The Road Less Traveled

This story is co-written by great authors and friends of mine who very graciously allowed this story they wanted to write also serve as a sequel to my first two fan fictions. Huge thanks guys! :D Each segment will have the writer noted.

Writers: Anakin's Angel (AnakinsAngel@aol.com), starwarsfan1000 (starwars1000@hotmail.com) and me, Julie the Tall Terror (tall_terror@hotmail.com)

Disclaimer: Anakin, Obi-Wan, & Qui-Gon, etc. belong to George Lucas. We are just playing.

Begun: 12/25/00

Completed: 02/20/01

Part 4

*****

Segment 23 is written by Anakin's Angel

*****

Clutching the shaking hands of Padmé inside his own, Anakin watched as Aurora and Qui-Gon raced back onto the ship. The tiny refueling droid beeped in surprise, as Aurora neatly drop kicked it from the interior. Slamming the door closed, the young Knight tunred her wide eyes on her Father. "We've gotta get out of here. Now."

Qui-Gon's intense glare confirmed what he had already been expecting. The Empire in the Universe had found them. Releasing his hands, Padmé raced to the ships controls. It would take some swearing and persuasion, but Anakin was confident they could have the ship ready for flight in a matter of moments. He could feel the darkness around them, mixed with the fear rolling along the bond he shared with Aurora. It chilled him to the bone, and he wondered, idly, how his alter ego could stand it.

Obi-Wan was grim-faced, as he stood staring out the viewport. "They will not let us get away easily, I'm afraid," The Jedi Master spoke, softly. "Master Yoda told me once that you are your own worst enemy."

The words, spoken so softly, took a moment to sink in. He glanced at Padmé, who caught his eye, before lowering her head. Something's wrong...

Then it hit him.

"That was VADER?" he half-shouted, catching Padm's wince.

Nodding, Obi-Wan glanced once more out the port before turning away. "My guess is, he doesn't know you're onboard. He must have tracked Padmé, hoping to get to Aurora."

"If that black, wheezing monstrosity thinks that these two women are helpless, he can think again!" Aurora added, her voice filled with controlled venom. She took her seat as the ship's engines roared to life. "I'll give him credit though, he's got some...." She paused, as both Anakin and Padmé glared at her. "Courage...coming here. I was not about to be vulgar, Father."

Anakin eased back into the pilot's chair, effortlessly lifting the ship into orbit. "Yes, well, now's when we find out how far that courage will get him."

That got a snort out of Obi-Wan. 'It's not courage; It's arrogance. Anakin, my Anakin that is, never doubted he would succeed at anything. I'll bet he was not expecting to see Qui-Gon though. To him, Qui-Gon died when he was nine."

"I don't mean to butt it, but if we don't move quickly, any element of surprise we may have gained will disappear." This came from Padmé, who was seated before the weapons controls.

Anakin smiled, "Indeed."

...

Startled, but not yet ready to admit it, Vader was thankful for the mask covering his face. For he was certain that a mixture of shock and disbelief lie just underneath. Qui-Gon Jinn. Alive? It was impossible!

Or was it?

"Pardon the intrusion, My Lord, but we have picked up the smaller vessel's signal. They will be within range in moments."

Grateful for the distraction, Vader rose from his chair. "They are to be taken unharmed." He commanded, making sure this was understood. The officer nodded, well aware of the consequences that resulted from disobedience. "Of course, My Lord."

Turning away, Vader waited for the small ship to make itself known.

...

When the first squadron of TIE fighters appeared, Anakin and Padmé were ready. In fact, Anakin suspected that the woman beside him seemed a little too trigger- happy. "These are older models, they have a weakness on the left side, just under the wing." He told her, banking the ship to the right. They were surrounded on all sides, but strangely enough, the TIE's were not firing.

Qui-Gon came up behind him, taking in the scene. "They may be trying to trap us. Time to use some of those fancy flying skills you're so proud of." He placed a large hand on Anakin's shoulder, squeezing it affectionately. It was the one thing that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had allowed him to do while training. While most Padawans needed years of simulator training, Anakin was ready to fly at age 9. Force, he'd piloted his own ship all those years on his own, before coming back to the Temple. He could certainly outrun these fighters; it was the large star destroyers that loomed before them that had him concerned.

..

Vader tightened his hand around the chair he was seated in as the ship holding Skywalker came into view. His best fighters had been instructed to corral them near the Executor, where he hoped to intercept them. They had also been instructed to not harm a bolt on the ship; Aurora was of no use to him dead.

He couldn't care less about the other passengers, whomever they may be.

He watched as the tiny ship flew docily through the squadron of TIE fighters. Still, there was something familiar about the many twists and turns the pilot was executing. Skywalker has taught his daughter well. Impressive.

They were nearly close enough to safely be brought in by tractor beam when the small ship suddenly started firing.

...

