Anakin drew in a breath and exhaled slowly, stuffing the crinkly packaging of his latest energizing container of almond-kwevvu krisp-munchies behind his pilot seat. Navigating with one hand, he fondled Obi-Wan's lightsaber on his belt absently. The second moon, where would I go if I were a fugitive Sith Lord? He fixed the blanketing constellations of Dantooine in mind, he Jumped without a navicomp using Grievous' angle of hasty departure from Dantooine's surface, entered the second moon's atmosphere and knew. There. On the South Continent by a preformed lake. A pier, a small pad for spacecraft landings and a line of overwintering roses beside the pathway to the home. Suburbia on any planet. The war was all over but the shouting. Nute Gunray, San Hill, Shu Mai and the rest of the motley group would split into factions unless Anakin could fetter them. Not my forte. Better get The Negotiator in on that one. When he's available, that is. He landed his Aethersprite beside Grievous' ship, marveling at the lack of security. Darth Tyranus, you're mine. And your little cyborg, too. Mechno-hand on both lightsaber hilts, Anakin approached Dooku's base.
The glorious battlefield rout that was the high point of Quinlas Vos' week made a disastrous sight for Grievous. He gathered a minimal entourage and raced faster than ever before to Dooku's modest dwelling.
"Milord Dooku!" Pathetic. He's in the detached hangar, barely large enough to store the Solar Sailer. And it's untidy.
Dooku glared from his derezzing feed of the battle. His solitary servant, an FA-4 pilot droid who had been impressed into housekeeping duties as well, rumbled to itself as it adjusted the base of the holoemitter. Dooku had not been in residence long enough to direct his droid to dispose of sporting equipment left behind by the previous owner and it still cluttered one corner of the hangar. "What new strategy are you using? Striking at the enemy firmly with what is left of your face? What has gone wrong?" First the heat goes out and then this disaster. He shrugged himself deeper into his fur cloak.
"Milord. Our warriors need you. They need the Force to strengthen their crystalline covalent bonds, at least until I can diagnose and solve - "
"Your problem. Deal with it." The reception improved and Dooku returned to scowling at the space battle. Koon and that upstart Tachi. Coupled with Skywalker, dauntless and puissant, all three. Can we stop them - Wait. Where is Skywalker's garish Aethersprite? Such a lowclass Jedi craft can belong only to him. Given the sure knowledge that Skywalker had to be near the battle somewhere, of course I am in danger. He doubted that Anakin could Sense his whereabouts; surely the Chosen One's attention was split between his work and his unusual home life? The burden of responsible leadership has never been this onerous. Qui-Gon, I need you. Dooku closed his eyes as he dropped his head in his hands to listen, but Qui-Gon clung to the rest that had eluded him in life. A tremendous commotion came from the pool cabana. "See to that immediately."
Grievous exited without bowing, seething over Dooku and then dismayed at himself as he stared at all four of his dismembered, sparking MagnaGuards. So much for my improved line. There stood Skywalker in full Niman stance, his own and what was probably Kenobi's lightsaber in the beginning Jar'Kai position. Shall I add these to my collection and will it happen today? Grievous detached his upper set of arms from his lower and straightened to his full intimidating height as they faced off.
Anakin took the offensive. Jedi Killer, you need to die now. Soon. Anakin reversed his hilt hold and stabbed down at Grievous from a high angle with Obi-Wan's lightsaber in his right hand, trying to pinch Grievous' thorax between the upper weapon and the forward thrust of own blade in his left. He pivoted to the right when this failed, whirling into a spinning attack he had practiced after seeing T'ra Saa use it that day in the west hangar. He dropped to the floor and kicked at Grievous' legs to knock him off his feet and nearly lost both his own legs when Grievous himself dropped into his insectile crouch, all four blades stabbing for Anakin's lower body. Anakin spun away and bounced to his feet, securing his lightsabers. He Pulled the tattered cabana on top of Grievous to snarl the cyborg's saberwork, but Grievous pointed all four of his blades upwards and then out to the four corners of the galaxy. The cabana smoked and fell apart and Anakin was forced to Push it aside so that it wouldn't encumber his own footwork. Now for the real trial of my Knighthood, he thought, as he whipped out both of his weapons and charged straight ahead, lightsabers together at their tips to form a piercing wedge.
