Scars of Mustafar

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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 26: Eulogy

Flanked by a pair of troopers from the 501st, Anakin made his way to the temporary throne room within the interim Imperial Administrative offices in the EmPal SuRecon Center.

“Wait here.” He ordered them. Anakin knew that the Emperor already frowned upon his personalizing of the 501st. To walk in with a pair of clones into the Emperor’s own domain would bring nothing but unwanted trouble.

Anakin had managed to contain his outer grief over Padme’s death, but in the Force he had become a tempest of unflattering emotions. He appeared calm, but was perfectly willing to cut down anyone who said the wrong thing. Those feelings, couple with the murderous intent Anakin was harboring for Padme’s killers, were what initially alerted the Emperor to Anakin’s arrival. The voice was clear and audible as if Palpatine were whispering in his ear.

“I have been expecting you. Proceed immediately to the Throne Room.”

That signaled to Anakin that they would be able to drop the charades of their positions and speak as their true selves, as Sidious and Vader, as Master and Apprentice.

Which was fine by Anakin, he did not want to question the Emperor in front of his inner circle. Sidious was incredibly vain, and he could be incredibly fickle about how he interpreted specific lines of commentary. Especially if that commentary was questioning his decision to let Depa Billaba anywhere near Coruscant.

On his way up the tower, Anakin saw nothing of the small army of bureaucrats that worked feverishly to run the galaxy, catering to the whims of those in higher authorities who expected that their requests be fulfilled expediently. But he could sense their fear. Apparently many of them remembered Anakin’s last tirade when he had wrecked Sate Pestage’s office. None of them wanted to be around a grieving widower who had the ability to kill with a thought.

Darth Vader entered the room and, shunning formality, did not stop until he was less than a meter away from his Master. Vader was deadly serious and Sidious met his gaze with equal measure.

“I need to know everything.” Vader said, carefully treading the line between inquisitive and insulting.

Sidious’ response as unexpected, Vader had been bracing for a disagreement, and what he received was compliance. “In time Lord Vader, you will. I am placing you in charge of the investigation and granting you full autonomy in all related endeavors. After all, the attacks on both you and your wife are crimes against our Empire, and it would do little good to have them go unpunished.”

Vader was somewhat disconcerted by the supportive statement. His Master rarely sought to satisfy the desires of others, at least not when he already had control over them. “Then we will start with the obvious, where is Depa Billaba?”

“A victim of the same tragedy that claimed your wife, in more ways than one, it appears that the assassin had sought to implicate Depa Billaba and divert your attention by recruiting Kar Vastor to his aid.” Sidious stood up and brought Vader a datapad with a file on it containing facts already complied by the Imperial Security Bureau’s rapid response investigators.

Vader scrolled through the report as quickly as he could. Apparently the assassin had used an old but still working access code that predated the Imperial Reorganization in order to infiltrate and plant an explosive device aboard the shuttle. The code was displayed in bold text, and Vader grit his teeth when he identified the combination of letters and numbers. “This is a Jedi General’s access code. What incompetent fool would allow a fugitive’s access codes intact?”

Sidious was quick to reply. “Apparently one of the security officers I had placed in charge of initiating the intelligence aspects of Order 66 left them codes valid so that there would be a method of tracing Jedi movements. I would say that in this case it succeeded, after all a clever enough Jedi could have gained access without the codes after all.”

Vader hated to admit it, but his Master was making perfect sense. He had no other explanations than the one staring him right in the face. The shuttle’s detonation so close to the Jedi-inhabited skyhook, and the use of a Jedi General’s access code confirmed Anakin’s suspicions of the Jedi Order. Sidious used the prolonged silence to continue.

“ISB has referenced the code to the partial database collected from the Jedi Archives and Military Database. The code belonged to Jedi General Quinlan Vos.”

“Vos!” Vader silently exclaimed. The picture was starting to come into focus. Quinlan Vos had been known for skirting the dark side on many counts, and he had learned from Obi Wan Kenobi that Vos had performed a number of normally intolerable acts in the name of the Jedi and the Republic. As a Jedi Master, he would have been one of the few who knew the extent of Kar Vastor’s abilities and with his access codes intact, it gave him a method of freeing the imprisoned Vastor. Some questions remained unexplained, but there was little time to dwell on insignificant details, if Vos was given too much time to run he would not be found, not until the next time he struck.

Vader spun on his heels and stormed out of the throne room. He heard Sidious call out from behind. “And where do you think you are going Lord Vader?”

Vader paused but did not turn around. “Master, forgive my indiscretion, but I have some business to attend to on the Jedi Skyhook. I do not intend to waste this opportunity.”

As Vader turned to leave, Sidious could not help but allow himself a wicked grin.

Thanks to the information gleaned from his sacrificial Jedi pawn, Anakin would now be searching across the galaxy for a Jedi Master who was nowhere near Coruscant when his wife’s death occurred. Vos was the perfect scapegoat though, due to his past and due to the loyalty he received from Jedi Master Tholme. Tholme would not reveal Vos’ location on Telos under any circumstances, which would force Anakin into hunting across the galaxy in a high profile hunt, a hunt that would lead Anakin to more Jedi, and would further bolster his already legendary status amongst the populace of the Empire.

Sidious fully expected that Vader’s popularity as General Anakin Skywalker would match, and potentially surpass his own popularity as Emperor Palpatine. This was unavoidable as most beings from all sentient species tended to create icons out of warriors, not out of politicians. It was an annoyance, but a tolerable annoyance so long as Sidious still controlled Vader. To that end, Padme Amidala had to die; Vader’s loyalties could not be divided between the Empire and a woman.

But now, with Amidala gone, the apprentice had shed the trappings of Anakin Skywalker and had truly become Darth Vader. He was the perfect being to carry on the legacy of the Sith Order, and his children would naturally follow suit as the next generation. The Sith Order and the Galactic Empire would be invincible under their guide for at least another century, perhaps two. The future for Darth Vader was quite promising indeed…

Promising until his Master’s quest for immortality began to bear fruit. The life-transfer process was flawed at best until the cloning process could be improved upon. However, on the day that Sidious did unlock the answers, the days of Darth Vader and the Skywalker legacy were numbered.

Vader would handle the Jedi and rid the galaxy of many of those who remained, but there was still the matter of the dwindling number of Separatist holdouts, and the nascent underground Rebellion that was drawing from those holdouts, as well as supposedly loyal systems. Sidious had foreseen a great many things about the Rebellion, but at this early stage there were too many possibilities to consider in deciding upon a correct path. It did not concern the Dark Lord though, not with the Ultimate Weapon under construction, not with the Imperial Navy flourishing, not with his enemies dying all around him.

Obi Wan had managed to contact Mon Mothma’s contact on Ralltir, a former Republic Brigadier General named Pharl McQuarrie, and the two agreed that Obi Wan’s ships should stay away from the Core Worlds for the time being as the reports of the battle between the Rebels and the Sharpwyrm were just beginning to circulate. McQuarrie had suggested that Obi Wan divert the equipment to the Mid Rim system of Polus, as that world had cut all of its mining ties with the Separatist holdouts in favor of the more idealistic underground established by Mon Mothma. The near-human Pyn'gani could then easily smuggle the Alderaanian weaponry as needed with their advanced carbon freezing technology.

During the trip, Obi Wan had been watching a Coruscant based holonet feed when he learned of the assassination of Padme Amidala, and the attempt on the life of Anakin Skywalker. News never traveled fast in the Outer Rim, part of the delay in ending the Clone War was the simple matter of delivering the news to besieged Separatist systems.

But when the convoy you were traveling in included a fully operational Munificent class frigate, complete with the most technologically advanced communications equipment in the galaxy, you might have well been in the Core systems. When participating in an insurgency against a government that did not yet rein in the media, sometimes the news was the best source of intel one could ask for.

The general broadcast feed was being received via the Hammer of Retribution to the rest of the ships in the convoy, whose communications equipment was only suited for real-time reception of locally broadcasting networks, none of which existed in the far reaches of space where the convoy was traveling.

Obi Wan grieved the loss of Padme, and surprisingly he found himself grieving for the suffering that Anakin had to be feeling even now.

“You grieve far too much for a Jedi Master Obi Wan.”

“Master Qui Gon,” Obi Wan was glad to hear from his master, although it did little to ease his pain. He turned, but the ghostly figure that had accompanied him before was not present, only the voice.

“It is all right, after all, I didn’t take you on as my Padawan because you were the typical young Jedi. I wanted a Padawan who would celebrate and cherish life as much as he revered it. I could have done no better.”

The praise was comforting, and Obi Wan’s malaise was relieved somewhat, but he knew that there was a hidden caveat. Obi Wan had been appointed to the rank of Jedi Master several years ago, but now it was time for him to truly attain it.

“Anakin is dead, without Padme there is nothing left of him. There is only Darth Vader now.”

Qui Gon remained silent, but Obi Wan could sense within the Force that his former Master was encouraging him to continue.

“Palpatine’s plan for his apprentice has finally come to fruition; he orchestrated Padme’s death so that no one else could command Anakin’s intense loyalty. In doing so, he has unleashed a second trap upon the Jedi Order, and those Jedi that were tricked into coming out of hiding will now be hunted down by the Empire. I will have to stay in hiding, and continue nurturing the Rebellion if I am going to have any hope of fighting the Sith. The war is no long about Republic and Jedi, or Empire and Sith. It is simply the light against the dark, and I have no choice but to win.”

“There is nothing left that I can teach you…” Qui Gon said, his voice booming with pride now. “…except for one final lesson. A lesson that, once you have completed it, will allow you to become the avatar of the light that is required. But before we begin, there is one question that I will ask you, and once you answer it on your own, the key to victory will be yours.”

Obi Wan acknowledged Qui Gon with a bow of the head, and so Qui Gon continued.

“The purpose of the Chosen One was to restore the balance between light and dark. Anakin was the Chosen one until his fall, but his destiny was taken from him by the Sith and he now further upsets the balance he was meant to restore. With Anakin gone, who is the heir to his legacy as the Chosen One? Consider the answer carefully; from now on you will be on your own.”

Finally Obi Wan understood the underlying purpose of this conversation. “Then this is goodbye then.”

“To maintain my presence in this world for too long would be, unnatural, my consciousness may be present, but the Force has other plans for me. I made a vow to stay for only as long as it took to ensure your success.”

“Then succeed I shall. I am eternally grateful for your wisdom Master.”

“And I, yours, Master Kenobi. Fare well, and know that the Force will be with you, always.”

With that, Quin Gon’s spirit departed. It did not just leave, but Obi Wan could feel the presence of the Jedi Master as it simply dissipated, as if it had never existed to begin with. It was a path that Obi Wan could not follow, at least not until his current quest was accomplished.

Obi Wan turned off the holo-feed, hoping that the quiet would give him an opportunity to begin solving the mystery of the Prophecy that had set this entire chain of events into motion.

Ever a student of the late Qui Gon Jinn though, Obi Wan opened himself up to the Living Force, and the alarm he was sensing was far louder than any broadcast. A sense of danger, the Empire would be on the move and Obi Wan had the power to prevent whatever it was they had in mind. Obi Wan activated the internal intercom that linked him to every room throughout the ship, and keyed in the extension for the bridge.

He spoke into the small microphone. “Captain Slayke, this is General Cody.”

“This is Captain Slayke General, go ahead.”

Obi Wan took a deep breath. “I am transferring command of the convoy to the Master Control. Contact her captain and let him know that he is to deliver the weapons to Polus and then rejoin the main fleet at Dantooine. Once that’s completed, drop out of hyperspace, and set a direct course for Telos.

“Telos? General, there isn’t anything on Telos but a dinky little outpost with an even dinkier Cantina. We’re not going to be doing a lot of good there.”

Obi Wan chuckled a little. “If you can’t trust in me Captain then at least have trust in the Force. If this is little more than a wild droid ride then we’ll we can relax and join the fleet at Togoria very soon.”

“Acknowledged General, let’s hope the Force knows what it’s talking about. I’ll let you know when we’re on our way to Telos.”

Obi Wan turned off the communicator and moved over to the meditation chair in the center of his quarters, ready to begin the introspective journey that would lead him to the revelation he needed.

The Skyhook was currently housing a great number of Jedi, and Vader was not going to take any chances in dealing with them.

So instead of piloting his own ship to the Skyhook, he had Commander Appo assemble a squad of his best soldiers to ride with Anakin over to the station on a gunship. The Jedi in theory had not brought their lightsabers with them and thus the troopers and their automatic blasters combined with Anakin’s own might would be enough to at least survive a short skirmish. He also had the skyhook completely surrounded with fighters and gunships, so that if necessary the Skyhook would be shot to unrecognizable pieces within seconds.

In fact, that is what he truly wanted to do, he wanted to Jedi to suffer the fate that they had doomed his dear wife to. No longer was his war with the Jedi one of ideology, he had fought Obi Wan on Mustafar for the future of the Galaxy and nothing else, but now it was personal. The Jedi had killed the woman he loved, and he would not rest until they were but a memory.

But first he needed answers, specifically, the location of one Quinlan Vos.

The Jedi Masters were assembled in the executive lounge, where Padawan Olee Starstone had just informed them of Anakin Skywalker’s impending arrival. Many of them could not help but divert unhappy stares towards Roblio Darte, who was still agonizing over the loss of Depa Billaba.

“I swear Masters, I had no idea! I swear on the Force that I had no knowledge of this!”

“Forgiveness is easier to seek than participation Master Darte,” the Zabrak Jedi Master Bol Chatak chided. “Nevertheless we are now in more danger than before we accepting this blasted amnesty offer, and now my Padawan tells me that the grieving husband of a dead woman who also happens to be a powerful Jedi and the leader of the largest army ever assembled will be here any second! I don’t care about the circumstances behind Skywalker’s apparent change of allegiance, but you would have to be as dense as neutronium not to sense his intent right now!”

“Answering his anger with more anger will only exacerbate the problem,” countered Tsui Choi. “Our continued cooperation will show our genuine intentions, surely not even an impetuous youth like Skywalker will act rashly when he sees that we mean him no harm and had nothing to do with Ambassador Amidala’s death or the attempt on his life.”

Attention shifted back to Master Shadday she raised and subsequently lowered a personal comlink from her ear. “Well one way or another, we’re about to find out what’s going to happen. That was Tholme, he’s already down in the hangar ready to meet face to face with Skywalker now!”

The gunship entered the Skyhook’s landing bay, and Anakin could sense the terror in the heart of the Padawan assigned to operate the bay doors.

“At least they are being compliant for now.” Vader thought. “Not that it will help save them.”

Vader and the Clones disembarked and were met by Tholme, who waited alone in the hangar

“Master Tholme. Just the person I wanted to see.” Anakin said with no hint of emotion in his voice whatsoever.

“General Skywalker. Allow me to offer my condolences…”

“Spare me Tholme.” Anakin interrupted, “You apologies are as hollow as your teachings.”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” The Voice came from Scout, who was scurrying down the stairs to where Skywalker and Tholme were standing. She ran between the two men and shouted right at the former Jedi. “We had nothing to do with Amidala’s death!”

Anakin regarded the young woman with a great annoyance and decided that she should regret speaking out of turn.

“Ah, Scout was it? You should have more sympathy; you too lost a loved one to the Jedi.”

Scout was beside herself, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Anakin focused his gaze on her and used the Dark Side of the Force to help focus his words perfectly. “They didn’t tell you then about Whie? A pity really.” Anakin knew that he now commanded Scout’s attention entirely. He had found the one chord to strike within her to force her to lose control. “He was one of the Jedi that rebelled against the Empire after Mace Windu’s treachery was revealed.” Anakin moved closer and lowered his head to meet Scout’s reddening eyes. “I cut him down quickly so that he couldn’t be used as a pawn any longer.”

Scout lost it, she prepared to reach back with her arm and strike Anakin, everyone in the room could tell what she was about to do as she shifted her balance for her attack.

Anakin ended any hope Scout had of striking him with a simple flick of his wrist. Scout reeled and fell to the floor with a sickening sound, motionless save for heavy and rhythmic breathing. Tholme rushed to her aid, but the Clone Troopers leveled their rifles, and Tholme simply stood in his place.

“Oh she’s not dead.” Anakin remarked. “Interesting at how simple it is to use the Force in order to slam the brain of an opponent backwards against their own skull to give them a concussion. But she and everyone else on this station will die for sure if you don’t answer each and every one of my questions. Do you understand?”

Tholme understood too well, the fact that the motivation behind his peril would be revealed to him was of little reassurance. “I submit General,” was all he managed to say.

Anakin wasted little time, he turned to Commander Appo. “Take him and that Padawan into custody now. Keep at least one blaster pointed at the Padawan at all times.”

