A Star Wars fanfiction
Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to Lucas. My love for it belongs to me.
The insertion of the explosive tracking chips had been quick and entirely painless. Vision shields had been placed over their eyes during the process, blinding the girls from Mos Olan and ensuring that none of them knew where, in their bodies, the chips had been inserted. If they knew where the chips were, they might hack at their own flesh to rid themselves of the devices. Dismemberment, for some, would have been a price worth paying for freedom.
Shmi Skywalker sat quietly in the back corner of the abandoned hangar and absently rubbed her breastbone. The chip was near her heart. How she knew that, she didn't know. It also didn't matter. The heart was not something that could be easily torn out and thrown away.
She was a slave.
It was an odd thought. Outlandish. But it was true; the muffled sobbing all around her told her that the raid they had always feared had finally happened, and that she was truly here to be sold, along with every other female from her remote desert village. The men had already been sent into labor situations, while the women had been detained in Mos Eisley for all varieties of domestic slavery. They waited in the hangar to be purchased by men who preferred possessions to partners. The young girls and attractive women had already been traded for.
Shmi wasn't sure why she had been passed over. It wasn't vanity that made her wonder – she knew she looked old for her age. Course sand quickly eroded all traces of youth, and the heat of two suns toughened the skin; it was unavoidable. But only the old and truly unsightly women were left, and more than one man had come in demanding a sturdy, halfway attractive woman of about her age. Shmi was the only one among them now who fit that description.
But it was as though the slave master suddenly forgot she existed, whenever they asked.
Perhaps the he merely wanted her for himself. Shmi could not tell. She would find out soon enough, however; their numbers were thinning and eventually he would remember she was there, no matter how quiet she remained. No matter how still. No matter how diligently she imagined herself camouflaging into the wall and disappearing from sight. Soon, someone would pay for her and take her to a home that would never be her home.
"You lot aren't moving quickly enough," barked the slave master, coming in out of the sun to glare at each of the remaining women in turn. "You're hardly worth keeping alive at this rate." He wiped a filthy hand across his sweating brow. "With that in mind, try to look a little more lively for the customer who's on his way in. A position with him'll be better than one six feet under the sand, if you catch my meaning."
A shadow crossed the hangar door and slanted into the room, black and formidable.
"Well, come on in," shouted the slave master. "Don't have all day. Have a look around, take what you like – just be sure you pay before you go. Wouldn't want to have to get nasty about it."
Shmi stilled her fingertips. Her breathing slowed. She kept her eyes on the shadow and imagined that she was made of the same material as the wall behind her. She was nothing but a sheet of graying plasteel, flat and unnoticeable.
The man followed his shadow into the center of the doorway and stood there, unmoving. He was an aging man, well dressed but unremarkable in stature, his extremely pale features at once both flaccid and pronounced, his smile slight but evident. Nothing about him could account for the chill that spread across Shmi's flesh, causing every hair to bristle.
"Yes," he said softly, and his eyes, as pale as the rest of him, cut straight across the room and rested on Shmi. "Yes. As I expected."
For one frightening moment, Shmi's heart stopped.
"See one you like, then?" The slave master sounded surprised, but pleased. "Which'll it be? Prices depend, you know."
"I do." The corners of the man's mouth turned further upward. Shmi could not tell if his expression was one of kindness or amusement… or something else. "You," he said. "Rise."
Shmi did not move.
The slave master turned and stared toward Shmi's corner, his eyes full of anger. "Well, you heard him," he shouted, and marched toward her. "Get up." He stopped several yards from Shmi and jostled one of the older women with his sandy boot. "Don't want him thinking you're nothing but a lazy old bantha now that he's shown some interest, do you?"
"I meant the younger one," said the man in the doorway. "Behind her."
"Behind…" The slave master looked confused. He peered past the old woman and looked unseeingly at Shmi for a long moment before his eyes focused. His eyebrows shot up when he saw her, and he shook his head slightly as if to clear it, but he recovered in an instant and continued his march.
"Thought you could hide back there, eh?" he growled, coming toward her. "Been there all this time?" He halted before Shmi and raised his fist. "Cheated me out of a sale yesterday, you little –"
"That won't be necessary."
The slave master's fist halted in midair, then dropped to his side like a stone. He stood entirely motionless for an unnatural second, then shuddered and backed away from Shmi with something like fear in his eyes.
"Rise, girl. You know I am speaking to you."
Shmi pressed her palms against the sandy floor and pushed herself up along the wall. She met the pale eyes of the man in the doorway and waited.
"Come here to me," he said, almost lightly, and beckoned to her.
Shmi licked her lips, brushed off her skirt, and took a deep breath of acceptance. She had known she could not avoid this moment forever. It would not help her to fight it, or to fear it. She steadied her mind with another breath and then she walked unhesitatingly toward her new master, who watched her with appreciation.
"Good," he said quietly. "Good. Tell me your name."
"Shmi." She paused and swallowed. "Skywalker."
The man was just her height. He studied her eyes for several moments and then placed both his gloved hands gently, but firmly, on her shoulders.
Shmi suddenly felt short of breath.
"And are you prepared, Shmi Skywalker?"
It was somehow a larger question than it seemed, and Shmi searched herself briefly for the true answer.
"Yes," she finally said. As the word passed her lips, a strange sense of comfort washed through her. The center of her body felt warm. Weighted.
The man removed his hands. He placed his payment on the table beside the door. "I believe you will find that it is more than adequate," he said, and lifted the hood of his cloak. When it settled, it covered his head and shielded his eyes so that only his close-lipped smile remained. Without the light of his eyes to balance it, it was not friendly.
Shmi took an unconscious step back.
The man laughed quietly.
"You are… sensitive," he said. "As I predicted. Now follow me."
Shmi walked behind him out into the streets of Mos Eisley. The suns were setting and their glow was muted, but she had to squint to shield her eyes from the sudden glare of light. It was painful, after several days in the shadows of the hangar.
They had not walked long before they reached a speeder, already manned by a species of alien Shmi could not identify.
"He is Ohl-Tuk," said the cloaked man, gesturing to the speeder's driver. "A Nikto, and your new master."
"My –" Shmi's eyes darted in confusion from the Nikto in the speeder to the half-cloaked face of the man who had taken her from the hangar. "But I thought that you – "
"Shhh." The cloaked man's smile widened. "A slave does not ask questions. Obedience is your only law. And while at first that may seem difficult, you will find it makes all truly painful events much… simpler."
Shmi put both hands instinctively to her stomach.
"You will be well taken care of until it is time." The cloaked man nodded to the Nikto. "Ohl-Tuk will not sell you until the boy can walk."
Shmi opened her mouth, but found she could not remember what she had been about to ask. She blinked and tried to gather her mind, but all of her questions fell apart when she reached for them, and she was suddenly unsure of what had just been said. His words slipped through her consciousness like water through a sieve, and vanished.
"Get into the speeder."
"And remember." The cloaked man stretched out two gloved fingers and moved them slightly.
Shmi's chin turned toward him of its own accord, and she looked quietly up into his veiled face.
"Adversity breeds a kind of strength that cannot be learned in any other way." The man's mouth twisted slightly. "There are powers no training can awaken. Remind him to take pride in this. Encourage it. Tolerate no weakness."
"I… will remind him."
The man retracted his hand and turned away. Shmi's face turned slowly forward. She stared past the head of her new master and gazed at the horizon as the speeder hummed to life and shot forward. Her hands felt for her stomach again and held it. Unheeding of the tracking chip lodged near her heart, something far greater stirred within her body.
Two suns slipped past the dunes ahead, and Tatooine plunged into darkness.