Obi-Wan made his way back to Amidala, telling her of what he'd learned, yet it was from her that he discovered Palpatine's move for more power. He sat suddenly, stunned, trying to absorb the implications. How could he have been so blind? All his attention had been on Anakin's decision to leave him and work for Palpatine.
"Emperor? That goes against all the Republic stands for. Does Anakin know?" he asked.
"Yes, in fact, he's the one who called me to tell me." She buried her face in her hands for a moment, then sat upright. "We must warn the Council. I fear Palpatine has something dreadful planned for the Jedi. After all, you are all that stands between him and total control. He knows you will disapprove and stand against him in this."
He nodded, piecing everything together and praying he could change Anakin's mind before it was too late. With an inward groan, he rose and extended his hand to Amidala. They would tell what remained of the Council of their discoveries. Then, Obi-Wan vowed, he would confront Palpatine about this latest move and demand he release Anakin back to the Jedi. Somehow, some way, he must get his apprentice away from the... he refused to think of him as Emperor... Palpatine's influence.
Together, Amidala and Obi-Wan hurried toward the Jedi Temple, both praying silently that they could have some effect on the recent events. From a secret viewing camera, a malignant watcher cackled in delight as the two departed.
"Come if you will, Kenobi... I'll be more than you expect and there will be nothing you can do to stop me."
"Unwelcome news this is," Yoda replied to their revelations. He closed his eyes, contemplating something distant. "Not unexpected, but unwelcome... yes. As feared, your Padawan plays a part in this, Obi-Wan. Stop him, you must or else all we know will be lost. Go now. Contact the other Council members, I will. Make haste."
They did as Yoda bid, Obi-Wan returning Amidala to her quarters with the admonition not to challenge either her husband or Palpatine with their planned resistance. She agreed, though he feared she might indeed be more fragile than she appeared. Something within her seemed almost brittle... ready to break. Too much had happened to such a young woman.
He sought out Palpatine in the Senate chambers. Despite the early hour, the members had deserted the place, leaving it to the newly self-appointed Emperor. Obi-Wan's skin crawled as he drew near. Qui-Gon's warnings echoed in his mind. The ones regarding the Sith Master and his powerful Force signature. Ripples in the Force heralded that very presence and Obi-Wan prayed he had the strength to deal with the threat.
Palpatine sat in the center platform, already settled into his new role as supreme ruler of the galaxy. He gazed down at Obi-Wan as though he were some sort of lower life form, fit only for crushing beneath his boots. His face bore an expression of distaste, one Obi-Wan had never seen before on the Palpatine he'd known previously.
"Knight Kenobi, you presume much. What do you want?" he asked impatiently.
"My apprentice returned to me... And for you to stop this insane bid for power. The Republic--"
"Hah! The Republic needs me and I need my apprentice," Palpatine broke in. "You have no idea who you are dealing with, do you Jedi?"
The Emperor's voice took on a harsh, malevolent quality and a sudden thrust at Obi-Wan's shields left him reeling. The whispered words of Yoda and Mace at Qui-Gon's funeral came back to him.
//Always two there are... Master and Apprentice. //
//But which one was it? Master or Apprentice? //
Obi-Wan suddenly felt inadequate to facing this... creature... this Sith. For now he suspected he faced just that... the mastermind behind all their troubles for years. He ground his teeth in frustration at his own inability to see what had been happening and tightened his shields.
Palpatine rose, pulling around him the distinctive hooded black cloak Obi-Wan remembered one other Sith wearing and discarding before their fateful duel. Unconsciously, he backed away as the Emperor descended toward him, drawing the hood over his features until nothing but his mouth and chin remained visible.
"Perhaps others know me as Darth Sidious, Sith Master, but then, few other than my minions have survived that revelation. Now... what shall I do with you?" he asked in a musing tone, then laughed without humor. "I know... a fitting end for such a weakling Jedi."
His hands rose waist high, curling into claws and a blue light began to form around the fingers and palms. Obi-Wan tensed, uncertain if he should attempt to flee and tell Yoda his discovery or stay to fight. Palpatine took the decision from him as Force lightning shot from his hands, striking Obi-Wan and dropping him to the floor. Obi-Wan writhed in exquisite pain, every nerve ending burning and contracting his muscles without relief.
