Disclaimer: Star Wars and any characters within belong to Mr. George Lucas, and the lovely piece of melodramatic poetry below is half of a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The poor guy must have never had anything good happen to him in his life. Yes, yes we know, Edgar, life is anguish. And for those who are curious about whereDarth Maul is, see the explanation at the bottom of this chapter or the top of the upcoming one in the author's notes. "I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"
The poor guy must have never had anything good happen to him in his life. Yes, yes we know, Edgar, life is anguish.
And for those who are curious about whereDarth Maul is, see the explanation at the bottom of this chapter or the top of the upcoming one in the author's notes.
"I stand amid the roar
A Dream Within a Dream, by Edgar Allan Poe
The Creature: Chapter One, Part Two
Anakin finally stopped struggling to escape Sidious's unyielding hold as he watched the small wooden dwelling go up in flames and become a dancing crimson inferno that reached so high, it seemed to become one with the red glow of Tatooine's setting suns.
He and his mother had been staying in the wooden hut behind Watto's junk shop temporarily, until the Toydarian could secure a more permanent dwelling in the slave district for them. It was cramped, filthy from the previous occupants and just barely held out during sand storms; he wasn't going to miss it in the least.
He couldn't help but start to tremble, however, as he watched it finally become completely consumed in flames. His mother's body was still inside, burning just as surely as the twisted, charred timber of their home.
"She's still in there, she's still in there, you're hurting her!" he screamed. He knew she was gone, though he didn't understand fully what was meant by that; all he knew is that he had always been able to feel her, even when she was far away from him, and where she had been was empty and cold, like ice creeping into his veins.
"Do not worry, she can no longer feel pain," Sidious said, smirking, his eyes lighting with too much joy. "After people die, they can't feel anything—their bodies are there, but empty. That's what happened to your mother. If she was not burning into charcoal right now, she would have become very cold, started to rot, and eventually turned to dust."
Anakin gaped at him in horror.
"What—what's "rot" mean?" he managed to ask in a small voice after a little while.
Sidious paused thoughtfully.
"Have you ever seen a dead worm drying on the sand after one of the rare rains here?"
Anakin nodded, looking sickened.
"That's what your mother would eventually have looked like, had I not burned her. By now, she is probably no more than ash. Even her body is gone."
Silent tears began to stream down Anakin's face, and he began shaking again. He stared straight ahead, seeing nothing in front of his eyes but the horrible picture that the monster had painted in his mind.
"You should come with me, son," Sidious said, gently whispering in his ear, seeing his chance to change the child's mind while he was at his most vulnerable. "I am your only chance to escape slavery."
Anakin, still unable to see anything but that horrible image in his mind, tried to calm himself enough to give the creature an answer. It would never give up until it had one, and perhaps not even then. It would never give up until it had him.
Anakin would never let that happen. He looked straight into its burning yellow eyes.
"I won't come with you. I don't want to learn anything from you."
The creature smiled.
"You hate me. You already have."
"No I don't," Anakin insisted stubbornly. He knew that he did, and certainly wasn't ashamed of it, but he wasn't going to admit to it if it made the monster happy.
"Yes you do. You don't even think of me as human anymore. If that isn't hatred, what is?"
"You're not human. You're a monster," Anakin maintained, unable to prevent himself from saying what he thought. After he had spoken, though, he felt a brief resurgence of panic. He didn't want the monster to get angry at him again. That had been scary.
Part of Anakin didn't care if he got angry, though. He had only spoken the truth, and if the monster didn't like what he heard, that was his problem.
To his relief but absolute confusion, the creature only smiled in response to his insult. It was an unnerving smile—Anakin was sure that the monster hadn't smiled because he was actually happy once since he had met him—but it was better than a threat, at least.
"Perhaps you are right. I am a monster. But that makes me more than human, not less."
"No it doesn't," Anakin insisted stubbornly, though he felt a surge of fear again at the creature's admission. He hoped the creature wasn't like the nerfninks, the toe-eating monsters that lived under his bed. He wouldn't try to eat him, would he?
"An apprentice doesn't argue with his teacher."
"What's an appra—apprentice?" Anakin asked, his fear dissolving almost instantaneously when this new question popped into his mind despite any concerns he had about monsters or the warning he had heard in Sidious's tone.
"Like I was when mom taught me how to fix droids and stuff?"
The yellow eyes lit up in amusement, and it was like watching flames dance and leap in a rapidly catching fire.
"Yes, like that, except I will teach you much more important things than mechanics."
Sidious paused, turning an assessing, yet approving gaze on his creation.
"You have a power within you few possess. You can see things before they happen and predict the future with your dreams. Just last week, you dreamt that you came back to Tatooine to free the slaves. You will do this. What you were seeing was none other than the future. If you come with me, you will become so powerful, no one will dare treat you like a slave again," Sidious breathed, his eyes glittering oddly in the light given off by the burning building.
