Title: If I Don't Catch You

Author: Julie the Tall Terror

E-Mail: tall_terror@hotmail.com

Alternate site with fanart for this story at: fanfic.theforce.net

Category: Altered Destinies TPM

Summary: When events at the end of The Phantom Menace change, Anakin, Qui-gon and Obi-wan find themselves on a different -- and dangerous -- path to destiny.

Has a completed sequel "I Won't Fail You"

Rated PG

Time Frame: begins 3/4 the way through The Phantom Menace

Begun on October 20, 2000

Completed on November 12, 2000

Revised August 2001

Author's note: Did you catch the name game? Every minor character I create in my stories has a hidden meaning. Hint: look close at the spelling.

Part 1

Qui-Gon's brow furrowed slightly as he lay on the cool metal floor of the Queen's ship. He took deep, careful breaths, attempting to steady his heart and mind. The strange attacker's ease in battle, matching every thrust and parry of a Jedi master's lightsaber, worried him. Qui-Gon looked up as his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the boy, Anakin Skywalker rushed to kneel beside him. He almost smiled at the nearly identical anxious, yet excited looks on their faces.

"Are you all right?" Anakin asked with wide fearful eyes. Obi-Wan looked just as anxious.

The Jedi Master nodded and began to prop himself up on his elbows. "I think so," he said seriously. "That was a surprise I won't soon forget."

His Padawan's expression hardened and Qui-Gon sensed Obi-Wan's shock and guilt at not being ready to fight at his Master's side. Somehow the young man felt he should have sensed the danger and been waiting outside to help with the lightsaber duel. His voice gave little indication of his inner turmoil.

"What was that?" Obi-Wan tried to ask calmly.

Qui-Gon took another deep breath, still winded from the unexpected exertion. "I'm not sure. Whoever or whatever he was, he was well trained in the Jedi arts. My guess is he was after the Queen."

"Do you think he'll follow us?" Anakin asked quickly.

"We'll be safe once we're in hyperspace," Qui-Gon replied, sidestepping the question. "But I have no doubt he knows our destination. If he found us once, he can find us again."

The boy's face became a mask of determination. "What are we going to do about it?" he inquired.

Qui-Gon found Obi-Wan's nonplussed surprise priceless. Aware of his Padawan's frustration with the frequent tagalongs his Master seemed to accumulate, Qui-Gon could almost hear the words, "What does this child mean by 'we'?" Anakin didn't seem to catch it or at least he seemed to ignore the incredulous look.

Hoping the boy would never lose that enthusiasm and willingness to help, Qui-Gon smiled. "We will be patient." With a nod from one to the other, he continued. "Anakin Skywalker meet Obi-Wan Kenobi."

The boy beamed and as he turned to the young man beside him, "You're a Jedi, too? Pleased to meet you!"

"Obi-Wan is my Padawan, my apprentice," Qui-Gon clarified. "He is training to be a Knight."

He wanted to reassure Obi-Wan of his place and allowed him to help him stand. Together, all three moved forward toward the cockpit. Anakin's exuberance shone around him as a bright aura and Qui-Gon had the feeling the boy barely kept from skipping down the passageway. Despite his earlier concerns, meeting yet another Jedi seemed to drain away his fear and worry for the moment. Given his talent in building such things as droids and the pod, the ship's gleaming technology kept his eyes roving from side to side. Once inside the cockpit, his glance flew between the ship's controls and the myriad of stars and open space through the window.

Within moments, they jumped to lightspeed, eliciting an awed, "Wow!"

Of course, Ani's never seen hyperspace. Qui-Gon glanced down in amusement as Anakin continued to stare goggle-eyed at the streaming stars they passed.

How refreshing this wonder, he couldn't help thinking, not unaware of Obi-Wan's consternation at his absorption with his new 'find.'

Traveling through space is not easy at all. Even a comfortable and luxurious yacht like the Queen's transport can feel tiny, cramped and over run with people. Especially when you don't want anyone watching you perform Force exercises. In the guest cabin assigned to the Jedi, Obi-Wan sat in a meditative pose and attempted for the umpteenth time to relax into the Force.

I won't open my eyes. I won't sigh. I won't grimace. I won't fidget. I won't... he chanted in his head. I can't believe this! This shouldn't bother me! In defeat he briefly cracked one eye open to steal a glance at the only other occupant in the room.

Why is he still here?

The evening had progressed cheerfully. The Jedi and Anakin had eaten with the ship's crew. The pilots enjoyed talking to Anakin and amazed him with tales of their escape from the Trade Federation's clutches. The boy soaked up all of the attention with glee.

Afterwards, Obi-Wan had retired to meditate as usual before sleeping. Anakin had followed him like a puppy and begged to see "that wizard Jedi stuff." Qui-Gon hadn't disapproved and left to speak with the Queen and her advisors. Therefore, Obi-Wan agreed to let Anakin follow him. It would only be temporary. After all, such a young boy would quickly become bored watching him do nothing but sit.

Anakin squirmed in a vain attempt to find a soft spot on the cold metal. His brow furrowed in concentration. Obi-Wan is trying to do something again. But what? Anakin thought as he stared with rapt attention at Obi-Wan's expressionless face.

It was fascinating. To all outward appearances, Obi-Wan was the picture of perfect calm, but Anakin knew he couldn't be, not on a floor this hard! Anakin looked down and bit his lip in confusion. Is something wrong? He didn't see Obi-Wan's quick glance down at him.

Suddenly, Anakin gasped "I'm messing you up!" he exclaimed in surprise.

Obi-Wan gave up all pretense at meditating and opened his eyes. "What do you mean?" he inquired stoically.

"I'm sorry," the boy said contritely. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I'll just go now. Good night!" Before Obi-Wan could reply, Anakin scurried out of the room and down the hall.

Obi-Wan couldn't help be feel relieved that the boy had gone. He found it bizarre that his master's latest stray had decided to latch onto him instead of Qui-Gon. Just for a second, something nagged him that the boy hadn't answered his question.

Anakin slunk into the empty pilots' barracks. I am soooo stupid! Anakin could've kicked himself.

I should have known I'd be a distraction! But Obi-Wan looked so calm and serious. He must think I'm a pest. Anakin thought.

Grabbing his bag by the door he miserably climbed up to the top bunk that he'd been assigned. It was cozy and comfortable. And he was just short enough to sit without banging his head against the ceiling. He kicked off his shoes and rummaged idly through his few belongings.

What exactly was Obi-Wan trying to do anyway? The young man hadn't explained it to him or said anything. He'd simply settled down on the floor and closed his eyes. Anakin set his bag at the end of the bed. He slid to the middle of his bunk and tried to imitate what he'd seen. He closed his eyes and breathed evenly.

This is boring.

How could Obi-Wan sit so long on such a hard, cold floor?! Why would he want to? Anakin shifted on his soft bed. I have to be doing something wrong. But he didn't dare go back and ask Obi-Wan. Anakin picked at the edges of his blanket in frustration. Maybe Master Qui-Gon wouldn't mind explaining tomorrow morning? Then the Jedi Master's advice from before the Boonta Eve race came back to him. "Feel, don't think."

Okay, I'll just try not thinking.

No thinking?! Easier said than done.

For the first time he really thought about the words that Qui-Gon had said. How exactly do you not think? But, somehow it had worked during the race. Of course, he hadn't sat still then and he certainly didn't keep his eyes closed. Why wasn't it working?

The door slid open and several crewmembers filed in to sleep. Anakin craned his neck over the edge of his bed to look down at the new arrivals. They looked tired and their earlier merriment was gone. Anakin sat back again and tried to be still.

I'm not thinking. I'm not thinking at all. Nope, not thinking about anything. I'm not thinking about how dumb this is.

I'm still doing something wrong. He huffed in irritation.

One of the men looked up. "You need to get some sleep, Ani," he kindly reminded him as the others all crashed into their own bunks. Soon the room became still and the only sounds were the occasional snore. But Anakin wasn't sleeping...


Some sort of smashing sound.

That thing that attacked Master Qui-Gon.

Is that blaster fire?

Bright columns of energy.

Wow, that's so high!

Why is it noisy?

