The Planets Bend Between Us

Chapter 2

Sam arrived at the smoking pile expecting more space junk and was surprised to discover it was in fact a banged up escape pod. More surprising, was that it appeared to be empty.

He climbed out of his speeder and pulled out his scanner, but it showed no bio signals within the pod. Curious and a little wary, he retrieved his tool box from the passenger seat of his vehicle and cracked open the pod. Sure enough, it was as void of life as his scanner had reported.

Sam scrunched his eyebrows together. “Huh,” he shrugged.

It wasn’t the first time he’d found an abandoned pod, though it was a rare occurrence. Not many ships came this far out (who would want to come here on purpose?).

Sam judged the pod to be from a Corvette class ship, possibly a CR70 or later CR90 – with the missing panels caused by its rough landing, it was hard to tell. Either way, the pieces that made the whole were worth some solid credits, so Sam wasted no time tearing it apart.

He crawled inside and began dismantling the control console, pleased to see most of the wiring intact. He raided the compartments for medpacs, rations, and survival gear before moving onto the interior shielding and panels. He tossed the smaller items he discovered into a canvas bag. The larger pieces he hauled out and tossed into the bin attached to his speeder.

Sam had been working on the pod for a solid half hour when he heard Bantha calls in the distance. He slung his bag over his shoulder and exited the pod. Sure enough, far to the north he could see a Bantha cresting the sand dunes.

To make matters worse, as Sam threw the last pieces he could get his hands on into his bin, he spotted a Jawa sandcrawler far to the east. Sam cast one mournful glance back at the pod – there were still so many good, salvageable pieces and parts to be had – before securing the hatch on his bin and hopping into his speeder. Parts or no parts, he had no desire to tangle with the sand people. He especially didn’t want to be in caught in the middle of Tuskens and Jawas fighting over the same prize.

He started up his speeder and flattened the accelerator, kicking up sand and blazing a trail home.

Sam arrived back at the homestead close to dinner time. He parked his speeder, scooped up his bag, and headed inside – he would sort that afternoon’s haul later. He dropped his bag off in his room and went to the eating area where Ellen had the table set for two. The hot, spicy smell of cooking wafted through the room.

“So? Satellite?” she inquired, bringing in a pot of steaming, delicious-smelling soup.

“No, an old corvette pod, actually,” Sam replied and spooned the creamy soup into Ellen’s bowl while she fetched drinks.

“Really?” Ellen raised her eyebrows in surprise, setting the cups and jug of water down on the table. “That’s somethin’. Was it in good shape?”

“Solid,” her adopted son nodded and filled up his own bowl. “I couldn’t get as much as I wanted, though. Sand people and Jawas were closing in to get a piece of it too.”

Ellen hmmed and took her seat at the table. The pair mumbled a quick grace before digging in.

For a short while, they ate in comfortable and familiar silence. Sam blew on his soup to cool it, appreciating not for the first time his mother’s skills in the kitchen. Even when they went through a rough patch and were low on rations, fresh food, and foodpacs, she still managed to make their meals filling and tasty.

Sam was reluctant to break the quiet.

“Mom, I know you didn’t want to talk about it earlier,” he said gently and immediately saw the tension in her shoulders and jaw. “But I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”

“Sam, don’t.”

“Please hear me out,” Sam pressed.

“I don’t need to hear you out, because we’ve had this conversation a million and one times, and nothing’s changed.”

Sam dropped his spoon with a clatter. “You’re right, it hasn’t. I’m still stuck here, while everyone else is out there, doing something! Making a difference!”

“What sort of difference do you think you can really make, huh? You go join up with those damn Rebels, and I guarantee, all you’re going to do is get yourself killed.” Ellen pinned him with her brown-eyed stare. “Sam, you’re all I have now.”

“Jo’s not dead.”

“Hell if I know,” Ellen snapped, turning away with the shake of her head. “The last comm I got was over two months ago, from God knows where, and she was all bruised up, doing God knows what…”

“I don’t…” Sam tried, but the emotion in his mother’s voice stopped him.

Truth was, he didn’t know for a fact that Jo wasn’t dead, that she hadn’t been killed in some skirmish between the Rebels and the Imperials. He just believed it because he knew Jo, and she simply couldn’t be dead. She was his sister, if not by blood, by everything else. If she hadn’t sent a comm, there was damn good reason, he was sure of it.

(He ignored that cold, wiggling worm of doubt in his stomach that whispered otherwise.)

“I can’t stay here forever,” he finally said quietly. “I can’t… be stuck on this desert rock, at the ass-end of the universe selling space junk. I just… can’t.

Sam couldn’t bear to look at Ellen, so he rose from the table and retreated from the eating area. They’d had this argument so many times that nothing about it was new, but it always killed him to see how stung she was that he wanted to leave so badly. He supposed that was why he was still here. He couldn’t stand the idea of breaking her heart like Jo did three years ago.

