Title: Fortune's Gate Author: geo3 Timeframe: Same as AOTC Characters: Anakin Skywalker and pretty much all the usual suspects from that era, plus OC?s and even the occasional droid. Genre: AU with a little bit of everything, I hope: drama, angst, romance, adventure, familiar bits, new bits, and of course, lightsabers ... and yeah, it?s probably another long one. Rating: PG, mature themes Summary: Suppose that Anakin doesn't get trained as a Jedi after all, but rather returns to Tatooine and gets a life. And suppose that meanwhile, everything else in the Galaxy continues pretty much the same. Now suppose that when Anakin and Count Dooku meet, it is not as enemies... Author's Note: This story is not meant to link up in any way with my previous Saga-era series, "Anakin's Saga." It's a different re-imagining, just for fun. Disclaimer: This is merely a tribute to George Lucas, whose characters will live forever. I own nothing. I'm just playing in his sandbox. Here's the preamble. The first post will be up on Friday. Fortune's Gate Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. ---Unknown Preamble "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Damned if it wasn't the first thing that the Thirlian passenger said in the two standard weeks he'd been aboard Honat's little cargo ship. Two weeks of bumping into one another in the narrow passageways, of sharing meals and water and enduring each other's farts and snores, and the stuck-up stranger hadn't seen fit to utter one single word. Not so much as a "hello" or a "pass the beaker." Now that they were near landing, suddenly he felt the need to tell him what to do and how to do it? Honat briefly weighed the indignity of the Thirlian's remark against the fat fee the man had paid for passage, and decided that it wasn't worth getting riled up over. "Huh," he snorted neutrally, and kept his eyes on the nav. computer. In a few minutes they'd have set down and the man would go his own way, leaving behind only the bars of iridium Honat had hidden away in his favorite secret compartment. It was a lot of iridium. A huge overpayment for the passage. He could afford to keep the peace. "I mean it," the Thirlian said more sharply. "If you try to land without clearance, you're going to regret it." "S'hispit," Honat muttered foully. He knew what he was doing. He was doing the same thing that he did all over the Galaxy: coming and going as he pleased, avoiding landing taxes and cargo inspections. He was a pirate, for flip's sake. He knew his business. Especially on back-end-of nowhere, thinly populated, low-tech dust ball planets like this one. He'd never been to Tatooine before, but he knew the type. Pirate's heaven, these places were. All he needed to do was to slip under whatever tracking system the ports used, set down in the outskirts, and dampen down all of his feeds. Nobody'd know they were there but the local wildlife. Especially the bugs. There were always bugs in places like this. He scratched his stubbly neck just thinking about it. A high reedy tone signaled that the computer had located all the comms. nets. He studied the display to see where and how densely the signals overlapped, and sure enough, found holes between them big enough to land a fleet in. Nobody'd notice one little ship. He picked a blackspace that was about equidistant between a spaceport called Mos Eisley and a town of some kind, and entered the coordinates for landing. "Are you out of your mind?" the Thirlian yelled, and reached for the comm. without asking permission. "Leave off!" Honat growled, batting the man's arm away so hard it smashed against the wall that curved around the console. "And shuddup, willya? I know what I'm doing." "You stupid, crazy pirate," the Thirlian hissed, cradling his wrist. "You're going to get us both killed!" Honat ignored him. The console blared an alarm. Honat stared at the normal readouts uncomprehendingly, and then instinctively looked out the viewscreen for confirmation. It was pitch dark, of course. They were too far down into the atmosphere already to see the stars and too far up to see the ground. Nothin' out there but a faint streak of… Wait. In the time it took him to look back down at his console the faint streak appeared on the readout. He stared, not fully understanding what he was seeing. It was coming awfully fast… About the last thing Honat remembered was a screaming sound. It might have been the ship. It might have been whatever hit it. It might have been his own voice screeching in fury and terror. Anyway, it was the last thing he heard for a very, very long time, until he woke up in the desert alone in bright daylight, parched nearly to death, wearing only the scraps that remained of what had once been his clothes, and itching like crazy. Sand fleas, he thought groggily. There's always bugs in these places. The first thing he saw, when he could see again, was the flask of water that had been left by his elbow. Not far away, his ship lay half buried in the sand, her cargo bay doors wide open, and her compartments visibly empty. The Thirlian was gone. There weren't even any tracks – the desert had long since swept them over. Honat drank the water thirstily, even though it was hot near to boiling. He didn't hurry to get up and check his ship. He was pretty sure without looking that his stash of auridium was gone too, along with every last useful component from his ship's pathetic looking carcass. The pirate had been pirated, pure and simple. And whoever had done it was a lot better at it that he was.