Behind Closed Doors
by C. Szemis
Not every young Padawan was so respected by the Chancellor as Anakin.
Yes, it was strange, something Obi-wan had noted briefly, yet didn't think too much about it at the time. Merely casual conversations here and there, smiles and nods, the Chancellor showing an active interest in young Skywalker's training.
But perhaps it was to be expected. Anakin could still remember the sun kissed streets of Naboo and the silver haired Senator descending down the ramp, giving him a grandfatherly smile and tapping his shoulder fondly.
'We'll watch your career with great interest'
And watch he did. Was that so wrong?
Perhaps someone in the far flung galaxy did but Anakin frankly couldn't give a damn.
The Chancellor's office was as grand as he was, the high arches and deep crimson red spilling throughout, the guards poised like statues at his doors, their faces blank and forgettable behind scarlet masks yet so dedicated in their post none were known to move at all within their shift.
Dedication. Honour. Service. Loyalty.
To Anakin Skywalker, it was a place perfectly reflective of Chancellor Palpatine. His heavy footfalls were what first alerted the guards to his presence, yet again they did not move. Not even to nod at the young Jedi as he passed through the arches, not to glance at his cloak billowing behind him, their gaze focused straight down the corridor while he speculated quietly whether or not they were actually statues. With a the silent hiss, the doors opened, like the sound of one struggling for breath. Not the sound Anakin noted, however. He took notice of surprisingly little as Obi-wan was always happy to point out. What he did take notice of..... the room seemed smaller somehow. Or perhaps he had got bigger, or were those stairs always so small?
At nineteen years of age, young Ani had risen into a particularly handsome man he had to say, tall and lean, broad and strong. His features young yet kissed with a slight hint of bronze, his hair perhaps darker than it had been when he left Tatooine but only a little. And if the Chancellor could read the force, his soul blazing like the supernova he was. The son of suns. The chosen one. You've got a head as large as a supernova, Anakin, and a sense of humour just as dangerous, Obi-wan had remarked.
Perhaps those stairs had always just been small.
The Chancellor was seated at the top, his chair directly in front of the wide windows, looking over the metropolis that was Coruscant-or a wretched hive or scum and villainy as Obi-wan like to call it. Yet despite his all seeing eyes and glorious views, the Chancellor sat hunched over his desk, his fingers to his temples and opaque eyes scrunched up with a look that Anakin knew well. Someone with a headache (Obi-wan had many of those-came with the territory when you had a Padawan like Anakin).
Anakin paused for a moment, deciding whether or not to disturb one of his few mentors. It was never wise to disturb someone with a headache (Obi-wan again) and his trip to Ansion had not been that important. The Chancellor could hear about it later. But Chancellor Palpatine had sensed him, lifting his head out of his hands. He took a moment to clear his face and then broke into a smile.
'Why hello young Skywalker,' he grinned, standing up and sweeping around his desk to greet him, 'I've been expecting you.' '
You have?' Anakin couldn't help but smile back as the Chancellor took his hand and shook it enthusiastically, the grandfatherly smile creeping back onto his face like back on Naboo. '
Of course,' he leaned in close with a laugh, 'I have eyes and ears everywhere you know. The neighbourhood is crawling with my spies.'
Anakin paused for a moment again but Chancellor Palpatine lead him towards the windows, his smoky eyes laughing at Anakin's surprise.
'I'm only kidding you dear boy. I had heard you had returned. I knew you would come and see me eventually.' '
Yeah well, I would have come sooner but my master dragged me to the old folks home.'
'Oh yes,' again he laughed but then his disposition turned and he regarded Anakin with more severity, 'and was your trip a success?'
'Yes, the masters were able to arrange a settlement,' he sighed, turning his glance towards the great windows. His eyes tracking a lonely speeder as it trekked across the sky.
Furrowing his eyebrows only ever so slightly, Palpatine swept his eyes over Anakin's features, tired and withdrawn with small longing. 'They are watching you, you know,' he said reassuringly, as the young Padawan returned his gaze back to his confidante. 'They are, just be patient.'
