AN: I am, sadly, starting to see the final stretch with this story. But that's also a happy thing, because it will also then be finished, and will be my second finished project. I will probably not be working on a sequel to this, but you never know.
Thanks to all who reviewed the last chapter, especially Leona who pointed out formatting issues that should be fixed now with last chapter. Changes to the Code have been pushed aside for the moment, as I'm sure you'll understand.
Enough! On with the Chapter!
Obi-Wan had decided to let Anakin do most of the talking as they gave their report to the Council. It would be good practice, since he would need to give a similar report to the Chancellor later that day. "We approached the planet alone, leaving the Clones in orbit. They came in after we confirmed that Grievous was on the planet. The locals were very cooperative, apparently Grievous wasn't being a very good house guest."
"I'm sure he wasn't," Master Windu said dryly.
"The Seps had three battalions of troops on the surface, and full anti-air support according to Commander Cody's after-action report. We sent our astromechs back to the ship to inform the 212th that contact with Grievous had been made and to start the invasion.
"Then we began our search for Grievous, by the time we had arrived, the other Seperatist leaders had left for an unknown destination, but interviews with the locals after the battle indicated that they had been present."
"Know the destination of the Separatist Leadership did they?" Master Yoda asked.
"Unfortunately not, Master and no records were left to tell us where they might have gone," Anakin said.
"We found Grievous in the hanger of a Trade Federation ship, Obi-Wan engaged him first at ground level and once they were fully engaged I dropped down from above. The fight was short and Grievous will trouble us no more."
Leinea was wary about what Jander had found. "You're sure?"
"The senator just bought a big house. And they were bundling in two babies, but there's no record of her or her sister being pregnant, and the parents only have the two girls."
"A lot of stuff was lost with the bombing of Naboo, maybe it was just not something reported outside of Naboo."
"So what do you think we should do?" Leinea asked, "Kidnap them out of their home, just in case they are Skywalker's spawn?"
"Don't you think that is logical?"
She nodded. "I just hope you are suggesting this for the right reasons, not because you see another skirt you can chase."
Anakin sighed after hours of grueling reports and details of the battles to the Council. He was in his quarters, finally, and about to head down to the Guest Houses. But before that happened, he wanted a shower and to change out of formal robes. But he wanted to rest, relax a moment first.
Unfortunately for him, as most things in his life, that wasn't going to happen. As soon as he sat on the sofa in his common room, a chime came from his door. "Forget something Obi-Wan?" he asked aloud, though there was no one to hear him, as he got up to answer the door. It wasn't Obi-Wan at the door, but Arien Ketor. "Hello," he said.
"I was wondering something, Master Skywalker."
He sighed. "Come in," he said, deciding that his going home would be slightly delayed. He sat back down on the sofa and waved a hand to indicate that Arien could sit as well.
"I know that the idea of taking on a Padawan must be a difficult one."
"I've never had to make it."
"What about Ahsoka Tano?"
He winced. He didn't like thinking about Ahsoka. "A gift from the Council, I suppose you could say."
"Did you have a choice in it at all?"
"I could have sent her back, I suppose," he said, "But she was so reckless, so much like me that I could not refuse her. Perhaps that was the point, to teach me responsibility, but Ahsoka never did that for me. She challenged me to new heights of foolishness, and I her."
"Why would you do that?"
"They don't call me the Hero with no Fear for no reason, youngling. Pain, injury, they mean little to me, and I have so much power within the Force that things that even most Jedi would deem impossible are not even remotely problematic for me. The first mission I went on with Ahsoka, droidekas had surrounded me and I was actually afraid that I might be hurt. I didn't particularly think that I would die, I hadn't yet, so there was no reason to think I would this time, and I had faced worse odds. Ahsoka told me to stop where I was, and I did. She pulled a wall down around me, and I was in the right position to be in the window when it fell. How could I say no to her after that?"
Arien paled. "Will you expect that of me?"
"You are not Ahsoka. I do not expect that you will do the same things as she."
"That's a relief."
"So, what makes you think you're qualified to be my Padawan? You keep pestering me about it."
"I-I-I don't know," Arien said, caught off guard by the question.
Anakin laughed. Arien frowned. "No, I appreciate your answer, Arien. It means that you are not seeking me because of what I am, but because you are seeking someone who can teach you what you need to know to be a successful Knight."
"Does that mean that you will train me?"
Anakin sighed, sitting back, thinking. It was a big decision, but he was calm enough to feel the gentle nudging in the Force. "I suppose it does," he said after Arien had started to squirm.
He lit up like the twin suns of Tatooine. "Do you really mean it?"
"Of course. But, I must speak with the rest of the Council about it."
"Thank you, Master," Arien said. "When can I move in?"
"Move in?" Anakin was a bit stunned by the normalcy of the question. Arien looked crestfallen. "It's not you, it's just that I don't think that Ahsoka and I were home more than a week in total the whole time that I was training her. I didn't really think about that aspect of training."
"So, when?" Arien asked.
