Star Wars: Episode I – Chapter III

by E.V. Jacob on July 19, 2012

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon watched as Anakin worked diligently on the last details of his pod. It was early in the morning, with the sun barely peeking up over the horizon, illuminating the endless expanse of barren desert, and casting long shadows where it touched the worn-down buildings of the little town.

Anakin wore a serious expression as he worked, ignoring his audience completely. The pod was almost complete, and save for a coat of paint, it looked like one of the finest, most professionally-crafted machines money could buy.

“What have you raced in before now?” Qui-Gon inquired.

Anakin grunted as he tightened a few bolts. “When Watto sponsors me, I race in one of his pods. He has a few, but they’re not very good. That’s why I’ve always wanted my own.”

“Where did you get the parts to build this?” Obi-Wan asked.

Plugging a few stray wires into their sockets, Anakin replied, “I salvaged them. Most were thrown out by Watto, or I go to the junkyard. It’s the same place I got the parts for C-3PO. I repair them or rebuild them as I get them.”

Anakin wiped his hands clean and climbed into the cockpit. He powered up the pod and tested out a few features. It hovered in place, buzzing and humming as he checked the thrust of the engines and the accuracy of the vents.

When he was finished, they went inside for a quick breakfast, and then Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan accompanied Anakin to Watto’s shop; they were planning to strike a deal with the Toydarian. Cordelia had preferred to stay behind and help Lakshmi with her work.

They found Watto shouting orders at a cluster of slaves. Anakin slipped past Watto quietly, quickly going to work on a set of rusty old drones.

Obi-Wan looked at Qui-Gon, who seemed more serious than usual. This was the pivotal moment, the one that would make or break their efforts, and Qui-Gon’s usually serene face was tense and anxious.

“Watto, may I speak with you for a moment?” Qui-Gon asked once the other slaves had left.

“Eh?” the Toydarian grunted, eying Qui-Gon.

“I would like to enter Anakin into the upcoming podrace. I will sponsor him, and I will provide the pod – I approach you with this matter strictly because he is yours. However, regardless of his participation, I have a proposition for you.”

Watto squinted suspiciously at Qui-Gon, “What deal you want to make, eh?”

“I would like to purchase the boy and his mother.”

Anakin looked up from his work, shocked. Obi-Wan carefully looked everywhere but the boy’s face.

“You want to buy slaves, eh? You seem too….” Watto waved his hand vaguely, “too righteous for slaves. Why you want buy them?”

“I have seen that they do exceptional work and would like to purchase them – it is really very simple.”

They then fell into a discussion of cost, but Watto demanded a higher price than Qui-Gon was able to pay. Watto refused Republic credits, and Qui-Gon did not have enough money on hand to pay for both.

Qui-Gon sighed. Obi-Wan looked at Anakin finally, and a strange sort of understanding passed between them. An unspoken agreement on what to do.

“If they boy wins the race, all winnings go to you, and in return, we take the Skywalkers with us. I mean, we buy them,” Obi-Wan interjected.

Qui-Gon stared at his apprentice while Watto considered this. Obi-Wan gave a nervous smile.

In Huttese, Watto shouted to Anakin to go out back and sort the junk piles.

Returning to Qui-Gon, he said, “The winnings, they don’t pay out right away. You pay me now for one, and when I get winnings, if I get winnings, then you get other one, too.”

“How long does it take for the prize money to be distributed?” Qui-Gon asked. He didn’t like this deal very much, but there wasn’t much of an alternative.

“Oh…two weeks?” Watto answered.

Qui-Gon frowned. That was far too long to wait. He had hoped to get them both at once and leave the planet immediately afterwards. The Queen was needed to continue the negotiations, but he couldn’t leave the child on Tatooine. Now that they had found the Chosen One, Qui-Gon was not going to risk losing him.

“That will require a return trip – I cannot wait that long, I have important business to attend to.”

Watto chuckled. “Hey, you don’t have to buy them.”

Qui-Gon found this disturbing, but decided he’d best discuss it with Yoda. And Lakshmi.

