Author's note: The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, but I think we all know the chances of me completing this fic dwindle as the years go by. Thus I present you with a summarized conclusion.
As far as ever fleshing out this fic, I don't want to get your hopes up. It's been a long, long time since I first conceived of it, and my interest in it has waned as I have changed as a person (and, like Shmi is so fond of saying, you can't really stop the change). But I think it's only fair that I should do my best to give you, my awesome readers, a conclusion.
Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this fic throughout the years and I hope this meager conclusion gives you some sense of satisfaction.
So, without further ado, the end of To Stop the Suns From Setting:
Final Part (10/14/06)
The next day there was another racing semi-final, and I excelled once again. The whole day, what between my victory and my new repair work on Artoo, was going fairly well until dinner. I had almost forgot (okay, maybe it was slightly more intentional than a slip of the memory) that Maecenas and I were supposed to go to dinner with this Count Dooku.
I initially had nothing against the man, I just hate fancy parties. Padmé, on the other hand, practicality threw a temper tantrum when Maecenas forced her to accompany him. There was a moment of sheer terror – perhaps more on my part than hers – when Maecenas got that look in his eye. She relented, thankfully, before he struck her.
Dinner sucked, but are you surprised? The Count was ever the gentleman, trained in refined manners that even Maecenas wasn't entirely familiar with. Yes, he was kind and warm enough on the outside, but every time I was even remotely near him, I felt this vein of pure coldness shiver down my back. Maecenas was enjoying his company, though. That is until he started asking questions about me. Questions that Maecenas never wanted to answer. We left quickly, almost rudely, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that the Count was watching me, even after we were far out of his line of slight.
As the days went on, we found ourselves in a short lull. When no races to compete in, I was able to devote some time to repairing Artoo, who developed quite a pleasant relationship with Threepio. Padmé would sit with me on those days and we'd talk. I found myself growing closer to her even more, but was unsure of how to express it.
The day of the big race came all too soon. Thousands of Naboo crammed into the stadium to watch my assured victory (after all, I had one every single heat so far). And the race started off well enough; that is until a Neimoidian gun turret knocked me out of commission. Apparently, not the current government of Naboo thought it would be disastrous for a human to win their first podrace, not to mention the fact that many of the Naboo had bet on me, using government bonds to secure their funds.
I wasn't particularly surprised – that is how the game is played, after all. What annoyed me was that they waited until I was over the water to shoot me down, and that's just not fair. Ben Quadinaros was right, of course; I don't know how to swim. At all.
As I sunk to the bottom, drowning, the oddest shapes started to appear in the murky water. It was me with wavy hair, holding a lasersword, which was little more than a series of particularly blue bubbles. I was fighting an army and leading an army. I blinked slowly as water started to fill my lungs, unsure if it was the future or a reality that could never be. And, to tell you the truth, I didn't really care at that point, because I was about to die. I was simply glad that I got to witness something so amazing before my time came.
I thought I had fallen unconscious, but I'm not really sure. The next thing I remembered was being dragged out of the water and onto the shore, coughing up mouthfuls of water as I went. The crazy guy from the refresher at the bar had saved me and, before I could say anything, he introduced himself as Obi-Wan Kenobi. He told me that my life was in danger here, that Dooku was going to attempt to kill me. I asked why, how he knew this.
Then things started getting really unbelievable. He said that he was a Jedi, that Dooku was something called a Sith, and that I was the fabled "Chosen One," whose sole purpose was to destroy the Sith and bring balance to "the Force." Riiiiight.
He ordered me to come with him, and told me that I would not survive Dooku's wrath if I stayed. I pushed him away. Never mind that I couldn't go anywhere with my slave transmitter still attached, I simply didn't trust him. Luckily, before he could get too forceful, the stadium's med team arrived to check for injures and to take me back to the pit. Obi-Wan fled.
The pod hangar was a mess of people. Apparently my loss had started a riot – the Naboo had readily realized that the Neimoidians had set them up, and they weren't going to take it. It was a full out rebellion by the time I found Padmé and Threepio.
Maecenas had left to ready the ship and Padmé had stayed in the pit to collect me. As much as it hurt that my pod was absolutely totaled, it was a relief that we could leave it at the bottom of the river and not have to waste the time hauling it onto the ship. As we left the hangar, crowds on people were violently fighting off their oppressors throughout the stadium. I grabbed Padmé's hand and led her through an abandoned alleyway, hoping that we wouldn't get caught in the riot.
