Shmi watches the Jedi, watches him bet with Watto, watches him watch Ani.
“Jedi are always thinking about the future,” Padmé says, and Shmi can hear those undertones of bitterness in her voice, and wonders what she’s leaving behind, traveling with this Jedi.
What kind of future will her son have?
The Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn, watches Ani from afar, and when Ani and Padmé are both in bed he goes to sit on the floor, cross-legged, and closes his eyes. His breathing slows. He’s not asleep – Shmi has fallen asleep cross-legged, on horrible nights when there had been so much work to do, and she had to keep going, and going, and going – he’s far too calm for that. She can feel the calm radiating out from him. There’s only one thing to do in this situation, clearly.
Shmi goes and sits across from him, crossing her legs as well, placing her hands on her knees like he has, and waiting.
“It’s called meditation,” he says finally. “A means of calming the mind, clarifying it. A basic art that all Jedi learn.”
Shmi thinks for a moment. “Ani will learn this, then?”
“How do you instruct children in this, then?”
A ghost of a smile crosses the Jedi’s face. “With great difficulty,” he says, and Shmi likes him a little more for the humor filling his voice. “We ask them to sit still, and listen to their breathing, The basis is a count; breathing in for six, holding for two, out for four, holding for two, and repeating.”
“That seems rather difficult for small, excited children,” Shmi points out neutrally. This will not come easy to her son.
“Which is why we do it often,” the Jedi explains. “Even starting from toddler-hood, many Jedi have trouble with meditation.”
Some whispers talk about how Jedi can read minds; Shmi pushes this fear out of her mind. It won’t serve her here.
“Do the Jedi take over-aged students often?” she asks instead.
The Jedi hesitates; that is answer enough, and after a few seconds of floundering he seems to know it as well. “No matter what happens, I will make sure he’s looked after,” he says.
That’s not as much of a reassurance as it could be, though it is better than nothing, Shmi decides.
Over-aged students, a part of her mind whispers, the one that tells her when to not aggravate Watto and what to show to a customer and where to hide the runaways that come to her house every so often. If Ani is overaged, then–
She takes her first breath in slowly, in the six-count that the Jedi had said, and goes from there. It’s supposed to be a calming exercise, he said, so she lets the tension drain out of her, the work of the day, the sting of the wind, lets it all drain out into the ground until she is as solid as rock.
She can feel a flash of surprise from the Jedi, lets it pass over her and through her and not disturb her any more than the words of her masters have, but the Jedi calms his emotions again quickly.
This quiet, this calm, she can feel the transmitter in her leg, can feel the faint buzz of electricity, can feel it pressed up against the bone.
The Jedi’s reassurance had been better than nothing – he will make sure that Ani is looked after to the best of his ability.
But Shmi has a sharpened knife, paper-thin, hidden in a box in her cupboard, ready for the moment she found out where Ani’s and her transmitters were. And Ani’s won’t be a problem for much longer, not with the kind of certainty she’s seen in the Jedi’s face, not with the images she sees when she dreams.
Shmi listens to the pulse of her blood flowing around the transmitter, and thinks of the best way to make the cut.
The Jedi doesn’t seem surprised when she stands, her leg bleeding but bandaged, the tiny bomb that was in her body sitting on her kitchen table, but Ani is shocked beyond words. He sees the transmitter on the table, sees her stand, a runaway slave, and hugs her tight, equal amounts fear and awe pouring from him. Awe that she has had the strength to cut the transmitter out of her own body; fear that she will be caught.
“Don’t be afraid, Ani,” she whispers. “You think that Watto will chase me off-planet?”
He hugs her tighter as his fear dies down, now only embers against the blaze of his awe and his joy. They are both free, now.
“We should return to your ship, Jedi,” Shmi says, holding her son tight.
“Qui-Gon,” he says, and offers her his arm.
She doesn’t take it. Her first steps outside as a free woman will be her own.
The sand, the suns, the sky, those are all the same as she breathes them in, breathes in this new day. But she is free.
Ani walks by her side, holding the ship-parts that the Jedi – that Qui-Gon needs. They walk out of town, and nobody stops them. The transmitter does not buzz a warning, does not explode; the transmitter sits on a table in what had never really been her home, and Shmi walks out into the desert, even further than where the masters allow the slaves to go.
She will miss some things, she knows; she will miss her friends, her companions, and they will miss her, but being sold was always a risk, and they will know her for a runaway, and know deep down in their hearts that freedom is possible. She might miss the desert, and the suns; she knows the desert deep down in her bones, knows its moods and its fury and its patience, but that is something in her, and she won’t lose it by leaving this place.
What will she find on other worlds?
Of course, that’s when a zabrak wielding a lightsaber decides to try and kill them.
“Run, Ani!” Qui-Gon calls, and Shmi seconds it, pushing her son towards the shining ship.
She can’t run, not with her leg still pulsing in pain; she hadn’t sliced an artery or she would be dead already, but to get to the transmitter she’d had to cut through muscle.
Instead, she turns.
The zabrak is fast, as fast as Qui-Gon, and his lightsaber has two blades. But he pays her no mind, as Shmi is used to being paid no mind. She takes a deep breath; it’s said that the desert winds will help runaway slaves, will help those fighting against the hutts.
The zabrak steps back, cursing in some language that Shmi doesn’t know, blinking sand out of his eyes; Qui-Gon glances back at her, then shuts his lightsaber off and runs, picking her up in his arms before leaping up high onto the ramp of the ship.
Ani helps her up, as another Jedi helps Qui-Gon to his feet.
“Obi-Wan,” he says. “Did you see that?”
“I did,” the other Jedi – Obi-Wan – says, his eyes shadowed. “What was it?”
“Not that,” Qui-Gon says, impatient. “Well, yes, that too, but…” he turns to Shmi. “The sand,” he says, as if it should be a revelation.
Shmi just shrugs. “It happens,” she says. “Masters pursue a slave into the desert. Sand blinds them, and they stumble back into town. Or not.”
The Jedi stare at her as she brushes off her clothes and checks that Ani is all right.
The younger Jedi is mostly just confused, but Qui-Gon is clearly shocked. He had underestimated her, even after showing her the meditation.
That was a bad habit, underestimating people. Shmi wonders if the Jedi in their temple have the same habit.
If they do, it will make things very interesting indeed.
Padmé seeks her out, a day and a half into their journey, a japoor snippet clutched in her hands.
That brings a smile to Shmi’s face. Ani is a caring child.
But Padmé’s face is serious, so Shmi sits and listens.
“I thought slavery was outlawed in the republic,” Padmé says, her voice angry but also confused, also hurt. She trusted her republic, Shmi thinks, and this feels like a betrayal.
“We’re on the outer rim,” Shmi says. “Your republic doesn’t care what happens as long as it doesn’t have to see it.” It’s harsh, but true.
“It should!” Padmé stands suddenly and paces around the room. “Why doesn’t it care?” She is burning, now, furious, and Shmi stands, walks over to her, and puts a hand on her shoulder.
“Getting angry won’t help here,” she says.
“You sound like a Jedi,” Padmé says bitterly.
Shmi can understand that bitterness; she’s heard about what happened on Naboo, and what’s happening to this girl’s people.
“I’m not,” Shmi reminds her. “I may not know what the Jedi have to say about anger, but I have learned some things. Save your anger; if you let it control you, it can steal the words from your mouth, and make you say things you don’t mean. If you control your anger, though, you can use it. Show other people what’s happened; show them how angry you are, but show them that you’re still in control.”
Padmé is staring at her. “How do you know all that? You were–”
“I was a slave,” Shmi says calmly. “I learned, I had to, how to show the right face to my master. Many of us do. We do what we have to, protecting our family, settling disputes between ourselves before the masters can catch on.”
Padmé looks down. “I’m sorry,” she says.
Shmi takes her hand. “I’m free now,” she says. “And although I’ve left people behind on that miserable ball of dust, although I know they’re still there, still slaves – I have hope. That’s something that you can have, too.”
Padmé blinks, and looks up. “What do you mean?”
“Your people, your planet – there’s still hope,” Shmi says, and smiles. “All my hopes have been fulfilled. If hope is real, if dreams and hopes can come true – anything can happen.”
“You think so?” Padme whispers. “Sometimes it seems as if the entire galaxy is horrible and evil, and we keep fighting and trying to make it better and nothing changes, and every day I learn about people that I didn’t know about before, people struggling and suffering in so many different ways, and how could I not have known?” she shakes her head. “There are a people – the gungans, you’ve met Jar Jar – living on the southern continent of Naboo. But I’d never met one before this all happened, and they’re so different, and we’ve been hating each other for no reason…”
If she doesn’t unclench her fist the japoor snippet will leave indentations in her hand, Shmi thinks, but doesn’t interrupt.
“There are so many people who need help,” Padmé says. “Who I can help. But I keep hearing of more, and more, and more every day, and this problem is systemic, it’s not something that one person can fix, and nobody will listen!” She takes a deep breath, then seems to realize that she’s shaking a bit, and takes another.
“All right,” Shmi says, once Padmé has calmed herself down a bit. “So you say that nobody will listen.”
Padmé frowns up at her, confusion writ clear on her face. “Yes?” she says hesitantly.
Shmi is using what she thinks of as her mother-voice – talking firmly and clearly and laying out the steps that can be taken. “There’s a saying – you can’t do more than you can do… hm. It sounds silly in Basic. But it’s also true – you can’t do what you can’t do. So do what you can do.”
“Start small,” Padmé says, understanding. She’s clever; Shmi is willing to bet that the queen is glad to have Padmé as one of her handmaidens. She’s known full-grown adults who don’t understand things half as fast. “Talk to people who I know will support it. They talk to people who will support them…”
“I don’t know fully how your senate works,” Shmi admits. “But that’s how it worked in Mos Espa, and from what I’ve seen sentients are the same whether they’re slaves in Mos Espa or Hutts in their palaces. How different can the senate be?”
Padmé laughs. “I doubt many of them would like that comparison!”
“I doubt the hutts would either,” Shmi admits, and shivers. “Do you know how much longer this journey will take?”
“Cold?” Padmé asks. “Ani says that he is, too. We’ll be arriving on Coruscant in an hour or two. I should go prepare for that, actually.”
“And I should check on Ani,” Shmi says. She squeezes the girl’s hand for a moment; Padmé smiles at her.
“Thank you,” Padmé says. “For your advice.”
“Of course,” Shmi says, and smiles back.
