Sequel to "If I Don't Catch You" - Anakin's training with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan leads to new friendships -- and new threats.
Anakin followed Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to their apartments, helping them pack all of their belongings. They left the boxes stacked outside the rooms for the Temple couriers to transfer to the new apartment. The three had spent most of the afternoon and part of the evening working and Anakin was very hungry.
The nearest dining hall was almost empty when they arrived, but the Jedi preferred it that way. It would only be a matter of time until the whole Temple found out about this unusual arrangement. And then their friends would want to know what was so special about Anakin Skywalker that required him to have two masters.
Anxiously, Anakin followed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to their new quarters. His masters were grateful that it was in a different level of the Temple. "This will be home in one fashion or another for the next several years," Obi-Wan had told Anakin as the three of them settled into their new apartment.
It was one of the medium sized and spacious apartments, the layout a little different from the standard Master and Padawan rooms. This type of apartment was intended more for settled families rather then those who go on missions. The large common room's archway led to a windowed alcove that could serve as an office or workroom. Anakin was delighted to see a great view of Coruscant. The kitchenette was actually a separate room instead of a simple unit along one wall like most of the Master/Padawan apartments. Next to it was the 'fresher. Two bedrooms were accessible from either side of the common room and the third bedroom's door was in the alcove. It had all of the standard and built-in furnishings.
Anakin walked around while his mechanical pet, K-LE1, immediately began flying in and out of the different rooms. The tiny droid could fit into almost anything; she was no more than 10 cm across, with a domed hull and flat bottom. She had been painted a bright shade of baby pink. Anakin couldn't bear to live without a droid to tinker with and Kaely was the first droid he had designed entirely himself.
Anakin claimed the room by the alcove. It was simple and small, with plenty of cabinets for storing things. I'll fill those up with droid parts in no time. I can't wait to find all the best junk dealers.
Laid out on the bed was a stack of Jedi tunics. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon looked over from where they were standing by the large window when Anakin came out dressed in the new Jedi uniform.
"How do you keep from ruining your clothes?" Anakin looked ruefully down at his cream tunic.
"You be careful, obviously," Obi-Wan pointed out.
"If I was working on a droid I'd get this covered in grease and motor oil and the stains would never come out."
"I didn't know you had so many concerns about laundry, Ani." Qui-Gon looked at him strangely.
"Well, I found out really fast that it cost a lot of money I couldn't spare to keep replacing ruined clothes."
Anakin was referring to the three years he spent on his own. After the Jedi Council had rejected him, Anakin was sent away on a ship that was attacked by pirates. For more than a year he had struggled to first escape his re-enslavement and then nearly two years surviving alone while being pursued by the Sith. It had not been easy for the Jedi to find Anakin again.
"As you grow you can pick out darker tunics to compensate for your tendency towards greasiness," Obi-Wan said slyly.
Anakin rolled his eyes at him. "Ha, ha, very funny," he said sarcastically.
The center of the alcove was empty and Master Qui-Gon gestured that they all sit. They formed a triangle in a patch of evening sunlight. Obi-Wan brandished a pair of shears and Qui-Gon a comb. They made short work of Anakin's unruly sandy-blond hair.
The braid was the fun part. Anakin was fascinated as the Jedi used the Force to fuse together the ends of his cut hair with a lock of Qui-Gon's brown and Obi-Wan's ginger.
"Why do Padawans have a braid anyway, besides the obvious reason?"
"This tradition began long ago and we have not re-discovered why," Qui-Gon answered. "The reason it began is probably recorded somewhere in the ancient archives, many of which are nearly untranslatable. But yes, it is mainly to denote who is an apprentice."
"What do Jedi without hair do?"
"Those races sometimes have their own tradition. The Riahon tattoo their thin headtail when they become a Padawan and cut it off after achieving Knighthood." At Anakin's horrified look, Qui-Gon explained. "It does not hurt and it grows back."
"At least we don't make our students shave parts of their heads to form words, like the monks of Ddo Yllaer do!" Obi-Wan told him.
"Remember the acolytes of Enud? They are all required to dye the whites of their eyes blue," Qui-Gon added.
The tiny pink droid flew near and looked curiously at the thin braid resting on Anakin's right shoulder.
"Kaely." Anakin looked at his hovering droid seriously. "I want to make it perfectly clear that you are never ever allowed to pull my braid."
Kaely chirped an absentminded acknowledgement.
"I am not kidding! I'll remove your arm attachment for a week if you do."
She gave him a mournful whistle and left to sulk. She had better not sabotage my room, Anakin thought.
Qui-Gon prepared to give a lecture. "Anakin, since you were not raised in the Temple, we need to explain to you what a training bond is. All Masters build a mental bond with their Padawans for as long as they are training. Before I accepted Obi-Wan as my apprentice a partial bond began forming between us without either of us attempting to initiate it," Qui-Gon explained. He looked at Anakin's wide eyes. "The Force decided to begin it for us and it was quite disturbing at first. It takes about a week to adjust to the bond. Having an additional presence in your mind can sometimes be disorienting in the beginning."
"This will be harder for you, Ani, because you will have to become accustomed to both of us," Obi-Wan told him. "But it won't take long for you to become used to it. Don't be alarmed if you can't tell the difference between your own emotions and ours for a while."
"Does it let you do neat stuff?"
Qui-Gon thought for a moment. "It allows you to be aware of the other's general location and helps you find each other when separated. Also you know if the other is severely injured and you can call each other for help under extreme circumstances."
Obi-Wan supplied more details. "With time and practice you can also use the bond to experience the other's senses. See through the other's eyes, hear what the other hears, and so forth. It's very useful when you don't know where you are or if you need to be rescued," he said, smiling crookedly.
"However, at that level, you are affected by each other's experiences. If the other is in pain, you feel it as well," Qui-Gon warned.
Obi-Wan nodded. "Also, those who are very skilled in telepathy can use the bond to have a conversation. Though it usually will not work over large distances, it is very convenient in the middle of a battle or a precarious diplomatic conference."
"Now, Anakin," Qui-Gon instructed, "raise both of your hands." He placed his nearest hand's palm against Anakin's and Obi-Wan did the same with Anakin's other hand. "Relax and clear your mind, but don't actually meditate."
In the dimming sunlight, they guided Anakin through the first step a Padawan takes to becoming a Jedi.
"Good morning, Anakin." Master Qui-Gon said from the doorway. Anakin was unplugging Kaely from her recharge port.
"Good morning, Master!" he answered cheerfully.
"The 'fresher is free and Obi-Wan has decided to prepare breakfast for us this morning."
Anakin was momentarily flooded with a sense of unease. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it when he realized that the sensation was coming through the training bond from Master Qui-Gon. Anakin looked up at him sharply.
"Can he cook?"
"I don't really know. He has lived in his own apartment now for over three years and spent the bulk of that time away on missions. He knows the basics, but I'm not certain what he is doing in there." Qui-Gon gestured at the closed kitchen door.
"Oh," Anakin mumbled as he walked past the kitchen door. It was much easier to sense Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. He didn't really have to think about it to know where they were and how they were feeling. And Obi-Wan was in high spirits.
The breakfast turned out to be quite good, much to Qui-Gon and Anakin's relief. They left to begin training soon after. There was almost a disagreement over whether Kaely could come, but Obi-Wan knew when to give in.
Anakin was thrilled by everything he saw as they walked through different parts of the temple. He walked between the two Jedi proudly. I think I've grown more, Anakin thought as he glanced over at Obi-Wan. I'm almost as high as his chin.
"We will spend the whole morning in one of the larger training rooms to see what you can do. Think of every single thing you have tried doing on your own as well as what you have practiced the most. This afternoon Master Tolaskrow will give you an academics test to judge your progress," Obi-Wan told him.
"This evaluation process may take some time," Qui-Gon reminded Anakin. "Also, the Council has decided to individually give you their lessons, rather then together. Each of them plans to have four sessions with you. The first Council member will give you a lesson one week and then once a week assessments for the three following weeks, more if needed."
"I understand... Kaely! Quit admiring yourself." Anakin looked back in exasperation. Kaely had discovered that the nearly opaque glass decoration along the hallway's walls was reflective.
She cooed and chirped at herself appreciatively. It was apparent that she really did like her pink paint job. She lingered just long enough to further annoy Anakin, but flew after them quick enough to not receive a second reprimand.
"I knew we should have left the droid," Obi-Wan mumbled. Kaely honked at him derisively.
The training room was much larger then Anakin expected. It was very long with neatly stacked equipment along the walls, half of which he didn't recognize.
"Wouldn't a class be using this room?" Anakin's quiet words echoed in the cavernous space.
"Normally, however we've been given full use of it every morning until we know everything you can do. The classes have been rescheduled to other rooms for now," Qui-Gon replied.
"Limber up and get ready for extreme exhaustion, Padawan." Obi-Wan warned him.
Running and jumping seemed to be the best way to start. The Jedi directed Anakin to run the length of the room and rebound as high as he could off the wall. They made him repeat it several times to see how high he could go and to test his endurance.
After that came the balance beam and a kind of tightrope. Anakin had no difficulties and landed each flip and jump perfectly.
"How often did you practice balancing?" Obi-Wan inquired.
"Almost every day." Anakin flipped backwards twice before continuing. "It seemed like a good idea. If I was being chased and couldn't get away by normal means, it made things much easier to just jump out a window or run across a fence or leap across road signs. Whoever was after me could never catch me."
Qui-Gon was concerned. "Who pursued you?"
"Well, the pirates. I did try to escape them a few times when they first captured me, but I wasn't too good at Force stuff then." Anakin's face was pinched as he recalled that year. Then he dismissed those memories of pain from his mind. He knew he'd fall off the beam if he didn't.
"I also had some problems with guards and the law enforcement on a few worlds," Anakin admitted ruefully. He was embarrassed and ashamed that he'd resorted to thievery to survive. "And of course, those droids that Sith-thing sent after me were no fun."
Next, the Jedi sent him racing to the other wall and told him to leap onto each of the protruding ledges up to the rafters of the high ceiling. It was very high, high enough to make an ordinary person slightly dizzy. But Anakin loved it.
"Wow, you could fit a four level house in here. Hey down there!" Anakin waved from his perch. He heard a whistle behind him. Kaely had followed him up and was hovering up and down. Anakin barely noticed her. He had taught her from the day he installed her wheels to follow him everywhere.
From the floor far below, Qui-Gon spoke in a very low whisper. "Can you hear me, Anakin?"
When the boy didn't respond he repeated the question twice more, each time only a little louder then before. The fourth time he said it in a merely a quiet tone, and Anakin looked down.
Obi-Wan nodded his approval. "I don't think he has ever practiced enhancing his senses."
"I agree, perhaps he is naturally perceptive," Qui-Gon murmured to Obi-Wan. He then called up to Anakin again in a normal volume. "Tell me how many green staffs can you see beside us?"
Master Qui-Gon gestured to the wall. The bin full of multi-colored wooden staffs looked terribly miniscule from the rafters, but Anakin did his best to count them.
"I can see eight."
"Ani, close your eyes," Obi-Wan instructed. "Now tell me what color were the boxes stacked in the corner of the wall you rebounded on?"
Anakin concentrated. ARGG! I should've known they'd ask me stuff like this! He racked his memory of when they entered the room and of his run to that wall.
Anakin sighed with relief. Kaely beeped out a little tune to congratulate him.
"Keep your eyes shut, Ani," Qui-Gon reminded him. "When we first entered this room, was the rack of training sabers on the right of the door or the left? "
"Tell me," Obi-Wan said. "What color are the mats stacked by the wall below you?"
Anakin was stumped. Nervously, he frowned and squeezed his shut eyes even tighter. Come on... when I ran to jump on the ledges, what did I see? In a flash he remembered and couldn't help but grin.
"The mats are blue, but they aren't under me. They are halfway down the room," Anakin smirked. "Nice try, Master Obi-Wan."
"Now, we need you to explain and demonstrate what else you can do," Obi-Wan said when Anakin returned to the floor.
"Padawan," Master Qui-Gon looked at Anakin seriously. "You have learned to effectively fire a bolt of energy, correct?"
"How did you discover this?"
"Um, it first happened I think half a year after I was free of the pirates, I was eleven years old, almost twelve. It was night. I was in a bad area of a city and I didn't know it. A couple of thieves grabbed my pack and I pretended I had a blaster to get it back. They didn't believe me so I tried making a light in my hand to blind them, but I couldn't make the light remain steady and it flashed quickly and went out."
"And that had the appearance of a blaster bolt," Obi-Wan surmised.
"Yes. They dropped my pack and ran even though that tiny blast wasn't strong enough to hurt anything and it didn't even make any noise. After that, I practiced, but it rarely worked. The last time I did it was when you caught me."
Obi-Wan's voice sounded concerned. "You never told us about firing at that Sith."
"Oh, yeah, I guess you didn't see it. You all didn't come until that thing fired the big blast. Well, I thought at first that my shot worked really well. I was able to make the bolt much stronger because I absorbed the Sith's blaster shot."
Neither of Anakin's masters could conceal their shock. It rolled through the training bond. Anakin winced and they composed themselves.
"Okay, so that's another thing I shouldn't be able to do yet, right?"
"It is extremely rare," Obi-Wan managed to answer.
"Anakin, start at the beginning and explain to us everything the Sith did," Master Qui-Gon ordered.
"Well, he... it, whatever, was sort of testing me. The Sith kicked me around some, literally, and made a few threats. It didn't really hurt me until I kicked it in the face. That's when it broke my arm, and then it got out the blaster. I dodged as much as I could, but it quickly shot me in the shoulder. I hardly felt a thing! And then I just knew that the blast's energy would make my beam stronger. So I shot back, but the Sith just caught it in its hand. And you know the rest."
They Jedi processed his explanation for a moment. Anakin tried to block out their feelings of concern and worry. Gotta be still, I won't be able to show them if I'm not calm. They weren't kidding when they said it would be hard to adjust to the bond!
"Are you ready?"
Anakin took a deep breath and nodded.
Anakin turned his back to the nearest wall and faced the length of the training room. Satisfied that he was far enough away from actually hitting any thing, he closed his eyes. For several minutes he concentrated, with his right hand held out with the palm upwards.
An excited beeping broke his failing concentration. They all looked over at the hovering droid. Kaely flew beside Anakin, opened one of her tiny compartments and fired a thin beam of energy into the air. She then trilled triumphantly at him.
"It's not that easy for me!"
"Don't yell at the droid," Master Qui-Gon admonished him.
Kaely gave an electronic snort and brandished her tiny laser at Anakin.
"Show off," Anakin mumbled at her and then his face brightened. "Kaely, you're brilliant!"
Anakin reached out his hand. "Shoot me!"
Before either Jedi could react, Kaely instantly obeyed Anakin's command. Her tiny bolt slammed into Anakin's out stretched palm. He swung his now glowing hand around and pointed one finger. The white light doubled and flared. Silently, the energy bolt streaked across the room.
Anakin grinned. "Thanks, Kaely!" He lowered his hand and squinted at the other side of the room. "I hope I didn't hit the wall."
"Are you injured?" Obi-Wan inquired.
Even though Anakin knew he wasn't, he looked at his hand, just to make sure before answering. "Not at all."
Anakin sat down with his lunch alone, not even Kaely with him. They'd returned her to their apartment. It's just another new place, he reassured himself. Everything will become familiar soon. His masters had decided to continue evaluating Anakin's skills the next day. Qui-Gon explained to Anakin that in the Temple the mid-day meal was a time to be with your peers. Anakin had a datapad with a general map of the Temple and easily found the large Padawan's Dining Hall. It was a pleasant room and only half of it was filled with tables. Probably the approximate number of Padawans here right now.
"Oh, um, hi." Anakin stood up in surprise as an older Padawan approached him. He had an olive complexion and his dark hair had an unfamiliar glisten to it. Anakin knew he was tall for his age, but it surprised him to see that he was the same height as the older boy.
"My name is Elbaima Ecin. Do you mind if I sit with you?"
"Pleased to meet you! I'm Anakin Skywalker."
"My Master and I just got back from a long mission and I don't even recognize most of the people here anymore," Elbaima said sadly.
"Oh wow! How long were you gone?"
"Almost a season. Oh, blaster bolts, I mean about three quarters of a Coruscant year." Elbaima sighed. "We spent a few months on Corellia, and I seem to have become too accustomed to their local slang."
"Uh, yeah. I haven't been here for three years myself. What does everybody do around here for fun?"
"There are many activities! I'm part of a swimming group. Would you like to join? There is a meeting every week. Sometimes that's the only way to find some of your old friends."
"I'll ask." Anakin tried not to look nervous. He was worried that Elbaima might ask him more about swimming or where he'd been the last three years. Anakin was grateful when Elbaima stood up excitedly.
"Suoicarg!" he called with a grin.
Another Padawan was carrying a tray to their table. Anakin didn't realize that she was a girl until she came and sat down. Her brown hair was longer then his and Elbaima's standard Padawan style. It was all twisted into a small bun at the base of her neck. Her braid was different, too. It was longer and had a thin lavender ribbon woven in it.
"I almost didn't recognize you, Elbaima!" She had a lovely smile. "Good afternoon, I am Suoicarg Ydal." She nodded her head to Anakin.
"Ah! My manners! This is Anakin Skywalker. He has just returned after three years!"
"Um, hi." Anakin tried not to mumble. She looked older than him and Anakin couldn't help comparing her to Amidala.
"That is very long! Where did you go?"
"Mostly around some of the Mid-rim worlds." Anakin quickly tried to think of a way to change the subject. "Why do you have a ribbon in your braid?"
Suoicarg lifted one pale hand to the Padawan braid on her shoulder. Anakin noticed that her fingernails were naturally a pastel blue. I don't think she is human, he thought to himself.
"All girls do. Some of the others get silly and add metallic ribbons, but I think that could be dangerous in a fight."
"I see. Didn't guys have beads in theirs, uh, three years ago?" Anakin tried to remember how Obi-Wan's had looked.
"Let me think... yes, but that was then. We don't right now," Elbaima explained.
A small stir began at the entrance of the dining hall. Through the doors walked five Padawans. Two were human girls, two were aliens Anakin didn't recognize. They were lead by a very confident-looking human male. They marched over to collect their meals and sat at a deserted table across the room.
Suoicarg and Elbaima sighed wistfully at the same time. Suoicarg looked at Anakin's confused face and explained it to him.
"That is Lavir Ruoy, the most famous Padawan in the Temple and those four are some of his Elite."
"Everybody wants to be friends with Lavir," Elbaima said as they watched a couple of Padawans timidly approach the Elite.
Anakin turned to his companions. "Okay I'll ask. Why?"
"He is the best."
"And he only associates with the best."
Anakin glanced back over at the Elite. "They look kinda like a gang to me."
"Oh no, they aren't mean to anyone." As if to prove what Elbaima said, they saw Lavir's face look remorseful and the two Padawans turned away from the Elite with sad but hopeful expressions.
Suoicarg clasped her slender hands on the table. "Those two will keep trying to prove themselves worthy to join his group, like many others have attempted to."
"Like the two of you?" Anakin said seriously.
His new friends were silent, but not ashamed.
Obi-Wan was the first to return home. He had brought a packaged dinner with him from one of the dining halls.
"No eating out?" Anakin asked as he set the table.
"Qui-Gon and I thought it would be best. You can talk about your academics test in privacy here."
"So what did you do all afternoon?"
"Boring stuff. I've arranged for us to use one of the saber sparring rooms after dinner everyday. Except for the days that the Council teaches you. We don't know what they have planned, so when they are finished with their lesson you will have the remainder of the day free."
"Don't cheer yet, some of them may keep you busy until you drop," Obi-Wan warned.
Obi-Wan looked over at his Padawan curiously. "Anakin, when is your thirteenth birthday?"
"Next week, I was born on The Hyperspace Wars Remembrance Day."
Anakin didn't get a chance to comment on Obi-Wan's surprised reaction because Master Qui-Gon arrived. He was carrying a datapad with Anakin's academic scores. "Hello, Ani." He greeted them and sat at the table. "Did you enjoy your afternoon?"
"Pretty much, yeah," Anakin replied as they ate.
Obi-Wan picked up the datapad Qui-Gon had set on the table. "Not bad, Ani." He handed the scores to the boy.
"I don't understand what some of this says."
"The bars on the left side show what is normal for your age and the right one is where you are at. I was surprised that you did so well in mathematics."
"Huh? Oh, that. I needed to know math to build and fix things in Watto's shop. So, he made sure that I learned a lot. And lately I've been making even harder stuff, like Kaely, and maintaining my ship, so I downloaded lots of tutorials and studied them during hyperspace jumps."
Obi-Wan nodded. "You are about five levels ahead, and there probably isn't much else you'll need to learn in math."
"You will need to take a laboratory class in chemical science. That will be in the morning. History, economics, and writing lessons can be downloaded from our holo-terminal. You don't need to begin learning other languages until after you have caught up on everything else. All of the morning will be various Force exercises with Obi-Wan and I. While in the Temple, it is customary for Padawans to spend the whole afternoon studying their school lessons and use it as free time."
