Chapter V – A Fond Farewell
Chapter V – A Fond Farewell
“This has to work,” the furry little Drall rubbed his hands together. “It just has to!”
“Quiet, let her work,” a tall human said.
Oro Thalia felt a bead of sweat roll down her long neck. She was using every ounce of her concentration to keep this DNA strand together.
“This will work, I know it will work!” the Drall said, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.
Oro’s hands moved over the console with increasing speed. “I can’t stop the cascade effect,” she said desperately.
“It’ll work,” the Drall said softly.
The DNA strand began to slowly vibrate. The bottom of the strand began stretching itself apart. A warning klaxon sounded and Oro’s hands flew across the console. Despite her efforts, the strand continued its violent vibration. Small pieces of the bottom of the strand began to shred themselves.
“It might work,” the Drall whispered to himself.
“I’m losing containment!” Oro shouted over the alarms. Finally, the entire bottom third of the DNA strand shattered.
The computer’s blunt statement made Oro’s heart sink. “DNA material unusable, please insert next sample.”
Oro’s shoulders slumped. “We’re nearly out of material,” she said sadly.
“This is the best you can do?” Major Issic said from behind them. “I’ve given you time and people and this is what you can give me?”
Oro was still trying to catch her breath. The furry Drall spoke up in her place. “We have made some great strides,” he said.
Major Issic raised an eyebrow skeptically as he looked at the shredded DNA strand. “My joy knows no bounds.”
“We’re on a very tight schedule that leaves no room for delays. Explain yourselves,” Major Issic’s presence made the finest minds in the Galactic Republic feel like minor school science students.
“Major, somatic cell nuclear transfer is already a time consuming process with an extraordinarily low success rate. What you want is nearly impossible,” the short and furry Drall geneticist said.
“Nearly impossible means it can still be done,” Major Issic retorted. He turned back to the three-dimensional projection of a DNA strand that hovered before them. The bottom end of the strand looked shredded.
“The telomere is the difficulty. Wherever you got these cells from, they are so abnormal that everything we try to do completely deteriorates the telomere. When that happens, the DNA either fuses together, mutates into cancer, or flies apart as we see here,” Oro Thalia gestured to the rotating DNA strand.
“Then you must correct the problem,” Major Issic said.
“Easier said than done,” the long-necked and pale Kaminoan said.
“I’m not asking for much,” Major Issic said.
“How often must I say that what you’re asking is nearly impossible,” the Drall said with others nodding in agreement.
“I’m growing tired of hearing that word. Last month you said it was completely impossible. Now our status has been upgraded to ‘nearly’ impossible. You will solve this problem so we can begin production,” Major Issic said.
“You must also understand, only the chromosomal or nuclear DNA is the same as the donor. Some of the genetic material comes from mitochondria. There will be some differences,” Oro Thalia said.
“You mean defects,” Major Issic said with disgust.
“It is very likely. Of course, that’s assuming this works at all. We are working with extremely limited resources, equipment, and donor material,” the Drall said.
“Where is your limitation the greatest?” the Major asked.
“Donor material,” four of the scientists said at once.
“You work on the telomere solution, I will work on the donor material,” Major Issic said while his pale blue eyes gleamed.
Hours later, after the crowds had dissipated and the hands stopped clapping him on the back, Anakin was finally alone with the Volo. He knew he wouldn’t have the ship much longer, but he was still going through the post-flight checklist.
Anakin was climbing up the same ladder before the race had started when the same pair of boots appeared.
“You got some serious skills for an Outer Rim flight jockey,” the same melodic voice that belonged to Aiya Rios said.
One of her arms was cocooned in a cast that held a blue liquid. “Your ship is probably the fastest thing I’ve ever seen,” Anakin replied as he climbed back down the ladder.
“Was,” she sighed at the correction. “It was the fastest. The damage is nearly catastrophic. If the rupture had been just a little closer to the fuselage, I don’t think I could’ve bailed in time. This…” she gestured to her medical cast, “…is a reminder that it is sometimes better to be lucky than good,” and she flashed the same terrific smile at him.
“Did the engineers say what caused it?” Anakin asked.
“What caused the wing to break apart into confetti? They’re stumped. It’s probably some kind of design flaw, but no one will know for sure until we get it back to Corellia. It should give the designers and the investors something to scratch their heads.”
“So what now for the great Aiya Rios?” Anakin asked, desperate to change the subject as her eyes lingered on his intact ship.
“Well, I have a new streak to start and a reputation to repair,” she answered. “I think I’ll take a look into the Quasar Circuit. It seems like you have the Nova Circuit all sewn up.”
“No, my racing days are done. I’m off this rock as soon as I get my winnings and get headed to…headed to…somewhere,” he stammered.
