The first month Rey is on Ahch-To, she doesn’t take her lightsaber out once. Being a Jedi appears to be entirely a) running around the island and b) meditation. If Luke could figure out a way to combine the two without risking being pitched off her back and down a cliffside, she’s sure he would. She’s a running meditating machine.
(Every fortnight she’s allowed to go on the supply run with Chewie – the island supports Luke’s austere habits, not a ravenous Wookiee and a rapidly filling-out girl – and gets to contact base while offplanet. Finn’s recovering well, and apparently learning to fly, when the muckety-mucks aren’t picking his brain for First Order intelligence. He looks good – he looks happy. Rey’s happy too; a little monotony never killed anyone, particularly a girl from Jakku.)
Today she settles onto her favorite clifftop perch after the morning run and breakfast. She likes this one because she can see the Falcon down below, and then the vast expanse of the ocean, dotted with other tiny islands as far as the eye can see. Beneath her, Luke is making his way down the path; she suspects that he spends at least some of her meditation hours on board the Falcon playing dejarik with Chewie.
But Luke doesn’t need the meditation practice, and she does. She slows her breathing and quiets her mind, turning her focus inward to calm herself and then slowly reaching it out again, letting each tiny rock and blade of grass wash over her, finding her place on the cliff…
It’s not wholly unlike Jakku, really. She had hours and hours of alone time there too; she was just usually breaking off bits of fallen starships and clambering around derelict sandy wrecks, not sitting still in all her leisure, peaceful and well-fed.
Minutes flow past. Hours, perhaps.
Until she’s rudely snapped out of mindfulness by a voice next to her saying, “Hi! Who are you?”
Rey clutches at the shreds of her concentration, but it’s gone. She opens her eyes, already glaring –
And would have fallen off the clifftop in astonishment, except the clifftop is no longer there. She could be back on Jakku – except she knows the taste of the Jakku air, and this is more humid, less bone-dry. The sand looks the same, though, and so does the unforgiving bright blue of the sky.
She uses an extremely strong obscenity that she learned from Chewie.
The boy who spoke to her – for it’s a boy, she sees now, tall and gangly – looks taken aback. Belatedly, Rey wonders how she got here; she supposes a meditating Jedi appearing next to you and then swearing in Shyriiwook is probably not an everyday occurrence.
But she’s not in the mood to be gentle. “Who the hell are you, and where the hell am I?” she asks, starting to her feet. She might not have her staff – she makes a mental note to meditate with it on her back from now on, because obviously weird shit happens on Ahch-To – but she can still do some serious damage in a hand-to-hand fight. Especially with the extra muscle she’s put on, now that she’s getting more protein these days.
The boy holds out his hands in the universal symbol for no wait don’t hurt me. “Didn’t your master tell you?”
“I don’t have a master,” Rey says. What the hell kind of place is this? She worked for Unkar Plutt on Jakku, but he was never her master.
Now the boy looks confused. “You don’t?” He gestures at where she was sitting. “But you were meditating. And you manifested.”
Rey crosses her arms, unimpressed. This kid better start explaining, or she’s going to start looking for a ship to commandeer. She has no idea where she is in the galaxy, but that’s fixable. Worst comes to worst, she’ll go back to base and have Chewie come pick her up. And then get Luke to explain how the hell she got off Jakku when she was having a totally normal morning.
“Okay, I’ll back up. I’m a Padawan. A Padawan learner. A Jedi? That ring a bell?”
“I know what Jedi are,” Rey says, through gritted teeth. “I’m studying with…”
But the boy has held up a quick hand to cut her off, and she stutters to a stop, amazed by his audacity.
“Sorry,” he says, with an apologetic smile. “We don’t give names. It fucks up the timestream something crazy, oh … my master says.”
Rey looks around for someone more experienced to explain things, but the desert they’re in appears to be empty. As deserts have a tendency to be. “How did I get here?”
