The day had dawned with such promise. When Daro had woken, he’d done so with the sheer luxury of that experience being enjoyed in an actual bed, with sheets and everything. It had been some days since he’d slept anywhere since in the alleyway behind the cantina, that the joy of a scutty little bunk in the docker’s room at the spaceport had filled him with joy.
Being well over six feet in height had meant that his feet hung over the end, but it was still infinitely preferable to sleeping on the floor.
A day spent lugging boxes on and off ships that came and went had yielded little progress in his hunt for a job to get off this bloody planet, but it had put a few credits in his pocket, and given him a bed for the night. So when he had woken up, he had done so feeling refreshed and glad to be alive. Being alive was always a positive start to the day.
He queued for a while to use the shared bathroom, which was a grubby affair, but it was a simple delight to emerge feeling clean and fresh. His clothes were in need of a good wash, which didn’t help with his current odour situation, but these things would come. It was easy enough to locate cheap used clothes that were serviceable enough. Not for Daro Keers the luxury of opening a wardrobe and choosing his outfit. No, his options were definitely more limited. It was more a case of buying a new shirt when the current one literally fell off him.
He glanced down. That day was imminent.
He studied his reflection in the cracked distorted mirror, then elected to look away again. he was most certainly not at his best: too many days of poor sleep and a Distinct Lack of Razor had left him looking like the worst kind of space bum imaginable.
He returned to the bunk room and gathered his pathetically small pack of belongings together. He cheered up by repeating the mantra he’d been living by over and over in his head.
Travel light, travel fast, travel far.
If that was true, suggested his mutinous inner self, you’d be the other side of the galaxy by now.
He hated that guy.
Shouldering his pack, Daro headed out of the digs and back to the space port offices. He’d offer up his services for a second day, although they rarely gave casual work out for more than a day at a time. He joined the queue of hopefuls and just like the several dozen people and aliens ahead of him, was turned away without work. No work, no money, no food and back to sleeping in the alleyway.
For a long moment, he sank out of his usual optimism hitting a quagmire of self-pity and misery. But Daro’s nature was not the sort to allow him to wallow there for long and with a mental slurp, he extracted himself from the swamp of depression.
“Today,” he said aloud, “my luck is going to change.” He was right, he knew it.
And yes… he was right in that regard, but whether that change in luck could be considered good or bad was subjective. Because that day turned out to be the day that Daro Keers, space drifter, met Glix the jawa.
The day had worn on, as these things are wont to do, and Daro had moved with increasing despondence throughout. He amused himself for a little while with a stint of people-watching in the space port and even contemplated the feasibility of stowing away on board a cargo ship. Once he realised that said ship was populated with Rodians who sounded collectively pissed at the cosmos, he changed his mind. It was too much like hard work having to deal with angry people.
He headed out into the heat of the afternoon and decided to trek a little further afield than the space port. He made sure he took water – which was expensive and ate into his credits without so much as a by-your-leave – and, tugging his hood up over his head, made his way out into Tatooine proper.
He considered the sights of the Jundland Wastes, the lonely expanse of… golden sands and endless, cloudless blue skies punctuated at odd intervals by the desiccated skeletons of creatures long dehydrated. He studied them thoughtfully. Some were recognisable as human, others not so much so. Apparently, an overly-enthusiastic trader back at the space port had told him, if he headed even further out, into what was known locally as the ‘Infinite Desiccation’, he could see the apparent ‘tourist attraction’ of a krayt dragon skeleton. (He’d come to realise that here, on Tatooine, a ‘tourist attraction’ was something that was visited more than once by more than two people. His hopes weren’t high).
Mentally, he weighed up the pros and cons. Then he declined. No thanks
He continued on his way. The guide he’d flicked through back at the space port had promised him that he would encounter splendour unlike anything he’d ever known.
Well, if sand is your thing…
He trudged onward, heading towards the outpost where he would try to get a room as cheaply as possible for the night. Failing that, he’d find himself a comfortable few feet of space behind a building, dig in and stay there. The temperature always dropped to killer cold levels at night, but he’d mastered the art of imbibing just enough spirits to keep the chill from his bones, and trapping as much heat as possible in a small space.
About twenty minutes further in, he was distracted by a noise nearby. He wasn’t entirely sure, but he suspected the noise sounded like a jawa in distress. He didn’t have that many frames of reference for the infernal squawking coming from a short distance to the east, but the occasional utini! was a bit of a giveaway.
He hesitated. Thus far, his encounters with jawas hadn’t been entirely peaceable, but that definitely sounded like someone who needed help.
Daro considered his options. It was a short list.
Go investigate. Help if possible. If I can: win. If I can’t, at least I tried.
Ignore the noise. Ignore the sounds of a creature in terrible distress. Keep walking. Go. Go. Go!
Like that was ever going to happen.
He adjusted course, heading for the noise, all the while regretting his own inability to avoid helping those in need.
For Glix the jawa, today was not a good day.
He was young, as jawas measured these things, and he was curious. That by itself was no cause for alarm: many young jawas were curious and many young jawas ventured out by themselves into the Jundland Wastes to see what fortunes they could find. Tales abounded of a hero in jawa history, known to all in the words of legend as the Great Utini. The Great Utini, it was said, had been able to find salvage anywhere on Tattooine. The Youth of Today aspired to be like the Great Utini.