Coruscant is loud and big and there are so many people, so many flashes of lives barely intersecting with another, bright and shining and all so unique and–
Shmi has always found it necessary to know where everybody is; she can find Ani from halfway across Mos Espa, can know when Watto wants to see her, can know when strangers walk into town. But here, on Coruscant, it’s so many–
She breathes in, slowly, surely, breathes out, and makes herself like rock, lets herself relax, lets all these minds pound upon her and she does not move, because she is the rock beneat the sand of the desert. The winds can blow the sand all they want, can shift it and raise it up into storms, but she is the stone beneath it, and the wind never touches her.
When she opens her eyes, Obi-Wan is staring at her.
“Is there something I can help you with?” she asks. Being a rock in her mind means that she can’t feel whatever he’s feeling, and leaves her a little off-balance, but it’s still much better than having billions of people in her head.
“Where did you learn how to shield?” he demands.
Shmi shrugs. “Qui-Gon showed me his meditation. It was too loud, so I just… visualized.”
“You just… visualized,” Obi-Wan repeats. The apple in his throat bobs up and down a bit; Shmi is certain that if she could hear his emotions like normal, she would get at most mild confusion; she is equally certain that Obi-Wan Kenobi is very afraid.
Shmi considers and discards half a dozen different roundabout statements and decides to just ask him right out. “What are you afraid of?”
He tenses up, hands clenched tight. “I’m not afraid,” he says. “What – how–”
“I can’t feel how you feel now, because of my… shields,” Shmi says. “But you’re tense. Your eyes are wide. You’ve been jumpy around me and Anakin.”
Obi-Wan looks down. “I’m not afraid,” he insists again.
Asking right out hadn’t been the correct method, then. But now that he knew that she knew…
“I’m afraid too, you know,” Shmi says, and Obi-Wan glances up at her. “Probably not for the same reasons you are. But I’m terrified, for all that I’m overjoyed. Anakin’s just as scared as I am – we’re going farther than we’ve ever been before, with nobody to hold on to but each other.”
“Jedi aren’t supposed to form attachments,” Obi-Wan says, but it sounds like a reflex more than anything else.
Shmi waits; Obi-Wan looks like he has something on the tip of his tongue.
“Masters can only have one apprentice at a time,” he says finally.
Shmi frowns. “You think your teacher will abandon you for my son,” she says slowly.
Obi-Wan gives her a half-shrug half-nod gesture, as if he can’t really bring himself to fully acknowledge it.
“I was under the impression that masters and padawans had a commitment to each other,” Shmi says.
“My apprenticeship has been… not the smoothest,” Obi-Wan says. “And… and master Qui-Gon looks at Anakin like he’s what he’s been looking for for all these years, and he barely even looks at me any more, and–” Obi-Wan breaks off and takes a deep breath. His hands unclench; his body relaxes. “Whatever happens is the will of the force,” he says in a voice that is only calm on the outside.
Shmi watches him walk away, and decides that she needs to have words with Qui-Gon Jinn.
Next chapter we might even get all the way to the Jedi Temple!
Anakin is in awe. At the buildings, the people, the ships, the everything.
Shmi is mostly glad that Ani hasn’t learned to hear people the way she has; she doubts that he could settle down enough to shield his mind from the onslaught the way she has.
“Obi-Wan tells me that you’ve learned how to shield in less time than it took you to learn how to meditate,” Qui-Gon says quietly, as they watch Queen Amidala greet her senator.
“Obi-Wan tells me that you’ve been thinking of abandoning him for Anakin,” Shmi says, equally quietly, as if they’re just talking about the weather. (Which they could be; the sky here tastes like speeder-smoke and something wet and unnameable.)
“What?” Qui-Gon doesn’t speak louder, but it seems that he’s still underestimating her. “That’s completely–” his words appear to die in his throat as Shmi turns and looks at him. He sighs. “Anakin is unprecedented–”
“However precedented or not my son is,” Shmi says quietly, “It does not change the fact that you have made a commitment to your padawan, who happens to already be a bright young man with from what I can see a great deal of talent, who has been terrified from Tatooine to here that you will abandon him now that a nine-year-old has caught your eye. I was under the impression,” Shmi continues, not giving the Jedi room to speak, “That nine-year-olds were permitted to be initiates, and hardly needed to be rushed into being padawans; and if there were a Jedi Master wanting to take on Anakin at his young age, I hardly see that one so inconstant as to drop a padawan he’s been teaching for years would be the best choice for my son.”
She walks on, following the crowd of handmaidens, leaving Qui-Gon to stand on the landing platform, staring after her.
With her shields up and rock-hard, she can’t feel eyes on her the way she normally can; she doesn’t know how much Obi-Wan heard, or if Anakin even noticed they were talking. She can’t pick out Padmé from behind in the crowd of handmaidens. But what matters is that Qui-Gon Jinn heard her clearly, and she gets the feeling that he did. He may even be learning to not underestimate her; however smooth his introduction to the Naboo senator is, however solid her shields are, Shmi knows that she has put Qui-Gon badly off-balance.
She just hopes that when he regains his footing he starts actually paying attention.
Shmi sits outside the Council’s room with Anakin, waiting for Qui-Gon to finish addressing them, watching the Jedi go by. Some glance at them with curiosity, two strangers sitting in the heart of the Jedi Temple; most just walk past.
Qui-Gon had said nothing about the kind of testing the Council would do; Obi-Wan had mentioned quietly that they would probably ask to see him alone.
“I’m scared,” Ani admits to her quietly, his legs bouncing against the chair.
“Oh, Ani,” she says, and smooths his hair down. “You have nothing to be afraid of, not here.”
“But what–” Ani swallows. “What if they send us back? Whatever they’re testing me for, what if I’m not good enough, and we have to go back to Watto and–”
“Anakin Skywalker,” Shmi says quietly, “You listen to me. I promise you, my son. We are not going back. No matter if these Jedi say you cannot be one of them, no matter if they do. We are free, and we will stay that way.”
Ani looks at her, his blue eyes wide. “You promise?”
“I promise,” Shmi says, meeting his eyes squarely. “We are not going back. When you walk in there, and face this council, you may call them masters – but they are not masters of you. If they say you can be one of them, you can stay here and learn; but also, Ani, if you do not want this, you do not have to be a Jedi. You can stand in that room, and they can ask you to join them, and if you want to, you can say no. Remember that.”
“But what’ll happen to you?” Ani says.
“The temple will help her find a place to stay and find a job,” Obi-Wan chimes in. He flushes a little when Ani jumps. “I didn’t mean to listen in, but I’m right next to you, and…”
“It’s fine,” Shmi says, brushing her fingers through Ani’s hair to calm him. “Is that… usual?”
Obi-Wan nods. “Since we go on missions all across the galaxy, it’s pretty common to end up with people’s lives being a little uprooted, due to natural disasters or political turmoil or just my master bringing home more strays.” He sighs, then shakes his head. “Not that you two are strays, just–”
“It’s all right.” Shmi smiles. “Obi-Wan – Qui-Gon showed me what he said was a way you teach children to meditate. Would you be willing to help Ani try and calm down?”
Obi-Wan blinks, his eyes wide. “Me? Are you, um…” he glances down at Ani. “Are you sure?”
“What’s meditation?” Ani asks. “Is it that sitting thing that you guys did on the ship? Mom’s started doing it too.”
Shmi shrugs. “It’s relaxing,” she says. “And it seems like Ani could use a bit of help settling down.”
“If you’re sure,” Obi-Wan says, then sits down on the floor, his legs crossed. “Here, Ani, sit across from me.”
Ani makes a face but sits down, and Shmi settles back and watches the two boys. Obi-Wan is clearly not used to teaching, just as Ani isn’t used to learning, but something about this feels right to her.
“So I empty my head–”
“No! Not quite. You don’t make it empty. You make it calm, clear…” Obi-Wan bites his lip. “Like… like a glass of water, mixed with sand. You can’t take all the sand out; what you want it to do is keep the water still enough that all the sand sinks to the bottom.”
“Oh.” Ani thinks. “So…”
Obi-Wan clearly isn’t used to teaching, but he appears to have a gift for it, Shmi thinks. It will take Ani a while to learn how to calm himself, but this is a good first step – and she’s glad she got Obi-Wan and Ani actually talking to each other, instead of just giving each other startled glances from across the ship.
Just when Ani has stopped fidgeting, though, is when Qui-Gon reappears.
“They’re ready to talk to Anakin,” he says, giving Obi-Wan a confused look.
Obi-Wan quickly stands, brushing off imaginary dirt, then sits back down in a chair, trying to look like he hadn’t just been on the floor.
Shmi helps Ani stand, helps him straighten up his clothes, squeezes his hand tight one more time, then watches him walk into the council’s chamber.
The Jedi Council does not agree on things easily.
Qui-Gon waits with her and Obi-Wan, outside the council’s chamber.
“Padawan,” Qui-Gon says, looking over at Obi-Wan. “Would you go get some refreshments for Shmi, and for Ani when he comes out?”
Obi-Wan glances between the two of them, but nods. “Of course, master.”
They wait until Obi-Wan is out of sight and earshot, but even then Qui-Gon is clearly not quite sure what to say.
Shmi decides to begin the conversation, instead. “Will they take him?”
Qui-Gon sighs. “I don’t know. It all depends upon how he acts in their presence.” He glances over at her. “I see you had my padawan teaching him some meditation.”
“It seemed to be good for both of them,” Shmi says. “Your padawan is good with children.”
“Don’t let him hear you say that,” Qui-Gon says. “He keeps denying it.”
Shmi relaxes a bit. It’s good to hear that little bit of humor in Qui-Gon’s voice – and his insistence on calling Obi-Wan padawan hadn’t gone unnoticed by her, either.
“Obi-Wan also mentioned some sort of help in finding a job, and a place to stay?” She asks.
“There is a program to help people settle in, yes,” Qui-Gon says.
“You have a different plan, though,” Shmi says. “What?”
“You’ll see,” Qui-Gon says, and there’s the smug Jedi who bet his whole mission on a podrace.
Shmi has no doubt that she will, in fact, see, and equally no doubt that Qui-Gon is an inconsiderate piece of bantha fodder who’s going to resist telling her what he’s planning just to see the surprise on everyone’s faces.
If she stays, she’s going to need to get him to stop doing that – Oh, Shmi thinks suddenly. If she stays. He’s not only trying to get Ani accepted as a Jedi, he’s–
“I brought fruit juice and water,” Obi-Wan says, walking up, “But it looks as if they want you in there already, master.”
Shmi looks up; there’s another padawan peeking their head outside the door.
“Um, they want all three of you,” the padawan says.
Shmi takes a deep breath and stands, then goes to join her son.
The council room is silent as the three of them walk in. Shmi goes to join Ani in the middle, placing a hand on his shoulder; Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are not far behind her.
Most of the sentients on the council are species familiar to Shmi – an iktotchi, a thisspiasian, a lannik, and more – but there are some she does not recognize.
