Even at the height of their power, the Jedi Order's influence never extended beyond the borders of the Republic. For most of those who dwelt in the Outer Rim, Jedi were little more than a distant rumour, their faith a relic of ancient, outdated myths. Tatooine was no exception.
Certainly the Jawas and Sand People believed in the Force – as an enemy god, vengeful and diabolical. To the homesteaders, it was mere sorcery, something to be feared and kept at a safe distance, while few others acknowledged its existence at all. Of all the peoples of Tatooine, only the Alsarai worshipped it outright.
To them, the Force was sacred. They revered the never-seen Jedi and among themselves, reserved positions of the greatest authority and honour for their own anakyria, the Chosen.
Anakyria walked with the Force, guiding their traders on the earth and their pilots in the sky. The stronger ones served for decades on end, but even the weakest could reasonably expect to command a caravan or a starship at some point.
Shmi was not weak.
“I don’t see why I shouldn’t have my own ship,” she said, scowling at her breakfast.
“You’re too young, Shmi,” her mother said tiredly. “Besides, I need you here. I’ll sponsor you next season, but for now -- ”
“That’s what you said last year!”
Shmi’s oldest sister, Lukia, glanced from one to the other, biting her lip. “Mother, she’s right. You did promise. And she’s almost two years older than I was when I got my first ship.”
“I can’t sponsor her right now. She’ll have to wait just like Ladhri did.”
Shmi slammed her spoon down. “She is sitting right here!”
“Shmi,” Lukia said, “if you want a ship that badly, I could speak for you. It wouldn't be worth much – nothing like what you'd get if Mother or Grandmother did it – but there are a few freighters that need navigators.”
“Their usual navigators aren't even anakyria – they'd be very lucky to get one at all, let alone one as strong in the Force as you are. You could have your own ship, get some experience, and they'd be grateful to have you.”
“You wouldn’t make it a month,” said their mother fondly.
Shmi’s eyes narrowed. “I’d be grateful for any appointment you could get me,” she said. “Thanks, Lukia.”
The council proved amenable.
“If your sister is willing to serve on one of the - er - recommended vessels, I can think of no reason why she shouldn’t,” said the Skymaster, shaking her head in bewilderment. Lukia only smiled.
Within the week, Shmi had her appointment, and was given directions to the port. She didn’t need them; she’d gone there almost every day since she was a child, watching the pilots and navigators. It only took her a few minutes to find the ship.
For the first time, she doubted herself. The ship was – well, it was a ship. Technically.
“Does it even fly?” she muttered to herself.
Behind her, a woman laughed. Shmi spun around.
“Sure,” said the woman, “if the wind’s blowing in the right direction. I’m Jenn Teka, by the way – the one who flies this thing, the Force willing. You’re our navigator, right? Lukia’s sister?”
Shmi swallowed. “Yes. I didn’t mean – ”
“And you’re anakyria too? Not just Lukia?”
“Of course!” Shmi saw the captain’s surprise, and hurried to add, “We all are – my mother and sisters and everyone. The Force is strong in my family.”
Teka whistled. “Well, come on up. I can show you around.”
Shmi followed her, hoping that the interior looked a little more impressive, or at least more functional, than the ramshackle exterior. To her relief, nothing appeared to be in urgent need of repair.
“I’ve been wanting to upgrade the rear thrusters,” Teka said chattily, “but we figured we’d need a navigator if we were ever going to do more than scrape by. Never thought we’d get a proper skywalker, of course – with you along, we’ll make up the requisition fee in no time. Maybe even get an astrodroid.” She grinned. “Damn, nobody’s going to believe this.”
“My mother didn’t,” Shmi said, then flushed bright red. Teka only laughed.
“I bet she didn’t. Oh, here’s the navigator’s cabin. I’m going to sound like a broken hologram, but we really had no idea you’d be a skywalker, so we didn’t – well, it won’t be like what you’re used to.”
It was neat and clean, and she wouldn’t be sharing it with four sisters.
“It looks wonderful,” said Shmi.
They’d just reached the cockpit when someone stalked through the doorway. She was a tall, rangy woman of about fifty, her black hair cropped short. She scowled at the captain, sparing scarcely a glance for Shmi.
“We don’t have time for this, Tek. I told you to get a real navigator, not one of your - ”
“Madam Skywalker,” Teka said, sketching a half-mocking bow, “meet Díais, first mate of our ship. She keeps me in order.”
“What?” Díais stared at Teka, and then at Shmi. “How – you’re anakyria? What’d you do to end up on a useless piece of rubbish like this?”
Shmi smiled brilliantly. “I wanted to fly,” she said.