It doesn’t take Anakin all that long to work out that he’s exchanged one form of slavery for another.
The stories of the Jedi were about great warriors who fought for justice and freedom all across the galaxy – heroes, in a word. The Jedi were supposed to be a force for good, bringing change and revolution with them wherever they went.
Anakin should have been more cautious, more hesitant when the Jedi wanted to take him away from Tatooine – because they weren’t like the Jedi in the stories, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. In the stories, Jedi were courageous and fearless, braving impossible odds in order to restore peace and justice to the galaxy. But Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan? They kept a low profile, and all they wanted to do was repair their ship and leave the planet as soon as possible. That should have been the first warning sign. But Anakin was blinded, in his excitement at meeting real live Jedi, and he didn’t see it. All he saw was a way out – a way towards freeing himself and his fellow slaves – and so he took it, without truly thinking things through.
Now, Anakin thinks he might have made a terrible mistake.
He’s told at all times how to behave, how to dress, even how to cut his hair. Worst of all, he’s told how to feel, by distant adults who have never known the pain and humiliation that Anakin carries inside of him. They tell Anakin that he shouldn’t feel the way he does – that he should be calm, serene, rational – as though Anakin hasn’t any reason to feel as he does. They say that he should find peace in the fact that he is no longer a slave, as though this somehow makes up for the past – as though this knowledge is somehow going to soothe the jagged, aching pain of knowing that his people – his mother – still exist in wretched servitude.
Not that Anakin thinks of it in exactly those terms, of course. All he knows is that the fact that slavery still exists on Tattooine hurts him somewhere deep in his soul.
The other Jedi disapprove of him, Anakin knows: disapprove of him because unlike the rest of the people here Anakin actually feels things like any normal living person does. Anakin can’t help it – doesn’t want to help it – because he understands intimately that in emotion, there is strength. And at every turn, the Jedi seek to take it away from him.
The Jedi say that there is freedom in serenity, but Anakin knows this is a lie. There is freedom in the righteous anger of the oppressed, the anger that leads revolutions and brings change, the anger that people are suffering and no one is doing anything about it. Serenity doesn’t bring freedom: instead, it breeds apathy.
Anakin sees that apathy in the Jedi all too clearly.
When he first arrived at the Temple, Anakin thought that the Jedi would help him. After all, surely they could see how wrong, how fundamentally unjust it was that slavery existed on Tatooine? And wasn’t it against Republic law for slavery to occur, anywhere within their territories? Surely the Jedi would step in.
So Anakin wasn’t shy about telling people about where he’d come from, about what he’d survived, about all of the terrible things that took place on his homeworld, because here, he thought, he’d finally fond the champions of the oppressed. He’d found the people who, if they wanted, could actually do something.
If they wanted. If they wanted. Those are the key words in that sentence.
Because the Jedi always had a reason why they couldn’t intervene on Tatooine: ‘because of the precarious political situation,’ ‘because we are needed elsewhere in the galaxy and don’t have the resources to go freeing slaves,’ ‘because it is outside the purview of the Jedi Order,” and so on and so forth.
But what it all boils down to, really, is that they don’t care. Oh, the Jedi talk a good talk about the importance of compassion… but they don’t practice what they preach. It’s easier to turn a blind eye to what happens in the Outer Rim territories than actually do something about it – and so that is what the Jedi do, more concerned with the politics of the core planets than the lives of real people who need their help. For the greater good, they say, for the lives of the many, they say – but what they mean is, the ordinary people don’t matter to us.
With time, Anakin stops talking about freeing the slaves. But that doesn’t mean he stops thinking about it.
He stays silent, and never says what he really thinks, because he knows better than to talk back to a master – and a master he has, even now. The Jedi say that to call Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council members ‘master’ is a mark of respect: Anakin thinks it is the mark of another kind of slavery, one where the slaves do not even know they are enslaved.
So Anakin keeps his thoughts to himself, and does what he’s told, and wears the clothes he’s given and cuts his hair so that it’s the same as all the other padawans. He could leave the Jedi Order, if he wanted: but where would he go? What would he do? There is no one any more willing to help him free the slaves of Tatooine than the Jedi are, and he knows all too well that his fate as a young boy all on his own would likely not be any more pleasant than his current existence. And for all that the Jedi rule his life as stringently as any other master, they are not deliberately cruel.
(Yoda – Anakin refuses to call him ‘Master’ in the privacy of his own head – tells Anakin that he must learn to let go of his lingering attachment to his mother, that attachment is not the Jedi way. That it will only lead to fear and anger, and draw Anakin to the Dark Side.