Glix was not like the Great Utini. He was realising this. Glix, Glix realised, was a fool. Glix had been curious enough to wriggle in through a small hole in a rock face, his small mind filled with dreams of glory. There could be anything behind that hole. There could be salvage. There could be credits. There could even be food, one of those things that young jawas cherished above all other things.
(It should be noted at this point that traditionally, jawas did not have long, deep, philosophical thoughts. Glix was no exception to the rule, although his peers considered him far too deep and thoughtful).
So, his mind filled with thrilling thoughts of salvage, credits and/or food, Glix wriggled deeper into the hole.
What Glix found was a womp-rat nest, with a nesting mother protecting a litter of about twenty ratlings.
What the womp-rat mother found was a curious little jawa dropping several feet on top of her nest and squashing a large proportion of her ratling family. Glix, a little stunned by the unexpected fall, got to his feet and staggered slightly, rubbing his head and muttering to himself about his dire misfortune. It transpired that it was a dire misfortune that was made somewhat worse when the womp-rat mother, distraught at the squashing of a handful of her offspring decided she would turn Glix into lunch.
And somewhere, not so very far away, Daro Keers heard the commotion and was coming along to see what could be done.
Nothing could go wrong.
Daro had encountered womp-rats before. He’d come to understand a number of important things about them. One was that ‘omnivorous’ meant that the little bastards would attack anything with a face. The second was that around two metres in size was surprisingly huge when you came directly into contact with it.
An old-timer in the cantina back at the space port had wheezed a tale one night, after application of a good quantity of alcoholic lubrication, about how a pack of womp-rats could bring down a bantha if they worked together and Daro didn’t doubt the veracity of the claim. His own encounters with the rodents had been kept to a sort of ‘who will back away first’ face-off style of meeting. He’d blasted one out of his way a few nights ago and that was when he’d made his third discovery about womp-rats.
They tasted like shavit.
So it came as no surprise as he approached the noise that had caught his attention, that the screeching sound of the jawa was being underpinned by the vocal chittering of an angry womp-rat. The noise, Daro determined, was coming from the other side of a low wall.
(It is important to maintain perspective here. Daro, our illustrious hero, is six feet four inches in height. At full stretch, Glix the jawa barely reaches his kneecap. A low wall to Daro was a rock face to little Glix).
Daro peered over the top and took in the scene before him. An angry womp-rat was savaging the bottom of a jawa’s robe, whilst said jawa was attempting to prod the womp-rat in the face with a shock-stick. The stand-off would have been funny if it hadn’t been for the infernal racket.
The altercation continued in this way for a while as Daro assessed the practical options. Eventually, he realised, there was only one. He unholstered his blaster and levelled it at the womp-rat, which backed off a little on spying the newcomer. It transpired that this small shuffle of the back paws would be the tiny motion that saved the womp-rat’s life, because as it moved, one of the previously squashed ratlings moved slightly and let out a sad little ‘mew’.
Pitiful, plaintive, tragic.
The noise would have softened the hardest of hearts. The mother womp-rat turned her attention instantly to the bedraggled baby and let go of the jawa’s robe. Leaning over the wall and going to full stretch, Daro caught the jawa by the hood and yanked it free of the nest, back over the wall and dumped it unceremoniously on the sand, where it lay, stunned for a few moments, before scrambling to its feet.
What occurred at this point can now only be be relayed through the medium of the written word. It is important to note the following two facts, however.
1) Daro Keers speaks no Jawa-ese.
2) Glix the Jawa speaks only Jawa-ese.
In order to best convey the discussion that took place, one has to make an assumption as to the style of the jawa spoken language, as heard by one another. Just as, for example, the humble Ugnaught’s grunts and squeaks translate into a flowing, archaic language, so does that of the jawa.
“So,” said Daro, studying the little creature in front of him. There were many things he could say. He could ask the jawa if it was alright. He could ask what it had been up to, but he knew that it would be pointless. All he’d get back would be ‘utini’.
“Utini!” said Glix. “Glix!”
Those two words conveyed the following.
“My giant friend! You have saved me from the accursed terrors of the womp-rat’s teeth! I am a young jawa, but handsome, and had it mauled me, my looks would have been stolen from me and my parents, poor, alas, would have been unable to marry me off. We would have all ended up in squalor and horror. But you have saved me! I pledge to serve you in order to repay this life debt. My name is Glix!”
As he said the last, the jawa pointed to himself. Daro understood that bit at least.
“Oh, Glix? Right. Daro. Daro Keers.”
“Daro Daro Keers, you are a beacon of hope in a dark world. Let us travel together now to the outpost, where you can buy me a drink to help me recover from my ordeal… ah! You are walking away! Let me follow you!”
And so on.
* * *
A day had passed since Daro and Glix had become inseparable companions and heroic adventuring buddies. Well, that’s how Glix saw it. How Daro viewed the situation was slightly different.
