Chapter VI – Trespassing
Author’s Note: Due to a technical error, a portion of the book was released from a different chapter. I humbly apologize.
The JS-77B Consular transport glided through space, the lightspeed engines keeping the ship moving at a constant speed. The small red ship was hardly luxurious, but it suited the needs of its passengers well enough. Although it only had a registry number and not an official name, the crew had come to know it affectionately as The Bucket.
One passenger in particular had finally finished roaming the decks and had settled into the galley with several other officers. He sat away from them, trying to make the best out of their rationed military meal.
Kenobi stared down at his food in indifference. The other officers regarded him only with a passing glance and a few whispers. One by one, they left the galley until he was alone, poking at a gray substance that was trying to be meat.
Obi-Wan sighed heavily and pushed the tray from him. He turned his attention to a digital tablet instead. He spent the next few minutes reviewing several communiques from the Jedi Temple.
He had finished responding to the last message and closed his eyes for a few moments. His eyes snapped open and he quickly looked toward the door.
“Always needed on the bridge,” he said aloud before getting up from the table and leaving the galley.
High above, Anakin knew it was now or never. He knew that pushing the screen off would make a terrible noise, but his gnawing hunger would allow no time for more subtle and time consuming plans.
Stowing aboard the transport was easier than he thought. Trying to eat, sleep, and avoid the crew so he wouldn’t be caught proved to be much more difficult. He had more than one close call trying to squeeze in and out of the ducts.
Anakin stared hungrily at the leftovers on the other side of the room. He locked his eyes on a piece of meat and focused his attention on it. Obi-Wan had faith in him, maybe now was the time to prove it to himself.
As the seconds ticked by, sweat began dripping from Anakin’s face from the effort and still the meat did not move. Anakin tried again and again, but he could not summon the same focus he had before. Panic began to creep back into him as he felt time was moving against him.
Anakin blew all the breath from his body and relaxed again, clearing his mind. He focused his energies on the tray and slowly, but surely, it began to rise. Anakin grinned to himself at the triumph of moving the tray four inches off the table. His rumbling stomach helped him lose his focus and the tray clattered back to the table.
“This is taking too long,” Anakin fumed. Apparently, destroying a starfighter was easy, but moving a tray eighteen inches in length was too much for him. Throwing caution out the airlock, Anakin gave the screen a mighty shove. It clattered to the floor below him and he began to climb out from the vent. He dropped lightly to the ground and ran over to the table. He had to move quickly, he knew from experience that the service droids could arrive at any moment to clean up the leftovers.
How he would climb the ten feet to get back into the duct and replace the vent’s screen from the inside was something his growling stomach wouldn’t let him consider. Anakin closed in on his chosen target which was a piece of meat the captain had left when he heard a voice that made him jump straight up into the air.
“I was wondering when you would finally climb out of there and join us,” Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice shook Anakin.
Anakin froze, the meat inches from his mouth. He turned to see the man in the simple, brown robes standing by the door. He was under the vent, totally out of sight from Anakin’s hiding place. The aroma of the food disappeared; all there was was Jedi Kenobi giving him a very scientific look. It was the kind of look Anakin had once given a sand beetle he had once trapped under a jar.
“To be honest, I expected you some time ago. I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of the ship. I might’ve been able to give you a better, less cramped tour if you had just waited on Tatooine as I asked,” Obi-Wan motioned for him to sit down.
Anakin surveyed his situation carefully. Obi-Wan was blocking the only door out of this room. The vent was directly over the door and before he could get halfway there, Obi-Wan would probably block that too. Even if he did somehow manage to climb back into the vent, where would he go that a Jedi Knight wouldn’t follow? Reluctantly, he put down the food and sat down.
Obi-Wan sat down across from him. “If you’re as hungry as you seem, I think we can do a little better than leftovers,” Obi-Wan pressed a few buttons on the table’s console. Anakin still did not speak. He learned at an early age that speaking out of turn would only lead to trouble.
“Well my young friend, what shall we do with you? I know the military takes a very dim view of stowaways. I believe it used to be Standard Operating Procedure to show the offender the inside and then the outside of an airlock. Don’t worry, I’m reasonably sure they got rid of that policy,” he continued to study Anakin thoroughly.
