Anakin cursed as the hydrospanner slipped from his grasp. He went to catch it, leaning backwards and almost tumbling off the tiny shelf where he sat. Grabbing a hold of the nearest pipe at the last moment, he pulled himself back to a secure position, face pressed against the cold metal, and waited for the sound of metal on metal as the spanner hit the deck.
It never came.
He looked round to find the spanner spinning slowly just within reach. He leant out and picked it out of thin air, then glanced down.
Obi-wan grinned up at him. "You're welcome."
Anakin scowled and turned back to the hyperdrive. He had a fleeting urge to throw the spanner at his old friend, but he knew it would be pointless. He'll probably throw it back with the Force.
"What do you want, Ben?" They had both decided to keep up their pretense even when they were alone, just in case someone walked in.
"I came to see whether you were alright, after..."
After you told me my son is some kind of fulcrum of the Force? After I found out Master Yoda died making a prophecy about my family? After you revealed that my son and my daughter are...
No. He wouldn't go there. He concentrated on the drive instead. At least this is something I can fix. I can control.
"Listen, Anakin, about what I told you, you need to know that..."
The sound of running feet saved Anakin from hearing any more of what Ben had to say. Both men turned in time to see Greedo burst through the hanging bay door, out of breath, his eyes wild. He folded almost in half with his hands on his haunches, his whole body shaking.
"Captain… wants you… roof,” the Rodian said through wheezing breaths.
"What the hell for?"
Anakin ran up the stairs after the Rodian. His lungs burned with every step. His last bacta inhalation treatment was only a few days old, but if things carried on the way they had so far, he was going to have to schedule another one.
That was, of course, if they didn't get arrested in the next few minutes.
Imperials! On Tatooine?
How was that even possible? Tatooine was protected under the Corellia Accords. He glanced back at Obi-wan, wondering whether his former master had something to do with it.
When they reached the rooftop, they found Ana and the bear-like Oath lying on their bellies, peering down at the streets below. Ana turned and motioned for them to drop down and join them. Anakin shared a look with Obi-wan - we're getting too old for this.
Still, amidst much muffled groaning, they managed to drop to their hands and knees, and crawled over to where the crewman and captain waited.
"Took you long enough," Ana whispered.
"It was all the Rodian's fault," Anakin said.
"Slowed us down," Obi-wan quipped.
Ana glanced at them. "You two should start a double-act. Tour the galaxy."
"Maybe you'd like to start by entertaining those troops," Oath growled.
All three of them looked at one other sheepishly, then turned their attention to the streets below.
The familiar white armour of Clonetrooper uniforms filled the warren of Mos Espa. Anakin vaguely remembered hearing somewhere that Palpatine had changed the name to Stormtroopers. He snorted. Palptaine had always had a flair for the dramatic - Grand
Army of the Republic, Emperor
troopers... Shaking his head, Anakin returned his attention back to the oncoming troops.
"When did they arrive?"
"Two hours ago. They flew in on shuttles and seized the mayor's mansion. From what Ji-abi was able to find out, they're claiming the whole planet."
"The Alliance won't let that happen," Obi-wan said.
"You don't sound so sure of yourself."
He shrugged. "Well how could I be? I'm only an engineer."
Anakin glared at him, then turned to look at Ana. "What are we going to do?"
"We'll wait until they finish inspecting all the hangars and then we'll blow this joint.”
"But how are you going to stop them inspecting the Venture?"
"Why would I want to do that?" Ana seemed confused. "I'm in between jobs, so I don't have any contraband on board. I have a very elaborate false flight plan ready. There's nothing to worry about.
Anakin and Obi-wan shared a look. Ana frowned and looked from one to the other. "What? What aren't you telling me?"
"You can't let those imperials find us, Ana."
"Ani, what is going on?"
Anakin looked at Obi-wan, then sighed, nodding. Obi-wan reached into his cloak and slid out his lightsabre. He rolled it over to Ana. She looked at it for a moment, then picked it up between the tip of her forefinger and thumb, holding it as if it were a rattlesnake. She just stared at it for a moment, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Oh Goddess." She looked up at both of them. "It was true? All that about being a Jedi and Luke and... Oh Goddess, how could I have been so stupid?"
"Ana, listen I..."
"I don't want to hear it, Skywalker,” she snapped. “You lied to me. Worse, you've put my ship and my crew in danger."
"Well, what did you expect?” Anakin snarled back. “We tried telling you the truth, you didn't believe us. What were we supposed to do?"
"Showing me this would have been a good start.” She ran a shaking hand through her hair. “All this time? You've been keeping this from me?"
"I... I'm not that man anymore, Ana. I wanted to leave all of that behind."
"Well, you're doing a smack-up job of it."
"Not to interrupt your little spat," Obi-wan said, "but I think we have a problem."
Anakin followed Obi-wan's gaze. A squad of 'troopers were marching towards their hangar bay, led by two humans, a Gand... and a Hutt.
"Mysthu!" he cursed. He looked at Obi-wan. "They followed us."
"Friends of yours?" Ana asked as Obi-wan nodded. Anakin sighed.
"You could say that,” he said. “I almost killed one of them yesterday."
"Wonderful. You've really put me in the poodoo now, Ani." She shook her head. "Still, I guess the damage is already done. The question now is what do we do about it?"
Before Anakin could say anything, Obi-wan spoke up. "You get Anakin off this planet. I'll take care of them."
"I don't think so," Anakin started to say.
Obi-wan put a hand on his shoulder. "I brought this trouble to your doorstep, Ani. Let me do what I can. Your son is waiting for you."
Anakin blinked. The back of his eyes prickled. "You called me Ani. You never call me Ani."
Obi-wan smiled. "I'm not the same man, anymore, Anakin."
Anakin looked into his old master's eyes for a long moment, searching. Then he nodded. "I can see that."
"Sorry to interrupt this touching moment of male bonding but..." Ana inclined her head to the 'troopers who were drawing closer and closer.
"Alright," Obi-wan said, taking his lightsabre back from Ana and gathering his robes. "Get down to the ship and get it ready. I'll delay those troopers as long as I can."
Ana and the Chaol nodded and began to crawl backwards towards the door that led back down into the bay. Anakin, though, hesitated.
"You asked me for my help, Anakin. This is it."
He pressed something round and hard into Anakin's palm. When Anakin looked down, he found a small comm unit. He looked up at Obi-wan, confused.
"This will lead you to my contact once you reach the Run. He'll see you safe to Coruscant."
"Obi-wan, I --"
"Attention Bay 352. This city is now under the jurisdiction of the Galactic Empire. Prepare for inspection."
"Go," Obi-wan hissed and pushed his old friend away. Anakin stumbled to his feet, looked back at Obi-wan for a single second, then he ran.
Obi-wan watched Anakin vanish through the doorway. He allowed himself a thin smile - perhaps after this, he would be able to let go of the guilt he had carried with him every day since Anakin left Naboo. Perhaps the Force would finally give him some peace.
Mastering his thoughts, he closed his eyes for a few short seconds, allowing the Force to wash through and fill him. The reassuring bond gave him a measure of solace, the conviction that he was doing the right thing. Opening his eyes, he turned and leapt off the top of the hangar bay.