Jedi Temple, Coruscant, 40 BBY “Turn to the Dark Side, you had. Complete, your recovery cannot be.”
Shmi Skywalker knew she should look Master Yoda in the eye. But her baby began to cry, as if sensing his mother’s distress, though actually it was that he was hungry. So she didn't look up as she placed him at her breast, and said, “You are right, Master Yoda. I feel it in myself that I am no longer fit to be a Jedi. However, I leave my fate, and that of my son’s, in the hand’s of the Council.”
“Tell us your whole story over, from the beginning,” said Master Windu.
It was strange, how utterly detached she now was from what had once possessed her to the point that it had destroyed everything she had trained herself to be. “On the way back from Chommell Major, my Padawan and I received a distress call, which proved to be from a small planetoid, probably artificially constructed, located on a isolated spot on the Corellian Run.”
“Can you remember anything more, than earlier, about its exact location?” Even Piell interrupted her.
“No,” she replied, wondering why he even had to ask such a thing. “Only that it was probably somewhere in the Mid Rim. We noted when we approached the planetoid that much of the computer was jammed, but we didn't know the reason why until it was too late. The planetoid was the base of the Sith, Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, and the distress call had been fabricated by them to lure me there.”
Before this they had all believed the Sith to be long gone, but the Order did not have to take Shmi’s word for their return. They had suffered their own attack during her captivity. Shmi had seen the holo-recordings of those who had descended onto the temple and killed a number of Jedi before being repelled. She had for the Council’s benefit identified them as the minions of the Sith, and their leader as Sidious.
“Together the two of them were able to kill my apprentice and overpower me, and I was made their prisoner and kept so for at least eight months.” She had lost track of time; the records kept in the temple of her departure, her known traveling, and her return would calculate better estimates of when she had been where than those she herself could make. “During that time, I was often physically beaten and mentally assaulted.”
“But certain, you are,” Master Yaddle asked her, “that raped, you were not?”
“Some of my memories do not survive, but I think I would have remember if I was, or the Healers here would have found some physical evidence.”
“According to the Healers,” observed Oppo Rancisis, “your son’s midi-chlorian count is at an unheard-of level.”
Shmi nodded. “That would support the possibility of his being conceived directly by the midi-chlorians, at the bidding of Darth Plagueis, who openly boasted of his control over them. I was also aware that Darth Sidious continually urged his Master to kill me, and Plagueis refused.”
“Did he fear the prophecy?” Master Windu wondered aloud. “The one about the Chosen One who would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force? That by creating life, they were risking its fulfillment?”
“Possibly,” said Shmi, “but then again, he may simply have believed that his Master was becoming too powerful. Or he might have just decided now was his time to kill his Master, as all Sith apprentices try to do sooner or later. All I know is that he chose, when I was nearly at term, to kill Darth Plagueis while the latter was asleep. Unfortunately for him, one of their minions saw him do it, and questioned whether under those circumstances they ought to follow him as their new leader. There was a rebellion and confusion. As an act of defiance, my guards freed me.”
Now came the hard part, even when she'd confessed it all already. “I repaid them by killing them. I had allowed hatred for all my captors to build up in me, and I released it into multiple acts of murder, by which I ended up helping Sidious by killing off many of the rebels, so that when he had subdued the rest, he offered to take me as his apprentice, under the condition that I perform an abortion on myself. I refused out of attachment to my baby.”
“Still,” observed Plo Koon, “you suggested it was compassion for your son, after his birth, that finally turned you back.”
“It was. That was the only good left in me, but I focused on it, made it stronger. I came back here for his sake rather than my own. Sith-made he may be, but he himself is an innocent. I would ask that you at least keep him safe, because Darth Sidious will come after him.” She in fact wanted them to train him as a Jedi, had marked the coming of that wish as her return from the Dark Side, and held it as her one remaining wish in life, but she dared not ask for it.
“More than keep him safe, we should,” said Yoda to his fellow council members. “Many Jedi, we have lost. Give up a baby, when train it, we can, we should not, without good reason.”
“There is no good reason,” said Master Rancisis. “A baby is incapable of evil.”
“Then he is to be a Jedi?” Shmi asked hopefully, before she could stop herself.
All around the chamber, there were nods. “Easy, that decision was,” Yoda observed. “Over his mother, take more time, we should. Wait outside, you will.”
Shmi bowed and left. As she did so, she heard Master Yoda give the order to contact Jocasta Nu.
After the wide windows of the council room, the hallway outside felt dark to Shmi, darker than she thought it could be here. Or perhaps she herself was darker, out of the company of those who were still creatures of the light. Anakin finished nursing; she covered her breast back up and held him close to her, but now she was afraid to look at him, lest she be unable to give him up, when in a few minute’s time they would part forever.
