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Influence of Time

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Anakin Skywalker did his best to resist the urge to shove the Faustian scientist in his custody, but he failed miserably, well aware of the disapproving look his master was giving the back of his head as the man was sent stumbling into the transport ship.  Really, Obi-Wan could not blame him for this; the “good” doctor had been manufacturing the Blue Shadow Virus, a disease so deadly it had been permanently eradicated from the galaxy before the doctor’s intervention. The man had led them all on a wild mynock chase, but him and his virus were finally contained.  Naboo — Padmé’s planet and a precious place for them both — was safe once again.

For all of the two seconds it took him to form that thought.

A piercing screech echoed overhead, and Anakin ducked out of the troop transport just in time to see a starfighter with strange, angled wings streak by above them.  He slowly came to Obi-Wan’s side as he watched it disappear into the trees, trying to figure out just what it was; it was too big to be a Vulture droid, yet sort of resembled one at the same time.  On top of it, there was a deep, unsettling feeling from the Force trailing behind it, like there was something important on that ship.  Something that he was supposed to know…

A loud, echoing crash spurred Anakin from his thoughts, and he glanced at his former master.  He did not need words to know Obi-Wan felt the same way, so he merely nodded, turning to one of the clones.

“Make sure the ‘good’ doctor stays comfortable,” he ordered.  “We’re going to investigate. The last thing we need is something coming to help Vindi make this situation worse.”

The soldier saluted, and Anakin turned back to Obi-Wan to see a concerned frown on his face as he stroked his beard.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” he murmured, and Anakin let out a sigh.

“I had a feeling you’d say that,” he quipped, though he could not disagree with him.

Before long, the two of them were heading deeper into the Gungan swamp, a borrowed speeder for each of them.  It was not hard to follow the trail the crashing fighter took, as the signs of it were clearly visible long before they actually found it.  Cracked and broken tree branches swayed precariously overhead, and a deep furrow in the ground lead to where the ship ultimately came to a rest.  The surrounding wildlife was still eerily silent from the disturbance, and the Force felt like it was screaming in Anakin’s head, warning him that something was wrong.

“Anakin…” Obi-Wan began, looking like he was the very model of calm, even though he was going for his lightsaber.  Anakin found himself already clutching his as he slowly made his way closer to the fighter. The Force felt heavier the closer he got, almost oppressive, but so too did the sense of familiarity increase.  Some part of him knew this ship, though he was certain he had never seen it before.

He was close enough now to place a hand on the ship, feeling the warmth of the metal under his hands, familiar with it like he had spent thousands of hours building and tinkering with it.  Distantly, he heard Obi-Wan cautioning him again, but he did not listen, coming around to the cockpit viewport. It was near pitch black inside, with only the faint wink of red and green lights piercing the dark.

“Anakin!”

Anakin’s head shot up at Obi-Wan’s warning, in time to see the hatch fly open and something blacker than space shoot up from it.  He could not see it that well, the glint of sunlight streaming through the trees making it look like some winged beast. It was coming down on him in the next instant, and Anakin instinctively ignited and raised his lightsaber.  Brilliant blue met flaming red, and he realized the creature was a man… and probably the most terrifying Sith Lord he had ever seen. He was like something out of myth, out of stories told to scare unruly younglings, dressed in black armor from head to toe, with a fearsome mask that looked like a death’s head.  It actually made Anakin falter in fright, and the man pushed his advantage, forcing him to scramble to keep up with his quick, powerful blows.  Even Obi-Wan coming up from behind did little to slow the towering hulk before him, and he soon saw his former master sent flying into a tree head first.

Anakin grit his teeth, determination and worry for Obi-Wan pushing his fear back and propelling him forward to attack.  The Sith Lord met him blow for blow with ease, before turning his own attack style against him, hitting his lightsaber so hard it was knocked clear of his hands.  Anakin was sent flying backward in the next moment, his head sharply striking a tree, and before he blacked out, he swore he could hear Ahsoka shouting for him.

~.oOOo.~

Kix was starting to get worried; reports were coming in from below that were shouting about the Blue Shadow Virus being loose in the underground facility.  They had reason to believe everyone below was exposed, and they had no way to get an antidote — if one even existed. What was worse, they had not heard anything from Generals Kenobi and Skywalker since they went off to investigate that downed fighter.  For all Kix knew, the two of them were led below as well, and…

Before the clone trooper could finish that thought, the sound of a speeder approaching reached his ears.  It was only one, however, and the black cloaked… man that rode into view a moment later was definitely not Skywalker or Kenobi.

