Kenobi landed his fighter just outside Mos Espa. For some reason, he had expected Anakin to be in Mos Eisley, but following the trace of their connection here, he realised that he should have expected it. After all, this was where he had lived with his mother. It was where he had met Padme.
Padme. Just the thought of her brought a pang to Obiwan’s heart. He missed her terribly. More importantly, he could sense through the Force how much she missed him. Ever since they had married, they had barely spent a month together without being separated by the call of duty. He was on the forefront of the Jedi offensive, a general and a member of the new Jedi Council. And Padme was a leader, one of the three Triad Senators who led the Galactic Alliance. Obi-wan knew that if it hadn’t been for their link in the Force, they would long ago have grown apart. Ironically, it had allowed him to understand what Anakin must have been going through all those years before. Too little, too late.
Leaving R4 to guard the fighter, he wrapped his cloak tight and began to walk. He trekked the few miles to Mos Espa under the moonlight. The temperature had plummeted and the cold tried to dig its fingers into his skin. Every so often, the Force sent him echoes of animals and plants, most of them struggling to survive underneath the blanket of sand that protected them from the twin suns. It always amazed Kenobi, how life always found a way to survive. The Force connected all, protected all and made it thrive despite the worst conditions.
He hoped that would be true of the Alliance. Conditions certainly weren’t ideal at the moment.
When he arrived on the outskirts of the city, he was taken aback. Mos Espa was a shadow of what it had once been, which was saying a lot when one considered it had never been much of anything. Most of the money had left with the Hutts when they moved most of their operations off world. They had left behind a society of criminals, most of whom had been kept in some sort of line by the Hutts. Without them there… Tatooine had become a hive of every sort of scum you could hope to avoid. And Mos Espa especially was now a haven for some of the most unpleasant criminals in the Unclaimed Territories.
Most of the outlying buildings had been gutted by fire and blaster attacks. Through cracks in the wall, Kenobi caught glimpses of groups of urchins and homeless men and women huddled around bonfires, trying to keep warm. None of the buildings had roofs anymore. The few faces Kenobi could make out were filled with despair. Every so often a group of swoop bikes gunned their engines in the distance – every time that they did, those who had taken refuge in the gutted buildings vanished, scattering into the night.
The further in he went, the worst things got. The inner areas had seemingly been taken over by the swoop gangs and thugs who had been left to their own devices by the Hutts. A few pockets of ‘good people’ resisted still, but the majority of the city was covered in graffiti and infested with the dregs of society. Music blared from shadowy clubs, and more than one person came to offer him glowsticks. He didn’t even bother using the Force, simply ignoring them as he swept past.
Kenobi was able to trail the residue of the Force connection he had had with Anakin. He followed it through the winding streets, taking to the alleyways when it became impossible to avoid the gangs. The few people he did meet were either high on spice, or living in clothes so tattered that they were barely even scraps. He stumbled once or twice over bodies laid out in the streets – he didn’t bother stopping to see if they were still alive.
The shadow of Anakin’s Force sense began to lead him away from the inner city. The sounds of revelry and swoop bikes faded into the distance and he began to pass residences, the sort of places where the few families who hadn’t been able to escape had set up home. Finally, he arrived in front of a large building where the connection was the most powerful.
The sign above the door proclaimed that it was Skywalker’s Scrap. Kenobi smiled. So Anakin had really come back to his roots. He recognised the place from Qui Gon’s descriptions, and Anakin’s stories. This had once been Watto’s Shop. Anakin must have brought it from the Toydarian when he came back.
Kenobi paused before going in. He didn’t know what he was going to say. The last time he had seen Anakin, his old friend had told him that if he ever saw him again, he would kill him. Despite how close Anakin had come to the Dark Side, he was still prone to anger. Still, in this specific case, Kenobi couldn’t really blame him. After all, he had stolen his wife.
He took a deep breath. If what they had heard was true, then Anakin wouldn’t have a choice. He had to come back. They needed him. Padme needed him.
Trying without much success to steel his resolve, he stepped into the darkened interior of the shop.
Almost instantly he sensed that something wasn’t quite right here. The Force was sending him warning signals, but he couldn’t quite decipher what about. Had someone arrived before him? Had the Empire found Anakin?
