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Push Me Away, Let Me Go

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Push Me Away, Let Me go

Prologue

 

Waking up in an open-air bedroom surrounded on three sides by a Nabooian lake still feels like an odd fever dream for Anakin, even after nearly a year of waking to this beautiful sight.

 

It’s a pleasant problem to have he admits, though more than once he had woken up in a haze and thought he was still in his dreamworld wandering the halls of his innermost wishes. 

 

In his childhood the sands of Tatooine had burned his flesh and the ever-shifting desert sea claimed a fair share of his precious few friends. He knew those desert sands would have one day claimed him too if Qui-Gon hadn’t put his faith in him all those years ago and freed him.

 

His next home, Coruscant, had been a completely different animal. Where there were massive rolling waves of sand in Tatooine Coruscant had imposing towers and a maze of deadly mid-air traffic lanes. Where his home world had Tusken Raiders, the city around the Jedi Temple had countless criminals and villains of every flag and creed. Where he had been a child with dusty open space with no hope of escape as a Jedi his entire world was red carpet temple halls and choking polluted atmosphere with short reprieves off-world while on missions or training trials.

 

Here on Naboo though it was fresh air with rolling green hills and forests with winding blue rivers of cool crystal clear water. Civilization was condensed to villages, towns, and cities scattered across the planet (and in the case of the Gungans throughout the seas and lakes) until one could walk for days even on the main road and not encounter another soul. Anakin saw himself as a creature of solitude and the lack of bodies pressing in on him like on Coruscant is something he treasures. 

 

Creature of solitude or not his greatest joy was actually spending time with another person, specifically the one currently tangled up with him in a delightful jumble of bare leg and naked back peeking out from beneath the disheveled bed sheets. 

 

Anakin could feel Padme’s light snores tickle across his bare chest, her head a comfortable weight over his heart. Their naked bodies were practically glued together and judging the state of their bed sheets and the pleasant chill that contrasted with her comfortable warmth they had fallen asleep immediately after making love last night, not even bothering to burrow back under the covers.

 

His bedmate’s long brown hair had freed itself from its loose bun sometime in the night and a few of her brunette locks were ticking his nose and threatening a sneeze that would surely wake the angel slumbering peacefully on his chest. 

 

 He fought the sneeze down to avoid waking her but when he looked down at the precious woman around him it was a foregone conclusion, his heart trembling at the breathtaking flood of emotions the sight of her invoked.

 

Most mornings when he finds the most beautiful creature in the galaxy still asleep in the bed next to him Anakin’s grip on his emotions would slip and the shift in his force presence is enough to wake her, Padme, his wife. (His wife!) He still can’t believe it. When he says it out loud his face still breaks out into a goofy grin that never fails to arouse a beet red blush on Padme’s face when in the presence of others.

 

True to form Anakin’s emotions flood his presence in the force in rolling wave strong enough that even non-force sensitives like his precious wife could feel. He felt her rouse from sleep with an incredibly adorable snort and she leisurely coiled her naked body around his like a snake around a warm rock. Anakin had to fight to rein in his libido at the lavish sensations of her body sliding and wrapping tighter around his scarred body in an unconsciously loving embrace.

 

“Mm.. Mornin’…” Padme hummed. Though he couldn’t see her face Anakin could hear the smile in her voice.

 

“Good morning.” Anakin gently freed his human hand from their tangle embrace and trailed his fingers down the ape of her neck. The pleasant high pitched hum of contentment that rose from the back of her throat did funny things to his chest eliciting another rolling wave of happiness to break from his force presence and wash over the couple like a warm breeze.

 

“Mm… I love it when you do that…” Padme mumbled. Anakin chuckled.

 

“You do that to me.” He answered honestly and to his delight Padme giggled.

 

Anakin’s powerful force presence had been a sticking point early on in their relationship, or more a sticking point for Anakin himself, especially where Padme is concerned even if the consequences were harmless. The first few times he had woken Padme from his sleep because of his emotions flooding across his force presence he had almost begged for her forgiveness. 

 

It took Padme having to hold him in her arms in bed one morning for nearly an hour as she patiently explained that being woken by his feelings for her is the best part of her morning and better than being woken by any alarm. He still doubted that sometimes but he was getting better at trusting himself with her.

 

Anakin had always worn his heart on his sleeve and the same went for his presence in the force, just as the faded scars criss crossing his body marked his history as a slave. Masking his emotions had always been difficult for him but he could do it, although it taxed him both physically and emotionally. He was just bad at it, unlike his teacher and friend Obi-Wan.

 

Whenever his emotions would overtake his control Anakin would always feel guilt and bitterness towards himself. He was the Chosen One! (as much as he despised the title) He should be better than this! Padme would remind him that he was only human and she loved him for it as much as his mother had. 

