Title: "Black Orchid"
Written by: Shawn
Summary: What can even the Dark Lord of the Sith do against a man with absolutely nothing to lose?
Timeline/Spoilers: AU Everything through Revenge of the Sith up until the moment Anakin arrives to save Palpatine's life before Mace Windu kills him. Everything after that is my AU. All else is explained within the story.
Ship: Anakin and Padme Skywalker, Padme/OC
Disclaimer: George owns everything. We're just playing in his backyard:)
Authors Notes 1: The world of Mygetto that this story begins on is the planet Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi was killed on during RoTS when Order 66 was declared. It is a wintry, frozen world bearing the most harsh of conditions.
Beta Read by: Master Anne
Enduring setbacks while maintaining the ability to show others the way to go forward is a true test of leadership. ~~ Nitin Nohria
When you have come to the edge Of all light that you know And are about to drop off into the darkness Of the unknown, Faith is knowing One of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly. ~~ Patrick Overton
"Real loss only occurs when you lose something you love more than yourself."
Pirals Communications Inc.
A ultramodern tower some 250 stories high
The quarters of Chief Engineer Catana-Si
New Zenthia City, Mygetto The Outer Rim
"In my collegiate studies, I read about the cruel Krath empire that conquered the Empress Teta system centuries ago. After taking over that section of space, they placed the entire royal family into a very crude form of carbon freezing," Catana-Si explained with a soft, caring voice as she monitored her patient's vital signs. So far, so good. Ever since his eyes opened just a few standard minutes ago she began reciting the speech that she'd been silently preparing for the last month. Her hands trembled, though her calm voice didn't betray her worry. "Due to the evidence that carbon freezing left the victim conscious during hibernation, it was considered a form of horrible torture, and was outlawed before the Empire took command of the galaxy."
Fluttering blue eyes blinked away blurriness as ears that had not heard for such a long time slowly brought sound back into his world. He didn't have the strength to move, although he felt his body slowly coming alive again. Sensation returned where nothingness had lived. He realized that the bed he was resting on wasn't a standard hospital bed, nor was this room a medical facility. Intimacy lived here of a personal nature as it felt like someone's home. He recognized paintings on the beige walls, though they were to far away for him to decipher what they were of. For now, all that he could do was listen.
Catana-Si drew a brown chair beside her guest, brushing back strands of long dark hair that had slipped from her ponytail. This was not the life she imagined for herself at thirty-six years of age. Conservative until tragedy tore her world apart best described it before. And now all the dire risks that she'd taken in recent weeks boiled down to this very moment. She hoped she was up to the task. Brown eyes focused on her guest. "From what I could tell of the wreckage I found you in, the carbon freezing chamber that held you was specifically built to torture you. There was no instrumentation ports for providing you with drugs that would keep your mind unconscious. Whoever had you trapped wanted you to suffer for the rest of your life. I have no idea the pain you've suffered, but I want to help you."
"My name is Catana-Si," she began while watching him struggle to move, his weary body resisting what it's become unaccustomed to doing. It looked painful, but the long road back needed to begin with pain. Her hands trembled to aid him, but held back. "You are in New Zenthia City on the planet, Mygetto in the Outer Rim Territories. I work for Pirals Communications Inc, a tech branch of the InterGalactic Banking Clan. We are in their workers living facility on the one-hundred and ninety-third floor. This is my bedroom, inside my private apartment. I share it with no one, so we are safe here... for the moment."
As air filled his weak lungs, he attempted to sit up, only to find even that simple exertion was exhausting. He felt trapped inside his broken body, finding sharp pain in every movement he attempted. Catana-Si lifted a glass of water to his lips, tipping it so that he could drink. He downed the entire glass and then another in a matter of seconds, almost choking so great was his thirst. She gently wiped his mouth, offering him what was surely the only affection he'd received in nearly half a decade.