The clones complied, placing binders on Tholme’s arms and collecting the unconscious body of Scout before putting both aboard the Gunship. Anakin used the Force to reopen the hangar doors, destroying the mechanisms without care as he forced the doors to remain open.

Vader looked across the gunship and saw Tholme, who was being held at blaster point next to the dazed but awakening Scout. He reached to his belt and procured his comlink from its clip. “This is General Skywalker to all Imperial Fighters,” he then looked over at Tholme and gave the fateful order, “form up and destroy the Skyhook.”

Tholme tried to stand and retaliate but saw the clones standing next to him immediately train their guns on Scout. The Clone Commander used Tholme’s hesitation to hit the Jedi Master on the back of his head with his rifle.

“Excellent work Commander Appo, and for shame on you Master Tholme, if you try anything like that again Scout will die, and it will be your fault.”

Tholme felt blood trickle down the back of his neck and hung his head low. “You win Skywalker…”

The Commander of the fighter wing in charge of interdicting the skyhook selected three ARC-170s to finish off the Skyhook; an action that every pilot in the air knew was an eventuality. The Three ships moved into position and began their attack run slowly, allowing their targeting computers to share data for maximum effectiveness. Each of the ships then fired a pair of proton torpedoes, six in all when one would have been enough to destroy the station.

Each of the torpedoes connected at a critical part of the Skyhooks structure, designed to maximize the blast and minimize falling debris, and to ensure the deaths of all of the Jedi aboard.

When the blast faded, and the ashes had fallen away, it was clear that nothing could have survived.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 27: Truth Serves Only The Living

The training of Jambe Lu and Nam Poorf was going far better than Roan Shryne had expected it to. Shryne attributed this to the extensive learning the two had undergone prior to their assignment to the Jedi Agricultural Corps. Although adept in the Force, the two had not been selected as Padawans. Current events had changed their situation, and Roan Shryne was cautiously optimistic that Jambe and Nam held the potential to be true Jedi Knights.

It was an entirely unfair situation; they had skill that exceeded others who were chosen but would be left to fend for themselves in a life of anonymous service in an underappreciated role within the Republic. Whether or not a situation could be considered “fair” was irrelevant to the will of the Force, or a sufficiently closed minded Jedi Master.

Blast helmets in place, the two were deflecting shots from multiple training remotes at an incredible pace. Each student was pitted against four remotes working in concert through a small relay network for optimized attacks. Each “network” learned and adapted to each student’s combat form. Jambe and Nam were so deep into their trance, and so focused on not being hit by the painful electric sting of the remotes’ blasters, that they failed to notice the ominous vibration in the Force.

Master Shryne had felt it though, strongly enough that it was causing a considerable ringing in his ears. It was something that Shryne had always disliked about his Force sensitivity. Some Jedi got headaches, others would feel varying temperatures, there were even a few Jedi who would feel a strong sensation in their teeth, but Roan Shryne’s force-aided sensations manifested in his ears. Jedi Physicians at the temple had explained it to him before, of how the Force would generally manifest sensations in the way that would best gain the attention of whomever it was trying to reach. For Roan, it was his ears, and Roan despised earaches.

His irritation aside, the strength of the vibration was enough to warrant immediate concern. Shryne ended the exercise with Jambe and Nam and dismissed them while he went to consult with Master Vos.

Quinlan Vos was not yet fully recovered from his injuries. He was conscious though, and he could walk albeit with considerable pain. He had helped with the training whenever he could, but the majority of his waking hours were devoted to his lover, Khaleen, and his son, Korto.

Roan checked both the medical ward and the private area in the barracks Quinlan had set aside for his family, both were empty. Finally, after several minutes of searching the entire complex he found Vos in the landing bay using the Force to load supplies onto a small tramp freighter.

“Where’d you get that?” Roan asked.

Quinlan didn’t even bother to turn around, he had sensed Shryne’s approach with the Force even as he levitated and stowed survival supplies onto a freighter Shryne had never seen before.

Uninterested in answering questions, Quinlan tried to deflect Roan’s attention. “The truck came with the base. You can’t tell me you never saw it here before. Khaleen used it to dash over to the spaceport and pick up some supplies. You should send the kids down here to take a couple crates over to the galley. It would be a good workout.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Shryne responded before walking between Vos and the mysterious new Barloz class freighter that had appeared in the Enclave hangar.

Quinlan clenched his fist. “Like I said, picked it up at the spaceport yesterday, can’t be too careful.”

“That’s funny. Because it looks to me like you were being just careful enough to make sure I wouldn’t intentionally find out about this.” Roan followed up his statement with an accusatory glare.

“I didn’t want to worry the apprentices. But surely you felt that reverberation in the Force just a few minutes ago? Telos isn’t safe anymore Master Shryne, and I’m not about to sit around and wait for Master Tholme, if he’s even still alive.”

Shryne wasn’t buying it. “I’m not a youngling, there’s still something you still aren’t telling me.” Shryne looked around, noticing something was amiss. “Where’s Khaleen?”

Unable to conceal the truth from his fellow Jedi Master, Vos came clean. “Picking up more supplies at the spaceport, we found an old cargo skiff and Chak and I fixed it up. It’s a long trip though to the nearest supply depot though.”

“Otherwise you would have left by now.” Shryne said, with Vos quickly nodding in assent.

“Like I said, Telos isn’t safe. You and I saw first hand what the Empire wanted to do to us as soon as we became liabilities. As much as I’d like to join you and the others on some grand crusade to save the galaxy and bring down the Empire, I have more important things to consider. You remember the reports of what happened at the Jedi Temple, all of the Jedi there were killed. The Padawans, the Younglings, and I’m sure that they didn’t have any reservations when the got to the nursery either.”

Shryne struggled with that for a moment. It was not a pleasant thought, to think of the Jedi’s former comrades storming the temple and unleashing the destructive power of their weapons inside of the Jedi Nursery, with the youngest of all future Jedi nestled in their cribs.

“Roan,” Vos said, as he moved closer. “What if these butchers got hold of my son? What if they killed him, or what if the Sith behind all of this decides to keep him and turn him to the dark side? No victory over the Empire could ever take that pain away. Attachment isn’t a very Jedi-like principle, but neither is vengeance, and last I checked, protecting the innocent from tyrants and injustice is a good thing.”

Moved by the Kiffar’s comments, Shryne relaxed his posture slightly. “Nobody’s arguing that, but why the need for secrecy?”

“I don’t buy one bit into that supposed Amnesty offer. It might have piqued Tholme’s curiosity, but in my experience truth only serves the living. This supposed offer stinks of a trap. The Jedi are all fugitives, wherever we gather we will be hunted. As much as I’d like to bring you and the apprentices along each one of you decreases my family’s chances for survival. It’s despicable, I know, but it’s also the cold reality we live in.”

The two stood, in quiet until the silence was erased by the shrill warbling of Quinlan’s communicator. A small text only data message, easier to transmit and harder to intercept than a visual or audio recording, appeared on the small screen.

“Well you have your wish Master Shryne. Khaleen has the supplies, but the spaceport’s been hit by a blizzard. She could be stuck there for a while. She and Chak might be able to return safely, but it’s safer for Korto if they stay indoors for a while, they’ve rented a room near the main port until the storm subsides.”

“It must be nice having enough cash for an inn, a few months worth of supplies, and a brand new freighter.” Shryne smirked.

“The freighter wasn’t brand new.” Vos laughed, “The original owner was a little old Drall lady who never left the system with it. She ever even used the laser cannon. As far as the money goes, there’s nothing else to use it for now. I had it stashed to set up my spy network when I was working as a double agent, it would have been terrible counter espionage if the scum of the galaxy were paid directly out of official government accounts.”

“I thought the Chancellor and Senate were already paid from government accounts?” Shryne deadpanned.

It took Quinlan a couple of seconds to get the joke, but when he did he let out a boisterous laugh. “You’re all right Roan, you’re all right.”

“And it will stay that way, but like you I have a pair of responsibilities as well, and if it becomes apparent that Telos isn’t a safe harbor anymore…”

Shryne didn’t have to finish his statement. Vos placed his fist over his chest. “You have my word that i’ll make sure you and the Padawans have passage offworld if that happens. But I need to leave the first chance I get while there is still time left to get into hiding.”

The two men ended their discussion with an unspoken agreement, and Shryne left Quinlan Vos to his work reloading the freighter. Shryne was ready to return to his own work, if Vos was right then perhaps the Padawans needed to spend a little more time on their combat forms…

The bright lights shone through the think skin of Tholme’s eyelids. Restrained as he was and suffering from a state of semi-delirium, there was little even the Jedi Master could do to change his predicament. He had no idea where he was, his awareness of his surroundings had been dampened by Skywalker’s black aura and his senses dulled by a steady regimen of tranquilizers. The building was unlike anything Tholme remembered from his frequent trips to the Republic’s military headquarters located on the capital.

“I trust you’re comfortable. Perhaps you’re up to an earnest conversation regarding the location of the rest of your group of Jedi traitors?” The voice of Anakin Skywalker practically invaded Tholme’s ears with their dark intentions as the former Jedi stood next to the interrogation table.

Tholme could speak, but he did not want to, he attempted to feign unconsciousness with a meditative trance but it didn’t take long for Anakin to see through the ruse. He motioned to a clone trooper off to the side of the room next to the table’s control console, Tholme heard the trooper acknowledge but could not sense exactly what was going to happen, he just knew that it was going to hurt.

Instantly, energy began pouring through the table. Over a thousand volts of electricity began to course through Tholme’s body; it was enough voltage that it took all of Tholme’s concentration to keep his heart from failing him. After a very long few seconds Anakin ordered the clone to stop.

“I don’t have a problem with you being uncooperative Master Tholme. Give me any good reason to kill you and I will gladly do it. However, if you die you will no longer be able to protect your apprentice.”

Tholme’s face hurt too much to wince, but he knew that the possibility existed that he would have to sacrifice Scout. In situations like these, Jedi Masters were trained to do just that. It was a way of preventing the student/teacher bond from overriding sensibility, and a way of keeping the enemies of the Jedi from using Padawans as bargaining chips with their protective Masters.

“If I may also add, Scout is strapped to a similar apparatus that you are, and whatever you feel…” Anakin motioned back over to the trooper, who turned the dial again.

Tholme’s body began convulsing as the electricity resumed flowing. This shock was more brief than the first, but no less painful. Despite the torment that he endured, Tholme was unwavering. He had at first protected Scout aboard the Skyhook with his compliance, but the Imperial destruction of the skyhook, and the slaughter of the Jedi aboard had revealed Skywalker as not to be trusted. He vowed not to give the Empire anything.

“Try as much as you want Skywalker…” Tholme gasped with a dry, crackled voice. “You might as well kill us both.”
Anakin steeled himself. Fortunately for Tholme, or perhaps unfortunately, Anakin had been ordered and trained by Palpatine to focus his restraint better and to release and express his anger and rage in ways other than physical force. Unbeknownst to Tholme, Anakin had the luxury of being able to formulate an interrogation plan with the most devious schemer in the galaxy, a man who was also the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Anakin refocused his rage, and the frustrated sneer upon his face turned into a sinister grin. “You’ve mistaken my intentions Master Tholme. Yes your death is inevitable if you don’t tell me what I want to know, but I guarantee that Scout will live. I know you have the answers that I want; if you don’t give them to me then I’ll bring Scout in here and let her know that you’ve already written off her life. She’ll see that you’ve allowed her to suffer for your own selfish reasons, and she will turn.”

It was a development Tholme had not expected, and Anakin knew it.

“I’ve met Scout before, she’s a strong girl but in the end she’s just as manipulable as any other Padawan. With a push in the right direction she’ll embrace the dark side just as I have, and just to spite you I’ll send her on a rampage of death throughout the galaxy in service to the Empire, and by the time she finishes she’ll leave a trail of dead Jedi in her wake or die herself. Either way your non-compliance will be the catalyst to this tragedy. Of course said tragedy is not necessary and the outcome will be the same either way.” Anakin was almost surprised at just how much he himself sounded like his Master.

Tholme fought with his conscience, his motives were now headed into the murky grey areas of moral debate. Could he justify his defiance if it meant the unnecessary deaths of the innocent? If his actions indirectly related to widespread suffering at the hands of a grief and anger stricken Scout was he responsible? Could, those deaths truly be prevented, as Anakin had said?

“I will make this very easy for you Tholme. All I want to know is the location of one Jedi in particular. Your former Padawan, Quinlan Vos. Just give me the name of the system and you and Scout will be reunited, and you won’t have to worry about her heading out into the galaxy dispensing Imperial Justice at the point of her lightsaber.”

Tholme didn’t know what Anakin or the Empire wanted with Quinlan Vos, but he knew it would not bode well for his former student. But Tholme had already been willing to sacrifice Scout for the greater good, In the long run, Quinlan was no more important than she was.

The easiest option to end his own suffering and save others was the most difficult decision he could make, an age old conundrum that was normally thought upon in the hypothetical sense. Tholme's final decision was based on the terrible truth that no matter what he did eventually Anakin Skywalker and the Empire would have their way.

For the first time in his life he felt that he was broken, and truly out of options.

“Master still on Telos.” Tholme gasped and nearly choked on the words, his mouth extremely dry from the electric shocks and the tranquilizer regimen.

Anakin concentrated on Tholme with the Force and found no deception, any Jedi who had suffered as much as Tholme, would find it next to impossible to disguise a passable lie with the Force.

“You’ve done the right thing Master Tholme.” Anakin spoke in a reassuring voice as he crouched down low to stare right into Tholme’s eyes from close range. “And now, as promised, you’ll be taken to Scout.”

Anakin opened the door to the interrogation chamber and ordered a pair of troopers outside to take Tholme into the adjacent chamber.

The Jedi Master was too weak to even attempt to resist as the troopers unbound him from his restraints and stood him upright before hauling him out into the corridor. The troopers only had to drag him less than five meters before tossing him into the next room.

Tholme landed on the floor with a hard “thud!” and immediately moaned in pain as the door shut behind him. He was confused, Anakin had said Scout was being kept in a room identical to his own, but there were no signs of interrogation equipment anywhere. He scanned the room with his eyes and saw Scout’s body collapsed in a heap in the far corner. He fought back the pain and limped over towards her. She lay still, and Tholme turned her over to make sure she was all right. He had hoped that the torture they had each been forced to endure had not done too much damage.

But to his horror, Scout was dead. Her body was cold and had been lifeless for some time; her eyes were open and her death gaze vacant, as if she were looking up at the stars. Blood trickled from her nose and from the corners of her mouth and her pupils were so dilated that her eyes appeared almost entirely black.

Tholme heard a series of whirrs and clicks as a series of vents opened into the room and hermetic seals clamped down tightly around the doors. It didn’t take long that whatever nerve gas the Empire had used to kill Scout would be the same gas that killed him. Even with the Force, potent nerve agents were beyond resistance for most Jedi. Even the most powerful Jedi could only stave off the effects for short periods of time.

Scout had to have been killed not long after the two were put into this facility. The tale of her fate and well being had been a lie by Anakin to extract the information he required. Even worse for Tholme was the fact that he had sacrificed Quinlan Vos’ sanctuary in order to prevent her from being turned into a weapon, which was never the Empire’s intent to begin with. The stench of the gas filled Tholme’s nose, signaling that his time was near. Clutching the body of the fallen Padawan, he released his mind to the Force. He saw himself standing in a meadow on some distant world with T’ra Saa, the two Jedi sitting together beneath a tree, with no war anywhere in sight.

It was a sight that Tholme had hoped he would one day see with his own eyes, a dream that would never be fulfilled.

After nearly an hour’s worth of exposure to the gas, not an extraordinary amount of overkill given the nature of the prisoner, Anakin ordered the room vented and the corpses disposed of. Tholme had revealed nothing of importance in his dying moments; his mind had become an empty vessel before his body succumbed to the effects of one of the Imperial Security Bureau’s nastier concoctions.

Anakin turned to one of his troopers, the same one who had administered the electricity during Tholme’s interrogation, and began giving orders.

“Contact Commander Appo and let him know we have a target, tell him to contact Admiral Screed and arrange for a task force to be assembled immediately. By this time tomorrow I want to be in the Telos system with Quinlan Vos’ head separated from his shoulders.

Deep within his private chambers, Darth Sidious sat in a deep Sith Meditation. Already he could sense that his leash on his impetuous Apprentice was growing more tenuous by the day. Rare was the occasion when one of the Dark Lord’s plans backfired on him, but the assassination of Padme Amidala had it’s negative consequences. Consequences that the Sith Emperor failed to foresee.