Anakin grits his teeth, and reminds himself that the Jedi are not deliberately cruel.)
Years pass, and Anakin learns – both the lessons that the Jedi intend to teach him, and many that they do not. He learns to hide his emotions, to bury them down deep and shield them with a facade of indifference. It isn’t serenity – Anakin could never be serene about the state of injustice the galaxy is in – but it’s close enough that the Jedi no longer chide him about feeling too strongly, and leave him alone.
And then he’s reunited with Padme.
Things don’t really change, but for the first time, Anakin has someone he can trust, someone he can confide in, someone as impassioned about their people and where they come from as Anakin is about his. Padme has all of the compassion that the Jedi lack, and a fiery determination to do the best she can by her people. In this, Padme and Anakin are the same: neither will stand in the other’s way. Padme understands Anakin in a way the Jedi never have: Anakin tells her of his dreams, his hopes, his ambition to free the slaves of Tatooine, and finds not only a sympathetic ear, but a determination to aid him in any way Padme can.
When Anakin begins having dreams of his mother – terrible, horrifying dreams – it is Padme who encourages him to return to Tatooine.
“I can’t,” he says, the words heavy in his mouth. “The Jedi won’t allow it. I can’t just leave–”
But Padme looks him in the eye and says, “Which is more important, the Jedi or your mother?”
And Anakin realises that maybe it really is that simple.
Padme has access to a ship they can borrow, and Anakin leaves Coruscant in the dead of night, without a word even to Obi-Wan about where he’s going. They’re gone before the Jedi can realise he’s missing.
Anakin has always imagined that he would return to Tatooine in very different circumstances. He thought it would be with all the training the Jedi could offer him, ready to free all the slaves. But his return is very different: tense and afraid for his mother, still only a padawan rather than a knight, and with Padme by his side, offering what comfort she can.
Anakin discovers from the man who claims to be his mother’s husband that his mother was taken by Tusken raiders, and wastes no time in going into the desert. He knows roughly where the Tuskens camp, and he goes alone: much as he appreciates Padme’s support, this is unfamiliar territory for her. It isn’t for him. The desert is in his bones, haunts his dreams, and even after all these years away from it Anakin hasn’t forgotten how it behaves.
He finds the Tusken camp easily enough. He moves through the camp stealthily, without alerting any of the Tuskens to his presence. He follows his instincts, using the Force to guide him, and finally, in one of the tents he finds his mother.
She’s tied up, and clearly injured, and Anakin curses as he pulls out his pocket knife and begins sawing at her bonds. Her eyes flutter open, and Anakin says, “It’s okay, Mom, it’s me. It’s Anakin.”
“Anakin?” she says wonderingly, her voice cracked with thirst.
“It’s me. Hold on, Mom. I’ll have you free in a minute.”
He does, and when it becomes clear that Anakin’s mother can barely stand, let alone walk, he pulls her into his arms and carries her out, sneaking back the way he came.
The entire way, his only thought is, I got here in time.
His arms ache by the time they get back to the Lars farm, but Anakin doesn’t care. He puts his mother down on the bed Cliegg directs him to, and tends to her wounds himself. Only when she is settled and as comfortable as possible does Anakin think about leaving.
Anakin doesn’t – can’t – stay long, because the Jedi will be looking for him. So he bids his mother goodbye, and he and Padme head back to Coruscant.
Anakin refuses to tell Obi-Wan why he left, or where he’s been: he knows that if the Jedi ever suspect that he still has such strong ties to his mother, he risks expulsion from the Jedi Order. Instead, he is strongly disciplined by the Jedi Masters for the time he was absent, and finds himself saddled with the most unpleasant tasks in the Temple. Anakin tells himself he doesn’t mind, that his mother’s life is worth it. Only the second half of that statement is true.
The next time he sees Padme, he asks her to marry him. She says yes.
Anakin is not surprised or even uncomfortable with the fact that his marriage must remain a secret. The marriages of slaves were always thus: what slave owner would allow them even this freedom, one of body and spirit? The Jedi Order is no different in this respect, and so Anakin hides his marriage, and feels no remorse for doing so.
Anakin knows that in some fashion that he can never fully understand, it hurts Padme to keep their love a secret: Padme was born free in every way that matters, and in matters of the heart she is used to openness and freedom.
But Anakin is well-versed in keeping his innermost self hidden from the world: his marriage is just one more layer of secrets that he holds close. After all, if no one knows of his close relationship with Padme, then who can try and take it from him?
