The camp was much larger than it appeared at a distance. Several salvagers had obviously decided that they stood a better chance of being noticed by wandering travelers, if they banded together. The tents and structures were close together and every available storage space was fully utilized.
I glanced at the tables laden with items more than likely picked from some ancient structure, now crumbled into ruin. Crates and boxes were stacked haphazardly near the tents, their contents unknown. Dak and Shorcuk wandered over to a row of tables piled high with scraps and parts that must have been acquired from wrecked speeders; there seemed to also be an abundance of droid parts. Aiden stepped toward a pile of artifacts. The camp’s occupants moved to and fro, tidying things and watching us intently. We appeared to be its only visitors. I slowed my pace and mulled over some blaster parts scattered across a low table.
“See something you like? An upgrade perhaps?”
I looked up to find a pair of deep, green eyes staring into mine.
“Ahh… I am just glancing around; seeing what kind of things your camp has to offer.”
The green eyes belonged to a small boy, with dark, matted hair and an unkempt appearance.
I smiled at the youngling. “Aren’t you a little young to be a salvager?”
“I am ten.”
The boy wrinkled his nose at me and made a face. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“My mistake, that is indeed very grown up. What is your name?”
“I am Gallen, but most folks call me Scrapper; what is your name?”
“I am Na’sha. It is a pleasure to meet you.” I leaned across the table. “So, Scrapper, where are your parents?”
“I don’t have any parents; mine died when I was three. Some of your kind came through and raided our home. I was playing outside and hid. These salvagers found me and here I am.”
He rubbed a cloth across one of the blaster parts as he spoke, looking far older than his ten standard years. He told the story without emotion and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had learned to hide his pain or if he had been so small at the time, he had simply forgotten it over the years.
“I assume that by my kind, you mean Mandalorians?”
The boy looked at me with those piercing eyes. “Yes.”
“Well, I can promise you that no harm will come to you or these people, not by my hand.”
“Yes, there is a Jedi with you. There wouldn’t be a Jedi with you if you were bad.”
I giggled at his answer. He seemed to be a very intelligent and observant kid.
Aiden chose that moment to join us. “Did I hear someone mention a Jedi?”
“Yes you did, Aiden. My new friend, Scrapper, here, said I couldn’t be a bad guy because I have a Jedi with me.”
Aiden turned to the boy. “Well, you are right. She definitely isn’t bad.” He reached out to take the boy’s hand. “I am Aiden.”
We spent a while longer in the camp, my companions looking at merchandise and me talking to the boy. I just couldn’t seem to pull myself away. For some reason, he intrigued me.
“My friends and I are exploring and I was wondering if you knew of anything worth looking at around here?”
“Sure there are lots of places; ruins of an old Jedi temple, crystal caves, lots of stuff.”
He nodded. “I heard some of the salvagers say that the ruins have been here so long, that no one remembers a time when it was anything more than a pile of rocks.”
“That all sounds interesting. We are planning to visit the caves today if we can. What do you know about the ruins I saw over in the distance?”
“Well, not much. Hal, he is the man who takes care of me, told me that the ruins in the grove are tainted by the darkside. The Kathhounds there are much more fierce than usual. We don’t go there. The other ruins belonged to a group of people who use to live here.” He seemed to think for a moment.”Can I go with you to the caves?”
“I don’t think you should. Aiden says that it is dangerous. Besides, your guardian may not like that idea.”
“I can take care of myself, besides; he is usually drunk by now. He will never know I was gone.”
“I do not want to put you into any kind of danger. I really would like you to stay here. I will stop by on my way back through here and say goodbye, I promise. Is that a deal?”
“I guess so.”
I ruffled his hair and gathered the others. We made our purchases and moved toward the edges of the camp. I looked over my shoulder in search Scrapper, but the little salvager was nowhere to be seen. I sighed. I really liked that kid. He was a survivor, a little warrior. Maybe I saw something of myself in him. Part of me wished that there was something I could do for him, some way to help him develop his potential, but I knew that the mission I was on was dangerous and the life I lead isn’t the kind of life to involve a youngling in. Still, I knew in my heart that he deserved so much more than a drunk guardian. Aiden stepped close to me and placed a hand on my shoulder as we walked.
“He will be fine, cyar’ika. He is not some homeless animal you need to rescue. Trust me.”
“You are right I know, but I just can’t help but worry about him.”
“You have a big heart, Love. It is one of your best qualities.”
I smiled and followed him up the path toward the caves. I knew I couldn’t help everyone I came across, but if I couldn’t help one small youngling, how did I expect to defeat the evil I was chasing?