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Untitled Document

The Sapphire Shaft.

And your eyes hold the blue-bird flash,
The sapphire shaft, which is truth.

Amy Lowell, A Dome of Many Coloured Glass


Part 33: A Song of Farewell.

Obi-Wan could not avoid Anakin forever, but at least when he left Qui-Gon's room, albeit sad, but resigned to the promise that was asked of him, he was more prepared to deal with the young man's anxieties. He found his former apprentice pacing about the dockyard, watching as the last of the hover tanks travelled up the ramp of the assault cruiser. The Council was taking no chances, sending a force three systems the size of Utapau, and these battalions of clones with their synchronised genetically designed march followed the vehicle up the ramp.

"Hello, Anakin," he greeted, causing the young Knight to turn round, watching him as Obi-Wan checked over his starfighter, and as Artoo ran through a final system analysis.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Anakin remarked. "You're going to need me on this one, Master."

"It may be nothing but a wild Bantha chase," Obi-Wan tried, knowing through the Force that would not be the case. "Your job here is much more important, Anakin."

"I know. The Sith." Anakin's mouth looked as if he tasted something bitter just in the very word. "I just - I don't like you going off without me like this. It's a bad idea to split up the team. I mean look what happened the last time."

"Don't remind me," Obi-Wan grimaced as he thought of Ventress. Frankly, he had been relieved that Anakin disobeyed orders to go and rescue him. "But I have returned unscathed from solo missions before. The one I undertook for my Knighthood, for example." He stepped away from the starfighter to claim a clutch of Anakin's arm, his callused hand brushing the servos in the finger joints, while his free hand clasped where flesh met machine. "Even when we work separately, we work together. We have the same goals; end the war and save the Republic from the Sith. As long as we are on the same side, everything will come out well in the end. I'm certain of it."

"Well, I suppose you could be right. You are, once in a while. Occasionally."

"Farewell, old friend." Obi-Wan let go of his arm and turned to go.

"Master, wait." Anakin paused to let him turn, then bowed his head in shame, before raising it to face him once more. "I know I've disappointed you in these past few days. I have been arrogant. I have not been very appreciative of your training, and what's worse, of your friendship. I offer no excuse, Master. My frustration with the Council, I know that is none of your fault and I apologise. For all of it. Your friendship means everything to me."

Obi-Wan took his arm once more in the same grip he had before, with the same affection. "You are wise and strong, Anakin. You are a credit to the Jedi Order, and you have far surpassed my humble efforts at instruction."

His former apprentice frowned. "Just the other day, you were saying that my power is no credit to you."

"I'm not speaking of your power, Anakin, but of your heart. The greatness in you is a greatness of spirit. Courage and generosity, compassion and commitment. These are your virtues. You have done great things and I am very proud of you."

Anakin bowed his head, silent in face of the praise. Obi-Wan let him take the words within, then released his arm. "Well, I believe I hear General Grievous calling my name. Goodbye old friend. May the Force be with you."

"May the Force be with you," Anakin returned.

Obi-Wan boarded the cruiser, turning to one of the observation transparisteels, his eyes falling upon the young Knight who stood to watch the ship depart. The Force was singing to him a song of farewell, ominously poignant. He could not help but wonder if this would be the last time he saw any of those he left behind alive or well.

Padmé changed for a Cantham House meeting after Obi-Wan had gone, leaving their daughter in the capable hands of Dormé while she descended the levels to Bail's residence.

The meeting was a short one, merely a formality to exchange news, to alert the political members of the actions of the Jedi Council; the departure of Obi-Wan for Utapau. Bail, Mon and Garm cast her sympathetic looks, which she tried not to take comfort from. To surrender to the knowledge of how deeply she felt his absence would be a betrayal of their love. They had a duty to the Republic, to democracy, even before they met each other. Without it they would be different people, unworthy of each other's devotion.

Senate sessions occupied the rest of her morning, as she negotiated her way through the various committees Naboo was a member of. Few of these meetings held any significance now, or authority for that matter. But to absence herself would only draw attention to her changing loyalties, when so much of her life was too public already.

She returned to the penthouse at Five Hundred Republica for a late luncheon, to find Anakin Skywalker wandering about the living room.

"Ani, what are doing here?" she asked. "Shouldn't you be at the Temple?"

"I should be meditating," he replied, coming to a halt before her. "But I can't find my centre."

She took a moment to observe him, silently contrasting the dark Jedi robes to those her husband wore, their characters, their manners. In many ways they were so similar, and yet so different. Both of them carried many burdens for the Republic, one believing it no trouble at all, the other wishing another could take his place. Doubtless Anakin wished he could take place of him in her heart. There was a reason why she rarely saw him when she was carrying Cordé, and it was not the war.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" She asked. "Obi-Wan taught me some of the basic principles. It helps us."

Anakin flinched the moment she mentioned his name. "Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea." He moved to go.

She caught his flesh wrist, preventing him. "Ani, what have I said?"

"It's just, I can't stand to see you like this," he confessed. "Quick with his child." Carefully he ran his other hand through his hair. "I know that I should, but I can't."

Padmé couldn't say anything to that, only squeeze his hand and look at him in sympathy. They were all too aware that their marriage had done nothing to alter the young Knight's feelings for her, though they had hoped that in time he would come to realise the difference between love and obsession. The true measure concerning attachment within Code.

"I'm sorry," Anakin sighed. "I just - I feel like I'm in free fall. Free fall in the dark. I don't know which is up. I don't know where I'll be when I land. Or crash." He shut his eyes, attempting to prevent the tears which leaked through, but even so, a few escaped. "I think it's going to be a crash."

She wanted to reach up and stroke his cheek. She was tactile in her friendships, it was her way, but she knew that the gesture would wound him, for she represented all that was forbidden to him. So she could only squeeze his hand again, prompting him to reopen his eyes.

"You should tell someone," She advised. "Qui-Gon. Master Yoda. I'm sure if they knew the truth, they'd grant you leave, away from all this."

"I don't know of any place where I could go to make things seem clearer." Anakin replied. "Except the past. Things were possible then." He looked at her.

Padmé met his gaze steadily, remembering the many times during her marriage, when Obi-Wan was away, even when he was only in another room, that Anakin had alluded to this hope of his. Now, as before, she said to him what she always said.

"Ani, I do care for you. But I don't believe that being your wife instead of Obi-Wan's would have changed the conflict inside you. That is something only you can resolve."

"If I could just save you from my nightmares," he murmured.

"That is not the root of your anxieties," she replied.

"Perhaps not, but it would help me choose which side to be on," he confessed, causing her to worry.

She let go of his hand and moved to sit down. "Why do you need to choose a side? Ani, you have a duty to the Order, to the Republic."

"The Republic is changing," he remarked. "So is the Order. You have to know this."

"I know that everything that was good about it is being destroyed before our eyes," she murmured, her gaze drifting from him to the view her penthouse carried of the Temple. The gracefully sculpted building dominated the skyline in view, not because of the power which walked within it's walls, but because of the beauty with which it was designed. The symbol of justice and democracy. Of hope. "I know who's responsible for it," she added, careful not to compromise what she knew. "I just wish there was enough evidence to convict."

"Who is it?" He asked her, suddenly the eager, desperate boy he had been when they were imprisoned on Geonosis. "Padmé, I must know."

She turned to him, and in her mind, heard not just his plea, but that of the Force. It was beckoning her to reply. When she spoke, it was the ancient being's words she used, her voice its vessel. "You know in your heart who it is, Ani. Now you just have to accept it."

Light years away, Obi-Wan shut himself off in his assigned quarters of the assault cruiser, away from the noise of the clone battalions, the beeping of the flight droids, even that of Artoo, in the company of everything except the Force. He sank into its embrace, letting the waves surround him utterly, bathing him in comfort. It was too long since he meditated, so long that he struggled to recall the occasion when Qui-Gon asked him. But it was not so hard that he experienced difficulty in finding his centre.

Yoda was the first one to teach him the art of communing with the Force, when he knew nothing of the world but the Temple, and the beings within in. A precocious crechling, curious to the point of reckless, so mischievous that he had a reputation for pranks which even Anakin, with all his tinkering with the kitchen droids and a certain Grand Master's gimmer stick, had never surpassed. But when he was with Yoda he was calm, willing to listen to what the Force willed of him. Now, older, perhaps wiser, he let it come into his mind, and answered it's silent request.

To possess the Unifying Force was to experience a certain perceived view of the future. In motion though it always was, some outcomes were limited, actions predictable. His mind would receive a vision of the future, similar to Anakin's nightmares, except that these were never a product of his worse fears. Appearances, as he had often learned, could deceive, as would visions. It was a concept which he tried to teach Anakin without success.

He saw a planet of sinkholes, containing droids and clones, battle lines drawn. Animalistic sounds and smells permeated the senses, the cry of a mystical beast, faithful to the last, even at the expense of her life.

The smell of blood, the stench that belonged to death.

Suddenly a cry broke through the silence of his mind, as though a thousand voices had cried out all at once and were suddenly silenced.

A single shot of blaster fire. He was free falling, to where he knew not. Waves of water broke the crash, protecting his body, saving his life.

