Another groan, and a murmur of “Kenobi?” It was him. Anakin recognized the voice now.
“My Master sent me to see how you two were doing. You’ve both been unconscious for over two days.”
“Oh! Master Yaddle!” So the three of them here meant this had to be some sort of medical place, probably at the shelter.
“She’ll likely live. Though if that weren’t true, you wouldn’t expect to not find her Padawan here. As it is, Master Windu finally had to order her away.”
Oh yes, that would be Oné all right. How’d she get chosen so early anyway? She hadn’t impressed Anakin much so far. All she’d done was sit around and worry about her Master. Padmé had done everything...
“Why are you so upset?” Padmé’s voice cut his train of thought off.
“I saw it back in the fighter pilot, and as you were carrying us in here. You seemed especially upset whenever Master Jinn showed special concern towards Anakin over there. Do you think he’s not the Chosen One or something? It’s not his fault that people think he is, you know.”
So that was what had been strange about Kenobi’s response to his Master’s question about how far they were from the shelter. Of course Padmé would have figured it out; she always saw things like that.
“Well, my Master believes he’s the Chosen One. He intends to train him when he’s done with me.”
Wait a minute, thought Anakin, they think I’m still asleep! But at the same time, he couldn’t help feeling relief at the thought that he would be trained, after all. Kenobi was over twenty years old, so surely he’d be knighted long before Anakin turned thirteen.
“Knight Kenobi,” he heard Padmé’s gentle voice say, “surely you don’t think that just because he plans for a future padawan, it means he thinks any less of you?”
“I am aware it shouldn’t.” But he sure didn’t sound like it to Anakin.
“But why can’t you convince yourself of that?”
“These matters are not your concern, Initiate.”
Anakin wished he hadn’t used her title like that. Kenobi probably didn’t mean to hurt her, but he probably did anyway.
And then, just when he thought Kenobi was coming over to find out he was awake and listening to them, Padme said, almost too soft to hear, “How did you do it?”
Anakin was wondering the same thing, but from Padme’s impatient sigh, it seemed Kenobi should have known already. “How did you get Master Jinn to take you when you were already in the Corps? I’ve heard the story, of course. Every Initiate who turns twelve without a Master ends up hearing it. You were an inspiration to my friend Sara Tor’nuit, now she’s dead...how did you do it?”
“By a miracle perhaps,” Kenobi said after a minute or so.
“Please say not. Two miracles can’t happen only...ten years apart, would it be?”
“One would assume not. Are you in need of one?”
“You see me here without a Master.”
Kenobi didn’t say anything in reply. But Padmé was good at getting replies out of people. “Did it stay with you?”
“By that statement, I would think you believe it did.”
“Yes, I do. Am I right? Will it stay with me?”
Clever Padmé. Kenobi wouldn’t talk about himself for no good reason, but he would want to help her, so he answered, “Not most of the time, if you don’t let it. The trick is to be aware of your own heart, try to let as little take you by surprise as possible.”
“And this response of yours did-wait a minute, I think Anakin’s awake.”
Now he was in trouble. Lacking the strength to turn around, Anakin lay still and clutched at the sheets. “Does he do this often?” He heard Kenobi ask.
“Do what often?”
“Spy on conversations?”
“I don’t!” Anakin burst out hastily, wishing now he could turn and look.
“He doesn’t, sir.” Padmé repeated. “I guess he was just tired and didn’t think to tell us he was awake. I know I might not have right now.”
“Well, you did very nearly die, Initiate. It took the combined effort of both Skywalker here and my Master to keep you alive.”
“I know,” she said softly, and Anakin could feel her warm feelings very strongly. Had she dropped her shields?
Kenobi’s face appeared in his line of vision. “You both seem well enough for two people who recently spent hours in carbon-shock, especially at your young age.”
“She saved me,” Anakin reminded him.
“So I’ve heard. I shall tell my Master you are doing well. Good day.”
“Wait.” When Padmé said this, it sounded like the kind of thing she said without thinking.