In the aftermath of Padme’s death, there was a huge outburst of support for General Anakin Skywalker, and in short time Lord Vader’s public persona had eclipsed the popularity of Emperor Palpatine. As loyal as Vader could be, if he felt that he could move against his Master he would do so without hesitation. Sidious was not about to make way for the next generation of Sith, not while the entire galaxy belonged to him. He would have to move fast to act against Vader while he was still young and foolish. Vader’s legacy would be allowed to live on though; Sidious knew that he would be able to make great use of the Skywalker twins. He had foreseen it.

For the time being Sidious would indulge Vader and allow him to prosecute the hunt for Quinlan Vos. Sidious was sure Vader would turn up at least a handful of other Jedi in the process and push the hidden Jedi further towards the brink of extinction. Vader’s power could still be useful for the time being.
Even as the plan began to formulate in his mind, Sidious was still quite angry. He had spent years molding Vader to become the ideal apprentice, and now it seemed as if Vader’s tenure would not last even a small fraction of that time. Still, if his plans for the twins could go forth in Skywalker’s absence, Sidious knew the rewards from that plan would carry him on for far longer than if their father lived.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-01-27 12:27am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 28: Dangerous Prey

Obi Wan had spent his time in hyperspace reviewing as much of the data as he could to try and piece together what had happened. A public manhunt was now being undertaken for the fugitive Jedi Quinlan Vos, and that search was being led by none other than Anakin Skywalker.

“Rarely did I ever envy Master Vos, and now is definitely not one of those times…”

The Jedi Master realized that Vos was an easy scapegoat, and that whoever truly organized the attack would have had little trouble convincing Anakin that it was Vos who was behind it all. It didn’t take Obi Wan very long to place Palpatine as the most likely suspect and it had heartbreaking connotations. Obi Wan still loved Anakin like a brother, even though he was now sworn to defeat him no matter the cost.

There was little time to dwell on the situation for Obi Wan who, in his guise as the Rebel General Ben Cody, entered the bridge and was greeted with salutes from the bridge crew. After returning the salute he was approached by Captain Slayke.

“General Cody we’re now approaching the Telos system. Want us to take the Hymn into orbit?”

“No need. I’ll take one of our shuttles over myself. I don’t want to cause a panic for anyone on the planet. Hold a position here at the edge of the system and keep a close eye on all of the local hyperspace vectors. It’s not a popular system, but it used to be, and there’s a lot of ways in and out of this area on just about every astronavigation chart in the galaxy. It’s a safe bet the Empire knows just about all of them.”

“Fair enough,” The Captain acknowledged, obviously a bit disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to help much, “but at least let us give you some proper transportation,” he said with a devious grin.

It was a short trip to the Battlehymn’s main hangar, and Obi Wan liked what he saw. Slayke was unable to see Obi Wan’s face but could easily tell that Obi Wan was impressed at the ship that sat before them. A gleaming jet black version of a droid gunship, bristling with firepower and boasting a pair of engines Obi Wan recognized as larger than what appeared on the standard model.

“Now that’s what I call ‘proper transportation.’” Kenobi deadpanned.

Always happy to help Slayke walked over in front of the craft and gave it a cursory visual inspection. “What d’ya say General, think this will get you over to Telos and back?”

“Indeed, but I do have one concern, just where am I supposed to sit? I was under the impression that Droid Gunships didn’t carry crew.”

Slayke responded quickly. “They don’t, Baktoid never made a bucket fit for anything organic. This is a Haor-Chall Mechanized Assault Flyer.”

Obi Wan recognized the name. “I’ve heard of them, but weren’t they phased out early in the war? Something about not being well armored enough.”

“That’s right General, but this here’s not your standard model. You ever hear of a guy who went by the name of Ado Eemon?”

Obi Wan replied in the negative, so Slayke continued. “Ruthless son of a Rancor that guy, he was the de facto authority on Caramm V when they joined up with the Seps, completely trashed the entire world setting up droid foundries and shipyards. Anyways, Battlehymn here was part of Caramm’s defense fleet up until the end when the droids were deactivated. A few of our guys managed to salvage the ship before the Empire came in and smashed Eemon’s little fiefdom to pieces.”

“That’s a fine story but it still doesn’t tell me anything about what I need to know.”

“Hmmm? Oh yeah…right…sorry about that General. We peeled every bit of information we could out of the ship’s memory. This was actually Ado Eemon’s customized personal courier, a prototype built to his own specifications. He needed a courier armed like a gunship but capable of hauling him and his cronies around, so he had a couple of the brains over at Baktoid implement some of their work from the standard Droid Gunships onto an old MAF. Should be able to fit three people in there, four if you have to, and you don’t need to worry about flying because the droid brain handles all of that. About the only thing she’s missing is a hyperdrive and a pilot.”

“Well here’s hoping I won’t need a hyperdrive then. As for the piloting, I think I can manage this myself.” Obi Wan said as he climbed into the cabin to view the inside. In the back of his head Obi Wan felt a dull sensation, recognizable as a subtle warning from the Force that danger was present, although not imminent. After a few seconds he turned around to face Slayke.

“Let’s get her ready for departure Captain. I’d rather get this over with as soon as possible.”

Still hours away from his destination, Darth Vader, in his guise as Supreme commander Anakin Skywalker, decided to rest. After handing over temporary command to the Line Captain that had been assigned to Anakin’s flagship, the newly renamed Devastator , he retired to his private quarters.

Devastator had been permanently assigned to the Supreme Commander, and Admiral Terrinald Screed had supplied the other two ships in the task force, procured from the Imperial Center Defense Fleet under his own direct control. The twin Venator-class Star Destroyers were in the midst of being phased out, but Vader eagerly accepted them. The older Star Destroyers carried more fighters and support craft than the newer editions, and carried squadrons of the hyperspace capable ARC-170’s, which would greatly aid in long range search operations.

Of course if everything went according to plan, there would not bee much in the way of searching. Vader had his target, Telos IV, and he felt confident that he would arrive in time to deal with the Jedi once and for all.

Now, alone in his chambers, Vader mourned.

For the only the second time since he had felt Padme’s death, Darth Vader cried. His hands pressed against his face to hold back the tears but could not. That first time he had done so was in the heat of battle with Kar Vastor, but those had been tears of passion and anger, shed due to the overwhelming emotions he had faced as he brought to the full power of the Dark Side to bear.

These tears were different; they were cold and heavy with despair. Vader had not yet wrapped his mind around the concept of living the rest of his life without Padme, and with that reality staring him in the face as he threw his entire being into his revenge; there was little he could do to deny his sorrow.

He had the children, and he was determined to be a good father. He had his military position, and he was determined to bring order to the galaxy. But he didn’t have what he wanted most, the person he had sacrificed everything to protect. He had quite literally sacrificed the entire galaxy for her, and would have done so again repeatedly if necessary, but in the end his devotion had been for naught.

Raising the children and protecting the Empire would have to wait; all that mattered now was Vader’s revenge. Vader released his face from his hands as he repressed the tears and attempted to regain his lost composure, but was stopped by a familiar sounding voice…his own.

“You didn’t love her…”

It was his own voice, but it wasn’t Vader. Rather, it was Anakin Skywalker, haunting the back of his mind as Vader had done to him before emerging as the dominant personality.

“Of course I loved her!” The Sith Lord protested. “She meant everything to me!”

“Wrong Vader. She meant everything to me; to you she’s just another way of continuing your vendetta with the Jedi. You’re only grieving now because you aren’t absorbed in the search for Quinlan Vos and are faced with the fact that you are living a lie.”

”You’re the lie!” Vader angrily countered. “You were the one who acted against your own desires underneath the heel of the Jedi or most of your life! You were the one who had to hide his feelings because you were afraid of being discovered.”

Anakin Skywalker was undeterred and replied calmly yet forcefully. “You are the one who hides his persona behind MY name, and also the one who is using MY wife as justification for this hunt of yours. Padme didn’t fall in love with Darth Vader; she fell in love with Anakin Skywalker.”

The comment enraged Vader, who used the force to wreak havoc on the furniture in his quarters, hurling them at his unseen adversary. “Anakin Skywalker couldn’t protect her! I did what I had to do!”

As soon as he said it, Vader immediately regretted it, because he knew exactly what Anakin was going to say next.

“And where were you when she needed your so-called protection the most? Where were you when she died?”

Vader let out a terrible scream, he howled until his lungs emptied and burned from the lack of oxygen. Anakin did not relent.

“You think that you destroyed me, along with the rest of your past when she died. You think that, because deep down Vader, you believe that with her gone, that there was nothing left to tie you to your true self. You think that without Padme your transformation into a Sith is complete, but you’re wrong. I’ll always be a part of you Vader, just as you were always a part of me.”

The idea of Anakin Skywalker haunting his consciousness for the rest of his days sickened Vader to the point of nausea, and the Dark Lord clutched at his stomach as a result. “I’ll just kill you again, and I’ll keep on killing you until you stay gone!” Vader defiantly remarked.

“You can’t kill me without killing yourself. Our destinies are one.”

The voice trailed off into nothingness and Vader felt the queasiness in his gut subside. He spat on the floor in disgust. Even though Vader had emerged as the dominant personality, he still had a long way to go before eliminating Skywalker from his self altogether.

Vader was no longer in the mood for a respite. He made his way back to the bridge of the Star Destroyer, his eyes were swollen and it was evident that he was not in the best of moods. But Vader knew that no one would dare to say anything. Those few that would not empathize with Vader’s trauma would stay silent for fear of inviting the Supreme Commander’s temper upon them.

“Captain Vedij, status report.” He said coolly.

Vedij, Line Captain of the current task force tagged as “Death Squadron” and a Veteran of several naval engagements during the Clone War, motioned towards the crewman operating the nearest sensor display. A holographic display of the Telos system emerged before Vader’s eyes as Vedij began his report.

“General Skywalker, we are advancing according to schedule. We will arrive at Telos shortly. I’ve taken the liberty of ordering our ships to come out of hyperspace at the fringe of the system and approach the planet quietly under the cover of the abundance of ancient battle debris in the system. We should be able to approach largely unnoticed. Any Jedi facility on that world must be too small in order to have detection equipment strong enough to discern our ships’ signatures from the wreckage.”

“Excellent work Captain, you have done well. Put all ships on active alert” Vader praised, quite satisfied with his subordinate’s work. Never one to stay seated, Vader stood above the crew pits and stared towards the main viewport. The normally transparent view was currently covered for the duration of hyperspace travel, but with the Force it was easy for Vader to look past the screen and into the emptiness of space, and through that emptiness, Vader could sense the presence of Anakin Skywalker, still whispering dischord in his ear. Vader filled his mind with self hatred and anger, allowing his darkness to consume the light in his heart.

“I don’t have time to spend on such weakness. I will deal with it as soon as I’m finished with the Jedi.”

As the snowstorm intensified, so did Quinlan Vos. Unable to communicate with Khaleen, Vos was forced into the company of Shryne and the Padawans in order to keep his mind focused on something other than nagging worry. Roan Shryne welcomed it much more than the Padawans, who were subject to sparring sessions insisted upon by Vos. Vos was far from a lenient instructor when it came to swordsmanship and by the end of their session, both Jambe Lu and Nam Poorf sported modest collections of bruises on their skin and singe marks on their clothing.

Shryne used his respite in a vain attempt to monitor air and space traffic in the system. The ancient equipment used in the Enclave’s construction was quite robust in its design, but not immune to the effects of wind and cold. A more powerful array would have easily penetrated the inclement weather, but would have stood out far too much for what was supposed to be a secret location.

About the only function available to Shryne at the moment was communication, but since Shryne had no one to communicate with, there was no need to utilize that feature. Vos had attempted to contact his snowbound lover and child, but her small handheld device was unable to cope with the weather.

The Jedi Master did not know if his dedication was based on a whim of the Force, his sense of duty, or perhaps just desperate hope that the silence would be broken with good news from someone like Master Tholme. Vigilant, but not entirely optimistic, Shryne stood from the console and decided he could take a short break and look for something to eat.

He was only a couple of meters away from his seat when a proximity alert began sounding, and although he knew better, Shryne almost swore that the alarm was scolding him as if to say “I told you so.” Looking over the readouts on the control panel, Shryne saw that the Enclave was receiving an incoming transmission. Another alert was sounding as well, whoever was broadcasting the message had taken the liberty of remotely accessing the hangar’s main doors and was preparing to land. Shryne was suspicious at first, considering the possibility of an Imperial trap. But he could sense no danger in the Force, and all signs pointed to the newcomer being a Jedi, one of sufficient rank to know about the hidden Telos Enclave. Eager to learn the truth of his guest’s identity, Shryne picked up the panel’s communications handset.

“Unknown ship, identify yourself.” Shryne requested.

“Unknown ship, identify yourself.” asked the Jedi over the comm.

Obi Wan wasn’t entirely sure how to respond and he had no idea as to how the Jedi would react to the presence of a Separatist Gunship landing in their hangar, and he did not want to broadcast his true identity on the off hand chance that the Empire was listening in. He took a deep breath to summon his composure and picked up the receiver.

“Jedi Enclave, my name is Ben Cody and my ship is an undesignated model of Separatist Gunship. I represent certain, shall we say…anti-Imperial interests that are concerned with your well being.” Obi Wan exhaled, satisfied with his response.

“Is there some reason that someone concerned with our well being would show up so unexpectedly? Do you have any good reason for us to trust you? How did you even know of this place? The voice sounded skeptical, but Obi Wan did not find that surprising in the least, not after what the Jedi had been through since the war’s end.

“How I came about my knowledge isn’t important. What’s important is that there’s been an incident on Coruscant, the Jedi amnesty offer has been revoked.”

“…the Jedi amnesty offer has been revoked.”

Shryne cringed; the Enclave had not been able to tap into holonet broadcasts for some time. “What kind of incident?” he asked. It was almost a demand more than a question, but the faceless person on the other side of the comm did not seem to mind.

“All of the Jedi who accepted the offer are now dead. Their skyhook was destroyed by the Empire after the Jedi were implicated in the assassination of the Imperial Diplomats scheduled to meet with them. Right now the Empire is out looking for the Jedi they believe to be most responsible.”

“And who might that be?” Shryne inquired, still undecided as to whether or not to allow this unknown individual access to the Enclave.

“Master Quinlan Vos. If he’s there then we need to evacuate him from the system as fast as we can. I have a ship waiting in orbit to take us beyond the Empire’s reach but we need to leave soon.”

Ben Cody had just dropped a proton bomb of surprise. He could not feel any ill intent in the stranger’s motives with the Force, but he did sense that there was something the stranger was not saying about his own identity that made Shryne nervous. Still, if Cody was telling the truth, he couldn’t afford to deny him access.

“I’ll make sure there’s room in the hangar for you, but the weather is brutal right now. If you need help landing….”

“I appreciate the help Enclave but I have everything under control.”

“I appreciate the help Enclave but I have everything under control.”

Obi Wan ended his broadcast and began the delicate process of navigating the snowstorm with the Force. He was grateful that he had been given permission to land. Even though as a member of the Jedi Council he could have given himself access at his own discretion but he did not want to provoke whatever Jedi who might still be alive into a frightened response.

He decreased his altitude and began his final approach, hoping that he was not too late to save those few who were left.

Wilhuff Tarkin was very rarely nervous, he had spent years living in wealth and splendor while amassing power at such a rate that worry was almost an inconceivable notion to him.

But as he walked into the Throne room, he felt those little flare wings in his stomach that he always felt when in the presence of the only man in the galaxy he owed fealty to.

“You wanted to speak with me your Majesty?” Tarkin asked.

The Emperor turned in his seat, “Yes Governor Tarkin, I would not have called you away from Eriadu were it not important.” The Supreme Ruler of the Galaxy asked, his voice reeked with a darkness Tarkin had never seen in the man when he was little more than a kindly old politician. Tarkin had long suspected Palpatine was hiding something, but this was a truth most fearsome to him.

The Emperor continued, “I’ve been reviewing your reports on the Battle of Enarc. I take you were not pleased with General Skywalker’s battle strategy.”

Tarkin wanted to kick himself. He had known Skywalker was the Emperor’s golden child, but in his spite he had been quite critical of the former Jedi’s handling of the battle. Partially because he felt that Skywalker had neglected to take advantage of a grand opportunity and partly because Anakin had marginalized Tarkin’s own role in the battle and had stolen the nexu’s share of the glory. But not long after the report had been filed Tarkin was regretting his harshness, because he had no way of recanting when Skywalker’s role in the New Order had been clearly defined as above Tarkin’s own station. Tarkin disliked Anakin Skywalker but had no desire to make an enemy out of such a powerful individual. He decided that he could use the conversation to officially soften his stance with the Emperor.

