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Chapter 5 - Back In Her Arms Is Where He'll Be
The same moment I restarted the engines after I had changed clothes, a strange sensation came up from the bottom of my heart. Suddenly all the anxiety, the fear...gone! I was free, both physically because finally I wasn't confined in those four walls anymore, but also I was free from the Empire and its barbarian ways to deal with people.
And I was more determined than before. I wanted to find my family more than anything. I didn't give a damn if I had suffered more than it was even thinkable. The scars I bore meant nothing. I was a free man, not just an ID number written on a door. I was Anakin Skywalker, I was a free man.
I was free to do what I wanted and speak my mind without fear of the punishment. I was a Jedi and even if the Empire had tried to take it away from me but they didn't, fortunately. I still had some pride of what I was and the training I had received, and it was time to take it out. The Order wasn't dead, not yet at least. I didn't know how many of us were still alive, out there, scattered around the Galaxy fighting for survival, but I was there and I couldn't let down everything that had raised me. Even if I had to train every single Force Sensitive child of the Galaxy.
The Order would have survived. I didn't know how but we would have make it. It had almost been wiped out five thousands years before, after the Great Sith Wars, but the will of one was enough to make it flourish again. It might have taken a while, me might have had to fight, we probably would need some help, but we were definitely going to rise again from the dust and the Republic would have been restored. The Sith couldn't win this war. Vader and Sidious were going to have a fierce enemy to fight.
I swore it to myself as I drove towards the spaceport.
While I drove in open desert at max speed in the cool, twilight air, I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed deeply a couple of times. The air of that planet was almost uncontaminated. It felt like being born again, it felt like that day, after the Battle Of Coruscant, when after five months in the Outer Rim, I had stepped off that military transport right outside the Senate, and she was there waiting for me.
Unfortunately, that day was so different from this one...first of all, she wasn't there. But I had already come to terms with that. I knew I had to walk a lot before I could find her. Find them, actually. And I was a different man. I wasn't that reckless child I was seven years before. I had grown, I was almost thirty years old, and I assure you: seven years of prison, in those conditions, change you. They rip you apart and put you back together. And, sincerely, I hoped I had become a better man.
And looking back, when I had been arrested and everything, I was twenty two, and I was really nothing but a spoiled child. And arrogant, to say the least. All the talking about me being the Chosen One had filled my mind with great expectations that obviously weren't mirrored in reality. I still thought I could live large and that everyone would praise me for everything I did. I wanted to be the greatest Jedi of the Galaxy, to say the least. Qui Gonn had seen something in me. He had really seen the desire to become a great Jedi, the will to help people. Problem: while I grew up, that desire to help people and right the wrong of the Galaxy, that feeling slowly had become the will to redeem myself and my past as a slave. And the will to become great and powerfull.
What an idiot.
No, really, I was an idiot for so long! As luck had it, I managed to open my eyes before I did some bullshit.
Well, no, sometimes I had acted like a total dork many times. Too many indeed. But I still had time and will to redeem myself. I had to expiate my sins after all. And I needed it.
I had already started my path of redemption, years before, when I had been arrested. The day I had to choose for both me and Padmè. Not to mention our son. And that was the worst day of my whole life.
That day I had to choose between the apparently fast and easy way, take her and run away as fast as we could, go somewhere remote and live there, start another life and leave everyone else to die or take the hard and long one that in the end showed it was the best choice I had ever taken. I warned Obi-Wan, I gave him the chance to warn someone and then I trusted Padmè's life in his hands. Then I resigned myself to Sidious. I was playing his game.
And because I knew myself I knew that the second option had been the best one. Maybe I had made the difference, maybe not, still I had given them the chance to save themselves or try to stop this madness.
I choose her, I saved her life and in the same time I saved mine. I left her, that's true, but I didn't lose her.
And that was the decision that had changed both our lives. For the better.
Suddenly I recalled a feeling I had years before, a moment when everything stood still. On the Invisible Hand, the admiral ship of the Separatist Fleet. The day I killed Dooku. I felt a cold shiver running down my spine that made me jolt on the seat.
I remembered every moment of that mission, since when me and Obi-Wan had been recalled from the sieges, the tensed hours before we got to Coruscant, the frantic moments of the space battle...everything. Every step I had taken in those hallways echoed in my mind as if I was watching an holo of my life. And what I was looking at didn't please me.
I saw Dooku's terrified eyes, the panic that reflected in them when, after I had severed his arms, I was keeping him hanging on, unable to decide what to do. I remembered the thousands of thoughts that passed in my mind that day, ranging from vengeance for the same arm he had severed almost three years before, to mercy for that old man.
Most of all I remembered Palpatine's cold voice as he ordered me to kill him. It was so different...it was strange and creepy. Still, I listened to him even if that order sounded so weird coming from him! And that moment triggered something in my mind, at a subconscious level.
