Sins of the Father:  Chapter 3
Futures Unknown
by indie

Artoo’s squawking wakes Padmé from her restless sleep moments before Typho pounds on her bedroom door. 
“Milady!  Milady!” he bellows.  “There is an intruder.”
There is a rustle and Padmé sweeps her eyes to the side.  She sees the cloaked form standing in the shadows and her heart catches in her throat for a moment.
Ironically, it’s Artoo that sets her mind at ease.  He’s rolled himself into the middle of the room, positioned between Padmé and the trespasser.  Unceremoniously, he makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a child blowing a raspberry and quickly retracts his various sensors.  Padmé watches as he returns to his post in the corner of the room, obviously unconcerned.
Padmé doesn’t need to be Force sensitive to know who is standing in the middle of her bedroom just as dawn is beginning to turn the sky pink.  “Do you want me to ask the cook to make Muja muffins?” she asks blandly.  “I think she was planning to make lamta, but I know you don’t like that.”
The irritated sigh is so quintessentially that of a teenage girl, that Padmé has to stop herself from smiling.  A smile will most certainly not be appreciated by her visitor.  Padmé learned long ago that Leia is just as mercurial as her father, and her temper is just as easily provoked.  Padmé desperately hopes it's a stage out of which her daughter will eventually mature.
“It’s all right, Captain,” Padmé calls toward the door where she suspects Typho is now looking for a cutting torch. 
“Milady?”  He sounds unconvinced.
“It’s just Leia,” she explains.
Padmé does smile this time because despite the closed door separating them, she can clearly hear the stream of curses Captain Typho mutters under his breath.  Leia has always excelled at pushing the man’s patience to the very limit.
"You could have used the door," Padmé says gently, swinging her legs over the side of the bed and rising to stand.
Leia's only answer is a derisive snort.
As Padmé pulls her own pale blue robe on over her nightgown, Leia shrugs out of her black nanosilk cloak. 
Padmé turns away so Leia won't see the frown the tugs at her lips.  Leia is dressed in black from head to toe.  Synthleather pants hug tightly to her hips and buttocks.  Though the long sleeved, high-necked shirt should be sufficiently modest, it's not, due to the fact that it's made from semi-transparent zoosha fabric.  Her ruggedly constructed boots appear to be more suited to combat than sneaking around the Senate apartment buildings. 
It's obvious that Leia has been out all night.  Padmé bites her lip to stop herself from demanding to know what havoc Leia has wrought.  Leia is her daughter and in Padmé's eyes, still very much a child.  Padmé is all too aware of the immense amount of maturation that still remains to be done.  But Padmé also remembers that by this age, she had already served two years as Queen.  At sixteen, Anakin was a Padawan learner and faced any number of dangers alongside his mentor. 
Leia is pacing around the room like a caged nexu.  Padmé knows it's far better to wait for her daughter to speak than to push her, so she walks into her closet, searching for attire.  She pulls out a simple pair of pants and matching top in a sage green.  The material is delectably soft and though it wouldn't be suitable for public, it is more than sufficient for breaking her fast in the privacy of her own apartment.  She quickly changes into the garments.
"You missed a fine performance last night," Padmé says lightly.
"I suppose Mehht was all with the oohs and the ahhs over the running water and electricity," Leia counters scornfully.
This one, Padmé doesn't let slide.  Slowly, she pivots around and fixes her daughter with a positively withering expression.  Somewhat to Padmé's surprise, Leia has the decency to look chastised.  "I do believe Mehht enjoyed it as well," Padmé says.  "You can ask her at breakfast."
Padmé knows that Leia would love nothing more than to refuse.  However, for all of Leia's independent and rebellious nature, there is still something of a little girl in her that isn't quite ready to leave the nest entirely.
Leia flops down onto the unmade bed, unlacing her boots and crawling under the covers.  "I don't want lamta," she whines pitifully.
Padmé resists the temptation to roll her eyes as she walks to the antique Oro wood vanity near the window.  "Artoo," she says, "please have Threepio request that the cook make Muja muffins this morning."
Artoo's mechanical reply sounds patently disapproving, but he quickly bypasses security on Padme’s bedroom door and wheels himself down the hall in search of his protocol droid counterpart.
Padmé sits down at the vanity and pulls the brush through her hair while studying Leia's reflection in the mirror.  "Chiski was asking about you the other day," she says.
