Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, breathed hard as he held his sparking, damaged lightsaber in his hand. He felt the power coursing through his veins, a dark command ringing in his ears, as he watched Master Windu fall into the depths of Coruscant.
And at the same time . . . he felt the call of the Light Side. He could feel his bond with Obi-Wan, could feel his master’s tired satisfaction at defeating General Grievous, thinking about the end of the war. He could sense Padmé, nearby in her Senate office. And the baby cradled inside her, so bright and strong with the Force.
“What have I done?” he said, unable to stay upright. He fell to his knees, his head hanging low, as he struggled.
He couldn’t lose Padmé. He would not lose her. Not like he had lost his mother. Nothing else mattered except Padmé and their baby.
Even though he was turning his back on everyone and everything else . . . but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t fair, how the Jedi treated him. It wasn’t fair that they wanted to take away the one thing he needed in the entire galaxy!
“You are fulfilling your destiny, Anakin,” the Chancellor said, still so calm, so certain, even after what had just happened. “Become my apprentice. Learn to use the Dark Side of the Force.”
Would the Dark Side give him what he needed? Not just Padmé, but . . . the certainty that the Chancellor had? That Padmé had? Would the struggle be over?
Anakin didn’t know. But--but he had to try.
“I will do whatever you ask,” he said, lifting his head to look at the Chancellor, to see his face wrinkled and aged, his eyes gleaming yellow.
“Good!” The Chancellor’s voice was full of approval, of triumph.
“Just help me save Padmé’s life,” Anakin said quickly, needing the Chancellor to know how important this was. “I can’t live without her.”
The Chancellor nodded. “To cheat death is the power only one has achieved. But if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.”
A voice in the back of Anakin’s head, a voice that sounded like Obi-Wan and infuriated him, quietly nudged him. He doesn’t know? How will that help Padmé, when she dies in childbirth in your dreams? She’s so close to the end of her pregnancy . . .
He pushed away the voice, feeling his anger grow. If the Chancellor said they could do it, they would do it. They could get started right now!
“I pledge myself to your teachings,” Anakin said, bowing his head again. “To . . . to the ways of the Sith.”
The Jedi were so stubborn and righteous. They had lost their way. He was the Chosen One. He could learn from Darth Sidious, save Padmé, and then--then he’d figure out the rest. Just as long as he had Padmé.
“Good. Good!” the Chancellor said, his praise a balm on Anakin’s soul. “The Force is strong with you. A powerful Sith you will become. Anakin Skywalker, you are one with the Order of the Sith Lords. Henceforth, you will be known as Darth . . . Vader.”
Darth Vader? That--that wasn’t--was it supposed to sound scary?. It sounded . . . kinda lame. Like something he might have come up with as a kid.
Anakin--no, he was Darth Vader now--shook off the irrelevant thought. “Thank you . . . my Master.”
His skin crawled a little. It didn’t feel right to call the Chancellor ‘master’. It felt . . . dangerous.
The anger inside him roared and howled at the word. He tried to reason with himself, but--but then he realized he didn’t have to. He could be angry. As angry as he wanted!
“Rise,” the Chancellor said regally. “We have much to do.”
Standing up, Anakin nodded. “We have to begin our research.”
“Research?” the Chancellor said, some of the wrinkles shifting in a motion that reminded Anakin of someone quirking an eyebrow.
Frowning, Anakin said, “To save Padmé.”
“Of course, my young apprentice, of course,” the Chancellor said, patting his shoulder. “But first, we must secure ourselves. The Jedi must be eliminated. They are too dangerous. You must lead the 501st against the Temple. You know what you must do. Leave no one alive.”
The 501st? His legion? They were good men . . . would they follow his order to attack?
“How?” Anakin asked. “They’ll argue--”
“They will follow my order,” the Chancellor said, waving a hand in the air as if Anakin’s objection was a mote of dust.
Why was he arguing with his master? He had to stop--he couldn’t risk Padmé’s life like this!
But there was one more problem . . .
“Master,” Anakin said, holding up his lightsaber. A stray blast of electricity from the Chancellor’s attack on Master Windu had caught the lightsaber. The crystal inside was dead, utterly destroyed.
The Chancellor sighed heavily. “Oh, my. Do you have a spare lightsaber?”
“No, Master. And no spare kyber crystals, either.”