“Very well. Even if Anakin loses the race, I will return with the money for the other,” Qui-Gon said flatly.

“Fine. We have deal,” Watto said with a nod. “Now, unless you want buy more, you leave.”

Qui-Gon insisted on a contract, which Watto grudgingly signed. With that, they were on their way, leaving a very stunned Anakin peeking after them.

“Obi-Wan, contact Captain Panaka and give him an estimation for our departure, I’m sure he’s anxious to hear back from us. I have to report to Master Yoda,” Qui-Gon instructed, fishing his communicator from his pocket.

“Of course I have to make the unpleasant call,” Obi-Wan teased as he opened up his own communicator.

When he reached Captain Panaka, though, he had a much more troubling conversation than he’d expected.

“Obi-Wan, where are you?” Captain Panaka demanded. His face was stern and impatient.

“Still here, in Mos Espa. What’s the matter?” Obi-Wan asked.

“We have been getting communication all day from Naboo. The people are being attacked and imprisoned. We’re under invasion. The Queen is needed back immediately.”

Obi-Wan was stunned by this news. “Has the Queen responded to these messages?”

“No – she said to consult with Qui-Gon, first. You Jedi need to understand, the Queen has to return to Naboo. It’s where she belongs. Her people need her.”

“Of course. I understand. We’ll be departing the day after tomorrow. Early, very early,” Obi-Wan added, seeing that Captain Panaka was about to protest.

The Captain studied him with unkind eyes for a moment. “Fine. I’ll tell the Queen and get back to you if she has any issue with your schedule.”

“Of course.”

“If the Queen demands that we leave immediately, we will leave. Am I making myself clear, Jedi?”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Absolutely, Captain. I’ll tell Qui-Gon.”

“Right. Panaka, out.”

Obi-Wan pocketed the communicator and took a deep breath. Things were becoming messy.

He turned and hurried after Qui-Gon, who was just finishing up a conversation with Master Yoda in the shade created by a sign for the Boonta Classic.

“What is it, Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon asked as his apprentice hurried over.

“The Queen is receiving disturbing calls from Naboo. There are reports that the people are suffering greatly. He’s begging her to return.”

“Has she sent a reply?” Qui-Gon asked.

“No, but she’s becoming apprehensive. I told them I would discuss it with you and call them back if we had any updates.”

Qui-Gon nodded, but looked troubled. “It’s good that she hasn’t responded yet – it may be a trick, to learn her whereabouts. Tell her to hold back on communication for now, and that we’ll return to her very soon to take care of this.”

“The Captain seems very upset that we’re still on Tatooine…I’m afraid he might just leave us here.”

“I doubt they’d abandon Cordelia, though if the situation became serious enough…” Qui-Gon trailed off, then smiled at his Padawan. “Not to fear – we’ll waste no time at all in leaving, and the Queen will be back on Naboo very soon.”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Even if Naboo isn’t the safest place to be anymore…”

* * *
Upon returning to the inn that night, Anakin spent every moment until dinner working on his pod. There was little actual work to be done, but he seemed to enjoy spending time with it, as if it were a dear friend. He kept making tiny, minor adjustments, as if he was trying to make it absolutely perfect.

“Are you excited about the race tomorrow?” Obi-Wan asked Anakin, attempting to be friendly and sociable.

He was sitting outside with the boy, handing him tools and parts as was needed. If this really was the Chosen One – and Qui-Gon seemed certain that it was – Obi-Wan wanted to make sure the boy felt welcomed by all Jedi, and that would start with his own actions.

“Yeah,” Anakin said, checking the switches and buttons while the pod was powered down. He wanted to be sure none of them would get stuck during the race. “I’ve raced before, but never in my own craft. It’ll be more fun.”

Obi-Wan watched him working on the ship for a while longer. As the sun began to go down, Lakshmi called them inside for dinner. They closed tightly the doors and windows against the coming sand storm and sat down for a meal.

Their usual chatter filled the air, and the Jedi noticed that Anakin was becoming more friendly and trusting towards them. They were small steps towards a true bond, but the progress was being made.