For three years I had seen the worst of the Galaxy. War, death, suffering of million of innocent people that strove to survive in that power play of two powers too big for them to understand. I remember the anxiety I felt every time I had to tell to someone that his or her brother, father, sister or whatever had died. It was terrifying and for three years I had to live like that, close to death and pain, at such an intensity that in the end I had grown used to it. But that day something had changed. I had already killed in the past, many times actually, but no one had ever asked for mercy. Well, don't count the Tusken on...I couldn't control me that night.
I though everything was over at that point. Instead I returned home just to plunge in a chasm of terror and pain. The worst three months of my life. Palpatine's kidnapping had left a huge hole in the Jedi pride, included mine. The Chancellor wanted us to stand aside and for the Force's sake he had all the rights to do it since he held the reins of the Republic. He wanted all the space and the time to make his plan work and bring me to his side. That's why he kept the others away. The more I lost trust in them, the more I walked closer to the Dark Side.
I fought with all my might those dreams and visions that kept disturbing my sleep. Every night the same story, the same torture. I was literally going crazy, and I couldn't understand.
Then finally the Council decided to make me a Master and that was like a thunder in a clean sky. I was a Master, everything I had always wanted to be and I had fought for. I was at peace with the universe. Those dreams that haunted me like a bird of prey with a small animal...they disappeared. Too bad for Sidious that only a tiny but significant decision could change, better, destroy his whole plans and thirteen years of machinations. I had changed direction... and suddenly Sidious' plan just went out of the window.
He deserved to die. He and his damned apprentice, Vader. Both of them. It's not Jedi style to wish for the death of someone but in that particular situation, I guess I can be forgiven.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't notice the skyline of the spaceport appearing on the horizon. Short buildings, built underground with a domed roof, typical desert buildings, designed to be useful more than appealing.
It wasn't so different from Mos Espa in the end. Nightclubs were all open and they were full of soldiers that as soon as their shift finished ran away and found refuge in places like that. A sporadic traveler, merchants (some honest some not so much) but most of all bounty hunters and smugglers. They all sat lazily in front of the clubs, enjoying the cool air of the incoming night, a beer or stronger alcoholic drink in their hands, or worse, a death stick. Here and there you could spot women of doubtful reputation. Everything normal in the end.
I parked the speeder just outside the first houses and walked towards the center of the small city. It wasn't huge, but in the end it just needed a stocking area big enough for the Imperial ships and everyone would be fine with that. No one would ever live on Blenjeel, that was sure. And if you did, either you were desperate or were looking for some high risk business.
It was like being home again, just twenty years older and with a greater knowledge of languages. There was every kind of people in that city. Somehow, the audience of the Boonta Eve was boring!
I hastened my pace and followed the directions for the spaceport. I knew I could find something in that place, a small cargo, a single-seated ship...there was something, that was sure.
And if I was lucky enough, I could steal an Imperial cargo. If they had kept the design of the republican ones, they were made for long trips and were equipped with showers and bunks. And I needed both of them. A long shower and some hours of sleep.
The problem was that I had to steal it in first place, and I had to find the reserved zone of the spaceport to see what I had to deal with.
Finally I found it, in the eastern part of the city. It was a small building, with a high metallic fence enclosing it. I could see some ships stocked behind the fence. It didn't have too many security guards. It would be so easy to get in!
The fence was old and rusted. I found an existent hole and sneaked in, unnoticed.
Taking advantage of the darkness and the scarce light, I slowly sneaked in the administration offices through an open window. At that late hour, all the stocking operation had ceased and there was no one in there. There was a computer and and I had free access to it.
I used again the ID code of the clone I had killed and I entered into the system. It was still valid. Apparently, they hadn't discovered my escape yet.
I looked at the list and I found the ship I needed. Hangar 17, docking station 5.
It was time to leave that godforsaken place of the universe.
I got out of the office and walked down the long hallway that led to the various hangars of the port until I found hangar 17. And there I stopped.
There was someone inside, I could hear voices. I slowly opened the door and cautiously stepped in, aided by the shadow that engulfed most of the room.
Sitting at a small table there were four clones, probably the only security guards on duty, that relaxed there between a round and another, chatting, drinking and playing a sabaak match. One single light bulb lit the table, the rest of the hangar was dark. And that allowed me to listen.
They were chatting about orders when one of them, probably the head of the squad, received a text message on the comlink. He made a strange smirk while he read, a mix to stupor and annoyance, then he reattached the device to his belt.
"Now this is a first! Someone just committed suicide, down at the prison." he exclaimed, reaching for his cards.
Fantastic, my plan had worked better than what I had expected.
"Who?" asked another clone.
