Living A Lie
Chapter 6, Till Death Do Us Part
The Senate Rotunda
The Senate was particularly rowdy this morning. Legislators had been evenly divided on either side of the Bill of Taxation of Refugee Transport Vessels since it had been raised and after weeks of stern debate, there were no signs of a concession.
The opinions on both sides were equally compelling. The Left-Wing argued the Bill would discourage the transport lines that only provided their services to the Refugee Movement as an act of charity. Taxation would stifle the quantity of ships they supplied and leave thousands of refugees stranded. The Right-wing believed that most of the 'transports' were vessels belonging to smugglers, pirates, and other crime syndicates who used a handful of refugees as cover for their more nefarious cargo.
Later on, a holo-reporter would describe how the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic had looked down on the divided lawmakers with a heavy gaze, the lines of strain and disappointment stark on his face as once again, the Senators of the Republic showed how incapable they were of setting aside their differences and uniting towards a common purpose. The reporter would describe how his shoulders fell as time and time again, he tried – and failed – to call the House to order. They would describe how he was temporarily distracted by the Jedi emissary who whispered into his ear, and how the light in his eyes dulled even further as he received the message. When the Chancellor finally rose to call for a recess, his formerly buoyant figure stooped and frail with age and care, the holo-reporter was near tears, and so was half of the populace who had read the report.
En route to the Coruscant Military Zone One
The Jedi emissary had informed him that the fleet of Republic warships were assembled of the mission in Muunilinst. Led by his aides and Red Guards, Chancellor Palpatine made his weary way towards the Military Base where he would watch them leave.
As Fighter One lifted off from the high security-landing pad, Darth Sidious was all but bouncing in his seat.
As always it had been a delight to sit amidst the fighting hounds of the Senate. The occasional prodding of dark energy was merely a catalyst to their innate discord. This morning's session was especially amusing as he was treated to the site of the Senator of Naboo in full form, the likes of which she had not been for some months, as she argued fervently against the Bill, raising passions on either side and deepening the divide in the House.
Apparently, Skywalker had succeeded in paying her that visit after all. And since she seemed cured of the apathy that Palpatine had observed in her for some time, then the visit between her and Skywalker must have been conjugal.
Sidious smirked as Palpatine turned worried eyes to the viewport as the Fighter circled the classified landmark and dipped into the entrance tunnel.
When he was younger, Palpatine had sampled the sentient weakness that was euphemized as 'love'. He was surprised at his own disappointment in it. The passion that drove so many sentients to great acts of creativity and destruction had proven to be a shallow pool compared the deep, bottomless well of power that was the Dark Side of the Force.
In good time, the Chosen One would learn that, as well.
However, Sidious decided as Palpatine was helped out of Fighter One and was welcomed by a group of Jedi Masters, what these lesser ones call 'Love' is a very powerful tool of the Dark Side. One day, Skywalker will see the humor in that.
"Chancellor," Master Windu's bald pate shown as he bowed deeply, "the Republic awaits your orders."
Palpatine sighed and Sidious smiled. As it should. As it should.
Padmé had almost kept the cloak. What was his was hers after all and though a weak substitute, it was all she had of her husband's.
But in the end, sanity prevailed and she had sent Threepio ahead with it. During the Senate recess when the droid finally returned, its screeching joints making less noise than its vocal complaints, she breathed a sigh of relief. Artoo would have been her first choice but he didn't have the appendages to deliver the item. Dormé was out of the question.
Later on, Padmé would find out that that decision almost cost her and Anakin their precious lie.
Obi-Wan's sharp eyes had narrowed at the droid waiting for Anakin. "Don't I know you from somewhere?" he asked.
Threepio perked up. Although Mistress Padmé had given him stern orders not to disclose the sender of the cloak, she had said nothing about mentioning his own origins. "Well, I surely don't recall but perhaps if you have had an opportunity to venture towards the Outer-"
Anakin burst into the waiting room, almost gasping. "Master Obi-Wan, Master Yoda wants to speak to you!"
Obi-Wan stared, startled – and suspicious at once. "He does?"
"Right Now!" shouted Anakin.
