Anakin walked behind Master Windu as they entered the Library. Apparently, to make a call such as this, they would need codes only a Council member would have. Well, he could understand that. He just wondered why it had to be Windu of all people. Windu who hadn't changed from what Anakin remembered: terse, stalwart, conservative, cold and distant. The perfect Jedi. Supposedly.
He realized what he was doing and mentally slapped himself. He had no reason to be nervous or defensive right now. He hadn't had a reason to feel like that since he'd been informed of this... event. That thought hadn't helped him sleep or eat. Part of him was so worried... and he couldn't figure out why. Even with Girth's help a couple of days ago he hadn't really gotten anywhere – which really surprised him. The mind-healer had insisted that they speak about it when he was ready to, though, and Anakin had to admit, he hadn't been ready.
Which was stupid. There was quite literally nothing to be worried about. He should be exhilarated. And he was, but...
His stomach clenched further with each step they took towards the booth. Part of it was excitement, he knew. He'd been looking forward to this for far too long. But that wasn't all of it either, and the fact that he couldn't figure it out was driving him crazy.
"I will be here the entire time," Mace said, stopping in front of one of the empty booths lining the hall. "We ask that you try to be... discreet."
Anakin raised an eyebrow. "Discreet isn't exactly my mode of operation."
One side of Windu's mouth rose into a wry expression. "Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. Please, just keep that in mind."
The former Sith nodded before going over and climbing into the booth. He mentally talked his stomach down as Mace entered everything necessary and the call was placed through.
And ra— Couldn't someone pick up the kriffing comm?
No, apparently not.
The suspense alone was going to do Palpatine's job and kill him long before –
Anakin's breath froze in his lungs as a bust of a woman came online.
She gasped. "Ani? My Ani?"
And with that, all of his anxiety melted away and he felt a warm smile come to his lips. "Hi, Mom," he whispered back.
Mace did not like that he'd been tasked to listen into the boy's conversation. It was personal and not something he really wanted to be a part of anyway, but the Council had been insistent (and so had he, before they'd asked him to be the one to listen in). Letting children have free access to universal comms had proven disastrous in the past. Temple layouts alone could give mercenaries the information they needed to attack or infiltrate the Temple. He knew it wouldn't be impossible to get those layouts and designs outside the Temple, but encouraging such a release of information did not sit well with the Council. Or Mace.
That didn't even say anything about their schedules or their daily life. Knowledge was power, and the Council had given up enough of both recently.
So he sat outside of the booth, usually used for on-planet calls made by Masters and Knights, as he waited for Anakin Skywalker to finish speaking with his mother.
His recently freed mother.
Who had wanted to stay on that desert planet Anakin had grown up on because she'd met someone. Apparently, he'd been scrimping to save up enough money to buy her. It would have taken years. When the Jedi who had been sent to free her learned of this, they'd simply handed the money over to the farmer who wanted to marry her (with strict observation, of course).
That had been about two weeks ago.
And so they'd arranged for Anakin to comm his mother. This would be the first time both of them would speak to each other as free beings.
Even to Mace, it felt a little monumental.
He heard them greet each other and brought up a chair to sit on while he waited, fully intending to finally get to some of the personal messages he'd been putting off reading due to a severe lack of time.
"Oh, you look so handsome! My little boy, a Jedi! I... I can't believe this! And I can talk to you... Are you eating enough, Anakin?" he heard the boy's mother – Shmi, if he recalled correctly – ask. "You look thinner."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Anakin shake his head. "I get three meals a day and snacks if I ask for them. Yes, Mom, I'm eating just fine. Didn't you just say I was handsome?"
"I'm your mother. You'll always be handsome to me."
"Thanks for the confidence boost, Mom."
A pause. "You didn't used to be so sassy, Anakin."
Anakin scoffed, although Mace could hear genuine amusement. "Not even around Watto?"
