Fourteen – The undoing of Anakin and Padme Skywalker
Bail Organa walked through his office door muttering to himself, consumed with the information on the datapad in his hands. It had been little more than a week since the ball and though they gathered some support, there still was much work to do. More support was needed if there would be a chance that they would be able to stop Palpatine any time soon. He had spent many late nights, like this one, in his office pouring over strategies and points of interest for the organization to take firm root. He shut the door behind himself and slowly made his way toward his desk, which was situated in the only spot of light in the otherwise dark room.
"Greetings, Senator Organa." A disembodied voice interrupted his concentration.
Bail jerked his head up toward the dark places in his office. His eyes shifted nervously about the room in hopes of deciphering the origin of the intruding voice. The shadows didn't reveal any secrets. He slowly rose to his feet and demanded, "Who's there?"
The smooth voice sounded haughty in its response as it sounded again, "Who I am is not as relevant as the why I am here."
"Then, why are you here?" Finally realizing the location of the voice, Bail's eyes locked on a corner in the office. He strained his eyes enough to barely make out an outline in the dark. His hand slowly moved toward the folds of his robe.
The voice gained more firmness and answered, "I bring a warning to those who wish to remove Palpatine's grasp on the republic."
Bail paused briefly and snorted incredulously, "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Do not lie, senator, for I can see right through you…" It sounded annoyed by Bail's denial.
Instinctively, Bail drew his weapon and fired. The blast bolt bounced off an ignited lavender cylinder and slammed into the wall to the right, singeing the decorative wall furnishings. Suddenly the blaster was pulled from his hand and flew toward the entity in the room. The figure slowly emerged from the dark and stood close enough that the light from the desk barely revealed any facial features. It was hooded and cloaked and the hands were concealed in the sleeves of the robe. The lavendar blade retreated into the hilt of the weapon. Bail took a step back, astounded that this bold act was committed by a Jedi. He narrowed his eyes, willing them to recognize the chin and the mouth that were vaguely visible beneath the hood.
The unknown Jedi continued, "Beware, the chancellor plans to expose the rebel leaders and their associates and make it known that their actions are treasonous. He will declare them all enemies of the republic."
"When is this supposed to happen?" Bail asked cautiously.
"In less than two days time, some or all of you will either be dead, in prison or in hiding." The Jedi revealed white fangs with a malicious grin. He inclined his head and said just above a whisper, "I suggest the latter."
"How does he know of this…" He tried to sound as unfamiliar with the topic as possible. "rebellion?"
"The chancellor has eyes and ears of which no one can see." "You along with Senators Amidala, Mothma, Taneel, and Zar and your associates will become public enemies by the time he is through."
Bail realized denying the existence of a rebellion was futile. "Is that how you come to know about this, Jedi? May I assume that the members of the Jedi council are also aware of this?"
"You may assume whatever you will. I know many things the Jedi do not. The reasons for this warning are irrelevant."
Bail narrowed his eyes. "Then who are you? Friend or foe?"
"Neither." He answered lightly. "Rather, someone who has an interest in the survival of a particular rebel leader." The Jedi turned to leave.
He answered with a chuckle. "Spread the word to your rebel cohorts. Suggest that they leave Coruscant as soon as possible." He was already halfway across the room, heading for the door.
"This could be some sort of trick. Why should I believe you?"
Without breaking his stride or looking back, he answered casually, "Can you afford not to?"
In the war room of the Jedi Temple, Mace Windu looked at the holograms of Yoda and Ki Adi Mundi and listened to the updates they offered for the respective planets they were defending.
"The Jedi are stretched thin. We can only hope that we hear from Master Lindo soon."
Mace nodded his head somberly. Deep down he knew that whether it would be over soon or not, the war has had a tremendous impact on the Order. However, despite that overwhelming sense of foreboding, he felt that there would be a glimmer of hope. Before he could respond to Ki-Adi, a hologram of clone commander Neyo appeared.
