Sorry this took so long. I finally had time to update this, so update I did. I'll try to be quicker the next time. :-)

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah... mine this is not. :-P

"Mom, I'm home!" called Anakin. The howling of the wind subsided as Qui-Gon led the way into the humble home with Windu bringing up the rear. As the motley crew moved down the cramped entrance into a slightly bigger room, they brushed the sand from their clothes and hair. In Jar Jar's case, he whirled his floppy ears around while R2-D2 waited until they arrived in the room to wiggle back and forth.

"Annie!" His mother bounded into the room and embraced her son. "I was getting worried about you. Usually you get here before the sandstorms begin. Who are your friends?" She eyed the assortment of beings with wariness, with Mace she radiated distrust.

"They need parts to fix their ship, Mom. They're offworlders."

"I see." Her tone strayed dangerously close to the edge of a vibroknife. Qui-Gon stepped forward.

"Our apologies for coming at a disagreeable time. However, perhaps we can alleviate the situation." From underneath his cloak produced three food capsules. Mace brought out three as well, and handed them to Qui-Gon, who then handed them to the woman. Her look softened.

"Thank you." She sighed. "I apologize for being abrupt and rude, but –"

"You were concerned about feeding us," Mace interrupted. She gave him an irate glance. "Don't worry about giving us your rooms, either. We'll be fine out here."

"I'm glad." She studied him closely, eyes narrowing. "I was going to say, sir, before you interrupted me, that I need to talk to you for a moment privately." Anakin poked his mother's side.

"No worries, Mom. It's not him." She raised an eyebrow at her son.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Who?" The woman turned back to Mace, her body language less hostile.

"Kragg." Her tone was grim. "He's a slave trader from who-knows-where." She raised both eyebrows in skepticism, and Mace realized that it was directed at his garments. "He usually dresses gaudy, is loudmouthed, and very, very good."

"He steals the slaves from their masters and either has them help him with his illegal activities or sells them to other owners," Anakin continued. "He hasn't lost one yet from what I've heard. Must have something to deactivate our transmitters inside us or something."

"Transmitters?" Padmé asked.

"They're put inside us to make sure we stay with our owners, or else!"

"What happens if you –"

"Back to Kragg," Mace redirected the conversation to the woman. "Why did you think I was him?"

"Because you and he are both black and about the same height." She turned to Qui-Gon. "Do you know him? Can you vouch for his authenticity?" Qui-Gon looked wryly at Mace. The latter gritted his teeth. Qui-Gon, may the Force so help you if you don't help me.

"He is a good friend of mine, and trust me; he's not Kragg, miss – excuse me, but your name is?"

"If you vouch for him, fine. For some odd reason, I trust you." Her glare dared the maverick Jedi to prove otherwise. "As for my name, I am called Shmi. You've already met my son." She gestured to Anakin.

"Thank you, Shmi, for the shelter… and your trust," Mace said. She nodded. At least she wasn't trying to fry him with her stare again… yet. "If I may ask, why are you afraid Kragg will come here?"

"He only takes the brightest and the best of the slaves," she replied. "He also takes the youngest."

"That's so he can retrain them for whatever he wants." Anakin rejoined the conversation. "He's stolen several kids from here, come to think of it."

"He also desires kids who appear to have special 'talents.'" The woman looked worriedly at her son. Qui-Gon and Mace looked at each other.

"So if Kragg appeared, you're afraid your son would disappear," Qui-Gon stated. Shmi bit her lip and looked away.

"But Kragg isn't here," Anakin pointed out. "So why worry?"

"True." His mother's face lightened. "I'll start supper," she called as she ducked into a smaller room. Qui-Gon elbowed Mace in the ribs.

"You owe me," he whispered. Mace flushed. "We're going to play sabaac," the bearded one announced. The Council member allowed a small smile on his face.

"I'm going to rip you to shreds," he declared. One got out the deck and handed it to the other one, who began to shuffle it.

"Come on!" Anakin tugged at Padmé's hand. "I'll show you my droid I'm working on. You can come too," he added, seeing the hesitant Gungan. The three traipsed off, with R2-D2 rolling right behind.

The room was quiet.

"Fierfek, Mace." Qui-Gon glared at the Council member as he handed over several credits. "How did you get the idiot's array?"


"He's not finished yet."

"He's wonderful!" Padmé was impressed with the skill the boy showed. An unfinished android lay on a workbench, plating painfully nonexistent, with only one eye. How a slave boy could manage to build one of these without a manual let alone money for the parts astonished her. He definitely had resources.

"You sure?" Anakin bit his lip. "I made him to help Mom. He's a protocol droid. Just look!" He pressed a button. The droid's eye sparked to life, and its head twisted around to see its body jerking awkwardly. Then it caught sight of the two humans.

"Hello." It sat up straight, enunciating each word in prim, precise Basic. "I am See-Threepio, human-cyborg relations. How may I be of service?"

"He's perfect!" Padmé giggled. Anakin beamed proudly.

"See-Threepio can lift and move stuff," he explained. "He can speak millions of languages, give you directions on how to fix basic supplies, and communicate with other droids." The girl looked at the droid with renewed enthusiasm.

"Could he tell us what Artoo – my droid – is saying?" Padmé asked.

"Madam, I am programmed to understand all droids," C-3PO stated matter-of-factly. "Especially the R-series units." Wanting to test it, Artoo rolled up and began beeping at the protocol droid.

"Oh, hello there!" Threepio bent slightly so he could see the droid better. "I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations. And who might you be?"

Whistle beep-oh-beep-eep, replied the little droid.

"R2-D2. Pleased to meet you!" the protocol droid responded enthusiastically.

"Ani! Mealtime!" they heard his mother call from the kitchen.

"Okay, Mom!" he yelled back. He looked at Padmé.

"Come on!" Together they walked towards the kitchen, with Jar Jar bumbling after them. Artoo beeped.

"Of course I can't come along," Threepio responded, irritated. "Can't you see that I have no functioning legs?" The R2 unit responded with a whistle and two bloops.

"I don't see how you could have not noticed," the protocol droid responded huffily. "Anyone could see I don't have legs." He used his arms to gesture before looking away. "And here I thought you would be pleasant company."

Artoo emitted a long, mournful bleep.

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