In a shocking move, Grievous dropped to his back, feet extended to Anakin's charge and before Anakin could sidestep or somersault over the spiky menace, Grievous' talons caught him in the abdomen. Anakin screamed as the talons bit into his flesh through the tabards, through the undertunics and through his undergarments. He squeezes and I'm done for. But Grievous did not tighten his claws as he heaved the Jedi over his own form. Instead, he stared at Anakin, face-to-face in silent acknowledgement of the other's courage. It was if his honor had risen from long ago, when he was Qymaen jai Sheelal, the Kaleesh warlord. Anakin read his own death in his opponent's yellow eyes.
You're mine, meat. "Jedi scum!"Grievous positioned his four lightsabers to his liking, but he couldn't have anticipated what Anakin did next, no one could. Right before Grievous' own death, he was still astounded by it.
He's crisscrossing his four blades, he's going to take my head off. Better lose an arm than a head. "Ahhhhhhkriffffit!" Anakin bent his upper body down as much as he could though it made one talon regrip, clenching hard over his tattoo. To gain leverage, he kicked upwards with both legs, seeming to feed even more of himself into the intersecting blades as he angled down, but before Grievous could undo his crossed lightsabers and take off Anakin's head, Anakin's mechno-hand and its bright blade reached through the cross to Grievous' upper right arm socket. The blade hissed between socket and shoulder and neatly severed the arm, the same way that Shmi had taught her son to disjoint a doiseybird for Watto's kitchen. Grievous' lightsaber lost power, the arm relaxed against the duracrete without a quiver. Grievous roared at the indignity done to his treasured lightsaber and undid his cross, clipping off Anakin's mechno-arm. Anakin's metal arm with Obi-Wan's deactivated lightsaber joined Grievous' detached body part on the deck of the pool, but Anakin had jerked his head up and to the side while swiveling his remaining arm with its blade to cut through Grievous' duranium knees. The pain eased in his chest, the talons spasmed outwards and a hideously unbalanced Anakin fell atop Grievous. Kriff. I'd planned to take out both his right arms.
His shins and feet a tumbled clutter to one side, Grievous clung to Anakin as best he could with his thighs, but without the entrapping lower parts of his legs, he had no clamping ability. His rage redlined. I'll take him out with me. Grievous brought three hands, each sprouting a defeated Jedi's pillaged lightsaber, down towards his own body. Things looked very bad for Anakin.
Painpainpainpain. "Lulu ... "
"It's nearly over, Obs. And then you can hold them in your arms." Placenta number one detaching fully ... there. Safety window, three minutes and counting. She gestured to Bant, who took Obi-Wan's left hand while Luminara poured herself into her task. Luminara didn't spare a glance down to his laboring face, but kept her eyes on the holographic monitor hovering out of Obi-Wan's sight behind his head. A soft flare of cerise outlined the fundus of the uterus as a chime sounded. She and Bant traded looks. There was resolve in Bant's steady gaze that warmed Luminara's heart.
" - nnnggghhhh - "
"You're doing well ... first placenta separated, Bant, second detaching, the process will constrict the uterine walls at the contact point and the twins may protest a bit ... " The holocam kept a programmed discreet distance from Obi-Wan's face for privacy's sake, focusing on the distended belly that showed through its rippling surface the struggle being waged inside it. Obi-Wan's navel had disappeared months ago, replaced by a bulge. The bulge turned as red as Obi-Wan's face.
