Star Wars: Episode 1—A Retelling
The Phantom Menace
By: Tellemicus Sundance
#01: Anakin's Creed
The twin suns burned down out of a cloudless blue sky, washing the vast desert wastes of the planet in brilliant white light. The resultant glare rose off the flat, sandy surface in a wet shimmer of blistering heat to fill the gaps between the massive cliff faces and solitary outcroppings of the mountains that were the planet's sole distinguishing feature. Sharply etched, the monoliths stood like sentinels keeping watch in a watery haze.
When the Podracers streaked past, engines roaring with ferocious hunger and relentless drive, the heat and the light seemed to shatter and the mountains trembled. Anakin Skywalker leaned into the curve of the raceway that took him past the stone arch marking the entry into Beggar's Canyon on the first lap of the run. He eased the thruster bars forward, giving the engines a little more juice. The wedge-shaped rockets exploded with power, the right a tad harder than the left, banking the Pod sharply left to clear the turn.
Swiftly, he adjusted the steering to straighten the racer, boosted power further, and shot through the arch. Loose sands whiplashed in the wake of his passing and filled the air with a gritty sheen that whirled and danced. He ripped into the canyon, fingers playing across the controls, hands steady on the steering.
It was all so quick, so instantaneous. One mistake, one misjudgment, and he would be out of the race and be lucky if he weren't dead. That was the thrill of it. All that power, all that speed, just at his fingertips, and no margin for error. Two huge turbines dragged a fragile Pod over sandy flats, around jagged-edged mountains, down shadowed draws, and over heart-wrenching drops in a series of twisting and winding curves and jumps at the greatest speed a driver could manage. Control cables ran from the Pod to the engines, and energy binders locked the engines to each other. If any part of the three struck something solid, the whole of the assembly would collapse in a splintering of metal and a fiery wash of rocket fuel. If any part broke free, it was all over.
A grin momentarily split Anakin's face as he injected a bit more power into the thrusters. This was the thing he loved most. The danger of the race itself brought all his senses to their maximum. Adrenaline flooded his veins, his reactions were quicker, his thinking was clearer, his instincts worked in tune with his thoughts. A jumble of sensations that he could sometimes let himself get lost in, guiding him, helping him anticipate and react. It sometimes felt like an unknown force, like a mother's gentle hand protecting him and her soft voice whispering encouragement into his ear, that filled and overflowed him. It was times like these he truly felt alive.
Sitting in the Pod with his hands on the controls, Anakin could feel the vibration of the engines travel up the control cables and fill him with their music. Wrapped in his rough-made jumpsuit, his racing helmet, his goggles, and his gloves, he was wedged so closely in his seat that he could feel the rush of the wind across the Pod's skin beneath him. And yet, he was not simply the pilot of the Podracer, never just an additional part. Rather, he was at one with the whole. It spoke to him in its own language, a mix of sounds and feelings, and he could understand everything it said. The differences between Pod and flesh vanished and merged together into one being, him.
Ahead, the canyon narrowed and the shadows deepened. Anakin bore down on the slit of brightness that opened back onto the flats, keeping low to the ground where the passage was widest. If he stayed high, he risked brushing the cliff faces on either side. That had happened to Regga in a race last month, and he was sure that the Jawas were still looking for all of the pieces. But it would not happen to him. He shoved the thruster bars forward and exploded through the gap onto the flats, engines screaming.
A flash of gleaming orange metal shot past him on his right, and he watched the distinctive split-X of Sebulba's engines flare out before him, taking away the lead that he had seized through an unusually quick start. His brow wrinkled in disgust at himself for his momentary lapse of concentration and his dislike for the other racer. All gangly and crook-legged, Sebulba was as twisted inside as out, a dangerous adversary who cheated quite regularly in order to win. Anakin knew Sebulba well, and knew better than to take chances with him.
Sliding the thruster bars forward, Anakin fed fresh power to the engines and rocketed ahead. It didn't help much, he supposed as he watched the distance between the narrow at a painstakingly slow pace. As the racers were quickly approaching the arena erected on the edge of Mos Espa, Anakin tried to recover the lost sensations he'd been experiencing earlier. Where did that guiding force go to?!
