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The Assassin's Blade

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Authors Note: In this fic, Vader does use his iconic suit, but not because he needs to. He was NOT burned on Mustafar, which will be explained later. It's purely to mask his identity and because, come on, that suit is AWESOME. Rated mature for violence because...assassins. Need I say more?


 

Rain pelted the cobblestones of the Capital City of Lothal, drenching everything and anyone unlucky enough to be caught outside. What few lights shone in the darkness of the night were swallowed up by the dark gray mist that accompanied the rainfall. As a result, hardly a soul was in sight—even Imperial personnel had rushed back to their barracks as quickly as possible to get out of the cursed weather.

Lieutenant Althio cursed under his breath, pulling his cap down over his eyes as he walked. He had been forced to work late for the third night in a row. The Emperor was in the process of grooming the planet to become an industrial center to build TIE fighters, and in addition to all of the paperwork that had to be done, the local population needed to be placated as well. These were simple farming people, and they did not like the idea of their way of life being destroyed without their consent.

Therefore, It was Althio's job to vacate the farmers from the land the Emperor wished to build on. He had thought it would be easy to convince the lowly farmers to leave—just bring in some Storm Troopers, make a big deal about their powerful blasters, and they would all pack and leave with little argument.

Oh, how wrong he had been.

Most of the farmers put up a strong fight, and when that happened…well. The results weren't exactly pretty.

But, that was the way of the Emperor. Althio was just following orders. It was his job to follow, not question his Emperor. To question orders brought certain death, and he wasn't going to risk that. He'd execute every single farmer if he had to in order to avoid that fate.

A cold wind howled through the street, funneled through the city buildings, causing a shiver to run up his spine. Of course. Not only was it raining, but now a chilly wind had decided to blow in with it.

Just his rotten luck.

He still had four more blocks to go before he reached the warm common room of the barracks. He wished that he had taken a speeder, but of late, he had been trying to work more light exercise into his routine. Unless he needed to go to a farm, or travel to the other side of the city, he preferred to walk.

Tonight, that had been a mistake.

However, he thought, pausing at the mouth of an alleyway, I could take a shortcut…

He hesitated. Alleyways in the Capital City weren't always the safest, especially at night. Then again, when were alleyways ever safe? Besides, most of the city's populace was shuttered into their homes for the night. It was, after all, past curfew. What were the odds of running into trouble at this time of night? They were quite low, and if he hurried, they would be even lower.

Without further thought, he turned on his heel and made his way into the alley, darkness completely enclosing him.

The alleys of Capital City were a maze, easy to get lost in, if one wasn't familiar with them. He had taken the time when he was first stationed here to learn these back alleys, so even in the dark he knew just where to turn.

As he suspected, he was completely alone, save for the occasional Loth-cat that jumped from trash bins looking for leftover food. Althio smiled humorlessly. There was little food on Lothal these days: At least, for the locals anyway. Most of the food on the planet went to the Imperials. It was highly unlikely the stray cats would find anything of substantial use in those cans.

Thud.

It was so soft, he almost didn't hear it. He paused, taking a look around the alley, peering into the shadows. All he saw was a Loth-cat emerging from behind a trash bin. Althio relaxed, shaking his head. "Just a stupid cat," he muttered under his breath, turning back around.

He didn't quite believe that though. Cautiously, he moved forward again, his ears straining for any peculiar noises now. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps he had been working too hard for too long. Perhaps there really was something out there. Whatever it was, it was making him jumpy, and it was never good to be that way. Especially in a dark alley.

Scrrrtch.

There! Another noise, again so soft that he would have missed it had he not already been spooked. Just a cat, he kept telling himself, turning around, just a cat, just a cat…

Nothing was there. There was no movement. He looked to be completely alone.

Still, something within him screamed at him to run, some irrational instinct that kicked in as his mind began to imagine what possible things lurked in the darkness…

"Lieutenant Althia," A voice purred from the darkness, and once more, he whirled around, heart racing wildly as he pulled his blaster from its holster with shaking fingers.

There was no one there.

"Show yourself!" He demanded, trying to ignore the shakiness that leaked into his voice.

For a moment, nothing happened, nothing stirred. But then, from within the dark, a brilliant blue light ignited with a snap-hiss, the unmistakable sound of a lightsaber being ignited.

Jedi.

The light illuminated a figure clad, from head to toe, all in black, but that was all he could see. "You will pay for your crimes against the people of Lothal." The voice was cool, seemingly uninterested, but he could hear the deadly edge beneath those words.