“Shmi Skywalker,” a small, green being says. “Shielded from us, you are.”
Shmi had built her shields to keep her mind in, to keep the press of Coruscant out – she hadn’t considered that it would also keep others out, hadn’t even realized that others needed to be kept out.
But she’s glad to know it.
“My apologies,” she says politely. “I only shielded myself this morning, I’m still working out how to use it.” Can she inch it down slowly? No, she thinks feeling around the rock walls she’s built for herself. She’s going to have to take it down all the way, which will be a headache and a half to deal with.
The council stirs a bit; the green being puts his hands on his walking stick. “Recently constructed shields, hmm? Taught you this, Qui-Gon did?”
“I did not,” Qui-Gon says. “She saw me meditating back on Tatooine; I explained the breathing count to her. The rest, she did all herself.”
Shmi glances over at Qui-Gon; he looks too pleased with himself. She narrows her eyes a bit. “I can speak for myself,” she says quietly, then turns to face the council again. “There are more people than I am used to, here on Coruscant,” she says.
“You spontaneously developed shields because of the pressure on your mind?” another councilor says. “It’s hardly unprecedented, but uncommon enough–”
“Uncommon,” another councilor scoffs, a quermian. “We’re supposed to be impressed because of a grown woman doing what most children can? I hardly see–”
“There is the matter of attachment to be considered,” a cerean councilor says. “Aside from their ages, it is a major consideration.”
“Excuse me,” Shmi says, still painfully polite, interrupting the council. “But what does attachment have anything to do with it?”
There’s silence from the council for a long moment.
“Forbid attachment, the Jedi do,” the green one says at last. “A Jedi, your son wants to be. Yet attached he is.”
Shmi blinks. “Why do the Jedi forbid attachment?”
“A distraction, it is,” the Jedi says. “From what must be done. Keep our emotions in check, we do; disrupts, attachment does.”
“A distraction, sentience is,” Shmi says. “You keep your emotions in check, but recognizing that you have them is necessary to doing so, isn’t it?”
“Master Yoda,” the quermian councilor says. “I hardly see the point–”
The green being – Yoda – raises his hand, halting the other councilor, his eyes still on Shmi. “An emotion, attachment is not,” he says.
“Of course it is,” Shmi says. “Attachment – love – is what keeps people grounded, keeps them hopeful.”
“A great danger, love can be,” Yoda says. “Attachment to loved ones; fear for loved ones. Come from attachment, great fear can. And fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Shmi is quiet for a long moment. “Suffering leads to compassion,” she says. “Compassion leads–”
The council is in an uproar.
“Heresey!” One of them shrieks.
“Exactly what I’ve been saying–”
“Goes completely against–”
“Universal examples are hardly–”
Shmi glances down at Ani, who’s hiding his face in her shirt, then over at Obi-Wan, who looks absolutely shocked at all the shouting.
Qui-Gon, of course, just looks smug.
“SILENCE,” one of the councilors – an iktotchi – finally roars. The council settles down, staring at the iktotchi councilor. “Master Yoda has something to say, and I can hardly hear over all your blathering.”
“Many thanks, Master Tiin,” Yoda says. “A much-debated matter this is. Thank you, we do, for your input, Lady Skywalker. A new viewpoint, and one worth considering, it is.” He sighs, glancing around the council chamber. “Back to the point of this meeting, we may get, hmm?”
The council murmurs or grumbles their assent.
“Good. If you will, Lady Skywalker, lower your shields, will you?”
Shmi takes a deep breath and prepares herself for another argument. “Why?”
Yoda – Yoda laughs. “Argumentative, you are. Yet not without good reason, I sense. None in this chamber shall violate your privacy. Only to get a better sense for you, we wish.”
That seems… almost reasonable, really.
“All right.” Shmi takes a deep breath, feels the rock become sand, the sand become dust, and the dust be blown away, leaving her open and exposed.
Almost immediately, the rush of Coruscant begins pressing down on her again, but it’s dampened, lessend somehow.
“It’s quieter up here,” she says.
“The council’s chamber has psychic shielding built into the walls,” a human councilor says. “You’re unusually calm, Lady Skywalker.”
“Do I have anything to be afraid of?” she counters.
“Your son thought he did,” says the quermian.
“My son,” Shmi says calmly, feeling a soft spike of anger over her calm, “Is nine years old and has been a slave all his life. Why would he not feel fear in a room full of beings calling themselves masters, no matter how much I’ve reassured him?” Ignoring the council’s mutters for a moment, she turns and kneels down next to Ani. “You remember what I said, Ani?” she asks seriously.
Ani nods a bit, shakily. “They’re not sending us back,” he says, but it sounds more like repetition than belief. “Even though they were yelling, they didn’t hit you or anything, but they were angry and it was scary and I thought they were and they were gonna send us back–”
Shmi hushes him and pulls him into a hug. “Listen, Ani,” she says, quietly. She’s sure that the council can hear her, but these words are important for Ani. “It’s safe here. Nobody is going to get punished, even when they’re yelling, even though they feel angry. I know it’s hard to believe. But can you trust me, Ani?”
Ani takes a deep, shuddering breath, and nods. He hugs her tightly one more time, then she stands. He stands next to her, still close but not hiding.
The council is silent.
“Angry, we were not, young Skywalker,” Yoda says slowly.
Shmi looks down at Ani; Ani looks up at her. She smooths down his hair, and he takes a deep breath. She can feel him fortifying himself, shoving down his fear.
“You weren’t,” Ani says. “But, um, you were, and you were, and you,” he says, pointing to three of the councilors.
It’s the quermian, the thisspiasian, and the human. Yoda glances over at the three of them. “Angry, were you, master Windu?” he asks.
The human councilor – Windu – sighs. “I was,” he says. “I have seen the tragedy that can result from attachment, and I think that our restrictions are necessary.”
“But you didn’t say anything when the topic came up,” Shmi says.
“No,” says Windu. “Here and now is not the time for that discussion. Again.” he sighs. “Though honestly, with the uproar earlier – Jedi masters yelling at each other, in the middle of judging an initiate for acceptance – it’s no surprise that young Skywalker perceived that some were angry. All I had to do was watch, and it was clear enough.”
“A good point, master Windu raises,” Yoda says. “In the middle of judging a potential initiate, we are.”
Ani tugs on her sleeve. “Is that what you were saying,” he whispers, not nearly quietly enough, “About being angry but not acting angry?”
Shmi nods, but she’s more focused on the strange emotions she can feel – it’s so nice to be able to feel things normally again – from the council.
Yoda feels… like he wants something, badly. A few of the others do, too – the kel dor, the tholothian, and Windu. They feel… almost impressed, Shmi thinks.
Ani was right; the quermian and the thisspiasian still feel angry, though it’s more a quiet hum now in comparison to the roar it must have been earlier.
“Hmm,” Yoda says again, and sighs. “Wise beyond your years, you are, Shmi Skywalker,” he says. “Suffered, you have. Anger, you feel, and attachment. But wise, you are.”
The council is silent.
Qui-Gon’s smugness has reached new heights; Obi-Wan is almost radiating suspicion and astonishment, as if he can’t quite believe what’s happening.
Yoda sighs one last time. “If willing you are,” he says. “My padawan, will you be, Shmi Skywalker?”
The silence shatters as half the councilors speak at once.
“Completely within their rights–”
“I was going to–”
“I accept,” Shmi says.
The Jedi on the council during the Naboo Crisis are:
Yarael Poof (quermian)
Oppo Rancisis (thisissisisyeah I have no clue how to spell his species' name)
Even Piell (lannik)
Adi Gallia (Tholothian)
Depa Billaba (Chalactan)
Plo Koon (Kel Dor)
Saesee Tiin (Iktotchi)
Eeth Koth (Zabrak)
Shmi and Yoda talk about many things, among them what will happen now.
Master Yoda shows her his quarters. They’re small, but comfortably decorated, and they have windows out into one of the temple’s gardens; for a few moments, Shmi just stands and breathes in that green, earthy smell.
“Alone, I have lived, for a long time,” Master Yoda says. “Padawan rooms, there are, attached to this, but find your own rooms, you may, should you prefer.”
There are thousands of tiny uncomfortable parallels needling at Shmi – thousands of small things that are just waiting to scream you thought you were free, well, think again.
But there are another thousand tiny breaths of relief; Yoda is asking her what she’d prefer, what she would be comfortable with.
“Could I see the padawan rooms, first?” She asks, and Master Yoda shows her.
They’re smaller, of course, and the bed is sized for a child – but they’re light, and airy, and she can open windows out onto the garden, and besides that they’re bigger than anything she’s lived in before.
“These look wonderful,” she says, and for a moment misses Ani with a deep ache in her heart. But he’s down in the crèche, meeting other initiates and making friends. They could hardly not accept Ani, after Yoda had accepted her, something she is fiercely glad for. She’ll still see him – around the temple, when he has free time, and no doubt whenever he gets the slightest cough and all the trained temple healers panic because they’ve never dealt with a child not raised in the crèche before.
“Find a better bed, we will,” Master Yoda says, then looks around. “And decorations. But now, the time for tea, it is. Tea and discussion.”
Shmi sits cross-legged on one side of the table as Master Yoda bustles around, levitating cups out of cupboards, and feels like she should be doing something to help.
“Sit, sit,” Yoda tells her. “Young enough to make tea, I still am.”
He sits down across from her, letting two cups of tea come to rest.
Shmi picks hers up and breathes in its steam. It’s different from the desert teas she makes – almost fruity, with a hint of unfamiliar spices – but tea on one planet is tea on another planet.
“A difficult position, this is,” Master Yoda says.
Shmi doesn’t apologize.
“Unexpected,” he continues. “Qui-Gon’s hand, I sense in all of this.” Then he chuckles. “Surprised him, I did, by taking you as my padawan.”
Shmi blinks. “Really?”
“Hmm.” Master Yoda nods. “My padawan’s padawan, he is. Said that I would take no more students after his master, I did. Expecting you to cause a ruckus, he was; not so big as the one you caused, though.”
“He keeps underestimating me,” Shmi murmurs.
“A bad habit, he has developed,” Yoda says. “Help him out of it, we must.” And grins.
Shmi finds herself smiling back. Yoda feels mischevious, and that feeling, it seems, is infectious. “From the council’s reaction, it seems that that won’t be the only bad habit we’ll be helping anyone out of,” she observes.
“Indeed not,” Yoda says. Then his mood sobers a bit; Shmi would sit up straight, if she weren’t already doing so.
“A difficult positon nonetheless,” he says. “Used to teaching children, I am; used to teaching about respect, and listening. Patience. Lessons you, I think, know.”
Shmi waits; a response and an example.