 

Speaking of the woman that loved him Anakin could feel her breathing ease into soft snores. She was falling asleep again. He glanced up at the chrono above the archway leading to the balcony and sighed. 

 

“Angel…” he whispered into her ear. She mumbled and burrowed into his chest to get away from the world. He cracked a fond smile but tried again, knowing she wouldn’t want to sleep the day away. 

 

“Angel? Time to get up.”

 

“Ghmmf?” Padme’s arms tightened around him. “Wut time izzit?” She asked.

 

“It’s half past 9 my love.” 

 

“Hmph… 5 mor minutss…” Padme huffed and wiggled her butt as she got comfortable on top of her delightfully warm husband. Anakin felt her hips wiggle against his leg and he grinned devilishly.

 

Carefully as to not let his sleepy wife onto his game Anakin slid his Mechno-hand that was cold from the morning air and gave Padme’s bare ass a squeeze.

 

A squeal of surprise slipped from Padme’s lips and she shot up from the bed and  climbed her husband like a ladder to get away from the chilly metal fingers assailing her. She had wrapped her naked body around Anakin’s head with her eyes wide and searching for her attacker and trying to figure out where that odd wheezing sound was coming from. 

 

She stayed like that frozen on top of the pillows until she finally looked down and found the source of the wheezing, her husband clutching his sides and dying of laughter. Padme glanced down at his Mechno-hand and back at his face a few times until her sleepy brain finally connected the dots and she slapped his shoulder.

 

“You jerk!” She exclaimed, her anger only made him laugh harder. Padme uncoiled from her perch on the pillows and with an evil smirk of her own she leapt on top of her mischievous husband and counter attacked viciously, her fingers tickling his sides, teasing numbed scar tissue and sensitive skin. Anakin jerked away from his wife’s relentless assault and teetered on the edge of the bed and quickly began to lose balance. Determined not to go out without taking his nemesis with him he hooked a leg around her waist and with a squawk of surprise they both slid off the bed into a tangle of limbs and laughter.

 

Anakin lay splayed on the ground trying to catch his breath as Padme sat up on his stomach victoriously with a grin on her face.

 

“I win.” She cooed with a coy wink. 

 

Anakin laughed weakly and ran his human hand along her thigh, his clear blue eyes sparkling with the promise of something more when to his great dismay a loud chirping rang from his holo-comm on the bedside table. They both groaned.

 

Anakin saw Padme reach up to the bedside and went up to catch her arm. “No, no, wait, that ringtone is for a video-call!”

 

“Oh.” He was too late, Padme had already clicked the blinking call button.

 

A shuddering blue hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi sprung to life above the comm-link. The Jedi Master was dressed in traditional Jedi battle robes accented with white clone armor on his shoulders and arms with a diplomatic and polite smile on his face.

 

“Anakin!” Obi-Wan beamed. “I’m surprised you actually… picked…up.” He blinked at the two naked adults staring back at him with blank looks of horror on their faces with Senator Amidala astride his former apprentice’s stomach. “I-is this a bad time?”

 

Padme squeaked and before Anakin could say anything to salvage the situation his wife showed her wisdom under pressure and threw the holo-comm across the room as hard as she could. The small device smacked against the wall and the couple stared back at each other with bright red faces and cold sweat running down their necks.

 

“Do... do you suppose-?” Anakin asked, his cheeks burning.

 

“…Y-yeah, perhaps we should.” Padme agreed, her own face equally as flushed as her husband’s.

 

“..Yeah.”

 

“Yes.”

 

As one Anakin and Padme climbed to their feet and padded over to the closet and scrambled to clothe themselves. Though they were shoulder to shoulder in their haste neither husband or wife got in each other’s way, Anakin used the force a few times to deftly clip his wife’s bra on or hold a parcel of clothing still so she could better slip her arm through a stubborn sleeve. Padme did the same for her husband, helping him into his brown flight jacket and slipping his insulating black glove on over his Mechno-hand so he could clasp the bindings tight around his metal wrist. In record time both were dressed and besides their bed-head (which Anakin felt Padme’s was criminally adorable) they were presentable. 

 

When Anakin and Padme both managed to get their fiery blushing under control Anakin retrieved the Comm-link and held it up showing a shimmering blue Obi-wan with his hand plastered over his face with a long-suffering sigh slipping from his lips.

 

“I hope you too are actually clothed this time?” Obi-wan asked, his voice thick with exasperation.

 

“Y-yes Master.” Anakin coughed. Padme groaned in refreshed embarrassment and let her forehead fall against her chastised husband’s arm to hide from the Jedi Master’s judging gaze.

 

Obi-Wan lifted his face from his hand and seeing the young couple modest. He still found it odd to see Anakin in pilot’s garb rather Jedi robes but the leather jacket, brown mechanic’s leggings, and black undershirt and boots fit him. Obi-Wan cleared his throat to address his former padawan.

