Title: "Black Orchid"
Written by: Shawn
Summary: Now the Emperor s prey, Assaj Ventress flees for her life! Catana-Si oversees Anakin's grand plan to destroy the Empire, and takes the first step toward her own destiny. Palpatine senses a great shift in the Force. Padme takes Anakin to Luke and Leia.
Category: Action/Angst/Drama/Romance/Angst/Erotica/Mystery Rating: MA Warnings: Graphic violence and in later chapters graphic sexual situations.
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 Padm Skywalker, Padm /OC - more as the story continues
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 Revenge of the Sith when Order 66 was declared. It is a wintry, frozen world bearing the harshest of conditions.
Authors Notes 2: Expect cameos from many familiar faces not only from the Prequel world, but the Clone Wars animated series as well.
Authors Notes 3: Things will turn darker before the dawn.
Authors Notes 4: Life and work's been crazy, so thanks for the patience.
"I kept on digging the hole deeper and deeper looking for the treasure chest until I finally lifted my head looked up and realized that I had dug my own grave."
~ Dominic (on the psychology of a gambler)
The third moon of Jaspera
The Outer Rim
Bereft of life.
Nothing could survive on this desolate moon except for her. And that was exactly the way Assaj Ventress liked it.
Peering through long-range Triclora binoculars, the violently swirling sand storm blotted out the endless miles of rough terrain before her. Only the internal scanners temperature array pointed her in the right direction she needed to travel.
Squinting her dark eyes, twenty miles due east was her destination. A small cavern hidden by massive jagged slabs of ion-rock. Within, the only treasures this horrid moon possessed.
The heavily-worn dirty gray cloak she wore had everything to do with protecting her from the extremely harsh elements, far from a nod to her days when she considered herself among the Sith. As she swiftly traversed the unlivable territory aboard her custom-made speeder bike, her thoughts flooded back to the carnage she'd witnessed on the Holonet ever since the true Anakin Skywalker returned.
She'd hated him from the very first moment she knew of his existence, and years ago when she was in the prime of her Force-adept state he'd nearly slaughtered her in a fit of rage. Now he was a fierce force of nature seemingly without end in his quest for vengeance. A quest she understood all to well. And a part of her longed to see him remove the Emperor's head from his shoulders, but then again she wished death for all of them... Sith and Jedi alike.
Damn them all!
Jedi Master Ky Narec wasn't powerful enough to survive for her! Count Dooku betrayed her, ordered her murder, and left her all alone. Darth Maul and Savage Oppress wished death upon her. Darth Sidious never truly believed in her. Obi-Wan Kinobi relentlessly hunted her like a rabid animal from one end of the galaxy to the other. Anakin Skywalker wanted to dismember her on sight.
As for the Force, she hated that with which she was born connected with. Her old allegiances all relied on its mysterious, omnipotent power. She was a former Jedi Padawan. Former Dark Acolyte of the Sith. Always, always striving to prove herself to someone else. Prove that she was good enough. As if her amazing skills weren t deadly, her immense power lacking in some way.
Assaj Ventress was fire made flesh... a wielder of death and rage... possessor of an unquenchable thirst for violence... forever lost soul seeking an unattainable end that held no real definition.
She didn't know, no longer cared, and was exactly where she wanted to be. All alone on a planet of cold sand, frigid winds, and ninety hours of darkness per twenty-four cycle of daylight. The unforgiving landscape supported no life at all. No vegetation. No external bodies of water.
It was quite literally, a dead rock in space. Her ninth planetary home in the last six and a half years of her self-imposed exile.
Her speeder-bike dashed over rolling hills of dark sand at a break-neck speed. Following the red outlined hologram in her binoculars, she discovered the cave along a gigantic mountainside that seemed to scratch at the dark sky, so towering was its peak. Howling winds rippled her cloak about as she dismounted and walked toward what appeared to be a solid sheet of rock. But her scanner revealed its hollow core and the warmth within.
Although she was neither Jedi nor Sith, the Force still bowed to her command. She summoned it, channeling her will into a incredibly powerful Force burst with such strength the rock wall shattered inwardly, revealing a dark cave entrance.
Assaj Ventress wasted no time entering its depths.
Krixus wasn't home to any living creatures whatsoever. It was worthless except for one minor secret she discovered upon searching for a world to take refuge on. The innermost core of the moon somehow housed a dynamic array of moisture and fertile soil that bore three very distinct types of fruit that only grew in the darkness of the planets caves. The likes of which were both nutritious and plentiful when found. Finding and collecting them were not easy as their overall supply was scarce, but essential for her survival.
She'd fled the insanity of the outside galaxy, seeking refuge from both the Jedi and the Sith. No one wanted her... no one was loyal to her... and all betrayed her. She became sick with hate, and wanted no part of any of it anymore.
Upon arriving on this moon some thirteen standard months ago, Assaj Ventress carefully buried her starship beneath twelve metric tons of sand. A luxury liner she 'liberated' from a Banker's Clan board-member who thought she would become his new plaything for the right amount of credits.
Parts of his body were still scattered among the stars of the Outer Rim.
Her mind returned to the present as Assaj quickly discovered the small dark-green trees, as always, clustered together near wet rocks in the back of the cavern. They and the fruit somehow needed no sunlight at all, and yet the multicolored orbs were juicy and ripe. She quickly devoured one for sustenance, and then swiftly filled her bag to overflowing. Enough for two weeks before she'd venture back out into the deadly plains to forge anew.
The unique science behind how this moon could produce such fruits was probably remarkable, but she didn't care. They were a means to an end, and no more.
Perhaps the HoloNet would grace her once more with news of Anakin Skywalker striking at the Empire. It was the one and only thing she even gave a moments interest to these days.
Back onboard her speeder bike, Assaj blazed a recklessly swift course back to her starship as the freezing winds bit angrily at her tattooed face without remorse. It often occurred to her that if her Force skills ever failed her, or the machines she employed, she would die quickly and alone out here.
So be it, she considered. Done with no regrets.
Life was pain and sorrow in her eyes. Trust was a lie told to the naive. Family simply did not exist. Everyone was all alone, only most didn't know it until it was to late. But Assaj knew. She had finally accepted it, and left all those who wanted something from her behind.
A sudden beeping tone on her speeder-bike's console read that her starship s early warning motion-detectors had picked up something. A small ship had landed not more than fifty clicks away. The female Dathomirian scowled angrily. Hopefully they were lost and wouldn t be missed if she killed them. Perhaps they possessed supplies she could make use of.
Clearing a shadowy valley of pure midnight, Assaj came upon two cloaked individuals standing beside twin speeders not far from where her ship was buried. The speeders bore the mark of Jabba the Hutt on their engine guards. Her twin lightsabers dangled from her slender hips when she drew her speeder bike to a sudden halt, and then got off to face them. One of which seemed to possess a Force signature. But like her, felt no sense of the Jedi or Sith within her.
Igniting her twin crimson blades, Assaj Ventress addressed her unwelcome guests. "If you seek death, you have found her."
"I'm not here for a fight," claimed the female with the alabaster complexion, Auburn pony-tail, and green-eyes. She spoke with confidence. "My name is Aurra Sing. And this one beside me is Boba Fett. We are here on behalf of Jabba the Hutt."
