When events at the end of The Phantom Menace change, Anakin, Qui-gon and Obi-wan find themselves on a different -- and dangerous -- path to destiny.
Author's note: Did you catch the name game? Every minor character I create in my stories has a hidden meaning. Hint: look close at the spelling.
Qui-Gon's brow furrowed slightly as he lay on the cool metal floor of the Queen's ship. He took deep, careful breaths, attempting to steady his heart and mind. The strange attacker's ease in battle, matching every thrust and parry of a Jedi master's lightsaber, worried him. Qui-Gon looked up as his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the boy, Anakin Skywalker rushed to kneel beside him. He almost smiled at the nearly identical anxious, yet excited looks on their faces.
"Are you all right?" Anakin asked with wide fearful eyes. Obi-Wan looked just as anxious.
The Jedi Master nodded and began to prop himself up on his elbows. "I think so," he said seriously. "That was a surprise I won't soon forget."
His Padawan's expression hardened and Qui-Gon sensed Obi-Wan's shock and guilt at not being ready to fight at his Master's side. Somehow the young man felt he should have sensed the danger and been waiting outside to help with the lightsaber duel. His voice gave little indication of his inner turmoil.
"What was that?" Obi-Wan tried to ask calmly.
Qui-Gon took another deep breath, still winded from the unexpected exertion. "I'm not sure. Whoever or whatever he was, he was well trained in the Jedi arts. My guess is he was after the Queen."
"Do you think he'll follow us?" Anakin asked quickly.
"We'll be safe once we're in hyperspace," Qui-Gon replied, sidestepping the question. "But I have no doubt he knows our destination. If he found us once, he can find us again."
The boy's face became a mask of determination. "What are we going to do about it?" he inquired.
Qui-Gon found Obi-Wan's nonplussed surprise priceless. Aware of his Padawan's frustration with the frequent tagalongs his Master seemed to accumulate, Qui-Gon could almost hear the words, "What does this child mean by 'we'?" Anakin didn't seem to catch it or at least he seemed to ignore the incredulous look.
Hoping the boy would never lose that enthusiasm and willingness to help, Qui-Gon smiled. "We will be patient." With a nod from one to the other, he continued. "Anakin Skywalker meet Obi-Wan Kenobi."
The boy beamed and as he turned to the young man beside him, "You're a Jedi, too? Pleased to meet you!"
"Obi-Wan is my Padawan, my apprentice," Qui-Gon clarified. "He is training to be a Knight."
He wanted to reassure Obi-Wan of his place and allowed him to help him stand. Together, all three moved forward toward the cockpit. Anakin's exuberance shone around him as a bright aura and Qui-Gon had the feeling the boy barely kept from skipping down the passageway. Despite his earlier concerns, meeting yet another Jedi seemed to drain away his fear and worry for the moment. Given his talent in building such things as droids and the pod, the ship's gleaming technology kept his eyes roving from side to side. Once inside the cockpit, his glance flew between the ship's controls and the myriad of stars and open space through the window.
Within moments, they jumped to lightspeed, eliciting an awed, "Wow!"
Of course, Ani's never seen hyperspace. Qui-Gon glanced down in amusement as Anakin continued to stare goggle-eyed at the streaming stars they passed.
How refreshing this wonder, he couldn't help thinking, not unaware of Obi-Wan's consternation at his absorption with his new 'find.'
Traveling through space is not easy at all. Even a comfortable and luxurious yacht like the Queen's transport can feel tiny, cramped and over run with people. Especially when you don't want anyone watching you perform Force exercises. In the guest cabin assigned to the Jedi, Obi-Wan sat in a meditative pose and attempted for the umpteenth time to relax into the Force.
I won't open my eyes. I won't sigh. I won't grimace. I won't fidget. I won't... he chanted in his head. I can't believe this! This shouldn't bother me! In defeat he briefly cracked one eye open to steal a glance at the only other occupant in the room.
Why is he still here?
The evening had progressed cheerfully. The Jedi and Anakin had eaten with the ship's crew. The pilots enjoyed talking to Anakin and amazed him with tales of their escape from the Trade Federation's clutches. The boy soaked up all of the attention with glee.
Afterwards, Obi-Wan had retired to meditate as usual before sleeping. Anakin had followed him like a puppy and begged to see "that wizard Jedi stuff." Qui-Gon hadn't disapproved and left to speak with the Queen and her advisors. Therefore, Obi-Wan agreed to let Anakin follow him. It would only be temporary. After all, such a young boy would quickly become bored watching him do nothing but sit.
Anakin squirmed in a vain attempt to find a soft spot on the cold metal. His brow furrowed in concentration. Obi-Wan is trying to do something again. But what? Anakin thought as he stared with rapt attention at Obi-Wan's expressionless face.
It was fascinating. To all outward appearances, Obi-Wan was the picture of perfect calm, but Anakin knew he couldn't be, not on a floor this hard! Anakin looked down and bit his lip in confusion. Is something wrong? He didn't see Obi-Wan's quick glance down at him.
Suddenly, Anakin gasped "I'm messing you up!" he exclaimed in surprise.
Obi-Wan gave up all pretense at meditating and opened his eyes. "What do you mean?" he inquired stoically.
"I'm sorry," the boy said contritely. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I'll just go now. Good night!" Before Obi-Wan could reply, Anakin scurried out of the room and down the hall.
Obi-Wan couldn't help be feel relieved that the boy had gone. He found it bizarre that his master's latest stray had decided to latch onto him instead of Qui-Gon. Just for a second, something nagged him that the boy hadn't answered his question.
Anakin slunk into the empty pilots' barracks. I am soooo stupid! Anakin could've kicked himself.
I should have known I'd be a distraction! But Obi-Wan looked so calm and serious. He must think I'm a pest. Anakin thought.
Grabbing his bag by the door he miserably climbed up to the top bunk that he'd been assigned. It was cozy and comfortable. And he was just short enough to sit without banging his head against the ceiling. He kicked off his shoes and rummaged idly through his few belongings.
What exactly was Obi-Wan trying to do anyway? The young man hadn't explained it to him or said anything. He'd simply settled down on the floor and closed his eyes. Anakin set his bag at the end of the bed. He slid to the middle of his bunk and tried to imitate what he'd seen. He closed his eyes and breathed evenly.
This is boring.
How could Obi-Wan sit so long on such a hard, cold floor?! Why would he want to? Anakin shifted on his soft bed. I have to be doing something wrong. But he didn't dare go back and ask Obi-Wan. Anakin picked at the edges of his blanket in frustration. Maybe Master Qui-Gon wouldn't mind explaining tomorrow morning? Then the Jedi Master's advice from before the Boonta Eve race came back to him. "Feel, don't think."
Okay, I'll just try not thinking.
No thinking?! Easier said than done.
For the first time he really thought about the words that Qui-Gon had said. How exactly do you not think? But, somehow it had worked during the race. Of course, he hadn't sat still then and he certainly didn't keep his eyes closed. Why wasn't it working?
The door slid open and several crewmembers filed in to sleep. Anakin craned his neck over the edge of his bed to look down at the new arrivals. They looked tired and their earlier merriment was gone. Anakin sat back again and tried to be still.
I'm not thinking. I'm not thinking at all. Nope, not thinking about anything. I'm not thinking about how dumb this is.
I'm still doing something wrong. He huffed in irritation.
One of the men looked up. "You need to get some sleep, Ani," he kindly reminded him as the others all crashed into their own bunks. Soon the room became still and the only sounds were the occasional snore. But Anakin wasn't sleeping...
Some sort of smashing sound.
That thing that attacked Master Qui-Gon.
Is that blaster fire?
Bright columns of energy.
Wow, that's so high!
Why is it noisy?
Flying a starfighter would be so wizard!
Where is that scream coming from?
It's getting louder.
I can't hear myself think!
Why won't it STOP?!
Anakin's eyes snapped open as he gasped for air. He jumped slightly and bumped his head on the ceiling. Franticly, he looked around the dark, silent room. His already heavy breathing quickened and his heart pounded in his chest. He shivered.
Where am I?! Anakin started to panic.
Oh yeah, the starship. The Queen's ship that the Jedi brought me to. Fuzzily, the events of the day came back to him. He reached up to rub his stiff neck and stretch his sore back. Why am I sitting up like this? He shivered again. The room had lost its earlier feeling of coziness and the darkness was suddenly very overwhelming.
Silently, Anakin crawled down the ladder to the floor. He carefully crept across to open the door and winced when it swished opened. He didn't think the noise would wake anyone, but the light might. To his relief the hallway was only dim. As the door slid shut behind him he began to wish it was lighter. He couldn't remember ever being afraid of the dark before. Why was it bothering him now? Maybe its just that dream. And the cold. He tried to reason away.
Why didn't I get my shoes?
At the end of the passage he came into the central chamber. Inside he was surprised to see Jar Jar sprawled in a chair, head back and snoring. But then, he remembered that the Gungan was too tall to fit in the ship's bunks. Even so, he could have stretched out on the bench seats. Or maybe Gungans just like sleeping up.
Anakin smiled when Artoo trilled a quiet welcome from the corner. He quickly curled up in a seat and removed the little pouch he always had tied to his belt. In it was a tiny, folded knife and a piece of japor wood. Wood of any kind was rare on Tatooine and he'd been saving this piece for a long time. Carefully, he began to carve the edges with swirls and eddies like in the pictures he'd seen of rivers and waterfalls.
Bits of the dream flashed in his mind. If Mom was here I'd tell her about the starfighters I saw. Or maybe not, she wouldn't like it. I know she'd worry if she knew I've been dreaming of a space battle. He imagined his mother's sad face with a frown. Nope. I wouldn't have told her about this dream at all, he sighed as he bored a hole through the wood so that it could serve as a pendant.
I meant to make this for Mom, he thought. Unbidden tears collected in his eyes. I am not going to cry. I'm not!
The next morning saw the return of Anakin's cheerfulness. Padm? had noticed him shivering in the central chamber during the night. She'd wrapped him in a blanket and held him until he fell asleep. Anakin was glad he gave the little japor snippet to her. Padm? was so nice, she deserved something special like that.
"Good morning, Ani," Padm? said as she entered the room after breakfast. "What are you doing?"
Anakin was seated at the table and drawing on a pad of the Queen's Official Memo plasti-paper. The sheets littered the tabletop. "I'm designing a droid," he announced proudly.
Padm? smiled indulgently. "That's nice, Ani," she said as she moved around the table to look over his shoulder. "What type of..." She stopped speaking suddenly. The "drawings" weren't the childish sketches she expected but detailed schematics. Even after seeing the podracer and droid that Anakin had built on Tatooine, it still surprised her.
"Maybe the Jedi will let me build it..." Anakin sighed wistfully.
"Maybe," Qui-Gon answered from the entryway. "Did you enjoy meditating with Obi-Wan yesterday?" he inquired.
Medit-what? Oh! So that's what it's called!
"No, Master Qui-Gon, sir. I mean, only Obi-Wan was meditating," Anakin stumbled out.
"Well then," the Jedi Master replied. "Would you like me to show you how?"
"Yes, sir!" Ani exclaimed and hastily began gathering up his papers into a rough pile.
Qui-Gon and Padm? just looked at each other and smiled as she walked out of the room. Ani, I envy the Jedi who will be your master, Qui-Gon thought sadly. Perhaps I...?
"Come with me, Ani," he said and turned down another passage. They walked to the Jedi's cabin. Or rather, Qui-Gon walked and Anakin trotted to keep up.
"Sit here on the floor and be as still as you can," Qui-Gon's deep voice intoned. "Close your eyes and reflect."
Reflect? Oh, so you are supposed to think! Anakin immediately copied him on the metal decking and watched as a look of peace stole across his features.
"Clear your mind and wait for the Force," Master Qui-Gon said as he closed his eyes. However, he didn't meditate, but stayed completely alert. Anakin had shown surprising affinity for using the Force unconsciously. He waited quietly for any sign that Anakin might be able to control it.
Anakin was perplexed. It sounded easy, but he knew from his attempts yesterday that it was in fact very hard. He stole a quick look at the Jedi Master's serene countenance.
He knows I just opened my eyes!
Anakin tried to relax. Okay clear out the mind time. Move it, all you pesky thoughts about how much I hate sitting on metal! Hit the space lanes! Yeah, I mean you!
Anakin didn't like meditating. He was quite sure of it. Qui-Gon ended the practice after he had managed to remain still about fifteen minutes. It felt like hours. Anakin nearly fell over trying to stand up.
"You did well, Ani." Qui-Gon encouraged. He was amazed at the way the Force had swirled around Anakin while he was meditating. It almost seemed to be playing with the small boy as it crashed wildly and blew through him. How has Ani managed to cope with the Force all this time?
Anakin's head jerked up in shock. I.. did.. well? No way! The only thing I felt was my feet go numb!
"Thank you, Master Qui-Gon." Anakin answered. Jedi don't lie, but I know I did terrible.
"Let's go see what Obi-Wan is doing, shall we?" Qui-Gon invited. It appeared as though the boy had little in the way of mind shielding, but that was to be expected. Anakin would be a challenge and privilege to teach. Master Yoda would probably insist that, "Train this boy, only I can." He thought with mild irritation. For the first time he regretted refusing to accept that temporary seat on the council. But then if I had I would never have found this boy, he mused.
Obi-Wan was in a medium sized storage bay of the ship. It was nearly empty with a few long cargo boxes stacked against one wall. It was too small for lightsaber dueling, but ideal for simple exercises. He was currently practicing balance.
The Jedi Master and Anakin entered to see Obi-Wan standing upside down and holding himself up with only one finger. His Padawan braid just brushed the floor. Qui-Gon watched Anakin's face waiting to see how the boy would react. Anakin's blue eyes widened only a little and he was certainly very surprised, but he said nothing.
Good. Qui-Gon thought. He passed the test. Anakin's reaction was an important factor in how he would be trained in the Force. Had he responded with disgusted disbelief or extreme awe it would take a long time to unlearn.
Anakin was incredulous. There is no way I'll try that on my own!
"Greetings, Master," Obi-Wan called from the center of the room. He's brought the kid with him, he noticed. He could see that Anakin was scrutinizing him intently. Am I now on display? Obi-Wan's lips tightened in annoyance. Or shall I serve as a practice dummy for Master Qui-Gon to demonstrate the Force with? he thought sarcastically.
"Don't let us interrupt you, Padawan," Qui-Gon reassured.
He guided the boy to the far wall and chose several of the long, narrow boxes. "I want you to walk slowly along the top of these," he directed as he laid the boxes out down the length of the room to form a crude balance beam.
"Some of these will wobble and others are not quite the same height, but don't let that worry you. Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other."
"Yes, sir," the boy replied. The first box came nearly up to his knees.
Ah, Obi-Wan observed. Now is the time for bumps and bruises. His eyes followed Anakin as he safely traversed the row of boxes without incident. Anakin's face was cool and collected as he turned and walked back again.
I sense something... Obi-Wan was confused. Gently, he widened his range of perception. Its the boy! he realized in surprise. So this is what Master Qui-Gon felt. To endeavor to become a Jedi at his age is admirable, but can he? He dropped deeper into the Force and focused intently on Anakin...
Obi-Wan winced in sympathy as Anakin tumbled off with a loud thump on his fourth walk. That had to hurt.
However, the boy didn't stay down long. Quickly he stepped back up and balanced again. Qui-Gon smiled in approval. "Speed up a little," he prompted. Anakin easily jogged down and back.
You poor kid. You have no idea what you are in for, do you? Just wait until my master tells you to run it.
"Now, run along it, Ani," Qui-Gon instructed.
He's doomed, Obi-Wan decided.
I could do this with my eyes closed. Anakin confidently strode on top of the boxes. He didn't mind though. He'd felt terribly cooped up on this ship and welcomed the chance to move about. I wonder how long Obi-Wan had to practice Force stuff until he could do a headstand like that? Or maybe he just has really, super, strong fingers? Nimbly, he turned on his heel and repeated his walking exercise. This is easy. I could even... what is that eerie feeling? Anakin's mind whirled in distress. The very air seemed to prickle his skin.
Anakin barely caught himself from breaking his nose on the floor. He bolted to his feet and clamored back on the boxes. He could feel his face burn in embarrassment. I'm glad Padm? isn't in here. That was so bizarre. It felt like... he frowned.
I don't know what it felt like.
The next day, the Jedi left Anakin in the storage room to meditate alone. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan returned to their cabin for a long overdue discussion.
I have a bad feeling about this, Obi-Wan suspected that his master didn't share his feeling of concern.
"I intend to ask the Council to test Anakin Skywalker and train him," Qui-Gon stated.Sometimes I hate to be right, his apprentice thought gloomily.
"Master, I agree that the boy's potential is great, however..." he left his sentence unfinished. Obi-Wan studied his master. Why does he persistently chase after hopeless causes? It was a familiar question that he had asked himself many times. The Council would never accept the boy for training. They staunchly adhered to the rules and the rules clearly stated that to begin Jedi training after one year of age was dangerous and certain to fail. At nine years of age, it was much too late for Anakin.
"I understand what you mean. Anakin is too old," Qui-Gon answered. "However, there have been exceptions before. Master Eeth Koth was already four years of age when he was discovered and yet he was trained. Today he is even a member of the Council."
"Master, he proved..."
"Yes, he did," Qui-Gon interrupted. "And I hope that Anakin will demonstrate his worthiness also." He decided to let Obi-Wan's nearly disrespectful tone slide. His apprentice had a right to have his own point of view. Qui-Gon was glad that Obi-Wan never followed him blindly.
Obi-Wan sighed. Qui-Gon would be Qui-Gon and nothing is going change him. Would I really want him any different? he thought. He banished all unkind thoughts from his mind and as usual looked past his master's eccentricities.
"You are testing the boy again?" he inquired, changing the subject.
"Yes, Padawan," his master replied. "A test of obedience."
With his eyes closed, he imagined he could see the storage room he was in and attempted to do the same with the room above. Anakin was elated and desperately tried to refrain from jumping up. I can feel the people on the upper deck! Who are they? Slowly, he tried to count them. I wish it wasn't so cold in here, he thought and briefly lost his concentration. Come on! he sighed in frustration. Work! I want to be able to tell Qui-Gon how many people I sensed.
A tingling sensation crept over him. It danced across his skin and ruffled his tousled blond hair. For a moment Anakin felt like he was home on Tatooine. He almost didn't notice the sudden warmth that surrounded him.
Its like when Mom hugs me, he sighed contentedly and relaxed further into the Force. Suddenly a vibration in the air attracted him. Focusing on it, he tried to determine what was happening. I'm sweating, he noticed as an afterthought. The heat began to increase rapidly and Anakin's fear swelled to equal it.
He began to pant heavily. Why is it so hot!? He nearly cried in alarm.
Opening his eyes, he was shocked to see what appeared to be a soft glow clinging to his body and shining through his tunic and pants. Instantly, his concentration shattered and he was relieved to see the light vanish along with the heat. Anakin's small frame shivered as cooler air began to dry the sweat on his brow.
Calm down, gotta calm down, he thought furiously. I don't think that was supposed to happen. I've got to calm down before Master Qui-Gon returns!
Qui-Gon entered the room with a smile on his face. He was pleased to see Anakin was still meditating and sensed that the boy had obeyed his instructions to not move while he was gone.
"Its time to eat, Ani," he said.
As he turned to walk back down the passage, Anakin followed in silence, Should I tell him?
"I sense that you are distressed, Ani," Qui-Gon said earnestly. "Can I help?"
"Do Jedi do impossible things?" Anakin asked.
"Nothing is impossible when the Force is your ally," Master Qui-Gon explained. "It is we who have limits."
"Oh," was Anakin's only comment as he turned to walk down the passage.
The next morning Anakin went in search of the Jedi apprentice.
"Hi, Obi-Wan!" Anakin exclaimed in greeting.
"Hello," Obi-Wan did not look up. I thought the boy was with Qui-Gon? he thought.
"What are you doing?" the boy inquired.
"Mending my tunic," Obi-Wan responded curtly. Couldn't he guess? Or is he just trying to start a conversation?
Silence filled the room as Anakin thought of what to say next. Obi-Wan ignored the sound of the boy start to nervously tap his foot on the floor. I think he'd pace if there was room.
"What stuff can Jedi do?" Obi-Wan had anticipated that Anakin would want to know this. However, I had expected the boy to ask Qui-Gon, not I.
"We do the will of the Force," he evaded. This might be fun, he thought.
But Anakin wouldn't be deterred, "Noooo, I mean do things! Like that neat hand-stand, or I guess it would be called a finger-stand, that you did."
"Yes, excellent balance is a Jedi trait."
Anakin sighed in frustration and pressed on, "How high can you jump?"
"High," Obi-Wan replied. Oh, I shouldn't be doing this. He will get angry, but its so much fun!
Anakin glared at him, "I've heard pilots say that Jedi can read minds."
"Its good to know your ears function."
Anakin made a strangling sound and stared at him.
Obi-Wan struggled not to smile while he waited for the boy's response. This kid is so easy to tease!
But then he sensed Anakin's anger subside. Good, more amusement for me!
"Can Jedi read minds?" he asked carefully.
"Not in the way you mean."
"Can you tell me what I am thinking?"
"No you can't or no you won't?" Anakin insisted.
"I am not hearing your thoughts."
"Could you just tell me what Jedi things you can do?" Anakin said through gritted teeth.
"Perhaps." Obi-Wan couldn't help but smirk this time.
"Please." the boy begged.
Maybe I should put him out of his misery, "Most Jedi can use the Force to run extremely fast and then not feel tired afterward. Many can lift very heavy objects and jump three times more or higher than is normal for their race. Some of us can heal wounds on others and ourselves. And we can levitate objects." Anakin's going to love that part. What shall I use to demonstrate? Perhaps if I lift him... no he would probably panic.
"Could you show me, please?"
"Of course," Obi-Wan replied graciously. This kid's not quite as annoying as I thought he would be. "What would you like me to levitate?"
"Well, uh, how about that datapad," he pointed to it lying on the table.
Obi-Wan complied and the datapad rose smoothly off the table and hung in midair. He smiled as Anakin was properly amazed. The boy waved his hands under, above and around it. Anakin then grasped the datapad firmly and tugged. It didn't move a bit.
"When did you learn to do that?" he asked.
"When I was younger than you."
"Wizard!" Anakin praised.
"What about," he hesitated, "What about making something...um...glow?"
"Glow?" Obi-Wan mused. "Well, I don't know why a Jedi would need to make something glow. Most Jedi can use the Force to see in the dark."
"Oh, well thank you very much for talking to me Obi-Wan!" Anakin said in a rush and ran out the door.
Odd kid. Obi-Wan noted. I should be kinder to him. After all, we will arrive on Coruscant tomorrow, he thought sadly. For a moment, he recalled his conversation with Qui-Gon. Showing him Force powers was a bad idea. He will be even more disappointed now.
Twelve of the galaxy's most powerful beings surrounded Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon Jinn had escorted him into the Jedi Council Chamber and left. The small boy was nervous and uncertain what was expected of him. No one introduced themselves to him nor offered him any words of welcome. The eyes of the Jedi were not trained on him, but in him. They didn't bother to set him at ease. Instead, the questions began.
