Title: If I Don't Catch You
Author: Julie the Tall Terror
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"
Time Frame: begins 3/4 the way through The Phantom Menace
Begun on October 20, 2000
Completed on November 12, 2000
Revised August 2001
Anakin gave one of his fake IDs to Tuohctaw's space traffic control and maneuvered into the landing line, "We've got to be extra alert for those ugly droids. I don't think that anyone could follow us this quickly from Yawsihtog, but you never know."
They then went off on an enjoyable little shopping trip. Kaely got in some much-needed flying lessons and Anakin was almost certain that nothing else in her system was still clogged. Kaely was cheerful and chirped excitedly as she examined the array of colors on the paint rack in front of her. Anakin had thought it would be fun to let her pick the paint herself. Big mistake. Not only did Kaely not even have a favorite color, she couldn't choose one. Anakin glanced around the shop warily. This is so embarrassing. Why can't she just make up her mind?
Anakin stiffened. "We've gotta go now!" he dropped the objects he had intended to purchase on a shelf and turned to exit the store.
Kaely didn't follow. Anakin glared at her and pulled the tiny droid to his hand swiftly with the Force. He didn't bother worrying if some of the other customers saw.
"Jedi are here," he whispered to her and attempted to walk quickly out of the doorway without looking suspicious. "This is no time for games."
Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi sat in a cantina near the ship hangers on Yaw-sihtog. It was raining loudly outside. The two Jedi sat in silence for they had no words to say and none were needed. Obi-Wan sat with his head bowed and idly stirred the drink in front of him. It was a local brew that had now become cold. He hadn't noticed. Qui-Gon stared out at the miserable weather. He rarely blinked and hardly seemed to breath he was so still. Their hearts were heavy with disappointment and reflection over recent events.
After Anakin stole their ship, they contacted the other two Jedi teams. Once they had warned them of Anakin's power and the droids that attacked, Master Deyonna offered to pick them up. Master Stiaw was closer but they had all agreed that his team needed to immediately track down Anakin. They felt certain that he would be easy find while in Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's ship. They had ways of tracing the crafts that belonged to the Jedi. Meanwhile, Master Deyonna would come get them from Tidessim.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both rose smoothly as they sensed the approach of three Jedi. Together they quickly exited the cantina and walked through the rain without caring if they became soaked or not. They entered the hanger just as the ship finished landing and lowered its ramp. Knight Gnirit met them inside.
"Good evening," he said somberly. "We have received further news since our last contact with you. If you will come this way we will leave at once."
Master Deyonna met them in the central room while Knight Gnirit went to assist Knight Suoixna with the takeoff. The Cihtapme Jedi Master was frowning. Obi-Wan didn't know her as well Qui-Gon did, yet he could feel right away that something was very wrong simply by the look on her face. Her face should have been expressionless, portraying only her calm demeanor. It is always a sign of terrible events when a Jedi Master frowns.
"Greetings, Master Jinn, Knight Kenobi," Master Deyonna said as all three of them bowed formally. "Our current situation has changed."
Her lined face was grim. "Anakin Skywalker has eluded capture once more," she said firmly as the three of them sat and strapped themselves down in preparation for the jump to lightspeed.
"We have received orders from the Jedi Council to cease our mission and return to Coruscant at once."
Now it was Qui-Gon's turn to frown. "We must find him," he argued.
"I understand that this is very important to you. However, disobeying these orders is not an option," her dark eyes narrowed and she looked at Qui-Gon sternly as if waiting for him to challenge her further.
Obi-Wan glanced at the two masters and held back a sigh. "What of Master Stiaw's team?" he asked.
"They have already returned to the Temple."
"Did they locate our ship?" Obi-Wan inquired carefully.
Master Deyonna smiled, "Yes, I believe they did."
"Then we should at least retrieve it," Qui-Gon suggested.
"I am not falling for that old trick," Master Deyonna's smile became a smirk. "You are both determined to follow the boy, but I must disappoint you. I do not know where your ship is."
"Then we will contact Master Stiaw," Obi-Wan said.
"I doubt that he can help you," her face once more became grim.
"Why is that?" Qui-Gon asked.
"If I may finish my explanation without further interruptions perhaps you will understand?" Master Deyonna looked at them pointedly.
Obi-Wan had the grace to look embarrassed. However, Qui-Gon only nodded curtly.
"Of course," he said. "You have our apologies. Please continue."
"Master Stiaw and his team arrived at Coruscant unconscious and their ship on autopilot. In the last transmission, I was told that though all three of them had only minor injuries, the temple healers had still not managed to awaken them. The Council has concluded that Skywalker must have overpowered them."
She paused, but Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan made no response and waited for her to finish.
"The rest of us have been recalled because it is apparent that groups of Masters and Knights are insufficient. The Council members themselves will be pursuing the boy from now on."
The revered Jedi Council convened to hear the report on the search for Anakin Skywalker. As it was his mission, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi gave the summary of what he, Master Qui-Gon, and Master Deyonna's team experienced. The Council listened quietly without interrupting him. As he concluded, Obi-Wan looked eagerly at Master Stiaw.
The third Jedi team did not look worse for wear from their encounter with Anakin. There was no visible injuries or any appearance of long term effects from their unwilling sleep on their return to Coruscant.
"We met Skywalker on Yawsihtog in a street of a small city," Master Stiaw narrated. "As we anticipated, he refused to accompany us and we prepared to restrain him."
"The boy fled from us across the rooftops with great speed. We were hard pressed to catch up with him and we were wary of possible traps. As we began to overtake him we approached a large gap between two buildings. The boy leaped and rebounded off the other roof, kicked Master Seta Relot in the head and dislocated Knight Truh Taht's left hip. Skywalker tried to grab me in passing, but missed and he landed on the roof safely. Knight Taht and I levitated ourselves and Master Relot, who was unconscious, to the ground and discovered that Knight Taht couldn't walk. We decided that I would continue chasing Skywalker, while they healed themselves enough to follow after us. However, it was not necessary as the boy had not left."
His old face was stern as he finished his report, "We had fallen into Skywalker's trap. The gap between the two buildings was not a road or space. Somehow the boy had removed part of the roof of a fish packing building. We had landed inside a large packing press whose lid he activated to confine us. He then quickly used the controls to remove all of the air from inside. We failed to escape and had no choice but to go into a hibernation trance. As you know, we did not awaken until after Skywalker had shipped us back here."
The room was silent for a moment, "Thank you all for your great efforts. We, the Council, will pursue this matter ourselves. May the Force be with you." Master Windu dismissed them all.
The Council was not surprised that Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan did not leave with the other Jedi.
Master Yoda visibly repressed a sigh, "Speak your objections."
Qui-Gon corrected him, "We do not disagree with the Council's decision to capture Anakin yourselves."
"We request to accompany you," Obi-Wan told them.
"State your reasons why," Mace Windu instructed them.
"Anakin has not attacked us on either occasion that we have opposed him." Qui-Gon explained.
"He effectively subdued Master Stiaw's team of three Jedi, yet did not even attempt to do the same to the two of us. He knows us and is more inclined to listen and talk to us rather than any of you," Obi-Wan strongly pointed out.
The Jedi Council members looked at each other briefly as they considered the request before Master Windu gave their response, "You have our consent."
"Inform you, we must, of our deliberations," Master Yoda announced.
Master Adi Gallia began first, "We have yet to determine the identity of the sender of these droids. The pieces retrieved by Master Deyonna are being analyzed as we speak. It is possible that Skywalker is running from his master and these droids are meant to catch him. Or that an unknown party has discovered the boy's abilities and wishes to exploit him as the pirates did."
"We have studied your reports on the extent of the Force actions that Skywalker has displayed, very carefully," Mace Windu leaned forward in his chair to look at Eeth Koth.
"The Force enhanced speed and agility appear to be Skywalker's most developed skills. He is also able to levitate more than seven objects at one time. How long he can maintain them is still unknown. Part of this skill can be attributed to the pirates insistence that he lift things for them," Master Eeth Koth surmised sternly.