"What about group things like swimming and stuff?"
"You mean the societies and sports?"
"Yeah, fun stuff."
"Those are all formed and organized by the Padawans, Ani," Qui-Gon explained. "Of course, the largest is always the Saber Dueling. I remember the Music Association was the most popular when I was training. Everyone wanted to write songs and perform them."
"There are clubs for just about everything, art, science, different Coruscant sports, though I rarely played those, watching two groups compete was always fun," Obi-Wan added. "Perhaps you could form a droid building group."
"I made a couple of friends today and they invited me to join a swimming group."
Obi-Wan sensed Anakin's uneasiness. "And that is a problem because...?"
"I can't swim."
"We'll fix that."
Anakin nodded. "So how was your afternoon, Master Qui-Gon?"
"Busy. Until you are ready to go on missions, I will be teaching a class of Initiates every afternoon."
"This evening," Obi-Wan said, "you'll begin katas and tomorrow you can start building your lightsaber."
The next day's saber lesson was tiring. Anakin examined the lightsaber in his hand. It was only a training saber and on temporary loan until he could build his own. He noticed its weight and balance and tried to find a comfortable way to grasp the handle. Activating it, he absently glanced at the orange blade.
The evening before Anakin had been excited when his masters taught him the first saber kata. However, today it was no longer fun. I just want to go to sleep, he thought miserably. I just want to forget about today.
Day two of Padawan training had been one disappointment or frustration after another. He was mortified to discover that all of the kids in the chemical lab class were initiates. He tried to not worry about it even though the nearest his age was a whole year younger than him. It also didn't help that he towered over all of them, even the teacher. I always thought it would be great to be tall, but it wasn't today.
The continuing evaluation with Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was disheartening as well. No matter how hard he tried Anakin could not duplicate how to walk through a laser shield. After several grueling attempts, Anakin could only stare at the immovable laser wall in defeat. His face burned with embarrassment when he admitted that he really didn't know how he had done it the first and only time.
After that, his masters tested him on Force exercises he had never attempted or thought of before. Anakin had no idea how to perform a mind trick. He'd never tried to heal an injury to himself. Telepathy didn't work either. When they suggested that he begin learning to meditate now that he could control his glowing, Anakin stared at them as though they had gone mad. They have got to be kidding! It's hard to stop the Force light, and I've done okay without meditating so far.
He'd been late to lunch and ate alone. Neither of his new friends was there, having already finished and gone. Studying his lessons had been easy, but time consuming, that afternoon. He had completed two lessons per subject and even wrote an essay. It was all rather boring.
But the worst was starting to build his lightsaber. Never in his life had Anakin ever encountered a mechanical part that he couldn't immediately fix or construct perfectly. And Kaely had made a nuisance of herself and kept snatching the parts and flying off with them. The saber pieces were a confusing puzzle and after three furious hours Anakin gave up.
Qui-Gon scolded him for becoming angry and Obi-Wan told him that initiates build their own lightsabers when they are ten. Needless to say, Anakin didn't speak to either of them during the evening meal while they were in one of the large dining halls. And he hardly noticed when he was introduced to a few of his master's friends.
Obi-Wan's voice intruded on Anakin's depressing thoughts. "Remain steady, Padawan. You must keep your knees bent and step forward without straightening your legs. Your shoulders should remain level as you move."
"Yes, Master." Anakin sighed dismally. What will I need a lightsaber for anyhow? I could just absorb whatever someone shot at me. Maybe it's a good exercise thing. Or a fun way to torture Padawans.
Two days later, Padawan life didn't look quite so grim.
"Wizard! You almost can't tell you are inside!" Anakin exclaimed in awe as his new friends led him into the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Even with all of the traveling he had done since leaving Tatooine, open water and forests still amazed him.
The two Padawans looked at him strangely. "You sound like you've never been here before," Suoicarg said in confusion.
Anakin had known that someone would find out eventually. He decided that if anyone didn't like the fact that he hadn't grown up at the Temple like everyone else, then too bad. He wouldn't feel ashamed.
"I haven't seen much of the Temple yet. The first time I came here was almost three and a half years ago and that was only for a day."
His new friends nodded, but didn't ask for more information. Anakin was surprised. I would've asked a ton of questions. Are they just being polite or do Padawans just expect to be told what they need to know and that's all?
At the end of the path was their destination. It was a medium sized open courtyard with low benches arranged in a circle. A crowd of about forty Padawans, with more still arriving filled most of the seats. In the middle of the space stood Lavir Ruoy.
Elbaima managed to find the three of them a free space on a bench. He explained to Anakin what was going on.
"Lavir is allowing someone to try to become a member of the Elite. This is very rare. When was the last time, Suoicarg?"
"At least two months ago. I don't think that Sliaf will succeed today."
Elbaima looked at Anakin's puzzled face. "We are confusing him, Suoicarg. She means the Padawan who will fight today."
"How did this whole Elite thing start anyhow?"
"About two years ago," Elbaima took a deep breath, "during one of the official lightsaber competitions Lavir won very easily. Everyone was surprised because he was only sixteen and normally, no one wins so fast. The end of the contest normally is very long and exciting because several older Padawans are all very close in skill, but Lavir has changed that."
"Lavir has won every competition since then, even against the Padawans who are already over twenty years old! He has also defeated several of the Masters," Suoicarg supplied.
Elbaima nodded. "He became leader of the Saber Dueling club, of course, and then formed the Elite. Everyone in the Elite must be very good at dueling, but they also must be the best at something else."
"One of them is the best Healer apprentice, another is the best pilot, the best artist, one is the best at levitating herself," Suoicarg listed them. "There are only sixteen members of the Elite and half of them are older than Lavir."
Anakin thought about this for a moment while the crowd of Padawans doubled. "So, Lavir is going to duel Sliaf today?"
"No, he would just win quickly." Elbaima waved one dark hand at the center of the courtyard. "Lavir always watches the duel to assess the new person's ability against one of the Elite."
"Today, Sliaf will be fighting Htapelet." Suoicarg tapped her pastel blue nails together. "They are both about the same size and strength. Lavir is careful to make sure that whoever wants to be an Elite gets a fair chance."
Suddenly the eighteen-year-old Padawan in the middle raised one arm. Instantly, everyone fell silent.
"Sliaf has requested to join the Elite," Lavir announced. His voice was strong and captivating. A greenish light reflected off a single metal adornment on his brown Padawan braid. "Htapelet has agreed to test her."
Lavir gestured for both to take their places in the courtyard. They bowed to each other and activated their lightsabers. Lavir stepped away from them. "May the Force be with you both. Begin."
The lavender and yellow sabers flashed and slammed into each other. Anakin plugged his ears to block out the wildly cheering crowd. Everyone else enjoyed the battle immensely, but Anakin was bored. After eight or nine moves, Htapelet succeeded in disarming Sliaf.
"Well done, both of you," Lavir said graciously, looking at the defeated Padawan. "You are quite skilled, Sliaf, and I am sure that you will become an Elite next year."
The crowd cheered again and Anakin decided to leave. He didn't even bother to see if his friends followed or not. Stepping around the Padawans who were sitting on the ground in front of the benches, he had just made it to the exit when he realized that someone was speaking to him.
"I said, bring me a towel."
Anakin turned to see Htapelet standing a few meters away and holding out one hand. Anakin looked down at the small stack of towels, water containers, and a healer's kit resting on the ground by the nearest bench.
"Get it yourself," Anakin said absently.
Htapelet's jaw dropped and several of the nearby Padawans looked at Anakin in shock. Anakin had already continued to walk away and didn't notice.
Htapelet regained his wits. "Why do you refuse?"
Anakin gave him a scathing look. "You have perfectly operational hands and feet, however if you don't feel like walking, just levitate it."
"That would be a trivial use of the Force!" Htapelet scoffed.
"Convenient excuse," Anakin replied and left quickly.
As Anakin walked deeper into the Room of a Thousand Fountains, his anger grew. I knew it! People are all the same! I shouldn't have hoped that the Jedi would be any different!
Far from the crowd, Anakin stopped by a loud waterfall and sat in the hollow of a great tree. "I bet every single one of those Padawans would have obeyed that guy without a thought. Oh, they would be so happy to do anything for an Elite!" he mumbled incoherently to himself.
I won't be a slave to anybody ever again!
Htapelet turned around as Lavir walked to him. "How bizarre, that Padawan didn't do as I said."
"He's probably just one of the Failures and naturally resents us," Lavir rationalized quietly.
"No. He has not challenged us. I've never seen him before."
"Well, then. Find out who he is," Lavir instructed.
That evening, Anakin entered the apartment and projected false cheer. "I'm home." He called out. It is nice to be able to say that again! He could sense that his masters were not there, but of course something was.
Kaely came flying to him and whistled out her usual greeting. The tiny pink droid wobbled unsteadily in the air with something white trailing behind her.
"What have you gotten into this time?" Anakin asked in a bored tone. Kaely loved to explore and he knew that it would only be a matter of time before she got stuck in or on something.
He used the Force to hold her steady while he untangled one of his tunics. He just shook his head.
"And what were you doing in my closet?" The cloth was snagged on the joint of her arm appendage.
Kaely only emitted a non-committal beep. This was just the way life was for her.
After freeing his droid and not even bothering to reprimand her, Anakin wandered into the kitchen. He knew that dinner would be soon, but as a growing boy, he rationalized that he needed a snack.
"I don't suppose you noticed any junk food during your exploring today?" he asked his tiny pink shadow.
She whistled negatively and decided to help search. They opened the cabinets and found many packages that they didn't recognize, but nothing even vaguely unhealthy.
"Sandblast it! They gotta have some kind of secret stash around here."
Giving up for the time being, Anakin went to the holo-terminal in the alcove. He wanted to search for the addresses of all the nearest junk shops. Those empty cabinets in his room were just begging to be filled with droid parts and tools. He hardly spared a glance at his bedroom's open door.
But then he looked again. "KAELY!"
The miniature torture device was instantly nowhere to be found. Kaely may have been only a year old, but she knew when she was in trouble.
Later that evening, Anakin and his masters returned home after another exhausting lightsaber practice. Obi-Wan looked around the apartment suspiciously for an ambush.
"Where is the pink pest?"
"She's hiding from me."
Qui-Gon looked at Anakin sympathetically. "What did she do this time?"
Anakin groaned. "Graffiti."
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows and even Qui-Gon was curious.
"I've cleaned up some of it." Anakin sighed. "She's mad that I didn't take her with me today."
Anakin wasn't surprised that Obi-Wan wanted to see it, but he felt embarrassed that Qui-Gon did, too. Scrawled in brown across Anakin's bedroom wall were vague pictures of stick figures and a round object that might have been a portrait of Kaely herself.
Obi-Wan just shook his head. "What did she use?"
"My whole container of boot polish."
Qui-Gon was practical. "Tomorrow you can fetch a roll of disposable art paper and some washable paint for our aspiring artist," he smiled at Anakin. "Would you like some help?"
"Yes, please!" Anakin was glad and surprised. He had been dreading cleaning up the rest of Kaely's revenge.
The Second Month of Training
Anakin strode briskly through the great hallways to his first Council lesson. Mace Windu had sent the summons to Master Qui-Gon the night before. Anakin was relaxed and was finally becoming accustomed to the weight of his training saber attached to his belt. He had been rather surprised when Obi-Wan told him that the Padawans were allowed to carry their sabers while in the Temple. It was supposed to promote discipline and encourage the apprentices to never forget to arm themselves while on missions. And they were only low power lightsabers anyway.
Master Windu was already in the star map room. He was sitting in a meditative pose. Anakin bowed briefly upon entering.
"Good morning, Master Windu." Anakin greeted him calmly. Now, is he going to be actually polite?
"Good morning, Anakin."
Mace smiled and gestured for Anakin to sit across from him on the floor. For a moment Anakin wondered if the Senior Council Member had sensed his thoughts, but then dismissed the idea. Anakin really didn't care if he had. Master Windu was treating him like a person, and that was enough for now.
"Each lesson you receive from us will be very different. We each have our own methods and rules for how we will instruct you. Today, I will begin with time perceptions. You may practice this on your own so long as you don't allow it to interfere with your Masters' lessons. I will have you demonstrate your progress for the next three weeks."
Mace folded his hands as he began his lecture. "Time perception is a very useful manner to gain knowledge. It is most frequently used to determine the past and present, which are set. Seeing the future is extremely difficult due to its fluid nature. To begin you must be calm. This cannot be done in the face of danger. But beware, a Jedi's visions may not be entirely accurate, for what you see is only a highly possible event that can be altered."
He paused abruptly, "Have you seen the future before, Anakin?" Mace suddenly asked.
"Maybe. I'm not really sure. I've seen images of places and other stuff while I'm awake, but it usually happens too fast for me to understand."
"The simplest is seeing the present. You easily do this by sensing when your Masters or a friend is in danger. In your mind you think of the person or place you wish to see, as they currently exist. Through patience you may perceive a somewhat accurate view of what is about to transpire, but it will lack most major details. It is very difficult to see any details in a vision of the future."
Anakin's eyes were very wide as he listened.
Mace noticed, but chose not to show it. "Today, we will focus on visions of the past. Anakin, feel this room. Let the Force carry you to where it wishes. Think of a time past or perhaps someone you know."
Master Windu waited expectantly. Even seeing the past seldom gave much information. Anakin had proven to excel in so many things, Mace was curious as to how much detail the boy would grasp.
Anakin could feel the Jedi Master following his efforts. It took a second for him to realize that Master Windu would see everything that he saw. The eddies in the Force carried Anakin's thoughts and he had to cling to the room with his mind in order to stay there. Just for a moment he thought of Master Qui-Gon, and a glimmering figure appeared to his right.
Anakin watched in fascination as the waves ceased and the figure became a boy. He was younger than Anakin and smiling broadly. The boy's lips moved soundlessly as he responded to an indistinct question and then he began to excitedly hop from one foot to the other.
Suddenly, Anakin could clearly hear the next words spoken. "Padawan, still you will be."
The Padawan's eyes sparkled as he answered, "Yes, my Master."
Abruptly, the vision ended. Anakin opened his eyes and looked at Master Windu. Is he smirking at me? Or was the vision funny for some reason? Anakin was perplexed.
Even though he had seen it all exactly as Anakin had, he wanted to hear what Anakin thought about it. "Tell me what you saw," Mace instructed.
"I saw Master Qui-Gon as a Padawan and he was in this room with Master Yoda. But I didn't actually see Yoda, I only could hear him."
"Well done, Anakin, you may go now and I will see you again next week."
Anakin was surprised to realize that it was lunchtime. The vision had taken all morning.
"What is so funny?"
Anakin looked up with a grin as Obi-Wan entered the alcove. Anakin had set up a worktable against one wall and was assembling more of his lightsaber. Obi-Wan was surprised to see Anakin so cheerful. His Padawan usually had displayed absolute contempt for the weapon.
"The lesson with Master Windu was fun today!"
"Good, I assume you did well? What was it about?"
"Time perception, and in particular, seeing the past." Anakin grinned even more. "Did you know that Master Qui-Gon was a little hyper as a Padawan?"
Obi-Wan stared incredulously. "It's a bit difficult to imagine."
Anakin just snickered more. Obi-Wan got a sneaky look on his face. "This sounds like an excellent opportunity to teach you memory sharing!"
They sat in the middle of the alcove. It had become the most pleasant spot in the apartment. The alcove had only a holo-terminal and now Anakin's worktable for furniture, and Qui-Gon had set his plants along the huge windows. Obi-Wan had placed on the floor a simple, but elegant, soft rug that he'd been given on one of his missions.
"Think about what you saw, and perhaps we will be able to reconnect to it."
For several minutes they both became composed and serious. Slowly, Obi-Wan guided his Padawan on how to transfer memories through the training bond.
"Imagine that you are in the same place you saw the vision. Now, imagine that I am sitting there with you." Obi-Wan followed Anakin's trail and soon saw the star map room with a frozen blur that had to be Mace Windu. Anakin was focusing almost too heavily and Obi-Wan nearly startled him when he spoke again.
"Remember what you thought of while in this room and let it carry you forward."
Anakin relaxed and the memory became clearly visible and played itself out. Then Obi-Wan grinned and opened his eyes.
"I am almost certain that was just before Qui-Gon's first mission. No wonder he was so excited. I believe he was about twelve years old, possibly eleven, but I doubt it."
"He was Master Yoda's Padawan?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "He must have driven Yoda crazy with all that fidgeting." He shook his head. "Ah, I have something for you."
Obi-Wan quickly went to his room and returned with a simply wrapped package. "Happy birthday, Ani."
Anakin looked at his master in confusion as Obi-Wan handed him the gift. "Thank you. What is this?"
"A birthday gift. It is a Jedi tradition for the masters to give their Padawans something for their thirteenth birthday," Obi-Wan explained and looked at him curiously. "You've never had a birthday present?"
"No." Anakin slowly opened the package and carefully pulled out two ancient books. The cover and delicate pages were each covered in a protective clear sealant. He opened the dark green one first. It was filled with faded illustrations and words in an archaic version of Basic, but it was still readable. The brown book was larger and noticeably older, but the interior was still in good condition.
"Over the last three and a half years, I've come across some old Jedi manuscripts while on my missions. I donated most of them to the Great Archive here in the Temple, but I knew they already had copies of these."
Anakin looked up from the first book. "This was written just after the Sith War a thousand years ago."
"Yes, and the older book is a collection of Jedi prophecies."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan," Anakin said with a happy smile.
At that moment, Qui-Gon entered the apartment door. They looked over at him and instantly burst out laughing.
"Am I amusing?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan told him and quickly changed the subject. "Where is your gift for Ani?"
Qui-Gon smiled, pulled his gift out of a sack he was carrying and placed it in Anakin's hands. It was almost too large for Anakin to hold in one hand and it was very heavy. The texture was coarse and rough and it was a dark uniform brown.
"I knew it! I just knew you'd give him a rock!"
Anakin was unperturbed. "Thank you, Master. It's beautiful."
Qui-Gon was careful not to look surprised, but Obi-Wan stared at him. "Ani, you are supposed be shocked and say, 'It's just a rock!'"
Anakin smirked. "Yeah, but I know something you don't." He shut his eyes and focused on the dull, ugly hunk of earth. Slowly, a line formed across its surface and the rock neatly split in half. The white crystal interior glowed and sparkled in the light, acting like a prism to send beams of color all around the room.
Anakin grinned, thanked them both again and took his presents to his room. Qui- Gon looked sharply at the books and didn't speak until Anakin was out of hearing range.
"We are still under orders not to explain the prophecy of the Chosen One to him."
Obi-Wan only nodded and looked at his friend, daring him to disapprove.
"Very clever, I wish I'd thought of it myself," Qui-Gon said with a smile.
Anakin was very pleased with both of his gifts. Kaely flew about the room playing in the prism's colors and singing. Deciding to read the books later, he thought about what Master Windu had taught him.
Searching the present would be really great! I want to see Mom. Gotta think of Tatooine. He remembered the sand and heat, his mother's eyes and her voice. But he could not focus on anything no matter how far he reached. Whatever she was doing or feeling would not come to him. Is she just too far away? Anakin sighed in disappointment.
Naboo is really far, too. But Anakin decided to try anyway. Naboo was not quite as far as Tatooine, so he hoped to receive a glimpse or vague feeling. He thought of Queen Amidala and pulled strongly at the Force. At once images slammed into him.
"Whoa!" Anakin's head reeled and he had to fight his first urge to stop all together. Slowly, he tried to process it.
An elegant room with many people. Lots of handmaidens, of course. There she is! She is such a beautiful Queen. Blue dress and hair down in long waves. This must be some big social function. How dare he kiss my angel's hand! Just who does that guy think he is!
The vision ended abruptly when Anakin became jealous. Kaely chirped at him in concern. He ignored her and went to the holo-terminal in the alcove. It took an hour of hunting before he was certain that no handsome dignitaries were currently visiting Naboo. But his anxiety only increased further. He nearly jumped when he found a small holo-news report. No wonder the vision was so easy to see, she is very close. Queen Amidala was on a state visit to Alderaan.
So, that guy was some prince? Well, he can't have my Padme.
A Few Days Later
"You will behave, you got that?"
Kaely whistled enthusiastically as she bobbed along in the air. Anakin tugged at his swimming outfit nervously. Standard Jedi swimwear was nothing fancy, just a close fitting sleeveless tunic made of two thin layers and pants that ended just above the knees. It was a style that fit most species. It looked a little too much like underwear to him.
Anakin had never felt so underdressed. He had seen other people clad in less, but very rarely and he hadn't really cared. That wasn't the same when it was you. No one would ever wear so little under Tatooine's suns for it was too dangerous. Anakin looked at his bare arms in embarrassment. He had gained some weight since returning to the Temple and now was no longer so thin. All of the exercise and work he'd done over the past year had helped his muscles grow. He'd been proud of how his biceps were finally beginning to look a little closer to normal, but he didn't want everybody to see them.
