LAST STAND PART 1:
She remembered spending several frightful hours alone, and watching in despair and helplessness as flames consumed the Jedi Temple. The building had stood for countless years as a symbol of strength and freedom, yet now from across the distance which separated that building and her own apartment, she watched with stunned disbelief as thick gray smoke consumed the temple walls.
And, Anakin was there.
She hadn't heard from him that day. For some odd reason, she hadn't been able to get a simple com-link through.
But she knew.
Padmé did not possess that mystical energy known as the Force, but she shared an intense bond with Anakin nonetheless. It was this connection which allowed her to somehow sense his pain; he had been weeping. But there was more, much more behind the pain; something in Anakin so angry and dark that she couldn't put a name to it any more than she could explain how she was able to sense it in the first place.
She didn't know how long she could stand it; watching with such helplessness while Anakin fought for his life inside the smoldering temple. There had to be something she could do. Picking up her cloak, she tossed it carelessly over her shoulders and headed for the door.
Rex was sweating inside of his armor and that was unusual, but he had also run five city blocks, fairly quickly. It was his duty to make sure that his former General was safe. Safe from the insanity which was happening now. though, somewhere deep inside of him, he knew that Anakin was no longer here, Rex also needed to make sure that Senator Amidala was safe. She had surely seen all the commotion over at the Jedi Temple and he knew that she would be worried.
He knocked timidly at first. Not very clone like, but he didn't want to scare her and he knew that she would be jumpy. Rex tapped again, louder this time and the door slid open to reveal the protocol droid the senator had started to use as her butler.
"May I help you?" It asked Rex in a very high pitched voice.
"I'm here to see the senator," Rex growled through the filter in his helmet. He didn't dare remove it now because if the others of the 501st noted that he was out checking up on people, he would be executed as quickly as the Jedi were being. Traitors to the other side weren't looked upon well.
It's the first time he had even said it in his head, but that was what he was and he knew it. He had refused to shoot down the Jedi. The Jedi whom he had served along side of during a war that claimed so many of them and so many of his brothers. He wasn't going to take their lives. They had protected him during the time when he had been on the battlefield. Now was not the time to turn his gun on them because of an order that was supposed to be a question-less program inside of his head.
"Right this way," the protocol droid said and scurried towards where Padmé was standing.
"Senator," Rex said and pulled his helmet from his head, the sweat running down his face. "I'm here to help."
Padmé took one last hurried glance back towards the temple through the view from her balcony, hoping desperately that there had been some trick of light, something wrong with her eyes perhaps; anything to prove to her that what she had been witnessing wasn't actually happening. It was unthinkable, the one place in the entire universe which stood as a symbol of safety and security was crumbling to the ground.
Her eyes hadn't deceived her after all.
Why were there no fire ships circling the sky?
Why wasn't anyone doing something?
Nothing made sense.
It was the sound of someone pounding on the door which brought her out of the bewilderment she'd been experiencing once more. The urgent rapping caused her heart to leap up into her throat.
She ran into the living area just as 3PO approached, a clone by his side. Padmé looked quickly past them, but there was no one else there. It was then that her heart seemed to fall into the pit of her stomach.
She questioned as he removed his helmet, unable to keep the tremble from her voice. Padmé wasn't well acquainted with any of those who served in the Clone Army. In fact, if it had been up to her, such an army wouldn't exist at all, but she knew Rex and she liked him. He had been the go-between for herself and Anakin, passing along messages when Anakin hadn't been able to see her personally.
I don't understand.
What's going on?"
As she spoke, she quickly made her way towards the door.
"We have to get to the temple, Rex." Her hands were shaking so badly that it took her a few more precious seconds to key open the door. She paused beside the open doorway.
"Have you seen Anakin? Is he alright?"
Rex reached out a gloved hand and stopped her. He wanted to tell her what was going on, before she rushed out onto the streets and saw for herself. Even though he had not entered the temple with the others from the 501st, Rex had seen the images inside of his HUD. He knew where Anakin was and he didn't really have the heart to tell Senator Amidala exactly what his former General was doing. It would break her heart, he knew.
"Let me explain," Rex said in a calm voice which he used on the battlefield although on the inside his guts were twisting inside of his skin. "There are things going on over there that you need to know about before we go," Rex said and noted the expansion of her stomach. "In the condition you're in, I don't think this surprise would be good for you."
Anakin had never come out and told him. Never said to Rex that he was expecting a child with the senator, but you would have to be a rookie not to see how her expanding waistline coincided with the time that Anakin had been on leave during the Clone Wars. Rex knew enough about marriage and the human condition to understand what had been going on when Anakin had disappeared all those times and never had an answer about where he had been. Rex had always been a good Captain though and never asked and always covered for Anakin when he needed it.
