Chapter V: The Devil's Advocates
It was just past 0800 hours when Padmé stepped into Supreme Chancellor Organa's office. He had only just arrived himself, and was seated behind his desk, working at a piece of legislation that, if passed, would offer further aid to the thousands of refugees created by the liberation of the Imperial prisons.
She had come to see him about an Imperial prisoner of an entirely different sort.
He looked weary, and pained by loss, as they all were, but his smile when he greeted her was warm and genuine, and she returned it with equal feeling.
Bail Organa was one of her oldest friends. They had met shortly after Palpatine's declaration of empire, when he was the Senator from Alderaan and she the recently deposed Queen of Naboo. He and Senator Mon Mothma of Chandrila, together with several others, had formed the Rebel Alliance, and she, fleeing her recently announced status as a dissident, had quickly joined their cause.
Bail was one of the few people who really believed her strange stories about her time in captivity under the Empire, and her even stranger tales of how that captivity had ended. He believed her because he knew her, because he trusted her judgement and, still more, her heart. Even when she told him that Vader had changed, and that she loved him, Bail Organa believed her.
So now she relayed to him everything that Dooku had said, and she waited.
He was quiet for a time, thoughtfully stroking his chin, and when at last he answered her, his voice was gentle. "Padmé," he asked, "do you truly believe that your husband would be not only able, but willing, to decrypt these files?"
She looked him straight in the eye, and answered without hesitation. "Yes."
Bail stood and began to pace. "Then I believe that we have no other choice." When she looked at him in surprise, he added, "I don't know what else to do, Padmé. The information encrypted in those files is vital, but I've never encountered such strong encoding before. Our technicians can't make anything of it."
He stopped his pacing and looked at her unflinchingly. "Padmé, I'll be honest. If Anakin does this, I can't promise you anything. I will argue for his release, of course, as I have these past months, and if he is able to decrypt these files, perhaps the Senate will consider… But you must know that it may not change anything."
"I understand," she whispered. And then, almost fiercely, she added, "Talk to him, Bail. He will help us."
Chancellor Organa nodded, and as soon as she had gone began preparing a request for the Jedi Council.
It had been a long time since Yan Dooku had visited her library. Years, in fact. On his last visit to the Archives, he had coolly informed her that he had read everything of interest there, and had no further need of the library's services.
He was probably the only person in the galaxy who could get away with saying that to her.
The Archives were the one thing she could really consider her own. It was ridiculous, she knew—the Archives were public, open to all, not just those she deemed worthy (though she sometimes wished it were otherwise). There had been Head Archivists before her, and there would be others after her. And yet… she could not help but feel that the Archives were somehow uniquely her own. It was a strange attitude for a Jedi Master to take, but it was true nonetheless.
Perhaps her keen spirit had always needed something in which to ground her passion. Once, she might have found that depth in something other than her books, and perhaps, somewhere deep within herself, she still did. But she was older now, and she had accepted the way things were. And yet, she had never really let go.
He was still the only one she would ever allow to say such things.
And now he was here, in her library, where she had never expected to see him again. His keen eyes looked almost eager to see her, the slight quirk of his mouth hinting at secrets to be shared and plots to be hatched. She found, to her annoyance, that she could not even manage a sharp remark with which to greet him.
She must be getting old.
"Hello, Jocasta," he said, offering her the customary bow of one Jedi Master to another.
"Yan," she offered, returning the bow. "It is good to see you again, old friend." She allowed the fraction of a teasing glint to show in her eyes as she added, "Have you decided that my library may prove useful, after all?"
"Hardly," he replied with a rather undignified snort. "No, I have a—" He paused, seemingly uncertain how to phrase his words, and finally settled on, "a project, if you will. And I think you might find it of interest…"
He told her everything, as he always had. And she saw the way the Force shown with certainty and purpose around him, and decided that, just perhaps, her Archives could watch themselves for a while.
The Sith was not at all what she had expected.
For one thing, he was absurdly young. To her eyes, he looked little more than a boy. But she knew that he wasn't. She wondered if he had ever really been a child at all.
He had been asleep when she and Yan entered the cell, his back pressed against the wall, legs curled tightly against his chest, but he had jerked awake instantly when Yan moved towards him. She watched with some surprise as the feral, hunted look seemed to fade from his eyes when he realized who stood before him. It was replaced by what might almost have been a smile.
"Hello, Anakin," Yan said kindly, and she looked at him with a start. She had never heard him speak in that tone to anyone but Qui-Gon.
The Sith stretched languidly, like a cat, and rose smoothly from his place against the wall. She would never have guessed that he had only just awoken. He moved without a sound.
"Mas—" he began, but, catching the Jedi's warning look, amended, "Yan. I wasn't expecting another visitor so soon…"
"So it would seem," Yan replied dryly. "Did you sleep well?"
"Evidently," the other muttered, with a wry snort. "I let you surprise me, didn't I?"
Yan said nothing in reply, but simply favored him with an appraising glance. "Anakin," he said at last, gesturing towards her, "this is Jocasta Nu, our Chief Archivist, and a very good friend."
She gauged the Sith's reaction carefully. He appeared to be analyzing her, weighing her on some internal balance. His eyes pierced her soul, and she was once more surprised by what she found in them. There was compassion, and a sorrow that was far deeper than the result of mere captivity. There was the echo of old pain never fully healed, of heinous acts seen and committed, of agony so great that it stole away even her mental screams—but, just as Yan had said, there was no darkness.
