by MJ Mink
Anakin raised his face to his Master. He was finally a Jedi. It had taken too long for his impatient spirit, but at last he'd completed all the required tests and performed all the onerous tasks.
Now the sacred vows were sworn, and it was official, he was the Knight he'd always dreamed of becoming. Despite the solemnity of the ceremony, he smiled at the Obi-Wan. Ben's eyes twinkled a little, but his expression didn't change. He gestured for Anakin to rise, and they both turned to face the Jedi congregation.
"I present to our Brotherhood, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker," Kenobi intoned, reciting the age-old words that signalled the end of the ceremony.
Anakin's smile turned into a grin as his new brothers,
some of whom were very attractive women, joined him. He rested one
hand possessively on his newly-completed lightsaber while he reveled in
their congratulations. They crowded around him, hundreds of them.
His height enabled him to see each face clearly, and he noted no signs
of jealousy. Only good wishes and happiness filled
the dim, cavernous assembly hall that was carved deeply into the mountain. Of all the Jedi, he was the youngest as well as the newest, and there was still much he would learn, secrets of the galaxy as yet unrevealed, secrets that waited for him. Anticipation filled his heart.
They proceeded from the room and followed the path from the grotto. Outside, in the bright light of day, the Jedi novices waited. He sensed their pleasure; an hour ago he had been one of them, now he was proof that they all could succeed.
"I have a new student coming soon," the Obi-Wan informed him, "a native of Alderaan. She shows great potential in the Force. I would like you to assist in her indoctrination. It will be a good experience for you; perhaps one day you will learn the skills to become a Master."
He nodded absently. There was too much to think about. It was hard to care about training others when he was learning so much himself. Not long ago he'd been a conventional, though extraordinarily skilled, pilot. Now he was a Jedi Knight, and someday soon he'd be a legend. Heady stuff, indeed, for a twenty-two-year-old from Corell.
She was not quite beautiful in the classic sense, and she was barely half his height, but he found her eyes mesmerizing. Anakin closed his mouth, hoping he didn't look like the backward farmboy he'd once been. She turned toward the assembled group and looked directly at him. And smiled.
Spring was long on this planet, lasting many standard
months. It was a time of warmth and blooming and new birth.
He leaned over and brushed her lips with a gentleness that contrasted directly with his earlier passion. He propped up on one elbow and smiled down into her eyes. "Little mother," he whispered, his voice replete with satisfaction.
Her dark brown eyes widened. "What?" she exclaimed in disbelief. "You mean--?"
"You are with child." He linked his mind with hers and guided her awareness to the lifeform that he had barely sensed. Physically and mentally it was microscopic, but the Force in the wee creature called him. "A son." He reached out to link with his child. The answering bonding both surprised and pleased him; he likened it to the powerful grip of a tiny hand around its father's thumb.
Then he hesitated, sensing something more.
"And a daughter!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Anakin!"
"We'll name the boy Luke, after my grandfather," he said firmly. And he would teach the child in the ways of the Force, make his son the greatest Jedi who'd ever lived. For with two Jedi parents--
"And her -- Andaril, after my grandmother -- or Leileia, after my mother. Oh, I'm looking forward to teaching her! She will be a great Jedi."
Bemused, he altered his thoughts and looked at his lover. He had never felt happiness such as this, had never known it could exist. If only he'd met her years ago. If only he'd met her before the Obi-Wan had laid claim to his loyalty.
Her smile faded. "Before they only suspected we had broken our vows of chastity; now they will know."
He shrugged to cover his unease. "So we won't belong to the Jedi Brotherhood anymore. We will still be Jedi, as will our children."
"Maybe they'll let us stay."
It was a dream. Wonderful, but only a dream. The Obi-Wan was not forgiving to those who broke their vows. Strange. A short time ago being a Jedi had been the highest goal he could hope to achieve. Now he had both his dream and something more. Now he had her. Now he had them.
Summer was long on this planet, lasting many standard
months. It was a time of heat and fulfillment and thriving.
"You don't understand the seriousness of what you have done," the Obi-Wan told them, his usually placid presence filled with anger. "Jedi must not have children, the consequences are too grave. Only the offspring of non-Force-users can be Jedi. If it fell under the influence of the Dark, a child of yours could upset the balance of the universe with the power it could wield. Only once before in our lifetimes has a Jedi--" Kenobi stopped. "But that is another matter. If you both hope to remain Jedi, you must renounce each other. And the child must not be born."
Without touching her mind, he knew that she would never allow their babies to be aborted.
Their removal ceremonies were held separately, first hers, then his. "You are stripped of the right to call yourself a Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker. You have broken your sacred vows and disgraced the Brotherhood. You must never again use the Force or great tragedy will come to you and all those around you."
They had been thoroughly humiliated in front of the entire
Academy, was Anakin's first thought as he struggled out of sleep.