Flying a starfighter would be so wizard!

Where is that scream coming from?

It's getting louder.

I can't hear myself think!

Why won't it STOP?!

Anakin's eyes snapped open as he gasped for air. He jumped slightly and bumped his head on the ceiling. Franticly, he looked around the dark, silent room. His already heavy breathing quickened and his heart pounded in his chest. He shivered.

Where am I?! Anakin started to panic.

Oh yeah, the starship. The Queen's ship that the Jedi brought me to. Fuzzily, the events of the day came back to him. He reached up to rub his stiff neck and stretch his sore back. Why am I sitting up like this? He shivered again. The room had lost its earlier feeling of coziness and the darkness was suddenly very overwhelming.

Silently, Anakin crawled down the ladder to the floor. He carefully crept across to open the door and winced when it swished opened. He didn't think the noise would wake anyone, but the light might. To his relief the hallway was only dim. As the door slid shut behind him he began to wish it was lighter. He couldn't remember ever being afraid of the dark before. Why was it bothering him now? Maybe its just that dream. And the cold. He tried to reason away.

Why didn't I get my shoes?

At the end of the passage he came into the central chamber. Inside he was surprised to see Jar Jar sprawled in a chair, head back and snoring. But then, he remembered that the Gungan was too tall to fit in the ship's bunks. Even so, he could have stretched out on the bench seats. Or maybe Gungans just like sleeping up.

Anakin smiled when Artoo trilled a quiet welcome from the corner. He quickly curled up in a seat and removed the little pouch he always had tied to his belt. In it was a tiny, folded knife and a piece of japor wood. Wood of any kind was rare on Tatooine and he'd been saving this piece for a long time. Carefully, he began to carve the edges with swirls and eddies like in the pictures he'd seen of rivers and waterfalls.

Bits of the dream flashed in his mind. If Mom was here I'd tell her about the starfighters I saw. Or maybe not, she wouldn't like it. I know she'd worry if she knew I've been dreaming of a space battle. He imagined his mother's sad face with a frown. Nope. I wouldn't have told her about this dream at all, he sighed as he bored a hole through the wood so that it could serve as a pendant.

I meant to make this for Mom, he thought. Unbidden tears collected in his eyes. I am not going to cry. I'm not!

The next morning saw the return of Anakin's cheerfulness. Padmé had noticed him shivering in the central chamber during the night. She'd wrapped him in a blanket and held him until he fell asleep. Anakin was glad he gave the little japor snippet to her. Padmé was so nice, she deserved something special like that.

"Good morning, Ani," Padmé said as she entered the room after breakfast. "What are you doing?"

Anakin was seated at the table and drawing on a pad of the Queen's Official Memo plasti-paper. The sheets littered the tabletop. "I'm designing a droid," he announced proudly.

Padmé smiled indulgently. "That's nice, Ani," she said as she moved around the table to look over his shoulder. "What type of..." She stopped speaking suddenly. The "drawings" weren't the childish sketches she expected but detailed schematics. Even after seeing the podracer and droid that Anakin had built on Tatooine, it still surprised her.

"Maybe the Jedi will let me build it..." Anakin sighed wistfully.

"Maybe," Qui-Gon answered from the entryway. "Did you enjoy meditating with Obi-Wan yesterday?" he inquired.

Medit-what? Oh! So that's what it's called!

"No, Master Qui-Gon, sir. I mean, only Obi-Wan was meditating," Anakin stumbled out.

"Well then," the Jedi Master replied. "Would you like me to show you how?"

"Yes, sir!" Ani exclaimed and hastily began gathering up his papers into a rough pile.

Qui-Gon and Padmé just looked at each other and smiled as she walked out of the room. Ani, I envy the Jedi who will be your master, Qui-Gon thought sadly. Perhaps I...?

"Come with me, Ani," he said and turned down another passage. They walked to the Jedi's cabin. Or rather, Qui-Gon walked and Anakin trotted to keep up.

"Sit here on the floor and be as still as you can," Qui-Gon's deep voice intoned. "Close your eyes and reflect."

Reflect? Oh, so you are supposed to think! Anakin immediately copied him on the metal decking and watched as a look of peace stole across his features.

"Clear your mind and wait for the Force," Master Qui-Gon said as he closed his eyes. However, he didn't meditate, but stayed completely alert. Anakin had shown surprising affinity for using the Force unconsciously. He waited quietly for any sign that Anakin might be able to control it.

Anakin was perplexed. It sounded easy, but he knew from his attempts yesterday that it was in fact very hard. He stole a quick look at the Jedi Master's serene countenance.

He knows I just opened my eyes!

Anakin tried to relax. Okay clear out the mind time. Move it, all you pesky thoughts about how much I hate sitting on metal! Hit the space lanes! Yeah, I mean you!

Anakin didn't like meditating. He was quite sure of it. Qui-Gon ended the practice after he had managed to remain still about fifteen minutes. It felt like hours. Anakin nearly fell over trying to stand up.

"You did well, Ani." Qui-Gon encouraged. He was amazed at the way the Force had swirled around Anakin while he was meditating. It almost seemed to be playing with the small boy as it crashed wildly and blew through him. How has Ani managed to cope with the Force all this time?

Anakin's head jerked up in shock. I.. did.. well? No way! The only thing I felt was my feet go numb!

"Thank you, Master Qui-Gon." Anakin answered. Jedi don't lie, but I know I did terrible.

"Let's go see what Obi-Wan is doing, shall we?" Qui-Gon invited. It appeared as though the boy had little in the way of mind shielding, but that was to be expected. Anakin would be a challenge and privilege to teach. Master Yoda would probably insist that, "Train this boy, only I can." He thought with mild irritation. For the first time he regretted refusing to accept that temporary seat on the council. But then if I had I would never have found this boy, he mused.

Obi-Wan was in a medium sized storage bay of the ship. It was nearly empty with a few long cargo boxes stacked against one wall. It was too small for lightsaber dueling, but ideal for simple exercises. He was currently practicing balance.

The Jedi Master and Anakin entered to see Obi-Wan standing upside down and holding himself up with only one finger. His Padawan braid just brushed the floor. Qui-Gon watched Anakin's face waiting to see how the boy would react. Anakin's blue eyes widened only a little and he was certainly very surprised, but he said nothing.

Good. Qui-Gon thought. He passed the test. Anakin's reaction was an important factor in how he would be trained in the Force. Had he responded with disgusted disbelief or extreme awe it would take a long time to unlearn.

Anakin was incredulous. There is no way I'll try that on my own!

"Greetings, Master," Obi-Wan called from the center of the room. He's brought the kid with him, he noticed. He could see that Anakin was scrutinizing him intently. Am I now on display? Obi-Wan's lips tightened in annoyance. Or shall I serve as a practice dummy for Master Qui-Gon to demonstrate the Force with? he thought sarcastically.

"Don't let us interrupt you, Padawan," Qui-Gon reassured.

He guided the boy to the far wall and chose several of the long, narrow boxes. "I want you to walk slowly along the top of these," he directed as he laid the boxes out down the length of the room to form a crude balance beam.

"Some of these will wobble and others are not quite the same height, but don't let that worry you. Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other."

"Yes, sir," the boy replied. The first box came nearly up to his knees.

Ah, Obi-Wan observed. Now is the time for bumps and bruises. His eyes followed Anakin as he safely traversed the row of boxes without incident. Anakin's face was cool and collected as he turned and walked back again.

I sense something... Obi-Wan was confused. Gently, he widened his range of perception. Its the boy! he realized in surprise. So this is what Master Qui-Gon felt. To endeavor to become a Jedi at his age is admirable, but can he? He dropped deeper into the Force and focused intently on Anakin...

Obi-Wan winced in sympathy as Anakin tumbled off with a loud thump on his fourth walk. That had to hurt.

However, the boy didn't stay down long. Quickly he stepped back up and balanced again. Qui-Gon smiled in approval. "Speed up a little," he prompted. Anakin easily jogged down and back.

You poor kid. You have no idea what you are in for, do you? Just wait until my master tells you to run it.

"Now, run along it, Ani," Qui-Gon instructed.

He's doomed, Obi-Wan decided.

