At seven years old, he knew that the life he lived wasn't normal by anyone's definition in the galaxy.
Slam it in a metal box. Wrap it up in energy beams. Lock it in a ship. Send it out to space where you can't see. Always keep it hidden.
The forest was dense, the branches reaching out and scratching at his arms. Ahead, Old Ben seemed unconcerned, hiking as if it were perfectly normal to see that much greenery, to feel the ground squidge beneath your feet because there was too much water. Luke couldn't help but stare down in awe as they tore their path through the trees and bushes.
It was like a wound. Every time you put pressure on the brown chunky surface, liquid welled up.
He knew where they were going. That he always knew. Old Ben always made sure knew exactly what planet, what meeting point, what ship. Who was taking them, who they were meeting. What marks to look for. What to run from.
The why though? Luke squinted up at the sun that burst through the tree's leaves and at the temple that was looming larger and larger as they made their way towards it. That he didn't know.
Old Ben held out a hand and Luke scampered through quicker, ducking under the arm so that he stood at Old Ben's hip and peered down.
There were Storm Troopers. A whole sunken area, like a meteor had hit the planet there long ago, meant that it was unprotected and the entirety of the area surrounding the temple could be easily defended.
He could feel Old Ben think. It wasn't that they hadn't expected there to be Troopers (there were always Troopers, Luke thought. Everywhere in the galaxy there was a Trooper watching and waiting), but even Luke could see that it would be difficult to get in.
"They're rubbish shots," he grumbled, pushing into Old Ben a little, hoping to stir the man into some action. The ground here was less wet and if they were going to stand and think somewhere he'd rather it was back in the thick of the forest where it had been interesting.
"Hush, young one," Old Ben said absently, smoothing a settling hand through Luke's hair. "And I do not believe that will be necessary."
That was because he hated blasters. Luke glanced at the one that had been confiscated from him in the ship, sulkily remembering the lecture.
Old Ben suddenly let out a deep sigh and shook his head. "This had better work," he muttered to himself and then stepped out from their cover, a hand on Luke to move him forward as well.
It was dumb. Everyone that Luke had ever met would say it was dumb. And it would be so easy to reach out and get the blaster but he'd solemnly promised not to disobey Old Ben again-
The Storm Troopers started for them and then swayed and fell to their knees. Then to the floor. It was like watching the market stalls in Anchorhead go one after the other when a fight toppled into one. They fell like it was a chain reaction in a sequence they couldn't avoid and Luke could feel Old Ben burning brightly in that way that he never understood other people didn't feel.
And just like that, they walked to the Temple opening and stepped into the darkness of the tombs. Old Ben muttered something about primitive tech and found a way to get fire onto a stick with rags before he took Luke's hand and led him down the steps.
It was cold underground. Like Space, which made no sense to Luke because one was high above his head and the other was deep into the planet and how could they be so similar? But it was so very dark without a single star to guide them, only Old Ben's torch that barely let them see anything in front of them.
There was a compressing darkness ahead, a threat that Luke could feel on the edges of his fingernails, at the base of his spine that urged him to move quicker, to put a distance between them and it. The thing. The monster that hunted them and killed the Jedi and his father and everything.
Old Ben must have felt it too. His hand tightened a little on Luke's.
Minutes later, Luke could hear the distant sound of explosions, like charges had been dropped. The ground shook a little and Old Ben paused, looking up and tilting his head.
"Come on," he said softly.
Eventually, Old Ben stopped them and touched his torch to some form in the darkness. More light burst forth as he lit torches that surrounded a chamber and Luke stood, unsure and shivering as he tried to puzzle out what the thing in front of him was.
It looked like an archway.
Suspicious, he watched Old Ben. The man traced some of the patterns that had been carved into rock and turned to Luke.
"Stand in the middle," he instructed.
He'd promised to be obedient for a whole standard day. Making his annoyance known in the noise he let out, Luke reluctantly meandered over and stood in the middle, glaring at the old man.
All he received for his efforts was a sad smile.
It panicked him when Old Ben knelt down in front of him and cupped his chin.
"What happened here…" Old Ben swallowed. "Do not let it happen again. The boy will save Anakin, but I cannot predict how that will change things." He glanced up and looked a little worried. "Vader died the moment he had to choose between the boy and his power. Luke is the key and he is all you will need to save us."
"Who are you talking to?"
"Myself," Old Ben said and then leaned forward to rest his head against Luke's. Luke could feel something, like his mind was a storage unit that Old Ben was reordering a little. "There," he said, pulling back. "You need to find me. Obi Wan Kenobi. On Coruscant, Luke, can you do that."
"I'm not going there," Luke huffed. "No-one goes there. There are loads of Strom Troopers there."
But Old Ben was shaking his head. "Promise me. I swear, you will find it much changed."
"Why can't we just go together?" Luke asked, peering up as Old Ben stood. "I promise not to gamble," he added hopefully, just in case it was that which had annoyed Old Ben into thinking that they had to travel separately.
