Father Knows Best
Many thanks to Rosie who related the frustrating and true tale of in-laws who interfered with child-rearing, and to Kelly Grosskreutz for telling me of the time her snowmobile had to be "towed to port," and to Runt, who helped with technical information! These disparate elements rattled around in my head for a while, and finally evolved into this story. What's the plural for muse? Muses? Museii? Museli? Hmn, well, thank you all, you make writing fanfic a joy!
The atmosphere was chilly though heat, air pressure and oxygen levels were adequate in the freighter. The human male in the cockpit was staring at the instrument panel, as if staring at it would make everything all right again. The woman had her eyes and mouth shut tightly and she was breathing slowly and deliberately through her flaring nostrils.
"This time," the woman spoke, "you went too far, CorSec. I asked you not to talk to him about it, but you had to do the interrogation and torture deal –"
"I resent that," the man interjected, "you know I would never do him any harm. But he's old enough to know what's expected of him. And it's not like I'm sending him to war-–"
"Yes, you are! You know that being a Jedi means conflict, and he's not like that! Give him time to grow into it!" Mirax Terrik's voice boomed with anger.
Corran Horn, formerly of CorSec, Rogue Squadron, and currently Jedi Knight, hollered right back, "He is NOT a baby! When are you going to treat him like a person and not some sort of semi-sentient idiot?"
Giving as good as she got, Mirax stuck her nose right up against Corran's, "Husband, he is OUR SON, not some commodity!"
Corran seethed as the proximity alarm sounded, signaling their exit from hyperspace. Mirax swore loudly, seeing the the planets of the Ithor system as bright green dots in the distance. Her baby was so far from home! Closer was a brighter green dot. A hailing signal emanated from it, and Mirax watched as her husband approached the ship at full sublight speed.
His headpiece was set to a private wavelength that allowed direct communication with the astromech 'droid that sat behind the cockpit of the green X-Wing. The 'droid and Corran had been together for many years, and they were emotionally close. Corran trusted Whistler with top secrets, missions, and even to look after his family. He would have been far more panicked about Valin stealing his X-Wing for a joyride had Whistler not already been in the 'droid socket at the time.
Mirax was already in the evac suit and activating the electromagnetic hooks to receive the X-Wing. She had been forced to eject a large portion of her cargo to accommodate the starfighter, and it really put her out. If Corran hadn't upset Valin, she wouldn't have had to send out several million credits worth of merchandise into the wilds of space. In the back of her mind, she wondered how she could recoup the loss to her business.
She tensed up as the Pulsar Skate lined up on the tumbling X-Wing's rotation. She didn't see anyone in the cockpit, but Valin was probably curled up with fear in there. He'd probably be cold and hungry, too. She made sure to remind herself to bring him some food when he'd calmed down. Maybe persuade him to have a hot shower, even if it was only graywater.
She forced herself to think of normal, motherly things. In truth, she feared something awful had happened to her eldest child, and was trying not to think the worst. If anything happens to him ... She tried not to cry as she thought about the stupid argument between Valin and Corran that had created this mess.
She applied the magnetic cable locks to the nose of the X-Wing as it approached her, and got out of the way as the automatic cargo handlers took over the rest of the operation. She entered a sequence to shut the outer hull and signaled to Whistler to wait till the air pressure was up to normal. She would have applied the magcon shields, but she feared the starfighter would bounce off it and Valin might get rattled around. As soon as Whistler popped open the canopy, Mirax was up the ladder. Valin looked up at her, face stained with tears, eyes wide and frightened. She took off her helmet, "Young man, go straight to your room."
No sooner had Valin stumbled out of the cargo bay when Corran came bursting in via the other access hatch. Mirax blocked him, "Corsec, he's been through a lot, he's scared and cold, so lay off my son!"
There was a determined resolve in his wife's eyes. He'd observed Shistavenen wolf females protecting their cubs with kindlier glints. Being that he valued his life, he backed down.
She had told him to check the X-Wing, to make sure nothing had broken during Valin's joyride. While he was in the piloting couch, Mirax had cycled the canopy shut and undid the grappling arms holding the ship to the deck. The green starfighter shot out of the cargo bay and now floated behind the Pulsar Skate, towed behind it like a contaminated piece of wreckage.