“If I say the Force, are you going to hit me?” he asks. “Because you look like you might hit me. And really, I’m having an awful day, so if we could not start with the hitting, that would be great.”
“I’m not going to hit you,” Rey says, with what she thinks is admirable patience. Why does she seem to be picking up so many big-eyed strays lately?
“Good,” the kid says, flashing her a smile. “If I come back with a black eye, I’m for it. Oh, yes, explaining. Uh, so, you’re a Jedi of some sort, and you were meditating? Well, it’s kind of a long story, but basically, sometimes when Padawans meditate we manifest in other places.”
He’s not entirely speaking Basic yet, but Rey’s beginning to get the picture. “Meditating Jedis appear in different places.”
“Padawans. Because we’re still learning how things work. Got it.”
She still hasn’t uncrossed her arms. “But who are you, and where the hell are we? I thought all the Jedis were dead except for – ”
He’s stopped her again, his eyes wide. “You must come from a really interesting time. Don’t tell me, though – ”
It’s her turn to interrupt. “TIME?”
She didn’t mean to yell that loudly, but in retrospect she’s not sorry.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “Did I not mention that?”
By the time Rey has the story straight, she’s beginning to think Jedis are a lot weirder than she ever imagined. And hey, she’d imagined quite a lot, because a) they’re legends, and b) anyone as preternaturally calm as Luke is probably scarily competent beneath the quiet exterior. She can totally believe that if she fell off a cliff, Luke would grab her out of the air with the Force, deposit her on the shore, and observe mildly that she needs to watch where she’s going.
But there’s “Jedis are weird” in the abstract, and there’s “Jedis are weird” in practice, and this is definitely the latter.
The boy introduces himself as Yoda, which Rey suspects is an alias, given his insistence that they avoid specifics about their lives. According to Yoda, she’s a Padawan (privately Rey prefers “Luke’s student”), and when Padawans are learning to meditate and put themselves in tune with the Force, they aren’t very good at it yet, so sometimes they get caught up in Force eddies and end up time-traveling. Why the Force deposits them next to another Padawan, Yoda isn’t really sure – he claims he’s the best pilot and fighter in the Jedi Order and so doesn’t have to memorize theory, which Rey doubts – but he says vaguely that it’s probably something to do with either keeping them safe or some sort of cross-time bonding ritual.
Yoda has lots of theories. He’s probably around thirteen, Rey thinks, and he’s an excited chatterbox. (Rey, who spent most of her childhood in solitude, is beginning to get tired.) “Maybe the Force sent you to show you that the Jedi Order is a good thing, and that you have friends – like me! – and that you shouldn’t think about turning to the Dark Side.”
She can hear the capitals in his voice. “Do I look like I’m going to turn to the Dark Side?”
The kid actually cocks his head, considering. “Well. Kinda, yes? At least, you’re very scowly. And you don’t know what Padawans are, and you said you didn’t have a master, so something’s gone wrong where you came from. Unless you’re a rogue Jedi! Are you a rogue?”
“Are you supposed to be trying to figure this out?” Rey asks.
Yoda instantly looks guilty, scuffing his foot on the sand. “No. I’m s’posed to welcome you and talk about meditation. But that’s boring.”
Rey is usually immune to endearing kids, but he reminds her a little of BB-8, adrift on Jakku, and she relents. “So tell me why you were having an awful day.”
He brightens immediately. “Oh wow, it was crazy. So. We’re on this planet to investigate these rumors about weird stuff happening.”
“Illuminating,” Rey says, dryly.
“Shut up,” he says, and daringly ventures to punch her lightly in the shoulder. She can sense his giddiness through the Force; this must not happen very often, if he’s enjoying himself this much. “So, my master told me to stay up on the surface, while he went down into a pit.”
Pits are not good news, especially on desert planets like this one. Rey has had more than one nightmare of being buried alive in sand.