He panicked.

He shot the blaster, a shot that should have rung true to its target, but instead of hitting the figure, the lightsaber smoothly blocked the bolt, sending it smashing back into the trash bins with a BANG that rang in his ears.

He tried again. Same result.

The figure began to move towards him casually, as if it was bored with him already. It didn't seem to be the least bit concerned that he was shooting at it.

He cursed, giving that idea up, and turned back around and blindly ran. In his mind, he replayed the betrayal of the Jedi two years before against the Emperor, and the subsequent destruction of their Order at the hands of the Emperor's apprentice, Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith. It was said that all of the Jedi were dead, but there were still rumors of some that had survived the purges and were looking to extract vengeance on the Empire.

As an Imperial soldier, he was apparently the target of one such Jedi tonight.

Perhaps he could lose the Jedi in the dark alleys. He knew these alleys; the Jedi likely did not. It was his only chance. If he could just…

The sound of blaster fire filled the air, and a split second later a burning, searing pain exploded in his leg, and he stumbled, barely catching the wall in time to stop himself from smashing face-first into the cold hard ground. He cried out in pain, reaching down to clutch his now bleeding leg. All he wanted to do was continue to clutch at the wound until the pain subsided enough for him to crawl back to the barracks to get medical attention, but he couldn't. He glanced back, dreading to see what he would find…

The cloaked figure was right behind him, once more approaching him as if it were a Loth-cat toying with its prey.

Again, panic clutched his throat, and he made a strangled noise, his brain racing with Jedi stories. It was said, in some versions, that Jedi used to be peacekeepers of the old Republic, not killers. Perhaps this Jedi intended to capture him and bring him before a Rebel sect to answer for what some thought to be crimes…

"You won't kill me," He managed to choke out, trying to sound confident, "You're Jedi-Scum. You would rather I stand trial and give you secrets of the Empire." He scoffed at that. As if he would betray his Emperor like that! Besides, he didn't know much other than what the Emperor had planned for the industrialization of this planet.

The figure stopped, the brilliant blue hue of the lightsaber illuminating the area around them. This time, he could see that the figure was short, far shorter than he expected, wearing a long black, rain-plastered cloak with a hood, a black mask that concealed half of the face, with a black leather, curve-hugging outfit that had other, various weapons attached, along with two blaster holsters, one on each hip. If he wasn't mistaken, the figure was that of a…

A woman.

The unknown woman chuckled, a dark humorless sound that made the hair on his body stand on end and a bone chilling shiver race across his skin, and the hum of the lightsaber suddenly seemed to reverberate in his ears. "You're right, Lieutenant," She conceded calmly, "A Jedi would want that." She paused, as if taking him in.

"However, I am no Jedi."

He didn't have a chance to scream before the saber suddenly lashed out in a smooth, powerful stroke, cutting across him cleanly.


 

Darth Vader sneered in distaste at the pathetic excuse for a "Capitol City" that Lothal had. It was more like a blip. An insignificant blip, compared to the mighty Imperial cities he normally inhabited as the Emperor's second in command. If he wasn't parading about in his cursed black suit, making a terrifying example to terrorize the people of the Galaxy into submission for the emperor, he was off on the pathetic excuses for a battlefield in the Outer Rim, exterminating Rebels like the mildly annoying bugs they were. Lothal was neither of those things.

He shouldn't have been there.

But, the Emperor was paranoid. Imperial patrols had found some lowly lieutenant murdered in an alleyway with suspicious wounds on this backwater orb of dirt called Lothal. The rumor was that it was a Jedi who did it, and with the few remaining Jedi scattered across the galaxy in hiding, the Emperor was paranoid that somehow one of them could have the power to overthrow his regime.

As if.

Vader knew the Jedi. Very well. He'd once been one himself, the most touted Jedi ever. They were spineless, blind, and weak. Without an army of Clone Troopers behind them, they were doomed to be hunted down and exterminated at some point. Vader preferred to go after a Jedi if he was absolutely certain that it was a real lead. Lothal was a rumor, probably created by the small minded idiots who had been stationed there. It would be a dead end. He was sure of it, and that annoyed him to no end. He had far better things to do with his time than chase shadows.

As he wound his way down the alleys, a few elite Storm Troopers flanking him, peasants scrambled to get out of his way. If they were smart, they'd run far away. He wasn't in the mood for this. He had a feeling that as soon as he confirmed that it wasn't a Jedi who had killed the lieutenant, he might lash out and kill someone himself to prove a point: Don't claim it was a Jedi unless it really was a Jedi.

