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Saga Final Stand (sequel to Seeds of Resistance)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by anakinfansince1983 , Nov 1, 2012.

  1. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Title: Final Stand
    Author: anakinfan
    Timeframe: AU, ESB era
    Characters: Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Leia Skywalker-Solo, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Bail Organa, Asajj Ventress, Wilhuff Tarkin, OCs
    Summary: Asajj Ventress is in prison and the Banking Clan is defunct, but the Republic faces its greatest threat yet from Palpatine's remaining allies.

    Sequel to Under Fire and Seeds of Resistance. Reposted from the IGN boards.



    It is election year in the Galactic Senate. The sitting Chancellor, Padme Amidala of Naboo, is being challenged by Senator Wilhuff Tarkin of Eriadu. The emergence of Senator Tarkin, an ally of the late Chancellor Palpatine and one of his ousted “Moffs” or sector governors, has prompted fears among Clone War survivors of the return of a great number of Palpatine loyalists. Those who remember the war are all middle-aged or older, and the younger citizens of the galaxy have no memory of the regime’s horrors. Meanwhile, on the Outer Rim, rumors are appearing of the re-emergence of a resistance thought defeated by Amidala’s administration…

    Chapter 1

    “No lights.” Sly Moore’s voice was hushed.

    “I only have one eye. I can’t see,” Wat Tambor whispered back. “We can’t use a flashlight or something?”

    “No. Discretion is key here.”

    It was 0300. The Galactic City of Coruscant never slept, however, the lights that continued to blaze were far overhead of the Republic Judiciary Central Detention Center. Moore and Tambor stood outside the entrance. “Take my cloak if needed,” she whispered.

    He did, fisting his hand in its folds, and she slowly waved her hand at each of the locks. They opened one by one. “Remember,” she said. “Once I have taken care of the guards, I need you to capture the ysalamari as quickly as possible.”

    “Will that be difficult?”

    “For you? No.” She smirked. “This center was unwise to only use one. Several would be much harder to repel.”

    Tambor nodded. Moore waved her hand again, and the heavy door slowly opened.

    “Who goes there?” A voice cried out. Then a man appeared, his eyes wide, a blaster pointed directly at the pair. He fired, and Moore dodged the bolt, pulling Tambor down with her. Then she waved her hand in front of the man’s face. “No one goes here,” she said slowly.

    His eyes glazed over. “No one goes here,” he said.

    Moore waved her hand again. “Sleep well.”

    He nodded slowly, then fell to the floor in a deep sleep.

    Two other guards emerged; one wave of Moore’s hand and they were unconscious. Then she and Tambor quickly made their way to Asajj Ventress’ cell.

    Chancellor Amidala was smaller than Hojal Novar had imagined, both shorter and more slender in build. The heavy robes she wore seemed to dwarf her. Although her dark hair was heavily streaked with grey, she looked younger than her 48 years.

    However, in spite of the small build and youthful appearance, at the moment the Chancellor frightened Novar. Her brown eyes darkened with fury as she stepped from behind her desk and approached him. Even her Jedi Master husband, standing behind the desk with his lightsaber clearly visible on his belt, did not instill the level of fear in Novar that Amidala did.

    “Give me one good reason,” she said, “why I should not have you fired immediately.” She did not raise her voice but the coldness in it frightened him further.

    He licked his lips nervously. “Your Excellency,” he began.

    “I hope you realize how greatly you have endangered the Republic by your negligence,” she said. “How was Ventress able to escape?”

    “I swear, I don’t know,” Novar said. “The last thing I remember was the door opening of its own accord and two people standing on the other side.”

    “The door opened by itself,” Amidala said skeptically.

    “Yes,” Novar said.

    “Can you describe the two people?”

    Novar took a deep breath. “A woman,” he said. “Very tall and bald. And a one-eyed metal man.”

    “A one-eyed metal man?” Amidala said. She exchanged a look with her husband, who then gazed at Novar with a penetrating look in his blue eyes.

    “A metal man. He wasn’t a droid.”

    Amidala nodded. “What happened after the door opened by itself and you saw the two people on the other side?”

    Novar swallowed. “I don’t know. I think I was knocked unconscious but I don’t remember being hit. I woke up on the floor, they were gone, and an investigation turned up Ventress’ empty cell.”

    “What of the ysalamari?” Amidala asked.

    “It was gone too.”

    Amidala and her husband exchanged a look again, then he put his hands on her shoulders, returning his gaze to Novar. “He’s telling the truth,” Skywalker said. “I sense no deception at all.”

    Novar felt a momentary relief as Amidala nodded slowly. “Can you describe the woman any further?” she asked.

    “Very tall, hairless, very pale almost grey-ish skin. Grey robes.”

    “Any tattoos?” she asked.

    Novar shook his head. “No,” he said.

    Amidala nodded slowly and waited a moment before she spoke. “Alright. Thank you. You are dismissed.”

    Novar swallowed and licked his lips again. “Should I…clean out my office?”

    Amidala gazed at him. “Not right now. But if so much as a petty thief escapes your prison within the next year, I’ll expect your resignation on my desk immediately.”

    Novar sighed with relief. “Thank you, Your Excellency.”

    Luke Skywalker rose slowly, dressed and emerged from his room. He listened for his parents’ voices, heard only silence, and went into the kitchen to find a pot of caf already made, with about three cups emptied off the top. He got a cup from the cabinet, a cup imprinted with the Naboo royal crest, and helped himself to the contents of the carafe.

    “Ah, good morning, Master Luke,” the golden protocol droid, C3PO, said. “I hope you are most well this morning…”

    I wish a five-hour shut down didn’t make him so chipper, Luke thought. “Good morning, 3PO. Have my parents left already?”

    “Oh, yes sir. Mistress Padme received some terrible news very early this morning, before sunrise in fact. She left right away, and Master Anakin insisted on going with her.”

    Luke stared at him. “What terrible news?”

    “I’m really not quite sure, sir.”

    Luke brushed past the droid and went into the living area, where he switched on the holovid player.

    “I repeat: this is breaking news,” the reporter said. “Special Report” flashed across the bottom of the screen, and the reporter talked in rapid clipped tones. “Asajj Ventress has escaped from the Republic Judiciary Detention Center. The cause of the security breach is unknown, however, Chancellor Amidala’s office has put the Republic Navy on high alert, and the citizens of Coruscant are under no danger at the present time. The Chancellor is expected to make a statement over the Holonet in two hours’ time…”

    Luke set the cup of caf down, switched the holovid off and sat, putting his head in his hands.

    “Master Luke, sir…” 3PO began.

    Luke looked up. “You were right, 3PO, it is terrible news.” He stood and walked back into the kitchen, where he poured his cup of caf into a travel mug and topped it off from the carafe.

    “Are you leaving, sir?”

    “Yes,” Luke said, walking towards the balcony and his speeder. “If anyone is looking for me, I’m visiting Princess Alys.”

    “That is always the first place people look for you, sir.”

    Luke nodded, climbed into the speeder, and started it.

    A few minutes later, Bail Organa answered his own door, a travel mug of caf in his own hand, the other hand running his fingers through his short graying hair. “Luke,” he said. “I’m on my way to meet with your mother. She has already dressed down the lead prison guard.”

    “Exactly how bad is this? I only saw the clip on the holovid.”

    “It’s bad. Whoever helped Ventress escape, warded off the guards using mind tricks and Force-enhanced sleep suggestions. Novar gave a description that matched Wat Tambor and another description that sounded eerily like Sly Moore.”

    “Who is she?” Luke asked.

    “An old aide of Palpatine’s. Thought to be dead.”

    Luke’s eyes widened. “An old aide of Palpatine’s?”

    Bail nodded slowly. “One of his closest ones. Supposedly she was too insane to function on her own and relied on him to take care of her. Hence why she was thought to be dead by now.”

    “Where could she have been hiding all this time and how did we not know?”

    “Who knows. We’re not positive that she’s even the one. Your father seems to think so though.” Bail sighed. “Alys is in the kitchen. I will see you two later I suppose.”

    Leia Skywalker-Solo sat on the floor of the ‘fresher, resting her forehead against the cool porcelain of the toilet, willing the rest of her breakfast to stay down. Her husband had left very early that morning; she had barely heard him respond to the emergency com call or felt the brush of his lips against her cheek. She would try to reach him soon, to get some idea of what sort of Navy emergency he had to handle this time, hoping that it would not take him off planet. She had been so exhausted lately. And so very sick. He had asked her yesterday morning to call a medical droid, but she had refused again. She hoped the home test would give them some answers. She had taken it two minutes ago and now waited impatiently for the last minute to tick by so she could read the results.

    She managed to pick herself up from the floor and move slowly back into her bedroom, switching on the holovid player with the remote.

    “…Asajj Ventress has escaped from the Republic Judiciary Detention Center on Coruscant,” came the announcement with “Special Report” flashing across the bottom of the screen. “I repeat, Asajj Ventress has escaped from prison. The Chancellor’s office has put the Republic Navy on high alert; there is a real possibility that the Jedi will become involved as well. Chancellor Amidala will make a statement on the Holonet at 1000…”

    Leia felt a wave of nausea hit her again and stumbled back into the ‘fresher. She picked up the plastisteel stick test sitting on the sink and looked at it.

    Two pink lines, the second as dark as the first.

    Leia knelt in front of the toilet again as the rest of her breakfast came back up with a vengeance.

    “I’ve issued a warrant for Wat Tambor’s arrest,” Padme said. “And Sly Moore’s. Are you sure she is the one that Novar described, Ani?”

    He nodded. “The person who did this was obviously Force-sensitive. Moore is the only Force-sensitive who fits that description. Unless…”

    Padme turned. “Unless?”

    Anakin paced, ran his fingers through his hair. “Unless a Force-sensitive was able to escape Jedi notice.” He turned, walked to the other side of the office, and turned again. “That’s not likely though. Assuming the person is older than 21 years old, we had the Temple and plenty of data on Force-sensitives around the galaxy. I’d be more concerned about us missing someone after the purge happened.”

    “If it isn’t Sly Moore, we’ll know soon enough,” Padme said.

    “Are the Jedi going to search?” Bail asked.

    Padme looked at him. “I’ll send someone when I can feel that I’m not initiating a wild bantha chase. Right now we at least need to learn if they escaped Coruscant. Han has sent officers to each of the spaceports on Coruscant for questioning. Once we have the flight plans of all ships that have arrived and left in the last planetary rotation, we’ll have a better idea of which direction to head.”

    Anakin walked to the window and looked out, stroking his goatee. Padme and Bail looked at him.

    “What is it?” Padme asked.

    He turned. “Ventress escaped for a reason,” he said. “And not because the mattress and pillows in her cell weren’t comfortable or the prison food was bad. She wants something.”

    “Of course,” Padme said. “But where are you going with this?”

    Bail was nodding slowly. “Ventress isn’t the only one we need to look for. She is allied with someone, or several someones.”

    “Several someones,” Anakin said, “…maybe many. The two helped her escape, and they are regrouping.”

    “So,” Padme gulped. “We were premature in thinking the resistance was defeated.”

    “Not necessarily,” Anakin said. “They are greatly weakened, especially without the Banking Clan behind them.”

    “Anakin is right,” Bail said. “They are not defeated, but it should not take much to defeat them at this point.”

    “I’d say any former Separatist is suspect,” Anakin said.

    Padme put her hands to her temples. “I’m not issuing warrants to arrest people for their role in a war that ended 21 years ago,” she said.

    “No one has suggested that you should,” Bail said. “But you can subpoena them for questioning without accusing them of a crime.”

    She sighed, closing her eyes. “True,” she said. She opened her eyes and looked at her husband.

    “This might be a job for the Jedi stationed on the Outer Rim. They might feel less threatened by you than by a squadron of Navy officers.”

    Anakin gave a half-smile. “I’m not sure. We are talking about former Separatists.” He put his hands on both of her shoulders. “The Council is meeting this afternoon. We’ll discuss it; just let us know what you want us to do.”

    Padme nodded and opened her comlink. “Han, do you copy?”

    “Loud and clear,” her son-in-law replied. “Ready for an update?”

    “As soon as you are,” she said.

    “We haven’t accessed all the flight plans but we do have most of them. So far everything looks normal except for one.”

    “What is that?” Padme asked.

    “A small off-world hangar on the very edge of Galactic City, so small that we almost overlooked it. Flights usually don’t come in the middle of the night here, but last night there was one arrival at 0200, a ship from Malastare.”


    Han continued. “The ship was really small and really old, and had two passengers. It left at 0400 with a third passenger.”

    Padme took a deep breath. “Did they file an outgoing flight plan?”

    “Unfortunately, not a detailed one. They only left the information they are legally required to input. They were headed for Wild Space near the Moddell subsector.”

    Padme sighed. “Alright, thank you, Han.” They both closed their comlinks.

    Anakin’s hand was on his chin again. “Rattatak is in the Moddell subsector,” he said. “Ventress’ home world.”

    Padme leaned back in her desk chair and closed her eyes again. “Could be coincidence. As you said, I don’t think she was broken out of prison because she was homesick.”

    “Gives us a place to start looking anyway,” Anakin said.

    “That’s true,” Padme replied, opening her eyes again. “I have to give a speech on the Holonet in an hour.” She looked at Bail. “Tarkin is giving a speech tomorrow, at which time I’m sure this will be entirely my fault.”

    “He may accuse you of not clamping down hard enough on the resistance,” Bail said. “But your poll numbers are as high as they are because you are a peacemaker. He doesn’t have a leg to stand on there.”

    She frowned. “I hope you’re right. At any rate this isn’t going to be pleasant.”

    Luke found Alys sipping caf at the kitchen table, still in her robe. He kissed her, sat down across from her at the table, and didn’t say anything for several minutes.

    “Do you want some breakfast?” she asked.

    He shook his head. “I’m not hungry,” he said.

    She sighed. “I know, Luke. This is bad.”

    “It’s incredibly bad,” he said. “I knew the Separatists weren’t done. I knew it. It’s like cutting off the head of some swamp beast, another one just reappears. Makes me wonder if we’ll be able to defeat them in our life time or if Palpatine’s mess will be left for the next generation to clean up.”

    “Palpatine’s mess…” Alys said. She took another sip of her caf. “What of this Senator who is running against your mother?”

    “He was cozy with Palpatine, and he’s nasty. Most politicians, including Palpatine during his time, at least pretend to be charming even if they naturally possess the diplomatic skills of a Hutt. Tarkin doesn’t even fake it. Which could be good or bad.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m surprised he’s gotten as far as he has with that personality, makes me really wonder about the people of Eriadu who elected him. He’s the polar opposite of Mom, and Mom’s benevolence has always won her points in the polls. But can you imagine someone like Tarkin taking over the Republic?”

    “No,” she said. “I’m less concerned about your mother losing this election than about how nasty this campaign is going to be, or about the resistance regaining strength.”

    “They won’t disappear until all the former Separatists are rounded up. Maybe not even then.” Luke frowned.

    Alys sipped her caf again. “How much do you know? Daddy ran out the door so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to ask him anything.”

    “I only know what I saw on the holovid and what your father said when I got here,” Luke replied.

    “The Navy is on high alert,” Alys said. “Do you think Han is involved?”

    “As he is now lead officer in charge of the headquarters on Coruscant, I can almost guarantee it,” Luke said. “I was going to call Leia but I’m going to wait awhile. She may not know much at this point.” He sighed. “I think the Jedi Council is meeting this afternoon.”

    “What are you going to do?”

    He sighed again. “I’ll tell Daddy and Uncle Obi-Wan what I think. That if we can find former Separatist hiding spots, we’ll probably find Ventress, although I don’t think this will end simply by capturing her again.”


    “I have no idea what the rest of the Council will think of any of this. Or if I’ll have to go off planet soon.”

    She reached across the table and took his hand. “They won’t send you anywhere without an idea of where to send you, will they?”

    He smiled. “No. Master Windu and Master Yoda aren’t too patient with inefficiency, and for that matter, neither is Mom so she wouldn’t authorize it. We’ll have to get spy reports first. And I may not be the one to go anyway.”

    “I think they’ll want you and Leia to go. I’d be surprised if they didn’t send your father and Master Kenobi, and you two with them.”

    He sighed again. “Leia will need to be checked out by a medical droid if something doesn’t change soon.”

    Alys’ brow furrowed. “Why? What’s going on?”

    “I don’t know. She’s felt lousy lately. Flu or something. Last time she complained that much while we were sparring was when we were 14 and she had the Bonadan cough.”

    Alys frowned and stood. “I hope it’s nothing serious.” She looked at Luke. “Do you want to finish our caf on the balcony? It’s pretty this time of day.”

    He raised his eyebrows. “We could do that.”

    She smirked. “Oh. Or do you want to…?”

    He stood and took her in his arms. “Go back to bed? Yes.” He kissed her. “It’s still early. Caf on the balcony can wait.”

    “Leia?” Han called as he entered the apartment a few hours later. “We finished chasing down all the flight plans from Coruscant spaceports so I’m home for a few minutes. Where are you?”

    “In here,” his wife replied. Han found her sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of hot mint tea in front of her, munching on crackers.

    “Are you alright?” He asked.

    She smiled slightly, looking at him with tired eyes. “I’m fine. The crackers are staying down.”

    “I think you need a med droid, sweetheart. This has been going on for several days.”

    “I’m fine.”

    “Leia, you can’t live off crackers.”

    “I’m not,” she said.

    “You lost your breakfast again this morning, didn’t you?”

    “Breakfast isn’t the only meal of the day.”

    “That isn’t the point.”

    She took a sip of the tea, looked down and didn’t answer him.

    “I’m calling,” he said, starting to open his comlink.

    “Han. I’m not sick.”

    “Leia…” he began, sounding exasperated.

    She put the tea cup down and looked at him. “I’m pregnant, you twit.”

    Han’s eyes widened; his comlink fell from his hand and landed on the carpet. “Wh…what?”

    “You heard me.” She smiled but tears were welling in her eyes.

    Han ran quickly to her, pulled up a chair next to hers, and took her in his arms. “Hey,” he said. “What’s wrong? This is a happy moment.”

    She nodded slowly, her head against his chest. She was trembling.

    Han kissed the top of her head and held her. It was several minutes later when he moved his hand slowly to her abdomen. “I know we need a medical droid now,” he said.

    She swallowed and sniffed. “Why?” She asked.

    He put his hand under her chin. “Because,” he said. “They can take pictures. And I want to see my baby.” He took her hand, laced his fingers with hers, then covered their hands with his other hand. “You’re scared, aren’t you?”

    She looked down and nodded slowly. “…and hungry and I keep craving pallie fruit from Tatooine, of all things, but the smell of frying food makes me throw up, and I’m so tired that I can’t even train any more, Luke had to wonder why he was able to beat me so easily last week…”

    Han held her again. “Shhh…” He said. “That’s the hormones, it will get easier. And a medical droid should be able to help you with that too.” He looked at his comlink, which was still on the carpet where he dropped it. “Why don’t you let me call?”

    “Tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll go tomorrow. Not today.”

    “OK,” he said. “Good enough.” He smiled and kissed her. “Hey,” he said. “This is going to be good. It’s going to be really good. We’re having a baby, Leia.”

    She smiled. “Yes. It was a bit unexpected, that’s all. I’m not sure I’m old enough for this.”

    He laughed and kissed her again. “Well, I am.”
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh yes, this is setting up to be a grand wrap up =D= I can believe it is more than a tad disheartening when you have old/new battles with seemingly vanquished enemies to do over again [face_thinking]

    Luke with Alys -- nice, gentle moments.

    H/L are the terrifically lovable selves.


    Yuck, Tarkin sounds a character you don't want running anything and even though Padme's popular and efficient, sometimes that's not enough - :p :oops:
  3. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    :) More problems - bad for them, good for us readers. I must be jaded; the second I hear of a female throwing up etc. in fiction, I go, "aha, pregnant" and so far I'm right. ;)
  4. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Jade_eyes : Thanks. :) Such is the way of the Sith...the Dark Side is very patient and waits for an opportune moment, as Ventress and her cronies did. As far as Tarkin, I've hated the man since 1977, I enjoyed getting to write him here.

    Luke and Alys are a little more prominent in this segment, and Han and you can probably guess, they're in new territory. :p I'm glad you found them in character, that's always my goal.

    Valairy Scot : LOL, sore boobs and general crankiness aren't as easy to write about. :p

    Thanks for reading. :)


    “What are you thinking about?” Luke asked, kissing the top of Alys’ head.

    She stroked his bare chest. “I thought you had gone back to sleep.”

    He smiled. “I thought about it. I don’t think sleep is coming too easily today though.”

    “Probably not,” she replied, reaching a hand to cup his cheek. “There is something I planned to tell you today, before all the frak hit the fan.”

    “What’s that?” He asked, running his fingers down her long blonde braid.

    “I’m running for Senate.”

    Luke dropped the braid and propped himself up on one elbow, eyes wide. “What?”

    “Are you that surprised?”

    He lay back down, covering his eyes with his forearm. “Alys…”

    “What?” She snapped, sitting up. “I’m not sure how I expected you to react but this wasn’t it.”

    He lowered his arm, opened his eyes, and reached up a hand to stroke her cheek. “Don’t get mad at me. You’ll probably win and you’ll be good. That isn’t the point.”

    “Then what is?”

    “Why are you doing this? You don’t like politics, and you can’t stand most politicians. You avoided doing this last year for those reasons.”

    She sighed and lay back down again in Luke’s arms, closing her eyes. “I can’t avoid it anymore.”

    “Why not? That’s what I don’t understand.”

    “I’m going to be Queen of Alderaan one day. I have to serve at least one term in the Senate. It’s a rule.”

    “Was your mother a Senator?”

    She opened her eyes and smiled. “No. Daddy’s political service counts for her. The idea is to keep a connection between the rulers of Alderaan and the central Republic government.”

    “But his service doesn’t count for you?”


    Luke sighed. “It just seems that you should have more of a choice.”

    She frowned. “I don’t. And it has to be now. So I get used to the machinations of the Galactic Congress early. Not that I don’t have experience there already. I spend more time here than I do at home lately.”

