This is another idea of what might happen in the upcoming Star Wars episodes. I'd like to point out that I'm in no way affiliated with George Lucas (*sniffle* I'll never have a 'real' lightsaber of my own *sniffle*) and that every similarity to the upcoming movies is absolutely incidental and unplanned.
THE PATHS OF DESTINY
(c) JEL, 2000
(Obi-Wan's point of view)
It was an unforgiving time - every mistake could kill you, every word you said might be your last. What the galaxy had to go through can't be imagined, what people had to suffer on their bleak home worlds, destroyed and ravaged by a callous torturer who called himself "the Emperor".
Everyone feared him - even the Jedi - for he had found a way to discredit our order and thereby brought chaos into our lives. He sought to destroy all that we stood for - and he did succeed.
It all began shortly after Palpatine had thrown off his disguise -had declared himself "Emperor" and ruler of the galaxy. He had an army stronger than all we could muster in a short time and his power as a Sith Lord was greater than all our nightmares and premonitions had taught us to expect. He had hidden in the shadow of politics for years and rose in a moment of weakness, one moment that cost the Senate its power - and the galaxy its freedom.
The Jedi were the guardians of a peace Palpatine didn't, couldn't wish for - so he found a sure means of driving a gorge of fear and loathing between those we had been trained to protect and us.
It was the time of the Clone Wars, the wars that marked the end of our order and the beginning of the Jedi purge. The Galactic Empire that was spreading rapidly had weapons of immense destructive power -robotic lifeforms, created in the images of particular Jedi and dignitaries of various worlds that dared to back them up in their dissent with the policies of Palpatine, the Emperor.
Though it were sometimes but little vices these clones brought to light, it were the stepping stones of distrust that gradually took over the minds of all those who should have turned to the Jedi for help as they had done for centuries before.
There were a great many incidents, some of them bordering on the painful, not even considering the ill effects they produced. For when a Jedi like Mace Windu whom we had known for years as an ascetic in every sense was found lying drunk on a street, in the arms of a dead prostitute it was hard not to feel the impact of the dishonour that was heaped upon him.
Master Windu faced his clone with a calmness nothing can describe, and when he fought it in a ring formed by the other Council members, we knew his eyes were hard and full of grief. We never brought the clones in front of the judge - it would have been to no avail. People feared us as it was and any open discussion of our being helpless in the face of the hypocritical robots pretending to be us would have further frightened them.
And there was nothing else to do but prowl the streets, day and night, finding the look-alikes and picking fights with them. They were all strong in the Force, immersed in the Dark Side and we faced every nightmare in these combats. They were the mirror images of our own fear, of our darkest moments and it has always been hardest dealing with your own mistakes.
We lost many a promising Padawan to these fights, it was a war raging in the underground, with no one knowing except the Jedi and the very few whom we could trust.
Senator Valorum and a friend of his, Bail Organa of Alderaan were those we depended upon for moral support. But, as time passed it became clear we couldn't keep the threat of the clones a secret any longer. People wouldn't report Jedi who robbed, or threatened or killed to the Temple anymore, they had no faith in our helping them.
That was when Master Yoda sent my Padawan and me away on a mission that was to seal the fate of the Jedi and give destiny a turn for evil in its darkest form.
"Go to Alderaan you must. Accompany Valorum, you will. Protected he must be."
"He was assaulted?"
"Tried to kill him they did. Storm troopers on Coruscant there are. In safety he must be."
"Is there a way out, Master?"
"Foreseen it, I have not. Possible it may be. Always in motion, the future is."
It seemed like such a simple mission - at least compared to all the pain and suffering every new day in the capital brought us. Anakin had faced and destroyed a clone of him a few days before, after he had raped a woman with a startling resemblance to Amidala. He was still shaken and I had been silently hoping to get him away from Coruscant for a while.
Ani and Amidala shared a love like the one Qui-Gon and I had shared. But theirs seemed to have been blessed by a lucky star, Yoda had foreseen future happiness for them a few years back and it seemed that all would be well with them.
I was proud of my Padawan. How could I not be? He was quick and enthusiastic, a keen learner, only satisfied when he had completed a task to perfection. He would be a great Jedi and I had proven Qui-Gon to have been right about his fate - he would bring balance to the Force. I had a premonition he would destroy the Emperor - but little did I know what price we'd have to pay for this.
We left Coruscant at dawn, and, a few days later, after a surprisingly uneventful journey (if you don't count the assault by the little vessel full of storm troopers that caught up with us halfway across our flight path), we landed safely and unnoticed on Alderaan, in the quiet of the night.
Valorum was welcomed personally by his friend, and we accompanied him to a cave, hidden somewhere in the rocks far away from the main cities.
"I'll be in touch as often as I dare - but you know we're a peaceful people and mustn't draw attention on ourselves - the Emperor would crush us otherwise."
