Fallout

"I'm sure you do," said the emperor, "Including that she has a mother and father. But if not - " his opening to attempt persuading the elf to start giving in to Anakin's agenda concerning her.

"Anakin might want to be a father figure to her," the elf choked out the phrase with a grimace, "but it will never be Daddy Anakin and Mommy Ocey, never." she said, doing up her jacket to go."

"Never's a long time," said Sheev, "what if you two were the only two adults on this planet?"

"I do not ponder such hypotheticals. If that was the case, I would take her to my home world and see about finding her an adoptive home. Besides, maybe the little girl already has parents. If not, surely there are other people around who would give a loving home to this child. Try looking beyond Anakin for once."

Sheev sighed. "This is going to break his heart."

At her wit's end, Elf's expression hardened. "That's too damn bad." she said tersely.

"Ocean Elf," Sheev said with a stern edge returning to his tone, "I may not be officially emperor yet, but you watch your language when talking to me...!"

"Sorry, I'll re-fraise - that's too darn bad." she said. "Look, I realize he's probably wanting for some female companionship since he caused his wife to die of a broken heart by turning to the dark side, and don't give me all those excuses about how he did that to save her etc. etc. It ads up to epic fail all around. The fact is that companionship is not gonna come from me, not now, not in the near future, not in the forseeable or unforeseeable future, not ever..."

"He must've had such high hopes - " said Sheev, "Not since his late wife Padme has a woman come along and - "

"Yes, well, his hopes that I was supposed to help him attain, were met. He is healed now. He no longer requires the suit. I did what was originally expected, nothing more, nothing less. Anakin doesn't owe me anything but his abscence, and I don't owe him a - " she checked herself just in time to avoid another language admonishment, "freaking thing! He should've been spending time with Shmi instead of fooling around with child-exploiting judgments and obsessing over me!"

"Elf - "

"Did you see how little he cared when he was reunited with Shmi?"

"No, I saw how warmly everyone else welcomed her, then his old suit gave way to the new. After that, it was a bit of a blurr. I didn't get a good look at either of them for a while. said Sheev."

"Shmi hugged him, but he didn't look happy about it. He almost looked - " the elf shrugged, "dismayed, maybe a little scared. He gave her the coldest attempt at an embrace I've seen. I saw the hurt on her face when they disengaged!"

"I can't believe I missed that." said Sheev.

"It was only a moment, and everyone else was fawning all over him and that supposed suit miracle trick."

Sheev got the idea to feel Elf out a little, and hopefully take the focus off Anakin. It might buy him some time, even if it got her goat. At this point, Sheev was desperate to escape Vader's anger. "Elf," he speculated, "I can't be sure if what I'm hearing from you is jealousy or contempt."

"At this point," the elf countered, rolling her eyes, "I can't tell if you're as blind as everyone else or just nuts. The only one who might be jealous of Anakin is dear old Palpitations Insidious or some other sadistic slime ball...!"

"Point taken." Sheev responded.

"Back to what happened..." Elf continued. "Shmi put a brave face on it and joined in the celebration, but it had to be tough on her. And ever since, I have not seen that angsty brat give her the time of day...!"

Sheev winced, appalled. But he was getting exhausted and only hoped Vader wouldn't take his anger out on him if he couldn't get the elf to change her mind.

She continued quieter but still in frigid tones. "He and I don't have anything in common and never will. His Super-sonic hearing creeps me out. I don't wanna stick around where somebody can hear what I say or what I eat and drink from who knows where else in the building. I am not even remotely attracted to him. Anakin getting any idea, after only a few days, that he and I could be an item, is repulsive and insanity off the charts." then her voice became deeper, and threatening. "And if he ever manages to put me somewhere against my will again, he will regret it, as the very last thing he ever does."

Sheev looked horrified. He did not dare to say anything but, "You surely don't mean that."

"I - mean - it..." the elf said in a quiet but menacing tone that was nearly a whisper. if it were not for getting myself into loads of trouble with you lot, I could've annihilated him right along with that last version of Mr. Insidious. I just want him out of my life and hope this is a strong enough hint. And I would prefer if he went out of Felicity's too...!"

There was a punishing silence.

Sheev frowned, troubled. He knew what he had to do in order to avoid Anakin's wrath, even if it meant going against his own conscience this time. He dare not confide in Elf what the problem was and risk suffering more force-enduced agony from Anakin Vader. He would rather risk angering the elf.