I could do this with my eyes closed. Anakin confidently strode on top of the boxes. He didn't mind though. He'd felt terribly cooped up on this ship and welcomed the chance to move about. I wonder how long Obi-Wan had to practice Force stuff until he could do a headstand like that? Or maybe he just has really, super, strong fingers? Nimbly, he turned on his heel and repeated his walking exercise. This is easy. I could even... what is that eerie feeling? Anakin's mind whirled in distress. The very air seemed to prickle his skin.

Anakin barely caught himself from breaking his nose on the floor. He bolted to his feet and clamored back on the boxes. He could feel his face burn in embarrassment. I'm glad Padmé isn't in here. That was so bizarre. It felt like... he frowned.

I don't know what it felt like.

The next day, the Jedi left Anakin in the storage room to meditate alone. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan returned to their cabin for a long overdue discussion.

I have a bad feeling about this, Obi-Wan suspected that his master didn't share his feeling of concern.

"I intend to ask the Council to test Anakin Skywalker and train him," Qui-Gon stated.

Sometimes I hate to be right, his apprentice thought gloomily.

"Master, I agree that the boy's potential is great, however..." he left his sentence unfinished. Obi-Wan studied his master. Why does he persistently chase after hopeless causes? It was a familiar question that he had asked himself many times. The Council would never accept the boy for training. They staunchly adhered to the rules and the rules clearly stated that to begin Jedi training after one year of age was dangerous and certain to fail. At nine years of age, it was much too late for Anakin.

"I understand what you mean. Anakin is too old," Qui-Gon answered. "However, there have been exceptions before. Master Eeth Koth was already four years of age when he was discovered and yet he was trained. Today he is even a member of the Council."

"Master, he proved..."

"Yes, he did," Qui-Gon interrupted. "And I hope that Anakin will demonstrate his worthiness also." He decided to let Obi-Wan's nearly disrespectful tone slide. His apprentice had a right to have his own point of view. Qui-Gon was glad that Obi-Wan never followed him blindly.

Obi-Wan sighed. Qui-Gon would be Qui-Gon and nothing is going change him. Would I really want him any different? he thought. He banished all unkind thoughts from his mind and as usual looked past his master's eccentricities.

"You are testing the boy again?" he inquired, changing the subject.

"Yes, Padawan," his master replied. "A test of obedience."

With his eyes closed, he imagined he could see the storage room he was in and attempted to do the same with the room above. Anakin was elated and desperately tried to refrain from jumping up. I can feel the people on the upper deck! Who are they? Slowly, he tried to count them. I wish it wasn't so cold in here, he thought and briefly lost his concentration. Come on! he sighed in frustration. Work! I want to be able to tell Qui-Gon how many people I sensed.

A tingling sensation crept over him. It danced across his skin and ruffled his tousled blond hair. For a moment Anakin felt like he was home on Tatooine. He almost didn't notice the sudden warmth that surrounded him.

Its like when Mom hugs me, he sighed contentedly and relaxed further into the Force. Suddenly a vibration in the air attracted him. Focusing on it, he tried to determine what was happening. I'm sweating, he noticed as an afterthought. The heat began to increase rapidly and Anakin's fear swelled to equal it.

He began to pant heavily. Why is it so hot!? He nearly cried in alarm.

Opening his eyes, he was shocked to see what appeared to be a soft glow clinging to his body and shining through his tunic and pants. Instantly, his concentration shattered and he was relieved to see the light vanish along with the heat. Anakin's small frame shivered as cooler air began to dry the sweat on his brow.

Calm down, gotta calm down, he thought furiously. I don't think that was supposed to happen. I've got to calm down before Master Qui-Gon returns!

Qui-Gon entered the room with a smile on his face. He was pleased to see Anakin was still meditating and sensed that the boy had obeyed his instructions to not move while he was gone.

"Its time to eat, Ani," he said.

As he turned to walk back down the passage, Anakin followed in silence, Should I tell him?

"I sense that you are distressed, Ani," Qui-Gon said earnestly. "Can I help?"

"Do Jedi do impossible things?" Anakin asked.

"Nothing is impossible when the Force is your ally," Master Qui-Gon explained. "It is we who have limits."

"Oh," was Anakin's only comment as he turned to walk down the passage.

The next morning Anakin went in search of the Jedi apprentice.

"Hi, Obi-Wan!" Anakin exclaimed in greeting.

"Hello," Obi-Wan did not look up. I thought the boy was with Qui-Gon? he thought.

"What are you doing?" the boy inquired.

"Mending my tunic," Obi-Wan responded curtly. Couldn't he guess? Or is he just trying to start a conversation?

Silence filled the room as Anakin thought of what to say next. Obi-Wan ignored the sound of the boy start to nervously tap his foot on the floor. I think he'd pace if there was room.

"What stuff can Jedi do?" Obi-Wan had anticipated that Anakin would want to know this. However, I had expected the boy to ask Qui-Gon, not I.

"We do the will of the Force," he evaded. This might be fun, he thought.

But Anakin wouldn't be deterred, "Noooo, I mean do things! Like that neat hand-stand, or I guess it would be called a finger-stand, that you did."

"Yes, excellent balance is a Jedi trait."

Anakin sighed in frustration and pressed on, "How high can you jump?"

"High," Obi-Wan replied. Oh, I shouldn't be doing this. He will get angry, but its so much fun!

Anakin glared at him, "I've heard pilots say that Jedi can read minds."

"Its good to know your ears function."

Anakin made a strangling sound and stared at him.

Obi-Wan struggled not to smile while he waited for the boy's response. This kid is so easy to tease!

But then he sensed Anakin's anger subside. Good, more amusement for me!

"Can Jedi read minds?" he asked carefully.

"Not in the way you mean."

"Can you tell me what I am thinking?"


"No you can't or no you won't?" Anakin insisted.

"I am not hearing your thoughts."

"Could you just tell me what Jedi things you can do?" Anakin said through gritted teeth.

"Perhaps." Obi-Wan couldn't help but smirk this time.

"Please." the boy begged.

Maybe I should put him out of his misery, "Most Jedi can use the Force to run extremely fast and then not feel tired afterward. Many can lift very heavy objects and jump three times more or higher than is normal for their race. Some of us can heal wounds on others and ourselves. And we can levitate objects." Anakin's going to love that part. What shall I use to demonstrate? Perhaps if I lift him... no he would probably panic.

"Could you show me, please?"

"Of course," Obi-Wan replied graciously. This kid's not quite as annoying as I thought he would be. "What would you like me to levitate?"

"Well, uh, how about that datapad," he pointed to it lying on the table.

Obi-Wan complied and the datapad rose smoothly off the table and hung in midair. He smiled as Anakin was properly amazed. The boy waved his hands under, above and around it. Anakin then grasped the datapad firmly and tugged. It didn't move a bit.

"When did you learn to do that?" he asked.

"When I was younger than you."

"Wizard!" Anakin praised.

"What about," he hesitated, "What about making something...um...glow?"

"Glow?" Obi-Wan mused. "Well, I don't know why a Jedi would need to make something glow. Most Jedi can use the Force to see in the dark."

"Oh, well thank you very much for talking to me Obi-Wan!" Anakin said in a rush and ran out the door.

Odd kid. Obi-Wan noted. I should be kinder to him. After all, we will arrive on Coruscant tomorrow, he thought sadly. For a moment, he recalled his conversation with Qui-Gon. Showing him Force powers was a bad idea. He will be even more disappointed now.

Twelve of the galaxy's most powerful beings surrounded Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon Jinn had escorted him into the Jedi Council Chamber and left. The small boy was nervous and uncertain what was expected of him. No one introduced themselves to him nor offered him any words of welcome. The eyes of the Jedi were not trained on him, but in him. They didn't bother to set him at ease. Instead, the questions began.

Qui-Gon sank into a soft chair in his and Obi-Wan's quarters. "Try to relax, Padawan," he called out softly. "We may not get another chance for some time."

Obi-Wan rooted through the kitchen stores in search of a snack and hopefully, some peace of mind. The young Jedi was distressed and worried for his master. He was certain that the boy would not be trained. The subtle reactions of the council members implied that. And they showed no sign of believing this boy was the Chosen One.

