Think back to the last time you watched Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We aren’t here to talk about how much you liked or disliked it. It could be 1999, it could be ten minutes ago. I don’t care. Actually, I want to talk about a curious throwaway line. Anakin Skywalker and his mother Shmi are sitting at dinner, giving some insight to their guests Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jar Jar Binks, and Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala, about life on Tatooine. A sandstorm rustles and wails outside, and then Anakin gives some insight into the cruel methods used to keep slaves in line. He mentions a transmitter inside his body (as well as all local slaves) that will detonate if the slave attempts to escape.
Taken at face value, this is a minor detail that keeps the Skywalkers bound to Tatooine long enough for their destiny to catch up with them. Anakin will later win his freedom in the podrace and accept the offer of Jedi tutelage from Qui-Gon, then begin a new life learning the ways of the Force. But back up for a second – does anyone remember them ever taking that transmitter out? Did Anakin undergo some precarious surgery moments before leaving Tatooine? Of course not, they were being pursued by Darth Maul. So what’s the deal with that transmitter?
So here’s the real question – was Anakin, later Darth Vader, ever preoccupied with having a bomb inside him for the rest of his life? Did he ever worry it might go off unexpectedly, or was he aware he could potentially use it as a weapon? I was really curious about this after reading an article over at Uproxx, which I’ve linked here. To me it begs so many questions and hypotheticals that could have drastically changed the outcomes of many iconic scenes.
First Order of Business:
I thought I’d set a few ground rules for what the bomb inside Vader probably-can and probably-can’t-do. First off, the bomb likely has to be triggered by a trigger of some kind. Since it didn’t go off when he left Tatooine, it’s safe to assume that A.) The trigger is a field of some kind that encloses a ‘safe zone’ where the bomb won’t explode – departure of the safe zone results in detonation automatically, and B.) Said bomb can be triggered remotely by the slave’s master.
Something I’ll also be considering is Darth Vader’s relationship to technology. As a child, Anakin was known to be something of a prodigy when it came to tools and tinkering. He was responsible for maintenance on his podracer and also got his own protocol droid C-3PO up and running. Later in life, after suffering traumatic on-the-job injuries in the name of our glorious Emperor, he lost all his limbs to a lightsaber and wound up with cybernetics in place of his arms and legs, as well as other systems to support lungs that had been scorched by exposure to a lava field. That being said, Vader had to learn how to use his body all over again, adjusting to walking, speaking, and grabbing hold of things with a new body that didn’t always work very well. So based on his technical prowess and later cybernetic add-ons to his own body, I believe it’s possible that – if the bomb was still inside Vader – he is aware of it through the Force and the mechanical connections to his limbs. Could he trigger the explosive with his mind? I don’t think that’s out of the question for someone who can throw a lighsaber like a boomerang and choke people through space magic.
Situation One: Leia Sywalker
Arkanis System, the Outer Rim, over Tatooine
A Star Destroyer pursues a lone Rebel Alliance transport that recently took off from the Imperial-controlled planet Scarif. Spraying turbolaser fire with the intent to disable, not destroy, the massive capital ship spits bolts of green energy toward the drifting blockade runner. Onboard the rebel craft, hope begins to dwindle. As the moments of quiet between bursts of fire shorten by the moment, and critical systems fail throughout the ship, the rebels prepare to be boarded.
The troopers rushing to the main hatch have heard the horror stories spreading like a Dantooine brush fire. Pure evil was coming, a monster clad in armor as black as starless space. Hours before, this beast single-handedly killed no less than a dozen fleet troopers. The beast never spoke a word, but his mechanical breathing menaced them enough. Was he some Imperial hunter-killer droid? Could it all be over if there’s even one of these in the galaxy? And if that wasn’t enough, word was spreading that some planet-destroyer had just been exposed by a team of soldiers. It was massive, easily the size of a small moon, and while the technical specs hadn’t been fully dissected yet, it was known that this war machine could move within range of any planet in the galaxy and snuff it out with just one shot.