Kix and the other members of the 501st with him trained their blasters on the man as he brought the speeder to a stop.  If he was concerned by it, he did not show it, almost casually swinging himself off of the speeder.

“Identify yourself,” Kix ordered, and while he could not see the man’s face through his helmet, he got the distinct impression he was being focused on.

“General Skywalker sent me,” he rumbled after a moment.  “I have… experience with the Blue Shadow Virus. I’m transmitting his clearance codes now.”

A moment of silence passed before the HUD in Kix’s helmet lit up with a familiar code.  It was General Skywalker’s code all right; the man must have had some kind of comms array in that unsettling helmet of his, much like their buckets did.  He noticed the raspy breathing noises coming from him in the next moment; filter output from a ventilator? It sounded nasty, not to mention loud; he could not help but wonder if this man had been injured during the war.  If so… just how badly had he been hurt to justify a respirator like that?

“Checks out, sir,” Kix replied, lowering his weapon, the others following suit behind him.  “Where is General Kenobi and General Skywalker?”

“They’re… tied up with their own investigation at the moment,” the man replied, almost sounding… amused?  “Skywalker saw the wisdom in sending me ahead, due to being familiar with the disease, and its cure.”

The man started forward, pausing just before Kix, and the clone glanced down to see a lightsaber on the man’s belt.  Definitely a Jedi then, if he was helping and not killing them, despite how terrifying he looked.

“You are the medic on duty, correct?” the man rumbled after a moment, addressing Kix.  “I will require your assistance, as well as a ship; we will not find the cure on this planet.”

Kix saluted in acknowledgement, before motioning him toward one of the smaller transports.  He fell in step behind the big man, glancing over at him curiously.

“Sir?” he began.  “What might I call you?”

The man paused a moment, as if seriously considering how to answer him.

“...Vader.”

~.oOOo.~

Something had shifted in the Force.

Count Dooku of Sereno had sensed it long before he heard the sound of a ship coming down for an unplanned landing in the forests outside the mansion he called home.  Asajj Ventress had sensed it as well, for she was already well on her way to the crash site long before he could order her to go. He watched her through the Force, sensing her determination, her curiosity, surprise, and amusement.  The last one had him frowning, wondering what she could have possibly found to lead to that reaction. Part of him wanted to investigate himself, but even with the Force to support him, he did not have the nimbleness to navigate a path to the downed ship, and his assassin would have easily made three trips to his one.

So Dooku stood on the landing platform, watching the sway of the trees as they slowly settled after the crash, waiting for his apprentice to return.  If was a long time before he sensed her approach, and longer still before he saw her, supporting a young man in a garishly bright orange flight suit. An astrodroid rolled along beside him; a very familiar little blue and white R2 unit.  The droid let out a rude sounding blat as soon as it saw him, forcing Ventress to come to a stumbling stop as it zipped protectively in front of the boy.  It continued to beep up a storm, even as the child stirred, reaching out a shaky hand and resting it on the droid’s dome.

“Artoo… that’s enough…” he said weakly, and Dooku paused, getting a good look at the child.  Blue eyes, sandy blonde hair; along with the droid, he would have mistaken the child for Skywalker, but everything else about him was not quite right.  His face was too youthful, making him appear younger than Dooku suspected he really was. He was also much shorter, closer to Ventress’ height, and only adding to how young he seemed.

He also had a large gash on his head that was bleeding freely, and as much as Dooku wanted to satiate his curiosity as to who this boy was, it was going to have to wait.

“Ventress, please escort our unexpected guest to the infirmary,” he ordered, before addressing the boy.  “You’ve had quite the nasty fall, my young friend.”

The boy spared him a smile that reminded Dooku of someone decidedly not Skywalker, before leaning a little heavier on Ventress, looking like it was taking everything for him to stay conscious.  Ventress spared Dooku a glance as she moved past to get the boy inside, and the astromech followed just behind. It beeped harshly at him as it passed, before swiveling its head around, as if turning its “nose” to the air as it continued to roll off.