“A rough journey this may be,” Master Yoda says. “Relearn how to teach, I must; patience we both must have, with each other.”
“As far as I’ve seen, you have little to worry about,” Shmi says. “I’ve had far worse teachers than you appear to be.”
There’s a hint of tension in the room, for half a moment; Yoda meets her eyes, then looks down. “A hard life, you have had,” he says. “How fares your leg?”
Shmi tenses it, relaxes it, reminds herself that showing pain is not a weakness, not a defeat. “It hurts,” she says. “Less than it did, but still a reasonable amount.”
“The healers, you should see,” Master Yoda says. “For immunizations, and your leg.”
“Ani will need immunizations, too,” Shmi says.
“Get them, he will,” Yoda says, and sighs. “Worried that attachment will distract you, I still am,” he admits. “Convincing arguments, you make, and debate more, we will; but train for combat, Jedi do. Danger, your son will see.”
Shmi takes a deep breath; holds it, then lets it out. “I can’t pretend that I’m not scared of what will happen to my son,” she says. “And I can’t promise that I would let him die to save a stranger.” She holds the tea in her hands, its warmth seeping through her bones on this cold, metallic planet. But the garden’s scent permeates the room, and she can see greenery outside. “But I can promise that I will not act irrationaly; that I won’t coddle him, try to save him from dangers he can handle. And equally, I can promise,” she says, meeting Master Yoda’s eyes, “That I would do the same for any child in danger.”
Master Yoda exhales slowly; she feels relief, from him, along with tinges of impressedness, and that feeling that she’d felt in the council’s chamber, the one she can now parse as I am so glad this woman is my padawan.
“There were politics going on in the council, weren’t there,” Shmi says.
“There were,” Yoda admits. “Politics, there always are. In the Jedi, in the Senate…”
“In the disaster that is the area where they meet,” Shmi concludes.
Yoda laughs again, almost a cackle this time. “Indeed,” he says. “Met the senator for Naboo, you did?”
Shmi shrugs. “He was introduced to us, but I had my shields up and couldn’t feel him, and…” she hesitates. “And also I, ah, talked to Qui-Gon a bit. Then walked away before he could respond.”
“The only sensible way of dealing with Qui-Gon, that is,” Yoda agrees, mirth filling the air.
“Somebody should tell Obi-Wan that,” Shmi says.
“Front-row seats to when he learns that, I want,” Yoda says. “For the look on his master’s face, spectacular, will be.”
Shmi laughs. It feels good to laugh, here in these garden rooms, a cup of tea in front of her, her son safe in the temple below.
“A more serious matter, relating to Qui-Gon, though,” Yoda says. “The being he saw in the desert. A Sith, he believes it was.”
“I don’t know what a Sith is,” Shmi says, frowning a bit. “He was a zabrak, tattooed all red and black, like I hear they do on Dathomir.”
“Dathomir…” Yoda mutters.
Shmi nods. “He had a lightsaber, like the Jedi do, except it had a blade coming out from each end, and black robes.” He was a fool for wearing black in the desert, Shmi doesn’t say.
“Hmm. This lightstaff – what color, had its blades?”
“Red,” Shmi says.
Yoda sits silently for a moment. “In grave danger, Queen Amidala is,” he says, then shakes his head. “But safe in the senate, she is now. Other things, we have to focus on. What know you of the force?”
The mood is still tense and dark with the discussion of the zabrak, but Shmi tries to brush it aside. “Practically nothing.”
“Begin, then, we will, at the beginning,” Yoda says, and Shmi sets down her tea. “Moves through everything, the force does. The air, the water… but more than everything, through life…”
Writing Yoda's dialogue is surprisingly tricky, especially for a chapter and a half in a row. If I've messed it up anywhere, or if anyone has Yoda dialogue tips, let me know?
Poplitealqueen, Hamelin-born, would you believe I had most of this chapter written *before* I saw your post about Shmi liking green things? Great minds think alike... though to be fair a lot of this is *me* wanting to have a place right outside a garden.
She sees Ani the next morning, as she’s going to investigate the refectory that Master Yoda has told her about. Her hair is up in her traditional bun, save for the braided strand hanging down, marked with a single crimson bead. A trial of spirit, Master Yoda had said, and looked mischevious.
Ani is in the middle of a small herd of similarly-aged children, and when he sees her he brightens immediately – then the whole herd rushes over to her.
“Are you really Ani’s Mom?”
“Are you really Master Yoda’s padawan?”
“What’s it like being old?”
“What’s it like being a mom??”
“D’you have any food?”
“One thing at a time!” She tells them. “Yes, I’m Ani’s mom. And in regards to the food, asaren’t you on your way there already?”
“Yeah, but we had questions,” a quarren girl says.
“Younglings!” someone calls out. “Younglings, don’t crowd–” A human girl catches up to the crowd of children and sees Shmi, sees her age and her braid and her lack of a lightsaber. “Don’t crowd padawan Skywalker,” she says.
“But padawan Tachiiiii–”
“It’s breakfast time and we need to go eat breakfast,” Tachi says, sounding as if this was one of many repetitions.
“You don’t want to get to the refectory late and find that all the best food is gone, do you?” Shmi asks the children seriously.
As one, the children gasp in horror.
“All the best food gone–”
“What about the pastries–”
The children move off towards the refectory, again as a herd.
Ani raises an eyebrow at her, from the back of the herd; Shmi winks at him. He grins, then starts talking to the nautolan girl next to him.
“Thanks for that,” Tachi says. “I’ve never been great with younglings, but my master says I have to ‘practice.’” She makes actual air quotes at that.
“It probably doesn’t help that it does take practice,” Shmi says.
Tachi sighs. “It really doesn’t,” she agrees. “You’re going to the refectory too, aren’t you? I have to make sure these younglings don’t fall down a repulsorlift shaft or something, but would you like to come along?”
Shmi smiles. “I’d be glad to,” she says.
Tachi grins at her. “Brilliant,” she says. “And you can tell me all your children-handling tricks too, yeah?”
“Of course,” Shmi says. “As long as you’re wiling to explain to me how everything in this temple works.”
Tachi laughs. “It’s a deal,” she says. “Oh! Forgot to introduce myself. I’m Siri Tachi, padawan of Master Adi Gallia.”
“Shmi Skywalker,” Shmi says. “Padawan of Master Yoda.”
They shake hands.
“But really, what if the pastries are gone–”
Siri groans. “Why me,” she mutters.
“Practice makes perfect,” Shmi says.
“Practice gives me sticky hair and jam-covered robes,” Siri says.
“That too,” Shmi says solemnly, then grins. “Come on. We wouldn’t want to miss all the best food, would we?”
“You are not using the same excuse on me that you used on a bunch of nine-year-olds,” Siri counters, then sighs. “Yeah, come on, let’s see if they still have any pastries.”
“Pastries!” One of the younglings shrieks.
“Pastries,” Shmi agrees, and they move towards the refectory, two padawans and a herd of younglings.
There’s more food in the refectory than Shmi’s seen outside of Gardulla’s palace, and of more different types than she’s seen inside Gardulla’s palace.
She takes a deep breath, feeling shaky. Never having to worry about food, or a safe place to sleep, or getting sold to a new master. Never having to worry about food…
Ani is soaring through nebulas of joy, she can see and feel clearly. He’s nine, he’s simply happy, he’s not nearly collapsing from what a relief it is–
“Are you all right?” Siri asks, taking Shmi’s arm, and Shmi realizes she’s standing in the doorway.
“I – yes,” Shmi says. “I am.” I’m going to be. She smiles at Siri, the younger girl still looking at her worriedly. “We should go make sure they don’t break anything.”
Siri groans. “It’s futile,” she declares. “Any second now, we’ll here the sound of something shattering, and then everything will be sticky for the rest of the day.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Shmi says, moving towards the food. It’s set up in a semicircle, with food being available on the edges and groups of tables and chairs in the center. “We’ll be sticky for the rest of the week, probably.”
Ani has already started to pile his tray high with food. Shmi goes over to him and puts a hand on his shoulder before he can pick up another pastry.
“You need to start out slowly,” she tells him gently. “Take one thing at a time. Remember that time we couldn’t eat for a few days, and food made you sick afterwards?”
Ani makes a face. “Even though there are so many different things–”
“They’ll be here tomorrow,” Shmi says. “And the day after that, and the day after that, and even longer. Have patience, Ani.”
He sighs, but nods, and puts back two of the three pastries he’s grabbed, and three of the four fruits, then goes to sit with his new friends.
That taken care of, Shmi turns to get her own food, and stops.
Did she want cereal, with real milk? A pastry, with nuts or fruit? Eggs – actual eggs – and meat, toast, some sort of savory soup, some sort of crisp wafer, a million other options–
“Narel says the eggs are the best,” says Ani, reappearing at her elbow, “But she’s quarren so she’s got different tastebuds than we do, so I dunno if I believe that. But Gilis and Emmy said that the pastries are the best, so I got one and you should get one too.”
“Especially the ones with jugu berries,” adds the boy standing next to Ani, half a head taller and with dark hair in a thousand tiny braids.
Shmi smiles down at them. “Thank you,” she says quietly, and takes a pastry. She’s not sure if the berries in it are jugu berries, but Ani’s friend beams, so maybe they are.
Shmi taken care of, Ani and his friend run back off towards the table full of raucous initiates. Shmi watches them go.
“Would you like to sit with us?”
Shmi turns. Siri is watching her, her tray carrying a bowl of cereal and thin strips of some sort of meat.
“Me and some other padawans sit over there,” she continues, gesturing with her head. “Obi-Wan’s at our table, too, so I wouldn’t be the only familiar face.”
Shmi glances over to where Siri had gestured, and sees Obi-Wan – or the back of his head, at least – sitting with a Mon Calamari, at a table meant to sit far more than two.
“I would,” Shmi says. “Thank you.”
Siri grins at her and starts leading her over to the table. “You’re welcome to join us any time. You’re from Tatooine, right?” she says, switching topics suddenly.
“That’s…” Siri screws up her face in concentration.
“Sand, sand, hutts, more sand, and jawas,” Obi-Wan says, looking up at them.
“Can’t forget the sand people,” Shmi says, and pauses. “And the sand.”
“There’s really that much of it?” The Mon Calamari asks skeptically.
“I’m still getting sand out of my shoes,” Obi-Wan grumbles.
“There really is,” Shmi tells her. “The whole planet is full-desert, even at the poles.”
“That must lead to some really interesting native biology,” the Mon Calamari muses. “The jawas are native, right?”
Shmi just shrugs. She’s not quite sure what to say – the slaves have their own history of Tatooine, of course, but the hutts have a different one, and no doubt offworlders have another.