Beeping paved his escape. Stars flew past his troubled brow. An ancient voice calmed the chaos in his mind, a sweet one the sorrow clawing at his heart.

Flames licked at his vision. Death stalked sacred halls, destroying the peace forever.

Betrayal. A nasty word, it hung on their lips.

You were my brother, I loved you.....

The last was familiar, he'd seen it first twenty-two months ago. His love lying upon a surgical table, her eyes forever closed. Something small touched his cheek, encountering hot wet tears of grief.

Everything dies, Padawan. Even the stars burn out.

The Force was speaking to Padmé. Never before had she felt such urgency, such need for her to obey or else fear the consequences.

She left her apartment and sequestered a hovercar, guiding the vehicle through the constant flow of traffic until she reached the window of the Chancellor's office. Just as she pulled along side, the transparisteel broke, causing her to crouch to protect herself from harm as the fragments shot past.

When the sky was clear, she looked up to see the figure of Mace Windu holding the Chancellor at saber point. The sight was no surprise to her, for she knew that they had traced the evidence regarding the Sith to the apartment complex in which Palpatine's residence, along with many of the Senate, including her own, was. She'd suspected his motives for a while, and though now to have her suspicions confirmed was still a shock, there was also a sense of clarity and understanding, in everything from the origin of the wars to the Separatists, to the Trade Federation blockading her world. From the beginning, this was his insidious scheme, to cement his rise to power.

Blue lightning crackled between them, generated by the Force she recalled, remembering when her husband recounted to her his ability to deflect it from Count Dooku on Geonosis. She wondered how he was doing, if he had defeated General Grievous. Palpatine looked frail, as if the lightning had aged the life out of him. He looked to be the victim of a Jedi's fall, but she remembered what Obi-Wan told her; appearances can deceive.

The lightning intensified, and suddenly Mace's lightsaber came flying towards her, the purple blade shutting off due to the internal mechanical inbuilt safeties within the hilt. Padmé adjusted the hovercar to catch the weapon, only noticing then when it landed on the floor between the front and rear seats that the wielder's hand was still attached. The wound did not bleed, another blade had cauterised it.

But Palpatine carried no blade.

She returned to the transparisteel, just in time to see Mace collapse and fall under the Chancellor's abruptly re-energised attack. Again she used the craft to catch him, and he landed in the seat alongside her.

To her surprise he recovered fast, cradling his severed limb in the long sleeves of his battle worn cloak. "We have to get to the Temple."

Padmé did not object with the offer of the med centre, knowing that the Temple healers could perform miracles, as well as being discreet. The Chancellor would put his own spin on this, Mace's life would not be worth the reputation he garnered if they sought the aid of Coruscant's med centre.

She increased the speed and weaved her way through the traffic until they arrived at the gracefully sculpted building, all the while listening as Mace recounted what took place inside the Supreme Chancellor's office. To her surprise, her reaction was calm, composed, even. The news she feared once confirmed did not make her clumsy in her actions, or cause her to crash before they arrived at the Temple.

She grabbed his dismembered hand and then helped him out of the vehicle, keeping an even pace with him until they reached the healer's ward, behind the safety of the Ysalamiri barrier.

"Evacuate the Temple," he ordered her as the healers surrounded him and began to work. "The younglings first and their crechers. Now that we've failed to catch him, the Chancellor will be after every Jedi."

Padmé obeyed, hurrying to the communications room. Giving the precoded order to evacuate, she also sent out a distress code to all the active Jedi, warning them to come back to the Temple at their own risk, and advising them to meet the evacuates at the designated coordinates for the sanctuary planet. The code was dependent on a unique answer from every warrior, a precaution assigned to them after Geonosis.

By the time she saw the first ships depart from the docking area, Mace joined her, his arm in a stasis sling, a mechanised protective bacta bracelet before the flesh of his hand.

"You must come with us, Padmé," he urged.

"I can't," she replied. "The Chancellor will summon the Senate. If I'm not there he'll know something is wrong."

Mace nodded. "Be careful of Anakin, he's no longer himself."

"I know, somehow, I felt it," she murmured, astonished at her calm reaction to what should be a sad and shocking revelation. "I'll attend the Senate, then wait for Obi-Wan. He'll want to find me first."

Mace nodded. "When you're both safe, join us at the coordinates. May the Force be with you."

"And with you," Padmé added, before walking away. To her surprise Mace followed her. "What are you doing?"

"It has to appear that nothing has changed," Mace replied. "That the Jedi were caught unawares. I will prepare things, then leave. I promise."

Padmé returned to her apartment, and spent time at her desk, alerting the members of the Cantham House Committee, contacting Captain Typho to ready her ship for immediate departure. When she entered the living area, her gaze instinctively checking on Cordé and her handmaiden, her brown eyes caught a whisper of flames, and she turned, to see that the Temple was on fire.

Rosy smoke clouded the morning mist, shrouding the slender, slowly crumbling towers. Her hand flew to her mouth, even as her rational mind urged for calm.

A speeder materialised out of the smoke, its rider cutting through the traffic at a speed, recklessness twinge with urgency. Standing still, she watched it as the craft came to an abrupt stop at her balcony dock, the owner finally visible.

She turned to her handmaiden. "Dormé, I need you to decoy for me. There's someone who might come by here, and I don't want them to know that I'm gone."

"Of course, milady," Dormé replied, rising from the floor.

"No of courses, this will be dangerous. If he suspects, even for a moment..."

Her handmaiden's gaze was steadfast. "I won't let you down, milady. I promise."

"Thank you," Padmé knelt to gather her first born from the floor. "Cordé, my heart. We have to go on a little trip with Uncle Bail."

"Daddy," she uttered, her big blue eyes fixed on her mother, reddish blonde curls dancing about her head.

Padmé nodded as she exited the apartment for the Senatorial docking ring on the floor below. "Yes, we're going to see your father."

The icy water shocked him into full awareness, lapping against Obi-Wan's eyes as he risked a glance at his surroundings. Blackness met his blue grey pupils, giving no indication of how deep underwater he might be, or even in which direction lay the surface. Liquid coiled within his lungs, threatening to choke him, yet he paid it no mind.

Relying on the discipline of his vocation, he called his hand to clip the lightsaber hilt which it feverishly gripped to the belt around his sodden tunic, then forced the water from his lungs. A moment's splutter later, and his other hand fetched the emergency breathing device from his waist, putting the device to his lips before he started to swim in the direction which the Force willed of him.

The vision had given him warning, but not preparation. He recalled the sound of the blaster shot, aimed for a direct kill. Boga jumping clear as the ricochet triggered an series of explosions in the rock face, the animal knowing instinctively of the betrayal which the Force attempted to warn him about. She protected him, at the cost of her life.

Obi-Wan mourned her for a moment, then let the grief leave him, just as he should. He focused on the here and now, the journey towards the surface, trying not to think about the rest of his vision.

Trying to ignore the end which the Force presented him with.

Breaking the surface, his fingers sought and found purchase to climb the rest of the way out of the well. He emerged into a grotto, negotiating his way past the creature which it housed, out to the bright light of a docking bay. A very familiar docking bay as it turned out, the one where he defeated Grievous. The remains of the general still littered the deck, along with the starfighter which belonged to that enemy, and a squat blue and white droid, who answered to the designation of R2D2.

"Artoo, what are you doing here?" he asked softly. "I thought I left you with my ship."

His wife's faithful little droid beeped a reply which sounded half way between a reprimand for being ordered to do precisely that and doubting he would abandon him when he was under strict instructions from his mistress to watch over him.

"Well, in that case, I'm very grateful to see you safe and alive, my old friend," Obi-Wan replied. "Now, I don't suppose you can fit in that ship, can you? I think it's the only transport out of here which won't be fired on."

Artoo beeped a passable mimicry of Yoda's 'size matters not,' before trundling towards the craft. Opening one of his blue panels that were arranged across his midsection, he produced his little saw, and firing his booster rockets, created a hole within the craft, directly behind the cockpit, to which he secured himself in, and began speaking to the ship's computer.

Obi-Wan took a last glance at his surroundings, then leapt into the cockpit, taking the starfighter out of Utapau's planetfall so fast he broke the gravity well and made the jump to hyperspace before the Vigilance could even launch its fighters. Jump after jump carried him further and further from the Outer Rim, until he felt safe enough to risk communications.

"You know," he commented to Artoo, "integral hyperspace capability is rather useful in a starfighter; why don't we have it yet?"

The droid's reply scrolled across the viewscreen before him; to keep the Order in line. Not only a quip, but also far too close to the truth for Obi-Wan's liking.

"Do we have anything from the Core?" he asked.

Recall code, Artoo replied. All Jedi to return to the Temple, immediately.

"Order Sixty-six," Obi-Wan murmured, his heart sinking. A part of him had hoped for more warning than this series of coded beeps. It was not to be.

"Emergency Code Nine Thirteen," he said, waiting for the computer to respond.

The silence surrounding the starfighter was deafening.

"Emergency Code Nine Thirteen. This is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Repeat; Emergency Code Nine Thirteen. Are there any Jedi out there?"

