A Fragile Hope
Anakin casually strolled down the dusty streets of Langrunn III, a world just inside the Mid Rim. It was little more than a large mining colony with the only cities and ports located near the active mines. This world was far from any of the old fronts of the Clone Wars, so there was no risk of running into Republic – no, Imperial – troops.
It had been just under a week since the Temple had fallen. Just under a week since the galaxy had fallen into shadow. And now everything was different.
He had shed his Jedi robes in favor of ordinary civilian clothes. He'd gone with an outfit that made him look like a career spacer, perhaps a pirate with his scarred face. It consisted of a dark gray leather jacket with a hidden inside pocket that he used to stash his lightsaber, a slightly off-white shirt, dull black pants, beat up brown boots and a new leather glove. He also had his banged up old backpack slung over his shoulder. Added to the fact that he hadn't shaved since fleeing Coruscant, he looked very different than he had before.
How does Obi-Wan stand it? He wondered, rubbing at his fuzzy chin. This itches!
Obi-Wan was still alive, he knew that much. But where his former Master was or what he was doing, Anakin had no idea. He had briefly considered seeking him out, but nixed the idea, feeling that he ran too much of a risk in getting caught if he tried it.
If he were to actively search for Obi-Wan, he'd have to use the Force a lot. And that could catch the Emperor's attention. That was something he didn't dare do, even all the way out here at the edge of the Mid Rim. The less he needed to use the Force, the better.
Anakin had cut loose his Eta-2 one planet ago. It was too distinctive, something that made him look like a Jedi. So he'd sent Petey off on his own after topping off the gas tank. The droid would take a winding route with the goal being Tatooine and the Lars moisture farm. He'd left a message for his mother recorded inside the R4 unit. His mother would store his ship and droid for him and she could sell off the booster ring as scrap. The next time Anakin intended to go home, he'd put an internal hyperdrive into the thing and be free of booster rings forever.
As he passed a newsstand, Anakin spied piles of different News-faxes and wondered. Aside from keeping an ear out for troop movements, he hadn't really paid any attention to the news. But now seemed to be a good time to catch up. Or, at least catch up as much as he could. With how vast the galaxy was, news from Coruscant could take days, even weeks to get out here.
Wandering over to the stand, he bought the most credible looking paper, tucked it under his arm, and walked away. He didn't immediately read it, he first looked for a place to study it in peace. He found that place a few blocks away in a low brick wall that was shaded by the local version of a tree.
He settled down on the little wall and pulled out the paper. After opening it and shaking it out, his eyes were drawn to the headline on the front page. It was printed in bold letter, all capitalized, with several exclamation points for good measure.
VICTORY OVER THE CONFEDERACY!
ULTIMATE VICTORY has been achieved by our brave Imperial troops! Clone intelligence units tracked the renegade Confederate Ruling Council to the Outer Rim system of Mustafar. A fleet of the Empire's best Star Destroyer's converged on the Separatist's lair within hours.
Several times the Separatists were given the chance to surrender. Every time they refused. And so the fleet was left no choice. The Separatist hideout was then obliterated under the weight of the fleet's orbital bombardment…
Anakin wrinkled his nose in disgust. That sounds like serious overkill. And I bet the Separatists weren't given any chance to surrender, they were slaughtered just like the Jedi…
He skimmed the rest of the paper. Most of the other articles were boring, some where so bad he skipped them entirely. The stories that dealt with the Imperial military he paid close attention to. But near the back of the paper, on one of the last pages…
JUST days after the Jedi Order was revealed to be traitorous, some of the remaining members have claimed yet another victim. An Imperial public servant, Imperial Senator Padmé Amidala was killed as she returned to her home planet of Naboo. What little evidence there is, points directly at the disgraced Jedi Order.
Senator Amidala left Coruscant mere days after the Galactic Republic was reconstituted into the Galactic Empire to travel to Naboo. She was to meet with her planetary leader, the recently appointed Queen Apailana, to discuss the change in government of the galaxy. However she failed to arrive safely.
A subsequent search of nearby systems revealed that her personal ship was knocked out of hyperspace just short of the Naboo system. It was then mauled by Jedi forces and completely obliterated. There was barely enough debris left to make a positive identification.
Also killed in the crash were two of Senator Amidala's trusted and loyal servants. Her aide, Sabé Maybine, and her chief of security, Captain Eric Typho, both natives of Naboo, perished heroically by their Lady's side. Two other of the Senator's servants, Moteé Verin and Ellé Danna, narrowly escaped death by virtue of being granted leave shortly before the Senator departed for home.
