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The Unforgotten Promise

By Daniel (

Rated: G

SUMMARY: Shmi Skywalker reminisces about her life from the day her young son Anakin left to become a Jedi to the day he returns to Tatooine for the last time.

NOTE: This story is set sometime in Episode III and depicts the author's ideas about what may happen to various characters of the Star Wars Universe. It includes descriptions of speculative events that may occur in the two remaining Prequels that have yet to be released. It does not purport to be representative of the actual plotline of Episodes II & III.

DISCLAIMER: Star Wars and all associated characters, names and images are the property of Lucasfilm. No infringement is intended by this story. It has been written purely for entertainment and no money is being made by the author from it.

To be fair to him, he never once complained about my cooking. Not once, in all the six years I had lived with him. But every time I made a meal for my family, I was worried that it wouldn't turn out right. That it would be missing something, or have a little too much of something else. Every time we sat down to eat, my eyes would instinctively go to his face as he took his first bite. I wanted everything to be perfect. I felt it was the least I could do for this man who had become the very center of my existence. He had given me so much, brought love into my life again, given me a safe home, a loving family and a new reason to live. He had rescued me from a life of oppression and subservience ...from a life of slavery. Thanks to Cliegg Lars, I was now my own woman, free to live the kind of life I wanted, not at the beck and call of a mercurial mistress who could barely conceal her contempt for me, or an uncaring, money-minded Toydarian junk-dealer who only suffered me because he thought it was a status symbol to have human slaves ... and for the free labor my young son provided, something he learned later that he had relied on more heavily than he thought.

When Cliegg Lars stepped into Watto's junkyard that fateful afternoon, I had no idea how profoundly this man was going to influence and change my life. It had been four years since my son Anakin, just nine at the time, left with a Jedi Knight to train and become a Jedi himself. That had been a heartbreaking time for me. My little boy was all I had in the world to keep me alive. He was the only one in the world I cared for and who cared for me. His innocence, love and constant curiosity about the world around him were my only sources of joy in those dark and dreary times. It broke my heart to see how hard Watto worked him. Yet he never complained, never said a word. He was even grateful to Watto for giving him the occasional day off and letting him podrace, although for Watto himself it was just a way to train a world-class podracer who would make him more money someday. I was grateful to Watto as well, for treating me with a little more respect and dignity than any of my previous masters. Having been a slave for as long as I could remember, I became grateful for things most people took for granted.

Annie had always dreamed of becoming a Jedi Knight. We both knew that slavery was outlawed in the Republic, and in theory, Tatooine was part of the Republic. Yet for all practical purposes it was in another galaxy altogether. The Hutts ruled a crime-world that not even the Galactic Senate dared tame. The Jedi Knights were spoken of in hushed whispers, mostly in reverential tones. We believed that they were the only hope we slaves ever had of gaining the freedom we never should have lost. But the rescue never happened. Annie always believed they still would come. He wanted to be the Jedi Knight that came home and freed all his friends, gave them the dignity and the independent life that was their due. The Jedi did come, but not to free the slaves. In fact, when Annie brought the sole Jedi Knight, as far as I can remember anyway, to ever visit Tatooine home to escape a coming desert-storm, he seemed surprised that slavery even existed. And then totally unconcerned. I was not as bitterly disappointed as I would have expected to be. I had given up hope of ever being free. The Jedi, I learned, were not concerned with trivial things like a few slaves on a crime-infested planet.

But I had hopes for Annie. I knew he deserved a better life than this one. And the Jedi Knight who came to Tatooine took Annie along to train him to become what he had always wanted to be ... a Jedi himself. It hurt me to lose the only person in my life who ever mattered to me. He was the center of my existence, the reason I managed to hold on day after day. But I knew I had to be strong, for both of us. Anakin was now free, and was going to a new life, a life he and I always dreamed he would have ... was destined to have. Even as my heart was breaking, I smiled and told my little boy that I would see him again, but that he must now leave. That he must go with Qui-Gon Jinn. I told him not to look back. And my brave son did not. I'm glad he didn't, because if he did he would have seen the tears I had been holding back but couldn't anymore. And then he would never leave, and never become the person he always dreamed of being. And it would be my fault. I didn't want that.