Further silence.

"Any Jedi, please. This is Obi-Wan Kenobi declaring a Nine Thirteen Emergency."

His heart sank to the pit of his stomach as the silence became poignant. Artoo beeped sympathetically, trying to offer his master some small comfort, before a sudden burst of static conquered the deathly quietness.

"Please repeat," he uttered, daring to hope. "I'm locking on to your signal. Please repeat."

A scaled down form of a familiar friend appeared in blue holo before him. "Obi-Wan, are you alright? Have you been wounded?"

"No I'm not wounded, Bail," he replied, "but I'm certainly not alright! My clones turned on me. I barely escaped with my life."

"There have been ambushes all over the galaxy."

Obi-Wan bowed his head, mourning for the loss of life, the passing of the Order's twilight into night. "Have you had contact with any other survivors?"

"Only one," Bail Organa replied. "Lock on to my coordinates. He's waiting for you."

His legs started to shake as soon as the booted soles hit the deck of the Tantive's shuttle bay. To put one in front of the other with a measured pace was pure agony, but it was all he could do to keep himself from falling into the shock of grief which crawled at his mind, pulled at his thoughts, and dragged tears from his eyes.

Those blue grey windows to his stricken soul glanced almost feverishly around the gleaming white walls of the ship in an effort to find something, anything to focus his concentration on, to stop his thoughts from dwelling on the dark attachment of grief.

She met him upon the threshold of the corridor to the conference lounge, her form clothed in the dress of her handmaidens, signalling to his fractured mind that she had felt it necessary to employ a decoy. He also saw how evident her pregnancy was with only a flame toned gown to conceal quickened swollen flesh instead of the layers of Senatorial garb.

Her glorious henna hair cascaded freely down her back in coils of small curls, crowning a youthful face which when whitened once ruled a whole system. Now it reigned over his heart and he surrendered to her compassionate gaze, allowing her to enfold him into her open arms, pulling him close.

He pressed his face into her hair, swamping his senses in that sweet smell, forcing his weight not to press on hers for she carried not only their children but the future of the Order. He tried to ignore that, for it only served to remind him of the death sentence in the number Sixty-six. To remember that they were warned, but it happened anyway. Thousands of Jedi wiped out with a single command, betrayed by the Republic they once served.

"Remember," she whispered in his ear, her soft lips brushing the cold skin, chilled by recent events, "appearances can deceive."

He drew back, thinking she meant herself, but she shook her head, before telling him what she did to rescue Mace from his encounter with Lord Sidious. Palpatine, the Sith Master. Frightening how suddenly everything that was mysterious about the past thirteen years, from the Blockade of Naboo to the Clone Wars made sense in the knowledge that the Chancellor was behind it.

He almost collapsed when she went on to tell him about the evacuation of the Temple, managed by her and Mace, before she left the sacred building and the Korun Master while he remained behind to employ a deception planned for precisely this moment.

"What about him?" He asked, his voice hoarse as if from overuse.

"Mace promised me he would leave," she replied.

Obi-Wan shook his head, for he knew something which might make the Korun Master change his mind and stay.

A promise he had been asked to fulfil.

"Where's Cordé?" He inquired, his Force sense too occupied in striving to keep himself upright, and in staving off the shock to properly focus on sensing the whereabouts of their precious daughter.

"Breha's amusing her in the conference lounge," Padmé answered, "along with Bail and Master Yoda."

"He fetched her?" Obi-Wan sought to confirm. The Queen of Alderaan rarely left her planet, indicating that something serious must have occurred.

"Bail wasn't sure what happened until he saw me," Padmé explained. "He witnessed a Padawan trying to fight off the clones outside the burning Temple. He flew away to fetch us, then we made planetfall on Alderaan before going to Kashyyyk." She smiled, though her brown eyes were glassy with unshed tears. "She needs the practice."

Obi-Wan understood, his mouth opened in a brief gasp of surprise. Fumbling, his hand found hers, and they walked down the corridor to the Conference Lounge.

"Daddy," Cordé cried, rising up from her place on the floor to embrace her father.

Summoning more strength, he bent down to pick her up, pressing her rosy cheeks to his lips in a silent greeting. Holding her about her small waist, he took the proffered hand of the other Queen in the lounge with his free one and raised it to his lips. "Your Highness."

"None, of that, Master Kenobi," Breha motioned. She gestured to the empty seats. "Let us all be equals here. Titles have little importance now."

He sank down on to a chair, Padmé taking one beside him. Cordé lay subdued against his chest, her sensitive Force abilities realising the need for quiet.

"Heard from no one we have," Master Yoda began, confirming to Obi-Wan the dreadful news that all of those Jedi stationed in the field were probably one with the Force, cut down by their own troops, the gravest betrayal of command.

"What of the beacon?" he asked. "Mace wouldn't have encoded the recall command."

"He didn't," Padmé informed them. "He ordered me to send out the coordinates for the Sanctuary, encoded to each Jedi's own private channel."

"Responsible for the recall, someone else is," Yoda concluded.

"It's clear what we have to do then," Obi-Wan remarked, "there may be those who did not receive the first message."

"What are you saying?" Bail asked, the ends of his mouth drawn downwards to his elegant goatee.

"I'm saying, we have to go back to Coruscant," Obi-Wan replied.

"It's too dangerous," Bail cautioned, "the whole planet is a trap."

"Yes. We - ah," Obi-Wan choked back the name of his brother, for a dangerous truth coiled in the pit of his stomach. "I have a policy on traps."

Part 34: Chiaroscuro.

"There's something you must know," Padmé said after the door closed behind him, giving them privacy in one of the Tantive's living quarters.

"If it's about Anakin, I know already," Obi-Wan replied, dropping his mask of Jedi serenity to show that the grief of losing thousands of Jedi, among them many of his friends and including his former apprentice, still affected him. "I felt his death in the Force."

Padmé froze at that statement, before ushering him into the nearest chair. Obi-Wan watched her bewildered as she wandered about the room, methodically checking inside the sideboards made from Alderaanian Kiirn, their polished dark wine services a remarkable contrast to the stunning white walls of durasteel. He said nothing as her search soon appeared to prove fruitful, as she produced a bottle of fine Alderaanian brandy and two glasses, which she placed on the table before him, pouring a large snifter into each. Obi-Wan didn't ask her the obvious question, waiting for her to be the one who would break the silence.

She took a seat beside him, and slowly, in a quiet voice, told him everything that Mace told her, regarding the events in Palpatine's office. As denial gave way to acceptance, he found himself taking a sip from the glass, conveyed by hands which shook so much he feared for the stability of the cylindrical crystal structure.

Carefully, he lowered the glass back to the surface of the table, before letting his face fall into the comforting embrace of his arms. He barely felt her fingers reach for his, the shock numbing senses.

"I should have let them shoot me," he murmured, insensible of everything within his life but that of the failure which he had just learned. "No. That was already too late. It was already too late on Geonosis. The Zabrak on Naboo, I should have died there.... before I ever brought him to Coruscant -"

"Obi-Wan, no," Padmé gently pried his hands away from his face, forcing his eyes to look into hers. "You did not make him fall. Not you, or Qui-Gon, or the Council, or the Order. Or me. This was his choice."

"Was it?" he asked her, his voice suddenly hoarse. "He had him from the moment he stepped off that ship. 'We shall watch your career with great interest.' He meant every word. And more besides."

"I can't deny Palpatine manipulated him," Padmé replied. "But it was Ani's choice. There were many occasions when he could have listened to your teachings, but he chose not to do so."

"How can you take this so calmly?" He asked her.

She smiled at him, slightly. "I've had several hours in hyperspace to get my head together." Her hand squeezed his. "If you had died on Naboo, he would have had Anakin much sooner, and the consequences would have been dire."

"They're dire now," Obi-Wan pointed out. "It is no comfort to know that I have only delayed his fall."

"Is it one to remind you that if you had died, we wouldn't here having this conversation? That we wouldn't have our daughter, who is playing with Breha and Bail right now? Or the twins growing inside me?" She paused to let him take that in before adding, "and if you listened to the Force, to what you showed me only days ago, you would realise that he hasn't turned completely. There is still good in him."

"What are you saying?" He asked her.

"You can turn him back."

The first thing which they noticed when the Tantive docked on Coruscant was the clone troopers which guarded certain Senatorial ships. Fang Zar's and Tundra Dowmeia's crafts bore all the regalia of impoundment, causing a moment of nerves as they waited for a pair of troopers to post themselves by their boarding ramp, and a sigh of relief when nothing occurred.

"How do you want to play this?" Bail asked as they prepared to disembark.

"We'll escort you to the Senate," Obi-Wan replied, for an emergency session had been declared, calling all Senators back to the Core. "After that we'll go to the Temple. Then our next move will be to take down the Sith. After that -" he broke off, for no one knew what would happen then.