An elaborate funeral is being planned on Naboo by Queen Apailana and the Gungan leader Boss Nass to honor the fallen Senator, her servants, and her family…
There was a little more to it, but Anakin couldn't comprehend it. He couldn't really see it either. He was too blinded by his tears.
No! Padmé, no! She can't…she can't be…be dead! And Sabé and Typho! …And the baby!
An invisible hand slowly crushed his chest as his anguish threatened to strangle him. This knowledge was terrible enough by itself, but coming so hard on the heels of the Temple's fall made it all the more devastating. And then the paper had the audacity to put the blame on the Jedi!
Palpatine…Darth Sidious…you monster!
He knew the Jedi would never do such a thing. But the Emperor would. He had every reason to kill Padmé.
She was a formidable opponent, politically. She had done her best to thwart him in the Senate on a wide variety of issues, including the Military Creation Act. And he already suspected her of plotting against him. So why not kill her?
Fury rose in him, directed at the Emperor, but it was quickly swamped by a sense of crushing despair. What would he do now without his dreams of his Angel, and of his unborn offspring, to sustain him? What hope was there for his future now?
Words of encouragement he'd spoken mere days before now left a bitter taste in his mouth…
"Master Skywalker, what will happen to us?" One of the children, a little Human girl, asked.
Anakin had left the shuttle after giving Ferus and Darra a list of possible destinations. It was up to them to decide where they wanted to go. Now he was back outside, hoping to distract the children before it was time for them to part ways again.
"Knight Olin and Padawan Thel-Tannis will try and find someplace safe where you can stay." Anakin replied.
"You won't be coming?" The little blue Squib whimpered.
"No, I still have a few things left to do here in the Mid Rim," Anakin sighed. "I'd very much like to go with you though." Really I would.
"Master Skywalker," the little Zabrak boy piped up. "Would…would you take me as your Padawan?"
Anakin couldn't help but stare at the kid. Never in a billion years would he have expected to have any Jedi kid would ask him that. He was briefly left speechless.
The little Zabrak just stood in front of him, waiting for an answer. For a five year old, he looked dead serious. Though his 'dead serious' expression was slightly ruined by his soft childish features and little horn nubs where his distinctive Zabrak horns would grow in around puberty.
"No," Anakin managed to force out at last. I can't take a Padawan!
"Why not?" The Zabrak asked miserably.
"Don't be in such a hurry to grow up," Anakin cautioned, recovering his wits. "And besides," he leaned in to whisper 'conspiratorially' to the kid, "I don't think I'm old enough to be teaching anyone anyway. Master Kenobi always complains I act more like a three year old than a twenty-two year old."
"Oh," the kid mumbled. He still looked a bit down, though Anakin knew he'd at least managed to take most of the sting out of the rejection.
"Master Skywalker?" The Twi'lek, a chalk-white girl, squeaked nervously.
"Yes?" Anakin blinked. Please don't ask me to be your Master too…
"Will things ever get back to the way they used to be?" She asked, anxiously fiddling with her right lekku.
Trust kids to ask simple, but hard questions… Anakin didn't immediately reply. He knew he had to be very careful in answering this inquiry.
"No," he said, "things will never be the same again. But that doesn't mean it will always be bad. The galaxy is always changing around us."
"Is there any hope?" The Twi'lek wondered.
"Yes," Anakin nodded firmly.
"But so many people died," the Squib whimpered.
"Yes, a lot of people did die," Anakin admitted. "Everything dies at some point, even stars die. But when a star dies, a new one will be born to take its place. When a species goes extinct, a new one will evolve to fill in the gap. Things come to an end, only so that new things can have a beginning."
"So is the Order dead now too?" The Whiphid asked.
"No," Anakin shook his head, "we're still alive, so the Order still lives. Only when all the Jedi are dead, and all knowledge of us is gone, will the Order die. And that's a long way off."
"When will things get better, Master Skywalker?" A Human boy asked.
"Well, that's hard to say," Anakin scratched his head. "Think of it like this," he suggested after some furious thought. "The sun has set on us for now, so night has fallen. We just have to wait for the sun to rise again, so that morning comes. I can't say exactly when that will be. I can't say how many hours, days, weeks, months, even years from now, but I can say that it will happen."
"You think so, Master Skywalker?" A girl asked.
"I know so," Anakin declared. "So long as we are alive, we'll make it. So long as we live, there is always hope…"
Note: Yeah, the end. But don't despair! I'm working on a sequel which should start posting soon! Though...school will be starting up for me soon, and my laptop is in need of some serious work, so updates may not happen for a while, and possibly be sporadic when the do, so please be prepared...
Anyway, thank you loyal readers! I hope you've enjoyed this story as much as I have! And remember, there is more to come...
EDIT: The sequel, Exile, is up! Find it through my profile!