    Luke ran his fingers over the braid again. “You’re going to have to go back to Alderaan soon though,” he said, sounding resigned.

    “Yes,” she said quietly, then propped herself up on her elbow and kissed him. “But I could use a Jedi protector. Just a thought.”

    He didn’t answer.

    “Come with me to Alderaan, Luke.”

    “I need to see what happens on this prison break first,” he said, then took her chin in his hand and kissed her. “But I would like to do that if I can.”

    Han was walking so quickly through headquarters that he nearly broke into a trot, barely acknowledging with return salutes the men who spoke to him in the corridor.

    “Good afternoon, Admiral.”

    “Admiral Solo, sir, I have those reports that you requested.”

    “Good,” Han replied, nodding at the ensign. “Leave them on my desk, I’ll look at them today. Have you seen Captain Calrissian?”

    “In his office, sir.”

    “Thank you,” Han replied, returning the man’s salute and hurrying to Lando’s office. He palmed open the door to find his friend at his desk, on his comlink. Chewbacca, standing behind Lando, barked a greeting, which Han acknowledged with a wave. When Lando saw Han, he said, “I’ll talk to you later. Calrissian out,” and shut it down. “What’s going on?” he asked.

    Han broke into a big grin, opened his arms, and wrapped Lando in an embrace so tight that he was lifted off his desk chair.

    “Han,” he said, sitting back on his chair and gazing at his friend with a furrowed brow. “What have you been smoking and where can I get some?”

    Chewbacca barked in agreement. Han looked from the Wookiee to Lando and said, “Hey, can’t a guy be happy without you assuming drugs are involved?”

    Lando nodded, still looking at his friend skeptically. “Yeah. Sure.”

    “Lando, listen, this is great news.” Han put his hands on Lando’s shoulders, meeting his eyes. “I’m going to be a father.”

    Lando, his mouth open and eyes wide with shock, waited a moment then nodded slowly. “OK. Does Leia know?”

    Han playfully smacked him on the back of the head. Lando broke into a huge grin. “Just kidding, pal. Congratulations! That’s wonderful.” Chewbacca barked again, rested his large paw on Han’s shoulder.

    “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow when she sees a med droid but we’re estimating that she’s about six or eight weeks along.”

    “Man,” Lando mumbled, running his hand over his curly hair. “We’re on a deadline now. We’ve got to get this mess straightened out before you bring a kid into the galaxy.”

    “Yeah,” Han replied, suddenly becoming more serious. “I know.” He grinned again. “But…”

    Lando grinned as well. “Name it after me if it’s a boy.”

    Han put a hand on his shoulder again, more gently this time. “Don’t take this the wrong way, pal, but… Hell no.”

    The next morning Leia nodded to her mother’s guards, keyed in the passcode to the Chancellor’s quarters in 500 Republica and palmed the door open. Her parents, standing in the living area with caf cups in their hands, turned at the sound. “Well, good morning,” her father said, smiling.

    Leia nodded, forcing herself to smile. “Good morning,” she said. She flopped onto the sofa. “Han left so early that the borgle bats were probably still out. Any word on Ventress?”

    Padme sighed. “No. Only the ship flight plan that he uncovered yesterday.”

    “We’re sending three Knights to the Moddell sector to do some investigating,” Anakin said. “We’ll decide how to move when they get back to us.”

    Leia nodded slowly.

    “You look tired,” her father said.

    “I’m fine,” Leia replied.

    “Are you sure?”

    She looked at him, and at that moment 3PO came in with breakfast trays. “Ah, good morning, Mistress Leia. Do you want something to eat? I have Gartro egg omelets…”

    “Eggs?” Leia said. Her stomach turned.

    “Why yes. Eggs and cheese.”

    Leia scowled, then suddenly bolted for the ‘fresher.

    Anakin and Padme looked at each other as they heard their daughter retching. Padme’s eyebrows went up.

    “Oh dear,” 3PO said. “Maybe we should call a healer. Mistress Padme, the smell of Gartro egg omelets made you vomit when Master Anakin was on the Outer Rim…I thought there was certainly some association with him being absent, but within 40 standard days your midsection began to swell…”

    “Shut up, 3PO,” Leia called before her stomach rebelled again.

    “’Shut up’, Mistress Leia? I’m sure I don’t understand…”

    R2 beeped several times, and 3PO turned. “Of course I know that she is ill!” He said. “My auditory circuits are functioning just as well as yours…”

    Anakin put a hand on the golden droid’s shoulder and pointed to the kitchen. “Get a bottle of seltzer water. It will help.” Anakin went into the ‘fresher, wet a cloth with cool water, folded it and laid it on the back of Leia’s neck as she rested the top of her head on the back of the seat and caught her breath.

    “Better?” Anakin asked.

    She nodded slowly and lifted her head, taking the wet cloth and wiping her face with it. She let her father help her up and into the living area, where she sat on the sofa again and took the seltzer from Padme.

    “So…” Anakin said, sitting beside her.

    Leia looked at him, her brown eyes connecting with his blue ones, and he understood.

    Padme’s eyes widened. “Leia, you are…?” She began. Leia looked at her mother and nodded slowly. Padme smiled.

    Anakin hugged Leia and kissed her forehead. “This is great news,” he said.

    Leia returned the hug, then leaned back on the sofa and took another sip of her drink.

    “Han must be ecstatic,” Anakin continued.

    Leia smiled. “You have no idea,” she said. “Lando thought he was going to fill the main office at headquarters with stuffed Ewoks and banthas. Or at least order a round of ale for every man stationed here. Apparently the happy dance lasted about an hour.”

    Her parents laughed. Then Padme said, “Have you made an appointment to see a medical droid?”

    Leia sighed. “This afternoon. That’s part of the reason Han went in so early. So he could finish in time.”

    “And you came over to tell us first?” Anakin said.

    Leia smiled. “That wasn’t the only reason I came by, but yes. Now that Lando knows, I’m afraid some Holonet reporter will publish a story by midmorning.”

    Padme laughed. “He would not have made Navy Captain if he couldn’t be trusted to be discreet with information at least some of the time.”

    “Well, ‘some of the time’ means ‘when Han threatens to take his stripes’. That’s about it.”

    They laughed again.

    “Come by after your appointment?” Anakin said.

    “Of course,” Leia said.

    “Good.” Anakin put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Let’s see if we can’t find something that you can eat.”

    Leia only came up to Alys Organa’s shoulder, and now, she wished her friend would stop hugging her and let her breathe.

    “This is so exciting!” the Alderaanian Princess said.

    “Yes,” Leia said, forcing a smile. “I know.”

    “Alys,” Luke said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Maybe you should give her some space.”

    Alys held Leia at arm’s length and looked at her. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to squish you.” She moved a hand slowly to Leia’s abdomen. “Or the little one.”

    “It’s fine,” Leia said. She sat down on the sofa.

    “So how do you feel?”

    “Like I’m trying to grow another person who is taking all my energy,” Leia said.

    Alys looked at Luke. “That explains why she was tired when you were sparring.”

    Luke nodded, smiling. He sat next to his sister and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m just glad you’re making me an uncle instead of spreading the Balmorrean flu. I was worried.”

    “I suspected but I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure.”

    “Have you told Mom and Daddy yet?”

    “Told them a couple of hours ago.”


    Leia looked amused. “Daddy made some comment about how he’ll get to spoil this one, Mom gave him the look and told him not to be so sure, but she wasn’t able to hold the look for very long. I think she has the same thing in mind.”

    Luke laughed. “Probably.”

    “Are you going to see a medical droid?” Alys asked.

    Leia looked annoyed. “Why does everyone keep asking me that? I’m pregnant, not sick. And yes, I am, this afternoon.”

    Alys suddenly sat down beside Leia and gripped her arm. “You listen to me,” she said. She looked irritated, almost angry. “If you treat this as something minor like the hiccups or a runny nose, I will personally drag you to the medical center by your braids.”

    Leia sighed. “Alys…”

    “I’m not kidding, Leia. My mother had six miscarriages. The last one nearly killed her. Pregnancy is serious. Ask any woman on the non-Republic Outer Rim worlds who doesn’t have access to medical care.”

    Leia held her hand up. “Alright. I was insensitive. I’m sorry.”

    Alys’ face softened. “No. Not on purpose anyway. You were just being the same Leia who tried to spar with five broken ribs. I know you, and I know you don’t stop. That’s why we’re having this conversation. That’s also why I don’t think this will be the first time we have it, nor do I think I’ll be the only one who tells you any of this.”

    “You won’t be,” Luke said. He looked at his sister. “This afternoon, you said?”

    She nodded slowly. “Yes. At 1500. And I told Mom and Daddy that I’d stop by afterwards, so if you want to see the ultrasound picture, meet me there.”

    Luke and Alys both smiled. “Alright,” Luke said. “We will.”

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the Republic,” Tarkin said as the Holonet cameras rolled. “I am sure you are all aware by this time of the unfortunate news of the escape of Asajj Ventress. As a Senator, a representative of the people of Eriadu and a servant of the people of the Republic, I am working with Chancellor Amidala to resolve this crisis as quickly as possible. However, I cannot help but ask myself how it could have been prevented in the first place. The Republic Judiciary Central Detention Center is supposed to be the most secure prison on Coruscant, or I dare say, in the Republic itself. Ventress has been in custody there for two years, since her capture by a group of Jedi led by Master Mace Windu—who was ordered to bring Ventress in alive. Her trial last year resulted in a lifetime prison sentence, as Chancellor Amidala was once again reluctant to admit that some prisoners just might be too dangerous to continue existing in a galaxy with decent people.” Tarkin paused. “My fellow citizens, if the Central Detention Center and a ysalamari could not hold Ventress, she might just possibly be one of those prisoners. I have to question the wisdom of our Chancellor, as well as her competence in keeping the Republic safe, if she was unable to realize the danger that this prisoner and her allies held. I also have to question her competence if, due to her cowardice, she is unable to stop a resistance that was greatly weakened years ago.” He paused again. “Under a Tarkin administration, your security and safety will never be threatened again, because I will do what must be done to ensure it. Thank you.”

    Luke switched off the Holonet and punched one fist into the other palm.

    Alys sat back, her eyes wide with shock. “Unbelievable,” she said.

    Luke stood and began to pace. “Can you imagine if Palpatine had not been defeated and that barve actually remained a military governor over several sectors? ‘Do what must be done,’ my crippled old shaak. He’ll make himself an iron-fisted dictator in the name of ‘security’ just like his beloved mentor tried to do.”

    “Luke,” Alys said. “I really do not think people will go along with that rhetoric.”

    Luke looked at her. “I hope not, but I’m afraid to be too optimistic.” He sighed. “Daddy doesn’t even watch Tarkin’s speeches or statements anymore. The one time that he did, he got so angry that he splintered one of Mom’s vases using the Force. He didn’t even know that he had done it. Mom has forbidden him from watching since then.”

    “What does she think of Tarkin?”

    “Of course she doesn’t like him, but she’s been in politics for too long to get her feelings hurt over this sort of thing. She was the target of several assassination attempts during the Clone War. A few insults on the Holonet are nothing.”

    “Just a thought, Luke…”

    He looked at her again.

    “Maybe you shouldn’t watch either.”

    He sighed. “Probably not.” He sat next to her on the sofa, put his arm around her, leaned back and closed his eyes.

    The holovid was playing in the waiting area of the medical center as Han and Leia bode time before her appointment.

    Ugh!!!” Leia snapped when the transmission ended.

    “Leia…” Han said cautiously.

    “That half-witted slimy piece of Hutt dung. How dare he???” She walked rapidly across the room and back, her hand tightly gripping the hilt of her saber.

    Han caught her arm. “You need to sit down.”

    She glared at him. “No.”

    “Fine,” Han said. “At least take your hand off your lightsaber. I don’t want to have to worry about you skewering the next unsuspecting person that walks through here.”

    She looked at him again and sighed. Then she sat next to him and allowed him to put an arm around her shoulders.

    “Settle down,” Han said.

    “He’s awful,” Leia said.

    “Of course he is. And if by some act of who knows what god, he were to actually defeat your mother, I’d resign my commission in the Navy. No way am I serving under that. But I don’t think he’s worth getting upset over.”

    Leia sighed again. “I don’t know, Han. I just don’t know. He’s playing on people’s fears, using Ventress’ escape to his advantage…”

    At that moment a medical droid appeared and called her back for her exam.

    “Your health ranks excellent,” the medical droid said. “Your weight is within perfect range for your height and your heart rate and blood pressure are that of an experienced athlete.”

    “She’s a Jedi,” Han said, as if that should make all the information obvious.

    “Of course, sir,” the droid replied. “Padawan, if you will remove your clothing and put on this gown…”

    “This should be fun,” Han said with a smirk.

    Leia glared. “Shut up,” she said. She obeyed the droid, removing her boots, unzipping her jumpsuit and removing it, and slipping on the gown.

    The droid ordered her to lie on her back, punched a few buttons on the machine next to the examining table, and covered the wand with gel. “This might be a little cold.”

    “A little?” Leia said, wincing as the wand made contact with her skin. The droid did not reply, instead punched a few more buttons to make an image appear on the screen.

    After a few minutes of silence, in which the droid moved the wand on Leia’s abdomen and scanned several more images, Han said, “Well…?”

    “Admiral Solo,” the droid said. “If you will step to this side of the examining table, you will be able to see the image more clearly.”

    Leia turned her head as Han obeyed.

    “Here,” the droid said, indicating a small white image on one side of the screen, with a tiny head and millimeter length arms and legs, “…is the baby.”

    Han swallowed and reached out to touch the screen where the tiny limbs waved. He put his finger to the image. “Wow,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

    Leia smiled, took his other hand and squeezed it. “Wow is right.” She looked at the droid. “Just one baby?”

    If it were possible for a droid to sound confused, this one did. “Yes, Padawan. Why?”

    “She’s a twin,” Han said.

    “Oh,” the droid said. “Well, you are carrying a singleton.”

    “Singleton?” Han asked.

    “One baby, sir.”

    On the forest moon of Endor, inside a bunker beneath the shadows of tall trees, Asajj Ventress ate. “Are we sure we are well-hidden here?” She asked between bites of food.

    “Absolutely,” Sly Moore said. “This area is very remote. Even if the Navy and the Jedi manage to track us onto this moon, the forest will hide us for some time.” She smirked. “Long enough for the Ewoks to find them and make a nice banquet of them.”

    Ventress’s laugh was sinister. “We can hope. Somehow I don’t think Republic flesh would taste very good.”

    “The Republic will probably begin its search on your home world,” Wat Tambor said. “That will buy us some time.”

    “Yes,” Ventress said, with another smirk. “Unfortunately for them, I will not be needed on Rattatak for quite some time. I only return when the people need—persuasion and reminders.”

    “What is our next step?” Poggle the Lesser asked.

    Ventress looked at him. “I need you contact Gardulla the Hutt. If we can convince the Hutts to join us, which should not be overly difficult, we can then access their resources and their hyperspace lanes.”

    “And if they won’t join us?” Poggle asked.

    Ventress sneered. “They will. No one despises the Chancellor right now more than the Hutts.” She swallowed her last bite of food and stood. She looked at Moore. “And your job will be to convince as many Senators as possible to vote for Tarkin.”

    “So I am to return to Coruscant?” she said.

    “No. Just as you did before, find them on their home worlds. There are too many on Coruscant who were aware of your existence, and believe you to be dead. They need to continue to believe that. If the Jedi or any former members of the Delegation of 2000 learn that you survived, it will not bode well for us. Better to contact the Senators individually, in their home offices, and effectively wipe any memories of your presence after you have done the deed.”

    Moore nodded. The makeshift com station in the corner of the room buzzed. Tambor glanced at the identity marker and turned to Ventress. “It is Senator Tarkin.”

    Ventress smirked. “Patch him through.”

    “We have heard from Ellaih Rayley, one of the Knights dispatched to the Moddell subsector,” Mace Windu began.

    “And?” Anakin asked.

    Mace leaned forward slowly, looking as if he felt all of his 78 years. “There is no evidence of unusual activity or resistance cells on Rattatak. Most of the citizens are deathly afraid of Ventress, but she has not been seen or heard from in four standard years.”

    Anakin sighed. “So we scratch Rattatak,” he said.

    “For now,” Mace said.

    “What about other planets in the subsector?” Shaak Ti asked.

    “Bakura, Endor, Trenwyth,” Obi-Wan said, stroking his beard.

    “They could have gotten another flight and taken off into the Unknown Regions,” Anakin said.

    “Possibly,” Obi-Wan said, “but let’s not assume that until we have to.”

    “We should dispatch Rayley and the other two Knights to the planets that Obi-Wan mentioned, and send three others to reinforce them,” Mace said.

    “Agree with you, I do,” Yoda said. “Fortunate, it is, that injured on Rattatak, they were not. Very dangerous, that planet is.”

    “Yes,” Mace said. “Apparently three Jedi Knights were enough to temporarily subdue them. But we should remain on alert to happenings there in case Ventress appears to re-arm her people, as she has in the past.” He sat back in his chair. “In other business, Chancellor Organa has requested a Jedi escort for his daughter when she returns to Alderaan, which will be within a week’s time. She will be campaigning for Alderaan’s Senate seat.”

    “Is the Princess in danger?” Shaak Ti said. “I’m surprised the Organas feel that a Jedi escort is necessary. Alderaan is peaceful.”

    “Peaceful it is,” Yoda said. “But kidnapped by the resistance two years ago, the Princess was. In danger, she still could be.”

    “Especially with Ventress’ escape,” Mace said. “While Princess Alys’ kidnapping by Sate Pestage appeared to be an act of personal revenge between Pestage and Chancellor Organa himself, that is not a risk we can afford to take.” He looked at Anakin. “The Princess herself has requested young Luke. Will an assignment to protect her be dangerous for him?”

    Anakin looked slightly annoyed and did not say anything for a moment, then he shook his head. “No.”

    “Luke is very good at separating his personal attachments from his duty,” Obi-Wan said.

    Mace nodded slowly. “Very well then. Luke may escort the Princess to Alderaan.” He stood. “We will meet again when we hear an update from the Knights on the Moddell subsector. May the Force be with us.”

    Everyone stood and left the room, Obi-Wan and Anakin walking outside to Anakin’s speeder.

    “Can I interest you in a stop at a tapcaf?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “Sure,” Anakin said.

    “What’s going on?” Obi-Wan asked, noticing Anakin’s expression. “You look like you want to tell me something. You’ve looked that way since before the Council meeting started.”

    “Leia is pregnant.”

    “What?” Obi-Wan asked, his eyes widening.

    “Due seven months from today.”

    “Well,” Obi-Wan said, putting a hand to his forehead then letting it drop. “When did you find out?”

    “A couple of days ago,” Anakin said.

    “Well,” Obi-Wan repeated. “Definitely time for a drink. We have a lot to celebrate.”

    Anakin smiled. “Han has already gone shopping for a top-of-the-line hover stroller. And can’t find one he likes.”

    “Reminds me of another young father I once knew,” Obi-Wan said. “And by the way, you are certainly never allowed to call me an old man again now…Grandpa.”

    Anakin smirked.
  5. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    Another generation of lovely banter! Can you tell I love banter, no matter who between?
    And it took TWO days to tell "UNCLE" Obi-Wan? <hands on hips>
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Great blend of strategizing =D= and bantering :) LOL about the various reactions to Tarkin :p I can totally sympathize with the I'm too mad whenever I watch so I can't. A singleton huh? Yice AU shift there. :D @};-
  7. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Valairy Scot : So do I. And Han and Lando, at least in a better universe, would probably invent the concept.

    I had not thought of the time frame before they told Obi-Wan, I just assumed that Anakin had not seen him in a couple of days. But yeah, good point.

    Jade_eyes : I considered incorporating Jacen and Jaina but I haven't read enough post-ROTJ EU to be comfortable with it, so I did my own thing.

    Thanks for reading. :)


    Chapter 2

    On Tatooine, in the stone and metal palace belonging to her late brother on the Western Dune Sea, Gardulla the Hutt raised the Grand Council. Holograms appeared before her one by one.

    “I have a proposition,” she said.

    “I hope this is a good one, Gardulla,” Gorga said, smoking his pipe. “I’m in the middle of a business transaction.”

    “Selling death sticks again?” She snapped.

    He smirked. “Makes a greater profit than losing on podraces,” he said. “What’s the price on your head these days?”

    She glared. “You ready to hear the proposition or not?”

    “Fine,” he said. “Make it quick.”

    She took a deep breath. “We take back Tatooine.”

    They stared at her. “What do you mean, we take it back?” Arok said. “That barge sailed. And your brother lost it. Tatooine belongs to the Republic now.”

    “That can change,” she said. “A Wat Tambor came to me with a proposition from an Asajj Ventress…and Senator Tarkin himself.”

    “The one who is running for Chancellor?” Oruba said.

    “The same. And unlike the current cheeka in office, Tarkin didn’t marry a common shag.”

    “You lost Skywalker betting on a pod race 40 years ago. Get over it,” Gorga said.

    Are you listening to me???” She snarled. “Or are you afraid of success? Do you want the Republic to rule Tatooine? Are you enjoying having their rules interfere with your business and your profits? Did you enjoy losing your slaves?”

    “Better to lose them to Republic law than personal stupidity,” Gorga said.

    “What are we supposed to do? What does Tarkin want?” Oruba said.

    “Access to hyperspace lanes in Hutt Space. And funding for his campaign. And…reinforcements for the resistance members on Endor.”

    “And our reward will be?” Arok asked.

    She fixed each Council member with a hard stare. “Tatooine. He relinquishes it back to us if he wins.”

    “And how will that work exactly?” Gorga asked.

    She smirked. “The Chancellor has the power to appoint sector governors to control certain systems. Tarkin plans to make use of that power.”

    The other Hutts sat silently for a moment then nodded slowly. “Tell Tarkin it will be done.”

    “Well,” Padme said, looking up for her desk as her husband and his best friend entered her office. “You two look like you have exciting news.”

    “I don’t know that you’d call it exciting,” Obi-Wan replied. “Not yet anyway.”

    “But we have a good lead,” Anakin said. “What do you know about Endor?”

