Anakin was quiet.
That enough should have worried Obi-Wan.
Anakin was very rarely quiet. Ever since he had met him, on those long nights between Tatooine and Coruscant Anakin had been loud. Full of questions, enquires and general conversation. The boy had never been shy conversationally, practically every minute since Obi-Wan had met him had been full of conversation.
Now he was quiet.
Obi-Wan was baffled. Anakin had not been quiet upon their return to Naboo, he had enthusiastically engaged with the Queen's plan for her rebellion. He had even been happy in the aftermath. Obi-Wan wasn’t even sure quite how he’d ended up in the upper atmosphere getting involved with the assault on the Trade Federations control ship, but that wasn’t from Anakin's recipient to talk about it, he had quite happily babbled about it on their eventual return to Coruscant.
The only time Obi-Wan had ever known him to be quiet was in the immediate aftermath of Qui-Gon’s death. That was a credit Obi-Wan could give. His new Padawan had at least some degree of tact that his constant desire for knowledge had at least been somewhat been quelled by Obi Wan’s masters' death. But even then, Anakin had not been quiet.
But he was quiet now.
Obi-Wan had been determined that he would be good by Anakin. He’d had his own issues with his apprenticeship, but he was determined he would not put Anakin through the same. Anakin was the chosen one. He would be as good as possible. He would be the master that Qui-Gon would have been to him. He had to provide as good an opportunity as his Master would have given Anakin.
This was why Obi-Wan could not understand why a simple suggestion of a trip to the halls of healing had resulted in… this.
Anakin was quiet. And Anakin Skywalker quiet was a disturbing thing.
Anakin was not a person designed to be quiet. Obi-Wan had learnt to understand the aura of people in the galaxy over the years, and Anakin was not meant to be a quiet person.
Anakin Skywalker being quiet meant that something was wrong.
The only problem was, Obi-Wan couldn’t work out what actually was wrong. After all, Anakin hadn’t been asked to do anything. The council had only requested that Anakin have the regular yearly assessment in the halls of healing. It wasn’t like this silence could be nerves for a mission. It was only a med check. He couldn't understand why this had inspired such a change of behaviour.
Anakin fidgeted on the seat next to him.
He glanced down. Anakin was worrying the edge of his robe, but beyond that, he sat as still as a statue. His eyes were fixed determinedly on the doors in front of them. Everything about his body language seemed to scream that he was preparing for a fight.
The door opened. Anakin was not able to disguise his flinch.
A Senior Padawan came through the door. “Master Che will see you now Padawan Skywalker.” She waved at him to follow her. Anakin looked at him in panic.
“Are you not coming with me?
“No Padawan, the Healers like to see Padawans without their Masters for their check-up, they believe they are more likely to be honest about any issues if we aren’t there.”
If anything Anakin looked even more panicked.
“But I… Why. I want you to come with me?”
The healer dropped a hand onto Anakin's shoulder. Obi-Wan didn’t miss his flinch. He was led away. He could just see Anakin throw a panicked glance over his shoulder as the doors shut.
Obi-Wan sat back on the bench.
He couldn’t understand Anakin's behaviour.
While he imagined medical care on Tatooine was more… rudimentary than that offered at the Temple he struggled to see why that would cause any more than some unease in his Padawan. Definitely not that kind of panic.
Something was missing here. Something he didn’t know. He had never seen his Padawan’s life in Mos Espa. If he had gone too, maybe then he would understand more about his Padawan. Maybe he’d be able to see more of the reasons Anakin was the way he was. He’d be able to tailor everything more then. As it was, he felt like he was walking through their apprenticeship blindfolded.
He wasn’t prepared for this. He hadn’t even been considered ready for Knighting by his own Master. How was he supposed to be a good Master when he wasn’t a good enough apprentice.
Obi-Wan was dragged back out of his thoughts when the Padawan healer hurried back through the doors.
Obi-Wan sat up straight when he caught sight of the troubled expression on her face.
“What is the matter?”
She grimaced. “You better follow me Knight Kenobi.”