“Bant,” Siri says. “This is Master Yoda’s new padawan, Shmi Skywalker!”
“Yes, I figured,” Bant says dryly. “Sorry for not introducing myself. Bant Eerin, padawan of Master Fisto.”
“That’s–” Shmi begins to speak, but before she can get more than one word out, Qui-Gon practically storms into the refectory, doubt and distraction swirling around him like a sandstorm.
“Padawan,” he says, glancing at Obi-Wan. “Shmi, good, you’re here. Both of you, come with me. We need to go talk to the council – Chancellor Valorum has just resigned.”
I just... whoa, you guys, everyone, this is a *lot* of people telling me how much they like this. Thank you all.
It's probably gonna be pretty clear from this chapter on that the Naboo Crisis is going to go slightly differently than in canon; I have most of it worked out, and while a few things (travel times, specific words said, the amount of ships in that silly blockade) might differ from canon for varying reasons (laziness, laziness, and annoyance at the movie's laziness) some things will also stay the same. As to what's specifically going to happen?
... you'll have to wait and see. :)
Back to Naboo
So, I... don't actually remember how these scenes go in canon, so just sort of bear with me here. Most of the information about the chancellor (and pretty much everything else tbh) is from the ever-wonderful wookiepedia.
Also, holy cow, I still can't believe how many kudoses and comments this is getting, thank you all!
“So the Supreme Chancellor is–”
“In charge of the senate,” Obi-Wan says as they quickly walk through the hallways. (Jedi are far too dignified to run. And Shmi’s leg is still hurting.) “They’re elected from the serving senators every election cycle. Each term is four years, Chancellors can serve a maximum of two terms so eight years total per Chancellor, and Finis Valorum is – was in the second year of his second term, theoretically what should have been the height of his power.”
“So why resign?” Shmi asks.
“Lack of confidence from supporters, perhaps,” Obi-Wan says. “There have been accusations of corruption, bribery, embezzlement.”
Shmi frowns. “That’s all?”
“This isn’t Tatooine,” Qui-Gon says. “People care about that, here.”
Obi-Wan nods. “Wasn’t Senator Amidala going to address the senate today?”
“She did,” Qui-Gon says. “Nothing got decided, of course. They had no proof that Naboo was being invaded. Valorum resigned two hours after the session ended.”
“People have been calling him ineffective,” Obi-Wan says. “This must have just… been too much, I suppose?”
“Perhaps,” Qui-Gon says, then tries to sweep dramatically into the room outside the council chamber, except Yoda is waiting for them there and Yoda just raises an eyebrow.
“Padawan,” Master Yoda says. “Heard the news, you have?”
“If the news is that the Chancellor has resigned, then yes,” Shmi says. “I think half the order knows, after Qui-Gon practically shouted it out in the middle of the refectory.”
Yoda sighs, playing along with her mockery. “A better sense for dramatic timing, Qui-Gon needs to develop. Almost overshadow the news that Queen Amidala plans to return to Naboo, that does,” he says, then turns and enters the council room.
Shmi follows after him.
Queen Amidala stands in the center of the council’s chamber, her handmaidens around her. And… Shmi blinks. And Jar Jar Binks.
“Master Qui-Gon, Padawan Kenobi,” she says, greeting them, and her eyes slide over to Shmi and soften a bit. “Lady Skywalker.”
“My Lady,” Qui-Gon says, and bows; Shmi and Obi-Wan follow suit. “I hear you’ve decided to return to Naboo?”
“I have,” the Queen says. “The only question is if I will be going alone or with Jedi aid.”
“We would be honored–” Qui-Gon begins.
“I am of the opinion that I and my people are able to handle the situation without your so-far dubious interference,” she continues. “However, my handmaidens insist that I accept whatever aid you insist on supplying me with.”
Shmi hides a smile.
“Accompany you back to Naboo, Master Qui-Gon and his padawan will,” Master Yoda declares. “If pleases you, it does, I and my padawan shall join them, hmm?”
“Your padawan, Master Yoda?” The Queen asks. “I was not under the impression – ah,” she says, catching Shmi’s eye. “Padawan Skywalker. My apologies.”
“None are needed, my Lady,” Shmi says.
One of the handmaidens makes a small noise; it’s hard to tell them apart, but Shmi thinks it might be Padmé.
“Very well,” Queen Amidala says. “We will be glad to have you, Master Yoda, Padawan Skywalker.”
“Glad to join you, we are,” Yoda says. “Investigate rumors of this Sith, we will.” He glances around the chamber. “Satisfy that debate, we will, hmm? Instead of arguing in circles for another three hours.”
They leave that evening; Shmi has asked Siri to tell the crèche masters that Anakin was liable to get to cold, that cuddling after nightmares calmed him down, that he shouldn’t eat too much and make himself sick–
“He’ll be fine,” Siri had said, putting a hand on her arm. “I know he’s still adjusting, but I’ll watch out for him, okay?”
That had to be enough – would always have to be enough, now.
The journey from Coruscant to Naboo is two long, cold days in hyperspace; Shmi spends most of it learning about the force, about the galaxy, about being a Jedi.
The healers had tsked about her going out to Naboo with her leg still injured and her immunizations undone, but they had given her stretches to do; she does those, and Master Yoda gives her more, with Obi-Wan whispering tips in the background for stretches that worked best for humans and how to start building up muscle.
Padmé tells her about Naboo.
“I grew up on a lake,” she says, and Shmi has to ask what a lake is. And a beach, and a flood, and a waterfall (though that one’s sort of obvious in retrospect).
It could hurt; Shmi could let it hurt, could let her ignorance turn bitter and fester in her belly. She knows so little, after all; Naboo will be the third planet she’s ever been on. There are so many things she doesn’t know, so many things that people are expected to know, that people will look down on her for not knowing.
Shmi takes a deep breath and lets that bitterness flow through her veins, her heart, her mind – she feels it in every inch of her body, that cry of ignorant, stupid, useless, and then she lets it go.
I may not know; but I can learn.
It’s so green, on Naboo, all green and grey and blue. It’s cold, too, as they wait for Jar Jar to come back from the Gungan village – a whole village, a whole species, underwater.
The world is fogged up; so much water in the air that you can see it, taste it. Shmi closes her eyes, and breathes in, and out, and in, making herself quiet and calm and still. The fog swirls around her, and she pulls at it, feeling the patterns it makes as it shifts and changes.
“Difficult to manipulate, the fog is,” Yoda observes.
“It’s almost like a sandstorm,” Shmi says, her eyes still closed, her mental fingers still swirling through the fog. “Except not. The bits of water are so much smaller, and so much calmer – though there are similarities. They’re all, every little water drop, all a piece of the greater fog. And that’s how sand works, too, and people – you have to notice the individual grain, but not forget the shape of the whole.”
She feels Padmé walk over to her and Yoda, kneeling on the shore of the lake.
“I told the Queen what you said,” Padmé says. “Earlier, on our way to Coruscant. And it was going to work, too – we were talking to people, gathering support. Senator Palpatine wanted me to call for a vote of no confidence for Chancellor Valorum, but that would have just muddied the political process even more.”
“But then, resigned, the Chancellor did,” Yoda says.
“Yes,” Padmé says. “The Queen spoke with him, briefly. He said that with the charges of corruption, and the inefficacy of the senate, it was the best thing that he could do to help my people.” Padmé is tired, bitter. Shmi might say hopeless, except for the fact that she’s not, the fire of hope still burning bright inside her, sheathed with determination.
Shmi opens her eyes. The fog twists and turns, its patterns different now that she has changed them.
“And now the process is muddied, for all the patience I’ve had. What was the point of us leaving Naboo in the first place?”
Shmi turns and looks at her. It hits her, again, how young Padmé is. “It might have worked,” Shmi points out.
“But it didn’t.”
“But it might have,” Shmi insists. “If it had, then you wouldn’t need an army; now that you’ve tried, and it didn’t, you can try other things.”
“If we had gotten the army first, the people–”
Shmi interrupts her. “Do you want an army to be your first option, where there’s a chance that peaceful solutions will work?”
Padmé stares not out at the lake, but down at the beach, the sandy dirt beneath her knees. “No.”
“Then you’ve done well,” Shmi says. “And so has the Queen.”
“Indeed,” Yoda says. “Talked to the senate, you did; find a solution, they did not.” He sighs. “Found a solution, you have. A peaceful solution, it is not. Die, people might, fighting the droid army; yet dying, people are, not fighting the droid army.” He shakes his head. “Your fault, this is not. Carry the blame, the trade federation, does.”
Padmé takes a deep breath. “I know,” she says, and she sounds more solid. More determined. “I’m going to go talk to the Queen.”
Shmi stays sitting on the shore as Padmé walks away; Yoda stays beside her.
“I’d like to learn how to swim,” she says suddenly, almost surprising herself.
“Then teach you, we shall,” Yoda says. “Pools there are, in the temple, for swimming. Though,” he adds, “Not the only one who does not know how to swim, you are. Mark you as different, it will not.”
Shmi breathes deep, inhaling the fog. “All right,” she says. “I still want to learn.”
She feels Yoda’s acceptance radiating softly beside her, tinged with understanding and pride. She feels Padmé behind her, determination to save her people like armor around her; she stood out from the other handmaidens, somehow.
She feels Jar Jar, below the water’s surface but swiftly approaching them, his mind anxious and worried.
Shmi stands and brushes off her skirts.
“Young, he is,” Yoda says, referring to Jar Jar. “Excitable. But kind-hearted.”
Then Jar Jar breaks the surface, squeaking about all the gungans being gone and spraying water everywhere.
“Too excitable, perhaps,” Yoda grumbles, trying to squeeze the water out from his clothes.
Shmi smiles at her grumpy old master, and goes to see what she can do to help.
Discussions on Naboo
The gungans are strange, but less strange than some of the species that Shmi’s seen wandering Mos Espa. If anything’s strange, it’s in the way they move, as if they expect to be lighter, but at the same time expect to live somewhere where the atmosphere is denser, so dense they can move around in it.
That’s what being underwater must be like, Shmi realizes.
They’re unfriendly, almost angry, towards their group – no, towards the humans in their group. To Yoda, they seem neutral.
It seems that even soft, watery Naboo isn’t free of cultural tension.
“Tension, there is,” Master Yoda murmurs to her. “Between the gungans and the human Naboo. Represented in the senate, the humans are; the gungans are not. Unacknowledged, they are. Ignored, they are.”
“Underestimated, they are,” Shmi murmurs back.
Yoda nods slowly. “Yet angry, they are,” he says.
Understandably so, Shmi thinks. She knows what it’s like to be ignored. Sometimes it’s good – sometimes it was better to go unnoticed when the masters were angry. But it hurt, too, not being given a second glance as an offworlder bought a piece of machinery ten times more expensive than she was.
