Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars or Black Lagoon.
Summary: After the Invasion of Naboo, Anakin Skywalker meditates on his life and when the Force shows him a vision of things to come he wonders if becoming a Jedi is the right path for him.
A/N: Sorry about the delay. I was planning to post this chapter two weeks ago but RL decided to grow a sense of humor...
Hammerchuckery: Hey, my first reviewer on this site! I'm glad you are enjoying it. Thanks for the review.
NameNotTelling: Thank you for the review and the suggestions. I'm going to use at least one of them. And yes, it is weird that all the black people in the Star Wars universe can be counted by the fingers on one hand. It's one of those things that could be completely innocent. Or not.
Darth nylon544: Your are right, Revy would be a great Zeltron. Maybe a Twi'lek, I'm not sure yet. Thanks for the review.
BBY 32 Naboo, Theed Royal Palace
Anakin rolled over in bed. Why couldn't he sleep? He was tired. Between the battle, the victory celebrations and the funeral of Qui-Gon Jinn, he was exhausted.
Running his hand across his head, he felt his now short hair for what seemed like the hundredth time in the last ten minutes. Touching the side of his head, Anakin played with the small braid of hair that marked him as a Padawan.
'A Padawan without a Master'. The moment Anakin met Qui-Gon Jinn he felt a connection with the Jedi. Not like they had met before, but like they were destined to meet.
Anakin had never believed in things like that before, he believed people made their own destiny. Believing that he had some measure of control over his life, that one day he could be more than he was, made life as a slave a lot more bearable.
Now he was sure he was meant to meet Qui-Gon Jinn and become his apprentice.
But his Master was dead, killed by the Sith. Thinking about that dark warrior, that murderer, filled him with rage like nothing before ever had. The Sith had taken away his Master, had tried to kill Padmé and would have gladly killed them all.
Anakin knew the Sith were behind the invasion of Naboo, he had overheard Master Yoda talking with another Jedi at the funeral. From what they said there were always two Sith, a master and an apprentice.
One Sith was still out there, hiding somewhere, waiting to strike. The other was dead. Killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
His new Master.
Anakin didn't know how to feel about that. He had no connection with Kenobi. He was pretty sure Kenobi didn't like him and was only taking him as a Padawan because Qui-Gon Jinn made the young Jedi promise he would train Anakin if he could not.
Anakin didn't want to be his student anymore than Kenobi wanted to be his teacher. With a sigh, Anakin sat up in bed. "What am I going to do?"
*Listen to the Force*
"Who said that?" Jumping from the bed, Anakin looked around the room. R2-D2 was in the corner on stand by mode, recharging his power cells. The droid didn't make a sound. 'What was that?' Breathing in big gulps of air, Anakin tried to stop his heart from jumping out of his chest. "Hello... is there anybody there?"
*Listen to the Force Anakin*
He looked behind him, finding nothing. 'That sounded like Master Qui-Gon!' Hesitantly, Anakin called out. "Master Qui-Gon? Is that you?"
There was nothing, the night's silence broken only by the wind passing through the trees outside his window.
'Am I hearing things? No, that was Master Qui-Gon. But how?' Anakin had seen the Jedi use the Force to do all kinds of things, big and small, but Qui-Gon was dead. You couldn't use the Force after you died... could you?
'That was Master Qui-Gon, I'm sure of it. But what was he trying to tell me? Listen to the Force how?' Anakin wondered.
A memory jumped to the front of his mind. They were flying away from Tatooine, having barely escaped the Sith. Master Qui-Gon had stayed behind, fighting the Sith to give the rest of the group time to board the ship. That had been one of the most amazing things Anakin had ever seen. He ran through the ship looking for Qui-Gon, certain that he was wounded after fighting that monster. When Anakin found him Qui-Gon was sitting with his legs crossed, his eyes closed and a serene look on his face. Anakin stood there for what seemed like forever and then Qui-Gon opened his eyes and smiled. 'Don't worry Anakin I'm fine, just listening to the Force.'
"That's it! I can do that." Sitting on the floor, Anakin crossed his legs and closed his eyes. 'I can do this, just listen to the Force, easy.'
