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Saga - PT Into The Archives: RotS AU (Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme) Updated 02/20/16

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by skygawker, Sep 10, 2014.

  1. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Title: Into the Archives
    Author: skygawker
    Timeframe: Revenge of the Sith
    Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme
    Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, AU
    Summary: After hearing the legend of Darth Plagueis the Wise from Palpatine, Anakin decides that his best chance to save Padme is to break into the restricted Holocron Vault of the Temple Archives to search for information about Plagueis. Predictably, all does not go according to plan.

    Status: In-progress

    Table of Contents:
    Chapter 1: Part A, Part B
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15
    Chapter 16
    Chapter 17
    Chapter 18
    Chapter 19
    Chapter 20
    Chapter 21
    Chapter 22
    Chapter 23
    Chapter 24
    Chapter 25
     
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  2. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 1

    Anakin flew his speeder away from the opera house in a daze. The Chancellor's words were repeating in his head, a message of hope bouncing around inside his mind: Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying...he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying...keep the ones he cared about from dying...

    If he could just figure out how to gain that same knowledge, he could save Padme. He could save everyone; with that sort of power, surely he'd be able to bring peace and justice to the galaxy. He wouldn't be held back by the restraints the Jedi had placed on him, the rigid bindings of let go of everything you fear to lose and accept the will of the Force, you must and there is no passion, there is peace. If he managed to do this, he really would be the most powerful Jedi ever. What control would the Council have over him then? He'd make them let him be with Padme, forever.

    It was, of course, the Jedi themselves who were the problem. Palpatine was right: he couldn't learn that sort of power from them. They feared him too much to ever give him access to the really useful information—they'd proved that when they had refused to make him a Master, despite his abilities, thus keeping him from the restricted areas of the Temple Archives where the holocrons made by the greatest and most powerful Jedi Masters were stored. It was there that he'd earlier thought he might find information to save Padme, and it was there that he would most likely find information about Plagueis, if the man wasn't just a legend.

    Should he ask Obi-Wan for help? He'd dismissed the idea earlier; even assuming Obi-Wan's view on acting to prevent visions had changed from three years ago, it would be impossible to explain the situation without revealing his relationship with Padme. Not to mention that Obi-Wan would probably hate him for throwing away all of his teachings. Now, though, he found he barely even cared if Obi-Wan found out. Let them kick him out of the Order—what did his status as a Jedi matter, when Padme's life was at stake? He'd rather be excommunicated and be with her than stay a Jedi and let her die...

    But though he night be able to ask Obi-Wan to help him get information about visions and healing and even childbirth, there was absolutely no way that Obi-Wan would agree to help research Sith legends and techniques. The man was simply too indoctrinated in the ways of the Jedi. And Anakin was sure now that he wouldn't find anything useful from purely Jedi sources—if the Jedi had ways to prevent death, surely he would have heard about it. Call it intuition, or a message from the Force—he knew that in Palpatine's words lay the only path to saving her.

    Which meant that asking for Obi-Wan's help wouldn't do any good. It would just get him expelled from the Order sooner. And there was no other Master he could think of who would give him permission to go into the restricted Archives.

    He gritted his teeth. This was so, so unfair. It was completely ridiculous that he couldn't just go into the Archives on his own—he had the power of any ten Masters; he deserved the same rank and respect and privileges.

    A thought hit him as he approached the Temple landing platform. He couldn't just go into the Holocron Vault on his own...or could he? Just how strict were the security measures? Not perfect. He'd heard the story of the initiate Lorian Nod who'd broken in decades ago; Dooku had managed to tamper with the Archive records before leaving the Order, and Cad Bane had stolen a holocron only a few years before. Yes, security had been increased after each of those events, but maybe only against those specific sorts of things. He had no intention of tampering with anything as Dooku had, he wasn't an intruder in the Temple itself, and maybe the internal security was only strong enough for Nod's sort of childish attempt. Maybe, maybe, they assumed no Jedi old enough to be as powerful as Anakin was would be reckless enough to risk their place in the Order just for a chance to see some holocrons.

    Well, he thought as he landed the speeder, he was that reckless. More accurately, he was that desperate.

    Despite the fact that he'd barely slept for fear of dreaming since the first night after he'd returned to Coruscant, despite the fact that Padme and Palpatine and the Council were pulling him in so many directions at once that he could practically feel himself splitting apart, Anakin felt more alive than he'd been since he'd had the first nightmare of Padme's death. He had a goal now, a path that might lead him out of this mess, an idea that might actually work. At best, he'd find a way to save Padme with no one the wiser. At worst...well, if he couldn't find a way to save her, then the consequences didn't really matter, did they?

    He'd die if she did, after all.

    Anakin fought off a yawn as he began to walk away from the platform. There was no time for exhaustion, and anyway, he didn't want to dream. Probably he should eat something—but his appetite had been practically nonexistent the past few days. No, he just needed to push past his tiredness. Once he'd saved Padme, he'd be able to sleep as much as he wanted to.

    First things first. He needed to scope out the Holocron Vault, which meant that he needed an excuse to go into the Archives. Though going there wasn't a particularly suspicious activity in and of itself, Anakin had rarely been inside since he was a Padawan being forced to do research for his classes. Between that and the fact that he was pretty sure Jocasta Nu still didn't like him—he had never been particularly good at following the 'quiet in the library' or 'no eating' rules when he was younger—he was pretty sure that she would be watching him closely if she happened to see him.

    But hey, if he was going to break into one of the most secure rooms of probably the most secure building on the planet, he wasn't going to be stopped by a librarian, no matter how draconian and actually somewhat intimidating she might be.

     
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  3. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Realizing exactly how long it had been since he'd done any research serious enough to need to know the layout of the Archives, Anakin stopped outside the entrance to look at the floor map displayed there. There were two points of access to the Holocron Vault. One was from the Fourth Hall, which according to the map contained information on galactic zoology. Yeah, he was pretty sure he couldn't come up with any believable-sounding reason for being there. The other was from the Second Hall...which was full of datapads on math and engineering. Perfect.

    He slipped into the main rotunda, head down, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. If he could just get down Second Hall without Madame Nu noticing him, this would be a whole lot simpler. He had only taken about three steps when a voice issued from immediately behind him: "Knight Skywalker! May I help you with anything?"

    Anakin jumped, biting back a groan. He hadn't even noticed her! "Just looking for some technical specs on the new starfighters," he said innocently, fake smile plastered across his face.

    She raised an eyebrow. "At this time of night?"

    Anakin didn't actually know what time it was, having been too distracted by the idea of saving Padme during the opera to pay attention to how long it went. He shrugged. "Couldn't sleep."

    "Hmm," Madame Nu said. "Well, follow me." She turned sharply and began to walk toward Second Hall.

    Anakin considered protesting that he was capable of finding it on his own, but decided it would probably be less suspicious to go along with it and just wait for her to leave. He hurried after her, even his long legs having trouble keeping up with her brisk pace. They stopped about halfway down the hall, a good ways away from the door to the Holocron Vault, which was at the end.

    He thanked Nu as politely as possible for taking him to the correct section, then pulled out a datapad at random: the engine specifications for a Delta-7, as it turned out. He sat down on a nearby chair and pretended to skim through it, covertly watching as the Chief Librarian returned to the main rotunda...and sat at console which left him perfectly in sight of her. Kriff.

    He pretended to read the datapad for what seemed like a very long time, but was probably only about fifteen minutes. Patience had never been one of his strong points, and though under normal circumstances he would actually have found the material interesting, right now he could practically hear the ticking of a clock as Padme's time slipped away. Finally, he could take it no longer. He stood up, and was immediately hit by a wave of dizziness. Woah, he thought. I really gotta eat something once this is over. The dizziness passed after only a few moments, and replacing the datapad back where it belonged, he meandered as casually as possible down the hall, stopping at random as if to browse. Nothing to see here, he tried to project. Just a bored, insomniac Knight wandering aimlessly. He stopped at a shelf near the door to the Vaults and picked out another datapad. This one was about the engineering of long-range weapons—plausible enough for him to read, he supposed, considering how often he got shot at by that sort of thing.

    Pretending to be engrossed by the datapad. Anakin settled down into a chair facing the door and extended his senses. This late, the Archives were nearly empty. Besides Madame Nu herself, the only other person nearby was a Padawan he didn't recognize who was pacing up and down the hall. Probably the kid was on guard duty, protecting the Vault as Ahsoka had once done.

    Ahsoka. A flash of anger and sadness rose up in him, but he pushed it away. Ahsoka had left; right now, he needed to keep his mind on the mission for Padme's sake.

    As for the Vault itself...the door was big and heavy, but could be opened fairly easily. The complicated Force lock was, as he had suspected, only really meant to keep out overly-curious apprentices and any non-Force-sensitive intruders. Which meant that the real challenge for Anakin would lie in getting inside without Madame Nu or the Padawan on guard noticing him—both would realize immediately that he wasn't a Master, and then this whole thing would be over with.

    He would need to create some sort of distraction. It would have to be something plausibly accidental, though, because if anyone figured out it was supposed to be a distraction, the Vault was an obvious enough target that it'd be the first place they'd check. Maybe he should use the Force to knock something over down one of the other Halls? That might be too suspicious if there was nobody else nearby, and anyway, they might not be distracted for long enough to miss the door closing behind him.

    Anakin rubbed his eyes. He wished there was some way for him to get some rest without dreaming or losing Padme's precious time, because then he might actually be able to think clearly. Now that his initial surge of energy and excitement over having a plan had worn off, a haze of exhaustion was beginning to settle back over his mind. Come on, Skywalker, think. You've solved way harder problems than this before, and Padme's life wasn't even at risk then. But that was exactly the problem—his mind was so filled with fear for Padme that he could barely think about anything else. C'mon, there's gotta be an obvious solution here.

    "Master Skywalker?"

    Anakin jerked out of his reverie. The Padawan he'd noticed before had walked up to within a few meters without him even realizing it. She was young, probably only about fifteen or sixteen, and was looking at Anakin expectantly.

    Anakin swallowed. "Uh, yes?" he said awkwardly. Force, had he done something suspicious without even realizing it? He glanced nervously back at the rotunda, to see if Madame Nu had noticed. And Madame Nu...wasn't there.

    The Padawan appeared to notice his confusion. "She's gone for the night," she said. "One of the apprentice librarians will be here in a few minutes to take over."

    Anakin glanced at his wrist chrono—it was nearly midnight, later than he'd thought. But it seemed the Force was with him tonight; this meant that Anakin only had one person to distract, as long as he made his move quickly. Though that person was focused pretty intently on him at the moment. "Oh," he said. "Thanks, um..."

    "Bene," she said eagerly. "I heard how you defeated Count Dooku."

    Oh. So it was hero-worship, not suspicion, that had brought her over here. He supposed that was a good thing, but he was impatient to get on with his plan. "Yeah," he said. "It was, uh, a hard battle." And not one that any real Jedi would praise him for, if they knew the truth of how it had ended.

    The girl nodded. "I heard Dooku was one of the best fighters in the Order even before he turned to the dark side. You must be really powerful to have defeated him."

    Anakin shrugged awkwardly. Part of him was uncomfortable with the praise when his actions had been, technically speaking, a war crime. And another part of him whispered, in a voice which sounded oddly like the Supreme Chancellor's, isn't it nice to get the recognition you deserve, the recognition the Council is too afraid to give you?

    "Of course," she continued, "you would have to be powerful to get on the Council at your age. Aren't you the youngest Master to sit on the Council in like, ever?"

    Anakin was nodding, trying to think of ways to get out of his conversation, when he processed the meaning of her words. The youngest Master. The youngest Master? His heart pounded so hard in his chest that he was sure anyone within a five meter radius could hear it. Was the Force truly going to be this kind to him? Was it possible that he was going to just walk into the most secure room on the planet, simply because the Temple gossip mill was missing some information? There was, after all, no reason for this girl to suspect that the Council would be so embroiled in politics and near-treason that they would insult Anakin in the way that they had by refusing to give him the rank that even this Padawan could see he deserved. "Yes, the youngest," he managed. "It was a great honor." He could feel his earlier tiredness disappearing again, replaced with a renewed determination. I can get in there, and I will.

    "So, do you need any assistance finding anything?" the girl—Bene, he reminded himself—asked. She looked like she desperately wanted the answer to be yes, though whether that was because she wanted to help one of her heroes or because she was bored out of her mind with just standing around, Anakin couldn't tell. Likely a little bit of both.

    "No, thank you," he said, mind racing. If he took advantage of this...he could get into the Vault, but she was sure to mention the encounter to someone at some point, and he'd end up being hauled in front of the Council with no way to deny his guilt. But did that even matter if it meant he could save Padme? It was now or never; he had to act before Nu's replacement arrived. "Actually, I was thinking of taking a look around the Holocron Vault," he said as casually as humanly possible. "I mean, I've never had the opportunity before, and now that I'm on the Council I figured I might as well." He could practically feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins; if he'd misunderstood what she'd said earlier, she could end this operation right now.

    "Oh," said Bene, her eyes widening. "I've always wanted to look around in there," she said wistfully. "I don't think they'll make me a Master any time soon, though."

    Anakin grinned, flooded with euphoria. "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Bene," he told her. He sprang to his feet. "Sometimes, the Force will give you opportunities you'd never see coming."

    Bene smiled back at him. "Thanks, Master Skywalker," she said. "I'll keep that in mind." Anakin felt a momentary surge of guilt for his deception of her; she seemed like a genuinely nice kid. He clamped down on it quickly—Padme was more important than this Padawan, however nice she was, and anyway, if the Council had any sense they'd realize that the blame for this little encounter lay entirely with Anakin himself.

    Not that the Council had been showing very good judgment when it came to pointing fingers, lately.

    He walked confidently over to the vault door, hoping that she wouldn't notice how much he was sweating, and raised his hand to the lock. Concentrating hard, he let the Force flow through him, let himself become one with the mechanism. If this was keyed in some way he hadn't noticed to only let certain people in...Your focus determines your reality, the echo of a thousand lectures from Obi-Wan whispered. He closed his eyes, and waved his hand over the lock. It will open, he thought. And it did, the dilating security door whirring as it opened itself in front of him.

    Anakin turned to Bene, hoping that his smile didn't look as manic as it felt, then waved to her as he stepped through the door and into the Vault.
     
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  4. Empress Shatterpoint

    Empress Shatterpoint Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Probably my favorite fanfic right now.

    I won't be too specific in my comments for fear of spoiling readers who have not read Into The Archives on ff.net or some other site, but let me congratulate you on your spot-on characterization, especially with Mace Windu. I find that he is often portrayed as overly aggressive, or utilized solely for badassery shows, and in the rare event that some author realizes that there is more to Mace than a stern Council mask, he/she tends to overcompensate on the softness. But you have given him just the right amount of assertiveness/softness--I actually believe I am reading about Movie!Mace in your fic.

    I'd also like to give you virtual balloons for the execution of your plot. The pacing is well done, and for each positive/negative deviation from Canon, you add your own twist, which balances the odds of a victory for the good side & dark side. The progression of events advances naturally-there is no filler chapter in your story, and each event is meaningful towards the resolution.

    Keep on writing.

    *Fancy Obi-Wan mind-trick: Chapter 22 will come soooooooooon* ;)
     
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  5. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    @Empress Shatterpoint: Ehehehe, just one more scene to write in Chapter 22 and then it'll be up!

    Chapter 2
    Stepping through the door into the circular hallway beyond, the first thing Anakin noticed was that the three sets of security lasers between himself and the second dilating door were still on. He frowned - he'd assumed that those would turn off automatically when the door was unlocked.

    The second thing he noticed was a beeping noise coming from the far end of the hallway. Through the lasers, he could see a red light flashing next to what looked like an ordinary palm reader. And next to to that was a panel with a changing display of digital numbers: 55...54...53...

    Anakin swallowed. Not good, he thought. He looked around frantically, his gaze falling almost immediately on a simple numerical keypad on the wall to his left. Anyone with the access code, he presumed, could just shut off the lasers and walk across the hallway to deactivate the alarm before going into the vault proper. He, on the other hand...46...45...44...

    What would he do if this was a real mission? Get R2-D2 to turn off the lasers - no, R2 wasn't here, that wasn't a helpful thought, think of something else. 40...39...38...

    Or was it a helpful thought? Anakin himself was the most mechanically savvy non-droid he knew, after all. He knelt down in front of the first set of lasers and sank into the Force. Most Jedi had difficulty sensing machines, but Anakin had always found them far easier to work with than living beings. Each beam comes from an individual device set into the wall. Each device has its own sensor wired to set off the alarm system if the beam is interrupted. He focused on one of the beam sources; though he couldn't see it, he could sense it behind the wall. It's just another machine. If I disconnect this wire here - no, that would set off the alarm. If I disconnect this one, though, and wire the alarm back into itself...he reached gently into the the Force and did just that, then, throwing caution to the wind, swiped a finger through the beam he'd just tampered with.
    Nothing happened. Anakin breathed a sigh of relief, then caught sight of the countdown. 28...27...26 and he still had several dozen lasers with alarms still functioning.

    Okay. He didn't need to turn off all of them, only enough to make a clear path through. It looked like deactivating three lasers from each set would create a gap large enough for him to fit through, if he was careful. Anakin closed his eyes - there would be no visible difference between the alarmed lasers and the disarmed ones, so sight would only distract him. He focused on each individual alarm in turn, letting himself become one with the system of bolts and wires, and repeated the operation he'd done on the first one. How much time did he have left? Not enough to let himself get distracted by checking. Once finished, he moved into a crouch. Eyes still closed, he visualized the setup in front of him, now with several lasers removed. There was no time to hesitate - he pictured himself diving through the gap, then let the Force guide his body up and forward as he leaped.

    He hit the ground, rolled, and sprang forward again. Sensing the last set of lasers in front of him as he landed, Anakin threw himself forward. When he opened his eyes, he had landed crouched in front of the far door, and the numbers read 4...3. Slamming his flesh hand onto the palm sensor, he hoped against hope that it was just heat sensitive, not only able to recognize specific individuals. It seemed the keypad was supposed to be security enough, because the countdown stopped and the door in front of him whirred open.

    Anakin wasn't sure whether to whoop with joy or cry with relief as he stepped into the room. He'd only been inside once before and then only momentarily, shortly after Cad Bane had stolen a holocron. Then, he had been too focused on the bounty hunter to properly appreciate the power that resided within this room. Now, though, he could sense the potency of centuries upon centuries of stored wisdom and knowledge.This is what the Jedi have been keeping from me, he thought. This is how they've been holding me back. But not anymore.

    Glancing around, it quickly became obvious that the holocrons themselves were not labeled. It occurred to Anakin that he had been so focused on breaking into the Holocron Vault, that he hadn't actually been thinking about what he'd do once he got there. His mind had skipped straight from the break-in to the using his newfound knowledge of Sith healing to save Padme. He walked slowly around the room, letting one hand drag across the holocrons as he passed them. He paused momentarily in front of one shelf, set against the wall, which was seemingly identical to all the others, and was not entirely sure why he had done so. It was as though something was pulling him towards it, purposely trying to grab his attention, sucking him under...the feeling passed, leaving Anakin to wonder where in the Force that last thought had come from. He was probably just imagining things.

    He continued walking. Finally, halfway around the room, he came to a console set into the wall between two of the shelves. It was clearly old, and consisted of just a touch screen and keyboard, with no holographic display. The search interface, which displayed as soon as he turned it on, was simple - Only three options were displayed: search by creator, by content, or by era, with room for up to three keywords in each.

    Anakin touched 'creator,' then typed in "Plagueis." The screen flashed 'No results found,' then sent him back to the main menu. He supposed that wasn't too surprising - these holocrons were supposed to have been made by Jedi, so it made sense that any reports of Plagueis would have to be second-hand. Anakin repeated the search into the 'content' box and hit enter. This time, the screen actually changed to a list of results, and he felt a momentary surge of excitement. The excitement dissipated quickly when he actually read the display: 'Did you mean: plagues?' it asked him mockingly, showing a list of several holocrons that appeared to reference various epidemics that had taken place over the centuries.

    Anakin stabbed the 'no' button with his finger harder than was absolutely necessary, and found himself back at the main menu. He frowned and glared at the screen - he hadn't expected to be thwarted this early in his mission. After all, Plagueis was famous enough that even a non-Force-sensitive man like Chancellor Palpatine had heard legends about him, so surely the Jedi had records about him somewhere.

