Chapter Thirty-Three -- Adoption

The Jedi have tampered in the lives of we common folk enough." -- Owen Lars

In the guest suites of the House of Organa on Alderaan, Bail Organa collected his stoic face before walking slowly into the rooms occupied by Padme Amidala. The frail young woman was sitting in a chair, her gown wrapped around her, accompanied by a handmaiden and sipping on something warm out of a smooth, white cup.

She looked up at the door chime and her eyes lifted from their normally-sullen demeanor as Organa entered. R2D2 trailed in behind him, and a hint of a smile touched Padmeís face.

"You have news for me, Bail? Is Obi-Wan here?"

"He is not, Padme, he sent R2 in his place. He and Luke are safe."

Padme fully expected Bail to continue, and when he did not, her mouth tightened in anger.

"Surely there must be more to the message! Where are they! Where is my son!? What happened to Master Windu!?"

Organa put up his hand and cut her off. "I cannot answer those questions, Padme. You know too much already, we cannot compromise Luke and Leiaís safety for ..."

Padme stood up, the first time Bail had seen her on her feet in months.

"The whereabouts of my son are my business, Bail! I cannot live the rest of my life not knowing where he is! And Master Windu was my protector! Is he dead? Have my actions murdered another Jedi?"

Organa squinted at her, "Another Jedi? What do you mean?"

Close to tears now, Padme sat back in her chair, feeling weak after her emotional outburst.

"Is it not obvious, Bail? My actions, they have done nothing but hurt the Jedi from the moment I became involved with them. My brazen charge back to Naboo during the days of the Trade Federation cost Qui-Gon Jinn his life. My speech urging the Republic to clone its troops ended in the slaughter on Genosis.Master Yoda may have died saving my son, and now Master Windu could be dead for the same reason."

"And Anakin... , " Padme struggled now with her words tight in her throat. "Anakin was seduced to the dark side while I stood by and did nothing, he fell before my very eyes and I was too busy playing politician to save him."

Organa started forward, but Padme wouldnít have him comfort. He stood in place, unable to speak, unable to voice the words that denied the truths she had told. Eventually, one of her handmaidens came and put the former Queen to bed, then brusquely ushered Bail Organa out for the evening.

_____________________

It was just after dusk, and the nighttime air on Tatooine was finally cooling down from the blazing heat of the desert worldís twin suns. Having finished a meal of vegetables and protein, Owen Lars sat in his large chair, examining a busted vaporator combustion unit in his hands, turning it over and over, searching for the fault that had caused it to cease functioning earlier that day.

His wife, Beru, was busy in the kitchen, storing leftovers and preparing food for the coming day. Both she and Owen worked all day in the fields, and seldom ate more than one meal together a day.

As Owen used his multi-tool to slip the unitís casing off, his attention was drawn to a chiming sound emanating from the security monitor adorned to the wall to his right. Springing to his feet, he moved forward to check the computer reading. Beru came quickly from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel, her eyes wide with worry.

"Whatís going on, Owen?"

Owen squinted at the monitor, checking the readout and tapping in a coded sequence to the keypad.

"Someone has entered the outer perimeter. Sensors show just one so far."

"Are you expecting anyone, Owen? A supplier?"

"No, not for two days now. I donít know who it is, but itís only one heat sense, I doubt itís Tuskens."

There, he had said what both of them were clearly thinking. The fear of a raid was prevalent among moisture vaporator farmers. It had been a long time since there had been any Raiders near the Larsí settlement, but Owenís family had a certain history with them Owen always made sure he was armed when he was out on the farm, and insisted Beru do the same.

Now Owen reached for the heavy carbine rifle he kept mounted on the adjacent wall for emergencies, and switched it on, as the low whine of its energy capacitors filled the silent room.

"Go get your pistol, Beru, and wait in the kitchen."

"Owen, I face the same dangers as you on the farm on a daily basis, Iím not going to hide in the kitchen like a child while our home is invaded."

Owen frowned at his wife. Her head-strong nature had made her so appealing when they had courted, sometimes, as her husband, it frustrated him to no end. So husband and wife watched the low-grade sensing device as it tracked the mysterious individual across their property, its heat signature moving ostensibly toward their homestead.