Anakin saw the first TIE explode, spinning and slamming into the two unaware fighters around him. Padme gave a little shout, as she spun herself around in the chair. They needed a distraction; Something to divert attention away from the fact that they intended to get the hell out of there. Raising his hand, he high-fived Padme. "Nice shot."

She smiled, her eyes narrowing in concentration. "You worry about flying, I'll cover us." She said, winking.

He had to shake his head. "Then let's get the hell out of here!" Waiting for her nod, he sent the ship spinning. By this time, the TIE's were more confused than anything. Anakin could sense their hesitation, and the need to defend themselves. It was almost overwhelming. They were prepared, and with Padme at the controls...he wasn't worried.

...

Slamming his fist down in frustration, Vader was at a loss. It was a feeling he loathed...being out of control. He couldn't very well allow an entire squadron to be taken out, but the small ship stood no chance against twelve ships firing at it. Begrudgingly, he admitted that it was a plan he, himself, would have used. Are you that surprised?

"Let them go," He announced, already calculating the fastest path back to Coruscant. "I will deal with them myself."

If his officers had anything to say about that, they knew better than to admit it. He would have Skywalker, it was only a matter of time.

*****

Segment 24 is written by Julie

*****

The windswept and cold landing platform seemed to go totally silent. Luke and Leia repeated their scan of the surrounding area with the Force, giving particular attention to the empty transport in front of them. Nothing was there and the Force gave them no alerts for any danger. Kaely emitted a puzzled whistle and flew around their heads in worry.

A chilling and eerie presence began to permeate the Force around them. Leia inadvertently shivered. Finally, Luke's danger sense flared and in less then a second, so did Leia's. From the supposedly vacant ship a hunched figure emerged. He was cloaked in black and needed the support of a cane.

And he openly reeked of the Darkside.

Both twins reached for the lightsabers that weren't there and involuntarily stepped backward.

"Oh, yes," The cackling voice grated on their ears. "I know who you are. And now you will tell me how you came to be here."

Leia was careful not to take her eyes off the menacing figure. She was almost grateful that they didn't have weapons. Otherwise, she knew Luke would be darting forward in a rash attack. Even as it was, her twin brother was barely keeping himself under control.

The last thing they needed was to give this guy what he wanted. Quelling her nervousness and the small whisper of fear, Leia stood calm and collected. Luke sensed her composure change and hastily acted to imitate her. The little droid could only hide behind her charges in fear. Poor Kaely knew exactly who this man was, and had no way of telling the twins. And no idea how to help them.

"Ah, good, good," The approval and glee in his voice was sickening. The twins winced as they felt him claw at their minds and begin to poke through their precious mental shields. "Vader has discovered a most useful method of travel."

Frantically, Leia tried to think of a way out of this mess. There were no other ships on the platform, so that was out. Perhaps they could run for the building's door, but then they'd have to deal with the storm troopers. And they had no idea of what kind of attack this guy would throw at them if they turned their backs to him. Even if they got past him into his ship, she was certain that he was concealing soldiers inside. Or at least, had some kind of trap.

There wasn't much in the way of options.

"However, what does Vader want you for?"

The twins disappointed him there, for they didn't know the answer. Tentatively, Luke reached for his sister's mind. Leia was startled at the muffled and distorted telepathic response she got from him.

"Oh, yes," The creepy man seemed to smile as he took another languid step forward and smiled when they tensed further. "I can't allow that."

Slowly, he raised one hand, relishing the sudden wave of fear coming from the teenagers. Leia sent Luke a simple message, Follow me. And she could only hope that their twin bond would bypass the dark man's power.

Leia vaulted upward as high as she could and landed with a thud on the top of the ship. She didn't dare pause to wait and see if Luke was behind her. She darted across the metal hull as fast as the Force would carry her. As Leia reached the other side she jumped down to the landing pad's deck far below. Only then did she stop to look for Luke. Kaely flew over her and swerved to halt by her head.

Luke landed neatly beside his twin and quickly grabbed her out of the way as a bolt of lightening struck where she had been standing. Their sudden flight had surprised the dark man, but he only had to turn around to see where they were. From the other side of the transport, he began to creep under the ship and flinging more Force lightening at them. They needed no other urge to continue running.

The Padawans crossed the remainder of the deck at full speed. They could only hope that that evil thing would chose to just stalk them in the belief that they had no where to go rather then truly chasing after them.

With a mighty leap, the twins threw themselves off the platform. As fearlessly as possible, Luke and Leia plummeted in the air. They had to keep their eyes shut tight and wished they could do the same for their ears. The roar of the wind and city threatened to distract them from their task. Focusing harder, they managed to use the Force to control their cruising speed downward to a more comfortable level.

Kaely's screams and wails were drowned out by the din as she dutifully followed them. Below, her sensor detected ships, skyspeeders, and many protruding parts of the buildings. The twins' bodies began to slow down more and more. Gradually, the pink droid could see the landing pad they were heading for. With a little relief and a ton of worry, Kaely also began to reduce the speed of her decent.

