Star Wars fan fiction
introduction and preview
Only For A Season
Chapter 1: Desert Visitor
Chapter 2: Game of Marbles
Chapter 3: Stargazer
Chapter 4: Dewbacks and Darklighter
Chapter 5: Skyhopper
Chapter 6: Beggar’s Canyon
Chapter 7: Boonta Eve
Chapter 8: Sunstealer
Chapter 9: The Stone Needle
Chapter 10: Shifting Sands
Chapter 11: A New Season
Chapter 12: Japor Strands
Chapter 13: Farmer’s Holiday
Chapter 14: Starkiller
Chapter 15: Setting Suns
Chapter 16: Seeds of Rebellion
Only For A Season
“Luke,” Aunt Beru called.
Luke walked into the kitchen, looked around for a moment, then went out through the living room where Aunt Beru motioned to the comm console.
“Biggs,” she mouthed. “It sounded serious.”
Luke nodded, also keeping his voice down. “Thanks, Aunt Beru.”
Owen Lars entered the room a few minutes later by the same roundabout route Luke had taken. He was obviously wondering what was holding up breakfast. He scowled as he caught sight of his nephew at the comm console and Beru hovering nearby with a worried expression on her face. Before he could ask her what was happening he caught Luke’s side of the conversation.
“Don’t worry. I’m leaving now. I’ll round up whoever’s at Tosche Station and meet you as soon as I can.”
“Luke Skywalker, you’re not going anywhere but out to the west ridge to work on vaperators.”
Luke glanced in his uncle’s direction, his face hardened. “I’ll be there,” he repeated. Then he cut the connection and walked past his aunt and uncle into the kitchen. He hurriedly packed food and water rations for the day into a small bag which he slung over his shoulder, then turned to exit toward the garage. But his uncle stood blocking the door.
“I think I made myself clear. Now where do you think you’re going, young man?”
“I’m going to Anchorhead. Biggs says there’s been trouble with the Sandpeople and – someone’s missing. They’re organizing a search party and they need pilots to scout from the air.” Luke was stunned that he’d managed to get all that out without interruption or objection from his uncle. He decided to press his luck and keep going; besides, the only way they were going to keep him here was to throw him in his room and lock the door behind him. “I’m going with Biggs. You can ground me when I get back,” Luke concluded.
Owen’s jaw tightened several times in quick succession. He hadn’t moved from Luke’s path. Internally he was fighting a difficult battle, weighing his responsibility to keep Luke safe against their duty to help their neighbors and the danger that the Sandpeople represented. It would be easy enough to tell Luke that Anchorhead could round up a search party without him, but Owen knew that wouldn’t work. If he forbid Luke to go the boy would disobey him... he wondered absently if the missing person was a friend of Luke’s and Biggs’s.
Beru crossed the room and placed a hand on his arm. She spoke volumes without saying a word. She was worried for Luke, as he was. She also knew they had no hope of keeping Luke out of this – and why should they try. Sandpeople were one of the brutal facts of life out here and Luke would have to see it sooner or later. And Owen knew his wife was remembering the past, just as he was....
“I’m going, Uncle Owen,” Luke insisted again, taking a step closer to his uncle, determination in his stone-set face, “no matter–”
“You’re right,” Owen agreed gruffly. Luke’s mouth fell partially open in shock. “It’s our responsibility. They would do the same for us.” And just like that the argument was over. They would drop everything and join the search. “Luke, you go ahead in your skyhopper. We’ll follow in the landspeeder – just remember to stay with the search party. Take a blaster rifle with you. And don’t get overconfident; Sandpeople are dangerous, even against ships and speeders.”
Biggs sat aboard his skyhopper at the edge of the staging area. The canopy was popped so that he could see everything going on around him. There was a flurry of activity on the ground; landspeeders, speeder bikes, and skyhoppers continued to arrive. Their owners would emerge from the vehicles, often with blast weapons in hand, and immediately start asking questions. Was it true? How had it happened? Then the conversation would shift to the Tuscans. Where were they hold up this time of year? How much of a head start did they have? When could the party get underway – that was the one Biggs always listened for, though the answer always seemed to come back unsatisfactorily. They were waiting on more supplies, a few more ships were expected, more information was coming in... meanwhile the hole in Biggs’s gut was burning its way deeper.