Twenty minutes later Anakin was no closer to listening to the Force than he was when he started. 'Any time now. Come on.' With a sigh Anakin stood up, raised his arms above his head and stretched until something in his back popped back into place. 'Dammit, I've been sitting on this cold floor for so long my butt is asleep and I can't hear anything. What am I doing wrong?'
Sitting on the bed, Anakin pictured Qui-Gon Jinn in his mind. He was sitting the same way his Master had been, he had his eyes closed, so what was he missing?
'The serene look on his face!' Qui-Gon had been calm, relaxed, peaceful. Anakin tried to relax but it was easier said than done. There was a lot going through his head.
Padmé and Qui-Gon walking into Watto's shop and changing his life forever. Winning the Boonta Eve Classic, the podrace that set him free. The shocking difference between Coruscant and Tatooine, the sheer beauty of the Jedi Temple and the nerve racking experience of standing before the Jedi Council. Journeying to Naboo and running through the Palace dodging battle droids, followed by the rush of flying a starfighter into battle for the first time. The amazing feeling of victory.
The guilt of leaving his mother and his friends on Tatooine to a life of slavery. The pain of of learning of his Master's death. The fear of what the future would bring.
'How am I supposed to relax?' Anakin shook his head.
'There must be a way. Master Qui-Gon said I used the Force during podraces, that it improved my reflexes and it even allowed me to see a few seconds into the future.'
'Maybe that's it. Maybe I should try to focus like I do before a race.' Taking a deep breath, Anakin pictured himself in his podracer, competing against Sebulba in a race with endless laps.
Slowly Anakin began to relax, allowing his mind to wander at the will of the Force.
The world around him vanished, replaced by faint sounds and blurry images.
Slowly the blurry images cleared and Anakin saw himself in a large room he had never been in, yet somehow knew was in the Jedi Temple. Other people began to appear, children about his age. They all held practice lighsabers and were making the same simple moves. A Jedi was leading them through the exercise.
The image changed and Anakin saw his mother, working in Watto's shop. She smiled as a client walked into the shop, but as Anakin looked closer he could feel her conflicted emotions. His mother was both happy for Anakin, glad that her son would not go through life as a slave and at same time missed him terribly and hoped he would return soon.
Anakin again saw himself at the Jedi Temple, in a room full of fountains. Obi-Wan Kenobi was there, trying to teach him to meditate. From the frustrated look on Kenobi's face it was clear he had been trying for a long time. Anakin looked around warily and asked if they could do this somewhere else but Kenobi refused, saying that the fountains were relaxing and made meditating easier. For Anakin, someone born and raised on a desert planet, being surrounded by so much water just made him uncomfortable. Kenobi either didn't notice or didn't care.
The image changed to a street that Anakin immediately recognized as the city of Mos Espa on Tatooine. His friend Wald, a few years older than Anakin remembered, ran down the street holding something while a Er'Kit ran after him shouting in Huttese. Anakin could feel his friend's satisfaction of getting the last part he needed to fix his swoop bike and the shop keeper's anger at the thief.
The image changed again, an older Anakin was sparing with another Padawan in a great chamber with large windows that allowed the sunlight to find every corner of the room. His blue practice lightsaber danced through the air in complex patterns. His opponent, a tall Troguta, held his green practise lightsaber in front of himself in a defensive stance.
The chamber was full of Jedi, Padawans formed a small circle around Anakin and his opponent and standing against the walls were several Knights and Masters. Anakin saw Kenobi standing close to Masters Yoda and Windu.
The difference between the two Padawans was obvious. Anakin's lightsaber was flying at his opponent in fast swings and aggressive stabs. The Trogutas lightsaber was moving gracefully to block, though he seemed to be struggling to keep up the pace. Anakin used a powerful two handed overhead swing, forcing the other Padawan to use all of his strength to block. Locking lightsabers for a moment Anakin looked him in the eye and, with a smirk, knocked the Troguta on his back.
Scrambling to his feet, the now panting Troguta held his lightsaber in front of him like a shield. An amused Anakin twirled his weapon as he circled his opponent, waiting for him to catch his breath, before suddenly rushing forward blue blade leading the way.
Anakin felt frustration, anger and even fear emanating from the tall Troguta as his older self taunted his opponent and continued to hammer his weapon against the green blade, harder than ever.