A large group of Padawans was loudly having fun in the second largest lake in the Temple. A variety of smooth rocks had been carved and shaped to serve as slides and diving perches, yet they still blended smoothly into the garden's landscape.
"Try to remember that you are not waterproof, Kaely." Taking a deep breath, Anakin walked over to his friends. Suoicarg was sitting on the bank with her feet in the water. She was dressed in the same beige swimming clothes as him and all of the others, but her hair was in a simple ponytail today.
"Hi. Where is Elbaima?"
"Over there." She pointed to the higher cliff over the deeper area of the water. "He wanted to dive. He's coming."
Elbaima did a flip off the rock and fell smoothly into the water. Anakin watched in awe as the older boy glided under the waves and surfaced near them. Anakin noticed with some relief that Elbaima was not ashamed that his arms were exposed. Well, if he is okay with it, then I won't worry either. Come to think of it, even Suoicarg doesn't seem uncomfortable.
"Anakin! I'm so glad you came!"
Tentatively, Anakin stepped down into the warm water. It only came up to his knees. I will not be afraid! He stayed by the rock Suoicarg was on and tried not to think about it. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had taken him swimming twice and taught him the basics.
It was Kaely that provided the distraction he needed. She buzzed around Suoicarg and landed on the rock beside her beeping, loudly.
"This is my droid, Kaely," he explained. "Kaely, this is Suoicarg and Elbaima."
The teenagers glanced down at the round, pink object, clearly perplexed.
"Hello," Suoicarg nervously murmured.
Elbaima just looked shocked that he was expected to talk to a droid. "Greetings."
Kaely didn't seem to notice and cheerfully returned her own version of welcome.
They looked up to see a much older Padawan, easily in her twenties. Anakin noticed that she had a greenish metal pin attached to her braid like the one he'd seen on Lavir. She's an Elite, he realized.
"Hello, Bonsetuc," Suoicarg said quietly. "I noticed your leader is absent from the Temple today."
The Elite answered coolly. "Indeed, Lavir and his master have been sent as liaisons to the Hapes Cluster. The Hapan ambassadors refuse to speak to any other Jedi except Master Sediced. As you know, she is a brilliant negotiator. If anyone can convince the Hapans to join the Republic, it would be her." She spoke in a very important tone and elegantly waved her yellowish arms in the air.
She suddenly looked down at Anakin from her perch on the rocks. "Your master is Obi-Wan Kenobi, yes?"
Suoicarg's eyes widened. "Knight Kenobi is famous throughout the Order!"
Elbaima smiled and clamped his dark toned hand on Anakin's shoulder. "It is a great honor to be his apprentice. Everyone knows that he slew a Sith!"
However, Bonsetuc regarded Anakin calmly. "I was not aware that he had taken a Padawan. How did he come to choose you?"
"It was a bit unusual," Anakin hedged. "How did you find out?"
"People talk, but there actually seemed to be some confusion. Some thought you were Master Jinn's Padawan."
Bonsetuc narrowed her eyes dangerously. "What do you mean by that?"
"I have two masters."
The three of them stared at Anakin. I knew that it was unusual, but they don't have to act like this. Irritation was creeping into his mind.
"That is impossible. No one has two Masters, that makes no sense... ouch!" Bonsetuc turned her head as Kaely squealed angrily and pulled her Padawan braid sharply. Bonsetuc swiped at the droid and scowled.
"That's enough, Kaely!" Anakin shouted. Kaely let go, but continued to scold Bonsetuc viciously.
Bonsetuc was obviously insulted. She turned and walked briskly away without saying goodbye.
"Ani?" was all that Suoicarg dared to say. She didn't want to accuse her new friend of lying or be attacked by his pink droid.
"It's true. The Council themselves decided that I needed two masters. Master Qui-Gon had already chosen me, and Master Obi-Wan wanted me too, so that's how it is."
Elbaima and Suoicarg seemed to consider this a moment before concluding that it must be the truth. Instantly, they both became curious and excited.
"Why did you need two?"
"Master Jinn is just as famous!"
"You must be great with a lightsaber, Ani!"
"I've never heard of anyone having two masters!"
"Uh, can we go swimming now?" Anakin tried desperately to stop the questions without being rude.
Elbaima looked at Anakin sympathetically. "Yes, lets just swim."
Suoicarg nodded and pulled her legs out of the water. Anakin was a little stunned to notice that though normally her skin was merely lighter than his own, her legs had turned a pale lavender in reaction to the moisture. She ran over to a nearby ledge and dived into the lake.
Someday I gotta work up the courage to ask her what species she is. Anakin stoically moved out towards the deeper water and followed Elbaima. Kaely whistled at him nervously. She had been with him while he was learning to swim and she knew how hard this was for him.
I will not let this bother me. I swam just fine with my masters. I can do this! He dove under and swam out as far as he dared. When he broke the surface he smiled proudly to himself.
A loud fanfare blared from the shore. Anakin had to fight the blush rising to his cheeks when the whole crowd in the lake stared at his little droid. Kaely flew over the water cheering and waved a small rectangle of blue and white cloth with her arm attachment. Anakin looked at her aghast as she stopped to hover over him.
"Who gave you that flag!?" he whispered in embarrassment and snatched it from her. Looking closer he saw the words 'Go Ani!' printed on it.
My masters are gonna get it for this!
"I oughta melt this down and use it for scrap."
Anakin muttered to himself as he tinkered with his lightsaber. It was nearly finished. He had the casing and the circuit board done. All that remained was installing the focusing crystals.
"Fit in there you... hey!"
Anakin glared up at Kaely. She had thrown a paintbrush at the back of his head. The tiny droid squawked and scolded him.
"I wasn't gonna say anything bad!"
Kaely didn't believe him. She returned to her painting in a huff. One of the walls in the alcove had become Kaely's easel. Obi-Wan had insisted that it be one that could not be seen from the main room. From the floor to the ceiling, Anakin's weekly chore was to remove and attach wide strips of art paper to the entire wall.
Kaely had a three-year-old child's finger painting set and a few brushes. She drew anything she saw, and was very picky about what colors she chose. Anakin was always careful to not criticize her work lest she sabotage his room in retaliation. Though how Master Qui-Gon had known that the brown blob she'd made was supposed to be a bantha was beyond Anakin and Obi-Wan's comprehension.
At least it kept her out of trouble most of the time.
Master Qui-Gon was testing his class today. The next initiate began the exercise. She flipped into a handstand and slowly levitated two objects. Qui- Gon had placed a variety of things on the floor; a cup, two small boxes, a ball, a handful of tiny pebbles, a small potted plant and even a towel. He judged them by not only by their skill, but also unbeknownst to the students, also their temperament.
Nearly all of them first picked up the boxes or the ball. They were required to lift all of the items until they were holding them all. What order they chose revealed much about their personalities and their affinity for the Force.
This student chose the plant next. Qui-Gon was pleased to see that she recognized that lifting the plant would actually help her maintain her connection with the living Force. Due to her choice, she had no difficulty raising the rest of the objects.
Qui-Gon nodded his approval as she finished and turned to call the next initiate. Suddenly, he felt as though the air was knocked out of him. The room spun and Qui-Gon had to fight to remain on his feet.
"Master Jinn?" One of the larger students went to stand by him in case he fell. The others crowded around.
"Are you hurt?"
"Do you need help?"
Qui-Gon's vision cleared finally and he took a deep breath. ~~Obi-Wan!~~ he called out across the Temple with the Force. In relief he felt that his former student was already on his way.
Qui-Gon stood straighter and the initiates relaxed somewhat. "I am needed elsewhere," he announced carefully. "Class dismissed."
So not to alarm the children he only walked out of the room and then broke into a full run down the hall. Even though Anakin had not yet learned telepathy, Qui-Gon called to him anyway.
~~I'm coming, Ani, just hold on.~~
Obi-Wan raced through the corridors, wishing desperately that he could walk through walls. He had been in a training room teaching, delighted when asked to test the older initiates' saber skills. He hoped that he would be able to encourage and help them become Padawan material.
However, today when Obi-Wan felt Anakin's distress it had caused him to nearly collapse. The initiate he was sparring with had been quite shocked when she easily knocked his lightsaber across the room. He had managed to recover from the first wave of disorientation within seconds, but with the effort had nearly vomited. His pale face and stumbling had frightened the students.
In a daze, Obi-Wan had not been able to even identify what was happening until he realized it was coming through the training bond. No matter how he tried, Obi-Wan could neither block out nor soothe his Padawan's suffering as it spilled into the bond.
In his rush to get to Anakin, Obi-Wan vaulted over a crowd of small children on their way to one of the gardens. ~~Please stay calm, Ani. I'm almost there.~~ He wasn't sure if Anakin could even hear him. In times of great stress or danger, Jedi could sometimes call to one another with the Force. Even if, like Anakin, they had no telepathic training or completely lacked the talent.
Despite his efforts to encourage Anakin, Obi-Wan wasn't sure if he could really do anything to help. He literally slid down the last passage and opened the apartment door with the Force.
Across the training bond, Anakin could feel Master Qui-Gon's reassurance and Obi-Wan's concern. He took several slow even breaths and tried not to panic. Little Kaely had retreated to hover by the door and anxiously waited. She had seen this many times.
Anakin's glow filled the alcove. So far, nothing had been damaged, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. The urge to run was driving him crazy. They just don't have any idea how hard this is. Well, at least Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan will understand now.
He managed to keep the light to a soft roar when Obi-Wan dashed into the room. Obi-Wan could faintly see Anakin in the middle of the white light. He approached as close to the golden sparks as he dared.
"Can you hear me?"
"Yes!" Anakin's voice was distorted, but audible.
"Pull it back, Ani!"
"It's not working."
"You can do it."
"It would be easier to just squash it."
"That would require anger, Ani," Obi-Wan warned.
Qui-Gon entered through the still open door, quickly shooing away two Padawans who were about to peek in. He shut the door immediately and hoped that no one else had seen Anakin's light.
"How is he?" he asked Obi-Wan. Anakin's frustration was easy to sense.
"Very irritated, but he's not panicking."
Qui-Gon gazed at the swirling light in concern. "Anakin?"
He received no answer. Obi-Wan wasn't sure if that was a sign that Anakin was succeeding or not.
"Is the Council coming?"
"No, not unless we call them. This is as much a test for us as it is for Anakin."
At last, the light visibly reversed and dimmed. It was a slow process and they could see Anakin's face scrunched with a frown from the effort. As the last shimmering gold collected at his hands, Anakin's face went slack. He looked as though he was about to fall over.
Obi-Wan rushed forward and Qui-Gon barely held him back in time. The light flashed again and then froze in the air. Suddenly, Anakin's eyes snapped open. He slumped forward as the light diminished and went out in his hands.
Instantly, the Jedi went to his side. He looked dazed and pale. "Anakin, how many fingers am I holding?" Obi-Wan asked him.
Anakin struggled in vain to focus, but finally gave up with a shake of his head. Qui-Gon pulled the teenager to his feet and sat him on the couch. He was about to call a Healer when Anakin mumbled out a few words.
"I saw something."
"Be still, Ani."
Qui-Gon gently laid Anakin down on the couch and placed his hand on his forehead.
"I'm okay," Anakin slurred out.
"You don't look it," Obi-Wan informed him.
When Anakin didn't scowl, they knew he really was not feeling well. Qui-Gon sat back and quietly conferred with Obi-Wan. "His temperature and heart rate have returned to normal."
"Do we really have to call the Healers?"
Anakin opened his bleary eyes and squinted to look at them. "I really am okay."
"How did this happen?" Qui-Gon asked while Obi-Wan went to the kitchen. Kaely hovered nearby and hummed quietly.
"Just did. Sometimes it doesn't need a reason," Anakin said hoarsely.
Obi-Wan returned with a glass of water for Anakin and sat in a chair, nervously gripping the arms.
"I'll be fine. Really."
"You are sure?" Obi-Wan asked. Finally, Anakin frowned at him. They could see the color return to his face and his eyes begin to focus again.
Obi-Wan leaned forward pensively. "I thought you could control your Force light now. Why did you have so much trouble?"
"I can do it! It was different this time."
"How?" Qui-Gon inquired.
"I was distracted. I saw something, kinda like a vision, but it was odd."
Anakin drank more water and took a deep breath. Carefully, he thought back to the first image and tried to compose his thoughts enough to tell them.
"While I was working I had this odd feeling like someone was watching me. And then I looked out the window and it was night." Anakin grimaced, but didn't tell them how he'd fallen out of his seat in surprise.
"I could hear voices laughing and I turned around to see two little kids on the floor. A boy and a girl and they were playing with blocks. And I knew they were Jedi kids, because I saw them levitate the blocks to make a tower as tall as me."
"Then it stopped and I opened my eyes to see that I was glowing. I hadn't even felt it start! That's when I felt the two of you coming."
"Could you tell what type of vision it was?" Obi-Wan asked.
Anakin thought about it for a minute. He replayed the vision in his mind and hunted for clues. He shook his head. "I don't know."
Qui-Gon stood up. "Tomorrow at your last review, you must tell Master Windu of this vision."
"Don't work on your lessons, just rest this afternoon," Obi-Wan told him.
"Yes, sir." Anakin answered them both. Slowly, he stood up to go to his room, but stopped short at the alcove. He sighed dismally. "What a mess."
The room was a disaster, as they had come to expect when the Force overwhelmed Anakin. The small table with his tools and parts were scattered on the floor. A few of the tools had obviously impacted the walls, but fortunately left only small dents. Obi-Wan's rug was crumpled in a corner and several of Qui-Gon's plants were either crushed or knocked over. Anakin couldn't even see where his lightsaber was. This was part of the reason both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had been assigned to teach Anakin. It was vital that they discover why the Force at random times would suddenly course violently through Anakin.
However, the worst was the remains of Kaely's art. The tiny pink droid flew behind him and moaned quietly. Her paintings were strewn across the floor and the paper was shredded. Anakin could see that even her brushes had been snapped in two.
"I'm sorry, little one." Anakin leaned heavily against the door jam, trying to comfort himself. Well, it could have been worse. Much worse.
He stumbled into his room and was briefly thankful that the door had been closed and escaped damage. Anakin collapsed on the bed and stared miserably at the ceiling.
Maybe I should have told them the rest? Anakin thought guiltily. He turned and buried his face in his pillow.
I can't really remember it anyway, he reminded himself. It only lasted a few seconds just before the glowing stopped. If they ask about why I zoomed out towards the end, then I'll tell them. It's probably not important. And if I see it again then I can always tell them later.
Satisfied with his rationalization for the moment, Anakin drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
The Next Day
Mace Windu slowly paced the star map room. His calm face did not betray the amazement he felt. He and Anakin were alone in the beautiful room that Master Windu had chosen to teach him in. He stopped his pacing and faced Anakin.
"I must see this myself. Open your mind slowly."
Anakin fought back a wave of panic. He had suspected that Master Windu would want to see his vision, but he didn't like it. If Master Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan had asked me, I wouldn't have minded. But, I really don't want someone else in my head.
But he had to obey. Gradually, Anakin complied with the order and let Master Windu see the vision through his memory. He couldn't leave anything out, and hoped that the Jedi Master wouldn't laugh at how he'd fallen out of his seat. Anakin was a bit surprised when Master Windu froze the image of the children for what felt like several minutes.
What is he doing? Anakin began to analyze the picture. The small boy was standing to one side and the girl was sitting. In the air he counted twenty- three colorful toy blocks. The tower was already taller than the boy and those last suspended blocks would finish it. Suddenly, the vision resumed and the children clapped proudly as they placed the last block far above their heads.
"That's all," Anakin informed him.
The Jedi Master began to pace once more. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Anakin's eyes followed him. I don't care if he is the leader of the Council, he ought to explain to me why this bothers him!
Waiting as long as he could, Anakin spoke out. "If this is important then I need to know." Anakin hoped that he sounded at least somewhat polite.
Mace halted and clasped his hands behind his back. "Perhaps." He regarded Anakin very seriously. "That was a vision of the future. I am certain of it."
"A possible future?"
"Yes. I suspect that they are your future children or at least your descendants."
Anakin quietly asked, "How do you know..." He gasped suddenly and his eyes went blank. At once a new vision assaulted him.
Anakin realized with a start that this was a repeat of his second vision. However, this time it was much clearer. As had happened before, it began with a house and Tatooine's twin suns setting in the distance.
The suns filled the sky with orange.
Orange became red.
Red became fire.
An explosion burned at his eyes.
What blew up?
A figure emerged from the flames.
A cold night on Coruscant.
A red lightsaber gleams in the darkness.
A young man stands ready to fight.
The rush of images was becoming painful and Anakin desperately wished the vision would stop. As though the Force complied, one last image slowly came to him.
A lightsaber cutting off his right hand.
Anakin gasped for breath and slid heavily to the floor as the vision ceased. There was more this time. A lot more. I'd remember if I'd seen myself lose a hand during the last time.
"Anakin, calm your mind."
Anakin looked up quickly to see Master Windu's worried face. "You saw that too?"
"Yes, you were still broadcasting from the memory transference. This new vision seems to have followed it."
Instantly, Anakin raised his shields. But it wasn't a new vision. He stood back up and schooled his features. The last thing I want to do is talk about it. How can I distract him from making me review it?
Abruptly, Anakin remembered what he was asking before this vision happened.
"How did you know that what I saw was a vision of the future? And why do you think they're my kids?" His voice rose in agitation. "I'm just a kid! There's no way...." Anakin stopped, flashing back on the sense of familiarity he had felt when the children appeared in his vision.
"Exactly, Anakin," Mace said soothingly. "The sense I have that this is a future event is the resonance in the Force. In time you will learn to sense the difference. Then, the memory transference I saw...you have a connection with these children that is undeniable. You "know" them, even if you cannot put it into words. The fact that they can levitate objects at such a young age -- their Jedi status is beyond doubt. The rest of what you saw, the cutting off of your hand...that is particularly disturbing." He turned away from Anakin and began gazing out the window. "I must bring this to the attention of Master Yoda."
He's going to show my visions to the rest of the Council, I just know it!
The Third Month
A week later, Anakin waited patiently outside the Temple's Great Archive. This morning he was waiting for his first lesson with Council member Adi Gallia. The beautiful and elegant Jedi Master arrived perfectly on time. She was cool and calm as she glided into view.
She nodded her head to him and turned to enter the large ornate doors. Anakin quickly moved to follow. As they walked Anakin was careful to remain one step behind her and to not look too uncomfortable. Why do I get the feeling that she didn't want me to be a Jedi?
The Great Archive was an elaborate place. It was filled with everything you could imagine and even more that you could not. It was divided into sections for different objects. Master Gallia and Anakin passed a sign directing them to the ancient books, and skirted the edge of the artifacts section.
At the end of the passage they entered a domed room. Inside was an array of tables and chairs with many types of viewing machines. Master Gallia walked to the nearest unoccupied one.
"Sit here and place your hands on the device."
Anakin complied silently. If she doesn't want to talk to me then I won't talk to her.
"Tell me what was examined here last, a book or an object?"
Anakin stared at the empty machine. He could get no clues from its design. It was the standard type used for any kind of studying whether it be of a delicate book or a vial of liquid. I gotta use the Force to figure out what was here last. Anakin pursed his lips in irritation. Maybe if I kinda try to see the past... Anakin concentrated heavily. An unsteady, and very small blur seemed to form in front of him.
"Correct." Adi Gallia gracefully sat in the next chair. "This is called Psychometry. This ability allows a Jedi to telepathically get information, from an object or location, about its past."
"Telepathically?" Anakin stared.
"You have difficulty with this?"
"Yes, I do." I am not going to tell her that I can't do it at all.
"How did you know the answer?"
"Searching the past."
Master Gallia looked at him sharply. "That would be the hard way."
Gently, she tapped his mind to get his attention. "Follow the trail."
From there she showed him images of a stone path. Dutifully, Anakin let it take him to the machine mentally. Once there, he could clearly see an after image of what had last occupied that space. It was a small, intricate glass cup.
"This type of telepathy is not the same as mentally speaking to another person. Some find one way easier than the other, depending on their talents." Anakin nodded and repeated the exercise. He was very pleased to see that it took little effort.
"This skill is vital for learning information about who has been somewhere and what actions took place. The Jedi must be in contact with the item in some way, or it must be in the vicinity."
"Essentially, yes. "Details such as the identity of the last person to use an object, or its last location, are difficult but not impossible to ascertain. It is also sometimes possible to determine the emotions of the last person to handle an object. That requires a very high level of concentration and years of experience." She smiled down at Anakin. "I would be very surprised if it was something you could achieve, at your age."
Anakin smiled back. "Searching the past might be the hard way, but it seems to work for me."
Master Gallia stood up. "In that case, we will walk through the artifacts room and you will describe to me who last employed each item I point out."
As he followed her out he allowed his face to scrunch up in irritation.
"And next week you will do it blindfolded."
Anakin groaned silently.
A Week Later
Anakin skirted the edge of an obstacle and blocked a stinging energy bolt. The blindfold itched and sweat dripped from his forehead. Carefully he listened for the hum of the remotes' repulsor lifts. He had fought two remotes before, but not blindfolded.