“I’ve been to the planet ‘Somewhere’. Tremendously dull, the bars are terrible,” Aiya grinned at him. “So you have your visa already? I’m sure you planned for this a while ago so you have your ship chartered too? Which one are you headed out on?”
Aiya’s questions hit Anakin like a hammer. It’s true you can’t just up and jump off a planet without an Interplanetary Traveler’s Visa from the Republic. The last Anakin had heard was that people waited nearly a month just to fill out the right form to ask for an application. Not only that, but how exactly did you charter a ship? The Volo didn’t have lightspeed and it wasn’t like you just walked into the nearest cantina and asked a ship captain for a ride.
“Oh yeah, I’ve got everything covered,” Anakin lied.
“Good. Thankfully, my own ship is leaving in a few hours, just after nightfall. Piloting a Consular-class transport doesn’t require too much dexterity so I am still space worthy. Once they finish loading what’s left of the Aethersprite into the bay, I may never see you again,” her lavender eyes dropped slightly in sadness.
Anakin’s brow furrowed as he pictured the once beautiful starfighter laying in a thousand pieces like a wounded animal because of a simple design flaw.
“You never know. It would be a real shame if our paths never crossed again.” Anakin extended his hand.
“Our paths may cross, but hopefully not on the race track,” Aiya’s dark hand grasped his and shook it firmly. “May the stars smile upon you, Anakin Skywalker.” She flashed her smile once again, then turned on her heel and walked away.
Anakin’s gaze lingered on her a little longer than he meant to. Finally, he shook his head and began to climb up the ladder again. He hadn’t gone up more than two rungs when he was interrupted again.
“That was some move you performed out there,” a voice said.
“My hand is starting to cramp from all the digital pads I’ve had to autograph. Can you come back later?” Anakin asked, annoyed.
His voice caught in his throat. As he looked over his shoulder, he saw a tall man standing before him wearing a simple, brown robe. The same brown robe that Anakin saw him wearing before the race when he was speaking to Aiya Rios along with the other…Jedi?
“I was particularly impressed with the way you tore that wing off the lead ship just as she was about to beat you,” the voice said as casually as if he were commenting about the weather.
Anakin’s foot slipped on the last rung and he fell to the floor. The man now helping him to his feet was taller than he was by at least a head and not nearly as lanky. His eyes were sky blue and filled with a serious curiosity, as if Anakin were a scientific experiment.
“I don’t know what you thought you saw, but I was in my cockpit, she was in hers. Our weapons aren’t strong enough to scratch the paint, let alone blow a wing off, so what are you getting at?” Anakin asked.
Owen walked up to the pair from the other side of the ship. The Championship Trophy firmly in his grip, but no victory smile was on his face.
“Are you accusing us of something?” Owen asked.
“I didn’t say you blew it off, I said you tore it off,” the hooded man remarked with the same casual tone. “You focused on her ship as it slowly passed you by, saw that you couldn’t possibly win, and so you shattered the wing. Am I following the chain of events correctly?”
“Yes, except for the part where I caused the crash of a one of a kind prototype,” Anakin said more cautiously now. How could he have caused this from his own ship?
“I’m guessing this also isn’t the first time you’ve done something extraordinary,” the man’s eyes burned into Anakin now.
“Who are you? A member of the garrison? If you’re going to arrest me, arrest me,” Anakin angrily said.
“I’m getting real agitated with what you’re implying here,” Owen growled.
“No, I’m from off-world, here with Aiya Rios. My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi and I am very interested in you and your potential,” his expression softened a little.
Anakin’s hard expression hadn’t changed. “What does my ‘potential’ have to do with the race? What does it have to do with you accusing me of destroying a starfighter?”
“Anakin, I am a Jedi Knight of the Republic and what you demonstrated during the race today was more than just reflex and uncanny timing. The only people in the galaxy who could have flown like you did today are Jedi. What happened to the Aethersprite was no malfunction or design flaw, although I am sure the engineers will convince themselves it was. What happened out there only convinced me that you have true potential with the Force.” Obi-Wan folded his arms in the sleeves of his robe.
“The Force? Are you talking about that magic stuff that wizards in olden times used to mess with people’s minds?” Anakin asked.
Obi-Wan’s eyes went wide for only a moment. “How far from the Core Worlds am I? Anakin, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. Those who are attuned to it can use the Force to do amazing things,” Obi-Wan explained.
“What kinds of things?” Anakin asked with a raised eyebrow.
Without warning, the trophy Owen was holding flew from his hand and into Obi-Wan’s.
“All kinds of things,” Obi-Wan said with a smirk before handing the trophy back to Owen.
“So if destroying an expensive, one-of-a-kind starfighter is a demonstration of his ‘potential’, what does he do for an encore?” Owen asked.