“Is he still there?” The whispered voice belonged to Daro Keers and the girl to whom he whispered it had been his companion the previous night. It had taken everything in his power to firmly deposit Glix outside the girl’s door. Had the jawa had his own way, he’d have sat on the end of the bed and jabbered endlessly throughout the entire…
…and even Daro Keers had limits. He’d tolerated the jawa’s cheerful presence for a full day, realising quite quickly that the little creature had bonded itself to him – presumably as an act of gratitude for rescuing him from the Great Womp-Rat Massacre of the year. He’d been amused, then annoyed, then irritated and finally resigned to the fact that until he found some way to communicate with Glix, the little alien would be his shadow indefinitely.
“I don’t know. Look out the door.”
“No. You do it.”
“And if he’s there?” The girl, whose name was Mari, propped herself up on one elbow and tipped her head quizzically at her bed partner. “Then what?”
“I don’t know!” A slight hint of panic crept into Daro’s voice and the volume raised involuntarily. “Tell him I left out the back door or something!”
Mari laughed, leaning over to kiss the end of Daro’s nose fondly. He’d not expected to find a girl like her here. She, like him, was from Corellia, and was a few years older. She’d known his family. She’d known his older brother. The vague connection had drawn them together over a bottle of wine, and for a while, he’d enjoyed the warm sense of recollection and memory.
They’d slept together, but sleeping hadn’t really been much of a thing. Now that morning had arrived, though, the anxiety about the presence of the jawa flooded back into his system, metaphorically elbowing the sense of well-being out of the way.
“Fine,” Mari said eventually, wrinkling her nose at him. “But only because you’re cute when you’re anxious.”
“I’m not anxious,” Daro protested. Anxiously.
Mari got out of the bed without any hint of self-consciousness and for a few moments, Daro forgot his troubles, admiring her naked curves as she crossed the room to the door. She tapped the lock and it slid open. She stood there, in her entirely naked glory, everything on display for the entirety of the outpost to view should they so choose.
But the corridor outside was empty.
The door closed again with a quiet swish and she turned back to him. “No jawa,” she announced and Daro heaved a sigh of relief that started somewhere at his toes and spread the warmth of joy through his veins. Mari smiled at him, then bent down to pick up their clothes, discarded where he’d left them.
Except they weren’t there.
An entertaining panic ensued as the pair, naked as the day they’d been born scrabbled around the room attempting to find their clothing. Eventually, they ran out of places to look.
There was a scraping sound outside in the corridor, and then a clattering. Then, the buzzer went. Mari blushed furiously, her easy exposure of a few moments ago completely gone, and snatched the only sheet from Daro’s body to wrap around herself. She opened the door.
There, standing, on a chair, with folded, neatly pressed clothes on the floor next to him was Glix.
Ah, Daro Daro Keers and female companion! I trust you had a most excellent night’s sleep? Although I’m sure you did more than sleep, am I right? Hahaha, of course I am. Anyway, I took the liberty of your being busy to sneak in whilst you did sleep and collect your clothing. It’s all been laundered. I do hope you don’t mind my method of folding, the jawa elders are always so particular about how well seams should be creased…
An awkward silence ensued and Glix scrambled down off the chair he’d used to reach the buzzer, lifting up the pile of clothes and offering them up to Mari. She stared at him, then looked at Daro.
“What the hell did he just say?”
Utini, thought Daro, in despair. What did it even sound like?
“I think he did our laundry,” he managed weakly.
“You mean he broke into my room, stole our clothes and then… washed them?”
“…yes?” The word rose in a rising, tremulous tone.
“That,” she said, taking the neatly pressed clothes from the jawa and throwing Daro’s at him, “is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Daro could only smile weakly and get dressed.
* * *
For three days, Daro had found himself accompanied everywhere by the eager jawa. And by ‘everywhere’, he meant everywhere. He’d even found the jawa standing beside him as he’d stood in the back room of the cantina emptying his bladder. That had been unnerving and it was at about that time that Daro realised a couple of important things.
Firstly, he needed to draw lines in the sand. Not that there was any other kind of ground to draw lines in around here, but still. The analogy served. Boundaries, he had come to realise, were important. But this meant, of course, somehow getting through to the jawa. He could hire the services of one of the translator droids that served the space port, but their owners generally charged an arm and a leg. He’d sat, earnestly attempting to communicate with Glix, but they never got beyond ‘utini’.
Glix had attached himself to Daro Keers like a little brown-clad shadow with disconcerting yellow eyes. Everywhere Daro went, Glix went as well. As a result, Mari had informed him that morning that she no longer appreciated Daro’s company in her bed, because nobody – and she meant nobody needed the horror of opening their closet to dress in the morning and having a jawa fall out from its hiding place and land on top of them.
Still, it was probably for the best. He had been spending too much time with Mari. For Daro Keers, three nights of unashamed passion was steering dangerously close to the ‘this is long term’ and it was time to extract himself. This had been a little different, of course, because he’d actually liked Mari.
Easy going to a fault, Daro shrugged off this latest romantic rejection with ease and considered what he needed to do in order to get through to the little creature who was even now trotting along happily by his new friend’s side.
And then it came to him in a flash of inspiration. Alright, perhaps not a flash; Daro’s brain cells didn’t exactly fire that fast, but it was certainly a much brighter thought than usual. He needed someone who could help him crack the programming of a translator droid and get it to work for free.
