Answer to the Free Time Challenge on Jedi Council Forums, (Luke Skywalker characterization thread): Write a story in which Luke is enjoying some much needed free time, engaging in the hobby of his choice, and he gets continuously interrupted by petty things. Must include at least one non-human stranger, an object from the planet of Naboo, and at least one reference to an old girlfriend.
Setting: The Jedi Academy at Ossus 37 ABY, The Skywalker Appartment
The murder of Mrs. Oggler-Mox
“What are you doing?” Mara Jade’s voice almost went up in surprise.
Luke looked up from the sofa, looking a bit startled as if he hadn’t heard her entering. “Oh, there you are, ..I’m reading.”
“I can see that.” Mara grunted. “But what are you reading? That’s not a data pad.”
Luke turned the object in his hands. “Don’t you recognize it? It’s a book. It’s an old fashioned way to transmit text. They had quite a few of them back in The Expansionary Library on Csilla, remember?”
“Ah, the Chiss Library, yes,” Mara’s eyes lit in recognition. “But where did you get that copy from?”
“I got it from Tionne,” Luke explained. “She has gathered a smaller collection. Actually, there seems to be quite a few books on Ossus. The Yuuzhan Vong destroyed data pads because they were mechanical, but seem to have left books unharmed.”
Mara snorted. “Glad they left something undamaged on their road. Pity we all couldn’t transform to paper and leather. Maybe they’d have left us alone if we’d been able to do that.”
Luke leafed absentmindedly through the book. ”This one is all paper actually.”
Mara snorted again, but of amusement this time. “You’re all caught up, I realize. So, the Jedi of Old used books too? Fascinating. How old is it?”
Luke blushed. “Uh, actually it’s not a Jedi book. I don’t think it’s that old either. It’s just, well, it’s a crime novel, really.”
“A what?” This time Mara’s voice did go up.
Luke set his jaw just a bit. “A crime novel.” he repeated a bit stiffly. “A murder mystery. I decided to follow your constant advice and take a day off.”
It didn’t occur often, but Mara was actually at a lack for words by Luke’s announcenment. Not that she didn’t have a ready reply – she actually had about ten in mind – yet none seemed accurate enough. Instead she crossed her arms, tilted her head to the side and scrutinized her husband, clearly weighting all her options. Finally she settled on one. “Great,” she stated.
Luke blinked in surprise. “You think?”
“Yeah. I do, as a matter of fact. To bury yourself in other people’s greater problems, is probably the perfect way to relax from you own usual ones. And murder can be counted as ’greater problems‘, can’t it? Just remember it’s all fiction, Skywalker, and you’re not supposed to run off to rescue anyone, ok?”
Luke laughed, not bothering to hide his relief. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.” He was just about to return his attention to the book when Mara moved to read over his shoulder.
“What’s the plot?” she demanded.
“Well, there’s this Mr. Oggler-Mox, who’s the master of some big mansion and who has invited his relatives to a family gathering. His wife seems to have something naughty going on with his cousin, but I’m not quite sure yet. The gardener is acting suspiciously, as is the butler, but I don’t know who will be killed yet.”
“It’s the wife.” Mara announced eyes on the book. “And I’m sure the murderer then must be the husband. He’s found out that she betrayed him and can’t accept that.”
“Hey, I said I don’t even know who’s going to get murdered yet,” Luke protested.
“And I say it’s the wife,” Mara told him dryly. “If you’d bothered to read the back cover you’d know, and could be collecting clues already.”
Luke turned the book sheepishly to read the back cover. “I don’t want to spoil the suspense,” he countered with dignity. “Besides, I am counting clues already!”
“Sure you are, sweetheart,” Mara replied and patted his cheek. “Have fun reading.”
She straightened up. “Well, since you’re not available for fun this afternoon, I’m going to see if I can contact Corran, and go off and play with him instead.”
“Great idea,” Luke picked up the page where he’d left off and continued reading. Mara eyed him for a moment, eyebrows raised, then sighed and dashed off to the com station.