Padmé was the only one disguised as the four of them stepped from the turbolift to the level for the Convocation entrance, which was also guarded, but that was the norm from the earliest days of the Senate's inception. Her hood was raised over her hair, her quickening hidden by additional layers of handmaiden garb, ones used to hide just such an expectation. She kept her eyes lowered as they came to a halt before the two guards, who seemed under the impression that they were in line for a promotion for capturing her husband and the Grand Master of the Order who stood behind her and Bail.

"Welcome back, Senator," one said. "May I see your clearance?"

Bail presented his identichip, which was given the usual cursory examination.

"Thank you, you may proceed," the guard returned the identichip, then turned to the beings behind the Senator. "We will take custody of the Jedi."

"May be it would be better if we remained with the Senator," Obi-Wan murmured, his hand in a pose which Padmé remembered seeing from their day in Mos Espa, when he brought her the purple necklace that lay beneath her gown.

"That seems reasonable," the guard agreed.

"Thank you," Obi-Wan uttered. "May the Force be with you, Bail. Milady."

Padmé entered the Convocation chamber without looking back, for she knew that Yoda and her husband were already gone.

Even now, the Temple was still guarded, as every clone began the laborious task of identifying the dead and checking their names against Temple records. More were posted to every entrance to keep a helmet visor out for any Jedi who dared to respond to that recall code.

However, none of them knew about the entrance and exit reserved for those of the Cantham House Committee.

Obi-Wan and Yoda stepped inside cautiously, lightsabers unignited but at the ready, just in case something emerged from the shadows.

And one voice did just that.

"You broke your promise."

Obi-Wan turned and faced the source of the words, still within darkness. "I never made one to you. I only made one to him."

"You said that you would not leave his side at the end."

"I promised to obey his last wishes," Obi-Wan replied. "Which I have."

Mace Windu stepped out of the shadows, his face grim as he stared at his fellow colleague, the once padawan of his old friend. He sighed, a small breath of grief escaping his mouth. "I did not want him to go like that."

"Neither did I," Obi-Wan confessed, lowering his head to study the well trod floor. "But it was his choice, and I respected it." He raised his blue grey eyes once more, the relative darkness around them hiding the glassy quality which unshed tears added. "He is one with the Force, as many others are today."

"And the victim of Sidious' new apprentice," Mace remarked, bringing another grim expression, this time to all of the Master's present.

"I know," Obi-Wan remarked, quietly. "Padmé told me. We need to change the recall code, and then I need to see the internal surveillance records."

"Seeing will only cause you pain," Master Yoda reminded him.

"Then it is pain I have earned," Obi-Wan replied, remembering his rather less composed reaction onboard the Tantive in hyperspace. "I am not afraid of it."

He stepped away, leading them towards the communications room, but he did not miss the last words Yoda spoke.

"You should be."

Bail and Padmé slipped into the rear of Naboo's delegation Senate Pod, taking the seats beside where Dormé, in all the trappings of Senator Amidala, sat, listening to the speech coming from the seat of the Supreme Chancellor.

"These Jedi murderers left me scarred, left me deformed, but they could not damage my integrity! They could not deform my resolve! The remaining traitors will be hunted down, rooted out wherever they may hide and brought to justice, dead or alive! All collaborators will suffer the same fate. Those who protect the enemy are the enemy! Now is the time! Now we will strike back. Now we will destroy the destroyers! Death to the enemies of democracy!"

Padmé leaned forward. "What's happened?" she asked her decoy in a low whisper, though no one could have heard her over the noise that reigned over the arena, waiting for the Chancellor to continue.

"He's been presenting evidence all afternoon," Dormé replied, her lips cautiously moving to prevent their conversation from being noticed by others who would have cause to query the nature of it. "Not just the assassination attempt. Apparently the Jedi were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the Republic."

Below them the frenzied noise of the arena quietened down as the Chancellor spoke again. Palpatine's features looked as though they had been caught in the middle of a lightning storm, which in a sense, was exactly what happened. "This has been the most trying of times, but we have passed the test. The war is over!"

Senators erupted into cheers of triumph.

"The Separatists have been utterly defeated and the Republic will stand! United! United and free!"

Another explosion of cheers.

Inside the pod belonging to the delegation from Naboo, all occupants were quiet. As were several others in other pods, if one cared to look.

"The Jedi Rebellion was our final test- it was the last gasp of the forces of darkness! Now we have left that darkness behind us forever, and a new day has begun! It is morning in the Republic!"

More cheering.

Padmé stared at the Chancellor, the Sith lord in all his glory, finally free to do what he wanted with his Republic, and murmured three words. "Here it comes."

Bail frowned. "Here what comes?"

"You'll see."

"Never again will we be divided! Never again will sector turn against sector, planet turn against planet, sibling turn again sibling! We are one nation, indivisible!"

Yet more cheering.

"To ensure that we will always stand together, that we will always speak with a single voice, and act with a single hand, the Republic must change. We must evolve. We must grow. We have become an empire in fact, let us become an Empire in name as well! We are the first Galactic Empire!"

Senators broke into an ecstasy of applauds, verbal and physical.

Bail turned to the women beside him in shock. "What are they doing? Do they understand what they're cheering for?"

Padmé and Dormé shook their heads.

"We are an Empire that will be continued to rule by this august body! We are an Empire that will never return to the political manoeuvring and corruption that have wounded us so deeply; we are an Empire that will be directed by a single sovereign, chosen for life! We are an Empire ruled by the majority! An Empire ruled by a new Constitution! An Empire of laws, not of politicians! An Empire devoted to the preservation of a just society! Of a safe and secure society! We are an Empire that will stand ten thousand years!"

No one could stop the cheers now, they were a continuous rumble of noise below the volcano which was the Chancellor's powerful rhetoric, a contrast to his seemingly frail appearance.

"We will celebrate the anniversary of this day as Empire Day! For the sake of our children! For our children's children! For the next ten thousand years! Safety! Security! Justice and Peace! Say it with me! Safety, Security, Justice and Peace!"

The voices of the Senate took up the cry, turning the words into one continuous chant of noise, while those within the pods whose members answered to the Cantham House Committee, sat or stood stunned at the chaos surrounding them.

"So this is how liberty dies," Padmé murmured, so quietly Bail and Dormé could barely hear her. "With thunderous applause."

"We can't let this happen!" Bail cried, rising to his feet. "I have to get to my pod - we could still enter a motion -"

"No." Padmé seized his arm, sheer force of will, or perhaps it was sheer will of the Force holding him down. "No, Bail, you can't enter a motion, you can't! Remember what we saw on the docking bay. Fang Zar has already been arrested, along with Tundra Dowmeia. It won't be long until he hauls every Senatorial member of the Cantham House Committee into the Courts. If you, or any of the others voice your objections now, their lives will not be worth the flimsi it is printed on. That motion will be their death warrant."

"But I can't just stand by and watch-"

"You're right. You can't just watch. You have to vote for him."


"Bail, it is the only way. It is the only hope you have of remaining in a position to do anyone any good. Vote for Palpatine. Vote for the Empire. Make Mon Mothma, Finis Valorum, and Garm Bel Iblis vote for him too. Be good little Senators. Mind your manners and keep your heads down. And keep doing all those things we never talked about here. The time for them will come."

"Padmé," Bail bowed his head in a drawn out sigh. "You have my word, and I'll make the others see reason. But what about you? Are you under suspicion?"

Dormé answered his question. "Palpatine's Representative came to see me last night. According to him, the only reason that the wife of Obi-Wan Kenobi is not under suspicion, is his assurance of her unswerving loyalty to her former Senator."

Bail frowned at the unspoken implications. "If he forces you to do anything, I'll -"

Don't worry about me, Bail," Padmé whispered, her eyes turning towards the podium of their new Emperor, whose yellow sithly eyes seemed to bore into every particle of her soul. "I don't know I'll live that long."

Mace brought him forewarning, indeed he had his own memories regarding another past apprentice to recollect all too well what occurred when one fell, but nothing could have prepared him for the reality. When Xanatos turned, his sithly induced revenge was directed solely at him, Obi-Wan was only caught in the crossfire by virtue of being his successor to the role of Padawan learner. Never before had he occasion to witness a pupil directing their revenge regarding their failures at the entirety of the Order. And hopefully, he would never have to ever again. Hope could be pushed aside, for his illness virtually guaranteed that such a sight would be his last.

Like Xanatos' successor, he could not deny feeling some guilt and responsibility for the fall of his latest and last pupil, for the misery and devastation which was about to be visited on the Jedi in this, their twilight years. Nor could he deny himself a chance to prevent what was about to come, or perhaps just partake in the event, even if the cost was likely to be his own life. Obi-Wan had understood that when he chose to keep his peace as opposed to any objection he might make after he aired such a plan to him before he left for Utapau. However, he was well aware that others, such as his oldest friend, might be more vocal with their opinions and wishes regarding his end. All he could do was hope, as he protested obedience to such directions, secretly planning his mutiny, that in the end, they would also understand.

So he waited until Master Windu was gone from the medical wing, along with the rest of the staff and patients posted there, Kamino clones filing in from the secret Cantham House Committee entrance, where the ship had docked some time ago, unseen by those who would gain a malicious advantage from witnessing such an arrival. His friend was in haste, too conscious of the little time they had with which to spring this last final Sabacc hand into play, to notice that one clone was missing from those assigned to the med bay. He had cancelled the order for his replica during the war, doubting that he would live to see the end this worst case scenario engineered them for. And, like everyone else within the Order, he was about to be proved wrong.