The gungans speak basic, but with odd tones and added vowels. Who’s-a Thees-a, asks the one in charge – they’re not the easiest to understand but it’s a lot simpler than trying to negotiate droid prices with a wookie.
Queen Amidala stands tall and makes her speech. “We have searched you out because we wished to form an alliance–”
“Your Honor,” Padmé says, and steps forwards.
“Whosa dis?” the gungan in charge – Boss Nass, if Shmi remembers correctly – asks.
“I am Queen Amidala,” she says, and Shmi has to glance over at the group to see if she misheard, because Padmé couldn’t have possibly just said–
“This is my decoy,” Padmé – and it’s definitely Padmé – continues. “Although we do not always agree, your honor…”
Obi-Wan is collecting a small credit chip from Qui-Gon. Good for Obi-Wan, winning the apparent bet, but Shmi still suppresses a sigh. What was it with people in high-stakes situations and betting? And how had they known?
“A long tradition of using decoys, the Naboo have,” Yoda tells her quietly. “Guessing that a handmaid was the Queen, the game was not. Guessing which handmaid – more challenging, that is.”
Shmi nods. It makes sense, but… Padmé, the girl who had wandered the slums of Mos Espa, who Shmi had comforted, who Ani had called an angel. That could hardly be safe for the Queen of Naboo.
Which, in retrospect, explained the fear and annoyance that her handmaidens were practically shouting – along with a good helping of exasperation, a feeling that Shmi had experienced often as the mother of an excitable nine-year old.
Still. Shmi had talked with a Queen.
And the Queen had thanked her for her advice. The Queen was Padmé, but the Queen had comforted Ani. Had knelt with Shmi by the shore of the lake and Shmi had comforted her.
What did that say about who Shmi was?
She goes to kneel as the handmaidens and guardsmen do, but Qui-Gon’s hand on her elbow pulls her back upright.
We are Jedi, she thinks. I am a Jedi. She stands straight and tall.
Then they start preparing for war.
The gungans show them to a large field, the best place for the battle to take place, they say.
“Wesa used to fighting underwater,” One of the gungans mutters. “This-a plan’s no good.”
“You could try luring the droids underwater,” Shmi points out.
The gungan sighs and shakes his head. “Dem mechaneeks no go underwater. Theysa short circuit.” He glances over at her. “Yousa Jedi, yeah? Shimiia Skywalker?”
“Jedi in training,” Shmi says.
“Meesa Captain Tarpals,” he introduces himself. “Yousa not have a lightsaber, though.”
“Newly in training,” she says.
“Hmmm.” Tarpals looks around. “You gotta blaster?”
Shmi shakes her head.
“Yousa be knowing how to use a blaster?”
“No,” Shmi says.
He sighs. “Yousa be having any weapons?”
“No,” she says again.
“No weapons?” The gungan snorts. “Yousa be knowing how to use a spear? Atlatl? Rifle? Sling?”
“I can use a sling,” Shmi says, surprised. A sling wasn’t a weapon – it was used for chasing off womprats. Even slaves could use slings.
“Then take deesa,” he says, and hands her a tightly-woven though slightly damp sling, and a pouch full of blue stones. “When flinging boomas, slings do bombad damage!”
Shmi picks up one of the stones, and it’s shining, deep in its center. Plasma, probably, set to detonate when it’s thrown hard enough.
This is a weapon, definitely, moreso than the stones she’s thrown in slings before, and her hands shake holding it, because what if somebody sees her, what if somebody knows she has it and they kill her and Ani is left all alone?
Shmi breathes deeply, inhaling the wet scent of the planet, and breathes out again slowly, because Ani is safe. Ani is looked after. And she’s not a slave any more.
“Thank you,” she tells Tarpals, who nods and walks off.
Then she wraps the sling around her wrist so it looks like a bracelet, and hangs the pouch of plasma stones so that it’s hidden under part of her skirt.
Padmé is addressing the other Jedi and Boss Nass, talking about the battle strategy; Shmi walks over to them and catches sight of a hologram detailing the palace.
“… And while your forces draw the enemy out of the city, we’ll sneak in through a hidden entrance,” Padmé says. “We’ll free the pilots, who will be able to fly out and destroy the droid control ship, infiltrate the palace, and force Gunray to surrender.” She glances over at the Jedi. “Will you be with me?”
“We will, my Lady,” Qui-Gon says. “Master Yoda?”
“Hmm,” Yoda says. “A padawan, I have, untrained in combat. Unsafe, it will be.”
“I can survive unsafe,” Shmi says. “And would it really be any safer in the city when the fighting breaks out, or on the battlefield?”
Yoda sighs. “Train you, we must, and soon,” he says, “But a good point, you make. Stay with Queen Amidala and I, you will.”
Shmi wants to talk to Padmé, but she’s busy talking to Boss Nass and his generals; Obi-Wan draws her aside instead.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this fight,” he says, his brow furrowed. “Are you sure you shouldn’t stay somewhere safer?”
Shmi thinks for a moment. “Safer like in the middle of a forest, where the droids might find me? Or in the city, where there will be rioting as soon as the fighting starts?”
Obi-Wan stares at her, then sighs. “Fine. Just… be careful, okay? Ani’s going to kill me if I let you die.”
Shmi smiles gently. “I’ll try not to, then,” she says.
“Do, or do not,” Yoda says, walking up to the two. “There is no try.” Then he gives her a look, one that says argue about this we will, but later; a useful philosophy for the force, it is.
Shmi nods, thinking, All right. Later.
Yoda feels surprised for half a second, before it fades. “Expect this zabrak to show up again, we do; a strategy, we must devise.”
“Indeed,” Qui-Gon says, apparently done talking to the gungans. “He used a fighting style that I’m unfamiliar with; even Master Krell, who uses lightstaffs–”
“He’s a besalisk,” Obi-Wan mutters to Shmi. “Two lightstaffs, one green, one blue, wielded simultaneously. He’s awful to spar against, and also sort of amazing.”
“– Even Master Krell doesn’t fight that way,” Qui-Gon says.
Shmi watches and listens as the Jedi build up their own plan. Qui-Gon will be the main one engaging the zabrak; Obi-Wan will help back him up, and Yoda will wait, partially hidden, for a moment when he sees an opening.
Shmi is relieved to be not a major part of the plan; she’s not sure how she’ll deal with combat, much less with combat involving lightsabers.
She brushes her hand against the bag of plasma stones hidden in her skirt and shudders, an odd sense of foreboding going down her spine.
Battles in the depths of the palace
They sneak up to the hangar, weapons at the ready; Shmi’s sling is loose around her wrist, ready to drop down into her hand.
The battle droids are caught by surprise. They get quickly destroyed, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon slicing off their limbs with lightsabers and the guards and handmaidens shooting with sleek, elegant blasters. Padmé in particular hits a few battle droids right in their heads, where their antennae are, severing their connection with the control ship.
“Go!” Padmé shouts, and the pilots run over to the starfighters.
Shmi thinks briefly for a moment about how much Ani would love this – a space battle, with ships and droids and lightsabers, and finds herself relieved that he’s not here.
As the pilots take off, leaving two or three ships in the hangar, there’s a clanking, rolling sound, and she hears one of the guards swear softly.
Shmi ducks behind a rack of spare parts; Qui-Gon stands beside her.
“Droidekas,” Qui-Gon says grimly, as five rolling droids come into view. Almost immediately they stop rolling, unfold, and Shmi sees why everyone’s so nervous; these droids have built-in energy shields, the kind that will stop most energy blasts.
“Can a lightsaber get through those?” Shmi asks quietly.
“Only if we get close enough to put your hand through the shield and turn it on there,” Qui-Gon says. “And with five of them…”
The droidekas click when they walk, tiny metallic legs against the hangar’s stone; Shmi takes a deep breath, slips her sling down from her wrist, and pulls out a plasma stone. Before she can talk herself out of it, before she can think, she drops it into her sling, spins it in two quick rotations, then steps out from her hiding place and lets the stone fly straight towards one of the droidekas.
It’s going too fast to get through the shield – the plasma stones weighed much less than the rocks she was used to. But the stone broke open when it hit the shield, and the plasma inside dripped through the shield, electrocuting the droideka. Its shield collapsed, and it fell apart, partially melted.
Of course, now she has four more droidekas pointing their blasters at her.
But Qui-Gon is there, suddenly in front of her, deflecting energy blasts left and right.
Shmi loads her sling and throws, loads and throws, six more times, missing twice. When the hangar is finally silent, she lets herself sit down hard on the ground, adrenaline pulsing through her veins.
“I need to stop underestimating you,” Qui-Gon says.
“The first step is admitting that you have a problem,” Shmi tells him, her tone serious but her emotions mostly giddy with not being dead, and draws herself up to a standing position. Where had Yoda gone–
There’s a snap and a low hum, followed by another, and Shmi feels someone new, someone vicious, as a miasma of rage/fear/hate spills over the room.
“He’s here,” Qui-Gon says, sounding grimly pleased.
But how did I not notice him, Shmi thinks, then brushes the thought out of her head. There are more important things to deal with.
Qui-Gon strides out to stand by Obi-Wan, both drawing their lightsabers.
“We’ll go around,” Padmé says, and leads her troops in a different direction; Shmi almost follows them, but something stops her.
Yoda waits in the shadows, hidden across the hangar from her; she can see him, but the zabrak has no way of–
“Come out, little green troll,” he says, his voice unexpectedly soft, and coreworld-accented. “You don’t want a fair fight?”
Shmi knows better than to think a soft voice and deep vowels mean that a being is kind or soft; she can hear the threat in those words like hidden sinkholes and shifting sands.
“A fair fight, you ask for?” Yoda says, making his way out of the shadows slowly, leaning on his stick. “Name yourself.”
The zabrak grins, showing off his sharp teeth. “You think your little distraction will be enough to stop us? Your little pilots, not even sensitive, off to fight a fleet of battleships with twelve fighters? Though they’re probably down to less, now, the way they’ve been flying.” He cocks his head to the side. “Your primitive army will fall, and the child queen, too. And you along with it, Jedi.”
Qui-Gon attacks first, Obi-Wan following quickly after him; if they’d hoped the zabrak would be distracted monologuing, they were out of luck. He parried both attacks easily, backing towards the room behind him – no, the rooms, the labyrinth that was the palace’s and the city’s power generators.
Yoda darted forward, imperceptibly quick after his slow steps, drawing and igniting his lightsaber with one smooth motion. The zabrak – the Sith – blocked his strike, too, then turned and ran, into the silvery depths of the generator complex.
Don’t follow him, she wants to say, but the words get caught in her throat as the three run after him.