One of Leia's eyebrows arches in an expression that is pure Anakin.  "Where'd you run into him?" she asks, attempting to sound casual and failing miserably.
Padmé smiles.  Chiski Roan is the son of a pourstone merchant back in Anchorhead on Tatooine.  He has been a friend of the twins for as long as Padmé can remember.  In the last several years, Chiski has grown from a charming, rambunctious little boy into a strikingly handsome young man.  Padmé knows she is not the only one who has noticed.
"I rode with Owen to Tosche Station last week," Padmé says.  "Chiski was up there working on a pod racer with Fixer and Biggs."
Leia seems to consider this information for a moment.  Padmé divides her long hair into three strands and quickly braids it with well-practiced motions.
"When are you going home?" Leia asks.
Padmé studies her in the mirror before turning to face her.  "What makes you think I'm going back to Tatooine?" she asks.
Leia stares at her blankly for a moment and then shrugs.  "You have Mehht with you," she says.  "You can't tell me that she's moving here."
"No," Padmé agrees, "Mehht is just visiting.  She was kind enough to keep me company on the trip here."
Leia reads between the lines.  "But you're staying?"
"I don't know," Padmé admits, rising to her feet and pacing to the window.  The high-speed air travel lanes are already packed with the morning rush.  She leans her forehead against the transparisteel window.  “Perhaps I could be of some good here,” she says wistfully.  “Mehht and I had dinner with Senator Organa and his wife last night.  Bail mentioned that he and Mon Mothma are inundated with work.  Perhaps I could do something to help them.”
Oh.”  Padmé turns in time to see Leia’s smug grin on her face. 
“What?” Padmé asks warily.
“You didn’t by any chance run into my father last night did you?” she asks in a knowing tone.
Padmé studies her daughter for several moments before she finally answers.  “Yes.”
Leia nods and sits up in bed, scooting to the edge and then rising to her feet.  “He was in fine form last night,” she says sardonically.  “I wondered what set him off.”
Padmé doesn’t want to ask.  She has gone out of her way for years to not put the twins between her and Anakin.  But she can’t help herself.  “What was he doing?” she asks.
Leia shrugs.  Absently, she reaches out with the Force and summons a Sepp crystal ballerina figurine from Padme’s vanity.  “Yelling mostly,” she says blandly, moving her hand and causing the figurine to pirouette gracefully in mid air.  No doubt by this point, both Leia and Luke are generally inured to their father’s temper.  “He was trying to contact Luke.  Lieutenant Veers was supposed to be keeping tabs on Luke, but when Veers couldn’t find Luke, Dad sort of ... strangled him.”  She looks at Padmé and shrugs.  “A little.” she amends.
Padmé’s spirits fall.  This is the man she’s supposed to be reaching out to, the one who is enraged by a simple dinner she had with old friends and takes out his fury on his underlings. 
Easily reading her mother’s emotions, Leia adds, “Veers will be fine.”
Padmé frowns at her daughter.  “That doesn’t excuse the behavior, Leia.”
Leia rolls her eyes, convinced her mother is overly sensitive. 
Padmé wonders again at the futility of her actions.
“Kore and Sullee found the trunks you were asking about,” Mehht says, absently blowing a curling tendril of blondish brown hair out of her green eyes.  She’s standing in Padme’s sitting room, hands on her hips.  They’ve spent hours sorting through closets and storage rooms.
“Did they open it yet?” Padmé asks.  Like Mehht, she’s once again dressed in her simple beige tunic.  It’s appropriate for the messy task of sorting through things that haven’t been touched in years, but it is also as comforting as it is comfortable. 
“They didn’t say,” Mehht replies.  “You know,” she says pointedly, “it would be easier to find things if you’d tell us what we’re looking for.”
Mehht has a very valid point, but Padmé doesn’t feel like sharing.  “I’m just looking,” she says evasively.  Kneeling on the carpeted floor, she continues to sort through the box of papers in her lap.  “Maybe we’ll find something useful.”
“Useful,” Mehht parrots doubtfully.  “As far as I can tell, when you were a Senator you didn’t own a single useful thing.”
From Mehht’s point of view, the statement is most certainly true.  On Tatooine, a woman is expected to have any number of useful tools in her possession.  With a climate so harsh and changeable that it will quickly kill the unprepared, life sustaining paraphernalia are an absolute necessity.  However, Padmé wonders if Mehht’s outlook might not be a bit different had her fiancé not perished so early in their courtship.  A married woman needs any number of tools and at times, the ones made of silk and lace can be just as useful as durasteel and multitools.