After a few tense moments of fruitless mental searching, he gave up and focused once again upon the race as he tore through the arena. His attention was split only momentarily as he glanced at the blurred spectators in search of his mother, who he knew was worrying for his safety. He liked having her here to watch his races. It gave him a strange sense of confidence in himself that he didn't like to think about too closely.
Arch Canyon rose broad and deep before him, an expanse of rock leading into Jag Crag Gorge, a twisting channel the racers were required to navigate on their way to the high flats beyond. Sebulba was just ahead, rocketing low and tight across the ground, trying to put some distance between Anakin and himself. Behind Anakin, close now, were three other racers spread out against the horizon. A quick glance revealed Mawhonic, Gasgano, and Rimkar trailing in his strange bubble pod. All three were gaining. Anakin started to engage his thrusters, then drew back. They were too close to the gorge. Too much power there and he would be in trouble. High speeds in the channel caused response time to get greatly compacted down to almost nothing. It was better to wait.
Mawhonic and Gasgano seemed to agree, setting their Pods into place behind his as they approached the split in the rock. But Rimkar was not content to wait and roared past Anakin split seconds before they entered the cleft and disappeared into darkness.
Anakin leveled out his Pod, lifting slightly from the rock-strewn floor of the channel. In the darkness, he found his guiding force again. Surrendering himself to it, he let it, his memory, and his instincts take him down the winding cut. Once again, he found himself seeing the surrounding world slow down as his perception of time changed and his reflexes sharpened immensely. He knew where all the rocks, sand, and shadows were as he flew past. He was so sure of what he was feeling that Anakin knew he could've flown through the darkness at double the speeds with his eyes closed and still have emerged unscathed. He was that much in tune with everything around him, that much aware of where he was.
He eased swiftly down the channel, catching glimpses of Rimkar's engine exhausts as they flashed crimson in the shadows. Far, far overhead, the sky was a brilliant blue streak down the center of the mountain. The mountain reflected light off it, sending a frail streamer into the gap that lost brilliance with every meter it dropped. By the time it reached Anakin and his fellow racers, it barely cut the dark. Yet Anakin was once again at peace, lost deep within himself as he flew his Pod, bonded once again with his engines, given over the throb and hum of his racer and the soft, velvet dark that folded about.
When they emerged into the light once more, Anakin jammed the thruster bars forward and streaked after Sebulba. Mawhonic and Gasgano were right behind him. Up ahead, Rimkar had caught Sebulba and was trying to edge past. The lanky Dug lifted his split-X engines slightly to scrape against Rimkar's Pod. But Rimkar's rounded shell eased smoothly away, unaffected. Side by side, the racers tore across the high flats, headed for Metta Drop. Anakin closed on them, drawing away from Mawhonic and Gasgano. People said what they wanted about Watto—and there was plenty to say that wasn't good—but he had an eye for quality Podracers. The big engines jumped obediently as Anakin fed fuel into the thrusters.
It was as he was drawing up alongside Sebulba that Anakin felt a sudden, sharp stab of unease jab into him. His sense of time practically came to a halt as a moment of indecision hit him. That unknown force that had been guiding and helping him was suddenly yelling at him, begging him to hold, to wait. Something bad is going to happen, it was whispering to him. In that split second of indecision, Anakin could feel a strange weight descend upon his shoulders. In his later years, he would look back upon this moment and understand just how significant his next choice would be for the future of himself, his family, and the galaxy in general.
Taking a gamble, Anakin decided to put his faith in that guiding force, trusting in the power to see him safely through the coming danger. He eased up slightly on the thrusters, which left him trailing behind both Rimkar and Sebulba as they all reached Metta Drop, rocketed over, and tumbled straight down. It was in the following seconds that Anakin came to realize that his split second decision had been the correct one.
The trick with drops, as every racer knew, was to gather enough speed going down to gain time and distance over your opponents, but not so much speed that the racer couldn't pull out of the drop and level out again before it nose-dived into the rocks below. So when Sebulba pulled out early, Anakin had been momentarily surprised. Then he saw the treacherous Dug had allowed himself to be pulled up by the winds before he deliberately fishtailed atop Rimkar, using his exhaust to slam the racer against the cliff face.
