Time in a Bottle

“I never thought the Jedi were real,” Rey admitted, giving her soup a stir. “I thought they existed in tales told round campfires.” She watched Luke Skywalker spoon some of the simple broth into his mouth. He’d allowed her to enter his stone hovel on Ahch-To, but he’d said very little after she’d delivered the holos from Leia and Han. When the old Jedi offered her a bowl of watery broth, she’d sat down at the stone slab table across from him. She wanted desperately to talk to him about Han — the restless friend they’d lost.

“Talking is the best salve for our wounds,” Maz Kanata had told her in the brief meal they’d shared. Rey wasn’t sure what the wizened old pirate had meant, but now she understood.

She hoped she’d see Maz again.

How can I get this old hermit to talk? She thought, biting her lower lip and eyeing him over the bowl she raised to her lips.

Clearly Luke Skywalker had been through an ordeal that had sent him running to a life of solitude and regret. Rey had heard some of the stories about Kylo Ren — Ben Solo — and couldn’t get her head around the fact that he was Han and Leia’s son. He’d been Luke’s padawan, she mused. What had happened to Ben? What had happened to both of them?

“When you said, ‘He’s coming,’” she heard herself saying, “you meant Kylo Ren?”

Surely that would get Luke talking, but Skywalker’s gaze only flicked briefly to her and dropped again to his bowl without a word.

Rey tried another question. “Do you think that holocron Han found is aboard the Falcon?”

She eyed her host with growing annoyance as he continued on with his meager meal, oblivious to her interrogation. She began to wonder if he cared about anyone but himself anymore. If she couldn’t talk him into coming with her and joining the Resistance, she’d have to turn her back on him and walk away.

But what she didn’t know was that Luke Skywalker cared too much.

He knew the Resistance — and the First Order — would eventually find him, but he was no longer sure of his nephew’s intentions. There was a maelstrom brewing deep inside Ben Solo — as there always had been — and Luke had thought the dark lord meant to strike him down, as Vader had slain Obi-Wan. It was the way of the Sith after all. The apprentice was destined to slay the master. But now Luke wasn’t so sure. Even through the vast distance that separated them, Luke could sense a rift opening up in Ben — Luke refused to call him Kylo — one that was trying to wedge itself between Ben and the Dark-side lust for power.

That wedge was this girl sitting here, watching the old hermit over her bowl of soup. The girl Luke had always feared would catapult conflicted Ben Solo into the waiting clutches of the Dark side.

Luke needed time to meditate on the state of affairs embroiling his family — again — in galactic war. He needed time to draw strength from the Force that was so strong on this world. Time to receive a clear vision of what the Force could tell him about the future.

But he’d just run out of time.

Leia’s message was predictable — “The Resistance needs you. I need you” — but Han’s about the holocron brought Luke up short. The day he realized he’d lost his padawan forever replayed over and over in his mind like an endless holovid.

Luke had returned from a charity mission on Corellia to find Ben hunched over a holo display, watching the tail end of a recording. Luke instantly recognized the sender as Lor San Tekka before the holo winked out. A surge of dread spread quickly through the Jedi master. San Tekka’s messages were sent under the highest level of encryption — something Ben did not have access to as a padawan.

Ben glanced up as Luke came through the door. A ripple of guilt played over his young bensolojedilightsabercroppedfeatures but was quickly replaced by a mask of arrogance. “I didn’t know when you’d be back. I thought it might be urgent.” After a moment, he added with a lift of the chin, “I used the Force to break the code.”

He was nineteen — too old to be a boy and too young to be a man. Trapped in a time of life no one respected.

“If you’d open yourself up to the bond between us,” Luke said tersely, “you’d know exactly when I was coming back.” But he knew Ben no longer cared about hiding his questionable interests and skills from his master.

Words would have to wait. Luke replayed the holo.

“There is something here on Jedha you’ll want to see,” San Tekka urged with folded hands. “The Church of the Force have made all attempts to acquire it, but the Hutts want too high a price and we’re out of resources. It’s a cuboid, gilded holocron with markings from the Old Republic dating back 3,000 years and in the style of the Jedi Archives of Coruscant. It requires a memory crystal and most likely two Force-users to open. This could be the holocron that contains intelligence on the super weapon of the Sith Emperor Lord Vitiate. It may prove to be the memories the Jedi Council extracted from Revan and kept hidden all these millennia.

“I do not believe the Hutts know what they have,” San Tekka went on, “but if this knowledge were to escape, we’d be looking at destruction far worse than any Death Star could create. A weapon that eradicates all traces of the Force on any existing world.”

The old explorer signed off with the usual Church of the Force blessings and left Ben to stare cross-armed at his uncle.

“When do we leave?” the padawan demanded.

That expectant stare dissolved into a feminine equivalent facing Luke across the table some ten years later.

Rey raised a questioning eyebrow.

When do we leave?
@MyKyloRen   21 December 2016

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