I'm sorry. Guilt has been nagging at me for a long time, and after a wake up call from xander867 (thanks, by the way) I finally got this done. Thank you everyone for all the reveiws. 23 for the last chapter! Every single reveiw makes my day. :D
This chapter is dedicated to WolvieGrrl, for her hilarious reveiw that just about made me fall off my chair laughing. I hope you've recovered! ;)
Sidious walked briskly across the turquoise landscape of Christophsis, thinking about what had transpired in the mine.
The girl had come back to life. Sidious' scowl deepened. How was it possible that Tano kept avoiding death? He had seen Skywalker kill her with his own eyes.
How does one fight an enemy that doesn't die?
However, he had bigger problems than that. His Force connection had been severed by that trap of the light side. He knew very little about the power that had been used against him, but he did know that Skywalker had no knowledge of the Wall of Light at all. Hopefully, his lack of knowledge could work to Sidious's advantage, he hadn't known what the light side prison was capable of. It was possible that the Wall had been weak enough that he could regain his Force connection.
He did have one last card to play against Tano and Skywalker, though. He turned to Bane, who was walking silently beside him. "I have another mission for you, bounty hunter."
Bane nodded, but his eyes remained on his ship, which was less than half a kilometre away.
"I want you to bring the recording of Skywalker and Tano's duel on Coruscant to the Jedi Council. I don't care how you do it, but make sure it gets there. If you succeed, you will receive 200,000 more credits than your original pay."
Bane's expression was unreadable as he thought about Sidious's offer. Finally he said, "I'm getting a little tired of this job, but not that tired. Give me the recording."
Sidious handed the recording to the bounty hunter and watched as he climbed into his ship. He strode up the ramp to his own ship, where the two commando droids were disguised as the Chancellor's Red Guards. They would fly the ship back to Coruscant, and he would once again fall into the role of the mild-mannered Chancellor of the Republic. Ahsoka Tano would be expelled from the Order, no longer a threat to him.
No one would have a reason to suspect him.
They could hear the battle before they could see it.
Anakin could hear the sounds of blaster fire and explosions as they entered the city and frowned as he saw the smoke rising from the crystalline towers. He knew there was no chance of finding Sidious, the Sith was probably off-planet by now, but there was still a battle to win.
"Here," Ahsoka said, handing Jinx her shoto lightsaber. She activated her remaining blade.
"What are you doing?" Anakin glanced suspiciously at her. "There is no way you two are joining the battle. I want you to get on the first gunship you can find and go up to the ship to get medical attention."
"Master, I'm perfectly fine," Ahsoka insisted. "It doesn't even really hurt anymore."
"It doesn't matter," Anakin said. "I'm not letting you join that battle."
Especially after what happened, he added silently.
Ahsoka seemed to hesitate, but she sighed and nodded. "Fine. But if you haven't won the battle in six hours, I'm coming back down to help you."
"I'm insulted that you think so little of my fighting skills," Anakin said lightly. "I'll join you on the ship in four hours."
"Believe me, your fighting skills are fine," Ahsoka said, wincing slightly as she rubbed her shoulder. "But, that sounds like a lot of droids."
"Speaking of droids..." Jinx trailed off as a squad of battle droids marched around the corner.
"Surrender, Jedi!" the commander screeched.
"Run!" Anakin shouted to the Padawans. "I'll hold them off!" He leaped forward, lightsaber drawn before the droids had even started shooting. Ahsoka and Jinx raced in the opposite direction. It was only a small squad of droids, but this wasn't the real battle. He had to find Rex.
"Rex!" he shouted into his comlink. "Where are you?"
"We're defending the base," the Captain replied. "Did you find Commander Tano?"
"Yeah," Anakin said, slicing two droids in half with one sweep of his weapon, "but she needs medical attention. I sent her and another Padawan back to the ship."
"I'll explain later, Rex," Anakin said, Force-pushing a droid into a wall. "Let's finish up with these droids. Have you captured the separatist general?"
"No, sir," Rex replied. "We don't know where the droids have set up a base, or even if they've set up a base."
This further cemented Anakin's belief that the separatist attack had simply been a cover story. There didn't appear to be any attempt to take over the whole planet, and there had been no attacks on the communications centre or other buildings of importance. The droids just seemed to be there as a distraction.
Anakin ended the transmission and made his way through the streets of Crystal City to the republic base. The roar of blasterfire echoed in his ears as he raced into battle. He allowed himself to relax a little; fighting like this meant he could forget, even if it was only for a while, what he had done to Ahsoka in the mine.
Ahsoka found it quite easy to borrow a gunship. She and Jinx avoided the battle and stayed in the shadows of the streets. They found a gunship near the republic base and the clone pilot agreed to fly them to the Jedi Cruiser. She kept her lekku tilted at an angle so they would cover the worst of her wound, but the pilot had no doubt noticed.
"That Sith is vicious," Jinx commented. "I must have been out of it for a while if he managed to beat you in a lightsaber duel."
"Right," Ahsoka said stiffly. How was she going to explain that it wasn't the Sith Lord who had caused her injury, but her own Master?
Will Anakin even want to take me back? And even if he does, what if I'm going to be expelled from the Order?
She had known the consequences of returning to the living. Now she would own up to them.
Jinx and Ahsoka thanked the pilot and exited the gunship. Jinx looked around the hangar of the large ship with fascination, and Ahsoka remembered that he had probably only been on a Jedi Cruiser once or twice.
"Do you want to stay here?" she asked him with a grin.
Jinx snapped his head up, startled. "What? No... I'll come with you."
Another thing she admired about Jinx: his sense of loyalty. Ahsoka led the Twi'lek Padawan through the maze of halls on the shipand down to the med bay. The surgical droid, 2-1B, looked up and as soon as he caught sight of Ahsoka, he moved stiffly toward her.
"Commander! What has happened to you?"
"Lightsaber wound," Ahsoka said. She never would have admitted it to her Master, but she was feeling quite weak. Perhaps it had been for the best that she had left the battle. She lay down on a cot as the droid examined her wound. Another droid led Jinx away. The droid emitted a whirr of surprise and Ahsoka cast him a startled look. "What is it?"
"Your wound is very deep, Commander," 2-1B said. "It is a miracle you are even walking, much less alive."
An unexpected shiver ran through Ahsoka as she remembered the feeling of her life draining away in the mine. She now knew what Anakin was capable of doing.
And it scared her.
Anakin drove his lightsaber through a droid and walked up the stairs of the separatist base. He could sense a life-form in the old headquarters and knew it was the separatist general. He entered the main chamber and saw a rail-thin Neimoidian staring out the window at the battle.
Coward, Anakin thought. The Neimoidians were a skittish race, and it didn't surprise him that this one had stayed out of the battle.
The general didn't even look away from the window as he snapped, "Report."
Anakin played along. "Your army has nearly been destroyed. Call off the remaining droids and come with me."
The Neimoidian turned and paled when he saw Anakin. "Blast him!" he yelled to his droid bodyguards, but Anakin blocked the shots, then Force-pushed the four battle droids into the wall. He then pointed his lightsaber at the separatist.
"Surrender," he said sharply. The Neimoidian slowly raised his hands. "Call off the remaining droids," Anakin ordered, and the general complied. Anakin brought the separatist leader to the republic base into a waiting cell.
"What are your orders, General Skywalker?" Rex asked as the other troops began to clean up the area.
At that point, Anakin couldn't have cared less about what happened on Christophsis. He wanted to know how Ahsoka was doing.
"Finish up here, then come up to the ship," he said. "I want to get out of here as soon as possible."
"Yes, sir," Rex said. Anakin paused for a second to make sure the clone Captain had everything under control, then left the base and headed back to the mine entrance where he had landed his starfighter. He checked the chrono as the starfighter lifted into the atmosphere and noted that the battle had been won in a little over four hours.
A small satisfaction in the overall disappointment that had been his day.
He leaped out of his starfighter almost the second it touched down on the hanger floor and walked quickly down the corridor to the med bay.
"Are you injured, sir?" the medical droid asked him.
"No, I'm fine. Where is my Padawan?"
2-1B gave a bewildered whirr. "It is quite amazing that the girl is alive, sir. Her wound was quite deep. It should have killed her, but she still lives."
"Can I see her?" Anakin was shaken by the report. How was Ahsoka still alive with an injury like that?
Anakin followed the droid to a small room with two cots. One of them was empty, but he he recognized the small form of his Padawan in the far bed. She was sleeping, and although the blanket was pulled up to her neck, he could see a white bandage on her right shoulder.
Anakin looked out the window toward the turquoise planet below. He used to smile whenever he thought of Christophsis, the planet where he had met his Padawan. What had happened in the mine had changed his thinking.
He was never going back there again.
Ahsoka awoke, but she didn't stir. She opened her eyes to see her Master standing by the window, staring expressionlessly out into space. She sensed the guilt he was feeling, and the enormity of his emotions shocked her.
Anakin turned to see her awake, and relief crossed his face. "How are you feeling?"
"Not too bad," Ahsoka said. She felt worse than she had a few hours ago, but decided Anakin had enough to worry about.
"Nice try, Ahsoka, he said, "but I've known you long enough to know when you're lying."
You can't tell when I'm telling truth, either, Ahsoka thought, but remained silent. Anakin started to speak again, but Ahsoka cut him off before he could say anything.
"I know you're probably furious that I lied to you and went off with that Sith and Bane, but he said it was either me or you and that he would kill Jinx if I didn't go with him. I didn't break our bond, I tried my hardest to block Sidious's access to my mind. I-"
Ahsoka fell silent as Anakin raised a hand.
"I'm not mad at you, Snips," he said. "I'm proud of you."
Ahsoka blinked. "You're... proud of me?"
Anakin nodded. "You lived with a Sith Lord for nearly three days and managed stop him from killing Jinx. I know you tried to save the bond. If anything, you should be mad at me, for refusing to listen to you.
Ahsoka thought for a moment. "I was upset," she admitted. "But I had also been overconfident. I believed that I could save Jinx and his Master, convince you that I hadn't turned to the dark side, and help you kill Sidious. I underestimated him. He knew exactly what to do to get you to see his side."
"It probably didn't help that I didn't listen to anything you tried to tell me," Anakin said, rather bitterly.
"Why didn't you listen to me, Master?" Ahsoka asked. "I thought you knew me better than that. I would never turn to the dark side willingly."
Anakin sighed. "The Council is convinced that you turned to the dark side, and after the bond broke, I let myself be convinced as well. When I saw that Master Oki was dead, I automatically assumed that you had killed him."
"That's exactly what he wanted you to think," Ahsoka concluded. "I tried to free Jinx so Sidious wouldn't have any more power over me, but you stopped me. I tried to disarm you so I could free him, but you obviously got the impression I was trying to kill him."
Anakin sat down on her bed. A shadow had crossed him face. "Patience has never been one of my strengths," he remarked. "I never gave you a chance to explain anything. I jumped to conclusions."
While she was glad that they were able to talk about this, Ahsoka knew they were avoiding what needed to get out in the open. She summoned her nerve.
"Who died on Tatooine?"
Anakin's face took on the blank expression Ahsoka was used to seeing whenever she asked him a personal question. He shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it."
Ahsoka frowned. She knew Anakin wasn't going to like what she had to say, but she needed to know. "I want to know who was important enough to you that you got that angry when that Sith mentioned what happened."
Anakin hesitated. "They killed my mother, Snips. They tortured her for a month. I had terrible dreams about her while she was in captivity, but I never went after her. Obi-Wan told me that they were just dreams, and that they would pass in time. They didn't, they only got worse. I decided to go to Tatooine to check on her, and found out that she had been missing for a month. By the time I found her, it was too late. She died soon after I found her in the Tusken camp."
Ahsoka thought she heard a hint of resentment in her Master's voice as he spoke about Obi-Wan but wasn't sure. Now she understood why Anakin had been so angry. She didn't remember much of her own mother, but Anakin had been with his mother until he was nine.
As a slave? Now she knew why her Master was so secretive about his past.
"I'm sorry Master," she said. "I had no idea."
Anakin looked her in the eye. "If the Jedi Council knew that I'd killed all those creatures,I'd be expelled from the Order."
Ahsoka made a decision. "I won't tell them," she said. "I'm going to be expelled, but I'm not dragging you down with me."
"Where did you get that idea?" Anakin asked, looking startled.
"If the Council believes I turned to the dark side, they aren't going to let me stay in the Order," Ahsoka reasoned.
"I'll explain to them what happened," Anakin said. "They are reasonable, Ahsoka. They will listen."
"Last time I tried 'explaining' something," Ahsoka said, her frustration getting the better of her, "I was killed by a lightsaber!"
A very long silence followed. Ahsoka slumped down onto her bed. Why can't I keep my mouth shut? He feels bad enough already.
"I can't take back what I did," Anakin said at last. "I acted in anger and I will regret doing that for the rest of my life." Ahsoka sensed his guilt more strongly then ever and wished she hadn't said anything.
"I'm alive," she said. "I'm fine, Master. What happened before won't affect me in battle. The droid said there will be no lasting damage."
"I've been meaning to ask you about that," Anakin said. "Howexactly are you alive? The droid told me that your injury should have been fatal."
"It's... complicated," Ahsoka said. She wasn't looking forward to telling Anakin about the secrets she had been keeping. "I've been receiving training from the very person that gave me my power," she said and watched as confusion crossed her Master's face.
"The Daughter? Snips, she's dead!"
"I know. She enters my dreams and trains me that way. That's where I learned about the Wall of Light and the green lightning. I couldn't tell you... she thought it would be better that way."
Anakin looked shocked. "Why was she training you, Ahsoka? And why couldn't you tell me?"
Ahsoka stared at the ground. Anakin would be furious with the Daughter if he knew the real reason for training her. "She knew the Sith were after me and wanted to help me train," she said. "She made me swear not to tell you."
"And for once, you followed orders?"
"Very funny," Ahsoka said. "When I was on Korriban, she taught me how to strengthen my mental shields." She decided that for now, she would leave out the visions of Vader. "And then, on Christophsis, she offered me the chance to come back to the living."
She hoped that her Master wouldn't ask about her experience with the Daughter and Son, but he narrowed his eyes. "You say that like you considered not coming back."
No more lies, Ahsoka told herself. "I did consider that," she admitted. "But it wasn't because of what you did," she said as his expression grew alarmed. "The Son came with his sister. He told me if I went back, you would suffer for it. To prove his point he showed me a vision of a... fight."
"Go on," Anakin said quietly.
"You were fighting what looked like a Jedi by a river of lava," Ahsoka said, trying to remember. "The other Jedi cut off your left arm and legs at the knee. You fell too close to the lava and your clothes caught fire." She shivered, remembering the pain she had seen him in.
Anakin frowned. "Snips, I'm not going to die in a lava river," he said, resting a hand on Ahsoka's uninjured shoulder. Her Master was a very reserved man; Ahsoka knew that opening himself up like this was a big deal for him. "The Son was a deceitful being. You shouldn't trust anything he said."
Ahsoka nodded. "I guess not. But it looked so real!"
"You came back even though the Son threatened you like that? Why?"
Ahsoka chose her words carefully. "I knew that Sidious had wanted to turn you to the dark side. I didn't want that to happen. I wanted to help you."
"The way things turned out, it was me helping you," Anakin said with a small smile. "I guess I should thank the Daughter for teaching you about the Wall of Light." His smile disappeared. "Sidious got away, though."
"But he has no Force power," Ahsoka said. "He isn't a threat anymore."
Anakin raised an eyebrow. "Haven't you underestimated him enough? This is a Sith Lord you're talking about. If there is a way to regain his Force connection, he will find it."
"What about our bond?" Ahsoka asked quietly. "Is there a way to restore that?"
"I'm not sure," Anakin said. "What about that trick you tried in the mine?"
Ahsoka had thought about that. She was hesitant to try it again. Invading her Master's mind was not something she wanted to do a second time.
"I need to know what you saw, Snips," Anakin said, leaning forward. "I ended up too deep in your mind as well. I saw your... experience with the Trandoshan hunters, and a certain meeting with a separatist boy that I would like to know more of."
Ahsoka rolled her eyes. Her Master never changed.
"What did you see?" Anakin asked again.
Ahsoka sighed. "I saw you when you were younger. You were talking to a girl, and got angry when she called you a... slave. Then I saw you killing all the sand people." She stopped there, not wanting to tell him the last thing she had seen. He'll get expelled... I don't want to be responsible for that...
Anakin's expression didn't change, but she felt his tormented Force-presence. "Is that all?"
Ahsoka frowned, and Anakin noticed her hesitation. "What else did you see, Ahsoka?"
Resentment at all the secrets her Master had been keeping tore the words out of her mouth.
"How long have you been married to Senator Amidala?"
Anakin's in trouble, and Sidious has something up his sleeve. Not good! Everyone who said Ahsoka saw Anakin and Padme's wedding was correct and gets a cookie... but more on that next chapter.
Please reveiw! :D