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Hunters of the Dark Side (Part 7)


Chapter Nineteen

 

Bobby Singer, descendent of freed Hutt slaves turned moisture farmers, operated a shipyard salvage and repair business on Tatooine. He was out in the inner edges of the Eastern Dune Sea, not too far from the towns to make it dangerous or inconvenient to reach him, but not so close that the Hutts and their cronies were scrutinizing his every move. 

 

The business provided him with a home; a steady, legal income; and both great resources and contacts that came in handy when hunting. Plus, people loved the opportunity to deal with a mechanic and parts supplier who was neither a Hutt nor a slaver. They trusted both Bobby’s work and his prices a lot more than the competition (which was, incidentally, composed mostly of Hutts and slavers). As a result, Bobby always had a steady stream of business.

 

He was relieved, however, to be having a particularly light day—a few people scheduled to come by and pick up parts later in the afternoon and one long-term repair job that was due in three days—when he got a message from Dean Winchester’s droid saying the Dream was coming in damaged with wounded. Well, that would have been easy enough to explain to customers—people knew him to be a trained medic with a reputation for helping out those who needed it, if not for the spectacular space battle between the Dream and what appeared to be a lone Republic fighter that had grabbed everyone’s attention, lighting up the sky with blaster fire and making people run for cover when it looked like one of the ships might crash. (Bobby was really, really glad the Dream hadn’t crashed.) Thus, he was glad he didn’t have customers milling about.

 

The battle had gotten the Hutts’ attention, and if that really was a Republic ship after the, the Winchesters were bound to bring a world of trouble with them—more than what usually followed them around, and more than they’d been in even last he’d heard from them.

 

Bobby had known John and the Winchester boys since the boys were kids. Bobby’d gotten into hunting after his wife was struck ill and died from a Sith artifact she’d accidentally picked up while examining salvage on a Jawa sandcrawler. The object had possessed her with Dark Side energy, causing her to attack people around her, only then leave her drained of all energy and fatally poisoned. 

 

The Jedi had gotten involved—a rarity out her in the Outer Rim—sending a Shadow and a Healer to investigate. The Shadow had confiscated the artifact for examination, but wouldn’t answer any of Bobby’s questions as to why or how it had wound up on Tatooine. The Healer hadn’t been able to stop the poison from claiming his wife’s life, either.

 

Frustrated and distraught, Bobby had started researching, and found out about a secretive group of non-Jedi that hunted all the things the Jedi either couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. They all had different backgrounds and styles (some were downright dangerous, others thought the Force itself was evil, still others were more sane and rational). They weren’t particularly well organized (or even civil with one another), but over the years they had more or less welcomed Bobby into the fold and saw to it he had opportunities for training and hunting.

 

Over time, Bobby had developed somewhat of a reputation for being an expert in possessive entities and artifacts, and about ten years after his wife’s death, he’d agreed to train up an up-and-coming hunter named John Winchester.

 

Winchester had arrived with his two- and six-year-old sons in tow. The two adults had bonded over losing their wives; butted heads over John’s militaristic attitude that seemed to be his default whenever he felt frightened, threatened, or lost; and formed a lasting love-hate relationship that continued to this day.

 

Now Sam and Dean were like nephews to Bobby, surrogate sons almost, and he would do anything to help them, but he couldn’t help thinking that this time they seemed to have stepped in a Krayt Dragon–sized heap of trouble, and he wasn’t sure he could help them get themselves out of it. Although, come to think of it, the circumstances of this current mess combined with the info the boys had sent him from Coruscant suggested that maybe this one had always been hanging over their heads, just waiting for the right time to strike.

 

He was relieved to see the Dream come in for a smooth landing, settling herself gracefully onto the landing pad he’d cleared for her arrival. When he’d received Chevy’s latest message about the shields being out, he had been very worried. Tatooine had bad sandstorms that could tear the hell out of an unshielded ship’s surface if one was unlucky. Still, they appeared to have avoided any such storms, and the repulsors were clearly working, so the quick and agile little ship had set down smoothly.

 

Bobby could see the missing sensor array and the damage to the shield generator. He moved towards the aft and the boarding ramp and blanched when he saw what looked like a hole in the hull with the telltale pinkish shimmer of an emergency force field in place.

 

Sithspawn! Things must be really bad if Dean or Sam had landed without patching that breach. At least it had been on the aft dorsal section of the ship where it was most shielded from atmospheric friction, otherwise they might not have made it in one piece.

 

The ramp started to lower, and he expected to see either Dean or maybe Sam coming out greet him and let him know what the hell had happened. Instead, he was greeted by a truly frantic-looking Chevy, the little droid tweeting and whistling so fast he knew exactly what she meant without need for translation—Emergency! Injuries! Come quick!

 

Grateful he’d had the foresight to grab his medkit when he’d received their message, he rushed onboard, hopping up onto the ramp before it had even lowered all the way to the ground. He stuck his head into the sick bay/kitchen compartment (the boys affectionately called it ‘the clinic’) as he rushed past, relieved to see that it appeared undamaged. 