His younger brother, although only fifteen years of age, had demonstrated a startling and uncanny ability to work with droids. He could understand the ‘gonks’ of the family’s power droid with apparent ease and had seemed very surprised that nobody else in the family did. He had built several small droids from scratch and their uses ranged from automating certain chores that the boy hated – such as washing the dishes – right through to half a dozen spy-bot droids that were so tiny they could skitter up and down walls like little electronic spiders. The uses for those were endless, and if the Empire ever got their hand son such technology, the stars above knew what could ensue. But Gileas – being a fifteen year old boy, and a Keers boy to boot – mostly used it for spying on the girl he rather liked in the apartment down the hallway.
Daro found himself a shaded corner of the outpost, beneath an arching canopy that protected him from the worst of the sun and pulled out his personal communicator. He didn’t have enough credits to send a holoproject message, but he put together a message to his brother that would arrive in text format.
He hated doing those. He felt so self-conscious talking to himself as the device recorded his words and converted them into the written word.
Hey, kid, hope you and the aged P’s are doing OK. I’m on Tattooine. It’s a dump, kid, seriously. Don’t let anybody ever tell you adventuring around the universe is glamorous, because it’s not. Listen, I need your advice. There’s this jawa. His name is Glix and well, I can’t get rid of him. And I can’t ask him what he wants, or needs, because all he ever says is ‘utini’. I wonder if you can help me get some sort of sense out of him? There’s translator droids here, but they’re programmed to work for credits and… yeah, you know that one. Situation normal. Look, I know it’s a long shot, Gil, but if you’ve got any ideas on how I can tap into the translation subroutines… I’d appreciate any lines you could throw my way.
He hesitated, his finger over the ‘send’ button.
No. This needs to be done.
He glanced down at the jawa, who was sitting on the floor not too far from him, its brown robe like a mucky puddle around its form. “Well, Glix,” he said, “hopefully that’ll get us some way of at least establishing boundaries.”
Ah, Daro Daro Keers, your mood seems oddly melancholy on this, the third chikda of the solar cycle. Would that you could only understand my language, I could offer you words of comfort or advice. It saddens my jawa heart to see you so unhappy. Perhaps it is a gentle pat on the arm that you need from me… ah, no, I can tell by the way you snatched your lanky limb away that perhaps the hands-on approach isn’t best. How about I simply sit here? Yes? Yes, that seems to please you. Perhaps you can find a way to communicate with me, because frankly, your lack of ability to speak jawa is making me a little sad. I want us to be friends. I owe you a life debt, remember? And I will not leave your side until you tell me that debt is repaid. But it would be good to be friends, no?
Daro sighed. “Yes,” he said. “Utini.”
Gileas’s reply came sooner than Daro had expected and it warmed his soul to receive the notification that his younger brother had sent him a holo-message. He had been in the spaceport at the time that the alert had beeped quietly in his pocket, lugging boxes – which seemed to be his mainstay these days. He wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, but he kept working. He’d learned very quickly that casual labourers were given the boot pretty fast if they kept taking breaks. Whatever Gil had to tell him could wait a little longer.
Glix trotted back and forth beside Daro, occasionally chattering away in his odd language and from time to time, Daro nodded in an understanding kind of way, because it was what he felt was expected of him. It seemed enough to keep the jawa content and everything was just fine.
The dockers at Mos Eisley worked damned hard and Daro, for all his tendency to become distracted, was no exception to the rule. He sweated out the previous night’s alcohol fairly swiftly and by the time that the workers were allowed to take a break, he was exhausted from a combination of back-breaking effort and dehydration. He ran his hand down his jawline, feeling the stubble beneath his fingers and letting his eyes flicker to the cantina. Just one Rodian ale couldn’t hurt, right?
If he told himself that enough, he’d start to believe it.
Then he remembered that he had a message from his kid brother and it became much, much more important to deal with that.
Outside of the spaceport, the hustle and bustle was magnified. An Imperial ship was in dry dock at the moment, and the Empire’s increased presence was felt in a variety of ways, not least of which was the increase in the number of white armour-clad Stormtroopers patrolling the area. Glix pointed to one and tugged at Daro’s coat.
I say, Daro Daro Keers. Don’t you think that the sudden appearance of all these frightful armoured oiks is pushing on an infringement of our civil liberties? Mos Eisley has its own militia, we don’t need their sort around here. I think it’s quite shocking, personally. They don’t even acknowledge my people as existing. Speaking of which, that’s my Uncle Nyn. I’ll just pop over and have a bit of a chat. Will you be alright on your own? Of course you will, you’re strong and tough. Now don’t be shy about it, I saw you lugging those boxes. I’ll be back shortly.
…and off he trotted.
Daro watched the jawa move away, his attention caught by a strange kind of grim horror, before shaking himself free of the thought. He wove his way through the crowds, brushing shoulders with more than one of the Stormtroopers, all of whom made him feel guilty for the heinous crime of simply existing. So many people meant that the streets were dustier than usual, all of those tramping feet kicking the sand up in a perpetual haze that caught in the back of the throat. His abject dislike of the planet was growing increasingly strong by the day, and as he turned to head down one of the quieter alleyways and the welcome shade of a canopy, he vowed, for the sixteenth hundred time that day alone, that he was going to get the hell off this planet.
