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The Meeting

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Nari

“I’m sorry, I have to go”, Nari said.

Five pairs of eyes stared at him. There was muted disbelief in them, but not exactly shock. The pain was too great that it was numbing. Murmurs of protest started, but they were cut by a firmer voice.

“There is nothing we can do to stop you. But at least you tell it to our face, that is not nothing,” says the one whose eyes were no longer seeing.

Nari stood up, hoisted up his pack, crossed the hall and left. He stood on the steps and looked back. The Temple of the Whills is gone. All that was left standing was a few columns. Kyle and Nandi were not there. Kyle was tending to the wounded in the hut near the market, and Nandi was out looking for places to stay. This was Nari’s home for longer than the Jedi Temple had been. He had been Nari for longer than he had been Flavio. Should he adopt another name now?

After a day’s travel, Nari was on a cargo ship out of Jedha. He pictured in his mind the planet receding from view, cramped among the crates in the cargo bay. He payed the Trandoshan captain to smuggle him out. The security around the space port was hard to evade nowadays, he needed cooperation from the crew. Many years ago, he had arrived on Jedha stowed away on a cargo ship. He was small then and had a trick sneaking on ships undetected. From Coruscant he hopped planet to planet. Being so young he had gained occasional help from people. But he couldn’t stay with anyone. He couldn’t reveal who he was to anyone, and that secret made him unable to accept help from anyone for long term, until he hitched a ride to Jedha.

The Guardians of the Whills did not seem to be interested in who he was. They did not even ask his name. They saw an orphan, they took him in, gave him food and shelter. They gave him his name, too. He was now called Nari, so his real name can be kept secret. That made him feel safe. He stayed in the temple ever since. Sonto taught him how to repair vaporators, slice codes, upgrade droids, and wire power couplings. Baze taught him how to ride speeder bikes, and tend to weapons. Baze taught him how to fight as well, he said that Nari would make an efficient Guardian. Well, Jedi training began with basics for guardian duty, he must have learned something of use when he was Flavio.

Ten days ago, there was carnage at the Temple. The Guardians refused the Empire entrance. “We guard the Temple of the Whills. We don’t let you take the Kyber statue.” They were attacked by an inquisitor. Nari had evaded them before. The inquisitor went straight for Chirrut and took him prisoner. When he was returned, his eyes were gone. The horror was hard to deal with. The Empire stormed the Temple and seized the Kyber statue. Nari only sustained a minor injury, so he was able to help his brothers and sisters. The days were busy, but he still slept little at night. Until at last he fell asleep during the day. Only it wasn’t sleep, he wasn’t dreaming.

It was a Force vision. He saw himself on Tatooine, the twin suns blazing, but brighter than the suns, was someone he needed. He couldn’t tell who it was, but he knew he would find answers there.

Ben

Obi-Wan was sitting in Mapo’s, one of the many little pubs you see in Mos Eisley. He was here to see Beru Lars, who worked a few shifts here during the dry season. She wasn’t able to talk to him yet. Obi-Wan surveyed his surrounding while waiting. Men and women of different species were coming and going, chatting in a variety of tongues. The Empire’s presence on Tatooine was almost absentmindedly, likely there was tacit agreement with the criminal clans here. It worked in the Empire’s interest, too, Obi-Wan thought, the Hutt clan and the Pyke Syndicate kept the peoples here in submission. That, for now, was what the Empire wanted with Tatooine.

Obi-Wan knew how not to be noticed. He had the skills at his disposal, and the experience. People of all species had a tendency to see what they want. Obi-Wan wasn’t a sight on the top of one’s desirables list. The powerful twin suns had aged him considerably. His once lustrous red hair was now thin and gray. Obi-Wan knew the years since the last ones of the Clone Wars had taken a toll on the planet as well. Tatooine had always been a hopeless backwater, favored only by criminals. On his previous visits here in the Republic days, everyone he knew here wanted to leave and make a living elsewhere. However, prolonged Galactic war had left it one of the few planets in this section that had not been in total open war. So the unthinkable happened - people were now fleeing to Tatooine. Refugees from nearby planets put a strain on the already limited resources on this harsh planet. It was a miserable business, though it made Obi-Wan’s settling down here easier. To the Empire and most people, he was just another battered old man making a meager life here.

Beru once told Obi-Wan that the refugees nowadays were even worse off than the slaves in the old days. She would know, as her family was once enslaved themselves. After they got their freedom, they had a chance to move to Takodana, but Beru had made friends with the loose group of people who help slaves. She opted to stay while her parents and sister left. She had been helping slaves since. “We cannot do much, but every little bit counts I guess,” she had said. It was she who persuaded Cliegg Lars to help Shmi Skywalker. She married Lars’ son and now she was a valuable friend to Obi-Wan.

“Here,” Beru brought Obi-Wan a bubble black melon juice and sat across him, “I don’t have much time, but I wanted to ask a favor of you, if you can do it.”

“What is it?”

“There is this family, Dirma, they are from Stygeon Prime.”

“I heard the Empire has an advanced prison there.” Obi-Wan stroked his beard.

“She says the same. Mela, the mother. They are a family of four, Twi’leks, the father is Diggory. They bought chips from Otto when they landed on Tatooine a while ago. It turns out that the Empire is rolling out implant identity chips, and Mela has the implant. The others don’t. Her husband can get a job and move freely using Otto’s chip, but she can’t because if she passes any checkpoint, she will be marked as from Stygeon Prime, and the Empire doesn’t want knowledge of the prison spread. Even though she hardly knows anything about it.”

“I’m not sure I know anyone who can remove implants.”

“Otto says he can disable it from outside if he can have the protocol. The Empire uses a signal to exchange data with the implant, you can turn it off by sending the right signal. He doesn’t dare to try some protocols we know, because you know, it’s an implant. A wrong signal may be dangerous.”