The next few months were probably the worst in my life. Every morning I woke up and started for Annie's room ...only to realize suddenly that he wasn't there. I always made more breakfast than I needed ... out of habit. Every time I sat down to eat I almost asked Annie's empty chair if Watto had been in an overly bad mood that day. At times it was almost too much to bear. But I tried to be strong. I knew Annie was working to fulfill his lifelong ambition. It was that thought alone that kept me going.

Watto no longer had much use for me, without Annie to run his errands. I could see that he began to look upon me as almost a liability. He was getting ruder, harder to work for, and much stingier than before with food. More than once he muttered than he wished he had bet me instead of my son. When Cliegg Lars came into his shop, Watto was his smooth, salesman-type self, asking him what he needed and assuring him he only stocked the best of everything. Cliegg replied that he did not want to buy anything. Instead, he wanted to bet. He would bet the large plot of farmland he had just bought, he said, on all the slaves Watto owned. Which by that time meant only me.

Watto never thought he'd lose. Not again. So he readily accepted the offer. I sometimes wonder if he considered losing me such a tragedy, anyway. I looked again at this farmer who seemed so different from the usual clientele that Watto entertained. I hadn't recalled seeing him before, though I could hardly claim to know everyone on Tatooine. He needed a floating wheelchair, and his left leg seemed to be attached to some kind of prosthesis. I almost asked him what had happened to him, but that would be improper. Slaves are supposed to be seen, not heard. I had tried teaching that to Annie several times but it was the one thing he refused to learn from me.

A couple of hours later, Watto and Cliegg were back. Watto seemed very upset. Without any explanation whatsoever, Watto told me I belonged to the farmer now. I had no say in this rather dramatic change in my life, of course. Looking at my new master's face, I was surprised to see a smile. That wasn't how my other masters had first greeted me.

As we walked out of Watto's shop, Cliegg turned to me, smiled again and said, "Shmi, you're free." With just those three little words, my life changed forever. I was not a slave any more ... and I hadn't even needed a Jedi Knight or a Galactic Senator to intervene! I was so stunned I almost fainted. Cliegg went on to offer me a job at his farm, and I knew that I would need to take it, since Watto now wouldn't provide me with even the meager portions he had been giving me so far. But for once, my labor would be paid for. It was a heady feeling, and my new life began.

At the Lars farm, I found that I wasn't the only slave Cliegg had freed and then employed. There were several dozens like me whom Cliegg had given a new life to. The Lars homestead was a big moisture farm, and they needed several workers in the fields. Cliegg offered me the job of farm cook, and every day I made the meals that all the workmen ate ... as well as Cliegg and his family.

I moved from being merely a cook to a maid, a companion and soon, a friend. Cliegg and I grew very close, and he told me his story. He had been the scion of a very influential family on his home planet Serglore. Unfortunately, Serglore's present rulers decided that he was a threat to their continued reign. Cliegg told me about the oppression, the corruption, the violation of citizens' rights and the state-sponsored terrorism that went on in Serglore at the behest of its rulers. In an effort to undermine any movement that threatened their dictatorship, the rulers had begun financing hitmen and underground mobs. This did not frighten Cliegg, until the day an assassin opened fire right in his own backyard. No one was killed ... although a passing young mother and her child were directly in the hitman's path. Cliegg pushed them out to safety ... and lost his leg in the bargain. The wheelchair was a testament to his selfless bravery.

