She falls into an easy routine after returning to the Temple. Wake up, endure the nauseating sickness that accompanied pregnancy, empty the contents of her stomach in the refreshment unit, dress, meditate, train, eat, train, meditate, sleep and then repeat. It's mundane and it's boring. It lasts for several weeks until the Council deems her recovered enough from the attack to be shipped out again. At first, Padme makes any excuse that she can, she's still unwell, her lightsaber needs repair, her connection to the Force feels fragile and deep meditation must be undertaken before she can fight again. But the Council, and especially her former Master, have grown tired of waiting for her.
Mace Windu finds her as she leaves the training hall sweaty and suffering from the heat of wearing her heavy cloak throughout her workout and the deep scowl upon his face makes the Jedi sigh. She knows that face well. He's unhappy with her. "Master Windu," Padme greets him warmly, smiling as best she can. "What can I do for you?"
"You seem to be feeling better now." He notes with narrowed eyes and it's all she can do to not to grimace. This conversation has been looming since her return, and she has run out of reasons to not go out there anymore. She'd hoped Anakin might have returned by now, even just for a day at least so they could speak and plan and understand what they need to do. But there has been no word from him or Obi-wan and Ahsoka. But she has sensed him every single day, every moment… Padme can feel his growing frustration in his never-ending mission, his desire to return to her and every now and again, his desire for her. The last threatens to leak a secret smile upon her lips.
"I am." She agrees, glancing toward the Jedi Master as they walk side by side through the high walled halls of the Temple. Padme's mind works faster than it ever has; attempting to form a plan, to find something anything that might save her from what comes next. She doesn't want to break her promise to Anakin, but if there is no reason for her to stay here, save from revealing her condition, what else can she do?
"Good." Mace's face contorts into something close to a smile, "Because I need your help. We have received intel that Count Dooku has been storing information vital to the war in the war room of the Geonosis arena. I'm about to depart with twenty men and I would appreciate your aid."
Part of Padme thrills at the idea. Information hidden by Dooku himself might be priceless to the Republic; it could spell the end of the war if it was detailed enough. She wants to be a part of retrieving it, truly. But she can't. Such information will be heavily guarded by battle droids. It could be a trap for all they know. It's a risk, a big one, and she promised she wouldn't go out there. Without realising, her fingers trace across her stomach for a moment, until she catches herself and forces her hand back down to her side. The evidence of the baby is getting more and more difficult to hide. She's not large with it, not yet. But it's visible, noticeable without her cloak. If she goes to Geonosis, Mace will see it if she has to take it off…
"I…" Padme begins and watches her former Master begin to frown.
"I can't." She says and then tries not to wince. There is no justifiable reason to not accompany him on this mission, none. But there has to be. She must think of something logical enough to convince him in the next five standard seconds or else… "I just… I don't know if I'm up to it quite yet."
"'Up to it?'" He repeats her, enunciating every syllable and making Padme cringe. "It's a simple mission, Padme. If this is beyond your capability, then perhaps the Council was wrong to grant you the rank of Knight."
Panic flares through her at his words, at the thought of all her work and effort and accomplishments being taken away. "N-no, of course it's not. I only mean that –"
"You've been out of active duty for almost a month now, Padme. For a Jedi who is uninjured, this is unheard of."
"Yes, I understand." She feels like a scolded Padawan again and catches herself on the verge of calling him Master.
"Good." Windu nods. "Now, our transport has arrived. Conduct yourself well on this excursion, Knight Amidala; the Council have noticed your recent inactivity."
Bowing her head, Padme nods, swallowing down the acidic taste of guilt in her throat. I'm sorry, Anakin. She whispers within her mind and hopes he'll never hear it. I'm sorry.
Padme barely listens as Mace outlines their objectives to her and the Clones, her head races for the entirety of the hyperspace trip to Geonosis. She feels sick with worry and guilt at being here at all. If Anakin knew… She can't think about it. Her fingers tremble and her heartbeat pounds in her ears. It's fine, she tells herself silently, it's going to be fine. It's a simple recon mission. They'll be in and out. The Clones will do most of the blasting and battling the droids while she and Mace slip in to find the information. With any luck, it'll be in plain sight and easy to take. The latest intel said that Dooku had returned to the Separatist Parliament on Raxulon which meant less danger.
But that didn't make her feel any better about this. As bored as she was with the stagnated routine in the Temple, Padme would rather be there than here. Her knee can't stop bouncing as the ship soars through the stars, edging them closer and closer to their destination. The flight seems to pass in the blink of an eye and before she knows it, the ship drops them out of Hyperspace and the piloting Clones begin the process of landing.
