- Death-Major Character
- Death-Minor Character
- Action Adventure
- Science Fiction
Asteroids of various sizes could be seen splayed across the black and purple sky, but Obi-Wan paid them little mind. His nerves were on edge. It was seven days after Padmé had given birth, and the twins were still under strict constant observation.
In the last few days, Obi-Wan’s understanding of neonatal issues had increased tenfold. While the twins had recovered from their initial issues, having been born early had left them vulnerable to other problems. Leia had developed an infection, and while it had been cured, the healers had strongly advised Padmé to stay at the clinic for another week in case there were any further complications.
But they couldn’t remain indefinitely. Palpatine had sent out an intergalactic alert claiming that Padmé had been abducted and offering a reward for anyone who offered information leading to her “safe return”. It was especially important that she was located soon, he’d insisted, since she was pregnant and might require urgent medical attention.
Nobody at the clinic had connected the missive to Padmé yet, and Padmé was adamant that even if they did, their vows would prohibit them from betraying any of their patients. But neither of them wanted to risk it. They were too vulnerable there; with the twins in one wing, Padmé in another, and Obi-Wan only allowed to visit either wing for a limited number of hours each day, it would take too long to escape if their location was discovered.
Nevertheless, it was undeniable that the twins needed to stay under observation, and they had neither the experience nor the equipment to do so themselves.
It was that knowledge that had driven Obi-Wan back out to the wider city to hire a healer to accompany them on the next leg of their journey. After asking the healers at the clinic for recommendations, he had been directed to a travelling midwife with a reputation for having a strong sense of confidentiality and medical skill.
‘How long will it take you to pack what you need?’ Obi-Wan asked Erisi Mollek as he watched her across the kitchen table.
She was a tall woman with dark skin, cropped-short hair, and intelligent eyes. She’d answered all his questions convincingly, and if it hadn’t been for his concern about bringing someone else into the mix, he would have quite liked her.
‘A few hours. I can be ready to leave by midday.’
Padmé set her pen aside and rose to her feet, searching for the voice disguiser Obi-Wan had bought the day before. After he’d left that morning, she’d fed the twins before carrying out the other half of their plan. While they knew they needed a midwife to travel off-world with them, they couldn’t bring themselves to trust a stranger around the children long-term.
Instead, they intended to only travel with her as far as Eriadu, both using fake names. They would then meet up with Kalei, a woman who had been one of Padmé’s decoys when she was queen. After leaving her service, Kalei had moved back to her home world and become a healer, so she felt like the natural choice.
Padmé had sent an encrypted coded voice message to Kalei, keeping the message as minimalistic as possible. While she was confident in the infallibility of both the code and the disguiser she’d used to conceal her voice, there was no need to risk it. She had simply said that she was fleeing extreme danger and needed a healer on hand for when the baby came. Kalei, as loyal and devoted as ever, had quickly replied saying that she was glad to hear the news of her pregnancy and that she would love to help however she could.
The only thing that was left to do was to confirm their meeting time and location.
Having put the new message through the code she and her decoys had used while she was queen, she turned on the communicator and read it aloud, letting the voice disguiser distort her words.
She had just sent the recording to Kalei when there was a knock at the door. ‘Just a minute!’ she called out.
Heart pounding, she gathered all the items together and shoved them behind the monitor in the corner. Glancing around the room to make sure nothing was out of place, she let out a slow breath. ‘Come in.’
To her relief, it was Obi-Wan who entered the room, not one of the healers.
‘How did it go?’ she asked.
‘Everything’s ready. What about your messages?’
‘They reached her.’
‘And you’re sure about this woman?’
‘I trust her with my life.’ It wasn’t the first time Obi-Wan had asked her about Kalei, but she wasn’t offended. If it had been his friend they were relying on, she would have been just as cautious.
A misstep could have disastrous consequences.
Their hope was that Palpatine would assume she would try to return to Naboo or Tatooine, seeking comfort from the familiar. It wouldn’t be an unfair supposition; if it weren’t for the danger, she would have done exactly that. Not only would it have been a balm for her, but it seemed like the perfect place for Anakin’s funeral.