Rimkar, caught completely by surprise, jammed his thruster bars forward in an automatic response that took him right into the mountain. Metal fragments of Pod and engines careened away from the rock wall in a fiery shower, leaving a long black scar along the ravaged surface. Even from his relatively safe spot behind Rimkar, Anakin might've gone the same way, if not for his instincts and that guiding force. Before he even really knew what he was doing, Anakin was already pulling out his drop and swerving away from Sebulba's lingering backwash and the explosion of Rimkar's former Pod.
Skirting along the edge of the explosion, Anakin saw that he now held the advantage over Sebulba. The Dug was ahead and below him, looking off to the other side of his Pod—clearly trying to catch a glimpse of his handiwork—and not in the direction of which Anakin was approaching from. Gunning the thrusters, his Pod leapt forward with a powerful forward surge. He pulled up level to Sebulba's Pod as the Dug was finally taking notice of him and looking his way. For the fraction of the second that he saw it, Anakin deeply enjoyed the look of unrestrained confusion and shock on Sebulba's face as his hated slave rival shot past him at tremendous speeds.
Once he had safely landed and leveled out on the surface below, Anakin switched his engines into high gear and punched the thrusters for every ounce of power they had to spare. The Arch Canyon Race was somewhat unique when compared to the other Podraces that took place on Tatooine, it was longer and more treacherous than many of the other courses. Thus, it had been determined by the race officials that this particular race only required two laps rather than the traditional three. After Metta Drop, it was mostly just a high-speed sprint to the finish line…and Anakin was currently in first place!
Recovering from his surprise too late, Sebulba tried to quickly close the distance between them. But Anakin had already gotten too much of a head start and the distance was closing too slowly in the remaining leg of the race. As they neared the finish line, Anakin could feel the guiding force in him, lending him a sense of serenity as he became completely in tune with his surroundings again. He knew where Sebulba was. He knew that the Dug was planning to open one of his engines' side vents to blast Anakin with the superheated exhaust and fire. He knew that as long as he kept his Pod directly in front of Sebulba, between the loud, beating engines, that there was no way that was going to happen. He knew that Sebulba was also hoping to hit Anakin with his energy binders, which would most assuredly incapacitate, injure, and even likely kill the young human slave.
But with the guiding force, soft whisperings of advice in his ear, a faint touch on his hands to help him adjust and avoid, Anakin evaded Sebulba all the way to the finish line. Despite Anakin's state of hyper-awareness, he scarcely realized he'd crossed the line safely before Sebulba's Podracer suddenly slowed to a halt as the Dug began ranting and raving foully in Huttese.
Quickly easing off his own thrusters and bringing the Pod to stop, Anakin stood up in the seat and was suddenly awash in the thunderous roars, cheers, and applause of the audience. Looking about, Anakin spotted his mother (among other people) running towards him. There was a look of surprise, weary happiness, and motherly pride upon her face as she finally reached him and pulled him into a hug.
Though he didn't know it, Anakin was widely considered the underdog of Tatooine Podracing because he was the only known human capable of it. The fact that he had never before won a race only worsened his standing in the betting rings. Thus, his win here had upset many of the gamblers who were hurriedly trying to collect or calculate their winnings, losses, and debts. Among those who lost was one very irritate Watto, who always betted heavily upon Sebulba.
Unnoticed by anyone, one particular Zabrak was smiling darkly. His bet on the underdog had just proven quite beneficial. Perhaps it was time to add to his collection?
-End of Dream-
Ryloth, Outer Rim
An annoying tapping on his head prodded Anakin awake. Swatting irritably at the nuisance, the 9-nine-year boy let out a groan as he heard a girlish giggle coming from the culprit. "Wakie, wakie, Skyguy!"
"Go away, Snips," Anakin groaned out, rolling his head to the side as he cracked an eye open to glare weakly at the youngling. "Today's my day off. Captain said so. Let me sleep in for once."
"No!" the little Togrutan chirped happily, ecstatic at finally being able to wake up Anakin instead of the other way around. "Captain says you have to get up now!"
Seeing that he wasn't moving, the youngling grabbed ahold of his blanket and pulled it off the bed. Anakin flinched at the loss of his warm blanket before finally sitting up and stretching his arms and back. Looking back at the little Togrutan girl, he saw her still grinning widely at him in an almost innocent manner as she watched him expectantly.