She sat a glass pitcher of water near the marble counter-top by the bed, then took her seat again. She settled herself, prepared to reveal everything she knew he never wanted to hear. "When I found you I was on a expeditionary mission in the northern mountains. I was scouting for a new communications dish location during a blizzard. When I looked up into the sky, I saw a huge ball of fire smash into the ground with the force of a earthquake. What you crashed in didn't look like a starship... it resembled an entire section of a space station of some kind. I quickly flew my speeder down to the wreckage and checked for survivors. I found twenty charred bodies, but only you were still alive in a damaged stasis chamber. I could not see your face. It was only when I managed to hack into the stasis chamber's command console that I saw you were male and still alive. I rigged it to my speeder and drug you out of there before a massive avalanche crushed everything, burying it under metra-tons of snow. Due to the severe blizzard conditions we suffer here, I wasn't able to a stable communications signal to anyone for help. I brought you back to my expedition outpost and was able to re-establish a generator connection. That enabled me to reverse the carbon freezing and effectively thaw you out."
His mind began to focus again, reclaiming alertness more and more by the second. He felt the soft fabric of the covers and the fit of the clothing he wore. Noting the basic white ensemble, and that the room felt comfortably warm. Wall-mounted lamp disks provided low level illumination for the bedroom. His body ached less than we he'd first woken up, but he still felt as fragile as he imagined a person on their death bed. He simply hurt all over.
"You must understand, upon seeing your face and recognizing who you are... or who I thought you were, I was horrified and thought of killing you right then and there," she declared with as calm a tone of voice as possible. She saw his eyes widen, so she rested her hand over his wrist in a comforting gesture. Sympathy, while a part of her, wasn't something she was normally capable of outwardly providing. But this man was going to need it more than anyone she'd ever known before. Even herself. "Thankfully, I had the presence of mind, and perhaps kindness, to run a full biological scan on you. I noted the severity of your injuries and the state of your physical being, but I also determined you were not a clone. Rest assured I have access to the best of the best in technological scanning devices due to my companies association with the banking clan. They have endlessly deep pockets. I ran five separate tests and they all reported conclusive results that you were not a clone. So imagine my thoughts when I saw real-time HoloNet footage of Darth Vader standing beside the Emperor at the Galactic Senate... when it appeared he was lying right in front of me."
Darth Vader... The Emperor... those names were foreign to him. He'd never heard them before.
Catana-Si studied him closely. Physically, he was as frail as any man she'd ever seen before. How he survived was nothing short of a miracle of the Force. His fever had finally broken, thankfully, but he wasn't out of the woods just yet. The worry and intense concentration written all over his face meant he was alert and thinking. As prepared as she thought she was for this humongous task, now she felt inadequate. How do you shatter someone's entire world, and then in the same breath beg them to save the entire galaxy? "My only conclusion, and I admit beforehand that hope led me here, is that you are Anakin Skywalker. The real one... the Chosen One the Jedi prophesied would destroy the Sith. And that Darth Vader is somehow a clone himself. I could conclude no other explanation." His blank stare followed her as she continued, "I believe in the will of the Force, Anakin. The set of events that transpired such as no search party of any kind ever coming to this world to investigate the crash, or the fact that there were no inquires whatsoever into anything strange happening the day you arrived... I feel that it was the will of the Force that I find you and nurse you back to health because now is the time for you to fulfill your destiny. I'm betting my life that I'm right."
Destiny... the word toured his mind as well as his name. Yes, he was Anakin Skywalker... a Jedi... the Chosen... Padme... PADME! "Padme!" he shouted in a voice minus the familiarity of his own. He choked, before shouting the word again, his arms struggling now as Catana-Si tried to calm him. He was quickly exhausted, his body unable to rise to the challenge. "Please?" he begged, trembling. "Where is Padme?"
Weren't they very close friends once? She recalled HoloNet broadcasts mentioning their close friendship once. Catana-Si had not expected this sort of visceral reaction, nor did she have any idea of how deep a connection this man had to the former Senator of Naboo. "Anakin, please. I must tell you more, and then I promise I will talk to you about Padme. I need you to trust me, though I know that is asking far to much this soon. But if you can use the Force, please search my feelings. For us to move forward, you must trust me."
Anakin relaxed his mind as best he could, centering his thoughts on the lovely woman who had saved his life. Just as nourishing as the water had been, the Force returned to him a clarity he'd long forgotten. A sense of belonging to something greater than himself. He felt her honesty, strength, kindness, and a depth of sadness within her that was striking. She possessed a hollowness that he often recognized within himself. For now though, he would trust her. He had little choice otherwise. "Help me?"