After dinner and clean up, Anakin once again disappeared into his room. Before retiring, Qui-Gon knocked gently on Anakin’s door.

“Come in.”

He stepped through the threshold and saw Anakin working diligently on his droid. It was powered up now, and looked over at him with one eye. The other was in Anakin’s hand, being repaired.

“Why, hello there. It is a pleasure to meet you,” the droid said politely.

Qui-Gon chuckled and bowed slightly, “The pleasure is all mine. C-3PO is your name, is that right?”

“Oh, yes, indeed. What nice friends you’ve made, Master Anakin,” C-3PO said.

Anakin nodded, but was too focused on his work to talk.

R2 rolled in behind Qui-Gon and beeped excitedly.

“Oh, greetings, I am C-3PO.”

R2 gave a few inquisitive chirps.

“I beg your pardon? I certainly am not ‘falling apart’ – I simply require some repairs,” C-3PO replied primly.

R2 answered with a low, serious whistle.

C-3PO looked as aghast as a droid could manage. “Naked? Oh dear…”

Anakin chuckled while he worked, and Qui-Gon smiled, pleased by this simple little interaction.

In response, R2 beeped and clicked loudly.

“Why, I never! Honestly, how can you say such things?”

At that, R2 chirped a few more times and rolled out of the room.

“I’m not through with you, little droid! Come back this instant!” C-3PO called after him.

Anakin popped C-3PO’s eye back in place and checked it.

“Why thank you, Master Anakin.”

“Sure. I’m going to power you down now, 3PO,” Anakin said.

“Very well. Good night, Master Anakin.”

Anakin switched off the android and began cleaning up.

“That pod is quite impressive. I’m sure you’ll do very well tomorrow.”

“Thanks…I hope so,” Anakin said.

“You should get some rest; you have a big day tomorrow.”

“I will.”

“Right. Then I’ll leave you for now – good night, Anakin.”

“Good night,” Anakin said over his shoulder.

Qui-Gon made his way to the kitchen, where Lakshmi was cleaning up the last of the dishes. He hesitated in the doorway, trying to think how to approach this topic. He had spent all day thinking how to explain what was going on, but he had nothing.

He was forced into action when Lakshmi noticed him there and smiled.

“Do you need something, Qui-Gon?”

“Ah, no…no, but…Lakshmi, may I speak with you?” he asked.

Lakshmi looked up from her work, “Oh, of course,” she said, drying her hands and turning to face him.

Qui-Gon looked at her very seriously for a moment. Finally, he spoke. “Lakshmi, I must apologize. I have not been entirely honest with you. You see, we did not come here by chance. Our ship was not damaged and we did not land for emergency repairs.”

Lakshmi’s brow creased, “Oh…?”

Qui-Gon sighed. “Nor did we find our way to your inn by accident. We have come…because of Anakin. We have been searching for him. We’ve been looking all his life.”

Lakshmi was quiet for a moment. Finally, she looked up and said, “It’s because of…how he is…isn’t it? How he’s different.”

“Yes, it is,” he rubbed his temples and plunged on. “I am a Jedi Knight, and Obi-Wan is a Jedi apprentice. We were sent for Anakin. Your son has many Jedi traits. The Force is incredibly strong with him – it is surprising that he does not give off a stronger presence. Perhaps he subconsciously blocks himself – a safety precaution…” he shook his head apologetically. “The point is, we came to find him.”

“I’ve always known he was extraordinary…” she whispered.

“We believe he is a child of prophecy, the Chosen One, long since foretold. I was hoping that you might be willing to tell me about Anakin’s father, and his current whereabouts…”

She sighed and looked down at her hands, seeming troubled. “I’ve never told anyone but…there was no father. I don’t know how, or why – to this day I don’t understand what happened. All I know is that I became pregnant somehow. He’s always been…different. He’s always been exceptional…and I had wished…” she looked up at Qui-Gon, her voice wavering. “Is there hope for him? Can he have a better life than this?”

Qui-Gon forced himself to focus. The revelation that there had been no father was shocking – this situation was even more unusual than he’d first thought. He had to contact Yoda immediately.