They were in his personal quarters onboard the heavy freighter they were crewmen of. Although the two of them were far too young to be considered active members, the fact that they basically worked for free was what allowed them safe haven onboard. As long as Anakin could help repair the rusty old freighter, he and his friend could stay as long as they wanted, that was their agreement with the captain.
"Alright, alright, I'm up," Anakin said as he swung his feet off the side of his bed and looked at the girl. He was dressed in a rather simple white hand-me-down shirt and some dark brown pants. His hair was still a sandy brown color, but slightly longer since it'd been a few months since he'd gotten it cut. "What did you want so badly that you had to wake me up so early in the morning, Ahsoka?"
"It's my birthday!" Ahsoka pointed out, somewhat loudly as her grin was replaced with a cute frown. She was dressed in her usual day clothes already, a green shirt that was a little too large for her small frame and some third-rate pants that were stained and torn in places. "You said you'd teach me the magic force on my birthday!"
His memory returning as his dreams faded and consciousness quickly awakened, Anakin blinked before turning and smiling at his young friend. He did indeed promise to teach Ahsoka what he knew of the Force when she turned 4-years-old. After all, her Force sensitivity had been what had drawn him to her. More than a year ago, he had been bought from Watto by a cruel Zabrak who used him to race and gamble in Podracing. But the Zabrak was much crueler and abusive than Watto had ever been at his worst. Enough so that Anakin had actually lashed out in anger and hate. It was during that incident that he realized he could consciously control that guiding force he'd sometimes felt. Killing his master, Anakin had his tracking chip and its explosive surgically removed, and had quickly gone into hiding on Nar Shadaa in case any of the Zabrak's kin or associates desire vengeance. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind the Zabrak's death or disappearance and Anakin was finally free.
He had managed to get himself hired aboard a cargo freighter as an assistant mechanic and helper. The freighter was named the Early Harvest, a Corellian Corporation Action IV heavy transport. While visiting her homeworld of Shili on a routine delivery mission, Anakin had sensed little Ahsoka's presence and had found the little youngling. Getting the Early Harvest's Captain to accept her as a new and aspiring crew member had been difficult, but he suspected that the man had allowed her aboard as a means of giving Anakin someone closer to his age to play and associate with.
Continuing to smile, Anakin gently held out his hand and helped pull Ahsoka up onto his bed. The little Togrutan sat cross-legged across from him on his mattress as he arranged his thoughts. Finally finding a good place to begin, Anakin returned his attention to his young friend. "Ahsoka, do you remember what it felt like to go swimming in that Alderaanian lake, surrounded by the warm, calm water that was soothing and beautiful?"
Ahsoka blinked, tilting her head to the side slightly as she recalled that memory. It had happened about a month ago when they stopped on Alderaan. Captain Alder Havoc had given the pair of them some free time after landing and the unloading procedures were complete. As Anakin had been trying to learn how to swim and Ahsoka was practically attached to him at the hip, they had gone to a nearby park and frolicked in the lake there. It was one of the better memories that Ahsoka had and she cherished it.
Nodding her head in affirmation to the memory, she asked, "Is that what the magic feels like when you use it, Anakin?"
"Kinda," Anakin nodded. "But it's being under the water that I want you to picture and that the Force is the water. It surrounds and envelopes you, making you feel safe and helping you. It comes from everywhere, from you and all other living beings."
"I…don't understand," Ahsoka said uneasily and a little disappointed. She knew that her friend and big brother figure was simplifying it for her to understand, which she kind of did. But she just didn't understand.
Anakin just frowned a little. He'd been putting a lot of thought into how he'd describe the Force to someone as young and innocent as Ahsoka, so he was more than a little disappointed that she didn't immediately understand what he was trying to say. Maybe she needed a demonstration…? Smiling largely as the new idea came to him, Anakin reached out his hand and set it gently on the 4-year-old Togrutan's headcrest.
"Here, I'll show you." Closing his eyes, he concentrated on connecting to the Force. After almost a year of practice, he had almost gotten the hang of consciously attuning himself to the Force. It just took a few minutes to make the connection. Of course, it was much easier when he was in a calm, quiet setting like his quarters here.
