AN: I think that this is the last chapter. I don't know of much that I want to do that I don't want to put in the next story. I am taking a break from this whole storyline for a lot of reasons, and I'm sorry. I might start this again in the summer, but I'm not sure. As promised, I will start posting a new story, The Necklace, and I will continue to work on The Slightest Bit of Happiness. I will likely not do an Epilogue for this story, unless it appears that I actually want to skip some time, which I don't think I do. The war will be too big of an event to skip out on.
MrPowell: Hopefully this chapter answers some of your questions. Sifo-Dyas still went to order the Clones, but by the time he did, the three Skywalkers were already affecting things in the past, so he knew that the time before the war would be much longer. He ordered them ready about a year previous to the time that the story is set. I don't know much about the two sets of clones of which you speak, but I'll research between now and when I start writing that story.
Sentrosi: Not for a while, but it will come.
ElusiveMaverick:Thank you for your kind words, and yes, I will do another sequel. I don't know when, though.
Millennium Falcon, Bespin, 39:6:4
Luke hugged his sister as she cried. The loss of Aayla was a major blow to the order, but Luke wasn't concerned with that, he was concerned with the effect it was having on his sister.
"In one sense I barely knew her, yet I feel this hole in my heart where she was," Leia was saying.
"She'll always be with you Leia, just like Ben was with me after the Death Star," Luke said.
"It was a stupid wasteful death," and she fell into sobbing again.
"Any non-natural death is stupid and wasteful," Luke said. Just at that moment Han came into the common room.
"We've got company Luke! Fighters of a configuration I've never seen before coming in fast," Han said, then saw Leia crying. "What happened?"
"Aayla didn't make it, Han," Luke said, the words making Leia's tears come faster.
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry," Han said, his mind taken off of the danger they were in.
Leia suddenly looked up, a ghost of a smile on her face and she whispered, "Yes, Master, you're right."
"Huh?" Han said.
Luke allowed himself a grin, "We'll explain later, Han. Right now let's stay alive."
"Yes, Han I'll need you later, but we have to get out of this first," Leia said wiping away her tears.
"Right…Come on Luke those fighters have to be…" the ship shook at that point, and Chewbacca gave an irritated growl over the speaker.
"All right, all right! Don't get your pelt in a knot Chewie!" Han said as he bounded over to the turrets.
Luke was impressed with the weapons systems in the turret, they were slightly more powerful than the ones Han had in the Falcon in the other timeline. The benefits of being legitimate were good.
The fighters were coming in fast and Luke was reminded of their escape from the Death Star all of those years ago. Luke found this fight much easier than that one, of course there were a lot more fighters this time and they were trying to kill them.
The fighters were flat with half-oval wing extensions, the wing extensions opened up revealing short laser cannons which started firing on the fleeing Falcon. Luke closed his eyes and let the Force guide him, it guided him in destroying the most dangerous of the fighters, but he knew that unless something changed it was just a matter of time before they overwhelmed even his skills. He kept firing, then he heard Han say, "These guys must have really advanced inertial dampeners to make maneuvers like that!"
"They aren't manned, Han. They are droid fighters," Luke said.
"Those are illegal, Luke," Han said.
"And whoever built them broke the law," Luke said.
"Ya think?" Han retorted. Luke grinned at the outburst. Yes, the Han of this time line might not ever have been a smuggler, but it was now obvious that his attitude wasn't brought on by his profession.
The droid fighters kept coming, the Falcon twisted and turned, running a course that if plotted out would resemble a figure eight. Several of the droid fighters crashed into each other trying to stay on the Falcon's tail in the blind spot, but Chewie was doing a good job of not letting them stay there, and he'd been able to position the freighter for either Luke or Han to get a shot. More droids filled the sky above Bespin. The Falcon started a general shimmy as the droids started, through sheer numbers, to pelt the ship's shields with regular hits. Luke was now starting to worry; once the shields went down that would be just about that. Then a series of hits shook the Falcon violently, killing the power on board. All of the lights, the gravity, everything was gone.
"Damn it! This tears it! NO ONE BREAKS MY SHIP!" Han said, livid.
Luke was too concerned to be amused by Han's histrionics. The droids hadn't destroyed them yet and he wondered why. He heard Chewie roar in frustration from the cockpit. Han passed back into the common room on his way to the engine compartment. Soon after that he heard a squeal and a crash, followed by Kel Dorian curses. Minimal power came back and Luke looked at the turrets sensors and was not surprised to see a capital ship approaching. It wasn't long before the Falcon started moving toward the behemoth of a ship. It was long and narrow, compared to the star cruisers that Luke was familiar with.
The Falcon continued towards the open hanger, Luke got out of the turret and headed back to the common room toward where, on the Falcon he was used to at least, were hidden compartments, and to his relief found that they were in place.
"Good, they're here!"
"Whatcha talking about, kid?" Han said as he started past Luke headed back up to the cockpit.
"The smuggling compartments. We need to hide in here, they are taking us in," Luke said.
"Oh, no…no, no, and no. Not on my watch!" Han said.
"We don't have a choice, Han! They have us in a tractor beam,"
"This day just keeps getting better. Is there room for all of us?"
"It'll be tight, but yes," Luke said.
"Ok, good thing Jasmine's short!" Han said then called everyone to the compartments. They pulled the cover over just as they felt the ship touch down.
Millennium Falcon, Bespin, 39:6:4
Han peaked out of the smuggling compartments. Lucky thing that they were there. It had been quiet for some time. A cursory inspection of the ship had been performed some time before, but something had happened and whoever was looking over the ship had run out in a big hurry.
"I think that we are safe," Han whispered to Luke.
"It seems so. Let's see what's going on," Luke agreed.
"I'm going to the cockpit," Han whispered back as he scrambled out of the compartment. Luke merely nodded in response, helping his sisters out of the compartments. He walked carefully but quickly to the cockpit, keeping low so that if anyone happened to be watching the cockpit, they didn't see him.
Flipping the comm on low, he discovered why. "Rogue Leader, this is Rogue Three. No sign of friendlies in the area," Wes's familiar voice came over the comm.
He flipped the comm on. "They caught us in a tractor beam, Wes. That's why you can't find us."