Luke hit the platform hard and fell to the deck in a heap. He was too exhausted to even think about hoping Leia wouldn't land on him. His sister's alightment on the landing pad wasn't much better. With a groan Leia curled up in a ball. Kaely wobbled in the air and barely missed slamming into the deck herself. The tiny droid beeped irritably at them for pulling such a stunt, despite the fact that it worked.

Or maybe not. Kaely swiveled her yellow eyes to this platform's doors. She wailed in dismay as a whole troop of storm troopers poured out. She had barely begun squealing a warning when they shot both twins.

"Your Excellency, we have them stunned as commanded," The leading trooper said into his comlink.

"Good, Captain," Palpatine's voice replied. "Bring them to me now."

Kaely could only quash her desire to moan and follow the troopers as they hauled the twins away.

****

Darth Vader stared at the two storm troopers sitting the cell where the twins should have been. Upon arriving in the Imperial Center's planetary orbit he hadn't sensed Luke and Leia, but that had not worried him. He'd assumed it was because they had walked into the hole in the Force created by his lone ysalimiri. The poor soldiers waited in horror for their deaths and nearly collapsed in relief when Darth Vader left without a word or order.

Lord Vader stalked down the hallway with uncharacteristic trepidation. Palpatine had them, it was the only explanation. Fear and worry welled up inside of him. What would his master do to these children that were his but not his?

Ah, perhaps you should ask, 'What will he not do to the twins?' my dear apprentice.

The Emperor's telepathic taunt brought Vader's uneasy stride to a halt. The following cackle spurred Vader's anger to its peak. He didn't bother to waste time replying, but nearly broke into a full run straight towards the Throne Room.

*****

Segment 25 is written by Anakin's Angel

*****

Closing a highly encoded communiqué with her second in command, Padmé leaned back into the chair with a sigh. She'd managed to rally all squadrons and have them rendezvous with her near Coruscant. Imperial City, that is. Upon Obi- Wan's urging, she also managed to contact the small sect of Jedi still willing to fight back.

They were more than a little intrigued, but let it pass without comment. Anytime an opportunity arose to make a strike against the Empire, the rebellion was ready. She could only hope to be that ready when the time came.

She was also dreading leaving Anakin and Aurora.

It was all so confusing! They were her family, the one she should have had, and yet...not. Who knew what her children would have been like, had her Anakin not taken the road he had. Although, she had to admit, Aurora was everything she would want in a daughter. She wondered what Luke and Leia would be like. Would they accept her? Not as a Mother, but as a friend? Was it even possible?

What would happen when Anakin had to go back?

That, above everything, is the real question.

Her emotions wound tighter than a spring, she nearly jumped from her skin when she felt Anakin place his hands on her shoulders. Part of her wondered how she knew it was him; but her body had never forgotten his touch. "You scared me." She whispered, turning to smile at him.

A myriad of emotions played across his face. "I'm sorry," He said, sitting down beside her. "She used to like when I rubbed her shoulders after a hard day."

"A woman after my own heart."

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments, until she felt Anakin's hand slip inside her own. Her first instinct was to let go, to pull away from the emotions. Sensing this, he held strong to her hand. "We're both getting a glimpse of the road less traveled," he started, quietly. "It hurts me more than you can imagine, knowing how Vader treated you. I would give ANYTHING for another moment with my wife, and yet...he turns his back on you-"

"Ani?" Padme whispered, feeling her heart tighten in her chest. His love for her, his wife, was stronger than she ever imagined. He stopped, bowing his head. "I see in you, everything I wished Vader could have been. You give, you love, you...are the same little boy I met back on Tatooine," Reaching up, she brushed a stray piece of hair from his eyes. "Your wife had the life I still dream about."

..

Anakin felt tears prick at the corner of his eyes. Oh, how it had been to hear her! That voice...that soft, sweet voice, call him Ani. The almost solid block of pain that sat between them was whispering now in his ear. Break me down. Reach out for each other. Find love... He closed his eyes, wishing it were as easy as that. Nothing was easy right now. His children were in the hands of a sadistic madman! Yet, when he was with her, everything seemed to make sense.

"You're not my Padme. I'm not your Anakin," He admitted, moving closer to her. "but I see in you, a chance to see where the road will take us." They were inches apart now, and he traced a teardrop as it rolled down her cheek.

She smiled, nodding her agreement. "Are you going to kiss me, Ani?"

A laugh. "You have to ask?" Slowly, almost reverently, their lips met. In an instant, memories burst in vivid, burning color.

Our first kiss, on Naboo...

The way you looked on our wedding day...

The way you look in the morning...

Anakin recognized the memories, both hers and his, as they melted away into the present. The kiss was new, as much as it was familiar. It was theirs. Breaking apart, he took in a lungful of air. "Wow."

That got him a smile. "Promise me another kiss?" She whispered, touching his lips.

"Things are going to get worse before they get better, but as soon as we get back...you can have all the kisses you want." He pulled her into a standing position, enveloping her in a hug.