The heavy heat of Geonosis slams against Padme the moment she steps off of the ship. It's like walking into a wall. Her breath is stolen and what little she can force into her lungs feels humid and far from fresh. What little breeze there is, is equally punishing and full of sand. After a few moments, she gives up attempting to wipe her face clean of it and trudges after Mace, keeping her fist wrapped tightly around her lightsaber. Every sound no matter how little makes her start. She's on edge, fearful and focused, readying herself for anything.
"I have a bad feeling about this." She whispers, but Mace and the Clones simply ignore her. As they draw closer to the bunker, battle droids become clear, as do their droid-like voices chit chatting to one another about nothingness. Padme grips her lightsaber tighter. They edge closer to the wall and then finally, shoot their grappling hooks and begin to climb. The Clones go first, preparing to charge into battle the moment they're over and Padme and Mace follow closely behind.
Her extra weight surprisingly doesn't hinder her ability to climb the cable; it's as easy as ever to pull her body upwards, though she does call upon the Force for a little help so as to avoid straining herself too much. She needs to keep her energy. As soon as the first Clones reach the top, she hears Ponds, the Commander of Windu's battalion give the signal and they charge off giving a loud battle cry followed by the unmistakable sounds of blaster fire. When Padme eases herself over the edge, most of the droids are already down, but a handful remain and she ignites her lightsaber to deflect the bright red plasma soaring through the air. When she comes close enough, she reaches out with her hand and sends the remaining droids crashing against the dusty beige walls, rendering them useless. Only a moment later, she hears the shocked cry of the final droid when her former Master's lightsaber pierced its chest.
With the first set of droids dealt with, Padme feels slightly better. If this is all the danger they must face, perhaps this mission won't be so terrible after all. They step inside the shadowy bunker and she begrudgingly switches off her blade after Mace does the same. It's quiet inside, barely lit. A thick layer of sandy dust has settled itself onto every layer in the room as if no one has stepped foot in here since the battle before the beginning of the war. Something inside Padme tingles in warning. If the intel was right, Dooku would be here… The room would be used, lived in. But it isn't. It's abandoned. "There's nothing here." She says, and her words echo throughout the room.
Windu gives a sound of agreement and steps toward the typing devices built into the walls, pushing the buttons to attempt to wake the machines. "Look around." He commands. "See if there is anything worth our time here. Appearances can be deceiving."
Padme does as she is bid, trying each and every device, testing them for signs of life but each monitor remains black and dead. Anakin would be far better at this than her, she thinks. He knows droids and technology better than anyone. If there is something hidden here, he would find it in a heartbeat. Just the thought of her beloved sends a wave of stabbing guilt through her chest. But it's okay… It's fine. There's nothing here. There is no danger. Maybe he won't be too angry with her when he finds about this…
Her fingers swipe away a thick layer of dust as she works the controls, attempting to reboot the system. For a moment, the screen flashes to life, projecting a large spherical shape into the centre of the room, it's large and looks over everything, and with the small traces of words beside it, it seems to be some sort of plans, but for what, Padme can't decipher. It flickers and dies away just as quickly as it flared to life leaving the room in darkness once more.
"What was that?" Windu asks, stepping closer.
"I'm not sure, exactly…" She tries the controls again, but this time there's nothing. "It looked like a plan of some kind."
"This must be what we're looking for." He nods and Padme bites into the inside of her cheek as she concentrates. After a moment, the screen flashes to life once more but the holo does not follow. Just as she moves to press another button, something in the air changes suddenly, turning bitter and cold. A warning within the Force.
"Something isn't right," Padme whispers and sees Mace nod. She reaches for her lightsaber again as he steps backwards focusing upon the tunnelled doorway on the opposite side of the room. "What is it?" Does he sense something? She shouldn't have come here, there must have been some reason to get out of it, something she didn't bother to think of. Now Padme is trapped here with Force only knows what stepping through the tunnel toward them, putting herself in danger and worse, the baby too. Her palms feel sweaty against the hilt of her blade and her heart pounds hard and fast inside her chest.
"Dooku is here." Mace declares without looking at her and Padme almost drops her lightsaber. No. No, that can't be right. It isn't possible. But now that he has said it, she can't not connect the deep black dread in the Force to the approach of the Sith. White-hot terror seizes her body awakening the need to flee within her, one that battles with her inherent desire to save the day. That part of her whispers that this could be their chance, their opportunity to capture and arrest Dooku now and end this war. They have a chanceto save countless lives… But she can't. It's only Padme and Mace here and no backup could ever hope to reach them in time. If Anakin and Obi-wan couldn't take him down, what chance did they have?
