Shmi Skywalker sits on the couch in the living room of her home, her face smeared and damp, staring through the holographic news projection.
"Terrorist insurgents struck again tonight," reports the news droid, "this time against the interstellar communications dish near Theed, interrupting Trade Federation efforts to retool the dish for improved freedom of access. A curfew remains in effect for all surrounding countries while Federation police search for the rebels. Speaking at a press conference before returning to orbit, Viceroy Gunray expressed his regret that interstellar communications would now be suspended indefinitely. In other news, a Victory Parade will be held at high noon tomorrow along the mainway of Theed. All citizens are encouraged to attend and show gratitude for our liberators..."
"Mom?" Anakin places his hand tenderly on her shoulder. "Mom? C'mon now, you've been sitting here all day. They're not going to tell us anything new. I don't even think most of it is true."
"It's just..." Shmi sobs slightly. "It's just...she's dead..."
"I know." Anakin feels strange. He knows the Queen is dead. He felt the shockwave of the court's passing as surely as any other who had been born on Naboo. And yet, he does not despair. Deep in his gut, there is a glimmer of hope that he can neither quell nor explain.
"Oh, Ani, what are we going to do?" He knows she isn't just talking about their family, but rather their entire world.
The doorbell rings. Anakin tries to get up to answer it, but she grips his arm tightly and hisses, "Don't leave me!"
"Watto!" Anakin shouts, "Can you get that? I'm helping Mom!"
Watto grumbles as he flutters through the living room to the front door. "Who could it possibly be at this hour? Don't they know a curfew is on? They're gonna get us in trouble." Anakin hears the latch of the front door opening. "What the hell do you--"
On Watto's front porch stands an astromech droid, a protocol droid, the Captain of the Palace Guard, a Handmaiden of Amidala, two Jedi Knights and a Gungan. The elder Jedi says, "Good evening. Are you Anakin Skywalker?"
Watto growls under his breath, then shouts into the house, "ANAKIIIIN!"
Jar-Jar sits on the couch, attempting to sip his coffee. The small cup is awkward for his webbed hands to hold, and he makes a loud slurping sound as he tries to drink. He makes a funny face to keep himself from spitting it across the room. Padme smiles and pats him on the back as he sets his cup down on the coffee table.
"Thank you again for taking us into your home," she says to Anakin's parents. Panaka and Qui-Gon also squeeze into the small living room, sipping at their coffee. Anakin has taken Obi-Wan and the droids upstairs to see his bedroom. "You take on a great risk, but the service you now provide Naboo shall always be remembered."
"Reverend Sister, the honor is all ours," Shmi insists. "Knowing that you live gives hope to us all."
"Tell us about Anakin," says Qui-Gon. "He seems to have extraordinary talent."
"The boy is good, no doubts there," says Watto.
Shmi looks at Qui-Gon as if he's discovered a secret. "Yes....he's very special."
"But whadda handful!" says Watto. "Genius with a programming board, don't get me wrong. But it's like the kid can see things before they happen! Keeping a boy his age out of trouble is tough enough, but some of the trouble that boy finds...meeya deos! I'm lucky I'm Toydarian. His mind tricks won't work on me."
"Hm," says Qui-Gon. "Usually a boy like that is identified early in the Republic, and brought to our Academy. He should have been a Jedi, no doubt...he has the way."
Shmi stiffens, and her eyes grow wide. "No! Master Jedi, please...I need him!"
"I gotta agree with my wife," says Watto. "Little Ani has done a lot to hold this family together. We're not about to ship him off to another planet."
"Of course." Qui-Gon attempts to learn a bit more by shifting gears. "Tell me, Mr. Skywalker, if you don't mind my asking. Presumably you are not the boy's father. Can you tell me a bit more about who is?"
Shmi begins to speak, but Watto cuts her off. "That's aaaah rather personal, Master Jedi. You should leave that subject alone." They stare at each other for a moment. "Let's go back to talking about the boy's skills, eh? Perhaps there's some way he could help you now. Perhaps in exchange for compensation? We're a patriotic family, but we're also poor..."
Shmi stands. "If you would all excuse me. You must be famished after your long journey. I'll go prepare us some dinner."
"I'll join you," says Padme, rising.
"Reverend Sister, you are a blessing!"
They walk into the kitchen, and Shmi opens the cupboards above the sink. But then she shakes, and collapses against the counter.