The Force stirred around him and Anakin felt annoyed. It was like someone tapping you on the shoulder when you were trying to ignore them.
“I must go to Ilum,” Anakin said. “The 501st are good soldiers. They will follow orders.”
“Yes, they will,” the Chancellor said, sounding dissatisfied. “And I suppose younglings and elderly Jedi will pose no challenge to the finest men of the Grand Army. Very well, Lord Vader. You will go to Ilum and then await further instructions.”
“Yes, my master,” Anakin said, bowing his head.
He turned to leave, only to stop when his master spoke. “Lord Vader?”
“Yes?” he asked, turning to look at him.
“I am no longer the Chancellor. I am your master, Lord Sidious. The ruler of my Galactic Empire.” He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was cold and hard and . . . terrifying. “Remember that.”
Anakin felt himself swallow. “Yes, Lord Sidious.”
And just like that, his old friend returned. “Very good. Hurry along, Lord Vader.”
His anger sparked. He wasn’t some child! He--he was Sidious’ chosen apprentice, strong in the Force!
Sidious closed his eyes. “Oh, your anger is powerful! Give in to it and feel your strength increase!”
That little Obi-Wan voice piped up again. Well, this is disturbing .
Too confused and angry and worried, Anakin ignored it all and stormed out of the Chancellor--the Emperor’s--office.
Oh, how he hated Ilum. It was always so kriffing cold.
But he had his crystals, and he had built a new lightsaber, so he was ready to get back to Coruscant. To check on Padmé, to find out if his master had found any information on how to save her.
He knew he was supposed to wait for instructions, but--but he couldn’t just sit in orbit around Ilum! It was too far away. He needed to be close to Padmé--it was nearly her time.
So he set course for Coruscant.
Only six parsecs from the planet, the holo chimed. Anakin quickly answered it, feeling a sense of anticipation in the Force.
His spirits plummeted when he beheld his master’s face.
“You were supposed to wait for further instructions,” Lord Sidious said darkly.
“I know, my master, but I thought--”
“You do not disobey my orders!”
Anakin opened his mouth to speak, but--but he couldn’t breathe--
Putting his hand to his throat, he felt an invisible hand clutch around his neck, cutting off his air. He stared at his master, who looked back at him with anger and glee.
Just as suddenly as it started, the pressure was gone. Anakin gasped, leaning forward in his seat.
“Foolish boy,” Sidious spat out. “Your ineptitude has already cost me plenty. The Jedi in the Temple were able to fight back and several escaped. I can have no resistance to my rule. But first, you must go to Mustafar. Eliminate the Separatists. I have need for them no longer.”
“The Separatists?” Anakin asked in a raspy voice, feeling a wave of anger. “You--you controlled them?”
“A simple matter,” his master said. “I do not like these continued questions, Lord Vader. I see now that part of your training will require reinforcement of my orders.”
He tilted his head. “Or perhaps you require a reason to comply. I should visit your lovely wife. In her hour of need, she must be fearful--”
“No!” Anakin said, leaning forward, his chest aching. “No, I’ll do it, I promise!”
His master tutted. “Your promises mean nothing to me. I require your unhesitating obedience. Do you understand?”
Of course he understood! He wasn’t dumb. He was powerful and strong--Sidious had said so himself. He didn’t deserve to be treated like this! He wasn’t some slave to be ordered around!
Anakin’s blood ran cold. Was that what he was now? A slave? Again?
The pressure was back on his windpipe--not so strong as before, but enough to make his breaths come short. He nodded and wheezed, “Yes, Master.”
“Go to Mustafar. Do not delay,” Sidious ordered before ending the comm.
Scrubbing a hand over his face, Anakin leaned his head forward. He was so tired . . . the lack of oxygen made his exhaustion feel even heavier. He just wanted Padmé.
Without conscious thought, he reached for the comm and keyed in Padmé’s personal frequency. Only a few people had this frequency and she always answered it, no matter what.
But this time, she didn’t. Anakin felt his fears grow. “Padmé? Padmé, please call me back as soon as you can. I--I . . .”
He let his voice trail off as he tried to think of what to say. How could he explain what he had done? She would be so disappointed . . .
But it wasn’t his fault! He was doing this for her! Why couldn’t she understand that? He did everything for her!
