A thick layer of mist concealed the treetops of the jungle planet Asinonyk as Anakin flew in on his Aethersprite, searching for both a clearing to land in and any sign of Separatist activity. The tip of a vine-encrusted pyramid was the only thing visible above the mist - an abandoned Jedi temple supposedly containing artifacts that could swing the tide of the Clone War in favor of the Republic. Obi-Wan had picked up a rumor that Count Dooku was interested in them, so Anakin was on a scouting mission to make sure the Sith hadn’t gotten to them first.
“See anything?” he asked Artoo over the comms.
Artoo beeped a negative, indicating that there was no trace of any other ships on the planet, Separatist or others.
“Okay, let’s try landing in that clearing off to the left,” Anakin decided, decelerating and engaging the thrusters in preparation for landing. Artoo’s response was a skeptical blat, but he didn’t try to steal controls from Anakin, which meant he was in agreement.
Playful wisps of mist curled around the edges of the ship as they sank beneath the treeline, a reflection of the way the Force ebbed and flowed throughout the jungle, centered around the Jedi temple in the distance. The gentle thump of the Aethersprite’s landing startled a few bird-like creatures into the air, but other than that the dark jungle was unchanged and unimpressed by Anakin’s arrival. Anakin jumped out of the cockpit and paused to take a few deep breaths as his boots sank into the forest floor, letting his lungs adjust to the switch from sterile, cycled air to the thick, humid air of the jungle.
“I shouldn’t be gone for too long,” Anakin said once he was done, patting Artoo just above his photoreceptor.
Artoo whirred back that he had a taser and wasn’t afraid to use it if Anakin wasn’t back before night fell.
Anakin snorted. “Alright buddy, I’ll be careful.”
There were no obvious paths or other signs of civilization beyond the temple in the distance, so Anakin plunged into the depths of the jungle at a spot that felt right, trusting the Force to lead him to the temple. Barely any light escaped through the thick canopy, and the hoots and hollers of the animals echoed through the trees, making it seem as if he was surrounded by hostile creatures. After the third time he tripped over an obstacle on the ground, Anakin turned on his lightsaber. The blue light threw the surrounding trees into an eerie light, and all sound ceased. The playful eddies of the Force gained a watchful edge, which grew the closer he got to the temple.
Anakin didn’t even realized he’d reached the pyramid until something sparkled under the blue light. A few careful slices of the vines revealed a metal statuette of some sort of feline - with six forelimbs, horns that curled back behind and around its ears, a forked tail, no claws, and opposable thumbs to separate it from the typical cat - set into a carved recess in the stone of the temple. The Force hadn’t changed from the watchful state, but Anakin couldn’t feel any sort of indication of danger, so he returned his lightsaber to his belt and carefully pulled the statuette out, figuring it might be one of the artifacts he had been sent for. If not, it was the sort of gift Padmé would appreciate, full of history and utterly unique- after he made sure it was okay with Obi-Wan first.
A slight tingle in his flesh hand was the first indication that something was going wrong. A moment later, the tingle shifted into the sadly familiar feeling of being electrocuted. The statuette fell from his hands as Anakin crumpled to the ground, riding out the pain the best he could. Once it was over, his body felt like one giant muscle cramp, bruised and aching. Still, it was nothing he wasn’t used to, so he pushed himself to his feet in order to stagger back to the Aethersprite.
Or, well, he tried to.
Anakin couldn’t see very well in the gloom, and nothing seemed to work right, joints complaining when he tried to sit up, legs getting tangled up in something attached to his spine that hurt when he tugged on it, prosthetic hand just gone. Something heavy had draped itself over him while he’d been recovering from the electrocution, possibly a giant leaf, but it was keeping him from standing upright along with the horrible cramps.
It was impossible for Anakin to determine how much time had passed while he swam out from under whatever was pinning him down as the forest was still dark and gloomy, but it felt like it had been a while. If he couldn’t get back to the Aethersprite soon, Artoo would either be calling in the cavalry or would come charging in himself. Probably both, knowing him. Anakin awkwardly reached out with his flesh hand to call his lightsaber to him with the Force. He could feel the Force curl around his lightsaber, delighting in the kyber crystal, as it flew towards him, but something about it was off. Before he could figure out just what it was, though, his lightsaber hit first his hand and then his face.
Obi-Wan could never find out about this.
He groaned and tried to push himself to his feet once the pain and cramping had passed, pushing passed the nagging sense that something was wrong besides the ancient statuette that electrocuted people. It was only when Anakin gave up trying to stand and flopped back down that he began to consider that something had gone drastically wrong.