Sheev finally collected himself. At length, he said calmly but decisively, "Ocean, I now relieve you of your duties here."

The elf narrowed her eyes accusingly at him. "It's clear whose side you're on. You didn't hire me, so you can't fire me; I quit." She spat coldly.

"Must you always have the last word?" Sheev asked, becoming vexed.

"You're hardly the first to point that out." she said stoically.

"That does not surprise me." said Sheev, throwing his hands up in a show of vexation.

"Bottom line is there will never be an Anakin and I, no matter how many crocodile tears he cries over it or how many people he gets to run interference for him."

Sheev looked crest-fallen. So she had figured it all out. And his failure to move her would surely result in some horrible consequences from the newly heald and strengthened man who brought about this whole situation.

"I've had it, I'm done!" The elf continued, "And trust me on this one, it would not be good for anyone if I was forced to stay here and fulfill some role out of obligation. So I'm off."

"Elf, don't do this, don't leave this way. Let's talk it over." said Sheev.

"There is nothing left to say! Look," the elf indicated the dresser, "I've got these business cards, one for Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan, and Yoda. Shmi and Felicity are welcome to contact me too, but they can just copy the info from one of these,"

"But surely," Sheev said, troubled by something she said earlier, "you didn't actually mean you'd make good on that threat if summoned again. Tell me you don't mean that literally."

"Nobody is ever gonna get away with that again. Suppose I got spirited away and couldn't get back, That actually happened when Vader kidnapped me, the first place he put me was no-teleport zone. I was relieved to find another area that let me come and go. But suppose I couldn't, and something happened to one of my family while I was here?" The elf sounded and looked on the verge of tears, but fought them back with a vicious bluster, continuing, "I'm holding Anakin personally responsible!" she hissed.

"I realize this must've shaken you terribly. But I don't know how to break this to Anakin." Sheev said.

The elf glared. "Anakin Schmanakin! He's a big boy, he'll survive! Just tell him to forget I even exist...! Unless he's already overheard... the others are welcome to contact me - but not on his behalf!" Her glare mellowed into a steely determined gaze as she looked at Sheev. "He is not the new emperor...You are."

"Ocean," he said, still trying to avoid more force torture from Vader, "I feel as if I owe him - to make up for the things the last emperor did."

"You don't." she replied. "The debt Palpatine owes to every citizen he - and Vader and that lot harmed simply can't be repaid. You can only forge ahead and be the best emperor you can be, to all citizens."

"That's sound advice. "Will you take mine? Go home, make sure your loved ones are all right, then get yourself some rest. Forget about Anakin Skywalker, then come back when you feel up to it. You'll always be welcome to visit."

"Gladly." the elf said, "but you threatened banishment, so I will not be back." she gave him an ice cold glance. "goodbye, sir."

With that, she disappeared.

Shaking his head dejectedly, Sheev slowly left the room and went on his way. He had put on a good front and avoided Vader's wrath for now, but he hadn't actually expected the elf to leave the planet. Now that she was gone, Sheev knew that he was now at Vader's mercy. They all were. If only the elf had simply thrown Sheev out of her room instead, and confronted Vader later, maybe everyone would've had a chance at freeing themselves from the strange hold Vader had over them.

Yet, Sheev, like the others, still felt a bizarre kind of sympathy for him, and he couldn't figure out why.

But there was one thing he could try to put right, and that was to make up for what happened before his fight with the elf. So he went looking for little Felicity.

He tried so hard to reassure Felicity that he was not a frightening individual, and he had to inform the others that Ocean Elf had left.

Back on Earth, Cosima and Ameh were about to call it a 'slow work day at Mission HQ when a door was roughly opened and slammed. The closet door was subjected to the same treatment, and the coat hangers were violently jangled.

Neither fairy had the chance to get up and go see who it was. A furious elf stalked into the room.

"Ocey!" Ameh exclaimed.

"Welcome back, what happened?" asked Cosima.

"Guys, I'm really sorry about this, you all must've been worried sick. It wasn't my idea to go in the first place, let alone be away this long."" Elf said quickly.

What happened?" Cosima repeated. "Are you okay?"

The elf huffed and seemed to clam up. "No, I am not." she said. A few moments later, she picked up the phone and dialled.