“Yes, Initiate?” Obi-Wan clearly sounded impatient. Anakin just felt cross that he’d called her Initiate again, when her problem had actually been brought up.
He felt especially cross when he heard the pain in Padmé’s voice as she said, “Never mind.”
And off Kenobi went, and they heard the door close behind him, leaving Anakin to suddenly feel terrible. “Padmé, why can’t you get a Master at all, and why can’t I get a Master without messing things up between him and his current Padawan?”
“Are you two awake?” Master Windu had come in.
“Yes, Master, only just now,” said Padmé, and then Anakin heard her groan.
“Don’t try to sit up yet,” Master Windu said gently. Anakin though Padmé must have tried to. “You very nearly died only two days ago.”
“How much longer are all of you going to stay here? Don’t you need to go back to Coruscant?”
“We have received word again that the battle is over. Unless that is contradicted again, we stay here until everyone is able to travel. If you wish, I will turn you around so you may see the others in here.”
“What about Master Yaddle? Doesn’t she need Master Yoda?”
“Actually, this climate is beneficial to her.” Anakin couldn’t hold back a snort.
“Ani!” Padmé snapped at him. “Who else is here, Master?”
He heard a rustling sound, and guessed Master Windu was turning Padmé over. “We rescued eight survivors besides the four of you. Padawan Madierre and Initiates Oggslayer and Amersu landed close enough to the shelter to get here without any trouble. Initiates Tork and Hu’mas also landed fairly close, and made it here, but Hu’mas had a particular intolerance to the atmosphere and died anyway, only a few hours ago. Initiate Olin did what you did to preserve Initiate Niso, but he was dead when we found them. Nor were we able to save Initiate Tatus, though his sacrifice saved Initiate Kon.”
“I see Tru Veld survived too. That’s him right there, isn’t it?”
“It is. Unfortunately, Initiate Ashlk, who was with him, did not. Initiate Seirr, who as you know flew alone, found Initiates Somtay and Gredi, and his actions no doubt saved the former, but there was nothing he could do for the latter. Initiate Weet died before we got to him, and Initiates Monn and Offee both died when their ship crashed.”
Anakin had known Lils Gredi. She was one of his clanmates, the most eager and energetic of any of them. She also had a lot of trouble in their classes, and they all knew she probably would have left them, hopefully for the Exploratory Corps, where he thought she might have been happy. It was hard for him to imagine her being dead.
“Have any of them woken up?”
“Almost all of them at some point or other. I believe Veld is the only one who has not yet.”
“Good. More than enough people have died already.”
Meanwhile Anakin had been getting his courage up, and now said, “Master Windu, sir?”
“Yes, Initiate?” Master Windu sounded imposing, even when he might not mean to, and Anakin was nervous, but he managed to ask, “Could you turn me around, sir?”
Both he and Padmé chuckled, and Anakin felt a pair of big hands grip him and roll him over, smushing a few cords under him. He hadn’t noticed that there were cords plugged into him before. He could see Padmé now, or her back anyway, as she was turned away from him. Master Yaddle was asleep in the bed between them. On Padmé’s other side, Anakin could just see what looked like other Initiates. “Thank you, Master.”
“Please, Master, if you could turn me back over as well?” He did so, and Anakin and Padmé were face to face. She looked worn out, both glad and sad, but peaceful. He felt better seeing her like this.
“You both need to get more rest,” Master Windu advised them. “Twelve more hours, at least, after which you, at least,” he added, looking at Anakin, “should gain all your muscle strength back.”
And so he left, and Anakin and Padmé were left alone together again. “He’s right, Ani,” she said. “Go back to sleep.” And she closed her eyes. Anakin did too; the last thing he saw before doing so was Padmé’s smile.
She was still rolled on her side, and it looked like she was clutching at her stomach. “Padme? What’s wrong? Did you eat something?”
“No,” she groaned, “it’s nothing to worry about.”
“It doesn’t sound like it!”
But Padmé wasn’t completely awake, he thought, because now she was muttering things at random, “Can’t...too tired...it’s never hurt before...”
