A Desperate Plea
Hanger Bay #3
The Orismus (Bulk Freighter)
In hyperspace en route to Tatooine
4 hours later
Padme Naberrie Amidala Skywalker Dalam, her face tight with worry, raced up the ramp of the small Corellian freighter sitting on the hanger floor. She had been pacing, and clenching her teeth, and even crying off and on for the last few hours. It had seemed, initially, the right thing to send her husband and twins off to destroy Palpatine but a desperate terror had engulfed her soon after they left.
What if … what if they failed? What if Palpatine captured the twins? What if her beloved Anakin died or worse, was swept back into the Darkness? She knew Ani was still unstable.
But now the Starlight had landed, and within seconds she would know if her family was safe and unharmed.
At the top of the ramp, she strode forward a few meters and heard her husband speaking loudly, "You destroyed me! You left me to die in agony! You betrayed me! You …"
She turned the corner and then stopped, her eyes wide, her pupils dilated, her gaze intently searching.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, looking even older than usual, was seated on a chair against one wall. Luke and Leia stood on either side of him, their faces toward their Sith Lord father, who stood two meters from the small group, his fists clenched, his posture menacing in the extreme.
The twins looked Ok, but why was Anakin so upset?
"Anakin!" she exclaimed, making her feet move forward. "What's wrong?"
The cyborg turned to her in apparent surprise, "Padme!"
"Anakin!" she repeated. "Are you all right? What happened? Why are you furious with Obi-Wan?"
Vader, when he responded, sounded positively bewildered, "He left me to die on Mustafar, Padme! He took my three limbs, he abandoned me on the lava flows …"
She smacked him on one cyborg arm, causing him to stop in astonishment.
"Anakin Skywalker!" she yelled. "I have been pacing the floors, chewing on my nails, and nearly losing my mind these last hours waiting for you and you're dragging up something from nearly twenty years ago?! Now? What about the mission, what happened?! Where is Palpatine?"
"He is dead," her husband replied calmly and smugly.
"And … and are you all right? Luke, Leia, are you all right? How about Ahsoka, and Galen Erso? Were there any …" she trailed off in fear but Leia spoke quickly.
"No injuries, Mother. The pods took out the palace shields, we landed, infiltrated the Throne Room, beat up the guards, exchanged a few snarky words with Palpatine, then killed him when Lord Vader got an interior shield down. We left him in like 6 or 7 pieces."
Padme stared at her daughter, then her son, then her husband, then threw herself into the arms of said husband.
"Oh Ani, oh Ani," she gasped, and began sobbing in relief.
He, in turn, was bewildered and indeed, terribly awkward. He put out his arms and gently patted her on the back with his right hand even as he encircled her small waist with his left, "It's Ok, Padme. We're safe. Everything is all right."
"I … I," she gasped. "I was so afraid. I was so sure I'd sent you all to your deaths. Oh Anakin. I can't … I can't lose you. I can't lose the twins."
"She's still recovering from being captured and brutalized," Luke sent through his Force bond, and Leia chimed in sadly, "Luke is right. She's been strong on the outside but she went through chaos …"
Vader looked at his precious wife, weeping in his arms, then at Kenobi, who now was in his feet. The old man's face was sorrowful and sympathetic.
The Dark Lord cycled through four breaths, then swept Padme off her feet and into his arms, "Luke, would you help me get your mother settled? Leia, perhaps it would be wise to write a report on our mission for the Organas?"
The princess of Alderaan nodded and glanced nervously at Kenobi.
"We will talk more in the future, Obi-Wan," Vader stated, "but for now, I must tend to my wife."
"As you wish," Obi-Wan said. He waited for his former apprentice to take two steps towards the door before speaking again.
"I … apologize for what happened on Mustafar, Vader. I should not have stowed away on Padme's ship and given you the false idea that your wife had betrayed you. Perhaps if … perhaps she could have brought you back from the brink if I had not appeared."
The Dark Lord stood still for a long moment, his back to the aged Jedi, and then turned around. Padme, nestled in his arms, had her eyes closed now.
"I would have continued along the Dark Path," Vader said heavily, "for I believed only Palpatine could save Padme from death in childbirth. I would not have … not have attacked her, I think, but I could not be swayed from Sidious then. I trusted him, foolishly."
Kenobi glanced at Padme, and nodded, "We will talk more later … Anakin."
