Published: October 21, 2015
Ara couldn’t quite let herself rest, because images of Darth Vader kept flooding through her mind: his cold, calculating assessment of a system, his hunt of the rogue jedi scattered across the galaxy, and his betrayal of the emperor he was supposedly sworn to, time and time again.
“How many apprentices did he keep?” she wondered aloud. Her brother’s story was the missing puzzle piece to her understanding of Darth Vader, and with it, she understood him better than she ever had. All the horror stories only brought up fragmented mirages of fear and such, and she never understood why the Force could not show her a truer interpretation of such a powerful Sith lord.
He was never Sith, she knew now, and wondered how she’d ever thought otherwise. Understanding Lord Vader as a jedi in waiting, for the day when his son and daughter were ready to storm the emperor’s stronghold and take back control of the galaxy.
Knowing this piece of reality, Ara couldn’t help but tune in, time and time again, through the Force, to see what had really happened in all the stories she’d known of. She saw the menacing, infamous storm troopers hunting uncle Luke, expertly trained to nail a target with their blasters from 800 meters away, and yet, as they bore down on him, their minds were flooded with confusion and apathy. A strange, hazy cloud of disruption, forcing them to forget their training and to swell with panic. It was almost uncanny how quickly Luke Skywalker picked up on the disturbance in the Force, and begun to project it himself, messing with the storm troopers minds so that they could not hit their targets and cut off the passages through the death star. Darth Vader. It had always been him. Luke, for a strange few moments, had thought it was his friend Ben, who could not wield the Force in such a manner, these days, for he had grown too far apart from the reality of life in the flesh, living on his own out in the boonies on Tatooine.
Ara had never known her great grandfather that well, but had always called him uncle when he came to visit, and very much enjoyed how much attention he was always sure to give to Anakin, who was misunderstood by just about everyone in his family.
She understood now, why he felt such kinship with his namesake, as the original Anakin Skywalker had grown up among slaves, both commoner and jedi, all without knowing how to tell them what he was, aside from knowing that one day, he would be able to bring balance to the Force.
Ara watched the destruction of Alderaan, just then, and it terrified her for a moment, but then she watched her aunt Leia react. To scream, and beg him not to. It was all. . . fake? Ara couldn’t understand it. She trusted Darth Vader, in that moment, and she did not believe you really could destroy a world. Could you?
Even as she watched the explosion, she seemed not to know how to react, because it seemed so surreal. She could feel them, through the Force, her parents and loved ones, back on her homeworld, and she watched them change, slightly, but nothing in what she felt through the Force, through her real senses, told her that they were dead.
She did not show it on the surface, though, and cursed Darth Vader for a monster and fraud. Ara could scarcely make sense of it, and she remembered her brother’s oft repeated words that one should not try too strongly to make sense of what one saw in the Force, for once you classed it, your understanding of what you saw next would be diminished.
Could this be real? “You look a little short, for a storm trooper,” she said, wondering why Darth Vader had sent such an odd looking henchman to her rescue. She didn’t doubt for a moment that it was he who had done it, or that the imposter in a storm trooper costume wanted her in more ways than one.
Ara laughed, then, and shook her head, to clear it, for they were nearing their destination, and she wanted to make sure they stocked up on supplies aptly before departing. She wanted to make sure Anakin didn’t subvert the marketplace and only pretend to go out prepared, as he was wont to do. Her brother’s methods for travel were cumbersome, for he seemed to think that in any given moment, he need but what the Force had provided for him to survive and vanquish what he would.
Ara considered that, then, and wondered how she could get her elder brother to change his attitude about death. She saw allies in their future, though their images were hazy to her, with good reason, and she wondered if Anakin would really fight for their survival, if pressed, without her say so, because the way he saw beings through the Force, it alienated him, and he often wondered why people around him took death in mourning, for it seemed unpleasant and rude to him.
“They’re not here,” he said from over her shoulder, placing his hand on her left shoulder, from behind her chair, and looking at the ship’s display of the space station. “We don’t have to stay long.”
“Who’s not here?” she asked innocently, not sure what he meant, or if he’d seen what she was viewing in the Force.
“Not here, or there, regardless of what you said to my mother. How many times do we have to have this conversation? Are you for real? The last time we said these things-”
“Right, right!” she cried, trying to cut him off, but he continued anyway. . .
“. . .forever if we forgot to tell the other we were here. We can’t even be friends if you don’t shut it up right now. I’m tired of all this bogus. Look at the way you’re standing. Are you really my mother, right now? I can’t even begin to describe how annoying this is. . .”
He kept going, and Ara recognized the mechanism straight away. Anakin had used it on Hans, the first time she’d seen it, and in actuality it was a flood of colloquialisms which were all programmed with a certain physical and mental reaction, to attempt to subvert their current mindset and confuse them to the point of lunacy, which, in actuality, was all you needed for a clear mind, to accept the actual reality of what you were witnessing, without subverting your education by applying a preconceived notion to your learning environment. Anakin said the same principle worked well when hacking a computer’s interface. You could send it a bunch of basic but coded algorithms to make it forget just what it was looking for in an intruder, before you moved past its primary defenses and into the mainframe for programming.
