Part 55 - A New Hope
Vader's screams resounded around the walls of the foundry unlike anything Wilhuff Tarkin had ever heard before. "Help him!" the Governor roared as he sent wave after wave of clone troopers down toward the molten pit. "For the Force's sake, get him out of there…"
Things had dropped a little behind schedule on project Death Star, but it was of little consequence. The two Jedi who had infiltrated the foundry hadn't done as much damage as they might - the only thing they had done great damage to, it would seem, was Lord Vader.
Clone troopers swarmed round Tarkin, some acting to drain the molten pit and to reset the chambers, whilst others took on extra layers of protective armour and prepared to leap into the scorching, liquefied metal below to rescue the trapped Sith apprentice.
The thick, viscous liquid squelched horribly as some of the troopers, at last, began leaping into the pool, diving beneath the surface in order to seek out the young man.
Tarkin felt his nose wrinkle as he waited with baited breath for the men to re-emerge, hoping beyond hope that Lord Vader was still alive. "Come on," he muttered to himself, over and over.
After an agonising pause, the clone troopers finally broke through the glutinous surface, the thick liquid seeming to vomit them up in slow succession of each other, and between them they carried the charred and malformed body of the once handsome Darth Vader. Wilhuff put his hands to his mouth and swallowed heavily as even he, a man of stout constitution, felt the bile rise in his throat; Vader's legs had been crushed beyond repair, and his skin was nothing but a terrible, burning wasteland…
"Take him to the med' centre," the Governor whispered at length, unable to tear his eyes away, as much as he wanted to, from the deathly apparition that Vader had become. "I shall make contact with the Emperor."
The troopers saluted and went on their way, whilst the Governor had to sit down for a moment and collect himself.
Obi-Wan met Yoda in the hangar of Dooku's mansion on Serenno and just went down on his knees before him. The diminutive Jedi placed his small hand against Kenobi's arm and uttered a few words of comfort, whilst Bail stood in the far doorway and knocked his knuckle despondently against its edge.
"I failed, Master Yoda," Kenobi murmured. "What have I done…?"
Master Yoda rubbed the man's arm up and down. "No, not failed, have you… Only done what had to be done."
"We didn't even find the Death Star plans…" he sighed, wiping his sleeve across his face and trying to dry his eyes. "We should have known Anakin would have been there…"
"Hmm…" Yoda grunted sadly. "Foreseen this, I should have… Failed you as well, did I."
Obi then looked up as he heard Bail pace slowly over to him; the senator had a look of pity on his face, and of grim realisation. He took in, with a swift glance, Kenobi's singed robes and tear-streaked face, and finally asked, "And Count Dooku…? Where is he?"
Obi-Wan stared at Organa for a moment before he said, after swallowing, "He's in the shuttle…" He paused for another moment then added, "He's dead."
Yoda's eyes dropped to the floor and he nodded as if it had been inevitable. Bail didn't quite know how to react, so, after a few seconds of looking down, just turned and walked away.
Yoda met Obi-Wan's eyes again after another moment. "Know what must be done, we do," he said. "Disperse must this rebellion. Not yet time for us, it is. Into exile now must we both go, Master Kenobi. Hide ourselves, we must."
Obi-Wan nodded again bleakly.
"To Tatooine take young Luke, to his family. And there, keep watch."
"I shall, master," Obi whispered.
"To Dagobah I will go. In peace there I shall be, until come the time does." He patted Kenobi's shoulder. "When right, the time is, the boy to me send."
Obi again nodded. "I shall."
"To Alderaan, young Leia shall go," Yoda continued. "Safe and well loved there, she shall be." The small Jedi Master then turned and slowly began to hobble away. "Bid farewell to Master Dooku tonight, Obi-Wan. Then tomorrow take your leave."
Obi rose shakily to his feet and nodded one final time. "Yes, my master," he muttered. He then watched Yoda walk away for a moment before a thought occurred to him, and he patted his robes all over; he thus found Dooku's lightsabre and rushed after him. "Master!" he said. "Do you want this?"
Yoda drew himself to a halt and looked at the weapon as Obi-Wan held it out to him. He pursed his lips and made one of his thoughtful grunts. "No, Master Kenobi. A better home there is for that." Yoda turned again and began to walk away. "Think on it."
Bail Organa was with Mrs. Tarso in the nursery, preparing little Leia for her long journey home. He held the child in his arms and marvelled at her pretty, little face and her glorious dark eyes. "Oh you are a beautiful thing," he said, rocking her here and there. "My wife will make you a fine mother, and I promise to be a good father."