The conversation would turn to previous attacks, most of which had ended badly. Biggs tried to tune out the grisly details but all the stories were similar. The citizens of Tatooine managed to beat back the Tuscans and inflict enough losses on them to hold them at bay for a while longer, sometimes a few years, sometimes decades... but once taken, captives were rarely reclaimed from Tuscan Raiders, alive or otherwise, and heavy losses were usually sustained on both sides.
Biggs’s head whipped around when he heard the hum of familiar engines. Luke’s skyhopper set down behind his and as Biggs vaulted to the ground he counted at least three others settling into spots nearby.
“Luke. Thanks,” was all Biggs could say as he pulled his friend into a one-armed hug.
“I brought Fixer, Tank, and Deak; Windy’s coming but he’s gonna buzz a few of the nearby farms first, see if they’ve heard.”
Biggs nodded again, his throat tight. He had never felt such a flow of affection for the crew at Tosche Station, but Tatooinians were a tough breed. When the chips were down they turned out and they stuck together despite their differences. After Biggs had answered the regular questions about what was going on at the staging area and when they could get underway both he and Luke fell silent. He knew Luke wanted to ask, but was afraid to ask. So Biggs quickly recounted.
He had awoken that morning to a call for assembly. Huff Darklighter had gotten word at first light that a search party was being formed. Tuscans had been active the previous night and word was they had kidnaped at least one local. When Biggs and his father joined the gathering Biggs’s worst fear was realized. Kandji was missing.
Luke’s eyes grew wide. Despite their earlier conversation he was hoping there had been a mistake. He couldn’t believe it was Kandji. Besides, Kandji had been with Biggs last night, and Luke knew Biggs would never have let her out of his sight until she was safely home.
Biggs was apparently having the same thought. “I argued with them that it wasn’t possible. I know she got home safe.” Biggs swallowed hard. “But they say she left the house later on after arguing with her father.”
Biggs’s heart was in his throat. After arguing over him. “This is all my fault,” he whispered. “I knew her father wouldn’t approve. I should have gone in there and told him I was serious about her... I should have....” There was nothing else he could say. “I have to find her.”
Luke nodded and placed a hand to Biggs’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. We will.”
Biggs took a deep breath and regained his composure. “That’s when I contacted you. They sent out a few reconnaissance teams at first light to try to track them but they’ll need all the skyhoppers they can get to fly recon and to cover the search party from the air.”
Luke nodded, ready. He had also heard the stories of previous searches and heavy losses. As excruciating as the wait was, they all knew it was necessary. If they gave into the temptation to act too quickly and sent a small team out into the desert with little preparation or support they would likely be wiped out. Despite their primitive culture Sandpeople were surprisingly effective in combat, especially desert combat, and they were relentlessly vicious in battle, even against opponents that vastly outweighed them in technological capabilities. Luke and Biggs continued to make nervous conversation and watch the preparations around them until the call came to board their ships.
Then they wished each other luck and climbed into their cockpits. Luke scanned the staging area and was pleased that more ships had arrived after him. Windy had put down a short distance away from Luke and threw him a wave as he climbed into his own skyhopper. Luke saw Fixer, Tank, Deak, and a lot of pilots whose names he didn’t know but he recognized from the Boonta Eve races. They offered one another subdued acknowledgments as they strapped into their ships and tuned their comms to the proper frequency to receive instruction.
A few minutes later Luke, Biggs, and a handful of others had been assigned a search sector. They were to scout from the air until they found something, were called back to the main group, or reassigned to another sector. Each pilot confirmed his or her understanding, and with a roar of willing engines they took off. Luke attached himself to Biggs’s wing – Luke, Biggs, Tank, and Windy formed up – and Luke focused all his concentration on scanning the sand dunes and rock clefts for signs of Sandpeople and listening to the comm for reports from the other recon teams.
Most of the morning went into searching the endless dunes, rock clefts, and canyons. Shortly before midday one of the teams spotted a Tuscan encampment. Their lookouts and a couple of banthas could be seen in a canyon, taking shelter from the day’s heat. It would be a very difficult position to stage an attack on. The skyhoppers could easily attack from the air, but not until they knew Kandji’s whereabouts.