"No need to apologize, Bail, you've just saved my life and I couldn't ask anyone for more in these days now, could I?"
"Knight Kenobi, Anakin, how long will you stay here?"
"Only for a couple of days, Senator Organa. We aren't expected back on Coruscant for another week and Master Yoda proposed we continue our training here, while ensuring that no one has followed us. Within a few days it should be clear whether Senator Valorum will be safe or not."
I bowed deeply, as Senator Organa left us as did Ani, then we settled down in the small cave, making ourselves as comfortable as possible. Senator Valorum went to work on his charts and notes - he was planning to unite the galaxy against the Emperor, he wanted to fight him to the death, his determination stemming, for the most part, from the pain of having lost his family to a raid carried out by storm troopers a few months back.
Two days later, Ani and I were doing our lightsabre practice in the safety of a circle of rocks, the Senator came to us with news neither of us was prepared for.
"Anakin, Knight Kenobi - I've got bad news for you! Naboo has been taken over by storm troopers, the Queen was taken hostage. We don't know any more yet, but I don't think Palpatine's there yet."
One look at the horror, plainly evident on Ani's face, told me there was no time to lose.
"Thank you, Senator, we'll leave at once, with your permission."
Not that I needed to ask. His whole demeanour showed very clearly where he thought we ought to be. But still I didn't like it. It was my responsibility to protect him.
"I'll accompany you two, if you don't mind. I have the utmost respect for the Queen and - Captain Panaka is a particular friend of mine."
"It will be dangerous."
"I have nothing to lose but my life, Knight Kenobi - but if I can at least help to save my friends it will be worth it - there's a debt the Empire owes me and I won't..."
He stopped in mid-sentence and I nodded. He wanted to avenge his family. Not that I could blame him. I had done nothing else when killing Darth Maul all these years ago. Seeing the Sith die soothed the anger I had felt as he took my Master's life. It was un-Jedi-like, but it was what happened to the best of our order - none of us was ever made of stone, and being a Jedi means to be compassionate and just. Suffering can't simply be accepted, you will feel the need to help, to make it better.
As it turned out, Bail Organa had heard of Naboo as well and when he came offering us his help I couldn't refuse. We would need any help we could get.
We took a small Alderaanian shuttle that brought us swiftly in the orbit of Naboo - and with Jedi stealth we managed to land undetected in the jungle, from where we made our way straight to the Gungan underwater city. There was no way of getting into the capital unnoticed, safe by a tunnel that had been built shortly after the invasion of the Trade Federation had ended.
It had been Jar-Jar's idea. And not a bad one, I might add. The tunnel led, from a secret place in the Gungan city, directly into the palace above the water. Its existence was known only to a selected few - Ani, Amidala, Captain Panaka, Jar-Jar, Boss Nass and myself as well as two of the Queen's handmaidens, or, to be exact, bodyguards. So it was the safest way for escape, or even for hiding out. If Amidala had managed to fool the storm troopers and flee, her only refuge could be in this tunnel - until someone came to take her off-planet.
The swim to the underwater city brought back memories of the first time I had come here, with Qui-Gon at my side. To think that I hadn't told him what I felt till we took off from Tatooine a few days later, after his battle with the Sith, hurt me more than I can tell.
We had but a few hours as lovers, before reality and our duties took over our lives and - eventually - separated us forever.
The Gungan city was deserted. It was eerily quiet and there were too many storm troopers around for my taste. Luckily they're easily manipulated with the Force - for men used to obeying orders without questioning it doesn't usually matter who gives them those orders or what they entail so long as they're ordered to do it and don't have to take the responsibility for their actions.
So we passed along the city, and soon found ourselves near the hidden trap door that opened into the tunnel.
"Where are all the Gungans?"
"That - how do you know?"
"There's no signature of their life-forces here, and neither was there on the surface. I'm afraid they've been either shipped off as slaves or - terminated."
Ani nodded. He was nervous. The last time I had seen him nervous had been on the morning of his marriage to Amidala. Only now he feared for her life and not for mispronouncing the words of the Naboo marriage rituals.
We found the door intact and sealed, and on reaching out with the Force, Ani relaxed visibly.
"They're in there, safe and sound. And waiting for us. I've let them know we're coming."
We removed the stacks of crates enough to allow us to pass on into the tunnel, then opened the door. Amidala stood right behind it, blaster in hand, covered by Captain Panaka and Jar-Jar, who steadied one of the handmaidens who seemed to have been injured. The greeting was swift and though the young couple was full of emotion, they simply hugged and kissed, knowing full well we had no time to lose.
I knew how hard it was for them to have to let go of each other. I've wished to hold Qui-Gon close more than a few times after we had declared our love - but there was no opportunity, too many lives were at stake and - we were Jedi first. I don't remember where I heard that, it seems I knew ever since I was little, that my duties as a member of the order surpassed everything else - family, friendship, even love.