..

Unbeknownst to the kissing couple, Aurora watched the scene fold out with tears of her own. Mother...

****

Segment 26 is written by Julie

****

The interior of the Imperial Palace bore no resemblance to any Royal estate the Jedi had ever seen. It was just drab. The sterile gray halls had little to no decoration and the constant sight of plain metal gave one the impression of being on a ship, not inside a building. The four Jedi moved swiftly through passages and turbolifts following the direction they sensed the twins. They had to make do on their own for they had left Artoo with Padme to help her break into the control centers in the Rebel assault about to take place.

As they reached an alcove that held what looked to be the last turbolift that would take them, Obi-wan suddenly halted and stared down one long corridor. The other Jedi stopped to look at him.

"Vader is coming this way, now," Obi-wan informed them.

They could all sense Darth Vader, and had been well aware that the Sith Lord was in the Palace. However, he'd felt distant.

"Does he sense us?" Aurora asked quietly. Though they had disguised their presence with the Force successfully so far, due to the close proximity, Vader could be powerful enough to see through it.

"No," Qui-gon answered her. "He is going to Luke and Leia."

Anakin stiffened visibly, "He won't get there."

"Aurora and I will find the twins," Qui-gon decided and quickly turned to follow the young Knight already running for the turbo lift.

"Ani," Obi-wan's voice was calm, but concerned. "Are you ready for this."

"Absolutely."

Anakin's reply didn't sooth Obi-wan's anxiety, "Don't allow yourself to -"

"Obi-wan, you have nothing to worry about. I won't let myself become overeager or be controlled by fury."

"Or over-confidence?"

Anakin smiled in bemusement, "I'm not as cocky as I once was." He quietly reminded him. He didn't need to add that he was not only much older then the Anakin Obi-wan knew, but very different.

There was no more time for a pep talk Darth Vader had arrived. He stood like a statue at the end of the hall. For a moment the Jedi just gazed calmly at him, waiting for a response. Anger and shock rolled from the Sith in waves, and it was tinged with anxiety. But the concern didn't feel like it was aimed at the Jedi, but elsewhere.

Deciding to take the initiative, Anakin began walking steadily forward. He let Vader take a good long look at him and waited for the inevitable reaction. Almost languidly, Vader hefted his double-bladed lightsaber, and pressed a button releasing the joining ends. He stood ready to fight holding one half of the divided weapon in each hand and ignited them.

"You cannot take the twins from me," The mechanical sound of Vader's voice grated on Anakin's ears, but was somewhat of a relief too. Anakin had somewhat resigned himself to the fact that a Sith duplicate of himself was inside that hulking machine where he couldn't see him, and he had fully expected to contend with hearing his own voice.

Even despite his earlier reassurance, Obi-wan expected Anakin to strike first. However he didn't react at all to Vader challenging words. Darth Vader did attack first. He struck viciously at Anakin and all but ignoring his former master. Obi-wan used that to his advantage and slipped around the side of the battle to Vader's unprotected back. But Vader had expected that, and turned just in time to deflect Obi-wan's blows and drive him off. After that Vader kept his back to the wall and forced the Jedi to stay in front of him.

"Are you really surprised that Anakin came to rescue his own children from you?" Obi-wan asked lazily.

"No," Vader answered. "Only that you discovered their location so quickly."

Obi-wan assumed he meant the Imperial Palace, but Anakin knew what Vader was really referring to, "I sense that my experience in universe travel far exceeds your own. You haven't the skill to disguise where you'd taken my children."

Anakin criticism wasn't exactly an insult, but it was a jeer. As he predicted, Vader's anger doubled and his attacks increased in speed and viciousness.

"Palpatine is the real danger to the twins, you must know that by now," Vader's slippery words belied his aggressive slashes and strikes with his two lightsabers.

"Yes, we are aware," Obi-wan answered concisely.

"He knows you are here, and will use the twins against you if he can," Vader reminded them.

"Oh, quit being evasive," Anakin shoved hard as he and Obi-wan managed to trap one of Vader's blades. The Sith Lord managed to disengage from them and barely avoided being knocked off his feet by Obi-wan.

"Just say it," Anakin glared. "You want us to help you take down Palpatine. Well, the answers no. I don't do business with Sith."

To their surprise, especially Obi-wan's, Vader didn't reply.

As they continued dueling, Anakin began to realize that Vader was backing up toward the turbolift. Sensing the same, Obi-wan moved to block him. The last thing they needed was for Vader to disappear into the lift. Vader's anxiety increased and it puzzled the Jedi.

"What are you afraid of?" Obi-wan frowned as he parried a strike to his face.

"Certainly not of you," Vader taunted.

Anakin suddenly broke off from the fight and took a step back, "You're worried about Luke and Leia?! What kind of danger are you expecting them to be in?"

