Music soared as the dancers gracefully leapt across the stage, costumes billowing, limbs extending effortlessly. Lights accented the movements of the dancers, punctuating each lithesome movement with a burst of energy that underscored the already dramatic crescendo of the orchestra.
Is this supposed to be entertaining? thought Anakin Skywalker irritably as he shifted yet again in his seat. It seemed as though the first act would never end. He glanced over at his guardian, the Supreme Chancellor, who seemed to be enjoying the bizarre spectacle. But then, Palpatine seldom showed emotion, even to his young ward. In the eleven years since the Chancellor had taken Anakin as his ward, Palpatine had furnished the young man with every material his considerable wealth could buy. All that he asked in return was Anakin's unwavering loyalty, that he devote himself to the Dark teachings he offered, and to forsake all aspects of his former life.
It had been difficult for young Anakin to leave his mother at the tender age of nine; but he had done so with the hopes of realizing a life long dream: to become a Jedi Knight. But then Qui-Gon Jinn had been killed, and the Jedi Council had refused to train Anakin, leaving the boy alone, without passage home or a place to live. Palpatine had taken him in, when it seemed that no one else would. Anakin had never forgiven the Jedi for rejecting him as they had. Palpatine had nurtured this hatred for the Jedi, teaching his young ward in the Dark ways of the Force, all the while hiding his true identity, that of a Sith Lord, from the public, from the Jedi.
Palpatine had seen in young Anakin incredible potential. The Jedi had foolishly cast the young man aside, not knowing that in doing so they were essentially planting the seeds of their own eventual destruction. At least, this was the perception of Palpatine, Lord Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith.
"Try to pay attention, Anakin," Palpatine said quietly, not taking his eyes from the figures flitting about on the stage below.
"Yes Master," Anakin said obediently, focusing on the stage once again.
Elegantly dressed beings flooded into the corridor as the intermission commenced. Act one of the ballet had been a long one, and everyone was eager to stretch their legs and do some socializing.
Anakin watched from amidst the entourage of his guardian. He secretly hated attending functions such as these, hated the way toadies fawned on the chancellor openly. The sycophants had learned better than to ply their tricks on Anakin, however; he was something less than subtle about his distain for their flattery.
Growing tired of the conversations around him, Anakin wandered away, wishing he was any where but there. He had just remade the engine on his new speeder, improving its speed capabilities and cornering abilities. Anakin had begun to consider slipping out of the theatre when he caught sight of her.
The senator from Naboo stood with her body guard, making small talk with some of the other members of the Galactic Senate. Padmé Amidala was impossibly beautiful in her floor length gown of deep purple which set her tiny waist to perfection and was a perfect compliment to the milky white skin of her bare arms and back. Her long chestnut hair was piled up high on her head, showcasing her elegant, graceful neck. Anakin could only stare at her, envying the few who she deemed worthy of her radiant smile.
"Senator Amidala is very beautiful, isn't she?" Palpatine remarked, appearing at Anakin's elbow suddenly.
Anakin nodded, unable to take his eyes from her. "Yes, she certainly is," he replied.
Palpatine could sense the way looking at the beautiful young woman made Anakin feel. The Chancellor had done his best to keep Anakin away from women, but he was a twenty year old man now, and as such it was natural that he would show interest in members of the opposite sex. The fact that Anakin was tall, broad and remarkably handsome did not help matters. Palpatine suspected that there had already been a few women who had offered themselves to him. As for Anakin, Palpatine knew not if he had accepted these offers or not. He was as good as shielding his emotions as his master. It often frustrated Palpatine that he did not know what was in the heart or mind of his young protégé. However, at this particular moment, it was clear that Skywalker was mesmerized by the beautiful senator.
"I haven't seen her in a long time," Anakin said.
"No, she hasn't been back to the capital for some time," Palpatine remarked. Amidala had spent most of the past few years away from Coruscant. It had been at least that long since Anakin had seen her, at least in person; and he was astonished at how much more beautiful she was than the last time he'd seen her.
"Hard to believe she's the same sweet girl who befriended you all those years ago," Palpatine said, deciding it was time to do something to destroy Anakin's obvious fascination with Padmé. "Befriended and then abandoned you when the Jedi washed their hands of you," he remarked. "I suppose as a queen she would not have much place in her household for a former slave boy."
Anakin frowned. It had hurt him deeply when his messages to the then Queen of Naboo had gone unanswered. It seemed as though her affection for him had extended only so far as the Jedi's interest in him had. Once they had rejected him, once Qui-Gon Jinn had been killed, Naboo's interest in the young hero had seemingly evaporated.
"I suppose not," he replied at last, tearing his eyes away from her.
Palpatine could sense the young man's anger and frustration, and he smiled.
The final act of the ballet dragged on seemingly endlessly. Padmé Amidala found sitting still for so long to be a challenge. She liked to be busy, on the move; so sitting for hours in the same spot was very difficult. She had not slept much the previous night, having worked well into the night on a speech she was preparing to deliver to the Senate. The darkness of the room, the cushiness of the plush seat and the glass of wine that she'd had at dinner earlier all contributed to her drowsiness.