Today's lesson was about how to magnify ones senses during combat. Obi-Wan had explained that most Padawans are not actually taught blind sensing. Instead, they learn this power automatically when lightsaber training with a blindfold on.
It sounded like a really smart way to learn when my masters explained it, but now it seems dumb. How often will I get blinded anyway?
Anakin did have excellent direction sense ability and often relied on it to locate an object by its resonance in the Force. The blindfold is a little overkill.
He gripped his new lightsaber tightly. It was a bright cyan blue. Kaely had picked the color. I am so glad this thing is done now. I hope that I don't have to build another, but at least I know it wouldn't be as hard to do again.
Unbidden, the image of someone losing their right hand came to him. He tried to repress a shudder. Maybe I really need to learn this saber stuff. Just in case.
The evening before, the Jedi Council had finally found the time to discuss Anakin's visions with his masters. They went to the Council chambers without Anakin. Mace Windu concisely related what he saw of Anakin's visions of the future. They deliberated for some time, but drew few conclusions. When they returned, Anakin did not ask what the Council had said. If anything, he behaved as though the entire incident had never taken place.
During this morning's training session Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan conversed quietly from the other side of the room. Anakin was busy battling two remotes while blindfolded. They had made it clear that they expected him to block with his saber or dodge, but simply absorbing the stings would be unacceptable.
Qui-Gon watched Anakin leap away from another bolt. "The Council is very concerned."
Obi-Wan responded without taking his eyes off of Anakin. "They disguise it well."
"Anakin seems unwilling to discuss any of this. I believe he would not have spoken to anyone of his visions if he'd had a choice."
"I am certain that the children he saw must at least be related to Anakin." Obi-Wan stopped speaking as Anakin came closer. They both stepped to one side as the boy ran past them. "No child, of any species, has been able to levitate an object at that age."
"It does make one curious -what Anakin would have been like if he was raised here. And how the Council would have coped?" Qui-Gon suddenly smiled.
"No better than they are now, I suspect," Obi-Wan grinned back.
"He would have overwhelmed the Cr?che Masters."
"Imitating everything he saw..."
"And probably levitating objects before he could walk."
There was a pause before Obi-Wan sighed. "Those toddlers built their tower so easily. I couldn't do that until I was seven years old."
Qui-Gon nodded to himself. "Ani's children will be powerful indeed."
Anakin stood his ground in a far corner and parried five energy bolts in quick succession.
"Good, Ani!" Obi-Wan praised.
Qui-Gon nodded. "He has nearly reached the normal lightsaber skill level for his age."
Obi-Wan looked over at his friend. "At least Ani appears to appreciate his weapon now."
"Yes, the second vision disturbed him."
"It disturbed me!" Obi-Wan couldn't hide his worry.
"Though they did not say it when they discussed this with us, I feel that the Council had determined little."
"It appeared to me that they assumed the young man in the vision was Anakin himself."
As Anakin came near them again, Qui-Gon tossed a small metal bar at him. Immediately, Anakin sliced it in three pieces before it could fall to the ground. They waited until the remotes had driven him away before continuing their conversation.
"I'm reluctant to analyze this too much myself. Anything about Anakin's future is all but impossible to for us to see."
"They can't be certain if this is an actual event to come or a metaphorical representation," Obi-Wan surmised.
"I hope that Ani will be ready for missions soon. They need us out there."
"I agree. The people have more interest in war then peace." Obi-Wan grinned as Anakin nimbly skipped across the unsteady floor without falling or becoming distracted from the remotes. "I wish Ani would tell us what he thinks of his visions."
Qui-Gon sighed quietly. "As do I. But we must not intrude, these things are too personal."
"How much longer?" Anakin called aloud. The Jedi had sensed his growing impatience as battling the remotes became easier throughout the lesson.
"Soon, don't complain," Qui-Gon answered. Suddenly, a third remote sprang into the air. Then a fourth and a fifth, and more came at Anakin firing wildly.
Anakin nearly panicked. He blocked a few of the bolts before realizing that the lightsaber would be useless against so many. Hastily, he Force shoved half of them across the room, while absorbing the stings from the others.
Drawing on the energy he'd collected over the entire lesson, Anakin built a Force shield around his body. Once he was certain it was secure he pulled off his blindfold and looked straight at Obi-Wan, frowning.
"I didn't do it," Obi-Wan protested fervently.
Qui-Gon's face was grave. "Kaely."
The little pink droid hovered and cooed innocently at him.
"Apologize to Anakin," he instructed her as he and Obi-Wan deactivated the remotes.
She bobbed in the air and moaned pitifully.
"Now, be good, Kaely," Qui-Gon warned.
Obi-Wan tried hard not to roll his eyes.
The Next Week
Anakin stood uncertainly in a small sparring arena. Across from him Lavir Ruoy unclipped his lightsaber. The older Padawan looked rather smug. A large group of Padawans of all ages filled a quarter of the seats and still more were arriving.
Anakin sighed silently. How did I get into this mess? He thought back to lunchtime. Suoicarg and Elbaima had been relating to him all of the latest Temple gossip. Anakin had been rather bored until they mentioned that Lavir had returned.
His friends gushed over how Lavir's master had successfully convinced the Hapans to send ambassadors to Coruscant. They explained to him in excruciating detail how long the Republic had waited for Hapes to join and how much work had gone into persuading them to talk.
Anakin was almost grateful when Lavir had approached their table...
"I don't have time for a lightsaber duel."
Lavir gestured haughtily. "You cannot turn down a challenge. I insist."
"Watch me." Anakin stood up and walked away.
The older boy's eyes narrowed. "Uoytlusn!"
Anakin stopped and looked back at him.
"It's pronounced, Uoytlusni," he said coolly.
"How would you know?"
"I speak Huttese, unfortunately for you. I know all the curse words."
Suoicarg's eyes were wide and Elbaima was speechless. A group of Padawans passed close to them to leave the dining hall and Lavir suddenly changed tactics.
"This is merely a sparring match. Surely, you can spare the time." Lavir looked down at Anakin's companions. "Wouldn't you agree? Help me encourage him."
Elbaima thought about it a moment before answering. "It might be fun, Ani. I'm sure Lavir won't go too hard on you."
"I would like to see you spar. This is such a prestigious opportunity," Suoicarg explained.
"You must be very good and I would be honored to test your skills myself," Lavir cajoled.
They assume I fight really well just because Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are teaching me! Anakin's heart sank. And now I really wish I'd just kept walking away.
Anakin stood calmly with his ignited lightsaber pointed low to the floor. Lavir gracefully assumed a ready stance with his emerald lightsaber up and prepared to counter whatever strike Anakin chose.
For several seconds each waited for the other to attack. Lavir had been trained that Jedi do not attack, instead they defend when assaulted. Waiting for his opponent to move first was just Anakin's way.
Finally, realizing that they would be waiting forever, Lavir lunged forward. He struck lightly to test Anakin's strength. Anakin was slim and nearly as tall as Lavir, although he was no match for the 18-year-old's muscles.
Anakin chose to parry and dodge before the blow could overwhelm his defenses. He slid to Lavir's left side and struck at his torso. But Lavir skipped backward and swept his lightsaber at Anakin's feet. It was a simple trick, but very effective against a slower opponent.
Anakin's leap to avoid the green blade carried him high into the air. Everyone in the crowd was surprised, including Lavir, at Anakin's speed. It looked like he had greatly overcompensated or was desperate to retreat. Anakin was doing neither. He descended and alighted nimbly on Lavir's right shoulder. He waited with his blade held still and unthreatening for Lavir to react.
The crowd stared speechless as Anakin balanced calmly on one foot. Lavir stared up at him for a second before retaliating. He swung his saber up with one hand and grabbed Anakin's ankle with the other. Anakin parried the blade and used the Force to remain firmly rooted to the older teenager's shoulder, despite how hard he tried to yank Anakin off.
Realizing that tactic had failed, Lavir twisted and flipped away. Anakin had no choice but to release him. Lavir landed in a crouch some distance away while Anakin gently floated to the ground. The horde of Padawans began cheering again.
Lavir began to stalk like a predator, circling closer and closer in the sparring space. Anakin held his lightsaber loosely and gazed at him with a bored expression. The excited crowd's roar grew louder and louder.
In a flash of power and strength, Lavir leaped at Anakin. He struck out at the younger boy with all of his might and drove his saber's point straight at Anakin. Those still sitting in the crowd leapt to their feet and gasped.
Anakin's lightsaber remained low at his side. He took one step to his left.
Lavir's deactivated lightsaber bounced across the floor and Anakin held his blue blade to Lavir's neck.
Absolute silence reigned. Anakin lowered his saber and switched it off. Lavir's dark eyes stared at him. He finally stepped back two steps, but neither's cold expressions changed. Collectively, the crowd seemed to remember to breathe and began babbling frantically.
"I never saw him even move!"
"He must have kicked it out of Lavir's hand."
"Well he didn't raise his lightsaber until afterwards!"
"That is the strangest duel I've ever seen!"
The Padawans quieted at once when they saw Lavir lift one hand. "You are quite skilled in acrobatics, Skywalker. However, I noticed that you rarely employed your weapon."
"I don't enjoy dueling."
"I can see that. Training with Master Jinn and Knight Kenobi must be exhausting." Lavir stepped away and turned to address the crowd, but then stopped and glanced back at Anakin.
"How old are you?" He asked off-handedly in a quieter, yet still audible, voice.
"Thirteen. What business is it of yours?" Anakin was becoming increasingly irritated. And why exactly are we having this conversation in front of an audience.
He almost missed the shocked reaction of the crowd. Lavir was stiff and spoke very clearly. "How long have you been a Padawan?"
Anakin decided that not answering would be more trouble than it was worth. "About three months."
Lavir raised one dark brow, but the rest of his face remained stony. "You have neither the appearance nor the resonance in the Force of a new Padawan." His voice was strained. Then he announced loudly, "I would greatly enjoy a rematch. You have potential with a lightsaber and hope you will use it more in our next duel. In the meantime, I must brush up on my acrobatic skills."
The crowd was pleased and clapped wildly.
They didn't even wait for me to answer. It would never occur to any of them that I wouldn't want to. I'm sick of this. Without a word or a look back, Anakin left.
Two Months Later
"Anakin, I'd like to introduce Etaicerppa." Suoicarg waved one elegant hand towards the lanky teenage Bith.
"Hi, have a seat!" Anakin smiled in welcome and slid over to make room. There were nearly a dozen Padawans crowded around the large table.
Etaicerppa gratefully sat down with them. Since the duel with Lavir, Anakin had discovered many Padawans wanted to be friends with him and would smile and greet him in the hallways. Once Anakin would have quickly become friends with everyone he met. But the three years he struggled while enslaved by pirates, living on his own and running from a Sith had taken their toll. Anakin had to frequently remind himself that silence and caution were no longer necessary for survival.
"Ani, I told Etaicerppa what a good mechanic you are and he needs your help," Suoicarg explained.
The shy Bith ducked his head. "I attend a ship repair class in between missions with my master. The teacher has discovered a problem with one of the shuttles. I was wondering if you could help?"
"Sure, is that okay?"
"Oh yes, if you can assist us the teacher would be most obliged and you wouldn't be doing my assignment for me. My class is the tenth hour. When can you come?"
Anakin thought for a moment before he remembered that the next day would be a Council lesson. He'd already received a holo-message explaining that his lesson would not take place until the afternoon. "Tomorrow is fine. Can you meet me here to take me to your class?"
"Yes! That would be excellent. I am most grateful." Etaicerppa self-consciously ducked his head again.
Anakin followed his new acquaintance uncertainly. The ship repair bay was large and reeked of oil and engine fluid. Anakin thought it was the greatest smell in the galaxy. Except for maybe Padme's perfume. It was very hard for him to restrain himself from immediately examining the nearest ship.
The teacher looked up at them as she finished helping two students. She was human and much older than Qui-Gon, with gray and white hair. Her kind face had deep smile lines. "Good morning."
"Master Reh-caet, this is Anakin Skywalker," Etaicerppa said happily.
"Welcome Anakin, I have heard much about you. Etaicerppa has told me that you are a skilled mechanic." She led him to a shuttle by the far wall. It was a standard two-passenger ship typically flown by Jedi on short trips to the other Core worlds.
She opened an exterior panel to show him. "This ship has been out for some time due to the nature of the last users' mission. At one point they unexpectedly ended up flying out to the Mid Rim and the ship was damaged in a fight."
Anakin noticed she gave no names and wondered if she wasn't allowed or if she didn't know herself. He concentrated on the mass of wires she pulled out.
"They fixed what they could, but had to rely on the locals to patch together a temporary repair for the rest. I have shown this to several other Masters, yet none of them had ever seen such an unusual kind of repair. I'm not even sure how to remove it without cutting out and replacing the entire cooling system."
Master Reh-caet stepped back and smiled. "I would greatly appreciate it if you can take this mess out. Then my students will repair it themselves."
"I'll do my best." Eagerly Anakin dug his hands into the wires and searched for a circuit board. Master Reh-caet went to assist another Padawan. Etaicerppa and his class partner were assigned this ship and watched Anakin curiously.
"Hi!" Anakin said to the second Padawan. She was very tall, thin and he could tell that she was female, but she looked like she had no face. I just know I'll be spending hours trying to find out what species she is.
Despite the fact that she had no visible mouth, she answered in a pleasant voice. "Greetings Anakin, I am L'latyrev."
She reached out a branch-like hand with pencil thin fingers. Anakin shook it, surprised that she knew that ancient human custom and hoped his grasp didn't hurt her.
"Pleased to meet you, too!"
"You have an unusual accent. May I ask why?"
"Uh, well. I wasn't raised here on Coruscant." Please don't ask where or why.
She nodded politely and Anakin sighed with relief. Anakin returned to his dilemma. What is this odd thing? He twisted the tiny device's wires out of his way to get a better look.
Without warning Anakin swiftly Force shoved the two Padawans across the room and flipped backwards in the air. He landed lightly and braced himself.
The explosion rocked the room, knocking the nearest students to the floor. The flash of orange briefly blinded everyone. Those with the quickest reflexes had taken cover behind the other ships in time and now stood up in shock.
A green and orange inferno hung suspended in the air. Even the smoke and sparks were frozen. Anakin stood stiffly near it with his palms held out and his eyes closed.
"Get them out!" Anakin said through clenched teeth.
Instantly, Master Reh-caet used the Force to slam open the entrance doors and bellowed, "Out! Run to the Efas Stairs!"
The stunned Padawans obeyed immediately and poured out of the hanger bay. Master Reh-caet herself stopped near the door and called out to Anakin.
"Several Masters are on their way, is there anything I can do to help you?"
She didn't hesitate to follow her startled class.
The Jedi Council was in a special session with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in the Council Spire. He had specially asked to speak with the entire Council and he had graciously offered to go to them.
"This is becoming increasingly serious." Palpatine's voice carried softly in the room.
"We have been preparing for some time now," Master Windu consoled him.
"That is a great relief. However, many of my recent efforts have failed. To use the recent disagreement on Duro as an example, they decline all offers of help. They politely but firmly turned away a team of negotiators and they have now even rejected your guidance." He gestured to the Jedi Masters surrounding him.
Yoda nodded gravely. "Prefer battle they do."
"I am greatly distressed to say that these refusals are becoming more and more commonplace. The people do not want peace." Palpatine's words dripped with sadness and grief.
Before the Supreme Chancellor had finished speaking all of the Jedi stiffened visibly. Palpatine noticed and looked at Master Windu expectantly.
"Something urgent requires our attention. We must continue later. My apologies, Chancellor." Quickly, Mace followed Master Yoda and Master Eeth Koth out of the chamber. The rest remained to try to alleviate the Chancellor's concerns and schedule another discussion at a later date.
Smoke billowed at Anakin's feet and he hardly dared to breathe. The explosion in front of him was still moving, but very slowly. At first he'd instantly blocked it and his shield held the fire back. However, now Anakin was getting tired and the flames were creeping closer and closer.
Anakin squeezed his eyes even tighter.
~~Steady, Anakin. Help is on the way.~~
Qui-Gon's voice carried over to him through the training bond. Anakin felt a little guilty that he didn't think to call out for help. I gotta remember that they are there.
~~Focus, Ani.~~ Obi-Wan instructed him. ~~Master Yoda is almost to you. Just keep going a little longer.~~
Anakin shuddered as the mass of burning gasses and fire began to approach him a little faster. I don't think I'm doing this right. He recalled how Master Yoda had halted the Sith's energy ball months ago.
Maybe there is another way. Carefully, Anakin took a breath of the decreasing amount of clean air. The fire is just too big, I've gotta get rid of some of it.
Anakin concentrated on what Master Eeth Koth had taught him over the last four weeks.
"Absorbing energy is an effective way to remove a danger," Master Koth had said in his latest lecture. "However, that energy does not need to be completely dissipated. Rather, you can convert it. This ability allows you to form a conduit and power an object. This power must be handled with great care for it is easy to overwhelm an object and burn out or even cause it to explode."
The flames were brushing against Anakin's palms now. Automatically, he began to absorb it. I need to send it somewhere. What's in here that I could use? He tried to crack open one eye and immediately regretted it. The stinging smoke and bright fire hurt and prevented him from seeing anything.
Finally, Anakin opted to redirect the energy into the nearest ships. He probed the other vessels carefully for their power cells and hoped that he didn't overload them. At least they were all off, so they wouldn't explode.
Anakin desperately held his breath. His lungs begged for air, but he didn't dare risk choking on the smoke and losing his concentration. But passing out won't work either. Please, someone get here soon!
Jedi Masters do not run in the Temple. At least that's what the Padawans always believed, having never seen a Master actually need to run. So, Master Reh-caet's class was understandably surprised when Master Windu and Master Koth leaped down the Efas Staircase. However, seeing Master Yoda slide down the banister on one foot left them stunned speechless.
Yoda picked up speed and passed the other two Council members. At the end he flew off and sailed above the small crowd of Padawan heads. They ducked instinctively, and were glad they did when they saw Mace and Eeth Koth leapt over them as well.
They were only a little more prepared when Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan came barreling around the corner.
Even before the Jedi Masters entered the hanger bay, Anakin could sense them reaching out to him. The flames and dangerous gasses completely surrounded Anakin from view.
Master Yoda came close to him with Mace and Eeth flanking either side. Eeth Koth's eyes went wide as he recognized instantly what Anakin was doing. His short tan horns turned white in surprise. Obi-Wan slid into the room followed by Qui-Gon. They stopped behind Yoda and waited expectantly.
Mace turned his head. "Tell him to be still."
"Don't move, Ani!" Qui-Gon then nodded to Mace. Cautiously, they pushed away the fire around Anakin.
"Back up slowly," Obi-Wan told him when the path was clear. Warily, Anakin complied.
"Your grip, release to us," Yoda ordered him. Anakin waited until he was sure they had control before letting go completely.
Anakin took a deep breath as he felt the Jedi Masters and Obi-Wan all work to build a shield surrounding the entire explosion. Once it was steady, the Council members held it up, allowing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to see to Anakin.
Obi-Wan stepped up behind him and rested his hands on Anakin's shoulders. "Are you hurt?"
Anakin opened his eyes and watched the lack of oxygen begin to gradually snuff out the fire. "I don't think so," he said hoarsely.
Qui-Gon walked in front and scrutinized him. Anakin was shaking from fatigue, but wasn't burnt. He lifted Anakin's chin. "How about your eyes?"
"I closed them in time."
The last of the flames went out and the Masters dispersed their shield.
"We will examine this incident ourselves. Take Anakin to be treated," Mace ordered them seriously. He and the others looked very grim.
"Can you walk back?" Qui-Gon asked Anakin quietly.
"Of course." Anakin looked vaguely insulted as they left the hanger bay.
They moved slowly down the passage and were relieved to see that the class of Padawans was now gone. Anakin's breathing was shallow and unsteady.
Sensing their worry Anakin spoke up quickly. "I don't need to go to the Healers. I'm sure I can walk home just fine."
Obi-Wan looked stern and Qui-Gon was unconvinced. "Really!" Anakin insisted.
"Very well. However, if you stumble even once on the way you will go see them," Obi-Wan sternly commanded.
Qui-Gon didn't speak, but watched Anakin intently the entire journey. When they arrived successfully, neither Jedi were sure if they should be relieved or even more concerned.
Anakin went quietly to his room and collapsed on the bed.
"Is he truly unharmed?" Obi-Wan glanced at the teenager's closed door.
"I could not sense anything serious. However, he may be very clever at hiding his injuries, even from us," Qui-Gon replied.
That evening Obi-Wan groaned as the holo-terminal rang again. The three of them had holed up in their apartment to avoid their friends and spare themselves the inevitable questions. Anakin had slept all afternoon and had now taken over answering the com for his harried masters.
"Could you get that, Ani?"
"Sure." Anakin flopped down in the seat at the terminal.
It took him a moment to recognize the Mon Calamari. "Oh, hi, Master Bant!"
"Is Obi-Wan around?"