The wind had picked up, as it always did when the sun went down, and it sounded like a pretty fair-sized sandstorm would batter the dunes tonight. Despite the lack of vision, the beingís image kept coming right toward the house, until finally Owen could hear its feet scuffing on the permacrete porch that extended a few feet outside the house to protect it from Tatooineís once in generation monsoon.

Obviously, Owen had checked and rechecked the lock on the door, so there would be so easy entry for their nighttime visitor. The outdoor intercom buzzed and Owen put s much gruffness into his voice as he could manage, trying to do an impression of his father Cliegg, when the elder Lars had found some fault in his work as a child.

"Yeah? What do you want?"

The voice that came back spoke perfect Basic, and sounded human. "I have come a long way to seek a favor from the Lars family. I had hoped to also seek refuge from the storm."

Owen frowned, as he looked back at Beru, who was already nodding. It was common courtesy to allow strangers to stay the night should one have the space available when a sandstorm threatened. On occasion, farmers, ranchers or traders were far from their own homes when the storms came up, and would seek shelter at the nearest residence. Own himself had done so with a group of Jawas no less many years ago as a boy.

"Hang on," he barked at the intercom, then switched it off, moving back to speak quietly to Beru. "Keep your weapon up and keep it on the highest setting. Iím going to keep myself between he and you until we know what this is all about."

Beru shook her head at him like he was a child pretending to be a man. "Oh, Owen, quit playing space captain and open the door."

Not liking this at all, Owen keyed the door and stepped back, the carbine cocked on his shoulder and ready to fire.

Standing in the doorway was a man dressed all in brown robes, not unlike a human-sized Jawa. His face was bent away from the wind-blown sand, and his head covered by a hood. He clutched a bundle close to his chest, the contents of which Owen could not discern, even at close range.

"Who are you?" Owen demanded, not wanting to let down his guard in the slighest.

Taking a gentle step forward out of the gusting wind, the man raised his head, revealing a bearded face with bright eyes, but a series of cuts and gashes fading into it. "I am a friend of Anakin Skywalker. I understand his family lives here. My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Owen Lars was certainly not a man of the galaxy. He and Beru only heard snippets of news from off-world from traders that visited their homestead or merchants who bought their moisture harvest. They had no holonet feed of their own on the farm, none of their neighbors did either, there was always too much work to do at home to waste time watching what someone else was doing ... on another planet, no less.

But Owen knew the name of the man before him well, and he stepped forward, pushing the carbineís nozzle into the otherís shoulder. "Youíre the Jedi the Empireís looking for. Youíre the reason Anakin left here for good, arenít you? You damn fools trying to save the galaxy all by yourselves. You can take your favor and get the hell off my land!"

For having a carbine that could likely rip his entire shoulder off pressed firmly against it, the Jedi was remarkably calm.

"May I speak to Cliegg Lars, please?"

Owenís face hardened now. "That depends, Kenobi. Can the Jedi speak to the dead? If so, Iíll take you around back and you can visit his gravestone with me."

Obi-Wanís eyes softened and he bowed his head again. "Iím sorry. I did not know. I never knew your father, but I mourn his passing. How long ago since he left you?"

Owenís face continued to tighten as the Jediís ignorance ignited his past frustrations. "He did not leave us, he was taken. Killed by the Tusken Raiders three seasons ago in a revenge raid of our home. You can thank Anakin for that."

Kenobiís head came back up and his face was quizzical now. "Revenge raid? What does that have to do with Anakin?"

Owen Lars was beside himself now with anger. Not only had Anakin abused their hospitality, then left them to suffer the consequences of upsetting the Sand People, but he had not even the courage to admit his sins to his Master.

"When Anakin and Padme stayed with us here, he went in search of his mother. After watching her die at the hands of the Raiders, he slaughtered an entire village of them. We didnít find out until later, he never said a word of it. The other Tusken clans paid us back the next season, ransacking our homestead while Beru and I were in Mos Eisley, buying droid parts. The Tuskens murdered my father and two farm hands, and made off with most everything of value we owned."

"So, Jedi," Owen made the name sound like a curse. "Unless you have a small fortune in that bundle you clutch so tight, I suggest you leave. The Jedi have done enough favors for my family to last a lifetime."

As Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak, a muffled cry came from his arms. Beru, knowing that sound all too well, having visited several neighborsí families in their time here, moved forward, her pistol falling to her side as a smile touched her face.