“What’s never hurt before?” But Padmé only scrunched herself up and shook her head to ward off further questions.
Anakin decided he needed the Masters for this. He took off at a run, but outside the Infirmary he found himself running out of the breath. He stumbled along, clutching the wall, making himself keep going, until he heard the voices of the people he was looking for.
He ran into a room, yelling, “Masters! Masters! Something’s wrong with Padmé!”
Master Jinn, Master Windu, and Padawan Kenobi all leapt to their feet. “What?”
“She’s got a pain in her stomach, and she insists it’s nothing to worry about, but she can’t do something because she’s too tired! She also said something about it never hurting before...”
“Where on her stomach?” asked Master Windu. “Do you know?”
Anakin tried to remember. “Pretty low on it, I think.”
Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi still looked confused, but Master Windu obviously knew whatever was wrong with Padmé. “Skywalker,” he said, “I need you to find Padawan Madierre. She should be with some of the other Initiates in the next room.”
He didn’t at all get why they needed Oné, but he didn’t protest. He ran into the next room as Master Windu strode down the corridor to the sickbay.
“Oné! Oné!” he yelled. “Padmé needs you!”
“What?” Oné was seated with Xiaan and Mirk Oggslayer.
Anakin explained, and Oné must have figured out what was wrong too, because off she ran, so quick Anakin couldn't keep up with her. She went on ahead of him, and he just tried to get back to the sickbay too.
When he finally limped back in, Master Windu was seated on Padmé’s bed, and while Padmé was turned away from them, she was clearly better. “Stress?” they heard her ask.
“It was what always seemed the case for Depa. She suffered more often, but by the time she was knighted, her ability to deal with pain was difficult to match.”
Oné was offered her hand. “Here, Padmé, let me help you into the ‘fresher. Don’t protest, you really shouldn’t be getting out of bed at all yet.”
She was right about that. Silly Padmé jumped up a little too quickly, then fell down and had to be caught.
“Why don’t you help her?” Anakin asked Master Windu. “You’re stronger.”
“Padawan Madierre can handle it.” By now Anakin was pretty sure there was something nobody was telling him.
Especially because Padmé was looking at Master Windu with the weirdest expression on her face, as if trying to figure something out. She kept her eyes on him all the while that Oné pushed her into the ‘fresher.
“How old is she?” Master Windu asked Anakin when the door had closed behind them.
“She’ll be twelve in...” He spent a minute or so trying to count back the days since they’d fled Coruscant. If he’d been asleep about another day since the last time he’d woken up, it had been nine days. What an eventful nine days! “Twenty-one days.”
“So soon? I thought she was younger. I had heard she was from Naboo, and would look older than she actually is.”
“She is from Naboo, but that’s how old she is. She needs to get a Master soon. You just lost your Padawan, didn’t you?”
“I did. Because of that, for me to take her on now might be unwise.”
“But someone has to!”
Before Master Windu could say anything to that, Oné came out of the fresher, and said, “It’s okay, her muscles are regaining strength. She’ll want a new medical gown though.”
“Why?” Anakin asked. But Oné only scooped one up and went back into the fresher without saying anything more.
“And you would be about seven, I believe,” said Master Windu, looking at Anakin with some confusion.
“Six,” Anakin corrected him.
“Ah. That explains it.” Before Anakin could ask what his being six instead of seven explained, Padmé and Oné came back out, Oné supporting Padmé, who was now protesting, “I can walk, you don’t need to carry me.”
She really didn’t look very happy, so Anakin said, “Master Yaddle looks a little different, I think.”
That didn’t get Oné to let go of Padmé, only to try to look over her at her Master. “I see no change,” Master Windu said, then turned and glared at Anakin in a way that made the boy feel just a little nervous.
“Well, from what you said, there shouldn’t be, should there?” Padmé pointed out.
“You’re right. He must have been seeing things. Up you go, Padmé.”