But Cliegg was fearful now. Not for himself but for the life of his son, Owen. He feared the boy would be the next target, if only to destroy Cliegg's will. Cliegg has spoken to me only rarely about his first wife, Owen's mother. She had died in childbirth, but it's obvious that he loved her very much. Her death must have shattered him. Owen was all Cliegg had left of his old life. He could not bear to lose his only son. I know exactly how he felt.

So Cliegg and Owen fled Serglore. They flew to a planet as far away as they could, and wanted to live where they were unlikely to ever be detected. They chose Tatooine. Cliegg told me of his difficult dealing with Jabba the Hutt, from whom he bought his farmland. Jabba took every last credit he had for it, and had asked him a lot of awkward questions. Cliegg managed to get through the ordeal without revealing too much. If he had, I'm sure Jabba would have the Serglorians here in an instant, if, of course, they were willing to pay for his information.

Cliegg was as shocked as the Jedi Knight had been to learn of the rampant slavery on Tatooine. But he was determined to do something about it. This was the kind of thing he had been fighting on Serglore, he said. Cliegg won as many slaves as he possibly could from their masters, set them free offered them jobs. Just like he had done for me. Each time he did it, he risked losing everything he owned. But that never stopped him. He still does it, but slave-masters have become wary of him. It's getting harder and harder for him to make the bets. And there are still so many slaves.

I can't say when exactly our friendship became love. It all happened so fast! But before I knew it, Cliegg was on his knees, proposing to me. It must have been very painful for him to get out of his wheelchair and kneel down, but he insisted on doing it the right way, as he called it. He said I had been through enough in my life, and deserved some respect. I think he's been through his share of hardships too.

The wedding was one of the happiest days of my life. But through it all, I couldn't help but think of Anakin. I had tried several times to contact him since he left with Qui-Gon, but my calls were always routed through the Jedi Temple. The voice on the other end ... it was never a complete hologram ...asked if the reason for communication was urgent. I had to say no, that I just wanted to hear his voice, to know he was happy, to tell him I loved him and missed him. The reply was always that that was not important enough, and that permission to speak with the Padawan had been denied. It took me a long time to even figure out what a Padawan was. I stopped trying after a while, there was little point. I had been hoping that Annie would call me, but obviously the rules were against his doing that too. I could only imagine how he was feeling, and I got a true idea of how vigorous Jedi training life was through the experience. But now, I thought, I had a true emergency. I was getting married to a wonderful man, and it would be one my most joyous days ever. The only other day that could compare was the day Anakin was born. I wanted my son there, to share my joy, to meet his new stepfather, his new family, his new home. But the response from the disembodied voice at the Temple was the same ... not important enough. I couldn't believe it, asked to speak to his master ... whom I believed at that point was Qui-Gon ... and the only response I got was that that was impossible at any time. I was bitterly disappointed. I was not even allowed to leave him a message.

I've probably told Cliegg so much about Annie that he wishes I could find something else to talk about! I can't help it, I was so proud of my son and my husband that the thought that they couldn't meet was unbearable. Cliegg badly wanted to meet Annie himself, I could see that clearly. He got his wish rather unexpectedly last year.

I remember every detail so clearly. Cliegg had been out in the fields with Owen and the workers, and I was busy making lunch. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary day. Suddenly Cliegg came back to the homestead and shouted out that he had a surprise for me. I had no idea what he could be talking about, but when I rushed outside I saw he had a small group with him. There was something very familiar about all of them, but I couldn't quite place it at first.

I looked at the handsome young man who seemed to be the leader of the little group ... and when he smiled at me, I suddenly knew. I recognized him. I couldn't believe it was actually Annie! I was so happy at that moment ... my son and my husband had finally met, and Annie could see for himself how wonderful my life was now. His first words startled me ... he said he would not leave this time until was free. It took me a few seconds to realize how much we had to catch up on.