There wasn’t time for the troops to speculate. Not a moment after they’d prepped for the boarding party, blasters aimed at the main hatch, the doorway erupted in an explosion of sparks. The all-too-familiar lines of red blasterfire scorched through the main hallway. Troopers fell on both sides, but the Empire’s stormtroopers had the advantages of better armor, equipment, and of course a Star Destroyer that dwarfed their own vessel. They were too few in number, too tired from running, to make a stand against a seasoned strike team. The rebel troops knew they had to fall back. It was their ultimate duty to protect the Death Star plans, as well as the person trusted to deliver them to the Rebellion’s allies – Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.
Leia knows all too well the lengths the Empire will go to to extract information from her. But knowing what’s coming and living through it are different entirely. She overhears the screams as her contingent of troops are cut down in the halls of the ship. Her loyal command staff is briefly interrogated by a voice, deep and looming. While she can’t make out the words from the secure office, she does check the holocams, and what she sees is nothing short of horrifying. It’s only made worse when she keys on the audio feed. What she can only assume is a high-ranking Imperial brute in black armor and a cape holds Captain Antilles by the throat in one clenched hand. His feet are dangling above the metal floor and yet bravely, he explains the mission just as he rehearsed.
“We’ve intercepted no transmissions. . .this is a consular ship, we’re on a diplomatic mission!” He croaked.
“If this is a consular ship, where is the ambassador!” The armored man’s voice boomed throughout the room with invisible energy. He didn’t wait for an answer. The monster tightened its cruel grip. Captain Antilles perished before he fell to the ground.
“Commander, tear this ship apart until you’ve found those plans. And bring me the passengers, I want them alive!”
Leia has little to no time to run. Her only hope is to avoid detection long enough, record a message and get it out in one of the droids. Escape pod? Maybe they can all use a shuttle? No, it’s suicide to try and outpilot a tractor beam when you’re already inside the pursuing ship.
Before she can catch up with the bumbling droids, Leia is intercepted. The black-armored man catches up to her, cornering her in one of the repair bays. Even if the blasted droids had been where they should have been, they couldn’t have been much help. Not against this.
“The ambassador, I presume.” His voice was deep and cold and out of sync with his mechanical breathing. Everything about him felt unnatural, from his stiff stance to his emotionless helmet.
“And you are?”
“The end of your rebellion. My men have executed the traitors onboard and now you are among the few who remain. Test my patience and join them.”
“Whatever you’re looking for, it isn’t here. We are on a humanitarian mission to- -”
“I have ways of making you speak.” The dark man raises Leia off her feet, and her hands clasp around her throat, suddenly devoid of breath. This is the one the spies told us about, she knows. Darth Vader.
Vader uses his mastery of dark energies to accomplish his goals. Leia floats helplessly above the floor as Vader seems to enter her mind. She can’t hold him back, and suddenly sees flashes of him intruding her thoughts and memories. Try as she might, she can’t push back against the walls of Vader’s mind. Where her conscience has been opened like an old book, his remains shut tight as an airlock.
Lord Vader continues his search through the young girl’s mind and his taken aback by the number of faces he’s able to recognize. The child was adopted by Bail Organa, senator of Alderaan and old friend during the Clone Wars. She’s met those troublesome Jedi survivors on Lothal. She was trusted with this mission to get the Death Star plans safely to. . .
Leia falls to the floor. With heavy steps, Darth Vader approaches, and with his strange powers, she’s lifted back to her feet.
“Kenobi. What do you know of Kenobi?” He demands.
“I don’t know anyone by that name. My mission is to- -”
Leia is taken aback when Vader falls to one knee, clutching the skeleton mask adorning his face. If he knows of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this plan is doomed, she realizes. This man will stop at nothing to reach his goals, and if killing is his goal, he’s made it abundantly clear what he’s capable of.
Vader falls to his knee, trapped within the vaults of the long closed-off portions of his mind. Years have passed since he let go of everything he ever loved – the Jedi Order, his former master Obi-Wan, and the love of his live, Padme. Padme had been with child when she passed away, or when he lashed out and destroyed her. He couldn’t remember the truth anymore.