Qui-Gon sank into a soft chair in his and Obi-Wan's quarters. "Try to relax, Padawan," he called out softly. "We may not get another chance for some time."
Obi-Wan rooted through the kitchen stores in search of a snack and hopefully, some peace of mind. The young Jedi was distressed and worried for his master. He was certain that the boy would not be trained. The subtle reactions of the council members implied that. And they showed no sign of believing this boy was the Chosen One.
Even if that old prophecy was true, which he doubted, it didn't mean it was Anakin. Obi-Wan returned to the main room with a heavy heart. This will be hard on Qui-Gon. I wish I could spare him the pain and disappointment. What will my master do when they deny the boy training?
The Council paused their questioning to take a blood sample. When Anakin asked why, Yoda mentioned it was for counting midi-chlorians, but refused to elaborate. Anakin was grateful for a chance to rest, no matter how short.
Mace Windu took out a datascreen. "Tell us what images appear on this," he instructed. Anakin looked at it intently at first and briefly wondered when the Jedi Master would turn it around to face him. But then, he understood they were expecting him to just know. To use the Force that Qui-Gon had told him about.
Dozens of pictures began to flash in his mind and he named each in turn. "A bantha, a hyperdrive, a proton blaster," he had a lightheaded and rushed feeling that reminded him of the Podrace. "A Republic cruiser, a cup, a speeder."
Master Windu turned the screen off and glanced at the boy before looking at the other Jedi.
"Good, good, young one," Master Yoda praised him and noted that the boy didn't respond with any pride.
"How feel you?"
"Cold, sir," Anakin confessed.
Now was the time for the most difficult test. One that they had been, at first, reluctant to put a boy through. Yarael Poof, master of Jedi mind tricks, began to project Force images of the boy's worst fears into the child's mind. His long neck swayed slightly with the effort.
"Afraid are you?" Yoda inquired gauging his reaction.
The boy stiffened and stood straighter, "No, sir."
"Afraid to give up your life?" Master Windu asked, leaning forward slightly.
"I don't think so," Anakin began, but he felt unsure of his answer.
Yoda's eyelids drooped. "See through you we can," he said quietly.
"Be mindful of your feelings," Mace Windu added.
Ki-Adi Mundi stroked his beard, "Your thoughts dwell on your mother."
Anakin felt his stomach churn. "I miss her," he insisted.
Yoda exchanged glances with several others of the council, in particular, Master Poof who was seated behind Anakin.
"Afraid to lose her, I think," Yoda murmured.
Anakin flushed. "What's that got to do with anything?" he demanded.
"Everything. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate," he paused. "leads to suffering." he spoke woefully.
"I sense much fear in you."
"I am not afraid!" the boy snapped.
Yoda ignored him. "The deepest commitment, a Jedi must have. The most serious mind," he looked again to Master Poof. This Force technique was Yarael Poof's most valuable asset in battle because it completely immobilized his opponents without harming them. He was quite astonished that Anakin remained coherent and on his feet.
"I am not afraid," Anakin repeated, calmer this time.
"Then continue, we will," Yoda responded with a measuring look.
Unbeknown to Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Council members each cast their votes and opinions. Mace Windu was the leading member of the Jedi Council and was living proof that wisdom and experience does not always require great age. He gave his choice first.
~I have sensed danger surrounding this boy,~ he sent to the others telepathically. ~I submit that he should not be trained. I would prefer more time to evaluate him, but I cannot foresee whether or not it would alter my vote.~
Yoda was the oldest member of the Jedi Council and was well into his 800's. He had traveled to hundreds of worlds in his endeavor to learn and comprehend the complexities of the Force. Yet, he had never seen anything like the child Master Qui-Gon had brought to the temple. The great Jedi Master's wisdom and experience was greatly valued by the rest of the council. His advice of prudent contemplation rather than hasty action had served the Jedi well many times.
~Choose no, I too. Far too clouded, his future his.~
A Zabrak Jedi Master, Eeth Koth was famous throughout the temple for his great willpower and ability to withstand intense pain. He was discovered to have force potential at age four. He was at first considered too old to be trained, but he managed to prove himself worthy.
~I sympathize with Anakin's desire to be a Jedi and his determination to somehow prove he can. Yes, I would like to see him trained.~
Fierce Lannik warrior, Even Piell, was a Jedi Master greatly revered for his mighty combat skills despite that fact that he was little more than one meter tall.
~I agree that Anakin should be trained. His courage to come before us alone has earned my admiration.~
Knight Ki-Adi Mundi was the only member of the council who hadn't earned the rank of Master. He glanced at his former master, Yoda, before giving his answer.
~I have traveled to Tatooine before and feel that this boy's experience as a slave there would greatly hinder any Jedi training. I vote no.~
Oppo Rancisis was a Master of military tactics and warfare and was once Jedi Master Yaddle's Padawan. The Republic relied on his cunning strategies and battle plans when peaceful negotiations failed. He peered out from under his long hair at the others.
~Skywalker would be a terrible and vicious enemy if he ever fell to the Dark side. Training him is not worth the risk.~
Jedi Master Plo Koon was also a trusted ally of the Republic's military. His friendship and respect for Qui-Gon Jinn inclined him to accept the boy. He wished fervently that his friend had considered filling one of the Council's short-term positions. He looked at Anakin through his special protective goggles before answering.
~I cannot agree with Master Rancisis. Only with training would Skywalker have the chance to resist the peril of the Dark side. I choose yes.~
Jedi Master Saesee Tiin was born with natural telepathic abilities and an exceptionally strong link to the Force. He had examined Anakin's thoughts at length throughout the session. He turned his red and blue head to face the boy.
~His thoughts were jumbled and often incoherent. However, what I did see leads me to decide he should not be trained.~
Master Adi Gallia served the Republic as one of the Supreme Chancellor's best intelligence sources. She understood the Republic's complex political system and acted as the council's liaison with the government. Her lovely eyes narrowed as she gave her answer.
~He must not be taught. There are too many possible ramifications should he betray us.~
Yarael Poof was a master of Jedi mind tricks. Humans tended to stare at Quermian's long necks. However, Anakin had displayed no such reaction. During the questioning he tested Anakin by using a Force technique to conjure up images of the boy's worst fears.
~As you know, I have seen my enemies in battle completely subdued with my Force images. I am very impressed with Anakin's strength to tolerate and overcome them. I say yes.~
The newest addition to the Jedi Council was Depa Billaba. This Jedi Master was very sensitive to the thoughts of the rest of the council. She possessed extraordinary discipline and affinity for understanding people. She knew how deeply this child would be crushed if denied training.
~I must say no training. His desires for training are not that of a Jedi, despite his wish to free his mother.~
Yaddle was the most compassionate and patient member of the council. She was young for her species, only 477 years old. As the debate progressed she listened silently to all of the arguments before adding her own concise and sage opinion.
~Strong he is, learn he should.~
Mace Windu sat back in his chair. ~Five for, seven against. Anakin Skywalker will not be trained as a Jedi.~
The journey from the Council chambers was just as bad as the argument that had occurred inside.
"You are planning to disobey the Council again, aren't you?" Obi-Wan declared as they walked to Queen Amidala's ship.
"Obi-Wan..." his master began in warning.
Obi-Wan didn't listen. "You are going to start teaching him the moment we leave Coruscant!" he accused.
"Padawan!" Master Qui-Gon exclaimed. "You will cease your disrespectful behavior."
"It's not disrespect, Master!" Obi-Wan retorted vehemently. "It's the truth!"
"From your point of view, perhaps," Qui-Gon was face was tight with controlled anger.
"The boy is dangerous. They all sense it. Why can't you?" Obi-Wan retorted boldly, heedless of the consequences.
"His fate is uncertain, but he is not dangerous," Master Qui-Gon declared. "The Council will decide Anakin's future. That should be enough for you."
A day later, Obi-Wan's accusations still stung. Qui-Gon winced as he remembered Master Yoda's words about the boy to him before they left. "Take him with you, but train him not!"
No, I won't train him. However, that won't stop Anakin from learning by observation.
"Ani, I am going to show you Force techniques," he said. "Watch carefully."
He demonstrated by levitating several objects he had spread out on the table.
"Choose one that you feel the Force prompting you to lift."
Anakin focused on them intently. "The box," he said.
He is uncertain, yet he has chosen the middle object. Not the largest, not the smallest, nor the heaviest or lightest. Good, he is neither under confidant nor cocky.
"I cannot instruct you how to do it," Qui-Gon said sadly. "So, I am going to lift the box slowly several times. Observe."
After the seventh time, Anakin asked to try it. Anakin took the small box and held it cupped in his hands. He closed his eyes and concentrated.
Qui-Gon watched with a smile as the box rose shakily a centimeter into the air and immediately fell again.
"Very good, Ani," he praised. "I would like you to practice this while we travel, but let no one see you," he warned.
"Now, we shall meditate."
Sadly, Qui-Gon searched for guidance from the Force. He and Obi-Wan had not spoken to each other during their journey back to Naboo. His Padawan had taken to sleeping and eating with the crew that manned the ship during the "night" shift. He and Qui-Gon avoided one another as entirely as possible. How will I repair this rift with Obi-Wan? I've wounded him very deeply. Perhaps he needs this time to heal. It's his way. If I intrude now it would be a disaster.
Things have gone from bad to worse with no sign of an end. With a heavy heart he looked across at Anakin. The boy was unsuccessfully attempting to meditate, but Qui-Gon did nothing to help him.
There must be some way to convince the Council to reconsider!
Qui-Gon inhaled sharply as he felt the Force surge madly around the boy. He opened his eyes and stared with rapt attention. Carefully, not wishing to disturb Anakin, he tried to determine why the Force seemed to barrage the boy. Anakin's face was serene and his entire body shone as if a lamp of fire had been turned on inside of him. The light flickered and jumped in bursts of gold and white across his skin and clothes.
He is the Chosen One.
Suddenly, a wave of panic rose in the boy. His eyes flew open and the light went out. "Be calm, Ani," Qui-Gon reassured the shaking boy. Anakin stared at him with wide eyes.
"I wasn't supposed to do that, was I?" He asked as a statement.
"No, it's all right," Qui-Gon answered. "Has this happened before?"
"Uh, yes," the boy stammered. "While we were flying to Coruscant."
"Has it ever before that?"
"No, I..." Anakin was uncertain. Had he glowed before? Images flashed through his mind. Forgotten memories of his mother's frightened face came to him. "I think it might, but I don't remember. What... what is it?"
"You opened yourself to the Force, just as I instructed you to," he began. "The only way I can explain this is when the Force filled you it overflowed." How has he learned to gather power like this? he wondered.
"It hurt last time."
"It felt like my skin was on fire."
"What were you thinking of when you were meditating that time?"
"Well," Anakin searched his memory. "About the people on the ship and I think Padm? and you and that it was cold."
"There it is," Qui-Gon deduced. "You disliked the cold and used the Force to warm yourself." But it obviously got out of hand.
"Did it hurt this time?" Qui-Gon asked. He hadn't sensed any heat.
"Not exactly, it felt like I was burning inside today."
Qui-Gon did not answer him. This is the danger that the Council and Obi-Wan sensed. The boy has no control. If he is not trained soon I am certain he will imperil himself and all those around him.
In the swamps of Naboo, the Jedi, the Queen and her guards waited for Jar Jar's return from Otoh Gunga. Padm? walked over to Anakin. "How are you, Ani?" she asked.
"Okay." Blue eyes looked up at her mournfully. "I missed you," he shuffled his feet in the dirt.
"I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you for the past few days," she answered. "I have been very busy on the ship."
"I need to tell you that..." he hesitated and stared at the ground. "They decided not to make me a Jedi."
He told her about the Jedi Council testing him and how Qui-Gon had been showing him Force techniques, "But the worst is that Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are mad at each other and I know it's my fault."
"I'm sorry, Ani," Padm? said sadly. "Don't give up hope. The Council might change their minds. And don't blame yourself about the Jedi," she comforted him. "I'm sure that they will word things out."
Obi-Wan wanted to bash his head into a tree. There were several suitable ones conveniently nearby. It would be much easier than apologizing to Qui-Gon. It still hurt terribly that the Jedi Master had dismissed him so abruptly in favor of the boy. Even though he knew it wasn't an intentional insult. And worse, I've opposed my master when I should have been supporting him. I've not even tried to understand his reasons.
"Master," Obi-Wan said and turned to face Qui-Gon. "I behaved badly on Coruscant, and I am embarrassed. I meant no disrespect to you. I do not wish to be difficult in the matter of the boy. And I am grateful that you think I am ready to pass the Trials."
"Nor have you been," his master replied kindly. "You have been honest with me and honesty is never wrong," he smiled faintly. "I am very sorry for seeming to slight you in front of the Council. I did not lie when I told the Council you were ready. You are. I have taught you all I can."
Obi-Wan beamed at his master's praise.
"In fact, I've a confession to make," Qui-Gon began. "I've felt that you we're ready since our mission to Altv."
Obi-Wan looked at him in shock. "But to take the Trials then would have been so early..."
"I know," Qui-Gon interrupted. "But I must apologize for I not telling you. I simply did not want to part with your company so soon. Can you forgive me?"
"Of course, Master."
"I foresee you will be a great Jedi and a wiser man than I." They smiled as the rift between them healed as if it had never been and all of the pain was forgotten.
"I feel that the boy is worried," Obi-Wan looked over at Anakin who was with a handmaiden.
"Yes," Qui-Gon observed. "Everything has been very hard for him. Perhaps she can set his mind at ease."
"Master, I have been sensing something, odd, about that handmaiden," Obi-Wan stated. "I did not speak of it before, but now the feeling has increased."
"You are right Obi-Wan," his master replied. "Search carefully and feel the Force signatures around the Queen and each of her handmaidens."
Obi-Wan did as instructed and barely suppressed a laugh. He looked at Qui-Gon with a grin. "Clever trick," he said in amusement. "And Anakin has no idea who he is talking to!"
Anakin glanced over at the Jedi. To his surprise, they were talking and smiling again. It made him feel much better about the battle to come to know that everything was all right with the Jedi.
In the Theed Power Station, Obi-Wan rushed to his wounded master's side. I can't heal a wound this bad, Obi-Wan thought in despair.
"Don't speak, Master," Obi-Wan insisted. I must do something! "Can you start a healing trance?" Obi-Wan asked.
Qui-Gon complied and his breathing slowed to a steady rhythm. Obi-Wan picked him up and with the Force sped out of the power station. The battle with the Sith had been intense. Obi-Wan had watched from behind the laser shields in horror as that creature had skewered Qui-Gon. The lasers switched off just in time for him to prevent the Sith from delivering a second blow to his master. Qui-Gon had dropped to his knees and then sank to the floor unable to help his Padawan in the battle.
When the Sith knocked him down a pit, Obi-Wan had feared that he would turn and finish off Qui-Gon. But the Force was with him. The Sith knew that Master Qui-Gon was wounded too badly to be a threat and instead decided to taunt Obi-Wan. It proved to be his undoing.
As Obi-Wan rushed his master through the infirmary doors he didn't think about the battle outside, the Sith he slaughtered or even the wounded people already filling the room. He only wanted someone to tell him that Qui-Gon would survive.
In a daze he allowed a healer to lead him to lay Qui-Gon on an examination bed and reluctantly stay behind as they took him away.
Please, please, please... Obi-Wan thought incoherently as he willed everything to be okay.
Obi-Wan looked up at the young healer expectantly.
"The Master Jedi is stable for now and we have placed him in a bacta tank," he began. "His spine escaped intact, however his internal organs were severely damaged. You will need your Jedi Healers to repair them."
"I'll contact them right away."
Anakin stared in awe at the after effects of the destroyed Droid Control Ship. It was oddly pretty. It never occurred to the small boy that he had just killed all of the people onboard. Over the Com he heard Ric Olie give the command for all the starfighters to go back to Naboo and land in the hangar.
"Just follow them Artoo," Anakin ordered the little droid as the yellow Naboo ships flew past them. He'd hoped to get back without anyone knowing he'd gone, in particular Master Qui-Gon. But it was too late for that now.
Ric Olie and the Naboo pilots gathered together excitedly as they exited their ships. Everyone began talking at once.
"Hold it, hold it!" Ric Olie ordered as he held up a hand to get their attention. "Tell me one at a time what you each saw."
"He flew into the hold," Bravo Two explained. "Then he went behind the deflector shield and blew the main reactor..."
"It was amazing!" Bravo Three cheered. "They don't teach that at the academy."
Before the other pilots could add their input Anakin's ship flew in and skidded to a stop behind the other Naboo starfighters. Ric Olie looked around at the assembled pilots. "We're all accounted for. Who flew that ship?" They looked at each other in surprise and together rushed to the new ship that landed.
Anakin slumped in the cockpit. Just better get this over with, he told himself. He sheepishly opened the cockpit and stood up.
"Am I in trouble?" Anakin asked pitifully.
No one answered. The pilots were too busy staring in shock and amazement.
The pilots didn't know what to make of this little boy. So, Ric Olie took Anakin to Captain Panaka and the Queen.
"Oh, Ani," the Queen smiled and hugged him. "You were wonderful!"
"Um," Anakin blushed. "Thank you Padm?, or... I mean Your Highness... um, what am I supposed to call you?"
"When it's just us, you can call me Padm? if you like."
She walked with him out of the throne room in to a smaller antechamber. "Now, I'm sure you are hungry," she said and led him to a table that was being filled with food and drinks for the communications crew and relief coordinators in the Com room next door. "I thought everything was busy while we were fighting, but things are twice as hectic now."
"Now, tell me all about it," the Queen entreated.
Hesitantly at first, but growing more animated Anakin told her of the starfighter taking off on autopilot and the space battle. "And then I was spinning and falling towards the big ship when I saw a hanger. I managed to turn to go in it, but I didn't land too well. They sent droids to shoot me, but when I shot back I hit a lot of other stuff. I just wanted to get out of there, I didn't know it would blow up," he finished.
Anakin glanced around the room a moment before whispering, "I think that maybe I did some of that Jedi Force stuff."
"Really?" Padm? whispered back in delight.
"Yeah," Anakin said proudly. "I've been practicing a lot. I'm not supposed to let anyone see, but I know you will keep it a secret." Carefully checking the room again to be sure no one was watching, Anakin levitated an empty cup off the table.
Padm?'s eyes widened and she grinned. "Ani, that's..."
"Excuse me, Your Highness," Obi-Wan said from the doorway.
Anakin quickly snatched the cup from the air with his hand and set it on the table. Did Obi-Wan see? he wondered in alarm.
"My master has been injured badly and I need to contact the Jedi Temple at once," Obi-Wan continued.
"Of course," she answered. "Please, use my personal Com," she gestured toward the throne room. "I hope Master Qui-Gon will recover soon," she offered.
"As do I," Obi-Wan replied as he followed her.
The first Jedi Healer to arrive had been close enough to come in a day. It took three days for the others to arrive from Coruscant and Master Yoda came with them. Now, Master Qui-Gon had been removed from the bacta tank and was in the Jedi Healers care. They wanted to transport him back to Coruscant immediately.
Yoda found Obi-Wan pacing outside of his master's room in the infirmary.
"Master Yoda," he greeted and bowed to his elder.
"Seen Qui-Gon, I have," Yoda said. "Fortunate that you are quick, he is." Yoda smiled, "Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does. Have the ceremony, we shall, when ready to perform it, Qui-Gon is."
Obi-Wan tried to control his delight, but couldn't help but grin.
"Fetch the boy," Yoda told him. "Leave for home, we do."
"Master Yoda," Obi-Wan began. "About the boy. It's clear that Anakin's actions during the battle were directed by the Force."
"Perhaps, perhaps not," Yoda answered.
Obi-Wan continued boldly, "Surely this is proof that he should be trained."
"Oh, your master's opinion, have you now?"
"He understands what the rest of us do not about the boy," Obi-Wan pressed.
"Undecided the Council is," Yoda said. "Your concern, it is not," he ordered.
The journey back to Coruscant was quiet. Obi-Wan spent all of his time with his master. Qui-Gon was in a Jedi Healing Trance and would remain so for several more days to recover. Master Yoda visited them frequently as well as Anakin.
That evening, the healers had left Obi-Wan to watch his master and Yoda had gone with them. Anakin was disappointed that they had to leave Naboo so quickly. He wanted to stay for the big celebration that Padm?, or rather the Queen, had invited them to attend. Amidala wasn't happy that she would not be able to honor the Jedi and Anakin for their help in freeing Naboo, but she understood that Qui-Gon needed to be taken home as soon as possible.
"Can Master Qui-Gon hear us?" Anakin asked Obi-Wan.
"Yes, though he might not remember it all later," Obi-Wan said at Qui- gon's bedside.
"What will happen to me when we get to Coruscant?" he asked Obi-Wan.
"I'm not sure, Ani," Obi-Wan said. "The Council is still debating, however I know that Qui-Gon will do everything he can to convince them to train you. And I will help," he vowed.
He called me Ani! Anakin thought happily. He smiled, "Thank you, Obi-Wan."
Anakin avoided Yoda. The Jedi ship was no smaller than the Queen of Naboo's cruiser, but there wasn't much room on the ship to stay away from the wizened Jedi Master. Somehow, Anakin managed. Perhaps Yoda preferred to not see the boy as well. Anakin couldn't be sure. However, he did know that Master Yoda did not like him. He didn't convey it with words or even actions, just a feeling of mistrust asserted itself whenever Yoda was around the boy. Every Jedi on board felt it and the Healers took it to mean that they should not speak to Anakin. So, Anakin found himself spending most of his time either with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan or alone in his own cabin.
Anakin practiced levitating objects with the Force most of the time. Laid out on his bunk were most of his meager possessions. Lifting one object had become easier, but two was exhausting.
Smoothly, his folded pocketknife rose into the air. Anakin waited a few minutes to be sure it wasn't going to fall before raising the pouch that had contained it. He breathed heavily for a moment. Gotta just relax, he opened his eyes to look. Maybe, if I earn some money I could buy a vibro-knife? he thought. The two objects wavered as he nearly lost concentration. Whoa. I've got to pay attention, he reprimanded himself.
I want to be able to lift lots of stuff all at the same time and show Qui-Gon when he wakes up! Anakin thought in determination. If I work really hard and do it just like Qui-Gon did, maybe then they will let me be a Jedi.
Unsteadily, a third object rose to join the others. He let them all drop back down.
"I wonder if I could move them?" Anakin said aloud to no one as he looked at his belongings lying on the bunk. He'd brought a few disposable eating utensils with him to add to his repertoire.
But Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan only lifted stuff. I've never seen them move things, he mused in confusion. But it ought to work. It's worth a try, he decided.
He stared at the utensils for some time before levitating one. Taking a deep breath, he tried to move the fork from the bunk to the desk-like console. A loud thwack made Anakin jump. He stared at the fork now imbedded in the metal wall.
After using his knife to cut the protruding end of the fork off, Anakin felt confident that no one would notice. Or at least, not until enough time had passed that they couldn't tell who did it.
Anakin was beginning to get cabin fever. It was amazing that such a young boy had held out this long when he'd spent only four days of the past two weeks not on board a ship. It didn't take long for him to start pacing and hopping.
