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TITLE: The Visit (1/1)
E-MAIL: susieqla@yahoo.com
CATEGORY: Rise of The Emperor (EU)
KEYWORDS: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Shmi Skywalker, C-3P0, Mace Windu, Yoda, Watto, Tatooine
SUMMARY: Two years after his freedom, Anakin is determined to set his mother free, one way or another.
DISCLAIMER: The Star Wars universe belongs to G. Lucas. No profit is being made.

The Visit

Obi-Wan was not amused. These episodes with Anakin were spiraling out of control. A pouty Skywalker would have asked, "When are you ever amused, Master?" The question was unfair. Obi-Wan had a great sense of humor. It had matured under Qui-Gon Jinn's careful tutelage. Obi-Wan missed his sage master very much. A fond saying of Jinn's had been, "There is a time and place for everything, young one."

Well, this definitely was neither the time nor the place for such levity. The boy's attitude was discouraging.

The Padawan learner thought the caper was brilliant. Chucking the whirring, blazing blue stab of light at those stupid, unsuspecting fountain fowl was the most fun he'd had in a long while.

What reason did Anakin have for behaving so childishly? Such blatant lack of respect for his teacher and the Order just wouldn't do.

Obi-Wan heaved a chest-expanding sigh, looking his young charge over sternly before demanding the return of his lightsaber.

"But, Master."

"But nothing, Anakin." Obi-Wan shook his head. "That will be all," he admonished. "You'll force me to an early grave, mark my words."

The tow-haired boy balked, upset that his master, the closest thing he'd ever had to a father, could suggest such a shocking thing. "I just wanted to see the length of the blade when fully ignited," Anakin remonstrated. The weapon suddenly felt heavier, more cumbersome in his grip. Was his master causing the sensation?

"Taking my lightsaber while I was sleeping." Obi-Wan shook his head. "That won't be tolerated. And what impelled you to hurl it through the air as though it were some common bastaska spear?" Again, the weighty sigh. "That weapon," Obi-Wan huffed, jabbing at his property, "can save your life, one day. The day when you've proven yourself worthy to possess one of your own seems a long, long way off after your prank. A lightsaber is not a plaything, Anakin. Not only might you have maimed or killed the defenseless temple creatures, you could have injured yourself as well."

"I'm *sorry*, Master," the lad apologized. How many times did he have to say it?

"As many times as it takes for it to sink in, Anakin."

With that, Obi-Wan, brimming with irritation, snatched his lightsaber away from Anakin. The teacher heard his student make several chuffing sort of sounds deep in his throat. Obi-Wan stood thinking up a suitable punishment, and in the next moments was unprepared for the boy's unanticipated response.

Anakin Skywalker, the undisputed winner of the Boonta Eve's Podracing Classic, the precocious, outspoken boy who had made a regular practice of talking Sebulba down every chance he got, burst into tears...

Unsure about what to do, Obi-Wan's thought process shut down. Finally, he knelt beside his weeping apprentice. As he'd done so, his lightsaber had tumbled out of his hand to clatter upon the manicured stones of the temple grounds. The unpredicted consequence had gone unnoticed.

The Jedi put his arm around the tearful boy's shoulders. If ever a Knight was the picture of looking distraught, Obi-Wan was a study worthy of framing.

He reached out to the child through the Force. He also reached for the memory of his mentor...Qui-Gon.

"Anakin...Anakin." Should he be firm or concessionary with the boy? What would benefit his Padawan most in the long run?

Young Skywalker had never cried in front of him before. When Anakin's sobs sounded strangled, Obi-Wan knew what tact to take, instinctively, as though at that very moment his master had whispered into his ear. "There, there, Anakin. No need for tears. It's just that you need to heed the things I'm trying to teach you. I'm only looking out for your best interests. If anything happened to you, I'd be beside myself. You know that, don't you?" Obi-Wan quaked a bit after Anakin had thrown his arms about Obi-Wan's neck, hugging his master tight, as though for dear life. "There, there now. It's all right...really."

"W-why can't I s-see Mom?" Anakin abruptly asked. He sounded caught between a sob and a sniffle as he began to shudder.

Obi-Wan held him tighter. "Is that what all these recalcitrant incidences have been about?" He felt his heart melting out from under him. Anakin nodded against his neck, his soft mewling had replaced the sobbing. Wisely, he hoped to to touch his apprentice's melancholy heart. He desired to touch it in a way he had never dared to since the apprenticeship had begun.

There were always good, tangible reasons for everything, Qui-Gon used to spout fondly, Obi-Wan soberly reflected.

"I want to see her, Master! Could I visit her, please? I miss her so much! May we go to Tatooine? May we, huh?" All this had been muffled, spoken into the back of Obi-Wan's neck.

Anakin's barrage left Obi-Wan dazed. The patience and forbearance of fathers was to be admired. Anakin had not been separated from his loved one at birth. Of course there was an attachment, an attachment that even the vast distance of cold space would never sever.

Visitations were highly irregular, Obi-Wan knew, but not verboten. He would speak with Mace and Yoda, first of course, but he felt sure they'd sanction his appeal.

Clutching his apprentice hard before drawing away, Obi-Wan reached a decision before any internal objections got in the way. He looked Anakin squarely in his tear-stained face. His genuine affection for Anakin promted him. "Yes, young one. I don't see why not. The visit will have to be brief, and Masters Yoda and Windu must be consulted..."

A light Obi-Wan had never seen before set Anakin's eyes aglow. "Thank you, Master. Thank you, oh, thank you. I've just got to see Mom. I dream about her every night. I want to see her because I miss her so much. I love her so much." Leaping out of his master's arms, Anakin hopped and jigged about, chanting over and over again, "I'm going to see Mom! I'm going to see Mom! Yippee! Yippee!"


"Highly irregular it is. This you know, Obi-Wan." Yoda flexed his ears. The hoary hairs within them stood as though at attention. He sat on the edge of his Council chair with his aged eyes measuring the young Jedi Knight garbed in his stately robe.

"Yes, Master, I know. But there is good reason for the visit to his mother."

Mace Windu, poised by the huge observatory window closest to Ki-Adi-Mundi's vacant chair, looked out over the hustle and bustle of Coruscant at dusk. Fully attentive to the continuing conversation, he pondered the deeper meanings of Jedi life. When he faced around to Obi-Wan, his look was impassive. "His request is more than meets the eye, Obi-Wan. The boy is unnaturally attached to the woman."

