of the Father: Chapter 17
comes awake with a start and finds herself staring directly into her husband's
Luke?" he demands with quiet intensity.
pushing herself into a sitting position, staring blindly across the bedroom.
Next to her, Anakin props himself up on one arm. Though mentally exhausted,
Padmé knows they've slept for a long time and physically she feels
better despite the ache in her heart and soul. She can feel the intensity
of his gaze without looking at him.
Turning, she looks
down at him. "What was that? A dream? A vision? How
did that happen?"
"I don't know," he
says, impatiently shrugging off her question. "Answer me. Where's
She stares at him
for a moment and sighs in defeat. "Oovo IV."
Roughly, he pushes
himself out of the bed dressed in only his rumpled black trousers.
He paces the room like a caged beast. "I don't believe you," he curses.
"You knew. You knew I forbid
it and you let him go see Kenobi."
"I didn't let him go, Anakin," she says.
"You said it yourself. He's a man. He felt he had to go, so he
did. With my blessing."
The glare he gives
her is pure Vader. "You knew," he says again, his voice soft, but filled
with deadly intensity.
"Is that what this
was about?" he demands, gesturing to the rumpled bedcovers. "Did you
think I was so eager to fuck you I wouldn't notice my son was missing?"
She recoils from his
words as if they were a slap.
"It disgusts me,"
he snarls, "that you're so eager to have Kenobi back you're willing to endanger
your child's life."
She is willing to
take a great deal of grief over this, but he has just crossed a line and
they both know it. Her glare is sufficient incentive for him to hold
his tongue. He postures defiantly for a few more seconds and then grabs
the rest of his clothes, shrugging into them as he heads for the door.
As the door hisses
shut, Padmé pulls her knees up to her chest and folds her arms around
herself, spewing a string of curses that would make a Hutt blush.
It is early evening
when Padmé finally emerges from her bedroom. She is freshly
showered with her hair pulled into a simple knot at the back of her head.
She spent a long while sorting through her closet for something suitable
to wear. Suitable for what, she's not certain. She only knows
that she doesn't want to wear one of Lady Soh's beautiful gowns and her clothes
from Tatooine feel oddly inappropriate as well. She searched through
all the boxes Lady Soh sent over several weeks earlier and found an outfit.
It's oddly reminiscent of what she wore on Geonosis so many years ago.
She hopes that isn't a portent. And rather than being a pristine white,
this soft, close-fitting jumpsuit is black with matching black boots.
She smiles at the absurdity. She and Anakin look like a matched set.
Or rather they would if they stood next to each other. She doubts he's
in a hurry to see her face to face.
Anakin isn't returning
her messages or answering her coms. She's irritated with herself for
being shocked by Anakin's reaction. She knew he would be angry – irate
even – when he learned where Luke went. But she didn't expect him to
accuse her of seducing him as part of some elaborate plot to free her fictional
former lover. Honestly, his reaction isn't unprecedented and certainly
shouldn't have been unexpected. She feels like an idiot for believing
a fourteen year separation was sufficient time to move them past such juvenile
The apartment is empty
save Astor. Padmé knows there are a half-dozen other guards
waiting in the hallway and out on the veranda. Preferring to be alone,
she cossets herself in the kitchen, warming her hands around a mug of H'Kak
bean tea she can't bring herself to drink. She is emotionally exhausted.
has her hands wrapped around the quickly cooling mug when Mehht enters the
kitchen. Padmé doesn't say anything as Mehht joins her at the
small table. When Mehht crosses her arms over her chest and eyes Padmé
speculatively, Padmé looks away.
"Is he talking to
you?" Mehht asks.
softens. "Lorian says he's about ready to send the Imperial Navy looking
catches in her throat. "Anakin can't find him?"
Mehht shakes her head.
"Lorian says the administrator at Oovo IV reported that Kenobi was missing,
but he never saw Luke or the girl."
back in her chair, heart racing. What if Anakin's nightmare was right?
What if something unthinkable has happened to the twins? She has no
idea how literal his visions may be, but she knows that they certainly don't
bode well for her family. "What about Leia?"
