Chapter Nineteen --Choices

"Your bravery they both will possess, Padme. That for certain, I know" -- Yoda

With the children dozing, the Jedi returned along with C3PO and Captain Typho to hold an impromptu council in Padmeís medical ward.

She had wanted to delay this as long as possible, but the Jedi Masters were insistent. By Obi-Wanís count they had about an hour before Dookuís cruiser cleared Coruscantís moon, and maybe another half hour before the shipís sensors picked up the powered down vessel hiding between three boulders on the rocky surface.

"Theyíre my children! You canít tell me what to do with them!" Padme was saying loudly, although keeping her voice at an even pitch in an attempt to keep the babies from waking..

"Your claim to them, we do not dispute, Padme. Their importance to the future is that which concerns us most." Yoda replied and looked to Windu, who nodded.

"If either of them fell into the hands of the Sith, they would be trained for evil, Senator. When we flee this place, we must do it in two directions to divert Tyrannusí forces, for he can sense the babies already. He will know if they are together and will ignore the decoy ship completely. We then run the risk of having both children fall into the hands of evil."

Padme seemed to be ascenting, but was still holding out as she held the two babies tightly.

"But how can you expect me to choose which one to give up? I love them both, I canít pick one over the other!"

She looked from Windu to Yoda to Obi-Wan and realized the truth.

She stared sadly at Obi-Wan. "Youíve already decided, havenít you?"

Kenobi struggled to meet her gaze, feeling the hurt.

"We have. Master Windu will stay on board with you, the Naboo and Leia. He will take you to Alderaan, Bail has offered you asylum there for as long as you wish it. Youíll be safe there, neither Palpatine nor Dooku has the power to touch them. Alderaan has too much say in the Coreís political realm."

"And what of Luke?"

"Master Yoda and I will take him in my Jedi fighter and elude pursuit. Weíll take him to a safe location and contact Master Windu later to let you know heís safe."

"Where will you take him?"

"Iím afraid we canít tell you that, Padme. It would make you a risk should the Empire ever take Alderaan."

Padmeís eyes narrowed. "You expect me to live my whole life without ever seeing my son again? You wonít even let me know where he is to live?"

Obi-Wan was firm now, he had to be. "Heíll be safe, Padme. That will have to be enough."

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Feeling twinges in the Force that could only be the birth of his Jedi twins, Dooku taxed his military staff to max out the shipís engine drives, something that was only to be done in dire situations. Reaching out with the Force, Dooku was able to monitor the engines more closely than the crewmen at their monitors could, and he kept them informed of when to tone down certain components to prevent serious damage.

Employing that strategy, his crusier, the Dominance, arrived at the moonís terminator point nearly half an hour earlier than a normal ship of its class would. He knew Kenobi or whoever was in charge of the Nubian vessel would power down its systems, but they would have to leave life-support on, so he had sensor sweeps search for slight energy fluctuations and quickly located the vessel.

"Admiral, prepare to activate tractor beam."

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On board the Nubian vessel, Windu was the first of the Jedi to crinkle up his brow as the sense of danger came to him through the Force.

"Theyíre here early, weíve got to go."

Her emotional stint given way to protecting her children, Padme was suddenly in command of her senses again. She began packing a bag for Obi-Wan to take for Luke as the craft powered up under their feet.

Windu bowed to Yoda and clasped Obi-Wan on the shoulder. "Youíve done well, Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon would be proud of the man youíve become. May the Force be with you."

"And with you, Master Windu."

Windu moved to the cockpit to take the seat next to Olie. The Nubian captain deferred to the Master Jedi when it came to flying. The man had reflexes the likes of which Olie had never seen.

Obi-Wan returned to his fighter to prepare it for escape while Yoda stood watching over the babies as Padme continued to put needful items into a small carry case for the two Jedi to take with Luke.

Yodaís wizened face crinkled into a smile as the two infants stared at him, marvelling at his coloring and his relative size to them. Padme looked at the odd coupling and hesitated.

"Master Yoda, may I ask you something? Who will my children be?"

Padme had risked the question because she had heard Anakin say once that the truly great Jedi could peer into the future at times. She hoped for some insight now, especially if she would never see her son again.

Yoda closed his eyes and breathed deeply, holding still for so long that Padme feared she had insulted him.

"Always in motion is the future, Padme Amidala, but visions of possible futures are known to me. Leaders, do I see. Warriors, too. At least for one I see, the path to the dark side could beckon. Protected at all costs they must be, from following their fatherís path."

Having heard the answer, Padme almost wished she hadnít asked the question.

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Yoda sat in the too-big rear seat of the Jedi starfighter. It was he that Padme would give to cradle her infant. There was plenty of room on the seat for both of them, with Obi-Wan, the pilot of the group, in front and R2D2 manning his station.

Padme had almost cried again seeing R2, but she held back her tears again and patted the droid on the head, getting a trilling whistle from him in return.

She held her baby son close now, kissing his head and whispering nonsense to him. The Nubian vessel launched and judging by the initial evasive manuevers, she realized her time with Luke was gone, they had to get out of here.

She crouched over the cockpit and stared into Lukeís little eyes as he stared back, oblivious to what was about to happen. She kissed his head again and now the tears did come.

"Be brave, Luke. I will love you always. Leia will, too. Grow up strong and be good."

She hesitated a second, then whispered in his tiny ear.

"Make your father proud."

She gave the bundle to Yoda, who took the baby boy gently and gazed up at the trembling senator.

"Your bravery they both will possess, Padme. That for certain, I know."

Padme moved to the front of the cockpit and bent down to kiss Obi-Wan on the cheek. Uncomfortable though he was, he held her closely as she wept.

"Itís the right thing, Padme. Iím sorry to be the one to take him."

"Iíd rather it be you than anyone, Obi-Wan. Iíve always had faith in you."

Coming from the widow of the man who had tried to kill him spoke volumes to Obi-Wan. He made a decision then and there.

He beckoned the Senator closer and spoke in such a low tone that even Yoda could not hear over the engineís guttural revving.

"Wherever we take him to be adopted, I will stay. I will watch over your son for the rest of my life."

Padme stood back now, watching the cockpit close. She caught Obi-Wanís eye and mouthed "Thank You" through the glass.

The Jedi nodded to her and she stepped back. He activated the repulse boosters and her son was gone barely an hour after he had been born.

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One of Dookuís deck officers made him aware of the emergence of the second ship from the first.

"Sir, the starfighter has launched from the Nubian ship and is taking an opposite course."

Dooku swore to himself and stretched out with the Force. The starfighter first -- it nearly knocked him to the ground with the Force signatures emannating from it. He picked out Kenobi, and yes, Master Yoda was there too, suddenly Dooku found himself with the opportunity to settle two scores. Yoda had humiliated him at Genosis two years ago, but he had grown stronger since.

The third presence was definitely one of the newborns, meaning the Jedi had been smart enough to split the twins up. He should have guessed this earlier. That meant the other child was on the Nubian vessel with Amidala and her entourage.

"Deck officer, launch a patrol to follow the Nubian vessel and capture it if possible, but do not fire upon it. I will contact you later for an update."

"Yes, sir."

Dooku turned to watch the Jedi starfighter streaking across the sky and ordered his navigators to follow it, launching fighters to use their weapons liberally to deactivate its shields or knock out its long-range drives.

The hunt was on.