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Past Lives

Chapter Text

Jocasta sat in her quarters, legs crossed, eyes closed, in a posture of meditation. But meditation had brought little clarity, and so it was time for logical thought. They had found many disturbing things that would seem to support Finn’s stories, but it was all circumstantial. Nothing that would hold up in a court of law. Nothing that a sufficiently glib politician could not explain away. Nothing that could not be simply a corrupt, power-hungry man who cared more for his own power than for the ideals of democracy. Nothing that proved he was a Sith—and nothing that disproved it, either.

So. If Finn was right, and they failed to act, they and the galaxy were doomed. If Finn was wrong, and they acted, the Order would be humiliated and face deep sanctions.

That is, if they acted … publicly.

The question was, what private actions could they take? The Council had already updated the Temple emergency plans for how to respond if the Clones should attack the Temple, and decided that although they were a target here, vulnerable people such as the injured, the elderly, and the young would be even more of a target if they were relocated and Palpatine were to hear about it. And they could not guarantee that he would not. Getting that many people out of the Temple would be hard to conceal.

Jocasta narrowed her focus. There were others who could plan for the safety of the order as a whole. Her responsibility was narrower. If the Order fell, so would the archives. And even if the people survived, any rebuilding would be much easier if they had the appropriate reference, training, and historical materials.

The Archives were massive, and could not possibly be moved in the time available without it being immediately obvious what was happening. But … a portion of them could. If she narrowed the focus to the specifically Jedi texts, and only the most important of those, it might be possible to pare the list down to a manageable number. Holocrons were some of the most tightly-packed data carriers available; if she eliminated the holographic guardian, she could fit many more texts in a single holocron than on a book disk of the same size. Jedi going off-world could be given them and told not to mention them to any but another Jedi.

Surely some would survive.

Barriss Offee listened quietly and calmly as Vokara Che explained that there was a chip inside the brains of the clone troopers whose function they did not know, but which was suspected of having programs that could override the clones’ wills and force them to do any number of terrible things. As Master Che explained that they could only study and heal the problem with the greatest secrecy because there was a chance—a slight chance, and probably only a fantasy—that the chip had been emplaced by the Chancellor, as part of a plan to overthrow the Republic and destroy the Jedi.

Barriss’ demeanor was no surprise to those around her, because Bariss did everything quietly and calmly. Barriss was a model Jedi, and had been known to be such since she arrived in the crèche.

If only they knew, Barriss reflected dimly. She was not calm. She had never been calm. She had learned iron control because a blank face and a quiet Force-presence won praise from the Masters, if not from her peers. She’d never been able to make friends among her peers, and so she had focused on a more attainable goal. And now, she was very, very, very good at hiding her feelings, even from herself.

She couldn’t hide them from herself any longer.

It fit. It all fit, she realized dimly. All the horrible things she had seen in the war, all the ways in which her fellow Jedi—her Master, the Council—had fallen short of the ideals she had been taught as a child. All the senseless, useless pain and misery. All the evil. The Jedi were complicit, but they were not the root of it. They were just tools duped by the mastermind. It was Palpatine who had been behind it all along. Palpatine, who had prospered while everyone else suffered. A tide of rage rose within her, but she forced it back into its cage, where no one but she could feel it.

Nothing Barriss had ever said had made one Sith-damned bit of difference. The whole Order had been all too willing to throw itself away and destroy everything good that had ever been a part of it. She had pointed out every problem, every place the Jedi were falling short, and at best people had sighed and agreed that it was unfortunate, but that nothing could be done.

Usually, they attacked her for not supporting the war effort.

Barriss had given up talking. Nobody listened to words any more, all they could hear was violence. Well, Barriss was a Jedi, her weapon was her life. Few people knew violence as intimately as a Jedi did. All that she was lacking was a target, something that would make people stop and take notice. She’d begun to wonder if she shouldn’t just blow up the Temple itself.

But it wasn’t the Jedi’s fault at all, was it? It was Palpatine’s fault. If the one pulling the strings died, then everything would stop. Even if he wasn’t a Sith, even if the chips in the clones’ brains were entirely benign, it was all his fault. He was the one who had failed to find a compromise the Separatists could live with. He was the one who had failed to make peace with them. He was the one who prioritized the war over everything else. He was the one who demanded the Jedi take charge of the war effort. He was the reason she, a healer, had ever been in combat at all.