“You’re breaking me off like that because. . . ?” she asked, not so innocently.
“Because if we walk in there with you thinking, ‘Lord Vader is my hero!’ you’re going to get us shot. Force sensitives aren’t limited to fools who carry laser swords, you know.”
“Right,” Ara nodded, reminding herself of the truth of that. “Han Solo was one, wasn’t he?”
Anakin agreed without saying anything. “Chewbacca was his enemy for a good portion of their companionship. He truly believed in the life debt Han owed him, and so Han spent the next dozen years or so warping Chewbacca into a believable companion who then considered the opposite true.”
“Chewbacca tried to make a slave of Han Solo? Whoa, good luck buddy.”
“That’s essentially the attitude he got from Han, coupled with a few thousand different approaches to a jedi’s mind trick.”
When they docked in the station, the ship’s readout displayed that they held a crew of four dozen or so armed mercenaries, as well as a few jedi initiates. It was a safe enough display to ensure no one tried to loot the ship while its only two passengers were shopping in the space station.
Ara wore her newly acquired lightsaber proudly on her hip, and left her garbs the same as she always wore. Anakin, however, dressed in black slacks, a white shirt, and a black jacket, which had his lightsaber stashed up it’s sleeve. The blaster he carried on his hip was for show, she assumed, and she laughed when she realized it was one of Captain Seth’s own weapons.
“Oh, shit,” she realized. “Is that who’s ship we stole?”
“Commissioned, you mean? Of course. He’s said a thousand times he owes the jedi a great debt. I’m glad he was able to pay a large part of it.”
“Welcome to L48-7,” said the dock employee when they exited their ship. He was handsome, and at least partly human. He noticed how young the two of them looked, though Anakin looked more like a boy in his mid teens than a prebubescant child, and Ara had seemed to age a few years in their short voyage to the space station. Actually, she looked closer to the age Anakin had when they left the temple, back home.
Ara regarded the employee with a polite nod of the head, and Anakin ignored him altogether. The continued walking, and ignored the pestering questions of some of the employees, who really just wanted a more accurate read of their cargo and passenger list.
“What’s your name here, by the way?” Ara asked him, when they were safely moving through the crowds toward a market she’d identified on the map.
“Anakin,” he replied, in short. “I’ve been considering a last name, and I really wanted to adopt Skywalker, but I don’t think the couple of them would work for me.”
Ara nodded, considering it. She knew he was right, and felt sorry for him, for she knew he’d always loved the name, and considered uncle Luke more of a father than he had anyone else.
“That being said,” he continued, “you should take it.”
She almost faltered in her step. “What?”
“The name. One of us should be a Skywalker. That name is known well enough, and on one who can’t fling a lightsaber clean through a dreadnought’s bone structure is brave enough to adopt the name.”
“Ara Skywalker,” she considered. “Alright. What about you? Decided on a surname?”
He had, she thought, but he didn’t say, just then. “I changed my mind about who I am while we’re here. You’re the only jedi while we’re here. I’ll just be Alex.”
“Alex huh? What are you, some kind of smuggler?”
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side,” he replied, adopting a mannerism she’d never seen from her brother before, which made her laugh. “You hear somethin’ funny, little sister? I ain’t your monkey here so tell me what’s goin’ on or I might just call it quits on your lot.”
She looked at him sternly. “I’ll have none of that. If you’re going to be making me laugh with that ridiculous dialect while we’re negotiating bargains, I’m going to run you through.”
“The wringer, I hope? Nah, I figured you meant the other one.”
Ara tried not to laugh, again, but it didn’t work. Anakin was always so serious and quiet, and when he made a joke, it was in a low voice, and completely dry, so that only those who were sharp enough in that moment would understand what he was getting at. This persona he’d picked up; Alex, as it were, took her quite by surprise.
He didn’t keep it, she saw, as they walked. The swagger he had was a disciplined one, and he looked more like an ex-military man than a hokey wiseguy. She wondered what sorts of things from the Force flooded through her elder brother at a time like this, to teach him to be someone else.
Alex faltered in his step and then stopped, looking past some of the market goers, and Ara didn’t recognize his posture. “Are you alright, Alex?” she asked him, unsure of his intentions, just then.
“There’s. . . something I have to check out, just now. You know what we need, right?” he asked her.
She nodded her head, and then said aloud, “Yes,” remembering that as well as her jedi brother picked up on her nonverbal when he wasn’t looking, Alex should appear unaware of such things while here at the space station.
“Alright. I’ll meet you back at the dock in a few hours. Don’t get to carried away on the weapon supplies, and make sure the food court’s well stocked for Chewie.”