We left the city the same way we had come after hiding the entrance to the tunnel. I took over the young handmaiden, she was badly wounded and I doubted there was hope. I carried her in my arms, setting aside a little energy to put her into a healing trance. The least I could do was to take away her pain.
I felt the dark presence long before we left the relative safety of the ocean. I made a sign for the others to follow me and took a different path than the one we had come, letting the Force guide me. We came out of the water, far away from our hidden ship, and a quick glance at Ani told me I hadn't been mistaken.
Just then I felt the brief flicker of a life in the Force, flaring up, then vanishing. It burned inside me - death. I had lately felt it a lot, Coruscant was full of it, lost in hate, aggression and fear.
"...is dead. He knows I got away."
Amidala's eyes were haunted, her face unnaturally pale. She looked at her friend, breathing heavily in my arms. I touched upon the young woman's force signature and shook my head.
"Don't let her suffer, please."
I nodded and carefully laid my charge on the grass. I covered her heart with my hand, cocooning her pain in the Force and letting her slip deeper into unconsciousness while I slowed her heartbeat - till it stopped. I couldn't have saved her and I knew that her pain equalled that of Qui-Gon as he died. I eased his and tried to hold him, keep him with me while knowing it was futile. I knew that I couldn't make this mistake again.
Tears ran down Amidala's cheeks, but she brushed them away, taking Ani's hand and giving him a brief hug. Once again I marvelled at how strong she was - how young and how strong.
We hid the body in the foliage near the water, we couldn't take it with us and there was no time to bury it. Another life lost because of a war that should never have been. Oh it was hard to keep myself focused, not to give in the tempting anger that threatened to rise within me once again.
But there was no time to mourn. We had to go on, to get off planet before Palpatine could get at us. We spent ours in circling the storm troopers, creeping through the thick jungle undergrowth as quietly as possible. Dusk had fallen and there was no way back, so we pressed forward, following our Jedi senses. We had almost reached the shuttle, we were so close to safety.
"Your highness. What a pleasure!"
"Supreme Chancellor for you, my dear, if you can't bring yourself to address me properly."
That dignified, cultured voice was full of spite, the pretended politeness bordered on an insult. But Amidala stood her ground.
"I will call you whatever I want. This is my land, impostor!"
She would have said the same even without me and Ani at her side, it was a part of her nature never to give in. She was one of the women I had come to admire the most, she wasn't simply a warrior, a ruler, or a wife. She was all this and more - she combined the steadfastness of a true character with the perception of a sage, a heart full of love and compassion with the ruthlessness of a soldier killing in battle. She managed to stand strong on her own with the pride and dignity of someone who commands an entire army - even if her army was only the strength she harboured deep inside herself.
Palpatine's face was stony. He lifted his hand, anger radiating, forming an aura of danger and darkness that was blacker than the night that surrounded us. He meant to strike her, and both Ani and me knew, instinctively moving to her defence. It wouldn't have been necessary. I almost smiled as she drew a blaster, pointing it directly at Palpatine's heart.
"You will not hit me, impostor."
Never before have I heard so much loathing in someone's voice. And never have I feared so much for the lives of those I was with.
"Bind them, bring them to the palace. I will deal with them personally, one by one."
He turned round and left us, in a circle of storm troopers. Our chances were slim, but we fought - Amidala's second handmaiden was shot when she threw herself in front of her friend to protect her. The moment it took for her to sink to the ground was the moment our concentration wavered, and we were taken.
I didn't know what to do. Jedi training can be quite useful, but not if there are only two Jedi, and five civilians who can't evade blaster bolts at lightening speed. We had to wait. And I knew the greatest trials were yet to come.
I couldn't touch Ani's mind through the training bond, it had never been particularly strong, and so I spoke to him in a whisper, hoping the others wouldn't hear.
"You must control yourself, Ani. Find your centre, don't let the fear and anger you feel get the better of you. Our lives depend upon our ability to accept whatever comes."
"Palpatine will harm Amidala!"
"Only if you don't manage to pull yourself together. He wants to turn us, of that I'm sure. Either of us in his entourage, with intimate knowledge of the Jedi Temple and Council would be a threat for the whole order."
"You only think of the order! I don't give a damn about them! I want Amidala to be safe!"
He turned away, and I got a bad feeling. For the first time since Qui-Gon's death I feared I might fail my apprentice and my lover. The emotions were running berserk with my Padawan, and I couldn't bring him to concentrate. Knowing him, he was now beyond caring what I said. This had happened when his mother died. I remember how he set out on his own to kill the slaver she'd been sold to, the one who had mistreated and murdered her.
He had returned, shaken, with his mother's body, cursing himself and his fate, but he hadn't turned, though I felt the brush he had had with the Dark Side. He had stood strong then, his principles and training winning over the love of a child - barely. I knew how much Amidala meant to him. And that was what worried me most.