Quickly collecting his thoughts, he plunged on, “I spoke with Watto today – I would like to free you and your son.”

Lakshmi’s eyes grew wide. She tried to speak, but seemed unable to get the words out.

“If you agree to come with us, we will take you to Coruscant. Anakin will be trained as a Jedi, and we would arrange work for you. Perhaps your own inn, or another line of work. Whatever you’d like – we could set it up. It would be a good life, a free life, for both of you.”

Lakshmi stood quite still, her eyes wide. She didn’t dare allow herself to hope, but the prospect of freedom, of a real life – especially for Anakin – was too good for her to dismiss.

“And…you would take us both?” she asked slowly.

Qui-Gon chuckled, “I couldn’t dream of separating you from your son, and he wouldn’t have it.” He sighed, “However…”

Lakshmi braced herself for the bad news. There was always bad news.

“Watto is…difficult. I do not have enough money on hand, and though the winnings from the race tomorrow are enough, he refuses to release you both until the prize money comes in, which is two weeks from now. I would have to leave and return…”

Lakshmi sighed.

“I would return, though, I swear it. You have my word, on my honor as a Jedi Knight.”

Lakshmi smiled despite herself. “I trust your word, Qui-Gon. I have one condition, though: You must promise me that you will take Anakin fist. I’m sure you had already planned to, but I have to be sure that’s clear. I cannot have him alone here with Watto and the others.”

Qui-Gon nodded, “As you wish.”

“When will you leave?”

“The morning after the Boonta Race,” Qui-Gon said.

She nodded and looked away, lost in thought.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Qui-Gon said.

“No, no, I think I should be the one. I’ll…talk to him after the race tomorrow. No need to distract him before then.”

“Of course. Thank you, Lakshmi,” he bowed slightly. “Have a good night.”

He turned to go.

“Good night,” Lakshmi said. “And…thank you, Qui-Gon.”

He smiled and gave a little bow before retreating to his room.

* * *
The day of the race arrived, as hot and as dry as ever.

“Do you feel ready?” Qui-Gon asked Anakin as he checked over his pod one last time.

Anakin nodded, “I feel…good about this race,” he said. His voice was tight, but determined.

So much like a Jedi, Qui-Gon thought. “So do I,” he said with a smile.

The others joined them on the track while Anakin made his last preparations.

Lakshmi hugged her son close and whispered, “Be safe, Ani.”

“I will. I promise,” the boy replied sincerely. Over the roar of the crowd and the booming announcers’ voices, his words were nearly lost.

Obi-Wan gave him an encouraging nod, “You’ll win, I’m sure of it.”

“Good luck, Anakin,” Cordelia said with a smile.

R2 beeped and whistled excitedly.

They returned to the stands as Anakin climbed into the cockpit of the pod.

“Anakin,” Qui-Gon said before leaving the child.

He looked up, curious.

“May the Force be with you,” Qui-Gon said with a nod.

In Huttese, the prominent Jabba the Hutt announced the beginning of the race.

Qui-Gon retreated to the viewing platform and Anakin secured his goggles and powered up along with the other racers.

Obi-Wan could see the boy’s face clearly from where he stood. He thought that the child lacked any normal fear or anxiety – he wore an unusual expression of purpose, resolve.

A green light flashed and they were off.

Anakin tore along the raceway with the other pods, the stands disappearing in a blur. They weren’t even a minute into the race when the other pilots started playing dirty. Ahead of him, Anakin saw one pod slam into another, knocking the alignment off and sending it spinning and crashing into the dirt.

Lakshmi stood clutching a hand-held view screen. Cordelia laid a comforting hand on Lakshmi’s shoulder. In the screen, they could clearly see the craft racing about the track. It was not long before the first blown engine, followed quickly by the first pod to explode.

With each casualty, Lakshmi gasped, but the crowd cheered and the announcers shouted out remarks in varying languages.

“Do you think him capable of winning, Master?” Obi-Wan asked in a whisper.

