Liz (amidala_thrace) wrote,
Liz
amidala_thrace

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To Ignite the Stars: Chapter 17 - Lightning War

Title: Lightning War
Fandom/Pairing: Star Wars/Obidala (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Padmé Amidala)
Previous Chapters: Can be read here.
Characters: Padmé, Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, C3PO
Word Count: 4,603
Rating: PG
Summary: Coruscant awakes to a raid by the Separatists, and Padmé must escape the carnage and defend herself and her friends.
Author's Notes: Somehow I managed to finish this chapter while concurrently studying for exams, prepping our Christmas issue at work and carrying out my own holiday preparations ... just don't ask me how! It's a bit shorter than the last (though not by much) which is good in some ways because 90% of it is action scenes. My personal opinion is that I suck at writing those, although Katie and other people have told me I'm really not all that bad. You be the judge, I guess. The bedrock for this chapter and some of the dialogue was taken from James Luceno's Labyrinth of Evil, but every bit of the description is in my own words. I just used LoE as a groundwork for what was supposed to happen when. Also, this is the only chapter so far not to contain a Personal Record from either Obi-Wan or Padmé. The next chapter will likely be similar. Oh, and happy birthday, Lynda! (AKA lealynnkenobi.) I was hoping to get you an update for your birthday and hey! I'm seventeen minutes early. Go me. Look for more goodies tomorrow. ^_^



It had been thirteen years since Padmé Amidala last saw war.

Then, she had been fourteen. Then, she had been young – too young – and naïve, by her own later admission. Then, she had firmly believed that all political problems could be solved through negotiation, and that averting violence was a simple matter of convincing your opponent to see your side of the issue. Then, she had not known that the scorned, the weak and the disenfranchised had many weapons to wield if negotiation failed. Terrorism. Subversion. Blockades. And, if those methods had been unsuccessful, outright war was never prohibited to those blinded by a cause.

Padmé had not known all of this when she stood at the tall window of her palace in Theed. Although she had been fascinated by public service for over half her life, she was just starting to grasp the subtleties of politics. These subtleties, by and large, could only be learned through direct leadership.

Presently, Padmé considered herself wiser. Better at playing “the game,” as she and Mon called the political system. It was because of her firmly-held beliefs, developed during the rest of her tenure as Queen and in her new position as Senator, that she was able to stand against the creation of the Grand Army of the Republic. And when that army became fact, those same beliefs helped her in her continued arguments against war. Against the bitter conflict that was rending the galaxy in two.

Now, that conflict had come to Coruscant.

Again Padmé stood at a window, this time the window of her office in the Senate Office Building, and watched disbelievingly as low-hanging contrails marked the beginnings of a huge space battle. Like many others with whom she spoke early that morning, Padmé expressed the fervent hope that this latest battle would not touch the planet itself. But now, there were warnings. Now, there were rumours. Padmé sent C3PO to find out what was going on.

“Miss Padmé!” the droid exclaimed when he tottered back into the room around midmorning. “I have heard the most horrible news! The Separatist Army is invading Coruscant, and the building is to be evacuated. Everyone must proceed to the shelters below!”

Padmé looked up from her datapad, alarmed. “From whom did you hear this, Threepio?”

Idle gossip did have a tendency to take on a menacing turn these days, after all.

“The Speaker of the Senate, Mas Amedda,” Threepio promptly replied. “He said that an announcement will be made over the building’s private HoloNet address system in approximately –”

“Attention all building personnel,” a deep voice suddenly boomed. “The planetary defense system has been compromised. All beings are required to proceed immediately to the underground shelters. Clone soldiers will be posted to the hallways to direct you. This is not a drill. I repeat: attention all building personnel …”

“There it is,” Padmé murmured, almost to herself. She snapped her datapad closed and gathered it and a few others, security-locking them in her desk. “Come on, Threepio. We’d better go.”

“But Captain Typho, m’lady! Motée and Ellé! If they find out we’ve left the office without waiting for their return, they’ll –”

“Say it was the right thing to do,” Padmé interrupted briskly. “If the building is being evacuated, it’s for a good reason. Officials wouldn’t order an evacuation unless they knew of a credible threat. And besides …” She put a hand on her belly, as much to comfort herself as the babies restless within. “I have others’ safety to think about now besides my own.”