"There you are. Getting a lock on your location now. That ship better spit you out if it knows what's good for it," Hobbie's feral rant came.
"Come on, Rogue Six, you know they didn't expect us. I'm sure they're trying right now to release the Falcon so we can have her back," Wedge said.
"Can't be fast enough, Rogue Two," Zev said.
"Cut the chatter, Rogue Nine. The rest of you lot, too," Dreis said, always acting the stern commander. Han knew better, but he wasn't about to inform anyone of it.
"So, what's the story?" Luke asked as he came up behind him.
"Flyboys are out there. I don't know if we can get away or not. I'm sure the tractor beam is still active."
"I can take that out. Give me a few minutes."
"Fine. I guess Rogue Squadron has them more occupied that we do."
"Distractions are always good, when it's not your side that's being distracted," Luke said, heading off to the ramp, still open from the earlier investigation.
Millennium Falcon, Bespin, 39:6:4
Luke pressed his way back to the ship; he'd been able to find the control towers for the tractor beam and disable them with no problems. Getting back to the ship, however, had proved more difficult. He battled through several groups of droids, disabling them efficiently as he made his way back to the Falcon, finally getting back to the cargo bay that they had been towed into.
"Luke!" Leia called from the ramp.
"Have Han get the ship ready. We're leaving," he called to her, and she disappeared up the ramp.
The cargo bay started to fill with droids, but Luke was sick of having to wade through them. He used the Force to propel himself up and over all the droids, and he landed on the ramp of the Falcon. The droids were obviously not programmed to deal with people jumping distances of that magnitude, so he was able to get up the ramp and start it closing before they started firing at him again.
"Can we get out of here now?" Luke asked Leia as she came down the passage.
She nodded, and he reached out for her. "Come on. I don't think we'll get out of here without another fight. Did you want to be in the cockpit or on guns?"
"I think the cockpit will be fine. Han has taught me a lot about how to fly this ship," she said, patting the bulkhead as she walked with him to the front of the ship.
"We've got trouble," Han said as they entered the cockpit.
"Let's get on the guns, and Leia can help Chewie fly, and we'll get out of here."
"More droids to kill? Sounds good," Han said.
X-Wing 378-C9, Bespin, 39:6:4
Biggs, also known as Rogue Five, circled the bigger ship of the enemy. He didn't yet know what they were going to call themselves, but he didn't really care, either. They were holding his friends captive, which gave them only one name—the enemy. Rogue Squadron had been formed to be an independent strike force, one that could work with Jedi, and completely autonomously as well. Their mission this trip had been to maintain contact with the Jedi force on Bespin. That force had failed to check in on time that morning, and so the Rogues hadn't waited around to hear anything else. The military had been waiting in the next system, but it was still three hours through hyperspace to get there.
He spun the fighter around, going across for another pass, trying to take out one of the big guns, which he did. "Good shooting, Rogue Five," he heard someone say over the speakers, but he didn't have time to consider who it was, because another of the guns had set its sights on him. He dodged out of the way of the trail of fire, but only barely. He barrel rolled his fighter as he dodged another gun's stray fire, purely on instinct.
He shouted, exhilarated by the adrenaline rush of the battle, and being better than their enemy. He flipped over again, ready to take out another gun, but the Falcon came out of the docking bay of the ship he was getting ready to attack. "Can you make the jump, Han?" he heard Commander Dreis ask.
"Yes, I will be able to," he heard the answer. They were headed home, and from the look of the planet below, not a moment too soon. Cloud City was not going to be in existence for much longer, the way some of the ships were bombarding it. Oddly, the ships they were trying to escape from stopped shooting at them as they formed up around the Falcon. He didn't have much time to consider why as they jumped into hyperspace to rejoin the rest of the Fleet that they had brought to ensure that they could drive the Sith from the planet of Bespin.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Healer's, 39:6:4
Jaedrea sat in the office of her sister's Master. "Tell me what's going on with you."
"I just feel sick," she said, "I don't like being sick, Master Allie."
"Well, you don't seem to have an infection of any sort, so I think you are sick for some other reason. Are you sure that you don't want to tell me what?"
"I don't know, Master Allie," she insisted, nearly in tears.
"Alright, Jae. I'm not going to send you back to school, just in case you have some pathogen that I can't detect, and it's contagious. Master Kenobi should be here to pick you up in a few minutes." She breathed a sigh of relief. At least Master Allie wouldn't pursue the issue further. "But I want you to stay inside, and not see anybody else. You need to take this seriously, Jaedrea."
"Yes, Master," she said respectfully.
Master Allie continued to look at her quizzically, but Obi-Wan came in before she got uncomfortable under the Master Healer's scrutiny. She was quiet as they went to another room, but somehow the door didn't close all the way, and she heard their conversation. "I'm worried about this, Obi-Wan. Something's going on with her, and she won't tell me. I don't think she's sick, but something is really affecting her. I'm going to let her go home with you, in case there is something, and I think it made her feel better when I told her she did not to have to go to school. Can you tell me what's going on with her?"
"She isn't having the best time adjusting. Julia isn't talking to her. I'm not sure that is what's wrong with her particularly. We have discussed the issue, and she doesn't seem that worried over it, at least not to the point of being physically ill. I may have misjudged. I will see if I can talk it out of her."
"That will be a relief, Obi-Wan. She just hasn't been the same since her accident, and to some extent even before that. I'm not sure what to do about this. If it were the old Jaedrea, I would think that she was faking this to get out of class, so she could do something nefarious, but I just don't think that's it. But she is hiding something from me."
"Let me handle my Padawan. I'm sure there is a good explanation as to why she is physically ill suddenly."
She was quiet, curled up into a ball on the exam table, as they came back into the room. "Are you ready to go home, Jaedrea?" She nodded to Obi-Wan, and he said, "Well, then I guess we can go."
She looked down at the floor as they walked, tired from the horrid vision that had caused her to come into the Healer's this morning. "You seem rather subdued, my Padawan."
"I think I'm tired. I don't feel good," she said, as they walked back to his quarters.
"Well, do you know why you don't feel good?"