“And I said, let me come with you, but he said, ‘An…Yoda, stay where you are, I’m serious,’ and he was, serious I mean, but then there was this monster thing that came up on him from behind when he was trying to read the inscriptions on this artefact…”
This story is simultaneously too vague and too detailed for Rey to understand. She thinks she gets the gist, though. “Let me guess, you jumped down into the pit to fight the monster.”
“Well, what else was I supposed to do?” Yoda asks, spreading his hands wide. “He can be a pain in the butt, but I don’t want him to get squashed or skewered. If he got squashed and I had to go back to the Jedi Council, I’d get stuck with, I dunno, Master Windu or someone.”
He instantly looks guilty, but the name doesn’t mean anything to Rey. “What did he think you should have done?”
Yoda looks mulish. “He says I should have obeyed and stayed put, that he totally sensed it and had everything under control, and if I get myself killed he’ll have invested years of training and countless gray hairs for nothing. He doesn’t even have gray hair, he’s just pissy because I killed the monster and he didn’t get to.”
“Was it a very tough monster?” Rey asks, poker-faced.
“Oh, it definitely tried to squash me,” Yoda says, grinning in remembrance. “But I have really good reflexes and I totally dodged the skewer-thing and by then he was jumping around swearing at me to get out of there – I don’t think it’s very nice to swear at your Padawan but he says if I had me for a Padawan I’d swear at me too sometimes – and basically it got distracted and confused and I swooped in for the kill.”
“Poor monster,” Rey says. “It was just minding its own business until you bothered its pit.”
“Yeah, well, it shouldn’t have tried to squash us. Anyway, afterwards my master told me that obviously I needed to learn to listen better, so now I have to meditate and listen to the Force whenever we’re not investigating. And it’s really boring. I hate desert planets. There’s nothing to see.”
Rey suspects his master really just wants a bit of peace and quiet, if he talks this much every day. She also thinks Luke would say that if you’re taking in the sights, you aren’t really focusing on meditation, but she’s not in the mood to lecture. “I grew up on a desert planet. It surprised me how green other planets could be.”
“So did I! Doesn’t it just blow your mind? Sand, sand, and oh wait, more sand – but then you get offworld, and there’s a whole galaxy, and actually there are whole planets where sand isn’t really a thing at all, it’s so rare that people make long trips to see it and lay on it and play in it. Ridiculous.”
He sounds as world-weary as it’s possible for an around-thirteen-year-old to be, and Rey suppresses the urge to arch an eyebrow. He’s just a kid. Instead, she asks, “What do you do when you’re not in trouble?”
“For fun?” He’s sprawled on the ground now, elbows in the sand and chin propped in his hands. “Well, I like to go flying, but Certain People think I’m reckless. So I don’t get to do it very much. You pull some tricks one time, and you get grounded for months, all because he throws up a little and gets all embarrassed and on his high horse.”
She laughs. “What do you fly?”
“Anything,” he says, trying to look modest, but utterly failing. “I can fly anything. When I was a kid, I … but I guess I was the only one who ever did that, so I can’t tell you. Ugh. Anyway, it was awesome, okay? Just imagine something totally awesome.”
“Sure, kid,” she says, but she’s smiling. There’s something charming about him, a merry impertinent twinkle. He may be self-aggrandizing, boastful, and tell more than a few whoppers, but if she had to get dumped out of the sky next to a Padawan, she could have done worse. “What’d you do, fight in a battle at age four?”
Yoda looks agonized. Whatever he did, it must actually be good, because he really wants to tell her. But his training holds, and he heroically resists. “Not exactly. Do you fly?”
“Yes,” she says. She remembers the escape aboard the Falcon, the day her boring ordered universe came crashing down around her ears. “Even in battles sometimes. But not when I was four.”
They talk about flying for a while. It’s late afternoon here, wherever “here” is; Rey watches the shadows lengthen as Yoda tells her about all the fancy tricks and maneuvers he can do. He sounds like a menace to the skies, if half of what he’s claiming is true, and Rey feels a moment of sympathy for his absent teacher. Luke doesn’t know how good he has it, with a quiet stoic Jakku girl to train instead of this teenage spitfire.
