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Chapter II: Racing Headlong Towards Freedom

As he entered the building that proclaimed itself to be 'Watto's Shop' Qui-Gon could feel the Force itself tugging at his perceptions, all but begging him to enter this junk shop over any others. Qui-Gon found the sensation curious. While he fully expected the Force to guide his steps to a shop that would serve to acquire the parts he needed, he had never felt such an insistent tug from it before. Something told him that the junk shop was far more important then being the way out of his current problems. There was more to it then that.

Watto was pretty much as the man expected, though the fact that he was unable to compel the being to simply accept the republic credits he had was rather irritating. He had never encountered the Toydarian race before, so he wasn't sure if this was a species-wide resistance, like the Hutts, or if Watto was simply that sharp an individual. Watto, based on his own comments, seemed to think it was a racial thing. Given that the being knew what a mind-trick was, and wasn't that an embarrassing revelation, he was likely correct.

Of even more interest then Watto and the hyperdrive he had available, was young Anakin Skywalker. The lad was obviously the source of the feeling he had been getting in the Force that had led him to Watto's shop in the first place. There was something about him. The lad wasn't merely Force-Sensitive. That would have simply compelled Qui-Gon to alert the Jedi Order so that they could be prepared in case young Anakin had Force-Sensitive children. Anakin himself was obviously too old. No, Anakin wasn't merely Force-Sensitive. The boy was a lighthouse beacon next to Qui-Gon's own lighted matchstick in the Force. The boy's potential was astronomical, far outstretching even Qui-Gon's own padawan, who was no slouch in the power stakes.

And then things had gotten even more interesting. After the eight-year-old powerhouse had tottered a tiny, four-year-old girl. Her presence in the Force was interesting too. She too held extraordinary power… and yet, she was not Force-Sensitive at all. The sensation of power was there and yet not. It was a mystery that taunted at Qui-Gon's senses, leaving him uncertain of what he should do about her.

The answer to Anakin was simple. Qui-Gon was clearly meant to free the lad. Qui-Gon could sense, deep down, that this was the Chosen One. He hadn't even so much as done a midichlorian count yet, but he knew that the boy was the Chosen One with a certainty that would have appalled Yoda for the sheer presumptuousness of it. Still, Qui-Gon was sure. He was so much less certain of the girl. She was not a Jedi, nor a Sith. Her power was not the Force… and yet there was still a power there. It was maddening. What to do with her… Did he free her too, or was she a distraction. Qui-Gon didn't really know.

Their later meeting with Shmi Skywalker simply added more certainty to Qui-Gon's assessment. Anakin had not had any father. Clearly he had been conceived by the midichlorians. Obi-Wan's analysis of the boy having a count over twenty thousand certainly bore that out. The girl child, Dawn Skywalker, continued to be a puzzle that he could not figure out. Shmi claimed that the girl too had no father, and yet based upon her midichlorian count, which was as close to zero as a lifeform could have and still be alive, she was clearly not conceived by the midichlorians as her elder brother was.

The whole thing was giving Qui-Gon a frightful headache. Anakin's suggestion of podracing to acquire funds for the group was a welcome one to Qui-Gon. It would acquire the funds needed for Qui-Gon's mission, provide him with more proof of Anakin's obvious status and it would offer chances to secure Anakin's, and possibly Dawn and Shmi's, freedom.

When Qui-Gon hit upon the idea of gambling Anakin's pod to gain freedom for the slaves, he didn't even offer up Shmi as a possibility. While his knowledge of the value of slaves was meagre, he was all but certain that a simple machine was not worth three of them. Shmi would forgive him, he presumed, since he would be securing the freedom of her children. Yeah… about that… Apparently a pod, no matter how awesome, was only worth one slave to Watto. So it seemed that Shmi would have to settle for only one of her children gaining their freedom. Qui-Gon felt horrible for condemning a four-year-old to continue in that life, but he remained ceratin that Anakin was too important to leave behind. He chose Anakin and, when Watto attempted to make him choose Dawn instead, used the Force to influence things the way he wanted with the chance cube.

The race was an uncomfortable one for Qui-Gon. Padmé was angry about him gambling the ship, Shmi was terrified for her baby boy and Qui-Gon was quietly stewing in the guilt of what he was doing to further what he saw as the good of the Jedi Order. He knew, deep down, that Dawn Skywalker had the potential to be just as important as her brother, in her own way. And yet, he could not think of any way to free her at this time, nor of what to do with her even if he could succeed. Perhaps, once thing settled down with the Naboo situation, he could return to Tatooine and secure the freedom of mother and daughter both. That would hopefully set Dawn on whatever her path was, while leaving her in the hands of someone capable of taking her in. Qui-Gon nodded to himself. It would just have to do.

The rest of Qui-Gon's stay on Tatooine was uncomfortable. He could clearly tell, once he had announced the news, that Shmi did not approve of him freeing one of her children and leaving the other a slave. Perhaps, had Anakin been an only child, Shmi might have been more accepting. Still, she put on a brave face for young Anakin. Dawn was too young to really understand what she was potentially being let in for and so was merely happy that her big brother was getting to live his dream, though she was disappointed when she was told that she couldn't go with him.

Qui-Gon once more consoled himself with the assurance that he would come back and make the situation right with Shmi and Dawn. The Battle of Naboo would make that promise impossible to keep. In the end, Shmi and Dawn would be saved from Watto by a moisture farmer, named Cliegg Lars, who had taken a shine to Shmi. He would rescue Dawn too, despite nearly bankrupting himself to do so, because she was a nice kid and because he truly loved Shmi. Anakin and Dawn, meanwhile, would not meet again for the next decade.

If Qui-Gon seems like a bit of a dick… well, I pretty much consider that canon. Qui-Gon's actions on Tatooine are questionable in the extreme. I did offer up the idea that Qui-Gon might have planned to free Shmi (and Dawn) later, but simply never had the chance. It's certainly possible.

I'm sorry if not much has happened yet. I decided to cruise through The Phantom Menace just so we can establish where Dawn was in that. Things will pick up for her in the next chapter when we reach Attack of the Clones. I hope you enjoy it.