By the time Kor and Prauf got back to Zosma with the last of their supplies, the media had weighed in on their most recent exploits. DNB (Desert News Broadcasting) from Tatooine, had sent a reporter to Lothal to interview the people in Three Pines. His report formed the backbone for most of the reports about the matter, but each channel put its own twist on it.
DNB, followed by ORN (Outer Rim News), GON (Galaxy One News), and ISN mainly kept to straight reporting. DNB added a few flourishes about the local growing season, but otherwise, stuck to the story. Many minor news channels simply copied and pasted their reports along with a lead-in promo from their own local anchors.
GBS, CORE, PAN, and ORA, all of whom were sympathetic to the New Republic to one degree or another, were more skeptical, with some stations criticizing them for interfering in a local election. The bureaucrats in Capital City often figured prominently in their stories, criticizing the people in Three Pines for not bringing their election concerns to them.
FOR savaged them as if they were monsters and once again, LITE-G acted as if the whole thing was some kind of cosmic joke.
All the stations took time to focus on the silo full of grain the people in Three Pines donated to the Jedi for helping them with their problem. The news anchors on CORE were especially sarcastic, repeatedly asking what two people were going to do with a whole silo full of grain.
Kor and Prauf found themselves in agreement with them on that one. They’d tried to protest that it was too much but the grateful citizens wouldn’t listen. They insisted on sending a cargo ship full of grain to their “neutral meeting place” on Aubreta. Nothing Kor or Prauf said could dissuade them so they’d given up, but truthfully, they had no idea what they were going to do with that much grain.
“We couldn’t eat all that if we lived to be a thousand,” Prauf said.
“It wouldn’t last that long anyway.”
Prauf popped him on the back of the head. “You know what I mean!”
Kor chuckled. “Yeah, yeah.” He paused as a sudden thought occurred to him. “Why not give it to your family? Your dad is running interference for us, and some of the rest have to be helping him, so why not let them have it?”
Prauf swiveled his co-pilot’s chair to face him. “All of it?”
Kor seesawed one hand in the air. “Well, we could keep some of it for ourselves, I suppose, but do you know how to grind it into flour? I sure don’t.”
“What? You don’t know how to learn?” Prauf was sarcastic.
Kor gave him a sour look. “I hate you.”
Prauf’s face split with a triumphant smile. Before he could say anything the communicator beeped at them. The ID said it was from Jhemon. He flipped the switch and Jhemon’s form appeared on the holopad as Kor guided the Whimsy into the landing bay in the ancient temple. “Hello, Father. We were just talking about you.”
Jhemon smiled faintly. “Nothing bad, I hope.”
Prauf shook his head. “We decided to give that silo full of grain to you and the family, minus a little bit for us.”
Jhemon’s eyes widened. “Son, you don’t have to do that.”
Prauf pointed at Kor. “It was his idea but it’s a good one because there’s no way the two of us could ever use that much grain. It would just go to waste.”
Jhemon bowed to Kor. “Thank you, but I called because there’s an emergency on Ordnandell. An earthquake has buried some school buildings with dozens of children trapped in them. It’s a sparsely inhabited planet and they don’t have enough heavy equipment to dig the kids out before they suffocate. If there’s any way you can –”
Kor didn’t give him a chance to finish. “We’re on our way.” He powered the Whimsy back up while he was speaking.
Prauf was with him. “Send us the ground coordinates of the school, Father, and tell them we’ll be there as fast as we can.”
As soon as the Whimsy was out of the landing bay, Kor turned it toward the sky and poured on the power. Prauf began calculating the route through hyperspace. He finished just as they cleared the atmosphere. He gave Kor the course.
Kor nodded, adjusted the Whimsy to match, and punched the controls. The star elongated and the ship disappeared.
When they popped out of hyperspace 12 hours later, the comm immediately started beeping. Prauf hit the receive button. “Unidentified ship! Please vacate your orbit. We’re waiting for another ship to help us with a rescue operation and they need clear space.”
Prauf answered them. “Ground control, this is the Jedi ship, the Whimsy.”
The incoming voice was filled with sudden excitement. “Jedi! Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming! You’re cleared for immediate landing!”
“Roger that, control.”
Kor pushed the nose down for a fast entry into the atmosphere. It was a hot re-entry, the hottest they’ve ever attempted but with children’s lives on the line, speed took priority over safety. He waited until they were almost down before he slowed the ship. They appeared over the landing coordinates with a sonic boom and touched down moments later. The Whimsy was steaming hot as they came down the ramp.
They looked around.
The coordinates had led them to a school playground. It was a wide grassy area, dotted with swings, merry-go-rounds, and climbing bars. Past the playground was a sporting field. In the opposite direction was the school. The modular buildings had been designed for easy setup and installation. They were tough and rugged, but the earthquake had opened up a sinkhole directly beneath the main part of the school and the buildings had collapsed onto each other when they fell.
A crowd of workmen gathered around the enormous sinkhole, equipped with hardhats, coils of rope, shovels, and picks were setting up floodlights as evening drew near. A handful of harried security officers were trying their best to hold back sobbing and sometimes, hysterical parents. The crowd mobbed Kor and Prauf as soon as they emerged from the Whimsy, begging for help, shouting questions, sobbing, and crying out until they couldn’t hear over the noise.
We can’t get anything done like this! Prauf growled in Kor’s mind.