"Actually he's kinda oblong."
Bant unsuccessfully repressed a snicker and Qui-Gon didn't even try to hide his smile. Obi-Wan looked a bit stunned.
"Ani!" Obi-Wan leapt up from the sofa where he was reading. Anakin quickly darted to the safety of his room before Obi-Wan could retaliate.
Anakin waited by the closed door until he sensed Obi-Wan leave. Slowly, he crept out, wary of a trap. Ah, he's probably gone to his room to meditate or to escape Kaely.
Before he could leave the alcove, the holo-link loudly announced that it had received another call. Anakin slouched back in the chair.
"Hello Ani, I've only have a few moments to speak with you before my master returns. Are you injured badly?" Elbaima looked very worried.
"No, I'm fine, I didn't even have to see the healers."
"Everyone's talking about the terrible explosion!"
"Really, people are exaggerating. Everything was fine and no one was hurt."
Frantically, Anakin tried to think of a way to distract him from asking more questions.
"I have to stay cooped up for the rest of the day. No working on my lessons, no going anywhere, can't build stuff at my work table, and of course no lightsaber practice, but I don't mind about that."
"You act like it's a punishment, some would see it as a vacation with no lessons to do!"
Elbaima grinned. "Don't let your masters hear you say that!"
Anakin smirked back at his friend. "I know, but I can get away with it today."
"I'm out of time, I'll see you tomorrow, Ani."
Anakin had almost made it to the kitchen when a trilling sound emanated from the terminal again. He groaned.
"It's probably for you again, Ani," Qui-Gon said quietly.
Wearily, Anakin keyed the holo terminal's blinking light. He glanced down at the unfamiliar address and waited as the image appeared. "Good afternoon," Anakin politely greeted her. Qui-Gon had introduced him to her once, but Anakin couldn't remember her name.
"How are you feeling, Anakin?" She asked.
"Better, okay I guess. You want to talk to Master Qui-Gon?"
"Yes, I would."
Anakin stood up from the chair and went into the kitchen when Qui-Gon took his place.
"Qui-Gon, I thought perhaps you'd like to talk?"
He remained serious. "Yes, would you like to meet in one of the gardens? The dining hall would be too crowded."
"I see. Would you like to come here? I'll put a kettle on for tea."
"Yes, that is fine. I would invite you to dine with us this evening, however I'd rather speak with you..."
"...where I can't hear!" Anakin yelled from the kitchen.
Qui-Gon was unperturbed. "I'll see you in a few minutes."
"Don't torment Obi-Wan, Ani." Qui-Gon glanced at Anakin briefly as he left the apartment.
Anakin sighed and mumbled to himself. "But there's nothing else to do."
He set his snack on the floor and stretched out on the sofa. Lazily he turned on the holo-vision and flipped channels. Once again the com rang and Anakin dragged himself back to the alcove. He quickly schooled his face into an expressionless mask when he saw who was calling.
"Good evening, Master Yaddle. How are you today?"
"Healthy I am. Recovered have you?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
"Informing you I am of rescheduling the lesson next week."
"Thank you. What time?"
"Eighth hour, bring your droid as well."
"Yes ma'am, I will."
Yaddle smiled. "Looking forward to this, I am. Keep out of trouble." She ended the transmission.
Why does she want Kaely to come? Anakin thought in confusion. How does Master Yaddle even know about Kaely?
Anakin had just gotten comfortable on the sofa again when the holo terminal's trill echoed in the apartment. The sound rang incessantly and grated his ears. Anakin desperately wished there was a way to just turn the thing off. Maybe I'll have time to take it apart tomorrow, surely my masters would understand? He wished.
He hauled himself off of the sofa and stomped to the terminal in the alcove. All of the lights were off. He stared at it puzzled for a moment before he heard the trilling sound repeat again, but this time from behind him.
Anakin turned around in irritation. "Kaely, don't you have anything better to do than torture me?"
Beginning of the Sixth Month
Anakin painfully pulled himself out of bed the next morning. He wanted badly to sleep later. He ached inside and out. It was early, but he knew if he didn't get up now he never would.
Kaely hummed quietly on his desk. He decided to unplug her from the recharge port later, or just let her do it. She'd learned how to lift and adjust the cords lately. It made Anakin feel rather unneeded now that she could feed herself.
Next she'll start acting insulted when I call her a baby. Anakin sighed. He pulled on his Jedi tunics slowly and winced. He leaned heavily against the desk and shielded his mind tightly. Tentatively, he reached along the training bond to locate his masters and determine if they had sensed his pain.
Anakin was surprised to feel that they were not only both awake, but in the kitchen. He looked at his chrono. I'm up over an hour early, what are they up for?
Quietly, Anakin crept out of his room. This would be a good time to practice shielding myself. He pulled the Force close to him and made every thought and move a whisper in the Force. It was very hard, but his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
The kitchen door was closed, and for a moment Anakin was stumped. They are probably talking about me. How do you enhance your senses without being noticed? It took Anakin nearly ten minutes to finally work up enough of a shield to hide, and even another couple of minutes to listen to the conversation on the other side of the door. Anakin didn't feel the least bit guilty about spying on his masters.
"... it depends on the range," Obi-Wan was saying.
"We agreed, though I must admit I spent more time talking."
"She is a good listener. What else did she say and how did she react?"
"As calmly as could be expected. She has also heard rumors that Master Yoda slid down a banister in his haste to reach Ani."
There was a pause. "And we missed it! What I wouldn't give for a holo of that!"
"She also heard plenty of details about the explosion. Half the Temple is convinced it was a bomb, while the rest hope it was an accident."
"What are we supposed to say when they barrage us?"
"As little as possible," Qui-Gon continued. "She has spoken to some of the students from that repair class as well. It took her some time to weed out significant details from all of their shocked explanations."
"Did any of them notice what Ani really did?"
"Not yet. Most of the class was made up of young Padawans and they had never seen someone suspend matter particles before. Only one, a healer apprentice, came close to recognizing it."
"Yes, a healer would be the most likely to notice. So, the rest assumed Ani used a Force shield?"
"Yes. However, it will only take one Padawan overhearing a Master or Knight discussing it for the whole Temple to know."
"How did do the other masters feel about it? I would like to know their reactions," Obi-Wan asked.
"Though they are impressed that Ani has gained such precise control, it worries them as well. I think this has startled everyone as much as it did the Council."
"Yes, and us," Qui-Gon echoed.
Suddenly, Anakin sensed them both become alert. Caught! Argg! he thought in irritation.
As nonchalantly as possible, Anakin opened the kitchen door. "Good morning." He said breezily. He went to collect his breakfast and hoped that they didn't ask him about his sneakiness. Quickly, he thought of something to say that might distract them.
"So, what will the Council do to whoever set the bomb?"
They stared at him a moment. Obi-Wan glanced at Qui-Gon briefly before replying. "Why do you feel that it was a bomb and not an accident?"
"'Cause I saw the detonator."
"The Council did not find any evidence of a deliberate explosion during their first examination of the debris," Qui-Gon explained. He and Obi-Wan looked at each other again. "What type of detonator was it?"
"Hidden kind. Like the ones that sneaky assassins use. It was very small without any flashing lights or count down numbers at all."
"So, no one would know what it was?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Then how did you know?"
Anakin looked a little stunned for a second. Me and my big mouth. I should have known Obi-Wan would ask that.
"The pirates had them. If they suspected a bad deal they'd plant one on their buyer's ship."
"I see." Obi-Wan was distressed. "Ani, are you sure? We can't go to the Council without proof."
"Then let's go get some!" Anakin said brightly.
"Very well," Qui-Gon decided. "However, getting there may be somewhat difficult. Everyone we see will forget to be polite and unobtrusive. You know how they are reacting to this."
Obi-Wan watched Anakin's face fall. "Perhaps its time to show him how to sneak around other Jedi?" He glanced over a Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon smiled faintly at Anakin's hopeful look. "It might be fun. And after his attempt this morning, he does need the practice."
They laughed at Anakin's insulted look. "Hey, I was doing really well at first!"
Avoiding the rest of the Jedi was not too difficult. It was still early in the morning and the dining halls were not serving breakfast yet. Qui-Gon and Obi- Wan spent much of the trip showing Anakin small tricks and shielding for him when they did encounter people. They told him he would have to do it himself afterwards. Kaely was just a tiny droid, so they had no need to conceal her.
The ship repair bay was exactly as they had left it the day before. Nothing had been removed or cleaned up. The smell of smoke clung to the air and the floor of the blast site was black with carbon scouring. Kaely whistled in surprise when she saw the mess.
All but one of the ships was intact. Little remained of the shuttle Anakin had tried to fix, much of the metal hull melted and twisted. They meticulously navigated the debris, careful not to disturb it.
"It is no wonder the Council hasn't found evidence of a bomb. There is little to find," Obi-Wan surmised.
Qui-Gon walked around the other side of the ship while Obi-Wan scanned the blast's ground zero. Anakin felt rather useless.
"Anakin," Qui-Gon said. "Look for anything that was blown off in the shockwave."
Dutifully, the Padawan set to work searching for clues. Moving farther away, Anakin tried to remember if any part of that type of bomb would throw debris out of its blast range. It seemed unlikely, but because the explosion had been contained, there was a chance.
Anakin mumbled quietly to Kaely as he hunted. "Not much is there? Oh, I think this ship slid over some."
Kaely loudly beeped in alarm. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon glanced briefly at her, but continued their own search. Anakin stepped gingerly through several scattered tools.
"What is it?" He looked down at the floor where Kaely hovered. She flashed her yellow lights and turned her tiny spotlight on. On the deck was a patch of brownish red.
"Kaely, that's dried blood. Don't worry about it, little one." Anakin gauged the distance and direction from the blast in dismay. Guilt and concern assaulted him when he realized that this was where the two Padawans he had shoved had landed. I must have pushed them too hard. I should have called them last night to check if they were okay.
Anakin finally returned to his masters. "I haven't found anything."
Qui-Gon looked over at him. "Neither have we. Ani, I can see nothing even remotely suggestive of a bomb."
"This was very well planned." Obi-Wan was kneeling next to the melted slag that had once been the engine. "If no one had examined the ship before, then this could be more plausibly called sabotage, but as it is..."
Anakin sighed dismally and Kaely gave an electronic tone of sympathy.
"What about Psychometry?"
"On this?" Obi-Wan gestured to the debris. "Too many people have come and gone around this shuttle."
"What if we only focused on the area where the detonator actually was?"
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan looked at the pool of cold metal on the floor. Anakin waited anxiously for an answer.
"I mean, surely a little fire can't erase a Force signature?"
Finally Qui-Gon appeared convinced. "Find a clear space to sit, Ani."
They sat in a rough circle around the blast center. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan immediately dropped into a meditative state. Anakin looked at them curiously. Meditation had always been too dangerous for him and he marveled at the peace and steady connection to the Force it provided for the Jedi.
Quietly, but careful to remain alert, Anakin allowed the Force to flow. It always seemed to rush at him and demand his attention. Anakin fought to shield his mind from the overwhelming information the Force threw at him.
It wasn't easy, but gradually Anakin located the remains of the detonator in the slag. Seeing a precise image of who had held it last was very difficult. Anakin was surprised when at first it didn't seem to work.
Am I doing something wrong? Anakin felt along the training bonds he had with his masters. They were both calm and searching attentively. He picked up on the trail they were following and tagged along.
New images flashed by. Himself before the device exploded, the teacher, the two Padawans assigned to repair this ship. Next he briefly saw other Masters and Knights. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan identified each as those Master Reh-caet had shown the strange repair to.
Now the process was much slower and the trail much fainter. Dimly they saw the two Jedi that had flown the ship on their mission. As their searching became more difficult Anakin had trouble staying on track.
Abruptly, an unpleasant ripple in the blurry Force images distracted Anakin. His masters didn't appear to notice and continued their hunt backwards. However, Anakin felt strongly compelled to investigate.
Anakin held tightly to what he sensed and drew hard on the Force. It took all of his concentration to identify the source. I've felt this nasty feeling before! Anakin gasped in recognition and felt himself slam back into awareness.
Master Qui-Gon pulled out of his trance in response and Obi-Wan broke out of his unwillingly. It was obvious that Anakin's quick exit had jarred both of their senses harshly. They had intended to follow the trail to the origin of the damage.
"It was a Sith!"
"I did not sense it," Qui-Gon told him.
Anakin looked crestfallen and glanced at Obi-Wan, but the young man just shook his head. He had not felt it either.
"I'm sure of it!"
"Show us," Obi-Wan told him.
Taking a deep breath Anakin sent them the impression he had received. He reopened his eyes afterward and was disappointed to see that neither of his Masters was completely convinced. Don't they believe me? Or do they just really not want it to be the Sith?
"How did you see that, but not us?" Obi-Wan murmured.
Qui-Gon closed his eyes in thought. "Ani, we must go through the search again, from the beginning, and you must show us exactly how this came to your attention."
Anakin sighed. He was becoming tired and still ached from the day before. However, he wasn't about to let them know that. He had thought the first time was slow, but the second was excruciating. By the time they reached the whisper left by the Sith Anakin's patience had run out.
"Okay, can we just go home now?" Anakin asked wearily.
"We must inform the Council of this at once."
"Do I have to go too?"
Anakin almost sounded whiny. Obi-Wan looked at him strangely and Qui-Gon frowned. Oops, I should have kept my mouth shut.
"Anakin you are certainly not feeling well," Qui-Gon observed.
"We will take you back home for now, but the Council will want you to show them later," Obi-Wan explained. "Time to be sneaky again."
Anakin grinned lopsidedly.
"Quieter, Ani," Qui-Gon instructed Anakin.
They crept along the hallway silently. It was good practice for sensing the distance of approaching people as well as how to avoid them. Anakin had built a passable shield to hide his presence in the Force.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had to work hard together to disguise Anakin on the way to the hanger bay earlier that morning. Now that it was late morning, the Temple was very busy and navigating their way back to the apartment was a challenge. Anakin's presence shined brilliantly and took great effort to conceal.
They had taught Anakin how to do it and the teenager imitated them with extraordinary skill. Naturally, they didn't tell him that. No need to alarm him or bolster his pride.
Stealthily, Anakin walked far ahead of them and practiced blending into recesses in the wall when another Jedi passed. Fortunately, most Jedi kept their defenses down and were not alert in the Temple. As they moved onward they came to a major intersection.
Up until now they had managed to avoid the busier areas of the Temple. They had to get access to a turbolift that went to their level. Otherwise they would have to climb the outside of the Temple. It was one of the smaller lift foyers, but, even here, dozens of Jedi and Padawans were coming and going.
Anakin stopped at an overhang and waited for his masters to catch up. "What now?"
Obi-Wan glanced out. "This is the tricky part."
"Someone is sure to notice us," Anakin said.
"If we are visible they will," Qui-Gon replied.
Anakin's eyes grew wide and he grinned.
"Go slowly, don't rush or you will give yourself away," Obi-Wan reminded him.
Qui-Gon looked down at Anakin's eager face. "We will watch you from here until you are by a lift and then we will follow."
"I won't get caught." Anakin said confidently. "How will we get into a lift without them seeing?"
"By moving really fast," Obi-Wan smirked.
"Go now," Qui-Gon instructed.
Anakin drew strongly on the Force and moved. He heeded their instructions carefully. It took nearly ten minutes before he reached the nearest turbolift. He was so happy he almost gave himself away, but he maintained his concentration. When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan arrived, all three of them leapt into the lift and Obi-Wan keyed the door shut.
Anakin collapsed against the wall laughing. "That was fun!"
Obi-Wan smiled at him. "Good, because you will have to do it again when we get out."
Anakin was very tempted to stick his tongue out at Obi-Wan's smirking face.
"Be ready Anakin," Qui-Gon told him. "The Temple lifts are not equipped to go non-stop. Someone else could come aboard."
Master Yoda waited patiently for the next turbolift. He cast about him in the Force to sense the general ambiance of the Jedi in the Temple. Emotions of concern, anxiety and even a little fear were what he primarily sensed. Everyone was shaken by the previous day's explosion.
The lift car arrived and the door slid silently open. No one was standing inside. The old master hobbled in. When the door shut he spoke loudly.
"Down from there!"
Anakin carefully dropped from the ceiling. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan followed. They stood up calmly and waited for the ancient Master to speak further.
"Mynocks you are not! Explain yourself." Yoda looked directly at Anakin.
"My masters are teaching me how to avoid people and hide my presence in the Force today," Anakin kept his composure and struggled to keep a smile off his face.
Yoda immediately saw through him. "Answer other's questions, you wish not. Crept about on ceilings all morning have you?"
"Yes, Master Yoda. When we couldn't get around groups."
"Avoid them forever you cannot. No help sneakiness is."
"Yes, Master Yoda." Anakin repeated and tried not to look like he was ignoring the green troll.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan finally took pity on him. Quickly, Qui-Gon thought of a way to distract Yoda from lecturing further.
"My master, we have learned that the bomb was set by the Sith."
Yoda's eyes widened and his pointy ears rose slightly. "Proof of this have you?"
Anakin was pleased to see that something could surprise even Yoda. Obi-Wan glanced at him in warning lest Yoda notice Anakin's glee.
"We are certain of it and are prepared to show the Council." Obi-Wan explained.
"Show us you today you will."
"You didn't sense it was a Sith either, did you?" Anakin said suddenly.
Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stiffened and waited for Yoda's reaction. They were surprised when he didn't take offense to Anakin's rudeness.
"Know it must be we did." Yoda admitted wearily. "Though sense it we did not."
Anakin slumped at his desk. He and his masters had spent much of the afternoon with the Jedi Council concerning the bomb. He was exhausted. They had thoughtfully allowed him to return to the apartment, but Anakin suspected that they intended to talk about him with Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
He needed to talk to someone, but not a Jedi. Anakin couldn't tell any of them about what had happened and his masters already knew. He leaned forward to rest his head wearily on the desktop.
"I know that bomb had something to do with me. Maybe it was meant to test me or kill me." Anakin said suddenly aloud. He looked up when Kaely beeped in confusion at him.
"I can feel it," he told her. "It sounds really far-fetched doesn't it? How could the Sith know that I would be there, in a class I don't attend? How could they take the chance that the Jedi wouldn't just remove the whole system that was sloppily repaired and replace it? They might have just thrown the bomb away without it ever going off. Why did it take so long to go off anyhow? It had to have been there for weeks. Seems like a really huge coincidence. But somehow they knew..."
The pink droid hovered and landed on the desk. She opened one of her tiny compartments and extended her grasping appendage. Kaely patted his arm gently and cooed consolingly.
"I'm not paranoid. They really are out to get me," Anakin said dully. "The only other purpose I can think of is if it was meant to be a diversion. Blow a big hole in a hanger bay to distract a bunch of Jedi and sneak in or something. Sneak in and do what, though?"
Anakin grimaced. "That sounds even worse. Either way, a Sith was probably ready and waiting for it to go off...but I spoiled it."
He looked over at his tiny droid. Kaely was humming and listening. Her bright eyes were trained on him. "Don't worry, Kaely. After this, security around here will be very tight. Another bomb won't make it in here."
Anakin wasn't sure if he was trying to only comfort his droid or himself as well. "The Sith will just think of another way in. I've got to find out how."
Anakin reached for an ancient book on the shelf. It was one of his thirteenth birthday presents. Opening it at the last place he marked, he continued reading about how the Sith were defeated a thousand years ago.
"Why are they after me?"
A Month Later
A few weeks after the bomb incident, Anakin came stomping into the apartment with Kaely following close behind. Waves of anger rolled off him. He quickly jogged towards his room.
"Anakin, stop," Master Qui-Gon ordered.
The teenager halted as ordered, but did not turn around. Kaely moaned uncertainly.
"Go on Kaely," Qui-Gon told her kindly. "Anakin, sit."
Without answering or looking up, Anakin stiffly sat in a chair in the front room. He struggled to calm himself and knew that Qui-Gon would not allow him to speak until he had done so.
But Anakin's anger did not decrease, not even when Obi-Wan arrived a quarter of an hour later.
"Ani, what set you off this time?" Obi-Wan inquired in a stunned voice.
Anakin carefully restrained himself from looking up. Glaring at one's master was not a good idea and he didn't trust himself to even speak.
Unlike Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan preferred to work on the problem immediately. And in this case it appeared that waiting would be of no help. "Isn't today your last lesson with Master Yaddle?"
Anakin nodded briefly.
"You were enjoying learning how to understand Kaely and other machine's methods of speech with the Force, as well as understanding animals. What happened?"
"Nothing, it wasn't that." Anakin voice was strained and terse.
Obi-Wan fell silent and leaned against the wall. Qui-Gon had not moved from his place on the sofa. They both waited patiently for Anakin to compose himself.
"This has to do with the bomb," Qui-Gon deduced. "I thought that all of your friends had ceased pestering you about it weeks ago."
"Some other Padawans missed it 'cause they were on missions." Anakin's mouth compressed into a thin line as his anger surged again. "They were very insistent to know the details."
Anakin paused and some of his irritation finally lessened slightly.