"My stomach is all queasy and I feel like I do when you make me go through all of the steps of all of the forms in one day three times," which wasn't exactly the answer that Obi-Wan was looking for, but she wasn't ready to describe the vision that she'd had.
"Alright, my Padawan. Maybe you'll feel better after a nap."
The suggestion filled her with dread, "I don't want to take a nap."
"Why? It will make you feel better."
"I don't want to go to sleep," she said, and the conclusion that she would need to do so at some point made her uneasy. Fortunately they were home. The door opened, and they went inside.
"Why don't you want to go to sleep, Jaedrea? Are the dreams that you are having bothering you that much?"
She shook her head. "It was something else. I don't want to talk about it," she said, the horror that she felt from having experienced something so horribly tragic filling her. Her master's arms around her shoulders were all that it took to make the tears spill from her.
"Well, I think that you need to talk about it. Your father wants me to come to Kamino with him, and I don't think it would be too bad of an idea for you to come, too. That might give you enough time to think about what you want to say. We can go to Ilum, as well."
"Really. I will talk with Anakin about it," he said, and as she pulled away from him so that he could go, he said, "And I still think that you should take a nap. I don't know what you've done in the last hour, but you look exhausted."
Vengeance Reborn, en route to Coruscant, 39:6:4
Sev'rance Tann was shaken by the encounters she had been through that day. First the Skywalker girl, Leia, had attacked her, but then the one that they always sent to chase her, Luke, had actually come to her defense, at least sort of. And how had the littlest of them known that she was pregnant?
After she had escaped Cloud City, she had told Grievous off; it hadn't helped. He was intractable and unrepentant, so she had left so that she wouldn't get angry with him, at least not any worse than what she already was. Cloud City was a total loss; she was going to have to find another place to use as a front for her shipments, and another place to get Tibanna gas.
She left explicit and detailed instructions for Grievous, but she figured no matter how detailed she got, he would find some hole that she left in them to exploit. She couldn't deal with the droid general any longer. He was on his way back to Tarkin; someone who at least could deal with him. She, on the other hand, had decided that it was time for a trip to Coruscant. She hadn't seen Cedric in two months, and she hoped that she could mitigate the damage that permitting the Skywalker Clan to find out that she was pregnant was going to do.
It always made her far happier to see Cedric than she ever wanted to admit, even to herself, but he didn't seem to feel the same way. He would if you would take the time to do things the proper way, instead of jumping headlong into things that you don't understand. She pressed the thought away, but it wouldn't go; stubborn, just like the part of her that it had come from. The part of her that grew stronger every time she saw Cedric; sometimes even when she just thought about him, that part of her would gain strength.
What did you think was going to happen when his family found out?
I thought I could convince him to come with me.
You should really know better than that.
She suddenly didn't want to go to Coruscant quite so much, but she had little choice. If she wanted to continue her relationship with Cedric, she would have to face this hurdle, and the sooner she got it over with, the smaller it would be.
Kamino, Cloning facilities, Observatory, 39:6:8
Obi-Wan felt odd as he entered the cloning facility, both because it was almost déjà vu and they had left Jaedrea on the ship, but he recognized that the déjà vu came from Anakin. He listened to the Kaminoian's explanation of what had happened. "When we heard from Master Sifo-Dyas we were rather puzzled by his odd request. This facility typically produces few large scale orders, but those that do want large numbers of clones usually want them sooner rather than later." The tall being stopped as they observed the clones for a time then continued. "The requests that he made were honored, but we were beginning to wonder if anyone would ever come for them. There are several specializations within the units. If you will follow me, I will show you some of our best work."
Anakin was letting a lot of things reverberate through their link; it was almost like hearing a constant commentary of battle worthiness and other considerations of a commander as he listened to the comments of the head cloner about the various clone variations that they had made. Anakin had seen most of the variations that the cloners presented the two of them, and he had seen them in hard combat; Obi-Wan was surprised at his former Padawan's obvious facility with battle tactics, something that had been tested hard in his other memories, the ones he didn't willingly share with Obi-Wan often. He remained nearly silent in this place, seemingly unchanged from the first time that he had visited in the other universe over twenty years previous.
"The first two batches of Clones are ready to go; two hundred thousand units."
"That is fine. How often will replacements and new units be ready?"
"Six to nine month intervals."
He asked more questions, ones that Anakin had been unable to answer for him or for Bail or Padmé. The head cloner was more than happy to answer all of their questions.
"When and where do you want these Clones delivered?" she asked finally as they finished their tour and came back into the anteroom.
"Dantooine," Anakin answered, startling Obi-Wan just a little.
"Very well, Master Skywalker," the being answered.
"As soon as possible, we would like to have them."
"Very well, Master Kenobi, did you have any further questions or concerns about the clones?"
"No," Obi-Wan answered. "Thank you for your time."
"One more thing; Order 66 needs to be purged," Anakin piped up.
"Of course, Master Skywalker," she said as she turned to leave, "We are most appreciative of the needs of the Republic," she said, leaving them, and they headed back to Coruscant.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Skywalker Central, 39:6:11
Padmé watched as Anakin settled into the sofa, exhausted from his trip to Kamino. It had been a successful trip, but seven days in hyperspace was enough to make anyone weary of it. She was understanding, but this needed done, and the sooner the better. Jasmine curled up on one side of him, and Jaedrea on the other, and he closed his eyes, looking like he was about to fall asleep.
"Are you going to stay awake for this?"
"If you insist upon having a family meeting now, I suppose I will have to," he said without opening his eyes.
Julia came in, shying away from the other two triplets, sitting as far away from them as she could. It really tore at Padmé's heart, knowing what a Daddy's girl she was. Luke was already sitting in one of the three chairs that were normally in the living room and Mara in another one, and she'd brought in two of the kitchen chairs. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had insisted on sitting in those. Leia and Han came in through the balcony; the Solo twins had been playing out there, and they had both just gone down for naps finally. Liz and Celia came in together; they had both been working on the other side of the Temple.
Cedric quietly came in behind her. She didn't realize, even, that the door had opened again until he brushed her arm. "We can start now, Mom, unless you want Master Ti or anyone else here."