Clones, surveillance, transparisteel panes and he were the only witnesses then to the end of the Jedi Order. He watched through the third of that quartet he chose to become a member of, as the armoured troops bore down the central avenue in a slow, deadly march towards the grand entrance. Their leader at the forefront, darkly cloaked in his usual Jedi apparel, though now those muted shades seemed in hindsight a warning of what was to come. The face was hooded and grim, like a storm on the outskirts, threatening now to burst upon the sunshine and let a hail of judgement rain down.

When he could no longer see the armoured soldiers or their leader, he returned to the medical wing, to wait, like the others there, for his possible end. A part of him was already certain of that outcome, he had seen the reality in his former pupil's face, he knew that there was no escape. Yet the other part, that side of his character which had always rendered him a maverick in the eyes of the Council and the Order, still hoped to achieve the impossible. To bring forth redemption and conquer the Krayt dragon from within.

Unlike his former Padawan, he could not watch how the other clones stationed about the Temple would meet their end. The med bay was stationed away from rest of the Temple, sheltered from the security room and Council chamber, positioned out of the way from the impulsive impetuous curiosity of the young. Instead he could only imagine each shot fired from one of the white armoured clad soldier's blasters, each cut or thrust of the blue lightsaber which should have been red, to properly reflect where the owner's true loyalties now lay. He would not live to see the horror displayed within the surveillance holos, the violence visited on every part of the Order that was currently Temple bound, from the eldest and least able to defend themselves, to the small younglings, too innocent to even comprehend the wealth of revenge their murderer showed them. But his and the clones imaginings were probably the equal when compared with the reality, or perhaps the inferior, a comfort to those whose end would inevitably follow.

Eventually the massacre reached the medical wing, a legion of white armoured clad soldiers firing blasters unknowingly upon their own kind. Order Sixty-six was too broad in its outline to allow for independence in thought; if it looked like a Jedi and fought like a Jedi, then it was to be struck down like the rest of the Jedi, indistinguishable from those they were designed to protect. There was to be no wonder at the lack of Force, for the soldiers were incapable of detecting such sensitivity. One by one, from the staff to the patients, each victim was put to the judgement of their deadly accuracy, the end assured by their engineered desire to be thorough when carrying out their duty.

Their leader arrived while he was still alive, fighting with the best of the staff, defending themselves and those too incapacitated attempt such mutiny to the Empire's judgement. A hood still cloaked his face, concealing none of the anger splayed across it, instead only intensifying the white hot rage of revenge. Yellow eyes glowed within the darkness like the twin suns from his homeworld, casting their deadly heat upon the frail figure of his former Master. For a moment he frowned, as he perhaps sensed the deception being played on him and his battalion, realising the distinction between a clone and the real thing who stood within the midst of them. It was what his teacher had counted on to sway him from his massacre, stop him from falling into the darkness that was the way of the Sith. Until now, it had not occurred to his teacher that it would turn out to be the one thing which would aid that descent.

Anakin Skywalker dove through the mass of slaughtered victims, meeting the fighting form of his former Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. His last sight of him had been a stark contrast to the seemingly vigorous man before him now; pale and sickly in his bed, the debilitating disease within the lastly deathly throes of its mortal torture. Perhaps if that vision of him was repeated, it would have prevented what would happen next, but neither of them would be granted the opportunity to find out. The Force had rewarded them instead with a ending that was bittersweet; one last mortal joust.

"It is fitting that I should find you," Anakin said, his lightsaber at the ready, waiting for the green coloured one belonging to his opponent to make the first strike. "For in our last combat I was the pupil. But now I am the Master."

Qui-Gon would not be provoked. "There is still time, Ani. You can still walk away from this darkness your new Master has swept before you. All you need to do is give me your lightsaber."

"And what?" Anakin scoffed. "Humble myself before Master Yoda like a misbehaved youngling? I have listened to his judgements for the last time. I will not allow myself to be enslaved to you and your kind again."

"Enslaved?" Qui-Gon echoed. "Anakin, it is Palpatine who is the enslaver, not us! He would bind you to the darkness, force you to commit atrocities darker than any revenge you have ever visited before. You cannot allow your past to cloud your memories of being a Jedi, or it will doom you forever."

"How dare you accuse him!" Anakin thundered back. "He is the only one who has ever listened, the only one who truly showed me support. All you and your kind could do was to deny me the full power I held over any member of the Order."

"Power is not what a Jedi craves," Qui-Gon countered. "We seek only a deeper understanding of the Force. Do not cast a judgement on us that should be directed at the Sith, the kind to which your new Master belongs, and calls you to join."

"I knew it would be a mistake speaking to you," Anakin uttered in deadly finality. "I will not stand and hear more of your lies."

What followed next was a flurry of saber clashes, prophesied Chosen One verses the Maverick, a duel to the death. Around them desert shaded clones littered the battlefield, the white armour clad ones moving on to other parts of the Temple, leaving Jedi and Sith to defend and battle against their deeper philosophies. The outcome was inevitable, for the righteous was never assured of victory when illness threatened to conquer him. Blue laid waste to green, gaining first the advantage then the victory.

Obi-Wan saw Qui-Gon meet his end bravely, as he had always desired to from the moment he learned of his mortal diagnosis, then reached forward to turn the surveillance holo off, too sickened by grief and guilt to be able to watch any more.

He was waiting for her, in the shadow of the cockpit of their skiff, his arms folded against his chest, his features grief stricken. Without a word she motioned to her decoy to aid Captain Typho in preparing the skiff for departure, then joined her husband in the darkness.

Opening his arms, he drew her into an embrace, similar to one they had shared years ago, when she was carrying their firstborn. Cordé was still with Breha aboard the Tantive, which would leave for Alderaan soon, via Naboo. It was too dangerous for her to travel with her parents, who would not be arriving on Naboo for some time.

During the journey to the Core they had planned to leave Coruscant for good, knowing the Sith would not allow them to survive, even at the request of Anakin, that's if it even occurred to him to ask. They would clear out the Senatorial penthouse residence and leave for Naboo, then hide themselves at the Jedi Sanctuary until the plans were in place to overthrow Palpatine's schemes.

But first they would talk to Anakin.

"How was it?" she asked him, looking up from her place of rest against his comforting warm brown cloak.

"Harder than I thought it would be," he replied, referring to the plan the Council decided on when they learned of Order Sixty-six. It was two fold; involving the secret construction of a sanctuary Temple on a previously deserted planet in the Outer Rim, and, in the event of an attack upon the Coruscant Temple, evacuation of the Jedi stationed there, who would be replaced by clones, engineered only for death.

A hard decision for the Council to reach agreement on, and one even harder for Obi-Wan to see through to conclusion, as he and Yoda inspected the bodies to confirm what Mace already knew; cause of death by lightsaber. The Clones were good, the best that Kamino could supply, with a only a residual sense of the Force ability which their originals possessed. No one wanted copies of themselves able to defeat storm troopers or even a Sith, but the resemblance was hard to accept, almost as hard as the knowledge that one of their own had put them to death.

Anakin had fallen to the dark side. Just as he had murdered those Tusken Raiders in revenge for the death of his mother, so had he murdered those at the Temple, for what motive Obi-Wan could only guess at. It was not all his fault, there were many who felt a sense of guilt for this, and in light of what was concealed from him, there was a chance that he could be redeemed, though Obi-Wan would have never believed it of any one before. The new Emperor had manipulated him into doing this, and the Jedi were clones.

Save one. And that one troubled Obi-Wan.

When he agreed to witness Qui-Gon's request that he die with the all the dignity of a Jedi Master, in defence of the Force, he had hoped that his former Master would survive an attack on the Temple. He had hoped Anakin would not stoop to kill someone he regarded as a mentor and a father. And that hope remained in his heart, until he heard Mace's voice after he entered the Temple. Until he saw Qui-Gon's body, in the smoking remains of the Healer's Ward, positioned as though he fell defending with the clones of the Healers. Did Anakin even give him a chance to speak and reason? No one, not even the holo he forced himself to watch could answer that, for such words held the ability to linger within the mind long after they had been spoken, perhaps serving to provoke reflection and change, save for the young fallen Knight himself, another motive for confronting him.

"Anakin," he remarked, before breaking off to correct himself, even though it hurt to utter the new title Palpatine had bestowed on him, "Vader, is on Mustafar. Ordered to take care of the Separatist leaders." He paused to look at his wife steadily, preparing himself for what he was about to voice. "Padmé, I don't think you should come with me."

"Why not?" she asked, looking back at him with a slight frown, as if to remind him that they had been through this during the journey here, Senator verses the Negotiator, the former winning the debate, as she reasoned and cajoled him into taking her with him, despite his reservations in light of her condition and what Anakin might do when confronted with something else another of the Order had denied him.

"Mustafar is hardly the best planet for you to be seeing in your condition," he replied, knowing what she would say, but needing to voice his concern all the same.