    Unless the legend really was just a legend after all. But Palpatine had has seemed so sure when he said that he believed Plagueis really had existed, and Anakin respected the Chancellor's judgment. So why couldn't he find anything?

    Maybe the story was true, but the name had been warped as the legend had been passed down from person to person. Maybe he just needed to try a more general search. He touched 'content' again, this time cross-referencing "Sith" with "healing."

    A long list of results popped up on the screen. Anakin skimmed through the summaries, getting increasingly frustrated. Most of them seemed to just be holocrons made during the Sith Wars, instructions from long-dead Jedi Masters on how best to treat lightsaber wounds and Sith lighting, and fight off the mental effects of Dark-Side attacks. However, as he neared the end of the list, he found one summary which looked somewhat promising.

    Creator: Master Otara Rholar (healer).
    Time period: Great Sith War (exact date of creation unknown)
    Content: Discussion of the philosophy behind Jedi healing, how the Sith appear to differ with the healing techniques of the Dark Side.

    It didn't mention Plagueis by name, but at this point Anakin didn't care. The summary, though vague, promised to him information on Sith healing, and that was all he really needed. He pressed his finger against the result and was rewarded with a small pop-up screen reading 'Locate holocron?'

    He pressed 'yes' impatiently. The box disappeared, and he was returned to the list of search results. What? he thought. How am I supposed to find it? He was about to try again when a quiet beep issued from somewhere behind him. Anakin nearly jumped out of his skin, then turned around quickly - if that was an actual Master coming in...

    A light on one of the holocrons was flashing. He breathed a sigh of relief and hurried over to it. Pulling it out of its shelf, he sat down cross-legged on the floor and concentrated on using the Force to open it. A three-dimensional holographic image of an older-looking woman, humanoid but clearly not human, appeared.

    "My name is Otara Rholar," she said. "The recent outbreak of violent conflicts against the Sith has caused the occupation of healing to become one in great demand. And while this war has resulted in tragic amounts of unnecessary death and bloodshed, the Force provides for us even in this dark hour. I have been blessed with some insight into the nature of healing which I wish to share with future generations. Though it is a difficult art mastered by only a few, the ability to heal is based on the most simple of principles: recognizing the will of the Force and allowing it to do its work. A Jedi who attempts to impose their own will on the Force will find themselves unable to fix even a minor cut or scrape. But a Jedi who understands that they are merely an instrument of the Force, lets go of their own desires regarding the patient's recovery, and uses their power to enhance the natural healing abilities of the body is capable of helping a patient recover from even the most grievous of injuries - if that is the will of the Force. From this basic principle, we can deduce more specific healing techniques. For example..."

    Anakin tapped his fingers impatiently against the floor. So far, this was just the same stuff he'd been told since the day he arrived at the Temple, the same message that Yoda had given him when he'd asked for advice about his visions: let go, accept the will of the Force, whatever. There had to be something more useful than what the woman was currently droning on about, advice on how to actively fight death, not just hope that it wasn't what the Force had in mind.

    He was seriously considering turning off the holocron and searching for one more to his liking when the holographic image said something that caught his attention.

    "We are aware that the Sith too use the Force to cure physical ailments," she said. "Indeed, my own apprentice asked me other day why it seems that our Sith enemies are so difficult to kill, why some are able to survive what ought to be mortal wounds. Though I have never had the chance to observe Sith healing for myself, I do have some speculation." Anakin sat up straight, listening eagerly. "I believe that Sith healing rituals, whatever they may be, go against the will of the Force. The Sith do not care for what is natural, or what is right, and they refuse to accept that their own judgment of who ought to live or die is inferior to that of the Force. For this reason, they are capable of producing what appear to be medical miracles, but what in reality are unnatural perversions of the cycle of life and death. Such a corruption of the Force's will would undoubtedly twist and darken the soul of both the practitioner and the patient, for the reward of only a brief reprieve on the physical plane. It is not a gift that I or any true Jedi would wish for."

    Anakin growled in frustration, closing the holocron. He wanted concrete instructions on how to prevent death, not a lecture on bowing to the will of the Force! Palpatine had been right, earlier that evening. The Chancellor's words echoed in his head, brutally honest: "This is the true reason the Sith have always been more powerful than the Jedi. The Jedi fear the dark side..." And later, when he'd asked where he could learn Plagueis's powers: "Not from a Jedi." At the time, he'd assumed that meant that the Jedi would never agree to teach him that sort of power. Now, he wondered if there fear was so great that they'd refused to even learn or keep records of it. No wonder they were losing this war, if the Council was too afraid of even hearing about different ways to use the Force to understand their own enemies.

    But that would mean that he was back at square one, with no way to save Padme. It would mean that this whole break-in had been pointless, that everything was pointless. There had to be something helpful in this room, there just had to be! But he was beginning to suspect that he had been wrong about the Jedi all this time. They weren't keeping the secrets to true power from him in order to hold him back; they were too narrow-minded to even accept the fact that those secrets existed.

    He returned to the search console, the icy fear of failure beginning to settle into his stomach. Scrolling through the few remaining search results didn't take much time as all looked useless to him. Okay, back to plan A, what he'd originally thought about asking Obi-Wan's help in searching for. This time, he searched for "healing" cross-referenced with "childbirth."

    Only three results. It seemed that since Jedi didn't have children themselves, they didn't care much about the process. The first was a complete waste, a discussion of how to get in touch with the Living Force by witnessing "miracles from the Force like accelerated healing and childbirth." The second contained instructions on how to use healing to alleviate pain in situations such as serious injury or childbirth. Also not good enough. He read the description for the third holocron.

    Creator: Qira Verbenti
    Time Period: 600 A.T.C
    Content: A collection of insights Master Verbenti gained over the course of his lifetime, addressing such topics as the nature of the midichlorians, how the length of time between childbirth and the arrival of Jedi can affect a parent's decision to give their child up for training, the soul-healing abilities of frequent meditation, and others.

    No. No, there had to be something he was missing. Anakin stalked angrily away from the console, pacing from one part of the room to another and back again, staring at the holocrons desperately as though he could tell which was the key to saving Padme just by looking. He found himself stopped in front the shelf which had caught his attention when he'd first come into the room. Once again, he felt the distinct sensation of being drawn toward it as though by a magnet. Perhaps the Force was trying to tell him something. He ran his hand over the shelf, methodically touching each holocron in turn. None in particular seemed to jump out at his senses, so he grabbed one at random and opened it.

    "I am Master Kaz Pavish," said the reptilian-looking man who appeared. "I wish to discuss the effects that instituting formal trials for Knighthood has had on the Order, so that we may remember-" Anakin shut the holocron down and returned it to its shelf; that was probably a fascinating topic of information to someone with no life at all, but not to him. Frustrated, he selected another holocron and opened it.

    The holographic figure that appeared only got as far as "Some speak of the Living and Unifying Forces as though they are two separate entities, but only by understanding how they are the same can a Jedi truly-"before Anakin closed the holocron and shoved it back into it's place on the shelf.

    His mind must have been playing tricks on him, he realized. There was nothing useful on that shelf any more than there had been on any of the others. He stumbled across the room and slammed his hand against the wall. He had failed. He had failed Padme as badly as he'd failed his mother three years ago; she was going to die and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Not even the combined wisdom of millennia worth of Jedi Masters could teach him how to stop death.

    Anakin sank to his knees. The hope that he'd felt earlier that evening when Palpatine had first mentioned the ability to keep people from dying had drained out of him, leaving only anguish and exhaustion in its place. He had nowhere to go from here, no backup plan. He'd pinned all his hopes on finding information about Plagueis, and now that he'd failed, he suddenly couldn't see past the crushing black of despair to even attempt to think of another way.

    Anakin's eyes burned with tiredness and oncoming tears. He shut them, only to be greeted by the sight of Padme's screaming face. The visions, it seemed, were not content to attack him only when sleeping. He forced his eyes back open, feeling the inevitability of her death pressing down upon him.

    There was nothing he could do. She's going to die, a voice whispered to him, whether from the Force or from his own imagination, he couldn't tell. All things die, Anakin Skywalker. Even stars burn out. Even yours. Even hers. And when she does burn out, you'll be able to do nothing to stop it.

    Some Chosen One he'd turned out to be, unable to do anything to prevent his own wife's death. Anakin pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. Pathetic, he thought at himself, but couldn't summon the energy to move. Feeling exhausted, hopeless, and very alone, he buried his face against his knees and began to cry.

    He didn't move from that position until the door to the vault opened and Mace Windu strode in.
     
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  6. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 3
    Earlier that night:
    Awake despite the late hour, Obi-Wan Kenobi was meditating when he got the comm call from Mace Windu. "Obi-Wan. Your presence is required in the Temple Archives," the Korun Master said, and there was something ominous in his clipped tone. "Come immediately." His holographic image disappeared before Obi-Wan could reply.

    The Archives? At this time of night? Obi-Wan didn't know why he could possibly be needed there, or what had caused the stress he'd sensed from the older man. What he did know, he reflected as he stood up and exited his quarters, was that he had a very bad feeling about this.


    A group had already gathered in the Archives rotunda by the time he arrived. Besides Mace, he could see Jocasta Nu, Kit Fisto, Shaak Ti, Agen Kolar, Saesee Tiin, and a female padawan whom he only vaguely recognized. They were clustered around a console, and all looked up when he entered. Mace hit a button, turning off the display before he could get a look at it.

    "What's going on?" he asked, and frowned in confusion as the gathered Masters shifted uncomfortably, shooting each other glances he couldn't interpret. His bad feeling intensified.
    "Someone has broken into the Holocron Vault," Madame Nu said eventually. "I received an alert when the lock was opened by someone with an unauthorized Force signature. As per the usual security measures, the vault locked has locked itself automatically from the outside to prevent the trespasser from leaving."

    "An intruder?" Obi-Wan was shocked. Then the meaning of her words hit him. The invader was able to use the Force, which meant..."Is it the Sith?" he asked breathlessly. Could they have possibly have trapped the enemy they'd been searching for for so long without even trying?

    Once again, he sensed discomfort from the gathered group. "No," Mace replied. "It's a Jedi."

    What? That didn't make any sense. Why would anyone do that, especially at a dark time like this? He opened his mouth to ask who it was, and was hit with a sudden sensation of foreboding. The way the other Masters were looking at him, at him specifically, with expressions a mixture of sorrow and accusation...and he realized he didn't really have to ask. "No," he said, more to himself than to the others. "No, he wouldn't. Anakin may be - but he wouldn't - he's not-''

    Wordlessly, Mace touched a button and a security holograph of the Holocron Vault appeared. And the figure that was standing in front of the search console, an expression of grim determination on his face, was quite recognizably Anakin Skywalker. Oh, Anakin, Obi-Wan thought in horrified desperation. What have you done this time? He broke into a cold sweat - breaking into the Holocron Vault was an offence that Anakin could actually get expelled for, just as Lorian Nod had been all those decades ago.

    He took a deep breath. "How did he get in? I thought there was always at least one guard." he asked, voice not quite as even as he would have liked it to be. In response, everyone looked at the padawan, who flushed and ducked her head.

    "I didn't know," she said. "I'd heard he had been put on the Council, and I assumed he'd been made a Master as well. I didn't know he wasn't allowed to go in." She looked nervous, clearly uncomfortable with the scrutiny of so many Masters.

    Obi-Wan sighed. "A mistake anyone could have made," he said gently. "Do not worry yourself about it young one. You're not in trouble. Just...check next time." She nodded quickly.

    "The way he got past the lasers is actually somewhat impressive," admitted Mace. "However, what concerns me more is this." He rewound the recording until Anakin disappeared from the room, then allowed it to play. The holographic Anakin entered, then began making his way around the room, pausing eventually in front of one of the shelves.

    Obi-Wan's breath caught. "Mace, he doesn't know," he said quickly. "He has no idea that we even have Sith holocrons, let alone where they are. He stopped because he sensed something, or it's just a coincidence, he can't actually know."

    "Perhaps," said Mace, then hit another button. The display jumped back to a live feed. Anakin hadn't moved, but he now wore a look of frustration.

    "Let me talk to him," said Obi-Wan. "I'm sure there's an explanation for all this."

    Mace shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, Obi-Wan, but he must be treated objectively according to his actions, and you're too close to him to do that. Anyways, we're not going in to talk to him, not yet. We're going to wait and see which holocrons he opens, or takes, so that he cannot hide his true intentions later."

    "Hide his true intentions," Obi-Wan repeated incredulously. "He's not a criminal or a spy, Mace. He's just- well, I don't know. Look, this is hardly the first time he's broken the Temple's rules, and while I agree that he ought to learn to respect them, it doesn't make him a bad person. Just...misguided."

    "Misguided?" Mace asked. "Obi-Wan, he's not just a padawan causing trouble by sneaking out of the Temple at night anymore. He's a grown man, old enough to know better than to break into a room that is kept restricted for a reason. This is a serious offence, Obi-Wan. And it shows a disturbing lack of regard for his commitment to the Jedi, particularly in light of his recent attitude towards the Council."

    "You can't possibly be suggesting that Anakin is disloyal," said Obi-Wan, not sure whether to be horrified or angry at the suggestion. "He may be disobedient, but he has never given any reason to doubt his allegiance to the Order." An image of Padme Amidala flashed briefly in his mind; he pushed it away.

    "Mace has a point," said Agen Kolar, sounding uncomfortable. "His response to being denied the title of Master was one of outright contempt and fury, far beyond the occasional disrespect he has shown in the past."

    "And you yourself warned me that his personal loyalty to the Chancellor might interfere with his ability to do his duty," Mace added. "He isn't entirely stable, Obi-Wan."

    "Um," said the padawan girl quietly. "I, I think, with all due respect-"

    "Speak up, padawan," said Mace. "If you have something relevant to add, you may do so."

    She nodded and stood up a little straighter. "I think Master Kenobi is right," she said.

    Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Thank you, er..."

    "Bene," she said.

    "Do you have a reason for agreeing with him, Bene?" asked Shaak.

    "Well..." she hesitated, then spoke confidently. "I don't think he had some big plan to break in or anything. I mean, he couldn't have known I was going to mistake him for a Master. And it wasn't until I referred to him that way that he said anything about going into the Archives. Plus, he didn't...he didn't feel like he was doing anything treacherous."

    Obi-Wan exchanged a glance with Mace. "Did you sense anything else from him, young one?" he asked.

    She considered this. "I think he was sad, at first," she said after a moment. "I mean, I only went up to talk to him because he seemed upset. And then when he talked about going into the Archives - it did feel like he was holding something back, but at the time I just figured it was secret Council business. Now I guess I know it's not...but it definitely didn't feel malicious. Whatever he's doing in there, I think he thinks it's the right thing."

    Before any of them could respond to that, Madame Nu spoke sharply. "He's getting a holocron," she said. Sure enough, the Anakin in the image was holding a holocron and sitting down on the vault floor.

    "There," Obi-Wan said, relieved. "Now we know what he was trying to get. Let's go in and see what it is."

    "No," Mace said again. "We saw which holocron he took, we can always figure out which it was even if he puts it back. But we don't know that that's the only thing he went in there for. We'll wait until he attempts to leave before we go in, to make sure he's really finished. He may think he has good intentions, but I'm not so sure we can trust his judgment of what 'good' is."

    Obi-Wan gritted his teeth in frustration. "Fine," he said.

    "Maybe we're looking at this from the wrong direction," Saesee Tiin said suddenly. "We discussed the idea that his earlier insolence towards the Council might be proof that this is an act of subversion, but what if it's the other way around?"

    Mace frowned. "Explain," he said.

    "Anakin's angry at the Council," Saesee said. "And Bene is right that this break-in seems opportunistic. So maybe her mistaking his rank renewed his outrage over the perceived injustice of not becoming a Master, and he decided to break the rules as an act of defiance."

    "Anakin is a lot of things," Obi-Wan said, "but he's not stupid. Mace is right, he's not a padawan anymore. He wouldn't risk his place in the Order for an show of petty rebellion. Especially not when he knows how focused we need to be right now with ending the war and catching the Sith."

    "Do you have a better idea?" Mace asked.

    "Well, no," admitted Obi-Wan.

    "Or perhaps getting into the Holocron Vault was his goal from the beginning," Shaak said. "His display of temper in the Council chamber was unusually aggressive, even for him. Maybe he had counted on becoming a Master in order to get access to the vault."

    The idea made an uncomfortable amount of sense to Obi-Wan - though Anakin had been lobbying to become a Master for months now, he'd never shown anything close to the amount of rage he'd shown yesterday at being denied the rank.

    The group lapsed into silence as the display showed Anakin returning the holocron to its place, then stalking back to the search station, looking frustrated. Nothing happened for a good two minutes, then the holographic Anakin began pacing randomly around the room, zig-zagging from one side to the other. He stopped abruptly, again in front of the shelf against the wall behind which lay the chamber of Sith holocrons.

    Obi-Wan's heart stopped. "He doesn't know," he repeated. "It doesn't mean anything, he doesn't know what's behind there." But he could feel the condemnation coming off the other Masters in waves, could see the accusation written on their faces as they watched his former apprentice examine the hiding place of one of the Jedi Order's most closely kept secrets. This time, the silence felt almost oppressive as they watched Anakin remove and open two holocrons in quick succession, seemingly at random.

    After what felt like an eternity, Anakin stepped away from the shelf. Obi-Wan breathed a sigh of relief. "See," he said. "He just felt a disturbance and was trying to figure out where it was coming from. That's all."

    His relief turned to concern as Anakin walked unsteadily across the room and struck the wall with his flesh hand. Even through a hologram, the pain and misery written on his face were clear as he sank to his knees. His earlier determination seemed to have disappeared suddenly, replaced by an expression of pure devastation. Obi-Wan was torn between the urge to run in there and hug him and tell him everything would be all right, and the urge to shake him and demand to know what problem he had possibly expected to solve by doing something as drastic and reckless as this.

    "Are we really going to just stand here and watch this, Master Windu?" he asked quietly. "Surely you can see that he's not going to do anything else incriminating."

    As if to further Obi-Wan's point, the virtual Anakin broke down even further and pulled himself into a tight ball. He looked as though he might be crying.

    "Fierfek," Mace muttered, now sounding more disturbed than angry. "All right, we'll go in now. Padawan, you're dismissed."

    The rest of the assorted Jedi Masters followed him to the vault door. He unlocked it, then turned to face the others. "I go in first - the rest of you stay in the hallway until I've determined the situation. If he is somehow trying to act against us, I don't want to take the chance of startling him with too many people given how desperate he appears to be. Wait out of sight. Obi-Wan, I do want you to be near the front. Be prepared to try to calm him down if necessary."

    Obi-Wan nodded, not sure whether to be glad that Mace understood that he had the best chance of pacifying Anakin, frustrated at not being allowed to go in first (he knew that Anakin would react better to a friendly face), or irritated that Mace was still apparently thinking of Anakin as a threat.

    He followed Mace into the hallway, mentally steeling himself for whatever scenario was about to play out. I hope you know what you're doing, Anakin, he thought. I may not be able to shield you from trouble this time, my friend. For all that Anakin had been Knighted, Obi-Wan still couldn't help but think of the younger man as his responsibility. And he'd come to realize that his greatest responsibility was to protect Anakin from himself.

    He just hoped that he wasn't too late.
     
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  7. Force Smuggler

    Force Smuggler Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    I've followed this story on FFN for a bit and liked it a lot. Can't wait to see where it ends up.
     
  8. Kablob

    Kablob Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2014
    Ooh, now this is getting interesting.
     
  9. taramidala

    taramidala Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 18, 1999
    Count me as another who's been reading elsewhere! This is one doozy of a fantastic fic. Nice to see it here, too.
     
  10. Kablob

    Kablob Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2014
    Oh wow. I just read the rest of this elsewhere, and holy crap. This is great!
     
  11. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Glad you all are enjoying it! Not sure how much point there is posting it here since everyone's reading it elsewhere, but I'll keep uploading chapters here in case anyone prefers this format.

    Chapter 4

    The footsteps of Mace Windu's entrance into the room barely even registered with Anakin until the older man spoke. "Skywalker," he said. "I hope you understand how much trouble you're in right now."