Glancing between them, Assaj had heard of both. Aurra hunted Jedi and anything else for profit, while the young bounty hunters father was slayed by Jedi Master Mace Windu. He was also a old acquittance from years ago when he first ventured into the galactic underworld. "Why are you here?"
"To give you a warning," Aurra explained over the howling winds. "The Emperor has a gigantic bounty on your head. Any price, so long as you are captured alive and brought to him. He seeks a new Sith apprentice to battle Anakin Skywalker. And he has employed my benefactor, Jabba the Hutt, to that end."
The boy was cold, still curious about her bald head, and a bit afraid. The older one just wanted off this rock, but didn't feel as confident as her demeanor presented. Assaj's gaze narrowed. She tightly clutched her twin light-sabers. "I will never again become someones pawn in a war not of my own choosing!"
"Agreed," Aurra replied. "I am not here to attempt to collect on the bounty, but when I leave here I will inform the Imperials of your presence for a substantial reward. Jabba the Hutt has no interest in aiding the Empire, but even he must keep up appearances. I suggest you flee this world at once."
"And what if I simply cut off your heads?"
Though powerful and capable, Aurra Sing knew she wasn't in Assaj Ventress's class. She wasn't afraid to fight her, but she was no ones fool either. This woman went toe-to-toe with Count Dooku, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker. She lived to talk about it. "I've only come to bring you the warning, no more. The entirety of the Imperial Fleet is searching for you. So you best be careful wherever you go next. As for us, our deaths would solve nothing. As we speak Jabba the Hutt is listening in to everything we have just said, and if you attack us he will simply make sure you never get off this rock alive. Are we clear?"
Her options were few, and this scenario had at least warned her of the new threats she faced. If she were smart she'd buy herself some time. Killing them wouldn't afford her that. And she sensed Aurra was telling her the truth. It seemed that her next planetary option, Degobah, would suffice as a world to take refuge on. That planet suited her needs nicely. "We go our separate ways then. Leave and never cross my path again. For if you do... I won't hesitate to slay you."
"As you wish. I have been ordered to grant you a forty-eight hour head start. But do kindly leave a few items behind that identify you were here. I'd appreciate it." Aurra Sing stood and watched as Assaj Ventress leapt back onto her speeder bike, and flew off into the nothingness of the gusting sands.
"We should have turned her over to the Imperials and collected the full reward ourselves," Boba Fett impatiently announced as he climbed back onto his speeder.
"Doing so would have angered our most profitable employer, Jabba. And given the Imperials yet another Force user who would cause just as many problems as the now deceased Darth Vader once did. No... let that one go where she will, and hopefully our paths will never cross again."
Boba nodded, but had his own agenda. One that included the miniature tracking beacon he remotely attached to Assaj Ventress's starship when Aurra wasn't looking.
Costner Scientific Advanced Research Facility
The expansion region
And so it began.
With her heart pounding inside her chest, Catana-Si had never been more terrified in her entire life as she stood with this small group of elite Imperial and Kamino scientists overseeing a massive hi-tech factory from a balcony perch. A squad of eight armed Storm Troopers accompanied them as they toured the heavily-guarded secret facility.
Clad as one of the scientist in full gray Imperial attire, one wrong move here and she was space dust. Yet for the sake of vengeance against the man responsible for the death of her father and brother, Catana-Si held her composure together with precise control. She maintained her confident posture, calm tone of voice, and authoritative expression. Head held high, she was the perfect picture of Imperial righteousness. "So the changes were implemented six days ago, correct?"
B-129, a beige tri-pod protocol droid gave what amounted to a nod in reply. "Yes, Dr. Zoran. The additional nutrients your staff recommended were cleared and approved for immediate wide-spread distribution to all Imperial clone forces. This facility is operating at peak efficiency to assist in the endeavor. And our early analysis is that the new rations will incrementally increase muscle tissue, reflexes, fortification of the immune system, and improve endurance by ten percent within the first eighteen months alone."
"Very good," Catana-Si acknowledged while noting her data-pad. The hidden blaster inside her jacket passed through security, and was a small bit of comfort should things go bad. But now that she was so deep within the facility, escape was nearly impossible. She simply had to play this deadly game out with the hand she was dealt. "Please continue your tour."
Through the broad transparisteel glass, the protocol droid pointed at the thousands of worker-bots below who prepared the daily injections, vitamins, and rations for the nearly twelve million clones soldiers that made up the vast bulk of the Imperial forces. The other scientists fielded their questions and were answered quickly, while Catana simply observed and took notes.
She was in the Sarlac pit, of that there was no doubt.
Having traveled here alone under the guise given to her and Anakin by the Black Sun organization, this was their first major step in the grand plan to bring down the Empire. This was the beginning of the end, and failure was simply not an option. She'd been preparing non-stop for the last week, going over every single bit of information Anakin had obtained from Arkanian Micro-Technologies concerning the entire history of the cloning process. Sleep was discarded for role-playing as they worked through every possible scenario.
She was ready, capable, and on top of her game.
Having been fully scanned before entering the heavily guarded compound, she was all alone here, relying solely on herself to accomplish this all important task. All while Anakin was on the other end of the galaxy seemingly chasing ghosts of his past... or so she thought. Whatever that message meant that Obi-Wan gave to him, Catana recognized the immense draw it had on him.
Skywalker was dear to her, and she loved him. There weren't any romantic feelings between them whatsoever, but they were each others sole rock through the brutal storm of the last year as they planned how to gain their revenge. The only unexplored element was Anakin's insistence that she be given to a Jedi Master for training.
That term alone roused her anger. But the implication that the Force had a destiny for her in particular was astounding. That she was more than just the former chief engineer for Pirals Communications. More than the long grieving sister and daughter.
That there was a extraordinary life for her out there after all. One that had true meaning and depth. That wasn't common. One that would forever challenge her. One that she could have never imagined.
Roused from her inner thoughts as the scientists were shown into a large conference room and presented with a grand holographic display detailing planned clone improvements and alterations for the next five years, Catana thought of Anakin. He was a Jedi Master and more, and yet his end to their journey seemed so final. Without hope at all for after the Empire was destroyed. He expressed his wishes for her, but his shattered heart seemed unable to grasp that there was anything at all in the galaxy worth living for once this was done. And while she didn't know how to change his mind, she knew that she would try with all her might. He was a good, honorable, courageous man.
He deserved far better than the Force had given him in his life thus far.
"... clone soldiers will total twenty million by the end of..."
Not if she had anything to say about it, Catana ominously thought to herself. Her fists clenched briefly at her sides, and then she was at peace once more. The Empire's days were numbered. She swore it on her life. And her brother's. And her father's. With Anakin by her side, they would see it ruined, desecrated, and forever destroyed.
That was what she lived for. And that was what she was prepared to die for.
"Thank you, Dr. Zoran," the Imperial Storm Trooper conveyed before handing over the scientist's security-card credentials. Two other Storm Troopers stepped aside. "Safe journey back to Coruscant."
"Thank you." Having passed her final security check-point, Catana-Si calmly approached her off-world transport as the expansive hanger soon filled with the glow of starship engines igniting. Brisk winds caused her to wrap her arms around herself to ward off the chill. Truthfully, she wanted to sprint aboard her ship as so many Imperial officials made her skin crawl, but she needed to keep up the charade of this being business as usual.