Mrs. Tarso smiled at them both, though she was sad to see the children go. She had become remarkably attached to them in the short space of time they had been here.
The door then suddenly opened and Obi-Wan stepped over the threshold, offering Edna a slight nod and Organa a low bow, before he stood upright in silence.
"Master Kenobi," Bail nodded to the man. "I… Well, I am at quite a loss for words. Things certainly aren't looking good right about now." He stroked the baby girl's head then sighed thoughtfully. "Is Anakin Skywalker dead?"
Obi swallowed, looking down at his feet for some time. "I'm… not sure," he eventually muttered. "I just walked away. I… walked away."
Bail didn't make any response; for some reason, he felt it best that he didn't know. He just paused for a moment and asked, as he stared down lovingly at his new daughter, "You have come to say goodbye, then, old friend?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes…" he said, before he stepped across the room to the man and held out Count Dooku's lightsabre. "And I wanted you to take this."
Bail eyed the weapon darkly, before he looked back to Obi-Wan. "Why should I?" he enquired; he didn't seem to have any inclination of taking the weapon.
"For Leia… just in case."
Bail didn't ask in case of what, and still looked incredibly dubious, but, after heaving a deep sigh, he did at last open one of his hands toward Obi-Wan and let the Jedi place the curved lightsabre hilt into it.
"Thank you," Kenobi said.
Bail offered him a short, small smile before he quickly hid the weapon within the folds of his robes, and went back to looking upon Leia's face. "Yes, well I hope she never has to use it…"
"I hope so, too," Obi imparted.
Bail gave the man a final, cordial smile and patted him on the shoulder. "Until we meet again, Master Kenobi," he whispered, before he then nodded to Mrs. Tarso, bidding her to follow, and departed from the room, leaving Obi-Wan alone with young Luke.
Kenobi walked over toward the slumbering boy and reached down into his cradle, running a finger over his small forehead. "May the Force be with us all," he whispered.
/'Are you an Angel?'/
/'An Angel. I heard the deep space pilots talk about them. They're the most beautiful creatures in the universe! They live on the Moons of Iego, I think…'/
/'You're a funny little boy. How do you know so much?'/
/'I listen to all the traders and pilots that come through here. I'm a pilot, you know, and some day, I'm gonna fly away from this place.'/
/'You're a pilot?'/
/'Mhm-hm - all my life'/
/'How long have you been here?'/
/'Since I was very little. Three, I think. My mom and I were sold to Gardulla the Hutt, but she lost us betting on the Pod Races…'/
/'You're a slave?'/
/'I'm a person and my name is Anakin!'/
He could feel a great pain in legs, a throbbing all over his body, but the ache in his heart was worse…
/'I'm glad to have met you, Anakin'/
/'I was glad to meet you, too!'/
Force, it hurt so much…
/'I made this for you, so you'd remember me.'/
/'I don't need this to remember you by. Many things will change when we reach the capital, Ani, but my caring for you will remain.'/
Darth Vader opened his eyes, the smell of well-oiled machinery, burnt flesh and scorched skin wafting up around him and bringing the bile to his throat.
"Where are you Padmé?" he gasped. His throat burned, and his voice came out in terrible, throaty gasps, sounding unearthly, nothing like it should. His eyes wouldn't focus and his legs… oh, his legs felt as though they weren't even there; they felt just like his arm had done, after he had had that metal one attached, all that time ago… They felt just plain wrong.
/'You'd better have not laid a finger on her. You'd better not have harmed her!'/
His eyes widened; Dooku… he had fought Dooku again, hadn't he? But the Count was dead, wasn't he? He'd run him through, he'd destroyed him. Yes, that had felt good; it had brought a rush of excitement and power to his body. Finally, he had won their incessant struggle, their fight over his Angel. But then, where was Padmé…? What had that man done with her? And where was his son? What had the Count done with his son…?
"Padmé… My son..."
"Lord Vader, calm yourself…"
Vader inhaled slowly, trying to comprehend his situation; that voice… it was his master's, but how had he gotten here? Where was here, even?
Vader looked to one side, then to the other, realising that he was lying out flat, upon a horizontal surface. His hands were manacled and his body constricted. He felt claustrophobic, as though he were trapped within a net from which he could never escape. "Master," he sighed. "Where am I?"
"Relax, Lord Vader," was all the man said. "You are safe."
Darth was beginning to feel frustrated. His master hadn't come into view, and he could hardly turn his head at all in order to catch a glimpse of him. His sight was clearing a little, but everything came to him through a horrid, red haze, as if a curtain of blood had fallen before his eyes. "Where is Padmé? Have you found her? She's not really…?" His throat was stinging so badly that he had to stop there and heave a great cough, one which echoed out around him and seemed to rock the foundations of the chamber.