    “Rather isolated forest moon in the Moddell subsector. Home world of the Ewoks. Why?” Padme typed something into her work station, and Galactic Databank information on Endor appeared as a hologram.

    “We think Ventress might be there,” Obi-Wan said. “With the forest, it would be a good hiding place for the resistance, especially since none of them are human.”

    “What does species have to do with it?” Padme asked.

    Anakin cleared his throat. “Love, I don’t know how to tell you this, but…Ewoks eat humans.”

    Obi-Wan suppressed a snicker.

    “What?” Anakin asked.

    “Just thinking of that stuffed Ewok you gave Luke for his third birthday.”

    “Wicket,” Anakin said. “Luke carried him everywhere. Why?”

    “Somehow I think you left that particular bit of information off the gift card,” Obi-Wan replied with a smirk.

    “Luke couldn’t read then anyway. Is your point on the danger or the sheer irony of giving a small child a stuffed animal that eats people?”

    “Both,” Obi-Wan said.

    “What makes you think Ventress would choose Endor?” Padme asked, ending the playful argument.

    “We’ve ruled out Rattatak, Trenwyth, Bakura and Cerea,” Anakin said. “We can also try Firrere, Gannari, Zaddja and Codia but none of them are on any hyperspace route. Seems that they would want to be able to make a quick escape in case they are discovered. That leaves Endor.”

    “Do we know who among the resistance is still alive?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “And out of prison you mean? All of them except Free Taa, Qualkin, Tonith and Pestage,” Padme said.

    “That leaves Tambor, Poggle the Lesser, Shu Mai, and of course Ventress herself,” Obi-Wan said.

    “And Sly Moore,” Anakin added. He looked at his wife. “Do you think anyone in the Senate is sympathetic to Ventress?”

    Padme put a hand to her forehead. “Not that I know of. At least I hope not.” She sighed. “So are you sending someone to Endor?”

    “The six Knights that are currently in the Moddell subsector are going to congregate there,” Obi-Wan replied. “Anakin and I may need to reinforce them depending on what they find.”

    Padme nodded. “Let me know.” She turned to her husband. “Have you talked to Leia today?”

    Anakin nodded. “The pills her medical droid gave her are working. She kept her breakfast down. It wasn’t a Gartro egg omelette but she was able to eat.”

    Padme gave him a tired smile. “She won’t be able to eat or smell those for a few months I’m afraid.”

    “This is Jedi Padawan Luke Skywalker, requesting permission to land the Princess’ yacht at the Aldera Royal Palace.”

    “Padawan Skywalker, stand by while we confirm the ship’s identity.”

    Alys took Luke’s hand. “They’re a little nervous lately.”

    He looked at her. “They have been ever since you were kidnapped.” He squeezed her hand.

    She returned the squeeze. “Yes. But since Ventress’ escape, security has been tightened again. Mom demanded it.”

    “We have confirmed the identity of the Princess’ yacht. You may land at the palace.”

    “Thank you,” Luke replied. He piloted the ship into Alderaan’s atmosphere and gasped.

    “What?” Alys asked.

    “It’s beautiful,” Luke said.

    Alys laughed. “Luke, you act like you’ve never been to Alderaan before.”

    He smiled. “Well, it has been awhile. Too long.”

    The city of Aldera sat on an island in the middle of a vast blue ocean. The sunlight sparkled against the tips of the waves and the spires of both the Royal Palace and the buildings of the University of Aldera. In the distance stood snow-capped mountain peaks. As the palace hangar bay loomed closer, so did the lush green grass ending at the pristine white sand of the beach.

    “So where are you planning to start your campaign and what are you going to focus on?” Luke asked as he landed.

    “We’ll go to the university first,” Alys said. “We’ll visit Aldera and Crevasse City on this trip. Chianar will be next, the people there definitely need to hear my message.”

    “Message of…?” Luke asked, powering down the ship.

    Alys looked at him. “Peace,” she said. “Chianar was built to accommodate refugees from the Clone War. They need to know that the Alderaanian government and the Galactic Senate are going to do their best to ensure that the war doesn’t return.”

    She took Luke’s hand and they both stood as the ship’s ramp opened to reveal Breha Organa, flanked by four Alderaanian royal guards. The guards bowed to Alys. “Your Highness, Master Jedi,” one of them said.

    Alys nodded, then walked to her mother for a hug. The Queen of Alderaan was as petite and brunette as her daughter was tall and blonde, and she barely reached Alys’ shoulder.

    “Welcome home, darling,” Breha said, returning the hug and kissing her daughter’s cheek. “Luke,” she said, taking his hand. “Thank you for coming. I am more concerned for Alys’ safety during this campaign than I was even a few weeks ago.”

    “Mom,” Alys muttered.

    “I do not like this Tarkin at all,” Breha said. She turned to her daughter again as the three of them walked towards the palace, the royal guards directly behind them. “That is why I am insisting that you continue the tradition of serving one term in the Senate, although your father did not think it was necessary. The Senate needs you. And Padme needs as many Senators on her side as possible.” She glanced at Luke again, who nodded.

    “I do not think that anyone representing Alderaan would vote for Tarkin,” Alys said.

    “Maybe not, but now is not the time to induct an inexperienced person into Alderaan’s Senate seat. Such a person could be easily manipulated by Tarkin.” She sighed. “It is heartbreaking to see what that family has done to the people of Eriadu. They destroyed the shell work industry, remaking the planet’s economy around manufacturing, an industry controlled almost entirely by the Tarkins. Then that industry polluted the air and water to such a point that the mollusks became extinct anyway. It frightens me that he wants the Chancellorship. If he were to succeed, the only issue that will matter to his office will be that of profit. All humanitarian, social and environmental concerns will be laughed away.” She sighed again. “But let’s put that aside for now. Are you two hungry?”

    “Somewhat,” Luke said.

    Alys glanced at him, amused. “We’re starving, Mom.”

    Breha smiled. “Good. I had Kalira prepare several roasted Gorak birds. They should be ready very soon.”

    When Anakin and Obi-Wan came to Padme’s office a few afternoons later, they were in a much more somber mood.

    “What happened?” She asked.

    “Well, the good news first,” Obi-Wan said. “Wat Tambor has been arrested.”

    Padme nodded slowly. “Alright,” she said. “And the bad news?”

    Anakin sighed and began pacing. “I’m afraid it’s all bad from there, love.”

    “The Knights we sent, found Ventress on Endor,” Obi-Wan added.

    Padme frowned. “And…she escaped.”

    “Yes,” Anakin said, running his fingers through his hair and continuing to walk the room. “She, Sly Moore, Shu Mai and Poggle all escaped.”

    “So Sly Moore is definitely working with Ventress?”

    “Yes,” Obi-Wan said. “Ellaih Rayley managed to capture her image and transmit it to Master Windu, who identified her.”

    “None of the Knights we sent could have recognized her themselves. She went into hiding before they were born,” Anakin added.

    Padme gazed at her husband, seeing something greater in his eyes than disappointment…a deep sadness that could not have been caused only by another escape by Asajj Ventress. “And…what else?” She asked.

    Anakin stopped pacing and looked at her. “There was a fight. A small-scale battle really.”

    Padme’s eyes widened. “Not droids.”

    “No,” Anakin said. “Worse.”

    “We have reason to believe the Hutts are involved now,” Obi-Wan said. “Ventress had an entire legion of Gamorreans and Tatooine humanoids working for her. Fighting for her.”

    “The ones that used to work for Jabba,” Anakin said.

    “Oh,” Padme said. Her face fell. “And the Knights…did they make it back safely?”

    A heavy silence fell over the room as neither Anakin nor Obi-Wan answered right away. Finally Obi-Wan said, “They were overwhelmed. Five of them fell, including Rayley. Only Shesa Lithal survived. She brought Tambor back.”

    Padme put her hands to her temples. Anakin started pacing again. “They were new Knights,” he said. “Twenty-three-year-olds. Some of the first younglings we trained after the purge. What were we thinking?” He looked at his former master. “We should have gone, Obi-Wan.”

    “They were strong Jedi, Anakin. I don’t know that we would have fared any better.”

    Anakin blinked and ran his fingers through his hair again. “But we would have recognized those thugs for what they were,” he said. “And we’ve fought them before.”

    “We didn’t know they were there,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin stopped pacing and sighed.

    “I am concerned about the Hutts being involved,” Padme said. “What are they getting out of it and who is delivering?”

    “They would not be involved if they weren’t promised something in return,” Anakin said. “Hutts never give so much as a crunchbug without getting at least five of them back. So they are being promised something, and probably something huge.”

    “But what, and by whom?” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin looked at him. “Obi-Wan, maybe it’s time you and I paid a visit to Tatooine.”

    “You want to interrogate the Hutts?” Obi-Wan asked, looking surprised.

    Anakin nodded. “We need to find out who they are working for directly. Who contacted them about sending their fighters.”

    “And you definitely think that we need to be the ones to do it?”

    Anakin looked at Padme. “As you said once, I know the land.” He scowled. “And I know the Hutts.” He looked at Obi-Wan again. “It needs to be us.”

    “Are you sure?” Padme asked.

    “Yes,” Anakin said, although he sounded apprehensive. “We can do this. I need to do this.”

    She hesitated, then nodded slowly, walked over to Anakin and hugged him. “OK. Leave as soon as you are ready. And be careful, darling. Please.”

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate,” Padme said. “I know you have waited anxiously for an update on the pursuit of Asajj Ventress. The Republic Navy traced her escape flight to the Moddell subsector. The Jedi Council dispatched six Knights to the subsector; they conducted their search on five planets, including Ventress’ home world of Rattatak. Ventress was located in a bunker on the forest moon of Endor.” Padme paused. “Unfortunately, it appears that she has amassed an army comprised of humanoids formerly employed by Jabba the Hutt. Her army engaged the Knights, and five of them lost their lives.”

    A silence fell over the chambers.

    “Ventress appears to be working with several other leaders from the former Confederacy of Independent Systems. Jedi Knight Shesa Lithal arrested Wat Tambor and brought him back to Coruscant, where he remains in custody along with Pors Tonith, Sate Pestage, and former Senators Shanah Qualkin and Orn Free Taa. Poggle the Lesser, Shu Mai and Ventress herself remain at large, along with Sly Moore, an aide of the late Chancellor Palpatine, whom we have discovered to be working with Ventress.”

    Several Senators’ eyes widened. Padme glanced at Tarkin, thinking that she saw an expression of defeat appear on his face, but it disappeared quickly, replaced with the expressionless mask that he usually wore.

    Padme continued. “I have dispatched two Jedi Masters to Tatooine to investigate the Hutts and determine the nature of their involvement with Ventress. We are continuing to search the Outer and Mid Rim for Ventress and her allies; given the condition of the ship that she used, we do not believe that she could have gone far from Endor.” She paused again. “Are there any questions?”

    A pod lowered. “The Supreme Chancellor recognizes the Senator from the sovereign system of Mandalore,” Vice Chair Tarin said.

    “Your Excellency,” Senator Derryn Lashiec said. “If the Jedi Masters are able to prove a link between the Hutt Council and the resistance, what will become of the Hutt Council? Can they be taken into custody?”

    Padme nodded. “They will be arrested and their assets frozen. The government of Tatooine can assist us with that.”

    Lashiec nodded, and his pod retracted.

    “The Supreme Chancellor recognizes the Senator from the sovereign system of Malastare,” Tarin said.

    A pod lowered and Senator Jom Amon spoke. “Your Excellency, is it possible to take…harsher measures against the Hutts and other allies of Ventress, and end this conflict once and for all?”

    “Please explain what you have in mind by ‘harsher measures,’ Senator Amon.”

    “Harsher than simply taking them into custody, Madam. Ventress was taken into custody by one of the heads of the Jedi Council, tried and sentenced for life, and now she is at large again.”

    Padme took a deep breath. “Senator Amon, without the power of the Banking Clan, Ventress’ resistance is greatly weakened. Her escape is an unfortunate setback, compounded by the fact that we were not aware that Sly Moore was working with her. We were not even aware that Moore was still alive. We are, however, currently aware of that fact and have taken precautions.” Padme pressed a button, and a large hologram appeared over her, a hologram of a white-faced hairless woman dressed in grey robes. “My assistant will forward this image to you via the Holonet, and I am asking you to have your office staff, both here and on your home planets, familiarize themselves with it. Moore has been trained in the Dark Side of the Force and we have reason to believe that she has used mind tricks on people in order to promote resistance causes. In fact, Moore’s Dark Force tricks on the guards helped Ventress escape from the Republic Judiciary Detention Center.”

    Several gasps echoed around the room.

    Padme continued. “I am therefore asking you to be cautious, particularly on your home planets, especially those of you who are from the Outer Rim.”

    Tarkin’s pod lowered. “Chancellor Amidala,” he said. “I agree with Senator Amon that harsher measures need to be taken against the resistance. Much harsher measures.” He looked around the chambers. “Fellow Senators, this resistance is an offspring of the Separatist movement, and has been going on in some capacity for 21 years. 21 years! Aren’t you tired of this yet? Should it not end once and for all?”

    A solitary “hear, hear!” echoed in the chambers. Tarkin turned to Padme again. “Your Excellency, I am suggesting a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to this crisis. As the Jedi catch up with Ventress, which I have no doubt that they will, she should be eliminated immediately. Perhaps we should consider the idea that all citizens, particularly those in public office, should be subject to additional security measures? We could very quickly eradicate sympathy for the resistance on Coruscant and within the Republic government.” Tarkin received a few isolated rounds of applause, and he smiled, a smile that looked more like a sneer. “I am certain, Madam, that you are strong enough to make the right decision in this matter. True leaders sometimes have to take actions that they would personally rather not stomach.”

    “Senator Tarkin,” Padme said coldly. “You can be certain that the end of this dangerous resistance and the security of the Republic are my top priorities, even if our ideas might differ on how these goals should be accomplished.” She looked around the chamber. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am well aware that all of you, like Senator Tarkin, are losing patience as this conflict drags into its third decade. And I can assure you that my patience has worn just as thin as yours. However, we must find a way to end this conflict while still upholding the principles of democracy. For that reason, ‘take no prisoners’ approaches must be used very judiciously, and additional ‘security measures’, as you call them, should only be used in a state of emergency, and then, for a very limited time. As your Chancellor, it is not only my job to ensure your security, it is also my job to ensure your freedom. Those of you who remember the Clone War and the extended regime of Chancellor Palpatine, will also remember that we came dangerously close to throwing away our freedom in the name of greater security and a faster resolution to conflict. That is not a line that we can afford to cross again. The fate of the Republic depends not only on ending this resistance, but on ending it in such a way that fits within the guidelines of the Galactic Constitution.”

    Several Senators applauded, then the chamber fell silent once more.

    “Are there any further questions?”

    No pods moved and no one spoke.

    “Very well. This session is adjourned.”
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Yay Padme!!!! Exhibit one on why a woman president - with her scruples would totally rock to the moon!
  9. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Jade_eyes : :D That's what I was going for. I got the idea from Karen Miller's Clone Wars Gambit: Siege novel in which Bail Organa mused that Padme would make an excellent Supreme Chancellor one day.

    Thanks for reading. :)


    “Welcome to Mos Espa, sir,” came the voice over the ship’s comlink. “You may now land your ship in the main hangar.”

    “Thank you,” Anakin said, then looked at Obi-Wan. “Certainly a lot of changes around here.”

    “You’re surprised?” Obi-Wan said. “I thought you knew this already.”

    Anakin ran a hand over his face, then manipulated the controls to land the ship. “We don’t get the full impact without seeing it up close.” He patted his pocket. “It was nice not to have to exchange money ahead of time though. And Owen and Beru…” Anakin stopped, pressing a button to minimize the map of the area.

    “What about them?”

    “They’re doing much better. Especially with the Senate voting steady increases in farming assistance.” Anakin powered down the ship.

    “You were their farming assistance before,” Obi-Wan said.

    They unstrapped themselves. “Which was fine with me, but for them…this way is better. They deserve the chance to be as independent as possible.” Anakin turned to the astromech. “R2. If we aren’t back in two planetary rotations, contact Padme.”

    The droid beeped an affirmative, and the ship’s ramp lowered. Anakin and Obi-Wan put their hoods over their heads and descended.

    “We’ll stop by there when we’re finished,” Anakin said. “Beru has an entire case of pallie fruit for Leia and doesn’t want to ship it.”

    Obi-Wan looked amused. “Such interesting additions to mission logs in the new Order,” he said dryly. “Securing local dishes on Outer Rim worlds in order to satisfy pregnancy cravings. Makes me a little more optimistic about the state of things.”

    Anakin laughed. “It could be worse. Padme wanted smoked nerf. For every meal.” The laughter stopped. “I don’t know who got it for her when we were on the Outer Rim.”

    “They sell that on Coruscant. I’m sure someone on her staff took care of it.” Obi-Wan said. “So when is the last time you saw Owen and Beru? Leia’s wedding?”

    “No,” Anakin replied. “Padme talked them into coming to Naboo last year. They seemed to enjoy themselves.” They had exited the hangar and were walking down a street in Mos Espa. “Keep your eyes peeled for a speeder rental place.”

    “What about there?” Obi-Wan said, pointing to his right.

    Anakin looked. “Perfect,” he said, walking towards the shop and waving at Obi-Wan to follow. They walked in the front door, and a chime rang.

    “Can I help you?” The woman behind the counter said. To Anakin’s surprise, she spoke perfect Basic.

    Anakin put a few credits on the counter. “We’re interested in renting a landspeeder. An XP-38A sport if you have one.”

    She nodded. “I think we do. Let me check.” She left the counter through a door leading to the back of the shop. “Honey, someone is here looking for an XP-38A to rent.”

    “We’ve got one left,” a male voice replied. Then the figure emerged from the back, tall, swarthy, and dark-haired. “It’s in the rear of the…”

    When he saw the Jedi, his eyes widened.

    “Anakin?” The man said, his voice barely above a whisper.

    “Kitster?” Anakin replied. His eyes were just as wide.

    Kitster Banai stepped out from behind the counter and slowly approached his childhood friend, pulling him into a loose hug, which Anakin returned.

    “How have you been?” Anakin asked.

    “Much better in the past two years,” Kitster said. “Republic laws have helped me get this place off the ground.” He looked at Anakin’s lightsaber. “So…you did become a Jedi.”

    Anakin put a hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “Thanks to this man, yes. Obi-Wan Kenobi, meet Kitster Banai.” Obi-Wan, who had turned red, shook Kitster’s hand. “We’re on Tatooine on a mission…” Anakin continued.

    Obi-Wan interrupted. “Anakin,” he said. “We’re not on a timetable, not an urgent one anyway. Let’s rent the speeder…” He looked at Kitster. “Then go for a drink with your friend.”

    Kitster smiled. “The speeder is yours for as long as you need it, and at no charge.”

    Anakin smiled back. “We’re buying your drinks then.”

    The cantina was noisy, full of bustling, happy people. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Kitster took a booth in the corner and ordered jawa beer.

    “Up until Tatooine joined the Republic, news was hard to come by,” Kitster said. “We’d get an occasional clip on the Holonet and gossip from the space pilots—pretty much like we did when we were kids. Free people didn’t have much better access to news than slaves did—unless you had enough druggats to pay for it, that is. We get a little more of the Holonet feed now.”

    “Well, Coruscant thrives on news. So much that you have to separate the good information from the useless bits,” Anakin said, sipping his beer.

    Kitster looked at the gold band on Anakin’s left ring finger, then looked at Anakin, his eyebrows raised. “So…the Chancellor is your wife?”

    Anakin lowered his voice. “Don’t wave over any of the reporters that might be lurking in this place, Kitster, but yes, she is.”

    Kitster shook his head and sipped his beer. “I didn’t think there could be two Jedi named Anakin Skywalker, but I thought I’d ask.”

    “You met Padme once. You don’t remember?”

    Kitster’s brow furrowed. “No.”

    Anakin looked amused. “You were more impressed with her droid than you were with her. When I was building the pod for the Boonta.”

    A flicker of recognition came across Kitster’s face. “The droid was an astromech? And…oh, yes.” He smiled. “I do remember now. She was very pretty.”

    “She still is,” Anakin said.

    “You’ve come quite a long way,” Kitster said. “And you have children?”

    “21-year-old twins, a boy and a girl,” Anakin said. “And a grandchild on the way.”

    Kitster’s eyes widened, and he called the waitress over. “We’ll have another round,” he said. “Finding out that my best friend from childhood is going to be a grandfather, has just aged me faster than the Tatooine suns.”

    Anakin and Obi-Wan both laughed. “No worries, Kitster,” Obi-Wan said. “You’re not old, Anakin got started early in more areas than racing pods.”

    “You say that as if being a prodigy is a bad thing, Master,” Anakin said.

    “’Prodigy’ was not the word I had in mind, Padawan,” Obi-Wan replied.

    Anakin laughed, then turned to Kitster again. “What about you? We’ve talked enough about me. The woman who runs the shop…?”

    “She’s a friend,” Kitster said, and his eyebrows went up again. “With benefits.”

    “Oh,” Anakin said, and he smirked.

    “I’m still trying to escape the cheeka that I made the mistake of marrying,” Kitster said. He frowned and took another swig of beer. “We have six children and had a business together, so that’s been complicated. I opened up the speeder rental shop and a machine parts shop separately from her, and I’m paying out good credits to make sure she doesn’t get her hands on those.” He sipped his beer again then pulled a small object from his pocket. “Enough about that though. I’ve been saving this for you, in the event that you ever showed up here again. It’s time you had it.”

    Anakin took the holocube in his artificial hand and held it up to the light. “What is it?”

    “Your mother and Cliegg’s wedding. Amee and Wald and I went; I took a few holos.”

    Anakin turned the cube over in his hands, examining the images of his mother, smiling, happy, and radiant. She held the arm of a man who was barely recognizable as the broken man Anakin remembered as his stepfather.

    Anakin looked away for a moment and blinked rapidly to unblur his vision. When he could trust his voice, he turned back to Kitster. “Thank you,” he said.

    Kitster nodded. “I told Shmi at the time that I would make sure you got these if I ever saw you again,” he said. “We were all glad she found such a good man. The wedding was beautiful.”