Master Windu got off the bed as Oné helped Padmé back onto it. “Come with me,” he said to Anakin, and Anakin knew he was in trouble. But there was no way to escape, so he obeyed, even if he dragged his feet a little.
Outside the Infirmary, Master Windu turned and seized Anakin by the shoulders so he couldn’t look away and said to him, “You shouldn’t have done that.”
“I’m sorry,” said Anakin, hoping Master Windu would go away after hearing this.
But Master Windu kept his hold on Anakin, and continued on, “Did you consider Padawan Madierre’s feelings before you gave her a false hope? Her Master’s condition has been a cause of great distress to her, and I would expect better of her fellow Jedi than to see them cause her more disappointment, especially with the motive of impending her in her duty.”
But now Anakin was getting angry, and he growled out, “All this fuss about Oné, why? She hasn’t done anything she was supposed to! Now you’re going to give her all the credit for everything Padmé did, while Padmé-”
“This is not about Padawan Madierre or Initiate Naberrie,” Master Windu started to say, and something about the soft way he said it really scared Anakin, but then he stopped and looked up, and Anakin suddenly knew that something else was very wrong.
Master Windu turned around and ran back into the Infirmary, Anakin running after him. There they found Padmé trying to push herself up, as she gazed, terrified, at the nearby wall. “Where’s Padawan Madierre?” Master Windu asked her.
“She took Master Yaddle into the ’fresher.” Padmé answered without looking back at him. “Please, Master, what’s behind there?”
“I don’t know, but it isn’t good. The Dark Side is very strong.”
He removed his lightsaber from his belt and ignited it just in time to bring it up against the bright red blade of a lightsaber wielded by a monster with a red and black face, big black robes, and mad yellow eyes that were the scariest thing of all. He left behind huge holes in the wall and ceiling, and he’d come in so fast Anakin couldn’t tell which one he’d gone through.
Anakin moved to Padmé’s bed and crouched behind her, then on second thought, put himself in front of her to protect her. “Is that a Sith?” he asked in a frightened whisper.
“I don’t know,” Padmé whispered back. She was scared too, but she had taken out her lightsaber and ignited it anyway. She pulled at the back of Anakin’s tunic, and he obediently scooted back against her so she could hold the blade out in front of them both.
Master Windu was spinning and twisting around the room, blade locked with the Sith monster, and Anakin didn’t know whether he would win or not. Then there was the sound of hissing from the direction of the Infirmary door, and everyone turned in time to see Master Jinn kick most of the door aside and fly at the monster, Padawan Kenobi right behind him.
The Sith looked at them, then turned and advanced on Anakin and Padmé with blade raised. Anakin heard Padmé scream right along with him, which made him even more terrified.
There was a flash of blue and two flashes of green, and then the Sith staggered back, half of his arm severed. At the sight of it Anakin screamed again.
He called his lightsaber to his other hand and with a touch to it ignited a second blade, but all three of the adults were surrounding him and it really looked like he was going to lose. He must have thought that too, for he hissed out, and his voice made Anakin feel very, very cold, “I will have my revenge on all five of you!” and threw himself upwards through the ceiling.
The other three spent a second staring up into the new hole. Then Master Windu seemed to snap into action. “Kenobi, get to the array and identify his ship. If he managed to sneak in here we’re not going to be able to catch him today, but let’s get as much information about him as we can. Bring a copy of the recordings with you to the emergency transport. Qui-Gon, gather the Younglings and bring them down to the transport.”
Both men flew out of the room. Master Windu took his lightsaber and cut a hole in the ‘fresher door, and Oné sprang out, blade raised. Then she saw who it was and retreated, apologizing, saying something about the door having locked. "I don't even know how. I didn't lock it."
“How he managed to seal all the doors is a question for another time. Get your Master. We’re going.” He reattached his lightsaber to his belt before moving back to Padmé’s bed, and gesturing for Anakin to move aside.
Anakin did so, but he wasn’t happy to. He wasn’t sure why. It was pretty obvious he was going to have to pick up Padmé and carry her down to the emergency transport, and pick up Padmé was what he did. But there was something about the whole thing that he didn’t like.
