The stench of the night air was something from a nightmare. There were several bodies in the area that were still burning. Once you have smelled burned flesh and hair, it was something you never forget. The locals or those that were stuck on this plane called it Haven, which it was far from. For those in the Republic it had no name, it was a number. The planet had been torn apart in a civil war for almost 15 years with no hope of ending.
Hidden in the shadows of a debris there was a young figure that huddled for shelter and warmth. He looked out over the still burning bodies and corpses that no one had time to mourn. He thought back to a time when things weren’t quite so bad, when he still had a guardian, a master and a mother to show him the way.
The earliest memory of the he had was of his mother unwrapping a small burlap bag. Peering inside the bag, the young fingers wrapped around a long metal tube. The beautiful woman smiled as the force wrapped it's embrace around the young man. “We are Jedi.” She quietly whispered as the four year old opened his eyes wide. She had recounted many stories of the Jedi when he was just a baby helping him to sleep. He always went to sleep wishing that the Jedi would save them. It was a gentle prayer each and every night.
After that night she continued his education. She taught him the ways of the force and how to control it. Not only the connection to the force, but his emotions. She knew he was growing up in bad circumstances and didn’t want it to color his future. This one would not turn out like his father, he would not turn.
“Qui?” he was only six years old, but he already had the meditation skills of a Padawan. She stroked his long hair that curled slightly at the ends. The color of honey wheat, it was already starting to turn the darker color he would have in adulthood. What would happen to her angel when she was no longer there to protect him? Would someone find him so that he could fulfill his destiny?
“Momma?” The small voice was tender. “Are you ok, momma? You. F..F..Feel sad.” He reached up to her cheek as she was kneeling before him. He could feel the force swirling around her and knew something wasn’t quite right.
Looking down at her child, with unshed tears in her eyes, “I am sad Qui. We don’t have much longer. You will have to continue your journey on your own soon. I’m afraid…”
“Don’t be afraid. I will be ok. You will always watch over me no matter what. The force will guide us.” The little voice was too grown up and the dam finally broke within her. She swept the young boy into her arms and wept into his adorable hair.
It had only been a year later that she was gone. It made little sense to the young man that watched his mother fade away from an unknown illness that neither could stop. “I’m afraid momma. I don’t want to be alone.” He held tight to her hand as her chest barely rose to catch a breath.
“You will never be alone, my own.” Another breath, “ You will be a great Jedi, I…” He grasped her hand even tighter as the end was almost there. “There is no death, there is the Force. I love…” One last breath and she was gone.
It took almost sixteen hours, but the boy managed to give his mother a proper pyre. He watched as the smoke lifted into the air. He would never again forget that smell and he hoped to never smell it again.
Over the years, he continued to train and help those on the planet that he could. He managed to stay on his own, no matter the offers to take him in. He knew this was his own trial; he had to learn so that one day he could fulfill his mother’s last wish. He would be a Jedi and help those that could not help themselves.
He was now 11 years old and watching as the planet was tearing itself apart. It couldn’t get any worse, he thought. Father against son, mother against daughter, no one was safe. The bodies littered the plains and no one had time to bury or mourn the fallen.
As he hid in the shadows of a burned out building he gazed up into the sky and saw a bright light as something roared from the sky. It had been a long while since he last saw a ship land, but he recognized it for what it was. It was a shaky landing, but, it set down on the ground with a loud thud.
In the back of his mind, he felt something. He felt a warmth that hadn’t been there since his mother passed away. “Go…” It was but a whisper in his mind.
“Momma?” The blue eyes widened at the thought.
“Go little one, this is your chance.” The wind whispered.
With a flash, the plank from the ship was lowered and large man descended to the ground. “I don’t care if you couldn’t feel it. The force demanded that we land here. We have to find out why.” The dark-skinned man scouted around the ship as if looking for something.
“Excuse..me?” The youth’s voice cracked from disuse and maybe just a bit of fear.
The tall man turned around suddenly with his hand on a large round tube. He had a lightsaber! The youth’s eyes got larger and his feelings of relief almost bowled the stranger over. “Yes, young one? Can I help you?”
“My mother said one day you would come for me. That one day I would find my place. Are you here to help me?” Mace couldn’t believe the force presence before him. It was singing with the rightness of the boy’s statement.
“Who is your mother?”
