Chapter 41: The Take Off
"This was very dangerous and completely irresponsible, Padmé!"
Padmé couldn't help but sigh.
"I'm serious," said the figure in the holograph.
"I know," Padmé responded softly.
"It would be one thing if you had run off and done that by yourself, but with your daughter? Vader now knows you're still out there."
"He's always known that, Ahsoka," Padmé said.
The Togruta had grown into a fine young woman from when Padmé knew her as a teenager. She was dressed in space leathers and amour. She stood straight and with confidence. Anakin would be proud of her. Padmé was.
Padmé knew she couldn't return to any of her old allies after she had ran away from Vader with the baby. She didn't know where to turn to. She knew she couldn't go back to her old allies. After three months, Padmé ran into Ahsoka Tano. She had been Anakin Skywalker's Jedi padawan during the Clone Wars. It was Ahsoka who connected Padmé with this group of Rebels. A completely new and different group of Rebels than the ones she had been a part of before. It was a fresh start, which was what Padmé needed.
For now Rebel cells worked mostly independently though a few worked together. However, most were connected via the Fulcrum Information Network. Ahsoka had told her of this. But now the Rebellion was changing. They were looking to finally unite into a cohesive single unit. And if that happened, Padmé would need to leave. Bail Organa had become a figure head of this growing alliance along with Mon Mothma. Two individuals who knew Padmé. There were also rumors of Obi-Wan Kenobi working for them. Ahsoka wouldn't confirm or deny if that was the case, but only assured Padmé she had told no one of her whereabouts.
For now she would have to trust Ahsoka. Trust Ahsoka to keep her location a secret, but also to help her find a place to live away from any Rebels and the Empire. The problem was Varné, who Ahsoka had confirmed was incredibly strong in the Force. There had to be a way to protect this little girl and keep her father from finding her.
It was Ahsoka who first mentioned the ysalamir. She was the one who had used her contacts to procure one. The trader would meet with Padmé here, on Anobis. It was a mid-rim world in the galactic north. It housed two distinct communities: one for farming and one for mining. When humans had settled on this planet centuries ago, the two groups of humans had colonized different parts of the planet. The two communities were quite separate from each other. Not only through distance, but also culturally. However, they were able to sustain themselves by trading with one another.
Until the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire, which caused the demand for ore and crystals to go up. The miners started to trade with off worlders and the farmers simply became self-sufficient. Now there were growing tensions on the planet. The farming community backed the Rebels and secretly traded with them. The miners, who were pro-Empire, were not ok with this. They didn't want to bring the wrath of Emperor Vader on them.
With the threat of a civil war, the Rebels had come to try and assist the farmers. They needed the continued support of the farmers. Perhaps this threat of civil war is why Vader came for an unexpected and unannounced visit. With the Emperor and his family in the system, orbital traffic was being heavily monitored by Vader's own fleet. The Rebels decided it would be best to lay low.
Yet Padmé couldn't help herself. When she heard on the news the Imperial family would be at the capitol building, she went. She rarely left Varné alone, so she took her daughter with her. She knew it was a risk. A stupid risk. But they were here. Luke and Leia. Her children. The ones she had left with him.
And she missed them. And, if she was honest, she felt guilty. So guilty about what she had done. She didn't deserve the twins. But she wanted to make it right. She still didn't want to lose them to the Dark Side. Lose them as she had Anakin. Her old dreams still haunted her. The ones with shadowed children holding small red lightsabers that cut off her legs and happily announced that now their mother wouldn't leave them.
She had hoped they would come with her when she saw them in that old house. When she had given them a choice. And yet . . . they had declined. Leia had been so confident in her answer. A quick sharp no. There was anger there. Betrayal. And Padmé couldn't blame her. But Luke, oh her dear sweet Luke, was a different matter. He looked at his unconscious father and his angry sister. His face was still puffy from crying. Then he said no. He wanted to stay with his father and sister.
A sob had bubbled up inside of Padmé when he said that. She recognized that determined look on his face. He was doing what Padmé had not done. He was trying to keep his family anchored in the light. Perhaps it was for the best Luke stayed. But it still hurt Padmé to leave them. Her heart crumpled and she cried silently the entire ride back to the ship.
Her sweet little Varné sat in her mother's lap or curled up with her in bed. She patted Padmé's head and told her it would be alright. She kissed her mother's cheek saying she would be all better.
