Title: I Won't Fail You
Author: Julie the Tall Terror
Alternate site with fanart for this story at: fanfic.theforce.net
Category: Altered Destinies TPM
Summary: Sequel to "If I Don't Catch You" Anakin's life in the Jedi Temple as Qui-gon and Obi-wan's Padawan.
Began November 12, 2000
Completed December 15, 2000
Revised in November 2001
A Month Later
A few weeks after the bomb incident, Anakin came stomping into the apartment with Kaely following close behind. Waves of anger rolled off him. He quickly jogged towards his room.
"Anakin, stop," Master Qui-Gon ordered.
The teenager halted as ordered, but did not turn around. Kaely moaned uncertainly.
"Go on Kaely," Qui-Gon told her kindly. "Anakin, sit."
Without answering or looking up, Anakin stiffly sat in a chair in the front room. He struggled to calm himself and knew that Qui-Gon would not allow him to speak until he had done so.
But Anakin's anger did not decrease, not even when Obi-Wan arrived a quarter of an hour later.
"Ani, what set you off this time?" Obi-Wan inquired in a stunned voice.
Anakin carefully restrained himself from looking up. Glaring at one's master was not a good idea and he didn't trust himself to even speak.
Unlike Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan preferred to work on the problem immediately. And in this case it appeared that waiting would be of no help. "Isn't today your last lesson with Master Yaddle?"
Anakin nodded briefly.
"You were enjoying learning how to understand Kaely and other machine's methods of speech with the Force, as well as understanding animals. What happened?"
"Nothing, it wasn't that." Anakin voice was strained and terse.
Obi-Wan fell silent and leaned against the wall. Qui-Gon had not moved from his place on the sofa. They both waited patiently for Anakin to compose himself.
"This has to do with the bomb," Qui-Gon deduced. "I thought that all of your friends had ceased pestering you about it weeks ago."
"Some other Padawans missed it 'cause they were on missions." Anakin's mouth compressed into a thin line as his anger surged again. "They were very insistent to know the details."
Anakin paused and some of his irritation finally lessened slightly.
"I've been invited, I suppose you could say, to join a group." Contempt laced his words.
"Why are you uncertain?"
"I don't like them. They haven't actually done anything wrong that I know of, but I can't help but feel that they might if I don't join them."
"That is very unlikely, Ani." Qui-Gon was perplexed.
"You make them almost sound like thugs," Obi-Wan murmured.
"They are close to it. They think they are better than everyone else and the rest of the Padawans will do anything to gain their approval. I don't think that anyone has seriously opposed them before."
Qui-Gon explained softly. "Ani this is typical behavior of some people, but no one group of Padawans has any real power."
Obi-Wan was more concerned and didn't completely agree. "That depends on how strong a following they've developed. Ani, if they gave an order to shun you, do you think they others would obey them?"
"I don't think they would even have to. All they'd have to do is treat me rudely and then everyone else would avoid me to try to make themselves look good."
Obi-Wan response was more reassuring. "I will investigate this. When do they expect an answer?"
"I can delay for awhile, a few weeks at most."
"Don't worry about it right now and don't let yourself be pressured into anything, Anakin. Wait and see what occurs," Qui-Gon advised calmly, but his expression was grave. "Tell us everything you know about this group."
Anakin relaxed and his anger drained away. "They call themselves the Elite and they are led by Lavir Ruoy...."
A Few Weeks Later
Anakin turned to find the source of the lilting, overly sweet voice. Behind him he saw a young Padawan approaching, her round face smiling pleasantly. The metallic ribbon woven in her Padawan braid glinted in the light.
"Hi. Mihsekil, right?"
"Oh, you remembered my name! Yes, we met after the duel you and Lavir had six months ago."
Anakin turned to continue down the corridor, missing the blush on Mihsekil's face. She caught up to him, and they turned down the corridor onto the Singing Bridge. Halfway up the Music Spire, the long bridge afforded a lovely view of Coruscant from the Spire's gigantic windows and was a great place to listen to the concerts held at the base of the tower. It was also a convenient shortcut to the gardens nearby.
Anakin stopped in the middle of the bridge with Mihsekil, puzzled that she was following him. From the other end of the bridge another girl came jogging towards them.
"Hi, Anakin!" the bouncing girl said cheerfully. "Would you like to walk in the Room of a Thousand Fountains with me?"
"Ah." Anakin attempted to speak. He racked his brain for this Padawan's name.
"No, he doesn't, Selims," Mihsekil said coolly.
"Was I speaking to you?"
"He was just about to ask me to walk with him."
"But he hasn't."
"I was here first," Mihsekil stated, no emotion in her voice.
"Well, now I'm here. Well, Ani?" Selims looked up at him with a sweet smile.
Anakin stared at both of them, then thought in horror, What is going on? Oh no! I don't believe this, a Jedi catfight!
Selims grasped his tunic sleeve. "You are coming with me, aren't you, Ani?" she said, more as a statement than a question.
"Don't be absurd," Mihsekil countered icily from Anakin's other side.
"He wants to go with me."
Anakin started to panic. The girls were blocking both sides of the bridge He was cornered. Gotta get away. Gotta get away. No choice. No other way.
Anakin leapt over the railing.
"The Music Spire has been closed until the maintenance staff can determine the extent of the structural damage," Qui-Gon stated.
"I...I just didn't know what to do!" Anakin moaned pitifully.
"So you levitated up to the top of the Music Spire," Qui-Gon prompted.
"It seemed like a good way to escape them. I just wanted to get away fast."
"I see." Qui-Gon was trying desperately not to smile. "You do realize that neither of those Padawans can levitate themselves yet?"
"You couldn't just jump down? And was it really necessary to break the sound barrier?" Obi-Wan exclaimed with glee.
"They might have followed and I didn't go anywhere near that fast!"
"Close enough. Everyone in that corner of the Temple felt the tower shake!"
"And what would you have done, Obi-Wan?!" Anakin retorted hotly.
"Yes, what would have you done?" Qui-Gon repeated with a grin on his face.
"Charmed both ladies into walking with me, of course," Obi-Wan quipped back.
The Next Morning
This will be just like the day after the bomb.
Anakin had arrived at the Padawan's Dining Hall very early. He'd planned to go into the empty room, fetch his lunch from the kitchen, sneak back to the apartment and hide out for the rest of the day.
He almost made it.
"Ani, what bizarre thing will you do next?" Suoicarg said with an exasperated look on her face.
Anakin sighed as Suoicarg and Elbaima entered the hall. The older boy glanced down at the box Anakin held and shook his head.
"Sit down Ani, you'll have to face everyone eventually, might as well get it over with all at once," he advised.
His friends grabbed their own food and they all sat at their usual table. Anakin couldn't think of what to say.
"Now," Suoicarg waved one elegant hand. "You can tell us all about it before the others come and gawk."
Anakin smiled crookedly at that. "What have you heard so far?"
"That you levitated up the whole Music Spire just to escape two lovely girls." Elbaima had an incredulous look on his dusky face. "True?"
"Yeah, it's true," Anakin admitted reluctantly. "But I didn't know what to do! I didn't want to hurt their feelings or anything like that."
Anakin really didn't expect either of his friends to understand. They were both more than two years older then him and never seemed to worry about romance. Suoicarg just shook her head and Elbaima gave him an amused look.
Yep, they don't get it.
The first of many hungry Padawans began to trickle in. Anakin braced himself to be attacked. It didn't take long for a steady crowd to congregate around him. He tried to answer their questions and ignore most of the comments they made.
Anakin looked up at the doorway. I take it back, this is going to be worse then the day after the bomb.
Lavir Ruoy had arrived.
As the eighteen year old Padawan approached him, Anakin thought back to Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's advice.
"Ani, I have observed this Elite group carefully over the last few weeks and I can say without a doubt that Padawan Ruoy does not have anywhere near the power he thinks he does." Obi-Wan was serious and firm. "Have faith in the other Padawans, if they are truly your friends they will not desert you."
Qui-Gon faced Anakin squarely. "Everyone here is training to be Jedi. He will not be able to maintain his group if he reaches Knighthood. Do your best not to provoke him, but stand firm, Ani," he encouraged.
"Such behavior is not only unbefitting of a Jedi, it is also all but impossible with the way that we are scattered across the galaxy on missions. If he continues being a problem, I'll deal with him." Obi-Wan's eyes glinted dangerously.