I told him of how Cliegg had freed me, of how he had changed my life forever ... about how he loved me. I could be wrong, but I got the impression Annie didn't completely believe me at first. He insisted that he talk to me alone, without Cliegg around, and then asked me if I really meant what I said. It took me a long time to convince him about how happy I truly was, about how the Lars' were now my family ...and his too. He said he was happy for me. He seemed troubled after this, probably the pressures of being a Jedi. He told me about what had happened to Qui-Gon, and I was horrified. The Temple did not tell me this despite the fact that I had specifically asked to speak to him the last time I called. I told Annie about the numerous attempts I had made to contact him over the past ten years, and he assured me it was standard procedure not to allow communication unless it was what they considered very important. But he seemed as angry about it as I was, though he never said anything.

Annie brought with him a young girl I seemed to remember having met before ... he introduced her as Padme, and I remembered she had accompanied Qui-Gon on that visit years ago. She had grown much taller since I last saw her, and the pretty young girl I met all those years ago was now a beautiful young woman. I seemed to sense some kind of chemistry between her and my son ... a mother knows these things! But they both denied it. Annie told me there were people trying to kill her, and that he had been appointed to protect her. I was so proud of my son, but fearful for his life. I guess I always will be. I told him about Cliegg and how brave he had been on Serglore. Annie did not seem too interested. In fact, he seemed almost irritated. I'm sure it's because of the pressures of Jedi training and having to protect Padme. In fact during his whole stay he and Cliegg never really did much together. I regretted that. I hope they get to know each other better soon.

Annie told me all about Jedi life and his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Annie truly admires him, I could tell by the way he spoke of him so respectfully. Annie also became good friends with Owen during that last visit. It warmed my heart to see the two brothers get along so well. They seemed to really hit it off. I guess it's because they're the same age, they must have a lot of common interests. I don't really know what to make of Owen. I mean, he's a very nice boy, and has accepted me into his father's life completely, and he's never rude to anyone, but he's so moody and acts so distant sometimes. I'm glad Beru's around to make him feel better about himself. And Annie spent a lot of time with him when he was here, so I think they're close friends. I think poor Owen needs a little more confidence that's all. Annie was Owen's best man at the wedding.

Unfortunately, Annie couldn't stay long last time. His master called on comm-link and he had to go, he and Padme. Something about a war on a planet called Kamino. I'm not sure Annie knew all the details himself. His master said he needed his help. I guess I should be proud that Annie is such an important Jedi, but I was scared when he had to leave like that, especially for a war! I begged him to be careful. So did Cliegg. I know Cliegg is as proud of Annie as I am. Owen didn't want Annie to go. I guess he didn't want to lose his new brother. He didn't even come to see him off. He took it rather badly.

Annie had promised he'd come back home soon, but after that he was very busy. Of course we still couldn't contact each either, but when Annie and Padme got married, he invited us all to Naboo to attend. I was right about those two! I was so happy for him, she seems like such a nice girl. Annie didn't have much time for us after the wedding. He told us that he was breaking the Jedi Code by getting married, and that it had to be kept secret, and that if the Jedi Council ever found out he could be excommunicated. He hadn't even told his master about the wedding. He really loves her a lot, and he was willing to sacrifice everything he had worked so hard for for her sake. I got to meet Padme's family, they are really nice people. We had to come back to Tatooine immediately because there was a lot to do on the farm. Owen had stayed behind to look after it but it was too much for one person. Annie was disappointed that Owen wasn't there. He seems a little uncomfortable with Cliegg. I guess he needs some time to get used to get used to him. Annie really wanted Owen to be his best man, since he was Owen's.

