An Old Boy Rating: PG

When I was much younger, there were said to be 10,000 trained Jedi in the galaxy. It seems like a large number, but when you compare it to the number of planets with problems, and the number of people on each planet who could have benefitted from the Jedi, it's actually tiny. Thus, beings could live and die without ever having so much as seen a Jedi. Sentient non-humans like me, even less so.

I remember the Jedi fondly. I have encountered many in my life. My species — the Wookiee — live long. I'm not sure how old we can actually get; even in my lifetime of nearly 200 years, I have never seen a Wookiee die of old age.

We live as clans and feud amongst ourselves, carrying grudges and forgotten reasons. This is how the Empire managed to break us down, taking advantage of our weaknesses. As mighty as the Wookiee are, we are not always so clever.

The first Jedi I encountered was many, many years ago, shortly after Alaris Prime was discovered to have nearly the same environment as the planet of my birth. My father, Attitchuk, negotiated for permission from the Republic to colonize this moon of Kashyyyk; they would send emissaries to help us.

My father is very wise; he did not ask for supplies and materiel. Instead, he asked for training and education. He asked for a Jedi to come and help us with survival skills, and to help us learn to defend our new colony. But mostly, I think he wanted to see a Jedi with his own eyes.

Among the Wookiee, there are very few who are Force-sensitive, and thus nearly none taken to the Jedi Temple for training. It is said that we are so attuned to our planet and the beings which live on it — including, and especially, our worshyyr trees — that we are all already linked tightly to the Force. Perhaps; but my father was always fascinated by the Jedi.

In preparation for the Jedi's arrival, my father told us of everything he had learned about life at the Temple, their creeds and practices. But even so, we were surprised when a lone man arrived, dressed humbly. For a human, he was tall, though much shorter than even an adolescant Wookiee. He did not speak very much, but he communicated to us in a way that seemed to focus on the core of our brains. We learned much from Qui-gon Jinn.

After it became apparent that the Trade Federation had illegally occupied our moon, we learned to do battle with their 'droid armies. Wookiees are fierce warriors, but usually against each other, and against other inhabitants of Kashyyyk. Outlanders and off-worlders were a totally different thing. Master Jinn taught us how to analyze the enemy, to strategize toward victory. We learned the value of intelligence and networks.

Master Jinn seemed infallible and invincible, but he emphasized to us not to expect anyone to be a hero. Heroics are the result of luck, as much as planning and strategy. And anyone who claims to have done it all himself is nothing but a braggart. These were hard lessons, but though Wookiees historically suffer civil wars, we do bond together well.

The Jedi also explained to us that each of us has abilities that make us unique, and a good leader knows how to use those abilities to advantage. As an example, he explained that there was a Force presence on the moon, but he could not attend to it. He was attuned to the Living Force, and for all its benefits, it meant he could be distracted and at times could not go deeply into the Force itself.

He had called his padawan to our moon — a young man, or perhaps he was an old boy? This padawan was attuned to the Force differently, and was frankly better at tasks which required sharp focus and concentration. But this was also the boy's weakness; Qui-gon Jinn was obviously a tough master. But the boy, perhaps eager to please his master, took the comment with great apparent joy.

And then he was gone into the jungle, searching for something his master had felt, but could not perceive sharply or find. I feared for the boy, for there were gundarks and the Federation machines wandering amidst the trees.

The faith the master had in his padawan was apparently justified; the boy had found what his master could not.

I am ashamed to say that I did not learn the boy's name. He was eager, keen, focused, and did what he had to do. He did it with earnestness and great pride, you could almost feel him glowing in his master's attention. But other than his face and his devotion to his master and to the Force, I have no more information about him.

* * * * *

Since the Clone Wars, nothing has been the same. My planet and its peoples were taken into slavery. Our strength and our technological abilities make us valuable laborers. For helping many Wookiee children escape my fate, I was sentenced to death, but was saved by an Imperial human. Han Solo is a good man, though he tries hard to pretend he is not. For saving my life, he lost his commission and now wanders adrift, trying to make a living as a pirate.

I owe him my life; that's why it's called a life-debt. It's very different from slavery, and like it or not, Captain Solo will have to accept my gratitude.

Fortunately, I am useful to him. I can fix just about anything on a ship. I am a very able bodyguard and most sentients fear a Wookiee's roar and temper. He has told me many times that he would not have gotten out of a situation alive were it not for me.

It does not make me proud, but it is satisfying to be complimented for things I can do. Perhaps I am a little that like Padawan of Qui-gon Jinn's I'd met so many years ago?

We are in a cantina in Mos Eisley, a miserable, hot, dry town on Tatooine. Though to be fair, all towns on this planet are like that. It's the type of place people come to hide, or to find work in their desperation.

I've said that Han is a good man, despite his pirate swagger. Thus, we are never luxuriating in credits for our misdeeds. As good a pilot as Captain Solo has become, he gets tapped and boarded and is forced to lose his cargo to evade imprisonment. He also has morals and ethics and will not take jobs of certain types. He will not transport slaves. He will not keep a fee when others are suffering. He doesn't not hunt bounty.

I owe him my life, no matter what kind of man he is. Though we are poor, I am proud of Han. I have given my life to a good man.

As a human, Han has to put on the act. He needs to have bravado, pretending that we aren't as desperate as we are for work. It's my job not only to protect him, but to work the cantina, looking for jobs.

I see a man dressed in a tattered robe, though it had been very neatly mended over time. He is old, though I can see that being on Tatooine, perhaps he had not rode out as many years as his weather-beaten visage indicated. For a moment, I wondered if this was a disguise.

There is something familiar about him. I am sure I have never seen this old man before, and yet something about him calls out to me. He seems like such a wise, young man, trapped in this elderly body.

To my surprise, he understands Shryywook, the grunting language of my people. In this human-centric galaxy, few would deign to listen to a non-human, much less one who could not make the sounds of Basic.

Whatever — it turns out this fellow is in need of a fast ship. I am cautiously excited to introduce him to Han. The old man had two 'droids as cargo, only.

And it turns out he travels with a young man ... or is he an old boy?

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