Within the fear, a strange, foreign anger wakes up in Padme as she imagines the battle between the three men here. How Obi-wan's leg had been burned and scarred. How Anakin lost the bottom half of his right arm. Dooku did that. And part of her hates him for it, though she knows that she shouldn't. Hatred is a path to the Dark Side. But so is fear, and she is quaking with that now.
"Well, well, we weren't sure if you were coming." Drawls a voice from the tunnel, calm and almost smug as it comes closer, nearing the dim light in which they stand. Padme's gaze flicks frantically between Mace and the tunnel, but he doesn't return her glance. His stare is glued to the entrance of the tunnel. At last, the uncloaked figure of Count Dooku steps into the light, narrow eyed and almost irritated. "I had hoped to see Master Yoda again."
"Dooku." Mace spat. "We should have sensed a trap."
"Yes." A lightsaber borne of fire roared to life, glaring crimson in the bleak light. "You should have."
Mace shrugs off his cloak and it pools in a dark puddle by his feet, then his own lightsaber, the brilliant purple blade hisses awake and Padme's green plasma followed suit. Dooku charges toward them and the three blades collide, hissing fiercely at the contact as they strike against one another time and time again. She and her former Master fall into old routines, dancing around one another as if they'd never worked apart, he ducks when Padme strikes, knocking the Sith Lord back a step or two, and she works her way to the back of the older man, forcing his attention to be split between them both.
It works. It works until it doesn't. Mace is sent flying backwards across the sandy room suddenly, crashing against the wall consoles with a pained grunt and leaving Padme alone with Dooku. The man's eyes wander across the length of her in disgust, the corners of his lips twisting downward to further his disapproval. "This is what the Jedi Order deems worthy of Knighthood now?" He spits, "And I thought Skywalker was bad…"
At the mention of his name, Padme falters, caught between guilt at her presence here and the same rush of anger toward Dooku for what he'd done to Anakin. It is not the Jedi way to carry grudges like this, but she can't help it. Her palm wraps tighter around the cold hilt of her lightsaber, and it feels slack in her grip thanks in no small part to the sweat that coats her skin. Without thought, she rushes at him, batting blow after blow each of which are blocked easily – too easily. Red plasma meets green again and again as memories of her Ani swim through Padme's mind. She remembers running to find him in the medical-bay, unconscious and pale and missing half his arm. She remembers how it pained him, how his confidence was shaken at not being wholly himself anymore. She remembers how long it took him to touch her with the newest part of himself in fear that she might love him less. Dooku did that. He caused him that pain.
Padme's anger grows, and she slashes her lightsaber across the Sith's shoulder, the blow just barely reaches his flesh, but it burns nonetheless. He gives an agonised cry and she hears Mace pull himself up behind her. "You're a fool." Dooku declares. "All of you are fools. You serve an outdated, dogmatic Order ruled by pride and worse, you willingly serve the corrupt and ruined Senate who views you as mere blaster-fodder. Your arrogance blinds you, as does your anger. I can feel it."
His words hit Padme close to home; her emotions are swirling out of control. If Dooku can sense it then so can Mace and that is a dangerous thing. "And you serve the Dark Side. It will fail you, I promise you that. How many apprentices has your Master had before you, Count? How many of them are alive today?"
Dooku barks a cruel laugh. "You're clever, I'll give you that. But you're no Jedi… Your emotions rule your judgement and that is that is what has failed you today." His long arm stretches toward her, but Padme barely notices it as her focus is claimed by his words. No Jedi? That's preposterous. He is merely trying to insult her. To cut her pride and hope she lashes out before Mace can rejoin them. But she doesn't have another moment to think about it. She's sent flying backwards suddenly, colliding with the sand wall with such force, that her head and spine explode in fierce pain. But the pain of the fall pales in comparison to the blazing agony of the crackling energy that shoots from Dooku's fingertips and envelops Padme's entire body.
She screams as the Sith lightning tears through her body, racking its way between her bones and throughout her flesh. For several moments, she loses the ability to breathe, to think, all she can do is feel the burn as it hits her again and again and again until it stops. Smoke fills Padme's nostrils suddenly and she tastes bile in her throat. Is she on fire? It certainly feels that way. Distantly, through the ringing in her ears, she hears a strange thumping and realises that it's footsteps. Though it's difficult, and it hurts, Padme forces herself to look up toward the approcher and sucks a breath into her unwilling lungs. Dooku.