Obi-Wan had told her Anakin’s body was in the preserver on the ship. He wouldn’t be able to have a proper Jedi funeral pyre, both due to his actions and Padmé being on the run, but she wanted to give him something. He would have loved his funeral to take place on Naboo or Tatooine, planets that had meant so much both to them as a couple and to him individually.
Nor could she have imagined a better place for Luke and Leia to grow up.
But they couldn’t risk it. Instead, they had chosen to set up an elaborate wild bantha chase for anybody who was trying to follow them.
Obi-Wan and Padmé stepped out into the front foyer of the medical clinic, the twins resting securely in carrying capsules.
‘I’ve already told you it’s not necessary,’ Padmé insisted, her voice louder than would be considered appropriate for normal conversation.
He handed her the capsule he was carrying. ‘Let me handle this, dear.’
Rolling her eyes, she huffed and turned to face the educational posters that hung on the wall.
Apparently, her political acumen did not translate to her being a good actress. Ignoring her overacting, he walked over to the reception desk, which was hidden behind an almost-invisible protective screen. He wouldn’t have been able to see it if he hadn’t known what he was looking for.
A woman with purple skin and curly orange hair looked up at his approach. A plaque on the desk in front of her said that her name was Tiffia. ‘How may I be of assistance today?’
‘Corina believes this is unnecessary,’ he said, nodding his head towards Padmé, who should be doing her best to appear like she was steadfastly trying to ignore them, ‘but I must insist that nobody can know that she was here.’
Recognition flashed in Tiffia’s eyes, and a reassuring smile spread across her face. ‘The clinic aims to be a safe place for anyone who should need it, so our policy is to never give out information about our patients. I appreciate your concern, but Corina is correct; it is unnecessary.’
‘You have no idea how glad I am to hear that.’ Lowering his voice, he continued: ‘You see, Corina was already married when we… “met”. I’m not proud of it, but her husband had been away for many turns of their moons. When he returned and realised she was pregnant, he tried to kill us both in a fit of rage. Corina killed him in self-defence, and it nearly broke her.’
The lie left a sick taste in his mouth. Pretending they’d broken not only his vows but Padmé’s disgusted him, and it felt like he was dishonouring Anakin, even in memory. But he had to push forward.
‘As I said, sir – ’
‘I plan to do the right thing by her,’ he said. ‘Once enough time has passed, we are going to get married… but it would be risky for her if anyone knew the children are mine.’
Her smile turned wooden. ‘As I said, sir, we keep secrets for everybody. That will not be a problem at all.’
‘You don’t know how much of a relief it is to hear that.’ He raised his eyebrows. ‘Of course, that means Corina was right… She’ll never let me hear it down.’
With a short laugh, he turned and strolled back to Padmé. Taking one of the capsules back from her, he looped his other arm around her shoulders in a display that he could only hope looked more natural than it felt – not that that would be much of a feat.
Their cover story wasn’t flattering for either of them, but they’d agreed it was necessary. While their preference was for Palpatine not to be able to track them at all, his reach was enormous. Even the clinic would be hard-pressed to deny a direct order for information backed by the weight of the armies ruled by the Supreme Chancellor.
If something was going to get back to him, they wanted it to be that the children weren’t Anakin’s after all. Palpatine would still be interested in Obi-Wan’s descendants, but not to the same extent as Anakin’s.
Yoda was aiding with this deception by spreading the fake information among the Jedi Order as well, as well as sending messages from Padmé to a few of her friends from the Senate, claiming that she was eloping.
Both of their reputations would be tarnished, of course. Obi-Wan hated knowing that his friends would see him as an oath-breaker and adulterer. But if it allowed them to protect Luke and Leia, it was worth it.
Maybe one day, after Palpatine had fallen and the galaxy was at peace once more, they would be able to come out with the truth.
Once they were out of sight of the clinic, Obi-Wan dropped his arm from Padmé’s shoulder. Her body eased at its removal.