"Master Windu, pardon the interruption. I have a message from Master Lindo. He has destroyed General Grievous. The separatists are now leaderless."
"Thank you, Commander." Mace dismissed the clone and turned toward the other two masters. "Now there will be no reason for the Chancellor to remain in power."
"We should move to ensure he steps down immediately." Ki-Adi glanced over to Yoda. "Even if he chooses not to."
Mace paused and said, "The Jedi would have to temporarily take control to ensure a smooth transition of power back to the senate."
"Dangerous this will be." Yoda ran a slow hand through his sparse hair, visibly uncomfortable with what it could mean for them. "Great care we must take."
Mace paused as he allowed the force to speak to him. A foreboding seemed to loom over the Order. As inevitable and intolerable as it would seem, the feeling of mal intent seem to originate from the chancellor.
"The darkside surrounds the Chancellor." Mace sighed. "I will take a few other masters and deliver this news to him. With Grievous gone, he will have no choice but to step down immediately."
"Careful you must be, Master Windu. A plot I sense, to destroy the Jedi." Yoda lightly tapped his gimmer stick. "Action must be made swiftly if survive the order will."
"The darkside has treachery well shrouded." Ki-Adi added in a voice laden with much unease.
"I really don't think it was necessary for you to come with me, Palo." She stepped into the apartment warily looking around. She hid the nervousness in her voice. The Sith could not be trusted to keep their word. Avaryce could end up fulfilling his master's order after all.
"I had to. I am tired of being kept in the dark, Padme." He didn't bother masking his irritation. "This has been going on for far too long. I know there are things you haven't been telling me."
She was preoccupied moving about the apartment, looking for a clue of Avaryce's intentions.
"Tell me what is going on!"
The harsh tone in Palo's voice compelled her to face him. She could see in his eyes that he was hurting, that he didn't like having to keep their love a secret. She could see that his frustration had built a wall between them. She raised a hand and caressed his cheek. "Please, be patient with me a little longer. Once this small task is done and we are gone from this planet, I will tell you everything."
She silenced him with a kiss and pulled away enough to look into his eyes. "I promise it won't be long, my love…just a couple of hours." She decided to bend the truth a tiny bit. "I am merely waiting for contact from...an aid." It was a white lie...slightly worse than an omission but better than an outright lie.
Palo sighed heavily, "I am just anxious for us to leave all this behind and start our lives together." He rubbed her bare arms affectionately. "No secrets. No hiding. Nothing like that between us."
"We will have that and much more. You'll see. We'll be gone in no time." She passionately closed her lips over his.
A wounded voice interrupted the lovers. "So this is how you wish it to end between us? Ruin my life and disappear forever?"
She turned around abruptly in the direction of the voice. Her mind told her who it was but she didn't want to believe it. Her eyes widened as a shadow slowly approached and stepped into the light. She was agape, her eyebrows raised. "Anakin, w-what are you doing here?"
His eyes were devoid of warmth and his face was flushed. "I am standing in my home, watching my wife..." He glared at Palo briefly as he emphasized the words. "...swap spit with her lover and listening to her plans to abandon her marriage and her commitment to the republic she claimed to love."
"Wife?!" Palo blurted out in bewilderment. He looked at the woman beside him and asked with shock threatening to morph into anger, "Padme, what is he talking about?"
Anakin's eyebrows disappeared under the locks of blonde hair that lazily hung over his hairline. "You mean, you didn't know?" He asked sarcastically. "She is a politician after all. Her deception should be no surprise…to either of us."
"It's nothing." She glanced at Palo and quickly shook her head. "It's just more of his jealous tirades. I'll explain later." She said dismissively.
"Jealous tirades?" Something flickered in Anakin's eyes. He continued, "This is beyond jealousy. This is about respecting what we had! You promised to love me and be with me no matter what!! Or did those words mean nothing to you?"