The Master's lips thinned at his Padawan's blatant rudeness but he couldn't risk offending the Jedi Master. As it turned out, Yoda did have cause to speak to Obi-Wan although he did not directly ask for him. Anakin managed to usher Threepio out without further incident. By the time, Obi-Wan returned, he was too precoccupied with nagging his apprentice about the mission to remember the droid.
Military Zone One
The cloak was now bundled up in Anakin's survival kit as he strapped himself into his customized craft and slipped on the headpiece. With one ear, he listened to the Chancellor's rousing speech. With the other, he recollected the vows he and Padmé had shared what now seemed so long ago during a Naboo sunset.
Not for the first time, the sober reality of war hit him.
This mission might be the one he would not return from. Last night might be the last time he would ever hold her in his arms, ever claim her as his wife. Their love, their marriage would be an empty secret that she would carry to her grave and he to his death.
The Chancellor had finished speaking. There was the customary pause during the soldiers were given the option to voluntarily turn from battle.
In all of Republic history, from the Sith Wars to now, no soldier had ever taken up that option.
For one wild crazy moment, Anakin thought of setting the precedent.
He thought of jumping out of this cockpit, dropping his lightsabre in Obi-Wan's hands, running as fast as his Force-enhanced speed could take him to Padmé's arms –
– and never ever leaving.
In that wild moment, he looked around. A thousand helmeted clones humming oddly in the Force only seemed to buttress his decision. Master Obi-Wan was nowhere in sight but judging from his recent scolding, his Master would be more relieved than disappointed at Anakin's desertion.
Anakin stared up at the podium, where the Jedi Masters –
(Yoda and Mace would probably open the wine bottles)
– and the Senators waited. He looked at Bail Organa's grim features, at Mas Amedda's impassionate face –
(Who was he to them but one more pawn in the politicians' never-ending battle for influence?)
– and then at the Chancellor. Palpatine's blue eyes were staring straight at Anakin with a look of utter dissapointment.
Anakin shivered. It was as if Palpatine already knew – had already seen Anakin's desertion.
Anakin looked away but he could not run from his thoughts.
Palpatine – Padmé's icon and mentor. Palpatine who had taken the ex-slave from Tatooine under his wing and tried harder to be father than his own Master.
Like cold water, shame splashed against his senses and the moment of madness passed.
It was only a moment.
The clarion call was sounded. Automatically, Anakin's hands found the controls and his customized starfighter's repulsors fired. The craft lifted from the landing pad in the Military Base and a thousand clone starfighters lifted in tandem. The sky roof shifted and in perfect synchrony, the fighters filled the Coruscant sky-lanes. Slowly, they made the sweep around the Senatorial District, their salute to the citizens of Coruscant. The heavier war-ships would ascend straight into the stratosphere.
Anakin was aware that thousands of beings were looking up at his fleet, staring at them with wonder and with hope. It was laughable how happy he had been at being named the Commander of the Air Attack only a day ago. Now he felt nothing other than the weight of duty on his shoulders and the burden of apathy in his heart.
In a literal flight of daring, he turned the nose of his Jedi starfighter until he was rising along a certain view of the 500 Republica. And as he had half-hoped, half-expected, the one spectator that mattered was waiting for him.
His fighter hovered in mid-air as he drank in her fill of her.
Padmé's face was even more beautiful than it had been the night before. Her large eyes were so filled with emotion that they surely betrayed her to the most unsuspecting un-looker. Her lips parted but she didn't say anything – just breathed out her love, her anxiety, and her deep, deep sorrow. Softly, one hand pressed against the glass and he caught it with the image of his own.
Life filled his veins. His passion returned.
He would fight. He would win. He would bring peace to the Republic. And he would return to her.
And that day, there would be no need to hide anymore. On that day, there would be no more need for lies.
Marriage Blessing of the Apaches.
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years,
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.
Thanks to everyone who's ever reviewed on this story: REV042175, Padawan Sydney Bristow, liz, Paula Anka, Summer's Sun, Naberrie Skyler, r0ck3tsci3ntist, Padakin, Ann Jinn, fialleril, Li-Li-ThePinkbookgirl, arthi kamala sivakumar, and Rya Likao. Your kind feedback and encouragement made all the difference. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story and I hope to see you in any other of my stories. Until then...