From time to time, Chancellor Palpatine talks to Anakin, all fatherly wisdom and advice, his attitude avuncular and benign. But no one gets to be Chancellor without making sacrifices: and Anakin knows, all too well, that often those sacrifices are the well-being of ordinary people. Besides, Anakin no longer trusts soft, persuasive words: he’s heard them used by the Jedi far too often to excuse what Anakin can only see as their failings. For Anakin, the only proof of good intentions is in action; and so, while he is polite to the Chancellor, and deals with him as he must, Anakin never unburdens himself to the man. Because Anakin was raised a slave, but the Chancellor is the kind of man who profits from the labours of those beneath him, and that is something that Anakin will never, ever trust.
Finally the day comes that Anakin ceases to become a padawan and becomes a Jedi knight. Anakin thanks the Jedi Masters for everything that they have taught him, and promptly resigns from the Jedi Order. For once in his life, Anakin sees the Jedi Masters overtaken by real emotion: pure shock. They ask him why he would even consider such a thing.
Anakin only smiles thinly, and says, “You already have your answer. Think about it.” He refuses to give the question any more answer than that.
Anakin leaves the Jedi Temple with only the clothes on his back and the components for a lightsaber hidden in his clothing. He’d handed in his lightsaber before he left, as requested, but it won’t take him long to build a new one. Perhaps Anakin should feel guilty about stealing from the Jedi, but he finds himself doing so without a qualm. He does what he must for his people, after all, and that is what is important.
He goes to Padme next, and tells her what he plans. Padme bites her lip, but nods. She has her obligations to her own people: Anakin must pursue his. Their paths must diverge for a while, but Anakin promises to return as soon as he can. Padme takes a deep breath, and tells Anakin one last thing.
Anakin takes a deep breath of his own, and tells her to keep herself and the baby safe, and to comm him when it’s due. Padme tells him to be careful. Anakin only smiles, and says that he can’t promise that. Padme mirrors his sad smile, and says, “I know. But try anyway.”
Anakin hitches a lift on a freighter all the way to Tatooine, working in return for his passage. On Tatooine he buys himself a hooded cloak of the kind they wear out in the desert to keep away the sun and sand, the fabric lightweight but tough. Only once he is on Tatooine does he put the components of his lightsaber together. Once he completes it, Anakin looks at the new lightsaber, and hopes he has the strength and cunning for what is to follow.
Anakin has had a long time to plan this. One of the reasons the slaves have never been able to escape slavery is the transmitter implanted under their skins, ready to explode the moment the device is activated by their masters. Their masters would rather kill a slave than lose them to freedom, and that is the biggest obstacle to freeing the slaves. Fortunately, Anakin knows what to do about it.
When the Jedi removed his own transmitter, Anakin insisted on knowing all about every step of the procedure. While he was unconscious at the time, the Jedi recorded the operation to add to their reference collection, and Anakin watched the holo over and over, until he had memorised exactly what the surgeon had done. He’d asked for the transmitter, afterwards: the surgeon had been bemused at the request, but had seen no reason to deny it. Anakin had taken the deactivated transmitter apart, piece by piece, learned how it fit together and what exactly would trigger the device. In the end, he was an expert in how it worked.
Now, Anakin builds a scanner that will precisely locate where similar transmitters are buried beneath the skin, allowing him to remove them. When that is done, Anakin is ready for the next stage of his plan.
He goes after the Hutts first. Their security is impressive, Anakin is willing to admit, but then so is Anakin: during his time with the Jedi he was trained in deadly skills, and he puts these to good use. Soon all of the Hutts are dead, and Tatooine is in chaos. A power vacuum has been created, and Anakin fills it.
He takes control of Tatooine, through threats and promises to Tatooine’s governor: the man has been living in the pocket of the Hutts for years, and falls into line as soon as he sees that Anakin means business. It helps that Anakin has been freeing slaves as he goes, personally removing their transmitters, and teaching the freed slaves how to build the scanners and remove the transmitters themselves. What Anakin has done is start a domino effect: the more slaves he frees and teaches how to remove the transmitters, the more new slaves are freed.
Three months into his quest, Anakin is reunited with a friend from his childhood. Anakin puts back the hood of his cloak, and lets Kitster get a good look at him. Kitster stares at Anakin like he’s never seen him before, but Anakin assures him, “It’s really me, Kitster.”
“You really did come back to free us all,” Kitster says, and there’s awe and wonder in his voice. “Just like you said you would.”
