Left alone, the silence was deafening. Anakin almost wished he had the sound of the respirator.
Distraught, he wondered to the room where his old suit was kept. "History, Obi-Wan? You'll see. You'll all see." he said bitterly to himself. He put the suit back on.
Then it hit him. "Kill me? She said she would kill me!?"
The storm winds moaned through the walls, rattled windows, banged or tossed anything that was not nailed down. Freezing rain pelted the land. Explosive thunder crashes tore through the night sky, accompanied with blinking bright lightning that came in straight lines, sheets, balls with arms sticking out of them, and big round bolts. "You traitor! I might as well have stayed with the dark side!" Anakin shouted into the storm. "I hate you, Ocean Elf! I hate you!"
During the night, frightened by the storm, Felicity wept, her heart pounding. "What’s going on?" She asked, her voice croaky with sleep. Expecting to hear Leia's boys, she heard Obi-Wan instead.
"There’s a terrible force storm going on right now. Anakin Skywalker is very upset. It’s a pity you have to see him like this."
With this, ben lead Felicity down the hallway. "Do not approach Anakin right now, ben cautioned. Simply listen." He paused a moment, rethinking what he was doing. "On second thought, Felicity, let's take you back to your room. This is something that doesn't concern you and is nothing you can do anything about. Seeing him that way would only frighten you more." With that, he lead her back to her room and stayed with her until she fell asleep.
But she didn't go to sleep. Felicity pondered what was wrong with Aniken.
"It is difficult to explain," Obi-Wan told her. "I will tell you what I know of his history in the morning. For now, it is important that you get some rest. And the next day, you will learn more. Now as I said, to sleep." Ben’s voice was calm, but stern. He sounded fatherly.
"Maybe he’s just lonely," Felicity suggested.
"That’s it!" Ben said. "He misses his beloved, and he is lonely without her. She died at the age of 27. Some say it was in childbirth,, But we know the truth. Alas, I am only a Jedi Knight, I do not have all the answers. However, there is someone wiser than I that might."
"Thinking for a moment, Felicity sad pulled up right. "SHEVE!" She said.
"Yes," Ben replied. "For now, it is time for you to sleep. It’s late, and it is way past your bedtime. Don’t worry, Anikan will be fine. He’s just very angry right now."
In his room, Sheev was having trouble sleeping too, and the storm was only partly to blame. The heated conversation between him and Ocean kept whirling around in his head, and the more he thought about it, the more doubts he had about his own behaviour that day.
"He stole out of his room to look for some place where data was kept on various people. When he got to Anakin's file, he skimmed and did cross-reference searches of the databank, and sure enough, to his dismay, what Elf had said was there. Anakin had committed torture and kidnappings.
Then he recalled the discussion he and Ben had about Anakin's thinking he could sweep Ocean off her feet in a matter of days. A woman as self-assured and forceful as that? Sheev let out a bitter chuckle at the absurdity of the idea.
He reflected on Felicity's terror at suddenly finding herself in a strange place, and the 'judgement' she had to face in order to qualify as pure enough for Anakin. Sheev shuddered in revulsion to think he took part in that. It was just a little girl for goodness sake.
Now this 60-year-old was storming like an angsty teenager, keeping everybody awake over some woman he'd only met a few days before.
Sheev pondered his own actions concerning the child that day as well. The more he thought about it, the less his actions made sense. What in the world had happened to himself and everybody else? Here they all were, still falling all over themselves trying to keep Anakin perfectly happy, and it had gotten to the point of judging a little girl and threatening a woman with banishment for a shouting rejection of the not even half-baked reason given for the judgment procedure on a little girl. Not only that, but the elf was only resisting pressure to get with this same Anakin, who thought he could have her along with everything else that got handed to him on a silver platter that week.
Sure, the elf said things Sheev was not pleased with, but if he had just listened more carefully to her instead of trying to run interference for Anakin, maybe things would not have gotten so heated.
Yes, Anakin's excuse for committing torture was that he was seduced by the dark side. But that didn't negate his responsibility for its commission. Then there was what Anakin did to his own wife and her former boyfriend. He couldn't even begin to excuse that with being seduced by the dark side. No wonder Ocean had no desire to take Padme's place at Anakin's side. And here Sheev had sat in judgment on an innocent little girl to see if she was worthy to meet that man. Should that not have been the other way around instead?