There were a few minutes of emotional conversation with first her dad, then her mom, and then she hung up, heaving a big sigh. "Thank goodness everybody's all right." she said, looking much better for a few moments.

"Do you want to talk about it, Elf?" Ameh asked.

The elf shook her head. "I'm just glad everyone back here is all right. And this will never happen again!"

What?" Ameh persisted.

The elf looked livid. "Only the most exasperating, spirit-crushing, ignominy of a trip I never asked to go on! Nobody gets away with that!" she fumed.

Who was it?" asked Cosima.

"Elf shook her head. "It's just too insulting to go into detail. Nearly a week out of my life that I'll never get back!" she huffed. "But we're going to take care of something right now. I want this property and area surrounding it secured so no one can set up portals and grab people from here against their will ever again!" She worked with Ameh and Cosima to put those measures in place.

Later, friends and family threw a dinner party to welcome her back.

Back on Tatooine, Luke and Leia were surprised and dismayed, as they enjoyed her company.

Ben appeared to be unhappy about the news too, saying, "We have all got to stop trying to force Elf to assist Anakin with anything. She will not come back otherwise."

"Contact her, shall I?" Yoda suggested.

"No, I don't think even you could reason with her." said Sheev.

"Once before, I have."

"You probably were never on the receiving end of her wrath." Sheev said, still trying to avoid Anakin Vader's wrath in case he was eaves-dropping..

"Nor have I tried forcing her hand." said Yoda.

"I didn't, did I?" Sheev asked.

"A gun do her head, you did not have," said Yoda, "but saw the subtle manipulation she saw, as Anakin tried getting you to help him make her see him for something he will never be to her. A new emperor you are, and various codes and rules you will need to change or abolish. This judgment of newcomers is one of them. We never had such a mandate before except under some form from Palpatine. Made it up on the spot, Anakin did. New you are to your position. Take advantage of this, he did."

"I agree. I didn't feel it was my place to say anything, but that process made me uneasy." Sheev admitted, looking relieved. Could it be the others were starting to regain their own heads too? Maybe there would be a chance for them after all if Anakin Vader decided to punish anyone.

Sheev took out a notepad and small pencil from his pocket, tore out a page, hastily wrote something on it and handed the page to Yoda.

Yoda read it, looked dismayed, passed the note to ben, who gaped.

The note read:

'Anakin's wrath is worse than the elf's. He choked me a couple of times when I tried to allay Felicity's fears in that throne room. I didn't dare let the elf know in case he was listening. That could get me assassinated.'

Ben wrote back.

'We all know an act of force-choking from him is deliberate," said Ben. "He probably didn't like you deviating from the script he wanted you to recite in there.'

'How are we going to get out alive and unharmed?' Sheev pondered.

The others exchanged thoughtful glances.

Sheev couldn't seem to stop now, and had to let the others know more about the judgment procedure. The conversation turned back from written notes to talking. "He also tried to amuse himself at Felicity's expense. I can't believe I got myself into this."

What do you mean, Sheev?" Ben asked.

I found out from the elf that he had placed many obstacles along the corredor to the throne room, where he wanted Felicity to navigate on her own. The only reason he would do that is to trip her up. And I have a strong suspicion he was planning to blame that all on me, since it was the hall to my throne room.""

Everyone made sounds of disapproval.

"Elf told me about that." said Ben, "and she said you were extremely ill at ease with it all."

Sheev nodded.

Then Ben, Yoda and Sheev discussed what to do about the little girl. No one had any solutions, but agreed they would try to get her story the next day.

Felicity startled from crying in her room at the sound of a gentle knock.

"Felicity, it's Leia, may I come in?"

Felicity shuddered and didn't answer.

"Felicity?"

Still no response other than more muffled sobbing.

The door cracked open, and Leia stepped cautiously inside, trying not to worry the little girl. She slowly approached her on the bed and comforted her. "Shhh, it's going to be okay."

Anakin spent the rest of that day out of sight, leaving poor Shmi heart-broken at being cared so little for and ignored by him.

When Felicity's bedtime came, it was Yoda who made sure she was comfortable. He talked quietly to her, just as he had done for Ocean Elf a few nights before. But he stayed with her until she fell into a deep sleep, then he retired.