“My resolve has held this far," she whispered to herself. "Let it not break now.” She kept her gaze up, on a patch of sunlight traveling along the wall, creeping very slowly towards her. If it got too close, she knew she would move away. She couldn’t bear to feel it, not now. But instead of her, the pattern of light illuminated the woman approaching, whom Shmi could never fail to recognize.
She forced herself not to flee, not to move at all, not to even so much as tighten her grip on her baby. She suddenly remembered how she had once been told that she hadn’t been much older than Anakin was now when her parents had given her up. Was this something like how her own mother had felt?
“Hello, Master,” she said. “You’ve come to take Anakin to the creche, I believe.” She looked away from her old Master as she spoke, but despite nearly ten years and the most recent events, she could still sense the remnant of the once unbreakable bond between them.
“Is this how we greet each other now? Come, look at me, Shmi.” A gentle hand took her chin, turned her head, brought into her view a kind and loving face, the features of which were filled with shock and concern. "What happened to you? You look as if you’ve aged a full ten years since I saw you last.”
“Have you not heard plenty of what has happened to me, Master?” Shmi asked her. “I know word has gotten round. Even without rumor, can you not sense for yourself what I have become? Are you not ashamed of me? I wouldn’t even blame you for being angry. I’ve had an apprentice myself; I know every Master’s greatest fear is losing a Padawan to the Dark Side.”
“But I did not lose you in the end, now did I?” replied the other lightly. "Indeed, Shmi, to survive as you have, and come back as you have, and who says you will not be a proper Jedi again, given enough years...of what accomplishment can an old Master be prouder?”
“I must have caused you great pain at some point,” Shmi pointed out. “I know you aren’t made of stone.”
“Be that as it may.” Jocasta leaned forward and gently scooped her baby up from Shmi’s arms. “Anakin, did you say his name was?”
“Listen,” said Shmi. “I trust you absolutely. Will you keep an eye on him, whenever you can? I does me good to see you have him.”
“I’ll do everything I can for him,” Jocasta promised her. “I’ll even take him as my Padawan if he’s twelve and noone else has, though hopefully he won’t need me for that. Those days ought to be over for me, I admit.”
“Thank you,” said Shmi, and then “Thank you” again. She was aware that this conversation should end, and Jocasta and Anakin should leave, and then she might very well never see her old Master again either.
But Jocasta was now looking at the doors to the council chamber. “I think I know what they will do with you,” she said. “I wonder if I shall live long enough to see you again. But if not,” she squeezed Shmi’s hands, and very gently kissed her forehead. “May the Force be with you, my apprentice.”
After they were gone, Shmi stared off after them for a long time. When the sun found her, she did not move away from it.
The doors slid open and startled her, and Master Giett beckoned her back in. He took his seat, and this time Shmi faced Yoda without hesitation, calmer than she had been in a long time.
“To Dantooine, we are sending you," was his pronouncement. "There to mind the old temple. Recover there, you may.”
“Good afternoon.” Jocasta Nu was pleased to see Master Dooku, whose presence was never unwelcome to her. They had been friends since their Padawan days, and she did not approve of his philosophy, but she respected him, and more than that, she liked him. Too much, she sometimes feared.
“Going to the creche, I see. May I walk with you?”
“Certainly. Are you going anywhere?”
“I’m leaving late tonight for Firro. Is that young Skywalker’s baby?”
“Yes, it is. For all the fuss being made about his coming from the Sith, or possibly being the Chosen One, he’s just going to join all the others.” She let out the tiniest of laughs at that.
“I feel terribly sorry for his mother." Dooku spoke much more grimly. "They’ll probably expel her from the Order.”
“I don’t think they’ll go that far,” Jocasta replied, trying to make her voice still sound light, though in truth, just to see Shmi somewhat recovered was so great a relief she could not that day mourn fully for what was still lost. “I think they’ll merely send her away somewhere.”
“Suspend her, effectively. And would you approve of this?”
“It’s the best thing for her,” Jocasta said firmly. “I know her, Dooku. She was my apprentice, after all.”
“I admit you probably would have better judgement than I with regards to her. Though how much of her have you actually seen in recent years?”
“I have seen her and known her well enough, even after her knighting, to be sure the right thing would be for her to leave for some place quiet, where she can focus on purging her mind of the Dark Side. And I think she can do it. I really do.”
“She has started down the dark path,” Dooku pointed out. “Should it not forever dominate her destiny?”
She could sense the pleasure in his voice, and see it in his face when her answer was, “No, I don’t. At the very least, I should give my Padawan a chance. And what about you? Have you finally met Master Jinn’s new apprentice? What do you think of him? A good boy, is he not? Unlikely to go the way his last one did.”
“I did meet him, and I agree he is a good boy.” He spoke the last two words with a good amount of disdain. Jocasta could not help feel a little sadness for both her friend and young Kenobi, but she was not at all surprised. Thankfully she did not have to reply to this, as they had reached the creche.