“I promised I would, didn’t I? Now come on, let’s get your transmitter removed.” Anakin claps him on the back, and a dazed Kitster agrees. Within a week he’s joining Anakin on his crusade.
Seven months after Anakin has left the Jedi Order, he gets a call from Padme. She looks exhausted, but she’s smiling like she can’t contain her joy, and there are two sleeping bundles in her arms.
“Twins,” Anakin says, and laughs, delight bubbling up inside him. “I never would have guessed. What are their names?”
“Leia and Luke,” says Padme, still smiling beatifically. “I’m keeping their surname quiet for the moment, until it’s safe for us all to be known as Skywalkers.” She hesitates. “When are you coming home?”
His own smile fading a bit, Anakin tells Padme of his plans: one, to oust the current governor of Tatooine, and two, to get himself elected as Tatooine’s senator.
“If it works, I’ll be back on Coruscant regularly,” he says. “So we’ll finally get a chance to see each other.”
Padme thoroughly approves of Anakin’s plan. Before she ends the call, she just has one more thing to tell him.
“Apparently the Jedi heard about what was happening, and discussed whether to intervene. Obi-Wan stood up for what you’ve been doing. He said that whether it caused political upheaval or not, in the end, freeing the slaves was the only just course of action, and he applauded you for it.” Padme shake her head. “He visited me the other day, asking questions. I think he’s worked out that it’s you behind the revolution.”
Anakin doesn’t know how to respond to that: while he’s always had a difficult relationship with the Jedi, his relationship with Obi-Wan has always been particularly conflicted: because Obi-Wan is a good man, Anakin knows that, and in his way Anakin has always been fond of him. Obi-Wan just happens to be Jedi to the core. Anakin has always had difficulty reconciling the two facts.
Anakin thanks Padme for telling him, and goes to tell Kitster that he’s just become a father. Kitster congratulates him, and the two of them celebrate with a bottle of traditional Rykkava wine.
It isn’t difficult for Anakin to be elected senator: by now, every slave on Tatooine knows of the mysterious man with the lightsaber who has been doing his best to free them all. For the first time, the slaves are free to participate in the elections, and Anakin wins by a landslide.
He returns to Coruscant wearing the clothes he feels most comfortable in: clothes the colour of the desert, sturdy boots, and his cloak. Carved japor snippets are wound around his arms and neck with string, and he bears the tattoos of a freed slave. He’s let his hair grow out from the shorter style generally favoured by the Jedi, and it falls in messy waves almost to his shoulders. He looks nothing like the other senators. They dress to display their wealth and sophistication: Anakin dresses to make a point.
Anakin goes to see Padme, and finally meets his children. The babies are beautiful and tiny and perfect in every way, and Anakin’s heart swells with an immense love as he holds them in his arms, fierce and tender. He thinks, I would do anything for my children.
But while Padme is glad to see him, she’s also tense and worried, and over lunch she tells Anakin of her concerns about the future of the Republic, the things she didn’t dare tell hi meven over a private comm. While Anakin has been busy freeing slaves, the war with the Separatists has been getting worse, and Chancellor Palpatine has been securing greater and greater emergency powers – powers which infringe on traditional democracy. Anakin thinks of his impression of the Chancellor – persuasive, manipulative, and the kind of man to profit from the labours of others – and finds that he shares Padme’s concerns.
In the end, he goes to visit the Chancellor himself. After all, the Chancellor has always made time for Anakin. Anakin has never trusted that, but now it proves useful.
The man welcomes him in, congratulates him on making senator, at the same time adding reproachfully that Anakin should have come to him if he had misgivings about the Jedi Order.
So for the first time, Anakin tells someone other than Padme about his feelings regarding the Jedi Order. He says that being a Jedi was only a step above slavery, and that all his life, all he had wanted was to be free. The Chancellor nods understandingly, and speaks encouragingly and Anakin watches him carefully.
“And now there’s all this trouble with the Separatists,” says Anakin, letting his real frustration show through. “They tell me you’ve been granted emergency powers to deal with the situation.”
“Indeed,” says Palpatine, with a smile. “Someone must guide the Republic to order, and end all this chaos.”
“The Republic is broken,” says Anakin, and means it. “It has always been corrupt and willing to turn a blind eye to the violation of its laws when it’s convenient. If the Republic were really what it claims to be, it would never have allowed me to grow up a slave.”
The Chancellor agrees with this, and tells Anakin that he has a vision of the future: not as a republic, but as an empire.
