Ahead of the May 10th release of Mike Chen’s Star Wars: Brotherhood, Polygon.com share an exclusive extract from the book.
“There you are,” Obi-Wan called out.
Right before he spoke, he’d spotted Anakin by himself but stayed quiet. The Jedi refectory was nearly empty, so much so that Anakin must have figured no one would notice if he changed the configuration of the holodisplays from a rolling list of schedules and menus to a podrace from some remote world. He waited until Anakin finished and settled into his seat, a simple vegetable soup on the tray in front of him, and gave his former apprentice several seconds to enjoy his setup before barging in.
In return, Obi-Wan used the time to consider the scene in front of him: Anakin trying to bend rules to serve his personal desires. Here, it was minor. Not that long ago, it was far more drastic, and a single memory flashed, summing up Obi-Wan’s worries in a few words: “You will be expelled from the Jedi Order!”
He’d screamed it at Anakin as wind whipped into their eyes, their gunship soaring over Geonosis. In return, Anakin screamed right back. “I don’t care!”
But that was the problem. Anakin did care. He cared about so many things—including podracing—that Obi-Wan felt like he was often the safety lock on Anakin’s throttle, making sure Anakin kept from going so fast that he’d spiral out of control. Yet now they were peers rather than Master and apprentice, a war severing that protective tether and letting Anakin drift free among his instincts and his passion.
“Master,” Anakin said, standing up so fast that his knees banged the table, the soup in his bowl sloshing in reaction. Obi-Wan noticed the subtle gesture Anakin made behind his back, cutting power to the holodisplay with the flip of a finger. “I was just catching up on the Cato Neimoidia news and—”
“It’s all right,” Obi-Wan said, waving his hand as if he was doing a mind trick, though in this case it simply calmed the soup from spilling farther out. “Perhaps peace could be negotiated if we all watched sports and drank ale together. Actually, I’ve come to talk with you about your next assignment tomorrow.”
Anakin looked at Obi-Wan, the smallest twist forming on his mouth before it reset to neutral. “Tomorrow? I thought I was shipping out in two days to oversee aid delivery to Langston.”
A very strategic response formulated in Obi-Wan’s mind. “Oh, you still are. Tomorrow’s is local.” His head tilted ever so slightly, measuring Anakin’s response. “Shouldn’t interfere with anything you have planned.”
“Ah. I mean,” Anakin started before looking over at where the refectory’s holographic projection had been. “We’re meeting with the chancellor tomorrow. The newest Jedi Knights, that is. I didn’t want to miss it.”
“Anakin, you can catch a feed of podrace tournaments on any shuttle or transport. If you know how to do it.” Obi-Wan spoke with specific precision, something equally designed to disarm while also dig a little deeper. He paused, letting Anakin take a sip of soup before moving on to a new topic, something just as tactical. “Oh, did I tell you I ran into Senator Amidala at the Temple yesterday? It sounds like she and a few other senators agree with the Jedi using the opportunity to speak to Cato Neimoidia. I haven’t seen her since Geonosis, but she looks no worse for wear.”
Anakin stood up again, a careful move that avoided any table collisions this time. Then he knelt back to the access panel of the holoprojector, his face completely hidden. “If you run into her again, tell her I say hello. One second,” he said, tinkering with the configuration. “Can’t let anyone know I was watching podracing. So, I hear you’re off to Cato Neimoidia tomorrow?”
“Word travels fast.”
“You know I should be there with you.” Obi-Wan had heard variations on that statement before, and in some cases it came with the intimation that Anakin considered himself more powerful, more capable, the obvious solution. In this case, though, his voice, his posture, the concern on his face, all came across as authentic, an unexpected maturity. What an interesting change in attitude.
“I would much rather have that. But we must abide by Count Dooku’s caveats. He has smartly backed the Jedi into a corner. It must be me alone.” Anakin’s discomfort at the idea painted his entire expression, a stony silence, as if the young man tried to will his way into the situation. “Even though I’m sure the Trade Federation would love to hear your take on the galaxy’s best podracers. Perhaps you could even inform them of your favorite underdogs,” he said, allowing a smirk to come through.
Anakin returned the smile, building a bridge between the two, perhaps even a silent acknowledgment of their equal status. At the very least, it cracked the tension. “I wish,” he started before his voice trailed off. Another surge of emotion came, like a wave but rather than a complex mix of feelings, Obi-Wan sensed . . . Was that regret?
“I wish Master Qui-Gon could see us now.” Anakin often left Obi-Wan flustered, sometimes with his bravado, sometimes with his stubbornness, sometimes with the way that bravado and stubbornness always pulled off the impossible. But this came from sheer surprise.
Anakin barely mentioned Qui-Gon to Obi-Wan. How much did the slain Jedi Master occupy his thoughts? “I’m sorry, Master, I shouldn’t have—”
“He would be proud of you,” Obi-Wan said, a pure sincerity in his voice. Qui-Gon, with such belief that Anakin was the Chosen One—whether or not that was true, it was hard to argue with Anakin’s accomplishments. “His faith would be rewarded.”
They sat in silence for several seconds, the only sound that of cutlery and plates from far across the dining hall, both of them now silent. Finally, Anakin pushed things forward. As he always did. “I really should fly out to Cato Neimoidia. As backup. I don’t trust Dooku. Or the Trade Federation. Or Neimoidians in general, for that matter.”
“That’s not within the parameters of the mission, unfortunately.”
Anakin gave a quiet laugh, then shook his head. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me that Jedi Knights really do still follow all the rules? We thought that was something you told the Padawans to keep us in line.”
“Indeed. In fact, I think you’ll find that life as a Jedi Knight is much easier when you stick to the rules. Improvising tends to only invite trouble. Speaking of which—” Obi-Wan brightened, and suddenly he found himself trying to contain the urge to chuckle. “You should have a plan for tomorrow.”
“What is this mystery assignment?”
“It is something far more challenging, far more emotionally taxing than a simple negotiation, but it is a rite of passage, something notched on the belt of every Jedi.” Anakin’s face crinkled in curiosity, and Obi-Wan knew he had his young companion exactly where he wanted him. “You must meet with the younglings and pass on your wisdom.”