Saga Judging Angels (AU, Anakin/Padmé) - **New Chapter!!** Ch. 10, "Cause for Alarm" (5/22/15)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Fate, Jan 5, 2012.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. Ceillean Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 13, 2001
    star 5
    I just finished Chapter 5 so I still have one more Chapter to go. I am really enjoying this so far. But I think I've said so before. ;)
    You know, I'm really hoping that Favio will have another appearance. He's a very interesting character.
    And now on to the next have me intrigued. How'd he lose everything I wonder?

    Thanks for tagging!
  2. Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    I like how you handled Shmi's reaction to Anakin's gift. The characterization is perfect. She's seen too much happen with gambling to ignore the negativity of the path Anakin has chosen. I can't wait to see what happens next.
  3. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you think; "I like it!" never gets old. ;) And when you drop off the face of the earth for nine months, it's silly to take it for granted that your readers will be there waiting for you when you get back. So I'm really grateful for the ones that are. (Thanks for 'liking' the suggestion from Venus_Star that I get going with this again, by the way; every bit of support is helpful.)

    // end gushing

    You're the second person that's mentioned they hope they'll see Favjak again. I'm really pleased that his character went over so well, since he's the first proper OC I've ever written that's seen the light of day. I'm glad he doesn't come off like a Han-clone. I'm still not sure what his "story" is, but even if it takes a while, he will be popular demand. ;)

    Hope you're ready for yet another chapter. :cool:

    I'm very glad Shmi was believable. I wanted to convey the fact that it wouldn't have been all roses, even if Anakin had stayed. In some ways, his leaving spared Shmi the whole young-adult angst. But she loves her boy very much, so I'm sure his choices are difficult for her to watch.

    @Aluna Skywalker @Jade_eyes (thanks for the 'like', Jade_eyes! First one ever = big deal for this non-Facebook-er :) ), et all...

    Here's the chapter of which I spoke:


    Chapter 7: A Friend in Need


    Pronunciation Guide: Watto's "Eh?" (the "a" sound in a very angry "AND?" without consonants)

    ·:·:· ·:· ·:·

    True to form, Watto greeted his tardy employee with a flurry of indignant rebukes. Anakin had barely gotten through the shop's entrance before the junk dealer rushed up to him, leathery wings thrashing, his impressive nose quivering with rage.

    "Listen, Skywalker, I pay you to work! Eh? You think I keep you here for your looks?"

    "Well," Anakin said thoughtfully, "they are pretty remarkable."

    Watto's face darkened. "You get in the back of the shop, boy! Now! I don't want to hear another word! I want to hear metal, eh? Metal brings money!"

    Anakin folded his arms about his chest. "Watto," he said patiently, "I'm not a little kid, and I'm not your slave. So I'll apologize once for being late, but I won't sit through this nonsense. We both know I make you a lot more than you give me."

    Watto's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "What, you talk of more money? I give you triple per hour what other scrappers make, pay for your housing, buy your food, free your mother, ...!"

    And so on and so forth, and more in the same fashion. It was only when Anakin offered to take the entire day off without pay that Watto finally lapsed into a sullen silence. He knew he could make more with Anakin in a few hours than without him in a whole week. Anakin knew the locals, and they liked him. More importantly, the young man had the unsettling knack of knowing precisely what was wrong with their mechanical devices and being able to quickly put them right again. He was practically a living spice mine, so valuable that the avaricious Toydarian had been loath to give him his freedom in the first place, and certainly too valuable to risk losing now over so minor a matter as punctuality. Watto was also perfectly aware that the young man wasn't in it for the money; a single hand of Sabaac was often more lucrative than a month's wages. If Anakin stayed, it was because it suited him to stay, and Watto knew it was in his interests to keep it that way.

    "Well," he finally grumbled, "you're here now, so might as well stay, eh? I go look for customers."

    Shaking his head as Watto flapped by in a huff, Anakin peeled off his blazer, hung it on a hook, and made for the counter that had been his workstation for over a decade. After donning a coarse gray poncho and a pair of heavy brown goggles with green lenses, he examined the large pile of broken equipment awaiting him like a dubious present. Five rusting vaporators, a few shorted-out power converters, several ailing pit droids, and a clogged sandstat. Rubbing his hands together, he got started, and within moments was completely engrossed in his work.

    The sandstat had been fairly well-put-together, but the maintenance efforts on it had been extremely subpar, if indeed its owner had bothered with such nuisances at all. Cleaning it was therefore the first order of business. Having cracked the enormous device open, Anakin was just lowering it into a steaming oil bath when he heard shrieks and the sizzle of electricity, and looked up in time to see a small group of Jawas running past the shop, gloved hands above their heads, yelping with all their might. He shrugged—panicking Jawas were a common sight in Mos Espa—finished submerging the sandstat, and was soon absorbed in inspecting the first of the power converters. Every now and then, he gave a sigh of satisfaction. Such was his enjoyment of his work that if he had his way, tinkering would be all he ever did in the junk shop.

    Unfortunately, the acerbic Watto had a way of driving off the very business he craved through insults and demeaning speech, and in order to prevent him losing what few customers he had, Anakin was often obliged to serve as an intermediary, breaking up arguments and smoothing ruffled feathers. Just such a circumstance appeared to be in progress now. Deep in the cavity of the power converter, Anakin was having at its upper interior with a set of pliers when he heard the Toydarian's shouts ringing out.

    "No!" Watto was yelling. "No droids!"

    "BEE-dop-wip-DWEEET!" came the indignant reply.

    Leaning out of the converter, Anakin tilted up his goggles to investigate, wiping the sweat from his eyes. A silver astromech with blue markings had rolled through the bit of sand heaped near the junk shop entrance, planted itself right in front of Watto, and was now holding its own against the Toydarian with astonishing pluck, chirping defiantly. Smiling, Anakin returned his attention to the power converter.

    With his protruding belly, Watto gave the stubborn droid a savage shove. "I say, no droids! Get out of here!"

    Leaning back on its third leg, the astromech swiveled its domed head from side to side, its large photoreceptor sweeping from one end of the shop to the other. Then it gave a sharp, sardonic, "BWAP."

    Watto whirled around. "Hey, Ani! What's he saying?"

    "I think he says he sees a lot of droids in here, Watto," Anakin replied, his voice muffled from within the converter casing.

    Watto turned back to the astromech with a terrible grin. "Yeah, but those droids don't work no more."

    The little droid's domed top swiveled round again, and he gave a mournful whine.

    The junk dealer laughed menacingly. "That's right, droid. Those droids...are parts. Droid parts, we got lots of room for." Flying to a nearby toolkit, he grabbed a large wrench and waved it threateningly. "And we'll make parts out of you if you don't get out of here! Now!"

    Instantly, the large photoreceptor swung back in Watto's direction. With a furious BWAP!, the astromech flipped an electric pike from its casing and began advancing on the Toydarian, the end of the instrument crackling ominously.

    And now Watto was shrieking. "Hey! Hey, stop, droid! AIIIEE!" Dimly, Anakin heard the Toydarian's wings beating rapidly as he flew through the shop, trying to get out of range of the ferocious little pike. "Hey, Ani! ANI!"

    With a sigh, Anakin pulled himself completely out of the power converter and laid down his tools. Tugging the goggles up to his forehead, he headed over to the entrance and wiped his hands on his poncho. "Whoa, little buddy," he coaxed, crouching down to the astromech's level. "It's all right. No one's going to hurt you."

    The large photoreceptor regarded him skeptically, and the droid gave an uncertain chirrup.

    "It's all right," Anakin repeated soothingly. "What can we do for you? Do you need help?"

    The domed head swiveled from Anakin to Watto and back to Anakin. And then, slowly, the astromech snapped the electric pike back in its casing. Turning its back on the Toydarian with an indignant hmph!, it gave a long and intricate series of rapid beeps and whistles, then waited patiently.

    Anakin frowned. "Something about 'a ship'... and 'trouble'..." Rolling his eyes, he got to his feet. "He's got a message from someone on a downed ship, Watto. That's why he's here."

    Watto's wings gave an expectant flap. "Well, why didn't they come themselves, eh?" he muttered. But the greed had already begun to glow in his eyes.

    By now, Anakin's upper body was back in the cavity of the power converter. "Why don't you ask them yourself?"

    "All right, droid," the Toydarian said imperiously. "Play your message."

    With a bwip!, the R2 unit turned on its holoprojector, and Anakin began going at the converter wiring with renewed intensity. He'd just located the damaged receptor when he heard shouting again and heaved a heavy sigh, this time of irritation. At this rate, he'd never get the device fixed.


    The robed figure stood before the holoprojector with mounting impatience. The situation was critical and time was of the essence, yet he was being forced to fritter away much of what little remained haggling with a truculent merchant. It was insupportable.

    "I tell you, credits won't work!" the bug-eyed creature was roaring. "Coruscant people, they think the whole galaxy works for them! I meet one other from Coruscant, maybe...ten years back? Hey, Ani!" he yelled over his shoulder. "You remember that Jedi?"

    "Of course," came the smooth tenor of the room's other occupant, and in moments, a tall young man with smudges on his face and goggles in his hair stepped into view, wiping his hands on, first his garment, and then a grimy oil cloth.

    The robed man frowned. There was something important about this young man, something tremendously important, but the disturbance of the pot-bellied creature's strident voice was preventing him from getting a clear handle on what it might be.

    "Of course," the creature was repeating balefully. "You see, Ani here was my slave, and after that Jedi finish, he free him!" He glared at the young man in disgust. "Now I pay him to work for me. Any time he want, he leave!"

    "I'm still here, Watto," came the patient reply.

    "For now." The creature called Watto looked at his employee crossly. "What I bring you here for, anyway?"

    "You asked if I remembered—"

    "Ah, yeah. Ani, when that Jedi come in, what I say?"

    The young man grinned. "'Mind tricks don't work, only money!'" he shouted, copying Watto's voice so expertly that a blind man would have sworn him a clone.

    The robed man widened his eyes.

    Watto was shaking his head. "No, before that, Ani! When he take out his credits!"

    The young man called Ani considered for a moment, then nodded. "Credits don't work, only money!" he amended with equal enthusiasm.

    Satisfied, Watto turned back to the hologram. "And then he try mind tricks, but I'm a Toydarian, and they don't work!"

    ·:· ·:·

    As Watto raged on, Anakin was outwardly all patience and calm. Inwardly, though, he sighed for what felt like the tenth time. The junk dealer spent so much time complaining about money and how little business came to his small shop, but whenever business did show up, he seemed determined to chase it away. Now, for instance, the prospective customer was nodding politely at the Toydarian's tirade, but Anakin could sense his growing exasperation.

    Taking off his goggles, he pushed his tousled hair from his eyes and smiled winningly. "What can we do for you, sir?"

    In response, the robed figure gave him a look that cut him through. It was as if, in a matter of seconds, he immediately saw Anakin for everything he was—weighed the entire sum of his being, good and bad—and approved of him.

    "As I explained to your employer," he said calmly, "my starship has sustained significant damage. I must have it repaired immediately."

    Anakin considered. "You wouldn't happen to be flying in a J-type 327 Nubian, would you?"

    The robed figure glanced at him curiously. "As a matter of fact, I am."

    A chuckle. "Malfunctioning hyperspace drive, by any chance?"

    Now the figure gazed at the young man with profound interest. "Indeed. How did you know?"

    Grinning, Anakin shrugged. "Lucky guess."

    There came a significant pause. "And do you often have such...'guesses'?"

    The young man didn't respond. Instead, he turned to his companion with a furrowed brow. "Hey, Watto," he said confidingly, "maybe we could—"

    The Toydarian gave his head an adamant shake. "No, Ani! I handle the business, you handle the droids!"

    Anakin shrugged again. "Fine." Walking back to his counter, he switched jobs and began working on the now-gleaming sandstat, aiming to keep both parties in view as the arguing continued. It wasn't long before he heard Watto's favorite ultimatum.

    "...and you won't find a Nubian hyperspace drive anywhere else around here, I promise you that!"

    The robed man sighed, then was silent for a long while. "Oh, dear," he said at last. "What is to be done?"

    Watto beamed triumphantly. "You don't have money, you don't fly!"

    Glancing up, Anakin could see that the hologrammed figure looked distinctly discomfited. "And yet, it is imperative that I return to Coruscant. I must return with all due speed." Suddenly, he looked over at Anakin, as if appealing for his intercession.