Even if that old prophecy was true, which he doubted, it didn't mean it was Anakin. Obi-Wan returned to the main room with a heavy heart. This will be hard on Qui-Gon. I wish I could spare him the pain and disappointment. What will my master do when they deny the boy training?

The Council paused their questioning to take a blood sample. When Anakin asked why, Yoda mentioned it was for counting midi-chlorians, but refused to elaborate. Anakin was grateful for a chance to rest, no matter how short.

Mace Windu took out a datascreen. "Tell us what images appear on this," he instructed. Anakin looked at it intently at first and briefly wondered when the Jedi Master would turn it around to face him. But then, he understood they were expecting him to just know. To use the Force that Qui-Gon had told him about.

Dozens of pictures began to flash in his mind and he named each in turn. "A bantha, a hyperdrive, a proton blaster," he had a lightheaded and rushed feeling that reminded him of the Podrace. "A Republic cruiser, a cup, a speeder."

Master Windu turned the screen off and glanced at the boy before looking at the other Jedi.

"Good, good, young one," Master Yoda praised him and noted that the boy didn't respond with any pride.

"How feel you?"

"Cold, sir," Anakin confessed.

Now was the time for the most difficult test. One that they had been, at first, reluctant to put a boy through. Yarael Poof, master of Jedi mind tricks, began to project Force images of the boy's worst fears into the child's mind. His long neck swayed slightly with the effort.

"Afraid are you?" Yoda inquired gauging his reaction.

The boy stiffened and stood straighter, "No, sir."

"Afraid to give up your life?" Master Windu asked, leaning forward slightly.

"I don't think so," Anakin began, but he felt unsure of his answer.

Yoda's eyelids drooped. "See through you we can," he said quietly.

"Be mindful of your feelings," Mace Windu added.

Ki-Adi Mundi stroked his beard, "Your thoughts dwell on your mother."

Anakin felt his stomach churn. "I miss her," he insisted.

Yoda exchanged glances with several others of the council, in particular, Master Poof who was seated behind Anakin.

"Afraid to lose her, I think," Yoda murmured.

Anakin flushed. "What's that got to do with anything?" he demanded.

"Everything. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate," he paused. "leads to suffering." he spoke woefully.

"I sense much fear in you."

"I am not afraid!" the boy snapped.

Yoda ignored him. "The deepest commitment, a Jedi must have. The most serious mind," he looked again to Master Poof. This Force technique was Yarael Poof's most valuable asset in battle because it completely immobilized his opponents without harming them. He was quite astonished that Anakin remained coherent and on his feet.

"I am not afraid," Anakin repeated, calmer this time.

"Then continue, we will," Yoda responded with a measuring look.

Unbeknown to Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Council members each cast their votes and opinions. Mace Windu was the leading member of the Jedi Council and was living proof that wisdom and experience does not always require great age. He gave his choice first.

~I have sensed danger surrounding this boy,~ he sent to the others telepathically. ~I submit that he should not be trained. I would prefer more time to evaluate him, but I cannot foresee whether or not it would alter my vote.~

Yoda was the oldest member of the Jedi Council and was well into his 800's. He had traveled to hundreds of worlds in his endeavor to learn and comprehend the complexities of the Force. Yet, he had never seen anything like the child Master Qui-Gon had brought to the temple. The great Jedi Master's wisdom and experience was greatly valued by the rest of the council. His advice of prudent contemplation rather than hasty action had served the Jedi well many times.

~Choose no, I too. Far too clouded, his future his.~

A Zabrak Jedi Master, Eeth Koth was famous throughout the temple for his great willpower and ability to withstand intense pain. He was discovered to have force potential at age four. He was at first considered too old to be trained, but he managed to prove himself worthy.

~I sympathize with Anakin's desire to be a Jedi and his determination to somehow prove he can. Yes, I would like to see him trained.~

Fierce Lannik warrior, Even Piell, was a Jedi Master greatly revered for his mighty combat skills despite that fact that he was little more than one meter tall.

~I agree that Anakin should be trained. His courage to come before us alone has earned my admiration.~

Knight Ki-Adi Mundi was the only member of the council who hadn't earned the rank of Master. He glanced at his former master, Yoda, before giving his answer.

~I have traveled to Tatooine before and feel that this boy's experience as a slave there would greatly hinder any Jedi training. I vote no.~

Oppo Rancisis was a Master of military tactics and warfare and was once Jedi Master Yaddle's Padawan. The Republic relied on his cunning strategies and battle plans when peaceful negotiations failed. He peered out from under his long hair at the others.

~Skywalker would be a terrible and vicious enemy if he ever fell to the Dark side. Training him is not worth the risk.~

Jedi Master Plo Koon was also a trusted ally of the Republic's military. His friendship and respect for Qui-Gon Jinn inclined him to accept the boy. He wished fervently that his friend had considered filling one of the Council's short-term positions. He looked at Anakin through his special protective goggles before answering.

~I cannot agree with Master Rancisis. Only with training would Skywalker have the chance to resist the peril of the Dark side. I choose yes.~

Jedi Master Saesee Tiin was born with natural telepathic abilities and an exceptionally strong link to the Force. He had examined Anakin's thoughts at length throughout the session. He turned his red and blue head to face the boy.

~His thoughts were jumbled and often incoherent. However, what I did see leads me to decide he should not be trained.~

Master Adi Gallia served the Republic as one of the Supreme Chancellor's best intelligence sources. She understood the Republic's complex political system and acted as the council's liaison with the government. Her lovely eyes narrowed as she gave her answer.

~He must not be taught. There are too many possible ramifications should he betray us.~

Yarael Poof was a master of Jedi mind tricks. Humans tended to stare at Quermian's long necks. However, Anakin had displayed no such reaction. During the questioning he tested Anakin by using a Force technique to conjure up images of the boy's worst fears.

~As you know, I have seen my enemies in battle completely subdued with my Force images. I am very impressed with Anakin's strength to tolerate and overcome them. I say yes.~

The newest addition to the Jedi Council was Depa Billaba. This Jedi Master was very sensitive to the thoughts of the rest of the council. She possessed extraordinary discipline and affinity for understanding people. She knew how deeply this child would be crushed if denied training.

~I must say no training. His desires for training are not that of a Jedi, despite his wish to free his mother.~

Yaddle was the most compassionate and patient member of the council. She was young for her species, only 477 years old. As the debate progressed she listened silently to all of the arguments before adding her own concise and sage opinion.

~Strong he is, learn he should.~

Mace Windu sat back in his chair. ~Five for, seven against. Anakin Skywalker will not be trained as a Jedi.~

The journey from the Council chambers was just as bad as the argument that had occurred inside.

"You are planning to disobey the Council again, aren't you?" Obi-Wan declared as they walked to Queen Amidala's ship.

"Obi-Wan..." his master began in warning.

Obi-Wan didn't listen. "You are going to start teaching him the moment we leave Coruscant!" he accused.

"Padawan!" Master Qui-Gon exclaimed. "You will cease your disrespectful behavior."

"It's not disrespect, Master!" Obi-Wan retorted vehemently. "It's the truth!"

"From your point of view, perhaps," Qui-Gon was face was tight with controlled anger.

"The boy is dangerous. They all sense it. Why can't you?" Obi-Wan retorted boldly, heedless of the consequences.

"His fate is uncertain, but he is not dangerous," Master Qui-Gon declared. "The Council will decide Anakin's future. That should be enough for you."

A day later, Obi-Wan's accusations still stung. Qui-Gon winced as he remembered Master Yoda's words about the boy to him before they left. "Take him with you, but train him not!"

No, I won't train him. However, that won't stop Anakin from learning by observation.

"Ani, I am going to show you Force techniques," he said. "Watch carefully."

He demonstrated by levitating several objects he had spread out on the table.

"Choose one that you feel the Force prompting you to lift."

Anakin focused on them intently. "The box," he said.

He is uncertain, yet he has chosen the middle object. Not the largest, not the smallest, nor the heaviest or lightest. Good, he is neither under confidant nor cocky.

"I cannot instruct you how to do it," Qui-Gon said sadly. "So, I am going to lift the box slowly several times. Observe."