    Anakin nodded, turning the holocube over in his hands again. “She had a few good years,” he said. “They made a go of that farm on the other side of Mos Eisley.”

    “Does your stepbrother still have it?”

    “Yes. In fact, we hope to go by there within the next couple of days.”

    “I hope they’ve been safe from the trouble in that area lately,” Kitster said.

    Anakin suddenly lowered the cube, staring at his friend. “What are you talking about?”

    “Hutts,” Kitster said. “They’ve been restless. They had taken a lower profile after Tatooine joined the Republic, in fact, a few of them left and went back to Hutt Space, but the ones who are left…riots. Looting. Threatening the locals.” He sipped his beer. “Not the Hutts themselves of course. They hire people to do it for them; they’ve even tried to hire Tusken Raiders. There have been several arrests, but both Mos Eisley and Anchorhead could use a greater police presence.”

    Anakin ran his fingers through his hair. “Does Otzz Ryscandor know about this?” he asked, referring to the Senator from Tatooine.

    “It’s fairly recent. I don’t know if the local governments have had the chance to contact Coruscant yet.”

    Obi-Wan put a hand on Anakin’s shoulder. “That’s where we come in,” he said.

    Anakin nodded. “Of course.” He stood. “Kitster. We can’t thank you enough.”

    Kitster stood, pulling Anakin into another loose hug. “It was good to see you again. Don’t be a stranger.”

    “This isn’t really goodbye,” Obi-Wan said. He looked at Anakin. “We are going to have to return the speeder, remember?”

    Anakin laughed. “Yes,” he said. He turned to Kitster. “We’ll see you in a couple of days. And thanks again. For the information…” He held up the holocube. “…and this.”

    "Any time, old friend," Kitster said.

    Alys stepped onto the platform and waved at the cheering crowd. The mid-morning sun shone and a gentle breeze wafted through the air, comfortable weather for the throng of students who gathered below, excited to see their Princess. Luke stood directly behind her, watching the sunlight shimmer off her platinum hair.

    “Thank you,” she said, waving at the crowd to settle. They cheered her again.

    “Thank you,” she repeated. “As you are probably aware by now, I am beginning my campaign for a seat in the Galactic Congress.” Another cheer, and Alys smiled. “Thank you,” she repeated. “As you are probably also aware, both the Galactic Senate and the Chancellor’s office are working to contain a resistance movement led by Asajj Ventress, a movement that threatens the security of the Republic and may threaten the fabric of democracy itself.” The cheers disappeared. Alys continued. “Any crisis, up to and including war, can instill in us such a level of fear that we come to question the principles we have always held. All of you are about my age. We were born at the end of the Clone War. We did not experience it ourselves so we have no first-hand knowledge of the sheer terror that our parents experienced. However, we study our history and we talk to survivors, and we know that we cannot repeat the mistakes of that time. Ceding our values to an atmosphere of panic, willingly giving up our freedoms to those who would claim to give us greater security—those were the mistakes of the war, mistakes of which the late Chancellor Palpatine used to his own advantage, amending the Constitution to allow himself enough power to form a dictatorship, labeling his own political enemies as enemies of the Republic. My father’s administration worked to reinstate the old Constitution, but neither he nor the two subsequent Chancellors have been able to completely alleviate Palpatine’s influence on the galaxy.” She paused. “Chancellor Amidala’s challenger, Senator Tarkin, was a close ally of Palpatine’s. He was appointed by Palpatine as Grand Moff or military governor over the Seswenna sector. The military governors were used to subvert power from the Senate, from the men and women that you elect, and divert it into the Chancellor’s office, to the people that Palpatine himself appointed. Tarkin’s hostility after my father dismissed all the military governors as well as his continued support for a system of Moffs for security on the Outer Rim, seems indicative of his attitude towards democracy in general. Additionally he has promised harsh restrictions in the name of security until the resistance is defeated.” She paused again. “Ladies and gentlemen, as your Senator, I promise to work with Chancellor Amidala’s office as she seeks a peaceful solution to this crisis. As the wise Queen Jamillia of Naboo once said, the day we stop believing that democracy can work is the day that we lose it. And if we give up our freedoms in the name of security, the resistance has already won. I will work to ensure that that does not happen, that both your security and your freedom are protected. Thank you.”

    A reporter’s hand shot up with a question, and Alys nodded to the person, indicating that she could speak.

    “How serious is the challenge that the Chancellor faces from Tarkin?”

    Alys frowned. “It is quite serious.”

    Another hand shot in the air. “But the Chancellor’s poll numbers are high.”

    Alys nodded again. “Here on Alderaan, they certainly are, and among the Senators, they are generally so. But we are fortunate enough to have a culture that revolves around peace. On other worlds, people are not so fortunate. The Chancellor has my full support now and will continue to have it if I am elected. She will also need your support.”

    A third hand appeared. “Where is the resistance located now?”

    “Their last location was Endor.”

    “Where is that?”

    “In the Outer Rim. The Moddell subsector,” Alys replied.

    “What are the chances that they could make their way as far as the Core Worlds?” Another voice called.

    “They breached the Mid Rim two years ago, when I was kidnapped. Since then, the Jedi and the Republic Navy have kept them contained in the Outer Rim, and have taken several of their members into custody. I would say it is unlikely that they will come as far as the Core. However, we should not pretend that it couldn’t happen either. Evil takes advantage of complacency.”

    Several audience members nodded and no one else called out.

    “Are there any further questions?” Alys asked.

    A hand appeared in the air, and Alys nodded.

    “Are you going to marry the Jedi?”

    Alys did not answer right away. Luke could feel blood rushing to his face all the way to the roots of his hair. Alys turned slightly, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring half-smile, before turning back to her audience.

    “Padawan Skywalker and I have been friends all our lives. Such a discussion has not taken place, as we are still very young and have not seen the need for it.”

    “Doesn’t the Alderaanian throne need an heir? And would a Force-sensitive heir not be good for our people?” The same person said.

    Alys looked askance at Luke again, muttered “gossip monger” out of the corner of her mouth, then turned back to the reporter and cleared her throat. “I can assure you that I have many years left to consider that,” she replied. “Any other questions?”

    No further hands appeared.

    Alys nodded to the crowd. “Thank you for your time. And feel free to contact my office if you need to do so.”

    She stepped off the podium as the air rang with applause again.

    “I’m sorry, Luke,” Alys said. It was later in the afternoon, and the two of them set on a sofa in her suite of rooms in the Aldera Royal Palace, sipping wine. A fire crackled in the fireplace.

    “Sorry for what?” Luke asked. “You gave a good speech. Your people love you.”

    “I didn’t want to shut down questions too early, but…I should have expected that gossipy reporter and she took me off guard.”

    Luke laughed. “Alys. You aren’t the only one with famous parents. I’m as accustomed to the Holonet gossips as you are. I wasn’t expecting that question either, but it’s not a big deal.”

    She didn’t answer.

    “We’ve been together for over two years,” Luke continued. “I’m surprised no one has asked you before now.”

    Alys stood and walked away from Luke. The sun had disappeared, and a late-day rainstorm pattered gently against the large palace windows. She sipped her wine and watched the droplets fall.

    Luke approached her and put his hands on her shoulders. “OK,” he said. “What’s really wrong?”

    She sighed again and rolled her eyes. “I’m frustrated. The galaxy is in a precarious place and there are some citizens of Alderaan who are only concerned with when I’m going to produce a new Prince or Princess. Misogyny at its finest. I thought educated and cultured people were above that sort of thing.”

    Luke smiled. “I don’t know about misogyny. I think you would have gotten that question even if you were a man.”

    She didn’t answer him, just continued to watch the rain fall.

    He cupped her chin, forcing her to look at him. “That’s not all, is it?” he asked.

    She looked down, muttering, “Jedi.”

    Luke smiled. “I didn’t need the Force to discern that one.”

    She didn’t say anything.

    “What is it?” He asked.

    She didn’t answer right away; the hand holding the wine glass shook. “I’ve done you a disservice, Luke,” she said.

    His brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?”

    “This is only the beginning. You have to know that. The questions, the projections, every move being scrutinized. On Coruscant, sure, the Holonet gossips enjoyed discussing our love life but Coruscant has enough scandalous politicians and movie and sports stars to discuss that they are able to make their piece and then move along. It’s different here. I’m the Queen of Alderaan’s only child, and with royalty—there are age-old traditions and expectations, and a much greater amount of scrutiny. My agreeing to run for this Senate seat—also only the beginning. I just hope you understand that.”

    “Haven’t we been through this already? When we were first together?”

    “This is different. At that time I was more worried about ruining our friendship.”

    “That too,” Luke said. “And that hasn’t happened, has it?” He gave her a teasing half-smile. “You made me wait six months before you’d sleep with me, and we’re still friends.”

    She tried to return the smile, knowing he was trying to lighten the mood. “You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”

    He put an arm around her shoulders. “Alright. I shouldn’t have brought it up. Bad timing.” He sighed. “What are you trying to say?”

    She set the wine glass on the mantle, lowered her head, and clenched her fists, her nails digging into her palms.

    “Alys…” Luke said.

    “I’m trying to say that being with me is going to get more complicated as time goes on. I’m trying to say that if you ever decide that this isn’t the life you want…I’ll understand.” Her voice choked. “I’m…I’m giving you an out, Luke. If you ever decide you need to take it. Without…without ruining our friendship.”

    Luke held her, and laughed. She looked up, scowling. “What?” She asked.

    He hugged her again. “Did you think I didn’t know that you were Princess of Alderaan when I discovered that I was in love with you?”

    She managed a smile but it quickly disappeared. “I think you didn’t know the implications. I think you still don’t know.”

    He put his hand under her chin and kissed her. “Alright, so I don’t know. I can live with that.”

    She took one of his hands, gripping it tightly in hers. “Luke…”

    “I get it. You’re giving me a free pass if I ever decide this is all too much.” He kissed her again. “Just don’t expect me to take it.” He held her tightly.

  10. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    Ahh...but young love and clear heads together, admirable.

    Have you been listening to Force-cast - bringing in Kitster? Love the holocube he gave Anakin.
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed the reunion with Kitster and his gift and warning of unrest and trouble brewing.

    Luke with Alys -- his reaction - just what I'd expect -- :* :)
  12. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Valairy Scot: No Force cast, most of Kitster's characterization comes from Tatooine Ghost, as does the holocube. Sounds like I should listen to it though.

    Jade_eyes: I always wondered what happened to Kitster in canon and was glad the EU cleared it up somewhat. Glad you liked Luke and Alys.

    Thanks for reading. :)


    Anakin drove the speeder out of Mos Espa and across the desert towards the Dune Sea, not saying anything to Obi-Wan, staring at a place far in the distance, a scowl on his face.

    “What is it?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “What Kitster said,” Anakin replied. “The Hutts threatening locals. And hiring Tuskens. If they have hurt Owen and Beru…” He put a hand on his lightsaber.

    “Relax, Anakin, I’m sure we would have heard.”

    Anakin had a look that said I wish I could believe you, and continued to drive silently.

    They arrived at Gardulla the Hutt’s palace an hour later. Anakin parked the speeder a short distance away and climbed out, with Obi-Wan behind him. Obi-Wan put a hand on Anakin’s arm. “Let me do the talking, at least initially,” he said. Anakin’s scowl had deepened, his eyebrows drawn together.

    “Fine,” Anakin muttered. They walked silently towards the entrance to the palace, where they were met by a Toydarian guard.

    “Who goes there?” The guard said.

    Obi-Wan waved a hand in front of his face. “You will take us to your master now.”

    The guard laughed. “Jedi,” he spat. “My mistress said you are not to be admitted.”

    Obi-Wan waved his hand again. “We must be allowed to speak.”

    The guard’s laugh was more sinister, and he waved two armed Gamorreans from the shadows.

    “No Jedi are allowed here,” the guard said, then looked at the Gamorreans. “Take them away!”

    The Gamorreans raised their Thogks. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s lightsabers flew into their hands and ignited. They used Force-leaps to dodge blow after attempted blow. Anakin jumped over one Gamorrean’s head and landed behind him, and as that Gamorrean turned, Obi-Wan took advantage of his distraction to cut his arm off at the shoulder. The Gamorrean howled as the bloodied arm fell, the Thogk still firmly in its grip. As his companion turned to see what had happened, Obi-Wan cut off his weapon-wielding arm as well.

    Obi-Wan turned to the Toydarian. “We will be going inside now,” he said.

    The Toydarian nodded. “You will be going inside now,” he said.

    Obi-Wan walked past the Toydarian and the Gamorreans, still writhing in pain on the ground, and went inside the palace, with Anakin close behind him.

    Gardulla the Hutt sat on a dias, surrounded by various servants and guards; Twi’leks, Gamorreans, protocol droids.

    “What are you doing here?” She snarled. “How did you get past my guards?”

    H’chu apenkee, Lady Gardulla. We need some information vital to the Republic, and therefore your own business interests,” Obi-Wan said. “And then we will leave you in peace.”

    “The Republic,” Gardulla spat. “The Republic has cost me a fortune. I owe you nothing. And you,” she said, glaring at Anakin. “You think you are almighty because you got inside the Chancellor’s robes, but you are a common shag and will never be anything but a common shag.”

    Anakin glared back and put his hand on his lightsaber. Obi-Wan sent him a warning through the Force, a sharp No. Anakin stepped back, saying nothing, and letting go of his saber.

    “What do you know of Asajj Ventress?” Obi-Wan asked.

    Gardulla hesitated for a moment, then said, “Never heard of her.”

    “Oh, really?” Obi-Wan said. “Are you aware that working for her are several humanoids, Tatooine natives, who used to work for you and your brother?”

    “No,” Gardulla spat.

    “Are you also aware that in the Battle of Endor, several of these humanoids lost their lives?”

    Gardulla said nothing, but Anakin and Obi-Wan could tell that she was surprised. Then suddenly she gave a cry of rage, raised her short arm, and smashed her protocol droid into the wall.

    “What did Ventress promise you in return for use of your army?” Obi-Wan asked calmly.

    Gardulla glared, said nothing, and gestured to her guards to come forward.

    “Did she promise to return Tatooine to your control?”

    Gardulla again did not answer Obi-Wan, but turned to Anakin again. “Tell your pretty little Chancellor that her days are numbered,” she spat.

    Anakin had had enough. He ignited his lightsaber and charged Gardulla, holding it under her chin.

    Gardulla laughed. “You think you can kill me with that, shag? Or would you rather choke me like your filthy brat did to my brother? It would be all too easy now. You are under Republic law and would be arrested.”

    Anakin was seething. He could almost see red at the corners of his vision. He held the saber closer to Gardulla’s throat.

    “Anakin!” Obi-Wan said sharply. “Let’s go.”

    The tone of his former teacher’s voice brought Anakin back to his senses. He gave Gardulla one final withering look, disengaged his saber, and jumped down.

    “Go?” Gardulla snarled. “Not so fast. Guards!” She called. Three Gamorreans approached her. “Kill them. Kill them now.”

    They rushed Anakin and Obi-Wan with their Thogks raised, but the Jedi Force-leapt over them and ran quickly to the speeder.

    Once they were safely away, Anakin cried out, “UGH!” followed by a string of Huttese curses, and slammed the fist of his flesh hand into the palm of his artificial one.

    “You need to settle down, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin’s fist smacked his palm again. “You have no idea how angry I am, Master.”

    “I have some idea. It’s not like you’re very good at hiding it.”

    “That was completely useless.” He gripped the steering wheel tightly, and his voice softened. “And I’m sorry, Obi-Wan. I was completely useless. I shouldn’t have come.”

    Obi-Wan took a deep breath. “Anakin. First, no, you were not completely useless. I needed you for back-up. However, I underestimated how painful it would be for you to confront the Hutt who had enslaved you, and that was my fault.”

    “Obi-Wan,” Anakin said. “No, it wasn’t. I should have…”

    Obi-Wan held up a hand, signaling to Anakin to allow him to continue. “Secondly, that session was not completely useless. You did not really expect Gardulla to be forthright with information, did you? But we did learn quite a bit from what she didn’t say.”

    Anakin turned and gazed at him.

    Obi-Wan continued. “Ventress hired her. That is obvious. We may not have enough information to charge her with a crime, but we certainly have enough to detain her for further questioning.”

    Anakin suddenly smirked. “She will probably refuse any subpoena, in which case she can be arrested for refusing to cooperate with a Republic investigation.”

    “I see you are following my line of thought. And that comment she made about Padme…”

    The smirk disappeared and Anakin’s expression darkened again.

    “…I have a hunch, nothing more, that Tarkin may be involved in this,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin whirled around again, nearly losing control of the speeder.

    “Anakin!” Obi-Wan cried.

    “Sorry, Master,” Anakin said, righting the steering column again. “What about Tarkin? What makes you say that?”

    “Ventress could not promise a return of Tatooine to the Hutts on her own accord. She does not have that kind of power. She would need help from inside the Republic government. Isn’t Tarkin an obvious choice? A lone Senator or group of Senators could not relinquish Tatooine to the Hutts. A Chancellor, on the other hand, could put certain measures in place to effectively do so.”

    Anakin’s lips pressed together and his brow furrowed, but he didn’t answer, just continued to steer the speeder in the direction of Anchorhead.

    Obi-Wan put a hand on his arm. “We’ll take this to the Jedi Council when we return to Coruscant. Right now, let’s go to Owen and Beru’s. Find out what they know about the uprisings that Kitster mentioned. And get a meal and a good night’s sleep. And you, my friend, need to meditate.”

    Anakin sighed. “Or see if Owen has some equipment I can fix.”

    Obi-Wan nodded. “Whatever works.”

    “Milady,” Sovi’s voice came through the com as Padme sat at her desk. “Admiral Solo to see you.”

    “Thank you, Sovi. Send him in.”

    The door opened and Han walked into the office, a small object in his hand.

    Padme stood. “Han,” she said.

    “I could have just called you, but I thought you’d want to see this in person.” He held up the object.

    “What is it?”

    “It’s from Admiral Zerrak Kelleman, who runs the naval base on Bespin. A couple of lieutenants from that base intercepted a transmission from just outside Cloud City’s orbit.” He handed her the data crystal, and she plugged it into her comlink.

    Ventress. I have attained access to a facility on Hoth. It should suit our purposes nicely. The voice was warbled but recognizable as that of Shu Mai.

    How long can we survive in that climate? Ventress’ voice replied.

    Long enough. We have provisions. The only danger is the small naval base nearby. But few officers are stationed there. I would assume that the Navy sends their useless midshipmen here in the hopes of getting rid of them easily. Shu Mai gave a sinister laugh. But the planet is rarely visited and should be a good hiding place.

    Ventress’ sneer could almost be heard through the transmission. Good. We are on our way.

    The transmission ended. Padme smiled. “Well done, Han.”

    Han shrugged. “It wasn’t me. Admiral Kelleman is the one you need to thank for that one.”

    Padme nodded. “I’ll contact him. Any word on the Tibanna gas miners? How are they faring?”

    “Very well. No matter how bad the economy gets, people still need hyperdrive coolant—and they need their blasters even more.” Han scowled for a moment. “On a better note, though, tourism is still booming there.”

    “Good,” Padme said. “I’m concerned about trouble on the Outer Rim worlds; news sometimes doesn’t reach us until too late.” She put her fingers to her temples. “Anakin said there has been some trouble from the Hutts on Tatooine. Not too bad yet, no fatalities, just…restlessness. Enough that Owen and Beru don’t go into Anchorhead or Mos Eisley without their blasters anymore.”

    Han turned quickly, surprised. “Really? Does this have to do with the Hutts hiring out to Ventress?”

    Padme put her hands down. “Probably,” she said. “Anakin also thinks she might still have sympathizers within the Senate, although he would not go into any more detail with me over the comlink.” She looked annoyed.

    “He might have thought you’d be intercepted.”

    She sighed. “That’s true. He might have. At any rate, he and Obi-Wan are on their way home, as are Luke and Alys. I’ll send this data crystal to the Jedi Council.”

    “I can encrypt a transmission to Mal Sallian; he’s the admiral in charge of the base on Hoth. If the Jedi are going there, the Navy can house them on the base. It’s equipped for the climate.”

    “That would be a good idea. Thank you.”

    “I’m on my way home. Do you need anything else?”

    Padme smiled. “No. How is Leia?”

    “She’s fine. Sparring with remotes at headquarters, although I think she might have had a human partner yesterday. Complaining that pregnancy is slowing her down. Like that would ever happen. Trying to figure out if any obscure market in CocoTown sells pallie fruit.”

    Padme laughed. “I think Anakin is bringing her some.”

    “She’ll probably want to name the baby after him just for that,” Han said. He turned to leave her office. “We’ll come up later.”

    Obi-Wan and Anakin, who hoisted the case of pallie fruit under his arm, chimed the door and Leia palmed it open. She looked tired, her face was fuller than usual, and her jumpsuit was tight around her growing abdomen.

    “Daddy. Uncle Obi-Wan. Welcome home,” She said flatly.

    Anakin held out the case, and she took it. “What is it?” She asked.

    “Open it and see,” Anakin said. “But you might want to do that in the kitchen.”

    She nodded and turned, walking towards the kitchen. They followed, closing the front door behind them.

    She sat the case on the table and opened it quickly, revealing the sweet-smelling fruit. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and smiled. Then she opened her eyes, stood on tiptoe and kissed her father’s cheek. “Thank you,” she said quietly.

    “You can thank Aunt Beru for that one, we just transported it,” Anakin said. But Leia was already digging into the fruit, taking large bites, the juice dribbling down her chin.

    “Easy, young one,” Obi-Wan said. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

    “Not likely,” Leia said between bites. “This is one of few foods that doesn’t make me sick.” She tossed the fruit core into the trash and Force-floated napkins to wipe her face.

    “Have you stayed busy?” Anakin asked.

    Leia swallowed her food. “I sparred with Dak yesterday. After spending ten minutes convincing him that no, he couldn’t possibly hurt me now any more than he could before I got pregnant and I need to stay in shape."
    She frowned. “Other than that, watching those Senate idiots on the Holonet debating how Mom should get rid of Ventress. Hours of jabbering to cover up the fact that they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

    Anakin raised an eyebrow. “Did you beat Dak? That would be the question.”