    For a moment, the young man kept chipping hot sand from the dripping sandstat as if unmoved. But then he gave the robed man a sly wink.

    "Watto," he said nonchalantly, "Did we ever get those brackets from Zmee?"

    Watto's face darkened into purple, and again, his considerable nose quivered. "I tell him! I say, 'Look, I'm running a business, eh? So you got to bring the parts! I lose too much money already!"

    "I think I saw him having a drink over at Akim's," Anakin said casually.

    Trembling with rage, the livid Watto hurried out of his shop in pursuit of the pre-paid order, bellowing loud threats that grew fainter as he flew further away.

    As soon as he was out of earshot, Anakin walked over to the holoprojector and smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry about that. Watto's not the greatest at dealing with customers. Or people in general, for that matter."

    The robed figure nodded. "Thank you, my friend." Then, in one fluid motion, he removed his hooded garment to reveal ornate robes of state.

    Anakin gaped. "Chancellor Palpatine. I had no idea."

    The chancellor held up a hand for silence. "I had thought discretion wise in these unknown parts. But now I wish to earn your trust by demonstrating my own. I do hope you can help us."

    Anakin gave a smooth bow. "Certainly, Your Excellency," he said in cultured tones. "I should be honored to assist you."

    The chancellor tilted his head a fraction to the right, narrowing his eyes. "Have you lived here long, young man?"

    Anakin grimaced. "All my life. But I've seen a few Coruscanti holovids, so I'll know how to act in case I ever get off this rock. If I make it to the Core, I don't want to sound like someone from the dunes." He waved a hand. "But that's not important, Chancellor. How can I help you? Tell me what's happened, and I'll do my best to be of service to you."

    Smiling approvingly, Palpatine began his story.

    It had begun with the twentieth anniversary of the Naboo tragedy. Backed by the Neimodians, the Gungans had decided to erect a monument in Theed "in Commemoration of the Lost Many." Though this was doubtlessly merely a political gesture meant to stem the mounting unpopularity of the Trade Federation, Republic citizens had responded eagerly, and the event had garnered a great deal of publicity. The chancellor himself, it appeared, had privately insisted on being present for the monument's debut, but had also intended to provide aid for the few human Naboo managing to eke out an existence on their shattered homeworld. Such aid was forbidden, so the emergency supplies were concealed in the Nubian starship's two escape pods to ensure they wouldn't be confiscated. Furthermore, the party had gone unescorted to avoid suspicion. But the Trade Federation managed to spot the escape pods being jettisoned, suspected foul play, and began firing on the ship. As had been the case nearly a decade ago to the day, only the quick actions of several brave astromech droids had saved the starship, but the hyperspace drive had sustained severe damage in the course of the battle. It would take years to get back to Coruscant on their sublight engines alone, and they simply didn't have the capacities for such an undertaking.

    The young man smiled at the end of the story, remembering how he'd heard a similar one ten years ago. Back then, Qui-Gon Jinn had been escorting former Chancellor Valorum to the battered planet on a mission of comfort and aid, and the Trade Federation, predictably, had taken violent exception to the ship's presence in the sector. Anakin shook his head. Even with their impressive armored hull and many modifications, the beautiful Nubian starships remained quite delicate. It was a wonder that a pragmatic man like Palpatine had consented to fly in one in the first place, given their fragile reputation.

    "So you need a new hyperspace drive," he concluded. "That's not a problem. Watto always keeps a couple of T-14 generators handy, just in case. But they cost eighty thousand wupiupi each, not including Hutt tax."

    The chancellor frowned. "I have two hundred thousand Republic credits at my immediate disposal, but I haven't a coin of your..." He checked a datapad, his frown deepening, "...Huttese money. We can't carry it on diplomatic missions for fear of spice lords, space pirates, and other brigands."

    Anakin nodded his understanding, then thought for a moment. He had about two hundred wupiupi in his pocket. It'd take a bit of doing, but it was definitely possible. Nodding again, he pulled off the poncho, his decision made. "Don't worry," he said, reaching for his jacket. "I'll get you some real money."
    Last edited by Fate, Jan 7, 2013
  4. Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    Ah, Ani is gonna go off to gamble to help the Chancellor.. and so that is how he came into Palpatine's good graces?

    Oh, and you nailed Watto perfectly, down to every nuance of his grumpy character. =D=
    Last edited by Alexis_Wingstar, Jan 8, 2013
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    =D= Anakin's story is getting more intricate @};- Hope he doesn't get mired in gambling overmuch and in the "Chancellor's" slyness :p
    Last edited by Jade_eyes, Jan 9, 2013
  6. Ceillean Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 13, 2001
    star 5
    Finished chapter six and before I start on chapter seven, I just wanted to say how beautiful your way is with words. :) The descriptions, the imagery of Anakin's gift to his mother was soooooooo...just wow. I'd have loved to be there. :p A little oasis in the middle of the desert. Seriously, how cool is that? :p


    All done. ;) Anakin's story deepens. He's quite the mystery. I like your Anakin so much better than canon Ani.
    Last edited by Ceillean, Jan 8, 2013
  7. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    Your instincts serve you well. :cool: Time will tell what the stakes are, and whether Anakin ends up in over his head.
    Re: Watto, thank you! I think he's a great character, and I had a lot of fun writing him. I think his, erm, "squawk" worse than his bite. ;)

    I'm glad everyone seems to be enjoying the flashback so far. I've never written a novel-length fic before, so I've been a bit worried about pacing. But it will soon become clear why this backtracking is so important and how it sets up Anakin's relationships in the future. As far as getting mired in gambling or slyness...we shall see. :cool:

    I'm really happy you enjoyed the description of the little oasis and were able to picture yourself in it. The idea for it came when I was on a train one morning and saw that someone had painted the trim of their house the exact same shade as the leaves of the tree in front, and things kind of snowballed from there. :) I'd love to be in a place like that myself, especially with a Threepio around to mix drinks and tidy up. :cool:

    And as far as "my" Anakin, well, I guess that's the ultimate compliment for anyone tinkering with canon: to not only portray familiar characters successfully, but maybe even go a bit better and make them more beloved.

    All: I'm working on the next chapter and hope to have it up within the week. Thanks very much for your thoughts and kind words. :)
    Last edited by Fate, Jan 10, 2013
  8. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    @Alexis_Wingstar @Aluna Skywalker @Ceillean @Jade_eyes

    All: This chapter is quite a bit longer than the ones prior to it, but I didn't see any way around it. I look forward to hearing what you think. :)


    Chapter 8: Consequences


    Pronunciation Guide: Vinmel Grott ("VINN-mell GROAT"); Fallon ("FOUL-un"); Herlig ("HAH-LAY" – equal weight for each syllable); Aesha ("HAY-shah" with a silent 'h'); Kaima ("KY-mah"; the "ky" in "sky")

    ·:·:· ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Battle-hardened gamers called it the sort of match that separated men from crechlings. The ante was up to eight thousand, speculation was running high, and the Devaronian had a skifter up his sleeve. Seven players had entered the hand; now the smoky cantina air buzzed with side bets on which of the three remaining would cart off the winnings.

    "I still say the kid'll lose. Vinnie's got his swooper on. He never loses when he wears that thing. It's poison."

    Several glances darted at the player in question, Vinmel Grott, who was indeed wearing his swoop jacket, a bulky contrivance from the hide of some ferocious creature that had doubtlessly fought to the last. Its dark green leather contrasted strikingly with the scarlet hues of Grott's reptilian skin and brought out the sheen of his pale yellow horns.

    There came another low whisper. "Yeah, but check out the hair on Skywalker. Messy. It always starts out neat, but—"

    A new voice interrupted. "That's 'cause he pretties himself up in the 'fresher before he sets foot on the floor." A snort. "Even runs a file under his nails to get the grime out."

    "It shows respect for the game, Fallon. Anyway, what counts is that every time I've seen him win big, the hair gets messy right about now. Kid's on his mark today. For once, he actually cares about the money. He'll win."

    There now came a query in thick, lilting tones. "But what of the baron?"

    A clicking noise of finality. "Crispy's done for. Bets big, but doesn't bring enough action to the draw. Too conservative."

    The first speaker murmured his agreement. "He'll be out this ante; count on it."

    As if to confirm the statement, a rivulet of sweat from beneath an earlobe had found the collar of His Gallant Eminence, Lord Herlig of Crispin, and was seeping into the damask silk. Having loosened his cravat some time ago, the baron currently looked seconds from tugging it off entirely; apparently, only deeply-engrained propriety held him back. It didn't take much to realize these signs of distress were, not the euphoric jitters brought on by a good hand, but the tremors of genuine panic. Lord Herlig had upped his ante early on, had gone "all in" far too quickly, and had played for far too long. From the numb look he was currently giving his cards, whatever hand the baron held wasn't good news.

    For him, the third player thought before dismissing the baron entirely. It had been late morning when the young man had arrived at the cantina, and the hours had passed quickly. Now the light of Tatooine's second sun glared fiercely on his brow from a high window, casting his gaze into shadow. Furthermore, the long sweep of his lashes made his eyes appear closed when he checked his cards. The entire effect was that of inscrutability, composure, and a hint of arrogance; the effect of a man who knew he would win, but was clever enough to not state it openly. Conflicting with this compelling effect were the long fingers restlessly tapping the red gaming table and raking frequently through dark blond hair. For the second time in as many minutes, Anakin Skywalker checked his chrono. 1435.

    Grott smiled innocently at the gesture of impatience. "You are having boredoms with us, Skywalker?"

    Shrugging, the young man lit a cig. "Just waiting for the Baron to make his move. You done shifting over there, Lord Herlig?"

    Ashen, Lord Herlig swallowed convulsively. "I am finished." A significant pause highlighted the double meaning of his words. "I'm afraid it's…quite bad news." A final gulp of his claret, and the baron revealed his cards with trembling hands. A Master of Coins and a Moderation; a positive fourteen, and a negative one. With a winning hand of Sabaac at either positive or negative twenty-three and his two cards summing to an even naught, Lord Herlig was as far from victory as one could possibly get.

    The Devaronian's grin widened, but it no longer pretended to be innocent. "You are having very bad luck today, Herlig of Crispin."

    The baron smiled tightly. "Quite. Indeed, in the face of such dismal odds, gentlemen, I feel the proper thing to do is bow out gracefully." With an elegant flourish, his tossed his unfortunate sabacc hand to the center of the table, where four other hands had gone prior to it.

    The hushed speculations in the background gained volume with this latest development.

    "See? The barry's out. Now it's just Vin and the kid. My truguts are on Skywalker today."

    Brief laughter. "Kid's got nothin'."

    A noise of incredulity. "He's got a Joker and the Three of Staves, Akim. You call that 'nothing'?"

    "It's nothin' without a Two, and they're gone."

    "Not all of them," the first speaker said decisively. "Mad Maddie's a minus two, and she hasn't turned up yet. Kid manages to pull her, that's an Array; highest hand possible."

    As the whispering continued, Grott dropped all restraint and began leering at the baron outright. But Anakin frowned. The poor man had just lost twelve thousand wupiupi in one go. There was no need to rub his face in it.

    Instead, the young man clicked his tongue sympathetically. "Don't worry, Lord Herlig. You'll win it all back next week."

    It was a gross distortion of truth; it was an outright lie. Lord Herlig of Crispin was a terrible gambler, and the rankest amateur in Mos Espa knew it. The real thing for the baron to do would be to give up the sport entirely, at least as long as his secretive business kept him on Tatooine—but that he never would.

    To fill the awkward silence that had fallen, Anakin took another pull from his cig. "Well, give my best to Lady Aesha," he said cheerfully, returning his gaze to his own hand.

    The previously pale Lord Herlig now flushed crimson at the mention of his wife, which brought out a sprinkling of freckles spanning his nose. He dabbed delicately at his temples with a pocket kerchief, then ran a few fingers through his thinning hair. "Yes. Well." His fleshy cheeks let out a puff of air. "Carry on, then, gentlemen."

    "Mm-hmm," said Anakin as the baron walked off, outwardly intent on his cards. Inwardly, he had long since shifted his full focus to the player across from him, his last remaining opponent. Naturally, the young man had known about the skifter from the start. The Devaronian had held off from playing it so far, but would soon make his move.

    Seeming to sense something as well, the spectators began whispering more urgently.