Note to self, grimaced Corran Horn, Don't let wife get between you and the ejection controls. He didn't even have Whistler's company; the astromech had dismounted from the 'droid socket nearly as soon as cargo bay pressure had been re-established. Traitor. The green 'droid was probably debriefing Mirax on the joyride.
He tried contacting the Skate but Mirax was opting not to answer. He noted that he could put an emergency tag on the message, but he didn't feel like giving his wife the satisfaction. It was their form of the game "Chicken"; the first one to surrender was the loser. He wondered what a chicken was.
He didn't mind being towed behind his wife's cargo ship, but he hated that she'd tricked him into this position -- again. Their fighting was getting predictable, but Corran tended to fall into her traps too easily, every time. You'd think being Force-sensitive could help me here, he sighed.
Corran settled in and did a check of his systems. He couldn't figure out from where he sat why the engine had failed, forcing Valin to send a distress call. He noted that as they were near Ithor, Mirax would probably tow the ship to her father's flagship, the Errant Venture, a former Imperial Star Destroyer. Booster Terrik had captured it during the Bacta War many years ago, and with the help of smuggler and information seller Talon Karrde, had managed to force the New Republic to let him have it. Not only that, subsequent actions obligated the government to paint the huge ship bright red.
He hated having to be too close to his father-in-law. Even though he and Booster had gotten over the fact that Hal Horn, Corran's father, had captured the old smuggler and sent him to the Kessel prison for five years, neither seemed to let go of the animosity. Mirax considered it their personal hobby, and a "guy thing."
Being towed into the Venture would be humiliating. For one thing, Booster would know immediately that he and Mirax were battling. Corran tried to remember how this all came about.
"I don't want to be a Jedi! Why do I have to! You keep talking about the damned Force and my obligations! What if the Force wants me to be a famous musician and composer? Did you ever think of that, Dad?" The 10-year-old boy was, indeed, a talented musician. He had brought home news that he had applied to the Coruscant Philharmonic School of Music and Music Education, and had been accepted! Rather than congratulations, his father had burst into a diatribe about how selfish Valin was.
"Music?? You think music will help the galaxy in times of trouble?" Corran was not believing what he'd just heard.
"Yes! Dad, even you've heard the 'music soothes the savage beast'!" Valin rolled his eyes in an exaggerated gesture.
Corran was livid; Valin thought every blood vessel in his father's head would burst and he'd be forced to explain to his mother why there was blood all over their nerf hide carpets. "Young man, you are way too young to make this kind of decision. Not to mention, no son of mine will go to an artsy academy! You are born strong in the Force and you are going to Skywalker's Academy, whether you like it or not!"
"I'm not into it, Dad! Why won't you listen! I don't want to be a Jedi! I love music!"
Corran was spitting nails, "Why are you doing this? You have it so good now ... I had to learn the Force by myself. I went through CorSec training when I was not much older than you are now. I had no option, my father was CorSec, my Grandfathers ... your grandfather would be rolling in his grave if he could hear you, and poor Rostek would have an apopletic fit!"
"He would not!" screamed Valin, hysterical now, "Gramps Rostek told me I have to follow my heart! Grandpa Booster even said he'd help me pay for instruments and supplies! And they both told me your father would have approved ... they understand, why can't you?"
Corran was stunned. He felt betrayed -- Booster and Rostek had been approached by his son, and had pledged their support. What are they thinking??? How dare they interfere!
He took some deep breaths and he tried to sound calmer, trying not to give in to his anger and disappointment. He voice quavered with the effort he exerted trying to control himself, "The Halcyon line is strong in the Force Valin, but they lack certain skills other Jedi commonly have. You will need to be trained to make full use of your talents; I don't want you hitting and missing like I had to, like your grandfather had to. You are lucky to be alive now, when you can fully appreciate your heritage. When I learned--"
"Stop, Dad. I've heard this one already!" the lad groaned, almost as if in pain, "It if wasn't for your friends in the squadron, if you hadn't had to rescue Mom, if Gramps Rostek hadn't bio-coded those plants ..."