Obi-Wan's heart skipped a beat, and waited. "With all due respect, Master Windu...the woman is his mother. I have the pronounced feeling that if he sees her, she will encourage him to buckle down with his studies and training; make true progress. I do not feel the timely visit will be his undoing."

"Feel this strongly you do, Obi-Wan?"

"Yes, Master Yoda, I sincerely do."

Yoda beckoned to his worthy compatriot with the mere shadow of a look. It was a look that spoke volumes of Jedi sagacity and yes, a trace of 'just this once...'

Mace nodded, leaving it at that. Yoda, by means of the Force, acknowledged with deference, the great concession Windu had made.

"Very well, Obi-Wan. You and young Skywalker to Tatooine must go."

"Thank you, Masters." Obi-Wan wrapped his robe securely about him, then bowed deeply. "Thank you. We shall leave tonight." He straightened up. The smile that he had tried his best to suppress hit the solemn-faced Jedi Masters full force. Pursing his lips, Obi-Wan bowed again, turned on his booted heel and departed from the Council chambers with Jedi speed before his peers had a change of heart.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Mace said.

"Feel it too, I do," Yoda corroborated.

"Then why permit it?" Windu came to stand at the side of Yoda's chair.

"The Force it was that did."


"Mom, Mom! I'm home--Mom! I'm home," Anakin brayed, sprinting away from Obi-Wan as the targeted sand-dusted grouping of homes came into view. The street was beginning to darken, as late afternoon melded with nightfall. The excited boy ran up to the old familiar door and pounded his fist into it, sounding off again.

"I'm sure she's near, Anakin," Obi-Wan tempered.

"But where is she *now*?" Anakin demanded. "We've traveled all this way. For her not to be here when I need to see her now isn't fair." He was about to drive his fist into the door again, when it opened. "Mom--huh?"

"Oh, my circuitry, it's the Maker!"

"Threepio?" Anakin said, amazed, squinting up at his glinting creation. He hardly recognized the 'droid with its golden metal plating. He wondered if Watto was responsible for the fitting.

"Yes, Master Anni. It is I," the 'droid confessed, thrusting out his chest.

"Where's Mom?" Anakin pushed past the protocol 'droid about the house.

"She went to market, Master," C-3P0 was helpful to inform. To Obi-Wan the machine bade, "Do come in, sir, if you please. I don't think I've had the pleasure."

The Jedi stuck out his hand to shake the 'droid's. "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi. I'm very happy to meet you...Threepio." Obi-Wan stood admiring his learner's dazzling handiwork, wishing to know, "Anakin, am I to understand that you built this marvel? His apprentice nodded and Obi-Wan whistled. "Very impressive. Tell me, Threepio..."

"Yes, sir?"

"Anakin built you?"

"Oh, yes, sir."

"From scratch?" The Knight pulled on his chin.

"Scratch, sir?"

"Not from any previous design."

"I believe so. Master Anni is quite gifted."

Obi-Wan watched Anakin help himself to some beverage that was a beautiful powdery blue. The blue reminded him of the downy fields of Zenyatar where Qui-Gon had taught him how to speak the language like a native. Kenobi seated himself at the dining table with its burnished surface. A sand-less puff of air wafted through the small home.

"Want some?" Anakin offered, sounding as though it were an afterthought.

Obi-Wan rose, coming to inspect. "What is it?"

"Blue Milk," Anakin told him, sounding as if the drink were universally known. It was widely known, but not universally.

"Ah, yes. But of course." He had heard of the nutrient-rich drink typical of worlds where natural resources were scarse. As a precaution, inhabitants of Tatooine would drink it in order to supplement their water-poor diets. "How's it taste?" Anakin poured his master some. Obi-Wan sniffed at it, sticking his nose into the opaque receptacle. The aroma of the pungent liquid was sweet and flowery.

"You drink it, Master," Anakin said. "You don't inhale it." He sat at the table and took a big gulp of his own.

"Yes, well...quite." After tasting the beverage, he took another swig. Despite his devotion to decorum, he smacked his lips. The stuff wasn't bad. It could have been a spot colder, though. "A bit swee--"

The door of the humble abode opened suddenly. Shmi, humming a cheery tune, and laden with parcels that varied in size, bustled in. When her eyes fell upon Anakin, she stood speechless for several moments, not quite trusting her eyesight. In time, she whispered, "Anni?"

"Mom!" The smile on Anakin's face could have rivaled Tatooine's twin sons for brilliance. He bolted from the table. His receptacle a quarter-way full of Blue Milk went flying. Overjoyed, he filled his mother's arms as parcels spilled upon the floor. No power in the galaxy would ever be able to pry him loose, it seemed.

"Anni, my love, what are you doing here?" Shmi held him so hard, her hands, roughened by hard work, were turning blue.

"I've missed you so much, Mom!"

Nodding, she acknowledged, "I've missed you so very much too, Anni." Tears glistened in her eyes, and soon they streamed from them over her wind- and sunburned cheeks. Anakin's face was flushed. Shmi held him away from herself. "Let me have a look at you," she entreated, swabbing at her face with the back of her hand. Having him home felt unreal. "Oh, my...how you've grown, Anni." Beaming, with pride plumping up the words, she exclaimed, "You're my almost all grown up Jedi son." She basked in her son's smile that could have doubled for the one he'd worn that day a long while back when he'd saved the day by winning that 'all or nothing race.'

Shmi smashed Anakin to her body again as her tears threatend to renew. Even Obi-Wan felt his eyes misting. "I'm so glad you're here." Anakin nodded against her waist, as her eyes focused on her son's companion. "Please introduce me to your friend."

Easing away from Shmi, Anakin corrected, "He's not my friend, Mom. He's my master...Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Obi-Wan rose from his seat, thrusting out his hand to shake Shmi's. "I'm so pleased to meet you, Mrs. Skywalker."

"Shmi. Please, call me Shmi."

Obi-Wan nodded with a smile. "Anakin speaks of no one else. I feel as though I've known you for quite some time."

"The pleasure is mine." She extracted her hand from the Jedi's, looking bemused. Shmi cast her eyes about the room, her face a mask of speculation. "Anakin?"

"Yes, Mom?"

"Is Qui-Gon Jinn with you?"

Upon hearing his former master's name, Obi-Wan's face fell. Shmi looked crestfallen then, immediately sensing that something was wrong. "Oh, have I spoken out of turn, Master Kenobi?"

Obi-Wan refused to give in to any sad memories. "No, no. Not at all."