"100389. He made a rope out of his uniform and hanged himself to the plumbing." he replied, throwing a card on the table.
"Are you jocking, aren't you?" asked another one, his voice reduced to a whisper. His face was a must see! He looked like he had just seen a ghost. "Did you read the ID right?"
The chief nodded. "Sure I read it right! Do you think I'm that stupid?"
"No Lieutenant...it's just that...I worked at the prison for some time before they moved me here and that ID was assigned to Anakin Skywalker."
The thickest of silence fell in the room. "Anakin who?" asked the one I could not see.
"Anakin Skywalker. One of the most powerful Jedi of the Galaxy. He was one of my commanders for some time, years ago. It's strange to think that he's dead now!"
That clone was a veteran! I didn't think there were more of them left around. I kept on listening.
"Wait a sec, wasn't Anakin Skywalker the Jedi that tried to kill the Emperor, years ago?"
The veteran nodded. "Yep, that's him. He was in prison right for that crime. He should have remained in prison until death. I admit that when the news spread I couldn't believe it, then when they published the dynamics of the Jedi plan to overthrow the Republic I understood many things!"
"Such as all Jedi are trash we need to delete from the Galaxy. We're here because they ordered that clone army, we fought a stupid war and it was their fault and now we have to chase them and guard them too. Sincerely, I would have preferred they stuck their idea of a clone army right where I say." replied the lieutenant angrily. "I preferred not to be born, with everything considered. And even if they would have released him, he wouldn't have make it far. Even with the Jedi Order still standing.
"Why?" asked another one.
"Because he violated practically every rule of their so called code. Sometime after his incarceration someone released the rumor he had been killed. After that the holonet released the news that they had many scoops about his life. I don't really know what's true and what's false, but the only certain thing is that he got married."
The other exchanged strange looks. "But the Jedi couldn't get married!"
"I know, but he did nonetheless. If they discovered him, he would have been expelled from the Order. Not to mention that he didn't just marry a commoner!"
"Ah, yeah now I remember! Didn't he marry that Senator...damn I can't remember the name! She's dead too, isn't she?"
The lieutenant nodded again. "Exactly. Soon after the declaration of the Empire. It seems she had a congenital heart defect. Things that happen...she was beautiful though...Somehow I understand him, she was definitely a beauty. If we had women like that here, everyone of us would always ask to come here after the end of the shift!"
Nice lie they had created! Obi-Wan was a genius, that's sure. The last sentence though...I didn't like it much.
"Sad story. Poor thing...I'd say that after his wife death and all those years in that cell..at least now he has found some peace!"
"Next time he'll be more careful. You can't try to kill the Emperor and hope you can get through it! Anyway, I fear there's something wrong..."
Oh come on! It was clear that someone could have suspects about the suicide thing, no plan is perfect but that clone was really getting on my nerves! I grabbed the hilt of my lightsaber and stood there some more minutes.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean he's a Jedi, and Jedi are capable of everything. I don't know, maybe he killed one of the guards and wore his uniform so he could get out! No one knows how you look like in there, if he managed to make him unrecognizable enough, they could take one face for the other without problems!"
He was smart, I have to admit it. "And do you remember that Jedi we looked everywhere for? The one that reduced Vader to a piece of coal?" the others nodded. "Well, he was Skywalker's Master! If the two of them manage to get back together, there will be troubles for us! You saw them in action, you can confirm!"
At that point I stood up and turned on my lightsaber. It was time to get out, and those four were only blocking me,
The hiss of my blade filled the room and they jolted in their chairs, then they stood themselves. They had left their blasters the Force knows where and it was incredibly easy to kill them. They didn't even had the chanche to realize there was someone behind them. Four blows and they were dead, without a breath. Very dead.
Killed by a dead man...life is strange sometimes!
Anyway, I didn't stay there any second more. I found the hangar computer and opened the dome then I ran to the docking station. Yep, it was definitely a cargo ship Republican style, right what I needed. With that, its codes and its navicomputer, I could go pretty much everywhere.
I ran up the access ramp and pushed the button that closed it behind me. With that done, I found the cockpit and brought the system to a stand-by state, while I waited for the dome to be completely open. I heard the engine turn to life with a moan that soon became the low, normal hiss of every hyperdrive engine, a low whisper that signaled everything was fine. I checked the propeller. There was enough to get on Coruscant and return. I could go to Coruscant and then anywhere in the Galaxy without a refuel.
When the dome above me was completely open, I started maneuvering out of there. I brought the ship up. Still no one went looking for me. I was rather good in undercover operation!
I left Blenjeel behind me some minutes after. From the orbit I could see the other systems around there, with their suns and stuff. I inserted the coordinates and set the autopilot after I had jumped in hyperspace.
I had eight yours before I could arrive on Coruscant.