Luke was able to use his Jedi meditation to shut her out as she made her necessary calls and quite a few more, lesser necessary, and instead concentrate wholeheartedly on his book. The story was really getting interesting. Luke was starting to feel that his own family wasn’t the only one with deep slips, if this book was a measure in any way. His thoughts slipped from the plot for a while to wander away on the family problems of his own, when Mara’s voice suddenly broke into the cocoon of concentration in which he was hiding.
“I looked the author up,” she announced. “He wasn’t a native of Ossus – did you know, by the way they had a really strong tradition for literature even a century ago? – but came here from Naboo of all places to learn about the latest literary currents. He was quite famous for a while but that was for a family epic he wrote; it seems that his crime novels were more a way of earning a living and were not considered fine art.”
“Really?” Luke wondered. ”Well, well… ” He tried to keep his impatience at Mara’s interruptions out of his voice. She seemed to think he could keep a conversation going with her while reading, just because it wasn’t anything important he was up to.
Luke wondered if Mara had ever got caught up in something as ordinary as reading fiction. As much as he loved his wife, he also had a clear eye for her shortcomings, and romance or curiosity wasn’t Mara’s strongest sides. Facing things like that, she quickly turned practical, hence managing to stay on safe territory. Basically, Mara loved art, and understood it far better than Luke did, but that also made her more selective. She was selective when it came to music too – she had once uttered that if you had heard one of Tionne’s ballads, you had heard them all. That had actually made Luke seriously mad at her. Since then Mara had kept her mouth shut on the matter. Luke could listen to Tionne’s singing for hours, but Mara usually slipped discreetly away after the first hour. It struck Luke that his former girlfriend, Callista, had understood things like that much better than Mara. She had loved Tionne’s ballads too. Well, the similarity of taste hadn’t saved their relationship.
Force, Luke thought, of course he had an eye for Mara’s shortcomings – he loved her for her shortcomings! They made her human, and he relaxed into them as much as they irritated him. Just as she could relax and shake her head at his!
Once again lost in his thoughts. Luke almost jumped when he felt Mara’s hand on his breast.
“I’m off in a couple of minutes,” Mara announced huskily. “It’s your last chance of stopping me, Farmboy.”
“Uh? Ok. I though you had arranged a meeting with Corran?”
Mara rolled her eyes. “I have, but I still have a couple of minutes. Any chance you want to see a bit of your wife in those few minutes? Otherwise it will have to wait until tonight…”
“Uh…” Luke licked his lips, pretty sure what Mara meant with see a bit of your wife. “I’d love to Mar, but do we have time..? Ben can also come home any minute…”
Mara sighed in exasperation. “You’re so boring when you’re tied up. Ok. Go ahead. Read your book. “ She rose but added in a low, purring voice: “Tonight, when you’re finished with it, I’ll make you pay.”
Luke grinned, both of relief and expectation. “It sure looks like I have a long, good day ahead of me.”
Mara pouted. “Maybe better than you deserve!” Then she cracked into a big smile too and leaned in, kissing his nose. “But you deserve a little break. And now I’ll be going so that you can enjoy it properly. See you, Farmboy!”
Turning on her heals, she marched out of the apartment, leaving Luke in blissful silence.
Actually the silence was so palpable, that Luke found himself looking up from the book a few moments later, his concentration shattered. He frowned. Despite the basically terrifying events of the plot, the novel had a certain aura about it. Some kind of light elegance, that reminded him of some of the music Mara used to listen to. Maybe he could put on some music and it would highten his reading experience?
He rose from the sofa, putting the book aside, and walked to their music selection. Luke found himself smiling. He couldn’t help feeling pretty advanced. First he was reading a book, and now he luxuriated in it so much that he put on music to deepen the precious moment. His uncle would have torn his hair, and all his old pals back on Tatooine would have shaken their heads in lack of understanding. Well, Luke wasn’t the same man anymore, hadn’t been for years, but marriage to Mara had sure taught him how to take in the moment and make the most out of it.