All but a few of the recon teams pulled back to cover the ground force, and one of the recon sweeps picked up a human inferred signature inside one of the caves. But her signature was very weak. Nobody had to say it, but either she was severely injured or she was already dead. The skyhoppers aligned themselves in waves and concentrated their fire on the far end of the canyon driving the Raider encampment back from the human inferred signature as much as possible, trying to create space enough for the ground team to move into the canyon and find her.
A few hours later, after heavy ground combat with the Tuscans, they recovered her body. The air teams continued to bombard the mountains long after the fight on the ground was over – to discourage any of the retreating Raiders from returning, and simply to extract a measure of revenge. Other skyhoppers circled overhead monitoring the Raider’s retreat, keeping watch against a possible ambush. Biggs withdrew from his team’s formation and made a sharp descent into the canyon.
Luke followed when Biggs put down, ignoring angry questions and orders barked from the recon coordinators. Judging from Biggs’s comm silence Luke was certain that Biggs had cut his comm at the first report that Kandji hadn’t survived. He made a sharp descent toward the edge of the canyon but Luke had gotten there first. Bringing his skyhopper down near a rock pass he had spotted a few minutes earlier, Luke was able to beat Biggs into the canyon; he knew from the comm report that they were about to bring the body out.
Biggs walked between the craggily rock walls, ignoring his surroundings, looking like a man possessed. Luke could see from his face that he didn’t believe it; he wouldn’t believe it until he saw for himself; Luke also knew from the comm reports that this was something Biggs shouldn’t see. Several people tried to tell Biggs that as he walked the length of the canyon but Biggs stopped for none of them.
“Get out of the way, Luke,” Biggs demanded when he reached Luke, but Luke didn’t move.
He shook his head and Biggs tried impatiently to push past.
Luke grabbed hold of his friend’s shoulders, refusing to let him pass, but his voice was gentle.
“You don’t want to remember her like this,” Luke whispered.
Biggs stopped fighting his friend and stood there, silently seething in anger and grief.
A short distance away the air was filled with the sounds of a father wailing in grief while two medics and a cleric respectfully wrapped the body for transport and later burial, covering the damage of a brutal death. That grim task was accomplished as quickly as possible under the circumstances, then the body was placed onto the medic’s hover platform and brought out of the canyon toward the waiting speeders.
Luke stood silently at Biggs’s side as the small group neared them.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” Biggs barely whispered when Kandji’s father walked by behind the solemn procession.
Flint Sunstealer stopped to look at Biggs with a wounded numbness in his eyes. As much as he may have wanted to, he could not blame the boy. For first time he saw something more than a hotshot pilot or the product of another backwater planet. He had been moved by the way these people had been willing to drop everything and risk their lives for his daughter’s search and rescue. Now many of them mourned her recovery, but none more intensely than boy he had tried to keep her away from. His grief was palpable even as he tried to keep control over those emotions; the effort was so taxing he trembled under the weight of it.
“I’m sorry too, Darklighter,” he said and placed a hand on Biggs’s shoulder as he walked away. It seemed so useless now, to deny some small bit of happiness for sake of a future that would never come to pass....
The next few days passed in a blur of numbness and grief. Those who had been part of the search bragged about the losses they had inflicted on the Tuscans, but their own losses had been considerable; their own grief cut deep and was only a breath away in remembrance. Biggs made a point to attend all of the services; he felt as though he owed them something for their efforts. Apparently Flint Sunstealer harbored similar feelings. Biggs saw him at the services too, and he always made a point to speak with the families of the lost, to express his gratitude for their bravery and selflessness. The gesture did not go unnoticed, and by the end of a mournful week Sunstealer was well-respected in all quarters of Anchorhead.
At sunset on the end of the fourth day of mourning, once all the services had been carried out in accordance with local tradition, Flint Sunstealer arrived on the Darklighter’s front doorstep.
Huff greeted him eagerly, then realizing that he had come to see Biggs Huff excused himself on the pretense of offering some refreshment for their guest.
Biggs stood there feeling awkward for several seconds before Sunstealer spoke. “I came to give you this,” he said, pulling a holo disk from his pocket and activating it.
