...previously on Tatooine
Luke stood in the entrance to Kenobi’s small house and looked out across the baking Tatooine landscape. It had been more than three years since he’d last stood here and Luke was feeling a little overwhelmed by the memories it evoked. Memories of his Aunt and Uncle, memories of his childhood. Memories of an old hermit he had known all too briefly.
Ben Kenobi’s house was in much better condition than Luke had expected it to be. For a dwelling that had been so long vacant, Luke had expected to find it largely scavenged. Sandpeople; and Jawas usually left nothing untouched. But, apart from some obvious small rodent signs and a thin layer of sand over everything, the house looked exactly as it had the day he and Kenobi had watched Leia’s impassioned hologram. The same day his Aunt and Uncle had been killed by stormtroopers hunting the droids C3PO and R2D2. Grief for the only family he’d ever known welled up inside him and Luke sighed.
A new battle against grief was being waged inside the hut. The battle for Han Solo’s life. The Corellian had been stripped and bathed while he drifted in and out of consciousness, then they had worked to stabilise his temperature for over an hour with little success. Finally, Luke had suggested they move the bed to one of the storage areas under the main living area as the temperature there was cooler and much less variable, and although Solo’s condition had improved dramatically, his moments of lucidity had been brief and pain-filled. He never seemed to remember either, as each waking included the terror of rediscovering the fact that he was blind.
Luke had spent the last two hours with Leia, instructing her in what he knew of Force healing while he used it on Solo; all the while hoping it would trigger something in her. Once she overcame her reluctance to use the Force, Luke felt quite certain his sister could heal the Corellian. She had done it unconsciously to save him after the cave-in on Hoth. But consciously letting herself go enough to let the Force flow through her was proving very difficult for Leia. Especially after her dabble with the Dark Side in Jabba’s palace.
Despite having tended to the immediate requirements of the wound on his flank, Luke needed to work on healing his own injuries, and had finally come up for a break. He’d tried to convince Leia of her need for a break as well, but Leia had refused to leave Han. So Luke had left her to it. He was about to turn around and move back into the hut when Lando Calrissian stepped up beside him and wordlessly handed him a flask of water.
Luke accepted the flask and considered the man standing beside him. Water was such a commodity on Tatooine, to the point of being a viable currency, that it was an automatic reaction for Luke to regard Calrissian’s offer as an attempt to buy his goodwill. Especially to someone who had grown up there and understood its value. He knew, and could understand, the issues that Leia and Chewbacca had with Lando Calrissian, but Luke felt confident that Calrissian was essentially a good man. He would not have been here otherwise.
"How’s Han?" Lando asked, stepping out into the sunlight so he could watch Chewbacca violently shaking the sand out of various pieces of clothing. Leia had deemed Solo’s clothes unsalvageable, and she and the Wookiee had scrounged up some of Kenobi’s old robes for him to wear. Leia herself was wearing one already, which was a vast improvement on the metal bikini Jabba had forced her to wear.
"A lot better than he was," Luke assured him, moving to stand beside Calrissian and turning so that his back would take the brunt of the stinging sand whipped up by the breeze.
"That’s good to hear."
Luke suspected Lando was hoping for some sort of absolution from him, but absolution was not something that was his to give. Nevertheless, he was prepared to give thanks where thanks were due. Lando had been a big help in Jabba’s palace and Luke told him as much.
Calrissian accepted the thanks somewhat reluctantly, then added, "I’m not so sure you should have let that assassin go."
It took Luke a moment to comprehend that Lando was talking about the woman who had tried to stop them beside the skiff, and was surprised to realise he had dismissed her completely. Leia’s reaction to her had disturbed him more than the woman herself. Luke shrugged. Killing in cold blood was not something he was prepared to do. If she was an assassin sent by the Emperor, no doubt their paths would cross again. And next time Luke intended to be better armed, physically and mentally.
He sensed Leia’s approach and turned as she reached the doorway, hoping she was there because she had changed her mind about taking a break. But she was holding a large blanket at arm’s length, her expression pinched, exhausted and apologetic. Solo had thrown up again. Or soiled himself.
Luke took the blanket from her without question and asked, “Do you need help cleaning him up?”
The princess shook her head, avoiding meeting either man’s gaze. “It’s simpler if I get Chewie,” she said, and moved past them towards the Wookiee.
