As soon as that reality sunk in, Padmé knew exactly what was going to happen.
Anakin’s words when he volunteered were what she knew he’d say. They distressed young Anakin, who desperately protested: they shouldn’t leave one of their own behind to probably sacrifice himself like that, they might be able to make the jump to lightspeed in time-but his grandfather cut him off.
“You know this is the only way we can do this. I’ve had a good life. It’s all right.”
“He’s right,” said Padmé quietly. And everyone looked at her in shock. None of them had ever imagined she would ever stand by while her husband looked to sacrifice his life.
But over this past year since this newest war had begun, Padmé had begun to understand that they were both getting tired. Two wars was enough for anyone to live through; three was asking for too much. She didn’t think Anakin was quite aware that they were feeling this, but she was sure he was, same as her. And these children, like young Anakin, didn’t yet realize how many deaths they would endure before it was over. Losing Chewbacca at the beginning of it had been a hard blow for them all, harder, perhaps than this one would be, but if young Anakin himself lived another year he’d know worse: he’d know the blow of suffering death after death.
It was a pity that Anakin wasn’t really old, especially because Jedi took longer to age than other beings of their species. But often they went at about this age. Qui-Gon Jinn had been younger when he had met his death, and so had Obi-Wan, and even Mace Windu.
At least young Anakin could accept what he needed to, though Padmé worried about how he would deal with the full extent of it, which nobody yet knew but her. His shoulders sagged, and he nodded. “Very well. Let’s take off.”
As they alighted, all eyes were on the display that showed the transport in relation to the two Yuuzhan Vong seedships that were about to come out of hyperspace. They need to be clear of the planet enough to be able to launch fighters before they did so.
“Okay, that’s far enough,” said Anakin. There wasn’t even time for much farewell, but he very quickly hugged his grandson, and kissed Padmé hard. She leaned into it as much as she could for that split second it lasted, for this would be their last kiss, even if she wasn’t leaving him just yet. Then he turned and hurried towards the bay.
When Padmé moved to follow him, young Anakin put his hand on her arm. “Don’t, grandma. He’s said his goodbyes.”
“Then I shall say mine,” she replied, and turned and hugged her grandson, though she didn’t dare linger too long; time was getting shorter and shorter.
“But Your Majesty!” protested one of the students.
“Two fighters holding off two of those ships will increase your chances greatly,” she added, “and I’ve lived long enough.”
“Now, grandma, think.”
“I have thought.” The students had run up to her, she hugged each of them as quickly as she could. “I’ve thought over this past year. Contact the Naboo authorities and tell them they’ll need to elect a new monarch. Tell them I specifically want an election, voted on by all native Naboo and their children, whether they live on New Naboo or not.” That was for the better too; after Naboo’s destruction and her accepting of her old title permanently, out of seemed necessity, Padmé had never managed to get them to replace her while she still lived, but they would return to full democracy now at last. “I love you. Tell everyone goodbye for both of us.” Then she tore herself away and after her husband. The protests died behind her.
Anakin had already taken off by the time she reached the bay. Which meant there was noone to stop Padmé as she climbed into the second fighter and started the launch cycle. She now had no idea whether the Yuuzhan Vong ships were out of hyperspace or not, though with Anakin out there he could probably hold them off by himself no problem until she joined him.
He didn’t notice when the bay door started to open, but as it expanded and Padmé started to fly out into open space, her radio flared to life, and she heard Anakin’s voice say, “Padmé? Please say that isn’t you.”
But he didn’t even sound surprised. For all she knew, he’d sensed this coming, though he probably hadn’t wanted to believe it.
“Their chances of escape will be better this way, Ani,” said Padmé, “and I don’t want to outlive you. We go together.”
She was just clear of the ship when the two Sh’rip Sh’pa appeared. They looked like two large haphazard jewels. If these were to be the last moments of her life, Padmé thought, she might as well be glad to see such beauty, however much ugliness lay within it.
“I’ll take the one on the right,” Anakin said over the radio. “Love you, Padmé.”
“Love you too.” She brought her fighter down on the left ship and opened fire.
Her ship rocked as she was hit by return fire. The shields would keep her alive for maybe half a minute, but that was all the time they needed to jump to lightspeed. Meanwhile, she had to stop the seedship from firing on its main target. One shot could disable the ship’s engines, after which they were all lost.
It wasn’t too hard, or at least didn’t seem to be, because Padmé found herself beyond worry now. All she had to do was get between the ship’s guns and the fleeing transport, and fire on them as she could. One eye remained on the ship. Only a few moments more and they would be gone...
The sound of an explosion stunned her, and she stared in the screen in a moment of disbelief. Anakin’s ship had been destroyed.
And now it turned out she wasn’t beyond emotion after all, though she still felt more shock than anything else. Anakin dead was incomprehensible. In this situation, at least, he should have been able to outmaneuver them longer than her.
As if on cue, the console began beeping, as she saw that her shield was gone.
Her comm turned on: her grandson. “Padmé, we’re ready to go, you should pull in-”
She took one look at the distance between her fighter and the ship and said, “Can’t. Go!”
Then one last bolt from the seedship’s blasters hit her, and with her last thought she could only hope they were obeying.