After the Sith.
Shmi takes a deep breath and follows.
The generator complex is metallic and mazelike, and sound echoes strangely; Shmi knows where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and Yoda are, can feel them shining bright up ahead, but the Sith’s voice echoes around and she can’t feel where he is, can only feel the miasma of rage and fear and hate.
“Foolish Jedi, coming here to die…”
“Shmi,” Obi-Wan says, falling back and letting the masters take the lead. “You shouldn’t have come–”
“I should have stayed in the hangar, waiting for more battle droids, or for the Sith to reappear?” She says, a little more harshly than she means to. “I’m sorry. This feels… wrong.”
“Useless to stop the subjugation of this planet…”
Obi-Wan grimaces. “I can’t feel him anywhere. He’s just taunting us. I don’t–”
He spins, raising his lightsaber up into a block and catching the red blade that descends from above. Then the Sith is gone again, leaping up onto another platform and turning a corner, his presence vanishing.
“We’re all right,” Shmi says. Her hand is clutched around her sling, she realizes; but it won’t help her here. She has to relax, to not let the tension get to her. That’s what the Sith wants.
“Well, not to worry. Your deaths will be my trials – no need to worry about the future any more.”
They move through the generator complex, Shmi never standing alone, always by Yoda or Obi-Wan; Qui-Gon moves more slowly, pausing and listening.
The intense ray shielding throughout the complex isn’t doing them any favors, either. Shmi knows that it’s necessary; catastrophic failures can happen easily in generators this large, and there has to be some way to block off explosions. But does it have to be cyclical?
The Sith uses it to his advantage, striking at them and darting behind a section of newly-activated shielding, sneering at them and shielding his presence, or striking from below, whirling up from under a walkway, then making his escape. He taunts them and teases them, all the while surrounded by his rage and his hate and his fear–
“He’s scared,” Shmi says suddenly as they wait for him to make his next move, and the fear pulses like a heartbeat. “That’s what’s wrong here – he’s scared of you.”
“This is a distraction,” Obi-Wan says.
“What for?” Yoda says. “A distraction, this is – the main goal…”
The Sith’s laugh echoes through the complex. “My goal is what it’s always been, little Jedi. Not that you’ll be able to reach her in time.” There’s the tiniest flash of darkness at the edge of the generator complex. By the door leading into the hangar, into the palace.
“The Queen,” Qui-Gon says.
Yoda glances up. “Go protect her, I will,” he says, and leaps, up into the air, bouncing off the sides of the shaft leading upwards into the palace.
“Show-off,” Qui-Gon mutters. “Let’s find our way out of here, quickly!”
The rage and the fear have subsided, though bitter hate still pulses through the air as they run back the way they came.
Shmi’s leg twinges, but she brushes it off; there are more important things to worry about than pain. Padmé, for one.
They turn a corner, and another corner, and a third, Qui-Gon at the lead; Shmi hopes they’re going the right way, but there have been too many twists and turns for her to keep track.
Qui-Gon is ahead of her and Obi-Wan, passing a ray-shielded room, one of the melting pits, when Shmi’s leg throbs.
She muffles her cry, leaning down to put pressure on the long, thin slice she had carved into herself, the one that was pulsing along in time with the atmosphere, with the rage–
“Qui-Gon!” Obi-Wan shouts, kneeling down by her, and Qui-Gon turns and takes a step towards them, his lightsaber at the ready, and the Sith leaps out from the opening ray shields to carve a long, burning line into Qui-Gon’s back.
Obi-Wan spins around, igniting his lightsaber as the Sith advances on the two padawans.
Shmi makes herself tear her eyes away from Qui-Gon’s fallen form. She’s seen injuries like that before; if he doesn’t get medical help soon, he’ll die.
Obi-Wan is beating back the Sith, but she can’t tell whether that’s due to Obi-Wan’s skill or the Sith intentionally retreating; given that the pair are moving back into the melting chamber, she’s willing to bet that it’s the second.
But the Sith has barely paid her any attention, this entire battle; not in his attacks, barely even in his taunts.
Shmi crawls forwards until she’s kneeling by Qui-Gon’s side; his pulse is weak but present. She looks up towards Obi-Wan and the Sith in time for the ray shielding to activate, trapping them both in the hallway leading to the melting chamber.
Obi-Wan glances back at her. “Go,” he says calmly. “Get him help.”
“You’re sure?” Shmi says.
Obi-Wan takes a deep breath. “I am,” he says.
Shmi doesn’t waste any more time. She picks Qui-Gon up, as gently as she can a human his size; hauling around ship-parts on Tatooine has been useful for this, at least.
Then she runs.
The aftermath of the battles
“A trap, it was,” Yoda says, his disgust with himself clear. “Fell for it, we did.”
“We couldn’t have known,” Obi-Wan protests tiredly, still exhausted from his fight with the Sith. “He planned it with the generator complex in mind. It was the perfect set-up to lure us in, and he knew it. And feinting that he was going after the Queen–”
“Knew it, we should have as well,” Yoda snaps, then closes his eyes. “Uncertain, the future is; tread more carefully, we must.”
Shmi says nothing; she waits, sitting outside the makeshift hospital where the Naboo doctors are trying to keep Qui-Gon alive.
Qui-Gon isn’t the only one injured, of course. She’s seen gungans with blaster burns and broken limbs, humans bruised and hurt from fighting in the city, and more blood than she really cares to. But aside from those already dead, Qui-Gon is one of those injured the worst.
And all they can do is wait.
“We underestimated him,” Shmi says suddenly. “We thought we knew his capabilities, we thought we knew what he knew.”
“And we were wrong,” Obi-Wan says, but that’s not what Shmi was thinking.
Our mistake wasn’t that our knowledge of his capabilities was wrong, she thinks. Our mistake was that we thought we knew his capabilities.
“How did he hide himself like that?” She asks.
Obi-Wan looks to Yoda.
Yoda sighs. “Know that, I do not,” he says. “Hide thoughts and feelings, our shields can. But hide entirely a force presence? We cannot.”
Obi-Wan frowns. “Maybe there are some mentions of a talent like that in the archives.”
“Search there, we will,” Yoda agrees.
Shmi has heard of the Jedi Archives, and how large and comprehensive they are; Obi-Wan has mentioned them no less than three times since she first met him.
She doesn’t think that these archives will be much help here, not when the Sith haven’t been seen since before Yoda was born.
That, actually, raises up another concern of hers. “How did he know you were there?” She asks Yoda.
“Sense me, he must have,” Yoda says. “Shielding my presence, I was; yet fully hiding, I was not.”
“Would that have let him know who you were?” Shmi asks.
Yoda is quiet for a moment. “No,” he says.
But the Sith had known; had called Yoda a green troll.
There’s only one way that could have happened.
“He must know some way to get through shielding,” Obi-Wan says, his eyes wide. “How in the world could he do that?”
Shmi blinks at him, her surprise probably clear for the two of them to see. That… was not what she’d been thinking.
Obi-Wan sighed. “Shmi, the Sith have strange powers, according to the legends; I know it seems impossible, but finding some way to sneak through Jedi shielding is almost mundane in comparison to what they’re rumored to be able to do.”
Yoda nods. “Show you these records, I will, once we return. Strange, the dark side is. Clouded.”
But it’s so much simpler, Shmi thinks, if he doesn’t have unknown powers, or a way to get through shields. All he needs is somebody to tell him what he needs to know.
Yoda gives her a startled look, then shakes his head. “Mysterious,” he says. “But solve that, we cannot, not here. Solve other mysteries, we may.” He glances towards the medical room, towards where Qui-Gon is lying, unconscious, maybe dying. “Go, you should. Find food; find the Queen. Stay here, I will.”
Obi-Wan takes a deep breath and stands; Shmi follows him. “Let us know if anything changes?” He asks, glancing worriedly towards his master.
“I will,” Yoda says. “Go. Rest.”
They don’t rest.
Shmi finds Captain Tarpals, and thanks him for the loan of the sling and the plasma stones; he shakes his head when she tries to hand them back.
“Theysa a gift,” he insists. “Me be hearing that you got dem roller mechaneeks good. Besides, yousa maybe be needing dem in the future. Wesa have more.”
He grins at her, and she smiles back. It does feel good to have a way of defending herself; she just wishes that she could have done more against the Sith.
Padmé is knee-deep in meetings and treaty discussions and coordinating rescue efforts, but she thanks both Shmi and Obi-Wan for what they’ve done.
Watching her stand straight and solid and force the Trade Federation into an agreement beneficial to Naboo, Shmi thinks that she can definitely understand why Padmé is a queen.
Shmi and Obi-Wan wander the palace, their silence tense.
Shmi can feel Obi-Wan’s emotions swirling around him, mixing fear and relief and pinpricks of self-doubt. She can feel him trying to push them away, make them be not a part of him any more.
“Obi-Wan,” she says quietly.
“Don’t,” he says, looking away.
She puts her hand on his shoulder. “You need to acknowledge your emotions. Pushing them away, trying to silence them, it doesn’t work.”
“Yes it does,” he says. “I’m a Jedi, that’s what we do. You’re going to have to learn it, too. Detachment, stillness, calm…” he takes a deep breath. “I can do this. I just need to–”
“Am I not calm?” Shmi asks curiously.
Obi-Wan blinks. “… You are,” he says cautiously. “But I’m not, and I need to be.” This accompanies another wave of self-doubt, and she can practically hear the words not good enough.
“You think you can just let go of fear, of doubt,” she says. “You can’t. Nobody can. You can’t get rid of pain, either, or at least you shouldn’t.”
Obi-Wan is looking away from her.
“Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong,” Shmi says, and feels calm deep down to her bones. This isn’t fighting, or politics; this is something she knows. “When my leg hurt, back in the generator complex, I had been ignoring the fact that everything felt wrong. But my leg hurt, and you turned back, and Qui-Gon turned back, too. And the Sith wounded him – but if I hadn’t fallen, he would have been cut in half.”
She can hear Obi-Wan breathing, trying to find that calm, or what the Jedi called calm.
“Pain happens for a reason,” she says again. “And if you can’t fix the reason, it’s going to keep coming back. The same with doubt and fear. Obi-Wan, you have to realize where these emotions are coming from before you can address them.”
“And if I don’t want to address them?” Obi-Wan snaps. “If I just want them to go away?”
If this is what the Jedi think is healthy, Shmi is going to have to keep an eye on all the younglings, and Obi-Wan, Siri, and Bant. And Yoda.
“Obi-Wan,” she says gently. “You remember what you told Anakin, about meditation?”
He nods. Shmi can see his face, can see that he’s not crying; she can feel that he should be, though.
