Star Wars Episode I: Awakening
His boots echoed down the hallway as he counted the number of doors until he arrived at his destination. The satchel that hung loosely from his shoulder bumped into his side in rhythm with his precise pace and stride. Courtesy dictates that he press the door chime before entering.
Today was not a day for courtesy.
The door opened to reveal a baby-faced enlisted man who couldn’t have been out of the Republic Institute for Military Excellence more than a few months. He was sitting at a desk tapping his fingers in rhythm to music that was playing from a speaker.
“Whatcha need?” the young man asked without looking up.
“I need your next of kin’s location so I can ship them your remains,” the officer replied.
The color drained from the enlisted man’s face before he shot to his feet.
“I’m sorry, Major, we had no idea you were coming down to this facility until…” the Able Crewman blubbered.
“Do you not understand the term ‘change of command? Perhaps some field experience in the Outer Rim would suit you better, AC…?” the major asked.
The Able Crewman’s face went white. “AC Retera, sir,” the young man gulped as he allowed the Major to enter.
“Place your thumbprint here to signify that I arrived and began the inspection of my facility before you tell your former commanding officer that his day is about to get very ugly,” the Major said.
AC Retara shakily placed his thumb on the receipt tablet and half-walked, half-staggered out of the reception area.
The major didn’t have to wait very long before he heard a series of shouts from the office the AC walked through. A short time later, a short, balding, overweight man stumbled out of his office. He smoothed his uniform several times before offering his hand to his visitor.
“Captain Antias, commanding officer. What is this all about?” he asked.
“Are you people really this far behind the times? I thought that General Embry’s orders carried a little more weight down here,” the major said without taking the offered hand.
“General Embry? Dalson Embry gave this order? He didn’t mention anything like this to me,” Captain Antias looked thoughtfully at his communicator.
“Fine. You can call General Embry while he’s giving testimony before the Armed Forces Committee on Coruscant. I’m sure the nine senators wouldn’t mind waiting while you discuss orders, already signed by him, that I hold in my hand. I’ll gladly watch you destroy your career right now or you can get packed,” the major folded his arms across his chest and waited.
“But Major, I’m the commanding officer here. I need…”
“Correction. You were the commanding officer here. As of 0815 local time, I am assuming command of this installation. You are being re-assigned to some desk more befitting on man of your..talents. You have ten minutes to clear your office out before I order Republic Security to help you pack.” The major looked around the reception area before turning back to the blubbering captain.
“Nine minutes, thirty seconds,” the new commanding officer said.
The captain scurried away and a cacophony of sounds poured out of his office.
“I need your name for the record, sir,” AC Retera said.
“Relian Issic, Major, Commanding Officer of Republic Scientific and Genetic Research Facility Zero-Zero-One.”
One hour later, three of the finest minds in the Republic were seated opposite Major Issic’s desk.
“You understand the project?” Major Issic asked.
“Yes we do. However, what you’re proposing is…” a short and furry Drall geneticist said.
“Remarkable? Breathtaking? Groundbreaking?” Major Issic finished.
“Impossible,” the Drall corrected.
The Major’s face fell. His sky blue eyes grew very hard as he fixed a piercing gaze upon them all in turn.
“That word does not exist in my facility,” he said coldly.
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have enough…” a dark skinned human scientist said.
“Enough what? Name your limits and I will exceed them,” the Major picked up a digital tablet and waited.
The three scientists looked at each other for a few moments. Then the furry Drall began to speak.
“We could discuss the limits of cloning for weeks. First, you must understand the very basics of what we’re working with. Your typical DNA base pair is about a billionth of a meter in length. We need extraordinarily sensitive equipment just to view and extract the strands. Also keep in mind that your typical genome has three billion base pairs. Since most sentient species in the Republic are diploid organisms, that means one genome now has six billion base pairs of DNA. Stretching out the DNA in just one cell would be longer than this table,” he said.
“How enlightening. How many cells do you require? Dozens? Hundreds?” Major Issic drummed his fingers on the table.
The three scientists chuckled.
“One body, depending on the species, has anywhere between ten and eighteen trillion cells in it. The cells are not the issue. That’s like asking an engineer how many pieces of durasteel are required to build one star cruiser,” the Drall said.
“Then what is the issue?” Major Issic asked.
“We need Oro Thalia,” he said.
“Who is that?” the Major asked as he typed the name into the tablet.
“The greatest expert on telomeres in the galaxy. We can’t do anything without her here. That Kaminoan knows more about telomeres than…” but he was cut off again.
“Yes, yes, suffice to say she’s brilliant. What else? Let me be perfectly clear, you need but name what you need to get this project moving and it will be provided,” Major Issic said.