"It meant something a very long time ago….but not anymore." She didn't bother to hide the frigidity in her tone. She told herself that she had to cruel. She had to be heartless. She had to disgust him enough that he would leave her sight and never seek her out again. She didn't want him there when Avaryce gave her the final task. If Anakin were to discover her true mission, it would destroy everything she worked hard for and possibly incur Sidious's wrath.
"You are still my wife!" The walls in his mind that safeguarded his rage and the darkness that desperately wanted out started to crack and crumble. It seemed that the coldness that threatened to overtake Anakin was surprisingly closer than ever. It was so close, he could feel the goose bumps rising against his skin.
"That can't be true." Confused, Palo shook his head. "You are a Jedi knight. Marriage is forbidden." It seemed he couldn't accept the possibility that he could be part of a betrayal.
She kept her eyes on Anakin. "Some rules are meant to be broken." The statement was meant for both of them.
Taking a step forward, Palo looked to Anakin and said, "Look I am sure that what you had with Padme was special, but its obvious that its over. She has made her choice. She doesn't want..."
Anakin gaze hardened, "I am warning you. Stay out of this, artist, or you will regret it."
He turned his attention back to his betrayer and asked painfully, "How could you do this to me?" His lips pulled in to form a thin line across his face.
"I told you it was over between us. It's been over for a long time. If you haven't realized that by now…" She smirked, "you made a fool of yourself."
"And now you are leaving Coruscant and giving everything up for him?" Anakin felt like his heart was being ripped from his chest by one he trusted and cherished most.
"For a man who can give me what I needed…what I wanted." She chuckled and placed her hand over her swollen abdomen, amused by his agony. "I never considered giving up my duty as senator for you—to live through scandal and misery? For what? you? Never!! However I am willing to give it up for Palo—someone who is worthy of it." She added a bit more salt to the wound and stepped forward to take Palo's hand.
Anakin lifted his chin as he took in a breath and turned his head to the side. His jaws clenched, flexing the muscles repeatedly. The desire to purge his heart and mind of her betrayal was almost too great to resist.
Palo glanced over at her. He wasn't sure whether to let go of her hand or hold on it. Something was unraveling here and he knew it was part or all of what she kept from him. He wanted more than anything to know just what she's been up to. So far, he didn't like what he was hearing. Palo wasn't sure he could accept her cruelty.
Anakin looked at her again. "You were also willing to ruin my career as a Jedi. You went before the council. You are the one who gave them our marriage documents." Restrained rage shook Anakin's voice with every word.
"Padme…" Palo's irritation melted away. "You didn't do this...Did you?" His tone pleaded for her to deny it.
But she didn't. She dropped her gaze and sighed heavily. She didn't have nerve to look at Palo. "Yes, Palo. I did. It's true—all of it. I married him nearly five years ago and I regret that decision." She paused and looked up at him, "You are the one I want. I love you."
"And while you were with him what was I to you?" Anakin pointed at himself. His breaths were coming faster and uneven as he awaited her answer. A part of him knew her answer would hard be to take. Even though he attempted to brace himself for the impact of her words, it would never do any good.
She decided to force the dagger into the heart and twist. She raised her chin resolutely, "A misguided burden I had to carry."
It was at this exact moment that his heart shattered into thousand tiny pieces. Anakin winced and dropped his gaze. The wind was knocked out of chest. For several seconds, he couldn't find the strength to speak. Softly and painfully he asked, "A misguided burden?" His sight began to blur with unspent tears. "Was I a misguided burden when we fell in love? Misguided when I married you?"
A voice entered his mind. Let go of your restraint and all the pain she has put you through will come to an end. Greater power is yours if you only reach out and claim it.
"We are a lost cause, Anakin." She raised an eyebrow. "Reality kicked in for me a long time ago. This marriage was pointless from the beginning."