Anakin's expression hardened, making him look old in a way a three-year-old should never look. Sidious smiled. He had seen that expression on so many children's faces over the years.
"Will I be able to save people I love from bad animals?" the boy asked, his voice as hard as his expression and almost mechanically flat.
Sidious's expression froze for a moment in distaste for the subject that had led his apprentice to touch the Dark Side for the first time, but it was gone so quickly that Anakin thought he must have imagined it, as the yellow eyes now looked down on him with fatherly understanding, something Anakin found strangely less repulsive than he had a few minutes ago.
"It will be within your power to save anyone you want to save, eventually," Sidious said semi-truthfully. Not that you'll actually want to save anyone by the time the year is out, he thought in amusement. "The only other choice you have is to go back into slavery, my boy. I may be your last chance to gain your freedom. The beings of the galaxy aren't all as generous as me. They don't usually make a point of rescuing mere slaves, you know."
"I shouldn't go with you. You—you wanted to hurt me before. You don't like me."
"You're wrong, my boy. I was angry with you when I threatened you; I didn't actually want to hurt you. I care about you. I'm the only one that does, now that your mother is gone. It's fine if you're too scared to come with me, but remember, you'll never be able to come back here and free the slaves if you are one yourself your entire life."
"I'm not 'fraid to come with you! And I'll find a way to free myself. I dreamt I did, and my dreams always come true."
Sidious paused, taken aback for a moment by the sheer beauty, the perfection, of what he had created.
"Nevertheless, until you do, you'll be alone with a slave master who thinks of you as mere property, who won't understand what you're capable of. I understand what you're true potential is, and I'm the only one who would care enough to see that you reach it despite the fact that you spent part of your life as a slave. Beings in the galaxy don't care enough about slaves or former slaves to help them, and no one else would even consider training you despite your past.
"No one even tried to help your mother besides me, even though you were yelling for help, even though your neighbors were much nearer to you than I was and could have gotten there faster—perhaps fast enough to save her. She wasn't worth enough money for them to care if she lived or died, or for them to risk their lives for hers, though. It's horrible how uncaring beings in this galaxy can be…but it's the truth."
Anakin felt himself burn up as though he had contracted a deadly fever as the truth of the man's words rolled over him. His mother was dead because no one had cared enough to do anything to help her. How could he live with himself if he did the same? How could he live with himself if he didn't take the opportunity to learn all he could to stop people from dying?
How could he pass up an opportunity to bring his mom back to him? She couldn't really be gone, she couldn't be.
He couldn't stop seeing her broken body in his mind.
I have to bring her back, he thought inanely, even though he understood on some level that people couldn't just be brought back to life, nor had the man even hinted that he possessed any power to do so.
His mind suddenly felt sluggish, the world around him swimming and devoid of color and texture, fragrance and life. He felt strangely detached from his own thoughts, even though at the moment he wasn't as sure about anything as he was about the decision he was about to make, other than that he missed his mom and still loved her.
But how could he do this, how could he go anywhere with a man whose very presence made him nauseous?
"I still don't like you," he said shakily.
"But you will come with me," Sidious said knowingly, his oily laughter strangely pleasant to Anakin's ears.
Anakin took a deep breath, and looked straight into his teacher's yellow eyes.
"I don't want to be a slave anymore, sir," he said decisively, all signs of nervousness gone from his tone.
Darth Sidious smiled.
"I knew you would see reason, my young apprentice. From this day forward, I will teach you everything I know, and you will obey me in all things."
"Are you my Master now, sir?" Anakin asked with some alarm, but not as much, some part of him still knew, as he should have felt.
"Yes, but not in the way you're thinking. A Master is not only a term for a slave owner, but a term for a teacher, and that is what I am to you. They are similar in that they both must be obeyed, yet are essentially different in that a slave Master only wants to limit his slave's power, and a teacher—I, only want to help you gain it. Do you understand now, my young apprentice?"
"Yes, my Master," he answered, his own voice sounding flat and strangely cold to his ears. Anakin shivered as he noticed this, but excitement rose in him as he remembered what his new Master had promised him, pushing any unease from his mind at least for the next few moments.
"Are you going to free me now, my Master?"
Sidious smiled, and reached out with the Force to deactivate the slave tracking device and explosives that resided within Anakin.
"I have just deactivated your slave device. When we reach Naboo, we can have it surgically removed."
"Yes, my Master."
"Follow me, my young apprentice, and we will leave this detestable place for good."
Anakin quickly obeyed, following his Master's quick strides out of the city and into the desert wastelands.
