Jedi Master Lin Quetzel walked down the long ramp of his modified space cruiser. According to his ship’s calculations, he was standing on Ceti Alpha Six.
It didn’t look a thing like he’d expected.
Ceti Alpha Six was a lush planet of waterfalls and old growth forests. The scent of moss and nirqua spice hung in dense clouds in the air.
He glanced around at rock formations.
Dust and dirt specked the cayenne-scented air.
He called upon The Force to keep the dust from getting into his eyes, nose, and mouth.
No matter where he looked, it was all the same hazy tan. Not quite brown. Not quite yellow. Just a lazy, unenergized tan.
“This can’t be right.” He pressed the communicator on his wrist. “R4? Can you hear me?”
The droid replied in wheezed bleeps and bloops.
“Double check our location. This can’t be Ceti Alpha Six. It’s all wrong.”
As the droid heezed out a response, a figure strode through the tanned haze.
Lin lowered his right arm and held it close to his lightsaber.
The figure was dressed like one of the Sand People on Tantooine, but Lin picked up something from this strange person.
A powerful sense of self.
A nascent connection to The Force.
“Hello there.” Lin said.
The figure stopped before him.
“I seem to be lost.”
The figure looked at him — his eyes hidden behind oversized, mirrored goggles.
“Could you tell me if this is Ceti Alpha Six?”
The figure waved his hand in a follow me gesture.
Lin looked back at his ship. “R4. Inititate Order In Yo’ Face.”
“heeeuuuhhh.” responded the droid over the communicator.
The ramp raised and everything locked up tight.
That makes me feel better.
The figure looked down at the communicator and then back at the ship. But he didn’t say anything. He simply waved his hand again for Lin to follow him.
So, Lin followed him.
They walked through a valley of hoodoos and slot canyons. All the while, the wind pelted them with sand and micrograins of dirt.
Lin thought happy thoughts about taking a long shower as soon as he returned to Coruscant. That made him feel all sorts of happiness.
The unknown figure led him to a cave tucked inside one of the canyon walls. They walked down a long, narrow path that led to a wide room at the dead end.
The figure removed his goggles and unswathed his face.
It was a man with dark, sad eyes and a thatch of shoulder-length white-blond hair. “Ahh. Now, we may talk, yes?” His voice had an unmistakable accent. Lin just had no idea what that accent was.
“Yes. Is this Ceti Alpha Six?”
“This? No. No, my friend. Ceti Alpha Six was destroyed some time ago by a round space station. This…this is Ceti Alpha Five.” He smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “And you, my friend, are going to help me escape this….” His gaze arched up to the dust and dirt and rocks above them. All around them. “…terrible place.”
“Why are you here?”
His smile fell away. “An old friend of mine marooned me here.”
An irritated expression flashed over his features. His smile quickly returned. “I would say it was because he felt intimidated by my superior intellect. Most small minds are, as I am sure you know.”
“He left me here to die. To be buried alive in these harsh conditions, these shifting sands and piles of rock. But my old friend did not realize that I am many things. I am smart. Oh, so terribly smart and resourceful.” His gaze dipped to the communicator on Lin’s wrist. “And I know when to take advantage of an advantageous situation. Will you help me escape?”
Lin ran his hand through his gritted up hair. “If I do, where will you go?”
The man smiled, but he did not reply.
“Okay. At least, tell me your name.”
“My name? My name is Noonan Singh Khan. I am the last of my people. I stand in these bitter, driving sands alone and forgotten. Will you not help me?”
“I haven’t said I won’t.”
“Nor have you said that you will.”
Lin considered the man before him. “If I say no…?”
“Would you really say no to one who needs rescue? And I do need rescue.”
“If. If you do refuse to help me, I will tell you what I will do. I will take your ship from you. I will leave you here to suffer as I have. I will leave you here to survive on dirt and insects and horrible things that howl in the night. I’m sure neither of us wants that to happen, my friend.”
“If you try to take my ship, I will cut you down.”
“You will kill an unarmed man?”
Lin didn’t reply.
“As I thought. Well?”
Lin walked all the way back to the opening of the cave. He watched the dust and dirt blow in sharp, slanted lines.
It would be inhumane to leave him here.
He returned to Khan. “Okay. I’ll take you.” He pointed at him. “But know this: If you try to take over my ship, I will be within my rights as a Jedi Master to cut you down. So, don’t mess with me.”
Khan smiled. “I would never dream of ‘messing with you’ or your ship. I simply want my freedom.”
“You will have it.”
Khan swathed up his face and put his goggles back on. He nodded as if to say, “Lead on.”
Lin lead him back to the cave’s opening.
I hope I’m not making a big mistake.