Anakin swallowed and felt his mouth grow dry. He was used to empty threats on Tatooine, but now he was off-world and who could be sure of anything? After he directly disobeyed Obi-Wan, this threat might not be so empty after all.
An uneasy silence filled the room. Obi-Wan had the most penetrating gaze and Anakin had the feeling that he was looking at more than just his poor table manners.
A tall, golden service droid entered the room with a steaming tray of fresh food. Anakin didn’t even wait for the droid to lower the tray to the table before he was pulling food off of it and eating it. His body cried out gratefully as the food give him new life, new energy, and make him feel like a human being again.
“It seems impatience walks hand-in-hand with you whether you are in a hangar bay or in a galley,” Obi-Wan observed.
“We’re nearly to Alderaan so there won’t be too much time to scold you for stowing away. When we arrive, we’ll let the Force determine what course your future will take,” Obi-Wan continued.
“That covers tomorrow, what happens to me today?” Anakin asked.
“First, I think we should find you some more suitable accommodations. I have never slept in air ducts before, but I can’t imagine that you would object to a bath and an actual bed,” Obi-Wan’s expression softened as he tapped different keys on the display.
“So I’m not going to be turned over to the military?” Anakin cast a suspicious look at Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Not unless you insist on it. However, let me be clear on one thing. You will not participate in my assignment, but observe my actions instead. After this mission is completed, you and I will have a chat about your potential. The alternative is to call Captain Sesta and make sure the brig is prepared,” Obi-Wan answered.
Before Anakin could respond, the door slid open and a tall, dark officer appeared. He had the face of a professional soldier, always surveying a situation for potential dangers. “You asked for me Master Kenobi…who is this boy?” the officer pointed at Anakin.
“Calm down Commander Cody. This young man has joined us on our journey to Alderaan. Please find reasonable quarters for him and make sure he is comfortable. Anakin, I’ll see you when you’re settled in and more relaxed,” Obi-Wan shook hands with Anakin.
“But sir, Captain Sesta has never tolerated…” Commander Cody began before Obi-Wan cut him off.
“You can tell the captain he is my guest. I will accept full responsibility for him while he is onboard. I am sure she will not protest the word of a Jedi Knight,” Commander Cody relaxed a little.
“Jedi Kenobi, thank you. I’ll try not to get in the way,” Anakin said. Obi-Wan smiled at him then left the room.
Anakin thought for a moment before asking the Commander, “How is he supposed to know when I’m ‘more relaxed’?”
Commander Cody smiled and shook his head. “Trust me, he’ll know.”
Author’s note: You’ll see that the chapter has no title. That’s because I decided to let my readers (YOU!) suggest what the title should be. That’s right, you can send your title suggestions to SWAwakening@gmail.com and you might get to make your mark on a potential Star Wars novel! You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@SW_Awakening) for more details. This is open to EVERYONE. If you know people who are Star Wars fans and would like to suggest a title for a chapter, they can do so! Enjoy reading!
Padme Amidala appeared to be commanding a small army as she waited at the all too familiar checkpoint at the Garrison of Alderaan. Her Arcanian Medium Transport also carried Illian Derttick from Alderaan Today, two additional Planetary Senators, two industrial engineers, four environmental specialists, and five independent military analysts who specialized in fields ranging from logistics to advanced weaponry.
What she was lacking was an answer from Senator Palpatine regarding a request she had made. The request was unusual, but she felt backed into a corner with no other alternatives.
“Of course I have an appointment,” she tapped her foot impatiently. She had confirmed and re-confirmed this inspection and now she was stuck at a -brand new- second checkpoint while a lieutenant tried to “locate” her paperwork.
“I’m sorry ma’am, let me check with the Officer of the Day again,” the lieutenant disappeared back into the guard house.
“This is intolerable,” she muttered before rising to her feet. “Ladies and gentlemen, there appears to be, another, minor delay in our inspection. Please be patient while we make sure everything is in order.”
Illian Derttick was furiously typing into his digital tablet. The experts began generating a low rumble of discussion. Padme caught phrases such as “waste of time” and “foolish girl” from the group before she turned her attention back to the guard house.