The Ocean Elf finished up the evening holding her pet rabbit and de-stressing to some degree, but it was just enough to bring her adrenalin down so she could have a good cry. Now with the party over, and no one around to overhear her, she finally succumbed to furious sobbing.

At some point, Anakin stole out of his meditation chamber and down the hall, looking into the room Ocean had occupied the night before. It was empty, and the door was open.

Frowning, he continued on toward Felicity's room.

"Anakin Skywalker," a soft but firm voice said in his ear as a hand rested on his shoulder.

Anakin startled, and looked to one side.

"Where do you think you are going?" It was Ben.

"Uh, nowhere, I guess." Anakin mumbled.

"Yoda and Leia are taking care of Felicity, and she should be asleep soon."

"Where's Elf? Her room is empty." said Anakin.

"She is gone, Anakin." Ben answered him seriously.

"But she's going to come back, she has too."

"Anakin, let's go back to your room and talk." said Ben.

They made their way silently back to Anakin's meditation chamber, and both sat down.

"Elf and our new emperor Sheev had a terrible argument over you this afternoon, and she left. But she also let me know how she feels. Anakin, you cannot make her like you, and trying to involve our young houseguest in that was a serious mistake."

"It was supposed to turn out so different." said Anakin.

"The elf does not think so." said Ben.

"She didn't even have the decency to say good bye to me. She never said one word to me after she destroyed Palpatine. Not one word!"

"That is not true, Anakin, she was the one who told you he was destroyed." Ben said. "I sent her to you myself because I felt the disturbance in the force that was Felicity's plight when she was transported here, by you."

"I mean, Elf didn't say one kind thing to me after that." said Anakin.

"Anakin," Ben said with a sigh, "Elf was here for one purpose, to down Palpatine. If it weren't for being asked to the new emperor's ceremony, she would've been gone right after Sidious was destroyed. I was pretty sure of this from the start. The only reason she was here past that point was because Sheev invited her to the celebration the next night."

"I was sure when the child showed up, that would give Ocean the idea that she could mother her, and become closer to me, since Felicity already sees me as a father figure." Anakin lamented.

"She doesn't now. The girl has been frightened by the judgment process this morning, and by what was happening when I came in on you to fetch her. It will be a job trying to allay her fear, of all of us, me and Emperor Sheev included. Elf was the only one out of all of us who had the nerve to refuse you and be honest about what you have been doing to everyone lately."

"But I wanted her to see that I was willing to take in this little girl so she would admire me as something pure and fatherly, and still needing a good woman to help out. Ocean got rid of a monster that preyed on young kids after all."

"Elf is not sure she succeeded there. But I think you fell in love with an idealized version of her that you created in your head, Anakin. It never ends well when people project their own fantasies on others. That is the trouble with attachments, sometimes they can go very wrong." said Ben.

"I thought she would be my friend." Anakin lamented.

"When did you get the notion that it would eventually become you and her, with you being involved or married to the one who finally got rid of Sidious? Was it because she cried over your scrubbing, or came to tell you she would down Palpatine?

For several moments, Anakin said nothing, but shook his head. "The hero is supposed to win someone's hand."

"She never saw either of you as heroes. She kept trying to back down, telling us it was up to us to defeat Palpatine this time, right up until she finally was provoked into action when we told her you were being scrubbed again; and by us telling her to go ahead. Things don't end in real life the way they do in the movies or in fairy tales."

"It could have. If I could've made her like me, and I sure tried. The force failed me, that's all."

"No, Anakin," said Ben, you set yourself up to have failed expectations. You mistook a slight glimmer of sympathy for an opening for a relationship."

"But when you said her tears would fall for me...?"

"I never said she would fall in love with you or that you were meant for each other. I only meant that she would realize how badly off you were, and would become kind enough to complete the operation you said you brought her here to do in the first place. And this is not the first time she left. We woke up the morning after you brought her here to find she had gone. It was Yoda who convinced her to return and give us another chance. That same morning, Luke got off on the wrong foot with her the following day, and she left again. She returned the day after that, because she wanted to help destroy Sidious. Nothing more or less."

"Wait, she actually left before I was scrubbed?"

"Yes. She may have wanted to be sure she could actually get back to her home world on her own, as she couldn't when you had her in that no-teleport zone to talk to her. She wrote a note upon leaving, saying she would not reward you with help for kidnapping her, no matter how desperate your situation was."

"I had no idea she could be so stubborn!" Anakin moped.