    To Anakin, getting caught just seemed like further proof of how much the Force hated him at the moment. He choked back a sob, not wanting to appear weak, though he was pretty sure Windu already knew that he'd been crying. In trouble? You have no idea how much trouble I'm in, he thought. "Go away," he said aloud, not looking up. He was already miserable enough; he didn't want to deal with the Council on top of everything else.

    "Go away?" Windu repeated incredulously. "I'm the one who's actually permitted to be in here. You, on the other hand, are trespassing."

    "Whatever," Anakin muttered, curling up more tightly on the floor.

    "Not whatever," said Windu. "Do you understand that the punishment for breaking into the Holocron Vault is expulsion? That's what you're facing right now, so sit up and give me a damn good explanation for what you're doing in here!"

    The last thing Anakin wanted was to think about why he'd broken in, to think about the future which lay in store for Padme. Not to mention the fact that he'd definitely get expelled if Windu knew the whole story. "I don't want to," he said.

    Strong hands gripped his shoulders, forcing him to sit upright until he found himself looking at the grim face of the Jedi Master crouching in front of him. "Are you even listening to me? You. Will. Be. Expelled."

    "I don't care," Anakin said. He'd known that his place in the Jedi Order might be forfeit from the moment that he'd decided to break into the Archives, and he honestly couldn't say he cared about anything if Padme really couldn't be saved.

    His answer was clearly unexpected to Windu, who rocked back slightly on his heels, then for some reason glanced back at the hallway he'd come out of. "Anakin," he said, in a gentler tone than before, "just tell me why you're in here. The Council may choose to be lenient if you confess what you're doing freely. We just need to know what you were looking for."

    In other circumstances, Anakin might have laughed at the idea that the Council would ever be lenient with him - they were always finding ways to get him in trouble, always trying to hold him back. "It doesn't matter what I was looking for, okay," he said, voice cracking. "I didn't find anything useful, so it doesn't matter, I don't care. If you're going to kick me out, then get it over with. I don't care."

    "I don't think you mean that," Windu said quietly. "Get up. We'll continue this in the Council chamber."

    Realizing that there was probably no way for him to get out of this, and wanting to get it over with as soon as possible so he could get back to Padme, Anakin stood up. He was immediately hit by a wave of dizziness, much stronger than the one he'd experienced earlier that evening, and swayed on his feet. Reaching out blindly for something to steady himself on, his hand came in contact with the wall, and he was able to sit back down without falling over.

    "Anakin!" Was that really Obi-Wan's voice, or was he just hallucinating? He blinked, feeling disoriented, vision clearing enough to show his former Master darting over to him and crouching by his side. Several other Masters had also appeared in the room, seemingly out of nowhere.

    "Master," he said, reaching out to clutch at Obi-Wan's robes as relief washed over him. Maybe Obi-Wan would know how to fix this - he'd always been good at handling the things that Anakin couldn't. Or at the very least, maybe he would be able to get everyone to just leave Anakin alone.

    "Anakin? Are you all right?" He could hear the concern in Obi-Wan's voice, and wished he knew how to explain that it was unnecessary - Padme was the one in danger, not him.

    "I'm fine," he said, but he was having trouble keeping his eyes open. He'd been drawing on the Force to make up for his lack of rest over the past week, and now he just didn't care enough to summon the energy.

    "We should get him to the healers," Windu said from somewhere behind Obi-Wan. "I don't think we'll get any answers out of him in this state."

    "No!" Anakin said quickly. "I'm fine, I don't need to go to the healers, I'm just tired. I haven't eaten much today, that's all." He couldn't go to the healers; he really should get back to Padme.

    Windu crossed his arms. "If you're fine - and you're clearly not, by the way - then you should be capable of telling us what you were doing down here."

    Anakin hesitated. Should he just tell? If he did, they'd almost definitely excommunicate him. But then at least he'd be able to be with Padme. Although it would also mean losing Obi-Wan, and not being able to help the Chancellor end the war, and not having access to any other Jedi resources which might help Padme.

    "Anakin," Obi-Wan said gently. "You said it didn't matter because you couldn't find whatever it was you were looking for, correct?"

    Anakin nodded.

    "If you tell us, we might be able to help you," Obi-Wan continued. "Yes, you'll still be in trouble for coming in here without permission. But if the Council decides that your...quest...was for a legitimate purpose, then there's no reason not for us to aid you in it once the other current crises are over and your punishment has been decided."

    "I don't think you can help me, Obi-Wan," Anakin said. "I don't think anyone can." At least, no Jedi can, he thought. Palpatine was right about that.

    Obi-Wan frowned. "What makes you think that? The Council may have made some decisions of late that you've disagreed with, but that doesn't mean we cannot offer you valid advice in this matter."

    Anakin laughed hollowly. "I don't think it, Obi-Wan. I know it, because I already know the advice the Council would give me. I went to Yoda before he left for Kashyyyk, and he wouldn't tell me anything useful."

    "Yoda refused to help you? That seems unlike him." Windu said.

    Obi-Wan nodded thoughtfully. "What exactly did he say?" he asked. "Perhaps you misunderstood him."

    "Pretty much exactly what you once said when I came to you with a similar problem," Anakin said, anger filling him as suddenly as his earlier hopelessness had. "So I doubt you'll be able to offer me any new guidance."

    Obi-Wan looked even more confused. "What? What did he-"

    "He told me to not worry about it," Anakin cut in, the words spilling furiously out of his mouth before he could stop them. "To let go of what I fear to lose. He said I shouldn't even try to do anything, I should just let what is going to happen, happen. For all intents and purposes, he told me that dreams pass in time. And unless you're able to give me something that's actually useful, I'd rather not hear your advice."

    A look of horror crossed Obi-Wan's face; behind him, Mace Windu just looked confused. "Oh, Anakin," Obi-Wan breathed. "Have you been having visions again?" At Anakin's nod, his expression turned into one of hurt. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.

    "I couldn't. I - I can't," Anakin stuttered. "The visions, they're - they're about a person, and if I explained about them, I'd have to tell you - it's not just about me, it's not just my secret to tell, nobody's supposed to know." Panic started to descend on him again. They can't find out, they can't. Padme would lose her position in the Senate, I'd be expelled...

    "And you're absolutely sure they're visions, not just nightmares?" Obi-Wan asked.

    "Yes, I'm kriffing sure," Anakin burst out. "They feel different, I recognize it from last time. And they happen all the time, the same thing over and over again, every time I close my eyes. I don't even have to be asleep to have them anymore."

    Obi-Wan placed his hand on Anakin's shoulder soothingly. "Anakin," he said. "In your visions, does someone get hurt?"

    Anakin nodded, miserable. "They - they die."

    "And you don't want to tell us the details because you're trying to keep one of this person's secrets, to protect them?" Obi-Wan continued.

    Anakin nodded again.

    "Anakin, do you honestly believe that this person would rather die than have their secret be found out?"

    Anakin hesitated. "No," he said eventually. Padme had urged him to tell Obi-Wan earlier, after all. Maybe she had been right. Better that they both lose their jobs, than Padme lose her life. Better anything than that.

    "Well, then," Obi-Wan said encouragingly. "Can you at least tell us who they're about?"

    Anakin swallowed. "Padme," he choked out. "They're about Padme Amidala."

    Obi-Wan went white. "Padme? Anakin, I'm so sorry."

    "Wait a minute," Windu cut in. "Padme Amidala is going to die? The Senator? Skywalker, why didn't you tell us immediately?"

    Here it came. Anakin took a deep breath, trying to mentally prepare himself for what he was about to say. Would Obi-Wan be disappointed in him? Angry? Would the Council be horrified at his actions, or would they be glad for an excuse to finally get rid of him? "In my visions," he said, "she dies in childbirth. Padme's pregnant, and the reason I couldn't just tell you is that I-"

    "You wanted to protect her," Obi-Wan interrupted hastily. "You knew that she'd be in political trouble if she was found to be pregnant out of wedlock. I see." He looked even paler than before.

    "Um, yeah," Anakin said. He supposed it was as good of an excuse as any.

    Windu looked over his shoulder at the Masters standing behind him. "Check what he was searching for," he ordered.

    Shaak Ti went over to the search console. "He was looking up 'healing' and 'childbirth'," she reported.

    "And the holocron he listened to?" Windu asked.

    She walked over to where Anakin had taken out the first holocron and opened it up. "My name is Otara Rholar," the holographic figure said. "The recent outbreak of violent conflicts against the Sith has caused the occupation of healing to become one in great demand. And while this war has resulted in tragic amounts of unnecessary death and bloodshed, the Force provides for us even in this dark hour. I have been blessed with some insight into the nature of healing which I wish to share with future generations..."

    Shaak shut down the holocron. "Just researching healing methods," she said. "A foolish and ill-advised search, as I don't know why he expected to find anything the Temple healers don't already know, but hardly a treacherous one. I believe his story."

    Windu sighed. "All right," he said. "Well, Skywalker, this half-baked scheme is possibly the most idiotic thing that you've ever done - I'm not sure which was more foolish, refusing to follow Yoda's advice or honestly thinking we had secret healing methods that we don't already use. But I suppose, in light of your good intentions, that you will not be expelled."

    Anakin was less relieved than Windu obviously expected him to be. "But what about Padme?" he asked. "Will you help me save her?"

    Windu frowned at him. "I cannot change the will of the Force any more than you can," he said. "If there were an obvious way to prevent her death - if the vision had been of an assassination attempt, say - then we would, of course, take steps. But I don't think there is anything to be done to prevent death by natural causes, other than ensuring that she has access to modern medical facilities, which she already does. Master Yoda had a point, Anakin. You must accept the fact that she may become one with the Force no matter what you do."

    Anakin glared at him, furious. Never. "Why would the Force give me these visions if I wasn't supposed to stop them from coming true?" he demanded. "I've barely gotten any sleep in the past week because they come so often, they must be important."

    "What's important right now is finding the Sith Lord," Windu replied. "Or had you forgotten that you have an actual mission to be working on?"

    Anakin was silent.

    "Is the Senator due to give birth in the next few days?" asked Windu.

    "No," he admitted, "but what if she's early-"

    Windu interrupted him. "Then right now, you should be focusing on your mission to...report to...the Chancellor until we've ended this war. If, in your free time, you wish to meditate on these visions and come up with a clearer idea of if and how the Force means you to prevent them, you may do so. Hell, if you can figure out who the Sith Lord is, I'll meditate with you once he's been destroyed. But right now, you have an assignment, and we all have higher priorities."

    There is no higher priority, Anakin thought. Not to me. "I can focus on both at the same time," he said.

    Windu raised an eyebrow and gestured around the room. "Clearly, that's not true. You allowed your fear - your attachment - to your friend the Senator to cloud your judgment when you decided to break in here. You are a Jedi, Skywalker. Your duty must come first, especially if you truly wish to someday become a Master."

    Duty, duty, duty. It seemed like that was all anyone cared about these days, and everyone - Palpatine, Padme, Obi-Wan - had a different idea of what Anakin's duty was. Duty to the Republic, to democracy, to the Order. But they're all wrong, he thought. My duty is to my wife and child. "Yes, Master Windu," he said aloud. "I will do my duty."

    "Not in the state you're in right now," Obi-Wan said. "Anakin, go to the healers. Perhaps they can find a way to allow you to sleep without the visions disturbing your rest."

    "I'll make that an order," said Windu. "You look like hell. It would be unfortunate if you were to faint in the middle of a meeting with a Chancellor."

    Anakin glared at him. He wasn't going to faint. On the other hand, Obi-Wan actually had a point. He might be able to think more clearly about Padme's situation if he wasn't so sleep deprived. "Fine," he said, and allowed Obi-Wan to help him to his feet.

    Windu glanced around at the other Masters. "The rest of you are dismissed," he told them. Once the three of them had been left alone in the room, he turned back to Anakin. "I just want to make this clear to you that this isn't over. What you did tonight was a very serious breach of conduct, no matter what your intentions were. While you won't be expelled, you can be assured that the Council will discuss what the consequences for you will be once the the situations with the war and the Sith have been resolved."

    Anakin nodded. "I understand, Master Windu."

    "Good," Windu said. "Obi-Wan, take him to the Halls of Healing, and tell them not to let him out until they're sure he isn't going to collapse again. He needs to be alert if he's going to keep an eye on Palpatine."

    "Believe me, I had no intention of doing anything else, Master Windu," Obi-Wan replied.

    "Excuse me," cut in Anakin. "I am standing right here, you know."

    They both ignored him. Windu bowed slightly and said, "Goodnight, Obi-Wan. Skywalker." He departed, leaving Anakin and Obi-Wan alone in the room.

    For a moment, there was silence. Of all the Jedi who might be furious at him for what he'd done tonight, there was only one whose opinion Anakin cared about. "So," he said. "How angry are you, Master?"

    "A Jedi does not feel anger-" Obi-Wan started.

    "Oh, come on, Obi-Wan!"

    Obi-Wan sighed. "Angry is not the right word, Anakin. Disappointed, perhaps, that you chose to take this action when you ought to have known better. That you were willing to throw away all that I have taught you and risk your place in the Order. And saddened, that you did not trust me enough to confide in me about your visions. I would have helped you, Anakin. Padme is my friend, and I learned from my mistake three years ago to take your visions seriously."

    Anakin swallowed, trying to ignore the burning in his eyes and throat. Obi-Wan was absolutely right; he should have known better. Should have trusted in his best friend. He lowered his gaze to stare at the floor. "Master, I-"

    "And yet," Obi-Wan continued, "I find that I am not surprised by your actions. You have always been extremely loyal to those you care about - yes, sometimes to the point of disobeying orders or risking a mission in order to help them. And as I am the recipient of that help more often than not, it would seem unjust for me to judge you too harshly for doing the same thing for Padme Amidala."

    Anakin looked back up at him, the guilt which had been threatening to overwhelm him suddenly replaced with hope.

    "I forgive you for what you did tonight, Anakin," Obi-Wan said. "All I ask in return is that you be honest with me about what you're going through. I'd prefer not to get blindsided like that again."

    Anakin nodded quickly. "I promise, Obi-Wan."

    Obi-Wan smiled at him. "Come along, then," he said. "Let's go to the healers. We can talk once all of this is over."

    Anakin took one last look around the vault. Strange, that he'd put so much hope into finding answers in this room only a few hours earlier. But maybe the adventure hadn't been a total waste, if Obi-Wan was willing to help him. And clinging to that shred of optimism, he followed Obi-Wan back out into the Archives proper and down to the Halls of Healing.
     
    DarthTalonx likes this.
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Terrific characterizations =D= and I hope not just Padme's outcome can be circumvented but Anakin's as well. [face_nail_biting] Candor and compassion from Obi-Wan may be enough to turn the tide.
     
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  13. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 5
    There was no logical reason for Obi-Wan to still be in the Halls of Healing. He'd stayed while Anakin had been looked over by Vokara Che, who'd taken only a few seconds to scan him before diagnosing him with"an incurable case of idiocy." She'd then turned to Obi-Wan and said "Stars' End, Kenobi, didn't you ever teach the boy that the Force is no substitute for food and rest? I'm surprised he lasted this long without collapsing."

    Obi-Wan had his own suspicions about what was weighing on Anakin's mind, but in front of the healers was hardly the best place to bring it up, so he said nothing.
    As there seemed to be nothing medically wrong with Anakin beyond stress-related fatigue, Master Che had given him a sedative in the hopes that it would allow him to sleep without dreaming. Anakin was currently out cold, and had been for a good twenty minutes, so Obi-Wan wasn't entirely sure why he hadn't yet returned to his own quarters - Anakin was, after all, not the only one who ought to get some sleep.

    "Was there anything else you needed, Master Kenobi?" Vokara Che asked him.

    "No," he replied immediately, then paused. "Actually, yes," he said a moment later. "Vokara, have you ever seen something like this in another Jedi having prophetic visions? The frequency and intensity of them, I mean, to the point of driving the Jedi in question to exhaustion."

    She was silent for a few seconds, considering. "Prophetic visions outside of meditation are hardly common occurrences, Obi-Wan," she said. "But...no, I haven't seen or heard of anything like it. It would seem counterproductive for the Force to grant someone visions of the future, only to tire them past the point of being able to do anything about it."

    "My thoughts exactly," said Obi-Wan. "The last time Anakin had visions whilst asleep, they didn't have this bad of an effect on him. And as the content of the visions is comparable to the last ones, it seems unlikely that only worry over them coming true has made such a marked difference. While I suppose it's possible that it's simply stress taking its toll on him from his current assignment, I can't help feeling that there's something else at work here."

    She frowned. "Something like what?"

    Obi-Wan turned away from her, letting his gaze fall on Anakin's sleeping form. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "But I have a feeling that it's important I find out."

    "Well, let me know if you find any answers," Vokara told him. "I'm afraid I have some other patients I should check on at the moment."

    Obi-Wan had no idea where to start looking for answers, and Master Che didn't get the chance to attend to her other patients. Mere seconds after she had turned away from him, he found his answer - or perhaps the Force had simply taken pity on him and decided to respond to his question. He was abruptly filled with an icy, ominous sensation not unlike the one he had felt the times he had faced Dooku or Ventress. Vokara Che stopped in her tracks, then whirled around clearly as startled as he was by the smothering feeling of foreboding.

    And Anakin began to shift around on his bed, moaning and muttering under his breath.

    "The dark side," Obi-Wan breathed in astonishment. But how? Why? He shook himself out of his dazed feeling of confusion and hurried to Anakin's bedside, Vokara Che only steps behind him.

    "Anakin," Obi-Wan said, shaking him by the shoulder. "Anakin, wake up." But Anakin wouldn't wake. Obi-Wan shook him harder, calling his name - there was still no response.

    "The sedative," Vokara said. "It's keeping him asleep." She turned sharply and strode away from the bed.

    The feeling of wrongness intensified, and Anakin's mumbles turned into incoherent cries as he tossed and turned. Obi-Wan decided to try a different approach. He sat down on the side of Anakin's bed, pinning the younger Jedi's flailing arms with his own to avoid getting hit, and closed his eyes in concentration.

    Focusing on the training bond which connected him to Anakin, never severed despite the fact that Anakin hadn't been his apprentice in a long while, he reached out with the Force. His attempt to waken Anakin, or calm him at the very least, was met with an incoherant maelstrom of emotion. The sensation of fearangerdeathwronghelplessnessterrorfury was overpowering, and for a moment he recoiled, unable to do anything but mentally shield himself against it. Once he'd recovered, he reached out once again. Anakin, listen to me, it's just a dream. Wake up. But the deluge of emotions didn't cease, and Obi-Wan was just about to give up and withdraw from Anakin's mind when he felt Anakin abruptly jolt into consciousness.

    Obi-Wan opened his eyes to see his former apprentice sitting up and gasping for breath, his eyes wild and his shirt...wet? He glanced around to see Vokara Che standing behind him, an empty glass in her hand.

    "Ice water," she explained. "Sometimes the simplest ways are the most effective." Obi-Wan nodded in understanding, then turned back to face Anakin.

    Anakin seemed to have recovered slightly - his eyes, at least, were focused, though his hands were clenched tightly in the bedsheets and he was still breathing heavily. "So much, for d-dreamless, sleep," he panted.

    Obi-Wan gripped his shoulder lightly. "Was this dream the same as the others?" he asked gently.

    Anakin nodded absently, his eyes focused somewhere off in the distance. "I saw her in pain. Dying." He glanced up at Obi-Wan, brows furrowing in confusion. "You were there, this time. I haven't seen you there before."

    "Oh," said Obi-Wan, not entirely sure how to respond to that. "Er, perhaps it means that now we're aware of the danger, she'll have the child here, in the Temple? These are the finest medical facilities on the planet, after all."

    "It doesn't matter," Anakin said, voice flat. "She still was dying."

    "Right," Obi-Wan said, feeling rather uncomfortable. "Well, I suppose we'll have to come up with some other solution, then."

    "Yes," said Anakin, and there was something about his tone that sent a shiver running up Obi-Wan's spine. "We will find another way."

    Obi-Wan supposed he should at least take some comfort in the fact that Anakin had said we instead of I, he didn't much relish the prospect of finding out about the man's next desperate scheme the way he'd found out about this one - after the fact. Still, there was something about Anakin's single-minded resolve that troubled him for reasons he couldn't quite explain. Thankfully, Master Che intervened before the situation could become any more uncomfortable.