Their words had reassured Anakin greatly then, but now he was struggling to remain calm. He wanted to prove that he could handle Lavir himself. The Padawans surrounding Anakin hushed their incessant babbling when they saw Lavir and made a path for the young man, waiting expectantly for the argument they were sure would come.
"Gathering quite a crowd I see." Lavir looked around him, a smirk on his lips.
"I want friends, not followers," Anakin retorted.
Lavir walked to the table with his usual grace and self-assuredness. Flanking him were only two Elite today. The small greenish metal pins that marked them as members glinted on their Padawan braids.
"Since I met you half a year ago you have made impressive progress. Have you made your decision? I won't wait any longer."
"I'm not interested in joining you. Such behavior is not only unbefitting of a Jedi, it is also all but impossible with the way that we are scattered across the galaxy on missions."
Lavir gave him a cool and dangerous smile. "A rather narrow viewpoint and unintelligent, to say the least."
Anakin leaned back in his chair lazily. "Perhaps I should inform Master Obi-Wan of your low opinion of him."
"I was quoting my master."
Lavir stared and the crowd gasped in astonishment. Anakin knew that he had to choose his next words very carefully. He didn't want them to know that he'd been so intimidated by Lavir that he'd gone to his masters for help. The last thing Anakin needed right now was to look like a whiny kid who couldn't handle his own problems.
"I've heard my Masters quietly discussing this 'Elite' group of yours. I discovered just yesterday that Master Obi-Wan has been observing you specifically for the past two weeks at least."
Anakin paused dramatically and waited for the other Padawans to quiet their murmuring. Lavir's face was as cold as stone.
"I am glad to say that I didn't hear either of my masters speak badly of you, Lavir." That was technically true, from a certain point of view. He didn't want to make Lavir a worse enemy then he already was. "But they were quite certain that your Elite group is unbefitting behavior of a Jedi," Anakin repeated stubbornly.
Lavir's mask began to crack, showing a glimpse of the anxiety and shock underneath. "Did you hear anything else?"
"Only that they expect your group to naturally dissolve before you are all Knights. Master Qui-Gon was not concerned, but I think Master Obi-Wan may keep checking up on you and the others every now and then."
He looked at Lavir and waited to see if he caught the threat. The taller Padawan's eyes flickered slightly.
Yup, he got it. Anakin cheered internally. Even the Council didn't try to go up against Obi-Wan. Now that I think of it, they don't argue with Master Qui-Gon anymore either. Maybe the Council has finally developed some common sense.
Anakin glanced around and tried to lighten the mood slightly. "So, let's just enjoy being Padawans with our fun groups while we still can."
The crowd relaxed somewhat and several of them began to wander off, chattering away. Anakin had no doubt that every Padawan in the Temple would hear about this before the day was out. And as an extra bonus, they seemed to have forgotten their intentions to pester him about the previous day's Music Spire incident.
Anakin looked at Lavir's serious expression. The young man turned and left without a word and his Elites trailed after him.
I don't think that Lavir has ever thought of what would happen to his group later. Anakin was relieved to see that Lavir was backing off for now, but he knew he should remain wary.
Just in case.
The Ninth Month
"Good morning, Master Billaba," Anakin looked down at the delicate Jedi Master.
"Good morning, Anakin. You needn't be quite so formal," Depa Billaba smiled pleasantly and indicated the way they should walk, her dark braids swinging as she moved away. "Hello, Kaely. I'm glad to meet you."
The tiny pink droid whistled cheerfully. Depa's friendliness immediately put Anakin at ease. She's seems nice, like Master Yaddle.
Master Yaddle had been very kind to Kaely and Anakin had enjoyed her lessons. She had taught him how to use the Force to better understand Kaely's whistles. Kaely had been sad when the lessons were over. Ever since then, Anakin had let his droid tag along to his other Council lessons. If it annoyed the masters, they never showed it. However, Anakin suspected that by the time he got to Yoda, she'd be banned.
Anakin followed Master Depa through the halls. He had taken to investigating and learning everything he could about the Council members before they taught him. Master Depa was actually a new member, holding a temporary position. She was very talented in attuning herself to the minds and personalities of those around her.
Explains why I feel so comfortable walking with her, Anakin noticed.
She led him to an older area of the Jedi Temple that Anakin's explorations had not taken him to, finally reaching a large chamber that looked as though it was once meant for speeches or announcements. There was a small, slightly raised platform at one end and steps that probably once served as seats curved around the room.
It had now been converted into a garden of sorts. Anakin and Depa walked down the stairs to the last step while Kaely flew about. It wasn't really like the meditation gardens. The floor had been filled with water, leaving the platform as a kind of island. At least five steps were submerged. A few small plants and vines had taken residence on the stone stairs and crawled up the walls to hang in garlands from the ceiling.
It's awfully cold in here. Or maybe it's just me, the plants don't mind.
Master Billaba sat on one of the lower steps and Anakin followed. Kaely was busy examining the flowers on the ceiling and humming to herself.
"This is a climate controlled room designed for mountain and high atmospheric plants and anything else requiring cool conditions to live."
Depa looked over at the teenager. "Your masters have taught you to build heat by rubbing together air molecules, correct?
"Yes Master Depa. I learned Pyrokinesis a few weeks ago," Anakin acknowledged. And Master Qui-Gon's beard has almost grown back since I set it on fire. I don't know how he and Obi-Wan manage to tolerate me. Any one else would have gone crazy by now.
"Good. Today I will begin teaching you to make things cold." Depa was serious and had what Anakin had begun calling 'the Jedi teaching expression' on her face. However, she somehow gave the impression that she was smiling, even though she wasn't.
"I chose this room for you to begin in due to its coolness. It will be easier here, later of course we will work our way up to cooling down a sauna, and in a few years you will be able to freeze fire. To start you must feel the air molecules, like you do with Pyrokinesis, but you must slow them down."
Anakin closed his eyes and gently allowed his awareness to see more of the room. He had to be careful lest the Force engulf him as it always tried to do. He looked for the tiny wakes the air molecules over the water made. Once he found the trails left behind, he easily brought the molecules themselves into focus.
"Now, concentrate on this pond and work on freezing part of its surface near you."
The water was already cool and Anakin grasped the water particles. He expected it to be easy. He thought he could just hold them still and they would freeze up. This isn't the same as heating stuff. To do that I just have to stir it all up and they all start bouncing off each other. This is different, I can't hold on to so much at one time.
"Relax, Anakin. This will take all morning."
How'd she know that I hate it when someone says the words 'be patient'? At least she has a much nicer way of telling me.
Anakin settled down for a long lesson. He found that if he held on to a group of particles long enough, they would stay that way, but he had to keep grabbing the edges to prevent them from being pulled apart again. Slowly, he worked outward.
"Good," Anakin suddenly heard Depa say. "Now, let it go."
Anakin opened his eyes to see a small patch of ice floating on the pond's surface. He grinned and barely restrained himself from yelling 'wizard', like he would have done as a kid.
Kaely hovered over the patch of ice curiously and extended a small arm with a sensor. Anakin had just recently installed it and Kaely used every opportunity to play with her new toy.
"I know you are tired, but remember to practice this afternoon, and for an hour every day. Use a small cup of liquid or..."
Depa was interrupted by a loud splash.
"Kaely!" Anakin swiftly grabbed his little droid from the chilly water. "The ice wasn't strong enough for you to land on!" Anakin scolded her. "Baby, you know you aren't water proof." Anakin groaned.
The Tenth Month
Anakin glared at the ancient book in front of him. Very gently he sat the brown book on his desk, rubbing his eyes wearily and doing his best to smother his frustration.
It had been almost a standard year since Obi-Wan had given him the two old books for his thirteenth birthday. He had not yet finished this one and Anakin felt a bit guilty about it.
Reading the green book had been difficult, but he had managed. It was a chronicle of the defeat of the Sith a thousand years ago, written by a Jedi Master who had participated in the war. It had been a fascinating tale of adventure, danger, suspense, and lots of gory fighting. Anakin had stayed up late several nights reading it. Once he got used to the archaic words and odd spelling, that is.
