Written by: Shawn Chapter 3 in the "Heart and Soul" series. (3/5)
This follows "Shadows of Winter"
Part 1 (1/3)
Summary: When faced with the most horrific news imaginable, Padme's utter desperation forces her to turn to Obi-Wan and even Chancellor Palpatine for help. Her greatest personal challenge awaits...
Category: Heavy Angst/Romance/Drama/Grief
Pairing: Anakin and Padme Skywalker. Another slight, one-sided attraction/admiration/interest. Not slash.
Story Warning: Graphic Violence, Angst
Timeline: Obviously, knowledge of Star Wars: Episode 1 and 2 is needed. You must also read the other "Heart and Soul" chapters before this one. "The Light and the Dark" and "Shadows of Winter." This story takes place six months after SoW.
Disclaimer: George Lucas and Lucasfilm owns everything.
Authors Notes 1: In this universe the Clone Wars will last three and a half years. It's commonly known that Anakin and Padme were separated for five months before Episode 3 when Obi-Wan and Anakin were dealing with the Outer Rim Sieges. This story picks up two years and four months after Star Wars: Episode 2.
Authors Notes 2: If some of you are concerned about the Pairing notes above, I ask you to trust me and the story.
Authors Notes 3: Dorme, Padme's handmaiden/bodyguard and best friend in this story knows of her marriage to Anakin. Obi-Wan only suspects more is going on than he knows but, elects not to pry.
Authors Notes 4: The official Star Wars database provided many of the details for this story, though some things are my original creations.
Extra Special Thanks: Anne, my Jedi Master of good grammar and all around help. She's the best, seriously.
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on"
Robert Frost "Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible"
Mary McLeod Bethune
"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails"
I Corinthians 13:4-8
The Galactic Senate Hall
The Naboo Delegations Official Senate Pod
Row 6600 - Section M
Galactic City, Coruscant
Having exhausted even her vaunted patience, Padme struggled to keep her tired eyes open as the Senators from worlds of Toola and Sullust continued their eight-hour debate over an interstellar trade dispute. Sighing as the day without end seemed no closer to its conclusion, she found herself envious of Jar Jar's gentle snoring beside her. In addition, she was sure that Dorme had a little extra something in her beverage that aided in her ability to seem alert. The thought of which curled a subtle smile on Senator's face.
She was fairly certain that something special wasn't non-alcoholic.
And she almost asked for some herself.
Seated in the rear of the Naboo delegation's Senate pod, Padme often found at the end of the day that the Great Senate Hall's artificial atmosphere and illumination gave her a headache. Never more than today as she was dying to flee this place back to her apartment. Having given her all for the Republic on a daily basis, nights in which Anakin was expected home were taken selfishly and not a moment was to be wasted. Two bottles of Correllian wine and a little slinky Alderranian silk lingerie awaited her arrival, as well as a night of passion and ecstasy.
Fending off a blush, Padme placed her hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn while wondering how close to Coruscant Anakin was now, or if he'd arrived already at their apartment waiting on her. No doubt looking to scare her when she arrived and then sooth her complaints with the heat of his mouth covering hers. She'd playfully bat at his arms and shoulders complaining the whole time his warm hands shed the clothes from her body. And then he would thrill her all night long until she rested sated and happy beside his nude body.
By the Force, she missed so much him these last, lonely months. They were given days at a time... sometimes only hours to be who they really were. A husband and his wife, locked behind closed doors, hidden from the prying eyes of the galaxy. Stealing whatever they could. Such was life during a time of war. And though difficult and painful, she wouldn't trade a moment... a single heartbeat with him for anything.
Her gaze reached out over the vast, arena-like chamber, with its thousands of Senators conversing quietly amongst themselves. The two holding up matters seemed to be nearing a compromise of sorts. Or so she hoped until their voices rose yet again. Behind the veil of a side of her most thought didn't exist, if Anakin were here now she'd allow him to gently "persuade" those two to agree so they could leave.
Yes, even Padme understood when fair wasn't an option anymore.
"I wonder what this is about?" Dorme noted from behind Padme, pointing toward the rising Grand Convocation Chamber from the center of the chamber. The Chancellors Podium, with the man himself, quickly commanded the entire attention of the Senate Hall. The opposing Senator's pods drifted back to their respective holds. "Palpatine never interrupts the proceedings without being announced first."
"Such an ego wouldn't allow it." Padme felt a dreaded sense of worry come over her from the very sight of Chancellor Palpatine. Dorme was right, this wasn't his usual entrance. This was abrupt. And the dire expression he wore as he stepped to the podium appeared grim. Genuinely grim. Something was seriously wrong.