 

A few datapads were scattered on the floor, probably from not being strapped down when the grav went, but all the cabinets were still closed and there were no liquids oozing or leaking from under the cabinet doors. That probably meant everything was still nicely snug and restrained in their storage places—John might be a stubborn, militaristic bastard at times, but at least it came in handy with things like proper care and storage of medical supplies, and he’d trained his boys well. In less-conscientious hands, the precious contents of the clinic could easily have been destroyed in the zero-g transition or during landing.

 

Bobby filed the information away as he reached the bridge. He was met immediately with the sweet-acidic smell of vomit and saw a tell-tale puddle of it lying on the deck, but it was a good distance from the pilot and co-pilot’s seats. Perplexed, he then remembered Dean’s tendency towards space-sickness in zero-g and ached in sympathy for the boy.

 

Then he took in the occupied pilot and co-pilot seats. Sam seemed to be hanging half out of his seat, his restraints clearly broken. Sam wasn’t speaking or really moving, so Bobby started towards him, only to halt when he noticed that Dean was slumped, lifeless in his seat, a gash on the back of his head and a small pool of blood not too far away on the floor. Bobby’s heart jumped into his throat, his blood rushing in his ears as he leapt forward, fearing the worst.

 

He stepped around the front of Dean’s seat and pressed his fingers to the boy’s neck, sighing audibly in relief when he felt a strong, steady pulse. Prodding hastily at Dean’s eyelids, he found the pupils somewhat reactive to light—maybe a little sign of concussion—and even heard a weak moan, as if Dean was thinking about coming around. 

 

Just knocked out then, and not too badly, he thought. The boy would probably have one hell of a headache, but he’d live.

 

Bobby’s relief was short-lived, however.

 

“Bobby?” Sam’s voice called, sounding incredibly breathy and weak.

 

Bobby froze, turning his head to face Sam, chilled by the sound of his voice. The younger boy was struggling to free himself from his restraints where they were still attached to his chest. Bobby could see his fingers weren’t working too well, and blood was soaking his shirt around where the harness still hung.

 

But that wasn’t what had Bobby darting to his side so fast he didn’t remember moving. Sam’s lips were blue, and his breath was coming in short, rattling gasps. 

 

“M’lung’s punctured … collapsing,” Sam wheezed out.

 

Yep, exactly as Bobby had feared. Shit, Sam needed Bacta immersion and a while ago, but there was no Bacta tank onboard, and none back at Bobby’s house. He’d been meaning to get one someday, but had never gotten around to it—those things weren’t cheap, and it wasn’t easy to explain why a mechanic who ran a salvage yard would need one.

 

“I can see that, Sammy, hang on. I’m gonna get you sorted out,” he murmured, hoping his tone was soothing and reassuring, and didn’t betray the terror that lay underneath the surface. Thank the Force he’d brought his kit! As he spoke, he wrestled Sam’s near limp and semi-compliant form back onto the co-pilot’s seat and managed to untangle and unbuckle the harness fro his chest.

 

Ignoring the blood as best he could, he quickly tore Sam’s shirt open, exposing a rainbow of bruises and cuts underneath. The boys would have to do some explaining when they were well enough to, because he doubted Sam had suffered all that just in the space battle. Not with the Dream sustaining as relatively little damage as she had.

 

He could clearly see the indented spot on Sam’s right side where two ribs were out of place, skewering the lung beneath. Bobby’s fingers flew into his kit, finding what he needed by feel, keeping his eyes on Sam the whole time.

 

“Sam,” he started, cringing as Sam jumped a little in his seat, giving off a pained moan—the boy had obviously been drifting towards unconsciousness.

 

“I’ve got to cut, I’m sorry,” he stammered, hating what he was going to have to do. It felt so crude and primitive, but it was the only way without a Bacta tank on hand.

 

“I know… the drill,” Sam wheezed.

 

And didn’t that suck? Poor kid had already experienced this once before at least.

 

Bobby quickly sprayed the skin with antiseptic and adjusted his laser scalpel to the right cutting depth.

 

Sam caught his eye and gave him a little nod of permission.

 

Hating himself for having to cause the kid more pain, he quickly made the incision into Sam’s chest and wiggled the tube into place as soon as the scalpel was out of the way and safely switched off. He checked to see that its self-sealing flange was snugly secured to Sam’s skin (it was).

 

Bobby remained kneeling at Sam’s side, waiting to see how the boy fared. When Sam’s lips started to lose their bluish tinge, and his breaths were deeper and less labored, Bobby breathed a sigh of relief. They’d still have to set the ribs and repair the lung, but Sam could wait until they got back to the Dream’s clinic. Bobby injected some Bacta in next to the chest tube to start the healing process. He then quickly cleaned off the cuts on Sam’s chest and forehead, glancing over at Dean every half-minute or so, to make sure he was still ok. He quickly applied Bacta and bandages to the cuts on Sam’s chest and ran a Bacta-laced skin sealant over the gash on his forehead to minimize scarring.

 

“Sam, I’m gonna go check on Dean, you ok for now?” Bobby asked gently.