Feeling the now familiar caress of power wash over him as he submerged himself in it, Anakin concentrated on the bright blimp of excitement, anxious confusion, and childish curiosity that was Ahsoka. Just as he was physically touching her head with his hand, he reached out with the Force to touch and caress her. He felt her flinch in surprise, confusion, and a slight amount of fear. But thanks to his nonthreatening presence and the continued gentle caress on her Force senses, she slowly eased out of her fear and confusion and began to quickly but cautiously open up to him. Before long, she had been fully drawn in and he shared in her absolute awe of the strange but wonderful sensation.
After a few minutes, Anakin withdrew and helped guide Ahsoka back out of the Force. Opening his eyes, Anakin watched with a slight grin at Ahsoka's astonished expression. "So, what did you think?"
"That was…the Force?!" Ahsoka cried out, excitement written all over her face as she jumped to her feet, bouncing slightly on Anakin's bed. "That was incredible! More! I wanna do it some more!"
Laughing, Anakin grabbed the little Togrutan and pulled her back down into a seated position. "Calm down, Ahsoka. It's harder to get connected with the Force when you're all hyper like that." He could tell she was trying, but it was a lost cause. She was too far gone to calm down just yet.
Jedi Temple, Coruscant
He sat in one of the meditation chambers, feeling and relishing in the Force. He could feel it stirring, waving, ever-moving like the flow of river. It had places of violent turmoil and rising tides, and also places of calmness and soothing. He could sense the power of the Force, a great life-form that the entire galaxy was a part of. Much of the Force was like a maelstrom of light as it flowed, where the Jedi were like great beacons in the tides.
Yet not all was right in the Force. He could sense it somehow… A great shadow of immense ferocious power was out there, lurking, watching and waiting. He was trying to sense out the location of this shade in the Force, but it was as elusive as smoke in a vacuum. Malevolent but patient, it would and could wait until he'd given up his search and it was ready to strike.
Letting a silent sigh of resignation, he admitted defeat. His power in the Force was still relative small and untested, his experience lacking. Thus he quietly accepted that he'd not be finding that shade any time soon.
It was then, as he was starting to withdraw from the Force, that he sensed something else. Like a ripple in a calm lake, a faint wave of power washed through the Force. Turning his attention to the strange phenomenon, he reached out to it, to locate and possibly contact it. It wasn't very close to him, somewhere out in the… Outer Rim…
No, it wasn't just one. There were two of them. He could only sense the second one because he was concentrating so heavily upon reaching them. As he drew nearer, he felt something…odd about them. They were young, he could feel it in their exuberant energies; wild and untamed power that were only just being discovered. Who were they? And what was going on? Why hadn't any Jedi discovered them sooner if they could create so much of a disturbance in the Force?
Finally withdrawing from the Force, Padawan Obi-wan Kenobi climbed to his feet and left the meditation chamber. He needed to speak with his master or maybe Master Yoda about what he'd sensed and what impact these newcomers could have.
Ryloth, Outer Rim
Captain Alder Havoc watched the Holonet news with a frown. The Trade Federation had just placed a blockade around the planet of Naboo. Havoc wasn't a politician and he didn't bother himself with the Republic's bureaucracy. Yet even he didn't understand why the Federation was doing such a ridiculous thing as blockading an entire planet over some dumb dispute in the Senate. It seemed little too extreme for those cowardly Neimoidian types to even conceive of doing.
Still, Havoc was a businessman. He went where he sensed there was opportunity for massive profit. That generally pertained to transporting purchased spices, weapons, and other illegal 'items' for the Hutts and other black market dealers. Though, he did also regularly take Republic jobs in an effort to keep a shade of legitimacy to his work. And now he could already see a new opportunity for him in the form of this blockade. It would be very, very dangerous, but the profits of succeeding in such a venture were potentially much higher in comparison.
Getting to his feet as he shut off the Holonet, he picked up his comlink and flicked it on. "Jarvis, contact the crew and get them back here. We just got a big-time job opportunity. Tell them this particular job is voluntary since the risks are going to be very high. I'll explain the details in two hours, when everyone's in the cargo bay."