“I need you to come to Mustafar,” he said. “I’ll send you my coordinates. Just--just meet me there, as soon as you can. Please, Padmé.”
If he could just see her, things would be better. They could figure things out. Padmé--Padmé would forgive him, once he explained everything.
Nothing made sense right now. Padmé would fix that. He just had to take care of the Separatists first.
She would be happy about that. After all, the Trade Federation was part of the Separatists. With them gone, Padmé would be safe. No more attacks on her life. No more danger for the baby.
This was good, Anakin told himself as he changed course. Once he took care of the Separatists and got Padmé, they could go back to Coruscant. He would take Padmé to meet with the Emperor and they would all work together to save Padmé’s life.
You’re lying to yourself.
“Shut up, Obi-Wan,” Anakin muttered.
You know I’m not Obi-Wan.
The voice fell silent, leaving Anakin alone.
Alone and wondering what the voice meant when it denied being Obi-Wan. Because . . . it was so like his master--his former master--but, wait, hearing voices?
Was he going insane?
Anakin shook his head and focused on the blue swirl of hyperspace through the viewscreen. He wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t going to lose Padmé. He wasn’t--he wasn’t--
Even though it felt weird, listening to some strange voice in his head, Anakin closed his eyes. And the next thing he knew, he was opening his eyes, hearing the proximity alarm, and seeing a planet covered in red through the viewscreen.
He had arrived on Mustafar.
This--this was something he knew how to do.
His lightsaber flashing, the blade bright and blue, Anakin cut through the Separatist leaders. Without Dooku and Grievous, they were all cowering, their pleas for mercy as annoying as the cackles of a Kowakian monkey-lizard.
He left Nute Gunray for last. He advanced towards the Neimoidian, watching as his green skin went pale and his already-big eyes widened.
“No--no, Skywalker!” he said, huddled in a corner. “I beg you!”
Anakin twirled his lightsaber, standing tall in front of Gunray. “This is for my wife,” he said, before plunging the lightsaber through his chest and into the stone wall behind him.
The gasp he let out, the way he slumped down as Anakin pulled his blade free--Anakin felt a ripple of pleasure at his death. He would never harm Padmé again. He would never hurt innocent people in his pursuit of money and power.
Nute Gunray had discovered, the hard way, what true power was.
He held power in his hands and it was . . . it was so good. He could do anything with the Force. He could punish the wicked, kill those who deserved it, bring peace and order to the galaxy.
And he would. He, Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, would fix the galaxy. He would make Padmé see how much better it was. How much happier she would be if she listened to him.
With his robes fluttering around him as he stalked away, Anakin went to the landing platform. He could feel Padmé approaching.
There was something else--some flicker of a presence, too faint and gone too quickly for him to register. But it didn’t matter. Anakin was stronger than any other Jedi. And if Padmé had betrayed him, he would show her the error of her ways.
And he would forgive her, of course.
Padmé’s ship landed and within moments, she was coming down the landing ramp towards him. She had a hand tucked under her stomach, so pronounced in the tunic she wore, and all Anakin wanted to do was step forward and touch their child and her.
But the expression on her face--she was scared . Of him .
“Anakin,” she said, her voice so sweet and so worried. “I was so worried about you! Obi-Wan--he told me--”
So this was what his old master was doing? He must have felt Anakin’s fall--and instead of coming to him, instead of helping him, he had immediately gone to Padmé! To fill her head with lies, obviously.
To make her stop loving him. So he would give her up.
Anakin clenched his fists, feeling his metal hand creak. He would never give up Padmé!
“Obi-Wan is trying to turn you against me.” The words felt odd in his mouth, but they were true--they were the truth! Obi-Wan had always been fearful of his power. It must have come from jealousy--the knowledge he would always be lesser than Anakin. A jealousy born from the moment his master had given him up and chosen Anakin.
Padmé shook her head, her long braid swishing a little. “No, Anakin, no--he wants to help us.”
“Us?” he asked, staring at her, unable to believe that--
“He knows,” Padmé said, confirming his worst fear. The fear that had driven him to do anything to protect Padmé, to protect himself.
“He wants to help you--Anakin, all I want is your love,” Padmé said, reaching out for him.
It was all he ever wanted: Padmé, with him, the two of them free to live together in happiness. But if Obi-Wan knew, there could be no happiness. And if he didn’t serve Sidious, he wouldn’t have the power to save Padmé.