"I just can't believe that you put Varné in that position," Ahsoka continued. "Especially with everything we've been doing. The whole point was to avoid detection, Padmé! Now not only does Vader know what she looks like and most likely has gotten some security holo of her, but I fear this incident has attracted the Rebellion's attention. The kind of attention you've been avoiding."
So she had messed up. Again.
She closed her eyes. They were puffy and red and most likely blood-shot. She was tired, but knew she wouldn't be able to sleep if she laid down.
"I'm sorry, Ahsoka," Padmé said softly. "I couldn't just . . . I couldn't . . . I had to see them. I don't expect you to understand. They are my children. And . . . And . . . I had to."
Ahsoka sighed. "I do understand, Padmé. I do. And if either one of the twins or both had accepted your proposal, then this would be a completely different matter. I don't blame you for trying. I just wished . . . Well you had put some more thought into it. Though I'm not sure how we would have pulled it off."
A small silence stretched between them.
"Go get some rest," Ahsoka finally said. "I have work to do. Hopefully I can get any unwanted attention off your back from the Rebellion side of things. I can't promise about the Empire though. Who knows how Vader will react after this."
Padmé nodded and the holo blinked off. Her small room went dark. She looked over her shoulder to the slim bunk in the wall where the little girl laid asleep. Her brown curls splayed out on the pillow. She clutched a green Twi'lek stuffed toy. Padmé silently left the room and made her way into the hallway. She walked to a room across the hall and knocked on the door. It slid open.
"Hello, Kanan," she said as she walked in.
The young man sat on the bed. He had long since gotten out of the black outfit he wore on Anobis. Instead he wore his typical green shirt with the leather detailing and grey pants. Though he had yet to put on the armor he wore on his right arm.
"Ah, Padmé," he said.
"I wanted to apologize," she said. "About my actions on Anobis. I put you in danger. You didn't have to come to my aid."
"Heh," Kanan said softly. "I keep thinking about how I snuck up on Emperor Vader. He was right there. I stunned him. I could have shot him. I could have . . . killed him. Ended it all."
There was a pain inside of Padmé's chest at that thought.
"Thank you for not doing that," she said softly. He was confused. "I would never want my children to see their father killed in front of them."
He nodded. "Now what?" he asked.
"I guess we continue with the plan," she replied.
"You'll go into hiding?"
"What else is there to do? I at least have to keep Varné safe. I can't fail her."
"I know . . . You aren't keen on the idea, but there are other Jedi out there. Jedi who could train her . . ."
"No," she said sternly. She was tired of having her children thought of only in terms of the power with the Force. They were children. They deserved to have a childhood. They weren't soldiers. They weren't tools.
"At least we know that lizard can keep you safe and hidden," he said softly. "Though I can't help but think how handy they could be to the Rebellion."
A chill went through. How handy they would be to sneak up on Vader. On her children. She swallowed a lump down her throat. She would need to talk to Ahsoka again. And say . . . and say what? Please don't use the ysalamiri on her family? Did she have any right to make that demand? She sighed.
"Thank you again," she said softly. "And I am sorry. I know you may not understand . . . but . . . they are my family. I had to see them."
"I do understand," Kanan said softly. "If I could see my family again, I would have done the same."
And she knew he was talking about the Jedi. She couldn't bear to be in the room any longer. She turned and quickly left. Her husband was the one who had killed Kanan's family. She paused in the small hallway. She took a moment and then returned to her room. She slid into the small bunk as carefully as she could as to not wake her daughter. She tried to sleep, but found only more tears and heartbreak waiting for her.
Padmé gripped her daughter's hand as they walked through the space port. She pushed a hovercrate in front of her that held the ysalamiri. Ahsoka had gotten a ship for Padmé and Varné, so they could go to a place where they could be safe. It was sad to leave Kanan and his crew of The Ghost. They wanted to take Padmé into hiding themselves, but they were called off to a mission. Plus it was for the best. If Vader or the Rebellion had managed to track Padmé down to The Ghost, it would be unwise for them to take her to her hiding spot. Plus a small ship of her own gave her mobility.
So now it was just Padmé and Varné again. Well, plus the lizard. The spaceport was busy and packed. It had been selected purposely so they could get lost in the crowd. But the crowd made her nervous. She kept glancing around. Any time someone made eye contact with her, her anxiety would spike. Then the person would move on and so would she.
You're paranoid, she chastised herself.