Speaking up impetuously, Anakin said, "Mom, Qui-Gon was killed by a Dark Lord of the Sith on Naboo." Anakin had gone to stand by his 'droid, having wanted to inspect something that had caught his eye more closely.

Shmi looked stunned, and commiserated, "Oh, how dreadful!" Her voice had cracked.

While looking C-3P0 over carefully, Anakin went on, "It happened during the battle there. I blew up the Trade Federation's command ship." Sheepishly, he admitted, "It was kind of an accident..."

Her eyes alighted upon the empty seat Qui-Gon had once occupied, a little over two standard years ago. She had never forgotten the courtly Jedi Knight who had taken a personal interest in her fatherless boy. There had been purpose and a wellspring of understanding in everything Jinn did, she felt. She would always be grateful to him for helping to gain her son's freedom. Glumly, she slumped into Jinn's old seat. "How did it happen, if the recounting isn't too painful..."

It was, but Obi-Wan briefly supplied the sad details which, to him, felt as if his master's demise had happened ages ago. "Qui-Gon wished for me to train Anakin. I pledged that I would."

"It must have given you great satisfaction, avenging his death," Shmi awarded, searching the handsome young Jedi's face with tender eyes.

There was no point in correcting her viewpoint. Jedi never retaliated out of a sense of vengeance. He sensed the sorrow in her, a sorrow that went deeper than the loss of Qui-Gon. "I hope we were not remiss, coming to you like this, unannounced. Anakin has wanted to be with you again for quite some time. His training regimen doesn't allow for much leeway. There never was a right time to come. Two prominent members of the Jedi Council deemed now as the appropriate time, agreeing with my sentiments that he should."

Shmi brushed the wisps of her hair back from her face. She watched her son fiddling with the machine she took solace in having with her to ward off abject lonliness. Arching her question a bit, along with her eyebrow, she asked of Obi-Wan, "Has Anakin been behaving?"

A mother knows her son, whether she be Force sensitive or not, he thought, admiring Shmi's perceptive aptitude. "Shall we say...for the most part. I'd be the first to attest though that he misses you day and night. Almost to the point of distraction."

The mother called to her son. Her winsome words of farewell she had uttered many suns and moons ago filled her mind. "Anakin..."

Anakin made a beeline for her. "Yes, Mom?"

He fitted himself into her tight embrace once more. She spoke cooing words that she hoped would leave a lasting impression. "Make me proud, Anni. That is all I ask."

"I will, Mom."

Gazing upon the pair, wishing to keep the image of them just that way, always, Obi-Wan said, "He shall. I believe in him."


"Yes, Anni?"

"I'm starving. Could you make some Telitar with Miasra sauce, please?" Anakin had the eyes of a beggar down pat.

His mother wore a mischievous look, and her pert eyes held secrets all their own. "Your favorite dish. As it so happens, I think I could." She tapped her left cheek. "For the right price." Promptly, Anakin kissed her. "Please pick those things up from the floor, dear. That would be a great help, and I'll get started."

Obi-Wan envied the command she had over his trainee. He reminded himself...'well, she is his mother, after all...'

"Sitro-ribee for dessert?"

"I think that could be arranged," his mother obliged.


"I hope you will find Anni's favorites to your liking, Master Kenobi."

Obi-Wan smiled warmly, unwittingly drawn into the homey atmosphere. There was next to nothing to draw upon in his own life. "Oh, I'm sure I shall. It's been literally ages since I've had a home-cooked meal."


"Mom--Mom--Mom! No--no!"

Obi-Wan rolled over onto his full stomach on the narrow sleep pallet, vaguely aware that his apprentice was crying out. The sumptuous feast that Shmi had prepared still had him groggy. What a fine cook his mother was! Anakin had never said so, but Obi-Wan guessed her culinary talents could be added to the list of the things he missed her for. With a sluggish bearing, he propped himself into a sitting position. His hand scrubbed his face. No move did he make to stand. Before he could, a figure decidedly womanish crowded the entrance of her son's former room.

"Anni--I'm here. Sweetheart, I'm here." She streamed to her son's bed, continuing to vocally fondle him. She forced herself not to think about all the times he may have cried for her and she wasn't there for him. She looked over to the Jedi's form that was muted by the softly-lit darkness. "He has them often, doesn't he?"

Obi-Wan, regretting, nodded. As he balled up his hands, he informed, "He goes through phases. He'll go without them for long stretches." Anakin twisted fitfully while locked within his mother's strong embrace. He was suspended between slumber and wakefulness. "But then, that cycle is broken by these episodes." Obi-Wan thought to himself how Jedi weren't given to nightmares, as a rule. Sadly, his Padawan had them quite often. Obi-Wan wrestled with the paradox.

Anakin shook violently, startling himself awake. He blinked several times at the adults as though having difficulty remembering where he was.

"Anni," his mother whispered into his perspired scalp, "it's all right. You're safe, here at home."

His breath came in puffs. "I-it was awful, M-Mom. Th-they had you. They did te-terrible things to you." Anakin's gaze was tempestuous as he held his mother's eyes. "You can't stay here, Mom--you've got to come with us! You'll be safe on Coruscant." He untangled himself from her arms. He pushed to his feet and tugged on his mother's hand. "C'mon--let's go now!"

Gently, she resisted, reining him in. She welded her hand to the side of his jaw. "Who, Anakin? Who had me?"

Trembling, he shook his head, at a loss for any proper identification of his mother's faceless captors and tormentors who had perpetrated such villainy in his subconscious. "I...I" He flung Obi-Wan a desperate look. "I..." Biting his lower lip, he admitted with a shrug, "I can't...it's like I know, but I can't tell for sure. They're shadows...like Sand People..."

Shmi and Obi-Wan exchanged a clement look between them while she maneuvered Anakin back into bed. "Anni, you've had a very long trip today. You're over tired. The best thing right now is for you to go back to sleep. Tomorrow, once you're better rested, we may talk about this dream some more, if you like."

Obi-Wan made mental notes, sensing his apprentice's keen agitation. He could no more sanction Shmi's leaving to come be with her son on Coruscant than the Council would sanction Jedi marrying. He couldn't help but perceive a ripple in the Force, and shutting his eyes, he took a deep breath.

When he re-opened his eyes, Shmi watched him with Anakin clinging to her. He was nearly asleep once more.

"I'm sure you're aware that he has an imagination that hates letting up," Shmi spoke softly. "Even when asleep, it's hard at work concocting all manner of fanciful things demanding to be tackled."

