalorian associates had come through. It wasn’t someone he had much of a personal connection with, simply someone he had met before. And knowing that they had moved back to Mandalore after the repossession of the planet by Bo-Katan and her minions. Besides being rather cryptic, the message had bluntly asked Din to come and help them. As apparently, there was some kind of an uprising going on or similar situation. And therefore all hands on deck were welcomed to join. This was quite the perfect timing for Din. Not the uprising stuff of course. But as he had felt rather useless for the past few months he had made the decision to leave and go out there to find out what his options were. The only thing stopping him from already packing his trash and taking off was Grogu. After all, he had followed the Kid to be with him during his training. And even planned to leave together after that.

But now with the change in Luke and how things were progressing, well, Din was ready to leave. The only painful thing was to leave Grogu behind to complete his training. Even if Din wasn’t quite sure as to how much he still needed to be trained as they were supposed have discussed that matter after the competition. Which had been cut short due to the Dark Knights butting in. After that, there really had been no discussing anything with Luke. So, neither Grogu nor Din were really up to par as to what the plans were for the youngling at this point.

From Din’s point of view, Grogu was a fully functional Jedi given to account the fact how well he had performed during the few crisis situations they had going on. Not to mention how much he had developed in most things already. Even giving instructions and helping for the lesser students. But, Din had decided not to drag Grogu out from school and about the galaxy half cooked. He knew he had to hear out what Grogu thought of the whole thing though. But leaving school, was not an option. Not a good one anyway, Din had thought.

Grogu had been eating his food with gusto as per usual as Din was quite the cook given the chance. His son enjoyed all what he was able to produce. Grogu was cut off mid chew as his father had addressed him. His ears perked up and his eyes widened from the question standing there on his face. Even if he still did not speak out loudly, much anyway. They had gotten to the routine or rather habit of Din speaking out loud while Grogu shared his thoughts with him. Din was able to do that too to some extent, but he still preferred the more verbal way of communicating.

“So, here is the thing Kid.” Din wasn’t really sure how the break the news even if he had something rehearsed. It all seemed so inadequate now that the situation was there.

Grogu stared at Din, waiting patiently for his father to continue.

“Yeah, so here is the thing.” He rubbed his sweaty palms to his pants as he was becoming increasingly nervous despite being the mighty fighter and bounty hunter. He still did not seem to be able to break this type of news to his son. “So, I have been talking with some friends of mine.” Din glanced at Grogu waiting for any reaction. As Grogu was already aware of his father talking with his friends out there he did not comment and Din continued. “And there is something brewing on Mandalore at the moment.”

Grogu perked up further. His eyes growing slim as he heard the word Mandalore, knowing full well it would be something totally serious which was coming next from his father.

“So, yeah. They asked me, if I could go and you know, help them out?” Din had finally said what the request had been and that maybe hinting that he was about to take off even and soon too.

There was an awkward silence there between father and son for a long moment. Neither moving or eating or doing anything except glaring into thin air. Grogu not being stupid at all, knew what the comment meant. His father would be leaving. He also was pretty well and painfully aware of the fact, that Din and Master Luke did not get along anymore. Something which disturbed him greatly. And he did not blame his father at all. Rather he too had seen the change in the Jedi Master happening ever since his return. Something which he had been contemplating at length.

There was something off and he did not know what. He had asked Hesta once if she had noticed anything. But his friend had neither denied or confirmed she had. Leaving Grogu in doubt of what was going on and not to discuss it with anyone before he was sure enough. The bad feeling of it was growingly present with him these days. But he did not want to burden his father with it either. And now, this news he had gotten. Well, the news had simply validated the suspicions and not knowing what to do about it was nagging him. He was unsure if he was going to stay on the planet after his father had clearly decided to leave.

“I would go soon and then be back after the thing, what ever it is, is handled.” Din finally added.

So, Din was going at it alone leaving Grogu behind was the thought running through the younglings mind as he glared back at his father again.

As if reading his thoughts, which Din wasn’t at the moment, as Grogu was blocking his mind currently. “I don’t want you to miss school. After all, there is so much you have accomplished already.” Din said, sounding kind of sad. “And there is so much more you can learn.” Din tried.

So far Grogu had not commented at all. But after Din had made his, well, mind pretty clear for his son. Grogu decided to say what was on his mind and then he did so.