"A kind you obviously are too weak to sense," was Vader's only reply. Without warning he used their momentary distraction to vault upward and land on one of the myriad of rafters that stretched up the entire height of the tower. The Jedi had no choice but to follow him.

****

Segment 27 is written by starwarsfan1000

****

Qui-Gon and Aurora moved through the Imperial palace looking for Luke and Leia. Please let them be alright, Aurora thought.

This place is gloomy, Qui-Gon thought, Not at all like what we left behind, a temple full of happiness and laughter.

"This is the temple, isn't it?" Aurora asked.

"Yes," Qui-Gon said.

"The portrait of Master Yoda is missing," Aurora said.

Qui-Gon nodded, "Yes, and the walls are all gray and the floors are metal."

"Which way?" Aurora asked.

"Up, and take the stairs, not the lift, we don't know what would greet us when the doors open," Qui-Gon answered.

"This was the Council Spire, wasn't it?" Aurora asked.

"Yes," Qui-Gon said.

"It looks totally different," Aurora said.

Aurora and Qui-Gon started up the stairs, taking their lightsabers from their belts and holding them in their hands.

"I hope Dad and Obi-wan are okay," Aurora said.

"They are both very capable, they should be," Qui-Gon said.

Reaching up three floors, Qui-Gon said suddenly, "This way," and left the stairs to walk down a catwalk with the walls and ceiling gone.

"What is it?" Aurora asked.

"A disturbance in the Force, great fear coming from the twins," Qui-Gon said, walking cautiously.

Aurora took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart, "Lead on," and followed Qui-Gon.

Suddenly a voice called out all around them, "Welcome, I have been expecting you."

Qui-Gon looked up to a platform where the Council Chamber was, "Palpatine," Qui- Gon spat.

"Quite right, Master Jedi. I have the two brats you are looking for," Palpatine crowed.

Aurora let out a small gasp, "Oh no."

Palpatine looked at her, "Yes, I do. I also sense you would be harder to break then them, so you must die along with the Master Jedi," and unleashed Force lightening into both Qui-Gon and Aurora.

****

Segment 28 is written by Anakin's Angel

****

Aurora had sensed, perhaps a moment before, what Palpatine had in mind for them. Unleashing Force power of her own, she was able to deflect most of the lightning. She could feel her muscles protesting at the pure electricity that ran along her body. Turning, she saw that Qui-Gon hadn't been so lucky. Weak and radiating pain, the tall Jedi Master stumbled a bit as the electrical tirade ended. Without even glancing at the menacing figure seated on the platform, she grabbed Qui-Gon's arm and jumped down.

..

Anakin had had about enough of Darth Vader. The Sith showed little signs of weakening, and actually believed that Anakin would help him. No, Anakin's true enemy waited above them, ready to torture his children. Spotting Aurora and Qui- Gon, descending from the platform, he quickly forged a mental link with Obi-Wan. Follow me, now! Surprised, but ready, Obi-Wan nodded. "I've got bigger problems than this." He spat, backing away from Vader. His heart beat wildly in his chest, at the thought of leaving Aurora with this monster, but she could more than handle herself. The last thing he felt, before ascending to meet Palpatine, was the unguarded power his daughter wielded.

..

Although he would never admit it, Vader was somewhat relieved to find himself on the opposite side of Aurora's rose-colored blade. Never...never...had he expected to fight Anakin. To see what his life could have been like. It was too late now, much too late. He had to fight. "Your father has taught you well," he commented, parrying what would have been a blow to his arm.

Aurora all but sneered. "Damn right. He's taught me the true power of the Force." She declared, swinging her saber around in a move only a Skywalker could manage.

"If you only knew the power of the darkside," He shot back, re-igniting the other end of his saber, as Qui-Gon joined in the fray. "We could destroy Palpatine, and rule the Galaxy." He watched as a myriad of emotions played upon her face, the strongest of these, disbelief.

"I don't want to rule the Galaxy! I want what everyone wants, peace...and freedom!" She attacked almost savagely, pushing him backwards. "Not this rein of terror that your Master calls the Empire."

She was growing angry. Vader relished it, took comfort in the stormy emotions. If could only make her understand! She would be the one! "The words of Anakin Skywalker-"

..

"DO NOT SAY HIS NAME!" Aurora screamed, wanting to rush forward, but feeling Qui-Gon grasp her arm. Never in anger, Aurora. Not even now. Taking a deep breath. She knew Qui-Gon was right. The thought that she had been..comfortable inside her anger nearly made her vomit. Had it been Vader? Poisoning her mind, urging on her anger? Clinging to a calm she wasn't sure she still possessed, Aurora pressed on. "You lost any claims to that name the day you put on that mask." She continued, her voice more a controlled fury.

..

Vader said nothing, and turned his attentions to Qui-Gon. Decidedly the weakest at the moment, the Jedi Master could still hold his own. The definite drop in the anger Aurora had been projecting was undoubtedly the old man's fault. He had been so close, too. With a move, taught to him not a decade earlier, Vader spun around Aurora, pushing back at Qui-Gon with his blade. Surprised, the older man stumbled, falling partially into an empty lift. Moving lightning quick, Vader used the Force to move the man inside and seal the doors. He then turned to Aurora. "Now, young Skywalker, we shall continue."