"I've been invited, I suppose you could say, to join a group." Contempt laced his words.
"Why are you uncertain?"
"I don't like them. They haven't actually done anything wrong that I know of, but I can't help but feel that they might if I don't join them."
"That is very unlikely, Ani." Qui-Gon was perplexed.
"You make them almost sound like thugs," Obi-Wan murmured.
"They are close to it. They think they are better than everyone else and the rest of the Padawans will do anything to gain their approval. I don't think that anyone has seriously opposed them before."
Qui-Gon explained softly. "Ani this is typical behavior of some people, but no one group of Padawans has any real power."
Obi-Wan was more concerned and didn't completely agree. "That depends on how strong a following they've developed. Ani, if they gave an order to shun you, do you think they others would obey them?"
"I don't think they would even have to. All they'd have to do is treat me rudely and then everyone else would avoid me to try to make themselves look good."
Obi-Wan response was more reassuring. "I will investigate this. When do they expect an answer?"
"I can delay for awhile, a few weeks at most."
"Don't worry about it right now and don't let yourself be pressured into anything, Anakin. Wait and see what occurs," Qui-Gon advised calmly, but his expression was grave. "Tell us everything you know about this group."
Anakin relaxed and his anger drained away. "They call themselves the Elite and they are led by Lavir Ruoy...."
A Few Weeks Later
Anakin turned to find the source of the lilting, overly sweet voice. Behind him he saw a young Padawan approaching, her round face smiling pleasantly. The metallic ribbon woven in her Padawan braid glinted in the light.
"Hi. Mihsekil, right?"
"Oh, you remembered my name! Yes, we met after the duel you and Lavir had six months ago."
Anakin turned to continue down the corridor, missing the blush on Mihsekil's face. She caught up to him, and they turned down the corridor onto the Singing Bridge. Halfway up the Music Spire, the long bridge afforded a lovely view of Coruscant from the Spire's gigantic windows and was a great place to listen to the concerts held at the base of the tower. It was also a convenient shortcut to the gardens nearby.
Anakin stopped in the middle of the bridge with Mihsekil, puzzled that she was following him. From the other end of the bridge another girl came jogging towards them.
"Hi, Anakin!" the bouncing girl said cheerfully. "Would you like to walk in the Room of a Thousand Fountains with me?"
"Ah." Anakin attempted to speak. He racked his brain for this Padawan's name.
"No, he doesn't, Selims," Mihsekil said coolly.
"Was I speaking to you?"
"He was just about to ask me to walk with him."
"But he hasn't."
"I was here first," Mihsekil stated, no emotion in her voice.
"Well, now I'm here. Well, Ani?" Selims looked up at him with a sweet smile.
Anakin stared at both of them, then thought in horror, What is going on? Oh no! I don't believe this, a Jedi catfight!
Selims grasped his tunic sleeve. "You are coming with me, aren't you, Ani?" she said, more as a statement than a question.
"Don't be absurd," Mihsekil countered icily from Anakin's other side.
"He wants to go with me."
Anakin started to panic. The girls were blocking both sides of the bridge He was cornered. Gotta get away. Gotta get away. No choice. No other way.
Anakin leapt over the railing.
"The Music Spire has been closed until the maintenance staff can determine the extent of the structural damage," Qui-Gon stated.
"I...I just didn't know what to do!" Anakin moaned pitifully.
"So you levitated up to the top of the Music Spire," Qui-Gon prompted.
"It seemed like a good way to escape them. I just wanted to get away fast."
"I see." Qui-Gon was trying desperately not to smile. "You do realize that neither of those Padawans can levitate themselves yet?"
"You couldn't just jump down? And was it really necessary to break the sound barrier?" Obi-Wan exclaimed with glee.
"They might have followed and I didn't go anywhere near that fast!"
"Close enough. Everyone in that corner of the Temple felt the tower shake!"
"And what would you have done, Obi-Wan?!" Anakin retorted hotly.
"Yes, what would have you done?" Qui-Gon repeated with a grin on his face.
"Charmed both ladies into walking with me, of course," Obi-Wan quipped back.
The Next Morning
This will be just like the day after the bomb.
Anakin had arrived at the Padawan's Dining Hall very early. He'd planned to go into the empty room, fetch his lunch from the kitchen, sneak back to the apartment and hide out for the rest of the day.
He almost made it.
"Ani, what bizarre thing will you do next?" Suoicarg said with an exasperated look on her face.
Anakin sighed as Suoicarg and Elbaima entered the hall. The older boy glanced down at the box Anakin held and shook his head.
"Sit down Ani, you'll have to face everyone eventually, might as well get it over with all at once," he advised.
His friends grabbed their own food and they all sat at their usual table. Anakin couldn't think of what to say.
"Now," Suoicarg waved one elegant hand. "You can tell us all about it before the others come and gawk."
Anakin smiled crookedly at that. "What have you heard so far?"
"That you levitated up the whole Music Spire just to escape two lovely girls." Elbaima had an incredulous look on his dusky face. "True?"
"Yeah, it's true," Anakin admitted reluctantly. "But I didn't know what to do! I didn't want to hurt their feelings or anything like that."
Anakin really didn't expect either of his friends to understand. They were both more than two years older then him and never seemed to worry about romance. Suoicarg just shook her head and Elbaima gave him an amused look.
Yep, they don't get it.
The first of many hungry Padawans began to trickle in. Anakin braced himself to be attacked. It didn't take long for a steady crowd to congregate around him. He tried to answer their questions and ignore most of the comments they made.
Anakin looked up at the doorway. I take it back, this is going to be worse then the day after the bomb.
Lavir Ruoy had arrived.
As the eighteen year old Padawan approached him, Anakin thought back to Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's advice.
"Ani, I have observed this Elite group carefully over the last few weeks and I can say without a doubt that Padawan Ruoy does not have anywhere near the power he thinks he does." Obi-Wan was serious and firm. "Have faith in the other Padawans, if they are truly your friends they will not desert you."
Qui-Gon faced Anakin squarely. "Everyone here is training to be Jedi. He will not be able to maintain his group if he reaches Knighthood. Do your best not to provoke him, but stand firm, Ani," he encouraged.
"Such behavior is not only unbefitting of a Jedi, it is also all but impossible with the way that we are scattered across the galaxy on missions. If he continues being a problem, I'll deal with him." Obi-Wan's eyes glinted dangerously.
Their words had reassured Anakin greatly then, but now he was struggling to remain calm. He wanted to prove that he could handle Lavir himself. The Padawans surrounding Anakin hushed their incessant babbling when they saw Lavir and made a path for the young man, waiting expectantly for the argument they were sure would come.
"Gathering quite a crowd I see." Lavir looked around him, a smirk on his lips.
"I want friends, not followers," Anakin retorted.
Lavir walked to the table with his usual grace and self-assuredness. Flanking him were only two Elite today. The small greenish metal pins that marked them as members glinted on their Padawan braids.
"Since I met you half a year ago you have made impressive progress. Have you made your decision? I won't wait any longer."
"I'm not interested in joining you. Such behavior is not only unbefitting of a Jedi, it is also all but impossible with the way that we are scattered across the galaxy on missions."
Lavir gave him a cool and dangerous smile. "A rather narrow viewpoint and unintelligent, to say the least."
Anakin leaned back in his chair lazily. "Perhaps I should inform Master Obi-Wan of your low opinion of him."
"I was quoting my master."
Lavir stared and the crowd gasped in astonishment. Anakin knew that he had to choose his next words very carefully. He didn't want them to know that he'd been so intimidated by Lavir that he'd gone to his masters for help. The last thing Anakin needed right now was to look like a whiny kid who couldn't handle his own problems.
"I've heard my Masters quietly discussing this 'Elite' group of yours. I discovered just yesterday that Master Obi-Wan has been observing you specifically for the past two weeks at least."
Anakin paused dramatically and waited for the other Padawans to quiet their murmuring. Lavir's face was as cold as stone.
"I am glad to say that I didn't hear either of my masters speak badly of you, Lavir." That was technically true, from a certain point of view. He didn't want to make Lavir a worse enemy then he already was. "But they were quite certain that your Elite group is unbefitting behavior of a Jedi," Anakin repeated stubbornly.
Lavir's mask began to crack, showing a glimpse of the anxiety and shock underneath. "Did you hear anything else?"
"Only that they expect your group to naturally dissolve before you are all Knights. Master Qui-Gon was not concerned, but I think Master Obi-Wan may keep checking up on you and the others every now and then."
He looked at Lavir and waited to see if he caught the threat. The taller Padawan's eyes flickered slightly.
Yup, he got it. Anakin cheered internally. Even the Council didn't try to go up against Obi-Wan. Now that I think of it, they don't argue with Master Qui-Gon anymore either. Maybe the Council has finally developed some common sense.
Anakin glanced around and tried to lighten the mood slightly. "So, let's just enjoy being Padawans with our fun groups while we still can."
The crowd relaxed somewhat and several of them began to wander off, chattering away. Anakin had no doubt that every Padawan in the Temple would hear about this before the day was out. And as an extra bonus, they seemed to have forgotten their intentions to pester him about the previous day's Music Spire incident.
Anakin looked at Lavir's serious expression. The young man turned and left without a word and his Elites trailed after him.
I don't think that Lavir has ever thought of what would happen to his group later. Anakin was relieved to see that Lavir was backing off for now, but he knew he should remain wary.
Just in case.
The Ninth Month
"Good morning, Master Billaba," Anakin looked down at the delicate Jedi Master.
"Good morning, Anakin. You needn't be quite so formal," Depa Billaba smiled pleasantly and indicated the way they should walk, her dark braids swinging as she moved away. "Hello, Kaely. I'm glad to meet you."
The tiny pink droid whistled cheerfully. Depa's friendliness immediately put Anakin at ease. She's seems nice, like Master Yaddle.
Master Yaddle had been very kind to Kaely and Anakin had enjoyed her lessons. She had taught him how to use the Force to better understand Kaely's whistles. Kaely had been sad when the lessons were over. Ever since then, Anakin had let his droid tag along to his other Council lessons. If it annoyed the masters, they never showed it. However, Anakin suspected that by the time he got to Yoda, she'd be banned.
Anakin followed Master Depa through the halls. He had taken to investigating and learning everything he could about the Council members before they taught him. Master Depa was actually a new member, holding a temporary position. She was very talented in attuning herself to the minds and personalities of those around her.
Explains why I feel so comfortable walking with her, Anakin noticed.
She led him to an older area of the Jedi Temple that Anakin's explorations had not taken him to, finally reaching a large chamber that looked as though it was once meant for speeches or announcements. There was a small, slightly raised platform at one end and steps that probably once served as seats curved around the room.
It had now been converted into a garden of sorts. Anakin and Depa walked down the stairs to the last step while Kaely flew about. It wasn't really like the meditation gardens. The floor had been filled with water, leaving the platform as a kind of island. At least five steps were submerged. A few small plants and vines had taken residence on the stone stairs and crawled up the walls to hang in garlands from the ceiling.
It's awfully cold in here. Or maybe it's just me, the plants don't mind.
Master Billaba sat on one of the lower steps and Anakin followed. Kaely was busy examining the flowers on the ceiling and humming to herself.
"This is a climate controlled room designed for mountain and high atmospheric plants and anything else requiring cool conditions to live."
Depa looked over at the teenager. "Your masters have taught you to build heat by rubbing together air molecules, correct?
"Yes Master Depa. I learned Pyrokinesis a few weeks ago," Anakin acknowledged. And Master Qui-Gon's beard has almost grown back since I set it on fire. I don't know how he and Obi-Wan manage to tolerate me. Any one else would have gone crazy by now.
"Good. Today I will begin teaching you to make things cold." Depa was serious and had what Anakin had begun calling 'the Jedi teaching expression' on her face. However, she somehow gave the impression that she was smiling, even though she wasn't.
"I chose this room for you to begin in due to its coolness. It will be easier here, later of course we will work our way up to cooling down a sauna, and in a few years you will be able to freeze fire. To start you must feel the air molecules, like you do with Pyrokinesis, but you must slow them down."
Anakin closed his eyes and gently allowed his awareness to see more of the room. He had to be careful lest the Force engulf him as it always tried to do. He looked for the tiny wakes the air molecules over the water made. Once he found the trails left behind, he easily brought the molecules themselves into focus.
"Now, concentrate on this pond and work on freezing part of its surface near you."
The water was already cool and Anakin grasped the water particles. He expected it to be easy. He thought he could just hold them still and they would freeze up. This isn't the same as heating stuff. To do that I just have to stir it all up and they all start bouncing off each other. This is different, I can't hold on to so much at one time.
"Relax, Anakin. This will take all morning."
How'd she know that I hate it when someone says the words 'be patient'? At least she has a much nicer way of telling me.
Anakin settled down for a long lesson. He found that if he held on to a group of particles long enough, they would stay that way, but he had to keep grabbing the edges to prevent them from being pulled apart again. Slowly, he worked outward.
"Good," Anakin suddenly heard Depa say. "Now, let it go."
Anakin opened his eyes to see a small patch of ice floating on the pond's surface. He grinned and barely restrained himself from yelling 'wizard', like he would have done as a kid.
Kaely hovered over the patch of ice curiously and extended a small arm with a sensor. Anakin had just recently installed it and Kaely used every opportunity to play with her new toy.
"I know you are tired, but remember to practice this afternoon, and for an hour every day. Use a small cup of liquid or..."
Depa was interrupted by a loud splash.
"Kaely!" Anakin swiftly grabbed his little droid from the chilly water. "The ice wasn't strong enough for you to land on!" Anakin scolded her. "Baby, you know you aren't water proof." Anakin groaned.
The Tenth Month
Anakin glared at the ancient book in front of him. Very gently he sat the brown book on his desk, rubbing his eyes wearily and doing his best to smother his frustration.
It had been almost a standard year since Obi-Wan had given him the two old books for his thirteenth birthday. He had not yet finished this one and Anakin felt a bit guilty about it.
Reading the green book had been difficult, but he had managed. It was a chronicle of the defeat of the Sith a thousand years ago, written by a Jedi Master who had participated in the war. It had been a fascinating tale of adventure, danger, suspense, and lots of gory fighting. Anakin had stayed up late several nights reading it. Once he got used to the archaic words and odd spelling, that is.
That was the problem with the book of Jedi prophesies. It was even older then the other book and filled with words he had never seen before. At one point Anakin became so confused and lost he was convinced that the author had to be switching languages every other word. None of the ancient words were in the holo-terminal's dictionary.
Anakin returned to the large brown book and smoothed its faded pages, covered by a protective sealant. He had abandoned it for three months in order to salvage his sanity. Then just this week he'd thought to ask Master Yaddle about ancient dictionaries and she'd been happy to help.
In fact, so happy that she'd invited Anakin and Kaely over for lunch in her quarters. He had a great time just talking with the 481 year old Jedi Master. She was soft-spoken and treated Kaely like a person. And he loved her apartment, filled from floor to ceiling with thousands of tiny trinkets and books.
Master Yaddle had prepared a delightful meal. Anakin didn't recognize a thing served and curiously asked her if the round biscuit shaped thing glowed blue naturally or if that was a product of the cooking process. She had assured him that the color was totally natural. It had been a delicious lunch and a fun visit, even when Kaely got lost in the glittering objects hanging from the ceiling.
Thinking of his lunch with her made Anakin feel hungry, and he went shuffling to the kitchen for a snack. He was alone in the apartment this afternoon, his masters busy with their Initiate classes and whatever else they did in the afternoons.
He returned to his room with a plate stacked with a variety of things grabbed randomly from the cold storage and cabinets. He sat it on the bed and looked balefully at the book on his desk.
"Muf'te, muf'te..." Anakin hunted through the old dictionary Master Yaddle had loaned him. She had told him that several retired Knights were working on compiling a dictionary of the ancient words for the holo-database, but couldn't say if it would be completed within the next century or not. Until then he'd have to make do with another old book instead of a datapad.
He munched on something from his plate without really paying any attention to what it was. Obi-Wan had been teasing him lately that he was eating enough to feed a bantha. And Master Qui-Gon asked if he was growing an extra pair of arms or another head. Anakin didn't mind, he'd grown a lot lately and he expected he'd be as tall as Obi-Wan by the next year. The only thing that really bothered him was how much growing made his joints and muscles ache.
"Muf'te...civilian dress worn by someone usually in uniform." Anakin couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Then why doesn't it just say the Jedi is in disguise then?! What do they need a fancy word for?"
Anakin groaned and trudged onward. He turned the page and began scrawling down every word he didn't recognize. When finished he painstakingly translated them all and then began to read.
In the time of greatest despair, only one, a son of suns, shall re-forge the flow. Over the gap of terror only this ones radiance can form a bridge. This Chosen One will rise through the peril, strife, and encompassing war To challenge the maleficent and bring balance to the Force.
Anakin hardly breathed as he stared at the book as if it were a rancor, thoughts flashing back to his first ever meeting with the Council.
"He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon insisted vehemently to the Jedi Council. "You must see it!"
Qui-Gon's words, spoken stubbornly from behind him four years ago echoed in his mind. He'd been a nine-year-old kid then and still reeling from the Council's rejection. He hadn't really thought about what Qui-Gon had said since, except in passing.
Many things that had confused him began to slowly make sense. A nagging feeling that a terrible conflict was approaching had plagued him for months. The Council's insistence that they train him, as well as Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, now made sense.
Something really bad is coming and they've known it for a while. Ever since Obi-Wan killed that Sith probably.
That evening, Anakin sat in a chair in the main room, alternately pacing and then brooding perfectly still. He felt restless and frozen at the same time, his frustration bursting across the training bond one moment and then being heavily shielded the next.
His masters returned to the apartment together today. They had sensed Anakin's disquiet clearly through the bond and knew that he hadn't even tried to calm himself.
The look of shock and overwhelming purpose on Anakin's downcast face told them exactly what had happened. However, they were ready for it. They had been preparing for this day since Obi-Wan had first given Anakin that book.
Obi-Wan wasted no time in getting to the point. "The Council has forbidden us to explain the prophecy of the Chosen One to you, Ani."
Anakin was silent and still in the chair, but when he did answer he continued staring at the carpet. "So, you have to find sneaky ways instead. Can you tell me why they don't want you to?"
"Are Jedi prophecies, in general, reliable?"
Qui-Gon answered him. "To a degree, yes they are. What little we see of the future is often accurate, though fluid and lacking details. Generally, we see possibilities we seek to alter, such as a vision of a friend in danger. Visions of distant events are always vague, but usually completely correct. However, frequently such occurrences are so subtle that the prophecy was not identified until it was all over with."
"So knowing how to change something coming way ahead is really hard," Anakin mumbled, half to himself, half to them.
Without another word he left and went to his room. I think I'm glad that Master Yaddle didn't ask me what book I needed that dictionary for.
In the other room Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon moved to look out the alcove's window at the Coruscant's skyline.
"Just as we expected," Obi-Wan murmured quietly.
Qui-Gon agreed. "He will either resign himself to it or fight it now. We must remain alert."
The Near the End of the First Year
"Anakin, I hope you don't mind, but I am curious, did I see you walking with Master Saesee Tiin yesterday?"
Anakin looked across the table at the speaker. She was one of his recent acquaintances. Anakin's usual friends Suoicarg and Elbaima were away on missions. Surrounding him at lunch today were many new faces.
Anakin thought about what she was asking. Yesterday had been his last lesson with Master Tiin.
Another Padawan spoke up. "I recall seeing you conversing with Master Depa Billaba recently and Master Plo Koon a couple of months ago."
From around the table, Anakin could feel the eyes and the equivalent of eyes bore into him. They wanted to know why he was spending so much time with members of the Council. He couldn't brush them off this time.
"They have stopped to talk with me a few times, yes." Anakin's mind raced. They are going to assume I was in trouble or something, they probably can't imagine any other reason why several Council members would talk with another Master's Padawan. But I don't want to tell them the truth, they'd never leave me alone about it. Gotta distract them.
"They have really interesting tales about the battles and wars they have fought in. Did you know that Master Tiin--"
Anakin broke off abruptly and went pale.
"Anakin, what's wrong?" one of the other Padawans asked with a frown.
Anakin's friends looked up at him in confusion when he stood up suddenly.
"Please excuse me. See you later!" Anakin said quickly and headed for the door.
Just as Anakin reached the exit the last person he wanted to see strode in, trailed by a few of the Elite.
"Ah, just who I was looking for," Lavir said in an oily tone.
"I don't have time for this, Lavir."
"Yes you do. I have noticed that despite your lofty words two months ago, you have collected a group anyway."
Anakin ignored him. He couldn't help it if the other Padawans wouldn't leave him alone. And Anakin had certainly never held meetings or organized them in any fashion.
"I really need to leave, get out of my way."
But the other Elites blocked him. Lavir smirked and Anakin glared at the older teenager. Anakin's newer friends stood up and a few walked closer to see what the commotion was.
Anakin had just turned to head for another exit when the glowing started.
It was too late.
Anakin's only thought was to get away. Far away. The glowing always attacked him with a compulsion to run, and this time Anakin gave in.