More time passed before she leaned out of the transport and rapped on the window. When there was no answer, Padme decided enough was enough. She had just balled up her fist to bang on the window when the lieutenant reappeared.
“Everything is in perfect order, Senator. Colonel Kinyon is waiting for you at the Bolet Administration building. Please remain here while we complete the security check of your vehicle,” he said.
“But we’ve already had a secur…” she began, but the lieutenant had disappeared again. Several soldiers appeared and began to check the vehicle’s exterior.
The soldiers were extremely deliberate in their security sweep. Padme continued tapping her foot impatiently while they took their time examining all thirty seat cushions for “possible hazards”. Finally, their AMT was waved through and it began to lumber its way down the avenue to the Bolet Administration building. Outside the gleaming white building, a man was waiting with a clipboard tucked under his arm.
He was tall, dressed in an immaculate uniform filled with badges, medals, and enough ribbons to make him lean slightly due to the weight. He also had the same look of arrogance and contempt that also seemed to come with the uniform. Padme smiled to herself as she imagined that there must be a week long training course each officer has to take in order to perfect that look.
“Senator Amidala, welcome to Republic Garrison Three-Two-Eight, I am Colonel Kinyon, second in command of this installation. It is my honor to escort you and your party on a thorough tour of this post.”
“Let’s proceed, Colonel. Your enhanced security procedures put us quite a bit behind schedule.” Amidala left the transport and waited for the rest of her party to disembark as well.
Five frustrating hours later, Amidala was fit to be tied. Colonel Kinyon must have spent his entire military career memorizing mundane details about the history of this post.
He had shown them two mess halls, five different barracks, the infirmary, the shooting range, three different recreation areas, and they were given a truly captivating tour of the visitor’s center. The inspection had reached the very guard house they were delayed at earlier before Senator Amidala could no longer hold her tongue.
“Colonel Kinyon, what are we doing?” Padme asked.
The Colonel looked annoyed at having his speech about the history of Guard House Number Four interrupted. “Senator, you are here to inspect the base and I am showing you the base. Is something amiss?”
“Colonel, I would like to interrupt this charming journey we’ve been on and I would like even more to inspect some real military facilities. We would like to see your research and development areas, your military intelligence building, and finally all files, papers, documents, and the locations of your expansions dating back two years ago. I would like to come and do the job that the Planetary Senate has authorized us to do,” Padme locked eyes with the Colonel and refused to blink.
Colonel Kinyon looked relieved, as if he was waiting for that demand to come from the young senator. “I apologize Senator, but I just don’t have authorization to do that.”
“I don’t understand,” Padme was dumbfounded. “There’s a building right over there that we haven’t seen yet,” she gestured to a large gray building that appeared to be a large warehouse. “It was built with the last expansion of the base. I want to go there now.”
“My apologies Senator, but I just don’t have the authorization to do that,” Colonel Kinyon said again.
Padme walked over to her right. “Fine, then let’s go to that building in the distance,” she pointed to a similarly large gray building further away.
“I apologize Senator, but I just don’t…”
“Colonel Kinyon, you are second in command of the entire garrison. If YOU don’t have the authority, then get me General Tarkin,” Padme placed her hands on her hips and waited.
“I apologize Senator, but General Tarkin is off-world and unable to receive communications at this time,” Colonel Kinyon seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Very well,” Padme growled. “Then who else can we speak to on this post with some authority?”
“You’ve been speaking with him this entire time, Senator. Now, shall we continue?” Colonel Kinyon gestured to Guard House Number Four.
Amidala’s brow furrowed as she lost what little patience she had left. Frustration had been building up inside of her like a reactor meltdown and the Colonel was about to receive the brunt of her explosion.
“Colonel, you have given us a tour of everything on this post that we never wanted to see with the exception of Latrine Number Thirty-Seven and I have a bad feeling that that wonderful part of the tour is coming up next. If you refuse to cooperate with the Alderaanian government on this crucial matter and stall a senatorial investigation…” but now Colonel Kinyon stopped her.
“Please Senator, I am cooperating within the authority I am granted. I can’t step beyond the bounds of my assignment. If I were to take you to buildings that even I had no permission to visit, I could be court-martialed. Do you want to be responsible for ending my career?” the Colonel looked genuinely worried about that possibility.