    "Lie back down," she snapped at Anakin. "Dreams or no, you need rest."

    Anakin rolled his eyes. "Trust me, I'm not going to be able to get back to sleep after that," he said. "Besides, this shirt is kind of uncomfortable." He pulled at the drenched fabric pointedly.

    "I'll go get you a new one," Obi-Wan volunteered. He needed a few minutes alone to think over what had just happened, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any.


    When Obi-Wan returned to the healer's ward a good half an hour later, he brought back more than just a new shirt.

    "I hope you have a good reason for getting me back out of bed, Obi-Wan," said Mace Windu as they neared the room Anakin was staying in. "We already knew he was having nightmares, so I don't see how the fact that you witnessed one should be any big surprise."

    "It'll be easier to explain in a moment," said Obi-Wan. "I think Anakin should be there for this conversation." He entered the room, then stopped short. "Or perhaps not," he said.

    It appeared that Anakin was, once again, passed out. "It seems the sedative was still affecting him," explained Vokara Che, who had managed to come up behind them without either noticing. "Besides, his body badly needs the rest. As I said before, it's a miracle he managed not to sleep for as long as he did." She moved on before either could respond, down the hallway and into the room of another patient.

    "Well?" Mace asked. "Are you going to explain why you called me here, or are we going to sit around all night and wait for the boy to wake up?"

    Obi-Wan sighed, shaking his head. "No, I might as well tell you," he said, tossing the now-unnecessary shirt aside. "What disturbed me wasn't the fact that he had a vision - as you said, we already knew that they happened. It was what I sensed while he had the dream that bothered me."

    Mace looked intrigued. "Okay. Go on."

    "I know this is going to sound odd," Obi-Wan said. "But I'm sure I felt the presence of the dark side. It was like a wave of malevolence - no, like a sentient presence, one that was deliberately attacking Anakin. I can't explain it."

    Mace frowned. "That is...disturbing," he said slowly. "If these visions are of the dark side, do you think that perhaps they are not true? Maybe Anakin's getting too close to the Sith Lord in his investigation, and these are false visions meant to distract him."

    Obi-Wan shook his head. "He said he's been having them since the night we returned, before he began his investigation. And I don't want to dismiss the visions too quickly- they're similar enough to the true ones about his mother that I don't think we should risk Padmé Amidala's life on the chance that they might be false."

    "That's another thing that concerns me," said Mace. "Padmé Amidala. Anakin is far too attached to her."

    Obi-Wan tried not to let his reaction to that understatement show on his face. "She has been a good friend to him," he said carefully. "And he has known her for a very long time. Longer than he's known me, if only by a few days." He changed the subject quickly, not wanting the other Master to dwell too much on Anakin and Padmé's relationship. "Actually, the fact that Padmé is the one dying in these visions concerns me for another reason."

    "Oh?" Mace raised an eyebrow. "Do tell."

    "Though Padmé may have counted Palpatine as a mentor once, she's more recently shown her opposition to the war and his continued rise to power," said Obi-Wan. "You and I discussed whether Palpatine's recent actions giving himself power far beyond what the Constitution says he ought to have are grounds for interference by the Jedi. But if I had to bet on one person to take a stand and oppose his power-grab politically? It would be Padmé Amidala. She is a very principled woman, and I don't think she'll take his maneuverings with the acceptance of the rest of her peers."

    "I see," said Mace. "And since the Sith Lord is almost certainly someone in Palpatine's administration, you think that her death might be a way to clear the path to absolute power in the office of the Chancellor? Anakin saw her dying in childbirth, Obi-Wan, not at the end of a blaster or lightsaber. How could a Sith possibly arrange that?"

    "I don't know," Obi-Wan admitted. "I just have a feeling that there's more to Anakin's visions than meets the eye." He shrugged. "It could be that Padmé's death, even by natural causes, will benefit the Sith Lord - perhaps that's what the dreams are trying to warn Anakin about. It would explain why I sensed the dark side, if a Sith victory is the possible result of the visions coming true."

    "That would still leave us with the problem of trying to stop a death which there may be no way to stop," Mace pointed out. "There shouldn't be any reason for her to die in childbirth if she has access to Coruscant's medical centers, and if she does anyway, I don't see how any Jedi could stop it. And-" he cut himself off abruptly.

    "What?" asked Obi-Wan curiously. He rarely saw the normally self-assured Jedi Master looking this uncomfortable.

    "Look, Obi-Wan," Mace said hesitantly. "I know you trust Anakin. I know he's been a good friend to you, if not always a respectful apprentice. But he has been acting off lately, and I think you should consider the idea that he might not be entirely trustworthy. Are you absolutely sure that the darkness you sensed wasn't coming directly from him?"

    Obi-Wan glared at him. "Yes, I'm absolutely sure," he said icily. "Anakin might not be particularly obedient, but that doesn't make him dark."

    Mace appeared unmoved by his vehemence. "And the fact that he seemed drawn to the shelf hiding the Sith holocron vault? That doesn't suggest anything to you?"

    "No, it doesn't," said Obi-Wan, crossing his arms defensively. "Anakin has a very strong connection with the Force, it shouldn't be surprising that he sensed something off about that shelf and decided to investigate. Anyway, it's not as though he came anywhere near to opening it - he didn't find the lock, or even look too closely at the shelves for it."

    "Very well," Mace said. "I suppose I'll meditate on this, then, and let you know if I come to any conclusions about what to do with him or the Senator in the morning."

    Obi-Wan relaxed. "I should do the same," he said. And with one last look back at Anakin, he swept out of the room.


    Anakin had been dozing, slipping in and out of consciousness, trying to fight the drugs in his system in order to avoid dreaming again, when he'd vaguely noticed Obi-Wan and Windu entering the room. He hadn't been aware enough to sit up and correct Master Che's statement that he was asleep.

    But he'd quickly snapped into awareness when he'd realized the two Jedi Masters were talking about him. And though he was glad to hear them taking the threat to Padmé seriously, annoyed that they still seemed to be finding fault with the Chancellor's methods, and warmed to hear Obi-Wan taking his side against the Council member who seemed to distrust him most...right now he could only fixate on one thing.

    The Jedi Council was hiding a room full of Sith holocrons. No wonder his searches for Plagueis and Sith healing hadn't come up with anything; he'd been looking in completely the wrong place! Even when they didn't know what they were doing, it seemed the Jedi were holding him back from finding what he needed.

    What Padmé needed. He couldn't believe he'd been so close to finding the answers he needed, without ever realizing they were there.

    But he'd blown his chance - it would surely be impossible to break back into the Vault a second time, someone would be watching him from the moment he stepped into the archives. And it didn't sound like Obi-Wan or the rest of the Council would give him permission to go into the Sith vault - they seemed to want him as far away from it as possible. Perhaps they knew the power he could achieve, and feared it.

    He could feel the pull of unconsciousness, the sedative taking hold once more. But before he drifted back into sleep, he vowed with every ounce of determination he had that he would find a way back in, he wouldfind a way to stop Padmé's death.

    No matter how much it cost him.


    Anakin woke several times throughout the night, tormented by images of Padmé's death. Still, he managed to fall back asleep after each one, and by the time he awakened to sunlight streaming in through a nearby window, his head did feel much clearer than it had the day before. Much as he hated to admit that Obi-Wan had been right, the sleep had done him good. He was still tired - it probably would have taken him hours more to catch up on all the sleep he'd missed over the past week - but at least he didn't feel like a turbohammer was pounding against the inside of his skull anymore. He was just about to get up and find Vokara Che so he could badger her to release him, or possible just sneak out, when the door opened and - speak of the devil - Obi-Wan walked in.

    "Good morning, Anakin," he said. "You look better."

    "Morning, Master," he replied, not quite able to hold back a yawn. "So, did you figure anything out after I fell back asleep?" He'd decided not to let Obi-Wan know that he'd overheard any of last night's conversation; he didn't want the older man getting suspicious that he knew about the secret holocrons.

    "I think it's likely that the Council will decide to offer Padmé some form of protection," Obi-Wan said. "I cannot guarantee any more than that. And they haven't discussed what's to happen to you yet either. But...Anakin, that wasn't what I came here for." He glanced around as though to see if anybody was listening, then closed the door to the room. Anakin swallowed; he had a bad feeling about this. Obi-Wan turned back to him, and said, "We need to talk."

    Anakin winced. So he hadn't gotten away with his eavesdropping after all. "Obi-Wan," he began, but he was cut off before he could continue.

    "We need to talk about the fact that you didn't tell me what was going on with your visions, and your plan to break into the Archives," Obi-Wan said.

    Anakin relaxed slightly. "I really am sorry about that," he said. "I just wasn't thinking straight, I guess."

    "Hmm." Obi-Wan stroked his beard. "Is there anything else you'd like to tell me? I'd like to hear it now, preferably, before I have to find out in a less pleasant manner."

    "Well..." Anakin trailed off. He did sort of want Obi-Wan to know about his and Padmé's relationship - he'd always hated keeping it a secret. They couldn't keep hiding it forever, and it wasn't like Anakin was possibly going to avoid being expelled if he really did manage to break into the Sith vault. And he wasn't sure he could bear to see Obi-Wan's face, if he realized that Anakin had kept lying to him. "Um, remember back in the vault when Master WIndu asked me why I hadn't told anyone about Padmé being pregnant? And you thought it was because I was worried about her getting in trouble if anyone found it? That - that's not the whole story; it wasn't just her I was protecting." He took a deep breath. "Obi-Wan, there's something you should know. I- that is, Padmé and I- see, the thing is- okay, look- I, uh, I-"

    "You're the father," Obi-Wan said quietly. "I know, Anakin. I knew as soon as you said she was pregnant."

    Anakin stared at him, shocked. "You knew? You...you knew?" His surprise was replaced with confusion. "Why didn't you say anything?" he demanded.

    Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at him. "Would you have wanted me to say something in front of Master Windu and the others? I didn't think you were actually trying to get yourself expelled."

    "But...but," Anakin stuttered, "If you were willing to keep it from the Council, I, I could have told you before, I could have told you when I first had the dreams." He was starting to feel hysterical, not sure whether to laugh or cry or scream in frustration. "I was trying so hard not to let you find out, I thought you'd hate me if you knew. Padmé even told me to tell you, you could have been helping me find a way to save her all this time, you could have looked in the Archives, but I thought I had to keep it secret, and it's all for nothing because you weren't going to tell the Council anyway!" So much time wasted that Obi-Wan could have been helping him. So much time that he could have had someone to talk to about this, someone to give him emotional support, and it was his own kriffing fault that he'd automatically assumed the worst about Obi-Wan.

    Another thought hit him, with the force of a blaster shot. "Are you telling me that I could have told you from the very beginning? I...I spent so much time and energy trying to keep it from you, I hated that I couldn't talk to you about it, and I could have told you three years ago?" He realized that his voice was several octaves higher than usual, and tried to bring it back to normal. "How long have you known about us?"

    "Three years? Have you really been together that long?" Obi-Wan looked perturbed. "I knew about your feelings for her from the beginning, of course. You weren't exactly trying to be subtle when you talked about her when we first were assigned to protect her. Noticing that she returned your feelings took a little longer - she actually has the ability to hide her emotions, very Jedi-like, I might add. I never found proof that the two of you had decided to actually begin a relationship - in face, I tried very hard not to. But over time I grew more and more certain about what you were hiding. You both act a certain way around each other, it was difficult to miss."

    "Oh," said Anakin. "I thought we were subtle about it."

    Obi-Wan actually cracked a smile at that. "Not particularly," he said. His face turned serious. "Anakin, though I may have been able to cover you in the past, I...I suspect that your relationship may be more serious than I had guessed. Were you planning on having a child?"

    "Force no," Anakin said immediately. "I mean, I'm happy now that it's happened, of course, but we both knew that having a baby would make our relationship more difficult to hide. We never even really talked about the possibility."

    "I see," said Obi-Wan, looking relieved. "Well, congratulations." He then muttered something under his breath.

    "What was that?" Anakin asked.

    "Nothing," Obi-Wan replied quickly. He blushed slightly. "Just...why weren't you more careful?"

    Oh. Anakin could feel his face heating up; this was not a conversation he ever wanted to have with Obi-Wan ever. "We were careful," he protested.

    "Clearly not careful enough," Obi-Wan murmured, smirking.

    "Hey," said Anakin defensively. "Don't forget that you're talking to living proof that abstinence isn't one-hundred percent effective, if it's the will of the Force that someone get pregnant. So cut me some slack!"

    "Oh, all right," Obi-Wan said. "But, Anakin - on a more serious note - you have to think about the future. I can't cover for you forever, and you have your vow to the Order to consider. You may have been able to be with Padmé without it interfering too much in your duty before, but adding a child in the mix will make things much more complicated."

    "No," Anakin said quietly. "It won't. Obi-Wan, I know I have a vow to the Order. But I took a vow to Padmé too, and I mean to keep it. Having a child...that makes the choice even simpler." He glanced down, unable to keep looking at Obi-Wan's face. "If the Council would allow me to be a Jedi and have a family at the same time, I'd jump at the chance. But they won't, and Padmé has never tried to force me to choose. I know where my loyalties lie."

    "Oh," Obi-Wan said faintly. "I-I see. You plan to leave the Order, then." His face was blank - whatever emotion he was feeling, he clearly didn't want Anakin to see it.

    Anakin could feel his insides writhing with guilt. "Master, I'm sorry. It's not- it's not about you, or your teachings. You were the best master I could ever have hoped to have. I just can't leave Padmé. I love her, more than anything in the galaxy. And even though being a Jedi is all I've ever wanted to do, she just matters more to me."

    "Wait a moment," said Obi-Wan suddenly, seeming to ignore what Anakin had just said. "You said you took a vow to her. Are you saying that you're married?"

    "Well, yeah," Anakin said. "Does it matter?"

    "Of course it does," Obi-Wan said sharply. "You took an oath to the Jedi Order when you were Knighted. To have a relationship anyways, well, that's one thing. But a marriage is a commitment! A formal pledge contrary to the vow you had already taken."

    "Of course marriage is a commitment," Anakin snapped back, annoyed. "That's kinda the whole point, Obi-Wan. Besides, I took my vows to Padmé before I was Knighted.

    Obi-Wan looked stunned. "You did it when you were still my Padawan? And I didn't notice? How long have you been married?"

    "Since Geonosis, basically," Anakin replied. "We had a cleric on Naboo do the ceremony when I escorted her back there after my hand was replaced."

    On the upside, Obi-Wan no longer looked angry. On the downside, he appeared to be about to have some sort of aneurysm. "After Geonosis? You'd known her a week! Isn't that a little bit fast, even by your standards?"

    Anakin felt confused. "Fast? I don't know what you're talking about. I'd been in love with her for ten years." He and Obi-Wan stared blankly at each other for a few moments.

    When it became clear that neither was going to understand the other, Obi-Wan looked away. "All right, then," he said. "So you're married, and you're planning to leave the Order for Padmé once the baby is born."

    "At the moment, I'm just planning on making sure the baby is born, and Padmé's there for me to leave for," Anakin said. "I haven't actually thought it out much further than that."

    "Of course," said Obi-Wan. "I almost forgot. If you can think of any way for me to help you help her, please let me know. I can't guarantee you anything, but I will assist you if I can. Did you have any other ideas, other than the one you tried last night?"

    Anakin tried to keep his face as innocent as possible. After hearing Obi-Wan's conversation with Windu, he had managed to come up with plans B and C. "Actually, I was going to ask you about that. See, I realized that everyone was right. Looking for super-secret Jedi healing techniques was kind of a dumb idea."

    "No arguments there," Obi-Wan interjected.

    "But maybe I wasn't totally off base with trying some research," Anakin continued. "I think I want to look into visions in general. You know, read up on Jedi who've had premonitions in the past and see if there's anything any of them were able to do to stop them coming true. I want to figure out what worked and what didn't, and see if I can apply any of it."

    Obi-Wan raised his eyebrows. "That's...actually not a bad idea, Anakin. Good thinking."

    Anakin ducked his head, warmth flooding through him at the rare praise. "Don't sound so surprised," he said. "I have good ideas all the time." He grinned. "Occasionally, they even work."

    Obi-Wan snorted. "Well, I have a Council meeting later this morning. I'm, er, not sure if you're supposed to come - we haven't discussed if you'll be removed from the Council as part of your punishment, or if you'll stay on so you can complete your mission. But I suppose it doesn't matter until you're cleared to leave here. Anyway, once the meeting's over, perhaps I'll have time to go into the Archives with you to research visions."

    "Great," Anakin said. "And, um, if we can't find anything helpful in the main part of the Archives, is there any chance at all-"

    "That I could take you back into the Holocron Vault?" Obi-Wan asked. "Unlikely, after what you pulled yesterday."

    Anakin's heart sank. So it was down to Plan C, actually doing research with Obi-Wan on visions and hoping they found something. Stang, he'd really been hoping to get a look at the Sith holocrons.

    "Still," Obi-Wan continued. "there's no harm in asking the rest of the Council. I'll pass your request on to them later, if you aren't summoned yourself."

    "Thanks," Anakin said. "I appreciate it, Master."

    Obi-Wan stood to leave. "Are you getting out of here anytime soon?" he asked.

    "I better be, or else I might go stir crazy," Anakin said. He swung his legs over the side of his bed and stood to follow Obi-Wan. "Actually, I guess I'll find Master Che now, see if she'll spring me."

    She did, with the caveat that if he managed to end up back into her care due to lack of rest again, she wouldn't let him leave for at least a week. The threat had the desired effect on Anakin, who shuddered at the prospect.

    He had just left the healer's ward and parted ways with Obi-Wan when the call came through on his comlink. "Anakin," the image of Chancellor Palpatine said cheerfully. "I was hoping I'd be able to reach you, my boy. Come to my office, I have some good news..."
     
  14. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 6

    Palpatine looked up from his desk as soon as Anakin entered his office. "Welcome, my boy," he said, smiling kindly.

    "Good morning, Chancellor," Anakin replied. He couldn't help but smile back at the genuine warmth in the other man's voice; despite the turmoil his life had been thrown into over the past twelve hours, Palpatine had always had a way of putting him at ease. "You said there was good news?"

    "Indeed," said Palpatine. He waved a hand at the seat across from him, indicating for Anakin to sit down. "Though, before I explain further…is there something troubling you, Anakin?"

    Anakin nodded as he took his seat. He wasn't particularly surprised that the Chancellor had realized something was going on; for someone without the Force, the older man had always had a gift for understanding Anakin's emotions. "I'm in some trouble with the Council," he admitted. "I went somewhere that only Masters are supposed to go, and they're pretty angry."

    Palpatine sighed. "I wish I could be shocked that they continue to hold you back from the privileges which they themselves enjoy," he said. "Yet I find that nothing they do can surprise me after they denied you the rank you clearly deserve, especially after your victory over Dooku. Or perhaps it was that same victory which caused them to fear your power…"

    Anakin shifted in his chair. What Palpatine said made sense—a lot of sense—but he didn't really feel comfortable denouncing the Council aloud. "They weren't that bad," he said. "People have been expelled in the past for what I did, but Master Windu agreed not to do that. And Obi-Wan said he'd help me go back, if the rest of the Council agrees."
    Palpatine raised an eyebrow. "Did you not find what you were looking for the first time?"

    "No," Anakin said, unable to keep the bitterness from seeping into his voice. "And I don't know if I'm going to, if I can only look with Obi-Wan's supervision."

    "How unfortunate," Palpatine said, shaking his head. "You'd think that Master Kenobi would be more supportive of your search, as I can tell it's something important to you. What precisely are you looking for?"

    Anakin hesitated, but only for a moment. After all, Palpatine had always been good at keeping his secrets, and after last night's conversation, he doubted that the Chancellor would disapprove of him researching the Sith. "I was looking at the secret holocrons in the Temple Archives," he said eventually. "They contain some of the most powerful secrets that Jedi in the past have discovered, and I was hoping to find some information there. And I didn't, but I overheard Obi-Wan saying that there are also Sith holocrons hidden there, and I think that maybe those would be more useful."

    Palpatine sat up straight. "Sith holocrons?" he asked quickly. "The Jedi have their hands on Sith holocrons?" For just a moment, Anakin could have sworn he felt something in the Force—a surge of anger, but also of glee—but it passed before he could even be sure that it had really happened.

