Dimly, Anakin felt himself being drawn up out of the darkness as the voice whispered in his mind. The voice was familiar, an echo of the merest whisper of a memory. A voice from long ago. His drug-addled brain took a moment to place it…
It sounded like Master Qui-gon. But that was impossible. Qui-gon Jinn had died, so many, many years before. Dead at the hands of a Sith apprentice sent to Naboo by Palpatine. Dead while he tried to protect the Republic from the dangers it faced. But if not Qui-gon, then who-?
Who are you?
Anakin focused as much of his concentration on his contact with the voice as he could. What do you want?
You have to make it right, Anakin. You have to repair the damage you caused.
Who are you? What do you want with me?
Focus, you must. Concentrate, you will.
Another voice, just as familiar, just as impossible.
Focus, Anakin. Open your mind.
Almost without thinking, Anakin allowed his mind to slip back into old patterns, techniques he had learned what seemed like aeons before, as an apprentice in the Temple. Breathing routines returned to him, as if he had never forgotten them. As he went through the old exercices, the darkness that surrounded him faded, lit by a diffuse luminescence that soon cristalised into a familiar scene.
He was stood in the kitchen of the old homestead he had shared with his mother. The table and chairs were still there, bowls of fruit on the table as if his mother and he had just gotten up and walked away from a meal. The sight jolted Anakin, sending a piercing pain through his temples. He could almost imagine that if he turned and walked through the archway he would find his mother sat at one of the tables in the workroom, tinkering with some piece of home machinery that was playing up.
This time, the voice was crisp and clear and unmistakeable. He spun round and found two figures stood in the doorway, one taller than he and the other barely reaching Anakin’s knee. Anakin’s eyes widened at the sight of the two men, both of whom had been key in Anakin’s life.
Anakin moved almost without thought, his arms wrapping around Master Gui-Gon Jinn and embracing him. He felt the other man chuckle as his arms rose to enfold Anakin and tapped him lightly on the back.
“It is good to see you, Ani.”
For a moment, Anakin felt as though he had been thrown back in time, to those dark days on Tatooine when he was still a slave. Dark and yet simple compared to what would come after.
Releasing his hold on Qui-Gon, Anakin turned to Yoda. The diminutive Jedi Master did not greet Anakin with anything close to the same joy as Gui-Gon. Still, he bowed his head briefly at his former apprentice.
Anakin dropped to one knee and embraced the other Jedi, as well. No matter the differences between the two of them, Anakin knew that if it had not been for Yoda, he would not have survived his confrontation with the Emperor.
Yoda tensed slightly, then allowed himself to be hugged. He patted Anakin on the shoulder as the other man released him.
“Old, you have grown, Anakin.”
Anakin could not help but laugh. It felt good.
“I don’t understand,” he said after a moment. “How is this possible?”
“With much difficulty, Anakin.” Gui-gon’s face now grew sombre. “We have both sacrificed much to be here, to reach out to you. It has not been easy.”
“Possible all things are, when the Force your ally is.”
“We do not have much time. I do not know how long this connection will be possible. Still, it was important that we speak to you. That we help you to understand.”
“What is it?”
Gui-gon indicated that they should sit at the table. Anakin felt strange joining these two… ghosts, for want of a better word, at an imaginary table in what he knew to be nothing but a dream. Still, he forced down the sensation of strangeness and followed them both to the table.
“The Force is dangerously out of balance,” Gui-gon said. “In fact, it may be that very imbalance that allows us to reach out to you in this way. I am not sure. Still, events have not proceeded the way they were meant to and because of that, the galaxy itself may be in danger.”
“What events? What does that have to do with me?”
“I am coming to that. Both Master Yoda and I have sensed this imbalance and we have used our special connection to the Force to try and trace its source. We fear that if a way is not found to make things right, everything and everybody may slip into a darkness such has never been seen before. A darkness that we may not ever be able to recover from.”
“The source, found we have.”
Anakin felt a coldness settle in his chest as he saw the look in both men’s eyes. “What is it? What is the source?”
“You are, Anakin.”
The door closed behind the trooper and locked… leaving Obi-wan Kenobi alone once more.
He lay on the bed for minutes longer, not wanting to risk the trooper or one of his companions returning. In the first few days of his incarceration here, they had taken to making spot checks, confirming that he was still in his cell and that he had not miraculously found some way of escaping. Kenobi assumed this was the first time many of them had been called upon to guard a captive Jedi.
Not that his Jedi abilities were of much use at the moment.
Ever since waking up in a dank prison cell back on Tatooine, Kenobi had been cut off from the Force by the strange creatures that the Empire had discovered on some backwater planet. Ysalimiri or some such. Even now, Kenobi could not help shaking his head at the very through of them. Creatures that repelled the very living Force. He doubted even Master Yoda had ever imagined such things could exist.