"When the Council approves your Padawanship," Anakin answered, then got up, wanting his shower before he went down to the guest houses. "I suggest that you go back to bed. You have an early day tomorrow."
"Yes, Master Skywalker," Arien said, and left.
Padmé walked into her new home, and did a double take, and then screamed. "Please, do not be alarmed, or at least not surprised. The Confederacy has spies everywhere, and you have made it easy to find where you are."
She closed her mouth, staring, wide-eyed as Nute Gunray was pointing a blaster at her younger niece. "You cannot do this, Viceroy Gunray. Release her now," she said, her voice retreating to her Queen-voice, devoid of emotion, accent, anything.
"But I already have," he told her. "We have an appointment to keep, so unless you want to see me shoot her, you will exit the building, and go to landing pad 377-A."
Her parents were being held at blaster point as well, and her sister and brother-in-law, and Ryoo. Suspiciously absent were Luke and Leia, but she also knew that Anakin had landed today. Perhaps he had taken them with him. She prayed to the Force that he had, and looked ahead, trying to believe that that was where they were, because if it wasn't, she feared what Anakin would do on finding them alone, or worse, dead.
Anakin had just finished dressing when a wave of fear coming from Padmé hit him. He felt out to the twins, and they were further away than he expected, and Padmé, too. Most confusing was that they were off in different directions. He picked up his comlink, directing it to contact Obi-Wan. "Something's wrong," he said after his Master greeted him.
"What is it?"
"I don't know, meet me down in the hanger."
"I'll be there momentarily," Obi-Wan said, and he was already in the turbolift by that point. He drew the Force into himself. He'd barely had time to breathe since they'd landed. Four hours to sleep, a long meticulous Council meeting, reporting to the Chancellor, and then reporting the Chancellor's actions in response to the Council.
He reminded his body that he needed to be able to breathe to be able to think. He let the Force help him calm himself. By the time the turbolift's doors opened, he was not panicking anymore. He walked calmly to the hanger bay, knowing that Padmé and the twins wouldn't be at the house she'd just bought, but hoping he could pick up clues as to where they were. He chose a fast speeder and waited for Obi-Wan to join him, which was a short time and forever in his mind.
"What is going on?" he asked as Anakin took the speeder out of the Temple's hanger.
"Padmé is afraid, and the twins are separated from her, and I'm not sure what's going on, but I need to investigate."
"Can you give me any more detail than that?"
Anakin shook his head and they flew the rest of the twenty minute flight to Padmé's house in silence.
When they got there, the door opened for him, and he flipped the light on. "Jobal? Sola?" he called out, not sensing any presences, but hoping that someone was there, but there was no answer. He took the stairs two at a time, checking in each of the bedrooms, but there was no one around. The window in the twins' room showed evidence of having been forced from the outside, but other than that, there was no sign of anything wrong other than their absence. After his first quick check upstairs, he went back down to the ground floor.
"Anakin?" Obi-Wan called to him as he came back down.
"Here. The window in the twins' room was forced open, but there's not really any evidence of any sort of struggle or anything."
"Have you looked down here?"
"Not yet," he said. He was struggling with his emotions, but he'd been able to keep them in check so far.
"Let's see what we can find," he said. Obi-Wan, he could tell, was worried, both about what he was going to do and about what had happened to Padmé and the twins. Anakin nodded, and they headed through the house, checking the rooms and finding nothing.
"I could feel Padmé's fear," he said. "I don't know what happened, but if she was afraid, there was something very wrong. Maybe they discovered the twins were missing and went out searching for them."
"Wouldn't she have contacted you first?"
"I would think," he said, and he pulled out his comlink, trying to raise his wife, but she did not answer.
"It doesn't seem she's looking for the twins."
"No. I can sense Padmé, and I can sense the twins, but they are in opposite directions."
"I know you are hesitant to speak with the Council, but perhaps it is time. We are going to at the very least need their cooperation, if not their help."
Anakin nodded. "I don't care for the idea of telling the Council now, but I know that they will be best suited to help us," Anakin said, worry coming to the forefront of his mind.
"We should call them now, I think this qualifies as an emergency."
Yoda watched as the Masters of the Council filed into the Council chamber. Anakin and Obi-Wan had gotten there before everyone else, but they were also the ones calling this meeting. He had an idea what it was about, but nothing specific, and while he'd been sensing that something was going to happen, something that was either going to temper Anakin or break him, he didn't know what, and he didn't know when. He only knew that Anakin would have to face it. Not necessarily alone, but he couldn't hide behind the Council, either. Hopefully, telling him that would prove unnecessary.
"I apologize for the lateness of the hour, my fellow Council members," Anakin said, standing in the center of the chamber instead of sitting in his chair. "I have much to tell you, and not all of it is pleasant to hear, and I'm not sure all of you will agree with everything that I have to say."
He took a deep breath, turning slowly, looking at everyone's face. "I was married to Senator Padmé Amidala at the beginning of the Clone Wars. This has been a good thing for me, providing balance and stability in my life where I felt I had none. When I returned from the Outer Rim Sieges, she told me that she was pregnant. I was overjoyed, but that shattered soon, as soon as I went to sleep. I began to dream of her death. I do not know what would have happened if Obi-Wan had not been there for me. I am only glad that he was. Padmé gave birth to twins a month ago, and they are one of the best things to have ever happened to me. I do not nor will I regret the birth of my children even if it means my expulsion from the Order."