    "See that smirk? I bet Vin's got a skifter stashed somewhere. He's done it before."

    A dubious glance at Grott. "But who would pull a skifter on Skywalker? Kid would spot it ten klicks away. Vinnie's crazy, but he's not stupid."

    An adamant clink of coins. "Twenty wups says the Dev's got a skifter and he'll play it."

    "No deal; if he played it, we'd never know. But forty says the kid pulls a pure sabacc and takes both pots."

    "You're on. No one's that lucky."


    As the betting lines were drawn and individuals chose which side to fall in on, Anakin glanced at the Devaronian, then flicked a bit of ash from his cig.

    Grott leaned forward threateningly. "We are having enough of the 'stalling' of the play, Skywalker. It is now your move."

    Anakin took another slow drag before speaking. "Since it's down to the two of us, house rules say it's final draw, then we deal each other from our stack."

    There now came a murderous glare. "Vinnie is knowing the rules of the sabacc house."

    "Then you should also know it's your play, Vin. You deal first."

    At this, Anakin sensed a sudden spike of aggression and duplicity and steeled himself. It wouldn't be long, now.

    "Of course," the Devaronian said softly.

    The background whispers became frantic.

    "Vinnie's a maniac. I just don't trust him."

    "Ani-man's got his number, though. See how still he is?"

    "Yeah, kid's just waiting for the Dev to make his move. I tell you, it's a fool that'd try to cheat Anakin Skywalker."

    "He'll regret it."

    As the betting raged wildly on, each male reached for the card the dealer droid spat at him and added it to his hand. Suddenly, there it came, almost too quickly to catch. A flutter of movement at the left cuff of Grott's jacket, and for the briefest of instances, the Devaronian held in his blood-red hands, not three sabacc cards, but four. Just as quickly, though, one of the cards—Anakin could only conclude it was the one Grott found least useful—slipped back up the cuff. The entire trick had taken less than a second, and through it all, the Devaronian had never taken his eyes from his opponent's. At last, his gaze dropped to his cards, and he began shuffling them carefully.

    Now, thought Anakin.

    The subtlest of suggestions, and Grott shuffled one time less than he'd intended, causing the skifter to be the card placed face-down before Anakin. Rapidly, the young man 'nudged' it until he sensed what he was looking for. As he reached for the card, his gaze flicked down, then up to Grott. The crimson face was expressionless, but Anakin could sense the triumph radiating from him. Their gazes remained locked as the dealer droid gave a series of countdown beeps. When the final beep sounded, the two males, still staring at one another, revealed their draw cards.

    For a moment, there was thick silence in the room, with the very suns seeming to strain through the haze for a peek. And then everyone was speaking at once.

    "He's won it!"

    "He's got her!"

    "The kid's pulled Mad Maddie!"

    It was true. Before the young man, glowing eerily green in the bright light, was the Mistress of Air and Darkness. Properly known elsewhere as the "Queen", she'd been demoted to Mistress on Tatooine. With the locals holding that she was "mad" to have ever thought herself above the other Mistresses, "Mad Maddie" was born—and Anakin had her in his grasp.

    Grott, on the other hand, had the Seven of Flasks. Paired with his prior cards—the Ace of Sabers and the Two of Coins—he now had a score of 24 and had "bombed plumb out", as the regulars gleefully put it.

    The chatter continued.


    "The kid's done it again!"

    "That's forty wups you owe me, Merl."

    "All right, all right. Hold your banthas."

    Sprinkled amid the many congratulatory shouts were loud groans from the few individuals bold enough to bet against Anakin, now vowing they'd never do it again. Meanwhile, several dancing females shrieked with delight. One even fainted.

    For his part, Anakin took a final pull from his cig before stubbing it out with a wink. "Good game."

    During all the tumult, the Devaronian had sat silent, clearly stunned by the turn of events. But now he shoved his cards off the table with a hiss. "Jedi poodoo!"

    Suddenly, the room was deathly quiet again. As its sager occupants began creeping noiselessly for the exits, Anakin glanced over the edges of the truguts he'd been gathering. "What are you smoking, Vinnie? I'm not a Jedi."

    Grott's thick nails clawed the table. "You use Jedi mind trick, make Vinnie lose game! Every time, Vinnie is losing to you!"

    Smiling, the young man began tucking the bills into his breast pocket. "Easy, Vinnie baby. Keep your horns on. Nobody makes you play."

    Two horn tips glowed fiery blue. "Vinnie will be making you pay for this game, you son of murglak. Vinnie will be making you pay."

    He sighed. "Relax, Vin. You'll get it back. I'm just lucky today."

    "You are having luck every day, Skywalker. You are having too much 'luck'. But Vinnie will have last laugh." A chair scraped against the hard-packed ground, and Grott stalked out.

    Anakin frowned. A few acquaintances gathered at his side.

    "Hey. Ani-man. That don't look too good."

    "Yeah. You want we should follow him, Skywalker?"

    Anakin thought of his overstuffed pocket. Twenty-five hundred truguts. Forty thousand wupiupi. It was an extraordinary sum, one that would normally have contented him for some time—but under the current circumstances, it wasn't enough by half. He still needed a few more wins to get the hyperspace drive he'd promised the Chancellor.

    And so, reaching over, he began gathering the scattered cards. "Nah. Let him go. He's bluffing."

    ·:· ·:·

    But the young man was uneasy for the rest of the afternoon. It took everything in him to stay focused on "the play", this jhabacc game that was so deadly serious. Finally, it was finished, and the ninety-six thousand wupiupi from his thirteenth consecutive win—an all-time record—were barely tucked safely away before, ignoring the pleas of, "Just one more hand, kid; come on, Skywalker!", Anakin was on his speeder bike, zooming towards Watto's shop. Once there, he shoved the money and an explanatory note into the slot of a locked drawer, slipped a T-14 hyperdrive generator into a passcode-protected anti-grav container, and harnessed the container to the faithful little astromech that had waited hopefully all day long. As the R2 unit jetted triumphantly off with its cargo floating behind it, Anakin began racing for home, now filled with an inexplicable dread.

    He began by heading towards the property he'd won from Taverns, but his senses tugged him so insistently in the opposite direction that it wasn't long before he gave in and let them lead him along. To his surprise, they led him to a small housing compound a few streets from Slave Quarter's Row. The street was spookily silent, and all the windows in the lane were dark except for a dimly flickering synthlamp in the entrance of his old home.

    His heart thudding in his chest, Anakin leapt from the speeder, dashed towards the house, and—for the second time that day—nearly collided with C-3P0, who had rushed out to meet him.

    "Master Ani!" the protocol droid cried, so flustered that for once, it forgot to apologize for the mishap that was never completely its fault. "It is so good to see you fully functional."

    "Hey, Threepio," Anakin said distractedly. "Where's my mother?"

    "Oh, dear; oh, dear." The droid gave several ineffective flutters. "She's…dying, I'm afraid."

    The young man glowered at him. "Not funny."

    "Well, I—no humor was intended, Master Ani. I was programmed for etiquette, not entertainment. I only thought that…perhaps you should…know…"

    Anakin pushed past the droid, a chill flooding through him. "Mom?" he called as he ran towards the entrance. "Mom?"

    Before he could get inside, a barrel-chested man with brown hair, pale eyebrows, and a graying beard accosted him. "Where the hell have you been, boy?" snarled Cliegg Lars.

    Anakin grinned mirthlessly. "Nice to see you too, Cliegg. Bad day on the farm, I take it." Brushing past the older man, he began scanning the residence. "Is my mother home?"

    "I'm…in here, Ani," a woman's voice called faintly.

    It was then that Anakin felt the pain that had been there from the start, sharp and intense; pain so fierce, it choked the air. Wincing against it, he moved slowly towards its source: the pallid, gasping woman who lay on a rough-hewn bed in a small bedchamber, propped up by a mountain of pillows.

    He wanted to run to her, but slumped against the doorway instead; so shaken, he couldn't speak.

    Mom, he mouthed.

    Now Cliegg pushed past him. "Shmi, darlin'," he said, brushing the hair from the woman's sticky forehead with a caress. Then he shot Anakin a glare. "This fool boy finally decided to turn up. I told you he was bound to, eventually."

    Slowly, Shmi turned to Cliegg with the faintest hint of reproof in her eyes. "You must not…speak of my son so, love. You will break my heart."

    "Humph," he grumbled. "Seems he's done a pretty good job of that himself."

    She looked at the older man mournfully, then let her gaze fall to her lap.

    "All right," Cliegg conceded, then kissed her fiercely. "Gods, I love you. Damn it—!"

    "Cliegg, please." She looked worriedly at Anakin. "He doesn't…know."

    "What don't I know?" the young man demanded, finding his voice at last. "What's happened to you?"

    The couple exchanged glances, and then Cliegg sighed.

    "Sit down, son," he said quietly, pointing at a chair. "We have a lot to talk about, and…there isn't much time."

    ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Kaima widened her eyes, sure she'd heard wrong. "Two whole wups, all for me?"

    "That is right, little girl," said the strange humanoid in the green jacket. "They are all for you if you are telling Vinnie where to find the mother of Anakin Skywalker."

    Now the girl frowned. "Why are you looking for Shmi?"

    A thin smile. "Vinnie is giving…Shmi…a very special present from her son."

    "Oh!" said Kaima, clasping her brown hands. "She'll be happy. Anakin's so nice. I know where she lives; in the fifth house three streets from Slave Quarter's Row. It's got a pretty red cloth in the window. Anakin gave it to her." Stars filled her gray eyes. "Anakin gives her everything. He bought her a big house with grass, and flowers, and even" —her voice dropped to an awed whisper—"even a tree." A blissful sigh, and she went on. "So she's gonna live there now. But she's got stuff here, so she and Threepio—"

    "Vinnie is thanking you, little girl," the stranger said coolly, patting her brown curls. "Here is money. Do not be spending it all on candies."

    Kaima laughed. "You're funny, Mister. Thank you, Mister!"

    But the Devaronian was already walking away.

    ·:· ·:· ·:· ·:·

    The woman was tired, but she fully owned that it was her fault. After all, she was the one who'd insisted on loading much of the heavier items into the speeder herself. She had ignored the protocol droid's protestations and offers of assistance, and now she was tired. Help was on the way, but it wouldn't finish working until sundown. She was happy to wait. She'd spent her whole life waiting.

    Slowly, she leaned against the sturdy wall of her entrance, thinking of all the memories the little home had held. A prick at her eye, and she dashed the tear away with a shake of her head. What was there to cry about?

    She sighed. I must prepare the evening meal, she thought. Anakin will

    Smiling fondly, she shook her head. No, he wouldn't be home soon. The young man had moved into a small place of his own several months ago, but his mother still hadn't adjusted to the change. Perhaps she never would.

    A velvet voice interrupted her thoughts. "Please be excusing me, Mistress Shmi."

    Startled, she frowned at the speaker, a bulky Devaronian in a large leather jacket. "Yes?"

    He gave a helpless shrug. "Vinnie is sorry to be disturbing you, but he has heard you are having skills in fixing."

    A moment of confusion melted into a radiant smile. "You must be thinking of my Ani," she said proudly. "I can make some simple repairs, but Anakin can fix anything."

    An odd glitter came into the humanoid's eyes. "Yes. Vinnie is certain it is true. Vinnie will leave it for your…'Ani'." He looked over his shoulder. "Will you, Mistress Shmi, kindly be helping Vinnie move it? It is much weight."

    A sudden pang of terror gripped the woman so fiercely that it nearly toppled her over. She found herself gazing at the Devaronian suspiciously. And then a profound feeling of shame welled up in her, triggered by the reproving memory of a little boy she'd known a decade ago.

    "Mom, you always say the biggest problem in this universe is that nobody helps each other."

    The poor creature, the woman thought remorsefully. He probably must deal with this sort of treatment on every world except his own.

    "Of course, I'll help you," she said aloud, and gave him a warm smile. "Where is it?"


    The moisture farmer was exhausted. Wringing water from the forbidding air of his homeworld often felt like squeezing blood from a stone: the blood came eventually, but it was only because of you. Decades of hard life were finally beginning to take their toll. Still, the man felt a spring in his step at the thought of the evening ahead. He was finally ready, it was finally time, and he couldn't wait to tell her. A grin warmed the weathered features of his face as he pictured her delight at his early arrival. He patted his left shirt pocket. It wouldn't be the only surprise of the evening.