4 hours later
"Breha?" Beru Lars asked anxiously. Her daughter Shmi had run ahead of her and was gazing raptly at the plant on the living room table. It had actually flowered, an amazing accomplishment for a plant on Tatooine. Her son Cadon had his arms wrapped around his mother's left leg, which meant Beru's progress was rather halting.
Breha Organa had tears in her eyes, but a broad smile on her face, "We just got a coded transmission from Leia. The operation was a success! Palpatine is dead!"
"And the twins?" Beru asked anxiously.
"Are fine," and now Breha was crying openly, "they are fine. No casualties, no injuries. It was a complete success."
Beru huffed out a sob of relief, then sat down carefully on a nearby chair and drew Cadon into her lap, "I'm so glad, Breha. So glad."
The queen nodded with a rather watery smile and gestured towards a nearby room, "Bail is using the secure coms to discuss ongoing plans with the Rebel cells throughout the galaxy. With Palpatine dead, and Vader on our side, this whole crumbling, reeking, diseased Empire will fall."
Owen Lars spoke from the entrance to the connecting tunnel between the main house and the guest quarters, "I am most relieved that the mission went well, Breha, but I doubt that the Empire's fall will make any difference here on Tatooine."
Breha straightened now, her brown eyes flashing, "It will make a difference, Owen. I pledge it with all that I am. Yes, I was guilty of thinking of Alderaan, and the Core, and neglecting the realities of planets like Tatooine, where the Hutts rule and many are enslaved and oppressed. If a new Republic is to rise and thrive, we must focus not just on the Core and Mid-Rim, but the Outer Rim as well."
"With all due respect, your Highness," Owen said wearily, "I will believe it when I see it."
She stepped forward and gazed directly into the moisture farmer's timeworn face, "I understand your concerns, but for Luke, and Anakin, and your stepmother, Shmi, who lived most of her life in slavery, we will bring change to Tatooine."
Anakin and Padme's quarters
Bulk Freighter Orismus
Hyperspace (en route to Tatooine)
8 hours later
"Kamino?" Luke asked in a bewildered tone.
"Kamino, yes," Obi-Wan Kenobi stated softly, his eyes on Anakin.
"What's on Kamino?" Leia asked practically.
"The creators of the Clone Army," he responded gravely.
"The clones!" Ahsoka demanded incredulously. "Why would you want to deal with Kaminoans?! You know what happened with the clones!"
"What did the clones do?" Leia asked.
"As you know, they were forced to do it, Ahsoka," Vader said gravely, then turned to his children. "The clones were implanted with inhibitor chips to, supposedly, make them more obedient and less prone to independence and aggression. But in actuality, Darth Sidious had arranged that the chips contained a Jedi kill code, Order 66. When the Republic fell, and the Empire rose, Palpatine ordered the clones to kill the Jedi, which they did in large numbers. I was … responsible for the death of many Jedi during my tenure as Sith Lord, but far more died at the hands of the clones on that fateful day."
Leia looked horrified and Luke was actually pale, "The clones … they were like … like slaves? They had to obey?"
"Yes," Obi-Wan said gently. "Yes."
"And you didn't have any problem with this!?" the youth demanded in an outraged tone. "Quite aside from the Jedi killing order, how could you work with sentient beings with chips in their brains who were forced to obey? That is the very worst kind of slavery!"
Tano frowned and Kenobi looked sad, "We were … we were led astray, Luke. I think most of us didn't understand the process very well. I knew more than most, but even I … well, we knew the clones. We fought by their sides. They were all from one human template, but they were individuals with different personalities. They didn't seem like slaves. They seemed like soldiers, and we were fighting for the survival of, we thought, the freedom of the galaxy. Of course, Palpatine was behind it all …"
He trailed away, his eyes filled with sadness as he remembered that horrific day when so many comrades had died.
"In any case," he said more briskly, "I have no intention of cloning a person. The point I'm making is that the Kaminoans have the ability to clone organs. I'm hoping … I believe that they can help Anakin."
There was a startled pause before the great mask began shaking negatively.
"Nothing can be done for me, Kenobi," Vader said coldly. "I was burned over 100% of my body. I caught on fire …"
"Who told you that nothing could be done?" Padme demanded angrily.
There was a pause before her husband spoke, "Palpatine."