Of course, it would have to have been the Emperor and his sbires that discovered them. Sometimes Kenobi wondered how well balanced the Force was towards its lightside users. At the moment, it certainly seemed to favour the Sith.
Enough time had passed; Kenobi doubted the troopers would return. Rolling over, he reached underneath the small metal bed and grasped the corner he had managed to break free after three days of concerted pressure. Twisting it free, he rolled back and swung his legs round, wincing only slightly at the ache in his ribs.
You’re not a young man anymore, Obi-wan.
He smiled ruefully, thinking back to the Clone Wars. How many times had he dropped from heights much greater than that he had endured when falling from the Venture? Within a day, two at the most, he would have been back on his feet, racing back out to join Anakin on one of his foolhardy missions that together they managed to pull off. And now? Now an entire week of doing nothing but lying on a cot in a cell and he still was not perfectly healed.
Of course, that begged the question of why he had not had to endure anything worse than a week of lying on a cot. He had no doubts that the Empire knew exactly who he was. And yet apart from moving him from Tatooine to this out of the way penal station, they had left him alone. Surely he should have been taken to Coruscant by now. The Emperor must want to question him or at least parade him out in front of the holocams.
Unless… Unless the war has turned and he has no need either for the information I possess or the coup it would represent to drag an Alliance General before the masses.
The thought sent a twinge of fear through Kenobi’s belly and he rejected it out of hand. He could not allow himself to think like that.
No, the Alliance still needed him and any day now the troopers could come and announce that he was being moved to Coruscant to stand trial. Well, he would have to disappoint them.
Rolling off the bed, stamping down on the aches in his legs and the sharp pain in his left side, Kenobi crept over to the door. Using the thin edge he had been able to prise free from the bed, he began to work at one of the panels near the door. This would be the seventh one he had worked free looking for wires or an emergency control panel that would allow him to break the magnetic lock. So far, nothing.
I’ll just have to hope that the Force will be with me, today.
Without even realising, Anakin found himself on his feet.
“No,” he whispered. “That’s not true. That’s impossible.”
“We found it difficult to believe at first as well, Anakin,” Qui-Gon said.
“More so even when discovered what was the cause of the imbalance we did,” Yoda added.
Anakin barely heard either of them. His thoughts returned to that night in Palpatine’s office. Mace and the lightsaber battle. The confusing thoughts racing around in his mind, but underneath all of them an unmoveable sense through the Force of what he should do.
“It was that night, wasn’t it?” The night he failed to listen to the Force’s urgings. The night the Force abandoned him.
Qui-Gon’s eyes were full of compassion, just like Anakin remembered them. “Yes, Anakin. We traced the threads of the Force back through time, using ancient techniques and new skills that the Force gave to us. You were there that night, but you may not have realised that for the Force it was a fulcrum. A turning point. A thousand different possibilities branched off from that single event. All of it hinged on one thing.”
“What decision, you made,” Yoda intoned.
“You were meant to turn to the Dark Side, Anakin. That is what the Force needed. You were meant to help Palpatine and turn to the Dark.”
Anakin shook his head, not trusting himself to speak. The voice of the Force echoed in his head, whispers from a lifetime before. Save him. Save Palpatine. Could I have been so wrong?
“We were wrong,” Gui-Gon said, his words eerily echoing Anakin’s own thoughts. “We were arrogant, all of us. We convinced ourselves that we knew the will of the Force better than it did. Our fear of the Dark Side blinded us to what you were truly meant to do – bring balance to the Force. Not see the Dark Side forever destroyed, not defeat the Sith, but keep both sides in equilibrium.”
“You can’t really believe that?”
“Hard to accept it was,” Yoda replied. “Long did I struggle against this. But truth, the Force showed me. Accept it, I have.”
The confession seemed to drain the diminutive Jedi.
“You have accepted that I was supposed to betray you? I was meant to turn to the Dark Side?”
“The will of the Force, it was.”
“We have walked the different paths that emanated from that moment, Anakin. You were meant to turn and the Emperor was meant to bring an end to the Republic. Dark times would have come to the galaxy. Great suffering. Great destruction, such as is about to be visited on the galaxy once more. But you were there, at the end. You stood and you returned to the light and you were able to stop the Sith from dragging us all into the abyss. You were meant to turn to the Dark Side because only then could you be redeemed. And in being redeemed you brought balance back to the Force. The Sith were no longer ascendant and the Jedi were taught a much needed lesson in humility. You would have stopped an endless darkness.”
“Now, though, nothing is certain.”
Anakin rubbed a hand over his face, hardly believing what he was hearing. His whole life seemed to unravel around him, leaving him floating. How could they be telling him this? How could they place this weight on his shoulders.
Because you were the Chosen One
, a small voice whispered in his ear. It was your destiny.
I never wanted it.
Sometimes, the Force doesn’t give you a choice.