That was the problem with the book of Jedi prophesies. It was even older then the other book and filled with words he had never seen before. At one point Anakin became so confused and lost he was convinced that the author had to be switching languages every other word. None of the ancient words were in the holo-terminal's dictionary.
Anakin returned to the large brown book and smoothed its faded pages, covered by a protective sealant. He had abandoned it for three months in order to salvage his sanity. Then just this week he'd thought to ask Master Yaddle about ancient dictionaries and she'd been happy to help.
In fact, so happy that she'd invited Anakin and Kaely over for lunch in her quarters. He had a great time just talking with the 481 year old Jedi Master. She was soft-spoken and treated Kaely like a person. And he loved her apartment, filled from floor to ceiling with thousands of tiny trinkets and books.
Master Yaddle had prepared a delightful meal. Anakin didn't recognize a thing served and curiously asked her if the round biscuit shaped thing glowed blue naturally or if that was a product of the cooking process. She had assured him that the color was totally natural. It had been a delicious lunch and a fun visit, even when Kaely got lost in the glittering objects hanging from the ceiling.
Thinking of his lunch with her made Anakin feel hungry, and he went shuffling to the kitchen for a snack. He was alone in the apartment this afternoon, his masters busy with their Initiate classes and whatever else they did in the afternoons.
He returned to his room with a plate stacked with a variety of things grabbed randomly from the cold storage and cabinets. He sat it on the bed and looked balefully at the book on his desk.
"Muf'te, muf'te..." Anakin hunted through the old dictionary Master Yaddle had loaned him. She had told him that several retired Knights were working on compiling a dictionary of the ancient words for the holo-database, but couldn't say if it would be completed within the next century or not. Until then he'd have to make do with another old book instead of a datapad.
He munched on something from his plate without really paying any attention to what it was. Obi-Wan had been teasing him lately that he was eating enough to feed a bantha. And Master Qui-Gon asked if he was growing an extra pair of arms or another head. Anakin didn't mind, he'd grown a lot lately and he expected he'd be as tall as Obi-Wan by the next year. The only thing that really bothered him was how much growing made his joints and muscles ache.
"Muf'te...civilian dress worn by someone usually in uniform." Anakin couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Then why doesn't it just say the Jedi is in disguise then?! What do they need a fancy word for?"
Anakin groaned and trudged onward. He turned the page and began scrawling down every word he didn't recognize. When finished he painstakingly translated them all and then began to read.
In the time of greatest despair, only one, a son of suns, shall re-forge the flow. Over the gap of terror only this ones radiance can form a bridge. This Chosen One will rise through the peril, strife, and encompassing war To challenge the maleficent and bring balance to the Force.
Anakin hardly breathed as he stared at the book as if it were a rancor, thoughts flashing back to his first ever meeting with the Council.
"He is the Chosen One," Qui-Gon insisted vehemently to the Jedi Council. "You must see it!"
Qui-Gon's words, spoken stubbornly from behind him four years ago echoed in his mind. He'd been a nine-year-old kid then and still reeling from the Council's rejection. He hadn't really thought about what Qui-Gon had said since, except in passing.
Many things that had confused him began to slowly make sense. A nagging feeling that a terrible conflict was approaching had plagued him for months. The Council's insistence that they train him, as well as Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, now made sense.
Something really bad is coming and they've known it for a while. Ever since Obi-Wan killed that Sith probably.
That evening, Anakin sat in a chair in the main room, alternately pacing and then brooding perfectly still. He felt restless and frozen at the same time, his frustration bursting across the training bond one moment and then being heavily shielded the next.
His masters returned to the apartment together today. They had sensed Anakin's disquiet clearly through the bond and knew that he hadn't even tried to calm himself.
The look of shock and overwhelming purpose on Anakin's downcast face told them exactly what had happened. However, they were ready for it. They had been preparing for this day since Obi-Wan had first given Anakin that book.
Obi-Wan wasted no time in getting to the point. "The Council has forbidden us to explain the prophecy of the Chosen One to you, Ani."
Anakin was silent and still in the chair, but when he did answer he continued staring at the carpet. "So, you have to find sneaky ways instead. Can you tell me why they don't want you to?"
"Are Jedi prophecies, in general, reliable?"
Qui-Gon answered him. "To a degree, yes they are. What little we see of the future is often accurate, though fluid and lacking details. Generally, we see possibilities we seek to alter, such as a vision of a friend in danger. Visions of distant events are always vague, but usually completely correct. However, frequently such occurrences are so subtle that the prophecy was not identified until it was all over with."
"So knowing how to change something coming way ahead is really hard," Anakin mumbled, half to himself, half to them.
Without another word he left and went to his room. I think I'm glad that Master Yaddle didn't ask me what book I needed that dictionary for.
In the other room Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon moved to look out the alcove's window at the Coruscant's skyline.
"Just as we expected," Obi-Wan murmured quietly.
Qui-Gon agreed. "He will either resign himself to it or fight it now. We must remain alert."
The Near the End of the First Year
"Anakin, I hope you don't mind, but I am curious, did I see you walking with Master Saesee Tiin yesterday?"
Anakin looked across the table at the speaker. She was one of his recent acquaintances. Anakin's usual friends Suoicarg and Elbaima were away on missions. Surrounding him at lunch today were many new faces.
Anakin thought about what she was asking. Yesterday had been his last lesson with Master Tiin.
Another Padawan spoke up. "I recall seeing you conversing with Master Depa Billaba recently and Master Plo Koon a couple of months ago."
From around the table, Anakin could feel the eyes and the equivalent of eyes bore into him. They wanted to know why he was spending so much time with members of the Council. He couldn't brush them off this time.
"They have stopped to talk with me a few times, yes." Anakin's mind raced. They are going to assume I was in trouble or something, they probably can't imagine any other reason why several Council members would talk with another Master's Padawan. But I don't want to tell them the truth, they'd never leave me alone about it. Gotta distract them.
"They have really interesting tales about the battles and wars they have fought in. Did you know that Master Tiin--"
Anakin broke off abruptly and went pale.
"Anakin, what's wrong?" one of the other Padawans asked with a frown.
Anakin's friends looked up at him in confusion when he stood up suddenly.
"Please excuse me. See you later!" Anakin said quickly and headed for the door.
Just as Anakin reached the exit the last person he wanted to see strode in, trailed by a few of the Elite.
"Ah, just who I was looking for," Lavir said in an oily tone.
"I don't have time for this, Lavir."
"Yes you do. I have noticed that despite your lofty words two months ago, you have collected a group anyway."
Anakin ignored him. He couldn't help it if the other Padawans wouldn't leave him alone. And Anakin had certainly never held meetings or organized them in any fashion.
"I really need to leave, get out of my way."
But the other Elites blocked him. Lavir smirked and Anakin glared at the older teenager. Anakin's newer friends stood up and a few walked closer to see what the commotion was.
Anakin had just turned to head for another exit when the glowing started.
It was too late.
Anakin's only thought was to get away. Far away. The glowing always attacked him with a compulsion to run, and this time Anakin gave in.
Big mistake. A surge of pain overwhelmed Anakin and he dropped to his knees. Those few seconds of agony distracted him enough to lose control and the golden light burst around him.
The Padawans were all startled to see Anakin start to glow. Everyone went silent and stared. The younger ones actually backed up while the oldest ones focused all of their senses on him, automatically studying Anakin as they had been trained to do when anything unusual in the Force occurred.
Anakin's pain caused the more sensitive among them to flinch. They had no warning when the light expanded, sending out a shockwave that knocked the nearest Padawans to the floor. The rest were merely stunned. Almost as one they began calling out to each of their masters through their training bonds.
The first Knights and Masters to reach the dining hall found the Padawans stumbling out in an uproar of confusion. Upon entering the room they were shocked to see a bright ball of white engulf several Padawans as it moved outward.
Anakin opened his eyes. He didn't need to, he could sense everything around him without them, but it made him feel better. He had finally regained hold of his light so it could no longer advance.
He looked around himself in awe. Anakin counted sixteen Padawans inside with him, including Lavir. However, they were completely unharmed. He could feel their hearts, or their version of a heart, beating steadily. Their minds were adrift, as though they were asleep.
Oh! Of course, they immediately put themselves into hibernation when the light hit them. Standard safety precaution.