..

Afraid now, more of her anger returning than the almost-comical Sith Lord she was fighting, Aurora took a deep breath. Latching onto the strong, clear, bond she shared with her Father, everything seemed clear to her.

I have to destroy him.

"You really are pathetic, you know?" She started, using all her strength to block his more powerful blows. "You could have destroyed Palpatine years ago. You could have been strong enough to not be misled by his evil, empty promises!" Realizing that she wasn't fighting this war for herself, but for Padmé, She continued. "My Father was strong enough once, to kill Palpatine, and he'll do it again."

..

Weak fool. They called you the chosen one?

You could have destroyed Palpatine...

not strong enough...

Wanting to block out the voice screaming at him now, Vader knew she spoke the truth.

Always a slave, you're never free. Not really.

Immersing himself in the darkside, Vader attacked in a blind rage.

..

Aurora was ready, however. Calling upon every aspect of her Jedi training, she kept a level head. The Force flowing through her veins, stronger than she'd ever felt before, she blocked every blow. She met wild rage with serene peace. Dark, suffocating fear, with unmatched strength.

"Peace over anger. Honor over hate. Strength over fear." She shouted, lashing out, and severing a mechanical arm in the process. It fell to the catwalk, forgotten. Disgusted, she wondered how much man still existed under the armor. Not wanting to find out, she faked a jump, bringing her lightsaber down, directly into the illuminated control panel on the front of the hideous armor. "

That was for my brother and sister!" She whispered, watching as various lights and alarms sounded. Her soft voice echoed off the durasteel walls; a direct opposite to the anger she'd so recently displayed.

Knocking Vader to the ground, she kicked his mechanical arm off the catwalk. "That was for everyone you ever hurt!" Sensing that he was losing air quickly, she stepped back. Spotting his deactivated lightsaber, she raised her hand, sending it sailing into the floor below them. "And that...that was for Padmé."

Darth Vader died moments later.

Aurora, exhausted and shaking, sank to her feet. It's almost over...

..

Making their way into the tower, Padmé, and a small group of rebels couldn't help watch the dissonance around them. Aurora, or anyone for that matter, was nowhere to be found. Walking cautiously down the catwalk, she stopped as she saw them.

Vader.

Dead.

She wasn't sure, at first, how she knew it to be true. It was then that she felt the ever-present bond, linking them together since they'd first met, grow silent. Looking up, she noticed that her escorts had left her some privacy. Slowly, she lowered herself beside the body. Now dead, she knew all that remained was the damaged, burned body of Anakin Skywalker.

A few feet away, Aurora sat with her head in her hands. Had Aurora done this alone? The young woman looked up, nodding silently as she got to her feet. Padme squeezed Aurora's hand, watching as she walked away.

She was alone with her husband.

In spite of everything, she'd always held onto hope. Hope that he would one day return to her, realizing everything he'd left behind.

She hadn't seen him since their last night together. The night he told her that he loved her, but could no longer remain a Jedi. He asked her to go with him; She refused. She gave him a hug, and cried herself to sleep. Taking his lifeless, gloved hand into her own, she pulled the material from his hand. White, scared skin was revealed, cold and so very different from the warm hands that had held her own.

"I asked you not to go, Ani. I begged you," She whispered, knowing that he would hear her, one way or another. "We could have had it all. A family, a home, happiness..." She watched as a tear fell onto their entwined hands. "I'm leaving this place, you know. Anakin...the man you should have been, has asked me to go with him," She paused, reaching into her pocket. A tattered piece of string, suspending a small japor snippet, sat inside her shaking hand. Freeing her hand from his, she placed the necklace inside it.

I made this for you, so you'll remember me.

She didn't want to remember.

"Goodbye, Ani."

Getting to her feet, she wiped her eyes and went to find her family.

****

Segment 29 is written by Julie

****

Anakin reached the Throne Room's suspended platform in one jump. Obi-wan was forced to catch up by leaping from rafter to rafter. As he finally pulled himself over the edge he saw that Anakin was already engaged in an all out firefight with Palpatine.

The Sith flung massive amounts of Force-lightening at the Jedi Master, trying to overwhelm him. But Anakin not only withstood it, but absorbed it as well, much to the Emperor's obvious disgust. Obi-wan began to skirt a ledge on the wall that was divided from the platform by the wide gap down the entire tower. Over by the throne he could see Luke and Leia sprawled unconscious on the floor. He couldn't tell at this distance whether they were injured or not.

As he slipped past the battle raging in the center, he saw Anakin begin to push back. The Force-energy that the Emperor had struck Anakin with was now being used against him. Anakin created a barrier with his hands and forced the lightening to curve back on itself and straight at Palpatine's face.