Anakin knew his older self was going to win. It was not an opinion born out of arrogance, he just knew. Judging by the desperate look in his eyes, the Troguta knew it too. But the Padawan wasn't giving up. There was still a glimmer of hope in his eyes. He was trying to buy time, hoping his older self would tire himself out.
Anakin wondered what was going through the mind of the Troguta and before he knew it, he jumped into the body of the Padawan.
*He was going to lose. Skywalker was just too fast, too strong. Damn him! Skywalker had been holding back from the start. Playing with him, laughing at him. All he needed was a chance, an opening in Skywalker's defense. Then he could... there! What he had been waiting for since the spar began. Without hesitation, he thrusts his lightsaber at Skywalker's chest, almost tasting his victory... but Skywalker wasn't there anymore. The Force screamed a warning but it was too late. The back of his neck exploded in pain and he lost consciousness.*
Anakin felt the blow as if it was his neck that was struck by his older self''s training lightsaber. As the pain shocked him out of the Troguta, Anakin had just enough time to see his older self look to his Master for approval and to feel his frustration at the disappointed look on Kenobi's face before the image blurred.
Something was different. Maybe it was the shock of being struck by an older version of himself, maybe it was something else, but it was becoming more difficult to see what the Force was trying to show him. Images rushed past him, most too blurry to make out.
In some images Anakin saw himself in strange places, talking with people he never met and fighting side by side with Kenobi.
Some of the images seemed to have nothing to do with him. One showed him an army of reptilian humanoids fighting a swarm of giant insects on a beach on some unknown planet.
The humanoids had red or dark orange scaly skin and four clawed fingers with two opposable thumbs on each hand. Anakin could see they had yellow eyes, dark hair and the two tusks protruding from their jaws, but their faces were hidden behind a strange bone mask.
The large bodies of the insects towered over the humanoids and were encased in natural carapace armor colored brown, grey or green. They had wedge shaped heads dominated by large multifaceted red eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. A long neck supported the head on broad shoulders. The torso tapered at the waist, where a long round abdomen extended behind them. Held before the torso, the insects had two double jointed arms. In most, these arms ended in a pincer with a serrated cutting edge but some of the insects had two fingers and a thumb instead of the natural weapons. Unlike the arms, the two legs had only one joint and ended in jagged feet with two pointed digits.
The humanoids wore leather armor under cloth robes, a look that would have made them blend in on Tatooine. They were armed with spears, artfully made swords and slug-throwers that Anakin recognized as Czerka Outland rifles.
The insects didn't bother with clothing beyond belts and bandoleers. Those insects with fingers to operate them were armed with modern blasters, thermal detonators and comm-links, indicating they were not only sentient but more technologically advanced than the humanoids.
This advantage didn't seem to be helping the insects. The humanoids were fierce warriors, each killing dozens of insects before being cut down by sharp pincers or falling to a blaster bolt. The humanoids were lead by two unusually skilled fighters, a male and a female. The male wilded his Outland rifle with amazing skill, an insect dieing every time he squeezed the trigger. The female, wielding two swords, cut down any insect that came too close to them.
They lead from the front, always moving forward, inspiring those behind them to fight harder. Their teamwork was perfect, with the male dealing death at long range and the female at close range they were unstoppable. The insects were being pushed back and the course of the battle seemed assured.
Then it happened.
The male squeezed the trigger but the weapon didn't fire, the chamber was empty. Cursing in a unknown language he stopped moving to reload his rifle. The female was dancing between the insects, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind her. When the male looked up, rifle ready, there were three rows of insects between them. Calling out to the female he opened fire into the insects separating them. Hearing his voice, the female looked behind her and Anakin could feel her shock when she realized she was alone and surrounded.
The female had been so caught up in the battle she didn't even notice her companion had stopped to reload his weapon until he called her name.
The male, supported by the warriors behind him, killed scores of insects in an attempt to reach his companion but more took their place. The female fought to reach him but with the insects circling her she could not move a step closer. She parried their serrated pincers with her swords, occasionally making a shallow cut on an arm or leg, but without her companion to strike down some of the insects with his rifle she had no room to attack. She could hear his voice calling her name but try as she might she could not see him over the wall of serrated pincers and razor sharp teeth between them.