“With you leading it?” Anakin asks, and because Anakin has practice at hiding his emotions down deep, Palpatine does not sense his consternation. Instead, the Chancellor speaks, of ensuring that previous tragedies do not occur again, of preventing calamities… “…such as the ones you have faced, my young friend,” says the Chancellor, putting a hand on Anakin’s arm.
Anakin responds exactly as Palpatine expects him to, with utterances of faith in the Chancellor.
“But what of the Jedi?” Anakin asks, and Palpatine smiles.
“Never fear, Anakin. The Jedi will be dealt with when the time comes. Their reign over this galaxy will soon come to an end.”
Anakin does his best to seem calm and interested until he’s far away from the Chancellor’s offices. He checks the holo recorder tucked into his clothes to ensure that it recorded the entire conversation. Then, and only then, does Anakin allow his real emotions to float to the surface.
He feels nauseous as he considers the Chancellor’s plans. Anakin understands slavery on an intimate level, and he knows that this is what Palpatine intends for the current Republic – the entire galaxy, subject to the whims of a single master. Palpatine has already begun his journey there, with his emergency powers: already, if he wished, he could seize power by force. It’s likely that many people would even applaud such a move, so afraid are they of the current crisis. The only real obstruction to Palpatine’s plans are the Jedi – and from what Palpatine said, he has already taken this into account.
Anakin returns to Padme’s apartment, and plays the entire holo of his conversation with the Chancellor. When he is done, she is as pale as he is.
“Something must be done,” Padme says.
“I don’t disagree with you, but what?” says Anakin. “In the current political climate, people are likely to welcome his vision with open arms, if it means an end to the war.”
“Not everyone,” says Padme.
She tells him of a secret group of senators and politically active individuals, the Delegation of 2000, who have joined together with plans to restore the Republic to its former ideals.
“They’ll want to hear about this. We’ve been concerned enough as it is about the Chancellor’s growing power – but to hear that he plans to actively take control of the Republic, to turn it into an empire? That is something far more alarming.”
So Anakin makes a copy of the holo for Padme to take to the next meeting of the Delegation, and a second copy for himself – and then, he makes his way to a destination he had planned never to visit again.
The Jedi Temple.
He is met with frostiness and bewilderment by the Jedi, but they permit him to visit Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan greets him with genuine pleasure, but Anakin cuts short the polite small-talk as soon as they’re alone.
“You need to hear this,” he says, and plays Obi-Wan the holo.
By the end, Obi-Wan’s mouth has formed a thin line, and his eyes are dark with grim concern.
“The rest of the Council needs to hear this,” he says, and looks at Anakin. “May I keep this?”
“Then I shall take it to the Council straight away,” says Obi-Wan, standing. Anakin stands as well.
Obi-Wan spares him one last glance.
“By the way, congratulations on your work on Tatooine,” he says, and is gone, leaving Anakin to make his way out of the Temple alone. In spite of himself, Obi-Wan’s words send a flicker of warmth through him.
Anakin is at Padme’s apartment early the next morning, nursing a crying Luke, when there is someone at the door. Anakin opens the door to see Obi-Wan, who says, “I had hoped I would find you here,” before blinking at the baby in Anakin’s arms.
He gives Anakin a long look, clearly putting two and two together, and says, “I should have known.”
Anakin says nothing in the face of Obi-Wan’s moment of revelation, and waits.
Obi-Wan sighs, his expression turning grim again.
“May I come in? You should get Senator Amidala, as well.”
Anakin lets him in, and goes to wake Padme.
What Obi-Wan is here to tell them is even more horrifying news than Anakin suspected: not only has the Chancellor escaped justice, but it was revealed during his escape that he is the mysterious Sith Lord that the Jedi have been fruitlessly searching for over the last decade or so.
“He wants nothing less than complete rule over this galaxy,” says Obi-Wan, “and we have no idea where he is, or how to stop him. Worse, if news of this gets out – which it will – the public may very well turn against us.”
“Then go to the media first,” says Padme. “Give them the holo Anakin recorded. Address the Senate before Palpatine has the chance.”
“She’s right,” says Anakin. “Use this time to your advantage. Tell the public the truth, and don’t hold back. Tell them about the Sith and what they do. Palpatine will stop at nothing to rule the galaxy, and the public needs to know that. This is a war the Jedi need to win.”
Anakin may have his problems with the Jedi, but if it’s a choice between the Jedi and the Sith, the Jedi are by far the preferable option. During his time as a padawan Anakin became familiar with the tactics of the mysterious Sith Lord, pulling strings from behind the scenes, using other people as tools, and sacrificing them blithely to his purpose; and Anakin had never trusted Palpatine. Finding out that the Sith Lord and Palpatine are one and the same is the stuff of nightmares.