Entering her small Dorian transport shuttle, and with the terrifying specter of five Imperial Navy vessels circling the night skies above, Catana-Si exhaled as she settled into her chair. All was in place, and for her first solo mission she'd kept her composure during her presentation despite the very real fear for her life. If at any moment her credentials were challenged that would have been the end of her.
Nonetheless, the smallest of smiles tugged at the corner of her mouth. She ran her hand through her long dark hair, shutting brown eyes to a calming deep breath. It was one thing to plan this mission. But quite another to see it through to completion. Pride swelled in her chest at today's success.
And in a few short weeks the Empire's downfall would begin.
"Not a moment to soon," she softly whispered to herself.
The shuttle's side door clamped shut as Catana overheard the security clearance being given for take-off through the cockpit's main console. Her pilot replied he was taking off as the shuttle slowly lifted up from its docking station, and then blasted off into the air. But as she relaxed, something tickled at the back of her mind that just wasn't right. Suddenly she became aware. Her pilot's voice sounded different. There was a accent she didn't recall hearing on their near three hour flight here. Inside her jacket, she reached for the hidden blaster. "Excuse me, pilot. You seem..."
"A bit different?" Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi interrupted as his chair swiveled to face her. The pure shock on her lovely face was priceless. Her smooth olive skin was flawless, causing him to smile. "Apologies, milady. But your original pilot is taking a nap in the back," he motioned toward the rear of the shuttle where a pair of feet could be seen sticking out of a small alcove, tied together at the ankles. "I thought I'd take over. I hope you don't mind. I assure you I have a great deal of flight experience... though I can't say I ever truly enjoy it as Anakin does."
Swallowing hard in the back of her throat, Catana worried over this new and very unpredictable turn of events. Had he stowed away onboard the entire time without her knowledge? "How did you find me?"
"Oh, I have my ways... and I trained Anakin. I know how he thinks, to an extent, mind you." Ensuring that the auto-pilot was set to Coruscant, Obi-Wan rose from the pilot's chair as their shuttle burst through the atmosphere into the darkness of space. His voice was warm and sincere as he addressed her. "I want to help him, Catana. And I want to help you too. If you'll let me."
Feeling defensive, Catana scowled. "We didn't ask for your help."
Taking the seat next to her, Obi Wan replied, "You didn't have too. It's freely offered." He continued, "By the way, your pilot was a hired Black Sun assassin who intended to kill you on the way back to Coruscant after reporting whatever it was you did today. I observed him reporting in with a contact on a nearby moon. But no worries, you can thank me later."
Blinking, Catana considered it all. Black Sun wasn't to be trusted for certain. But they feared Anakin enough to uphold their end of the bargain. Her credentials and identity held up under the weight of numerous Imperial check-ins. Her death wouldn't be a big deal to them. Still, she hadn't seen it coming. And Anakin did tell her, though he didn't want his old Master's help, he could be trusted completely. Her lips pursed, and then she sighed, "I suppose I should say thank you."
Offering a gentleman s nod, Obi-Wan continued, "You're welcome."
Catana noticed there was a weary wistfulness in his eyes. As if the hope there was forced more than truly believed. He was tired. Fractured in ways she recognized in Anakin as well. Still, Catana considered that despite herself he was very handsome in a stately sort of way. His beard was as immaculate as his accent. His reputation was one she'd always held in great regard. And he still meant, despite all Anakin's rebuttals, a great deal to her friend. She'd certainly seen far less attractive men in her time, not that she was looking that hard. "Do I have to spend the entire three-hour flight back to Coruscant with you, or is this a kidnapping?"
Obi-Wan shook his head, using the Force to gain insight on her. "This isn't a kidnapping, I assure you. I was just hoping to get to know you better, and try to understand Anakin as he is now." Guilt pained him still as he shouldered such anguish over the years and all that had happened. "Initially I felt as though the Anakin I knew and loved had somehow returned. But I need to recognize who he is now, and not who he was. You seem to be the only person in the galaxy who knows him."
"Anakin doesn t want your help. Or the Rebellions. Or what's left of the Jedi Order," Catana began as they soared through space. "Just let him do what he's going to do. Trust me, you'll all be better off for it."
Searching her through the Force for signs of dishonesty or sinister designs, Obi-Wan found a woman who possessed a wealth of character and courage. But there was also a darkness present. A sheer, unwavering thirst for vengeance. And a sharp loyalty to Anakin he wasn t sure the depth of. Were they more than friends? No, he didn't think so. "Anakin was once my Padawan, Catana. He was my brother and my very best friend," noted with no small amount of emotion for all the terrible years they all suffered. "I've spent the last half a decade wanting to murder him with my bare hands, all the while trying to grasp at how I could have failed so completely as his Master and friend. But I was wrong about everything, and now I can't just stay away. I want to help you both remove the Emperor from power. The Empire must fall, and the Republic must be restored."
"No!" Catana shouted at him with spirit. Her voice was coated with deadly venom. "I don't want to see the Emperor removed from power! I want to eviscerate him while he's still conscious, and then set him on fire and watch him burn alive!" she warned. "What we have planned isn t nice or neat. It's not the Jedi way. We have no limits, and you need to understand that."
"The Jedi way..." Obi-Wan repeated softly as he faced her. "Milady, the Jedi way is no more. Yoda, myself, and the other few remaining Masters are redefining what it means to be a Jedi while just trying to survive each day. But Anakin's emergence has give the Rebellion the shot in the arm it needed. When he publicly challenged the Emperor and killed Lord Vader the galaxy took notice."
"Good," Catana replied defiantly. "Now leave us be to conduct our business."
"What business?" Obi-Wan inquired. "Two people can't possibly stand against the might of the Galactic Empire. Such a thing is impossible," he vehemently sought her to realize. "But if we're patient and we plan long-term and stick together we can..."
Catana nearly laughed in his face. "The longer this war goes on, the more powerful the Empire becomes. What we need to do, we must do quickly and decisively. We must strike at the true weapon they posses and create chaos."
"And that weapon is?"
"The clone arm..." her lips pursed, suddenly mad at herself for almost revealing to much. What was worse, Obi-Wan almost looked amused. She wanted to swat him, the nerve! It was time to switch gears. "Where is Anakin?"
"Hopefully on Naboo."
"I'll tell you if you tell me what you were doing here? As this Imperial facility is little more than a food market."
Hating the corner she was backed into, she was very concerned about Anakin. Obi-Wan had her and she knew that he knew it. "Fine," she sighed. "We've recently gained a wealth of knowledge about the cloning process developed by the Kamino scientists, and the altered process used by Arkanian Micro-Technologies. Their successes and failures and unexpected discoveries yielded a acute flaw in the genetic code of the clones. And we are now slowly, over time, poisoning that flaw."
Incredibly interested, Obi-Wan leaned in. "To kill them?"
"Yes. All twelve million of them," Catana acknowledged as Obi-Wan looked on, clearly shocked. "You can't win a war against a enemy with a army of that size. Especially one that is only growing in numbers and is replenishible by the year. But with our plan in a few weeks the clones will slowly began exhibiting symptoms that will worsen. And there is no cure for what we've done to their D.N.A. And once they start dying off by the hundreds of thousands, and then millions we go after the cloning facilities themselves."
"Are you absolutely sure there is no cure? There can be no doubt."