That was almost six months ago. I didn't hear much from Annie for a long time after that. There seems to be a lot happening in the galaxy these days. Cliegg and Owen try to keep up with the latest from Coruscant, but it's hard to know anything living here on Tatooine. I do know that there is an Emperor now. Apparently the Supreme Chancellor declared himself the Emperor after there was all sorts of trouble all over the galaxy after what they call the Clone Wars. Cliegg tells me that our Annie is one of the heroes of the Clone Wars, along with his master Obi-Wan. I'm so proud of him! But if Cliegg's information is correct, the whole galaxy was engulfed in unrest and lawlessness after the Clone Wars, and the Supreme Chancellor asked the Galactic Senate to accept him as Emperor, which they did. This isn't supposed to make much difference, except that the Emperor can make military decisions without getting the Senate's clearance first. Cliegg says that that might be a good thing, as long as the Emperor doesn't abuse the privilege. But I doubt he will, he has been very trustworthy and able as Supreme Chancellor, even though he never could get the Senate to enforce the illegality of slavery on Tatooine. It is against the law even on Tatooine, but no one cares. There are still so many slaves here.

But then, this morning, something happened.

It started out like any other day. It was time for breakfast. Cliegg was busy with the workers, making plans for next week's harvest. Moisture-farming isn't very lucrative, but it keeps us going. Unfortunately, we've had to let a few workers go, but then, they were the slaves that Cliegg freed in the first place, and they're still loyal to him. Some have offered to work for half-wages. Cliegg is very popular with them.

Owen was in the next room, fixing up a few droids. He's very good with mechanical things ... a lot like Annie. Annie had been working on a protocol droid he called C3PO when he was a child. Cliegg had won him from Watto too when he won me, since anything I owned as a slave became property of my new master. Annie and Owen worked together to finish him up when Annie came back last time, he wasn't quite complete when Annie left the first time to become a Jedi. I think that's when the two of them really got to know each other. Annie and Padme took the droid with them when they went to Kamino. I guess they still have him because they never brought him back.

I called Owen, Beru and Cliegg to sit down and have breakfast. Beru came in to wash her hands, which were still dirty from weed-picking. She helps me a lot in the kitchen, and she's turning out to be a great cook. She really loves Owen too.

When Cliegg began eating I quickly glanced at his expression as usual, to reassure myself that he liked it. He seemed to, and always says he does, but I can never be sure he's not just being polite. As I've said, neither he nor Owen has ever complained about my cooking. I think Beru is the only one who'd be truly honest with me if I actually messed a dish up, but she's never said anything yet either. Cliegg started talking to Owen about how the crops may be delayed a bit this season because of the weather.

That's when we heard it. It sounded like a ship descending a little bit outside the perimeter of the farm. We had to put a fence up because we've been having trouble with Tusken Raiders recently. I ran to the window, Owen close behind. It was indeed a small ship that had just landed in the field outside our farm. Our first instinct was to flee. Ever since Owen told me that the Serglorians were still hunting him down, I've been overvigilant about lurkers, stalkers and ships coming out of nowhere like this. But Cliegg, who was now with us at the window, said it was definitely not a Serglorian ship. He rushed to the door as fast as his wheelchair would allow. I couldn't imagine who would land so close to our farm, and Owen and Beru followed me to the door to join Cliegg.

The ship wasn't very big, but certainly looked very powerful. Owen had a pair of binoculars ready and reported what he saw. The platform of the ship was being lowered, he told us, and about a dozen men in eerily similar uniforms were marching down and forming a semicircle at its foot. Even without the binoculars I could see that they were all wearing glistening white armors and rigid masks of some sort that covered their faces completely and hid any vestige of individuality. They were all the same height and moved in an almost identical fashion. They were very well co-ordinated, and their formation was awe-inspiring despite the fact that there was only a handful of them. I heard Cliegg mutter "Stormtroopers" under his breath, I somehow knew instinctively that this was not good news. The Stormtroopers are clones that the new Emperor has begun commissioning into active duty after he publicly doubted that the Jedi were able to protect the galaxy on their own any more. He has created this army to assist the Jedi, but increasingly, the Stormtroopers seem to be rivaling them.