Big mistake. A surge of pain overwhelmed Anakin and he dropped to his knees. Those few seconds of agony distracted him enough to lose control and the golden light burst around him.
The Padawans were all startled to see Anakin start to glow. Everyone went silent and stared. The younger ones actually backed up while the oldest ones focused all of their senses on him, automatically studying Anakin as they had been trained to do when anything unusual in the Force occurred.
Anakin's pain caused the more sensitive among them to flinch. They had no warning when the light expanded, sending out a shockwave that knocked the nearest Padawans to the floor. The rest were merely stunned. Almost as one they began calling out to each of their masters through their training bonds.
The first Knights and Masters to reach the dining hall found the Padawans stumbling out in an uproar of confusion. Upon entering the room they were shocked to see a bright ball of white engulf several Padawans as it moved outward.
Anakin opened his eyes. He didn't need to, he could sense everything around him without them, but it made him feel better. He had finally regained hold of his light so it could no longer advance.
He looked around himself in awe. Anakin counted sixteen Padawans inside with him, including Lavir. However, they were completely unharmed. He could feel their hearts, or their version of a heart, beating steadily. Their minds were adrift, as though they were asleep.
Oh! Of course, they immediately put themselves into hibernation when the light hit them. Standard safety precaution.
Anakin began to slowly gather his strength and prepare to pull the glow back to himself. It had been nearly two months since his last glowing spell. They were happening less and less. He had learned to feel them coming enough in advance that he could stop it before the glow dispersed. And he had always managed to get alone before that happened, until now.
He stared at the Padawans sprawled on the floor around him. Why aren't they hurt? Every time this happens I leave behind a mess at least and a crater at worst. I thought for sure that anyone caught in it would die, like the pirates did.
He delved deeper in the Force. He knew that he had to shut off this light soon. Anakin worried that, although they appeared fine, his light might cause bad side effects to the exposed Padawans. He reached out to them in concern.
Images, thoughts, and feelings assaulted Anakin's senses. The Force badgered him with more information than he could handle. All at once he knew the names of each of them and had to struggle to block off the flood of knowledge about their hopes, dreams and history.
Anakin recoiled in horror. He knew at once that he had done something terrible. That shouldn't have happened! I didn't mean to do it. If anyone ever finds out... Anakin tried to relax. He glanced over at Lavir.
He'd seen a few interesting things come from him. Lavir was such a pain, it would be very useful to gain a better advantage over him. I've already seen some stuff, no one would know if I looked again.
It was tempting, very tempting.
Just a little. A few more brief images and random details about Lavir's life flickered into focus. Suddenly, Anakin's head felt dizzy and a rush of sensations from the Force swirled through his head. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Anakin let himself drink it in for a moment before reluctantly pulling away.
When his head cleared he felt very cold and sick. If any one ever pilfered through my mind I'd...I'd... Anakin didn't know what he'd do. He sensed Master Qui-Gon approaching. Trying to forget what he'd done, Anakin began to focus solely on turning off the glow.
Obi-Wan arrived to see that Master Qui-Gon and a few of the Jedi Council were already there. He'd come as fast as he could. Anakin's light was retracting steadily and Healers were ready with floating pallets.
Obi-Wan began helping them pick up the unconscious Padawans as they became visible and reachable. He glanced briefly at Qui-Gon. The older man stood extremely close to the yellow sparks and looked as though he was ready to go charging into it.
This was really bad timing. Anakin had been distant and gloomy for the past two weeks, ever since learning he was the Chosen One. He'd hardly spoken and had gone through his Force lessons and lightsaber practice mechanically. Now things would be worse.
As Obi-Wan hauled the next young Padawan out of the way, he noticed that it was Lavir Ruoy. Immediately, he understood what had occurred. Anakin somehow got into an argument with this fellow, and then he felt the glow start. No doubt he prevented Ani from escaping in time. He sighed. Somehow I'm not surprised.
Abruptly the light ceased. Without a word Anakin stood and walked straight to Qui-Gon's open arms and buried his face in his Master's robe.
Anakin was silent on the way back to their apartment. Those of the Jedi Council who had come had not asked him any questions, thankfully. On the contrary, Master Yaddle had told Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to take him home at once. She and the others stayed to deal with the necessary explanations.
It took nearly an hour of Qui-Gon's hot tea and Obi-Wan's teasing to draw Anakin out of the shell he'd hidden his mind in. When he finally began to tell them briefly what had happened, the holo-com rang.
Qui-Gon got up to answer it while Obi-Wan continued to listen quietly to their Padawan. Kaely had landed on the arm of the sofa and began to hum softly.
"...and then you were there. I hope the others are okay," Anakin finished, hoping that Obi-Wan wouldn't notice that he'd left out many details.
"They are. The Healers are already releasing them from the infirmary." Qui-Gon returned from the alcove. "Some time ago, Obi-Wan and I requested to take you on a mission, and now the Council has granted it. We leave tomorrow morning."
Obi-Wan grinned, but was disappointed that Anakin didn't instantly shout for joy. Anakin did smile and he was happy, but the feeling of despair clinging to him dimmed his reaction.
"Hopefully everything will quiet down by the time we get back," Anakin mumbled aloud and escaped to his room to pack.
"Don't worry, Obi-Wan. He will recover and cease his subdued demeanor after we have left the Temple," Qui-Gon reassured him.
"He'll probably be as hyper as Kaely and begging to fly the ship," Obi-Wan agreed.
No one noticed what I did? Anakin's thoughts were all a jumble. He grabbed his standard Jedi travel bag that he'd never used before and began to randomly stuff tunics into it.
Kaely hovered and sang happily to herself. She opened one of his drawers and began carrying the smaller things she thought he would need, like pliers, datacards, a lone sock, and a broken little lamp and putting them in his bag. Anakin didn't notice.
Of course! The Force light probably overloaded the masters' senses! Somehow this didn't make him feel any better.
You idiot! Anakin told himself. Did you want them to know you used the Darkside?
It had felt luxurious. It had filled him with a thrilling amount of power and strength unlike he'd ever experienced. For that one moment Anakin had felt like he could do anything he pleased and no one could stop him. And when he'd stopped it had left a bitter aftertaste.
Anakin dropped his bag and kicked it against the wall. He shielded his mind as best he could. His masters were not inclined to pry, but he didn't want to give them a reason to investigate.
I have nothing to worry about. They'll think that I'm feeling guilty and frustrated over knocking those Padawans unconscious. Which is true. If I'm very careful they'll never find out the rest.
Anakin put his face in his hands and sat on the bed. He almost wished he'd been caught. But the Jedi would expel me for sure if they knew. I've gotta stop thinking about it, otherwise Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan will find out.
Sighing deeply, Anakin stood up and continued packing. Absentmindedly, he removed the silly things that Kaely had put in his bag. He went to his desk and collected the datacards with this week's lessons, but stopped when he saw the old brown book.
He debated whether or not he should take it with him. He hadn't touched it since reading the prophecy of the Chosen One. Anakin never liked to leave a book unfinished, especially since this was a birthday gift from Obi-Wan nearly a year ago.
Anakin had still not decided how he felt about it yet. He wanted to believe he was special, but he hated the thought that maybe it was something he was destined to do. He hated when someone else made his decisions for him and that prophecy annoyed him.
Finally, he chose to continue as he had for the past two weeks and just not think about it. He ignored the prophecy and left the book where it laid.
"Along the Perlemian Trade Route, near the Meridian Sector, is a small merchant system that is having some diplomatic problems. It's a peaceful system normally, but recent trade disagreements have led to threats of war," Obi-Wan related to Anakin and Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon was skimming through the same mission order on his own datapad. "We were requested in particular by the Supreme Chancellor."
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. "Explains why they sent us on a ship this nice."
Anakin was slouching in the ship's lounge booth across from Obi-Wan. He glanced up briefly when Obi-Wan spoke, but then returned to staring off into space.
"Ani," Qui-Gon looked at the teenager's dull eyes. "Brooding is not healthy. This must stop."
Anakin's face was still and he made no physical reaction, but they sensed him quickly squash a flicker of panic.
"Be cheerful!" Obi-Wan reassured him. "By the time we return to the Temple your Force glow will be old news."
Qui-Gon agreed. "All of the Masters and Knights will be sure to instruct their Padawans to not pester you about it. Only your closest friends will expect an explanation, and even then they will not pry."
Anakin smiled and tried to look relaxed. "You're right." He nodded. "I think I'll go talk to our pilots for a while."
As nonchalantly as possible, Anakin fled the lounge.
Anakin stood quietly by a massive set of doors and waited for Kaely. He was not exactly bored yet, but if this meeting went on much longer he would be. His masters were inside negotiating with this star system's leaders. Anakin's job was to note any suspicious behavior by the people outside of the discussion chamber and especially watch for spy droids, like the ones used by the press. He had deactivated five such droids early on, but three hours had passed since and nothing interesting had happened. Anakin and Kaely patrolled the hallway and the balcony outside of the chamber several times and were convinced that no more attempts would be made. The guards ignored him when they actually saw him.
Anakin had thought this would be a more pleasant task then sitting with his masters as he had during yesterday's session. He'd tried his best to pay attention and learn how they advised the delegates, but it started to turn his brain to mush. Obi-Wan had realized that he wouldn't learn any more about diplomatic skills the next day and so they assigned him to guard.
Inside the chamber Obi-Wan moved to the far corner of the room. Most of the delegates were taking a short break, and a few were still talking to Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan pulled out his comlink and spoke quietly into it, "Anakin?"
"You have reached the Cafe of Insanity. Our specials dishes today are..."
"Shut up, Anakin!" Obi-Wan whispered quickly.
"But it's fun!"
"You could try the patience of even Yoda."
"Really, you don't say?" There was a pause over the link. "Obi-Wan, you still there?"
"Yes, I am! I'm trying to remember what I was calling you for."
"They say memory is always the first thing to go."
Obi-Wan sighed. "Ani, you can't joke around like this while we are on missions."
He sounded properly contrite, but Obi-Wan had a suspicion that Anakin was still grinning.
"These negotiations are almost over with. Tomorrow we can go home."
"Great!" Anakin said cheerfully, but then sobered. "Obi-Wan, I've been getting an odd feeling."
"Must be your stomach."
Anakin laughed. "Besides that! I don't know what it is." It was vague and slightly irritating, like a bad smell. When he'd first felt it, Anakin had thought it was just due to boredom. He hadn't wanted to bother his masters while they were so busy, so he had not called them.
"Don't worry about it. If it's something serious, we will sense it also. We'll be out soon."
Anakin heard him flick off the comlink. Obi-Wan's words had not really reassured him. The nagging feeling had begun just before his master called and was getting worse by the second now.
Anakin grimaced. They are going to come out soon and I'm not supposed to leave. I just need to wait a little more.
The feeling wouldn't leave him alone and Anakin felt torn. He wasn't allowed to call them unless something seriously wrong occurred, like an attack. And he'd already told Obi-Wan what he'd felt, but Obi-Wan hadn't noticed a problem. Pestering them was out of the question.
The insistent feeling was louder now and impossible to ignore. He needed to go to it and find out what it was. They are taking too long in there, Anakin rationalized. Surely they feel it now too. They can catch up with me.
Without asking for permission, Anakin abandoned his post and ran. Kaely squealed in surprise and zoomed to catch up with him. Just after he left the building's grounds, his comlink beeped.
"Anakin! What are you doing?" It was Qui-Gon's voice.
"I need to go to the ship!"
"No, Ani. We sense danger at the ship. Stop where you are."
"But I'm almost there, you two can catch up." Anakin turned the comlink off. He could feel Qui-Gon's deep disapproval and Obi-Wan's irritation. Disobeying one's masters was a very bad thing. But Anakin couldn't ignore the feeling calling to him and decided that whatever it was would be worth the punishment his masters would give him.
Anakin leapt from rooftop to rooftop. It was not only the fastest way to travel, it also allowed him to sneak up on opponents, which was very useful today. To his right he could see battle droids rolling along the road towards the hanger bay. He pulled out his comlink and called their ship.
"Captain! This is Padawan Skywalker."
"Captain Deksam here."
"Prep the ship for takeoff. Battle droids are headed your way!"
"At once. Are you and the other Jedi coming aboard?"
"No. Take off before the droids reach you if you can. We will be outside waiting for you."
Static began to distort the link's sound. "Ca..'t droids...firing..."
The comlink went silent. Quickly, Anakin switched to his master's frequency to tell them. But only more static greeted him. "They're jamming me!"
He snatched Kaely out of the air and stuffed her in his belt pouch. "Be quiet! There will be fighting soon and I don't want you caught in it."
Anakin entered the hanger bay through the roof with his lightsaber activated. The co-pilot was firing a blaster at the approaching droids from the cover of the partially open hatch. Since the ship had no turbolasers or other weapons they had to get out of there, and soon.
She saw Anakin and released the hatch door open the rest of the way. "Come on!"
Anakin jumped and landed on the ramp, turning and blocking several bolts before she was able to pull it halfway closed again.
"Captain Deksam is injured! You go to the cockpit and I'll wait here for the other Jedi," Lieutenant Edacaf said breathlessly.
Anakin nodded and ran down the passage. The ship was nearly finished with the preflight sequence and would be ready for lift off any second now. Out of the window of the cockpit he saw Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan enter the hanger bay and begin slicing through the droids.
He watched them battle anxiously and hoped more droids would not arrive. The computer had just beeped that it was ready to fly when Anakin suddenly collapsed unconscious. He hadn't sensed the attack that came from behind him at all.
On the hanger floor below, Obi-Wan looked up in surprise to see that the ship's hatch was closed. Qui-Gon sliced the last droid just as the ship took off. They stared up at it in horror as the terrible danger they had sensed ever since leaving the negotiations flared even stronger. Anakin was in great peril.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Anakin Skywalker huddled in the corner of a small cabin on the ship with his arms wrapped around himself and his head resting on his knees. He was sure that none of his bones were broken, but his left ankle was certainly sprained and his shoulder had been briefly dislocated. His head pounded and his jaw was swollen.
When Anakin awoke he had immediately snuck out of the cabin. He'd almost made it to the ship's escape pod before the Sith attacked him. It had quickly beaten him senseless and dumped him back into this empty cabin.
The Sith hadn't said a word, but Anakin got the message. Don't come out again or else. The door wasn't even locked, not that it would have mattered. Any Jedi can undo a locked door.
How long have I been here?
Anakin tried to use the Force to estimate how long it had been. He could sense that the Sith had drugged him the first time and that it had been a blow to his head that had knocked him out. He knew that he'd been unconscious for at least half a day before he'd tried to escape. But after that, he hurt too much to find out.
Why can't I concentrate?
Anakin tried to clear his head. He wanted to ask Kaely how long they'd been on this ship. The little droid sat on the floor beside him and hummed worriedly. The Sith either didn't know she was here, or just didn't care. Anakin couldn't remember when he'd taken her out of his belt pouch.
Obi-Wan! Qui-Gon! Somebody!
But he just couldn't concentrate enough. A thick fog hung in his mind and made even the smallest efforts a struggle. Anakin tried again to call his masters through the training bond but received no answer. He had no idea if they could hear him or if it was he who couldn't hear them.
Gathering all his strength, Anakin tried to push away the heavy hand clouding his senses. He wanted to block out the pain at least. For a few precious seconds he could focus again and quickly tried to heal his ankle a little. He wasn't too good at healing, but he could at least dull the pain. He placed both of his hands on the abused ankle and set to work. He drew strongly on the Force and relaxed as its presence comforted him.
Almost as soon as he began the terrible pressure slammed into his brain and fogged his mind again. Anakin groaned and slumped forward. Kaely trilled in despair. It took several minutes until he could move again.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Once again, Anakin was forced to repeat from the beginning the long process towards clearing his mind.
They could sense that Anakin was alive, but nothing else.
Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stood in the Council Chamber and waited for the rest of the Council members to arrive. They had done everything they could to track their ship to no avail. Due to how the threat was disguised and the bomb incident just months earlier -the Council agreed that the abductor had to be the Sith. There was no trail to follow, so Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could only return to Coruscant.
Return they did and, with a lot of dangerous flying, managed to cut two days off the trip. And now they waited.
Several other powerful Jedi Masters entered the chamber. Some of them had served as Council members before. They were here to take the places of the current members who were away on missions and lend additional aid.
The Jedi gathered in a rough circle. Some sat down on the floor. No one knew how long it would take. The Sith were notorious for their ability to disguise themselves, but it was quite another matter to hide a Jedi, even a Padawan. Between the training bond and Anakin's naturally strong resonance in the Force, they would find him.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Carefully, Anakin cataloged the injuries his abductor had caused while knocking him senseless both times. His ankle hurt the most, his shoulder ached badly and there was definitely a bruise on the back of his head. He reached up a hand to probe his sore jaw.
Kaely began to whistle excitedly. Anakin looked up to discover that he was no longer on the ship, but in a dark cell-like metal room. The only lights were Kaely's two yellow eyes.
His memory was a complete blur after his only attempt to escape when he had been onboard the ship. "Kaely, how long has it been?"
He struggled to focus the Force enough to understand her beeps and whistles. "Five days..." he breathed.
Sluggishly, he felt along the training bond, but it was no use. He could feel his masters on the other end, but couldn't hear anything. Giving up for the time being, Anakin returned to his injuries. He pulled off his boot to assess the damage.
His ankle was a little swollen, but the bruises looked faded. I must have tried healing this earlier. He gingerly put his boot back on and stood up to test his weight on it. It wasn't too bad, but he wouldn't be running anywhere.
Anakin hobbled over to the nearest wall and began feeling for a door, slowly circling the room without finding so much as a crack. He found all of the other standard prison cell complements, but no door. Even worse, he couldn't sense a passageway outside or even the thickness of the wall. It was all blank, as if nothing existed beyond this room.
Suddenly, Anakin realized that all of his mental shields were down completely. Hastily, he began to re-build them. Why didn't I notice?! How did this happen? I don't remember them collapsing! He sat down on the metal bunk he'd found in the dark and tried to calm himself.
"Kaely, get your sensor out."
Dutifully, the pink droid scanned the floor, walls and the high ceiling. She confirmed that there was no door in the wall, but there was one in the ceiling. Anakin looked up and Kaely turned on her little spotlight. Far above him was the faint outline of a trapdoor.
If I didn't hurt so badly, I could levitate up there.
Abruptly, a sickening feeling overcame him and it made his skin crawl. He could feel the Sith was coming near.
"What a crummy birthday," Anakin mumbled aloud and prepared to meet the Sith again.
"Hide under this bunk and turn off your eyes," Anakin whispered to his little droid. Swiftly, Kaely darted out of sight.
The trap door opened and blinded him with light. Anakin instantly set to work adjusting his eyes and prepared to be attacked.
"You fell into the trap quite easily, my young apprentice." A gravelly voice came from the open hatch.
Yes I did, but I'm not going to admit it aloud.
The Sith's voice was different this time. When he'd last encountered the Sith over a year ago, its voice had been disguised enough that he couldn't tell how old, what gender, or even if the person was human. Now, however, it was definitely masculine and sounded human.
Well, that eliminates three quarters of the galaxy. Doesn't really help finding out who this guy is, though.
"Your skills are impressive, yet they can be so much more."
"Not interested," Anakin stated with false calm.
"Ah, but how else do you expect to fulfill the prophecy, Chosen One?"
Anakin jerked. How does he know about that?!
"Oh yes, I know who you are. I'm here to help you!"
Don't listen, Don't listen...
"After all, a balance is achieved by two powers opposite one another. How can you bring balance to the Force if you only know the Jedi's way? It is impossible."
Anakin tried to block out the Sith's oily, persuasive voice. He's lying... he has to be lying...
"In time you will understand and gratefully call me 'Master'."
Anakin seethed at the Sith's audacity but remained silent.
Quickly, Anakin squashed down his anger. Don't give in, don't give in... he repeated to himself.
"You have no choice, it is your destiny!"
Anakin desperately grasped his dimmed training bond like a tether. I won't fail you, no matter what, he vowed silently to his masters. Whether they could hear him or not, he didn't know.
"He's here on Coruscant?!" Obi-Wan gasped in shock.
From around the room each Jedi reacted with different levels of surprise. Hope filled Qui-Gon, but he didn't allow himself to feel relieved. Master Windu immediately began planning with the others how they would search the planet and which Jedi currently at the Temple were the best trackers.
"Go, rest now. Call you soon we will." With a sad look, Master Yoda spoke softly to Anakin's exhausted masters.
Qui-Gon almost looked ready to disagree, but Obi-Wan gave him a warning stare. It would do no good to pass out during the search.
"It is the ultimate arrogance that the Sith have come here, where we are strongest," Qui-Gon told Obi-Wan after they left the Council chamber.
"Perhaps the Sith is overconfident in his ability to hide Anakin from us."
"Or perhaps not," Qui-Gon sighed. "Coruscant has billions of hiding places, Obi-Wan."
"This could be a long search. If we fail to find him in time..." Obi-Wan couldn't bring himself to finish his sentence.