"Positive. Our entire plan revolves around it. But the doses of poison are so small that it will take time to reach maximum infection. And by the time the Empire knows anything is wrong every single clone in the galaxy will already be infected. Death will follow in the days after that. Ten or less by our estimation."
Obi-Wan softly grazed his beard as he considered the dire implications. His voice softened considerably as his gaze fell. "Twelve million lives lost..."
"No! Twelve million butchers born, designed, bred, trained, and sworn to live and die by the Emperor s command," Catana corrected him. "They are without any sort of moral code or ethics or even basic caring. They are nothing more than tools created to serve and die. Every single one of them would kill you in a heartbeat." Obi-Wan gave a nod as she continued. "Its your turn."
Obi-Wan looked her square in the eyes. "Padme Amidala Skywalker, Anakin's wife. She's alive."
Her gaze widened in absolute shock as the sharp rush of air Catana gasped floored her. "Tell me everything!"
Pilar Fallen's bronze, D-Class smugglers vessel
En-route to the Rebel Base located on the moon of Quran
Far side of the Outer Rim
From the empty cockpit where the rusted old starship was pre-programmed to its secret destination; the sounds of husky groans, shameless grunts, and relentlessly demanding lovemaking echoed from the rear bed chambers.
Anakin and Padme tried to talk once boarding her smugglers starship as they left Naboo. But when there was so much more to say than they could possibly manage, half a decade's worth of horror and pain to face head-on, there was only one way they could communicate what being reunited truly meant.
Tracing her soft skin with a reverence that left her in tears, her small cries and gentle whines crippled his senses as his hips arched powerfully into her. Gazing into her gorgeous brown eyes, he drowned in the depths of her love for him. This was a miracle beyond anything he could have ever dreamed of, being here with her like this, making love so passionately. She took him, all of him as her slender hips met his every surging thrust. The impacting slaps resonated around them as the hot, claustrophobic bed chambers shook from the Force itself!
Still in awe of the moment, Anakin lived again for the warmth of his wife's breath upon his lips, pushing his tongue inside her beautiful mouth as she squeezed him in such a tight, hot embrace. Her strong, smooth legs locked around his waist, erasing any space between them. Sealing them as they moved as one. The mattress squeaked loudly as the bed-frame rocked against the rusted back wall in time with his hard, deep thrusts. Her nails clawed into his sweaty back, urging him on. "Can this be real?" he panted hotly behind shut eyes. "Are you a dream?"
"I am no dream, my love. We've only awakened from a nightmare." Padme hissed through clenched teeth when Anakin wetly raked his tongue over her throat, before sinking his teeth into her soft skin. She cried out from the pleasure/pain, her nipples tingling all the way down to her clit, arching beneath him with insistent need as they fucked with aggression. Her sex clutched around the hard column of flesh spreading her so deliciously, unable to get him close enough even when he was buried fully inside her. She felt him everywhere, loving the rhythm he set as their hips collided. His strong frame dominated her over the bed, pressing down upon her, pushing so deeply inside her. "I'd lost all hope..." she swore softly as they made love. As they rediscovered all that was lost. All that was taken away from them. Her sensitive nipples tightened as his hard chest brushed sensation over them. Her sex pulsed with hunger, desperately craving her husband as he pressed his face into the curve of her neck, ravishing her with his mouth. Marking her skin, reminding her that she was his and his alone.
The rear of the old starship was humid, their bodies now slick with sweat as they swayed passionately. Padme's voice trembled, "I wished death upon you... I wanted to wield it with my own hands."
Even in the midnight shadows her luminous beauty obliterated his concentration. He wanted years, no a lifetime to study how she had changed and worship her anew. She was the sweetest... just the sweetest vision he had ever seen. As her small hands skimmed his flexing hips, her fingernails dug in to draw him closer. His intense hunger for her overwhelmed him.
Exhaling loudly as her eyes snapped open when he pulled from within her, Padme felt his lips slowly press wet, open mouth kisses all over her sweat-dampened chest. She arched on a sharp cry when he began feasting upon a nipple, lazily stroking his tongue round and round the taut peak. Bathing it in warm saliva before drawing from it harder, and then treating its twin to the same decadent pleasure until her fair skin blushed with pleasure. Her nipples drew tight in his mouth as he suckled, pulled, and tugged. Gently biting with his teeth as she whimpered and writhed beneath him. His warm hands filled with her small breasts, firmly cupping them as their mouths met again in a long, hard kiss.
"There must be," he caressed her tongue with his own around the words, "Something beyond love. What you make me feel is..."
"Alive, beloved," she panted over his mouth as he hovered over her. Their eyes met, hers filled with tears that gently fell down her cheeks. He lovingly kissed the moisture, resting his face against hers, the warmth of his breath upon her cheek. "We are alive, Ani. Never moreso than right now."
Clear blue eyes glistened with unshed tears. "You are the very breath in my chest," he sighed, and then moved down her body with soft kisses trailing a leisurely path to her navel. He smiled after she gave a little giggle when he dipped his tongue inside, and then gradually moved lower between her spread thighs. The exotic feminine scent of her drove him mad as he moved in closer...
"Uhhnn..." Padme clawed, writhed, and wrenched at the sheets when he tugged her soft, slick flesh in his mouth and began to suck on her with such hunger the sounds made her blush crimson. Her hips lifted instinctively, feeding his desire as he hands smoothed under her ass, grasping and kneading the softly rounded cheeks while gliding his tongue up and down the petals of her sex. Lashing her with long, slick strokes, and then loving the shivers coursing through her thighs when he began fucking her with his tongue. Broken gasps of his name escaped her parted lips as she began pulling his hair in silent demand.
Her hips rolled and trembled around his head as Anakin's tongue lashed, caressed, and lavished such pleasure over her rosy slit. With an insatiable desire, his tongue pleasured her to the point she nearly rolled over onto her side, fists tearing at the sheets. She was panting heavily with need after the barest stroke of his tongue over her clit. It pulsed against his tongue when he began swirling it in tight circles, and then drew it into his mouth. Sucking hard as she began to shake and beg for more, he suddenly drove two fingers deep inside her and thrusted hard.
Her breathing, hearing, sight, speech, feelings, everything shattered as her orgasm hit in exquisite waves of wrenching spasms. Her hips pumped against his feasting mouth as she cried out loud enough to be heard across the galaxy. She raked her fingers through his hair, delirious from the sheer pleasure... from the sounds of him making love to her with his mouth... how desperately hungry he'd been for her... how tightly he held her down with one hand while fucking her with his fingers.
Overcome by the lustful expression of her face twisting with ecstasy, Anakin reached for his dark Jedi robe beside the bed with the Force and threw it on the floor. Catching him off guard, Padme swiftly rose from the bed, barreling into him back onto the robe as they tumbled off the bed. Her chest heaved from the exertion as she straddled him fully, capturing his thick, hard cock between them.
Bending over him, she snarled, "He took so much from us," her tongue warmly lapped at his wet chin, tasting herself on him, sampling the glistening moisture there. "But never again!"
Anakin's eyes rolled back, his neck arched when she slid down his throbbing cock, taking him inside her fully until she settled over his lap. Her hands braced over his shoulder blades, digging in for purchase as her womb convulsed around him. He filled her so fully she shivered as she rode him, using long deep strokes, rocking up and down over his strong thighs. Her tongue sampled his throat, before she sank her teeth into his neck while grinding him inside her. His strong hands tightened on her ass, while his verbal swear marked the pain/pleasure. Her entire body tingled as she rocked onto him, her knees digging into his Jedi robe over the floor, riding her husband hard and fast, straining to cum all around him.