I wonder if I can use the Force to touch the ceiling?
At first it didn't seem to be working. So, Anakin stealthily left for a quick trip to the galley and fetched a small condiment bottle. Sneaking safely back to his cabin, squeezed a bit of the sauce on his finger. With each jump he made a mark with the sauce on the wall to see how high he could go. After the tenth jump he was tired and pleased to see that he could nearly reach the top of the door. Losing interest for the time being, he tried to think of what else he could do to relieve his boredom.
Obi-Wan said that Jedi are good at balance.
Slowly, Anakin started a handstand against the wall. Carefully, he removed one foot and then the other. Obi-Wan could do it balancing on one finger, he remembered in admiration. I won't try that of course, When he felt steady he tried lifting one hand off floor and fell flat on his back. It knocked the wind out of him and jarred his teeth.
That was stupid! Anakin berated himself. I won't try that again without help. No more Force exercises today. Not even meditating.
Anakin had not meditated at all since Qui-Gon was injured, I hate it. I never do it right and it hurts.
His stomach growled for its supper.
Obi-Wan looked up from Qui-Gon's bedside as Anakin entered the room.
"Good evening!" the boy called. "I brought food."
"Thank you, Ani," Obi-Wan answered. "Where have you been today? I was wondering if you had vanished."
"Um, I've been busy."
"Really, doing what?" Obi-Wan asked as Anakin handed him his dinner and opened his own.
"Avoiding Master Yoda."
Obi-Wan laughed, I'm not surprised after the way that little green troll has shunned you.
"Are you sure you weren't just bored of talking to me?" Obi-Wan teased.
"Oh, no," Anakin was embarrassed.
I wonder if I should tell Obi-Wan that I can use the Force now? Anakin wondered. No, I'd rather surprise both Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan after he wakes up. And maybe Master Yoda, too.
"So, how is Master Qui-Gon?" the boy inquired.
"Doing well. The Healers expect him to come out of the Healing Trance the day after we arrive on Coruscant."
"That's great!" Anakin cheered. "Um, Obi-Wan? Could you tell me about how Jedi move stuff?"
"Telekinesis?" At Anakin's nod Obi-Wan continued, "You must be able to sense and control the Force in order to alter what is around you."
Obi-Wan noticed the glazed look that entered his eyes and decided it would be better to explain as simply as possible lest he lose his audience.
"Nothing can be done with the Force if you can't feel it around you. Once you can sense it you must learn to control the flow of the Force inside of you. However that is not easy and often requires a great deal of meditating."
"So after that you can lift stuff. Can you move things to different places?"
"Yes. Moving objects, rather then just lifting them, is very difficult in the beginning. Often it takes months of practicing to do it and years before it becomes second nature."
They will be so surprised! Anakin thought smugly.
It is good to be home, Obi-Wan thought gratefully. This last mission is most definitely one of the hardest and most dangerous we have been on. He looked over at the recovering Jedi Master.
I nearly lost you, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and tried to relax. The Healers assured him that Qui-Gon was nearly healed and would wake soon. More than anything, this past week has been a great test of my patience and ability to avoid despair, he sighed.
I sense that the future will be very difficult now that we are threatened by the return of the Sith. I am worried that too much will be expected of me because I killed one. I don't want to fail to meet those standards.
Obi-Wan ran his hand through his hair and held his Padawan braid, And soon I will not be allowed to rely on you to guide and help me through it all, Master.
Everything will be different now.
He dropped the braid and attempted to meditate on his new status and life. I will be Knighted soon, he thought proudly. But I am beginning to dread it now. I don't want to end the training bond with you. I don't want to move out into my own quarters. I don't want to go on my next mission without you. I feel like I am losing instead of gaining.
On the eve of their Knighting, do all Padawans wish that everything had stayed the same?
Qui-Gon awakened slowly to see the bland ceiling of the Jedi Temple infirmary. Gradually his mind retraced his last memories of Obi-Wan taking him to the healers and later Jedi Healers coming to help him. His senses told him that he had been in a healing trance for a week. Gently, Qui-Gon turned his head to see his Padawan meditating in a chair. Qui-Gon knew that Obi-Wan had hardly left his side the entire week. Obi-Wan your loyalty is commendable, however you really didn't need to be so diligent. I sense that you refused the Healers offers to take shifts sitting with me.
Obi-Wan opened his eyes and smiled. "How are you feeling?" he asked as he went to fetch some water.
"Better." Qui-Gon replied as he accepted the drink. And very grateful to be alive, he wanted to add, but his parched throat wouldn't allow him.
"Your injury gave the Healers quite a shock," Obi-Wan said cheekily. "They never expected you to be gutted by a lightsaber," he then became serious. "The first few days were the worst of my life."
"Thank you, my Padawan," Qui-Gon answered. "Your swiftness and strength saved me."
At that Obi-Wan grinned, but said seriously, "About that... the Council has decided that defeating a Sith equals promotion to Knighthood."
Qui-Gon smiled sadly, "Yes, I felt they would. You have well earned it." Slowly he sat up, I have longed for and dreaded this day. Obi-Wan, why did you grow up so fast?
Desperate to distract himself, lest he begin to worry Obi-Wan with his dismalness, he changed the subject, "And how is Anakin?" he inquired.
"Anxious and nervous," Obi-Wan replied. "Yesterday, the Council sent for him to tell of his involvement in the Naboo Battle. The boy somehow managed to destroy the Droid Control Ship!"
Qui-Gon frowned, "He was supposed to stay hiding where we left him." he said disappointedly.
"He did, from a certain point of view," Obi-Wan was smirking again. "The ship he was in took off on autopilot. He didn't have a choice. Anakin is now a hero to the Naboo and Gungans."
Qui-Gon thought for a moment before answering. It is a relief that he did not intentionally disobey me. The boy could have died out there otherwise. "I see. So the Force guided him to help."
"Yes, master. That is how I feel as well. I don't know yet what the Council has decided. Master Yoda did not make the journey here from Naboo pleasant for the boy."
The Council is taking far too long to decide Anakin's future. But perhaps their continued debates are a good sign, Qui-Gon mused. "So, where is Ani?"
"He hasn't visited us today, yet. I'll ask..."
Obi-Wan stopped speaking as they both felt Masters Yoda and Mace Windu entering the Healer Ward and coming to their door. The Masters entered without knocking.
"Good evening," Master Windu greeted.
"Sensed you wake, we did," Yoda said bluntly.
Qui-Gon sat up further as Obi-Wan stood to bow to the two Jedi masters. Before either could offer a greeting Master Windu spoke.
"We have come to discuss Skywalker," Mace began.
"The Council has decided?" Qui-Gon asked. They must see now that he is the Chosen One!
"Hear us out first," Mace and Yoda glanced at Obi-Wan and then seemed to mutually decide that the young Jedi could stay.
"Clouded Skywalker's future is," Yoda spoke gravely. "Promised, I did, to explain to you."
Mace began saying, "When you brought the boy before us we were greatly disturbed by our perception of his future."
"What did you see?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Nothing?" Qui-Gon was startled and frowned. How is that possible? I felt the Force show me the potential in the boy. I saw that he was the Chosen One and that he would be a Jedi. Could it be that I was merely visualizing my hopes rather than the future? No, what I felt was too strong, it must be true!
"Nothing at all?" Obi-Wan's voice conveyed his shock.
"Not one of us could gain any insight from the Force of this boy's future might be," Mace replied. "Since the incident at Naboo and also what you reported of Tatooine we have determined that the boy is a blind spot to us."
"Unexpected, the return of the Sith was," Yoda announced. "Even more unexpected your near death was, Qui-Gon."
"We have come to believe that the Force will not allow us to see anyone involved or anything surrounding this boy's future," Master Windu elaborated. "When we searched for visions of the Sith we received none. Likewise, when we attempted to learn the outcome on Naboo, we gained nothing."
"No visions, no possibilities," Yoda added.
"When we sent you to Naboo we had not the slightest hint from the Force of what would transpire there," Mace confessed.
Silence reigned in the room as Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan tried to process what they were hearing. Neither had ever heard of such a thing and from the grim looks on Master Yoda and Windu's faces, apparently they had not as well. The future was always difficult to see. However, when the entire Council draws on the Force they always gained some possibilities and glimpses of what might come. But for the Council, for all its power, to sense nothing.
"More to say have we," Yoda's face was very severe. "Sent Skywalker to the Agri-corps, the Council has."
"NO!" Obi-Wan shouted. The three Jedi Masters looked at him in surprise. Qui-Gon was silent with controlled anger. Obi-Wan sat down and immediately tried to calm himself.
Quietly and coldly, Qui-Gon voiced his opinion, "That is a mistake."
"My friend," Mace tried to sooth him. "He will be safer there."
"No," Qui-Gon said. "You have not seen what this boy can do. His power easily overwhelms him."
"Dangerous he..." Yoda began.
Qui-Gon interrupted, "Dangerous without training. I have learned that once while he was meditating he nearly set himself on fire simply because he could not control the way the Force flowed in him! I have seen him shine with the Force like a beacon and he had no idea how he did it."
"Know of this, we did not," Yoda replied. He and Mace looked at each other in concern.
"We need a demonstration of this Force light," Mace decided.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon relaxed a little. "Well, then," Qui-Gon said calmer now. "It's happened twice when he meditated..."
"We cannot see this now," Mace answered yet hesitated.
"Gone he is," Yoda said boldly.
Obi-Wan was horrified. "Weren't you going to at least let him say goodbye?" he demanded.
Yoda gave the young man a warning look as they all sensed someone approaching the door. A Council messenger knocked and entered.
After bowing she said, "I have been sent with news that the transport carrying Anakin Skywalker has not arrived at its destination."
Three Years Later
Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi sat back in the cockpit seat of his ship with a sigh. He had just finished informing the Jedi Council that he had found the last person, last except one. Tola Hgual was currently asleep and had no knowledge of what had become of Anakin Skywalker. Just like the others, he thought in disappointment.
For the past three and a half years since his Knighting, his mission had been to locate and rescue all of the occupants of the transport that had been sent to the Agri-corps, and never arrived. In particular, to find Anakin. It had been a long three years.
The Council had sent Jedi to follow the ship's path. They had learned that the transport was destroyed by pirates. Everyone in the Temple was grief stricken. Seven children and two pilots had been on that ship. The Council was dismayed to learn that pirates had begun encroaching on the Inner Core of the galaxy and mourned the loss of the children. They had gained guidance from the Force and had determined that some of them may still be alive. Obi-Wan had requested that searching and rescuing them be his first mission. The Council granted it.
Obi-Wan slumped in his chair wearily. He recalled that Qui-Gon was completely certain that Ani was alive. The most likely theory was that everyone on board was sold as slaves. He hoped so. Anakin could survive being re-enslaved until they freed him again. The alternatives were much worse. It's getting harder to believe that Ani lives.
The Council had given he and Qui-Gon their full support. It was the least they could do, Obi-Wan recalled. The bitterness had passed eventually. Qui-Gon had spent much of his time searching for the clues they needed. The Council's contacts with the Republic's intelligence network had been most helpful with accurate information. However, it was too often slow in coming and they never discovered the name of the pirates responsible. And neither they, nor us have heard anything about these pirates in over a year.
He had found the first child within a few months. He was elated that that the teenager could tell them what happened. He remembered the attack and the pirates boarding the ship, Obi-Wan mused. He especially remembered the pirates' anger when they discovered nothing of value aboard. No money or cargo to plunder. No wealthy or important passengers that could be held for ransom. Just two Republic pilots and seven kids, he thought ruefully. My, how disappointed they must have been. Its a wonder they didn't just slaughter the poor children.
The boy had confirmed that everyone had been told they would be sold as slaves. However, he didn't remember a little blond nine year old. Qui-Gon had discovered the location of one of the pilots. Together, they went to fetch her. Yet our hopes were dashed again. She did not know what became of Ani. The Council agreed with Qui-Gon that Ani was likely a slave once more. And so a pattern developed of searching and rescuing, but still learning nothing about Anakin Skywalker.
What would his mother think, now that not only have we lost her only child, but we also cannot find him? It was almost a relief that as a slave herself she could not afford to send a holo-message to her son and would not expect one from him. Even if she could have asked, I wonder if the Council would have told her anything at all? Obi-Wan thought gravely and with a spark of instantly controlled anger. Like they didn't tell Queen Amidala.
The Queen had sent messages and had been politely told that Anakin was not able to send any messages to her and would not for the near future, however they would inform her when this changed. I think she's finally stopped trying, he didn't like it. Yet, Qui-Gon agreed with the Council that they were better off not knowing and worrying these past three years. Their evasiveness is foolish. Don't they know that his mother and the Queen are worrying anyway?
Ani, where are you?
Obi-Wan guided his ship to land on the planet Yoj below. His young charge, Tola Hgual, was not well and had become worse in the night. He wasn't really surprised. A few of the other teenagers that he had been sent to recover had also contracted illnesses due to the terrible conditions they endured as slaves. He'd found this one on the Outer Rim. Obi-Wan knew she was ill, however he had no knowledge of how to heal a Nufevah. So, he made a detour for the Eituc system. The planet was reputed to have excellent hospitals and in their response to his call they assured him that they could help her.
The healers were very nice and took good care of young Tola. They said they needed to keep her overnight and Obi-Wan gave them the code to his ship should they need to contact him. I'm really glad to get out of there, Obi-Wan thought in relief as he exited the hospital. Healers always bothered him. And those in particular smiled too much. He rounded the corner and began to walk down the street to the ship hangers.
A warning of danger from the Force alerted Obi-Wan. He slowed his pace and stretched his senses in anticipation. Something to do with that first hanger. Silently, he moved to the wall and vaulted to the roof of the neighboring storage building. He crept to a row of grimy windows and peeked in.
He could sense and see two figures arguing and six more nearby emanating hostile intent. Hmmm... a bit much to handle on my own.
The dispute inside was escalating. Obi-Wan ignited his lightsaber and carefully cut away the window. As he expected the noise of a ship in pre-flight mode and the loud insults effectively hid what little sounds he made. He walked out on to some narrow roof beams and watched.
"I'll laugh last kid," one man said.
I'll dub him Big Ugly, Obi-Wan thought.
"Then you must think the slowest," Kid smarted back.
Big Ugly was stalking around while the Not Nice Thugs were hefting their weapons.
"You owe me, little pimple," Big Ugly demanded. "And you can pay with your life if necessary."
"Nonsense, I intend to live forever," Kid declared. "And I'm not paying you anything."
Now Big Ugly drew his blaster, "Last chance."
This looks like my cue, Obi-Wan prepared to jump down, but paused when he heard the kid speak.
"How many of you believe in telekinesis?" Kid asked. "Please, raise my hand. Oh, you can't can you. Well, I'll just raise yours!" With that every blaster, pike, and whip flew out of the Not Nice Thugs hands. Obi-Wan leaped quickly and landed behind the teenager.
"Can I play?" Obi-Wan asked.
"It's a Jedi!" One of the thugs yelled and with that the whole lot of them fled out the door as fast as they could run.
"Well that was disappointing," Obi-Wan commented. He watched the weapons drop to the ground and waited for the kid to turn around to look at him.
Obi-Wan examined the teenager intensely. Darkening blond hair, blue eyes, and a sour expression. The boy was as tall as his shoulder and his voice was beginning to deepen with the advent of approaching manhood. And using the Force...
"Anakin?" Obi-Wan exclaimed in shock. The tousled haired youth looked him straight in the eye. For a long moment they just stared at each other. Qui-Gon and I have searched all over the galaxy and I just stumble across him? he thought stunned.
"Hi, Obi-Wan," Anakin replied. "I'm surprised you recognized me."
"Where have you been!" Obi-Wan exclaimed.
"In and out," Anakin answered. "Mostly out."
"We know that the pirates sold everyone on that ship. We've found all of the others," Obi-Wan told him. I can't believe he is really here! "We have been searching for you everywhere."
"You needn't have gone to the trouble on my account."
"Come back with me to the Jedi Temple," Obi-Wan asked with a smile.
"Why?" Anakin scoffed. "So you Jedi can lock me up?"
Obi-Wan scowled at that. "Have you earned imprisonment?"
Anakin didn't answer. His eyes flashed with hidden emotion. Obi-Wan looked at him with concern. Anakin had grown a lot in over three years and looked thinner. He looked a bit thin before, but now...
"I'll see you later," Anakin replied flippantly and began to walk to the small ship in preflight mode.
Obi-Wan was puzzled and dismayed. He followed the boy to the ship's access ladder, "I was sent to take you back with me, Ani. Everyone is very worried about you and..."
"And I really need to be going," Anakin interrupted. He moved closer to the ladder, but Obi-Wan stepped in his way.
"And you didn't answer my questions."
From outside they could hear the ship's computer ping that it was ready for flight.
"Tell Master Qui-Gon that I'm sorry I didn't get to see him, for me, will you?" And with that Anakin used the Force to vault up to the ship's hatch and shut it abruptly, cutting off anything else Obi-Wan might say or do. Obi-Wan no choice but to back away as the craft took to the sky.
"I have a very bad feeling about this," Obi-Wan said in frustration.
How am I ever going to explain this to the Council? Wait, how am I going to tell Qui-Gon! Obi-Wan had spent the last hour sifting through the Yoj database of incoming and outgoing ships. Once he had the all of the identification and information he could find on Anakin's ship he prepared to call home. Should I speak to them over an open Com, or just send a holo-message? What would they order me to do? Or not do? Obi-Wan was more worried that they might tell him to return to Coruscant then that they might disapprove of him taking matters into his own hands.
Should I tell them what Anakin said? How he refused to come with me. About his contempt when he spoke. And that he is using the Force?
He settled on a quick message. "Masters," he began. "I have seen Anakin Skywalker. I request that someone be sent to pick up Tola Hgual from the Yoj Hospital here on Eituc. I am sending all of the information I could find of the ship Anakin is on and the star systems I feel he is likely to be traveling to and which ones I intend to search first. I will find him," Obi-Wan ended the recording and prepared to send another to Qui-Gon.
Anakin, Obi-Wan thought to himself. If I don't catch you...
Within an hour Obi-Wan was in pursuit of Anakin Skywalker.
Qui-Gon was tired. That's an understatement. I'm exhausted.
He was pleased that the situation on Ecineb was resolved. Master Qui-Gon and two Knights had been sent to evacuate refugees. As usual, Qui-Gon had searched the planet for any indication that Anakin Skywalker had been there. No, the boy hadn't come here. After more than three years, the constant feeling of failure had become alarmingly routine.
Technically, it was Obi-Wan's mission to find the boy, however no one objected to his decision to search as well. When he learned of a possible location the Jedi Council always gave their full support as he took off to search another region sometimes with his former apprentice and sometimes alone. In between those missions the Council would often send him on assignments to areas of space they had not yet examined for traces of Anakin.
Yet, he did not feel even the slightest bit hopeful when he saw a message waiting for him on the Republic transport carrying the Jedi back to Coruscant. Emotionlessly he played the message.
"Qui-Gon," the holo of Obi-Wan revealed that the young man had made no effort to disguise the distress on his face. "I've found Anakin, but he refused to come with me and has taken off in a ship alone. I think he might be headed for Esor or Sielilyad. I will arrive on Esor in a day, if I don't find him there it will take another day for me to reach Sielilyad. He is bitter, Qui-Gon, and using the Force. I'll explain more later."
Qui-Gon stormed from his cabin to the transport's cockpit. "Captain!" Master Qui-Gon called aloud. "We must make a detour for the Sielilyad system, at once!" The captain immediately complied without even thinking about questioning the Jedi Master. Qui-Gon looked up as the two other Jedi entered and looked at him sensing his distress. "We have a boy to find," he informed them. Without another word, Qui-Gon returned to his cabin.
Gingerly, Anakin Skywalker crept along the roof. This is stupid. I should have said no, he berated himself. If I were to refuse just once maybe...? No, not worth it. It was dark and the night was quiet. It had rained earlier and the wet roof was treacherous, but Anakin did not worry. When he reached a blank, uninteresting spot he paused. This is it. Removing tools from his small pack, Anakin began to cut a hole into the concealed ventilation shaft. It was very narrow and he was much too large to climb in it. Time for plan B.
He reached into his pack for a small machine. It was painted a soft green with a domed top and flat bottom. It was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand and was currently his most prized possession. He had really struggled to build this little droid. It was much harder than building Threepio had ever been. At least then most of the parts he needed were in Watto's shop. This time, finding tiny enough parts had been nearly impossible and the little motor he'd managed to find wasn't in the best of condition. All too often he had to redesign and rebuild many of the parts from scratch. He could only hope it worked.
Swiftly the little droid dropped down the hole. Please work! Anakin winced when he heard it plop on the grating below. Anxiously he peered down the shaft. To his relief he could see two little lights moving and the soft whine of a tiny vibro-saw cutting metal. All right, Kaely! he nearly yelled. This was K-LE1's first field test. The droid was nearly finished and gave a small wail of surprise when it fell through the hole it made.
I should have made her practice more, Anakin decided and bit his lip in concern. I wish I'd had enough time to install her repulsor lifts.
Anakin was really proud of Kaely. He'd spent the past year building her during every spare moment of his time. The little compartments filled with useful gadgets, like the vibro-saw, were the most difficult. He had to actually take a hand-held vibro-saw and remove most of the blade and circuitry to make it small enough. He was still amazed that it had worked. Anakin had plans for even more improvements. I can't wait to see Kaely fly! As it was she had only her tiny wheels to carry her and they only worked on a flat surface.
He began moving away from the hole and farther along the rooftop. She'll be okay. She's tough, Anakin reassured himself. Yet, he couldn't help but worry. She's all I have.
He leaped down to a balcony's tall floor window and waited. Assuming K-LE1 didn't get lost, she'd be keying the electronic release on the bottom edge of the window soon. I really hate waiting, Anakin thought. But it can't be helped. He smiled when he sensed with the Force a small object moving inside. These buildings had simple, yet effective, security systems and one very convenient flaw. When a door or window was activated from the inside no alarm would sound.
The opaque window clicked and slid open and Kaely wheeled backwards out of his way. "Good girl," he praised the tiny droid. She chirped in reply and followed him out into the hall. Together they silently crept through the dark. Anakin had no need for a light to see and he was beginning to wish that he'd found a way for Kaely to see in the dark. Her petite eyes shone much brighter than he'd expected. Reaching the stairway, Anakin vaulted up all three levels and landed on the intricate metal rail without a sound.
"Come on!" Anakin whispered down to his companion. Kaely trilled in confusion and flashed her yellow eyes at him. Briefly, he toyed with the idea of just grabbing her with the Force. No, she needs to learn to do things on her own.
"Use your magnetic grapple," Anakin rolled his eyes and sighed. Sometimes talking to Kaely was like speaking to a baby. What am I thinking, she's only a year old, she is a baby. He watched as his droid obediently fired her grapple and rode it up to him. No more of this until I teach you to fly, little one. Gently he detached her from the railing and stuffed her in his pack.
Entering the second door, Anakin found himself in a private office. He felt along the wall and concentrated. I hope that their information was correct, he nearly passed it. Very clever, Anakin noted. He slid his fingers along the wall and sensed the miniscule cracks. He could feel the interior of the hidden compartment and pulled it open with the Force.
