Looking for Predators
by MJ Mink
"I don't wanna try it," Luke said in that whiny tone that usually made Uncle Owen snap at him. But Uncle Owen wasn't here, so he'd been using the tone a lot today.
"You're such a dwirk," Deak muttered. "I told you not to come along!"
"I wanted to," he said stubbornly.
"Then shut up and do what you're told."
That sounded very familiar, and he was used to obeying. And, okay, maybe he was a little curious about spice. Everybody had heard of spice, of course, but he'd never known any of the kids to have it. Not until Fixer's cousin arrived for a visit, and Fixer had found it stashed in his duffel. "Aren't you gonna get in trouble for stealing?" he wondered aloud.
Fixer shot a withering glare at him. "Only if some stupid baby tells on me."
"I won't tell! And I'm not a baby!" So he was younger than every other kid around, so what?
Cammie giggled, and Luke glanced at her uncomfortably, wondering if she was laughing at him. He didn't understand girls. They looked different and acted different; they were the biggest mysteries he'd ever known in his entire life.
"Hurry up!" she demanded, looking around as though her parents were going to pop up from behind a dune. "Somebody might come!"
Luke snorted. Not likely. They were way out in the Wastes in a deserted old place that had once belonged to some people who were dead. Killed by Raiders was how the story went, and now their ghosts haunted the Wastes. He shivered and glanced over his shoulder. There was nothing in the small hut-- nothing but heat and sand that got in his mouth.
"Are we supposed to eat it?" Windy asked doubtfully. He pushed his brown hair away from his eyes, then held out his hand to accept his share.
"Of course you're supposed to eat it!" Fixer declared, but Luke had a funny feeling that Fixer didn't know either. "Go ahead."
"You go first." Windy smiled, but his eyes were challenging. "Dare you!"
Fixer laughed robustly, and Luke watched him with admiration. Fixer was never scared of anything, even when he didn't know what he was doing. Someday he would be like Fixer and never be afraid.
The older boy sat crossed-legged on the dusty floor. He held up the small piece that looked like golden granules all stuck together. "I don't know if this is enough to work. We might not feel anything. Maybe just one of us should eat all of it."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Deak said quietly. "Not when we don't know what it'll do."
"Hey, you met my cousin! There's nothin' wrong with him, so it must be okay." Fixer tossed the cube into the air and caught it on his tongue. He swallowed, choking, then grabbed his canteen and took a long swig of nutridrink. "There. See? Nothin' happened."
Luke bit his lip and felt his eyes widen. Suddenly Fixer threw himself onto his stomach and began writhing and making horrible noises like he was throwing up.
"Fixer!" all the voices chorused at once. Cammie burst into tears, and even Windy and Deak looked terrified.
Fixer sat up and grinned. "Got ya!"
There was a chorus of disgruntled jeers. Though Luke joined in, he felt glad that Fixer was okay. He watched Deak and Windy gulp down their tiny shares, then popped his own in his mouth. He drank the nutri, relieved that the spice didn't have a taste.
Cammie sniffled. "I don't want mine."
"Aw, come on--"
"I don't want it! Here!" She thrust the little piece at Fixer.
"Give it to the baby," he muttered, closing his eyes and leaning back. "I think I'm feelin' something."
"Luke's too little," Deak objected. "Just leave it if you don't want it."
"I'm not too little!" he cried, though he knew he was. Aunt Beru had told him so-- Well, she hadn't exactly told him, but he'd heard her tell Uncle Owen. Small for his age, she'd said. "I'm not a baby! Give it to me."
Before anyone else could object, he snatched the cube from Cammie's hand and swallowed it. This time he didn't even need a nutri to wash it down.
Deak shrugged. "Suit yourself, runt."
Fixer was running one hand down Cammie's arm. She giggled. "Hey, Fix, wanna...?"
Windy and Deak both swiveled their heads, staring at the girl with open interest. She giggled again, and Luke sighed. Girls were so silly.
"Hey, Luke," Windy whispered. "Why don't you go outside for awhile?"
"'Cause I'm tellin' you to," Fixer said sharply. "Get lost, kid."
With a resigned sigh, he climbed to his feet. The hovel's walls spun for a moment, then straightened... sort of. They looked crooked. "'Kay," he muttered. He paused at the door in case they changed their minds, but they ignored him.