"Oh, no, I think we have quite enough Jedi Masters gathered already," she said to him as he sat on the sofa.
He nodded, and for some reason she thought he was rather nervous. She brushed off the sensation, focusing instead on the issue at hand.
"I know that there are some scary things going on right now; it seems like the Senate is collapsing, and there is almost inevitably going to be war."
"Is it going to be another war with the Sith?" Liz asked.
"I don't know," Luke answered her question.
"What do you mean you don't know?" she asked.
"I think Darth Maul is dead."
"Why do you think that?" Anakin asked as his eyes snapped open.
"I've sort of pieced it together from a bunch of different things."
Anakin's eyes narrowed. "What things?"
"When was the last time anyone saw him?"
"A couple of years ago, but it's been years between confirmed sightings of either of them before," Anakin said, sitting up, his attention now captured.
"You remember about a month ago when we thought that we felt the death of a planet?"
"Well, I imagine, from Maul being absent and that event that he was likely overseeing the construction of that menace."
"That doesn't prove that he's dead, Luke."
"I'm getting there. He sent Immolious to Bespin to take over and supply the place. She even told Lando where the supplies were going."
"Where?" Anakin asked, his intense curiosity evident.
Anakin looked rather unhappy at that revelation, "So what then on this wandering path of his death?"
"She did something that makes me really not happy with the future."
Concern suddenly showed on Anakin's face. "What?"
"She raped Cedric," he said, and the room erupted into chaos.
When everything finally settled back into quiet, Padmé asked Cedric, "Did you know about this?"
"No, I didn't," he said quietly, then turned to Luke. "She's pregnant, isn't she?"
Luke nodded, "Yes, how did you know?"
"I've been having dreams about the baby."
Luke sighed. "Do you think it was on purpose?"
"I have no doubt she got herself pregnant on purpose."
Luke nodded again. "That was what I thought, but you confirming it does help me make this theory more solid," he said, and turned his attention back to the question Anakin had asked. "She wants the baby, and Maul found out about it. What do you think that would have happened then?"
"She would have either been subjected to some torture until she miscarried the baby, or told to get rid of it herself. The way of the Sith is not a pleasant one," Anakin said.
"While we were on Bothawui, something happened to Jasmine, she got really sick from taking in a great deal of dark energy, siphoning it off someone else in order to save that person's life, someone who was family, but we never found out who."
"I remember that," Cedric said. "We both thought at the time that it felt like Tann's energy."
"I think she was using the dark energy to fight Maul. It's the only thing that makes sense, if you try to fit all the pieces together."
"And since the baby is still alive, and she's running about free, the most logical assumption is that Maul is dead," Anakin said, and satisfied with the explanation, he slumped back down into position between the girls.
"When I was dreaming about the baby, he had scars from the darkness that nearly consumed him." Cedric said, almost too quietly for Padmé to hear him.
Luke was quiet for a time. "I don't know if she will continue in this fight. If she does, then we will fight her, and if she does not, then we will not. We have others to worry about, as well, I believe. Do you know of someone named General Grievous?"
Anakin sat up, clearly biting back a string of curses. "Where did you hear that name?"
"Sithspit," he said, and the word seemed like it had burned on his tongue. "That was about the last thing I wanted to hear. I think the actual last thing that I want to hear is that Tarkin is in charge of the Death Star."
"That name sounds familiar," Cedric said.
"How familiar?" Anakin asked as his attention snapped to his younger son.
He shrugged. "She's interacted with him. I don't know what he's in charge of, but there is something. She doesn't like him."
"I doubt he cares. He isn't in it to be liked. He's a madman, and quite capable of not caring who gets in his way, should he desire something, including entire planets."
Silence fell on the room as the somber mood took hold of the Skywalker clan. Padmé spoke up finally. "The Senate has fallen apart. There will be war."
"What happened?" Cedric asked before anyone else could.
"The vote on the Fair Banking Act failed by one vote. Most of the Senators from the Outer Rim walked out," Padmé replied.
"And the Banking Clan, and their cronies, too. There were declarations of war on the floor of the Senate," Anakin added.
"So are we going to get involved?" Liz asked.
"The Republic is in no condition to get involved at this point. The work that Cedric has been doing to help create a new Constitution will continue, and once that's done, hopefully we can convince the Outer Rim that they will be protected, and are just as important as the Core Worlds. I don't know how long that will take," Padmé said.
"It will be done as quickly as possible, but it must be done correctly," Cedric said.
"How long do you think it will take?" Celia asked.
"A few months, at least," he answered her, then turned to Padmé, asking, "Do you know if any of the Senators from the Constitutional Committee have gone home?"
"Bail said a few of them have been recalled, but that they aren't leaving."
He nodded. "Do you know when we are going to get started again?"
"Bail has been trying to get everyone together, but it's been hard. I think tomorrow you might be able to get some work done."
"I hope so."
"The Jedi on Dantooine will be embroiled in battle soon. The first battalions of Clone Troopers will be sent there," Anakin said as he got up, "and I'm about to fall asleep, so I'm going to bed."
Padmé watched not her husband, but Elizabeth's reaction to what he'd just said. She remembered that Fin had asked to go to Dantooine, and so he was there now. Liz was nearly in tears, and Padmé didn't know that there was anything that she could do about it, other than hug her daughter, and let her cry. Anakin looked at her, and the look on his face made her shiver. He was calculating, plotting something inside his head, and he was too tired to hide it from her. "In a couple of days, I'll go out there. Leia should be ready to go by then. I'm taking Luke as well. Liz should come."
Liz sniffed and turned to him, confused. "Why should I go?"
"Because, I think you will be helpful."
"What help am I going to be, Dad? I don't know the first thing about battles."
"I don't know yet. If it goes badly, we will need help in coordinating everyone, getting people off the planet. You are quite good at that."
"I'll go, but I still don't understand why you want me along."
"That's fine. You'll figure it out when the time is right," he said, and headed off to their bedroom.
She watched as her children took this rare moment when they were all together to talk amongst themselves, pairing off to an extent, but the several conversations were not dissimilar. War was coming, and they were all going to be taking part in it. She listened somewhat as Qui-Gon came over to her. "This will not destroy your family, Padmé," he said, knowing the worries on her mind from the many years they had talked. He was one of her closest friends and she always took his advice to heart.