"I don't know," Mehht
replies with more than a little bitterness – unaware of Padmé and
Anakin's shared dream. "Lorian was supposed to be looking for her.
As far as he knew, she hasn’t left Coruscant."
hisses under her breath, rising to her feet. She stares out the window,
worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. "Where is Lorian? The Imperial Palace?"
Mehht is still nodding
when Padmé turns and heads for the door. In the hallway, Astor
snaps to attention. Padmé glares at him. "You're going
to have to hurt me to keep me in this apartment," she says darkly. "And
regardless of how angry the Emperor may be with me at this moment, I need
you to consider how dead you will be when he finds out you injured me. "
Astor seems to consider
this information for a moment. "At least allow me to escort you," he
stalks out the door with both Astor and Mehht close behind.
Lorian doesn't seem
particularly surprised to see any of them as they enter Leia's suite of rooms
in the Imperial Palace. He holds up a datapad.
"At least we know who stole the schematics from Korto's apartment," he says
dryly. Padmé knows he must consider Leia the bane of his existence
Groaning, she screws
her eyes shut. If she can make it to dawn without discovering another
of her husband or children's plots, she will consider herself incredibly
lucky. "What was Leia doing with the plans?" she demands, taking the
datapad from Lorian. Just as Anakin indicated, the plans are old, obsolete
and unless you're an engineer, incredibly difficult to read. She returns
the datapad to Lorian.
"I don't know," Lorian
replies. "I doubt she was doing much of anything with them. They
have no value. The project was scrapped. What little headway
was made was dismantled and sold to the highest bidder years ago."
growls in frustration. "Can we please assume these plans aren't useless?"
she snaps. "Regardless of how little certain people seem to value life,
I find it impossible to believe that people are disappearing and being tortured
to death over something that truly has no value."
"The amount of money and raw materials it would take to make use of these
plans is absolutely prohibitive. Without Imperial backing they're nothing
more than a madman's fantasy."
at him impatiently. He's not a stupid man. He's going to figure
it out any second.
Lorian's face goes
"I don't care if he
doesn't want to see me," Padmé orders, "take me to my husband now."
"We have to find Luke
and Leia." Padmé's words are shouted over the din of the Imperial
Anakin meets her gaze,
but holds up his hand to silence her as he concentrates on his comlink.
The room is bustling with activity and Padmé threads her way through
military personnel, making her way to Anakin's private office.
“I expect to see you
within the hour,” he snaps into the comlink before slamming it down on the
desk and rising to his feet.
“Was that Leia?” she
He shakes his head,
his lips pursed grimly together.
“We found the schematics
in Leia’s rooms,” Padmé says, rushing to get the words out before
he orders her from his sight.
“I already know,”
he says cutting her off. He motions to one of the banks of computer
terminals against the wall and Padmé recognizes both Taly and Piett.
“They’re running scenarios now, trying to figure out how much of the Death
Star Palpatine might have been able to reconstruct since money began being
funneled to Byss.”
“Did you find Luke?”
He looks at her, holding
her gaze for a moment before shaking his head again. “Taly had a tracer
on Mara’s ship. Imperial scouts located it abandoned in the shipyards
at Aargau. There were signs of a struggle.”
That’s where Typho tracked Leia down with Solo.”
He nods. “It’s
a convenient jump point into the Deep Core.”
Her blood is pounding
in her ears and she can barely wrap her mind around the possible scenarios.
She starts when wordlessly, Anakin reaches out, gently grasping the front
of her sweater and pulling her flush against his body. He lowers his
head so his lips brush the shell of her ear. “We’ll find them,” he swears.
Tears sting her eyes
and she leans into him. She doubts he has forgiven her, but at this
point, she’ll settle for him ignoring what transpired if she can take comfort
in his arms. It’s progress of a sort, she supposes.
Steeling her resolve,
she squares her shoulders and pulls back far enough to look him in the eye.
“Who were you talking to when I arrived?”
“My personal physician.”
him a questioning look and he elaborates. “Leia has been seeing her.
I want to know why.”
More information only
means more questions and still no answers. She wraps her arms tightly
around herself, feeling chilled to the core. “What are we going to
do?” she asks.
