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The Mandalorian, The Jedi Academy, Part 2

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Previously

Din had “tried” to be sincere and to convince the Kid to rethink his decision to leave the Academy. But most likely nothing Din could have said would have swayed the stubborn youngling of his decision. And to be quite honest with himself, Din had not been looking forward to the time where Grogu was not part of his daily life. Besides, leaving him behind the way things now were with Luke? Add to that the absolutely adorable look of the Kid in his miniature beskar armour. Well, it was a pretty done deal that Din would not be able to say no to him. Which was most likely what Grogu had been counting on. Even if Grogu sometimes acted like he really did not understand, Din knew he understood plenty.

“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. Alright Kid, buckle up! We are ready for take off.”

Chapter One

It had been a few years since the Mandalorian former bounty hunter, Din Djarin and his sidekick, the force sensitive youngling and Din’s adopted son, Grogu had set sail to space and leaving the Jedi Academy behind. The duo had made their way in the galaxy helping others here and there, the causes sometimes just, but more often times not. Usually it was about an individual or an other in trouble and even making a few bounty hunting trips to gain some currency for their living. Then there were the conflicts on Mandalore, which had been the initial reason for Din taking off in the first place. Or rather, that had been the push for him he had needed to leave the somewhat uncomfortable situation with Master Luke on the planet of the Jedi Academy. Still, it had been by request of his former associates to join in the battle as it were and so he and Grogu had gone there first after leaving Master Luke. But, as so many qualms and quarrels, it was mostly a matter of point of view and in the end. Nothing was really resolved on the planet Mandalore and Din had found himself more of an outsider than being of the feeling of belonging to those who were that of his creed. Or rather those part of his original creed, the Children of the Watch as it were, were basically non existent on the planet just as he had found out upon arrival. No it was mostly those who had followed their fearless leader Bo-Katan Kryze there in a hostile take over. Which they had succeeded in doing well so too and the former occupation was now officially over and the planet was being restored to its former glory, cleaned up, reformed and all that which needed to be done to get the place up and running. Not a small feat for sure and still an ongoing process.

However, reunifying their people, all those who followed the way of the Mandalore, had turned out somewhat of a more complex and political task for her than anything else. It was the simple why for her to have been inviting Din Djarin to Mandalore in the first place, right after her regaining the power she once had possessed. But after a while of staying there and trying to figure out the various fractions and the politics of theirs as well, Din had decided it was not for him or his son at all. As he and Grogu had their own way now and it was nothing really what the current regime of Mandalore was offering in turn to the dynamic duo. So, after trying, well, kind of, their very best of fitting into the current order on the planet, it had not taken too long when both of them had felt the need to leave. Not that they were asked to. Far from it as Bo-Katan had tried to offer Din plenty of things for his services. A high ranking position, possessions, a home for him and his son, all kinds of bribes as it were. But none of it had persuaded father nor son of the necessity of staying on Mandalore. So, in the end, they had packed up their trash and taken off to a destination unknown. As there really was no plan as to where to go from there. But they were together and that was all that mattered anyway in the end for the father and son duo. It really wasn’t the place where they would be staying rather the fact that they were doing things together. Home was there were every they laid their helmets as the adage goes. And so, taking off to space, to the new adventures and whatever awaited them out there had not been difficult at all.

But after leaving Mandalore, they had travelled the wide galaxy, doing a little bit of bounty hunting to get the credits they needed for their survival. But more often times, the two had set on a path where they were helping out those who could not fend for themselves. It was the Jedi way after all. And some of that had already rubbed off on Din while working with Luke Skywalker and the Jedi children. And it was also hardcoded in the DNA of his son, Grogu. So, selecting that kind of a way to make their mark in the lives of others had really been a no brainer for Din. Not that Grogu had made any request of doing things kind of the Jedi way, as they weren’t true Jedi either, neither of them. They were, as Din had put it in jest when someone had asked, hybrids of sorts, part Mandalorian, part Jedi and part having their own way. So, even if it had possibly started as a joke, it was their chosen way now. Travelling from system to system on the look out for anyone in a kind of trouble, beings of any kind crying out when mistreated, then the duo would be there to help in the best way they could. Being mostly successful of course, but then there were those times they simply could not make the change. Still they kept on moving forward and trying their very best. Which was all anyone could really ask for. Besides, someone needed to do something as they had yet to run into any real kind of Jedi out there so far during their travels, which they had also found odd in a way as they should have been.

Having kept in contact with a few of their Jedi friends, or rather one only, Grogu’s best friend at the Academy, Hesta. But as it had become more difficult for her to keep in touch with Din and Grogu and the explanations had become somewhat off. Still, Din had not commented on it. After all, she must have had her reasons as most old friendships usually never lasted, something Din had learnt in his own past. And so, Grogu who had had difficulties adjusting to not having his Jedi friends around him all the time and now more infrequent contact as well was hard on the Kid. But after doing their thing around the galaxy, those thoughts of loosing old friends had soon faded into the background. Of course Grogu had feelings of sadness due to loosing his friends, but it wasn’t a constant on his mind either. And his father could not have been more prouder of how well his son managed to handle the situation. And the truth being told, there was nothing they could really do about it. Luke Skywalker was in charge of the Jedi Academy and the kids studying there, so that was pretty much it. And on that note, the duo went on with their own lives trying to make a difference in the vastness of space and all those planets and people left behind by the Empire and the New Order of things having left them fending for themselves without much hope to make a difference. Until Din and Grogu happened to stop by and do what little they could to aid in whatever problems there were going on at any given moment.

***

The two were flying through space after attending a race in the near by galaxy. And not only that, but the dynamic duo had won it and a chunk of credits in the process. This bounty would last them for at least a few months providing nothing majorly bad would happen to them or their ship. The food they consumed was not costly, but the fuel for the craft was. Hauling across the galaxy was hardly a joy ride these days as the cost of parts and the go-water for the ship had gone up in the last few years quite dramatically. Having been out of the loop for a while after staying at the Jedi Academy for a long while and then making their way to Mandalore had kind of put Din out of the loop of such trivial things as costs of daily living. Something which had been a constant to him before. But somehow, it seemed that such radical changes were happening all over the galaxy and not just the cost of living. As a lot more people needed help too. But for now, Din and Grogu were at least set for a while and they had nothing on their radar so to speak at this point in time. Maybe flying off to some backwater skug hole for the while for some rest and relaxation as they certainly had earned it after their last bout. After helping a group of nomad settlers to get to their new locale and fighting away marauders in the process threatening the settlers in their new home. In the end, all had ended greatly for the now nomads become farmers, but Din and Grogu had taken some beating in the process, feeling tired especially now after the long and demanding race. So why not a break?

Punching a few keys on the console, Din could was looking for a suitable place to land on. After some effort the console beeped and a small, but lush green planetoid popped up on the view screen of the small cockpit which the two of them once again called home.

“What do you say kid, ready for some time out?” Din asked Grogu who was seated by his father in the co-pilot seat.

“I would like that very much.” Grogu then replied to Din.

As after several years and lots of practice, the youngling had finally come out of his shell and started talking, with words and all. It wasn’t that he had not really been able to talk before out loud. But he had been traumatised and hiding his abilities and acting backward was the best option for him. For both his mental and other abilities. But trusting his father now he had one day out of the blue started blurting out more than baby babble he used to do and from that day onward, Grogu had been exchanging words both verbally and mentally with Din. After all, the telepathic connection the two shared was handy on many occasion, when speech was not possible or even desired. But mostly, they talked out loud, when there was something to talk about as neither was too talkative at best.

“Well, then, let’s see what this place has to offer then.” Din smiled at his son and punch a few more keys to get the data off of the planetoid on the screen as well. “I think you will love this one!” Din then went on even if Grogu could clearly see for himself and he he had gotten quite good in reading all kinds of technical devices. But sometimes the old man wanted to talk and there was simply no stopping so Grogu let him talk. “It has all kinds of forest areas and some lakes too and there is no other detectable life on it except for a few animal sings. So, we could be just by ourselves there, no trouble from the neighbours!”

Din turned to Grogu awaiting his response but it was pretty clear to the Kid that his father had pretty much made up his mind about the planetoid. And besides, it looked good and Grogu also wanted to touch some land after being cooped up in the small craft for a while now. So, simply stating as per his usual. “I think that is sufficient for the both of us.” He smiled a little and Din was happy of his choice too.

Grogu, who despite his youth and former non verbal communication, had for whatever reason picked up a kind of proper and short to the point way of speaking. It was something Din had noted the other children in the Academy also doing, but it was still funny to his ear that Grogu had picked up on that rather than his own way of talking. Not that Din talked too much and too often, but with Grogu, he seemed to open up more and more frequently as well. Still, it was better to her Grogu’s words than the simple grunts and babbles he had used to articulate with before he had started talking. And even if they shared the telepathic connection, Din loved hearing Grogu actually speaking. Being quite the proud parent as he was of his son.

“Good, then let’s find a good spot to land! Preferably close to water!” Din said then and punched in the coordinates to the navigation computer and the craft lunched to turn and headed towards the green looking destination of their choice.

Chapter Two

Settling in on the small lush green planetoid of choice wasn’t hard at all. The scenery was very much reminiscent of the one of when the Jedi children had been on the run and with Din’s help had settled down on a rather similar place for a while. It was sure bringing back some fond memories for them both of them as they had set up their camp by the small lake, which was good enough for swimming and for the use of drinking water as well. There was no hurry for the duo to get anywhere else at them moment as they had the ship stocked with food and supplies for now. And after being cooped up in space for a long while, not counting the stops they had made for those urgent requests coming in for helping those in need, the dynamic duo had not really had a rest in a long, long while. So now finding the perfect spot to just lay low and be, well it was all simply great. The animals they had scanned to be on this planetoid side were few. But they were even more gorgeous if one could spot the colourful and large owl or the six legged deer type animal. The animals were quite timid but sometimes when Din and Grogu had been wandering the close forest area, they had seen both creatures and simply spent moments gazing upon the nature’s marvels. There was also a water fall with great views to the small size valley a short hike a way. It was also where the father son duo had been making short treks a few times during their stay. And now, it had been three weeks since they had landed on the green haven as Din liked to call it and so far, it did not seem boring at all. Even if it was just the two of them there. Which it had been from the very beginning they had met and so it was now as well. Despite their many friends and the kind of family at the Academy they had left behind, they preferred it this way. Grogu even having commented on it on a few occasion.

Grogu and Din had both set asides some time in the days for sparring a little. It was for keeping their skills going on. But also, Din had made sure for his son to keep up with the Jedi training, which Grogu also did a few hours a day. Of course throwing large rocks around in the air and doing flip jumps and what not he could figure out was hardly the same as what Luke had taught in the Academy. Then again, there were other aspects of training to be a Jedi which Grogu also did, like meditating and tapping into the Jedi network. But currently, according to him, there was little if no traffic there at all. Still, being one with the universe was a cool thing as he had noted to his dad a few times when ending the connection. Grogu had even tried to teach some of it to Din, but of course, not being so much of the Force sensitive type, he could only do so much with it. Still the meditation had done wonders for the flashbacks and nightmares Din had suffered from even before meeting up with the Kid. They duo had also been working on the ship somewhat. Making minor adjustments and improvements on it now that they had managed to get several new parts after winning the race with the vessel as well. As Din had put it, the old gal deserved some loving care after helping them win the coveted run with so many more powerful ships taking part in it. But Din was a great pilot and Grogu was a great co-pilot. So they had joined forces and then won the whole thing. Not that there had not been complications as there really had been no rules in the race itself and pretty much all kinds of cons were going on. But, their combined brain powers and set off skills had helped the duo to finish the line first of the bunch. And so the grand price had been theirs as well. And it was totally a large size bounty as Din had put it. Almost as large as the beskar he had once been paid in while supposedly hunting for Grogu when they had met.

As they had no schedule to follow but their very own one set for each day, it was still pretty much routine for them both. Get up, take a swim in the lake and then have breakfast together which usually Din prepared. Then some sparring, Jedi training and catch up on reading and other things and after that maybe a hike around in the nature or then simply hang out by the camp either chatting or even games as they both enjoyed playing together. Sometimes it was a more fast pace one, other times, they took their time in strategy games. And today was no different. They had both woken up early due to a new animal, most likely some bird, who had started making its noises even before the break of dawn close to their camp site. So, rather than trying to get back to sleep as it seemed impossible as the animal had kept on going with its ruckus, Din and Grogu had gotten up and made their way to the morning swim. As there were big edible fish in the lake as well, Grogu had managed to capture a rather large one with his bare hands as sometimes the fish liked to swim real close to the duo. So, breakfast was pretty much set with the fish and fresh fruit from the nearby forest they had picked on their hike the day before. Din being the master chef while Grogu hung around him and watched his father do his cooking. They had enjoyed the tasty meal and were about to start with their daily tasks, pretty much following the routine like agenda as it had worked out for them so well. It was just about then when they were preparing for another sparring match, today with tactical training in mind as Din had noticed the Kid was still lacking in hand to hand combat even if he was powerful with his weapons and Jedi tricks. But according to Din, it was good to have a full set of skills handy at any time. And so they started training.

The two were just outside the craft parked in the camp. There was a small clearing they had used as a sparring arena as it was clear of any vegetation and rocks. It was a circular setting with mostly sand in it. So in essence, almost as if someone had built it for this exact purpose. As the two were going on about their routine, it was then when Grogu’s large ears heard the crackle of the communications device inside the craft. After all, his hearing was so much better than Din’s and he could hear better and farther too. Just as he was supposed to mock attack Din, he heard the distinct voice coming over the communications array. At first, it was simply static, but usually, there was nobody calling them at this point in time, as they were far from any kind of settlement. But this time around, the sound coming from it was unmistakable. Grogu stopped in mid attack and remained glaring back into the ship in the spot he had just been in. His father who was surprised at this action simply asked the youngling the reason for his behaviour as usually, nothing or no one was able to distract Grogu while they were doing their exercises these days. After all, Grogu was no baby any more rather a young man or well, whatever his species considered this age to be. But he had certainly come a long way from that supposedly helpless child who was hunted by half the galaxy. Or at least those would be powers of the former Empire. No, he was so much more than that, almost a full-fledged Jedi and a Mandalorian warrior. Or at least, he was fast making his way up to be up there among the most skilled ones at that, making Din quite the proud father. Din knew Grogu to be a natural at anything the did of course, that much was proven to him already, but still training and keeping up with ones skills never failed. And so they went on with their routine once again.

“What is it Kid?” Din still used the endearing term of Grogu from long ago and Grogu in turn did not mind at all. As long as it was only Din who called him that.

“There is a communication coming through.” Grogu who had now honed in on the device completely and was listening in carefully as to whom it was containing them.

“Oh?” Din was surprised, but then again, if Grogu was hearing it even if he himself was not, it must be true.

“Yes.” Grogu simply replied. “Hold on, I am waiting for them to say something else.” Grogu did not budge from his stance rather stared at the cockpit of the ship now.

“They said something already?” Din could not be sure if that was what Grogu had really meant with his comment.

“Yes, but it was all garbled up.” Grogu then explained and waited patiently for the radio waves to open up again and spew the next words out.

“Oh, I see.” Din replied, as he was totally relying on Grogu’s perception of things. Then thinking that maybe it would be better for them to simply walk the short distance to the vessel and find out for themselves if someone was actually calling them, even if they were in the middle of nowhere much. “Don’t you think we should simply get into the ship and see who is calling?” There was a slight smirk on his face, knowing that Grogu sometimes did things the hard way still.

“Um, fine.” Grogu clearly had not thought of the simplest way to figure out the caller id, so without an other word he was quickly moving on his feet he was already half way towards the ship when Din called after him.

“Hold up son!” As despite his still small statue, Grogu truly was quick on his feet when he wanted to. “I am right behind you!” He was half jogging after Grogu seeing him disappear already into the vessel.

When Din arrived to the cockpit, Grogu was already seated at this own co-pilot seat and was looking at the lit up console for the communications array. As Din arrived and took his stance right behind Grogu’s seat he leaned over and looked at the console. “Well, I’ll be damned!” He simply stated at the open comms channel and smiled at his son for being right. “Any further comms?” He simply asked from Grogu.

“Nothing yet.” Grogu turned back from his father to the console in front.

And as if willing it to come alive again, it actually did. The two of them recognising the familiar voice immediately as the next words which came through loud and clear over the vastness of space and the subspace channel which seemed to be encoded in some fashion this time around as the voice was as clear as the person calling being right next to them in the cockpit. It was unmistakable whom it was calling them and after all this time too. As after several attempts of trying to connect, Grogu and Din had finally given up on contact as there had been no response in a long, long while. But today, the two of them were finally contacted. And it also was pretty clear, things were not as alright as they had been, years ago when Din and Grogu had left the Jedi Academy all their friends behind.

“Grogu, Din? I hope this encoded messages reaches the two of you. I did not dare using the Force connection as things… Well, they are not what they seem to be.” There was a slight pause. “But I have suspected this for a while now and well, I and a few others. But there is grave danger here and I really need your help.” The communication then ended as clearly, the sender was in a hurry and in fear of detection.

Grogu and Din simply glared at the comms array and then at each other.

“Hesta is in trouble.” Grogu finally managed to utter after the initial shock of hearing his long lost friend’s voice.

Din nodded and it was pretty clear for them both what they needed to do next. “We need to leave and find her.” Din then stated simply as there really was no other option for them to do except to help her and whomever else was in need.


Chapter Three

“Alright Kid, we better pack up our trash and leave as soon as possible.” Din told the youngling who was still dumbstruck after hearing his friend’s voice after so long, not to mention the fact that Hesta had asked for their help with her somewhat cryptic message.

But Grogu remained unmoving in his seat as if he was glued to it. Sensing the confusion in his son, Din then decided he needed to have a wee chat with the youngling as despite his best efforts and his bravado, Grogu was still a child and this sudden contact from his former class mate had clearly rattled the cage. After all, if wasn’t him who had stopped contacting Hesta and the others, it was their lack of response which had caused the connection to fade in the end. And Din knew Grogu still had not gotten over the fact that his friends had no desire to remain in contact with him at all. Something which had confused Din too, but then again, he suspected it wasn’t the children themselves making this decision, rather someone else. Someone whom only Din had qualms with and should not have made the kids suffer from whatever was going on between the adults. But he had not yet voiced his concerns to his son either. After all, Luke was the Master Jedi and that was basically the only reason for Din’s decision to remain quite on the overall matter between them two. Still, despite all the arguments they had had in the past, Luke had returned a changed person on some level. And the reasons to the change had never become clear to Din. But whatever it was which caused the somewhat rapid change in the man, well, Din didn’t think it was fair to use the children as any kind of leverage either.

Din who had been hovering over the Kid’s chair finally sat down to his own seat and immediately turned to look at his son. Nudging the youngling gently to get his attention as he was still fixated on the comms console as if somehow it would bring back Hesta’s voice. After turning to look at his father, with his eyes big and wide, he looked so sad and lost. It was times like these when Din knew he would need to protect the Kid from any and all kinds of harm. His life’s mission. And that meant also his circle of friends, as Din knew they still meant a lot to the Kid even if there was a lot of time between them all. Din placed a hand on the Kid’s shoulder and looking straight into his eyes he tried to assure his son with words he could only hope to be true himself. But he had to try at least. After all, this was a member of their larger family who had sent the message. And no matter what had happened in between since they had last seen her. Contact or not for whatever reason there was behind the silence Hesta and the other children might have had. It was Din’s and Grogu’s duty to aid someone in dire need. And so, with the words of the young woman pleading for them to come to her aid still echoing freshly in Din’s mind he then spoke to his own son, very softly and gently.

“Grogu. We will go to Hesta and help her.” Din told Grogu. “We will figure out whatever is going and get them to safety. This I promise you.” Din wasn’t just telling stories as he meant what he was saying to his son.

Grogu looked into his father’s eyes and as he read what was there, he knew this to be the truth. A solemn tear ran down his cheek and Din wiped it away with his thumb. It wasn’t so often these days that they did what they did, but today, was one of those less often days as Grogu without any words, jumped from his seat and right into Din’s lap. Grabbing a hold of his father for dear life. After all, today was not a day for mere assuring words. He needed the physical connection as well. And Din hugged him back. Keeping the Kid tightly against his chest and assuring him that everything would turn out fine, even if he wasn’t totally sold himself. But it did not matter. They would prevail. After all, they always did, almost always. So, why would this be any different? And as long as the two of them were together, fighting the good fight, it was all that mattered in the end. The two of them remained in the tight hug for a while longer each of them getting the love and courage from the connection, the bond the two of them shared, which had been strong and was growing even stronger by each passing day. With the two of them together, there was really nothing they could not accomplish. This was something which they both had found out years ago and this was the glue which kept the father and son duo together.

“Alright Kid, do you think we are ready to pack up the camp and head on out?” Din asked after some time the two of them had shared their loving moment with each other.

Grogu wiped the few errant tears fallen onto his cheek away. He was certainly feeling more empowered knowing he was not alone and never would be again as long as his father was around. “I am.” He simply told Din and then jumped off the lap.

Offering his hand in turn to his father he said. “Come on, dad!” He smiled a little on that comment as he knew of course, from kind of tapping into his father’s mind, getting the essence of Din’s thoughts on the situation, mainly which was that the Jedi children were not to blame for the absence rather that something else was going on. And on that note he was back to his own self, doubts all laid aside once again.

“We have friends waiting for us to go and help them out.” Grogu then said with so much bravado in his voice, tiny or not, it still carried all the way, to Din’s heart.

***

After making good time in packing up their small camp site and making sure nothing was left behind or that the surroundings they had occupied remained pretty much the way they had found them minus a few reminders like the campfire rocks they had gathered around to make their meals in. It was all clear sailing ahead for the dynamic duo. Their vessel was in good shape as they had made all kinds of repairs and modifications to the small craft. Especially after partaking in the race there were minor issues but now it was as good as new. Even better as Din had put it since they had made so many adjustments and improvements to the former salvaged vessel that not even the manufacturer would have recognised it to the same one which had left the factory all those years ago. The small vessel they farther son duo called their flying home was the pride and joy of both of them as they were equals now in both piloting the ship and ownership as well as Din had made sure Grogu was learning and doing all there was to know about the space worthy craft. Even if Din mostly did the piloting on the long hauls, Grogu took the chair every now and again. Had done so even during the race and made his dad proud in the process. But today, it was Din’s turn to take the craft on its way as Grogu was still too much concentrated on the fact that his friends were in trouble. And it was during these times that Din knew to better not to push it rather let the youngling sort things out on his own. So, taking off after having everything safe and secure on board, Din made the vessel fly away from their current safe haven, saying their silent good byes and thank yous to the place while flying off.

“Alright Kid, ready?” Din asked Grogu, even if there really was no need to.

“Ready!” Grogu was, despite having enjoyed his time on the planetoid, quite ready to leave and get back to space.

“Good!” Din smiled at the Kid. “Here we go!”

He then started the engines and off the ship took, towards their destination, which was the Jedi Academy home world as they had to assume the children were still there as was Hesta. If they were not, well, then they needed to figure out a way to locate them, as the comms message had left no trace or location as to its origins. Most likely to protect those sending it and also receiving the message. But for now, they were working under the assumption that Hesta was still with Luke and the other children. Most likely having become a Jedi trainer off her own right. After all, it had been several years already and she had shown and proven of having the apt for it already back then. The two of them remained in comfortable silence as the small vessel carrying the duo entered space and then, continued into hyperspace.

***

It had been over two days since the duo started on their journey to the Jedi Academy planet as they had not been able to fly in hyperspace the whole journey duo their vessel being old and well, that was pretty much it. There were simply somethings the Old Bessie as nick-named by Din could not do. So making a couple of pitstops before entering their final stretch of the journey to restock with supplies and fuel and other necessities, they were now close to the system where the Jedi Academy, or rather the new version of it had been resurrected. It would take them half a day still to reach the planet. There had also been no further contact from the children or Hesta. Which wasn’t really that odd as both Grogu and Din suspected it was not possible for her to contact any more. But they would find out soon enough. That and what was really going on if anything much. But they had to believe it was something big as why else would Hesta have contacted now after such of long time of silence between them.

Still, Din had suspected that the girl and her companions were in grave trouble as they had not used the Force rather used to regular form of communication. Also, she had sounded desperate as she could not have even been sure if she had reached Din and Grogu. Din had decided it was better if they did not even try to call Hesta back. Not that there was a forwarding address to call either, but they could have tried to contact the Jedi Academy under false pretences even. But Din had told Grogu it was better they arrived there unannounced, figuring out some white lie to tell Master Luke if and where needed most likely answer was that they did. As Din did not put past the previously known mood Luke had been in when they had parted ways to be any better now either. Still, there was always hope this was a false alarm. But, they would soon find out as the ship was fast approaching the known coordinates of the planet they had left behind many years ago.

“Alright Kid, prepare to leave hyperspace in three, two, one.” Din made the count down for the ship to leave the fast speed corridor and move back to normals space, while Grogu was at the helm of the vessel. “Good job!” Din complemented him as he had learnt to handle their small ship almost as good as Din. Almost. “Alright, now we just input the coordinates of the Jedi home world and we should be there in no time.”

Din did the needed actions while Grogu awaited at his post, ready to steer the ship to the location. As Din set the variables to the navigation console and then hit enter he nodded to Grogu who then manoeuvred the vessel to the given coordinates. It wasn’t that far away from the place they had exited hyperspace either, at least according to both their memories. But as they arrived at the designated site, the planet was nowhere to be seen. Din checked the outside view and his console still blinking of the information that they had arrived where they were supposed to be at.

“Am I going blind or is there nothing there?” Din asked from Grogu confused as hell.

“I cannot see anything either.” Grogu simply replied equally as surprised as Din was.

As the two of them kept glaring at the cockpit view, baffled as to what had happened to the planet since there was not even one single piece of debris left from any kind of explosion or other disaster there visible either. Exchanging glances of disbelief they were both speechless as to what had happened. After all, if the planet had disappeared, for whatever reason, surely Luke had relocated the children? As clearly, they were alive still. They had sent a message after all. It was becoming a tad confusing at this point in time, neither of the two having a clue as to what to do next, if there even was a next for this situation.


Chapter Four

“What the hell is going on here?” Din exclaimed frustrated after getting no readings whatsoever from the planet which was supposed to be right there in front of them.

“But it was there. Before.” Grogu babbled as it was incomprehensible for the youngling who had been prepared to finally see his friends after a long absence.

“I agree Kid, but as you can see, clearly, we are at the right coordinates but there is no planet there. No Jedi Academy. No Hesta nor the others. No nothing.” Din recapped the obvious as after double checking and punching in several commands, having finally being convinced that their navigational computer was not at fault. “It’s no use. The sensors aren’t picking up anything, or anyone for that matter.” Din punched the console top in frustration.

Grogu understanding of course the over all situation that there was no planet there, was still shocked that they were not able to find Hesta and the others after all. “What of Hesta? Where can she be?” Grogu asked with a sad and somewhat teary voice.

