Once they were safely in hyperspace, Kor let himself relax. He swiveled his chair around. “So, where are we going?”
“Home, so I can say good-bye,” Prauf told him.
Kor shook his head to clear away a sudden case of cobwebs. “Hunh?”
“They” Prauf jerked a thumb out the cockpit, “think I might be the one they’re after so if I stay on Aubreta I’ll be putting my whole family in danger.” He shook his head. “I can’t have that.”
Kor was dismayed. “You’re going to say good-bye to your family forever because of me? Prauf, I am so sorry. I had no idea.”
The grey-skinned man was already shaking his head. “I ain’t seen any of them in years, kid. We might be related by blood but that’s about all we’ve got in common. I don’t want to put them in danger but I don’t have any burning need to live with ‘em either.”
The panel beeped at them.
“We’re here,” Prauf announced as the Whimsy returned to normal space. Ahead was a lush green planet.
Prauf shrugged. “Bracca and Aubreta are kissing cousins in galactic terms. Practically next-door neighbors.” He typed in some numbers. “Take us down to those coordinates,” he said.
Kor took the controls. He scanned the screens but didn’t see any traffic. “Is that where your family lives?”
“Close to it anyway. It’s an old abandoned landing field. We’ll have to take the skimmer to reach them.”
Kor concentrated on following the path laid out by the coordinates but either he was getting better at it or the flight path was easier than most. Minutes later he was landing feather-soft on an overgrown landing field. He powered the engines down to standby mode and peered outside.
They were in the middle of a rain forest. Vines and creepers hung from moss-covered trees. Ferns and other tropical plants sprouted up from the ground, trying to meet the vines hanging from the trees. The air was slightly foggy and puddles of water lay everywhere.
Kor stood up and swayed for a moment. “Whoa! I put on about 20 or 30 pounds.”
Prauf nodded as he got up. “Aubreta’s gravity is about 20% higher than the galactic norm.” The galactic gravitational standard, or norm, like everything else in the galaxy, used Coruscant as the measure of all things. It meant Aubreta’s gravity was 20% higher than the gravity on Coruscant.
Kor felt a surge of excitement. One of the lessons in the learning bands had been how to use the Force to shield yourself from part of a planet’s gravity. It was how the Jedi could jump so far and high. He concentrated and suddenly he felt his normal weight return. He had to maintain his concentration or his shield would drop and he’d be subject to the full effect of Aubreta’s gravity. It was minimal concentration though, like keeping your fist clenched.
With a grin, he told Prauf what he was doing. He was suitably impressed.
“That’s a neat trick. I wish I could do that. I haven’t been here in years. I feel like I’m carrying a backpack around on me.”
“Hey, I knew there had to be some advantages to being a Jedi,” Kor smirked. He slapped some keys to lower the skimmer down to the ground under the ship. “Come on, let’s go find your family.”
A few minutes later they were skimming down the overgrown road. The Whimsy was locked up tight behind them and Prauf had agreed to let Kor give half their newly earned money to his family. Prauf drove, telling Kor to be on guard for stobor, then pretended he couldn’t hear his questions about them over the rush of the wind.
Kor scowled at Prauf’s profile. He knew good and well the big man could hear him but his refusal to answer was maddening. Why warn him about stobor, whatever that was, then refuse to explain? He clenched his teeth and kept a tight grip on the hilt of his lightsaber.
After about twenty minutes of driving through the lush rain forest with its beautiful flowers, they came to a collection of heavily fortified buildings, designed like medieval castles but without the moat.
Kor gaped at them. “Your family lives in one of those?”
“No. My family lives in all of them,” he laughed. “This is our home.”
“They must be rich!”
Prauf frowned at him in puzzlement. “What are you talking about? This is how the poor folks live. The rich people live in underground caverns in the mountains.”
“Oh.” Kor mentally shook himself. Different planets, different people, different customs, he reminded himself. His parents had tried to teach him that. Forgetting their lessons was a pretty poor way of paying them back. He shook it off. “Hey! Now that I know you can hear me, what are stobor?”
Prauf bellowed laughter. “It’s an old human saying from way back. It’s the generic name for whatever dangerous beast might be hanging around. Every planet has its stobor, all different.” He pulled up in front of a castle in the middle of the village or whatever it was. “It kept you on your toes, didn’t it?” He got out.
Kor followed him, muttering under his breath about weird alien humor, convinced no human would ever come up with such a silly idea.
Prauf banged hollowly on the door with his fist. A moment later, footsteps approached the door and it swung open on creaking hinges. A big man, an older, slightly stooped version of Prauf appeared in the doorway. “Hello, son.”
“Hello, father.” Prauf frowned, puzzled at his father’s lack of reaction to his unexpected appearance. Or . . . was it unexpected? He paused in apprehension.
Kor felt a tremor in the Force the moment he saw the older man’s face. There was danger all around them. He grabbed his lightsaber out of its holster and turned. A flash of white armor caught his eye through a window. Stormtroopers? The Empire was supposed to be gone!
Apparently, they hadn’t gotten the memo.
He ignited his lightsaber just as they poured out of three of the buildings around them.
