"For Absent Friends"

Chapter 3

"A Path You Cannot Follow…"

Republic Mourns Loss Of Slain Jedi Master

CORUSCANT (GP) – Remembrance services were held for slain Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker early this morning at the Jedi Temple. It was a private ceremony, attended only by members of the Jedi Order, family and close friends.

Jedi Master Skywalker first distinguished himself in 6220, when, as a child, he was responsible for the destruction of the Nemoidian Trade Federation ship that was blockading the small Outer Rim world of Naboo. Years later, he and Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi led the then newly-formed Republic Army against the Trade Federation's illegal clone army.

The exact details surrounding Skywalker's death are not known; reports indicate that he was killed on Malastare while mediating negotiations between the native Dugs and the Grans who began settling that planet during the last 200 years. Skywalker was 45.

Jedi Master Kenobi, who was also serving as a mediator at the peace conference, was present at the time of Skywalker's death. According to a leaked report submitted by Kenobi to the Jedi Council, Skywalker was killed by a toxic agent native to Malastare. The exact nature of this substance, or whether Skywalker ingested it inadvertently or was deliberately poisoned, is still unknown.

The Jedi Council refused to comment.

Skywalker is survived by his wife, Queen Amidala of the Naboo, age 49, and by their twin children, Jedi Knights Luke and Leia Skywalker, age 25.

Salmé, who is first among the Queen's Royal Handmaidens, stated that "Her Majesty is coping as well as can be expected". She went on to say that she hopes the press will respect the Queen's privacy at this difficult time.

Related links: The Jedi Temple, Malastare, The Trade Federation, Naboo, The Battle For Naboo

"Thank you for seeing us on such short notice," Padmé said, following Yoda into a meditation chamber.

Yoda grunted noncommittally and made a gesture at the window. The slatted blinds closed somewhat, shutting out the bright morning sunlight.

"Sit, yes," he invited, motioning at a cushioned stool opposite the one he was clambering onto.

Padmé sat, adjusting the long skirts of her black gown. She indicated with a subtle motion that the two handmaidens who accompanied her should wait outside. Palpatine stood behind her, his clasped hands mostly hidden by the elaborate sleeves of his black Nubian robes. Yoda frowned.

"Padawan Corona," he called. A large eyeball at least three feet in diameter floated into the room. "A seat for the Chancellor you will bring, please?" The eyeball blinked its long lashes in demure acknowledgement and floated out again.

Padmé idly wondered how a being like that could wield a lightsaber. When it returned a moment later, Force-levitating another cushioned stool behind it, she figured she had her answer. The second stool gently landed next to hers, and the Chancellor thanked the eyeball with a slight bow before sitting down.

"Thank you, Padawan Corona. All that will be," Yoda told the eyeball, and received another demure blink in response before it left, the door sliding shut behind it.

Padmé lifted the black lace veil that had concealed her face and leaned forward slightly.

"Master Yoda, how exactly did my husband die?" she asked, getting right to the point.

"Investigating that still we are," he told her. "The information you need to know will be given to you at the appropriate time."

Padmé's eyes narrowed at this. "Please allow me to be certain that I understand your meaning, Master Yoda. Are you saying that I will only be told what you and the Council deem necessary?"

"Difficult situation this is, very difficult," Yoda sighed. Padmé exchanged a significant look with Palpatine.

"Perhaps this situation is so complex that it requires more manpower than the Council can spare at this time," he suggested. He clasped his hands and steepled his fingers under his chin as he spoke. "I could appoint a Special Senate Committee to do an independent investigation and turn over the results to both the Council and Her Majesty," he continued thoughtfully.

Yoda frowned at this. "A gracious offer to be sure, Chancellor," he allowed, sounding anything but gracious. "But not necessary is it. Our own do we look after."

"And so do we of the Naboo," Palpatine agreed smoothly, folding his hands in his lap. "That is why – "

"Naboo Anakin was not," Yoda reminded him shortly. "To the Jedi Order did he belong."

"He was also husband to our Sovereign," Palpatine reminded the Jedi Master with a slight smile. "Technically making him Prince Consort of the Naboo, though he never used that title."

Yoda frowned. "For seven hundred years have I led the Jedi. My own council I will keep on what is – " He suddenly stopped speaking, cocking his head as though listening to something only he could hear.

Palpatine's head came up, and he too stared at a point somewhere in the middle of the room.

"Mmm, changes nothing that does," Yoda said, apparently to himself.

Padmé leaned slightly towards Palpatine. "What's happening?" she asked suspiciously.

"Anakin is here," he told her faintly.

"Anakin?" she repeated, eyes wide. Her sudden joyous expression made her young again despite the grey that touched her dark hair. "Where is he?" she asked, glancing around.

Yoda frowned at the center of the room in open disapproval. "A Jedi Mystery this is," he said. "Not meant for the eyes of outsiders." He listened for a moment, shaking his head in disgust at what he was hearing.

Palpatine smiled. "No, I wouldn't figure you'd care much about that, Anakin. You always were one for shattering the rules when they didn't suit you."

