THE WILL OF THE FORCE: GLIMMERS OF DARKNESS by Teresa Martin
Obi-Wan was not going to tell the young boy the truth. The young Jedi stood in the shadows, watching the unsuspecting boy playing nearby. Obi-Wan was only vaguely aware of Coruscant's lights playing off of his pale features. "They all sense it, why can't you?" The scene with Qui-Gon played continually before his eyes. Obi-Wan felt a great disturbance in the Force. He knew that he was on the threshold of something important that could involve the fate of the galaxy. And it was on his shoulders. It's only a boy, he thought "They all sense it, why can't you?" he had told Qui-Gon. . Master Yoda saw it. Why then did the Council give in? Out of pity? Emotions? Obi-Wan shuddered a little. Was the Council weak? He banished the thought, for the possibility was too disconcerting. "They all sense it, why can't you?" I feel it. I see it. Obi-Wan was trying desperately not to think disloyal thoughts about his late master. He shuddered again. No, face the truth. Qui-Gon was wrong, and he should not have made me promise at that terrible moment. Qui-Gon was like a father. I would have promised to sell my soul to the Sith had he asked at that time. Instead, he asked me to train a little boy, this boy whom he had so recently befriended. Anakin would be so disappointed! Yoda said he would be my Padawan Learner, but he did not order me to take him. I am not bound to train the boy. "My focus creates my reality," Obi-Wan whispered his master's instructions. My focus, how can I focus, what point of view may I create? Could he lie to Anakin? No, but there were other ways, and he thought about how he could mislead the boy without lying.
"The Council has not told me that I can train you, Anakin." The blue eyes looked up quickly. "But Qui-Gon said . . ." "I know, but there is more to the Force than following one's instinct, there is more than one Jedi who can sense the Force. We must abide by the Council's decision." "So you can't be my master?" Anakin's face was twitching. He wanted to cry, but he wouldn't. He was not on Tatooine where his mother could wipe away the tears. He would not cry in front of Obi-Wan. "I won't be your master, Anakin," Obi-wan was careful in his wording, "but I will always be your friend."
The Council sat in silence, none speaking, but all sharing the same thoughts. Obi-Wan had gone back on his promise, and they were satisfied.
"The Force has decided," Mace Windu declared.
"And impressed I am with Obi-Wan. His discernment is unusually strong," Yoda commented. Stronger than this Council's, Yoda believed, but was too prudent to say.
They all knew that there was something wrong with Anakin. Yoda was particularly vocal, yet they went ahead and gave permission for his training. Then it seemed that the Force intervened and used Obi-Wan, a new, young Jedi, to put the Council back on course, to prevent them from making a terrible mistake.
"But the boy," Mace Windu said, "Qui-Gon took him away from his mother, for nothing."
"Qui-Gon was wrong to promise something that was for the Council to decide," Depa Billaba commented.
"Nevertheless, Qui-Gon was a Jedi," Mace Windu replied, "we are responsible for the boy."
"Responsible we will be," Yoda replied.
Queen Amidala of Naboo showed no emotion as she sat intent on hearing the next question from the holographic image:
"May a good leader break a Republic's trust?"
"Even though good result?"
"No," she repeated, "As I understand it, Supreme Chancellor, there are two things from which a Republic wishes to defend itself: the tyranny of a minority, to be sure, but no less the tyranny of a majority. Neither one may be acceptable, no matter what results. Objective law is in this case our defense. We may stretch, but never break."
"Even if it means losing your throne?"
"I would lose it willingly if breaking the law was my only alternative."
"And what then of Naboo?"
"The fate of Naboo does not depend upon me, as though I were some sort of god. I represent the people, I am not the people. Were I to step down, a worthy successor would be found. Failure or success should never be interpreted as a right to violate the Republic's laws."
"Marvelous, Your Highness. I am pleased that we agree on this matter."