“Well son, I wish I could tell you. But they certainly are not here.” Din was also frustrated of not being able to give Grogu any kind of good answer. After all, he had promised his son that they would find the others, but here they were without a single clue as to the where. Rethinking what to do next, he had a suggestion in mind. “Look, Kid, we are not going to find the others by sitting up here in the empty space.” Din looked at Grogu trying to make his point to the youngling. “Our best bet is to find some near by planet to set down on and then try to piece things together as to what happened here.” He then suggested. “I mean, if something had happened to the planet, there would be at least some trace of it out here. But there is nothing but dark space to be seen and scanned for that matter.” Din tried his very best to convince the Kid. “Maybe there is someone out here close by who had dealings with the school. You know, food delivery and all that?”

After hearing the arguments his father had made in regards to what they were seeing or rather not seeing at the moment, neither with their bare eyes or the instruments, the reality of it all finally hit him. He wasn’t going to see his friends, not here anyway. But as his father had said, they had sent the message so they were alive, somewhere. And as for where they were now. Well, there was nothing there, so best thing would be to go look for people who had been interacting with the Jedi place, which would most likely be hard as the idea was the secrecy of the school in the first place. Still, they needed supplies and knowing a few tricks the Master had used before when procuring them so not to give himself away, Grogu was well aware this was their best option to go with for now.

“Alright father,” Whenever Grogu used father instead of dad meant that he was serious about what he was saying. “I agree we should try to look for a place to regroup and find the ones who had dealings with the school.” Grogu finally relented to the situation as well.

“Good, then we are in agreement.” His father was well adversed in the lingo and the meaning of the words his son spoke of course.

“We are.” Grogu added with an assuring nod of his head.

“Alright then, we better start scanning for an inhabited planet or system nearby as those are the most likely targets for any kind of dealings that the school and Master Luke might have had.” Din punched the keys again letting the scanners do their work and soon enough, a small size three planet system appeared on the screen before them.

“I think that one looks like the best suited for our purpose.” Grogu had picked up the one called Soqar, a minor industrial planet with a small population as indicated by their scans and was now pointing at the place on the screen.

“Yes, it seems to be the only inhabited one of the three planets in the system too.” Din checked the data on the screen which was recapping the main points of the system and its planetary objects. “I would say that is a starting point.” Din added and glanced at Grogu for further comments.

“I agree. Let’s go there.” Grogu simply replied. After all, they needed most likely to search for a while before finding anything to set them on the right track. So, he guessed Soqar was the best place to start. “They might know something of the planet which was here and what happened to it and its people.” Grogu sounded even hopeful now as this was in addition to being a sad occasion, a big mystery, a puzzle to be solved. Something which Grogu did indeed enjoy to solve.

“You chose well son!” Din smiled at him and then punched in the coordinates of Soqar to the navigational computer. “I guess we better take off before someone comes around and charges us for loitering in this empty space!” It was a sad joke he knew, but sometimes his bad jokes got chuckles out of the Kid. But apparently not today as his mind was still on his friends, something Din could sense too. “Alright-y then! Here we go.” Din piloted the vessel towards their new destination without further jokes coming forth. “Next stop, Soqar, a planet new to us both.” As neither of them had ever visited the planet or its system either. He then turned to Grogu, knowing he needed to tell his son more than bad jokes, so in danger of repeating himself he did once again tell the Kid what he needed to hear. “Kid, they are still alive. I can feel it and most likely so can you.” It was some kind of a Jedi thing Din had picked up on while hanging around all them Jedi, sense or feeling of sorts even if it wasn’t really the whole truth of how he could do things like that these days.

“I know, dad.” Grogu then replied softly as the two of them were on their way to Soqar in search for some answers hopefully there.

***

The journey to the near by system did not take too long. And soon enough, the duo found themselves in the middle of a hustling and buzzing market place after having landed their ship in the hangar of the largest and only mos on the planet. It was a sort of a market area with various sellers having their carts and display tables alongside a very tall and narrow street. Seemingly the main one of the town and most likely the only one as well as the rest of it seemed like foot paths winding amongst the many dwellings built tightly together. The settlers and visitors, as there were several ships parked in the hangar from what Din had seen, were either selling or purchasing whatever was offered and whichever thing each of them needed at the moment. It wasn’t a large settlement by any means, but as this was the closest and most likely only inhabited place in several parsecs in this and the few nearby systems. There were people of all races and species doing their shopping in the clearly well stocked place of commerce. After all, wherever there was a need for produce to buy, someone was always selling, the one constant of the whole galaxy. Din and Grogu had no need for anything as they had stocked the ship during their previous trips. Nothing anyway which was on display on the various tables. And after perusing some the offerings just in case, they decided their best bet was most likely the local cantina as information was the very thing they needed, not food or any other things. Usually, where people were drunk or at least ever so slightly so, their tongues got more loose in the process and in turn what information they liked to share as well. So, maybe offering a few drinks here and there would be their ticket to someone talking of what they knew about the existence of the Jedi Academy and its occupants. As there were always rumours flying around. No one was ever totally hidden and secure no matter what they might have thought themselves. Ever.

Pointing at the general direction of a solemn building which looked like it was housing the local drinking whole Din the said. “Come on Kid, I think that place will be more useful for us than this market area.”

Grogu looked over to where his father was pointing at. Easily recognising the same structure and telling outlook of it was several other similar establishments the two of them had visited before. He simply nodded his response. And then followed right in Din’s footfalls as he started towards the cantina through the throng of people on the market street. It was around midday. Another constant in the universe, where people having their lunch breaks and going out to town to find either a suitable meal to eat or the ingredients to make one themselves. And this place was no different. Grogu and Din passed several food stands on their way through the busy street towards their goal. Smelling all the scents of various spices and concoctions in the air was making the youngling hungry in the process as he had not eaten since breakfast in the early morning hours. But these days, despite his rather large and varied appetite, he kept all those sensations in check until such time there was time for food. Closing his eyes for a moment, Grogu gathered himself and ignored all the temptations around him only concentrating on one single thing in his mind which was to follow his father to the cantina and check out the place in case there was someone with the important intel they now needed. And maybe if he was lucky enough, while his father negotiated with the locals for said information, Grogu could have something to eat. After all, there was only so much growling of his own stomach the Kid could take to be able to block away all those nice smells and odours wafting from the market street they were now about to leave behind as they had reached the doorway of the establishment of choice. Grogu gave one last glance at all the great things they were now leaving behind and then stepped inside right after Din to the darkened room of the saloon. Surely, another universal cliché was the thought as he followed his father’s lead right thought the many tables filled with patrons in various states of inebriation. Something which Grogu never understood. Din, having walked straight to the bar took a seat and then motioned for the bartender who quickly made their way to the new arrival.

“What can I get you?” They then asked clearly assessing Din and Grogu, but in a totally subtle and non-judgmental way.

“A flagon of ale and something to eat for the youngling.” Din replied curtly, not putting their business out there from get go and knowing that Grogu was hungry by now too. It was a total dad thing for him to know these things.

“We have some fresh stew of the day.” The bartender commented and looked at Grogu, who nodded in turn as stew was better than nothing at this time of the day.

“Sounds perfect.” Din replied.

The bartender nodded and said simply. “Coming right up!” And then vanished to the back.

Din was trying to assess the crowd of the bar, as he glanced the place through the mirror behind the bottles on the wall. Seeing most patrons already too drunk to spill their guts. He then spotted a few ones clearly checking Din and Grogu out, sitting in the farthest corner of the room. Deciding then to start with them, but not yet, as he did not want to appear too obvious. Turning to the Kid he then said in a low register.

“Keep your eyes open Kid.”

It was something Din usually told Grogu in places like this and by agreement they both knew what it meant. Which was to keep the eyes and ears open at all times and never loose contact with the surroundings as even a seemingly sedate and calm environment could easily and quite quickly too, turn hostile.

Chapter Five

It didn’t take too long before the bartender returned with Grogu’s stew and the ale for Din.

“Here you go!” The bartender said with a hint of smile, after all, good customer service is key.

“Thanks!” Din told them in appreciation while Grogu dug into to the food without much ado, after all the Kid was quite hungry and waiting a tad longer had not helped.

“Is there somethings else I can do for you?” The bartender then asked kindly, as if sensing there was more that Din wanted than a simple drink to quench his thirst.

“Information. If you have it.” Din then said frankly.

If they were surprised, there was no sign of it on the bartender’s face as they simple glared at Din for a moment longer without any indication whether they had the info or not. It took a few moments more and it was if assessing the new comers, which Din and his companion too clearly were, before replying to the asked question.

“Depends on what kind of information you are looking for.” The bartender then replied. “This is a simple planet and we are a simple folk without too much happening around here.” As the polite answer sounded. And in a way it was true as this was a system far away from the hustle of wars being fought and any other types of action as well. “But maybe if you tell me what you are looking for, then I can help you.” It wasn’t a no at get go, so at least there was hope for some form of intel at least.

Din too had assessed the barkeep and clearly, they did not seem to mind sharing whatever intel they had. So deciding to probe a little further before testing the ale in front of him. “Well, here is the thing.” Din turned to Grogu as he did not want to be too straight forward in what he was looking for, but he still needed to tell something and a little white lie was the best bet to go. “My son here is kind of looking for a school to attend and well, we have heard there was one close by. Equipped to handle younglings with, shall we say aptitude for more than the let’s say that of the regular curriculum offered in most places.”

Din knew he sounded like he was using riddles and euphemisms, but putting the words Force and Jedi out there at this point among people who he did not know wasn’t his first choice. So, trying to keep it as simple as possible and still make his point come across was the goal here. Just hoping it made sense to the barkeep as well.

“And so I was looking for a place where he could train more of his, well, certain special skills.” Din tried to explain further.

The barkeep had been listening in and with their years of experience in deciphering drunken patrons meaning of words, they had gotten quite good at it. And so, despite this stranger making odd questions about special kids needing special schools, they knew what he had meant. After all, it wasn’t too much of a secret around this place that such a special training facility existed close by. After all, rumours really travelled light speed, especially after too many drinks in any kind of a place. The barkeep once again glared at the stranger and his companion, who clearly looked like they were a mismatched pair. And if the kid indeed possessed similar special powers like the ones having been boasted about while the few workers who had travelled to this system several years back had claimed to have seen? Well, then they were talking the same language after all. Also there were a few other strangers having come by every now and again to do their shopping in the market, but they had not been by for a longest while now. It had been just after all the talk of the town during the one happening when someone had tried to rob a simple farmer of their produce and then, one of these mysterious patrons had stopped them. And it had not been in any conventional way either. Something which the farmer had been grateful for naturally and it was also something discussed long after the happening itself as it really was unusual. So perhaps, this stranger was talking about the same thing now even after all this time having passed by said incident and those strangers.

“I may know what you are talking about.” The bartender then leaned in closer to Din and spoke in somewhat hushed tones and glanced at Grogu again. “If indeed your son is able to, let’s say use his, well, shall we say powers for moving objects or things with his mind, then we are talking about the same thing here.” Their voice was quite low as if not wanting anyone else to hear what the discussion was about. Then again, the bar was filled with mostly drunks and there was really no one else close by. “But that all happened years ago.” The barkeep still remembered it as clear as it had happened only yesterday, as it had truly been a special occasion for all the town folks, never seen that happening before or since.

Din’s curiosity got peeked then as what the barkeep was saying sounded right and as far as he knew, only the Jedi were able to move things with their mind. Well them and their nemesis, the offshoot really of the Jedi kind, the Sith as Din had heard of from Master Luke and the others. But they were supposed to be long gone, extinct in a way. So deciding to ask more.

“So this person or persons that you know of, used their mind to move objects?” Din spoke in hushed tones too and glanced at Grogu who had also moved closer to the two of them. And with his stew already all gulped up and was listening in too to the conversation going on then and there. Then turning back to the barkeep Din probed further. “Who were they?”

“Well, there were three of them, all clad in black robes and hoods and all, clearly not wanting to be seen or recognised.” The bartender then went on with their tale. “They came into town a few times and bought supplies. They even came here for some food one time, ordering the broth and no drinks as I thought it to be unusual thing to do.”

“So, how do you know they could use their minds to do anything other than think?” Din wasn’t convinced yet these were Force wielders, although their fashion choice was reminiscent that of Master Luke’s.

“Well, there was an incident you see. A few years back at the market place. There were a couple of thieves there, which is not unheard of around here either, but more unusual than the norm really.” The barkeep told Din and Grogu now both having the bartenders attention. “And well, a farmer caught them and there was a struggle of sorts. But then these dark strangers helped in a way.” The barkeep paused thinking back of how the incident had been described to him by the onlookers which had been right at the scene.

“What way?” Din asked not sure why it took so long for telling a simple tale of a robbery gone possibly wrong.

“Well, you see, the strangers stopped the thieves from assaulting the farmer. But not with their weapons or anything physical really. Simply glaring and pointing with their hands in a manner of speaking at the thieves and then they were kind of choking up and the farmer was released from their grip and was able to get away from them. Then the thieves were kind of ruffled a bit and before they knew what had happened, the marshal took them to custody.” The barkeep was clearly recalling what they had heard of the events so it wasn’t exactly detailed.

But what Din and Grogu heard was that someone had used the Jedi death choke on the thieves and thus gotten them to let the poor farmer go and gotten caught in the aftermath of it. This then kind of confirmed the fact that the strangers helping out had been indeed Force users. Whether they were the kids from the Academy or not remained to be seen at this point.

“I see.” Was all Din replied then before turning back to Grogu who was looking back at him, and nodding as if sensing what was on Din’s mind. And he most likely was, as sometimes Grogu did, read Din’s thoughts or at least glimpsed at them if he was uncertain of what was going on.

“Well, I guess it all sounds, a bit magical. But the good folks who were there, I can vouch to be honest people and if they say that they saw those strangers using their minds to save the farmer, then it is true.” The barkeep then added.

It wasn’t that Din did not believe what he had heard, only he wasn’t going to admit it straight on. “I hear ya!” He simply said. “I mean, strange things can happen right!” He laughed a little to soften the comment.

The barkeep looked at Grogu and then commented. “I take it that your son here does not have such abilities then.”

“Well, sometimes I think he can persuade me to do things his way, just by looking at me.” Which wasn’t far from the truth. Then again, Din knew he was kind of wrapped around the little dude’s finger so not much in mind tricks going on with that note either.

“Yes, I know. Kids right!” Earning a laugh from the barkeep whom assumably had experience with children of their own too.

“But, those strangers, they did not mention where they were from?” Din tried to be nonchalant with his inquiry.

“Well, now that you mentioned a special school, I think one of them referenced having to go back to class when they were eating here.” The barkeep tried to remember the conversation they had had several years back. “But, maybe it isn’t the kind of school this kid should go to eh?” The bartender then smiled at Grogu getting a confused look out of him right back.

“Yes, well, like I said, the Kid here got some skills, but yeah, maybe you are right.” Din then knew there was nothing more to be learned from the barkeep.

Tasting his ale he drank it rather quickly as Grogu was clearly showing signs of impatience as his meal was already eaten. So deciding to settle the tab, he asked. “What do I owe you?”

The barkeep told him the price and Din placed the credits with a little extra there for the intel as well earning a surprised smile and nod form them. Before he tuned to leave he asked. “Does the farmer still have a shop at the market place?”

“Yes, it is the third one from the left when you leave this place. You cannot miss it. Lot’s of fine looking produce she keeps in her cart! I usually get my stuff from her place early in the morning before there is too much traffic.” The barkeep volunteered as if it mattered to Din where the food came from, but clearly, these people in this place were rather friendly to strangers.

“Thank you! You have been very kind!” Din then said their good byes as the two of them started out from the cantina. And then heading back to the busy market place looking for the farmer in the hopes of her having some more intel regarding the Force wielding strangers. After all, they had saved her from robbers. Surely something not easily to be forgotten, especially as the saviours had used magic to do so!

“Come on Kid, let’s go see a friendly farmer about some Force users. If she still remembers them and if they had said something more to her.” He then said to Grogu who was right beside him as they had exited the bar and were on the look out for the specific seller of great farm produce. As she was their best lead so far to get back on track with their former associates. Din was now also pretty convinced it had been some of the older Jedi children who had come to this place for supplies a few years back. At least, he hoped so. Otherwise it would be back to square one again.


Chapter Six

“Yes, yes I remember it quite well.” The elderly farmer then went on not in anyway offended or even surprised to be telling her tale of being saved by a group of strangers. “Magical beings they were, used their minds to save me from those beasties trying to harm me for catching them in thieving my produce.” She then went on, seemingly only too happy to tell these two strangers stopping by at her sales humble cart and asking her to revisit the incident. “And I tell you something else too. Those kids, because that is what they really were, a rather shy bunch at that, deserved a medal or statue for doing such kind acts for people they did not even know!” She then went on, fondly remembering the three dark clad youngsters who had stopped the thieving robbers in their tracks from not only taking her belongings without paying, but causing bodily harm in the process. “I was choked by one of them while the other was punching my back!” She then went on, telling of the horrors while in the hands of her culprits. “If they did not have any credits they should have told me so. I would have gladly given them something. All of us would. But in stead they chose to act like criminals, violent ones at that.” She then said. “But those kids, they were a different sort I could tell. Saviours we call them.” She continued the praise of those kids who had helped her.

The farmer woman was still shuddering from the memory of it all, but then she smiled at Din and Grogu who had been patiently listening in to her somewhat exceptional and lengthy tale. After all, it was quite a vivid and detailed and well, most likely also coloured by the passing of time. Clearly not much went on this small town and having not only being accosted by a bunch of strangers but also having been saved by other strangers. Surely an event none of them here would soon forget. But what interested Din and Grogu was the fact that she had mentioned kids. This meant that Master Luke had most likely sent some of the older kids to do the shopping instead of going himself. Something he had not done usually, not at least let them go alone in the past. But now it seemed they were doing so. It was also becoming obvious after listening into the woman’s tale that they were Jedi after all from the very behaviour of them. No Sith would have helped others and also, the clothing was a dead give away. Dark cloaks and all that, something Luke had inspired in quite the few of the children under his wing. But fashion choices aside, Din needed to know if there was any further sightings of these kids or saviours as that was the whole point of the two of them being here. To track down the kids and the Academy as it was gone at least for now. Something odd in itself too.

“So, these kids which saved you from harms way? Have you seen them here lately?” Din then asked. “I mean they sound like the people we are looking for.” Din tried to explain things to the woman not wanting to sound like a stalker and using the one excuse which had kind of worked before. “My son here.” He motioned towards Grogu. “Well, he has been admiring kids like that for a while now and we were actually looking for a school which we have heard teaches kids to be like that. Something I wouldn’t mind putting my own kid in learning such ways.” He tried to make their cover sound good as best he could but the farmer looked at him with a hint of suspicion.

“The Force.” Grogu piled on, knowing his father was stuck. “Those children who saved you, the magic. We have heard it is called the Force.” Grogu then convinced the woman. “I would very much like to learn of it myself.” Using his best baby face and wide eyes to convince the woman, even sending out some Jedi mind trick vibes to make sure she would think he was earnest.

The woman then smiled at Grogu as if either the story was good enough for her or then Grogu’s tricks had worked, the mind trick ones that is. “I believe you would make an excellent, whatever it was you called it, the Force? Yes, I think you could really be like those kids if you chose to.” She then went on again.

“So, the kids, have you seen them after the incident?” Din asked. “We would like to know if there was someone to ask the directions to where they could be?”

The farmer no longer suspecting Din from lying then said thoughtfully. “Well, they were here, maybe a few months ago.” She then said. “But after that I have not seen them. And usually when they were here, they would come to my cart and I would give them some of my best produce too.” She smiled still obviously thinking of the incident.

“I see.” Din sounded disappointed, even if there was a trace to follow in some manner to a few months back.

But the woman then looked at him and said much to Din’s surprise. “Oh, if you need the location of the planet, they should have it at the hangar. They keep detailed records of all comings and goings of all the ships here, most likely yours as well?” She sounded a tad surprise if Din had not filed their origins at the small hangar.

Din’s eyes lit up as he had not even realised it was mandatory as he had simply filed in the report during their landing without any questions. After all, these days, he had really nothing to hide and well, mostly not, so giving his origin coordinates was no big deal. “Thank you! That sounds like a good place to start!” He then said and nodded to Grogu to do the same.

“Thank you ma’am!” Grogu told the farmer then.

“Well, I hope you find your school and become as good as those three were!” She waved at the duo who had already started back to the hangar, hoping to find their next clue.

***

Din and Grogu arrived at the hangar soon enough, as their business on the planet had been pretty much concluded anyway after getting something information wise. But, not exactly what they were looking for. Mainly which was the existence of a new Jedi Academy home world as clearly the old one was gone. According to the farmer, the children from there had been shopping here in the near past so that was at least good news. Also, there was the message from Hesta, something which assured Din they were alive. In addition, Grogu had not felt any kind of disturbance in the force either so they had to still assume they were alive even if the planet had disappeared for whatever mysterious reason there might have been behind it. But now, if there was even a remote possibility to find the last known location of the Jedi kids, then that might have been in the hangar, in the files of the ships arriving there. Din only hoped it would be as easy to convince the officers there as it had been the farmer. A thought then occurred and he turned to Grogu before they ventured inside of the small building.

“Kid, you did some of your Jedi magic with the farmer woman back there didn’t you?” Din wasn’t reprimanding him or anything, simply asking.

Grogu looked wide eyed back at his father as this wasn’t something he was supposed to do, much anyway. So with his best “what little ol’ me” glare he stared back at his father trying to look the innocent part once again.

“Look, I am not telling you that you should, but when we get in there and if my charms aren’t working, then I would appreciate the help, understood?” Din then asked with a soft tone.

Grogu quickly realising what his father was telling him or rather was not, he simply nodded.
“Good. Now let’s go see if we can shake the tree again and see what falls down.” Din said as the two of them stepped inside the hangar.

***

“Well, we do have those files of course, but why would we give you the information?” The clerk at the hangar offices then said to Din.

As Din and Grogu had made their way to the hangar and gone straight to the offices to first off pay the fees for their own vessel for the time spent on the planet but also to find out if they would give them the information of the Jedi kids ships. Of course they had no official capacity whatsoever to be even asking such questions. But they were at the end of their rope for now as they had not really learnt any good news in a sense other than that the kids had been travelling to this place for supplies. But they had last been spotted over a month ago. So, the whereabouts of them today was still the big mystery. As the location they were supposed to be at, well, the planet had completely vanished into thin air, literally. Not really giving too much information at get go, only explaining whom the two of them were. Simply that of them looking for the magical children who had saved the farmer at the market. A story which according to the barkeep everyone on the planet knew and he had not been wrong. As the story was told, or rather the short summary of it recapped by Din, the official had indeed nodded and agreed of hearing of the kids.

“Look, I know I don’t have any legal claims to be asking for this data, but those children.” Din decide to be honest for now as he had nothing more to lose at this point. “I know them and we used to be part of the same community once and being honest here, we got a distress call from them and when getting to the place they used to be at, it was gone.”

“You, part of them?” The official sounded and looked suspiciously at the two beskar clad combat ready duo in front of him.

“Yes, and I know how we look like now. But we left the planet a while back and have been doing our own thing since.” Din then said again quite honestly as he had decided on it, but clearly, he was getting nowhere with it.

“Well, it all sounds quite implausible to me. I mean those children, well they could perform all kinds of miracles.” The officer then went on, as clearly, the story had gotten its own spin the more often it had been told forward.

“I know they can.” Din decide to give him that as what the Jedi could do, well, it could be perceived as magic to the lesser minds.

He glanced at Grogu then as he was pretty sure the clerk was not going to tell them anything more. So, nodding to Grogu, to do his thing, Grogu nodded back and then, he started concentrating on the clerk and entering his mind.

“You will give us the information.” Grogu then said out loud fully set in the clerks thoughts now.

“I will give you the information.” The clerk repeated.

“Step aside and let us have a look at the files.” Grogu then guided him.

“I will step aside and let you have a look at the files.” The clerk then continued.

And as soon as he did so, Din moved to the console and punched the keys to get the data on the screen. And as he did, he was surprised to see the coordinates of the origin of the flight plan the children had filed upon their arrival. He then motioned for Grogu to come and have a look as well. As he did so, the two of them exchanged surprised glances.

“They are the same.” Grogu then said out loud.

“They are. The planet should be there.” Was all Din could think of as again, there was no debris where the planet had once been.

The two of them left the office after paying their debt to the hangar official, being none the worse from the Jedi mind tricks and waved even goodbye to the two as the duo walked to their ship to leave. Without a clue as to how to react to this information. After all, the planet had been there a month ago or so. As soon as they were about to step inside of their vessel, something caught Din’s eye. He could see a small shadow behind one of the landing gear of the craft on the left side. He took his gun out of its holster and motioned for Grogu to walk around while he was moving toward the shadowy figure from the other way around. Making his way quickly to the spot where he had seen the moving shadow, he pointed his gun at the clearly someone being there.

“Why don’t you come out with your hands up.” Din then ordered when he could see that Grogu was right behind the shadow and there was no escape.


Chapter Seven

“Please, don’t shoot!” A small voice then uttered sounding scared. “I don’t have any weapons and I mean you no harm.” The voice then added, sounding even more child like than with the first words they had uttered.

Din scooted down trying to have a better look at the culprit hiding behind their ship, but Grogu was quicker and had his hands on the person before Din could react. After Grogu caught the person, which seemed to be around the same size as he was, he then dragged them towards Din to see.

“A kid?” Din exclaimed as the saw the small person Grogu was still holding onto. “You are a child?” He could not be sure of course as he did not recognise the species.

It took a moment, but then clarity hit Grogu and he immediately blurted out loud. “No, they are a Force users. Of this I am sure.” Grogu felt the mind of a Force wielder of course as he had a strong sense of these things.

“What?” Din took a step closer to the one who had interrupted their take off. “Here?” He seemed stumped.

“I can sense them.” Grogu then simply said and pushed the person even closer to Din. “They are a light Force wielder.” Grogu assured his father after probing the kids mind again.

Din took a good look at the kid but he did not recognise them, and apparently neither had Grogu. “You part of the Academy? Luke’s bunch?” Din then asked.

The kid simply nodded which again surprised both the other two.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Are you alone?” Din immediately started interrogating the kid, the questions pouring out of the man. But it seemed to be too much for the child as tears started flowing rather freely from their eyes.

Grogu who was now in connection with the kid sensed the scared little child there, fearing the armoured man and all his questions thrown their way. The kid looked raggedy, clothes torn and dirty too. It looked like they had been there for a while now and maybe even hunger had brought this child to come out of whatever place they had been hiding in. Grogu knew they were not able to answer Din’s questions at the very moment due to their state. So trying to dissolve the situation as quickly and easily as possible, he stopped his mind connection and went to his fathers side.

“Dad, the child is very scared and hungry too.” Grogu simply stated. As in whatever species this child was, they were clearly younger than Grogu despite being almost the same height. “We need to take care of them.” Grogu then told Din taking charge of the situation the way he only could, by taking charge as it were. After all, he had come to realise that when he did take charge, Din usually yielded and quite easily too.

Din looked at Grogu and back at the raggedy looking child and nodded. “Alright. Let’s bring them inside and give them something to eat.” Din was sure that if Grogu said it was alright, then it most certainly was. As trusting in the Kid’s Jedi instinct was something Din had learnt a long time ago to do.

