Title: Under Fire Author: anakinfan Characters: Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine, Bail Organa Summary: Anakin does not turn to the Dark Side and Palpatine does not become Emperor, but his extended term as Chancellor has left the Republic in shambles. Can the Jedi Order and the Coalition of 2000 pick up the pieces? (This is a story I original wrote and posted in 2010, which I am now posting for the new boards with a few tweaks, because like George Lucas, I never see my work as completely finished.) Disclaimer: Characters and some dialogue belong to Lucas, some dialogue also belongs to Matthew Stover and Karen Miller, the rest is mine. Prelude It is a dark time for the Republic. The war with the Separatists has continued for three years now, and no end is in sight. Two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, have successfully rescued Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of General Grievous, and Skywalker killed the Sith apprentice Count Dooku, but General Grievous escaped yet again. The Jedi are dwindling in numbers, and many are battle-scarred and discouraged, barely remembering their former role as peacekeepers of the Republic. Kenobi and Skywalker have returned to Coruscant, where Skywalker is reunited with Senator Amidala, to whom he is secretly married. Senator Amidala shares with Skywalker that she is pregnant with their child. Meanwhile, the Senator has joined a coalition of her colleagues who are speaking out against the refusal to open peace talks with the Separatists and the further accumulation of power by the Supreme Chancellor, who is using war as an excuse to continuously bend the Constitution to his will. Chapter 1 Senator Padme Amidala was screaming in pain. All blood had drained from her face, her brow was covered in sweat, her teeth clenched in agony. Another wave of pain hit and she cried out again. “Anakin! Anakin, help me! I love you! ANAKIN!” In the background came the sound of a baby’s lusty cry, even as his mother lost consciousness and screamed no more… Anakin Skywalker woke up with a start, drenched in sweat, his breath caught in his throat. He glanced quickly beside him where his wife Padme slept peacefully, her dark curly hair fanned behind her, one hand resting on her pregnant belly. Tears of relief came to Anakin’s eyes. She was alright. She was healthy. Anakin buried his face in his hands and sobbed quietly. The dream had been so real, so vivid. Just like the one he had had three years ago. One that turned out to be prophetic. Anakin wiped his eyes, got out of bed and walked down the hall, down the stairs and through the living area to Padme’s private balcony, where he leaned on the edge of the railing, gazing at the Coruscant skyline, at the speeders flying by in the city-planet that never slept. The once-pristine skyscape was dotted with smoke and rubble from destroyed buildings. Anakin sighed, gripping the railing more tightly. The war that most of the Republic thought would end quickly had now dragged on for three years. Hundreds of Jedi had been lost, Jedi who never set out to be soldiers. They were trained to be protectors and peacekeepers, not fight wars. But they had been forced into this by the attempted assassination of Padme by the Separatists and the subsequent capture of Obi-Wan. After Geonosis, there was no choice but to go to war. At the time Anakin had not minded. He had thought that a quick and brutal defeat of the Separatists would be easier and more efficient than what Padme called a “diplomatic solution.” Three years later he no longer believed it. The battles were brutal, but they were not quick and the Separatists were not defeated. Anakin had finally rid the galaxy of Count Dooku, however, General Grievous, the leader of the droid army, evaded the Jedi over and over again—and so far the Jedi were lucky if Grievous merely escaped. The less fortunate ones were killed, and their lightsabers added to Grievous’ ever-growing collection. Years of evading Separatists, ever growing numbers of battle droids and clones, and General Grievous were all more than Anakin had bargained for. He was tired. Tired of getting injured over and over again. Tired of watching the Jedi he had come to know and love, including his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, fall in battle. The thought of his beautiful and feisty Padawan made Anakin’s eyes well up again. She had fought bravely and fiercely to the end, when she could only whisper a weak, “I’m sorry, Master,” before succumbing to the Force. No, Anakin said, I’m sorry, Snips. I failed you. Several tears splashed on the balcony railing. Padme thought she heard her husband weeping. Poor Anakin. On the field he was the wise and feared General Skywalker. On the rare occasions that he was home, in the darkest hours of the night, his guard was down and the tears came. Especially since his Padawan died. Padme knew Anakin blamed himself. If we have no other reason for opening up peace talks with the Separatists, she thought,we need to do it so that these Jedi who have lost so much, can come home and heal. So that the Republic can heal. So that people can be reunited with their loved ones, so that they stop living in fear