It is a time of turmoil in the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying systems is under dispute.
The powerful Trade Federation uses their private armies to enforce their extortionate tariffs, placing systems that do not submit under military blockade. Deep in the Core, the Senate endlessly debates the legality of such measures, though this is cold comfort to the suffering people of the Outer Rim.
In secret, the Supreme Chancellor dispatches teams of Jedi Knights, guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to troubled areas in order to settle the matter directly. In many of these places, this is the first time a Jedi has been seen in generations. Following their negotiations, some choose to remain on assignment for a time, dealing with other problems that have come to their attention...
Anakin Skywalker is quite the problem child, no matter who you ask. She doesn't obey, lashing out at the slavers instead of being properly cowed. She steals. She tells the truth incessantly, wickedly. She takes the lessons of violence the slavers teach and turns them back on her owners with an unholy glee.
A normal slave would've been killed by now, the damage she causes outweighing the profits her brilliant mind could bring in.
But Anakin -
She claims she has a friend who whispers to her when she closes her eyes. She says this friend is everywhere, wrapping around her, watching, nudging.
It's a bizarre claim, almost as bizarre as her mother's insistence that Anakin lacks a father entirely.
But the slaves are a superstitious folk, and Anakin goes beyond lucky.
Angry overseers walk right past her, bellowing out her name as she holds back giggles, face turning red because her invisible friend told her this would only work if she's quiet. And then they start forgetting what they're doing when they go looking - she pushes things over in their sight and they blame the wind - she finds one beating her mother and she says You don't want to do that and the overseer stops, wanders off, confused -
The slaves don't seem impacted by the little demon's curses. (That's what they decide she is, a malevolent spirit of a child killed by the slavers, returned to wreak havoc. They're not sure they'll survive the demon themselves, but their few elders meet one by one, in secret, and then spread the word that the demon should be allowed to do her work. Better, they say, not to interfere.)
(Her mother continues insisting she's a gift. Doesn't mean she's not a demon gift, Shmi's friend says. Shmi laughs.)
Anakin's head starts going floaty, when she's listening the closest to her friend. She does things she shouldn't know how to do. Her friend guides her, there for her always -
When she's twelve years old, she convinces one of the slavers to kill the others - the one with the most hatred in their heart, ripe for a little demon to poke at - and then steals a ship, the biggest and nicest she can find. None of the slaves have ever piloted anything before.
Anakin floats in her head, listening to her friend, and starts turning things on.
The elder slaves organize everyone, saying, This is a choice, every individual one of us must make it - (Anakin won't let them force a single person onto the ship).
Every single slave chooses to flee. A few freemen from the village choose to come, mostly ones just barely above the slaves, who've benefited from the little demon's antics. They take food and medicine and everything of value, and they board the ship where their demon's been working.
Anakin guides the ship away from the planet, everything the dead slavers' allies could use to track it disabled, grinning.
She stops hiding, for the first time in her memory.
Her friend guides her to a planet where slavery is illegal, where her mother and her people can get their tracking implants removed and get a new start in a little quiet valley with the money from the goods they brought...
Everyone can see Anakin, now. She almost draws the eye, even.
The arrival of a shipful of refugees at the tail end of Elesse's time on Transan does not go unnoticed. The governing council asks her to look into it, find out where they come from and what they want. She agrees. She has... a feeling, about it.
She takes a speeder to the landing site, out in the deep country, away from the cities.
There's a large ship, its design the sort of tacky expensive you sometimes find in more backwater areas.
There's a girl sitting on the top, and some weary, bedraggled people unloading, children mostly helping but a few discovering they can run free, here.
The refugees look up, tense and wary, when she arrives. A few children scatter, hiding reflexively.
The girl jumps smoothly off the ship, falling in beside an elderly man coming out to meet her.
Elesse swings smoothly off the speeder and stands to greet the reception committee. Her robe parts briefly and the quick-eyed will note the flash of a lightsaber hilt at her hip.
"Hello," she calls.
"Hello," they say together - the man slowly, guarded, the girl chirping and grinning.
"What brings you here?" the man asks.
"My name is Elesse Vendar. I am a Jedi Knight, here on behalf of the Galactic Republic and the people of Transan."
The girl tilts her head, slowly mouthing the words 'Jedi Knight', while the man blinks.
"And what have we done to merit such august attention?" he says, remembering vaguely that the Jedi are - some sort of official. Said to be capable of influencing spirits, or spirits themselves. (His gaze flicks briefly to the girl.)
"Why, landed here. Transan wishes to inquire what sort of people their new neighbors are, and whether they need any assistance."
"We escaped from slavery," the girl says, while the man's still considering Elesse's words. "It was exciting. But people need the stuff the slavers could identify them with removed, and maybe some stuff to help us get set up farming. And some people have medical stuff."
The man sighs. "She's quite correct. We're hoping to simply be quiet subjects of Transan. Farmers. But we have very few people trained in medicine, and this place is a rather different climate than where we came from."
"And we landed here 'cause my friend thought it's a good place," the girl continues, cheerfully ignoring the man's briefly tight expression.
"I will have medical assistance sent, and will ensure you receive the support you need to begin your lives here."
"What made your friend think that, young one?"
"Thanks," the girl says, which the man echoes, sounding more relieved. Alone, the girl continues with: "And it didn't tell me why. I just knew I was supposed to fly here."
"Could I meet your friend?"
"I think you might already have. Most people just don't listen, though."
"Your friend isn't a person?"
"It talks to me, kinda, and seems pretty person-y. But it's not in one place."
"I must return to the Transan to inform them of your needs. I wonder if you would care to accompany me?"
She's the only one who knows how to pilot the ship if something goes wrong. She's the best at going unseen. She knows before bad things happen -
And she feels sure things will be okay if she leaves.
"Alright," she says, slowly. "Seeing the city'd be neat."
It'd be different, too. (Sometimes Anakin feels all wrapped up in being her people's demon - it's important and people like her for doing it but all the other kids know what she is, and that makes not being a demon all the time hard.)
She smiles. "Good."
To the older man, "I will send help back, and begin the process of expediting your citizenship."
He nods, thanking her again, then glances at the girl.
"I'll be fine," she says. "And so will people here. Let people know I've ducked out, okay?" 'People' mostly meaning her mom.
"Alright," he says, ruffling her hair. She bats at him, laughing, then heads over to stand nearer Elesse.
"Into the speeder, then. It's not a short trip back."
"Alright." She climbs aboard.
Elesse gets into the driver's seat, and they set off.
"So. I sense there are a few details you left out about your journey here."
She hums. "Like where?"
"The part where you said it was 'exciting', how about."
"None of us got hurt. But one of the slavers decided he really didn't like his buddies. They fought. They're all dead, now."