"I brought you some reading materials, young man," she said, recovering her wits, but only just. There was something about his presence in the Force that was almost blinding. "I believe you may find the first particularly interesting," she added, producing a small stack of datacards and a reader and holding them before her like an offering.
"Thank you," he said softly, the warmth of his voice surprising her. Somehow, she had expected it to be deeper, colder.
He took the datacards—and the hint—gingerly, and instantly inserted the first card into the reader. She watched the change that came over him with something like awe. His face seemed to brighten and lift, and the veiled suspicion in his eyes disappeared entirely, replaced by a kind of radiant joy that was infectious. He ceased to be a prisoner, or a Sith Lord, or anything else, and became simply another young man very much in love.
She found the thought strangely heartbreaking.
He took some time to read the letter. So much time, in fact, that she concluded he was either the slowest reader in the galaxy, or else he ought to have the document memorized by now. But she couldn't really blame him. After all, it was the first letter he had ever received from his wife.
"She shouldn't," he burst out suddenly, glancing up from the datareader at last and swallowing thickly. His gaze snapped towards Yan and he asked, almost accusingly, "Was this your idea?"
Jocasta was rather frightened by the change in his tone, but Yan, as always, seemed unconcerned. "She refuses to leave you here," he said almost gently. "You ought to know that. Senator Amidala can be very stubborn when she sets her mind to it."
Anakin's eyes softened. "I know," he murmured. "But you didn't answer my question."
"We planned it together," Yan replied with a conspiratorial tilt of his brow. "With a bit of help from one Sabé Elinai as well, I might add."
The Sith hung his head in dismay, but Jocasta thought that there was the barest hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. "Sabé's in on this, too?" he asked, letting out an exaggerated sigh. "Well then, I suppose I have no choice but to go along with it. Between the three of you I wouldn't stand a chance."
There was an understated tone of cheerful banter in his voice that surprised her—and reminded her of something she had not had in years. It was easy to see what drew Yan to him. She found herself wondering who this young man might have been, had he been allowed a normal life.
"Four," she said on a sudden impulse, surprising herself almost as much as she did Anakin. Though she noted, with some annoyance, that Yan did not seem at all surprised. "There are four of us together in this. Though I'm sure I don't know if the Jedi Archivist will have much of a voice with the Supreme Chancellor…"
He gaped at her for a moment, and then his face broke into a slow smile. He looked even younger when he smiled, and she found herself wondering just how old he was. He couldn't be much more than twenty.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the beeping of Yan's com. He stepped aside for a moment to answer in what relative privacy the small cell had to offer, then turned back to them and said, with exaggerated dignity, "It appears that my presence is requested by the Council." He made them both an apologetic bow, adding to Anakin, "I will visit again when I can. In the meantime, is there anything else you would like to request of our library? Within reason, of course."
To his credit, Anakin caught on immediately. "There might be a few things. If you can spare a moment, I'll make a list." And he began tapping away furiously at the datapad in his hand.
He must not have been a slow reader after all, Jocasta thought, because he was certainly a fast writer. In less than half a minute, he had handed the datapad to Yan, who tucked it inside his robes without sparing it a glance.
"Thank you," Anakin said, and she thought that his voice broke, just a little.
Jocasta Nu was in high dudgeons. She had never taken kindly to being ordered about, and certainly not by a man less than half her age, be he a fellow Jedi Master or no. The fact that the Jedi in question had once criticized the quality of her Archives was also foremost in her mind.
"I'm sorry, Madame Nu," Obi-Wan was saying, "but we simply can't risk leaving you alone with him. The Council—"
"I have heard quite enough about the Council for one day, young man!" she huffed, and with that being said, turned on her heel and stormed off without a backward glance. Obi-Wan watched her go, looking more than a little puzzled by her behavior. Beside him, Dooku was smirking.
"You might have allowed her to stay, you know," Dooku's silken voice cut into Obi-Wan's musings. But he said nothing else. He seemed to be waiting for the other's reaction.
Obi-Wan sighed. "I have my orders, Master Dooku," he said wearily. "The Council does not wish anyone to be alone with the prisoner, as you know. I should not have allowed you to visit him yesterday."
Dooku snorted softly. "I am well aware of the Council's orders, Obi-Wan," he said, not too unkindly. "But their reasoning is flawed." He paused, and fixed his companion with a hard, piercing gaze that made the other want to flinch. When he spoke again, his voice was tinged with a grim sadness. "The Council is not all-wise, Obi-Wan."
"Perhaps not," Obi-Wan replied with some heat, "but that is hardly a good reason to trust a Sith!"
"And what, may I ask," Dooku said with an air of unshakable calm, "makes you think he is a Sith?"
Obi-Wan Kenobi was not easily surprised by any means. He had, after all, survived not only the Jedi Purges, but over ten years as Qui-Gon Jinn's apprentice, and until now had thought that nothing could really surprise him any more. But he was beginning to think that might change if he spent much more time with Dooku.
The other was regarding him with something like pity in his dark eyes. "I am not asking you to take my word for anything, Obi-Wan," he said softly. "Just as I would ask you not to take the Council's. Let go of your preconceptions and your unthinking obedience and allow the Force to show you what is really there."
When Obi-Wan protested, Dooku looked him straight in the eye and asked, "Do you honestly believe that Qui-Gon would have advised you any differently?" And with that, he turned on his heel and was gone, his footsteps echoing solidly down the long corridor.
Obi-Wan was left standing alone with the terrible realization that Master Dooku just might be right.
Next chapter: Bail Organa makes a deal with the Sith…