 

“I felt you wake Anakin and the Jedi Council had wanted to speak with you…”

 

Padme stiffened and raised her head, the familiar mask of Naboo’s senator overtook the demure face of Anakin’s wife. She was all business now, albeit with still slightly red cheeks.

 

“Master Kenobi, Anakin has left the Order over a year ago. No matter how many times they ask you are not going to take my husband away from me.”

 

Anakin glanced over to his wife with a smile that quickly turned into a shit-eating grin when he looked over at the hapless Jedi General.

 

“You both know that I am on your side, but you are of course right Senator Amidala.” Obi-wan, ever the diplomat, slid his hands to the small of his back and respectfully dipped his head. Satisfied Padme eased her steely expression. 

 

Anakin tapped his wife on the hip to take over the conversation saying, “If you two are finished fighting over me- as flattering as it is- Perhaps I could catch up a little with the honorable and mighty Jedi General before I have to leave for work?”

 

Padme threw him a smirk and a roll of her soft brown eyes and slipped from his embrace towards the master bathroom to properly fix the crow’s nest masquerading as her hair. Anakin cracked a grin himself and left the master bedroom and retreated to the senator’s living area with a spring in his step. 

 

“You seem happy.” 

 

Anakin blinked, surprised by Obi-Wan’s straightforward statement. He stole one more glance back at his and Padme’s bedroom and cracked an open smile.

 

“I think… I am.” He admitted carefully, as if afraid that just speaking those words would jinx this small peaceful moment in his life. His life since leaving the Jedi Order hasn’t exactly been all stars and rainbows. 

 

Anakin and Padme had gotten married about six months prior after quietly courting outside the public’s eye for five or so months. They had differences and disagreements aplenty but both Anakin and Padme wanted the same things, they just had different ways of going about them. Both wanted to make this relationship work and the only way for that to happen was if they put in the effort. 

 

Both brought their own special flavor of baggage into the relationship as well. Anakin’s scars ran deeper than just his flesh and his insecurities fought him at every turn, not to mention this was his first real romantic relationship. Padme perhaps is better put together in that regard but she has her own fears and her past romantic track record isn’t exactly stellar. she had made mistakes, specifically in regard to her last relationship with another senator, though she is determined to avoid repeating the past with Anakin.

 

 Obi-Wan refrained from speaking further seeing Anakin’s distracted, far-off look, though he did seem to pay closer attention to the young man wondering what exactly was going through his mind.

 

Padme’s Nabooian lakeside apartment was set into the cliffside of the city of Theed, the capital of Naboo and the very same city Anakin had defended as a 9 year old. Padme’s apartment was large and spacious, more resembling an egg shaped cave than living quarters. 

 

Nabooian architecture revolves around circular designs and elegant flowing curves, Anakin and Padme’s apartment were no exception. The open floor living area was oval in shape much like the rest of the large apartment with the kitchen on the back wall and the living room and dining table next to the balcony overlooking the lake. 

 

The kitchen was sunken below floor level in a gentle slope and oval in shape with an island in the center and appliances surrounding it on one side. The dining table and furniture in the living room were much the same design and dyed in red and gold much like the color of a rising sun on the horizon.

 

Anakin swept across in the room quietly appreciating the feel of thick carpet and cold tile beneath his bare feet. With practiced ease the former Jedi skirted around the kitchen island tossed the still active comm-link onto the caramel marble countertop beside the stove and began scavenging from the refrigerator and cabinets in search of breakfast. Pulling out a half empty package of nerf- bacon and uncovering a few ingredients for pancakes. (local whole grain of course, his wonderful wife’s sense of duty rears its head in the funniest places) 

 

As Anakin worked the six inch tall Jedi Master shimmering over the comm-link watched his former apprentice go about his morning routine in a comfortable silence. Seeing Anakin, the same boy hell-bent on throwing himself into every fight and breaking every rule go about such a domestic chore was a novelty to him. Seeing so much war and death in the past year since the Clone Wars began Obi-Wan found such a quiet and normal display jarring and out of place. He found that he wanted it too.

 

“How was the assault on Rattatak?” Anakin asked, placing a pan over the stove and sliding a few strips of nerf bacon on. 

 

“Horribly sandy.” Obi-Wan replied dryly, garnering an overly dramatic shiver and a revolted gagging sound from Anakin. “How is it that over 80% of the planet’s landmass is forest and the separatists still manage to stick themselves in the planet’s only desert?”

 

“Well where else could those clankers find enough sun to keep their tan plated complexion?” the younger man threw back over the rising hiss of cooking bacon.

 

Obi-wan huffed. “perhaps I should drag you with me next time? even over the holo you look pale enough to see through. When was the last time you actually went outside?”

 

Anakin snorted and poured a pre-mixed bowl of pancake batter onto another pan. “Just last night. Padme wanted to go see a show from a local trope down at Theed’s central villa. It was nice. I think you would have liked it.”