"We've been through this, Obi-Wan," Padmé reminded him. "I am pregnant, not an invalid." She saw him flinch at that word, and immediately, she understood why he was so reluctant. "Oh. Qui-Gon."

"Yes," he confirmed. "Why did I think Ani would never commit such a deed? I should have refused his request, have Mace take him out of there, kicking and screaming."

"Mace doesn't blame you, does he?" Padmé asked, relieved to see him shake his head in a resounding negative.

"No, but he was angry that I agreed and left him no explanation." Obi-Wan sighed, releasing part of the emotions he felt into the Force as he did. Not all, he wasn't ready for that, nor had he truly begun to deal with them either. That would come later, after he talked to Anakin. He turned back to his wife. "If I can't stop you from coming, will you at least promise me to step back if you feel yourself in danger? And if you feel he is in danger."

"I promise," Padmé replied, quietly and seriously, without a hint of a silent plan to interpret his request in a certain way.

Obi-Wan said nothing, but bent his head and pressed his lips to hers, a brief vow taken before they clasped hands and ascended the boarding ramp.

Part 35: Ordæl bi fyr.

The trip to Mustafar was quiet, too quiet. Before they left Coruscant they dismissed Dormé and Typho to the Tantive, charging them with the care of Cordé until, Force willing, they arrived on Naboo. As they journeyed from the Core to the Outer Rim, sitting side by side in the cockpit of the sleek Nubian skiff with only Artoo for backup, the silence threatened to overwhelm them. Yet none of them would break it, and nor did they feel that they could. It was the calm before the storm that would face them on that fiery, volcanic planet, and an ominous calm at that.

Obi-Wan's eyes fixed on their violent surroundings the moment the ship left hyperspace. Landing, even on such a precarious planet as this was child's play when one had the Force to guide them; he did not need his sight, only his senses. The former was liable to deceive oneself, however unintentionally. Before those blue green grey pupils lay the fire that was Mustafar, and he could not help but feel that it was an appropriate setting for the trial ahead of them. He may have pleaded with Mace and Yoda to face the Emperor, but it was only a show, and he hoped they had not seen it as such. He needed to talk with Anakin, reason with him before he fell too far to come back. He may not have believed in the possibility of redemption before, but now he had to, for Anakin's sake.

He would do what he must, for all their sakes.

Padmé turned to him, her tanned flight suit emphasising every curve of her quickening, reminding him once again of the dangers for her upon this planet. But he knew that she stood a better chance of reasoning with Anakin first. Her sweet voice always managed to soothe him into serenity before his, or Qui-Gon's, or meditation ever could. Anakin would only be angry if he saw them together, a reminder to his fevered mind of something which he could never have.

Wordlessly she lay a hand on his bearded chin, the caress serving as a reminder to him of her promise. Then she rose from her seat and left the cockpit.

He turned to watch her go, before sinking into the embrace of the Force, fixing his focus on her signature, waiting for the moment that ancient being would tell him to follow. He had served the being faithfully till now, and he must continue, else betray the teachings by giving into the dangerous fear he had warned his pupil against in vain.

Outside Padmé came to a halt before the once young Knight who had run so confidently towards her, with open arms, expecting an embrace. There was nothing of the youth who strove to gain her love in him, or of the little boy who once proclaimed that he would marry her. Only a Krayt dragon, barely contained, threatening to howl.

"Ani," she uttered in a voice of such despair which brought him to a breathless halt, which seemed to speak through his body into the depths of his soul like a lance. "What have you done?"

"I have saved you," he replied, confused. "Saved you from my nightmare."

"This is my nightmare," she informed him sadly. "The death of the Republic. You killing innocents, Separatists, Jedi,...." her voice choked as she realised once more the risk to the twins she carried inside her. "Younglings."

A frown of disappointment settled upon his face. "It needed to die. And those were clones. The Jedi lied to me. They always lied to me."

"So did you to them," she countered. "From the very beginning you concealed that fear I still see inside you. That inability to loose those you claim to love."

The frown deepened. "You've been spending too much time with him. I conquered that fear. And I have become more powerful than any Jedi. Any Sith. I am strong enough to save you, to save our Empire."

Padmé couldn't believe what she was hearing. "Our Empire?"

"Yes. Let Palpatine call himself Emperor. Let him. He can do the dirty work, all the messy, brutal oppression it'll take to unite the galaxy forever, unite it against him. He'll make himself into the most hated man in history. And when the time is right, we'll throw him down. We'll be heroes. The whole galaxy will love us and we will rule. Together."

"No, Ani," Padmé shook her head, despair coating her body as it coated her sweet voice. "It was never about power. You still have so much to learn. You're doing the dirty work, the brutal oppression. He's made you his apprentice. His slave. And he will never give you what you want, for it is not his to give. Or is it yours. There is no need for you to save me, unless you kill me yourself."

He shook his head, the frown disappearing, or perhaps settling deeper inside him. "I would never do that. I love you. And with him gone you can be mine."

"You're wrong," Padmé added. "I'm not yours. I was never yours. Or Obi-Wan's. Never anyone's. Possession is never love."

Anakin turned his head from her, a clear sign that he was tired of this conversation. "I don't want to hear any more. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me."

"I don't know you anymore," Padmé replied, slowly backing away, towards the ship. "You're going down a path I can't follow."

His eyes went from hers, staring over her shoulder, and she knew her husband had sensed her distress and was emerging from the cover of the ship to protect her from the Sith who faced her now. "Because of Obi-Wan?"

She would not flinch. She would stand her ground until he tried to take it from her. "Because of what you've done. What you plan to do."

"Liar," Anakin threw the insult harshly back at her. "You're with him. You brought him here to kill me."

"No, I brought him to talk with you," Padmé corrected. "To bring you back."

"LIAR!" His rage surged, almost beyond control.

"Padmé," her husband's beloved Coruscanti accent caressed the distance between them, calm even in the face of such deadly anger. "Move away from him. He's not who we thought he would be. He will harm you."

"I would thank you for this," Anakin remarked, every word almost spat from his mouth in spiteful, pride laced, contempt, "if it were a gift of love. Palpatine was right. Sometimes it is the closest who cannot see. I loved you too much, Padmé." Anakin's flesh hand closed into a fist, settling an invisible Force chain around her little neck. "I loved you too much to see you. To see you for what you are."

Padmé could not respond.

She had no breath left to speak.

Anakin was choking the air from her.

"Let her go, Anakin."

Anakin was deaf to her facial plea, and to the verbal one which belonged to her husband, and the one which belonged to the Light of the Force.

His grip continued to tighten.

Obi-Wan's voice dropped to match the steel blue ice of his eyes. "Let. Her. Go."

Finally, Anakin obeyed. She fell to the durasteel, gently and silently, as if her body was a petal falling from a flower. Obi-Wan watched her go, then faced her attacker. "Anakin, what have you done?"

The young apprentice was unrepentant. "You turned her against me."

Obi-Wan replied with the truth. "You have done that yourself."

Anakin let his cloak fall to the floor, his gloved hand twitching menacingly towards his lightsaber. "You will not take her from me."

Obi-Wan took off his own, letting the dark brown fall to duracete floor, unveiling the lighter shades beneath. "Your anger and your lust for power have already done that." He stepped away from the boarding ramp, keeping his eyes on Anakin, who circled past Padmé towards the skiff. "You have allowed this dark lord to twist your mind until now. Until now you have become the very thing you swore to destroy."

"Don't lecture me, Obi-Wan. I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the dark side as you do."

He turned his back, giving Obi-Wan a chance to kneel down and check on his wife. His hand went to her face, a loving caress upon the soft skin of her cheek, his finger length reaching to the pulse point below. It was thin and erratic. Quickly he dipped into the Force, and gave her some of the healing techniques he learned from those at the Temple, when Qui-Gon was first diagnosed. Her borderline sensitivity, enhanced by the twins inside her, met his own one bravely, almost defiantly in the face of the trauma visited upon her body. His hope renewed by such a sign, he rose to his feet, ready once more to visit the justice of the Force upon the Sith who cast her down.

Anakin continued with his attempt to justify his atrocity. "I have brought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new Empire."

"Your new Empire?" Obi-Wan echoed the words with incredulity. "Anakin, my allegiance is to democracy. Not the dictatorship which comes from treachery or the spending of innocent blood."

Anakin sighed in disappointment at his response. "Don't make me kill you. I'll give you a chance, for old times sake. Walk away. Go some place out of the way. Retire. Meditate. That's what you like, isn't it? You don't have to fight for peace anymore. Peace is here. My Empire is peace."

"Did you say that to Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan asked him. "Did you even allow his words to be heard? To reason against the lies your new Master spoke? Or did you just cut him down, along with the rest of those in the Temple?"

"He was a clone," Anakin replied simply. "They were all clones. You lied to me."

"Yes, they were clones. Yes, I and the Council concealed that from you. We had to, because of your relationship with the Chancellor. Your new Master." Obi-Wan let go of the disgust he felt in accepting those words. "But Qui-Gon wasn't a clone. If you had acted as you should have done, you would have realised that." He glanced down at his wife. "This is between you and me, Anakin. Let her go back on to the ship. She needs medical attention."