As if to punctuate her point, the building was suddenly rocked by a nearby explosion.

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Threepio. “Perhaps you’re right. That was entirely too close for my threat sensors’ comfort!”

Padmé was already moving toward the door. “Hurry, Threepio, unless you want the Senate to be your final resting place.”

The golden droid hastened to join her. “I assure you, Mistress, I’m moving as quickly as my limbs permit. Oh, curse my metal body! I’ll become entombed here!”

Pulling open the door, the two were met by a hallway clogged with beings of all sizes and descriptions. Senators, their aides, security details, messengers, clones – all were moving about in a state of advanced alarm. No one seemed quite sure where to go, despite the guiding hands of the troopers. Feeling even more helpless than ever, Padmé gathered her strength and plunged into the fray.

The Confederacy could not have chosen a more strategically sound – for them, at any rate – time to attack. Palpatine’s latest State of the Republic address had been given only two days previously, meaning that most delegates were still on-planet discussing its ramifications and partaking in the many parties that naturally followed on from such events. Even a small incursion by the Separatists into the Galactic Core would no doubt put the frighteners on those Senators who were in favour of additional constitutional reforms. And really, they would have an air-tight case. All they need do was point to the latest invasion as proof that not enough security existed.

Which was precisely Palpatine’s point in his latest speech, Padmé thought. Honestly, if I didn’t know better I’d almost say he planned this himself.

Of course the very notion was ridiculous, but she couldn’t help considering it all the same.

She passed a Sullustan and a Gotal noisily discussing the topic that was on everyone’s minds that morning. “How could this happen?” the Sullustan demanded of the Gotal. “How?”

It wasn’t the first time Padmé had heard that question. Nor would it be the last.

She was concerned about Coruscant, certainly; worried of how the invasion would impact the Constitution. Nervous, of course, about getting to the shelters safely. But her primary fears, the fears that made her throat close and her heart pound and her hands shake, were not for the planet or for herself. They were for the two men she had thought of most often in the past five months. Obi-Wan and Anakin. Obi-Wan and Anakin, who might have been risking their lives at that moment, who had almost certainly been called back to Coruscant if the battle was as big as the rumours portrayed it to be. Obi-Wan, her gentle, loving partner. The father of her children. Where was he?

Padmé thought of him, let her heart drift to him, whispered in her mind though she doubted he could hear her.

Obi-Wan, I need you. Come back to me – quickly!

The crowd swelled, jostling her sideways and making a collision with a Gran delegate inevitable. Witheringly the Senator fixed his eyestalks on her. “And you originally opposed the Military Creation Act. What do you say now?”

Padmé sighed and moved quickly away. Really, there wasn’t anything she could say. Her opponents seemed to believe that being outspoken against the creation of an army and supporting the Constitution were mutually exclusive, but in reality nothing could have been further from the truth. She had made that point many times on the Senate floor, to little effect.

“Padmé!”

She turned to see Mon and Bail Organa hurrying through the crowd towards her. Two female Jedi, Shaak Ti and Stass Allie, accompanied them.

“Have you seen the Chancellor?” Bail panted once the little group had caught up.

“He’s probably in the holding office,” answered Padmé with a shake of her head.

Shaak Ti sighed in frustration. “We were just there. The office is empty. Even his guards are gone.”

“They must have escorted him to the shelters, then,” Padmé said.

Bail glanced over her shoulder. “Mas Amedda!” he exclaimed. “He’ll know where to find the Supreme Chancellor.”

The Chagrian could offer no new clues when called over, however. “The Supreme Chancellor had no meetings scheduled until early this afternoon. I assume he is in his residence.”

“500 Republica,” Shaak Ti muttered. “I was just there.”

“And the Chancellor wasn’t?” Amedda asked in sudden concern.

“I wasn’t looking for him then,” the Jedi explained. “Master Allie and I will check the Senate Office Building and Republica. Where are you going?”

That question was aimed at Padmé, Mon and the others.