It was a small blow to the back that did it. It wasn't painful, her thick leather armor absorbed most of the impact, but it was enough to make her stumble. As two pincers came at her she blocked one with a sword but, being out of balance, she could only deflect the other pincer away from her stomach to graze her leg. She made the insect pay by cutting off both its arms. As it backed away from her, screeching in pain, some of its blood flew into her eyes. In the time it took to wipe the blood from her eyes a pincer slashed her back, cutting through her armor and spilling her blood. Spinning on her feet, she cut off the head of the insect behind her. A sharp pain on her left shoulder made her drop one of her swords. Looking at her shoulder she saw she had been shot. Raising her head she spotted an insect with a blaster rifle lining up another shot and, with a scream of anger and fear, she rushed forward and buried her remaining sword in its chest.
Before she could pull the weapon from the dying insect, a pincer cut her arm off at the wrist. Screaming in pain she backed away from the insects, watching as they circled ever closer around her. Her companion was still calling her name but now there was a frantic, almost desperate tone in his voice. The insects seemed content to keep their distance, perhaps waiting to see if she would surrender or beg for her life.
In the end she did neither.
Focusing on her left arm, she forced it to work through sheer will until she could make a fist. Grabbing a dagger from her belt, the female warrior let out a battle cry and threw herself at the insects.
The male warrior, seeing his companion throw herself at the enemy only to disappear in a flurry of pincers, let out an agonizing scream and fell to his knees.
That's when the battle changed.
Seeing one of their leaders being cut down and the other fall to his knees the army faltered. The insects took advantage to cease the initiative and began to push back. Throwing a volley of thermal detonators to break up the enemy lines they rushed the humanoids under cover of blaster fire.
The humanoid warriors tried to hold their ground but their Outland rifles were too few in number and lacked the stopping power to break the enemy charge. Their positions overrun, the warriors were forced to retreat.
The one exception was the male leader who fought to reach the dead body of his companion even as his army fled. He fired his rifle until he was out of ammo then used the weapon as a club to smash the insects out of his way. When the rifle was ripped from his hands he picked up a large rock from the ground and used it to crush the heads of any insects between him and the body of his companion.
Suddenly, hands grabbed his arms and pulled him back. He looked over his shoulder to see some of his most loyal warriors trying to drag him away while others fought to keep the insects from surrounding them. He struggled but more hands took hold of him and pulled him back. He could only scream, powerless to stop her body being taken out to sea by the waves.
Anakin felt the pain of his loss even as the images blurred and vanished. More images rushed past him, faster than ever, allowing him only small glimpses.
Faces and places, most unknown. A battle on a red planet, between a metal army and a white army. Himself, his future self, even older now fighting on the ground cutting through battle-droids with a lightsaber and in space flying a starfighter between two waring fleets of warships.
The farther into the future the images took him, the harder it was to understand what he was seeing. Soon all he could grasp was the most basic concepts of the vision.
War. Violence. Suffering. Death.
With a pained gasp Anakin found himself looking up at the ceiling of his room with something bumping against his arm. "Artoo? What... what am I doing on the floor?"
The droid responded in a tone that easily conveyed its concern for its master, even to those who did not understand Droidspeak.
"I fell off the bed? Oh." Anakin tried to get up only to turn away from the droid and emptying his stomach on the floor.
R2 came closer to Anakin and asked if he needed help. "No Artoo, I'm alright... I just need a minute."
Anakin ran his hand through his hair, took a deep breath and slowly stood up. "Come on Artoo, I need some fresh air. You know your way around this Palace, right?" The droid whistled affirmatively. "Good, than you can give me a tour... right after I find something to clean up this mess."
The vast, cavernous stone corridors of the Royal Palace were a showcase of the talented sculptors of Naboo. Full of great works of art the Palace could rival any museum on the planet. The corridors themselves, with high ceilings and ornate columns crafted by Naboo's best artisans, were a work of art in their own right.
Not that Anakin Skywalker was appreciating any of it. He was standing on a balcony overlooking the Palace Plaza. Not that long ago the Plaza had been full of people, watching the victory parade and celebrating their liberation from the Trade Federation. Now the Plaza was empty, the people were gone, flowers petals being swept back and forth by the wind the only sign the parade ever took place. The nights silence would have been eerie if it wasn't for the droids running up and down the Plaza. With all the decorations, ribbons, flowers and people you could almost pretend nothing bad had ever taken place here. Now, under the light of the full moon, the damage caused by the occupation was painfully obvious. A large section of the Plaza had been reduced to ruins.