It was a holo of Kandji taken the night of the Boonta Eve celebration. Biggs could be seen standing just behind her in the frame. Biggs took the proffered disk from her father.
“I found it in the drawer of her nightstand,” he mumbled. “I’m sure she didn’t want me to know she had kept it.”
Biggs took in the words as he stared in silence at the holo image. Kandji was so beautiful; he already struggled to remember the sound of her voice and laughter; he never wanted to forget a detail that had been Kandji. Now at least he didn’t have to rely on his fading memory to know what she had looked like that night. Biggs finally lifted his gaze and asked Flint Sunstealer what his plans were. They both knew what Biggs was asking.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Flint said softly, “to bury her on her mother’s home planet.”
Biggs blinked, stunned, and nodded numbly. That news jolted him like another loss. He wouldn’t even have a place that he could go visit when wanted to remember her.... The holo in his hand became even more important.
“Thank you for this, sir,” he managed. “I can’t tell you what it means to me,” he whispered, holding back fresh tears. It was like trying to say goodbye to her all over again, and failing miserably in each new attempt.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Darklighter. You’re a decent sort. I should have believed Kandji when she said so.” He shrugged regretfully. “Nothing I can do for it now,” he admitted, his voice full of bitterness and grief.
“It’s not your fault, sir. It’s nobody’s fault,” Biggs said.
The look that passed between them showed that neither really believed it. They each smiled grimly. The blame was something else they had in common.
As he had said, Sunstealer left the planet the following day and he never returned. Biggs, heartbroken, kept the holo of Kandji in a drawer of his night stand. But he never spoke of her again. He had cared for the girl far more than he had let on; they each had. That promise, now left unfulfilled, was a painful memory that haunted his heart.
It was nearly a month after Kandji’s death. Luke and Biggs were sitting outside Tosche Station, having just finished a run down the canyon. It had become a daily ritual for them. They didn’t talk about recent events, but every afternoon like clockwork they met at Beggar’s Canyon and did speed runs, just the two of them, targeting womp rats at top speeds. Biggs put all his determination and intensity into the exercise. Luke had figured it was just a way of coping; he was about to learn that Biggs had an ulterior motive.
“Luke, I’m applying to the Academy,” Biggs told him flatly.
Luke sputtered, nearly choking on the gulp of water he had just taken.
“It’s already done,” he added. “I transmitted my application last night.”
Everything changed for Luke with those simple words; his foundation rocked beneath him as surely as if the ground itself had shook. Luke’s first thought was that he would go too, but he knew that was impossible. Biggs was one year older than Luke, but at fourteen Biggs looked much older. The normal enrollment period for the Academy was from sixteen to eighteen followed by a two year service furlong. Luke knew he could never pass for sixteen, and even if he could somehow get into the Academy he could never go. Like it or not Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru needed him on the farm, and there was no way around that.
“I can’t stay here, Luke,” Biggs stated, the pain in his voice straining to get out.
“But your father, he’ll never let you,” Luke argued cautiously. Huff Darklighter hated the Empire and saw the Academy as little more than brainwashing for Imperial propaganda.
“It’s not his decision. I’m a good pilot and a fair student. They’ll take me.” Luke couldn’t argue with either claim. Biggs was the best pilot in these parts and Huff Darklighter had always made sure his son had the best education his credits could buy. Biggs’s voice lowered. “They’d take you too, Luke.”
Luke looked at his friend, stunned. “Biggs, maybe you can pass for sixteen but I can’t,” Luke protested, ignoring the other reasons for now.
“There are more important things than age, Luke. You’re every bit the pilot I am, and with a lot better book smarts.”
“I just try more than you do,” Luke admitted begrudgingly.
“Beings will overlook a lot of things for talent or money.”
Luke looked at his friend, stunned. Biggs had always refused to fall back on father’s ideals of paying for privilege. Biggs’s eyes flashed as he looked away. Luke couldn’t tell if his friend was truly angry at him, or more mad at himself for voluntarily compromising his ideals.
“Tank is in, even if you’re not,” Biggs snapped, more than a little hurt by Luke’s reluctance to go along with him. “His application’s already been accepted, and I know for a fact he didn’t get in on talent or test scores.”