“I know it, Obi-Wan. The Force is strong with him – he can bend it to his will. He will win this race.”

To the untrained eye, what happened next would appear as amazing luck. To Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, it was confirmation of what they already knew.

One of the other racers sped up alongside another and slammed violently into the side of the competitor’s craft.

The impact caused the ship under attack to fracture, sending debris flying wildly over the course. Anakin, just behind this attack, was hit by a large chunk of engine. The debris missed the cockpit narrowly, but severed one of the main straps of Anakin’s engine.

Anakin looked sternly towards the wayward strap, which snapped back into place immediately.

“A bit of luck for young Skywalker out there…” one of the announcers said in the distance.

Anakin easily evaded being involved in crashes ahead of him, or being crushed by falling rock that seemed to take out all the craft around him as they blazed along the track. Other pilots were tricked by sharp turns, or struck by Tusken Raiders as they passed, but Anakin maneuvered his craft with incredible expertise, evading the worst of the dangers.

Watching on the view screen, Qui-Gon smiled with satisfaction.

The final lap of the race was a close encounter between Anakin and another pod racer – one who was attempting to drive Anakin off course.

The pods locked for a moment, but Anakin, seeing the finish line just ahead, kicked his engine’s thrust up to a dangerously high level. It was risky, but he knew he could control it to win the race. The force of the speed Anakin’s pod had taken on, which caused the pod to almost shake apart, was more than enough to throw his aggressor off, sending him tumbling through the desert.

Anakin tore through the finish line as the crowd jumped to their feet (or whatever they possessed in place of feet) and exploded in cheers.

“I don’t believe it, it’s Anakin Skywalker! Anakin Skywalker has won Boonta Classic!” the announcer cried, repeating the message again in Huttese.

Lakshmi, Cordelia, and the two Jedi rushed to Anakin’s side, shouting congratulations.

He smiled as he climbed from the cockpit and accepted his mother’s hugs.

“That was incredible, Anakin!” Cordelia said.

“Really – absolutely wonderful. You are a boy of many talents,” Qui-Gon added.

“Yes…truly remarkable…” Obi-Wan commented.

Amidst the crowd, unnoticed by the celebrating masses, a tall figure stood, shrouded in a dark cloak, despite the heat. He did not move, he did not speak, he simply watched the celebration.

He had seen what he needed to see.

Darth Maul turned and left the arena. He had to prepare for tonight.

* * *
Qui-Gon had paid Watto on the way back from the race. Watto grudgingly handed over the deactivator for Anakin’s transmitter, located on the back of his neck.

At the inn, Lakshmi cooked the biggest celebratory dinner she could muster. Cordelia helped while Anakin rested after his big day. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan took this time to discuss the situation behind closed doors.

“The Queen is becoming increasingly agitated,” Qui-Gon mused as he paced the room. “Any word from the Council?”

“Not yet,” Obi-Wan said. He opened his communicator again, as if it were possible for him to have missed any contact from them, the way he’d been obsessively checking it all day.

Qui-Gon sighed. “Keep trying them – we have to make contact. Notify the Queen that we’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

Obi-Wan placed the call and Qui-Gon stepped out of the room to check how dinner was coming along.

He bumped into Cordelia in the hallway. She slipped her communicator back into her pocket quickly.

“Pardon me,” Qui-Gon said.

“I wasn’t looking where I was going, sorry,” the handmaiden said.

“Not at all – is dinner ready?” Qui-Gon inquired.

Cordelia shook her head. “Lakshmi’s gone in to talk to Anakin first.”

“I see,” Qui-Gon said, guessing at the nature of this discussion. “I’m sorry to have kept you from your queen for so long.”

Cordelia shook her head, “Don’t be – I’m sure the queen feels that this is a worthy cause.”

“In any case, we shall be leaving first thing in the morning so be sure that whatever you have brought with you is ready to go.”

“Will he be trained as a Jedi?”

Qui-Gon studied her for a moment. “Yes. The Jedi Temple is located on Coruscant – he will take up residence there and learn the ways of the Jedi.”