    Minutes from her home, he was already moving forward eagerly when two sounds propelled him into an all-out sprint.

    The first was the tearing of fabric.

    The second: the agonized cries of the woman he loved.

    ·:·:· ·:·

    Cliegg ran a tired hand over his face. "He'd pulled a knife on her. Dragged it right over her heart. Saw me coming and jumped on his swoop bike. Took off."

    Rising from his seat, Anakin walked to the bed and eased the coverlets just low enough to see the shallow purple gash beneath Shmi's collarbone. The wound had been meticulously dressed, and now it looked painful, but not serious. He felt hope beginning to stir in him. Over the years of playing sabacc, he'd been able to keep on friendly terms with most of those who lost money to him, but had also made several enemies. He'd always laughed away his mother's worries and reminded her of his age. It had never occurred to him that reprisal might be indirect. But now that the unthinkable had finally happened, everything would be all right, and things would be different from now on.

    "Well," he said in mounting relief. "It's horrible, but it could be much worse. I can never thank you enough, Cliegg. If you hadn't been there—"

    The older man held up a weary hand. "Don't thank me just yet, boy. It's a lot worse than you realize." He glanced at the vacated chair. "You'd better sit back down."

    "All right, I'm sitting. How bad is it?"

    "The blade was made with…"—the older man took a scrap of flimsiplast from his pocket—"Devaronian blood poison. Painful to the touch, deadly if it breaks the skin." He paused. "That silly droid's right, boy. Your mother's dying."

    Anakin scowled at him. "Why didn't you take her to a med center?"

    Cliegg shifted impatiently. "She's too weak to be moved. We sent for emergency med droids, but they told us the only antidote is on Devaron." He scowled. "Might as well be on Coruscant. Planet's past the Inner Rim; all the way in the Colonies. We'd never make it in time, even if we had a way to get there." He hung his head. "She doesn't have a chance, boy. There's nothing we can do."

    The younger man looked at the older in utter despair. "Nothing?"

    Cliegg looked away, blinking rapidly. "We tried, son," he said quietly. "The best we could do was pump her full of painkiller and make her as comfortable as possible," He cleared his throat, his eyes on the ceiling. "She's got thirty standard minutes left, at most."

    Slipping from the chair, Anakin sank to his knees and put his face in his hands.

    "Thirty standard minutes left."

    The young man began to shudder.

    Cliegg watched him for a few moments, then rose from the bed, kissed Shmi gently on the forehead, and turned away. "I'll leave you two alone." As he stood by the door, his heart shone through his eyes. "We…already said our goodbyes."

    Poison, Anakin kept thinking as the older man carefully closed the door. Minutes left, at most. Poison…


    Looking up, he saw Shmi reaching for him with an arm that had never seemed frail before. Two large steps, and he was sitting at her side, pulling her into his arms.

    "Oh, Mom…"

    Patting his back, Shmi soothed the young man as if he were the crechling she could still remember. "I'm…here, Anakin. It's all…right." But her shallow breathing and slowing pulse gave away the lie.

    Anakin sat there for a moment more, then moved out of the embrace. If there were really only minutes left, he didn't want to waste them on what couldn't be changed. Still, he needed to understand. "Why?" he asked. "Why poison?"

    She closed her dilated eyes in thought. "I think…he wanted you to…find me, Ani." Another shallow breath that barely moved her chest. "He wanted you…to know it was him."

    Anakin clenched his jaw so tightly, he thought it would shatter. "I'll kill him."

    Shmi's eyes flew open, and for an instant, every trace of weakness left her. "No, Anakin," she said firmly. "Promise me."

    Trembling, the young man shook his head. "I won't promise that."

    Taking his face in her clammy hands, she gave him a fierce shake. "You must. Promise me you won't try for revenge. That you'll make a good life for yourself." A deep, ragged breath signaled the approaching end of her strange moment of strength. "Promise me you'll leave…this terrible place." When he shook his head again, her eyes welled with tears. "Please, Anakin? For me?"

    Looking in her face, the young man found himself blinking back his own tears. "For you? Anything." Turning up her swollen palm, he kissed it. "I'll leave, Mom. I won't find him. I promise."

    Upon hearing the words, Shmi's anguished face at last sank into peace. "Thank you, love."

    Anakin simply held her: wordlessly, desperately willing her to live. But the gifted young man had finally met his match; in his grasp lay the one card over which he had no power. Several moments passed in the sad silence before Shmi spoke again.

    "Often," she choked out, struggling with every breath, "Often, I regret you not…leaving with that…Jedi."

    She had her left hand on his chin; he clasped the right one to his heart. The modest gold band on her fourth finger was none of his business. "It was my choice, Mom. I wanted to be with you."

    By now, the bittersweet smile was a familiar one. "My son," Shmi murmured, stroking his cheek. "My handsome, grown-up son." Another shuddering breath. "Oh, make me proud of you, Ani."

    Tears slid down Anakin's face; this time, he didn't try to stop them. "I will, Mom. I promise." Clutching her to him again, he buried his face in her shoulder. "I'll do anything that you ask;anything. Just stay with me, please."

    Her glistening fingers smoothed his hair. "Anakin…"

    Noiseless sobs shook his shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Mom. So sorry."


    She was straining to tell him something; straining with all her might. Sensing it, the young man looked up. Finally, haltingly, it came out. "Goodbye…my love," she said in a hoarse whisper. "It's not…your…"

    Another long pause, and Anakin shook her urgently. "Mom?"

    Two brown eyes smiled up at him, but the final word never came. The tender gaze grew cold and still, Shmi's warm fingers fell from his face, and Anakin slipped the dead woman's eyes shut.
    Last edited by Fate, Jan 14, 2013
    Alexis_Wingstar likes this.
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Oh, Fate. I'm so utterly moved for more than one reason ... Oh, wow. You've really hit a grand slam with this one. =D= ^:)^ [:D] @};-
  10. Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    That was devastatingly beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes.
  11. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    Thank you so much! I really wanted everyone to feel what Anakin must have felt, but I wanted to achieve that with as much realism and as little melodrama as possible. And I wanted it to sneak up on them in an ominous, unexpected way. That's a lot to ask of a single post, so I'm very glad it worked for you. ;)

    I really appreciate your taking the time to tell me how you felt. I had a pretty horrible sinking feeling when I reread the last part, but it's not always easy to tell when something really 'works', and when it's just you as a writer reading more into your work than is actually there. That's why I really treasure feedback as a means of providing prospective.

    Thank you both for your beautiful words. I apologize for taking so long to reply; the last chapter was a bit draining for me. I put a lot into it and was hoping to know more of how it hit everyone, but maybe everyone was just stunned...or maybe the chapter was just too long. ;)

    All: Here comes another enormous chapter. I probably could have cut parts of it out, but in the end, I didn't want to. Hope you enjoy. :cool:

    @Aluna Skywalker @Ceillean


    Chapter 9: Away


    Pronunciation Guide: Haverson ("HAVE-ur-sin"); Tatoo ("TAT-too", not "tat-TOO"); Kestrel ("KESS-trill")

    Drink Guide: Corellian Fog (three parts whiskey, one part lager, twist of lime); Socorran Speeder Bomb (three parts stout, one part cream and whiskey)

    ·:·:· ·:· ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Haverson tugged a sweaty arm over his brow. It had all ended a half-hour ago, and he had been sweeping ever since: sweeping broken glass from the sand-strewn floor, sweeping splinters from the fragmented table, sweeping ash from beneath the dangling hand of the sleeping young man who'd started all the trouble—the same young man who'd stormed in two hours prior, demanded a Corellian Fog, and hadn't stopped drinking since. Granted, the kid had nursed his first beverage for quite a while, pausing frequently to stare into the distance. He'd very quickly followed it up with a second, though, and halfway through it had taken out a pack of sabacc training cards and begun setting them ablaze one by one. Reinforced flimsiplast was noxious when it burned, and Haverson had itched to ask that the cards be disposed of elsewhere, but a peek at the kid's expression had helped him think better of it. The pale blue eyes had darkened to nearly black, the jaw kept twitching, and there was an obstinate jut to the chin.

    In short, Skywalker had been spoiling for a fight from the start, and if there was one thing Haverson had learned in his decades of barkeeping, it was that when a man was set on fighting, nothing in the galaxy would keep him from it. Still, Haverson had tried. Sweet Tatoo, he had tried. He'd sensed trouble brewing the moment the kid pushed through the entrance, fury curling about him like a vapor, and proceeded to plant himself in the exact center of the seven stools facing the main bar. One glance, and Haverson had instinctively kept the area around Skywalker clear, discouraging away new arrivals with an slight shake of his head. And so the others had cheerfully drunk elsewhere, either pulling up to one of three small tables at the end of the room or leaning against the alcove bar to the far left. In all cases, they gave the stiff-backed young man a wide berth, and Haverson began to congratulate himself on a job well done.
    And then it had happened.

    To the barkeeper's credit, everything had gone well until the tavern was nearly empty, with only three left besides Skywalker. The trio of males had drunk quite a bit over the course of the evening, but seemed to be handling themselves well. As they rose merrily from the last of the circular tables, Haverson attempted to make eye contact with each of them in turn, and in the end succeeded with all but one: a youngish Nautolan who'd had a drop too much ale. Laughing and gesticulating wildly, the humanoid made his giddy way to the exit, not paying the slightest attention to where he was going—and made the mistake of bumping into Skywalker on his way past. More specifically, one of his green tendrils slapped the kid on the back of the head.

    Haverson froze, but it was too late. A lightning-quick motion, and the Nautolan writhed on the ground, clutching his side.

    "Kestrel!" one of his companions cried, running to him. Then the burnt-orange Zabrak looked up angrily. "That bloke jabbed him in the gut!"

    The burly and middle-aged third of the group stepped forward menacingly. "I think you owe my friend an apology, boy."

    Skywalker merely shrugged. "I think your 'friend' should learn to watch where he's going." Turning his back, he took another sip of his drink.

    "Oh, it's a little punk, innit?" the Zabrak said in his high tenor, rising from the floor and crossing the room. "Someone should give him a lesson in manners, I think."

    The bald man growled his agreement.

    "You're right; someone should," Skywalker said softly. "It won't be you guys, though." Flexing his fingers, he curled them into loose fists. "But I'll enjoy watching you try."

    At this, the near-human smiled nastily. "What do you say, Drik?"

    Drik's grin revealed several missing teeth. He shoved a fist into his meaty palm with a loud smack, then cracked his knuckles. "I say we send him cryin' to his mommy."

    From the cold look the young man now gave his beverage, Haverson could tell that this had been the wrong thing to say. In a final, desperate effort, he tried to intercede. "Now, boys…" he began.

    The man called Drik didn't even look up. "T'ain't your affair, old man," he said. "You'd best keep out of it."

    The Nautolan had finally begun to come around. Grasping the alcove bar, he rose unsteadily to his feet, still wincing in pain. "Whaa…?" he said uncertainly.

    "It's all right, Kestrel," the Zabrak soothed, not taking his eyes from the young man's back. "We'll handle this."

    With an assenting grunt, Drik grabbed the kid's shoulder to spin him around.

    Just before Skywalker swung the first blow, Haverson could swear he saw him smile.

    Once the fighting had begun in earnest, all the older man could do was sink beneath his bar, pull out the nip of brandy he kept on hand for such occasions, and watch the proceedings from a small holomonitor while he waited for it to be over.

    It had been a blur from the start. Drik had gone flying, the Zabrak had had the air knocked from him, and all of that before the young man left his stool. Not that the kid hadn't gotten his war wounds. It was two on one, and with each about twice his size, the odds were certainly not in his favor. To further complicate matters, the Nautolan rallied half-way through the fray and flung himself in with a loud screech. But what the young man lacked in size and numbers, he made up for in ferocity and the series of inexplicable accidents that befell his opponents. They kept slipping and falling, several times bumping into tables and chairs, but just as often tripping over items that weren't there. Meanwhile, Skywalker never tripped. He was knocked down, yes; but never tripped. He managed to avoid the furnishings as nimbly as he avoided most of the blows aimed at him. And he never stopped laughing. He laughed when the Zabrak threw him into a table, cracking it down the middle. He laughed when the bald man swung at his face and got his nose bashed in for his pains. He even laughed when the Nautolan smashed a half-empty bottle of ale over his head, though the liquid stung his eyes and made him cough a bit. He was laughing when he flung the Nautolan through a window.