Grogu then moved back to the kid and took them by the hand and guided them in to the vessel. “Come on, it’s safe. You don’t have to be scared with us.” Grogu stated inside of his mind as the kid looked at Grogu in a somewhat confused but mostly relieved expression on their face. Also sensing that Grogu was their kin, something of a surprise for sure, but still a welcome one.

Simply nodding to Grogu and then adding in their mind a response. “I believe you.” As they gladly followed Grogu to the ship and to safety. At least they did trust this other Force user they had not been expecting to find here, not on this planet anyway.

Din followed the duo suit to the vessel, almost afraid if someone was watching them. After all, finding this kid here now, a Force wielder no less was quite the coincidence. Or was it? Din could not trust any of the Jedi at this point in time as clearly something was off. Even if it was practically a member of his family who had sent the distress call, he still had his own suspicions of what was going on. Something which he had not yet shared with Grogu yet. But trying to hide that fact was becoming hard as he knew the Kid could read him pretty easily. Especially if he was off, the Kid could smell that frame of mind parsecs away. So, deciding to have a chat with Grogu regarding his suspicions after they were off the planet and safe in space again. As it was time for his son to know some things Din suspected of the Jedi Master. Ever since his return back from his solo trip. But, they needed to take care of first things first. Which was to feed the odd child they had found and then, have a wee chat with them as well.

“There is always something.” Din said to himself out loud as he entered the craft looking towards the small galley where Grogu was already taking care of the Jedi child. Clearly taking on the role of a big brother and making sure the kid got fed and watered before anything else. Something which made his father extremely proud of him once again. “But, we will soon find out what that something is.” He went to chatting himself up as he entered the cockpit and took the craft of theirs into space again.

***

Din had piloted their small vessel off of the planet they had gathered all the possible intel they could get. And in the process, gotten a stowaway, or at least a suspect of such on board their craft. A Jedi Force wielder no less. Which was kind of a more solid clue that the stories and tales they had heard on the planet of the magical children saving the town people’s life. But it all added up after finding the origins of said kids ship filed in the records of the space port hangar, matching that of the Jedi Academy home world. This had been the same coordinates Din and Grogu had already been at, finding nothing but empty space there. A fact which had troubled Din from the first time they had been there the first time around. The lack of any kind of debris. A physiological impossibility as if anything blew up, or rather imploded as it did in space, there was always something left behind. Unless, of course, it was a black hole which had devoured the planet. Then again, they should have been able to see the phenomenon there instead. But there was nothing except darkness of space there. Not even stars as Din was thinking back to what he had seen there before. The stars! Even they had been missing. And that in itself, was something which did not happen naturally. Not without the dying stars black hole! Din quickly flew the vessel back to the coordinates. Or rather close by, as he did not want anyone or anything to detect them at this point in time. He was well aware of the system close by, which also had four moons orbiting the one rogue planet there. A system very close to the now missing Jedi children's home world and still far enough to be a good place to hide while conducting their search. It did not take long for him to do so. And then, deciding to land on the third moon, which had an atmosphere suitable for humanoid life forms. After landing on the moon, he went back to the galley to inform the two kids of their current status, even if they were most likely already privy to what was going on.

“So, I have landed us on the third moon of the system close to the missing one.” He mainly was talking to Grogu, but did not mind for the other kid in his care now to know what their status was as well.

“A wise decision father.” Grogu commented on Din’s quick thinking.

“Well, I thought there were too many coincidences going on at the moment and our best bet was to hang close by the Jedi planet while conducting our investigation.” Din then said as he could tell the new kid was listening in closely.

“So, you don’t think it was an accident that the whole planet disappeared.” Grogu went on, clearly not caring the new kid was hearing what they were discussing.

“Kid,” Din then said, surprised that Grogu was actually the one bringing this all up now, and seemingly having had the same suspicions of the missing Jedi Academy planet as he had had himself. “There is no debris, no nothing around the area where the planet was supposed to be. I mean, nobody knew the exact coordinates of it except for us. The builders were brought there in blind folds!” Din reminded Grogu of what the facts were. “Nobody, I mean, nobody was looking for them there, and I doubt they were expecting us to come back either.” Din tried to convey his suspicions to Grogu.

The new kid was listening in quite intently, clearly focusing on each and every word that the two of them were speaking. But they were not commenting on anything, not yet anyway.

“I understand dad.” Grogu sounded almost relived of what he was hearing as his own suspicions lately matched pretty much those of his father. After all, there were so many things which had not added up, and his father had summed most of them up. “And the distress call had to have come from somewhere. But it was encoded so we could not pinpoint its source. But we have to believe the sender knew where we would be coming to look for them, right?”

The kid perked up at Grogu’s last sentence and then, they finally spoke. “A distress call? From the Jedi trainees?” They could not be sure but why else would these two they had never seen before be here. And one of them certainly was a Jedi despite his strange outfit. “Hesta?” They then asked surmising the duo once again.

“You know Hesta?” It was Din who reacted first hearing the familiar name from the strange kid.

“Yes, she used to teach me.” The kid said sadly. “She helped me escape.” The kid was crying again. “The others did not know what she did.” They sniffed. “But she knew I could not stay or I would become like them.”

Grogu and Din both looked at the kid and then at each other. “Like them?” Grogu mouthed to Din, not sure as to what he was referring to.

“Like whom, kid?” Din then tried to ask, but the new kid did not elaborate further.

Grogu, who realised the kid needed some rest then said to his father. “I think we need to let them rest. It’s been a long day for all of us.” There was a double meaning there of course, as Grogu wanted the kid to trust him and this was certainly the way to get that.

“I understand.” Din then said softly to Grogu. “Better show them our sleeping quarters. I will secure the ship and landing area, just in case. You two get some rest. We’ll talk more in the morning.” He then added as it was already sunset on the small moon after all.

Leaving the two children to take their rest, Din ventured back to the cockpit and launched the landing protocols for their ship. Something which he had used before for his old ship too, to secure the ship and make sure nothing got in or out of it while they were staying put. Just in case he thought to himself, feeling almost paranoid at this point. But when dealing with any kind of Force users, one could never be too sure there wasn’t someone lurking around. After all, it had happened before, way back when on a supposedly safe planet. But this time around, Din would not get caught without some kind of defence. And so, launching the protocols, the cloak surrounded the small vessel and its passengers secure at least for the moment. If anyone was to attack in full force, well that was another matter all together. But Din doubted they had yet to cause any major waves. And so, for now, they should be safe enough on the planet. And tomorrow, they would talk further about the goings on in this region. First with Grogu, and then more with the new kid. Because they clearly knew more than the had let on. And whether it was a good thing or not, well that all remained to be seen.

Chapter Eight

“So, kid.” Din started trying not to sound too intimidating as having been forewarned by Grogu earlier. By telling his father to take it easy on the small child they had found hiding by their ship the day before. As apparently, Grogu had been doing some mind probing of his own too. Or as he had put it to Din, skimming on the kid’s feelings a tad.

“Do you have a name?” Din then asked in a softer tone than before from the now somewhat calmed down, rested and also well fed child of the Jedi. Who was seated in the small galley of the ship which was now stationary on the moon of a close by system of where the Jedi Academy was supposed to be in.

“They call me Skippy.” The kid replied. “I did not have a real name before I joined the others at the school.” Skippy was referring to the Jedi Academy of course. Something which was already established by this point in time as the kid knew Hesta and had recognised Grogu as a Force wielder as well. “When I run, I kinda skip, so that’s why they named me that.” Skippy then spoke in a low monotone and clearly scared tone.

Din who had been standing so far, took a seat by the table where the other two were already sitting at. It was once again, a subtle suggestion from Grogu, guiding his father in the more sensitive aspects of life, as it were. Something which Din was still learning after all these years. But then again, he had a great teacher in his son. Especially with the Jedi powers Grogu possessed making it easier for him to detect the moods and feelings of other people. Something which Din was appreciating more and more each passing day. That and having Grogu.

“Skippy.” Din sounded the name on his tongue. “Well Skippy, just to let you know, that you are among friends here, and whatever you want to tell us is up to you.” Din then tried to convince the youngling that they were among friends now, but the facial expressions told Din that the kid was not buying whatever he was selling.

Din looked up at Grogu as it was per Din’s suggestion that Grogu was now gently probing the mind of their guest. Not intrusively, but just enough to pick up on any changes there, in case there was something Skippy was hiding or wasn’t telling exactly the truth. After all, they were pressed for time in finding their missing friends and still had no clue as to where to look for them. Because the planet was gone now. And also the other system’s people having little if no connection with the Jedi living on the planet in the past few months. Well, it wasn’t really much to go on. That was until finding Skippy here.

“Skippy, you were on the planet right? With the other Jedi kids? And you can use the Force too?” Din tried to take another approach, simply listing what he knew so far to be true of Skippy.

“I am and I was, yes.” Skippy simply said. “But it does not make me Jedi or user of the Force either.” They added then, and that got a reaction from Grogu whose eyes immediately widened, thus alerting Din something was off with this answer.

Din decided to forgo that for now and then said. “You also know Hesta, right? She is our friend too.” Din tried again.

“Hesta I knew well, she was always nice to me, even when the others started changing.” Skippy said then all of a sudden, being the second time he had mentioned this.

Both Grogu and Din picked up on that one specific comment made, as clearly the kid tried to hide the emotional storm which this remark had caused inside of him. Something which Grogu detected immediately and in turn let his father know through their connection what he was detecting inside of Skippy. It was also the word Din had used of Master Luke after his return to them from his impromptu solo trip. Of which he had never shared about with anyone of the others, not even Din of what had happened to him as clearly he had been a changed man after coming back. The key word being change there. Din knew he could not straight on start interrogating this child of what had changed in their mind. Also the change was clearly something which had not impacted Skippy and most likely not Hesta either, whatever it was and maybe there were others too unaffected. But clearly there was something totally off about the whole populous of the Academy and now the whole planet had disappeared too. So a lot was going on at the very moment. Din knew he needed to thread really carefully as Skippy was their only lead in finding the others, so far.

“So, Skippy, how long did you stay with the others? I mean at the Academy?” Din was trying a different approach now. Loosing the Jedi name from the equation and keeping things more personal for Skippy hoping that talking about himself would be easier than maybe dealing with whatever trauma he had endured before escaping. Because it was clearly what he had done, most likely hiding on board the Academy transport ships while they had headed out to space while picking up supplies.

“Well…” Skippy was counting the time in their own mind. Being still a kid, not even close to where any of the other children in the Academy had been while Din and Grogu had stayed there. Which again was odd as Skippy seemed totally too young to be in any kind of training at all. Then again, if they were a foundling then that would explain why Skippy had been taken in by the others.

“I guess I was there for six months, maybe more, not really sure.” Skippy tried to be as accurate as possible and this comment did not raise any alarms for Grogu either, making Din simply nod for the kid to go on. “So I was brought there from this mining planet where I was working on.” Skippy’s voice got a tad low and maybe a little shaky too as the time they had been doing forced labour just to survive after their parents had died was not been an easy life for such a young child.

But gulping his threatening tears away, they bravely continued on their sad tale of the before being supposedly saved by the Jedi. “So someone smuggled me out of there. I don’t know who or how they knew what I could kinda do.” As at this point they had not yet claimed to use the Force, even if Grogu knew differently. “So, someone bribed the guards and I was brought outta there during one night.” Skippy then went on. “And the next thing I knew I was on the planet with all these kids.” The light in their eyes sparkled as clearly the beginning for them being part of something better. And with other children had been good if not even great for the child who had had nothing and no one and had been forced to work in the mines for their food.

“So, when you got to the planet, where the school was, you became a student of the Force, right?” Din then tried to probe.

Skippy looked up at him at this point, for the first time since they had met with them. As they had been avoiding eye contact all this time. Most likely out of fear to have been truly seen. Something which the foundlings often did, recognising some of the mannerism Din himself had used as a child. It was a coping mechanism and a hiding place as well. Something which Din had soon enough forgotten after being adopted by the clan of Mandalorians. But it was clear that Skippy had not been as comfortable at the Academy after all showing the signs of the same still now. So maybe, whatever was going on on the planet had already started before Skippy’s arrival.

“They said I could use the Force, yes.” Skippy finally also confirmed and then turned to Grogu. “Like he does.” Skippy nodded at Grogu. “I have never sensed anyone so powerful as you.” Skippy then revealed.

This surprised both Din and Grogu, as Master Luke possessed an even more keen Jedi mind than any of his students did. Sure Grogu and Hesta had been right on his tail as it were. But neither was as powerful, at least not since last being on the planet with the others. But then again, it could be that this kid had not met Master Luke at all. As if they had only been there a short amount of time. Maybe Luke had been too busy with other things, such as getting things up and running on the planet. He was always recruiting new kids there after all. Or maybe he had simply been off world or something. Whatever the reason was it was all still pretty odd to hear he comment.

“But you know Hesta and she is pretty powerful.” Grogu then piled on, not sure as to what to make of all this information which Skippy was telling them.

“Yes, she was always good to me. Even taught me stuff I was not supposed to know.” Skippy then said.

“Um, did you meat Master Luke, the head of the school?” Din just had to know as his suspicions were ever growing the more he heard of the story of this kid.

“Not Master Luke. No, that was not the leaders name. At least not that I ever heard.” Skippy tried to remember the name and compare that to what Din had used but could not place it right away. “I mean, I never met the person or whomever was in charge of the whole school. And Hesta told me I should try to keep a low profile for a while at least.” Skippy then revealed. “I mean I did not figure it out at first, but she was kinda scared.”

Again, it sounded so different from the whole recruiting process from when Din and Grogu had been on the planet as Luke had always made sure he knew everyone under his care. Also, the fact that Hesta had sounded scared already when the kid had arrived? Well, it indicated that whatever had started years back was still going on and even growing. Possibly even worse day by day. But it seemed that whatever the change was, making kids behave badly it seemed if the comment of Skippy’s was any indication. But also, that the change did not affect all of them. Hesta being the one at least. So, what was it and why had it taken this long? It seemed to Din that they were getting more and more unanswered questions and no answers at all. Which was not good.

“Alright kids, I think we can safely conclude that there is something totally off with the Jedi Academy, both the people there and the planet too. What it is, well, your guess is as good as mine. But we do have evidence that something bad is going on.” Din gave Skippy a look who swallowed after realising that fully now too. “And we have the distress call from Hesta and it had to come from somewhere.” Din recapped the status of what they knew and seeing the worried look on Grogu’s face too, made him realise they needed to do more than what they had so far. After all, this was their family in a way affected by all this. “I think we need to go back to the supposed location of the planet and do some gentle probing. But first, we need to go see a friend about a cloaking device. Just to be on the safe side while scanning that specific area of space.” Din then said.

Grogu knowing exactly whom it was they were going to see, even if it meant a slight detour for them. He smiled and said to Skippy. “You’re going to love her and her droids. Plus she’s got some other cool stuff at her place too. And great food!” Grogu emphasised the last part, still remembering fondly of the mechanic who had taken care of him and given him extra slices of food while his dad was out bounty hunting in the desert or basically any other of the many visits made to visit the mechanic’s shop.


Chapter Nine

“This is Mos Eisley tower, you have permission to land to space port hangar 3-5.” The voice of the officer in charge crackled over the comms console.

“Acknowledged!” Din simply responded and started the landing procedures to the familiar site, which he had visited plenty of times before.

The small vessel soon landed onto the allotted hangar without too much trouble as this was a much smaller ship than the Razor Crest had been. As the three of them were embarking the ship, a familiar face was already there to greet them all. Din had sent word before hand that they were on the arrival and to clear space for them if possible. It was rare for him to trust too many people with his ship and the mechanic living there was one of the few he knew could fix anything wrong with any ship or then simply add any new additions where needed as it was now the case for them now.

“Well, well, well!” Peli Motto exclaimed standing tall despite her short statue by the side of the landed craft with her repair droids. “Look what the womp rats dragged in!”

“Good to see you too!” Din smiled at the mechanic knowing her jabs were meant as endearing rather than stabbing comments, at least where friends were concerned.

“Peli!” Grogu exclaimed with fondness and rushed past his dad to greet the woman landing right at her feet and holding onto Peli’s legs hugging her tightly.

“Look at you!” Peli said as she saw how grown up Grogu was now. “All big and grown up you are!”

Peli then grabbed a hold of Grogu and held him up in the air as he was still smaller then most people. Smiling at the Kid she then hugged him as they both had bonded during the several trips Din had made to Tatooine during their time spent in space before and even during the years after leaving the Academy too. After all, this space sport and Peli Motto were among the few trustees of Din’s and coming here to this place with a familiar face was always a treat for both father and son. But as always this was not really a social call, rather a dire need for some upgrades to their current craft.

“I am a warrior now.” Grogu stated proudly to his friend.

With serious face, Peli checked the gear Grogu was wearing and then with a thoughtful look she commented. “A warrior huh?” Going with the obvious pride the still Kid had for his current stature, as Peli was quite good with kids, big or small. “So, done much killing lately?” She was joking of course, but with her poker face it was usually hard to tell.

“No killing. Father says we should be doing less of that.” Grogu threw back, which was meant as a partial joke but it was also a truth as Din had had a chat with Grogu about killing and trying to keep it to a minimum when in a situation where it was redeemed as necessary.

“I see.” Peli still held her poker face. “Well, guess there are more than one way to slay a dragon, right!” The pun was intended as Din had indeed helped to slay one years back among his visits to the planet.

Din could not help but smile at the jibes Peli was rather skilful at throwing. “No dragons these days.” He then added.

“Oh?” Peli sounded almost surprised knowing full well, that the usual reason for Din and Grogu showing up was usually that they were in a pinch and needed some help or then they were chasing someone.

“Well, there is something.” Din then revealed.

“There always is, isn’t there!” Peli then exclaimed and let Grogu to the ground. She then noticed the one hiding behind Din, a similar size kid as Grogu almost. “Who do we have here then?” She bent downward a bit to have a look-see of the new arrival she did not know yet.

“This is Skippy.” Grogu took the kids hand in his own and guided them towards Peli. “He is a Jedi wannabe too.” Grogu too had learnt a few of the puns and jokes some of the people around them were throwing and quite aptly used them himself too.

“Skippy huh?” Peli took a long look at the new kid on the block. “So guess you too can throw stones in the air and make loud sounds then too to scare off people?” A jab at Grogu’s past as he had been doing his small tricks back then when they first had met up and a little after too.

“No, ma’am.” Skippy sounded timid. “But I can read minds, well, sort of.” Skippy then said, as they had yet to reveal what they really could do, as both Din and Grogu were sure there was more to them than let on with Skippy.

“Oh wow!” Peli exclaimed in surprise. “That is simply great!” She told the youngling. “I could sure use someone like that in my organisation with such super powers!” She then went on sounding serious.

Skippy’s face changed suddenly, a kind of a happier expression emerging to the sour face they had had on ever since first meeting them. “You could?” They simply asked then.

“I sure do!” Peli smiled and then she asked. “Are you kids hungry? Maybe in a need of some snacks?” She then asked the duo.

“I could eat.” Grogu stated as he usually was hungry or could eat if not too hungry.

“I guess.” Skippy sounded more timid but followed Grogu’s lead, as it seemed their best bet.

“Alright, then come with me.” She then offered her hands to either kid to take and to hold.

Getting then an actual smile out of Skippy which was a first as they had not smiled even once since they had met with the dynamic duo of fatter and son saving them earlier. Not that there was much to smile about maybe but still. But it was surprising to see Skippy finally coming out of their shell if just a little. As clearly, Peli Motto, the mechanic extraordinaire, had a way with all kinds of children. Just like she had kept an eye on Grogu several times and bonding with him too. Din looked on as the woman went towards the office area both kids in hand, most likely giving them some treats which she kept hidden inside for special visitors like these. Din was smiling too and jumped to follow the trio, in the hopes of getting one for himself.

***

“A cloaking device?” Peli exclaimed out loud in a big surprise. “I mean yeah! Why the hell not?” She was being sarcastic of course. “Maybe we can build our own mini Death Star while we are at it! Or something other from the old imagination and use magic in the process!”

“The difference is that the cloaking devices do exist and I know you can build one too.” Din then stated matter of factly. “You told me yourself, remember? That one time we were playing against those gullible card sharks in the cantina?” Din reminded her of the night when the two of them had hustled some credits out of a couple of supposed card sharks, which they had totally so not been.

“I kind of did tell you that didn’t I?” Peli was once again reminded of never drinking too much in mixed company.”

“Yes you did and you were adamant it had worked too and the ship it was used by was able to fly into an Empire strong hold just like that.” Din reminded his friend.

“Yes, well, that one I kind of did work on all those years back. But I was part of a team. And it wasn’t really that reliable as I made it to be.” As per her usual, Peli had been bragging a tad too much off her past projects while getting drunk after the big win.

“You were part of a team?” Which was more surprising to Din than the fact that maybe the cloak had worked and maybe not. “How the hell did that happen?” He asked sounding totally curious.

“Yeah, hard to believe huh?” The solemn woman then said as she had been her own boss for so long now and usually only worked with drones, never people, except for Din.

Din nodded after taking another swig of his ale which they were both having in Peli’s kitchen while the kids had had their treats and opted to go play around with the droids outside. “It totally is!” Din said to his friend. “But I am sure that whatever it is, you can make it work if you put your mind to it.” Din then told his friend coaxing the woman.

After all, he knew Peli well now and knew what she could do from practically out of nothing. She had proven to be a great alley over the many years they had known each other. And now, he trusted her once again to come through for him. After the kids had gone off to play, Din had told Peli the story of why they were there and in need of the device. Or rather his own suspicions plus the facts before they had left the Academy as that was all he had at the moment. Except of Skippy of course and the distress call from Hesta. Peli wasn’t surprised to hear something had gone wrong as usually, where there were great powers, well, something bad happened as she put it.

“Can’t trust any of that stuff.” She told Din. “Dark Side, Light Side, it’s all the same.” She then went on. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely, the only constant in the universe you can trust.” She ranted giving her life lessons to Din. “And if you keep that in mind and steer clear, well, then you should be ok.”

“I hear ya!” Din then said in a low tone. “But this time there are bigger things at steak than me or my son.” Din added.

Peli looked at him, the changed man he was now with his son and all, a far cry from the insecure single father he had been cast as all those years ago. “There always is, isn’t there though.” Peli knew her life quotes were only partially usable anyway as the good of the many usually always outweighed the good of the few. And so it was in this instance too. “I will build that damned cloak.” She then said. “But you will have to help me.” She added. “As it’s not as a simple task I let on earlier.” She laughed out loud.

“I will! And whatever you need I can get.” Din then told his friend. “And with the labour of course, I am sure I can do something.” He smiled as he had pretty much rebuilt his ship with the aid of Grogu of course, but still, he could do other stuff that fight too.

“I am sure you can!” Peli laughed out loud and clanged her cup against Din’s for another cheers. “I see you managed to upgrade that old hunk of metal junk pretty good too.” She had already seen the new ship of course, but the upgrades were new and she had spotted them immediately. If it was something Peli liked, was checking out all things mechanical. “And don’t get me wrong, I like what I see!” After all, the ship Din piloted now was nothing like the old one he used to have but also the upgrades done to his current vessel made it look all new and shiny too.

“Well, thanks! The Kid helped of course, but she is a far cry from the one I got for a bargain all those years back! And it was a good thing I had her too!” Din then went on. “I mean when we left the Jedi home world, she was all we got pretty much.” Din was getting all nostalgic there too for a moment at least. But that was all in their past now. Still, it was funny to him how quickly he had jumped and made his best effort to help those kids he had gotten to know.

Then, as the evening slowly progressed the two of them chatting away, the kids coming back inside getting some real food this time as there was already a broth brewing on the stove as made by one of the help droids in the household. The rest of it could wait until morning as Peli had told Din already upon their arrival.

Chapter Ten

“Wrench!” Peli shouted out to Din who was standing close by aiding the mechanic at this point in time of the ‘let’s build a cloaking device out of spare parts to an old model ship and hope the hell it works’ project.

Giving her the needed tool the next order was soon barked out from her as Din knowingly was waiting for it after having been in the position for a while now. “Infuser!” Again making the device available for Peli.

Peli had been ordering the others around while remaining under the vessel herself doing whatever she was doing at each given moment. This was only one of the places she had been updating. As she was adjusting the recently acquired technology parts and modifying them to suit the ship’s needs to work as the cloak it was now designed and modified to work as. Even if it seemed to be an impossible task at the moment. It was the best option the two adults had come up with. Which had been to buy the used technology rather than invent it all from scratch. After all, they really did not have that much time to spend on getting the ship ready to get back to the system where the Jedi Academy had previously resided at. As Din and Grogu needed to investigate the options there undetected. So, now, the four of them, or rather Peli, had been working on getting the used and somewhat archaic and being in kind of in various stages of development gadget working on the ship of Din’s and Grogu’s before they would head out in search of the missing planet and the Jedi kids of course.

For now, they were all pretty much relying on Peli’s abilities to get the cloak up and running as it was a key component for them to avoid detection while cruising and nosing around in the system where the planet was supposed to be at. And after helping her to initially setup the system on the craft, they were now all holding their toes and fingers crossed that the recalibration of the device would be successful. Something which Peli had been kind of fifty fifty about as she knew what she could do. But the doubt had been more on the side of the obsolete technology. After all, cloaking devices were no longer developed, not legally at least and whatever was left was from the Empire era. So there were those things to consider too. But after some searching and using up all their combined contacts, the two of them had managed to track down the parts. And even close by, on the same planet! It was in another Mos, where Din had taken a quick trip on the old land cruiser and purchased the parts after some negotiation of course. After having to bargain for a few minor favours for him and Peli to be done later on, the parts had soon landed back at Peli’s workshop to be refurbished and then being installed onto the ship in waiting.

“Spanner!” Peli gave one more order and was quickly handed the tool as well.

After a few moments of what sounded like some insects buzzing under the ship, all noises seized. And then, after a moment of total and suspiring silence, the mechanic rolled out from under the vessel. Din, Grogu and Skippy were watching intently at the spot just below the ship where the skilled mechanic had rolled on her wheeled cart under the belly of the beast, as she had put it before getting under there to install the last parts of the cloak. But knowing her mode of operandi, she needed to take her time in doing her thing. Just as Din had put it after observing the woman working usually quite intently with whatever device she had her hands on. And usually, she was talking with them as well. As despite being the inanimate objects most of the time, Peli was a firm believer in each of the parts of the whole having a mind and soul of their own. No arguments there whatsoever as she had her counter argument at hand, always. So now, as they were all waiting for Peli to either pop up after successfully reconfiguring the parts below. Or then, for her to come out exclaiming all kinds of profanities as she had not managed to get the parts cooperating with her specs. But for now there was nothing but silence.

So it was quite unnerving and kind of out of character too of the feisty mechanic. But deciding however not to disturb her by simply asking, the three of them remained expectant on the side of the ship. Trying to peek under here and there as to what was going on. Peli was way below the ship, so not even Grogu being the shortest of them could see what she was doing. Simply shaking his head to his dad after taking a quick look-see. So, they waited and waited and then, after their somewhat lengthy wait, even if it had not really been that long, Peli popped out of the darkness still laying on top of the cart smiling rather happily it seemed this time around. Which seemed out of character somewhat again, as the more snide or crooked smile was the mechanics trademark more so than a happy kind of a one she was housing right now on her face. But it was all good as clearly, she had managed to convince, as she often put it, the parts to work with her in a desired fashion.