    "Apparently," Anakin said, confused at the older man's reaction.

    "I see," said Palpatine. "And you want to access them? Yesterday you seemed quite convinced that the Sith were evil." As Anakin had predicted, he didn't look shocked or disapproving. In fact, he wore an expression that was more like pride.

    "The Sith are evil," Anakin said. "I just think I could learn a couple things from them, that's all." Placing his hands on the table, he leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Remember the legend you told me last night? The one about Darth Plagueis? I realized that you're right, that I can't learn that sort of power from the Jedi, and it's not like I know any Sith that I can just go up to and ask for help. So I figured that the Sith holocrons are my best chance. Oh, and I was wondering if you had any more information about Plagueis that I could use to help my search."

    "I see," Palpatine repeated, his voice sounding oddly strangled. "Well, Anakin, though I do have something of an interest in Sith lore—know thy enemy, and all that—I can't say I know anything more about the legend than what I already told you. But I think your idea to learn from the holocrons is most interesting; in fact, I rather wish I could view them myself. It seems like such a waste for all that power and knowledge to sit hidden and unused… I'm glad you're willing to move beyond the narrow, fearful viewpoint of the Jedi."

    Anakin smiled a little bit. It was nice that there was one person who trusted him enough to not be afraid of the idea of him accessing that sort of power. But the reality of the situation soon settled back in, and he sighed. "Willing, sir, but not able," he said. "Master Windu will never consent to letting me back in the Holocron Vault. And even if he did, Obi-Wan would be babysitting me the whole time, so it's not like I'd have the chance to even look at the Sith holocrons, let alone use them."

    Palpatine looked thoughtful. "We'll see about that," he said. "As I said before, I think that allowing you to learn from the Sith is a very good idea, and as you may have noticed, I have something of a talent for making my ideas into reality. Now, here is what I propose…"



    Once Anakin had commed with the good news, there was no question of whether he'd be allowed to that day's Council meeting. Obi-Wan was grateful; he didn't want any more conflict between his former Padawan and the senior Jedi.

    "Clone Intelligence has located Grievous in the Utapau system," Anakin explained as soon as everyone else was seated. 'Everyone else,' of course, being a relative term—aside from Anakin and Obi-Wan himself, only Mace, and Agen Kolar were actually present, and just three other Masters were attending by hologram.

    Anakin turned on the holoprojector that the Chancellor had given him, and a three-dimensional image of Utapau appeared. "The planet itself is neutral, with no particular strategic significance, but these sinkholes could be hiding large numbers of droids."

    "A dangerous mission, this will be," the image of Yoda commented. "And risk failure, we cannot."

    "Agreed," said Mace. "We should send a Master, though I don't think we can spare more than one, spread as thin as we are." He glanced at Obi-Wan, who wasn't surprised. After all, he'd faced Grievous before, and knew how he fought. And the remaining Council members would be enough to face Sidious, should the Sith Lord finally decide to make his move.

    "The Chancellor," said Anakin, "is asking that Master Kenobi be sent to face Grievous."

    Obi-Wan started in surprise—Palpatine had never shown much favor to him in the past, and he couldn't think of a reason that the man would request him now. Which meant that there must be a reason that wasn't obvious. He stared at Anakin, who didn't meet his eyes.

    "This is a matter to be decided by the Council, not the Chancellor," Mace snapped—evidently, he was thinking along the same lines as Obi-Wan. Whatever game Palpatine was playing, it was unlikely that it would be good for the Jedi to go along with it. He shared a troubled glance with Obi-Wan, who could only shrug in confusion.

    "But Chancellor Palpatine said—" Anakin began, his tone furious. Though Obi-Wan couldn't help but notice that he couldn't sense any actual anger from his young friend, which was odd, as Anakin was terrible at shielding…

    "I think," Mace interrupted, "that Obi-Wan is more needed here, on Coruscant, where he can keep an eye on…events."

    The eyes of all the other Masters turned to Anakin; after the occurrences of the previous night, it was no secret what—or rather whom—Mace wanted Obi-Wan to keep an eye on. In that sense, Obi-Wan supposed, the decision was reasonable: Anakin hadn't been acting very stable, and as his mission to spy on the Chancellor was an incredibly important one, it was no surprise that Mace thought Obi-Wan should give him some guidance. But he also knew that Anakin hated having his abilities questioned; he'd be terribly upset at the implication that he couldn't finish the mission alone…

    …Except that Anakin didn't look angry. In fact, Obi-Wan imagined he could detect a hint of satisfaction in his voice as he said, "Fine. Obi-Wan can stay here. But I think we all agree with Master Yoda when he says we can't risk failure on this mission. Killing Grievous will end the war, and we don't want to send someone who might not win against him."
    "Very well," said Mace. "In that case, I suppose I must go to Utapau."

    Yoda frowned. "Sure that having both of us away from the Temple with the Sith so close at hand is a good idea, I am not."

    "And yet we cannot risk Grievous escaping once more," Mace said grimly. "Besides, Obi-Wan and Anakin have each individually defeated a Sith Lord. Together, and with the help of Master Kolar and a few of the other Masters not on the Council, I think they'll be all right facing this one. Though I'll try to get my trip to Utapau over as soon as possible."
    "I concur with Mace's assessment," the image of Ki-Adi-Mundi said. "He should go. Let's put it to a vote."

    They did, and though Obi-Wan nodded along with the rest of them—even Anakin—he had a sinking feeling that somehow, they were missing something very important.
    He shook off the bad feeling, and rose to help Mace make preparations for the attack.



    Even as Anakin stood on the landing platform next to Obi-Wan, watching Master Windu direct his battalions of clone troopers aboard the assault cruisers, he couldn't quite believe that the Chancellor's plan had actually worked. Palpatine had been right—as usual—about the Council. They were so intent on avoiding the Chancellor's influence that their distrust of him had moved past sending Anakin to spy to actively interfering with his plans.

    Anakin would be angry at the Council for letting their feud interfere with the war effort, if their actions hadn't played perfectly into his own hands. Just as the Chancellor had said they would.

    Really, Anakin sometimes thought that the war might be over by know if the Jedi and the Senate would just give Palpatine enough power. The man was a brilliant strategist. Still, it was kind of amazing how easily the Council's prejudices had been turned against them –no. Not against them, Anakin and Palpatine weren't working against the Jedi, of course, just…in a different direction, that was all. There was nothing wrong with that.

    Windu jogged over to where the two of them were standing.

    "Is everything prepared for you to leave?" Obi-Wan asked him.

    The Korun Master nodded. "I have enough manpower and equipment to take the Utapau system three times over. Grievous isn't going to know what hit him."

    "The difficulty isn't going to be in overpowering him," advised Obi-Wan. "In my experiences with the General, the more important trick is to be able to catch him once he tries to run." Obi-Wan had encountered Grievous several times and in Anakin's opinion, was far more prepared to defeat him than Windu. That the Council had chosen to send the latter was only a sign of their foolishness.

    "I'll keep that in mind," said Windu. "But I don't think the coward is going to be able to run too far this time. We'll catch him, and Force-willing, the Chancellor will finally agree to end this war." Anakin bristled at the implication that Palpatine wasn't already doing everything he could, but didn't say anything—there was no point in arguing with the man when he was just about to remove himself halfway across the galaxy.

    "Let us all hope so," Obi-Wan replied. "The galaxy and the Jedi have seen enough death and destruction in the past three years to last a lifetime, I think."

    Windu nodded grimly. "Agreed," he said. "But we all have our parts to play if we are to ever see peace. Look after the Order while I'm gone, Obi-Wan. If the Sith Lord does decide to move into the open while Yoda and I are off planet, I'm trusting you to stop him." Though Obi-Wan was neither the oldest nor most experienced Council member left on Coruscant, his skills and level-headed wisdom were respected enough that he had been put in charge of the Temple in the absence of the two most senior Council members. A move, Anakin noted, which also was precisely as the Chancellor had predicted it. Everything was going to plan, and he could already picture himself returning triumphantly to the woman he loved with every fiber of his being, carrying the news that he'd discovered how to save her…

    Anakin pulled himself back to reality as Master Windu turned to face him. "And as for you," he said severely, "let's not have any more distractions, or rule-breaking. Duty to the Order comes first, especially in times like these. Understood?" Anakin nodded, and despite the look of annoyance that he was sure was showing on his face, the older Master's expression softened. "Anakin, your mission to watch the Chancellor is of the utmost importance. Despite your recent exploits, the Council is trusting you—I am trusting you—to succeed in it. And on your success rests the fate of the Republic, that much I sense. You have strength in the Force unmatched by any Jedi, living or dead. Use it correctly, don't allow your emotions to cloud your judgment, look to Obi-Wan for guidance if you must…and the Republic may just have a chance."

    Anakin swallowed hard. "Yes, Master Windu," he said. "I will do what I must."

    "As will we all," Windu replied. "May the Force be with you. With both of you." He bowed slightly.

    Anakin and Obi-Wan bowed back. "May the Force be with you," they intoned in unison, and watched silently as the second-highest ranked Master in the Jedi Order turned and walked away, leaving them standing on the landing platform. Anakin had a sudden sense—Obi-Wan would have called it a feeling from the Force, and Padme would have called it him being dramatic—that they were being left to face their fates, destinies which would be decided once and for all somewhere near, sometime soon…

    The feeling went as abruptly as it had come and Anakin was once again in the plane of purely physical perception: the sound of battle cruisers lifting off filling his ears, the sun in his eyes, and the sensation of the cool wind tousling his hair and robes.

    "I feel it, too," Obi-Wan said from beside him. "Something's coming. A turning point, perhaps."

    "Great," said Anakin. "You haven't sensed anything specific enough to be useful about what this turning point might be, or how to make it turn in our favor, have you? Because I'm coming up with nothing."

    Obi-Wan shook his head. "The Force is a guide for us, not a map. We must find our own way through whatever is to come. Though, and I'm not sure if this is a feeling from the Force or simply a reflection of the way our lives seem to be going, I'd bet money that we're heading into some sort of trap."

    "Awesome!" Anakin said brightly, injecting every note of cheer he could muster into his voice. "Then all we need to do is find the trap and spring it. Should be simple, Master."
    Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. "Thank you for that assessment," he said. His tone was dry, but Anakin could sense his amusement. He decided that now was a good time to start the next part of his plan.

    "So…" he said casually. "Since Palpatine doesn't need me right now, and your duties pretty much consist of watching me and making sure nobody accidentally burns down the Temple while Masters Yoda and Windu are gone, should we get started looking up visions in the Archives?"

    Obi-Wan nodded. "I suppose now is as good a time as any," he said.



    More than an hour later, they were sitting in front of a large pile of datapads. The main part of the Archives had records of Jedi visions dating back thousands of years: from prophecies like that of the Chosen One, to the short-term premonitions Force-sensitives had every day, to visions like the ones Anakin had been having. Some of them were interesting, but many were either simple explanations of prophetic visions aimed at curious Padawans, or else just chronicles of visions which had come true. So far they had come across a list of prophecies made by ancient Jedi, a description of a Jedi who had foreseen a devastating agricultural plague and warned planetary leaders about it—only for scientists to create the very devastation he had been trying to avoid in their attempts to immunize the planet's crops, and other similar stories.

    In short, the research was going nowhere, which meant it was time for Anakin to introduce the next phase of Palpatine's plan. "Obi-Wan, this isn't working," he said. "It would take forever to look through all these, even if we didn't also have other duties to be attending to. We can't just hope we'll come across something useful in time."

    Obi-Wan sighed and sat back. "It does seem unlikely," he admitted. "I don't suppose you have any other ideas?"

    "Well," Anakin said slowly. "Like I said earlier, there might not be anything too interesting in the main part of the Archives, but if we went into the Holocron Vault—"

    "And I," Obi-Wan interrupted, "told you that there is no chance at all that the Council—" He stopped short as the realization hit him.

    "The Council," Anakin said quietly, "of which you happen to currently be the highest-ranking member on the planet. The decision is yours, Master."

    For a moment, Obi-Wan just looked stunned, as if he hadn't quite processed before that moment the responsibilities which had been left to him. Then he turned and looked at Anakin with an odd expression, half-way between curiosity and suspicion. The look passed after only a moment, and Obi-Wan cleared his throat. "Well. That may be true, but I think I ought to consult with Master Kolar before deciding anything."

    "All right," Anakin said indifferently. That wasn't any concern; he had no doubts that Obi-Wan could persuade the other Master. "I'll put all these datapads away while you go find him." And he did so, re-shelving them carefully while Obi-Wan left briskly in search of his fellow Council member.

    He paused in the middle of his work to have a brief conversation over his comlink, then continued with a satisfied smile on his face. By the time Obi-Wan returned fifteen minutes later with the go-ahead, Anakin was waiting with high spirits and a purposefully innocent expression on his face.

    And together, they stepped into the Vault.
     
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ooh, why do I feel like Anakin is about to fall into a snake pit or a lions' den? [face_nail_biting]
     
  16. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 7

    Something about the situation was making Obi-Wan nervous. He couldn't quite put his finger on it - after all, he wasn't doing anything wrong by returning with Anakin to the Vault; as the senior Council member on Coruscant, he was well within his rights to bring the younger man into even this restricted area. Anakin had finally opened up about the secrets he'd been keeping, and now they were working to save Padme's life. He should be relaxing, glad to be doing something productive. And yet…

    And yet there was something about the situation that just wasn't adding up. Perhaps it was the oddity of Palpatine's request that he lead the mission to Utapau. Perhaps it was the still unexplained darkness he'd sensed surrounding Anakin's visions. Perhaps it was that Anakin didn't seem too bothered by the fact that there search wasn't yielding much in the way of results - though there were many holocrons on the subject of visions, the ones discussing prevention of a specific outcome were mostly based on speculation - when the night before, his failure to find usable information had driven him to tears. Yes, Anakin's apparent sudden acquisition of a new supply of patience, in the face of the possible death of his wife and soon-to-be mother of his child, was definitely peculiar.

    Not to mention the fact that Anakin even had a wife, let alone a pregnant one. It was entirely possible that his current unease was due to that particular revelation.

    And just when he thought the situation couldn't get any more bizarre, his comlink beeped and indicated that he was being called by the Supreme Chancellor. He went to answer it, then hesitated. After all, Anakinwas supposed to be the Chancellor's connection on the Council. So why hadn't he been commed first?

    "I'm going to take this outside," he said to Anakin, who was replacing a holocron back onto its shelf. If it turned out to be something that Anakin was supposed to know about, Obi-Wan could always inform him later.

    "Okay," Anakin said. And that was it. No curious questions about who the caller was, or why Obi-Wan didn't want to take the call in front of him. Maybe he was just too distracted by his fears for Padme. Maybe.

    Obi-Wan's unease continued to mount as he stepped out of the Vault and into a private study room nearby. He tried to keep his disquiet off his face as he answered his comlink and found himself face-to-holographic-face with Palpatine. "Chancellor," he said. "Is there something I can help you with?"

    "As a matter of fact, this is a personal call," the Chancellor replied, with a small smile that only succeeded in setting Obi-Wan further on edge. "Actually, I was hoping to talk to you about a mutual friend of ours." Obi-Wan's stomach sank. "It's young Anakin," Palpatine continued. "He's been under a great deal of stress lately, and I find myself worrying about him."

    If so, he certainly wasn't the only one. But exactly how much did the man know about what was going on with Anakin? "I think every Jedi will continue to face stress until this war is ended," Obi-Wan said carefully. "However, I have complete faith in Anakin to fulfill his duties."

    "Believe me, Master Kenobi, the last thing I was trying to do was insinuate that Anakin is incapable of doing - well, anything," Palpatine said. "In fact, I was referring to a more personal sort of tension."

    "Ah," said Obi-Wan. Had Anakin told Palpatine about his marriage? His visions? He hadn't mentioned doing so, and it didn't seem likely that Anakin would confide in Palpatine before telling anybody else, but what else could the man be referring to?

    "I understand that Anakin may feel that my appointment of him to the Jedi Council has created a conflict of interest between his duty to the Republic and to the Jedi," Palpatine continued, and Obi-Wan relaxed slightly. "Of course, I dislike having to put him in an awkward situation, but the benefits of having a direct link between my office and the Jedi Council could be critical in ending this war."

    "I certainly hope that that there is no conflict of interest between the Chancellor's office and the Jedi," Obi-Wan said stiffly. "We are on the same side, are we not?"

    "Of course, Master Kenobi, of course," Palpatine assured him. "You're quite right. Yet I still have observed Anakin acting...uneasy, of late. He appears to be conflicted, and -between the two of us- it's hardly worth pretending that there has never been...tension...between him and the Council."

    Obi-Wan frowned. "Anakin will do his duty," he said shortly. "And, with all due respect, Chancellor, relations between him and the other members of the Council are Jedi business - not yours." But he couldn't help feeling a stirring of unease, having himself protested against asking Anakin to spy on the Chancellor. And Anakin's angry response had only proved that Palpatine was right about his divided loyalties…

    "Yes, yes, of course," said Palpatine. "Far be it from me to interfere with the workings of the Jedi. I simply hope that Anakin doesn't take my assignment of him as anything other than a necessity to speed the ending of the war. I would hate for him to think I was asking him to do anything against his conscience."

    "I'm sure he doesn't think that about you," Obi-Wan replied, and it was true. It was the Council's request for surveillance that Anakin had seen as unethical, perhaps because they - Obi-Wan - had asked Anakin to report secretly, whereas Palpatine had been open about his intention to gather information. His friend's hurt words from earlier rang in his ears: You're asking me to do something against the Jedi Code. Against the Republic. Against a mentor, and a friend. No, Palpatine didn't have to worry about having lost Anakin's trust. In fact, Anakin's appointment had done more to increase his distrust against the Council than anything else.

    Not that Palpatine could have known that.



    The moment the Vault door closed behind Obi-Wan, Anakin sprang into action. Obi-Wan had said there was some sort of lock on the shelves that hid the Sith holocrons, earlier in the infirmary when he'd thought Anakin asleep. He closely examined the shelves that had grabbed his attention the night before - studying them with his eyes, running his hands over them, and feeling them with the Force.

    Now that he knew what he was looking for, it didn't take long for one area in particular to catch his attention. Though looking identical to everything around it, the shelf nonetheless gave off a distinct aura of coldness, of energy almost like static electricity. Removing the holocrons placed on it revealed nothing, a stretch of plain metal which seemed to mock him with its emptiness. Anakin ground his teeth in frustration - he wasn't sure how long the Chancellor would be able to distract Obi-Wan for, and he could feel the time pressure bearing down on him like a weight.

    He dragged his fingers along the crevice between the bottom and sides of the shelf, then along the top. Near the end of the shelf, his finger was caught, though not by any physical obstruction. There was something there, in the Force, and if he reached out with his mind and twisted it, just so…

    The whole section of wall in front of him swung away, revealing the entrance to a small, dark room. The darkness was not merely the kind that results from absence of light, but the sort of pure entrancing blackness that one could imagine seeing in a bottomless pit or a black hole.

    And Anakin Skywalker thought, finally.

    He stepped forward without making the conscious decision to do so, pulled across the entrance by a tug that felt physical, as though something inside of the room had put hooks into his heart and stomach and was yanking him toward it. Once inside, he could feel the darkness pressing in on him, pushing him forward and whispering in his ear words like power and destiny and right.

    And it felt good, like a piece of himself that he had never known he was missing had been slotted into place inside his heart. He looked around, feeling oddly numb, taking in the shelves of holocrons in the dim lighting from the entryway. They were different than the ones in the room he had just left, pyramids instead of cubes, and were scattered sparsely, haphazardly on the wooden shelves.

    He crossed the room in a daze. There was no need to think about where he was going; here, there was only the Force. Guided by an unseen hand, he knelt down in front of one of the old wooden shelves and reached out for one of the holocrons. An old memory of something Obi-Wan had said to him once, about some Sith holocrons being able to possess the people who touch them, was enough to break through the dreamlike feeling and make him hesitate.

    But only for a moment. He couldn't let fear get in his way, not now when he could feel that he was on the precipice of something, some powerful inevitability. He lowered his flesh hand, reaching out instead with the gloved, mechanical one. A current of energy rippled through him the moment he touched the holocron, and for a moment he just knelt there, gripping it, letting the feeling of power flow through him. He moved on the the next shelf, and then to the next, picking up holocrons at random and replacing them back on the shelf.