“Majesty, I admit that I was perhaps too critical…”

The Emperor interrupted, as he commonly did to his more powerful subordinates as a way of asserting his status. “Oh I don’t believe so Governor. In fact I would say that perhaps young Skywalker has grown quite reckless wouldn’t you agree?”

It was a shocking statement indeed, and Tarkin was taken off guard. He proceeded carefully; fully aware that Palpatine was perhaps attempting to lure him into saying something he should not be saying. “I believe so Majesty, but he only does so for the greater good of the Empire, and he has led our forces rather admirably given the circumstances.”

Palpatine scoffed. “He is more interested in revenge right now than preserving the peace. I believe that Skywalker is simply biding his time.”

“Biding his time for what my Lord?”

Palpatine folded his hands together, and sighed. “It is my belief that Anakin Skywalker will settle for no less than full control over the entire Empire, and that includes removing me as an obstacle.”

It was very difficult for Tarkin to believe, Skywalker was as loyal of a hound as had ever existed, but there was no questioning the Emperor. “He commands great loyalty amongst our Forces, especially amongst the cloned soldiers and pilots,” Tarkin noted.

“This I am aware of Governor, which is why I am putting you in charge of dealing with Skywalker.”

It was both a shock and a welcome to Tarkin, who now had his chance to get rid of Skywalker and climb in the Emperor’s hierarchy. “By your command Majesty, but I am unclear on how I should handle the situation.”

Unsurprisingly, the Emperor already had a solution. “Skywalker is a powerful beast but he is also predictable. As soon as he has dealt with the Jedi he will turn his attentions entirely towards taking over the Empire. After you have made sure that he has dealt with Quinlan Vos you will make sure that he does not survive long enough to betray us. A shuttle is standing by waiting to take you to the Telos system. Skywalker will be arriving there soon to attempt to apprehend the Jedi, because of unforeseeable circumstances he will find himself delayed in that system, which will give you time to catch up to him and establish your presence on his flagship as my personal envoy. Observe until the time is right, and then strike as you see fit.”

“I understand Majesty. I will leave immediately.” The Governor complied.

Palpatine smiled, and his hands returned to the arm rests to either side of the throne. “Good, and Governor?”

“Yes Majesty?” Tarkin bowed.

“I would not recommend failing, General Skywalker has quite the temper.”
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-04-30 04:01am, edited 1 time in total.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
-George Carlin (1937-2008)

"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 29: Reasons Left To Live

It was a tight fit, but Obi Wan’s flyer managed to set down without harm from the cold. He found himself surprisingly calm and collected given the circumstances. He drew the force into him and stashed his lightsaber within the compartment in his arm, a way of concealing his Jedi background for the time being. The Vocoder would provide the added touch necessary to keep the disguise in place. The truth could be revealed once the Jedi were all safely board the Battlehymn.

He exited the flyer and was greeted by a particularly gruff Jedi with pulled back hair and the stubbly beginnings of a beard, its unkempt nature revealing the desperation of his situation. Obi Wan recognized him as a member of the Jedi “Old Guard”, and a man who might have held Obi Wan’s seat on the Jedi Council were it not for a series of tragedies that had befallen the man during the Clone Wars, Roan Shryne. He dared not reveal himself just yet though. Not when they were being hunted by Anakin Skywalker, and though Obi Wan despised pessimism if Shryne were captured by Anakin the possibility would exist that Anakin would discover that Obi Wan was alive and well.

Obi Wan bowed graciously, befitting “Master Jedi, thank you for permitting me to land. I have a ship at the edge of the system waiting for us to…”

“Hold on.” Shryne interrupted. Obi Wan was not used to a Jedi Master of Shryne’s stature acting in such a way, but it was certainly understandable given the times.

“Of course, my apologies,” Kenobi conceded.

Shryne sighed. “Look, I realize I’m probably not acting the way you expected but we’re in a terrible bind right now and under the circumstances I can’t afford to turn down any aid, if that is in fact what you are offering.” Obi Wan shook his head in the affirmative and allowed his fellow Jedi to continue. “If what you are saying is the truth then perhaps it would be best if you left as soon as you could.”

“I can’t do that,” Obi Wan answered. “Not in good conscience at least, besides my organization could use all of the Jedi support it can muster.”

“Organization?” Shryne asked.

“I represent a unified assortment of interests opposed to the Empire. The way we see it, the more Jedi that survive, the worse things are for the Empire.

“The truth comes out,” Shryne snapped, “we’re a means to an end, is that what you think?”

Obi Wan remained calm. “Your surviving hurts the Empire even if you choose not to fight with us. We can talk more though on our way out of the system. I can get you out of the Empire’s reach and from there you can go wherever you want.”

Shryne’s response was less than optimistic. “Sounds almost too good to be true, but like I said, I really don’t have a choice. Master Vos is the only one here you’re going to have to convince.”

“Quinlan Vos is here?” A shocked Obi Wan blurted out.

“That’s right.” replied Shryne. “But his wife and kid are trapped by that snowstorm near the Telos Spaceport, and he’s not going anywhere without them.

“So the rumors I’d heard from Saleucami were true after all.” mused Kenobi. “If they are stuck in the city, why doesn’t Vos just use that other ship I landed beside and go get them?”

A second voice, which Obi Wan recognized as that of Quinlan Vos, emerged from the shadows. “The entire spaceport is locked down; it would cause quite a disturbance to barge in there. In case you hadn’t noticed, that freighter is an old Bespin Gas Can, built to run Tibanna out of Cloud City, there isn’t enough firepower to handle even those dinky T-16’s used by spaceport security.”

Briefly, Obi Wan wondered if the Jedi’s prohibition on wives and children had less to do with attachment, and more to do with the apparent logistical nightmare of keeping track of said families. Still, the situation presented Obi Wan with a way to earn the trust of the two Jedi Masters.

“If firepower is your problem, then take my ship. That is, if you think you can use it without killing anyone who doesn’t really deserve it. It’s hardened enough to make it through this weather, and there’s enough armor that nothing short of a high end military gunship should be able to dent you.”

Quinlan Vos considered the masked man’s proposal for but a moment, and Obi Wan realized that Vos was attempting to read his intentions through the Force. Of course, with the force being drawn in to Obi Wan such as it were, Vos would have a most difficult time realizing anything, which could make him more suspicious.

“What’s with the mask?” said Vos in an attempt to discern any sort of information about his newfound ally.

Obi Wan hoped that a truthful sounding answer would deflect suspicion. “The unfortunate result of a run-in with the Empire I’m afraid.”

In truth Quinlan’s suspicion had only been sharpened by the intentionally vague answer, which Vos noted was the same sort of response he would have received from Yoda or Tholme. There wasn’t enough time to worry about it though; Khaleen, Korto, and Chak were in danger.

Vos looked away towards the hangar, and then back at the masked man, who could easily sense the Jedi’s apprehension. The mechanical voice remained calm, almost soothing in its response. “The ship is standing by, take it and go to them.”

If Quinlan Vos had hesitated, nobody noticed it as he took off for the hangar in a dead sprint. Leaving Shryne and the Padwans behind did not sit well with him, but he promised himself that he would return for them as he agreed. Quinlan’s newfound dedication to family, he decided, would not entirely exclude his Jedi brothers and sisters.

As he made his way up the ramp and into the ship, he paused yet again, and actually smiled as he took the pilot’s seat.

“I owe you one Obi Wan.”

“General Skywalker, we’re about to exit hyperspace.”

Of course with his Force enhanced sense, Vader already knew this, in fact he had already begun to stand and move toward the front of the bridge and gaze upon the Telos system for the first time. He remembered how, as a boy, he had boldly stated his desire to visit every star and every world in the galaxy. Vader quickly decided that the Telos system would not have been too high even on a young Anakin’s list of places to visit.

Then, a flash in the force, reminiscent of a low power electrical sensation coursing through his body, the feeling that a being had when danger was afoot. The adrenaline began to run its course and began to strengthen his connection to the Force. This was not just a minor threat either, and Vader had to wonder what sort of threat could exist in the Telos system that would cause him to react in this way.

The second that the Devastator re-entered normal space, it was obvious. As part of Vedij’s strategy to bring his ships in under cover, he had selected a point in the asteroid field where the debris was light, and could easily be entered by a group of ships.

Whoever was occupying the Trade Federation battleship had thought the same thing.

Vader reached out with the Force, crossing the void between the two ships and sensing the terror and shock of the ship’s crew. That told Vader two things, they weren’t expecting the Empire to find them so easily, and that there was a living crew aboard that ship.

“Captain Vedij, there are more living beings aboard that ship than one would suspect for a Trade Federation vessel. I want it identified, and I want prisoners. I trust you can handle such an operation?”

The Captain was confident, save for the inherent fear of failure any military officer had when given such a task by the military’s highest ranking being. “We will succeed General,” he said, managing to stay calm. “The crew of the Devastator is the best in the fleet.”

“I believe you Captain.” Vader said, instilling some additional confidence in Vedij. “However there is no room for error. Use whatever additional ships from the Squadron that you deem fit to assist you and have the rest blockade the planet. Have my starfighter and your best clone squadron prepped now. I want them all ready by the time I reach the hangar.

Now the Captains nerves were obvious. “Will you be participating in the battle General?” Vedij was not comfortable putting the General in the line of fire, and feared what would happen to his career if Skywalker were somehow injured.

The well meant concern was not treated as such. “You should not concern yourself with my safety or my personal affairs Captain. Focus on the success of the mission that I have laid out for you if you are so concerned about your career.”

“Yes General, duly noted,” Vedij stuttered. “Are there any further instructions?”

Vader pondered the Captain’s words, and made his decision.

“Yes, when your ships have finished blockading the planet, destroy the spaceport, and everything in or around it.”


That outburst, followed by a colorful string of expletives was the first thing that the bridge crew of the Battlehymn heard after he alarm klaxons went off and the threat display screen became flooded with Imperial ships. Zozridor Slayke boasted an infamous reputation for his swearing, and he was definitely adding to it as he began punching up display at his captain’s chair.

”If we head for cover in the asteroids, they shoot at the asteroids, we get pelted with debris and we’re dead. If we try to run they catch us and we’re dead. If we stay and fight we’re dead.”

The options were limited, but Captain Slayke knew he did not have luxury of time in order to decide his strategy. Reacting quickly, he put out a message to the entire ship.

“We need to get some breathing room. Fire at the closest ship and hammer them as best as you can, I want all non-combat personnel to get to every hyperspace capable ship that we have and prepare to run. I want every fighter we have to prepare for suicide launches against the star destroyers. As of right now our mission is to take down as many of these Imp bastards with us as possible. I fought for years against the scum who tried to divide my Republic, I’m not about to let these sons of Kath Hounds tread upon the sacrifice of all those who have gone before me! Anyone who tries to desert or defect now I’ll come over and shoot personally. Anyone want to argue?”

Nobody dared, and Slayke said nothing further as he turned off the intercom. Although resigned to his fate, he was not about to simply give in to it.

“I hope things are going better for you General…”

“I owe you one Obi Wan.”

Obi Wan was startled by the telepathic acknowledgement of his identity, but apparently Quinlan had picked up on his desire to remain anonymous and had chosen not to out his comrade in front of the other Jedi. Still, if Quinlan Vos could discern Obi Wan’s identity with the Force, then it was almost assured that Anakin could do so if given the chance, and if Anakin found out that the man he thought he had killed on Mustafar still lived, he would hunt him down to the far corners of the galaxy.

Obi Wan had a lot of work to do before it was time to face Anakin. He turned to look at Roan Shryne. If Shryne had picked up any semblance of that message he wasn’t letting on, and from what Obi Wan could tell of the Padawans they were probably not trained well enough to suspect anything without being told first.

Obi Wan was just about to ask Shryne if there was any way that he could contact the Battlehymn when one of the Padawans came running into the chamber that Obi Wan and Shryne had just seated themselves in.

“Master Shryne!” the Padawan screamed. “We’ve just intercepted a transmission from the spaceport! The Empire is here and they’re blockading the planet!”

Nam Poorf’s warning deeply unnerved Shryne. Even the mysterious Ben Cody finally showed something other than a calmness that was eerily serene, even for a Jedi Master to behold.

“Nam, I want you to go get Jambe, the two of you need to get to Master Vos’s ship and start getting it ready to take off.” He ordered.

“Padawan,” Cody interrupted, “was there any mention of a ship fighting back against the Imperial forces?

Nam shook his head in the affirmative. “There was some mention of some kind of warship having it out with a couple of Star Destroyers, but I couldn’t make it all out.”

“Blast,” Cody said. “Those were our reinforcements. It looks like that Gas Can is going to be our only way out of the system.

Shryne was about to ask Cody how he had managed to get hold of a Trade Federation ship, when the man suddenly fell to the floor, his hands gripping his abdomen in what appeared to be a terrible pain.

Suddenly Obi Wan felt queasy, and even his cybernetic limbs shook as the feeling overtook him. Something in the Living Force, the aspect of the Force favored by Qui Gonn Jinn, had taken hold on his psyche.

Something very bad was about to happen, and judging by the overwhelming dark feeling behind it, Obi Wan was sure that his former student was somehow involved.

“Are you all right?” Nam Poorf cried out as he and Shryne rushed to Obi Wan’s side.

“Just a malfunction in the life support equipment,” Obi Wan lied, “nothing serious though.” Obi Wan closed off his connection to the Living Force and his limbs steadied.

“I just hope that Vos hurries…”

Shryne helped him to his feet. “We’re going to have to follow Vos in to the spaceport, we don’t have time for him to get his family and come back, and now it seems instead of you rescuing us, it’s going to be the other way around. Think you can handle that Cody?”

If their lives had not been at stake, it would have been comical. Obi Wan had been through countless “rescues” in his Jedi career on both sides. In his typical dry fashion that bordered on sarcastic, Obi Wan accepted. “Given the circumstances Master Jedi, I would be honoured.”

Vader had left the bridge, not bothering to deal with his commanding officer any further. Vader was confident that the man understood the price of failure and no further admonishment would be required unless that failure, however unlikely it was, actually occurred. Of course, he could not deny that part of his haste was his overwhelming eagerness to fly. Waiting in the hangar like a sleeping predator was the repainted and customized Jedi Starfighter Anakin had flown to Mustafar. The bright garish markings of the Jedi Order had been replaced with a sleek black finish, and the astromech socket occupied by a sleek R4-K5 droid.

Vader had long waited for another chance to take to the stars. The daily opportunity to fly, even in combat, was one of the few things Vader genuinely missed about the Clone War, and of his old life.

Accompanied by a squadron of V-Wings, Vader took off from the Devastator and into the weightlessness and freedom of space.

“Omega Squadron, this is General Skywalker, tag my fighter as Skywalker One and form up on me. Head straight for Telos and begin searching outward from the spaceport, under no circumstances are your fighters to get within five kilometers of the spaceport itself.”

“Omega One here, Roger that General, Just say the word and we’ll fly with you through each of the Nine Corellian Hells.”

Vader smiled. It was a breach of etiquette for the clone pilot to acknowledge him like that, but Vader was unconcerned with it. He was far more comfortable with the clones than he was with anyone else, the bond he had with his men was stronger than what he had shared with his fellow Jedi before. He trusted the clones with no reservations, and they had in return given him their undivided loyalty. Vader welcomed it as a useful and potentially devastating advantage he held over the other figures in the Emperor’s New Order.

Vader watched as the first wave of droid starfighers began shooting towards the Imperial formation. Puzzled by their lack of formations and disorganization, Vader brought his fighter around so that he could get a better view, and watched as a squadron of Vulture Droids plowed into the shields of the Devastator .

“Such desperation, whatever that ship’s purpose in the system it must be important. They must be covering for something going on planetside, but what?”

The R4 droid began to chirp, the Devastator was sending a transmission. It was Captain Vedij
“General Skywalker, we’ve identified the Trade Federation ship. She matches the description of the flagship of an unknown rebel task force that disable the Victory Star Destroyer Sharpwyrm .”

The name of the ship sounded familiar to Vader. “Elaborate for me Captain, quickly.”

“Yes sir, Sharpwyrm was acting on your orders investigating the tampering of the Another Chance when it was attacked by rebels seeking the Alderaanian ship’s cargo.”

“Alderaan!” Vader remembered. He had been so caught up in the events surrounding Asajj Ventress and then Depa Billaba that he had abandoned all thought of that particular mission. Now the events on that world were coming together with his hunt for the man who had killed his wife. He couldn’t quite figure it out yet, but Vader knew that there was something unifying all of these events and tying them together.

He couldn’t rule out the possibility that somehow his Master was manipulating events from behind the scenes, but didn’t think that the old Sith would dare move against Padme and his family, Vos was the likely suspect. Perhaps Vos had organized the incident on Alderaan as well. It made since, he had spent time as a colleague of Ventress under Dooku for a time and Vos was known to walk a precarious balance between the light and dark sides of the Force.