" - nnngghhhrrrrrhuh - they're having a fistfight in there - " This was one third pain, Obi-Wan analyzed, one third pressure, and one third something else, not entirely unrelated to the something between Anakin and himself, but in a different octave. He panted, he threw the wedge pillow bracing him to keep him in on his left side to a far corner and rolled onto his back despite all warnings, he twisted to his other side, and then onto his back again. There was a rrrriip that he almost heard, and then Luminara and Bant and Stass became all business. Bant rolled both of his tube-draped arms back to shoulder level, adjusting a standing drape over Obi-Wan's enormous abdomen. He looked down his body and saw only a white glacier made of linen. Calving. That was the term for glaciers when they shed their icy babies to float upon the freedom of the sea, he thought giddily. I'm going to calve today. He laughed aloud. Bant held both his hands in her strong ones, the moist webbed fingers feeling as competent as he remembered from being under her care years before. A glacier-like sensation spread from sternum to pubis as Luminara iced him with the sterile field from the console overhead and cut him open. If it hurt, he didn't remember it afterward. What he would always remember was the lightweight feeling, as light as if he were dancing as his children left his body.
Stass approached the table. Obi-Wan looked down at himself again, but couldn't see anything except the glacier and Luminara's intent profile. The actions of her quick hands he could neither see nor feel. Stass, you have them now. You're doing something with them over in the corner, what could be wrong that they are not crying, I thought all human babies wailed when they were birthed, what is wrong what is wrong get that kriffing holocam out of this room and tell me tell me what is wrong ...
"Obi-Wan, hear me. Look at me. Your blood pressure is spiking. Nothing is wrong. Calm down." Bant stroked his hands, wiped his face and eyes. "They are fine, they are beautiful, Stass is cleaning them and clipping their cords. Everything's fine. Human babies born this way often don't cry loudly. They haven't been squeezed for hours through the birth canal, they aren't going to be wrinkled and have funny-shaped heads, like mine."
Obi-Wan's eyes filled. You're my friend. You're never funny-looking, Bant. Some feeling overrode the icy anesthetic and there was some tugging and pinching on his guts.
Luminara's fingers flew as she put things in place and laser-stitched and bactaed and glued skin back together. "One change in plan, Obi-Wan," she said as she nodded to the holocam to disengage. It drifted to a corner and hovered. "I've left in your uterus and ovaries. I'm not going to knock you out and traumatize you further today with their removal and that interface needs to stay in place until its postpartum job is done. It won't be pleasant for the next few weeks, but then it isn't pleasant for human females, either. You're contracting nicely, the placentas looked normal, the blood loss was minimal." She finished her movements and covered him with a thermal blanket. "Stay here awhile until you settle. The sterile field's good for you for an hour or two, anyway, until you feel like standing up."
Obi-Wan was certain that he could never stand again. "Lu, where - "
Bant stepped aside after giving his cheek a final pat. She loosened her chromatophores to glow her happiest, rosiest pink as Stass approached the birthing table. "Master Kenobi, may I present your family," the smiling Master announced. Stass placed a lavender-wrapped bundle in the crook of his right arm. "Baby Girl Kenobi." And in the tube-bedecked embrace of his left arm, she deposited a green-swaddled baby, complete with peaked cap, looking as adorable as his sister. "And Baby Boy Kenobi." The twins looked at Obi-Wan near-sightedly and then away. Stass whispered to the overhead lamp to 'simulate candlelight' before she stepped away. Obi-Wan was grateful that no one other than Bant saw his tears overflow.
Luminara was the last to leave the room. "Be back in an hour. Call me if necessary. Congratulations, Obs."
Obi-Wan looked from one unfocused gaze to the other. "Well, hello there," he said.
Anakin flinched to the side, Calling his dismembered arm. It slid near his waist, leather fingers flexing. Thrashing at Grievous with no recognized Form with his only attached arm, fighting the pain of his lacerated chest and snapping pseudosynapses in his stump, he hissed when he parried Grievous' second blade and it was knocked backward through Obi-Wan's lightsaber hilt. I've lost it for Master. I can hear the lecture now. Anakin Pushed Grievous away, though the pain made his concentration stutter. Got to regroup. Need a second wind. Anakin collided with a bisected MagnaGuard as he scrambled awkwardly to his feet, barking both ankles. At least I've still got ankles. Needing to finish this now and head for Dooku, Anakin Pulled up a personal watercraft afloat in the large pool and dumped it on top of Grievous. He gathered his arm and charged into the hangar, panting.
