Maybe a Sith. Maybe not. Thanks for reading. You'll like what Verbeke is up to. Thanks for reading. ********************************************** I have been remiss in tagging you all while I repost the back chapters of this story. Since we're coming up on the new chapters, I thought I would tag you. Tag List: @Sara_Kenobi, @jacen200015, @obsessedwithSW, @Luna_Nightshade ********************************************** Chapter 26 Several weeks had passed since the unsettling events on Arkania and the entire Skywalker family, plus a few additions, made the trip to Naboo for the annual Freedom Festival. The celebrations were scheduled to last an entire week, culminating with a parade to honor the Heroes of Naboo; Anakin, Padme, and of course, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Tristan walked alone through the empty halls of the Theed Royal Palace. Large windows allowed him spectacular views of the city of Theed and the surrounding landscape. All in all, he thought the planet quite beautiful. When he reached a room that held a granite nameplate entitled Remembrance, he hesitated before entering, somehow knowing what he’d find within. There, on display for all to see was a life-size marble statue of his father, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Tears gathered in Tristan’s eyes as he moved closer and reached out to touch the face of the man that had sired him. “Are you alright, Padawan?” Anakin questioned in a deep voice from behind the young man. Tristan shook his head as he turned. “No, Master. I just…what are you doing here? I thought you were touring some museum.” Anakin moved and rested a hand on Tristan’s shoulders. “I got bored. We’ve never discussed what happened to your father and Master Qui-Gon here before, have we?” “No, Master,” he answered softly. “I know about Tatooine and you blowing up the Droid Control Ship, but nothing else.” Anakin nodded. “Come on then. Let’s take a walk. I’ll tell you how your father became known as the Sith Killer.” Together, they walked out of the room, Anakin already beginning his tale. ******************************************************************* Theed Royal Palace Hangar Bay Thirteen year-old Jedi Padawan Arik Skywalker could barely contain himself. “Are we there yet, Master?” he questioned anxiously as they rode together in the back of a speeder. Garen Muln glanced at his young apprentice and smiled. The look of anticipation on the young man’s face was comical. His ice-blue eyes were bright with excitement. His dark, spiky hair was mussed from his habit of constantly running his fingers through it when he was excited and his padawan braid had somehow managed to get twisted into a knot. Garen reached over and untangled it just as the speeder came to a stop. “Yes, we’re there now, Padawan.” Arik was out of his seat quickly, calling for Garen to hurry up. He tipped their pilot a few credits and came up to his apprentice just as their tour guide walked up. “You two here for the tour?” Garen nodded. “Yes, I’m Jedi Master Garen Muln and this is my apprentice, Arik.” The man nodded. “Come along. I’m Colonel Kiran Voth, commander of the Royal Security Forces, Starfighter Corps.” “Nice to meet you, Sir,” Arik spoke up. “Follow me,” the man instructed. Arik and Garen did as they were told and quietly followed the man as he led them on a private tour through the hanger bay housing the newest starfighters. Garen watched with amusement as Arik absorbed every detail of each craft the Colonel took them past. There was no doubt in his mind Arik’s love of ships surpassed that of his father’s, something he never would have thought possible. “I’m going to build my own ship one day,” Arik had boasted a few days ago after offering to fly the ship to Naboo and quite emphatically being turned down. “Then nobody will be able to tell me I can’t fly.” He’d pouted for about an hour after takeoff before Garen could coax him into a game of holo chess. “These are our new two-seat fighters,” Col. Voth said, pointing to four ships in the rear of the hanger. “They’re fresh off the assembly line. In fact…” he paused dramatically,”…they’ve yet to be flown.” “Wizard!” Arik swiftly climbed up the steps, peering into the cockpit, his bright blue eyes scrutinizing every detail. “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so young with such enthusiasm,” the Colonel marveled. “It’s in his blood,” Garen explained with a laugh. “His father is the best pilot in the galaxy.” “Really?” the older man drawled, one eyebrow arched. “I’ll wager that the best pilots are right here on Naboo and I don’t recall seeing that young one around with any of them. Who’s his father?” “Anakin Skywalker,” Garen replied dryly. “He’s…” “Anakin Skywalker!” Colonel Voth exclaimed, his mouth dropping open with shock. “Little Anakin? The one who destroyed the Trade Federation’s flagship?” “Well, he’s not so little anymore,” Garen laughed. “But, yes, one and the same. Arik is his youngest son.” “I can hardly believe it,” Voth gushed. “Ana…ah…um, Master Skywalker is a legend among the Naboo. Is he here as well?” Colonel Voth turned, searching the hanger. “I believe he’s touring the historical museum at the moment,” Garen answered, thankful Anakin wasn’t there. He knew Anakin appreciated the genuine affection and gratitude the Naboo had for him, but he was extremely uncomfortable being held in such high esteem. “Oh,” his shoulders slumped in disappointment. “I know,” he turned to Arik. “Arik, how would you like to be the first to fly one of these new ships?” “Really!” Arik’s head snapped up immediately. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Colonel,” Garen began. “I assure you it’s not a problem,” the Colonel replied as Arik jumped to the floor. “Master, can I?” he pleaded. “Dad lets me fly his speeder around Coruscant all the time and I promise I’ll be careful.” “I don’t know,” Garen replied doubtfully. “A fighter ship is much different than a speeder and as I recall, your father has to be with you when you fly his speeder.” “It’s not that much different,” the Colonel interjected, ignoring Garen’s glare and clamping his arm around Arik’s shoulders. “Now just climb inside and I’ll show you how to…,” “Wait a minute,” Garen interrupted. “I didn’t say he could fly. He’s only thirteen years old and…” “He’s a Skywalker,” Colonel Voth reminded him with an annoyed glance, as if that explained everything. “Besides, this ship isn’t that much different than the ship his father flew when he was ten.” He turned back to Arik, helping him into the cockpit. “He can’t fly that thing alone,” Garen insisted, tugging the Colonel’s arm. “If you’re that worried, you can go with him,” the Colonel sniffed. “In the gunner’s seat.” ”Come on, Master,” Arik whined. “Please.” Voth stepped down and gestured for Garen to climb into the ship behind Arik. “This really isn’t necessary,” Garen said, trying one last time to change the Colonel’s mind. “Arik will be just fine sitting in the cockpit for a few moments.” “Nonsense,” the Colonel responded. “Let the boy have a little adventure. I’m sure his father would appreciate it.” Great, Garen groaned silently, heading into the gunner’s seat. Several hundred officers in the Starfighter Corps and I get Anakin’s biggest fan. “We’re just going to fly around for a minute,” he told Arik as he strapped himself in. “And then we’re coming straight back.” “Thanks Master!” Arik beamed as he started the engine. Garen took a deep breath, using the Force to calm his rising anxiety as Arik guided the ship towards the open hangar doors. ”Force help me,” he whispered softly, clutching the straps of his restraints as the ship lifted off, flying smoothly over the lush meadows and streams below. Arik gripped the steering bars, exhilaration flowing throughout his entire body. He’d never felt as alive, as free as he did in that moment. “Minute’s up,” Garen announced forcing his fingers to relinquish their tight grip. “Time to head back now.” “Awww, Master, couldn’t we just…” “Next time,” Garen interrupted. Like in a few more years, he added silently to himself. Arik’s shoulders slumped as he turned the ship around. He never got to have any fun. His heart skipped a beat as he suddenly remembered a maneuver his father performed during his own trip over Naboo. I should have just enough time, he thought, wrenching the controls to the left. “Arik!” Arik barely heard his Master’s scream as he twisted the steering bars to the left and right spinning the ship into a series of flips at lightning speed. “Yippee!” “Arik Skywalker!” Arik’s eyes widened as he realized how close they were to the hangar bay. “Uh oh,” he mumbled, scrambling to slow down. The ship’s engine sputtered with his efforts as he shakily got it back under control. Garen unclenched his teeth as the ship touched down with a bone jarring thud. “See Master, we made it!” Arik turned to smile at him as he released the hood. Garen was silent as he shakily climbed down from the ship, exchanging an I told you so look with the somewhat stunned Colonel Voth. “That…that…was…something,” Voth muttered as Arik joined them. “Can I fly us back to Coruscant, Master?” Arik asked oblivious to Garen’s shaken demeanor. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “But…but I can handle it,” Arik argued, his lower lip beginning to protrude. “I just flew a starfighter and it’s still in one piece.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth, when the landing supports beneath the ship collapsed, sending the new spacecraft crashing to the unforgiving ground beneath. “Mostly,” Arik corrected, hanging his head. “Padawan,” Garen squeezed his shoulder. “I want you to put your mechanical skills to use and help the Colonel and his men repair this ship, no matter how long it takes.” “But I was going to go to the festivities that begin tonight!” “You can have fun after you’ve fixed the mess you made,” Garen insisted. “Awe…” “I’ll meet you back at your parent’s villa,” Garen said turning to walk away. “Where are you going, Master?” Arik asked. “For a drink,” Garen explained without stopping, the sound of Obi-Wan’s laughter echoing in his ears.