The twin suns of Tatooine were an hour from setting on the dry expanse of desert that was known as the Lars homestead and for the youngest member of the family it was time for bed.
"Luke!" Beru shouted across the empty landscape, hoping her nephew heard her call. When no response came, she tried again, "Lu-uke!"
But he couldn't hear her. He was on a mission. "Biggs," he whispered behind him, "They're over here…"
Biggs, his best friend, was squirming into the entrance to the tunnel behind Luke. They were in the shallow depths of a rock and dirt mound not far from the homestead proper. Inside a hollow in the mound was the base of their opposing team of friends, Tank and Cami.
Timidly, Luke shushed Biggs, "We're right above them."
Luke could see Cami and Tank crouched in the enclosed space below them. They were watching the ground level crawlspace they'd entered from. Luke and Biggs could hear Tank getting into his role, "The Imperials'll never find us in here…"
Biggs grabbed Luke, pulling him back and angling himself toward the opening in the soil, motioning him to be silent. "I'll go first," he mouthed quietly.
Luke shook his head, not eager to go first.
"We're gonna beat the Empire, we're gonna beat the Empire!" Tank chanted over and over again above Cami's protestations for him to be quiet.
"Shush… They'll hear you."
And with that, all they could hear was the triumphant screech of Biggs Darklighter, shouting, "You rebel scum!" as he leapt down the opening, his tan cape fluttering to the floor behind him. "The Empire always wins!"
While on the dirt floor, Biggs grabbed two great, big handfuls of dirt and launched them at Cami and Tank.
"Hey! No fair!" Tank scrambled to the ground, working hard to mount a counter attack. Cami cleared the dirt from her eyes and did the same.
Overwhelmed with dirt, Biggs called out to his teammate, "Luke, get 'em!"
But Luke wasn't there. "Blast it, Luke, where are you?"
The clod throwing slowed and they all looked up to see Luke's face staring worriedly at them through the hole in the ceiling. "Luke?"
"How are you stuck?"
"I just… I can't get down."
Then Cami shouted up, "Hey, Wormie, I thought worms loved the dirt."
"Don't call me Wormie," Luke whined as he shimmied backwards, away from the hole. Feeling sad about being scared to jump down through the hole, Luke made his way back out to the blistering twilight. He tried hard not to cry as Biggs, Tank, and Cami scambled up from the back face of the mound.
"Luke, are you all right?" Biggs asked him, concerned.
"He's fine, Biggs," Cami said, "aren't you, Wormie?"
Luke rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, and behind his sleeve, he pouted and said, "Don't call me Wormie."
It was at that moment they could all hear Luke's Aunt Beru calling for Luke with a voice that sounded small but stern in the distance. "Lu-uke!" she called again.
"I gotta go, guys." Luke sniffled and turned, running home.
Biggs, Tank, and Cami waved at Luke's shrinking form in silhouette against the setting binary suns.
"See you tomorrow!"
"Have fun, Wormie!"
Luke stopped, turned, and waved back at them, "See you all tomorrow!"
Luke ran all the way home and hugged his aunt who wiped the dust from her dress as soon as she sent him begrudgingly to the refresher and to bed after that. "Hurry along. Uncle Owen will be along to tuck you in and tell you a story."
"Yipee!" he exclaimed on his way.
Washed, clean, and in fresh pajamas, Luke curled up in his bunk and waited patiently for his Uncle Owen to arrive. His patience didn't hold out too long before he had picked out his model T-16 from the bunkside table and began to dream about a day when he could get in the cockpit of one of his own and race through Beggar's Canyon, bullseyeing wamprats…
He snapped awake from his daydream, pulling his head from the clouds and turned to his uncle who had just entered the room. Deep into middle-age, Owen Lars had almost a weeks worth of stubble that was starting to gray from the middle of his face out and was wearing a thick two-tone robe that matched the colors of the sandstone walls throughout his homestead. He sat down in the chair next to Luke's bed with a creak of his bones that you'd expect to hear from a man twice his age, but he was a farmer, and the days in the heat collecting moisture in the desert had begun to take its toll. He was no longer a young man and sighed as he settled, which was a sign to Luke that meant it was okay to leap onto his uncle's lap, "Uncle Owen!"
He wrapped his arms around his uncle's neck, kissed him on the cheek and said, "Can you tell me a story tonight, Uncle Owen?"
As much as he hadn't wanted to take in the grandson of his stepmother, he wasn't given a choice. And as much as he tried to not get attached, times like this couldn't possibly not win and warm his heart.
"What story would you like to hear tonight, "Luke?" He asked, knowing full well what to expect.
Luke had the same answer to that question every time it was asked and it was Owen's fault. "I want to hear about my father and the pirates!"
In an effort to keep his distance from the boy, Owen had insisted that they raise Luke as aunt and uncle instead of as mother and father. Owen was a hard man and by the time he went soft on the idea of being a father to Luke, it was too late. He was forever "Uncle" Owen. Switching would be too confusing on the boy, and every time Luke asked to hear about his father, it broke Owen's heart.
Owen's step-brother, Luke's father, was a hero during the Clone Wars, but in a lunatic's bid for power became a mass-murderer. Since he was still in power, firmly installed as the right hand of the Emperor and the enforcing arm of the Empire, it was impossible to tell Luke the truth. Besides that, Luke was here to be kept hidden and safe from his father, telling him the truth was impractical from that standpoint as well.
"All right, Luke. Lay down and I'll tell you."
"Wizard!" Luke said as he crawled in between his cool white sheets and nestled in for story time.
"Well, where to start?" Uncle Owen asked again, and again knowing full well what the answer would be.