After the seventh time, Anakin asked to try it. Anakin took the small box and held it cupped in his hands. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

Qui-Gon watched with a smile as the box rose shakily a centimeter into the air and immediately fell again.

"Very good, Ani," he praised. "I would like you to practice this while we travel, but let no one see you," he warned.

"Yes, sir."

"Now, we shall meditate."

Sadly, Qui-Gon searched for guidance from the Force. He and Obi-Wan had not spoken to each other during their journey back to Naboo. His Padawan had taken to sleeping and eating with the crew that manned the ship during the "night" shift. He and Qui-Gon avoided one another as entirely as possible. How will I repair this rift with Obi-Wan? I've wounded him very deeply. Perhaps he needs this time to heal. It's his way. If I intrude now it would be a disaster.

Things have gone from bad to worse with no sign of an end. With a heavy heart he looked across at Anakin. The boy was unsuccessfully attempting to meditate, but Qui-Gon did nothing to help him.

There must be some way to convince the Council to reconsider!

Anakin glowed.

Qui-Gon inhaled sharply as he felt the Force surge madly around the boy. He opened his eyes and stared with rapt attention. Carefully, not wishing to disturb Anakin, he tried to determine why the Force seemed to barrage the boy. Anakin's face was serene and his entire body shone as if a lamp of fire had been turned on inside of him. The light flickered and jumped in bursts of gold and white across his skin and clothes.

He is the Chosen One.

Suddenly, a wave of panic rose in the boy. His eyes flew open and the light went out. "Be calm, Ani," Qui-Gon reassured the shaking boy. Anakin stared at him with wide eyes.

"I wasn't supposed to do that, was I?" He asked as a statement.

"No, it's all right," Qui-Gon answered. "Has this happened before?"

"Uh, yes," the boy stammered. "While we were flying to Coruscant."

"Has it ever before that?"

"No, I..." Anakin was uncertain. Had he glowed before? Images flashed through his mind. Forgotten memories of his mother's frightened face came to him. "I think it might, but I don't remember. What... what is it?"

"You opened yourself to the Force, just as I instructed you to," he began. "The only way I can explain this is when the Force filled you it overflowed." How has he learned to gather power like this? he wondered.

"It hurt last time."

"How so?"

"It felt like my skin was on fire."

"What were you thinking of when you were meditating that time?"

"Well," Anakin searched his memory. "About the people on the ship and I think Padmé and you and that it was cold."

"There it is," Qui-Gon deduced. "You disliked the cold and used the Force to warm yourself." But it obviously got out of hand.

"Did it hurt this time?" Qui-Gon asked. He hadn't sensed any heat.

"Not exactly, it felt like I was burning inside today."

Qui-Gon did not answer him. This is the danger that the Council and Obi-Wan sensed. The boy has no control. If he is not trained soon I am certain he will imperil himself and all those around him.

In the swamps of Naboo, the Jedi, the Queen and her guards waited for Jar Jar's return from Otoh Gunga. Padmé walked over to Anakin. "How are you, Ani?" she asked.

"Okay." Blue eyes looked up at her mournfully. "I missed you," he shuffled his feet in the dirt.

"I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you for the past few days," she answered. "I have been very busy on the ship."

"I need to tell you that..." he hesitated and stared at the ground. "They decided not to make me a Jedi."

He told her about the Jedi Council testing him and how Qui-Gon had been showing him Force techniques, "But the worst is that Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are mad at each other and I know it's my fault."

"I'm sorry, Ani," Padmé said sadly. "Don't give up hope. The Council might change their minds. And don't blame yourself about the Jedi," she comforted him. "I'm sure that they will word things out."

Obi-Wan wanted to bash his head into a tree. There were several suitable ones conveniently nearby. It would be much easier than apologizing to Qui-Gon. It still hurt terribly that the Jedi Master had dismissed him so abruptly in favor of the boy. Even though he knew it wasn't an intentional insult. And worse, I've opposed my master when I should have been supporting him. I've not even tried to understand his reasons.

"Master," Obi-Wan said and turned to face Qui-Gon. "I behaved badly on Coruscant, and I am embarrassed. I meant no disrespect to you. I do not wish to be difficult in the matter of the boy. And I am grateful that you think I am ready to pass the Trials."

"Nor have you been," his master replied kindly. "You have been honest with me and honesty is never wrong," he smiled faintly. "I am very sorry for seeming to slight you in front of the Council. I did not lie when I told the Council you were ready. You are. I have taught you all I can."

Obi-Wan beamed at his master's praise.

"In fact, I've a confession to make," Qui-Gon began. "I've felt that you we're ready since our mission to Altv."

Obi-Wan looked at him in shock. "But to take the Trials then would have been so early..."

"I know," Qui-Gon interrupted. "But I must apologize for I not telling you. I simply did not want to part with your company so soon. Can you forgive me?"

"Of course, Master."

"I foresee you will be a great Jedi and a wiser man than I." They smiled as the rift between them healed as if it had never been and all of the pain was forgotten.

"I feel that the boy is worried," Obi-Wan looked over at Anakin who was with a handmaiden.

"Yes," Qui-Gon observed. "Everything has been very hard for him. Perhaps she can set his mind at ease."

"Master, I have been sensing something, odd, about that handmaiden," Obi-Wan stated. "I did not speak of it before, but now the feeling has increased."

"You are right Obi-Wan," his master replied. "Search carefully and feel the Force signatures around the Queen and each of her handmaidens."

Obi-Wan did as instructed and barely suppressed a laugh. He looked at Qui-Gon with a grin. "Clever trick," he said in amusement. "And Anakin has no idea who he is talking to!"

Anakin glanced over at the Jedi. To his surprise, they were talking and smiling again. It made him feel much better about the battle to come to know that everything was all right with the Jedi.

In the Theed Power Station, Obi-Wan rushed to his wounded master's side. I can't heal a wound this bad, Obi-Wan thought in despair.

"Don't speak, Master," Obi-Wan insisted. I must do something! "Can you start a healing trance?" Obi-Wan asked.

Qui-Gon complied and his breathing slowed to a steady rhythm. Obi-Wan picked him up and with the Force sped out of the power station. The battle with the Sith had been intense. Obi-Wan had watched from behind the laser shields in horror as that creature had skewered Qui-Gon. The lasers switched off just in time for him to prevent the Sith from delivering a second blow to his master. Qui-Gon had dropped to his knees and then sank to the floor unable to help his Padawan in the battle.

When the Sith knocked him down a pit, Obi-Wan had feared that he would turn and finish off Qui-Gon. But the Force was with him. The Sith knew that Master Qui-Gon was wounded too badly to be a threat and instead decided to taunt Obi-Wan. It proved to be his undoing.

As Obi-Wan rushed his master through the infirmary doors he didn't think about the battle outside, the Sith he slaughtered or even the wounded people already filling the room. He only wanted someone to tell him that Qui-Gon would survive.

In a daze he allowed a healer to lead him to lay Qui-Gon on an examination bed and reluctantly stay behind as they took him away.

Please, please, please... Obi-Wan thought incoherently as he willed everything to be okay.

"Mister Jedi?"

Obi-Wan looked up at the young healer expectantly.

"The Master Jedi is stable for now and we have placed him in a bacta tank," he began. "His spine escaped intact, however his internal organs were severely damaged. You will need your Jedi Healers to repair them."

"I'll contact them right away."

Anakin stared in awe at the after effects of the destroyed Droid Control Ship. It was oddly pretty. It never occurred to the small boy that he had just killed all of the people onboard. Over the Com he heard Ric Olie give the command for all the starfighters to go back to Naboo and land in the hangar.

"Just follow them Artoo," Anakin ordered the little droid as the yellow Naboo ships flew past them. He'd hoped to get back without anyone knowing he'd gone, in particular Master Qui-Gon. But it was too late for that now.

Ric Olie and the Naboo pilots gathered together excitedly as they exited their ships. Everyone began talking at once.

"Hold it, hold it!" Ric Olie ordered as he held up a hand to get their attention. "Tell me one at a time what you each saw."

"He flew into the hold," Bravo Two explained. "Then he went behind the deflector shield and blew the main reactor..."