"He also resists Force suggestions and mind tricks. This could be merely an indication that his will and mind are very strong, however it could be due to training. If so, than Skywalker was certainly a willing student. Otherwise his master would have not taught him to resist mind control," Master Yarael Poof's long neck swayed slightly.
Master Oppo Rancisis's tiny eyes seemed to bore into everyone, "We are very disturbed that the boy walked through a laser shield. Such fine-tuned alteration of matter particles is a rare talent that we have always thought to be impossible without decades of training. At this time, only a few hundred Jedi have accomplished this technique and nearly all of them are Master Healers. Even so, most of them could not part, pass through, and return an object to its original state so quickly."
"The glowing is feasibly a combination of a protecting Force wave technique and other, as yet unknown, manipulations of the Force," Master Saesee Tiin told them. "Your explanation of the damage caused by the Force literally exploding around the boy, supports this theory. The strong and dangerous light around him reacted very much like the force field that expands in a protecting wave. In addition, Skywalker injured himself due to his lack of control, which is very typical when one is training to produce the wave. Why and how the light occurred spontaneously and with little warning is still obscure."
"He may also have control over energy attacks," Qui-Gon pointed out.
"How so?" Master Yoda asked as his ears perked up.
"On Sielilyad, the Knights with me described a bright, narrow beam of light that distracted them," Qui-Gon reminded the Council. "I believe that this could have been a Force action."
"Those Knights did not speak of that light with any significance," Master Windu said.
"They could not have anticipated that a child could possibly accomplish what takes a Jedi a decade to learn. I doubt that it even occurred to them," Qui-Gon reiterated.
"Skywalker would have to be quite adept at absorbing and dissipating energy in order to create a beam out of it," mused Master Windu as he leaned back in his seat.
"Odd, that do this he can, yet control his glowing, he does not," Yoda added.
Master Even Piell's voice gruffly intruded, "Skywalker's lack of other skills is at this time indecipherable. He has not levitated himself to our knowledge. Yet it is very probable that he can. Perhaps he is concealing or conserving it until needed."
"Likewise after his last theft, our holo-interviews with the guards show that he never preformed mind tricks on them, despite how useful it would have been," Master Depa Billaba tilted her head when she finished speaking.
"The boy was unable to pierce your concealment trick, Master Jinn. And does not know how to hide himself enough to evade us," commented Ki-Adi Mundi.
Master Plo Koon spoke through his breathing mask, "He also made no effort to heal himself of the after effects of his light explosion. It is quite puzzling, as evident from his manipulation of the laser shield, he is capable of doing so."
"In less than four years, learned too erratically, he has," said Master Yaddle concisely.
"We will meditate on the future in order to locate him," Master Windu decided.
"On the unnamed places, we will focus," Master Yoda's eyes were closed.
Obi-Wan was confused, "How can this be when no one can see Anakin's future?"
"We will go where the Force shows us no future," Qui-Gon replied.
O ne month later
Anakin ran through the forest nimbly. They had found him again. This is stupid. These droids can't handle a nature trek! He and Kaely had been so happy here. Every day was filled with exploring and fishing. He spent much of his time working to control his Force light and loved how calm and peaceful this unnamed, deserted moon was.
Anakin leapt down from the tree branch as he smashed the last battle droid. He panted lightly, This is actually becoming easier after all the practice I've had lately.
"Impressive," The strange voice intoned from nowhere.
"Whatever," Anakin said sarcastically in the direction of the mangled droid heap that he knew the comlink must be on.
"Your speed and adeptness at dodging has certainly improved."
"Well then, perhaps you should just lay off on the ugly droids and do the job yourself," Anakin spat in disgust and walked away from the metal droid parts calmly.
Anakin spun around in horror when he sensed a dark presence approach from the large trees behind him. This guy's been here the whole time?! And dimming my senses too! Anakin realized in shock. The owner of the voice was tall, but shorter than Master Qui-Gon and wrapped in a black, hooded robe. Even though the cowl blocked most of the face, Anakin was puzzled that he couldn't seem to see any distinguishing facial features. This guy is hiding behind an illusion!
Anakin crouched in a ready stance. The forest surrounding them was silent as all of the animals had fled during Anakin's battle with the droids. No breezes reached them in the dim shadows of the trees. He knew that his usual tactic of simply running would not work against this foe. He had no traps, no weapons and was too tired from fighting the battle droids to make it far.
"If you survive, I will keep you. If not...."
Anakin swallowed his fear and fought down the chills that menacing tone gave him. I can do this, he encouraged himself. He waited for his opponent to make the first move. Due to how much taller his enemy was, Anakin didn't dare attack first. He had no way of knowing how many feet or arms might be hidden beneath that black robe. Or what weapons.
The creature's first strike was a simple punch towards the boy's midsection. It was too strong and nearly overpowered Anakin's block. Anakin jumped up and swung his left fist to uppercut his attacker's jaw. However, his enemy caught his wrist and aimed a knife-hand strike at the boy's neck. The boy rotated his whole arm in a reverse hammer blow, ducked the strike and escaped backwards. A Force pull nearly tripped him but he resisted it and Force shoved back. He leaped into the nearest tree above him to gain some distance.
"Uh huh. Just why are you after me, by the way?"
"You are valuable."
Anakin scrutinized the figure below him. Why does this guy seem familiar. I'm sure I've never seen him before, but..
His eyes widened in horror, "You're a Sith!"
The Sith vaulted up to him. Though he blocked the fist coming at his head, Anakin failed to stop the thrust kick to his chest. It knocked the air out of him and he fell to the ground on his hands and knees. He barely rolled out of the way when his attacker followed. He moved stiffly in response to his painful ribs.
A shrill squealing sound echoed in the forest. Anakin's tiny droid came flying madly at the Sith. She zoomed in circles around its head and fired her electrically charged darts.
The Sith waved one black gloved hand in a Force shove that sent little Kaely wailing and spinning off into the atmosphere.
No! Please be all right Kaely! his face scrunched up with worry, but he remained as calm as possible and concentrated on his enemy.
Her intervention had provided Anakin with a much needed diversion. He flipped up to a handstand and kicked the Sith in the forehead.
"You'll regret that!"
"See if I care!"
The Sith threw a Force enhanced punch that connected with the boy's right arm. Anakin screamed and fell to one knee. He ducked a roundhouse kick to his head and scurried further into the woods. It took nearly all his concentration to support his excruciating right arm and ignore the pain from his bruised ribs.
I wonder why that thing hit my arm so hard, but his kick only banged my ribs? Was this guy holding back before? Running was terribly painful and his vision began to blur.
"No more fun," The black clad figure pulled out a blaster from it's voluminous robes.
The Sith fired several blaster shots in rapid succession. Anakin had nothing to block them with. He dodged wildly in search of cover as the blots burnt the nearby trees and choked on the smoke. For a second time the Sith tried using the Force to grab Anakin and successfully snagged his ankle. With the pain from his injured arm, Anakin couldn't concentrate enough to free himself. He twisted around and grasped a tree limb for support. The Sith Force yanked him into the open and fired.
They both stared in incredulity as the bolt splashed harmlessly against Anakin's shoulder. The Sith tossed the blaster to the ground.
"Excellent energy absorption skills."
He stood cradling his right arm and gathering the strength he knew he'd need to throw off the Sith's hold.
Boldly, Anakin raised his left hand and pointed his finger at the Sith, "That was a mistake."
A burst of narrow white light shot from his fingertip. The energy he absorbed from the blaster blot greatly enhanced the beam. But his hopes plummeted when the Sith stopped it and closed it's fist over the remains of the light.
Silently, the Sith lifted it's hand and increased the energy within ten-fold. Anakin gasped and staggered backwards. A sphere of light boiled and sparked with a sickly gray and yellow hue. Too quickly for Anakin to react the Sith aimed the ball of energy at him. His eyes widened and he cringed as he saw the grayish yellow blast coming towards him. It was too big and he knew that he couldn't dodge or out run it in time. He thrust out undamaged left hand in a vain attempt to block it.