"I will, but please. You must watch this." Pushing past her own fears, Catana-Si pressed a button on a wall console that switched on a HoloNet viewing globe on the back wall of the bedroom. It descended from the ceiling via holographic imagery. Anakin gasped upon the sight of himself clad in a all black Sith robe, his eyes a revolting yellow haze, hovering behind a whithered, hooded figure. He recognized the false facade of Chancellor Palpatine as a horrid memory returned to him in a flash.
With his thoughts in turmoil, he had arrived at the office of the Supreme Chancellor to assist Master Windu is arresting Palpatine. But he was so torn over the Jedi using him to spy on the one person who cared to help him save his wife and unborn child's life. He felt disrespected, untrusted, and cast aside as a powerful tool rather than a man. And as it appeared Master Windu was about to slay Palpatine, he drew his light saber and parried the master's blow, knocking it aside.
Palpatine screamed for him to kill Master Windu as he'd done Count Dooku. The order rippled through his consciousness... but he did not obey. And then the sheer blunt force of Sith lightening tore through his body so venomously he collapsed, unconscious. He couldn't recall anything else after that.
"Are you..." Anakin struggled to say, his throat closing tightly around the words he feared to utter. "Are you sure... positively sure I am not a clone?"
"Yes," Catana-Si assured him. "I can show you the results and give you the equipment to test yourself in private. You are not a clone."
If he wasn't, then the person standing beside Palpatine was. He had trouble wrapping his mind around the concept, but with Palpatine, anything was possible. And this was beyond surreal. "You called him Darth Vader?"
"He is a Sith Lord, and the Emperor's right hand. An absolute monster who destroys anything his master tells him too. He is responsible for horrific acts of evil. Everyone in the galaxy thinks he is you."
Anakin stared in deafening silence, trying to imagine that creature being mistaken for himself. "The Emperor?" He watched Catana-Si olive complexion pale before his very eyes, and felt the worst was yet to come. Right now he just didn't want to hear any more about the Sith. "Forget them for now. Tell me what you know about Senator Padme Amidala? Please help me find out anything about her."
"Anakin... you must first deal with this." She took a deep breath, then reached for and held his hand between hers. Waiting a long heartbeat, she sighed before speaking again, "Darth Vader appeared five years ago. You have been inside that carbon stasis chamber for that entire time. I am so sorry, but much has changed for the worse since you disappeared."
"Five years?" Anakin strained to release the words. It was impossible for him to wrap his mind around. "That can't be? It's... it's not..."
Catana-Si shook her head, her eyes filled with unshed tears. She was about to crush him and everything he knew and loved. "You must know of the events preceding the appearance of Darth Vader." She exhaled, barely able to speak so overcome with emotion. Her own life had never been the same after that day. Her father and brother..."Chancellor Palpatine, with you by his side declared that the Jedi Order had plotted to assassinate him. He said that you saw through their treachery and aided him in his greatest hour of need. At that point he ordered the immediate capture of every Jedi in the galaxy, and raided the Jedi Temple."
"No... that was for the public to hold onto, the same as the shred of democracy we thought was left. What he did was systematically hunt down and kill every Jedi he could find. He sent Darth Vader to the Jedi Temple with an army of clones. It was utterly destroyed and everyone there was killed. Not one Jedi in five years was ever brought to trial before the Senate. He instituted Order 66 to murder the Jedi. The Order is virtually extinct."
His chest heaved for air, his body aching with rage and sorrow. This wasn't happening. He couldn't fathom the Order being no more. That was, until Catana-Si began showing him footage of the events she spoke of. He saw himself standing outside the temple with Jedi... and slain Younglings dead all around him. There were to many bodies to count, and most were killed by what looked to be a lightsaber. Pain twisted and coiled in his belly. Despair stung in his eyes.
Anakin wanted to die... he could bare no more, turning his face until she shut off the footage. "Master Obi-Wan... Master Yoda..."
Catana-Si reclaimed her seat, drawing herself away from the stricken expression he wore. "We don't know what became of them. There are rumors... there's more for you to know, but for now this is where we are. Palpatine declared himself Emperor, and reformed the Galactic Republic into the Empire. His empire. He rules the galaxy, Anakin. The Jedi are no more. The Senate is paraded around to resemble what the Republic once stood for, but they are no more than window dressing. We are all under the oppressive rule of the Galactic Empire."