"Palpatine is … was, an unprincipled, vicious, destructive, rancorous liar!" she snarled with rage flashing in her eyes. "You can't believe a word he said to you. I agree with Kenobi. I've had a few dealings with the sentients of Kamino through Dalam Enterprises. We'll at least consult with them. Any improvement would be welcome, would it not?"
Vader sighed, "I don't think …"
"It doesn't matter what you think," Padme replied fiercely. "We are doing this. Just let us chat with the Organas about where to go from here and then we'll take off."
"I would like to come with you, Mother," Luke said gravely. "I am healthy and perhaps, I don't know, I could possibly donate genetic material …?"
"Possibly," his mother said with appreciative tears in her eyes. "Yes, please come, Luke."
"I need to go with the Organas so we can work on the transition in government," Leia insisted. "The Senate will likely vote on a successor to Palpatine and perhaps we can arrange for someone reasonable …"
4 months later
Anakin Skywalker stared out at the rain lashing against his hospital room window.
"Pretty dreary, isn't it?" Luke asked with a grin, walking into the room.
"I will never tire of seeing with my own eyes, my son," Anakin said with a smile, reaching out to clasp his son's hand with his own cyborg one. His limbs had been replaced by ones that were lighter and healthier, and his life support suit had been removed. His eyes had been miraculously healed through the Kaminoans' skill and Luke's genetic information. Anakin still needed breathing support and had to cope with severe eating restrictions to avoid tempestuous stomach upset. His kidneys were working at 40% (instead of 3%) but he still needed blood filtering daily. His skin, while much improved, was still scarred…but he was so far improved beyond the bounds of his own imagination. There were still more procedures in his future, but what he had so far was a miracle.
"Actually," Luke said rather bashfully, "even though I left Tatooine a decade ago, I still just … love rain. It's amazing to see water falling from the sky."
"Indeed, it is," Anakin agreed.
He relished, too, being able to speak without a vocoder. His voice was still raspy and broke at odd moments, but he much preferred it to the deep, intimidating voice of the last decades.
"Oh," Luke added brightly, "Mom asked me tell you that she's got a counseling session with R2D2 right now, then will bring dinner and a fun holo she wants to watch with you tonight, the Merry Princess Robbers of Larpwood. She said Ahsoka told her it was so stupid it's hilarious."
Anakin grinned widely, relishing that this action only hurt a little bit now.
He knew now that Palpatine had chosen deliberately to encase him in life support far too soon, to deny him basic medical care which would have enabled significant healing in the days and weeks and months after Mustafar.
The old rage and hatred flared but he breathed deeply from the oxygen cannula in his nose and forced himself to relax.
Sidious was dead. Long live … live Padme. And Luke. And Leia. And Ahsoka and even Obi-Wan Kenobi. He cared little about the fate of the galaxy at this moment, except that he wanted to make it safer for his children and hypothetical grandchildren.
"I look forward to seeing it with your mother," he said in an amused tone. "Would you like to join us?"
"Ah, no," Luke said carefully. "I got the vibe that Mom wants a date with just you."
"Well, that sounds … quite pleasant," Anakin said with anticipation.
Government Holonet Network
Coruscant (formerly Imperial Center)
2 months later
"Relinka Spetzv here, reporting to you live from the Senate Chambers on Coruscant. After months of controversy and speculation and stunning revelations, resulting in the imprisonment of some of the former Emperor's highest ranking officials, the Senatorial vote has been taken. Senator Mon Mothma of Chandrila has been elected as Chancellor of the government for a one year period. The senator has been a strong proponent of democracy and insists she will step down at the one year mark. Bail Organa of Alderaan has reassumed his position as Senator of Alderaan, replacing his daughter Leia Organa, who is working with Dalam Enterprises on political and humanitarian projects in the Outer Rim. The elder Organa will be working with an appointed committee of 15 Senators to arrange for a galactic wide election in a year. Mon Mothma, in her acceptance speech, spoke specifically of her desire to bring freedom to sentients enslaved or oppressed by rogue Imperial warlords and Hutts …"
Dalam Enterprises Main Office
Xifor (Capital of Siskeen)
2 weeks later
"So how is Mother doing?" Leia asked gravely. The holoscreen showed her brother sitting in a bland room with a rain spattered window behind him. Poor Luke – Kamino seemed to have a very rainy climate and he was stuck inside almost all the time.
