Star Wars
According To Jack

Episode I
The Phantom Menace

Scene 23: Funeral Pyre

A full white moon casts the world in colorless tones, lighting Obi-Wan's way as he carries the body through the night. He is alone; when he walked away with Qui-Gon limp in his arms, he didn't speak a word. None of the others tried to stop him. His face is puffy from crying and physical exhaustion. He does not aid his journey with the Force; the burden in his arms and legs numbs the burden in his heart.

Now he enters a clearing. Small white flowers spring from a soft carpet of shortgrass underneath a canopy of stars, their gentle scent carried on the breeze.

"Here is a good place to meditate, old friend."

He lays the body against a stump and shrouds it with his cloak. Then he begins to wander the nearby brush, collecting the thicker stalks of dead tallgrass and bushes; this is the closest he will find to firewood on this continent. After a great deal of effort, however, the pile still does not seem large enough to suffice. He collapses next to Qui-Gon to take a breather.

"I suppose you would say you're not really dead. That you've become One with the Force or gone off to heaven or something like that. I never did pin down exactly what you believed about that." He pauses a moment, as if he expects the body under the cloak to respond. His tears begin anew. "So any sort of sign now would be reassuring. Just something simple. Let me know you're still listening." Nothing.

"I should have listened to you. I should have done more to try and convince the Council to train Anakin. I should have convinced the Council to train Anakin. There was no excuse for their fear; Jedi Knights are above such things. Anakin should be at the Academy right now, and we should not be here, and you should not be there.

"But of course you'd say there was no other path, that everything happened the way it did for a reason, that the choices we made were the choices we were always going to make and all we can do is understand why we made them. I understand well enough, old friend. That doesn't make it any better.

"I think, if I could do anything differently, I would have told the boy what we did to him. I should have fessed up to it right away. You and I couldn't have stopped the Council, but I didn't have to lie for them. Because that's what it was--a lie. I kept telling myself that it would be good for him to work to overcome this disadvantage, that training is all about setting boundaries anyway. Well, he broke through the boundaries we set, and now he's gone. He could trust you, but now you're gone. He's got no reason to trust the Jedi Council. No reason to trust me. I just wish he could know how sorry I am."

From the darkness comes a voice.

"Apology accepted."

"Ani!" Obi-Wan stammers as the boy walks into the moonlight. "I didn't--I had no idea you were there. I...I'm glad you came back."

"I got tired of running." Anakin, unlike Obi-Wan, does not look like he's been running. He stands tall and speaks with confidence and seriousness. "I understand why you did what you did, Ben. You were afraid of me. The Jedi Council was afraid of me. I was afraid of me, too. Afraid of my power. That's why I ran."

He stoops over the body and pulls aside the cloak, hesitantly touching the cold face as he speaks to his dead Master. "But I can't run from it, can I? It's a part of me. It's inside of me, like the midichlorions. All I can do is learn how to use it to help others. That's what you wanted to teach me, wasn't it, Master? And this was the best way you could think to do it?"

He stands again, and offers his hand to Obi-Wan. "I forgive you, Ben."

Obi-Wan accepts his hand, and Anakin helps him to his feet. "Thank you, Anakin."

Anakin looks from the body to the burn pile and says, "Let's finish this." Obi-Wan nods, and together they resume collecting fuel for the fire.

They work for some time in silence before Obi-Wan speaks again. "So what do you intend to do when we're done with this?"

Anakin's voice reflects the thought he's put into it. "I am the Chosen One. I'll go back to the Gungans, lead their army against the Federation and free my planet. Will you join me?"

"Anakin, you should know, if you haven't pieced it together yet...there's no chance that army will win against the Federation. Even with the ancient technology you uncovered, living soldiers are no match against droids. The battle is just a diversion; Queen Amidala wants to draw the droid army away from Theed, so that she can slip into the palace with a small strike team. She's got some kind of secret weapon in the throne room. But the Gungans will be slaughtered. There's a chance you will be, too."