 

“Yeah,” Sam said a little easier. He took a few deep breaths, apparently relishing the ability to get more air. “A hydrospanner hit his head,” Sam supplied.

 

“Ah,” Bobby said nodding and stood, carefully making his way over to Dean.

 

“Careful,” Sam warned, “his ankle’s broken.”

 

Bobby nodded again in acknowledgment and set to work on triaging Dean. He quickly cleaned and sealed the cut on the back of dean’s head, pleased that it had already stopped bleeding on its own. He moved around to dean’s front, careful of his obviously injured and splinted ankle.

 

Bobby began unbuckling Dean from his harness, but paused when he noticed that Dean’s left shoulder was hanging at an awkward angle and was swollen, stretching his shirt around it.

 

“He hurt his shoulder too?” Bobby asked Sam.

 

Sam looked confused, then angry. “Not that he would admit. I thought it was bothering him—that he might have wrenched it, but he said it was fine.” Sam’s anger abated. “Nothing was out of place when I examined it, but I didn’t scan it,” Sam nodded, his expression now suggesting he was mad at himself.

 

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Bobby said quickly, hoping to head off any self-flagellation on Sam’s part. “We both know how stubborn Dean can be. He probably strained or tore something and didn’t realize it, only now it’s dislocated.” Probably from hitting his restraints hard during the battle, Bobby thought.

 

Sam let out a bitter-sounding snort that turned into a coughing fit. Sam tried to stifle it with his hand.

 

Bobby saw Sam’s hand come away bloody and cringed. Looked like the Bacta injection wasn’t doing enough fast enough. Carefully easing the harness around Dean’s injured shoulder, he stood, lifting Dean’s dead weight in his arms, mindful of the boy’s injuries and staggering only slightly under the strain. “Sam, d’ya think you can make it to the clinic with me?” Bobby asked, encouragingly. “I’m gonna take care of that lung and get Dean’s shoulder sorted out, see if we can rouse him, too,” Bobby added.

 

Sam nodded minutely, careful of his injured head, and stood stiffly, slowly, wobbly making his way around his chair towards the aft compartments.

 

“Chevy,” Bobby said softly to the droid, who had been standing nervously inside the bridge doorway, obviously worried about her boys. “Can you make sure Sam gets himself in there and seated ok?” Bobby asked.

 

Chevy whistled an affirmative and trundled to Sam’s side, offering him support if he needed it.

 

Bobby waited for them to clear the doorway before starting after them. He paused to look at his med bag, which was still on the floor between the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats, but decided to go back for it later. He’d have everything he needed in John’s well-stocked on-board clinic.

 

Careful not to jostle Dean, Bobby followed Sam and Chevy aft.