Dooku turned, expecting Grievous. Oh. "You have learned something, Skywalker." Dooku flourished his red blade. "A duel? Again? Didn't you regret the last one?" Dun Möch, I am a Master of it. "Have at you!"
I can do this. Off-balance and willing himself to compensate for it without flailing, Anakin parried Dooku's exquisite thrust, keeping his stump pressed to his side to hold his precious mechno-arm. Back and forth they dueled, a battered, gasping Jedi against a cool Dark Lord of the Sith. Five minutes later, Anakin doubted his self-confidence. I'm ripped up and he hasn't a scratch on him. At least Grievous won't be joining us soon.
Where is that cyborg? This one has improved in his swordsmanship and I'm getting winded. Dooku flourished his cloak at Anakin as if to a rampaging reek, and sure enough the boy charged. Dooku was not fooled. He's smarter, stronger than before. I must be cautious. When the charge was close enough, Dooku backflipped over the one-armed Jedi and landed in the pile of sporting equipment. The curved slats of wood that must have been used for some time-wasting activity clattered beneath his boots and he nearly bobbled his lightsaber. To cover his embarrassment, Dooku Force-manipulated one slat and used it to slide down the pile, away from Anakin. "You'll not force me out of my home again, Jedi. I need a base for research. My crystalline warriors are made from sand, one of the most common materials in the galaxy. We may have used up the sand from places like the Desert of Salma on Endor, but there is always plenty sand on Tatooine." A black thread of concern in this callow one's aura? Unravel it.
"Tatooine is next. Ah, young Knight, that is touching a nerve. I feel your anger, so much more feeble than years ago when I fileted you. What has happened to dilute it so?"
Dooku narrowed his eyes, beetled his heavy brows, reaching for his answer, reaching and Anakin blocked each mental probe, the piercing stabs slicing as painfully sharp as a saber made of durasteel. Anakin flung up shield after shield, too exhausted to do more than defend. Confidence rolled over him again as Dooku's thrusts failed to penetrate his mind.
Frustrated, Dooku called upon the Force to flog his own mind, dredging up pieces of Anakin's past to hurl against him. It was not often that Dooku looked inward. Nearly four years ago. Mother killed by Tuskens on benighted Tatooine. There! Debride that old wound with Dun Möch! "Yes, Tatooine, where your dear mother lies beneath the sand." I have no idea whether she is interred there, but his eyes are blazing and in this light they appear yellow. Ah, if only ... "Perhaps we shall crush her bones and mold the pitiful dust into our sand, use the mix to form one of my elegant crystal warriors. Perhaps you shall meet her in battle, who knows? What would you do then, Chosen One? How would you choose?" Forget about Grievous' contribution. He probably already has.
'His crystal warriors? His crystal warriors?' Clanking up to the hangar door, Grievous' outrage took the form of action. First the Jedi, then the Sith Lord. I can command without any meat's help. Grievous' thirty-centimeter-circumference waist was scored on either side by his near-ruinous plunge towards himself with his own three lightsabers, but his spinal column remained supple enough to sling-shot his body to once again stand on his thighs when Anakin Pushed him flat. Grievous looked over to see Anakin approaching, the Jedi's one blade agleam under eyes blazing with un-Jedi-like rage. Grievous ran to Dooku's Solar Sailer on his shortened legs and leaped upon the left wing. Three lightsabers against one. Not bad odds. I want it better.
Anakin took advantage of the cyborg's flight to center himself as he turned back to Dooku. It was time for some Jedi Dun Möch. "Where can you run? Who would have you? Surrender to me. You'll be treated justly."
Dooku edged towards his ship. "You Jedi. Always thinking ahead, to justice for some past wrong. Why not stop looking to the next generation and beyond it with your failed Padawan and Master system and look around you? Look at the beauty that is right in front of you, the terentatek carpet, the living crystal armies?" Tug on the pilot droid, yes, and get his attention. Yes, good, he's tracking me. Grievous is planning something to distract -
"'Looking around at the moment'? Sounds like the Living Force to me, Dooku. Didn't Qui-Gon's stint as your Padawan teach you anything about that?" Anakin got his breath back.