I'm going to die! With his eyes squeezed shut, Anakin waited for the searing blast to strike him.
A warmth began to irritate his palm and a loud crackling was the only sound he could hear. Anakin slowly opened one eye slightly. The ball of gray and yellow fire hung suspended in the air next to his fingers. Anakin jerked his hand away in shock and shielded his eyes from the halted flames. Stumbling, he moved out of it's attack path. He could see that behind the ball was a trail of yellow sparks held in the air as if frozen.
"Ani!" Obi-Wan shouted. "Over here!"
Anakin held his injured arm with his sore left hand and scrambled to the Jedi as fast as his feet would allow. He almost tripped over Master Yoda in his haste. The small Jedi Master's eyes were closed in deep concentration as he held the blazing energy with the Force.
Anakin reached Obi-Wan and Master Qui-Gon with obvious relief on his face. I've never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life! Qui-Gon looked a little surprised to see Anakin smiling. A flash of light startled Anakin and he jumped around just in time to see the Sith vault into the trees as his own attack reversed and flew at him. Master Yoda appeared oddly irritated that the Sith avoided it. From the shadows two more Jedi Masters appeared with ignited lightsabers and followed the retreating figure.
Yoda glanced back at Anakin and shared a look with Qui-Gon before bounding away to pursue the Sith as well.
"Am I glad to see you," Anakin panted lightly. His face was strained and he leaned against a nearby tree, grateful that the danger was over with.
The Jedi looked at him hopefully. But, they were delayed in answering by a whining hum. Zipping through the trees came a tiny round object no bigger than their fists. It buzzed and screeched around their heads and at their faces.
"Stop, Kaely," Anakin said in a weak voice.
Obi-Wan used the Force to snatch the tiny droid out of the air and pull her to his hand. He looked at her closely and turned her upside down.
"What is this little thing for?"
Kaely was indignant at such treatment and squealed at him. Master Qui-Gon smiled at his Padawan, "To annoy people, obviously."
"Of course, annoy," he looked at Anakin. "Are you com..ouch!" Obi-Wan let go of the small nuisance instantly.
She flew up and waved her arm appendage threateningly at Obi-Wan's face. Kaely scolded him harshly.
"Kaely, hush! And don't pinch people!" Anakin commanded.
She suddenly halted and chirped at him. "Kaely, this is Master Qui-Gon and this is Obi-Wan," Anakin took a deep breath. "This is K-LE1, a droid I designed and built all myself," he said proudly.
The tiny droid was suddenly all politeness and cooed sweetly at the Jedi. Anakin rolled his eyes at her.
"Hello, Kaely," Qui-Gon said with an amused smile. Obi-Wan just looked at her and sighed at his master's absurdity. The Jedi returned their focus on Anakin.
"I didn't know if you'd given up on me or not. Thank you."
"You are welcome," Qui-Gon replied.
"Oh, yeah. Master Yoda just saved my life, didn't he?"
Obi-Wan grinned at the look of disgust on Anakin's pale face. "Indeed. How bad is your arm?"
"I don't know. That Sith thing hit it hard."
Obi-Wan gently held the boy's right arm and examined it. "It is broken just below the elbow." He carefully braced it with the Force to help relieve the pressure. "We will wrap it up back at the ship."
"I..." Anakin's voice trailed off when he felt a prick at his neck. He turned his head around and saw Master Qui-Gon holding a medical injector. Anakin gave him a look of betrayal before collapsing unconscious into the Jedi's waiting arms.
Bright. It's too bright in here. Why is it cold? Wearily, Anakin opened his eyes to stare at the unfamiliar white ceiling. He grimaced and rolled his tongue around trying to swallow away the metallic taste in his mouth. He felt sluggish and it took a few moments for him to realize he didn't know where he was. I've been drugged! Anakin felt only a little anger, he just couldn't work up the energy.
"Hello, Ani," Master Qui-Gon gave him a worried look. He reached over and handed Anakin a drink of water. The boy eyed it suspiciously before accepting it. He drank and looked at him in confusion as he recalled what had occurred before he was knocked unconscious with drugs.
"That was mean."
"It was for your own good."
"Did you just get tired of chasing me?"
"I didn't want it to be this way."
"I thought you said you weren't going to force me to come back to Coruscant?"
"Circumstances have changed. I could no longer give you the courtesy to choose."
"You didn't bother to ask."
"Would you have agreed?"
"Maybe. You didn't give me a chance!"
Qui-Gon gave no answer, so Anakin looked around the room. It was small and sparsely furnished. The bed he was on was really a bunk attached to the corner of two walls. Qui-Gon's seat was in front of a very plain console, also built into the wall. His eyes noticed something odd about the door, but his brain was still too fuzzy to register what was wrong. The floor was a pale gray and the walls were a dull sandy white without windows. The white ceiling was only gentle glow-panels.
Smoothly, the door opened and Obi-Wan entered. He looked at the stony faces of Qui-Gon and Anakin.
"Mind if I join your silent argument?"
Anakin gave him a withering look and said nothing. There were no other chairs in the room, so Obi-Wan sat on the floor.
"So, have you begun insulting each other yet, or still just warming up?"
"This isn't funny!" Anakin growled.
"I didn't say it was. On the contrary, I think we all regret that it has come to this."
Anakin turned his head away to look at the wall. He didn't want to see Master Qui-Gon's guilt stricken face any longer. It was all he could do to not flinch when Obi-Wan's sigh broke the silence.
"Let's at least try to talk."
"'Bout what," Anakin's voice was hoarse.
"Anything. Tell us what we should have done, I know you want to."
"You didn't even ask!"
"Would you have said yes, honestly?"
"Ah, so then what? Several members of the Jedi Council were with us. Do you think you could have escaped? They would have subdued you and we could not have stopped them. And now you would still be angry, but have a different reason."
"Why won't they just leave me alone?"
"Because you need help," Obi-Wan looked at the back of the sulking boy's head.
Qui-Gon finally spoke, "Even if you had agreed to come with us, I had no reason to believe that you would not run at the first opportunity, like you did on Yaw-sihtog."
Anakin stiffened. Master Qui-Gon had nearly accused him of lying.
"I know that everything has been very hard for you. That Sith has tormented you for several months at least, and this time nearly killed you."
"I know that!"
"If you had run from us again, I am certain that this time we would only find your corpse. I hope that some day you will forgive me," Master Qui-Gon rose wearily to leave the room.
The Jedi were surprised when Anakin turned back to look at them, "I... I would've gone along and left the first chance I got."
"Can you trust us again?" Master Qui-Gon asked.
"I don't know."
Obi-Wan gazed at Anakin's blue eyes intensely, "Can we trust you again?
Anakin shrugged his shoulders and tried to sit up.
"Be careful with your arm," Qui-Gon returned to his chair, but did not stop Anakin from moving.
Anakin lifted his right arm in surprise. Wasn't this broken before? Yet, he felt no pain. Gently, he flexed the muscles and stretched it out. Other than a little soreness and a heavy feeling, his arm seemed fine. Wow! They really fixed me up good.
"The break has been healed, however you should not do anything strenuous or lift anything heavy for a several days," Qui-Gon answered his unspoken question. "Your ribs were only bruised and not cracked. They should not cause you any difficulty now."
"So, uh... when will we reach Coruscant?"
"We arrived yesterday," Obi-Wan informed him. "You are in the Jedi Temple."
Qui-Gon's expression became stern, "It was determined necessary to keep you unconscious for the entire journey."
"You've got to be kidding!"
"Master Yoda decided it was too risky to allow you to awaken. You might have escaped while we stopped to refuel the ship," Obi-Wan reminded him.
"Well, uh... humph. I suppose I would've. How long have I been out?"