"Well," she conceded, "perhaps a little. But not this much." She sounded worried more than reproachful. The older Jedi frowned.
Another pause. "I... won't get beat for talking back here, Mom. That's not how the... Republic works."
Funny, he didn't sound like he believed that last part.
Apparently Shmi caught on too because she spoke a little sharply next. "That doesn't mean you can take advantage of that, young man. I still want you on your best behavior, do you understand."
"Yes, ma'am." Mace raised an eyebrow and smirked. He'd never heard Skywalker sound so... compliant.
"And be careful, Anakin," she practically whispered. Even from here he could sense the genuine fear in her voice.
"I will. I am, I promise." The Koran Master's breath hitched. He could hear fear in the boy's voice too. That wasn't exactly unexpected, but it was troubling. True, most people in the galaxy tended to be at least nervous around Jedi, but that didn't seem to be the case here.
Mace had been taught from a young age to master his fear, and to realize that most fears were unfounded. Not all, though. Some fears were very justifiable. It was true that no Jedi should give into fear because it led to the dark side , but he had the sneaking suspicion that fear kept the boy and his mother alive. Hmm, that may need to be addressed in his mind-healing sessions if it wasn't already.
"Oh," Shmi cut through his thoughts, joviality back in her voice, "enough of that. Tell me about your new life, Anakin."
Mace coughed. He saw Anakin glance over at him
"Um... I... can't tell you any details, Mom. Sorry."
"Oh," she sounded so disappointed. "Well, tell me of your trip there! What kind of people have you met? Will you be able to keep up in your studies? What of the differences between Tatooine and Coruscant!?"
Anakin chuckled, and in that moment, he didn't sound like a ten-year-old to Mace, but a much older man. "The differences between Tatooine and Coruscant," he repeated thoughtfully. "Where do I start? It might be easier – well faster – to list the similarities."
"All right, then what is the biggest difference?" she asked excitedly.
Mace figured he'd say something about all of the tech, or the tall buildings, or the sheer number of people, maybe even the sterile air because it had to be carefully controlled or pollution would run rampant. That was one reason why so many Jedi loved the room of a thousand fountains and the gardens. He doubted Anakin would be any different in that regard, at least.
Which was why the boy's answer surprised him.
"I'd have to say the mind-set."
The Council member glanced over his shoulder and saw Shmi's blue outline frown. "What do you mean, Anakin?"
Mace turned his gaze on the boy who looked to be thinking hard. "I'm... not sure how to put it into words, but... it's how people are expected to treat others here, I guess.
"On Tatooine it was... common – accepted even – that you defend yourself with violence. That the guy with the most money could hire the most muscle and so might made right. I guess that's... kind of how it is here, but not really, except it is..."
His expression deepened, causing him to seem upset, frustrated and a little confused.
"It's like... well, violence isn't accepted through the laws. I mean, it's common enough, but might doesn't always make right here. It's... strange."
"That's how it should be, Anakin."
He nodded his head. Mace didn't realize that he'd completely forgotten his own activity of checking his messages in favor of watching these two interact. It was far more interesting than he'd initially thought it would be.
"I suppose. I mean, some people still try and do things that way, but people have much more of a chance of getting somewhere they can be happy here, I think. And people aren't judged by what they can do either. I mean, I guess they are, but not like we were on Tatooine.
"I suppose I'm used to knowing that if I wanted to live, I had to be good at what I did. Not necessarily the best, but good enough to turn a profit for Watto. I know he never really threatened us, Mom," he said, forestalling her from speaking. She'd opened her mouth, and now closed it, although she remained intently focused on her son. "I know we... had it good – well, better – but I always knew that to live, I had to be useful to others. Very useful. That... isn't how it is here."
"You aren't encouraged to be useful?" Shmi asked slowly, uncertainly.
"Oh, that isn't it at all," Anakin said hurriedly. "No, it's... it's just that... that doesn't determine how much we're worth. I have friends here, Mom, and even if I were the most useless person ever, they'd still think my life was worth saving.