They had made it to the bays for the small ships. The crowd had thinned out. Again she spotted someone staring at her, and she tried to brush it off. But yet her thoughts kept nagging at her. Didn't they look familiar? Had she seen them before? It was possible. When she saw them again a third time staring at her, the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Her heart started to pound in her chest. She scooped up Varné and sat her on the crate and started to walk faster towards the bay where Padmé's ship awaited.
Padmé wasn't sure how she was going to lose the pursuers. That is if they were even pursuers at all. It could be nothing. It could be something. What had her life come to? What had she reduced herself to? She was Padmé Amidala. She could handle this. And she wasn't going to let anyone to take or hurt her daughter.
She pushed the crate on at a fast pace. She didn't want to run, as that may alert anyone if they were following her. If she was a pursuer then she would wait until she had made it to the bay where her ship was. Less likely to be seen or heard. Less likely to have someone try to intervene. So once she made it to her bay, she would not have a lot of time to act.
She looked at the numbers marking the bays on the wall. She was getting close to where her ship was supposed to be docked. She slowed her pace as she looked into the bays that she passed. She examined how large they were. What basic amenities did each one offer? What did she have to work with?
By the time she was three bays away from her destination, she had a plan. She pulled sharply in the third bay. Luckily there was a ship there. She slammed on the door release panel. It came swiftly down. She didn't pause. She pulled out her blaster she had hidden in her jacket and shot the door controls. She scooped up Varné from the crate and ran across the hangar into the small door in the back. Padmé had assumed correctly. There was a service hallway connecting each of the bays back here.
She ran down the hall. Varné held on tight. Behind her, Padmé heard noises behind her. Noises of scraping metal and shouts. She turned into her bay. The ship was just as expected, small and nondescript. She pressed the release for the loading ramp. It lowered far too slowly for her taste. She was running up it before it even finished loading. She ran into the cockpit. She placed Varné in a seat and spun to the control panel.
However, before she could start the ship up, she froze. The large bay door connecting this hangar to the rest of the spaceport was still open. People with blasters stood at the entrance looking down the hallway towards the bay Padmé had originally ducked into. She would need a quick takeoff. She paused as she ran over everything in her mind so she could do it quickly and smoothly.
She glanced up through the viewport, and her heart dropped into her stomach. The bay's aerial door was closed. There were two ways to open it. Com the port control and have them open it, or press a manual release button in the bay. Contacting control would take time. Any moment she could be spotted. Plus was control compromised? But the manual control button was on the bay's wall. Which Padmé would have to leave the ship for and most likely get spotted by those people hanging around the bay door.
She decided to stay in the ship. She turned the com on and hailed port control.
"Port Control," came a voice.
"This is the ship in bay CF-4229. I'm requesting the ariel bay doors be open for departure," Padmé said.
There was a pause. A pause she didn't like.
"Control?" she asked.
Silence. Suddenly the group standing in front of the bay doors turned towards her ship and started walking into the bay. Their guns were up.
"Kriff," she hissed.
The guns on this ship were not strong enough to blast through the doors. Plus she lacked a good angle to shoot at them. She eyed the manual release button on the wall. Then she looked over at Varné, who sat quietly in the co-pilot chair clutching her toy doll.
There was something tight inside of Padmé. A burning under her eyes and pressure in her cheeks. She slowly pulled a small data disc from her pocket and slid it into the ship's control panel. At once it asked if she wanted to run the program, and she clicked the affirmative. The ship engines started up. She turned to her daughter and strapped her in. She said a few soothing words. Then she kissed her little girl goodbye.
She stood up, tightened her hold on the blaster, and walked out of the cockpit. She came down the loading ramp with firing off her blaster at the group that had entered the bay. She didn't pause to hide. She ran while firing to the control panel. She slammed the release button. The aerial doors opened. The autopilot had kicked in as programed, and the ship started to take off. Padmé watched as it slowly rose up, taking her daughter away from her and hopefully towards some place safe.
She didn't have time to watch it for long. The blaster bolts kept coming. More spacers with weapons ran into the bay. A few ran out of the door that led to the service hallway. It wasn't long before Padmé was cornered. There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Those around her all held their blasters at the ready.
"Padmé Amidala," someone shouted in a rough voice.
She held her head up high, but said nothing. Someone was moving through the crowd. The gathered group made of humans and aliens parted. A human man walked forward. He was dressed a bit nicer than the rest of the spacers. Like a merchant or traveler. But Padmé knew that face with the haunted eyes.
"Bail," she whispered.