 

“Oh?” Obi-wan quirked a brow with amusement dancing about his eyes. “and why would that be?”

 

“Because it was a political drama. Every bit as dry and boring as you are.”

 

“You just have no taste.” Obi-wan scoffed.

 

“I did discover one thing last night.” Anakin said, promptly ignoring his friend’s jab with a lopsided grin pulling at his lips. “I never knew that talks of articles, policies, and trade agreements could be a turn-on.”

 

Obi-Wan furrowed his brow. “I thought you found the play dry and boring?”

 

“True, but Padme was anything but dry and boring last night.”

 

“Anakin!” Obi-Wan exclaimed, scandalized and a little shocked at his former apprentice’s audacity. All the Jedi master’s outrage managed to accomplish was to broaden his evil grin even further. The little nerf-herder’s face looked like it was about to split in two.

 

Obi-Wan sighed helplessly at Anakin’s crude humor and decided to move on before he finds out more about his friend’s sex life. He can’t unsee what he had already saw earlier that morning.  

 

Still chuckling to himself Anakin turned back to the bacon and pancakes sizzling away on the stove. Soon though their conversation turned to deeper matters.

 

“I missed doing our meditation sessions, you know, while you were gone.” Anakin confessed, deftly flipping a pancake in its pan until it turned a crisp gold brown. Obi-Wan nodded in agreement.

 

“I did as well. Have you made much progress in your studies in tutaminis?” the Jedi General asked.

 

“A bit.” Anakin replied with a smug turn in his lips.

 

“So I can take it you have something of a breakthrough?” When Anakin did reply except to continue to smile Obi-Wan pressed. “Well? Don’t leave me in the dark my former padawan! Tell me!”

 

“Alright, alright!”  Anakin laughed, sliding the pancake he had just finished heating onto a waiting plate and exposing the stove’s heating element. 

 

Anakin set the empty pan down and looked at his friend’s hologram. “Check this out.” 

 

Then he placed his bare human palm on the glowing hot heating element and took a deep breath. Obi-wan initially flinched seeing Anakin pressing his flesh onto glowing hot metal but no ripple of pain surged through their force bond, nor did the former Jedi look in any sort of pain. 

 

Anakin did feel the stove’s heat but his recent breakthrough in his training allowed him to instead pull the heat from his hand, down his arm and settle it into his chest. Instead of hurting the searing heat turned warm and thrilling as it churned and spread across his body. 

 

The force-sensitive lifted his Mechno-hand palm up and sent the warmth down his other arm and out of his artificial fingertips. The redirected heat sparked and a white hot flare unfurled above his hand with a shuddering hiss.

 

Anakin felt no small amount of pride and satisfaction at Obi-Wan’s wide eyed expression of fascination.

 

“Oh my…” Obi-wan breathed, extremely impressed despite himself. “You call this just “a bit” of progress?”

 

Anakin shrugged and lifted his hand from the stove and shaking the flare away, extinguishing it in a soft puff of sparks. 

 

“I’m confident in doing this much but stealing heat and just moving it around is very different from blacking laser bolts with my bare hands. I’m still having trouble with converting blaster bolts into other types of energy, though I think I have gotten better at reflecting them in the past couple weeks.”

 

“Regardless, it seems you’ve found your niche.”

 

“Hah! Lightsabers, who needs ‘em?” Anakin asked with a flippant smile, drawing a chuckle from Obi-Wan.

 

“Indeed. Though I hope that you won’t ever have to actually use your tutaminis technique in actual combat.” The Jedi General agreed soberly.

 

“I have faith that if every other Master has even a fraction of your determination then I won’t have to.” Anakin replied honestly, leaving Obi-wan a bit off-kilter. He still wasn’t completely used to his formerly angsty and surly padawan being so… open and bright.

 

Before an awkward silence could fully take hold between the two Anakin mercifully moved on.

 

“How has the war in the outer rim going? Are your guys doing alright?”

 

Obi-Wan visibly relaxed, falling into a vein of conversation he found he liked.

 

“Commander Cody is as stalwart as ever, as is the rest of the 212th, though truth be told we could all use a short rest.” Obi-Wan replied, mindful not to say anything about his next destination or where he currently is. Though he trusted Anakin explicitly both men knew it would be foolish and reckless to speak of official matters and sensitive information over an unsecure channel.

 

“Perhaps you can come here to Naboo?” Anakin suggested, only half-joking. “There are facilities here to at least handle your fleet for a few days?”

 

Obi-Wan’s regretful frown spoke for itself. “I would love to but I don’t think that is possible.”

 

The words the Jedi master spoke didn’t raise any flags in Anakin’s mind, but the tense way Obi-Wan said them sent alarm bells ringing in his head. the stoic frown Obi-Wan leveled his way was all the confirmation he needed. 