Vader switched off the comm, all of the answers he needed now were on Telos. Pushing forward on the yoke of his controls, he moved clear of the asteroid field and pushed the fighter to its limits, streaking towards the world of Telos, and towards destiny.

Author's Notes: Three months, and a few psychiatric conditions later and this fic is back! Well, sort of, I hope to resume a more regular updating schedule once I reconstruct some old outlines for the next few chapters and move on to the next phase of the story after this one.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 30: Eye for an Eye

“If we’re leaving anyway, then I’d like to make a request.” Obi Wan asked of Shryne.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” The Jedi Master was at a loss for what his guest could have wanted.

“While you and your students prepare the ship, I would like to use the facility’s communications equipment to contact my ship.”

Shryne grimaced at the thought. “If we do that then the Empire is going to learn of this facility, a transmission of that size might as well be a massive pyroworks display with a big sign that screams ‘Here’s the Jedi!’ Is that what you want?”

Obi Wan tried to explain. “As I said, we’re leaving the facility; it cannot hurt much, in fact if the Empire immediately focuses their efforts on this building then that means they won’t be looking as hard elsewhere.”

It was logical, sensible, and reasonable, yet for some reason the suggestion still put Shryne on edge. “Maybe it’s just my nerves from fighting so hard to even get here, or maybe my spending time here doing everything I could to conceal my presence, but there’s something about this that just feels wrong Cody.”

Obi Wan shrugged his shoulders innocently. Careful not to reveal too much about himself, Obi Wan attempted to reason with Shryne. “It’s your call, but it’s my best guess that as a Jedi Master that you served the Republic as a General during the war as well did you not? Those are my men up there, I owe a debt to them for serving me, each and every one of those beings is dedicated to freedom, fighting and now dying for that cause.”

The words struck home, Shryne was obviously moved. Obi Wan didn’t realize just how much of an effect that he had actually created. Shryne remembered the sacrifice of Ion Team on Murkhana, and how they were the only clones in the entire Grand Army to resist Order 66. Ion team had been killed, summarily executed by their brethren, but not before they had managed to aid in his escape.

“Make it fast.” Shryne conceded, “Vos had already loaded most of the supplies on board and those little freighters don’t take much time to get ready.”

“I’ll only be a moment.” Shryne could not see the smile that had formed on Obi Wan’s face, but he did sense a twinge of happiness in the Force and felt relieved. The feelings that he sensed had justified at least some of the trust he had put in the masked man.

“Allies are in short supply these days, it’s nice to meet you Ben Cody, whoever you are.”

“Captain Vedij,” sounded a voice from one of the junior officers, “Report from General Skywalker’s squadron, Omega Leader reports that they have reached Telos and have begun their search for the Jedi. The General requests a status report.

Vedij was in no mood to give any sort of status report. He was too busy attempting to figure out a way to minimize his damage from a seemingly endless amount of droid starfighters, made worse by the long range bombardment of the Trade Federation ship.

Despite his growing frustration, he remained aware of the General’s temper, Vedij double checked the tactical display at his seat. “Tell the General that the VSD Judgment was the first to break the enemy’s fighter screen and will be in orbit over the Telosian Spaceport any minute now.”

Vedij cringed at the thought, as tough as he felt his situation was, it was a Life Day celebration compared to what the spaceport was about to go through.

“General, VSD Judgment has broken the fighter screen and will arrive momentarily. Are there any further instructions?”

“Just remind Captain Vedij that starships can be repaired far easier than reputations. I want that battle ended now; tell him to do whatever it takes. The enemy is counting on his cautiousness in order to buy time for the Jedi, Skywalker out.”

Vader felt the temperature of the cockpit rise as his ship crossed into the atmosphere. For most search operations like this, it took a lot more than thirteen fighters. But the commanders of those operations did not have the Force at their disposal as Vader did, reaching out with his senses, he sought out the unmistakable presence that Force-strong individuals emanated. Vader’s mind picked up a few faint echoes, but nothing with enough feeling that confirmed their identity. Not willing to give up, Vader reached further.

He found it, a black storm of emotions, an unstable mixture of passion and fear that could be either very empowering, or every debilitating to a Force user.

“That has to be Vos. His stench is all over this signal, the Jedi Council should have executed him when they had the chance!

Leading his squadron of fighters closer, the R4 droid confirmed his suspicions by displaying the data of Vos’ ship onto Vader’s HUD.

“A Gunship! He must have obtained it from his cohorts aboard that Federation cruiser. He has to be working with the Rebels!”

Vader adjusted his course and was heading to intercept when his R4 blared an alarm, it was loud, but far more collected than his old R2 unit. The R4 was warning Vader of the impending snowstorm that he was flying into. As Anakin Skywalker, he had flown in equally miserable conditions on plenty of worlds, but was not sure how the more delicate Eta-2 would handle in such conditions. For Vader, there was only one way to find out.

“Omega Squadron, this is Skywalker One. Our target is the Separatist Gunship hiding in this storm; he must be using it as cover in order to reach the Spaceport. Omegas One through Six will follow me into the storm to flush him out. Omegas Seven through Twelve will wait at altitude above the storm for him to come out. I want that ship taken intact . I will carry out the Jedi’s sentence permanently.”

Less than a minute later Vader’s fighter began to shake and swerve as the storm tried to wrest the small ship off of its attempted path. But the terrible maelstrom was no match for Vader’s anger. With his hatred for Vos focused, Vader kept his ship on course and cut through the winds even as they intensified.

With his senses extended in an effort to deal with the storm, Vader found Vos very quickly. The half-squadron he had chosen to accompany him was still lagging behind, but it mattered little to Vader. The detrimental weather would affect Vos too, and he was confident that his ship’s maneuverability would be more than enough to handle the firepower of Vos’ ship.

When he was close enough, Vader didn’t even both to wait for this targeting computer before firing the first volley of shots…

The gunship had handled the storm well, and as a result forced Quinlan Vos to think that things were going eerily well for the first time in years. Then, the ships droid interface began screeching out of control. The droid brain, obviously needing a programming update or at least some recent news reports, warned Vos of “approaching Republic fighters.”

Vos checked the gunship’s threat display and saw the small digital silhouettes of a squadron of V-Wing fighters, and one incredibly fast and light craft that the Gunship could not readily identify, but matched the specifications for the upgraded Eta-2 Interceptors used by the Jedi.

The malevolent aura that Vos sensed told him exactly who the pilot was as well.

“So Skywalker, you’re still doing your own dirty work? That’s about the only good thing I have left to say about you. But even you’re not dumb enough to come down in here in one of those…

The cockpit suddenly became a circus of bright lights and loud noises as the gunship’s sensors began to track Anakin’s descent into the storm, and the subsequent volleys of plasma tearing into the rear facing deflectors.

It wasn’t entirely harmful, but it forced Vos to maneuver, which was made more difficult by the swirling winds. As he lost ground to his pursuers, the V-Wings joined in the attack and began firing as well. Fortunately for Vos, the Clones did not possess the piloting skill of their leader, and many of them could not get a lock onto their target.

“My ship is going to hold up better than theirs in this storm; I’ll lose them once I get to the spaceport. I can use the buildings there too my advantage, and if I have to ditch the ship to make it to Kahleen so be it.”

The ineffectiveness of Omega Squadron was frustrating Vader, but he conceded to himself on the matter.

“Never trust anyone but yourself to kill a Jedi. It’s why Dooku failed, and one day before long it’s going to be why Sidious fails!”

The scattering of fire was managing to keep Vos somewhat contained, and there was still a half squadron tailing the engagement, although Vader regretted that he did not have any of the slower ARC-170s accompanying him, as a volley of missile fire would derail Vos well enough no matter what the weather. Still, Vader devised a strategy, hoping to force Vos out into the open skies above the storm.

“Omegas Seven through Twelve, prime your weapons and head in the spaceports direction, get in a strafing formation and prepare to take fire from the rear.”

Although he had been forced into a bottleneck and was still being struck by the occasional shot from one of his pursuers, the heavy shielding of Vos’ ship and the winds were keeping him safe. Obviously Skywalker wanted him alive, that much was certain. As much as Vos would have liked to set down and duel Anakin there and then, the priority was still on his lover and child.

The gunship’s sensors began to squeal as Vos finally was forced to take notice of the other six V-Wings as they sped off ahead. Vos recognized the pointed formation they were using from the campaign on Saleucami.

“They’re setting up to attack the spaceport with V-Wings? They don’t even have any torpedoes!” Vos yelled out loud. The realization hit him, however, just as he felt his hands reach for the controls to react.

“So that’s your game Skywalker…” Vos thought, thinking that the V-Wings were going to retaliate against their quarry by attacking the city. “Whether you really want to take that city, or if it’s just to lure me out of the storm you know I really don’t have much of a choice!”

“Omega One, the Jedi is taking the bait, take your squadron up there and hammer him now!” Vader yelled over the designated squadron frequency. The six clone pilots, eager to get out of the storm, pulled upwards and cut through the winds and into the sky towards their target. Vos had taken Vader’s bait.

“No matter how hard you tried you are still a slave to your training!”

Vader’s own ship rose up, but stayed just beneath the storm, keeping pace as he watched the battle unfold. If he timed his own attack just right, Vos would be trapped like a womp rat, just as his comrades in orbit were.

“Captain Slayke we’re receiving a transmission from Telos,” shouted the Quarren bridge officer.

“Sithspit, who would be calling us now?” The grizzled Captain asked, “Ignore it, I’m trying to coordinate a karking battle here.”

The officer frantically replied “Captain, it’s General Cody!”

“Well why didn’t you say so? Put him on! Hey General, you sure took your time down there, I think they brought the entire Coruscant Defense Fleet with them!”

“Your efforts are not in vain Captain, I’ve made contact with the Jedi and they have a hyperspace capable ship. If is escape is possible then…”

“Sorry General, they knocked out our drive systems, we’ve got just enough thruster capacity right now so that we can point our guns and that’s it. We’re out of droids now too, I sent a few of the B-2’s outside with a couple of repeaters but it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.”

“I am sorry Captain, this was never my intention…” Cody’s voice was distinctively mournful.

“General, what you’re doing down there is going to hurt the Empire far more than this boat was ever going to manage. Get your own asteroid out of there and let me do my job. Because when you escape from this damned system and go on to Restore the Republic it will have justified everything we’re doing up here.”

The ship started to shake violently as a barrage from a nearby Star Destroyer overloaded the shields. Slayke stood up and drew the hand blaster he carried at his side. “Sorry General, but the shields are gone and that either means were already dead or we’re going to have boarders soon. Wish I could have seen you carve ‘em up the way Master Halcyon did to the Seps on Praesitlyn.”

“I’m sure he’s rooting for you Captain, I know I am. Thank you Captain Slayke, I won’t forget this,”

The ship shook again and the transmission ceased as the unprotected communications array was vaporized in the attack. His body pumping with adrenaline, Slayke gave the general an unheard farewell of his own.

“Neither will I General, neither will I.” He noticed his crew, all manning their stations, despite many of those stations being linked to destroyed equipment. “Hey I know we’ve lost a few systems but that didn’t make those consoles blow up in your faces now did they? Get yourselves some blasters and get ready, we’re going to make the Empire pay for every micrometer of this ship and by the end of the day, they are the ones who will be regretting this battle, not us!”

“I’ve lost them.” Obi Wan said to Roan Shryne.

Shryne motioned with his head and the two began walking quickly to the freighter. A Barloz-class ship used for the transport of Tibanna Gas that Vos had dubbed Shadower. “Perfect timing then Cody, because it’s time to leave, Vos should have reached the city right now, we still have a chance to meet up with him if we hurry, and his family is holed up at an Inn just off of the primary spaceport facility.”

Obi Wan and Shryne took their places in the cockpit as the Padawans strapped themselves in. The controls were fairly standard, and Obi Wan had no problem adjusting to them.

“I see you’ve got some piloting experience after all.” Shryne quipped. “I thought that you just had the gunship fly itself, it being part of the Droid Army and all.”

“That’s not entirely fair Master Jedi…”

“It’s Roan, if you don’t mind, we’re going to try and dispense with the ‘Jedi’ titles for a while if you don’t mind. The two in the back are Jambe and Nam, if you have trouble telling them apart, then you can ask them.”

“Fair enough, Roan, but I was about to say that I’ve had plenty of experience flying thank you very much. I even picked up a few tricks from a spacer on Tatooine a long time ago.”

Shryne grinned. “Well let’s see if that spacer was any good, let’s go get Vos.”

As the ship took off, Obi Wan pondered Shrynes words. “Oh I learned from the best all right, I just fear that you’re about to find out firsthand.”

A volley of missile fire lanced out from the Gunship towards the streaking V-Wings ahead of him, who were forced to disperse into evasive maneuvers. The missiles though were incredibly agile seekers of a model tried and tested over years of combat with the Republic.

“Those bucketheads should stay busy for a while dealing with those, now I can handle the ones behind me.”

Knowing he couldn’t outmaneuver the fighters behind him, Vos simply threw all of the power into his rear shields. The V-Wings, weakly armed as they were, would have a lot of difficulty making any sort of progress against it, and his rear firing weapons could go to work holding them off.

“Now all I have to worry about is Skywalker, just where did he go?”

Vader had expected the missile volley; it is what he would have done after all. Vader had given the order knowing full well that Vos would take the advantage, and he guessed correctly that Vos would then throw everything he had into a rear facing defense against the lightly armed fighters.

Although his own Eta-2 did not boat much armament either, there were two weapons that it did possess that Vader knew Vos might not be familiar with. From his review of the Kiffar’s service record, he knew that Vos spend little time flying starfighters, and that most of his time had been spent with the old Delta-7 aircraft. The Eta-2 however, was capable of much faster speeds and boasted a small but effective pair of ion cannons.

Rising above the storm, Vader pushed his Eta-2 to its top speed, rushing past the other fighters at supersonic speeds. His next move was so fast that Vos, even with his own force-aided piloting ability, had no time to react towards. As soon as he had barely enough room to execute the maneuver Vader pushed his fighter into a roll off the top maneuver that saw him rise upwards and roll the craft into a half “s” turn. With the space seconds he had before crashing into the gunship, Vader poured fire into the Gunship and then adjusted his craft. Both vehicles shook as the belly of the interceptor scraped and bounced off of the gunship’s saucer area.

Vader watched with great satisfaction as Vos’ gunship began to spiral out of control as it lost power and spiral away towards an inevitable crash.

“Omega Squadron, the target has been neutralized. Return to the Devastator and rejoin your comrades, Omega One inform the officer of the deck that I will be returning with my own vessel as soon as I am done.”

The V-Wing pilots acknowledged and broke off, Vader noticed that two of the ships had suffered damage from Vos’ missile attack, and that at least one ship had not rejoined the others. He resolved to acknowledge their sacrifices later when there was time, there was still the matter of Quinlan Vos to attend to.

“All too easy. I’ll be disappointed if you don’t survive this Vos.”

Vos’ ship finally went down in a snow bank outside of the spaceport, the winds had begun to die down in that area and Vader noticed a spot less than a kilometer away where it was stable enough to land. Before he disembarked though, there was one thing left to do, he reactivated his communicator and dialed up to the Victory Star Destroyer in position over the spaceport, now within view of the naked eye and hovering over its target like an unholy harbinger.

“Victory Star Destroyer Judgment, this is General Skywalker. You are now clear to fire on the spaceport.”

“General, this is Captain Sheppard” came the reply from an obviously nervous officer on the other end, “our readings show that you are awfully close to the killzone.”

“I realize my proximity Captain, but if you want to keep your commission then you will follow my orders and destroy that city and everything within it and you will do it now!”

“Of course General, my apologies, the bombardment will commence immediately, Judgment out.”

As Vader’s ship lowered itself out of the sky, he noticed that Vos had begun to climb out of the wreckage, and was stumbling in the direction of the spaceport.

“After what you did to me Vos,” he said aloud to himself, “I hope that there is someone in that city that you care about.”

He hadn’t seen it coming, at least not until it was too late. Quinlan did not think lightly of his own piloting skills, but he now knew why Anakin Skywalker’s piloting had become legendary amongst the Jedi.

“Ugh, after flying with him at Rendili I should have expected something like that, but I lived! I’m close enough to the city! I just have to make it to them!”

Vos slowly trudged through the snow, the winds were not as fierce as they had been, but the cold chilled Vos to the bone.

“Khaleen, Korto, I’m coming for you!”