Luke couldn’t argue with that either. He just stared at Biggs, open mouthed and at a loss for words.
“C’mon, Hotshot,” Biggs cajoled him. “This is what we always dreamed about. It’s a way out, Luke. It’s the only way off of this rotten dustheap.”
Luke winced and scuffed the toe of his boot in the sand. “Dreamed, Biggs. I– I can’t leave here now. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru need me on the farm. Maybe in a few more seasons–”
Biggs nodded bitterly. “So all that was wasted time, all those hours working on our T-16s, learning every inch of them and pushing them to the limit in Beggar’s Canyon. It was all empty talk: going to the Academy, serving in the Imperial Starfleet, buying a ship and going into business for ourselves after our furlong.... That was all just talk.”
Luke shook his head helplessly. “I still want those things, I just–”
“Won’t go after them,” Biggs finished for him. And the two stared at each other in silence for several tense moments. “So you’re just going to stay here and live out the life other people have planned for you,” Biggs spat.
His solemn disapproval stung more than the other’s teasing ever had. Luke swallowed hard. Part of him understood Biggs’s bitterness and his sudden need to leave Tatooine. Luke knew he was the only one who did.
“Even if you leave,” Luke whispered, “it won’t bring her back, Biggs.”
In the next second Biggs had launched himself at Luke. The two friends had never fought a day in their lives; now they were rolling in the sand, jostling one another for position, Luke trying to defend himself and get Biggs pinned down, Biggs swinging and kicking wildly, challenging Luke to fight back and using every curse word he’d ever heard for emphasis.
Tosche Station emptied out when they heard the commotion, but most of them were either too amused or too stupefied to do anything but stare until Breanna Stargazer peeked through crowd – then she ran forward.
“Luke, Biggs, stop it,” she cried. She grabbed Biggs’s arm and he shoved her back, out of the way of the fight.
In the part of his brain where things made sense Luke knew that the shove was meant for her protection and not intended to harm her, but seeing her manhandled triggered something instinctive in him. And for reasons he couldn’t explain Luke’s defense immediately turned to offense. He dove forward and bowled Biggs over, knocking his friend’s head hard against the ground in the process.
“Don’t touch her,” Luke grated, fist drawn back, ready to strike.
Biggs stared back at Luke for a second, his eyes going wide in surprise. Then he laughed. It was a deep, rumbling laugh. Luke froze at the unexpected reaction.
Biggs gave Luke an easy shove and Luke fell back in response, dropping his arm, unclenching his fist. The aggressive posturing no longer made any sense. They each knew nothing more would come of it.
Standing, Luke helped Biggs to his feet, still not really understanding what had just happened. Biggs just nodded, looking for all the world as if he did understand.
“I get it now, Hotshot.” Biggs glanced toward Breanna. “You want the life they chose for you,” he said softly, no longer disappointed, just sad. He wiped the sweat and dust from his face with his forearm. The crowd was returning inside now that the show was over, but Breanna stood silently nearby, looking uncertain about the uneasy peace between him and Luke.
“I’m sorry, Breanna,” Biggs said softly, offering her a little bow of contrition. He recognized that there was a strict code of conduct at play. A woman had no promise of mercy or reprieve if she chose to become involved in a physical altercation with any man; even with her honor or virtue at stake she took a grave risk if she confronted a man. But for a man to harm another man’s bethroved or compromise her in any way was a horribly dishonorable infraction upon all three parties. “I meant no harm but that doesn’t make it right; I shouldn’t have shoved you.”
Breanna gave a little nod of acceptance for Biggs’s apology, but confusion was heavy on her face as she and Luke watched Biggs walk away.
“You all right?” Luke asked softly, coming to Breanna’s side.
“What happened, Luke? I know I shouldn’t have interfered, I’ve just, never seen you two fight like that.”
“It was nothing,” Luke whispered.
Now he understood too. Biggs had needed to blow off some steam and Luke had given him the perfect opportunity... Luke couldn’t explain that to Breanna. Kandji belonged to Biggs; her memory was all he had left of her now, and Luke had touched something off limits when he had said what he said to Biggs.
He would honor Biggs’s wishes and not speak of her loss again.
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004