 

Anakin may have been rash and hard-headed as a padawan but perhaps the one diplomatic skill he picked up from his master was the ability to read between the lines.

 

Obi-Wan’s fleet is pursuing someone? That doesn’t bode well. 

 

“That’s a shame.” Anakin replied with a sigh. His disappointment was genuine but it couldn’t hurt to keep up the ruse in case someone else was listening to their conversation. 

 

“What’s a shame?” Padme asked, stepping out of the master bedroom with a billowing cloud of steam following in her wake and her damp hair pulled back into a brunette ponytail that Anakin found practically ravishing. 

 

Swallowing thickly and pulling himself from his lustful thoughts Anakin gestured to Obi-Wan’s six inch tall hologram.

 

“I invited the old geezer over to visit but apparently he’s too busy playing soldier.” He answered with a grin. Obi-Wan scoffed and Padme snorted in laughter. 

 

The Nabooian senator glided over to his side and made to reach for the plate of food. Anakin lightly slapped her hand away from the pancakes causing her to retract her hand and shoot her husband a look of deep hurt.

 

“Don’t look at me like that.” Anakin chastised his playful wife with a laugh. “Go sit down and I’ll bring the food to you when it’s ready.”

 

“Why?” Padme asked throwing a pointed glance at the stove like it had kicked her puppy. “You don’t trust me in the kitchen?”

 

“Not for a second my love.” Anakin replied without a hint of hesitation, remembering the time he nearly became one with the force when Padme decided to cook for him one night early into their relationship. He still wondered how someone as competent as Padme could live for so long without knowing how to cook, let alone somehow manage to burn salad!

 

Then again, she had been the Queen of an entire planet at the age of 14 so he guessed he could cut her some slack.

 

Padme pouted while fighting back a smile and did as he asked and settled into a seat around the dining table. Anakin finished cooking their breakfast while trading a few more domestic questions with Obi-Wan. A garbled blaring alarm from Obi-Wan’s end of the connection interrupted their conversation. A clone trooper materialized from the edge of the hologram and spoke urgently in Obi-Wan’s ear. The Jedi General scowled at whatever news the trooper brought and nodded, dismissing the clone. He turned back to Anakin with a serious frown on his face.

 

“I’m sorry, something has come up. I’m afraid we are going to have to cut our conversation short.” 

 

“I understand.” Anakin replied halfway to the dining table. “Give those Seppies hell Master. May the force be with you.”

 

Obi-Wan chuckled. “May the Force be with you Anakin.” Then he cut the connection.

 

Anakin clicked his comm-link off and slipped it into his pocket and settled into the seat next to his wife with two plates floating in behind him.

 

“Breakfast is served my lady.” Anakin gestured, mentally pulling the floating plates of food and setting them down in front of himself and Padme.

 

“This looks great!” Padme inhaled deeply. “Smells amazing.”

 

“Bet it tastes even better.” Anakin cheekily added, earning himself a roll of her eyes.

 

Their front door slid open just as the couple tucked into their meal and the familiar shuffling quick-step that followed announced the start to their day.

 

“Mistress Padme! Mistress Padme! Oh dear, I am so glad you are up! Oh it’s horrible! Horrible! You must come quick!” C-3PO sped-hobbled across the room with a quickness, his golden plating shining in the morning sun. R2-D2 rolled in after the panicked protocol droid, adversely calm in comparison to his companion.

 

Padme didn’t bother sparing the chattering protocol droid a glance, instead she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Anakin laid a hand over hers and gently squeezed. Her eyes still closed Padme gave a small smile and squeezed his hand back. She released his hold and leveling a serious and calm glare in C-3PO’s direction.

 

“I’ll be right there Three-PO.” She sighed and gave her husband a regretful look. “I guess I better get going.”

 

“The senate waits for no woman, I get it.” Anakin beckoned at his connection with the force and both plates rose into the air and landed next to the sink. He rose at the same time as her and opened his arms. 

 

Padme took the invitation and slid into his embrace and hugged him for a long moment, savoring his warmth with her head resting on his chest. Eventually they separated with a short kiss and Padme turned to the bathroom to finish her hair leaving Anakin to clean the kitchen.

 

R2-D2 rolled over to the former Jedi as he scraped the remnants of food into the trash disposal and scrubbed the dishes clean and twittered a greeting.

 

“Morning to you too little buddy.” Anakin replied patting the astromech’s dome with a wet hand. “Just wait a second, I’ll be ready to set out after I finish here.”

 

After putting the dishes away Anakin stopped on his way out of the door and opened a coat closet, inside hung a dark leather utility belt with a Naboo LPM-1 Blaster sheathed in an attached hip holster.

 

Shaking the lingering oddness at the loss of his lightsaber Anakin slid the utility belt on and wrapped the hip holster secure to his right hip and swiftly left the apartment with long strides as Artoo zipped after him.