Sielilyad was currently a quiet system. Most of its economy relied on tourists who came for its wonderful pink and lilac beaches and warm green water. However, it was winter on the more famous half of the planet Ylil. Cool rain and harsh winds had once again driven the tourists away. Through a gentle drizzle, the Jedi's ship arrived in the night.
"Be alert," Master Qui-Gon reminded, perhaps unnecessarily, the two Jedi Knights with him. "This boy can use the Force. We need to convince him to return with us."
For the third time since they began to enter Ylil's atmosphere, Qui-Gon searched for Anakin with the Force. There! Finally, he felt him. And he is drawing strongly on the Force.
"Land in the city in that region of the coast," Qui-Gon pointed to an area on the map near the equator that was shrouded in night.
Anakin Skywalker was very happy. This was nice and easy. And even Kaely did well, he cheered. He'd found what he'd come for without anyone noticing or any alarms sounding. Smoothly, he returned to the window and went out into the night. As Anakin made his way to the roof a feeling of faint unease alerted him. What?
He turned to look behind him as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn stepped into view on the wet roof.
"Hello, Anakin," he said calmly.
For several moments, they looked at each other in silence. The wind began to tear at Qui-Gon's robe and the cool air sent chills down Anakin's spine.
"It's good to see you alive and well, Master Jinn," Anakin replied politely. "I'm very sorry I never had the chance to say goodbye."
"Anakin, the Council has retracted their decision to send you to the Agri-corps. If you would just come with me..."
"No thank you. I really don't think that would be a good idea."
"Why is that?" Qui-Gon was puzzled.
"They don't want me and I don't want them."
"Its true! Besides I'm doing just fine on my own."
"Do you have a job?"
"I do what I need to do," Anakin responded with equal lack of emotion.
"That's not much of an answer."
"It's the only one I can give."
"You will come with me," Qui-Gon subtly gestured with his hand.
Anakin did not answer with words, but the look of anger on his face did.
"Who is training you?" Qui-Gon inquired with barely concealed alarm.
Anakin bolted. For just a moment, the three Jedi were too surprised to react. Qui-Gon was the first to follow Anakin. The two Knights were shocked to see that this boy could withstand a Jedi Master's mind trick, but they recovered quickly.
"I'll detour to the hanger his ship is registered at. You two herd him to it," Qui-Gon ordered and sped off in another direction.
Jedi Knight Ti-ekam T'now looked at Knight Drah Seirt as they ran across the rooftops.
"Any ideas?" Ti-ekam asked. He was a Twi'lek and frowned as they leaped over a protruding gable and yet still could not see the boy.
"Nope," Drah replied. "There he is!" she exclaimed suddenly. She was of a short humanesque species. Her faintly lavender skin glistened in the starlight.
"At least he doesn't know we were there," Ti-ekam observed.
"Yes," Drah answered. "That should make this easy."
Up ahead, Anakin Skywalker nimbly skipped across roof tiles and skylights. He had known that two Jedi were lurking in the shadows while he was talking to Qui-Gon. They are in for a surprise.
Knight Drah Seirt sensed the danger first. "Stop, Ti-ekam!" she called in warning.
They both halted and scanned the next roof carefully with the Force. "He's left a trap, I think," Ti-ekam said. His yellow eyes narrowed.
Drah nodded. Gingerly, they leapt across and stepped with great care across the tiles. "I think I see it," Drah said. She pointed to a slightly darker patch of tiles that took up most of the center of the roof. They both jumped over it and continued their race to catch up with Anakin.
They must both be Knights. Anakin decided when he saw that his pursuers were still following. I'd hoped that one was a Padawan. Had they stepped in his trap the chemical he'd poured on the roof would have eaten quickly through the soles of their boots. It would have only forced them to remove them before it reached their feet, but that delay would have given Anakin much needed time. It will be harder now.
The Knights stopped when they reached the end of the buildings and scanned the area for the direction Anakin took. They felt the smallest hint of warning from the Force. A bizarre, narrow beam of light flashed up into the sky like a beacon and blinded them both briefly. It made no sound. In that second of distraction, Anakin attacked.
Knight Drah dodged and flipped backwards along the roof. However, Knight Ti-ekam fell. Anakin shoved him off the roof and grasped the older man's arms behind his back as they both plunged to the ground. Anakin was stronger than he looked and Ti-ekam had no choice but to brace for impact.
Drah ran to the edge and looked down in horror as she saw her fellow Jedi slam into the paved road far below. She knew that, as a Jedi, he would survive the fall itself with few, if any, injuries. However, if his attacker used his dazed state as an opportunity to kill him... Drah sprung off the housetop.
Anakin used the Jedi as a shield when they met the ground. He swiftly took advantage of the man's stunned condition to knock him unconscious with a well-aimed kick to the head. He didn't hesitate long, but vaulted upon another roof and continued his flight.
Drah paused by her friend and checked his injuries. When she was satisfied that none were severe, she pulled out her comlink. It greeted her with static. She looked up at the figure disappearing in the distance and sped after him.
One down, Anakin congratulated himself. And unable to contact Qui-Gon, too. I'm sure that the Jedi's comlinks can't break though my jammer, he smiled as he prepared to meet the second Knight.
Drah slowed at the end of another row of houses and jumped down into a large fenced private yard. Most of the wind was blocked and the drizzle had begun to let up. She quickly searched for any sign of the boy. In a flash, she spun around, ignited her lightsaber and sliced apart two lawn chairs that flew at her. Drah calmly watched Anakin stride into view.
"Very nice," he complimented. His face was expressionless and he stood in a ready stance.
Drah adjusted her grip on her golden lightsaber. It glowed and hummed in the darkness casting an eerie yellow light around it. "You must return with me to Master Jinn," she stated in a challenge.
"You know I won't," Anakin replied simply. He was not intimidated by the lightsaber pointed at him. He knew it wasn't a real threat. A Jedi wouldn't attack him with it. Suddenly, he leaped in the air as he sensed Drah use the Force to slide an empty flowerpot along the ground in an attempt to trip him. It passed beneath him untouched. Rapidly, several more objects began to fly at him. Drah levitated first the lawn chair pieces, then a few more empty pots and even the table at him. The faster Anakin dodged and Force pushed them away the faster Drah flung them. Anakin vaulted over her head in his efforts to evade the objects and fell right into the swimming pool.
Drah paused and deactivated her lightsaber. After clipping it to her belt, she walked to the pool's edge in concern. She could sense fear emanating from the boy. Still, he did not return to the surface. Puzzled and wary for tricks she watched the submerged boy. As the minutes passed, she became too worried to heed the warnings from the Force of a trap. Drah jumped into the water and swam down to the bottom where the boy appeared to be caught in the circulating grate. As she reached for him, Anakin quickly latched a wire noose around her wrist and pulled it taut. Swiftly, he propelled himself out of the water and left the Jedi to free herself. It took her only a few minutes to get free and break the surface, but by that time, she could no longer locate Anakin.
Sliding through the hanger doors, Anakin allowed himself a smile. He jogged across to his ship and vaulted up to the closed hatch. And nearly fell on Qui-Gon. Hastily, Anakin jumped aside along one of the wings in surprise. I never sensed him! Of course I didn't. He's a Jedi Master, Anakin took a ready stance and prepared to run again.
"We need to talk Anakin. And we will, even if I must drag you to Coruscant," Master Qui-Gon declared firmly.
I must be calm. Frightening him will only make things worse. "Ani, I only want to help," Qui-Gon said kindly. "We have all been very worried. I apologize for my behavior on the roof, but you must see I have good reason to be concerned."
He looked sadly at Anakin's stoic face. He studied the boy cautiously with the Force, not wishing to alarm or anger him again. He could perceive that Anakin had suffered greatly in some way that remained elusive to him at present. And, the boy had learned how to use the Force adeptly. Who has been teaching him? Qui-Gon understood the great distress and alarm that Obi-Wan had displayed in his message now. The Council will not like this. It grieved him immensely to see Anakin so untrusting.
"Please, tell me something," Qui-Gon entreated. He carefully relaxed and tried to appear as non-threatening as possible.
Anakin didn't move his wary position, "I don't have anything to talk about."
"Will you explain further why you feel you can't return to Coruscant with me?"
The boy thought about it for a moment before answering. "I don't belong there. The Council already views me as defective," he spat. "What would they think of me now?"
"What do you think?" Qui-Gon responded.
"I think that they wish you'd never found me. And I'm beginning to feel the same," Anakin's expression was cold.
The barb hit home and Qui-Gon's brows furrowed slightly. It was very hard for him to not wince. I will not feel guilty, he told himself. I know without a doubt that it was the will of the Force that I find him.
"Taking you from Tatooine was no mistake."
"Well, we'll never know now." Anakin answered bitterly.
"Anakin, your behavior is reprehensible, but not irreparable. We can overcome this," Qui-Gon said in earnest.
Finally, Anakin's face softened, "It's nice that you are willing to help me, Master Qui-Gon. There is just one problem, except for you, no one else cares about me."
"You know you are wrong," Qui-Gon disagreed. "Your mother cares, so does Queen Amidala, and Obi-Wan and..."
"Obi-Wan doesn't care about me!" Anakin interrupted with a scowl.
Qui-Gon puzzled over this briefly before the answer came to him, "It is not Obi-Wan's fault that the Council tried to send you to the Agri-corps."
"I know that! But he didn't try to stop them either!"
"Anakin," the Jedi Master scolded him. "He was a Padawan at the time. The Council did not need to consult him, nor would they have. His opinion would have made no difference whatsoever. He did not learn of the Council's decision regarding you until I did!"
Anakin's face fell. A look of guilt flashed in his eyes for a second only to be replaced by implacable calm. Qui-Gon sighed, I miss the child he once was. How will I ever get through to him?
"Ani, your control of the Force is remarkable," Qui-Gon said in an attempt to diplomatically restate his question from earlier on the roof. "How have you been learning for the past three years?"
"I can't talk about that."
"Cannot or will not?"
"You know that I must report this. If you would just tell me the name of your teacher now..."
Anakin looked Qui-Gon straight in the eye, "It's none of the Council's business and I have no reason to tell you."
Master Qui-Gon had no response to that, only that his frown deepened. Anakin did not carry a lightsaber or show any of the dangerous symptoms of the Dark side. The actions he had seen Anakin display were unusual, but not as alarming as he's first thought.
"In fact," Anakin spoke haughtily, "I don't see why you don't get off my ship right now! You have no right to detain me. If you would like to talk to me some other time, that's fine. But right now I've got places I need to be."
"If you do not come, the Council will see that as evidence that you are a danger. They will hunt you down and bring you back, regardless."
"Then I won't let them catch me," Anakin smarted back.
Qui-Gon looked at Anakin severely. It was true that he had no right to hold Anakin against his will. He had not seen the boy do anything truly wrong or commit any crimes. Forcing Anakin to accompany him would only drive him further away. He needed to earn the boy's trust again.
"Then," Qui-Gon reluctantly said. "I wish you a good journey. If you need anything, you know how to contact me. May the Force be with you."
After watching Anakin Skywalker lift off, Qui-Gon took out his comlink intending to contact the other Jedi. Just then, he sensed, Knight Siert approaching.
"Where is Knight T'now?" he asked.
"Injured, but nothing severe. I took him to our transport," she answered.
"The boy has already left," Qui-Gon informed her.
He was surprised to see her lips purse and frown. She didn't trust herself to speak calmly until they reached their own ship.
"He took us down," Drah announced suddenly, as they boarded for take off. She could sense clearly that Master Qui-Gon was shocked. While she waited for him to recover his voice, the captain came to tell them that they were ready to leave.
The two Jedi mutually decided to take this discussion elsewhere and went to Knight T'now's cabin. He had just awakened and was patiently waiting to hear what had transpired while he was unconscious. Together they relayed to Qui-Gon all that Anakin had done. By the time they finished he was very worried and anxious to contact Obi-Wan.
When they arrived on Coruscant, Qui-Gon was not surprised to learn that the Jedi Council wanted them to report immediately. Obi-Wan was already with the Council, as he had returned only a few hours before.
The four Jedi, one Master and three Knights, stood in the center of the Council Chambers to each give their account. Obi-Wan had already told the Council of his meeting with Anakin. As the elder, Qui-Gon gave a general account of all that occurred and then waited as the two Knights that accompanied him each described what they experienced. Qui-Gon could feel Obi-Wan's growing alarm.
"Masters," Master Qui-Gon said formally, "Anakin Skywalker has displayed unusual control of the Force. I was unsuccessful in learning who has taught him. He does not trust us, however I sensed no deceit nor evil."
The next in seniority was Knight Drah Seirt, "This boy showed skill in levitation and in deflecting objects thrown at him. As Master Jinn explained, he overcame me by trickery to enable himself to escape. I underestimated him. However, I do feel that he knew that I would not drown."
Knight Ti-ekam T'now spoke last, "I, too, underestimated Skywalker, and I did not respond as swiftly as I should have. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by surprise and therefore was unable to defend myself. He easily incapacitated me, yet I do not recall sensing any malicious intent."
Master Mace Windu spoke, "Knight Seirt, Knight T'now, this boy is an unusual case and the Council has determined that your actions were the best possible under the circumstances. You are both dismissed. May the Force be with you."
The two bowed and went, leaving Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to contend with the Council.
Master Windu spoke, "We will assign additional teams to search for Anakin Skywalker."
"No less then two, each team will be," Master Yoda added.
"He must be found and brought here as soon as possible."
"Even if it is against his will, you mean," Qui-Gon stated what Master Windu had not said.
"Yes," Yoda answered. "Dangerous, he is."
"Coercing Anakin will only make this situation worse," Qui-Gon retorted.
"That is a chance we must take," Mace Windu replied.
"I am curious about the beam of light they described," Obi-Wan said to Qui-Gon after they left the Jedi Council Chambers.
"As am I," Qui-Gon responded. "The Council and the Knights, for that matter, seemed to not notice its significance."
"And you chose not to enlighten them," Obi-Wan glanced at his best friend and waited for his answer.
"I did not see this phenomenon myself, so I have only my own speculation."
Obi-Wan looked at him wryly, "You are slipping into teacher mode again."
Qui-Gon gave his former apprentice a guilty smile.
"Just tell me the real reason, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan said in faint exasperation.
"I don't want to inadvertently give them more reasons to distrust Ani."
"Ah, so you side with Anakin."
"Yes," Qui-Gon replied.
"So do I," Obi-Wan said sadly.
Word came quickly of Anakin's current location. Jedi Council member Master Adi Gallia's extensive intelligence contacts had discovered that the boy's ship had landed on a small merchant planet in one of the nearby Core systems. She also discovered that Anakin had several falsified documents and many fake names for his ship. Tracking him would be hard.
The Council had assembled and briefed six more Jedi to assist on this mission. They had decided that it was too dangerous to send anyone with a Padawan. Each of the Knights and Masters asked to participate had chosen to go in groups of three after learning how Anakin had defeated two Knights. Obi-Wan still had priority over this mission and had, of course, chosen Qui-Gon to accompany him.
The Jedi Council had given very detailed and strict instructions. They decided that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would go down to the planet itself to fetch Anakin. One team would be in orbit waiting as back up should they need help subduing him. The third team would be in the system ready to disable his ship should he somehow manage to evade the other two teams and leave the planet.
As they descended into the atmosphere of Teews, Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan concealed their presence in the Force as best they could. They docked close to Anakin's ship. Obi-Wan went to give the Docking Manager an order, which the Jedi Council had requested, to impound the boy's ship. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon scouted the area to pinpoint the boy's location.
Anakin Skywalker was having a good day. Intov Mechanic Company kept excellent records on all of their droid products, very useful records. And K-LE1 had located them very quickly.
He'd had no choice but to come here during the day. Their security was much tighter at night and he didn't feel that he was capable of overcoming it. However, in daylight they weren't so strict. He only had to contend with the large number of workers. His solution had been simple. He had entered the large Teews public library and rode up to the roof. From there, it was easy to leap to the neighboring building's roof. Once inside the Intov Mechanic building, it had been a little difficult to navigate around the people. But he had managed. His only real worry was that whoever was watching the security cameras might wonder what a kid was doing wandering around. He hoped that coming at the mid-day meal would mean that they would be distracted. So far, it seemed to have worked.
The Secure Archive room was fascinating. It was filled with datacards about every kind of droid part he could imagine. He had scanned some of them randomly while waiting for Kaely to finish locating the ones he'd come for.
"Oh wow!" he exclaimed. "This is a schematic of that new speeder type's propulsion engine, Kaely!" He scanned through it quickly and put it back. He then randomly slid another datacard into his reader. "Hmmm, kitchen droid stuff, boring," he declared.
Kaely beeped at him suddenly.
"What? You done?" He walked over to see the listing she had compiled of the locations of each datacard he wanted. Moving swiftly through the racks and shelves, he plucked each one and stuffed them in his pack. When he had them all he stopped and began to check them in his reader.
He heard a plopping sound behind him and turned to see that Kaely had rolled off the console and on to the floor. She wheeled toward him and trilled impatiently at his feet.
"Don't melt your servos," he told her. "I have to be sure I got the right ones."
Kaely gave an electronic snort of contempt.
"I'm not insulting you!" Anakin said defensively. "There might have been a typo in the computer or maybe someone put a card on the wrong shelf? I don't want to have to come back just because I wasn't careful," he went through the rest of the cards more quickly. And then inhaled sharply.
"A Jedi is here, in this building," he told his little droid in alarm.
"Okay, lets go." Anakin picked up Kaely and snuck out the door.
"If we split up he will jam our comlinks," Obi-Wan said.
"It would be best to stay together," Qui-Gon answered. "Alone he will certainly resist however -"
" - However together, he is more likely to give up peacefully," Obi-Wan finished his sentence for him.
They entered the turbolift, "You have been unusually... instructive lately, Qui-Gon." Obi-Wan said slyly. "You just don't know how to live without a Padawan to torment do you?"
Qui-Gon smiled, "It has been awhile. You really ought to take one yourself soon," he countered.
Obi-Wan laughed and said, "I like my freedom. You, however, seem miserable."
Exiting the turbolift, Qui-Gon moved to the terminal built into the wall. "He can't jam this building's Netcom," he activated it and called the Intov Mechanic's security office. "Are you aware," he began, "That you have an intruder?"
The security officer on duty answered, "No, sir. If you could elaborate...?"
"I am Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and I request that you seal off all exits in this building to prevent the intruder from escaping."
The officer paled, "At once, Master Jedi."
Immediately, an automated voice declared that the Intov Mechanic Company was closing the building temporarily and that everyone should remain calmly where they are.
"Knight Kenobi and I will keep in contact with you as we track the intruder. This is a Jedi matter."
"Yes, sir. Per our policy, guards will gather at the main entrances and exits, however out of respect for you, we will not deploy them internally. This facility is protected with a Bothan security system. I will be awaiting further orders."
The two Jedi left to run down the passage as they sensed Anakin change direction and go down.
"A Bothan system," Obi-Wan said. "That will be very useful."
Obi-Wan turned at the emergency staircase and they swiftly jumped down to ground level. Once there Qui-Gon went to the nearest terminal and called the security again, "Seal the ground level."
"Yes, sir," the officer replied. Instantly, the doors locked behind them.
"I sense he is near the cargo entrance," Obi-Wan said after looking at a map on the wall.
Qui-Gon nodded, "Officer, seal off the corridors that access the cargo entrance."
Swiftly, they ran along the passages to the back of the building.
Anakin Skywalker was now having a bad day. The cargo door wasn't just locked it was sealed shut. The lack of alarms was unusual. Announcing that they were closing the exits was odd. They must know I'm here. Even K-LE1 couldn't open the door. A sudden hissing sound startled him and he spun around to see blue laser shields spring out from either side of the door and instantly block both passages. For a moment, all he could do is stare in shock. How am I to get out of this one?
Anakin sucked in his breath abruptly as he felt Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan approaching. He composed himself and waited as they came to a halt on the other side of the laser shield to his right.
The two Jedi were relieved to see that Anakin was trapped. Obi-Wan relaxed and looked at the boy calmly. Qui-Gon, however, remained tense.
"So, you are a thief now." Master Qui-Gon said coolly. It was the only explanation he could think of for Anakin's presence in this building with a loaded pack. He waited for the boy to confirm or deny the accusation.
Anakin didn't answer. He shrugged his shoulders and began to pace.
"I've been in communication with Queen Amidala," Qui-Gon informed him.
"That's nice, how is she?"
"Worried," he replied. "When you refused to come back I asked her if you had contacted her. You never have these past three years."
"Why would I make it easy for you to find me?" Anakin sneered.
"What about your mother?" Obi-Wan pressed.
"What about her?"
"We know you haven't contacted her either and that she is still a slave on Tatooine," Obi-Wan told him.
"I don't have enough money to free her, yet."
"Not even to send a holo-message?" Obi-Wan countered.
Anakin rolled his eyes, "They are rather expensive to send that far."
"Or perhaps you are just ashamed," Qui-Gon said with disapproval.
That silenced him. Anakin became still with barely controlled fury.
"We can help you," Obi-Wan tried to reassure him. "If you would just tell us what has happened to you. How did you free yourself?"
"The pirates didn't sell me like they did the others."
"You must come back with us. Willingly, I hope," Qui-Gon said.
"Why? To be executed?" Anakin answered bitterly.
Qui-Gon frowned in confusion, "The Council is not going to..."
"Oh, really," Anakin interrupted. "They were right. I am dangerous. In fact, I don't expect to survive to the end of the year. But what little time I have left I intend to enjoy."
"I never escaped from the pirates, exactly," Anakin said and paused his pacing to look at both Jedi.
"I killed them," he confessed suddenly. "All of them."
The two Jedi and one boy stood in the cold corridor with only the faint hum of the two blue laser shields breaking the silence. The tension in the air was palpable. Anakin's confession paralyzed the two Jedi. He regarded them calmly as they stared at him in shock, horror, and finally composed themselves enough to fake the serene Jedi calm that they wished they felt. They both could sense without a doubt that Anakin was telling the truth. Neither spoke as they probed him with the Force in an effort to discover more.
"So," Anakin spoke casually. "What now?"
"What do you feel you deserve?" Master Qui-Gon answered stiffly. Obi-Wan was silent, as he didn't trust himself to speak calmly.
"That's a loaded question isn't it? At this point, I don't think either of you have any choice in what will happen next," Anakin said seriously.
Obi-Wan sighed, "You are right. We will take you back to Coruscant to be judged by the Jedi Council."
"Sleep, Anakin," Obi-Wan attempted to use the Force to make the boy fall unconscious. He wasn't surprised that it didn't work.
Anakin shook his head and turned his back to them. He walked as far away from the Jedi as he could go and went to stand facing the other blue laser shield.
Qui-Gon pulled out his comlink and called the second Jedi team that was in a ship orbiting the planet, "We have trapped him. We may need your assistance to subdue him. We are in the Intov Mechanic building on the south side of the city."
"Understood, we are landing now," came the reply. Qui-Gon replaced the comlink to his belt and looked up as he felt a large surge in the Force.
Once again, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were shocked speechless. Anakin Skywalker walked slowly through the other laser shield. He turned around for a moment to smile at them and then dashed out of sight.