Anakin stops his work, and speaks quietly "Ben, all of this is for Padme. She's the soul of this world. I've lost everything else, and if ancient prophecy has given me superpowers just so that I can die saving her, then I'm prepared to do my part. Are you?"

Obi-Wan sighs. "You're right. I'm sorry--again. There's always hope. I'll stay by your side in this battle, and do all I can."

"No," says Anakin. "I want you to stay with Padme. Go to the palace with her. Make sure she's safe. Make sure she gets whatever she needs. She's our hope."

They step back to examine the burn pile, still smaller than it should be. "When this is all over," Obi-Wan says, "I will go to the Jedi Council and insist that you get the training you deserve. I'll train you myself, without the approval of the Council, if I must."

Anakin frowns. "Why do you think I would still want training from the Jedi Knights, after what they did to me?"

"Look, I know we can't exactly claim the moral high ground at the moment, but the Council means well. And your powers are still young and underdeveloped. There is so much you're capable of, you just need someone to guide you through it. If you give us a second chance, the Jedi Order will show you the full extent of..."

He trails off as Anakin shuts his eyes and raises a hand toward the burn pile. With a rustle, the thickest and heaviest stalks from the surrounding forest fly into the clearing, coalescing into a large, dense pyre.

"I don't know how I did what I did back there," says Anakin, "I don't know if I could drain another lake; that was the statue, I think. But whatever happened, it cleansed me. I've got my powers back, and I know how to use them now, without the help of the Jedi Council."

"Okay. Right," says Obi-Wan, surprised at the level of control Anakin is showing. "How about we talk about that later then? No need to rush into any long-term commitments."

Anakin nods. He raises a hand towards Qui-Gon's body, but Obi-Wan stops him.

"No," says Obi-Wan. "Let's do this with as little Force as possible. It's what he would have wanted."

Together they lift the body of Qui-Gon Jinn onto the pyre. Obi-Wan uses the dead Master's green lightsaber to ignite it, then tosses the saber into the blaze. They stand together in front of it, watching the flames lick up into the night sky. For just one brief moment, Obi-Wan believes he sees the shimmering image of Qui-Gon standing on the other side of the fire, smiling at them. Then he blinks, and Qui-Gon is only a memory.

They keep their vigil until morning, when the last embers finally fade. Then Obi-Wan returns the way he came; this time the body in his arms is a sleeping boy.


Far away from them, the landscaping droid GS-459 whirs to life with the sun and resumes its endless task of driving around Meadowbrook, mowing the lawn. Every day thousands of droids like him go about their duties, trimming the hedges, planting gardens, polishing the massive decorative sculptures that have been scattered here and there over the centuries, all to ensure the most pleasant and inoffensive getaway for the millions of Naboo that regularly fly to the continent for an afternoon picnic. True, GS-459 has not seen a single human for several days, but this does not deter him from his work. Meadowbrook must be ready for them when they return.

He chugs along on his programmed course, designed for optimal efficiency given the nuances of the landscape, and barely stops himself before plummeting into a river that is not on any of his internal maps. Irritated, he uploads an inquiry to his brethren in the region, then downloads their confirmation that this river did not exist the day before.

He proceeds to follow the river's edge, looking for a way to cross, but he calculates a very low probability of finding one among the rapids. He's about to upload a request for an alternate mowing strategy when his emergency override circuits kick in. He has detected a lifeform lying on the bank ahead of him, apparently injured.

He rolls toward the humanoid, exercising his limited vocal capabilities. "Do you require assistance?" The creature stirs and groans. "Sending distress call. Please stand by."

GS-459 catapults into the air, arcing through the sky before crashing onto a distant hill and smashing into a thousand pieces. Darth Maul stands up and cracks his back with a hiss. He looks around to get his bearings and ensure he has left no other witnesses, then begins the leaping journey back to Theed.

Next Scene: Preparations for War