His mind flashed back to when they first met down on the surface of this very planet, Tatooine. Padme had been an angel in disguise, sent with the Jedi to free him from slavery and pain. Yet after all these years, those things really never had gone away, had they? Vader was a slave to the Emperor and the pain never subsided anymore. The suit that was his body did little to comfort his ravaged limbs and organs.
More memories came flooding back. He remembered as a child, another painful surgery in which he was implanted with a transmitter. The would-be doctors never explained the procedure, but all the slave children learned about it one way or another. Wander too far off of your master’s property and the transmitter detonates. They’d rather you die then serve anyone but them.
Just like the Emperor.
Leia didn’t know whether to risk it and run or continue to plead for her life. She felt her tension ease ever so slightly, a sign of Vader leaving her mind. Vader looked smaller somehow, as if he’d seen something he wasn’t prepared for. And that was the truth of it. While invading this young girl’s thoughts, Vader had come to a realization. To save her from himself, Padme, or Obi-Wan, or someone had sheltered this child, his child, and she was able to escape the dark path he’d set himself upon.
“It falls on you now,” He said solemnly.
“I don’t follow.”
“You must do what I could not. Leave this place. End the Empire, destroy the Emperor.”
Lost for words, Leia had no response except, “Who are you?”
“I am what you should never be.”
Vader moved toward the central computer of the Tantive IV and began searching through the ship-wide commands. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do from there, given that the ship was still locked by tractor beams. “Does this ship have a self-destruct command?”
“Your boarding party locked us out of everything. I don’t think I could even warm caf right now.”
“So it is. Take what you need and get to the escape pods. I will be the diversion while you escape.”
“Say no more. Go.”
Unsure if she was alive or long dead and dreaming in the afterlife, Leia rushed for the escape pods. Along the way she found C-3PO and R2-D2, her father’s loyal droids. Shushing the gold-plated worry-wort before he could barely utter a syllable, she continued on.
Darth Vader stood before the banks of capacitors, coolant tanks, and other critical engine systems. A critical blow to engine control was his last hope for his daughter, and time was short. He pried panels away from the main systems and, with a painful jolt, wired them into the control panel of his own suit. Then, for the first time in months, he meditated, reaching out into the Force. But instead of focusing on his pain, he focused only on young Leia. He saw so much of himself in her, and so much capacity for good.
When he sensed that the escape pod was safely away, he turned inward again. The rage boiled inside him, and he searched a familiar spot in his body where there rested a dormant explosive device. Focusing his anger and the dark side of the Force into that spot, he generated a powerful repulse that flowed through his body and overwhelmed the ship’s systems. Without warning, the entire ship erupted in a plume of flame. His own star destroyer would be crippled as well, ending the pursuit of Leia Skywalker for another day. When Vader let go, all he saw was the peace his daughter would bring to the galaxy.
“If I may, your highness, where might we be headed now?” C-3PO asked, a worried look on his robotic face.
“Tatooine, 3PO. The rebellion has everything it needs now that these plans are safe.”
“But what of the star destroyer?” Leia looked back on the star destroyer through the escape pod’s viewport, then back to 3PO, “The damage looks far worse from out here.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” She sighed, still unable to process what exactly transpired moments before. “Don’t worry, 3PO. I think I have a good feeling about this.”
“I do hope that monster doesn’t follow us, this sand planet looks miserable enough as it is.”
So, a couple of things. I’m going to be writing/uploading this in parts because it got a little more involved than I first expected! This one was going to just be a throwaway joke. Vader was going to explode at the part where the Tantive IV doors get blown open and I would’ve ended it right there for a laugh. I have more ideas so let’s see what happens, maybe what-ifs will become a series. It’d be fun to explore a couple epic battles and a certain grandson with an idol worship problem.
Thanks for reading! As always, keep on trooping and may the Force be with you.