of the Father: Chapter 9
“Where have you
been?” Mehht demands, racing across the room
to meet Padmé at the door to her penthouse.
“Taking care of
family business,” Padmé replies. Hastily, she tacks on,
“And securing a slicer
to work on Korsa Dae’s computer terminal.”
Mehht grins from
ear to ear.
“We found him,” she says smugly.
She grabs Padmé’s arm, positively giddy.
“Karrde,” she squeaks. “We found
smiles at Mehht, patting her on the arm. She shoots a glance at
Lorian who is standing
at attention near the far wall trying – and failing miserably – to
in the face of Mehht’s enthusiasm. “I
take it you made progress,” Padmé prompts.
says with a great deal of satisfaction. “We got a list of slavers
and a few addresses
of high ranking Senators who are engaging in trafficking.”
cloak to Sullee, Padmé frowns. “I’m not sure this falls
under the ODP
purview,” she says seriously.
Mehht arches an
“Are you going to let that stop us?” she asks.
thinks about it for a moment. “No,” she admits.
touches her shoulder and Padmé turns to face
him. “It’s late,” he says. “I’m going to head back to the
Padmé brings her hand up and presses two fingers
gently to his cut lip and bruised jaw.
“Are you okay?” she asks quietly.
“I’m fine,” he
He leans forward and quickly pecks her on the cheek. “Sleep
well,” he says.
watches him leave and turns back to Mehht. Mehht is so excited
and Padmé wants to humor
her, but she is also tired. “Do you mind
if we discuss the specifics in the morning?” she asks. “I must
have walked ten kilometers today. I’m exhausted.”
kilometers?” Mehht repeats, frowning. “What did you do today?”
“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she says.
Two days later,
Padmé frowns at Bail across the ODP
conference room table. “I still don’t
understand why Karrde would be so helpful,” she says skeptically.
Bails nods in
"I'm not certain either," he says. "Karrde may have no love for
or corrupt Senators, but as far as I know, he's not affiliated with the
takes her mug and stands, turning her back to Bail as
she makes her way to the credenza along the far wall. She takes
her time pouring more caf. This is the third time that Bail has
mentioned the Rebellion since she returned to Coruscant. It
discomfits Padmé greatly. Despite her private war with her
has no desire to engage in actual, literal treason or subversion.
Bail says. "I don't mean to make you
turns to face him.
She takes a drink of her caf and looks at him over the rim of the
mug. She lowers the cup, wrapping her
hands around it to warm them. "Yes
you do," she says softly.
rising to stand.
One wall of the conference room is made of transparisteel and he looks
through it out into the ODP's outer office, making sure they're
Lorian, despite explicit instruction from Lord Vader to the contrary,
left Padmé's side in order to escort Mehht to The Works.
Padmé almost felt sorry for Lorian. He certainly didn't
want to disobey his
direct orders, but when Mehht made it quite clear she would go with or
him, he relented.
turns his head to look at Padmé and a wry grin
twists his lips. "Perhaps I do
intend to make you uncomfortable," he admits wearily. He sighs,
sinking back into his chair. "I don't mean to cause you
trouble," he says. "It's just
that you were always one of my staunchest allies and you are the one
a position to exert real influence over the Emperor."
"I'm not sure
how much influence I have," she
replies honestly. She hasn't spoken to
Anakin since their verbal skirmish in his private quarters two days
"And truth be told, I need to save it to
lobby for concessions that have nothing to do with the state of the
nods, returning to the conference room table and
sinking into the chair opposite Bail.
"Is it that obvious?" she asks.
He meets her
gaze unflinchingly. "Many people worry
about the future of the Imperial princess," he says.
sighs and sets her caf on the table. "I don't know what to do,"
says. "It's my fault. I'm her mother. It wasn’t as
noticeable on Tatooine. She’s
always been restless. But here … In
different surroundings she seems like a different person. I
should have done something long ago."
"Would it have
helped?" he asks seriously.
"I don't know,"
Padmé admits. "I know I raised her better than this –
to be a better person."
"She does have
two parents," he says pointedly.
it's not that simple," Padmé says, exasperated, but not
"It's so easy to blame Anakin for all of
this, but the truth is that Leia is in some ways more dangerous than
him. Anakin doesn't flinch from doing whatever he
thinks he needs to do to justify his ends.