The Jedi Temple had throughout most of its structure a general air of peace and quiet, but it was strongest by far in the creche. The lighting was low, just enough to illuminate the lines of little beds, many of them occupied by a sleeping infant, and the silhouette of a little child staring out the window, who turned when Jocasta and Dooku came in. Even her outline, however, had revealed that her clothes were that of a civilian.
She came into the light, looked up at them with frightened eyes. She couldn’t have been older than five. She didn’t even seem to see the baby. “Who are you, child?” asked Jocasta. “Are you an Initiate?”
“They said I was to be," said the girl. "My name is Padmé Naberrie.” Indeed, Jocasta saw that her hair was newly cut, and she remembered hearing about the recent finding of a girl of that name from Naboo who was a little old, but still an acceptable age to be taken into the Temple if she and her family would consent to it.
“And did they ask you to look over the creche for tonight?” asked Dooku.
“Oh yes, they did!” It was at this point that she saw the baby. “Do you want me to put him to bed?”
“Here, we can do it together.” Naberrie pulled aside the blankets on one of the unoccupied beds and Jocasta laid the boy down. He was fast asleep, but sighed happily when the little girl tucked him in. “And all is well?”
“Yes,” said Naberrie. “Very well. They’re all asleep.”
“Good. Goodnight, and may the Force be with you, Padmé Naberrie.”
Padmé felt better when the two old people had left. There had been a old person, older even than her grandmother, who was very old, who had come to her home and told her and her family that she could leave them and become a Jedi Knight if she wanted to, and she wished he hadn’t, because when her family had told her the choice was hers alone, she felt she should. It was a great honor to be a Jedi. It was the most noble thing she could do with her life, that was what everyone said. It had hurt more than anything to leave her family, to hug her mother for the last time, see the sadness in her sister Sola’s eyes. And her grandmother hadn’t even been there, but they couldn’t wait for her to return. Padmé had recorded a message goodbye for her.
But it hadn’t hurt as much as it had when it had truly sunk in that she would never see any of them again, or her home. When she had cried, the strange old man had dried her tears instead of her parents. He had told her that she had to let go of her family, until she no longer missed them.
She was never going to let go of her family, never. She was going to think of them every day, and she was going to miss them, even if she wasn’t supposed to.
She shouldn’t be here. They had landed on this strange planet five hours ago, this planet covered with painfully bright buildings, so different from Naboo, which was the most beautiful planet in the galaxy, and that had driven it home to her. The old man had said there were gardens in this temple, but that didn’t change that she shouldn’t be here.
Suddenly the baby the two old people had brought in woke up and started crying. She raced over to where the milk was kept, filled a bottle, and hurried back to where she’d put the baby and lifted him up into her arms. He pushed away the bottle, but his wailing was reduced into quiet sobs.
“Shhh, little baby, it’s all right, shhh, shhh, shhh,” she murmured. “If you want to be held, that’s okay, I’ll hold you.” He did want to be held, she thought. He was like her, because he too had just been taken away from his family, and no doubt he missed them as much as she did. These grown-up Jedi might not even think him capable of that, but Padmé knew better.
He curled himself up and cried into her tunic, and Padme sat down with him and began to sing a lullaby which she was sure would make him feel better. At home, she and Sola had always loved to hear it, especially during the loud thunderstorms:
“Never mind the dark, my dearest,
Darkness will not touch mother’s child,
In where you call home, you’ll always find light,
And a pair of warm arms, to hold you at night
Sleep my baby, la loo loo,
Lee lee la, loo loo baby,
Oh my lovely baby,
Sleep my baby, sleep
There were five verses, and usually Padmé and Sola were both asleep by the last of them, but she still sang as many of the words as she could remember, and when she was done, the boy was silent and his eyes were closed, but she wasn’t really sure if he was asleep or not. She carried him over to the window and sat down with him by the glass. The sun was very low in the sky, hidden behind the buildings in fact, and the result was not unlike that of the sun going behind the mountains. “Look, baby,” she whispered, soft enough so she wouldn’t wake him if he was asleep, “isn’t it beautiful? Have you seen anything like this, ever? Where do you come from, baby?”
She continued talking to him for some time, stopping only when she felt tired herself, and even then she kept him in her arms, because he obviously liked it there, and she found it very comforting to hold him.
She didn’t know when she feel asleep, but the old man who had taken her from Naboo to this place woke her up, and the first thing she knew was that her arms were at her sides. “Where’s the baby?” she asked.
“Back in his bed,” the old man answered. “You have been put in a clan. Come with me.”
It was many weeks later when Padmé, in the course of all her other tasks as a Jedi Initiate, would again finding herself one evening minding the infants in the creche, and she searched for the baby boy she had held and sung to. But to her disappointment, she was unable to tell which one of her many charges was him.