"I am still worried about this war, it's going to affect us, all of us," she said, looking up at him.
He looked back at her compassionately, saying, "If anything happens to the bonds that your children share, they will only get stronger. You shouldn't worry too much. Anakin, Luke and Leia know how to make war. If anything, I worry less, because they know how messy this is, and aren't going to be afraid to do it."
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Skywalker Central, 39:6:11
Anakin fell asleep, disturbed by the dream that he'd had the night before he left for Kamino. He hoped that it was just a one-time thing, and that he wouldn't dream it again. He had a feeling that he would no matter what he did, even though he had not dreamt anything remotely disturbing on the trip out and back.
He woke. He was lying on the bed in the room where he was cut off from the Force. Well, that wasn't precisely accurate. He could feel it, but he couldn't use it. It did him no good either way. He examined his surroundings again, finding them no different than he had the previous time that he'd woken in this place. He settled back down on the bed.
It wasn't long before someone came in to talk to him. He simply looked up, examining them with his visual sensors. He hated his mask, but it did occasionally provide useful information, when he bothered to do more than glance at the text that constantly appeared around the edges of the viewscreen. It seemed to him that he only received information in the form of text-based analysis some days. The red screens drove him mad. And maybe that was part of the point.
"Well, how are you feeling today?"
"Fine," he answered the mousy looking man. This must be one of the doctors or something.
"The Emperor seems to think that you are worth saving. I don't normally have a problem with that, but I must confess that the last three months with you here haven't been pleasant."
He considered the man's words. It had been, in his estimation, about three months that he'd been back on the side of the light. "What of it?"
"Well, you've killed nearly a dozen orderlies since you've come to our facility. We had to hire Roberto to deal with you. No one else would."
He thought about apologizing, but decided that the man expected him to act like Vader.But I'm not Vader. I will not act like it. "I am sorry for my actions," he said finally, and the man looked shocked. He could even tell that through his blasted mask.
"Well, you haven't thrown anything yet today, so I'm thinking that there may actually be hope for you."
"What is there for me to throw?"
"You seem to have a knack for finding things."
He shrugged. "If what the Emperor said was true, I'd say that I have a right to be angry."
"What did the Emperor say to you? We had to put him into the hospital for several days with a concussion after you threw him into that wall."
He got up, pacing the small room twice before answering, "He said that my son was dead. What he didn't say, and why I threw him into the wall, is because he killed him."
"So you feel justified in your actions because of grief?"
"No. Killing is never justified. I am simply giving you an explanation of my actions."
"I don't understand."
"The deaths of your men are regrettable. I cannot change the past, nor can I remember it."
"So the last thing that you remember?"
"The conversation with Palpatine here."
"And before that?"
"The conversation between my son and Palpatine," he said. He so wasn't going into the whole reality that he perceived as real. The one where Luke and Leia were not his only children.
"That was before you came here?"
"Yes," he answered simply, thinking that it would have been obvious.
The doctor nodded. "We contacted the Emperor this morning when you seemed more yourself. He should be here soon enough."
"I do not wish to talk to him."
"I think it would be good for you to talk to him."
"I'd rather kill him."
"That, I'm afraid, will not be permitted."
"Then you shouldn't let me see him."
"You're really intent on killing him, aren't you?"
"I'd rather see him dead than just about anything else. I do not wish to see him harm anyone else."
"Anyone in particular that you're worried about?"
He eyed the doctor suspiciously, though through the mask, the doctor wouldn't have been able to tell. "Jaedrea."
"I haven't heard that name before, except from you. It's one of those things you occasionally shout."
He nearly laughed. "I'm sure."
"No one in particular, I don't suppose. Do you know how the fight against the Rebellion is going?"
"What, wanting to get back to work already?"
"That would be nice."
"Not well, from what I hear. The Rebels who were trying to do whatever they were doing on Endor got away."
Leia, precious. Good, you're safe at least. He didn't move perceptibly, but it unclenched a tightness around his heart. "I should be going after them."
"Should you now?"
"Yes, work would be good for me."
"I'll be the judge of that. And until you can at least wake two days running without shredding your room you can't go back to work."
Anakin frowned. "Is Palpatine here yet?"
"No, it will probably be an hour before he gets here."
"Fine," he agreed, suddenly tired again. He lay back down on the bed. "I'll take a nap until he gets here then."
Anakin woke, his heart racing and breathing hard from the fear coursing through him from the nightmare. It took him quite a while to calm himself to the point where he felt like going back to bed.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, The Room of Trials, 39:6:13
Leia was alone. It had been determined that Master Secura's death was the start of her trials, which saddened her, but she did her best to ensure that she was doing her best in her trials. It was not easy; in fact, if she failed badly, it could get her killed. It was nearly impossible to be alone on Coruscant, but somehow there was a special place in the Jedi Temple that made you feel that way.
Her trial of Courage was simply being here, in the face of all that had happened. The strength to go on and do what needed done. She didn't have to like it, but she did have to do it. She was still as she watched the figure of her Master approach her. "Leia'wa," she said warmly.
"Master, I'm sorry," she started.
"What happened was not your fault, my Padawan. It was time for me to rejoin the Force."
"I miss you."
"I will always be here with you, Padawan. You may not be able to see me, but I will be here," she could swear as she closed her eyes that she felt Aayla's hand brush a tear from her cheek. "You must get started. Your trials have begun."
"Yes, Master," she said as she drew strength from her Master's words. She opened herself to the Force, and she knew what she had to do.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Kenobi Quarters, 39:6:14
Anakin sat quietly at Obi-Wan's as the older Master made tea. It wasn't something that he would do for Anakin often, but sometimes, when they were both worried, Obi-Wan would make tea, and Anakin would sit. It wasn't often that he sat still for much of anything. If he was awake, he was usually doing something, even if it was just sitting in on a Council meeting. If there was nothing pressing, he was working with his hands, either in his workroom in his own quarters, which had droids, unless he was doing a larger project—in which case he had it strewn across the living room—or he was in his lightsaber workshop on one of the lower levels. It occasionally changed places as the needs of the Jedi changed. But there was very little time that Anakin was simply still, which is why he could tolerate the stillness that came with Obi-Wan making tea. It was different. Now, thirty-six years of habit had ingrained into him the ability, even an appreciation of the stillness that came during these quiet moments. He was able to sort out his thoughts and put them into a reasonably cohesive order by the time Obi-Wan set the tray on the short table.