He heard the breathing first. It was heavy and sounded almost metallic. He swung round just in time to see a shadow detach from the wall behind him and rush at him. He dropped to the floor and rolled out of the way. Using the Force to help him, he sprang back to his feet, drawing his lightsabre from his belt at the same time. The moment it was in his hand, he ignited it and brought it to bear. In the darkness, it lit his face with a dim blue glow.
The snap-hiss of another lightsabre surprised him. The green glow lit the face of his adversary. Kenobi gasped. He hadn’t seen Anakin since he left Naboo with his son. The years hadn’t been kind to him. The wide-brimmed hat didn’t really hide the scars or the bald patches on the side of his head. He wore a dark breathing mask.
“I knew it would be you,” Anakin said.
“Anakin, listen to me…”
“I warned you, old man. I told you that if you ever came back…”
Before Kenobi could react, Anakin jumped forward. He brought his lightsabre round in a tight circle, straight towards Kenobi’s unprotected left side. Kenobi brought his own blade to bare in a tight move that just reached his left side in time. Sparks flew from the two blades and Anakin disengaged. He began to circle, eyes never leaving Kenobi’s face.
“Don’t. I don’t care.”
Anakin attacked again, this time chopping straight towards Kenobi’s face. He put all of his strength behind the move and it took all of Kenobi’s power in the Force to stop him. Still, he did stop him and managed to throw his old apprentice’s blade off. He reached out with the Force and realised that Anakin wasn’t using the Force. He was just attacking with brute force and his not-inconsequential skill with a blade.
“Anakin. You have to listen to me.”
They were both circling one another now. The only light in the room came from the humming blades of their lightsabres. Kenobi was shocked to see the ravages on Anakin’s face – after all these years the scars had grown deeper and the normal effects of age had turned them white. Anakin’s once handsome features had become dry and brittle. He looked as if he were made out of stone.
“We need you.”
“Yes. Me. Padme. Your daughter.”
Mention of his daughter seemed to give Anakin pause. Kenobi tried to take advantage of it. “Yes Anakin. Leia. She needs your help. We all do.”
“Come with me and I’ll tell you.”
Without warning, Anakin swung back into attack. He went for Kenobi, a swipe to the throat that Kenobi blocked but already the blade was twisting downwards to his belly. Kenobi reared backwards, the stinging end of the lightsabre just avoiding his belly. Anakin then attacked with a quick flurry of one-two jabs and swipes that pushed Kenobi back. Suddenly, his feet stumbled on a set of droid parts and he fell backwards.
He landed hard on his back, the breath wheezing out of him. Before he could even attempt to recover, Anakin was on him. The blade stopped a finger’s breadth from his throat, so close that Kenobi could feel the heat emanating from its tip. In the light of the blade, he could see Anakin’s face, twisted and torn by age, the eyes reflecting the hurt and pain and anger and fury that were boiling just beneath the surface. Kenobi felt a pang to know he had put that there.
“You took everything from me,” Anakin said. “While I lay there dying, you stole the one person who had ever loved me. I lost my mother because of you. I lost my wife, because of you. And I lost my daughter, because of you.”
“No Anakin. It is all still there. Your daughter, Leia, is still there and you can still be with her…”
Anakin turned round. Kenobi took the opportunity to knock him away. Anakin went flying, Kenobi’s force-enhanced strength seemingly too much for him. Kenobi scrambled to his feet to see a young man, dusky blond hair falling over his wide-open eyes, standing in the doorway. This could only be Luke.
Kenobi didn’t need the Force to know that Luke had heard everything, that Anakin hadn’t told him that his sister was still out there. He tried to say something, but it was too late. Luke turned and ran out.
Suddenly, Kenobi was bowled over by a howling banshee. He felt himself thrown to the floor, and then Anakin was on top of him, pummelling him with his fists. Kenobi didn’t try to fight him off, but instead he just reached up to grab Anakin’s forearms. His old apprentice didn’t try to stop him. Kenobi realised that he was crying.
“You took everything,” he said. “Leave, Obi-Wan. Leave before you take my son as well.”