A terrifying, thrilling wildness lived within her gaze now as he watched her spellbound, his body overcome by pleasure. His hands took hold of her hips guiding her down onto his cock harder, the slapping down of flesh echoing in the small bed chambers. He made damn sure she felt every inch of him inside her. "I'll destroy him for what he's done!"
"We will, my love we will!"
"Yes," Anakin roared, flipping them over suddenly, and then pounding into her on the floor. Hard, fast thrusts brought about senseless pleasure as they engaged in tireless, angry mating. Her sex clenched fiercely around him, their mouths locked in lustful passion as he drove husky grunts from the pit of her throat. They fucked with a mutual aggression that saw the Force erupt around them, rattling the very old walls of the creaky starship... flickering lights on and off... a ceiling fan shorting out with a burst of electrical sparks.
And finally when they came together while fucking so hard, they slumped peacefully, swearing their love for all time... and vengeance on the Emperor!
The onboard refresher unit was as tightly cramp as the bed chambers, barely space enough for two when once their old lavish apartment at 500 Republica featured a grand station four times this size. But Anakin couldn't have cared less as his hungry gaze followed the silky trails of warm water cascading down Padme's lower back. Blue eyes hungrily chased liquid droplets lazily tapering off the gentle swell of her backside, drawing his arousal anew even after their passionate love making just a short time ago.
Moist steam filled the small refresher, billowing clouds of humid mist surrounded them as Anakin invaded the space behind his wife. Her head bowed below the warm waters spray, her mid-length dark brown hair slick to her shoulders as he lovingly appraised her from head to toe in the dim light.
Though Padme had always been petite in height, where she was once softly curved, now the Jedi before him was physically fit to a degree he'd never seen her before. Sleek and lean, sculpted muscle without a hint of loss of her femininity. Her vaunted inner strength now projected outwardly as she was both beautiful, toned, and fierce. He was truly in awe of her. "You are fire made flesh in my eyes," he proclaimed in a rasping breath.
Craning her neck left, and then right to soothe a tender ache beneath the sweltering spray, Padme reveled in his close masculinity. His mere presence. His voice. His powerful arousal, sensed through the Force, so strong it left her breathless. That he still so desired her. "I am the sum of the life I have led the past five years, moreso than the twenty-seven before it."
Evidence of her claim came in the scars her once flawless, but still lovely skin bore. He knew of the long-faded, barely visible trio of lines from the wound she suffered on Geonosis years ago. Upon closer inspection now he found twin raised laser-blast marks on the side of her right hip, as well as another on the back of her left leg. He discovered a three-centimeter long scar on her left shoulder-blade. Another laser burn on her right wrist. A curving scar over her ribs, and another thin raised-line near the dip in her lower back. Perhaps a surgical scar? Anakin wasn't sure, though he carefully noted each and every one.
Enjoying the calming steam, Padme's eyes drew shut when she felt his finger softly trace each and every mark on her body. Seemingly gathering how she came about them through touch alone. Under the warm waters spray she recalled when her body was different. Before two children, and when she was unmarked by violence and the hardships of her extreme Jedi training. A heartbeats worth of insecurity swept over her. "Some of them aren't pretty. And those are just the scars on the outside."
"You are, as always, without flaw, my love," he promised her with a gentle kiss upon her right shoulder. He felt her smile, relaxing against him. That he could still soothe her feelings... "They are your badges of honor. What does not kill you, makes you stronger. I am... I am so very proud of you. I..."
Though she adored his dear words, she felt through the Force such a swell of intense guilt within him. They were still so broken, and had so far left to go to truly heal. No matter their reunion, they'd only removed pebbles from the mountain of issues they still faced. "Nothing that happened was your fault, my love. You were every bit as much a victim as I was," she noted. "What happened, happened. Now we look forward together."
Anakin's gaze narrowed angrily. "To drowning the Emperor in a pool of his own blood."
"Amen," she replied, and then hummed delightfully when she felt his warm hands tenderly rub liquid body-wash over her slender shoulders and down her back. He directed the steamy water's spray over her scalp, and down her neck and shoulders using the Force in a way that impressed and amused her. Being taken care of by him curled warmly around her heart. Then he bathed her with a beautifully erotic caress, working her neck, shoulders, and back, down her ass and thighs as he knelt behind her. Attending to her calves, ankles and feet before slowly ascending her body once more with a smooth lather. His soapy hands slowly slid up her hips, and then over her belly. His hands swept upward until they firmly filled with her breasts as she leaned back into him, stroking her until she panted out his name. Massaging her while directing the warm waters spray over her chest and throat. His sweet caress lazily roamed all over her body, taking his time to care for her, loving the soft, little exhalations she awarded him. "Dip your head."
Doing as she was told, she felt him thoroughly massage the lather into her scalp, his fingers comping through the silky strands of her wet hair. Over and over, taking his time, his sensual touch washed her hair from root to tip. The water rinsing where his hands fled, relaxing her so thoroughly she moaned in pleasure at how he treated her. "Anakin Skywalker, hair stylist." His soft laughter behind her was music to her ears. Her heart soared. "I have so missed you, my love."
Closing all space between them, Anakin pressed his large frame fully to hers, curling his arms around her, as her arms came to rest over his. Bending, his breath rasped her ear. "I never dared hope... not even for a second... I thought all that awaited me was vengeance and then death. I wanted no more."
"And now?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Our family," he answered as his cock flexed over her backside. Their water-slick bodies glistened as she leaned into him, shut her eyes to the intimacy, and exhaled deeply. Steam lifted heavily around them. "I'm terrified to meet our children."
Anakin paused, and then shook his head. He had not planned for any of this. "Because my hands are covered in so much blood, Padme. I have murdered relentlessly and without mercy. And to protect them... what I have to do next..."
"What we have to do, love! Us! The Skywalkers," she swore to him. "We will protect our family by any means necessary. And one day when they are older and can understand, we will explain to them what needed to be done." She felt his forehead press to the middle of her shoulder-blades, as if drawing upon her strength. "I think you missed a spot."
She could always make sense of his tortured thoughts, and draw his mind back to the present. To better things. "Apologies, milady," he offered in reply, smirking over her shoulder. Pressing into her, his cock swelled over the curve of her backside, throbbing against her. She shivered in his strong embrace as he began kissing the soft, wet skin of her neck. "And I think its my turn."
Padme allowed him to turn her around as her tender gaze lifted beneath the warm waters spray. With the most precious care he brushed the wet strands of her hair from her face. Her dear, sweet Ani. Sun-streaked hair slick to his head, slightly longer than she recalled. Blue eyes clear enough to see into his weary soul. Suffering had visited him, and she hated that with all her heart. His handsome features were tempered by the hardship of the years past. Though always in great shape, he was now so cut with hard muscle her heart skipped a beat. If she were to trace his scars she nearly wouldn t know where to begin. He'd already fought in and survived a near four year war on the front lines, so it was difficult to know what was new and what was old.
But that thick, solid column of him. That, she would know anywhere. After all, it belonged to her.