It was daylight, and his head ached abominably. His tongue was coated
and full of a terrible taste. Drugs, he thought angrily. They
had drugged him -- but why? He called to his love, but she did not
reply. With mounting anger and fear, he pulled on his boots and
A solitary shuttle remained on the landing field.
There were no craft, no people, nothing. The site was abandoned.
Where had they taken her? He stretched his mind as far as he could
reach, screaming into the stars, seeking his love and his children.
All he found was a Force wall that blocked his powers, making them seem
small and inconsequential against the impenetrable barrier erected by
a thousand Jedi.
His fury mounted. They would not keep her from him. He would find her if he had to scour every planet. The shuttle would start his journey, but it was inadequate for his purposes. He would need money -- an easy enough task for a former Jedi. Credit would buy a new ship, one equipped to travel the length and breadth of their galaxy. He would not stop. Even if the search took the rest of his life, he would find her and the son with whom he had bonded. As for the daughter -- he hadn't bonded with her. If he didn't find her as a babe in her mother's care, would she be lost forever or would he somehow recognize her?
Fall was long on this planet, lasting many standard
months. It was a time of encroaching
frost and disenchantment and decay.
"The Darkness holds more power than your weak Jedi can even begin to dream," Senator Palpatine said casually. "Follow me, and I will make you the greatest Sith Lord in the galaxy. Your impressive physical presence and your relatively unexplored Force powers have gained you entry to the most rarified circles. At my side and controlling the Dark, you will have power formerly unimaginable."
His eyes narrowed, but he remained silent. Too many had offered him too much, coveting his abilities or his body. This Palpatine was different; he held the reins of a power Anakin didn't understand.
"I will help you find your children." Palpatine leaned forward, golden eyes glistening. "The children of two Jedi will be remarkably strong in the Force. Together we will train them."
His children were babies now; he'd felt the birth of his son. All the Jedi and their combined efforts had been unable to keep that from him. But he had never been able to sense her, except for that one moment when their boy-child had left the shelter of her body.
"Kenobi warned me they would be too powerful to be controlled."
Palpatine laughed. "Kenobi is an old woman!
I am the offspring of Jedi, and he cannot control me--that is why he fears
your children. But you and your children are the future." He
stood, his slight body projecting an aura of measureless authority.
"Become my Student. Accept me as your Master. Together we will
eliminate the Jedi. You will avenge the death of your mate and the
abduction of your children. You will have justice!"
One word penetrated his fog of indecision. "Death?" he repeated numbly. "Death?"
"Ah, you didn't know?" Palpatine sighed with apparent remorse. "I forgot you can't see through the Jedi's feeble barrier. After the children were born, Kenobi killed her. Now he's separated the babes. He is determined to prevent your reunion. If you attempt to reach them, he will kill them too."
Anakin bowed his head in despair and repressed rage. Would the Jedi eternally win? Could they take away everything that had ever mattered to him? They'd taken his love, and now they would murder his innocent children. It was all Kenobi's doing, and he wanted nothing more than to wash himself in the lifeblood of the Obi-Wan, to feel the weight of his saber as it carved through the solid flesh, to see the fear and surprise on his nemesis's face as he died at the hands of his former apprentice. But he wanted none of it if the cost was Luke's life and the life of the Girl.
"He dare not kill them," Palpatine hissed, "if we attack first. Together we can eliminate the Jedi, purge the galaxy of their foul poison. Kenobi will keep the little ones safe as hostages for his own life--he does not wish to die, for he is a coward in his soul. Follow me, Anakin. I will give you unlimited authority over lesser beings, and I will save your children."
"And what will I give you in return?" He looked straight into those feral eyes. "What is it you want from me?" He couldn't read the other man clearly; his thoughts were not of friendship or lust or greed. His thoughts were pure power.
"I want you," the little man said. "I want your loyalty, I want your skills. Your appearance is pleasing and will aid me in securing access to people who are unimpressed by power. You have the ability to be a brilliant military strategist, and I intend to build the greatest armed force the galaxy has ever seen. One day I will rule as the new Emperor." He smiled, gesturing in the air as if conjuring a spirit. "And you will be at my side."
But more than me, you want my children, he thought. Would it be better to allow Luke and the Girl to live their lives as Kenobi's pawns? Or to bring them to Palpatine? Who was Palpatine, after all? How powerful could he become? If Anakin Skywalker could learn from him and enhance his powers, he could take the Senator's place. His children would belong to him, and the deceiving Jedi would all be dead by his hand.
The promise of revenge was all he had left.
He permitted a small smile to tug at his mouth. Rising, he towered over the other man, sensing a momentary displeasure from Palpatine at the reminder of his physical superiority. Then he kneeled at the small feet, head bowed not in humility but in collusion. "I will learn from you, my Master."
Winter was long everywhere, lasting many standard months.
It was a time of cold and death and the stirring of seedlings.