'So much destruction. Entire buildings brought down by those tanks. Probably by stray shots, stupid Trade Federation battle-droids can't shoot straight,' Anakin thought to himself with a snort.
Repairs were already under way. Even now dozens of work-droids were clearing away the ruble. Another sign of how different life was on Naboo. On Tatooine nobody would have bothered to clean up this mess. They would just scavenge whatever was valuable and leave the rest.
Turning to his droid, Anakin said, "Come on Artoo, let's sneak into the hanger bay and check out the starfighters."
Theed's main hanger was located alongside the city's Plasma Refinery Complex so that the plasma from the refinery could easily and quickly be fead to the starfighters of the Naboo Royal Space Fighter Corps. Anakin used a separate entrance, taking the long way around the complex to avoid crossing the refinery where Qui-Gon Jinn died.
The sight of so many gleaming starfighters made the long walk worth it. "Artoo I want you to access the starfighters computers and copy the data on the flight recorders, not everything just the battles. Can you do that?" The droid whistled in response and moved to the closest starfighter.
While his droid worked Anakin ran around the hanger touching the starfighters smooth surface, sticking his head into open panels to see the inner workings and crawling all over the craft with an ever growing smile on his face.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Anakin was just climbing into an open cockpit when the loudly asked question made him slip and land flat on his face. He got up with as fast as he could, trying to salvage what was left of his dignity, but the fact that R2 was openly laughing at him told him he failed miserably. Anakin's attempt at glaring a hole through the droid was interrupted by another question.
"Hey, are you all right kid?" Asked a woman running up to him.
Anakin looked up and blushed when he saw the amusement in her dark features. "I'm fine! I meant to do that."
"Right", the woman said trying to suppress a grin. "Of course you did."
Anakin crossed his arms and pointedly turned away from her.
"Hehe! Sorry kid, I didn't mean to tease you. But you really shouldn't be in here, you could get hurt."
Anakin scoffed at that. "If I didn't get hurt flying one of these starfighters into battle against those Trade Federation droid-fighters, so I doubt I'll get hurt just looking at them. You know, as long as nobody startles me."
"Startles you? I thought you meant to do that," she said with a grin. Then what he said dawned on her and she interrupted Anakin's sputtering attempt at a comeback. "Wait, you're that kid? The one that took out the droid control ship?"
"Yup, I'm Anakin Skywalker," he said holding out his hand.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Vana Sage," she said shaking his hand. "I knew the droid control ship was destroyed by a kid the Queen brought with her, but I had no idea you were so young. I heard the other pilots talking about you, they said you took out at least five droid-fighters before you blew up the control ship. You must be a very experienced pilot."
Anakin scratched the back of his head and said. "Uh, actually, that was the first time I've ever piloted a starfighter." Seeing the surprise and disbelief on her face Anakin decided to explain. "A friend of mine thaught me how to pilot a ship - something I'm going to thank him for, again, the moment I see him - but he has a gunship. Piloting something as small and fast as a starfighter is very different from piloting a heavy gunship. Still, his lessons probably saved my life. Without them I probably would have spent the whole battle doing barrel rolls, trying not to get killed."
Vana raised an eyebrow. "You really never flew a starfighter before? That's impressive, kid."
"Well not a starfighter, no, but I have piloted something just as fast. I'm a podracer. I build a custom racer, the fastest in the Galaxy! I won the Boonta Eve Classic just before I left Tatooine with Padmé... I mean Queen Amidala."
"I never heard of a Human wining a big podrace. Or a small one for that matter," she said.
"I'm the first," Anakin said, with pride. "So, are you a pilot?"
"Well, technically I'm a mercenary," she said.
Anakin waited for her to continued but she remained silent, obviously reluctant to say more on the subject.
"Uh, all right. So what are you doing here? It's pretty late," Anakin asked.
"I'm repairing my ship," Vana replied. "She suffered some damage on that last battle and I-"
"You have a ship? Where is it? Can I see it?" Anakin asked, in a single breath.
Vana's eyes widened in surprise at the rapid fire questions.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. I just... I really like ships," he said.