“I know,” says Obi-Wan, “but it may not be enough.”
“Tell them that Palpatine engineered the war with the Separatists in the first place,” Anakin tells him.
“We don’t have enough evidence–”
“You don’t need evidence,” Anakin argues. “Tell the people anyway. Tell them that Palpatine engineered the war right from the beginning, that it was all part of his plan to achieve his current position. You know that it’s true, Obi-Wan, whether you have the evidence or not. And the people won’t care – the suggestion that Palpatine is a criminal mastermind will be enough to get people worried and make them rethink their attitude towards him.”
Obi-Wan sighs, and strokes his beard reflexively.
“I don’t know that the Council will listen, Anakin.”
“Then we’ll do it.” Padme speaks up, her face full of determination. “We’ll release the information. Anakin used to be a Jedi, people will believe that he still has connections inside the Jedi Order who can give him this information. And that recording Anakin made will be enough to convince people.”
“I dearly hope you’re right,” says Obi-Wan.
Padme and Anakin leave the twins with Sabe (one of Padme’s former handmaidens) and the most trusted members of Padme’s security detail; Anakin has his own security detail, but he doesn’t know most of them well enough to trust them with the care of his infant children. Padme, on the other hand, has known her security taskforce for years now.
The two of them call a press conference outside the Senate building, and announce to the gathered journalists everything they know about Palpatine and the Sith, explain the Jedi’s attempts to arrest him, and finally, play Anakin’s holo recording. A recording of the press conference is immediately uploaded to all of Coruscant’s official channels: Anakin knows that it won’t be long before the recording makes its way to the other core planets, and from there to the wider galaxy.
The Senate calls an emergency session for later that day. Anakin knows that convincing the Senate to rescind the Chancellor’s powers and have him arrested will be the hard part.
Anakin and Padme are waylaid by several other senators, all of whom are appalled by the news that Anakin and Padme have just presented to the galaxy. It takes a while before the two of them are able to leave. Anakin and his wife are just about to climb into their speeder when a voice shouts, “Sir, wait!”
Anakin pauses, and lets the figure hurry up to him. They remove the hood of their jacket, and Anakin immediately recognises the face looking back at him: he’s seen it before, after all, on every clone trooper who ever removed their helmet in his presence. It’s clearly been some time since this trooper has been part of a squadron, however. Anakin wonders what a deserter wants with him.
“Senator Skywalker,” says the clone trooper, “I didn’t know who else to talk to, and then I saw your press conference – I wasn’t sure if I would get here on time. It’s about the clone troopers inhibitor chip–”
Anakin’s blood runs cold.
The trooper does. Anakin listens in horror. Halfway through Padme leans out of the speeder to see what’s taking Anakin so long, and her pale face is a match for Anakin’s as she hears what Anakin does.
“The Jedi,” says Padme, her lips bloodless. “You have to warn them.”
The trooper is nearly fainting with relief that someone has finally listened to him, and Anakin thanks him hurriedly before comm-ing Obi-Wan.
“Anakin, now isn’t really the time–” Obi-Wan begins, before he gets a good look at Anakin’s face. “Anakin. What is it?”
“The clones,” Anakin says desperately. “They have an inhibitor chip.”
Obi-Wan’s expression changes a little.
“Obi-Wan, each chip is designed to override the trooper’s own decisions. Their sense of right and wrong, their sense of loyalty, everything. And each chip carries an executable order to kill every Jedi they come across. The order could be activated at any time.”
Anakin pauses for breath. Obi-Wan’s face is the picture of horror.
“Has to have the code for the order to kill all Jedi,” Anakin finishes for him. “You have to warn the Order. Contact Kamino – there has to be an override code. Something.”
“Right,” says Obi-Wan, and ends the call. Anakin slumps against the side of the speeder.
“Anakin?” Padme tugs on his arm, and he finally climbs into the speeder. “Take us home,” Padme tells the driver. “Please.”
When they arrive home, the apartment is suspiciously quiet.
“Sabe?” Padme calls out, her voice worried: she doesn’t feel the same frisson of impending danger in the Force that Anakin does, but she knows that something is wrong, all the same.
“In here,” says Sabe’s voice, shaking slightly. Anakin draws the lightsaber hidden inside his cloak, and follows the sound of her voice.