The three scientists all smiled at the thought of what might be.
Chapter I – The Skywalker Boys
The first of the twin suns crept over the horizon just as it had done each day prior to this one. The barren landscape began to heat, silently preparing itself for the day ahead. The rocks that were scattered along the ground welcomed the solar rays, baking contently in their fixed places, just as they had each morning over the millennia.
A single ray from the second sun crawled along the floor of the cramped room and began to slink its way up a bed that was too small for its owner. It climbed up the short bed post until it dragged across the face of a young man who was lying on his side. The sand-blasted face twitched several times, and a hand rose to cover the eye the ray was disturbing.
Anakin Skywalker rolled onto his back before yawning loudly. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes before looking at the window that allowed the invading light to attack his peaceful slumber.
“Another glorious day for the Skywalker Boys,” he mumbled before running a hand through his shaggy head of sandy colored hair.
The nickname “Skywalker Boys” was horribly inaccurate. Anakin was the only Skywalker that lived in this dilapidated shelter. Owen Lars wasn’t related to Anakin, but the two were so inseparable that they stopped trying to quash the nickname the public had given them.
“Cmon Owen, rise and shine. Greet the new day and whatever,” Anakin yawned again. He looked only a few feet away to see that the other bed was empty.
“Really? You’re really going to do this again?” Anakin stood up and stretched before getting out of bed and looking for his lost friend.
He stumbled out into the garage as he pulled his shirt over his head.
“How did I know that if you’re not sleeping or eating, you’ve got your head shoved into a gasket or a power coupling or whatever else is falling off of her,” Anakin grinned at the prone figure under the wing of his racing starfighter.
“If you flew with any sense instead of by the seat of your pants, I wouldn’t have to shove my head into a gasket,” Owen Lars said without coming out from under the wing.
“You fell asleep under the Volo again, didn’t you?” Anakin asked, crouching down and sticking his head under the wing of his racer.
“Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last,” Owen said as he tightened a bolt.
“Owen man, you have got to get yourself a girl,” Anakin said.
Owen emerged from under the wing with oil smudges dotting his pale complexion. He hopped to his feet and stretched his back by twisting it several times before looking down at his friend.
Owen Lars had been Anakin’s best friend since they literally ran into each other on the streets of Anchorhead. Anakin had gotten into a “minor disagreement” with five or six members of the local Republic Military Garrison. While demonstrating how quickly he could run from armed soldiers, Owen’s body shop provided a perfect hiding place and sheltered him until the soldiers from the “Flying 14th” had given up the chase.
He hadn’t so much as provided the hiding place as Anakin had run into the shop Owen was working in. Anakin ducked behind the counter and pleaded with Owen not to turn him in. Owen was feeling generous that day. That generosity paid off.
Owen had always had a clear focus of what needed to be done. Working with mechanics was so simple and so straight-forward that everything else in life seemed equally simple. Anakin brought all problems to Owen and his mind worked it out like it was a clogged fuel line and came up with the solution.
“That should improve engine efficiency by another three or four percent. Your thrust ratio should give you a better kick off the start line,” Owen smiled proudly.
“I bet Beru would give you a better kick off the start line,” Anakin grinned at him.
“Beru Whitesun? Your groupie, your tag-a-long? I’m stunned she’s not here now desperately trying to find some excuse to hang around,” Owen huffed before heading to the kitchen.
“The definition of groupie is someone who can’t leave you alone and thinks the suns rise and set because you say so. She says about two words to me and then spends the rest of her time staring at you,” Anakin said as he followed Owen into the kitchen.
In a hovel as small as theirs, the kitchen also doubled as the living room. Anakin liked to
think that it also doubled as their dining room, study, library, guest house and solarium.
Being on Tatooine meant that every room was a sun room. Anakin picked through the meager remains in their pantry. “What’s the deal? I thought you bought some new ration packs? I’m eight hours from the biggest race of the year and I get to start off the day with this?” Anakin held up a bag that fit easily in the palm of his hand.
“I meant to bring that up with you,” Owen said as he sat down on a crate at their small table.
“You are looking at two guys who are one race away from the Promised Land,” Owen said with a wide grin on his face.
“The what?” Anakin asked as he also sat on a crate that appeared to be one crack away from shattering.
“I’ve been saving my half of our winnings from the last few tournaments. Add that in with the earnings from my job as a mechanic out at the Mos Eisley spaceport plus the scrimping and saving we’ve done. We are very close to changing our lives forever,” Owen said.
“I’ve been talking with Damiano Ressik. He’s willing to sell us his moisture farm. I think that, with a little hard work, we can really make it take off. All it takes is one more win and that farm is ours,” he continued.
The crate groaned loudly in protest as Anakin leaned forward. “A moisture farm?”