Watching her as she stopped to talk to Chewbacca, Luke suspected Leia’s nausea had worsened. Kenobi's sani was an archaic pit affair and, although the inherit dryness of the planet reduced the odours inevitable in such an enclosed space, simply using the 'fresher was exacerbating her morning sickness. Cleaning up Solo had proved very difficult for her, and Luke had tried to make things a little easier for her by making sure that he and Chewbacca did most of it.
Luke could hear the faint rumble of the Wookiee’s speech, and suspected Chewbacca had voiced his concern for the princess’ well being. Doubtless Leia was dismissing his worries, but Luke couldn’t help wondering how long it would be before the Wookiee realised the princess was pregnant. And what his reaction would be.
"She’s pregnant isn’t she?"
Lando’s words were so unexpected and his assumption so astute, Luke couldn’t help looking at the dark-skinned man with some level of admiration as well as surprise. He could have denied it; could easily have blamed the princess’s delicate stomach on stress, but Luke was too intrigued to know how Calrissian had figured it out so he simply replied evasively, "What makes you think that?"
"I thought so," Calrissian muttered. He glanced back at the Wookiee and the princess then regarded Luke with a gaze that was vaguely hostile. "And Chewie doesn’t know," he surmised. "Chewie would never have let her come to Jabba’s if he’d known." He shook his head at Luke. "How could you let her come?" he hissed. "How could you let her risk-?"
"Let her?" Luke repeated with vague amusement. The former administrator obviously had no comprehension of the strength of Leia’s personality. Luke attempted to reason with the man, but Calrissian it seemed had decided to take the opportunity to rant.
"If you had any comprehension of the sort of indignities she had to suffer at Jabba’s hand,” he started, “there is no way you would have let-"
"I had a good idea what would happen if she was caught," Luke replied tightly, turning his gaze to the sunburned horizon once more.
"Then how could you let her come to Tatooine?" Calrissian demanded hotly and Luke met his glare.
"For a start, Lando, I couldn’t stop her. Leia would have come for Han with or without my help. Secondly, as I understand it, the indignities she suffered in your city were at least as bad as anything she suffered in Jabba’s palace."
Calrissian frowned. "What?"
"Imperial Surveillance," Luke reminded him, unsubtly.
"She told you about that?"
"Yes, she told me. I also saw it."
The former administrator looked suitably mortified. "On Vader’s ship?"
"No. When we got back to the Rebel Alliance. It’s doing the rounds of the galaxy as the latest porn favourite, Lando."
"You can’t be serious."
"Very," Luke said, then scowled and added, "The Alliance leaders had a field day with it."
Calrissian cringed, wiped a hand across his forehead and moaned, "No wonder she hates me."
They fell silent as Leia and Chewbacca passed them on their way back into the hut, then he and Calrissian were forced to turn their faces away as a sudden wind blew up, stinging them with fine particles of sand. A moment later, an even stronger gust forced Lando to retreat back into the hut while Luke squinted into the rising wind with a deep sense of dread and foreboding. The tale on the western horizon confirmed his worst fears. Sandstorm. A big one too. The sort that would keep them holed up for three days or more… He considered the emergency survival pack that Calrissian had scrounged from the skiff; they would have to ration drastically, but they would make it. At least they had water.
Luke knew Kenobi’s house had an artesian bore; a boon that would normally have had the Tusken Raiders going to war with each other over it, then setting up a permanent fortress. He’d said as much to Kenobi the day the old Jedi had rescued him from the small band of Sandpeople that had attacked him. When Luke had commented on the lack of security around the old hermit’s house, Kenobi had admitted to using the Sandpeople’s own fears to keep them away. It said a lot about the superstitious nature of the Tatooine natives that they were still afraid of the area.
He hurried inside after Calrissian, wondering how he was going to break the news to Leia. Luke had wanted to search Kenobi’s dwelling for data about the Jedi and, more particularly, for information about constructing a lightsabre. This latest development made finding such information imperative. There was no way they were going to get Solo to a medcentre in time. Not now. Force healing had become Solo’s only hope for recovery and any information that could assist Luke in achieving that for his friend could not be underestimated.
Sparing one last glance for the approaching sandstorm as he shut the door, Luke couldn’t help wondering if it had been some sort of Force inspired prescience that had made him insist on bringing them to Kenobi’s. Luke was just grateful the sandstorm had not caught them in the sand skiff. None of them would have survived that.