"And Padme?" Anakin pleaded at last, fearful of the news, and yet needing some sort of lifeline to cling too. "She was my wife!" he cried out as tears trailed down his cheeks. What strength he had left was faltering. When Catana-Si bowed her head, he feared the worse. His heart clenched with poisonous grief. "Please tell me anything you know?"
His wife... By the Force, Catana-Si felt sick to her stomach. Her eyes slowly slipped shut. As bad as she knew all of this would be, it was about to get infinitely worse. But stalling wouldn't sate this man's thirst for knowledge. If Senator Amidala was his wife then he loved her despite the Jedi Order. Love that strong she'd never known. With a heavy sigh, she began, "Senator Padme Amidala was killed in a shuttle crash four days after Palpatine declared himself Emperor." She watched his face dissolve before her very eyes. "The crash claimed several other Senators lives as well." All that he could do was shake his head as tears descended his cheeks. For the first time ever she watched a man's heart break before her very eyes. "It was thought to be a terrible accident, but many believe that because she and the other Senators onboard so vehemently opposed the Emperor publicly, they were killed. After her death the HoloNet gossip mongers began reporting that she'd carried on numerous affairs over the years with powerful married men. They claimed to have proof, seeking to discredit her work. The ugly scandal was outrageous, and many of the Senator's friends feared defending her publicly. There were rumors of corruption in her office as well. She was branded a harlot, stripped of her title in death, and dishonored. They ruined her name."
What little resided in Anakin's stomach rushed out of him that second as he retched over onto the floor. There was nothing left save the painful dry heaves crippling his already weak body. Padme wasn't only killed, but disgraced. Stripped her of honor after her life. And he was not there to protect her.
Anakin wanted to die. Death was better than this. His failure was so complete he could not fathom it. What light was there in the world at all if Padme were gone? Palpatine had won. The Jedi were destroyed. His precious child... He wanted no more of this cruel world. Hadn't he suffered enough when his mother passed? "Kill me... please... please kill me...."
Brushing away her own tears, Catana-Si drew from a well of inner strength she wasn't sure she had. She took his hand in hers once more, clasping it. "No, Anakin. You... you are the only one who can undo this. The prophecy said..."
"DAMN THE PROPHECY!" The very walls in the room shook with the might of his proclamation, the Force riding the crest of his anguished emotions. All the paintings crashed onto the floor. The lamp disk bulbs burst in twin showers of glass. "I have nothing to live for! NOTHING! Palpatine has taken everything from me!"
She dared to face his anguished glare with defiance. "All the more reason to see him fall!"
Anakin fell into himself, shaking his head, rage and grief eating him alive. "I have no reason to live. Padme was my life. She was carrying my child, don't you understand! I FAILED EVERYONE I LOVED!"
"The Emperor did this. Fight back against him. There's a Rebellion taking place. Help them! Fight back against the man who's ruined your life and mine!"
Wailing in anguish, Anakin fell back onto the bed, absolutely crushed in spirit. He was exhausted beyond words, and felt utterly lost. His voice carried barely above a whisper. "You should have let me die."
Exhaling deeply, Catana-Si knew she had given him the truth. All of it, cruel as it was. He was devastated, and she understood that. She knew far to much about devastation herself. Still, from the ashes they could rise together. She placed her faith in the Force. "Anakin, I am sincerely sorry for your loss. I truly am. But you are alive when you shouldn't be. The living Force crowned you as its Chosen One. You have a destiny to fulfill. Your wife and child did not die in vain. You can honor them now."
With that, she took her leave.
Exhaustion claimed Anakin moments later. He secretly prayed he'd never wake up again.
Some time later that night...
The dark offered no sustenance for Anakin's aching need for a reason to live. His once powerful body felt so frail he could barely move, and when he did, the throbbing pain nearly robbed him of consciousness. He had no appetite for food or drink. No peace of mind to ease his heart break. Sleep refused to take him as if he weren't worthy. If he had he was certain what awaited him in dreamland wouldn't be pleasant.
He hadn't been able to close his eyes for longer than a few minutes at a time.
This wasn't living. This was existing at best.