'Yes, I know.' Anakin sighed again, 'But I cannot help but still feel as if they are treating me as a child, like I'm only 6 inches tall.'
'Which is saying a lot considering,' that grandfather smile again, stepping back to take in all of Anakin with his gaze, 'I remember when you were only so high and had to look up to all Jedi.'
'And now they have to look up to me,' he agreed with a whisper. If there had been anything threatening in that statement, the Chancellor appeared not to have noticed it.
'The Jedi just want to make sure you're ready Anakin. A job not done properly is a job not worth doing.'
'Yeah, yeah, yeah I know,' Anakin shook his head frustrated, his fists tightening out of sight under his cloak, then realising to his horror that he had cut the old man off. 'I'm sorry sir!' he stammered, lowering his head, calming himself.
But the man just smirked and chortled ever so slightly. 'It's quite all right Anakin. Even Jedi cannot withhold their frustrations forever.'
'To control your anger is to be Jedi.'
'Perhaps.........maybe.....Though I am of the impression that in a few certain circumstances, it is quite all right to let your frustrations show. It is human nature after all and the Jedi cannot really argue with that.'
'Yeah I guess,' Anakin nodded, 'Obi-wan says I'm too passionate for my own good.'
'The best of us are,' the Chancellor reassured him, putting his hand on Anakin's shoulder in a friendly way, motioning for him to take a seat.
'I do have something I wish to speak to you about though,' the Chancellor said as they slipped into their seats, Palpatine placing his hands on the rests of his chair, his long fingers curling around the grip. As he sorted some paper work out of his way he spoke again, his eyes only flickering to the Padawan only briefly, 'It is about your Jedi Archives.'
'What about them?' the Padawan narrowed his eyes curiously. The Chancellor leaned across the table, his eyes serious and heavy, placing his hands on the table and staring down at them as if greatly concerned.
'While you were away on Ansion, there was an attempt to hack illegally into your archives.'
'That's impossible,' Anakin snorted, 'no one can get into them except Jedi.'
'Yes, but that's where the problem lies my dear boy. Do you know of Count Dooku?'
Anakin could only nod. He'd heard about him in passing. Obi-wan had mentioned him before he was sure. Something about 'The Lost Twenty' and the fact he was the leader of the separatists. Not much else really.
'Well, he was once a Jedi and as leader of the Separatists could easily find a way of entering your archives,' the old man clicked up a small holo on his table, a shimmering blue planet appeared, suspended merely inches off of the table. 'This is the planet Kamino, an outer rim world, mostly forgotten by the vast majority of people. Only memorable to those who've had the opportunity to visit.'
As if pausing for dramatic effect, the Chancellor held his gaze on Anakin before the Padawan nodded to carry on. 'But that does not mean it is not of great importance to the galaxy. For on this world, hidden as far away they could, are refugees, escaping from Dooku's vicious campaign, fearing for their lives. The rest of their families killed, tried for treason, tortured, beaten and butchered.'
Anakin swallowed, briefly imagining his own mother huddled away on this blue planet, fearing the man who was trying to push the galaxy into a civil war.
'And how does this concern me?' he questioned.
'Patience young Anakin,' the old man sternly whispered before returning to the holo. 'Only two archives in the whole galaxy know the exact position of this planet. My own...and that of the Jedi Order. Now only one.'
With a mere flick of a switch, the planet disappeared from view as it was deleted forever. Anakin looked back up at the Chancellor who was still grave and solemn.
'We cannot allow Dooku to find these people. They're too frightened and we do not know if Dooku will try to clasp Kamino in his grasp as well. But as you have already guessed, if he cannot find it on one archive he will most certainly try another, and from his past, he has a definite way of doing it.'
Anakin felt his heart grow heavy under the Chancellor's solemn stare.
'I have already tried to contact Master Yoda. He is aware of where Kamino is situated but it seems he is busy with prior engagements. We have no idea who else may be traitors within your order but I knew I could trust you.'