 

Making his way out of the underground apartment complex Anakin and Artoo bee-lined for the adjoined VIP hangar set aside for high-ranking officials and their families. A sleek chrome Nabooian shuttle sat on a cordoned landing pad with a pair of palace guards standing watch. one of the guards noticed the rapidly approaching former Jedi and rose a hand in greeting.

 

“Ah! Everyone’s favorite crash-test dummy!” The guard said. 

 

“I don’t crash!” Anakin exclaimed, insulted at the very thought. “You don’t walk away from a crash, I do so they are just rough landings!” 

 

“Yeah, whatever Master Jedi.” The guard scoffed. “Just make sure to keep your mitts out of the shuttle’s cockpit. I don’t fancy having a rough landing on the way there!”

 

Anakin didn’t like being addressed as a Jedi. The Jedi Council never made an announcement as far as he knew, not that anyone outside a few Jedi would know or care, except perhaps for the Chancellor. It was also a painful reminder of what he had given up. Though he didn’t regret the decision to leave the Order he had given over half his life in the pursuit to become a Master. He had decided to stop trying to correct others and just let sleeping dogs lie.

 

Anakin pushed away his conflicted feelings and flipped the guard the bird, boarding the shuttle chuckling. A couple dozen or so other personnel were already on board the shuttle and already strapped in. Anakin greeted the few people that he recognized and strapped in himself. Artoo peeled off to another part of the shuttle to join the other droids on board. A few minutes later the guards boarded and closed the hatch and the Shuttle took off.

 

Anakin sank into his seat and closed his eyes to meditate, his senses reaching out through the force. The shuttle vibrated and shook every now and then, the streamline spacecraft fighting turbulence in the upper atmo. Anakin frowned a little a the minute mistakes the pilot made, feeling every flinch and dip.

 

It’s like he’s bound and determined to hit every pocket of cross-wind we come across!

 

Shifting aside his mild irritation at something so trivial Anakin tried to inhale and breathe out slowly in a technique Obi-Wan tried to teach him to bleed out his negative emotions into the force. It… kind of worked. Anakin still wasn’t good at letting go.

 

Mercifully Anakin felt the shuttle begin to descend, the hull shuddering against the thicker air resisting their downward vector. Soon the shuttle landed and Anakin was already out of his seat, more than a little excited to get to work.

 

Fort Mickeal Research Center is the Naboo Planetary Defense Force’s main Spacecraft R&D Facility. Naboo’s space technology had stagnated in recent decades and it wasn’t until the eruption of the Clone Wars that forced Naboo’s sparse military forces into developing new weapons and vehicles to combat the Separatist threat. Anakin managed to snag a position as a test pilot for the new second generation of Naboo’s N-series of Fighters and he couldn’t be happier. 

 

Padme, understandably, wasn’t nearly as enthused.

 

Making his way from the Shuttle to an open hanger Anakin and Artoo made good time and melded in with the late morning hustle and bustle. Fort Mickeal’s layout is much like a primitive airport, cavernous hangars flanking multiple landing strips with a massive main building and command towers situated at every strip. Fort Mickeal is home to over 8,000 dedicated personnel, mostly researchers and technicians with a smattering of pilots and Naboo Self-Defense Force (N-SDF) troops. The base’s operations were out in full force with every single soul going about their tasks with military precision. 

 

Anakin and Artoo swam through the controlled chaos to their destination, Hangar A-2. the interior was a madhouse of loose circuitry, loose parts, half-complete ship hulls, and burnt out bits of tech scattered across the deck and at its center sat a single unpainted Starfighter.

 

Unlike outside the Hangar there were only a dozen people inside with a few droids milling about clearing the mess away from the Starfighter. Anakin sidestepped a gonk droid toddling away to its charge station and approached the group of people surrounding the Starfighter. three of the beings were test pilots, a female bothan, a male gungan, and another male human. The rest of the merry band were the researchers and technicians and currently all of them were busy arguing.

 

“No, I’m telling you, that won’t work! The T-17 power core isn’t enough to handle the output needed for high-speed maneuvers in-atmo!” The female Bothan barked, waving her arms animatedly, the helmet coming very close to clocking the human pilot next to her. the Gungan pilot rolled his eye-stalks and stuck out his tongue in agitation, interrupting her.

 

“-anda me-sa tell you dat it’s fine!” The Gungan babbled in butchered basic. “You-sa just-a bad flyah!”

 

“Why you!”

 

“Well, I suppose there is only one way to find out for sure, isn’t there?” Anakin asked sliding an arm around the arguing pilots and scaring them both half to death.

 

“Skywalker!” The Bothan’s canine-like face stretched in surprise as she reeled back, her hand over her pounding heart. “By the Stars, are you trying to give me a heart attack?!”

 

The Gungan’s reaction was similarly hilarious, his eye-stalks stuck straight up in terror and his guppy-like mouth was stretched wide open in a silent scream. finally relaxing the gangly alien slumped, his body sagging like a wet noodle as he pointed one eye at the former Jedi in a glare.