The sunslight was blinding, so he pulled his hood up to shade his eyes. It was really hot - but it seemed to be getting cooler very fast. Luke shivered and walked toward the suns. They would warm him, then he would feel better. Right now he felt sort of sick, sort of sleepy. But he was awake and everything was so pretty. And green. When had the Wastes turned green? And blue stuff - was that water? Wow - he'd never seen water. He wandered toward it. "Pretty."
He walked to the water and across it. Then he flew. He was up high and everything was so small. With a little laugh, he floated above the Wastes, over canyons and forests and big oceans. Then his wings broke, and he tumbled from the sky. He landed with a thud.
He sat up, blinking. He turned his head as far around as he could get it. There was nothing to see. He turned it the other way, and there was nothing except his father. "Hi, Da!" he said cheerily.
The man sat beside him. "Hello, Luke. What are you doing alone in the desert?"
"I don't know." Was he going to get yelled at? He chewed on his thumbnail. His father pulled his hand away from his mouth.
"That's a bad habit," Father said.
Luke shrugged guiltily. "Yeah, I know."
Father looked across the ocean. It was filled with sand now. "That's why it's called the Dune Sea."
He liked it when his father knew what he was thinking. "It used to be full of water."
"That was long before you were born - very long before."
No, it was just a few minutes ago. But he didn't want to correct his father. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "You're supposed to be dead."
"Am I?" Father sounded amused. "Well, as you can see, I'm not."
"No?" To be certain, he pinched his father's arm. Anakin Skywalker yelped, and Luke giggled.
He nodded happily. "Can I come and live with you?"
Father studied him. "I don't think so. Not yet."
"You wouldn't like it."
"Yes, I would!"
"No, you wouldn't!" His father was teasing. "And... it's best that you stay here for now."
"Okay." Way far off, something moved. He pointed. "See that?"
"A krayt dragon."
"Wow!" He looked at his father. "You sure can see far!"
"Yes. One day you will be able to do the same." Father turned away from him and looked toward the krayt again. "There are many dangerous predators in the desert, Luke."
"Like the dragon?"
"Like the dragon," Father agreed. "And some that are much worse."
"Bigger than a krayt dragon? Like a bantha?" He thought banthas were bigger than dragons, but he'd never seen a dragon so he couldn't be sure.
"Some are bigger, some are smaller. Some are people."
He considered that for awhile. "Like Fixer," he said finally. "He's mean sometimes."
"Fixer is nothing. The most dangerous predators will appear in forms designed to fool you. They might appear harmless, even helpless."
"Like Cammie? She's a girl."
Father sighed. "No, not like Cammie. Perhaps... like old men, soft-spoken and gentle."
"Guess that means Uncle Owen's not a predator, huh?"
Father smiled. "Definitely not. But try to remember my words, Luke. Don't blindly trust everyone. There will be those you believe to be your friends who will lie and try to deceive you. Remember to always look for them."
He glanced around nervously. "But how will I know them?"
He turned to Father for a further explanation, but he was gone. Luke used his hands to help him stand and balanced awkwardly on both feet. He was dizzy. But he turned in a circle, and didn't see Da anywhere. "Banthashit!" he muttered daringly and waited to see if anyone yelled at him for saying a bad thing.
There were no noises at all. He walked to the top of the dune and saw a little house. He stumbled toward it. A man came out.
"Hello, young Luke."
"Hi," he replied diffidently, staring at the parked speeder. "C'n I drive it?"
The man was quiet, so Luke looked at him. The man's mouth was smiling, but his eyes were frowning. "Are you alone?"
"No." Luke shook his head. "My father's with me."
The man's face jerked up, and his eyes darted in all directions. Luke giggled because it was funny to watch.
"Where is he?"
Luke thought very hard. "He went away," he said finally.
The man relaxed, his shoulders rounding. "Come inside," he said. "I'll give you some nutri, and then I'll take you home. Your aunt and uncle must be worried about you."
"You know them," he stated, though he didn't know how he knew. He followed the old wizard into the house. In the doorway, he ducked under the protective arm and stared across the Dune Sea. It was empty, calm. There was no one.
"Do you see something?" the man asked.
Luke shook his head. "Just looking for predators," he replied and smiled
warily at Ben Kenobi.