After some searching Luke finally found what he was looking for – wasn’t that Mara’s favourite kithra concert? - He thought so, and realized he’d grown fond of it himself through the years, even if Mara still complained that he didn’t have much taste.
With the music playing softly in the background, Luke settled down again with his book. Much better! He sighed in contentment as he lifted his legs up and leaned back into the cushions.
The wife was murdered and almost everybody seemed to be suspected when Luke’s stomach growled. He deliberately ignored it and read on.
A few minutes later, the door banged open and Ben entered, a whirlwind of energy and red hair. “Ley Mindes thinks he and his friend can beat us is in grav-ball but we’ll wipe them out!” he yelled at the sight of his father. ”We’ll meet at the ground in a quarter of an hour. Sure I can make it before dinner, can’t I dad? What will we have for dinner?”
Luke sighed and rose, putting his book down. After all, his son was too important a disturbance to ignore. And Ben couldn’t use cheap tricks to get his attentions, unlike his mother, who did it without any hesitation whatsoever. “I guess that’s possible. If you can manage that in an hour a half, two hours at most. I have no idea what we’ll have for dinner. Ask you mom.”
Ben stopped and made a face. “She’s not cooking today, is she?”
Luke realized he had forgotten to pass his usual duty on to Mara, and she hated to cook as much as she was bad at it. But if he had to cook himself… he glanced at the book, feeling his precious hours disappear… “We’ll see,” he said, postponing the decision. “Maybe we’ll order something from the cantina.”
“Mom hate’s the cantina food…” Ben protested, “she says the new cook is as untalented as he’s got fine recommendations.”
“Then she’d better learn how to cook,” Luke retorted. “And she hasn’t said that to you has she?”
“No, but I listened her talk to Master Saba the other day. And Saba also thinks the cook ruins the meat…”
Luke sighed and walked to the kitchen, opening the fridge. They had eggs. Maybe an omelette with bantha bacon could be his salvation? He opened the meat compartement. Well, they had dewback bacon. In passing, he snatched a box of Naboneese biscuits from the pantry. They would silence his stomach so he could read in peace until he had to decide about dinner.
Ben frowned. “You’re eating again. Mom says you always eat and you should watch out or you’ll get fat. She doesn’t want to be married to a fat man, she says. Especially not a fat man dressing like a Jedi Master.”
“I’m not fat, and I won’t be either.” Luke shrugged but gave his body a glance downwards none the less.
“Can I have some biscuits too?” Ben stretched out his hand expectantly.
Luke held the package away from him. “Not before dinner, sonny.”
“Not fair! You’re eating too!”
“I’m always eating. You said it yourself. So consequently, I’ll be eating my dinner too. You’ve never seen me leave even a bite of my dinner, have you?”
Ben sputtered with indignation. Pleased with having the last word, Luke favored him with two biscuits anyway. “There you are. Now, see that you grav-ball the calories away properly. Your mom doesn’t want a fat son either.”
Ben snorted and whirled away.
Returning to his book Luke sank again into the murder of Mrs. Oggler-Mox.
He was becoming more and more certain that it was neither the gardener nor the uncle who was behind the crime when the holo-com chimed. Luke closed his eyes. He was really running short of time here. He had still about 130 pages to go, and it would soon be time for the blasted dinner, besides Mara would be home anytime now. He glanced at the chrono. Ok, maybe he still had a good hour.
Rising, he reached out for the holo com with the Force, and arrived at the station just in time for Leia’s graceful form to appear.
“Luke!” his sister beamed.
“Leia!” Luke answered and made his best to sound pleased. By the look on her face he already knew that she didn’t have any real news but was just calling to chat. He should be honored. Leia wasn’t in that mood often, but when she was, she was that with a vengeance.