And suppose Jo was dead? Suppose he ran off and got himself killed too? Sam couldn’t stomach the idea of Ellen losing both her children like that. It was one thing for them to leave and someday come back; it was another to disappear from her life forever.

He didn’t want to resent her, but he was tired. Tired of the argument, tired of watching everyone he knew leave for bigger and better things. All of his school friends had gone, the neighbor kids he’d grown up around, his buddies at the market, Jo… eventually they all moved on and escaped Tatooine, and left Sam behind.

He understood where she was coming from, he did. She had fought in a galactic war and, for her, the only logical thing to do when it was over was to settle down somewhere quiet and far away to enjoy peace. He got why she needed to stay here, why she had so desperately needed Jo to stay, and why she was fighting him so hard on the same issue.

But he wasn’t her. He didn’t fight in the Clone Wars. He would never be content to stay here. He couldn’t be stuck on this rock, wasting his life like this – it wasn’t in him to settle the same way she had. Not when he could be helping the Rebels fight against the tyrannical Empire. He didn’t understand why she couldn’t see his side.

Sam gave his bed a kick and dropped onto it with a heavy sigh. He raked his fingers through his shaggy hair and decided to put the argument out of his mind for now. For something to do, he tugged over his canvas bag that held the small, loose parts he’d retrieved from the pod earlier and began sifting through them. When he’d been raiding the pod, he’d grabbed and stashed and had barely taken stock of what he was taking. Now was as a good a time as any to take a closer look.

He spread the pieces out over his bed: wires and cables of various colors and lengths, some small navigation panel pieces, spare console bulbs… Towards the bottom of the bag, he found a slim black disc. Curious, he crossed his bedroom to his reader and popped the disc in. Instantly, a blue-tinted opaque hologram flickered to life over the reader.

It was a handsome man with dark blond hair, wearing black pants, shirt, and a vest. He had a bloody gash beside his eye and checked over his shoulder before he spoke, as if worried someone was coming for him.

“This message is for Bobby Singer,” the man said, his voice deep. He ran his hand through his hair and stared ahead grimly. “God, I hope this gets to you. I’m in deep shit with those Imp – ”

The message flickered and crackled like an ancient television, losing sound and picture for a moment. There was some strange, fuzzy but loud background noise, and then the hologram fixed itself just in time for what sounded like the end of the message.

“Please help us, Bobby. You’re… uh, kinda my only hope right now.”

This time the noise was distinctly an explosion. The man in the hologram covered his head with arms and the image shook violently before going dead.

Sam stared at the spot where the hologram had been for a full minute. What the hell? He blinked and replayed the message, hoping that whatever glitch had occurred the first time round had worked itself out, but it looked like the file itself was corrupted. The rest of the message disappeared in a wavering, unclear mess again. And the third time and the fourth time.

Sam tried to run the recording through his computer system to clean it up, but nothing seemed to help. Frustrated, he sat back with a huff. Who was this guy? Why had he stashed his message in an empty escape pod? Who was Bobby Singer?

Sam coincidentally knew of a Bobby, but he doubted it was the same person. It sounded like this Bobby Singer, whoever he was, was possibly connected to the Rebels or Imperials and the man in the message. The Bobby Sam knew of was a crazy old hermit who lived out past the Dune Sea – damn far – through Tusken territory. You had to be crazy to live way out there. Plus, wasn’t Bobby’s last name Deacon or Dixon or something? He couldn’t recall.

Sam frowned and scooped up the disc.

“Hey, Mom?” he called out.

“Out here, Sam!”

He followed the sound of her voice through the corridor that attached the shop to the homestead. Ellen was behind the counter doing inventory, an old pencil behind her ear. Sam couldn’t help smiling at the sight – she always liked old fashioned things, even with technology available if she wanted it. The image of her bent over the wooden parts-and-paper-covered counter, her long brown hair tossed to one side and dusting across the pieces, was familiar and welcome.

He felt guilty all over again for their disagreement and swallowed hard.

He stopped in the doorway, watching her for a moment, etching the image of her in his mind like he’d done a hundred times over the years. He couldn’t explain why he loved seeing her like that, but he did deeply. The twin sunsets poured through the window at her back, casting the shop in glowing gold and orange.

“What is it?” Ellen finally asked, looking up from her work. She caught the expression on his face and smirked a little. “What, Sam?”

“Nothing.” He chuckled and joined her at the counter, at once becoming more serious. “Mom… I’m sorry about earlier.”

She removed the pencil from behind her, setting it on the counter and pulled Sam into a quick hug. “Me too, honey.”

When they separated, Sam set the disc he’d found on the counter. “Found this in the pod.”

“What’s on it?” Ellen queried, picking it up gingerly to inspect it.

