Characters: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Palpatine
Word Count: 1,507
Summary: "No matter what actions I take, you have already lost the battle within yourself."
A red filter.
A rasping noise.
All you want is to be yourself again. All you want is to feel your own body, hear your own voice, see the world through your own eyes.
“Lord Vader, can you hear me?”
The platform rises, and some small part of you is aware of that. It seems to have become exceedingly difficult to turn your head to either side. Your mind is ablaze with questions, and even as the intent to speak is forming, you can hear a low, mechanical voice intoning the words you want to say.
“Yes, my Master.”
She isn’t here … I don’t see her … where could she be?
“Where is Padmé? Is she safe? Is she all right?”
Palpatine’s voice is gentle, almost serene, as he replies, “It seems … in your anger … you killed her.”
NO! It can’t be true, you fixed on her face and you saw her life essence! She was in the medical centre you dreamed about, and she was very alive. This has to be a lie!
“I? I couldn’t have. She was alive, I felt it!”
You want to cry, but your eyes no longer produce tears. You want to scream, as loudly and for as long as you can, but your voice without its synthesizer is little more than a whisper. You want to lash out at Sidious, wrap your fingers around his neck, squeeze the breath out of him for telling such lies.
But you can’t, you’re still strapped to the table, manacled like a prisoner.
So you squeeze. You squeeze with every ounce of your strength, pressing the Force as you long to press Palpatine, objects flying around you and droids exploding, liquids splashing everywhere and the one word you most wish to scream, the one word that describes you at the moment, the one word that will refute the truth slowly beginning to sink into your flesh …
The first thing you feel is grass under your feet.
Feel … yes, you can feel again! You open your eyes and see puffy white clouds in the sky above, shaaks grazing in a field nearby, flowers sprouting and pursued by bees, and a flash of brown hair in your peripheral vision.
“Angel!” you exclaim, and you run into each other’s arms in a joyful hug.
“Oh, Ani,” she murmurs against your chest. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”
You press an anxious kiss to her lips, wondering at the sensations coursing through your body.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“I just … I just had this nightmare,” you say, running a hand through your hair and thanking the Force that you can, indeed, do that. “I was in this horrible suit, and I couldn’t see or hear on my own, I could barely even walk. And Palpatine was there, and he told me – he told me I killed you.”
Padmé clasps your hand in hers. “That’s awful!”
“I would never do that, Angel, never!” you vehemently exclaim. “I promise you. I love you more than anything, I loved you from the day I first saw you. I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“I know, Ani, I know,” she whispers lovingly. “I believe you can keep me safe just as you are.”
Just as you are … the words sound familiar, but you cannot quite place them.
And as suddenly as blinking, the idyllic pasture disappears, and Padmé’s hand is wrenched from yours. You find yourself on the black, stinking lava bank of Mustafar, but you are looking down on her, and she –
“PADME! NO!” you scream.
She is collapsed, unconscious, unmoving. You run to her, press your palm to her neck. Her pulse is weak, erratic.
“NO!” you cry again, to no one and everyone. “I didn’t mean to DO this! I didn’t! It just got out of control!”
“You meant it. You meant every bit of it.”
A voice comes from everywhere and nowhere at once. A voice that sounds remarkably like Palpatine’s.
“You do not deserve her, Lord Vader. She is separate from you now. You have crossed over to a world from which you can never return.”
“I only wanted to save her!”
“But even the best intentions can sometimes go awry. What about your quest for greater power? Your actions always reflected that, whether you realized it or not. Your aim was always to control. Senator Amidala was a possession to you, nothing more and nothing less. You wanted her as an object you could display, something of which you could be proud. You wanted to show others that you could vie for someone’s affections, and win.”
“NO! I LOVED HER!”
“You loved power. You still do.”
You are on your feet, a red lightsaber flaring to life in your hand. “Come out and fight me, then, if you think you know so much! Come and face me!”
A familiar cackle echoes through the canyon. “I needn’t. No matter what actions I take, you have already lost the battle within yourself.”
Before you, Padmé’s body catches fire. She screams, a loud, piercing noise.
You cannot save her, it’s just like watching your mother die, you swore you’d never go through that again –
She screams until her body is ashes.
You would awake with a gasp, if you could.
But the respirator keeps you breathing at a firm, steady rate.
You don’t know where you are at first. You don’t even remember having fallen asleep. Your awareness goes from screaming in the surgical theatre to being awake, with nothing in between.
What is happening to you?
You don’t even know yourself anymore.
You realize you’ve been keeping your eyes tightly shut, unwilling to open them, unwilling to face a world which has morphed so nightmarishly.
It is Sidious again. Somehow, he is with you, though you haven’t sensed him.
“You planted that dream, didn’t you?” you accuse hotly. “You taunt me with all that has been lost!”
His cackling laughter, very like that in your dream, reverberates through the room.
“Why did you do that?” you demand.
“If you are to become a competent Sith Lord, worthy of your title, then you must become a being forged in anger, shaped by your emotions,” Sidious hisses. “You are far too weak, Lord Vader. Petty feelings such as love bind you to your previous identity as a gundark binds to an Imperial star cruiser. They restrict your power, make you fearful. There is no love anymore. There is no affection, no admiration, no brotherhood. All remnants of your previous physical life have been wiped from the galaxy. We must now wipe your previous mental life. Starting with that despicable wife of yours.”
“I – WILL – NEVER – LET – GO – OF – PADME!” you try to shriek. It comes out in a regular, moderated tone. That accursed synthesizer!
“You most certainly will!” he insists. “You must. Lord Vader, you do not yet realize your importance. There will come a time when you and your actions will shape the galaxy itself! I have foreseen it. But you cannot do that unless you become a Sith Lord in body, in mind, as well as in title! You must release all the petty trappings of your previous life, give yourself to me implicitly.”
You hear the swishing of a cloak, and abruptly sense that he is right next to you. “And if you will not do so willingly, then you must be made to.”
“But why must I let go?” you demand. “Let go, let go. You are no better than a Jedi, my Master.” You’d sneer at him if you could. If you felt brave enough to do so.
A bolt of Force lightning hits you directly in the chest, and you crumple to the floor from the chair you were sitting in, writhing in pain. “Insolence,” hisses Sidious. “Disobedience. You will soon learn that these attitudes are not permitted here … oh, yes …”
He hits you, again, again and again with the lightning, until you are gasping out of sync with the respirator, pleading with desperation for him to stop.
“I stole your life from you to make you my servant! How dare you refuse to obey me!” the Sith Lord shrieks.
Your control box is shorting out, pain is coursing through every atom of your body, you’re moaning incoherently. “P-please … Master …”
“Begging for mercy,” Sidious snorts. “I’ve never been so ashamed.”
A door swishes open, and he spits in your face.
“Clean him up,” he instructs the beings who have obviously just entered the room. “Replace his control box. Do nothing more. Or you shall suffer my … displeasure.”
“Yes, sir,” intone two mechanical voices, and the door closes again.
While they operate again, while their lasers and tools slice your flesh, while your hideously burned and scarred skin is manipulated once more, and while the new box is being tested, you do not stop screaming.
The word you are screaming is “Padmé.”