Vader smelled the murder scene well before he rounded the last corner. Behind his mask, he crinkled his nose in disgust, finding the smell repugnant. These fools were so certain that it was a Jedi who had killed the man, they had left the body there in the street, strictly guarded, untouched. Under the hot sun, the body would already be decomposing. Vader almost felt bad for those who lived in the homes nearest to the alley.

Almost.

"Lord Vader, Sir!" The two troopers guarding the body stood at attention the moment he appeared. He could sense their fear, so thick he might have been able to slice through it with his lightsaber. Good. They had good reason to be afraid. Their lives would be ending shortly.

"Move." Was all he said, the black mask distorting his voice into something dark and fearsome. He watched the troopers stiffen before they obediently did as he commanded, leaving him with a clear view of the body lying on the cobblestones.

He approached it, his hand straying to his lightsaber, ready to ignite it and cut down the troopers the moment he found out it wasn't a Jedi-related murder…and paused.

Interesting.

The body was cut cleanly in a diagonal slash. There was no blood. The wounds were cauterized, and just the right size for a lightsaber blade. The depth of the cut into the body indicated the weapon had been wielded with power and force.

His interest piqued, the annoyance he felt disappeared just a little. "You," he barked at one of the troopers, who jumped a little in terror. "Is there any other evidence at this scene? Or, is it just the body?"

"There is evidence of blaster fire over here, Sir." One of them motioned to the trash cans on the edge of the alley. Sure enough, there were indeed scorch marks from blasters on the aluminum.

Vader frowned, turning back to the unmoved body. Breathing through his mouth to avoid the growing stench, he bent down to take a closer look.

There. On the left leg. The lieutenant had been shot, right before the lightsaber had sliced him apart, possibly to stop him from running. Unusual. That was not a Jedi move. Jedi were eventually trained to use blasters, but it was such a minimal training, it was more of an afterthought, as the Jedi's preferred weapon was, of course, a lightsaber. A Jedi usually would use the Force to slow someone's escape, not use blaster fire to injure them first. Unless they were trying to make it seem confusing, or possibly, this was a youngling he had somehow missed in Order 66…But, he dismissed that thought from his head as quickly as it had come.

He took another closer look at the lightsaber wound. Whoever it had been, they weren't tall. The lieutenant had not been a short man, but this wound was situated in such a way…if Vader had to guess, the murderer had been about 5"4. Maybe 5"5 at most.

Other questions plagued Vader's mind.

If the murderer wasn't a Jedi, how had they come across a lightsaber? He had done his best to make sure the lightsabers of the fallen Jedi were destroyed. He had his own agents constantly scouring the Black Market looking for light sabers: As soon as they found a lightsaber, they would notify him, and then that merchant would 'disappear mysteriously.' No, it made more sense that the murderer would be a Jedi…

But why, then, did he not sense a Force-presence lingering at the scene of the crime?

The Jedi could have been a master at shielding. Certainly, that was possible. Or, it could have been a normal person who had just somehow managed to acquire a very hard to get weapon. Regardless, one thing was now very clear: This was something he would need to look into further. Even if the Emperor hadn't ordered Vader to come and investigate, if Vader had stumbled upon this himself, he would have taken it upon himself to investigate.

"Is it a Jedi, Sir?" one of the troopers asked cautiously, reminding Vader that he had witnesses to this. Vader paused before standing back up, turning, his black cape flowing behind him. These men had been right to report a possible Jedi attack, as much as Vader didn't like to admit it. Under most circumstances, they would be rewarded.

But this was not a normal circumstance.

He couldn't allow them to spread rumors about a Jedi attack through the trooper ranks. Pretty soon, the galaxy would be full of whispers of a Jedi uprising, and he didn't need the Rebels to try to use that to their advantage.

He lashed out in the Force, strangling one of the troopers, his neck snapping with a twist of Vader's gloved hand and wrist. The other trooper barely had enough time to react before Vader's lightsaber ignited and pierced through his chest, killing him instantly. The other trooper collapsed to the ground, both of them dead.

"No," Vader said coolly, "It isn't."

He motioned to the bodies. "Clean this up. It stinks." He said to the troopers from his personal guard he had brought with him.

