Into the Force


Disclaimer: Long before Episode III was ever released, even before Episode II, I had this wonderful idea for the clone wars. Unfortunately George didn't return any of my calls and all my mail went unanswered and the end result is what we all saw in the theaters. My original idea has been slightly modified to allow for earlier events in Episodes II and III, but this is an AU story. Some parts will be recognizable from the movies (but only barely because I haven't seen it since June and hate sticking to scripts anyway). Others will possibly amaze and astound you. The former belong to master Lucas (along with all recognizable names), but the latter (I am proud to say) belong to me and my overly possessive ego.

Anakin woke from his sleep with a start and looked down at the woman next to him, his face twisted with grief. He'd had the nightmare again. The one where Padmé is dying in the throws of childbirth. Only it was different this time. He was there. And he'd done nothing to save her.

Crawling out of bed carefully, so as not to wake his wife, Anakin walked out of the room. He stared out at the dark city of Coruscant. At the Jedi Temple, a spire high and bright in the sky. The symbol for everything that was good and just in the Republic. And beside it the Senate. The symbol for freedom and power.

A frowned crossed Anakin's features as he thought about the man that power was routed through. The Chancellor. He could barely believe it. He could barely hope to believe it. Palpatine offered him power, the power he would need to save his wife. But... at what cost? He would have to betray the Force, practice everything his Jedi training had taught him to reject. Everything his mother had taught him to reject.

But... Padmé! Anakin's features were blurred with pain again. He couldn't let her die! Not if there was anyway to prevent it! And maybe the price wouldn't be so great...

Anakin went back into the Senator's apartment. He slipped his shirt on and strode for the door, grabbing his robe on the way out. He strode purposely through the halls until he reached the garage. He didn't hesitate to jump into the speeder which had been loaned to him for the duration of his time as Padmé's guardian.

Anakin sped the speeder smoothly through the crowded traffic of Coruscant. Even at this time of night the city didn't sleep. The city never slept. Anakin sped toward the Senate building and the suite that belonged to the Chancellor. He had to learn more about this power. Maybe there was a way to save Padmé and still maintain his morals.

The doors to Chancellor Palpatine's suite opened before he could even knock. Before he could lose the nerve to knock. He was playing with the dark and he had to admit to being a little afraid... No, he was nervous, a Jedi did not fear. But if that was so then why were his palms sweating?

"Anakin," the voice of Palpatine this night was kind and concerned, "What brings you here at this hour? Not another nightmare, I hope."

Immediately the Jedi was on his guard. He hadn't told the Chancellor about those nightmares, he was sure. Mostly sure at least. He had told Yoda, yes, and had mentioned it to Obi-Wan, but he couldn't remember bringing it up around the Chancellor. Something didn't feel right.

"I wanted to ask you about this power you spoke of to me earlier," Anakin said. Better to dive to the heart of the matter than play at the edges of the flame.

Palpatine smiled, but it was far from the benevolent look that Anakin was used to. "The power you need to save Padmé," he said, stressing the word need.

And Anakin did need it. He nodded, "How can I learn more about this power?"

"I can teach you," Palpatine said, "I can teach you everything you need to know, Anakin. You could become powerful indeed, at my side."

"Powerful enough to save Padmé," Anakin said.

"Powerful enough for that and more," Palpatine returned smoothly. Oily. His words sounded slick with lies to Anakin who was by now fully in tune to the Force.

"How do you know so much about this?" He asked, "Can you save people?"

"I'm afraid I am not as powerful as all that," the Chancellor said in a mild voice, "But you, Anakin, could be truly powerful. I have studied the ways of the dark side and have learned of powers more awesome than the foolish Jedi will ever know!"

Anakin shuddered involuntarily. He couldn't do this. "You're a Sith," he accused, his voice strong despite the rising fear he felt rising in him, "The one the council has been looking for."

"Those fools on the council are blind to my might," Palpatine sneered, every moment looking stronger and more foreboding than the last. "Join me, Anakin, and you will never have to let someone die again."

Anakin shook his head. It was wrong. Even for Padmé... he just couldn't do it. "No," he said, backing out of the room at the same time, "I could turn you over to the council, you know!"

"But you won't," Palpatine's voice was the height of arrogance, "You need me, Anakin. If I die, Padmé joins me."

Unable to stand another moment in the dark presence, Anakin tore from the room, breathing heavier than he had all night. How could he even begin to think he could reason with a Sith? He had seen the destruction they caused. And what's more! Count Dooku had been a Sith as well and Palpatine had him killed! They even killed each other!

He shook his head. It had been a bad idea to come here. He jumped back in the speeder and sped away. To Padmé's quarters. He had to tell her everything was alright. He had to tell her he wouldn't betray her. To tell her to stay in the apartment, no matter what happened.

"Master Windu!" Anakin called out, jogging to catch up to the tall Jedi master who was walking into the hanger. He had to tell somebody, he had to alert the council to the Chancellor's threat.

"Yes, what is it, Anakin?" Mace Windu asked, looking vaguely upset.

"It's about Chancellor Palpatine," Anakin said in a low tone when he was close enough not to be overheard. For some reason he hesitated. Undoubtedly the council would kill Palpatine. And then he would never be able to save her.