"As I am, Chancellor. How happy I am that I may trust you with the burdens we face. You will act in the Republic's interests. I have a good feeling about the future."
"And I enjoy such conversations with you. Now, to more mundane tasks . . . may I discuss the latest bill with you? It seems that once again the Trade Federation is attempting . . ."
It was usually difficult to see the teenager under the tinkling head-dress and low voice, but once Amidala was alone, and wiped the make-up from her face, she changed. Her stretch pants, and bright red sweater, hanging loosely from her tiny frame showed the fifteen year-old girl, who she became only infrequently.
Amidala tucked her feet under her as she sat on her couch, closing her eyes. A handmaiden, unbidden, came with a hot drink which she took gratefully.
The door to her chambers opened and Sabe, her loyal body-guard and decoy entered, "Sorry to disturb you, your Highness, but there is a message for you."
Amidala stifled a groan and asked, "Can it wait?"
"It can, Queen, but I believe that you will not find this message taxing. It is from Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Queen Amidala met her two friends at the hangar. Her entourage consisting of handmaidens and bodyguards accompanied her. Amidala was still in her casual clothes, but she had adopted her regal bearing, and greeted her friends in the lower voice she used as Queen. They went directly from the hangar to her chambers where Anakin fairly pounced on her, shouting out all the exciting things he had done since they last met. Obi-Wan smiled at the boy's enthusiasm and at the displays of youth he saw before him.
"So when do we leave?"
"Right away, Ani,"
"And when we free your mother, she will come live with me on Naboo. My people have agreed to then sponsor your education."
"Out of gratitude for your heroics, Ani," Obi-Wan said.
"And out of kind hearts," Amidala added.
They all smiled. The anticipation was so high! Finally a happy ending to Anakin and Shmi's story was at hand.
Obi-Wan had felt such evil only once before.
It was during the fight with Darth Maul. Such hate, desire for revenge, such evil!
The Dark Side.
But now it was coming from this innocent boy.
Anakin sat brooding in a corner of the Queen's transport flying back to Naboo, without his mother. His mother was gone, lost in a gambling game. Sent off-world with a smuggler. He would never see her again.
Amidala had hidden herself in her chambers, in tears.
Obi-Wan recalled Anakin's test before the Council, "Your fear of losing your mother," they had said. And now he had lost her.
How wise they were to discern that inordinate fear was connected to the capacity for evil! Once again he was grateful that this boy was not to be trained. He was dangerous, and the best place for him was on Naboo with an ordinary life. Or as ordinary as a ten-year old hero's could be.
That was his last thought before the transport entered Naboo's atmosphere and disappeared into a cloak of clouds.
TEN YEARS LATER
The Queen never allowed her chill gaze to leave the suitor as he told a story of his latest actions in the Galactic Senate.
"It appears, Senator, that your actions were very cowardly," she commented.
The young man's smile froze, but he quickly regained his composure and replied, "Your Highness is as usual correct. I thank you for your brilliant insight. If only all sovereigns would . . ."
And he went on and on as the decoy, Sabe, smiled to herself. She did indeed enjoy playing games with these suitors. If she commented that their mothers were nerf-herders they would praise her insight, no doubt! As the ninth course of the meal was served, Sabe retained her icy stare and enjoyed watching the young man squirm, trying to impress the Queen whom he no doubt wished to marry for political alliances and power. Sometimes for fun Amidala would watch in her room and would laugh with her friends at the spectacle as entertaining as a holo-vid. But not tonight, for Amidala was involved in a different recreation.
"Move left," the voice shouted in her ear, "right, brake, right!"
The podracer flew over the sandy landscape of Tatooine.
"I did move right, Ani!" Amidala shouted to her crew leader through the digital microphone, just as she rounded a corner and saw a wall looming ahead of her.
"Ami, look out!" Anakin shouted just as the podracer slammed into the wall and burst into flames.