    He wasn't exactly sure what he was looking for, but each one he touched deepened his connection to the Force and brought him into an almost trancelike state. Every holocron felt slightly different than the one before, and all of them hummed with an invisible energy that went bone-deep. It was the same sense of static electricity he'd felt before, building up on Anakin's skin and and reverberating through every nerve in his body.

    This is Anakin Skywalker, on the edge.

    He falls to his knees in the middle of the room. Opens himself up to the Force. Is rewarded with a sensation that is both icy and scalding, impossibly cold and impossibly hot. It surrounds him, engulfs him in its embrace, promises him power and freedom and choice and passion and Padme.

    He wants to accept it. How can he not?

    "Anakin! Anakin, what are you doing?!" The cry from behind him is followed mere seconds later by a hand grabbing his arm, and he is yanked bodily back into a standing position. For a moment he is caught in the clutches of two opposing forces pulling him in different directions: the infinite darkness which refuses to let him go and the man burning with light who is calling his name and dragging him toward the door, and he feels as though he is going to split in two. He struggles, twists, and screams, though he does not know which one he is trying to get away from.

    "Anakin, snap out of it. Listen to me, please. Anakin!" says one.

    All things die, Anakin Skywalker, says the other. Even stars burn out.

    He spends an eternity trying fight them, to escape from the conflicted chaos which both surrounds him and fills his heart and mind and soul. They fight back, battling with him and with each other in a tug-of-war game that threatens to rip him entirely in half.

    "Come on, Anakin, come on, Padawan."

    ...even stars burn out…

    He is caught in a whirling vortex of hot and cold, light and dark, right and wrong. But he does not know which is which anymore, or how to tell the difference between the two, or if there truly is a difference, in the end. He is tired, so tired, and he wants to disappear into nothingness but neither the man nor the darkness is willing to let him. Millennia pass.

    Somewhere in the Force, something gives. He is pulled back into the well-lit room of Jedi holocrons, and the void reluctantly releases him into the grasp of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He snaps out of his insensibility into the reality of his physical body with a jolt. He is shivering, he realizes, and there are tears running down his face.

    "Why? Why, Anakin? I trusted you. How could you? You almost - you almost...gods, how could you?" The voice of the man holding him is anguished in a way that he has never heard it, in a way which pierces his heart with sharp barbs of agony.

    When he says, "I'm sorry, Master, I'm sorry I'm sorry I had to, I had to find a way to save Padme, she means everything to me. I can't live without her, I'm sorry, I'd do anything to save her, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," his voice is shaky and hoarse, and his dry throat burns as though he has been screaming for hours on end.

    For several minutes - or, perhaps, several days - all he can do is shake and cry, though he doesn't know why. On the inside, he is still numb. He clings to Obi-Wan's robes and rocks back and forth, but cannot even summon the emotional energy to be surprised that there are tears on the older man's face as well for the first time in all the years that Anakin has known him. He is still dissociated by the time his weeping and trembling stop, and he listens to Obi-Wan's furious vow to never let him within fifty feet of the Vault ever again with a feeling of detachment.

    He nods and says, "Yes, Master," to all of Obi-Wan's harsh warnings and pleas and commands to never do anything like that again. The numbness persists as he trails Obi-Wan out of the Archives and through the Temple.

    It lasts, in fact, until he is alone again in his own room and collapses onto his bed. It is barely dinnertime, but he is exhausted. But when he curls up on top of his blankets, the sharp pain of something digging into his side is enough for him to actually feel. And when he pulls a small, pyramid-shaped object out of his robes, a holocron that he has no memory of putting into his pocket, the detachment fades entirely and his heart begins to beat too fast in his chest.

    Full of fear and full of hope, he tucks it back into his robes.

    And then he comms the Chancellor.
     
  17. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    This is very, very good. =D= I wonder how much Obi-Wan knowing the truth (most of it, anyway:p) will change the outcome.

    Looking forward to more. :)
     
  18. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 8

    Nearly two hours later, and Obi-Wan's heart rate still hadn't returned back to normal. The unexpected sight of Anakin kneeling in the middle of the Sith Holocron Vault, head bowed and the Force around him swirling in dark currents was one that he suspected would be burned onto his retinas for a long time to come. Anakin, Anakin, you promised not to let me get blindsided!

    And the memory of trying to pull Anakin out, of how the younger man had fought and screamed liked he was possessed by some sort of demon, of how his best friend hadn't even seemed to recognize him...no, Obi-Wan wouldn't be able to forget that. No matter how much he might wish to. So here he was, in the Room of a Thousand Fountains, meditating on what had happened. "Meditating" being somewhat of an optimistic term; so far what he had managed was a closer match to the description of "brooding," or "reviewing each and every thing he ought to have done differently" or perhaps "praying desperately to the Force for guidance."

    Should he report Anakin to the rest of the Council? To do so would be to end their trust in Anakin irrevocably - even if he wasn't expelled, he would likely never reach the rank of Master and would almost certainly be kept under permanent close watch for signs of darkness. And Anakin, who had always chafed at being restrained and who had faith only in those who had faith in him, would in return lose what remained of his trust in the Council. He might even choose the leave the Order rather than be smothered under their suspicion.

    Right now, Obi-Wan was certain that Anakin needed the structure of the Jedi more than ever.

    But if he didn't report Anakin...For starters, alerting the other Masters to this sort of breach was unquestionably his duty; to not do so would be a failure to live up to the faith Yoda and Mace had given him by placing him in this position. Furthermore, if Anakin did ever become a Master - though he supposed that was looking less and less likely given his relationship with Padme - he wouldn't be able to explain why Anakin ought to be kept out of the Archive Vault, as far away from the Sith Holocrons as possible. And Obi-Wan had no desire for the scene he had walked in on earlier to be repeated.

    In the end, it came down to the question of why Anakin had been in the Sith Vault to begin with. Obi-Wan would have liked to believe that it had been an accident. After all, Anakin had clearly sensed a disturbance around the entrance the night before, and it was just plausible that his curiosity had led him to investigate, that he hadn't known what he was stumbling into. And once inside the Vault, it might have been difficult for someone as Force-sensitive as Anakin to resist the strength of the dark side currents within. After Zigoola, Obi-Wan knew better than anyone how much an environment steeped in the dark side could affect one's judgment. Besides, how could Anakin have even known that the Sith holocrons existed? Yes, Obi-Wan would very much have liked to convince himself that the day's events had been no fault of Anakin's.

    Except...except, in his incoherent apologies after Obi-Wan had pulled him out, Anakin had definitely said something along the lines of "I had to find a way to save Padme." As though it had been premeditated. As though Anakin had, for whatever inscrutable reason, thought the key to preventing his wife's life lay in the Sith holocrons, and he'd broken in with no more reservations than when he'd made a similar attempt on the Jedi ones.

    But could Obi-Wan really believe that of his best friend? This was Anakin he was thinking about, Anakin who hated the dark side and all its practitioners more than any Jedi ought to hate anything, who had killed a Sith Lord only a week or so ago. Surely it was a betrayal of their partnership for Obi-Wan to even think that his former apprentice might knowingly and willingly seek out the temptations of the dark side.

    It seemed unthinkable. Yet was it so unthinkable that Anakin's love of Padme outweighed his hatred of the dark side? Even moreso than his anger or his arrogance, Anakin's greatest difficulty as a Jedi had always been his inability to let go of his attachments when his duty called for it.

    Not that Obi-Wan was doing a stellar job himself of putting duty before attachment at the moment. The answer to his dilemma should have been straightforward: report rule-breaking and potentially dark activities to the Council. He sighed - he was getting a headache, and his legs were beginning to cramp from sitting in one position for too long. If only he could have asked the subject of his mental scrutiny directly. But Anakin had been insensible when Obi-Wan had dropped him off at his room, barely coherent, his mind scrambled from the experience in the Vault. He had been in no state to answer any questions, and probably wouldn't be until he'd gotten some rest.

    It occurred to Obi-Wan that Anakin might not be the only one with answers. There was someone he'd been meaning to speak to anyways, someone who knew Anakin as well as he did, someone who could shed some light on the visions which had been the catalyst for this nightmare.

    Before he made a decision which might decide not only Anakin's fate but that of galaxy, Obi-Wan was going to need to talk to Padme Amidala.

    *

    Anakin was let into the Chancellor's office after less than two minutes of waiting. It was nice to have someone who always made time to see him, other duties or no. And from the several somewhat disgruntled-looking Senators who were left the room moments before he was called in, Palpatine had actually ended another appointment early to talk to him. It warmed him to know that the Chancellor took him that seriously, believed that he was that important.

    Palpatine waited until he was seated before leaning slightly across the table. "Well?" he asked intently. "How fared you on your...excursion? Did it go as planned?"

    "Yes and no," Anakin admitted. "You were right about the Council sending Windu and leaving Obi-Wan in charge, once they thought you wanted it the other way around. And it was pretty easy to talk Obi-Wan into taking me back to the Vault." Across from him, the Chancellor looked pleased. "And I found where they keep the Sith holocrons after you got Obi-Wan to step out."

    Palpatine leaned even closer towards him, his eyes gleaming sharply. "And then?"

    Anakin winced. "Obi-Wan came back before I could open any of the holocrons. He found me looking at them." He didn't really want to think about it - about Obi-Wan's hurt reaction, about how much trouble he was going to be in with the Council, about how he had tricked his best friend. What he'd done had been a betrayal of Obi-Wan's trust, of his friendship, plain and simple. And just because it was worth it to save Padme's life - and anything was, really - or because he wasn't so sure anymore that the Sith were as evil as everyone made them out to be, didn't mean he didn't feel guilty about that personal disloyalty.

    Across from him, Palpatine's face was impassive. "Well, you did your best, my boy," he said, though his voice was more abrupt than gentle. "Perhaps another plan is in order…"

    "I didn't get a chance to open any of them," interrupted Anakin. "But I took one. I - I'm not really sure what to do with it. I didn't mean to take it, not really, and if the Jedi sense me with it I'm out of the Order for sure."

    "You took one," breathed Palpatine. Anakin could actually feel the excitement radiating off him, which was odd because normally he couldn't sense anything from the Chancellor. "Where is it?" he asked quickly. "You're quite right, the Jedi are far too narrow-minded to treat you with any leniency if they found you with it, it ought to go somewhere else for safekeeping. Do you have it with you now?"

    Anakin nodded and reached into his robes. Pulling the small pyramid out of his pocket with his mechanical hand, he held it out across the table. "I'm not sure you should touch it, sir," he said. "There are all sorts of stories about people getting possessed by Sith holocrons."

    Palpatine was staring at the holocron with an intensity Anakin had never seen on him before. "We mustn't let fear get in our way, my boy," he said. "I would not be in the position I am today if I had shied away from doing what must be done just because it might have been dangerous."

    Anakin's respect for the man across from him grew. "I understand that, sir," he said. "But this is the dark side. It's a different kind of danger than what you might have faced before, and I don't want you to get hurt." He hesitated for a moment. Palpatine was right; he'd spent years resenting the Jedi for holding him back, and he couldn't let his own doubts get in the way now that he had access to something new.

    He'd told Padme, once, that he would be the most powerful Jedi ever. That he'd even learn to stop people from dying. But how could he do that if he didn't go outside the Jedi's boundaries? After his talks with Palpatine, he wasn't even so sure that Sith was really equivalent to evil as the Jedi taught. What was it Palpatine had said? The Sith would be a threat to the Jedi's power...could that really be the true reason that he'd been taught to hate them? A month ago, a week ago, he would have laughed at the prospect. But with how the Council had been acting lately, he was prepared to believe they were capable of anything. "I'll open it," he said to Palpatine.

    And open it he did.

    *

    Padme had been staring at the same page on her datapad for more than five minutes, but it wasn't sinking in. Her mind kept wandering to the disastrous meeting she'd had with Palpatine a few hours before in which the man she'd once looked to as a mentor had made it clear he had no intentions of listening to her or her colleagues' concerns about his further amendments to the Constitution. Not that she'd had an easy time focusing lately anyway, what with her concerns about what would happen when the baby was born.

    Would she lose her job? Anakin would almost certainly lose his. And where had Anakin been these past few days? Normally he took every chance to see her when he was back on Coruscant, and it was odd that he hadn't come the night before or come to see her this evening, especially given her condition. Or perhaps that was the problem, maybe Anakin had finally realized what having this baby was going to do to his life with the Jedi and didn't want to see her...no, that wasn't fair to him, she was projecting her own worries. Anakin had been ecstatic when she'd told him she was pregnant, and he was no actor.

    So where was he?

    A chime sounded throughout her apartment, signaling that there was someone at the door. Padme leapt to her feet and hurried into the main sitting room, breathless with excitement and relief.
    She found that C-3PO had already let in the visitor. Obi-Wan Kenobi was standing just inside her door, looking uncharacteristically grim.

    Padme felt her stomach turn to ice. "Master Kenobi," she said, voice blank, using every ounce of willpower she had to not let her fear show on her face. "It's good to see you. Can I help you with anything?"

    "Padme," he said. And his voice was oddly flat, his expression oddly tired. "It's Anakin."

    It's Anakin. The words set off every alarm bell in her head, and combined with how awful Obi-Wan looked, how sadness and desperation were permeating through even his Jedi reserve...Padme's heart pounded, terrible visions flashing through her head. "Has something happened?" she asked, unable to keep her voice from rising an octave.

    "Yes," Obi-Wan said, then seemed to notice her horror. "No, no, not like that. Gods, I'm sorry, I didn't think. Anakin isn't injured."

    For a moment, all Padme could do was let her relief wash over her. "I am glad that Knight Skywalker is well," she said once she had recovered her voice.

    Obi-Wan sighed. "I'm not sure that well is the best word," he said. "And Padme...you don't have to pretend with me. Not anymore. Anakin told me everything." Padme froze. Everything? Anakin had been so insistent about not telling Obi-Wan only a few days before. "Or at least I thought he had," Obi-Wan continued drily. "I'm beginning to think he may have left out a few things."

    "Obi-Wan," Padme choked out, not sure whether her heart was pounding in fear or relief. "When you say he told you everything-"

    "He told me about your relationship. Your marriage. Your, er," he gestured at her stomach. "Well, congratulations. Perhaps most importantly, though, he told me about his visions. Padme, I'm so sorry."

    His last words broke through the veil of shock that had begun to settle down around her at the fact that he knew. "His visions? Sorry? Obi-Wan, I'm not worried about it. Nobody dies in, in childbirth, not on Coruscant. Anakin's overreacting. You of all people know how he is."

    Obi-Wan looked taken aback. "Ah," he said. "Yes, well. I'm glad you're keeping a cool head about this, but I'm afraid that Anakin's...overreactions...have gotten quite out of hand. Has he told you what happened last night?"

    Padme frowned. "Last night? No, he hasn't talked to me since earlier yesterday." She was struck with a feeling of foreboding. "Why, what happened?"

    "What happened," said Obi-Wan, "is that Anakin went looking for a way to protect you from his visions in one of the most restricted parts of the Temple. He was caught by Master Windu and the rest of the Council."

    She raised a hand to cover her mouth. Ani, my love, why can't you just let it go? But she knew why, knew exactly why, having been present for the awful aftermath of his last vision. If there was one thing Anakin Skywalker was incapable of, it was allowing someone he cared about to get hurt. Which wasn't a bad thing in and of itself, but her husband never knew when to stop. "Is he in trouble? Do...do they know what he was looking for?"

    "Yes, they know," Obi-Wan replied. "That is, they are aware of the content of his visions. I am the only one Anakin told of his, er, personal connection to the matter. As far as the rest of the Council is concerned, Anakin's trespass was merely a misguided attempt to help a friend. He's in trouble, but will not be expelled. Not for that particular transgression." He sighed. "Unfortunately, the situation has become much more complicated."

    Padme relaxed slightly. Anakin wouldn't be expelled; that bought them a little more time. "Thank you, Obi-Wan," she said. "For not telling." I knew you wouldn't; I told Anakin. "That means a lot, to both of us." She smiled a little and patted her stomach. "Or rather, all three of us." Not entirely sure she wanted to know the answer, she hesitated a moment before asking, "More complicated how?"

    The look on Obi-Wan's face that appeared in response made her very sure she didn't want to know. I have a bad feeling about this.

    *

    Chancellor Palpatine, beloved leader of the Republic and Dark Lord of the Sith, had never been one to give in to bouts of sentiment. When he had been elected Supreme Chancellor, he had felt no pleasure other than in anticipation of how the position would facilitate his future plans. Killing Plagueis to take the title of Master for himself had brought no regrets, nor had the death by his own command of his most recent apprentice. Though passion could be used to fuel one's strength, a true Sith knew that real power came from the icy clarity of caring for nothing and nobody except insofar as they were useful to one's plans. No, Sidious had not maintained his facade of goodness these many years by allowing himself to give into the fickle chaos of emotion.\

    And yet...and yet watching his heir apparent, the boy whose mind he'd put more than a decade into shaping, make a conscious and calculated decision to call upon the power of the dark side in order to open one of the Sith's greatest treasures which had been stolen and trapped in the hands of their enemies for Force knew how many centuries, Palpatine was filled with a sensation he couldn't quite identify...

    Pride. That was it. Pride. Anakin Skywalker had always been a personal favorite project of his, one he'd always hoped would fulfill his dark potential and submit to becoming part of Sidious' decades-long masterpiece. But that the mercurial young man had sought the darkness out for himself, was in the process of actively claiming his place in Bane's legacy, that was an artistic touch for which Palpatine had not dared hope.

    Yet here the boy was, concentrating on the holocron in front of him with his eyes intent and lips pursed slightly in concentration. If he had wanted to, Sidious could have activated the artifact in moments. But this was so much more gratifying.

    For all his years spent masking his true self, he could not help the small smile that played about on his lips when a holographic figure, clothed in dark robes, appeared and began to speak.

    *

    Parsecs away from Coruscant, entirely unaware of the galaxy-shaping events taking place half the galaxy away, Mace Windu and his battalion of clone troopers arrived in the Utapau system. The final battle of the Clone Wars was about to begin.
     
  19. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Excellent and riveting =D= Everything seems to be falling into place for one side at least :eek:
     
  20. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 9

    There was a long, heavy silence after Obi-Wan finished telling Padme of the day's events. She wasn't looking at him, was instead staring off out the window over the coruscating city to where the Temple building stood. Her face was pale, her eyes horrified, and one hand, for reasons Obi-Wan couldn't understand, was clasped at the neckline of her dress. After a moment, he realized she was clutching a necklace.

    Obi-Wan was relieved to see that she grasped the seriousness of the situation, though not entirely surprised. If there was one non-Jedi who understood the true gravity of the Sith threat, it was Padme Amidala. And if there was one person, in all the galaxy, who cared for Anakin as much as he did, then that would be her as well.

    "I just," Padme said, then shook her head. "I just can't believe that he would do that. Not my Anakin. He hates the Sith; I know he does. Why would he turn to their teachings for power?"

    "If I knew the answer to that, I needn't have come," replied Obi-Wan. "It's possible that Anakin didn't understand what he was getting into. The opposite is equally likely, and I just don't know. Not anymore. He's under a lot of stress, and lately it's been making him...difficult." He looked at her imploringly. "Padme, I need you to tell me if you think his nightmares are enough to drive him to do something like this on purpose."

    She was silent, staring at the floor.

    "Padme," he repeated. "I only want to help Anakin. I know it's hard to accept his actions" because Obi-Wan himself was still having trouble believing what he'd seen "but the fact remains that neither of us can do him any good by being in denial." He sighed. "I ought to know, as my denial about your relationship is part of what got us into this mess."

    Padme raised her eyes to look at him. "You...you would help him, then?" she said. "Even if he'd gone in knowingly, you wouldn't turn him in to the Council?" After a moment, she added hastily: "I'm not saying I think he did. I just, I need to know."

    Obi-Wan hesitated. "I would help him," he said slowly. Padme arched an eyebrow - it seemed there was no getting away with being evasive with a politician of her caliber. "Padme, you must understand," he pleaded. "The Council would need to know. For Anakin's own sake, he'd need more help than I could personally give him. He's not too far gone yet, he hasn't done anything irrevocable, and we must be sure hestays that way." If not...he didn't want to think about if not.