Anger seemed to overpower his agony. Anakin opened and closed his hands as he began to pace angrily. His eyes never moved from hers. "You loved me, Padme! I felt it!" His nostrils flared and his shoulder heaved up and down as he moved back and forth.
"Tell me, Jedi, do you feel it now?" She smirked again, shifting her weight to one side.
Tempted by her taunts, Anakin stopped pacing and glared at her. It seemed the air around him became electrified with his anger. The desire to quench the urge for revenge was almost overwhelming. He moved menacingly closer to her.
Palo stiffened and protectively stepped in front of her.
Anakin stopped and pointed a gloved finger, "I have no quarrel with you. I suggest you leave now."
Palo shook his head slowly, "If I am going to leave her, it won't be with you."
Anakin ignored him and asked her through clenched teeth, "Obi-Wan told me what you said. Am I misguided about the baby too? Tell me it's not true."
She paused realizing that this was what brought him here. Obi Wan had just revealed this truth to him, compelling him to seek out his wife and get the truth. She decided to push the dagger deeper. "It's true, Anakin. I am carrying Palo's child…not yours. I'm sorry."
Palo swallowed hard. Though he was relieved that to hear this, part of him felt sorry for Anakin. He glanced at her angrily and slowly shook his head, disgusted.
Something exploded behind Anakin's eyes. The walls erected to confine the darkness fell. The fog that clouded his thoughts for months now seemed to overtake his senses. Nothing matter anymore but ridding himself of the continuous pain she was putting him through.
"You're s-sorry?" He heard himself respond but it sounded muffled. His mind erupted in a chaos of rage and suffering. Everything seemed fade to black except for the two beings before him. He looked down at the floor and it seemed something was breaking free inside. Anakin didn't care anymore about restraining it. It was as if he fell under the hypnotic touch of some drug.
"That's just the way it is, Anakin. You already know the reasons why I've done this. I love Palo. Not you. I don't want you anymore. I have loved him for a long time. We are going to live out our lives and raise our baby far away from here…."
The Jedi don't want you, Obi Wan has betrayed you, and Padme has made a fool of you. Let go of your anger. Give in. It felt good to release, didn't it? The power to become greater than you are is within your grasp. Take it and make her pay.
The tumultuous tornado that had once been the love he felt for her had begun to devour every other he felt except his anger. As she continued to speak it proved pointless as her words fell on deaf ears.
What she has done must not go unanswered. Make her feel the pain you feel. Make her hurt as much as you do. Make her wish she never betrayed you.
Rhyme and reason melted away leaving with nothing but pure rage and agony. The darkside reached up and claimed him before he realized it. Mercy, acceptance and humility no longer had a place.
"...I have filed my resignation with the chancellor's office and with the queen. I did you a favor, Anakin. You will be free to fulfill your commitment to Jedi and not have to worry about a family. You should receive final divorce papers——. "
She suddenly clutched her throat with both hands. Her mouth opened, as her lungs begged for sustenance. Despite the invisible threat, the raspy drags of breath she struggled to make called Palo's attention.
Palo turned his head toward her. "Padme!", he called to her in a panic, "What's happening?"
She directed her gaze toward Anakin, indicating her attacker. Palo whipped around and saw Anakin's gloved hand outstretched and slowly closing into a fist.
"Oh gods!! Stop it!" Palo took several steps toward him. "You are killing her! Let her go, Anakin!!"
Blinded by the utter desire for revenge, Anakin ignored Palo and kept her in the clutches of the darkside.
Palo moved toward Anakin and picked up a chair. The chair instantly flew out of his hands and smashed into pieces against the wall. Anakin finally released her and looked at Palo.
She collapsed to her knees, wheezing and coughing. She rubbed her neck as she brought her gaze up to meet Anakin's fierce blue eyes that were now flickering with sparks of gold.
Palo narrowed his eyes, seeing a slight change in Anakin's face. Dark red circles appeared from beneath his eyes. A malice, the likes of which he had never seen before, was in the depths of Anakin's changing eyes. Weary, Palo stepped back and yelled out over his shoulder, "Get out of here, Padme!"