We were almost completely out of the stadium's range when a familiar voice caused me pause. It was Saché and she was attempting to return the outer tunic I had given her on our last date. She had tried to give it to me sooner, she said, but she didn't know where I was staying nor could she go into the pit with all the battle droids guarding it.
I accepted it gratefully, but was surprised when Saché's eyes widened in shock. She recognized Padmé as the former Queen Amidala, bowing in her presence and begging her to say where she had been all these years. Padmé, with tears in her eyes, was unable to answer. She yanked on my hand, pulling me towards the ship.
My mind was attempting to process what I had learned – Padmé a Queen! – as we jogged to the spaceport. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't feel the warning until it was almost too late – Count Dooku had appeared out of nowhere and took a swipe at my chest with a red lasersword. I jumped back, barely missing it.
Dooku circled me, even though I was unarmed, hissing in anger. His master wanted me, he said, his master wanted to replace him with "a new model." I didn't know what he was talking about, who his master was, or by what form of slavery he was indentured, and I didn't really care. I was scared and I wanted out of there.
With timing meant for a holodrama, Obi-Wan came to our rescue, wielding a blue lasersword. Okay, so maybe he wasn't crazy. Maybe he was telling the truth. I didn't have time to ponder it or even to thank him, really, for saving my life yet again. He yelled at me to run and I did so, grabbing Padmé on my way.
We entered hyperspace without much fanfare. Maecenas ceremoniously knocked me around, for losing the pod and for my upcoming meeting with the Larses, but his heart really wasn't in it. He left us alone for the remainder of the journey.
Padmé helped me bandage the wounds I had received both from Maecenas and from the crash, and she finally, sadly, told me her story.
She had been a young, elected Queen when the Trade Federation had evaded her home. She had escaped with the aid of two Jedi and had flown to Coruscant to plead before the senate. But they didn't believe her, and she was forced to return to Naboo to take matters into her own hands. The Jedi returned with her, and she even managed to raise an army out of the native Gungan population. But it simply wasn't enough. Although she captured the Viceroy, the battle droids had eventually broken through and arrested her. The Gungan troops, meant to be a diversion, were utterly massacred when the Queen's fighters had failed to knock out the droid control ship.
Meanwhile, the Jedi found themselves face-to-face with a black robed monster wielding a red 'lightsaber' like Dooku's. They had fought to the death with the creature, and only one of the Jedi returned – the student. Obi-Wan Kenobi himself. We both baulked at that little twist. He had been set free and returned to the Jedi Order as a sign of the Neimoidians' good faith towards the Republic. The rest of Naboo, however, wasn't so lucky. The surviving Gungans were wiped out, while the humans were sent into forced labor. After having to endure numerous executions of her own people, Padmé herself had been sent into slavery as one final, last insult.
She cried in my arms when she finished her story, and I did my best to comfort her. I was out of my league, though. What right did I have to hold a Queen?
Owen and Cliegg met us at the docking bay in Mos Espa. They offered the usual amount to buy me off Maecenas' hands, and then some. He just laughed at them and told me that I'd better have another racer ready by the time the season started. Then he took Padmé, much to my horror, off to see if Jabba the Hutt wanted a new dancing girl.
Owen immediately offered to help me find and fix up a replacement pod, for which I was grateful, while Cliegg continued to call Maecenas every sort of vulgarity he knew in every tongue he knew on the way back to the homestead. I was happy to be reunited with my mother and the Larses, but the weight of Padmé's fate made it bittersweet.
While fixing up a new pod, Owen told me about the girl he had recently begun dating, Beru, and actually asked for romantic advice. As if I would know anything useful. She came over for dinner the next night and I could see the love, affection, and admiration in the young couple's eyes.
I made a decision then. I asked my family if I could have the funds they had saved to free me so that I could free Padmé from the clutches of Jabba. They didn't immediately agree, but I reminded them that it would never be enough credits for Maecenas. That the best thing that they could do for me was free the woman I had fallen in love with.
Yes, I had fallen in love with her.
I convinced them, and Owen accompanied me to Jabba's palace. Jabba let Padmé go for the credits we'd offered with one catch – I was to throw the Boonta Eve in favor of his champion. No problem, I said, with pleasure. I had honestly thought Jabba's deal would have been much worse. He let Padmé go that day, and she came with us, none the worse for wear, back to the homestead.
She pried me for the reasons behind my generous deed, but I couldn't think of an appropriate response that didn't involve telling her how I felt. So I remained quiet. The days to the Boonta Eve drew near and my work on my pod was almost complete. While Owen and Cliegg treated Padmé with disquiet, she, my mother, and Beru had formed a fast friendship, and the women had offered her a place in the Lars home.
One night, after I had dragged myself away from my pod and into bed, Padmé came to me. She told me that Beru had hinted at my feelings for her and she had managed to put the pieces together. Turning away in embarrassment, I told her that I merely wished for her to be free, so that she could make a difference in the galaxy once again.
She pulled me towards her and kissed me. I backed way, surprised and feeling unworthy, but she kissed me again. And I knew her then, knew her heart, really, and could tell that the kiss was genuine. It wasn't out of pity, or gratitude, or mere lust. She really loved me, as I loved her. She stayed the night in my room.
The next morning found me going to Mos Eisley to pick out more parts for my pod. There I ran into an old friend: Obi-Wan Kenobi. Mindful of the stories Padmé told of his kindness and trustworthiness and the fact that he had already saved my life twice, I confided in him. I told him of my slavery, the podracing, Maecenas, and Padmé. He reiterated his offer to protect me from the Sith, and I accepted on the condition that Padmé could come, too.
We just need a plan for my escape from Maecenas. Since buying me was out of the question, we decided to steal my remote transmitter. It was going to have to be soon, because the tide of things was turning towards an even darker wave now that Palpatine had declared himself Emperor. But we would have to wait until after Boonta Eve, since having a Hutt bounty hunter on my trail wouldn't make for such a great start. We worked out the details and I went back to the homestead to inform Padmé of our plans. She was ecstatic about being reunited with Obi-Wan, but was also worried that our plan would go awry. I reassured her: Obi-Wan was going to simply mind trick Maecenas. The theft should be quick, easy, and nonviolent.
Boonta Eve came, and I threw the race as I had promised. Avoiding Maecenas, Obi-Wan and I took the back ways through the city towards Maecenas' estate. But, before we had gotten half way there, Dooku was waiting for us. This time he didn't even bother with idle conversation. As they fought, I looked for a way to help Obi-Wan, but the Jedi was insistent that I find the transmitter and make my way off planet, with or without him. Reluctantly, I did as I was told.
Maecenas' estate was empty as I ransacked it. There was no sign of the transmitter, even in his private office. I was at my wit's end – fearing for Obi-Wan and my own safety – when I heard Maecenas come in.
"Looking for this?" he asked, holding a transmitter in his left hand the whip in the other. He knew that I rigged the race and freed Padmé, but, this time, no mere punishment would suffice. He had grown tired off his Skywalker investment, and would like nothing more than to see it go out with a bang. He turned on the self-destruct, giving me thirty seconds to live.
I tried to approach him, but the cracking whip kept me at a safe distance, while he mocked me and filled in the details of his brief relationship with Padmé. In a rage, I grabbed the whip with one hand and reached out towards Maecenas with my other, making a motion to choke him. And, without me even touching him, I saw the breath seep out of his lungs. He dropped the whip and the remote and fell to the ground, clutching his throat. Within seconds, he was dead.
It was only after I had deactivated the remote that I turned to Maecenas' body in horror. What had I done? More importantly, how had I done it? I remembered the feeling, the power, the absolute control I held in the tips of my fingers, and the rush it gave me. I felt cold from it now, after the fact, but a part of me wanted to feel that way again.
Obi-Wan had killed Dooku, and was injured from the fight, but he would live. He looked a little fried, literally, but I chose to keep my comments to myself as I helped him back to his ship.
The suns were setting as we made our way to the homestead to collect Padmé. I watched the sky turn from gold to red to pink as we said our good byes to my family. Anxiety for the future filled me. For the first time in my life I was free and my path was no longer set. Overnight, everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again.
Sensing my fear, my mother comforted me then, reminding me that change was a part of life, and that you couldn't stop it anymore than you could stop the suns from setting.
I looked at Padmé. The last flecks of pink sunlight highlighted her beautiful face as a cool breeze fluttered around her hair. And I realized, as the light completely faded, that I wouldn't want to.
I took her hand and boarded the ship.
Now I suppose you want me to continue my tale; to tell you about when I finally married Padmé or the birth of the Twins, perhaps. But these are things that could be gathered from any youngling textbook on Imperial history. In a way, they are no longer really mine to tell. They belong to the galaxy now.
But this story is mine, and it is my gift to you now that I can tell it.