Silence reigned over the entire chamber, awaiting the most powerful man in the galaxy.
"It is with grave pain in my heart that I report to you all what was just reported to me by the Jedi," Palpatine began with a weary sigh, pausing as if to collect his thoughts. Mas Amedda shadowed him closely, as if worried he might fall at any second. With his normally booming voice gone, he spoke in a fragile tone, "Anakin Skywalker is dead."
The heart-stopping moment echoed a collective gasp from the thousands of Senator's present, almost all rising to their feet. Padme remained motionless, saying nothing, her heart in her throat. A blank expression covering her lovely face as her skin paled.
Palpatine raised his hands for quiet. The sound died down, but very few Senators were seated. The incredible shock was only now settling in. "The Jedi have confirmed to my office that Jedi Skywalker was investigating a location Count Dooku was believed to be scouting for a new base of operation. He was ambushed by a small fleet of fighters and killed in the attack. Apparently, this all took place a day ago, as the Jedi themselves have massed an extensive investigation into the indecent. They did not inform me or my office of any of this until just a few moments ago. But to repeat, the Jedi have concluded that Anakin Skywalker is dead."
Disgusting horror swept over Padme as her stomach twisted sickly. Her fists wrenched at the podium's banister until Dorme's pleading words of comfort began to pulse in her head. The attempt to maintain her composure lest she rouse suspicion began to crumble. She rose with Jar Jar's help, hearing voices but understanding nothing save the foul words that destroyed her world.
As if in slow motion, she remembered her feet moving as Dorme, Jar Jar, and Captain Typho quickly ushered her off the Senator pod and into the main hall where a massive contingent of HoloNet reporters were swarming over any Senator who emerged first. Upon seeing her, with full knowledge of her friendship with Anakin Skywalker, they attacked with loud questions from all sides.
Padme's mind was in a fog, unable to grasp the news Palpatine delivered. She heard Dorme ushering Captain Typho, Jar Jar, and Padme's private security detail toward her shuttle while she gave the official statement of "No comment at this time." Nonetheless, the news hounds barked at her until she was led onto the starship. Racing to her best friend's side, Dorme wrapped her arms around Padme as the tears began. As the shouts and screams of "NO NO NO!!" erupted from the pit of her lungs in the back of the ship. As she fell to her knees, still in Dorme's arms, absolutely dying inside.
The starship lifted off its private landing dock, gusting off into the sky.
Even while crying her eyes out, two things suddenly became crystal clear to Padme. First was that through their connection in the Force she'd felt Anakin when he was angry and sad and even violent from across the galaxy. She even sensed when he was in good spirits no matter how far away from her he was. And she couldn't get over the feeling that if he died the force of his death would have blindsided her like a blow to the face.
Instead, she had felt nothing of the sort. Nothing at all.
Secondly, despite Dorme wanting her to speak with the Chancellor to learn of this official report, Padme only wanted to hear from one man. And it was definitely not Palpatine. "Take me to the Jedi Temple. Hail Master Kenobi. Find him. Tell them it is an absolute emergency."
The Jedi Temple
30 Standard Minutes Later
Galactic City, Coruscant
As Coruscant's gusting evening winds swept over his Jedi robe, Obi-Wan cast his gaze skyward, catching sight of a familiar shimmering starship fast approaching. Standing alone on the spaceport landing platform, the Jedi Master bore a grim expression, wishing anything but to have to be the one to tell Padme the very last thing she would ever want to hear. And yet it was his duty to their friendship, and his brotherhood with Anakin, that she hear the truth from his lips.
And then he'd be forced to look into her beautiful brown eyes and watch a part of her die inside. The part of both her and Anakin he'd ignored for their sakes for the longest time now.
Sighing, Obi-Wan held a stoic pose as the landing gear of Senator Amidala's private starship softly touched down on the landing platform. For as often as he'd looked forward to seeing his good friend, tonight was different. There would be no vibrant conversation over politics or remembering those amazing first adventures together. Today marked a crucial, life-altering turn in their lives. One from which he wasn't sure he'd ever fully recover.
As for her... he couldn't even imagine.
Even as the starship's boarding ramp descended, Obi-Wan felt Padme's slight ray of hope as well as her scorching grief. That endless hope, which he'd admired since the day he met her, was withering beneath the weight of her pain. He knew he'd be no help at all to lessen the strain.