His mind flashed to a vision of Ocean Elf so near tears for only about a second during their confrontation that afternoon. What she was saying during that moment finally tugged at Sheev's heart. She was homesick. Worried she might never see her family again, or return to find them unwell. How could Sheev not have seen that her threat against Anakin was uttered out of extreme stress? It was no wonder she was so upset, nobody was really listening to her.
Ocean Elf's words echoed in his brain, the resentful words saying that it was all about Anakin and to heck with anyone else's needs.
With dismay, he realized that she was right.
"Well, that's it, I royally screwed up, and I'm not even sworn in yet. I'm not fit to be their new emperor if I'm going to let myself get lead around by the nose at the hand of some kid who should be grateful for what he has, what most people never have handed to them in their lives. I only hope I don't traumatize that child any further than she has been already." he said to himself as he got up and went on his way to see if Felicity was okay.
Ben was just coming out of the little girl's room, and the two met in the hall.
"How is she?" Sheev asked.
"She is frightened, and sorry for Anakin's loneliness. But she should be fine once she stays asleep."
Sheev frowned. "Ben, I need to talk to you. See you in the meeting room within," he pondered, "half an hour?"
"I will be there." Ben said.
"Good. I have an apology to make." Sheev said, and eventually made his way to the little girl's room.
Felicity, still awake, heard the gentle knock, and thinking it was Ben coming back, said, "Come in."
She shuddered when it was Emperor Sheev who entered instead.
"Felicity, dear," he said gently, approaching the bed, looking at the girl with sad, gentle eyes. "Please, don't be frightened of me. I'm not here to scold or judge you, or make you feel uncomfortable. I'm here to apologize to you."
"Apologize? For what?" the girl asked, confused.
"I am so very sorry for that so-called judgment thing I put you through yesterday. You are a new arrival, a young girl, and although I have no idea why you would want to see Anakin, I had no right to make you stand in judgment as if you weren't good enough to meet anyone you wish. I've done some soul-searching of my own and really don't like what I've seen lately. It is me who needs to stand in judgment, to see if I measure up as a good enough emperor for you."
Felicity looked awestruck. She opened her mouth to say something, but at a loss for words, shut it again.
"May I ask you a friendly question, my dear?" Sheev broke the silence.
The girl nodded.
"What made you want to see Anakin so badly when you came?"
"I had a dream about a man in a respirator, a sad man asking me to help him. He was crying in my dream. He told me where he was and how to get there. He said there was a girl he loved who didn't love him back. He said I should meet him first, and then go look for the girl and tell her to treat him better because he was on a respirator for more than thirty years. He said he wouldn't stop crying until she would love him the way she should. He was so sad, I didn't know what kind of girl would want to be cruel to him."
Sheev looked dismayed. "when did you have this dream?"
"Three nights ago. It was all I could think about since."
"So when you got here, you found things were much different from your dream, and maybe not so sad, but a lot more frightening. And I am so sorry for adding to that fear."
"It's okay, Your Majesty."
Sheev gave a surprised chuckle. "We are friends, if you want me to be your friend, and you may just call me Sheev.
"Thank you." said Felicity.
"Now, try to get some sleep. The storm will wear itself out in time. If it will help you to imagine the thunder and lightning as a fireworks show, I'll tell you a secret, Felicity."
"What's that, Sheev?"
"When I was your age, I was terrified of thunder storms. I used to hide in the closet."
Felicity giggled at the thought of the emperor as a child, standing in a closet, scared of a storm.
"And one day, my Grandpa was staying over, and he told me to think of the storm as nature's fireworks. I didn't stop me from being afraid completely, but it helped a lot. I could stand at a window and look out at the beautiful light show, and wasn't so startled when the thunder clap would follow, because the interesting thing about nature's fire works is that the flashes almost always come before the blasts."
"I like that story." said Felicity. "I can't see the lightning, but I know what fireworks sound like. So I will think of it as Anakin's fireworks. His lonely fireworks."
"Don't worry about Anakin. He is going to have to learn that you can not make someone love you if they don't."
"I'm confused about that too. In my dream, he told me some girl didn't like him. But Ben said his he was missing his wife who died." the girl said.
