Once, the Air Nomads had lived peacefully in their temples, wandering beyond them only to better understand the world, and thus, transcend it. Even when the peace had come to an end, even as the people of their world spread far beyond it, they had never been soldiers.
That had been many lifetimes ago: many of Yoda's lifetimes ago. The Air Nomads had long since become the Jedi Knights. Still, something in Obi-Wan's gut clutched as he walked across the battlefield, stepped over the body of a fellow Jedi, and saw her tattooed hand still wrapped around her lightsaber.
His own voice echoed in his ears. This weapon is your life.
Nute cared about business and politics, not the Force. He was glad not only to escape with his life, but to escape all this talk of religion, and waving of lightsabers, and fighting with wind and breath. He didn't like fighting benders (or indeed anyone), but he'd have taken firebenders any day over these airbending Jedi and Sith.
Qui-Gon had thought, perhaps, that he would find peace with death. Instead he had been bored within days, and spent the following years training himself in the Force, learning enough to enter the world in his new form. It had not been done in ages, but he didn't care; it wasn't as if he didn't have ages.
Now, he almost wished he'd stayed in the spirit world. Airbenders fighting droids, armies of clones appearing out of nowhere, Palpatine almost certainly a firebender and hiding it (why?), the Avatar slaughtering women and children—
How could everything have gone so wrong, so fast?
Shmi didn't know what was happening. Her little bit of firebending had not come with her, and she was no Jedi. She had scarcely any strength here. None of the other spirits knew, either, except one—and she was not yet so desperate as to ask help of Koh.
In general, Yoda paid little attention to the press. He had far greater demands on his time: teaching the younglings, meeting with senators, catching what visions he could on the air. But now, he watched everything, and listened.
They were calling it a victory, but darkness swirled on every breeze, and Dooku—no. No victory. The war had just begun, and the Sith master, whoever he was, had only grown stronger.
The Battle of Geonosis was hailed everywhere as a victory—and indeed it was, from a certain point of view. It could hardly have proceeded more beneficially for him if he had controlled every variable, instead of most of them.
Dozens of Jedi, he was informed, had died—how tragic!—before the fortuitous arrival of the clonetroopers. Their saviours. Any objections they might have had once had would likely dissolve. As for the opposition in the Senate . . . ah, but now Amidala had witnessed the duplicity of the Separatists firsthand, had she not? Even the grumblings of her allies would likely disappear now. Perhaps it was better that she had not died.
Palpatine idly tossed a strand of lightning from one hand to the other, and smiled.
Mace Windu was not an unintelligent man by any stretch of the imagination. He could see that there was something suspicious about all this. Dooku, the traitor, had escaped, the Sith master was still undiscovered, and while the clones had certainly been useful, the Jedi hadn't ordered them. The Dark Side was, if anything, stronger.
Yes, there were reasons to regard their victory with some trepidation. Still, Yoda seemed unnecessarily pessimistic to him. But Mace had always seen things differently than the other Jedi. Unsurprisingly.
In theory, all bending came from the Force, and the Jedi Order would welcome and train any bender. In practice, the Order was the last remnant of the Air Nomads and all but a scarce handful were airbenders. Mace was the greatest of the Order's seven earthbenders.
This victory, he thought, was still victory.
She’d done her duty.
She always did her duty. As citizen and then princess, queen, senator. She’d served the Republic faithfully since she was a girl. Her conduct had been impeccable--if not at the time, then understood as such later. She’d fought for the rights of sentients across the galaxy, fought against corruption in the Senate, fought for everything the Republic stood for.
Even from Anakin’s hospital room, she could see the clones marching in formation. Soldiers of the Republic, now. They’d be sent into another battle soon, led by Jedi generals.
It seemed, somehow, a contradiction in terms. Jedi weren’t soldiers. They were keepers of the peace. How could they be generals? How could they lead mass produced children into war? How could the Republic order them to?
It was unethical. Wrong. How, after this, could they dictate morality to anyone else?
She glanced over her shoulder at Anakin, still asleep.
How could they dictate morality to the Avatar?
Dad wasn’t a bender, so neither was Boba. It had never seemed to matter before. Boba had always been certain that his father was the best fighter in the galaxy. The best at everything. Nobody could ever beat him.
But they had. Boba would never forget the moment when his father had swerved out of the path of one boulder, only to be crushed beneath another. That big earthbender had hurried past, paying no more attention to the man he’d killed than to the droids falling beneath his lightsaber.
Lightsaber. Jedi. His father's killer didn’t have any tattoos, he wasn’t an airbender, but he was still a Jedi. The Jedi had done this.
Boba would find some way to make them pay. But how could he fight an earthbending Jedi? How could he fight the airbenders and the Avatar? If Dad hadn’t been good enough--
Well. He’d have to be better, that was all.
It was a qualified victory at best, but a victory nonetheless. The clones were established within the Republic. In close proximity to the other -- to the Jedi, which Sidious had seemed to think important. Dooku himself had survived. He had crippled the Avatar. Oh, Skywalker would get a prosthetic limb soon enough, wield his lightsaber as he had always done, but he would never again firebend with that hand.
Dooku glanced down at his own hands, the airbender tattoos standing out sharply against his flesh. It was a pity, he thought, that Kenobi had not seen reason. The Order was corrupt, he had expected only opposition from them, but Qui-Gon’s apprentice -- well, now, Obi-Wan Kenobi must die in his turn. But it was a pity.
He buried his hands in his sleeves, and returned to his plans.
Nothing seemed right. Anakin’s hand wasn’t right, it didn’t even look like a hand -- more like a claw -- and he knew better than to even try firebending with it. Earthbending, maybe. But he’d never be the same.
He swallowed. It wasn’t the only way he’d never be the same. His mother--all those people--they’d deserved it, they had!--but not all of them--he was a Jedi. Obi-Wan would never--Obi-Wan had never trained him properly, and--but he was more than them, more than that, he was the Avatar! Even if they were little more than animals, they were still living creatures. He was supposed to defend all life. He’d never master airbending now--he’d failed--and he couldn’t confess. They’d take him out of the war, and they needed him. Everyone had told him so, they’d--
His multitude of failures couldn’t help but recede when he saw Padmé. She’d slept through most of the flight and was still rubbing her eyes. Anakin smiled.
“We’re almost there,” he said, and tried to think of anything except her arms around his neck and her mouth by his ear, whispering yes--yes, I’ll marry you.
This wasn’t right, either, hiding their relationship, hiding her. But it was less wrong than anything else would be. Maybe that's all any of it was. Less wrong.