That was not at all reassuring.
He followed her through the doors into the Halls proper. She led him through the corridors and off into a small observation room. Bant was stood there, staring at one of the screens. Everything about her body language screamed concern.
She turned towards him at the sound of the door closing.
“Obi-Wan,” she greeted him. “I’d hoped we would be able to meet up again under better circumstances.”
“It has been too long,” he agreed before looking up at the screen. “What’s the problem? Is something wrong with Anakin?”
Bant sighed. “How much do you know about Padawan Skywalkers history before he came to us Obi-Wan?”
“Not a lot,” he frowned. “It was Master Jinn who found his in Mos Espa. I was only sent a blood sample to test his Midi-chlorian levels before I met him on the ship. He’s mentioned his mother a couple of times but that's it. Why?
She grimaced. “It's probably better if I showed you.” She turned the screen towards him. It was an x-ray image, showing a spine. Obi-Wan could immediately see the problem.
“What is that?”
At the top of the spine, right where it met Anakin's head was an unnatural… thing. It was a jagged shape, clearly engineered. While Obi-Wan was not a healer it looked to him like the bone had grown around it. Surely that meant whatever it was, it had been there a long time.
“We were hoping you might be able to answer that,” Bant answered. “I have never actually seen one of these before. I’ve run a few scans but I was hoping you would be able to disprove my suspicions.”
Obi-Wan grit his teeth, fighting back against his growing impatience. “Which is?”
She closed her eyes. “It looks like a Slave Chip.”
He felt his blood run cold. He staggered back slightly before dropping into a seat.
“I didn’t know. How couldn't I know that my Padawan was a freed slave.”
He was failing Anakin even more than he realised.
Bant moved forward, dropping a hand to his shoulder. “I’m afraid there’s more.”
He looked up, waving a hand at her to continue.
“This area here,” she pointed at a slightly bulbous area underneath the chip “seems to be some sort of explosive material. It seems to be set up so that it can be triggered by a remote. As far as I understand, it is used as a deterrent in the outer rim to stop slaves from escaping.”
Obi-Wan felt sick. “You mean someone converted my Padawan into a walking bomb?”
“More or less, yes. It seems that the detonator is the thing that is actually transferred when a slave is sold. Did Master Jinn…”
“He didn’t tell me anything about this.”
How had Qui-Gon ended up with Anakin in the first place? He knew his Master had been unconventional, but surely he would never have bought a slave. He remembered their mission to Pijal. Qui-Gon had gone against their mandate just to launch a rescue mission to try and free one of the slaves that Czerka had taken. Surely, even with his Masters seeming one minded determination when it came to Anakin he wouldn’t have bought a slave?
But if he didn’t, if he had come to some sort of another arrangement to get Anakin, then there could be a sentient out there with the ability to kill his Padawan at the flick of a switch.
“You need to get it out. Can you? Can you take it out?”
“It’ll be tricky. I’ve called for Master Che. She should be back on world by the end of the day so she can look at it herself, but you can see the way the bone has grown around the chip.” She pointed at the offending area. “That means it was attached when he was very young, removing it is going to be difficult as we will have to go very close to his spinal cords. It may risk paralysing him.”
Obi-Wan shut his eyes. “Why would anyway put a chip there. Why would they be so cruel?"
Bant’s voice was dark. “I imagine whoever put it in never intended it to be removed. They thought Anakin would be a slave forever.”
“So is that it. Is there nothing you can do?”
Bant shook her head. “Of course not. Now that we know the chip is there we can deactivate it with an Ion pulse. We can do that as soon as possible so that the chip itself becomes useless. We’d rather remove the material entirely, but I’m not willing to do that on my own. We will have to wait until Master Che is back.”
He heard her step forward. He opened his eyes. Bant had dropped to the floor and lowered her face so it was level with his. “Your Padawan will be fine Obi-Wan. Now that we know we can get him the help he needs. At the end of the day, that's why we do these checks.”