Owen took a deep breath and fell back into the familiar fable he'd made up years ago. "Well, you know all about the spice they were hauling, and to get it back to Coruscant, they had to go right through the Maw Cluster. Black holes left and right. And it would take every bit of skill for any navigator to guide them safely thought it under even the best of conditions, but this time, they were under attack…"
"It's the pirates!" Luke interrupted.
"That's right, Luke. A band of Rodian pirates were laying in wait in the Maw cluster for Anakin's ship. Well, as the navigator on the spice freighter, your father was completely responsible for the safety of his crew."
Luke sat up, tensing with the story.
"So there they were, 'Skywalker,' the Captain said, 'be careful, we don't want to get sucked in.'
"'No sir,' your father told him and he eased his grip on the helm, recalculated his course in his head and flew steady and true. But that's when the Rodian's sprung their trap! It was dangerous going, to be sure, but now the pirate frigate was trying to pull it in with it's tractor beam. And you know what your father did?"
It didn't matter how absurd the story was, Luke never doubted it for a second. "What did he do?"
"He did a quick barrel roll to disrupt their tractor beaming."
"Spinning… That's such a great trick…"
"With a tight circle around the pirate's ship, reversed thrusters…"
"And came up behind them and blew them up… BOOM!"
Owen laughed and corrected Luke, "No, no. You know how it goes."
Luke's blank look turned into a charismatic smile and Owen had to suppress the urge to tousle Luke's mop of blonde hair, "He came up behind them and the gunner of the freighter blasted the tractor beam, but they didn't have any other weapons on the ship capable of doing any major damage and so…"
"So the pirates chased them…"
Even though Owen was sure that Luke's eyes couldn't get any bigger or brighter, they seemed to twinkle even harder with admiration and love for his long lost and forgotten father. Or the lie he thought his father to be.
"Now, the way your father told me was that the Rodian at the controls of the pirate ship was one of the best in the galaxy, and if they wanted to get away with their lives, he'd have to outmaneuver their way beyond the gravity of the Maw so they could make their jump to hyperspace."
Luke closed his wide-eyes full of child-like excitement, trying to hardest to imagine what the pursuit must have looked like from his father's chair. Though he didn't realize he was doing it, Luke was humming like a starship engine while his uncle finished telling this part of the story.
"He dodged to the left and to the right, up and down, side to side, missing laser blasts here and dodging proton torpedoes there. He made a wide turn along the path of the Maw corridor and could almost see the spot where he could make his jump, but that's when the Rodian's got him right in their sights. It was now or never, if they were going to make it out with their lives, he had mere moments to get them beyond the gravity of the Maw. He spun again, avoiding the laserblasts from the Rodian gunner that singed the paint on the spice freighter and knocked off a whole sensor array. The closer and closer he got to the edge of the gravity well, the closer the pirates came to smashing them to smithereens. He was moments away when another blast glanced off the shields. Another second and they'd be home free or they could be dead just as easily. The gunner no doubt had his hands on the trigger, trying his hardest to hit your father's freighter."
"Wow," Luke said between engine hums, still jerking about, trying to imagine the scene for himself.
"Your father told me that he heard the defensive system sound off with a loud beep, they had a lock on him. But that was just a hair's breadth before his navi-computer spit out the coordinates that would bring him to safety. The pirates fired a full battery of missiles and lasers just as your father yelled--"
"That's right. Punch it. The missiles flew out into the empty space that was up until recently occupied by your father's spice freighter. Your father saved the day by the skin of his teeth."
"Wow," Luke repeated.
"Wow is right." Uncle Owen settled back into his normal posture, no longer a capable storyteller, but once again a simple moisture farmer. He cleared his throat and was back to his hard, gruff self. He cooled, though his internal warmth and affection for the boy never waned.
Breaking the silence from all of that excitement, Luke eeked out permission to ask a question, "Uncle Owen…?"
"Were the pirates Separatists?"
"They may have been. If they were, it would have been as close to the Clone Wars your father ever got."
Luke stewed in that thought. His father was a hero of some sort, but not during the war. And then, with a saddened curiosity, he asked, "How did my father die?"
He understood that one day this question would come, but he wasn't prepared for it, though he'd rehearsed his answer over and over again and more often in these last two years, "He was killed, Luke. Just before you were born. His ship flew through an uncharted asteroid field and everyone on his freighter was lost."
Luke was lost in that thought, thinking hard and deep.
"Space is dangerous, Luke. As dangerous as Tatooine is, it's still safer for folks like us than it would be up there."
Luke pulled his sheet up over his shoulders and curled his head against his pillow.
With a groan, Owen stood, his back creaked, and he put a hand on Luke's shoulder to offer some final consoling words, "Luke, it'd be best to forget him. Your aunt and I are your family now. And we both love you very much."
"I love you, too, only I…"
"You wished you could have known him?"
Luke nodded and put his hand on Owen's, affectionately.
"Goodnight, Uncle Owen."
Owen remained for a moment until Luke's hand slipped off of his and the boy began to snore gently. Owen smiled. Luke was a good boy and made him proud.
Later that night, after he'd shut the power down, in the dark and laying in bed, Owen told his dear wife, Beru, about story time with Luke. "He asked about how his father died, tonight."
"We knew he would."
"I just hate lying to the boy."
"I know, but we don't have a choice, Owen."
"He'll be all right, and we'll keep him here safe and sound."
"What if we can't? That's what I'm afraid of."
"If we can't, we'll just do our best while we have him. And then someday, hopefully, you can turn the farm and the homestead over to him like your father did to you."
"I hope so, Beru. I hope so."
And with that, Owen drifted to sleep with hope in his heart, but the very realistic stress on his shoulders about what the future might hold.