He's misguided, egomaniacal, self-indulgent … But he doesn't take
enjoyment in the atrocities
thinks back to the conversation in Anakin's private
quarters two nights ago. It wasn't
exactly friendly, but it was at least honest and open – more of a real
conversation than she's had with him in the last sixteen years.
She supposes her feelings on the matter
should just confirm her fears – her marriage is dysfunctional to
disinclined to accept Padmé's assessment of
Anakin, but he doesn't argue. "And
Leia?" he prompts.
don't know," she says, thinking back to the look of cruel satisfaction
Leia's face when Anakin reprimanded Luke.
"She's still so young I have to believe there is hope."
"Leia is quite
adept at politics," Bail says. He holds Padmé's gaze and
she can almost hear
his thoughts in her own mind. As was Palpatine.
"I know," she
outer door hisses open and both Padmé and Bail
glance toward the transparisteel wall.
A man walks into Padmé's line of sight.
He appears to be near her age. He
is tall and thinly built, his red hair graying at the temples, eye
obscured behind a pair of antiquated thick wire-rim spectacles.
He steps into the conference room and bows
deferentially. “Empress Skywalker,” he
she responds kindly, rising to her feet.
Taly during the Clone Wars, but never knew him
well. He owned a very prosperous
security company and developed a revolutionary code breaker which he
the highest bidder. An old friendship
with Obi-Wan was the reason he made his first offer to the
He eventually paid dearly for his
sentimentality. He was betrayed by one
of his closest confidants, the code breaker was destroyed and the
ruined his corporate headquarters on Genian.
Taly was astonishingly bright and driven and Padmé fully
expected him to
recreate his former success, but in the twenty years since the skirmish
Genian, she hasn’t heard his name.
realize you worked for the Empire,” Padmé says,
offering him a chair.
He declines with
a shake of his head, preferring to
stand. “I don’t,” he clarifies. “I am doing this as a
personal favor to the
Emperor. These days I prefer to keep a
nods and does not press him further. Who is she to question
someone who wishes to
live a life of obscurity?
uncomfortably, obviously ill at ease with small
talk. “The Emperor said you had a
computer terminal you wished me to inspect,” he says.
“Right this way.” She leads him
to Korsa Dae’s terminal.
Padmé says, her brow furrowing with a frown. “I
don’t even know where that is.”
mean anything to me either,” Taly says. “I had to cross-reference
with the Imperial star charts to get a system name. It definitely
looks like funds were diverted
there, not just from ODP but from other Imperial agencies as
I can’t say for certain without examining
more of the upstream systems, but right now, this looks much bigger
greedy departmental administrator.”
“Can you locate
the upstream systems?” Bail asks, leaning
over the back of Taly’s chair, staring at the lines of machine code
obviously reading. Realizing the
futility of his efforts, he rises to his full height, crossing his arms
“Theoretically yes,” he replies.
“Provided they don’t know we’re on to them, I should be able to glean
more information. If they haven’t been
meticulous about clearing their logs, I might be able to find more end
terminals. That would give us a better
idea of who is involved.”
institutions,” Padmé says. She can’t read the machine code
she knows this definitely involves money.
A lot of it.
“And if I’m not mistaken, one of these upstream systems looks like it’s
tied to the Senate.”
“What do you
need to continue?” Bail asks.
Taly swivels in
his chair, looking up at the much larger
man. He pushes his spectacles up on his
nose. “I’ll make a list,” he replies,
watching Bail as he sifts through Taly's list of
supplies and requests. The outer door to
the ODP office hisses open and Padmé turns, expecting to see
Mehht. Instead, she looks directly into
Anakin's blue eyes. Her posture
immediately stiffens and she reflexively takes a step backward, away
note of her movement and his lips curl into a
rueful smile. She takes that to mean
he's still nursing the wounds she delivered to his ego. If that
prevents him from accusing Bail of
becoming her newest lover, she considers it time well spent.
the newcomer, Bail turns to face him. "My Lord," he says with a
Anakin replies with a tight frown.
steps away from Bail and crosses the room to stand in
front of Anakin. "Is there
something wrong?" she asks quietly.
sixteen-year-old daughter is still offworld,"
he says flatly.
watches him for a moment, then another. "Is that out of the
asks carefully. She is probably even
less thrilled than Anakin that Leia is running wild around the galaxy,
hardly news. Much to their parents' chagrin,
both twins tend to do what they want when they want without consulting
for permission. The twins will be
seventeen this year. Padmé fears that it
is far too late to try and rein them in.