“Love won’t save you, Padmé,” he said, trying to make her understand. Hoping for a moment that he could just convince her to listen to him. “Only my new powers can do that.”
She shook her head, getting that stubborn, determined look on her face, even as her eyes looked glassy. “But at what cost? You’re a good person--don’t do this!”
He was ready to tear his own hair out at her blindness. How could she be so cavalier with her life? With the life of their child?
And he felt so kriffing angry at her, for not caring enough about him to protect herself. Didn’t she understand that?
“I won’t lose you the way I lost my mother,” he said, not caring if he was scaring her more. Because he would save her. “I am becoming more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed of, and I’m doing it for you--to protect you!”
To his surprise, Padmé stepped close to him, bringing her hands up to cup his face. “Come away with me. Help me raise our child. Leave everything else behind while we still can!”
Did she really mean that? Anakin searched her face, hoping he would see something to prove that she wanted to do that. To be with him, safe and happy, with their baby and their love. No more Senate, no more Jedi--just them.
He blinked and shook his head, trying to read her. But all he could feel was anger and fear and darkness.
No--no, she wouldn’t give up her career in the Senate. Not for him--not for anything. She was lying to him!
And why should they run? The Sith didn’t have any stupid rules about attachment--he could have Padmé at his side and still use all the power he had!
“Don’t you see?” he asked, bending close to her. “We don’t have to run away anymore. I have brought peace to the Republic.”
Padmé was shaking her head, but Anakin couldn’t stop talking. Even as that Obi-Wan voice started spouting its shavit again, telling him that he needed to stop. That he was losing Padmé.
The voice was wrong.
“I’m more powerful than the Chancellor--the Emperor. I--I can overthrow him. And together, you and I can rule the galaxy--make things the way we want them to be!” Anakin finished, feeling breathless and alive like he never had before.
And powerful. Even though Padmé was edging back from him, looking scared and horrified and destroyed.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” he asked, prodding her, wanting her to say the words so he could prove just how wrong she was.
“I don’t believe what I’m hearing!” she cried out. “Obi-Wan was right--you’ve changed!”
Like Obi-Wan would know anything! He hadn’t been here--he had never been here when Anakin needed him! Always spouting about duty and the Code. He had let the woman he loved die for his duty.
Obi-Wan might be the perfect Jedi, but he was a failure of a man. And Anakin would be a better man and a stronger Jedi than Obi-Wan had ever been!
“I don’t want to hear anymore about Obi-Wan,” Anakin warned Padmé. “The Jedi turned against me--the Republic turned against me. Don’t you turn against me, too!”
He would never hurt her--but he would not let her abandon him. He couldn’t lose her. He wouldn’t lose her. Even if it meant he had to force his way into her mind and show her how wrong she was. To blot out Obi-Wan’s voice from her head.
She’s crying. You’ve hurt her.
Anakin used his metal hand to pinch his outer thigh, hard enough to nearly rip out a piece of his flesh. It blotted out the voice of Obi-Wan in his head.
“I don’t know you anymore. Anakin--you’re breaking my heart! You’re going down a path I can’t follow,” Padmé sobbed.
“You can,” he said, standing over her. “You will come with me. I will save you, and then, we’ll be together and happy--that’s our path, Padmé!”
She was crying too hard to respond other than by shaking her head.
“Padmé, don’t you understand?” he said, gripping her upper arms. “Losing you--I’ll lose myself! I love you!”
“But--but that’s not love!” she said, looking up at him, tears pouring down her face, gasps punctuating her words. “You don’t care about what I want--just what you want! We’re having a baby--you’re about to be a father--you have to care about more than yourself! Please, Ani--stop this now!”
How . . . how dare she! Anakin felt the very air around him snap and crackle with his anger. He took a step back from her, watching as Padmé’s body slumped, barely staying upright.
“Stop, Anakin--please stop,” Padmé whispered, looking up at him with big, lying brown eyes.
But he couldn’t stop. Extending one hand, he started looking for an entrance to her mind. A way to make her see.
Even if it took rearranging her whole mind, he would prove to her how much he loved her.
For a moment, he thought it was the voice in his head. But then a powerful Force push moved him away from Padmé, who slumped to the ground. And Obi-Wan was there, striding towards him, looking tired and worried and scared.