He stared straight ahead with unfocused eyes. No wonder my arm is healed, Anakin thought aghast.
"It will take time for you to regain your strength. Relax and take things slowly."
"Did I miss much?"
"Just a long, boring space flight. And of course, you didn't have to avoid Master Yoda this time," Obi-Wan quipped.
"Who got the Sith?"
Anakin had merely been curious, and did not expect the Jedi to hesitate to answer and react so guardedly.
"Oh, don't tell me it got away?"
"It successfully evaded the Council members. We failed to destroy its ship."
Anakin's jaw dropped, How could that guy get away from at least three Jedi Masters chasing it? The Jedi didn't look like they wanted to discuss it. It must be terribly embarrassing, he thought. Anakin tried to think of a tactful way to change the subject.
"Where is Kaely?"
Master Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan for the answer. The Knight looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"It's been quite a pest. Every time it saw me it beeped loudly. It stayed by you most of the time. However, it also appears to have taken a fancy to Qui-Gon."
"Obi-Wan, that's not what Anakin asked."
"I can't find it."
"How could you lose her?"
"It took off while we were bringing you out of the ship and wouldn't come back. It's inside the temple somewhere. I'm sorry Ani, we'll find it again."
"Her," Anakin corrected him.
"We will find her again," Obi-Wan grimaced.
"We will bring her to you as soon as we can," Qui-Gon reassured him. "You must stay in this room and not leave without escorts. There are guards outside of the door."
"I'm a prisoner."
"Only for short while."
Master Qui-Gon regarded the depressed boy with sympathy. "The Council wishes to question you when you are ready."
"What will they do with me?"
"That depends on your actions." Obi-Wan told him.
"But, what will they do? Keep me locked up, send me away, or what?"
"We will see." Qui-Gon said patiently.
Four Jedi escorted Anakin Skywalker from his room. Two were the guards assigned to stand outside of his door and the others were Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. They were taking him to be interrogated by the Council. The two guards kept a constant watch, but Anakin ignored their gaze. At least they didn't put binders on me. Not that they would do much good, he thought ruefully.
The walk seemed very long to the boy. He was still recovering from his injuries and total inactivity for the past week. They passed through many deserted hallways in silence. Where is everybody? Are these passages off limits or something? They boarded a long, one way turbolift to the top of the temple spire. Anakin didn't feel nervous until he saw the Council chamber doors. The two guards moved to stand on either side of entrance.
"Ani," Master Qui-Gon's looked pained. "We can't go in with you."
Anakin paled and looked sick. Yet, the Jedi could sense no real fear. They frowned in puzzlement.
"Anakin," Obi-Wan was concerned. "If you feel you are not well enough.."
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan eyed him carefully. They looked as though they weren't sure that they should believe him.
"I really am. I just want to get this over with."
He straightened his shoulders as he saw the doors open and boldly strode inside. The Jedi Council chamber was exactly as Anakin remembered it. There were even the same members and each looked every bit as expressionless as he knew they would. The last time he'd been here, they had exhausted him with myriad confusing questions. Each of the Jedi had severely intimidated him. Anakin had struggled to control his fear and not simply pass out from the cold air in the room. Today, he spent great effort to snuff out his anger, but he had no fear. He could endure their steel gazes now. He could handle them this time.
As before, they made no introductions or greetings. Only questions.
"Who has trained you," Master Mace Windu began the interrogation.
"Well, hello to you, too."
Anakin looked around at the stoic Jedi. "My droid has better manners than the lot of you."
He turned back to Master Windu. "Why do you want to know?"
"Answer the question."
"Only if you answer mine."
"Obey us, you must..." Master Yoda began.
"You have no authority over me!" Anakin interrupted.
Yoda's eyes widened, "Learn respect, you shall."
"Respect is earned, not granted."
Yoda did not answer. His eyes narrowed again and he probed the boy harshly.
"I have not earned your respect and you have not earned mine," Anakin retorted dangerously.
Mace Windu leaned forward with a deep frown. "You already know why we ask this. Answer," he commanded.
"You don't need to worry. None of your guys have been secretly tutoring me and that Sith thing has never caught me. I don't have a teacher."
All of the Jedi were visibly disturbed. Anakin could not tell what was irritating them more that he taught himself or that they knew he was telling the truth.
"That is impossible!" Knight Ki-Adi Mundi scoffed.
"So I've heard. And I suppose the first Jedi somehow had an instructor?"
"Don't be impertinent."
"Well hey, if you won't believe me or your own senses, why bother asking?"
"Tell us how you've learned."
"Just because I wasn't here much or even with Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan for long, doesn't mean I didn't notice stuff."
"Which Jedi skills did you see and imitate?"
"Lifting things, moving faster, and I paid close attention to how you all barraged me last time I was in here."
"You have displayed several abilities that you could not have seen here. How did you learn them."
"I got bored."
"What other Force techniques can you do?"
"I can't tell you."
"Answer, you must," Yoda's voice was very persistent.
"I'm not really sure myself what I can do."
"What have you not achieved?"
"Don't expect me to tell you."
"How did the Sith find you?"
"How should I know!"
Mace Windu paused a moment to glance at the others before continuing.
"How long have these droids pursued you?"
"Months, I didn't really count."
"And how many times did you see the Sith?"
"What did the Sith tell you?"
"We must know why the Sith wants you."
"You already know why."
"What precisely did it say to you?"
"It said that if I survived the fight it would keep me. It also told me that I was valuable. Other than a few annoying compliments and threats, that was about it. That guy was a little more interested in beating me up than talking."
For several minutes the Council contemplated his words. Anakin took the opportunity to calm his mind and focus on how to get out of this mess. Ignoring the cold air had not been so hard, but ignoring the cool demeanor of the Jedi had. He knew that several of these Jedi had to be telepaths and he didn't think they'd be polite and keep out of his head under the circumstances. So far he hadn't felt any of them succeed, but he couldn't be sure.
"We know that this Force light occurs when you meditate. Demonstrate this."
"Hmmm," Yoda intoned. "Willful you are and stubborn."
"My will has kept me alive."
"Your lack of control could be your death, as well as others."
"That's why I ditched civilization. So, how about this? You don't bother me and I don't bother you. Okay?"
"Teach you to contain your power, we can."
Anakin's arrogant facade dissipated and he stared at Master Yoda. It was a very tempting offer. For a moment, he almost seemed hopeful.
"It sounds nice, but I know you don't want to teach me anything."
Mace Windu stern expression softened, "If you let us help you, perhaps a solution to this dilemma will present itself."
So, now they treat me like a person, instead of an obstruction. It didn't take long for Anakin to decide.
"All right, I'll do it."
He didn't understand why Master Yoda smiled when he said "do".
"Anakin, you should be resting," Master Qui-Gon gently reprimanded as he entered the boy's temporary room. Obi-Wan followed him in dragging a folded chair.
Anakin stopped his pacing and flopped down on the bed, "Yes, I should."
Both of the Jedi were surprised that Anakin didn't argue or complain, but instead merely complied and even agreed. It gave them hope that they were finally making progress. When they sat in the only seats in the plain room, Qui-Gon held out his big hand and opened it.
"I have something for you."
"Kaely!" Anakin smiled for the first time since they caught him over a week ago. Kaely flew over to her master chirping and tittering.
"She was found in the Crèche. It seems that the children became rather attached to her. They managed to keep her hidden from the Crèche Masters for quite awhile."
"It looks," Obi-Wan corrected himself, "She looks awfully..."
"In need of a new paint job," Qui-Gon quickly interrupted. Kaely squawked at Obi-Wan just the same. She caught the near insult.
Anakin looked at the few little patches of green paint and the orange stains. It also appeared that the Crèche children had managed to draw undecipherable pictures on her, "Yeah, I haven't been able to get any paint."
"We have some here that we use for our ships."
Anakin's eyes lit up with excitement, "Great! Can I fix her up today?"