"Not in my
experience," he says. "Is it in yours?"
She shakes her
head and is at least marginally reassured
that it's not only her failure as a mother that's at issue.
Apparently Anakin, with all the resources of
the Empire, has no better luck keeping track of Leia than she
At least on Tatooine Leia usually only made
it as far as the backseat of Chiski Roan's speeder before Typho tracked
down. Padmé thinks it should be
easier to keep tabs on her daughter. Unlike Anakin and Luke, Leia
seems to have little interest or proficiency in piloting.
However, the deficiency has never hindered Leia. She is quite
adept at finding adequate transportation to wherever it is she wants to
frowns at Anakin.
"Did you come here to talk about Leia?" she asks.
"No," he says,
shaking his head. "Lorian contacted me. He has been
detained and didn't want to leave
you without an escort."
Padmé says, shocked that Anakin would be bothered to take care
of such a
mundane task. "Isn't Luke
available?" she asks.
"I don't know,"
Anakin replies, lips pursed
tightly together. "That boy has
succeeded in testing every ounce of patience I have over the last two
days so I
decided to spare myself the headache of asking."
doesn't know how a well-adjusted father should relate
to his teenage son. She does know that
she finds the idea of Anakin and Luke engaged in a war of mutual
aggravation to be far more palatable than the idea of them trading
she points over her shoulder at
Bail, "still going over a few things."
"I can wait,"
Anakin says, taking a seat in one of
the chairs that line the wall.
stares at him in bewilderment. "Um, okay," she finally says
and returns to speak with Bail.
Bail turns from
where he's watching Taly, pretending not to
notice the exchange between the Emperor and Empress. He
looks pointedly at Anakin.
Bail looks at
her in disbelief.
"Don't ask," she
says. "I don't have an explanation."
Padmé retreat to the conference room. Solely on principle,
Padmé tries not to
hurry. But the idea of Anakin waiting in
the next room makes her sufficiently nervous that she finds herself
things earlier than normal.
cloak, she bids Bail good night and heads for
the door. Anakin is standing at
attention, waiting. He ushers her
through the door and toward the turbolift that will lead to the rooftop
The ride to the
roof is in silence and Anakin solicitously
helps her into the transport shuttle. He
takes a seat opposite hers inside the shuttle, leaning forward, elbows
against his knees. There's a nervous
energy about him that Padmé finds very discomfiting.
"Taly will need
certain security clearances to continue
his investigation," Padmé says.
"Lieutenant Piett currently has oversight of the Imperial Security
Office. He can arrange whatever access Taly
frowns at Anakin.
"You trust Taly that much?" she asks skeptically.
"I trust him to
do his job," Anakin replies
leans back in the seat, studying Anakin closely. She well
remembers how adept Talesan Fry is at
playing politics. As a child he refused
to name Passel Argente, Magistrate of the Corporate Alliance, as the
ultimately responsible for many deaths, including those of his own
parents. Later, Taly blackmailed Argente for the money
to start his own security company.
"What does Taly
have on you?" Padmé asks, eyes
narrowed at her husband.
Anakin meets her
"Absolutely nothing," he says firmly.
something," Padmé counters.
"Not hiding," he
amends. He drags a hand restlessly through his short
hair. "I just have to figure out
how to phrase it."
insides go cold at the thought. Anakin's confessions are never
good. "Tell me," she says tightly.
mentioned that you are investigating Talon
Karrde," he says.
investigating Talon Karrde," Padmé
replies truthfully, knowing that Lorian must have relayed the
information. "Mehht is working with him on her slave
trade inquiries. Why do you care? You informed me in no
uncertain terms that
you didn't want to be consulted on my activities."
works for Karrde," Anakin
replies. "She handles security,
infiltration, the bare bones of information brokering. Despite my
attempts to prevent it, Luke has
formed a friendship with the young
stares at her husband.
"What aren’t you telling me?" she asks. "Why does it matter that
works for Karrde or that Luke is her friend?"
back in his seat, his booted foot tapping the
floor in agitation. He stares out the
window, unwilling to meet her gaze.