    The eyebrow stayed up. "I think you underestimate yourself, Obi-Wan," Padme said quietly. "Yourself, and maybe him as well."

    "Padme-"

    She stood up swiftly from the couch and walked over to the window. "Obi-Wan, I don't know either. I trust - I love Anakin, I can't just believe that he'd seek out the dark side on purpose. I just can't." She hesitated for a moment, then turned to face him. Without meeting his eyes, she said, "I can believe that he'd do something, something irrational, on the spur of the moment. I have," and she paused for a moment, as though struggling to say the words, "...seen him do things he wouldn't normally do, for someone he cared about. Not premeditated, just-" she broke off, shaking her head. "He wouldn't go looking for darkness."

    "I hope you're right," said Obi-Wan. And he did, desperately.

    "I hope so, too." Padme's voice cracked on the last word, and she turned quickly away from him again, burying her face in her hands.

    Alarmed, Obi-Wan hurried over to her. "Padme-" He trailed off helplessly, not sure what comfort he could offer.

    "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry, I just - I'm pregnant. Anakin and I are going to have a family. This should be a happy time, we should be celebrating, but instead - instead he's doing this, and I'm not sure I do trust him, not entirely. Even though I love him, lately I just can't - and I should, I'm his wife."

    Obi-Wan felt even more useless than he had the moment before. Placing a gentle hand on Padme's shoulder, he said, "Anakin loves you. Perhaps it has driven him to rash action, but surely you can help him work through whatever anxiety he may be feeling over his nightmares."

    Padme pulled away from him and wiped her face on her sleeve. "Don't you think I haven't tried?" she demanded, "I told him not to worry about it. I told him to let it go. And - and it's not just this, it's him and Palpatine. Mostly Palpatine, I guess. Obi-Wan, have you seen what that man is doing to democracy? He chips away at our rights, at the Constitution, at everything that makes the Republic a republic." She shook her head. "All he wants is more and more power, and people seem happy to give it to him. Anakin seems happy. Gods, I actually did give him more power, and to this day I'm not sure if he tricked me into thinking he was a better option than Valorum, or if it was merely my own foolishness."

    "This isn't your fault, Padme," said Obi-Wan. "He would have found a way to get into this position with your help or without it. Besides, not everyone supports him."

    "No. And this afternoon, I went to him with a petition from all us Senators who oppose him and are brave enough to say it, all two-thousand of us." Padme began to pace, gesticulating frustratedly as she talked. "Obi-Wan, he completely blew us off! He didn't even try to pretend that he cared about our cause, or that he has any intention of giving up his so-called emergency powers. The way he acted, like we were the traitors...I wouldn't be surprised if some of the two thousand start supporting him, just to save their own necks. And I wouldn't blame them!"

    Well, that was disturbing. As if Obi-Wan needed another thing to worry about. "I wish I could be more surprised," he said. "Though, it was not merely to Senators that I was referring. There are some within the Jedi Order who also oppose Palpatine's rule. Not Anakin, of course, but others. And though perhaps I shouldn't be speaking of it…" he stopped for a moment, weighed the benefits of openness against the need for secrecy. "Padme, there are those on the Council who are prepared to take action to remove Palpatine from office should there be no other choice."

    Padme nodded slowly. "I have heard similar talk from a small group of Senators. I promised not to tell anybody, so I can't name names. But the sentiment is there, and - and I think the support of the Jedi would greatly relieve us."

    Obi-Wan didn't reply for a long minute. Was this really what it had come to, discussing the possibility of the Jedi and the Senate conspiring together to commit treason? Yet he was increasingly sure that Palpatine was up to something. "I don't think we ought to act too hastily," he told her eventually. "Master Windu is on his way to Utapau right now, and if he can kill General Grievous and end the war, the Chancellor be forced to make his intentions clear. If he does relinquish his 'emergency powers' as he promised without any intervention, so much the better. If he doesn't, then there will be a legal basis for removing him from office."

    Padme crossed her arms. "Palpatine isn't stupid. If he's not going to leave, and I'd bet all the credits in my pockets against all the credits in your pockets that he isn't, he'll be prepared to deal with opposition. Acting hastily could make things worse, but any discussion should start happening now, so that we may be prepared as well."

    Obi-Wan had no rebuttal to that. "I'll discuss the idea with the rest of the Council," he said finally.

    "Good," Padme replied. "And I'll talk to my...group."

    "Speaking of," said Obi-Wan, "There is some possibility that your...extracurriculars...could be making you a political target."

    "You know that's never stopped me before," Padme said, raising an eyebrow. "What makes you think I would let that stop me now, when the stakes are so much higher?"

    "I wasn't suggesting you stop," Obi-Wan said. No, he knew her better than that. She'd barely agreed to Jedi protection even when they had known an assassin was after her. "However, it occurred to me that Anakin's visions could be related to any danger you might be in, if you think death from purely natural causes is unlikely."

    Padme frowned. "You think an assassin could make it look like I died in childbirth? That seems unlikely, Obi-Wan."

    He shrugged. "Perhaps. I admit I initially came up with the idea partly to justify to the other Jedi who caught Anakin why he would be dreaming of your death." Still, he felt the idea merited some consideration. "You may want to consider carrying a blaster with you, just in case, however."

    "I see," she said. "Thank you again for covering for us, Obi-Wan. You didn't have to, and I know how much your duty to the Jedi means to you. I truly do appreciate it."

    Obi-Wan shifted uncomfortably. "I couldn't have told," he said. "I could see you were a good influence on Anakin, and besides, I could hardly let him get expelled. He still needs the structure of the Jedi, I think, and moreover, the Order needs him. Especially in times like these."

    "It's not going to last for much longer, though," Padme reminded him. "Once the child is born, the rest of the Council is going to figure it out sooner or later. What will happen to Anakin then?"

    "I don't know," admitted Obi-Wan. "I want him to be happy, Padme, I do. But in light of recent events, it cannot be denied that his attachment to you is interfering with his duty, and clouding his judgment in potentially dangerous ways." And even that was something of an understatement.

    Padme looked down at the floor. "I know," she said. "But I have to have faith in him to do the right thing eventually. He might be misguided in the short term, but surely once the baby is born and his nightmares pass…" She lifted her chin and looked back at him. "Let's just try to get through this with the war over, Palpatine out of office, and my child and I alive. After that, we can work through any other obstacles."

    Obi-Wan would have added 'the Sith dead' and 'Anakin out of trouble' to that list, but he agreed with the sentiment; besides, he thought that the first was unlikely to happen without negating the second if the prophecy was to be believed.

    Still, he thought as he voiced his agreement, he could at least attempt to keep Anakin close enough that any trouble the younger man found they could face together. The last thing he wanted was to be unaware the next time his friend did something as reckless and dangerous as messing around with Sith holocrons.

    *

    Anakin had never messed around with Sith holocrons before this moment, and he was irrationally pleased at how easily this one responded to his Force manipulation. It opened, and his insides twisted in a mess of excitement mixed with apprehension, curiosity mixed with guilt. Should I be doing this?

    There was no time for second thoughts. A figure, some sort of humanoid male - a Zelosian, maybe? - appeared.

    "I am Darth Rivan," he said, and an odd chill went down Anakin's voice at the sound of his voice. "And you, if you have the power and the will to access this holocron, then you may be worthy of what I have to say. So listen well." There was something hypnotic about the way he spoke, and Anakin leaned forward unconsciously. Across from him, and unnoticed, Palpatine did the same. "There are some who seek out darkness to gain powers. They are fools. Not because they think darkness is the path to true power, that much has been proved time and time again. But because they think it is something which must be searched for, in Sith teachings or on worlds that are focal points for the dark side. Not so; the most important darkness lies within. Look inward, be honest about what you see, and do not try to deny or justify it.

    "The dark, cold place which lies within each of us is the truest part of ourselves. Accept it; it is both the reality of who you are, and the path to who you can become. Accept it, for in doing so you are only accepting yourself. Accept it, and the acceptance of others will matter no longer, for you will find the strength to free yourself from the restrictions that their judgment has placed on you. Only then will you be able to harness the freedom that has always resided within you. The freedom to decide what you want from the galaxy, and the freedom to take it. That is the true power of the darkness.

    "Look inward." Somehow, he seemed to look straight into Anakin's eyes. He shivered, but did not - could not - look away. "See who you truly are, not the mask you pretend to be. Acknowledge your own secret desires, for why should they be secret? If you have the power to make them reality, then do so. Others may bow to laws, or the weight of others expectations, or the bondage of morality. Yet each of those things is but a dewdrop compared to the ocean of power found in one strong in the Force who is unafraid to use that strength. One who has the might to bend the Force to their will has the right to do the same with the galaxy.

    "Embrace your passions; they make you strong. But understand them also; to see yourself clearly is to do the same with the galaxy. Otherwise, they will blind you - and it is the light which blinds; a true Sith can find clarity in darkness. Let go of the things you feel ought to matter to you, and act on the ones which truly do.

    "Understand that pain is nothing, except perhaps a teaching tool. Emotions are nothing, unless they serve your cause. Rules and laws are nothing, except constraints for your enemies. Your enemies are nothing, or they will be soon if you accept the power within you. The Force is nothing, for it is only as strong as the ones who use it. Only you are something. One who contains the Force within them contains the galaxy; conquer one and the other will soon follow.

    "So I repeat: look inward. Find your darkness, and explore its depths. Choose what you want, whatever you want, and accept no restrictions as you take what is rightfully yours. Listen to the other teachings I have stored in this holocron, if you wish, but remember that even I cannot record as much knowledge of the dark side as what you already possess within you. Bend the Force to your will, and it will give you all the specifics you need."

    "Farewell, my dark brother or sister. May you embrace the power of the Force within you to its fullest potential." And with that, the figure disappeared.

    For a moment, Anakin sat silently, unable to break out of the daze that hypnotic voice had put him in.

    "Well, that was interesting," murmured Palpatine, and Anakin snapped out of it.

    He stood up quickly, almost knocking his chair over backward in his haste. "I, I have to go," he stammered. "I should - I shouldn't have...I have to go."

    He fled from the room, never seeing the satisfied smirk that spread across the Chancellor's face as he left.

    *

    Upon his return to the Temple, the first thing Obi-Wan did was check in on Anakin and make sure he hadn't gone wandering somewhere else he shouldn't be. He stopped outside the younger man's room and extended his senses. Thankfully, his former apprentice's Force signature still registered bright across Obi-Wan's consciousness, though it was unusually turbulent. That was no surprise; considering the day's event, he'd be more worried if Anakin didn't seem disturbed or upset.

    For a moment, Obi-Wan considered knocking. He hesitated with his hand a few centimeters away from the door - on the one hand, he and Anakin really did need to talk about this. On the other, it was getting rather late, and there was nothing to be said between them that couldn't be said in the morning when they'd both gotten some time to rest. Besides which, he'd been neglecting his Council duties since earlier that afternoon, and he really ought to get an update on the Utapau situation before he went to bed. Not to mention that Yoda and Mace at least should hear what Padme had told him about her group of senators...

    Yes, Anakin would have to wait. It might even be better to have this discussion with him once he'd had some time to reflect on the seriousness of his actions. Obi-Wan turned away from the door, and headed instead up towards the Council chamber. Halfway there, he was met by Agen Kolar coming in the opposite direction.

    "Obi-Wan!" the other Master said. "I was just about to comm you. We've just received word from Master Windu on Utapau."

    "Oh?" Obi-Wan asked. "Has he been successful, then?"

    Agen sighed. "Well, yes and no. He defeated Grievous in combat, but the General was able to flee to another sinkhole before Mace could bring him in. Mace destroyed his starfighter, though, so he shouldn't be able to get off-planet. Right now it just seems to be a matter of tracking him down. Unfortunately, most of the clone troopers are still busy fighting the droid army Grievous left behind, so they can't pull out and help in the search."

    Obi-Wan nodded. He wasn't entirely surprised at the complication; Grievous had always proved to be a slippery foe to catch.

    So now it was down to Mace Windu's ability to pin him down. May the Force be with you, my friend.

    *

    Anakin sat hunched on top of his bed, fists curled into the bedcovers. A thousand conflicting thoughts were whirring through his head, and somehow he couldn't quite manage to catch his breath. I shouldn't have done that, I shouldn't have listened to that, that was all so wrong...

    ...except for the parts of it that seemed all right. All true. And what about Padme? Could he let his own apprehension get in the way of her safety?

    It was all too much, happening too fast. The walls of his room seemed to press in on him, and his head was starting to get dizzy again. He felt trapped: by the Temple itself, by his need to save Padme, by the Jedi, and most of all by the entrancing, promising words that had issued from Rivan's mouth.

    I can't take advice from a Sith! Can I?

    The dark side was evil. He'd seen that in Dooku and Maul and Ventress, not to mention whoever the Sith responsible for starting this war was. They were murderers and liars.
    But then again, so was he. He'd slaughtered an entire village, had spent the past three years lying about his relationship with Padme to his best friend and the Order he was sworn to. At this point, how much further could he fall? And the holocron's words didn't feel like lies. Deep beneath the surface, he always had felt a certain...fire, a power he knew he wasn't supposed to tap into.

    Shivering for reasons that had nothing to do with temperature, he wrapped his arms around his knees. How can I even consider this? And a voice which sounded oddly like Palpatine's whispered back, how can you not?

    If it worked, he could save Padme. But he had no guarantee that it would work, and he could just as easily be cast out of the Jedi for nothing. Obi-Wan would be disappointed, probably even disgusted, and Padme might die anyway. Rivan had said nothing of healing techniques. But the other things he said, about accepting my power and not being afraid to use it, about being free from restrictions and not having to hide behind a mask...There had been part of him that had always felt like he was just a pretender within the Jedi, not really able to live by any of their highest ideals. Maybe he could work out a cure for Padme by himself, if he would only use the power that lay deep within his bones. Or maybe he'd get so distracted trying that he wouldn't be able to spend the last of her precious time with her - in fact, he hadn't seen her the past two days because he'd been so busy searching.

    He could go to her right now. The idea of talking through what he'd done, what he might do, with someone who could tell him he wasn't crazy and suggest a path out through this mess appealed to him. At the same time, though, it felt wrong, like his soul had been tainted by Rivan's words, and he could contaminate her if he got too close. He didn't want Padme to ask him where he'd been, because he was afraid that his answer would produce in her that same look he'd seen three years ago on Tatooine, the one that said she didn't understand him, that said I love you, but you scare me. He wasn't sure he could bear to face that.

    And talking about this with Obi-Wan was completely out of the question. No matter how much his friend's calm stability might do him good, he couldn't stand the thought of how Obi-Wan would feel if he knew what Anakin was thinking. The look of hurt and confusion and betrayal and anger when he'd seen Anakin just standing in the Sith vault had been bad enough. But if he knew that Anakin had taken a holocron, had opened it instead of confessing immediately...Obi-Wan might never trust him again. Might even hate him for taking advantage of his goodwill in bringing Anakin back to the Vault. It could be the end of their friendship.

    The idea of what either of the two most important people in his world might think if he confessed the thoughts that had taken over his brain since that night of the opera left him paralyzed with fear. Just the thought of it made his chest constrict, his breath quicken, and the tremors running throughout his body turn into outright shakes. He couldn't tell them. He couldn't.

    More conflicted than he'd ever been in his life, Anakin rested his forehead onto his knees. He knew he wouldn't sleep that night, but at least he could look inward.

    Look inward, and be honest about what he saw.

    **

    A/N update: Because I confused a couple people over at ff.net with this: Darth Rivan is a canon character, separate from the much more famous Darth Revan, who lived during the New Sith Wars. You can look him up on Wookiepedia if you want more background information, but that certainly isn't necessary to understand the fic.
     
    DarthTalonx likes this.
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I love and pray for Padme's to-do list to come to fruition [face_worried] Anakin's inner struggles -- if he can't be honest with anyone else, he needs to be so with himself, foremost. It's the secrecy and deception, and the 'attachment' and influence to the Chancellor that is the poisoning influence. [face_thinking]
     
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  22. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Excellent update!=D= Anakin just keeps digging his hole deeper. Perhaps some soul searching and looking at himself for who he is might bring about some of the peace and the answers he's seeking.
     
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  23. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Chapter 10

    It was just after daybreak that Obi-Wan was woken up by the transmission from Utapau. A holoprojection of Mace Windu appeared, looking tired but satisfied. "Grievous is dead," he said without preamble. "I caught up with him eventually; he couldn't hide forever."

    "That," said Obi-Wan slowly, "is the best news I've heard in a long while." In fact, he couldn't remember anything in his life going right since he and Anakin had successfully rescued the Chancellor from Dooku on the Invisible Hand. "Will you be back soon, then?"

    "There's still some mopping up to do," Mace replied. "Some of these sinkholes are completely overrun with droids, and there are starting to be civilian casualties among the Utapauns. It could take a few hours to clear them all out."

    Obi-Wan nodded. "Understood."

    "And how are things on Coruscant? Has Anakin gotten anywhere with the Sith?""

    For a moment, Obi-Wan experienced total panic. "Gotten anywhere?" he asked, heart pounding rapidly in his chest. How could Mace have known...

    "With Palpatine, I mean. Has he come any closer to identifying which of his advisors might be Sidious?"

    "Oh. Right." He'd been so worried about Anakin's trip into the Sith vault, his friend's actual mission had completely slipped his mind. "No, I don't think he has." Remembering his conversation with Padme, Obi-Wan added, "However, I've been in contact with a representative of a group of Senators who oppose Palpatine's constitutional amendments. With their help, we may be able to create a substantial obstacle to any further power grabs."

    "Hmm," said Mace. "Force-willing, that won't become necessary. Obi-Wan, I want you to go to Palpatine personally to tell him of Grievous' death. Watch to see how he reacts. If Anakin hasn't had any success before now, it's possible you were right and he's too close to Palpatine to read him objectively, and we must know what the Chancellor's planning."

    "I understand," Obi-Wan said. Part of him wished that Mace had a little more faith in Anakin; part of him knew that after last night, faith might be a naive thing to have. And part of him was just relieved that Anakin wasn't being sent to spy on Palpatine again, not when he knew how much Anakin hated it. "May the Force be with you, Master Windu."

    "And with you, Obi-Wan."

    *

    Obi-Wan was made to wait outside the Chancellor's office for a good half an hour before the man would see him. He forced himself not to get impatient; it would do him no good to go into this meeting with his mind clouded with annoyance. When Palpatine finally sent for him, he allowed no trace of his frustration to show on his face as he walked into the office.

    He was struck with a sense of wrongness the moment he stepped through the door. The sensation was odd - not the general clouding of the Force that had been worsening since the war had begun, but a concentrated darkness that he couldn't identify. So taken off guard was he by the unexpected malevolence, Palpatine was forced to repeat his greeting of "Good day, Master Kenobi" twice before Obi-Wan responded.

    Palpatine himself was genial and calm as ever. He exhibited only pleasure and relief at the information about Grievous's death, and if Obi-Wan hadn't been keeping himself up to date on all the ways the Chancellor had been restructuring the government to bring power towards his own office, it would have been easy to believe that the man was exactly what he seemed to be. "So does this mean we can declare the war officially over, then?" he asked Palpatine cautiously. Doing so would mean an end to the Chancellor's 'emergency powers.'

    "Oh, not quite yet," Palpatine said, and Obi-Wan's heart sank. "We'll need a formal surrender from the other Separatist leaders, Nute Gunray and his cabal, first." He smiled widely. "Still, I have no doubt that all of this will be over very soon."

    A chill ran down Obi-Wan's back as he said it, and the feeling of darkness intensified. Suspicion began to creep over him, not due to any evidence or specific thing the man had said. Or perhaps it was a great deal of things all adding up at once, years of pulling watching the man expertly pull strings to gain power over the Republic and the Jedi, and this new feeling of darkness surrounding Palpatine simply the final straw. They had theorized that the Darth Sidious was someone in Palpatine's inner circle, someone who had gained his trust and was manipulating him. What if Palpatine knew exactly who it was, and was working with him to gain power? Or, even more horrifying, what if…he could hardly bear to think it.