"What about the Chancellor, Anakin?" Windu asked with a frown, casting an anxious glance over his shoulder. He had places to be, a war was going on!

"He..." Anakin forced his hesitation aside. If Padmé had to die... A lot more people would die if the Sith lord was allowed to live. "I have reason to believe the Chancellor is the Sith lord." He looked down with irritation. Now he had sealed his fate. He would never have the power to save Padmé.

"What?" Now Windu was interested, "Is that true, Anakin?"

"You don't trust me?" Anakin asked with a stab of pain. He knew they didn't trust him, but it still felt horrible to have it thrust into his face like that. He shouldn't have come, they didn't believe him anyway. He should have just dealt with the Chancellor himself.

"My trust is not easily given away," Windu said with a piercing look at the young knight. He nodded, "If what you say is true, though, then you will have my trust."

"Vorru!" Windu called to the ship over his shoulder, "There has been a slight change of plans!"

"Let me go with you," Anakin said suddenly as the Jedi master started towards the ship.

Windu turned to him again with those eternally searching eyes, "No, Anakin, leave this to the masters."

Anakin scowled and watched them leave. He felt like he needed to be there. Restlessly he climbed the tower to the council chamber. He hoped to see something from up there. Something that would ease his restless nerves. But he felt as though he shouldn't be there, waiting for them to return.

With a growl of frustration Anakin finally gave in to the calling and left the room. It felt right to be leaving. The Force wanted him there, he was sure. It wanted him to be with the masters, it wanted Palpatine destroyed.

Anakin made short time of the trip back to the Chancellor's chambers. It was hard to believe the Sith lord that had so long evaded the Jedi's probing gazes had been under their very noses the entire time. It was sometimes so difficult to see the truth that lie right in front of you. Anakin pulled his lightsaber from his belt, ready for anything as he let himself into the Chancellor's chambers.

But he wasn't ready for the sight that greeted him. Two dead Jedi masters lay just inside of the door. Palpatine had to be very strong if he could defeat the master swordsmen just like that. He shuddered and walked further into the rooms towards the noisy source of conflict he heard.

A sudden viscous sort of joy filled his heart at the same moment as a longing despair. Mace Windu was standing over the broken form of Palpatine, so close to victory.

"Anakin!" The old man cried out when he saw him, "Anakin, help me!"

"Anakin, stay back!" Master Windu countered, his lightsaber poised to kill.

"Wait," Anakin didn't know what drove him to say it but he did. He felt desperation winning out. He needed that power to save Padmé! "He should be tried before the courts," Anakin said. And that would buy him the time he needed to learn about this life-saving power.

"He is too dangerous, Anakin," Master Windu said.

"Anakin, please, help me," Palpatine goaded, sounding every bit as broken as he looked.

Anakin looked desperately between the two, feeling himself torn in two as he watched. It wasn't fair that Palpatine die before he told Anakin what he wanted to know! But it wasn't right for Palpatine to be allowed to live, a lot more people would undoubtedly die at his hand. He was evil. But he had something Anakin wanted so dearly.

And Master Windu's lightsaber was swinging down. The final death stroke. Anakin closed his eyes tightly, blocking out the image that would seal the fate of his beloved. And Palpatine saw that no redemption was to be forthcoming from the Jedi he had hoped to turn.

Enraged the Sith lord hurled dark power at Windu, causing the Jedi to cry out. Anakin's eyes snapped open again and he watched in horror as Windu's convulsing body was thrown through the broken window into the depths of Coruscant.

"No!" Anakin heard himself shouting before he was aware of having made a conscious decision to do so. His lightsaber was ignited in a second and he ran at the man, blinded by the injustice of it all. Even if he hadn't wanted Palpatine dead just yet, there was no way he had wanted Master Windu to die. Even if the man had only come to trust him in the end, he was a man Anakin had looked up to for most of his life. After all he was a Jedi master on the council. The height of honor for a Jedi.

But as powerful as Anakin felt he was he didn't even come close. Palpatine turned his power on him and dark lightning lanced through Anakin's form, sending him collapsing to the floor. He cried out in pain, trying to shake the feeling off with all his might. But when it stopped he was breathless and weak, trying to recover from the attack.

"Anakin," the Chancellor's voice was almost soft, speaking as if to a favored son, "You should have listened to me, Anakin. It would have been so much better for you."

"I'll... never join you," Anakin spat angrily. He was still horrified at what the man had done. What would he have done to Anakin if he had given in?

"A fact that is inconsequential, I'm afraid," the man said with a false sincerity, "You see, Anakin, I never needed you. Everything I offered you was for your own good, but if you don't want it..."

Anakin shook his head viscously, "I won't become a murderer!"

"Oh," the man said tauntingly, "But you have already murdered, haven't you, Anakin?" Anakin glared but didn't reply. "You murdered Count Dooku in cold blood," Palpatine continued, smiling cruelly when Anakin cringed at the memory. "And you murdered all of those people on Tatooine."

Anakin's eyes flashed up, guilt flashing through them followed by anger and confusion, "How could you know about that?" He demanded. Even Obi-Wan did not know about that.

