The Worth of Useless Junk

by Valerie Vancollie
valeriev84 at hotmail dot com

Note: This story was written as a response to the challenge posted on the FanfiX mailing list to do a story of 1000 words or less which included a rainstorm, a pit droid, a purple cloth of any sort and five coins. (It is 996 words long.) This story also appeared in the Skywalker family fanzine I Care.

"Toydarian!" a woman's shrill voice exclaimed as she entered the small and darkened store, startling Anakin from his work.

"What do you want?" Watto questioned as he flew up from behind the counter.

Anakin winced as he heard the annoyed undercurrent in his master's voice. Watto wasn't used to being addressed like that and didn't like it.

As the woman moved away from the doorway, Anakin was able to see that she wore baggy green pants held up by a belt from which hung a blaster and several tools. Her shirt had originally been some light color but was so stained with engine grease, oil and what looked vaguely like dried paint that he could no longer make out which color it had once been. What caught his attention, though, was the deep purple cloth she had draped around her head and neck, leaving only her right eye visible. An eye which was the dark red of fresh blood and was currently flashing dangerously with anger.

Anakin instantly recognized her as the woman who'd been at the shop only two weeks before. She had bought a pit droid along with an assortment of spare parts for her ship.

"Reimburse me," the woman demanded as she reached a callused hand into the bag she was carrying and pulled out a large metal object which she threw onto the counter where it came to rest before Anakin.

Looking at the item, Anakin saw that it was the pit droid she'd bought. Only now it was rusted solid and had streaks down the side that looked as if acid had eaten away at it. He reached out and hit it on the nose, but nothing happened.

"No," Watto stated, his manner turning cold as soon as he realized that he wouldn't be getting any credits.

"You swindled me!" the woman accused as she advanced on him, her hand moving to hover over her blaster. "You sold me a piece of useless trash for an inflated price!"

"I named a price and you accepted," Watto countered.

"Any price would have been too much for that pile of junk. You said it could withstand the elements and yet it rusts solid and erodes with the first rainstorm!"

"It's made to survive the weather of Tatooine," Watto explained, his wings beating furiously. "There is no rain here and thus no need to protect it against water or acid. There was no trickery."

"Why you no good insect! I want my money back now."

"No. If you insist, then we can take this matter before the Hutts, but I'm sure they'd agree with me."

Anakin tensed as the words left his master's mouth. Normally the threat of taking a matter to the Hutts was enough to settle a dispute as most people didn't want them meddling with their affairs. But the woman was an off-worlder who clearly didn't know too much about the dealings of Tatooine. As a few silent seconds passed, though, Anakin realized that she had probably heard of Jabba's reputation.

"Trickster!" she hissed angrily as her fingers clasped the butt of her blaster.

"Wait!" Anakin suddenly exclaimed before he realized what he was doing. An idea had just occurred to him.

"What is it, boy?" the woman demanded.

"I ... I think I can fix it," Anakin stated as he looked at the pit droid and did a quick mental scan of what the total damage to it would be. "Actually, I'm sure I can."

"Don't be ridiculous," Watto snapped, annoyed. "There is no way to repair it. The metal is ruined."

"You trying to swindle me again?" the woman growled.

"If there was a profit to be made, then I would let him repair it and charge you for it. But its wrecked, better to get a new one."

"I can fix it!" Anakin insisted with the same conviction he felt whenever he told his mom that he knew the course of an upcoming podrace and didn't need to study it anymore.

"Stubborn child," Watto muttered. "You wanna fix it? Then do it, but you're doing it on your own time without my tools."

"How long will it take you?" the woman asked as Watto fluttered off.

"A week or two."

"I don't have that time. You want to buy it off me?"

Anakin paused, knowing his mother wouldn't be happy if he spent his small allowance on what she'd see as a piece of junk. But he just knew that he could fix it and then he'd be able to sell it for more than he had bought it. With that money he'd then be able to get his mother some of the tools she needed to work on the computer memory devices she cleaned after her work for Watto was done.

"How much?"

"Five wipiupi," the woman stated, knowing that he didn't have much.

Opening the small pouch at his belt, Anakin looked inside and saw that he had enough with him. Taking the five coins out, he got up and handed them to her.

Anakin put down the tool he'd been using and looked at the newly cleaned pit droid before him. As he'd anticipated, his mother hadn't been pleased when she'd learned that he'd bought it, but had allowed him to work on it in his spare time. It had taken him the expected two weeks to clean the droid as best he could and to get it working again. He couldn't do anything about the streaks the acid had burnt into it, but he knew that it didn't really matter. With the constant need for pit droids at the race tracks, no one cared if they didn't look nice. Simply that they did their jobs without any complications.

He'd learned that a good working droid would get him seventy-five wipiupi, which was more than enough to buy his mother's tools. Anakin smiled as he thought of her reaction when he presented them to her.

April 2002