    Leia met his expression with a raised eyebrow of her own. “Of course I did.”

    At that moment the front door slid open again and Han Solo walked into his apartment, through the living area and into the kitchen. Seeing Anakin and Obi-Wan there, he nodded. “Welcome back,” he said. Before they could thank him, Han looked at his wife and muttered, “What the hell…?” She was tossing another fruit core into the garbage with one hand, and with the other, cleaning fruit juice off her face. She finished and quickly picked up another piece of fruit.

    “Pallie fruit,” she said between bites.

    Han nodded slowly. “Oh,” he said. “So this is the famous pallie fruit.” He picked up one and took a bite, made a face, then shook his head. “Nah. Knock yourself out, sweetheart.”

    Leia took the fruit from him and finished it. Han turned to Anakin and Obi-Wan. “I just came from Padme’s office. She has a data crystal that you’ll be interested in; she said she was planning to send it to the Council.”

    “We can save her that trouble,” Anakin said. “What kind of data crystal?”

    “One giving the current location of Ventress,” Han replied.

    Leia swallowed her food quickly, her eyes wide. “What???”

    Anakin was already entering the code for Padme’s office into his wrist com, to tell her he was on his way.

    “Positive intelligence, narrowed down to one planet,” Han replied. “Hoth.”

    Anakin frowned. “It would have to be the coldest planet in the galaxy,” he muttered. He gave Leia a quick hug and kissed the top of her head. “Pack a bag. We are going to need all hands on deck for this one. And tell Luke to do the same if you see him before I do.” He pulled his hood over his head and turned towards the door. Obi-Wan did the same, putting a hand on Leia’s shoulder.

    “You might want to pack some of that fruit. I doubt there will be any fruit whatsoever on Hoth,” he said.

    “Assuming she doesn’t eat the whole case tonight,” Han muttered.

    Anakin laughed. “We’ll see you later,” he said.

    “So Gardulla didn’t say much, other than to threaten and taunt Anakin,” Padme said.

    Obi-Wan shook his head. “No. But her reaction when we told her how many humanoids were killed, is pretty firm confirmation that she hired out her army to Ventress.”

    Padme nodded slowly. “There didn’t seem to be any other possibility as far as Ventress accessing that particular army,” she said. She looked at Anakin. “What was it about her having sympathizers in the Senate?”

    “She didn’t answer when Obi-Wan asked her if the Hutts were promised Tatooine,” Anakin replied.

    “And I could sense that we were correct in that theory,” Obi-Wan added. He took a deep breath. “This isn’t going to be easy for you to hear, Padme, but you may need to consider the idea that Tarkin may be involved in this.”

    Padme blanched. “What makes you think that?”

    “Ventress could not promise Tatooine to the Hutts merely by getting a few Senators to support the resistance, as she did before. That would not be enough.”

    “This is what I didn’t want to tell you over the comlink, love,” Anakin said.

    Padme nodded and looked at Obi-Wan. “Are you sure?”

    “No,” he said. “As I said, it’s just a theory, I have no evidence whatsoever.”

    “But it adds up,” she said. “If the Hutts are trying to regain control of Tatooine, which it seems that they are, they would need the majority of Senators on their side, including one who would introduce such a bill. Or a Chancellor who would not react to the uprisings there. Or both. That’s how the Hutts were able to control Tatooine in the first place. The Republic simply ignored the planet.” She stood and walked towards the window.

    For a couple of minutes the office was silent. Anakin went to Padme and wrapped his arms around her from behind. “Are you alright?” he asked.

    She sighed. “I’m fine. Just a little more pressured to win re-election than I was an hour ago.” She turned and kissed him, then walked back to her desk and opened her comlink. “Sovi. Please contact Chancellor Organa and Chancellor Mothma and tell them I need to meet with them first thing in the morning.”

    “Yes, milady.”

    “Thank you.” She closed her comlink and looked at Anakin and Obi-Wan. “The data crystal…”

    “We’ll take it to the Council,” Obi-Wan said. “And we’ll leave for Hoth in the morning with the twins.”

    “Luke just came out of hyperspace right before you two arrived,” Padme said. “He’s not going to have much down time.”

    Anakin smirked. “Somehow I think there was plenty of down time to be had in the Aldera Royal Palace,” he said.

    “Ani,” Padme said, giving him a reproving look, but she couldn’t hold the look for long before laughing.

    Obi-Wan cleared his throat. “I believe I’ll step out of this conversation,” he said. “Anakin, I’ll contact Mace and Yoda and Shaak Ti. We can meet them at headquarters in a few minutes.”
  13. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    Boy, Obi-Wan "mothers" everyone - Leia included. He still reins in Anakin (but without the resentment on Anakin's part); I love their evolved relationship. It's very close to being equal, but when necessary, the mentor/student bond comes forth. I imagine if Qui-Gon had lived, we would have seen the same just-about-equal relationship.
    Jade_eyes likes this.
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    I agree with Valairy's insightful post. :D @};- Your Anakin has all the deep emotiveness without the headlongness and impulsiveness - and he is receptive to being reined in LOL So glad that there is solid intel to go on now :) and that they have something to pin on Tarkin - or at least warrant scrutinizing him more closely. [:D]
  15. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Valairy Scot : Anakin matured enough to know that Obi-Wan has his best interests at heart. Yeah, an "if-only" on my part... If you like Obi-Wan "mothering" everyone, I think you'll like the next post.

    Jade_eyes : He wouldn't be Anakin if he wasn't emotive. :p He reminds me of myself in my early 20s, only I didn't have quite as much baggage...

    As far as Tarkin...well, more to come.

    Thanks for reading. :)


    Chapter 3

    “The majority of the Senators are supportive of the Chancellor,” Tarkin’s aide, Ta Mashayekhi, said.

    “They find her diplomatic approach more palatable than your…less relenting one,” another aide, Duke Joben, added.

    “I know,” Tarkin snapped. “I am aware of all this. The question is, what are we going to do about it?”

    “Change your strategy?” Mashayekhi said. “How long are you going to be able to pretend that you want a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to Ventress when you are secretly working with her?”

    “As long as necessary,” Tarkin said. Then he gave a sinister smirk. “Besides, there is no lie here. I do not want her captured. I want her killed. After she has served my purpose.”

    “Ah,” the other two said, nodding.

    Tarkin smacked a palm against his desk. “Gentlemen, I suggest it is time for a new strategy.”

    “What sort of strategy, sir?” Joben asked.

    Tarkin didn’t answer, but pressed several buttons on his desk. Overhead his aides could see the power lights on the security cameras dimming.

    Then he fixed them with a hard stare. “Amidala has served quite long enough, as have her little friends, Organa and Mothma. She has been a menace ever since she became Senator nearly 30 years ago. If we cannot rid ourselves of her through normal channels, I suggest an alternative method is in order.”

    Their jaws dropped and their eyes widened. Finally, Joben spoke. “I’m…not quite sure what you mean, sir.”

    “Oh, I think you know, Joben. You have worked with me long enough.” Tarkin’s eyes darted back and forth between Joben and Mashayekhi. “But in this situation, discretion is more important than ever. Ventress must take the blame. Amidala’s husband and children are well loved, the people’s sympathy will be with them. Their anger must be directed at Ventress. Then they will want a strong Chancellor to handle her.” The sinister smirk reappeared. “Am I understood, gentlemen?”

    They both nodded. “Yes, sir,” they said.

    As his aides turned to leave, Wilhuff Tarkin sat back in his desk, enjoying the images that filled his head. Holonet feeds, broadcast all over the galaxy, of that pathetic Jedi Master Skywalker, weeping over his wife’s dead body. Finally, you fool, you will pay the price for crossing Palpatine. The broadcasts should be all too sensational, about how the wise and beautiful Chancellor died too young, would never witness the birth of her grandchild. And juxtaposed with the sneering image of Asajj Ventress…the public would be so bitterly angry. And he could ride their outrage right into office, with the promise that Ventress would pay for her horrific crime.

    Yes, Tarkin would enjoy this immensely. He smirked and closed his eyes.

    Obi-Wan rapped twice on the door to the small naval facility on Hoth as Anakin shivered and huddled inside his parka. “Ugh,” he muttered. “I think my bones have frozen already.”

    “That wouldn’t be good, as you just left the ship two minutes ago,” Obi-Wan replied. “You need to acclimate fast or this is going to be a very long mission.”

    “Does Hoth not have a functioning sun?” Anakin muttered. “Does it orbit a dwarf star or something?”

    The door opened and they were greeted by a smiling lieutenant. “Master Kenobi, Master Skywalker, Padawans,” he said. “Welcome. I’m Lieutenant Jax Veir. Come inside.”

    “Thank you,” Anakin said, sighing with relief as he stepped inside the warm room and unzipped his jacket. Obi-Wan and the twins followed suit.

    “Admiral Sallian should be along soon,” Veir said. “I’ll show you to your quarters.” He gestured to them to follow him down the corridor.

    “Any rumblings from Ventress since she landed here?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “None, sir,” Veir said. “Admiral Solo believes she landed three days ago. There are a few abandoned facilities nearby, most of them used as temporary stops for pirates and smugglers. Hoth is a good hiding place for those who do not wish to be found but still wish to have easy access to the Corellian Trade Spine for quick escapes. Which is probably why the resistance chose to locate here.” He stopped at the end of the corridor, where four doors opened to small, sparsely accommodated but comfortable looking chambers. He turned to face the Jedi. “We are prepared to assist with a search. Admiral Madine asked us to wait for your direction before conducting a search on our own, given the nature of Ventress’ powers.”

    “A wise move on his part. She has been trained in Jedi arts by a Sith Lord, and I am afraid your weapons alone would be no match for her,” Obi-Wan replied.

    “We should scout the area ourselves initially, then when we have a definitive location on her, we can take a squadron or two to help smoke her out,” Anakin said.

    “Excellent idea,” Obi-Wan said.

    “Let us know what you need,” Veir said. “Our speeders are slower in this climate but they are operational. We also have taun-tauns, which offer a greater degree of stealth. You should, however, beware of the wampas that tend to wander in this area. They are…carnivorous.”

    Anakin nodded. “Understood,” he said. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”

    Veir indicated the chambers. “I’ll leave you to get settled.”

    The snow was deeper than Luke expected, and he was thankful that taun-tauns lifted their riders far above the ground. He wasn’t sure his boots were high enough to keep his legs dry.

    He did find snow to be fascinating, however. He had only seen it twice, once in the mountains of Naboo, the second time in the mountains of Alderaan. He tried to remember how old he was—seven the first time, ten the second time? He was amazed that a substance so soft and beautiful could be so very cold, and transform so quickly into icy nothingness in one’s hands.

    He and Leia had taken turns Force-projectiling snowballs at each other for over an hour. Anakin watched nervously, afraid they were going to make themselves sick; it was Obi-Wan who said that they should be left alone and allowed to have their fun.

    Then Alys made the biggest snowball of all, snuck up behind Luke and slid the entire thing down the back of his shirt, and he did not think he had ever been so cold in his life. He squealed and chased her, throwing her down into a snow bank and landing on top of her, reaching under her hood to yank her braid…

    Luke smiled at the memory, then nudged himself back to reality, checking his compass again. He had promised he would check due north and northwest. So far the area appeared to be nothing but desolate, snow-covered plains as far as the eye could see. The abandoned pirate and smuggler facilities that Veir had mentioned, were far away enough to be missed even by Luke’s long-range binoculars.

    The wrist com on Luke’s heavy jacket buzzed, and his father’s voice came through it. “Luke, do you copy?”

    “I copy. I’m not having any luck out here though.”

    “None of us are. But it’s getting late; the temperature drops pretty quickly after dark. Head back to base.”

    “Alright. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

    Luke powered down his comlink and patted the taun-taun’s neck, guiding her in the direction of the naval base. The wind was picking up, sending snow swirling around Luke’s face; with the dusk, Luke’s visibility was dimming by the minute. Need to hurry, he thought, digging his heels into the taun-taun’s flank. The creature picked up its pace for several minutes, then suddenly stopped in its tracks, refusing to move in spite of Luke’s pats of encouragement.

    “What is it, girl?” He asked. “Do you smell something?”

    The loud roar came out of the middle of nowhere, as did the 10-foot-tall creature covered in white fur, its roar baring teeth the size of knives, two large paws raised high in the air. Luke tried to move the taun-taun again but it was frozen in terror. He quickly dismounted, but the moment his boots hit the snow, he felt one of the large paws land across his face. And he saw no more.

    Anakin stomped his feet to get the snow off his boots and went inside, removing his gloves and unzipping his jacket.

    “Master Skywalker.” The voice came from Admiral Sallian himself. “How was your search?”

    “Unproductive,” Anakin said. “We’ll go back out in the morning. And I think we’ll use speeders and pair up this time. Maybe take a few of your guys with us.”

    “That would be a good idea,” Leia said, appearing from the corridor. A brown Jedi robe covered her jumpsuit, her utility belt slung below her bulging abdomen. The hood of the robe was pulled over her dark braids. “I don’t think we’d have any more luck doing solo searches on taun-tauns tomorrow than we did tonight. There doesn’t seem to be any life for miles around.”

    “There isn’t enough life on this ice cube to fill a space cruiser,” Anakin muttered. “But you’re right. Maybe there’s no need for stealth right now. We should just each take a squadron and conduct the search, and the one who locates Ventress first can just radio the others. Even if she has Hutt-employed thugs with her, they’ll be no match for a Jedi and several Navy officers.”

    “I’ll have our men ready,” Sallian said.

    Anakin nodded. “Thank you.” Then he turned to Leia again. “Have your brother and uncle come back?”

    “I’m here.” Obi-Wan’s voice came from behind Anakin. He was lowering the hood of his parka and shaking the snow out of his ginger-and-white hair and beard. “The wind has really picked up out there.”

    Anakin nodded. “I know,” he said, then checked his chrono. “Luke had the longest route.”

    “He may have gotten slowed down by the wind and snow affecting his visibility. I’m sure he’ll be here shortly.”

    Luke opened his eyes to find himself staring at stark white snow in the dim light of one of Hoth’s three moons. He was dizzy and disoriented. He tried to bend down to touch his feet, and realized at that point that he was hanging upside down, his boots frozen in a block of ice.

    He heard a low growl and crunching sounds. A few feet away stood the fur-covered giant, his back to Luke, munching noisily on flesh and bones. Below him lay the dismembered, mangled, bloody carcass of Luke’s taun-taun.

    Luke fought back a wave of nausea, closed his eyes and Force-floated his lightsaber into his hand. He ignited it, hoping that the noise didn’t draw the beast’s attention, and methodically worked at cutting the ice around his feet. He then righted himself and jumped down, landing in the deep snow with a soft thump. The wampa continued with its meal. Luke used the Force to leap several feet, then he ran.

    He made it several hundred feet before realizing that he was standing in the middle of a vast, solid-white plain and had no idea which direction to go to get back to the base. The wind was gusting around him, blowing snow in his face, which was almost completely numb from the cold. Luke pulled his scarf more tightly around his nose and mouth and wiped wet snow from his goggles, struggling to see the purple mountains in the distance. They had been directly ahead of him when he left the base,and to his right when he was conducting his search. He reached under his parka to retrieve his compass, but his hands were shaking too badly to work the clasps on his utility belt.

    He did manage to find his binoculars and did one more search for the mountains. He thought he saw peaks off to his right, but could not tell if they were mountains or snow clouds.

    OK. He thought. I’m going to have to give this my best shot. If I stand still too much longer, I’ll freeze to this spot. His arms and trunk were starting to shake uncontrollably. He turned to walk in the opposite direction of the peaks. His legs felt like two frozen duracrete blocks; even with assistance from the Force, he found moving forward to be slow and difficult. The shivering was increasing by the minute, and he was growing tired and dizzy.

    Luke made it another two hundred feet before collapsing forward into the snow.

    Anakin and Obi-Wan were finishing their meal when Leia rushed into the room, her hood and braids down around her shoulders, a look of apprehension in her dark eyes. “Are you sensing trouble?”

    Anakin frowned. “I’m sensing something, not sure what it is. Why do you…” His eyes met hers.

    “Luke.” They both said it at the same time, and Anakin bolted from the table, leaving his utensils and the remains of his meal pack, and ran for the door, grabbing a parka and putting it on.

    Obi-Wan and Leia followed. “Daddy, wait,” Leia said, removing the Jedi robe and grabbing a parka.

    Anakin held up a hand. “No. You stay here.” He zipped the parka quickly and pulled the hood over his head. “Lieutenant Veir, do you have a speeder ready?”

    Veir appeared at the door to his office. “Yes, but...the temperature is dropping rapidly, sir.”

    “I know,” Anakin said crossly. “And my son is out in it.”

    Veir’s eyes widened. He reached behind him for a set of keys, quickly tossing them to Anakin, who put them in his pocket and pulled on a pair of gloves.

    Leia had put on the parka and was zipping it.

    “Leia, I mean it. You’re staying here,” Anakin said.

    She looked at him. “Don’t be ridiculous. I can help you.”

    “Not now. The only way you could help me is if you took another speeder and did a separate search, and then I’d have to worry about both of you.” His eyes travelled to her abdomen. “All three of you.”

    Leia opened her mouth to protest again, but Anakin put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry, Princess, there is no time to discuss this in committee.” He opened the door and walked quickly outside.

    “I am not a committee!” Leia snapped. But Anakin disappeared into the swirling snow and the door closed.

    Obi-Wan put a hand on her shoulder. “Your father is right. A separate search would make sense during the day, but right now it’s better that only one of you goes out. If you searched together you would slow each other down, and going your separate ways isn’t safe at this point.”

    Leia sighed, removed the parka and replaced it on the rack, put the Jedi robe back on, then walked to her quarters.

    The Senate Building’s garage was artificially lit even during the day, and in the early evening, only the artificial lights and a few shafts of sunlight illuminated the rows of speeders. The lift door opened and the Chancellor entered, followed by four guards in blue robes.

    “Are you going directly to your residence, milady?” One of them asked.

    “Yes,” Padme said. “Hoping for a quieter evening than I’ve had lately. Which of you are on duty tonight?”

    Two of them raised their hands, one on her left, the other on her right. She nodded. “Very good. You can probably expect Master Skywalker in a few hours but otherwise, I’m not anticipating…”

    It happened suddenly—the appearance of five hired assassins from around the columns, one human, two Rodian, three Devaronian, and the rapid blaster fire. The guards reacted quickly, returning fire with repeated rounds from their own blasters, felling two of the Devaronians and one of the Rodians. The other Rodian and Devaronian ran as Padme fired several rounds from her own blaster. One of her bolts felled the Devaronian, another caught the human in the leg. He fell, and two of the guards ran and handcuffed him.

    Then Padme herself fell, clutching her chest, blood seeping through her fingers.

    Luke felt himself being rolled over, gentle hands brushing snow from his face and hair, and strong arms lifting him, moving him, then settling him onto a lap. “Luke.” He heard his name, but it seemed to come from far away.

    “Daddy.” His frozen lips barely managed the word.

    “I’m here, son.” He felt the brush of a kiss on his forehead, and then heard, “You are so very cold.” Luke wanted to reply with Yes, I am, but couldn’t muster the strength. He heard the sound of a zipper being unzipped then felt himself snuggled against a warm chest, a familiar Jedi tunic against his frozen cheek, the material of his father’s parka wrapped around his arms and shoulders. Then he heard a speeder start, felt it lurch forward and accelerate rapidly.

    The desire to sleep almost overwhelmed him, and he struggled to maintain consciousness, forced himself to try to speak. He had to tell his father what he saw, had to warn someone.

    “Mom,” he mumbled hoarsely.

    “Shhh…” Anakin said. “Mom is on Coruscant. I hope we’ll back there ourselves soon.”

    “No,” Luke said, his voice still barely above a whisper but sharp. “Daddy…please…Mom…danger…”

    The speeder accelerated again, Luke felt the rapid increase of his father’s heartbeat, then he lost consciousness.

    “Master Kenobi,” Admiral Sallian said. “It’s 20 degrees below zero with a windchill of 30 below. Master Skywalker has been gone for three hours, his son has been out there even longer.” He glanced at Leia, who was standing a short distance away, then turned to Obi-Wan again and lowered his voice. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll send a search party in the morning.”

    Obi-Wan pretended not to hear the implications, just continued to gaze at the open door, as if willing Anakin and Luke to walk through it. “I assume you are well-equipped here with medical provisions.”

    “Yes, sir,” Sallian said. “Two One-Bee is one of the Navy’s top medical droids, and this facility is a fully equipped medical station. But sir…”

    Obi-Wan held up a hand. “Good.” He walked away from Sallian, towards Leia, who had turned and walked away, but not before Obi-Wan saw the tears in her eyes.

    He followed her to her chambers and knocked on her door, which had slid closed.

    “May I come in?”

    The door slid open but she did not move from where she stood, her back towards him, looking out the window.

    Obi-Wan crossed the room and put a hand on her shoulder. “Leia. I want you to close your eyes, stretch out with the Force, and tell me what you see.”

    “I don’t think I can,” she said, her voice breaking. Obi-Wan cupped her chin, turning her towards him.

    “Yes, you can,” he said. “I know you can, because I taught you to do it.”

    She sighed. “I’ll try,” she said.

    “Do. There is no try. Find your father and Luke.”

    “Uncle Obi-Wan,” she muttered, her exasperated tone indicating that it could not be that easy.

    “You can do this,” Obi-Wan said gently.

    She sighed again and obeyed. She was silent for a few minutes, then said, “They are alive.”

    “Yes,” Obi-Wan replied.

    “Luke is in trouble. But…Daddy found him.”

    “Yes. And how strong is Luke’s Force presence?”

    She swallowed. “Not very. But…it’s there. It isn’t waning.”

    “And your father’s?”

    She gave a half smile. “The usual.”

    Obi-Wan returned the half-smile. “Exactly. Did you know that he used to think that no one could kill a Jedi?”

    Leia looked at him. “What could have possibly made him think that?”