He slid down, his back against the rough stone of a domicile, and settled onto the ground before taking his communicator out of his coat pocket and flicking it open. He keyed in the clearance code and a blue haze shimmered up from its surface. It wavered for a moment (his communicator was not exactly top of the range), and then held in the form of a tall, lanky teenage boy smiling at him.
Hey, big brother! I’m glad you’re alright. Well, as alright as ever you are. Thanks for the message. Tattooine doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of place where anything interesting is ever likely to happen. Things here are… well, they’re pretty much the same, really. The parents are fine – they said to say hello and to remind you that you promised to come visit. Six months ago, Daro. You’re useless, you know that?
It was nothing but affection. Daro and Gileas were extraordinarily close. Daro had been a thirteen year old, sullen teenager when his brother had been born and he’d vowed to make the kid’s life a misery. He’d failed to bank on the fact that Gileas was born with the sort of sunny personality that could only end in winning over those close to him. He was smart, he was funny, he was…
…he was going to end up in a whole world of trouble if Daro didn’t address the Issue at some point…
…he was talking again.
I’m sending you a set of files in a separate transmission. If you can offload those onto a slicer stick, you should be able to access any of the core modules of the translator droids. Gileas paused, then grinned – a grin that was startlingly like Daro’s own – that means, save this stuff onto a data stick and you can plug it into a translator droid. It’ll assume you’re its owner and it’ll do whatever you ask of it. I hope it helps. Failing that, I’ve also done a bit of work in trying to translate some jawa-ese for you. There’s a list in another file.
Gileas shook his head and turned to look to the side. Dad’s coming. I have to go. You take care of yourself, alright? And for the love of all that’s good and holy, get in touch with the parents. Bye, Daro.
The holo-image remained steady for a second or two longer and then Gileas faded from existence. Daro closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath he hadn’t even realised he’d been holding. He was… so far from his brother. Stuck here, on this planet, without any sort of chance of getting home any time soon…
He let his thoughts linger in the mire of doubt for a while before he sighed again and picked up the other two messages. One was a list of commonly used words and phrases used in the jawa tongue.
By some fortuitous turn of events, Glix reappeared. Daro had no idea how he knew it was Glix and not some other jawa, but he did. It startled him to realise that over the past few days, he’d actually started to develop a certain fondness for his new companion. He flicked down Gileas’s list of words and tentatively tried one.
“Um… Glix utini?”
Greetings, Glix of the jawa. I would like to buy a gallon of chicken soup.
The jawa stared.
* * *
Two more days passed.
Daro’s foray into the world of jawa vernacular had not gone spectacularly well. Every time he attempted one of the phrases off Gileas’s carefully composed list, Glix would shake his little jawa head and gently correct his giant friend. The conversations went a little like this.
Daro would glance down the list, find what he wanted to say and attempt the right inflection. “Utini,” he would say earnestly. “Utini.”
I am a bantha. Look! Look! The composite is pretty in the artefact!
Glix would shake his head. “Utini!”
Ah, poor Daro Daro Keers. Your continued and concerted efforts to learn my language are deeply appreciated. If only you knew just how entertaining it was. Would that I could convey this to you.
“Um… ut… utini?”
In triplicate, the colour orange is frowned upon most dismissively.
Somehow, the two managed to muddle along.
It had taken a couple of days for Daro to find himself the piece of slicer’s kit that he needed in order to transfer protocol droid command codes from Gileas’s message. It hadn’t come cheaply, either, and as he winced at the cost, he wondered if it had all been worth it, just to have a proper conversation with his new friend.
In the event, it transpired that it was worth every penny.
Daro picked his moment carefully. He had been watching the translator droid at work on the docks, passing along messages from one freighter captain to another, bustling back and forth like a shiny errand boy. Eventually, a lull had come and the droid had moved off (politely) in order to remain out of the way until it was needed. Daro approached the automaton cautiously.
“Greetings…” it said as Daro approached. It scanned up and down the man’s scruffy form and seemed to be processing the next word. When it came out, the slight rise in pitch suggested a question rather than a statement. “…human?”
It took all of Daro’s self-control not to trash the thing there and then.
“Good afternoon…” He checked the thing’s tag. “NX-4B. I require use of your services.”
“Certainly. My fees are sixty credits for half an hour and… what is that? I do hope, sir, that you aren’t planning to use that in order to hack my systems… oh! My!” The damn thing sounded so distressed that Daro almost changed his mind. Then he cast a sideways look at Glix, who was looking… expressionless. Like he usually was. With grim determination, Daro plugged the slicer stick into the port on the droid’s shoulder. The lights behind its eyes dimmed momentarily, then flickered back into life.
“Good afternoon. NX-4B online and requesting instruction. Please state nature of language translation required.”
“Universal to jawa, jawa to universal.”
“Parameters accepted. Please proceed.”
“So… uh, Glix. Hope this thing actually helps. Look, little buddy, I’m just gonna come right out and say this straight. What is it that you want from me? Because I’m not entirely sure I’ve got anything you could possibly want. I’m broke, pal. Out of readies. So far down on my luck that I’ve hit rock bottom and started digging.” Daro ran his fingers through his messy hair and sighed. “I’m a nobody, Glix.”