Quickly, they both ran to the nearest terminal to tell the security officer to disengage the lasers. Neither bothered trying their comlinks. They knew that Anakin was certainly jamming them now.
"At least he does feel guilty," Obi-Wan said quietly.
"Yes, there is still hope."
The laser shields retracted and the race to catch Anakin was on.
"Transmit the signal to start the ship, Kaely," Anakin told the little droid nestled in his pack. He squinted in the bright, mid-day sunlight. Overcoming the guards outside of the building had been easy with the Force.
She complied and answered with a confirmative beep. He ran down the streets and leaped over passing vehicles as he made his way towards the hanger where his ship was docked. Up ahead, he could sense that three more Jedi were coming his way and making no effort to hide themselves. Suddenly, Kaely emitted a shrill warning that was unfortunately becoming increasingly familiar.
"Not now, please, not now!" Anakin moaned despair. He turned down an alley and cut across the residential district. He ignored the strange looks that the people gave him as he ran by their houses and through their lawns. Desperately, he tried to concentrate for the battle to come.
They caught up with him in the deserted courtyard of an estate on the outer edge of the city limits. The First one came from the left. But Anakin knew this trick. It was a ploy to distract him from the real danger. He spun abruptly and ducked the Second who came from behind him. The Third dropped on him from above. However, Anakin knew that maneuver, too. He slid quickly to one side and dodged again. He ignored them as they issued the standard, "you will come with us," speech.
Anakin crouched low and ready. He was determined to not be captured. You won't get me! He thought coldly. Not now, not ever, he flipped over the First and kicked the Second in the head as hard as he could. I'd rather die then go with them! He skipped out of the First's attempt to grab him and watched aghast as the Second recovered and stood up.
A blow to his head brought Anakin back to reality. He had ignored the Third and it nearly was his undoing. Fortunately, the strike was intended to merely knock him unconscious rather than kill him. Obviously, they didn't know that Anakin was tougher than average for his age. He pretended to collapse. When the Third came closer to determine if he was all right Anakin sprung up and aimed powerful kicks to both the Third's and First's midsections. They doubled over and the Third fell down.
The Second lunged erratically at him. Anakin was forced to dodge wildly and nearly lost his fingers when the Second smashed his hand into a wall. Franticly, Anakin wrenched his left hand out of the Second's grasp. He vaulted upward and flipped back in an effort to gain some distance.
Anakin carefully flexed his hand. He didn't dare look down at it. From the amount of pain emanating from it, he felt sure that it was still intact. He gingerly moved each finger and tried not to wince. I hope nothing is broken. The Second and First were beginning to close in on him. They are trying to corner me.
The Second ran forward and feinted a strike at Anakin's legs. But Anakin saw it and with a roundhouse kick he dislocated the Second's shoulder. The First took that as an opportunity to snag Anakin's tunic and pin the boy to the wall.
No! Anakin struggled. He fumbled at his pack and tried to open it and push away the Second's arms off him. Finally, his hand snaked inside and he grabbed Kaely. "Sting!" he commanded. Little K-LE1 opened one of her compartments and fired a tiny but powerful laser beam that burned across both of the Second's forearms. Anakin used an elbow strike to shove the Second away and slipped out of danger.
Anakin eyed them warily. He knew that he had to take them completely down. I can't risk letting even one of them escape. They can't ever have a chance to tell anyone about what they have seen me do. With that last thought, Anakin ceased his dodging and attacked with the intent to tear all three of them apart.
Anakin's presence in the Force unexpectedly intensified. All at once, Qui-Gon's and Obi-Wan's ability to sense him went from a vague direction to an absolute location. And then, it reduced back to vague again. However, it lasted long enough for them to sense exactly where he had just been.
"What did Anakin just do?" Obi-Wan gasped in surprise.
"We will know soon," Qui-Gon answered in a worried tone.
If it was possible, they began to run even faster. At the end of the next street, they turned and discovered an unexpected sight. There on the pavement lay scattered bits and pieces of three large battle droids of indeterminate type. More pieces of metal adorned the ground of the courtyard beyond.
"What?" Obi-Wan murmured in confusion.
Qui-Gon paused to look at a nearby limb for a moment. It looked familiar in a way he couldn't decipher. Dismissing it from his mind for the time being, he called to Obi-Wan, "We must keep going."
They looked up as the second team of Jedi rushed up to them. Master Deyonna, Knight Suoixna and Knight Gnirit all came to a halt when they saw Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan alone in the street.
"Where is the boy?" Master Deyonna asked.
"He escaped," Obi-Wan gave the obvious answer curtly. He led the other Jedi in a run towards the hanger bays.
"He cannot go far with his ship impounded," Master Deyonna surmised. She looked at Obi-Wan. "However he might steal a ship."
"Master Stiaw's team can intercept him if it comes to that," Qui-Gon reminded them all.
"Our comlinks don't work," Knight Suoixna informed them.
"We know. Anakin is jamming them," Qui-Gon told him.
As they approached the hangers, they could all sense that Anakin was inside his own ship's hanger already.
"Master Deyonna, go with your team to your ship and take off. Get out of his jamming range and contact Master Stiaw. Be ready to disable Anakin's ship if we don't catch him."
They nodded and left as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan went to confront Anakin again. They could hear the whine of a ship's engines as they approached the hanger entrance. Impoundment of his ship certainly wasn't going to stop Anakin from leaving. The boy was quite resourceful and had no fear of the law when he could simply use another false ID and name for his ship.
They arrived too late and could only watch in remorse as Anakin flew away.
Qui-Gon bowed his head, "He will elude them."
"I know," Obi-Wan answered.
When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan returned to their ship, they were not surprised to learn that Anakin had evaded capture. They took off to join the other two Jedi vessels in orbit.
The leader of the third team, Master Stiaw contacted them first, "We are plotting his possible hyperspace vectors now."
Master Deyonna called in from the second ship, "We should spilt up to cover as many of the locations as quickly as we can."
"We agree," Obi-Wan answered for himself and Master Qui-Gon.
"Also, we should simply disable his ship this time," Master Stiaw said over the ship's com.
"It would take him by surprise," Master Deyonna agreed.
"However, he will certainly attempt to steal a ship once he discovers his error," Obi-Wan pointed out.
"I have a list of systems coming through, transmitting now," Master Stiaw told them.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon examined the list. It was a little long due to the fact that they were so close to the Core. Obi-Wan looked over at his former teacher for guidance.
"Which is he going to?" he asked.
Qui-Gon finished looking at the names and sat back in the co-pilots chair. He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the Force. It was an ability that Obi-Wan had not fully learned yet and would not conquer for a few more years.
"Yaw-sihtog," Qui-Gon answered.
Obi-Wan relayed their choice to the other six Jedi. Master Stiaw decided that his team would go to Eno Gnorw and Master Deyonna chose Tidessim. They all bid each other farewell and left to their first destinations.
"If we don't catch him first..." Qui-Gon began saying.
"I know," Obi-Wan replied.
Anakin Skywalker was exhilarated. Ha! Did those Jedi really think they could out fly me? He grinned smugly at the star lines of hyperspace outside of the cockpit window. He flexed his bruised hand slowly, relieved that there were no permanent injuries. A faint, repetitive beeping sound started inside of his pack.
"All right Kaely," Anakin said as he opened the bag. He started to move the datacards around searching for her. The beeping turned into a shrill squeak.
"What?" Anakin said. "I'm trying!" He removed some of the datacards, then shoved his hand down to the bottom and quickly pulled it back out when K-LE1 pinched his hand with her little grasping arm.
"HEY! What'd you do that for?!" he glared at the tiny droid hidden somewhere in the dark bag. "I'm doing the best I can!"
He grabbed the pale green droid and set her on the computer console. Kaely began to scold him savagely.
"Quit fussing, you're not hurt, Little Miss Impatient. I didn't even scratch your paint job," Anakin shoved the datacards back in the bag hastily. Kaely continued to titter angrily at him.
"If you aren't nice," he warned. "I won't teach you to fly."
Instantly she became quiet. He knew how much she loved new parts and upgrades. He closed the pack and picked her up, "You were very brave against that big droid, Kaely."
Kaely flashed her eyes at him in disbelief.
"No really," he said. "I'm very proud of you!"
She happily peeped out a little tune like a bird in response to his praise. Anakin smiled down at the small droid in his hand as he walked out of the cockpit and into the common room. He placed her on the table and began to pull open drawers and compartments. "Let's see what we've got here," he murmured aloud. "I need these coils, hmmm and this, no it's too big." He was distracted by an annoying humming sound. Anakin looked in the direction of the noise.
Kaely was wheeling around as fast as she could in circles in the middle of the table.
"Kaely!" Anakin sputtered. "Stop that!"
The little droid engaged her brakes and slid right off onto the floor. Anakin got up and walked over to her in exasperation. "I can't take my eyes off you for a minute!" he said looking down at her. "Do I have to order you to sit still?"
Her only response was to squawk at him. "I don't care if you are bored or whatever. You'll wear your wheels down and I don't want to have to keep replacing them all the... ACK! There's skid marks on the table top!"
Anakin picked Kaely up. "Look what you did!" he said indignantly.
Kaely scanned the table with her yellow eyes and then looked up at him and whistled guilelessly.
Anakin sighed. He put Kaely back down on the table. "Don't move," he insisted.
He returned to the cabinets and finished collecting the parts he needed and grabbed his toolbox. He sat down on the old bench and began to assemble tiny repulsor lifts. As he worked, K-LE1 swiveled her eyes and examined the parts he had placed by her. She watched as her master put on his magnifying goggles. When she was sure he wasn't looking Kaely silently opened one of her compartments and extended her tiny grasping arm. She lifted it up reaching into the box far above her and picked up a tiny welder. Kaely looked at it curiously and set in quietly in front of her. Slowly she stretched her arm as far as it would go to grab more objects out of the toolbox.
Anakin looked up in surprise when his hand failed to pick up the pliers he knew were in his toolbox. He realized suddenly that Kaely was too quiet, That's a bad sign. Snagging his goggles off he looked down at the now empty box and pile of tools in front of his droid. Kaely quickly dropped what she was examining and began to look around the room innocently.
"I ain't falling for it," Anakin told her.
Anakin walked briskly long the top of a tall stone wall. It was a beautiful day and he'd just earned a lot of money. His buyer had been very pleased with the datacards Anakin had stolen. These jobs aren't half as bad as I thought they'd be. It was a very convenient arrangement. His clients didn't want anyone to know who they were and they didn't want to know who they were hiring. They only wanted something brought to them. Of course, Anakin always checked them out. They only thought they were anonymous. I'm sure Dr. Dabton feels a bit guilty paying me to steal the evidence he needs to use in court to bring down Intov Mechanic Company for copyright fraud. But he'll get over it. I wonder what they'd all think if they knew they hired a kid who is just about to turn thirteen?
"Kaely, slow down," Anakin called to his little droid. Kaely was having a blast. She swooped and glided in the air around him. He could have caught a public ground transport back to his ship, but he wanted Kaely to have a chance to practice flying more. She sang and whistled birdcalls that she heard. They startled a large bird resting on top of the wall and Kaely started to chase it.
"No," Anakin ordered. "Leave it alone."
K-LE1 wouldn't listen. She flew erratically around the hapless bird as it snapped at her with its beak. Kaely squealed in surprise when she found herself being pulled backwards. Anakin calmly plucked his disobedient droid out of the air with the Force. He held her suspended in front of him.
"When I say no," he began lecturing and then snatched her quickly and jumped off the wall as a blaster bolt streaked past where he had just stood. Kaely shrieked in protest as Anakin stuffed her in his pocket. "Quiet," he whispered and fled.
Anakin was sweating, his face was red and haggard as though he'd just ran a marathon. And in a way, he had.
"This," he gasped. "has GOT to STOP!"
Everywhere he went those droids followed. How do they keep finding me? They always tried to capture him. They had tried throwing nets, darts, and gas bombs, but they had never shot at him before. Obviously, whoever kept sending them had decided that it didn't matter anymore whether they brought Anakin back uninjured. Or in one piece.
This is bad, Anakin thought. A sharp pain began in his head and quickly spread to engulf his entire body. For a moment he thought he'd been shot, until he saw an all too familiar glow begin to emit through his skin and clothes.
Oh, no. Not this, not now! Panicking, he pulled out Kaely. "Go to the ship, fast," he told her through his gritted teeth. He watched her speed away and leaped to avoid three more blaster shots.
Without warning the light surrounding Anakin expanded and burst around him. The shockwave violently threw all five droids to the ground. Their metal bodies and limbs melted and shattered like glass. Anakin collapsed to the ground.
The sound of approaching footsteps brought him back to his senses. Anakin looked up to see Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan standing over him. Qui-Gon knelt beside him and reached out his hand, "Will you let us help you now?"
Anakin looked up at them with wild eyes. His head was pounding and he was breathing very heavily. He lay flat on his back in the middle of a slightly scorched circle on the road. His blue eyes opened and closed very slowly.
"Can you hear me?" Qui-Gon asked. Please answer me, Ani. Anakin was silent and didn't move.
Obi-Wan moved to put his arms under Anakin's shoulders to lift him up. He jerked back as a finger of electricity arced from Anakin and shocked him.
"What was that!" Obi-Wan looked down at the boy in surprise.
"No.." Anakin mumbled. "You'll..."
"We'll what, Ani?" Qui-Gon asked urgently.
"Be hurt..don't," He struggled to lift his hand and waved it at the Jedi, trying to indicate that they should move back. His labored breathing increased. Anakin squeezed his eyes shut in pain.
"We can stop the pain," Qui-Gon tried to tell Anakin. Why won't he let us help? he thought in confusion.
A golden glow began to seep through Anakin's skin and shine through his clothes. It would have appeared beautiful if not for the look of agony on the boy's face.
"Qui-Gon move back," Obi-Wan said in alarm. He looked at the remains of the strange battle droids.
"He needs help," Qui-Gon argued.
"This is too dangerous, we must get out of the way!" Obi-Wan insisted. Why doesn't he sense it? Obi-Wan thought in frustration.
"No," Qui-Gon refused to budge.
Obi-Wan was torn. As evidenced by the destroyed droids around them, Anakin's light was a very bad thing. Sometimes, I wonder if I must save Qui-Gon from himself. Resigned to their fate, he braced himself and reached out his hand. Obi-Wan stood ready to grab his former master out of the way.
"Move!" Anakin yelled.
Qui-Gon leaped backward as the light clinging to Anakin increased and expanded to churn in the air around him. White and yellow sparks danced in the air and further burnt the ground. It began to overload the two Jedi's senses. Anakin was perfectly still on the pavement as the Force battered at him. The Jedi were puzzled that the Force could be so painful.
Master Qui-Gon closed his eyes and probed the air around Anakin. Obi-Wan looked at him carefully as Qui-Gon used the Force to slow down some of the particles of light. Slowly at first, Obi-Wan also began making the air heavy and thick to slow the wild luminescence.
Anakin strained to stop the volcano in his head. He could feel the Jedi's efforts, but didn't believe they would be enough. Don't they know that they'll... NO! I won't let them. With a mighty surge of the Force, Anakin flooded himself with power and froze the light. For a moment the pain nearly drove him mad, but then he felt Qui-Gon's quiet presence and Obi-Wan's determination. Steadily, Anakin snuffed each spark out. He fell into blissful unconsciousness.
Anakin awakened in one of the medical centers on Yaw-sihtog. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stood on either side of the bed. They didn't bother greeting him or asking how he felt. They immediately went right to interrogating him.
"You must talk to us!" Obi-Wan demanded.
"We need to know..."
Anakin interrupted, "No, you don't. It won't help!"
"Anakin!" Master Qui-Gon said severely. "Obi-Wan is right."
Anakin sat up and glared at them. He seemed to be weighing whether it would be worth it or not. The Jedi returned both gave him identical looks of disappointment. Anakin slammed his fists into the soft cushions in frustration. He tried to get up.
"Ani, be still," Qui-Gon ordered and gently pushed Anakin back.
"You will have to tell us eventually," Obi-Wan told him. "You may as well start now."
"Fine," Anakin answered begrudgingly.
"Good," Qui-Gon said.
"What do you want to know first?"
"What in space was that light?" Obi-Wan asked shortly.
"I don't know," Anakin spoke saucily.
"Anakin," Qui-Gon warned.
He sighed, "I've always fought it. In the beginning, the glowing only started when I meditated." Anakin looked at Qui-Gon, "You saw me do it once."
"When?" Obi-Wan asked.
"On Queen Amidala's ship, while we were traveling back to Naboo," Qui-Gon answered. He looked over at Anakin. "Does it still cause you pain?"
"Yes, it often hurt at first, so I just didn't meditate. But later it would occur while I was sleeping and the pain would wake me. Somehow, I guess I learned to stop the pain or maybe I just got used to it. I don't know."
Obi-Wan poured a glass of water and held it out to Anakin. The boy's hand shook badly as he tried to reach for it, "The pirates rarely saw it happen."
"What happened?" Qui-Gon asked quietly.
"I suppose you know by now that the Diputs pirate gang kept me," Anakin stated. "The other kids were smart. They didn't use the Force to fight them off like I did. So, the pirates thought that they were all just regular kids. They took them all to the cargo hold and sold them as slaves. The pirates were S'sorg. You know, those big hulking people with insect-like heads from Sknits. They don't think twice about selling kids as slaves. S'sorg think that all other races in the galaxy are inferior. But, they decided it would be more profitable to keep me."
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon looked at each other as Anakin paused to try to catch his breath. They hadn't known that. None of the other children had said anything about seeing Anakin using the Force. Most of them had never even noticed the boy as he traveled with them. They hadn't described their attackers very well, either. It had made it very difficult for the Jedi to find them, especially since they had never discovered the name of the pirate group.
"The pirates used you to help them steal things," Obi-Wan surmised.
Anakin nodded, "You know the drill, if I refused they threatened to beat me to death. About what I expected. I was able to draw the line at opening locks and the really bad stuff. They had only seen me lift things, so I let them believe that's all I could do. Until they saw me glow once. Fortunately, they couldn't ever find any use for it. Not that they didn't try."
"This, glowing, it has become much worse now?" Obi-Wan inquired softly.
"Yeah," Anakin hung his head. His face contorted with emotion. Guilt and disgust were the chief feelings that the Jedi could sense emanating from the boy.
"It happened really bad while we were landing in a hanger on a planet I don't know the name of. The pirates never told me where we were or where we were going. And except for when they needed me to move something, I was always confined to the ship."
Anakin paused again. Willfully, he worked up the courage to continue. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan waited silently. They did not want to rush him or make this anymore difficult for him. The boy's face relaxed a little and he took a deep breath.
"I had little warning before I saw the glow. I was a bit surprised that it was starting while I was awake and not meditating, but then the pain began. I think I passed out because the next thing I remember is lying in a crater."
Anakin tried to drink from his glass and nearly dropped it. Qui-Gon reached out to help him and the boy swallowed the cool water greedily. They knew that he was reluctant to resume his explanation. Obi-Wan couldn't help but give him a stern look. Anakin frowned, but decided it would be better to keep talking.
"The first thing I noticed was I had no clothes on and I was sun burnt all over," Anakin described. "I was confused to find I still had hair on my head, even though it was singed. When I climbed out of the crater I saw that the ship, hanger and all twenty-seven pirates were gone."
"I had totally incinerated them."
He waited for their reaction. Qui-Gon's eyes widened slightly and Obi-Wan sat back a little, but neither spoke nor offered any sign of comfort or disgust. Anakin pressed on.
"I stole some clothes, stole a ship, broke into the pirates' money and searched for a crack in the galaxy to hide in. I knew I had to get as far away from the populated worlds as I could. I eventually made it to a small, uninhabited moon in an unsettled system."
Finally, the Jedi began to talk, "And then it happened again." Obi-Wan said as a statement not a question.
Anakin nodded, "I had several more bad episodes while I was there. It took I think a year to learn shut it off."
"So now you can control it?" Master Qui-Gon asked.
"Sorta, I thought I could at least suppress it. Obviously, I was wrong. So, you see, going to Coruscant would be a very bad idea."
Anakin crossed his arms in front of him and boldly stated, "I'd rather not talk anymore." He looked at Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan meaningfully. It was a clear indication that he would answer no more questions.
Qui-Gon nodded, "Very well. You must rest now. We will take you to Coruscant after the healers release you."
"I really don't need to stay here," Anakin insisted.
"Ani," Obi-Wan said. "You were unconscious and in severe pain..."
"Am I bleeding or missing limbs?" Anakin asked sarcastically.
"You passed out," Obi-Wan reminded him.
"I'm fine now!"
"Cease the argument," Master Qui-Gon ordered.
The command made Anakin shut his mouth with a frown. Obi-Wan, however, looked at his former master with one raised eyebrow and a smirk. Qui-Gon pretended not to notice.
"Perhaps we should be going," Master Qui-Gon said slowly and deliberately. Obi-Wan looked at him cautiously and glanced at the boy. Anakin didn't seem to notice, he was too busy slouching and scowling.
"Can you walk?" Obi-Wan asked Anakin suddenly.
"Yeah," Anakin drawled.
Qui-Gon reached out a hand to help him up, but the boy refused it. Quickly, the three of them snuck out of the building.
"Quicker," Obi-Wan told Anakin as they jogged down the street.
"Why don't we just take a public transport then?" Anakin asked in confusion.
"Too dangerous," was Qui-Gon's reply.
Anakin looked at him intently. It finally dawned on him that they were both acting strangely. Tentatively, he expanded his range of perception with the Force. A feeling of disquiet hung in the air. It had no direction, yet it felt near. He sensed no danger, but felt threatened just the same.
"What's wrong?" the boy asked them.
The two Jedi stopped short at the voice. Anakin was startled when he realized that he could not sense who was speaking or where they were. He was pretty sure that the Jedi couldn't either. They had turned their backs to him and each scanned the area with the Force.
"I do hope that you won't be too disappointed when I relieve you of your young charge," the mysterious voice said. It wasn't very deep, nor too high and Anakin was hard pressed to guess at whether it was a man, woman, or alien speaking.
"It's from a comlink," Master Qui-Gon told him.
"Yes," the voice said. "I'm terribly sorry that I can't be with you, but my associates will keep you company."
Several large battle-style droids appeared at either end of the street and even a few were on the rooftops. Instantly, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan ignited their lightsaber's in anticipation.
"Keep out of the way, Ani," Qui-Gon ordered the boy.
"No problem," Anakin said jauntily. "I'm sure the two of you can handle these guys just fine." Instantly, he bolted and flipped over the three droids ahead of them and ran as fast as he could. The Jedi were surprised for only a moment before the droids began to close in on them. None of the droids turned to pursue the boy. Either they weren't very smart droids, or they had been ordered not to.
Anakin stumbled into his ship. "Kaely!" he called, "Kaely!" He scanned the dimly lit interior in confusion. It's oddly quiet in here. Normally, K-LE1 would be singing a little song and playing with something when she was waiting for him to return from a job or meeting. It was in general a nuisance because she often got into things she knew she shouldn't. Like the time she opened every single ration package in the kitchen cabinet. And she rarely remembered to put away her "toys" when done. Yet there was nothing amiss that he could see. Did she get lost on the way back here? Anakin thought worriedly.