“Well, aren’t you going to help me up?” She then asked snidely from the three pairs of eyes glaring at her.

“Sorry.” Din apologized and then offered his hand to aid Peli up as she was quite stiff from laying on her back for quite the while.

After she was up and about, she then glanced at the expectant trio in front of her. “Well, what are you waiting for? We need to test the damned thing won’t we.” She was usually not the one to give too many instructions or guidelines either, rather expected people to know or rather read her mind as to what she had done and what she expected the others then to do. Something for Grogu to consider to do perhaps. But then again, Din had told him not to use his mind reading capabilities with people they knew. “So, get on up there and start the gadget!” She then ordered for Din to do.

“Aye, aye!” Din mock saluted her and then before she could say another word, Din was already up the steps and inside the ship and on his way to the cockpit where the device controls were connected to the consoles of the craft.

Din was sitting in the cockpit while Grogu was his shout out at the hatch door between him and Peli as Peli did not apparently believe in the communication devices. Not at least while used when in and around the hangar. As she had put it while asked earlier by Din - we are just a shout out away so why drain all them batteries! The mechanic sure had her quirks. But then again, she was the best one in several parsecs, so there was that. And all her quirks aside, she could put together pretty much anything from nothing and that was a huge plus in Din’s book. Plus there was the fact that after some time and fashion, the two of them had become fast friends. And whenever there had been trouble in one form or another, the ship needing repairs Din could not handl. Or then if he had needed a safe harbour or anything else basically, Peli had been the go to friend. It had been like that ever since Din and Grogu had left the Academy and started their adventures in space again as they had put it. Even if it had been quite a different kind of a life from before they had joined Luke and the other Jedi children at the school.

But coming back to Tatooine was always a joy, as this had been the base of operations for the Mandalorian bounty hunter years back. And Din knew the ways of the planet and all the best places as well. But even if they two or rather three of them enjoyed the planet and the calm surroundings as nothing pretty much happened there these days, they had an urgent matter awaiting for them to solve. Skippy too had come out of their shell as they seemed to like Peli and hanging around her. Always observing whatever she was doing had been interesting to the would be Jedi. Even if they had said they really were not one and it was becoming obvious to Din as well, that Skippy wanted to do something else than simply become a Jedi warrior. It had become so much so, that Din had actually considered leaving the kid in Peli’s care, if she was willing of course. Because they were still quite young and clearly had been thrown to the Jedi mix without consent after being a slave. So considering of asking the mechanic if she was up to the job of getting a mentee. As clearly, Skippy was becoming apt in helping around with anything tech really.

Din started the engines and then, pushed the cloak button. But as the console was flashing all red only, as the lights indicating the device’s functionality but not the good kind of green, Din could only conclude the ship was not cloaking. “It’s not working.” He shouted to Grogu who in turn relayed the message to Peli.

“Yeah, I can see that! I am not blind you know.” Peli replied her voice dripping with sarcasm and before there was another word spoken she motioned to Skippy and said. “Come on kid, we need to do some more adjusting. You are with me.” She wanted Skippy to learn all that they could as the thought of asking them to stay had been on her mind too. Guess great minds really thought alike! “I could use your skills right about now.” She added just to let the kid know she apprenticed all the things Skippy had already done so far and was quite a quick learner as it turned out.

Skippy simply smiled and nodded and picked up the tool box and followed Peli to the back of the ship to make the adjustments apparently still needed to be done to fix the cloak.

“Kid? Where did they go?” Din shouted out as there had been no further intel as to what Peli was doing as per her usual.

“To the back of the ship. She took Skippy with her.” Grogu was still at his post as he had not been excused. And besides, maybe there would be something he needed to tell his father after Peli and Skippy had done the whatever they needed to do.

“Okay. Lemme know when they are back.” Din remained seated as standing almost all day long was getting to him. After all, none of them were getting any younger!

“I will dad!” Grogu hollered back to Din. He too was appreciating the break as they had pretty much worked non stop for a while as they had all helped when installing the device. But the calibration part or rather the boring stuff as Grogu had put it to his father earlier, was mostly done by Peli, so the being on call part was getting to him too.

It did not take long though, when Grogu could hear Peli’s voice from somewhere at the back of the ship calling out. “Try now!” She shouted.

“Okay!” Grogu shouted back and then turned to the inside of the vessel, shouting from the entrance. “Dad! Peli says it’s okay for another try.”

“Understood!” Din was roused from his slight slumber as he had dozed off and was now alert again and started pushing the device’s buttons.

It took a moment, but then, he could hear the slight whining sound now familiar to the device. And just then, the consoles started blinking the right kind of colour, that of all greens. “It’s working Kid, we should have cloaked!” He shouted out to Grogu who had already noticed the same as had Peli and Skippy. The dead giveaway was Grogu hanging mid air, even if he was still at the doorway of the ship. But he too could see the other two farther away.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” Peli simply exclaimed and nodded her head at a job once again well done.


Chapter Eleven

“Alright then. This is the last of the lot. Do you think you have enough stocked in here now then?” Peli asked with a smirk as she gazed at the various boxes and carrying cases stacked neatly in the small cargo hold.

She was there bringing in the last piece of equipment to the small ship which was now fully stocked with spare parts, tools and various food items as well as Din did not want to take any chances while en route to investigate the system of where the Jedi Academy had been in. He had no idea how long they would be out there as he was totally committed in finding out what was really going on in the supposed empty space area. And he was quite sure there was something wrong too as all the clues were indicating it was the case. The most worry he had was that there was some kind of a sinister agent in the mix and that would complicate things. After all, Hesta had sounded scared and Skippy was not talking much either. And Grogu was no longer able to sense any of the Jedi kids even if it had been a while since he had tapped into the Force. But now, there was nothing to grab a hold to as he had commented to his father after trying once again to connect. Skippy who was adamant he was not a Force user, had not even participated and he too seemed pretty gloomy of the overall situation of the Jedi Academy. So, after a chat with Peli which Din had had and then asking Skippy what they thought of the suggestion. As it was, both Din and Peli had the same idea which was to ask if Skippy wanted to stay with Peli. At least for a trial period while Din and Grogu were out there doing their thing. Sitting down the youngling for a wee talk after the evening meal, both Peli and Din had explained the reasoning behind asking Skippy if they were willing to stay with the mechanic to learn the trade and stay safe. That was if they were inclined to do so. The look on Skippy’s face had been priceless after they had heard what the adults were offering them.

“Seriously? I could stay here? With Peli? And the droids?” Eyes wide in a positive surprise, the youngling had rushed up from their seat and jumped to Peli’s lap almost immediately and almost knocked her down in the process.

“So is that a yes then?” Din had then asked coyly.

“YES!” Skippy had half shouted as they were totally happy on the planet and with this woman who was so nice to them not to mention all the cool stuff there and getting enough food to eat!

“Alright-y then, it is settled!” Din had commented to the two hugging people who had managed to find each other in the midst of all the other turmoil going around out there.

“Guess it will last for a while. After all, we have no idea how long it will take to find Hesta and the others and I don’t want to take any chances in taking off to look for supplies or other things if something goes wrong. I mean, we have to be ready for anything.” Din explained sincerely, even if Peli had only been joking, as she knew well, what it meant to carry a full stock of the necessities rather than going without.

“I hear ya!” Peli simply said. “And I can’t blame you for being prepared. I mean, Being Prepared is my middle name if anything!” She laughed then a little.

“Well, all of this.” Din motioned around them in the small cargo area and the ship in general. “We could not have done without your help.” He gave Peli her dues as even if they could have gone after the Jedi without the cloak, it would have been too dangerous for them most likely and it was also giving them a great advantage.

“Well, I know you would have been able to pull off whatever stunts you had up your sleeves even without my aid. But hey, this is much better and safer. And besides, it was cool working on this thing too.” Peli patted the side of the ship. “I mean now I can add cloaking device to my resume too.”

“Exactly!” Din laughed.

“And I got a kid in the process too, so it’s all wins to me.” Peli was really happy about having Skippy remaining on the planet and under her care, even if it was only temporary. After all, they liked each other and it was nice to have another flesh and blood being around even if she enjoyed the company of the drops plenty. “They are a keeper!” She laughed a little hoping this was the case.

“Guess you will have your hands full with that one!” Din knew part of that was true, but Skippy was nowhere near as hyper as Grogu had been, so Peli could easily handle the youngling.

“Yeah, but I’ve got good training with the Kid!” Peli was fondly reminded of the times she had babysat for the adventurous child in the past.

“That you have!” Din smiled and took a look around and seeing Grogu coming to the ship.

“Did you two say your goodbyes?” He asked then as Grogu and Skippy had become friends after all.

“We did.” Grogu nodded and asked in a small voice. “Aunt Peli?”

“Yes hon?” Peli wasn’t sure what was going on but was eager to hear, knowing the look and sound well as Grogu was a tad worried.

“Well, Skippy is kind of scared, not of staying here. But in general. And even if he does not say it, he can use the Force.” It wasn’t really a revelation, rather a confirmation of the same. “And well, he might be worried to show it you know, for you.”

Peli understood what Grogu meant and so to assure the Kid Skippy would be fine she simply said. “I will try to encourage him to do new stuff, so no worries, Kid!” She then grabbed Grogu for a hug and did the same with Din before departing the vessel. “Y’all stay safe now you hear!” She said before stepping out of the ship.

Leaving the duo once again to their own devices, as it was time for them to start on their journey and go look for the Jedi children out there somewhere in space. Hopefully, finding them without too much of a hassle. But then there was always the option there would be trouble too, something the two had gotten used to over the years travelling together.

***

“Keep on eye on the monitors for anything unusual Kid!” Din told Grogu as the two of them were on sight looking for hidden treasure, or in this case, a missing planet. “We better run the sweeps at least a few times all cross to be on the safe side.”

The father son duo had arrived back to the system and close to the coordinates of the Jedi Academy home world. Which again, showed nothing but dark space and no life signs on the scanners as they were looking around the overall area. After exiting hyperspace a bit farther away, Din had initiated the cloaking device which rendered them too invisible to any other passing ships or anyone else scanning for that matter. It was the ever growing suspicion and paranoia within Din which had caused him to fly out and get this feature installed. But as he had told the full story and his thoughts to Peli Motto, his trusted friend, she too had thought it was a good idea to not to expose oneself to any dark forces hanging about. Besides, Grogu was fully on board with his father on this one as he too was getting the chills as he had put it while entering this area of space. So, being extra careful was their preemptive strike as it were. Not becoming a target as they were not here looking for a fight but rescuing those who had reached out to them. Something which would have been difficult to explain at gun point at any given moment.

“Aye, aye!” Grogu then simply replied and kept his eyes on the monitors at all times, taking his responsibilities in being the second in command seriously as hell even if it was just the two of them in the crew.

The scanners were running in full force while Din manoeuvred the small vessel across the region of space. It was still quite empty and dark and uninhabited as the whole point being for the Jedi Academy to be in an isolated section of space where nobody really ventured much. And thus the one rogue planet with the few moons had been selected. Only now, all of it was gone. Though the star of the system was still there, millions of miles away shining brightly as far as they could see and detect with the scanners. So, the supernova could be crossed over the list of suspects causing a planet and its moons to disappear. As it were, sitting down together the four of them while still on Tatooine, Din had devised a short list of whatever reasons there could be, natural or otherwise for a planet to simply vanish into thin air. A sun going supernova being one of the top ones followed by a black hole as there was no debris around. But that would take a long time to happen and besides, the sun was present and counted for, bright as ever before. So, the next culprit was an Empire built planet killer, which really should not be any around after the fall. But if it was that then it could happen that the debris was all destroyed as well if wanting to be totally through. Still there had been no rumours of such things being around anymore.

But after some more scans and flybys around the space where the location of the planet was supposed to be at, there was no scientific explanation nor remnants supporting the theory of either the planet exploding or imploding either deliberately which was the most obvious cause. Nothing at all remained in the area of space indicated any kind of catastrophic incident happening there whatsoever. Leaving the duo baffled as they had pretty much covered the whole place by now after flying about for several hours. Getting tired and somewhat hungry too as they had worked nonstop relentlessly to the point of exhaustion. Calling off the search remained the only option now as there really was nothing to hold on to, no physical evidence whatsoever existed. Both Grogu and Din were frustrated of not finding anything, but then again Peli warned them there might be nothing to find. As there was also the less plausible option of not wanting to be found. As odd as it sounded when Peli had suggested it, Din had started to think about that possibility at this point in time. Glancing at his son, seeing the defeat in his demeanour as well, Din then knew they needed a break, before entering their next step in the search, whatever it might be, as of yet it was still undecided. So, nudging the Kid just a tad getting his attention, Din said to him trying to cheer him.

“Why don’t we take a break to rethink our options. I known I am tired and it’s been a long day and I suspect we could use a break and some food too.”

Grogu seemed to be contemplating their status for a moment before responding and then he said yielding to the odds stacked against them. “Sounds like a good plan.” Feeling less enthusiastic to quit now, but then again, they needed a new approach to their search.

“Good. Let’s go to the near by system and land just to be on the safe side.” Din the said as he did not want to risk them remaining in space either so close and not sure if they really were close by at all.


Chapter Twelve

The campfire was gently flashing its warming flames against the cool night air and casting tall shadows over the tree tops off the small clearing. It was right where Din and Grogu had set up their camp site for the night after landing onto the small planet. It was already late in the night and they were ready to get some sleep after having their evening meal together. Din had found the secluded place after leaving the system of the Jedi Academy, or rather former one as there was nothing there. Or at least for now it was the assumption. It was close by but not near any space routes to avoid detection just in case anyone was looking. Not that anyone was aware of them being anywhere close or anywhere for that matter as Din really did not need to report any flight plans for anyone. But, there was the fact that Hesta had contacted them from somewhere and the possibility of her having been tracked by whomever or whatever was raising havoc for the Jedi. So, having their location jammed by the enhanced device Peli had also helped to install was a precaution Din was glad to have in place. A last minute add on before leaving Tatooine but thankfully Peli had reminded him of some of the missing or broken parts of the small vessel. After all, it was not a perfect craft, but it had served the father son duo well over the past few years. Even if it had been quite the wreck when Din had first purchased the ship at a junk yard while still living at the Academy. And so, with much love and care, they had refurbished the vessel to a flight capable feisty one. And now, with Peli’s help, it was even better than before having a second lease in life.

Din rose up and started picking up the stuff used for their meal, plates and such and whatever leftovers there might have been. As he stared towards the ship, he noticed Grogu deep in thought. “Kid? Something wrong?” He wasn’t getting any feelers from the youngling which he shared with his father if he was in the mood. But not tonight it seemed.

Grogu got out of the haze, a kind of a meditative state, as he had tried to connect with the Force. But he had been too distracted in doing so as his thoughts were clearly on his missing friends. He looked up at his father and said simply. “Sorry, dad. I was trying to be one with the Force, but guess I am too tired to concentrate.” He could not be sure if it was the fatigue or simply the worry of never seeing Hesta and the others again.

Din knew what the worry was. As despite not being able to read the mind of his son, he knew Grogu quite well by now and knew when he was tired and when he was distracted. And this was the latter. Squatting down to Grogu’s level he looked at him and said. “Look, Kid, I know you are upset because we have not found any clues as to where the others are.” Din tried, even if he wasn’t totally sold himself on how soon or not they were able to find any kind of clue as to where to the planet had disappeared and where the others were at the moment. “But we have only started. We search for one day for the planet.” He was grasping at straws really, but he needed to get the Kid out of his funk and into a better mood. It was his job after all. “There are plenty of things we can still do in trying to find them. And tomorrow, we’ll get a fresh start and make our way back to the system and do a more thorough scan.” What it really meant, well, Din had yet to figure that out as scanning for life sings and whatnots. And, beyond that, there was really nothing much they could do. Or was there. “We can recalibrate the scanners for more sensitive searches.” He wasn’t sure if that was even a thing, but he was trying, hard. “And well, when you are felling better, you can do the Jedi trick and search through the Force.” He wasn’t even sure if that was possible as Grogu had already done that on several occasions without much or no luck.

But, even if Din wasn’t sure himself, listing all the options and simply talking to his son seemed to be doing the trick. Call it a Din mind trick if you will. But Grogu’s eyes were wide and his ears were all up and perky, the clear signs he had been listening in intently to what his father was telling him. And also reading to the positivity of it all and the kind of options given to him by Din. Leading Grogu to believe himself, that there were still plenty of options for them to find the others. So, a faint smile emerged to his face and he reached out to Din for a hug. Something he did every now and again when he wasn’t feeling all that. After all, he was all bigger now, kind of a teenager really, and too much hugging wasn’t his thing anymore. Well, most of the time. But not tonight. No, tonight Grogu the would be Jedi Mandalorian warrior, needed his father to hold him and assure that everything would be alright in their world once again. As Din hugged Grogu, he then picked the Kid up and carried him to the ship and to their sleeping quarters, like so many times before in their past. After all, they were both tired and it was very late. And tomorrow? Well, it would be a new day again and they needed to make new plans on how to search for the missing children, their friends and family.

As Din was tucking in Grogu to his bed, he simply said. “Thank you dad.” And then, after seeing the smiling face of his father, the young Jedi Mandalorian closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

“Don’t mention it Kid.” Din told the sleeping Grogu and was only too happy to get to bed himself, as it had been a long day after all. “We will find our friends and that is a promise.” Din told Grogu then, not sure if it really was up to him to make such a promise after all. But he was going to do his damndest to find the missing children.

***

The next morning it was not the sun which woke the duo rather a sound which seemed to be either howling or screeching. Not sure as to which it really was after all or then it was a combination of the two. Whatever it was it seemed to be close by, but chaining positions, so either running real fast or it was flying. Din got up and quick on his feet made it to the cockpit to run scans of the sound. After all, they had not found anything except minimal animal life present on the planet. So if this was some hidden and predatory animal targeting the two of them as breakfast then Din wanted to know. It was always good to know whom one was going to get eaten by rather than not. But as he ran the few scans on the computer, nothing popped up. It was as if the creature or whatever it was wasn’t even there. Which in itself was totally odd. Din looked through the cockpit window once again and could see nothing hovering out there or above the craft. Deciding to be brave he ventured to the airlock and opened it and remained standing looking all over the immediate area around the ship. But there was nothing there, no peep, no nothing. By this time, Grogu had joined him and were also looking for whatever they were not seeing. He was as baffled as his father after glaring out to the open scenery in front of them just starting to wake up as there were no further sounds nor anything else for that matter present. The two of them simply exchanged glances as the scans and their eyes had revealed nothing to either of an intruder close-by or anything else for that matter. So, what had woken the duo up? Or had they simply imagined the whole thing, the both of them?

“See anything son?” Din asked just to be on the safe side.

“No, nothing whatsoever.” Grogu responded.

“But you heard it too, didn’t you?” Din again had to ask.

“Yes, the horrible sound of screeching. That was the one that woke me up.” Grogu verified. “Didn’t you hear it too? That was why you jumped out of bed so fast?” Grogu wasn’t sure if it had been the case but he had seen his father practically jump into air and out of the bed, something which did not happen too often.

“Exactly the same as I heard and that is why I was woken and well, jumped out of bed because I thought that maybe someone or something trying to have us as a feast so I ran to the cockpit to do some scans from the outside. But just like what we see or rather do not see, there was nothing there.” Din the explained to his son.

“But there is nothing there.” Grogu then went on as he was still trying to figure out what it was that had used such horrible sound and woken up them both.

“I see that Kid, I see that.” Din simply stated as he was not sure what it was that had affected them both. So he was thinking for any and all options which could have done so, but there were none. “But as it was both of us hearing the sound, then there must have been something there, right?” He asked confused still of the very incident.

Grogu who was still glaring back at Din, who had not responded immediately rather seemed to be thinking of their odd sensations they had both had at the same time no less. He then decided to try once again to reach out to the Force. Something which he had been unsuccessful of doing ever since they had reached the Jedi Academy home world. Or the supposed location of it. So, now, as all the other options seemed to have failed, then the implausible one remained. Therefore trying to reach out there now, as it was an option that someone had sent this imagery to their minds as Din was also able to receive the Jedi messages through his own mind. Grogu decided to try it out now and so to his father he said simply:

“I think there is more to this than simple creatures of this place. I will try the Force connection once again.” He was about to get back inside and settle before doing it.

“So, you think it is something inside the Force?” Din got the gist of Grogu’s meaning but wasn’t totally sure what Grogu was telling was the exact fact of it either.

“I am. Think about it: we both heard the same thing, but there was nothing there indicating anything was there. So, the conclusion? Mind tricks.” Grogu was pretty sure of being right about his assumptions.

Din assessed the Kid for a moment, but knowing that usually in matters such as this, he was always right. Besides, what could be the harm in letting him tap again into the Force, right? Even if there might be some bad guys lurking out there, they could both fend for themselves so, why the hell not. After all, they were out here basically looking for trouble. So, there was that.

“Alright, then I believe you should try it. Just to get us some peace of mind if nothing else.” Din told him.

“Alright, good. I will go back to our sleeping quarters and try it, right now.” And with that, Grogu was already gone. Followed by his father who closed the door and made sure it was locked as he wasn’t totally sure as to what was lurking outside their vessel.

Grogu was quickly back and seated on his bed. He was fully concentrated and prepared to enter the Force connection as he was sure it was something or someone in there causing the apparent hallucinations for both him and his father. So, concentrating fully, Grogu ventured into the world of the Force, the invisible connection he had tried several times without much luck. At least not so far in a while. Just as he was about to start probing the network there, he heard it.

“Grogu? Is that you?”

Chapter Thirteen

“Oh. My. Goodness.” Grogu exclaimed as he had simply not expected to receive any kind of answer as before, but he was totally surprised to get one now. “Hesta!” His voice was a whisper even in the virtual connection.

“Yes, it is me.” Hesta sounded kind of relived for having been contacted by Grogu, but she also had a hint of worry in her voice. “I am happy you contacted me.” She then said. “But you shouldn’t have.”

“Why not?” Were the first words popping out of Grogu as he still did not understand what was really going on.

“Well, you could be in grave danger if you do use the Force.” Hesta replied sounding a tad on the defensive, as if she wasn’t absolutely sure it was Grogu she was talking to. At least, that was the feeling Grogu got from her, having no doubts himself it was Hesta on the other end of the line even if she was not visible at the moment.

“Well, I guess that is something to deal with at some point.” Grogu wasn’t sure as to why Hesta was so hesitant as she was the one who had placed the call to them in the first place and that was why they were out there now looking for her and the others. “But you were the one who called us, remember?” Grogu reminded his friend of the same.

There was a moment of silence there. As clearly, Hesta was not sure whether she was talking to the real Grogu or someone else. Again something which made Grogu think of what kind of forces were there behind the disappearance of the planet and their friends too. “I did, didn’t I.” Hesta laughed a little then. A nervous laugh at that. “But you should not have contacted me.” She sounded adamant enough.

“Why not?” Grogu was playing the dumb card as for now, if there were indeed strong forces at work, who could monitor the Force connection he had to be careful too as they could and would most likely be listening in right now.

Again, the silence was present and it seemed as Grogu was not able to feel Hesta as she was clearly blocking everyone inside the connection for not getting to her mind. Then she finally said. “I don’t want you to get caught by them.” It was a bold statement though, Grogu was sure.

“Well, there is that chance of course.” Grogu was feeling rather bold now and knew well what his father had told him, which was to be careful. Then again, they were actively looking for the others and that kind of made the whole effort dangerous to begin with. “But, we have travelled all this way and are now looking for you.” Grogu decided to reveal to Hesta.

Mostly to relieve her doubts. And secondly, he was pretty sure that whomever was on the look out, good or bad, knew that Grogu and Din were out there scanning the space, no matter if they had the cloak or not. After all, the cloak was no match for the Force. Something which Grogu had not dared to tell Din as he had been so sure they would be hidden while having the cloak active. Then again, it was a good buffer if nothing more.

“Oh.” Was all Hesta managed as clearly, she had not been expecting the two of them to arrive to her aid as it had been a long while since they had seen each other. And well, despite sending out her message, she had not excepted Grogu or Din to receive it.

“Well, what did you expect us to do? I mean, when we got the message, rather short and cryptic at that, well, we jumped right here.” Grogu sounded so mature now. So sassy even as he did not like the fact that Hesta seemed to mistrust him even if she had her reasons to do so.

“Sorry, I mean, I am not sorry you are looking for us, by far.” She paused not sure really what she wanted to say.

It was already so emotional for her to even be talking with Grogu after all this time. And they had come to her and the others rescue quickly, just as she had hoped and known on some level. That had been her first assumption when sending out the message to the dynamic duo after all, knowing they would help her.

“I am so glad you are here with me.” She then said. “Damned the others.” She said then surprising Grogu with the comment as he had not really any idea was to whom she was referring to. And then there was silence again.

“What is wrong?” Grogu then asked after not hearing anything further.

But then, she felt her, the connection to her mind, her thoughts. Hesta was finally trusting Grogu enough to let him read her. Something which he had waited for her to do. But had suspected she would not as she had been so mistrusting since the very start of the call. So, without further words, or as much as they could be in the connection, Hesta was actually sharing with Grogu now inside the Force.

“They are all changing, the best of us.” Hesta then revealed. “It started soon after you and your father left and now, most of us have turned.” She then revealed which sounded something Grogu had already heard before. Something which Skippy had commented. About the change. “I and a few others are all that which remain. The others, well, they are different and not like us anymore.” It sounded all quite cryptic, but from her deeper feelings and sensations now available for Grogu, he understood what Hesta meant.

“I know what you are saying. We met Skippy.” Grogu then decided to reveal as he was trusting Hesta almost completely, knowing she was not deceiving him. But deciding not to reveal exact details of his whereabouts, not yet anyway.

“You met Skippy?” Hesta sounded almost surprised. “Are they alright?” Was all she asked, proving to Grogu once again, she was earnest with him and not succumbed to some dark side force or another.

“They are fine now and in a safe location.” Grogu said as much. “But, Skippy commented on the change as well.”

“Good, I am glad.” Hesta then commented. “We sent him into hiding.” She revealed then to Grogu.

“What of you?” Grogu then decided to ask boldly. “Are you still safe?” He could not be sure of course.

Hesta was once again silent but not as a long time as before. “I am. But I am sure they suspect me as my behaviour is not as odd as the others is.” She then said. “I mean, I can act, but only for so long if that makes any sense.”

Grogu knew what she meant and then said to her. “I hear ya. We are looking for you now, but have not been unable to find the planet so far at least.”

“What?” Hesta sounded totally surprised now. “We are on the same planet which you were on too.” She then said much to Grogu’s surprise.

Grogu heard the words and knew now what it meant what she was saying. Piecing all the clues together he knew he had to tell his father what was happening. So ending the call with Hesta, albeit reluctantly, he said to her. “I will contact you soon. But right now, we have some calibrating to do.”

“Oh, okay.” Hesta said in a faint voice, but added. “Be safe!”

“I will! Talk to you soon, that is a promise!” Grogu said and ended the connection, after all, he knew now why they had not found the planet and needed to tell this to his father as soon as possible.

***

“Dad! Dad!” Grogu was in a rush to tell Din what he had figured out during his connection with Hesta. “Dad!” He shouted once again while running to find Din.