But it must all be an act--Obi-Wan didn’t care about him--he had never cared! He just wanted to keep him from his power.
“Don’t do this, my friend--my brother,” Obi-Wan said, his voice breaking.
“You turned her against me!” Anakin said, his anger hotter than the fields of lava surrounding them.
Obi-Wan shook his head and spoke regretfully. “You have done that yourself.”
No--no--no--he hadn’t, he wasn’t. It was all Obi-Wan’s fault!
“You will not take her from me!” He moved to stand between Obi-Wan and Padmé, keeping his old master away from her.
For a long moment, Obi-Wan looked at him. Then he slid off his robes, letting them fall to the landing platform. “Your anger and lust for power have already done that.”
“No!” he screamed, grabbing his lightsaber and igniting it.
Unhindered by his robes, Obi-Wan easily blocked Anakin’s attack. He didn’t care. He didn’t care that Padmé was lying unconscious on the landing platform, that his new lightsaber felt hot in his hand--why was it hot?--that Obi-Wan was fighting him like he never had before, giving so much ground, like he didn’t want to win.
If Obi-Wan didn’t want to win, Anakin wasn’t about to let himself lose in order to give Obi-Wan a hollow victory.
Into every blow and strike, Anakin poured his anger. His frustration. His confusion. His doubt. He pushed Obi-Wan back, back into the complex, past the bodies of the dead Separatists. Let Obi-Wan see what he was capable of!
He would kill Obi-Wan if he tried to stop him.
The heat from the lava, so close underneath their feet, didn’t scare him. He could win this fight. He would win and prove to Obi-Wan how much more powerful he was.
Scrambling, jumping, searching for an opening, a way to land the final blow on Obi-Wan . . . he had to do this. For himself, for Padmé.
Anakin leapt for the platform Obi-Wan was riding through the river of lava. A spark landed on his robes and he shrugged it off, unable to get it all the way off before Obi-Wan attacked him. He shifted his lightsaber into his mech hand, the sudden absence of heat in his right hand making him realize that something must be wrong with his new lightsaber.
He wrapped the Force around Obi-Wan, holding him away as he got his robe the rest of the way off. And Obi-Wan, the karking bastard , smiled.
“Remember the first time we sparred? You forgot to take off your robes then, too.”
How--how could he talk like that? Like they were just having fun, instead of fighting each other for their lives?
“Remember all the times you saved me? All ten times, like on Cato Nemoidia?” Obi-Wan said, his voice hoarse. “Anakin, you need to be saved from yourself.”
Saved? From himself? What kind of poodoo was this? He was strong and powerful! He was going to change the galaxy!
You are destroying the galaxy.
Anakin whirled around, bringing a hand to his head. “Stop!” he yelled, not sure whether he was talking to the voice in his head or to Obi-Wan.
“We don’t have to do this!” Obi-Wan said. “We can leave with Padmé, we can get you help--you don’t want to do this!”
“Yes, I do!” Anakin screamed, his whole body shaking. He brought his lightsaber up in a wide swing, his anger and fear making him sloppy--Obi-Wan would see right through this move--
But Obi-Wan didn’t. Or did he, and he just didn’t move? Anakin didn’t know. But as the lightsaber came closer and closer to his old master, ready to slice him in two at the waist, Anakin felt his heart clutch in his chest as he realized he was going to kill--
And then, just before the blade made contact, it vanished.
Obi-Wan stared at Anakin. Anakin stared at his lightsaber, then pulled it towards him and pressed on the button. Nothing happened.
Slowly, he lifted his eyes to Obi-Wan. Wondering what he was going to do. He was unarmed--technically defenseless. Would Obi-Wan continue the fight? Could Anakin win a fight without a lightsaber?
They stared at each other for a moment and Anakin felt his hand ball into a fist. He could still win! He would!
But before he could throw his punch, Obi-Wan shut down his lightsaber. “This ends now, Anakin.”
“No!” he yelled, feeling so tired, so angry, just so done --
Darkness overwhelmed him.
His head was throbbing. The air was cool. A soft bed cradled his body. A gentle hum filled the air.
And when he opened his eyes, he only saw a dimly-lit white room.
Sitting up slowly, Anakin looked around. It appeared like a medical suite, but unlike any med room he had ever been in. Where were the machines? Where were the healers?