Anakin began to slowly gather his strength and prepare to pull the glow back to himself. It had been nearly two months since his last glowing spell. They were happening less and less. He had learned to feel them coming enough in advance that he could stop it before the glow dispersed. And he had always managed to get alone before that happened, until now.
He stared at the Padawans sprawled on the floor around him. Why aren't they hurt? Every time this happens I leave behind a mess at least and a crater at worst. I thought for sure that anyone caught in it would die, like the pirates did.
He delved deeper in the Force. He knew that he had to shut off this light soon. Anakin worried that, although they appeared fine, his light might cause bad side effects to the exposed Padawans. He reached out to them in concern.
Images, thoughts, and feelings assaulted Anakin's senses. The Force badgered him with more information than he could handle. All at once he knew the names of each of them and had to struggle to block off the flood of knowledge about their hopes, dreams and history.
Anakin recoiled in horror. He knew at once that he had done something terrible. That shouldn't have happened! I didn't mean to do it. If anyone ever finds out... Anakin tried to relax. He glanced over at Lavir.
He'd seen a few interesting things come from him. Lavir was such a pain, it would be very useful to gain a better advantage over him. I've already seen some stuff, no one would know if I looked again.
It was tempting, very tempting.
Just a little. A few more brief images and random details about Lavir's life flickered into focus. Suddenly, Anakin's head felt dizzy and a rush of sensations from the Force swirled through his head. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Anakin let himself drink it in for a moment before reluctantly pulling away.
When his head cleared he felt very cold and sick. If any one ever pilfered through my mind I'd...I'd... Anakin didn't know what he'd do. He sensed Master Qui-Gon approaching. Trying to forget what he'd done, Anakin began to focus solely on turning off the glow.
Obi-Wan arrived to see that Master Qui-Gon and a few of the Jedi Council were already there. He'd come as fast as he could. Anakin's light was retracting steadily and Healers were ready with floating pallets.
Obi-Wan began helping them pick up the unconscious Padawans as they became visible and reachable. He glanced briefly at Qui-Gon. The older man stood extremely close to the yellow sparks and looked as though he was ready to go charging into it.
This was really bad timing. Anakin had been distant and gloomy for the past two weeks, ever since learning he was the Chosen One. He'd hardly spoken and had gone through his Force lessons and lightsaber practice mechanically. Now things would be worse.
As Obi-Wan hauled the next young Padawan out of the way, he noticed that it was Lavir Ruoy. Immediately, he understood what had occurred. Anakin somehow got into an argument with this fellow, and then he felt the glow start. No doubt he prevented Ani from escaping in time. He sighed. Somehow I'm not surprised.
Abruptly the light ceased. Without a word Anakin stood and walked straight to Qui-Gon's open arms and buried his face in his Master's robe.
Anakin was silent on the way back to their apartment. Those of the Jedi Council who had come had not asked him any questions, thankfully. On the contrary, Master Yaddle had told Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to take him home at once. She and the others stayed to deal with the necessary explanations.
It took nearly an hour of Qui-Gon's hot tea and Obi-Wan's teasing to draw Anakin out of the shell he'd hidden his mind in. When he finally began to tell them briefly what had happened, the holo-com rang.
Qui-Gon got up to answer it while Obi-Wan continued to listen quietly to their Padawan. Kaely had landed on the arm of the sofa and began to hum softly.
"...and then you were there. I hope the others are okay," Anakin finished, hoping that Obi-Wan wouldn't notice that he'd left out many details.
"They are. The Healers are already releasing them from the infirmary." Qui-Gon returned from the alcove. "Some time ago, Obi-Wan and I requested to take you on a mission, and now the Council has granted it. We leave tomorrow morning."
Obi-Wan grinned, but was disappointed that Anakin didn't instantly shout for joy. Anakin did smile and he was happy, but the feeling of despair clinging to him dimmed his reaction.
"Hopefully everything will quiet down by the time we get back," Anakin mumbled aloud and escaped to his room to pack.
"Don't worry, Obi-Wan. He will recover and cease his subdued demeanor after we have left the Temple," Qui-Gon reassured him.
"He'll probably be as hyper as Kaely and begging to fly the ship," Obi-Wan agreed.
No one noticed what I did? Anakin's thoughts were all a jumble. He grabbed his standard Jedi travel bag that he'd never used before and began to randomly stuff tunics into it.
Kaely hovered and sang happily to herself. She opened one of his drawers and began carrying the smaller things she thought he would need, like pliers, datacards, a lone sock, and a broken little lamp and putting them in his bag. Anakin didn't notice.
Of course! The Force light probably overloaded the masters' senses! Somehow this didn't make him feel any better.
You idiot! Anakin told himself. Did you want them to know you used the Darkside?
It had felt luxurious. It had filled him with a thrilling amount of power and strength unlike he'd ever experienced. For that one moment Anakin had felt like he could do anything he pleased and no one could stop him. And when he'd stopped it had left a bitter aftertaste.
Anakin dropped his bag and kicked it against the wall. He shielded his mind as best he could. His masters were not inclined to pry, but he didn't want to give them a reason to investigate.
I have nothing to worry about. They'll think that I'm feeling guilty and frustrated over knocking those Padawans unconscious. Which is true. If I'm very careful they'll never find out the rest.
Anakin put his face in his hands and sat on the bed. He almost wished he'd been caught. But the Jedi would expel me for sure if they knew. I've gotta stop thinking about it, otherwise Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan will find out.
Sighing deeply, Anakin stood up and continued packing. Absentmindedly, he removed the silly things that Kaely had put in his bag. He went to his desk and collected the datacards with this week's lessons, but stopped when he saw the old brown book.
He debated whether or not he should take it with him. He hadn't touched it since reading the prophecy of the Chosen One. Anakin never liked to leave a book unfinished, especially since this was a birthday gift from Obi-Wan nearly a year ago.
Anakin had still not decided how he felt about it yet. He wanted to believe he was special, but he hated the thought that maybe it was something he was destined to do. He hated when someone else made his decisions for him and that prophecy annoyed him.
Finally, he chose to continue as he had for the past two weeks and just not think about it. He ignored the prophecy and left the book where it laid.
"Along the Perlemian Trade Route, near the Meridian Sector, is a small merchant system that is having some diplomatic problems. It's a peaceful system normally, but recent trade disagreements have led to threats of war," Obi-Wan related to Anakin and Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon was skimming through the same mission order on his own datapad. "We were requested in particular by the Supreme Chancellor."
Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. "Explains why they sent us on a ship this nice."
Anakin was slouching in the ship's lounge booth across from Obi-Wan. He glanced up briefly when Obi-Wan spoke, but then returned to staring off into space.
"Ani," Qui-Gon looked at the teenager's dull eyes. "Brooding is not healthy. This must stop."
Anakin's face was still and he made no physical reaction, but they sensed him quickly squash a flicker of panic.
"Be cheerful!" Obi-Wan reassured him. "By the time we return to the Temple your Force glow will be old news."
Qui-Gon agreed. "All of the Masters and Knights will be sure to instruct their Padawans to not pester you about it. Only your closest friends will expect an explanation, and even then they will not pry."
Anakin smiled and tried to look relaxed. "You're right." He nodded. "I think I'll go talk to our pilots for a while."
As nonchalantly as possible, Anakin fled the lounge.
Anakin stood quietly by a massive set of doors and waited for Kaely. He was not exactly bored yet, but if this meeting went on much longer he would be. His masters were inside negotiating with this star system's leaders. Anakin's job was to note any suspicious behavior by the people outside of the discussion chamber and especially watch for spy droids, like the ones used by the press. He had deactivated five such droids early on, but three hours had passed since and nothing interesting had happened. Anakin and Kaely patrolled the hallway and the balcony outside of the chamber several times and were convinced that no more attempts would be made. The guards ignored him when they actually saw him.
Anakin had thought this would be a more pleasant task then sitting with his masters as he had during yesterday's session. He'd tried his best to pay attention and learn how they advised the delegates, but it started to turn his brain to mush. Obi-Wan had realized that he wouldn't learn any more about diplomatic skills the next day and so they assigned him to guard.
Inside the chamber Obi-Wan moved to the far corner of the room. Most of the delegates were taking a short break, and a few were still talking to Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan pulled out his comlink and spoke quietly into it, "Anakin?"
"You have reached the Cafe of Insanity. Our specials dishes today are..."
"Shut up, Anakin!" Obi-Wan whispered quickly.
"But it's fun!"
"You could try the patience of even Yoda."
"Really, you don't say?" There was a pause over the link. "Obi-Wan, you still there?"
"Yes, I am! I'm trying to remember what I was calling you for."
"They say memory is always the first thing to go."
Obi-Wan sighed. "Ani, you can't joke around like this while we are on missions."
He sounded properly contrite, but Obi-Wan had a suspicion that Anakin was still grinning.
"These negotiations are almost over with. Tomorrow we can go home."
"Great!" Anakin said cheerfully, but then sobered. "Obi-Wan, I've been getting an odd feeling."
"Must be your stomach."
Anakin laughed. "Besides that! I don't know what it is." It was vague and slightly irritating, like a bad smell. When he'd first felt it, Anakin had thought it was just due to boredom. He hadn't wanted to bother his masters while they were so busy, so he had not called them.
"Don't worry about it. If it's something serious, we will sense it also. We'll be out soon."
Anakin heard him flick off the comlink. Obi-Wan's words had not really reassured him. The nagging feeling had begun just before his master called and was getting worse by the second now.
Anakin grimaced. They are going to come out soon and I'm not supposed to leave. I just need to wait a little more.
The feeling wouldn't leave him alone and Anakin felt torn. He wasn't allowed to call them unless something seriously wrong occurred, like an attack. And he'd already told Obi-Wan what he'd felt, but Obi-Wan hadn't noticed a problem. Pestering them was out of the question.
The insistent feeling was louder now and impossible to ignore. He needed to go to it and find out what it was. They are taking too long in there, Anakin rationalized. Surely they feel it now too. They can catch up with me.
Without asking for permission, Anakin abandoned his post and ran. Kaely squealed in surprise and zoomed to catch up with him. Just after he left the building's grounds, his comlink beeped.
"Anakin! What are you doing?" It was Qui-Gon's voice.
"I need to go to the ship!"
"No, Ani. We sense danger at the ship. Stop where you are."
"But I'm almost there, you two can catch up." Anakin turned the comlink off. He could feel Qui-Gon's deep disapproval and Obi-Wan's irritation. Disobeying one's masters was a very bad thing. But Anakin couldn't ignore the feeling calling to him and decided that whatever it was would be worth the punishment his masters would give him.
Anakin leapt from rooftop to rooftop. It was not only the fastest way to travel, it also allowed him to sneak up on opponents, which was very useful today. To his right he could see battle droids rolling along the road towards the hanger bay. He pulled out his comlink and called their ship.
"Captain! This is Padawan Skywalker."
"Captain Deksam here."
"Prep the ship for takeoff. Battle droids are headed your way!"
"At once. Are you and the other Jedi coming aboard?"
"No. Take off before the droids reach you if you can. We will be outside waiting for you."
Static began to distort the link's sound. "Ca..'t droids...firing..."
The comlink went silent. Quickly, Anakin switched to his master's frequency to tell them. But only more static greeted him. "They're jamming me!"
He snatched Kaely out of the air and stuffed her in his belt pouch. "Be quiet! There will be fighting soon and I don't want you caught in it."
Anakin entered the hanger bay through the roof with his lightsaber activated. The co-pilot was firing a blaster at the approaching droids from the cover of the partially open hatch. Since the ship had no turbolasers or other weapons they had to get out of there, and soon.
She saw Anakin and released the hatch door open the rest of the way. "Come on!"
Anakin jumped and landed on the ramp, turning and blocking several bolts before she was able to pull it halfway closed again.
"Captain Deksam is injured! You go to the cockpit and I'll wait here for the other Jedi," Lieutenant Edacaf said breathlessly.
Anakin nodded and ran down the passage. The ship was nearly finished with the preflight sequence and would be ready for lift off any second now. Out of the window of the cockpit he saw Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan enter the hanger bay and begin slicing through the droids.
He watched them battle anxiously and hoped more droids would not arrive. The computer had just beeped that it was ready to fly when Anakin suddenly collapsed unconscious. He hadn't sensed the attack that came from behind him at all.
On the hanger floor below, Obi-Wan looked up in surprise to see that the ship's hatch was closed. Qui-Gon sliced the last droid just as the ship took off. They stared up at it in horror as the terrible danger they had sensed ever since leaving the negotiations flared even stronger. Anakin was in great peril.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Anakin Skywalker huddled in the corner of a small cabin on the ship with his arms wrapped around himself and his head resting on his knees. He was sure that none of his bones were broken, but his left ankle was certainly sprained and his shoulder had been briefly dislocated. His head pounded and his jaw was swollen.
When Anakin awoke he had immediately snuck out of the cabin. He'd almost made it to the ship's escape pod before the Sith attacked him. It had quickly beaten him senseless and dumped him back into this empty cabin.
The Sith hadn't said a word, but Anakin got the message. Don't come out again or else. The door wasn't even locked, not that it would have mattered. Any Jedi can undo a locked door.
How long have I been here?
Anakin tried to use the Force to estimate how long it had been. He could sense that the Sith had drugged him the first time and that it had been a blow to his head that had knocked him out. He knew that he'd been unconscious for at least half a day before he'd tried to escape. But after that, he hurt too much to find out.
Why can't I concentrate?
Anakin tried to clear his head. He wanted to ask Kaely how long they'd been on this ship. The little droid sat on the floor beside him and hummed worriedly. The Sith either didn't know she was here, or just didn't care. Anakin couldn't remember when he'd taken her out of his belt pouch.
Obi-Wan! Qui-Gon! Somebody!
But he just couldn't concentrate enough. A thick fog hung in his mind and made even the smallest efforts a struggle. Anakin tried again to call his masters through the training bond but received no answer. He had no idea if they could hear him or if it was he who couldn't hear them.
Gathering all his strength, Anakin tried to push away the heavy hand clouding his senses. He wanted to block out the pain at least. For a few precious seconds he could focus again and quickly tried to heal his ankle a little. He wasn't too good at healing, but he could at least dull the pain. He placed both of his hands on the abused ankle and set to work. He drew strongly on the Force and relaxed as its presence comforted him.
Almost as soon as he began the terrible pressure slammed into his brain and fogged his mind again. Anakin groaned and slumped forward. Kaely trilled in despair. It took several minutes until he could move again.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Once again, Anakin was forced to repeat from the beginning the long process towards clearing his mind.
They could sense that Anakin was alive, but nothing else.
Master Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stood in the Council Chamber and waited for the rest of the Council members to arrive. They had done everything they could to track their ship to no avail. Due to how the threat was disguised and the bomb incident just months earlier -the Council agreed that the abductor had to be the Sith. There was no trail to follow, so Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could only return to Coruscant.
Return they did and, with a lot of dangerous flying, managed to cut two days off the trip. And now they waited.
Several other powerful Jedi Masters entered the chamber. Some of them had served as Council members before. They were here to take the places of the current members who were away on missions and lend additional aid.
The Jedi gathered in a rough circle. Some sat down on the floor. No one knew how long it would take. The Sith were notorious for their ability to disguise themselves, but it was quite another matter to hide a Jedi, even a Padawan. Between the training bond and Anakin's naturally strong resonance in the Force, they would find him.
Why am I hurting? Oh yes, now I remember.
Carefully, Anakin cataloged the injuries his abductor had caused while knocking him senseless both times. His ankle hurt the most, his shoulder ached badly and there was definitely a bruise on the back of his head. He reached up a hand to probe his sore jaw.
Kaely began to whistle excitedly. Anakin looked up to discover that he was no longer on the ship, but in a dark cell-like metal room. The only lights were Kaely's two yellow eyes.
His memory was a complete blur after his only attempt to escape when he had been onboard the ship. "Kaely, how long has it been?"
He struggled to focus the Force enough to understand her beeps and whistles. "Five days..." he breathed.
Sluggishly, he felt along the training bond, but it was no use. He could feel his masters on the other end, but couldn't hear anything. Giving up for the time being, Anakin returned to his injuries. He pulled off his boot to assess the damage.
His ankle was a little swollen, but the bruises looked faded. I must have tried healing this earlier. He gingerly put his boot back on and stood up to test his weight on it. It wasn't too bad, but he wouldn't be running anywhere.
Anakin hobbled over to the nearest wall and began feeling for a door, slowly circling the room without finding so much as a crack. He found all of the other standard prison cell complements, but no door. Even worse, he couldn't sense a passageway outside or even the thickness of the wall. It was all blank, as if nothing existed beyond this room.
Suddenly, Anakin realized that all of his mental shields were down completely. Hastily, he began to re-build them. Why didn't I notice?! How did this happen? I don't remember them collapsing! He sat down on the metal bunk he'd found in the dark and tried to calm himself.
"Kaely, get your sensor out."
Dutifully, the pink droid scanned the floor, walls and the high ceiling. She confirmed that there was no door in the wall, but there was one in the ceiling. Anakin looked up and Kaely turned on her little spotlight. Far above him was the faint outline of a trapdoor.
If I didn't hurt so badly, I could levitate up there.
Abruptly, a sickening feeling overcame him and it made his skin crawl. He could feel the Sith was coming near.
"What a crummy birthday," Anakin mumbled aloud and prepared to meet the Sith again.
"Hide under this bunk and turn off your eyes," Anakin whispered to his little droid. Swiftly, Kaely darted out of sight.
The trap door opened and blinded him with light. Anakin instantly set to work adjusting his eyes and prepared to be attacked.
"You fell into the trap quite easily, my young apprentice." A gravelly voice came from the open hatch.
Yes I did, but I'm not going to admit it aloud.
The Sith's voice was different this time. When he'd last encountered the Sith over a year ago, its voice had been disguised enough that he couldn't tell how old, what gender, or even if the person was human. Now, however, it was definitely masculine and sounded human.
Well, that eliminates three quarters of the galaxy. Doesn't really help finding out who this guy is, though.
"Your skills are impressive, yet they can be so much more."
"Not interested," Anakin stated with false calm.
"Ah, but how else do you expect to fulfill the prophecy, Chosen One?"
Anakin jerked. How does he know about that?!
"Oh yes, I know who you are. I'm here to help you!"
Don't listen, Don't listen...
"After all, a balance is achieved by two powers opposite one another. How can you bring balance to the Force if you only know the Jedi's way? It is impossible."
Anakin tried to block out the Sith's oily, persuasive voice. He's lying... he has to be lying...
"In time you will understand and gratefully call me 'Master'."
Anakin seethed at the Sith's audacity but remained silent.
Quickly, Anakin squashed down his anger. Don't give in, don't give in... he repeated to himself.
"You have no choice, it is your destiny!"
Anakin desperately grasped his dimmed training bond like a tether. I won't fail you, no matter what, he vowed silently to his masters. Whether they could hear him or not, he didn't know.
"He's here on Coruscant?!" Obi-Wan gasped in shock.
From around the room each Jedi reacted with different levels of surprise. Hope filled Qui-Gon, but he didn't allow himself to feel relieved. Master Windu immediately began planning with the others how they would search the planet and which Jedi currently at the Temple were the best trackers.
"Go, rest now. Call you soon we will." With a sad look, Master Yoda spoke softly to Anakin's exhausted masters.
Qui-Gon almost looked ready to disagree, but Obi-Wan gave him a warning stare. It would do no good to pass out during the search.
"It is the ultimate arrogance that the Sith have come here, where we are strongest," Qui-Gon told Obi-Wan after they left the Council chamber.
"Perhaps the Sith is overconfident in his ability to hide Anakin from us."
"Or perhaps not," Qui-Gon sighed. "Coruscant has billions of hiding places, Obi-Wan."
"This could be a long search. If we fail to find him in time..." Obi-Wan couldn't bring himself to finish his sentence.
They entered their apartment quietly. Obi-Wan looked around, feeling it gloomy and desolate without Anakin's quirky sense of humor and Kaely's noisiness.
"What about the droid?"
Qui-Gon glanced at Obi-Wan in confusion. "She is with Ani, of course."
"Exactly. Doesn't Ani have a way to track Kaely?"
Qui-Gon thought back to when they'd brought Anakin back to the Temple a year ago. Kaely had quickly become lost in the huge Temple and was not found for days. Anakin had mumbled about installing a tracing emitter on her so it wouldn't happen again.
"Yes." Qui-Gon's eyes lit up. "Anakin did build a tracking device, but he's sure to have it with him as well. However, if he remembered to write down the frequency..."
Instantly both Jedi rushed to Anakin's worktable. It was a mess, a jumble of droid parts, tools, datacards, and plasti-paper scrawled with schematics. Obi-Wan grabbed a datapad and began hunting through the cards labeled 'Kaely's new stuff.' Meanwhile, Qui-Gon collected every card into a stack and began looking through the papers.
"Will it even work at this distance? Ani could be on the other side of the planet," Obi-Wan worried.
"The way Anakin builds things and Kaely's tendency to explore, I don't doubt it will be sufficient."
Qui-Gon found the card with the frequency and Obi-Wan sighed with relief. Gleefully, but with Jedi reserve, they rushed back to the Council chamber.
Why is he talking to me from up there anyhow? Not that I want him to come down here...
Anakin slouched on the metal bunk. He was cold and exhausted. His vision swam and it was getting harder and harder to resist the Sith's increasingly credible persuasiveness. It would be easier if he could just turn off his hearing.
"...otherwise I will use this chamber!"
At that threat Anakin strained to bring himself back to full alertness, a dozen different horrific possibilities flitting through his mind. This room could be flooded with water, or set aflame. He could be poisoned by toxic gasses, or have vicious creatures dropped on him, or find blades shooting out from the walls.
And he had no way to escape.
An awful cackle echoed from the open door and chilled Anakin. But still, he refused to give the Sith any answer at all.
"We will talk again tomorrow, my young apprentice. You will be begging to get out when I return."
The Sith shut the door with a loud slam. Anakin braced himself for an attack. He reached out to the Force, prepared for anything. And he nearly choked when around him the Force ceased around him. Anakin grasped tightly to what was left of the Force that had been flowing in him.
It was a terrible feeling, like being blind and deaf. His every move felt extremely sluggish. He couldn't sense what was happening around him at all. The terrible nothingness crept closer and closer. Slowly, his arms and legs began to go numb as the Force was shredded away from him.
Excruciating pain struck him as the Force disappeared. In desperation and despair, Anakin forgot his training, forgot his resolve not to succumb, and just panicked. Falling back on instinct, his Force glow spiked into existence and instantly expanded outward. Kaely screamed. For a moment, Anakin thought he sensed a few animals close by shriek in pain before he dropped unconscious.
They were silent and swift. Through windows, doors and lightsaber-made openings they poured into the building. Master Healer An-Paj followed Master Windu into the lair, lightsaber held high. It had been decades since the blue Healer had last used his weapon -intense combat training was unnecessary for his Healer studies and he had rarely needed to fight.
Stepping around battle droid limbs, An-Paj ducked a few blaster shots coming from the Destroyer droids up ahead. While Mace and a few other Jedi parried several shots back at the droids, An-Paj Force-shoved the metal parts across the floor and tripped the Destroyers.
His antenna quivered as he sensed that they were going in the right direction. Jedi Healers were trained to be particularly attuned to a being's pain. Not enough to suffer themselves, but to be able to sense the person's exact location and determine how severely that person's injuries were before reaching them. Despite the Sith's efforts, An-Paj could feel that the Padawan was in pain, but unconscious.
The two other Healers nodded to An-Paj. They felt the teenager, too. The other Jedi followed the Healers' silent directions, cutting a straight path to Anakin through anything in their way -- more droids, walls, and even the floor.
Vertigo assaulted Anakin and he nearly retched. Why did I have to wake up?
The dizziness abated slightly, but only enough for him to determine that he was moving for real. Being dragged along the floor, actually. Anakin tried to remain relaxed and stealthily opened one eye.
For one brief second he had been able to sense the approaching Jedi. So that's why this guy is on the run.
It gave Anakin hope and he began drawing on the Force, erecting a Force shield around him as quietly as possible. It was halfway complete when suddenly the Sith turned a corner and his sprained ankle hit the wall. Anakin couldn't resist crying out, but the Sith ignored him and began to speed up. Anakin painfully tried to dislodge the gloved hand griping the back of his tunic as a diversion, and then snagged the Sith's leg with his other arm.
They both fell to the floor and the Sith struck mentally. Almost at once a terrible fog surrounded his mind and Anakin understood how the Sith had caught him in the first place. This guy's been using mind tricks on me!
With every bit of strength he had to spare Anakin pushed the pressure back and tried to call his Masters through his training bond. The Sith's response was to slam him into a glass window. The glass shattered, letting a cold drizzling wind blow in from the night sky. Anakin slumped against the wall, his shield preventing him from harm. At the Sith's waist he saw his lightsaber and swiftly grabbed it, intending to ignite it straight into the Sith.
Dodging sideways, the Sith instantly activated a ruby-red blade and swung at Anakin's head. He ducked and stumbled away in an effort to gain some distance. Viciously, the Sith attacked. Every blow was powerful and Anakin's arms strained to block as the Sith drove him into a corner, his weak ankle and pounding head hindering him from moving faster. With a swift kick to his stomach, the Sith knocked Anakin back to the wall and sent the boy's lightsaber flying from his hand.
The Sith made an almost growling sound and swung. Anakin stared in horror as the red blade came down on his forearm. But his Force shield held. The Sith went stiff with surprise and Anakin used the opportunity to Force-shove the Sith to the floor. As it landed its hood fell back and, for the first time, Anakin saw the face of whom he was fighting.
"You're a girl!"
Anakin stared at the Sith. Indeed, she was a young woman about Obi-Wan's age, and would have been rather pretty if it weren't for the look of murder on her face. With a howl of fury, she thrust out her hand and sent a stream of Force- lightening at him.
Caught by surprise, Anakin was unable to dodge in time. The energy assaulted him and tore through his Force-shield. Automatically, Anakin's body began to absorb it.
The Sith stared in confusion. Anakin was supposed to be screaming and thrashing on the ground, but instead he stood still as stone.
Anakin had to concentrate with all of his might to remain standing. He'd redirected the energy into rebuilding his shield but couldn't think clearly enough, and it wasn't working. He looked at the Sith intently hoping to buy some time.
"You're the co-pilot, Lieutenant Edacaf!" Anakin frowned. She was with us the entire time and we never knew it!
Anakin tried not to give away the fact that he was also searching for his lightsaber. He couldn't see it anywhere and didn't even know which direction it had gone when she'd disarmed him.
The Sith bared her teeth at him, with another yell attacking Anakin with more Force-lightening then before. Anakin knew what she was attempting. She wanted to overload his senses and break his concentration.
I should just run. The Jedi are almost here, I should go while I still can protect myself.
Now, Anakin was feeling confident. His shield was only halfway up, but the energy that seeped through was easy to absorb. If I can just find my saber I can defeat this thing.
"What's with all the disguise stuff you've been doing?" Anakin asked her suddenly.
She still didn't speak. He sensed and saw her rage increase at his question. It only made Anakin more curious. Recklessly, he persisted.
The electricity was getting harder and harder to contain. I've got to get rid of it soon. Maybe I can throw it at her? It would be defending myself, wouldn't it?
"Blurring your voice and face while chasing me last year and the man's voice and cackling this evening? It seems really bizarre. Are you trying to make me think there is two of you?"
The Sith finally stopped and glared nastily at Anakin. For a moment they just stared at each other. Anakin used the chance to move a little further from the wall. He thought he could see his lightsaber on the floor behind her, down the hall. It was hard to tell due to all the glass on the floor.
Suddenly she charged at him, not bothering to draw her lightsaber. Anakin warded off the physical blows, but was unprepared for her vicious mind powers. His mental shields caved in and Anakin screamed as she tore into his mind, his concentration shattered.
His hold on the energy he'd absorbed disappeared. It exploded around him and the lightening arced outward into the walls and the Sith, but it didn't dislodge her grip on him. Anakin pulled on the Force and let himself glow. It was the only thing left he could do.
The Sith froze and her eyes went wide in terror. Anakin looked at her and waited for her to either drop unconscious like the Padawans had, or fight back. Instead, she began to look a bit fuzzy and Anakin wondered if something was wrong with his eyes. Silently she opened her mouth, but no sound came out. In the space of a heartbeat the glow completely eradicated her.
In the next instant the Force-storm from the Sith's death struck him, howling through the room and flinging him across the floor. When it finally subsided, all that was left of Darth Edacaf was a scorched mark on the floor. Anakin had only a moment to wonder if this was what balancing the Force meant before he passed out from the pain and exhaustion.
He never saw the dark shadow approach him, lightsaber already drawn.
Master Windu flinched and the Jedi Healers jerked as if burnt. For a few minutes, the Padawan's mind had awakened only to suddenly project extreme agony. The Jedi did their best to run even faster as Anakin's presence in the Force abruptly dimmed to a whisper.
Darting and Force-leaping down to a lower level, they were forced to slow to a halt as Obi-Wan slid into their path. He and Qui-Gon were battling a Sith. The dark shrouded creature was blocking the passage and skillfully warding off their blows with a double-bladed lightsaber. When it saw more Jedi arrive, it leapt backward and jumped out a broken window that obviously had been smashed in the duel.
Two of the Jedi in their group broke off to help Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon pursue the Sith. An-Paj and his healers raced past them with Mace Windu.
Out on the balcony, the Sith fled into the darkness and over the edge. The four Jedi could only look down into the depths of the city in disgust. When other Jedi patrolling the building in air speeders pursued it, Qui-Gon deactivated his lightsaber and backed off. Obi-Wan stared dangerously out at the night, before turning to run back into the building.
"Stay in case it comes back," Qui-Gon ordered the remaining Knights and followed Obi-Wan back into the hallway.
They had lost all ability to sense Anakin for several horrifying moments on their way here and afterwards they had only been able to feel him sporadically. Once Kaely's tracer brought them to this building, Anakin's presence had become much clearer, especially just a few minutes before they had been attacked by the Sith. Anakin's sudden pain had nearly taken their breath away.
They rushed down the hallway to where they could feel Anakin's wavering presence. As they expected, the Healers were already kneeling by Anakin's prone figure. When they reached the end of the passage, Mace Windu stood up with a dejected and almost blank look in his eyes.
Qui-Gon took one look at Mace and froze. Obi-Wan shouldered past him.
Anakin was sprawled on his back, his pale face mottled with bruises and a lightsaber stab straight through his heart.
It was a horrible sight. The boy's face was chalk white and his eyes half closed. Master Healer An-Paj reached out and gently placed his blue hand on Anakin's forehead. The other Jedi could only stare at the black, cauterized hole in the Padawan's chest.
Qui-Gon heard Obi-Wan take several shuddering breaths. He gently placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. All at once, Qui-Gon understood what Obi- Wan had felt when he'd seen him run through by a Sith. The sight of someone you love brutally wounded was excruciating. He wished fervently that Obi-Wan hadn't experienced this again.
"There is hope," An-Paj reassured them calmly. The other two Healers had taken places on either side of Anakin while An-Paj knelt by his head. They immersed themselves in the Force and with careful precision took over the functions of his ruined heart.
One Healer focused on supporting the other damaged organs and his right lung, the second kept the blood circulating through his limbs, and An-Paj protected and controlled the blood flow to the most vital part, his brain. It was delicate and painstaking work, requiring the deepest connection to the Force and the strength to maintain their patient.
The Healers didn't need to give the other Jedi any directions on how to help. Instantly, they all set to work. Obi-Wan picked up one of the Healers' packs and began removing the supplies they would need, then applied emergency bacta patches. Qui-Gon assembled the travel stretcher while Mace cut away Anakin's smoldering tunic.
As they worked, another Jedi arrived. "This level and the ten above and below it are secure," she reported. To her credit she merely glanced at the injured boy and didn't let it distract her.
Mace looked up and nodded. "Get a transport ready and call the infirmary back home, Knight Ylredro."
"Yes, Master Windu." She turned to give the directions to her approaching team. One of them handed her something.
"We've found his lightsaber." Ylredro held it out to Obi-Wan. For a moment he stared at it blankly before taking it and attaching it to his belt.
"We are ready," Master Windu said quietly to the Healers. None of them opened their eyes or made any outward reaction, but signaled with the Force that they understood.
Together, Mace, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan gently levitated Anakin's limp form up and onto the stretcher. The two Masters grasped either end, but continued to hold it up with the Force as well. An-Paj and the Healers were completely focused on keeping Anakin alive. Other Jedi moved to assist the Healers to stand and led them out of the room.