We were brought to the palace, locked up in one of the former throne rooms. The large windows had been barricaded, seemingly blocking an escape route. As soon as the storm troopers had left us, we began tearing away the planks and furniture that stood between our freedom and us.
It was too easy, I couldn't help but wonder what Palpatine actually wanted, and it became more clear to me, the longer I thought about it, that he had every intention of making either Anakin or me his dark minion, his Jedi puppet.
We had almost finished, were so close to escaping, when Palpatine returned. His face was a mask of polite concern, his voice dripped with venom.
"Now, why should my guests want to leave? I will have to find ways to make your stay more comfortable I see. Senator Organa, Senator Valorum - why don't you join my men for a little walk?"
I had to do something, but what? There weren't a great many choices for me here - I could offer to go with them, doing all I could to protect them, yet I didn't want to leave Anakin - not with this monster. I glanced at Panaka and he understood.
"Jar-Jar and I would like to accompany the Senators."
"A useless sacrifice for the ties of friendship. How noble of you. I won't keep you, of course. It's your own decision. Yet, I must warn you. Having faith in others is far too insecure. Accepting the power a friend holds over one is the greatest weakness people indulge in."
"Thanks for the warning."
"Meesa not cares for whatta you say. Meesa loves my friends."
So it was settled. I hoped it had been the right decision. The four of them would be greatly outnumbered, but they might just have a chance. I remained with Ani and Amidala in the throne room as they were escorted away - Force knows where.
"May the Force be with you."
Palpatine laughed at my wish, but the others smiled. "With you too." Then they were gone. And I was left with a steaming apprentice who feared for his beloved wife's safety, a young Queen who felt she had to protect her loved one and a man whose greed for power and wealth was so great, that the darkness in his soul wrapped around me in slim tendrils of hate, seeking to bind me, to make my breathing harder and harder.
I had to be careful. Once again I reached for Ani through the training bond - once again a shield blocked me.
Palpatine sneered. "Your apprentice is quite right, Kenobi. I presume you don't know how much he wants to protect his little Queen - YOU can't have loved anyone that much."
He wanted to provoke me. Oh, it was hard to keep my cool, to calm my thoughts, to find my centre, my serenity. There is no emotion, there is peace. How often have I chanted this mantra, how often has it helped - it almost failed me then - almost. I struggled, but I released my anger in the Force, my eyes never leaving Palpatine's face.
"Good, my young friend, very good. It seems your Master taught you something after all - except how to - pleasure him."
Both Ani and Amidala looked at me. I was probably blushing fiercely. Would have been just like me - yet I let the feelings pass through me. If this monster in front of me wanted a fight over my mind and my inner peace - he could have it. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of letting him win.
"I see I've hit a mark here, forgive me. Being raped by one's own Master must be a harrowing experience."
"I will not discuss my l o v e life with you, S i t h." I said it with a voice that sounded strangled, strange, and full of disgust. Yes, he knew how to get to me - but nothing he said could have marred the memories I have of making love with Qui-Gon, of kissing and holding him, of being loved and cherished. My feelings for my Master ran deeper than the emotion most other people already called love -Palpatine couldn't ever touch them, for one who has never known true love, will never understand what I felt for my lover.
"You should watch your tongue."
I stared back at him, not wavering, though the hatred in his bleak eyes chilled me to the bone. I was a Jedi, I served the light and he was nowhere as strong as I could be. He understood, turned from me, and, in the moment I took a deep breath to concentrate once more, he thrust his hand forward, sending out a column of bluish light that caught me unawares in the chest and threw me across the room, slamming me into the marble wall. I lost consciousness.
Amidala told me later what happened while I was out. Palpatine played the same game with Ani that he had already played with me, and even though Amidala attempted to hold him back, even though she begged him not to let the insults and threats get to him, he let his anger control him - for a few seconds - sending a Force wave against Palpatine, who - absorbed it.
That enraged my poor apprentice even more and pushing his wife behind him, he attacked the Emperor again, and again, letting the darkness take him.
"NO! ANI, DON'T - I BEG YOU! DON'T - A N I!"
I opened my eyes to Amidala's pleas, just in time to see my Padawan, his face distorted with hate, seething with rage, stalking Palpatine, who, as if ceding, made his way slowly, step by step towards the door.
"GET OUT OF HERE, AMI! NOW!"
Ani was frantic, I felt his fear that was even greater than his anger, and knowing that I had no chance of getting to him over the training bond, I called out.
"ANAKIN! LET HIM BE. IT'S WHAT HE WANTS, YOU'RE RUNNING INTO HIS TRAP. PLEASE, LISTEN TO ME - PADAWAN!"
It was to no avail, he didn't seem to notice I was there. I used the Force, concentrating on pulling Ani from his doom, away from Palpatine, but I was still disoriented and dizzy, and the Force wouldn't come to me as I needed it.