“Wherever we’re directed, I suppose,” Mon replied. “Do you know if the crèches are being secured?”

A faint smile creased Stass Allie’s face. “I would imagine so, yes. All of the care centres have been directed to evacuate as well. You may even be able to reunite with your daughter in one of the shelters. But the turbolifts are overwhelmed, it will be hours before the Senate is evacuated. My skimmer is at the plaza’s northwest landing platform. You can pilot that directly to the shelters.”

“But won’t you and Shaak Ti need it?” Padmé said.

“We’ll use the speeder bike I arrived on,” Shaak Ti answered.

“We appreciate the gesture, but isn’t the front plaza cordoned off?” Bail spoke up.

Allie took his arm. “We’ll escort you. Come.”

The Jedi were able to part the crowd easily, and before long the group had gained the doorways leading to the main plaza complex. They were about to push them open to exit when a clone commando moved to intercept them.

“You can’t exit this way,” said the commando to Bail.

“They’re with us,” Shaak Ti quickly replied.

Communicating with hand signals, the commando gestured to his comrades to let them leave. The group proceeded through the plaza, bypassing gunships, armoured personnel carriers, AT-TEs and a variety of other weaponry. The oval Flash skimmer sat near the end of the plaza next to Stass Allie’s speeder bike.

Padmé and Mon settled themselves into the back with Threepio while Bail took the pilot’s seat. “Good luck,” Stass Allie called, swinging one leg over her bike. Moments later they had separated, swinging outwards into the wide canyon created by Coruscant’s buildings.

Military and civilian traffic was thick as they flew toward the Senate MedCenter, but Bail’s piloting skill got them through the worst of it. “Well, this is an interesting adventure, isn’t it?” Mon said with a chuckle. “Just this morning Lily was asking me whether anything exciting was going to happen today. I could never have predicted this!”

Padmé was about to reply when suddenly two beams of scarlet light lanced past them from somewhere above the dome of the Senate.

“Vulture droids!” Bail exclaimed.

All levity forgotten, Padmé and Mon clung to each other as the skimmer swerved and dipped to avoid the blizzard of flak exploding around them. A half-dozen of the monstrous droid fighters were now rocketing about the canyon unleashing blaster bolts at everything that moved. And they weren’t just aiming at the Republic gunships and fighters, Padmé realized in horror. These vulture droids seemed to have been deliberately sent to pick off civilian targets. Her mouth dropped open; this was not something she had ever expected to witness on Coruscant.

Both friendly and unfriendly fire surrounded them, deadly lancets of light whizzing in every direction. Bail was doing everything he could to keep the skimmer out of their path, but so was every other civilian and military pilot, and crashes became close to inevitable. They were racing toward the nearest shelter entrance, they had almost gained it …

A bright flash of white light blinded everyone momentarily as the craft tipped, nearly spilling its passengers into midair. Padmé blinked frantically and whirled around to see that smoke was pouring out of the aft engine. Her stomach leapt into her throat as the skimmer immediately began to dive.

“Hold on tight!” Bail shouted.

“We’re doomed!” C3PO exclaimed.

Mon clutched her tightly. Both women could see that Bail was aiming for a small landing platform abutting a pedestrian bridge, but their dive was becoming increasingly swift and uncontrollable. Padmé put a hand over her abdomen, swallowing against a sudden wave of nausea. She was spinning, spinning wildly …

Obi-Wan! her mind screamed. Obi-Wan!

***

“Padmé … Padmé!”

The wide-eyed, worried face of Mon Mothma swam slowly into view as Padmé’s eyes blinked open. She put a hand to her head, which was pounding fiercely.

“No sleeping on the job, Senator,” Mon smiled. She looked relieved. “We have to get you out of here.”

Padmé found her voice at last. “How long –”

“Just for a moment,” her friend reassured her. “I don’t think you struck your head. You were fine after the crash. Then you fainted. Can you move?”

Gulping in a breath of air, Padmé glanced around. She had fallen sideways in the back of the skimmer, her head resting on Mon’s arm. Although her entire body ached, all parts seemed to be in working order, and she slowly sat up. “I – I can barely hear you.”