 

~~~

 

Once inside the clinic, Bobby strode purposefully to the bulkhead that he knew housed the emergency exam beds. Nudging the panel with his elbow, he stepped out of the way while one bunk extended, and carefully laid Dean on it. He pulled out the diagnostic holoscanner attached to the bed’s side, and programmed it to scan and catalogue Dean’s injuries. He was pretty sure he knew what he was dealing with—and unfortunately, without Bacta immersion, there wouldn’t be much he could do for a concussion except painkillers once the boy was alert enough again—but he wanted to make sure there was nothing more serious. He also needed to know the best way to reduce that shoulder, and where to inject the Bacta to heal whatever tears or breaks were obviously inside.

 

Satisfied that the scanner was making progress, he turned not to Sam, but to the cabinets he knew housed the supplies he would need. He was unsurprised, but disappointed, to see that the supplies had been recently picked through. As he had suspected, the boys had been injured before this most recent space battle. Gathering what he needed he returned to kneel next to Sam’s side pulling along the mobile holoscanner so that he could see what he was doing.

 

“Sith followed us,” Sam wheezed out from where he sat at the table, Chevy by his side, and seat swiveled out away of the table to face Dean. 

 

“Sith?” Bobby asked alarmed as he ran the scanner over Sam’s torso. He knew Dean’s message had mentioned a Sith, but surely that wasn’t following them, was it? Hadn’t the message said something about destroyed in the fire?

 

“Yeah, we think it’s possessing people,” Sam explained. “Don’t know quite how it works, but it’s the same thing that killed… Jessica,” Sam said, pained. 

 

Sam flinched as Bobby ran his hands over injured ribs, but Bobby was pretty sure that at least part of that flinch was due to the mention of what his girlfriend’s death. Bobby was very grateful that Dean had included that information, or he might have just stuck his foot in his mouth.

 

“Well, you’re gonna have to tell me all about it, but after we get you on the mend,” Bobby murmured. He held up a Bacta nebulizer.

 

Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Do I have to?”

 

“Sam, we don’t have a Bacta tank, and your lung’s still bleeding,” Bobby explained.

 

“I hate the taste of Bacta,” Sam whined, but took the breathing apparatus from Bobby without further complaint, and with Bobby’s assistance, secured the mask to his face. It would allow Sam to inhale the healing liquid deep into his lungs where it could repair the damage. 

 

While Sam was distracted by the device, Bobby swung the medicomp over to Sam’s side, and readied its suction arm which would help Sam’s ribs get back into place without surgery or Bacta immersion.

 

Sam noticed the machine and muttered something incoherent, but Bobby got the gist. Yeah, this particular treatment sucked even more than the Bacta injection. 

 

Bobby snugged the machine up to Sam’s side, and on the count of three, Bobby activated the machine. It took about four heart-rending seconds, but finally Sam’s ribs had snapped back into place and the medicomp was reporting success. Sam whimpered in pain, but stayed still, working hard to deeply inhale the breathing treatment.

 

“Sorry kiddo,” Bobby said. “I’m gonna go check on your brother now, will you be ok?”

 

Sam managed a weak nod.

 

Bobby ruffled Sam’s hair affectionately as he stood and returned to Dean’s side, noticing for the first time that while Sam had been properly dressed, Dean was still in his sleeping clothes. He shook his head in disbelief. Dean really needed to take better care of himself. 

 

The bunk’s attached holoscanner had completed its work and was proclaiming Dean’s concussion mild. His shoulder should be easy to reduce, but unfortunately Dean had torn a ligament and pinched a nerve. Bobby shook his head in disbelief. Dean must have done a number on that joint to have it pop out so easily, especially if it had been superficially “fine” earlier as Sam had said. 

 

Slapping a muscle relaxant patch on Dean’s neck, Bobby followed the medicomp’s directions for easing Dean’s shoulder back in place. He was relieved to see the scanner indicate the nerve compression was easing and no bones were chipped or broken. A Bacta injection, three Bacta patches, and a carefully slipped on sling later, Dean was stable and treated to Bobby’s satisfaction.

 

It took a little more effort to rouse Dean. After a few minutes of trying, ending with a threat to scratch the Dream’s paint, Bobby was finally able to wake him, but the boy was clearly loopy from the muscle relaxants. 

 

Chevy trilled, catching Bobby’s attention. She had plugged herself into one of the dataports, so that her words were scrolling out on the kitchen’s computer terminal.

 

Bobby’s eyes widened, taking in her message. “Comaren, huh?” he asked the droid rhetorically. “Well, that would certainly explain it. Poor boy.”

 

Bobby was familiar enough with Dean’s extreme sensitivity to medications, especially painkillers. With Chevy’s added information, Bobby wasn’t surprised when Dean quickly slipped back to sleep—his snores further alleviating Bobby’s fears. Satisfied that he wasn’t slipping into a coma, Bobby let Dean fall back to sleep. Poor boy would probably be grateful he wouldn’t remember any of this when the meds wore off.

 

By the time Bobby returned to Sam’s side, about twenty standard minutes had passed, and Sam’s breathing treatment was just about done. 

 

“Here, lemme help you,” Bobby said, aiding Sam in removing the mask.

 

When it was off, Sam started scratching at his side, fingers inching towards the chest tube, as if set on removing it.

 

“No,” Bobby said firmly, stilling his hand. “That stays until the computer says your lung’s healed enough. And I estimate you’ve got at least two more Bacta treatments before that’s done.”

 

Sam groaned, but dropped his hand, he looked forlorn and dejected, but it was for his own good. Then he shivered.

 

Bobby cursed himself for being so thoughtless. He’d left the injured boy sitting shirtless in the relatively cool room. Sure, Tatooine was hot and dry, but in here the ship still carried a hint of the coldness of deep space. Bobby darted to the appropriate cabinet and removed another of the loose-fitting robes that Dean wore. “Here, let’s get you into this,” Bobby murmured as he helped Sam slip on the robe. Searching his brain for anything else he might have forgotten, Bobby added, “Want something for the pain?”

 

“Not yet, not if you want me to tell you what happened,” Sam croaked, his voice already stronger, his breathing steadier.

 

Bobby nodded.

 

Sam gave him a glance and eye-roll that said “now what?”

 

“D’you think you can make it back to my house if Chevy helps you? I’m gonna carry Dean so we can get him into bed,” Bobby started. “Then you can tell me what happened—but let Chevy tell it if it’s too much for you—and we’ll give you another treatment and give you some pain killers and get you to bed.” 

 

“I think I can manage,” Sam said standing. He immediately wobbled, and Bobby caught him, steadying.

 

It took almost a quarter hour, but they finally made it back to the house. Bobby got Dean tucked away, rousing him again, and finding the boy still spaced out from the meds. He opted to slap a monitor on the boy instead. It would let Bobby know if anything went wrong or if Dean’s condition changed and would save him the trouble of having to wake the heavily medicated and exhausted Winchester again. Bobby hoped that by the time the meds wore off the concussion would have resolved itself enough to take the edge off the pain. He really didn’t want to have to dose Dean up on more painkillers, ‘cause that would just knock the boy out all over again.

 

When Dean was settled, Bobby joined Sam at the table in his crowded, but well-appointed kitchen. The room was rounded with earthen walls, the home set up in a series of domes connected by rounded tubes all dug deep into the ground, shifting sands held back by earthen retaining walls. Inside it was cool and comfortable, even without turning on the climate controls.

 

Bobby poured them a pitcher of water and linked a datapad up to Chevy so that she could chime in or take over when Sam tired.

 

To Bobby’s amazement, Sam managed to slog through three-quarters of the story, tiring only when he got to the start of their voyage from Coruscant to Tatooine. All the while, Sam’s voice sounded hollow, numb, which worried Bobby. He knew a good bit about what Sam was going through, feeling the ache over losing his wife renewed at Sam’s tale. But he hated how closed-down the boy seemed. He hoped it was just the exhaustion and injuries talking, leading Sam to conserve energy. But something about the burning, bitterness and drive for revenge to stop—kill—destroy the mystery Sith that snuck out in Sam’s otherwise robotic tone, reminded Bobby far too much of someone else—John, to be exact. He sincerely hoped the younger Winchester son wasn’t gearing up to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

 

When Sam couldn’t go any further, Bobby helped the boy set up another Bacta treatment, and read along on the datapad as Chevy continued the story. He was shocked to learn of Sam’s vision, and of how accurate it was. Even more disturbing was Chevy’s reiteration that it was indeed the Sith that had been in that Republic fighter. She showed Bobby the readings from the hyperspace distortion that he’d seen too many times before. 

 

At least they knew the Sith was headed to Onderon, although, Bobby doubted the boys would be up to running after it. He wondered, assuming Sam’s sense of the situation was correct, if Onderon was where the Sith was trying to stop the boys from following, or if there was somewhere else, further down the line that was important, perhaps it was just trying to throw the boys off its trail? 

 

Bobby put his pondering aside to dose Sam with some painkillers and help the boy to bed, smiling when Chevy took up a post inside the bedroom the two boys now shared, keeping watch.

 

Between the materials Dean had sent to him earlier, and the new information he’d gleaned from his conversation with Sam and Chevy, Bobby felt like he had a pretty good idea of where to start with his research. So get started he did.

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

John had finished up at the dig site with minutes to spare. 

 

The entire site had been flooded with Dark Side energy. It looked like most of the relics had been removed, and indeed, considering the materials Sam and Dean had sent to him, that seemed about right. He did find a drawing of sorts—just faint lines traced on the stone wall of a cave in the foot hills of one of the mountains, one of the few natural places left on Coruscant. It seemed to depict four small squares placed at compass points around a dark shadow in roughly the shape of human. Bars of some sort seemed to radiate from the squares creating a cage. He wasn’t sure what it meant, but its proximity to the excavation suggested it might well be related, and he had a hunch that the shadowy form at its center might just be this Sith that was making their lives hell. He had quickly snapped a holocam shot of it and continued looking. 

 

John couldn’t find much else without physically digging, and given that his time was ticking away, he opted instead to scan the place with a DED. Sure enough, it was teeming with Dark Side energy, and in certain spots like the drawing light side energy. He then hurried back to the Folly and got clearance to leave orbit under a different ship ID with about three minutes of his estimated hour left.

 

He had a decision to make. Follow the Sith again, or try to get answers. Answers meant going to Miss’Ouri, the Camassi woman who’d first opened his eyes to the world of dark relics and hauntings after Mary’s death. He didn’t have much time. Fidgeting long enough to get a reading that the Sith had indeed left the system, he punched in a course for Dantooine. Miss’Ouri’s it was. He just hoped he didn’t regret the decision.

 