They wound their way through the cobbled streets and towards the landing yard, doing their best to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
The ship Padmé had flown to Mustafar was too conspicuous going forward – it reeked of money and the Inner Rim, and it would be too easy for Palpatine to track. Instead, Obi-Wan had exchanged it for a new one – although “new” was misleading. While it had everything they needed, it was several models out of date and its exterior was in dire need of a clean.
It was not the kind of vessel that would catch the interest of someone searching for a senator and retired queen.
Padmé didn’t even baulk at the sight.
‘I’m glad to finally leave this place.’ Erisi stared out a one-way window as they wove through the asteroids, each one larger than their ship. ‘I arrived with a young couple a few months ago and haven’t been about to find a paying flight off since.’
‘Mm,’ Padmé replied absently as she cradled Luke in her arms, swaying back and forth as she tried to stop his shrill crying. He’d started shortly after they left, and although she’d run through the list of things crying was supposed to mean, nothing had been successful.
Erisi had said he was probably reacting to take-off and would settle once the turbulence did, but his cries didn’t seem to be abating.
Her only comfort was that Erisi had taken Leia to Obi-Wan – or Trenneck, as Erisi knew him – once Luke started crying, which had kept her from being set her off too.
‘You’re sure this is normal?’ Padmé asked. Staring down at Luke, it was like he was an alien.
She couldn’t do this. Why had she thought she could? She’d read so many pregnancy books over the past several months, yet she couldn’t even calm her own son.
Erisi turned back from the window. ‘Do you want me to try?’
Nodding, Padmé handed her son to the healer and watched as she rocked him gently, cooing all the while.
Within two minutes, he had settled into her arms.
Padmé let out a breath of relief at the blissful silence.
‘Here,’ Erisi said, offering him back.
Padmé held up her hands and took a step back. ‘You keep him for now. I don’t want to risk disturbing him.’ Not liking the inquisitive expression on Erisi’s face, she continued: ‘Where were you from originally? How long have you been a travelling midwife?’
In the two weeks since they’d left Polis Massa, Padmé’s mood had plummeted. At first, the need to act – to get to the clinic, to plan, to get off-world – had driven her forward, keeping her focused and moving. But now she had nothing to think about but the daily monotony of life on the ship or the dangers of the future, it had all come crashing back in.
Parenthood was something she was supposed to share, and navigate, with Anakin by her side. Back…. before, she’d been excited by the idea of them bumbling through the highs and lows of raising a child together. Now, however, it felt like it was all low and no high.
Even in moments of peace or levity, a deep feeling of grief and sorrow was lurking only a stone’s throw away.
It didn’t help that the twins’ health was a source of constant concern. Erisi had reassured her that they were growing well, but she couldn’t help but fear that it wouldn’t last. Even everyday things like feeding and spending time with them were hard to manage; how could she get through something truly serious on her own?
Seeing how good Erisi was with the children, Padmé had started letting her take over as much as possible. She, at least, could be trusted to take care of them correctly.
And the more time passed, the more she was coming to the realisation that this was her life now.
No Anakin, on the run, unable to care for her own children…
And with Obi-Wan and Erisi present, she didn’t have any space to mourn.
The memory of what had happened on Mustafar was like an ever-widening wedge between Padmé and Obi-Wan; while they could deal with the practicalities of their situation together, talking about Anakin’s death was out of the question.
Erisi was even worse. Since she only knew the cover story they’d told her, talking about mourning to or around her would be dangerous.
Instead, Padmé spent as much time as possible tweaking and re-tweaking their plans when she wasn’t the one piloting the ship. She might not be able to do much for the kids now, but she could make sure the galaxy was safe for them.
She was in the cockpit, taking a turn as pilot while Obi-Wan rested, when Erisi slipped through the door and sat down beside her.
‘We’re getting close to Eriadu now,’ Padmé said. Erisi had taken a great interest in the process of piloting, so Padmé was used to her presence in the cockpit when the twins didn’t need her.
Glancing over at her, however, she saw a concerned expression on her face. ‘Is something wrong?’