Padme appeared and quickly made her way down the boarding ramp, her arms holding herself against the winds as she made her way to Obi-Wan. She offered no greeting, her expression as shielded as the emotions she tried her best to hide from him. Respectfully, he extended his hand to lead her as they walked towards the spaceport entrance, allowing her to enter first. They passed a group of Padawan learners, who all bowed in her honor.
"This way, Senator," he said as they made their way through the starship hanger and into a small elevation platform. Moments later Obi-Wan led Padme inside a private room prepared in advance for their talk.
Exhaling a deep breath, Padme was grateful they reached the private room before she collapsed. The click of the door closing behind her signaled they were alone. She turned around to face Obi-Wan, and whatever hope she held close to her heart died the moment she saw the pain etched in his face. Utterly dreadful, hopeless pain.
"Please sit, Padme. Would like something to drink?" Obi-Wan asked, arms behind his back.
Her cool facade fell that very instant. Her lovely face crumbled before him... even before he began. Motioning toward a Map Reader in the center of the room, he used the Force to dim the lights, and then used a small clear globe to operate the machine. "What I am about to share with you is highly classified information and cannot leave the room." Padme nodded. "Clone intelligence acquired a series of interstellar transmissions five days ago. Our sources believed these transmissions were encoded messages meant for Count Dooku and sent by his scout team. He is a very paranoid individual and is constantly on the move. One reason the war has dragged on for so long is due to our inability to capture him."
Obi-Wan continued. "The information seemed to detail a cluster of asteroids near the planet Troiken in the Outer Rim that could be a possible base of operations for the Separatists. Anakin and I were dispatched quickly to investigate the transmissions. We were able to use unmanned, cloaked probe droids to scout the area, and found that in two standard days time a hyperspace gate had been built just outside the asteroid belt. I wanted us to wait and monitor the situation further before making a move, but Anakin felt that the Separatists no longer built bases. He explained that since they were always on the move they only used starships unless they already possessed control of a particular world. We debated the best way to approach things until a new transmission appeared, one that we could not fully conclude its meaning because of a new scrambling system the Separatists now employ."
If she tried hard enough, Padme could easily hear Anakin's thinking on the matter. He was so stubborn and rash at times, but his only wish was to end this war and be with her. To that end he'd do anything. Her grief cradled a new pain. Guilt, as he'd begged her to run away with him so many times... and now it seemed to be too late. She trembled thinking of her life without him. "Go on."
Brushing his hand over his beard, Obi-Wan's voice cracked when he spoke. "My interpretation was that the message meant supplies were being sent to begin construction of a new base of operations. Anakin felt that there was a clear chance Count Dooku himself was about to arrive. You must understand, we were trying to interpret garbled communications at best. Neither of us were sure of our beliefs, but Anakin felt this was a once in a lifetime chance to end the war. He went on and on about where in the message he felt it was clear that Count Dooku himself was going to arrive at a specific date. Since I was the senior officer, even though I have the utmost faith in Anakin, I preached patience."
"He has struggled with patience since the moment I met him," Padme admitted while wiping fresh tears away, not caring anymore if he noticed or not. She didn't have the strength to hide her feelings. "Please continue."
"Hours later I went to look for Anakin to talk, but he was already gone. That was when I learned of his..." Obi-Wan simply could not say the foul words, shaking his head, angry at himself. "We learned of a confrontation at the asteroid belt. Anakin had flown his star fighter through it and was lying in wait for Dooku's ship. From here things are a bit unpolished as we don't know all the details. Artoo sent word of being attacked out of nowhere by a small armada of Separatists starships. They were being overwhelmed, and then the transmission cut off altogether. By the time our ship arrived at the scene the Separatists stargate was nothing more than space dust."
"Did you find..." Padme swallowed hard, her hand covering her mouth as she began shivering violently. When Obi-Wan reached for her, her hand lifted. She took a moment to settle herself. "Did you find his Jedi fighter or a body?"
"No," Obi-Wan replied solemnly. "We found thirteen separate pieces of Anakin's starship, as well as R-2's dome plate. He fought off the fighters valiantly, but we have every reason to believe he died in the skirmish. The stargate was destroyed as well."
Padme's mind raced over the possibilities, desperate to find even a shred of hope. "Do you have any way of knowing if the stargate was finished or if it had been used?"
No matter her grief, her mind was alert. Just one of the many qualities Obi-Wan admired in her. "We have concluded that the stargate was completed and had been used. We weren't sure if it had been used during the battle, but we've been quietly investigating every possible route a ship could have taken once passing through the gate. There are no signs of anything, anywhere. I personally flew eighteen standard hours straight over the last day searching for any clues... any hope that Anakin might be alive. I found none."