Mon extended her hand under the pretense of helping Padmé up, then slid her other hand lower to check on the twins. “They’re all right,” she said, lowering her voice so that only the two of them could understand. “Still very much alive and kicking. Here, now. You have to be careful. Quickly.”

Padmé got shakily to her feet and climbed from the skimmer with Mon’s assistance. Then the two women rushed to join Bail and C3PO, who had taken shelter behind a large statue in the middle of the plaza.

“Master Allie doesn’t strike me as the type who would sue for damages,” Threepio was saying as they approached.

Peeking from behind the statue, Padmé could see that they had come down near the Embassy Mall, knocking out three news kiosks and a large holosign along the way. Somehow the skimmer had avoided hitting any pedestrians on its way down. Or perhaps, she realized with a chill, there hadn’t been any pedestrians left alive to hit. Nearby there was a civilian transporter overturned on its side; it had been shot to pieces. The bodies of several clone troopers were hanging out, and Padmé thought she saw more beings inside. The smell of smoke and charred flesh, and the screams of those on the bridge above, filled the air.

Once more she swallowed hard, turning from the nightmarish scene towards Bail Organa. Blood smeared his cheek. “You were hurt …”

“It’s nothing,” he assured her. “Just a scratch. We have more to worry about anyway.”

Padmé followed his gaze and saw quite clearly what the remaining pedestrians on the bridge were screaming about. Four vulture droids had spread out along one side of the bridge, opposite to where terrified beings were fleeing. From there, the mechanized weapons could easily pick off stragglers, filling their bodies with deadly streaks of red light.

They’re innocents, she thought, sickened. Innocent beings caught up in this political war. They don’t deserve to die. They’re just ordinary beings, out on an ordinary day …

Her throat closed again, but this time with grief. She longed to simply sit down in the middle of the plaza and cry, but as had happened so many times during the past three years, Padmé put her emotions on hold to be dealt with later.

“Xi Char monstrosities,” Mon muttered in disgust. “Palpatine will never live this down. Committing so many of our ships and troopers to the Outer Rim Sieges, as if this war he is so intent on winning could never come to Coruscant.”

Bail snorted. “Not only will he live it down, he’ll profit from it. The Senate will be blamed for voting to escalate the sieges, and while we’re mired in accusations and counteraccusations of accountability, Palpatine will quietly accrue more and more power. Without realizing it, the Separatists have played right into his hands by launching this attack.”

This was so close to Padmé’s earlier thoughts that she had to suppress a gasp. The very fact that others were analyzing the situation and coming to the same conclusions had to mean something. And yet she desperately did not want to think what.

“They’re all mad,” Bail sighed. “Dooku, Grievous, Gunray, Palpatine.”

Mon nodded her head in sad agreement. “The Jedi could have stopped this war. Now they’re Palpatine’s pawns.”

Padmé wanted to object, wanted to point out that the Jedi naturally abhorred the concept of war and had really been dragged into it against their will. That desire to counter with other viewpoints was born out of her need to defend Obi-Wan, because she knew how hard the war had been on him already. It had been written in every line of his face when they visited Naboo. She hadn’t realized until he pulled on his clothes that last morning how much it devastated him to go back. He wanted to stay with her, of course, but it was more than that. Obi-Wan was not meant to take life, whether sentient or otherwise. It was simply not in his character. And war by its very nature required that life be taken. Kill the enemy or be killed.

The moral dilemmas he must grapple with every day, she thought, and her heart ached to hold him.

“They’re coming.” Bail’s sharp voice interrupted her thoughts. “They’re coming back.”

Padmé looked across the plaza. The vulture droids, having run out of targets on the bridge itself, had positioned themselves directly perpendicular to it. This gave them a clear field to fire on craft approaching the mall and on any civilians unlucky enough to be caught in their sights. Several LAATs and gunships, manned by clone troopers, hovered opposite but held their fire for fear of striking civilian transports and killing yet more innocents.

“Perhaps if we throw ourselves on the mercy of the owners of the mall, they will raise the security gate,” C3PO suggested.