Kaely whistled her approval sweetly and fluttered her yellow eye lights at Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon nodded to Anakin, "The Council will see you again this afternoon, so you may this evening. However, you must stay in this room."
"Yes! I am so bored in here," he looked sternly at his little droid. "You be good, Kaely, and obey Obi-Wan, got it? No running off."
Obi-Wan's eyes widened in horror, "Why must I take her?"
"'Cause you're the one who lost her."
"The droid doesn't have to go along."
"Yes, she does. Kaely needs to pick the color she wants."
"Pick it?" Obi-Wan repeated incredulously.
Qui-Gon looked at Obi-Wan with a serious expression, as though this was a vital task, "Of course, Obi-Wan."
"And don't rush her," Anakin whispered, "She'll purposely take a long time if you do. Thank you, Obi-Wan!"
Obi-Wan glanced balefully at the tiny pest, "Come along."
At the door he paused to cock an eyebrow at Qui-Gon, "Was this your idea?"
"No, Obi-Wan, I cannot take credit this time."
Kaely beeped a little tune loudly and annoyingly as she followed the Jedi out. Master Qui-Gon placed a holo-recorder on the desk.
"You may send holo-messages to your mother and Queen Amidala."
Anakin was thrilled and eagerly sat at the desk, "Oh wow! Thank you!"
"Reassure them that you are well, but keep it as short as you can, it is very expensive."
"Yes, sir," Anakin acknowledged. "And I can't talk about being on my own and all of this mess, right?"
"It would be best. Tell them about Kaely, or even a little about some of the Jedi arts that you have accomplished."
Qui-Gon moved to leave, "And don't forget to tell them that you love them."
"Yeah," Anakin answered self-consciously. "But I think I'll just tell the Queen that I like her."
"This chamber in designed for inhibiting the Force," Master Mace Windu explained and gestured to the opening door. The Jedi Council had lead Anakin to another deep area of the Temple.
Anakin was astonished, "How can you do that?"
"I cannot reveal how it operates. However, should your glowing get out of control we can effectively stop it in this room. Your light will cease when the Force is dampened."
Master Mace Windu guided him into the plain cell. It was rather dusty with lack of use.
"What does it feel like?"
"Similar to wearing a blindfold. And often every movement feels slow. For Jedi, who use the Force from early childhood, it is unpleasant."
Anakin grimaced and Master Windu answered his unspoken question.
"I will only activate the chamber if you request it or if the situation becomes too dangerous."
Anakin nodded and sat in the center of the room, "I don't know how long it will take. I don't usually do this on purpose."
"We will monitor you from the other end of the passageway," The Jedi left and Anakin began to meditate. He was determined that he would prove to them that he could control his Force light most of the time. I'll show them! I've spent over a month working especially hard and I know I've really made progress. Through often unplanned practices, he had discovered that keeping the glow close to himself prevented an explosion. Until recently, it had been extremely painful to do so. I can handle the pain, it won't control me.
The Jedi Masters in the monitoring room waited with unusually strained patience. The entire Council was there along with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Anakin had requested that they remain as well and the Council agreed that it would be best. The boy seemed more at ease when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were near. Much sooner then they anticipated, Anakin glowed.
It was beautiful. It began as a diffuse glow of white, and increased to cover him in a golden shimmer. Anakin remained calm as it began to flow around him leaving trails of yellow sparkles in the air.
Without warning, the light burst to fill the entire room. The Council could sense the strain Anakin was under. As the stress became stabs of pain, the light blurred away all visible traces of Anakin. Every Jedi could feel an overwhelming threat of great peril. Anakin appeared unable to communicate and they were left with only one choice.
The Force went silent in the small room. All of the Jedi stared at the holo-monitor in shock. Anakin's light should have went out, however it had merely dimmed. Anakin's expression was still strained and his body shook.
Suddenly, the light intensified again and the boy's agony tripled. The Force dampening failed and his mental screams tore through the Force, nearly causing every Jedi in the vicinity to collapse. There were no auditory sounds from the room at all. Anakin's screams were silent.
Anakin's power then exploded around him. The first Force blast burnt and scorched the walls, the second followed it quickly to blow a hole in the ceiling and melt the floor and walls. No one could see Anakin due to the brightness, but they could sense that he was actually suspended in the air.
Abruptly, they could feel the boy's consciousness waver and then he fainted. This caused the yellow and white light to increase even more and blast away the already ruined floor and walls. As swiftly as it began, the expansion retracted and ceased all together.
The Jedi Masters were quick to catch Anakin's limp form with the Force and save him from falling on the metal slag below. Instantly, they levitated him out of the searing heat to lay him down on the cooler deck down the hall.
Master Healers couldn't help but sense the boy's pain and did not need to be called, they were already on their way. Master Qui-Gon quickly looked Anakin over. He seemed oddly uninjured. He was pale and his clothes were steaming. However, he was not even sun burnt and his hair wasn't singed. He glanced over at Master Yoda. He too was surprised. They had expected severe burns, at the very least.
Anakin hazily awakened. "Any...hurt?" he mumbled in a pained whisper.
"No one is hurt, Ani," Obi-Wan immediately reassured him.
The boy's face relaxed somewhat. More of the Council members gathered around them. They had supported the structure's interior and finished cooling the pools of metal. All of them were very concerned. Dampening the Force had unexpectedly caused the boy severe pain.
Qui-Gon spoke softly, "Ani, I'm very sorry, had we known it would make things worse..."
"S'okay," Anakin turned his head to look at the remains of the room at the other end of the passage. "hurt worse, but blast not bad..." he slurred as he returned to blissful unconsciousness.
"I don't think I want to know what he considers a bad blast," Obi-Wan commented.
Through rarely used halls of the Jedi Temple, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan made their way to Anakin's room. They reflected quietly on the events of the previous day. After the Healers had diagnosed that Anakin was extremely exhausted and over-stressed they informed the Council that plenty of rest was the only remedy.
The Jedi Masters had told the Healers only what they needed to know. They briefly related the Force blast, but of course gave no extra details. Despite the fact that they knew the Healers would never break confidence about the very powerful boy without a Padawan braid that they saw, the Council took careful precautions to with hold information The Healers placed Anakin in a healing trance and left. The boy slept through the evening meal and all of the night peacefully.
Rumors began flying throughout the Temple anyway. The Council could not disguise the agony that Anakin had projected. Every Master and Knight felt Anakin's pain and the disturbance in the Force his explosion of power had caused. The Padawans and children fortunately only perceived it faintly. No one else, except for those few Healers, knew what had happened.
The reactions had ranged from suspicion of Sith activity to possibly a great Jedi Master's death. They couldn't have been more wrong. No one was too surprised that the Council did not give an explanation and by the next day, they no longer expected one, as it was obvious that no details were forth coming.
No matter their curiosity, not a single Jedi asked the Council about what they all had sensed. If they needed to know, they were sure that they would be told. And speculating would have to suffice in the mean time.
This morning, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had plenty of time to talk while navigating the deserted lower corridors.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon began gravely. "The Council has reached a decision. If Anakin conquers his Force light they will make him a Padawan."
Obi-Wan nearly stopped walking and couldn't help but feel shocked, "I hope Ani will be pleased. I never expected that the Council would even consider it. What made them choose this?"
"Anakin has learned to use the Force on his own and as we have seen, he has already discovered some Jedi arts. Even learning alone, he has the potential to become powerful enough to equal a Jedi Knight. It would take him only a few years longer than if we taught him. Under these circumstances, the Council now feels it is too dangerous to not instruct him."
"Accepting him as a Padawan would be the best way to gain his loyalty and trust," Obi-Wan surmised. "The Council almost sounds afraid of him."
"I feel that they fear what he would certainly become if left to his own devices or is ever caught by the Sith."
"Who will be Anakin's master?" Obi-Wan looked at his friend intently. "You, I'd hope."
Qui-Gon's expression became sad, "That is not my decision. The Council is being very cautious, as they should, in choosing the correct path. At this time they are deliberating on whether or not it would be wiser to assign two masters to Anakin."
