A/N: Thanks so much to my old readers who have chosen to stick around :D Y'all are the best. Also thanks to my new followers! I hope everyone enjoys this chapter. Let me know what your thoughts were in a review and HAPPY NEW YEAR! :D
Obi-Wan hit the ground in a split-second of instinct. He knew he was dead already, but he wasn't going to stand there until he was burned to a crisp by blaster fire.
The ground singed beside him and the smell of burning hit his nose long before he dared make any move. He reached out with the Force, trying to ascertain what, if any, reason had caused his own troops to begin firing on him…
And was met with utter, peaceful silence.
For a moment, he was certain he was dead.
That was the only logical explanation for such a sudden, empty calm replacing the deadly assault he'd heard and seen moments before. Not even Jael, back inside the tent, was safe…she had surely been shot as well, even through the heavy canvas.
When he finally lifted his head, the sight that met his eyes at first didn't seem to disprove that assumption.
The world around him was frozen in time.
Clones held their blaster rifles aimed and firing at him, but no sound came forth. Their laser bolts hung suspended in the air, as each one of them stood motionless, like dolls or action figures in a child's play simulator.
Glancing down at himself, he saw that he was still intact, no sign of injury or apparition having taken over his body. Was this a vision, then? A dream? A warning?
The Force seemed to tell him otherwise.
His head whipped around as he got to his feet, and he was both astounded and horrified to see Jael, leaning against the supporting pole of the tent, both arms outstretched. Her nose dripped crystalline blood, and her eyes, though focused, looked as frozen as the clones in front of him.
Obi-Wan couldn't fathom what was happening. He'd never seen anything like this before, but the Force-echoes were clear—she had stopped time in the middle of its course!
"Your Padawan—" she choked out, eyes not meeting his but focused on the threat before them both. "—He needs you. Go to him!"
Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber, in a fleeting moment thinking that maybe, somehow, he could deflect all the bolts headed their way. He couldn't just leave…
To his horror, the world around him began to tremble slightly, as though struggling to break free from whatever grip Jael had applied to it. Sounds rushed and pulsed in his ears, and as she finally met his gaze, one word echoed through the Force that there was no way he could ignore:
Minutes later, Obi-Wan forced his hands to stop shaking as they struggled to hold on to his flight yoke and pilot him away from the system.
Jael was dead. There was no denying that. Whether from the immense strain of manipulating the Force in such a way as she had, or from the clone's firepower itself, it weighed on him more heavily than any other master's death since that of Qui-Gon.
What she had done unnerved him.
Right now, however, there were questions to be answered.
The clones had no reason to fire on them—not unless something incredibly huge had occurred. He was determined to find out what had happened.
He sent a warning message to Yoda and Mace Windu at the Temple—they could relay the message to other Jedi across the galaxy.
In the meantime, he had to find Anakin.
Anakin's eyes were narrow as he dropped silently into the hallway of the Separatist base on Mufastar. His gaze darted from right to left, then to the right again, before he slowly raised a hand to signal the clone troopers nearby to follow him.
They did so, stealthily creeping at a cautious run through the various corridors, inching their way closer to the meeting room where their targets, hopefully, were currently sitting bantha eggs.
A droid walked past and the Jedi silently assaulted it with the Force, focusing to twist the inner gears apart and strangle its voice-box, eventually causing it to collapse slowly to the floor. The clones exchanged glances at this display of power, but they continued to follow.
His limbs burned with purpose.
This was it. The final act of the war.
All these leaders were gathered in one place to plan the attack on Coruscant; they thought they were planning to win. How foolish of them to assume that the Republic would fall while they hid away on a lava-covered wasteland!
Yes, this was a much better idea than going to Machibo. He couldn't believe he'd almost rejected Palpatine's advice—no, his orders. He certainly wouldn't doubt his friend next time.
The clones followed him until they were just outside of the meeting room.
Inside, they could hear the faint sound of muffled voices. The Separatist leaders were planning their attack on Coruscant, but they were here to stop it before it ever occurred. Silently, Anakin signaled his commander to attach the listening device to the door. Although the Chancellor hadn't directed it, the Jedi wanted to know exactly what the plans were before he killed the leaders. That way they could stop anything that was already happening.
Strangely, his commander seemed to hesitate before attaching the device, but he slowly followed Anakin's orders.