Dooku did not understand binary that well — he had no need to, seeing as all the droids he dealt with spoke Basic.  Still, he understood enough to be troubled by what he heard.

You’re not supposed to be alive.

~.oOOo.~

Days later, Asajj found herself watching over the kid that had come out of nowhere — still.  The kid had taken a pretty lengthy dunk in a bacta tank, and had been asleep since coming out, the med droid assuring her that he was just exhausted.  It gave her the chance to occasionally sneak out and investigate the remains of his ship, which was just… strange. It resembled the Republic’s ARC-170s, but was different enough that it clearly was not something made in their ship yards, not to mention all the strange symbols on it — mostly insignias she did not recognize.  It was disconcerting, but not nearly as much as the fact that he had Skywalker’s droid with him. Last she heard, Skywalker was off on Naboo, and she highly doubted he would lend his droid out to a random nobody in a weird ship. Besides, the way the droid was tirelessly watching over the boy seemed to imply a protective familiarity with him.

“You can stop pacing around, you know,” Asajj remarked idly.  “I haven’t been ordered to kill him… yet.”

The droid stopped, letting out a rude noise as he rocked back and forth on his legs, and getting her to raise an amused eyebrow.

“I don’t think you have any right to call me a banshee.”

Another series of rude beeps and blats met that, and he swiveled his head away, as if ignoring her.

“You’ve developed quite the attitude,” Asajj commented idly.  “Clearly Skywalker has been a terrible influence on you.”

Surprisingly, the droid let out a non-committal beep and fell quiet, its head swiveling toward the boy.  Asajj raised an eyebrow, but any comments she had were held back as the boy finally stirred, letting out a groan as he opened his eyes.  She felt a gentle brush of the Force as the boy reached up to rub at his face, before he finally turned toward her.

“Where am I?” he asked, as the droid let out a worried whistle.

“Sereno,” Asajj answered, finding no point to lying.  “This is Count Dooku’s mansion.”

The boy stared at her, not looking like he understood a word she said, and his confusion was palpable in the Force, like he did not know how to put a cap on his emotions.  Slowly, he sat up, looking like he had several questions, and not sure where exactly to start.

“Thank you for saving me,” he ultimately settled with, genuine gratitude reflected in his eyes.  The sincerity made an uncomfortable feeling crawl up her spine, and Asajj folded her arms over her chest, letting out a scoff.

“Skywalker’s droid is slacking if you crashed that badly,” she sneered, only to get a rude blat for her trouble.  “What are you doing with him, anyway?”

The boy gave her a quizzical look.

“Of… course I have him?” he replied, and the droid let out a warning whistle, trying to get him to stop talking, though it went ignored.

“I’m Luke Skywalker.”

Asajj blinked, staring at him and unable to hide her surprise, before a small, slow smile worked its way onto her face.  Oh, she could not wait to tell Dooku…

~.oOOo.~

It was not often that ships crashed on Alderaan, not to mention single fighter craft.  They were too far away from the main conflict of the Clone Wars, and too staunch in their peaceful policies to garner attention.  Still, with the crash being so close to the palace grounds, Queen Breha made it her personal duty to see that the pilot was safely recovered from the wreckage.  She stood off to the side, out of the way of rescue crews, watching as a young woman was pulled free, a massive gash in her helmet. She pulled the headgear free after a moment, revealing the helmet had done its job, but also showing off long brown hair pulled back into tight, Alderaanian-style braids.  A golden protocol droid was pulled free next, looking fairly beat up but still functioning, but Breha’s eyes were on the young woman as she stared in disbelief, her eyes widening as they fell on the palace behind them.

“Why, Mistress Leia, I do believe my photoreceptors are malfunctioning,” the droid began, motioning toward the palace.  “That appears to be the palace at Aldera. But that certainly can’t be right.”

The young woman shook her head numbly, before she froze, her eyes finally falling on Breha.  Recognition and so much more was on her face, and the queen found herself stepping forward without her guards, her gaze on the young woman as she approached.  She stopped a comfortable distance from her, noticing tears welling in her eyes, and she doubted very sincerely it was just from the realization she crashed her ship in front of the palace.  Something told her this young woman was made of tougher stuff than to be so easily cowed.

“My dear, what is it?” she asked softly, and it seemed the words were enough to make the woman shake.  A hand went to her mouth as she clearly fought for words. When she found them, they were not exactly the words she was expecting.