"Is that why you make tea, Master?"
"Is what why?"
"So that I have time to put everything in order in my head."
"Well, I suppose that's part of it, but it also helps me to be more reflective when I've gotten too busy to care properly for my Padawans," Obi-Wan said, pouring tea into a cup and handing it to Anakin. He took a cup for himself and sat down across the table.
"So how do you tell when that happens?"
"You get this peculiarly mixed up line of thought going inside your head."
"And so you know because of that you haven't been paying enough attention to me?"
"It's not really quantity, Anakin; it's quality."
"Oh. So even if you only spent one hour a day with your Padawan, as long as it was something worthwhile, then you're still doing a good job?"
"Yes, I suppose you could look at it that way. So what's troubling you?"
"For as long as I have known you, your dreams have troubled you."
"I know, Master. I think it's a product of having too much power to know what to do with."
Obi-Wan laughed a little, then said, "I think that's the first time that I have heard you say that you have too much power."
"Honestly, what am I going to do with it? I can go around floating all day, do tricks and chase people with the Force, and it doesn't make me tired. Still, even though I'm getting old."
"You aren't getting old, Anakin."
"With a third set of twins on the way, I feel old. I think about them turning twenty, and I'm going to be sixty-five when that happens."
"Well, I'm going to be sixty-five here in not too many years, and I have Jaedrea to worry over. She will only be thirteen."
"That's true. You don't have to keep her here if you don't want to."
"She's fine, or she's adjusting, at least."
"Is she really?"
"She seems to be. I don't know. I think somewhere along the way in the last three months she switched personalities with Jasmine."
"I don't think that's quite true. Jasmine found a place to stand, where she could be confident; Jaedrea lost hers."
"I don't truly think she had a place to begin with."
"That's probably true enough."
"So what about these dreams?"
"I'm back where I started, more or less."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when we came to the past, it was from a battle on the Death Star, one where the Emperor met his final end."
"Yes, I know. The current theory is that the energy released when the Emperor died was simply pure energy, and either you or Luke, possibly both, gave it form and direction."
"I do remember thinking that I wished to have the opportunity to get to know my kids."
"That might be it, then, and the Force brought you to a point at which that could happen."
Anakin shrugged. "Well, I've had a couple of dreams where I'm still in the suit, locked up in a loony bin because the Emperor killed Luke, and defeated the Rebellion at Endor."
"I can't imagine how that makes you feel. You are already working through adjusting to doing good things again, and now this."
"Doing good, being a father and a husband, that is easy. It's all I ever wished for every day that I was a Sith."
"And yet you remained a Sith."
"I had given my vow to Sidious that I would follow him. In my mind I had already committed the most heinous crime that could ever be committed; I had killed my wife and unborn child. Committing genocide paled in comparison to that."
"Are you saying that if someone had let you know of the existence of the twins, that you would have turned back?"
"Probably. Maybe not immediately, but soon after. Palpatine would have made it clear that it would have been either me or the twins. I would have killed him for threatening my children. After that, I would have had little interest in maintaining the Empire. You know how I despise politics."
"And yet you married a politician."
"She doesn't bring work home, at least not too much. I try to do the same, though that is a bit harder, since Ash lives with me."
"So are you having any problems?"
"Oh, there are some. The thing I have the most problem with isn't how to be good, it's how not to be evil."
"Ah. But you know the full extent of what that path leads you into."
"Yes. That's about the only thing that holds me back sometimes."
Obi-Wan nodded. "So what challenges have you faced that have brought you close to that edge?"
"The Sith. The battle with Palpatine in the Senate brought me close, and this thing with Immolious messing around with Cedric has brought me closer. I suppose now it's probably a good thing that I didn't go to Bespin, because if she had showed up around me I would have probably kill her on sight."
"I can understand where you are coming from on that, but you must let reason and logic rule your decisions about the life and death of another."
"She is a Sith. For that reason alone, I should kill her."
"That is an entirely different issue, Anakin and you know it."
Anakin squirmed uncomfortably, just as he had done when he was much younger. "I realize that, Master. I'm not saying that it's anything like the same thing, but it's another nail in her coffin, so far as I'm concerned."
"You aren't angry with her?"
"She is a Sith. Messing with people, especially powerful people, is what she does. It does make me angry, but as a parent, not as a Jedi."
"You must come to terms with your anger before you confront her, if you confront her. It may be a moot point, if what Luke has been saying is true."
"It may be, Obi-Wan. I certainly hope so. It would, I think, not sit well with Cedric, though."
"He's intent on saving her, isn't he?"
"So it seems. We shall see how that goes."
Obi-Wan nodded. "It is acceptable for you to be angry, Anakin. But acting on your anger is not."
Anakin smiled. "I'd never thought of it that way."
"Anger is an emotion, just like any other. You may garner information from it, but you cannot act according to emotion."
"Just as you've taught me all these years."
"Yes, Anakin. Just as I've taught you these many years. You would think by now that the lesson had actually gotten through your thick skull, but I guess it needed pounded in one more time."
Anakin looked down sheepishly. "Yes, Master," he said, and finished his last bit of tea, and unfolded his long legs from underneath him. "I'd probably better get going. Jae will be home from school soon."
"Ah, so she will. Tell me, is Jaedrea in these new dreams?"
"No. I haven't seen her."
"She might be dreaming properly again."
"I hope so. This isn't fun."
"I imagine not."
"I'll be at home for a little while; anyway, if you think of anything else you want to ask me."
"There shouldn't be anything. I'll let you know what Jaedrea says."
Anakin nodded, then got up and left.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Skywalker Balcony, 39:6:15
Cedric hadn't slept well for the several nights since he had found out that he'd been duped. Well, he had really done it to himself. He knew that Sev'rance was not trustworthy, but he had arrogantly thought himself to be excepted from that. He had trusted her, and she had taken advantage of that. He paced on the balcony, trying to decide for himself who he was more upset with: her, or himself.