As she forced herself to remain attentive to the bizarre gyrations on the stage below, Padmé suddenly got the distinct impression that she was being watched. Without being too obvious, she turned her head, moving her eyes furtively to determine who it was that was watching her. It was difficult in the darkened room, but it wasn't long before her eyes met those of her admirer. Even in the dark room she could see the intensity of the startlingly blue eyes as they watched her unabashedly. Padmé gave him a cold, senatorial look, and then averted her eyes. Anakin frowned, not about to be bested by her. He watched her intently, his thoughts turning dark, turning lustful. He smiled as an idea struck him, and he glanced at his guardian briefly. Palpatine was dozing in his seat, and so Anakin returned his focus to Padmé.
Padmé had just picked up the thread of the rather convoluted story line of the ballet when a strange sensation came over her. Thoughts seemed to be entering her mind that were not her own. The thoughts could not be the effect of the show she was watching, for it was decidedly uninteresting. No, the thoughts that were entering her mind were sensual, tantalizing, and were coming at her fast and furious. It was almost as though invisible hands were slowly moving over her body, tantalizing and teasing her, touching her in ways that she had never imagined. At first she thought it was the effect of the wine she'd had earlier, for the thoughts were accompanied by a feeling of warmth that was slowly spreading through her body. However, it wasn't the wine, and soon she realized that it wasn't the effect of alcohol she was experiencing; it was arousal. She shifted in her seat, doing her best to master the feelings that were flooding through her, but it was little use. Who is doing this to me? She thought anxiously. Who could do this? Her question was answered when an images began entering her mind, images of a man and a woman, doing things that Padme had never done, nor had ever imagined before. Padmé gasped as she saw the woman's face- it was her own. The man looked up at her briefly, and she could see who it was in that instant. It was Anakin Skywalker. She squirmed in her seat, alarmed at the way mere thoughts were making her feel. She gripped the armrests of the seat as she felt herself slowly losing control of the reactions of her own body. She was breathing fast now, grateful for the darkened room.
"I need to get out of here," she said as she stood up hastily. She made her way out of the theatre, unable to escape from the bombardment of thoughts. When she reached the corridor she had to brace herself against the wall, her legs weak under the onslaught of his thoughts. She closed her eyes, part of her terrified by the strange power that he had over her, part of her too aroused to care at this point.
Finally her body started to calm down, and the images in her mind stopped. She opened her eyes, keenly aware of how she must look. Luckily the corridor was empty, for the ballet was still going on. Now that she had regained her sense of control, she was angry and humiliated that Anakin had taken advantage of her like that. She felt violated, as though he had used his unusual powers to take her unwillingly.
I can't go back in there, she thought, the thought of seeing him now unnerving. But then I can't let him win…She smoothed her hair and straightened her gown, taking deep breaths before she returned to the theatre. She took her seat, ignoring the looks around her.
"Something wrong, milady?" her body guard asked.
"No," Padmé replied, focusing her attention back on the stage. "Nothing."
Captain Typho was not convinced. He was certain that it was only a matter of time before an attempt was made upon the life of the crusading young senator; but, being the single minded individual she was, Padmé refused to be a recluse. She had returned to Coruscant in order to voice her strong disapproval of the formation of a Republican Army. She realized that she had made many enemies because of her beliefs, but Padmé Amidala was not one to shy away from conflict. When she believed in something, she threw herself behind it one hundred percent. And while Tyhpo admired the young woman's sense of duty and justice, he ardently wished she demonstrated more common sense.
Padmé was unnerved by the way Anakin had watched her, the boldness of his stare, and even more so by the ruthless way he had invaded her consciousness the way he had in the manner he had. What ever happened to that sweet little boy I once knew? She wondered sadly. Anakin Skywalker was well known throughout the galaxy now as the right hand of the Chancellor. He was nothing if not determined, even frightening in his efficiency. Padmé thought back to that day ten years earlier when she had sent her handmaidens to the Jedi Council to ask after Anakin. Padmé had worried that he would be alone in the capital after the death of Qui-Gon, and wanted to keep him with her on Naboo, where she planned to bring his mother as well. But Padmé's inquiries had hit a dead end; the Jedi had little interest in the young boy, and could not offer her any information as to his whereabouts. Assuming that he had made his way back to Tatooine, Padmé had been saddened that she hadn't had the chance to say goodbye to Anakin, with whom she had felt a decided connection. It wasn't until years later that she learned of his association with the Chancellor, and was shocked when she began to hear reports of the powerful young man in Palpatine's employ. It hardly seemed possible that the same sweet, selfless young boy she had loved all those years earlier was the same arrogant, intimidating young man who now sat staring at her with undisguised admiration and desire. She gave a quick sideways glance to see if he was still watching her, and, to her relief, his eyes were now focused on the stage. Padmé tried to relax, hoping that the spectacle was over soon so she could go home to bed.
