The Chosen Apprentice –Sequel to Jedi Padmé AU Trilogy
Genre: Alternate Universe
Time set: 14 BBY
Summary: Three years after the conclusion of the Clone Wars the Jedi Order and the Republic have moved on, yet Anakin Skywalker has not. While he still struggles to come to terms with Padmé's death, the relative peace caused by the end of the war looks to dissolve in petty bickering over the continued role of the Jedi.
Acknowledgements: I relied on a number of sources here including A.C. Crispin's Han Solo Trilogy, Brian Daley's Han Solo Adventures, Luceno's Labyrinth of Evil and Dark Lord, Stover's Revenge of the Sith novel as well as a number of JCers in Lit to help out with the political questions involved with taking Palpatine out of the Republic. Thanks must also go to A.C Crispin for her help and StarAngel for reading this manuscript when I could barely see from one end to the other with it.
Disclaimer: Star Wars is not mine; I just like to write with it. This fic follows a narrative arc of my own making with characters created by George Lucas and other authors.
Note: This follows more or less directly from ROTS AU, so unless you have read all of the Jedi Padmé trilogy not much of this is going to make sense. There will be five stories following this one, and a further three Jedi Padmé stories in the Clone Wars.
This is also a very different story from my other fics as its longer, there's not as much action, quite a bit of intrigue and A LOT of dialogue. In short, it's a little more like an EU novel.
Apologies ahead to Anakin-lovers, I like him too but he's so much fun to torture.
Maybe we're wrong to attach ourselves to the Force at the expense of life as most beings know it, which includes lust, love and a lot of other emotions that are forbidden to us. Devotion to a higher cause is fine and good, but we shouldn't ignore what's going on in front of our own eyes. Jedi are not infallible, Dooku understood that. He looked things squarely in the eye, and decided to do something about it. - Anakin Skywalker, 'Labyrinth of Evil'
The freighter was shaped like a flat disk with a large wedge taken out and replaced at the back to house the cockpit and cargo area. It looked beaten-up enough to pass for a private vessel that may or may not have been involved in illegal activities.
Yet this was the purpose, and it was carried off well even though the intent of the pilot was more altruistic. In the cockpit of the Satyr, a freighter from Denon that had been used as cover before, was Anakin Skywalker.
He looked somewhat different from the way he appeared on the HoloNet, his cheeks were bristled with week-old stubble and his hair lay lank, tied at the back of his head. He wore a worn, patched coat and a nasty-looking blaster strapped to his thigh. Yet the clothing and the blaster were as much of a disguise as the ship was, for the coat concealed his lightsaber. He was still a Jedi, even if somewhat more reluctantly than before.
"This is Etti IV Port Authority," said a commanding voice over the ship's com. "Please transmit your code for security clearance."
"Transmission commencing," Anakin complied, hitting the switch accordingly.
There was silence, for a moment Anakin considered conning his way past the port authority with the Force. Yet when the com crackled to life again he needn't have.
"You have been identified Satyr." Anakin smiled for a moment, then came another request. "What is your business in Etti IV?"
This was unpleasant but not unexpected; fortunately, Anakin had an answer ready.
"Repairs," he said, trying to give the feeling of disappointment. "Took a pounding from some local rust buckets, you know how it gets—"
"Satyr you are cleared for entry," interrupted the port authority tersely. "Docking bay ninety-four."
"Ninety-four," Anakin repeated, flicking off the com.
Apart from the areas devoted to the pursuit of criminal activities, Etti IV was dominated by the near monopoly of the Corporate Sector Authority. They were an officially sanctioned government by the Republic, Anakin recalled how their jurisdiction was questioned but never acted upon due to the fact that many influential beings had invested interests in the Corporate Sector. There was also the matter of the sector's senator, Triev Stokra, who was a problem in a category all on his own.
Including, quite surprisingly, the Trade Federation. They were the last of the Separatists to be accounted for. The IG Banking Clan, the Corporate Alliance…they had all been dealt with and appropriate reparations had been wheedled after them. Yet even though many of the Viceroy Nute Gunray's underlings had been found, Gunray himself still remained at large.
Anakin had been tracking him for a number of months. First as a Jedi and then going undercover as a small trader. He had paid a rather high price on Nar Shaddaa for the information that the Viceroy was hiding on Etti IV, yet the price was well worth it as he knew the Neimoidian was running out of options. This time he would have Gunray, and Anakin did not know any other way to act than to succeed.
This was somewhat of an effect the last three years had had on him. Instead of pausing and reflecting as he had been trained to do, Anakin instead focused on what was just ahead and paid little attention to what was happening around him. Obi-Wan had once mentioned rather lightly when he was last on Coruscant that it had something to do with Padmé's death, Anakin had not said anything. It had been over a year since he had mentioned Padmé's name and still did not know how to handle people mentioning her.
Yet as he set his ship down in the docking bay, the only thing on his mind was the mission at hand: find the Viceroy; bring him back to Coruscant to stand trial.