"It is hoped through training that Anakin will become more adept at focusing...learn better patience..." Obi-Wan trailed off purposely. He didn't wish to appear as though he were criticizing. "He is making excellent progress," he conceded, putting a generous spin on it.

"Qui-Gon Jinn said he showed great promise." Shmi relived bits and snatches of the discussion about her son's destiny she had had with the powerful Jedi on her parapet.

"He most certainly does," Obi-Wan agreed. Promise that demanded the highest degree of perseverance that would have tried even Jinn's strenght of character, Kenobi thought with an inward sigh. Yielding though, he said, "If he keeps progressing the way he is, he will be a great Jedi, one day."

Shmi smiled a smile borne of hope and a mother's abiding love. Thinking her son had fallen asleep, she gently moved off his bed. Anakin whimpered, not as deeply asleep as his mother imagined. "Mom--don't go! Stay with me--don't go! Mom!"

This was attachment that knew no bounds, Obi-Wan considered. "I think it would make him happy if you stayed." Continuing to whisper, Kenobi, rising from the pallet, offered, "Take it. I'll lend you your privacy. The lounger in the other room will suffice."

"No, please. There's no need for you to inconvenience yourself, Master Kenobi." Her plea urged, "Remain here. I'll take Anakin to my bed. Finish out the night in his." She bundled Anakin up into her arms and stood.

Looking hesitant, Obi-Wan considered. The look in Shmi's eyes made it difficult for him to turn the offer down. It was simple to see where Anakin got his spirit of determination from. "Very well, dear lady. I shall."

When Shmi stood in the doorway, she spoke in earnest, "Good night, Master Kenobi. My son is indeed fortunate to have you as his mentor. Continue to rest well."

Obi-Wan watched after her retreating figure. He wondered what sort of childhood she had had. A prickly feeling of impending loss seeped into him, which he couldn't seem to shake. Even after he had settled himself into Anakin's compact bed, throwing the linty covers over his head, he couldn't chase the remnants of forboding out of his mind.

It was also difficult to dismiss his wanting to make all things right for this woman here in this tiny sector of the galaxy.

Soft-spoken, yet resilient as she was, she deserved that, at least...and more.


Obi-Wan opened his eyes a crack. The sound of Anakin's voice bouncing off the walls of the bedroom blared in his ears. Shmi's meek-sounding voice was having a hard time getting a word in. The Jedi felt sluggish, as though his reflexes were several beats behind his impulses. He didn't sleep like a stone often, and thought, 'must be a reaction to so much foreign food.' His throbbing head made him grimace.

'What time was it,' he thought.

Hefting his legs to the floor, he heard Anakin object, "But, Mom, mine was removed from here. If yours isn't in the same place, I'll ask the master to detect it, wherever it is."

Obi-Wan took to his feet slowly. He went over to his overgarments, lying over a workbench, and began putting them on. As he fitted his belt around himself, and double checking the security of his lightsaber, he strained to hear Shmi's response.

"*No*, Anakin. Trying to escape isn't right, with or without the possibility of being blown up. Watto has been good to me."

"But, Mom, you--"

"Anakin." Her voice sounded even. "I'll have no more talk about running away. We are Skywalkers. We do not dishonor ourselves by imitating criminals. Remember what I told you before you left? My place is here. My future is here, Anni."

Obi-Wan heard what sounded like the stamping of a foot. He edged away from the bedroom doorway. "No it's not," Anakin said vehemently. "Your place is with me! Your future's with me, Mom! I don't want you living here all by yourself any more!"

Obi-Wan crept his way to the food prep area.

"I've been all right. I'll keep on just that way. Watto treats me better than most. I work in his shop now." The Toydarian practically had her running his place ever since his family had begun making greater demands of him.

"Doing what?" the boy asked, sounding derisive, as though he expected his mother to say that she would be competing in an upcoming podrace. "Fixing things?"

"No...I run inventories. Straightened out his jumbled accounts payable, my that was quite a task. Instituted a new filing system. He calls me his clerical wiz."

"Aw, Mom, Watto's just using you the way he used to use me. He's a greedy old slave driver."

Obi-Wan chose to show himself. "Good morning."

"Oh..." Shmi looked a little taken aback, as though she had forgotten all about the mannerly house guest. She recovered nicely. "Good morning, Master Kenobi. Did you sleep well?"

Quickly covering his yawn, he replied, "Forgive me." A look of circumspection rimmed his eyes. "A mite too well. I believe it's the warm hospitality and charming atmosphere that's responsible." Refinement and gentility oozed from him.

A blush spread like a stain over his mother's face, Anakin was quick to notice. He could use his master's wanting to score points with his mother to his advantage. "Master..."

Obi-Wan's pleasant gaze settled upon his Padawan. "Yes, Anakin?"

"Tell Mom she'd be better off living on Coruscant than on this sandy ol' dust bowl. Tell her she has to come back with us!"

Shmi stared at Anakin, appalled. "Anakin, stop it." Her sharp look was honed. "We will not discuss this any further. Is that clear?"

"But Mo--"

"Is that *clear*?" she averred. Getting up from the table, she donned her spillage-flap and tied it around her waist. She leveled an apologetic look at Obi-Wan and a sterner one at Anakin. "Tatooine may not be as grand as Coruscant, Anni, but it is home. And, although you want me to run away, I can't do it, sweetheart. Running away is wrong. I will remain here. You will return there so your dreams will come true."

Anakin pretended the subject was dropped for the time being. He decided that he would go about getting her away from here some other way. He swigged down the rest of his Blue Milk and sprang up from his chair. "I'm going to Wald's house."

Shmi shut off the running water she was rinsing with. "You can't, Anakin. His family moved to Mos Eisley a little over a twin lunar month ago. Jira went along with them. She has a sister there who needed her because her health is failing."

"Then I'll go see Kitster." Shmi smiled over Anakin's determination. To C-3P0, who was doing some light dusting in the room visibly adjacent, Anakin demanded, "Come on, Threepio. You're coming with me."

"Oh, very good, Sir...I would love to accompany you." The meticulous 'dorid set his duster aside.

"But you haven't eaten a thing, Anni." Shmi stood away from her fixings.

"I'll eat at Kitster's," Anakin fired at her.

"What makes you think Tapulle will want to fed you?" A knowing look claimed her face. "She already has enough mouths to feed. Times are hard."

"I won't eat much," Anakin staked, and looked at her. "It's not like I'm at his home every day. I bet they'll be so happy to see me, they'll insist that I eat all I want."