"Pathetic." She hears him say and then all she can feel is the sharp pain of the Sith's boot colliding with her stomach, forcing a loud grunt from her lips. A lightsaber hisses to life somewhere in the room as the world fades into blackness and her thoughts are of her baby and willing it to be alright as with the final scrap of her energy, Padme's fingers reach for her stomach.
She wakes with a gasp, bolting upwards on the small medical bench, eyes wide and panting. At first, panic strikes Padme as she looks around the sterile chamber for any sign of Dooku, but it fades after a few moments when her overworked mind finally recognises the medical bay of the Temple. She's home… But they were in Geonosis! She can't have been out for the entire trip back… Could she? Her thoughts suddenly turn to her former Master and panic rises in her chest again. Is he alright? Did he defeat Dooku?
Padme swings her legs over the edge of the cot just as the doors pull apart to reveal the Chief Healer, Vokara Che, herself stepping into the room, a gruff, blue skinned twi'lek woman whose passion for medicine was outshone only by her bitter dislike of those who didn't take health and healing as seriously as she did. She had always been very nice to Padme, save for a time or two when Anakin had returned to the Temple and been put into a healing trance and she'd demanded to see him, causing quite the scene…
"You're up," Vokara notes, typing something into a holopad in her hands. "Good. I want to run a full body diagnostic on you to make sure the trance has done its work."
A full body diagnostic? No. She can't do that, the machines would pick up on the baby within minutes and then her condition would be put onto her official records… The Council would find out… "No!" Padme cries before she can stop herself. "That's alright. I feel fine, really. How is Master Windu? What happened?"
"He's alright. Cut and bruised. Angry that Dooku evaded capture once more, I'm afraid. Now listen, Knight Amidala," Padme shakes her head, cutting Vokara off and edging closer to the end of the bed to stand on her weak legs. If she can just make it out of here and to her quarters, everything will be fine. Now she knows her old friend is alright, she'll rest and sleep off the jittery pains that linger from the force of Dooku's lightning.
"No, honestly, I'm fine. I just need a little sleep, that's all." As soon as Padme's feet hit the ground resting her full weight on her legs, a strange squeezing feeling creeps along her stomach, making her frown slightly. Suddenly she feels… Off… Something isn't right. But she can't stay here. She'll feel better after getting some sleep in her own bed and checking in on Mace to make sure he's okay.
"Well, if you're sure…?" Vokara sounds unsure and Padme forces a smile for the other woman's sake, though her cheeks battle the effort all the way to the end. The squeezing sensation inside her stomach tightens, stealing the Jedi's breath for a moment as it verges on painful. "I can give you something for the pain if you'd like? If it's still there."
At that, Padme nods vigorously. Normally she prefers to let pain ebb and flow naturally, believing pain meds to be a hindrance to one's connection to the Force, but today she'll make an exception. Her stomach begins to cramp painfully, but it's nothing she can't handle. She's felt far worse pains in her life. Dooku's lightning is merely taking its toll on her body, once she swallows the pills and lays down, it'll be fine. When Vokara has them ready, Padme takes the small plastic bottle and pretends to listen to the instructions before bolting out of the Hall of Healing as quickly as she can.
She doesn't go to see Master Windu, deciding to rest first and let her body recover before they talk. He'll want to go over everything that happened in detail and discover what can be learned from the encounter before they report it to the Council. Padme just doesn't have the energy for that right now. The sight of the door to her quarters has never been a more welcome one in all her life and after typing the security pin into the small keypad outside, she slips inside and locks the door behind her. A sense of security washes over the Jedi at last. She's on her own. She can relax and get her damned cloak off.
She slips the heavy material off of her overheated body and tosses it onto the bed with a sigh. It's hot in here which is odd because this wing of the Temple is infamously cooler than the rest. Anakin always claims to be freezing every night they stay here. But Padme feels herself sweating through her clothing and she lifts a hand up to brush against her damp forehead. This can't be just the effects of Sith lighting… Suddenly, her vision swims, leaving the Jedi dizzy and nauseous and she takes a step toward the small dresser in order to balance herself upon it. The moment she moves, however, a crippling, cutting pain slices through Padme's abdomen, tearing a loud cry from the woman as she falls forward against the dresser. The pain is unbearable. It's like nothing she's ever felt before. Between her legs feels wet, slick, as if she'd failed to reach the refresher in time and the Jedi quickly reaches down, slipping her palm into her trousers desperate to disprove what she is beginning to understand with a terrible sinking feeling. No, no no… Please no…
When she pulls it back, her palm is covered in blood.