Mustering all his cunningness and diplomacy, Luke managed to make Leia end the conversation of her own free will, only quarter of an hour later. He sighed with relief and rubbed his forehead. Diplomacy and slyness was a talent they both probably had inherited from their mother. But it never came naturally to him, so he had to push himself into something he never really felt comfortable about in order to pull those things off. He wondered if the late senator, Padme Amidala Naberrie, the woman he now knew had been his mother, had felt the same way? Mon Mothma might have been able to tell him. But Mon Mothma was long gone, as well as most humans from that era. And non-humans usually had their own, unique perspective to things, but not so often capable of sharing details that felt valuable to humans. Luke sighed as he suddenly realized he should have asked Leia about how she felt about just these things. Now he had managed to send her off to follow the reopening of Doolis’ Podracing Arena on Caprioril, and she wouldn’t have time to chat. Well, he still had his book. Wait a minute? The book’s author was from Naboo as was Luke’s mother. Was the author an alien or a human? The biscuits he’d been eating where naboneese too. What a strange co-incidence! Luke mused that if he’d been a part of a fiction and not reality, then the co-incidence surely might have meant something. At least if the writer was any good.
One again Luke returned to the sofa and managed another fourtyseven pages when the door com chimed. Not again!!! Couldn’t a Jedi Master have a moment of peace??? He should have stayed on Tatooine or at least never left Rogue Squadron!!! Luke jumped to his feet and, fully annoyed, strode to the door, opening it somewhat more violently than intended. A big eyed, young gamorrean and a brown skinned boy blinked at him in surprise.
“Oh, hi,” Luke said, calming himself. It wouldn’t do to throw his Jedi Master apperance away in front of Ben’s friends. After all they were academy students as well.
”Uh, Master Skywalker. Ben said it was ok, if we came in to check his collection holocards of grav-ball players,” the gamorrean explained.
Luke now remembered his name to be Nanato. And the boy was Ronjus. Hah! He actually remembered the names of his son’s buddies! Perhaps he wasn’t as hopeless a father after all?! He didn’t even have to cheat and use the Force to pick their names from their minds. “Sure, sure,” he assured them, stepping aside and letting them in. “Where’s Ben?”
“Here, dad!” A red haired whilrwind appeared in the hall and blew past him into their appartement. “C’mon guys. I’ll show you!”
Luke stood back and scratched his head. Well. He had no excuses left. He might as well begin to prepare dinner. Mara had better be back in time for it, he thought a bit annoyed. She knew when they typically ate and he wasn’t in the mood to keep anything warm.
As Luke was cracking the eggs he heard the youngsters run out of Ben’s room again and take their leave. He could sense them stop for a moment and consider whether they should just go or if they should greet the Jedi Master before departing. They settled for the former and Luke smiled to himself. Boys will be boys – and Ben was certainly pleased – he wanted nothing more than to just be an ordinary kid.
An ordinary kid, with ordinary parents. Ben didn’t embrace his heritage. Even at the Academy where Force users completely outnumbered non-Force users, he refused to use the Force and didn’t take part in Force classes. Only Jacen seemed to be able to lure him out of that. Luke sighed. Jacen. Now speaking of problems inside the family. It wasn’t anything like the Oggler-Mox’s were facing but… Absent mindedly Luke turned on the water.
Suddenly all exploded in chaos. Luke couldn’t prevent a scream as a jet of ice cold water shot straight into his face and chest, soaking him completely in the few seconds it took him to shut the water off again. Ben came running. “Dad? Are you ok?”
Luke shook his wet head. “I am. But the faucet is not. Blasted!”
”You’re swearing, dad.”
“You’re kriffing right!” Luke thought of his book, then took a deep breath. “Sorry son. I just realized this will probably take some time.”
He opened the bottom cabinet and closed the water isolation valve. Then he examined the faucet more closely, working the handle several times. The movement felt all wrong. “It feels like the flow mixer is cracked. I will have to replace it.”