    “Well, in all fairness he was only nine. And his information on the Jedi came from rogue spacer pilots who occasionally landed on Tatooine. But as I’m sure you know, all exaggerated children’s stories begin with some element of truth. We are far from impossible to kill, as Anakin learned very quickly, but we do have means to help ourselves survive, means that non-Force-sensitives don’t have.”

    Leia frowned. “Daddy is no healer. He says that talent lies with you and you alone.”

    “Oh, he is far more capable than he gives himself credit for. But I was not referring to healing. He used Luke’s Force-presence and their bond to find Luke more quickly, and that alone probably saved Luke’s life.”

    She nodded slowly and closed her eyes again.

    Obi-Wan continued. “Your father has gotten himself—and me—out of far worse situations than this.” He pulled her into a quick hug, then held her at arm’s length, meeting her eyes. “Now will you try to get some rest? If Luke is in no shape to search for Ventress in the morning, which he very well may not be, you and I will need to conduct the search ourselves.”
  16. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    What, no "stuff Luke in Taun Taun's innards"? No "what a horrible smell you've discovered"?

    Ah, well...this is not GL's canon.

    And no dead Obi-Wan directing Luke to Yoda - no, the vision is of Padme's injury/death.
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh dear! That's like the worst possible calamity that could happen personally and politically [face_nail_biting] Someone needs to go back there! Anakin will never forgive himself if the unthinkable happens and we all know that. Glad he did get to Luke on time and Obi-Wan with Leia made me :)
  18. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Valairy Scot : I think his father's jacket was more comfortable for Luke than taun-taun guts. :p But no, Luke can't get knocked out by a wampa without having a vision...

    Jade_eyes : Yeah, you nailed it . More to come on that...and Luke still has some recovery time. Glad you liked Obi-Wan with Leia. :)


    “They’re back,” Sallian said.

    Obi-Wan and Leia rushed into the room as Sallian opened the door. Anakin walked in, shivering, carrying Luke, who appeared to be unconscious. Anakin’s parka was unzipped, part of it wrapped around Luke.

    “Lieutenant, bring warming blankets,” Sallian said. “And tell Two One-Bee that we have at least one patient with hypothermia, maybe two.”

    “Yes, sir,” Veir replied and left the room.

    Obi-Wan and Leia stood on either side of Anakin, who said, through chattering teeth, “He was when I f…found him.”

    “Why did you unzip your parka in these temperatures?” Obi-Wan asked.

    “T…trying to g…give h…him some b…body heat,” Anakin replied.

    “I’m not sure you have enough for both of you,” Obi-Wan said.

    Two midshipmen came into the room, one of them carrying blankets, warm from the heater. They handed one to Obi-Wan, then took Luke from Anakin, wrapping him from head to toe in two of the remaining blankets.

    Leia hugged her father quickly then followed her brother. Obi-Wan wrapped Anakin in the blanket and led him to a nearby chair.

    “I n…need to…” Anakin began.

    “…stop talking right now and concentrate on warming up,” Obi-Wan said. “Whatever it is, can wait a few minutes.”


    “I mean it, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said sharply.

    Anakin gave him a look that was intended to be a glare but he was too fatigued to pull it off. He wrapped the blanket more tightly around him and sat quietly. Several minutes later the shivering slowed.

    Veir appeared with a cup of tea and handed it to Anakin. “This will warm you up, sir,” he said.

    “How is my son?” Anakin asked, taking a sip of the tea.

    “He’s resting under the blankets and receiving warming fluids through an IV. His body temperature was down to 89. He also has a couple of large cuts and bruises on his forehead, it’s possible some creature attacked him. But miraculously enough, no frostbite damage to his limbs. He will be fine.”

    Anakin nodded. “Thank you.” He took another sip of the tea. “What time is it?”

    “0300,” Obi-Wan said, stifling a yawn. “Leia and I will go after Ventress in a few hours.” He looked at his former apprentice, feeling the wave of something…anxiety? Fear? Emanating from him. “What’s wrong?”

    Anakin shook his head. “Maybe nothing. But I think Luke had a vision.”

    “What kind of vision?”

    “I’m not sure. He couldn’t tell me much, I’ll see what he remembers once he’s fully conscious again. Meanwhile…Leia?”

    Leia was approaching them but stopped in her tracks.

    “We need to contact your mother.”

    Leia fixed her father with a quizzical expression. “Now? Why? Luke is warming up and he’ll be alright, I’m not sure why we can’t tell her later…”

    Anakin stood, keeping the blanket wrapped around him. “It’s not about Luke getting trapped out there.”

    He walked to Sallian’s office. “Admiral, I need a secure line directly to Chancellor Amidala.”

    The admiral looked surprised. “Now, sir? It’s 0100 Galactic City time.”

    Anakin smiled. “She’ll forgive me for waking her. I promise.”

    Sallian looked confused but nodded slowly. “Yes, sir.” He punched a code into the com station and then left Anakin alone in the office.

    A couple of minutes later a hologram appeared of Padme in her nightgown, her hair mussed from sleep. “Ani,” she said, sounding frightened. “Are you alright? Are the children alright?”

    “We’re fine, love, but we’re frozen. Luke got caught in the snow and is being treated for hypothermia, but he’s going to be fine.”

    Her eyes widened. “Hypothermia? How bad?”

    “It looked bad for awhile,” Anakin said, frowning. “But he’s being treated by a top-flight medical team, and I was just told that he has no frostbite damage.”

    Padme looked slightly relieved, although still worried. “What about you? Did you just get out of bed? You’re wearing a blanket.”

    Anakin smiled. “I went after Luke and got a little frozen myself.”

    “I hope you can finish this quickly before you all catch pneumonia,” Padme said dryly. “How is the search going?”

    “Dead ends so far,” Anakin said. “These smuggler havens that Ventress is supposed to be using are well hidden. We’re resuming the search in the morning though.”

    Padme sighed and nodded. “Alright. Good luck.”


    She looked at him with tired eyes. “What is it, darling? You didn’t call me in the middle of the night just for an update, did you?”

    Anakin shook his head and looked down. “No. Luke lost consciousness and had a vision of some sort.”

    “What kind of vision?”

    Anakin looked at her again. “It was about you. He didn’t give me details, just that you were in danger.”

    Padme put her fingers to her temples and didn’t say anything for a moment. “Are you sure it was a vision? Not a dream or hallucination of some sort?”

    Anakin shook his head. “He was struggling to tell me, fighting to stay awake long enough to get the words out. The wind was howling and it was really, really cold. I don’t think it was a dream. It’s not like Luke to be that shaken by a nightmare.”

    Padme put her hands down and nodded slowly. “You are right. What did he say exactly?”

    “He said ‘Mom’ and ‘danger’. That was all he was able to say. I’ll ask him more when he is fully conscious. But, Padme, please…”


    “Tell your guards to be extra vigilant.”


    He leaned towards her hologram. “Please.”

    She nodded slowly. “Alright. I will. But meanwhile…”

    “What is it?”

    “Concentrate on finding Ventress. That’s your best way of keeping me safe. Not worrying.”

    He looked down.

    “Alright?” she said.

    He met her eyes again and nodded slowly.

    “Alright,” she repeated. “I love you. I’ll see you soon.”

    “Relax, Anakin,” Obi-Wan said six hours later. “We’ll be back as soon as possible, hopefully with Ventress in Force binders.”

    Anakin nodded slowly, his eyes moving from the door to the outside to Leia, who was tightening her hood over her head and lowering her goggles.

    “Admiral,” Anakin called, turning to Sallian, who stood nearby.

    “Yes, sir,” Sallian said.

    Anakin looked at Leia again, then at Sallian. “Would you…keep an eye on my daughter. Without looking like you’re keeping an eye on her. I really don’t want to rescue another of my children from the snow.”

    “Master Skywalker,” Sallian replied. “I will guard her with my life. You have my word.”

    “Thank you,” Anakin said. “I cannot ask for more than that.”

    Sallian smiled. “If anything were to happen to her, I am not sure who I would be more afraid to deal with—you or Admiral Solo.”

    Anakin laughed, then looked at Leia, who was now pulling on gloves. “She would be angry if she knew I had asked,” he said, his tone more serious again.

    Sallian looked at Anakin, then Leia. “She seems the type to take care of herself, sir,” he said.

    Anakin nodded. “That she is,” he replied. He put a hand on Sallian’s shoulder. “But humor an old man.”

    “What old man?” Sallian said. “There are none on this planet, not now.”

    Anakin clapped Sallian’s shoulder again. “Obi-Wan will be happy to hear you say that, Admiral,” he said. He met his eyes, looking serious again. “And good luck out there. May the Force be with you.”

    Sallian nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

    “Master Skywalker!” the young lieutenant sounded frantic, enough that Anakin stood quickly and ran into the room where Luke was being treated.

    “What is it?” He asked.

    Two One-Bee stood by Luke’s bedside. Luke was lying on the bed, sweating profusely and shaking.

    “We don’t know,” the lieutenant said. “We got his body temperature back to normal and he was conscious, then this started.”

    “Medically there is nothing wrong with him, sir,” Two One-Bee said. “We do not know why this is happening.”

    “We’ve tried putting blankets back on him but he says he’s hot,” the lieutenant added.

    Anakin nodded slowly, gazing at his son. “I may have an idea,” he said. “If you will leave us…”

    “Yes, sir,” the lieutenant replied, and he left the room, followed by the droid.

    Anakin sat on the edge of Luke’s bed and brushed his hair away from his sweaty forehead. “Son, can you hear me?”

    Luke opened his eyes, and the shaking slowed.

    “Did you have a vision?” Anakin asked.

    Luke nodded slowly and licked his lips, then he grabbed Anakin’s arm. “Daddy. We have to go back to Coruscant.”

    “We are, very soon I hope. Your sister and uncle are out with several Navy officers chasing down Ventress as we speak. Once they are done, we can leave this ice block behind.”

    Luke just looked more frantic, his eyes wide. The fear that emanated from him in waves suddenly increased.

    Anakin pulled him into a hug, then lay him back on the pillow. “Start from the beginning,” he said. “What did you see? Your mother is in danger?”

    Luke nodded, and tears sprung to his eyes. “They’re going to kill her. As she leaves the Senate building.”

    Anakin’s heart pounded. He turned away for a minute, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes, and swallowed past a lump in his throat, before turning to face his son again. “Do you know who is going to do this?”

    Luke shook his head and blinked. “I couldn’t tell.”

    Anakin sighed. “I called her last night, told her to ask her guards to be extra vigilant…”

    “They’ll be vigilant,” Luke said. “But it won’t matter.”

    Anakin looked away again and put his head in his hands. When he looked up, his eyes glistened with unshed tears. He ran his fingers through Luke’s hair again. “We will handle this, son. I promise. I want you to concentrate on getting your strength back.”

    Luke nodded slowly, but did not look reassured.

    “Well, that could have gone better,” Leia muttered, removing her goggles and hat.

    “Patience, Leia, we will end this,” Obi-Wan replied, stomping the snow off his boots. Behind him, ten Navy officers did the same.

    “What happened?” Anakin asked.

    “We located the resistance,” Sallian replied. “In a small former pirate’s den about 20 miles from here.”


    “Gardulla’s army was there and opened fire. Admiral Sallian…” Obi-Wan indicated the man standing beside him. “…and his men returned fire, taking out all but two of them.”

    “Sounds like it went well to me,” Anakin said, looking at Leia, who was unzipping her parka.

    “It did,” Obi-Wan said. He removed his gloves and smiled at Leia. “Leia got Shu Mai.”

    “Killed her?” Anakin asked.

    “I was going to arrest her but she resisted. I had no choice but to go to…aggressive negotiations. Her body is probably buried under a foot of snow right now,” Leia said. “But Ventress and Sly Moore ran, and boarded a small ship. A Firespray-31-class patrol and attack craft.”

    Anakin stroked his goatee. “The Fetts fly those,” he said.

    Obi-Wan nodded. “I was thinking the same,” he said. “And at any rate, with or without Boba Fett, she was greatly weakened today.”

    “Yes,” Anakin said, turning to the naval officers. “Well done, gentlemen. We can’t thank you enough.” He shook Sallian’s hand.

    “It was our pleasure, sir,” he said. “How is your son?”

    “He’s doing well, again, thanks to your team,” Anakin replied. “We do need to leave for Coruscant right away though.” He gave Obi-Wan a significant look.

    Obi-Wan nodded. “I agree.” He turned to Sallian. “Your assistance has been greatly appreciated.”

    Sallian nodded, shaking Obi-Wan’s hand. “Call on us at any time, sir.”

    Han Solo yawned, stretched, and took another sip of caf, trying to force himself to stay awake. Kriffing paperwork, he thought. The only downside to getting a promotion in the Navy. A guy has to be ranked lieutenant or less to see much action. It’s no wonder the high-ranking officers end up with pudgy midsections…

    He shuffled through the stack of papers, added his signature to two more documents, and took another sip of caf. Then he closed his eyes for a moment and smiled. At least Leia should be back tonight. The smile widened, and he opened his eyes again. Time to finish this paperwork so I can regale all the junior officers on how my wife kicked some Commerce Guild ass. And I need to call Sallian…

    The announcement over the military com channel interrupted his thoughts. “Breaking news. Chancellor Amidala has been shot. I repeat. The Chancellor has been shot outside the Senate building. Three of the assassins were killed in the ensuing firefight, one escaped, one was wounded and will be taken into custody. Two of the Chancellor’s guards lost their lives, and the Chancellor herself was hit in the chest and is in critical condition. She has been taken to the Galactic Senate Medical Center..”

    Han jumped up, left his office and walked quickly down the corridor. Lando met him at the end. “I heard,” he said. “What can I do?”

    “Come on,” Han said, without breaking his stride. “We’re going to the medical center.” He opened his comlink. “Leia, do you copy?”

    Nothing but static.

    “Stang, she’s still in hyperspace.” He poked his head into an office near the front door of the naval facility. “Commander Mindar.”

    “Yes, sir,” the commander replied, saluting Han.

    “You’re in charge of the facility until Captain Calrissian returns. I’m going to be awhile.”

    “Yes, sir. And Admiral Solo, our thoughts are with the Chancellor.”

    Han returned the salute. “She’ll need all she can get. Thank you, Commander.” He and Lando left the building and hurried towards Han’s speeder.

    Han and Lando arrived at the medical center to find several reporters already waiting outside.

    “Admiral Solo! Admiral Solo!” They called.

    He held up a hand. “Not now,” he said. He walked past them and into the center, muttering “Kriffing leeches” under his breath.

    “The medical staff probably forced them outside,” Lando said.

    “Let’s hope so,” Han replied. He waved down the nearest droid. “Excuse me! Where is the Chancellor?”

    The droid pointed to its right without answering. Han turned and saw Padme lying on an examining table, surrounded by four medical droids. She was unconscious and very pale, her lips and fingers tinged blue. IVs ran into her arm, transfusing blood. A couple of feet away stood a blond-haired blue-eyed man wearing blue robes with a large bloodstain down the front. A matching blue helmet lay discarded nearby.

    The man saw Han and extended his hand. “Admiral Solo. I’m Torne Xemo. I’m the head of the Chancellor’s guards.”

    Han shook the man’s hand without taking his eyes off Padme. “Any report on her condition?”

    Torne shook his head. “No sir. I contacted Senator Naberrie. Chancellor Organa is also on his way, he contacted me directly after getting the Holonet report. Master Windu is supposed to be contacting the Jedi…”

    “They are still in hyperspace,” Han said. “On the way back from Hoth.”

    One of the medical droids laid down its instruments and approached Han. “Are you a family member, sir?”

    Droids obviously don’t pay attention to the Holonet, Han thought. “I’m her son-in-law. How is she?”

    “We are prepping her for surgery as we speak and will take her in within three minutes. The right lung is collapsed and tissue damage is extensive. She has lost a lot of blood. I can make no promises, and if she survives, recovery will be slow.”

    Han looked down and away. “Just do the best you can,” he said.

    “That we will, sir.” The droid returned to the table.

    Han found a durasteel chair nearby and sank into it, cradling his head for a minute. He heard Lando sit beside him, felt his hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright?” He asked.

    Han looked up. “Yeah,” he said. “But this is bad business, Lando. Leia, with the baby…and Luke…and stang, I pity the poor bastard who has to break this to Anakin.”

    Lando looked down the corridor where the droids were wheeling Padme’s stretcher. “She’ll come out of this,” he said. “She has to.”

    It was an hour before they came out of hyperspace when Anakin felt a wave of fear and despair so intense that he thought his heart would burst from beating so rapidly. He closed his eyes and willed himself to breathe.

    He felt Luke’s hand on his forearm. “You sensed it too?” he asked.

    Anakin nodded slowly. “Pain. And suffering.” R2 let out a mournful series of beeps, and Anakin looked at him. “I don’t know, buddy, I wish I did.” Not Luke’s vision coming true, he thought. Please. No. He stretched out through the Force, searching for Padme, and sensing that she was alive, refused to probe any further, afraid of what he would find. Hang on, my love. I’m on my way.

    He went into another room and spent the next several minutes running through a set of katas, trying to calm himself, to no avail. He could feel Luke and Leia’s anguish on top of his own, heard Luke asking Obi-Wan what he felt, and Obi-Wan’s answer, “A disturbance in the Force. We are facing a grave danger. I know no more than that at this point.”

    Anakin was grateful to have the excuse of ending the futile meditation exercise in order to bring the Ornate out of hyperspace. As he entered orbit around Coruscant, the communications console flashed rapidly and emitted a series of beeps.

    “What in the blazes…” Obi-Wan muttered, then pressed a button to stop the lights and beeping. “Kenobi.”

    “Obi-Wan.” Mace Windu’s hologram appeared, a worried frown on his face. “Tell Anakin to go directly to the medical center. There was an attack on the Chancellor.”

    Anakin would later say that he had no memory of the next few hours. He felt as if he were flying through a fog, in the middle of a strange and incredibly horrific dream. He saw his hands clench the controls, heard his own deep, labored breathing, saw the tears that fell down Luke’s cheeks. He heard a stream of curses in several languages coming from Leia, then heard Obi-Wan talking to her quietly. He heard himself say, “Your mother is alive. I feel her,” while wondering if he said it more for the twins’ benefit or his own.

    He landed the ship automatically, as he had many times before, only this time the noises of the capital were drowned by the blood pounding in his ears. He, Obi-Wan, Luke and Leia left the Ornate and went directly to his speeder. He started it immediately and flew into the main skylane to the medical center. He could see flashing Holonet billboards with Padme’s image and the headline “Chancellor Amidala shot in the chest, in critical condition; two of her guards murdered; assailant or assailants unknown.” He accelerated, causing the others to grip the sides of the speeder. He heard one of the twins let out an audible sob, but he didn’t turn to see which one.

    He docked at the medical center, got out quickly, and ran, ignoring the throng of reporters outside calling “Master Skywalker! Master Skywalker!” He heard Obi-Wan say, “Leave them alone for now,” and the voices of the reporters suddenly silenced. Then Anakin was in the lobby of the medical center.

    He was aware of several people approaching him. Bail and Alys. Han. Lando. Torne Xemo. “Master Skywalker, they came out of nowhere, sir. Five assassins, hidden in the garage. We eliminated two of them, the Chancellor eliminated another one and wounded another. Bek Kessler and Exeden Danigo were killed, Exeden stood directly in front of the Chancellor, took a bolt and fell, she went down immediately after…”

    Anakin held up a hand, then laid it on the man’s arm. “Not your fault, Torne,” he said. “I’m sure you did the best you could.” He barely recognized the sound of his own voice. It seemed to come from far away, as if he were disembodied, trapped on another world, far away from the nightmarish medical center lobby, with Padme fighting for her life behind the sliding doors.

    “We confiscated the security tapes,” Torne continued.

    “I’ll take those,” Obi-Wan said, and Anakin slowly nodded. “The Council will need them for the investigation.”

    Investigation. The word pounded in Anakin’s temples, giving him a headache.

    Alys took Luke in her arms and held him as they both wept. Anakin heard Han saying, “Hey. Hey, sweetheart,” then Leia’s muffled sobs. He felt Bail’s hand on his shoulder, heard him say, “Anakin. Mon Mothma is presiding over emergency Senate business, I will update them on Padme’s condition as soon as we know more. Please let me know of anything you or the twins need.”

    Anakin looked at him, nodded slowly, and said “Thank you” in a voice that sounded even less like his own.

    In front of the closed sliding doors leading into the main corridor stood a young woman in a long dark blue velvet gown, her auburn hair in a gold headdress. At the sound of heavy footsteps behind her, she turned, revealing red, swollen eyes. “Uncle Anakin!” She said, throwing herself into his arms.

    “Pooja,” Anakin replied, holding her. He felt a few tears splash against his tunic before she pulled away and wiped her eyes.

    “She’s still in surgery,” Pooja said. “She was hit on the right side. Missed her heart but punctured her lung.”

    Anakin felt the blood pound in his ears again. Missed her heart…punctured her lung…

    “The last report from the medical droid indicated that they’ll be able to repair the damage,” Pooja continued. “We’re just…” She swallowed and sniffed. “…very lucky that the blast point wasn’t on the…other side.”

    Anakin nodded slowly and hugged her again.

    “I’m sorry,” she said, pulling away and wiping her eyes again. “I’m a mess.”

    “I think we all are,” Anakin said, looking at the closed doors. “When did the medical droid last give you an update?”

    “It’s been an hour,” she said, sniffling. “I think they’ll be done soon. They’re repairing damage to the ribs and lung.”

    Anakin swallowed. “Was she shot at close range?” he asked.

    “About 20 feet I think,” Pooja replied.

    “They just opened fire, sir,” Torne said. “They were using Power 5s.”

    Anakin turned to him. “You confiscated them?”

    “Yes, sir. Novastar took them to Master Windu while I…waited with the Chancellor. For the ambulance. And tried to stop the bleeding. She lost consciousness very quickly…”

    Anakin touched the man’s shoulder again. “You’re a good man, Torne.”

    “I took the security tapes so that I could give them to you personally. Could Ventress be behind this, sir?”

    Anakin looked at the closed doors again. “I don’t know,” he said.

