SUMMARY: [ABY 18] As a diversion and a way to escape the heat of the day, Padawan Ben Solo and Master Luke Skywalker explore a ruin from the Battle of Jakku — a downed Imperial walker. While they expect to find the AT-AT completely stripped, what Ben finds instead has far bigger implications.
Ben grinned from ear to ear as Luke banked the speeder bike to the left and slowed to make a curving pass over the downed AT-AT. The old Imperial walker was stretched out flat on its side like a prehistoric beast smothered in a sandstorm. As they set down near the auxiliary hatch in the vehicle’s belly, Ben jumped off, pulling up his goggles and gaping at the massive ruin of Imperial might.
“Whoa! This is even bigger than I thought!”
Luke came up behind him and removed his own goggles, squinting against the late afternoon glare. “I’ve always wanted to get a look inside one of these. She’s probably pretty well picked over and her computers are likely fried, but it’s worth a try.”
“There is no try, remember?” With a smirk, Ben gave a whoop of excitement and sped for the hatch as fast as he could through the heavy drifts of sand.
They really should be investigating the caves beneath Carbon Ridge, Luke thought — negotiating with the Dead-Enders, and speaking with the parents of the Force-sensitive child back in Niima Outpost — but the day was getting on and the wreck was on their way to Tuanul. There, Lor San Tekka’s people would put them up for the night. Haggling for supplies and foodstuffs (if one could call it food) had taken way too long, even with San Tekka’s insights and a little Jedi persuasion. Now Ben was like a wound-up spring. If the kid didn’t burn off some of that teenage wildness, there’d be no sleep for anyone that night.
Exploring the old crash site from the Battle of Jakku was just the diversion they needed. Luke could thank the Empire for today’s lesson — he planned to teach Ben more about Imperial order — and a place to escape the oppressive heat.
“Hold up, Ben,” he cautioned his exuberant padawan. “Lor said there was no one living here, but there might be scavengers who have staked a claim.”
He knew all about survival on an arid planet. It was desperate, territorial, and cut-throat. No quarter.
Ben dutifully waited at the hatch, hand absently dropping to his blaster hilt. He couldn’t wait for the day when Luke would show him how to build his own lightsaber. Then he’d be a true Jedi. “You brought down one of these things?” he asked, itching to scramble around inside the Imperial beast.
“I sure did.” Luke placed his hands on the rusting hatch and gave a little push. Nothing happened. He tried again. It still wouldn’t budge. He put all his strength behind it and Ben did too but to no avail.
“Stand back!” Ben drew his firearm. “I’ll blast it open!”
Luke’s hand shot out to stop him. “What do you think would happen if you fired that at durasteel plating — made to withstand laser cannons?” he added for emphasis, raising an eyebrow.
After a pause, Ben sighed and put up his blaster. “The bolt would ricochet off the hull,” he answered sullenly.
“And probably kill you,” Luke finished sternly. “Now, how about we try it the Jedi way?”
“Yeah!” Ben enthused, reaching towards the hatch with both hands, palms out.
Luke chuckled. His nephew’s energy would keep him young…if it didn’t kill him. He stretched out his own hands. “Now, close your eyes. Concentrate.”
They both did. Giving the hatch a small nudge with the Force, Luke allowed Ben to do the rest. The kid strained and groaned with the effort, but finally the door creaked open. The Jedi Master motioned for his padawan to get behind him while he poked his own head into the dark, dusty interior.
The air was not only stale but smelled of charred wiring and decay. Likely most of the troops had made it out alive and abandoned the wreck, but not all. Sand fleas and rats had made short work of the rest. No doubt a few rats got stuck in the tight places and met their end in conduits and tangles of blackened wiring.
“Do you think Vader was here?” Ben’s curiosity was palpable through the gloom as he darted ahead of Luke and around a corner.
At first, Luke thought the question arose from fear, but he didn’t sense any from his nephew — only wonder. “I doubt it,” he answered warily. “He had more important things to do.”
The AT-AT hadn’t been picked clean after all. Though heavily damaged when it toppled, the armored vehicle was still full of valuable stuff — fuel cells, filters, scanners, sensors, even E-11 rifles still racked. Master and padawan took it all in as they made their way from one section to the next. Finding the flexible tunnel to the command section crushed, they turned back as the evening light began to fade.
Ben stopped so suddenly and peered at one wall that Luke nearly stumbled into him. His nephew’s breathing increased. Ben blinked. Slowly, the boy reached out a hand and ran his fingers down the metal plating.
Scratches. Tick-marks. Thousand of them. He could feel them. All around him, a voice. A girl’s voice:
They’ll be back…one day.
He quickly moved his hand away as she — this young woman — scratched another hash mark right where his finger had been. After a moment, her shoulders slumped and she moved away to roll herself into a hammock that hadn’t been there half a standard hour before. Turning on her side, she drew up her knees and clutched the thin blanket to her chest, her lithe body shaking with silent sobs.
“We should help her,” Ben whispered, turning to the Jedi Master.
Luke stared where his nephew pointed but saw nothing. “Who?”
Dumbfounded, Ben turned back and the pretty girl was gone. So was the hammock. The durasteel wall, other than corrosion, was unmarked.
But Ben Solo’s soul was not.
@MyKyloRen 14 February 2018