Why was he here?
His clothes were gone and he was dressed in a white gown. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and ran a hand through his hair, finding no lumps or other signs of concussion. Other than the pounding headache, he felt all right.
Anakin frowned. Actually--he felt good . Like he had slept for a year and finally eased his exhaustion, like he had been eating real food for three meals a day instead of ration bars, like he had finally received medical care for all the small, insignificant injuries that had added up over three years of war.
It was like he could actually think clearly, for the first time in so long.
A soft creak made him whip his head around, wincing even as he saw the door to the room open, revealing Obi-Wan.
“Good morning,” he said quietly, stepping into the room. His eyes were steady but opaque as he looked at Anakin.
“Um, hi,” he said, looking around. “Where--where is this?”
“Takodana,” Obi-Wan said, taking a seat on a metal stool a few feet from Anakin’s bed.
The name sounded familiar, but his head hurt too much for him to try and place the planet within the galaxy. So he simply nodded.
“Padmé is safe,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “I thought you’d like to know that first.”
An intense feeling of relief swept through him, almost overwhelming him with its power. “Thank Force,” Anakin said, his eyes fluttering shut for a moment. He sighed and looked back at his old master. “And . . . and the baby?”
“Safe as well,” Obi-Wan said, but with a flicker in his Force presence that told Anakin there was more to that. He opened his mouth to press him, but Obi-Wan held up a hand.
“I have a message from her that you can listen after we talk.”
Anakin frowned, starting to rise to his feet. “Obi-Wan, Padmé needs me--”
“No, she doesn’t.”
The bluntness of Obi-Wan’s words, the complete lack of sympathy or kindness in them, made Anakin stare at him. And when he saw how very serious Obi-Wan was, how much he meant those words, he found himself sitting back down.
“What have I done?” Anakin asked, hanging his head. Hearing the echo of the same words, spoken in the Chancellor’s office, when he had Fallen.
He had Fallen. He--he was a Sith.
And the Chancellor--the Emperor--his master, Darth Sidious--he would know how Anakin had failed. Failed as a Jedi, failed as a Sith--now he wouldn’t be able to protect Padmé, to save her--and their baby--
“Anakin, stop it.” Obi-Wan’s voice was firm. “Be mindful of your feelings.”
“Mindful?” he said, glaring at Obi-Wan. “Mindful?!? All I know are my feelings!”
“And you let each and every one sweep you up, like a leaf in a river,” Obi-Wan retorted. “You must learn control if you are to heal.”
Scoffing, Anakin rose to his feet and started looking for clothes. “Heal? Heal from what--falling to the Dark Side? No one can do that. I’m gone, Obi-Wan--just let me go and I’ll--”
“What? Work at the side of the greatest evil the galaxy has ever known?” Obi-Wan asked, standing up and advancing towards him. “Never see your wife again, never meet your children? Because I guarantee, Anakin, that is your fate if you don’t listen to what I have to say.”
Anakin stared at Obi-Wan. “What?”
Folding his arms over his chest, Obi-Wan nodded to the bed. “Sit.”
As directed, Anakin sank down onto the bed, frowning. It seemed like Obi-Wan thought that Anakin could . . . come back? Not be a Sith? But that was impossible. Master Yoda always said that any action that came from the Dark Side was unforgivable, unerasable. That the stain on your soul would never go away.
It was too late for him. And Obi-Wan should be the first one to know that.
“After I defeated Darth Maul on Naboo, the Council investigated me,” Obi-Wan said, sitting back down on his stool. “To fight a Sith, to defeat one, they believed I must have touched the Dark Side.”
Anakin blinked. “You? Go to the Dark Side?”
“I appreciate your belief,” Obi-Wan said, a bit dryly, but with a smile, too. “The Council finally determined I had not. But they were very cautious during the early years of your Padawan training. You might feel like they were watching you--but they were also watching me.”
“Oh,” he said quietly.
Obi-Wan looked at him for a few long moments. Long enough that Anakin wanted to squirm. To ask questions like where was Obi-Wan going with this and did he really think Anakin could come back and why was the anger so much more bearable now?
It was still there. He could feel it, churning and burning. But he didn’t feel like lashing out at Obi-Wan. He didn’t feel that drive to leave, to find Padmé, to protect her.