And so she reached for what was hers, curling her fingers around his length as she did her lightsaber. His head bowed low, and he growled a husky noise that tingled her nipples. Her fingers stroked the hard ridge of his cock while appraising the light sheen of wetness covering his chiseled chest. Gently tugging her bottom lip as little droplets trickled down her face, she purred, "Shall I bathe you now, Master?"
Her sultry words caused a chaotic riot within him. He launched after her lips, as her mouth melted against his. Bending down, his forearms hooked beneath her thighs, hoisting her high off the floor, bracing her against the wall. He quickly positioned her as a little Please escaped their desperate kiss. The swollen tip of his cock pierced her as she was lowered onto him until she was so full of him nothing else mattered.
"Beloved," she grunted loudly, her arms locked round his neck as his hands cupped her gorgeous little backside, anchoring her high on his hips. He rose her high... higher... harder, riding her against the smooth tiled wall under the steamy waters spray. Rising and falling, muscles flexing, his every deep thrust brushing over her clit as her sex closed so damn tight around him. They were an impacting blur of slick flesh colliding intensely.
The Force engaged around them as they fucked until the walls shook and the floor rumbled beneath Anakin's feet.
The Imperial Palace
The Emperor's War Chambers
189th floor Mid-Day
Galactic City, Coruscant
"Anakin Skywalker might as well not exist, my Lord," Grand Moff Tarkin eloquently noted on bended knee, head bowed before the Emperor of the Galactic Empire. The sudden summons to appear before him came as a surprise seeing how many high-ranking Imperial officers were already hunting Skywalker, and his place overseeing the Death Star's construction was his chief concern. "The Sun Guard mercenaries and the Mandalorin Death Watch haven't found a trace of him in the underworld or anywhere else. They're brutish methods have proven futile this far."
"As have your militaristic ones."
His jaw ticked. A strong rebuke died well before it rose from the pit of his throat as one did not correct the most powerful individual in the galaxy. Nonetheless, Wilhuff Tarkin knew he had the Emperor s respect. Or as much as anyone did. "My Lord, hunting one man with no ties, allies, or fear of death itself leaves us few options in discovering his whereabouts." The Emperor valued his straight-forward approach, but there was no way to temper this absolute truth. "There are many who now fear Skywalker more than they fear you. He is the merciless phantom hiding in the dark. He possesses no code of conduct, nor is he seeking power, position, or wealth. His goal is your absolute humiliation and destruction. To that end he does not care the lives lost."
Having spent the last two days deeply immersed in a Dark Side Sith-meditative state, Emperor Palpatine still struggled to regain his vaunted Force-vision. It was one of his greatest assets, and would be pivotal in his battle against reckless, revenge-driven Jedi.
Still, there was a calm within him. Patience was required, as always. His very will ruled the Dark Side. Anakin refused its exquisite allure, and that would always give him all that he needed. His voice was like ice. "He is a wild animal I once considered taming. But now he is out of control and must be put down. As for fear," his gravely voice echoed, "I am its very embodiment. Anakin only knows what he was taught. But someday he will come to know fear again. And when he does I will have him," the Emperor s fist tightened.
"What of the Rebellion, my Lord? With so many of our resources dedicated to hunting Skywalker we've taken our eyes off of them."
"And you think that is unwise?"
Grand Moff Tarkin shook his head, always mindful of whom he was talking too. And that a wrong word would end his life. He swallowed hard. "Simply a matter of concern, my Lord."
"Every day he lives, the Rebellion's ranks swell with new recruits and resources. They see him as a beacon of hope." The Emperor pointed at the Grand Moff. "We must choke that hope until its last gasp. We must crush it."
"What would you have me do, my Lord?"
"Take the Super Star Destroyer 'Venom.' Use it to commit genocide in Anakin's name. Have the HoloNet report that until Anakin Skywalker is found and delivered to Imperial forces, countless lives will be lost. Defiance will not be tolerated."
Something in what the Emperor said that sparked Tarkin's interest. "So you believe someone, somewhere is aiding him?"
"Yes... he has somehow gained access to classified Imperial intelligence. He has to have a certain amount of wealth to do what he has done. He's been a step ahead of us since day one."
Tarkin's gaze narrowed. "A traitor from within your inner circle, my Lord?"
"No one is above suspicion, but it could easily be any combination of things," the Emperor explained. "It is of no real concern as of yet. He isn't ready to attempt an all-out assault on the Imperial Palace. What he seeks is the grand stage... the spectacle of bringing ruin to all that I rule. To that end, he has made a calculated..."
Suddenly, coldly... an ethereal sense of pure knowledge flowed over him... raw, Dark Side power that centered on his greatest enemy!
"My Lord?" The Grand Moff began to rise, but a simple lift of the Emperor's hand stalled him.
Palpatine willed the Dark Side to clarify itself, concentrating on Anakin until at last he grasped it. The feelings... the glorious feelings... and then a maniacal shrill of a laugh escaped his withered frame. Something that could only, oddly enough, be compared to joy. "He covets something! He cares... he needs this... has found something to fill his heart once more. And when I discover what it is I will capture it, use it, and deny him of it. Ultimately I will kill him by using it against him!"
The Dark Side, as always, eluded the career military Grand Moff. He'd rather trust the Imperial Navy than the unseen. And yet he has seen the Emperor kill someone from across Coruscant's vast cityscape over a Holo transmission. He knew there were things he didn t understand that lived and breathed outside his world. And still he did not like it. But he was smart enough to fear it. And he knew that was all that was required of him. "What shall I do?"
The Emperor's voice roared. "You will take the 'Venom' to Naboo and butcher the entire planet! Incinerate all life! That will catch Anakin's notice and force anyone who aids him to re-consider the dire consequences. We will turn the people... even the Rebellion itself against him."
"Am I to announce Naboo's fate before giving the kill order?"
"No... simply burn it to ruin. Only after should you give my decree to the galaxy."
"As you wish, my Lord."
When Grand Moff Tarkin exited the grand dark hall, the Emperor set about re-calling all of his Force-adept agents from across the stars back to Coruscant.
He now had need of them.
Domed Rebel Base located on the moon of Qur'an
Far side of the Outer Rim
"Code XX-9088 Omega. Pilar Fallen," Padme spoke into her starship s intercom as she swiftly navigated the Theed around a massive cluster of jagged asteroids, showing off her impressive Jedi reflexes. Weaving in and around the gigantic rocks were as much fun as they were challenging. Out the corner of her eye she caught Anakin smirking at the dangerous maneuvers she executed, and felt a sense of pride through the Force that made her smile. "Request to land in Docking Bay Four."
'Starship clearance, registration, and voice recognition verified. Welcome back, milady.'
Igniting her starships thrusters to full force, Padme was anxious to land. Her little ones were probably missing her as much as she missed them. And they had no clue who she had with her. "Thank you. Please inform Bail Organa of my arrival and have him meet me at my family's residence. Also, inform the council I am carrying precious cargo."
Having forgotten until just now to ask his wife why she'd chosen the name Pilar Fallen, his gaze quickly turned to the dozens upon dozens of heavily-armed space-mines surrounding the small moon. Suddenly, they parted; revealing a clear path for them to fly through. "Why set up here?"