"He was probably talking about a different girl in your dream, a girl he has been trying to win over since he brought her here by force several days ago."
"That doesn't sound very nice." said Felicity.
"No, it isn't. Desperation seldom is nice." Sheev smiled. "Well, don't worry. Try if you can, to forget that dream. Don't be angry with the girl who made him sad in it. She hasn't don'e anything wrong by not wanting to be his girl. She helped him destroy the last emperor who was a very bad man. That's what the plan initially was, according to Obi-Wan. Anakin needs to be grateful for that much and stop being so pushy. Most everyone goes through boy or girl trouble when they grow up, especially when they set themselves up for it by expecting someone to love them who does not. Now, how about you try to get some sleep, and we'll talk more tomorrow. This time, I'd like to know more about you and your own story. If you are in need of a home and good people to live with, I will do all I can to help you."
"You mean that?"
"I mean that from the bottom of my heart, my dear." Sheev patted her on the shoulder. "Now, nighty-night. Don't let the storm clouds fight."
Sheev smiled at her, and left the room.
"This mind-tyranny has got to stop." he said to himself as he made his way to the meeting room, where he found Ben waiting.
"Ah Sheev," said Ben, "I meant to ask who you were making the apology to, and for what, but you were off before I had the chance."
"I apologized to the little girl for that warped judgment ordeal we put her through yesterday. Ben, we have all been mind napped - by Anakin Skywalker. He is misusing the force and what other tools he might have in that meditation chamber he has to bend our wills to his bidding."
"What?" Ben asked, incredulously."
"Now that I'm coming into my own right mind, I've realized that I've done some things during the previous day I never would've dreamed of doing. I sat in judgment on a poor scared little child, who was brought here by what I think was the combined use of her force and Anakin's."
"Anakin said he didn't bring her here."
"And you believe him?"
"Ben sighed. "I'm not sure what to believe. Things have been so chaotic with him since he found Ocean Elf and brought her here. It's been a war of wills between them from the start."
"Felicity told me about a dream she had three days ago, a dream in which Anakin in his suit was crying over a girl and making the child want to come here and find first him, then the girl he wanted, to persuade her to love him."
"Ocean Elf," Ben said.
"Yes. Felicity doesn't know that, but we do. I reassured Felicity that it was just a dream, and that Anakin would be fine, and told her not to be upset with the woman Anakin was crying over in that dream. And speaking of Ocean, the things I said to her yesterday were so unbecoming of an emperor that she put the question to me as to which of us was really running the show here, me, or Anakin."
"She actually said that?" Ben asked incredulously. "I can't imagine you saying anything so out of line for your position."
"It isn't just what I said, and it isn't even really about Ocean Elf. She's just the one who pointed the problem out. Her words were exactly, 'Anakin is not the emperor, you are.'"
"Yes, that's true," Ben said.
"Anakin made sure to stack things in his favour to make her submit to his will. We were all used for that purpose, including me. I said some things in knee-jerk fashion. And when I think of the time I spent with her the day before when taking her to release Schmi from her suspended animation, it makes what I said to her all the more regrettable. Ben, just because Ocean Elf helped Anakin down Sidious once and for all does not mean she should be forced or even persuaded to enter into any kind of relationship with Anakin."
"Helped?" Ben asked. "She annihilated Sidious all by herself. We all wanted it done as soon as possible, but Anakin was too weak and worn out from the scrubbing the previous day that we urged Ocean to go ahead and get the job done."
Sheev looked dismayed. "Oh, wow. Here I thought it was mostly Anakin's effort, with her help. Now I know I've really messed up. I just threatened to banish the one who annihilated Sidious, oh, gracious sakes!"
"What happened?" Ben asked.
"I met her in the lounging room chatting with Luke and Leia, and she said something about getting ready to leave and she went to her room. I followed her, guns blazing for Anakin, I was on a crusade to make her see that she should submit to Anakin's wishes. And if that isn't bad enough, I had already played a huge part in traumatizing a poor little girl with a judgment - something I actually knew nothing of. I couldn't actually see into her soul and tell her what kind of nature she had, I was supposed to say I could. The little girl did not see Anakin had fitted me with some small device and I put one on the girl as well, so it would feel like I was boring through her chest with my eyes. I felt the weirdest tremor when I looked at her and the devices communicated with each other. I saw the terror in her eyes. Skywaker took those devices when I surrendered the little girl over to him. I shudder to think what he did to her in there. He has her mind so messed up that she was still worrying over him when I went to check on her now. Tell me, what kind of emperor engages in this psychological terror? Even if I eventually live this down with you, I will never liv it down in my own conscience."