Sidious could only offer him a grim reply, however. "I'm afraid she is, my apprentice."
Vader's eyes widened. "No, she can't be…" he muttered. He clenched his fists together, and his body shook violently; he wanted to cry, but his eyes just wouldn't shed the tears. "It's not possible! What did he do to her?" The dark side flared to life within him, rushing to throw salt on his wounds, jeer at his misfortunes, and goad him on to revenge.
"It would seem that Padmé has died, my young apprentice…" Sidious continued. "He must have killed her."
Vader could do nothing but take in great breaths of disbelief. "But why would he do that? I saw her, she was in pain, and calling out his name…" He tried to frown, but his brow ached as he attempted to do so. "Why would she do that? Where had she been? What had happened? And where is my son…?"
"Do not dwell on the past, Lord Vader. You have done the galaxy a great service - you have finally killed Lord Tyranus, and helped bring peace to the Empire."
"She is dead, Lord Vader. She betrayed us both. Surely you remember that?"
"And my son?"
Sidious seemed unsure of this. "We shall discover him one day."
Darth couldn't get his head round things; nothing seemed to be making any sense. "Why did she have to die?" he asked. "How could she?"
He felt Sidious's hand on his shoulder. "Rest, my apprentice," the Sith Master murmured, "You need time to recover." He then walked away.
It was only at that moment that Darth finally realised how his breaths were resounding with an unnatural loudness in his ears; they came in steady, automated beats, going in-and-out, as if he had become some kind of… machine.
He began to breathe rapidly in panic. "No," he gasped, as reality clicked, and he felt the helmet over his head, the artificial limbs at his knees, the mechanised respirator in his chest, the gauntlets over his hands. "NOOO!"
Obi-Wan held Luke in his arms that night on Serenno as he set light to the pyre and watched the body of Count Dooku burn. This was his final task before he set off for Tatooine the next day, to deliver Luke to his family, and to go into his own, self-imposed exile; he was to watch over the boy and wait for the moment that his destiny called.
He looked down at the child in his arms and smiled as he watched Luke gawp at the smouldering fire, one significant new life watching the end of a significant old one; it almost felt like poetic justice. It was impossible to believe that, one day, this young child might save them all…
Obi then turned to stare at the inferno himself, and gazed blankly into its writhing, glowing depths as memory upon memory rolled back upon him and clouded his thoughts.
/'I've got a bad feeling about this.'
'I don't sense anything.'
'It's not about the mission, master, it's something elsewhere… elusive.'
'Don't centre on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.'/
/'What if I told you that the Republic was under the control of a Dark Lord of the Sith?'
'No, that's not possible. The Jedi would be aware of it.'
'The dark side of the Force has clouded their vision, my friend. Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious.'
'I don't believe you.'/
"We don't all make our father's mistakes," Kenobi thus murmured, glancing back down at Luke and giving the boy's tiny head a stroke. "Don't forget that, Luke. When you one day know, don't forget that." He then rose his eyes to look at Serenn's burning body, and he stared into the blackened remains of the Count's face with resolve; "You are not your father," he said, "And you never will be."
The Author's Last Word
Hello everyone - I couldn't just leave it there, so I thought I'd put a bit of a farewell speech at the end, seeing as I've never written such an epic fanfic in my life before, and have never had such a popular one, either.
First of all, just a big thank you to you all for managing to read it (unless you happen to be a person like my younger sister, who reads the last page of a story first, then reads the rest, in which case, I'm thanking you in advance). "Eclipse" admittedly started life as a one-off experimental chapter, inspired by several things, but most of all the excluded scene of "Dooku interrogates Padmé" from the bonus "Attack of the Clones" DVD disc. I remember being in a rather bad mood at the time, and I just wanted to write something dark and different - I was trying to think of a way of putting a 'fanciable' Dooku on the screen, and thought that it would be a challenge to write a credible scene where the man won Padmé round in a rather sensual way. So I went about writing an alternate interrogation scene, removing all the characters but Dooku and Padmé, and seeing what I could do with them. Once I re-wrote the scene - which is basically this story's first chapter - that was going to be it; I'd done my little thing and that was that. But I couldn't leave it there - curiosity asked me what would really happen next.: Where would this all go? And so, enticed by this twisted mystery, I went about discovering the rest of the story. And now, in the words of Gandalf, 'We come to it at last' - the end. I published the first chapter on the 25th January 2003 - you can do the math to work out how long it has taken me to finish. It's been an on-and-off project, but it hasn't really left my mind at all for the past two and a half years and has become an inseparable part of my life, consuming me at all times. I've had nights where I've had to leap out of bed to write a new idea, or I've listened to a harmless piece of music, only to be inspired to mould my story to it. If nothing else, I think writing this story has really made me realise the sheer scope of George Lucas's vision - how the man has come up with his immense story is beyond me; this has been a mere fan fiction and, I can tell you, I've been mentally exhausted by it! It truly is much more difficult to create something than it is to criticise it, and I have nothing but the deepest of respect for Mr. Lucas. His films may not please everyone, but they are monuments to his imagination and creativity, and he has inspired me to push myself to the limits in creating my own little "Star Wars" altraverse.