While on one level she appreciated Obi-Wan's straightforward speech, on another she wanted to collapse on the floor and never open her eyes again. She knew Obi-Wan loved Anakin. Knew he would do anything for his brother, and would never lie. His character was above reproach in that regard. "What about the Force?" she questioned. "Surely you would have felt his death? Perhaps Master Yoda?"
Obi-Wan paused, and then shook his head. "Neither of us have. We can't sense him at all. It is a mystery to us, but the evidence clearly shows that Anakin's star fighter suffered severe damage, as well as his R-2 unit. We have pieces of the other fighters as well, but no way to know how the battle went. What we do know is that after a comprehensive search with more than fifty Jedi fighters scouring the area and beyond, we cannot find a trace of Anakin. If he'd been taken alive he would have used any number of ways a Jedi are able to reveal their whereabouts. A homing beacon, a final transmission, or even projecting the Force would have alerted someone... or me. Instead, we have nothing to hold onto in the belief that he is alive. Trust me when I say I have exhausted every possible scenario."
Padme's eyes fell shut, her face wining painfully as waves of swept fell over her. "Tell me about the debris you've confirmed is from Anakin's starship?"
"The entire shielded-covering of his life-support systems, as well as his fuel calibrator, the entire right wing, and part of the lower, outer hull. As I said, his star fighter was severely damaged. I don't think he survived, Padme." Obi-Wan softly concluded, "I think he's gone."
Facing the corner wall, Padme's stomach sank. Her silence was deafening, her heart utterly broken. She could not fathom a more cruel fate. By the Force, hadn't she sacrificed enough? Hadn't she given of herself throughout her entire life enough so that this one man could be hers and hers alone someday? Why would the Force visit such torture upon her when all that she has tried to do with her life was help others. Grief rang in her voice when she said, "Thank you, Ben."
Folding his arms over his chest, he felt the need to comfort her, and yet knew he had nothing to offer that would. She was devastated, plain and simple. Her inner pride was all that kept her together as he worried for her state of mind. For all his vaunted abilities he simply didn't know what to do. His own pain and sense of loss were raw as any open wound. "I tried my very best. I did all that I could think to do."
With a heavy heart, Padme walked to Obi-Wan, embraced him briefly, and then stepped away. "I know that you did," she told him softly.
They walked in silence back to the hanger bay, each lost in their own thoughts. As time passed Obi-Wan found himself staring at Padme's departing starship. It lifted off into the distant night sky, disappearing in the billowing clouds. The stark reality that his brother was gone hadn't sunk in yet. He instead grieved for Padme's loss, swearing to avenge it someday on Count Dooku.
A Jedi could not know anger. It was forbidden.
And yet as he lived and breathed, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi felt nothing more deeply at this time than the most bitterest anger he had ever felt before.
Senator Padme Amidala's apartment
Located on the top floors of the Senate Apartment Complex of 500 Republica
Galactic City, Coruscant
With the deafening sound of thunder crackling in the distance and white lightening streaking across Galactic City's busy skyline, Dorme felt it was appropriate that the rains would fall tonight. Coruscant was drowning as the heavens wept for the loss of a good man and the part of his soul he left behind.
While stirring a steaming pot of hearty Pelcian soup, Dorme turned her gaze to where her grieving friend was sitting quietly in the living room. Her arms wrapped around herself, Padme's stony, pale expression gripped Dorme's heart. She hadn't moved since they'd arrived back at the apartment a standard hour ago. Hadn't spoken a single word.
When the Senator returned to her ship after her meeting with Master Kenobi at the Jedi Temple, the message was clear from the vacant look in her eyes. All hope was lost. Her husband was dead.
Nonetheless, Dorme swore Padme would not be alone tonight or any night until she was... better. And someday she would be, no matter how far off that was. Then again, Dorme had never in all her years, a time that exceeded her friend's age, known love as Padme had. Deep, breathing, life-sustaining love as she shared with Anakin. It was so unfair... such a travesty of injustice that two who had given so much of themselves would be separated like this.
Anakin's death was an absolute tragedy.
Exhaling deeply on a silent prayer, Dorme set the soup aside, as well as the Pilar tea she prepared. She'd given Padme her space thus far, time to collect her tumultuous thoughts, but now she had to eat something. She would need to keep her strength up for the long, hard days ahead. So she cautiously approached her best friend, circling the sofa before resting a gentle hand on Padme's shoulder. "Please eat something, milady. I've prepared some soup and your favorite tea." Nothing. No response at all. Her head bowed as the grieving widow she thought she'd never be. "Milady, I cannot fathom the suffering you are going through tonight, but I am here to help you in any way that I can. I don't want you to hold anything in. You need to grieve. You never have to pretend with me. I know how deeply you loved Anakin."