She surprised him by landing lightly on the balcony just behind him. He spun, pulling his lightsaber out but not lighting it. "Go away. Don't you think you've done enough to me already?" he said, exhaustion seeping into his voice.
"I just wanted to say that I was sorry; I didn't want you to find out this way," he looked at her, evaluating her statement, and her chosen form of dress. She was dressed in something skintight, but he'd never seen her in anything else. He doubted she owned anything that could be termed conservative, but this was the closest he had ever seen her wear.
"What way did you want me to find out? After you had already turned our son into a Sith?" she seemed surprised by the question; it obviously hadn't occurred to her to think about how she wanted to tell Cedric what she'd done.
"I don't know," she said quietly.
"Go away," he said again, frustrated. "I'm too angry to deal with you right now."
He turned away from her, putting his lightsaber away, and going over to the other side of the balcony. "Cedric," she called after him, and he turned back to look at her. She looked genuinely upset by the fact that he didn't want to talk to her.
"What?" he asked.
"What do you want from me? I want to make this up to you."
"I don't think that there is anything in this world that you could do that would undo the damage that you have done, but we have to deal with the situation as it is. My first concern has to be for the baby. Sith spit! I'm not ready for this Sev'rance! I love you so much it hurts in the best of times, but right now it feels like a vibroblade in my heart and I can't die from the wound," he said, turning away from her again, the hot summer breeze doing little to help his mood.
"I didn't want this," she said, and the outrageousness of her statement infuriated him. He spun angrily and stalked toward her.
"I didn't want this."
"I know you didn't, your original intention was to use me as an insemination station and leave my lifeless body in a ditch someplace!" Cedric screamed in her face.
Cedric couldn't see the tears that were forming in Tann's eyes through the tears in his own, and, she said nothing as he walked away from her again.
"And yet you did just what you set out to do. Happy? I now have to wonder if you even really give a damn about me after all!"
"Cedric…I…" she started, but her voice faltered.
"You what? You love me? Sev'rance, you don't know what that means. You've never experienced it; you've never been held by your mother, or played with by a father. Your entire life has been misery. I hoped I would someday bring some happiness into it. But now…I don't know if I'll be able to," he said, finally growing a little quieter, his anger having spent itself for the moment.
"We made love, Cedric…" she started but he interrupted again.
"NO! No we didn't, you RAPED ME!" hot tears flowed from Cedric's eyes freely now.
"No, Cedric…you…enjoyed it, I know you did…and you…" she was confused.
"I DON'T REMEMBER IT! I TRUSTED YOU! At least not to do THAT!" he screamed, as it was apparently the only thing that was getting through to her.
Tann was silent, quietly weeping; her sadness at Cedric's anger was so great. In her old prison in her mind, where the Sith was chained up, there was laughter. She came over to him and for the first time in her life felt compelled to hug someone, but Cedric lashed out as she tried.
"Don't touch me!" he said, pushing her away from him.
"Cedric…I won't come back, if you don't want me to," she said, her voice small.
"Oh, no. You aren't getting off that easy, Sev'rance. Like it or not we have a child on the way, a child that will need BOTH of his parents."
"What makes you think that would be easy?" she asked him. Her voice was carefully neutral, but he could feel the sadness and anger behind the question.
"It would make your life simpler if I were out of it, would it not? If I said leave me and never come back here?"
He was floored by the depth of the despair that she felt from that statement. It was close to suicidal. He hadn't expected that. Somewhere inside her, she knew that she'd royally messed their relationship up, and she didn't know how to fix it. She was doing something else that he hadn't expected: she was asking for his help to fix the problem. Unfortunately, he didn't really have the answers either. She said nothing to him, acting for all the world like a child that had been beaten more times than they could count, and expecting another one. He realized then that was exactly what she was.
He sighed, knowing he could talk to someone later, where she would only let him in. He released his anger into the Force. It wasn't helping him and if he didn't do something soon, he would surely have company sooner than he wanted it. "Sev'rance," he said, but she was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she didn't hear him. He hesitantly reached out to her, putting his hand over hers.
She looked up at him, and the look in her eyes frightened him slightly. "I'll," she started, but he cut her off.
"No," he said, knowing that she had intended to tell him that she would leave. He decided to try a different tactic with her, a gentler one. "You do understand that what you did was wrong, do you not?"
She nodded uncertainly.
"Explain to me why it was wrong," he said, and she nodded shakily as she tried to compose herself.
"I…shouldn't have had sex with you. You…aren't ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood," she said, but it sounded like she was reciting something she'd been told. He gently probed her memories, and figured out who had told her that. Luke.
"But I accept them anyway. What else?" he asked, hoping that she would realize that the real issue he had with the whole mess was that she hadn't trusted him.
She looked at him pleadingly. She really didn't seem to know what else he wanted from her. He waited until she said, "I don't…know…"
He nodded. "You compounded the problem by mucking around inside my head. I trusted you, and by altering my memories, you broke that trust."
"But I didn't want anyone else to know," she said, and it seemed to him that she started to understand that it was a violation of his mind, a violation that he took more seriously than the violation of his body.
"You should have thought about that before you tried to engage me in your little plan. If you thought that it was a concern, you should have either not done it, or you should have asked me," he could feel her trying to understand what he was telling her, just as if the wheels were turning inside his own head.
"So would you have told anyone, if I had left your memories intact?" she asked.
"I don't know. Probably not," he said, a small smile turning up one corner of his mouth for a moment, "but you should have asked that before you started messing around in my head."
"I…I'm sorry," she said, and it felt like the first sincere apology he had ever gotten out of her.
"I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry that I can't trust you anymore," he said, taking his hand off of hers finally. There was something electric in the way that they connected when they touched, and he didn't want that to interfere with his thinking.
"Is there something I can do to fix that?" she asked hesitantly.
"There are many things, but it will mostly take not doing things that will make me not trust you, and time," he gave up on the pretense of not wanting to be around her. He was still upset with her, but it wasn't going to do him any good to be petty toward her. He took a breath, turned back toward her, and took her hands in his.