K-LE1 came flying from the cockpit and zoomed around his face anxiously. She beeped and whistled loudly in a panic.
"What's wrong?" Anakin was puzzled and reached out his senses to probe the ship with the Force. He sensed no danger. I wish I knew how to make an interpreter's voice box small enough for Kaely. It will probably be decades before its possible, Anakin thought.
"Quiet," he told the small droid that was buzzing in annoyance. "I said quiet!" he repeated. Quiet. That's it! It's too quiet in here!
"Kaely, why haven't you started the pre-flight sequence?" he looked at his tiny green droid in surprise and disapproval.
Kaely hovered and gave a little wail as she led her master to the cockpit. Anakin sat down in the pilot's seat and examined the ship's readings and tried to activate the engines. Several of the screens refused to display and warning lights were lit all over the board. A rumble and low whine was the ship's only response before quitting. The computer flashed a error message at him. Anakin looked down in shock.
"What have those Jedi done to my ship!" Anakin yelled in exasperation. He got down on his knees and franticly began pulling off the front panels of the control board. He looked around inside, hoping to see what had been tampered with.
"I bet this was Obi-Wan's idea," he spat in disgust. Anakin pulled and tugged at the mess of colorful wires. He examined each one in turn for breaks or disconnections. He felt his frustration increase and his anger begin to rise in earnest.
Kaely whistled at him. He half turned to see her slowly dragging his heavy toolbox into the cockpit. Her poor little grasping arm looked as if it was about to be pulled out of its compartment. Hastily, Anakin slid the box the rest of the way with the Force. He flung it open and began grabbing tools.
"How dare they touch my ship!" He pounded the deck plates in fury with his already sore fists.
Kaely began to peep at him derisively. She flashed her yellow eyes and flew around to hover in his way. She scolded him loudly for losing his temper.
"Getta away!" Anakin bellowed at her.
Kaely reversed her tiny repulsor lift engines away from him in surprise. She thunked lightly against the metal wall with a wail. Whimpering, she skyrocketed out of the cockpit. Anakin put his head in his hands and sighed.
"Kaely?" Anakin whispered. "I'm sorry Kaely. Don't cry. Come out please."
K-LE1 was very stubborn and obviously wasn't going to come out. I've got to remember that she is still a baby. She does her best. He hunted through the small ship's main room and sleeping cabin. His droid was so small she could be hiding literally anywhere in the ship. Especially now that she could fly. He'd played hide and seek games with her before, so he knew of several likely places. Petulantly, Anakin opened and searched the compartments, looked under the table and bench seat. He sifted through his clothes cabinet and sleeping bunk. He even checked the cold food preserver, though he couldn't imagine why she might try to hide in the ice.
"Please," he called aloud. "I need your help!"
Those were the words she wanted to hear. At once Kaely flipped open the top of the Ragus drink maker. She rose unsteadily out of the small mixing chamber dripping liquid on the console. She was covered in stains from the sweet drink's ingredients. Instead of a soft green, she was now orange.
Anakin looked at her aghast. "You're a mess. That stuff will become sticky when it dries and your parts will freeze up! It will take hours to clean you!" he moaned.
Kaely swiveled her eyes in an attempt to look at herself in surprise. "Come on," Anakin told her. "We don't have time to waste." He quickly began to stuff a few essential tools and other items in his pack. Almost as an after thought, he grabbed some ration bars, too. "I can't figure out how to fix the ship right now. I don't have enough time. And besides, Master Qui-Gon probably put a homing beacon on board somewhere just in case I did manage to get away."
Anakin looked in his belt pouch and counted how many credits he had. He opened the ship's hatch and jumped to the ground below, "We've got to find some other way to get off planet."
The two Jedi ran through the hanger bays. Anakin had used the droids interference to his advantage. The Jedi easily dispatched them, but the fight delayed them long enough for Anakin to escape. They could sense that he was already on a ship and leaving the atmosphere.
"We will catch him," Qui-Gon said. "He must have managed to make his ship fly despite your efforts."
"Yes, however he will undoubtedly be quite upset to learn that his hyperdrive is also inoperative," Obi-Wan answered as they raced for their ship. They entered the hanger doorway and slid to a halt.
It was empty.
"Anakin stole our ship!" Obi-Wan exclaimed aloud.
"Not too fancy, but cozy just the same," Anakin Skywalker murmured aloud.
He admired the simple, but sleek Jedi ship. He wandered around the main room and peeked in the two cabins. Everything was austere and useful. A lot like my ship. Anakin thought. But mine is smaller and filled with droid parts. Kaely was in the cockpit arguing with the computer. It had required a little convincing before the ship released control to them. However it didn't have much in the way of security, and they were now cruising through hyperspace.
"You wouldn't know it at first glance, but this ship is pretty nice," Anakin commented to Kaely.
She wasn't able to fly, at the moment. The Ragus drink and indeed become sticky and half her internal mechanisms were stuck. He carried her from the cockpit and began searching through the kitchenette compartments for something to clean her with. Anakin sat down at the main room's table and removed her outer hull to assess the damage.
Kaely waited with unusual patience as he cleaned the orange residue. He couldn't deactivate her because he needed her to test each appendage to be sure he got it all off. It was slow and tedious work. Maybe this will help me be more patient, too, he mused.
He smirked to himself. "So, do you like the Jedi ship?" he asked his droid. Kaely gave an affirmative trill. "I would've liked to have seen their faces when they saw the empty hanger! Ha!"
Anakin fiddled with a mild dissolvent and a tiny scouring stick, "You do manage to find the silliest places to hide." He shook his head as Kaely answered with a soft beep, "Don't hide in any food, drink, or anything else that can clog you up anymore, got that?"
He sobered for a moment in thought, but then grinned again. "At least I don't have to worry about them being angry. Okay, move your wheels," Kaely complied, but one was still stuck. "I don't really want them to be angry. But I just gotta be sure."
Kaely whistled encouragingly as Anakin unstuck the last wheel.
"I know that they don't understand why I'm being such a pain. It seems so easy to just go with them. But just because Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are willing to help doesn't mean they can."
"Open all of your doors and extend just the arms," Anakin instructed her. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think going with them would only make things worse right now. They'd both just get in big trouble with the Jedi Council."
He shook his head mournfully, "And if I told them how I learned to do so much with the Force they'd lock me up for sure."
Kaely flashed her eyes at him in puzzlement. She's sweet, but I know she has no idea what I'm talking about, Anakin sighed.
"Now, fire off your special stuff," He watched as her magnetic grapple jammed and began cleaning it. "If things were different...," Anakin began saying. "The Jedi just don't know what to do with me. And if they can't handle me at my worst, then I'll just have to take care of myself alone."
Kaely gave an electronic sniff of indignation and would have pouted if she could. "Okay, with your help. Happy?" Anakin rolled his eyes at her.
He picked up her outer hull. It was mostly orange now with only a little green visible, "I don't know if this cleanser can get the stains off of your coverings. I might end up scrubbing all of the green off and I don't think the Jedi have any paint on board."
The nearby console began beeping an alert. Anakin returned to the cockpit and strapped in. "We'll see about picking out some paint on Tuohctaw," he said as he brought the ship out of hyperspace and smoothly guided it to the nearest populated planet. "I'll have to buy some more clothes and tools, too," he said as an afterthought.
"I suppose I ought to warn you now that we need to go into hiding, Kaely," Anakin told her grimly. "After we finish getting the stuff we need here, we'll go back to that little moon. It's a nice enough place. No people, but I'm sure you'll have fun terrorizing the animals." he smiled crookedly. "You don't remember it of course, but I started building you there."
Anakin gave one of his fake IDs to Tuohctaw's space traffic control and maneuvered into the landing line, "We've got to be extra alert for those ugly droids. I don't think that anyone could follow us this quickly from Yawsihtog, but you never know."
They then went off on an enjoyable little shopping trip. Kaely got in some much-needed flying lessons and Anakin was almost certain that nothing else in her system was still clogged. Kaely was cheerful and chirped excitedly as she examined the array of colors on the paint rack in front of her. Anakin had thought it would be fun to let her pick the paint herself. Big mistake. Not only did Kaely not even have a favorite color, she couldn't choose one. Anakin glanced around the shop warily. This is so embarrassing. Why can't she just make up her mind?
Anakin stiffened. "We've gotta go now!" he dropped the objects he had intended to purchase on a shelf and turned to exit the store.
Kaely didn't follow. Anakin glared at her and pulled the tiny droid to his hand swiftly with the Force. He didn't bother worrying if some of the other customers saw.
"Jedi are here," he whispered to her and attempted to walk quickly out of the doorway without looking suspicious. "This is no time for games."
Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi sat in a cantina near the ship hangers on Yaw-sihtog. It was raining loudly outside. The two Jedi sat in silence for they had no words to say and none were needed. Obi-Wan sat with his head bowed and idly stirred the drink in front of him. It was a local brew that had now become cold. He hadn't noticed. Qui-Gon stared out at the miserable weather. He rarely blinked and hardly seemed to breath he was so still. Their hearts were heavy with disappointment and reflection over recent events.
After Anakin stole their ship, they contacted the other two Jedi teams. Once they had warned them of Anakin's power and the droids that attacked, Master Deyonna offered to pick them up. Master Stiaw was closer but they had all agreed that his team needed to immediately track down Anakin. They felt certain that he would be easy find while in Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's ship. They had ways of tracing the crafts that belonged to the Jedi. Meanwhile, Master Deyonna would come get them from Tidessim.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both rose smoothly as they sensed the approach of three Jedi. Together they quickly exited the cantina and walked through the rain without caring if they became soaked or not. They entered the hanger just as the ship finished landing and lowered its ramp. Knight Gnirit met them inside.
"Good evening," he said somberly. "We have received further news since our last contact with you. If you will come this way we will leave at once."
Master Deyonna met them in the central room while Knight Gnirit went to assist Knight Suoixna with the takeoff. The Cihtapme Jedi Master was frowning. Obi-Wan didn't know her as well Qui-Gon did, yet he could feel right away that something was very wrong simply by the look on her face. Her face should have been expressionless, portraying only her calm demeanor. It is always a sign of terrible events when a Jedi Master frowns.
"Greetings, Master Jinn, Knight Kenobi," Master Deyonna said as all three of them bowed formally. "Our current situation has changed."
Her lined face was grim. "Anakin Skywalker has eluded capture once more," she said firmly as the three of them sat and strapped themselves down in preparation for the jump to lightspeed.
"We have received orders from the Jedi Council to cease our mission and return to Coruscant at once."
Now it was Qui-Gon's turn to frown. "We must find him," he argued.
"I understand that this is very important to you. However, disobeying these orders is not an option," her dark eyes narrowed and she looked at Qui-Gon sternly as if waiting for him to challenge her further.
Obi-Wan glanced at the two masters and held back a sigh. "What of Master Stiaw's team?" he asked.
"They have already returned to the Temple."
"Did they locate our ship?" Obi-Wan inquired carefully.
Master Deyonna smiled, "Yes, I believe they did."
"Then we should at least retrieve it," Qui-Gon suggested.
"I am not falling for that old trick," Master Deyonna's smile became a smirk. "You are both determined to follow the boy, but I must disappoint you. I do not know where your ship is."
"Then we will contact Master Stiaw," Obi-Wan said.
"I doubt that he can help you," her face once more became grim.
"Why is that?" Qui-Gon asked.
"If I may finish my explanation without further interruptions perhaps you will understand?" Master Deyonna looked at them pointedly.
Obi-Wan had the grace to look embarrassed. However, Qui-Gon only nodded curtly.
"Of course," he said. "You have our apologies. Please continue."
"Master Stiaw and his team arrived at Coruscant unconscious and their ship on autopilot. In the last transmission, I was told that though all three of them had only minor injuries, the temple healers had still not managed to awaken them. The Council has concluded that Skywalker must have overpowered them."
She paused, but Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan made no response and waited for her to finish.
"The rest of us have been recalled because it is apparent that groups of Masters and Knights are insufficient. The Council members themselves will be pursuing the boy from now on."
The revered Jedi Council convened to hear the report on the search for Anakin Skywalker. As it was his mission, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi gave the summary of what he, Master Qui-Gon, and Master Deyonna's team experienced. The Council listened quietly without interrupting him. As he concluded, Obi-Wan looked eagerly at Master Stiaw.
The third Jedi team did not look worse for wear from their encounter with Anakin. There was no visible injuries or any appearance of long term effects from their unwilling sleep on their return to Coruscant.
"We met Skywalker on Yawsihtog in a street of a small city," Master Stiaw narrated. "As we anticipated, he refused to accompany us and we prepared to restrain him."
"The boy fled from us across the rooftops with great speed. We were hard pressed to catch up with him and we were wary of possible traps. As we began to overtake him we approached a large gap between two buildings. The boy leaped and rebounded off the other roof, kicked Master Seta Relot in the head and dislocated Knight Truh Taht's left hip. Skywalker tried to grab me in passing, but missed and he landed on the roof safely. Knight Taht and I levitated ourselves and Master Relot, who was unconscious, to the ground and discovered that Knight Taht couldn't walk. We decided that I would continue chasing Skywalker, while they healed themselves enough to follow after us. However, it was not necessary as the boy had not left."
His old face was stern as he finished his report, "We had fallen into Skywalker's trap. The gap between the two buildings was not a road or space. Somehow the boy had removed part of the roof of a fish packing building. We had landed inside a large packing press whose lid he activated to confine us. He then quickly used the controls to remove all of the air from inside. We failed to escape and had no choice but to go into a hibernation trance. As you know, we did not awaken until after Skywalker had shipped us back here."
The room was silent for a moment, "Thank you all for your great efforts. We, the Council, will pursue this matter ourselves. May the Force be with you." Master Windu dismissed them all.
The Council was not surprised that Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan did not leave with the other Jedi.
Master Yoda visibly repressed a sigh, "Speak your objections."
Qui-Gon corrected him, "We do not disagree with the Council's decision to capture Anakin yourselves."
"We request to accompany you," Obi-Wan told them.
"State your reasons why," Mace Windu instructed them.
"Anakin has not attacked us on either occasion that we have opposed him." Qui-Gon explained.
"He effectively subdued Master Stiaw's team of three Jedi, yet did not even attempt to do the same to the two of us. He knows us and is more inclined to listen and talk to us rather than any of you," Obi-Wan strongly pointed out.
The Jedi Council members looked at each other briefly as they considered the request before Master Windu gave their response, "You have our consent."
"Inform you, we must, of our deliberations," Master Yoda announced.
Master Adi Gallia began first, "We have yet to determine the identity of the sender of these droids. The pieces retrieved by Master Deyonna are being analyzed as we speak. It is possible that Skywalker is running from his master and these droids are meant to catch him. Or that an unknown party has discovered the boy's abilities and wishes to exploit him as the pirates did."
"We have studied your reports on the extent of the Force actions that Skywalker has displayed, very carefully," Mace Windu leaned forward in his chair to look at Eeth Koth.
"The Force enhanced speed and agility appear to be Skywalker's most developed skills. He is also able to levitate more than seven objects at one time. How long he can maintain them is still unknown. Part of this skill can be attributed to the pirates insistence that he lift things for them," Master Eeth Koth surmised sternly.
"He also resists Force suggestions and mind tricks. This could be merely an indication that his will and mind are very strong, however it could be due to training. If so, than Skywalker was certainly a willing student. Otherwise his master would have not taught him to resist mind control," Master Yarael Poof's long neck swayed slightly.
Master Oppo Rancisis's tiny eyes seemed to bore into everyone, "We are very disturbed that the boy walked through a laser shield. Such fine-tuned alteration of matter particles is a rare talent that we have always thought to be impossible without decades of training. At this time, only a few hundred Jedi have accomplished this technique and nearly all of them are Master Healers. Even so, most of them could not part, pass through, and return an object to its original state so quickly."
"The glowing is feasibly a combination of a protecting Force wave technique and other, as yet unknown, manipulations of the Force," Master Saesee Tiin told them. "Your explanation of the damage caused by the Force literally exploding around the boy, supports this theory. The strong and dangerous light around him reacted very much like the force field that expands in a protecting wave. In addition, Skywalker injured himself due to his lack of control, which is very typical when one is training to produce the wave. Why and how the light occurred spontaneously and with little warning is still obscure."
"He may also have control over energy attacks," Qui-Gon pointed out.
"How so?" Master Yoda asked as his ears perked up.
"On Sielilyad, the Knights with me described a bright, narrow beam of light that distracted them," Qui-Gon reminded the Council. "I believe that this could have been a Force action."
"Those Knights did not speak of that light with any significance," Master Windu said.
"They could not have anticipated that a child could possibly accomplish what takes a Jedi a decade to learn. I doubt that it even occurred to them," Qui-Gon reiterated.
"Skywalker would have to be quite adept at absorbing and dissipating energy in order to create a beam out of it," mused Master Windu as he leaned back in his seat.
"Odd, that do this he can, yet control his glowing, he does not," Yoda added.
Master Even Piell's voice gruffly intruded, "Skywalker's lack of other skills is at this time indecipherable. He has not levitated himself to our knowledge. Yet it is very probable that he can. Perhaps he is concealing or conserving it until needed."
"Likewise after his last theft, our holo-interviews with the guards show that he never preformed mind tricks on them, despite how useful it would have been," Master Depa Billaba tilted her head when she finished speaking.
"The boy was unable to pierce your concealment trick, Master Jinn. And does not know how to hide himself enough to evade us," commented Ki-Adi Mundi.
Master Plo Koon spoke through his breathing mask, "He also made no effort to heal himself of the after effects of his light explosion. It is quite puzzling, as evident from his manipulation of the laser shield, he is capable of doing so."
"In less than four years, learned too erratically, he has," said Master Yaddle concisely.
"We will meditate on the future in order to locate him," Master Windu decided.
"On the unnamed places, we will focus," Master Yoda's eyes were closed.
Obi-Wan was confused, "How can this be when no one can see Anakin's future?"
"We will go where the Force shows us no future," Qui-Gon replied.
O ne month later
Anakin ran through the forest nimbly. They had found him again. This is stupid. These droids can't handle a nature trek! He and Kaely had been so happy here. Every day was filled with exploring and fishing. He spent much of his time working to control his Force light and loved how calm and peaceful this unnamed, deserted moon was.
Anakin leapt down from the tree branch as he smashed the last battle droid. He panted lightly, This is actually becoming easier after all the practice I've had lately.
"Impressive," The strange voice intoned from nowhere.
"Whatever," Anakin said sarcastically in the direction of the mangled droid heap that he knew the comlink must be on.
"Your speed and adeptness at dodging has certainly improved."
"Well then, perhaps you should just lay off on the ugly droids and do the job yourself," Anakin spat in disgust and walked away from the metal droid parts calmly.
Anakin spun around in horror when he sensed a dark presence approach from the large trees behind him. This guy's been here the whole time?! And dimming my senses too! Anakin realized in shock. The owner of the voice was tall, but shorter than Master Qui-Gon and wrapped in a black, hooded robe. Even though the cowl blocked most of the face, Anakin was puzzled that he couldn't seem to see any distinguishing facial features. This guy is hiding behind an illusion!
Anakin crouched in a ready stance. The forest surrounding them was silent as all of the animals had fled during Anakin's battle with the droids. No breezes reached them in the dim shadows of the trees. He knew that his usual tactic of simply running would not work against this foe. He had no traps, no weapons and was too tired from fighting the battle droids to make it far.
"If you survive, I will keep you. If not...."
Anakin swallowed his fear and fought down the chills that menacing tone gave him. I can do this, he encouraged himself. He waited for his opponent to make the first move. Due to how much taller his enemy was, Anakin didn't dare attack first. He had no way of knowing how many feet or arms might be hidden beneath that black robe. Or what weapons.
The creature's first strike was a simple punch towards the boy's midsection. It was too strong and nearly overpowered Anakin's block. Anakin jumped up and swung his left fist to uppercut his attacker's jaw. However, his enemy caught his wrist and aimed a knife-hand strike at the boy's neck. The boy rotated his whole arm in a reverse hammer blow, ducked the strike and escaped backwards. A Force pull nearly tripped him but he resisted it and Force shoved back. He leaped into the nearest tree above him to gain some distance.
"Uh huh. Just why are you after me, by the way?"
"You are valuable."
Anakin scrutinized the figure below him. Why does this guy seem familiar. I'm sure I've never seen him before, but..
His eyes widened in horror, "You're a Sith!"
The Sith vaulted up to him. Though he blocked the fist coming at his head, Anakin failed to stop the thrust kick to his chest. It knocked the air out of him and he fell to the ground on his hands and knees. He barely rolled out of the way when his attacker followed. He moved stiffly in response to his painful ribs.
A shrill squealing sound echoed in the forest. Anakin's tiny droid came flying madly at the Sith. She zoomed in circles around its head and fired her electrically charged darts.
The Sith waved one black gloved hand in a Force shove that sent little Kaely wailing and spinning off into the atmosphere.
No! Please be all right Kaely! his face scrunched up with worry, but he remained as calm as possible and concentrated on his enemy.
Her intervention had provided Anakin with a much needed diversion. He flipped up to a handstand and kicked the Sith in the forehead.
"You'll regret that!"
"See if I care!"
The Sith threw a Force enhanced punch that connected with the boy's right arm. Anakin screamed and fell to one knee. He ducked a roundhouse kick to his head and scurried further into the woods. It took nearly all his concentration to support his excruciating right arm and ignore the pain from his bruised ribs.
I wonder why that thing hit my arm so hard, but his kick only banged my ribs? Was this guy holding back before? Running was terribly painful and his vision began to blur.
"No more fun," The black clad figure pulled out a blaster from it's voluminous robes.
The Sith fired several blaster shots in rapid succession. Anakin had nothing to block them with. He dodged wildly in search of cover as the blots burnt the nearby trees and choked on the smoke. For a second time the Sith tried using the Force to grab Anakin and successfully snagged his ankle. With the pain from his injured arm, Anakin couldn't concentrate enough to free himself. He twisted around and grasped a tree limb for support. The Sith Force yanked him into the open and fired.
They both stared in incredulity as the bolt splashed harmlessly against Anakin's shoulder. The Sith tossed the blaster to the ground.
"Excellent energy absorption skills."
He stood cradling his right arm and gathering the strength he knew he'd need to throw off the Sith's hold.
Boldly, Anakin raised his left hand and pointed his finger at the Sith, "That was a mistake."
A burst of narrow white light shot from his fingertip. The energy he absorbed from the blaster blot greatly enhanced the beam. But his hopes plummeted when the Sith stopped it and closed it's fist over the remains of the light.
Silently, the Sith lifted it's hand and increased the energy within ten-fold. Anakin gasped and staggered backwards. A sphere of light boiled and sparked with a sickly gray and yellow hue. Too quickly for Anakin to react the Sith aimed the ball of energy at him. His eyes widened and he cringed as he saw the grayish yellow blast coming towards him. It was too big and he knew that he couldn't dodge or out run it in time. He thrust out undamaged left hand in a vain attempt to block it.
I'm going to die! With his eyes squeezed shut, Anakin waited for the searing blast to strike him.