"Order 66: In the event of Jedi officers acting against the interests of the Republic, and after receiving specific orders verified as coming directly from the Supreme Commander or Chancellor, GAR commanders will remove those officers by lethal force, and command of the GAR will revert to the Supreme Commander until a new command structure is established," Rex rattled off in complete military precision. The orders were all engrained in his mind. All he had to do was mentally go through the catalog and find the one that pertained to any situation. This just happened to be the one that pertained to the current situation. "The order has been executed," Rex said in a hushed tone. "Anakin is at the temple right now, leading the 501st."
Rex, being the leader of the 501st, felt his stomach knot. He should be there with his men, giving them the advice and leadership they needed, but he couldn't. His finger would not pull the trigger against small children who were stuck in the temple. There was no proof that these innocent Jedi had ever had anything but the Republic's best interest at heart. In his mind, Rex knew he was doing the right thing. If there was anyone who could speak to Anakin, or whoever he was, Rex knew Senator Amidala was the person.
"I will get you into the temple," he finally said. "I will make sure that no harm comes to you and your unborn child. It's up to you to speak to Anakin." Rex moved to her side and held her elbow. He knew that she would need physical support after everything he had just said. It was a lot to take in; even if you knew what the orders were before they were executed sometimes it still came as a surprise when they were enacted. "Can you be strong for him?" Rex asked knowing that everything hinged on her abilities to speak with Anakin, not just with words, but with her heart. Rex wished he had someone who cared that much for him and would take him away from the hell that Coruscant would surely become.
When it was all said and done, Padmé was ultimately grateful that Rex came to stand beside her offering support because in that moment she felt the floor tilt beneath her feet. From the instant he started to explain, she experienced every dreadful emotion the human heart could know, every horrific sensation too horrible to label because they were normally reserved for nightmare images that only the most terrified mind could devise. She could not make her own mind comprehend the words of the Order which Rex relayed to her.
Why would there even be the need for a command issued in the event of the Jedi acting against the Republic?
And, with lethal force?
Against the Jedi?
By the very men they had fought beside for so many days, months, years?
Her mouth formed the word but no sound came. She wanted to ask the clone standing before her how these men could follow such an order so blindly. How could they murder those who fought beside them, protected and died for them? How could they believe that the Jedi would ever act against the very institution that countless of their kind had protected for immeasurable years? Padme' could form no sound however, because Rex continued speaking, and what he said brought further grief to her heart; unconscionable anguish and terror.
Anakin was leading the 501st.
This could not be.
Who then created this elaborate scheme to try and deceive her?
Who ordered this clone to torment her with his words of deception..?
She was clutching his arm before she was even aware of performing the act. Padmé took one step back, letting her arm fall numbly to her side as she stared up at Rex. "No," she whispered, shaking her head as she continued to step away. "Why? Why would you do this? It..it can't be."
She stared up into his eyes, searching for that slight flicker of dishonesty she had learned to read in others gleaned through political experience, but she saw none; only sorrow, regret and a mixture of other raw emotions which she could not name.
How could he know?
How could he stand there and calmly inform her that the one being she loved more than life itself was destroying everything he had, they had, believed in and fought so hard to preserve?
How could he know that his words had crushed her soul, taking something from her that could never be restored? How could he know that the tears which rained down her cheeks were not for herself but for Anakin; for all the Jedi who had been and were being destroyed? How could the universe survive without them? How could she survive without him?
Her hand flew to her mouth as Padme' abruptly rushed towards the refresher. She made it just in time. Falling to her knees, she bent her head over the toilet and retched all the venomous poison from her soul.
She shut her eyes briefly and whispered his name. She would have given up anything, everything to have him beside her in that moment; to erase Rex's words from her mind; to pretend those words never existed. It was then that the Captain's concluding remarks found their way through the haziness which had enveloped her mind, creeping past the shock and fear which had gripped her heart. She was the only one who could break through the veil of darkness which had surrounded Anakin. If only he would listen.
Padmé slowly came to her feet and quickly splashed cold water on her face. There was no time, no time to waste. She felt the weight of the world on her shoulders, and truly that was where it rested. She had to be strong; stronger than she could have imagined possible.
The senator forced herself to re-enter the living area. She was thankful for Rex, but she knew that she would always hate the sight of that face; so many, all of them the same, murdering all that was virtuous in the galaxy. She did not question him as to why he had disobeyed the order. She felt that she knew and besides it didn't matter now. All that mattered was getting to Anakin and stopping him somehow. Her heart grew cold as she wondered if her love was strong enough to defeat the darkness.
"Take me there," was all she managed as the two exited the apartment.