True to her word, Catana-Si left him so that he could gather his thoughts. Through the Force he followed her presence nearby, never probing deeper than that she was alone. Under any other circumstance he would be thanking her from the depths of his soul, but the painful circumstances had crippled his heart. What he learned earlier today devastated him like not even the death of his mother had. Even then, filled with grief and rage, he had Padme and Obi-Wan and the Jedi Order to focus his life toward something good.
Toward an ideal to strive for, greater than the horrors of his youth as a slave and the brutal death of his beloved Shmi.
Now he felt adrift. Lost and broken in body and spirit. What good remained for him in this world or any other, he just didn't know. He'd prefer death, honestly. Anything other than the horrible guilt that not only did he fail his mother, but wife and child, his Master, the Republic, and the entire Jedi Order. By extension, the galaxy itself.
Sighing, he lay perfect still, his gaze frozen on the ceiling. Five years of his life was stolen from him by Palpatine. His wife's life and honor, disgraced. His child gone forever before his or her first breath. The Jedi Order was destroyed, its legacy ruined... its future, the Younglings, murdered by a clone wearing his face. They so loved him every time he came to see them. What horror and fear they must have felt in those last terrible moments. Their faces came to him as he lifted his shaking hands to his face, attempting to shield himself from the unending pain of having failed every single person he had ever loved.
With tears stinging his eyes, he shook his head, and then cried out, "What am I to do?"
Lifting his head, Anakin recognized the unmistakable voice a heart-beat before he found the ethereal visage of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn standing before his bed, hands folded inside the sleeves of his brown cloak. Not appearing a day older since the last time they met. Anakin blinked, at first sure he was seeing things. Perhaps a side effect of the pain meds Catana-Si gave him. But there the deceased Master stood, the man who claimed him from a life of slavery and delivered him to his destiny. Now a shattered destiny. "How can you be here?"
"There are many mysteries of the Force, Anakin. In time you will learn them all." Qui-Gonn slowly walked around the bed, his stare never leaving Anakin's. "I know you have suffered, Anakin. I know that your grief feels without end. But for now I need to you listen very closely to what I have to say."
Shaking his head again, Anakin rubbed at his eyes, ensuring he was not seeing things. It seemed that even in death people still expected things from him. He wondered if his lot in life was to be used. "Don't talk to me about the Force. It has cost me everything that I love."
"No, Anakin. The Emperor has taken much from you. But though you grieve now, all things pass in time. Even the darkness."
Straining painfully to sit up in bed, Anakin glared at his first master. "It's over. We lost. I failed. Find someone else to save the galaxy this time."
Qui-Gonn sighed. "You were born the Chosen One for a purpose, Anakin. You are special whether you like it or not. Only you can restore balance to the Force. But you must remember some of your earliest teachings. Those who do good who uphold justice and stand up for those who cannot, they themselves will face mighty trials. Their path with take them through such depths of sorrow and loss. It is the penalty for living a courageous life. But for the faithful, I promise you... there is a beautiful dawn."
Anakin tried to blot out the pounding in his head. "I tire of these riddles, ghost. I have no use for them anymore."
"You are being tested, but you can and will triumph."
"Damn all of you!" Anakin wished that the Force would abandon him. Something of a cold, mocking laugh escaped his lips. "My wife and child are dead. Because I failed to stop Palpatine, I lost my family and the Jedi Order was destroyed. This is all my fault. Don't you see that?"
"What I see is a Jedi with a broken spirit. And while I truly sympathize with your losses, others have suffered as well. Others continue to suffer in ways you can't imagine. You are not the only victim, Anakin. But you are the only person that can restore balance to the Force and defeat the Sith." Master Qui-Gonn paused briefly, locking eyes with Anakin. "The Emperor rules the galaxy with an iron fist. He sleeps peacefully, secure in his absolute power and belief that no one can defeat him. Darth Vader ruins your good name and everything you and the Jedi ever stood for. And Padm did not deserve the end that claimed her former life."
The mere mention of her name caused Anakin's fists to clench with rage. Fire burned inside his chest. The sleeping dragon...
"In your heart of hearts, is there no ideal worth fighting for?"