"She stays. You don't get to take her anywhere." The words shot like blaster blots from his mouth. "You don't get to touch her. She's mine, do you understand? It's your fault, all of it. You made her betray me."

"Anakin," Obi-Wan sighed. "I am not in charge of her mind. No one is. And, as she said to you earlier, when she was still able to talk, possession is not love."

Again, truth was ignored. "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy."

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Obi-Wan unclipped his lightsaber and held it at the ready. His next words would not be an absolute, however they may have sounded as such, for duty within the light was always in a constant state of evaluation, in respect to the unknown of the future. Once they were spoke however the time was past for verbal negotiations. Ones of a more aggressive nature would now take their place, on the part of his former brother at least. "I will do what I must."

Contempt mixed with determination for victory in the battle ahead filled Anakin's vengeful tones. "You will try."

If Yoda had been here, there would be the usual customary reply, one given to every student who every uttered those three words. But Yoda was not here. He was on Coruscant, no doubt duelling with the Emperor by now. It was time for Obi-Wan to do the same with the Emperor's apprentice.

Even though it would break a piece of his heart.

His blue blade ignited, then Anakin's followed. He flipped over in a large Force abled leap to face him, the humming blades clashing and parrying so fast that Obi-Wan could do nothing but give ground. But that was his intention, his way. The way of a Soresu Master. Anakin knew it, for they had trained together as he acquired the ability after Naboo, while he instructed the boy in the forms of Ataro and Djem-So, Qui-Gon on hand when his health permitted him to assist in the teaching.

He took a step back, then another, and another. Until he felt the heat of the volcanic rivers behind his back, whereupon he used the clash of the blades to turn away from the edge of the platform, until Anakin thrust a kick at his chest, sending him towards the doors of the compound where the massacred bodies of the leaders of the Separatists lay.

They emerged on to narrow catwalks, a hark back to his first encounter with a Sith, if Obi-Wan cared to indulge in such horrific nostalgia. But he had no time for anything, not even to acknowledge the lesson of his master, to focus on the here and now, for the here and now was countering each thrust of the lightsaber that should be red, but was still blue, the once colour of the eyes that belonged to its owner. His friend. His brother. His apprentice. That humming blue blade was the last piece of light that remained of Anakin Skywalker. A light which would soon be extinguished.

One way or another.

Obi-Wan continued to give ground, even as they reached the conference lounge littered with the bodies of the Separatists leaders. Their blades clashed into the control panels nearby, a stream of sparks created. Fingers twitched as they gripped the blade, causing sudden movements in those belonging to the corpses, triggering the blasters within their grip, sending bolts flying towards him. He flicked back with the light of the Force, sending them into a constant ricochet across the large room.

Anakin jumped back a little. "Don't make me destroy you, Obi-Wan. You're no match for the power of the dark side."

"I've heard that before," Obi-Wan replied sadly. "But I never thought I would hear it from you."

The Sith lord in the making pressed the blades towards his former Master, the residual heat from the lasers so close as to be felt by his skin. Obi-Wan reached out with the Force and pulled the last trick he felt he had left, one which his brother never knew, one which succeeded so well with General Grievous on Utapau. Inside the black glove which coated his brother's artificial hand, the polarity of the electrodrivers was reversed.

A lightsaber fell from that gloved hand, to be caught by Obi-Wan, who raised the two blue blades into a cross before himself, as if the weapons were a symbol of all he sought his entire life to defend. "The flaw of power is arrogance."

Anakin waited for the move which signalled his death. When it did not come as quickly as he had expected, he gloated contemptuously. "You hesitate, the flaw of compassion."

"It is not compassion, it is reverence for life," Obi-Wan revealed calmly. "Even yours. It is respect for the man you were. It is regret for the man you should have been."

Anakin forced him back against a wall. "I am so sick of your lectures."

Obi-Wan met the yellow eyes which stared back at him, as the bones inside his hands began buckle in response to the invisible choke hold of the Sith. But like his wife, he would not let his body break. He simply accepted the possibility of death, which he never feared, having mastered that natural perversity long ago, and with that let go of everything, including the blades. The weapons clattered to the floor, the inbuilt safeties within the hilts powering down the laser swords so they did not melt the floor beneath their owners. Obi-Wan called his back to him, and let Anakin's roll away to another part of the room.

It did not belong to the Sith who stood before him.

With his artificial hand Anakin captured Obi-Wan's neck, choking him. He forced him down towards the surface of the table, holding his weapon away from him with a crushing grip by his flesh hand on the wrist. Obi-Wan let him control the descent, his body bending backwards until it protested with a grunt, then sent his booted leg between the Sith's in a kick to his rear, causing Anakin to let go in order to avoid falling off the table.

Obi-Wan rolled to his feet, ready to counter.

Anakin kicked his face, the force of the blow sending them both to the table, Obi-Wan now losing his saber. The Council Master sent a kick to his knee joint, sending the former Knight now apprentice once more toward the surface again. He called his lightsaber from the floor and brought it down towards Anakin, who caught his in time to repel the blade.

He forced Obi-Wan to give ground so he could get up and together they duelled into the space between the observation holo tables, blades clashing until Obi-Wan used his hand to force Anakin away. The apprentice countered with his own hand, the two opposing sides of the Force working like magnets, sending them to opposite sides of the conference lounge.

They hit the consoles with the same force of impact. Anakin rose first, a Force abled leap towards Obi-Wan, who rolled away in time for the blade to clash with the controls of the lava gathering devices.

The colour coded status of the cranes flashed from blue to red ominously, indicating a future malfunction.

Obi-Wan directed the blue blade away towards a threshold control, releasing the blast door he stood infront of, letting the duel continue outside, on the promenade that surrounded the entire compound. A few more clashes and parries of the blue blades, then Anakin directed another kick to his face, again causing him to back away.

They reached the thin conduit pipes which stretched over lava ridden rivers, designed for collecting the precious metals created within this vast planetary sized furnace. Obi-Wan leapt first, holding his weapon out before him as he adjusted his balance on the precarious surface. Anakin paused, letting him gain it before jumping on, and for a moment they focused on keeping themselves upright, while a droid carrying a small lava filled bucket, flew towards the conduit, caught sight of them, and scurried away in terror.

Obi-Wan jumped down to a coupling nexus of the main collection plant, Anakin quickly followed. He directed another fist swipe at Obi-Wan's face, propelling him away. Anakin reached for him, clasping his wrists, their blades forced upwards beside the volcanic flares, like shafts of blue light splintering the flame coloured doomed seas of hell. Obi-Wan turned the clasp against his opponent and flipped them round. He forced their blades down towards the platform, then his eye caught sight of the lava coating the walkway behind his opponent and he backed away on to the crossbar, Anakin following. They sought the relative shelter of separate hollow gaps within the sculpted platform as they waited for the eruption to pass.

The lava sent the crane to the river, and Obi-Wan ran towards the other end of it, away from the fiery death that now threatened their brief refuge. Anakin followed, both of them using the Force to remain upon it as their gravity shifted when the crane hit the river.

Somehow they continued to clash blades during their ascent towards the top, as Obi-Wan caught sight of the waterfall of lava they were heading for. He looked about him for an alternative, and saw a cable, strong enough to bear his weight and he grabbed it, swinging away from the crane.

Anakin caught one too, and they swung towards each other for another clash and parry of blades, the Force directing the swing. Obi-Wan swung away, and caught sight of a small floating repulsorlift platform. He let go of the cable and fell in a Force abled fall towards it.

He turned in time to see the structure they were previously standing on begin to be consumed by the lava. But he did not bow his head in a silent farewell to his old friend. For his senses could still detect Anakin's signature, and he knew that he was walking through the fire towards him to continue this duel.

He saw the blade before he saw the owner, a beam of light piercing the lava, as Anakin landed on a repulsorlift droid, his mind overriding the controls.

Obi-Wan met the blade with his and they clashed and parried again. Drained of energy as they both were, for this fight was sapping everything within them, they paused mid-combat, and he spoke, his words an apology. "I have failed you, Anakin. Qui-Gon has failed you. Just as you have failed yourself, and those who loved you."

Anakin ignored the truth behind such a sentiment. "I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over."

Despite all, the Uncle's manipulation had conquered the teaching of his brother. Yet still Obi-Wan tried for redemption. "Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil."

"From my point of view the Jedi are evil."

And as usual there was no try. "Well then you are lost."

They were parted briefly by another floating repulsorlift platform, this one carrying droids and machinery on its way to the cremation recycling plant. The droids had not the abilities to realise the consequences of their fateful journey, let alone the consequences which awaited whoever emerged from this duel, if any one ever did, for they were shrouded in mystery, like the rest of the future.

"This is the end for you, my master," Anakin pronounced as he leapt on to the repulsorlift, almost falling if not for the iron grip of his boots upon the edge. They clashed and parried blue blades until Obi-Wan leapt away to the rocky banks.

"It's over, Anakin," he gestured around him, "I have the high ground."