“Father,” when ever he used that term, Din knew he was serious or angry. And in this case, most likely both. “I can see you have already decided to leave.” Grogu paused. “And I can understand why.” He simply stated not going into details at this time. “But, you must know I won’t stay behind, no matter what the argument is from you.”

When Grogu shared his thoughts with Din he sounded so articulate making Din sometimes wonder what he would sound like when he finally actually spoke for real. It was quite mature especially when he was arguing his case. Or rather stating in non too many words what he was going to do whether Din approved or not. This was something Din had come to terms with slowly but surely. Usually letting Grogu do his thing. If it was within reason of course. Well, mostly it was.

Din looked at the Kid. Knowing from past experience there was no arguing with him once his son’s mind was made up. And this, was one of those times.

“So, you would come with me and leave all this,” Din motioned around him to make the point, “behind?”

“Yes.” Grogu simply conveyed to Din. “There is little I can learn here anymore.”

“I see.” Din wasn’t sure about that, but he suspected there was more behind what Grogu was not saying as the Kid was not stupid. And the arguments with Luke had surely been noticed by him even if Din had tried to keep them between the two adults only.

“Yes and I will help you with whatever is going on in Mandalore.” Grogu sounded almost proud in stating that as he was quite capable in holding his own in a fight these days, especially after their ordeals with the Dark Knights.

“How do you expect Master Luke to take the fact that you would leave in the middle of your training?” Din was still trying to change Grogu’s decision to leave in the middle of the school year.

“Honestly,” Grogu stated then sounding so adult like, “I don’t think he cares one way or the other.”

This comment surprised Din. And he was pretty sure he knew where this was coming from.

“Oh, I think he will. He was quite proud of you.” Din knew the Master had been as he had shared it with Din. Well, that had been before they had arrived to his place.

“Pride is not something a Jedi cares for.” Grogu simply stated and added. “I know I can learn more, but not here.” He said sound sure of what he was saying. “Besides, becoming a Jedi, well, it may not be what I really want to be after all.” Grogu finally revealed to his father.

It was validating pretty much what Din had been secretly hoping despite wanting Grogu to learn the Jedi trade. That his adopted son was interested also in the more. Like becoming a Mandalorian and learning other things as well rather than limiting himself with just this one thing. Which was being part of an order which had or did not have a future as it was or had been before. What ever the case was Din could not have been more proud of his son at the very moment.

“I see.” He then simply stated trying to hold the warm feeling and urge to hug Grogu right now inside of him. As he was after all still trying to talk to him into staying in the Academy.

Grogu once again squinted his large dark eyes and looked at his father. This time really looked at him. “Do you really?” He was clearly bating Din.

“I do, I really do. And ultimately, whatever you decide, I will back you up.” Din told him straight on.

Grogu, visibly calming down, knowing this was the truth simply he nodded. And then, without further argument or discussion, he continued eating the rest of his food. Letting Din know their little talk was over. He had made his decision already. And now it was just the matter of keeping said decision.

Din picked his own empty plate and mug from the table and took them to the small kitchenette in silence. But he was smiling as he walked the short distance. Happy he wasn’t the one to make the decision for Grogu and that most likely, he would not have to leave his son behind. Even if it meant leaving the school and his friends behind for Grogu. And most likely pissing Luke off to no end.

Final Chapter

Din was headed to the ship. The Mandalorians having made a request for his aid and having already been telling Luke as much. That he would leave. Something which had gone rather well. But then the discussion of Grogu had come up and well, that had not gone well at all. Din had not even suspected it would as he knew it was likely to cause even a bigger rift between the two of them. But it could be helped and before Din and Luke had gotten into a real fight about it, Grogu had stepped in and told Luke what was going on. Or rather what he had decided to do, so that had been the end of said fight.

Din stepped inside the small craft which had become familiar to him during the time he had had it. After acquiring it some time ago at a bargain and having it refurbished himself he was glad to be on the helm of it once again. In full beskar armour with his helmet covering his face, he took his seat in the small cockpit. Going through the pre-flight check list, he started pushing the buttons on the console. After a moment, he clearly heard the familiar babbling grunt from the back as someone was trying to get to their seat. He turned to look back and saw the familiar and comforting sight. Grogu was sitting there, just like he had in the past when the two of them were travelling together.