“Senator Amidala was surprisingly resourceful even without a utility belt.”
Padmé and Mehht both startle, turning toward the door.  Anakin is standing there, once again dressed in his black robes of zeyd-cloth and leather.  His eyes meet Padmé’s and hold them for several long moments before he turns his attention to Mehht.
“You must be Mehht Whitesun,” he says.
Mehht opens her mouth to speak, but then shuts it and nods quickly.  On the Lars homestead, the Emperor is not often discussed unless the twins are recounting a specific incident.  But even in the Outer Rim, his reputation is well known.  Mehht is terrified.
“Mehht,” Padmé says gently, “please find Kore and Sullee and ask them to move the trunk to my bedroom.”  Grateful for the reprieve, Mehht nearly runs from the room.
Padmé turns her attention back to Anakin to find him smiling cruelly at Mehht’s retreating form.  He looks back to her and his smile fades under her withering glare. 
“It is quite beyond me,” she says hotly, “why the Emperor would go out of his way to terrorize an anonymous young woman from the Outer Rim.”
“Oh, come now, Padmé,” he says, his voice rife with condescension, “she’s hardly anonymous.  By all accounts Mehht Whitesun is the best friend and closest confidant of Empress Skywalker.  You can’t really think I would consider her beyond my notice.”
Padmé catches Typho out of the corner of her eye.  He’s standing in the hallway, ready to intercede instantly if she wishes.  Padmé’s cheeks turn pink with shame.  She is often appalled, but rarely shocked by Anakin’s behavior.  However, knowing other people see this side of him humiliates her.  This is the man to whom she pledged her heart.  This is the father of her children.
Perhaps Typho senses her shame and takes pity – or perhaps he’s interested in self-preservation.  Either way, he retreats down the hall, leaving Padmé and the Emperor in private.
She sets down the box she’s holding and folds her hands in her lap.  She stares blindly at the Japor snippet she has worn around her left wrist for the last eighteen years.  “Why are you doing this, Anakin?” she asks quietly.
He doesn’t answer.  Instead, he crosses the room.  He stands in front of the window, hands clasped behind his back, feet apart, back ramrod straight.  His head is held high.  From what she can see of his profile, his chin juts out defiantly.  He stares out the window, surveying his empire.
“Why are you here?” he asks without turning to face her.
“Do you wish me to leave?” she counters.
He turns to her, lips pursed tightly.  He’s always hated it when she answers a question with a question.  “I didn’t say that,” he replies.
With far more grace than should be possible, Padmé rises to her feet, refusing to kneel before him.  She smoothes down the front of her tunic and Anakin’s eyes follow the movements of her hands.  He stares at her clothing for a long moment, his expression a strange mixture of irritation and pleasure that makes no sense to Padmé.
He forces his attention away from her garments and back to her face.  “You are welcome here for as long as you like,” he says.  “You have always been welcome here.”
She tilts her head to the side and studies him for a moment.  He accepts the scrutiny in silence, but it’s all for naught.  She has no more insight into him or his motives than she had last night at Te.
“And if I care to assume a more formal role?” she asks.
He smiles Lord Vader’s cold, empty smile.  “Whatever you wish, my love.”
"All of them?" Padmé asks incredulously.
Senator Bail Organa looks at her from his position across the room.  "Yes," he says solemnly.  He locates the datapad for which he has been searching and returns to the conference room table where he and Padmé are sorting through literally mounds of refugee relocation paperwork.  The volume of work to be done is staggering.
“There’s no formal governing board for these requests?” she asks.
“There’s an Office of Displaced Populations,” he replies.  “But they’re under staffed and under motivated.  They’re more of a hindrance than a help.  We lost almost three hundred thousand refugees in the Bajic sector last year after a biohazard contamination.  ODP dragged their heels so long that we had nearly a hundred percent fatality.”
“Who is responsible for this?” Padmé demands.  The obvious answer, of course, is the Emperor.  However, Padmé knows – as does Bail – that Anakin does not concern himself with a good portion of the Empire’s daily grind.
“Mas Amedda and Orn Free Taa,” Bail says gravely.  “They’re corrupt to the core, both of them.  And they’re left largely to their own devices.”
Bail looks at Padmé and the unspoken request nearly reverberates in the air.  Do something.
Padmé looks away, staring blindly out the window.  Slowly, she nods.

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