Just as the Jedi’s hope started to flare and provide him with the strength to go on Vos stumbled. After picking himself up, he looked to the sky and for the first time noticed the Star Destroyer above the spaceport. Less than a second later, he noticed the flashes of green light emanating from the large ship. He didn’t want to believe it, but he knew what was about to happen next.

As Vos kneeled in the snow, he watched as the city before him was engulfed in columns of green light. Buildings were completely obliterated along with their occupants, and the superheated air began to melt the area surrounding the city. Even with the city completely leveled, the Star Destroyer continued to fire until it was sure that it had incinerated its target, once a bustling spaceport, now a smoldering pit.

Quinlan Vos did not speak or move, and his eyes were wide with agony and shock as he watched his family die in the inferno.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 31: Carnage and Chaos

Obi Wan pushed himself to shrug off the agony he felt from the city’s destruction. Although he had been used to such feelings during the War, he had never become used to them. In his peripheral vision, he saw Roan Shryne struggling with the same emotions.

“Something bad has happened, we need to find Vos soon.” The Jedi Master said.

“That might be easier than you think.” Obi Wan said, knowing a way to find Vos but unable to do so without revealing his Jedi abilities. “You Jedi are all connected by that Force you keep talking about, use that.”

“It’s not that easy.” Shryne said as he fought to keep the freighter under control in the storm while shrugging off an increasing sense of uneasiness.

“Pardon my boldness Roan, but if what I have heard of the Force is true, then it should be fairly easy for one with your abilities. If the spaceport was attacked as we feared, Vos’ family was almost assuredly killed.”

Shryne shot an icy stare towards Kenobi. “If you are suggesting that Master Vos has somehow turned to the dark side, then do not bother finishing your statement. I have fought with him across the galaxy ever since the Republic betrayed us, as much as he has been through, he has never fallen.”

“Care to bet a thousand credits on that?” Obi Wan thought as he recounted information that he was privy to as a member of the Jedi Council. Still, Shryne’s edginess had to be managed carefully. “I am not suggesting that Quinlan Vos has turned or anything like that. But you know how much he cared for his family, undoubtedly whatever emotions he is feeling right now are strong beyond comparison. Use those feeling to seek him out Master Shryne and we can get off of this world and get to hyperspace!”

Obi Wan could not tell is Shryne’s reservation stemmed from his refusal to believe what he was being told, or because he knew what the answer was already and did not want to face it. Reluctantly, Shryne reached out with the Force and sought out the strongest presences on the planet, hoping for a beacon of light where his friend was taking refuge.

What he found, were two terrifying dark anima each bent on seeking out and obliterating the object of their malice. One of the avatars Shryne easily recognized as Quinlan Vos, it was encompassed by a deep sense of loss and a desire for revenge that had eclipsed the cold and practical demeanor normally wielded by Vos. The second was less familiar, but easily recognizable as the once heralded “Chosen One.” The distinct tempest of mixed emotions still accompanied the young man, but they were far darker than Shryne had ever remembered. Skywalker’s hate was fueled by far more than the loss of his family though; he could sense feelings of betrayal and revenge that threatened to destroy the personality of Anakin Skywalker as much as it fueled his strength.

Finally, Shryne broke off his efforts and Obi Wan noticed that a sweat had begun to trickle on his brow. “Did you find him?” Kenobi asked.

Shryne did not say a word, but Obi Wan had all the response he required as Shryne diverted the freighter onto a new course and, despite the storm, hit the accelerator.

Vader leaped out of his fighter and took his lightsaber into his hand; he didn’t bother to run towards Vos’ location, because he knew Vos wasn’t going anywhere. The memories of Padme began to flood back. Killing Tholme and destroying the Jedi Skyhook had barely satiated him; he wanted to kill the person directly responsible for Padme’s death, and for sending Kar Vastor at him and his children. Vos would pay for being the architect of his misery, he would pay dearly.

“Focus your hate!” , came the dark voice from within. “The Jedi stole your childhood, caused you to lose your mother, and then manipulated you for their own gain. Now that you have rejected them and punished them accordingly, they chose to take your wife out of spite. Do what must be done to Quinlan Vos to ensure that those left alive will live the rest of their pathetic lives cowering in fear!”

Whatever reservations he might have had left were washed away as the powerful emotions welled up inside his heart, which had once again become the thermonuclear furnace of unlimited power that he had used with great effectiveness against Count Dooku.

Making his way to the top of a large snow bank, Vader looked down and saw Quinlan Vos kneeling as he faced the city, although he was silent, Vader could feel the Dark Side of the force erupting from the Jedi’s obvious agony.

It was too much to resist. “Vos!” Vader yelled, using the Force to project his voice over the dying winds of the storm, which seemed determined to roar until their last breath. “Whoever it was, you’ll be joining them soon enough!”

Quinlan turned and saw his enemy standing above him in the snow, his black armorweave cloak catching the wind and spreading out like the wings of a demon from some lost mythology. Without hesitating, he grabbed his lightsaber from its place on his belt and ignited the green blade.

Thinking back , he recalled when he had summoned the Dark Side to kill the man he had thought was the second Sith known as Darth Sidious, and how he had turned to the light and embraced the love of Khaleen in the midst of fighting on Saleucami. He remembered on Kashyyk how he had sworn that he would call on whatever power necessary to survive the treachery of the clone troopers as they hunted him down in the forest.

He had walked a fine line for his entire life since becoming a Jedi, and he had crossed it many times. When his son had been born, he had decided to forsake the Dark Side and raise his child, Korto, in the Light, so that he would not have to suffer through the emotional ordeals that he himself had faced.

Now Korto was dead, as was Khaleen, and their Wookiee friend Chak that had fought alongside their family ever since meeting with Quinlan on Kashyyk. The Jedi that had all traveled to Coruscant were now all dead, a small fraction of the Order that had been in a steep decline since the Battle of Geonosis years earlier. That Order, was also dead. With all of those parts of his life consigned to dust, Quinlan decided that he had nothing left to live for, except for the death of Anakin Skywalker.

A howl of intense rage was released from Quinlan lungs as he charged through the snow at a great speed towards his target, within seconds Vos had managed to move to within striking distance. He immediately attempted a decapitating stroke but was stopped at the last second as Anakin’s lightsaber came to life. The spike of crimson flame accompanied by the Force had stopped Vos in his tracks and robbed him of all his momentum. A split second later, Anakin let loose with a powerful bust of the Force Vos was hurled meters into the air before crashing into the ground and tumbling to the very bottom of the snow bank.

Although painful, the counterattack was not enough to break Quinlan’s resolve. The Two men looked at each other, their hate resonating in the Force causing the once dying storm to resume surging. Their battle was just beginning, even as the battle in the space above them continued…

“The enemy’s resistance is far stronger than anticipated Captain; it will be some time before we are able to take the ship.”

Vedij frowned; Clone Commander Appo was painting a grim picture of the fighting aboard the Rebel ship. Of the multitude of soldiers that the task force could bring to bear, the 501st was far more experienced and battle hardened than the rest. They also held the trust of General Skywalker, who had personally selected them for the assignment.

Vedij was surprised that the ship had not simply self destructed in an attempt to do as much damage as possible before that opportunity was lost, but he eventually realized that the Rebels were attempting to buy time for the fugitive Jedi on Telos. The Rebels knew as well as Vedij that the opportunity for prisoners could not be passed up under any circumstances. Now, with hundreds of clones aboard the ship and hundreds more on the way, even the most callous and cold hearted Imperial Captains would be loathe to destroy the ship, sacrificing so many of their own men.

“This assignment was supposed to be much easier…” the Captain lamented. “Continue to do what you must Commander, reinforcements are on the way.”

“Captain, one last thing. Has there been any word from General Skywalker? I received a message from Omega Squadron saying that they had been ordered to leave the planet without him.” It was the first time Vedij had ever heard a clone speak with such concern.

“We have heard nothing, but it can be assumed that General Skywalker is personally conducting the hunt for the Jedi by himself.”

“Thank you Captain, Appo out.” With that, the transmission ended.

The mission had become almost bizarre for Vedij, and he briefly pondered the idea of turning over command of the Task Force before deciding that it would greatly displease the General. It mattered not, because what happened next would have pulled Vedij back to duty at lightspeed.

The communications officer was the one to break the news. “Captain, a shuttlecraft has just exited hyperspace behind us with an Imperial IFF signature, scanners identify it as the “Emperor’s Apostle” ,a Theta class.”

Vedij wanted to curse, Theta class shuttles meant only one thing, some high ranking official was about to put himself in the middle of the action and interfere with the entire operation. Vedij couldn’t decide what bothered him more, the fact that he now had another superior in the vicinity or the likely tantrum that General Skywalker would have as a result of some bureaucrat impugning upon his hunt for the Jedi.

“We’re receiving a transmission; it’s on the same frequency reserved for Governors.”

“You mean a Moff.” Vedij corrected, reminding his subordinate that the official designation for the Sector Governors had been changed with the Imperial reorganization. “Send it to my console, I’ll take it there.”

Vedij moved back over to his chair, pausing quickly as a column of flame erupted from the side of the ship he was besieging. It was a sign that Appo was not exaggerating in his previous report. Shaking his head, he sat down in his chair and activated the flatscreen console in the chair’s arm. “This is the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator to Emperor’s Apostle, be advised that you have entered an active combat zone, may we be of any assistance?”

“Dispense with the formalities Devastator, this is Moff Tarkin. Where is General Skywalker?”

Although he was not familiar with the galaxy’s aristocracy, few beings in the galaxy with a rudimentary knowledge of galactic affairs failed to recognize the last name Tarkin. Those Tarkins that had taken an active political role were commonly known for their ruthlessness.

Although it would have been a court-martial offense to drink on duty, Vedij desperately wanted a bottle of Corellian Whiskey.

Tarkin, seated in the passenger’s cabin aboard one of the shuttles reserved for emissaries of the Emperor, heard the response he had been hoping for.

“General Skywalker is personally conducting the search for the Jedi on the surface of Telos.”

His assignment became that much easier, if this wasn’t enough to elevate him even further in the New Order, then Wilhuff Tarkin had no idea what else it would take. It would also be a satisfying bit of personal revenge for the humiliation Skywalker had made him feel during the battle of Enarc.

“Very good Captain, my shuttle will be docking shortly. Clear the berth closest to the bridge before we arrive. Also, I want that Trade Federation Cruiser destroyed immediately, we’re wasting valuable time trying to take that ship intact and I won’t have it wasted any further.”

Tarkin was satisfied with his orders, and felt confident that he had intimidated the Captain enough that he now had assumed full control of the operation. To his annoyance though, the Star Destroyer’s captain was more resistant than he had thought.

“But Moff Tarkin, we have hundreds of clones already aboard the ship, members of the 501st have almost secured the entire vessel! More reinforcements are on the way!”

It was almost too good to be true for Tarkin. The Emperor had expressed his personal annoyance at Skywalker’s growing mystique amongst his clone soldiers, purging a number of his personal legion would do well towards erasing the former Jedi’s legacy.

“Bring the reinforcements back then, those soldiers still aboard the ship are an acceptable loss. Their failure to take that ship is all the reason more to let them burn with the Rebels left aboard. They’re just clones Captain, I am personally acting on behalf of the Emperor and I expect my orders to be followed just as his would.”

The Captain’s voice stammered out a reply, a sure sign that he was going to be compliant. “Of course Moff Tarkin, we are targeting the cruiser now…”

Quinlan’s second charge was not so reckless, although he approached with less speed he opened with a series of quick strike and cuts that forced Anakin to react defensively. Quinlan’s goal was to keep Anakin on the defensive and force him into making a mistake. Quinlan gave himself over the Dark Side of the force and allowed his lightsaber to become an extension of his hatred and he executed his lightsaber forms with a precision that he had never before managed.

“You killed my wife and child!” The Kiffar screamed as he continued to press his attack, and he used the adrenaline boost that it gave him to press his attack further. He balanced his strikes heavily towards Anakin’s sword hand, hoping that Anakin’s stance would switch to a more defensive posture that would enable Vos to land a small but significant strike.

“That’s funny,” Skywalker replied. “I was about to say the exact same thing to you!” Anakin continued to meet all of Quinlan’s attacks and Vos noticed that Anakin was not even breaking a sweat.

“How can he keep this up? Even Mace Windu would try and break from these prolonged exchanges after some time! What is he waiting for?”
The epiphany came too late as Anakin released the two handed grip on his saber and parried Vos’ next saber strike with one hand, Vos had noticed the switch and overextended himself and slashed with full force in an attempt to knock the lightsaber from Anakin’s hand, but the blade was stopped cold as Anakin parried and held strong against the attack with only one hand. For a split second Vos looked on with astonishment, and didn’t realize his lapse in judgment until Anakin’s free left hand came forward with Force accelerated speed. Anakin’s left fist impact solidly with Quinlan Vos’ abdomen and the breath was squeezed out of Vos instantly. As Vos doubled over, Anakin brought his right knee upwards and it connected with Vos’ chin, knocking several teeth loose and causing the Jedi to spit a copious amount of blood into the snow.

It took a great deal of his remaining strength, but Quinlan Vos managed to gather enough Force energy to him so that he could leap away, giving him several precious meters of distance between him and Skywalker.

Vader watched as Vos leapt away, landing a distance away but still glaring back at Vader with a deep and hateful stare.

“Quit delaying the inevitable Vos! Finish this fight the dignity that you couldn’t afford to Padme you treacherous filth!”

Whatever Vos wanted to reply with, he didn’t. Vader and Vos, who had barely known each other leading up to this moment, now shared more anger between each other than any two in the universe at that moment.

“I have you now…” Vader said to himself as he began stalking towards Vos. As he approached though, he caught the sight of a ship in the corner of his eye streaking towards his location at high speed. “Friends of yours Vos?”

Obi Wan and Roan Shryne overshot the battle at a low altitude, so low that both men could easily see the blood streaked snow in front of Anakin Skywalker, and Quinlan Vos in a crouched position holding his belly in a great deal of pain. Seconds later, they were directly over what had once been the Telos Central Spaceport.

“By the Force…” Roan Shryne gasped.

Obi Wan knew who was responsible, but it made him sick to think about it. “It seems that General Skywalker wanted his revenge on Quinlan Vos as badly as we suspected.”

Roan Shryne sat up from the pilots chair and looked down upon the scene. “I’m going down there to help Vos.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Obi Wan exclaimed, genuinely surprised at Shryne’s insistence on joining the fight below.

“Not in the slightest. We don’t have the maneuverability or firepower to be certain that a strafing run would work, and we can’t risk hitting Vos. He and I fought well together in New Coronet, we’ll do our best.”

Kenobi thought about the lightsaber hidden inside of his cybernetic arm. “Fine, then I’ll join you.” As much as Obi Wan hated fighting, he always somehow felt drawn to a battle like an unwilling piece of metal towards a magnet.”

“Negative,” Shryne barked, I need you to stay here with the ship and hover over in case we need to make a quick escape, monitor any Imperial comm traffic in case we need to make a quick getaway. Besides, it’s too dangerous for you down there. Skywalker is the strongest Jedi in generations, perhaps ever, it’s going to take more than a cyborg with a blaster to help bring him down.”

“Oh I know that as well as anyone…” Obi Wan quietly thought, remembering who it was that had put him inside of the suit he was now cursed to wear. “I’ll do my best, stay safe Roan, may the Force be with you.”

Shryne returned the greeting as he exited the cockpit. “And may the Force be with you, Ben Cody, when this is all over you can sign me up for your Rebellion.”

“I’ll hold you to it.” Kenobi sarcastically replied as he brought the ship in low.

“Master Shryne!” Came the voice of Jambe Lu as he and Nam Poorf met up with their teacher at the exit ramp where he was about to disembark.

“What are you two doing here? Get back in the passenger cabin!” Shryne demanded.

“We know what you’re doing,” said Nam Poorf, “You’ll need all the help you can get down there against Skywalker!”

“Let us fight with you!” Jambe Lu implored.

Shryne looked at the two Padawans and was at a complete loss for words. The Padawans were the last two that he knew of; the fate of the galaxy could one day rest in their hands. However, before he could say anything, rings of blue light erupted from behind the Padawans and the two students collapsed to the ground, breathing but unmoving. Shryne looked up to see Ben Cody holding a blaster.

“Stun setting,” Kenobi replied, “for their own good.”

Shryne took a deep breath before silently agreeing. “Normally I wouldn’t approve of such measures.”

“They would have disobeyed you, but you can’t blame them. But one day they’ll understand, when they are older, and realize that by rushing headfirst into battle they were just throwing their lives away.” Kenobi shrugged his shoulders. “Try not to get killed down there, and then you’ll be able to tell them that yourself.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Shryne said as the hatch opened. Obi Wan returned to the cockpit and slowed the ship down so that Shryne could safely leap from the hatch and into the open plain. Obi Wan continued to circle, watching with great interest as he slowly regained altitude. Acting on Shryne’s plan, Obi Wan started scanning through the standard communications channels used by what used to be the Republic Navy. He had hoped to find word of his ship, and what he found disheartened him.