"Mind your manners, Anni," she told him with an indulgent lilt.

Obi-Wan just listened, Anakin's wheeler-dealer parlance giving him pause. He knew his apprentice was a fast talker, but his true finesse was in stark evidence, and his mother wasn't a pushover by any means.

"If you aren't offered anything, don't ask for anything to eat. Tapulle had a new baby not long ago...a girl. Her name is Bei. Such a beauty, like her mother. Kitster adores his new baby sister." That made his friend's second female sibling. Anakin tried not making a face. "Their edible provisions are meager." In a subdued tone she said to Obi-Wan, "I help in small ways whenever I'm able."

Kenobi knew as much without her verbal tip-off, the Force having revealed the goodness of Shmi's heart a while before this.

Anakin breezed past C-3P0 as though the machine weren't in the room. When the 'droid reminded him that he was to accompany, Anakin crisply stated, "Oh, I didn't forget. Not for a minute. We have important things to do. Let's go."

"Yes, Master..."

"Anakin," Obi-Wan interrupted, "do hurry back. We may be able to get a brief training session in before the day is through."

"Yes, Master," he acknowledged, but his heart didn't sound as though it were in it.

"Might I come along?" Kenobi inquired, already anticipating his Padawan's answer.

"If it's all right with you, Master, I'd rather visit my old pal alone."

"Quite all right," Obi-Wan acceded. "I understand. Do try to hurry back."

Shmi's eyes followed her son to the door, and watched C-3P0 shut it behind them. She turned to Obi-Wan and said, "I miss him very much, but I know he is destined for great things."

Kenobi paid homage to her feeling by bowing slightly from the waist. Bringing himself to his full stature, he caught Shmi beaming at him. "I'm trying to train him the very best I can."

Shmi nodded, and her eyes told him that she already knew that. "Well, Master Obi-Wan, I hope you're hungry."

"Oh, yes," the Jedi said politely, wondering how much more of the unusual-tasting food he would have to endure.

"Good. It won't take long."

Looking susceptible, he nodded with his pellucid eyes of blue sparkling. "I'm in no rush...as it seems."


"Watto--hey, Watto! Are you here?"

Not much about the dirty junked parts shop had changed. The clutter of his former place of servitude was like seeing an old friend again. Curious how a lot of the metallic cast-offs as well as the odds and ends were the same things that had been there when he'd been. Watto, though, was missing in action.

The former slave kept calling, but nobody came. Finally, Anakin told C-3P0 to wait within the shop. He went out back to the junkyard. As he stood in the burning light of the twin suns, he thought about how great it had been seeing Kitster again. His mother was right about the new baby sister; she was quite pretty for a baby. He hadn't been able to stay as long as his friend had wanted him to.

He had something of the utmost importance to handle.


The proprietor was still nowhere on hand, so Anakin went back inside the oil-scented shop.

"Master, might we have come at a wrong time?" Threepio asked, trying to recall if he had ever been here before.

"It isn't like him to go away leaving the place so wide open like this." Shrugging, Anakin decided they'd come back later. He'd pay a visit to Jira's stalls. "Oh..." He forced his lower lip over to one side, remembering that the pleasant old woman, whom he had always viewed as somewhat of a grandmother, didn't live here anymore. His mother's voice echoed within his mind. When she'd told him this earlier, he had been so preoccupied with her coming back to Coruscant with him, that the news about Jira hadn't registered. He nipped his looking forward to some free pallies in the bud.

"C'mon, Threepio, let's go see what Bactma's got in." The Hutt ran a hologames concession. The business wasn't gambling-connected, and it had the best gaming in town.

"Very good, sir..."

Anakin, with head down, set off for the doorway. Before he realized, he nearly smacked full on into Watto who had come flapping in at precisely that moment. The little pouch hooked through the Toydarian's belt on his right side was bulging with freshly-won gambling winnings. Said winnings were what one of the less fortunate Hutts had lost.

Former master and slave gawked at each other until Watto broke the silence. "Well, well, what do you know? Look who's come back." He flapped nearer to Anakin. "Pining for your old repairing grounds, eh? Life off-world not to your liking, Anni?"

"Life off this world suits me just fine, Watto," Anakin told him with scornful eyes. "I'm here to do some business. I've got a proposition for you."

"A proposition?" Watto pulled on his chin while the boy hopped up the counter the way he used to. The last time he'd done so was when he'd met the erstwhile Queen of Naboo for the first time.

Anakin trained his eyes upon C-3P0. "Yeah. A fair trade."

"I'll be the judge of what's fair, my boy."

Anakin scuffed his left heel against the dusty base of the counter. "Okay," he said, sounding cooperative. With his arms behind his back, one wrist over the other, he crossed his fingers. "I trade my 'droid for Mom's freedom."

"What?" C-3P0 exclaimed, coming to stand alongside his creator. His audioreceptors must have glitched.

Watto hovered near Anakin's shoulder, the subtle flapping of his wings feathered across the hopeful lad's face. "You call that fair?" he humored. "Fair, when I already own him?"

Anakin looked devastated. "You?" He spun towards the 'droid, denial embedded in his face. "What makes you think you--"

The Toydarian waved off the incompleted protest. "I owned him from the moment you created him."

"That's not *true*!" Anakin railed, scorching Watto with a blistering glare.

"Master Anni, I had no idea..."

Watto's watchful eyes fell upon C-3P0 "I let you keep him because of your talent. You had worked so hard making him the wonder he is."

C-3P0 stood more erect, the commendation having gone straight to his CPU.

"But--but I'm not your slave anymore!" Anakin knew when he was being swindled. "Threepio's mine!"

Watto didn't agree. "Only *your* freedom was won that fateful day. Not your mother's, and not the 'droid's."

Demoralized, the young apprentice leaned in towards his creation, who kept silent. "But if he's yours, why is he with Mom?" Anakin's stubborn streak was still in full bloom.

Watto alighted upon the counter. For some reason, he seemed bluer today. His flapping all but ceased. "I like Shmi, Anni. You know that. She's a wonderful woman. I let the 'droid stay with her as a reward for all her hard work. She misses you a lot. Having him with her reminds her of you. I did it to make her happy. A small price to pay to keep her profitable, eh?"

Anakin felt like punching Watto in his greedy-looking face. "It's not fair," he puled.

Looking at his former slave with detachment, Watto said, "In what ledger is it written that anything has to be?"