    The doors opened and a medical droid appeared. “Senator Naberrie,” it said, then turned to Anakin. “Master Skywalker. We have repaired the tissue damage to the collapsed lung. She is regaining consciousness if you would like to…”

    Anakin did not wait for the droid to finish. He ran through the doors, using the Force to sense Padme’s presence, finding her in a large room down the corridor on the right.

    She lay with her eyes closed, her right side bandaged, her skin as white as the sheets that covered her. Machinery beeped steadily, attached to the IV in her arm, the tubes sending oxygen into her nose.

    Anakin sat on the edge of the bed, took one hand in both of his, and gazed at her for a few moments without saying anything. When he leaned over to kiss her, she opened her eyes. “Ani,” she said hoarsely.

    “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster.” He smoothed her hair.

    “Even you can’t control hyperspace. How are you?” She asked.

    He forced himself to smile. “Seems like I should be the one asking that.”

    She didn’t return the smile. “You know what I mean,” she said.

    “I’m alright. Really,” he said. “How do you feel?”

    “Not bad, considering,” she said. “I’m going to make it. I’m just going to be a little slow for awhile. But Bek…and Exeden…”

    Anakin took her hand in his and kissed it. “I know. I’m sorry, love. It’s a terrible loss.”

    “They should not have had to die.”

    “I know,” Anakin said, stroking her cheek under the oxygen tubes. “Torne confiscated the security tapes from the garage. We will find out who did this to you, Padme.”

    She took his wrist in one limp hand. “Ani, be careful,” she said.

    “Of what?” He asked.

    “You’re too close. Let the rest of the Council handle this.”

    He sighed. “The entire Council is going to conduct the investigation. I don’t know that I can just sit back and not be involved. I feel better when I’m taking action.”

    She took his hand and squeezed it. “I know. Just…be careful. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.”

    He gave her a teasing smile. “When have I ever done that?” He asked.

    “Anakin.” Her voice took a reproving tone.

    He sighed again. “Alright, alright, I understand. Are you ready to see the twins?”

    “Yes, call them in.”

    Anakin opened his comlink, to tell Luke and Leia that their mother was awake. A few minutes later they entered her room, followed by Han, Alys, Pooja, and Obi-Wan. The twins went immediately to either side of Padme’s bed, took her hands in theirs.

    She looked at their reddened eyes and smiled sadly. “Dry your tears,” she said quietly, letting go of their hands in order to touch their cheeks. “Everything is going to be alright.”

    Luke took a deep breath and went to his knees beside his mother’s bed. “I saw you,” he said. “I saw what happened. The garage…they hid behind the pillars…you and your guards shooting back…”

    “I know,” she said. “Your father said you had a vision.”

    No one answered.

    “Who would do this?” Leia asked.

    “We will soon determine that,” Obi-Wan said, holding up the data capsule with the security tapes. “Anakin, I want to go ahead and take this to the Council. Do you want to come or would you rather I give you the results later?”

    Anakin looked from Obi-Wan to his wife’s bed. Padme seemed to be drifting off to sleep.

    “Daddy, if you want to go to the Council, go,” Leia said.

    “We’ll stay with her,” Han added.

    Anakin looked back and forth from Padme to his former teacher again before answering. “My comlink is open…” He began.

    “We’ll call you if there is any change,” Han said. He lowered his voice. “I know you want to have a hand at looking into this. I know that’s what I would want, if it were me.”

    Anakin nodded, giving his son-in-law a slight smile. “You’re right.”

    “So go,” Han said. “We’ll see you back here in awhile.”

    Anakin muttered his thanks, nodded, walked over to the bed to kiss his sleeping wife, then left with Obi-Wan.

    The Holonet reporters outside the medical center thronged around him to such a point that Anakin had a hard time parting the crowd to reach his speeder.

    “Master Skywalker! What is the Chancellor’s condition?”

    “Do you have any leads on who is behind this attack?”

    “Will you run the investigation yourself, sir?”

    Anakin took one reporter’s comlink and spoke to the crowd. “She is out of surgery and has been stabilized. Thank you.” He handed the comlink back and walked through the crowd to his speeder. Behind him, he heard Obi-Wan saying, “No further questions at this time.”

    Both Jedi got in the speeder. Anakin moved his hand to start it and found himself frozen in place, as if he were slowly waking from the nightmarish haze that plagued him all morning—only to realize that the nightmare was in fact real. His breath caught in his throat and his heart pounded. He pressed a button to close the speeder’s cockpit and put his head in his hands, his fingers winding through his short hair.
    Obi-Wan knew something was wrong even before feeling the tidal wave of pain coming from his former apprentice.

    Anakin never wants to close the cockpit. Ever. He thinks flying without an open cockpit isn’t flying.

    He heard a muffled sob and looked at Anakin to see his shoulders shaking violently.

    Obi-Wan put a hand on his back. “Anakin,” he said gently. “Why don’t you let me fly.”

    Anakin lifted his head enough to nod, swiping at the tears, then traded places with Obi-Wan, who started the speeder.

    “You have held up remarkably well today. Now…take your time. I’m going the scenic route.”

    And he did, taking the speeder on a cruise around Galactic City while Anakin cried. When they arrived at the Jedi headquarters a short time later, the sobbing had slowed. Obi-Wan docked the speeder and turned to Anakin. “Do you need a few more minutes?”

    Anakin sniffled, took a deep breath and wiped his eyes and face. “I’m alright,” he said shakily.

    “Are you sure?”

    He took another deep breath. “I’m sure,” he said, opening the door to the speeder. “Let’s do this, Master.”
  19. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    So, once again a vision couldn't be averted...but the "outcome" was in doubt in the vision and turned out well.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Terrific edge of seatness and a successful outcome and concerete evidence to start with - The timely warning was crucial to that. [face_thinking] =D= And another crucial element is the strong moral support and tight, efficient focus on the task needing attention by the search team on Hoth and by the Chancellor's guards. @};-

  21. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Valairy Scot : "It's the future you see..." No, couldn't be averted.

    Jade_eyes : Glad the edge of seatness was there.

    Thanks for reading. And the investigation begins...


    Chapter 4

    Mace Windu greeted them at the door to the Council chambers. “Are you alright, Anakin?” He asked.

    Anakin nodded and sniffed. “Yes,” he said.

    Yoda approached him and put a hand on his arm. “Die, she will not,” he said.

    “I know,” Anakin said. “But if we don’t find out quickly who is behind this…it might not be the last attempt.”

    Mace nodded slowly. “How are the twins?”

    “As well as can be expected,” Anakin replied. “They’re with her now.”

    They all took their seats and Obi-Wan handed the data capsule to Mace, who examined it for a moment before looking at Obi-Wan again. “I have the blasters that the Chancellor’s guards confiscated.”

    “They are intended for heavy artillery fire,” Shaak Ti said. “Based on the nature of the weapons, I would guess that the assassins intended to mow down every life form in their paths, meaning the Chancellor and anyone who happened to be accompanying her.”

    Obi-Wan stroked his beard. “Meaning…she might not have been the only target.”

    “It is likely that she wasn’t,” Mace replied.

    “Whoever these assassins are, may have wanted to take down the entire administration,” Shaak Ti added.

    “They may have hoped that Organa and Mothma were with her,” Mace said.

    “Likely, that is,” Yoda said.

    “Whatever they wanted, the Chancellor’s own skill and that of her guards, most likely saved her. The situation could have been much worse,” Mace said.

    “Padme has been trained in self-defense since she was eight,” Anakin said. “Few can touch her ability in that area. When I used to…have to sneak around to see her, I was always ready to dodge a blaster bolt if I surprised her too much.” He swallowed. “And of course…Exeden Danigo took the first bolt aimed at her.” He lowered his head again for a moment, winding his fingers through his hair, then looked up.

    The room was silent for a few moments, then Obi-Wan said, “Shall we watch the tapes?”

    Mace inserted the capsule into the viewing console at the center of the room, then looked at Anakin. “Are you sure you want to see this?”

    Anakin nodded slowly.

    “Painful for you, it will be,” Yoda said.

    “I need to know what happened,” Anakin insisted. “It could not possibly be more painful than the scenarios I am imagining.”

    Mace looked at him skeptically, then said, “Alright.” He started the tape.

    The Jedi watched the images silently. Padme entering the garage with her guards. The sudden emergence of the assassins and the rapid blaster fire. Padme cursing, the return fire of the blasters, one of her guards pulling her to the floor.

    Then, more eerie than the attack itself, its sudden cessation. The bodies of the two dead guards and the three dead assassins on the floor, the disappearance of another assassin, the groans of the one who was hit in the leg. Pools of blood on the garage floor.

    One of Padme’s guards could be seen rushing towards the camera, saying, “I’m getting the tapes!” Another said, “Get their blasters as well.”

    Another guard, whom Anakin recognized as Torne, rolled Padme over. “I’m calling a medical transport. She’s been hit!”

    The last image was of Padme on her back, unconscious, blood pouring from the wound in her chest.

    When the tape ended, Anakin was weeping again, his head in his hands.

    Someone passed him tissues and he felt a hand on his back, then he heard Yoda across the room. “Hirelings, they were. For another, they worked. Animosity towards the Chancellor, they did not seem to have.”

    “For them it was just a job,” Obi-Wan said, and Anakin realized that the hand on his back was that of his former master.

    He looked up, drying his eyes and face. “But who?” He asked. “Who hired them? Until we find that out…”

    “Ventress,” Mace said. “Does she not seem the most obvious choice?”

    Anakin shook his head, sniffed and wiped his eyes again. “Ventress has never tried to kill Padme,” he said. “Her method was to corrupt Senators and get powerful special interests on her side.”

    “Was,” Mace said. “That method did not work for her. It is possible that she is trying a new tactic. A more desperate one.”

    “Count Dooku did train her as an assassin,” Shaak Ti said.

    “A job which she hated,” Obi-Wan said. “And where would she get the resources to hire and train five hit men?”

    “That is the bigger question,” Mace said.

    “I think someone in the Senate is involved,” Anakin said. “Someone in Tarkin’s campaign. Maybe even Tarkin himself.”

    Mace and Shaak Ti stared at him in shock. Yoda gazed at him thoughtfully.

    “Be careful, Anakin,” Mace said. “Accusing a Chancellor candidate of attempting to murder the opposition is pretty serious. Are you sure your emotions are not clouding your judgment?”

    “I am absolutely sure, Master Windu.”

    “Anakin’s suspicions have some basis,” Obi-Wan said. “If you will recall, I mentioned similar suspicions upon our return from Tatooine.”

    “That you did,” Yoda replied.

    “We cannot interrogate Tarkin on suspicions only,” Mace said.

    “No,” Anakin replied, “But we can keep a close watch on him. And interrogate the assassin that Padme hit in the leg. He’s still in the medical center.”

    “I am not sure what ‘keeping a close watch on Tarkin’ would look like,” Shaak Ti said.

    “It doesn’t have to look like anything. We pay attention, as we did with Palpatine,” Obi-Wan said. “We were correct in our suspicions of him. Unfortunately we do not have a Jedi already close to Tarkin whom we could use as a spy.”

    For the first time in several hours, Anakin managed a half-smile. “Yeah. I think I would be your last choice this time.”

    “Alright. We’ll watch him. We’ll do the best we can, without any sort of spy at this point,” Mace said. He stood. “Yoda and I will interrogate the wounded assassin.”

    “I’d like to go with you,” Anakin said.

    Mace shook his head and frowned. “No,” he said.

    “That’s not a good idea, Anakin,” Obi-Wan added.

    Anakin glared. “He tried to kill my wife.”

    “Precisely,” Obi-Wan said. “Right now it’s better to leave the interrogation to someone less emotionally involved.”

    “I have the right to know who is behind this,” Anakin snapped.

    “And no one intends to hide any details from you,” Mace said. “But your being involved in the interrogation is a different issue entirely. I am not allowing it.”

    Anakin started to say something else but felt Obi-Wan’s hand on his back again. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go back to the medical center and see if there are any updates on Padme.”

    Anakin sighed, put his hands over his eyes for a moment, then stood.

    The hologram of Asajj Ventress quivered in fury. “You did this, didn’t you?” she snapped.

    Tarkin gave her a patronizing smile. “My dear Asajj. Of course I did.”

    “WHY???” She screamed. “Do you want to build sympathy for Amidala? Are you trying to lose the election?”

    “Yes. I want to build sympathy for her. Because it will help me win the election.”

    Tarkin could almost see redness on Ventress’s face even through the hologram. “Are. You. Insane?”

    “No. Quite the contrary. You know very little about strategy, Asajj.”

    “I know enough about it to know that you could not have made a more idiotic move if you had first removed your brain and put it in a jar.”

    Tarkin laughed. “You think so?”

    “I know it. It’s amazing that the Republic has stood for so long when the people keep electing their stupidest citizens as representatives.”

    Tarkin’s smirk widened. “Really? Well, let me ask you this: how likely are the people to re-elect a Chancellor who not only has been unable to protect the Republic from the resistance, but has been unable to protect herself from them?”

    Ventress stared at him.

    “Do you not understand? Sympathy for Amidala compounded by fear that the resistance has moved into Coruscant, will lead the people to elect a stronger Chancellor.”

    “I do not understand how sympathy for Amidala will equate to the people voting her out of office.”

    “Oh, but it will. Their sympathy for her will not overpower their fear for their own safety. The average citizen of the Republic will protect his own self-interest first, and will not want a weak Chancellor, no matter how likable she seems.” He frowned. “It would have been better if the attempt had succeeded, but even with a failed attempt, we win.” He smirked again. “The Senate, and probably the Jedi as well, will go after you over this. They will want you to be…handled. And they will trust me to do it.”

    Ventress said nothing, just looked at him skeptically.

    “Where are you at the moment?” Tarkin asked.

    “I am sending you an encrypted transmission with my new location. Sly Moore is with me. Shu Mai was killed by the pregnant brat.”

    “I see you have uncovered yet another weakness of both the Chancellor and the Jedi. Unable or unwilling to protect their offspring from battle, even while pregnant. Women should not be in combat anyway, nor should they hold political office.” When Ventress glared, Tarkin quickly added. “You, my dear, would be the exception.”

    Ventress continued to glare. “We still have Sly Moore. That is important.”

    “That it is,” Tarkin said.

    “But I need more troops, Tarkin. The Navy killed all those that the Hutts sent us.”

    Tarkin scowled. “The Hutts overestimated their abilities.”

    “Nevertheless, they are gone. And if the Jedi send four or five Knights, I am no match for them alone.”

    Tarkin started to smirk but quickly covered it. “I suppose you aren’t. I will see what I can arrange.”

    “As quickly as possible.”

    “Of course. Good day, Asajj.”

    Han met Anakin and Obi-Wan at the door. “She woke up one more time,” he said. “And asked for water.”

    “That’s a good sign,” Obi-Wan said.

    “Her medical droid said it’s a very good sign, given the amount of blood she lost.”

    Anakin went to the bed and pressed a kiss to Padme’s forehead, but she didn’t stir. “She’s getting a little more color back,” he said.

    “Some,” Leia replied after quickly swallowing a mouthful of food. She was holding a soup mug and spoon in her hands.

    “What are you eating?” Anakin asked.

    “Spicy Gargon gumbo,” she replied, taking another spoonful.

    Anakin frowned. “Didn’t you spend an entire day in pain from heartburn last time you ate that?”

    Leia scowled. “Daddy. I can manage my own diet. This is the only thing I wanted tonight.”

    Han looked amused. “She sent Lando to Dex’s,” he said.

    Leia glared. “I didn’t send him. He volunteered to go.”

    “He’s afraid of you,” Han said, his grin widening. Leia scowled.

    “Where’s Luke?” Anakin asked.

    “Alys dragged him back to her place,” Han said. “She told him that he could try to get some sleep, or she would make him sleep—with a royal boot in his ass.”

    “He was still here when Mom woke up again,” Leia said. “I think he was easier to convince after that. That vision is still haunting him though.”

    Anakin closed his eyes and bit his lip. “I’m sure it is,” he said.

    Pooja entered the room with a cup of caf in her hand. “My parents and grandparents are on their way,” she told Anakin.

    “How did they take the news?” Anakin asked.

    Pooja frowned. “Not very well,” she said. “Grandma even started trying to convince me to leave politics, said she never wanted Aunt Padme to pursue it as a career, and that conversation alone went on for at least ten minutes. Mom started in on it too. And that was after…after I was able to convince them that Aunt Padme was going to be alright.”

    Anakin looked away from his niece, at his wife’s sleeping form. “Your grandmother would like nothing more than to have everyone home in Theed. Or Varykino,” he said. “And at times like this I’m inclined to agree with her.”

    “Aunt Padme never would though. Not even now.”

    “No, she wouldn’t.”

    Pooja sighed. “Grandpa wants to put a monument in Theed in memory of the two guards who died, and in honor of Torne Xemo.”

    “That’s a nice idea.”

    “The people of Naboo owe them a great debt.”

    “As do we,” Anakin said.

    “Anakin,” Obi-Wan said. “I’m going back to headquarters. Do you need anything?”

    “If you could find out what time the Naberries’ ship is scheduled to arrive…”

    Obi-Wan nodded. “Will do."

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate,” Bail said. “I know you are anxious for an update on Chancellor Amidala’s condition. The blast point was located in the inferior lobe of her right lung, causing extensive tissue damage and the collapse of that lung. A top-flight team at the Galactic Senate Medical Center was able to repair the damage, and while the Chancellor is weak from loss of blood and oxygen, she is expected to make a full recovery.”

    The room erupted in applause and cheers. In the door of the Senate chambers, Luke gripped Alys’ hand as they watched her father speak.

    “The Jedi Council is undertaking the investigation into who bears responsibility for these attacks,” Bail continued. “They have promised that the guilty party will be found and brought to justice as quickly as possible.”

    “The acting Chancellor recognizes the Senator from the sovereign system of Eriadu,” Vice Chair Tarin said.

    Tarkin’s pod lowered. “Chancellor Organa,” he began. “Thank you for updating us on Chancellor Amidala’s condition. I hope that you will pass along to her our deep concern for her well-being and our gratitude that she is recovering so well.”

    “I will certainly do that, Senator,” Bail said, without smiling.

    “And now, my fellow Senators,” he said, drawing out his words. “I think it is fairly obvious who is behind this attack. I do not believe it will be a surprise to any of us when the Jedi Council finishes its investigation and discovers that the assassination attempt on our beloved Chancellor is the work of Asajj Ventress.”

    Several Senators applauded, a couple of others shouted, “Hear, hear! After her now! ”

    Tarkin barely suppressed a grin. “Now, now, ladies and gentlemen, there is no need to be rash. The investigation does need to go through legal channels or we will not be able to prosecute Ventress for her vast crimes against the Republic.”

    The shouts died down, and Tarkin continued. “However, when Ventress is caught, we will need to persuade the Chancellor to take…drastic action against her. More drastic action than Amidala has ever cared to pursue prior to now. We can only hope that an attempt on her own life is enough to convince her to use an iron fist against the resistance…because if they move into Coruscant, which they appear to be attempting to do, the Chancellor’s life is not the only one that will be at risk.”

    Tarkin sat back, intending to let his words settle for a moment, when Bail said. “Do you have anything further, Senator Tarkin?”

    Tarkin gave Bail a sinister grin. “No, Chancellor Organa, I do not.”

    “Thank you,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, it is understandable that Asajj Ventress would be at the top of the suspect list for this crime. However, as tempting as it may be, we should not presume guilt without proof or a fair trial. Such would be the act of a totalitarian regime, not a democratic republic. I would also ask you to allow the Jedi to conduct their investigation; when the assassin or assassins are caught, Chancellor Amidala and this body can then discuss how to deal with them. Any such discussion at this time is premature. We do not know at this point if the assassination attempt was the work of the resistance or the work of a lone person who is dissatisfied with the government. Until we know, we cannot make any educated decisions on how the perpetrator should be punished.”

    A few Senators applauded, otherwise the room was silent.

    “Any further questions?” Bail asked.

    No one answered. “In that case, this session is adjourned.”

    Alys brought Luke his caf on the balcony. “How do you feel?” She asked, touching the scars on his forehead and cheek.

    “I’m fine,” he said. “I got lucky. That wampa decided to have the taun-taun as a main course and save me for dessert.” He smiled at her, but she didn’t return it.

    “Ugh,” she muttered. “Let’s hope you won’t have to return to that planet again.”

    “Not likely. But the next one could be worse. Byss…Zigoola…”

    “Don’t even think about that, Luke.”

    He sighed and took a sip of his caf. “I won’t. I can’t right now anyway. I need to go to the medical center.”

    Alys took his hand. “Your vision…you saw the assassination attempt? Did you see any further than that?”

    He shook his head and blinked, looking away from her. “No,” he said. “I saw the assassins in the garage, the blaster fire, and Mom going down with blood coming from her chest.” He swallowed hard and shuddered.

    Alys hugged him. “You did everything you could.”

    “We might have been able to stop it if we had gotten back quickly enough to escort her from the Senate building ourselves…”

    “But how could you have known that? You didn’t have a time table. You don’t ever know if your visions are happening at the moment or in the future. When Leia saw you in Jabba the Hutt’s palace, it was happening at the moment.”

    “I know, but…”

    She put a finger to his lips. “No buts. Feeling guilty won’t help your mother heal any faster.” She took his hand again. “I’ll go with you to the medical center. Daddy is updating the Senate again this afternoon.”

    “The assassin that Mom shot in the leg is being discharged and taken to the detention center today. Master Windu and Master Yoda are supposed to question him. Whether he’ll talk is another issue altogether.” Luke’s expression had suddenly grown darker.

    “If not, he’ll go to trial and be put on the stand, and then he’ll have to talk.”

    “It might be too late by then, assuming he is working for someone, which I believe he is.”

    “Do you think the resistance is moving into Coruscant?”

    Luke frowned and shook his head. “I don’t know. But I also don’t think it’s that simple. The resistance would not move into Coruscant to directly attack Mom. That’s not the way Ventress operates, that’s not the way Dooku operated. “

    “I’m not sure, Luke. Dooku did organize an attack on the Senate building during the war. Shut it down completely, trapped everyone inside.”