Padme felt a small vibration on her hip. She pulled a communicator from her pocket, took one look at it, and smiled.
“Colonel, the people of Alderaan and of the Republic could care less about the career of one short-sighted Colonel. I am leaving the garrison now, but when I return, I won’t be bringing these experts with me. I’ll be bringing a Jedi Knight of the Republic and I doubt that he will be as patient with you as I have been,” she turned on her heel and left, the experts grumbling behind her.
This time, however, Padme heard phrases such as “obstruction” and “Republic waste”. Illian Derttick was typing so fast on his computer that smoke almost rose from the keyboard.
Anakin had come to appreciate his new, un-cramped life aboard the transport outside the network of ducts. His view of the bridge was the most incredible sight he had ever seen.
Stars! So many stars surrounded the transport! The expansiveness of the galaxy would have overwhelmed anyone else, but all it did was feed Anakin’s desire to know more. Anakin had rarely left the vantage point at the front of the bridge except when he was in the way of one of the crew or when Obi-Wan pried him away to get something to eat. It was the most exhilarating and thrilling moment of his young life.
“Master Kenobi, how many star systems are in the Republic?” Anakin asked without removing his gaze.
“How many or how few doesn’t matter. The size of the galaxy is insignificant when compared to the Force,” Obi-Wan had found his vantage point equally fascinating.
When they had left Tatooine’s atmosphere, Obi-Wan had known the young man was onboard. There was no question that Anakin had an uncanny ability with the Force. It was raw, but intense. Anakin Skywalker had been able to avoid a crew of twenty men and women onboard a transport that was barely big enough to play a decent game of Pazaak. He might’ve been able to stay hidden throughout their voyage had it not been for the disturbance he created in the Force. He watched as the native of Tatooine tore his eyes off of the galaxy to something he found equally fascinating.
“Did I mention how sorry I was?” Anakin asked.
“I thought I said three times already that I don’t care about the Aethersprite,” Aiya Rios rolled her eyes as she sat at the helm of the transport.
“Then why have you become so cold? If it’s not the race, and it’s not me stowing away, then what did I do?” Anakin asked in a hushed, but tense tone.
“Don’t you get it? You ripped the wing off of my ship using the Force. That means you’re probably going to be a Jedi,” she said with a certain amount of disgust.
“Probably? You don’t think I can do it?” Anakin asked defensively.
“Geez Anakin, how thick are you? Didn’t they teach you anything about Jedi on that waste of a world you came from? Jedi don’t date, they don’t have relationships, and they don’t anything resembling ‘fraternization’ so you can forget that you ever knew me,” she said.
Anakin threw his hands up. “Whoa, slam on the brakes and bring this out of lightspeed. I never had any intention of um, ‘fraternizing’ with you. I just thought you were a great pilot.”
“Maybe you had no such intention,” she said with a pout.
“Captain Sesta, we’re approaching the Alderaan system,” Aiya changed the subject.
“Thank you, Navigator. Bring us out of light speed and begin standard landing procedures.
“Captain, could you also alert Senator…” he thought for a moment, “…Amidala that we’ll be landing within the hour?” Obi-Wan asked.
“We’re cutting in the sub-light engines now, sir,” Aiya said and Anakin felt the ship shudder slightly as they de-accelerated.
If Anakin was awe-struck by the sight of the stars, what happened next took his breath away.
He couldn’t believe there was something so peaceful or so beautiful in all of existence. There was no rust colored surface, no barren wastelands to be seen anywhere. From their orbital view, he could clearly see the brown continents, the lush, green forests, and…water! Vast, deep oceans, and great, winding rivers snaked along carrying trillions of gallons of something so precious that Anakin had learned to savor one drop at a time.
“Wow Owen, I’m a long way from Beggar’s Canyon,” Anakin whispered.
“Alderaan, the Shining Star of the Core Worlds. We should be passing the Regent’s Orbital Mansion on the way to the capital city, Aldera, the home of the Royal Family,” Obi-Wan announced as he walked up and joined Anakin at the forefront of the bridge.