“Hey Kid! What’s up?” Grogu almost bumped into Din as he was rushing to meet him, being situated in the galley preparing their breakfast as it was still quite early in the morning after having been aroused from their sleep unexpectedly.

“I know why we can’t find the planet!” He was sprouting words out quickly.

“So, guess you managed to connect with Hesta then?” Din was amused by the enthusiasm the Kid was once again showing. It never really got old for him.

“Yes, I did. But that is not the point.” Grogu then stated factually.

“Oh? I thought that was the exact point.” Din smirked.

“No, I mean yes. Well, partly. But here is the thing.” Grogu sat down after Din put the prepared meal plate in front of him and immediately, the youngling dug into the food, as it had been since last night that they had eaten. Then continuing the tale after quickly gulping the first batch off of his plate. “So the reason there is nothing there is quite simple.” Or was it really simple?

“So?” Din wasn’t sure as to what the thing was and trying to coax it out of Grogu seemed to be the hardest thing now as he was being rather cryptic.

Grogu was chewing on the last bites of food into his mouth as he had hardly done so rather gulped the full plate of food and simply swallowed it whole. But there was something still remaining on the plate and he had picked it up to eat that too. He looked at Din and his plate which remained untouched. As if realising his boy was still quite hungry, a thing which never seemed to change, he then pushed the plate to Grogu and said with a grin on his face.

“Here, there is plenty more in the pan.” He smiled at the Kid who was quite fond of his father’s cooking and ate usually twice the amount Din was eating.

After Grogu was finished with the second helping, even licking the sauce off the plate and polishing it all down with a drink of water he finally was back on the topic again. As he was reminded by his father’s glare that he had still some ‘splaining to do in regards of what the one single thing was which he had gone on about earlier.

“Oh, so the thing.” Grogu wiped his mouth on his sleeve then, something Din had still to wean him off of. “Yeah, so I figured out during my connection with Hesta.” He went on. “So she said they were still on the planet!”

“And?” Din was becoming a tad impatient now.

“So the planet! They are still on it!” Grogu’s said with his eyes impossibly wide and not understanding why Din did not understand. “It still there!” He finally said.

This caused Din’s lamp to fire up on top of his old brain and he finally understood what the excitement was all about. The planet was still there where it was supposed to be, right?

“And that means, that if it is still there. Then that means we can go there.” Din then said.

“Well, yes and no.” Grogu explained. “Technically, it is there, only the Force has hidden it.” Grogu said.

“Um, what? The Force?” Din was once again lost.

“Well, it is an archaic trick and not many know how to use it. A very strong Force wielder could do it, but it takes a lot of effort.” Grogu explained further.

“So, it’s a cloak.” Din deduced.

“Well, not exactly.” Grogu revealed.

“Huh?” Again, Din was once again totally lost!

“It’s a dimension shifter kind of a thing.” Grogu told Din. “The Force hides the place or rather shifts it to another dimension. That is why we cannot find it.” Grogu then said glaring at his father who was now nodding in understanding again. “It is still there but we cannot reach it. Not by any conventional means.”

“I see.” Was all Din managed as this had suddenly taken a turn to the other dimensions. And without an easy option to follow as other dimensions was not something the former bounty hunter was used to be travelling to by any means.


Chapter Fourteen

“That should do it!” Din exclaimed as he had finished recalibrating the scanners to the exact specs which Grogu had given him while assisting on the project.

“Looks about right.” Grogu commented, thinking back to the schematics fresh in his mind. But even he could not be sure if this scanners would actually work.

Of course it wasn’t exact science at all. It was all which Grogu had found while he had been tapping to the ancient memory of the Jedi trying to find anything and everything about this dimensional shift. How to do it and how to find anyone or anything inside of one. An inter dimensional pocket as it was called as it was not really in any specific dimension rather out of shift with any existing one. It was also a practice which had not been used in several millennia and little if nothing was known about it by most Force users. Also, as the whole process required so much energy, most likely several Force wielders to do one simple thing. Not to mention hiding a whole planet, which the duo was pretty sure was the case here now. And that process most likely used up most of the powers of the students present there. So no wonder if they were changing, if that was even the reason. But obviously, someone was hooking them all up to produce the needed power as no lone being could do the effort. Still, after some probing, Grogu had finally managed to find out something about the overall process and how to possible be able to detect something which had been shifted and even access the place. Of course it involved a lot of changes to the systems themselves on board the ship. But also a Force wielder or several to access the place would be needed, of that Grogu was most sure. For now, there weren’t a lot of them around and the ones they knew about were inside the shift. Or at least, that was the assumption as Hesta had claimed to be on the planet itself. There was Skippy of course, whom Grogu knew had the Force in them. But being so young and well inexperienced he doubted if Skippy could help them at all. There was really only one which they knew to be out there still, who had kind of denounced the Jedi, but was still wielding the Force. Then again, it had been a few years since they had been in touch. So, finding them, could be rather tricky. But what else could they do as they needed to get into the shift itself if they were even going to begin to rescue any of the kids in there.

“Well, we need to try at least. I mean, what else can we do?” Din was not happy of Grogu’s attitude as this was pretty much all they got and it had been Grogu’s powers which had gotten the specs in the first place.

Grogu sighed and knew he wasn’t the raging voice of hope there either, but there was so much at stake here and they had little if no resources to do anything about it. “I agree, and I think the scanners will work like they are supposed to. But, there is still the thing of getting in there.”

“Well, there is that. But I think we should first try to find them, the planet and make sure it’s here and that there are still people there too.” Din the reasoned with his son.

“I agree dad. So, let’s fire ‘em up!” Grogu forced a smile and used one of his father’s expressions he had heard on several occasions, while Din was at the helm and doing his thing. Also eliciting a smile on his father which was something Grogu did every now and again to make sure he was happy. Something which the two of them did for each other to cheer to other up. “Here we go!” Grogu was back at his co-pilot seat and was pushing the buttons for the scanners.

Din had seated as well and they were both now staring at the consoles, only waiting for them to actually lit up. Either blinking with all kinds of red lights if they had messed the whole device up due to the changes or then, with some kind of greens that they had actually been able to find something inside the shifted dimension. They were both intently staring now as if willing the console come to life. Hoping that either Force or Human suggestion would do the trick. It took several moments of absolutely nothing, but then a small light in the middle of the screen started flashing. Or rather peeping, as it was the smallest indicator yet to be seen there. But even after blinking several times to make sure they had seen what the two of them had seen, the light was still there, present and counted for. It was a good indicator, but really too small to be the planet. But it was still an indicator that there was some kind of life there. And it was at least if the specs the duo had adjusted the scanners with had been correct, coming from the shifted dimension. So now they needed to figure out what it was and if there was more to do to enhance their scanners readings. If there was more there that was of course. After all, they were heavily relying on ancient information. Used so long ago that the devices back then must have been quite different. Even if Grogu had made the adjustments to fit. At least, in his mind he had. The difference was, that were they working or was it simply wishful thinking. Still, this was their only lead or device or resource basically to do much of anything to reach the others and the planet itself inside the dimension.

“Looks kinda small, doesn’t it?” Din glanced at Grogu.

“Yeah, it really does.” Grogu was nodding in agreement.

“Do you think there is anything else we can do?” Din then asked not sure if the Kid had some other trick down his sleeve.

“Well, we could get a little closer maybe?” Grogu could not be sure of course, as whatever the information he had had of the inter dimensional shift was now fading away and keeping it there would be hard and power consuming as well. Just the way these things worked with the ancient knowledge of the Jedi. “I mean, there is nothing more to adjust if that is what you are asking from me.” He then clarified.

“Alright. Good enough.” Din knew that it was it. If Grogu said so, trusting his son’s Jedi instincts as per usual. “Let’s move this bucket closer then. I mean, they most likely know we are here anyway, but don’t think we are able to find them, right?” As per Din’s understanding and what they had discussed about it, the Force wielders could easily detect anyone outside the field they were in. But as long as they were outside of the rift, they could or would most likely not do anything to them as it would simply expose them and use up to much energy as well.

“I agree. And if they are scanning the vicinity, which we have to assume they are, whomever is doing it as even if Hesta wasn’t privy to our being here, they still might know that we are here.” Grogu confirmed his father’s suspicions. “But they most likely do not know about our little attempt here.” Grogu added. “Not yet anyway.”

Grogu again could not be totally sure as they had no idea what powerful forces were behind the hiding of the planet. Most likely these culprits were the Dark Lords they had encountered years back whom had made them run away from their original home. But it had been several years and there had been no signs not even a peep that they were around anywhere. Then again, the duo had not really looked for them either or asked any questions regarding those ones. But, surely if they were around still somewhere, they had either gone to hiding to bide their time. Or then, something else had happened to them. Still, Grogu had not sensed any of them in the Force connection. Nor had he sensed much of anyone else there either. After all, there weren’t that many Jedi around and most of which, albeit children, were recruited to the Jedi Academy by Master Luke. It was a fluke that they had found Skippy. Someone who was a Force user, even if they insisted not to be. Still, they had been sent away by Hesta from the planet to safety. At least that was the gist Grogu had gotten from their most recent and only connection inside the Force. Hesta had also warned that the Force was being scanned by others. Meaning there was some darkness still out there and they were most likely looking for any and all Jedi in the galaxy. So, tapping into the Force was not a great thing to do, unless one was prepared to fight against whomever came after you. It was something Grogu had also commented on to his father as keeping him in the loop of all the fears and doubts Grogu had was something he had learnt to do in the recent years after hiding for so long. But Din Djarin was the one person Grogu truly trusted even if he had a circle of trusted people and friends around him now. But only to his father could he reveal it all. As Din never judged him for any of it. Not even Master Luke was the one to trust completely as he was a total Jedi as someone had commented. And those feelings Grogu housed? Well, they had no place in the Jedi code of conduct as it were. It had also been part of the reason he had no troubles leaving the Academy as the Jedi code was too strict in his mind to follow.

“Alright, then we’ll risk it. We need to have a better look-see of what is really behind door number one there and if it is indeed the planet and in a shifted dimension. Then we are at least on the right track and after that, well, we need to figure a way to get inside.” Din summarised their predicament to the point and what they needed to do in order to get inside.

“That is true too.” Grogu had been thinking of the options they had, knowing he himself wasn’t powerful enough to get through. But if there was another one? Well, then maybe, together they could slice their way inside the rift.

“Good, then let’s move closer. Our cloak is still working so let’s just hope they, whomever they are, are not actively scanning the area.” Din the said and powered their engines to move the ship closer to the spot in space they were receiving their positive scans from.

The small vessel moved in a slow speed closer to the location. Still under a cloak hoping to avoid massive detection. After they had gotten close enough, the dot on the screen grew larger as well, so to confirm that their scanners were actually working. But most likely, they could never truly configure the device to differentiate whether it was a life form or the planet or the whole mass of all of it what was hiding inside the rift. As said, this was totally ancient tech and the modern devices most likely were not matching perfectly. But at least they had something and they had confirmation that they were looking in the right place. So, what was up next? Well, that was the big question as they needed to figure out a way to get inside of the rift.

“So, we have confirmation of life.” Din simply said. “Now, we need to get inside of that, thing.” He wasn’t sure what to except they would find behind the curtain. A planet or something else completely.

“Yes, we do.” Grogu seemed to be deep in thought again, something he was doing a lot lately. Then again, he as more in the lead of this mission than his dad was after all. So that was weighing heavily on him to do his very best. “And I may have an idea.” Grogu then looked up at his father with a hint of a smirk on his face.

Chapter Fifteen

“Ahsoka Tano.” Grogu said the name he had been thinking of out loud

“Ahsoka Tano?” Din repeated with a surprise as even if Grogu had told him they needed more Force users to get through the rift to the other dimension, it was still a surprise for the father. “We have not seen or heard from her for, well, for years!”

Din wasn’t sure the Jedi warrior, which she had always denied to be, was even alive anymore as she had such a knack of getting into impossible and life threatening situations were the odds were usually against her. Or if she was alive, she was most likely in hiding or otherwise unavailable as she had had her own quests she was going to go on. At least that had been the case for her all those years ago since they had last spoken with her. So now, they had no idea of what her status was as Grogu had not been able to detect any other Jedi in the Force besides his brief encounter with Hesta for a long, long while. Din did not even have a clue as where to begin to looking for her. And then again, another side trip? They were on a tight schedule right? But then again, there was no way for them to possibly try to get into the rift without help. At least Grogu did not seem to think so. Also Din did not like to put all the pressure on his son either. So, there really was no other choice then was there? But to go chasing a no longer Jedi across the whole big galaxy? Talk about your wild goose chase!

“Yes, Ahsoka Tano. The only fully fledged Force wielder either of us knows to be alive and around here somewhere. She is very powerful even if she does not subscribe to Jedi code anymore.” Grogu told Din flat on.

“But what if she is, you know, dead?” Din wasn’t sure of this fact either. Then again, he had heard plenty of the Force ghosts too, so there was that. “I mean she might be. It’s been so many years we heard from her and well, she is rather reckless.” Din summarised the “qualifications” of their friend.

Grogu laughed a little. “As are we father. We have taken on so many bad guys being under manned and gunned.” Grogu reminded his father. “Besides, if she was dead, I would have felt it.” Grogu also reminded Din of the disturbances the other Jedi felt if something happened to another one of their brethren.

“Oh, yeah, that. I remember you telling me of it sure.” Din had not recalled this fact, so guess they would be going after Ahsoka after all. “Guess she is still out there somewhere then, huh?”

“Yeah, she should be.” Grogu nodded in agreement. “But where, is the question.”

He was again thinking hard as the only option finding Ahsoka quickly was trying to connect through the Force. Then again, Ahsoka was not a big fan of it as she was no longer Jedi. At least that was what she had told Grogu and there really had been no one around there for a while. But if he tried hard enough to concentrate on the one person he was trying to reach. To really call out to Ahsoka. Then maybe, just maybe he could reach her. But it was a big if as usually, getting a call through the Force if not present there did not really get connected. Still, the Force had never been exact science either and whatever someone had stated about it? Well, it was their interpretation of the thing rather than something written for actual specifications as there were none as far as the Force was concerned. It simply was there. Present for those using it. So, the opinions of what it did were just that, opinions of someone else. And Grogu was betting good money on the fact, that if someone was to try something out hard enough, they would be successful at it too. Therefore, he had made his decision in trying to reach out to Ahsoka through the Force connection. As there really was as much in try as there was in do, Grogu’s own motto as it were.

Din after seeing his son once again deep in thought about what their options would be then asked. “So, any ideas?” Because most likely Grogu did have some idea.

“Well, I was thinking.” Grogu started and then being sure of what he was willing to do added. “I will try to connect to Ahsoka through the Force. I mean, if I really concentrate, I should at least get her attention if not a direct call to her.” Grogu explained his thought process.

“Hm.” Din said then, as he wasn’t sure if it would work as it had already been explained to him how the connection worked. “Are you sure about that working?”

“Well, no.” Grogu said simply. “But then again, as the Force is, nothing is exact science there. So, why not give it a try, right?” Grogu was game after all.

“So, you would try to call out to her in a way?” Din was trying hard still to understand the fine things about the Force.

“Exactly. And if I am specifically targeting her, she should feel me even if she does not connect.” Grogu was speculating of course but he was pretty sure it was going to work.

“Alright then, guess you better get started as we are so running low on any options!” Din was a tad worried of course, Grogu getting back to the Force connection as there was clear danger lurking in there as they already were well aware of. Whether it was the Dark Side or something else, there was no assurance of that at this point. “But son, be careful ok! We don’t want to ruffle any feathers until it is time for that.” Din warned him.

“I hear ya dad and I promise to be careful.” Grogu hugged Din then and said. “I will go to my quiet place now and immerse myself in the Force connection right away.” And with that he was off, to the back of their sleeping quarters in the ship. As it was without windows and other disturbing factors.

***

Grogu was seated in the darkened room fully connected to the Force once again. This time around he had all kinds of precautions in place. Just in case, as he was well aware of the danger lurking out there. But he was on a mission, and his target was set. He did not want anyone or anything disturbing him while sending out the feelers for his gal pal Ahsoka and putting all the jammers and obstacles in place while connected to the Force, was draining. But then again, Grogu was powerful enough to be able to do that. And his concentration was fully focused on the one target he was looking for now. Besides, he did not want anyone else to find Ahsoka either as she was out there all alone and was in as much danger if exposed as Grogu would be. Hence all the tricks Grogu had pulled out of his short sleeves and felt totally and fully protected now inside the Force. Ready and waiting and on the look out for Ahsoka. As he was pinging her through the galaxy over the Force connection. Sending out those specific feelers to the other Force user which Grogu knew she could pick up on if she wanted to. After all, there was the possibility that Ahsoka did not even want to be found. But staying totally positive as they had a mission to complete with his father, Grogu was totally set on finding her.

“Ahsoka? If you can hear me, please respond.” Grogu sent the thought out to the airwaves of the Force.

There was nothing but the familiar cracking of the connection sounding back to him. The sound he had gotten familiar with over the several times he had tried to connect with his friends in there as well. But no response was forth coming, not from Ahsoka nor anyone else for that matter. Not that Grogu had expected to be anyone there presently. At least not someone who wanted to talk to him specifically. Hesta was too afraid to connect again, this much Grogu had sensed from the young woman she was now. And it was good in a way that she stayed out of it just in case those listening in were trying to hurt her. As far as Grogu had understood from their connection, however brief but Hesta had been scared, very much so. Something the powerful kid he had known had never been. But she had been beside herself, even if she had tried to hide it from Grogu. It was also the cover she was trying to maintain. As whatever the change she and Skippy too had commented on was happening on the planet, it was not affecting Hesta. Not yet anyway. So, excepting Hesta to be there even if it was just for a brief chat was kind of moot. Besides, Grogu had specifically hidden himself and was only targeting Ahsoka. He stayed in the zone for a while longer, sending out several more feelers out. And then after a while he had not gotten any response, he then decided to disconnect for now and try again at a later point.

Just as Grogu was ready to call it a night and walking away from the Force connection, he heard it loud as they person being in the same room with him. “Grogu. It’s Ahsoka. Please don’t hang up”

***

Grogu could feel the other Jedi, even if she claimed not to be one. But deep down somewhere Grogu knew she was still one of the most powerful Force wielders there was. And even if she did not go by the same rules as the other Jedi, wherever they might be these days, she was on the light side of the Force and someone Grogu and Din could trust with their lives. It was also clear to Grogu at this point as now that Ahsoka had finally revealed herself, that she had been listening in to Grogu’s calls for some time. She too had been hiding, just like Hesta had. Now that fact worried the youngling very much as clearly this was too much of a coincidence and the reasons for doing so were too grave to ignore. Despite their suspicions of the dark forces lurking around, neither Grogu nor Din had paid much attention to it as there had been no sings of them anywhere after the incident in the past, which had happened years ago. But now, after having found the planet of the Academy hidden, Hesta fearing somewhere there and Skippy on the run and even Ahsoka hiding. Well, that got Grogu’s attention to perk up, majorly so. And clearly, it was more than some few Dark Force wielders acting up all of the sudden. No, this was much more powerful than anything else they had encountered.

“Ahsoka!” Grogu quickly replied. “I have been looking for you.”

“I know.” Ahsoka simply said to him. “I have been monitoring the connection.” She then revealed.

“Oh?” Grogu sounded half surprised, but then again, he too, was hiding.

“Yes and I know why you are contacting me now.” She then said.

“The Dark Knights are back, aren’t they?” Grogu then said without thinking further.

He was sure it to be the case now. And Ahsoka was aware of them too. As after leaving the Jedi Academy, Grogu and his father had sought out Ahsoka and told her about the whole situation. Something they thought she should be aware of, just in case. But the commotion had died down and there had been no signs of trouble. Until now. And even if Ahsoka had not remained in contact with them or had nothing to do with the Jedi Academy or Master Luke, Grogu knew she was in the loop on some level as she always was and had been. After all, she was part of it all whether she wanted to or not. And in the end, she, like Grogu was ready to help their kin. The Jedi or light side Force wielders, whatever they wanted themselves to be called.

“Yes, I can feel it and I suspect you can too.” Ahsoka replied.

“I can.” Grogu knew now what the nagging feeling rattling inside of his brain had been. Even if he had hardly paid much attention to it before, because he was on a mission to save his friends.

“So, you found them then? Again?” Ahsoka was never the one to mince her words.

“Yes, my father and I did.” Grogu knew also now that they were the ones who had caused the disappearance of the Jedi Academy home world. It was all becoming quite clear to him now, even if it had not been so before. “They hid the whole planet.” Grogu then said.

“The dimensional shift.” Ahsoka seemed to know plenty of what was going on. Again, a surprise to Grogu, as she claimed not to have too much interest in the affairs of the Jedi.

“Yes.” Grogu wasn’t going to argue or question anything only to plead her for her help. “And I need your help.”

There was a brief silence before Ahsoka responded to him. “I will help you.” She simply told Grogu, clearly knowing where they were as well as she did not ask for directions either rather only added. “I will be there, soon.” And the connection was got off without further words or goodbyes.


Chapter Sixteen

Din had dozed off in his chair when abruptly being awaken by Grogu. After all, they were on a mission, so sleep was scarce to say the least and getting a nap here and there was essential. As the former bounty hunter was certainly not getting any younger, well, nobody was, unless going through some weird anomaly. So, having been woken up from his somewhat light sleep as Grogu kept on nudging his dad to wake up because he had some news to share. That and the youngling was positively famished once again. Because while spending his time in the Force connection and keeping himself hidden during the whole time he had used up a lot of energy. So, hunger and news was the reason he was trying to wake his father up at the very moment. Then again, the fact that Grogu had managed to contact Ahsoka Tano was also a huge thing and he was eager to tell his dad that the powerful Force user was on her way to meet up with them and also that she was willing to help them. As Din was not so easily woken up, Grogu was using his best proven method to get the old man awake from his sleep. Leaning in and with a somewhat loud whisper right beside his ear the word “danger” finally got the attention of Din. After all, this had proven a great way to wake up the sleeping man if he was in too deep and Grogu needed something urgently.

“What, what, what???” Din half jumped off of his chair and glared around for any immediate danger which there was not.

“Dad, you fell asleep again.” Grogu told him, knowing full well it was somethings his father did if he did not get a good nights sleep in.

“Sorry, guess it was so quiet I just dozed off.” He wasn’t making any excuses either for falling asleep as Grogu did the exact same thing. Even if it was less frequent than when he was younger, something Din fondly reminded him off every now and again.

“Yeah you did and were snoring too.” Grogu snorted but being well aware that he had been caught doing the exact same thing himself plenty of times.

“So, what’s up?” Din rubbed his eyes still in the sleepy mode but quietly getting back to the waking world. “You finished in the connection already?” He wasn’t sure what time it was but it seemed such a short while he had been sleeping as he was still pretty tired.

“Well, I was there a while so.” Grogu started and nodded at the console and the time. “But, I managed to connect with Ahsoka.” He then revealed as it was kind of a big thing.

“Wow! You did?” Din was glad that they had gotten a hold of their old ally and friend. But that did of course not mean that Ahsoka was a willing participant in their small or rather not so small quest either.

“Yeah.” Grogu’s face was telling another tale though as he was pretty happy and looked like he had been successful too. That was so it came as no surprise to Din when he said. “She is on her way.”

“Here?” Din sounded even more surprised of that fact, because the non-Jedi was usually not concerning herself with the Jedi affairs at all. Not any more anyway. But if she was on her way, then maybe she would help them after all. “Now?”

“Yes and yes.” Grogu laughed out loud. “She promised to help us. I mean, I did not even have to explain much to her about the overall situation we were in now. She seemed to be pretty aware of it all.” Grogu then revealed to Din.

“Well, guess she too is concerned for the kids as we are.” Din commented.

“I guess. But like I said, she said she was aware of what was going on here so guess she had been monitoring in the Force as well.” Grogu could not be sure but of it of course. That if it really was this single fact which Ahsoka had known. The fact about the dark forces raising havoc now again, as none of them had known. Or even thought it to happen after they had disappeared years back since they had caused the somewhat “slight” incident in the Academy’s then home planet and whatnot. “Guess she misses the Jedi and wants to keep tabs on them.” Grogu had simply thought about the why and the reason he was doing any tapping to the Force lately was that exact same reason.

“I know she did not part in a too amicable way with the Order all those years ago. But, well, she is still very powerful and surely the others can sense her out there while she is using her Force?” Din then commented as he and Grogu had become fast friends with the elusive former Jedi over the years and worked with her on a few occasions as well in the past.

“Yeah, I guess so. But I would think she kind of wants to be on the up and up how things are moving along inside the Force as there are so few Force wielders left anymore.” Grogu commented and was again reminded of how scarce the kin of his really was.

“Well, whatever her reasons are, I am just glad if she really is coming here and helping us maybe to get through to the others. As you said, she is very powerful and so are you. So if the two of you together might be able to make a dent or crack we can get through, then great!” Din the said and rose up. As usually after his connection time to the Force, Grogu was pretty hungry. And so, as if reading his mind again, which he sometimes did, he simply asked. “Hungry?”

Grogu nodded eagerly as he was feeling his own stomach growl in agreement. And besides, he never said no to food. Ever! Even if he wasn’t that hungry, which was rare as he was always, hungry. So, food it was!

“Alright Kid, let’s go see what we can do about the grub while we are waiting for our friend to arrive.” Din smirked and followed his son to the galley on the ship to prepare something to eat.

***

It had not taken too long after Din and Grogu had eaten their meal, when Ahsoka arrived. Her small one person craft docking by the larger size vessel. Din and Grogu had remained in the same location in space, close to the anomaly of the rift but not so close to hopefully avoid detection. They were hiding behind a small cluster of asteroids hanging loose in space. The cloak had been deactivated at this point in time to let the former Jedi find them more easily. Although Grogu had suspected she would find them no matter cloak or not. After all, she was very powerful and that was also the point Grogu had approached her in the first place. As if anyone could, it was Ahsoka who could help Grogu open the rift for them to enter. And get to the other side where they would most likely find the planet and the rest of the Jedi kids. Even if they had not seen it per se as the only clue they had was the modified scanner data. But Hesta had said she was on the planet. So, most likely, the trainees of the Academy were not privy to the fact that the planet was now hidden. Which also led to the other question, which neither Grogu or Din had dared to utter. Was Master Luke aware of what had happened? And if so, was he a willing participant? There was the proof of change before they had left. That the man had not been himself, whatever that meant for a Jedi. But then again, it could have been a simple phase of his and no big thing at all. But all things happening now Grogu knew they had to suspect that their Jedi Master had been influenced at least on some level. But there was only one way to find out of the how, and also how much he had changed, if at all.

“Permission to dock.” Ahsoka was by the book this time around as she had manoeuvred the small ship beside Grogu’s and Din’s.

“Permission granted.” Din smirked over the comms as this was a first at least in a while Ahsoka had paid any attention to protocol. Then again, they had not met her in space flying a ship either so far at least. “We’ll be by the airlock to greet you.” Din then said mimicking the professional protocol.

“Ten-four!” Ahsoka replied as she made the final adjustments and released the docking clamps to secure her vessel.