Anakin let that sink in for a moment, reining in his emotions tightly. He did not like the thought that he would be forced to choose between the Order and his children, but should that choice be forced, he knew what he would do, and he had made peace with that. "There is a more pressing matter, though. This evening, all members of the Naberrie family including my children were taken by parties unknown. I am not certain, but I believe that the twins were taken separately from Padmé and her family. I request your assistance in finding them."
Master Yoda shifted to a more comfortable position as Anakin took his seat. Mace Windu was the first to jump in with a question. "Why are you just now coming to us with this information?"
"I was hoping to wait until the Code and ideas as to what was proper for a Jedi had changed sufficiently that I would not be expelled before revealing my family. Master Yoda was informed of this, but I am afraid we had yet to determine the proper way to inform the Council. This matter makes it urgent that we act now, and there will be plenty of time to determine what, if anything, should be done about me, once everyone is safe."
It was Master Ki-Adi-Mundi who next spoke. "I concur. We can discuss what to do about Anakin later. Right now, there is a Sith, who might possibly be behind these kidnappings, and if he is, then there is no time to waste in attempting to get Anakin's family back here where they are safe."
Anakin, surprisingly, sat quietly after that agreement. It was testament to the new-found maturity that the young Skywalker had gained with the birth of his children. The other Masters were looking at him with varying degrees of suspicion and surprise. Finally, the various members of the Council consulted the Force on this, and found, with some amount of surprise, that Anakin needed to do this. For a non-Force-sensitive, the meeting might have looked like a staring match, but for the Members of the Council, it was a puzzle, or a chess match, each of them looking at the others, determining how the others felt, and what the Force's will was on this matter.
Yoda just watched and waited. Anakin's agitation, while well-controlled at the moment, was still there, would begin to grow if nothing was said. People he cared about were in danger, and if it was possible, he wanted to be out looking for them himself. And if Yoda had anything to say about it, he would be, though he was not the only member of the Council, and his voice was no greater than any other voice. And he would not make it so that their voices went unheard. He rarely issued the Council direct mandates that they would be required to follow, and one of the reasons was that the Force spoke to each being in its own way. This would be a difficult decision, both for Anakin and for Yoda, but if Anakin wanted the Jedi Council to change, he would have to be the one to persuade them, and while Yoda supported that, as he did all the endeavors of his Jedi, the sweeping changes that Anakin seemed to be working towards even if he himself didn't see them, were not designed to make the Council comfortable. In fact, they were probably going to do just the opposite.
The Corellian Jedi had staunchly stood by the idea that family was just as important to a Jedi as any other being, and most of the rest of the Order had looked upon them as renegades who defied the Code at the drop of a hat. Yoda had always thought there was more to it than defiance, though in some Corellians that tendency could not be denied. But Anakin was much like them. He was much like Qui-Gon, following the guidance of the Force, regardless of what restrictions had been placed on his behavior by outside forces, including the Council.
He felt that most of the Masters had reached a decision as to their votes by that point, and so he said, "Quickly a decision must be made. At stake many lives are. Ready are we to decide whether to help young Skywalker on his quest?"
Murmured agreement met his ears. "What say you, Master Windu?"
"While I do not necessarily agree with the things that Knight Skywalker has done, it is clear that this has been a stabilizing influence on him. If there is any possibility at all that these children have been kidnapped by the Sith, then there is great need for the Temple to see them safe, even if they are never trained. Senator Amidala has been a great supporter of the Temple, and her disappearance will cause much strife within the Senate, and her family has suffered the loss of their home already. We have offered them our protection and have failed, as they were taken from our own Guesthouses. We cannot sit idly by and wait for something more to happen to them. All must be found, and hopefully returned safely to the Temple grounds." Yoda could feel Anakin's surprise at such an impassioned speech by Master Windu. There was surprise from some of the other Masters as well, those who had witnessed first hand some of Anakin's more temperamental moments with Master Windu.
With that support, the agreement of the Council was virtually assured, and Yoda smiled to himself. Perhaps young Skywalker would get things his way, after all.
After they returned to the small accommodations that Sidious had provided them, they were attempting to determine what to do with twin Force-sensitive infants. They had tested both of them for midi-chlorians, and both tested off the chart. "It seems like we have two potentials for him, not just one."
The blonde one of the pair blew a raspberry at her. So long as the two weren't placed more than two meters from one another and were kept clean, fed, and warm, this one didn't object to anyone's attention, even Jander's. The brunette, however, wiggled, fussed, spit up, cried, and did everything within her power to make their lives miserable, including upsetting the blonde boy. "Did Sidious make a mistake?"
"Perhaps it was a test. But both of these infants are highly Force-sensitive," he reminded her, "Off the charts."
"Then we take them both to Sidious and let him sort it out."