I'll kill him for those words. "I don't want your charity. And do not mention Qui-Gon's name ever again. You would not have made him a worthy Padawan, Skywalker. Even Kenobi was better than you."
Anakin burst out laughing. "That is supposed to hurt me? Of course Obi-Wan is a better Jedi than I am!"
Grievous sprang from the Sailer's wing over Dooku's head, three lightsabers ablaze and whirling like some bizarre battling mynock. Anakin stepped out of the way, slicing the lightsaber from Grievous' lower left arm as the Kaleesh flew by him and then rolled into something resembling a droideka. Down to two lightsabers and two arms, Grievous' truncated body still was formidable. He made use of his new stature as he tucked himself double and rolled towards Anakin. Anakin stepped backwards as easily as he could on his abraded ankles. He's shorter than I expected. It was a desperate move on Grievous' part, and an unskilled one in his new form, but Anakin laughed until he was again breathlessly dizzy and the laughter enraged Dooku.
Faugh. "Shoot him," Dooku ordered his pilot droid-turned-warrior-turned-housekeeper. "Shoot the cyborg. He's in the way." Dooku spat blue lightning at Grievous and the cyborg ducked, losing another right arm in the droid's blaster fire. The pilot droid continued firing tirelessly as droids always did. Through his dizziness, Anakin concentrated with every bit of his considerable command of the Force and threw his arm with his activated lightsaber so that it angled the blue blade up between Grievous' curtailed legs. There was no flesh there, though there was a nexus of interfaces that controlled the legs' coordinating impulses with the four, now two, arms when Grievous went quadrupedal. Grievous lost control of his body, sepia slush stained the duracrete hangar floor, permanently Dooku thought in consternation, and Grievous' mask cracked down hard on the waste-stained duracrete. The mask fell off, Grievous' eyes crossed, and all that was left of the Kaleesh master murderer and military genius was a sparking simulacrum of a being. The torso spun in a circle. The bag of organs pulsed life feebly into the metal structure once, but the impulses that fired the structure's movements released into the air, not through artificial synapses. Grievous now resembled the spinning attraction on Anakin's first trip to the Euceron amusement park, the one that had made Ferus ill when he had accompanied him on the ride. Anakin had an sturdier stomach.
The second that Dooku turned to flee, Anakin pounced on the Sith, rolling him over with a tumbling dive across Grievous' spinning bulk. The two approximated height, but Anakin's youth and muscular build trapped the aged Count for the briefest of moments before Dooku himself sparked, not Grievous' blue-white coruscations but the darker, deadlier Sith lightning. It seemed to issue from Dooku's back, his neck, his very pores and Anakin was forced to release him. Anakin's hair stood on end, the implants in the stump of his right arm felt completely fried, but he still had one hand left and he used it to seize Dooku's ankle and trip him. A stunning backwards kick into Anakin's face broke his upper two front teeth and he had to let go. Through bloody lips, Anakin shouted at Dooku's fleeing form, "You'w nevuh get away wid dis! I'w hunt you down, Obi-Wan Kenobi wiw find out wheyuh you've gone and he'w nevuh stop, no, nevuh - "
It's Dun Möch time again, rip his psyche like I know I can. "My Grand-Padawan is in no shape to think right now, much less find me. He's in labor. Can't you tell?" His last holo was in profile and it's just about his time to deliver. What a shapeless mess he looked, not at all what Qui-Gon would have approved of. Dooku turned briefly and pressed down on Anakin's head with one broad Force-hand while he directed the lifeless arm. He nearly managed to spear Anakin with his own lightsaber. Anakin scissor-kicked the offending arm in a desperate scramball play and the lightsaber angled just enough towards the Sith to make Dooku scramble in an undignified fashion for his Solar Sailer's ramp control. The pressure on Anakin's head ceased, Anakin grabbed his own mechno-arm that had spastically clenched upon his still-ignited lightsaber, and speared it towards Dooku. The aerodynamics were all off and he succeeded only in piercing Dooku's kudana fur cape. The lightsaber and arm clattered to the floor. Anakin regained his feet, limping quickly towards the hovering ship's ramp, but he was not fast enough. Dooku's neatly trimmed beard contorted in one final sneer, the Solar Sailer's ramp closed, and Anakin flattened himself just in time to avoid being smeared across the viewport like some unfortunate insect. As it was, the repulsors' added flaming armament singed his hair, burned his back, buttocks and heels. Grievous continued to make wet coughing sounds, sounds that resembled laughter.