"Life is precious here, not just some resource to be used, misused and discarded."
He sighed. "I'm not explaining this well."
Shmi's reaction was to smile, soft and warm. "I think I understand better than you realize, Anakin. There, you don't earn the right to live, it's treated as innate."
Anakin's eyes lit up. "Yes! Yes, exactly!" Once again, he was a little kid. The mood changes were significant enough to be worrying. Mace hoped that they were addressing that in Anakin's therapy sessions as well. He made a mental note to bring it up with them, but then his mind turned back to the mother and son as the younger cocked his head. "How did you know?"
That question was... unsettling. The entire discussion had been disturbing for Mace. This boy, who had been faced with all of the physical differences in the world, had chosen something abstract and cultural to focus on when asked to point out what he saw as the biggest change.
It hadn't ever occurred to Mace how differently people thought. Oh, sure, he knew no person was an exact copy of the next, and diversity was a desirable trait and all, but the very basis of one's worth? Of having to earn the right to live? To a point where someone understanding differently was a cause for a 10-year-old former slave to point it out over anything else he could have picked...
He hadn't realized just how right Healer Girth had been when he'd said Anakin would need special attention. If his mind-set in general revolved around earning the right to live, that might explain his incessant need to constantly be ahead in classes and his drive to learn lightsaber forms so quickly and thoroughly.
"Ani, I wasn't born a slave," Shmi replied softly.
Mace was also beginning to see just how despicable the practice of slavery was. Not that he hadn't known before, but... he hadn't recognized the extent of the sheer depravity. He still wasn't sure he did.
"Do you like it there, Anakin?" Apparently Shmi wanted to change the subject.
A pause and Mace glanced over to the boy, whose gaze focused on the hands folded in his lap.
"I... I don't know, Mom. I mean, they've been great and all. I'm even seeing mind-healers and I get all the food I need and I can choose most of what I want to learn and what I want to eat and how hard I want to practice at something..."
Anakin bit his lip. "But... I miss you. And it's cold here. I never liked the heat of Tatooine, but it's better than almost freezing. I mean, I know I'm not freezing, but it feels like it sometimes."
Shmi chuckled, putting a hand over her mouth. "But you're in a position to help so many people, now, Anakin."
He seemed to think about that for a moment. "You're right, Mom. For now, I am."
Somehow those two words, 'for now', seemed awfully ominous to Mace.
"All right, enough about me, Mom, what about you? Where are you now?"
"Oh, I'm out near the dune sea on a moisture farm."
"And I hear you're going to be getting married, right?"
To Mace's surprise, Anakin sounded genuinely excited, not protective or upset. Maybe he knew the Lars family?
"Anakin!" Shmi said, sounding both excited and scandalized. "Where did you hear such a rumor?"
Anakin shot his mother a dry expression that would look more at home on a much older face. "He freed you, Mom. No one saves up that kind of money out of the goodness of their heart. Especially not a moisture farmer. I know they can make pretty good livings for themselves, but like everything else on Tatooine, it's not an easy living."
"Well, when you put it like that," Shmi said, a little awkwardly. Then she shifted worriedly. "Y-you're not upset, are you, Anakin?"
Mace wanted to snort. With the exuberance he'd just given off?
"Of course not, Mom! If he's a good man who will take care of you then I'm happy for you. Force knows it's hard enough to find anything worthwhile on that dust ball."
"Anakin," Shmi said reproachfully.
"It's the truth, mom, and you know it."
"Still, you should be more respectful."
Another pause. "Yes, ma'am."
Mace just raised an eyebrow at the petulant boy. Petulant, yes, but he'd still acquiesced.
"That's my boy," Shmi said with that proud smile. "Oh! There's someone I'd like you to meet!" the woman said suddenly, turning to motion to someone out of range of the camera. "Owen, come here! Just for a second."