"Roger that, sir!" Jarvis answered immediately.
Alder just smiled lightly as he turned and grabbed a datapad to begin making a list of supplies that the people of Naboo would likely need.
Three hours later…
Hyperspace, en route to Naboo
Focusing upon the incredible feeling that she had only just consciously noticed, Ahsoka reached out with her mind and hands. Grasping the crate that she could see and sense, she willed it to move, to rise, to float. Raising her hands to mirror her desire, Ahsoka let out a loud gasp of delighted surprise when she saw the crate respond to her commands. Her concentration faltered and vanished at the sight of the magic she was performing and the crate crashed back to the deck of the cargo bay.
"Good job, Ahsoka," Anakin said from behind her, smiling at her for her accomplishment. "You're pretty good at this. It took me almost three days just to move it! And look at you, already lifting it like a feather." That was mostly true. It did take him three days to consciously move it out, but when he did, he sent it bouncing all across the cargo bay.
Ahsoka just laughed out. "I'm awesome! Awesome! Awesome!"
Shaking his head at her squealing, Anakin couldn't really yell at her. He'd been much the same, reveling in his seemingly incredible power. As he remembered that time, another thought occurred to him. 'Yes, now that she's got control, I probably should tell her it.' "Ahsoka, listen up."
Turning to Anakin, Ahsoka's wide smile faded slightly when she saw the serious look on his face. "What's wrong, Ani?"
"I have something I need to tell you," Anakin said, gazing straight into her eyes for her understand the seriousness of the situation. "This is something my mother taught me and it's something very important that I want to you mesmerize and one day understand."
"What is it?"
"It's an ancient Force Philosophy," he said. "It was something that the very first Jedi created and it was something that they dedicated their lives to. Listen and learn. 'There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. There is no fear; there is power. I am the heart of the Force. I am the revealing light of fire. I am the mystery of darkness. In balance with chaos and harmony; immortal in the Force."
Ahsoka slowly repeated the strange saying, trying to imprint it in her memory. "What does it mean?"
Holding out his arms to the sides as though he were trying to balance on a tightrope, he said, "It means to find balance, Ahsoka. Between good and evil—" he swayed his arms slightly to demonstrate the need for perfect balance. "—light and dark, right and wrong. You cannot be one without the other. If I were to use one side too much," he lowered one of his arms dramatically, and almost fell over a result, causing Ahsoka to giggle slightly at his silly posture. "I throw myself out of balance and I could hurt myself and lot of other people I care about. Do you understand?"
Nodding slightly, Ahsoka quirked an eyebrow as she asked. "But why can't I just use my powers for good only? Why do I have to be evil too? Evil's bad!"
"Yes, it is," Anakin agreed easily, once again regaining his balancing posture. "But there is nothing that is truly pure in this galaxy, Snips. Too much evil is bad, but too much good is also bad. If there were only heroes in the galaxy, who would force them to grow strong and brave if there were no bad guys to fight? If there were only villains, who would save the damsels in distress and save the day?"
Ahsoka blinked as she tried to understand his reasoning while staring at his balancing posture. "So, no matter how bad it is, one cannot be without the other?"
"Exactly," Anakin answered as he finally relaxed out of his balance. "But the hard part is finding that balance within ourselves. Like right now, you are very unbalanced. You're leaning much closer to the light than the darkness."
"Really? How can you tell?"
"I can just tell," he said, smiling slightly. "But that's okay for now. Balance comes after a long, long time of training and growing up. You'll understand better someday."
Ahsoka nodded with a solemn expression before she lit up again. "And when I do, I'm gonna be the best in the galaxy! Even better than you, Skyguy!" Anakin just grinned in response.
(Author's Note) I've really got to stop doing this: starting a new story when I'm already busy writing several others. Nonetheless, I just felt the drive to start this one. For those of you who actually follow it, this story is derived of my 'Anakin's Creed' challenge in my Archive Rejects story. I decided to write my own version of it since I've recently rediscovered my love of Star Wars.
Also, I've got a bit of trivia for you. I used something from one of my earlier stories in this: a name. I wonder just how many of you can/will find the name and which story of mine I took it from.
That aside, I hope you all enjoy this story and that I can write it as I see it.