Star Wars: Episode 2—A Retelling
Attack of the Clones
By: Tellemicus Sundance
#01: Dark Premonitions
Night on the swamp world was surprisingly cold. The overpowering humidity that was ever-present during the day coalesced and settled, coating the world in a fine layer of dew and water which helped to accentuate the cold night air. The humid clouds of the day slowly cleared, revealing a night sky that was absolutely vibrant with the stars of the galaxy, the only time of day which the sky could actually be seen.
The craggy and murky world had few patches of earth that were even remotely firm and stable enough for a ship larger than an average starfighter to land on without sinking into the soft muddy soil. Yet, on one of those incredibly few firm spots, there rested a large starship. The Consular-class cruiser was painted mostly black with crudely shaped jagged and fear-inducing neon-green of stripes and fangs. The belly of the vessel had been greatly expanded and heavily reinforced to carry and store far more than the standard amount of cargo and it helped stabilize the cruiser while landed. The name of the cruiser was the Black Rover, a pirate's vessel.
Near the cruiser was a small, fenced off campsite that the pirates had set up. It was fairly simple camp with a large bonfire, a small cantina, a series of tents and housing structures, some with chained sex-slaves inside, and a shooting range and fighting ring off to the far side. Surrounding the cruiser were a motley collection of ten small freighters and thirty starfighters, the personal vessels of many of the pirates.
Setting his binoculars aside as he finished viewing the campsite for any changes since the last time he'd inspected, Anakin turned and quietly slid down the gnarly tree. Catching a vine as he slid, he changed direction and swung over to another tree, landing neatly on its closest outstretching limb. Standing up after dropping the vine, the 19-year-old began quietly moving down the limb's length to the trunk. Anakin Skywalker had grown tremendously in the past decade, having reached his full adult height and strong muscular build. He wore a simple but comfortable set of dark boots, loose-fitting leather pants, a pair of crisscrossing belts, a light tunic with an overcoat that reached his waist, and a bandoleer over his shoulder. Hanging from his belts were three lightsabers, his original shoto, various cargo pouches, and a blaster pistol while his bandoleer carried numerous powerpacks for the pistol and a handful of small grenades.
Reaching the tree trunk, Anakin found his little sister exactly as he left, nestled up against the trunk with her head resting on her hands and knees, sleeping. Gently shaking the little Togruta awake, Anakin said, "Come on, Ahsoka, time to go."
Eyes flickering open, Ahsoka Tano yawned as she stood and stretched her aching body. At age 13, she was all knees and elbows, a slender and lithe form that belied the considerable strength that was contained within. Ahsoka was dressed in a rugged and well-worn set of red boots, tight leather red pants, a pair of crisscrossing belts on her waist, and a simple dark red tunic for the humidity of Dagobah. Hanging from her belts were a lightsaber, a shoto, several small cargo pouches, and a blaster pistol with several extra powerpacks.
"Any change?" Ahsoka asked as she distractedly rubbed her eyes clear of any lingering sleep.
"Not yet," Anakin said as he pulled out a holoprojector and ignited the image, showing the camp and the various starships. "But we've definitely found the right spot and fleet."
Looking closely at the image, Ahsoka scowled as she recognized the markings on the various ships, especially the cruiser. "The Black Rover. Yeah, this is definitely those karking sleemos! But where's the plasma they stole? It's too soon for them to have sold it already…Right?"
"Probably," Anakin agreed as he too studied the image. "If I was the commander of these pirates, I'd stow the plasma away at some other secret base nearby for a short time. Let demand increase while making a few more runs. Then, when the prices are at their peaks, sell the whole lot of it for a nice fat payday."
"But if the captain's actually smart about this and did that," Ahsoka began as her scowl deepened. "That means we'd have to play nice until we find out where it is."
"That's right," Anakin confirmed, nodding decisively. "That's why we're going to do the Mynock Approach this time."