The darkness made it difficult to see clearly, but it definitely wasn’t as dark as it had been when he walked to the temple. Therefore, when Anakin looked from his lightsaber to his hand and back again, he noticed a rather severe size change. As in, his lightsaber now looked as if it was about as big as him, rather than sized for his hand. So, either that statuette had seriously messed with his brain somehow, or it had shrunk him and probably done something else awful to him as well.
Anakin liked to think he knew better than to go around shouting in an unfamiliar forest with only a droid as his backup, so he was very careful not to turn the air blue with curses when he squinted at his hand and saw a paw instead. After a much closer and more careful investigation, Anakin determined that he now had three legs, a tail, whiskers, strong ears on top of his head, eyes that could penetrate the gloom of the forest much better than before, fur, and retractable claws.
Oh Force, the statue had somehow turned him into a cat.
How was he supposed to pilot his starship now? He wouldn’t even be able to reach the controls, much less use them without thumbs. He wouldn’t be able to use his lightsaber either, as it was currently way too big for him to even lift, let alone use. As were his clothes. Great.
Anakin squeaked in frustration a few times and clawed up some of the dirt before he turned in a circle a few times and curled up on his clothes in order to think. He was now tiny and nearly defenseless, so he would need a plan to get back to his ship. Once he was there, he could set off the distress beacon and have someone come and pick him up. It would be embarrassing, but at least he would be able to get help. First, though, he needed to figure out a way to survive the jungle.
Wait, hadn’t Artoo mentioned something about coming in after him if he wasn’t finished by sunset? Of course, the droid had couched it along the lines of chasing after him in order to use his taser, but the sentiment had been there. Well, then all Anakin would have to do was wait for Artoo to come after him and hitch a ride out with him. After all the combat he’d been in, the droid was more than a match for any jungle. In fact, Anakin pitied any wildlife that tried to pick a fight.
His plan to get back to the ship formed, Anakin now just needed to survive long enough for Artoo to find him. He was, after all, a baby animal alone in the wilderness, his only immediate ally the Force. It would be pathetically easy for him to be killed and eaten by any of the predators here if he let his guard down.
And so Anakin cracked his connection to the Force open as wide as he could stand it without his mind drifting away from his body, in a way he’d never been able to do around any other Jedi for fear they’d be overwhelmed by his presence. He’d done this only once before, when he’d just become a Padawan and was learning how to meditate, and four younglings in the lesson had passed out. Anakin himself had been one of them, the emotions of all the sentients on Coruscant too much for him to handle. Now, though, he was the only Force-sensitive in the area for him to worry about.
It was almost overwhelming, the sheer amount of information that poured into his head. This planet was teeming with life, and the Living Force was dominant here, almost drowning out the faint echoes of the Light Side left over in the temple. Using the temple as a focus point, Anakin slowly pulled his awareness in from the entire planet to the area around him. It was a good thing there were no sentients on the planet, otherwise it would have taken him even longer.
As it was, Anakin barely registered the feline, which greatly resembled the statuette that had turned him into a cat, that dropped from the canopy to investigate him in time to muster up an effective defense. His fur standing on end, Anakin hissed and swiped at the grasping paw before it could get too close to him. The creature shrieked back at him in outrage, as if shocked that something it considered prey would dare to strike back. Which was ridiculous; prey animals were usually the most vicious when being hunted. Anakin pushed the animal back with the Force, accidentally misjudging how much effort he would need to use in his tiny new body and launching his opponent into the canopy.
Come to think of it, that was probably why his lightsaber had smacked him in the face earlier.
The creature didn’t venture back, and so Anakin was able to spend the rest of his wait in a trance, monitoring his surroundings for Artoo.
The droid came barreling into the clearing with all the subtlety of a shipwreck burning upon re entry to an atmosphere, his taser alit. Artoo froze upon seeing the piles of clothing, prosthetic arm unattached to Anakin’s arm, and lightsaber lying on the ground. Then he whistled sharply, a call for Anakin to stop with the pranks and get out here right now.
Anakin tried to communicate back in binary, but his words came out twisted by his rough tongue, sharp teeth, and biological vocal cords so that he claimed to be a bantha-milk chef rather than telling Artoo he’d been turned into a kitten. Still, that seemed to be enough for Artoo to realize that something was up with him, even if the droid didn’t guess the truth. Jedi turning into kittens was a little far fetched. If Anakin hadn’t been living it, he never would have believed it.
Artoo tucked the lightsaber away into the special compartment Anakin had built for it then scooped up his clothes and prosthetic with a claw and beeped out an order for him to follow. Best droid ever.
The trip back was uneventful, and Artoo set up the distress beacon to seek out the nearest Jedi ship. After that, all they had to do was wait. Anakin closed his connection to the Force and curled up in his seat for a much needed nap.