“When will the Force send me back?” she asks, when there’s a lull in the conversation. “Do I have to meditate again?”
“Aww,” he says, making a face. “Do you have to go?”
She looks down her nose at him, which makes him laugh. “I have dinner tonight with my teacher and two of my best friends. If the Force makes me late, I won’t be happy.”
He sits up. “You have best friends? During training?” He sticks out his lip, woefully. “Why can’t I come with you and live in your time? We’re not allowed to have friends – I mean, I guess we can make friends with other Jedi, but we’re off on missions so much, and then it’s just me and him. So boring.”
“You should make friends with your master,” Rey suggests, to which Yoda gives a theatrical look of horror. She suspects they get on better than Yoda pretends. “My friends aren’t Jedi. They’re a Wookiee and a droid.”
“A droid? You like droids? I love droids. I built one once,” he says, starting off again, a mile a minute.
Rey listens to his stories for a little longer. Now that she’s adjusted to the chatter – Luke isn’t much a talker; she isn’t sure if that’s just his personality or if he’s taking this ‘inscrutable sole Jedi’ thing far too seriously – she’s beginning to find it relaxing. Yoda needs no help to keep the conversation going, although he’s genuinely interested in anything she tells him. She wonders if this is what having a little brother would have been like; not that she could have handled one on Jakku, particularly not in the beginning, when she was so small she could barely support herself, but still. It would’ve been nice to have a kid this enthusiastic and friendly around, to keep her company through the long days.
“I hate to break this up,” she says, after his first rush of enthusiasm has subsided, “but I really do have to get back, or my Wookiee friend will eat my dinner. But maybe the Force will bring me again sometime.”
“Maybe,” Yoda says, but he looks far from convinced. “You’re the most interesting Padawan it’s ever brought me. Usually I get stuck-up people who just want to go right back. But you’re awesome.”
“Well, thank you,” Rey says, feeling a little awkward. “You’re pretty cool too. Don’t be too hard on your master, though – he’s probably just worried for you.”
Yoda grins. “I know. But he needs to learn that he doesn’t have to be worried, I can totally take care of myself. I don’t need to be babied.”
“If you say so,” Rey says, with comic dubiousness, which gets a yelp out of him. “Now go away. I’ll never be able to meditate with you sitting right there making faces at me.”
Yoda sighs, but then mock-salutes. “Next time bring your lightsaber and we can duel!” he calls back over his shoulder, as he bounds out of the courtyard and into the house.
Rey definitely won’t take him up on that – best fighter in the Jedi Order or not, he’s bound to be better than her, since Luke hasn’t got to that part of her training yet (she thinks she probably has a lot more mountain running to do first), and she has no interest in being bested by a mouthy kid, however charmingly chattering he is.
When she opens her eyes to the waterlogged world of Ahch-To, however, she finds that she’s smiling. It’s a lot, being one of the last Jedi in the galaxy, and although that’s still true, she somehow no longer feels quite so alone.
“So I met this kid called Yoda today,” Rey says, over dinner.
Meant as a conversational gambit (“How did you meet someone on Ahch-To, Rey?” “Funny you should ask, apparently we can time-travel, which would have been nice to know”), the effect is less the mild interest she was expecting, and more bombshell. Artoo squeals, Chewie jerks his head up in surprise, and Luke – her inscrutable, mysterious teacher – swallows wrong and starts coughing.
“Was it something I said?” Rey asks, looking around innocently. “He seemed like a pretty good kid. Really chatty. Funny, and apparently he loves droids.”
Artoo beeps something quietly, which Rey must have misheard, because it sounds like he said, “First I’ve heard of it.”
Chewie says that humans are very funny, in a tone that means nothing of the sort, while Luke’s still recovering from choking on his dinner.