"You were only doing what you were asked and agreed to do."
"Agreed without thinking. Ben, now that Anakin is healed, he could use the force or make any demand and expect it to be done or else. The fact he was able to yank someone out of their home in a different galaxy for his own purpose is terrifying, and that was when he was still weakened by that suit. I was too scared to resist, and just took the cowardly way out and went along. I should have told you and especially him to put a stop to this nonsense and let me worry about putting security measures in place. That child was no threat, and certainly not impure."
Ben didn't even seem to hear what Sheev said after mentioning the suit, for he went back to making excuses for what Anakin did to Ocean Elf. "It was a desperate act."
"No, it was an act of insanity. Thank goodness the little girl forgave me, for now, but it'll probably keep coming back to her."
"I was talking about Anakin bringing Ocean Elf here being a desperate act." Ben said.
"And I'm not sure the elf bought my attempt at an explanation of why he did it." said Sheev. The truth is, I don't buy it myself. Communication failures prevented him from contacting her, yet he could bring her here in one go?"
"It wasn't communication failure, it was a communication block. She had his attempts blocked already when he tried to contact her the first time." Ben said.
"She said that he does not have a good reputation where she comes from. She told me some things about him, and please don't defend any of it to me. If he wanted Ocean's help, he could have asked you or Luke, or someone she respects, to attempt to communicate with her."
"And if she were still to refuse to help Anakin?"
"Then at least you could say you tried.. But Anakin took matters into his own hands, and I don't think she will ever forgive him for that, even though she understands the desperation behind it."
We even offered to try contacting her, asking her to down Palpatine. But every time Yoda or I proposed that idea to Anakin, saying that Ocean wouldn't even have to deal with him, he seemed to lose interest and just said he would keep trying on his own."
Did that strike you as strange?" asked Sheev.
Ben nodded. "Anakin has his moods, and there are just things Anakin does that only Anakin knows the reasons for. But it did make us wonder if he really just wanted Sidious ended, or if he had some sort of agenda. That agenda became clear when he actually managed to bring Ocean here. And what a lot of fast thinking and convincing Yoda and I had to do on his behalf to keep Ocean from leaving that first night.""
"Now he has made a terrible enemy of her, and perhaps we all have as well. Sure, some good things came out of it, but I don't feel comfortable about the possibility that Anakin might try to push things with Ocean, worse, mind nap us again. How does one defend against this?" said Sheev.
"He is beyond listening to anyone, and now that he's healed and much stronger, I'm afraid that will get even worse." said Ben.
"So we just sit back and let him get what he wants, no matter the cost to anyone else? I don't understand why I failed to see that until Ocean lashed out at me. We are orbiting around Anakin - that's what she said."
"Seeing his over-reaction to Elf's ignoring him and then leaving without a word, I agree. I already tried to reason with him before the storm hit, to no avail." said Ben. "For what it's worth, I feel badly about my part in what the child was put through too. Neither do I understand Anakin's behavior. You and Ocean brought Schmi back, and yet Anakin paid no attention to her at all yesterday. He just sat in that chamber, waiting to judge little Felicity, and probably hoping Ocean would seek him out and start a relationship. He even had me hoping against hope that would work. Luke and Leia really seem to get along with her, and I've seen little glimpses of the sort of person she can be when she is not uptight. I guess part of me would like someone like her in our lives. But, we really muddled it all up."
"Well, you being so close to Anakin, it makes more sense that you would get lead askew, but I have no excuse other than feeling intimidated by him. He summoned me here too when he was being healed by that droid. I heard myself saying things that just came into my mind without consciously thinking of them." said Sheev.
"He could not do that to Ocean Elf." said Ben. "And he tried. He told me that Ocean did not like his saying he detected a force field around her. That means he actively tried to influence her, to control her, and he could not."
"Ocean likes to be in control of herself."