Amidala flung herself at Ani, taking his arm, screaming into his ear that she loved him, needed him, that he mustn't do this to her and the like. I don't remember everything, but I know that her voice and the expression of her face would have softened a stone - but Ani had tasted the Dark Side's power and, hoping to save the woman he loved, went towards his own destruction.
He shook Amidala off, just before he reached the doorway, sending her skittering across the floor with a shove of the Force, closing the heavy doors with one last commanding sentence directed at me.
"Get her out."
The storm troopers would have charged, had anyone given them the order. But, having no leader, they seemed unsure of what to do, except guard us. Amidala stood up, tears in her eyes and on her cheeks, as she ran towards the door. A trooper blocked her path and she flung herself at him in a futile attempt to get out and go after Ani.
I picked myself up, unsteadily and collected all the strength I had in a silent command to the storm troopers. When I told them to let us go, they acquiesced at once. I grabbed Amidala, heading outside, pulling her along. She didn't fight me, only asked if it was necessary. I answered her best as I could.
"If he feels you're safe he might let go. As long as he keeps worrying about you there's no way he'll sway from his path."
"He's using the Dark Side to enhance his powers."
She nodded. We knew that this was a journey he might never return from. All there remained for us was to hope.
"Ani will bring balance to the Force. That was what Qui-Gon believed, what I believe. Even Yoda said he would."
"We just don't know how he'll do it."
I caught a glimpse of her face and the terror in the eyes that suddenly seemed too large for her face finally made me understand -if Palpatine succeeded in destroying the Jedi, then Ani would be the new apprentice and - "always two there are, a master and an apprentice" - I began to see what Yoda's words truly meant. There would be two Sith - and two Jedi - no more, no less. And that was when my heart skipped a beat.
Amidala and I made it to our shuttle, where we met up with Bail Organa and Captain Panaka. They had already made preparations for take-off and from the sorrow etched on their faces I knew we had lost another friend. A slight flickering of the Force moments later told me that I had been right.
"Valorum was mortally wounded. Jar-Jar stayed with him, hiding him."
"He has just passed on."
"Jar-Jar will remain here. He said he wouldn't leave his home ever again."
"Get into the shuttle, all of you. We'll take off as soon as Ani's here."
"He won't come back, will he?"
She must have seen the flicker of doubt in my eyes and when I reached out with the Force once more, to touch Ani's signature I felt the all-consuming dark flooding his veins. I shook my head.
"We'll leave then. There'll be another day. We'll get him back."
That was when I last saw the lush jungle of Naboo. I had a premonition I'd never come back, but a few weeks later I heard that the Emperor had released toxics all over the surface, destroying all plant and animal life. The oceans had been poisoned, but I felt Jar-Jar was still hiding out somewhere, still alive.
I wanted to help him, but, after getting back to Coruscant, I had other things to occupy my mind. The Jedi were met with distrust wherever they went and I soon learned it was better to wear civilian clothes than my Jedi tunic, if I wanted to escape the brawls that flared up all over the city as soon as one of our order was recognised.
Yoda put Amidala, Captain Panaka and Senator Organa up at the Temple. They were as safe there as they could be. And I - I was sent to patrol the streets in search of more clones. It was hell, and the suffering and pain that these machines, these abominations of nature inflicted in their Jedi disguise was imprinted on my brain forever after. I learned to despise Palpatine and his troopers more than anything else, and though I wouldn't let myself feel anger, even the mere thought of him left a foul taste in my mouth and brought the stench of death to my mind.
It was a few months before we had news of Anakin. And they were by no means good. He was said to torture the population of a small moon in the Illp'cha system that had refused to pay taxes to the Emperor.
I made up my mind to go and bring my apprentice back, but before I did, I consulted Yoda.
"Go you must. Foreseen it, I have."
"I hope Amidala won't try to follow me."
"Keep your friends safe we will. Stay here, they must."
"You will make sure they won't come after me?"
Yoda nodded slowly. His eyes were sad, sadder than I had ever seen them, sadder even than when his Padawan, his dear friend, Qui-Gon Jinn had been consumed by the flames.
"Face the dark you will."
"Yes, Master. I'm prepared."
"Die, one of you will."
"Have...have you foreseen it?"
It was the one thing that I had hoped not to hear. I'd rather have faced both Ani and Palpatine, or heard that it was my death that was to be expected, but this - either I died, or I would do what? Kill Ani?
"Can I turn Ani?"
"Know this, I do not. Hope it, I do. For you and for the Jedi."
I was on my way soon afterwards. I had a heavy burden to bear. A responsibility beyond all that I had ever imagined when Qui-Gon told me to train that little boy with the innocent blue eyes and the blonde hair. He had been a good child, and a good friend. And now, he had become a monster - almost.