'Yes,' Anakin could once again only nod as he studied the empty piece of air where Kamino had hovered only moments before, 'I'll take care of it.'
The Chancellor let out a deep breath in relief, visually relaxing as that smile crept up on his lips. 'I knew I could count on you Anakin.'
'Yeah well, I don't want to see anyone threatening innocent lives and if deleting them means they stay safe.....I'll do it. Better not mention it to Obi-wan though,' he laughed lightly.
'No! Do not mention this to anyone Anakin! Perhaps you trust your Master, and I'm not saying that I do not, but even walls have ears.'
A sense of foreboding shivered up Anakin's spine, sensing a small, faint imprint of darkness. How close were Dooku's allegiances? Who could be trusted, even here on Coruscant? But the severity of the Chancellor's gaze made him hold his tongue and his questions, almost shocked at his sudden outburst.
The Chancellor seemed to notice this and sighed again apologetic.
'I'm sorry Anakin, I have just been under too much stress recently. Too much corruption in the Senate. Too many under the pay rolls of the Trade Federation and force knows what. I really do not know how to amend it.'
His eyes grew almost wistful then, 'Perhaps if I had obtained office sooner, if only something had been done before this had all taken root. There seems to be no solution to the problem.'
The Chancellor stood up and at first Anakin thought he should as well but Palpatine made no motion for him to do so.
'The Republic is not what it once was. Before all this it had been a glittering beacon for all democratic worlds. A promise of peace and prosperity but no more. The beaurocrats are in charge now. Ruled by money and wealth.'
As the old man paced, Anakin regarded him with new eyes. Before he had seemed young in an old body yet now age was evident on his face, Father Time had eaten away at it which before had been charming but now ravines of stress criss-crossed it. The days of corruption showed clearly.
'I'll do whatever I can to help, Sir,' he offered.
'I know Anakin,' a relieved smile was his response,' But things have got too far. The politicians can never agree on anything anymore. So much so that sending out medical supplies to unfortunate systems has become a controversial issue. Who should we send supplies to? When? What medical equipment? Where? Even a few worrying whether the expenditure will be costly to the Republic. There is no such thing as the common good anymore.'
'If they cannot agree on things such as these then the decision must be made for them,' Anakin shrugged.
'That is not democracy young Skywalker.'
'Nor is allowing citizens to suffer while pumped up politicians-baring you of course,' he added with a small smirk,' disagree over the economics of politics.'
'Precisely my view on the subject, but to do so would result in accusations in dictatorship and I cannot allow anyone to take my place while the galaxy is in this state. It's not worth the risk of letting someone who should not be trusted taking my post.'
Anakin with filled with admiration. This man was certainly the definition of good leadership if he felt this way. Opinions so similar to his own yet he defined power and strength in ways that Anakin could never meet. To merely be in his presence...........was overwhelming. But the Chancellor did not seem to notice for he had turned to sweep his gaze over the city's skyline. For a moment he too seemed a statue like the guards outside, the lights of the city a backdrop to his dark silhouette.
Then the old man's slivery voice finally penetrated the darkness as he returned back to Anakin, his eyes wistful once more.
'But to say all senators are corrupted is a generalisation. For there is a certain young Senator that we both know of that is nothing like the others in the Senate.'
This caught his attention, raising his chin to the Chancellor as if to ask 'who?'
But Palpatine answered it for him before he even had the chance to speak, his fingers hovering over the controls on his desk, a small rodian suddenly illuminated upon the desk like Kamino had been not so long ago.
'Are the preparations for Senator Amidala's arrival complete?' he asked with a playful smirk on his lips as Anakin gaped at him.
'Yes, sir,' the rodian replied in huttese,' security has been doubled especially and armoured Naboo starships will escort her down. She is due to arrive at 1000 hours.'
'Thank you,' the Chancellor nodded.
But Anakin had only heard Yes. Senator Amidala? Padme was coming? Anakin could almost feel his heart leap at the news. Oh it had been so long since he last saw her, beautiful Padme, a long time since he seen those sad yet determined brown eyes, her long beautiful hair and her sweet smiling face. Padme was coming. Padme was coming!