    In the end, he'd won, and with his adversaries unconscious, the young man had sat back on his stool, lit a cig with trembling hands, and ordered another drink.

    Haverson pulled himself carefully from beneath the bar, glanced at the three fallen males, and scurried about mixing the beverage: a Socorran Speeder Bomb. Once it was ready, ignoring the gashes on his neck and bruises on his face, Skywalker began to drink. Haverson watched him nervously, but as it turned out, he needn't have worried. In the middle of the Socorran, the young man pushed his glass away, tucked his head into his elbow, and was soon dozing with one arm stretched over the bar, a cig stump tucked firmly in his fingers. Asleep, he looked much younger than he surely was; with his long lashes and tousled hair, he seemed only a boy. As Haverson peered at him, a bit of sorrow seeped from Skywalker's right eye, slipping through streaks of dried blood to trace the side of his nose. In spite of all the trouble he'd caused, the barkeep found himself pitying the young man. Clearly something terrible had happened for him to pick such a senseless fight. A bad breakup, probably.

    With a shrug, Haverson set about tidying his establishment. He dragged the felled three onto a set of collapsible med cots he kept beneath the main bar, then dragged the chairs back to their proper positions. He was tempted to drag the young man from his stool—it was 0535, for Tat's sake—but again thought better of it. He'd just finished his sweeping and was wiping a counter with seltzer when he heard the tinkling of bells and braced himself. A broad path had been cleared around Skywalker; now there was no reason for anyone to so much as breathe on him. The barkeep fervently hoped another incident could be avoided, but these hopes dimmed as he saw a burly man walking toward the sleeping figure with some determination.

    Leave him alone, friend, he found himself praying. He's a lot more trouble than he looks.

    With one hand on the counter and the other clutching his brandy, Haverson prepared for the worst.
    ·:· ·:·

    Anakin was having a wonderful dream. In it, he flew through the warm air of a bright day. Far beneath him, in an enormous pasture of fragrant, flowing grass, a young couple was having a picnic. Anakin could make out the face of neither, but the odd hairstyle of the man—military-short in the front; long enough in the back to be gathered into a small bundle—gave away his profession: a Jedi. This particular Jedi had uncharacteristically paired his brown robe with a large vest of black synthleather. With his dueling garments, the young man seemed to be struggling against his better nature.

    The young woman, however, appeared to have no such conflictions; she was simply beautiful: strikingly, dizzyingly so. Anakin arrived at this conclusion by observing how fixedly her companion was gazing at her; clearly, she had his rapt attention. In her billowing flower of a pale-yellow dress, it was impossible to say how she occupied herself when not at picnic, but she was undoubtedly lovely at it.

    Smiling, Anakin flew higher, leaving them alone. A lone cloud hung motionless in the pale blue sky, throwing a large fringe of mountains into sharp relief. It had slowly begun drifting towards the glowing sun when Anakin heard it start to speak and drew back in confusion.

    "Mornin', Lars!" it barked. "What can I get you?"

    Now thunder rumbled above the picnic, but the couple, lost in each other, didn't look up. As the cloud crept over the sun and they slowly began fading from view, the thunder, too, began to speak. It began by grunting.

    "Humph," it said irritably. "Seems to me you've handed out enough for a week. Poor kid's out like a synthlamp."

    The cloud gave a ridiculously overdone laugh, and Anakin woke up at last, wincing away from the loud noise. Through one squinted eye, he observed Cliegg Lars standing at his side, a relieved expression seeping into his gruff features. Through the other, he saw the barkeep nodding in satisfaction as he put his brandy away.

    A pause, and then the moisture farmer jerked a thumb at the three prostrate figures. "What's all this?"

    Anakin cracked his neck, then winced, his hand going to the back of his head. "They got on my nerves."

    At this, Cliegg simply nodded. "Been looking for you for two days, son," he said after a moment's pause. "Nearly sent a search party after you."

    Anakin blinked. Two days? "I've been right here," he said aloud, then frowned at the blood staining his fingers. "I think."

    "Oh. Thought maybe you'd gone after…"

    "No." The young man stared vacantly ahead. "She made me promise I wouldn't."

    A low chuckle. "I thought she might. It's like her." Pulling up a stool, Cliegg sat heavily upon it. "But I didn't hear that part. A few farmers and I hunted that demon down. Him and his friends." His mouth drew a grim line. "They didn't die clean."

    Anakin nodded numbly. "Thank you, sir."

    "I was hoping"—a pause, and then the older man tried again—"I was hoping we could bury your mother on the farm."

    In the ensuing silence, the young man began looking himself over more carefully. Dipping a disposable cloth into his lukewarm drink, he began dabbing at his split knuckles, flinching as the alcohol seeped into the cuts. "I think you should," he said at last. "She would have wanted it."

    The moisture farmer gazed at him in open gratitude. "I appreciate that, son. We'll do the best we can for her."

    Anakin nodded again, then looked away, tapping the sides of the glass with his fingertips.

    Cliegg shifted on his stool. "What'll you do now?"

    A gulp of the drink and a grimace. "I don't know."

    The older man cleared his throat. "You know you...always have a place, out on the moisture farm with Owen and me." He patted the young man's shoulder awkwardly. "We'd be glad to have you. Heck, you're practically family."

    Anakin knew he'd be miserable there, but nodded anyway. "Thank you," he said again.

    A final pat, and Cliegg rose to his feet. "I'd better head on out." And then he smiled. "That droid'll be happy."

    The young man looked up in alarm. "Droid?"

    "An astromech. Little R2 unit. It came rolling by the morning after"—he blinked rapidly—"After. That Threepio of yours was finally good for something; told me it had a message for us."

    "From whom?"

    Cliegg frowned. "Some strange old man in a robe. Said we should call as soon as we found you. I thought maybe it was one of them Jedi, but I didn't see a laser sword. And…there was somethin' about him I couldn't put my finger on. Somethin' off." Suddenly, he gave Anakin a sharp look. "This old fellow; is he friendly? You're not in any more trouble, are you?"

    The young man smiled bitterly. "He's fine. I don't recall challenging him to Sabacc."

    An awkward pause. "Well. I'd better get back and tell him where you are, then." Another pause, and Cliegg jerked his chin at the near-empty glass. "Careful on that swill, son. It'll bite you back."

    As the moisture farmer shuffled out, Anakin obediently pushed his glass aside. The moment Cliegg was gone, though, he bolted its contents down and signaled for another.

    ·:· ·:· ·:·

    A few hours later, he teetered on his stool with slumped shoulders, his head buried in his hands. The tap on his arm nearly sent him to the ground. Clutching the bar, he looked up with red-rimmed eyes to see, not the chancellor's hologram, but the chancellor himself, bundled in dark robes, gazing at him in relief and triumph.

    "And here you are. I'd feared you might have gone elsewhere."

    Worry peeped through the young man's bleary eyes. "You didn't...get your repairs?" he asked, slurring slightly. "I gave Artoo the passcode."

    A small step back, a single sweeping glance, and the older man put two and two together. The barkeep's shift had ended, and a droid currently manned the bar, but the males on the med cots had yet to revive. Palpatine paused delicately. "Friends of yours?" he ventured at last.

    A snort. "Not exactly." Sighing, Anakin put his head back in his hands. "You shouldn't be here, Your Excellency. It isn't safe."

    Palpatine looked pointedly at the young man's roughly-bandaged knuckles. "So I gather." A moment's silence, and he sat down. "I have come to thank you, my friend. Although I can never truly repay you for your kindness...and for your sacrifice."

    Anakin gritted his teeth. "I should have known better. If I had just followed Vinnie..."

    "Perhaps you would have been killed, as well," the chancellor replied softly. "You live in a rather rough world, Anakin."

    "Not by choice. I've spent my whole life dreaming of getting away from this place."

    "What's kept you?"

    The young man looked at him blankly. "I stayed for my mother." Shrugging, he took another gulp of his drink. "Watto wouldn't free both of us, so she couldn't go with me."

    It was at this point that Palpatine calmly took the glass away and set it out of reach. "Go with you where?"

    Anakin opened his mouth to explain, then shut it, suddenly feeling decades older than his nineteen years. "Some other time, Chancellor."

    A long pause. "I'm concerned about you, Anakin."

    "I'm not your problem."

    Another lengthy silence, and then the older man began taking quiet, decisive action. Removing the burnt-out cig from the young man's fingers, he handed it to the bar droid for disposal, then motioned for a moist towelette and requested a strong cup of caf. As the droid prepared the caf, Palpatine handed the towelette to Anakin, who obediently wiped his face and neck with it and then began rubbing away at sticky bits of his jacket.

    "Perhaps not," the chancellor said, replying at last to the young man's emphatic statement. "And yet I feel responsible for my part in causing this tragedy." Folding his hands on the bar, he looked at them gravely. "I shall never forgive myself, Anakin."

    "Fresh cuppa Core caf," announced the bar droid, setting down a small mug and saucer.

    Anakin sniffed the caf, then made a face at it.

    The chancellor laughed. "Come now, my boy. I'm sure you've had far worse."

    Slowly, the young man began taking small sips of the hot, bitter beverage. It did nothing for his pounding head, but he did find himself beginning to feel a bit more alert.

    Meanwhile, the chancellor went on speaking in his soothing, lulling voice. "It's clear you are suffering, my friend. But you must waste no more time in this desolate world that has never been worthy of you. I know I can never replace what you have lost, but I can do all in my power to give you a better life."

    "Promise me you'll leave…this terrible place."

    Swallowing hard, Anakin looked away.

    In the softest of whispers, Palpatine persisted, laying a hand on the young man's shoulder. "Is there nothing I can do for you, Anakin?"

    Reflexively, the young man checked his wrist chrono. 0947. Had it really been only two days since the oasis? Another moment's thought, and then, abruptly: "Will you take me with you?"

    "Where shall I take you?" Palpatine asked gently.

    "Anywhere you like." He looked at the older man with a strange intensity. "Will you take me away from this place?"

    The chancellor smiled. "I should be honored to." Rising carefully to his feet, he half-guided, half-carried the young man as he stumbled from the bar.
    ·:· ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Several hours, a bacta wash, and a change of garments later, Anakin was feeling a bit more like himself. It helped that Tatooine and its suns were now a distant speck, growing ever fainter as the Nubian starship glided for Coruscant.

    Good riddance, he thought as he passed the last in a series of small viewports festooning the corridor. Although I will miss Threepio.

    As he approached what had once been the royal throne room, he shivered violently. Three long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, and a large jacket, but the chill of space cut through them all like a laser through butter. Pausing uncertainly at the wide threshold, he blew on his gloved hands, then tucked them in his armpits.


    Palpatine turned expectantly from the enormous viewport at the end of the room. "Ah, Anakin," he said, smiling broadly. "I'd hoped you'd join me." He paused. "How are you feeling?"

    Anakin coughed a bit, then grinned wryly. "Cold, sir. But I know that wasn't your question." He stood a bit straighter. "I'd rather not talk about it, if that's all right."

    "Certainly, my friend," the older man said briskly. "I trust you find your quarters to your liking?"

    Anakin bowed. "You are most generous, Your Excellency."

    "Nonsense," the chancellor said with a wave of his hand. "I merely endeavor to pay my debts." Walking around a large conference table, he handed the young man a delicately-wrought, expensive-looking datachip.

    Stepping into the room at last, Anakin scanned the chip in an embedded confirmation reader, then frowned. "There's been a mistake. The reader shows five hundred thousand credits on this card."

    Palpatine had returned to his viewport. "Yes. I was able to have an additional three hundred thousand wired yesterday morning."

    The young man shook his head. "The mistake is that you only owed me about a hundred and ninety."

    The chancellor clasped his hands behind his back. "Well. The 'Hutt tax' you mentioned is indeed exorbitant, I find." He turned from the viewport with a small smile. "Really, Anakin, a few extra credits are the least I can do to compensate you for your loss."

    "…to compensate you for your loss."

    Anakin's veins suddenly filled with ice. "What, so this is where you buy me off? No amount of money will ever bring her back." Slamming the chip on the elegant table, he shoved it back at the older man. "Keep your credits." As the datachip skidded to the floor with a faint clatter, Anakin looked away, his jaw twitching. "Apologies, Chancellor. I meant no disrespect."