After they had been walking for about a half an hour, they came across a non-descript shuttle hidden between two large sand dunes. His Master halted in front of it, stopping for the first time on their journey. He had not once slowed down to wait for his much smaller apprentice to catch up to him, reasoning that, if his apprentice really wanted to get away from this place, he would have to draw on the Force to quicken his pace. It had only taken a few moments before Anakin had done so instinctively, impressing Sidious but not surprising him by learning in a few moments a skill that it usually took Force-Sensitives years to grasp.
When he turned to face Anakin, he noticed that for the first time since they had met, Anakin's eyes were full of anticipation rather than pain or fear.
"Are we going to fly that thing, Master?" Anakin asked in awe, pointing a chubby finger at the ship.
Sidious smirked in amusement at the nearly palpable excitement that was coming from his apprentice.
"I am going to fly it. But you can certainly watch me to learn how it's done."
Anakin's face fell in disappointment, but then his eyes lit up with mischief, and suddenly Sidious knew with a certain amount of foreboding that he shouldn't have encouraged his apprentice to learn how to fly.
He carelessly waved his hand, and the landing ramp of his ship slowly lowered to the ground.
"Come. We must be off. I need to get back to Naboo by sunrise to perform my duties for the Naboo Court, but we should get to Theed before then so no one sees you and feels the need to question where you came from." Besides, Sidious thought, killing one of the Royal Guards of Naboo won't improve my skills any, and I can't afford to draw any unnecessary attention to myself yet.
Anakin met his Master's burning virulent eyes without fear and wordlessly took his hand, just as he had taken his mother's so many times. Sidious flinched as he did this, feeling sick to his stomach at the contact, something he had not felt in a long while as it was a mere human weakness.
The child was clinging to him with the desperation of one who had nothing else left to cling to, however, so Sidious resisted the urge to pull away, though he normally wouldn't have given a second thought to his creature's feelings. He didn't want to do anything to make the boy change his mind about coming with him, though, as a whisper of the Force had led him to believe that if his creation was ever to fully turn, he would have to think it was his decision alone.
Attempting to smother the boy's connection with the Light Side would have only made him fight harder to preserve it, so Sidious would need to be more subtle in training him than he had originally intended to be. He would have to send him out into the galaxy, put him in situations that would make him believe he had power, and encouraged Sith teachings.
As Anakin watched Tatooine grow smaller and smaller through the viewport, he felt a wave of loneliness come over him at the thought of leaving it behind, though he had always loathed the place. Tatooine had been the first place that he and his mother had been allowed a home of their own, as small as their slave hovel had been, as little time as they had spent there. He hated the planet, but he missed his mom and would always remember her alongside the feel of sand that always permeated the air and got into everything, always remember how her food had smelled as their oven had warmed them in the cold desert night after a hard day of working at Watto's shop.
He had always hated Tatooine, but he would always love it too, because it was wrapped up in his memories of her, the only evidence he had that she had even existed, now.
Anakin shivered, wrapping his arms around himself, and looked up at his Master, who was programming hyperdrive coordinates. Space was cold, but he didn't want to complain, so he observed what his Master was doing, instead, trying to memorize the apparent functions of every control.
No matter how much he was wary of asking his new Master questions, he couldn't contain his curiosity for long, and he started asking about the function of every button and lever he had seen his Master use. His Master had answered his first few questions tolerantly enough, but then had abruptly ordered him to go to his room in that strangely calm tone Anakin was quickly beginning to associate with his anger. Not daring to disobey, he silently retreated to a small compartment in the back of the ship with a single cot inside that he assumed was his own.
It was when he was finally alone and laying down on his cot, trying to fall asleep as his Master had instructed him to do, that he started shaking. He would never see his mother again. He would never stop seeing her in the last moments of her life. He didn't want to fall asleep. He didn't want to sleep ever again.
He stared up at the ceiling, his eyes as wide open as he could force them to be, not daring to shut them even to blink. Nerfninks would come to eat him if he closed his eyes, and if he actually let himself fall asleep, he would come across even scarier things in his dreams.
Dreams that always came true. Dreams that already had.
He curled up in a ball, and cried.
Author's notes: For those who are curious, Darth Maul is still in the picture. Suffice it to say that as far as the rule of two goes, three-year-old Anakin is not a Sith yet, so doesn't count.
Later when Anakin is Darth Vader (when Dooku is Sidious's "official" apprentice), there is an unspoken understanding among the three Sith that one day Anakin will challenge Dooku to a duel to the death (melodramatic enough?) for the position of Sidious's apprentice. Sidious loves this, as it encourages them both to work harder on increasing their powers, which of course benefits his plans (unless one of them tries to kill him, of course. But he's good enough at manipulating people against each other that he's not worried about his apprentices working together against him.).