~~~

 

It was already midmorning the next day by the time Dean woke up properly, the concussion and painkillers (and exhaustion) doing a number on him. He felt muzzy and groggy when he finally opened his eyes, finding himself in a familiar bedroom—twin beds, white sheets, no blankets, sloping curving walls of the dome-style buildings so often found on Tatooine. I’m at Bobby’s, he realized, but how did I get here? The last thing he remembered was. Oh. Puking in zero-g and feeling something hit his head. 

 

He found a tender, raised lump under hair, when he touched his fingers to the back of his skull. He momentarily panicked, worrying about Sam and Chevy, but if he was alive and on Tatooine, then clearly someone had landed the ship.

 

Sitting up and getting to his feet, Dean realized his left shoulder was immobilized. He looked down and took in the sling, noticing that at least his fingers weren’t numb and tingly. Must have finally dislocated again, at least getting it back in had decompressed the pinched nerve. He wasn’t going to argue with small favors.

 

He stood, walking carefully on his splinted ankle. It already felt a little better. He checked his chrono determining the time. Sithspit! He’d better have only lost the better part of one day.

 

“I see someone’s decided to rejoin the land of the living,” Bobby’s voice called, relief evident as Dean rounded the corner into Bobby’s kitchen. 

 

He smiled and felt the last vestiges of fear recede as he saw Sam and Chevy at the table. Chevy looked unharmed—she had a knack for avoiding damage—but Sam looked a little pale.

 

“Hey Dean,” Sam said quietly, “how’s your head?”

 

“Still hurts, but not too bad,” Dean admitted. “’Least I’m not seeing double. What happened?”

 

“Sit down, and get your weight off that ankle,” Bobby ordered, and Dean found himself complying.