Despite their discussion of why Grogu should have stayed behind, the Kid had kept his mind and had decide to join his father on the quest. So now, sitting there, pretty he was. Dressed in full Mando gear with helmet and all. Except for his ears, which did not fit inside the helmet properly as they were sticking out quite adorably at that. Otherwise it was the spitting image, a mini me of Din. It was the one costume which Din had fashioned for Grogu after training him in the Mandalorian culture and ways, It wasn’t really intended for Grogu to use in battle, rather it was a daddy thing Din had done just for the fun of it. They had worn the matching outfits during a show and tell for the smaller Jedi children a few years ago as each of them were urged to bring out something of their own heritage to present to the others. A fun moment for all it had been, something which Din still looked back on quite fondly. Oh, how his perspectives in life had changed after all!

Even though Din was supposed to be scolding the youngling he could not help but smile while looking at his son. Proudly at that. As the small, well, a tad grown now, green creature was ready and willing to follow his father in his footsteps. And obviously wanting to be more like him, which Din found precious but also quite flattering. But, this was not going to be an easy mission. They never were before either. But things had changed in the past several months or so. And this was something, which he and Luke had argued about as well just before leaving. Well, not really argued too much. But in the end, Din had tried to leave Grogu behind to train while his father went to help some old friends to get their planet back. It had been a pretty short conversation he had had with Grogu about it as well. But he had tried his best to convince Grogu would remain with Luke while Din went out to do his thing. Alas, the Kid was quite stubborn or then it was Din. Either way he knew well, that if Grogu had decided on something, his head could usually not be turned. And the Kid was here now with him ready to leave. Maybe one more try to change his mind was in order? Just for the sake of it?

“Grogu, what are you doing here?” Din asked in a low voice trying to sound surprised the Kid was ready for the take off as they really had not discussed the details rather let things progress at their own accord.

Grogu gave his father the look of surprise. The one he used when he supposedly did not understand the questions. Or why it was asked as he was doing nothing wrong? Equivalent of the expression “Huh? What me? Why shouldn’t I be here?” It was during these types of arguments, where Grogu reverted back to their dynamics from before they had arrived to the Jedi training centre. Even if they could communicate now, Grogu also knew he would get his way easier using this good old proven method.

“Grogu, you were supposed to be in class training this morning weren’t you?” Din asked, getting another “ears up and I don’t know what you are talking about” from his son.

Din sighed and tried once again. “Does Master Luke know you are leaving?” He wasn’t really sure if or what Grogu had told the Master. As after the last discussion of the matter, Luke had seemed really pissed off when Grogu had interrupted their fight.

Din had “tried” to be sincere and convince the Kid to rethink his decision as he had been in the mood of the “come with”. But most likely, nothing Din would have done or said at this point would have swayed the stubborn youngling of his decision. And to be quite honest to himself, Din had not been looking forward to the time where Grogu was not part of his daily life. Even if it was only temporary. Besides, leaving him behind the way things now were with Luke? Well, that had not been appealing for Din at all. Add to that the absolutely adorable look of the Kid in his miniature armour. Well, it was a pretty sure thing that Din would not be able to say no to him. Which was most likely what Grogu had been counting on. Even if he sometimes acted like he really did not understand, Din knew he understood plenty. After all, they did discuss all things, a lot.

“Wherever you go, I go.” Grogu then threw back at his father. Not with words of course, but the thought he sent to Din, was pretty clear.

Din snorted and simply replied: “That one never gets old, does it.”

Grogu let out a cheer sounding sound knowing full well he had already won dad over and that was the end of that discussion. Not that he had ever doubted for one moment, that he could not wrap Din around his tiny little green finger and get his way. After all, he almost always did, almost always.

“Alright Kid, make sure you are strapped in tightly. The take off is a bit bouncy with this one.”

Din patted at the console in front of him and then punched a few of the buttons and finally the engine hummed to life. Sputtering for a moment before it ignited fully and was ready for the take off too as were the passengers.

“Here we go!” Din said cheerfully as the vessel lifted off from the ground.

There were always risks, as Luke had told Din before. Of leaving the training regime. But then again, there were always risks in life too. So why would this be any different? Maybe, just maybe because his son was able to yield a power which could bring down worlds. If he so decided that was and if he went all bonkers and then over to the Dark Side?

“Nah” Din thought to himself.

That would never happen. He would see to that. And then again, so what if it did. They would be together anyway. Dark Side or Light Side made no difference. As wherever Grogu went, so did Din go. No arguments there at all. Not now or ever, the two of them would stay together, father and son making their own way in the galaxy, far far away.

 

To be continued