The feeling of
dread in the pit of Padmé's stomach
He looks at her,
holding her gaze. "Taly and his wife, Sekka, were unable
to have children. They adopted Mara with
"What exactly do
you mean by your
She cannot imagine Anakin doing Taly a favor out of the goodness of his
little black heart.
"I mean after I
killed her mother, I took Mara to Taly
and Sekka," Anakin replies bluntly.
physically recoils from the information.
"It was less
than a year after Palpatine issued Order
66, during the Jedi purges," Anakin explains matter-of-factly. "I
didn't know about Mara when I went
after Siri. Not that I think it would
have mattered. Siri never would have
gone into hiding, even to protect her child.
I didn't find her daughter, Mara, until later." He shifts in his
seat, dragging his hand
through his hair again. "I didn't
tell Palpatine. If he had known he would
have demanded Mara be killed."
watches her husband, specifically his uneasy body
language. She knows he murdered the
younglings at the Jedi Temple. He has never
voiced any hesitation about that
action, much less remorse. Yet she can
clearly tell he is conflicted about Mara.
She's not certain why. Siri –
Padmé assumes – must have been the Jedi, Siri Tachi.
Padmé did not know the woman well. She met her on the same
mission where she
briefly met Taly Fry. Padmé knows Anakin
knew her better and Obi-Wan in particular had an intense, if not
close, relationship with her. Though,
again, if Anakin so blithely murdered so many of his former brethren,
doubts it is loyalty to Siri Tachi that weighs heavily on his
Then the reason
occurs to Padmé. "Mara is Luke and Leia's age," she says
"She's younger by several months," he says. "But yes."
the younglings at the Temple.
But he did it before his own children were born and he certainly never
murdered a child so close in age to his own children. "You
couldn't kill her despite knowing
that's what Palpatine would have wanted," Padmé says.
can't decide what she feels for him in this moment, pity, compassion,
forgiveness, even anger. He killed Siri
Tachi, but he could not kill her infant daughter. She is rather
disgusted with herself for
taking consolation in the fact that Anakin does have limits – even if
far beyond what most people would find just.
lands at 500 Republica and Padmé exits with
Anakin close behind. He escorts her to
her penthouse and follows her inside, uninvited. Typho nods to
her in greeting, but does not
approach. Padmé walks through the
apartment and out onto the darkened veranda.
She steps to the
railing, looking out at the city. Anakin hangs back several
"There's more, isn't there?" she
She turns to
face him expectantly.
hits Padmé like a physical blow, but she
does not react outwardly. "Does Obi-Wan
know?" she asks.
"I do not believe so. I
don't think anyone knows," he says.
"Except me. And now,
"How can you be
certain?" she asks.
can feel it in the Force," he says.
"Mara is powerful, but untrained.
I can feel that she is Obi-Wan's the same way that I can feel Luke and
Leia are mine – even when I questioned your fidelity, I never
no idea what he expects her to do with his
confession. The facts don't seem to
signal any impending doom.
Anakin seems to
read her thoughts and says enigmatically,
"I wanted you to know."
the feeling that this is a test. Maybe for her, maybe for
He has admitted his role in a heinous murder,
his obfuscation of a young woman's true parentage. He wants to
know how she will react, but more
than that – she thinks – he wants to see if he can confide in her, if
allow someone to know the whole truth of his actions. He wants to
test her reaction, but also his
own capacity for disclosure.
"Do you think
Mara suspects?" Padmé asks. "Do you think she would attack
get back at you?"
"I have no reason to believe that Mara perceives herself as
anything beyond Talesan and Sekka Fry's daughter," he says.
turns back to the view. Silence weighs heavy for several long
Padmé," Anakin says.
still awake, sipping more H'Kak bean tea in the
deep shadows of the veranda as she contemplates her conversation with
Anakin. She's not certain this strange
new twist to their relationship is an improvement over the veiled
hostilities. She has no desire to be his
confessor and she most certainly will not offer him absolution.
Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago that she pitied the fact that
Anakin's only confidant was Korto. Can
she be Anakin's friend? She doesn't
know. She isn't certain if she and
Anakin ever were truly friends. Their
relationship was intense, filled with passion and love – and then, of
betrayal, deceit and anger - but
She knows it
would be better for Luke and Leia if she and
Anakin were able to make civility the norm rather than the
It would be intensely selfish to knowingly
sabotage that prospect just to protect herself.