“We have to keep those droids on the far side of the bridge so the gunships can take them out,” Bail told Padmé and Mon.

Mon nodded. “I see a way to try.”

Without a further word, the three hurried out from behind the statue and ran towards the overturned civilian transport. Padmé swallowed down a fresh wave of nausea at the new smells assaulting her and bent down with the others to search the craft for weapons.

“What could I have been thinking?” Threepio wailed. “It can never be the easy answer!”

Within moments they were back behind the statue, blasters appropriated from the clones clutched in their hands.

“Not much power left,” Mon said, checking one of them. “Yours?”

“Low on blaster gas,” Padmé replied.

Bail ejected the power pack from his. “Empty.”

Mon sighed. “We’ll just have to make do.”

She and Padmé crouched behind the statue’s pedestal and eyed the menacing droids. By then the mechanical creatures had reached the skyway and were firing randomly towards LAATs, gunships and screaming pedestrians. Many shots found their mark, but an equal number missed, adding pieces of buildings, statuary and parts of skimmers and speeders to the debris littering the plaza. The noise was incredible.

“As soon as we fire we’ve got to be prepared to move,” Mon whispered. She pointed across to a news kiosk that was still miraculously unscathed. “There’s our first cover.”

Padmé nodded and took careful aim at one of the vultures. Her first shots did little more than catch its attention, but she was soon able to pick out vital components and concentrate on those. Next to her, Mon did the same.

She felt a thrill of excitement as the closest droid actually retreated a few steps, but next second her stomach dropped to her knees as the vulture let loose a trio of deadly torpedoes.

“Go! GO!” Mon screamed.

Padmé was already in motion, streaking across the plaza toward the kiosk. She didn’t have time to look back and see if Mon and Bail were all right, or if Threepio was following them. She felt, rather than heard, the first rocket detonating as it made contact with the statue and the second turning what was left of Stass Allie’s skimmer into flaming wreckage. The third rocket arced in front of her and blew a smoking humanoid-sized hole into the Embassy Mall’s security grate. Pedestrians immediately scrambled for it, jostling to be the first ones to get through.

The vulture might have continued to fire but for the LAATs, which suddenly had a clear field to attack. Red pinpricks of light whizzed back and forth through the air, and simultaneous explosions sounded as two of the enemy droids were blasted to bits. Padmé and Mon laid down steady cover fire from behind the news kiosk, but the two remaining vultures were undeterred. Apparently recognizing that the LAATs would not fire if the pedestrian bridge was in the way, they had moved behind it to increase their odds of survival.

“And I thought the Senate was a battlefield!” Bail exclaimed.

They sprinted again, this time towards a pile of rubble, and took more shots from the new vantage point. A gunship passed, but was again reluctant to fire on the vulture droids from behind the pedestrian bridge.

“I’m out,” Mon sighed. She threw her rifle to the ground.

“Same,” Padmé said after checking the display screen on her weapon.

“How will I ever explain this to R2D2?” Threepio moaned.

One final time the trio and the droid ran into the open plaza, this time hoping to gain the safety of the security grate. But suddenly the remaining vulture droid was directly in their path, raising its blasters, preparing to fire. There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The droid could pick them off as it wished.

Padmé felt a hot surge of anger, a desperation to survive. She needed to continue living, needed to see Obi-Wan again and deliver his children and live to see this horrible war to its conclusion. She couldn’t stand the thought of being gunned down in the middle of a crowded Coruscanti plaza, and it was only her self-restraint and exhaustion that prevented her from leaping on the droid and pulling out its power cables.

She squinched her eyes shut, waiting for the pain of the bolts hitting to tear through her body.

It never came.

Padmé chanced a glance at the droid and saw it pause momentarily, perhaps in receipt of some remote communication, and then suddenly – amazingly – it folded its legs and flew away. The other droids, too, were retreating, even those being chased by two gunships.

Taking advantage of their sudden distraction, Padmé hurried for the grate and leaned heavily on the skyway railing once she was through. Gasping for breath, she looked down.

The two vulture droids had dropped into the canyon, to be joined by several others, and were racing after a mag-lev train in the distance.