Maybe it was the way Padmé was looking at him. Hadn’t he said that he couldn’t take her as a Padawan if he’d just lost one? And Padmé had to know that; she was smart. So why was she staring at him in that weird hopeful manner?
She doesn’t need him, he thought. There’ll be plenty of Masters willing to train her after this, won’t there? I wish she wouldn’t cling at him like that. He’s old and stern; I bet he won’t like it. But right then Master Windu didn’t seem to notice her behavior at all.
He was paying more attention to Oné, who had taken her Master back into her arms but was having trouble keeping her there. “Slippery!” she exclaimed.
“Help her, Skywalker.”
Anakin wanted to ask how, but he was afraid to now. So he could only dart over to Oné and use his hands to try to steady Master Yaddle. When Oné had a firm grip on her Master, they hurried after Master Windu, who was striding down the corridor. They really had to run as he went faster. By the time they had caught up with him, they were all on a downward slant, turning round and round until Anakin thought they were traveling back the way they had came below the original corridor.
They reached a small hanger which a single ship in it. At first glance Anakin wondered if it could hold all of them.
“Start getting the ship ready,” Master Windu ordered Oné, and he put Padmé down by its side and went off somewhere; Anakin wasn’t sure where.
“Can you stand unaided?” Oné asked Padmé, who tried to pull herself up. She was leaning heavily against the side of the ship. Finally she replied, “Don’t think so.”
“Just a moment, then.” She stepped into the ship and presumably put Master Yaddle down somewhere. “Skywalker? We’ll carry her together.”
“Okay,” said Anakin, and he reached up and took a hold of one of Padmé’s arms.
“No, like this.” One took his hands and placed them on Padmé’s side. “Hold on to her tightly.” Then she herself wrapped her arm around Padme and said, “Now lift.”
She really was very heavy. Anakin wondered how Padawan Kenobi had been able to run while carrying her. Even with Padmé’s feet on the ground, she supporting as much of her weight as she could by herself, they had to stagger with her into the ship. The two of them fell together against the bulkhead while Oné raced to the ship’s controls. Padmé managed to scoop up Master Yaddle and place her on Anakin’s lap. She then put her arms around him and her head fell down on his shoulder.
Anakin was feeling tired himself. He thought maybe he should stay awake in case he needed to help further, but after all that running it was way too difficult...
Strange how those arms were growing smaller, or maybe he was just growing bigger, and now he was pressed against the body of she who held him, but on she sang,
What will come with another day?
How I wish that I could say,
All I can say is that I’ll keep you here,
Safe in my arms you have nothing to fear
Sleep my baby, la loo loo,
Lee lee la, loo loo baby,
Oh my lovely baby,
Sleep my baby, sleep
Then he finally became fully aware of where he was and how old he was, and what was just his memory, and what that memory meant, and he looked up at Padmé in astonishment as she stopped singing, and whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me it was you?”
“What are you talking about?” she whispered back, looking confused.
“When I was a baby. Why didn’t you tell me you’d sung that song to me once?”
Then her eyes grew wide, and she asked, “That was you?”
“Oh, you didn’t realize it was me?”
“No, I was just handed a baby to put to bed, when I myself had only arrived at the Temple and been left in the creche to wait until I had a clan. And he-you-started crying, so I held you and sung you that lullaby.”
“Wow. So we’ve known each other all this time, and we didn’t even know it.” He liked that. He felt as if he’d known Padmé all his life already. Though he was kind of sad that this meant he really did have no memories of his mother at all.
“I was always sad that I couldn’t find you again,” Padmé said. “I couldn’t tell which one of the babies you were after that afternoon. Looks like you were just under my nose.”
So she was happy, and he was happy, and they were flying back to the Jedi Temple, and she was sure to get a Master when they got there. But even so, Anakin knew things were probably not going to go well for anyone after this. In case he had forgotten, he was still holding Master Yaddle, who was as unconscious as ever.