There is a noise
and Padmé turns, watching as Mehht, clad in
her worn cloak walks onto the veranda.
Padmé rises to her feet and Mehht startles, her hand reflexively
covering her heart.
"I didn't know
anyone was out here," Mehht says
can't see Mehht's face, but she can tell from her tone
that something is wrong. She crosses the
veranda to stand by her friend.
Padmé thinks Mehht has been wounded when she
notices the small bruise on her neck.
Mehht meets her gaze wordlessly, offering no explanation.
Padmé brushes the hood of the cloak back and
realizes it's not a bruise, but rather a love bite on Mehht's neck.
looks at her friend.
"Are you okay?" she asks carefully. She will murder Lorian with
her bare hands if
he harmed Mehht.
Mehht says rather unconvincingly. She is pale and her eyes are
too shiny. "I think I may have made a huge
mistake," she says in a shaky whisper.
takes Mehht hand and starts to pull her toward the
door. "Come on," she says.
counters, pulling back. "Lorian is in there."
"I don't care,"
Padmé replies firmly. "This is your home now. He
won't dictate where you can go."
lip quivers and Padmé's demeanor
softens. She pulls Mehht into a hug.
finally pulls away, her voice sounds
stronger. "I'm fine," she says
with a sad smile. "I'm just …
Padmé says again, more gently this
time. "Let's go inside."
Mehht nods and
Padmé wraps an arm around her, ushering her
inside the penthouse. Lorian is leaning
casually against one of the walls, talking to Typho about
Padmé gives him the evil eye and he
automatically comes to attention, his brow furrowed in obvious
He starts to take a step toward Mehht, but
Padmé's glare holds him at bay.
escorts Mehht to the younger woman's bedroom, more
confused than ever. Something physical
obviously happened between Mehht and Lorian.
Padmé assumed that Lorian must have treated Mehht poorly, hence
reaction. But judging from the worry
Lorian displayed only moments earlier, Padmé thinks she must
have misread the
The two women
sit on the bed and Padmé waits several long
moments for Mehht to speak.
"Cor would be so
with me," Mehht whispers.
Padmé several moments to realize that Cor is
Corisen Ryeun, Mehht's deceased fiancé.
Padmé says gently. "Cor would have wanted you to be
happy." Padmé actually isn't at all
certain of that. She didn't know Corisen
well, but the few times they met, he struck her as a dim-witted, lazy
whelp who probably would have been angry.
But he's dead and has been for four long years. His wants are no
Mehht looks at
Padmé hopefully, her cheeks wet with
tears. "Do you think so?" she
"Of course," she says firmly.
obviously comforted by Padmé's words. She nervously picks
at the threadbare
material of her cloak. "Lorian is
just so …" She sighs again. "He's so different from Cor."
Truer words have
never been spoken. Corisen Ryeun was a short, stocky
nineteen-year-old boy with light brown hair and a severe
He was uneducated, ignorant and ill-mannered. But he was also
loyal to a fault and he
worshiped Mehht. Lorian is undeniably
more complex. He's older, better
looking, smarter, driven, cultured and infinitely colder and harder to
"Never judge who
you will love by who you have
loved," Padmé says. She pointedly
ignores any implications the platitude may hold for her own
Mehht gives her
a watery smile. "I know you don't like Lorian,"
"I like Lorian
just fine," Padmé replies
Mehht gives her
a wry, disbelieving smile. "I know he can be difficult," she
says. "But you should see him when
we're alone. He's very different."
can't help thinking of Anakin. "I'm certain he is," she replies
Mehht spend another hour discussing Lorian's finer
qualities. Padmé isn't convinced, but
she also doesn't feel right trying to dissuade Mehht. Mehht has
been lonely for a very long time
and Padmé does not wish to deny her comfort and companionship,
despite any misgivings
she may have about Lorian. After all,
who is she to criticize others' relationships?
leaves Mehht's room and finds Lorian lurking
just outside the door. His expression is
waits for Mehht's door to close and then leans in
close to Lorian. "Break her heart
and no one will ever find your body," Padmé says darkly.
"Yes ma'am," he replies.
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