Din and Grogu were waiting for her at the airlock as promised and after seeing the huge grins on both her friends faces, she knew they were happy to see her. Not simply because they needed her help. But they were like family to her and not seeing them in a while was a regret of Ahsoka’s. Still, she had been doing her own thing for a while now and there were urgent matters she had needed to attend to during her absence. But as they could see her, both Din and Grogu practically jumped at the woman and both of them were hugging her at the same time. She felt the love and knew she was among friends then.

“Ahsoka!” Din exclaimed. “It is great to see you again!” Din was positively beaming.

“Din, Grogu!” Ahsoka said her voice a tad low as it was a good feeling being among people whom she trusted. “It is very good to see you two!”

“Aunt Ahsoka, it was great you could be here so fast!” Grogu told her. “And we have missed you greatly.” He then added, eliciting a soft smile again.

“Well, this was on my route as I was nearby. So.” Ahsoka had not told the reasons for her knowing about the dark forces rising yet. But knew she needed to share the information as soon as possible, now that she was a hundred percent sure the two of them were unaffected even if she had already verified it kind of while connecting with Grogu.

“Nearby?” Din was surprised. And then realising what Grogu had told him about Ahsoka not even being surprised when hearing where they were and what the two of them were trying to do. “I um, I guess you know all about the dilemma we have with the Jedi Academy here as well?” He could not be totally sure of course. But this former Jedi was a powerful Force user on her own right, a close match to Master Luke even.

“Well, ever since you told about the Dark Knights attacking the school, I have kind of been on high alert.” Ahsoka smirked a little even if it was no laughing matter.

“Yeah, guess you would be.” Din was thinking back to his and Grogu’s state of mind after the incident. And how easily they had been lulled into the false sense of security after they had managed to get away from them years back and settling back into the peace and quiet afterwards. “Oh, where are my manners!” Din then realising they were still standing at the airlock. “Can I offer you something to eat or drink perhaps?” He knew that talks were usually easier with good food and drinks.

“Well.” Ahsoka glanced into the expectant eyes of her two hosts and then smiled again, something she seemed to be doing a lot while around the two of them. “Guess I could eat.”

“This way please.” Din bowed a little and motioned for Ahsoka to follow Grogu, who was already ahead of the two as soon as food had been mentioned. “We’ll give you the grand tour afterwards.” Not that there was too much to see. But still, it was a ship which both him and Grogu were pretty proud of and this was actually the first time Ahsoka was really inside of their ship.

“Thank you kind sir!” Ahsoka smirked and followed the duo to the galley, feeling relieved in so many ways now that she was once again reunited with Din and Grogu. And finally getting the sense they could do something about the total darkness now surrounding the Jedi Academy home world. As after all, they were still her kin as much as anyone even if she did not consider herself to be a true Jedi anymore.


Chapter Seventeen

“So, you managed to add a cloak on her.” Ahsoka was marvelling the old ship and what Din and Grogu with the aid of their mechanic friend Peli Motto had brought to it while upgrading most of its systems and adding the device to render the vessel mostly undetectable.

“Well, it was a precaution after all, even if those Dark Force wielders would be able to detect her.” Din said. “I mean, mostly we can try to hide but if they are indeed able to hide a planet, then most likely they can see us coming!” Din wasn’t laughing as it was a serious situation they were in now.

“Well, maybe they cannot not completely see you with the cloak on. So it was overall a good choice to add before going after them. They are a pretty powerful bunch and taken into account what they have done here now, hiding a planet and all, then there are plenty of them there.” Ahsoka warned the other two.

The duo were treating Ahsoka to a hardy prepared meal, as she usually did not have meals by herself rather ate something on the run. But, sitting down in this friendly kind of setup was nice and having good food with the father son duo was a treat after all. It was pretty clear to Ahsoka that Din and Grogu were a well functioning unit, a family unit. Even if Ahsoka had been surprised when Grogu had decided to follow Din and leave the Academy behind, she could not blame the youngling of his choice. After all, he was quite powerful and this had been basically his second time around when learning the teachings of the Jedi. And then there was the option of being himself as clearly, neither Grogu nor Din fit the mould to which Master Luke had been trying to fit all the students. Besides, having personally experienced a similar kind of past Ahsoka was actually surprisingly pleased Grogu had opted to travel with his adopted father rather than remain in the Jedi fold. And now, when the darkness was once again on the rise, it was actually sheer luck that Grogu was outside of it all as was she too.

After hearing the brief description of Hesta’s of what was going on inside the Academy had led the former Jedi to think that the Dark Knights had somehow gained a foothold on the planet and started turning the kids as they were all young and impressionable. How this was possible and what had happened to Master Luke was still a mystery. And most likely, some of the older kids like Hesta, who had opted to remain in the Academy, were still unaffected. Or most likely could not be changed at all. At least not those more powerful ones which were a few like Hesta and Grogu and even herself. Still there were a lot of ifs and not enough confirmation of the facts. As despite having monitored the situation after hearing about the Dark Knights all those years back, Ahsoka had been alert and following what was developing. As she herself had not thought for a moment it was a fluke one time thing the Jedi had encountered. And she had been right and here they were. Trying to get inside the sheltered dark fortress on the other side of the rift. Just the three of them. Pure madness it was, Ahsoka thought. But then again, she had been involved in far worse things in her past, so why change now?

“So, you suspect that these Dark Knights which we encountered before are occupying the planet?” Din asked. “I mean, that is the most likely option for this, well, whatever is going on there now. Because I would hate to have a new bad guy to deal with!” Din shook his head, but internally having suspected the same a while now.

“Well, we have to assume that they are the same Dark Side Force wielders you encountered before. And also that they have somehow managed to infiltrate the Academy and now they are running the place. Didn’t Hesta say the others are changing or have changed?” Ahsoka wasn’t totally sure if it meant what she suspected which was turning the kids to the darkness.

“That is what she said.” Grogu then replied. “That the others are changing. Same as Skippy was on about.”

“Well, then we have to assume that those not powerful enough to resist the Dark Side are being seduced there and are doing the Dark Knights bidding.” Ahsoka sighed heavily, thinking of all the younglings serving their new masters and turning their backs on the teachings of the Light Side.

“And Master Luke? How do you see him in all this?” Din had to ask. After all, Luke and he had been not seeing eye to eye before he and Grogu had left the Academy. And not on good terms either. And like Din had noticed, he had changed, somehow. But what it meant, well, that was still a mystery.

“Well, we have to assume that the Dark Knights had gotten a hold of the planet and the kids, which means Master Luke was most likely taken a captive. Or worse.” She paused looking at Grogu who looked a tad shocked at the comment as Luke Skywalker was still the great Force teacher, even for Grogu.

“You don’t think he is, you know.” Din made the gesture with his hand of a cut-throat movement, meaning basically that Luke had been killed.

“Well, there has been no disturbance in the Force for anything like that.” Ahsoka again looked at Grogu who nodded in turn to verify her point. “But he could be injured or well, turned.” Ahsoka looked back at Din as this was something Din had already suspected before after seeing the change in the Jedi Master.

“Well, guess we won’t know about that until we make our way through the rift won’t we?” Din stated, not sure if there was a means to contact Luke or Hesta again.

“No, we won’t” Ahsoka replied sternly. “We are basically going blind in there, not having a clue as to what to except, how much resistance there is and whom our allies are.”

“What of Hesta?” Grogu asked. “I mean, she is still with us. Right?”

“Grogu, we have to consider the fact that especially since she helped Skippy leave and has been talking with you, that they know she is not one of them. The Dark Side.” Ahsoka warned Grogu.

“You mean they have captured her?” Grogu’s voice was hushed now, thinking of his friend in the hands of the enemy, most likely being tortured for information.

“Well, we cannot rule anything out at the moment. And at this point, we cannot dare contacting anyone one the inside nor can we trust anyone once we are there.” Ahsoka was adamant about this and her stance was telling the same to the duo glaring back at her.

“So, what do you suggest we do then?” Din asked, not sure anymore if this rescue mission was such a good idea after all. “I mean, as you said, there might be plenty of them on the other side and only three of us. And well, that is basically it. It’s not that we are running a covert ops here after all. And, as you mentioned, they would most likely see us coming anyway so, our plan, whatever it is, would have to be really, really good.” Din wasn’t sure if his words were making any sense at this point as they seemed to be at an impasse with their efforts in saving the Jedi kids.

“Well.” Ahsoka started, as she had some ideas, but the overall plan was far from thought out as she had not really anticipated to go head on with the Dark Side. Not just yet and not with the only three of them in the team. “The plan as I see it, is to try to get into the rift and hopefully, make it to someplace which is uninhabited. After all, it is still the whole planet and there should be sections were they aren’t keeping an eye on all the time. At least, we have to assume they are not as it is a huge undertaking simply having the planet in the other dimension. So monitoring each and every bit of it is not something they should be able to manage.” Ahsoka said.

Din contemplated what Ahsoka had said for a moment then said simply. “There are a lot of ifs and buts in the plan though.”

“Yes, well, it’s all based on the intel we have gotten from either people involved with the enemy or our own observations of them. Which is not much. So, basically, we are going in blind. Then again, we have the cloak on this ship. And we have us, Grogu and myself who will try to run as much interference as possible.” Ahsoka admitted even to herself that there was not much of a plan there. But then again, she had run ops with less than this one was.

Din nodded as did Grogu, that it was not much of a plan. Simply to go in and hope for the best while inside there, in the enemy territory. It was pretty much a similar MO the duo had based most of their gigs on in their past missions. So why would this one be any different? Well, for one thing, they had not really dealt with the Dark Knights. Not on this level anyway and certainly not alone before. As previously they had had the help of all the Jedi children and their combined Force powers to defeat those few Dark Force wielders back then. But now, this was on a whole new level as they were only the three of them against a possible army. And they had really no idea of what was waiting for them on the other side of the rift. And as Ahsoka had warned the other two, they might not even get any help from anyone else on the planet once they reached the dimensional rift. Even if Hesta was seemingly unchanged, at least she had seemed that way when contacting them, she still might not be able to help them. As for Luke or the others, well, they had to assume the worst. At least Skippy had been adamant the others had changed so most likely all of them part from the few older kids who had proven to have more stronger Force skills.

Again, they could not know which of them had remained on the planet after Din and Grogu had left the place. But, they needed to try at least. To do something as that was the reason they were here now. And why Ahsoka had arrived to their aid. So, whatever plan it was, going in blind even, they needed to do it. After all, they were so close and there was no way of letting these evil dark doers loose in the galaxy. As that was clearly what they were trying to do with their new army of Dark Force users. So, without much ado and thinking any further of the subject, Din glanced at Grogu who was looking back at his father. Clearly having tapped into the mind of Din’s once again, which Din at this point did not mind at all. As he did not have to explain or justify his thinking or reasoning to the Kid afterwards. And besides, Ahsoka was all ready and guns a blazing so what was he waiting for either. Before Din could say anything, Grogu simply nodded in agreement to his father’s decision. Din nodded back at Grogu and in that very moment, the decision was made for them to go.

“Alright, then we go in no matter what.” Din stated simply out loud his thoughts. “We will do whatever is needed to get through the rift. And once we are inside, we assess the situation on what to do further on from there.” There was little or else they could really plan at this moment.

Grogu and Ahsoka simply nodded to the man in agreement as they were soon to embark on the final part of this, very difficult mission in trying to save the Jedi children from the Dark Forces.


Chapter Eighteen

“Scanners are online. All batteries charged and ready. Cloak fully activated!” Din was commenting out loud to Grogu, who was making notes on the pad of the same to make sure nothing was overlooked before they would take back to space from their current hideout.

Din was doing the countdown of the ships preflight checklist before the trio would be making their attempt in flying through the inter dimensional rift to find the Jedi Academy planet. Ahsoka had her own small vessel secured in the larger ships cargo hold for the time being as she needed to concentrate on getting through the rift rather than flying a ship. Besides, Ahsoka’s ship was not equipped with a cloak. She and Grogu would be using their combined powers to open a crack as a doorway for the larger vessel to be able to get through. Punching in on the hole with the Force as it were to make it wider. All the while Din would be navigating the ship through this crack which they had detected with their scans earlier and then deciding it would be the point of entry for them. Hoping now, that it would grow larger due to Ahsoka’s and Grogu’s efforts. At least, wide enough for the ship to get through. As it was, they could not very well walk through the crack as it was in space. But also, they needed the ship to be able to rescue as many of the Jedi children on the planet too and then fly to safety. Of course the problem still was, that they had no idea how many of them were unaffected of the whatever it was happening down there. But that they would simply have to find out once getting their bearings on the planet.

This was a far from an easy mission, as going in blind was their only option at the moment. Not knowing the strength of the enemy before hand was something none of them was comfortable with. But that could not be helped now. They would make a much better assessment once inside the other dimension. Only hoping the cloak of the ship and the interference Grogu and Ahsoka were going to run would keep them hidden long enough before they could scan the entire planet and choose their landing site. And also checking for how many life signs there really were down there, good or bad. Once on the planet, they would remain hidden until they had a better idea on how many and what kind of resistance they were facing. Then trying to contact Hesta was on the list. Only that was something still under consideration as they did not want to put her in further jeopardy in case she had remained undetected by the Dark Knights. And also still having her own sense of self as it were. So, after getting their spot on the planet, there were several things to still accomplish before they could even consider starting the rescue mission itself. It was not much of a plan per se, but it was all they had for the time being.

“And we are ready for take off.” Din then made a note after having checked and initiated all the devices and gadgets needed. And also getting an approving nod from his copilot of the completion of the checklist as Grogu had always maintained the list before they were about to leave for any kind of a mission.

“May the Force be with us.” Ahsoka then wished for them all.

After getting agreeing nods from both Din and Grogu. As even if they usually never used that very sentiment, something which neither of them had simply not adopted for use, they both agreed they needed all that which was out there to be on their side. After all, they were going against the very Dark Forces which had raised havoc in the galaxy several times over. Even gotten a strong foothold on occasion and those powers were equal to the Light Side, if not even more so. And then there were just the three of them for now to battle against who knew how many of the Dark Knights and all the minions they had managed to turn by now. Which were also including the children of the school. So whatever it took, they would try to push through any and all barriers the Dark Side wielders had put in place. And then once through, battle against the Knights and hoping there were a few still left there on the Light Side of the Force whom would be able to join them as well.

But, for the time being, before they were able to enter the other side, the other dimension, both Ahsoka and Grogu would do only one thing. Which was to concentrate their minds and combine their forces to use as against any kind of attempts from the other side to scan for them. After all, the cloak was only so reliable as a protection against their enemy. No, they needed to be completely invisible to the others before the would be able to make a landing. After that, well. After the shooting would start then they would be revealed of course. But they would remain as covert as possible. Planning to take down several Dark Knights before making their way to the Jedi school were they hoped to find the children. But, until penetrating the rift, they would be flying blind into the grave unknown.

It did not take long for them to get from their hideout and to the location in the empty and dark space where they had spotted the crack to be and where they would make their entrance as well. After reaching the exact coordinates, Grogu and Ahsoka took their positions. Which was to basically sit in their spots quietly. Concentrating only on each other, the Force and their thoughts which held only the things needed for them to get through. To keep themselves hidden for anyone who was possibly looking for them in the vastness of space. The two of them were doing just that, and nothing else. Concentrating on the opening of the rift as much as they possibly could to get the vessel through it. While Din then was holding the position of their ship.

Din was still holding their position, waiting for either of the two to send him a signal through their telepathic connection when to move along. Then it came through, loud and clear. “Now!”

As he punched through a little and then again stopping and waiting for the next opportunity. A process which they had agreed on earlier. Then after a moment another “Now!” came through to his mind loud and clear and Din once again moved the ship though the rift a little, making it go bit further in.

It was all slow going. But then again, they did not really want to make too many waves before it was time for it. After all, punching holes in space time continuums and other dimensions was not an easy feat by far. No, it required a lot of effort and concentration and time too. And that was what they three of them were now doing in total synch. None of them missing a beat as they ventured further inside through the small rift. And to the other side of space time as it were. It would not be long now, as it was conveyed to Din by the Force wielding duo. Both of them fully emerged in the task.

Soon enough there was also something which Din could see on the instruments and through the cockpit window. As slowly but surely the planet they knew well came to full view to him on the navigator screen. And seeing that fact for himself, Din was gently cheering the other two in their efforts. And soon enough, they would be in the other side of space time, in the other dimension. Making their landing to the previously chosen location, which was as far away from the Academy as possible and hopefully, their enemy as well.

Hearing Din’s thoughts, Grogu and Ahsoka pushed a little more. Their combined powers in full force and then, their cloaked vessel entered the other dimension, fully. Ready to take its position over the planet and start the landing procedures on the far side of it. Din made the necessary adjustments and then navigated the craft towards the planet and started the landing procedures. All the while Grogu and Ahsoka remaining in their zone. Making sure they were protected from the others detection before they would be able to land safely and securely to the surface of the planet.

***

After having landed on the planet, Din shut down the engines and most of the power on the ship as well. Leaving only minimal lighting inside of the cockpit as they really did not need more at this point. The planet had a breathable atmosphere of course and the only thing they needed was a working cloak online. It had its own power generator from the rest of the ship making it running silently. Grogu and Ahsoka got out from the Force connection they had shared with each other. They had managed to do the needed while in there and now, they were relying on the cloak to shield them until it was time to venture out and head to where the Academy buildings were.

But first things first which was to establish a sort of a base and then start their scans now that they had finally come to the same place where the Jedi children were supposed to be. After all, it looked like the same planet so why would it not be the one which had been missing? At least, this was the general consensus of the small team. Grogu and Ahsoka both looked exhausted as clearly, the effort of making the rift in space large enough for the ship to pass through and then hiding them in the same go had taken a toll on both of them. Din looked at them both, worried they might have over exhausted themselves.

“Are you two going to be alright?” He just had to ask, as he really did not know.

Pausing, as if taking a personal internal inventory before replying to him, both Ahsoka and Grogu almost in unison replied. “Yes.”

Din nodded and then added. “Okay. But you two, take a moment okay. I will start up with the scans.” He then turned back to the console and punched in a few buttons as the colourful lights started lighting up one by one, indicating the systems were alive again and doing their assigned task.

After a few moments had passed and the devices were still doing their thing, Grogu emerged from the back where he had been with Ahsoka while in the Force connection. He looked at the console and the screens, clearly feeling better already. Over the years, he had managed to control the Force much better than he had when Din had first met him. It was almost like he did not even need much effort to do the Force tricks he did usually. And today was no different. Din still worried about Grogu as he always did. Even if he trusted Grogu to be able to control his powers himself without having been monitored all the time or reminded of the same. Din was proud of his son naturally as he had proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Almost as powerful as the Master had been and well, close to Ahsoka as well. Today had proven this very fact. After all, it was just the two Jedi types doing their thing. And then, here they were, in another dimension with the ship and all. Not to mention that for now, it seemed they were still undetected by their enemy as well. So, a huge feat in Din’s book what the two of them had done together.

“So, feeling better?” Din asked just in case.

“I am, thanks for asking dad.” Grogu replied and looked at his father. “But I am a wee hungry.” He smirked a little, as it was their private joke after all.

“Well, I have some ration bars for now as we really don’t have time for a full course meal.” Din was well prepared for battle, not just with armaments but keeping his crew fed too.

“I could sure use one!” Grogu then said and waited for Din to grab a few from his stash and handing them over to Grogu.

Din then turned to Ahsoka and handed her one too, figuring she could use some extra energy as well.

“Thanks!” Ahsoka said and immediately dug into the bar. “Anything interesting on the scanners yet?” She then asked before rising from her seat and joining the duo by the console. “Any bad guys close by?” She asked curiously.

Just then, the console beeped and preliminary data was fed onto the main screen of the cockpit. As the three of them glared at it, they were quickly becoming aware of what the overall status of the planet really was. And well, it did not look too bad at first glance. Until a short moment later when all kinds of dots started appearing on the screen. And that got their full attention.


Chapter Nineteen

“So, any idea of what the last count of the children on the planet was?” Ahsoka asked the two while they were all staring at the final results of the life form scans on the screens, which were quite enough for the three of them to take on just by themselves.

“Actually no.” Din told her. “We have not really been in contact with the others for a while. Or rather they have not responded to our hails and now we know the reason why too.”

“Before we left the place, there were around forty-seven of us in school.” Grogu then added.

“Still, we know that Master Luke was doing recruiting but I doubt he could have been able to find as many kids with Jedi powers as there are life signs in here.” Din pointed at the screen. “I mean, as you have said on many occasion, there are not that many Jedi around any more and scavenging around the galaxy for some Force users takes time. So guess maybe ten or twenty more in the past few years would be a rough estimate.” Din looked at the two for confirmation.

“I agree with dad. We know of Skippy of course. But when I used to talk with Hesta more regularly, well, before. She only mentioned a few new comers back then.” Grogu said.

“Well, then we have to assume that the students make the count around seventy life forms or so. Plus Master Luke. So, that would mean that the rest are all Dark Knights. At least making a quick head count of the data at hand. And as I understood there were no others on the planet by design.” Ahsoka did the math.

“Guess that is accurate. But if those kids are changing, whatever that means, going to the Dark Side? Then should we not assume most of these dots are hostile?” Din asked.

“Well, yes and no.” Ahsoka was thinking as she really did not have exact answers rather it was mostly guessing, based on what she knew about the Force of course. “The kids as you say, might have been brainwashed to believe in the Dark Side. But.” She paused still trying to put together her thoughts in her head. “But, as we discovered already with Grogu here, it takes a lot of power, a lot of effort to move a planet to another dimension. Even opening the rift took quite a lot from us. But imagine how much power it takes to first of move the planet and all aboard to another dimension, let alone making sure they are staying there.” Ahsoka went on. “I would imagine they are using those kids to power up the Force to be able to keep themselves hidden for whatever purpose they have planned. Of that part I am as of yet out of ideas. But, the rest, part from a few of the older students which are hiding from the Dark Knights, we have to assume they are the ones which are truly our enemy.” Ahsoka explained her thoughts of what she had deduced was the total tally of the life signs on the planet currently.

“Okay, so we don’t have to worry about fighting the kids, which is always a good thing.” Din then countered.

“No, no we don’t. I guess anyway, and again, this just a theory. But I suspect they are held somewhere, all together where they are connected to the Force, but hidden from the rest of us using the connection. But I also think that they were seduced or convinced or even frightened in turning to the Dark Side. Whatever the reason or method was, they are now part of the Dark collective rather than our side.” Ahsoka went on. “As for Hesta, or any other who were not changed or turned? Well, guess they are free to do whatever is needed around the complex. Again, I cannot be sure as I am not sensing them, at all.”

“Me neither. No Light Side users are presently on the planet.” Grogu also revealed.

Din looked puzzled. “So, Hesta and the others?”

“Well, we cannot be sure. Maybe they are hiding on purpose. Not from us specifically, but from those Dark Knights.”

“Well, guess we have our work cut out for us then!” Din was getting a slight headache on keeping tabs on all the information he was receiving, but trusting Ahsoka and Grogu to keep their tabs on the Force wielders. So he could do the thing he knew best. Which was to fight. Or at least, during this mission it was the thing for him.

“We do indeed.” Ahsoka replied.

“So, what are you proposing we do next?” Din was only too happy to leave the part of leader to Ahsoka as this was pretty much unknown territory for him. Not that he thought the other two were so familiar with this either. Still, they had the best knowledge of the Force here. So he was ready to take the back seat and assist where he could while Grogu and Ahsoka did their thing.

“Well, we know where they all are now and I suspect we cannot remain undetected for a long here either.” Ahsoka said. “At least not our life signs, even if we can keep the ship protected and hidden with the cloak.”

“So we go back to the school then?” Din asked.

“Yes, but, we need to find out if there are still others on our side.” Ahsoka said.

“And that would happen how exactly? I mean you said we cannot use the Force and would it really matter if they are not responding anyway for whatever reason?” Din then asked.

“Guess we will find out when we reach the school.” Ahsoka smiled a little as she was using a page from Din’s book. Which was getting in there without much of a plan.

“Hm. Well, that sounds like.” He glared at Ahsoka not sure if she was joking after all. “A terrible plan.” He then completed the sentence..

“Well, do you have a better idea?” She asked rather coyly.

Din thought for a moment before responding. “No, not really. It’s just well, it’s not much of a plan is it? Going in there, most likely guns a blazing, asking questions later.” He retorted, thinking back to some of the old missions he had been on applying the same policy.

“No, but, what else can we do?” Ahsoka looked at him and then Grogu, who only nodded in agreement.

“Guess, that is what we are going to do then.” Din yielded, as they really had no idea whom if anyone would be on their side at this point in time. “We just need to be careful as to which targets we are hitting, that’s all.” He reminded the two.

“Understood!” Grogu told his father.

“We do indeed.” Ahsoka replied also. “So, are we ready to go then?”

“Guess we are.” Din said and punched in a few codes to the console, locking the ship and the cloak in place so that no one except himself could release the controls. Getting up from his seat he then said. “Lock and load!” With a hint of a smirk, even if this was quite a serious mission. But hey, a few laughs never hurt anyone, not much any way.

Ahsoka left the cockpit first before Grogu and Din. Grogu turned to his father before exiting and said simply. “Father.” Glaring at Din straight into his eyes. “We will get them back won’t we?” He sounded small and hoarse even, despite his Mandalorian armour and weapons he had on his person at the moment.

Din looked at his son, knowing what this mission meant for him and exactly what he was meaning with his question. Even if he wasn’t really sure himself, he simply said to his son. “We have no option to fail.” Getting a nod from Grogu. And even if it wasn’t that much of a pep talk, he knew they would all try their best to try to release the Jedi kids from the Dark Side or die trying.

***

“This is the closest we can get without being detected.” Ahsoka said to Din. As she and Grogu had maintained their stealth Force cloak for the three of them while approaching the Jedi school structure where they had located all the life signs part from their own currently planet side. “Even if we try to maintain the Force cloak, I doubt our powers are able to shield us for long,” Ahsoka explained as she and the Kid had kept the shield on for as long as they could without straining themselves too much as the hard part of their mission was still ahead.

They had reached the farthest perimeter of the school which had been securely monitored before getting there. Then again, this was all intel based on Din’s and Grogu’s experience, rather than current knowledge. Still, they had to believe that the Dark Knights used the same setup as before as there were no other life forms on the planet. “Well, unless they are really expecting us, then we should be safe for a while before they detect us.” Din said, knowing the equipment of the school was not really up to par as far as surveillance went. Then again, he could not be sure if the Dark Knights had brought their own stuff with them. Still, if they were already hidden in the dimension, why bother with anything else was the question on Din’s mind. “We are close by to the students living quarters. Unless they have changed the structural order in anyway, my best bet is to start looking for our people in there.” Din then said.

“Agreed.” Ahsoka replied. “But from now on end we need to be on the lookout for anything and everything as we are now visible to any and all scans possible.” Ahsoka knew they could have remained in the Force cloak for a while longer. But she did not want to risk being revealed there either in case the Dark Forces were scanning all Force frequencies. Besides, it was taxing and she knew they had to fight eventually. So saving all the strength for that at this point was necessary

“Understood.” Din stated simply and waited for further instructions from Ahsoka. But as none were forthcoming he simply added. “I will take the lead.” As he and Grogu were more familiar with the layout of the land.

