Anakin falls to the
floor, his grunt of agony forced between clenched teeth.
Wind whips through the shattered window but
the stench of cauterized flesh is inescapable.
Master Windu's hand claps him firmly on the shoulder, rolling him over
inspect the damage. Anakin hears the
Korun Master's sharp intake of breath.
mortal," Master Windu says, his voice much firmer than his emotions in
Anakin growls, mumbling the name, unable to properly form the sounds
due to the
extensive damage inflicted by Sidious's blade.
Anakin? I don't understand you,"
Master Windu says.
"Padmé," Anakin repeats, still slurring badly.
He forces out the words despite the
pain. "Senator Amidala.
Chommell sector. Need to protect."
Amidala?" Master Windu repeats.
"Protect her from what?"
Anakin says no longer concerned by the Council's censure.
Their approval or disapproval means
nothing. Life means nothing.
He has failed his family completely.
"She'll die," he continues, trying to block out the overwhelming
pain. "The baby."
The pain is too
and Anakin finally succumbs, losing consciousness.
When he wakes, he
in the Temple's
medical facility. He can't see out of
his left eye. Half his face is swathed
in heavy bandages and pain pounds inside his skull in perfect rhythm
heartbeat. He is lying on a bed. Upper body elevated at a forty-five degree
angle, he can see most of the room without moving.
The large, open
reeks of bacta and disinfectants. There
are several dozen patient beds, but they are all empty save his own. Standing at the foot of his bed, Masters
Windu and Yoda watch him carefully.
Republic, your information did," Yoda says. "Grateful
Anakin does not
answer. There is nothing to say.
pleasantries, Master Windu cuts straight to the matter weighing on
heart. "Senator Amidala is
safe," he says. His features are
pinched, his disapproval clear. Despite
his earlier promise that Anakin's revelation of Palpatine's true
earn him Master Windu's trust, that obviously is not the case. "At the Council's request, she has
returned to Naboo."
Anakin starts to
his mouth, but the searing pain stops him.
"The children are
fine," Master Windu continues.
Children? Anakin stares at the Masters in shock.
"Think it best we
do, that see Senator Amidala you do not," Yoda says.
Despite only half
face being visible, the Masters clearly see Anakin's outrage at the
idea. He pushes himself forward, intent on
out of the bed.
Master Windu holds
his hand, palm extended toward Anakin in a gesture for him to stop. "You almost Fell," he says
pointedly, his eyes boring into Anakin.
Master Yoda's lips
purse together tightly and he nods.
"Close it was," he agrees.
Anakin slumps back
against the mattress. He was so certain
that killing Sidious would mean forfeiting Padmé's life and
possibly the life
of his child … lives of his children.
"Need help you
do," Yoda says quietly. "To
find your path."
off the unbidden memory, quickly forcing his
attention to the present. The pilot,
co-pilot and navigator are immersed in their duties, preparing the
CR90 corvette for the jump to hyperspace.
Seated behind the pilot, Anakin watches as the ship banks away from
Coruscant’s orbit. They will soon begin
their trek to Naboo.
He tries to
allow himself to be at one with the emotions
weighting his heart and soul. That was
the lesson Obi-Wan tried so desperately to teach him. It isn’t
mastery of the Force that is a
Jedi’s goal. It is mastery of one’s self
for which a Jedi strives.
He takes a deep
breath and releases it. The last fourteen years have given him a
great deal of mastery of himself. He can
accept the guilt that burdens his soul without attempting to run from
it. He can experience the groundlessness of this
impenetrable loneliness that surrounds him without needing to cling to
After all his
failings, he has finally become a model Jedi.
And he suspects
he may be dead inside.
"The attempt on
her life is most troubling,"
Obi-Wan says to Senator Organa.
"Rest assured the Council will get to the bottom of
The two men are
standing in the spacious Officer’s common
room. Senator Organa nods, glancing over
his shoulder at the staircase leading to the upper deck and the
suite. As head of the royal house of
Alderaan and owner of the Tantive IV, the stateroom is his, but he has
relinquished it for the comfort of Queen Amitabha and her
There is no sign of Leia. As Senator Organa turns back to
sees Anakin approach. His posture
Anakin raises an
eyebrow expectantly at Obi-Wan.
attempted to send you the documents,"
Obi-Wan says, "but you were already in transit."
the implied censure in his former Master's
statement without taking offense. The
Council has long disapproved of Anakin's starfighter and personal
choosing to view it as a possession and attachment. Anakin has
never bothered to debate the issue
with them. The aging Delta-7 starfighter
is simply a convenience. Anakin has no
attachments – to anything or anyone.