Ahsoka glanced over at her brother for a moment. After living and training with him for so many years, she had learned to see and sense whenever he was suppressing or bottling up his emotions. It wasn't anything really noticeable at first, just an occasional glower and glare here and there, slightly clenching his jaw, and his eyes getting hard and cold as he tried to force himself to focus on the task at hand. And, under her keen eyes, he was exhibiting all of those symptoms now. The pirate attack on the Naboo plasma storage station and the deaths of so many people he'd known, especially his good friend George Lukkan, had affected him more deeply than he wanted to admit.
"Anakin, maybe we should call in Obi-wan or even the Royal Knights for help," she suggested. "I know we can deal with these thugs ourselves, but if the rumors about the captain are true, even we might need some help with this one."
Sighing long and slowly, Anakin shook his head slightly. "We'll be fine, Ahsoka. Just have faith in yourself and me. We've faced a lot together, and even if that captain is as skilled as they say, we can and will still beat him."
Standing up after canceling the hologram, Anakin turned to make his way towards the campsite. As she stood up to follow him, Ahsoka couldn't help but to reach out and grab his arm, "Do you really mean that or is that your need for vengeance speaking again?"
Anakin didn't answer. He merely gently shook her hand off before jumping away. Ahsoka was quick to follow.
Thirty minutes later…
The first part of the attack itself was a very subtle thing that none of the pirates noticed at first. Anakin had snuck about the Black Rover and inserted a special datapad into one of the computer terminals. With that datapad, R2 was able to remotely hack into the central computer banks of the ship, even from all the way over where their ship was hidden. Once gaining entry and control, R2 downloaded all recent hyperspace jumps and coordinates, as well as any other little treats that might harm the pirates like bank account numbers and passcodes, and alternate identities.
Once that done, the various cannons and launchers of the ship suddenly came online and opened fire on the various other ships that were grouped nearby. Because of the dead of night and all the drunk partying the pirates had been doing in celebration of their great victory, they were all caught by surprise when they were suddenly caught under attack. Many of them just flopped about drunkenly, unable to comprehend what was happening. Others were able to recover and tried to make a break for their ships, to bring their shields and weapon systems online.
Seeing that the pirates were reacting as they'd expected, Ahsoka, hidden up in one of the trees, hit the detonation button. The bombs that she and Anakin had planted on each of the ships blew, shredding engines, cockpits, power generators, and fuel lines. In short order, each of the different freighters and starfighters were little more than flaming husks of their former selves. That was when the panic started setting in and the pirates began fleeing into the surrounding jungle. That was not a safe choice at all. Neither Ahsoka nor Anakin had felt the need to set any traps to capture or kill any that escaped, because the jungle would kill all but the most resourceful and skilled fairly quickly.
That was when the pirate captain came into view. Looking through the binoculars, Ahsoka watched as the man calmly walked through the burning carnage, seemingly at ease. There was a certain serenity about the man that spoke of his close familiarity with death and destruction. It took a moment but she realized that it was something that she had seen many times before, just not in this context. The serenity the captain was exhibiting was common among the Jedi, she'd seen it whenever she visited her close friend Shaak Ti at the Jedi Temple.
Then, inexplicably, the man turned and looked straight at her with hate-filled eyes. Despite the considerable distance between them, Ahsoka couldn't help recoiling in surprise as she lowered the binoculars. Raising the binoculars again, she saw that he was indeed looking right at her, with glowing yellow eyes. It was then that she could sense his dark presence. He was strong in the dark side of the Force, but not overly. The man had a strong chin with a thick black beard that merged into his sideburns, but his head was shaved, showing off rather a rather gaudy red and black tattoo of some kind. The only other thing that stood out about him in his state of undress were the pair of gauntlets he wore on his forearms and the belt around his waist.
Then the man turned away, glaring intensely off to the side. Ahsoka didn't need to look to know that he had turned to face Anakin as he descended down the ramp of the Black Rover. As he was walking casually away from the ship, the cruiser's engines suddenly blew apart, shredding the entire array to well beyond repair. Anakin only glanced over his shoulder to view his handiwork before returning his attention to the captain in front of him. Neither of the two spoke, they merely reached for their waists to draw their weapons of choice.