A warmth began to irritate his palm and a loud crackling was the only sound he could hear. Anakin slowly opened one eye slightly. The ball of gray and yellow fire hung suspended in the air next to his fingers. Anakin jerked his hand away in shock and shielded his eyes from the halted flames. Stumbling, he moved out of it's attack path. He could see that behind the ball was a trail of yellow sparks held in the air as if frozen.
"Ani!" Obi-Wan shouted. "Over here!"
Anakin held his injured arm with his sore left hand and scrambled to the Jedi as fast as his feet would allow. He almost tripped over Master Yoda in his haste. The small Jedi Master's eyes were closed in deep concentration as he held the blazing energy with the Force.
Anakin reached Obi-Wan and Master Qui-Gon with obvious relief on his face. I've never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life! Qui-Gon looked a little surprised to see Anakin smiling. A flash of light startled Anakin and he jumped around just in time to see the Sith vault into the trees as his own attack reversed and flew at him. Master Yoda appeared oddly irritated that the Sith avoided it. From the shadows two more Jedi Masters appeared with ignited lightsabers and followed the retreating figure.
Yoda glanced back at Anakin and shared a look with Qui-Gon before bounding away to pursue the Sith as well.
"Am I glad to see you," Anakin panted lightly. His face was strained and he leaned against a nearby tree, grateful that the danger was over with.
The Jedi looked at him hopefully. But, they were delayed in answering by a whining hum. Zipping through the trees came a tiny round object no bigger than their fists. It buzzed and screeched around their heads and at their faces.
"Stop, Kaely," Anakin said in a weak voice.
Obi-Wan used the Force to snatch the tiny droid out of the air and pull her to his hand. He looked at her closely and turned her upside down.
"What is this little thing for?"
Kaely was indignant at such treatment and squealed at him. Master Qui-Gon smiled at his Padawan, "To annoy people, obviously."
"Of course, annoy," he looked at Anakin. "Are you com..ouch!" Obi-Wan let go of the small nuisance instantly.
She flew up and waved her arm appendage threateningly at Obi-Wan's face. Kaely scolded him harshly.
"Kaely, hush! And don't pinch people!" Anakin commanded.
She suddenly halted and chirped at him. "Kaely, this is Master Qui-Gon and this is Obi-Wan," Anakin took a deep breath. "This is K-LE1, a droid I designed and built all myself," he said proudly.
The tiny droid was suddenly all politeness and cooed sweetly at the Jedi. Anakin rolled his eyes at her.
"Hello, Kaely," Qui-Gon said with an amused smile. Obi-Wan just looked at her and sighed at his master's absurdity. The Jedi returned their focus on Anakin.
"I didn't know if you'd given up on me or not. Thank you."
"You are welcome," Qui-Gon replied.
"Oh, yeah. Master Yoda just saved my life, didn't he?"
Obi-Wan grinned at the look of disgust on Anakin's pale face. "Indeed. How bad is your arm?"
"I don't know. That Sith thing hit it hard."
Obi-Wan gently held the boy's right arm and examined it. "It is broken just below the elbow." He carefully braced it with the Force to help relieve the pressure. "We will wrap it up back at the ship."
"I..." Anakin's voice trailed off when he felt a prick at his neck. He turned his head around and saw Master Qui-Gon holding a medical injector. Anakin gave him a look of betrayal before collapsing unconscious into the Jedi's waiting arms.
Bright. It's too bright in here. Why is it cold? Wearily, Anakin opened his eyes to stare at the unfamiliar white ceiling. He grimaced and rolled his tongue around trying to swallow away the metallic taste in his mouth. He felt sluggish and it took a few moments for him to realize he didn't know where he was. I've been drugged! Anakin felt only a little anger, he just couldn't work up the energy.
"Hello, Ani," Master Qui-Gon gave him a worried look. He reached over and handed Anakin a drink of water. The boy eyed it suspiciously before accepting it. He drank and looked at him in confusion as he recalled what had occurred before he was knocked unconscious with drugs.
"That was mean."
"It was for your own good."
"Did you just get tired of chasing me?"
"I didn't want it to be this way."
"I thought you said you weren't going to force me to come back to Coruscant?"
"Circumstances have changed. I could no longer give you the courtesy to choose."
"You didn't bother to ask."
"Would you have agreed?"
"Maybe. You didn't give me a chance!"
Qui-Gon gave no answer, so Anakin looked around the room. It was small and sparsely furnished. The bed he was on was really a bunk attached to the corner of two walls. Qui-Gon's seat was in front of a very plain console, also built into the wall. His eyes noticed something odd about the door, but his brain was still too fuzzy to register what was wrong. The floor was a pale gray and the walls were a dull sandy white without windows. The white ceiling was only gentle glow-panels.
Smoothly, the door opened and Obi-Wan entered. He looked at the stony faces of Qui-Gon and Anakin.
"Mind if I join your silent argument?"
Anakin gave him a withering look and said nothing. There were no other chairs in the room, so Obi-Wan sat on the floor.
"So, have you begun insulting each other yet, or still just warming up?"
"This isn't funny!" Anakin growled.
"I didn't say it was. On the contrary, I think we all regret that it has come to this."
Anakin turned his head away to look at the wall. He didn't want to see Master Qui-Gon's guilt stricken face any longer. It was all he could do to not flinch when Obi-Wan's sigh broke the silence.
"Let's at least try to talk."
"'Bout what," Anakin's voice was hoarse.
"Anything. Tell us what we should have done, I know you want to."
"You didn't even ask!"
"Would you have said yes, honestly?"
"Ah, so then what? Several members of the Jedi Council were with us. Do you think you could have escaped? They would have subdued you and we could not have stopped them. And now you would still be angry, but have a different reason."
"Why won't they just leave me alone?"
"Because you need help," Obi-Wan looked at the back of the sulking boy's head.
Qui-Gon finally spoke, "Even if you had agreed to come with us, I had no reason to believe that you would not run at the first opportunity, like you did on Yaw-sihtog."
Anakin stiffened. Master Qui-Gon had nearly accused him of lying.
"I know that everything has been very hard for you. That Sith has tormented you for several months at least, and this time nearly killed you."
"I know that!"
"If you had run from us again, I am certain that this time we would only find your corpse. I hope that some day you will forgive me," Master Qui-Gon rose wearily to leave the room.
The Jedi were surprised when Anakin turned back to look at them, "I... I would've gone along and left the first chance I got."
"Can you trust us again?" Master Qui-Gon asked.
"I don't know."
Obi-Wan gazed at Anakin's blue eyes intensely, "Can we trust you again?
Anakin shrugged his shoulders and tried to sit up.
"Be careful with your arm," Qui-Gon returned to his chair, but did not stop Anakin from moving.
Anakin lifted his right arm in surprise. Wasn't this broken before? Yet, he felt no pain. Gently, he flexed the muscles and stretched it out. Other than a little soreness and a heavy feeling, his arm seemed fine. Wow! They really fixed me up good.
"The break has been healed, however you should not do anything strenuous or lift anything heavy for a several days," Qui-Gon answered his unspoken question. "Your ribs were only bruised and not cracked. They should not cause you any difficulty now."
"So, uh... when will we reach Coruscant?"
"We arrived yesterday," Obi-Wan informed him. "You are in the Jedi Temple."
Qui-Gon's expression became stern, "It was determined necessary to keep you unconscious for the entire journey."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"Master Yoda decided it was too risky to allow you to awaken. You might have escaped while we stopped to refuel the ship," Obi-Wan reminded him.
"Well, uh... humph. I suppose I would've. How long have I been out?"
He stared straight ahead with unfocused eyes. No wonder my arm is healed, Anakin thought aghast.
"It will take time for you to regain your strength. Relax and take things slowly."
"Did I miss much?"
"Just a long, boring space flight. And of course, you didn't have to avoid Master Yoda this time," Obi-Wan quipped.
"Who got the Sith?"
Anakin had merely been curious, and did not expect the Jedi to hesitate to answer and react so guardedly.
"Oh, don't tell me it got away?"
"It successfully evaded the Council members. We failed to destroy its ship."
Anakin's jaw dropped, How could that guy get away from at least three Jedi Masters chasing it? The Jedi didn't look like they wanted to discuss it. It must be terribly embarrassing, he thought. Anakin tried to think of a tactful way to change the subject.
"Where is Kaely?"
Master Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan for the answer. The Knight looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"It's been quite a pest. Every time it saw me it beeped loudly. It stayed by you most of the time. However, it also appears to have taken a fancy to Qui-Gon."
"Obi-Wan, that's not what Anakin asked."
"I can't find it."
"How could you lose her?"
"It took off while we were bringing you out of the ship and wouldn't come back. It's inside the temple somewhere. I'm sorry Ani, we'll find it again."
"Her," Anakin corrected him.
"We will find her again," Obi-Wan grimaced.
"We will bring her to you as soon as we can," Qui-Gon reassured him. "You must stay in this room and not leave without escorts. There are guards outside of the door."
"I'm a prisoner."
"Only for short while."
Master Qui-Gon regarded the depressed boy with sympathy. "The Council wishes to question you when you are ready."
"What will they do with me?"
"That depends on your actions." Obi-Wan told him.
"But, what will they do? Keep me locked up, send me away, or what?"
"We will see." Qui-Gon said patiently.
Four Jedi escorted Anakin Skywalker from his room. Two were the guards assigned to stand outside of his door and the others were Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. They were taking him to be interrogated by the Council. The two guards kept a constant watch, but Anakin ignored their gaze. At least they didn't put binders on me. Not that they would do much good, he thought ruefully.
The walk seemed very long to the boy. He was still recovering from his injuries and total inactivity for the past week. They passed through many deserted hallways in silence. Where is everybody? Are these passages off limits or something? They boarded a long, one way turbolift to the top of the temple spire. Anakin didn't feel nervous until he saw the Council chamber doors. The two guards moved to stand on either side of entrance.
"Ani," Master Qui-Gon's looked pained. "We can't go in with you."
Anakin paled and looked sick. Yet, the Jedi could sense no real fear. They frowned in puzzlement.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan was concerned. "If you feel you are not well enough.."
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan eyed him carefully. They looked as though they weren't sure that they should believe him.
"I really am. I just want to get this over with."
He straightened his shoulders as he saw the doors open and boldly strode inside. The Jedi Council chamber was exactly as Anakin remembered it. There were even the same members and each looked every bit as expressionless as he knew they would. The last time he'd been here, they had exhausted him with myriad confusing questions. Each of the Jedi had severely intimidated him. Anakin had struggled to control his fear and not simply pass out from the cold air in the room. Today, he spent great effort to snuff out his anger, but he had no fear. He could endure their steel gazes now. He could handle them this time.
As before, they made no introductions or greetings. Only questions.
"Who has trained you," Master Mace Windu began the interrogation.
"Well, hello to you, too."
Anakin looked around at the stoic Jedi. "My droid has better manners than the lot of you."
He turned back to Master Windu. "Why do you want to know?"
"Answer the question."
"Only if you answer mine."
"Obey us, you must..." Master Yoda began.
"You have no authority over me!" Anakin interrupted.
Yoda's eyes widened, "Learn respect, you shall."
"Respect is earned, not granted."
Yoda did not answer. His eyes narrowed again and he probed the boy harshly.
"I have not earned your respect and you have not earned mine," Anakin retorted dangerously.
Mace Windu leaned forward with a deep frown. "You already know why we ask this. Answer," he commanded.
"You don't need to worry. None of your guys have been secretly tutoring me and that Sith thing has never caught me. I don't have a teacher."
All of the Jedi were visibly disturbed. Anakin could not tell what was irritating them more that he taught himself or that they knew he was telling the truth.
"That is impossible!" Knight Ki-Adi Mundi scoffed.
"So I've heard. And I suppose the first Jedi somehow had an instructor?"
"Don't be impertinent."
"Well hey, if you won't believe me or your own senses, why bother asking?"
"Tell us how you've learned."
"Just because I wasn't here much or even with Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan for long, doesn't mean I didn't notice stuff."
"Which Jedi skills did you see and imitate?"
"Lifting things, moving faster, and I paid close attention to how you all barraged me last time I was in here."
"You have displayed several abilities that you could not have seen here. How did you learn them."
"I got bored."
"What other Force techniques can you do?"
"I can't tell you."
"Answer, you must," Yoda's voice was very persistent.
"I'm not really sure myself what I can do."
"What have you not achieved?"
"Don't expect me to tell you."
"How did the Sith find you?"
"How should I know!"
Mace Windu paused a moment to glance at the others before continuing.
"How long have these droids pursued you?"
"Months, I didn't really count."
"And how many times did you see the Sith?"
"What did the Sith tell you?"
"We must know why the Sith wants you."
"You already know why."
"What precisely did it say to you?"
"It said that if I survived the fight it would keep me. It also told me that I was valuable. Other than a few annoying compliments and threats, that was about it. That guy was a little more interested in beating me up than talking."
For several minutes the Council contemplated his words. Anakin took the opportunity to calm his mind and focus on how to get out of this mess. Ignoring the cold air had not been so hard, but ignoring the cool demeanor of the Jedi had. He knew that several of these Jedi had to be telepaths and he didn't think they'd be polite and keep out of his head under the circumstances. So far he hadn't felt any of them succeed, but he couldn't be sure.
"We know that this Force light occurs when you meditate. Demonstrate this."
"Hmmm," Yoda intoned. "Willful you are and stubborn."
"My will has kept me alive."
"Your lack of control could be your death, as well as others."
"That's why I ditched civilization. So, how about this? You don't bother me and I don't bother you. Okay?"
"Teach you to contain your power, we can."
Anakin's arrogant facade dissipated and he stared at Master Yoda. It was a very tempting offer. For a moment, he almost seemed hopeful.
"It sounds nice, but I know you don't want to teach me anything."
Mace Windu stern expression softened, "If you let us help you, perhaps a solution to this dilemma will present itself."
So, now they treat me like a person, instead of an obstruction. It didn't take long for Anakin to decide.
"All right, I'll do it."
He didn't understand why Master Yoda smiled when he said "do".
"Anakin, you should be resting," Master Qui-Gon gently reprimanded as he entered the boy's temporary room. Obi-Wan followed him in dragging a folded chair.
Anakin stopped his pacing and flopped down on the bed, "Yes, I should."
Both of the Jedi were surprised that Anakin didn't argue or complain, but instead merely complied and even agreed. It gave them hope that they were finally making progress. When they sat in the only seats in the plain room, Qui-Gon held out his big hand and opened it.
"I have something for you."
"Kaely!" Anakin smiled for the first time since they caught him over a week ago. Kaely flew over to her master chirping and tittering.
"She was found in the Cr?che. It seems that the children became rather attached to her. They managed to keep her hidden from the Cr?che Masters for quite awhile."
"It looks," Obi-Wan corrected himself, "She looks awfully..."
"In need of a new paint job," Qui-Gon quickly interrupted. Kaely squawked at Obi-Wan just the same. She caught the near insult.
Anakin looked at the few little patches of green paint and the orange stains. It also appeared that the Cr?che children had managed to draw undecipherable pictures on her, "Yeah, I haven't been able to get any paint."
"We have some here that we use for our ships."
Anakin's eyes lit up with excitement, "Great! Can I fix her up today?"
Kaely whistled her approval sweetly and fluttered her yellow eye lights at Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon nodded to Anakin, "The Council will see you again this afternoon, so you may this evening. However, you must stay in this room."
"Yes! I am so bored in here," he looked sternly at his little droid. "You be good, Kaely, and obey Obi-Wan, got it? No running off."
Obi-Wan's eyes widened in horror, "Why must I take her?"
"'Cause you're the one who lost her."
"The droid doesn't have to go along."
"Yes, she does. Kaely needs to pick the color she wants."
"Pick it?" Obi-Wan repeated incredulously.
Qui-Gon looked at Obi-Wan with a serious expression, as though this was a vital task, "Of course, Obi-Wan."
"And don't rush her," Anakin whispered, "She'll purposely take a long time if you do. Thank you, Obi-Wan!"
Obi-Wan glanced balefully at the tiny pest, "Come along."
At the door he paused to cock an eyebrow at Qui-Gon, "Was this your idea?"
"No, Obi-Wan, I cannot take credit this time."
Kaely beeped a little tune loudly and annoyingly as she followed the Jedi out. Master Qui-Gon placed a holo-recorder on the desk.
"You may send holo-messages to your mother and Queen Amidala."
Anakin was thrilled and eagerly sat at the desk, "Oh wow! Thank you!"
"Reassure them that you are well, but keep it as short as you can, it is very expensive."
"Yes, sir," Anakin acknowledged. "And I can't talk about being on my own and all of this mess, right?"
"It would be best. Tell them about Kaely, or even a little about some of the Jedi arts that you have accomplished."
Qui-Gon moved to leave, "And don't forget to tell them that you love them."
"Yeah," Anakin answered self-consciously. "But I think I'll just tell the Queen that I like her."
"This chamber in designed for inhibiting the Force," Master Mace Windu explained and gestured to the opening door. The Jedi Council had lead Anakin to another deep area of the Temple.
Anakin was astonished, "How can you do that?"
"I cannot reveal how it operates. However, should your glowing get out of control we can effectively stop it in this room. Your light will cease when the Force is dampened."
Master Mace Windu guided him into the plain cell. It was rather dusty with lack of use.
"What does it feel like?"
"Similar to wearing a blindfold. And often every movement feels slow. For Jedi, who use the Force from early childhood, it is unpleasant."
Anakin grimaced and Master Windu answered his unspoken question.
"I will only activate the chamber if you request it or if the situation becomes too dangerous."
Anakin nodded and sat in the center of the room, "I don't know how long it will take. I don't usually do this on purpose."
"We will monitor you from the other end of the passageway," The Jedi left and Anakin began to meditate. He was determined that he would prove to them that he could control his Force light most of the time. I'll show them! I've spent over a month working especially hard and I know I've really made progress. Through often unplanned practices, he had discovered that keeping the glow close to himself prevented an explosion. Until recently, it had been extremely painful to do so. I can handle the pain, it won't control me.
The Jedi Masters in the monitoring room waited with unusually strained patience. The entire Council was there along with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Anakin had requested that they remain as well and the Council agreed that it would be best. The boy seemed more at ease when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were near. Much sooner then they anticipated, Anakin glowed.
It was beautiful. It began as a diffuse glow of white, and increased to cover him in a golden shimmer. Anakin remained calm as it began to flow around him leaving trails of yellow sparkles in the air.
Without warning, the light burst to fill the entire room. The Council could sense the strain Anakin was under. As the stress became stabs of pain, the light blurred away all visible traces of Anakin. Every Jedi could feel an overwhelming threat of great peril. Anakin appeared unable to communicate and they were left with only one choice.
The Force went silent in the small room. All of the Jedi stared at the holo-monitor in shock. Anakin's light should have went out, however it had merely dimmed. Anakin's expression was still strained and his body shook.
Suddenly, the light intensified again and the boy's agony tripled. The Force dampening failed and his mental screams tore through the Force, nearly causing every Jedi in the vicinity to collapse. There were no auditory sounds from the room at all. Anakin's screams were silent.
Anakin's power then exploded around him. The first Force blast burnt and scorched the walls, the second followed it quickly to blow a hole in the ceiling and melt the floor and walls. No one could see Anakin due to the brightness, but they could sense that he was actually suspended in the air.
Abruptly, they could feel the boy's consciousness waver and then he fainted. This caused the yellow and white light to increase even more and blast away the already ruined floor and walls. As swiftly as it began, the expansion retracted and ceased all together.
The Jedi Masters were quick to catch Anakin's limp form with the Force and save him from falling on the metal slag below. Instantly, they levitated him out of the searing heat to lay him down on the cooler deck down the hall.
Master Healers couldn't help but sense the boy's pain and did not need to be called, they were already on their way. Master Qui-Gon quickly looked Anakin over. He seemed oddly uninjured. He was pale and his clothes were steaming. However, he was not even sun burnt and his hair wasn't singed. He glanced over at Master Yoda. He too was surprised. They had expected severe burns, at the very least.
Anakin hazily awakened. "Any...hurt?" he mumbled in a pained whisper.
"No one is hurt, Ani," Obi-Wan immediately reassured him.
The boy's face relaxed somewhat. More of the Council members gathered around them. They had supported the structure's interior and finished cooling the pools of metal. All of them were very concerned. Dampening the Force had unexpectedly caused the boy severe pain.
Qui-Gon spoke softly, "Ani, I'm very sorry, had we known it would make things worse..."
"S'okay," Anakin turned his head to look at the remains of the room at the other end of the passage. "hurt worse, but blast not bad..." he slurred as he returned to blissful unconsciousness.
"I don't think I want to know what he considers a bad blast," Obi-Wan commented.
Through rarely used halls of the Jedi Temple, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan made their way to Anakin's room. They reflected quietly on the events of the previous day. After the Healers had diagnosed that Anakin was extremely exhausted and over-stressed they informed the Council that plenty of rest was the only remedy.
The Jedi Masters had told the Healers only what they needed to know. They briefly related the Force blast, but of course gave no extra details. Despite the fact that they knew the Healers would never break confidence about the very powerful boy without a Padawan braid that they saw, the Council took careful precautions to with hold information The Healers placed Anakin in a healing trance and left. The boy slept through the evening meal and all of the night peacefully.
Rumors began flying throughout the Temple anyway. The Council could not disguise the agony that Anakin had projected. Every Master and Knight felt Anakin's pain and the disturbance in the Force his explosion of power had caused. The Padawans and children fortunately only perceived it faintly. No one else, except for those few Healers, knew what had happened.
The reactions had ranged from suspicion of Sith activity to possibly a great Jedi Master's death. They couldn't have been more wrong. No one was too surprised that the Council did not give an explanation and by the next day, they no longer expected one, as it was obvious that no details were forth coming.
No matter their curiosity, not a single Jedi asked the Council about what they all had sensed. If they needed to know, they were sure that they would be told. And speculating would have to suffice in the mean time.
This morning, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had plenty of time to talk while navigating the deserted lower corridors.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon began gravely. "The Council has reached a decision. If Anakin conquers his Force light they will make him a Padawan."
Obi-Wan nearly stopped walking and couldn't help but feel shocked, "I hope Ani will be pleased. I never expected that the Council would even consider it. What made them choose this?"
"Anakin has learned to use the Force on his own and as we have seen, he has already discovered some Jedi arts. Even learning alone, he has the potential to become powerful enough to equal a Jedi Knight. It would take him only a few years longer than if we taught him. Under these circumstances, the Council now feels it is too dangerous to not instruct him."
"Accepting him as a Padawan would be the best way to gain his loyalty and trust," Obi-Wan surmised. "The Council almost sounds afraid of him."
"I feel that they fear what he would certainly become if left to his own devices or is ever caught by the Sith."
"Who will be Anakin's master?" Obi-Wan looked at his friend intently. "You, I'd hope."
Qui-Gon's expression became sad, "That is not my decision. The Council is being very cautious, as they should, in choosing the correct path. At this time they are deliberating on whether or not it would be wiser to assign two masters to Anakin."
"Two?" Obi-Wan's eyebrows could not go higher. "I agree that Anakin is difficult, but I don't understand how having two masters could be anything but a disaster!"