They entered their apartment quietly. Obi-Wan looked around, feeling it gloomy and desolate without Anakin's quirky sense of humor and Kaely's noisiness.
"What about the droid?"
Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan in confusion. "She is with Ani, of course."
"Exactly. Doesn't Ani have a way to track Kaely?"
Qui-Gon thought back to when they'd brought Anakin back to the Temple a year ago. Kaely had quickly become lost in the huge Temple and was not found for days. Anakin had mumbled about installing a tracing emitter on her so it wouldn't happen again.
"Yes." Qui-Gon's eyes lit up. "Anakin did build a tracking device, but he's sure to have it with him as well. However, if he remembered to write down the frequency..."
Instantly both Jedi rushed to Anakin's worktable. It was a mess, a jumble of droid parts, tools, datacards, and plasti-paper scrawled with schematics. Obi-Wan grabbed a datapad and began hunting through the cards labeled 'Kaely's new stuff.' Meanwhile, Qui-Gon collected every card into a stack and began looking through the papers.
"Will it even work at this distance? Ani could be on the other side of the planet," Obi-Wan worried.
"The way Anakin builds things and Kaely's tendency to explore, I don't doubt it will be sufficient."
Qui-Gon found the card with the frequency and Obi-Wan sighed with relief. Gleefully, but with Jedi reserve, they rushed back to the Council chamber.
Why is he talking to me from up there anyhow? Not that I want him to come down here...
Anakin slouched on the metal bunk. He was cold and exhausted. His vision swam and it was getting harder and harder to resist the Sith's increasingly credible persuasiveness. It would be easier if he could just turn off his hearing.
"...otherwise I will use this chamber!"
At that threat Anakin strained to bring himself back to full alertness, a dozen different horrific possibilities flitting through his mind. This room could be flooded with water, or set aflame. He could be poisoned by toxic gasses, or have vicious creatures dropped on him, or find blades shooting out from the walls.
And he had no way to escape.
An awful cackle echoed from the open door and chilled Anakin. But still, he refused to give the Sith any answer at all.
"We will talk again tomorrow, my young apprentice. You will be begging to get out when I return."
The Sith shut the door with a loud slam. Anakin braced himself for an attack. He reached out to the Force, prepared for anything. And he nearly choked when around him the Force ceased around him. Anakin grasped tightly to what was left of the Force that had been flowing in him.
It was a terrible feeling, like being blind and deaf. His every move felt extremely sluggish. He couldn't sense what was happening around him at all. The terrible nothingness crept closer and closer. Slowly, his arms and legs began to go numb as the Force was shredded away from him.
Excruciating pain struck him as the Force disappeared. In desperation and despair, Anakin forgot his training, forgot his resolve not to succumb, and just panicked. Falling back on instinct, his Force glow spiked into existence and instantly expanded outward. Kaely screamed. For a moment, Anakin thought he sensed a few animals close by shriek in pain before he dropped unconscious.
They were silent and swift. Through windows, doors and lightsaber-made openings they poured into the building. Master Healer An-Paj followed Master Windu into the lair, lightsaber held high. It had been decades since the blue Healer had last used his weapon -intense combat training was unnecessary for his Healer studies and he had rarely needed to fight.
Stepping around battle droid limbs, An-Paj ducked a few blaster shots coming from the Destroyer droids up ahead. While Mace and a few other Jedi parried several shots back at the droids, An-Paj Force-shoved the metal parts across the floor and tripped the Destroyers.
His antenna quivered as he sensed that they were going in the right direction. Jedi Healers were trained to be particularly attuned to a being's pain. Not enough to suffer themselves, but to be able to sense the person's exact location and determine how severely that person's injuries were before reaching them. Despite the Sith's efforts, An-Paj could feel that the Padawan was in pain, but unconscious.
The two other Healers nodded to An-Paj. They felt the teenager, too. The other Jedi followed the Healers' silent directions, cutting a straight path to Anakin through anything in their way -- more droids, walls, and even the floor.
Vertigo assaulted Anakin and he nearly retched. Why did I have to wake up?
The dizziness abated slightly, but only enough for him to determine that he was moving for real. Being dragged along the floor, actually. Anakin tried to remain relaxed and stealthily opened one eye.
For one brief second he had been able to sense the approaching Jedi. So that's why this guy is on the run.
It gave Anakin hope and he began drawing on the Force, erecting a Force shield around him as quietly as possible. It was halfway complete when suddenly the Sith turned a corner and his sprained ankle hit the wall. Anakin couldn't resist crying out, but the Sith ignored him and began to speed up. Anakin painfully tried to dislodge the gloved hand griping the back of his tunic as a diversion, and then snagged the Sith's leg with his other arm.
They both fell to the floor and the Sith struck mentally. Almost at once a terrible fog surrounded his mind and Anakin understood how the Sith had caught him in the first place. This guy's been using mind tricks on me!
With every bit of strength he had to spare Anakin pushed the pressure back and tried to call his Masters through his training bond. The Sith's response was to slam him into a glass window. The glass shattered, letting a cold drizzling wind blow in from the night sky. Anakin slumped against the wall, his shield preventing him from harm. At the Sith's waist he saw his lightsaber and swiftly grabbed it, intending to ignite it straight into the Sith.
Dodging sideways, the Sith instantly activated a ruby-red blade and swung at Anakin's head. He ducked and stumbled away in an effort to gain some distance. Viciously, the Sith attacked. Every blow was powerful and Anakin's arms strained to block as the Sith drove him into a corner, his weak ankle and pounding head hindering him from moving faster. With a swift kick to his stomach, the Sith knocked Anakin back to the wall and sent the boy's lightsaber flying from his hand.
The Sith made an almost growling sound and swung. Anakin stared in horror as the red blade came down on his forearm. But his Force shield held. The Sith went stiff with surprise and Anakin used the opportunity to Force-shove the Sith to the floor. As it landed its hood fell back and, for the first time, Anakin saw the face of whom he was fighting.
"You're a girl!"
Anakin stared at the Sith. Indeed, she was a young woman about Obi-Wan's age, and would have been rather pretty if it weren't for the look of murder on her face. With a howl of fury, she thrust out her hand and sent a stream of Force- lightening at him.
Caught by surprise, Anakin was unable to dodge in time. The energy assaulted him and tore through his Force-shield. Automatically, Anakin's body began to absorb it.
The Sith stared in confusion. Anakin was supposed to be screaming and thrashing on the ground, but instead he stood still as stone.
Anakin had to concentrate with all of his might to remain standing. He'd redirected the energy into rebuilding his shield but couldn't think clearly enough, and it wasn't working. He looked at the Sith intently hoping to buy some time.
"You're the co-pilot, Lieutenant Edacaf!" Anakin frowned. She was with us the entire time and we never knew it!
Anakin tried not to give away the fact that he was also searching for his lightsaber. He couldn't see it anywhere and didn't even know which direction it had gone when she'd disarmed him.
The Sith bared her teeth at him, with another yell attacking Anakin with more Force-lightening then before. Anakin knew what she was attempting. She wanted to overload his senses and break his concentration.
I should just run. The Jedi are almost here, I should go while I still can protect myself.
Now, Anakin was feeling confident. His shield was only halfway up, but the energy that seeped through was easy to absorb. If I can just find my saber I can defeat this thing.
"What's with all the disguise stuff you've been doing?" Anakin asked her suddenly.
She still didn't speak. He sensed and saw her rage increase at his question. It only made Anakin more curious. Recklessly, he persisted.
The electricity was getting harder and harder to contain. I've got to get rid of it soon. Maybe I can throw it at her? It would be defending myself, wouldn't it?
"Blurring your voice and face while chasing me last year and the man's voice and cackling this evening? It seems really bizarre. Are you trying to make me think there is two of you?"
The Sith finally stopped and glared nastily at Anakin. For a moment they just stared at each other. Anakin used the chance to move a little further from the wall. He thought he could see his lightsaber on the floor behind her, down the hall. It was hard to tell due to all the glass on the floor.
Suddenly she charged at him, not bothering to draw her lightsaber. Anakin warded off the physical blows, but was unprepared for her vicious mind powers. His mental shields caved in and Anakin screamed as she tore into his mind, his concentration shattered.
His hold on the energy he'd absorbed disappeared. It exploded around him and the lightening arced outward into the walls and the Sith, but it didn't dislodge her grip on him. Anakin pulled on the Force and let himself glow. It was the only thing left he could do.
The Sith froze and her eyes went wide in terror. Anakin looked at her and waited for her to either drop unconscious like the Padawans had, or fight back. Instead, she began to look a bit fuzzy and Anakin wondered if something was wrong with his eyes. Silently she opened her mouth, but no sound came out. In the space of a heartbeat the glow completely eradicated her.
In the next instant the Force-storm from the Sith's death struck him, howling through the room and flinging him across the floor. When it finally subsided, all that was left of Darth Edacaf was a scorched mark on the floor. Anakin had only a moment to wonder if this was what balancing the Force meant before he passed out from the pain and exhaustion.
He never saw the dark shadow approach him, lightsaber already drawn.
Master Windu flinched and the Jedi Healers jerked as if burnt. For a few minutes, the Padawan's mind had awakened only to suddenly project extreme agony. The Jedi did their best to run even faster as Anakin's presence in the Force abruptly dimmed to a whisper.
Darting and Force-leaping down to a lower level, they were forced to slow to a halt as Obi-Wan slid into their path. He and Qui-Gon were battling a Sith. The dark shrouded creature was blocking the passage and skillfully warding off their blows with a double-bladed lightsaber. When it saw more Jedi arrive, it leapt backward and jumped out a broken window that obviously had been smashed in the duel.
Two of the Jedi in their group broke off to help Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon pursue the Sith. An-Paj and his healers raced past them with Mace Windu.
Out on the balcony, the Sith fled into the darkness and over the edge. The four Jedi could only look down into the depths of the city in disgust. When other Jedi patrolling the building in air speeders pursued it, Qui-Gon deactivated his lightsaber and backed off. Obi-Wan stared dangerously out at the night, before turning to run back into the building.
"Stay in case it comes back," Qui-Gon ordered the remaining Knights and followed Obi-Wan back into the hallway.
They had lost all ability to sense Anakin for several horrifying moments on their way here and afterwards they had only been able to feel him sporadically. Once Kaely's tracer brought them to this building, Anakin's presence had become much clearer, especially just a few minutes before they had been attacked by the Sith. Anakin's sudden pain had nearly taken their breath away.
They rushed down the hallway to where they could feel Anakin's wavering presence. As they expected, the Healers were already kneeling by Anakin's prone figure. When they reached the end of the passage, Mace Windu stood up with a dejected and almost blank look in his eyes.
Qui-Gon took one look at Mace and froze. Obi-Wan shouldered past him.
Anakin was sprawled on his back, his pale face mottled with bruises and a lightsaber stab straight through his heart.
It was a horrible sight. The boy's face was chalk white and his eyes half closed. Master Healer An-Paj reached out and gently placed his blue hand on Anakin's forehead. The other Jedi could only stare at the black, cauterized hole in the Padawan's chest.
Qui-Gon heard Obi-Wan take several shuddering breaths. He gently placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. All at once, Qui-Gon understood what Obi- Wan had felt when he'd seen him run through by a Sith. The sight of someone you love brutally wounded was excruciating. He wished fervently that Obi-Wan hadn't experienced this again.
"There is hope," An-Paj reassured them calmly. The other two Healers had taken places on either side of Anakin while An-Paj knelt by his head. They immersed themselves in the Force and with careful precision took over the functions of his ruined heart.
One Healer focused on supporting the other damaged organs and his right lung, the second kept the blood circulating through his limbs, and An-Paj protected and controlled the blood flow to the most vital part, his brain. It was delicate and painstaking work, requiring the deepest connection to the Force and the strength to maintain their patient.
The Healers didn't need to give the other Jedi any directions on how to help. Instantly, they all set to work. Obi-Wan picked up one of the Healers' packs and began removing the supplies they would need, then applied emergency bacta patches. Qui-Gon assembled the travel stretcher while Mace cut away Anakin's smoldering tunic.
As they worked, another Jedi arrived. "This level and the ten above and below it are secure," she reported. To her credit she merely glanced at the injured boy and didn't let it distract her.
Mace looked up and nodded. "Get a transport ready and call the infirmary back home, Knight Ylredro."
"Yes, Master Windu." She turned to give the directions to her approaching team. One of them handed her something.
"We've found his lightsaber." Ylredro held it out to Obi-Wan. For a moment he stared at it blankly before taking it and attaching it to his belt.
"We are ready," Master Windu said quietly to the Healers. None of them opened their eyes or made any outward reaction, but signaled with the Force that they understood.
Together, Mace, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan gently levitated Anakin's limp form up and onto the stretcher. The two Masters grasped either end, but continued to hold it up with the Force as well. An-Paj and the Healers were completely focused on keeping Anakin alive. Other Jedi moved to assist the Healers to stand and led them out of the room.
They moved smoothly through the halls to the nearest landing pad. As they went more Jedi came to flank them, everyone wary for danger. The transport landed just as they exited the building. The wind whipped at them and howled in the dark.
"Kaely," Qui-Gon murmured suddenly and glanced back at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan was startled and pulled out the tracking device. "Did any of you see a very tiny pink droid flying around?" he asked the others with them.
From the blank looks he received he knew they hadn't. They would have certainly remembered Kaely if they met her.
The shuttle's ramp finished lowering and they levitated Anakin's stretcher slowly up it. The Healers and the Knights guiding them followed carefully.
Obi-Wan thrust the tracking device into a nearby Jedi's hand. "Find the droid this leads to," he ordered.
The Knight looked confused and frowned. "We wouldn't have arrived in time if it wasn't for that droid," Qui-Gon called back in explanation and Obi-Wan dashed up the ramp into the ship.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sat stiffly in the infirmary's waiting room with Eeth Koth, Yaddle, and Depa Billaba. Each had come to truly like Anakin and came to support the boy's masters through the entire ordeal. Master Yoda had just returned to the Temple an hour ago and had come straight to the infirmary. He and Master Windu had talked quietly together ever since. No one else in the Temple had been informed of Anakin's capture or rescue.
Mace stood up when Knight Ylredro arrived. She bowed respectfully and looked straight at Master Windu. He had ordered that she report at once after her team finished scouring the Sith's lair.
Receiving his nod of recognition Ylredro began her report. "All examinations are complete. We have found no clues as to where the Sith has retreated. Inside the building we found that the main passages had holo-cameras. My team has collected the data from the hall where Padawan Skywalker was found and is working to decrypt it now. Also, we discovered the remains of four ysalimiri surrounding the prison cell."
Obi-Wan was dismayed, but the masters were not surprised.
"Found the droid have you?" Master Yaddle asked in concern.
"Yes." Ylredro reached into her belt pouch and pulled out Kaely. The tiny droid was scorched and her eye receptacles completely ruined. The Knight handed her to Qui-Gon, quietly remarking, "I don't know how to turn it off."
Kaely was moaning quietly. Qui-Gon examined her carefully, but Kaely didn't have a visible off switch.
"Ani must have installed the switch inside," Obi-Wan said.
"Can you hear us, little one?" Yaddle asked with a sad look in her eyes.
But Kaely's soft crying didn't change rhythm. Yaddle took her from Qui-Gon. Kaely looked much larger in her small hands. Concentrating, she gently disengaged Kaely's power from the rest of her systems.
Obi-Wan sighed wearily. "I'll do my best to fix her. Ani shouldn't see her like this."
At once everyone looked at the interior doorway, sensing that An-Paj was coming. Every eye in the room trained on the blue Healer expectantly when he entered. He looked tired but pleased. "We've successfully reconstructed Anakin's heart. He's in the bacta tank now."
Qui-Gon closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. All of the thick tension drained from Obi-Wan's face and he slumped in his chair. Around the room the Council members relaxed amid sighs of relief.
"Now, get some rest, all of you," An-Paj ordered everyone. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon left in exhaustion and without protest, but were determined to return soon. The others began filing out of the room. Soon, only An-Paj, Mace and Yoda remained.
When the three of them were alone, An-Paj directed a stern stare at Master Windu and Master Yoda. "Now is a good time to tell me who Anakin Skywalker is and why a Sith abducted and nearly killed him."
The two Council members looked at each other in resignation. It wasn't too surprising that he would ask. Even Master Yoda knew better than to go up against a master healer, especially one as perceptive as An-Paj. They followed the blue healer to his office and quietly related to him how Master Qui-Gon had discovered the Chosen One.
The Council chose to view the holo-recordings with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan present. None of the Jedi decrypting the data had been allowed to see it and no one had played them yet. The members sat in their chairs in the Council chamber while Anakin's masters stood in the walkway. In the center, the chamber's holo projector activated a life size image of the hallway.
Mace Windu used controls by his arm to skim forward until a dark cloaked Sith came into view dragging Anakin. He commanded the system to follow the activity and they watched as the projector kept the almost running image of the Sith in the center of the room.
Anxiously, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan watched their Padawan struggle to escape the Sith. Anakin was clearly injured from the mistreatment he'd received during his capture and hindered in particular by his left ankle. They knew that the Council was analyzing Anakin's every move. The teenager was certainly out- matched and had only survived this far due to the fact that the Sith still wanted him alive --even when it tried to cut off Anakin's arm.
That changed abruptly when Anakin knocked the Sith to the ground and her face was revealed. Both Jedi recognized her at once as one of the pilots. It was embarrassing and horrifying to learn that the Sith had traveled with them for days and they never knew.
Just as they were anticipating how many Knights would be needed to hunt down this woman, Anakin killed her with his Force glow. Shock and disbelief echoed from the Jedi. Mace stopped the recording and replayed the Sith's death again and then let the holo continue. After they saw a second cloaked Sith stab Anakin with a lightsaber and leave him for dead, Mace shut it off and everyone prepared for a long debate.
"Be still, Anakin," the blue Healer admonished his patient. Anakin was dressed and ready to go, but the Healers insisted he rest before leaving.
"Yes, Master An-Paj."
Anakin sighed in resignation. Obi-Wan had told him many funny stories about this particular Healer's delight in keeping his patients, especially Obi-Wan. Anakin was beginning to pity Obi-Wan now. Being trapped in the infirmary was not fun.
Anakin decided to give an excuse for his restlessness. "They are late."
"They will come soon. Your masters are with the Council."
"Yes. So anxious to leave are you? I had hoped that Obi-Wan's wild tales wouldn't drive you away. Its all an exaggeration, you know."
Anakin grinned at the Healer's fake hurt look. Then suddenly Anakin got a sly idea. "In that case maybe you could tell me your side of the story."
"I'd be delighted."
As An-Paj began relating Obi-Wan's more creative injuries and attempts to escape the infirmary he contemplated his situation. He'd never met Anakin until now, but from what he'd heard, he nearly had several times. Between the bomb earlier that year and a variety of accidents, Anakin had come very close to being one of his patients, in particular due to the boy's Force glow.
An-Paj had finished reviewing the holo of Anakin's battle with the Sith yesterday. He had become very concerned when he'd learned about Anakin's habit of losing control of the Force in such a strange and painful way. Immediately, he informed Anakin's masters and the Council that Anakin should come in for an examination after every occurrence in the future, chastising them for not informing him before. The Council had agreed quietly to his recommendations and had been suitably apologetic. They then called upon the small group of healers that had treated Anakin after his first Force glow in the Temple, to relate all that they'd seen and done over a year ago. An-Paj wished fervently that he'd been on Coruscant when that had happened.
He shook his head at Anakin's complexity and the Council's attempts to cope with him. It hadn't surprised An-Paj that Qui-Gon and, in particular, Obi-Wan had never brought the boy in after one of his glows. Neither wanted to believe that Anakin was suffering, and let the boy talk them out of it every time.
The boy's midi-chlorian count had been amazing, once they reprogrammed a machine to be able to count it. In total the boy had twenty-four thousand in his cell count, far more than ever recorded. So, this is the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force? He felt that the whole Jedi order had been effectively trying to keep the Force balanced for their entire existence. Even if Anakin studied and strived for decades, An-Paj wasn't sure how the boy could do it. And if the Sith continued to try to either turn him to the Darkside or kill him...
An-Paj and Anakin looked up as Obi-Wan stuck his head in the doorway. "Ready to break out?" He and Qui-Gon entered.
Qui-Gon held out Anakin's little droid to him. "Kaely was a bit damaged. Obi-Wan has repaired what he could. She can't fly or hear us right now."
"I had to replace her eyes, and re-paint her, but several of her interior parts are melted. I don't know how to repair those," Obi-Wan explained.
Anakin nodded. "Thank you." He felt guilty that his Force glow had nearly killed Kaely. "I had to build some of them myself. I can replace them."
"You've been a good patient, Anakin. Be careful when you leave. There is a mob of Padawans outside waiting to see you," An-Paj warned.
Anakin's eyes went wide and he smiled warily. "On second thought, could I stay here?"
Concluded in I'm Counting On You.
Original cover design and illustrations by the author, Julie. HTML formatting copyright 2001 TheForce.Net LLC.