Anakin was woken up by a large hand wrapping around his belly and lifting him in the air. He reflexively hissed and dug his claws into the hand, but it didn’t release him. Anakin reached out to the Force to help him before he realized that it was Fives that had picked him up.
“Kark, that hurt,” Fives cursed, dumping Anakin back onto the seat of his starfighter and cradling his hand to his chest.
“Well, what did you expect? You startled the little guy,” Rex said, also amused by Fives.
Anakin immediately perked up and tried to say “Rex!” but all that came out was a small meow.
“You gotta make sure you support their butts when you pick them up,” Rex continued as he carefully scooped Anakin up as if to demonstrate. “Otherwise they’ll get scared and lash out.”
Anakin meowed indignantly, prepared to jump back down to his seat, except then Rex started scratching behind his ears. It felt really nice. He didn’t mean to start purring and settle down into Rex’s hand, which was almost as big as he was, but he did. It was very easy to feel safe now that his comrades and friends were here.
“How do you know so much about taking care of kittens?” Fives asked.
“The Commander smuggled one on board a few months ago. I helped her take care of it until we found it a new home,” Rex explained.
Anakin would have made a note to make Ahsoka meditate on the foolishness of keeping cute baby animals from him, except he was too comfortable to want to inflict such torment on her.
“I couldn’t find any sign of Anakin,” Ahsoka said as she jogged out of the jungle, her shoulders slumped. “It’s like he just disappeared, but I can still feel him in the Force.”
Anakin immediately perked up. He could tell Ahsoka what happened through the Force, and she would be able to hear him through their bond. He reached out along the bond, sending waves of happiness, as they hadn’t worked on it enough to send words. Ahsoka froze, glancing around as if he might emerge from the jungle at any second.
“Master,” she yelled back at the jungle. “Master, where are you?”
Anakin meowed in response.
Artoo beeped at Rex, attempting an explanation.
He felt more than heard Rex’s surprised intake of breath.
“General Skywalker?” Rex asked as he carefully raised Anakin up so that he was level with the Captain’s face.
Anakin nodded and reached out to gently bop Rex on the nose. Finally, someone besides Artoo recognized him!
“Oh kriff, that’s the General,” Fives exclaimed, horrified. “Commander, we found him!”
Ahsoka’s eyes widened when she saw Fives gesturing at him, carefully cradled in Rex’s hands. Then she burst into laughter.
“How in the Force, Master,” she giggled. “Just, how?”
Anakin grumbled at her, but had no way to explain about the statue and so settled for glaring. Maybe he should revisit that meditation idea.
“Fives, contact General Kenobi and brief him on the situation. Commander, I think you should take General Skywalker now,” Rex said, taking charge of the situation while the two Jedi were indisposed.
Anakin was carefully handed over to Ahsoka, who immediately brought him up to eye level.
“You make a really cute kitten, Master,” she said, a barely suppressed grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.
Anakin meowed and rubbed his head against her arm. Ahsoka was family and needed to be marked as such. Come to think of it, maybe he should have made sure some of his scent got on Fives and Rex - wait no. Humans didn’t scent mark people. Oh Force, he was starting to think like a cat. That statuette was bad news, and as soon as they got back to the temple he was telling someone about it even if he had to use badly accented Binary to do so.
Ahsoka tucked him into the crook of her arm and patted him with her other hand while they waited for Fives to get done updating with Obi-Wan. Hopefully his old Master had heard of something like this before. Otherwise they were going to have to spend a lot of time in the Archives.
Still, maybe he had time for a quick nap while they waited. He was really comfortable, and it probably couldn’t hurt.
Anakin blinked his eyes open and meowed in a questioning tone when he felt Ahsoka move.
“It’s alright, Anakin, I’m just sitting down,” Ahsoka soothed, running her hand down his spine once before turning back to whatever it was she had been doing before she woke him up.
Anakin huffed and tucked his feet underneath his body. Hopefully Ahsoka would start petting him again soon. It was her duty as his Padawan, now that he’d been turned into a kitten without an immediate way back to his old body.
“Master Obi-Wan said he wants you to come back to Coruscant so the Healers can make sure you’re okay,” Ahsoka continued. “I’m taking us there while Rex rounds up the rest of the 501st, and Fives is taking care of your Aethersprite .”
Anakin’s ears flattened against his head. Fives had better be careful with his ship. Obi-Wan was going to laugh at him for being careless around unknown artifacts and ending up a kitten, he just knew it. And oh Force, what would Padmé do once she heard?
“Hey, Skyguy, it’ll be okay,” Ahsoka said, picking up on his distress. “Master Obi-Wan will know what to do.”