Corran had had enough. Disrespect toward the brave men who had raised and educated him was too much. His voice was eerily quiet, and Valin had to strain to hear him. "You are going to the academy in the morning. I know what's best, and you're going to do it. End of conversation. Go to your room."
Corran had woken up early the next morning, wondering about the disturbance he kept feeling in the Force. It must have been a doozy though, because Mirax was already up and in a panic.
"Corran! He's gone! Valin's not here! What did you do to him last night??" She hissed at him, trying not yell and to wake up their daughter in the bedroom down the hall.
He blinked, "Gone? What do you mean, gone? I just told him I was enrolling him at the academy, we were going to see Luke today--"
Mirax's look changed immediately from panicky to murderous, "Corran Horn ... tell me you did not tell him he couldn't go the the music academy. Please tell me you did not lecture him on being a responsible citizen!"
Corran was busy looking at his fingernails, "We talked about it. I explained he's got an obliga-"
"What a moron you are, CorSec!" She only called him that when she was really, really angry, "We agreed we would listen to his reasons, give our reasons, blah blah blah ... He's too young to deal with all that weight of the universe crap! All that time wasted discussing it you, I could have just said suture your mouth shut and jump out a window!"
He thought she was being overly protective of their son. "He's not a baby, Mirax, there's no reas--"
"He's sensitive, he's artistic, he's not a cop like you and your dad and his dad and everyone else in the Horn/Halcyon continuum! If you'd met my mother, you'd understand! She was a painter, she sang, Valin is just like her, even looks like her!" She pressed her head into Corran's personal space, causing him to back up, "I hate that you are dishonoring HER legacy, CorSec."
He felt badly, he really did. He'd forgotten about Mirax's mother. But he simply could not allow his Force-sensitive child to squander his time and talent being sensitive. That's a liability in this universe.
Mirax had turned on her heel and was heading toward their shared bedroom. She yelled back at him, "I'm getting Jysella, you'd better pack, we're going to find Valin, and for your sake Corsec, he'd better be fine!"
Fortunately, they received Whistler's encrypted message before they'd even left their Coruscant apartment. He'd sent coordinates, explaining they'd had engine trouble, but that both he and Valin were fine. Corran was relieved, but couldn't believe mere child had stolen his X-Wing from where it was parked in the military hangar. He'd been permitted to keep his now-ancient / classic ship there in appreciation for his past military service, a privilege extended to all past members of Rogue Squadron. It was club-like there, and the assigned mechanics and guards knew all of them. This was the first down-side of that privilege -- the guards obviously let Valin, whom they'd known since birth, enter the starfighter.
Thank goodness Whistler was in the socket. Or else Corran's life might have ended right then and there.
Tractor beams from the Errant Venture dragged the two tethered ships into the landing bay. This had happened enough times before that the controllers on the destroyer knew to alert Booster. So by the time Corran had popped the canopy, not only did Booster know he was there, but his father-in-law understood that Mirax was really badly upset at her husband. Corran was not looking forward to the gruff lecture he was sure he'd get.
The big man held out his arms toward his grandchildren, who jumped all over him. Mirax was looking tired and tense. She didn't even look at Corran when she pried her kids off her father. Booster assured her that the family suite was available and he watched as his daughter took her children's hands and lead them up to the promenade deck, followed closely by Whistler.
Corran never had luck trying to get past Booster Terrik, even if he was using a Jedi mind trick to distract him or make himself invisible. It worked on just about everyone else -- the Horn/Halcyons were extremely gifted in mind control and projection -- but for some reason, he couldn't make it work on his father-in-law. A big hand descended on Corran's shoulder and dragged him back.
"I hear you've been picking on my grandson, CorSec."
Corran groaned inwardly. Not the nickname again!
"Booster, I need the ship repaired. Valin and Whistler went for a little joyride and it broke down. She's getting on an--"
He was jostled and the bigger man grabbed the shorter one's collar and pulled him close, "You need to let that chip go, CorSec. He's a teen, he's hit puberty, he wants some control over his life. Let him try what he wants! He'll do what's right, have faith in the boy. It hurts me that you think Mirax's mother was an artsy flake."