He looked back at Anakin and felt a sudden painful pressure around his heart which seemed to intensify by the second.
She lifted her head up and saw Palo slowly fall to one knee. He was gasping and fiercely pounding on his chest. Anakin watched with emotionless eyes as Palo sunk to the other knee.
"No, Anakin!! No!!" She screamed despite the raw pain in her throat, "Please don't kill him!! Please!" She shook her head as tears streamed down her cheeks.
It was at this moment that she realized Avaryce had set her up. She deduced that Avaryce used Sidious's plan to his own advantage. Anakin would be so overcome by grief and distrust that he'd turn to the darkside. The news of her betrayal would compel him to do an unforgivable act--born of rage and torment. It was perfectly planned. Perfectly executed, except...She wasn't supposed to be here. She wasn't supposed to be the one suffering his wrath. This fate was meant for someone else. Avaryce altered the plan somehow and betrayed her. He tricked her into coming here. Never trust a Sith.
The pressure was increasing and the pain seemed to stretch from his chest to each limb and every organ in his body. His heart felt like it would burst.
The corner of Anakin's mouth lifted briefly and he said, "I warned you to stay out of this."
"Anakin, please!! Don't do this!!" Wide eyed, she begged, "He's innocent! He doesn't know anything! Please Anakin!! Stop!"
Palo groaned before blood spilled from his lips and his eyes closed. He fell lifelessly on the floor. His death was punctuated by a loud agonized wail.
She crawled over to his body and shook him, repeatedly calling his name. But he wouldn't answer. She turned his head toward her and saw the stain of blood across his cheek. Weeping, she passed a shaking hand across his dark hair and kissed his forehead. "My love." She mouthed as she sobbed. "I am so sorry. I got you into this."
Watching her, Anakin said, "I told you to end the affair…" He smirked, "…or I would."
She lifted her red swollen eyes toward him, her countenance...a true depiction of the pain of her loss and her will to avenge his death. She drew a weapon from her robes and took aim. Before she could get a shot off, the weapon was in Anakin's waiting gloved hand. He closed it into a fist, destroying it and sending sparks into the air.
Anakin looked at the weapon a few seconds before he looked at her. He tried to compose himself enough to deal with her but found great difficulty. He finally raised his eyes toward her and saw an angelic face flushed and slick with tears.
Part of him could not help seeing the woman he loved as the way she was that day in the meadow. Her thick brown locks hugged her shoulders and lay along her back. Anakin loved the embedded scent of Nubian flowers whenever he held her. Her eyes were the deepest shade of brown he'd ever seen. He remembered how he loved to lose himself in them. Her skin was so soft and she had the most gentle touch. Through the force he felt the signatures of the unborn child she carried and found her admission was correct. The signature was not familiar. It was nothing like what he sensed the day she told him of his fatherhood. Nothing made sense. How could she deceive him like that? Was she so skilled in deception that she could even confuse him in the use of the force?
An echo came to him...like ripples in a pond disturbed by a pebble. He remembered her words hours the day she told him of his fatherhood...
"My heart is yours for all time, Anakin. No one could ever come between us. You don't have to worry about Palo, Anakin. I am married to you. You make me happy."
The tears had already woven a path down his cheeks. His chin trembled as he spoke, "I loved you more than life itself. Do you know what I have given up for you? I would have done anything for you. You and the baby were my life. And now, I am left with nothing. I am alone. How could you do this to me? How could you make such a fool of me, when I was so devoted to you? Why?"
Panting from the shock of losing Palo and from the adrenaline coursing through her, she yelled angrily, "I have never hated you as much as I do now! I wish with all my heart that you suffer the same loss that I have just endured."
His voice cracked when he responded, "I already have." He stretched out a gloved hand and closed the space around her neck. Again she gasped, hands flying up to her neck and eyes bulging as the pressure was even greater than before. "Since you love him so, be with him."