"Yes, sir, Milord!" They said, scrambling to do as he ordered. He didn't bother to wait for them. He stepped over the dead troopers and headed off down the alley from whence he'd come, his cloak billowing out behind him.

Whatever had happened here, he decided as he headed back towards his personal shuttle, it would need further investigation.

Question was: How seriously should he investigate?


 

Padme Naberrie Amidala Skywalker entered the cockpit of her personal shuttle, having changed out of her assassin outfit and into something far more comfortable and inconspicuous: Tan pants, dark brown, knee-high boots, and a simple light brown tunic. To anyone who saw her, she was just another low-born, unimportant woman in in the galaxy. She left her chestnut hair flowing around her and down her back, a style that neither Queen nor Senator Amidala would ever have worn in public.

Gone were the days of fancy ornate dresses. Gone were the days of her handmaidens painstakingly doing her hair into elaborate updos. Now, she was to keep a low profile. If it were found out that she was still alive, and that she was now an assassin for the Rebellion…

Well. It would certainly mean a death mark.

Obi-Wan Kenobi sat in the pilot's chair, preparing the ship to land on Gandle Ott, a planet so far out in the Outer Rim, the Empire barely knew, or perhaps cared, that it even existed.

A Loth-Cat walked precariously over the instruments, causing Obi-Wan to grumble and furrow his brow in annoyance and try to move the cat back onto the floor of the ship. "Need I remind you," He said, as she entered the cockpit, "This is the Rebellion, not a petting zoo."

Padme smiled at her old friend, picking the cat up in her arms before taking her seat in the co-pilot's chair. She rubbed the cat gently behind its large ears, and it began to purr. "I may be part of the Rebellion, Obi-Wan, but I am a mother first and foremost. My children's happiness comes first. Always." The look she gave him was both amused and pointed.

She meant what she said...and he knew it.

Perhaps it was odd that as soon as she was done slicing Anakin's lightsaber across the body of the lieutenant, she had picked up the Loth-Cat hanging out in one of the dumpsters and brought it back to the ship. She doubted many assassins (and she was now acquainted with quite a few across the galaxy) brought home pets to their children, but then, she also doubted that many assassins had children in the first place.

She was new to this assassin business, and she wanted to do a good job for the Rebellion, if it meant bringing democracy back to the galaxy and toppling Sidious' tyranny, but she also wanted to be a good mother to her two-year-old twins, Luke and Leia Skywalker.

They were all she had. They were her reason for living. They were the reason she still fought.

To strive to secure a future of freedom for them.

Obi-Wan sighed, and she didn't need to look at him to know that he was rolling his eyes. "Whatever you say, Senator." Padme smirked.

"Obi-Wan," She chided, letting the cat go as it squirmed in her lap, trying to drop back down to the floor, "It's Padme at home and in private. Angela in public. It would be a really dumb way to get us captured because you keep forgetting to not call me Senator." Her look was amused.

"Fine, Fine." Obi-Wan agreed. "We should be exiting hyperspace in about fifteen minutes."

Padme nodded absently, her hand, as it usually did these days, going to the lightsaber that was almost constantly at her side. The feel of it sent a wave of comfort through her, despite the deeply personal loss it also represented.

Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber… recovered from that awful night on Mustafar, when she had lost everything...and the one person...she held most dear. Built by her husband, it was a sleek and yet simple design, and it was as familiar to her now as her own hands, which were a tad bit too small for the saber. She didn't care.

It had been her beloved husband's, and she wouldn't part with it for all the credits in the galaxy.

Obi-Wan, noticing as he always did whenever she began to fiddle with Anakin's lightsaber, cleared his throat. "Padme," he began, "Are you sure that you don't want me to build you a lightsaber that would be better suited for your size? After all, Anakin's hands were much larger than yours, and he built that for himself...I mean, it would just make sense…"

Padme sighed. Always, it was the same.

Already, she was shaking her head adamantly. "Stop asking me that question, Obi-Wan. I grow tired of repeating myself. The answer is no. I won't...I refuse...to use any other lightsaber but my husband's." She could tell by the set of Obi-Wan's jaw that he didn't agree with her, but he didn't push the issue any longer either. They had already had their major fight about it, but in the end, Padme's stubbornness had won out. Besides, she knew the other reason behind Obi-Wan's insistence that she use another lightsaber: He didn't like to be reminded of his former padawan and best friend's fall to the Dark Side. To him, Anakin's lightsaber embodied Obi-Wan's personal failure from stopping Anakin's fall. Perhaps he worried that, somehow, just by using it, Padme too would fall into the Emperor's clutches.