"She's doing really well," Luke replied enthusiastically. "It's funny that R2D2 has turned out to be such a great counselor droid for her, but he has. Of course, part of it is additional programming but some of it is just … R2. He's a great droid."
"Indeed he is," Leia said warmly. "And, uh, Anakin? How is he?"
Luke gestured and something floated into view. Bantha jerky, perhaps? He took a bite and nodded to his sister across the parsecs of space, "Again, he's doing well. Father still has more medical procedures and indeed I think the Kaminoans kind of think of him as, I don't know, their pet research project now. But you won't believe how much he's changed, Leia. He doesn't look like Vader at all anymore and … he really isn't Vader anymore. He still gets flashes of … darkness I guess, but he's a lot calmer."
"So he hasn't skewered Obi-Wan Kenobi?" Leia asked with a mixture of concern and sarcasm.
Luke took another bite and chewed fiercely, then swallowed.
"They are doing a lot better," he said confidently. "I mean, in the early weeks we never let them be alone in a room together for fear a fight would break out but … I really think Kenobi has learned something from the last decades. Father has been through some really painful procedures and when Mom and I can't be with him post – operatively, Obi-Wan is. He just sits with him, you know? He's there for him. They still quarrel sometimes but it isn't vicious anymore. Yeah, they are doing … well."
"I am so glad," Leia said genuinely, "and we'll see each other in a week! I can't wait to see you and Mother and yes, even Anakin. I've been working with Ahsoka on lightsaber sparring and I'm going to kick your butt!"
"We'll see about that," her twin returned, his expression skeptical. "Father and I have been training a lot too, thank you very much."
"We'll just see, won't we?" she replied with a grin. A beep distracted her and she looked to one side, then glanced back to the holoscreen, "Luke, I need to go. I'll see you in seven days?"
"Seven days, yes!" Luke said.
The screen went black and Leia gestured toward her office door, which opened smoothly.
The man who strode in was tall, dark haired, and cocky. His rugged good looks were only slightly diminished by an eye which was creatively bruised gray, blue, green, and even slightly yellow at the edges.
"Captain Solo," Leia said in a frosty tone, "how nice of you to finally come by."
"My apologies for making you wait so long," Solo replied snarkily even as he pulled the girl behind him to his side. She was slight, dark haired, dressed in a dreary, gray jumpsuit, and her wrists were manacled in front of her.
Leia raised her eyebrows with incredulous outrage.
"What in all the galaxies are you doing, Solo?" she snapped, gesturing with her hand toward the woman. The manacles fell to the floor, clanking. "You were supposed to rescue her, not imprison her!"
Solo took a wary step away from the woman, even as he pointed at his right eye, "Ya see this shiner, Princess? This sweet young lady socked me hard in the eye and then tried to break my leg. Don't let that innocent look fool ya. She's dangerous!"
"I think I'll survive," Leia replied irritably, though she did keep her eyes on her female … guest.
"Um, my credits?" Solo demanded. "I need to pay off Jabba."
"I will send them to you within the hour," the princess replied haughtily. "Dalam Enterprises, at least, always pays its debts, unlike some smugglers I know."
"Even I get boarded sometimes, Princess," Solo growled. "You think I had a choice when I dumped that spice?"
"Could we possibly finish this conversation later?" Leia asked with false sweetness.
"Sure, Leia," Han replied with a grin. "Can I take you out to dinner?"
The gray clad girl stared at the regal woman in front of her, then lifted a surprised eyebrow when Leia Organa suddenly blushed and nodded.
"I'd love to, Han. Does 1900 work?"
He bobbed his head, turned to the girl and waved good-bye, and strode out.
"Jyn Erso," Leia said gently, "I'm so glad you are finally here. We've been looking for you for months. I'm afraid with the galaxy in so much upheaval since Palpatine's death, it took us longer than we anticipated to track you down."
"What do you want from me?" Jyn asked coldly. Everyone always wanted something from her.
The princess smiled gently and glanced toward a second door, which opened as if on command.
Jyn's cold expression slipped into astonishment as the man stepped into the room, his own expression full of shocked, incredulous, delighted wonder.
"D … Dad?" she sputtered out.
A moment later Galen Erso raced forward, picked up his daughter and swung her around, and then pulled her firmly into his arms.
"Stardust," he murmured into her tangled hair. "My precious Stardust."
The End … or is it? I am prone to random epilogues, but this is all I've got for now.