"You underestimate my power," Anakin returned petulantly.

"Don't try it," Obi-Wan pleaded.

Don't make me do this.

But he did.

He was never one to refuse a challenge.

Anakin leapt, and Obi-Wan did what he must. In one swift move he severed the three remaining limbs of his former brother, first one leg, then the other, and then the arm, sending him clattering down the ash ridden beach that led into the lava river.

Obi-Wan turned off his saber and clipped it to his belt. Then he met the accusatory red rimmed yellow eyes of his former brother. "You were the Chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness." He turned round and climbed up the beach, collecting Anakin's saber from where it had fallen when he used his.

Behind him a voice continued to defy the death which awaited him. "I hate you."

Obi-Wan glanced back towards the body, feeling nothing but sadness at the remains of his sibling before him. "You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you, but I could not save you."

Flames caught the cauterised joint of Anakin's knee. Slowly they spread to the other limbs, consuming every part of his body.

Obi-Wan watched until he could stand the sight no more, then turned and left.

He found Artoo in the conference lounge, the quiet beeps explaining to him that in an effort to preserve her safety, the droid had dragged his mistress inside the ship.

"Thank you, Artoo," Obi-Wan replied, his voice a whisper of the clipped Coruscanti accent, his strength almost spent.

Wordlessly he followed the faithful attendant, the one who had been witness to so many encounters between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padmé Amidala, up the boarding ramp of the skiff and into the confines of the small medical bay.

Padmé lay upon one of the beds, her slight form wrapped in the embrace of a Force healing trance. Her pulse was stronger than before, but he could tell that she needed more than what his slight medical talents could provide before she fully recovered. Obi-Wan reached out and pressed a hand to her cheek, the back of his finger tracing a loving caress, as he tried to suppress the memory of what his former apprentice had done to them.

ferooo-wheep pero, Artoo uttered, causing him to turn from his wife and follow the droid into the cockpit. A loud beeping from the proximity control was the reason for Artoo's concerned utterance.

Another ship had just entered orbit.

Obi-Wan did not need the aid of the Force to guess who was on board. Quickly he secured and readied the skiff for departure, escaping the atmosphere just as the Emperor's shuttle made planetfall.

Punching the coordinates in for the alien medical base of Polis Massa, the skiff made hyperspace seconds later.

For Padmé the journey was a Force induced blur, likely to be forgotten in the wake of the future yet to come. She had no knowledge of the speed her husband pushed the skiff to use, or how soon they arrived at the asteroid based medial station, the closest one to Mustafar. She did not hear his frantic comcalls to Master Yoda and Senator Organa, asking them to meet him at Polis Massa, and why, nor the tender worry with which he lifted her from the makeshift medical bay and carried her out of the skiff, into the shocked sighting of Bail, who ushered them quickly to the nearest examination room.

She was blind also to the sight of her husband's pacing as he, Bail and Yoda waited for the med-droid to finish his exam and present them with his diagnosis. Deaf to the judgement that labour must be induced, else she might die if she carried the twins to full term.

"But Ani -Vader injured her neck," Obi-Wan pointed out. "How it is possible that she could loose her life if we wait?"

"The injury caused undue stress upon the twins, Master Kenobi," the droid replied. "If we wait, you risk losing not just your wife, but your children as well."

"Isn't there equal risk in her giving birth now?" Obi-Wan all but yelled back, causing Bail and Yoda to look at him in shock.

"Yes, increased by the injury upon the skeletal structure of her neck," the droid confirmed. "But we cannot repair that until she gives birth, and in comparison to waiting, this is the safest option."

Obi-Wan glanced over the med-droid's shoulder, through the tranparisteel plane of glass into the surgical delivery room where his wife lay sedated. "I need to ask her."

"I would advise that your wife remains uniformed of this decision," the med-droid remarked. "Such knowledge would only increase her stress levels."

"You don't understand," Obi-Wan protested, his voice raised, all care for Jedi serenity gone from his mind. "I need to speak to her. She's strong woman, she can survive this. She needs to know. She will not like decisions concerning herself to be made without her input."

"I would advise against it, Master Kenobi."

Obi-Wan took a step forward, intending perhaps to further emphasise his point, but he was prevented by the sharp tap of a gimmer stick to his knee. He turned to Master Yoda, who looked at him with sympathetic rebuke.

"Forget yourself, Obi-Wan," he said. "Wish to join your apprentice, do you?"

Obi-Wan sighed, and took a deep breath, releasing his emotions into the Force. Then he turned to the med-droid. "Do what you think best."

"Yes sir," the med-droid replied before returning to the surgical bay.

Obi-Wan's gaze drifted to the transparisteel once more, his hand coming up to his beard as he tried to remain calm, summoning strength for the next ordeal he and Padmé had to endure.

When Padmé woke, she found herself upon a surgical bed, a large metallic vent encasing the lower half of her body, a med-droid fussing around that end of the room, and her husband's form leaning over and gazing at her anxiously.

"Obi-Wan," she managed to utter, her voice hoarse as if from overuse, "what's happening?"

"You need to have the twins, my love," he replied, his hands caressing her cheek.

"No," she objected, shaking her head as emphatically as she could. "It's too soon."

"We don't have a choice, dearest," he replied. "An....." his voice choked on the name, "Vader," he corrected himself, "left us little choice."

She turned from him towards the metallic rings which encased her, trying not to worry about the math which whirred through her brain regarding the children. Closing her eyes, she tried to use what Obi-Wan taught her only days ago; the ability to sense the signatures of her children.

A feeling of panic arose when she discovered she didn't even have the strength for that mental process.

"They're fine," Obi-Wan assured her, knowing what she was feeling, as soon as she had opened her eyes widely, seeking his assurance.

Padmé took comfort in the knowledge that he was still unharmed from whatever occurred after Ani.....- Vader, she corrected herself -tried to Force choke her. The smoke stains and saber rents upon his cream tunic did not escape her notice, and neither did the sadness in his blue grey eyes, but now was not the time for what would be an undoubtedly hard conversation for the both of them. She needed to save her energy for the task ahead of her.

"Don't worry, my love. You need to save your energy," Obi-Wan spoke aloud then, echoing her resolve. A contraction swept through her body, and she realised that he must have fused his ability in the Force with what little she had herself, as well as the children's in an effort to help her. For she felt only half the pain she was expecting to come from induced pre-term labour, even with the all the advances of the medical technology. She remembered how quickly Cordé had come into the world, at her time and as naturally as the Temple Healer's ward allowed.

The birth of the twins was a stark contrast.

It seemed a long time had passed to her mind when the med-droid emerged from the tent encircling her legs with a small and quiet bundle in her arms, but it could not have been more than minutes, drawn out by the status of her troubled mind. Not a sound emerged as the med-droid cleaned and checked the babe, but Padmé was not unsettled by the lack of crying, her firstborn had been exactly the same. The Temple Healers had told her it was to do with the Force bond that Obi-Wan nurtured within Cordé from the moment he first sensed her, acquainting her with the world so when she emerged from her mother it would not seem so strange and terrifying.

"A boy," the droid declared, handing the babe to Obi-Wan, whom took his son with the same wondrous awe he felt the first time he had been in this position.

"Hello, little one," he murmured, brushing his forehead with a kiss, before bending down to let Padmé touch his cheek with her finger.

"Luke," she whispered softly, her fingers feather-like against his soft skin. Her eyes met Obi-Wan's who nodded in silent approval. The name had come up during their first dinner in the Coruscant Naboo residence after his leave from the front line of the Clone Wars. Due to the conclusion to that bitter series of battles, they had no time to begin another such debate for the twins.

A smaller digit reached out from the blanket for hers, briefly reaching his intended goal. Obi-Wan gently pulled away and rose to his full height as he sensed the onset of another contraction. "Patience, little one, your mother still has to bring your sister into this world."

Padmé closed her eyes, waiting for the pain to pass before she opened them to frown at him. "Sister? I thought I told you not to use the Force in divining the sex of the children."

Her husband smiled as he received a response indicative of her full strength returning. "Sorry, my love. Now you have to live, so you can rebuke me properly when you are ready."

She frowned as she caught the serenity upon his face and within his voice. "It was really that uncertain?"

"If you carried the twins to term, yes," he replied, remembering the somewhat frantic conversation with the physicians before labour was induced. Bail had been quite shocked to see his friend so close to losing his almost vaunted self control, a timely reminder of who he was from Yoda the only preventive. A part of him still didn't know how he had managed to survive the events of this day without losing his mind. He hadn't even a moment to pause and reflect.

He wasn't sure he wanted to.

"A girl," the med-droid announced, this time to the surprise of no one.

"Leia," Obi-Wan heard Padmé murmur as the physician brought the babe towards them. She glanced at their daughter, then breathed a sigh before closing her eyes.

Half a dozen alarms abruptly went off, and he could only watch, as his mind acknowledged the fearful allusion to his vision playing out before his eyes, before the med- droid handed him his daughter and forcibly ushered him out of the room.


Episode I: Azure & Gold

Episode II: The Calm in the Mirage.

Episode IV: Before the Altar.

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2021. All rights reserved.