Padme had her own reasons behind using the lightsaber. Reasons Obi-Wan would never understand. Reasons she would never share with him because he wouldn't, couldn't understand.

So, she kept those reasons locked in her heart, just as she kept the lightsaber clipped to her belt.

She never brought Anakin up to Obi-Wan. Not since the day she had come to terms with what had happened. Her beloved Ani was dead. Darth Vader had taken his place. Her husband wasn't coming back.

An essential part of her had died with him that night on Mustafar. If it hadn't been for her precious Luke and Leia, she might have died that night, too. Still, there was so much of their father in both of them, and each day was agony for her knowing they would never know their real father and the good man he'd once been.

When the Rebellion had contacted her for a secret mission shortly after the twins' birth two years ago, she accepted blindly. The loss of her husband, the knowledge that she was about to be a single mother in hiding from an Empire that had proclaimed her dead, had overwhelmed her. She'd felt helpless. The Rebellion's offer, whatever it was, presented her with an opportunity to take fate back into her own hands. When it was revealed that the mission she had blindly accepted was to become the Rebellion's assassin, sent across the galaxy to silently pick off and eliminate dangerous Imperials to help make way for the Rebellion's own spies and officers, it hadn't made a difference to her.

Gone was the Padme who would have insisted that they be captured and stand trial. Gone was the Padme who gave inspiring speeches to a war-torn galaxy, pushing for a diplomatic roadway to peace. Gone was the Padme who overall believed in the inherent goodness of people. In the moment of that offer, she'd been at a crossroads, deciding who it was she wanted to be from now on. The Rebellion offered her that identity.

She took it.

Obi-Wan wasn't happy about that. For months, while she trained intensively in secret with various professional assassins in a variety of weapons, with the Rebellion's backing, she would come home to where Obi-Wan was protecting the twins and would argue with him quietly for hours on end about her chosen course of action. He was afraid for who and what she would become if she kept on the path of an assassin. Padme disagreed, and even if Obi-Wan was right, it was her choice to make, not his. But, as the Empire strengthened and more and more innocent people were publicly executed and Imperial propaganda was broadcast to every corner of the galaxy, Obi-Wan finally caved. "Perhaps," He'd said, his blue eyes clouded with exhaustion and defeat, "We need to try a different strategy."

So he'd trained her, honed her skills she'd learned from the Rebellion, and added lightsaber training as well.

Now here she was. An assassin. She had completed her first official mission. She had taken a life in cold blood.

She found she didn't regret it. Not one bit.

"You're sure you left no evidence that could be traced back to a supposedly long-dead senator?" Obi-Wan asked for about the millionth time.

"I'm sure." Was her cold response as they dropped out of Hyperspace, Gandle Ott looming beneath them. Obi-Wan expertly steered the ship through the atmosphere, finding one of the few but sparsely used landing ports nearest to their hidden home in the forest. Before they exited the shuttle, Padme made sure to pry the Loth-Cat from beneath the dashboard where it had become tangled in the wires. "We'll need to make sure nothing was damaged before our next mission." Padme remarked dryly.

"I'll be sure to do that." Obi-Wan replied, and she could hear the weariness in his voice. When she straightened and looked at him, she found no traces of that exhaustion. She knew it was there, though. It had been there since that night on Mustafar. He just did his best to hide it.

She stuffed the cat into her backpack, much to the creature's hissing protest, and exited the craft, finding their parked speeders nearby.

Even though the port was close to her hidden home in the forest, it still took an hour to reach the modest home. The building wasn't the fancy penthouse apartment at 500 Republica on Coruscant, or her parent's sprawling mansion at Lake Varykino on Naboo, or even a palace in Theed, but the little quaint home had become home for her.

The first few months after Mustafar and the twin's birth, it had been nothing but moving from hideout to hideout, dashing from planet to planet all over the Outer Rim. This was the first place she'd settled down with the kids, the first place they could grow up in safety without fear of discovery. The Imperials rarely came to this planet, and when they did, they never visited the forest. Many of the locals claimed the forest was haunted, and though that was ridiculous, Padme was more than happy to allow people to believe that.

They parked the speeders behind the shed before they entered the house. "I'm home!" Padme called, shouldering the squirming pack over her shoulder, as Obi-Wan trudged in behind her.