Corran struggled to keep his footing. Why couldn't I have had an iota of telekenetic ability, he wondered, referring to the famous deficiency in his family's heritage. It was said the Halcyons were known for standing their ground even in the face of certain death. Historically, detractors pointed out the Halcyon Jedi had no choice, for members of the family had no ability to move objects or themselves. Telekenetic abilities were common traits among other Jedi. "Booster, please put me down."
He was released and fell in a heap onto the deck. He was sort of expecting this and managed to roll away from his adversary. He got up and remembered to say, "Thanks, Booster."
"I'm charging you full cost for the repairs, CorSec, though docking is gratis, as usual. I sent Mirax and the kids to your family suite. And before you go up, Wedge heard you were coming and left a message for you. Iella, too. You know where the business center is. No charge, since it's from Wedge."
Corran wondered how Wedge and Iella had known he was on the Venture. He also wondered why he had to endure all this humiliation. He was just trying to get Valin to see reason, to understand his responsibility both to his family and to the galaxy at large.
He sighed. He wasn't this much trouble to his own father. Why couldn't Valin just do what was right and stop wasting so much energy resisting?
By the time Corran got to the family suite, Mirax and the kids were gone. So when does this day get better for me? They'd probably gone to see Booster and to get something to eat. Not wanting to be in proximity to the captain of this vessel too soon, Corran opted for a clean-up and an hour of meditation.
Refreshed, he went back to the landing bay. Thankfully, Booster wasn't there, and Corran could start inspecting his aged X-Wing in relative peace. It would have been useful to have Whistler, but the 'droid seemed to have disappeared. Probably been co-opted by Booster for data analysis.
In the end, it turned out to be a simple repair. The internal electronic solenoids that controlled other engine functions were fused and shorted out, so no current was getting through where it needed to go. It was a curious problem, and he wondered what sort of sequence Valin had fired up to make that happen. In all the battles and tight squeezes Corran had flown this ship, that particular error had never occurred. In fact, this was the first time he was even made aware that this part even existed. He'd have to talk to Whistler to get his take on the events.
He was talking to the mechanic who had helped him -- a Bith female who seemed to know her way around older engines. For some reason, he couldn't concentrate on what she was saying and kept having to ask her to repeat or reexplain herself. His eyes kept drifting directly behind her for no reason. When he realized that the Pulsar Skate was not in its berth, he understood why the shoptalk couldn't hold his attention.
Again, Mirax was opting not to answer his transmissions and Corran clunked his head against the X-Wing's hull in frustration. He probably could get home without an astromech, but he really wasn't any good at making the calculations for hyperspace jumps in his head. Flying at sublight speed all the way home would ensure he died before getting back to Coruscant. Mirax, I'm sorry, already! Please stop punishing me!
Booster grudgingly loaned Corran an astromech. He told his son-in-law that Mirax had left with the children and Whistler to retrieve the cargo she'd been forced to jettison to accommodate the X-Wing. She'd placed beacons on the containers in the hope she'd be able to retrieve some portion of the expensive merchandise. Whistler was needed to fly the Pulsar Skate and talk to the beacon computers while she handled the grappling grabs.
I would have helped! Corran felt very left out and alone. It would be a very long trip home.
Once he got into hyperspace, Corran had a lot of time to think about his situation and Mirax's anger. Because he loved his wife, and the trip was long, he began to look at things from her side as a mind-occupying exercise. To his surprise, he began to understand why Mirax was so protective of Valin's desire to go to the music academy. The boy was very young, he was simply rebelling against his father's authority. Corran wondered if he'd been such a pain to his parents. He only remembered being obedient and good. He loved his father, only wanting to be like him.
He thought back to the holomessage his father had left him, stashed for many years in Whistler's memory, about how proud he would be of him, no matter what path Corran chose. Hal Horn had implied that he was unsure what his son's final path in life would be, yet Corran was firmly entrenched in CorSec at the time. He suddenly wondered, Was he disappointed in me? Did he want me to be more? Or to choose differently?
The more he pondered it the more he realized he didn't really know his father. He thought of all he had learned about Valin Halcyon Horn from others -- from Rostek, Booster, Soontir Fel, Tionne, Luke, even from Ysanne Isard. He had learned that his father was skilled at concealing himself -- it was a survival need, to prevent being hunted by the Empire during the Jedi purge -- and at being everything to anyone. But surely, he'd tell me everything ... I'm his son! He drew in a sharp breath, and Valin is MY son ...
