Star Wars
According To Jack

Episode II
Attack of the Clones

Scene 14: Yoda and the Younglings

"You have got to be kidding me," Anakin groans to himself as he stands at the classroom entrance. A dozen or so children from as many different species sit cross-legged in a circle, meditating. The oldest among them sees Anakin and stands, no taller than Anakin's midsection. She walks over to greet him.

"Padawan Skywalker," she says, "We were told to expect you. Please, join us in peace as we await the arrival of Master Yoda."

She reaches up her little hand to take his, and leads him into the circle. He sits with a sigh and tries to meditate, but he is distracted by the thought that this must be some mistake. Surely Master Obi-Wan meant for him to train alone with Master Yoda, and his enrollment in the one class taught by Yoda was merely a curricular formality.

Finally, the ancient master's scratchy voice jolts him out of his thoughts.

"Good Morning, Younglings!"

"Good Morning, Master Yoda!" they chime in unison. Flustered, Anakin joins them on the last three syllables, and he hears the small chirp of another student giggling.

Yoda smiles. "How wonderful your voices and smiles! Great pleasure it gives me to teach another generation of Jedi. Much talent have you all, say the other Jedi. I have no doubt that you will show it. Eager to learn you are, and only a short time together have we, so waste it with speeches, I will not. For our first lesson, please rise and draw your sabers."

They all stand. Even the younglings are taller than Yoda, and Anakin towers over the lot. Diminutive half-length lightsabers flash to life, all green. Awkwardly, Anakin draws his own, and a few of the other students gasp to see it. Anakin realizes they are young enough to have never seen an adult's lightsaber, and he flushes with embarrassment.

Yoda seems to take no notice. With a wave of his hand, a panel opens in the wall and a parade of levitating hunter-seeker droids float out. Anakin recognizes the metal balls covered with small blasters from his own earliest training with Obi-Wan. They are meant for practicing blast deflection; their shots do no harm, but only cause a sharp pain. They're toys.

A row of helmets follow the droids out of the wall. Guided by Yoda's hand, they come to rest on the students' heads, and the blast shields flip down, blinding them. The other students accept this with calm, but Anakin rips his helmet off his head.

"Is there a problem, Padawan?" asks Yoda.

Anakin kneels, mustering all the deference he can while still objecting.

"Master Yoda, I believe there has been a mistake. I spent years practicing this exercise, and I have perfected it. If we only have a short time together, shouldn't I be focusing on exercises more...age appropriate?"

Yoda scowls, and Anakin's gut churns under his skeptical gaze. Already, Anakin regrets speaking up, and he lowers his head nearly to the floor as he waits for a response.

"No mistake, Padawan. But if you have nothing more to learn here, always free to leave you are."

"Forgive me, Master, I was out of line," Anakin sincerely pleads, "I am grateful for this opportunity. Please allow me to continue?"

Yoda hobbles forward and lifts Anakin's chin with his withered three-fingered hand, looking directly into the padawan's eyes. The master purses his lips and purrs with concentration. Then he reaches out and Anakin's hunter-seeker droid flies into his grasp. He punches a few buttons and releases it back into the air.

"Forgive me, Padawan. Mine the error was. When ten thousand years old you reach, even the elderly seem as children. Programmed for you a more challenging task, I have. Return to your position, you may."

Anakin rejoins the younglings, unsheathing his saber and blinding himself under the helmet. He reaches out with his other senses, and a clear picture of the room around him resolves in his mind's eye.

"Reach out, sense the Force around you," instructs Yoda, "Use your feelings, you must!"

One by one, the hunter-seekers begin to take their shots, which the wobbling pint-sized sabers mostly manage to deflect. They may be younglings, but each is already quite strong with the Force. Occasionally a blast hits its mark, and Anakin feels the pain that the student feels and their struggle not to let it show. He remembers how cruel this exercise once seemed to him, when Obi-Wan first dropped the blast shield over his eyes on Naboo. But he also remembers how the pain finally drove his reflexes to the point that even a lethal volley of blaster fire would never meet his skin. He dials back his emotional sensitivity so as not to feel the other students' stings, and when one youngling accidentally deflects a shot into another's shin, Anakin realizes it's actually somewhat funny.

All this time, his own hunter-seeker doesn't take a single shot.

At first, Anakin thinks the droid is just waiting for him to get bored and drop his guard. When he does get bored, he tries to intentionally focus on something else, hoping to lure the droid into taking a shot, yet still it hovers there motionless. Then he goes so far as to deactivate his saber, bracing himself to accept the inevitable blast that doesn't come. Is it broken?

Master Yoda is looking right at him, shaking his head in disappointment.

Anakin relights his saber, knowing that he's just calling undue attention to himself. He tries to stand at the ready without moving until Yoda's interest is drawn elsewhere. When he thinks he's in the clear, he takes a few swipes at the droid with his saber, and it flies just out of his reach. It's not broken. And he doesn't think Master Yoda is expecting him to chase it around the room.

Is this a test of his patience? That seems like the kind of trick an ancient Jedi Master would try to pull on a padawan. If that's what's going on, Anakin knows he can handle it. Many of his past missions with Obi-Wan called for him to remain still for days at a time as they waited for monsters and menaces to emerge from hiding. Anakin has patience.

So he makes no further move, but relaxes into his stance. He is ready to deflect any blast that comes his way, yet he no longer expects one. Yoda pays him no further heed.

Next Scene: Dexter's Diner