"I know everything about you," Palpatine said icily, adding in a mockingly concerned tone: "And I'm afraid you know too much about me." Lightning lanced out again from his fingers, making Anakin writhe in pain on the floor. Darkness began to eat at the edge of his vision and he found himself welcoming it. Anything to escape the pain. But then the Chancellor stopped.

"Just kill me and get it over with," Anakin ground out.

"You want to die so badly, do you?" Palpatine asked, a cruel and eager grin playing across his face, "But, no, Anakin, I don't think that I will kill you."

"What?" Anakin asked, barely believing his ears.

If anything Palpatine's grin became crueler. "No, I will let my apprentice do it for me. Anakin, I would like you to meet my apprentice, Darth Vader."

Anakin's eyes strayed to the footsteps he heard stepping lightly through the room. He couldn't quite make out who it was, someone tall but still cloaked in the shadows. Then he stepped out and Anakin felt his breath catch in his throat.

"H-how?" He managed to stammer out, staring up at an exact replica of himself. The man that towered over him was young and strong, resembling Anakin in every way. His face was contorted with hatred, though, and his eyes gleamed with evil malice. A cruel smirk pulled at the double's mouth.

"Hello, Anakin," said a voice that sounded as if it could have come out of Anakin's own throat.

"Remarkable, isn't he?" Palpatine crowed, looking at Darth Vader with obvious pride, "Bounty Hunters aren't the only people who can be cloned you know," he told Anakin with obvious delight. "And once you are out of the way," he continued, "My apprentice will lead an army in the extermination of the Jedi."

"No," Anakin whispered harshly. He couldn't let that happen. The Jedi were his friends, they trusted him! If this imposter led a force against them... they wouldn't realize their danger until it was too late.

But Palpatine only continued his feral grin. "Kill him," he commanded.

Darth Vader stepped forward, igniting a red lightsaber in the same movement. Anakin was shaking his head, he couldn't let it happen. His friends would be killed! Obi-Wan and even Padmé would be in danger. They wouldn't know this clone was not him.

"No!" He shouted again as Darth Vader closed in on his weary body. In a motion too fast for the eye to successfully follow Anakin had found the strength to propel himself to his feet, calling his own lightsaber back to his hand with the Force. And he understood what his dream meant.

"I won't let you kill Padmé!" He cried, lunging at the replica of himself.

Darth Vader met Anakin's thrusts and swings blow for blow. Anakin felt the Force flowing through him, adding speed and strength to his moves, but his half dead body couldn't be strong enough. The clone met attack for attack and not a single of Anakin's charges made it through.

"You cannot win," Palpatine taunted, watching the spectacle with sick amusement as Anakin fought Anakin.

The Force was strong and with a maddened bellow Anakin's lightsaber swung around after a block faster than should have been possible. A sharp pain from his arm and a distinct crack let the Jedi feel the damage such a stress had put on his arm but what was more important was that he had managed to hit the clone.

Sparks shot off from Darth Vader's robotic arm, the same side as Anakin's own robotic arm. Vader's lightsaber went flying along with the hand that held it. Anakin stood panting in front of him, lightsaber poised for the kill with both hands. He looked into his own eyes as he gathered up his will and strength to attack. It had to be finished.

Ignoring the pain from his fractured bone, Anakin raised his lightsaber high to deal the death blow. Darth Vader merely smirked at him and in the same second that Anakin charged three things happened at once.

Darth Vader raised a hand as quick as lightning, or maybe it had been up all the time, Anakin was too preoccupied with the concurrent suffocation that he couldn't be sure. It felt as if a metal vice had gripped onto Anakin's neck and was slowly squeezing, cutting off oxygen at a torturing rate. Anakin stumbled off target, making a wild swing among his disorientation that only hit air before the lightsaber dropped from his hands.

Anakin was on his knees before he realized he had fallen, gasping for breath. His fingers were clawing futilely at his throat in attempt to pry loose what wasn't there. Pain shot from Anakin's injured arm and his vision was clouded with tears forced loose as every part of him screamed for air.

"So you see, Anakin," Palpatine hissed as the Jedi's eyes struggled to focus on him, "Without me, you are powerless."

Gasping pointlessly at the air he was denied Anakin slowly began to feel detached from his suffering. Something was calling him away from Palpatine's taunting words. Something comforting and well-known as a good friend. A friend calling him home.

Anakin's last conscious thought was of Padmé and the sorrow he felt that he wouldn't be able to return to her. That everything wouldn't be alright, like he had promised. He gave into the friend's calling and the moment stretched into eternity as he became one with the Force.

Palpatine watched without emotion as the body of the Jedi disappeared. "So, in the end you gave up," he spat scornfully, "It seems you weren't as strong as I supposed." He glared at the empty robes with disgust before turning back to Darth Vader.

"Go to the Temple," Palpatine commanded his apprentice, "Wipe them out."

"Yes, master," Darth Vader replied, a cruel look of anticipation washing over his features. As the clone swept out of the room Palpatine stepped over to his desk, composing himself for the greatest moment of his life. His final victory over the Jedi.