They moved smoothly through the halls to the nearest landing pad. As they went more Jedi came to flank them, everyone wary for danger. The transport landed just as they exited the building. The wind whipped at them and howled in the dark.
"Kaely," Qui-Gon murmured suddenly and glanced back at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan was startled and pulled out the tracking device. "Did any of you see a very tiny pink droid flying around?" he asked the others with them.
From the blank looks he received he knew they hadn't. They would have certainly remembered Kaely if they met her.
The shuttle's ramp finished lowering and they levitated Anakin's stretcher slowly up it. The Healers and the Knights guiding them followed carefully.
Obi-Wan thrust the tracking device into a nearby Jedi's hand. "Find the droid this leads to," he ordered.
The Knight looked confused and frowned. "We wouldn't have arrived in time if it wasn't for that droid," Qui-Gon called back in explanation and Obi-Wan dashed up the ramp into the ship.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sat stiffly in the infirmary's waiting room with Eeth Koth, Yaddle, and Depa Billaba. Each had come to truly like Anakin and came to support the boy's masters through the entire ordeal. Master Yoda had just returned to the Temple an hour ago and had come straight to the infirmary. He and Master Windu had talked quietly together ever since. No one else in the Temple had been informed of Anakin's capture or rescue.
Mace stood up when Knight Ylredro arrived. She bowed respectfully and looked straight at Master Windu. He had ordered that she report at once after her team finished scouring the Sith's lair.
Receiving his nod of recognition Ylredro began her report. "All examinations are complete. We have found no clues as to where the Sith has retreated. Inside the building we found that the main passages had holo-cameras. My team has collected the data from the hall where Padawan Skywalker was found and is working to decrypt it now. Also, we discovered the remains of four ysalimiri surrounding the prison cell."
Obi-Wan was dismayed, but the masters were not surprised.
"Found the droid have you?" Master Yaddle asked in concern.
"Yes." Ylredro reached into her belt pouch and pulled out Kaely. The tiny droid was scorched and her eye receptacles completely ruined. The Knight handed her to Qui-Gon, quietly remarking, "I don't know how to turn it off."
Kaely was moaning quietly. Qui-Gon examined her carefully, but Kaely didn't have a visible off switch.
"Ani must have installed the switch inside," Obi-Wan said.
"Can you hear us, little one?" Yaddle asked with a sad look in her eyes.
But Kaely's soft crying didn't change rhythm. Yaddle took her from Qui-Gon. Kaely looked much larger in her small hands. Concentrating, she gently disengaged Kaely's power from the rest of her systems.
Obi-Wan sighed wearily. "I'll do my best to fix her. Ani shouldn't see her like this."
At once everyone looked at the interior doorway, sensing that An-Paj was coming. Every eye in the room trained on the blue Healer expectantly when he entered. He looked tired but pleased. "We've successfully reconstructed Anakin's heart. He's in the bacta tank now."
Qui-Gon closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. All of the thick tension drained from Obi-Wan's face and he slumped in his chair. Around the room the Council members relaxed amid sighs of relief.
"Now, get some rest, all of you," An-Paj ordered everyone. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon left in exhaustion and without protest, but were determined to return soon. The others began filing out of the room. Soon, only An-Paj, Mace and Yoda remained.
When the three of them were alone, An-Paj directed a stern stare at Master Windu and Master Yoda. "Now is a good time to tell me who Anakin Skywalker is and why a Sith abducted and nearly killed him."
The two Council members looked at each other in resignation. It wasn't too surprising that he would ask. Even Master Yoda knew better than to go up against a master healer, especially one as perceptive as An-Paj. They followed the blue healer to his office and quietly related to him how Master Qui-Gon had discovered the Chosen One.
The Council chose to view the holo-recordings with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan present. None of the Jedi decrypting the data had been allowed to see it and no one had played them yet. The members sat in their chairs in the Council chamber while Anakin's masters stood in the walkway. In the center, the chamber's holo projector activated a life size image of the hallway.
Mace Windu used controls by his arm to skim forward until a dark cloaked Sith came into view dragging Anakin. He commanded the system to follow the activity and they watched as the projector kept the almost running image of the Sith in the center of the room.
Anxiously, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan watched their Padawan struggle to escape the Sith. Anakin was clearly injured from the mistreatment he'd received during his capture and hindered in particular by his left ankle. They knew that the Council was analyzing Anakin's every move. The teenager was certainly out- matched and had only survived this far due to the fact that the Sith still wanted him alive --even when it tried to cut off Anakin's arm.
That changed abruptly when Anakin knocked the Sith to the ground and her face was revealed. Both Jedi recognized her at once as one of the pilots. It was embarrassing and horrifying to learn that the Sith had traveled with them for days and they never knew.
Just as they were anticipating how many Knights would be needed to hunt down this woman, Anakin killed her with his Force glow. Shock and disbelief echoed from the Jedi. Mace stopped the recording and replayed the Sith's death again and then let the holo continue. After they saw a second cloaked Sith stab Anakin with a lightsaber and leave him for dead, Mace shut it off and everyone prepared for a long debate.
"Be still, Anakin," the blue Healer admonished his patient. Anakin was dressed and ready to go, but the Healers insisted he rest before leaving.
"Yes, Master An-Paj."
Anakin sighed in resignation. Obi-Wan had told him many funny stories about this particular Healer's delight in keeping his patients, especially Obi-Wan. Anakin was beginning to pity Obi-Wan now. Being trapped in the infirmary was not fun.
Anakin decided to give an excuse for his restlessness. "They are late."
"They will come soon. Your masters are with the Council."
"Yes. So anxious to leave are you? I had hoped that Obi-Wan's wild tales wouldn't drive you away. Its all an exaggeration, you know."
Anakin grinned at the Healer's fake hurt look. Then suddenly Anakin got a sly idea. "In that case maybe you could tell me your side of the story."
"I'd be delighted."
As An-Paj began relating Obi-Wan's more creative injuries and attempts to escape the infirmary he contemplated his situation. He'd never met Anakin until now, but from what he'd heard, he nearly had several times. Between the bomb earlier that year and a variety of accidents, Anakin had come very close to being one of his patients, in particular due to the boy's Force glow.
An-Paj had finished reviewing the holo of Anakin's battle with the Sith yesterday. He had become very concerned when he'd learned about Anakin's habit of losing control of the Force in such a strange and painful way. Immediately, he informed Anakin's masters and the Council that Anakin should come in for an examination after every occurrence in the future, chastising them for not informing him before. The Council had agreed quietly to his recommendations and had been suitably apologetic. They then called upon the small group of healers that had treated Anakin after his first Force glow in the Temple, to relate all that they'd seen and done over a year ago. An-Paj wished fervently that he'd been on Coruscant when that had happened.
He shook his head at Anakin's complexity and the Council's attempts to cope with him. It hadn't surprised An-Paj that Qui-Gon and, in particular, Obi-Wan had never brought the boy in after one of his glows. Neither wanted to believe that Anakin was suffering, and let the boy talk them out of it every time.
The boy's midi-chlorian count had been amazing, once they reprogrammed a machine to be able to count it. In total the boy had twenty-four thousand in his cell count, far more than ever recorded. So, this is the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force? He felt that the whole Jedi order had been effectively trying to keep the Force balanced for their entire existence. Even if Anakin studied and strived for decades, An-Paj wasn't sure how the boy could do it. And if the Sith continued to try to either turn him to the Darkside or kill him...
An-Paj and Anakin looked up as Obi-Wan stuck his head in the doorway. "Ready to break out?" He and Qui-Gon entered.
Qui-Gon held out Anakin's little droid to him. "Kaely was a bit damaged. Obi-Wan has repaired what he could. She can't fly or hear us right now."
"I had to replace her eyes, and re-paint her, but several of her interior parts are melted. I don't know how to repair those," Obi-Wan explained.
Anakin nodded. "Thank you." He felt guilty that his Force glow had nearly killed Kaely. "I had to build some of them myself. I can replace them."
"You've been a good patient, Anakin. Be careful when you leave. There is a mob of Padawans outside waiting to see you," An-Paj warned.
Anakin's eyes went wide and he smiled warily. "On second thought, could I stay here?"
Go to the sequel, "I'm Counting On You"