“My private ship is
being prepped for departure. As soon as I speak with Dr. Hess I’m leaving
for Aargau and then the Deep Core.”
“I’m going,” Padmé
Anakin watches her
for a tense moment and then gives her a small nod.
Lieutenant Kyah Hess is everything Padmé isn't. She's tall,
blonde and blessed with curves more suited to a dancing girl than a doctor.
She is also quite young. Padmé assumes that to have risen in
the ranks at such a tender age, Lt. Hess must be quite a gifted physician
– and quite ruthless. Her imperial uniform appears tailored like
a glove, displaying her figure to perfection while adhering strictly to dress
code. Luckily for Lt. Hess, Padmé doesn’t have the spare brain
cycles at the moment to wonder whether or not her husband has been playing
doctor with his doctor.
"My Lord," Lt. Hess
says, giving Anakin a sultry smile.
On second thought,
Padmé does apparently have enough cycles to wonder about her husband's
fidelity. While she has no intention of getting in a catfight over
Anakin, she knows better than to provide him with too much temptation.
She makes a mental note to find some stodgy old Mon Calamari doctor to appoint
as Anakin's private physician at the earliest possible convenience.
"Doctor," Anakin relies
dryly, not bothering to look up from his desk terminal where his attention
is fixated on the latest intelligence reports feeding in.
with a great deal of satisfaction as Lt. Hess's smile cools several degrees.
The doctor squares her shoulders, correctly reading this as a purely professional
house call. She stands at attention in front of Anakin's desk.
Finally turning away
from the terminal, Anakin looks at Lt. Hess. "What were you treating
Lt. Hess swallows
thickly. "My Lord, you must understand that I am not at liberty to
discuss your daughter's medical treatment with you without – "
"I don't have to understand
a damn thing," Anakin interrupts. With a wave of his hand, he triggers
the office door closed.
Without the constant
din of noise from the War Room, the office is shockingly quiet. Lt.
Hess looks around the office. While Padmé knows Lt. Hess was
aware of her presence, the doctor still startles visibly as their eyes lock.
I present Lt. Kyah Hess, my personal physician," Anakin says tightly.
"Lt. Hess, my wife, the Empress Padmé."
Lt. Hess nods, obviously
"Tell me," Anakin
Lt. Hess frowns and
then shrugs. "Insomnia."
a step closer. "Leia was having trouble sleeping?"
Lt. Hess's head snaps
toward Padmé and again Padmé has the impression that the doctor
is unnerved by more than simply her presence. Lt. Hess clears her throat
and nods. "Yes, ma'am."
"For how long?" Anakin
"Quite some time,
My Lord," Lt. Hess replies. "She's been seeing me for a little over
four months. I believe she had problems with the insomnia for several
months prior to seeking help."
her arms over her chest, eyeing Lt. Hess carefully. "How did you help
Lt. Hess meets Padmé's
gaze again and this time there is no uneasy undercurrent. Padmé
questioned the doctor's abilities and Lt. Hess obviously doesn't take such
things lightly. There is a steely quality in the young woman's bright
green eyes. "Medications, ma'am," she says tightly. "I suggested
behavioral changes, exercise, meditation, but the Imperial Princess was not
interested in those suggestions. She said she already tried them all
and she was clearly exhausted."
"So you drugged her?"
"I medicated her,
ma'am," Lt. Hess bristles in reply. "With the latest generation of
sleep medications. They are highly effective with few if any side effects."
She swallows and shifts uncomfortably. Her jaw is still firmly set,
but it's obvious there is more.
"But?" Anakin prompts.
Lt. Hess meets the
Emperor's gaze. "Leia's constitution and metabolism are far more … efficient than most humans."
"So you overmedicated
her?" Padmé demands.
Lt. Hess's expression
tightens, but her tone remains stiffly proper. "No. I didn't.
I adhered to protocol. I informed her I could not diverge from standard
protocol without parental consent. She declined." Taking a deep
breath, Lt. Hess continues, "Personally, I believe that Leia's problems are
more psychological than physical in nature."
at Anakin. "Visions?"
Anakin's jaw clenches.
"That will be all, doctor."