I know. Jump over them, Kor responded.
Prauf nodded and together they used their Jedi power to leap over the mob to the edge of the sinkhole.
The crowd gasped in disbelief and shock at the huge, seemingly effortless leap they made. A stunned silence descended over the scene.
Kor wiggled a finger in his ear, grateful for the sudden quiet. “Who is in charge here?” he asked the astonished workmen.
A stocky, muscular man stepped forward. “I’m Ian Masters. I guess I’m in charge, mainly because I was the first one to get here after it happened.” His eyes were red-rimmed with fatigue.
Kor pulled him aside. “Have you found any of them yet?”
Ian shook his head. “We can hear them but we can’t get to them. Those modular buildings are built to resist almost anything and none of our equipment is strong enough to cut through them to get the kids out.” He gestured at the buildings down in the sinkhole. They were tumbled together like a pile of wooden building blocks. “The doors are all in the middle of the pile. The weight of the buildings is jamming them shut.”
Prauf patted him on the shoulder. “Our lightsabers can cut through anything,” he reassured him. “We’ll have them out in a jiffy.”
Prauf stopped. Now what?
Kor waved the workmen away. “What if we can combine our strength and lift the buildings out instead of cutting through them? These people don’t have a lot of money. If we cut up their school buildings, they’ll have to buy new ones or do without.”
Prauf eyed the buildings thoughtfully. They could feel the lives of the children inside. Some of them were injured but none were dead yet. “They’re pretty big,” he mused. “Think we can really do it?”
Kor shrugged. “There’s only one way to find out.”
Prauf nodded. “Sure, why not? Let’s give it a try.”
Kor called Ian over. “We’re going to lift the buildings out one at a time,” he told him, feigning more confidence than he felt. “Tell everyone to clear a space for us to set them down.”
Ian and the surrounding workmen stared at them. “Lift the buildings?”
Prauf pulled himself up to his full height and smiled down at them. “We’re Jedi.”
Show-off, Kor said. I hate you.
Prauf laughed in his head.
Ian and his workmen were backing away, unsure if they should believe them or not so Kor decided to help them along. He stretched out a hand toward a bulldozer sitting nearby. “This is in the way too.” The bulldozer rose off the ground and floated smoothly away from the sinkhole. The crowd gasped and gave way before it, stumbling over each other in their haste to get out of its way.
Ian’s eyes bulged.
“Everyone back up!” he bellowed, waving the crowd back. “Move back! Way back!”
Prauf shook his head, fighting to conceal a grin. Now, who’s the show-off?
Ian and his men soon had the crowd pushed back to the other side of the playground, giving them plenty of room to work.
Kor and Prauf strode to the side of the sinkhole and stared down at the tumbled buildings at the bottom of it. “You know, kid, if we mess this up, the galaxy will never believe in the Jedi again.”
Kor agreed. “Yeah, but if we do it, they’ll have to believe.” He stretched out a hand toward the top building. “Ready?”
Prauf held out his hand. “Ready when you are.”
Together they extended the Force toward the topmost building. Just as they were able to combine their efforts in combat to be more than the sum of their power, so they were able to join their power together to multiply it for this task. The top building quivered as the Force took hold of it. Then, as if there was never any doubt, the building soared into the air, righting itself as it did. Turning together, they brought the building over their heads, guiding it through the air to land gently in front of the gathered crowd.
A huge roar erupted as the trapped children burst out of the building, the doors no longer pinned shut.
Prauf grinned at Kor. “Well, what do you know?”
Kor smiled back. “A long way from bounty hunting, isn’t it?”
“Kid, it ain’t even close. Let’s get the rest of them out of that sinkhole.”
Within minutes all the buildings were out of the hole. Some of the children needed medical attention but most had suffered only a few bumps, bruises, and scratches. Their parents were so grateful for their rescue it was embarrassing. They pressed what little they had available onto them with trembling hands; handfuls of coins, treasured picture frames, rings, bits of jewelry, cartons of food and clothes, electronic parts, rare tools – whatever they could lay their hands on to express their gratitude.
Kor and Prauf tried to get away as quickly as possible but it was nearly midnight before they were able to make a graceful escape, loaded down with semi-valuable bric-à-brac. Kor retracted the Whimsy’s ramp and cycled the door closed with a sigh of relief. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Yeah,” Prauf nodded. “That was a little too much appreciation.”
As soon as they were in hyperspace, Kor turned on the news to see what the galaxy made of their latest adventure. Although the coverage was improving, it was still a mixed bag. Almost uniformly, the major channels gave them credit for saving the children but the First Order station and the Old Republic one both accused them of showboating in the way they performed the rescue.
Prauf threw a plastic cup at the screen. “Idiots! We rescued over 200 children and they’re griping about the way we did it? Are you kidding me?”
Kor waved a hand at the video screen and it abruptly went off. “Quit watching that stuff,” he told Prauf. “They’re not reporting the news, they’re propagating their own opinions.”
“Doesn’t it make you mad?” Prauf grumbled.
Kor nodded. “Of course it does. And there are always going to be people who hate our guts and attack us no matter what we do. But if we’re going to be Jedi, we have to let that stuff roll off our backs.”
Prauf popped open a bottle of his foul-tasting Dhiketh wine and took a huge gulp. “Fine, whatever. But if those morons,” he waved at the video screen, “ever need any help, they’re out of luck as far as I’m concerned.”
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