“And you told him I can get you the protocol?”

“Oh! I didn’t tell him about you. But you can, can’t you? You got us the encryption sequence last time. And you helped Molly escape from Jabba’s dungeon. That time it must be you, it can’t be anyone else.”

Obi-Wan sipped his drink, thinking.

“I don’t know what you can do, but I think you can do this. Just tell me I’m right, please.”

“I suppose he has a program and a handle so that once plugged in the system, it will download the protocol?”

“Yes, it’s right here.” Beru slipped a data spike into Obi-Wan’s hand. “Thank you. Think of Mela and her children, and all other people we will be able to help. There bound to be more people with her problem.”

“You know, of course, that it’s better to remove the chip entirely, don’t you?”

“Yes, they’ll have to do that off world. My contacts don’t know any clinics here that can remove implants. But right now, if you cannot verify your identity, they wouldn’t let you buy shuttle tickets or register ships if you are marked, for any reason they like.”

Obi-Wan took the data spike into his robes, thinking. He knows the Imperial data center’s physical backup takes place regularly. It may be easiest and safest to do it when backup storage is taken to transport. While doing so, he might be able to extract some other schematics to study. It wouldn’t hurt if he familiarized himself with the Empire’s latest technologies.

“Thank you, Ben. Now I must return to the other customers. Oh, and I shall work here every other afternoon until next week. This year’s wet season is likely to come earlier.”

The Meeting

Obi-Wan sat again in Mapo’s with the updated data spike tucked in his robe. He knows where to find Otto, but he usually let Beru make the contact. The fewer people know him the better.

Tonight, he felt seen. The Empire was looking for him, he had heard of the Inquisitors, trained by this Darth Vader to hunt Jedi survivors. This wasn’t an Inquisitor, though. It was the same human youth he had noticed a few days ago. Shabby looking, slightly unkempt hair, faded robes, he looked secretive. Obi-Wan didn’t sense danger in him. Still, he decided to lead him away. He stood up, caught Beru’s eye behind the counter, motioned that he would come again later, then went outside.

It was evening. Tatoo I had gone below the horizon, while Tatoo II cast a long shadow on everyone and everything. At this time of the day, it was almost agreeable. The streets were teeming with activities. Obi-Wan’s senses were trained on one. He was followed, good, it was his intention to lead.

Obi-Wan mounted his eopie and headed towards the south market. The youth was trailing him in the shadows. Obi-Wan stopped. This was someone from the Jedi Order, he felt sure. He couldn’t have been more than ten years old when the Order fell. Immense sadness befell him.

“Would you like a ride, young sir?” He called at the low wall on his right.

The young man stepped out from behind the wall.

Before he spoke, Obi-Wan said, “would you be so kind and help me with the cart, please?”

Obi-Wan took the collapsed cart from the eopie’s back, stood it up, and tested its wheels. The youth came up ready to help.

“What is your name?”

“Nari”, he looked a little taken aback, but answered instinctively.

“Can you link the cart to the saddle, please? Thank you, Nari. Now please step in the cart with me.”

They rode silently for a while before Nari started, “You are -“

“Ben, the name is Ben.”

“No, you are not.”

“I am Ben, just as you are Nari,” Obi-Wan said meaningfully.

Nari’s defiance faded, “I need your help, Ma-, I mean, Ben.”

“What a coincidence, I am in need of your help as well. Perhaps we can help each other.”

Surprise took over Nari so much that he forgot to plead. “Me? How?”

“You must understand that this is very important. The information in this data spike can save a family now and maybe more in the future, if it is delivered to these coordinates. I can go there if I have to. But there is a checkpoint where you will need to scan your identity chip. Since I already scanned mine to get the data extracted, It would be prudent to avoid that. Those good old astromechs might spot some pattern. You, on the other hand, have never been there, so no one will suspect even if they look at the logs.”

“Is that all? I go to this place and deliver the data spike?”

“Yes. And you will pass through the jagged canyons, that is right next to Jabba’s territory. You will encounter guards. You learned stealth, didn’t you?”

If he didn’t learn stealth very well, he had perfected it during the past years. “Yes,” Nari said firmly.

“Good. Travel by day. They will only expect to see stray strangers. Stick to being one and you will be unnoticed. Take my eopie, return her to me when you are done. She knows the way.”

The Parting of the Ways

Nari sat in Obi-Wan’s hut. They had just shared some dried Meiloorun.

“So, Rhayne or Shomgelli, which is it?”

Nari stared, “Shomgelli, Flavio Shomgelli, was, is my name.”

Obi-Wan nodded, “I looked you up. Initiates’ names are in the depths of my holocron. I think it was an automatic thing, for us the padawan-less.”

“I thought, you might, take me in, maybe not as a formal apprentice, but I can learn from you.”

Obi-Wan looked Nari in the eye, “from what you have told me about your past ten years, Nari, you know where you belong.”

Nari’s gaze faltered a little, but he didn’t shift his eyes, he had expected this answer, yet he still looked a little dejected.

“I can see years of hard existence did not damage you much. No doubt those Guardians are at least partly to be thanked for. They are doing a better job than I did with my apprentice. Yes, it would be an honor to know them in person.”

“But you are not coming with me.”

“The times have changed. We must assume our new roles. Be Nari and Ben. It’s not easy for me, so I venture that it is not for you either.”


“Otto sent word that you gave him the protocol,” Beru said as she had a spare moment, “thank you. I think the Dirmas will be off in no time.”

“Oh, I had help. And I have thanked him on your behalf already.”

“You had help! Great. Do I know him? If he has anything, you know, if we can help him back in any way, don’t hesitate to ask us.”

“You served him blue milk tea the other day. Anyway, he is already on a shuttle off world now.”