“He’s an amazing child,” she said, looking down towards the room where the boy rested. “I’ve never met anyone quite like him. Intelligent, but…more than just that. He’s unique in a different way. His presence is powerful.”

“It certainly is…” Qui-Gon said.

* * *
Lakshmi knocked lightly on Anakin’s door. “Ani? Can I come in?”

“Sure, Mom,” Anakin called. She expected to find him lying down, resting, but he was at his little workbench, making adjustments to C-3PO.

“Come, sit with me, I need to talk to you,” Lakshmi said, sitting on his bed.

Something was wrong, he could feel it. He put down his tools and went to sit by his mother.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. She just watched him with sad eyes, running her fingers through his hair.

“Ani…Anakin…you are so very special. You know that, don’t you?”

Anakin nodded slowly.

“And you could do so many wonderful things. You are so smart, and so talented – I…I really believe that you are capable of amazing things, Ani. If you get the chance.”

He watched her, trying to figure out where this was going. Her feelings were so twisted up that he couldn’t read them like he normally would.

Lakshmi took a deep breath and gave him a strained, forced smile. “You…deserve that chance. You’re a brilliant boy – and a good boy – and this life…it’s no good for you.”

“Mom…what are you talking about?”

Her face grew tight, and her eyes became glassy with tears. She cleared her throat.

“Anakin…Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan…they are Jedi. And they believe you could be, too, if you were trained. I spoke with Qui-Gon last night and…they have freed us, Ani. We’re going to go with them, and you will become a Jedi…and it will be such an amazing opportunity for you, sweetheart.”

He studied her, confused. “Mom…if that’s true…then why are you so sad?”

Lakshmi took her son’s hand and held it tightly. “Ani, the Jedi have to leave tomorrow morning, and Watto won’t release me until the money you won in the race today comes through. So…it will be a couple weeks before I can join you.”

“Then I’ll just wait here. With you. They can come back and get me in two weeks, then we can both go.”

She shook her head. “No, Anakin, you have to go tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to go without you, Mom,” he insisted, sitting forward and squeezing her hand.

Lakshmi didn’t want to tell him her fears – that Watto would change his mind, that something would go wrong, that somehow, this small window of opportunity would slam shut, never to open again. She had to get Anakin out, even if she herself never escaped this life.

No, Ani.” She gripped his hand within both of hers. “You have to go. I’ve already told Qui-Gon, and the Jedi are expecting you. You are…very special. Very…different. There are some important people who are waiting for you, and there’s no time to waste.”

“But Mom! I don’t want to go without you!”

“Don’t argue with me, Anakin Skywalker. You will be leaving in the morning, and that’s that. I…” she sighed, wiping at the tears that slipped from her eyes. “I know it will be hard, but it’s only two weeks. I can’t go now, anyway – you’ll be living at the temple, but where will I stay? Qui-Gon has to arrange for my home and work before I leave here.” She smiled and stroked his cheek gently. “And it’ll be so exciting, the time will just fly by. You’ll go to the Jedi Temple, you’ll make new friends…it’ll be amazing, Anakin.”

Anakin stared up at his mother. He felt like his insides had turned to liquid – this couldn’t be right.

“Mom…please…” he said. His voice came out as barely a whisper.

“Oh, Ani,” she said, hugging him close. “I’ll miss you, so much, but I want you to have this opportunity. Do you understand?”

Anakin nodded, feeling strangely empty and defeated.

She kissed his forehead and stroked his hair. They stayed like that for a moment, until she gave him one final squeeze and released him.

“Alright, I’ve got to get dinner started. Why don’t you rest a bit, then after dinner I’ll help you pack up, OK?”

Anakin nodded. As she closed the door, he felt the last light of his earlier victory die out. He was powerless again.

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***DISCLAIMER: Obviously, these characters aren’t ours, because none of us are named George Lucas, and none of us are crazy-rich off the Star Wars franchise. We have omitted some characters, added some people, and altered a few basic plot points, but the Star Wars stories still don’t belong to us. Everything belongs to George Lucas – we’re doing this purely for the fun of it.***

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