"Mrs. Skywalker, is something wrong?"
Shmi turns to look at Padme, her eyes wild. "The Force!" she says. She paces toward the Handmaiden. "You, Sister, who have never known the touch of a man. You will recognize your own. You will know I do not lie." She grabs Padme's robes, desperate. "It came to me! It filled me! The Force is Anakin's father!"
"You're really a Jedi?" Anakin sits on his bed as he talks, tapping adjustments into Artoo's command panel.
Obi-Wan stands smiling in the doorway. "Sure am."
"That's so cool! Can I be a Jedi someday?"
"Maybe. You really build that droid yourself?"
"Impressive. What kind of schematic did you use?"
"I just had some pictures off the nets," Anakin says as if it's a shameful thing. "And a list of all the things it's supposed to do. I want to be a famous programmer someday, though, and every programmer needs an astromech droid!" He looks to Threepio. "I've never seen a protocol droid up close before..."
"I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, at y--"
"...Can I take him apart?"
Obi-Wan chuckles. "Maybe later. Come over here." Ani hops off his bed and walks over obediently. Obi-Wan takes his hand.
"Ow! Hey!" Anakin's pin-pricked finger flies into his mouth as Obi-Wan holds the testing unit up to the light. "Whud dib oo doo dab bor?"
"Sorry about that. I borrowed this from the medicine cabinet in your bathroom; I hope your parents don't mind. I want to test your blood for midichlorians."
Anakin's finger pops back out; he's readily accepting of the Jedi's apology. "What's a midichlorian?"
"Midichlorians are microscopic lifeforms that reside within all living cells and channel the Force. They're what give a Jedi power."
"They live inside of me?"
"Inside of your cells." Anakin still looks confused, so Obi-Wan kneels down and speaks reassuringly. "Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, allowing you to sense the Force."
"I don't hear anything!"
"When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear."
"I don't understand."
Obi-Wan smiles and stands. "Understanding takes time and training, young one. Patience."
"So how many midiwhatsits do I have?" Anakin cranes to try and see his result.
Obi-Wan looks at it and frowns a little. "I can't quite tell. Something must be wrong with the testing unit. Lots, I think."
Obi-Wan tosses the testing unit aside. "Consumer-grade piece of junk. We won't be able to say anything for sure until we get you to an authorized testing agent."
Anakin's eyes light up. "You'll take me with you?"
"Well, first we need to find a way to get to outer space..."
"I fixed up your ship for you! I mean, I figured it was your ship. I traded Watto the promise of some extra work to get him to tow it into the garage for you. It's there right now!"
"No kidding?" smirks Obi-Wan.
"Somebody really wanted that thing to crash! The brake lines were cut, the hover inductor was reversed, auto-eject was jammed and like twelve other things! I just got a few more adjustments to make, though, and it should be flying even better than before!"
"My goodness! It certainly is a pleasure to meet you, Anakin Skywalker!"
Anakin smiles and extends his hand. "It's good to meet you, too, Oberon Kernobby!"
Obi-Wan shakes his hand, and says with a hearty laugh, "You can just call me Ben."
In the living room, Jar-Jar smells the swiftroasting beast and lets out a long moan.
"What's the matter?" asks Watto.
"Eeesing doda nanama? Dassa PEEW!"
Qui-Gon says, "I think our companion is attempting to politely mention that he is a vegetarian."
"Wow! Really?" Watto looks at Jar-Jar with curiosity, as if he has only ever heard of such a thing. "Well, I think maybe we got some cereal..."
"Ohhhh!" Jar-Jar moans. "Meesa want GRASS!"
"Grass? Oh, well, I think I know a guy...OH! You mean like lawn clippings?"
"Uh-huh," Jar-Jar nods hopelessly.
"Well why didn't you say so? I've got a big pile of 'em just out back. C'mon, gigger, I'll show ya!"
Watto leads Jar-Jar into the backyard, and his vestigal trunk twitches as he watches the creature dig into the compost heap. Fluttering up and away from the sight, he flips open his handheld communicator and punches a number. The bulbous image of an answering droid appears on his palm.
"Rune Haako is not here right now. Please leave a message after the beep. Beep."
"Mister Haako!" Watto speaks in a loud whisper, huddling around the communicator to hide its light. "Listen, I got tabs on two guys I think you might be looking for. Y'know, Jedi? Gimmie a call and we can talk price."