Anakin cursed and panted. His stump sent odd signals to his brain. Pain center activated. Pain receptors inactivated. Justify. Pain center activated. Pain receptors inactivated. Justify. The cut lips and broken teeth had no such loop. Painpainpainpain ... Anakin coughed as raspingly as Grievous, brushing away bloody spittle with his sprained hand, wincing at his burns, his mouth, his back and sorting out his arm's confused signals. He finally, gingerly, touched his implants and pinched their ends together, negating their input to a self-contained loop away from his pain center. Aaaah, kriff, that hurts owowowowooohh ... oh, better now ... wait, what? Obi-Wan's in labor? He gained his feet awkwardly with one arm, and favoring the cracked heel, he wobbled to his Aethersprite.
"Wed Fi to Old Folks' Ho. Wed Fi to Old Folks' Ho. Neutwawized Gwieous. Dooku in fwight, whewuhouts unknown. Puhsonal condition insuff-ow-cient to e'ect puhsuit. Pwease adise." Labor? No, he had to be wrong. Obi-Wan would not have to go through labor, because there's no outlet for little Pierpont, Jerusha, Durwood or Petunia or whatever other names Obi-Wan added to our list when I left. No, there will be very little pain involved. Obi-Wan would have told me. He would have.
"Mrrrrr ... frazzzzz ... -ive, Old Folks' Home. Repeat. Red Five, this is Old Folks' Home. Reply." A bad connection, but better than none.
"Old Folks' Ho, Wed Fi heeyuh. Neutwawized Gwieous. Dooku in fwight, whewuhbouts unknown. Puhsonal condition - ohhhhh - c-can't e'ect puhsuit. Pwease ad'ise."
A lengthy pause, a shuffle, the whack of a naynabo-root stick against a marble floor lightyears away. "Yoda here. Dooku's ship, you can capture. Coruscant, your next stop is."
"Mastuh, dank you fuh wepwying yoseff. Pwease teh me about Obi-Wan's condition. Dooku said someding unbeweivabuh ..."
"Obi-Wan, in good health, naturally in some discomfort he is, but in good health."
Anakin wasn't being told something. He didn't like it. "Mastuh, I have da wight to know - "
"All is normal, natural. Younglings safe, they are. When home you come, greet you, they will." Yoda's voice softened. "Chosen One, take care of yourself. All goes well here. Trust your feelings. Tell you this, do they not?"
From parsecs away, from Core to Outer Rim, Obi-Wan reached out to him, an amazing display of their imprinted bond. Anakin cocooned the bearer of his children tenderly in Force-fingers, feeling their bond striped with blood, but still intact. "He's huhting, he's in gwate pain, Mastuh, what da kwiff is going on? He can't be in labuh, dere's no way - "
"Liar, my old apprentice is. No help for him now, deluded as he is, corrupted by the Dark Side and grown in it these past thirteen years." Inevitable, was it? Yoda, give up hope for this one. Lost to the Jedi, Dooku is. "Labor, one word for the process is. Dooku, what knows he about such things? Hurt you with words, when hurt you with deeds, he could not." Anakin felt the ragged stumps of his teeth with his swollen tongue and the burns on his back throbbed. He spat again.
"So it's someding minuh?" Let it be something minor, the hip pains, the leg cramps, the round ligaments stretching, anything but life-threatening. "What is it?"
Crrraaacckkkkkle "-king up, your signal is. Worry about Obi-Wan, do not. Procee- frzzzzz -after Dooku. All will be well. Yoda out."
Anakin called on all his strength to limp away. I don't have time for the medkit, owwww it hurts to sit, Obi-Wan and I are in pain together. Somehow that is too much togetherness. He punched the panel, activating the one mod that he and Saesee and all the rest of his hangar crew had talked Obi-Wan into. In moments he was after Dooku's Solar Sailer and then he caught up to it. Split seconds before you gather enough of the solar wind to power for hyperspace. Got you. I knew I could build a better control panel. The Delta-7 Aethersprite performed beyond his fondest hopes. He was going to paint a name on it the first chance he got.