Blue and red blades sprung to life in their hands as the two glared at one another. But where Anakin was drawing in and using the Force in its entirety, the pirate captain was a beacon of hateful dark side energy. Ahsoka couldn't help but shiver slightly at the feel of the dark side, even from where she was watching. Even after spending so much time training with it, Ahsoka just couldn't feel comfortable around or even using the dark energy. It just went against her nature, as she and Anakin had long since realized.
Scrolling the binoculars out slightly, Ahsoka watched as the fight began in earnest between the two. They started with racing at one another and clashing with their blades, spinning around as they passed one another. As they turned towards each other, the pirate thrust him arm forward and unleashed a pointblank Force Push that knocked Anakin off balance slightly, despite his own powerful Force shields. The pirate immediately went on the offensive, swinging and twirling his saber viciously to cut Anakin to pieces. But Anakin recovered instantly and backed away, deflecting and blocking each slash and hack for a few paces.
The pirate quickly lost his temper at being unable to penetrate Anakin's defense and overextended himself as he tried to use a powerful chop to bash through them. As he was in the vulnerable position with his blade down, Anakin lashed out with a powerful kick to the face that sent the pirate reeling in pain. Anakin waited for the pirate to regain his composure before lunging with his own attack. But the pirate deflected it to the side, stepping in close, and jabbing his elbow into Anakin's face. Rather than let it faze him, Anakin ignored the pain and deftly raised his defenses again as the pirate tried to exploit what he thought would've been a weakened guard.
After a few moments of the two being engaged in a classic contest of Djem So-styled defense and counterattack, Anakin spun and brought his blue saber around in a slash for the man's neck. But the pirate ducked under the attack while raising his arm defensively over his head. The blue lightsaber hit the gauntlet on the man's forearm and instantly died. As Anakin stared at his lightsaber for a split second in disbelief, the pirate lunged forward and slammed his shoulder into Anakin's chest, knocking him backwards. Backing up as the pirate pursued him, Anakin quickly returned his dead saber to his belt and brought up the extra blade he carried. Holding his new pink saber at the ready, he once again began trying to predict his opponent's moves and find an opening to exploit.
Stopping his advance, the pirate raised both his arms and summoned large amounts of Force energy about him. In response, considerable amounts of debris and flaming wreckage rose up from the soggy earth behind and around the man. Anakin merely raise his brow at the show of force, clearly the pirate was either trying to intimidate him or believed that his talents lay solely in his lightsaber skills. Regardless, when the pirate began hurling the flames and shrapnel at him, Anakin responded. He deflected the shrapnel and redirected it back at the pirate, creating a literal maelstrom of metal, fire, and glass around and between the two. However, it was short-lived as Anakin began seizing the initiative and started adding in much larger and heavier objects into the mix, forcing the pirate to either abandon his hold on a majority of the shrapnel or physically dodge. Realizing he was seriously outclassed, the pirate soon abandoned the battle of telekinesis and rushed forward again with his red lightsaber. It was a challenge that Anakin was all-too-happy to meet head on.
The two met again in the midst of a shower of shrapnel and debris falling back to the earth, blades clashing savagely back and forth in a fierce contest of pure skill in Djem So and Soresu. With each strike, the speeds they moved at increased. With each block, the power they used grew stronger. Within seconds, they were quite literally surrounded by a sphere of shifting pink and red energy blades that nothing could've penetrated. Then, with one final slash, it came to an abrupt end with one of the lightsabers falling limply out of the limp hand of the recently deceased as his head was split in two.
Anakin watched dispassionately as the pirate collapsed to the muddy ground, utterly dead. Looking down at the man's lightsaber, he flicked his pink saber and sliced the weapon in two pieces, denying any of the surviving pirates of the horde from being able to use it again. As he sheathed the pink blade of the saber he was using, Anakin held up the hilt to look at it. "It is done, my friend. You've had your vengeance."