After a few moments and some awkward shuffling, a boy a little older than Anakin sat down stiffly. "Anakin," Shmi said over the boy's shoulder, "this is Owen. He'll be your new brother when Cleigg and I get married. Owen?" she backed out of the picture and her voice fell into the background a bit. "This is my son, Anakin, the Jedi."
It was kind of comical, seeing the boy's reaction.
"No way! Seriously? You're a Jedi?"
"Well... I'm training at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, yes," Anakin said awkwardly.
Anakin snickered. "Yeah, it has its perks."
"Do you have a laser sword?"
The boy looked a little crestfallen. "Oh. Why not?"
"I got here after the last gathering where they get the crystals for the lightsabers. Once I get taken as a Padawan, I should be taken to find my own crystals."
Mace frowned. There was nothing in those statements that couldn't be found on the universal web, but still... He wondered if he should cut in.
"Wait," Shmi cut back in, her face worried, "I thought you were already training under Qui-Gon."
Silence. Mace rubbed the bridge of his nose. This would be... difficult.
"Skywalker," he said, drawing Anakin's attention away. "I'd be happy to explain."
The boy looked dubious, but nodded and stood, allowing Mace to sit down.
"Ma'am, Mr. Lars," he said politely. "My name is Jedi Master Mace Windu."
"Wizard," Owen whispered.
"Owen," Shmi said in a soft but urgent voice.
"Oh, right," the boy said with a nod before getting up and allowing Shmi to sit back down again.
"Ms. Skywalker," Mace said with a nod. "Your son was indeed brought back here to the Temple by Qui-Gon, but Anakin is far older than the age we normally accept initiates."
He saw her bite her lip worriedly, but she didn't say anything, allowing him to continue, thankfully.
"He is also, however, innately strong and has even had some training."
"What? Training? Before he got there? How? When? By whom?"
Mace shot Anakin a look, and he at least had the good grace to look abashed. "We're still trying to establish that. In any case, Qui-Gon was going to take him on as a Padawan Learner, however he... passed on during the mission he was assigned to when he met you."
Shmi gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.
"My... condolences," she finally said. "He was a good man."
"Indeed he was," Mace agreed softly.
"But... what does this mean for Anakin?"
Well, so much for not giving out information. Still, he felt that as Anakin's mother, she needed to know this (yet another reason why taking children before they could remember their parents was preferred).
"We have decided to keep Anakin on as an initiate, despite his age. We have a couple of reasons for that, none of which I am at liberty to speak of over an open comm channel. It does mean, however, that he will be learning and catching up with the other students here at the Temple. Initiates remain here until they are either chosen by a Master to train, or until they reach the age of 13."
"What happens then?" Shmi prompted tensely.
"He will have a couple of options at that point," Mace said. "If he reaches the age of 13 before he is chosen by a Master, he will receive the option of joining one of the Jedi service corps, of which we have the Educational Corps, the Agricultural Corps, the Exploration Corps and the Medical Corps."
"So he'll still be a Jedi, just... not a traditional Jedi?" she asked uncertainly.
"For all intents and purposes, yes," Mace responded with a nod. Technically any initiate in the Service Corps was still a Jedi, but he didn't want to discuss the nuances now. "He can also choose to leave the Order, if he so wishes, and return to Tatooine or set up for his future anywhere else in the Galaxy he would like. As long as we have previous knowledge of such a move, we could fund his transportation there and even some basics to begin his life."
Mace glanced up at Anakin to see the boy staring at him with wide eyes and frowned. Surely someone had told him of this. It was taught to all the initiates, so why not him?
"In any case, it would be up to him to choose. Until then, we will see that he has the education necessary to act as a base for that choice. We will take good care of him, Ma'am."