 

Bobby—with Sam and Chevy’s help—recounted the previous day’s events. Dean thought it was a little lame that he’d gotten taken out with a hydrospanner, but it sure beat getting crushed to death by a console. He felt sheer panic rise in him again, when he heard about Sam’s punctured lung (and how close he’d come to not making it).

 

“It’s ok now,” Sam said, trying to project strength into his voice. “Finished my last breathing treatment an hour ago. Bobby shot my lung up with more Bacta, and we finally took the tube out, see?” Sam said, lifting his shirt hem to show the Bacta-salve–covered and bandaged skin where the incision had been made. “Bobby already started repairs on the Dream—don’t worry she’s not bad. So far, he fixed the co-pilot seat restraint. If I’m feeling up to it, I’m going to try helping him out with repairs on the shield generator this evening, once the suns go down and it’s cooler.”

 

“Take it easy, Sam,” Dean commanded. He was worried Sam seemed so eager, too eager really. Then he understood it for what it was—Sam was trying to keep busy, do anything to stop thinking about the crushing loss, the gaping wound that Jessica had left. Dean thought about Mom, and opted not to pressure Sam too much.

 

He caught Bobby’s eye, sharing an understanding glance. “Just don’t let him do anything too strenuous,” Dean said.

 

Bobby nodded in acknowledgment.

 

“Same goes for you, Dean,” Sam said with a sigh. “I’m not resetting that ankle again. So just stay off your feet for the rest of the day.”

 

Dean started to protest, but Bobby raised a hand to stop him.

 

“I’ve got some custom sensor arrays I just brought in for some restoration jobs, I’ve got lined up next month,” Bobby explained. “If you’d be so kind as to run through their specs, I’ll let you have your choice for the Dream.” Bobby added.

 

Dean knew he was being placated, but the option of getting a new custom array for the Dream…. “Won’t your customers mind?” he asked.

 

Bobby smile. “Well, if you hadn’t missed our meeting a few weeks ago, I was going to offer you your choice then. I haven’t specified to my customers which arrays their getting, just that I’ve got some beauties for them to choose from. Wanted you to have first crack at ‘em.”

 

“Thanks Bobby,” Dean added, grateful. If a homicidal Sith was going to shoot up his ship, getting a new sensor array out of the deal wasn’t such a bad result.

 

Bobby then served them roast gornt sandwiches and ginger water—food specifically chosen to be easy on the stomach, Dean noticed with approval—and discussed what they’d found about the Sith and this lost prophecy.

 

Bobby and Sam had managed to get more detail on the details from Jess’s research and finishing the translation of the relic and documents she had found, giving them a more complete picture.

 

The materials referred to a dark time in the Jedi Order, when the Masters on the Council ordered many of their number, as well as many other masters and nights to betray their vows and use the Dark Side. Not only use it, but use it to kill, to create the ultimate evil—a thought bomb. Some of the details were still fuzzy, but in the fallout, it became clear that the Sith Lord against whom they fought had had many followers and was immensely powerful. When he sacrificed himself, he vowed to come back as a wraith, when the Chosen One would allow him to cement his control of the galaxy once and for all, shifting the force permanently to the Dark Side.

 

Dean shuddered involuntarily as Sam finished the recap.

 

The translation was still incomplete because there were still missing pieces in the information—but they had discovered two things. Or rather discovered one and received a message about the other.

 

“Your daddy,” Bobby said hesitantly, “sent me a few files last night. Didn’t tell me where he was or where he was going mind you, but it looks like he got a message you sent, Dean, and investigated the dig on Coruscant.”

 

Dean felt a flood of relief that finally someone had heard from his father followed by the pang of absence.

 

Bobby continued, “He scanned the cave where the excavation was and found Dark Side energy readings off the charts. Some light side readings too. One of them was next to this,” Bobby added, displaying a holo of a shadowy figure surrounded by a cage apparently coming from four square stones? on his datapad. “I don’t know what it is and haven’t found anything in my books that correspond, but if you boys agree, I’d like to send it out to some of my contacts—I know a few people who have a lot more experience with folklore and art… I’m hoping one of them will have an idea.”

 

“Sounds ok to me,” Dean said.

 

Sam nodded his consent.

 

“Also, I found this,” Sam said holding up what looked like a poem sketched on flimsi. “Or rather Jess had this scrawled across her translation notes,” he explained, handing the poem to Dean.

 

One hidden by the force. One hidden from the force. One hidden inside the force. And one in plain sight, it read. 

 

“Huh,” Dean said. “Any clue what that means?”

 

Sam and Bobby both shook their heads.

 

“I promise you, Dean, and you too Sam,” Bobby said, catching their eyes in turn, “I’m going to find some answers for you.”

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

On their third morning at Bobby’s, Dean was finally up to helping with the repairs on the Dream. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Bobby, Sam, and Chevy in their work, it was just that she was his ship, his baby, and it made Dean remarkably uncomfortable to think of anyone else having their hands on—or more likely in—her. Maybe it was silly, but Dean often felt like he had a bond, and understanding with the ship, and he needed to uphold his end of the bargain, which meant personally taking care of her when she was wounded.