Bowing his head, Anakin's thoughts cleared to center upon one vile act that he could not live with. Padm s legacy. Her family raised her with such character, kindness, and courage. She gave selflessly of herself for others, risking her life time after time with no regrets. She was his beloved wife, mother of his only child. What was done to her... he could not... would not ever allow it to stand. If for no other reason in the galaxy, he would see Palpatine ruined and his wife's honor restored. The Sith would fall not because the Force demanded it. But because for once he declared his own personal intent.
Avenge Padme at any cost. Crush Palpatine to nothingness. Destroy him. "What must I do?"
"The Jedi are not yet extinct, Anakin. Find and deliver Catana-Si to a Jedi Master."
"Where do I look?" In the blink of an eye, Master Qui-Gonn Jinn was gone. Anakin glanced around the room, and then exhaled deeply. Again, he had no clue how to accomplish his goal but thought that perhaps that was the point all along. From the moment he became a Jedi he was told what to do and how it was done by thousands of Jedi before him. Hundreds of years of the old ways being the only way the Jedi operated. But now he was on his own, and without the restrictions of the Jedi Code or the ties to people who could be used against him, he could do things his way.
Palpatine would not simply be killed. No, that wasn't good enough. Anakin Skywalker intended to ruin him... to decimate everything he touched... to turn all who are loyal to him against him. And in the end, when it was all said and done, he would end the Sith's life while restoring Padm 's honor.
A wild plan began to form.
A basic plan, adaptable at anytime, that would require he become knowledgeable of the past five years events and current times. He needed information, access to credits, and his full power back. Dealing with Palpatine would require ruthless means. No diplomacy. No negotiations. No code of conduct. Palpatine needed to be humbled in the people s eyes, and his own. If this Rebellion truly existed,
planets would rally to them if they thought there was a real chance to defeat the Empire.
"Catana!" he shouted with as much strength as he could, his arm holding his side to ward off the pain. The bedroom door slid open, revealing her wearing a frantic expression. "I'm alright," he answered before she could even ask.
"Do you need something?"
More than she or anyone could ever give him. Still, her kindness and generosity deserved to be rewarded. "First off, I want to thank you for saving my life. I... I..."
She offered him a polite nod, all the while noting the alertness of his gaze. "You have been through so much, Anakin. I understand."
"Thank you. As for needing something, I do. A number of things, unfortunately. Equipment, information data pads, food, and camping supplies to survive in the mountains for at least six standard months."
Catana-Si moved cautiously into the room, capturing the defiant look in his eyes. Where had this newfound determination come from? "The mountains are extremely dangerous this time of year. The temperatures are frigid at best. Avalanches and tremors could bury you alive. It is a death wish to go there. Why do you want too?"
"I need time to train and regain my strength, both physically and in the Force," Anakin explained. "Solitude aids a Jedi in his time of need. I want to exile myself to prepare. And while I am gone you will need to as well."
Her gaze turned curious. She felt a powerful wave of something...perhaps fate, flow through her. Life here would never be the same again. "Prepare for what?"
Gritting his teeth to ward off the pain, Anakin replied, "You were right. Everything that has transpired is the will of the Force. I have been visited by my first Jedi Master, Qui-Gonn Jinn. He died many years ago, but I swear to you here was here and as real as you are right now. He has instructed me to deliver you to a Jedi Master." She took a step backward, her face locked in a state of awe. "I do not know where we shall find this master, or even who he or she is. But when I return from the mountains your life will change forever. We will leave here and you will never return to your old life."
Destiny... she'd felt a part of something greater than the somber, grueling life she'd lived up to this point. What she would do from now on is place her faith in the Force, seeking whatever it instructed her to reach for. Her father and brother would be avenged. She swore it. "Whatever you need, I will provide. I have access to my divisions accounting deposits. Credits will not be an issue."
Tossing aside the covers, Anakin struggled to swing his shaking legs off the side of the bed. The slightest movement sent sharp pain throughout his body. He welcomed the sensation. The pain had purpose now. It gave him focus. Centered his mind on one solitary goal that gave his very existence purpose.
Justice for his wife and child.
Gingerly, Anakin rose to stand once more. "And so it begins."
The End of Chapter 1
Chapter 2 preview: In exile, Anakin trains his mind, body, and soul for the grueling task ahead. Across the galaxy on Naboo, a woman is awakened in the dead of night by a tremendous tremor in the Force.