“The glass of water, with sand mixed in,” she says, and there’s a flash of resignation when he sees where she’s going with this. “You don’t make yourself empty. You make yourself still, so that the waves on the surface don’t disturb the sand or the clarity of the water.”
“That’s for meditation, not emotions,” he says, but it sounds empty. He closes his eyes for a moment and lets himself settle, but they both know that it’s a temporary calm.
“Let’s go to the hangar,” he says, his eyes still closed. “They might be able to use some help fixing up the ships from the space battle, and I could use something to do.” Something constructive, she hears.
“That sounds good,” she says, letting him change the topic.
Obi-Wan opens his eyes. “Actually, I’m also curious about how they won,” he says. “Because… well, the Sith was right about one thing. There’s no way twelve fighters should have been able to destroy a control ship.”
Shmi glances over to the side; they’ve entered the hangar and there’s a pilot within hearing range.
The pilot sees her look and shakes their head, grinning. “No, he’s right, lady Jedi,” they say. “We wouldn’t have won, but halfway through the fight this other ship shows up–” they gesture over to the other end of the hangar, where there’s a…
Sand and sky, force, any gods she wants to name, that is the most beautiful ship that Shmi has ever seen in her life.
She walks over to it almost in a daze – it’s sleek and shining, even after a space battle; clearly well looked-after. The thrusters are in top condition, and so is the hull, save for a few scratches and scorches from the battle.
Shmi feels the craft’s pilot approaching – she knows that this ship belongs to them, because it feels almost the same, almost like an extension of their body.
“What is this?” she asks them, not looking away from the ship. “I can’t tell the original make… these turrets were added on later, weren’t they?”
“They were,” the ship’s pilot replies; he’s human, probably, but she can’t be bothered to stop examining the ship. “It was actually a scouting vessel originally, one of the Tempest SL line.”
Shmi blinks and tilts her head; she can see it now, the lines of the original ship. “The 713-K make?” she asks, and doesn’t wait for a reply. “Those were garbage, but you’ve taken out the excess scaffolding, leaving it light enough for shielding and turrets…” She runs her hand across the hull one more time, then shakes her head and turns to face the pilot.
Her padawan braid feels so natural she’s almost forgotten it’s hanging there, but when she turns her head to face him, it’s clearly the braid that makes him stiffen and pause.
Then it’s her turn, to notice the lightsaber at his belt.
“You must be Shmi Skywalker,” he says, his voice carefully neutral.
“I am,” she replies, equally careful. “And you are…?”
He doesn’t reply. He just watches her, silently assessing.
All right, then, she can assess him right back. His hair is dark, salt-and-pepper, the same as his beard; he’s older than Qui-Gon, definitely. His clothes, along with his ship, are clean and sharp, well cared-for; he seems sharp, precise. She glances down at his lightsaber; it’s different from all the other ones she’s seen, with a strangely curved hilt.
Shmi and the Jedi – Dooku – look over to Obi-Wan at the same time.
Shmi sneaks a glance over at Dooku; his face actually softens as Obi-Wan approaches.
“You were the one who destroyed the control ship?” Obi-Wan asks as soon as he gets close enough that he doesn’t have to shout.
“Obi-Wan,” Dooku greets him. “I was. I heard about…” his eyes flick over to Shmi. “… recent events as soon as I arrived on Coruscant, and decided to come examine the situation myself. Imagine my surprise when I came out of hyperspace to see less than a dozen fighters going after a trade federation battleship.”
“Well, you have our thanks, and the Naboo’s too, I’d imagine,” Obi-Wan says. Then his face darkens the tiniest bit. “Master Qui-Gon’s in the infirmary. I’ll show you–”
“I will find my way,” Dooku says, brushing past Obi-Wan. He pauses after he’s taken a few steps, then turns back, placing a hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “You defeated the Sith, Obi-Wan. You’ve done well.”
Obi-Wan bows his head. “He’s still hurt, though,” Obi-Wan says quietly. “I couldn’t…” he trails off.
“We can’t do everything,” Dooku says bleakly. “You stopped that damn Sith from killing him immediately; that’s what matters.” With that, he sweeps away, leaving Obi-Wan standing by Shmi.
They stand there for a long, silent moment.
“Master Qui-Gon was Master Dooku’s padawan,” Obi-Wan says suddenly. “And Master Dooku was Master Yoda’s padawan.” He glances over at Shmi. “After Master Dooku, Master Yoda said that he was done taking padawans.”
Shmi lets out a deep breath. “Ah.”
“He’ll warm up to you,” Obi-Wan says. “He’s all formal and prickly at first, but once he gets to know you better, and figures out why Master Yoda picked you, he’ll be fine.”
“I’m sure he will,” Shmi says, not believing her words at all, and turns back to the ship.
On the way back to the temple, discussions are had.
The celebration is loud, and joyous – a little too much so, in fact; Shmi puts up her shields, the ones that hide everything except her barest presence. She hopes that Yoda can teach her other ways of shielding, ones that can just lessen the press of other people’s minds, not shut them out completely.
But even with the crowds of people, even with her sense of others shut off, the atmosphere of relief, of joy, of peace resonates so deeply through the air that it’s hard to be sad, even over the deaths.
Though the gungans and the humans have been living apart, they have similar customs – or, more accurately, similar themes to their customs, Shmi realizes.
The gungans let their dead drift down beneath the sea, to the plasma core, to be burned and pressed into more plasma; then they feast and rejoice. Jar Jar presents the Jedi with bowls of… something.
“Itsa shu-grab,” Jar Jar explains. “Wesa be making food, presents, for those thatsa not being dead, so wesa remember what wesa still have.”
Shmi sniffs it, then takes a sip; it’s strangely flavored, sweet and bitter all at once.
The human Naboo bury their dead, dressing up the bodies that are able to be found and placing them in stasis fields. The pilots that died burned up, either in their ship’s explosion or during their re-entry into Naboo’s atmosphere; they get many paintings, each in a different style, each showing off a different side of who they were.
The bodies and paintings are placed in tombs, tombs that are open to the public; then family members and loved ones place baskets outside the tombs, full of flowers and sweet fruits or candies.
“Anyone can take a flower or a bit of the food,” Padmé explains quietly, dressed in her handmaiden outfit again. “We see the beauty, and taste the sweetness, and remember.”
They watch people move in and out of the tombs, leaving tears and taking flowers.
“You remember that, too,” Shmi says. “Remember that you did what you could – remember the people you saved.”
“I’m not going to forget the people I lost,” Padmé says quietly.
“Don’t,” Shmi says. “But don’t let that be the only thing you remember.”
Padmé takes a deep breath. “I won’t,” she says, and Shmi can hear the durasteel in her voice.
The two-day flight back to Coruscant seems cold and long.
Shmi sits at Qui-Gon’s side for part of it; he hasn’t awoken yet, and neither Obi-Wan nor Dooku will leave him.
She doesn’t stay there for long. Dooku’s silence towards her is palpable; instead she goes to the ship’s engine room and meditates.
No matter how calm and peaceful a room is, Shmi thinks, there’s always going to be part of her that’s insisting something’s wrong if she’s not surrounded by machines, breakable and fixable.
She can still make herself calm and peaceful, though; she finds that still and quiet place inside herself and thinks.
The way sand flows like water in the force, grains sliding around and off each other in an intricate dance. It’s an image, or a concept, that sticks in her mind, that makes sense to her on a primal level; sand and water. Anakin and Obi-Wan is what that thought leads to – her son, and her son’s teacher.
Obi-Wan will teach Anakin, that she is sure of; whether it’s as a teaching master or the person he goes to for advice, she can see the shape of them fitting together, meshing, making each other stronger.
Waves in the water not disturbing the sand; sand settling in the space below the water.
There’s something else there Shmi can feel, something echoing in the yellow sand and blue water, but she opens her eyes to see Yoda seated across from her.
“Master Yoda,” she says.
“Padawan,” he says.
They’re silent for a moment, both feeling the bond that has grown between them.
You can hear me, Shmi says in her mind.
I can, Yoda replies.
They’re silent for a moment more.
“An informant, you think there is,” Yoda says quietly.
“I do,” Shmi replies. “The Sith knew that you were with us – you specifically, not just another Jedi.”
“Unless bypassed my shielding, he was able to,” Yoda says.
“But if he’d bypassed your shielding, he wouldn’t have asked you to come out,” Shmi says, calm and certain. “He’d have waited for an opportune moment, then attacked. He knew you were hiding in the hangar – but there were more people than you hiding. He didn’t know which of those you were.”
Yoda is silent for a long moment. “Fully convinced, I am not,” he says. “But a spy… likely, that sounds. Careful, we must be.” He nods. “Discover this spy, we will, if exist, they do.”
“How can we start?” Shmi asks.
“Time, this will take,” Yoda reminds her. “Your training, we must focus on; new eyes, you have. See what others do not, you may.” He sighs. “Clouded, my vision is. Clouded, are all the Jedi. Yet clearly, you see.”
Shmi waits for him to continue.
“Start at the beginning, we must,” Yoda says. “And there – in luck, we are. A Jedi ship, this is. Supplies, it has, for careless Jedi.” He looks down. “Careless, I was. Fought well, you did; yet great danger, you faced. Learn to defend yourself, you must.” He takes out a small wooden box.
Shmi reminds herself to breathe.
“A weapon, a Jedi must have; and a Jedi you are.”
A dozen crystals sit in the box, singing in the force. She’s heard this singing before, however faintly; a quiet hum from Obi-Wan’s blue blade, a duet from Yoda’s green one. Three crystals harmonized from the hilt of Qui-Gon’s lightsaber, and two more murmured in Dooku’s curved one.
Shmi could sit for hours, listening to how the twelve crystals in the box sang out their symphony, for all that she knew which two were to be hers.
One glowed blue, the depths of the oceans of Naboo and the sky during the soothing night; the other flashed yellow, bright as the sands and the suns.
Shmi could already see the weapon they would make, the blade glowing sweetly green, the hum winding a song up and down in the force.
A weapon that she would wear openly, a weapon that she would wear proudly.
A weapon for a Jedi.
(So, funny story, my copy of word went weird last night and completely lost the original last chapter. This is it rewritten, keeping mostly the same themes but with slight differences. It was honestly a pain in the ass, and really upsetting. But now everything is backed up on drive, and that's what matters.)
Funerary customs are completely my own creation, and not something from the EU. 'cause I think funerals are really interesting, and say a lot about a culture.
The next installment in this series (it's gonna be a series!) is going to update slower than this one, probably, and probably more erratically too. But it is going to update.
I'd like to say one more time, thank you, everyone. I really never expected to get this much of a response (or really to write this at all tbh) but here we are. Thank you all so much - I couldn't have written this all or kept up this pace without all of you.