As tears descended her face, Padme tried to calm her breathing, but felt so utterly broken inside. "Ani... My Ani," she cried in Dorme's welcoming embrace, desperately needing to be held while her life was falling apart. "He wanted to run away from all of this so many times. He begged me to go, but I always refused." Shaking her head, the tears fell hot down her cheeks, her eyes squeezed shut. "I kept repeating the same things to him over and over about duty and commitment to ending the war. But maybe he knew... maybe he saw that he wouldn't live through this. Maybe he never told me, and now I know I'm the reason he's dead."
"No, Padme. That is absolutely not true," Dorme cupped her face, drawing her full attention. "Anakin performed his duties as a Jedi and lost his life to the war effort. He died a hero trying to end the war."
"I DON''T CARE ABOUT THE WAR!" roared out of Padme in a shout. Shaking, she was barely able to catch her breath, her voice hitching painfully. "HE DIED BECAUSE I DIDN'T PUT HIM FIRST." Collapsing in Dorme's arms, she attempted to gather herself against the agony of her loss. "I always told him after the war would be our time. And then we would belong to only each other... I was such a fool, Dorme. Life isn't promised to any of us no matter the good deeds we do. Life isn't fair. And now... and now I have to live without him," her voice faded tearfully. "I don't know how... I can't... What am I supposed to do? He was my world."
Dorme's eyes welled with tears as she held Padme through the worse fit of sobbing she'd ever seen a person endure. Heaving, gasping cries escaped her best friend, and all that she could do was hold on for dear life. She knew Padme didn't deserve this. Not someone who was as selfless and kind as her. "I love you, Padme. And I know that holds little comfort for you now, but I do. And I swear you will not go through this alone."
Padme wiped her tears away with the back of her hand, her mind still in a fog as the crippling grief threatened to overwhelm her again.
"Milady, I have tried to reach your family on Naboo, but a series of storms have hampered long-range communications. I will continue trying throughout the night."
"Thank you," Padme offered softly.
"In addition, I have already filed the data work for your temporary leave of absence from the Senate. Two standard weeks time, effective immediately. I didn't think you would care about anyone questioning your timing."
"If I ever return to the Senate..." Padme sadly shook her head, burying her face in her hands. "I need to lie down. I..."
"Yes, that is a good idea, milady. And after a nap I will reheat the soup for you." Taking Padme's forearm, Dorme helped her to her feet, having never seen her so fragile before. They slowly walked to Padme's bedroom, and upon reaching it Dorme worried that the memories within would only make things worse. Nonetheless, she held her peace. "If you need me..."
"I know." Padme entered, and then turned the wall switch, illuminating the room. She was haunted the moment her eyes caught site of the partially open closet, a dark Jedi robe peeking out. The sinful nightgown she intended to wear tonight when the Senator took her leave and Mrs. Skywalker came out to play damned her vision. He'd been gone so long the bed sheets no longer held his scent. In the corner, several flight manuals she swore she wasn't going to pick up because that was his job were spread on the floor.
Just after they'd been reunited due to the attempt on her life, she recalled being here when the heat of his gaze warmed her to the point of making her feel uncomfortable... and like a woman for nearly the first time. She remembered dismissing him soon after so that she could finish packing, her heart racing due to his obvious interest. And then she packed her most daring dress, wishing to incite him even while denying to herself that was her intent.
Ashes... her memories were but ashes now.
Beneath her bed was a small chest of items that defined moments in their relationship. They were her most precious possessions. His Padawan braid and the Japor snippet he made for her years ago. The sliver of paper written on by the holy man who married them, and the light saber that was his anniversary gift to her.
To even look upon them once now would kill her.
Padme crumpled on the floor at the foot of the bed, her hands in her lap, dying inside as silence reigned. Her dreams were shattered. Crushed beyond all hope. The future she'd dreamed of would never come to pass. And she hadn't even a body to bury. Nor a single picture of them holding each other, never taken for fear of their relationship being discovered.
Padme felt as if her fears had ruined her. Fear of Anakin being expelled from the Jedi Order. Fear that if her marriage was ever made public she would lose her position as Senator of Naboo. Fear of what people might say, shameful as that was for her to admit. And the fear that if the war didn't end Palpatine would never be relieved of his emergency powers.