"Because the Rebellion is still in its infancy, we have to remain mobile," Padme replied as she deftly charted their course towards the far side of the dark moon at a breakneck speed. "The moon is just big enough for a temporary base, but small enough to evacuate at a moments notice if need be. Our long-range probes are camouflaged as asteroids and can track any ship entering the system. The area is infested with Hutt smugglers, bounty hunters, and various other criminal outfits who can all be bargained with. Their silence for our silence works best so far. All in all, the moon is worthless, not to mention the Outer Rim is still the least of the Empire's concern. Their immense reach and ability to strike fear aren't nearly as formidable as they are nearer to Coruscant."
Anakin's eyes narrowed as they drew closer to the moon. "The Outer Rim is as lawless as ever."
"And that's precisely why it suits are needs, for the moment." Padme flew the starship towards a immense white domed facility nestled in a mountainous valley. Various tracking lights and scanners echoed colorful illuminations as they set their approach to ward the opening docking bay door. "We've gotten good at designing temporary bases of operation. This one houses nearly fifty starships, twenty repair bays, and about two thousand residents," Padme explained. "When you visited with my mother, I immediately had her and my sister's family brought here. I feared that Palpatine would try to get to you through them eventually."
Shifting direction, the Theed dove towards one of the brightly-lit open docking bays as Padme engaged the landing gear, and then landed her personal starship with ease. Exhaling as she felt her husband's utter tension, she turned to him in her pilot's chair. Reaching for his gloved hand, she softly took it between her own. She hadn't in the past five years thought anyone had as hard a time as she did in grasping the concept of hope. But she now knew she was wrong. "They need you, Beloved. And you need them."
"I've..." Anakin struggled to convey, his head bowed, his voice sadly apologetic. "I've killed so many... taken so many sons... what right do I have to one of my own?"
"Well, you have a daughter too," Padme smiled to lighten his mood, but sighed at his lack of response. "Finding each other the way we did, making love... its beyond my comprehension that we are even together again. It still feels like a dream. I can't wrap my mind. But I do know this," she squeezed his hand. "We have such a hard, hard road ahead. There are no easy answers to how we fix our lives. Healing, true healing, will take a very long time for both of us. These stolen moments we've shared, no matter how incredible they are can't possibly erase the last five years." His nod told her he understood. "We have to get used to each other again, as well as being parents. And with the lives we lead, in the world we live in, the constant danger makes matters worse."
Lifting his attention, Anakin clasped her small hands, warming them as he tried to make sense of it all. Her tension matched his own, and yet her love as always showed him the way. "When I awoke all those months ago I was met by the nightmare of Palpatine's actions. I was responsible for the destruction of the Jedi Order because I was to weak to stop him. The Empire rose to power, and every life taken by them feels as if..." his voice cracked sharply as he continued on, "The death of my wife and child." He sought to make her understand, even as he struggled himself. "I was devastated and lived on hate and rage alone. I drowned myself in it. I didn't want to live, and I... once the Emperor was dead I was going to kill myself," he revealed at last, exhaling heavily.
A cold pause settled between them.
So shattered and broken, they both were. The losses and pain had taken their toll, worn them down till there was nearly nothing left. Padme felt no shock at his statement. Not even in the least. Her mood turned dark and somber as she hated what she was about to confess. "Had it not been for our children, I would have done the same." She watched his startled response. Such darkness lived within her, and now he knew it. "You were not lost to me in death, and I simply felt like I wasn't enough."
Padme shut her eyes in remembrance, the pain still with her as if it were yesterday. "Not enough of a woman or a companion or anything of value. That my love was a worthless thing you no longer needed. So you abandoned us, and I was left all alone with two very small children, more scared than I had ever been in my entire life. That I could have loved a man who butchered Younglings ruined something inside me," she swallowed hard as they held hands. Her voice trembled as she continued, "I can't imagine the horror of discovering the world around you when you woke up, but you must understand, I 'LIVED' those five years." Her resolve nearly broke as she warded off tears. "Through every single HoloNet broadcast of you slaughtering Jedi or the enemies of the Empire. Of you standing by the Emperor s side as he desecrated every single thing we fought so hard for. Showing off all those women who were part of your harem just broke my heart. Of running and hiding all over the galaxy to protect Luke and Leia. I was terrified and humiliated and so heartbroken it almost killed me."
"I hate that you had to suffer through all of that," Anakin swore under his breath, his heart so devastated for all that his love had endured. His utter weakness was shameful as all that he could do was shake his head in disgust of himself. "I hate that I failed you."
"You never failed me, love. Never!" she swore to him with conviction, holding his hands to her chest now. She forced him to look at her even when he didn't want too. "You never turned to the Dark Side. You never betrayed me, or the Jedi Order or Obi-Wan or anyone else. You are a victim like all of us." Tonight would not be the night he fully accepted those words, but she knew he would someday. And she would be there, always, to remind him of the good man he was. "I love you."
"I love you too, Padme." Gently tugging her hands to his mouth, he pressed his lips to her knuckles, kissing her softly. When she shivered mightily, he asked, "What's wrong?"
Exhaling deeply, Padme sought to try and confess the one thing she hadn't. The one thing that choked in the pit of her throat whenever she thought of telling him. "You need to know that over the years, I... I tried to heal," she began, unable to look him directly in the eyes. "I tried to find some sort of peace... of happiness or... I wanted to feel human again. And I... I..."
"Beloved," Anakin pulled her into his strong arms, rising from his chair, crushing her in his safe embrace. Her words died, her face buried into his shoulder. "Shhh... nothing in the past matters to me." Gently tipping her chin, he brushed away a lone tear trickling down her cheek with the soft pad of his thumb. "Somehow, someway, we will rebuild what was taken from us."
With the revelation of Caid secretly hidden within in her, Padme chose the path of what was most important at this very moment. "Then let us take our first steps."
The Skywalkers emerged from the vessel.
Though fully cloaked in their dark Jedi robes, lightsabers hung from their hips, their faces were unmistakable to the crowded docking bay as audible gasps and shocked stares accompanied the them across the sprawling deck towards a row of speeder bikes. Security personal acknowledged Padme while clearly fearing Anakin presence. Workers and starship mechanics followed their every step, not sure what to make of their arrival. Various droids and cargo lifters moved about even as all eyes remained trained on them.
"Follow me. My living quarters aren't far from here," Padme said while climbing onto one of the speeder bikes.
Looking around as he felt the curious stares and sensed through the Force the sheer anxiety of those around him, raw tension squeezed Anakin's chest. "Are you sure we should do this now?"
"Do you want to meet your children?"
"... more than anything, but I..."
"Love, we are reunited," she reminded him. "Do not let Palpatine steal one more second from our family. Not another second."
Conviction lit his blue gaze. Anakin nodded, "As always, you are right."
"You married wisely."
Padme sped off before he could reply, though he wholeheartedly agreed. Grinning, Anakin ignited his speeder in pursuit, now roaring through a gigantic warehouse area after her speeder. They progressed past a long stretch of refurbished blaster droids, two security check-point gates and a huge food storage facility complete with sun-light replication and a broad animal feeding structure. Just past a section of laser turrets range laid a clustered subdivision of buildings he assumed were the headquarters for the Rebellion council and its military.
Just past them, a communications tower caught his attention as three starships bearing the Republic emblem darted a path overhead. And then further ahead were rows upon rows of small, square gray homes. They reminded him of the hovel he lived in on Tattoine, only slightly more modern. Nothing special, but serviceable for the time being.