“Kenobi was here,”
Anakin says tightly.
him inspect the confined space of Mara’s ship, saying nothing. This
is her fault and they both know it. She shouldn’t have let Luke go.
He may have an old soul, but he’s still so young. She should have convinced
him to stay, to wait.
“Is there anything
else?” she asks quietly. Padmé doesn’t know what she was hoping
for, some insight from the Force that would tell Anakin where Luke, Mara
and Obi-Wan are, if they’ve been harmed. “Can you sense him at all?” She
has no idea how reasonable her request may be. She has only ever had
the most rudimentary understanding of Jedi powers, but even if she was better
informed, she suspects this situation would be an anomaly. Unlike a
Master's bond with his or her Padawan or even a bond between two powerful
Jedi, Anakin, Luke and Leia's connection to one another is bolstered by a
visceral, physical bond. They are blood relatives who have spent their
entire lives in close proximity with one another. But Padmé
has never questioned the twins’ bond with one another or their father through
the Force. She has no idea if they can sense each other over great
distances or not.
He gives a terse shake
of his head. “Nothing.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” he
snaps impatiently. “Nothing at this point. I don’t get the sense
that he’s been harmed or killed. He’s just … gone.”
Anakin turns abruptly
and passes her as he exits Mara's ship. Padmé follows him as
he stalks his way across the busy dock toward his private ship. The
trip to Aargau wasn't long but Anakin didn't speak to her at all. He
didn't appear to be fuming the entire way – which she considers a positive
turn of events – but she has no idea what he's thinking.
When they enter the
cockpit, there is a message waiting. It's from Lorian informing them
he cannot find Leia or Typho and it's beginning to look like Leia may have
"Dammit!" Anakin swears, punching
one of the instrument consoles. The console sparks and fizzles, the
lights going dim.
burn with tears she will not allow to fall. Both the children are gone.
Luke was obviously taken by force. Leia is missing. She may be
involved with Luke's disappearance or it may simply be coincidence.
Padmé's stomach churns painfully. She knows Leia's absence isn't
a coincidence. Padmé refuses to allow for the possibility that
Leia willfully harmed her twin, but Padmé knows her daughter's disappearance
is related to Luke's disappearance in some way.
And it's all her fault.
In returning to Coruscant with the hopes of righting her wrongs, she ruined
everything and endangered her children's lives.
"It's not your fault."
at her husband and is unable to prevent a tear from tracing down her cheek.
She shrugs, wiping impatiently at the tear. She doesn't want to show
this weakness to him. Not only is he likely to be unsupportive, it's
entirely possible he'll accuse her of trying to manipulate him.
"It's not your fault,"
he says again, more softly.
She looks at him and
then away again quickly. "I thought you were convinced I seduced you
and endangered Luke to free my lover." The words are bitter, the emotions
behind them even more so. She doesn't want to be this way, but she
is so raw right now with worry for Luke and Leia, she can't seem to stem the
tide of vitriolic emotions.
Anakin takes a deep
breath and releases it slowly. He looks absolutely exhausted.
"Sixteen years ago Palpatine used my fears to manipulate me to perfection.
I do not intend for it to happen again."
She watches him for
a long moment. "Does that mean you believe me?"
He looks at her, holding
her gaze. "As difficult as it is at times," he says with a mirthless
smile, "I can learn from my mistakes."
"You made a mistake?"
she prompts in a tone that is more goading than is probably prudent, especially
given his oddly charitable mood.
He smiles at her but
it is not an entirely friendly gesture. "I don't believe you betrayed
me with Obi-Wan."
Given the effort he
puts into forming the words, Padmé isn't at all certain he does believe
what he's saying. Though the fact that he's saying the words at all
is rather astounding. "Good," she says tentatively. "Because
I didn't betray you."
As Padmé watches,
Anakin sighs and closes his eyes, taking a moment to center himself.
Opening his eyes, he wearily scrubs a hand across his face. He
looks at the damaged instrument console. He doesn't seem concerned,
and Padmé assumes the panel didn't regulate any mission critical systems.
"What now?" she asks.
Turning he looks at
her. "There's only one place left to look."
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