"You have spent far too much time with criminals," Old Ben muttered. "Do not move."
Bored now, Luke glanced up at the ceiling of the cavern they were in. It was quiet now, as if they'd given up bombing the surface. "They're coming down," Luke said, knowing as he said it that it was true.
And that didn't count. He hadn't tried to see what was happening. It had just come. He wasn't breaking the rules.
But Old Ben shook his head and held up a hand, his signal for silence as he started to meditate.
Biting at his thumb nail, Luke shifted from one foot to the other, trying to keep still. Sometimes Old Ben did things that seemed to make no sense, and Luke wasn't sure that he would ever understand the old man.
Then the torches started to go out. One by one until half the room was plunged into darkness and Luke stared down at his hand, barely able to see one. In the darkness, he could almost swear he saw another figure, silent and waiting.
Without breaking his promise, Luke couldn't quite sense what was going on, only that something was and that it was powerful. A stalking storm that was wild and focused and he was trapped in the middle of it while staying completely still and unaffected. It was almost too much sensation to comprehend and the jarring nature of it all made him close his eyes, half sure he was about to puke.
He sucked in a breath and then there was a complete absence of anything.
When he opened his eyes again, it was still dark. Completely dark. And he could only hear his own breathing. The threatening ache that had been building in his stomach was completely gone and he knew, in a way he could never explain, that he was alone.
Tentatively, he crept forward. It was pitch black and he couldn't see his own body and there was something about that which terrified him. Scared, he held his hands out, questioning whether he was really doing it because he couldn't see at all until something like a wall came into contact with his fingertips.
He followed it, trailing his short stubby nails along the ridge until he came to an opening. He reached out with the other hand, had to rock to one side and risk losing his wall to feel the other side of the opening.
He found he knew the steps from there without thinking about it. It was a trick that Old Ben had used more than once to ensure that Luke could always get to where he needed to be. Once he found the stairs, he climbed, knowing that nothing was coming down.
In many ways, there was something scarier about that.
He'd half expected to find the top of the stairs caved in or destroyed from the explosions, but everything was fine. And, as the light grew stronger and he could see more and more, he was startled to realise that it looked better than it had when he'd gone in with Old Ben.
As he neared the exit, he could see that the light wasn't as strong as it had been. It was dappled as he approached and there were branches invading the entrance.
There wasn't a clearing anymore.
Confused because maybe Old Ben hadn't led him the way they'd come, Luke peered out at the forest that was slowly invading the Temple. Reaching out a skinny arm, he wrapped his hand around a branch and clambered out onto the tree, agile and his feet gripping onto the branches to keep him balanced.
It was almost fun.
Grinning (and half convinced that would summon Old Ben because the man was allergic to fun), Luke leapt up to the next trunk, catching himself easily and swinging up. Scrambling across it, he paused to stare at the texture of what he was on and then squinted up, half tempted to see how high he could climb.
He probably should, right? He needed to see where he was and he could feel the soothing guide of Old Ben's instructions fading away like a shadow at sunrise.
So he did. Up and up he went, feeling oddly free and delighting in doing something so…playful. As his footing grew more sure, he grew more reckless, leaping up to branches that he probably shouldn't have been able to reach.
He paused, worried suddenly and checked. Closed his eyes and pictured something precious locked up tight, in a metal box and guarded by fizzling wires and tossed into a ship to be jettisoned off to somewhere far far away.
He climbed with more caution, losing the carefree feeling as he realised how close he had come to using the thing that Old Ben said they mustn't even name.
The canopy, when he broke it, looked like mottled copper, all green and brown like a walkway. There were odd sounds of chirping, a distant roar of something and the faintest hint of something that might have been music.
Panic rose in him as he twisted, searching desperately for something that hinted towards technology being on the planet. He needed to get off, he had to meet Old Ben in Coruscant (why there?) and he needed to go.
Turning, he blinked as he saw a small clearing or a dip in the treeline. Squinting, he tilted his head a little and then ducked down under the leaves again and into the cooler shade.
There was definitely something there. Something that might have been a ship.
By night, Luke was on the edge of the forest again, watching the group of Weequays that swarmed around the ship.
"Mother of Kwath," spat one. "What a useless dirtball," he added, kicking at the ground. "Waste of time-"
"Shut up whining," another snapped. "Said it was a hoax, didn't I?"
Luke bit his lip as he stared at the open cargo hold. Cages were being loaded on with some plants and some smaller things.
They were leaving.
Keeping low, Luke crept over and waited, barely breathing as he watched them pack up. He glanced at the ship and then at the Weequay men who seemed sore about whatever it was they'd been sent to do.
Luke had far too much experience of sneaking onto ships for it to be a challenge. The half-light and the annoyance of the crew made the whole thing easy and Luke ducked through into the hold and then hid in space between the cages, being sure to find refuge with the items that looked as non-threatening as possible.
Within an hour, the cargo hold went pitch black as it was shut up and he could hear the ship rumbling as it started to rise.
He put his chin on his knees and stared at the darkness.