“We will have to inform the council though. This is so far beyond our usual protocol, the mere idea that an inducted Padawan might have an active slave chip… I don’t think it has even been considered. I can’t believe Master Jinn didn’t tell them originally.”
“Believe me,” Obi-Wan groaned. “It is the exact thing I can imagine him doing. Not deliberately but I can very easily see him just not bringing it up because he didn’t think it was important. After all, he never told me, and we were on the same mission.”
He couldn’t quite suppress the bitterness in his voice.
“I don’t know what to do. I was feeling overwhelmed before, he’s so powerful Bant. But now this. I have no idea how to guide him through the kind of trauma that being a slave must have produced. How am I going to help him?”
“By using us,” Bant said simply. “You are not on your own here Obi-Wan. You have an entire temple of people who would be more than willing to help you train him. We have a team of Mind Healers here that are specialised in trauma. Use us.”
She stood before a smile spread across her face. “Of course, that would involve you overcoming your own fear of coming to these halls.”
“I’m not scared of the healers” Obi-Wan grumbled. Although this might explain Anakin's panic when coming to see the healers himself. Slaves probably never got to see them, probably only when they were getting assessed to be sold…
Obi-Wan stood up so quickly that it caused Bant to jump backwards in alarm.
“Do you think he knows?”
“That he is not a slave anymore?”
Obi-Wan was already moving, ready to storm out of the room to find Anakin to let him know.
Bant grabbed hold of his arm pulling him back.
“Obi-Wan calm down!”
He froze. It had been years since he had heard Bant take that tone with him, not since they were both Padawans.
“You will do absolutely no help if you go charging in to see him like that. You will only scare him. I am sure he knows you do not own him Obi-Wan. And!” She raised her voice over his attempts to interrupt. “If he does, what sort of reaction do you think he’ll have if you go to find him in that state. He will think you confronting him. You need to calm down.”
Obi-Wan took a steadying breath. She was right. He didn’t want to scare Anakin. At least any more than this whole experience may have already scarred him.
He gave himself another few moments before moving forward again, towards the door he had entered through.
He turned back to face Bant.
“You were also going the wrong way. He’s in the observation room.” She indicated the door behind her. Obi-Wan hadn’t even noticed it, focused so much on what had been displayed on the screens.
She put a hand on his shoulder as he passed her. “Just remember, we’re here if you need us, and I’m here if you need to talk about anything.”
He gave her a small smile.
“Thanks, Bant, I appreciate it,” he said, before turning and walking through the door.
He was greeted by an unexpected sight.
Anakin was sat cross-legged on the floor, opposite the Padawan healer laughing at something she had said.
They both turned towards him as he entered. Anakin's face broke into a broad grin.
“What took you so long Master? We’ve been finished in here for ages.”
“I just needed to talk to someone Padawan.” He turned towards the healer. “Do you mind if I have a talk with him alone?”
She stood. “Of course Knight Kenobi!” she answered before hurrying out of the room.
Anakin made to pull himself to his feet.
“No Anakin, stay sat down.”
He lowered himself so he was sitting across from him. He crossed his legs so that he mirrored Anakin's position.
Anakin started to look apprehensive. “Is everything ok Master?”
“We just need to talk about something Padawan.”
He took a deep breath.
There was no use delaying. He’d just have to say it.
“Anakin, in one of the scans you’ve just had we found your chip.”
If Obi-Wan thought Anakin was panicking before, it was nothing compared to the absolute wave of terror that flooded from him now. Obi-Wan felt it push against him like a physical force. He had to steady himself, lest he be pushed onto his back.
Such was the intensity of it Obi-Wan didn’t even realise Anakin was talking at first. He was already mid-sentence when he was able to identify
“Please don’t send me back Master. I’ll do anything if you don’t send me back. I can’t go back to that. Don’t send me back to them Master. They’ll punish me if I go back. I was never supposed to enter that race. I lost the Hutts so much money please don’t make me go back. Please-“
“Padawan!” Obi-Wan interrupted. Anakin fell silent, looking at him with worried eyes. He was worrying the edge of his robe again. He almost seemed to be vibrating, as if it was keeping all his willpower to stop him from running out of the room.