 

Dean was standing on top of the Dream, the blazing light of Tatooine’s twin suns beating down on his shitless body, breeze blowing sand up and around and all over, so that it stuck to his sweat as certainly as if he’d gone rolling in it. Dean had covered himself in sun protectant and made sure Sammy did the same, but even if he knew he wasn’t being burnt to a crisp, he still felt like he was; nothing short of a blast chiller would be comforting at this point.

 

The black surface of the Dream was almost burning hot to touch, and he’d rather be working at night, but time was of the essence, so heavy gloves and boots would have to suffice. 

 

Plus, burns made him think of fire and the inferno that claimed Jess was still too recent. He shuddered at the thought. Still, they needed to get the repairs done yesterday, so there could be no waiting for ideal conditions.

 

Dean bent and then crouched so that he could get down into the “innards” of the Dream to attach the new sensor array. His head still swam a little whenever he bent over too fast. Dean reached out to grab the power coupling he was trying to weave into the Dream’s electrical system, his shoulder giving a little twinge of protest at the movement. It was really a great sensor array—top of the line, even newer and better performing than the one that had been blasted off in the battle with the Sith. Dean had to hand it to Bobby; he had access to all the best parts, and always came through when it really mattered.

 

Dean tried reaching with his right hand and finally wiggled the coupling into place, only to feel an annoying pull in the skin on his palm. Come to think of it, his ankle was starting to ache again, but he really couldn’t risk sitting to take the pressure off of it, not unless he wanted to toast himself. It almost made Dean regret the individuality he gave the Dream by painting her black instead of the more common white or grey.

 

There! Part one connected; now he just needed… the hydrospanner he’d left down on the ground next to the ship. Great! he thought sarcastically.

 

Scrambling up from his crouch and ignoring the accompanying aches and pains, Dean walked over to the side of the ship. “Hey Sam,” he called, “could you hand me that hydrospanner?”

 

Sam looked up with a glare and huff from where he was working on re-plating the Dream’s hull. “Hmpf,” h let out an annoyed sigh and stepped over to the tool box where Dean had left the hydrospanner in question.

 

“What?” Dean asked, wiping sweat out of his eyes with his forearm.

 

Sam squinted up at Dean, the expression making him look even pissier than he was acting. “Look, I just want to get going, and this is taking forever—well, it’s taking long,” Sam offered, holding up the tool so Dean could grasp it.

 

“It’s not taking that long, Sam,” Dean replied, taking the hydrospanner and standing back up, carefully stretching to work out the kinks in his spine without aggravating any injuries. “We’ll be up in the air again by morning at the latest. Besides,” he shrugged, hating to admit it, but it was true, “we could both use the rest.”

 

Sam stepped back from the Dream and started pacing in a kind of awkward oval. Dean watched him, trying to figure out what was going on—Sammy was clearly gearing up for some big outburst.

 

“The Sith is out there,” Sam gesticulated, sweeping his arm wide, “doing who knows what, probably killing more people and starting more fires. And we’re sitting here, tinkering with a stupid ship!” Sam exclaimed, kicking in the direction of the Dream’s landing gear and stirring up a cloud of dust in the process.

 

Whoa! Sam did not just say that, did he? Had he insulted the Dream? Dean was shocked—he poured his heart and soul into the ship, so any attack on her— He took a deep breath and calmed himself. Sam was distraught and rightfully so; the Dream—Dean was tempted to reach out and caress her to ease the sting of the comment, but he really didn’t want to test the heat resistance of his gloves that much, and he didn’t think she’d appreciate having his skin grilled on her hull—was just a convenient target. Composing himself, Dean turned back to Sam and said, “Sam, come on, we need to finish these repairs or we won’t be going anywhere.”

 

Sam looked up at Dean, stopping his pacing. “Bobby has other ships that are spaceworthy—some are even fast—I could be borrowing one of those and up there, following that Sith before he disappears or kills someone else.”

 

“You think I’d let you go up there, go after him, by yourself?” Dean gasped, voice rising to a squeak.

 

Sam crossed his arms. “Last I checked, I’m an adult, and you don’t let me do anything. If you wanna come, fine; you wanna stay and putz around tinkering, fine. But I,” Sam jabbed his finger at his chest, “want to be up there,” he jabbed at the sky, “following the monster,” he spat, “that killed my girlfriend. The same thing that killed our mom, or don’t you care anymore?” Sam taunted.

 

Dean was livid. Apoplectic. Sam knew how to press Dean’s buttons, and he had just pressed all of them in rapid sequence. Rational thought flew out the window, and he dropped the hydrospanner on the hull in disgust, feeling a belated twinge of guilt for letting the Dream fall victim to his frustration. “You know what, Sam, you’re right!” he spat.

 

Sam looked up, wide-eyed, shocked at Dean’s apparent agreement.

 

“I don’t control your life; hell! If you look back at how you left for college, I think it’s pretty clear I don’t have any control over you at all. Sometimes, I’m not so sure you even care about me or consider my role in your plans and your life,” Dean continued, panting, as he stepped to the edge of the Dream, looking down on Sam, feeling the blazing fury burn in his eyes and flush his face.