"It's all right kid, I get it. Come on, my ship is over there," she said with a smile, leading Anakin to a corner of the hanger.
"Whoa. That's your ship?" Anakin asked, gazing up at a ship hanging from a metal support frame.
"Damn right! What do you think of my baby?" Vana asked.
Vana's 'baby' was a large tree-winged craft. The light grey hull was marred by several scorch marks, a sign the shields had failed at some point during battle. Two laser cannons on the 'chin' of the ship seemed to have melted onto their turret.
"Interesting design," Anakin said, walking around the ship. "Larger than most starfighters. I've never seen anything like it. I hate to admit it, but I don't even recognize the model.
"Well, of course you don't. Guardian Mantis is one of a kind. There is no other ship like her," Vana said with a smirk.
Anakin tore his eyes from the unusual craft to look at it's master. "She's a prototype?"
"Yeah, a starfighter/bomber prototype. I had her made for me when..."Vana cut herself off with a grimace. "Anyway, I should get back to work," she said, digging through a tool box.
"So, what's the damage?" Anakin asked. "She doesn't look too banged up."
"Well, there was some minor internal damage, mostly to the repulsorlift engine, but Modthree is taking care of it now ..."
"Modthree?" Anakin asked.
"My astromech droid," she said, pointing up.
Confused, Anakin took a few steps back straining his neck to see the top of the ship while cursing his short stature. Sure enough, there was a R2-Series astromech droid just above the cockpit. It beeped a greeting.
"Hey, little guy. What are you doing up there?" Anakin asked.
It was Vana who answered the question. "Modthree is hardwired into the ship. It can't be separated from Guardian Mantis. At least, not without a hull cutter."
"What? Why would you do that?" Anakin wondered. "I suppose if it doesn't need to move you could save power or something, but why would you limit your astromech like that? It seems... counter productive."
"Not at all," she said. "The legs were removed and Modthree was connected to tree long articulated manipulator arms, allowing him to reach all the ship's internal systems and effect repairs in mid flight."
"Interesting system. But, it has an obvious limitation," he said looking at the melted laser cannons.
"Yeah, it's a trade off," she said with a grimace. "Where basic maintenance and internal damage is concerned Modthree can do the work of a team of engineers, but when it comes to external damage he's pretty much useless."
On top of the ship, Mod-3 gave a depressed little whisle.
"Hey, come on little guy, it's not your fault. You are a great droid!" Anakin said, looking up at the astromech.
"Are you... trying to cheer up a droid?" Vana asked, fighting a smile.
"Hey, droids have feelings too!" Anakin proclaimed with a mild glare.
"All right, all right," she said between chuckles. "Let's just agree to disagree." Looking up at the droid, Mod-3 did seem happier. She shook her head, laughing, and got back to work.
"So, what happened there?" Anakin asked, nodding at the laser cannons.
"They overheated,"Vana replied.
"Well yeah, I can see that," said Anakin rolling his eyes. "How did you manage to overheat your cannons to the melting point in one battle? There weren't that many droid-fighters."
"One battle?" Vana asked. "You think there was only battle?"
"I don't know. I was on Tatooine when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo," said Anakin. "From what I heard, the droid army took over the planet in a few hours."
"Well, that's true. But there were plenty of people willing to fight them. The surviving members of the Royal Naboo Security Forces formed a Resistance movement. They recruited anybody that would join them, from law enforcement officers to criminals. The movement itself was made up of a handful of different groups, mostly because long range comms were being jammed. And because nobody even considered the possibility of something like a planetary invasion happening so there were no plans or protocols in place," she said with a frown marring her face.
"In the end being divided into small, independent groups was a double edged blade. They couldn't do as much damage alone as they could have done working together, but it also made it much more difficult for the Trade Federation to stop them."
"The Resistance groups ambushed droid patrols, raided or destroyed supply depots and liberated people from prisoner camps. One group even got their hands on some starfighters and destroyed Trade Federation assets in orbit."
"Uh, didn't know that," he muttered. "What about you, Vana? Were you in the resistance?"
"Yes, I was," she said, reaching for a tool.
"Then why are you here, all alone?" Anakin asked in a serious voice.
Vana dropped the hydrospanner.