She could get a bomb in to the Senate. They never paid enough attention to biological threats; all she needed was a person who had business in or near the Chancellor’s office during working hours.

Palpatine was a great and good and kind man. He could not be the mastermind behind the war; he could not be a Sith. Anakin couldn’t believe it. No amount of meditation calmed his thoughts, and it was a good thing Ahsoka wasn’t here to see how distracted he was, because he was setting a terrible example of what a Jedi should be.

And yet … Finn wasn’t lying. The Force sang with his sincerity.

There was something else, though, that Anakin couldn’t stop thinking about. Palpatine was the more immediate threat, and in all the worry over the possibly-impending doom of the Republic and the Jedi and the clones, everyone else seemed to have forgotten Finn’s reaction to meeting Anakin.

That, at least, was something he could do something about.

He invited Finn to his tent, and turned on the white noise generator. He’d tinkered with it himself. Nobody was going to overhear anything Anakin didn’t want them to.

“So, Finn,” he said, “Tell me about Luke Skywalker.”

“He’s a legend,” Finn said. “He was the last Jedi of the old Order, hidden on some backwater world and trained in secret, and he killed the Emperor and Darth Vader both. He was a fighter pilot in the Rebellion, too, he led Rogue Squadron, which was the greatest squadron of the rebellion. He personally shot down the first Death Star. After the war, after the New Republic was formed, he started a school for Jedi. One of his students—his nephew—turned to the Dark Side and slaughtered the rest of the students before fleeing to the First Order. Master Skywalker disappeared, and nobody heard from him for almost a decade before my friend Rey found him.”

Anakin folded his arms, trying to take this in. Given the timing, this Luke Skywalker would almost have to be his son. Skywalker wasn’t an uncommon name in the slave quarters of Tatooine, but he’d never heard of another Skywalker anywhere else in the galaxy. After he was found, the Council had sent a Jedi to search for any other Force-sensitive younglings in the worst parts of his home planet, but hadn’t found any.

Padmé was too consumed with the war effort to even think about children until after the war was done, but Anakin sometimes got through the grimmer parts of the war by fantasizing about having a life with just him, and Padmé, and children, in a house on Naboo.

Was that what happened? Did he and Padmé escape the destruction and run away and hide together? Was there hope and brightness even in the grim future Finn painted for them? It wouldn’t be so bad, if they were together, if they could raise a family together.

“His nephew?” Anakin asked. Did he and Padmé have multiple children, then?

“Yeah.” Finn nodded. “His sister Leia’s kid.”

Two kids! That was great!

“Hey, can I ask you a question about names?” Finn asked.

“Names?” Anakin parroted.

“Yeah,” Finn said. “Stormtroopers don’t get names at all, and I’m still kind of confused by all the different ways humans do names. Skywalker is a family name, right? How do you decide which family name your kids are going to get? Mother’s name? Father’s name? Something else?”

“Skywalker can be a family name,” Anakin said. “I was born a slave on Tatooine, and lots of times the masters call someone a name they don’t want to have. Skywalker is also one of the names that if you don’t have a family name—or you don’t like the one you have—it’s one that anybody can claim, and sometimes people get adopted into it, too. My mother called herself Skywalker, so it’s my name, too.”

“Oh,” Finn said. “So you’d pass it on to your kids?”

“I’d like to,” Anakin said. “It’s all I have left of my Mom.”

“Then do you know why Master Luke’s sister has a different last name?”

Anakin frowned. He and Padmé hadn’t ever really talked about names for any hypothetical children they might have; they’d barely even talked about the possibility that they might one day have children. “Maybe my wife wanted her to have her name?” he said. He didn’t know anything about Naboo naming customs, he realized. Which last name would it even be? Amidala was her political name; it had been a new name created just for her when she was elected queen. Did it pass to her kids or did it end with her? Would she want the kids to be named Naberrie like the rest of her family? Finn would probably know, he realized. “What was the name?”

“Leia Organa.”