"Two?" Obi-Wan's eyebrows could not go higher. "I agree that Anakin is difficult, but I don't understand how having two masters could be anything but a disaster!"
"They are convinced that only one master cannot keep him under control. It is likely that they will choose from among themselves."
"I can't see that not failing. Can any of them teach him without their methods conflicting?"
"Master Yoda rarely backs down to another master. And though the Council as a whole functions efficiently, I cannot imagine any two of them smoothly sharing a Padawan, either."
"So, when disputes occur over how to instruct, how do the intend to solve it?"
"I believe that is where the rest of the Council plans to temporarily intervene and supplement his training themselves."
"That will only confuse Anakin more."
"I agree. As you know, I have often have doubts about the Council's wisdom in some actions."
"With all due respect," Obi-Wan declared. "I am severely questioning the Council's sanity."
They entered an old turbolift and descended.
"I was informed of this by the Council, however..."
Obi-Wan finished his sentence for him. "You plan to tell Anakin, regardless of the fact that they do not wish you to."
"Yes, when the time is right, I will," Qui-Gon answered ruefully.
"Anakin might not accept. He didn't want to be here and the Council's rejection three years ago still stings."
"I am hoping that he will not hold a grudge against them."
"Are they willing to beg? Because that may be what it takes to convince him!"
"It will likely become our responsibility to persuade him. You know that though the Council is willing to concede when they err, they will not give anyone that kind of emotional power over them."
"Then it is up to us."
They fell silent for a moment in seriously contemplation before Obi-Wan asked one last question.
"And what will they do if Anakin does not control his abilities?"
"I do not know."
Anakin awoke feeling more relaxed and comfortable than he could ever remember. It felt so nice, he wanted to just sleep the day away. I don't think I've ever wanted to not get up in the morning. He glanced over a the table and extra chairs someone had placed in the small room while he slept. Unwillingly, he got up, dressed for the day and unplugged Kaely from the portable recharge socket Qui-Gon had brought for her.
He sensed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan approach before they knocked on the door. Opening it he was delighted to smell the breakfast they were carrying.
"Oh great!" he exclaimed. "I'm really hungry."
Qui-Gon smiled, "Good morning."
"Uh, yeah. Good morning!"
Obi-Wan eyed the tiny, beeping annoyance sitting on the desk before greeting Anakin and sitting at the table, "You had no meal last night, so we brought plenty."
The three of them enjoyed a cheery breakfast and avoided speaking of what happened the day before. Kaely amused herself by singing for Qui-Gon and attempting to steal food from Obi-Wan's plate.
"Anakin, call off your droid please." Obi-Wan parried Kaely's arm appendage with his utensil.
"Don't you have anything better to do than torture Obi-Wan?" Anakin asked Kaely. Qui-Gon smiled when she gave a negative beep. Anakin only rolled his eyes at her. "Well, quit it, okay?" She decided to investigate the unmade bed for a while.
"Ani," Qui-Gon stacked his empty plate with the others. "The Council is planning the next session differently. They intend to actively push back your Force glowing for you this time. Hopefully, that will prevent another explosion."
"Why did they use that dampening room before?"
"The chamber let them observe your light very carefully to learn how and why it occurs," Qui-Gon explained.
"And they did not know that the dampening would fail," Obi-Wan added.
"It didn't fail at first, not exactly," Anakin paused a moment. The Jedi waited patiently for him to continue.
"It did work. I felt the Force just stop all around me, but it didn't stop inside of me. Then, it felt like the Force in me was being shredded away and that... It really hurt and I don't remember much after that."
Anakin became quiet and distant while the Jedi thought over what he revealed. The only sound was Kaely's muted trills from somewhere in the depths of Anakin's bed sheets.
"Do you want to tell the Council?" Obi-Wan asked.
"You can tell them, I don't want to talk about it with them."
"Very well," Qui-Gon answered. "When do you feel you will be able to practice controlling the glowing again?"
"Are you sure?" Obi-Wan voiced his and Qui-Gon's surprise and concern.
"Yeah, I feel fine."
Qui-Gon decided not to argue with the boy, despite his misgivings, "This new way would have been much harder before, but now that the Council has seen and felt what happens in the blast, they can control it for you. All you need to do is let the light happen, don't fight it. They will protect you to the best of their abilities."
With the first meal of the day over with, Anakin was anxious to do something - anything. He felt terribly cooped up. He always traveled well on his ship because of all the mechanical work and building things he did. Living in confinement with nothing to do but think was slowly driving him out of his mind.
Anakin glanced at Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. The Jedi probably love just thinking and stuff like that, he thought in exasperation. I don't suppose the Jedi have any droids in need of repair around here.
"Hey, Kaely!" Anakin called.
He turned and looked over at the beeping bedcover. A small movement began under the rumpled sheets and rolled off the edge of the bed. Kaely fired her repulsor lifts just in time to prevent herself from landing on the floor.
"Obi-Wan, did you get the paint?"
"Yes, and everything you'll need. It's in that box," he gestured to the small parcel that Anakin had not noticed resting on the floor by the desk. Excitedly, the boy brought it to the table and the Jedi cleared away the remainder of breakfast.
Kaely began chirping eagerly and zoomed in circles above Anakin's head.
"Let's see what color you got," He opened the box and pulled out the paint remover, applicators, and three containers. One was the primer, the second was the clear finishing liquid and the last was paint. Pulling off the top he noticed immediately that the paint was odorless and a very bright shade of baby pink.
Anakin looked aghast at Obi-Wan's smirking face, "And how did she find out that most little girls like pink?" he accused sternly.
Obi-Wan couldn't answer he was too busy laughing. Even Qui-Gon was struggling to not look amused.
"You did it on purpose!"
"Ask her yourself," he managed between snickers, "She chose it."
Kaely agreed with Obi-Wan enthusiastically. She landed a bit awkwardly on the table, but didn't slide off or thunk on the surface.
She really needs more practice. I'll have to make her do landing drills. She'll hate it, Anakin mused.
Anakin picked her up and began cleaning off the remaining patches of green paint, orange stains and whatever it was that the Crèche children had scribbled on her.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon looked up from what Anakin was doing. "I don't recall any of our ships being pink."
"Ah hah!" Anakin pointed the brush he was holding. "You mixed up white and red and told Kaely to pick it!"
"Perhaps you should not have coerced me into taking her?"
Anakin decided to ignore him and coated Kaely's flat underside with the fast drying primer.
"Anakin," Qui-Gon commented in a relaxed manner. "If we had found you sooner. And had the Council retracted their decision and accepted you, would you have agreed to be a Jedi?"
"I was really upset with them, but I suppose I would have said yes." Anakin turned his droid right side up to coat her domed top.
Obi-Wan asked nonchalantly, "And how do you feel about them now?"
"I'm not sure. I don't like them, but they are trying to help. I think that they are sorry for tossing me aside as a lost cause or something like that. At least I hope so."
Anakin glanced up to see the Jedi's reactions. Obi-Wan's eyes were wide and Qui-Gon was projecting controlled alertness. Anakin was startled.
Was it something I said? He followed the direction of their gaze. They were staring at Kaely. What? Anakin thought in confusion.
"I did not realize how very easy it is for you to levitate objects, Ani," Qui-Gon told him.
"Huh?" Anakin's brain struggled to comprehend Qui-Gon's statement. He had automatically held his droid in the air with the Force while applying the primer to the rest of her hull. He couldn't hold her in his hand while she was wet and he didn't want her to move herself until the primer dried enough to not drip or fill the cracks of her compartment doors.
"Oh! Um, I guess I really don't think about it," he looked down at little Kaely. She knew he was holding her in the air and it never concerned her that she couldn't detect how he used the Force.
As far as Kaely knew, Anakin had always been able to move or pick her up regardless of whether she was near him or at the other end of a room, even when she knew he wasn't looking at her. She probably doesn't know that most people can't use the Force.