all the time. She and Anakin had spent maybe 90 days together during their three year marriage. The longer the war lasted, the prospect of their having anything resembling a normal marriage looked bleak. She had gotten pregnant the last time Anakin was home for one night, five months ago. If the war did not end soon, she would probably give birth alone. She opened her eyes and saw the empty space next to her in bed. Her heart skipped a beat. “Anakin?” She got out of bed and went downstairs. Anakin was on the balcony, his back to her, his hands gripping the railing so tightly that his knuckles turned white. She put a hand on his shoulder. “What is it?” she asked. He turned to her, and despite the fresh tears on his cheeks, gave her a small smile. He touched the japor snippet that she wore around her neck. “I remember when I gave this to you,” he said. She smiled and touched his hand, the one that held the snippet. “As do I,” she said. “Anakin, what happened? I heard you.” He shook his head, the smile faded. “Bad dream,” he said. She put a hand on his arm. “About the war? Ahsoka?” “No,” he said, shaking his head again as if to rid himself of the images. “About you.” “What about me?” “You die in childbirth.” Padme gripped his arm. “And the baby?” Anakin sighed. “I don’t know.” He held her. “But it was only a dream.” Padme shook her head. “Jedi don’t have nightmares. You said so yourself.” She waited, letting him hold her for a minute, then asked, “What about last time, Anakin? Have you thought about what might have happened if you had gone to Tatooine earlier? How long had you been dreaming about your mother?” Anakin let go of her and gripped the balcony railing again. “A month,” he said. “The first dream would have been at about the time the Sandpeople took her. Yes, I should have gone then. Have I thought about what might have happened if I had left then? You’d do better to ask if a day goes by when I don’t think about it.” He sighed. “It’s Obi-Wan’s fault. He blew me off, said that dreams pass in time. He could not have been more wrong.” “Does he know what happened on Tatooine?” “No. I didn’t have a chance to tell him. All our conversations lately are about war and war strategy. He knows that Mom died, but that’s all he knows.” “Don’t you think you should tell him? Don’t you think that he should know that you have premonitions and that your dreams aren’t ordinary?” Anakin sighed. “For all the good it will do…” Padme took his hand. “Anakin, he’s your friend. Your mentor. He’s like your father. Why not tell him? Even if it does no good, even if he dismisses you again, you are no worse off than you are now. And you don’t know, he might be able to help…” “Fine, fine, I’ll tell him tomorrow,” Anakin snapped, moving away from her and focusing on a point in the skyline that Padme could not see. “I think it will be a useless conversation, Obi-Wan isn’t going to understand, but for you, I’ll tell him.” Padme smiled, cupped his chin in her hand and turned his face towards her. “Good,” she said, and kissed him. “Now come to bed? You need your rest.” Anakin returned the kiss, then shook his head again. “I’m not going to be able to sleep. You go back to bed. I’m going to stay out here for awhile.” Her brown eyes were full of concern. “You’ll be alright?” He nodded and hugged her. “I’ll be fine. I promise. Now go back to bed. Please. You have more than yourself to think about here.” He rested his hand on her belly. “Good night, little one.” Padme kissed him one last time and returned to her bed, leaving her husband on the balcony, continuing to gaze at the skyline. Anakin rushed down the hall of the Temple to the Jedi Briefing Room, where Obi-Wan Kenobi was alone, shutting down several holograms and gathering datapads. “You missed the reports on the Outer Rim sieges,” Obi-Wan said. Anakin caught his breath. “Sorry,” he said. “I was held up.” He had gone to bed, at dawn. He had awakened a couple of hours later, with only moments to spare before the morning meeting. Obi-Wan smiled. “In short, they are going very well,” he said. “Saleucami has fallen, and Master Vos has moved his troops to Boz Pity.” He paused. “Anakin, you look horrible. Have you not slept?” He shook his head. “Bad dreams,” he muttered. “Still? You’re exhausted, Anakin, and after Ahsoka…I’m sorry, Padawan, I know none of this is easy. But as I told you before, dreams pa..” “Pass in time. Yeah, right, whatever, Master. Just like that dream about my mother just passed in time.” Although he was expecting a repeat of Obi-Wan’s dismissal, it still left him shaking with anger. He wanted to stomp out of the room, but he had promised Padme that he would tell Obi-Wan about the dream. Although he felt that, as usual, he was probably right about him. This was going to do absolutely no good. Obi-Wan sighed. “Anakin, I am trying to be understanding, I just think you’re giving this too much credence. Your mother didn’t die because you had a dream. Death is a natural part of life. There is nothing you could have done.” This time Anakin snapped. “That just shows how little you know, Obi-Wan!” He yelled. “When I found her, she was exactly as I saw her in my dream! And if you had listened to me and let me leave earlier, I most