Grogu and Ahsoka followed suite. Stepping inside in a neat file formation towards the nearest barracks as they needed to be on the look out for any and all kids and Dark Knights alike. At this point, they were not using technology either as any energy signatures would have been a dead give away. Going in as covert as possible was their only option of success as they were three against an army of bad guys. As they closed in on the structure, they quickly made their way to the door of the seemingly darkened building and before entering, halted their movement. Listening to any sounds coming from the inside or the surroundings just to be on the safe side, before daring to enter. And as there were nothing to be heard, Din opened the door and entered carefully with his blaster drawn. Inside the dark corridor of the house there were no sings of anyone present. He motioned for the other two to follow before entering fully and starting a room by room search for any of the children. As there was a remote possibility those unaffected by the Dark Side could remain in hiding inside. Or at least, that was the theory for now.

After checking out the first few rooms without much luck they moved swiftly through the hallway. Soon enough the rooms were checked out and two more remained at the very end of the long corridor. As they approached the final two, which were slightly separated from the rest of the rooms, acting as the small study rooms where small groups could gather for chats or other topics as the living quarters were pretty small for such activities. But for now, there was no one doing any studying there as it was after all, the middle of the night. It had been night since they had landed and it still was the same. Then again, Ahsoka had suspected that this anomaly, the dimension they were in, did not really have any specific variations, like day and night. As it was basically in the middle of non-space, void from any stars or moons or anything else for that matter which could bring in the light. So, the darkness of space was all around them. Most likely a desired effect for the Dark Knights as light was not really their friend, in a way. So, now, as the three of them were slowly approaching the final two rooms, Din thought he heard something there. Quickly raising his hand in a “halt” motion for the other two, they all stopped their movement and simply listened in for any sounds. But there was nothing to be heard.

“I heard something.” Din whispered then. “From inside there.” He motioned at the room right next to them.

“Only one way to find out.” Ahsoka whispered back and situated herself next to the door.

Following her lead, Din made his way to the other side and then, grabbed the handle. Nodding to Ahsoka and then. “On three.” He whispered again. “One, two… three!”

As the door handle was pushed open, Din and Ahsoka burst first into the room followed by Grogu not too far behind.


Chapter Twenty

“Please! Don’t shoot! We are unarmed!” The tiny voice from the corner of the room shouted out just as Din and Ahsoka busted in first to the room with their guns a blazing followed by Grogu hot on their tails.

Grogu looked around the room as he was assessing situation as it was up to him to sense out the Jedi or the Dark Side users as per agreed before entering. He then quickly made visual sweep of the are first. Grogu could see that there were three small children cowering under a table. They were most likely trying to hide after hearing the footfalls in the corridor. He glared at the three small and scrawny looking kids. And then, doing a quick mind scan of them, to assess whether they were on the Dark Side or not. After seeing clearly that they were unchanged, not having any dark thoughts or other kind for that matter as they looked more scared than anything else. Grogu then made his way past Ahsoka and his father who had remained at the doorway standing guard and reached the shivering trio. Squatting on their level he spoke very gently to them so not to scare them further.

“It’s alright.” He assured the children glaring back at him, clearly sensing the Force in the new arrival. “We are here to help you.” He turned to Din and Ahsoka and nodded that the kids were fine for now. And that they were clearly trying to hide even if they weren’t that good at it at all as they had been found right away.

“You. Are Jedi?” One of the kids then looked at Grogu right in the eyes, clearly not sure of what he was seeing was really true at all.

“Yes, and so is my friend here.” Grogu told him, not wanting to bicker over semantics. “We are here to help you.” Grogu repeated to the trio.

“Hesta.” The other kid of the group whispered. “We need to get her.” She looked teary eyed and Grogu was pretty sure that these kids had witnessed something awful and if they did not get them to safety, then something bad would be coming for them.

“You know Hesta?” Din asked, sure it was a stupid question, but he did not recognise the kids either.

“She, is our mentor.” The stronger kid who had spoken at first responded again.

“Is she here?” Ahsoka then asked.

“No, we have not seen her in a while.” The kid then replied.

Din was quickly thinking on his feet and then as if reading his mind, which she probably was as Ahsoka too like Grogu sometimes did that to save time said to him. “We need to get them back to safety.”

“I agree.” Din wasn’t arguing as this was the reason they were here. Turning to Grogu he said. “You take them back to the ship and secure them there and then come back here, okay? Ahsoka and I will continue with he search.” Din knew he was putting a lot of responsibility on his son’s shoulders, but then again, Din knew Grogu could handle it.

“Agreed.” Grogu then nodded as he was in full understanding of what was required of him on this mission. Which meant he was going to have to do things on his own and he was only too glad the two adults were trusting him enough on this as well.

Turning back to the smaller kids he then said. “Come on, I will take you to a safe place while the others will look for Hesta.”

“She is in danger. Because of us. And others like us." The lead kid then said to the would be rescuers.

The third kid who had been silent felt the need to say something too apparently. The smallest of them all as they simply said in an almost inaudible whisper. “We would be most certainly dead if she had not hidden us.” The tears stuck in their throat as they tried to speak.

Grogu looked at three carefully over. Feeling their power now more clearly and it was becoming quite obvious to him why these kids were not turned to the Dark Side. Something he could tell Din at a later point in time though. But now, they needed to be taken to safety first of all.

Din knew well too how they must have felt for their mentor. But this was no time to argue about whether they were going or not so he simply said. “We’ll find her. She is our friend also.”

The kids simply nodded in understanding, clearly believing Din’s words and got up following Grogu out the door and into the unknown but hopefully secure location. But before he was out the door, Grogu decided to turn back and to convey the message mentally to Ahsoka even if he did not dare to open the frequency too much. Because it simply took more effort to talk to his father that way as he was no Jedi and words, well, in this instance were not something he dared to do. Grogu was also trusting Ahsoka to tell Din what he had told her. And then, he was gone with the rest of them.

“Come on, one room to go and then we move on to the next building.” Din then said to Ahsoka. “There has to be more of them hiding around here if I know Hesta.” Din commented then.

“Lead the way!” She smiled at Din as she was only too glad they had managed to find at least a few of the kids to start with. And also knowing now, how Forceful those kids really where as conveyed by Grogu just before he left. Even if she had felt only half of it herself from these kids. But then again, Grogu had always been more fine-tuned to these things than she ever had been. “Oh, and there is something I need to tell you. About those kids whom we just found.” Ahsoka then said.
“Oh, what is it?” Somehow Din did not sound surprised as he knew Grogu had told Ahsoka something before he left, sensing in the Kid’s behaviour.

“Those kids are very powerful with the Force.” Ahsoka simply stated as the two of them walked out the door. “And they cannot be turned to the Dark Side.” She then added even if the reasons why were still unclear even to herself at this very moment. But she had felt the surge from them, even if only Grogu had connected to them. So it was a wonder how they had managed to get themselves hidden at all.

***

“You will be safe here.” Grogu told the three children whom he had managed to haul back to their ship without incident.

As Grogu had left the barracks with his new friends, he had tried to hide them from the Dark Side even if Ahsoka had warned him not to use the Force. Or at least try not to do so as it could have been a target for the Dark Knights to find. But as he had tried to shield them, he had quickly found out that there really was no need to do so as the three kids had formed a strong bubble of a kind around them all. A frequency, reminiscent of the Force, but yet, not the same. It was a power that the three used to hide themselves apparently all this time. And now, in addition they had been extending the shield, as it were, to include Grogu as well. Grogu was reminded of an ancient form of the Force which he had learnt to be existing years ago while in training elsewhere before all bad things had started to happen. But it was something from the Jedi past. Something which a few Force users could only manage their powers so differently, that it enabled them to hide things and people. And it also allowed them to form certain kind of voids in the reality and then to exist inside of them. Not so dissimilar from what the Dark Knights had done to the planet. But still, very different.

Grogu had suspected these kids had possessed the powers since they were born as this was usually the norm. And had then later having been inducted to the Jedi Academy as Force wielders. Only now, they were hiding due to the Dark Side taking over. Grogu was also remembering from the past teachings, that these kinds of special kind of Force users could never be turned or changed. Not to the Dark Side, but they could also never become the Jedi Knights either. Something of a twist for sure. But they were still very powerful on their own right. Maybe even more so. It was this trait, which had most likely caused Hesta to hide them from the Dark Knights as well. Grogu also wondered if Skippy was part of their collective as well. Which lead to a whole bunch of other questions. One leading to his friend Hesta and as to why she had not been changed either. As it was a known fact, that even the most powerful Light Siders could be turned when enough temptation was on the plate or then some other form of extortion. Still, there was nothing he could imagine Hesta needed as neither did he himself so there was that fact to consider too.

“Thank you for saving us and brining us here.” The oldest one then told Grogu. “We will protect this ship with all that we are.” He then simply stated, but Grogu knew what he meant with he comment of course.

Nodding Grogu replied. “I will join my father and Ahsoka to find the others.” Because he knew that these kids could easily hold their fort as long as it was needed and in the hopes that they could bring in more of the Jedi children to safety there.

“We will protect you as long as we can while you are out there.” The girl of the group then told Grogu.

As it were, the bubble or frequency of this specific Force could apparently be extended for some distance. And, as Grogu had still quite the way to go back where he would join Ahsoka and Din in the tedious search of finding the rest of the children, he was grateful to the kids.

“Thank you.” Grogu was about to leave. But then, thought to ask one thing more. “About the others… How many of your kind are there here?”

The three of them exchanged glances and then the oldest one replied again. “Thirteen still remain inside the compound.” It sounded like there was a hint of defeat in his voice this time around.

“Alright, then we will find them and the others too and Hesta!” Grogu repeated himself even if he sounded like a broken record. But he had to believe in their mission and its success of it as there really was no option of failure and letting the Dark Side win.

“May the Force be with you!” The others then wished him as he waved his goodbyes for now and then leaving the ship after checking the cloak and locks were working properly before hitting the road again.

“And with you.” Grogu replied before disappearing behind the door and into the outside leaving the kids on their own once again. But knowing also, that they would be fine as there was shelter, food and drinks for them there after all.

On his own he was making excellent time in getting back and reaching the other two. Only hoping he would still remain undetected as he would be far too vulnerable on his own out in the darkness even with his own Force powers. But facing off some Dark Knights on his own wasn’t on his list as he had to reach the others and tell them of his findings. Because there were still thirteen kids most likely on the hit list of the Dark Siders as they could simply not be turned nor used by them either. So, that was most likely the reason why Hesta had them hidden as she knew of their powers. Now, where Hesta was and what her status was? Well, that was another matter bugging the hell out of Grogu. So, with those things on the top of his mind, he upped his gear and half ran the rest of the way to meet up with his father and Ahsoka. After all, they had some Jedi kids to save and the Dark Forces to slay. Or at least, put some obstacles in their plans if nothing else. Continuing running, Grogu could already see the few living quarters in the distance and he had not far to go now.


Chapter Twenty-one

“Father! Ahsoka! Wait up!” Grogu sounded a tad winded as he had been running half the way back with full force, pun intended and all.

Ahsoka and Din turned back to look at the youngling catching up with them quickly and surprised that he was back already as it was a long haul to the ship and back after all. Not to mention three scared kids tagging along with him. Could not have been an easy chore for the youngling to do, but he had managed quite well it seemed as he was already back from the ship.

“You’re back quickly!” Din told his son. “We were just about to check out the last of the barracks as so far there has been no luck finding any more Jedi kids!” He quickly then updated Grogu of their progress.

“I am and the three students are safe and sound and eating onboard the ship.” He then updated the other two of the kids status and not surprisingly adding the eating part either as Grogu was particular about that, naturally.

“Glad to hear it!” Ahsoka said him. “How on earth were you so fast?” She had to ask as it seemed so off for the Kid at least in Ahsoka’s mind still thinking of Grogu as a small child really.

“Well, I am not as young as I used to be so I am fast now, Auntie Ahsoka.” Grogu made a serious joke about his age. Something which was unusual too. “But, I think those kids helped me in some way. And I found something about them too.” Grogu said to the two surprised adults.

“What is it?” Din asked from him not sure how the Kid had gotten so fast on his feet. Then again, he had seen the progress before too, so, guess he just was really fast now.

“Well, they are not the kind of Force users as me and Ahsoka are, rather they are quite different.” He then revealed to the duo.

“Different how?” Din asked being not really too privy to all the particulars of the Force.

“Well, they can use the different types of frequencies of the Force to for example to hide themselves, like they had done here earlier.” Grogu explained.

Ahsoka seemed to be thinking about something before saying anything. “I have heard of this too. It is something from our past.” She then retorted simply.

“Yes, I have too. They are different on a level from us and cannot be turned into the Dark Side nor do they become Jedi either.” Grogu told Din of what he knew about it.

“That, well, that is all quite interesting.” Din wasn’t totally sure of what to make of all this intel. Then again, he trusted that both Grogu and Ahsoka would know what to do about it.

“Yes, it really is. And that is why they were in hiding. Because the Dark Knights will kill them when they find them.” Grogu then stated flat on leaving both adults gaping at this twist of events.

“I um, killed?” Din asked not really happy to hear that either.

“Yes, as they cannot be changed, they are of no use to those Dark Siders and there are thirteen more of them here around somewhere.” Grogu then said.

“Well, we have to find them, quickly.” Ahsoka was none too happy about hearing this either, killing Jedi or Force users was never a good thing. Even if they were the Dark Siders and sometimes necessary for that very reason. But only sometimes.

“I agree, but they are well hidden as not even the Dark Knights have found them.” Grogu told her. “Perhaps the others could send them some kind of message, that we are coming to help them.” Grogu could not be sure but he was thinking of maybe contacting the trio on the ship to ask if they could help them in the search after all.

“I know you are thinking its a good idea Kid. But it might just be too dangerous for both us and them, all of them.” Din then stated. “I mean we cannot be certain that those Dark Knights have not been able to penetrate the defences those kids can erect. Can we?” He looked at Ashoka then for guidance as all this Force variant stuff was starting to give him a big headache. He could understand one kind of Force for sure, but now there was the Dark Side and those special kids with their own special Force powers. Talk about sending a Regular Joes mind a-spinning!

“I agree with your father on this one.” Ahsoka said after some contemplation of her own. “As we have to assume these Dark Siders know everything about these kids with this special Force variant powers and they are most likely constructing means to detect them if they have not already done so.” Ahsoka warned Grogu then.

“Well, they did not find these three and we have to assume the rest of them are still hiding. Or at least, that was the gist I sensed from other the three.” Grogu then said.

“Whatever the case is, we need to proceed with caution on this mission. After all, we are here to rescue those poor kids and not put them further in harms way.” Din then said.

“Alright. I understand.” Grogu yielded as it was two against one and he suspected that it was best to err on the side of caution at this point in time anyway.

“Good, then we are all in agreement then.” Ashoka summarised their status. “Now, we need to search the final structure and then, our next target would be the school building itself if I remember the schematics of this place correctly.”

“Yes, you do. And I suppose if we run into more of those kids in there? Well, we should be so lucky as the next bunch is most likely hidden somewhere else, somewhere more secure.” Din said although he could not be sure of what that place could be as there had clearly been several modifications to the school buildings since they had last been on site judging from the new structures they could see beside the old school building.

“Still, we need to search each and every place to be sure.” Grogu urged them both, knowing now that even the most obvious place could easily be a hideout for these special Force kids.

“You are right. We do indeed.” Din told him and patted him on the back. “Now come on, we are loosing precious time here.” Not that they had much of it anyway. But it was an expression he sometimes liked to use, just to remind the others they were on the clock.

***

“Alright, that is the last structure before hitting the school next.” Din stated after the three of them had checked out the last of the living quarters.

“So, no sign of the kids anywhere here.” Ahsoka sounded frustrated as she was growing more and more worried and even a tad nervous of being on the planet surrounded by all the darkness. And it wasn’t just because the outside was always dark, but also all the Dark Side wielders on there.

“Well, we have to assume they are around here somewhere. I mean, all those other kids too, the normal Force users? They should be around here somewhere, right?” Din said then remembering what Skippy had commented about them having been changing and being hooked to something as well. “I mean, if the Dark Knights are using them for their own purposes like hiding this planet in this off dimension. So, there has to be some place they are kept and watched, am I right?” He was asking both Force users even if they did not necessarily know what the situation was either.

“Well, those changed or rather turned, are most likely kept in one specific spot where they can be controlled and monitored at all times. And well, most likely sedated to some extent as they need them to be docile but still conscious enough to use their combined powers to keep up the energy needed to control this planet in this dimension.” Ahsoka explained or rather, had a hunch this would be the way the Knights had orchestrated it.

“I would say that the best place would be the training hall because it is large enough to fit them all and it has facilities to control and monitor also.” Grogu piled on. “I mean, that is the most obvious place unless they have built something completely new for this operation.” Grogu sounded all professional and adult like doing his assessments and commenting on the what nots which made Din even more proud of his all, well still growing up son.

“I have to agree with you on that one Kid.” Din positively beamed at Grogu now acting like a proper adult and feeling like the proud father Din totally now was. “We have to assume that not too many Dark Knights are on this planet as so far, we have not seen a single one of them. Which is kind of odd.” Din was thinking back to their first encounter where they had not seen too many of them either. “I mean, if I ran an ops of this magnitude, I would have all the bases covered so not one single thing would get through the perimeter. But there are no guards, no nothing here or anywhere for that matter.” He noted.

“Yeah, that is odd. But then again, they might not have that many around. Yet.” Ahsoka agreed. “Still, maybe they are relying on the fact that this place is hidden? But whatever it is, you are right that it is odd and that there are none of them around here anywhere.”

“Yeah, well, let’s just hope we are right in our assessment of them. And that they think that turning these Jedi kids to their side and have them act all dark knight-y and all is everything they need for now.” Din wasn’t happy of that thought either. But still, it would help their odds for the duration. “So, do we agree on the next step?” He asked Ashoka and Grogu.

“Yes, we do. Checking out the training facility out next is on our list.” Ahsoka said. “But, we cannot rescue them right away as we have to remember that they are most likely brainwashed and taking them out of the equation will most likely raise some heads.” Ahsoka went on. “I propose we check the situation out. Assess what it is and then try to find the thirteen others first because we could really use their help in getting to the rest of the children.”

“And Hesta? We need to find her too.” Grogu reminded the other two. “After all, without her, we would not even be here and aware of what was going on right now.”

“Totally I agree.” Ahsoka said. “I only hope she is still, well, her and not being changed as we speak.”

“We can only hope that she is still herself. But that should also be our priority after we leave this place.” Din stated because he was well aware that Hesta was the key to this all and knew most likely all that which had happened.

“She is the one who helped Skippy and the three others and most likely has been helping the rest of the special kids to hide too.” Grogu went on listing the positives. “And she can help us too.”

“I hear you Kid.” Din assured him. “We will get to her, that was a promise I made you and that has not changed. But we need to follow a certain process if this mission is to be a success.” Din explained to the overeager Grogu and his worry of his friend.

“Sorry dad! But she is my best friend and all. Even if she hasn’t been around lately.” Grogu was reminded of the fact that Hesta and him had not been in contact regularly in a while. But it was becoming clear to him also what the reason had been.

“I know you worry about her. But for now, we need to do this first. As in assess what we are really up against. I mean when we find her, it’s easier for us all to be on the same page.” Din tried to explain the situation to Grogu.

Grogu was silent for a moment, retorting back to his kid form again. But then, after a moment of self contemplation, he then straightened his stance and looked right into his father and said simply. “I understand. The mission comes before personal feelings.” Sounding like a good soldier once again.

Din could not help but smile again. Then nodding to Grogu of his great assessment of the whole of the mission and their priorities in there too. He then simply said. “Good. I am glad we are now all on the same page. Now, let’s move along.” Din then added.


Chapter Twenty-two

“Everyone! Heads down!” Din ordered in a low murmur for the other two to do.

After taking the lead for the moment as the trio of searchers had completed the first part of their mission and were now heading towards the school building and the training area of it. They still needed to cross the court yard, and thus being exposed to whomever might be around and watching their surroundings. Having his eyes peered intently to the surroundings, Din had spotted the two Dark Knights closing in on their position. And so, they needed to take cover as soon as possible even if the yard was mostly hidden due to the eternal night the planet was now under. It was near perfection as a cover for those needing to hide. Whether those be Jedi children who possessed their special Force powers or anyone else who did not want to be found. As despite all their Dark powers, they Dark Knights had not been able to find neither the kids nor the search team if they were even looking for them yet. But they had to assume someone else besides the three kids and maybe Hesta knew they had arrived, right? There had to be some monitoring going on around the place despite the plane being inside a cloak, thus hidden from prying eyes. Or otherwise it was simply bad strategy the Knights were following. But then again, Din did not really know how the Dark Force wielders were really thinking. Thinking back to their first encounter, those minions, as he had called them then, seemed to be simple and mindless drones rather than anyone or anything deciding on what to do.

It was most likely their way of working, having a single leader as they had revealed during their interrogation. And as Din was once again reminded that the rest would do only a single persons bidding. It was kind of a hive mind more than anything else. Much different from anything the Empire or other kinds of regimes had done in the past. And it made sense even if Din would not have ever wanted to serve for such powers. But having only one person making all the plans and decisions, there was no debate, no clashing of opinions. Only one law to follow and that was the one’s whom was in charge. Yes, it all made sense now why there was no one to greet them as these Knights as they liked themselves to be called, simply did what they were ordered, nothing more. So for now, they would be safe from them.

At least until the three of them would do something to draw the Dark Knight’s attention their way. And eventually they would do that, as freeing the kids would certainly raise a few eyebrows and then some. Still, he needed to inform the other two of his thoughts but waited until they were cleared from the two guards on duty walking out from the court yard. Watching them go, Din then waited a moment before he started telling his thoughts of the Dark Knights to Ahsoka and Grogu. And, as Grogu had not really been part of the interrogations all those years ago, then most likely he did not remember too much of the goings on back then. Din also thought about what they had mentioned about their leader, the One. But the One what was the question Din had never gotten an answer to either back then when it had all been happening the first time around, their encounter with the Dark Knights.

“So, what you are saying that these so called Dark Knights are mostly, well, empty vessels to be filled with ideas and actions and whatever is needed. But also that the puppet master is somewhere else and there is only one of them who is actually pulling all those string?” Ahsoka summarised the gist of what Din had been telling the two of them.

“Yes, that was the overall idea myself and Master Luke got from them way back then, when we were trying to interrogate them. The did not really have anything to give us, despite all the methods we pulled on them trying to, well, you know, interrogate. Even the odd Jedi mind tricks did not work on them as there was apparently nothing to got a hold of inside their heads. But they kept on babbling on about the One.” Din then said. “But as things escalated pretty fast for us, we never got to find out who or what the One really was. As things died down pretty fast after we found this place.” Din shook his head thinking back of what had happened and what they had been left with at the end. “I should have seen this coming though, headed the warnings so to speak. As clearly, we got off too easy and that was the nagging feeling I had then in the back of my mind. But I simply ignored it as things soon settled back to somewhat of a normal status.”

“You could not have known.” Ahsoka told him. “I mean, the Dark Forces have been around as long as the Jedi have. But unless you are one or are really familiar with the lore and history, then there is no way to predict of what is coming. Unless you can see the future of course, like some do.” She snorted a little, as she knew a few who could do just that. "Besides, you trusted Luke as he was telling you things would be fine, right?”

Ahsoka was remembering back to when she had met up with Din and Grogu a short while after the duo had left the school and Din had told her about the goings on and the dispute between him and the Jedi Master. Well, sort of as there was no escalation really, rather just small arguments.

“I mean, when you told me the first time what had happened, I too should have known better. But I chose to ignore all the warning sings too.” Ahsoka admitted. “And it was much later on when something and then another strange thing happened and I was made privy to those incidents that I really started paying attention to the goings on in the Force. And it was also only then that I realised that something was totally off. But it wasn’t long before you two alerted me of the same.”

Ahsoka wasn’t really ashamed of not being involved as she wasn’t a Jedi anymore, not really. But she knew that nothing ever changed and bad things happened if good people did nothin but stand by all the time. So now, she too had chosen to act. And not let the bad guys win this time around.

“Well, if there is blame to be lain, then it goes all around.” Din told her straight on. “But I for one would not take or lay in it either, as we are small pawns in this,” He motioned around the air with his hands. “Whatever it is going on in here and if we can do our part, however small it may be, then that is fine in my book, for the three of us.”

He glanced from Grogu to Ahsoka trying to convey the team sprit and none of the blame as it really was not their responsibility to save the whole galaxy, now was it? At least, Din did not think so. They were no heroes, only people trying to survive. And if and where possible, to save a few others in the process. And now, their main goal was to save the Jedi children who could not fend for themselves. And if luck would have it and the universe and Force were on their side, then just maybe save the Jedi Master himself. If he was in trouble that was. And if he was even here, on the planet. Another thing which had been bugging Din to no end. Where the hell was Luke Skywalker, the saviour of the galaxy himself in all this? Din and Luke were friends, after all, that much he gave in to. He had gotten quite fond of the stoic man after they had arrived to this place. And even after all the arguments he had had with the Jedi Master. Din knew it had nothing to do with the person, rather the meshing of their two worlds and ideals. And they had both yielded and compromised as much as possible. Maybe Din was doing more of that. But they had usually come to some agreement after all the arguments they had had. And in the end, they had had a great working relationship and even the odd, well, friendship. But, things had taken a turn after the invasion on the former home world of the Academy. And that was also when Din had noticed the changes happening in Luke. Right after his return after they had managed to get away from the Dark Knights back then.

But after their struggles, things had once again settled down. Not to the former way it had been, but a manageable status. Until it was no more and Din and Grogu had decided to leave. And now, well, this was happening and they were right back here where they had started. It was also noticeable that none of the kids had even once mentioned Master Luke. Not Skippy, not Hesta, not the three they had just met. So, where was he? There had been no disturbance in the Force as all of the Force wielders had informed him. So in essence, he was not dead. But was he being held captive somewhere on the planet or somewhere else? And how long had he been gone? And knowing how strong a Jedi he was, could he even be turned? Hesta had not been, as far as they knew. And she had not nearly the powers as Master Luke had. All the questions and more were rattling around in Din’s mind as he was abruptly roused from his thoughts by a nudge. As he looked at the cause of it, he could see both Ahsoka and Grogu glaring right at him. He shook his head and then cleared his throat and stance too as he had been caught off guard. Surely not a good thing while on a mission. He looked a bit embarrassed too for being inside of his minds even if they needed to be vigilant all the time. But there were so many unanswered questions still waiting to be answered there.

“You are worried about Luke.” Ahsoka told him flat on.

Din glared at Ahsoka. “You read my mind.” He wasn’t really accusing her of anything, not really.

“Well, you were kind of all over the place, dad.” Grogu reminded him also, clearly the both of them having read the thoughts.

“Well then, since you know what I was thinking, don’t you two find it odd that we had not seen or heard a peep from Luke?” Din placed the question out there for the fodder of thought for the other two.

“Well, yes and now.” Ahsoka wasn’t really answering the question. “I mean, it’s clear that he has been taken by the Dark Knights.”

“Taken how?” Din was curious of her response.

“Most likely prisoner. And they most likely are trying to convert him too somewhere around here.” Ahsoka then said.

“Yeah, well, they will most likely fail.” Din knew how strong Luke really was, having seen all the feats he had pulled over the years they had known each other.