"It was amazing!" Bravo Three cheered. "They don't teach that at the academy."

Before the other pilots could add their input Anakin's ship flew in and skidded to a stop behind the other Naboo starfighters. Ric Olie looked around at the assembled pilots. "We're all accounted for. Who flew that ship?" They looked at each other in surprise and together rushed to the new ship that landed.

Anakin slumped in the cockpit. Just better get this over with, he told himself. He sheepishly opened the cockpit and stood up.

"Am I in trouble?" Anakin asked pitifully.

No one answered. The pilots were too busy staring in shock and amazement.

The pilots didn't know what to make of this little boy. So, Ric Olie took Anakin to Captain Panaka and the Queen.

"Oh, Ani," the Queen smiled and hugged him. "You were wonderful!"

"Um," Anakin blushed. "Thank you Padmé, or... I mean Your Highness... um, what am I supposed to call you?"

"When it's just us, you can call me Padmé if you like."

She walked with him out of the throne room in to a smaller antechamber. "Now, I'm sure you are hungry," she said and led him to a table that was being filled with food and drinks for the communications crew and relief coordinators in the Com room next door. "I thought everything was busy while we were fighting, but things are twice as hectic now."

"Now, tell me all about it," the Queen entreated.

Hesitantly at first, but growing more animated Anakin told her of the starfighter taking off on autopilot and the space battle. "And then I was spinning and falling towards the big ship when I saw a hanger. I managed to turn to go in it, but I didn't land too well. They sent droids to shoot me, but when I shot back I hit a lot of other stuff. I just wanted to get out of there, I didn't know it would blow up," he finished.

Anakin glanced around the room a moment before whispering, "I think that maybe I did some of that Jedi Force stuff."

"Really?" Padmé whispered back in delight.

"Yeah," Anakin said proudly. "I've been practicing a lot. I'm not supposed to let anyone see, but I know you will keep it a secret." Carefully checking the room again to be sure no one was watching, Anakin levitated an empty cup off the table.

Padmé's eyes widened and she grinned. "Ani, that's..."

"Excuse me, Your Highness," Obi-Wan said from the doorway.

Anakin quickly snatched the cup from the air with his hand and set it on the table. Did Obi-Wan see? he wondered in alarm.

"My master has been injured badly and I need to contact the Jedi Temple at once," Obi-Wan continued.

"Of course," she answered. "Please, use my personal Com," she gestured toward the throne room. "I hope Master Qui-Gon will recover soon," she offered.

"As do I," Obi-Wan replied as he followed her.

The first Jedi Healer to arrive had been close enough to come in a day. It took three days for the others to arrive from Coruscant and Master Yoda came with them. Now, Master Qui-Gon had been removed from the bacta tank and was in the Jedi Healers care. They wanted to transport him back to Coruscant immediately.

Yoda found Obi-Wan pacing outside of his master's room in the infirmary.

"Master Yoda," he greeted and bowed to his elder.

"Seen Qui-Gon, I have," Yoda said. "Fortunate that you are quick, he is." Yoda smiled, "Confer on you the level of Jedi Knight, the Council does. Have the ceremony, we shall, when ready to perform it, Qui-Gon is."

Obi-Wan tried to control his delight, but couldn't help but grin.

"Fetch the boy," Yoda told him. "Leave for home, we do."

"Master Yoda," Obi-Wan began. "About the boy. It's clear that Anakin's actions during the battle were directed by the Force."

"Perhaps, perhaps not," Yoda answered.

Obi-Wan continued boldly, "Surely this is proof that he should be trained."

"Oh, your master's opinion, have you now?"

"He understands what the rest of us do not about the boy," Obi-Wan pressed.

"Undecided the Council is," Yoda said. "Your concern, it is not," he ordered.

The journey back to Coruscant was quiet. Obi-Wan spent all of his time with his master. Qui-Gon was in a Jedi Healing Trance and would remain so for several more days to recover. Master Yoda visited them frequently as well as Anakin.

That evening, the healers had left Obi-Wan to watch his master and Yoda had gone with them. Anakin was disappointed that they had to leave Naboo so quickly. He wanted to stay for the big celebration that Padmé, or rather the Queen, had invited them to attend. Amidala wasn't happy that she would not be able to honor the Jedi and Anakin for their help in freeing Naboo, but she understood that Qui-Gon needed to be taken home as soon as possible.

"Can Master Qui-Gon hear us?" Anakin asked Obi-Wan.

"Yes, though he might not remember it all later," Obi-Wan said at Qui- gon's bedside.

"What will happen to me when we get to Coruscant?" he asked Obi-Wan.

"I'm not sure, Ani," Obi-Wan said. "The Council is still debating, however I know that Qui-Gon will do everything he can to convince them to train you. And I will help," he vowed.

He called me Ani! Anakin thought happily. He smiled, "Thank you, Obi-Wan."

Anakin avoided Yoda. The Jedi ship was no smaller than the Queen of Naboo's cruiser, but there wasn't much room on the ship to stay away from the wizened Jedi Master. Somehow, Anakin managed. Perhaps Yoda preferred to not see the boy as well. Anakin couldn't be sure. However, he did know that Master Yoda did not like him. He didn't convey it with words or even actions, just a feeling of mistrust asserted itself whenever Yoda was around the boy. Every Jedi on board felt it and the Healers took it to mean that they should not speak to Anakin. So, Anakin found himself spending most of his time either with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan or alone in his own cabin.

Anakin practiced levitating objects with the Force most of the time. Laid out on his bunk were most of his meager possessions. Lifting one object had become easier, but two was exhausting.

Smoothly, his folded pocketknife rose into the air. Anakin waited a few minutes to be sure it wasn't going to fall before raising the pouch that had contained it. He breathed heavily for a moment. Gotta just relax, he opened his eyes to look. Maybe, if I earn some money I could buy a vibro-knife? he thought. The two objects wavered as he nearly lost concentration. Whoa. I've got to pay attention, he reprimanded himself.

I want to be able to lift lots of stuff all at the same time and show Qui-Gon when he wakes up! Anakin thought in determination. If I work really hard and do it just like Qui-Gon did, maybe then they will let me be a Jedi.

Unsteadily, a third object rose to join the others. He let them all drop back down.

"I wonder if I could move them?" Anakin said aloud to no one as he looked at his belongings lying on the bunk. He'd brought a few disposable eating utensils with him to add to his repertoire.

But Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan only lifted stuff. I've never seen them move things, he mused in confusion. But it ought to work. It's worth a try, he decided.

He stared at the utensils for some time before levitating one. Taking a deep breath, he tried to move the fork from the bunk to the desk-like console. A loud thwack made Anakin jump. He stared at the fork now imbedded in the metal wall.


After using his knife to cut the protruding end of the fork off, Anakin felt confident that no one would notice. Or at least, not until enough time had passed that they couldn't tell who did it.

Anakin was beginning to get cabin fever. It was amazing that such a young boy had held out this long when he'd spent only four days of the past two weeks not on board a ship. It didn't take long for him to start pacing and hopping.

I wonder if I can use the Force to touch the ceiling?

At first it didn't seem to be working. So, Anakin stealthily left for a quick trip to the galley and fetched a small condiment bottle. Sneaking safely back to his cabin, squeezed a bit of the sauce on his finger. With each jump he made a mark with the sauce on the wall to see how high he could go. After the tenth jump he was tired and pleased to see that he could nearly reach the top of the door. Losing interest for the time being, he tried to think of what else he could do to relieve his boredom.

Obi-Wan said that Jedi are good at balance.

Slowly, Anakin started a handstand against the wall. Carefully, he removed one foot and then the other. Obi-Wan could do it balancing on one finger, he remembered in admiration. I won't try that of course, When he felt steady he tried lifting one hand off floor and fell flat on his back. It knocked the wind out of him and jarred his teeth.

That was stupid! Anakin berated himself. I won't try that again without help. No more Force exercises today. Not even meditating.

Anakin had not meditated at all since Qui-Gon was injured, I hate it. I never do it right and it hurts.

His stomach growled for its supper.

Obi-Wan looked up from Qui-Gon's bedside as Anakin entered the room.