"If you are telling the truth, and I know you are, every member of the Resistance is a hero. I bet if I were to walk into any cantina on Naboo I would find it full of people buying drinks to Resistance members. When they go home I'm sure they can have any woman, or man, they want to warm their bed."
"And those are just the grunts whose greatest accomplishment was shooting a blaster in the general direction of some battle-droids. A young, attractive pilot like you should be surrounded by pilots and engineers, all eager to show off their mechanical skills."
"Yet, here you are. Trying to do a two person job. All alone. Why is that?"
Vana looked at Anakin for a long time. "You're older than you look."
"Not really. On Tatooine, you grow up fast or not at all," he said. "Are you going to answer the question?"
Vana stood up and turned away from him.
Anakin waited for a minute and was about to walk away when she spoke.
"I was born on Alderaan. I grew up being told it was the most peaceful planet in the Galaxy. I always thought it was the most boring. I left Alderaan when I was fifteen, with the dream of becoming a great starfighter pilot. I worked in a few ships, mostly freighters, learning from any pilot willing to teach me."
She turned to face Anakin.
"A few years after I left Alderaan, I was a freighter pilot. We came to Naboo to drop off some cargo, I don't even remember what it was. We weren't supposed to stay for more than a few hours, but I decided to take a walk around Theed while the cargo was being unloaded. I found a nice place to eat and was trying to do decide what to order when I saw a vid on the wall screen. It was a recruitment vid for the Royal Naboo Security Forces, they were looking for pilots for their Space Fighter Corps."
"The moment I saw those gleaming starfighters on that vid I forgot about the food, about the freighter that would be stranded on Naboo without a pilot, about..." Vana shook her head.
"I took some tests, showed off my skills in a simulator and next thing I knew, I was a pilot in the Naboo Space Fighter Corps," she said with a smile.
"Life was good but it didn't last," Vana said, her smile turning into a frown.
"Why not?" Anakin asked.
"Did you know Alderran's government deliberately passed laws that made it illegal to search or even question ships arriving or leaving the planet?" Vana asked.
Chuckling at the stunned look on Anakin's face, she said. "It's true. They have security forces, but Alderran's very laws binds their hands. They can't do anything unless someone commits a crime that can't be ignored, like killing someone in the middle of the street in front of several witnesses. Peace... at any cost."
Vana shook her head. "It's not as bad on Naboo but people here still believe any and all conflicts can be solved through diplomacy. By the time I joined the Space Fighter Corps I had seen enough of the Galaxy to know better. I took one look at Naboo's defenses and... well I rated them somewhere between Embarrassingly Inadequate and Pirate's Paradise."
Anakin snorted. "Is that out of an official planetary defense scale or-"
"No," Vana interrupted with a smirk. "It's my own scale."
"Right," Anakin laughed. "So you..."
"Well, every man and woman in the Royal Naboo Security Forces are volunteers. Some are off worlders, most are locals that never left the star system and join the Security Forces for a few years before *getting a real job*. They are not professional soldiers with actual military training, so..."
"You assumed the security was crap because they didn't know better," concluded Anakin.
Vana nodded. "I didn't want to embarass anyone so I just made a few observations, you know, pointed out the largest gaps in the security net. The ones that could and would be easily exploited during an attack. I thought they would do the rest. They didn't."
"I waited for a while but nothing changed. I dropped some more hints, still nothing. So I figured, screw subtlety, these guys clearly need to have this spelled out to them."
Anakin winced. He could see were this was going. "What did you do?"
"I made a full threat assessment, complete with several computer simulations, depicting various scenarios ranging from pirate raids to a full planetary invasion. It clearly showed how inadequate the security was. I presented it to Panaka, the closest thing to a professional soldier in the Security Forces and waited for his findings."
"I just wanted his opinion but a few days later I was summoned to the Palace. I was ushered into a meeting with several government officials. The head of the Royal Naboo Security Forces and the head of the Space Fighter Corps were present but they didn't say a word."
Vana grimaced. "The... politicians told me they had reviewed my findings and then proceeded to explain, in a incredibly condescending manner, all the ways I was wrong. They told me how *the gallant men and women of the Security Forces were more than a mach for any cowardly pirate*. As if gallantry was some kind of magical shield that could protect you from a blaster. They told me *they couldn't possible justify increased military spending for it could be perceived as a provocation by nearby systems and because they had nothing to fear from their neighbors*. Even though their neighbors included the Hutt crime lord Borvo and his smugglers, bounty hunters and mercs that easily evaded the outdated tracking systems used by the Naboo Security Forces and routinely moved large shipments of weapons and spice to the planet."