Anakin followed Padme around a sharp corner, zipping past a couple of R2-maintenance droids until they reached a two-level home in the far end. He stopped alongside her, looking up when the front entrance door slid sideways, revealing Jobal. Padme's mother bounded toward them, tightly embracing her daughter first, and then Anakin.
"Force be praised," she emotionally echoed while holding onto both of them. Ruwee was surely still watching over the family, she was sure of it. "Anakin, I m so sorry I couldn't tell you anything when you visited. But I had to protect Padme and the children until we were sure. But I am so, so sorry."
"It is nothing, milady. No worries at all. I understand," Anakin promised her with a long, warm hug.
"Are you both alright?" Jobal asked.
"Better than we have been in years," Padme noted joyfully, looking to her husband, and then back to her mother. Jobal breathed a sigh of relief, sensing their reunion had been a good one. Her heart soared when Luke and Leia raced out of the house in their sleep attire, heading straight for her. Meeting them half way, Padme bent to one knee, scooping them both in her arms as she pressed kisses all over their smiling faces.
From a short distance, Anakin watched the sweet homecoming with his heart lodged somewhere in the vicinity of his throat. His gaze drowned in their precious brown eyes, their hair color, their little faces that captured his soul immediately. The little girl favored Padme, but had his mother's beautiful gaze. The boy was all him... They were beyond beautiful. But more than that, they were now his entire life. And the moment was both exhilarating and immensely terrifying at the same time.
Just listening to them, he heard the constant "Mommy" chatter; asking Padme where she'd been and why she was away so long. And if she'd brought them anything. That was when the moment shifted. As they gazed over their mother's shoulder, the tall, cloaked figure engaged their full attention. The sheer, overwhelming fear Anakin sensed through the Force nearly knocked him off his feet. They were horrified by his presence and began squirming and crying in their mother s embrace.
Padme expected this, setting them down on their feet while she remained on a knee. She would not let them run, though it pained her deeply that they were so scared, And she knew it hurt Anakin. Damn Palpatine! One day he would pay for this! But here, now, she had work to do. "Luke, Leia, I need you both to please calm down for a moment. Everything is alright. You're safe."
"But mommy, that's the bad man on HoloNet. He hurts people," Luke frantically explained, tears wetting his eyes. Leia nodded beside him.
Anakin bowed his head, fists clenched inside his cloak out of their sight. That his little ones so feared him broke his heart.
Padme pulled her children closer, and then sat them down on the ground for a serious talk. Jobal stood just over her shoulder for support. "This isn't easy to explain, but remember, we never lie to each other and we always talk things out because we are a family. Remember that?" Luke and Leia both nodded, focused solely on their mom. "I've told you before that you are children and there are some things that you won't understand until you are older. I am a adult and your mom, and its my job to protect you. But you know that I would never lie to you, and that I will always protect you and keep you safe."
"We know mommy," Leia sniffed while holding her brother's hand. "But he's the bad man. Is he going to take us away?"
"No!" Padme shook her head, "No, honey. Not at all." This was so hard, and she barely could grasp it herself, much less get them to understand. But they had to know. They all had to heal. "I've always told you that your father was lost." Their eyes opened wide at the mere mention of their father, a topic she'd purposely been vague on for all their young lives. "I told you that your father was gone and not coming back. But that he was a good man who was lost and I couldn't find him."
Leia gently wiped her teary eyes. "I remember."
"Me too," Luke nodded.
Padme proceeded cautiously. "I never told you that your father looked like the bad man on TV," she explained as they tried to grasp what she was saying. "Even though your father looked like the bad man, he is not the bad man. He was never the bad man. He was lost and now..." Here it was, the moment that would change their lives forever. "A little while ago I learned the truth about your father. Bad people took him away just before you were born, and I didn't know that. I thought he was lost, just like I told you."
"Bad people took our daddy away?" Leia repeated, trying to understand as Padme acknowledged that happened. "Why?"
"Honey, for now you're just going to have to trust me. When you're older I promise to explain everything to you. But for now I want you both to know that your father escaped the bad people, and when I found him and told him about you two, he was so happy and wanted to meet you. He loves you very, very much." Still sensing their fear, as well as curiosity, she continued, "This is Anakin, your father."
When his wife beckoned him to come forward it took more courage than he had ever needed before to do so. Every step changed his life forever, and by the time he joined Padme at her side, he was so close to his children that he could reach for them, and take them into his arms. But they were not ready for that just yet. Thank the Force he could sense it. And yet he longed to hold them close and never let them go.
"Luke, Leia," Padme began as she took Anakin's hand in her own, "You don't need to fear him. He is a good man and I love him. He's come back to us, and we're going to be a family."
Leia had to really look up high to see him. She knew he looked like the bad man on the HoloNet, but mommy wouldn't lie to her or her brother. He looked sad and a bit scared. She wondered why as she took a careful step toward him. She was brave when he bent down to one knee that she didn't back away. When she saw that his eyes were a pretty blue, she noted. "You look like my brother, Luke."
"I was thinking the same thing," Anakin replied wearing a small smile. Oh how his little girl, with her inquisitive gaze already had him wrapped around her finger. "You look like your mom, but you have my mother's eyes."
Leia smiled brightly, "Mommy is the prettiest girl ever." Looking him up and down, while her brother scowled, she considered him. "Do you love my mommy?"
"With all my heart."
"And you're not a bad person?"
Anakin found the question difficult, though he kept in mind her simple world. "I'm trying not to be."
"Uhm... do you like dolls?" she smiled, wondering about him in earnest now. Her Nana and Mom seemed amused at what she asked.
"I don't really know. I've never played with them. But if you show me one day I might." Her little heart soared as it dawned on him, she wanted to believe this was exactly what her mom said. "Leia is a very pretty name."
"Thank you." And then she noticed the lightsaber on his hip. Her excitement grew. "Are you a Jedi too?"
"He's a Jedi Master, honey" Padme proudly chimed in.
A little nervous to ask, Leia asked in a soft tone of voice, "So... uhm... can I give you a hug?" Blinking, Anakin stuttered, "Yes, that... that would be wonderful." When he opened his arms Leia dove in, and as he closed her little body to his chest, snuggling her with his eyes closed shut, he'd never been happier in his whole life. Yes, this was worth everything. His little girl... "I love you, Leia."
"Ok, Daddy. I love you too." She released her father, so happy and ready to learn all about him and ask tons and tons of questions.
But as Anakin rose to his full height, he felt the Force stirring within from Luke. Powerfully. The young boy's face had not softened in the least. He was still filled with fear and... anger. They shared more than looks, her surmised. Yes, this was his son. And his path would not be an easy one. "Luke, is there anything you would like to ask me?"
Luke didn't like any of this. He didn't trust this man. And he wasn't going to let anyone hurt his mom or sister. "I don't like you," he said, followed by, "Where is Caid?"
Before anyone could respond in any way, Bail Organa roared his speeder to a halt before them. His devastated expression conveyed the most dire expression, even as Anakin and Padme sensed a horrific shift in the Force.
"I bring terrible news," Bail began breathlessly. "Naboo has been destroyed."
The End of Chapter 6
Chapter 7: The Skywalkers go on the attack! Yoda and Assaj Ventress battle on Degobah. Obi-Wan accepts a new apprentice. The Emperor grows desperate.