Ben hung over his shoulder. “Maybe you could just use some of that new plasma setting sealer. At least today. Then you can replace it tomorrow. Maybe that will fix it and you won’t have to replace it at all.”
Luke suppressed a grin. Ben sounded so eager, his clear voice almost broke over in excitement. “Really? How many flow mixers have you repaired with this magical sealer?”
“None, yet.” Ben looked up at him in expectation.
“About time then,” his father smiled. “Go get the toolbox, will you?” Hardly had he uttered the words then Ben was already bouncing off as requested.
* * *
“I’m sure Master Skywalker will find time, though you come unannounced, Excellencies,” Kenth Hamner assured as he led the Grand Mufti of Patah and his brother from the elevator. “Patah is an acknowledged member of the New Republic and the Jedi Academy even has the honor of having a student from your system.”
Grand Mufti Padalor smiled pleased, wiggled with his four tentacles, placed like whiskers around his face, and nodded to his brother. “We do not want to be of any trouble, Master Hamner. Not to you and certainly not to Grand Master Skywalker. We are very aware of the suddenness of our arrival. But we would off course be most honored and pleased to be able to meet with the legendary Jedi Master… “
Kenth nodded politely. “I’m sure we can arrange something.” He chimed at the Skywalker door com.
The door went up without an answer. Kenth blinked and looked at bit surprised at the Grand Mufti and his brother. “Uh, I think… Master Skywalker?” he called into the appartement.
“Kenth? C’mon in. We’re in a bit of a situation here,” Luke‘s voice came from inside the appartment.
Kenth glanced hesitatingly at the Grand Mufti, but he seemed genuinely curious, and hadn’t so far shown himself as someone to hang on protocol. Gingerly, Kenth led the way into the Skywalker appartement. A crime novel lay on the sofa table, causing raised eyebrows and fluttering tentacles.
They found Grand Master Skywalker in the kitchen. He was on all fours on a soaking wet towel and tool covered floor, stripped down to trousers and with sealant up his arms. With him on the floor, slogged his son, red hair bristling in all directions and stripes of sealant on his happily smiling little face.
Luke threw half a glance over his shoulder and started to Kenth. “You see the flow mixer cracked and I decided it was time to show Ben how to fix this stuff and…” he broke off as he realized Kenth’s precense wasn’t the only newly arrived in the kitchen. He jumped to his feet in a haste that showed more agility than many men half his age could boast, but also an alarm not quite suitable for a Jedi Grand Master. “Uh… sorry.. Excelencies.” He hurried to find titles and names from Kenths mind.
Luke reached out his hand but withdraw it quickly as he realized the filthy state it was in, and would stay in until he’d used plenty of sealant stripper. Instead he gathered his hands before him and bowed, searching for a new approach. Just then he heard the door switch again and felt Mara’s familiar presence float into the appartement.
“Pleased to meet you Grand Mufti Padalor and Grand Prince Dalmajor,” Luke excalimed, regaining his composure and sending Mara a thought of alarm and gratitude.”May I introduce my wife, Mara Jade?”
The patahans turned in surprise and Mara swept into the kitchen, taking in the disaster with one glance but also taking in the aliens with an endearing smile. “Most pleased Excelencies,” she exclaimed. “May we offer you something to drink? If you would follow me to the living room…”
Luke rushed to the sink and poured half a bottle of sealant stripper onto his hands and arms. “We’ll get back to this,” he promised Ben. “We’d better. Otherwise we’ll have no dinner. But I have to talk with those dignitaries first.”
“Sure,” Ben looked bored but then hesitated as a thought struck him. “’But dad, can’t I go ahead with the repairs? You can check my work later when you’re done with the guests?”
Luke thought of all the extra work it would mean to him if Ben just messed up, as he probably would. After all the kid was just ten. “Sure. You do that,” he told him.