Just as they had hoped, Anakin kept the Emperor so distracted he never noticed Obi-wan lift both twins and begin to carry them slowly away from the throne. However, just as Obi-wan was nearly to the edge, the turbolift door opened. The Sith master glanced up as he sensed Qui-gon standing in the lift's doorway and at that moment, he saw Obi-wan and the twins.

With a scream of absolute rage, Palpatine lashed out at them. Moving swiftly, Anakin placed himself between the Jedi and the Sith, and caught most of the attack. But not all of it. Obi-wan didn't dare drop the twins to the metal floor that was now teaming with electricity, but he couldn't move fast enough to dodge while carrying them.

Obi-wan started with surprise as he felt Qui-gon quickly yank off his feet with the Force and pull them aside as a branch-like stream of lightening streaked past. He landed carefully on the floor again and dashed as fast as he could to the lift door.

Inside, Qui-gon sank to the floor of the lift in exhaustion and pain. Obi-wan gentle laid the two Padawans down as well and began assessing their condition.

"Thank you my Master." Obi-wan sighed in relief. "Your timing is just as impeccable as I remembered."

Qui-gon just smiled and then sobered, "The last thing I wanted to see was Palpatine murder you.... Again."

****

Luke could feel someone prodded him with the Force. It was irritating and kept demanding that he needed to wake up. As Luke began to stir, he felt the prompting become more insistent. Groggily, he opened his eyes briefly and moaned. Within seconds, Leia joined her brother in wishing she were still unconscious.

"Wake up, come on!" A very chipper voice encouraged them. A voice that the twins felt was vaguely familiar.

"Mom?!"

"Are we dead?"

Padme laughed, "No, you aren't dead. I'm the Padme of this universe. I'm not exactly your mother."

"Oh," Luke sat up weakly and had to be helped by Obi-wan. Aurora tried to help Leia sit up as well, but the girl just stared at Padme.

"You aren't Mom?" Leia whispered. Padme's eyes began to tear up at the teenager's mournful tone.

"Could I..." Leia stammered, "Could I hug you, anyway?"

Padme just smiled and gathered both Luke and Leia into her small arms. They were very quiet and when they did back up, they didn't really let go of her. Instead, they each sat close to either side of Padme and gave no indication that they had any intention of moving.

"What's going on?" Luke asked the Jedi.

"Your father is dealing with Palpatine." Qui-gon answered him.

Aurora sat on the floor in front of them, "What happened to the two of you?"

"Stun bolts," Leia stated crisply.

"Ugh," Aurora's face screwed up in disgust.

"And it's good to see you again, big sister. Dad freaked when he found out what you did." Luke informed her.

"Dad doesn't freak," Aurora argued.

"He did this time," Leia insisted. "You are in big trouble. The whole Council spent all day debating on what to do about you."

"And what did they decide?" Aurora asked in her most nonchalant tone.

"They haven't," Qui-gon interjected. "And it is likely they won't until we return home."

Qui-gon stern reminder did not ruffle Aurora's serene demeanor in the slightest. She just smiled. "It will be worth it."

Suddenly, all of the Jedi looked upward as the massive churning of the Force from the battle above increased even further. Aurora and Qui-gon recognized it as a sensation they'd only felt once before. Obi-wan, like Luke and Leia, could only stare in wonder and the array of feelings and wealth of the Force coursing through out the entire Tower.

Padme shielded her eyes as a bright sphere of light began to fill the top of the Tower. She was startled as the floor started vibrating.

"The Tower's going to collapse!" Padme stumbled towards Leia and turned to flee to the nearest exit.

"No, Padme," Qui-gon's voice barely reached her over the noise. "Anakin won't let it fall on us."

She stopped reluctantly, but also realized that they probably could not have escaped in time anyway. Padme sat down beside the twins and wrapped an arm around each of them. Whether she did it to comfort them or herself, no one knew. By now even the Jedi had no choice but to sit. The shuddering floor was too unsteady for even them to remain standing.

And then all the movement ceased and absolute silence reigned. The ball of light above them was like a miniature yellow sun. An eerie black and green inferno flared and expanded beside it, rocking the whole tower again. Quickly, the strange fire began to warp around Anakin's glow. The second that the sound of the blast reached them, another explosion, this one larger then the first, consumed the whole throne room. For several seconds the bright fire obscured everything from view. As is finally died down they could see that the entire throne room and its domed ceiling were gone.

Aurora moved first. Without a word of warning, she began vaulting upward, heedless of whether or not the rest of the tower's infrastructure was stable enough to hold her. Very little debris fell, and the Jedi easily deflected what did as they moved to follow her. Padme sat with the recovering twins and stared up at the patch of blue sky where the top of the tower had been.

Aurora wanted to scream for her father, but she didn't dare risk weakening the walls further. Besides, telepathy was much more efficient. If you were answered, that is.