“Jedi Kenobi, this report came from Coruscant,” a bridge officer said as he gave Obi-Wan a digital tablet before returning to the communications platform.
Obi-Wan scanned the report for a minute. “There is a meeting between eleven planetary government representatives on Ambria taking place tomorrow. The agenda includes interstellar trade and a review of how defense contracts are awarded. I thought they just covered that last week? Maybe it was a different sector I’m thinking of,” Obi-Wan stared absent-mindedly out the window.
“What is this great assignment you’re on, Master Kenobi?” Anakin asked, changing the subject.
“Your feelings give you away, Anakin. I’m not here to save the galaxy,” Obi-Wan replied. “The planet of Alderaan is protesting the expansion of their local garrison. According to reports, the garrison has grown to more than five times its original size with no additional troops assigned to it. I am here to mediate the dispute,” Obi-Wan began to strap himself into his chair in preparation for their descent.
Anakin sat next to him. “That’s it? Mediate the dispute? Aren’t you at least curious about why the garrison has grown so much?” He tried to imagine the Flying 14th more than five times its size. It would’ve eaten Mos Eisley whole without a second thought.
“It’s not my place to be curious. I am not here to investigate, Anakin. I am here as a mediator and a representative of the Republic. I am not here to demand justice for criminal wrongdoings or stop galactic genocide. This is just a dispute, nothing more, nothing less,” Obi-Wan said as Anakin buckled himself in.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Anakin wondered aloud as the ship began to breach the atmosphere.
Major Issic’s sky blue eyes stared down the long conference table at the fourteen scientists in disbelief.
“Say that again,” he said as he leaned on the table for support.
“It’s not good enough,” Oro Thalia replied, craning her long neck.
“I exceeded your request in every way. How could it not be enough?” Major Issic asked, his voice rising.
“It is not about quantity, it is about quality,” Oro replied. “I defer to my colleague in this matter.” She gestured a long arm to a tall man who hadn’t said more than two words since his arrival to Republic Scientific and Genetic Research Facility Zero-Zero-One the previous morning.
“The quality of the material is completely substandard for us to meet your goals. You want a luxury product, but give us junk to work with. What we have to work with is pathetically inadequate,” he said without moving.
Major Issic’s eye twitched slightly. “Doctor Billicks, I would choose my words carefully as your host has gone to extraordinary lengths to meet your demands.”
The man sniffed in disgust. “Extraordinary? You dragged me halfway across the Republic and assigned me with an impossible task. You give me cretins who don’t understand anything that wasn’t already in a textbook, and you give me inferior material to work with on top of that. Why are you wasting the time of one of the greatest genetic minds of our time?”
Issic locked his eyes on Billicks. Billicks returned the stare. No one else in the room dared breathe.
“Be that as it may, you have been given something extremely rare in the universe. I shall see if it is possible to increase the quality of your material. Keep in mind that this project will be successful. To ensure that success I will sacrifice anything and anyone at any given notice,” Issic said coldly. The look in his eyes hardened and his fist shook slightly.
Several lights in the room shorted out. Several heads turned up to see half of the room plunge into darkness. Doctor Billicks snorted and muttered something about “inferior building”.
A strange, almost tranquil look appeared on Major Issic’s face. “I will get you your material. You may trust that it will be of a far superior quality. It might even surpass your expectations, doctor.”
“And our facilities?” Oro Thalia asked, looking at the darkened section of the conference room.
“You find them inferior as well?” Major Issic asked with a sigh.
“When we began this project, we were three. Now we have nearly the largest gathering of geneticists outside of Coruscant. This facility is becoming rather cramped,” Oro said and others nodded in agreement.
“In addition,” the furry Drall said, “we’re sharing antiquated lab equipment. We need some other place to complete our work. If you want more, we need more.”
“Any other problems?” Major Issic asked.
“When do we get to contact our families?” Another scientist asked.
“That’s a good point. You haven’t allowed one transmission in or out of here since you assumed command. When will this change?” Oro Thalia asked.
“As you stated, the crudeness of our facilities is not limited to scientific equipment. There is no transmitter powerful enough to reach Coruscant. If you insist, I will make arrangements to satisy all of your requests,” Major Issic said.