"She's an adult elf, Anakin, not a youngling or programmable droid. I tried to tell you so many times in various ways not to get your hopes up for anything more than the most basic form of cooperation from her. Yes, she is kind, very passionate, extremely loyal to her friends, and if you have her respect, she can be very sweet, friendly, and funny. But Did I not also tell you she is bold, headstrong, driven, and would not adapt easily to a new environment especially one she was thrown into by someone she dislikes? I told you she is intelligent, suspicious, proud, single-minded, controlling, implacable, contrary, and explosive. I warned you if you keep pushing at her, either directly or through any of us, it could backfire tremendously on you. She will not be coerced or placated, certainly not without making you pay the price for it later."

Anakin nodded. "But I was hoping..." he moped.

"You've heard the saying 'your enemy's enemy is not necessarily your friend'." said Ben.

Anakin turned away, not wanting to hear any more.

Ben continued. "Ocean Elf is not just someone who can be molded to fit neatly into another person's life, she's her own person with her own set of needs, passions, goals; and most importantly, a family on her own home world she is very close to."

"I know." said Anakin dejectedly.

"Do you? Anakin, there comes a time in all of our lives when we must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and accept things we cannot change."

"I'm not sorry for myself!" Anakin said indignantly.

"Aren't you?" Ben countered more firmly.

"I just thought things would turn out better. Is that so wrong?"

"It is when you try to fit another person neatly into your life like a puzzle piece, and try getting your friends around you to go along with that."

"How could you do this to me!?"

"That will be quite enough, Anakin," Ben said more firmly than usual, "now listen." He continued as Anakin seethed. "You thought Ocean Elf would become a great companion for you if you just told her enough about your pain, and we made sure she would just happen to be right there as you were being scrubbed so she would have to hear you scream. It was not a torturing droid doing mind control, but it was a form of manipulation none the less. If she didn't realize it then, I am sure she suspects now. I only agreed to this as a means of provoking her sympathy toward you and the kicking her wrath against Sidious into high gear. But now that the dark lord is vanquished and you are doing so much better on the physical front, you want to join the light. This means you have to stop thinking like a dark lord. You cannot make Ocean feel something for you that just isn't there."

"I'm not a dark lord!" Anakin protested indignantly.

"Sheev and Elf had a confrontation this afternoon over you. Even he tried to get her to see reason as we all thought we were doing. But during that argument, Elf said some things that made us, me included, realize we had lost some perspective. We have been coddling you," Ben said, "putting you on a pedestal, because you can bore into our minds and stare through our chests, and we thought we had to let you."

"I couldn't do that to Ocean Elf." Anakin Vader retorted.

"I'm coming to that, Anakin." Ben said. "But you even quelled any objections from coming to mind in us when you forced Elf from her world to come here. She was critical of that judgment procedure on the little girl as well, and now I see why. We've all been succumbing to your mind-control lately. We just didn't realize that until she put up some strenuous objection to your purity judgment process on the little girl, and everything that happened since. You cannot bend Elf's will or bore into her with your eyes. She is not a young impressionable babe in the woods - "

"Did I say she was?" Anakin snapped.

"Not in so many words. But you had us all treating her like a child. Anakin, Ocean Elf may be new to Tatooine, but she is not naive or stupid."

"I never said she was stupid!" Anakin shouted angrily.

"Anakin!" Ben raised his voice. "Enough!"

"She's just jealous." Anakin accused.

"No, she is resistant, and resentful. If that was jealousy, she would be trying desperately to be centre of attention, maybe even coveting Sheev's status as emperor. Anakin, Even after you finally got everything you wanted, Elf saw a strange frightened little girl inexplicably yearning for you upon her arrival, and then even our new emperor playing second fiddle to you, and she does not like it. Today was a big eye-opener, Anakin, and this stops now.

"Even you!" Anakin accused.

Ben continued. "And if you try to press Elf any further, Sidious notwithstanding, everything we've all gone through for you this week will be for naught.

"But you're the one who told me that something worth having is hard-won."

"And it was, Anakin. You won your freedom from that suit. You are healed. You waited a long time for that to happen. And you got the best bonus out of the whole situation, your mother was revived. Elf wanted that to happen."

"Oh, but she wasn't thinking of me." said Anakin.