 

Anakin just flashed him a cheek grin and turned to the rest of the group. He nodded at the Bothan under his arm.

 

“Good morning to you too Aela-” He justled the Gungan next to him. “-and Gen-Dan. It’s good to see you.”

 

“Someone got laid last night.” The human pilot chirped. Anakin stayed silent, only grinning wider in response, pulling a yipping laugh from Aela.

 

“A gentleman never kisses and tells, Conner.” Anakin replied.

 

“Gentleman? Hah! What-the-kriff-ever Master Jedi. ” Aela scoffed, shrugging off the tall human’s arm and promptly slugging it hard with a furry little fist. Anakin rubbed his arm and threw the short alien female a deeply hurt expression.

 

the four pilots traded a few more friendly barbs then turned their attention back to the sleek Starfighter in front of them.

 

The Starfighter lay secured on a trailer, its familiar basic design reflective of Nabooian tastes with flowing sharp curves and fancy swept back armor. This prototype mirrored the N-1 Starfighter Anakin had flown as a child 11 years prior in the battle over Naboo. The Starfighter’s only significant design change was the pointed tail had been split in two parts like a swallow with a swivel thruster integrated into the frame to give the spacecraft increased maneuverability, something the old N-1’s lacked. This new design, dubbed the N-2F, is a dedicated counter-fighter/ interceptor with update J-type thrusters and dual twin laser cannons in its nose at the cost of its long range sensors and much of its proton torpedo magazine size.

 

 Two researchers were off the the side arguing with the lead technician while the rest of the tech team scrawled all over the dull gray Starfighter, poking and prodding at its exposed guts with calibration equipment while one Gungan sat in the single-man cockpit checking gauges and controls. a few minutes later the tech’s confirmed their work and gave the pilots a thumbs-up.

 

“So… who’s up for taking this tin can up for a spin?” Conner asked, side-eyeing Anakin with a sly look on his face. The other two pilots turned their gazes to the hapless former Jedi. Anakin made a show of rolling his eyes and beckoned Artoo over.

 

“Alright you yellow-bellied womp-rats. Let your ol’ Master Skywalker show you how it’s done!” He exclaimed, clambering into the cockpit as Artoo sped underneath the hull and hooked into the Astromech slot and rose upward into the fuselage. 

 

“Yeah, sure. Just don’t crash this time!” Aela called after him.

 

“I didn’t crash, it was a rough landing!”

 

Anakin settled in and pulled a folding headset from his utility belt and hooked it around his temple and catching a few of his honey brown locks. His hair was getting a bit long lately, perhaps he should ask Padme to cut it soon?

 

The former Jedi flicked the power core on and booted up the start sequence. the Starfighter’s fusion core shuddered and caught with a deep rumble. With an expert eye he swept his gaze across the instruments as the gauses rose and fell and the N-2F’s systems came online in blue and white hues.

 

“Core’s online and stable, power reserves full… cooling system is flowing clean with life support, shields, and weapons control coming back green.” Anakin relayed over the headset, the N-2F’s thundering hum drowning out any voices from outside the cockpit. Anakin made eye contact with the lead technician and researchers and gave the thumbs ups. “Am I clear to start engines?”

 

[You are green to go Skywalker.] The lead Tech said over his own headset, illiceting a wild smile from the pilot.

 

“Roger that. Everyone get clear!” With growing anticipation pulsing in his chest Anakin punched the ignition switch and a whirring whine rose from the vehicle and blue fire erupted from the J-type thrusters with a thrilling roar.

 

Anakin’s wild grin was almost beginning to hurt as he sat back in the cockpit and took a moment to just bask in the raw power thrumming around and behind him. He flipped a switch and toggled the repulsors raising the Starfighter off its trailer and kicking up a small cloud of air and dust, sending the surrounding beings’ clothes flapping. 

 

[Skywalker, you are clear to launch.] Anakin looked down and saw Aela standing next to the lead tech, speaking to him through her headset. They had retreated to an array of screens and computers receiving from a number of cameras and sensors attached to the Starfighter to track its progress. She flashed him a smile. [Just… remember to take it slow-]

 

The Bothan never managed to finish the sentence as Anakin gunned the throttle and the N-2F screamed out of the hangar, throwing the laughing former Jedi back in his seat and Artoo whooping in excitement behind him. Anakin banked a hard left, reveling in the N-2F’s improved handling, and kept low and fast just a scant few dozen feet above the heads of those on the runway below. 

 

When Anakin cleared the runway he aimed his nose skyward and then really opened up the throttle, Artoo automatically rerouted power from the now useless repulsors to the engines. The sudden sink of rapidly lowering pressure made Anakin’s head begin to swim and his blood flow thicker. He started his counter-breathing exercises and tugged on the Force, cloaking it around himself and squeezed; the pressure helped to keep his blood from pooling in his legs and keep it flowing in his brain so he didn’t pass out.