Unable to find his voice, Anakin remained silent. There went his plan for his mother's liberation. He looked away from Watto, wishing to throw something heavy that would make a big racket as it broke on impact.

"Anni..." Watto said, but Anakin, wallowing in his dour thoughts, persisted in targetting the far wall with his scowl. "There is a way to gain Shmi's freedom..." The persuasive lilt of the deal broker had crept into his voice. "It's what you want, isn't it?"

"How?" Anakin swung his face back around to Watto's.

"You take her place. She goes free." He rubbed his little claw-like hands together. "You become my slave again. The way you should have continued without that interfering Jedi Jinn swindling me!"

Indignant, Anakin defended, "He didn't swindle you!" Jumping off the counter, he looked all set to clip Watto's jaw. "He won fair and square! I won the race and you lost because you--you." In desperation, he flung his hands up at the ceiling. "'Cause you just did, that's all."

Watto rode out Anakin's tirade patiently. Then, as though the returnee hadn't lost his temper, he said, "So? What do you say? Shmi's freedom for yours? Now *that's* fair."

Fair? The old conniver had some nerve using that word, Anakin groused, thinking the sacrificial offer over. He loved his freedom, but he loved his mother having hers more. He'd gone off, leaving her all alone here, only thinking of himself. Here was his chance to right that. If her freedom was going to cost him his, then so be it. Her freedom was more important. She'd be free at last!

"Okay, Watto." The dealer was moving off of the counter. Anakin thrust out his hand towards one of the trader's grappling hands. "You've got yourself a deal."

"We shake on it, it's done," Watto merrily stipulated, meeting Anakin's hand halfway.

"Uh...Master Anni, might I--"

"Not now, Threepio," Anakin overrode, preparing to place his hand in Watto's.

"Bu-but, Master," the meddlesome 'droid persisted, "what would your mother say to your--"

"Come on, Anni, let's shake."

Anakin restrained his hand from taking Watto's, which was poised to cement the agreement.

The 'droid sensed that he had his creator's ear. "I think it would be wiser for you to consul--"

"There is nothing to discuss," Watto interposed, aiming for Anakin's hand. "My terms are my terms."

Over his 'droid's incessant chatter, Anakin rammed his hand into Watto's and began pumping it vigorously.

"You won't be sorry, Anni," the Toydarian congratulated, summarily pleased. "Trust me. This is the smartest decision you've ever made!"

The aspiring Jedi cast stormy eyes at his gawking handiwork. It wasn't hard to see how much Anakin doubted his reinstated owner's grandiose statement.


It was getting quite late, and Anakin had not returned. Seeing old friends was one thing, but this was ridiculous. Shmi stood in her humble abode's doorway with arms akimbo. She cast anxious eyes up and down the well-traveled pathways leading to her home. Muttering in halftones, she said, "Where can he be?"

Obi-Wan, still poring over some star charts relative to a very remote system he and Qui-Gon had once traveled to together, glanced up. "I'll look for him if you like." He began thinking that he should have followed his tardy apprentice.

Shmi shook her head, although wanting to take him up on his suggestion. "No, Master Kenobi, it's all right. I'm sure he'll be along any moment now. He hasn't seen his old friends for such a long time." Sighing, she upheld, "When he's with them, he knows neither the day nor the hour."

Outside, the breeze was turning stiff. "Sounds as though a storm's brewing," Kenobi observed. "Really, I don't mind hunting him up. In fact, I'd better. There's something in these holocharts I'd like him to see." He switched off the flickering projection. There was a pronounced tremor in the Force. His apprentice may have been born here, but his true origins, Obi-Wan felt, lay elsewhere. "I'm off then," the Jedi told her definitively.

Shmi's entire demeanor changed. Gratefully, she replied, "Well, if you wouldn't mind, I would appreciate it. I am beginning to worry."

Grinning at her by the door, he said, "You're not to. I'll track him down," and he left.


Anakin stumbled upon his master little more than four footpaths from his mother's. He paused in a busy intersection where getting lost in the crowd was child's play. Kenobi was on the hunt, Anakin surmised, judging from the intent look on his master's face. Not wanting to be found just yet, Anakin ducked around another corner. Taking it at a run, he slipped down an old shortcut; a by-pass less traveled.

He wished to speak to his mother without Obi-Wan being present. His reason was obvious. He'd sold himself into slavery. He'd thrown his future away. He didn't need his master glaring him in the face, telling him what an incredibly stupid thing he'd done.

He skidded to a loping walk as he neared home. He spied Shmi framing the doorway. The look in her eyes snatched his breath away. He'd had bad feelings before whenever his mother's bearing could stop a charging Bantha in its tracks.

"WHERE have you been?" In the same breath, she grilled, "Where is Threepio?"

Despite his strong resolve, he couldn't meet her eyes, starting off. "V-visiting, Mom." Trying to sound glib, he continued, "Threepio stayed behind at uh...Watto's." He heard his voice trail.

"At Watto's? Why?"

Sighing, Anakin shrugged, hoping his mother would let the subject of the 'droid drop. He saw her visually dismiss C-3Po's absence; at least for the moment. "Can I tell you later?" he prompted, his voice drawn.

"Do you realize how late it is?" Shmi harped.

"I'm sorry..." That sounded sincere.

"Where is your kindly instructor?"

"Master Obi-Wan?" Round-eyed, Anakin thought his mentor certainly had his mother fooled.

"No. Jabba the Hutt's obnoxious uncle...Lyyloxi." Shmi stood aside to let Anakin pass into the house. She swept the darkening surroundings visually before closing the door. "Such a mannered young man. If you are giving him a hard time, Anakin..."

"I'm not, Mom, I promise."

Not altogether convinced, Shmi went on, "He set out to look for you. You didn't see him?"

Anakin had never lied to his mother a day in his life. He didn't intend starting now. Omission was an entirely different thing. "I saw him, but he didn't see me."

"Anni, how--"

"Honest. He didn't look as if he needed me," Anakin glossed, his round eyes rounding even more. "He looked very busy examining some novelty goods on one of the stalls."

"He was looking for *you*." Shmi's sigh filtered through the air. Neither of them spoke for several moments, wondering what was going through the other's mind.

"Want me to get him?" he helpfully offered, hoping his mother would tell him 'no.'

Sitting down at the table, giving Kenobi's holocubes more than a passing glance, Shmi said, "Now that you're here, I want you to stay put. You can begin helping me with dinner." She got up from the table, glad to be fixing another of her son's favorite meals.