She possessed the adoration and love of an entire world, the esteemed position of Senator representing that world, a great deal of political power and influence, the history of having been a Queen, and a vast wealth. So much that she would never live to spend it all. But none of those things compared to having Anakin's love. To sharing her life with him. Being his wife, even in secret, was her greatest joy.
Pulling herself up onto the bed and then lying on her side, her small body huddled in the center of the mattress as she cried, Padme wanted nothing more than to feel Anakin's strong arms around her again. How could he leave her behind... how could he?
And then she heard a faint, familiar voice. She could make out the tone, but not the words. With her eyes shut tightly, the sound grew marginally louder but wasn't in the room with her. Though grieving, she had the presence of mind to focus on it. Her mind chased the spark. And when it spoke softly a third time she recognized that voice and her soul soared.
"Anakin," she whispered, and then a bright light behind her eyes blinded her vision with a multitude of shadowy images... a half destroyed Jedi Fighter... a red moon... a cluster of Pirate Battle cruisers... Anakin's face... bloodied, bruised, but alive... barely.
Anakin's voice faded, as did the images. Padme woke suddenly, blinking. Through their connection in the Force he reached out to her. She just knew that if he had truly died she would have felt it. Not Obi-Wan. Not Master Yoda. Only her alone. "He's alive."
Flying from the bed, Padme broke into a sprint, entering the front room. "Dorme!" She found her in the kitchen area. "Dorme, Anakin is alive!"
"Milady, no. Please don't do this to your..."
"Listen," Padme quickly explained. "Anakin and I share something through the Force. Even as children we always have. Neither of us understands it fully, but we trust it. I just had a vision, and I heard him. I swear to you I am not hallucinating. I saw his starship on a red moon. I saw Pirate Battle cruisers, and he said the word Er'Kit."
Grasping for hope, Dorme considered it. "Er'Kit is a world on the Outer Rim. I saw a HoloNet special about it when its Senator, Danry Ledwellow, was implicated in a Thalassian slave ring. Its world has one red moon."
That confirmation was all that Padme needed to hear. "He's there, Dorme. I don't know how, but I know he is alive, and he is there. He's hurt badly, but he's alive."
Fire and passion had returned to Padme, as did her unshakable will. Dorme wasn't sure of her revelation but would follow her best friend anywhere she needed to go. "What do we do?"
"Have Captain Typho prepare my ship for a long range journey. Amplify the force fields, and get me a cloaking device. I don't care how you do it, but do it. The Pirate guilds in that area would love to capture a Senator, so I intend to evade them if I can."
Dorme nodded. "What about the Republic blockade forbidding access to the world?"
Swallowing hard, Padme knew what she had to do. "I'll deal with that. No matter what it costs me."
Republic Executive Building
Galactic City, Coruscant
Attendant droids, load-lifters, pilot automatons, and Republic officials greeted Senator Amidala on the expansive, multi-level landing dock when she arrived. Captain Typho and her security detail waited aboard her starship as she passed the multiple security checkpoints before being led to the Supreme Chancellor's suite. Dorme was still back at the apartment making the necessary arrangements for the mission to come.
For now though, Padme's sole focus was on the task at hand, and to accomplish that she needed the help of a snake. Wagering the risk of getting bitten, she'd gamble with a Sith Lord himself to save her husband. In her estimation dealing with Palpatine was just as lethal.
Upon stepping off the turbo-lift onto the Chancellor's floor, the Red Guards distinctive crimson robes and attire greeted Padme just outside the door, along with the Republic Vice Chair and Speaker of the Senate, Mas Amedda. She graciously acknowledged him. "Vice Chair, I apologize for this very late and unannounced interruption. But I must speak to the Chancellor immediately. Dire consequences are at hand."
"Senator Amidala." Gracing her with a bow, the Chagrian ceremoniously stepped aside and then opened the door for her. "The Supreme Chancellor's cabinet just convened a late meeting. When word of your starship approaching came, his Excellency prepared for your arrival. He awaits you, milady."
"Thank you," Padme bowed respectfully, and then entered the suite. Red dominated the decor, as well as many priceless artifacts and heirlooms. A particular statue drew her attention, though she wasn't here to admire the artwork. Ahead, Palpatine sat on a silver, throne-like chair. He rose slowly and then rounded his massive desk, hands behind his back, approaching her. She never considered if this were a good idea or not. It wasn't. But she had no other choice. For Anakin, she would do anything. "Chancellor, I apologize for the urgency of this meeting, but I assure you I would not be here if it weren't of the utmost importance."