Red scratch marks appeared on her neck where she attempted to remove the unseen threat. Her eyes were locked on him pleading for him to release her, but all he could see was the personification of his pain. She was the cause of it…the center of it.
He needed to rid the universe of her existence. Vanquish his tormentor. In his twisted mind, he thought life would be easier once she was gone. But still the pain would be vivid and strong. She neared the end of her struggle. As she felt death creep closer, she fought to form the answer to the question that would haunt him, a question that has wrapped his mind in confusion and misery...why? Between her final gasps, she uttered, "Be...ause… h-he…com…mands…it." Her eyes rolled up as the eyelids fell for the last time.
What she said was incomprehensible to him. The agony and the heartache numbed his senses. He was incapable of making sense of her stuccato of words.
As soon as she collapsed lifelessly to the floor, the tide subsided and the fog lifted. All that surrounded him was the result of his anguish. The part of him that allowed his anger to kindle and allowed his resentment to fester suddenly reemerged. Agape and wide-eyed, he looked down at her body. There were no further signs of life from her or her unborn child. His body began to shake. Horror, shame and disgust drowned out the anger he gave into.
Anakin blinked, breathing uneven deep breaths. He looked around at the destroyed furniture and at Palo's lifeless form. Fear of the finality of murder struck him and a cold shiver through him as look at his hands. He looked again at her body and weakly called out as if by some miracle she had just been asleep. "P-padme?"
There was no answer. No movement or anything to suggest that everything would be alright. He stumbled backward toward the verandah and his docked ship inebriated from the magnitude of his actions. He turned his back and braced himself against the threshold. "What have I done?!" He looked over his shoulder and saw her hair sprawled against the floor. Her hair...the scent of which he loved to savor. She would never speak or move again. He would never hear her call his name again.
His stomach churned and twisted at the sight. She was gone forever—the child that he anxiously awaited was no more.
At the threshold of the verandah, he bent over hurling furiously until his stomach emptied its contents. He could not go to the Jedi for he didn't trust them. He couldn't go to Obi-wan, for he was now counted among the corrupted. The only one he had left was Palpatine.
The fragmented pieces of his heart was now were spirited away by her death. He was nothing more than tortured wretched shell of the man he used to be. In that moment, the curtain fell on the Jedi knight, casting him forever in perpetual darkness.
Four figures entered the chancellor's office, unimpeded by any fledgling staff member or any member of Palpatine's guards. They ignored discretion for the sake of urgency and move into the anteroom toward the chancellor inner office.
Palpatine sat behind his desk sifting through forms and other documents that required his attention. He appeared seemingly pleased with himself and complacent despite the common knowledge of the war. Mace and the other three Jedi passed the threshold of his office and stopped.
Without looking up from his work or indicating any surprise, the chancellor uttered, "Master Windu, I am surprised to see you here. I didn't expect you until the morning."
"Grievous has been destroyed. The war is over. We are here to ensure a smooth transition of power." The tone in his voice ensured that there was no mistake. The line was being between the Jedi and Palpatine. "You must step down immediately."
Palpatine raised his head, "And if I refuse?"
"Then I'm afraid, we will have to see to it by force."
Through clenched teeth he asked, "Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?"
There was something ominous in the air. The force that surrounded them seemed the crackle and howl with fierce energy. The imminent class between opposing forces threatened a great turn of the tide. It was palpable in the force.
Mace kept his eyes on the now visibly angered Sith lord. "Power must go back to the senate."
Chancellor Palpatine slowly rose to his feet. "You fool! I am the senate."
The hilt of a lightsaber seemed to magically appear in his hand. "Surely you know that your actions are treasonous."
"The courts will decide that for themselves." Mace and the masters ignited their weapons and prepared for battle.
NEXT: Fifteen – The Backdraft
Battle in the chancellor's office, Order 66, Emergency session for the senate