It didn't take me long to get to that moon. Destruction and fearful glances, people shuffling away, their eyes on the ground as soon as they saw me - it was a nightmare, a vision from hell. The fear was palpable, rising from the ground and taking form in the broken down, burned-out huts, the dirty, bruised children and the keeping out of sight of most people.
It didn't take me long to pick up Ani's trace. His signature in the Force hadn't changed, other than that it no longer shone bright and clear, but was a tangle of dark weeds, wound around his aura, keeping every touch of warmth and caring away from him, shielding him from any positive feeling that might mar the perfection of the darkness enveloping his true self.
We met on a field, freshly burned down, he - impassible, standing tall, all dressed in black, not even a hint of emotion in his eyes. I stared at him; it was hard to believe what I saw - he had changed so much and I was glad, Amidala wasn't with me - to see him like this would have been too cruel.
"I see you've come to claim me, my Master. What a triumph! I never thought you'd do quite as much for me - after all, I'm not the Padawan you wanted, am I? Just a promise you made to good old Master Jinn - how selfless of you to accept a charge like me."
"You're one of my best friends, Anakin. Whoever told you otherwise is wrong. I'm sorry, if I haven't been the best of Masters, it was a new way of life for me too."
"Excuses - that's all you ever gave me. You can't do that, you mustn't do that - why? Padawan, I know what's best for you, trust me."
There was nothing I could have said to this. I had been strict, yes, probably - but I had never thought he felt so trapped.
"Of course, I could forgive you all that, if it hadn't been for your seducing my wife."
"ANAKIN! I never did - you can't believe that I..."
"I saw you, more than once - you kissed her hand, hugged her - you held her very close, my Master. I remember it perfectly well. She can't have been very averse to the idea of betraying me. I shouldn't have loved her so much."
"That's - Anakin - Amidala loves you. And neither of us ever betrayed you. We didn't have an affair and we haven't got one now. In fact, I can swear on...Qui-Gon's soul that there'll never be anything between us except friendship and respect."
"You've been well trained as a diplomat, my Master. Your lies are extraordinarily good - almost believable in fact. Unfortunately you can't fool me."
"Anakin. I know you're still here, you still exist behind that facade of evil - fight it. Don't let the dark consume you, you still have the chance."
"SHUT UP! I AM ANAKIN SKYWALKER! And you'd better find a way to deal with this."
He lounged at me, striking with his sabre. I parried him, just in time. His hatred gave him a strength he had never disposed of before, but I had a far more subtle command of the Force, I touched the light, the power of the living, breathing creatures and plants. I knew I could win this fight, but I wasn't sure I wanted to.
We danced our deadly dance for hours, to the music of eerily quiet, broken by sobbing or screams now and then, as the storm troopers found another village to plunder and burn, more men to torture and women to rape. I was assaulted by death, again and again I felt a life being ended, a flicker of bright light vanishing forever in the Force.
Neither of us wavered, and neither broke. We fought for all we believed in, for our loves and our lives. I was beginning to tire, and so was Anakin. Once more I attempted to reason with him - but he sneered at me, brushed my pleas aside as he had pushed away Amidala that day on Naboo. I even told him that his wife was pregnant, hoping it would stir the deep feelings he had for her, but I failed.
More than once, a sudden intuition saved me from being sliced to pieces by my former apprentice - to this day I believe it was the Force that helped me to evade death - and our fight continued in a flurry of parrying the blows Anakin dealt at me.
We ended up circling a pit, probably the remains of the cellar of a building, that was filled with smouldering ashes and pieces of wood still licked by flames. Anakin struck out suddenly, I turned, just in time to divert the blow aimed at my heart, felt it singe a mark into my left arm through my tunic. I didn't heed the pain, years of training enabling me to concentrate a bit of my energy into easing the burn and lifted my sabre in a counter-attack, twisting my body at the exact moment, Anakin flung himself at me.
My turn caught him unawares and he lost his balance, stumbling and falling. I heard his anguished scream as the dying flames caught at his clothes and flared up again, enshrouding him in their midst as he twisted, trying to get away. I was trembling as I used the Force to lift him up, setting him on the ground, extinguishing the fire. He still screamed, I wanted to help him, was almost by his side, when a bluish light threw me to the ground, strangling me. I had to concentrate on breathing, on neutralising the deadly grip - then -all of a sudden, it was gone.
And so was Anakin. Where his brandished body had lain, only dead earth remained, but the faint tinge of darkness in the air around me told me he hadn't died - his Master had come to save him and his fate was sealed by this.
Every bone and muscle in my body screamed with exhaustion as I dragged myself to my ship, where I bound my wounds, and contacted Yoda. I asked him to tell Amidala what had happened, promising to stand before her and explain myself, justify my conduct as best I could. I had failed to bring her husband back to her, exposing her to the risk of his looking for his child by disclosing her pregnancy; I had failed Qui-Gon - because Anakin wasn't like Xanatos - I had helped with the birth of a man-made monster that would ravage the galaxy, sowing destruction and fear, leaving destitution and despair in its wake.
