Something Like Rebirth
By Argenteus Draco
The Clone Wars rage across the Galaxy. Although Republic forces continue to clash with Separatist droids, the Republic victory at the the Battle of Coruscant seems to indicate that the fighting will be over soon.
With the death of Count Dooku, two threats to the Republic still remain; the Separatist commander, General Grievous, and the mysterious Sith Master who appears to have a hand in every turn of the war.
On the remote world of Utapau, Obi-Wan Kenobi faces one threat, while his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, encounters the other much closer to home...
Chapter One --
In which the best laid plans fail...
Anakin was not aware of drawing his lightsaber. He was only barely aware of the chancellor speaking to him. No, not the chancellor, Darth Sidious… Why was he having such a hard time thinking clearly?
What he was aware of was a dull sort of humming the Force. It filled his mind, filled his whole being, until all he could hear was this blank buzz growing louder and more dissonant by the second. He could almost make out a voice somewhere under the white noise; threats, it sang, peril… he shook his head, trying to clear it enough to take in what Palpatine was saying.
And then the dragon clenched its jaws over his heart, and he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that something had gone wrong on Utapau.
He sank to his knees, eyes shut against a wave of nausea that was threatening to overwhelm him, carrying in its wake the unwanted knowledge that Obi-Wan was gone. Or maybe that stomach turning sensation was caused by the smell of burning flesh that was now filling the room.
He realized with another sickening lurch that the source of the smell was the wound in Palpatine's shoulder from which the blue glow of his lightsaber protruded. He stared, half in shock, afraid to pull the weapon away for fear of further injuring the chancellor.
Sidious – Palpatine (he couldn't keep it straight anymore) – stared down at the wound as well. If Anakin had cared to look into Palpatine's mind, he would have found it slowly turning over the information that yes, his plan had failed, but if he acted quickly, he might still salvage the situation. But Anakin was too lost to consider motives or plots.
"So, this is how it's going to be, then?"
Anakin looked up. Through a haze of raw emotion he watched Sidious back up off of his blade and adopt a fighting stance. "I regret this, Anakin," the familiar voice said. "You could have been great."
And then his whole body felt like it was on fire. Only the fact that he was so disassociated from his mind kept him from screaming under the effects of the Force-lightning. He fell back on years of Jedi training so ingrained into his mind it was like instinct. He allowed himself to sink fully into the force, let it guide his movements: every swing of his lightsaber, every step, every breath. Its voice – which sounded suspiciously like Obi-Wan – whispered instructions, and he followed without question.
When he finally came back to himself, his breathing was hard and ragged.
Palpatine's breathing had stopped.
Mace Windu was alone in the council chamber when Anakin requested entrance.
"Master," he said, in a voice weighted down with too much emotion for Mace to interpret, "You must forgive me. I think I've done something terrible."
Mace leveled his gaze at the young Knight. "Is this something to do with Chancellor Palpatine?"
Anakin hesitated a moment before muttering a very quiet, "Yes."
"You must report, Anakin. Your first duty is still to this council."
The tension was stretching. Mace breathed deeply, and asked once more, "Anakin, what happened between you and the chancellor?"
He hesitated again. "I think I killed him."
Mace blinked. "You know, Anakin, I half expect these kinds of jokes from you. But that's not funny."
"It wasn't supposed to be."
Silence settled over the room as Mace decided whether or not to believe Anakin. Then, the Knight finally looked up, and Mace could see the horrible pained expression in his eyes.
"Master, there's something else." His voice cracked, and he tried to swallow but found his throat too constricted. "I think… I felt… Obi-Wan…" he couldn't finish.
"I've received no reports from Master Kenobi," Mace Windu replied. "We can't rely on feelings in place of official reports. Now, Anakin, I need to know why you would attack the chancellor."
With great difficulty, Anakin gathered what he remembered of the last hour's events. "We were discussing philosophy," he said, "stories about the Sith. I can't remember most of it, I couldn't think clearly. That was when I felt –" He stopped. He already knew Master Windu didn't care to hear more about that. "Anyway, I… I lost myself. I didn't even realize I'd hurt him until afterward. He retaliated. I defended myself."
Mace looked uncertain. "That still leaves the question of why your lightsaber was drawn to begin with. Anakin, I can't help you if you don't tell me the truth."
"That is the truth." Anakin was now struggling to remember the events in their proper order. Everything had become such a blur after…
"He told me he was Darth Sidious."
For a long time, Mace just stared. He'd heard some strange stories during his years on the council, but this… He reached out with the Force, expecting to find the shatterpoint he could trace back to an answer. Instead, he found that the complex network surrounding Anakin was already broken, the pieces scattered and impossible to make sense of.
"Master, please," he said, sounding more desperate than Mace had ever heard him. "I know I haven't acted wisely. Help me."
He was going to break, and Mace did not want to be the one to personally test how far he could push Anakin before he was un-repairable. "Alright, Anakin. Return to your rooms. If any guards are searching for you, we will keep them out of the Temple. I must discuss this with the rest of the council."
Anakin bowed shakily and left. Only when he'd reached his apartment did he give himself up to the shock.
The official report was all over the holonet by sundown. The Jedi had identified Darth Sidious as a member of Palpatine's inner circle. Anakin Skywalker, who had been with Palpatine at the time Sidious reveled himself, fought valiantly, but was unable to protect the chancellor by himself. Sidious had fled following the fight. Anakin was being treated for minor injuries.
And Padmé Amidala was not being allowed into the Temple to see him.
She vented to Bail Organa, who had been kind enough to stop his speeder for her on his way to an emergency meeting of the Two-Thousand.
"I just want to know what happened," she said, strapping herself into the seat.
"As do we all," Bail replied. "But unfortunately we have more urgent issues at hand. Or should I say, you have more urgent issues."
She looked at him quizzically.
"Your name is among those being nominated for chancellor."