The ship was Imperial, but we still had no clue about what they could possibly want with us. As far as I knew, we had nothing to fear from the Empire and no one else did either. After all, even on Tatooine we knew about Emperor Palpatine's assurance that all he wanted to do was restore peace and order and then hand back the reigns to the Senate. But we also knew that many of the Jedi were not very supportive of his moves. Could it be about Annie that this ship was here then? Did they want some information on his whereabouts? I knew there was little I could tell them, since I didn't know where he was.

As we watched on in fascination, Owen reported that a figure was alighting from the ship. I could see him as well, although he was too far away to make out any details. Owen said that the figure was dressed in a long robe and had a hood over his head, obscuring his features in shadow so that they could not be seen from that distance. But as the figure proceeded toward the homestead, the Stormtroopers flanking him protectively, it became apparent that he was indeed heading towards us.

Owen's next sentence took me completely by surprise ... "I can see him now. It's ... Anakin."

I didn't believe it at first, since I thought it was impossible. Annie was a Jedi, and the Jedi had made known their disapproval of the Stormtrooper army, and in many cases the Empire itself, on several occasions. But as he came closer, it was obvious that Owen was right. The hooded, robed figure approaching the homestead in large strides complete with a Stormtrooper entourage was indeed my son.

There was something different about Annie this time. He walked with more purpose, and seemed more businesslike than usual. He didn't run into my arms and hug me as I would have expected him to, or liked him to, as he did last time. He just marched briskly towards us, with the Stormtroopers close on his heels, and when he reached us, he barely smiled, merely greeting all of us in turn with a quick nod.

He pulled his hood back, and his robe parted just enough to reveal that he was wearing his traditional Jedi garb, the same thing he had been wearing on his last visit. I noticed that his lightsaber was still swinging from his waist. I recalled the pleasure he seemed to get from showing it to me and explaining how it worked to me and Owen back then. Suddenly, it seemed so long ago.

"Annie! You've come back! What a pleasant surprise!" I heard myself exclaim. Despite his unusual manner I really was happy to see him again.

"It's good to see you again as well, Mom. Cliegg, Owen, Beru." He said as he nodded to the others in turn. "I'm here on a mission."

"Anakin, what are you doing with these Stormtroopers? I thought the Jedi were against them," Cliegg finally asked.

"They are, Cliegg. Very vehemently so. Not surprising, considering they threaten the Jedi hold on the galaxy."

"Then why are they with..."

"But I'm no longer with the Jedi."

I couldn't believe that I had heard Annie say that, that I would ever hear him say anything like that. The last time he visited, and even during the wedding, Annie had never shown any sign of being unhappy with the Jedi. There was frustration, of course, but I never imagined it would come to this. It had always been his dream to be a Jedi Knight, ever since he was a child, and he had fought hard and long to be one. I couldn't imagine what had caused this turnaround.

"Why, Annie?" I finally managed to ask. "It's what you always wanted."

"Mom, what I always wanted was to serve the galaxy, to end injustice, to maintain peace. But that's not what being a Jedi is about. I've learned that the hard way." He turned to his stepbrother. "You were right, Owen. The Jedi are not worth it. They are as corrupt, orthodox and incompetent as the bureaucrats in the Senate."

"Annie, if you're not a Jedi, what are you now?''

"I am working with the Emperor, Cliegg. He has invited me to join him as his Defense Advisor. He wants to restore order and peace. The Jedi will never be able to do it. Not with their outmoded way of functioning."

I stared at the Stormtroopers standing loyally behind him. They were all silent and seemed totally detached from the situation. They were all exactly identical in uniform, and I knew, under the uniform too. They said not a word throughout our whole conversation, but they held their blasters in a manner that suggested that they would blow to bits any one of us if we so much as ruffled Annie's hair.

I hated them immediately.

"The galaxy is in a total mess today," Anakin was telling Cliegg, and I noticed that this was the first real conversation he had ever had with his stepfather, "Worlds are fighting each other, innocents are suffering, there is chaos, destruction everywhere. The galaxy is out of control. And do you know why it kept going on? Because the Senate was corrupt and incompetent! When the Supreme Chancellor tried to take some measures to curb the fighting, the Senate stalled it while they squabbled on their own and tried to see if they could get something out it!"