She nodded, and understood why he’d said it straight away. Attached to the name Chewie was the persona of a large, powerful organism, and it was firmly embedded in the mind of Alex when he said it, free to read for any Force sensitives nearby or tuned in.
Anakin broke away from her then, and Ara wondered what he’d sensed that made him depart so quickly. She wasn’t afraid, just then, to be left on her own in a place like this, though she checked that her lightsaber was still there. It did her good, to see proof so soon that Alex trusted her to be on her own, and she wondered where he’d picked the name up, since it worked well for him, at this time.
It wasn’t long before one of the hawkers tried to swindle her, and Alex shot him a perturbed look. “What did you say?” she asked smoothly.
“I’m just sayin’, that if you really wanted one for cheap, I could get one for you, but we’d have to do it on the down low, if you know what I’m sayin’. I’m pretty sure we could find a driver like that nice and hairy for a pretty little thing like yourself, if the payment is right, you know what I’m sayin’?”
She didn’t, as it turned out, and his slang was lacking. He was a creep though, so what happened next, she felt quite alright about. “A time I left you here, and you said it was hairy?”
He looked confused. “No, I said hairy was the deal, if you’re payin’ what you owe.”
“Oh, but what I did owe you weren’t willing to afford, just then, without the low and down?”
“Not the down and low,” he retorted, sure he was reading her right, “but if you’re wantin’ to get down and low for me, we can work out a deal I’m sure you can handle.”
Ara found herself almost glad that it wasn’t as easy to talk around him as she expected. “I wasn’t to owe the last time, though, so you wanted me to say what I would to get what you wanted, yes? Oh, no, wait, sorry, I think I’m catching your drift, on the down and hairy, so let’s get ready to make good on the price I owed before you calculated what you owed me, after all was said and dead.”
“Said and dead, you said? I ain’t familiar with that turn o’ phrase, little sister. Say it again, so I can hear you?”
“Not a lot to say, again, but if you’d tried to hear me, all I’d have had to do was let you know what I was, which was a sister to another. . . oh, you hadn’t meant that, had you? No, I suppose not. What’s the down and low you meant to get to before with another?”
“Another. . . bargain, is that what you’re getting at?” His eyes flashed confusion and drowning for just a moment.
“No, not that last one, but the one before. You were sure you could get a deal for me, before the others show up, so we wouldn’t have to have a fanfare of station market policy, and all that hairy nonsense, and on the down low you could get me the deal you think I’m owed.”
“I owed you a deal? I think you got me confused with another-” he hesitated, unsure of what had just occurred.
Ara didn’t let up. “I wasn’t sure you could manage such a feat, but maybe if we get to know one another, later on, we can tell the other just what we want to owe, again and later, but for now I’d get a lot less known to know you’d equip me with the comp drivers I needed, and a set of those blasters you’ve got there on your rack, so that the last time we ever needed to know the other, I said we’d have gotten it all and well done, down and low, as it were, just like you were to owe.”
“Oh, oh! I think I catch your drift, little sis. Let’s get that deal underway, and I’ll have the parts sent to your ship?” He asked, trying to sound certain and helpful, given the payment he was rapidly imagining on this deal.
“Sure, that’d be a great place to have it. Let me give you the dock markings,” she said, pressing a few keys on the touchpad he’d produced, and he nodded, allowing her to swipe her badge for a negligible amount of public credits.
“Not too far then, you know?” she asked, still maintaining the look of a girl who wanted what he was getting at. “Not a place you know, just yet?”
“Oh there’s plenty of places I know, little sister, but I’ll get you knowin’ them just as well, you know? Hows about up on the hotel platform, on the stairs to the upper floors?”
“I can’t get enough uppers to get me ready for that sort of floor, if you drift my catch, but let’s go and be merry with the rest of our deals, and we’ll see one another the moment we have to, just to get to know the down and low.”
“Gotcha,” he said slyly, sure he understood the deal he’d just agreed to, though his eyes looked glazed and his jaw was slack.
She walked away, not quite sure what had just happened. The jedi mind trick had always been easier when she’d practiced it on the crewmen who passed through on occasion, back home. That was. . . exhilarating, to say the least.
Ara made her rounds to the other markets she wanted to get parts from, and one especially she’d been planning from the start, glad that Anakin had departed from her company, temporarily, so that she could shop the way she wanted without his knowing.
She couldn’t sense more than a living hum from her brother’s chi, and she knew that he was alive and well, yet masked as the crewman Alex, lacking a last name that she resolved to produce for him, as she made her way to her ship to claim the cargo she’d ordered, well before the imaginary girl that hawker had seen was set to meet him on the hotel stairs for a down and low payment plan. She resolved to take a bath on the ship to await her brother’s return, rather than risk a chance encounter with more lowlifes out in the space station.
She decided, too, to redock the ship at different platform coordinates, sure that Anakin would be able to find her there regardless, when he needed to.