“First of all Padawan, you don’t have to go anywhere that you don’t want to go.”
Anakin sagged, his relief obvious. He let out a breath that sounded almost painful.
“I do have some questions I need to ask though when you are ready to answer them.”
Anakin nodded. “Ok. What do you want to know.”
Obi-Wan took a breath. “Anakin do you know we don’t own you. You aren’t our slave.”
In another situation, Anakin would look almost comically confused.
“Of course I know that. Master Jinn told me that after the Pod-Race.”
He took a sigh of relief. “How did he buy your freedom though. I didn’t think Tatooine accepted Republic credits.”
“Oh, he didn’t buy it. He won it in a wager.”
Obi-Wan felt himself freeze. “He what?”
“He won it, along with the hyper-drive for your ship. He bet on me winning the Boonta-Eve classic and if he won he got the parts and he got me. If I didn’t Watto got your ship”
Obi-Wan could feel his breath catching in his throat. “You mean to tell me, that Qui-Gon bet our ship, safety and your freedom on a race.”
Anakin looked confused. “Yes.”
“Please tell me you had actually competed before.”
“Of course. That was the first race I ever finished though.”
Not for the first time Obi-Wan wished that he was able to have a conversation with his old Master. For the first time, however, he didn’t want to ask for his advice. He wanted to ask what on earth he was thinking.
Obi-Wan had to take a steadying breath. There was no point getting angry about his former Masters' recklessness now. He had his own Padawan to look after now, he could put aside his frustrations with his own apprenticeship for now.
“But he told you that you were free. That you could have stayed on Tatooine?”
Anakin just looked even more confused. “Why would I have wanted to stay on Tatooine, Master Jinn told me I could be a Jedi. That I could be like you. Why would I want to stay out on that planet? He offered me all I ever wanted.”
Obi-Wan tried to suppress his grimace. That was better than it might have been but still wasn’t great. It wasn’t like Anakin had been presented with any other option than going with them, but for now, he let it lie.
Anakin edged forward slightly. “Does that mean you don’t have the remote?”
“The remote that controls the chip. Master Jinn got it off Watto I think but I haven’t seen it since. I think he was going to destroy it but I don’t know if he got the chance before we went back to Naboo.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t help but flinch. “No, I don’t have the remote.”
Anakin sagged. “Oh Ok.”
Obi-Wan leaned forward, grabbing hold of Anakin's shoulders. “We didn’t know Anakin. We didn’t know about the chip. Had we known we would have got it deactivated straight away. That is what I was talking to the healers about, we are going to get it deactivated today.
Anakin's face went so desperately hoping that it made Obi-Wans heart hurt.
“You mean, no one will be able to detect it. I’ll be free everywhere, not only here?”
“You are already free everywhere Anakin. But yes, we are going to have it completely disabled. We’ll get it removed if it is safe too, I don’t want anything to make you think you are not your own person.”
Obi-Wan wasn’t sure what he was expecting after that, but it wasn’t for Anakin to throw himself into his arms.
“Thank you, Master! Thank you!”
Master, the word grated against him now. What had always been a typical honorific felt wrong now knowing Anakin's past.
“Padawan, I don’t want you calling me Master if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Why would it make me uncomfortable.”
“I don’t want you to feel like I’m like your old Master. I need you to understand it's different.”
Anakin scoffed. “I know it's different. Watto owned me. He was never my Master. I never called him Master. You are my teacher though, you’re both completely different.”
Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief. “If your sure Padawan.”
Anakin started nodding vigorously. “I’m sure! I’m happy to call you Master.”
For the first time since he had been shown the X-Ray Obi-Wan smiled.
“Master, can we get the chip sorted now?”
“I’ll ask Master Erin,” Obi-Wan said standing. He offered a hand to Anakin before pulling him to his feet.
“Thank You, Master.” Anakin shot him a glance out of the corner of his eye. “Can we still go to Dex’s after?”
Obi-Wan couldn’t help but laugh. “Anything for you Padawan”