"Enemy directly astern. Action?"
"As before. Strategic withdrawal." I'm running. Again.
"Enemy upon us. Action?"
"Punch it, fool!" Dooku blasted the FA-4 pilot out of its seat. He hauled back on the hyperdrive lever, but nothing happened. He tried again. An orange light strobed.
Dooku sighed. There is nothing so ignominious as being caught by a tractor beam. I'll never live it down to myself. At least Grievous will never see this.
Upon seeing another Aethersprite between Dantooine and its moons, Anakin jammed his bloody chin into his shoulder to activate his transponder, but it had reached its preprogrammed lifespan. "Kwiff!" he cursed again. Siri?
His comm board chirped."Anakin, Tachi here. I've got Dooku in my sights."
She's here when I need her, I'll give her that. "Don't fire - ouch - da twactor eam has him. I need an escort ack to Coruscant. He can't get away dis time."
Siri Sensed this to be true. Chosen One, what would we do without you? "Well, my ship doesn't have an internal hyperdrive like yours does, but I can coordinate with you and meet you over Coruscant and escort you in from there. I'll notify CorSec, too, and we'll have every contingency for any escape covered. Overkill, I realize, but - "
"A gweat idea, a wonderful - ow - idea! Sending coohdinates now." I'm on my way, Obi-Wan. The last thing Anakin saw before starlines was Siri's determined look through her transparisteel canopy. He nodded to her, and she nodded back. Truce. He would stop outside of Coruscant, on Centax-1's moon garrison. It would be prudent to have twenty thousand clone troopers at his back when he Force-cuffed Dooku. And Siri at my back, too. Good. "Owww, ouch, kwiff, kwiff, double kwiff, twiple kwiff, fuck!" He twisted in the meditation seat that Saesee had designed for long trips. At least it's only three days back to Coruscant and not four like from Trow. I don't think I could stand another day's wait. Anakin patted the controls. Just like before on his ship left behind on Cularin, no, better than before, technology had helped him and his cause. He set the proximity alarm for Centax-1. Where is that inship medkit? It was going to be a bitch reattaching his arm in this confined space.
Three days later, at the Temple's east hangar ...
"'Honor died when dueling was outlawed,' said that to me decades ago, you did, my old Padawan-Learner. Walk with me now and explain your words to me, you will." The ring of Jedi warrior-diplomats around the small group must have numbered fifty, Anakin thought.
Dooku stiffened his spine and clanked his Force-inhibiting cuffs together. "Like this?"
"Fools a second time, we are not. Visit Saa we will; need company for a time, you do. Contemplate her fate, you will." The Jedi Grandmaster and Sith Lord left the hangar together, unescorted at a gesture from Yoda's naynabo gimer stick. Anakin couldn't spend any more time thinking about them.
"Obi-Wan! I'm coming!" Anakin pledged to no one but himself. He bounded out of the hangar and shed his cloak as he Force-leaped along the hallways. Other Jedi bore bemused expressions at their Chosen One's haste as they shrank to the side of the broad corridors in the powerhouse of the Force that was the Temple. The event had happened days ago.
Anakin slowed his steps at the infirmary and approached the banked warmth that was Obi-Wan and his children. He stopped completely at the door to Obi-Wan's room. Out of breath, he palmed it open.
"Obi-Wan! I lost your lightsaber!" Anakin burst out as he halted in the entrance, a little afraid to greet his new life. "I'm sorry." He gathered his courage and approached the bed, sipping from Obi-Wan's water to wet his dry, sore mouth. The medkit's tooth regenerator always left him parched.
You fool, you darling fool, as if I cared. "Ilum is still in orbit, Anakin. I can make another. Come, meet our family." The twins made sleepy sounds at Anakin and he cooed back.
"Beautiful, I can't tell you how much, I d-don't have the wo- "
So he likes the idea now. Good. "Can I hold one?"
