Perseverance

2009.08.07

ani1

“What ho, Ani?”

“Hiya, Professor Didax.”

Visits from Fatriar Didax (fay-tree-are) (die-dax) were among the few things powerful enough to lighten the black mood of a desert planet child slave.  I had been toiling all morning at Watto’s junk shop tearing down and parting out a wrecked speeder some Jawas had brought in the previous afternoon, and had resigned myself to several hours of sweeping the omnipresent sand that blanketed the floor.  The Professor’s presence in the shop was a welcome diversion.

“What are you working on today, Professor?”

“I’ve got a challenge for you,” he insinuated.  “This, as you surely recognize, is a power supply for a moisture vaporator,”  he said dropping a metal box heavily onto the workbench.  “And this,” he began, producing a tangled mess of wires, sensors and relays from a bag he carried slung over his shoulder, “is a compressor controller.  The compressor’s outside.”

Didax was a scholar from the core who wasn’t content confining his pursuits to the theoretical.  He preferred to spend his days out on Tatooine helping moisture farmers increase drinking water production.  A fellow gearhead, he did a lot of work ‘hands-on,’ hacking moisture vaporators.  He was a regular around Watto’s shop, and unlike the smugglers, pirates and bounty hunters who made up Watto’s usual clientele, Didax acknowledged the worth of a slave boy from the Outer Rim.  Rather than ‘slave’ or ‘boy’ or ‘kid,’ he referred to me as a ‘young person.’  A term before he came along, it hadn’t occured to me to claim for myself.

“This stuff,” he said, gesturing with the clump of wires, “is dumb.  It’s primitive.  It’s inefficient.  I need something smarter.”

“I understand.”

“Oh, really?  Alright then.”  With this he leaned back, arms folded and looked at me with a glint in his eye.

I already had a solution, but made a show of looking thoughtful for a moment before retreating out into the junk yard and immediately to a defunct R5 series mechanic droid that I must have passed a hundred times a week in the course of my duties around the shop.  Didax caught up to me just as I was lifting the dome off, so I handed it to him, and pulled out the droids sensors and processing computer.

“You need better sensors and a way to program the compressor to cycle on and off when you want it to, right?”

“Yeah,” he said laughing, “want to wire it up for me?”

“Sure.  If you tell me about the trouble you ran into on Geonosis that one time.”

I finished rewiring the Professor’s smart compressor controller.  It took some doing to cram everything into the tiny space available for it.  The man couldn’t stop smiling.  He seemed genuinely impressed to see my work.

“So how much do I owe Watto for all of this?”

I turned and looked up at the high windows overlooking the shop from an office on the mezzanine.  Framed in the window was the scowling face of Watto, who had been in there all morning sleeping off the aftereffects of a bad night at the Jhabacc tables.  He didn’t look particularly interested in customer service.  He nodded at me and his face vanished from the window.

“I don’t know.  Let’s say twenty druggat for the parts.”

“And the labor?”

I didn’t feel like helping Watto recoup his gambling losses on my back this day, so in response to the Professor’s query, I just shrugged.

“Are you sure?”  he asked again.

I gave a short nod to signal that he should stop asking before Watto realized what was happening.  “Want some help carrying this stuff back outside?”

As we loaded the unit into the speeder I said, “That thing’s the cleanest compressor I’ve ever seen, but it’s obviously not new.  How do you keep the sand out of it?”

“Let me show you,”  Didax said, and removed cowling from around the condensing mechanism to so I could the inside.  All of the seams where the metal had been pieced together had been sealed with what looked like black sludge, but proved to be rock hard to the touch.

“That stuff works, huh?  I could use that stuff for the pod racer I’m building.  I can’t run it reliably with all the sand that goes through it and builds up in the works.”

“I’ve got some right here,” Didax said, and started rummaging through a compartment in the speeder cockpit.  He produced a jar coated with toxic looking drips of the black substance.  “You just brush this anywhere sand might work its way through.  Then you heat it with a flaming torch to get it to seal and set up.”

“So don’t tell your mother where you got it, alright?”  He added as an afterthought.

“Ok.  This is great.  Thanks, Professor Didax.”

“Thank you, Ani.  You’re brilliant.  Whatever Watto is paying you, it isn’t enough.”

As soon as the words had been uttered, a look of horror spread across the scholar mechanic’s face.  He seemed to recoil from his own words.  Slavery, and my own status, was not a topic we had ever discussed, and I had sensed that he had always been uncomfortable with the obvious truth.  “”I’m so sorry,” was all he managed to add.

“It’s ok, Professor.  I enjoy working with you,” I tried to reassure him, and it was true.  For he was the only grown person, aside from my mother, who had ever treated me as a person.

There was a period of silence where I sensed that Didax wanted to continue the conversation but didn’t know what to say, so I told him, “My mother is always telling me,” and in my best motherly voice, I said, “We must have hope, Ani. One day things will be different. I can feel it.  We are not destined to be slaves forever.”

He chuckled at my impression, but asked in a more serious tone, “Does that make you feel better?”

“Not always.  Sometimes I can feel pretty hopeless.  Like this morning before you arrived.”

“Yeah, I don’t put too much stock in destiny, Anakin.  Only in living in the moment, informed by necessity.”

“My mom says we should rely on hope.”

“Hope is not necessary for perseverance, Anakin.”

Those words!  How they echoed inside me.  I felt reinvigorated.  I felt a sense, for the first time, of having a purpose of my own, not reliant on hope, or faith in an as yet unresolved future.  Perseverance.

A week later Fatriar Didax was dead on the ground near a vandalized moisture vaporator, head laid open.  It was the work of Tusken Raiders.

One Response to “Perseverance”

  1. […] with this doubt, treasuring it like a keepsake, an heirloom.  It was the product of something Fatriar Didax said to me shortly before the Jedi got their meathooks into me.  Didax didn’t believe in destiny.  He […]

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