"Is that??" she asked softly, even as Owen tried to grab her hand and pull her back behind him.

The Jedi extended his arms away from his body and carefully turned the bundle over, revealing the baby boy he carried there. Having slept most of the day, the young one had awoken to find himself hungry, and set about informing his caretaker of it.

"Ohh!" Beru smiled delightedly now, "Heís beautiful, look Owen." She stepped closer to Obi-Wan like they had known each other for years, and the Jedi gave the baby to her carefully, and she brought him to her like a long-lost friend.

Beru stroked his little head and looked back at Obi-Wan.

"Whatís his name?" "Luke," Obi-Wan said, trying to keep his voice even. "Luke Skywalker."

Owenís gaze, which had been following his wifeís interaction with the baby, snapped back to center on Obi-Wan and a scowl covered his mouth. After a second of understanding, Beru gazed intently at the Jedi as well.

"He is Anakinís son, by Padme. They were married shortly after they left you. Luke is an orphan now, he needs a home. I had hoped he could stay with the only family he has."

"Oh Owen, can we keep him?" Beru asked, cradling the baby closer to her bosom now, beaming at the young face staring back at her.

"We canít take on the burden of a baby. You and I already work all day in the fields, who will care for him? We canít hire another hand to do your job so you can stay at home, the extra costs would destroy us!"

Beru frowned. Owen was the sensible one and he was right this time. Even if an extra hand came on to do her part of the harvesting, they would be paying him and the costs of the baby and they were already just scraping along following the Tusken raid that had murdered Cliegg.

But before they could say no, the Jedi was unfolding something else from deep in his robe.

"Itís not quite a fortune, but it should do well to help with Lukeís needs for a few years," he said as he set down bar after bar of credits on the table between them.

Despite his anger with the Jedi, Owenís eyes gradually widened as more money than he had seen in a long time was tightly stacked in front of him. With that sort of credit line, they could hire more hands, or get some top-notch droids from the next Jawa caravan that came by, or even put a deposit on a land speeder down!

The baby started to cry now, as if remembering his hunger again. Beru disappeared into the kitchen to search for milk for the boy.

Obi-Wan eyed the rest of the room for the first time. "May I see the rest of your homestead, sir?"

Owen knew the Jedi had done some background checks on the lives of moisture farmers to make a comment like that. It was common courtesy for visitors to ask for a tour so their hosts might proudly display what their toils had reaped.

Begrudgingly, Owen lowered the carbine to his side, but kept it on. The point was not lost on Obi-Wan, he was here on very thin ice, something most of the residents of Tatooine had probably never even heard of.

Owen led and Obi-Wan followed out across the narrow walkway to the coupleís garage. Once inside, Owen closed the door firmly.

"Whatís the catch, Jedi?"

Obi-Wan had felt the otherís tension and distrust, and wasnít surprised by the question now that they were away from Beru. "Only that you raise him right, take care of him, love him as your own."

"You could have found a family like that anywhere, Kenobi and we both know it. Why us?"

Obi-Wanís shoulders slumped a bit now, and he sat on a spare vaporator base. He looked up at Owen and his eyes were sad.

"Anakin is not dead."

The words made no sense coming out of the Jediís mouth to Owen. He and Beru had heard from friends of friends that the Emperor had mentioned his step-brother as a martyr in the Clone Wars when he and Count Dooku had made their historic peace. He and Beru had not mourned the fallen Jedi long, he had brought nothing but death to their home in the short time they had known each other.

"Not dead? Even out here on the Rim we had heard that he was assassinated or something like that. How do you know heís not dead?"

"Because Iíve seen him.. Although itís safe to say you wouldnít recognize him. The Emperor lied about his demise, much as he has lied about nearly everything heís stood for in the past 10 years."

"Iíve not time to discuss politics with you, Kenobi. If Anakin is alive, why is his son here?"

Obi-Wan sighed, to have to unload this much emotion on a near-stranger was nearly as exhausting as recounting it all to himself.

"The Emperor convinced Anakin I had betrayed the Jedi, and he challenged me to a duel. I bested him and he fell into the core of a power plant on Coruscant. Somehow he survived, and the Emperor used technology and the Force to rebuild him. Heís a monster now, you might call him the Emperorís enforcer. He now answers to the name Darth Vader."