Crouching down to the body, Anakin unstrapped and tugged off the gauntlets from the man's arms, pulling one of them onto his right forearm as he turned to leave the clearing. As he was approaching, Ahsoka finally dropped down the ground, careful not to land in yet another puddle of filth. She smiled at him as he drew closer. "You didn't use the dark side this time."
"Didn't need it," Anakin said, smiling slightly. Then he tossed over the other gauntlet he had yet to put on. "It's cortosis ore, might come in useful later on."
"Awe, you shouldn't have, big brother," Ahsoka purred, batting her eyelashes as she caught the gauntlet and quickly slid it on. "You know you spoil me too much!"
"Well, if you don't want it…" he said, reaching over to take it back. But the young Togruta easily bounced out of reach, laughing softly. Reaching into one of his cargo pouches, Anakin pulled out a comlink, "R2, bring the Saber over to the clearing, the way's clear." R2 chirped in confirmation.
A short while later, a familiar and heavily modified G9 Rigger swooped down out of the skies. Its lower outrigger folded smoothly up under the belly as the landing struts were lowered. The first thing most observers tended to notice about Anakin's ship, the Rogue Saber, was the large yellow lightning bolt-shaped insignia that was painted on the stabilizing wing, Anakin's chosen emblem.
The only other immediately visible change that observers saw was that its primary engine had been replaced with a larger and more powerful one than was usually equipped. Anakin had used salvaged pieces of the Dandy Eagle's twin engines and power generator to replace and upgrade the Rogue Saber's. The new generator and engine gave the Rogue Saber a far greater amount of thrust and greater maneuvering ability during flight, which he was extremely proud of.
As he stared up at the descending ship, Anakin turned and looked back out over the stinking swamp. He closed his eyes and let the Force enter and flow through him. Life roiled around him, tugging his mind in a dozen directions at once. He let himself be buffeted, tilting his head from side to side, testing the flows. There was a hint of something unusual to the north, a knot in the Force unlike any he had felt before. it drew him and repelled him at the same time. The longer he studied it, the more he felt as though it was studying him right back.
Opening his eyes, Anakin looked back at the Rogue Saber. Ahsoka was looking at him questioningly, but she didn't ask what was bothering him. She could see him curious and determined expression in the wavering light of the fast-dying flames. Sighing to herself, she just rolled her eyes and walked up the boarding ramp, eager to get out of the murky humidity of the swamp, sealing the hatch as she went. Left alone outside, Anakin loped off into the swampy jungle with every sense alert for danger.
A giant slug that had 24 legs and a mouth full of teeth, eight meters from snout to tail, loomed over him, roaring. Its breath was vile, even in this swamp world. Anakin hacked a double line down its belly both his lightsabers and jumped to avoid the rush of foulness that released. Among the body parts expelled from the creature's stomach was the head of one of the pirates who'd fled into the jungle earlier. Anakin paid the head little more than a passing glance as the slug writhed and whined in pain. He left it to die on its own time. His destination was close.
He forced his way through a tangle of long, leg-like roots, scattering a clutch of big, white spiders as he went. The knot he had felt lay dead ahead, at the base of the largest tree he had seen so far. Despite the size, the tree looked sick with a malevolence that surprised him. If Dagobah as a whole was alive with the Force, then this dead had been poisoned by a deep scar from the dark side.
His searching gaze found a deep hole choked with roots and vines at its base. This was undoubtedly the source of the poison that had ruined the tree. A lingering evil lurked here, webbed to the place as firmly as the tree itself. its roots dug deep and stretched far. He approached more cautiously, no longer worrying about the planet's more obvious predators. What was inside that cave? What had happened here that was so terrible that it left such a small but potent nexus of dark side energy?
There was a clearing in front of the cave. He ran to it, and braced himself to enter the cave. But he paused before entering. The insidious pressure of the hole in the tree roots grew stronger, and his mind became a haze of confusing faintly-remembered memories and jumbled voices. Like a diver preparing for a long descent, he took a deep breath and entered the cave.
It was dark inside, of course, but somehow it managed to be even darker than he had expected. He struggled through thick curtains of roots and vines, resisting the urge to slash at them with his lightsabers. He kept his weapons carefully inactive, intuitively understanding that any aggressive move that he took might be reflected back at him hundredfold. Intuition was all he had to guide him now.