"Yes, she made that clear upon arrival." said Ben, "She rebuffed any attempts to start conversations with her about Anakin's painful suit. She wanted nothing to do with him from the start, and we had to contrive a scrubbing situation and make her witness it to some degree before we even got the smallest degree of sympathy for him from her. We knew without that, she was not likely to stick around past the destruction of Palpatine, and Anakin had such dreams of eventually marrying the one who helped him get rid of Sidious for good this time."
. "But did you even stop to consider why she didn't want to talk about his pain? What you put her through was emotionally cruel. What I tried to do to her on Anakin's behalf just added to the problem and possibly sent her over the edge. She mentioned being concerned about her family back home. Suppose she's already seen enough suffering and was not up to facing any more."
"I know. But this was important.
"Because it was for Anakin." Sheev added.
"What are you implying?" Ben felt himself starting to go on the defensive.
"Anakin likes to be in control of others." said Sheev. "Those around him may have gone nose-blind to it, but the elf could smell it from miles away. You can't get two people with both control issues to get along well. My miserable attempt at mediation was a colossal failure, and made me look like a fool into the bargain. And if Ocean will even speak to me, I'll see about travelling to where she is at and try to patch things up."
"You did your best. We all tried our best for Anakin."
"That's the problem. As she said, it was all for Anakin, all that mattered. I know he had it rough, but he is not the only one, and it does not give him the right to set himself up as some kind of god-like figure that other people have to pass purity judgments to be in his presence, or use the force to yank people right out of their own homes for any reason. I will be passing laws that make those kinds of activities highly illegal. Real safety laws and measures will be put in place and any kind of torture will be as illegal as it gets.""
"I secretly didn't think that was such a good idea yesterday, but Anakin thought if he could get a little child to express longing to meet him, and then be told what she would under go, right in front of Ocean Elf, that it would finally convince the woman that she should at least give him a chance and let him into her life a little, then eventually she might start to have feelings for him."
"She is not only on to this plan, but she literally hates Anakin. She told me in so many words."
Ben looked disappointed. "I was afraid of this." he said.
"The elf's steeliness is what makes her able to resist any attempt at manipulation on her. It is that quality which enabled her to do what she's done against dark forces that so many others crumbled beneath. But if you want her to work with you on something, she already has to want it, you cannot make her want it. So you got her cooperation on Palpatine because she wanted an end to his ruthless rule. But as far as a romance with Anakin is concerned, she is a hopelessly lost cause. I only hope something has not happened back at home so that she comes back here to unleash some kind of wrath because of the mess Anakin has made of things."
"Now you're just being way too hard on him. He's gone through so much."
"That does not mean we owe him a living. Why should any one else just give him whatever he wants regardless of their own needs, feelings, and lives, just because he wore that suit for decades? He is healed now, and it's time he learns to stop dwelling on it, start really respecting other people, and I don't mean by apologizing every time he pushes some boundary, only to push another. He can't use his traumatic past to manipulate other people any longer."
"He isn't manipulating anyone. Ocean would still be here if he was." Ben objected.
"No. Ocean left because she saw his manipulation of the people around her, me being a prime example of it until I could really clear my head after our argument."
"Are you saying she mind-tricked you?"
"No, and she didn't read or control my thoughts. I felt no such pull on my mind. I was completely on fire for Anakin and barely listening to a word she said until I had time to myself, time to process and reflect what went wrong. It was when I started thinking about myself and my own actions, and some of the things she said, pointing them out, when I realized I had even betrayed myself and my own ethics for Anakin. We all have. Now that we know what's been going on, we have a fighting chance at putting a stop to it, and preventing it from happening again. We were caught off guard. So was Ocean Elf, but she resisted because she is simply too strong for him, and he is going to have to face that fact. I'm sorry if you may think this is harsh, but it has to be faced."
"No, much as I hate to admit it, you are right. I was confused by Anakin's behaviour, thinking he would be happy to have healed, and be too overjoyed at reuniting with Shmi to even think about Ocean. I kept hoping he would snap out of it and become the happy man he indicated he would be once out of that suit. But look at him now."
Ben and Sheev agreed that nothing more could be done that night, and they would just have to deal with tomorrow and the rest of the future as it happened.
The storm raged on outside.
In the morning, there was no sign of Anakin, but the storm had subsided.
Ben went looking for him and found him asleep in his meditation chamber, back in his old suit.
Ben turned in disgust, and quietly walked away.