    Obi-Wan decided to throw caution to the wind. "The Jedi will be most grateful for the war to end," he said. "As you know, we believe there is a second Sith Lord who has manipulated the conflict from the start." They had told Palpatine of the possible danger after Dooku had revealed himself as a Sith, for the Chancellor had demanded to know everything the Jedi did about what sort of threat he might pose. Obi-Wan wondered now if that had all been an act. "We will be most relieved once we are sure we have derailed his plans."

    This time, Palpatine did react. He stiffened slightly, glancing away as the smile slipped off his face. "Yes," he said after a moment. "I, of course, am also quite invested in the Jedi's pursuit of the Sith. May it turn out well."

    Obi-Wan kept his face as carefully blank as possible. Now, it was more than a suspicion: Palpatine definitely knew more about the Sith than he had let on. The only question was, he thought as he hurriedly said his goodbye and left before Palpatine could realize he had caught on, how had none of them noticed before?

    *

    Palpatine smiled. Kenobi had taken the bait, he was sure of it. That any Jedi who visited his office would sense the holocron had been easy enough to predict, and though it would have been simple enough to keep it elsewhere, he'd ultimately decided that this was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. It would be best to make his move with both Yoda and Windu off Coruscant, and of course he couldn't put things off too long lest Padme Amidala give birth and his greatest hold over his soon-to-be-apprentice broken one way or another.

    No, it was time to force a crisis. The Jedi were already suspicious of him, and he hoped that the aura surrounding the holocron would make those suspicions too strong to ignore. Palpatine was long past ready for a confrontation.

    And he was quite sure that Obi-Wan Kenobi was going to bring one to him.

    *

    Obi-Wan hurried through the corridors of the Temple, barely taking notice of his surroundings. How could he have been so blind? Lost in his thoughts, he nearly ran into the person coming around a corner in the opposite direction.

    "Obi-Wan!" He skidded to a halt at the sight of Anakin, who had also stopped in his tracks and was looking at him with a mixture of apprehension and guilt. "Um, is something going on?"
    Obi-Wan opened his mouth, then closed it again. Anakin would never believe an accusation like this about Palpatine, not without proof. And given how unstable his former apprentice had been acting these past few days, Obi-Wan wasn't sure it was a good idea to be testing his conflicted loyalties any further. Better to keep Anakin out of this one, at least until they had some evidence.
    "Obi-Wan?" There was confusion evident in the younger man's voice, and Obi-Wan realized he hadn't answered his question.

    "Yes, actually," he said after a moment. "Master Windu was successful on Utapau; General Grievous has been killed."

    "Oh!" said Anakin. "That's, uh, that's great." He stared at the floor. "Obi-Wan, look, about yesterday…" he trailed off, fidgeting nervously.

    Obi-Wan sighed, rubbing his face with one hand. For all that he'd made a conscious decision to wait until this morning to talk to Anakin about it, somehow he still wasn't quite prepared for the conversation. "Anakin, why did you you do it?"

    Anakin rubbed the nape of his neck, visibly distressed. "I just - I'm sorry, Obi-Wan. I wasn't thinking straight, I guess."

    Closing his eyes, Obi-Wan prayed to the Force for patience. "That may have worked as an excuse for your reckless behavior when you were a Padawan, but this is a completely different situation. You should have known better, Anakin. You should have known better, and it hurts me that you took advantage of my trust like that. Do you have any idea of the trouble I could be in for letting you in there? You weren't even supposed to know the Sith holocrons existed!"

    "I'm sorry," he said again, looking miserable. "And you didn't, you didn't let me in. Obi-Wan, you were the one who pulled me out of there when I was getting sucked in. It was my fault; no one can possibly blame you for what I did." He folded his arms.

    "I was the one who let you in the Vault in the first place," Obi-Wan said. "And apparently, I should have known better than to think you could behave yourself for five minutes while I wasn't in the room."

    Anakin flinched, his hands gripping his upper arms as he glanced downward again. "I know. I shouldn't have. I was just...I was worried about Padme. I was desperate, I wasn't thinking about, about any of that."

    "I know you weren't," said Obi-Wan, running his hand through his hair. "That's the problem, isn't it? Anakin, I thought you agreed to tell me what you were thinking. I am trying to help you, you know."

    "I know," Anakin said. "It...it was stupid." He bit his lip. "Obi-Wan, do you really think it was so awful? I mean, I'm not - I didn't hurt anyone, I wasn't planning on doing anything bad, I was just...looking."

    "Just looking?" The pitch of Obi-Wan's voice rose high in incredulity. "Anakin, do you even remember what you were like? I had to drag you out of there, kicking and screaming." It might have started with 'just looking,' but there was no denying that it had gone farther than that. Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "No, you didn't hurt anyone, or plan on doing anything wrong. But the dark side is dangerous, corrupting. The fact that you exposed yourself to it at all is what worries me." His tone softened. "I know you have good intentions, Anakin. You always do. But that isn't enough, not always. Just...talk to me about this. Padme and I can help you, but only if you let us."

    "I was going to go talk to Padme, actually," Anakin admitted. "I haven't been to see her recently, not since I first went into the Archives."

    "Good," said Obi-Wan, relieved. After the previous day's conversation, he was hopeful that Padme might be able to get through to Anakin and calm his anxiety. Or at the very least, she could keep him from getting into any more trouble while Obi-Wan dealt with the Palpatine situation. "You should definitely do that." He smiled, placing a hand on Anakin's shoulder. "You and I can talk more later, once everything calms down. But in the meantime, Anakin...we will get through this, understand? The war is almost over, and we'll be able to focus on helping Padme quite soon. So just hang on for a little bit longer, my young friend. All right?"

    Anakin nodded, leaning slightly forward into the contact. "All right," he said quietly.

    For a long moment, they stood silently in that position. Then, remembering the reason for his earlier urgency, Obi-Wan pulled away. "Say hello to Padme for me, would you?"

    "Will do," Anakin replied.

    And with that, they went their separate ways, Obi-Wan never seeing Anakin's smile slip as he walked off in the opposite direction.

    *

    Nobody commented on the fact that Anakin hadn't been invited to the Council meeting. Obi-Wan was torn between gratitude - for the last thing he wanted to do was explain his sudden loss of confidence in his friend's ability to remain objective - and sadness, because it only demonstrated how little faith the others had in Anakin. Somehow, despite the events of the past two days, Obi-Wan still wished the others would trust Anakin just a tiny bit more.

    He and Agen Kolar were the only ones physically present. Yoda was there via hologram, as was Ki-Adi-Mundi and Plo Koon. Everyone else was too busy, each fighting their own battle on a distant planet, to attend. It didn't take long for Obi-Wan to relay the news of Mace's victory...and to tell of his own experience.

    "Sure you are that it was the dark side you sensed, young Obi-Wan?" inquired Yoda.

    "Absolutely, Master," Obi-Wan said. "And it was surrounding Palpatine specifically, I'm quite sure of it. If he's not the Sith Lord, he's certainly directly connected."

    Even the normally implacable Ki-Adi Mundi looked perturbed at that announcement. "Palpatine himself? This is worse than we dared imagine."

    "I agree," said Plo. "Even if he's not actually the Sith Lord, if he's been working for him, then the Republic has been under the direct control of the dark side for more than a decade. We can't let this go any further."

    "But nor can we act without specific evidence." Obi-Wan had been thinking it through ever since the meeting. "Palpatine will deny any accusation we make against him, and I have no doubt the Senate will side with him- without proof, all we can do is alert the Sith Lord that we're on to him."

    The image of Ki-Adi frowned. "I don't think we can in good conscience let a Sith control the Republic because we're worried about the political consequences. And I highly doubt that there's going to be any evidence just laying around - we know that both Palpatine and Sidious are smart, whether they're the same person or not."

    "Hmm," said Yoda. "Agree with Master Mundi, I do. But agree with Master Kenobi, I do also. A dilemma we have."

    "Look," Obi-Wan said. "I suppose Ki-Adi has a point about acting now. It's likely the Sith is prepared for us to figure it out at some point, and the only element of surprise we might have is in our timing. However, Ialso think that we have to find some evidence before we take any sort of official action." He caught Master Yoda's eye, silently asking him for support. "The Senate will never uphold any sort of conviction without proof, and making an accusation of this sort will only turn public opinion against us."

    "An alternative, you see, Obi-Wan?"

    Obi-Wan nodded. "I'll go back to Palpatine, and this time, I won't go alone. Here is what I propose…"

    *

    Just stepping into Padme's apartment was usually enough to make Anakin relax. Over the past three years, it had become a haven for him away from the violence of the war and the pressure of being a Jedi. A safe space, without stress or judgment or blasterfire. But now…

    Now it just reminded him of what he stood to lose if his visions came true.

    "Anakin!" For a moment, his worries and exhaustion melted away as Padme hurried out to greet him. "Oh Ani, I haven't seen you in days." She flew into his arms, and he buried his face in her neck. She was right; it had been too long since they had been together. Forget the months that they had spent apart because of the war; right now, Anakin didn't think he could have stood another hour without seeing her face.

    For a short eternity, he simply stood there and clutched her close to him. Breathing in her scent, fingers tightening in the folds of her dress, allowing her simple presence to soothe him as it always had. "Padme, how are you feeling?"

    "Fine," she mumbled against his shoulder.

    "Are you really?" he asked anxiously.

    Padme pulled back half a step, reaching up to stroke his face with her hand; he nuzzled slightly into the touch. "Anakin, I'm fine," she said. "I told you not to worry about the nightmares. Nothing's going to happen to me."

    He wished he could believe that was true. "You're right," he said, and for a moment her face lit up with relief. "Nothing is going to happen to you. I won't let it."

    "Anakin, don't-"

    "Don't what?" Her continued cavalier attitude towards her own life was starting to grate on his nerves. "You're my wife. What's wrong with me wanting to save you?"

    "With wanting to save me? Oh, Anakin, nothing. But..." He sensed a brief flare of nervousness from her. "But there is a problem when your actions start getting out of hand," she continued quietly.

    This time, it was Anakin who took a step back. "What? How did-" he cut himself off, realization striking as he suddenly placed a familiar Force-signature lingering in the apartment. "You've been talking to Obi-Wanabout me?" How could Obi-Wan go behind his back to rat him out to Padme like that? And how could Padme believe him? Okay, yes, so in this case Obi-Wan had probably been telling the truth about what Anakin had done, but she still should have waited to hear his side of the story. "What did he tell you?" Anakin demanded, grabbing her wrist.

    Padme yanked her arm away from him. "He told me he was worried about you Anakin, that's all. He explained what you've been trying to do the past couple days. I know you just want to help me, Ani, and I appreciate the thought, but there are limits I don't want you to cross, and-"

    "I can't believe this," Anakin said, hands balling into fists "I can't believe he came to you and started accusing me without giving me a chance to explain first."

    "He didn't come here to accuse you of anything, Anakin," Padme snapped. "He came here to talk to me about your nightmares and make sure I was all right. Yes, he ended up talking to me about you, but only because he wants to help you."

    Anakin felt the anger drain away, replaced by a surge of guilt. "He came over to check in on you?" It seemed Obi-Wan was doing a better job of taking care of Padme than he had been, these past few days.

    "Yes," Padme said. "He did."

    And why couldn't Anakin seem to remember that Obi-Wan was being supportive? His former master had done nothing but try to help him since his first break-in, but somehow, there was something in the back of his mind that kept whispering that it couldn't possibly last. That after how he'd taken advantage of Obi-Wan's trust to steal Rivan's holocron, he didn't deserve for it to last…

    "Oh," he said eventually. "Um, look. I'm sorry Padme, I shouldn't have snapped." He rubbed his forehead. "I'm just a little stressed, that's all."

    "I know," said Padme. "We all are. The war..."

    "Will be over soon." For once, it seemed he had the chance to be the bearer of good news. "Grievous was killed a few hours ago."

    Padme smiled widely. "He was? That's...certainly a relief to hear." Almost to herself, she added, "Palpatine will have step down, now."

    Anakin glared at her. "You say that as though it's a good thing," he said, crossing his arms. "Palpatine's term in office has been the best thing that could have happened to the Republic." Not to mention how supportive Palpatine had always been of him, how supportive he was being right now about Anakin's exploration of the Sith Vault.

    Padme opened her mouth, hesitated, then shut it again. "Let's not argue about that right now," she said.

    "Fine," Anakin said. He didn't like to hear people doubting the old man who had mentored and encouraged him for so many years, but he hated fighting with Padme even more. Though, now that he thought about it, he probably should go visit Palpatine again soon. The night before, Rivan's holocron had freaked him out enough that he'd run out of the man's office without any explanation. Now, conflicted as he still was about whether to keep investigating the secrets of the holocron, he thought it might do him good to talk to the Chancellor about it. Palpatine had always given him good advice in the past, and he couldn't think of anyone else who could give him objective guidance about what to do.

    That could wait, though, at least for the next little while. Right now, though, before he went back to the world of Sith and Jedi and conflict, he intended to spend some time with his wife while he still could.

    *

    Four Jedi Masters entered the office of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

    He welcomed them with a smile and a warm greeting, the very picture of geniality. But Obi-Wan Kenobi could still sense the concentrated darkness that surrounded him, even more strongly now than it had been earlier that morning. And from the looks on the faces of his fellow Jedi, he was not the only one.

    "Chancellor," he said, stepping forward. "We have a very serious matter to discuss with you."

    "Oh?" Palpatine raised an elegant eyebrow. "And what might that be?"

    "As you know, the Jedi have been investigating the possibility of a Sith Lord residing on Coruscant for some time," Obi-Wan said, watching Palpatine's face carefully for any reaction. Behind him, he could sense the other three Masters fanning out around the office. "We have some reason to believe that the Sith might be someone you know. Someone who works for you, perhaps."

    "Someone who works for me?" Palpatine repeated. "How awful." He steepled his fingers together, leaning forward. "Do tell me more, Master Kenobi."

    "If I may, Chancellor," said Kit Fisto. He walked around the desk. "I sense that there may be something connected to the Sith Lord in this room. You don't mind if I take a look around, do you?"

    Palpatine shrugged, and then swept his arm in a wide gesture around the office. "By all means, Master Jedi."

    Kit appeared to hesitate slightly at the unexpected concession, then moved closer to the desk. Now that he was focusing there, Obi-Wan too could sense that that was where the sense of wrongness was converging. Still, it seemed unlikely that Palpatine would keep incriminating evidence somewhere so obvious.

    The Nautolan Master pulled open first one drawer, then another, when suddenly he froze. Whipping around to face Palpatine, he drew and ignited his lightsaber in one smooth motion. Obi-Wan was enough on edge that he grabbed his own lightsaber on pure instinct, and he heard the snap-hiss of two more weapons being ignited behind him. "What is it?" he asked Kit, whose lightsaber was hovering by the neck of an impassive, unperturbed-looking Palpatine. "What did you find?"

    "I found this." A motion of a green hand, and an object floated up out of the drawer into Obi-Wan's line of sight.

    It was a Sith holocron. No, thought Obi-Wan, dazed. Oh no, no, no, no. Oh, Anakin. You didn't. There was an intake of breath from Saesee Tiin, who also stepped forward to point his lightsaber at Palpatine.

    "Oh, that thing?" Palpatine's casual tone, his glint in his eye despite the multiple weapons aimed toward him, was unaccountably more sinister than anything Obi-Wan had ever encountered. "Why, that's just a gift from a friend of mine. A trinket, nothing more."

    Kit's lightsaber didn't waver. "What friend, Palpatine?"

    "Is that any way to address your Supreme Chancellor?" Palpatine asked lightly. "And you know, I don't think I'll tell you which friend. You all seem rather on edge about this, and, well." He looked directly at Obi-Wan. "I wouldn't want to get him into any trouble."

    Frozen in horror, Obi-Wan could only stare back at him. Trouble didn't even begin to describe what Anakin would be in, if the truth came out.

    "If you're telling the truth," said Kit, "and understand that we aren't taking that as a given, then your friend is probably a Sith Lord. And your refusal to tell us his name-"

    "Is well within my legal rights," Palpatine cut him off. "In fact, given that you appear ready to take violence against whoever gave me this...paperweight, I rather think I shan't tell you. Now, if you were to subpoena me - though I highly doubt the courts would support these ridiculous accusations - I suppose I could produce the security recording of him giving it to me. But at the moment, you understand I feel reluctant to cooperate with you waving those lightsabers about." This time, he actually winked at Obi-Wan.

    Obi-Wan wondered numbly if this was supposed to be blackmail. Leave Palpatine alone, and he wouldn't inform on Anakin to the rest of the Council. Push him, and he would drag Anakin down along with him. But if Palpatine didn't go down, then the entirety of the Republic would. Anakin, what were you thinking...?! He also wondered if Palpatine was telling the truth about there being security recordings - if so than it had been unnecessary for Saesee to bring his own recording device, so that they could make a tape of what they'd hoped would be Palpatine's confession.

    "He's lying," said Obi-Wan, wishing desperately that he had another choice, "He is the Sith Lord; there is no other 'friend'." The first part, at least, Obi-Wan was mostly certain was true.
    He waited for Palpatine to contradict him, to explain the truth of who had given him the holocron. Instead, Palpatine simply shrugged his shoulders. "Well, you have me," he sighed. "Master Kenobi is quite right. I am the Sith Lord."

    The four lightsabers were again pointed directly at his face. It was Agen Kolar who eventually spoke. "Okay, why in the nine Corellian hells would you just admit that if it were true?"

    Palpatine leaned back casually and laced his fingers behind his head. "Why not? I don't think you'll find any laws against being a Sith. You have no evidence of me committing any actual crime, so what have I to worry about?" He flicked a finger, and the holocron levitated itself back across the desk toward him. "And I think I'll take my little trinket back, as well."

    There was a long, disbelieving pause.

    "All right, this is getting ridiculous," Kit Fisto said. "Why don't you just drop the act, Sidious?"

    "Very well," said Palpatine, and attacked. The very essence of the dark side itself for a second manifested itself as an almost tangible presence, pinning Obi-Wan momentarily where he stood. By the time he broke free of it, a blink of an eye later, Palpatine had ducked out from under their lightsabers and a bar of red plasma was protruding from the chest of a surprised-looking Saesee Tiin.

    After that, the fight was a blur. Obi-Wan leapt into action, slashing and parrying furiously, to be met with a lethal blur of red that pushed him several steps backward. He whirled to the side, blocking a thrust that would have taken his arm off, lashed out with his own blade.

    His saber was swept aside. Moments later, the body of Kit Fisto crumpled to the floor.

    Lightsabers slashed and whirled. The flare of energy beams clashing together lit the room. Scarlet met blue, sizzling plasma met sizzling plasma, blurs of colored lightning danced together in intricate patterns, and two Jedi and one Sith gave everything they had to utterly destroy the other. Light struggled against dark, and dark raged against light, and flares of lethal fire went up from the crash of shining energy as the three combatants attacked and defended.

    The dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always, always wins. Less than two minutes after the fight had begun, Agen Kolar became one with the Force.

    Obi-Wan disengaged his blade. He and Palpatine circled each other, slowly, warily. Lightsaber held in a Soresu-ready, he met the dark avatar's flick of a crimson blade with a desperate slash-parry.

    It occurred to Obi-Wan, as he sunk deep into the Force and allowed it to flow through him, allowing his blue-white weapon to be guided into strikes and ripostes with no conscious intention, that if three of the greatest bladesbeings in the Order couldn't take Palpatine down, then he probably couldn't either.

    He fought anyway. Swiftly defending Palpatine's strikes, he was unable to get a thrust past Palpatine's blade. He deflected one-two-three stabs, knowing Yoda himself could not fight as the shadow across from him was doing. Centered, balanced, completely aware of the fact that he was fighting an enemy with power he could never hope to match, he didn't slow for an instant the defensive velocity that was all that kept the fan of blood-red energy at bay.

    Being forced slowly backward by a devil in human form, Obi-Wan sensed that this fight was being pushed toward a single, inevitable conclusion. He knew that he would likely die very soon. Yet the thought held no anguish for him, for he knew he would die a Jedi.

    Four Jedi Masters had entered the office of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and now only one remained. Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn't win.

    He fought anyway.
     
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, [face_nail_biting] Looks like things are pretty much holding to the RoTs events. [face_thinking]
     
  25. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Obi-Wan isn't gonna die. [face_not_talking] Nope. Not gonna happen. No way. He's not, right?[face_nail_biting]
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.