Two members of Padme’s security detail lie dead on the floor. Sabe is there, sitting in a chair with the twins in her lap. Standing next to her is a black-cloaked figure that so reeks of the Dark Side that Anakin marvels that none of the Jedi ever sensed it in his presence.
Anakin hears Padme’s terrified gasp.
“You betrayed me, Anakin.” says Palpatine. His voice is quivering and reproachful, but Anakin knows it for yet another deception. “You betrayed my trust.”
Anakin feels himself snarl.
“You never trusted me,” he says. “Slaves are never trusted by masters. Now get the hell away from my children.”
Palpatine smiles, his eyes glittering.
“Your children,” he says, and laughs. “Did you think it was a secret, that just because they didn’t bear your name, no one would work out who they were? When their Force signature is so similar to your own?”
Padme lets out a sob, and fumbles for her comm.
“Such powerful children, so strong in the Force,” Palpatine croons. “One of them will make an excellent apprentice. The other… I have no use for.”
Palpatine activates his lightsaber in the same instance as Anakin does.
“You are not taking my children from me!” Anakin shouts, darting forward. He’s hyper-aware of everything around him: of Padme calling Obi-Wan on her comm in the background, of Sabe sitting tense and still and holding the twins to her chest, of Palpatine’s cackling laugh as their lightsaber blades meet.
Anakin has always been strong in the Force, but Palpatine is also strong, stronger than anyone Anakin has ever met, save perhaps for Yoda. They weave their way around the room in a deadly dance, a furious back-and-forth of clashing blades, blue against red, as Anakin fights for his children.
The fight drags on, and Anakin begins to tire, but the thought of what will happen to his children if he loses this fight keeps him from flagging, even as his muscles are screaming at him.
Just as Palpatine begins to get the upper hand Mace Windu strides into the room, lightsaber igniting as he moves, and Padme scrambles to get out of the way as the Jedi Master joins the fight. Yoda walks in an instant later, Obi-Wan beside him, and Anakin can sense the other Jedi Masters in the hallway. He dismisses the awareness, focusing on the fight.
Together, he and Mace Windu force the Sith Lord into the corner of the room.
“You will not get the better of me!” Palpatine is howling. “Anakin, you cannot do this! Think of how much you mistrust the Jedi, of the hatred you bear for them! They treated you like a slave for years! Together, we can rise up against them – together –”
Anakin ignores him, pressing in closer, and Palpatine suddenly deactivates his lightsaber. He lets it fall from his hand.
“Surrender now,” Mace Windu orders – and Anakin feels the warning in the Force, and ducks just in time –
Lightning barrels from Palpatine’s hands and hits Mace Windu straight on. The Jedi Master screams at the onslaught, and Palpatine cackles again. Anakin can hear his babies crying, can sense their confusion and fear, and focuses all his fury, his outrage, his sheer protective instinct –
– and moves, bringing his lightsaber round in a quick slicing move that intersects with Palpatine’s midsection.
Palpatine gurgles, and Anakin feels a surge of power –
“Everyone out!” Mace Windu gasps, and Anakin whirls, helping Sabe to her feet.
“Run!” he yells, pushing Sabe towards the door and stops to grab Mace Windu’s arm and half-support, half-drag him from the room as everyone scrambles to get out in time.
The blast of dark energy is strong enough that it might as well have been a bomb. Anakin hears the apartment collapse behind him but doesn’t look back, and the entire group runs for the stairs.
The sound of collapse doesn’t end with Padme’s apartment, and by unspoken agreement the entire group hurries in their descent down the stairs, the sound of breaking masonry not far behind them.
Finally they emerge onto the walkway connecting Padme’s building to the one next door, shaken but unscathed. Padme asks Sabe if she is alright, already taking one of the twins from her. Anakin takes the other baby from Sabe’s arms – Leia, judging by the green blanket wrapped around her – and gives Sabe his heartfelt thanks.
Obi-Wan clears his throat.
“The Senate convenes in thirty minutes,” he says, and Anakin looks at Padme.
“Given the circumstances, we would be perfectly willing to give you a lift to the Senate building, and ensure that the four of you are protected,” Obi-Wan adds. “Without your help, I fear that the Jedi would have perished this day.”
“Agree with Obi-Wan, I do,” Yoda adds seriously.
Leia burbles and makes a grab for Mace Windu’s nose. The Jedi Master looks at her, somewhere between curiosity and disapproval, before glancing at Obi-Wan.
“Are you willing to act as their protective detail, Master Kenobi?”