Sighing deeply, Palpatine nodded before her, appearing humble and withered. "Tonight, we are grieving the loss of a great friend. Once we were friends too. And despite our current differences I wouldn't have the heart to say no to you. Your visit isn't an intrusion, it's a gift."
Taking a deep breath, Padme settled herself, unwavered by his transparent guise. "Thank you, sir."
"Could I interest you in a drink, Milady? Surely on a night like tonight you might need one?"
He was right, though she felt as if he were reading her rather than offering out of kindness. Palpatine wasn't ever what he appeared to be, and she was mindful of that. Never more than now. "No thank you," she replied.
"Dear, what brings you here this late? Surely your time would be better spent grieving with loved ones."
"There may be nothing to grieve over," Padme asserted. Her words captured him, and for a brief moment he seemed genuinely... surprised. "What we need to speak of can never leave this room."
The most subtle of smiles lifted his face. "Believe it or not, I'm pretty good at keeping secrets."
Of that she was certain. Now was the tricky part. She'd never been in favor of or fully trusted Anakin's friendship with Palpatine. Tonight she had too. "Sir, I have reason to believe Anakin is alive." His arms crossed his chest before her, his brow etched in a contemplative expression. Then he deeply exhaled and slowly shook his head.
"Milady, he is gone," Palpatine said before swallowing hard, as if the pain of Anakin's loss deeply affected him. "I may not be the Jedi's biggest supporter these days, but I assure you they have done all that can be done to save one of their own. Master Kenobi himself conducted the search. If he could find no trace of him then..."
"Sir," and this was it. Padme had no choice. Reaching for his hand, she took it between hers, surprising him with her affection. "I am aware of your friendship with Anakin. He's spoken highly of you on many occasions. I... I hope he's on some level spoken of the deep and abiding friendship he shares with me."
"You are the very light in his universe, milady." Palpatine stood tall, enjoying her mild discomfort. "He would want me to help you in any legal way that I can."
As if the law mattered to him, Padme thought. Nonetheless, she wasn't here to fight him tonight. "We were once friends and allies. Tonight, more so than I have ever needed anyone before I need you to trust me. I believe that Anakin may be alive near a world called Er'Kit. I cannot explain to you my evidence. I am asking for blind faith, unfair as that sounds. But I have no where else to turn. I am begging you for your help."
Despite her powerful Force-shields, a skill Anakin no doubt taught her, Palpatine sensed she may truly have reason to believe her claims. He himself could not find Anakin through the Force, and if Master Kenobi had failed then perhaps the Chosen One was lost. Or perhaps not. While he regarded love as a means to an end, he nonetheless regarded it powerfully. Padme never lied and would never have come to him if she weren't on to something. She was formidable, if naive in his eyes. "There's a Republic blockade barring any access to Er'Kit due to the recent Pirate skirmishes and threats of Separatists sneak attacks. Going there is forbidden."
"I will go there," Padme boldly proclaimed without a hint of fear. "I will find Anakin with or without your help."
"You have brought me no evidence, milady. Nothing tangible save your word. And forgive me, but I well know of your opinion of me. Why should I help you?"
"Because once we were friends. Once you were a champion of Naboo, same as I. We both lo... value Anakin in our lives. And if there is a chance, no matter how remote, that he is alive then we have to honor him by trying." Padme exhaled deeply. "What I ask of you, I know how it must sound. And I am sorry, I cannot provide evidence to support my claims. But trust me now as you once did. I would not be here if I didn't believe with my whole heart that he could be saved."
She was deadly serious, of that he was certain. And if Anakin were alive... Palpatine nodded, backing away from her before walking behind his desk again. He typed in something on his personal keyboard and then produced a data pad that he laid at the head of his desk. "Milady, Er'Kit is a world known for slaving and is a haven for dangerous Pirate Clans. Your life would be in danger the moment you entered the system. In addition, the Republic blockade wouldn't allow you to get anywhere near that world, provided you didn't have a proper code clearance." Moving toward her again, he graced her with a mild smile. "So officially... I must decline your request for help. I feel that the Jedi were thorough and my faith in them, at least as it pertains to one of their own, is unwavering. I suggest you let this go and grieve so that you can move on."
Padme watched him spare a glance at his desk, and then walk past her to the door.
"Goodnight, Senator Amidala. Wherever life takes you next, I wish you the very best."
Palpatine exited the suite, leaving her alone. Padme ran to the desk, found the data pad he left for her, and saw the Republic Blockade code clearance. The snake didn't bite her. At least not today. And on some worlds snake venom could be turned into a cure. Ironic in every way.