Nothing made sense right now.
“What happened, Anakin?”
He shifted. “What do you mean?”
“I’d like to hear, in your own words, why you Fell,” Obi-Wan said, unfolding his crossed arms and resting his hands on his knees. “Start at the beginning.”
“The beginning?” Anakin huffed. “I have no idea where the beginning is, Obi-Wan. And--and why you’re doing this.”
“I think the answer will come to you,” Obi-Wan said. “Just start talking.”
Heaving a sigh, Anakin rubbed at his temples. “Okay. Um . . . I guess--I guess it started when Padmé told me she was pregnant.”
In slow, halting words, Anakin began talking. He doubled back, jumped ahead, ran his hands through his hair, paced, fidgeted, shifted.
He talked about the dreams he’d had. He talked about what the Chancellor told him. He talked about having a secret marriage. He talked about watching Ashoka walk away.
And he found himself telling Obi-Wan about how he had slaughtered that village of Tusken Raiders who had tortured his mother. He talked about all the times he came too close to vengeance when fighting. He talked about the anger he felt whenever Padmé was threatened.
Through it all, Obi-Wan stayed silent, just listening. Taking it all in.
When Anakin finished, reduced to a voice barely above a whisper, Obi-Wan looked at him. “I’m sorry, Anakin.”
He hung his head. Of course he was. Hearing all that, Obi-Wan must have realized there was no saving him. He would--he would have to kill him. And then he’d go back to the Council and tell them . . .
Wait. The Council. Was there a Council anymore?
Sidious wanted all the Jedi wiped out. He said some had escaped from the Temple, and Master Windu had been killed, but--but who else? Who else had died?
Died because of him, Anakin?
“Just--just do it quickly, Obi-Wan,” Anakin said. “And--and please tell Padmé I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”
“Anakin, what are you saying?”
“You . . . you have to kill me,” he said, swallowing hard.
There was a deep sigh, and then the bed next to him shifted as Obi-Wan sat down beside him. “You have Fallen. You have committed evil acts. You have lost your way.”
There was a long pause. “But I believe I should help you find your way back, not strike you down.”
Anakin’s head jerked up and he stared at Obi-Wan. “What?”
Obi-Wan looked grave. “Anakin, the clone troopers wiped out most of the Jedi. Master Yoda was able to escape, as was I. The Temple was attacked, and it is unknown how many might have evaded the clone troopers sent to slaughter them.”
His mind reeled as he took all this in. The clone troopers, killing their Jedi? Force, he couldn’t imagine . . .
“The Emperor,” Obi-Wan said, disgust lacing his voice, “have declared the Jedi traitors. We are at the point of extinction.”
So . . . this was more about preserving the Jedi? Even though he had betrayed so much of what the Jedi Order stood for?
The confusion must have shown in his face, because Obi-Wan shook his head. “Although truly, all of that is merely my reasoning to Master Yoda to keep you alive. Which he knew. But he allowed me to take this position--that we should allow you to attempt redemption, if you choose.”
“Then what do you want, Obi-Wan? I mean, why do you even care?” Anakin asked dully.
For a long moment, there was nothing. It was like that moment before you jumped off a cliff or while you waited for a podrace to begin. You drew in a breath, waiting to exhale, waiting for release.
“I want my brother back. I want him to be happy.”
Two simple sentences. Only a few words each, spoke with such gentleness . . . but with a raging inferno of emotion behind them.
Just like the emotion sweeping over Anakin.
“So, Anakin Skywalker, do you choose redemption for your acts of evil?”
Obi-Wan’s voice was quiet and controlled. But there was so much hope in his eyes. He couldn’t let him down again.
“Yes,” Anakin said firmly.
“It will not be easy,” Obi-Wan warned.
“I want to do this,” Anakin said. “I . . . I want to have the chance to apologize to Padmé in person. And make up for what I caused, what I did.”
With a nod, Obi-Wan stood up. “We have much work to do, then. I’ll get your clothes and we can begin.”
“All right,” Anakin said, standing up as well. He stretched a little, savoring how good he felt. “Hey, this planet--Takodana--does it have some kind of weird regenerative property? I feel better than I have in years.”
“Oh, no--you’ve been asleep for a week,” Obi-Wan said as he left the room.
Anakin stared after his former master. “A week?!?”
End, Chapter 1