He could feel her hands trembling in his as she looked up at him. "So, you don't want me to leave?"
"No, we have a son to worry about," he said as he looked into her eyes.
"I want there to be more to it than that," she said, quietly, sadly. She didn't hold his gaze, looking down at his hands, running her fingers over some of the calluses as she focused her attention on them so that she wouldn't have to look at him.
"I'll have to think about it. I don't know if I will ever feel like I can trust you that much ever again."
"Is there anything that I can do to make it better?" she asked, her eyes flicking occasionally up to his face.
He thought about it for a while, watching her, and he finally deciding on something. "I want you to give up the way of the Sith. I want you to come live at the Temple. It could be arranged, but I know you won't do that, so I won't even ask."
She stood there in stunned silence, still as she considered his ultimate goal.
"But I can think of something else, something that I can ask you, that you can do easily, that I will know if you are not doing, and you should even see as reasonable."
"What do you want me to do?" she asked in a whisper.
He took her chin in his hand; he wanted to be able to see her reaction as he told her, "I want you to remove yourself from the war; I somehow doubt that you will end up on the same side as the Jedi when it comes time to pick sides. Stay on Coruscant, where you and the baby will be safe."
He released her, and she looked down at her hands for a long time, then she looked up at him briefly before she answered. "Ok. I'll stay out of the war. I won't promise that I'll stay on Coruscant, but I won't go back to the Outer Rim."
He understood at that moment how easily he could have been tempted into a compromising situation with her, because right at that moment all he wanted to do was take her in his arms and hold her, tell her everything was going to be alright, no matter how impossible it would be to make that happen. She could undo him so easily if he let her.
The silence that surrounded them was nearly deafening him, and dawn was fast approaching. "You need to go if you don't want to remain at the Temple as a permanent guest," he said gently, and she looked up at him again.
She nodded, content now that he had given her some small amount of hope. "Good-bye, then," she said as she started to pull her fingers from him. On impulse he held her fast, and she turned back to him. He drew her to him, and she came willingly, and he kissed her, and it felt like the entire planet's stockpiles of fireworks were going off inside his head all at once.
Coruscant, Jedi Temple, Skywalker Balcony, 39:6:15
Luke watched as his younger brother talked with her. He wasn't sure any more what to call her. The mother of Cedric's child. A Sith on the path of redemption. She was more friend now than enemy, if he looked at it in that way. A dangerous person, like a feral animal, to be sure, but one that could be trusted not to kill for no reason, at least. He had hidden his Force signature carefully before he had come out, and they were so emotionally wrapped up in each other that they hadn't noticed him. He thought Cedric realized he was there, but he couldn't be sure. He listened to their conversation, and found himself rather surprised at the depth that they cared for one another. Cedric was still incredibly upset with her when Luke had come out, but he was able to set that aside because he knew that he could reach her better with the care that he'd shown her than the anger at the situation she had put him in.
Luke was really rather proud of his younger brother. He'd shown a maturity that he knew was rare at thirteen, but as he watched Cedric tell her that it was time for her to go, Cedric did something that apparently surprised Tann just as much as it did Luke. Cedric kissed her. He could feel Cedric leaking emotion all over the place, and he mentally tapped on the boy's shoulder. If you don't quit that you'll be in a right pickle.
He felt Cedric's mental tone color with chagrin. If I have to deal with this, I should at least see why.
Luke shook his head as Cedric broke away from her, and this time he let her go. Cedric walked over to where Luke had hidden himself in the shadows. He doubted Tann could even see him from her ship at this point. "You are a masochist."
"What's a masochist?"
"Someone who does things that will cause them pain on purpose."
Cedric shrugged. "I still think it's possible to fix her."
"You care deeply for her, despite what she did to you?" Luke asked as he moved out into the Coruscanti dawn.
Cedric nodded. "I don't think she has a firm grasp on the concepts of right and wrong. I'm not going to…punish her for something she doesn't understand completely. But that doesn't mean that I feel like I can trust her."
Luke nodded. "So what are you going to do about her?"
"Force, Luke, I don't know what I can do with her. I practically blackmailed her into giving up on the whole war thing. I don't want her fighting you, or you fighting her, or anything."
"She agreed to that?"
"I think if I'd asked she would have agreed to stay at the Temple, but I don't think she's ready, or that I'm ready, or for that matter, most of the Temple is ready for that, and she would have been miserable."
"She wants back in your good graces?"
"I think so. I think when she came here she was afraid that I wouldn't even talk to her, or that if I did, that it would only be to hurt her."
"Does that bother you?"
"That she thinks I would hurt her?" Cedric asked, but Luke waited for him to answer the question. "It bothers me a lot that she didn't trust me."
"Well, it seems that you both are going to have some things to work out if you are going to make anything resembling a functional relationship."
"So you think it might work out?"
"I don't know, Cedric. That depends on a lot of different things. But I think I have to agree that sitting around making the past into an issue that blocks any progress won't help anything."
Luke wondered briefly if Cedric could convince her to talk to Dad, at least about the war, or maybe him, but dismissed the notion. She probably could tell them a good deal about the forces that the IGBC would now have at their disposal, but he doubted they could get her to agree to talk to them, and he doubted he could get his father to be calm enough for such a discussion. Both were possible, though. "Hey, Cedric."
"Do you think you could ask her to talk to one of our more brilliant strategists about the forces that the opposition will have in this war?"
"I can ask, but I don't think she'll want to. Who did you want her to talk to?"
"Militarily, the best person she could talk to would be Dad."
"I don't think Dad would talk."
"I don't either."
"She might talk to you. I think she actually respects you."
"If she will, I can put aside any issues I have with her for long enough to get information out of her."
"Maybe the future isn't really as dark as it's been looking."
"I hope not, Cedric. I hope we can make the Sith a memory that only gives young children nightmares, and nothing more."
"The Sith will be gone. Dad is the Chosen One; his birth spells the end of the Sith."
"Yes, Cedric, I hope the prophecy is being read correctly on this one. I would hate to think that we'd left some Shadow of the Sith on the face of the Galaxy."
Cedric had no response, and they went inside, hopeful but resolute for the future.