Prauf heard it and grabbed the heavy blaster off his back as he spun around. Kor swallowed hard and moved forward as the stormtroopers opened fire. Had he really learned anything from Morg’s lessons or not? Now he was going to find out.
He spun his lightsaber in front of him like a shield, letting the Force guide him. Blaster bolts bounced off in all directions. Some even bounced directly back at the stormtroopers, killing them with their own shots. He exulted wildly. He had learned!
But his excitement was almost his undoing. He missed a bolt and it got through, singeing his shoulder. He hissed in pain and got his attention back on what he was doing. He couldn’t keep up his concentration on his gravity shield and keep his lightsaber moving at the same time though and he had to drop the former to retain the latter, accepting the extra weight as the price of survival.
Beside him, Prauf was firing at anything that moved. Protected by Kor’s whirling lightsaber, he could take time to aim his shots. Stormtroopers were dropping everywhere. More of them were killed by their own blaster bolts as Kor slowly got the hang of it.
As suddenly as it started, it was over. Over a dozen stormtroopers lay on the ground.
He paused and lowered his lightsaber. “Prauf! Are you okay?”
He looked down at his left shoulder where a scorch mark showed how close he’d come to being killed. “One grazed me but I’m alright.” It stung like crazy though. He gave Prauf a rueful look. “I guess we found your stobor.”
Prauf stared at him in disbelief for a second then burst into laughter. “Found my stober!” he laughed. “You’re out of your mind! Found my stobor, indeed.” He couldn’t stop chuckling.
As it became clear they’d won, Prauf’s family began filtering into the open space between the castle-like houses. Prauf’s father came from his hiding place behind the door. Prauf’s laughter died away.
“I’m sorry, son. They got here this morning and took us by surprise. There was nothing we could do.” The older man glanced sideways at Kor and the lightsaber still burning in his hand. “I guess you’re not the one they’re really after.”
“Where did they come from?” Prauf waved a hand at the dead soldiers.
“After the Emperor’s death, the fleet was scattered across the galaxy but lately they’ve begun joining up with each other, forming a new group called the First Order,” he said.
Prauf sighed. “Great.” He changed the subject. “Father, this is Kor Sheen, a Jedi. He saved my life on Bracca. That’s how all this started. Kor, this is Jhemon, my father.”
Kor turned off his lightsaber and put it away. “Pleased to meet you, sir.”
Jhemon shook his hand. “I thought all the Jedi were dead.”
He nodded. “As far as I know, I’m the only one left and I’m not even a full Jedi. My parents were barely padawans when the Old Republic fell and they never trained me when I was born. I didn’t even have my own lightsaber yet. Prauf gave me this one.” He patted the lightsaber at his side. “He said you found it or something during the war.”
Jhemon extended his hand. After a moment’s hesitation, Kor gave it to him. The old man examined it closely then handed it back. “Rech Moreland’s lightsaber,” he said.
Jhemon nodded. He looked around. “We don’t have much time but Rech Moreland was more of a scholar than a Jedi. He hired some of us to work for him, digging up old ruins all over the galaxy. He’d just gotten back from one that didn’t even have a name, just a number, Q212P4319. He claimed he’d found an old Jedi library from the early days of the Republic.”
“Library?” Kor’s own knowledge of the Jedi was admittedly limited, but he’d never heard of a Jedi library before.
Jhemon shrugged. “He said it was too small to be a Temple so he called it a library. He was putting together a report to send to the Temple on Coruscant to ask for extra money to hire more workers when the war started. He only got a few of those clone soldiers before they killed him. After they left, we buried him and I collected his stuff, including that.” He pointed at the lightsaber.
Kor had a thousand questions but before he could open his mouth, Jhemon cut him off. “There are more stormtroopers on the planet. The First Order is looking for you, Prauf, waiting in case you decided to come home. When these troopers here,” he waved at the bodies on the ground, “don’t call in, they’re going to know something happened to them. You can’t stay.”
Kor ground his teeth. It seemed like they’d been on the run ever since he saved Prauf’s life. “Give me the rest of Rech Moreland’s stuff and we’ll be out of your hair.”
Jhemon nodded. “I don’t need it.” He ordered one of the others to fetch the dead Jedi’s belongings.
Prauf dug out the bag of money and handed it to him. “Here, this is probably the last bit of money I’ll be able to send. I hope it helps.”
The others came out with a battered trunk and lashed it to the luggage rack of their skimmer.
“It will but we won’t be able to help you in return,” Jhemon told him sadly. “There are too many lives at stake here. When they arrive, we’ll have to tell them everything or they’ll kill us. Sorry, son. I wish there was more I could do.”
Prauf gave a deep sigh. “That’s alright, father. None of us asked for this, but it is what it is.” They exchanged a quick hug. “I don’t suppose I have time to visit mother’s grave?”
“Better not chance it. They could be on their way right now,” Jhemon told him.
They got back in the skimmer and Prauf took off without a backward glance. He saw Kor watching him and shook his head. “Now you see why I never wanted to stay,” he shouted above the wind. “They’re decent folks but they don’t have any fight in them. I almost went crazy living here.”
Kor felt a sudden tingling at the back of his neck. He turned and saw two troop carriers and a Tie fighter bearing down on them. “Well, if we don’t do something fast, you’re gonna die here too.”