"So youíve brought this boy here? Are you mad? Surely Vader and the Empire will seek him out, youíve signed our death warrant, fool!" Obi-Wan raised a firm hand and the power in his motion silenced Owen Lars. "Anakin never knew he was to be a father. Padme kept it hidden from him as he slipped further and further toward the dark side of the Force. That is why I brought Luke here, even if he were to discover he has a son, he would never return to Tatooine after what happened to his mother."

Owen thought about that, and realized the logic was sound. He did not like any of it, but there was Beru to think of. They had tried many times for a child of their own when Cliegg was still alive, but for one reason or another had not been able to conceive. Before Kenobi had shown up they seemed destined to scrape along for years, working their way back to solvency after the Raiders had destroyed so much.

Besides that, Owen Lars was a fair man, and the boy had nothing wrong. Owen could not judge him on the mistakes of his father, or of the Jedi standing before him now, pleading with him to take on this awesome responsibility. For the sake of the child, he accepted.

"And what of you, Kenobi? Where does an outlaw to the Empire go from here?"

Obi-Wan smiled wanly at the term. "He stays on the Outer Rim. He retires somewhere hot and sandy, a place the Empire leaves to the outlaws and the smugglers and the few honest people left trying to carve out a living. I sold my ship at Anchorhead. Most of that money is on your table, the rest I will buy a few spartan items with which to exist in the desert. I will find somewhere to live here, and keep to myself, but I wish to check in on Luke from time to ti-."

"No." Owenís voice was as firm now as Obi-Wanís had been moments earlier. "You will do no such thing. The boy doesnít need some wandering magician showing up to revel him with tales of space wars and adventures."

The hurt in Obi-Wanís eyes was apparent, but Owen did not care. If the boy was to be raised as his son, he would be raised the way Owen saw fit.

Obi-Wan thought of arguing, but Lukeís safety was paramount. Instead, he nodded. "I shall be close then, but not close enough to be seen. And if you ever need me for anything, donít hesitate to ask. Before I go however, I would like to give you something to give to Luke, when heís old enough."

The Jedi Knight reached into another one of his seemingly infinite pockets and withdrew a metallic tube, roughly the length of his forearm.

Although Owen had never seen one in action before, he had spotted the weapon on Anakinís belt when he and Padme had visited. He knew it was a lightsaber, and he knew it had no place in his home.

"Absolutely not. I know what that thing is capable of, Iíll not put it in the hands of a boy who has no idea what it was once used for. Take it, and be gone. If heís to live here, heíll be a farmer, just like us, just like Anakin should have been. You are not to come here again, Kenobi. The Jedi have tampered in the lives of we common folk enough."

The Jedi looked crushed by this, and Owen, feeling bad for the man who had traveled across the stars, softened just a hair.

"I wonít try to stop you from living where you choose, Kenobi. But Luke would be better off not knowing where he comes from. The life of a farmer seems a lot less painful than that of a Jedi Knight."

To that, Obi-Wan had no argument. He put the lightsaber back in his interior pocket and turned to go, then stopped.

"Then, grant me just one small favor."

Owenís face showed no change as he waited for the Jediís last request.

"Let him keep his name. Anakin was a great man in his time. He was a hero, he saved lives, and he was my friend. Let Luke Skywalker live, for Anakinís sake."

Owen stared a long time at the Jedi Master, standing there in his doorway, then his face relaxed.

"All right. He can keep the name ... as long as you keep your promise."

Obi-Wan bowed, an old Jedi custom when leaving a hostís company.

"Thank you, Master Lars."

The Jedi Knight walked out the door, as silently as he had came. Owen Lars would never see him again.

A long moment passed as Owen stood there, contemplating the dramatic change his life had taken in the past hour. Another evening spent repairing items that truly needed to be replaced and straining his mind to conjure up ways to harvest better, faster or for less money had been replaced by the arrival of a gift of money to not only finish rebuilding the homestead , but bring help in the form of droids, hands and whatever else he could think of, and the gift of the one thing he had been unable to provide his wife in the two years they had been wed, the gift of a child.

Owen put down the rifle finally, his hands shaking in disbelief and joy. He whispered out into the desert air.

"Thank you, Master Jedi."