"Good evening!" the boy called. "I brought food."

"Thank you, Ani," Obi-Wan answered. "Where have you been today? I was wondering if you had vanished."

"Um, I've been busy."

"Really, doing what?" Obi-Wan asked as Anakin handed him his dinner and opened his own.

"Avoiding Master Yoda."

Obi-Wan laughed, I'm not surprised after the way that little green troll has shunned you.

"Are you sure you weren't just bored of talking to me?" Obi-Wan teased.

"Oh, no," Anakin was embarrassed.

I wonder if I should tell Obi-Wan that I can use the Force now? Anakin wondered. No, I'd rather surprise both Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan after he wakes up. And maybe Master Yoda, too.

"So, how is Master Qui-Gon?" the boy inquired.

"Doing well. The Healers expect him to come out of the Healing Trance the day after we arrive on Coruscant."

"That's great!" Anakin cheered. "Um, Obi-Wan? Could you tell me about how Jedi move stuff?"

"Telekinesis?" At Anakin's nod Obi-Wan continued, "You must be able to sense and control the Force in order to alter what is around you."

Obi-Wan noticed the glazed look that entered his eyes and decided it would be better to explain as simply as possible lest he lose his audience.

"Nothing can be done with the Force if you can't feel it around you. Once you can sense it you must learn to control the flow of the Force inside of you. However that is not easy and often requires a great deal of meditating."

"So after that you can lift stuff. Can you move things to different places?"

"Yes. Moving objects, rather then just lifting them, is very difficult in the beginning. Often it takes months of practicing to do it and years before it becomes second nature."

They will be so surprised! Anakin thought smugly.

It is good to be home, Obi-Wan thought gratefully. This last mission is most definitely one of the hardest and most dangerous we have been on. He looked over at the recovering Jedi Master.

I nearly lost you, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and tried to relax. The Healers assured him that Qui-Gon was nearly healed and would wake soon. More than anything, this past week has been a great test of my patience and ability to avoid despair, he sighed.

I sense that the future will be very difficult now that we are threatened by the return of the Sith. I am worried that too much will be expected of me because I killed one. I don't want to fail to meet those standards.

Obi-Wan ran his hand through his hair and held his Padawan braid, And soon I will not be allowed to rely on you to guide and help me through it all, Master.

Everything will be different now.

He dropped the braid and attempted to meditate on his new status and life. I will be Knighted soon, he thought proudly. But I am beginning to dread it now. I don't want to end the training bond with you. I don't want to move out into my own quarters. I don't want to go on my next mission without you. I feel like I am losing instead of gaining.

On the eve of their Knighting, do all Padawans wish that everything had stayed the same?

Qui-Gon awakened slowly to see the bland ceiling of the Jedi Temple infirmary. Gradually his mind retraced his last memories of Obi-Wan taking him to the healers and later Jedi Healers coming to help him. His senses told him that he had been in a healing trance for a week. Gently, Qui-Gon turned his head to see his Padawan meditating in a chair. Qui-Gon knew that Obi-Wan had hardly left his side the entire week. Obi-Wan your loyalty is commendable, however you really didn't need to be so diligent. I sense that you refused the Healers offers to take shifts sitting with me.

Obi-Wan opened his eyes and smiled. "How are you feeling?" he asked as he went to fetch some water.

"Better." Qui-Gon replied as he accepted the drink. And very grateful to be alive, he wanted to add, but his parched throat wouldn't allow him.

"Your injury gave the Healers quite a shock," Obi-Wan said cheekily. "They never expected you to be gutted by a lightsaber," he then became serious. "The first few days were the worst of my life."

"Thank you, my Padawan," Qui-Gon answered. "Your swiftness and strength saved me."

At that Obi-Wan grinned, but said seriously, "About that... the Council has decided that defeating a Sith equals promotion to Knighthood."

Qui-Gon smiled sadly, "Yes, I felt they would. You have well earned it." Slowly he sat up, I have longed for and dreaded this day. Obi-Wan, why did you grow up so fast?

Desperate to distract himself, lest he begin to worry Obi-Wan with his dismalness, he changed the subject, "And how is Anakin?" he inquired.

"Anxious and nervous," Obi-Wan replied. "Yesterday, the Council sent for him to tell of his involvement in the Naboo Battle. The boy somehow managed to destroy the Droid Control Ship!"

Qui-Gon frowned, "He was supposed to stay hiding where we left him." he said disappointedly.

"He did, from a certain point of view," Obi-Wan was smirking again. "The ship he was in took off on autopilot. He didn't have a choice. Anakin is now a hero to the Naboo and Gungans."

Qui-Gon thought for a moment before answering. It is a relief that he did not intentionally disobey me. The boy could have died out there otherwise. "I see. So the Force guided him to help."

"Yes, master. That is how I feel as well. I don't know yet what the Council has decided. Master Yoda did not make the journey here from Naboo pleasant for the boy."

The Council is taking far too long to decide Anakin's future. But perhaps their continued debates are a good sign, Qui-Gon mused. "So, where is Ani?"

"He hasn't visited us today, yet. I'll ask..."

Obi-Wan stopped speaking as they both felt Masters Yoda and Mace Windu entering the Healer Ward and coming to their door. The Masters entered without knocking.

"Good evening," Master Windu greeted.

"Sensed you wake, we did," Yoda said bluntly.

Qui-Gon sat up further as Obi-Wan stood to bow to the two Jedi masters. Before either could offer a greeting Master Windu spoke.

"We have come to discuss Skywalker," Mace began.

"The Council has decided?" Qui-Gon asked. They must see now that he is the Chosen One!

"Hear us out first," Mace and Yoda glanced at Obi-Wan and then seemed to mutually decide that the young Jedi could stay.

"Clouded Skywalker's future is," Yoda spoke gravely. "Promised, I did, to explain to you."

Mace began saying, "When you brought the boy before us we were greatly disturbed by our perception of his future."

"What did you see?" Qui-Gon asked.


"Nothing?" Qui-Gon was startled and frowned. How is that possible? I felt the Force show me the potential in the boy. I saw that he was the Chosen One and that he would be a Jedi. Could it be that I was merely visualizing my hopes rather than the future? No, what I felt was too strong, it must be true!

"Nothing at all?" Obi-Wan's voice conveyed his shock.

"Not one of us could gain any insight from the Force of this boy's future might be," Mace replied. "Since the incident at Naboo and also what you reported of Tatooine we have determined that the boy is a blind spot to us."

"Unexpected, the return of the Sith was," Yoda announced. "Even more unexpected your near death was, Qui-Gon."

"We have come to believe that the Force will not allow us to see anyone involved or anything surrounding this boy's future," Master Windu elaborated. "When we searched for visions of the Sith we received none. Likewise, when we attempted to learn the outcome on Naboo, we gained nothing."

"No visions, no possibilities," Yoda added.

"When we sent you to Naboo we had not the slightest hint from the Force of what would transpire there," Mace confessed.

Silence reigned in the room as Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan tried to process what they were hearing. Neither had ever heard of such a thing and from the grim looks on Master Yoda and Windu's faces, apparently they had not as well. The future was always difficult to see. However, when the entire Council draws on the Force they always gained some possibilities and glimpses of what might come. But for the Council, for all its power, to sense nothing.

"More to say have we," Yoda's face was very severe. "Sent Skywalker to the Agri-corps, the Council has."

"NO!" Obi-Wan shouted. The three Jedi Masters looked at him in surprise. Qui-Gon was silent with controlled anger. Obi-Wan sat down and immediately tried to calm himself.

Quietly and coldly, Qui-Gon voiced his opinion, "That is a mistake."

"My friend," Mace tried to sooth him. "He will be safer there."

"No," Qui-Gon said. "You have not seen what this boy can do. His power easily overwhelms him."

"Dangerous he..." Yoda began.

Qui-Gon interrupted, "Dangerous without training. I have learned that once while he was meditating he nearly set himself on fire simply because he could not control the way the Force flowed in him! I have seen him shine with the Force like a beacon and he had no idea how he did it."

"Know of this, we did not," Yoda replied. He and Mace looked at each other in concern.

"We need a demonstration of this Force light," Mace decided.

Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon relaxed a little. "Well, then," Qui-Gon said calmer now. "It's happened twice when he meditated..."

"We cannot see this now," Mace answered yet hesitated.

"Gone he is," Yoda said boldly.

Obi-Wan was horrified. "Weren't you going to at least let him say goodbye?" he demanded.

Yoda gave the young man a warning look as they all sensed someone approaching the door. A Council messenger knocked and entered.

After bowing she said, "I have been sent with news that the transport carrying Anakin Skywalker has not arrived at its destination."

Three Years Later

Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi sat back in the cockpit seat of his ship with a sigh. He had just finished informing the Jedi Council that he had found the last person, last except one. Tola Hgual was currently asleep and had no knowledge of what had become of Anakin Skywalker. Just like the others, he thought in disappointment.

For the past three and a half years since his Knighting, his mission had been to locate and rescue all of the occupants of the transport that had been sent to the Agri-corps, and never arrived. In particular, to find Anakin. It had been a long three years.

The Council had sent Jedi to follow the ship's path. They had learned that the transport was destroyed by pirates. Everyone in the Temple was grief stricken. Seven children and two pilots had been on that ship. The Council was dismayed to learn that pirates had begun encroaching on the Inner Core of the galaxy and mourned the loss of the children. They had gained guidance from the Force and had determined that some of them may still be alive. Obi-Wan had requested that searching and rescuing them be his first mission. The Council granted it.

Obi-Wan slumped in his chair wearily. He recalled that Qui-Gon was completely certain that Ani was alive. The most likely theory was that everyone on board was sold as slaves. He hoped so. Anakin could survive being re-enslaved until they freed him again. The alternatives were much worse. It's getting harder to believe that Ani lives.

The Council had given he and Qui-Gon their full support. It was the least they could do, Obi-Wan recalled. The bitterness had passed eventually. Qui-Gon had spent much of his time searching for the clues they needed. The Council's contacts with the Republic's intelligence network had been most helpful with accurate information. However, it was too often slow in coming and they never discovered the name of the pirates responsible. And neither they, nor us have heard anything about these pirates in over a year.

He had found the first child within a few months. He was elated that that the teenager could tell them what happened. He remembered the attack and the pirates boarding the ship, Obi-Wan mused. He especially remembered the pirates' anger when they discovered nothing of value aboard. No money or cargo to plunder. No wealthy or important passengers that could be held for ransom. Just two Republic pilots and seven kids, he thought ruefully. My, how disappointed they must have been. Its a wonder they didn't just slaughter the poor children.

The boy had confirmed that everyone had been told they would be sold as slaves. However, he didn't remember a little blond nine year old. Qui-Gon had discovered the location of one of the pilots. Together, they went to fetch her. Yet our hopes were dashed again. She did not know what became of Ani. The Council agreed with Qui-Gon that Ani was likely a slave once more. And so a pattern developed of searching and rescuing, but still learning nothing about Anakin Skywalker.

What would his mother think, now that not only have we lost her only child, but we also cannot find him? It was almost a relief that as a slave herself she could not afford to send a holo-message to her son and would not expect one from him. Even if she could have asked, I wonder if the Council would have told her anything at all? Obi-Wan thought gravely and with a spark of instantly controlled anger. Like they didn't tell Queen Amidala.

The Queen had sent messages and had been politely told that Anakin was not able to send any messages to her and would not for the near future, however they would inform her when this changed. I think she's finally stopped trying, he didn't like it. Yet, Qui-Gon agreed with the Council that they were better off not knowing and worrying these past three years. Their evasiveness is foolish. Don't they know that his mother and the Queen are worrying anyway?

Ani, where are you?

Obi-Wan guided his ship to land on the planet Yoj below. His young charge, Tola Hgual, was not well and had become worse in the night. He wasn't really surprised. A few of the other teenagers that he had been sent to recover had also contracted illnesses due to the terrible conditions they endured as slaves. He'd found this one on the Outer Rim. Obi-Wan knew she was ill, however he had no knowledge of how to heal a Nufevah. So, he made a detour for the Eituc system. The planet was reputed to have excellent hospitals and in their response to his call they assured him that they could help her.

The healers were very nice and took good care of young Tola. They said they needed to keep her overnight and Obi-Wan gave them the code to his ship should they need to contact him. I'm really glad to get out of there, Obi-Wan thought in relief as he exited the hospital. Healers always bothered him. And those in particular smiled too much. He rounded the corner and began to walk down the street to the ship hangers.

A warning of danger from the Force alerted Obi-Wan. He slowed his pace and stretched his senses in anticipation. Something to do with that first hanger. Silently, he moved to the wall and vaulted to the roof of the neighboring storage building. He crept to a row of grimy windows and peeked in.

He could sense and see two figures arguing and six more nearby emanating hostile intent. Hmmm... a bit much to handle on my own.

The dispute inside was escalating. Obi-Wan ignited his lightsaber and carefully cut away the window. As he expected the noise of a ship in pre-flight mode and the loud insults effectively hid what little sounds he made. He walked out on to some narrow roof beams and watched.

"I'll laugh last kid," one man said.

I'll dub him Big Ugly, Obi-Wan thought.

"Then you must think the slowest," Kid smarted back.

Big Ugly was stalking around while the Not Nice Thugs were hefting their weapons.

"You owe me, little pimple," Big Ugly demanded. "And you can pay with your life if necessary."

"Nonsense, I intend to live forever," Kid declared. "And I'm not paying you anything."

Now Big Ugly drew his blaster, "Last chance."

This looks like my cue, Obi-Wan prepared to jump down, but paused when he heard the kid speak.

"How many of you believe in telekinesis?" Kid asked. "Please, raise my hand. Oh, you can't can you. Well, I'll just raise yours!" With that every blaster, pike, and whip flew out of the Not Nice Thugs hands. Obi-Wan leaped quickly and landed behind the teenager.

"Can I play?" Obi-Wan asked.

"It's a Jedi!" One of the thugs yelled and with that the whole lot of them fled out the door as fast as they could run.

"Well that was disappointing," Obi-Wan commented. He watched the weapons drop to the ground and waited for the kid to turn around to look at him.

Obi-Wan examined the teenager intensely. Darkening blond hair, blue eyes, and a sour expression. The boy was as tall as his shoulder and his voice was beginning to deepen with the advent of approaching manhood. And using the Force...

"Anakin?" Obi-Wan exclaimed in shock. The tousled haired youth looked him straight in the eye. For a long moment they just stared at each other. Qui-Gon and I have searched all over the galaxy and I just stumble across him? he thought stunned.

"Hi, Obi-Wan," Anakin replied. "I'm surprised you recognized me."

"Where have you been!" Obi-Wan exclaimed.

"In and out," Anakin answered. "Mostly out."

"We know that the pirates sold everyone on that ship. We've found all of the others," Obi-Wan told him. I can't believe he is really here! "We have been searching for you everywhere."

"You needn't have gone to the trouble on my account."

"Come back with me to the Jedi Temple," Obi-Wan asked with a smile.

"Why?" Anakin scoffed. "So you Jedi can lock me up?"

Obi-Wan scowled at that. "Have you earned imprisonment?"

Anakin didn't answer. His eyes flashed with hidden emotion. Obi-Wan looked at him with concern. Anakin had grown a lot in over three years and looked thinner. He looked a bit thin before, but now...

"I'll see you later," Anakin replied flippantly and began to walk to the small ship in preflight mode.

Obi-Wan was puzzled and dismayed. He followed the boy to the ship's access ladder, "I was sent to take you back with me, Ani. Everyone is very worried about you and..."

"And I really need to be going," Anakin interrupted. He moved closer to the ladder, but Obi-Wan stepped in his way.

"And you didn't answer my questions."

From outside they could hear the ship's computer ping that it was ready for flight.

"Tell Master Qui-Gon that I'm sorry I didn't get to see him, for me, will you?" And with that Anakin used the Force to vault up to the ship's hatch and shut it abruptly, cutting off anything else Obi-Wan might say or do. Obi-Wan no choice but to back away as the craft took to the sky.

"I have a very bad feeling about this," Obi-Wan said in frustration.