"You must." Obi-Wan handed one drowsy bundle over. "That's the girl."
His daughter just fit on his forearm. "She's ... small? Is she all right?"
Ah, the worry begins. "She's fine. A little early, that is all."
"What's her name?" I didn't add a single name to our list. F-Kr-Stang.
Owww, hurts to reach out. Lu said my abdominals would be sore. "Anakin, the list, please." The nightstand seemed a parsec away.
Anakin replaced Obi-Wan's waterglass on the rolling traytable and handed Obi-Wan the datapad."Your list? Here it is, sweetheart. What's this one that's not crossed off on the girl's side?" The handwriting looked like Obi-Wan had written it as he labored.
"It's 'Lucretia'." Obi-Wan would fight for this name. Its meaning of 'riches' could not describe better his and Anakin's current state. We Jedi are allowed some riches now. And I intend to keep mine.
I can give him this. "All right, I concur. 'Lucretia' for the girl. But" - Anakin saw as with macrobinoculars the tiny white pimples around his boy's nose, the ruddy cheeks, the spate of reddish-blond hair, the spastic movements that all newborns made, at least in his experience with Ali-Anann's limited supply of beings this young - "I think" - what was that? what did I just Hear? - "yes, 'Donald' would be a fine name for the boy." Donald's eyes opened wide, the darkish blue of many human newborns, including Donald's sister's. Whether they would remain blue, Anakin didn't know.
"Lucretia and Donald, meet Anakin Skywalker." With this formality, the Force flexed and expanded around the four of them, four, the number two squared, the mystical number designating the number of Elements in certain value systems. In his esoteric readings during the weeks of waiting for this event, Obi-Wan privately assigned Fire's fierceness to Anakin, Water's tender emotions to the presence that would become little Luc, the solid dependable Ground to the second presence, whatever his or her name should be, and after considerable meditation, Air to himself, because Fire could not exist without Air. He pondered these things in his heart and would tell Anakin later, if at all. A Master and his Knight did not have to know everything about each other.
Anakin beamed. Covalent bonds. Equally orbiting electrons around central points, not just two electrons now, but four, in infinitely complex rhythms. "Obi-Wan, do you want to do this again in a year? Say, next spr- "
The pillow slapped Anakin on the mouth eloquently.
A/N: This story is dedicated to my step-father, Donald, who understood the theme of Lord of the Rings, played drums, hooked rugs, made deerskin slippers and hand-tooled leather purses for all us females, bought my first car and whose imaginative watercolors I still have. At ease, soldier. See you in thirty.
A sample of unexpurgated notes: anakin hauls back dooku but dooku tries his darndet to get away and then the rest of yularen's force puls up or maybe it its only sisr and then she and he finally are a team adn siri is the big bluffing monster as anakin's tractor hauls doou all the way back to ? or a,s,adi and others tiin on dantooine for finale the polis massa where labor, ha, begins? and big fight, adi and siri involved but siri and adi protecting the old ones from dooku who is contemptuous see you all could be like me if you had followed the dark side they looked at each other and formed a force healing surge flinging it at him. he flung it back at them with a contemptuuous laugh. hahaha i don't need your healing, i don't want it, grievous is killed when he trie to ? the old folks'
Is this linear thinking or what?
And now, for pronker's Room of Ooopsies, the title of which is borrowed from a seminal work of heartbreaking genius on the Master-Apprentice Archive, (The Room of Woopsies by Alaric), here are some items that slipped through the editing process:
ARCs are only the first one hundred of the clones during the Clone Wars, the ones most like Jango and trained by him. So there would be no ARC397, etc.
Vleen Argoe, my male Glarsaur shvash gas seller was a female human pyromaniac gas seller, per Wookieepedia. Wish I'd caught that one.
It is the same season all over the GFFA, regardless of world: the story begins in springtime, Obi-Wan's pregnancy is discovered in early summer, Anakin comes home from Cularin in autumn, the twins arrive heralding the end of winter. If one cannot have things consistent in the GFFA, why go there?
Many thanks to the gracious readers and reviewers all these months. May The Force Be With You. Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrrrr.