And here we are: another update! We are building up towards the end of this story now. My estimate for chapters is at least 35. I'm currently writing chapter 28 and I still haven't got to the big confrontation that this fic is heading towards. I hope to have this fic finished by the middle of January.
A Mother's Love
Shmi barely slept that night.
She appreciated her son telling her about Palpatine but now she was worried about the implications that came with that. Darec and Kia didn't know as Shmi was choosing to keep the revelations from them. Obi-Wan's presence in their home had been explained as him wishing for a change of scenary since being cooped up in the Temple.
Kia had been delighted to see Obi-Wan again. His absence the last few months had been described as being on a pro-longed assignment. Neither her nor Darec believed that she was old enough to know the truth of what Obi-Wan had suffered. Once she reached an age where she could handle the particulars of war, only then would she be told the truth. It was a mutual agreement between all parties that Kia's innocence had to be spared for as long as possible.
The lack of sleep made Shmi rise early and she crept out into the living area where she found Obi-Wan standing by the window, his hands behind his back.
"Could you not sleep?" he asked as he turned towards her.
She shook her head, sighing and sitting down. "No. How could I after what we heard last night?" A thought struck her. "It is safe to talk isn't it?"
He nodded affirmatively. "Yes. I checked for bugs. There is one in every room in this apartment. They are all disabled."
Shmi couldn't help but shake her head. "I always had this feeling that something was off with that man. His manner with Ani always made me feel uneasy even from the very beginning. He tried to treat Ani that he had special privileges because he helped save Naboo. I said to him that Anakin had to go through the proper channels if he wished to speak to my son."
Obi-Wan chuckled. "Wish I could have been there to see you put Palpatine back in his place. He must have been fuming. I shouldn't have allowed Anakin such a free reign with the Chancellor in the first place. It was considered abnormal by the Council but they couldn't risk upsetting the delicate balance that the Council and the Chancellor had by ordering him to stop. And there really wasn't any harm in Anakin forming a friendship with him." He smiled gently at Shmi. "I guess I'm grateful for you for being there."
"It's all thanks to you, Obi-Wan. You freed me," she replied. "I hate to think how much that man could have twisted Ani's mind if I hadn't been here."
"I don't think it is something we should even consider contemplating about," answered Obi-Wan. "What's done is done."
A thought struck her as a lap of fear washed up her body. "Do you think he hates me?"
Obi-Wan stroked his beard. "Well, he certainly hates me. That is for sure. But you?"
"Be honest. I can handle it," she said.
"At a guess, yes, he probably does hate you," sighed Obi-Wan. "Palpatine will probably target you. He's already targeted me; it has only been now that we have been able to link it back to him. Anakin's weakness is his attachments to others. You and I are probably the ones most in danger. Though if he's been bugging Senator Amidala's apartment then he probably knows about them too…"
That spread a shock through Shmi's body. "What?"
Obi-Wan's eyes widened. "You don't know?"
She shook her head. "I know Ani loves her and that she has promised to wait for him but if anything else has occurred between them, then I don't know…"
Nodding, Obi-Wan slowly answered. "I'm not sure whether I should say this…"
"You better tell me, Obi-Wan Kenobi." Shmi put on her best authority voice and her voice and eyes hardened. She knew that manner would get the Jedi Master to tell her what exactly he was hiding.
He sighed and let out a deep breath. "They're engaged. When Anakin fulfils his destiny, he and Padmé will marry and he will leave the Jedi Order." He looked quizzically at her. "I'm surprised Anakin didn't tell you the full truth… He only told me because he felt I deserved to know as his Jedi Master. Plus I had sensed he was keeping something from me. The wonders of our bond, we know when we are keeping secrets from one another."
Shmi frowned. "Why wouldn't Anakin tell me he was engaged?"
"Maybe to protect you?" suggested Obi-Wan. "But you've always known he loves her. They're doing the sensible thing, making a commitment but not pursuing it until the right time. Anakin will always have attachments. To break him out of that would destroy him."
It shouldn't surprise her that Anakin might want to protect her by not telling her he was engaged, especially since when she had first begun to see Darec, she hadn't informed Anakin for months for fear of upsetting him. Obi-Wan had suspected of course. After hiding Darec from Anakin until she felt sure she was ready to tell him, she should be able to accept Anakin's decision to keep the true nature of his and Padmé's relationship a secret.
"Does Ahsoka know?" she asked.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "I don't think so. She knows Anakin and Padmé are friends but does not suspect the true nature of their relationship," he sighed. "The trouble with these attachments is that we can be used against Anakin. If the Chancellor figures out we're onto him, we'll become the first targets."
Shmi almost turned away. She hated the thought that she could prove to be Anakin's weakness. "Do you think Ani is right? That the Sith want to turn him?"
Stroking his beard, the Jedi Master turned towards her. "Unfortunately I think that is true. Before I freed you, Anakin saw Palpatine on a regular basis. Palpatine encouraged Anakin to visit him as often as possible. I would have thought the Sith might want to kill the one that is prophesised to destroy them, but turning Anakin to the Dark Side would be an ever greater blow to us. With Anakin easily trusting him, Palpatine had the opportunity to murder and have it covered up or begin to twist Anakin's mind. After I freed you and you made a point of Anakin being treated like everyone else in front of Palpatine, Anakin stopped seeing him, only visiting when the Chancellor asked him to." He smiled lightly at her. "You planted the seeds that made Anakin open his eyes to see the manipulation that the Sith was trying to weave in his mind. Without you, I don't think our bond would be as strong as it is now; Palpatine would have sought to undermine it from the very beginning, and you put a stop to that and Anakin became wiser to the dangers of manipulation and recognised it. Instead of becoming wary about the Jedi, instead it was turned on the Chancellor himself."
"So instead of us being Ani's confidents, it would be Palpatine?" sought Shmi.
"Unfortunately," Obi-Wan admitted. "Manipulation that lasts for years could have twisted Anakin's mind enough that one significant event could make him fall and believe that the Jedi are evil."
"And he'd be more susceptible," whispered Shmi in horror. "And he'd fall."
Obi-Wan nodded. "I believe that freeing you may have been our saving grace. I'm not going to lie to you, Shmi, if Palpatine truly wants Anakin to join him, then he knows how to get to him. He will seek to harm us, all those close to Anakin. He might turn to save us."
She paled at the thought of her daughter being caught in this battle. For the sake of the ruse they were trying to create, they had to delay the Sith by continuing with their everyday lives as if nothing major had rocked their world.
They would only have one chance after all.
Like his mother, Anakin didn't sleep that night, too worried and too concerned for the future. He had put in an urgent request to be seen immediately by the Jedi Council and had been informed that he could report to them first thing in the morning. He had gone through the proper procedures but Anakin wanted Yoda to hear what he had to say so he didn't mind waiting the night before he could talk to them.
However he couldn't settle and constantly thought about how he would tell the Council about the revelation regarding the Chancellor.
The crack of dawn couldn't come soon enough for him and when it finally did, he quickly got dressed and hurried to the Council Chambers. He reported to the desk and was told to wait. Nerves frayed, he sought the Force to calm him. Not only was he worried about what he'd say now he was concerned for Padmé's safety considering she would be trying to gather information on the Chancellor. He was tempted to reach for Ahsoka through the bond but he knew that any type of distraction could cause problems.
The time came for him to be admitted to the Council. Yoda's report from Christophsis had taken precedence.
Anakin entered the chamber, his heart beating wildly in his chest. He glanced around at the eleven members of the twelve of the Jedi Council. Obi-Wan's seat remained empty, the only Jedi not present at this meeting. He was grateful that the entire Council was on the planet. It was rare when the twelve Masters were all together. The outbreak of war meant that the Council was being pulled in all different directions.
He bowed before them. "Masters."
"Knight Skywalker," they all acknowledged in return.
"I become before you with grave news," he began. "It was something that I discovered a few weeks ago and I should have seen the Council then, but I didn't. I felt that I needed more proof to back up what I am about to say and reveal to you. Right now Senator Amidala and my Padawan are seeking more information to back up my assertions."
"Fearful you are," noted Yoda.
Anakin bowed his head. "I know, Master. What I have to say cannot be taken lightly. I fear that the Jedi are on the brink of destruction if we do not tread carefully."
A sense of worry seemed to pass between the Council members.
Clearing his throat, trying to ignore the feeling of dread that had settled within his stomach, Anakin spoke confidently, loud and clear. "Chancellor Palpatine is the Sith Lord."
He had expected silence and shock from all the members and he was rewarded with both.
Mace Windu was the first to lean forward. "Are you certain?"
Anakin nodded. "Yes, Master."
"How long have you known?" asked Adi Gallia. "You said this was something you discovered weeks ago."
"At least two weeks. I know I shouldn't have kept this from you, but I had to be sure I was right before I brought this to you. And I had the feeling in the Force that I need Obi-Wan with me when I confront the Sith. He needed to be better," swallowed Anakin.
"Explain from the beginning, perhaps you should?" said Yoda, his ears prickling to the sides.
Anakin took a deep breath and proceeded to tell the Council how he had come to the conclusion of who Palpatine really was, his meditation to verify it, and his plans to try to expose the Chancellor. Once he was finished explaining, he took a step back and waited for the inevitable discussion to come.
As always, it was Master Windu. "We should arrest him."
"No. We can't be seen to be making a power-play," said Anakin. He was relieved they believed him, but why shouldn't they anyway? He'd been truthful about everything, including what his young Padawan and Padmé were up to. "We try to arrest Palpatine, the public could turn against us. All we have on him are my feelings. The public won't accept that. If we are to maintain trust with the citizens of the Republic, we have to do things the right way."
"And sneaking into the Chancellor's office is the right thing to do?" questioned Plo Koon.
Of course Anakin's admittance of what Padmé and Ahsoka were doing wouldn't sit well with the Council, no matter how honest he was.
"We need the evidence before we can act. Simple feelings won't do," reiterated Anakin. "I know I'm putting them in danger but what else can we do? I've been teaching Ahsoka how to hide her presence so, with any hope, they could avoid detection."
"I don't like this," admitted Mace, "but I do see your point."
"And where is Master Kenobi?" asked Adi Gallia. "You mentioned that he knew."
"Obi-Wan is with my mother, keeping her safe. I fear that she will be targeted," he answered.
"Then we can move her and her family into the Jedi Temple," said Mace.
"We can't. Padmé isn't the only one being bugged. Obi-Wan reported to me last night that he had found them at my mother's place too. He has disabled them for now, but he will reactivate them. If Palpatine has been listening in on my mother's activities, he will know something is wrong when he doesn't hear anything."
Adi was nodding away. "So they need to carry on living normally."
"Exactly!" At least they were accepting the explanation. "Even if we staged a conversation that could alert him that they are going away, when really they'd be coming here, there is still the problem of Darec's job. He can't just simply take time off at a whim. It would still be suspicious. I don't like this myself, but keeping to the routine is the best thing we can do. If he's been bugging Senator Amidala and my mother, then he's probably keeping an eye upon Darec too."
"Hmm, problematic this is," said Yoda. "Confront the Chancellor we cannot. Present the authorities with the evidence we can, take it from there we will. Be patient we must if the Jedi are to survive."
Despite a few disagreeing glances, the majority of the Council voted to be patient and wait to see what Padmé and Ahsoka could obtain for them.
Ahsoka Tano had only been a Padawan for a few months. Her skills in the Force were still manifesting but she was a quick learner. The technique Anakin had been teaching her wasn't one she should have been taught until she was a Senior Padawan. At fourteen years old, she was too young but her Master's feelings about what the future entailed had prompted him to take the chance and teach her it.
It was a difficult technique to learn: to shield one's presence in the Force, especially for a mere Padawan. But Anakin's help and enthusiasm and determination to teach her had enabled her to pick it up quickly. Unfortunately for Ahsoka, she wasn't that strong enough to cover both her and Padmé, but she could hide most of their presence. She had to hope that was enough.
With Ahsoka trailing her, Padmé walked confidently through the halls of the Senate, keeping her face composed and greeting other members as they passed one another. To ensure it was authentic for Ahsoka to be with her, Padmé had sent out a communication to everyone who she had a meeting with today to explain that she'd be shadowed by a Jedi Padawan who wished to have more experience in how Republic politics worked. It was mere courtesy but she hoped that the excuse would prove authentic.
That did however mean that Ahsoka had to stay with Padmé all day until Senate closing hour. Obi-Wan remained on stand-by to retrieve the information if they found anything. The danger was that their infiltration would be discovered and they'd be caught.
Padmé palmed the door release for the Chancellor's Office, walking inside with her report in hand. As expected the Chancellor wasn't inside.
Ahsoka manually locked the door from the inside. "How much time do you think we have?"
"Probably not long," replied Padmé, settling herself down in the Chancellor's seat and beginning to tap away at the holo desk. "We'll have to be quick." She turned to R2 who had been following them and pointed to the socket in the desk. "Plug in and help me access any restricted files."
Ahsoka walked over to the desk and peered over Padmé's shoulder as files scrolled across in front of them. "Anything interesting?"
Padmé shook her head. "Just the mundane stuff, the political reports that we all file. Oh, this looks interesting… A file on the clone troopers. I'm surprised this is even on his system…"
"Look at it," suggested Ahsoka. "We don't know what they could truly be trained to do."
R2 accessed the relevant file and brought it up on screen.
But it wasn't what they were expecting.
Palpatine's face appeared before them, his eyes glaring malevolently.
Padmé pushed back in the chair, shock written over her features.
"Senator…" Ahsoka began, gripping her arm, one hand on her lightsaber hilt, her eyes skirting around the room.
"You thought you could outwit me," a cold smile appeared across the Chancellor's face. "You should never have underestimated me."
"How did he know?" hissed Ahsoka.
"I still have two listening devices in use that neither of you considered could be potential holders of the devices. I always knew there was a possibility they'd be discovered, having a contingency plan in place allowed me to overhear everything you had to say last night. And I planned accordingly."
"This is only a prerecording," breathed Padmé. "We might still have time. And he probably has the intuition to guess what we would say."
Ahsoka gripped her lightsaber, truly fearful of what was happening. The Chancellor had known they would be here. He'd set a trap. But would he know when they had sprung it? He had been involved in a meeting this morning… "Senator, if he knew, would he have cancelled his meeting?"
"Probably," the Senator answered. She swallowed nervously.
Ahsoka ran towards the door, Padmé following closely behind.
But before they could even reach the doors, the red guards rushed through, holding pikes towards them.
Ahsoka skidded to a stop and activated her lightsaber blade, pointing it towards the Chancellor's protectors as they swarmed around them. They all held pikes, holding them tightly in their hands and pointing towards Padmé and Ahsoka.
"Drop your weapon, Jedi!" growled the guard nearest to Ahsoka.
Ahsoka gritted her teeth. "I don't think so!"
"You are under arrest for planting false evidence against Supreme Chancellor Palpatine!" their accuser replied.
"WHAT?" Ahsoka nearly rushed forward, letting her brash feelings get in the way of her thinking through the situation logically, but it was Padmé's grip on her elbow that prevented her from doing something stupid.
"Don't," whispered Padmé.
"But…" Ahsoka started to protest.
"We can't fight them. This is the Senate building. They'll lock it down and they'll get us anyway. We have no choice."
Ahsoka could see that Padmé did not want to surrender either but the logic was there for why they had to do it.
"Ahsoka!" Padmé said again.
Reluctant, Ahsoka released her grip on her lightsaber and the hilt dropped to the floor. She stood defiantly in front of the guards, her lips pursed upwards as she considered the people in front of her. She could leap to safety but as Padmé had explained, they'd lock the Senate down. She didn't know the building well enough to know of any secret ways out.
There was only one thing she could do.
She closed her eyes and reached for the Force, sensing for her Master's presence, pouring forth the regret she felt at not being able to protect the Senator or herself from discovery. But she could save others. If Palpatine had known about their plan to sneak into his office in advance, then he'd move against the others too… He was going to arrest Shmi and Obi-Wan, just for conspiring against him.
Unlike Anakin, they were in a place that was easily accessible.
Ahsoka? Anakin's voice floated over the bond.
We've failed. He knew, she communicated. He still has listening devices intact. You have to find them. And your mother and Master Kenobi. Save them…
"What are you doing, Jedi?" a voice snarled.
Someone grabbed her arm roughly jerking her out of the bond. She growled at the guard. "Let go of me!" She struggled with all her worth but the guard had more power in his muscles then she had in hers. She was easily subdued, as her arms were forced behind her back and cuffed.
"Stop it! She's only a child!" Padmé was yelling, angrily at Ahsoka's treatment.
The guard was unsympathetic. "A Jedi is never unprepared, even the younger ones."
Ahsoka was dragged forwards, refusing to obey the guards whims to move.
The Chancellors Personal Guards crowded around them as they herded them away and towards where they knew not.
Ahsoka's warning floated into Anakin's consciousness like a siren. Her presence was strong, defiant yet full of remorse at failure. Her words reached him and he leapt to his feet as her presence disappeared. "No!" he breathed.
She wasn't dead, he knew that, unconscious most likely.
His body trembled with fear, his hands in his hair. "No, no, no!"
Everything was going wrong.
"How could he have known?" he breathed. He still has listening devices… but where?
But the other words that Ahsoka had broadcast to him suddenly sunk through. His mother and Obi-Wan were probably targets too. If Palpatine had known in advance of what their plan was, he could frame them for conspiring against the Republic. He'd have ample reason to arrest them and the public would be on his side because he'd acted honourably, whereas the Jedi had not…
A lump formed in his throat. He had to make sure his mother and Master were safe and to move them.
He flipped open his comlink. "Obi-Wan! Come in!"
But no one answered.
Frustration poured into him.
He took his speeder directly to his mother's apartment, breaking all sorts of speed-limits, not caring about how fast he was going. It was more important for him to find out why Obi-Wan wasn't responding.
He parked his speeder just outside his mother's balcony and leapt over the side, palming the identification pad to open the doors.
As soon as stepped inside, his stomach fell flat and an ominous feeling built in his tummy.
The apartment was a mess.
Furniture was strewn everywhere, objects smashed into tiny little pieces on the floor.
The droid that he had built as a child was in pieces, scattered across the floor. C-3PO would need to be rebuilt but what drew Anakin's eye was the glinting object attached to the inside of the droids neck, where no one would notice it or even think of looking unless they were doing maintenance.
C-3PO had been planted with a listening device.
Anakin's breathing stopped.
"No… That's how he knew…" he realised. "Neither of us considered that." His eyes widened as another realisation hit him. "R2 must have one too… He was in Padmé's apartment last night. Everything we said was transmitted directly to the Sith." His face paled and he felt sick that he had not considered the possibility of the droids being bugged as well.
His eyes found a familiar object on the floor, one that had been taken from Obi-Wan for months until he had stolen it back during his escape from captivity. It was his Master's lightsaber.
His knees buckled beneath him. "No… What have I done?" His decision to allow Padmé and Ahsoka to infiltrate the Chancellor's office had proved to be the biggest mistake of his life. The four people that meant the most to him were missing.
Palpatine was moving against them, prompted by Anakin's choices.
No matter what he wanted to do, the Jedi Council had to know what had happened. His family may be in the hands of the Sith, but Anakin would save them. His eyes darkened as he sought strength from the Force.
I will save them. No matter what.
To be continued...
Please let me know what you think!
So Palpatine is crafty. He considered that his listening devices would be found and put them in places where they wouldn't think to look: the droids. Of course, R2 is with Padmé and C-3PO with Shmi. When I first thought of this story, I already had the idea that Anakin would have to face the choice of having his family in Palpatine's hands. Before I decided to include Ahsoka into this story, it was originally just going to be Obi-Wan, Shmi and Padmé but Ahsoka's inclusion into this story allowed me to play more with my ideas. (Yes, I know Obi-Wan has managed to get himself into a lot of scraps in this story, its just worked out that way...)
Perhaps the Council was too cautious in this chapter but they are learning and they are considering the consequences if they acted against Palpatine too quickly.
Next chapter: We find out exactly what has happened to Shmi, Ahsoka, Padmé and Obi-Wan. And Palpatine begins the second phase of his plan to rid the galaxy of the Jedi. Will be posted next Saturday.