“You’re… you’re really alive, mo—”

She cut herself off, looking away as she struggled to school her expression, but Breha knew well enough what she nearly called her.

Mother.

~.oOOo.~

It was rare now that Bail Organa had the opportunity to go home.  Wartime protocols meant the Galactic Senate was near constantly in session, even during seasons it would usually be in recess, and he found fewer and fewer occasions to return to Alderaan, or even see his wife outside of a holocall.  Their last communication, however, had been an urgent one, so much so that her question on if he could come home soon was less a hopeful query and more of an order. He had dropped everything, worry as to what could possibly be wrong haunting him as he made arrangements for whatever absence from his duties as senator would result.

Thankfully, it was not a long flight to Alderaan from Coruscant, and Bail was soon hurrying through the halls of the palace.  He paused outside one of the balconies that looked out over the mountains, and he could hear a voice he did not recognize recount a story about Alderaan’s ascension ceremony, parts of which had his wife chuckling in amusement.  Frowning to himself, Bail knocked politely on the archway frame leading out to the balcony, before stepping foot onto it.

A young woman was seated across from his wife, a cup of tea in hand, her hair done up in braids he had often seen his wife wear when her hair was not covered by ornaments of office.  The look of her reminded him distinctly of Padmé, especially as she turned to him, looking at him with vibrant brown eyes. Her expression became pained almost immediately upon seeing him, and she quickly set her cup on the table between them, clasping her hands together to keep them from shaking.

“Forgive me, ladies; am I interrupting?” Bail asked, casting a concerned look at the young woman.

“Not at all, Bail; you’ve been expected,” Breha replied, motioning him toward a chair.  “Come, dear; you will need to sit for this.”

Something about the way she said that had Bail even more concerned than he was already, but he dutifully took the offered seat.  Breha smiled warmly at him, and it almost dissuaded his worries, before she extended a hand to the young woman.

“Bail, I want you to meet Leia Organa, our future adopted daughter.”

Bail’s mind came to an immediate, shuddering halt.  Whatever he had expected, this was certainly not it, and there was a moment where he just stared between the two women, utterly baffled.

“I… I’m sorry?” he croaked out, all eloquence he had in him leaving him for the moment.  Fortunately, the young woman seemed to have plenty of her own.

“I know it’s hard to believe,” she replied calmly, settling her clasped hands on her lap.  “I myself have no idea how I came to be here, in this time, though considering who I was with, I suspect something of the Force at work.”

Bail could only stare, at a loss for how to respond, with his mind insisting she looks like Padmé rather loudly.  But while she had Padmé’s appearance, her face was too different; her expression belonged to someone else, and while it seemed familiar, he could not put his finger on who it reminded him of.

“Why don’t you start at the beginning, Leia,” Breha offered, and Leia took a shaky breath, before nodding.

What followed was a tale too elaborate to be real, but too personal to be anything else.  It was a story of an Emperor and his Empire, of Death Stars and the end of Alderaan, and the beginning of a movement that shook worlds, of a galaxy struggling to break free from a massive well of darkness. By the end of it, Bail had stood, pacing the length of the balcony as he tried to think.  Part of him wanted to deny that anyone would willingly vote away their freedom for the sake of an all encompassing Empire, but… that was what they were doing.  Everyday, they granted the Chancellor more and more power for the sake of wartime emergencies.  Every time he claimed he had no desire for such powers, yet he refused to relinquish them once given.  “Just in case,” was starting to look like, “I will never,” just from Leia’s words alone.

As much as he wanted to say Leia was crazy… he could not, and understood why his wife could not either.

He finally sat down again and looked at Leia, really looked at her.  His adopted daughter that looked so much like Padmé.  It made him very worried about what could possibly happen to his friend and colleague in the future that he would need to adopt who was so very clearly her daughter.

“Why tell us all this?” he finally asked.  “I don’t know… anything about the Force and time travel, and I doubt the Jedi would even confirm if such an ability was possible.  But for all we know, you could be jeopardizing your chance of returning to your own time. Why take that risk?”

Leia focused her gaze on him, and he could easily tell that she was fighting against tears, that it was taking everything in her not to cling to them both and never let them go.

“Because if there is any hope for Alderaan to be saved, I’m willing to take the chance, regardless of the consequences.”