Ben couldn't help but show disgust on his face at Anakin's self-absorption. "She wanted it for your mother." he confirmed. "But no matter. You have so much to be grateful for. Now, it's time for you to let Ocean Elf go. Anakin, there are other women."

"Oh sure, those silly fangirls, teen-aged and middle-aged alike. None of them cared at all about destroying Sidious. They actually thought my suit made me sexy." He spat in disgust.

"Well, you don't need to worry about your suit any longer. It's history. If the right woman comes along one day, you will both realize it. I knew it was most likely impossible that Ocean Elf would ever feel anything beyond pity for you, and it was hard enough getting her to manage that. She knows about the torture you committed, and the kidnappings."

"That was when I was still Palpatine's dark enforcer."

"That doesn't matter to Elf. You are still the person who committed it, and if there is anything that elf can never forgive or get over, it's sadism."

"But I've changed!" he shouted in anguish.

"It's no use, Anakin. Let it go. Your own deceased wife Padme couldn't bear that you had become - "

"Don't bring her into this!" Anakin raged.

"Why Ocean Elf, Anakin?" Ben insisted a little more firmly. "Does she remind you of Padme?"

"Shut up! Shut up!"

"Anakin!" Ben raised his voice, then continued. "There is a big difference, and you might as well be informed. You are not the only one who has felt desperation this week. Elf has all but sworn to Sheev that she will kill you if you summon her to you again."

"I was the one desperate!" Anakin protested.

"Now, she is just as desperate to get away from you - "

"Stop, stop, stop!" Anakin protested.

There was a tense silence. Then, Anakin's mouth fell open. "She'd kill me?"

"For everyone's sake, including your own, do not put her to the test." Let her go, Anakin." Ben said once more before leaving.

Left alone, the silence was deafening.

Filled with rage and wounded pride, he wandered 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.

Once Elf subsided, she went all around the HQ building and methodically put away all Star Wars items she could find. Since they didn't belong to any one person, they were spared the destruction they would've gotten if they had been exclusively her possessions. But she did not want to see anything about that would remind her of the worst and most insulting failure of a trip she never consented to in the first place.

Having finally done that, she went to bed and eventually drifted off to sleep.

While the elf slept peacefully in her bed at Mission HQ, a wildly raging force storm, not of her own making, hit Tatooine.

Its 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. He had just come in to check on her.

"There’s a terrible force storm going on because Anakin is upset again. So I'll stay with you if you like, until it settles down."

Felicity pondered what was wrong with Anakin. "Is he mad at me? Did I do something wrong?"

"You did nothing wrong, dear, he is just mad at the whole world and especially at Ocean Elf for leaving."

"But he wasn't at all angry the night he brought me here."

"Tell me about that night, dear." Ben gently prompted her. Sometimes Anakin visited me during the night. He told me all about his painful suit and how misunderstood he was. He had a respirator. I knew that much about him because of the few times I got to watch parts of the movies. He always said he would take me away to a better place. Last time, he said a lady was waiting to be my mother. Then I was taken from there and left out in the storm. I thought he had abandoned me, but then he came back and put his cloak around me to keep me warm. He picked me up and carried me here to the compound. I don't remember much after that, because I must've fallen asleep. Then he changed. This morning, there was this frightening judgment thing, and it made no sense after what happened in the storm."

"The man you met in the storm was not Anakin," Ben Kenobi said gently, "it was I."

"What?" Felicity jerked in bed in surprise, eyes going wide.

"Anakin or Palpatine may have put you out into the desert and left you there initially. But I," said Ben, "was the man who rescued you from the storm. I was the man who wrapped my cloak about you like a blanket, to keep you warm. I was the man who held you and dried your frightened tears. I was the man who lifted you up and healed you while carrying you to the compound. Wether it was Anakin or Palpatine, or your uncle and his friend, they intended you no good, probably planning to snatch you up and bring you to the dark side, or else death. Anakin wanted you for another agenda concerning Ocean. But I felt the disturbance in the force right after the last emperor's demise. It was I who came as quickly as I could, to look out for your welfare."

Felicity was amazed and profoundly relieved. "Thank you." was all she could think of too say.

"You are most welcome, my dear," said Ben gently, "now, lie quietly and get some sleep."

In his room, Sheev was having trouble sleeping too, and the storm was only partly to blame. The bizarre events of the past day weighed heavily on his mind.