On my way back to Coruscant, my dreams were full of the future, a future I hadn't prevented. I was angry with myself, and I would have relished in the feeling of my own uselessness and failure, had not Amidala's face, the unshed tears in her eyes, brought me back to my senses.
She didn't blame me, not even for endangering her yet unborn child, she even comforted me and once again I was taken aback by her composure and strength.
"Senator Organa has offered me to live on Alderaan - when the child's born. I've thought about it for a long time. I talked to Master Yoda too, if it is strong in the Force, I can't protect it from its father. It wouldn't have made any difference if Ani hadn't known, he would have felt it was his child."
"What have you decided?"
"I will give the child to you."
"Me? I don't..."
"You have done a grand job on Ani. And you don't have to bring it up -rather - Master Yoda said something about...neutralising the Force."
"...hiding the child from any Force sensitive's prying eyes."
"I'll remain on Alderaan for as long as I can. I'm leaving tomorrow. I'll contact you when the child's born."
I nodded, bowed deeply and kissed her hand. I think she understood that I didn't know what to say. How could I find words to express my admiration for her? What could I possibly say to make the separation from her child - that would happen all too soon - any easier? She had friends - but she loved Ani so dearly - no one could ever take his place.
I spent the following months on Coruscant. Bail Organa had returned to his home planet with Amidala and I, I hunted down Jedi clones all over the city. After all the things I had seen it was surprising I still felt the fear and helplessness so keenly, that I still felt at all.
In these days it seemed to me as if my life were nothing more than an endless series of attempts to ease a suffering that stemmed, in part at least, from one of my mistakes - for it wasn't long before Darth Vader appeared on the galactic scene - a true monster, more machine than man, in whose body the heart and soul of my former Padawan Anakin Skywalker were trapped.
When Amidala sent word, I said my goodbyes to Yoda. We knew we'd never see each other again.
"No death there is, only the Force. Meet Qui-Gon there, you will. Together, all of us will be."
"You foresee our doom?"
"Eradicated, the Jedi will be. The avenger, Darth Vader is. Sent to destroy us, he is - succeed, he will."
"I'll take the child to a safe place and hide it. But I want to help too. I can't just stand idly by and do nothing!"
"Stand by...stand by you will not, young Kenobi. A hard destiny, waiting is. Need much patience, you will. Endure the solitude, you must. Endure your memories. See the destruction of the galaxy you will. Bear it you must - harder than death, living can be. Find it out, you will."
"So I will be one of the Jedi that survives the purge and - you will be the other?"
"Think that, you do?"
"You said there were always two - a Master and an apprentice. I'm a knight though I've still got much to learn - and lately you've taught me a lot - so you're my Master in a way."
"Leave Coruscant, I will. Tomorrow. Balance there will be. High, the cost is. Pay for centuries of peace, we must."
"Centuries of peace - that was a good thing, Master. Why can't it continue?"
"Never easy, peace is. Negotiate, you must. Make compromises, you must. Give in, not everybody will. Greedy, Palpatine was. Sold his soul he has. Pay the price he will. War we will have."
"But there will be peace again, won't there?"
"Yes. Foreseen it, I have. Go now, you must. Be with you, the Force shall be."
"Thank you. May it be with you too."
It was the last time I saw Yoda alive. He outlived me, as he outlived all of his friends, everyone he knew. I don't think he was ever lonely though - nature, the living beings illuminated by the light of the Force were his family, they kept him company even if everyone else was gone.
Amidala met me at the spaceport on my arrival. She was radiant, smiling brightly - yet the sadness in her eyes belied the appearance of a happy spirit.
"I'll show you to your quarters - and then we'll see the babies. You'll love them. You've got to help me with the names though. I can't decide."
"Babies? You had twins?"
Her laugh was carefree as was her mischievous smile and for a moment, her eyes sparkled merrily. She must have seen something in my face, noticed my hesitation as I looked at her, for she assured me that, all things considered, she was as happy as she'd ever be.
The babies sure were sweet. A boy and a girl. They were so tiny - so helpless. Looking at them I finally understood why some people adore little children. They certainly are cute.
"Would you be the boy's godfather?"
"I'd be honoured."
"You needn't be formal here, no one's round."
"I'm sorry, I just..."
"You thought I'd rather keep my distance from you. No. You're the only one who knew Ani well, apart from me. If anything, you should be my closest friend."
How could I have resisted her offer of friendship? It was unexpected. Though we had been through a lot together I was surprised she didn't despise me for failing to bring Ani back, for failing to prevent him from turning to the Dark Side.
"So what should we do for names? I've got a list here, Bail helped me with it. We went through names of Alderaanian origin and I wrote down some of the names I remember from home."
"It'll be a tough decision, these names are all beautiful."