Cliegg, Owen and Beru listened on silently as Annie continued his ranting.

"And the Jedi were only too happy to let it keep happening, because they were too busy with their rules and laws and codes and glory-hunting. Do you think they ever cared about correcting injustice? All they ever wanted was to be known as the saviors of the galaxy. They only fought battles that they knew they could win and that would become legendary. Only the ones that would boost their image and make them look indispensable. They were too busy to think about all the suffering innocents on planets like these, who had no voice and no one to support them!"

There was an awkward silence, then Beru finally said, "Anakin, we're having breakfast. Won't you join us?"

Annie finally seemed to calm down. "No, thank you, Beru. I have a mission to accomplish."

Owen finally spoke "What's that?'

"I'm here to do what I became a Jedi to do in the first place. I'm going to free all the slaves."

Another silence. Annie turned to me, expecting me to voice my approval. This was what he had always wanted to do, after all. But somehow, his statement frightened me more than it gladdened me.

"Slavery's been going on here for generations with impunity, and it's still going on! Why? Because there are no laws against it? Of course there are! But the Senate was too corrupt, too inefficient, to fattened by its own prosperity to be bothered. Who cared about the basic rights of a bunch of slaves on a forsaken planet like this?" I knew he was right, but the ferocity with which he spoke was something I'd never seen in my son before.

"I thought the Jedi would understand. I thought they cared, and they would uphold the slave's right to freedom. The right that was trampled on with such nonchalance. That's why I wanted to be a Jedi, to set right this injustice. But I was wrong. The Jedi are no better than the Republic they served. They're only interested in their image and their ancient outdated customs. They are a spent force, and it's time we stopped depending on them. They're simply unequal to the task.

"The Emperor knows this. He wants to make a difference. He wants to change things, create a galaxy where everyone has basic dignity and the right to personal freedom. And a society where every law will be enforced and all violators will be dealt with in ways that ensure that no one can bully or oppress someone else because they're more powerful! That is his vision. And I'm honored that he has chosen me to help him achieve it. Believe me, the Empire is the best thing that could have happened to the galaxy!"

The Troopers behind him did not even flinch. Annie fingered his lightsaber and went on, "Slavery on Tatooine will end today. You did a lot to alleviate it, Cliegg. You gave my mother and many more like her their freedom. But you shouldn't have had to risk so much personally to set right a wrong that should never have been in the first place. The Senate couldn't stop it, and the Jedi wouldn't. But the Emperor is determined to end this kind of evil, and together, we're going to." He turned to me again and said in an unusually firm voice, "Mom, you once said the Republic doesn't exist here. But I promise all of you, the Empire will! And this will be a far better place for it! This will be a day long remembered!"

He turned sharply, and his group of Stormtroopers trailed him. He had hardly walked a few steps when he stopped and slowly looked back at us. "When the slaves are free, I'll be back. Maybe around lunchtime." He finally gave us a smile like the old Annie, and I realized despite all that had happened, he was still my son, the little boy I had raised on this horrible planet living a life of bondage he never deserved and should never have suffered. But now he was all business again, and he led his troopers into Mos Espa, to finally do what he had promised himself and everyone else he would do.

It struck me suddenly that he hadn't mentioned Padme even once, and none of us had had the courage to ask him where she was or why he hadn't brought her with him. I wondered what Annie would do when the slave-owners refused to free their slaves, as they were certain to. The thought worried me. But I didn't want to think about it. I knew Annie had been in graver danger before, and he knew how to handle it. But I guess a mother always worries.

We went back to breakfast. No one spoke until we were almost done. Then Owen finally said, "I have a bad feeling about this."

I hated to admit it, but I did too.