There was a long pause, then the droid repeated his words to the jawa who tipped his head on one side and let out a long stream of syllables (periodically punctuated with the obligatory ‘utini’) back at the droid.
“Daro Daro Keers… I want nothing more from you than to simply be your friend and companion. You saved my life. I owe you. And a jawa never breaks a life debt. It is a poor jawa indeed who would abandon a friend.”
Daro stared. Then he determined that it must be particularly dusty that day, because there was a tear in the back of his eye and a lump in his throat. Since he’d packed his bags and left Corellia, he’d never encountered anybody who simply wanted to be his ‘friend’. There had always been ulterior motives.
For the first time in his life, Daro Keers was completely speechless.
“Awaiting response, master.”
“Yeah, yeah. Uh… OK, Glix, here’s the deal. I don’t know what’s going to happen, little buddy. But… if you want to tag along…” Did he mean this next bit? Yes, he realised, yes he did. “You’re welcome.”
The droid burbled his reply. Glix patted Daro’s arm in a friendly sort of way and chattered a response.
“Most excellent news, Daro Daro Keers. Let us be friends. Let us explore new worlds together. Perhaps you can find whatever it is that you need to be happy and perhaps I can be remembered as Glix the Great. For now, my friend, our paths run parallel. Where you go, I will be there….” Daro raised a hand to interrupt the flow of translation.
“About that, Glix. Let’s discuss the matter of… boundaries and personal space…”
The conversation continued for a while in the same vein until they eventually reached something of an agreement. Taking pity on the droid, Daro unplugged the hack chip and it wandered off, looking decidedly confused. Daro gave Glix a grin and putting everything he had into it, convinced he would certainly be right through sheer determination alone, he tried one more time.
In all cases, three Star Destroyers and a womp-rat will converge upon the zenith day. Free! Free the trapped killiks and rejoice forevermore.
Glix just nodded.
it seemed they were now a team.
Their lives slid into something of a rhythm. After the long chat with the aid of the translator droid, Glix began to give Daro a little space every now and again. The jawa was never far away, however, and Daro began to adjust to having Glix’s company. As it appeared he was stuck on Tattooine, at least for the time being, he forced himself to slow down with the drinking and wasting money and to focus on getting as much work as possible to build the credits back up again.
Of course, such resolutions were made to be broken. Daro made it through a day and a half before he was back to his usual habit of working hard and then spending the day’s credits in a single night, usually on booze. Most days he slept outside which was fine by him, and he resumed his illegal practice of breaking and entering in order to take showers.
My life has actually become a cliche, he realised, somewhat morosely.
For his part, Glix seemed happy and content to just scuttle along at Daro’s side, ‘helping’ the man lift the heavy crates that made up the majority of cargo transfer from ship to port and from port to ship. ‘Helping’ in this context largely translated as ‘get under Daro’s feet with startling regularity and nearly trip him up’. But the jawa’s intentions were clearly good ones and the good-natured Daro didn’t have it in him to get irritated or annoyed with his little friend.
His efforts to speak jawa were coming along just fine. He had definitely begun to pick up some of the greater subtleties of what was actually, when you stopped to break it down, was a remarkable complex language. The fact that he still failed to understand what Glix was saying back to him didn’t seem to worry him, though. He had reached the point where he simply chose his own interpretation and it seemed to be working out.
“Keers. Hey, Keers!” The voice belonged to one of the space port supervisors, the man who’d given Daro three days work and had driven his cheap labour so hard that for the first time in months, Daro was genuinely exhausted. “Come here.”
“Ya see anybody else called Keers standing around like a great lump of bantha shavit? Shift your ass over here. Now! I gotta job for you.”
More lifting, no doubt. Perhaps, just to break the monotony, some carrying. Maybe even some lugging as well. Feeling the aches in his bones more than he’d ever done before, Daro headed over to the supervisor a man so monumentally dull that Daro couldn’t even remember his name.
“This your jawa?” He pointed to Glix. Daro looked down at the jawa who raised a hooded head upwards.
Daro Daro Keers, you are going to like this news! I have worked hard to convince Albrecht here of your skill and talent and he’s prepared to give you a try! Oh, this is so very exciting!
Glix clapped his hands in childish delight.
“Um… well, he’s kind of his own jawa, but yeah, we’re sort of… travelling together.”
“He’s suggested that you know your way around starship engines. That right?”
Daro blinked. “My background is in designing starship engines. I…”
“Yeah, yeah, I don’t need or want your potted life history. Can you repair engines or can’t you?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t have any tools or…”
“There’s a crate in my office. Should have all you need. Get to it. Docking bay sixty three. Starboard engine needs checking out. You’ve got three hours. Go.”
Daro blinked again and remained where he was.
“Two hours, fifty five seconds.”
You see, Daro Daro Keers? I finally got someone to give you a job worthy of your talents and believe you me, convincing this fine fellow was no easy task. I had to flatter you outrageously, so you’d better make sure you do a good job. And of course, I can help you. Because Glix knows his way around engines too, oh yes.