His groping fingers encountered a wall of stone ahead of him. Instead of a dead end, however, he found that the cave bent sharply to his right. He pressed on, feeling the dark side throbbing in his ears and beating against his useless eyes. The air seemed to vibrate. Every breath made him want to scream—but in dismay or delight, he couldn't tell. Another wall was ahead of him. This time the tunnel turned to his left. His grasping hands were wet with moisture. He could see them now, somehow, reaching ahead of him as he felt his way into the far reaches of the cave.
Gradually the vines fell away, leaving just the roots to obstruct him. Through a dream-like fog, he stumbled into a larger chamber, the outer limits of which were obscured. He looked down at his feet but he couldn't see them, either. The ground was hidden by a crawling gray mist. Anakin then realized with a shock that his jacket and weaponry were gone. He was now, somehow, wearing the traditional robes of a Jedi Padawan, complete with the braid and his first lightsaber.
"What will happen to me now?" he heard his younger voice asking, full of uncertainty and sadness.
"The Council have granted me permission to train you." That was Obi-wan's voice! "You will be a Jedi, I promise."
But he wasn't a Jedi, not even a Padawan! Feeling unsettled for reasons he didn't fully understand, Anakin hurried forward, wanting to escape the current chamber. In short order, he found another wall and followed it into another heavily fogged chamber. The fog was extremely thick, concealing the muddy walls overgrown with roots. The floor was treacherous underfoot. He walked carefully forward, seeking the source of the darkness that emanating from all around him.
Then he abruptly stopped as the fog cleared and he found himself somewhere else entirely. Looking around, he recognized that he was standing upon one of the many countless landing platforms of Coruscant, as the city-planet buzzed around him in its eternal state of endless activity. If not for his Force senses telling him otherwise, Anakin could've easily believed he was truly there.
And in due course of him looking around so much, he spotted a familiar silver starship that was rapidly approaching the platform he was on, flanked by a pair of Naboo starfighters. He watched in confused silence as the large, sleek vessel settled gently down on the landing pad and the ramp was lowered. What was going on? Why was he seeing this? As he watched a group of Naboo officials and aides descend down the ramp, he caught a semi-familiar sight of a stately-dressed young woman in extremely ornate robes and facial paintings in the center of the group. Was this Padme's scheduled arrival on Coruscant that wasn't supposed to happen until another week or so?
Just as that thought passed his mind, a large fiery explosion suddenly burst to life. The explosion enveloped the disembarking group, quickly spreading and consuming the rest of the ship, blowing it to flaming pieces of debris.
"PADME!" Anakin yelled as he reflexively tried to rush to her side. But his sudden shout and movement caused the mists to suddenly return as the scene to faded to darkness. He stood there for a moment, panting as his mind raced, trying to understand what he was seeing.
Just as he was finally able to bring himself back under control, he noticed that the scene around him had changed. He was standing in the center of a large sandy arena. There was a large amount of Jedi Knights and Masters surrounding him, all of them (including himself) armed with active lightsabers, surrounded by a dozens upon dozens of Battle Droids. As he looked around himself, idly noting that the lightsaber he was carrying was neither of his own, Anakin spotted several familiar faces among the crowd, Obi-wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Shaak Ti, Plo Koon, and Aayla Secura being among them.
"We will not be hostages to be bartered!" Mace yelled out looking off and up to the side, answering a call that Anakin hadn't heard. Even as he tried to look to where Mace's attention was pointed towards, faint clicking noises sounded as the Battle Droids refocused their aims on the Jedi group. With nothing to say, Anakin merely raised his lightsaber into a defensive Soresu stance and prepared for combat.
"Look!" a woman's voice called out as the sounds of several jet-engines reached them. Looking up, Anakin had just enough time to see some kind of high-speed transport flying over the arena's wall and angling down towards them. Then the transport launched a missile straight towards the heart of the Jedi grouping, causing a large explosion that scattered the group and probably killing most of them.