She didn't have time to process the fact that the house was, as usual, messy with toys strewn everywhere. The moment her voice reverberated throughout the house, two matching squeals of delight echoed through the home. Moments later, her two little toddlers came racing around the corner, followed slowly by her frazzled mother, Jobal.

Padme knelt onto the floor, holding her arms out wide, and the twins immediately jumped into them, showering her with kisses and unintelligible questions. They were, after all, only two. They knew speech, but they often got their words confused, especially when they were excited.

Padme laughed. "Yes, yes, I'm home, little ones." She gave each twin a kiss on their forehead before pulling away just enough to get a better look at them.

Just as she'd left them.

Luke, her firstborn, looked exactly like his father, with sandy-blonde hair, crystal clear blue eyes, and a smile that could brighten up the room. Leia, her youngest, looked more like her, with dark brown hair falling in curls around her angelic face, and dark brown eyes that held the mischievousness of her father. She had a healing scratch on her right arm from falling down after trying to get cookies from the cookie jar on the counter two weeks before.

Padme ruffled their hair, smiling gently at each of them. They were still blabbering every word they could think of. "I'm so glad you two are well," She finally said, kissing their foreheads again. Oh, how she missed them. She hated being away for too long, especially since…

"They're getting stronger in the Force." Her mother said gravely, her blunt assessment making Padme tense.

Padme glanced up at her mother warily before she pulled her pack off of her back and opened the top. "I have a present for you two," Padme said, forcing her voice to remain cheerful. She didn't want to upset the twins. They were, indeed, extremely Force sensitive, both of them inheriting a high midichlorian count from their father, and if they sensed through the Force that she was worried, she didn't even want to think about what they would do.

She reached in and pulled out the Loth-Cat. Immediately, both twin's eyes rounded wide in wonder. "Mama?" Luke said cautiously, reaching out with his little hand to gently stroke the cat's fur. The cat meowed and squirmed out of Padme's grasp, landing in front of the twins gracefully on the floor, it's light gray fur having an almost blue sheen to it. Luke backed up warily, but Leia's gaze stayed glued to the cat.

"It's a kitty." Padme explained. "She's yours to play with."

Leia frowned. "Mine?" Her favorite word since she'd learned it.

"And Luke's." Padme clarified. "Share. This isn't a toy. You need to be nice. See?" She took each of their little hands and gently ran them over the cat's fur coat.

As usual, Leia was the first to warm up. A smile brightened her face. "ITTY!" She yelped, scaring the Loth-Cat into bolting for another room of the house. Forgetting their returned mother, the twins scrambled after it, giggling.

"That poor animal," Obi-Wan mused with a shake of his head, and Padme was glad to hear an edge of humor in his voice. It was rare these days for Obi-Wan to find humor in anything. "Now," He faced Padme's mother. "What makes you say the twins are growing stronger?"

Jobal, who had also been forced to go into hiding with her daughter after Imperial troops had murdered Padme's father, Ruwee, and attempted to murder her as well, crossed her arms. "I don't have to be Force-sensitive to see it. They're using it more and more. I've had to tape down glass dishes so that they don't levitate and break them. And, if they're doing it together, the tape won't stop them."

Padme closed her eyes, running a hand through her hair in frustration. This was what she was afraid of. Luke and Leia were the offspring of the single most powerful Jedi ever in existence. They were Skywalkers. Even as infants, Obi-Wan had worried they would bring too much unwanted attention if they stayed together. Padme refused to separate them however, so Obi-Wan ended up being stuck staying with her to mask the twin's Force-presence.

But, with Padme and Obi-Wan going on missions…

"To make matters worse, Imperials visited the planet just yesterday. They didn't stay long, but they were here. More will come, be sure of it." Her mother added with grave certainty.

Panic gripped Padme, and she had the sudden irrational urge to grab her children and run to a different planet. "Did…did they act like they were searching for something?" Or someone, she thought darkly.

Her mother shook her head. "No. Just a routine visit."

Still, it didn't do much to calm Padme. If Imperials made more visits to the planet, it was only a matter of time when she was off-planet on a mission and someone found out about two Force-sensitives hiding in the forest. To come back and find out that her children had been killed, or worse, taken and turned to the Dark Side like their father…

"I think," Obi-Wan suddenly said, breaking Padme out of her thoughts, "I might have a plan."

Both Padme and Jobal turned to Obi-Wan expectantly. "Oh?" Padme said sharply when he didn't immediately disclose his idea. "What plan is that?"

Obi-Wan smiled a rare smile, a gleam in his eye. "I have this friend…"