 

“And you know what, yeah, Jess wasn’t my girlfriend—I haven’t lost a lover or a wife—” ‘Cause I never had one. “—but I did lose Mom, and I miss her more than you will ever know. Or understand.” Dean’s voice cracked, but he didn’t, couldn’t, care.

 

Sam made a move like he was going to protest, twitching a little in place, but Dean held up a hand to stop him. He wasn’t anywhere near done.

 

“And don’t you dare insult the Dream or suggest that we leave her behind. She might not mean that much to you, but she’s saved your ass—your life—so many times, I can’t count. She’s my home.” The only one I’ve known. “And Mom worked on her. She designed the Dream’s computer, so you insult her, and you insult Mom’s memory!” Dean paused to take a breath. “Besides,” he continued, his tone softer. “Bobby’s ships are good, but you’re not gonna find one as fast or as agile or as well equipped.”

 

“Dean—” Sam started, stomping his foot and sending up another cloud of dust.

 

“No, I’m not done yet,” Dean said firmly. He took a deep breath and looked up at the sky, squinting in the light of the twin suns until he had calmed enough to continue. 

 

“Dad is missing. We don’t know where he is, but we know he was hunting this thing, and we know it wants you. But we don’t know why, and we certainly don’t know how to kill it. Or stop it.” He looked down at Sam again, eyes deadly serious. “I lost Mom. I might have lost Dad. I don’t want to lose you too. So, can you just please hang on, help me finish fixing the Dream, and then we can go after this thing together, so I can watch your back, and you can watch mine, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll come out of this in one piece?” Dean knew his tone was pleading, but he was desperate for Sam to just listen. Not go running off half-cocked.

 

“I want him dead,” Sam said coldly. “I want revenge, OK?” He begged for understanding, raising his eyes to meet Dean’s, clenching and unclenching his fists. “I get it now,” Sam continued, “why Dad was always so—dedicated—so… hell-bent on hunting this thing. He’s pure evil and he needs to be stopped. He needs to be kept fro hurting anyone ever again!” Sam’s voice rose at the end.

 

“Yeah?” Dean said, half questioning, resting his knuckles on his hips. “Well, how’re you gonna stop him?”

 

Sam rolled his eyes as if the answer was obvious.

 

Catching his meaning, Dean protested. “No, no, Sam. That’s why I’m worried about you going off half-cocked. You don’t know how to control it or even if it could kill him.”

 

Sam looked over at the tool box and raised his arm, palm out. The tool box shuddered and rattled and then slid away as if pushed by a—well—unseen force. “I stopped him from hurting you when the apartment was on fire, and I destroyed his host,” Sam said tritely.

 

“Yeah, you killed his host, Sam. There was probably a person in there!” Dean voiced the issue that had been bothering him since Sam had first manifested his Force abilities.

 

“You rather I have let him kill you?” Sam asked, incredulous.

 

“No,” Dean said, shaking his head. How to make Sam understand? “But you don’t know if that would work again; you don’t know what you’re doing; and did you ever think maybe he wanted you to lash out at him?”

 

“What?” Sam asked, shocked and confused.

 

Dean ran his fingers through his hair, feeling the sand stuck in the short spiky strands. “I’m just saying, he wants you for something. The whole ‘Dark Side’ thing—that’s supposed to be all anger and hate and stuff. Maybe he’s trying to—”

 

“What, push me into using the Dark Side?” Sam scoffed.

 

“Uh, yeah,” Dean answered, nodding.

 

Sam was silent for a minute. Contemplative. Then he seemed to deflate, collapsing in on himself, all energy leaving him. “I’m sorry, Dean; I don’t know…” he broke off.

 

Dean sighed, letting his adrenaline leave him and feeling all the sicker for it. His ankle throbbed! He shifted his weight to his left leg and bent over to be closer to Sammy. He wished Sam was still a little kid, who he could scoop into his lap and rock until it was all better. Instead he struggled to catch the eye of the troubled man in front of him. “It’s ok; I’m sorry too. I know you wanna get out there, but let’s just finish up the repairs as fast as we can and see what Bobby’s figured out and go from there.”

 

Sam nodded, hair flopping in his face, either sweat or tears moistening his cheeks.

 

“Maybe we can find someone or somewhere to help you with the, uh, Force-thing, so we can figure out how to use it and what the Sith wants,” Dean added.

 

“Ok.” Then louder, more resolute, “Ok,” Sam said. “I’m gonna go finish up fixing the hull breach.”

 

“’Kay,” Dean agreed. He turned to head back to the sensor array only to pause and turn back to Sam. “Get Chevy to help you with the wiring inside; she should be finished re-soldering the grav generator by now,” he added before stooping to pick up his dropped hydrospanner and returning to the sensor array.

 

They worked in semi-awkward silence for the rest of the day. Not angry, but their disagreement not forgotten, either. 

 

By sundown, their repairs were complete and the Dream was good-as-new and ready to go. Now, they just had to sort out what happened next.

 

The answer came much more simply than they would have imagined. It accompanied the mynock stew Bobby served them for dinner.

Master Post | Part 6 | Part 8