Padme hastily departed Palpatine's suite, needing to get back to her apartment. Hopefully by the time she arrived Obi-Wan would already be there.
Senator Padme Amidala's apartment
Located on the top floors of the Senate Apartment Complex of 500 Republica
Galactic City, Coruscant
"I see Master Kenobi's Jedi Fighter," Captain Typho pointed out as he docked Padme's starship near the apartment's veranda. Dorme and Obi-Wan awaited the Senator's arrival on the deck. Swiveling in his pilot's chair, he recognized the fear and determination in the Senator's eyes. He was well aware of what today cost her. "Milady, I understand your need for discretion in what you are about to attempt, but I have experience in dealing with the Pirate Clans. I feel I would be an asset to you."
Resting her hand on his shoulder, Padme's had trusted her safety and security to this good man for the longest time now. Appreciation lived in her eyes. "Captain, I trust you with my life. Please never doubt that. But this mission in particular is one where Senator Amidala needs to remain on Coruscant. With Dorme going with me, if my chief of security went missing the HoloNet would talk. I need you to remain, be one of my voices in my absence, and convey that I am alright and simply taking a break after losing my good friend. Senator Amidala must remain on Coruscant."
While he wanted to protest further, this wasn't about him. This was about Padme saving her husband's life. And if she was wrong, and he was truly dead, then doing this might give her the closure she needed. "I understand, milady. You can rest assured I will perform my duties."
"I know that you will, Captain. And thank you for arranging the starship that you did."
"A friend of a friend owed me a favor, Milady. While this is a fine vessel, you may encounter trouble that this ship's weapons systems cannot handle. The Curcean-class starship is swift and formidable, in addition to having some of the best long-range scanners in the galaxy and a capable cloaking system. It will serve you well." Captain Typho nodded. "The starship awaits you in the warehouse district. Zone- H. Dorme has the exact coordinates." As Padme prepared to exit the ship, he commented. "Milady. All my best to you."
"Thank you for everything, Captain." Upon exiting the ship as she descended the landing ramp, Dorme and Obi-Wan's concern was obvious to her. She was well aware that as much as they loved and respected her, they had to on some level worry if her grief was grasping for even a shred of hope. She prayed that they were wrong. "Ben, thank you for coming so quickly."
Looking to Dorme for a brief moment, Obi-Wan walked to Padme. "Milady, I must caution you. Dorme has explained what you are about to attempt. And while I would wish for nothing more than for Anakin to be alive, I have worked tirelessly in the last day with over fifty Jedi Knights to find him. With all due respect to you, how could you possibly be able to do what we could not?"
Padme captured his caring eyes, and for the first time in his presence since her marriage, faded her Force-shields against his Jedi perception. His eyes widened suddenly as her thoughts and feelings were laid bare before him. He needed to sense the connection through the Force she shared with Anakin. "Anakin reached out to me, Obi-Wan. I had a vision of his starship missing the wing you said you recovered. I saw a distinctive red moon and pirate battle cruisers bearing symbols I had never seen before. He spoke the name of a world that possessed one red moon. A world that I knew nothing about. Dorme can confirm that she was the one who told me that Er'Kit possessed a red moon. I didn't know anything about that before my vision. And I saw Anakin's face... he looked badly injured, but he was alive. I believe he is on that moon, and I will do anything to save him. But I need your help, Ben."
Obi-Wan had never felt in his lifetime the immense depth of feelings for one person from another as he felt from Padme. Her love for Anakin was absolute. Her determination, unshakable. Setting his ego aside, something he'd prided himself on mastering, perhaps she was connected to Anakin on a level he couldn't comprehend. Perhaps one that no Jedi could. Sighing as his head bowed, he reminded himself of the Force and its limitless power and mystery. Master Yoda had studied it for hundreds of years and still says, "Unexplainable, the Force is. Binds us, it does."
Padme managed a small smile, sensing her victory. "If I am wrong and we find nothing, I will let him go... and move on. I swear it. But until that moment I will do anything... go anywhere to save his life."
Craning his neck about, Obi-Wan nodded. She was Anakin's champion, undeniably so. "I've been given a leave of absence by the Jedi Order. We can leave immediately."
"I'm going to bring him home, Ben."
While listening to Padme and Dorme converse over her research of Er'Kit and what they can expect upon reaching the world, Obi-Wan was certain that if anyone could do the impossible, it was Padme Amidala.
The End of Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Just how far will Padme go to save Anakin's life?