Immediately the landscape of Tatooine disappeared as Anakin and Amidala took off their helmets, thereby dissolving their virtual game.
"If you had just done what I told you!" Anakin complained
"I did! But I wasn't fast enough. Not everybody has Jedi reflexes."
The friends collapsed onto a couch drinking the refreshments set out by Amidala's handmaidens. Even though Amidala was a good five years older than the nineteen-year-old Anakin Skywalker, the tall, young man towered over her.
Amidala enjoyed these moments when she could let her hair down literally and figuratively. Anakin had come to Naboo two days before, having accepted Amidala's invitation to celebrate his graduation from the Academy on Naboo. In reality there were two parties planned: the formal one in the palace's ball room with dignitaries, suitors, and even Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. That party ended at midnight, and then the real one began in Anakin's guest quarters.
"And that one can go on to any time," Anakin said with a wicked grin.
Amidala did not comment, but changed the subject, "I will be happy to see Kister again. How happy I am that the two of you were able to go to the Academy together."
"I am so glad you footed the bill for it . . . his freedom and his tuition."
"Someone once told me that the problem with the universe is that nobody helps each other."
"Yeah, yeah." Anakin leaned back and grinned at Amidala, no longer quite with that younger brother look. Amidala ignored it as usual. He was so young . . . and cocky.
There was another one strong in the Force on whom she looked with more interest.
The dignitaries arrived and filled the ballroom at Theed palace. Amidala was outside the hall looking at her reflection in the full-length mirror which her handmaidens opened before her. Her regal hair was tangled in braids, wound around her head, with one thick mass of large curls trailing down her back. Her dress was sky blue, thin straps, and flowed to the ground in several layers. On her head was a shimmering silver headdress draping across her forehead and dangling down both sides of her head.
She looked . . . .
"Magnificent," Obi-Wan thought from where he watched her from the shadows. His blue eyes were fixed intently on her. Amidala sensed that someone was watching and turned her gaze on him with a smile.
"Obi-Wan!" She ran to him with her dress floating behind and about her, a jangle of jewelry announcing her movements. She held out her hands, and beamed up at him. He took them gently. Obi-Wan's hood was down revealing short, tidy hair, as befit his character. As usual, he addressed Amidala with the utmost respect and politeness,
"Your Highness, forgive me. I am late. I know that everyone should be present before you arrive."
"Nothing of that, nothing Obi-Wan. I'm just so glad you made it. It will mean the world to Ani!" And she kept beaming. Obi-Wan forced his eyes away, a man should never look too long at her. It was dangerous, especially for a Jedi whose work afforded him no opportunity to woo or marry a woman at the present time.
Amidala leaned close, and whispered, "After the banquet, Ani is planning a real party in his quarters. Will you come? Oh, do!" She pleaded not noticing that Obi-Wan had stepped away from her.
"I am sure you young adults do not need a Jedi ruining your party. Everyone would be in such fear of offending me that they wouldn't let loose and have fun. Isn't that what you all want?"
"Yes, but . . . "
"No `buts.' I will now quickly make an entrance, so that you may make yours." He bowed his head slightly and retreated backwards a step, in homage, before pulling on his hood with both hands and disappearing into the ball room.
Amidala watched him go, her heart making a little flip-flop, as did most women's when they saw Obi-Wan perform even the most common of gestures. She sighed, and put on her invisible mask as Queen. With a nod she summoned her handmaidens to open the doors.
A trumpet blast turned Anakin's head. She was coming, and high time too! Anakin's shoulder length, loose hair was brushed to gleaming and he had on a dark elegant suit, tied about the waist and falling to his thighs, under which he wore black pants. Similar to the way the elegant Senators dressed. Similar to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine who was standing next to him. All looked to the top of the hall and bowed as the Queen entered. Anakin could not help but be mesmerized. Yet she looked so solemn and sad. He could sense her tension, her uncertainty, something he never felt when she was alone with him. He smiled at her and tried to give her confidence. She ignored him, slightly annoying the confident young man, as though she did not need him. His eyes dropped to his boots, and when he raised them again he saw Obi-Wan watching her as well, with a look as sad and solemn as her own. Anakin was pleased to see his friend. He smiled at the Jedi and tried to gather his attention using the Force. Obi-Wan ignored him too. He seemed deep in thought.