"They went on to say that the Security Forces existed more because of a tradition dating back to more uncivilized times, than any actual need for their protection. That any conflict would be resolved diplomaticlly, like civilized people working in good faith to achieve a compromise." Vana shook her head. "I don't know what bothered me more. The way they looked down their nose at me, speaking in a slow, patronizing tone as if I was a particularly slow witted child or the realization that the people running this world were really that naive."
"Alderran can afford to take a relaxed attitude in regards to planetary security. It's a Core world, one of the most important planets in the Republic," she said. "If someone actually attacked Alderran, Jedi and Republic forces would be immediately dispatched from Coruscant to protect the planet. Naboo is all alone out here."
Anakin shrugged. "I guess there's nothing wrong with trying to find a compromise but when you are dealing with pirates... well, their idea of a compromise is usually, *If you dumb bastards don't put up a fight while we take everything you got, rape your women and burn down your homes we won't kill you when we're done*. Unless they get bored, then they'll kill you just for fun."
"Exactly!" Vana said. "How does a kid understand that and they don't?"
"Well, unlike them I've actually met some pirates," said Anakin with a wry smile.
"Yeah, I guess it helps to know what you are talking about," she said with a sigh. "My only comfort was that the heads of the Security Forces and Fighter Corps were just as angry with the situation as I was, but there was nothing they could do. I later found out I wasn't the first to propose some changes and that the display of patronizing arrogance and appalling ignorance I was subjected to was the standard response by the government. I couldn't stay after that. Oh, I tried but I was just too angry. I packed my bags and booked a passage on the first passenger ship out of the system."
Vana turned to look at her ship. "I moved around for a while, until I found another job... with the Trade Federation."
Anakin's eyebrows shot up.
"They were looking for pilots to test their droid-fighters. It was a good job. The credits were great and I was basically getting payed to shoot droids out of the sky."
Vana reach out and touched her ship. "It was around that time I contracted a brilliant Xi Char engineer to make Guardian Mantis for me."
Vana turned to face Anakin. "I was testing the Scarab class droid starfighter when I learned something I wasn't supposed to know. Modthree intercepted a transmission about the invasion of Naboo. When the Trade Federation learned of this, they decided to terminate my employment contract by sending a bunch of droids and a squad of mercs to kill me. It didn't really work out the way they planed it," she said with a fierce grin.
"That's it?" Anakin asked. "That's why you're here alone? They refused to help you repair your ship, a ship damaged defending Naboo, because you worked for the Trade Federation!?"
"Well, technically they didn't refuse to help me," she grimaced. "They just moved my ship to the bottom of the repair list and said they would get to it. Eventually."
"Right," Anakin snorted. "Eventually is code for never." Anakin looked around at the parts scattered around the ship. "Well, at least they gave you new cannons and the parts you needed to replace."
Vana's eyes darted around the hanger bay. "Hmm, gave. Right."
"You stole the parts, didn't you?" Anakin asked.
"Mmmm... maybe?" Vana answered with a sheepish grin.
"Well, come on then," Anakin said. "Let's get this done before someone wanders by and starts asking questions you can't answer."
Vana stared at Anakin. "Why would you help me, kid?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Anakin asked. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"I could be lying," Vana pointed out.
"You could," Anakin nodded. "But you're not." Seeing Vana beginning to ask he raised his hand. "I just know."
"In that case thank you, I appreciate the help," she said. "Uh, don't take this the wrong way but... do you know anything about repairing ships?"
Anakin smiled. "I do this for a living. Ships and speeders, droids and weapons, I can fix anything."
Vana raised an eyebrow. "So winning podraces and saving planets is just what you do on your free time?"
"Well, everyone needs a hobby," said Anakin.
Vana's laughter echoed throughout the hanger.
A/N: Can you guys think of a good name for Anakin's ship? I have a couple of possible names but if you can come up with a better one I'll use it and give you credit. Just keep in mind, it's a bulk freighter not a star destroyer.