“Syrah Salar. My name is Qui-gon Jinn, sir.” The tall man’s eyes showed little emotion, but with the mention of his mother’s name there was a flash of something. He couldn’t tell if it was a good or bad thing, but there was recognition.
“That cannot be, she was lost to us years ago.” The bald man knelt lower so he could look into the youth’s eyes as they continued their conversation.”
“She told me that she was on a patrol mission on the outer rim and lost control of her ship. She was stranded on this planet and hoped for rescue, but it was far off her patrol path. She was only a few weeks with me when she was stranded on this planet. I was born almost ten months later.” Qui-gon was trying his best to get it all out as quick as he could. He would be devastated if this man left him here. Alone, once again.
“I do not intend to leave you alone, little one. My name is Mace Windu and I knew your mother. We grew up together in the Jedi temple.” Mace suddenly realized that Qui-gon had not said that last part aloud. It couldn’t be.
Qui-gon looked up hopefully at the man, “How..But, I didn’t.”
Just as they both looked at each other, a large explosion rocked the area just to the east of the ship. They knew the ship had landed and they were on their way. “We need to get out of here, now Qui-gon. Will you go with us?” Mace held out his hand, knowing this would be really hard to explain to the Council and more so to Master Yoda.
Qui-gon looked at the hand and ran off toward the ruins of the building near-by. Mace frowned, thinking the boy was refusing. He turned back towards the ship and started walking up the walkway once again. “Wait!” The boy shouted and ran back to his side carrying a small bundle. “I had to get my things. It is all I have left of my mother.” He cuddled the burlap bag to his chest and reached out to grab the Jedi’s hand.
“Your mother is always with you, Padawan.” Mace choked back a small sob as the word flowed from his mouth. This child was too old to train and after his last apprentice turned he could not do this again.
“Padawan?” The boy looked at him confused. He knew the word from the stories and the lessons of his mother, but did it mean this man wanted him as a Padawan? Did it mean that he would be able to grant his mother’s dying wish?
Mace closed the hatch and called out, “We need to get out of here now Adi!” He knew he was ignoring the question, but this was a conversation for later. He pointed to a small chair in the main area, “Buckle up, this might get a bit bumpy.”
The tall man fled quickly to the cockpit. “We have company and need to get out of here now.” The ship was rocked by another blast and the younger Knight got the ship off the ground and back into the darkness of space. “Are you going to tell me about the young one that is strapped in the back. I can hear his teeth chattering from here. He's obviously never been in space before.” She smiled and knew that times were about to get interesting for Master Mace Windu.
“Don’t start, Adi. I need to contact the council. Can you please see to our guest and make sure he is kept warm. He is so grounded in the Living Force that space is going to be a shock for him.” He nodded toward the aft of the ship.
“Picking up another stray? The council is not going to like this one, Mace.” Adi turned back to Mace and placed her hand on his shoulder. He tensed for a moment, still unsure where the Force was leading him. “I know, Adi. I said I would never again take a Padawan, but I don’t think the Force is giving me a choice this time. There is already a…bond.”
The young Knight gasped at the thought. Bonds were chosen by Master and Apprentice. Only a rare few were granted a bond by the Force. They were indeed living in interesting times. Adi left Mace to the transmission and went into the back to see the young man that was thrust upon her friend.
He was huddled in the chair and shaking visibly from the frigid air. He was a tall youth and she could see the large man he would become one day. His long dirty hair was down to his shoulder and smudges of dirt on his face had shown a hard life already. He could be dangerous if trained now. She was sure the council would not allow it.
Grabbing extra thermal blankets from a nearby hatch, she curled them around the sleeping youth. He was mumbling in his sleep and she could feel his fear. It was understandable in his situation, but could the youth channel his fear. Was this child dangerous? She looked back in the cockpit and thought of the man inside. He had already lost one apprentice, could he survive another?
“Momma, They saved me, I will make you proud.” The youth’s words sent a shiver down Adi’s spine. “Sleep little one, you are safe.” She moved a lock of hair from his face and smiled, the force was wrapped around the young man as if in the arms of his mother.
Adi returned to the cockpit just in time to see the transmission shut off. “He’s asleep. Are you sure you are ready to do this?” She looked into Mace’s eyes and saw trepidation but hope there.
“I am not sure, but I must. The Force wills it.” He turned and plotted a course for Coruscant. The council be damned, he would have his Padawan.