As this scene faded into the mists like the previous, Anakin had to kneel down to the ground, panting heavily. His head was swimming with racing thoughts, ideas, and questions, all of which had no answers available. But there was one thing he knew with certainty: these were visions of the future. Padme and the Jedi were in grave danger. He had to warn them. As he slowly recovered his breath, a thought hit him. Could he possibly stay here a little longer, get another vision? Perhaps he could discern the source of the danger from that last vision if it happened?
Finally regaining his breath, Anakin pushed himself to his feet. But as he did, a foreign presence suddenly slammed into his senses. One of immense power, drenched and thoroughly tainted in the power of the dark side. Anakin had felt this depth of darkness once before, but not like this. That previous time, the Sith Lord had been bloodthirsty and battle-starved and what he now felt wasn't. What he sensed was broken, twisted, pure and adulterated evil, but only possessing a faint, hidden layer of loneliness and longing. It was something he would never forget. And he suddenly knew, the source of the darkness that tainted this cave had finally decided to reveal itself.
Turning to confront the new arrival, Anakin found himself face to mask with the closest face of purest evil he'd ever seen. The being was male, humanoid, and quite tall, easily two meters in height. It wore a black helmet over a black mask with what was clearly a built-in rebreather that was taking loud, mechanical sounding breaths. Clad in heavy, black shoulder armor, a pair of flowing capes, and a black insulated environment suit, the creature of darkness was truly a fearsome sight to behold and Anakin couldn't help reflexively backing away from it in slight fear.
When asked later, Anakin would forever say that he didn't remember reaching or grabbing for his weapons, only that his lightsaber and shoto had appeared in his hands, lit and ready. The black-clad Sith Lord saw this and drew his own weapon, a large and fairly unartistic lightsaber that a red blade sprang from to meet his aggression head-on. With a burst of speed that belied his large and heavy physique, the Sith lunged forward with a powerful slash. Anakin jumped up and over the blade, bringing his blue blade down to strike. The Sith was able to halt his slash partway through and brought his saber up, blocking Anakin's attack.
Reaching up with his free hand, the Sith pinched his fingers and Anakin found his throat clenching shut involuntarily. The Sith held him in the air as he floundered, trying to break the Force Choke on him. After a moment of this, the Sith threw him to the side, slamming him against the earthen wall of the cave. The Choke was finally released as he collapsed to the ground, heaving for breath.
"You are weak," the Sith Lord stated, contempt clear in his voice. "Give yourself to the dark side! It is the only way to gain what you desire most."
"The dark side is only part of what the Force is," Anakin grunted back. "I have everything I've ever wanted. I don't need any more."
"Fool," the Sith spat in disgust, clenching his fist dramatically. "If only you knew the power of the dark side!"
"I know what is power," Anakin said, climbing to feet and falling into his preferred stance, left leg forward as he leaned onto it with his saber held high for an attack and the shoto low for defense. "True power is the ability to know when to stop."
"To stop is to die," the Sith grunted, raising his saber into a Djem So high guard. "So, DIE!"
Prepared this time for the burst of speed, Anakin deflected the Sith's lightsaber to the side with his shoto. At the same time, he spun and slipped under the red blade's arc, getting under the Sith's upraised arm. In a blinding arc of blue energy, Anakin's lightsaber slashed forward from behind the Sith's back and severed the black-helmeted head in a shower of sparks and shrapnel.
Backing up as the Sith's body fell lifelessly to the ground, Anakin looked down at the mask as it came to rest near him. After a long moment of stillness, the face of the mask suddenly exploded. As the smoke obscuring the face quickly dissipated, Anakin couldn't gasping as he stared in shock and slight fear at the face that was revealed to him.
Anakin Skywalker. He was the Sith Lord!
(Author's Note) Sorry about the long wait. Had a minor burnout from writing and some developing interest in another story idea. But here it is, the sequel to Episode 1: A Retelling! And while there are some things that hint towards some things in this chapter, please try to not jump to conclusions. Some of the answers will be given in the next chapter, so please be patient.