“The last couple of tournament wins put us in prime position. If you win the Tatooine Classic today, we’re over the top with a couple thousand to spare,” Owen was beaming now. Anakin was sure if he had a tail, it would be wagging.
“A farm,” Anakin said again, his voice trailing off.
“Well? Say something,” Owen said.
Anakin stood up and looked out a small window to the sun-scorched street outside.
“What do you want me to say?” Anakin asked flatly. “Do you know anything about farming? I don’t,” he said.
“It’s only the fastest growing profession on Tatooine. Exports are rising at an incredible rate and we can get in almost on the ground floor. If we get the farm and cut back on our expenses for a while, we can expand the vaporators and watch things really take off!”
“In ten or twenty years,” Anakin muttered. “Don’t you want something more than pulling a few drops of water out of the air?”
“What else is there?” Owen asked.
“I don’t know, something,” Anakin replied. “There’s got to be more to this life than just sitting on a rust colored planet in the middle of nowhere where nothing is destined to happen. How are we going to see the galaxy sitting on our butts watching condensation take place?”
“Anakin, you keep going on and on about this wonderful galaxy. What’s so fabulous out there that you can’t find here? What’s so incredible about that unknown life you could have on any one of a hundred thousand worlds that would blow away a tangible future on Tatooine?” Owen asked.
“I don’t know, Owen, but something!” Anakin blurted out.
“Something. Yeah, that works. I have a concrete plan here with a real future and you have ‘something’,” Owen said with a smirk.
“I just feel like there’s more to life than being a water sucker,” Anakin said as he walked over to his prize racer.
“What’s really got your blaster in a knot?” Owen asked as he walked over to join his friend.
“You never asked me about this! You made all these plans, all these goals, and you never asked me what I wanted,” Anakin said with disgust.
“Well we can’t stay here forever,” Owen said looking at the missing piece of their ceiling.
“Anakin, you did something when you took a Cloudhopper for a joyride to impress a gaggle of girls. You did something when you fell through the glass ceiling of the race dealer when you were peeking at the newest whatever it was that the Kuat Drive Yards was selling. Don’t forget you did something when you broke your bed last week. When you do something to get what you want, it ends in trouble,” Owen said.
“Maybe what I want isn’t on Tatooine,” Anakin said almost in a whisper.
Loading a five ton starfighter and maneuvering it into the loading bay at the Tatooine Race Yards was complicated enough. Doing it while nearly another dozen racers are also moving in their multi-ton starfighters required tremendous concentration. Owen found that trying to get the Volo into position while dodging everyone else and having to deal with Beru Whitesun was nearly impossible.
“Beru, now really isn’t the best time,” Owen said.
“Oh c’mon, you always say that. Don’t you think that XK-12 is really something else? I read up about it and they say it has the tightest turn of any atmospheric craft ever!” She tried very hard to get his attention.
“The XK series has never been anything more than a flying brick…” Owen was interrupted by a fast moving magnetic crane flying over his head.
“Beru, I really mean that now is not the best time. Do me a favor and go find Anakin and let him know that we’re almost ready to start his pre-flight sequence,” Owen said.
“But I didn’t get to tell you the best part,” Beru pouted.
“I think it’s really cute how you’ve studied every technical manual you could lay your hands on, but I don’t need to hear any more about the XK series,” Owen said.
“No, you don’t understand,” Beru insisted.
“He never does, Beru. Unless it has something to do with a gam-shaft or a power coupling, he’ll never understand,” Anakin said as he walked up.
“Fabulous timing,” Owen said as the Volo was unloaded into its prep area. “Are you done registering?”
“I just finished giving my thumb scan on the twentieth form,” Anakin said as he rolled his eyes. “We’re ready to fly.”
“You might fly, but Aiya Rios soars,” Beru said.
“I’m sorry, what?” Owen asked and looked down at her.
“Oh now you want to listen to me?” Beru asked. “Now my opinion is important? Well maybe I’m too important for you and I’ll take my opinion and go elsewhere,” Beru said with a flip of her dark hair.
Anakin threw Owen a scornful look.
“Okay, I’m sorry Beru. I would really like to hear whatever tidbit you have,” Owen said in a monotone voice.
Beru brightened up immediately.
“I overheard these two guys talking about some Delta thing that this girl named Aiya Rios is flying. They said she’s an off-worlder from Corellia and the ship she’s flying is some sort of prototype or something,” Beru eagerly said.
Owen and Anakin exchanged a glance.
“Owen, that roof I fell through? That ship I was looking at from the KDY? That was the Delta-7 Aethersprite. If she brought it here…”
“Then we’re in bigger trouble than I thought,” Owen finished.