Obi-Wan sought out Anakin after checking in with the Council. Only three members still resided on Coruscant. Even several Masters with seats on the Council had been called into action. Those who remained behind greeted him with grim expressions, informing him of the manner in which Padawan Skywalker had demanded his trials and had given them an ultimatum. They had put him off again for a short while, but Yoda counseled Obi-Wan that trouble brewed in that quarter... and terrible danger.
"Long ago warned Qui-Gon we did. A shadow over young Skywalker loomed. Closer now this seems," Yoda told Obi-Wan. Mace nodded his head in agreement.
"Master Yoda has it correctly. Something... indefinably disturbing has grown in your Padawan. Something very dark," Windu added. "Perhaps you can convince him of the fine line he treads at this moment and the potential for disaster he courts."
Obi-Wan's heart sank at their words and he sought out Adi Gallia's face. There too, he saw distress on a visage where he'd only seen serenity reflected in the past, no matter the circumstances. He bowed, mumbled something appropriate and set off toward the Chancellor's quarters.
Amidala sat alone, for her handmaidens had remained on Alderaan. Sabe' had told Obi-Wan to ask the Queen if she wished for her company on Coruscant. From the lonely look on Amidala's face, he suspected she regretted returning here.
"Your Majesty?" he began.
She rose with a sad smile on her face. "Ah, Obi-Wan... How good to see you."
"And you, Amidala. Is Ani here?"
"No, he's with... Palpatine. Something's happening today, something I've feared for some time." She turned away to gaze out at Coruscant's skyline. In profile, Obi-Wan could see the slight bulge of her abdomen. Had so much time really passed?
"How are you?" he asked hesitantly, not certain how to broach the subject of her pregnancy.
"Well enough, I suppose. Though I could wish for Esme' and Sabe's presence at least. But Ani says it is safer for them to remain on Alderaan. Tell me... how are they? How are things there?"
"Sabe' sends her regards and says she will come to you if you need her. Esme' remains busy on Alderaan... especially..." He paused, then continued, knowing she would find out, if she didn't already know. "The Mandalorians punished Alderaan for producing weapons and ships for the war. So many of the cities suffered. Much will need rebuilding, I fear."
One of Amidala's hands flew to her mouth as if to stifle a cry. She struggled to remain calm, and then drew on some special reserve to regain her composure.
"Perhaps you can convince Ani to stop this... He told me he plans to turn his back on the Jedi to work for Palpatine. I cannot be happy with this. Some dark purpose seems at work here, though Ani tries to reassure me all will be well."
Tears pooled in her eyes. "I fear for our child, Obi-Wan. The world he or she will be born into seems heading toward a terrible place at this moment."
Obi-Wan took her cold hand and pressed it gently. "Whatever I can do for you, Your Majesty... Amidala... just tell me. Qui-Gon would have offered as much as that. How can I offer any less?" He gave a crooked smile, bowed to her, then took his leave to confront Anakin and Palpatine.
This must cease, for only bad things could come of such an alliance. This he felt deeply in his soul as he remembered Qui-Gon's words in the Jedi Temple's garden months ago. As his old Master's spirit had warned, Anakin's disaffection spelled disaster not only for himself, but for many. Was this the fate of the Son of the Suns Yoda had foreseen all those years ago? The clouded future he had predicted?
He found Anakin at the entrance to the Senate's chambers, standing guard behind the Chancellor. Traditional Jedi robes had given way to black tunics and cape and a shudder passed through Obi-Wan. Too similar to the garb the Sith apprentice had worn in the past duels Qui-Gon and he had fought on Tattooine and Naboo. Yet, what frightened Obi-Wan most was how comfortable... how appropriate the ebony robes seemed. They appeared to increase Anakin's height and draw on the powerful Force signature that identified his... former apprentice. Painful as it was, Obi-Wan had to admit he had lost Anakin somewhere along the way. Just exactly how, he couldn't put his finger on, but the sharp prick of loss made him less than wise with his words once he managed to get Anakin alone.
What the Chancellor had to say, Obi-Wan failed to hear, for his concentration on his failure with Anakin blocked his ears. However, it appeared Palpatine knew he stood behind him and with a lull in the proceedings, he excused himself to address Obi-Wan.
"Knight Kenobi. How may we be of service?" he asked, his eyes glinting with suppressed humor.
"A word with... Anakin... if you please, Chancellor," Obi-Wan requested, feeling extremely out of place and as awkward as he had as a young Padawan himself, newly under Qui-Gon's disapproving eye.
"Certainly. Now if you will excuse me. I have an important announcement to make to the Senate. My young... employee... may spend a few moments with you, but I fear I will require his attention shortly. Things could become... interesting shortly," Palpatine told him with a chuckle, then returned to his box.
Obi-Wan turned to find Anakin glaring at him as if he were the enemy. Disappointment, guilt, sadness... so many negative emotions bubbled inside that he scarcely considered the impact his words would have on his already estranged student.
"You're too impatient, Anakin. Everything has come too easily for you. What takes others years to master you have done in months. Why can't you be satisfied to learn how to center yourselfí¶’í¿ perfect what you've learned?" Obi-Wan's stern look triggered Anakin's outburst.
"Stop badgering me, Master. It's not my fault Master Qui-Gon died." *You were too slow,* remained unsaid. *If it had been me things would have been different.* "The Chancellor has offered me the position of his personal bodyguard and aide. I don't care if you don't believe I'm ready. I am, and I'm taking the position."
Obi-Wan scowled at him, disapproval in every line of his body. "This reckless abandonment of your training will prove dangerous. The Council was right all those years ago. And what of Amidala? Have you considered her and your child? You have disappointed me in this decision, Anakin."
Pain lanced through Anakin. He could never prove himself to his master. No matter how long ago, Anakin believed Obi-Wan still blamed him for Qui-Gon's fate. He had lost count of how many times he kept repeating to himself that his master merely missed Qui-Gon and felt guilty at being unable to save him. But the first time Anakin told Obi-Wan of Chancellor Palpatine's offer of employment, he sensed his former master's displeasure and tightly held anger. Now he dared drag Amidala into the whole affair. He'd half decided he would give the Chancellor's employ a trial period while the Council fussed and discussed ad nauseum his petition. Obi-Wan's words drove any desire to return to the Jedi from him.
"I will do as I deem necessary... and this is necessary, Obi-Wan. The Council will not see their way to allowing me Knighthood, so there is no course open to me but to go to the Chancellor. Only here will I be able to use my abilities as they should be... only in his employ will anyone appreciate what I must do to make things right."
Behind and above them, Palpatine made his shocking declaration. A prolonged hush fell over the chamber, as if those present could not believe their ears.
"I believe this in the best interests of the member worlds of the Republic. Throughout these frightful times, dissension and disharmony have nearly proved our undoing. Only with one strong person to direct things will order be restored to the galaxy." He paused, relishing their disbelief, their very real fear of his next move. "Once again, I declare the position of Chancellor null and void and place myself at the head of the new Order. From hence forth, I proclaim myself Emperor, in order to bring true cohesiveness to our member worlds."
The ensuing clamor pleased him to no end. He sensed the confrontation between his new young apprentice and the Jedi as he listened to the uproar. Soon, he would reveal everything... well, nearly everything... to young Skywalker and then the transformation would truly begin.