Anakin nodded as he began removing his dusty outer robe. Tatooine had to be one of the grittiest planets in the galaxy. While laying his outer garment over a pile of bound parchments, he said, "Mom...there's something I have to tell you." Now was the time. After dinner, with his master ready to pounce on his every word, would work against his purpose. At long last, the person he loved most in the galaxy was free--finally free--at long last.

Shmi stopped rinsing the fresh greens strewn over the grooved prep board. Fully attentive, she asked, "Yes, Anni?"

He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and began, "I made an important decision today." He caught the look of inquiry lodged in his mother's eyes, and jutted out his chin. "It had to be made, Mom." A hardness couched itself in his voice. "Had to be...because I..." Swallowing was difficult but he managed to swallow down what felt to be a huge lump. "I..."

Shmi came away from her preparations, sensing her son's sudden fixation. She hugged him, and when she sat down at the table again, she encouraged him to sit in her lap the way he used to, before he'd begun to feel that he was too old for that sort of babyish thing. "What decision did you make?" she feathered over his soft hair. "Was it hard to make?"

"No, it wasn't!" Anakin wrapped his mother's hand up with both of his. Her hand trembled witin his grasp. "Not by a long shot!"

"What did you decide?" With a gentle smile, Shmi squeezed his hands.

"I decided that I don't want to be free, and you're not. I made a deal with Watto, Mom. I traded my freedom for yours. I'm his slave again. You're free, Mom--you're free! You don't have to do what he or anybody else says for as long as you live!"

Stunned, Shmi sat speechless, and several moments of deafening silence ensued. Words tangled in her mind. Her son had gone mad.

"Mom, say something," Anakin begged, his eyes sparking a brighter blue. Sensing her displeasure, he defended, "I did it for you! I can't stand your being a slave anymore. That's why I came back. If we both can't be free, I'd rather be one instead of you!"

"Oh, Anakin," Shmi wheezed.

"I mean it, Mom--I'll be a slave again so you can be free. It's what I want!"

Heaving another sigh, the touched woman said, "But, it's not what *I* want for you, my dear." She kissed the crown of his perspired head. "I want so much more for you. You, here, being a slave is far from what I want for my gifted son." She burrowed her eyes into Anakin's intense gaze. This time, she kissed the tip of his nose. "Your freedom meant mine. Freedom from the pain of knowing that you could never have a future as long as you remained here." She held him away. "Forgive me, precious son, but I don't accept your sacrifice." She searched his perplexed-looking face. "Did he refit you?"

Anakin shook his head. Watto had gotten sidetracked, having grumbled about some familial concern. Anakin had finished up repairing a hydrogenerator that had been barely salvageable. Before Anakin left the shop, Watto had told him he'd see about fitting him with another restrainer tomorrow. He was holding the boy to his promise about not sneaking away.

"Good." Shmi seized the sides of his arms. "Listen to me, Anakin. When your Jedi master returns, you must return to Coruscant immediately."

"But Mom--"

"No, Anakin. I won't have you being a slave again, never again!" Shmi rarely raised her voice, and when she did, she meant all that she spoke. "Watto had no right making you that offer!" His eyes fell away from her face. Jiggling him gently, she implored, "*Promise me*, Anakin. If my happiness means anything at all to you...promise you'll leave tonight!"

Overcome by the intensity of his mother's emotion, Anakin wreathed his arms about her neck and squeezed with all his might. He nodded, and began sobbing as he vowed, "I promise, Mom. I promise." Then, sounding quelled, he said, "I'll do what you want, Mom. I'll do whatever you want me to." Shuddering against her, he expelled, "I wish we could both be free..."

Through unshed tears, Shmi replied scarsely above a whisper, "One day...dearest. Perhaps we will...both of us. One day..."

"When I'm a real Jedi, I'm coming back to free you, Mom--promise! I'll end slavery forever here!"

Kissing his furrowed brow, she acknowledged, "I know you will, Anni. The greatness of your future is my happiness." Before Anakin had the chance to say anything more, they heard a light rapping upon the front door. "That sounds like your teacher." Anakin nodded and hugged her again. He obeyed when she told him to go let him in. Just before he unlatched it, she uttered one simple word. "Tonight."

The handsome Jedi ferreter entered, not at all surprised to see his initiate letting him in. Following a wry twist of his lips, Obi-Wan offered, "I had a positive feeling you were here ahead of me, my young apprentice." Anakin noted the twinkling of his master's eyes. "Tell me, what have you been up to since last I saw you?"

Mother's and son's eyes flitted to the other's face. Silently, she conveyed to her child that she would speak for him. "Master Kenobi, I'd like to discuss a delicate matter with you while Anakin bathes before dinner. Could we?"

"Why of course." He watched his apprentice leave the room, then focused his attention once again on her. "Now, what's on your mind?"

"May we sit?" Kenobi waited for her to seat herself. Shmi folded her hands and stared at them.

"I sense you have a great deal on your mind, dear lady," Obi-Wan advanced, patiently entertaining her sudden reticence, knowing she'd speak when she was truly ready.

"Master Kenobi..."

"Obi-Wan," the Jedi seamlessly insisted.

Fidgety then, Shmi caught her lower lip, which was quivering, between her teeth.

"What is it?" It was as though the moment was suspended.

Shmi's eyes filled with tears that stung. Covering her face with her hands, she began sobbing. Intuitively, Obi-Wan settled a hand upon her shoulder and waited for her glut of tears to exhaust themselves. "I-it's...it's Anakin." Her voice sounded tiny. "He...he is Watto's slave again. He traded his freedom to gain mine."

The weight of his hand upon her shoulder increased as he hoped to lessen her trembling. "There, there now. Take a deep breath." Soothingly, he advised, "Ah, much better." Through the Force, he tried to allay the brunt of her pain.

"Please, please, Master Obi-Wan you must take him from here this very night. I won't have him being a slave ever again." Wistfully, she implored, "You must take him back to Coruscant where his true future is; my dreams of him becoming someone great will be realized."

Obi-Wan absorbed all of what he'd been told. This was a surprise. Interesting how he had had no inkling of Anakin's furtive intentions way before this. The boy's shields were improving to an impressive degree.

"I know that it is wrong for him to run away, after giving his word, and after my telling him that Skywalkers don't behave like worthless criminals doing just that." She targeted Obi-Wan's eyes with her riveting ones. "It was scathing of Watto to barter with Anni like that in the first place." She had talked herself raw. "He is still so young. He was only thinking of me."