“I agree.” Grogu then piled on and with a serious face he added. “I think there is something more going on that we see here.” He could not be sure of what he was sensing yet, But there was definitely more going on planet side that met the proverbial eye. “And I think we are going to find out soon enough as to the what and whom.” He warned the other two.

Grogu had been having the sensations inside of him growing stronger the longer they remained on the former home of theirs. There were several specific things which had been nagging the youngling too ever since the first time they had gotten the message from Hesta telling them she and the others were in trouble. Grogu had only been hoping that once they would find the girl, his friend, they would get more answers as well. But for now, he too, like his father needed to clear his mind of all distractions as they both needed to complete the next part of the mission. Which was to find out where the rest of the Jedi kids were being held. And if possible, trying to free them too. Not an easy feat but that was why they had come to this place and all else, would be a second level priority for them. Even if it sounded kind of bad in his own mind too. But he knew Hesta was strong and clever and had already helped several others in there. So, Grogu was sure she would not have been taken by the Dark Forces. And with that single though, he fully managed to concentrate on their task at hand once again.


Chapter Twenty-three

“Be careful you two!” Din warned Grogu and Ahsoka with a whisper after the three of them having entered the open training facility where they had suspected the kids to be held. “We still don’t know how many of the enemy are around here so we don’t want to trigger anything until it is time.” If all, Din was thinking as he wasn’t too keen on facing the Dark Knights at all, as they were no ordinary bad guys who could be easily shot or battered to death. No, these were beings with extraordinary powers and clearly without too many thoughts of their own.

“We will be! Don’t you worry dad!” Grogu was already on his way in making rounds in the area, trying to find any signs of the others there. It was something they had all agreed on. Which was to split up once inside the training facility to make the search go faster.

“Yes, caution is our priority dear leader.” Ahsoka snorted as he found the fatherly kind of comments Din was making rather endearing.

After some moments had passed, the seemingly large area which was mostly open wide without too many obstacles, but housing also a few smaller rooms for specific types of training for smaller groups had been searched. But no matter how thoroughly they had looked, all around and even double checked, there was no sign of the kids or anyone else for that matter inside the whole structure. And that in itself was starting to seem really odd to them all. Because this was the one place which would have suited best for housing several people while them needing to be watched at all times as well.

“Well?” Din asked the duo with a flustered tone as they meet again close to the entrance as per agreed. “Anything?”

“Not even a mouse!” Ahsoka sighed. She too, becoming more and more frustrated as their mission was not going according to plan, at all.

“I was so sure they would be somewhere around here.” Grogu was still eyeing the overall area, feeling like they had missed something. “I mean I kind of sensed them.” He then added to explain his thoughts further as he looked at his father and aunt.

Ahsoka glanced at the youngling thoughtfully. And then, she too silenced all noises in her own mind for a moment and let herself tap into the Force. Even if it was dangerous for them to do so while on the planet. She decided to get a small glimpse to what Grogu had been sensing. As clearly, there was something so off about this whole planet and the overall darkness. All of it, which did not really feel like those Dark Force wielders she had encountered in her past. But, she could sense these “off” kinds of sensations as well as Grogu now as she let her thoughts touch the Force only for a moment.

“I can sense that too. That there should be more here and we are not seeing it for whatever reason.” She explained the feelings she had gotten from the quick glance to the connection.

“It’s like there is someone there, but not. Something which you can almost touch, but then, the sensation is gone.” Grogu explained to Din as he wasn’t privy to how the two Force wielders were experiencing their current surroundings.

“Yes, there is a shadow, an echo of a sorts which you can almost see. And then, when you are close enough to have a look, it disappears.” Ahsoka added.

“So, what you are saying is that there is someone else here, in this room. But we are not seeing them?” Din was a tad confused now as they had already entered a hidden dimension and landed on a hidden planet in a way and now there were overlapping hidden things there as well? “So, another dimension inside this dimension, but also hidden?” He wanted to be clarified.

“Well, something like that.” Ahsoka tried to explain. ”But I suspect it is someone else’s doing rather than the Dark Forces though.” Ahsoka revealed her suspicions to Din and suspecting Grogu already had a hunch as to whom it was hiding in the room.

Grogu nodded in agreement and said simply. “I agree, it feels, familiar, somehow.” He then told the other two and once again, glanced around the area as if expecting someone to jump out from the shadows. “Like someone we already know or then… well, it’s not of the Dark Side like Aunt Ahsoka said.”

“So, someone we know.” Din was thinking too of what it might mean and started glancing around the area too as if looking for something there even if he wasn’t able to see anything. Let alone feel someone else’s presence either. “Someone, like those kids we met perhaps?” He then asked as he had not seen anyone except the other two of his team inside the whole structure.

“Well, maybe.” Ahsoka thought back to the trio who had been able to avoid the Dark Side forces by hiding while changing their frequency in a cloak like manner. But this felt, well, something more in a way to her. “But, it could be someone else too.” She honed in on the specific area of the room. It was almost at the same time as Grogu dod as they had both been scanning the facility with their Force connection. She quickly glanced at Grogu, who was now totally fixed on the one corner spot.

“You see it too?” Ahsoka’s voice was a soft whisper now.

Grogu nodded in response to her question without further words.

“Who are you seeing?” Din asked in a low voice while he joined the two, now huddled close together like two hunter droids having a fix on their target.

“Over there.” Grogu nodded to the direction. “Someone is there. Hiding, in a force field of sorts.” He then said in a low voice.

Din squinted his eyes but still wasn’t able to see anything. “Do you see them?” He asked then as he could not be sure.

“No, but I feel them and they are there, hiding.” Ahsoka then said and started slowly but surely moving towards the anomaly as it was quite visible to her now, even if she could not see the one or ones behind it.

“I seen them too.” Grogu followed her suite and so did Din too.

The trio approached their target now intently so. And soon enough, they were right in front of the cloak or whatever it was which was used to hide the person behind it. “Come out whomever you are.” Ahsoka said after standing a brief while in front of the dividing fence of the force field.

“We are your friends.” Grogu tried to assure them as he was totally sensing the familiarity of the hidden one or ones, as he could not distinguish whether there was one or more there.

It took a moment and a few more, as the trio glared at the what was basically an empty floor and the opposing wall. Then, they heard a swooshing noise as the whatever it was was lowered. What they had not expected to find there, was now staring them right in their faces.

“Hesta!” Grogu was the first to react and before he could even move, Hesta jumped at him and hugged him tightly only too glad to see a familiar long lost face.

There were some ten other small sized children still standing in the very spot where Hesta had jumped from. Shivering and unmoving. So both Ahsoka and Din decided it was their move now as they got closer to the children. Bending down onto their level so not to appear threatening. “Don’t worry, we are your friends.” Din then said to the kids.

“We will bring you to safety.” Ahsoka assured them and soon enough, the kids who had seemed frozen, started moving and even stepped closer to the two adults while the smallest one of them took Din by his hand.

“I am so glad you are here!” Hesta was crying a little as she was so totally relieved that the rescuers had arrived after all. “I didn’t think you could reach us.” She wiped away the tears. “But, here you are.” She smiled then a little. “I should have known better.” She then admitted.

“Here we are.” Din smiled at the familiar all grown up girl. “And look at you, all grown up and all!” He was happy to see their old friend even after all these years.

Hesta smiled at him, glad to see both him and Grogu there finally. And she then turned to look at Ahsoka and stared at her for a moment before saying. “Ahsoka, you are her aren’t you.” Hesta simply stated.

“Yes, I am her.” Ahsoka smiled at the girl. “And now, we will take you to safety.” She then told the girl and her protectees. “We have a ship hidden not far away from here.” She then told them all.

“I know.” Hesta replied. “The others, they told me, the three you already rescued.” She then revealed as clearly, they had been in connection all this time with her. Something which was again, different from the Hesta Din and Grogu had known from before. As due her apparent new ability, most likely similar to these new kids here possessed, she was able to do more things now.

There were absolutely no objections from the band of hiding Jedi children as Din, Grogu and Ahsoka led Hesta and the rest of them to safety, back to their ship. Now that they had found the source of their reason being there, they needed to find out all that she knew about the goings on on the planet. And possibly where the rest of the children were being held at. And then, they would make their next plans for their mission which was starting to look a bit more of a success now that they had found Hesta. Maybe there was hope after all for rescuing these kids.

***

Unbeknownst to the rescue team and those they had managed to rescue so far, they were being watched, with a keen and hidden eye. Those would be saviours of the Jedi children had been doing a good job so far in their own mind. But little did they know that there were plans for their capture already on their way. As despite what they had thought, they had not gone undetected at all. Rather the contrary. As tapping into the Force, Grogu and Ahsoka had alerted the One who had been overseeing the whole project on this planet.

And now, their sanctuary had been disturbed and the intruders, the Jedi and their sidekick, were finding those which had eluded capture and change for a long time. But from now on, they would be stopped and captured. After all, taking their special cargo was an offence against the Darkness and the One would have none of that. It was enough that those incompetent around them had been fumbling their tasks and not being able to catch those wretched children with their supposed special powers. And the wretched girl who had helped them too!

But no more! The One would have none of that. After all, the Chosen One, the one and only true saviour of the galaxy and of the Force, would not allow things to go so wrong. Not now, when they were so close! Having spent so much time and effort and resources to get where they were now. To build this place up from the pile of rubbish it had been before. A school to train more Jedi! That was not what the galaxy needed. The universe even. No, it needed a strong leader, with a powerful agenda and the one who would rule over them all. And the one to bring order, to the small lives out there. Thinking they were right and others were wrong. No, the time for the one and true ruler was upon and no Jedi or their minions would stand in their way. Ever!

It took a moment for the One to calm down of what they had just witnessed. And then, they gave the order for the minions to get after those pesky Jedi before it was too late and they reached their ship. The one thing which still eluded them. As they could not see any signs of it, anywhere. But still, knowing it was out there, somewhere. But soon, all would be revealed to them. They could not be hiding from them forever, as already proven by the very might of the One.


Chapter Twenty-four

After finding Hesta with the several other Jedi kids possessing the so called “special Force powers” the rescue team had managed to bring them all back to the ship without incident. Which was kind of a surprise as both Din and Ahsoka had expected trouble after having spotted the two guards at the compound. But they had made back in good time after all. And having the kids powering up their “force shield” to hide them during the journey was also a good thing. They had all settled down in the small galley in a whole hearted reunion for the three other kids who had been separated for a while from the rest of the group.

It was getting quite crowded with the thirteen plus albeit small size persons and Hesta. Not to mention their hosts all crammed around the small table inside the seemingly small galley as it really had not been designed for so many people. But, as the three others had been, the rest of the children were hungry. And food was, thanks to Din’s great preparations, plenty of. So, first things first, which was to get all of them fed so they could regain their strength. Then, it was time for them to change the information either side possessed at the moment.

As soon as they had eaten the food most of the smaller children had been taken to the sleeping quarters in the vessel and into the four bunk beds to get some much deserved rest. Even if some of them needed to share the beds and some of them were even sleeping on the floor, it did not matter. No matter if it the floor was hard and they needed to share as after spending a long time crammed up in the small cocoon of the “force shield” having little in resources to share they were only too happy for this much and deserved respite.

Hesta, on the other hand, despite her fatigue, was eager to tell the others of the goings on of the planet. As did not join her kids as she now so fondly called them all. After all, it was thanks also to her own special powers. Something, which apparently she had re-discovered during the still on going ordeal on the planet. And as she had put it to rather briefly to explain her own situation to the others. And then diving deeper into the how’s and why’s of it all, when the other children had arrived to the school. But also about what she herself had been able do during the whole incident. And with all that, the few of them had survived hidden form the Dark Knights. And she had also managed to help a few escape, like Skippy. Even if there were still several kids out there in need of rescue. Really the bulk of them as it turned out as Hesta was explaining.

The Jedi school had grown in size significantly in the last year or so. And that was also when the real trouble had started. One day, out of the blue as the Dark Knights had landed without warning on their home planet surface. She had been telling all that which she knew now to be true and what had happened in the past year to the trio. All of it, trying to keep it short and simple as possible. It was also then when Din and Grogu knew why Hesta had not been in contact as she had tried to keep the Dark Forces at bay all this time. At least from herself and these special kids whom she knew had been in danger because of their very powers. And then, learning new things of herself in the process. She was tired and it was showing too and it was no wonder as she had been acting non stop almost a year with it all.

“So, what you are telling me is, that you are able to wield the same kind of ancient Force power like these special children here?”

Ahsoka was very interested in this little bit of information, as she had never encountered anyone quite like Hesta and the kids. As even if she too had heard the old stories from the history of the Jedi and the rest of the Force wielders. Well, almost not anyone, as there was that one time, but she had little if no memory left to it due to some unusual circumstances, like she having died and then being resurrected. But, Ahsoka was listening to what Hesta had to tell, even if it was not that much as clearly the young woman was none to privy herself of this, new power she now seemed to possess. But, this was neither the time or the place to dig in more deeply as to the how’s and why’s of this happening now as there was always a reason for it. This Ahsoka knew very well from her own experience.

“Yes, and I only realised it when the first group of these special kids as the Master put it, arrived to the school.” Hesta then explained. “And then I started to understand my own difference to the other Jedi I had gone to school with too.” Hesta added.

“About that…” Din asked not sure why he had not been mentioned until now. “The Master, where is he, exactly?”

Hesta looked shocked and then said in a low voice. “He, disappeared. Almost at the same time the Knights arrived.” She then said in a low voice almost sounding scared to even talk about it.

“Master Luke did?” Din asked not sure if he was hearing the young woman correctly as her tone had sunken to an almost whisper as it clearly was painful for her to talk about it.

“Yes, we have not seen or heard from him in a long while.” Hesta then told the others much to their surprise.

But especially Din’s as he had had his suspicions about the Jedi Master ever since his return from his trip and the odd behaviour which had been going on already back then. And then there was the changing that Skippy and Hesta had been talking about. It al seemed to be matching to the whatever had been going on with Luke years back. Then again as this was all happening only now, Din had somehow discarded those thoughts all together. Simply thinking it was some phase Luke had been going through. But maybe there was more to that after all. As so many things seemed to have gone wrong on the this supposed haven for the Jedi children. Still, it had been most likely Din's imagination coloured by their fights and the incident which had driven them all from their original home back then. And even if the Dark Knights were back now, it seemed that Luke had nothing to do with them. And that there were other, even stronger forces at play on the planet raising all kinds of havoc for the Jedi kids.

As Hesta had said it, Mater Luke had disappeared and was most likely a captive like those other children as well. Clearly, someone else was in charge. Pulling the strings and having the Jedi kids working for their cause. As to whatever or whomever was behind it, they would all find it out. Eventually. As their small size team was growing quickly in numbers and as far as the special Force power went, all these kids had it and that included Hesta. That, in Din’s book was a great advantage. Especially when dealing with the Dark Forces. And even if they were just small children, Din could see how powerful they had been together. So at least, if nothing else, they could provide cover for the other three while out there searching for the missing students and their Master. But as if reading his mind, which she most likely was, Ahsoka did not seem to be on the same page as Din on this one.

“I don’t think we can involve these kids in the search.” Ahsoka then said to Din.

Din looked at her and knew she had been tapping into his thoughts again. “Look, I am not saying we are going to haul them back there and into harms way. But if they can provide us cover while we are out there looking for the others? Well then, that would be great.” Din simply said not sounding angry or anything, just countering the thoughts on the matter.

“And Master Luke?” Hesta then asked, seemingly probing as if she was holding something back still.

“Yes, all of them, the kids, Luke, everyone.” Din looked at the girl with a surprise. And then thought to ask. “Is there something more about the Master you are not telling us?” As if sensing her hesitation of sharing her intel.

Hesta did not look at Din right away. Rather she was being evasive. But then, Grogu went to her and in a soft voice said. “Hesta, if there is something. Something else you know and are not telling us, then that could put us all in danger again.” Grogu was playing the card Din knew well and was proud of him for doing so.

Hesta looked at her friend. She shivered a tad before replying, as clearly, the memory was painful. “I am not sure and I cannot say this for a fact.” She then looked at Din and Ahsoka too. “He became strange, agitated, confused even. Nothing like he usually was, all cool, composed and calm and mostly understanding. But, he threw tantrums and such if someone dared to confront him on any subject at all.” As if explaining that would help. And it did as Grogu and Din both knew the Jedi Master well and this was clearly atypical behaviour for him. Totally so.

Din simply nodded as this had kind of validated his own suspicions. But it still did not explain why he had disappeared nor his involvement in this all, if any. Ahsoka looked curiously at Hesta and Din noticed this also. “I will explain to you later.” He simply said getting an approving nod in return from her.

“Well, whatever is going on here, we’ll figure it out. We always do, right?” Din the said to Hesta. “Meanwhile, you should join the other kids and get some rest. We’ll head out again soon to continue our search.” He then told her.

“But, you need my help.” Hesta then looked at the others, not sure what else to say.

“Hesta, you and the kids here have gone through a lot. I think you can rest a while. We won’t be long this time and when you feel better. Well, like I said, if you can give us some cover from over here, then that would be great too.” Din was adamant in not taking Hesta with them.

Hesta was going to protest, but Grogu took her hand and held it and looked at his friend in the eyes. “We’ll be fine for now. Do as dad says and get some rest. You need to be in good shape and then only can you help us. And besides, this ship is cloaked and shielded. So, you are safe here at least for now.” Grogu told Hesta hoping to assure the young woman she would be safe now.

Hesta nodded and then, without further argument, she left the galley to join the other kids in the sleeping area of the ship. After all, the others were right. For too long had she been on the run and it was time for some rest and relaxation. To let her powers re-charge before she could be of any help to anyone, let alone herself at this point. After all the issues had started on the planet some time ago when the Dark Knights had landed there. And it had been Hesta who had taken charge of the smaller kids. Helping them, aiding them, even making sure some of them could escape as she knew the Dark Force wielders did not want the special children as they were now called, around. So, hiding them and herself had taken a lot of effort to do. And when Master Luke had disappeared and almost all the older students had changed, there had been no one else around to guide anyone who had been left behind.

So, it was Hesta who had done all the work. Until she too, had needed to make herself disappear. But now, she was no longer alone. Her old friends, her family, had returned for her and the others. And for that, she was glad. She felt the fatigue catching up on her. And as soon as her head hit the pillow, she felt her eye lids getting heavy. And then soon enough, she too was sound asleep. Her dreams catching on to her. Those filled with hope and better times. Some from the past, when she was younger and all was well on the Jedi Academy planet. Before all the darkness had descended and made things the way they were now. Something which Hesta could not change even if she wanted to really badly. But for now, she could at least sleep for a while safely and let others take charge for a change. She could simply sleep and not to worry about anyone or anything else. At least, not until she would wake up again.


Chapter Twenty-five

“Watch out!” Ahsoka shouted out to Grogu. “On your right side!” She alerted the Kid as they were in full swing in a fight against their enemy.

Ahsoka had shouted out after having noticed there was another foe advancing on the youngling. Something which he had most likely not noticed. It was just before she was back with full force with two of the Dark Knights of her own. Dancing her way through the fight with them as they were equally matched in power now that there were two against one. The one being the Light Side member, while the other two were that of the Dark Side. So in her own words before the battles had even started, Ahsoka had commented she could take on two to four of the Knights in any battle they decided to start. She had seen plenty of battle. Even led several troops into countless battles in those wars fought back many years ago. She had tried to live in peace and harmony for a while. But somehow, her very own nature had always fought against that kind of existence. So, she had ventured out there again. Into the galaxy and helped out those in need. Much the way Din and Grogu had chosen to live their lives as well. And here she was once again, fighting against the would be oppressors. In a seemingly no win scenario. After all, they were out numbered against these controlled and mindless battling drones of the Dark Side. But so what? She had been there before! And this was nothing new to her either after all. Fighting the good fight until the very end if needed. But Ahsoka was far from done this time around.

Grogu, with thanks to Ahsoka’s warning, then managed to avoid the slashing dark shaded lightsaber just in time after hearing Ahsoka’s warning in the background. After all, there was all kinds of loud noises present at the moment. The swooshing of their weapons as they locked in contact. And also surprisingly there was a lot shouting too. Surely, a constants in this small but still, quite the heated battle. Grogu too had his hands full with Dark Knights, wielding his lightsaber like a true Jedi he was supposed to have become. Even if he mostly liked to be like his dad, a Mandalorian. As he was dressed in similar beskar armour as Din was. And having his other weapon of choice, a modified blaster riffle handy in case he needed it at any point. Indeed, he was a very canny and skilful warrior in his own right these days. More so now as he had trained with his father for the past several years. Becoming even more than the Jedi Master Luke had honed him to become. No, Grogu was something of his own kind now. Not quite the Jedi, but more like a Mandalorian. But still mostly, himself. And that was all which he needed to be according to his father Din. And so, the youngling kept on fighting with his head held up high, albeit ducking once in a while too naturally. And he was quick on his feet, bouncing around like a true fighting artist. He was now, quite the spitting image of his own dad, only smaller version of him.

Din had three against him currently as the trio had been ambushed by several Dark Knights. It was right after their return to the school building after their trip back to the ship after they had finally found Hesta and more of the special Force kids. They had not anticipated the running into these thugs. Not so soon at least. On their way back, they had been pretty secured as there was the shield the kids, which was holding them safe until they reached the proximity of the compound. It was a given that not even such powerful Force wielders could hold up such power for a longer distance as they were still few of them. But Din had anticipated they would be as safe as before in the shadows of the structures. Kind of hiding in plain sight.

Alas, he had been wrong in his assessment. Because as soon as they had set foot inside the building they had scouted out before, a group of the Dark Knights had emerged with their weapons ready. All of them willing to slay the intruders. It was an order of the One after all. Which was to get these intruders, dead or alive, preferably alive. But the One had given specific orders to the knights to not to let these three to be allowed to grab a hold any more of their children. After all, they needed them all for their own purposes. Even more of them were needed, but some of them did not fit the One’s agenda and were therefore expendable. But the trio was resilient and the Knights were falling. One by one, onto the very ground they all did.

Din, Ahsoka and Grogu had managed to slay a few of the Knights already. But they were still having several of them up and about to deal with. And clearly, they were not yielding. At least not yet. The trio kept on fighting though. Luckily, there were no more new players on the scene as it had seemed at the beginning that these Dark Knight just kept on coming no matter how many of them they were taking down. But after some time, Din, Ahsoka and Grogu had managed to even the odds as it were. And now there were more of the drones lying in the ground dead, than there were for the three of them to battle with at the moment.

So, they kept on going. Never giving in even if it seemed somewhat hopeless every now and again. But they had already come so far. And as if getting a new spring in their steps, all of the tree heroes were slowly but surely getting the upper hand in the fight. And soon enough, the last of the Dark Knights had finally been slain. After the last of the enemy fell, being still very much in battle mode, the three of them almost clashed into each other after having been pushed into the middle of the battle field back to back. Alas, the shouting and swooshing sounds were now totally silenced. And now, there was nothing but silence to be heard. Only the heavy breathing of the winners as it had been quite the battle after all.

“I think that was the last of them.” Din stated the obvious as no one else around them was moving. Nor were there any new players on the way towards them.

“I would hope so!” Ahsoka then exclaimed, feeling winded and exhausted from the heated battle. After all, she too, was getting on in her years.

“Well. If they aren’t coming around yet, there will be more.” Grogu warned the two as he was sending out his feelers through the Force now as they had no need to hide anymore. As clearly, the Dark Side beings knew they were on the planet. Quite well so.

“I don’t doubt it!” Din the said after a moment of trying to get his breathing to even. As he too, felt the battle deep within his bones. After all, both him and Ahsoka had seen and been in plenty of fights during their long lives and getting older was never fun!

“Well, this only proves we have hit the nerve so to speak.” Ahsoka then said. “We got some of their precious targets away from them. And guess we are most likely closing in on the rest too.” Ahsoka had deduced after the multitude of Knights having been thrown their way in trying to stop them of doing whatever they were doing.

“Yes. We are really close to them.” Grogu then looked rather serious as he was totally concentrating on the Force connection now after having merely touched it the first times while on the planet. But now, he was in there with full force, pun intended. He was searching for any of his kind and those of the darker tones as well. “The rest of the kids, they are close by. Somewhere well hidden but not far.” He told his findings to the other two. “But there are several of the Dark Knights close by as well. Coming this way.” He then warned his father and aunt.

Ahsoka took a deep breath and then, she tapped into the Force as well. Having all the same feelings as Grogu did, she simply verified his findings. “I can feel them too. All of them, light and dark. Or what is left of the lightness in those kids.” She felt sad as well, as she could sense the darkness descending once again over the whole area. But the three of them were far from done there.

“We need to get to them as soon as possible.” Din then said and straightened his stance and checked his weapons.

“I am ready.” Ahsoka then said simply.

“As am I.” Grogu second her thoughts.

Grogu took a step closer and was now standing right beside Din as did Ahsoka. All three of them standing there, ready for whatever it took to regain control of the school and all its inhabitants. Whatever it took, they would face the enemy together.

***

While the Din, Ahsoka and Grogu were one again able to continue on their mission, somewhere close by, deep down in the darkness the One was watching. Every single move of the rescue team was now visible, analysed and scrutinised by the One. After seeing the last fight they had taken part in, sending several of the Knights to greet them and if possible also capture them. But if not, kill them. They had become the nuisance the One did not need at the moment, throwing cogs in the wheels constantly. No, they needed to be eliminated as capture was no longer an option. There was simply too much at stake at this point in time and the trio’s arrival had really come in a bad moment. As now, the plan was fully in motion. The Jedi children mostly turned and working for them. And most of all, now that they had the facility, the planet and the power, the One could easily start making similar adjustments in the rest of the galaxy. Conquering the universe, system by system. Starting with planets and the feeble minds occupying those places. It would be easy now as this planet was slowly turning into a large ship. Which with all the harnessed Force power, the One could start moving around the galaxy on it. And the best part was, that no one could see them coming until it was tool late to do anything about it. Just the way the One liked it. And besides, having all those peasants under one rule. The One’s rule. Certainly was better than them going on with their pitiful lives without any meaning. That much was sure.

But as it was now, these two Jedi and their minion were simply an uninvited pest. Having gotten their hands on several of the special Force users and their leader was a set back. After all, the One had had great plans for the one called Hesta. Only, she had turned her back on the greatness and the future the One had offered her. So, killing her and her followers had been on the agenda. That was until these, pests had arrived in their invisible ship and started raising all kinds of havoc. Not to mention the loss of so many of the Dark Knights. It took time and resources to clone more. Something the One did not have time for right now. But, just as the plans seemed to have turned bad, there was still hope for them to succeed. After all, the One held an ace in their sleeve. And if that one would bring these interfering low lives into order, then nothing could. The One kept on glaring at the monitors in front of them. Watching the progress of the trio’s latest efforts were visible there. Not a pretty sight, but it could not be helped now. The One then turned to look at the solemn screen on the right upper corner on the wall. With a crocked grin of triumph they glared at the other one. Held in the special made cell where they had remained ever since coming back to this planet. After their unfortunate encounter with the One and the Dark Knights, several years ago while roaming the galaxy searching for a safe haven. Which they certainly had never found, not for them anyway.

 

To be continued in The Mandalorian, Jedi Academy, part 3