certainly could have done something.” Anakin collapsed into the nearest chair, his head in his hands, long fingers tearing at his hair. For a few moments there was no sound in the room. Finally Obi-Wan said softly, “Anakin, you never told me what happened on Tatooine.” Anakin did not answer right away. Obi-Wan put hand on his shoulder and said, “Should we go to my quarters instead?” Anakin nodded, stood, and walked with his master out of the briefing room and down the hall. They arrived at Obi-Wan’s quarters two floors up a few minutes later. Anakin sank into the couch in the living area, rubbing his eyes. Obi-Wan sat beside him. “Now,” he said, “will you tell me what happened?” Anakin took a deep breath and began. “I found Watto pretty quickly, he was still in the same shop. He told me that he had sold my mother to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars, who freed her and married her, and that they were living on the other side of Mos Eisley. He gave me the directions and we went out there. Her husband said that she had been gone for a month, kidnapped by Sandpeople, and that the Sandpeople had killed almost all of the farmers who had tried to rescue her. They had cut off his leg; he was planning to try to find her again after he healed. I went out right away, searched for the camp and found it that night.” Anakin was crying. “She had been beaten, her eyes were swollen shut, her face bruised, she had several broken bones…” He took a couple of deep breaths. “She was tied to a rack of some sort. I took her down, she touched my face, told me she was proud of me and said she was complete now, and then she…” Anakin was overtaken by sobs. For several minutes Obi-Wan said nothing. Then he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Anakin looked up, his face blotched with tears. “What? And get yelled at again for going to Tatooine in the first place? I did the right thing, Obi-Wan. She looked just like she did in my dream, when she was calling me. My mistake was not listening to her sooner. I should have left as soon as I had the first dream, then she would still be alive.” Anakin clenched his jaw. “It won’t happen again. My dreams don’t pass in time, Obi-Wan. They come true. It’s up to me to stop it from happening.” “What kind of dream did you have this time?” Anakin looked at his master. “It was about Padme.” Obi-Wan resisted giving the boy a lecture on his attachment to the Senator, knowing that it would be received even worse than usual—and such a lecture usually went over with Anakin about as well as a ton of duracrete pillars. “I know very little about premonitions through dreams, Anakin,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a common gift with the Jedi. Would you be interested in asking Master Yoda? He might have more information for you.” Anakin nodded. “I need all the help I can get.” Yoda answered the door quickly. “Young Skywalker,” he said. “Come in, you must.” “Master Yoda, I need your counsel.” “Of course,” he said, leading the way to two meditation cushions. “Sit you must. How may I be of help, young one?” Anakin took a deep breath. “I’m having dreams,” he said, “that are not ordinary dreams." “Premonitions?” Anakin was relieved that he did not have to explain further. “Yes,” he said. “They are premonitions. One has come true already.” “Premonitions…premonitions…hmmm…these visions you have…” “They are of pain, suffering, death…” “Yourself you speak of, or someone you know?” Yoda asked. “Someone…” “…close to you?” Yoda finished. “Yes.” “Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. Fear of loss is the path to the Dark Side.” “I won’t let these visions come true, Master.” Yoda frowned. He knew that pain, suffering and death haunted Anakin constantly. The young Jedi was still able to sense the Force, but his ability to control it was obstructed, and his future was clouded. Yoda remembered a vision in which young Skywalker was in such terrible pain, Qui-Gon Jinn had returned from the realms of the Force, calling Anakin’s name, through Yoda’s meditations… “Explain further, I must,” Yoda said. “Death is a natural part of life. Only using methods most unnatural and most evil, can one stop a loved one from passing into the Force. When twilight is upon a luminous being, night must fall. Such is the way of things, the way of the Force.” Yoda paused and gazed at Anakin. “Tried to stop death, only a few have. Successful they were not, and a terrible price they paid.” Anakin looked at the wizened Master questioningly. “What kind of price, Master?” Yoda’s eyes bored into Anakin’s. “Consumed by the Dark Side, they were, Anakin. Twisted and evil, they become. Gone, disappeared, their former selves were.” He paused. “This person, who is close to you—quite certain I am, that destroy her, it would, if that price, you paid, to save her.” Anakin’s heart skipped a beat. He wondered how much the Jedi Master knew, if he suspected Anakin’s marriage. But he also sensed that Yoda was right. He could ensure that Padme was well-protected, and gave birth on planet with adequate medical facilities (unlike the desolate place in his dream) but beyond that he could do nothing. Other than hope that, just this once, his vision was wrong.