The story has gone from being a short alternate ending to "Attack of the Clones" to being a full-blown bridge between the traditional Episodes II and IV. It's been rather dark and incredibly risqué, but I do hope that you can see that I haven't used these taboo situations for the sheer Hell of it; there is reasoning behind each move Dooku made on Padmé, and the same with the evil Anakin of the story's latter half. And I've had to go into the pits of the darkness to be able to come back into the light, so that you can recognise the contrasts.
I've got to know my Dooku quite well over the past couple of years and I'm going to miss him. I've been carrying him around with me for so long that it's going to be a tearful separation when I go to put him back into George Lucas's toolbox, from whence he came. The same goes for Grievous, who turned out to be a little different to his canon counterpart, moody Anakin, sensitive Obi-Wan, eccentric Master Yoda, ingenious Lord Sidious, and of course, Padmé, who has never been a great favourite of mine, but who was my original tool for bringing out Serenn's villainy, and ultimately for bringing out a whole spectrum of emotions and changes in him. I thank her for letting me put her through so much and apologise to her for having to leave her with such a sombre finale.
What else is there to say? Thank you again to ALL you readers and I hope you found the ending satisfactory. I'm again sorry for not getting this finished prior to "Revenge of the Sith", but hey… that was a pretty awesome film and it did help push me along a little more. :)
I must give a few extra thanks to a certain few people who have contributed, with or without knowing, invaluably to my story:
Firstly, thank you to a certain Evil Sith Lady who kindly allowed me to christen my Count Dooku 'Serenn' - she came up with the name originally, though she spelt it with one 'n' and two 'r's, but I couldn't imagine calling him anything else now!
Thank you also to Skywalker Blue, who I lost around chapter 15 - your reviews were the greatest of inspirations at the start, and I doubt I would have had such gusto for this project without you.
Thanks to both PadawanHAB (who keeps changing her name, so I'm not sure who she is right now) who wrote "Firestorm" and to Kelly B. who wrote "Succumb", which are two stories that have helped inspire me in one way or another. Also thanks to Riley who wrote the Harry Potter fanfic "Pawn to Queen", which, though incomplete, also helped to inspire me in several ways; PtQ is a tale about another twisted union, albeit in another fan-universe.
Thanks to Blitzen, who beta-read some of my early chapters - you helped me see some early errors in my writing, and have helped me to improve my writing style on top of that. (I think, anyway.)
Thank you to Kynstar, who's always been a great supporter of my work and who reviews pretty much as soon as I post each chapter, and the same goes out to my good friend Gabe, who's as crazy about Dooku as I am (it's my turn to have him now, Gabe!). Further thanks go out to Merrymoll who, again, I seem to have lost somewhere along the way (due to a certain Patrician, I believe) and whose own work helped give me the kick to carry on with mine, both my old "A Test of Faith" fanfic and this substantially larger one. And Silverwolf47 and REVdeserve mentions, too.
I must bow down in respect to Cael Fenton whose enormous and in-depth reviews of some of my chapters have been a huge help to me, and will be a great reference point for me when the Big Edit eventually happens; I've never had such intellectually advanced reviews! I bow down to you.
And finally, great thanks go out to Padawanmage who has been a very generous and kind friend - far greater a friend than I deserve - and who has always been ready to write an essay on my each and every chapter, as well as being one of the few people, along with Cael, who's had guts enough to point out my errors to me; I don't like to admit when I've done something wrong, but I do need to know. Thank you so much.
All that's left for "Eclipse" now is the BIG edit, but I can't guarantee that'll be done anytime soon.
Anyway, my final thanks, and I hope to see you all around again soon. If you have any further questions or quibbles about my story, don't hesitate to contact me - I'll try and help you out as best I can. My email address is available via my profile page, or you can find me on Live Journal as Jurious.
--Grace (AKA Jurious)