"I... I see," Shmi said, glancing down as she tried to digest it all. He remained quiet, letting her come to terms with the information she'd just received. After a few moments, she took a deep breath and glanced up at Mace with a watery smile. "I get the impression that you have made quite a few exceptions for my son. I... thank you, profusely and will gladly help to pay for his way through school."
Mace felt his own lips twitch into a smile. She probably didn't have two credits to rub together and here she wanted to help pay for Anakin. He decided he liked this woman.
"That won't be necessary. We have sworn an oath to look after all the children under our care. Since we have accepted Anakin, he falls under that category. Until the day he decides to leave, we will do our best by him."
"And he won't go on dangerous missions or anything like that... right?"
Mace was far too controlled to squirm uncomfortably, but he had to fight it. "Once he gets a Master, missions of all sorts are very likely. Until then, though, no. And we try not to send our younger Padawans into dangerous territory if we can help it."
"I... I see," she said again, putting a hand to her forehead. "I can't say I'm... happy about that, but I suppose I knew what he was getting into when I released him to you." She sighed and looked over towards where Anakin was standing, even if she couldn't see him. "Anakin, promise me that you'll be careful."
"As careful as I can be, Mom," Anakin replied.
"Good I... Oh." She turned away from the screen. "Cleigg is calling me. He must need some help. I have to leave, but... Thank you, Master Windu for telling me this."
"You are welcome, Ma'am," he said with a nod of his head before he stood and gestured for Anakin to sit again.
"Oh, Ani... I'm so proud of you," she said to him as he sat in front of her. "I love you so much. Study hard and please, please be careful."
"I will, Mom. I promise."
"Good. Now be on your best behavior."
"I will, Mom."
"And make sure you –"
She cut off as a crash and some swearing sounded in the background. "Oh, dear," Shmi said. "I have to go. I love you, Anakin. Goodbye, my darling."
With that, the call cut off .
Mace and Anakin sat there for several seconds before Anakin sighed and stood, then bowed to Mace.
"Thank you for your assistance, Master Windu," he said formally, before walking off.
"You're welcome," Mace said.
Then he made a note to look at the psychology of a slave and see how it differed from that of a free-born person. It had been a while since he felt this out of his depth and he needed more information.
Somehow, he felt he wasn't the only one.
Many thanks to my beta readers Quathis and Carradee! You guys rock!
A couple of notes: Firstly, I'm actually going to be doing a second chapter on Sharing Outsight dealing with Anakin and his anger issues, but that might be a while. It's fighting me. Hard. But I figured you guys would want to know. Be on the look out for it.
Secondly, People, especially people in middle-class America (and other first world countries), don't really get the exposure to slavery to understand the psychological effects, but it's nasty. The basic truths that we are raised on are innately different and its difficult to comprehend it. The sad thing? People raised in severely abusive (emotionally, psychologically, physically and sexually) households have a very similar mind-set. They are often taught that they simply don't have the innate right to anything that can help them - that they don't deserve it for whatever reason. It's sickening.
In all honesty, slavery as it is known today is an extreme form of abuse, and that's the basis I'm working off here for Anakin.
I would like to point out that slavery still exists today and that a couple of years ago, the US was #3 in the world for buying and selling sex slaves. It is still something that happens today and I hate it when people talk about slavery like it's something that happened in the past. It isn't and we need to be aware that human trafficking happens today and how utterly despicable it is.
If you're interested, here are a few resources:
1 - Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733) to report sex trafficking, forced labor, or to get help. (Outside the US, you can call 802-872-6199 or look up the resources in your area online)
2 - tripple w dot dhs dot gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking for more information on human trafficking in general.
3 - tripple w dot nbcnews dot com/news/us-news/what-happens-foreign-human-trafficking-victims-united-states-n770041 for a view of what happens to victims from the viewpoint of a survivor.
There are also other resources if you want to know more. You can look up 'human trafficking' and it will come up with a bunch of verified sites.
Just trying to raise awareness. Alright, I'll get down off of my soap box now.
In any case, please review!