Artoo crept up on his rollers to the device and activated it, sending a signal to the connection both Anakin and the Commander had placed in their ears.
Scratchy voices were heard at first, but after a second, the sound fizzled into something recognizable.
"…keeping things from us," he could hear a Neimoidian say. "Sidious is untrustworthy, I'm telling all of you! He's changed our deal hundreds of times and there's nothing we can do about it! This 'attack' on Coruscant is not what it seems."
"Would you have us cancel our appointments with a Sith Lord?" the smooth, serpentile voice of Gor-Nacka replied with distaste. "You know how dangerous that is, Lord Gunray."
Anakin's eyes widened as he listened. The Jedi had never been able to determine a name, but Master Yoda was still sure he existed—Sidious, apparently, was the name of the Sith lord they'd been looking for ever since Anakin was a child.
"I do not wish to have my head slashed from my shoulders or be strangled with the Dark Side of the Force!" Gunray replied hotly. "I do not care if my possessions are confiscated. Not anymore. They belong to Sidious now anyway."
"But that is what will happen to you if you do not comply," growled a female Nemoidian whose voice Anakin didn't recognize. "I agree, though; I too no longer trust our—ahem—ally in the Galactic Senate."
Anakin frowned deeply. Were they saying that the Sith they worked for was somewhere in the Senate?
"Excuse me, my friends," said the gruff voice of another Separatist, "Our little chat has been—enlightening—but I remain somewhat indebted to the Chancellor and therefore I must go prepare for battle."
The Republic spies flattened against the wall as footsteps headed toward the door and it slid open. The clones began to open fire, taking out the first man as he existed the room and marching inside to take out the rest as planned. "No, no, no, hold your fire!" Anakin shouted, grabbing any clones that were close to him and pulling them back. His troops looked around at him, confused, as Separatists leapt up, screaming.
"Chancellor's orders, Sir!" the Commander shot back harshly.
Anakin ignored him. "Hold the rest of them in there!" he ordered, turning to the wounded man on the floor in front of him. He grabbed him by the collar and used the Force to haul him up to face him closely, eye to eye. "What did you mean, 'indebted to the Chancellor?'"
The man coughed and gasped from the wound in his stomach and the life was draining from his eyes, but he faced Anakin boldly. "Don't you Jedi wish you knew?" A faint smile graced his lips, and his head fell forward, limply.
Anakin dropped him, turning to his troops. "Change of plans," he said, almost hoarsely. "Everyone in here is to be interrogated."
The cold end of a blaster suddenly met with his skull.
Shocked, he turned his eyes slightly to see the Commander holding it firmly to his head, his helmet obstinately masking any betrayal of emotion.
"I'm sorry, Sir," the clone said flatly. "Chancellor's orders."
Anakin found his voice after a moment of shock. "Commander—who is he, really?"
"My superior," the clone replied nonchalantly. "And yours. Fire on them," he ordered the rest of his troops, causing them to continue execution of the remaining Separatist leaders in the room. Their screams reached Anakin's ears as he remained frozen in place, and made him wonder if, in taking this mission, he had betrayed better people than himself.
"I wonder," he said softly, eyeing the man with a blaster trained on him, "which of us would really die first."
"Oh, I've no doubt it would be me, Sir," the clone replied immediately. "But there's this code, you see. And we've been bred all our lives to follow it. So even if you killed us all, you would still be a traitor to the Republic."
"The Republic is not a code, it's a people*," Anakin replied, thanking the Force he was married to a politician. "Where do you think my loyalties really lie?"
"This Republic is run by Chancellor Palpatine," barked the Commander.
The other clones, now done with their dirty work, surrounded the two of them on all sides. One by one, they all brought their blasters up to aim at Anakin.
A dread feeling grew up inside of him. He was surrounded by something much worse than his own troops betraying him. The Dark Side itself was at work here.
"Chancellor Palpatine," he licked his lips tensely, "is the same man who the people you just killed used to work for. He's ordering you to destroy each other."
"And what would you suggest we do?" the barrel didn't move from his skull.
He honestly didn't know, and he didn't want to say anything that would trigger a—well, the trigger of that blaster, first of all.
"You're soldiers. You fight," he replied.
"General," the Commander said tersely. "I trust you. We all trust you with our lives. But a clone is a clone. We were bred to serve the Chancellor."