"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 Elf off her feet in a matter of days. 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. The more he thought about it, the less his actions made sense. What in the world had happened to himself and everybody else? The short answer was they were mindnapped. But what made them susceptible? Fear of Anakin. However, that did n't excuse any of it.

Sheev's 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 his heart. She was homesick. Worried she might never see her family again, or return to find them unwell.

"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 behave this way. I only hope I don't traumatize that poor 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.

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 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.

"Can you forgive me?" he asked.

"Sure," she said, still amazed.

Sheev gave a relieved chuckle. "Friends?

"Yes Your Majesty." she replied.

"Oh, you may just call me Sheev." he said with a gentle smile.

"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. It 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.

"That is good." said Sheev. "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 missing your family, we will do our best to find them. Or if you're 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."

Felicity giggled.

Sheev smiled at her, and left the room.

But he still had one more apology to make, and only hoped it wouldn't be blocked.

Sheev wrote a network broadcast message that would go out to everyone in the compound about plans to look into the little girl's situation and locate her parents starting in the morning, if she had any. He would write out the next apology then as well, when he could think straight.

Then, he finally fell asleep.

In the morning, Sheev was writing out a letter of apology when Ben knocked on his door.

When he let Ben in, he received some shocking news.

Schmi was only just found dead in her bed.

Back at Mission HQ, Ocean Elf had her breakfast and drink, then checked messages.

Ameh and Cosima exchanged nervous looks when they saw their friend suddenly looking angry.

But Elf's initial anger turned to confusion in a very short time, and she read Sheev's message.

-

"'Dear Ocean Elf

I don't blame you for being angry with me, you have every right to be. But please hear me out. I'm not going to make any more excuses for Anakin or come to his defence. I know you've heard more than you care to of that already. I do understand your distress at being spirited away to some strange place and how that alone must've made you feel.

After our regrettable argument yesterday afternoon, I took a long, hard look at myself, and I did not like what I saw. I heard you yesterday, but was not listening.

I am embarrassed at the way I acted toward you, and ashamed of my part in the little girl's treatment yesterday. I apologized profusely to her, and do to you as well, and promise you all that will never happen again.

I also learned that it was actually you who vanquished Sidious this time, not Anakin with just a little of your help as I previously believed. That makes me even more upset with myself for threatening to banish you from Tatooine for merely shouting at me, and thinking I had the right to dismiss you from 'your duties' just for uttering a few frightening words out of revulsion and desperation.

Punishing a raised voice at me with banishment? My gosh, Ocean, what in the world was I thinking!? I realize that if Anakin had yelled at me with the same intensity you did at that time, I wouldn't have done anything but gone along, in complete submission to him. I was already doing that, and you were rocking the boat, making me feel threatened and personally attacked. I know this is no excuse, but at the time, An attack on Anakin felt like an attack on me. And like a power-tripping idiot, I threatened you with banishment, oh Ocean, and all of Tatooine, please forgive me!

What happened to us lately was this: Anakin kidnapped you, and he mind napped us. I only realized that long after our argument and my anger toward you faded into reflecting on my own actions and why I behaved so. Only then did I extricate my mind from the fog and look at things from a more balanced view point.

You are correct, Anakin is no saint. I looked up information on him and am appalled at the things he did when he was going under the name Darth Vader. They are too numerous and heinous to be brushed off like petty theft. Yes, there are those about who wish to completely absolve Anakin of any and all such things, but Palpatine chose Anakin as his number 2 man for a reason. He never would have done likewise with someone else such as Yoda, for instance. I can only give my word that this kind of thing will not go on while I am emperor. There will be no more purity judgment procedures on little kids, no trying to pressure you or anyone else into relationship, and certainly no torture will be allowed.

Ocean, there have been some new developments since you left, and you have a right to know about them.

Plus, I want to talk with you, and I mean really talk with you instead of talking at you like I did yesterday. This time, I am ready to listen. Please get back to me, and could we meet? Would you like to come back here, or shall I invite myself to your world? If you don't want to do that, I understand, and won't press it any further.

But I can't express how sorry I am for the banishment threat, I completely take it back, and you are more than welcome to come back any time. If you don't feel up to excepting this from me in person, at least you have my word here in the message.

Sincerely yours

Sheev Alderaan'"

-

Confusion turned to laughing relief, and Elf was soon quickly typing out a reply.