“I’m sure I could blow up a planet if I set my mind to it,” Anakin mused.
“The Jedi Order typically frowns on such things so I thought we might start with a moon,” Obi-Wan chuckled.
Anakin’s heart leapt into his throat. The Jedi Order? It was all coming together in his mind. His way off Tatooine, his ticket to freedom, his chance for a real life was right here in front of him.
“The Order?” Owen asked. “I don’t like where this is heading. Anakin and I have plans of our own on Tatooine. You can’t kidnap him on a whim.”
“I assure you, this is no kidnapping. I prefer to call it a delayed recruitment,” Obi-Wan said.
“Wait, what?” Anakin asked, dumbfounded. “So you came down here to tell me that I have this wonderful potential and then say you’re not interested?”
“Don’t misunderstand me. I just don’t have the time for you at the moment. I am bound for Alderaan in a few hours. I don’t need someone along who will serve as a distraction. I want to give Alderaan my full and undivided attention and then give you my full and undivided attention. I think you can do great things in the Order, Anakin. But you deserve a Jedi mentor who is not worried about your upbringing and a planetary crisis at the same time. I should have this wrapped up and back here in about a week. In the grand scope of the galaxy, how long can a week be?” Obi-Wan smiled.
“I will not let you come down here and snatch away my best friend!” Owen shouted at him.
“Please, you can’t leave me here!” Anakin’s desperation showed in his voice. The fresh hope of escape now tasted bitter in his mouth. Owen looked at him with hurt eyes.
“But our farm…”Owen began.
“Owen, get over the moisture farm! I never said I wanted it, I still don’t want it, and I’m sick of you getting in the way of what I really do want,” Anakin said.
“But…I thought that…” Owen began.
“You thought what, Owen? Huh? You thought that you could lasso me into a life I never asked for,” Anakin finished.
“No, I thought we were friends. I thought that it would be you and me working together like we have been. I thought that I knew someone I could trust,” Owen said.
“Well I guess you were wrong about a lot of things,” Anakin said. He actually smiled a little at Owen.
Owen’s fist collided with Anakin and sent him sprawling on the ground. He stood up quickly, tasting blood.
Obi-Wan stepped between them. “That’s more than enough,” he warned.
“You want him to follow you on another crusade for the Jedi Order? I won’t allow it! We are too close to obtaining our dream!” Owen shouted.
“OUR dream? You just don’t listen. This is my time, my life, and I refuse to let you stand in my way!” Anakin shouted at him.
“Anakin, stand down,” Obi-Wan strongly said.
“Tell him to ‘stand down’,” Anakin spat back. “He’s the one dictating what happens to me!”
Anakin and Owen lunged at each other again, but this time an invisible force grabbed and pulled them apart. Owen and Anakin skidded along the floor until they were about twenty feet apart. They both turned to look questioningly at Obi-Wan.
“I said that was more than enough. I don’t have enough time to make you both see clearly. You two have a week together, I suggest you use that time wisely,” Obi-Wan said.
Obi-Wan stood between them until Anakin finally turned his back to Owen. A communicator beeped on Obi-Wan’s belt and broke the silence.
“We’ve been cleared for departure,” Aiya Rios’s voice sang over the device.
“I’ll be there shortly,” Obi-Wan answered before putting the communicator back on his belt.
“One Galactic Week, no longer. Get your affairs in order before I return. Anakin, control your emotions, calm yourself. Let me tell you something I learned the hard way at the Jedi Academy. You can’t have too many friends in this universe,” he smiled at Anakin before walking away.
“How can you do this to me, Anakin?” Owen asked softly.
Anakin turned to see that friend’s hands were still balled up into fists, but the anger in his eyes was replaced by pain and sadness.
“All the years we’ve been together. The trouble we got each other out of, the great times we had, how can you throw it all away so easily?” Owen asked.
Anakin’s shoulders slumped slightly. “Owen, the past was great. But that’s all it is, the past. The future holds so much more for me than…never mind, you don’t understand my point of view,” he answered.
“Someday, Anakin. Someday you’re going to throw away something or someone that you really care about because they don’t understand your point of view. When that happens, you’re going to lose more than a friend, you’ll lose yourself,” Owen said.
Anakin grabbed his bag and walked over to Owen, who was still smoldering with anger.
“It’s all I can spare,” he said and he threw a handful of credits at Owen’s feet. “You should be able to get the rest from selling my ship. Have fun on the farm.” Anakin turned and walked away.
Anakin knew now what he had to do. The only question that ran through his mind, as his walk turned into a sprint, was did he have the nerve to carry out his spur of the moment plan. The question left his head quickly as he knew that this wasn’t just a way out, it was the only way.