It was the first truly nice thing that had happened in days and with a grin at the jawa and a nod to the supervisor, Daro headed off to docking bay sixty three and the possible chance of getting himself more credits. All thoughts of that afternoon’s drinking session fled as he immersed himself in the sort of work that he had once loved and enjoyed so much. He missed having a ship to work on. The Nebula hadn’t been much, but she’d been home and he’d spent many happy nights down in the engine room, avoiding the temper of the captain and seeing just what enhancements he could deliver to the ship’s aging engines.
They fell into an easy partnership whilst working. Something in Daro Keers flipped from the airheaded layabout into a fully competent technician when he was working on an engine and Glix picked up on this interesting new… sober aspect of his friend and didn’t get under foot once. Instead, he fetched and carried tools and held things steady and as a consequence, Glix and Daro completed the task half an hour ahead of schedule.
“Good work, Keers. There might be more of that if you’re lucky.” The supervisor nodded his approval and paid Daro for his day’s work, including a handful of additional credits, a small commission from the fee he’d got for himself from the ship’s owner. “You want to thank Glix there. Got yourself a real champion, ain’t you?”
The jawa bounced up and down slightly. “Utini!”
You see, Daro Daro Keers? With your technical expertise and my faultless assistance, we will soon earn enough money to buy our passage off Tattooine. Oh, my dear friend, the big wide universe awaits us! Such adventures we will have!
Daro nodded at the jawa, not understanding a word. Instead, he chose to interpret it the way he wanted.
“You’re right,” he said, clinking the credit chips together in his coat pocket. “This calls for a bottle of best brandy tonight!”
Three hours later, Daro Keers was roaring drunk, sprawled face-down on the cantina table and Glix sat opposite, wondering for the first time if he hadn’t made a terrible, terrible mistake in chancing his future to this man.
He was dying.
There was no other plausible explanation for just how terrible he was feeling. Every time he opened his eyes, the harsh, unrelenting sunlight of Tatooine pounded at the back of his retinas. It wasn’t even a regular rhythm. It wasn’t a gentle ‘thump thump thump. This was an irregular tattoo of THUMPthumpthumpTHUMPTHUMP.
He was dying. Definitely.
On waking Daro followed a certain process. He took a mental stocktake of his body parts, making sure everything was still attached. Limbs, there. Eyes, hurting, but there. Ears, still on the side of his head. His hand absently reached round to the front of his trousers. Yep. Still there. That was something, at least.
So everything was still attached. There was no blood on the ground beneath him. Every muscle in his body was aching. He felt as though he had been wound up so tightly that it was a wonder he hadn’t snapped.
The banging in his head started up again and he moan softly in protest, bringing his arms up to cover his eyes. It did little to help, but he did it anyway.
I. Am. Dying.
He felt, on a supremely bizarre level, exceptionally disappointed. He’d always thought his death would come with a bang, not a whimper. Instead, he was going to waste away, unnoticed in this place.
Where was this place?
Slowly, inch by painstaking inch, he dragged his arms away from his eyes and forced his left eyelid to prise itself upwards. He was… it was hard to make out exactly where he was. Everything was glaringly bright.
Other senses kicked in around this point and after his blurred sight was just starting to focus, his sense of smell turned up with several weeks’ worth of luggage and announced its arrival quite powerfully with a sudden, overwhelming stench of rotting meat and vegetable matter.
Daro felt his stomach react to the arrival of his sense of smell. It bounced around in his torso like a thing possessed and then it cruelly squeezed tightly. He barely had time to catch his breath before he was violently, loudly and comprehensively sick. He vomited repeatedly until there was nothing left to throw up and then he lay back, shaking from a combination of dehydration and horror as the true realisation of his whereabouts permeated his hungover brain.
Apparently, he was in a waste bin.
The first three attempts to clamber out were hindered a little thanks to the smooth sides of the container. By some curious providence, he was able to avoid falling backwards into the veritable ocean of puke that he had generated. On the fourth attempt, he got himself over the edge and then fell the reasonable distance from the bin to the ground.
He landed with a sickening ‘crunch’. He lay there, covered in litter and several half-eaten meals from the cantina that had been thrown out the previous night stunned and startled. After a short time had passed, he began the stock take of his body parts again. Everything was still attached and by some incredible twist of fate, nothing appeared to be broken.
OK, I’m not dying, he grudgingly acknowledged.
He lay on the dusty ground for a while, staring up at the azure blue of the Tatooine day. There was the faintest wisp of cloud set against the endless sapphire welkin and he marvelled at it as though seeing a cloud for the first time in his life. Somewhere, he reasoned, a moisture farmer is getting really excited.
More time passed. The hangover wasn’t getting any better and now it was made worse by the fact that he smelled vile.
Maybe if I just lie here long enough, there’ll be a sandstorm and it’ll cover me up. And all my worries will go away. He considered life as a sand dune for a little longer and then, with a sigh, he realised that he needed to move.
The act of going from lying flat on the ground to all fours took a concerted effort and by the time he managed it, he was exhausted. He must have been going at that brandy hammer and tongs last night to be this broken. Then he became aware of a slight shadow falling across his own. He raised his head slowly. Very slowly. An ambulatory dark brown robe with piercing yellow eyes stood in front of him.
