Star Wars Episode 1: Rogue Planet
Anakin's fall was cushioned by an island of the thick, smelly froth that floated across the lake of worms. He sank slowly into the froth, releasing more noxious gases, until a burst of ammonia jerked him to stunned consciousness. His eyes stung. The blow to his head had knocked his goggles and breather mask awry.
First things first. He spread his wings and unbuckled his harness, then rolled over to distribute his weight evenly along the wings. They acted like snowshoes on the froth, and his rate of sinking slowed. The wings were bent and useless now anyway, even if he could tug them from the foaming mass.
The Blood Carver had just murdered him. That death would take its own sweet time to arrive was no relief from its certainty. The broad island of pale yellow undulated with the rise and fall of worm bodies. A constant crackling noise came from all around: bubbles bursting in the froth. And he heard a more sinister sound, if that was possible: the slow, low hiss of the worms sliding over and under and around each other.
Anakin could barely see. I'm a goner. Reaching out to put himself in tune with the Force might be soothing, but he had not yet reached the point in his training of being able to levitate, at least not more than a few centimeters.
In truth, Anakin Skywalker felt so mortified by his lack of attention, so ashamed by his actions in being here, in the pit, in the first place, that his death seemed secondary to much larger failures.
He was not made to be a Jedi, whatever Qui-Gon Jinn had thought of him. Yoda and Mace Windu had been correct all along.
But acid awareness of his stupidity did not require that he take further insults in stride. He felt the noiseless flight of the Blood Carver a few meters overhead and almost casually ducked in time to miss a second blow.
A Jedi does not contemplate revenge. But Anakin's brain was in full gear now, his thinking clarified by the ache in his skull and the dull throb in his arm. The Blood Carver knew who he was, where he was from--too much of a coincidence to be called a slave, this far from the lawless fringe systems where slavery was common. Someone was either stalking Anakin personally or Jedi in general.
Anakin doubted he had attracted much attention during his short life, or was worthy of an assassin's interest by himself. Far more likely that the Temple was being watched and that some group or other was hoping to take down the Jedi one by one, picking the weakest and most exposed first.
That would be me.
The Blood Carver was a threat to the people who had freed Anakin from slavery, who had taken him in and given him a new life away from Tatooine. If he was never to be a Jedi, or even life to maturity, he could remove at least one threat against that brave and necessary order.
He pulled up his breather mask, took a lungful of filtered air, and examined his foundering platform. A wing brace could be broken free and swung about as a weapon. He stooped carefully, balancing his weight, and grasped the slender brace. Strong in flight, the brace yielded to his off-center pressure, and he bent it back and forth until it snapped. At the opposite end, where the wings socketed in the rotator, he made another bend, stamping quickly with his booted foot, then jerked the end free and snatched away the flimsy lubricating sheath. The rotator ball made a fair club.
But the entire set of wings weighed less than five kilograms. The club, about a hundred grams. He would have to swing with all his might to give the impact meaning.
The Blood Carver swooped low again, his legs drawn back, triple-jointed arms hanging like the pedipalps on a clawswift on Naboo.
He was focused completely on the Padawan.
Making the same mistake as Anakin had.
Excerpted from Star Wars: Episode 1 Rogue Planet by Greg Bear Copyright© 2000 by Greg Bear. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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