Anakin met his eyes, even though he couldn't see them from under the helmet. "You are clones," he said quietly, and with gravity. "But you can still stand out."
"And do what? Follow you instead?"
"Maybe I'll follow you."
He almost could have smiled at the look he knew was on the other man's face as he stepped back and started shaking his head. The clone quickly recovered, though, because he never moved his hand from the blaster handle. Taking off his helmet, however, he looked around at his fellow troops.
"Tell him," he shouted the statement toward them. "Tell him we have to follow the code."
There was utter silence. None of the other clones dared to speak up and risk betraying either: their Chancellor, or their General.
The Commander's face hardened and he looked around at them with narrowed eyes. "Tell him we cannot follow him!" he barked, his louder voice echoing off the empty walls of the hallway.
As he spoke, the other members of the legion came running from their various positions around the base, where they had watched for intruders.
"We could hear your whole conversation through the comms," a captain spoke up angrily. He pointed his blaster at Anakin and the Commander. "They're traitors! Both of them!"
In the confusion of the few seconds it took him to realize what Order 66 meant, the Commander lowered his blaster, grabbed Anakin, and hurled his body in front of him. Some of the troops went to his side, others to the side of the clone who had ordered the fighting. Blasts flew, destroying the inside of the room and whizzing past Anakin's head. He quickly brought out his lightsaber and realized, as he fell into the usual ebb and flow of a battle, that half of his legion had sided against him and half had chosen to defend him. It was now clone against clone.
A bolt deflected here and there now struck down one of his own men, who were firing at him. The clones fought with emotion this time; at least, the ones who were breaking orders did. Brother against brother. Within a minute or two of fighting, Anakin could tell that although they were winning, the numbers of clones being lost by the continued battle was huge. He had to end it NOW or lose every man he'd come with.
Using the Force, he pulled down the entrance to the factory where molten rock was being used to forge new weaponry, and, kneeling with the effort it took to bring forth the power he needed, stretched out his arms and broke the metal bars from the door.
He pushed harder and grabbed machinery, anything and everything he could find with the Force, and pulled it through the doorway suspended in midair. With a huge, deafening BOOM, he pulled it down on top of the opposing clones, blocking out their screams as the hissing of cooling molten rock filled the room with steam.
He could hear shouts and firing and the pounding of feet all around him, but he couldn't get up to see what was going on. He remained rooted to the floor, the tiling hard under his knees, the steam rising up all around.
A faint voice called out next to him, and someone grabbed him roughly by the arm.
Gasping, his eyes flew open and he found he was being dragged away from the spreading pool of lava by the clone Commander, and his arms and legs quickly snapped back into motion and he scrambled up through a makeshift hole in the roof after the remainder of the clones.
Panting for breath, he stopped to look around at the men who had survived the unexpected battle. There were several dozens of them. That was all.
But they had stuck by him and now every single one was defying the Chancellor.
The Dark Lord Sidious.
Anakin felt dizzy. He couldn't think of what it was they were supposed to do next. Did they go back to Coruscant? Did they flee from Mufastar or try to contact somebody, and if so, who would they contact? The only person he knew who he could trust would be…
A blurry-looking Jedi cruiser suddenly emerged, descending through the ash from the nearby volcanic mountain they were now exposed to, from on the roof of the building. It landed on the roof and a man jumped out, one he knew very well.
Obi-Wan ran toward him, his eyes ablaze with shock. "Anakin!" he shouted. "What have you done?!"
Anakin looked down at the lightsaber, still ignited in his hand. He couldn't uncurl his fingers to let go of it. His vision grew worse. Obi-Wan didn't even look like himself anymore. "I—" He fell headlong, feeling numbly that his head struck the ground.
A sharp pain seemed to stab him from head to toe. They were grabbing him, pulling him up to face them. He barely made out their faces. There was pain, so much pain…
"What happened?" he could hear Obi-Wan barking to the clones.
The voices faded, ebbing in and out.
He cried out in pain as another sharp jab seemed to split his insides from each other. He had to get this under control. "Obi-Wan," he managed between gasps. "I'm sorry…"
"It was the Chancellor, Sir," he could hear a clone speaking up. "He wanted General Skywalker dead. I'll bet you anything he's the one behind this."
*totally stole that line from Thor: Ragnarok, although that wasn't my original intention haha.