Nothing else mattered, at least not to him.
Standing in the shadows, a boy aged about fifteen looked up and down the darkened street, inspecting the large villas either side. As well as the high thick walls each was equipped with a security system just as formidable. That was to say nothing about the assassin droids and ray shield traps that may lie about.
Yet he emerged into the light with a definite purpose in mind, walking directly towards one of the villas and scrutinising the electronic panel near the gate. It was a make he knew, easy to rig, yet just as easy to trip.
With a lop-sided grin he traced his fingers over the metal to where he knew the wires would be. After all, they were made all the same and this one would be no different.
Gritting his teeth he pried open a corner of the metal where he knew it was weak then reached into his pocket for his wire cutters. This was going to be a snap.
He had made a brief stop there in the Clone Wars so Etti IV was familiar to Anakin even if that familiarity wasn't comforting. Parts of it reminded him of parts of Mos Espa, conjuring up memories that he would prefer to forget.
Anakin took a moment to examine his surroundings, slouching against a wall and watching passers by with a casual glance. If the Viceroy was here there wouldn't be many who knew that, the price of the information he had paid to make him come here at all made that apparent enough. Yet Anakin knew there would be at least someone he could approach that had seen something, heard something, or knew something. There wasn't much else he could do apart from doorknocking.
With a confident swagger he entered one of the many cantinas lining the road. Somewhere he knew he would find his answers, all he had to do was to be ready when they came.
If the security system was easy, the lock on the only accessible window was another matter. He wasted precious time picking it, climbing gingerly through into the darkened room to come face to face with an idle Trade Federation battledroid.
"What the—" the boy had thought that these had all been deactivated at the end of the Clone Wars, so what was this one doing here?
Unfortunately for, his voice was enough to rouse it to activity.
"Intruder detected!" the droid droned. "Activating security system."
He ran to the window as it was rapidly closing, getting out in time and making for the gap in the fence he had cleared. Around him there was a loud siren blaring as the security system came back online. Searchlights were circling from the main house tracing large circles in the darkness.
Searching for him.
He started to run faster when he heard the sound of metallic footsteps behind. Had they seen him?
After a few hours in several cantinas Anakin had to call it quits, all he had heard was roughly where in the city the Viceroy was meant to be. This may have not been reliable information, but it was all he had. He set out in that direction.
He was almost there when he felt his danger sense kick in, it was something in the back alleys. Two people shouting, and something else he could sense: fear.
"You idiot boy!" shouted a loud hoarse voice through the dark. Then there was a gasp and a cry of pain, Anakin moved quickly towards the sounds.
"I thought it was safe," grunted a second voice. Obviously in pain yet there was still some defiance in the tone. "I rigged the security system, I was—"
"Walking around with your eyes closed?" interrupted the first voice, obviously older than the second.
By this time Anakin was at the end of the alley and he could see the two figures. One was taller and seemed to be the first speaker, the figure picked up the second speaker off the ground and rammed him against a wall. There was an involuntary cry of pain.
"I didn't mean anything!" he said, "Really!"
"Trust you to get the Espos onto us," said his aggressor. "I really should just leave you—"
But Anakin had seen enough, he decided to step in. Even after all that he had been through and seen, he still could not resist helping someone else who could not defend themselves. Call it a weakness, call it compassion or whatever other name was proposed. Perhaps it went back to the time when he was in that position, when he had been a slave on Tatooine and he knew what it meant to be on the losing side.
Anakin placed a firm hand on the taller figure's shoulder. "Don't you have someone else to bother?"
He stammered something to Anakin about minding his own business before Anakin repeated his question, this time with a firm Force-suggestion behind it. When he had gone he surveyed the second figure. It was a boy of no more than fifteen, eying Anakin warily.
"Why did you do that?" he asked.
Anakin shrugged. "I know what it's like to be beaten up."
"He's going to get it to me later," the boy said, his brown eyes boring into Anakin's face. "I blew our cover, the Espos are going to be all over here at any moment."
The Espos were the local name for Etti IV's security force, more in the pay of the Sector Authority and interested in the lot of their employers than in dealing out law and order. It was normally better not to get on the wrong side of them.
"Not if I can help it," he said.
"It was just that stupid battledroid—"the boy said, then realised he had said too much and stopped.
"Battledroid?" Anakin examined him curiously. "You mean like a Federation battledroid?"
"Yeah," he replied with a nod, still that distrust.
There weren't that many around who still kept Federation battledroids.
"Can you take me there?" Anakin asked.
"Like hell I will," the boy spat, "and why are you in a hurry to get yourself killed anyway?"
Anakin ignored this question. "Where then?"
The boy told him the address. "But I made so much racket in there that no one can break into that place now," he finished. "At least not tonight."
Unbidden, Obi-Wan's voice echoed through Anakin's head. Didn't you always like impossible odds?
"That doesn't matter," Anakin said shortly, he turned to go then stopped for a moment. "Hey kid, what's your name?"
"I'm no kid," he said indignantly, "and the name's Han Solo."