"When you are done, perhaps Kaely would like to see herself in a mirror?" Obi-Wan suggested.
"Oh, no!" Anakin warned him. "She already has enough bad habits. Don't you go teaching her how to be vain!"
"But I am sure that she will be delighted to see how pretty she is in pink."
Kaely whistled in agreement. Anakin just groaned and opened the container of pink paint in disgust.
Later that morning, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan escorted Anakin to a different room in the Temple. Once again they walked through the corridors without seeing a single person. Anakin had concluded that this area was either off limits or very rarely used. They entered a large, empty hall with a very high ceiling and no windows. The entire Jedi Council was standing in a rough circle with a generous gap between each of them.
"Anakin," Mace Windu instructed. "Stand in the center. Let the Force glow around you, but do not control it or fight it."
Anakin glanced back once at Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who had stationed themselves near the door, before he complied with the Jedi's order. The Council all closed their eyes and he felt their power focus heavily on him.
Anakin tried to not let it irritate him. Don't they ever say hello to anyone, or is it just me? I know that I want to get this over with, but they are really getting on my nerves!
It took a little longer for the light to start this time. Anakin almost didn't feel the glow beginning. His skin tingled, but didn't sting. Normally, Anakin was so busy trying to stop it he never really had a chance to observe what happened before an explosion went off.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes. He held up and moved one hand to see how the light left a trail of glittering sparks in the air like a comet. A dizzy feeling assaulted him and quickly receded, but he still felt no pain. Then, Anakin felt the familiar overflowing of power that always occurred when the illumination increased. Out of curiosity, Anakin lifted his head to look at the Jedi.
Oh WOW! Anakin caught his breath in awe. Clinging to and expanding from each Council member was a wave of power unlike anything he'd ever seen. Anakin could perceive it visibly and not just sense it with the Force.
The expansion of intense Force power seemed terribly loud to Anakin. It came from the Jedi Masters in waves and surged together to form a barrier all around Anakin. None of Anakin's physical senses could ignore the use of the Force surrounding him. Despite the brightness of his glowing, he could see each of the Jedi clearly.
It almost made him want to plug his ears and shut his eyes, but he endured it. Blocking out the Force was always hard. Anakin waited while his mind adjusted to the extreme Force activity and relaxed when his brain stopped sending his body mixed signals.
He turned his head to look for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's reactions. They don't see it! I know they can feel what the Council is doing, but why can't they see it?
Anakin was facing Yoda and Mace Windu. He watched in fascination as the two Jedi Masters' power crashed against his light. Their efforts had no color or distinct shape until it touched the churning and sparking yellow and white. Master Yoda's made one narrow section of the rim of Anakin's glow turn green and Master Windu's was blue.
How do they do that? Anakin was determined to find out.
From the large room's entrance Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan waited expectantly. They were both comforted that Anakin was calm and not suffering this time. The glowing had brightened to obscure the boy from view as before, but it did not advance.
The intense white center and yellow edges swirled slower and slower until they nearly stopped. They could both feel the Council push the light back towards Anakin. Qui-Gon could faintly see other colors blending with the rim. Obi-Wan glimpsed it for a few seconds.
Suddenly, the light reversed, smoothly flowed back to Anakin and vanished. The boy sat blinking his eyes and slumped slightly from exhaustion. The Council put on a good show of composed tranquility, but Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan knew that they were fatigued as well. The two Jedi smiled at each other in relief.
Anakin looked down at his pink droid in irritation, I'll just have to get used to it. He carefully began applying the clear protective finish. He was very tired, but Kaely had waited for almost a month and a half for a new paint job. It was almost done, so he decided to just finish it now.
His brush strokes were slow and he yawned frequently, but Kaely didn't complain. Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were still talking to the Council, but would come visit soon and they probably would not like it if he wasn't resting. Anakin tried to work a little faster.
The Jedi arrived just as Anakin finished putting the painting supplies back in the box. As before, he use the Force to hold his droid suspended in the air and prevented the liquid from jamming her tiny doorways.
As he expected Qui-Gon's first words were a reprimand for not relaxing, "Ani, promise me that you will rest for the remainder of the day."
"I will," That is a good idea.
Anakin sighed and slouched in the chair, "I really am okay. So, when does the Council want to try it again? Tomorrow?"
"What did you both think about all that stuff the Council did?"
"They halted your light's expansion skillfully."
Obi-Wan suppressed a laugh, "That's not exactly the answer Ani is looking for, Qui-Gon."
"It is an accurate assessment."
"They did block the glowing and even began slowing it down, however I did not see if they truly prevented another explosion or if one simply did not occur," Obi-Wan looked to Anakin.
"I'm not really sure either," Anakin thought for a moment before elaborating. "They pushed it back differently. Not like I've always tried."
"Can you imitate their methods?" Qui-Gon inquired hopefully.
"Yeah, I think so. But I can't do it exactly the same. I really can't push the light, I'd have to pull. Before, I always tried to just snuff it out and squash the glowing. Maybe that's why it hurt so bad?"
"Possibly. Did you feel pain at all this time?"
"Not really, when the Council was working I felt dizzy and kind of overwhelmed."
Obi-Wan sat back in his chair and looked pensively at Qui-Gon, "Was Ani really not hurting, or did the Council suppress his pain for him?"
Qui-Gon closed his eyes and recalled the morning's events in detail, "No, they did not."
"Great!" Anakin grinned. "How come the Force stuff they were doing became colors?"
"You could see that?" Qui-Gon was puzzled.
"Yeah," Anakin shrugged his shoulders.
"Did the light hurt your eyes?" Obi-Wan was stunned.
"No, not at all. My light never blinds me or anything like that."
"Well, Ani, I am not certain as to why the colors occurred," Qui-Gon told him. "It seems likely that this was just how their efforts reacted to your glowing."
"Has the Council found out why all this stuff keeps happening in the first place?"
"Not, yet. Or, at least they haven't told us," Obi-Wan explained.
"Explain to us again what the glowing feels like, Ani," Qui-Gon asked.
"Well, there is a lot of the Force hitting me. Too much. I think I'm getting used to it, but it's hard not to panic. Why does it always happen when I meditate anyhow?"
Obi-Wan was just as confused, but Qui-Gon had a theory, "When Jedi begin learning the Force, they must meditate to achieve their goals."
"Ah, I see now," Obi-Wan relaxed as Qui-Gon began to lecture Anakin.
"When learning to levitate an object, it is at first necessary to meditate. Otherwise, your mind will not become quiet enough to concentrate. Once you are without distractions, only then can you feel the Force. In time, meditating before every action is no longer essential. By then your mind is naturally calm and the Force flows smoothly when called upon."
Obi-Wan added his thoughts, "This is why we thought that you had a teacher, Anakin. You have been unable to meditate without severe pain, and yet you have accomplished many Jedi skills."
"Like right now," Qui-Gon gestured to Kaely. Anakin was still holding her aloft. "No one your age can do that so effortlessly."
"Oh. Well, it's never really been hard for me to do once I started trying."
"I think that perhaps the Force screams at you, while it whispers to the rest of us, Ani," Obi-Wan concluded.
"So, when do I get sprung out of here?" Anakin asked with a crooked smile.
"When you are a Padawan," Obi-Wan replied. He and Qui-Gon waited anxiously for Anakin's response.
Disbelief, surprise and bewilderment flashed across the boy's face. He didn't even notice when he dropped Kaely. She fired her repulsor lifts just in time and squealed indignantly at Anakin.
"Uh, Kaely I'm sorry...um, it's sticky enough that you can hover yourself until it finishes drying," he waved absently for her to move away from the table. Frowning, Anakin rested his elbow on the table and supported his forehead with one hand.
Obi-Wan almost regretted speaking. He glanced at Qui-Gon, who gave him a reassuring look. They did need to tell Anakin and now was a good time. They waited as the minutes passed and Anakin still did not look up or answer. The only sound in the room was the soft whine of Kaely's engines.