Despite his shields, Obi-Wan's pain released an involuntary appeal for help. The fragile threads of his bond with Anakin passed this on to him as well as those Jedi remaining on Coruscant.
Anakin had gone to check on Amidala as his new employer bade him. Palpatine had expressed concern that she had been left alone too long and needed him. He found her alone as usual, pensively staring out at the bright Coruscant skyline and endless stream of vessels in the sky. She gave him a wan smile and reassured him that she merely felt tired.
"Then you should rest, Am," he insisted, pulling her into his arms.
She gave a shiver as she sank into his embrace, her fingers brushing his black clad arm absently.
"All right, Ani." She hesitated. "Are you certain of this decision? The Jedi need you so much right now. Palpatine has a great number of people working for him."
He stiffened, resentment at her questioning intruding into his concern for her. "I know what I'm doing, Am. And yes, the Emperor does need me. You of all people should know how important it is to have someone you trust implicitly. He has told me I am not only to work as his bodyguard, but as his Aide... his representative and liaison between him and the military."
With a nearly imperceptible sigh, Amidala retreated from him a short way though he still held her. "Very well. I... I understand, though I dearly pray you never regret going to him." She met his eyes, a distant, pained look in them. "Go to him then, Ani, if you must. I will wait here..."
Reluctant to leave her in such a mood, yet wishing to return to the Emperor, Ani placed a light kiss on her lips, then hurried back to his new Master. He had nearly reached the Senate Chambers when Obi-Wan's cry pierced him. Drawing his lightsaber, Anakin ran the rest of the way, a horrifying sight meeting his eyes.
In the semi-darkness of the deserted Senate chambers, a dark cloaked figure attacked his old friend and Master. Obi-Wan thrashed on the floor, trails of blue lightning wreathing around and through him. Anakin gave a yell and rushed the black robed figure. A wave of Force pressure pushed him back and then the creature drew its own lightsaber, igniting the red blade.
Obi-Wan freed from the Sith's attention, lay panting on the floor, weak and unable to do more than gasp. Anakin attacked, his saber's blue blade clashing with the red until sparks flew. Not a word did the thing say as they fought and Anakin remembered Obi-Wan's description of the duel with the Sith on Naboo. Was this another apprentice? Or did he face the Master?
Fury rose in him in memory of what had happened to Qui-Gon and what this... thing.... had done to Obi-Wan. No matter how much he might have chafed under his apprenticeship, he would never wish such a thing on his old Master. Fast and furious his blows fell on the opposing lightsaber blade until his opponent called up such a Force wave Anakin flew back against the wall. Dazed, he shook his head to clear it and nearly fell as the pressure suddenly released. He looked around for his adversary, but other than Obi-Wan and himself, the chamber was empty.
He struggled over to Obi-Wan, every muscle aching with fatigue. The fight might have lasted only moments, but Anakin had never experienced anything like it before. The creature possessed Force strength as no one he could recall... And darkness had surrounded it, swallowing it up without a trace. As Anakin helped Obi-Wan up, a grudging respect for the Sith pressed at him. To use the Force with such intensity... nothing he's seen as a Jedi had prepared him for it.
"Obi-Wan? Do you need a healer?" he asked. His old Master grimaced as he stood, then words boiled from him, as if he had lost control completely.
"That creature was your new Master, Anakin. That was Palpatine, self-declared Emperor, Sith Master... How can you go to him? He represents the Dark Side... all that we have fought against for so long. He thrives on pain and anger and hatred! Leave him! We need you. Amidala needs you. If you go to him, you will be more alone than you've ever been before," Obi-Wan warned him.
Anakin backed away, shaking his head in disbelief. "No, that's not true. I don't believe you. It can't be! The Sith Master orchestrated Qui-Gon's death. How could Palpatine be him? He's good... he means to help the regain order in the Galaxy." His face hardened and he glared at Obi-Wan. "I wanted to help you, but all you have proven is how jealous you are of him."
He whirled and strode away, his long legs carrying him from the Chamber and Obi-Wan... taking him away from all that he had known to a new and dark future he had but glimpsed for a moment. Obi-Wan's voice called his name, but he refused to look back.