Anakin sprints down the street on which he grew up. Moments earlier, he jumped from the Jedi shuttle before it could blast into space, suddenly remembering that his powers would enable him to survive the fall--and so much more.
His mother stands on their lawn, reaching out into space and wailing his name. Darth Maul approaches her from behind, thirsting for a kill.
"Mom!" Anakin shouts, "Look out behind you!"
Shmi turns to look at him instead, her face lighting with joy.
"Ani! You came back!"
He's too late. Darth Maul cuts her down.
Anakin leaps at the Sith, brandishing his lightsaber and bearing down with rage. Maul deflects the first two strikes, but the third slices through the hilt of his saber. The fourth, fifth and sixth strikes slice through the Dark Lord himself, and he falls to the ground in pieces.
Now Anakin is at Shmi's side, cradling her in his arms. She gasps and chokes.
"Ani...is it you?"
"I'm here, Mom. You're safe. Hang on, I'm going to get you out of here..."
"Ani? Ani? You look so handsome. My son...my grown-up son..."
"I'm a Jedi now, Mom. I'm going to save you."
She shuts her eyes.
"No...no...you have already failed me...I am already dead..."
"Mom! Stay with me!"
"Justice, Anakin...only you can bring justice for this..."
"No. Mom, I love you! MOM!"
He wakes with a shout, leaping from his meditative position and igniting his lightsaber in a single motion. He breathes rapidly. Beads of sweat pour down his bare torso; his body glistens in the moonlight. Realizing it was only another dream, he sheaths his saber and calms himself with a deep breath.
It is just before dawn on the sixth day of the summit, and there have been no further attempts on Padme's life. He found the first few days of discussion interesting, but as the grand statements of political ideology wore into the gritty details of interstellar commerce and defense, his interest waned.
He's much more interested in Padme. Just being around her again is intoxicating. Yet opportunities for them to speak in private have been scarce. Anakin has had to content himself with a few smiles shared over small cultural references to their homeworld. He finds little about his homeworld funny, but any reference to Naboo seems like an inside joke when Padme is around--like they're sharing a secret code. Everything is nicer when she's around.
Her presence is also dredging up memories from youth that he'd rather forget.
He drags himself through a shower, warm, salty and sweet-smelling on this planet. The waters of Toydaria wash over him, carrying some of the nightmare away, yet when he steps out dripping, he is still agitated. He pushes a button on the wall and gets blasted with hot air, puffing his hair up at odd angles; seconds later he is dry.
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he flips open a jar of blubs, pulls out one of the alien grubs and pops it in his mouth. It wiggles around his teeth, eating up anything that shouldn't be there and excreting minty freshness. He stares miserably at his reflection, lips bulging with the blub, then sees Padme standing at the door behind him.
"Oh!" he exclaims, spitting the blub into the sink and turning to face her. She blushes and averts her gaze, and with a second exclamation he covers himself with his hands.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I heard you cry out. I just wanted to make sure you were alright."
"I'm fine," he says. "Nothing to worry about. Perimeter is secure. You're perfectly safe."
"That's not what I...Okay. My apologies, Ani. I mean, Padawan Skywalker."
She flees from the room.
Anakin curses to himself and rushes to pull on his pants before going out into the garden to intercept her.
"Wait--I'M sorry," he says. "I'm glad you were worried about me. I mean, I'm just not used to it that much anymore. Jedi are expected to take care of themselves. And...I like when you call me Ani."
She smiles and takes his hands, and they sit together. Small glowing beetles drift lazily among the exotic flowers surrounding them.
"It's beautiful here," says Anakin.
"It must be difficult having sworn your life to the Jedi," says Padme, "Not being able to visit the places you like, or do the things you like. Not being allowed to love."
"Attachment is forbidden," Anakin explains, "Possession is forbidden. But unconditional compassion for all sentience is central to a Jedi's life. So you might say we are encouraged to love."
"Anakin," she says with a proud smile, "You've grown up!" She tenderly pats down his blow-dried hair with one hand. He clasps the hand and kisses her fingers, taking her somewhat by surprise.
"You were having a nightmare," she says, pulling back gently.
"The night of my mother's death," admits Anakin.
"It's your stepfather, isn't it? Watto. This is his homeworld. He's here."
"You must go to him."
"No!" he protests. "No, I've been assigned to remain by your side. I would be disobeying a direct order..."
"You were ordered to keep me safe, and you cannot do that while this hangs over your head. And if that's not enough rationale for you, I will tell anyone who asks that your Queen ordered you to visit your stepfather, and let them deal with me."
"It wouldn't be right..."
"Of course it would be right. Anakin, show yourself some of that compassion you have for everyone else. You've got hours before I have to leave for my first meeting of the day. I will be safe until you return."
"Okay," he says, looking her in the eyes, "I'll program Artoo to warn you if there's an intruder. Thank you. This means a lot to me."
She looks down, blushing.
"It's nothing," she says, "Just a favor for a friend."
Deep in the jungle, the bounty hunter has been resting beneath the fronds of a pitcher plant, waiting for the call. The call arrives.
"Yes, Lord Sidious?" he asks the shrouded hologram.
"Jango Fett, the time has arrived," says the Sith. "The Queen will be unguarded all morning. This will be your final opportunity to get close. There can be no mistakes this time."
"Understood, My Lord," says the bounty hunter. The transmission ends.
He rises to his feet and looks into the brush. Moments later, a figure emerges. He is the same height as Jango, striding with the same confident posture. His armor is gleaming white with red bars on the shoulders indicating rank in an armed force, but is otherwise exactly like Jango's armor. They remove identical expressionless helmets to reveal identical faces, except that the new arrival lacks the bounty hunter's deep battle scars.
He hands a sealed container to Jango.
"Be careful, sir. They're very poisonous."
"They'd better be," says Jango.
"Sir, are you sure you don't want me to go instead? I am more expendable."
"That's your problem, Boba. They left out the good bits when they made you. You kids just sit tight and let me pull some strings for you."
Container in hand, the bounty hunter rockets into the sky.