"Ani," Qui-Gon said softly. "It is not necessary that we talk about this now. Take your time."
"No, it's okay," Anakin's voice was hoarse. He lifted his head and his eyes shone with unshed tears. "I'm really glad now that you both dragged me back here. I..."
Anakin face was strained and he frowned deeply, "They don't want me." He choked out.
"Anakin, the Council does not resent you or want to get rid of you. Give them time," Qui-Gon advised.
"Why are they...?" He stopped speaking, again not trusting his voice. The room became oddly quiet for a moment.
"This all depends on your control over the Force glowing," Qui-Gon warned. "However, you have made so much progress that we are certain that they will accept you soon."
Anakin relaxed a little. "Who would teach me?" he asked cautiously.
"That remains under debate," Obi-Wan answered.
Kaely's repulsor lifts made a strange sputtering sound behind them, but Anakin and the Jedi ignored it.
"Anakin, do you want to be a Jedi?"
Anakin didn't hesitate, "Yes, I always have."
Master Qui-Gon smiled and Obi-Wan exhaled in relief.
"The Council is considering the possibility of having two masters teaching you," Qui-Gon explained. "They have not yet determined which two would be the best choice."
"Why not you and Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan tried to lower Anakin's hopes gently, "The Council would never agree. I've never trained a Padawan and I do not feel that I have the experience necessary, yet."
"And you like being on your own," Anakin added for him.
"That also," Obi-Wan admitted. "A Padawan is a huge responsibility."
Qui-Gon clasped his hands on the table and looked at Obi-Wan, "But, in this case you'd only have half a Padawan to deal with."
Anakin snickered, "Besides, none of those stuffy Council members would be able to tolerate me."
For the sixth time, Kaely's engines went silent and then re-engaged. Anakin turned his head around, but she was only flying slowly up to the ceiling.
"And just how to you intend to convince them?"
"If it is the will of the Force, we will not have to," Qui-Gon reminded him.
They could hear Kaely's repulsor lifts cease activity again.
"Kaely!" Anakin exclaimed in irritation. "Quit freefalling! It won't make you dry any faster!"
Anakin waited excitedly for the Jedi Council to arrive. They were in the large room again. He was having a hard time being still and not smiling.
Qui-Gon looked at him curiously, "You aren't pensive like you were yesterday."
"I know what will happen this time."
"Is that so," Obi-Wan said with raised eyebrows.
"You know what I mean."
The doors opened and the Council filed in and took their previous places without a word. When they surrounded Anakin, Mace Windu gave the only command, "Begin."
And Anakin began. Swiftly, his light swelled out from him in sparks. The glow obscured him and then abruptly froze. It had the appearance of a miniature sun.
The Council did not lower their barrier nor allow it to touch the light. Master Windu opened his eyes and spoke to the ball of light. "Anakin, don't rush."
Over several minutes, each golden spark slowly streaked back towards the white ball. All at once, Anakin became visible again. The light reduced to a diffuse glow and the sparks were all in interconnecting clusters loosely wrapped around his arms. Steadily, Anakin dissipated the light more and more until the last vanished along his palms.
Anakin looked straight at Master Yoda in triumph.
That afternoon, Anakin stood alone before the Jedi Council. Each Jedi was in their seats except for Mace Windu. He stood facing Anakin.
"Anakin Skywalker," Master Windu announced. "We are prepared to receive you as a Jedi Initiate. Do you accept?"
Everyone remained composed and serious, "We have determined that for your training to succeed you must be under the charge of two masters and receive additional lessons from the Council."
Anakin remained cool and focused. He looked at Master Windu as if waiting for him to continue.
"Surprise you, this does not," Yoda's eyes closed to slits.
"I cannot argue with the best course of action," Anakin said stiffly and formally. If any of the Council noticed his evasion, they chose to ignore it.
"You will be a Temple Initiate for now and we will inform you when suitable masters have been selected."
"Master Qui-Gon asked for me over three years ago," Anakin reminded them.
"Master Jinn chose him first and that takes precedence," from across the room Qui-Gon's friend, Master Plo Koon, spoke on his behalf.
The rest of the Council knew that they could not dispute that. Master Yoda and Mace Windu shared a look briefly.
"So be it."
Anakin could sense that they were preparing to debate over who would be the second master. Before Master Windu could dismiss him, Anakin spoke quickly.
"How about Obi-Wan?"
Master Windu looked down at the boy, "Knight Kenobi is young."
"Exactly!" Anakin said cheerfully.
"Old, are we, hmmm?" Yoda challenged.
"Yup. You said it!" Anakin grinned at the ancient Jedi Master.
"The pair that teach you must be capable of blending their training methods smoothly. Kenobi has never taken a Padawan."
"Well, there is a first time for everything. And do you really think that any of you can work with Master Qui-Gon better than Obi-Wan can?"
The Council did their best not to react to Anakin's bold question. When they did not answer immediately, Anakin plunged on ahead.
"We all know that Master Qui-Gon and you all sometimes can't agree on things. And it's great that Obi-Wan is young! Think of how many decades it's been since all of you were Padawans."
That might not have been the best thing for Anakin to say just then. Regardless of how the Council felt about his impertinence, it did serve to validate his point. And to encourage them to foster him off on Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
Mace Windu sat down in his chair, "Remember to tell Master Qui-Gon that your diplomatic skills need work." At his gesture the Council Chamber's great doors swung open and he mentally beckoned the two Jedi waiting outside.
Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan entered briskly to stand on either side of Anakin. They bowed to the Council as usual.
"Master Jinn, Knight Kenobi, will both of you take Skywalker as your Padawan?" Master Windu said officially.
Obi-Wan's yes was only a second slower than Qui-Gon's. Anakin just grinned and didn't care who saw him.
"Very well. The three of you will be assigned new quarters. We will inform you of when Padawan Skywalker will have sessions with the Council soon." Master Windu looked at the boy with a soft smile, "Congratulations Anakin."
"How," Obi-Wan looked over at Anakin as they walked down the hall, "did you manage to pull that off?"
"I told Master Yoda he was old," Anakin quipped.
"Ani..." Obi-Wan said in warning.
"Yes, Master," Anakin replied seriously. "I told them that you would be a much better teacher than any of them."
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were momentarily speechless. Anakin didn't seem to notice or worry about it.
"And their response was...?"
"That I needed better diplomatic skills."
"Ani," Qui-Gon answered calmly. "In the future refrain from speaking too boldly to the Council."
"And you really don't have to call me Master," Obi-Wan mumbled with an odd expression on his face.
"Yes I do!"
"Ani is right," Qui-Gon enjoyed his former Padawan's discomfort.
"Then only during training or around other people. Other wise just stick to Obi-Wan."
Anakin grinned at the sour look on his face.
"I must say that I did not anticipate that this situation would resolve itself today," Qui-Gon informed them. "You gained control of your glowing much better than I'd hoped, Ani."
"Thank you. I've practiced controlling it a lot of times and I'm very familiar with what happens and how it feels. I just didn't know a better way of stopping it until now. Everything else I've tried either worked for only a little while or made it worse."
"I'm glad this is all over with. The past three years have been one long frustration," Obi-Wan sighed.
"So, what will things be like now?"
Qui-Gon answered him, "We will spend the majority of the next few weeks evaluating everything you can and cannot do. Including how far behind you are on academics. After that we will have a steady schedule of training for the next several months at least."
Anakin nodded. They reached his room and Anakin quickly collected his belongings. He was excited that he would finally be out of that prison. Kaely hummed a little tune and followed them to a turbolift.
"I doubt that the Council will send you or I on missions for a while, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said apologetically.
"That's fine. I'm looking forward to relaxing a bit," Obi-Wan said pleasantly. He then glanced over at Anakin and seemed to re-think what he just said.
"Well, perhaps I won't get to relax that much," he said ruefully.
Go to the sequel "I Won't Fail You"