“Of course,” says Obi-Wan. “It is the least I can do, considering.” He holds Anakin’s gaze for a moment, but Anakin is too wrung-out from the events of today to ponder the meaning of Obi-Wan’s gaze for long. He looks down at Leia instead, and coos at her.
“I’m coming with you,” Sabe says, looking tired, but resolved. “Someone will need to watch the babies while the two of you are talking politics.”
“Thank you,” Padme tells her. “For everything today.”
While the Jedi Masters call for emergency services to deal with Padme’s damaged apartment building and its inhabitants, Anakin, Padme and Sabe follow Obi-Wan to a sedate-looking speeder parked nearby. In ordinary circumstances Anakin would insist on driving – Obi-Wan’s driving is slow and careful and absolutely maddening – but as it is, he makes no protest, climbing into the back of the speeder with Padme and Sabe and the babies. He leans back and closes his eyes, just for a moment, knowing that what is to come is going to be almost as stressful as the rest of today has been.
A small hand pats Anakin’s face, and he opens his eyes to see Leia looking at him with all the concern of a Force-sensitive infant: she may not understand the welter of emotions that Anakin is going through, but she senses them, all the same.
“It’s alright, Leia,” he says. “Daddy has just had an… eventful day.”
Anakin holds his daughter and tries not to think about how close he came to losing her and Luke as Obi-Wan drives them all to the Senate building.
The session that follows is just as stressful as Anakin had expected. Together, he and Padme describe the relevant events of their day, going into great detail about the information they shared during the press conference, the discovery of the danger of the clone trooper’s inhibitor chip, and arriving back at Padme’s apartment to find Palpatine there. As Anakin describes the events that followed, the Senate is full of a susurrus of horrified murmurs. Finally, Anakin pronounces Palpatine dead, at the hands of himself and the Jedi.
The debate over everything that has been discussed goes on for hours, and Anakin dozes off part-way through. His aide (a freed slave from Tatooine who had been a financial clerk for the Hutts before Anakin freed her) wakes him just as the Senate is discussing the appointment of a new Chancellor.
The senator for Alderaan, one Bail Organa, moves to speak. To Anakin’s astonishment, he nominates Padme as the next Chancellor. First one, then another senator backs the nomination. Other senators are nominated as well, of course, but Anakin has never before considered what path the Republic might take under his wife’s leadership. He finds himself hard-pressed not to laugh out loud in delight at the idea.
The election for a new Chancellor is scheduled for a few days hence, and as the Senate session finally draws to a close, Anakin goes searching for Padme.
He finds her standing with Obi-Wan and Sabe and the babies, talking to the senator for Alderaan. Padme turns towards him with a faintly-stunned air.
“Anakin,” she says, “this is my good friend and the senator for Alderaan, Bail Organa. Bail, this is Anakin Skywalker, the senator for Tatooine.” There’s the merest pause before Padme adds, “My husband.”
Anakin can tell that the senator is surprised, but no sign of it shows on his face. He smiles pleasantly and shakes Anakin’s hand. Whereas many of the other senators usually feel disdainful or condescending in Anakin’s presence, Bail merely radiates a lively curiosity.
Bail congratulates them on their marriage, and thanks them for their services to the Republic.
“Without your actions against Palpatine, I fear that things might have turned out very differently today,” he says. They talk a little bit longer, before Bail politely excuses himself.
Padme turns to Anakin.
“He nominated me for Supreme Chancellor of the Republic!” she exclaims, still looking stunned.
Anakin can’t help it; he starts laughing.
“Well,” he manages, “I’m going to vote for you.”
Padme gives him a look, but Anakin shakes his head, smiling.
Obi-Wan clears his throat.
“During the Senate session, Master Windu arranged for temporary accommodation for you within the guest quarters of the Jedi Temple, if you wish to use them. I fear that finding any other secure accommodations at this time of day will be a fruitless task.”
While Anakin is still struggling over his feelings about returning to the Jedi Temple, Padme gracefully accepts the offer.
“Come on, Anakin,” she says, with a sigh. “After the day we’ve had, I can’t wait to relax. And Obi-Wan’s right, finding secure accommodation right now would be a nightmare.”
“Alright, angel,” says Anakin, and together with Sabe, they let Obi-Wan lead them from the Senate building.
“You know,” Anakin says thoughtfully, as they climb into the speeder, “when all of this is over, we should take a vacation to Tatooine. Mom would love to see the babies.”
“As soon as we have the time, we will,” Padme promises.
Smiling at the thought of having his entire family together, Anakin drifts off in the back of the speeder.
He still has so much to do, but right now, he can afford a little rest.