More than annoyed now, Anakin muttered, "Everyone's acting like strangers. If nobody ever has any fun at these functions, why have them at all?"
"Ah, but my son," a voice said near to him, "such opportunities these events provide to make acquaintances, have oneself seen!"
Anakin was confused. At first he thought the voice had come from his head, but then he realized it was from Chancellor Palpatine standing near him. "But it's all a show," Anakin replied.
"As are most things we do," Palpatine said with a knowing smile. Anakin fought back an urge to scowl at the older man. Instead he again tried to catch the eye of Obi-Wan, and succeeded. The Jedi smiled happily as he came to meet his young friend.
"No, Ani!" Rabe cried in shock, but with a tinge of excitement that said she was enjoying herself as Anakin and Kister began to climb on top of a glass table. They wished to demonstrate the dance moves they learned growing up on Tatooine.
"Be careful, Ani," Amidala warned, "this tacky music is still popular with the Hutts. They may send bounty hunters after you for mocking them."
"Who's mocking? This is great music!"
"Very well, then. But I'll send a bounty hunter after you if you break that table!"
Anakin's answer was a wicked laugh. The boys were being foolish and were showing off for the handmaidens who looked as though they would anything for these young men, moral or not.
When done with his demonstration, Amidala pulled Anakin aside and whispered mischievously, "Your groupies are indeed enjoying themselves."
"Groupies," he looked around, "just a bunch of nice girls."
"And what of them?" he grinned in a manner which infuriated Amidala for she knew that Anakin was so good-looking and conceited that he took adoring women as a matter of course. "And besides, many are my friends. I grew up with them."
At this he acknowledged Amee who waved back a little unsteadily. She had had a bit too much to drink.
He looked down at Amidala, still grinning, "I am sure if you wished, you could join their fan club, even become their leader perhaps."
Amidala made a face at him, which caused Anakin to laugh more as he attempted to drag her onto the dance floor. Amidala resisted, feeling a little out of place not only among such wild, carefree people, but with Anakin and the new role he was assuming in her life.
"I need air," Amidala pulled away from his hand in protest, "and, besides, your fans await!" And she slipped out onto the balcony. She looked up at the stars and breathed in the calm air of her home-world. If only . . .
She started as she sensed someone watching her. She looked over the balcony and saw a hooded figure on the bridge over the waterfalls. Obi-Wan began to shrink back, perhaps hoping she did not see him, but Amidala would have none of that. She waved. He returned the gesture just as something flew above her and landed on the railing by her finger-tips. She jumped back with a gasp and looked up at the smiling face of Anakin.
"Ani! You . . . ," she quickly bit back the curse words that always wanted to come out of her when she was around him. "What? I didn't quite catch that!" He laughed mockingly and did acrobatic flips on the thin rail, arrogantly displaying the skills of which only one strong in the Force was capable.
"Stop, Ani. You're scaring the . . ." and she bit back another bad word. He did one last flip and landed close to her, too close.
"Jedi Knight, I am not," he said mocking Yoda's voice, "but strong in the Force am I!"
"Stop it," she laughed nervously, they were too close. His slender form towered over her, and wisps of hair fell over his eyes. His movement was not an accident and he was ready to say something important, but there was a pleading in her eyes, begging him not to speak. Anakin obeyed the silent request.
"Don't stay out here too long!" He ordered pleasantly, and walked back to the party.
Amidala spun around and pressed her hand to her temples. Not now, oh not now, I don't want to think of him like that. I'll think of something else. She looked down at Obi-Wan who was now standing calmly on the edge of the bridge.
It was not difficult to slip out of the party, growing wilder by the minute. Within minutes Amidala found herself almost running to meet the young Jedi.
Obi-Wan listened to the gurgling of the waterfall. The view was breathtaking and standing here right on the edge was like standing before Paradise. The Jedi had taken off his cloak and was leaning far out over the edge, easily keeping his balance. He was thinking that . . .
Obi-Wan turned quickly. Amidala was behind him, standing a few feet away. He bowed in respect.
"May I join you?" Amidala asked. Obi-Wan nodded. For a long time they stood silently listening to the comforting, rushing water.
Obi-Wan finally turned his sleek form toward her, "You look different, Amidala," he commented. "Different?" she asked. "Than earlier," he explained, letting his eyes take in her party clothes, casual, common, though of the finest cloth and cut. "Oh," she said embarrassed. More silence, again broken by Obi-Wan, "Why did you leave the party? It sounds like everyone is having fun." "Yes, it's quite a success, but I felt . . . out of place. I act like one of them, but it's a deception. As Queen I will never be a part of them." It felt good to express these feelings. If she spoke these to anyone else, her handmaidens' feelings would be hurt and Anakin . . . He would take it personally, and would be angry. Anger was something that Obi-Wan never seemed to feel. "Out of place," Obi-Wan repeated, "I know how that feels." "Of course you do. A Jedi must act a lot like royalty." He chuckled, "Not exactly." "Yes, exactly. We play the same role, just in different ways." Obi-Wan nodded, conceding the point. He was enjoying her company, yet was sincerely wishing her gone for he did not trust himself alone with her. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to feel close to Obi-Wan. With him she felt safe. Her burdens left. Safe with this young Jedi who was older than she, yet a devoted friend.
A Queen and a Jedi. It would be good for her people to have such rulers, and she cared for Obi-Wan a great deal. She trusted him more than anyone she knew.
Amidala started as she saw Obi-Wan turning and staring at her intensely.
She mentally kicked herself as she remembered that a Jedi can all but read one's mind. Then she relaxed. So he knows. Big deal. Will Naboo suddenly evaporate in nothingness because Obi-Wan knows I care for him? Was it such a tragedy? I wonder what he'll do . . .? Would he . . .?
Obi-Wan took her hand and pressed it to his lips as if in answer. She leaned her head on his shoulder.
"So, she returns my feelings," Obi-Wan thought. He had never felt so comfortable with anyone, or close. Their hands entwined and Obi-Wan was ready to dwell in this moment, let time stop, when the sense came like an electric shock that it was not the will of the Force for her to be with him. He knew it as surely as he knew the bridge was under his feet and air was coming into his nostrils.
Hardly had this knowledge registered when shadows were upon them
Anakin's head shot up in the midst of his adoring friends. Amidala was in danger. He raced onto the balcony and leaped into the abyss. Within seconds he was on the ground and running toward the bridge.
Like a streak of lightning, Obi-Wan had his lightsaber activated and was slashing through the attackers. In the brief instant before they died, he was able to glean from them the knowledge that they were there to harm the Amidala.
Within seconds it was all over and the trembling Queen didn't even have time to cry out.
She turned as Anakin came behind her, his blaster drawn.
He took in the scene and burst out, "I had no idea you were here with Obi-Wan!"
Obi-Wan felt the double meaning behind the boy's statement. He sensed jealousy and anger coming from Anakin, as well as fear for Amidala.
Anakin stalked around the Queen, blaster drawn, scanning the area, waiting for more attackers as Obi-Wan turned on his comlink and hailed Captain Panaka, "There has been an attempt on the Queen's life."
"We're coming," Panaka answered curtly.
Obi-Wan gave him their location and within minutes Amidala was swept from the bridge by her security guards, Panaka's body shielding her, and ushered into her transport.