 

[You don’t know the meaning of take it slow, do you?] Aela asked, her voice deadpan even over the crackling comm-channel. 

 

“Never.” Anakin laughed, turning his attention to the dashboard and checked the equipment. “Everything seems to be running smoothly, though the Power Core does seem to be burning a little hot.” He reported to the tech and research team. 

 

“Artoo? Are there any systems online that don’t need to be running?” Artoo twittered a negative. Anakin frowned a little and spoke over the comm-channel again. “It seems you may be right Aela, the T-17 core does seem to struggle to keep up with demands while flying in-atmo. though it could just be because the system hasn’t acclimated yet…”

 

[Go ahead and conduct a few maneuvers at varying altitudes. We will monitor any changes from down here.]

 

“I had thought you’d never ask.” Anakin broke over the lower plane of clouds and found himself in a world of fluffy white and crystal blue. He took in the view and then banked, cutting through the air without so much as a tremor rattling through the starfighter’s hull. 

 

Pulling a few loop-de-loops, dives, and rapid ascents Anakin put the N-2F through its paces until Artoo squawked, grabbing Anakin’s attention. Anakin leveled out the fighter and addressed the astromech. 

 

“What is it Artoo?” The Astromech twittered and beeped, reciting the problem in binary. Anakin scrawled the dashboard and frowned. He clicked his tongue.

 

“Hey Aela, it seems pulling those maneuvers in-atmo are overheating the power core. My reflector shields are failing.”

 

[Well, at least we’re not in combat, so we don’t have to figure this out the hard way.]

 

“True. What about in space though?” 

 

Aela took a few moments longer to reply but she eventually got back to him saying, [You’re good to take a lap around Low Orbit Defense (LOD) Array 13. Just make sure to take it easy on re-entry.]

 

“Oh ye of little faith.” Anakin chuckled. “Copy that Aela. Taking a trip to the stars, I’ll be right back.”

 

Anakin nudged the fighter upward and started to climb at a gentle incline. “Artoo, set the Nav-computer to LOD Array 13.” The hardy astromech chirped an affirmative and a blip sprang on the scanner. 

 

Anakin aimed at the coordinates and pushed the throttle to its maximum velocity, a screaming 800 MPH (1287.48 Km/h). A faint boom rippled at the edge of his hearing as the N-2F broke the sound barrier and shot out of Naboo’s atmo and into low orbit and with it all sound outside the cockpit fell silent. A few thousand yards away Anakin spotted a tiny speck floating over the horizon line, the LOD Array. 

 

Low Orbit Defense Arrays are an old concept, small space stations scattered across a planet’s orbit that contained a contingent of Starfighters to intercept any nearby threats, both from space and on the surface. The station itself is made up of modular tube attachments around a circular central hull topped with a command bridge. The small station is only armed with a dozen-odd turbolaser towers and a few small ion cannons suited for anti-fighter support, though if used in tandem they could pose a threat to smaller corvettes.

 

Anakin kept an eye on the N-2F’s power core capacity and load levels and found them dropping into the yellow, just at the upper edge of its acceptable parameters. Not having any air resistance to cut through took a lot of stress off of the engines, though even then the power core was running a little too hot for comfort.

 

“I’m in space. The core’s load is still too high, though my reflector shields did just come back online.”

 

[Roger that Skywalker. Take that lap and come back down so the techs can see what they can do. I call flying next!]

 

Anakin chuckled as he neared the LOD Array and spun a tight circle around it, taking a second to wave out of the cockpit at a group of officers manning the Array’s bridge. Artoo beeped happily as a few of the officers waved back, the cheeky little droid basking in the attention.

 

Anakin’s smile lasted all the way until he was a few seconds of re-entry. A sudden and very unpleasant pressure flared in the back of his skull, a premonition, a feeling of dread that rose up from everywhere but was pointed at nowhere.

 

There is a disturbance in the Force.

 

Anakin snatched the Starfighter from his descend and whipped his head around to the black abyss of twinkling stars, the sense of dread sharpening to a painful razor sharp point.

 

I have a bad feeling about this… 

 

“Hey Aela…” Anakin’s fingers instinctively searched for the laser cannon controls. “Just by chance, are my cannons charged?”

 

[...Yes. why?]

 

As if to answer or perhaps mock him the black abyss rippled violently and suddenly the void was filled with an armada of horribly familiar shapes rapidly approaching in formation straight towards him. 

 

It was a Seperatist fleet!

 

Anakin broke out into a cold sweat as his face grew grim and his grip tightened on the joystick. 

 

Aela’s voice sounded faint with fright as she whispered, [Oh… that’s why.]

 

Anakin groaned softly.

 

“I really should have stayed in bed today.”