Appo and a handful of his men were pressing forward down the corridor that led to the main bridge. The Rebels had turned the area into a kill zone though by strewing debris. A handful of Rebels were firing down the corridor with their weapons into the path where the clones were forced into traversing. In addition, the Rebels had managed to get a handful of old but still effective B-1 battle droids and a repeating blaster before the clones could reach the area surrounding the bridge. Red bolts of lethal energy lanced through the hallway striking down any and all of the white armored clones that dared enter their path.

Finally, to Appo’s relief, his helmet uplink began receiving a transmission, it was from Lieutenant Commander Bow, who was supposed to be in charge of the reinforcements being sent over from the Devastator.

“Bow, this is Appo. How much longer are you granite slugs going to take before getting over here?”

Bow’s delayed response was unnerving. “Commander Appo, we have just been ordered to turn back to the Devastator. You will not be reinforced.”

“What?” Appo screamed into the transmitter as loud as he could, hoping that he had left a ringing sensation in Bow’s ears. If he did, Bow didn’t give any notice, so Appo continued. “On whose orders?”

“The orders came directly from Moff Tarkin, who has assumed command of the operation.”

“The General isn’t going to like that.” Appo remarked. “Relay the message that we have secured all parts of the ship except for the bridge and we’ll have that within the hour.”

“The seizure of the ship is irrelevant. Within the next few seconds you’ll understand Commander.” Bow stayed quiet again for a few seconds until Appo understood. “It has been an honor to serve with you Commander. They’ve already given me the field promotion to replace you, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re still the one in charge.”

Appo was supremely angered, but he maintained his composure, it was what he was bred for. “Bow, make sure that General Skywalker knows exactly what has happened here. He is the only one left in the bureaucracy that gives a kark about us. He’ll make everything right.”

“It will be done. Die well commander.”

“You’re just jealous that you won’t get to go the same way, you’ll probably be crushed under a pile of datacards and regulations before you see combat again you mynock!” Appo joked. “Appo out.”

Looking around at the clones with him, Appo thought about his next move before he settled upon a course of action. “This ship is about to be destroyed. We don’t have much time left. If you want to try and escape I won’t stop you.” He said to his men. “But we probably have next to no time left and there’s still a battle being fought here until we’re all space dust. I’d rather die with my DC-15 on full auto than sitting here waiting for a Turbolaser to do my job for me.”

Unsurprisingly to Appo, many of his men agreed. Although it wasn’t tactically sound, the clones immediately began pouring out from behind their cover, spraying fire wherever they could at their attackers with some clones even managing to throw small thermal detonators down into the bridge itself.

Before the skirmish could be decided, the ships bearing the reinforcements had cleared the way and the gunners aboard the Devastator were given orders to fire. A volley of green turbolaser fire slammed into the Battlehymn and tore the ship apart in an explosion that none could have possibly survived.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
-George Carlin (1937-2008)

"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 32: Treachery Amidst Cataclysm

Roan Shryne had already activated his lightsaber by the time he hit the ground, and before he knew it, Anakin Skywalker was already approaching him. Shryne carefully watched the former Jedi as he turned away from Quinlan Vos, as if Vos was no longer a threat. Before he could engage in any combat though, Shryne had to quell the self doubt brewing within him.

“Okay Roan, you’ve got years more experience in lightsaber practice and developing your Jedi powers, just because the kid is the human equivalent of an orbital bombardment doesn’t mean he’s invulnerable. He was never even a Master, rely on your training and trust in the Force…”

Shryne moved into a defensive posture and backed up slightly. To his dismay, he had failed to conceal his worries from Skywalker, who had sensed them as easily as if Shryne had said them out loud.

“Having doubts about saving your friend Jedi? If this is the best that your order has left then perhaps you are no longer the threat to the Empire that I had thought. It will be that much easier to exterminate you, there is no way you can beat me.”

Skywalker’s taunt struck a nerve. “I don’t have to be good enough to beat you,” Shryne shot back, “I only need to be good enough so that Master Vos and I can beat you together.”

Shryne had expected further mocking from Anakin, but received only a challenge.

“Then by all means, try.”

Vader didn’t know the Jedi that had rushed to Vos’ aid, but it only bolstered his beliefs that Vos was not the only Jedi complicit in Padme’s assassination, and that the Jedi needed to be purged from the Galaxy at all costs.

He had been tempted to further taunt the Jedi Master, to see how far he might go in his pursuit of victory, perhaps even resorting to the Dark Side as Vos had. But this Jedi Master was far more disciplined, and for the time being more dangerous. Vos was a more powerful Jedi, but Anakin nearly pitied Vos for his sloppy and uncontrolled use of the Dark Side, which made fighting him that much easier. The new Jedi was a true Jedi Master, what he lacked in raw power he made up for by focusing his mind and body on but one purpose and allowing himself to be guided by the Force. He would not make the same mistakes.

Of course the easiest way to break a Jedi’s discipline was to break his spirit, and Vader was well versed in that. As the two combatants gradually moved in closer Vader took but a moment to summon the Force and seize his enemy’s body, the surprised look on the Jedi Master’s face was comical to Vader as he was lifted into the air and tossed several meters in the direction of Quinlan Vos. Although the Jedi was unhurt, Vader could tell that the Jedi had never encountered any being that could control the Force with such power and precision.

“That is but a taste of my power! Ironic, that the Jedi Council denied me Mastery only to have me surpass them in every way without their precious knowledge! On your feet traitor, so that your order’s death is delayed no further!”

Shryne picked himself up out of the snow and glanced over at Vos, who was looking at him. “Good to see you Quinlan.”

“This isn’t your fight Roan.” Vos grumbled as Shryne began to notice the extent that Vos was delving into the Dark Side.

“I don’t know if you just noticed, but he’s already pummeled you into a bloody mess and he just tossed me through the air like a rag doll. Now I don’t really care what path you’ve decided to walk at this moment, what matters is that we end his threat now and forever by any means necessary.”

Vos regained his feet in time to see Anakin charging at them. “No time for chatter! Just make sure that if you have the chance to kill him you take it!”

Shryne and Vos attempted to take Anakin by surprise and launch an immediate counterattack and force him back. They approached with Vos ready to strike towards Anakin’s center and Shryne ready to react to Anakin’s next move.

Vader had timed his charge well. The two Jedi, acting without a cohesive strategy, were now forced to fight on his terms and react as he dictated. Jedi battle doctrine rested heavily on using the Force to center one’s self and take control of the situation. Vader knew this well and presented the two Jedi with an apparent way to take the upper hand. If the two followed up each others attacks rather than move simultaneously then they might have been able to move the battle according to their design, but in their haste to do so Vader correctly predicted that they would fail to anticipate his next strike.

Vader stopped his charge and allowed the Jedi to close the gap for him and become even more focused on their attacks, they were just heartbeats away from being in range for lightsaber strikes when Vader unleashed his Force Lightning. Both Jedi stopped in their tracks and writhed in pain as the dark energy blasted through their bodies, burning them from the inside out, the blood that had frozen on Vos’ face burned and sizzled, filling his nose with a terrible stench.

“This is what you get Vos!” Vader taunted, “You probably thought that by giving yourself over to the Dark Side, you could summon the strength to win. But the fact is that you cannot master the Dark Side of the Force unless you have the will to control it! You’re nothing more than an overmotional wreck tampering with powers that you could never hope to control!”

The two Jedi collapsed, their robes smoldering and the snow melting beneath them as Vader moved forward. The other Jedi was barely conscious and had dropped his lightsaber when he fell. But Vos was still alive, and muttering a series of curses with what little sound his lungs could produce.

“This is what you’ve been waiting for! Now you can drink from his suffering and show Vos the utter futility of opposing you! It is your right as the stronger being! Show him the true nature of the Dark Side!”

The inner monologue was still his own, but on some level it disturbed Vader that he was beginning to sound more and more like his Master. It mattered not, in becoming a Sith Lord Anakin Skywalker had ascended past such petty afflictions. Self doubt and uncertainty were psychological weaknesses, and Darth Vader possessed no weaknesses whatsoever.

“Is that so? Was Padme a weakness? Does this mean her death benefited you?”

There was the other voice, the one that was beginning to sound more like Obi Wan the more he heard it. The undeniable truth that accompanied it was definitely a characteristic of Obi Wan’s speeches.

Just as Vader felt he was about to lose control of his hate a third voice ended the debate. “Enough! My destiny is mine and mine alone! It is not for the Jedi or Sidious to decide!”

Vader recognized the voice as his own, and Vader felt the calling of the other two voices fade as this third aspect grew louder. Vader finally realized that the war inside of him was just another battlefield in the long standing feud between the Jedi and the Sith, and the third voice was his own personality attempting to quell his own psyche and take charge of his own fate.

Vader looked down at Vos and the other Jedi, and for a second his vision blurred. The forms of Vos and the Jedi became those of Sidious and Obi Wan.

“Kill them both, and you become master of your own destiny.” the voice said. The voice repeated itself until finally the sentence slightly changed.

“Kill them both, and I become master of my own destiny.” Vader’s personality had finally won out over the competing doctrines of Jedi and Sith, his voice was once again his own.

Vader summoned the Force to him, and, feeling stronger than ever, he raised his lightsaber and prepared to kill Vos, when an explosion in the distance caught his attention.

For Captain Vedij, the operation had already spiraled out of control and had quickly turned into compelte anarchy. “Just why in the stars is the Judgment commencing bombardment? Get her Captain on the line right now; tell him that General Skywalker is still on the planet!”

“Captain Vedij, we’re being hailed by the Judgment , she’s saying that she received orders directly from Moff Tarkin”, yelled his communications officer, whose voice had become hoarse from relaying the multitude of messages.

“Tarkin ordered this? Has his shuttlecraft landed yet?” the worried Captain asked.

“Indeed it did,” came the voice of Tarkin as he stepped aboard the bridge. “And rest assured that I did indeed give the Judgment her orders. We’ve been out of contact with General Skywalker ever since he set foot on the planet and we can only assume that he was somehow bested by the Jedi fugitives. In order to ensure the death of the Jedi responsible, I’ve ordered a Base Delta Zero for the entire world.”

Vedij couldn’t tell if he was more worried that his command had been usurped, or of what Skywalker’s reaction would be if he somehow survived, which was next to impossible at this point. “Of course Moff Tarkin, my apologies, I was only ensuring that…”

“Enough Captain, you can save your pathetic excuses until after the Operation. The Emperor has put me in charge of a reason, General Skywalker allowed this legitimate mission to become too personal, and now it has cost him his life. I am here to ensure that no more Imperial resources are wasted. Is that clear Captain?” Tarkin’s demeanor had the edge of a stern man who coveted control.

Vedij felt his heart race. “It is clear Moff Tarkin.” Although his apology was genuine, Vedij couldn’t help but wonder if he had somehow been caught in the middle of a power play within the Imperial hierarchy.

“The Jedi never believed in luck, because they never had such fortune as I do right now!” Tarkin thought as he shook his head at Devastator’s captain. In the corner of the bridge, a holographic representation of the system and the Imperial forces dispersed throughout was displayed, flickering slightly as the ships and celestial bodies moved through the void.

He had been lucky enough to catch Skywalker in the midst of his final assault on the Rebels, luckier still when Skywalker had been off of his flagship at the time. Tarkin could not have asked for any more when it was reported to him that Skywalker had stayed behind on the planet and was not answering communications. It was almost disappointing that Skywalker would be so easy to dispose of. Of course the thrill of a challenge in this situation was negated by the fact that Anakin Skywalker was quite volatile, and Tarkin wasn’t about to find much enjoyment when his life was at stake.

“He laid the framework for his own destruction in so many ways. It’s only fitting that he be as unaware of his killer as he was of the plot to kill his wife.”

Skywalker would never know that it was Tarkin who devised the actual plot to kill Padme Amidala at the Emperor’s request, and in Skywalker’s blind rage it was child’s play for the Emperor to use the once rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos as a scapegoat.

The elimination of the Jedi and Anakin Skywalker would remove the biggest obstacles to the success of the New Order. The fledgling Rebellion born from the ashes of the Confederacy of Independent Systems would serve its purpose for a time, forcing the public to continue to acquiesce to the continued military build up of the Imperial Armed Forces. Not that Tarkin necessarily personally felt that public approval was required; once his secret battle station was finished there wouldn’t be anything in the galaxy even remotely capable of attacking or defending against the Empire.

Obi Wan had been keeping his distance from the fight, attempting to evade Anakin’s notice. But when a volley of turbolaser fire began demolishing the surface of the planet with uncounted gigatons of energy, the masked Jedi knew that it was time to leave.

Circling back around he passed in low over the site where Shryne had joined Quinlan Vos’ fight against Obi Wan’s former Padawan. To his great sadness, Anakin was standing over the two Jedi with his blade ignited. Obi Wan noticed that the orbital bombardment must have caught Anakin’s attention, because the Jedi was staring off into the distance towards the latest blasts. The three combatants were spared from the initial effects due to sheer chance, the pattern of bombardment would not reach their area for a time, but that time was running short.

Then Obi Wan saw it, a black Eta-2 interceptor that could only have been Anakin’s, it was a fair distance away from his own ship, which Quinlan apparently had crashed into the snow just beyond the outskirts of what was once Telos spaceport. Nervously, Obi Wan looked down at the controls for the freighter’s sole laser cannon. While shooting at Anakin would risk the lives of his comrades, the fighter presented an easy target, and without it, Anakin would be stranded on Telos as it burned.

The circumstances of the situation weighed heavily on Obi Wan. He had been tasked by Yoda to destroy Anakin, and had tracked him down to Mustafar for that specific purpose. But there was something despicable about it that left Obi Wan with an uneasy feeling. Killing Anakin in a duel was one thing, but abandoning him to die in an inferno seemed almost cruel.

But Obi Wan’s compassion for his friend had run out. Anakin had tried to kill him, and left him for dead on Mustafar. Then, when the opportunity arose, he actively participated in the deaths of dozens of Jedi and began a campaign of extermination that had brought him to Telos. He was the head of the most powerful army in galactic history, and the minion of the Sith Lord who had covertly conquered the galaxy. In the end, Obi Wan lined up the freighter’s cannon with the abandoned Eta-2, and then fired. A pair of shots obliterated the ship in a shower of bright sparks and shards of metal.

Obi Wan was not feeling merciful, but the knowledge that he had not killed Anakin, but condemned him to die still weighed heavily on his heart. After confirming that the ship had been destroyed, Obi Wan passed over Anakin one more time, and then set a course out of the atmosphere, where he and the padawans could reach the safety of hyperspace.

“What?” Vader yelled as he broke his gaze away from the far off destruction to realize that the mysterious ship that had come to Vos’ aid had now destroyed his own means of escaping the impending apocalypse.

“Hah,” Quinlan Vos said as he coughed up a small amount of blood. “Looks like someone destroyed your ride.”

His own anger at the hopelessness of his situation, Vader was unable to ignore Vos’ remark. In his anger he brought his foot down on the neck of the unconscious Roan Shryne, killing the man instantly.
“You know who it is on that ship Vos! Tell me now!”

“As if that information would do you any good! Killing Shryne meant nothing, we’re all dead. The fact that you’re just as dead as I am means that I can rest in peace. How about you Skywalker? Do you have any unfinished business?”

Vader stepped forward and seized Vos’ throat with the force, tightening his grip by the second. “My children will live on, your plot to exterminate my entire family has failed.”

“Didn’t…kill…her…” Vos managed to grunt out as he choked.

“You deny your crime, even now? Vader scoffed as he lifted Vos into the air.

“See...yourself…” Vos choked out again, his consciousness fading, as he lost his grip on reality, Vos’ mental defenses collapsed and Vader could now read his thoughts with impunity.

Unsure of what he would find, Vader pushed his way into Vos’ mind, the foreign presence causing great pain to Vos who held his hands over his head and bit down on his lip to try and manage the pain, while doing nothing as he allowed his adversary a look into the truth.

Vader saw images of a battle on Kashyyk, a string of close escapes across the galaxy, a family, but nothing that implicated Vos in the murder of his wife. Stunned by this, Vader released his hold on Vos and stood silent.

“Palpatine has played you for a fool Skywalker,” Vos said as he regained his voice, “and I couldn’t care less.”