‘I’m not sure yet,’ Erisi said. Then, quickly: ‘It’s not about the twins. I came here to talk about you, actually.’
Padmé frowned. ‘What about me?’
‘You don’t seem to be bonding with the twins.’
Her bluntness cut Padmé like a knife, and her hands tightened on the controls.
A few days ago, Obi-Wan had approached her to ask if anything was wrong, saying that he’d noticed she wasn’t spending much time with the twins. She’d insisted that she was simply stressed and that it was better for Erisi to watch over them while they were recovering since she would be more likely to notice if something was wrong.
He hadn’t seemed convinced, but he’d let it go, and she’d hoped that would be the end of it.
‘We’re bonding,’ Padmé assured her, trying to hide her own kernel of doubt. ‘It’s just that we had to leave home on short notice, so there are a lot of things I need to organise. When we reach Eriadu, I’ll be able to spend more time with them.’
Erisi nodded, her expression considering. ‘What if everything was organised – or could be organised by someone else? Do you think you would feel more comfortable spending time with them then?’
‘I didn’t say I didn’t feel comfortable with it,’ Padmé said defensively.
‘No, you didn’t.’ Despite her words, Erisi didn’t sound contrite. ‘It isn’t uncommon for new mothers to experience something called sadness of the womb, which is what I think might be happening here. It’s – ’
‘Back on my home planet, we just called that mourning.’ Padmé’s heart was racing, and she forced herself to keep her fear from her face as she stared ahead, pretending she was focusing on piloting. ‘I don’t like to talk about it, but I lost someone recently.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ Erisi said, ‘but I’ve seen this condition a number of times, and I know how to recognise it. The symptoms are different for everyone, but some of them are having panic attacks – ’
‘I haven’t had any.’
‘ – being in a state of constant sadness – ’
‘I’m in mourning.’
‘ – or pervasive worry, such as for the child’s safety – ’
I have reason to be worried, Padmé thought, giving up on trying to interrupt the other woman.
‘ – having a lack of interest in physical intimacy – ’
Anakin. A wave of sadness hit her.
‘ – mood swings – ’
Her mood had been fluctuating a lot lately…
‘ – fatigue and trouble sleeping – ’
Padmé couldn’t remember when she’d last had a full night’s sleep, but that was normal, wasn’t it?
‘ – and trouble concentrating.’
She’d been trying to ignore it, but part of the reason she was spending so much time working on their plans was that it was a struggle to retain focus. There had been times when she’d spent hours puzzling over points that would previously have taken her minutes to decide.
Padmé let out a slow breath.
Ever since she’d left the clinic, something deep inside had been whispering to her that she wasn’t normal – that she wasn’t feeling as connected to the children as she was supposed to. She’d thrown herself into planning in the hope of drowning out that voice with background noise – of giving herself an excuse – but it had persisted, dogging her every waking hour.
‘Do you really think I’m sick?’ Padmé asked quietly.
‘Yes,’ Erisi said, ‘but I can help you… if you’ll let me. It doesn’t have to be like this forever.’
Now that she’d acknowledged the issue, all the emotion and fear she’d been keeping at bay came rushing back in. Unable to speak for fear of crying, Padmé simply looked at her and nodded.
‘There are some herbs and some healing practices we can try. We’ll have to wait until we arrive to buy the herbs, but we can start some of the practices now. I’ll show you how to use the herbs and leave them with you for the next part of your journey.’
‘Thank you,’ Padmé managed to say.
They didn’t reach Eriadu for another two weeks. While the deep feelings of sadness and anxiety were still there, Padmé was starting to feel better in little ways. Talking had helped, as had the breathing techniques Erisi had been teaching her.
Pretending that the person she’d lost was a childhood friend, she had spoken to Erisi about how she’d always thought he would be there to watch her children grow up, and they’d worked through some of what had happened that way. It was emotionally draining, and she had to be careful not to slip up in her lies, but it had been worth it so far. With Erisi’s help, Padmé had found herself able to connect more to the twins, although she knew it would take time to get to where she wanted to be as a mother.
But, for the first time since Anakin’s death, she felt like she could get there in time.