Anakin looked up and found Gui-Gon looking at him sadly, as if he had been able to hear Anakin’s thoughts. “What do you expect from me?” Anakin asked him.
“There may not be anything you can do, Anakin. We have looked into the past and into the future. There are few paths that lead back to where you were supposed to lead. From what we have been able to discern, only one thing can now bring the galaxy back on its proper course. The very thing that Master Yoda saw.”
“Skywalker’s children, our last hope are.”
“No!” Anakin found himself leaning on the table, glaring at Yoda. Bringing one hand crashing down on the table, he pointed the other. “I will not let you drag my children into this.”
Yoda did not seem perturbed by Anakin’s evident anger. “A choice, you may not have.”
“The Force wills what it needs.”
“If the Force wants something from me, it can damn well give me back my connection to it and let me clean up my own mess. It can’t have my children.”
“I don’t know if that choice is still yours to make, Anakin. I think-”
“Truly want this, you do?” Yoda asked, cutting Gui-Gon off. The human Master looked surprised, but allowed the elder master to take up the reins of the conversation. “Ready to return, you are?”
“I never asked for the Force to leave me,” Anakin said. “I never wanted it back, either.” A lie, but one that had become closer to a truth over the years. Realising what Master Yoda was asking, he hesitated for a moment. Luke and Leia flashed before his eyes, both of them still babes in his mind’s eye. He felt the pain again at losing Leia, relived the anguish he had felt when he learned Luke had been taken from him, as well. There was really no need to even think about it. “If it will protect my children, I’ll do it.”
“You realise that we cannot promise this will change what we have seen.”
Anakin nodded, his eyes still locked with Yoda’s. “I understand. I want to try.”
For the first time Anakin could remember, Yoda smiled. “Anakin, there is no try.”
Anakin woke up. There was no transition from the dream to the real world, a jarring sensation that left his head spinning. For a moment he lay there on the hard metal bed, wondering whether any of it had actually happened. After all, he couldn’t really have been with Master Gui-Gon and Master Yoda, could he? It had all been an elaborate…
The Force. Anakin gasped. For the first time in years, he could feel the Force.
Tears pricked at his eyes. It felt like… Like… Words failed him. There were too many conflicting sensations. Like a warm blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Like the cool water of a lake, refreshing after a long day in the sun. Like the fiercest storm battering the dunes of Tatooine and the deepest depths of a blackhole. As powerful as the energy of a thousand stars and as fragile as the merest flicker of a mynock’s wings. The Force was all of those things and none of them.
Anakin had not realised how much he had missed it. Missed that sense of connection to the entire span of existence. For the first time in decades, Anakin felt as though he could do anything, go anywhere. The galaxy was full of potential. And so was he.
Anakin, there is no try.
Master Yoda’s last words echoed in his mind. He did not have the time to indulge himself. He had come here to free Obi-wan. He had left Tatooine to save Luke. All of those things, which had seemed out of his reach mere hours before, now suddenly seemed possible. Another of Master Yoda’s lessons returned to him.
My ally is the Force. And a powerfully ally it is.
Smiling, Anakin reached out with the Force, using it to feel at his restraints. After they had killed the Gungan, the imperial troopers had separated Anakin and Lando. They had dragged Anakin here and placed him on a hard metal slab, attached at the wrists and the ankles with energy restraints. Now, with the Force, Anakin was able to slow the current running through the wrist restraints, slow it enough to be able to use a slight Force pressure to pop the mechanism and free his left hand. Once that was done, the rest came easily.
Rubbing at his hands and ankles, Anakin sat up. He looked around, the Force augmenting his sight and allowing him to study his surroundings properly for the first time. The cell was small, little more than a bed surrounded by four walls. A thin strip of decking began at the door and ended at a small ‘fresher unit. Not much to work with.
What need have you of tools when the Force you have?
Anakin could not be sure whether Yoda’s admonition rose from his own memories or from the Force. Either way, it reminded Anakin of what he had once known to his core.
As long as I have the Force, I have everything I need.
Standing up, wincing slightly as old wounds stretched and pulsed, Anakin turned and faced the door. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to sink into the Force’s flow. Lifting a hand, he stretched out. On the other side of the door, he could sense two minds, both of them almost identical. Clone troopers. Palpatine still had an arrangement with the cloners, then. So be it.
Focusing the torrent of power that rushed through him, Anakin grabbed a hold of the edge of the door with his mind. Exerting his will, he began to pull. At first, the magnetic locks fought him, but they were no match for the Force. One by one, they sparked out, their power lost in a feedback loop that set off tiny explosions in the wall. From the other side, Anakin felt the troopers’ minds come alert.
With a groan, the door vanished into the wall, revealing a dimly lit corridor. Taking a step back, Anakin gathered his energy, waiting for the Imperials to come in to get him.
He did not have long to wait.