"They are convinced that only one master cannot keep him under control. It is likely that they will choose from among themselves."
"I can't see that not failing. Can any of them teach him without their methods conflicting?"
"Master Yoda rarely backs down to another master. And though the Council as a whole functions efficiently, I cannot imagine any two of them smoothly sharing a Padawan, either."
"So, when disputes occur over how to instruct, how do the intend to solve it?"
"I believe that is where the rest of the Council plans to temporarily intervene and supplement his training themselves."
"That will only confuse Anakin more."
"I agree. As you know, I have often have doubts about the Council's wisdom in some actions."
"With all due respect," Obi-Wan declared. "I am severely questioning the Council's sanity."
They entered an old turbolift and descended.
"I was informed of this by the Council, however..."
Obi-Wan finished his sentence for him. "You plan to tell Anakin, regardless of the fact that they do not wish you to."
"Yes, when the time is right, I will," Qui-Gon answered ruefully.
"Anakin might not accept. He didn't want to be here and the Council's rejection three years ago still stings."
"I am hoping that he will not hold a grudge against them."
"Are they willing to beg? Because that may be what it takes to convince him!"
"It will likely become our responsibility to persuade him. You know that though the Council is willing to concede when they err, they will not give anyone that kind of emotional power over them."
"Then it is up to us."
They fell silent for a moment in seriously contemplation before Obi-Wan asked one last question.
"And what will they do if Anakin does not control his abilities?"
"I do not know."
Anakin awoke feeling more relaxed and comfortable than he could ever remember. It felt so nice, he wanted to just sleep the day away. I don't think I've ever wanted to not get up in the morning. He glanced over a the table and extra chairs someone had placed in the small room while he slept. Unwillingly, he got up, dressed for the day and unplugged Kaely from the portable recharge socket Qui-Gon had brought for her.
He sensed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan approach before they knocked on the door. Opening it he was delighted to smell the breakfast they were carrying.
"Oh great!" he exclaimed. "I'm really hungry."
Qui-Gon smiled, "Good morning."
"Uh, yeah. Good morning!"
Obi-Wan eyed the tiny, beeping annoyance sitting on the desk before greeting Anakin and sitting at the table, "You had no meal last night, so we brought plenty."
The three of them enjoyed a cheery breakfast and avoided speaking of what happened the day before. Kaely amused herself by singing for Qui-Gon and attempting to steal food from Obi-Wan's plate.
"Anakin, call off your droid please." Obi-Wan parried Kaely's arm appendage with his utensil.
"Don't you have anything better to do than torture Obi-Wan?" Anakin asked Kaely. Qui-Gon smiled when she gave a negative beep. Anakin only rolled his eyes at her. "Well, quit it, okay?" She decided to investigate the unmade bed for a while.
"Ani," Qui-Gon stacked his empty plate with the others. "The Council is planning the next session differently. They intend to actively push back your Force glowing for you this time. Hopefully, that will prevent another explosion."
"Why did they use that dampening room before?"
"The chamber let them observe your light very carefully to learn how and why it occurs," Qui-Gon explained.
"And they did not know that the dampening would fail," Obi-Wan added.
"It didn't fail at first, not exactly," Anakin paused a moment. The Jedi waited patiently for him to continue.
"It did work. I felt the Force just stop all around me, but it didn't stop inside of me. Then, it felt like the Force in me was being shredded away and that... It really hurt and I don't remember much after that."
Anakin became quiet and distant while the Jedi thought over what he revealed. The only sound was Kaely's muted trills from somewhere in the depths of Anakin's bed sheets.
"Do you want to tell the Council?" Obi-Wan asked.
"You can tell them, I don't want to talk about it with them."
"Very well," Qui-Gon answered. "When do you feel you will be able to practice controlling the glowing again?"
"Are you sure?" Obi-Wan voiced his and Qui-Gon's surprise and concern.
"Yeah, I feel fine."
Qui-Gon decided not to argue with the boy, despite his misgivings, "This new way would have been much harder before, but now that the Council has seen and felt what happens in the blast, they can control it for you. All you need to do is let the light happen, don't fight it. They will protect you to the best of their abilities."
With the first meal of the day over with, Anakin was anxious to do something - anything. He felt terribly cooped up. He always traveled well on his ship because of all the mechanical work and building things he did. Living in confinement with nothing to do but think was slowly driving him out of his mind.
Anakin glanced at Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. The Jedi probably love just thinking and stuff like that, he thought in exasperation. I don't suppose the Jedi have any droids in need of repair around here.
"Hey, Kaely!" Anakin called.
He turned and looked over at the beeping bedcover. A small movement began under the rumpled sheets and rolled off the edge of the bed. Kaely fired her repulsor lifts just in time to prevent herself from landing on the floor.
"Obi-Wan, did you get the paint?"
"Yes, and everything you'll need. It's in that box," he gestured to the small parcel that Anakin had not noticed resting on the floor by the desk. Excitedly, the boy brought it to the table and the Jedi cleared away the remainder of breakfast.
Kaely began chirping eagerly and zoomed in circles above Anakin's head.
"Let's see what color you got," He opened the box and pulled out the paint remover, applicators, and three containers. One was the primer, the second was the clear finishing liquid and the last was paint. Pulling off the top he noticed immediately that the paint was odorless and a very bright shade of baby pink.
Anakin looked aghast at Obi-Wan's smirking face, "And how did she find out that most little girls like pink?" he accused sternly.
Obi-Wan couldn't answer he was too busy laughing. Even Qui-Gon was struggling to not look amused.
"You did it on purpose!"
"Ask her yourself," he managed between snickers, "She chose it."
Kaely agreed with Obi-Wan enthusiastically. She landed a bit awkwardly on the table, but didn't slide off or thunk on the surface.
She really needs more practice. I'll have to make her do landing drills. She'll hate it, Anakin mused.
Anakin picked her up and began cleaning off the remaining patches of green paint, orange stains and whatever it was that the Cr?che children had scribbled on her.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon looked up from what Anakin was doing. "I don't recall any of our ships being pink."
"Ah hah!" Anakin pointed the brush he was holding. "You mixed up white and red and told Kaely to pick it!"
"Perhaps you should not have coerced me into taking her?"
Anakin decided to ignore him and coated Kaely's flat underside with the fast drying primer.
"Anakin," Qui-Gon commented in a relaxed manner. "If we had found you sooner. And had the Council retracted their decision and accepted you, would you have agreed to be a Jedi?"
"I was really upset with them, but I suppose I would have said yes." Anakin turned his droid right side up to coat her domed top.
Obi-Wan asked nonchalantly, "And how do you feel about them now?"
"I'm not sure. I don't like them, but they are trying to help. I think that they are sorry for tossing me aside as a lost cause or something like that. At least I hope so."
Anakin glanced up to see the Jedi's reactions. Obi-Wan's eyes were wide and Qui-Gon was projecting controlled alertness. Anakin was startled.
Was it something I said? He followed the direction of their gaze. They were staring at Kaely. What? Anakin thought in confusion.
"I did not realize how very easy it is for you to levitate objects, Ani," Qui-Gon told him.
"Huh?" Anakin's brain struggled to comprehend Qui-Gon's statement. He had automatically held his droid in the air with the Force while applying the primer to the rest of her hull. He couldn't hold her in his hand while she was wet and he didn't want her to move herself until the primer dried enough to not drip or fill the cracks of her compartment doors.
"Oh! Um, I guess I really don't think about it," he looked down at little Kaely. She knew he was holding her in the air and it never concerned her that she couldn't detect how he used the Force.
As far as Kaely knew, Anakin had always been able to move or pick her up regardless of whether she was near him or at the other end of a room, even when she knew he wasn't looking at her. She probably doesn't know that most people can't use the Force.
"When you are done, perhaps Kaely would like to see herself in a mirror?" Obi-Wan suggested.
"Oh, no!" Anakin warned him. "She already has enough bad habits. Don't you go teaching her how to be vain!"
"But I am sure that she will be delighted to see how pretty she is in pink."
Kaely whistled in agreement. Anakin just groaned and opened the container of pink paint in disgust.
Later that morning, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan escorted Anakin to a different room in the Temple. Once again they walked through the corridors without seeing a single person. Anakin had concluded that this area was either off limits or very rarely used. They entered a large, empty hall with a very high ceiling and no windows. The entire Jedi Council was standing in a rough circle with a generous gap between each of them.
"Anakin," Mace Windu instructed. "Stand in the center. Let the Force glow around you, but do not control it or fight it."
Anakin glanced back once at Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who had stationed themselves near the door, before he complied with the Jedi's order. The Council all closed their eyes and he felt their power focus heavily on him.
Anakin tried to not let it irritate him. Don't they ever say hello to anyone, or is it just me? I know that I want to get this over with, but they are really getting on my nerves!
It took a little longer for the light to start this time. Anakin almost didn't feel the glow beginning. His skin tingled, but didn't sting. Normally, Anakin was so busy trying to stop it he never really had a chance to observe what happened before an explosion went off.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes. He held up and moved one hand to see how the light left a trail of glittering sparks in the air like a comet. A dizzy feeling assaulted him and quickly receded, but he still felt no pain. Then, Anakin felt the familiar overflowing of power that always occurred when the illumination increased. Out of curiosity, Anakin lifted his head to look at the Jedi.
Oh WOW! Anakin caught his breath in awe. Clinging to and expanding from each Council member was a wave of power unlike anything he'd ever seen. Anakin could perceive it visibly and not just sense it with the Force.
The expansion of intense Force power seemed terribly loud to Anakin. It came from the Jedi Masters in waves and surged together to form a barrier all around Anakin. None of Anakin's physical senses could ignore the use of the Force surrounding him. Despite the brightness of his glowing, he could see each of the Jedi clearly.
It almost made him want to plug his ears and shut his eyes, but he endured it. Blocking out the Force was always hard. Anakin waited while his mind adjusted to the extreme Force activity and relaxed when his brain stopped sending his body mixed signals.
He turned his head to look for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's reactions. They don't see it! I know they can feel what the Council is doing, but why can't they see it?
Anakin was facing Yoda and Mace Windu. He watched in fascination as the two Jedi Masters' power crashed against his light. Their efforts had no color or distinct shape until it touched the churning and sparking yellow and white. Master Yoda's made one narrow section of the rim of Anakin's glow turn green and Master Windu's was blue.
How do they do that? Anakin was determined to find out.
From the large room's entrance Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan waited expectantly. They were both comforted that Anakin was calm and not suffering this time. The glowing had brightened to obscure the boy from view as before, but it did not advance.
The intense white center and yellow edges swirled slower and slower until they nearly stopped. They could both feel the Council push the light back towards Anakin. Qui-Gon could faintly see other colors blending with the rim. Obi-Wan glimpsed it for a few seconds.
Suddenly, the light reversed, smoothly flowed back to Anakin and vanished. The boy sat blinking his eyes and slumped slightly from exhaustion. The Council put on a good show of composed tranquility, but Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan knew that they were fatigued as well. The two Jedi smiled at each other in relief.
Anakin looked down at his pink droid in irritation, I'll just have to get used to it. He carefully began applying the clear protective finish. He was very tired, but Kaely had waited for almost a month and a half for a new paint job. It was almost done, so he decided to just finish it now.
His brush strokes were slow and he yawned frequently, but Kaely didn't complain. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were still talking to the Council, but would come visit soon and they probably would not like it if he wasn't resting. Anakin tried to work a little faster.
The Jedi arrived just as Anakin finished putting the painting supplies back in the box. As before, he use the Force to hold his droid suspended in the air and prevented the liquid from jamming her tiny doorways.
As he expected Qui-Gon's first words were a reprimand for not relaxing, "Ani, promise me that you will rest for the remainder of the day."
"I will," That is a good idea.
Anakin sighed and slouched in the chair, "I really am okay. So, when does the Council want to try it again? Tomorrow?"
"What did you both think about all that stuff the Council did?"
"They halted your light's expansion skillfully."
Obi-Wan suppressed a laugh, "That's not exactly the answer Ani is looking for, Qui-Gon."
"It is an accurate assessment."
"They did block the glowing and even began slowing it down, however I did not see if they truly prevented another explosion or if one simply did not occur," Obi-Wan looked to Anakin.
"I'm not really sure either," Anakin thought for a moment before elaborating. "They pushed it back differently. Not like I've always tried."
"Can you imitate their methods?" Qui-Gon inquired hopefully.
"Yeah, I think so. But I can't do it exactly the same. I really can't push the light, I'd have to pull. Before, I always tried to just snuff it out and squash the glowing. Maybe that's why it hurt so bad?"
"Possibly. Did you feel pain at all this time?"
"Not really, when the Council was working I felt dizzy and kind of overwhelmed."
Obi-Wan sat back in his chair and looked pensively at Qui-Gon, "Was Ani really not hurting, or did the Council suppress his pain for him?"
Qui-Gon closed his eyes and recalled the morning's events in detail, "No, they did not."
"Great!" Anakin grinned. "How come the Force stuff they were doing became colors?"
"You could see that?" Qui-Gon was puzzled.
"Yeah," Anakin shrugged his shoulders.
"Did the light hurt your eyes?" Obi-Wan was stunned.
"No, not at all. My light never blinds me or anything like that."
"Well, Ani, I am not certain as to why the colors occurred," Qui-Gon told him. "It seems likely that this was just how their efforts reacted to your glowing."
"Has the Council found out why all this stuff keeps happening in the first place?"
"Not, yet. Or, at least they haven't told us," Obi-Wan explained.
"Explain to us again what the glowing feels like, Ani," Qui-Gon asked.
"Well, there is a lot of the Force hitting me. Too much. I think I'm getting used to it, but it's hard not to panic. Why does it always happen when I meditate anyhow?"
Obi-Wan was just as confused, but Qui-Gon had a theory, "When Jedi begin learning the Force, they must meditate to achieve their goals."
"Ah, I see now," Obi-Wan relaxed as Qui-Gon began to lecture Anakin.
"When learning to levitate an object, it is at first necessary to meditate. Otherwise, your mind will not become quiet enough to concentrate. Once you are without distractions, only then can you feel the Force. In time, meditating before every action is no longer essential. By then your mind is naturally calm and the Force flows smoothly when called upon."
Obi-Wan added his thoughts, "This is why we thought that you had a teacher, Anakin. You have been unable to meditate without severe pain, and yet you have accomplished many Jedi skills."
"Like right now," Qui-Gon gestured to Kaely. Anakin was still holding her aloft. "No one your age can do that so effortlessly."
"Oh. Well, it's never really been hard for me to do once I started trying."
"I think that perhaps the Force screams at you, while it whispers to the rest of us, Ani," Obi-Wan concluded.
"So, when do I get sprung out of here?" Anakin asked with a crooked smile.
"When you are a Padawan," Obi-Wan replied. He and Qui-Gon waited anxiously for Anakin's response.
Disbelief, surprise and bewilderment flashed across the boy's face. He didn't even notice when he dropped Kaely. She fired her repulsor lifts just in time and squealed indignantly at Anakin.
"Uh, Kaely I'm sorry...um, it's sticky enough that you can hover yourself until it finishes drying," he waved absently for her to move away from the table. Frowning, Anakin rested his elbow on the table and supported his forehead with one hand.
Obi-Wan almost regretted speaking. He glanced at Qui-Gon, who gave him a reassuring look. They did need to tell Anakin and now was a good time. They waited as the minutes passed and Anakin still did not look up or answer. The only sound in the room was the soft whine of Kaely's engines.
"Ani," Qui-Gon said softly. "It is not necessary that we talk about this now. Take your time."
"No, it's okay," Anakin's voice was hoarse. He lifted his head and his eyes shone with unshed tears. "I'm really glad now that you both dragged me back here. I..."
Anakin face was strained and he frowned deeply, "They don't want me." He choked out.
"Anakin, the Council does not resent you or want to get rid of you. Give them time," Qui-Gon advised.
"Why are they...?" He stopped speaking, again not trusting his voice. The room became oddly quiet for a moment.
"This all depends on your control over the Force glowing," Qui-Gon warned. "However, you have made so much progress that we are certain that they will accept you soon."
Anakin relaxed a little. "Who would teach me?" he asked cautiously.
"That remains under debate," Obi-Wan answered.
Kaely's repulsor lifts made a strange sputtering sound behind them, but Anakin and the Jedi ignored it.
"Anakin, do you want to be a Jedi?"
Anakin didn't hesitate, "Yes, I always have."
Master Qui-Gon smiled and Obi-Wan exhaled in relief.
"The Council is considering the possibility of having two masters teaching you," Qui-Gon explained. "They have not yet determined which two would be the best choice."
"Why not you and Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan tried to lower Anakin's hopes gently, "The Council would never agree. I've never trained a Padawan and I do not feel that I have the experience necessary, yet."
"And you like being on your own," Anakin added for him.
"That also," Obi-Wan admitted. "A Padawan is a huge responsibility."
Qui-Gon clasped his hands on the table and looked at Obi-Wan, "But, in this case you'd only have half a Padawan to deal with."
Anakin snickered, "Besides, none of those stuffy Council members would be able to tolerate me."
For the sixth time, Kaely's engines went silent and then re-engaged. Anakin turned his head around, but she was only flying slowly up to the ceiling.
"And just how to you intend to convince them?"
"If it is the will of the Force, we will not have to," Qui-Gon reminded him.
They could hear Kaely's repulsor lifts cease activity again.
"Kaely!" Anakin exclaimed in irritation. "Quit freefalling! It won't make you dry any faster!"
Anakin waited excitedly for the Jedi Council to arrive. They were in the large room again. He was having a hard time being still and not smiling.
Qui-Gon looked at him curiously, "You aren't pensive like you were yesterday."
"I know what will happen this time."
"Is that so," Obi-Wan said with raised eyebrows.
"You know what I mean."
The doors opened and the Council filed in and took their previous places without a word. When they surrounded Anakin, Mace Windu gave the only command, "Begin."
And Anakin began. Swiftly, his light swelled out from him in sparks. The glow obscured him and then abruptly froze. It had the appearance of a miniature sun.
The Council did not lower their barrier nor allow it to touch the light. Master Windu opened his eyes and spoke to the ball of light. "Anakin, don't rush."
Over several minutes, each golden spark slowly streaked back towards the white ball. All at once, Anakin became visible again. The light reduced to a diffuse glow and the sparks were all in interconnecting clusters loosely wrapped around his arms. Steadily, Anakin dissipated the light more and more until the last vanished along his palms.
Anakin looked straight at Master Yoda in triumph.
That afternoon, Anakin stood alone before the Jedi Council. Each Jedi was in their seats except for Mace Windu. He stood facing Anakin.
"Anakin Skywalker," Master Windu announced. "We are prepared to receive you as a Jedi Initiate. Do you accept?"
Everyone remained composed and serious, "We have determined that for your training to succeed you must be under the charge of two masters and receive additional lessons from the Council."
Anakin remained cool and focused. He looked at Master Windu as if waiting for him to continue.
"Surprise you, this does not," Yoda's eyes closed to slits.
"I cannot argue with the best course of action," Anakin said stiffly and formally. If any of the Council noticed his evasion, they chose to ignore it.
"You will be a Temple Initiate for now and we will inform you when suitable masters have been selected."
"Master Qui-Gon asked for me over three years ago," Anakin reminded them.
"Master Jinn chose him first and that takes precedence," from across the room Qui-Gon's friend, Master Plo Koon, spoke on his behalf.
The rest of the Council knew that they could not dispute that. Master Yoda and Mace Windu shared a look briefly.
"So be it."
Anakin could sense that they were preparing to debate over who would be the second master. Before Master Windu could dismiss him, Anakin spoke quickly.
"How about Obi-Wan?"
Master Windu looked down at the boy, "Knight Kenobi is young."
"Exactly!" Anakin said cheerfully.
"Old, are we, hmmm?" Yoda challenged.
"Yup. You said it!" Anakin grinned at the ancient Jedi Master.
"The pair that teach you must be capable of blending their training methods smoothly. Kenobi has never taken a Padawan."
"Well, there is a first time for everything. And do you really think that any of you can work with Master Qui-Gon better than Obi-Wan can?"
The Council did their best not to react to Anakin's bold question. When they did not answer immediately, Anakin plunged on ahead.
"We all know that Master Qui-Gon and you all sometimes can't agree on things. And it's great that Obi-Wan is young! Think of how many decades it's been since all of you were Padawans."
That might not have been the best thing for Anakin to say just then. Regardless of how the Council felt about his impertinence, it did serve to validate his point. And to encourage them to foster him off on Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
Mace Windu sat down in his chair, "Remember to tell Master Qui-Gon that your diplomatic skills need work." At his gesture the Council Chamber's great doors swung open and he mentally beckoned the two Jedi waiting outside.
Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan entered briskly to stand on either side of Anakin. They bowed to the Council as usual.
"Master Jinn, Knight Kenobi, will both of you take Skywalker as your Padawan?" Master Windu said officially.
Obi-Wan's yes was only a second slower than Qui-Gon's. Anakin just grinned and didn't care who saw him.
"Very well. The three of you will be assigned new quarters. We will inform you of when Padawan Skywalker will have sessions with the Council soon." Master Windu looked at the boy with a soft smile, "Congratulations Anakin."
"How," Obi-Wan looked over at Anakin as they walked down the hall, "did you manage to pull that off?"
"I told Master Yoda he was old," Anakin quipped.
"Ani..." Obi-Wan said in warning.
"Yes, Master," Anakin replied seriously. "I told them that you would be a much better teacher than any of them."
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were momentarily speechless. Anakin didn't seem to notice or worry about it.
"And their response was...?"
"That I needed better diplomatic skills."
"Ani," Qui-Gon answered calmly. "In the future refrain from speaking too boldly to the Council."
"And you really don't have to call me Master," Obi-Wan mumbled with an odd expression on his face.
"Yes I do!"
"Ani is right," Qui-Gon enjoyed his former Padawan's discomfort.
"Then only during training or around other people. Other wise just stick to Obi-Wan."
Anakin grinned at the sour look on his face.
"I must say that I did not anticipate that this situation would resolve itself today," Qui-Gon informed them. "You gained control of your glowing much better than I'd hoped, Ani."
"Thank you. I've practiced controlling it a lot of times and I'm very familiar with what happens and how it feels. I just didn't know a better way of stopping it until now. Everything else I've tried either worked for only a little while or made it worse."
"I'm glad this is all over with. The past three years have been one long frustration," Obi-Wan sighed.
"So, what will things be like now?"
Qui-Gon answered him, "We will spend the majority of the next few weeks evaluating everything you can and cannot do. Including how far behind you are on academics. After that we will have a steady schedule of training for the next several months at least."
Anakin nodded. They reached his room and Anakin quickly collected his belongings. He was excited that he would finally be out of that prison. Kaely hummed a little tune and followed them to a turbolift.
"I doubt that the Council will send you or I on missions for a while, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said apologetically.
"That's fine. I'm looking forward to relaxing a bit," Obi-Wan said pleasantly. He then glanced over at Anakin and seemed to re-think what he just said.
"Well, perhaps I won't get to relax that much," he said ruefully.
Continued in I Won't Fail You.
Original cover design by Julie. HTML formatting copyright 2001 TheForce.Net LLC.