Aurora didn't slow down until she reached the highest metal beam. The footing was treacherous and what was left of the top of the circular wall had been turned to melted slag and was dripping down the sides. The harsh and cold winter wind was cooling it quickly enough that the young Knight found a few semi-stable areas to stand on.

"Aurora!" Obi-wan practically hissed from below her. He jumped and landed safely on a nearby ledge. "What are you doing?"

Aurora only blinked in confusion. But Qui-gon came to her rescue, "She is doing exactly what we need to do, waiting to help Anakin."

"I can't see him," Aurora whispered. Her face was tense with worry.

The two Jedi Masters looked up into the unusually empty Coruscant sky and a yellow sun right above them. A sun that suddenly grew smaller and winked out. Aurora suddenly gasped and nearly fell off the beam, but Qui-gon caught her.

Obi-wan stared in shock, "He's falling!"

"Anakin's just unconscious," Qui-gon made Aurora sit down on the metal rafter, "We will catch him." He reassured her.

Working together with perfectly fluid teamwork, the two Jedi Masters latched onto the speck in the sky with the Force and began to guide it slowly down. By the time Anakin's limp form came close enough to see clearly, Aurora had recovered enough to help them. Even so, she was very pale. Sensing her father's presence in the Force diminish like that had shaken her greatly.

Obi-wan caught Anakin gently and braced him against two skewed beams, and Qui- gon began checking him for injuries. There were none immediately visible, but he did look rather scorched to Qui-gon's surprise.

"I cannot determine what damage has been done now," Qui-gon decided. "We need to get him to the healers."

They each took an end and lifted Anakin with the help of the Force, but they didn't try levitating him. Aurora stood ready to guide them down.

"I'm not a invalid."

Aurora grinned broadly, "Are you going to be alright?"

"Of course," Anakin answered. "You don't have to carry me. I can climb down on my own."

"Are you sure?" Obi-wan asked as he and Qui-gon helped Anakin stand on his own feet.

Anakin gave Obi-wan an all too familiar look of exasperation, "Yes, I am."

"Good," Obi-wan replied lazily. "Because you are heavy, Ani."

****

Segment 30 is written by starwarsfan1000

****

Padme walked over to Anakin, who stood away from the others, staring into space, "I do want to go with you,"

"You sure?" Anakin asked.

"Yes, I am. There's nothing for me here. The rebels don't need me anymore," Padme said.

Anakin looked at Padme with a look of total happiness, "You won't regret it."

"I know," Padme replied.

Aurora stood next to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. She looked at Obi-Wan, "Will you come with us too."

"I agree completely, you should come Obi-wan," Qui-Gon said.

Anakin walked up to them, "It would work." Padme and the twins nodded their heads in agreement.

A look of longing passed over Obi-Wan's face, "I can't. I need to help rebuild the Jedi Order here."

"Restore the Jedi Order without you, we can," Yoda spoke up behind them.

"But Master Yoda.." Obi-Wan began.

"No one here you care for, happier you will be," Yoda said.

Obi-Wan's face showed a hint of a smile, "All right."

Qui-Gon stepped forward and bowed before Yoda, "Good bye, My Master," and the others echoed the same.

"May the Force be with you," Yoda said, then turned and left.

Luke looked at Leia, "You got Kaely?"

"In my pocket," Leia replied.

"Okay, Artoo over here," Anakin began placing people for the return trip. "Obi- Wan and Qui-Gon, stand behind Artoo. Padme, Luke and Leia, stand in front of him. Aurora and me will stand on the sides of Artoo."

"Let's hope we have better luck getting home, I traveled through more than seven different universes," Aurora said after everyone was in position.

"I know, we tracked you through them all," Qui-Gon said.

Reaching out to the Force, Aurora began to glow pink rose and Anakin glowed yellow/white and the glow surrounded the others. Minutes later they were gone.

*******

Uni-A

"It is good to be home," Leia said.

"Only had to go through four universes this time," Aurora said.

Padme and Obi-Wan looked around, when suddenly a voice called out, "Mistress Skywalker, Master Kenobi, how can you be here, you are dead."

Everyone spun around to see Threepio in the study doorway. If ever a droid could look confused, it would be Threepio.

"It is a long story, my golden friend, come, I'll explain," Qui-Gon said and motioned for Obi-Wan to follow into the study and shut the door.

"So dad, how are you going to explain this to the rest of the Council," Aurora quipped.

"I don't have to, you will," Anakin replied and walked over to Padme, "Let's get something to eat."

Padme took his hand, "Sure," and walked into the kitchen.

"Boy, are you in trouble now," Leia said to Aurora.

Aurora stood looking toward the kitchen, "It was worth it."

*******

The End

We do have some ideas for a sequel immediately following this story, but we are all in college and not likely to have the time to write it for a long while. :(

Feedback is always appreciated!

Writers: Anakin's Angel (AnakinsAngel@aol.com), starwarsfan1000 (starwars1000@hotmail.com), Julie the Tall Terror (tall_terror@hotmail.com)