Palpatine noted how thoughtful his young protégé was as they left the theatre later that night. As usual, there was a party to attend, something of a tradition among the social elite of the capital. Anakin hated parties, and had made an excuse for not attending. Palpatine didn't question him, and decided that he too would pass on the affair.
"You seem rather pensive, Anakin," Palpatine finally commented as Anakin directed his speeder towards Palpatine's home.
"Do I?" Anakin asked, not taking his eyes from his driving.
"You are thinking about the senator, aren't you?"
Anakin frowned. "No," he lied.
Palpatine was not pleased. "Don't lie to me, boy," he said coldly.
"I'm sorry, Master," Anakin replied. "I don't know why I let her get to me. It's not like she's the only woman in the galaxy."
"She certainly isn't," Palpatine concurred. "And not worthy of your consideration, to be sure."
"Why do you say that?"
Palpatine paused before responding, choosing his words carefully. "I don't need to remind you of her treatment of you after the Jedi …"
"No, you don't," Anakin interjected.
"I'm sorry, I know that is a sore topic for you," Palpatine said with mock sympathy. "If you must know, it is my belief that Senator Amidala is a traitor to the Republic."
Anakin shot him a hard look. "You can't mean that," he said. "She may be many things, but disloyal isn't one of them."
Palpatine lifted his eyebrows. "Don't be so sure, my young friend," he replied. "Haven't you ever wondered why she is so adamant against the creation of a Republican army?"
"She hates war," Anakin replied. "That's simple."
Palpatine smiled in a patronizing manner. "You are too naïve, Anakin," he said. "She is against the formation of an army because she is a sympathizer of the Separatists," he declared. "Why else would she be so dead set against the Republic taking measures to defend itself?"
Anakin did not reply as he considered this. Palpatine continued. "And another thing," he said, "her absence from the capital. Isn't it odd that a prominent senator such as herself would spend so much time away from the capital? It makes one wonder what she has been doing all these years, and with whom."
"What does that mean?" Anakin demanded with a frown.
"Well I normally don't pay much attention to gossip," Palpatine continued, relishing the young man's mounting frustration, "but I have heard it said that Senator Amidala has been involved with a member of the Jedi council for years now," he said. "I believe you remember Master Obi-Wan Kenobi?"
Anakin shook his head. "Now that I don't believe," he stated. "Jedi aren't allowed to have relationships."
Palpatine shrugged. "I'm only telling you what I've heard, Anakin," he said innocently. "They have been seen together on more than one occasion. It could mean nothing, in fact it probably doesn't. But it does make for interesting gossip, don't you think?"
Anakin did not reply, the thought of Padmé involved with anyone strangely unsettling to him; the thought that she might be a traitor even more so. "I don't listen to gossip, master," he said at last. "It's just someone who has nothing better to do making up nonsense. I'm surprised you'd listen to it yourself."
"I'm an old man, Anakin," Palpatine replied with a weak smile. "I have very little to entertain me anymore. You'll have to pardon me for this one weakness."
Anakin merely smiled in response, indulging the old man as he was often prone to do.
Padmé Amidala arrived at her penthouse apartment where she was greeted by her handmaiden and friend, Dormé.
"You didn't stay for the party?" Dormé asked.
Padme shook her head as she removed her cloak. "No," she replied as Dormé took the cloak from her. "I wasn't in the mood for socializing. Besides, I'm really tired." She did not want to tell Dormé what had happened to her earlier; how could she possibly even explain it?
Dormé nodded. "Well no wonder," she replied. "You were up half the night working on that speech."
"Well it's rather important," Padme said as she flopped down on the sofa. "I just hope it makes the difference I hope it will. I get the impression that Palpatine had his own agenda where this army is concerned."
"It wouldn't be the first time he had his own agenda," Dormé pointed out.
"No, certainly not," Padmé concurred. She frowned as a thought struck her. "I saw Anakin Skywalker at the ballet tonight," she said.
Dormé sat down beside her friend, her eyes widening. "Really?" she asked. "Did you speak to him? Is he as hot in person as he is on the holonews?" she asked with a smile.
Padme frowned. "Dormé, you're terrible," she said. "He was….staring at me, Dormé; it was really unsettling. I can't believe he's the same little boy I met on Tatooine so long ago."
"Palpatine has destroyed that sweet little boy," Dormé remarked. "Anakin Skywalker is as ruthless as he is arrogant. There are even rumors that he's a Sith," Dormé concluded.
Padme frowned. "I don't believe that," she replied at once.
"You don't or you don't want to believe it," Dormé replied.
Padme turned and looked at her friend. "Are you trying to say something?"
Dormé smiled. "Not a thing," she replied.
Padmé shook her head. "I'm going to bed," she said, standing up. "Good night."
"Good night milady," Dormé replied. "Sleep well."