The message had stated plainly that Hal Horn did not trust his son to keep the secret of his grandfather's identity, and of his secret heritage. It was dangerous information to hold during the Jedi purge. Corran mulled this over, and realized it was true. He really had been an arrogant show-off as a kid. And not just as a kid! came the logical, unwelcomed thought. Would he have endangered his family? It was an uncomfortable question.
Why is it that I think fathers should know what's best for their kids ... but it's never me who gets to be that man? Why is it always someone else's father who knows best? Why can't it be Valin's dad for once?
By the time he got back to Coruscant, he was resolved to hear Valin out. Who knows? Maybe Valin was right and being a musician and composer would be as noble a profession as being a Jedi Knight. After all, his old classmate Tionne, though not strong in the Force, nonetheless influenced the Jedi order almost more than any other person by teaching -- through music and poetry -- the lost history of the Jedi. He couldn't imagine it, but maybe it was possible. He'd ask Valin about that. Maybe he could have Tionne talk to the young boy. It would be acceptable to combine his music with his Jedi legacy, surely?
He let himself into the apartment and was relieved to see Mirax and Jysella sitting on the floor playing a puzzle game. They looked up at him and smiled. He smiled back, moving into the room to hug them both. It had been a long weekend. His daughter embraced him hard and showed him how much of the puzzle she had solved all by herself. I'm really a lucky man, he thought as she detailed her genius, Why am I busting on Valin? I should simply be grateful he's healthy and alive after all we've been through.
He looked up at his wife and touched her face. She looked back at him and saw he was different, that he seemed to not be angry or disappointed anymore. "Did you have a good trip?"
"A thought-provoking one," replied Corran, sounding older, "I have some unfinished business with my son. Is Valin in his room?"
"No, Daddy!" Jysella was giggling.
Corran was immediately concerned, "What's so funny? What do you mean, no? Where's Whistler?"
"Please, Mommy? Can I tell him now?" Corran was baffled by the idea that his daughter was told to keep something a secret from him. Where the heck is Valin??
Mirax nodded and the young girl nearly burst. Very loudly and with great glee, she practically shouted, gasping for breath as she went, "He went to Yavin! He was accepted into the Jedi Academy and Master Skywalker says I have the Force too, and when I'm a big girl, he said I can go and join the big kids! Valin took Whistler to help him set up but Wedge Antilles promised he'll bring him back on the New Republic transport and I got to see Gate too and Mommy got the cargo back so she bought iced jellies for dessert to celebrate, and Grandpa Booster says to give the astromech you borrowed to Aunt Iella, and can we have ydenni flowers on the jellies it's really yummy!"
Corran was shocked at this flood of information, both in quality and delivery. Mirax giggled a little, too, "You can thank Whistler when he gets back. Valin had run away and didn't know where to go, so he hid in the X-Wing. You know how close those two are ... so Valin told him about your "discussion" and Whistler offered to take him to Booster's till things had cooled off."
His mouth agape, Jedi Horn was suddenly imbued with insight, "Whistler engineered this whole thing? Wait, wait ...! He fused my engine parts!"
"It was a cheap repair, wasn't it? He's not stupid." Mirax then told Jysella to go to the kitchen and start mixing up the jellies. Proud of being able to do this herself, the child sprang up and ran noisily into the kitchen. Amidst her opening and closing cabinets and mixing and pouring the simple dessert concoction, the Horns continued their discussion. They knew they had about ten minutes to themselves before their daughter would yell for attention.
"Just so you know, Valin was never in any danger. Whistler had already notified Booster, and my father had a shuttle on site to retrieve them when Whistler let him know we were on the way. They guarded him till we got there."
Corran still looked baffled, "Why did my 'droid do that?"
Mirax gave him a look again, "He's Valin's oldest friend, and often a lot wiser than you are, CorSec."
"Okay, stop calling me that, I yield," conceded her husband, "but I don't get what he hoped to accomplish by shorting out my engine?"