* * *
When they finally got their dinner, it turned out to be a sad affair. Mara had, after a long time with the patahans, excused herself, as she had thought Luke’s polite discussion had stretched out far too long, and had snuck off to make the dinner. When a burnt smell started to pour out from the kitchen, Luke at last found a way to throw the dignitaries out, and they were ready to do so, since they had already gotten more than they had bargained for.
Luke, Mara and Ben eat the burnt crumbles in a somewhat restrained silence.
“So how did the sparring with Corran go?” Luke finally managed to ask.
Mara livened up a bit. “Oh, it went great. I beat him, but he’ll be fine after a trance.” Her green eyes started to sparkle by the memory.
Ben made a face. “How come you’re so great to beat people up, mom, but you can’t make dinner without burning it?” he wondered sourly.
Mara gave her son a stern look. “It might be two sides of the same thing, Ben. And if you’re not satisfied with my cooking, perhaps it would be time you start having you own day when you’re responsible for the food?”
Ben looked questioningly at her. “You mean that, mom? You think I’m old enough for that?”
Barely managing to hide her surprise that her supposed threat was taken as a reward, Mara turned the coin he tossed before her. “I think so, yeah. If you’re up to the challenge?”
Ben’s face lit in a sunny smile. “Wow! Thanks mum!!!” He turned to his father. “Can we finish that mixer before I go to bed?”
“Depends if you’ve done your homework or not.”
“Dad! I did that yesterday! I always do it first thing when I come home!”
Luke smiled. “Good habit you have there. And now you can see it pays off. Guess what. I think we can, maybe not finish the job, but at least make it usable before you go to sleep.”
Inwardly he sighed. The book would just have to wait.
* * *
Back on the couch. Flow mixer fixed. Ben asleep. Eighty four pages to go.
An hour later. Thirty pages.
A hand landed on his stomach. Luke didn’t look up from the book, even when the hand started to caress his tummy insinuatingly. Only when nimble fingers pulled his tunic up and moved to his naked skin beneath, did he finally throw a sideways glance at his wife. “I’m reading, wife!” he barked.
”So? Husband?” Mara retorted. Then her voice turned to a purr. ”But I guess I should take it as an encouragement that even while absorbed in a book, you manage to remember you have a wife.”
“You don’t give me a chance to forget it, do you” Luke muttered and purposely tried to read over the red hair that came to fill his view.
“Oh, go on, by all means,” Mara purred. “Read your book. Don’t let me interfere”
Luke made a brave stand as Mara pulled his tunic up and placed feather light kisses on his breast and stomach. It wasn’t before she had tugged his belt off and was making fair progress toward doing the same with his trousers that he could no longer pretend ignorance.
“Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we have to do this every day, you know,” he protested. “You’re so… demanding!”
“A wife has to keep her husband satisfied and busy in order to keep him at all,” Mara teased huskily. “That’s first lesson in married couples manuals. Besides, it’s not day anymore.”
“Ok, we don’t have to do it every night either. And you definitely keep me busy.”
“Mhhh.” She kissed him skillfully. ”And satisfied I hope?” A suggesting gesture accompaigned her words.
“Uhh. Oh yes, can’t deny that.” Luke closed his eyes, already mostly persuaded. Rolling from the sofa he scooped his smiling wife into his arms and headed for the bedroom. The crime story lay forgotten on the floor.
* * *
Some time, quite a bit later, a mind reached out with the Force, the novel lifted from the floor, and floated its way to the bedroom.
Luke glanced gingerly at Mara’s sleeping form, then turned a small light on and continued reading.
He had to search for a while to find the place he’d left off, and even managed to re-read a few pages before he remembered he’d been there before. Finally he found the track again and read the last pages.
He munched at the ending for a few minutes before placing the book on the bedside table and turned the light off again.
”Well, who did it,” Mara murmured as the lights went out.
“It was the husband after all.” Luke admitted. “But I don’t get it. Why would anyone want to kill his own wife?”
“Yes, why indeed,” Mara mumbled drowsily as she snuggled up close to him. “Goodnight, Master Farmboy.”
© 2008 Kataja