The Chancellor seemed to notice Anakin's sudden glee, giving him a curious look and studying him. Anakin tried to douse his smile, looking immediately out of the Chancellor's gaze and trying to look as if the news did not mean anything to him at all. Oh but it did, it did. Had it really been ten years since he had been on Naboo with its rolling golden hills, ten years since he met her in Watto's shop and asked her quite simply if she was an angel. And there had not been a day that went past in all those years that he did not think of that angel and her brown eyes. Surely she would be even more beautiful now.
'You care for her too?' the Chancellor asked, still studying Anakin,' Yes of course you do. She personifies democracy and the common good do you not agree? That is why she is so important to the Senate and I as well.'
Anakin wished he could say that he disagreed but his heart was still dancing with joy. Padme was coming to Coruscant!
But then his heart fell with a rather big thump. If Padme was coming, there was no way she would want to spend her time with him. He was only a Padawan and she a Senator, and she would be busy with the Military Creation Act. It was not likely Padme would visit him or even recognise him if they passed in the street. She had probably forgotten about him completely. She had better things to do that to hang around with a stupid Padawan. And Palpatine could read all this.
'Do not worry young Anakin,' the Chancellor leaned across his desk, fixing his opaque eyes right into Anakin's,' I would not, will not, tell anyone about your little crush.'
Anakin could only go red furiously at that. 'I don't have a crush on her. She's just an old friend.'
'Indeed?' that amused smirk almost seemed to mock him,' Yet even old friends are of great importance to young Amidala.'
'Yes,' he agreed through the lump in his throat,' But a Padawan?'
'Do not think of yourself so meanly my child. I do know she will look forward to the prospect of meeting you once again, perhaps spend some time with you, catching up you could say.'
'But Jedi are not supposed to love,' the words spilled out of Anakin's mouth before he even had time to think them and then he could not even stop himself from uttering them. Why in force's name did he say that?
'Yes, I know,' the Chancellor motioned for Anakin to stand,' But again it is a natural thing for a human to seek love. And if they are fortunate enough to find it, they are surely blessed by the force. The Jedi cannot argue with that.'
Oh yes they could, was the only thing Anakin could think as Palpatine led him to the doors, imagining Obi-wan's disapproving look and Master Windu shaking his head in annoyance. Jedi were not allowed to love, only allowed to have compassion. Anything else.......was a distraction. Unnecessary. Yet when he thought of Padme.... 'You will be a fine Jedi Knight young man,' the Chancellor interrupted his thoughts,
'Just be patient and you will achieve more than you could ever imagine. I guarrantee it.'
As they stopped before his doors, the Chancellor turned grave once more and told him sternly, 'Mind do not forget about Kamino. It is of more importance than you realise and its vital that no one, especially not Count Dooku, discovers its location.'
'Yes, sir, I'll take care of it.'
'Thank you Anakin. Once again I am reassured you will be a fine Jedi and I personally look forward to the day of your ascent into Knighthood.'
With a grandfatherly smile and a tap on the shoulder, Chancellor Palpatine led him through the arches, out of his crimson stained quarters, past the scarlet guards, still standing like statues.
'Farewell, young Anakin, I have much to organise for tomorrow's sesssion in the Senate and must let you go now, but if I come across a certain young Senator, I will happily inform her of your desire to keep your friendship.'
'Goodbye, Chancellor Palpatine,' Anakin bowed low in respect and as he straightened up he said,' Thank you sir for seeing me.'
'Anytime Anakin, anytime. My office is open to you always.'
And with a nod and a swirl of his cloak, Anakin was gone, again briefly speculating if the guards were just statues but then all his thoughts were bombarded with thoughts of Padme. Beautiful Padme. And then of course the problem with Kamino and the separatists threatening to rain on his joyous parade. He had much to do.
It was only hours later when his fingers ran across a delete key, he realised that while he had come to Palpatine to talk about Ansion, they had never spoken much on the subject.