Nodding, Obi-Wan tempered, "Yes, always."

"He must be free, free to have the life I never had. He deserves so much more than slavery."

Adopting her forthright tone, he said, "Without question, and he shall have it." He stood, bringing her up with him. "I give you my word." As Shmi exhaled, its issuance sounding of relief, Kenobi promised, "We'll leave tonight, as you wish."

"Thank you, Master Obi-Wan. I am forever in your debt." Looking at him shyly then, she said, "Anakin is indeed fortunate to have you for his mentor."

Obi-Wan felt a warmth bathe his face as he blushed in the ardor of her admiration. Submissively, he lifted her hand to his lips and placed a kiss upon her gnarled knuckles. It was she who blushed then. Stuttering a little, Shmi informed, "I'll fix him his second favorite meal, and you'll leave."

Thoughtfully, Obi-Wan offered, "Technically, you're free, dear lady. If I can somehow locate the device that threatens your existence, might you consider leaving with us?" He blinked, chastising himself for voicing such a critical error in judgment. He could hear the Jedi Council members demanding to know the meaning of his bringing along the chosen one's mother to nuture their bond instead of neutralizing it.

Shmi shook her head, leaving no room for doubt. "I will remain here. I refuse to sink to the seedy chisler's level. That's just something I won't do. I'll tell him that Anakin changed his mind about being a slave again after *I* convinced him that he should."

"I am assuming that they shook on the deal." No matter where one hailed from in the galaxy, a gentlemen's agreement was universal.

Standing away from the table, she went to attend to her preparations. "Once Anakin is gone, there is nothing he can do about it," Shmi said, her tone flat. She began humming a tune that sounded vaguely familiar to Kenobi.

Obi-Wan regarded her with expediency. He was glad he had had the chance to meet such a substantial woman. It was lamentable indeed that such a great lady was forced to live her life enslaved. If only she...

The Force pervaded his thoughts, and it occurred to him then that one day she would be free, forever. When he opened his eyes, he saw Anakin and Shmi embracing. The boy's skin glistened, looking well- scrubbed. His hair was damp, and Shmi kissed his sweet-smelling crown. With a smile she murmured into his scalp, "Peel the 'tubisches' for me, Anni?"

Anakin nodded against her waist, with his eyes still tightly shut. "Sure thing, Mom."


The twin moons lounged at their zeniths in the obsidian sky whose stars seemed to glitter rhythmically. The storm that Obi-Wan had casually predicted had never materialized. The air was languid and balmy in its stillness. Few sounds carried this night.

The travel-worn streets, somber with deep shadows, were deserted at this sleepy hour. The three elusive figures moved swiftly. They too made no sounds, bound as they were for one of many nondescript bays where Obi-Wan had permitted Anakin to land the sleek Jedi vessel.

Before advancing closer to the ship, Anakin tugged on his mother's dress. "Mom...I don't like having you travel these dark streets alone once we're gone."

"I'll be fine, Anni." With a reassuring hand, she coaxed him onward. "Home's not far."

Unconvinced, Anakin, voiced his disapproval over her having to fend for herself. Obi-Wan anchored his hands on each of their shoulders, and assured Shmi, "You have my word, no harm shall come to you."

She smiled first at her son, then Obi-Wan. "I thank you, Master Obi-Wan." She jiggled her son's jutting chin. "You should trust your instructor more." Anakin thought that over before nodding; trust wasn't the issue. The issue was that of reasonability. "Now, no more dawdling," she persuaded. "The sooner you're aboard your ship, putting as much distance between yourselves and here, the better I'll feel."

The trio moved closer to the silhouetted Jedi spacecraft. Kenobi was glad they'd be heading back. Although he had enjoyed the brief stay, he was anxious to resume his Padawan's training in surroundings more suitable. He sensed Anakin's and his mother's strong overflow of emotions, and turned away from them. With his handheld controls, he activated the ramp, and the spheroid gangway settled down as it plumed out.

He turned back again to Shmi. He gripped both of her arms. "I won't fail your son, m'lady. You have my solemn pledge. He will complete his training, pass the Trials and become a Jedi Knight, or I'll die in the attempt."

The tears that swam in her eyes looked eager to fall. She nodded fiercely, and some fell despite her effort to contain them. She repeated over and over how grateful she was, which succeeded in turning Obi-Wan's face a bright crimson.

"I consider training him a priviledge." He released her and hurried off to the ship, feeling tears in his eyes collecting. He heard Anakin protest.

"I don't want to leave you, Mom! Can't you just come?" he urged, his whine plaintive. "*Please*?" As the moments passed, he gripped her waist tighter. "I can't leave without you!"

"I know that, Anni, but you must." Sighing, she squatted, leveling her beneficent gaze even with his eyes. "You're my hope for the future. Only by going away can you make that happen." Anakin sniffled against her. Softly, she broached, "Anni...dearest, you must promise me something."

"Anything, Mom. Anything at all," he promptly responded, sounding muffled.

Slowly, she said, "You must not return here until you are fully a Jedi." Her insistence was veiled by tender caresses and kisses to the sides of his head. "Promise me, Anakin."

Stubbornly, he vowed that he would return as one of the most powerful Jedi ever, to free her. The vehemence in his vow startled her. She hugged him as fiercely as he hugged her. "You'll never be a slave again, Mom, *never*! I swear it!"

The firing up of the ship's engines caught both of them off guard. A little harried, Shmi said, "Off with you then." She rose from her squat and took several steps back. She smiled though her heart was breaking.

Anakin literally felt his heart heave within his chest. This second time saying good-bye was even harder than when he'd said it that first time. He rushed into her arms one more time, and then sprinted to the pre-flight craft that was primed for immediate lift-off.

"'Bye, Mom--I love you!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, over the piercing pule of straining thrusters that champed for flight.

"I love you so much too, Anni." She cupped her hands around her mouth. "You mean everything to me!"

"I'm coming back as soon as I can! I won't fail you!" Waving frantically, he had one last look of her before racing up the ramp, erasing himself from view.

With a heavy heart, Shmi watched the ship lift to begin its sharp climb. Once it had gained escape altitude and velocity, it was gone faster than forked lightning. She felt sad, but Anakin's words comforted her. They would repeat within her, over and over, until her pride and joy made them reality...one day.

He would return. He would be powerful, noble, valiant and true. He was her son; her dawn of a better day. One day the pain of separation would be a forgotten thing of the past.

Sighing, she thought, some day...



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