He knew he shouldn’t do it. He was supposed to be calculating the surface escape velocity and time dilation along with the rest of the eighth-year class of the Jedi Academy. With a sigh, Ben scrolled through the long list of problems Master Luke had loaded onto their datapads.What a waste of time, he thought bitterly, despairing at the sets of complex equations and graphs confronting him. We have nav computers and droids for this! But when he’d said as much one time to his uncle, Luke had countered — hands on hips — “One day you’re going to find yourself in hyperspace without a nav computer.”
“Then the astromech will take over.”
“It’s been blasted to a bizillion pieces,” Luke shot back, continuing his grave scenario.
“Then the backup system will kick in.”
Luke had snort-chuckled. “Gone too.” He raised an eyebrow at his teenage nephew and padawan.
Ben threw up his hands. “There’s the Force!”
Luke had shared a knowing smile and a laugh with Han, who’d been in the room at the time. “That’s not how the Force works, kid,” Han had warned, giving Ben a fatherly pat on the shoulder. “You wanna fly, you gotta play the exam game with Republic licensing officials.”
Ben’s nostrils flared with indignation. “You didn’t.”
Han had turned back then and held up an admonishing finger. “I do now.” Then with a bit of chagrin, he’d added with a grumble, “Your mother has made an honest pilot out of me…among other things.”
“But if I didn’t go through official channels,” Ben had challenged, “I could better serve the Republic as an underground operative.”
Han rolled his eyes. “He’s on this spy kick again,” he’d said in response to Luke’s baffled look, then to Ben he’d added, “Even spies start out by going through official channels.”
It was Luke’s turn to sigh. “Just learn what you need to know for your pilot’s license, Ben.”
The words echoed in Ben Solo’s head as he stared at his datapad. Just a thumb-click away were the fascinating datafiles and holovids that thoroughly engrossed him on breaks, in the evening, and during any time he had to himself. Ancient scrolls and books that survived the destruction of the Great Jedi Library on Ossus. Datatapes recovered from the wreck of the Chu’unthor, a mobile Jedi training academy that crashed on Dathomir. The exploits of Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi Revan — his journal only recently discovered. The philosophy of the Potentium and the belief that the Force was a benevolent field of life energy and that the Dark side did not exist. Studies in battle meditation and Force-camouflage. Texts on cloning and essence transfer. Manuscripts by prophets of the Dark side and fragments on Sith poison. Reports of esoteric Sith symbols and starship empowered by Sith consciousness.
It all fascinated him. Anything not involving mind-numbing numbers and calculations, that is.
Ben stole a glance at Luke standing at the head of the class. His uncle appeared to be engrossed in something on his own datapad. Probably the next boring lesson on the Jedi Agricultural Corp, Ben thought dejectedly. The Jedi taught There is no passion. There is peace. But Master Luke was certainly passionate about the two subjects that made Ben want to scream: navigation and moisture farming. Flying, Ben thought, is for droids. And what was the point of moisture farming an arid world when there were arable worlds that could supply the consumption requirements of the galaxy efficiently and abundantly? The problem lay in the distribution system and the greed of the wealthy few.
He sighed again, totally distracted now, and thumbed the link that give him access to the archives. He scrolled through the list of forbidden texts — he’d hacked into them on his twelfth birthday as a little gift to himself — and opened a scrap of text from the Darth Plagueis Collection. He could finish the nav calculation assignment later. Right now he had to know what Plagueis thought on the subject of galactic politics.Plagueis had been a Sith Lord and Master of Emperor Palpatine and a Muun, which meant he had his nose buried in the dealing of the Intergalactic Banking Clan.
Ben wasn’t far into Plagueis’ eerily intelligent plan when he felt a disturbed presence watching him. He knew he should immediately exit the archives and flip back to his lesson, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Plagueis’ words to Palpatine. As he read on, Ben could feel the Darkness seeping in from beyond the edges of known space, where no starlight could be detected. A shiver ran through him…and then…it was gone.
His datapad was in the hands of Luke Skywalker.
“Care to share with the rest of the class what you find so interesting, Ben?”
And that was Luke’s mistake. The one he would eternally regret and chew on for years.
Ben hesitated for a second, the color rising to his cheeks as he got to his feet. He was embarrassed, to be sure, but not humiliated. He saw the smirks on the other padawan’s faces, heard the giggles muffled behind hands. He sensed his classmates’ scorn for the padawan who always managed to screw something up, but he was empowered by their curiosity.
And that was their downfall.
He folded his arms, met their gaze, and quoted, “A cunning politician is capable of wreaking more havoc than two Sith Lords armed with vibroblades, lightsabers, or Force pikes.”*
“I see,” Luke said absently, his eyes locked onto the text displayed on the pad. He quickly motioned Ben out into the hall and waited for the door to slide shut behind them. He turned to face his nephew, exasperated. “What are you doing, Ben?”
Ben knew he wasn’t just being chastised for goofing off in class. There was something far greater at stake here. He’d lit a spark among a couple of his fellow padawans. He could feel their eager young minds burning through the Force.
He smirked. “You told me to share what I was reading.”
Luke ignored the 14-year-old’s sass. “You mother is a politician who cares about the Republic and all it stands for.”
Ben folded his arms. “And the Republic cares only about its pockets.”
Luke stared at the head-strong boy, almost as if he were seeing his nephew for the first time. The Jedi Master’s thoughts were interrupted by the approach of a tall, young blonde — a professional human woman who had the air of a CEO.
“Good midday to you, gentlemen,” Amanda Snoke greeted them cheerily. “I got done with my meeting early and I thought maybe you’d like to go for lunch.”
Luke gave her a courteous nod, but his eyes quickly shifted back to his nephew. “You go, Ben. Class is almost over. Your mother’s out of comm range, but we’ll talk about this later with Han.”
Ben beamed up at Amanda as she hooked her arm in his. Over his shoulder, he threw his uncle a murderous glare as he turned the corner with his friend and exited the study hall into the cloudy afternoon.
“Problems?” she asked.
@MyKyloRen 18 April 2017
*Luceno, James. (2012). Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. New York: Del Rey, p. 204.