    "It's quite all right," Palpatine said softly, walking to where the chip had fallen. "You have every reason to be angry. With that creature, with that planet…and even with me, Anakin."

    The young man didn't respond.

    Picking up the chip, Palpatine began examining it carefully. "I suspect, however, that you are primarily angry with yourself. You feel that, had you been stronger, you might have saved her; she might have lived."

    Anakin shifted impatiently. The chancellor read him far too easily. They'd only been acquainted for a few days, yet he already seemed transparent to the older man, down to his smallest nerve. He found it disturbing. Turning away, he began walking from the room.

    "A pity, isn't it?"

    Pausing at the threshold, he glanced back, curious in spite of himself. "What is?"

    There was an inscrutable expression on the older man's face. "That one can't cheat death."

    Now Anakin stared at Palpatine outright. He was still staring when the buzz of a holotransmitter brought him back to himself and, shaking his head, he again began exiting the chamber.

    Glancing at the caller verification, the chancellor held up a finger. "One moment, Anakin. There is someone I would very much like you to meet."

    A large column of blue light appeared in the center of the conference table, quickly dissolving into the image of an imposing male Chagrian in flowing robes of state who started, then bowed deeply. "Supreme Chancellor Palpatine," he said grandly. "What a relief to find you safe from harm." A glance over his shoulder, and the Chagrian lowered his voice to a hush. "The whispers of your demise were becoming difficult to counter, given your three-week absence. I had worried they would soon break out of containment."

    "I had thought as much," Palpatine replied coolly. "Idle chatter, in keeping with the bureaucratic nonsense cluttering the Senate. No matter; I shall arrive within the week to address all such rumors personally." A smile. "Meanwhile, your call is most fortuitous. I have an errand for you, Vice-Chancellor. Come here, Anakin."

    The Chagrian official turned a disparaging eye on the tall figure stepping into view, his chilly blue gaze taking in the bacta patches, the thick garments, the fading bruises; the young man even appeared to possess the vague remnants of a black eye.

    How quaint, he thought.

    "Anakin Skywalker, may I present Mas Amedda, Vice-Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Mas Amedda, Anakin."

    As the two males exchanged bows, the vice-chancellor's cold smile resembled more a sneer than anything else. "I don't believe I have had the...pleasure...of meeting you before."

    Anakin met the hard look evenly. "No, I'm pretty new around here."

    Palpatine's gaze flicked from one to the other, and then he stepped to the right, effectively shifting Amedda's scowl from Anakin. "Now then, Vice-Chair. I wish to discuss with you something of critical importance."

    Another glance at Anakin, and Mas Amedda again lowered his voice to a near-whisper. "Hadn't we better handle such matters in private, Your Excellency?"

    "Not at all. The matter concerns this young man."

    The Chagrian curled his lip. "Indeed."

    Palpatine smiled tightly. "Anakin Skywalker is an ally of mine, Vice-Chair. He has been of immeasurable assistance to me, and I wish to see him properly settled on Coruscant at once. You needn't attend to it yourself, naturally. But I do wish it done."

    Mas Amedda gave Anakin a frosty glare. "Excuse us, please." He then turned away entirely, leaving the young man staring at his broad back. "Chancellor, I fear I must protest."

    Palpatine regarded him calmly. "Must you really? It's a fairly simple directive. I wish you to see to it that this young man is settled comfortably in the Senate District of Coruscant immediately following his arrival. I will take matters from there. I don't expect you to house him in 500 Republica, but there must surely be a vacant residence somewhere nearby." A pause. "Of course, I can always have Pestage handle the matter if you are otherwise occupied at present."

    The tip of a lethorn flicked impatiently. "It's nothing to find a vacant residence or to put someone out of one if none are available." The Chagrian leaned forward emphatically. "But, Chancellor, we know nothing of him."

    Anakin shifted uncomfortably. "Uh, sir? Maybe I'd better go."

    "Nonsense, Anakin." Palpatine looked Mas Amedda dead in the eye. "You will do exactly as I've instructed you, Vice-Chancellor, down to the letter. You will see Commander Skywalker perfectly at home on his new world."

    Here the vice-chancellor looked a bit dazed. He shook his horns in confusion. "I will…" And then he jerked up his chin. "Your Excellency." A stiff bow, and the holotransmission wavered out.

    As the blue column disappeared, Palpatine shut his eyes. "The burden of duty," he murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose and sighing deeply. Then he glanced up at the young man who had appeared on his left. "Well. What do you make of it, my boy?"

    Grinning, Anakin quirked a brow. "'Commander'?"

    "Do you like it?" the older man asked mildly.

    "Wouldn't I need an army for that?"

    Another unreadable expression passed over the chancellor's face. "Indeed." With a clap on the shoulder and a gentle smile, Palpatine began leading the young man forward, easing him in the direction of the dining chamber. "I shall order you one directly."


    And so it had begun. In the weeks that followed, Anakin found himself flung into the dizzying world of politics, power, and intrigue; a world in which he felt acutely uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the chancellor's generosity appeared to know no bounds. After seeing him settled in a splendid dwelling in the upper levels of Coruscant, he sent Anakin to elocution lessons, trained him to fly starships, and brought current his rudimentary knowledge of galactic affairs, all the while refusing to permit the young man to spend a single credit. He was lavished upon by fawning courtiers, anything he glanced at was instantly his—and Anakin was terribly bored.

    In a strange sense, he felt himself drowning; caught in a web from which he couldn't see his way clear. Something had to be done, but what? The answer came to him in the middle of his eighty-first night on Coruscant.
    ·:·:· ·:·

    The chancellor looked up from his data console in alarm. "Away? Where?"

    "Not off-planet," Anakin said reassuringly. "Just a few levels down, where it's quieter."

    Palpatine laughed. "We appear to have rather different definitions of the word 'quiet', Anakin. I find the lower levels extremely loud and entirely disagreeable." A pause. "I had hoped you were beginning to feel at home here."

    The young man began to rush forward, but caught himself and stood at attention instead. "I don't wish to sound ungrateful, Your Excellency. I'd just like to be left alone for a while. I'd like to try making my own way."

    Palpatine eyed him meaningfully. "And how do you propose to do that?"

    Anakin flushed. "I told you, I'll never play again. But I still have the five hundred thousand you gave me, plus interest." He paused. "I thought I'd open a shop or two."

    Here the older man tsked disdainfully. "A shop?"

    He shrugged. "I'm beginning to miss my droids. I think my fingers are starting to cramp up." He shifted from one foot to the other. "And honestly, sir, I'm just not comfortable with…all of this. It's too much."

    Palpatine considered, then shook his head. "But down with the Twilighters; the brutes and the dregs? Really, my boy; is that wise?"

    Anakin set his jaw. "I've made up my mind, Chancellor."

    A sigh, and the older man held up his hands. "Very well, Anakin. But you will come and see me now and again, won't you? I should very much hate to lose track of you."

    Anakin smiled in spite of himself. It was touching how fond Palpatine had grown of him in such a short time. "Certainly, Your Excellency," he said, and bowed. "Whenever you wish."
    ·:·:· ·:· ·:·

    Thus, Anakin had escaped to the lower levels and kept as quiet as possible, all the while trying to forget. Whenever a memory of the fateful day emerged, he'd immediately shoved it down. But tonight, it had all come flooding back.

    " love."

    Anakin leaned heavily against the bronzium rail. His mother. To the very end, she'd only thought of him. How often had he thrown it in her face?

    "It's not…your…"

    He looked at the duracrete shimmering thousands of meters below him in disgust. Not his fault? Of course it was his fault. And now, here he was, hobnobbing with the regalia, reaping the benefits of blessings he didn't deserve.

    Stretching his arms above his head, he arched backward, swaying a bit. As he swung them down again, he caught sight of his wrist chrono. 0340. The express turbolift would have him at the indoor speeder lot in minutes, but from there, it was still nearly an hour to the Jedi Temple. With the starfighter briefing less than two hours away, there was little use trying for sleep at this point.

    Instead, Anakin ran a finger under each eye, yawned hugely, and went indoors, tugging off his shirt as he went. After throwing himself in the 'fresher for a few minutes, he pulled on a new set of garments without bothering to towel off. Within ten minutes, he was back at his balcony, shivering in the damp clothes.

    And there, with his elbows propped on the railing and his fists beneath his chin, Anakin Skywalker watched the glittering lights of Coruscant as they dimmed into dawn.
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Hi Fate. Nicely detailed jumble and tumble of emotions. Anakin has a lot to process grief-wise and old Crinkle-butt :p isn't helping. :rolleyes: I.e., how can Anakin think clearly or know what is what or who is his real friend? [face_thinking]
  13. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3

    Exactly. o_O And then, throw in a little upper-level 'razzle-dazzle', and you've got quite the mess. I think Palpatine would prefer to keep Anakin in a permanent state of shock and confusion, so he'd never succeed in working through his emotions. And as far as friends go, the chancellor sure looks like one at the moment, doesn't he? At any rate, he seems to understand Anakin better than possibly anyone ever has, which certainly gives him an edge.

    Great insights, Jade_eyes, and I love the nickname for Palpatine. Equal parts [face_laugh] and [face_sick].

    Edit: Also, you continue to astound me with your amazingly quick reading. =D=
    Last edited by Fate, Jan 29, 2013
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  14. JaceV Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2011
    This works really well, I'm enjoying every line. I made it to chapter 5 and I hope to finish the rest soon so I can give a more precise review. Thank you for taking the time to write this and allowing me to experience something a little different. You should continue, this is a marvelous piece.
  15. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3

    Welcome! And thank you so much for the kind words. I think "a little different" is a compliment of the highest order for anyone writing an fic, but especially when that fic happens to be an AU. :)

    You've probably already realized it, but the story has a pretty dramatic digression beginning with Chapter 6, though I think the reasons for it will become clear in time. Also, the last two chapters are each about twice as long as the others, but I just couldn't think of anything in them I wouldn't miss.

    I very much look forward to your review, but thank you for taking a quick moment to tell me what you think so far. :)

    All: I'm going to take the next several weeks off from "Judging Angels" to recharge and give anyone reading a chance to catch up. The next chapter will be up by March 15, 2013. Thank you for your patience. @};-
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
  17. Venus_Star2-com Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 29, 2005
    star 2
    So, I finally managed to catch up on the chapters that I missed ( I can't believe I missed 3 Chapters!)

    I like that you add the pronouciation of foreign words at the start of each chapter, It makes it feel more authentic.

    Its a pretty traumatic set of circumstances that anakin went through!

    I loved the relationship you described between anakin, his mother and step father. I also loved the introduction of Palpy

    I am, somewhat, relieved that Anakin is NOT 100% under palpy's control and that there is potential for anakin to become a Jedi ( or perhaps not.....just because he is the chosen one does not mean he has to be a jedi??)

    I loved the tense imagery of the poker game ( off topic...I had lady gaga's poker face in the background so it made it more interesting)

    The description of the cards---ALL of it--- you can tell a lot of research and effort was put into this story and while this story is on pause I look forward to the next chapter...

    Will anakin meet Obi-wan???

    Last edited by Venus_Star2-com, Feb 2, 2013
  18. Aluna Skywalker Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 11, 2006
    Hey Fate!

    You didn't lose me...I'm brewing up a baby and I've been sick since Christmas.

    When Anakin said that they didn't have to follow Vinnie I was screaming at the screen, "No!! He's going to kill your mother!" :_| Your characterizations are bang on. I can really see Anakin being a Sabacc player. Since he's not a jedi rescuing damsels and harassing Obi-Wan, it seems like a plausible alternative to beat everyone gambling.

    Yeah, I'm sure Palpatine doesn't want to lose track of him...:rolleyes:

    I eagerly await the next update. Good luck on your recharge :)
  19. vendy5 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Dec 6, 2013

    Have you abandoned such great story? It would be a pity. But I want to thank you anyway, because It was a large pleasure to read your story.
    Last edited by vendy5, Dec 6, 2013
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Hi! I second that. @Fate -- [face_batting]
  21. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    Hi, guys. :)

    I'm sorry for staying away so long. A controlling ex coerced me into getting rid of my story, and that's the honest truth. He was so gloriously thorough that I even trashed my handwritten notes. It's embarrassing to admit he had that kind of pull over me, but that's not what I came here to say.