“Who are they chasing?” Bail wondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” Padmé whispered. Her heart, though, was filled with cold dread. The way those droids had their photoreceptors fixed unblinkingly on the train, and the dogged single-mindedness with which they pursued it, made her think that the quarry had to be someone very important.

***

Hours later, in the early afternoon, Padmé stood in Nicandra Plaza, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other beings.

On a HoloNet screen suspended above the plaza, a live image played of a tremendous space battle. This battle was not taking place in some far-flung system on the Outer Rim. No: it was happening directly over Coruscant, and anyone who wanted further proof need only look to the skies to see the flashes of laserfire and burning streamers of ships falling into the atmosphere.

What everyone had first thought to be a full-scale invasion of the galactic capital, a last desperate move by the Separatists, had in fact only been a distraction. A terrorist strike to twist the knife of fear sharply into the hearts of the Republic’s denizens. When the vulture droids and droid gunships departed, beings across the planet – and indeed, the galaxy – cheered. They shouted to each other that the day had been won. That the impossible had been accomplished. Against all odds, the Confederacy had been driven back once more. True, it had come at a price: large sections of the city-planet damaged or destroyed, millions killed, injured or trapped. But the Republic had won. That was what was important … right?

The most horrifying news was yet to come. Beings waited for the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to make a statement. They waited for Palpatine to appear on the HoloNet and reassure them in his customary gentle manner that everything would be all right, that the good guys were still winning, that repairs could be made to the city and life would go on as usual.

The statement did not air, the promised reassurance did not appear. Instead, beings watched as the face that haunted every nightmare, the commander of the Separatist army, General Grievous, addressed the Republic live over the HoloNet. The general himself was frightening enough, but what he had to say was worse.

Chancellor Palpatine. Kidnapped. Held as a political prisoner. More likely than not, slated for execution. Grievous’s reputation for bloodthirstiness had been well-earned, after all.

In the midst of all the speculation, of all the worries and the fears, Padmé stood. She felt horribly alone. Obi-Wan was gone, Anakin was gone and now Palpatine had been kidnapped. Despite her many criticisms of the man, he was the Chancellor and, at times, seemed to be the only thing binding the Republic together. Surely, without him, it must all fly apart. What would a galaxy ruled by the Separatists be like? What would that mean for the Republic? Would the Jedi Order survive? Would she have a secure place to raise the children?

Once again she might have crumpled to the ground, let the emotions take over until she bled herself dry of grief, if she hadn’t felt a hand on her shoulder right then.

“Padmé, listen to me,” Bail Organa said as she fell into his embrace. “The Separatists have nothing to gain by killing Palpatine. He’ll be all right.”

Tears came then, and they came quickly. Padmé could feel her friend’s tunic wetting as she clutched him for support. “What if you’re wrong, Bail? What if they do kill him, and power falls into the hands of Mas Amedda and the rest of that gang? That doesn’t worry you? What if Alderaan is next on Grievous’s list of worlds to attack?”

“Of course it worries me,” Bail sighed. “I fear for Alderaan, but I have faith that won’t happen. This attack will put an end to the Outer Rim sieges. Obi-Wan, Anakin and the rest of the Jedi will be back here in the Core where they belong. And as for Mas Amedda, he won’t last a week. There are thousands of Senators who think as we do, Padmé. We’ll rally them into a force to be reckoned with. We’ll put the Republic back on course, even if we have to fight tooth and nail to overcome anyone who opposes us. We’ll get through this. No matter what.”

Padmé smiled slightly and looked down, focusing on the soft curve of her belly. “If only I could keep my concerns focused solely on the future of the Republic …”

Bail followed her gaze and squeezed her tightly once more. “Mon told me,” he whispered. “That the Jedi are willing to begin bending the no-attachment rule can only lead to positive influences in the long run. You have my congratulations and my best wishes, Padmé, as well as my assurances that my wife and I would do anything to protect you and your children. Mon says the same.”

“Thank you, Bail,” Padmé whispered back. “With all my heart … thank you.”

Tags: fic: to ignite the stars, obi-wan/padmé, pg ratings, star wars
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