“Oh, hey, Glix.”
Daro waited until the silence became too uncomfortable not to fill.
“I… er… dropped something. I’m looking for it. You want to help me, little buddy?”
I think he hates you, Keers.
I think you might be right.
He’d never known the jawa to be so very silent and it made him feel more than a little uncomfortable. Several more moments passed and he became acutely aware that a sense of extreme disappointment was radiating from the small figure. A spark of rebellion flared in Daro’s gut and he almost… almost told the jawa to leave him alone, that Glix wasn’t his kriffing mother, but he thought better of it.
“Um… utini? You couldn’t give me a hand to get up, could you? I really, really need some water.”
The day is filled with glass lemons. I like pies!
“Utini.” Just that. Just the one word. No emphasis on the end. It was so severe and so cross, that Daro didn’t even pretend that he’d understood it. Because he had. Perfectly.
“I’m… sorry, little buddy.” All Daro’s bravado left him and with extreme caution, he moved from all fours to sit down, cross-legged in the sand. He was more or less at eye level with his jawa companion and that somehow didn’t help one little bit. He had to look away. The sense of disapproval was too strong. “I get it, now. You want me to buy passage off this planet so we can do… our thing. I… just couldn’t help it. I like a good drink. Maybe too much. I know. Don’t look at me like that, OK? I’m sorry.”
This is what it’s come to, Keers. You’re being schooled in how to grow up. By a jawa. Good going.
Gilx hunkered down and peered closely at Daro.
“Yes. I promise. I won’t spend any more of my earnings getting drunk.”
“No, I won’t go back on my word.”
Glix nodded. “Utini.” Then he unclipped the water bottle he wore on the belt across his robe, handing it to Daro. The man took a long pull of life-giving water and sighed heavily. It had taken the friendship of the strangest of little creatures to teach him that he was losing control. It was time, he realised, to stop acting like an idiot and to start getting his shavit together. He gave the water bottle back to Glix, who took it wordlessly.
“Utini?” Daro chanced another one of Gileas’s phrases.
A nexu has eaten my raspberry. Do you know the way to the cantina? A fearful switchblade upon the house of Organa.
Glix reached over with a little gloved hand and tweaked the end of Daro’s nose. It was such a friendly gesture that Daro almost cried. Later, he would blame his tearfulness on the fact that he was so badly hungover, not on the fact that he’d finally found someone to steer him right.
The jawa offered out his hand again and although it was about as much use as nothing at all, Daro took it and got shakily to his feet.
“No more hangovers,” he vowed. “At least, not like this one.”
* * *
Daro’s head was hurting again, but it wasn’t from trying to fight off a hangover. He’d been booze-free for several days now. No, this time, his head was hurting because he was learning.
Both Daro and his older brother, like many of the children on Corellia, had been home-schooled. Kevan had always been the one who understood, who solved complicated maths problems, who wrote the best stories and who even learned to cook the best cake. But Daro always outshone his brother in matters of physical challenges. Daro was the better runner, the better swimmer, the best at climbing trees… and then falling out of said trees and breaking his arm. Daro had been the reason Kevan had almost died at the age of ten, when he’d tried to stop his little brother from climbing too high, had fallen himself and landed on a pane of broken glass that had sliced open his lower abdomen.
Kevan hadn’t died, but he’d never really got on with his little brother after that. Then, of course, he’d left home at fifteen. At that point, Daro’s parents had tried for a late baby in an effort to fill the void left by their older, definitely more beloved son and Daro’s home-schooling had come to an end. He’d been put into an engineering apprenticeship programme and he had finally shone, finding his skill.
But since he’d left Corellia, seven years ago, learning hadn’t been much of a thing for him. Now he was sitting, cross-legged in the sand, with three jawas who were tinier even than Glix. That particular jawa was standing up in front of them and he was teaching.
The three tiny jawas were, Daro had realised, jawa children. It was hard not to pick them up and hug them.
Glix made a barking cough to draw everyone’s attention.
“Po,” Glix began, and the three little jawas immediately picked up the cue.
“Ko, kyo, yo, dyo…” Glix held up a hand to stop them and pointed at Daro encouragingly.
“Oh, gods… uh… Po, ko, kyo, yo, dyo, lyo… the – ah – non-existent seven, ho, toe, ki… ki…”
“Kisewa!” The three little jawas (jawa-lings?) chimed in with the missing number and Glix nodded. Learning the basics of the Jawa trade language was an important lesson for young jawas. And for young humans as well, it seemed.
Daro ached to ask questions. Why was there no number seven in the jawa language? Was it a superstition thing? Were the jawas even superstitious? The more time he spent around the rodent-like creatures, the more curious he was getting. Slowly, bit by bit as he’d started earning Glix’s trust back, the jawa had visibly relaxed. He’d watched Daro like a hawk for a few days, noting the effort the big man was putting in to sorting his life out and this, it seemed was his reward.
One of the tiny jawas got up and scuttled over to Daro, clambering into the big man’s crossed lap. It looked up at him and offered up a slow blink of its yellow eyes.
“Ayafa,” it said.
Glix nodded. “Ayafa.”
Later, much later, Daro learned that ‘ayafa’ translated as ‘clan’.