Suddenly her smile faded, and she laid her hand on my arm.
"I - why don't we give them names that mean something to us, rather than those that we have heard someone else mention?"
"You mean the names of people we liked or - admired?"
I understood her then. "Qui-Gon. I haven't talked about him in years."
"I remember how you looked when Palpatine - your reaction was very..."
"Qui-Gon used to say I had a tell-tale face. I never managed that impenetrable mask of stoic serenity he mustered. He was renowned for always being in control of every situation. I knew him better. He made mistakes and quite a lot of them too. But he wouldn't let them set him back - not ever."
"You loved him for his mistakes, didn't you?"
"Yes, and for letting me see them. His trust was the greatest gift anyone ever gave me."
"Would you tell me about him?"
"What do you want to know?"
As it turned out, Amidala wanted to know everything. She was curious and an attentive listener. When I asked her why she was so interested in Qui-Gon, she told me that she had had the impression that I knew what she was going through losing Ani.
"I think I was right. From what you've told me, I mean I had Ani for a few years, we had time to share our love, to build memories to last. You had so very little compared to us."
"I'm grateful I had as much. If we hadn't talked that night - I don't want to think of how I would have felt if he had died in my arms without ever knowing what he meant to me."
"We seem to have a lot in common, don't we? We both lost the man we loved. Will you see him again - in the Force, I mean?"
"Yoda says I will. I'm not sure, but as far as my destiny's concerned I'll have to wait a long time to find out - about twenty more years or so."
"You won't be that old in twenty years, barely seventy."
"Sixty-six to be exact. But - my Master was even younger when he died."
"Fifty. We were exactly 25 years apart."
"You want to be with him."
"More than anything. Why don't we talk about something more positive?"
She brightened up, taken out of her reverie about the unfairness of loving someone with your whole heart who is taken from you too soon.
"The names - let's start with the boy. Where will you take him? I thought you said yourself that the girl didn't show the same potential, she might be safe..."
"I'll leave her here. Anakin knows of one child. He won't be expecting twins. I can't tell you where I'll go, but I've already talked to an acquaintance of mine, who'd be willing to take him on as if he were his own son. His wife is very nice too. They're simple people and they live far away from, well, basically everything."
"Then we should find a simple name for him. He will be able to keep it, won't he?"
"I'll make sure of that."
"Here - Paul - no, I don't like that, it sounds so...what about...Luke? I like the name."
"Luke, great. And now for our little princess here."
"We should chose a more elaborate name for her, Bail will be her godfather and, well, I want her to fit in here."
It took us ages to work through the list, till we found a name that was short, relatively simple, but still beautiful. Leia.
"Luke and Leia... When do you have to leave again?"
I knew she was loath to part with her son. But the time was running short. If I didn't get the boy to safety as quickly as possible, Darth Vader might pick up his trace.
"I can stay about a week, two at most."
"Then you'll be here long enough for the name-giving ceremony. It's quite a big thing here on Alderaan."
It was a hard time for both of us. I wished there was something I could do, anything to make the separation easier for her, but there was nothing. So we said goodbye, as if pretending we'd see each other again. The show was for the others, not for us. I knew I'd never see Amidala again and she knew it was the last time she'd ever set eyes on her son. Sometimes, even people who are in no way Force sensitive have premonitions about their future.
I brought Luke to Owen Lars and his wife Beru on Tatooine. It was still a ball of dust, remote, lonely and bleak. Daily sandstorms, desert sunsets casting reddish gold shadows across the darkening dunes. It would be a quiet life for the boy, but he was safe, of that I was sure. Owen didn't much like seeing me near "his son", he didn't like to think of what, of who his father was. So I kept away. I built myself a little house in the dunes, away from all civilization. I became a hermit, living alone, with no company other than little desert animals.
I learned to concentrate on the moment in all those years of waiting, I didn't have much else to do. Frightening away intruders, placing a protective Force shield round the boy, watching from afar how much he seemed like his father as he grew up.
Yoda had been right - it was a long wait. About four years after I had last seen Amidala, I felt her light go out in the Force. It was a small stirring only, but I had traced her now and then, to see whether she was alright. Even across all this distance I felt her death and I grieved for her in my own way.
On the anniversary of her death I put a candle in the window, I let it burn down, watching it melt and then I meditate, remembering her when she was happiest, and when she was saddest. It is the least I can do. I don't want her to be forgotten.
On the anniversary of Qui-Gon's death I get up early and watch the sunrise, glorying in its beauty. During the day I look through the few little treasures I've kept, I concentrate to replay the scenes in my mind that accompany my memories - that is when I feel his love surround me. In the evening I sit on the dunes and watch the sunset, and sometimes it is as if he were sitting beside me.
My time has finally come. Soon Luke will join me. He will chose his path and his fate will change this galaxy. There will be peace again - sometime.