    The fact is that I *can't* stop writing my story, but I'm left with a bit of a dilemma. I was able to rescue about 60% with some "undelete" freeware I found, but that still leaves blocks of dialogue and entire scenes gone forever. Besides that, my perfectionism is proving to be a real hindrance; it's been the real source of my writers' block all along. But even that's not what I came here to say.

    I came here to say that I'm not giving up on "Judging Angels"; it's too good a story, despite its imperfections. It's just going to be rough going while I try to piece it back together. So please bear with me, stay tuned, and thank you for all of the support. (And be glad he didn't think to have me check here; he got me to delete my entire FFN account. Yeah. Bad news.)

    Hugs all 'round, proper replies with the next post, and congratulations, Aluna_Skywalker!!

  22. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3
    Hey, guys. It took forever, but I finally did it: a new chapter. It's not perfect, but it is done. This must be the 'work' part of writingthe reason people get paid to do itbecause it definitely felt like slogging through wet cement. So forgive me if that's how it reads, as well; it was the only way to move forward. Better things are in the offing, and even this chapter has its moments.

    Anyway, enough blathering. :) On with the show, and thank you for reading.

    @Jade_eyes @Alexis_Wingstar @Aluna Skywalker @Ceillean @vendy5 @Venus_Star2-com @JaceV @Nyota's Heart (just in case; if I forgot anyone, I'm incredibly sorry.)


    Chapter 10: Cause For Alarm


    ·:·:· ·:·:·

    There had been a tree; that much she remembers. A tree: light scintillating in its leaves, specks of shine caught in its boughs, its roots, in the bend of its trunk. A moment's thought, and it dissolves into view for her now, green flecks fluttering atop graceful limbs, rough curves swaying prettily beneath, back arching as it reaches for the sun. She walks to it, she puts her hand out in welcome. A caress, and her palm is left warm and sticky with

    -- blood --

    tree sap. A heady whiff transports her to times long past, friends and places long gone, to blissful treks through the wooded glens of Naboo, to starlit picnics with fat berries that smell of summer. If she squeezes her lips tight, she can almost taste them: fresh and sweet, warmed through with the heat, just tart enough to be enthralling. Berries for buckets, buckets for mommies, and Papa's arms carrying you home.


    The comforts of home, bundled and toasty, as Papa warms you by the fire. And when Mommy smiles, and when Papa laughs, then the war worries smooth from his brow for a while, and he's younger than you've ever known him. The cozies of nap-time, snuggled with Sola, amid sighs as the house settles into silence. And you wake to the sight of your mother at work, half buried in berries, sleeves tugged to the elbows, arms heavily dusted with

    -- ash --

    with flour, as she labors at pasties, the thick, gooey pasties that threaten to bind your teeth together. And after you've eaten, Papa stirs up the hearth, and he does the old dances and sings the old songs, and everyone crows along, because there've been races and treasures and heaps of new friends, and hasn't it been a glorious sap harvest? And you know—in that moment, you truly know—you'll never in your life forget the

    -- mangled bodies, limbs sprinkled with silt, hands stretched for a final embrace.

    She had been loved.

    Peace. Serenity. 'There is the Force.'

    She draws her thoughts back to the tree. A thin coating of moss leaves bits of it soft and springy, just like Papa's—no, she won't think about Papa's beard. Instead, she fills her senses with the sounds of the forest, the shushing of spring between delicate blossoms, the burble of creeks tumbling through rocks, the incessant twittering of—


    —of birds. And now, she can see them, tiny blurs of motion in a myriad of hues. She sees them hopping from limb to twig, all the while bickering like gossiping, chattering—


    Breathe. Focus. Attend to the 'now'. Feel the wind wash over you. Smell the dew-kissed leaves. Hear the chirping of the

    Blaringly loud sirens.

    Padmé's eyes slid open. The briefest spike of irritation was laid gently to rest. "What is it?" she queried the empty, vaulted room, but there came no response. She peered at its many columns, each with ivy running clear to the clerestory, yet all was silence. The padawan waited in the thick of it for several moments longer, reaching for patience, reaching for calm. Her eyes had just slipped shut again when they suddenly snapped wide. A shake of her head, and then, rising to her feet as rapidly as decorum would permit, she made swiftly for the main hangar.
    ·:· ·:·

    "Temple Tower, Jedi Starfighter oh seven three, five klicks southeast, requesting full stop."

    "Fighter oh seven three, state altitude and bearing."

    "Ohseventree level thirteen thousand with echo."

    "Copy seventree, cleared to land, winds oh niner at ten knots; welcome home."

    In a large, curved room with large, curved terminals, a lone technician eyed his screen pensively. A sweep of brown hair above troubled gray eyes, receding temples, and ruddy cheeks; he was new to the Tower, unsure what was next. The others had radar with green blips on green circles; his was a real-time heat sensor meant to reveal what lay beyond the green blips and give clarity. No clarity was presently to be had.

    A few silent taps of finger against lip, and the technician tried again. "Unidentified starfighter, state altitude and bearing."

    No response. Perhaps the transponder was out. Once more, then.

    "Unidentified starfighter, please squawk IDENT. Once more, unidentified, squawk IDENT; over."

    Again, nothing. The technician fought down his bewilderment—he was fresh out of training; it would never do—and yet…

    The vehicle wasn't responding to hails, wasn't keeping to its lane, wasn't behaving at all like a Jedi starfighter. The technician began to wonder whether it was a Jedi starfighter. It certainly wasn't being piloted with typical Jedi restraint. Rather than proceeding to the hangar in an orderly fashion, it wound giddily past the other real-time smudges, refusing to wait its turn in queue, cutting through airlanes by the half-dozen, ignoring nearly every ordinance committed to writing.

    It wasn't the first he'd longed for Jedi eyes.

    A Jedi wouldn't have needed such primitivities as radar and heat sensors—a Jedi would have seen clear through the black of night as if through broad day—but the Jedi couldn't be bothered with the banalities of air traffic control, even when it pertained to their own starfighters. So the task had been contracted to non-Jedi, and the resultant information, if pertinent, was collated, checked against manifests, and handed on via formal report. Any issues of note were, of course, passed to the Jedi, but a contractor's unspoken task was to keep such issues to a minimum. And thus the technician was unsure what was next.

    A crowd began to gather.

    "Looks like you've a live one, Tiny," laughed one of his colleagues, a Duros with a number of years under his belt.

    "That is one fast Jedi," agreed another, a Sullustan. "Look at him go!"

    "You know you'll have to slow him down, Blanning," a third onlooker put in, a bit reprovingly. "What are you on about, letting him get away with that?"

    Devrick 'Tiny' Blanning kept as calm as he could. "I've hailed him several times already, Flynn. He isn't responding." There came a hesitant pause. "Shall I—" He tried again. "Shall I comm Lessek?"

    Now the discomfort spread through the room, resulting in a long and awkward silence. Finally, one man was brave enough to speak, the words flowing from a startling red beard beneath even more startling blue eyes. "Arrah," proclaimed the beard, "'tis early yet. Day's scant slipped from its sheets. Best not to trouble him until later."

    "Trouble me about what?"

    One rarely sneaks up on a Jedi, but the men weren't Jedi, and so they flinched. The voice they'd just heard could not be mistaken: cool and crisp, with a hint of ice, and beneath it the flattish giveaway of a Mid-Rim origin.

    "Trouble me about what?" Agent Lessek repeated, striding into the room. Before him huddled a bundle of technicians clustered worriedly about a single screen, clacking away, clearly hoping to resolve the matter at hand before Lessek showed up.

    Lessek already had shown up, and now he spoke for the third time. "What's all this?" he demanded.

    They looked guiltily at one another.

    "It's just that..." the newest technician began, then noticed the others warning him with their eyes, motioning for him to be quiet. He decided to say something else. "We're just seeing to the implementation of Jedi-Come-Home, Agent Lessek." Which was perfectly true.

    Still, smelling a womp rat, Agent Lessek edged past the ring of bodies with an iron-eyed glare. "I'll have a look for myself, if you don't mind." He needn't have bothered saying so; it was clear to all he'd have a look whether they minded or not. His pale green gaze first fell on the uppermost screen, which displayed the best standard radar could offer: a series of orderly blips. As he peered critically at it, Tiny continued his redacted explanation.

    "The Jedi continue to return their starfighters to the specified coordinates. We expect them all to have arrived within the next standard day or so."

    "Good, good." There actually came an approving nod. "Looks like everything's being sorted properly for once." Agent Lessek sounded almost disappointed. Then he caught sight of the real-time screen, and a gleam came in his eye. "But this one," he proclaimed, jabbing a fleshy finger at the terminal, "is completely out of order. Hail that starfighter immediately."

    All the while, the red-bearded technician had been examining the heat sensor carefully. Now he spoke again. "'Tisn't a starfighter at all, sir. 'Tis an airspeeder."

    Beneath its shock of silver, Lessek's brow furrowed. "It that case, it has no business here whatever, and ought to have been informed accordingly."

    "We know, sir," returned the placating Tiny. "We've tried. But he isn't responding to communications."

    Agent Lessek lifted a salt-and-pepper brow. "Oh? Isn't he?" And he seized the transmitter. "Unidentified aircraft, this is Temple Hangar. You have unlawfully entered Jedi air; you are not cleared to land. Please to return to civilspace immediately."

    The glowing speck continued its manic descent, and the skin about Lessek's knuckles drew taut. His neck swelled past the edges of its collar; he again spoke into the transmitter. "Unidentified airspeeder, I repeat, you are not cleared. Please immediately exit Jedi space; we will engage; this is your final warning."

    No response, no change in trajectory, and there now came a sudden beeping.

    Lessek glanced up. "How far off is he?"

    "Eighty standard seconds, sir."

    The beeps were increasing in pitch and frequency. When they conjoined, the sirens would begin.

    Lessek nodded grimly, easing his white-knuckled grip. "Summon the brutes."
    ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Within instants, three brutes, two technicians, and one agent sprinted the bisecting pathway of the main hangar, eyes strained nearly shut as they peered through the mist. They'd no sooner reached the outer perimeter of the landing pad when a jet-black speeder came hurtling from the sky, plummeting at such incredible velocity, it seemed certain to smash into the duracrete. Instead, meters from impact, the mysterious and recalcitrant pilot, the pilot who had refused to hail, eased expertly back on the throttle, the vehicle settled smoothly to the designated half-meter above the ground, and its engine purred silent.

    The brutes were Jedi, and so moved quickly past their shock, rapidly surrounding the speeder, such that when the pilot—a young human—put back his heavily tinted canopy, he abruptly found the hot end of a 'saber pike sizzling dangerously at the base of his throat.

    "Whoa," Anakin muttered, putting up his hands. "Good morning."
    ·:· ·:· ·:· ·:·

    Jedi did not run through the corridors, and so Padmé walked. Briskly. She'd nearly reached Temple Hangar when a set of familiar-sounding sirens rang out, and she broke into an all-out run. Jedi were permitted to run in case of emergencies, and surely a host of sirens going off qualified as such. Using the Force to quicken her pace, she sped into the hangar just in time to see the head brute ignite his 'saber.

    "I don't do mornings," she heard him snarl, and ran faster.

    "Wait!" she called, reaching the small group at last.

    Five of the six accosters turned to her quizzically; the sixth—the head brute—kept his gaze and his weapon fixed firmly on Anakin.

    For his part, the young pilot looked noticeably relieved at the sight of Padmé, but was careful to keep his hands up. "She can vouch for me," he said happily.

    The head brute ignored him. "Good day, Padawan," he intoned, eschewing the customary bow so as to keep his weapon where it hung.

    Glancing at the others, she spotted a familiar face. "Agent Lessek," she said urgently. "I know this individual. His business is authorized. Please call off the brutes."

    "This is a job for the professionals, Padawan Naberrie," Lessek said coolly. "You needn't trouble yourself."

    There now came a calm voice from a corner all had thought empty. "Stand down, Agent Lessek," it said. They all looked. There, half in shadow, beneath a pulled-back sweep of blond just beginning to lose its shine, loomed the sharp gaze and determined brow of the Order's Battlemaster.

    "Cripes," muttered a technician. "Who sent for the Troll?"

    The blue eyes twinkled as the Jedi emerged from his corner; it was clear he didn't mind the less-than-flattering nickname. "I've been here for some time, Flynn."

    Lessek came to himself at last, and the thin, pliable mouth drew tight. "The situation's being sorted, Master Drallig," he said testily."We don't always need your help to do our job."