    Luke smiled. “My parents told me about that one. Daddy got stuck in another part of the building without his lightsaber. He had given it to Mom for some reason.”

    Alys looked confused. “Why?”

    Luke laughed. “I didn’t ask.” The laughter stopped. “But anyway, Ventress usually doesn’t operate in the open.”

    “If she is behind this, she’s not operating in the open. She hired assassins to do this for her.”

    “But it still doesn’t make sense.” Luke sighed again. “If the resistance wanted to move into Coruscant to terrorize the capital, seems that they would conduct a larger-scale attack, like the one on the Senate building. Or the bombing of the administration sector.”

    Alys put her hands to her temples. “I had forgotten about that.”

    “Uncle Obi-Wan almost died. He was thrown from a speeder bike. Daddy blistered him for not taking a regular speeder.” Another sigh. “But anyway, it would be a new tactic for Ventress. And what would she have to gain from assassinating Mom unless she wants to put her own…oh, stang…” Luke put his head in his hands.


    Luke looked up. “It’s possible, even likely, that several people in the Senate are behind this. Resistance-friendly, or just want Mom out of office for some reason. A lone person…well, it could not be a lone person, as the attack involved five people. And Master Yoda said they were hired hit men. Whoever wants her dead, is willing to spend a lot of credits to make it happen. Which narrows down the possibilities quite a bit. Unless some sports or holovid star wants to kill her, which isn’t likely…the only other possibility is someone inside the government.”

    Alys blanched, and a few minutes passed before she spoke again.


    He looked at her.

    “There is something I need to tell you.”

    “What is it?”

    “I need to go back to Alderaan. Just for a short time. I need to visit Chianar, talk to the people there.”

    Luke didn’t answer.

    “They need to know that the Republic government is working towards a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the resistance crisis, especially now, with the Holonet stirring up fear of the resistance moving into the Core, or Coruscant itself…”

    “I know.”

    “The people living in Chianar…the refugees… if anyone needs reassurance, they do…”

    Luke nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I can’t go with you this time, you know that.”

    “I know. I didn’t think you would want to leave the capital, not now. Daddy can ask the Council to send another padawan, or we can leave protection up to my guards.”

    “Given your father’s position, and the fact that the resistance has used you before to get to him…I’d prefer that a Jedi went with you. It would make me feel better.”

    “OK. I’ll see what I can do.”
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed the scenes where everyone puzzled out various options as to motive and the prime mover behind everything. =D= Also enjoyed Luke and Anakin's reactions but still able to listen and be persuaded of not being directly involved in the investigation on the one hand and not becoming swallowed up with guilt on the other. [face_thinking] Hopefully, the mercenary will want to improve his chances however slight and cough up some vital info. I have a feeling Yoda can be quite intimidating [face_laugh] ;)

    And another hope, perhaps the opposition will quibble and squabble so much and tear themselves apart through mutual suspicion and one-upmanship :p
  23. ccp

    ccp Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Apr 29, 2005
    I like this
  24. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Skywalker Saga/LFL/YJCC Manager star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Jade_eyes : Luke will be OK, Anakin...there's a road ahead for him as far as struggling with this. Same with Bendel.

    The rest of the campaign has a ways to go, on both sides.

    ccp: Thanks. :)

    Thanks for reading.


    Mace Windu escorted Ruwee and Jobal Naberrie, with Sola and Darren, to the medical center, where they met Anakin in the lobby. Jobal embraced him then pulled back quickly. “Tell us how she is,” she said. “And don’t sugar-coat it, Anakin. We need to know.”

    “Have I ever sugar-coated anything with you?” Anakin asked.

    “People sometimes do, because we’re old,” Jobal replied, giving Sola a significant look.

    Anakin took a deep breath. “She’s getting better,” he said. “But she’s lost a lot of weight and is still spending a lot of time on oxygen. She has us raise the back of the bed quite a bit; she can breathe better that way.”

    “She didn’t have the weight to lose.”

    Anakin swallowed and nodded slowly. “I know. It may be hard for you to see her, you should know that, but she is getting better.”

    Jobal took his arm. “Let’s not waste any time then.”

    He nodded and led her to Padme’s room, followed by Ruwee, Sola and Darren.

    Padme was sitting up, propped on the raised mattress and pillows, getting oxygen through a mask. Her skin had recovered some color since she was shot, but was still far more pale than usual, her cheekbones prominent and her eyes sunken.

    Jobal’s reaction upon seeing her daughter was to burst into tears. “Padme…” she began but couldn’t finish.

    Padme took her mother’s hand in one of hers, and with the other hand, removed the oxygen mask. “Mom. I’m OK,” she said, before replacing the mask.

    Jobal sobbed for a few minutes, her husband and older daughter’s arms around her shoulders, before speaking again.

    “How many more of these is it going to take?”

    Sola answered this time. “Mom, what are you talking about?”

    “Her ship being bombed. The poisonous insects in her bed. And now…this.”

    “Different attempts decades apart and different perpetrators, dear,” Ruwee said, leaning on his cane with one arm and trying to comfort his wife with the other.

    “The Trade Federation and Count Dooku were behind the first attempts you mentioned,” Anakin said. “This one…” He looked at Padme, who was taking off the mask again. “We don’t know yet exactly who is behind it.”

    He took the mask and set it atop the oxygen tank, then handed Padme a cup of water and smoothed her hair.

    Jobal sniffed and dried her eyes. “Padme, listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but…”

    “I’m not quitting, Mom,” Padme replied, sipping the water through a straw and handing the cup back to Anakin. “Not now. Especially not now.”

    “Why not now? You’re going to be a grandmother. You need time to enjoy that baby.” She sighed. “I was lucky. I got to watch all four of my grandchildren grow up. I had no other obligations other than spending time with them. Every grandmother should be so fortunate.”

    “All the more reason for me not to step down and return to Naboo. Han and Leia are here. Naboo does not have a Republic Navy headquarters and…” Padme gasped. Anakin handed her the oxygen mask and turned the tank on.

    “Mom,” Sola said. “Maybe you shouldn’t upset her.”

    Tears sprung to Jobal’s eyes again. “That wasn’t my intent, it’s just…”

    “We know,” Sola replied. “But we should just let her heal first, and deal with what comes afterward then.”

    “Neither of your speeches worked on Pooja,” Darren said, looking from Jobal to Sola, who sighed.

    “No, they didn’t. She wants to make a difference. And that’s to be admired.” Sola looked at her sister again. “In spite of the dangers involved right now.”

    “I know,” Jobal said, wiping her eyes again. “It’s still painful to watch when danger comes this close to home.”

    Padme took the mask off again, handing it to her husband. “It will not come to war this time, Mom.”

    Ruwee looked at Anakin. “Do the Jedi know who is behind this?”

    Anakin frowned and shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “The assassin that Padme shot, whose name is Avlis Bendal, was resistant to Master Windu’s interrogation. Master Windu will try again later, probably take a couple of more Council members with him.”

    “He’ll have trouble resisting multiple Jedi,” Padme said, leaning back and closing her eyes.

    “He knows that we’ll sense it if he lies,” Anakin said. “So he isn’t talking at all.” He scowled. “There is more we can do. Trace the blasters; we’ll find out where they were purchased and by whom. Obi-Wan is handling that part, and knowing him and his detective work, it will be done quickly.”

    “What about you?” Jobal asked. “What are they having you do?”

    Anakin’s scowl deepened. “Not nearly as much as I would like,” he said. He paced back and forth in the space between the wall and Padme’s bedside.

    Padme grabbed his hand, forcing him to stand still, and opened her eyes. “Darling, didn’t we discuss this?”

    “I know. I’m too close.” He spat the word. “Which is why I want to do it. I’d get it done more quickly, I’d…”

    Padme gave his hand a squeeze. “You need to trust your best friend and the other Council members that you have been working with for almost 35 years,” she said. “Trust that they will also be determined to get to the bottom of this. I do.” She laced her fingers through his and squeezed the hand again. “I have no doubt that you could do it, Ani. My bigger concern is that you would destroy yourself trying.”

    He returned the squeeze, then sat down, putting his head in his hands. When he looked up a moment later, he said, “Master Windu said he would give me details when he has them. And he’s come through on that promise.”

    Padme smiled. “You see?” she said. Her voice was weakening, and she closed her eyes again.

    Jobal kissed her daughter’s cheek then looked at Anakin. “We’re going back to Pooja’s; we’ll let her rest. We haven’t even put our bags away yet.”

    Anakin nodded and started to stand up. Ruwee held up a hand. “Stay with her. We’ll be fine.”

    He nodded again and sank back into the chair.

    Obi-Wan found Anakin dozing on the sleep couch near Padme’s bed. He stood directly over the couch before Anakin startled, his eyes opening suddenly. He looked relieved when he saw who was there.

    “Obi-Wan,” he said, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.

    “Rough day?” Obi-Wan asked.

    Anakin shook his head. “Today hasn’t been bad. Rough night. She was having trouble getting air. I had to replace the oxygen mask about five times.” He yawned, blinked rapidly and gazed at Padme, who was sleeping peacefully. “It’s so hard to see her struggling that way.”

    “I know,” Obi-Wan said, putting a hand on Anakin’s shoulder.

    “But…today was better. She did walk across the room this morning.”

    “That’s good,” Obi-Wan said. “That’s very good.”

    “Once she doesn’t need oxygen as often and can use a portable tank, they’ll release her,” he said. “It’s going to be awhile though.” He rubbed his eyes again. “Any word on the investigation?”

    “Actually, yes,” Obi-Wan replied, and Anakin perked up. “I traced the blasters to an outfit on Raxis Prime. All five of them were purchased there.”

    “By whom?” Anakin asked.

    “That’s the problem. We don’t know. I was given a name but it’s most likely a pseudonym. And given that Count Dooku formed the Separatist Alliance there and that both the Commerce Guild and the Corporate Alliance operated heavily there, signs point toward the resistance and Ventress.”

    “Or…it could have just been a cheap place to buy blasters. Raxis Prime is basically lawless so they might have assumed the weapons wouldn’t be traced. Does seem coincidental though.” Anakin ran his hands over his face, feeling the stubble from not having shaved in two days, then looked at Obi-Wan again. “Why am I sensing that there’s more to this?” he asked.

    “Because there is,” Obi-Wan replied. He looked at Padme. “It’s not that simple. It can’t be. It’s way too obvious. Signs are pointing at the resistance because someone wants it that way. But who?”

    “And that’s the real question, isn’t it?” He put his head in his hands. “So what now?” He asked, his voice muffled.

    “We check travel logs along the Perlemian Trade Route, starting in Coruscant. Try to find out if the pseudonym used, Revia Burgan, has been used for any other reason. If we could find a ship that we could trace…”

    Anakin looked up. “That’s a long shot, though, isn’t it?”

    “It could be like trying to find a particular grain of sand in the Dune Sea. But, it depends on how well the person behind this covered his or her tracks,” Obi-Wan replied. “And Mace and Yoda are going to interrogate Bendel again.”

    Anakin’s expression darkened but he didn’t answer. Obi-Wan clapped his shoulder. “Why don’t you take advantage of my being here and go shower and shave. Maybe eat a real dinner.”

    Anakin shrugged. “Haven’t had much of an appetite,” he said.

    “That doesn’t mean you can live off hubba chips from the canteen,” Obi-Wan said. “Are the twins coming by?”

    “Luke was here this morning. He went to see Alys off, she’s going to Alderaan for a week. Leia will be here in an hour or so.”

    “So I’ll give you a reprieve a little early. Really, Anakin, when is the last time you showered and changed clothes?”

    Anakin gave him a half-smile. “Are you telling me that I smell, Master?”

    Obi-Wan laughed. “No, you don’t smell. But you look terrible. Your hair needs to be washed and combed. And unless you have actually decided to grow a real beard, you need a shave.”

    Anakin stood and waved a hand dismissively. “Alright, alright, I’ll go.”

    Alys ascended the platform and looked out over the vast plains of Chianar. Crowds of people stood before her, cheering; behind them were their modest homes, newly built early in the Clone War and well-maintained.

    “Thank you,” she called. “I was very pleased to learn of the large-scale voter registration drive that has been happening here over the past several weeks.” More cheers. “I understand that the leaders of the drive took it as far as the University of Aldera. Very well done.”

    Several people in the front row stood as the crowd cheered again. Alys nodded her thanks and continued. “I am sure that you have all heard the distressing news of the assassination attempt on Chancellor Amidala.”

    The crowd’s noise suddenly died down. “I am happy to report that the Chancellor is recovering well and regaining strength.” The crowd cheered again, then someone cried out, “Who did it?”

    Alys nodded towards the speaker. “I am sure we would all like to know that,” she said. “The Jedi Council is conducting an investigation into who is behind the attack. They fully hope to have answers soon.”

    “Is the resistance moving into the Core?” Someone in the second row, a Caamasi woman, asked.

    “That has been the first assumption of many,” Alys said. “However, it has been neither the pattern of the Separatist Alliance nor the Resistance which succeeded it, to conduct a small-scale attack directly on the Chancellor’s office. Their efforts to invoke terror are usually less brazen and more large-scale. More likely this is the work of a lone person with the means to hire hit men, or a small group.” She paused. “I regret that you still have to live in fear of the Resistance. You have certainly suffered enough from being forced off your home planets during the Clone War. As your Senator, a permanent defeat of the resistance, and peace in the galaxy, will be my primary goals, and I will work with Chancellor Amidala to that end.”

    The crowd was silent for a moment, and then applauded.

    “Will elections proceed as planned?” An Aqualish reporter in the front row asked.

    “Yes,” Alys said. “The Chancellor should be fully recovered by the time the elections take place, in four months’ time. In her absence my father and Chancellor Mothma are presiding over Senate business, which is proceeding as usual. I am quite certain that those behind the assassination attempt, would like nothing better than to cause alarm leading to hysteria, and a shutdown of government. Neither the Chancellor herself, her advisors, nor her supporters in the Senate will allow that to happen.”

    Another round of applause, louder this time.

    “Are there any further questions?”

    No one spoke, and Alys continued. “I will return to Alderaan next month to visit the Castle Lands, and I intend to make another stop here as well. Thank you.”

    She stepped down from the platform to cheers from the crowd.

    A week later on a drizzly afternoon on Coruscant, Anakin paced anxiously back and forth across Padme’s room as Obi-Wan, Mace and Yoda stood nearby. Padme sat up in bed, eating a bowl of broth.

    “Really?” Anakin said to the Jedi. “Still nothing but dead ends?”

    “I’m afraid so,” Obi-Wan said. “The name of Revia Burgan is not registered in any spaceport along the Perlemian Trade Route. I caught up with the weapons merchant on Raxis Prime, but he did not know what type of ship Burgan, or whatever his real name is, used. If he did, we could at least have some means of narrowing down a trace on the ship.”

    “And Bendel still isn’t talking. My guess is that he is either being paid heavily to keep his mouth shut, or he has received a threat of injury or death if he talks,” Mace said.

    “And Tarkin?” Anakin asked.

    “Nothing really suspicious to report there,” Mace replied. “Chancellor Organa said that Tarkin tried to rile up the Senate against Asajj Ventress, but it’s not as if doing so would take much effort. I would venture to say that most of the Republic suspects Ventress already.”

    “Tarkin also specifically asked about Padme’s welfare, although that might have been for show,” Obi-Wan replied.

    “Oh, I’m sure it was, even if we’re wrong about him being behind this,” Anakin replied, his expression darkening. “He has never been the least bit cordial towards Padme before. I wish I could interrogate him. I would be able to sense any deceit. And I would snap his lying neck…”

    “Which is precisely why you are not interrogating anyone,” Mace said sharply.

    Padme finished the broth and set the bowl on the table next to her bed. “Ani,” she said, leaning against the pillows. “You are going to have to be patient. I know how hard that is for you even under less…stressful circumstances. But you do not have a choice.”

    “To your wife you listen,” Yoda said.

    “What about the fact that these assassins probably aren’t finished? That if they aren’t caught, they will be back? We can’t wait for Bendel to go on trial to find out who he’s working for…”

    “I assure you, Anakin, that we are working as quickly as we can,” Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin’s expression softened, and he stopped pacing and sank into one of the chairs, the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes. “I know,” he said. He looked up. “It’s not you I’m frustrated with. It’s the idea that they’ve somehow outsmarted us.”

    “They haven’t,” Obi-Wan said. “And they won’t. We will get this done. It somehow doesn’t surprise me that it isn’t being done on your time frame. But I assure you that we will find the person or people behind this attack.”

    “I know,” Anakin said, and found tears pricking his eyes. “I feel so helpless right now, Master. I wish I could take a more active part in this.”

    “Trust me, Anakin, right now that would only make you feel worse,” Obi-Wan replied. “You would feel as if you had personally failed, rather than being able to blame us for the failure.” He gave Anakin a slight smile, which wasn’t returned. Anakin rubbed his eyes to get rid of the moisture there, then looked at the Jedi.

    “The only blame to be placed here is on the assassins themselves,” he said.

    “We will update you again when we have something to report,” Mace said to Anakin, then turned to Padme. “Chancellor Amidala. May you continue to recover well.”

    “Thank you, Master Windu.”

    The blood was everywhere, covering the vast sands of the Dune Sea. Anakin walked through the bodies, feeling his boots squish in the sand, following the slowly moving river of red. Blank eyes stared up at him, occasionally lips moved, voices rasped, a hand reached up to him.

    His mother, her face beaten and bruised, one of her eyes swollen completely shut, a swollen hand reaching to take his. “So handsome…my son…my grown-up son…I love…” Anakin bent down but before he could answer her, the breath left her body and her other eye closed in death.

    Several clone soldiers, moaning, grabbing missing limbs, but only Rex spoke. “General Skywalker, sir.” His voice was raspy, barely above a whisper.

    Anakin leaned forward, reaching a hand to take his. “Rex. Hang on. I’ll call a medical frigate.”

    Rex’s head shook slowly. “It’s too late. And I’m ready. But General…beware…”

    “Beware of what?” Anakin asked. But Rex was gone.

    Anakin began to run, wanting to get away from the sea of blood and bodies in the sand, but a few feet away he heard another familiar voice. “Master.”

    He stopped suddenly, squatting down. “Snips.”

    She lay just as he had last seen her alive, the fatal lightsaber wound cauterized in her abdomen, her orange skin tinged greenish-yellow, the light fading from her large blue eyes.

    “Ahsoka, I am so…”

    She weakly held up a hand. “Don’t say it. We’ve been through this. You’ve said it enough.” She coughed, and a few drops of blood appeared on her lips. “Beware, Master.”

    “Of what? Rex just said…”

    “…the same,” Ahsoka finished. “You are angry…don’t let it…control…you…”

    And before he could ask her what she meant, she disappeared completely. All he saw below him was the blood-soaked sand.

    He stood and ran again, making it several feet before he heard blaster fire. He held up his mechanical hand to ward off the bolts but they stopped as suddenly as they started. He tried to move again but felt a hand grabbing his ankle. He looked down to find Padme, her skin completely white, her eyes barely holding his gaze, and blood pouring from the wound on her chest. He knelt beside her to try to stop the bleeding but it came faster, an unstoppable stream of red pouring through his fingers…

    “No!” he cried out and sat up. Gradually the bloody Dune Sea disappeared and the grey darkness of Padme’s hospital room at night came into view, and he nearly wept with relief. His skin felt slick, he realized he was drenched in sweat.

    “Ani.” Padme’s soft voice came from the bed, and he stood quickly.

    “Padme,” he said. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

    “It’s fine,” she said, and patted the edge of the bed. “Come here.”

    He obeyed, sitting on the edge of the bed. She took his face in her hands and pulled his head down to her shoulder, running her fingers through his damp hair. “Your old war nightmare?”

    He nodded slowly. “I thought they were gone for good. It’s been a year since the last one.”

    “Well, given the circumstances…” Padme said. “Who was in this one?”

    “Mom. Rex. Ahsoka. Tatooine…the Dune Sea soaked with blood…” Anakin was shaking. “…and you.”

    She kissed his temple and smoothed his hair again. “Breathe, darling,” she said.

    He took a deep breath, and Padme held him until the shaking stopped. He lay in her embrace for several minutes, his face in her hair. Leia had washed it earlier that day and the familiar scent of her shampoo was strong and comforting.

    “I’m going to be fine, Ani,” she said softly. “I only needed oxygen twice yesterday. I can finally eat real food again. My medical droid said that I can probably go home next week. And the Council…they’ll find out who is behind this.” She stroked his hair again. “And who knows, I may have bought myself re-election now.”

    “If you still want it,” Anakin said.

    “Anakin, look at me.”

    He sat up, meeting her eyes, and she took his hand. “We’re not quitting now. We don’t let fear make our decisions for us. We never have. If we had…”

    “…we would be in our bed in our house in Theed right now, with the windows open and a breeze bringing in the smell of flowers, as opposed to you lying in a medical center bed with a blaster wound in your chest.”

    “Anakin,” she said, sounding hurt.

    He hung his head. “I’m sorry, Padme. That sounded as if I were blaming you, and I didn’t mean it that way at all.”

    “No. It sounded as if you’re putting personal safety and comfort over the importance of both my work and yours. The Clone War should have proved well enough that we are meant to do the opposite. We don’t run away and allow evil to win when we’re afraid. We fight back.”

    “I know that. But it’s harder when it’s you or the children that I’m afraid for.” He stroked her cheek. “I love you.”

    “And I love you,” she said. “And I need you to set aside your fear long enough to let me finish the job I started. The Republic has not truly been at peace in almost 25 years. I owe it to the people to do as much as possible to permanently defeat this resistance, rather than running away with my tail between my legs.”

    He sighed. “Of course,” he said. “I would not expect any differently from you.” He kissed her. “Do you need anything?”

    She smiled. “A well-rested husband. I’m going to try to walk down the hall tomorrow. I’ll need your help.”

    “You’ll have it.”

    She indicated the sleep couch. “So go back to bed.”
  25. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 16, 2005
    Anakin HAS grown up and matured.
    But then, he hasn't truly changed, either. He still wants personal happiness and no threats, only now he's capable of seeing beyond that and weighng his options.