"He put Valin in a situation where he was away from his friends and family and anyone who could influence him. He was alone and scared of what might happen to him, outside of being punished by you for stealing and damaging the X-Wing. Whistler made sure Valin understood their predicament -- pirates could come by, or he could be hit by a micrometeorite, or be dragged down a gravity well, or be rammed by ships leaving hypersp--"
"Exactly," he interrupted his wife, "he wasn't in "no" danger, he was definitely vulner--"
"So Valin did exactly what we always knew he'd do," Mirax quickly talked right over her husband, not bothering to remind him she understood full well the hazards of hanging dead in space, "he realized he didn't know much about anything, and that he was in a situation where being a musician wouldn't help him. He was ashamed and embarrassed that Whistler had to do all the procedures for him, and he told Whistler that he was sorry for putting him in danger."
Corran was aghast, "Our son said this??" He had to admit that Valin -- the first child to be born in their tightknit group of friends -- was a spoiled toddler and tended to be selfish. To hear him worry about putting others at risk was a shock to his civic-minded father.
"Yes, he's not as big a deadbeat as you think he is, Corran," admonished Mirax, "So he had a long time to think about it. He also had a talk with Booster, who told him that being a Jedi was a noble profession, and that Valin could still study music, as a Jedi. He discussed with Valin that it might even enhance his ability to perform and compose. And he pointed out that no mere musician could hope to be a Jedi."
"Booster said that??" Corran was amazed, considering how badly he and his father-in-law tended to get along.
"My father is also not as big a deadbeat as you think he is," Mirax laid on the sarcasm thickly, so Corran wouldn't miss it. "A few more drops of essence, sweetie," she told Jysella, who had come out with the bowl of jelly mix, demanding that her mother taste it before the batter could be poured into the molds.
"On the way home, Valin told me he wanted to try the Jedi Academy -- not because you insisted that he do it -- but because he wanted to and it seemed like Luke was a cool guy, and he thought he could learn a few good tricks. You men are all alike, you know that?" Mirax picked the puzzle pieces off the floor and put them away in their containers. "I contacted Wedge, who was taking another freighter of new students to the academy this morning, and he told me he'd make space for Valin if he wanted to come. Valin was a bit unsure, but Whistler told him he'd come with him. And I told him that if he hated it, I'd bring him home, but that he had to give it a solid attempt of at least three months unless he had a damned good reason to come home sooner. Combine this with the prospect of having to confront you if he stayed home, and his path was pretty clear -- he jumped in the right direction."
They could hear Jysella yelling for them to help her put the molds into the hardener case, too high up for her to reach. The went into the kitchen and effusively admired her handiwork. She beamed as they placed her concoction into the hardener and set the timer to irradiate the treats to a pre-set hardness level. Jysella demanded Corran pick her up so she could look through the window of the appliance.
As he propped her up to the right height, Corran asked his daughter, "You know I love you, don't you?"
"Yes!" yelled the dark-haired girl, hugging him around the neck, "You're my Daddy and Daddy knows everything!"
Corran laughed. It wasn't true, alas. Father didn't always know best, but it was nice being adored by a person who trusted you and believed you knew what was right for her. It doesn't last long, better enjoy this stage while I can.
"Yes he does, sweetie," agreed Mirax, "he just finds weird and dumb ways to get there sometimes."
"Don't call my Daddy weird or dumb!"
"Oh, excuse me, your highness!"
"Hey! No arguments," scolded Corran, "While we're waiting for these to finish, shall we go to the holo-message center and send a note to Valin? Let him know we're making iced jellies? It's his favorite!"
"Yay!" cheered the two females. Mirax kissed him on the cheek as she lifted their daughter from him so they could get ready.
Sometimes he said and did the right things. Better appreciate those moments when I can, too! They'd have to offset the times he did boneheaded things. He had a feeling that would happen more and more frequently as his children grew. Being a parent means being right for the wrong reasons. Well, at least I do it with good intent, the Force willing. He was still learning a lot about the Force; Luke had promised him that it would always be there to guide him, but he had to learn to hear it. Listening helps ... Maybe if he learned to listen properly, he could at least be Jysella's hero, even if he wasn't Valin's this time.
Eh, then again, what do I know? Even if he couldn't always know best, he would certainly try his best. That's all a lucky man -- even one who sometimes admits his failings and vanities -- could hope to do.
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