    Cyn Drallig looked pointedly at the problematic speeder, very unauthorizedly plopped in the middle of Temple Hangar's main landing platform, its occupant surrounded by armed brutes. "So I see." Turning, he gestured towards Padmé. "Padawan Naberrie spoke to you just now, and you ignored her. I believe she said this young man is in her charge."

    The padawan inclined her head. "It's true, Master Drallig. Commander Skywalker is here on Jedi business."

    With obvious reluctance, the brute accosting Anakin put down his blade.

    Meanwhile, the battlemaster frowned. "Why hasn't he a pass?"

    "Because I...failed to give him one. It was an oversight on my part."

    "What I'd like to know," the head brute fairly spat, "Is where he gets off thinking he doesn't have to respond when hailed. And how he missed the plasma bolts from the tower snipers. And who authorized him to cut through 'Jedi Come Home' and plant his airspeeder on a fighter landing pad."

    Cyn smiled at the head brute's characteristic lack of comportment, then turned to the pilot, still in his speeder harnessings. "Well, Commander?"

    The young man looked uncomfortable. "I was running late. Got stuck in air traffic."

    "And the hails?" demanded Lessek.

    He looked a bit surprised. "Didn't they see the insignia?"

    "What insignia?"

    Keeping a cautious eye on the glowering head brute, who still wielded the saber 'pike as though eager to use it, Anakin pointed to the upper rear of the vehicle. There, in curt contrast to the obsidian backdrop, reposed a scarlet Seal of the Galactic Republic, trimmed in gold; clear evidence of the highest clearance possible. Put plainly, there was nowhere the young man couldn't fly, starfighters or no starfighters.

    "And the hails?" pressed Lessek with his cold green gaze.

    Anakin smiled. "Airspeeders don't have transponders."

    "Harrumph," said the head brute, holstering his pike and walking away.

    The young man seemed glad to see him go. "So…can I get out of my speeder now?"

    Lessek turned on his heel and left without another word. At last free to leave the vehicle, Anakin stepped gingerly down from it, then looked at Padmé expectantly. But it was Cin Drallig who spoke.

    "Have a moment or so to get your bearings, Commander Skywalker. I wish a word with Padawan Naberrie."

    He inclined his head. "Certainly, Master Jedi. I'll begin my preliminary inspection."

    Cin waited while the young man stepped out of earshot, then turned to Padmé, hands clasped behind his back. A moment's pause, and he nodded at her lightsaber, motionless where it hung. "It'll not do you a bit of good, there."

    She felt the heat rise to her cheeks. The 'saber hadn't moved from where she'd clipped it that morning.

    The blue eyes narrowed. "If it's to save your life, you mustn't be afraid of it."

    She nodded, clutching it wordlessly.

    "Be mindful of the living Force, young Padawan."

    "Yes, Master Drallig."

    As he leaned forward slightly, his voice lowered. "Bespin was a long time ago."

    She faltered for an instant, then found her breath once more. "Yes, Master," she said again, avoiding the keen stare. Cin Drallig was a kind man, whatever the technicians thought, but he saw too much.

    Another moment to let the words sink in, and now he spoke casually. "It's been some time since we've gone over your Niman, hasn't it?"

    "It has," Padmé admitted. "Not since I was switched over to it from—"

    "Yes," nodded Cin. "It has been some time, indeed." He looked at her again, and then, out it came: the whole reason they'd been having this little chat. "So I'll expect you in the sparring arena at 0800 sharp."

    The padawan stifled a groan. She loathed sparring, and no one knew that better than the Order's Battlemaster. It was meant to be a gentle rebuke, a reminder not to allow the morning's events to reoccur. "Yes, Master Drallig," she said quietly.

    Seeming to sense it was enough, he nodded. A glance past her shoulder. "Where is your master?"
    Inwardly, she winced. It was a question she heard far too frequently these days. "Council business," she said simply.

    "Hmmm," said Cin Drallig, and no more. "Well, I'll be on my rounds. 0800 sharp, mind," he called over his shoulder.

    "Yes, Master," said Padmé, though by now he was too far away to hear it. Slowly, she walked to where the young mechanic had been waiting. She found him near one of the large transport platforms, watching as returning starfighters were lowered, three at a time, to the maintenance bay a dozen meters below.

    He glanced up at her approach. "What was that all about?"

    "Jedi business," she said briskly. "Have you learned anything useful?"

    "I haven't been able to get close enough to a Delta-7 to inspect one, but your Jedi Hangar seems decent enough."

    She hid a smile. "We aim to please, Commander Skywalker."

    There now came a faint clatter, and both looked to see what had caused it. A sanitation worker had been carefully smearing cleanser on the already sparkling floor, and his bucket had gotten away from him. The clatter was the bucket nearly tipping, then rebalancing. The worker, a scarlet Togruta with a thick jacket and prominent horns, was extremely apologetic, and smiling, the padawan waved him on.

    Anakin, on the other hand, gave a sudden lurch to one side. Providentially, a bit of bracing happened to be nearby, and he leaned heavily on it, skin pallid, trembling violently.

    Alarmed, she put a hand on his arm to steady him. "Are you unwell, Commander Skywalker?"

    A bit of labored breathing before he was able to answer. "I'm fine." He smiled ruefully, gazing intently at the departing Togruta. "I, uh… didn't sleep."

    At this, Padmé removed her hand. Examining him carefully, she took in the red-rimmed eyes, the hollow cheeks, the smudge of stubble on his jaw. Doubtless, he'd spent the evening drinking himself sodden in some Force-forsaken bar. She compressed her lips. "Indeed. It's a wonder you arrived at all." She gazed at him coldly, her face tinged with pink. "If you're unfit for duty, Commander Skywalker, be assured we'll find someone able to complete the necessary tasks."

    A smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Here I am, Padawan Naberrie," he said quietly. "Tell me what you want done, and I'll do it."

    With a terse nod, she gestured toward the collection of vehicles. "I see you've already located the starfighters. It was a good use of initiative, given your condition."

    "Thank you."

    Inclining her head, she began speaking more diplomatically. "From what I understand, your task is a simple one: you're to inspect each starfighter and take note of anything out of the ordinary."

    "Is there cause to believe they've been tampered with?"

    At this, she favored him with a bout of stern silence. In truth, she knew as little about the matter as he did, but would die before she let on. "Just see to it that all fighters are inspected thoroughly," she said at last. "Any needed repairs should be standard order."

    "What repairs might they need? What am I inspecting them for?"

    "Just look them over, Commander."

    "I'm afraid you're going to have to give me a little more information than that," he said gently. "You asked for a mechanic, not a magician."

    "And you're neither," Padmé interjected before she could stop herself.

    He went on, ignoring the jibe. "So while I'm glad to be of assistance, I need more to go off of than, 'The Council wanted them back.' I need log books, maintenance records, sign-offs from docking authorities, that sort of thing." A pause. "For instance, when's the last time they had their heavy checks?"

    She looked away. "I haven't the faintest idea."

    He chuckled. "I get the feeling you're not that interested in spacecraft, Padawan Naberrie. Or machinery in general, for that matter."

    "Your senses serve you well," she said shortly. "I'm not."

    "So why is this your problem, again?"

    "My problem?"

    "Why were you given this assignment?"

    My master is keeping me occupied with trivialities while he attends to matters of consequence. Or, less formally: My master is giving me busy work while he does whatever it is he's doing.

    "My master wishes it done," she said aloud, and changed the subject. "I can't adequately respond to questions of a technical nature, but Agent Lessek should be able to supply the information you require, and failing that, there's always the Archives."

    Anakin grinned. "Lessek, huh? That the guy who nearly fed me his plasma spear?"

    "No, the one who arranged to have it done." Peered past the young man's shoulder, she gestured with her chin. "And I think I see him heading this way."

    Agent Lessek was, indeed, heading that way. "What is he doing over here?" he demanded. "This is where we keep the Delta-7s." He looked fiercely at Anakin. "You see this cordon? It's there for a reason. What are you on about now, snooping around our ships?"

    A smile. "I'm here to fix them."

    Lessek glanced at Padmé. "Surely you jest."

    "I do not. This the Jedi business I was referencing, Agent Lessek. Commander Skywalker is to see the ships remain in good repair while removed from their maintenance facilities on Kuat."

    Agent Lessek eyed the young man dubiously, then abruptly began spouting off questions.

    "How many fasteners in a bulkhead?"

    "Depends on the width of the durasteel."

    "Why do we use talc on wiring?"

    "To ease passage through conduits and prevent chafing."

    "What's the greatest hazard in spacecraft structure?"

    "Stress risers and premature breakdown." Anakin looked past him. "I'll be able to give you a better sense of my expertise when you let me over this line."

    "Absolutely not. After your antics this morning? This is the finest fleet of spacecraft in the galaxy. You'll go near them over my dead body."

    The young man turned silently to Padmé.

    "Agent Lessek," she said patiently, "This is a Council commission. It's not up for debate."

    Agent Lessek acknowledged this with a nod, and the scowl deepened. "Fine. But he's not so much as blinking on them until he goes through Safety."

    She nodded. "Very well. Thank you, Agent. If we need anything further, we'll let you know."

    It was a clear dismissal, and with a stiff bow, Lessek left the hangar.

    "Now then," Padmé said, rounding on the mechanic with some determination. "There is still the matter of your compensation. Yesterday, you left before we could discuss it."

    It was the young man's turn for an impressive silence, during which he favored her with an ironical grin. There was a cleft in his chin; she hadn't noticed it before. Steeling herself against it, she tried again. "The Council insists that you be compensated, Commander Skywalker."

    He waved away the imaginary credits as though present before him. "Don't worry about it."

    "I'm not allowed not to worry. It's a Council directive."

    A shrug. "All right. Let me take you out to dinner."

    Two brown eyes flew wide with alarm.

    "Fine," he chuckled. "Lunch, then. Caf. A noonday snack. A ration bar."

    For the second time in two days, Padmé found herself laughing uncontrollably. "You'd take me out for a ration bar?"

    "I'd take you out for less than that, Angelface."

    All traces of mirth slipped from the young woman's face, and she worried the corner of her lip.

    Seeming to sense his advantage, he leaned forward earnestly. "Look," he said. "This is a business relationship, yeah? I've got to report what I'm doing? My 'progress'?"

    Padmé nodded. "It's a matter of procedure."

    A decisive nod. "Good. So we'll just change the location of the 'procedure.'"

    Inwardly, she struggled to find a flaw with the young man's logic. It was there—she could almost taste it—but she couldn't pin it down.

    "Fine," she relented at last. "But there is still the matter of the credits."

    His blue eyes twinkled. "I just landed an apprenticeship. No credits allowed."

    The padawan considered. "Okay."

    She decided not to ask for further details concerning this 'apprenticeship.' She didn't want to be forced to lie to her Master.

    ·:·:· ·:·:·
    Last edited by Fate, May 24, 2015
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    @Fate - [face_laugh] Yup, Anakin tearing through the speeder traffic [face_mischief] totally IC. Loved the banter with him and Padme/light flirting. :) Her conversation with Lessik and also about Bespin - counterpoints of assertiveness and vulnerability.

  24. Fate Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 3

    [face_dancing] Thank you so much for reviewing! I did feel a little like, "Okay, Fate, enough with all the build-up," but it was that or nothing at all, and it seemed better than just having Anakin walk in the hangar. Good call to notice Bespin; it's not the last you'll see of it. [face_mischief] And I like that you enjoyed the banter/flirting. Anakin knows full well what he's doing, but Jedi Naberrie isn't exactly going to fall at his feet, which should make for an interesting conflict. I'm also glad you picked up on the subtleties of Padmé's character revealed in this chapter: she's strong, she's vulnerable -- she's human.

    More very soon, and for once, I feel pretty confident that soon means "soon". This was the hardest chapter to write, and getting it done after such a lengthy gap of time, in spite of so many obstacles, gives me a fair bit of confidence the rest of the story will reveal itself more readily. Thank you for your continued support, @Nyota's Heart! @};-
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  25. Arriss Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2002
    star 4
    So I know I've been gone a while... [face_blush] Ok, a longgg while but I just read this all over again to get a clear picture in my mind. :) I think you're doing a wonderful job and the characterizations are right on. An interesting twist of Anakin & Padme's futures and you've made them quite plausible. So keep posting and I'll try to be better at visiting the boards to check for updates. ;)
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
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