“A weird message,” said Sam. “There’s this guy, and I think he’s in trouble with the Imperials. He says the message is for Bobby Singer, and then it kinda cuts out.”

A flash of shock crossed Ellen’s features. Though she rearranged her expression to one of mild interest almost instantly, Sam hadn’t missed her reaction. His mother was good, but not good enough.

“You know him,” he said – a statement, not a question.

She avoided his gaze. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Mom, you know who this Bobby Singer is – I saw it on your face. Who is he? How do you know him?”

It took her a solid minute before she answered quietly, “I know him.”

It was clear she had no desire to continue, but Sam couldn’t help himself.

“Who is he?” he pressed.

Ellen sighed, and again she struggled before speaking. “We fought in the Clone Wars together.”

Sam felt a flutter of excitement in his chest. He didn’t know much about his mother’s time in the war, but he did know that she’d fought side by side with his father. She’d told him that shortly after his parents were married, they were killed in action. Ellen was the closest friend they’d had. She couldn’t leave Sam as an orphan, so she took him and raised him as her own son alongside her natural born daughter, Jo.

So if this Bobby Singer had fought with Ellen, then he’d surely fought alongside his father…

“Did he know my dad?” Sam asked, heart racing.

She hesitated. “Yes.”

Sam knew little about his birth parents, as it too had always been a touchy subject with Ellen. She’d told him the basics about them, sure – names, they were close friends, they died – but little else. Sam had always wondered about them, but he didn’t push her.

He’d never really had much of a steady father figure in his life and figured that was why his curiosity about his birth father had always been especially strong. He needed to find this Bobby Singer anyways to get him this disc, but now Sam felt he had even more reason: this man had known his father and probably very well.

“You know him too,” Ellen added, almost as a throwaway afterthought she hadn’t meant to say out loud.

“I do?”

She bit her lip and he could see regret cloud her expression, but the damage was done.

“Mom, please, I have to get him this message, it’s important – wait, is Bobby Bobby?” Sam stared at his mother incredulously. “Is weird old Dune Sea Bobby the same Bobby as the one who fought with you and Dad?”

Ellen didn’t answer but she didn’t have to – the emotion in her eyes said it all. Swirls of regret, guilt, nostalgia, fear, and so much more he couldn’t identify.

Sam stepped away from the table, his knees feeling a bit rubbery all of the sudden. “I've spent my whole life thinking that you were the only connection I had to my parents – to my father – and now you’re telling me that one of the biggest connections I could ever have outside of you, is here. And you never told me.”

He felt betrayed. She’d kept this secret from him all this time, knowing how desperately he wanted to learn more about his family. Sam hadn’t gone looking for connections to his parents because he needed to be here with Ellen and Jo (and thought they were all he had anyway). He’d always thought in the back of his mind that someday his mother would open up and tell him stories, details, background, anything he wanted to know. He never considered she was purposely keeping him from learning the truth.

“You don’t understand,” Ellen pushed her hair away from her face, looking a decade older than she had that morning. “Honey, it’s complicated.”

“I don’t see how it’s complicated at all, actually,” Sam retorted. He snatched the disc from the wooden counter. “I’m taking this to Bobby and I’m gonna ask him the questions you refuse to answer.”

“You can’t, Sam, he lives out past the Dune Sea, for God’s sake! You know that area is absolutely swarming with sand people.”

“I’m going.”

“It’s nearly nightfall.”

“I’m going.”

Ellen reached for Sam and he pulled away sharply, unable to look at her.

“Sam, please – ”

“You know how much I want to know about my dad!” he shouted, tears prickling his eyes. “You know! Is that why you told me Bobby was crazy? Why you always made us stay away from him when we saw him in the market? He used to visit us when we were kids – I wondered why he stopped coming around.”

“It’s complicated, Sam!”

“Then explain it, Mom! Explain to me why you’re trying so damn hard to just… keep me here, exactly how you want me, and not letting me…” Sam trailed off, too angry to finish a thought. He paced up and down the shop. “C’mon, go ahead. Explain.”

Ellen opened her mouth but couldn’t force the words past her lips. She reached for him again, but he shook her off and headed for the door.

“Leave me the hell alone.”

“Sam… Sam!

He sped past the living area and burst out the door. The heat of the day had yet to wear off; the air hot and dry as it brushed across his face. The suns had almost set completely below the horizon.

Sam swiped at his eyes with his sleeve, still clutching the disc tight in his other hand. He wished he could properly articulate why he felt so betrayed by his mother. Just knowing Bobby had been right here all along and she’d never said a damn word…

Ellen didn’t come after him and he was grateful for that. It gave him time to cool down. He watched the suns until they were gone and the sky had faded to a deep, navy blue. Despite his earlier declaration that he was going to see Bobby at once, he wasn’t reckless enough to actually go charging off to the Dune Sea this late in the day.

He was, however, going to rush off first thing in the morning, no matter what his mother said.

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