"...no idea how he did it, Masters Jedi. But the circuitry has intertwined itself with his neural pathways. It has become a part of his body."
Anakin recognizes the soothing electronic voice, pitched somewhere between the voice of a mother and a voice of a child, as belonging to a Republic medical droid. Next he hears Obi-Wan speak.
"I've never heard of anything like it, have you?"
"No," Mace Windu replies. "This power is neither taught nor restricted. This is something new."
Anakin opens his eyes, shifting in his bed to alert the others that he is awake now. He is in a hospital room. Obi-Wan sits in a hoverchair with his arm in a sling. Windu and the droid are the only others there.
"Where's Padme?" he asks.
Obi-Wan turns to the droid. "Would you excuse us for a moment?" The droid rolls out the door, which seals shut behind her.
"Where is she?" Anakin demands, pushing himself up in the bed. His mechanical arm whirs slightly as he moves--softly, but loud enough to startle his Jedi hearing. He accidentally yanks the wires attached to it, and monitoring equipment tumbles off its stand.
"Careful now!" Obi-Wan says, catching everything before it hits the floor. "It's probably going to take you awhile to adapt to..."
He trails off as he watches Anakin make a fist, wiggle his fingers and snap them with a clank.
"I'll adapt. Now tell me what happened to Padme!"
"Padme is fine," Obi-Wan reassures him. "We're keeping her out of sight until we can arrange secure transport off planet, but there is no immediate risk. We're safe on Alderaan for now, guests of Senator Organa. And you should take care to restrain your emotions, padawan." He glances at Windu, whose face shows no expression. "Be wary of the difference between passion and compassion. These are dangerous times for the Jedi."
Anakin lies back and calms down, his main concern addressed. "So what did I miss? How did the battle end?"
"The rebels have abandoned Geonosis," explains Mace Windu. "Clone troopers remain behind to maintain order until a Republican government can be restored."
"Clone troopers," Anakin groans. "Can we trust them?"
"We still don't know who commissioned them," says Obi-Wan, "but they served us well. The Council has agreed to accept command over them for now, all the better for keeping a close eye on them."
"I have to admit," says Anakin, "it would not have been a victory without them."
"Victory?" says Obi-Wan. "No, padawan, I don't think I'd call it that. It's the start of a civil war."
Anakin pouts and sighs. "You know, I saved your life out there."
"You certainly did," smiles Obi-Wan, "and I appreciate that. I suppose I can at least pause in my lessons long enough to say thank you."
"How about long enough to make me a Knight?"
"Anakin," Obi-Wan pleads, trying to laugh it off in front of Mace Windu, "I don't know if I can give you up. I might not survive this war without you there to rescue me!"
"I want to fight by your side, Obi-Wan," Anakin says earnestly, "but as your partner, not as your student. I'm ready. You know it."
"You'll be ready when I say you're ready," scowls Obi-Wan, "And if you can't accept that, you'll never be ready!"
"Master Kenobi," says Windu, "May I have a moment to speak alone with your padawan?"
"Please do," grumbles Obi-Wan, levitating to the exit in his hoverchair. "He stopped listening to me a long time ago." The door hisses shut behind him.
"I'm really sorry about that, Master Windu," says Anakin. "Master Obi-Wan often gets angry when he's lecturing me about restraining my passion."
"It's clear you're eager to become a Knight," Windu says, "and you will make a formidable one, there is no doubt of that."
"So what am I missing?" Anakin asks honestly, without bitterness. "Please, tell me. There are certainly more powerful Knights out there, but I'm more powerful than many members of the Council. Maybe even most of them."
"No, Anakin," says Windu. "You are more powerful than them all. I believe you are even more powerful than me. I have never seen the Force be with anyone as it has been with you."
"Then why won't Obi-Wan let me graduate?"
"Master Kenobi came to us years ago--long before you were of the usual graduation age--seeking the Council's permission to make you a Knight. We refused."
Anakin looks like he's just lost his other arm.
"You? But why? Surely you're not jealous of me? Afraid? I've spent my whole life looking up to the Jedi Council! I've only ever wanted to be good enough to join, and now, what, you're telling me I'm too good?"
"The reasons are many and complicated," Windu says, "They cannot be explained as a lesson or codified as a rule. I tell you this now so that you might begin to seek your own understanding, instead of blaming everything on Master Kenobi. You must discover for yourself what it takes to be a Jedi Knight. Only then will you become one."
"I don't--" Anakin's mind flails for a way to argue this point, but he realizes it is useless. Master Obi-Wan would let him argue, would listen to his objections and respond with great patience so that Anakin might see where he has erred. But Master Windu doesn't care if he sees the error of his ways. Mace doesn't want him to be a Jedi Knight.
And as Anakin realizes this, he sees the way out.
"What if I promise not to join the Council?" he asks. "Would you permit Obi-Wan to make me a Knight, would you allow me to be called Master if I swore not to seek a blue saber?"
Windu lets only the slightest sign of emotion show, but it's enough to let Anakin know he's on the right track. In a flash he sees through Windu's stoic exterior, sees an ego and heart as fragile as any padawan and an altogether reasonable fear of losing control in the face of a future shrouded in darkness. Windu isn't afraid that Anakin would defy the Council. He's afraid that Anakin would lead the Council to defy him.
"Such an oath would not be permitted," Windu says, unaware of Anakin's thoughts. "The Council must remain open to any Jedi Knight who would choose it. If we were to publicly refuse admission to a Knight now, we would just be recruiting apprentices for Darth Tyranus."
Anakin understands and sympathizes with Windu's dilemma. The Council ensures that every member is there voluntarily, and so no Jedi Knight is compelled into communion against their will. But the Council gives itself no such freedom, compelling itself to accept all Jedi Knights. Only Anakin can give them that freedom, and he thinks they deserve it as much as anyone else.
"This isn't your choice, this is mine," Anakin says. "If Obi-Wan grants me full rank and title, I won't seek to join the Council. I'll stand with the Jedi Order against the rebellion. I'll put my power to use like Master Qui-Gon did, in service to you, without demanding an equal say. And it doesn't matter if that happens tomorrow or decades from now, I--I just thought you should know. I will never join the Jedi Council unless I have your blessing to do so."
Mace Windu examines Anakin for a long moment, but shows no sign of his thoughts or feelings. "I will speak with Master Kenobi," he says. He leaves.
Anakin is alone, and the importance of what has just happened sinks in.
He sniffles. Then he grimaces. Then he cries.
It does not take long for him to exhaust this emotion. Already he begins to accept the alternate course that has been charted for his life. He wipes a tear away with his new hand, and looks down at his glistening finger with surprise.
He stretches out his arm and moves it around. If anything, it seems stronger and faster than the arm he lost, though it will probably take him awhile to figure out everything he can do with it. He wonders how his Force powers have been affected, and he looks around the room for something to levitate. A small velvet box rests on a stand in the corner. Summoning the Force, he is easily able to call it to his metal grasp.
He opens it. Inside is a small wooden pendant and a handwritten note that reads, "Come back to me."