Later, after they’ve climbed back up the hill from the Falcon, Luke explains – somewhat. Rey finds him, as always, a bit on the gnomic side. (She wonders if this is a habitual thing for Jedis – or even a tool of the trade? – or just Luke’s personality.) But she gathers that it’s rare, happens only to Padawans, and seems to be the Force’s way of broadening minds and adding new perspectives. It’s unlikely to happen to her again, he adds.
Except the Force apparently has a puckish sense of humor, because two weeks later Yoda pops into existence on the cliff top next to her. “Hi!” he says. “Is this where you train? Oooh, very dramatic.”
He’s as high-octane as Rey remembers, and after a few minutes of his chatter (“I brought my lightsaber! I’ve been carrying it on me all the time, even when I sleep, even though my master says I better be pretty damn sure I don’t dream and accidentally turn it on, because he’s not submitting that paperwork to the council – do you think they actually make masters submit paperwork if we get killed? I mean, I’ve never seen him do paperwork, I feel like they’d just call him back and make him report, and Mace would glare at him and sigh – anyway, I didn’t chop myself in half during the night, or him, which was probably what he was actually worried about – now that would be a bad report, chopping your master in half, they’d be sure you’d turned to the Dark Side – and I brought it with me, so do you want to duel? Don’t take it easy on me just because I’m younger, I’m super good -), she’s entirely not surprised to see Luke appear. It’s a small island. A kid chattering is just a little bit obvious.
“Uh, this is Yoda,” she says. “Apparently the Force let him pay a return visit.”
The kid pops up. “Oooh,” he says, irrepressible. “I usually never get to meet masters.”
Luke’s doing his best poker face, and Rey’s only known him long enough to know that he has different poker faces, not long enough to be able to interpret them yet. “Excuse me,” he says to Yoda, politely. To Rey, “A word.”
Leaving Yoda behind momentarily (he looks moody, but apparently doesn’t dare quarrel with a ‘master’), they walk a short distance.
“I’ve shielded our conversation,” Luke says. “You are not to duel with him, under any circumstance. Don’t let him see your lightsaber, or say anything about who you are, or anything about your life, or anything about me.”
Rey isn’t dumb. He isn’t telling her the whole story, but enough for her to put the pieces together. There’s some reason why Yoda can’t know about them – and yet the Force has linked them, twice now.
“Tell me one thing,” she says, pushing, “is he our past or our future?”
Luke looks far away for a second, but then he often looks far away. “Our past,” he says. “Tread carefully.”
They have a good afternoon on the cliffs of Ahch-To. Yoda makes her laugh, and tells her more stories of the shenanigans he gets up to with his master.
The whole afternoon, she can feel Luke’s eyes on them from across the hilltop.
Yoda hugs her before he goes, all shy bravado. He’s still shorter than her, though she guesses he’ll grow soon. “Don’t forget,” he says, nodding in Luke’s direction, “don’t let him walk all over you! Masters think they know everything, but we’ve got to keep them in line.”
“You concentrate on yours, and I’ll manage mine,” she says, smiling.
He promises that next time the Force lets her visit – sure it’s unlikely, but then, everything about their lives is unlikely, really - he’ll take her flying, even if it gets him in trouble. He doesn’t exactly have a ship, it’s really his master’s, but he’s sure he can borrow it for a little bit. And he’s made these great modifications…
Eventually he goes, protesting all the way about how he really could stay the night.
After he pops back to his own time, Rey looks out over the waters of Ahch-To for a few minutes, then goes to find Luke. “Tell me everything,” she says, a mix between asking and demanding.
Luke looks up, and Rey sees that he’s holding her lightsaber, turning it over and over between his hands. “Sit down,” he says.
The story of the Skywalkers is an epic tragedy, spanning both galaxy and generations.
“He was at peace, in the end,” Luke says, watching her.
Rey can only think of a kid named Yoda, who loves droids and flying, hates deserts and the sidelines of a fight, and adopted her as his friend instantaneously.
She goes for a run in the late afternoon sun; it glints off the water, stinging her eyes.