"A bad idea this is," Yoda said. He gestured at Palpatine and Padmé. "Think of those you claim to love you should. Bad for them this contact is. Bad for your wife, who will never move on, and bad for the Chancellor, who was never trained to use the Force."

There was more silence as Yoda listened. Finally, he sighed in resignation. "Do this once only I will," he said grudgingly. "But then you must promise to leave them in peace."

"What's happening?" Padmé asked.

Palpatine was staring at Yoda in wide-eyed astonishment. "You can really…" he began.

For the first time during their interview, Yoda smiled. "Yes," the Jedi Master said quietly. "Watch." He closed his eyes in concentration and made a slight motion with his hand.

Padmé gasped as a ghostly form appeared, gradually taking on the shape of her late husband… but now he was young again, as young as when they were first married.

"Anakin!" she cried, jumping to her feet. She tried to embrace him, but her arms passed right through his insubstantial form.

"Padmé," he said with a gentle smile. "I would hug you if I could, but I am afraid this is as good as it gets."

"Then it is enough," she said, tears of happiness running down her cheeks. "To see you again, to speak to you…" She wiped her face with her hands and gave a little laugh. "Gods, how I have missed you."

"And I you," he replied.

"Look at you – you're young again!" She exclaimed, as though just noticing.

"Well, sure! Who wants to be middle-aged for all Eternity?"

"Master Skywalker," Yoda said warningly.

The ghost glanced down at the Jedi Master, and then turned back to Padmé, smiling ruefully. "I'm on a deadline, my Angel," he said apologetically.

"How… why did you have to die?" Padmé asked.

"Why? It was my time, Padmé. And how I died isn't as important as how I lived."

She frowned. "What do you mean, Anakin?"

"You may never know exactly how or why. Accept that. Don't allow it to become an obsession that rules your life."

Padmé nodded. "I will try."

Anakin glanced at Palpatine. "You will take care of her?"

"Of course, Anakin. I did give you my word."

Anakin nodded. "And Padmé… Sabé asks that you in turn take care of Palpatine."

Padmé looked surprised for a moment, but quickly recovered herself. "Tell her of course I will."

"Master Yoda – " Palpatine began.

"Already do I know what you will ask," Yoda said. "Bring the Lady Sabé's shade here to speak to you I cannot."

"But why – "

It was Anakin who answered. "She is not one with the Force, Palpatine. Her soul goes on, but not here. Non Force-users have their own place… they can't come to where we are." He smiled gently at Palpatine. "But we can go there."

He turned his attention back to his widow. "Padmé, don't be angry with our children, or Palpatine's, for not attending my Remembrance service. They have their sworn duties to the Jedi Order to uphold, and this must come before all else."

Padmé's lips were pressed together in a thin line, but she nodded. "All right."

"Enough this is!" Yoda interrupted. "Be gone you must, Master Skywalker."

"No!" Padmé protested. "Not until he's said all that he has to say!"

Yoda sighed. "Finished are you?"

"One more thing. Padmé, do not dwell on me. I'm gone, and I'm in a better place… and one day we will be together again… all of us. But until then, you must live your life. Promise me."

"Anakin, I could never forget you!" she protested.

"I didn't ask you to forget me," he reminded her kindly. "I just want you to go on. I don't want you to spend the rest of your life looking back on happy memories. I want you to be happy, to make new happy memories. Promise me," he said again.

Padmé swallowed hard and nodded. "I promise you that I will do my best, Anakin. That is all I can do."

"And that's all I can ask," he agreed. When he spoke next, his voice was wistful. "Goodbye, my Angel. We will be together again – forever – before you know it."

"No, don't go!" she begged, her voice breaking.

"I must… and you mustn't seek contact with me again. "

"But why?" she asked with a frown.

"Because it's not healthy, Padmé. You have to let me go. Grieve for me if you must, but let me go and go on with your life. Death is a part of the natural order of things, and it's only a transformation, after all. But I've gone down a path that you cannot follow… not now. It's not your time."

She nodded. "All right, Anakin. I will try to do as you've said... to think of things as you've said. But it will not be easy."

"Life never is," he reminded her, earning a small laugh. He raised a hand in farewell. "Until we meet again, on this side… goodbye, my Angel. Goodbye, Palpatine. May the Force be with you both."

And with that, he was gone.

Padmé covered her face with her veil and sobbed. Palpatine stood and laid a gentle hand on her back.

"Mourn him not, Your Majesty," Yoda said quietly. "For he is one with the Living Force."

"Chaos take your Force," Padmé spat, quite forgetting to behave like a Queen. When she spoke again, her voice was low and bitter. "It has brought me nothing but grief."

"Perhaps we should leave, Your Majesty," Palpatine suggested.

"Yes," Padmé agreed through her tears. She took a deep breath, collecting herself, and then grasped the arm he gallantly offered. "Until we meet again, Master Yoda," she intoned formally, sounding more like the Queen and less like the brokenhearted widow.

"And meet again we will," he replied, inclining his head slightly. "Your Majesty."

As he watched the two Naboo leave, he cocked his head, listening to a voice. "A good idea that is not," he said quietly. "Better than that you should know, Master Skywalker." He shook his head, frowning. "Meant to be known in this life some things are not. Leave the Chancellor in peace you should."