Anakin isn't going to respond, Obi-Wan
elaborates. "There have been two
attempts on Queen Amitabha's life. We
suspect the Black Sun crime syndicate is ultimately responsible."
Anakin finds himself bristling at the
information. "Why would the Black
Sun want her dead?"
Senator Organa turns to Anakin. "Queen Amitabha has been very
influential in stopping spice trade in the Chommell sector," he
explains. "She has successfully
lobbied in the Senate for increased security patrols. It has cost
the Black Sun a great deal."
there is a communication for you,"
a crewmember says.
Obi-Wan replies, following the
crewmember to the lower deck and the sensor room.
Anakin turns and
is shocked to realize that the crewmember
is in fact Gregar Typho, the man that served as Padmé's head of
years. He watches as Obi-Wan and Typho
He turns back,
displeased to realize he is alone with Bail
"It would have
been better if you hadn't come,"
Anakin stares at
the man, taking note of how he has aged. "The decision was not
mine to make. A Jedi serves the will of the Council."
says tightly. "You often use that excuse, don't
his ground, his features perfectly bland as he
stares at Senator Organa. Eventually the
older man turns away and with a huff of disgust leaves Anakin alone.
Organa is finally gone, Anakin makes his way to
one of the seats and slumps into it heavily.
He cannot remember the last time he felt this tired. He has lived
alone in the primordial ooze of
Dagobah for so long that he has forgotten how exhausting it is to
other beings, to be assaulted by their energies and agendas.
With a sigh, he
leans back in the chair and his lips twist
into a wry smile.
He is lying to
He thought that was a bad habit he broke long ago.
It is not Bail
Organa's hostile energy or the mission that
exhausts him. It is facing his ghosts.
He doesn't want
to be here.
He doesn't know why the Council sent him unless they derive pleasure
from pouring salt in old wounds. He was
never supposed to know her.
Anakin stares at
holo, unable to prevent the tears tracing down his cheeks.
"Anakin, I don't
understand," Padmé sobs.
"Where are you? The Council
won't tell me if you're alive or dead. I
only pray this message finds you."
She sobs for several moments and then collects herself, steeling
And then, her smile
luminous, radiant despite her tears.
"You should see them, Ani," she says softly, voice full of
wonder. "I named them Luke and
Leia." Her smile turns
bittersweet. "I know you always
liked the name Leia."
Her smile falters
she is clearly on the verge of tears again, but she presses ahead. “I hope you see this message,” she says. “I hope you come home to us.
We miss you.
We need you.”
The recording ends
his ears ring with the sound of silence.
His wife’s sobs echo in his mind.
He holds the holodisk in his hand, gripping it tightly. He wants to throw it at the wall, to loose
the anger and rage this separation causes him.
But he doesn’t throw the holodisk.
Because right now, it is his only link to his beloved wife, to
Luke, and his daughter, Leia.
He stalks through
hallways of the Jedi
Temple and Master
does not seem the least bit surprised to see him when Anakin bursts
private quarters unannounced.
“Expecting you, I
been,” he says, shaking his head in disapproval.
“You knew about
Anakin accuses, holding the holodisk in his hand.
Yoda nods. “Allowed it, I did,” he says.
“A choice, you must make.”
“I’m going to
Anakin rages. “Today.
I’m leaving! How could you think
I could see that and not go? How can you
preach compassion and then expect me to see Padmé’s message and
Slowly, Master Yoda
looks up, watching him silently for several long moments.
“Almost Fell, you did,” he says gravely. “Betrayed
everything you would have. The Order.
The Republic. Proud would your
wife be to call a Sith husband? Proud
would your children be to call you father?”
with the volatile emotions raging through him.
control you cannot.” Master Yoda climbs out of his chair.
Slowly, he makes his way across the room,
leaning heavily on his cane. He sighs
deeply. “A danger you are, young Skywalker, to all who care for you.”
Anakin wants so
to refute Master Yoda’s claims, but he cannot.
Master Yoda is correct. Anakin
almost Fell. He almost made a deal with
a Sith Lord in exchange for Padmé’s life.
Yet Padmé is safe. The twins
safe. His nightmares, his visions, were
He trusts himself
less than Yoda trusts him.
“To your room
young Skywalker,” Master Yoda says.
“Leave for Dagobah tonight, you will.
Meditation you need.”
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