They were the last words Quinlan Vos ever spoke. Vader had controlled his rage up to this point, but it had built up to the point where he no longer had the desire to restrain it. Quinlan Vos’s eyes shot wide open as the invisible grip of the Force seized his heart. Vader roared as he clenched a fist, a gesture that was accompanied by a swelling of the energy that had permeated Vos’ atriums and ventricles. Quinlan Vos’ heart exploded inside of his chest and within seconds he fell to the ground, never to rise again.

Although victorious, Vader knew that time was running out. Vader had but one hope left. He knew that his Master used the Force to see future possibilities, if there was a way for Vader to focus his own visions and see into the realm of possibilities for escape, he just might find one that worked.

Vader scanned over the horizon and concentrated his mind to delve into the Force as deeply as possible. He closed his eyes, and turned his body until he had found something. Upon opening his eyes, he saw his means of escape, and began sprinting towards it.

“Moff Tarkin, there is an unknown Barloz class freighter leaving the planet. I am sending fighters to pursue.” Vedij reported.

“Belay that Captain, the bombardment of Telos is our only priority right now. They’re probably just civilians escaping from a remote outpost. It is nothing to be concerned with while the Jedi are still somewhere on that world.”

“Yes Moff Tarkin,” Vedij said unenthusiastically as he sent out the word to his fighter squadrons to cease pursuit of the vessel. Although Tarkin appreciated the increased deference the Captain had shown since Tarkin’s arrival on the bridge, it was obvious that the Captain as doing everything he could to appear useful.

“Just like the way my fellow Moffs bow to Palpatine. But while they continue to pay lip service to the Emperor, my deeds will continue to elevate me above their ilk until I can rise no higher.”

Tarkin’s musing was cut short by Vedij. “Moff Tarkin, we are tracking a…”

“I don’t care what it is! Let the rest of the fleet know that until the Base Delta Zero is accomplished I don’t want any more time spent of tracking insignificant vessels!” Tarkin screamed.

Vedij resisted the urge to roll his eyes and relayed the message out to the rest of the fleet. “I thought Skywalker’s relentlessness was bad, Tarkin’s megalomania is downright dangerous.

Another minute passed and Vedij watched as Telos burned, the entire planet was burning away as more ships joined in with the Judgment , but all the while Vedij secretly kept a close eye on the holographic display as Tarkin watched Telos through the main flatscreen. Nervous, but unwilling to voice his concerns to Tarkin, he watched as the small ship course took it right towards the Devastator .

Newly promoted Commander Bow and his troops finally disembarked their ship after their original hangar space had been taken up by the Moff’s shuttlecraft. Rather than move to a smaller area, the Moff had insisted on taking the space available closest to the bridge, even though a Theta class shuttle didn’t warrant an area of that size. The clones had spent extra time waiting in the cramped conditions until other ships could be rerouted and placed elsewhere for a berth to open up.

“Karking governors.” Bow cursed as he and his men began making their way off the transport. The Clone Commander made his way over to the Hangar’s control area, where a pair of non-clone traffic controllers were busy sorting through the disorganization caused by Tarkin’s arrival.

“Any word yet from General Skywalker?” He asked.

The controller seated closest to him shook his head in the negative. “None whatsoever, but get this, Tarkin’s got a communication’s blackout running for the duration of the bombardment.”

Bow was puzzled. “What bombardment?”

The second controller chimed in. “You haven’t heard? They’re BDZing Telos right now. Heard a rumor from a gunner that Tarkin thinks the General bought it on the surface and that we’re slagging the place just to get the guys who got him.

“Rumors all it is.” Bow said angrily. “No Jedi, no ten Jedi even, could take down the General.”

“Maybe so,” the second controller responded, “but if he’s still alive then where in the Outer Rim is he?”

Right at that moment, Bow started receiving a communication through the 501st’s secure channel in his helmet. The helmet hid his smile from the two controllers, but they could tell easily from the sound of Bow’s reply.

“He’s on his way right now.”

The Separatist Gunship cut through space, heading directly towards the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator but broadcasting a friendly signal, which Vader surmised must have been keeping him from notice.

“Something is very wrong; surely the bridge crew would have noticed a heavily armed Separatist Gunship heading straight for them.”

With only seconds to spare Vader had made his mad dash for the gunship once piloted by Quinlan Vos, remembering that he had brought the ship down with Ion Cannons, Vader placed all of his trust that he had not permanently disabled the craft, but instead caused the systems to just short out. Most military craft, such as the gunship, could be restarted after a short time if they had the proper circuitry shielding to protect their most delicate systems, and Separatist ships normally packed quite a bit of that in order to protect their droid ships and droid pilots.

In the end, Vader had to use the Force to help extract the ship from his location, but the gunship had made it out of the atmosphere under its own power. As Vader reached the atmosphere and set his next course, he saw the area surrounding the Telos spaceport below him erupt as the apparent Base Delta Zero operation finally made its way to that part of the planet.

Vader had no idea who would have done such a thing, but his faith in his commanders was lacking. Needing information, he attempted to contact Commander Appo over the 501st’s secure communications channel.

“This is General Skywalker to Commander Appo. Appo, do you copy?”

After a couple of seconds Vader heard the voice of a clone, but it wasn’t who he expected.

“General Skywalker, this is Commander Bow. Commander Appo has been killed.”

The news did not sit well with Vader, he had highly respected Appo and regarded him as an excellent soldier. “How did he die?”

“He was aboard the Rebel ship when it was destroyed under orders of Moff Tarkin. General, you’ll be interested to know that Moff Tarkin is also the one responsible for giving the Base Delta Zero order.”

“Tarkin!” , Vader exclaimed to himself. “Commander Bow, I’m returning to the ship. Clear a path for me so that we can deal with the Moff. Get your men ready as well, bringing cowards to justice rarely goes smoothly.”

Bow turned to the flight controllers and was about to order them to get a berth ready for General Skywalker, but he was struck with an idea that would be far more satisfying.

“I hear you loud and clear General,” he said over the secure channel. “There will be a space very close to the bridge waiting for you when you get here.”

The Clone Commander closed the communications link and stepped out of the hangar control room. “Hey, you four!” He yelled at a squad close to him. “Get your kit and follow me, we’re going to go make room up in the reserved hangar for General Skywalker.”
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Darth Fanboy
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 33: Requiem for a Moff

“Moff Tarkin, the operation has concluded. For all intents and purposes, Telos has been destroyed.”

“Nothing compared to what my new battle station will one day be able to perform.” Tarkin thought to himself. “Then my work here is finished.” Tarkin reached into his pocket and pulled out his personal communicator and contacted the pilot of his shuttle. “Lieutenant, we’re finished here. Prepare the shuttle and start plotting your route back to Coruscant immediately.”

At first Tarkin thought that there was some kind of interference with the transmission, until he realized that the Lieutenant was actually stuttering incomprehensibly.

“But sir..errr…Moff Tarkin I…oh…”

“Out with it Lieutenant!” Tarkin snapped with great annoyance.

“Y…Yes Moff Tarkin! I hear and obey, it’s just that well, the shuttle isn’t here in the hangar any more.”

“What?!” Tarkin screamed, much to the dismay of Captain Vedij and the bridge crew, who feared further scrutinty from the angered Moff. “Then where is it Lieutenant? Answer me!”

“Moff Tarkin.” shouted one of the bridge crew, a Sensor Technician hoping to offset the Moff’s anger with dutiful efficiency, “Emperor’s Apostle is drifting a few hundred meters away from the hangar opening. There are no lifesigns aboard.”

“Put it on the main viewscreen.” Tarkin demanded, and within seconds the image of the Theta class shuttle was on display for all on the bridge to see. The ship was floating lazily in space.

“How did my ship get out there?” He asked openly. The sensor tech, still attempting to be useful, quickly answered.

“There’s an ion trail leading from the hangar, it’s very faint. It looks like the ship’s engines fired for just a brief moment in order to put distance between it and the Star Destroyer. I’m reading some faint activity inside the ship, it could be a droid.”

At that same moment, the group of Clone Troopers working with Commander Bow laughed heartily and exchanged handshakes. The clones had “procured” an unused RA-7 variant used by the Devastator’s storekeepers for menial tasks such as inventory and routine cleaning. Although the droid lacked the programming necessary for novice-level piloting, it had enough to activate the engines for a controlled one second burst, and steer the ship in a straight line.

The clones had stormed aboard the Emperor’s Apostle , activated her repulsorlifts, and left the droid to do its work. After the deed was done, Commander Bow transmitted a short message to General Skywalker. “General your space in the hangar nearest the bridge has been cleared. Be sure to look out for the Moff’s shuttle drifting by as you come in.”

“Impossible you dimwit, the Empire does not use droids for any kind of piloting, perhaps you’re confusing us for the Separatists. One more mistake like that and I’ll have you demoted for incompetency!”

As if on cue the proximity alert began blaring, and Vedij noticed from the holo display still running that the little gunship he had been tracking against the Moff’s orders was coming in fast. Burned out from his anxiety, and with little left he could do to sway the Moff’s attention, Vedij decided to be the bearer of bad news.

“We have a positive identification. A Separatist Gunship is closing in on our position. I attempted to inform you earlier Moff Tarkin but your orders were quite clear.”

Tarkin was beside himself. “You mean to tell me you intentionally allowed an enemy gunship to enter close range to your own ship?” Tarkin sneered, baring his teeth. “That’s dereliction of duty Captain, if not outright treason.”

Vedij continued to work past his fear, shrugging his shoulders in a dismissive manner. “The ship is broadcasting a friendly IFF signal; I have no desire to fire on my own men.”

“The gunship is targeting the shuttle!” The sensor technican yelled, careful to keep the excitement out of his voice.

Tarkin watched as a pair of heavy beam cannons skewered his personal transport, tearing the unshielded ship apart. “Captain Vedij…I swear…”

“Moff Tarkin please!” Vedij was now attempting to negotiate as best he could, hoping he could mitigate the fallout as much as possible. “ISB has been using captured Separatist ships since the end of the war, We’ve been using battle droids in newly begun ground campaigns since then as well. For all we know General Skywalker could have stolen that ship off of Telos and used it to escape.”

“That’s absurd Captain there’s no way that…” the sentence would never be finished. As ludicrous as it sounded, Tarkin realized that the possibility Vedij had blindly suggested was more than possible, it was probable.

Sweat began to bead on Tarkin’s forehead. “Where is the gunship now?” He asked nervously.

In his excitement, the sensor technician had stopped looking at his terminal. Quickly, he turned back to his console only to find that the ship had disappeared from his scanners. “I’m no longer reading the ship, but the only way that could have happened is if it had docked within our own hangar bay. I’ll call down there to check.”

“Don’t!” Tarkin cried out. “I mean…that won’t be necessary. Just get security up here at once.” The Moff was now breathing heavily and had to take a seat in the captain’s chair. Tarkin looked over at Captain Vedij, who looked back over at Tarkin as he notified security to report to the bridge. If he objected to Tarkin’s using his seat, he didn’t show it.

As Tarkin watched the door of the bridge, he had a second realization. “Captain, who is the naval officer charge of the Devastator’s security?”

Vedij shook his head. “We don’t have one; General Skywalker personally placed Clone Commander Appo of the 501st in charge of the ship’s security once it became his flagship. Commander Appo was aboard the Rebel cruiser when it was destroyed, so I believe that responsibility falls to his replacement.”

The horror sunk in as Tarkin recollected his attempted purge of the 501st. His safety now rested in the Clone’s strict adherence to protocol and the Imperial Code of Military Justice. Although he knew that the clones were as loyal to the Empire as anyone else, he had no idea how their loyalty would be tested by the deaths of their brothers, or by the attempted assassination of their leader for that matter.

Four clones stepped aboard the bridge, carrying their weapons. They stood at attention as soon as they noticed the Moff and crisply saluted. Their commander sounded off. “Commander Bow reporting as requested Captain Vedij.” He said in the familiar voice characteristic of all the Empire’s clone soldiers.

“At ease,” Tarkin interrupted, waving Vedij off with his hand. Vedij shook his head and stood back, he didn’t like what was going on, but even though things had started to get interesting he wasn’t about to start acting without orders until he was sure it was safe to do so.

Tarkin stepped forward towards Bow and stared right at him, the Clone’s face was obscured but Tarkin was sure that he was making eye contact from under his helmet. “I have reason to believe my life is in danger. You and your men are to guard my person at all times until I am safely returned to Coruscant.”

“It will not be a problem,” Bow replied. “In fact, we already received similar orders before reaching the bridge.”

“Similar orders, from whom?” Tarkin inquired.

Suddenly the entire bridge seemed as if had been hit by a blast of superheated air. Everyone noticed, and officers across the room began tugging at their uniform collars and wiping their brows. Tarkin heard a strange rumbling, almost like thunder, and for a second he thought that there had been an explosion on the deck below. The explosion would have been far more welcoming than the voice Tarkin heard next.

“Commander Bow’s orders came directly from me Tarkin.”

Wilhuff Tarkin’s jaw dropped at the sight of General Anakin Skywalker, whose eyes were almost glowing with a fierce yellow fire as he stepped onto the bridge. With a gesture of his hand, Skywalker seized Tarkin with the Force. The Moff tried to scream as he was raised off the floor but a terrible grip began to constrict around his throat.

Keeping the vice-like hold maintained Skywalker moved towards his captive until he was less than a meter away.

“Before I am done with you Tarkin, you will provide me with the answers to all of my questions. I can read your thoughts, and if I suspect for a nanosecond that you aren’t telling the truth then not even the Emperor can save you!”

“Hey, Jambe, wake up!”

Jambe Lu awoke to see his friend and fellow Jedi Padawan Nam Poorf shaking his shoulders in an attempt to wake him. His head hurt, but he was otherwise fine, the last thing he remembered before falling sleep was falling to the deck in an uncontrolled heap. Now, he found himself laying in one of the bunks in the freighter’s crew cabin.

“What’s going on?” He asked Nam, who adopted an expression of relief.

“Thank the Force, for a second there I thought that you’d been shot and not just stunned.”

“Stunned? Wait…where’s Master Shryne?” Nam could only muster a grim frown. Jambe started to remember, he instinctively reached for his lightsaber and was fully prepared to go to the cockpit and seek out the mysterious General Cody that Master Shryne had placed his faith in.

“Hold on.” Nam said as he moved into the hatch to prevent Jambe from confronting Cody. “It’s not what you think. He did it to save us.”

“I don’t see how blasting us unconscious and abandoning Master Shryne to die has anything to do with saving us! He’s probably turning us over to the Empire right now!”

“I doubt it,” Nam countered. “He had plenty of opportunity to do that when the Empire destroyed Telos.
Jambe was aghast. “They destroyed Telos? But how?”

Heavy metallic footsteps followed by a monotone electronic voice quickly answered that question. “A Base Delta Zero attack isn’t something that too many Jedi were willing to teach to their students. The fear was that too many upcoming young Jedi in the battlefield would then consider it as an option without fully understanding what it entailed.”

General Cody placed a hand on Nam’s shoulder and moved past him to sit next to Jambe. “Not that I disagreed at the time, but I’ve learned recently there can be hazards in withholding information from a Padawan for too long.”

Suddenly, Jambe realized that he was sensing Cody’s aura through the Force, and that the man was not just the cybernetic soldier that he appeared to be back on Telos. Cody raised his arm and allowed the lightsaber to drop from its hidden compartment, then clipped it to his belt.

“You’re a Jedi?” Jambe asked.

For the first time in a long time, Obi Wan was able to properly introduce himself, it was refreshing. “Master Obi Wan Kenobi at your service young one, and just like you I was on the verge of spending the rest of my career in the Agricultural Corps, if it hadn’t been for Master Jinn of course.”

“Master Kenobi? The reports said you were killed on Utapau!” Jambe half-yelled before remembering to regain his bearing in front of a Jedi Master.

Beneath his mask, Obi Wan smirked. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been mistakenly pronounced dead.”

Although neither Jambe nor Nam said it, the obvious question hung in the air like a timed detonator. Obi Wan decided to get it out of the way.

“Anakin did this to me. He was corrupted by Palpatine, who was actually a Sith Lord in disguise. Palpatine manipulated the entire war as a means of bringing the entire galaxy under the heel of a militarized Empire answering only to him. You will learn more as your training progresses, but suffice it to say that now more than ever, we need to resist the Empire as hard as we can.”

Jambe and Nam stayed quiet save for Jambe offering a quiet whisper of thanks as the enormity of the news weighed down upon him.

“Grieve as you need Padawans, but do not dwell in it. Instead resolve to make the sacrifices of brave souls such as Master Shryne have meaning. He and countless others have already died just to protect others from the government, even with the war already over. Many more will die in the coming days as the Empire starts hunting for our hidden bases in earnest. They won’t find them all though, and when the time comes you will be able to fight back as fully trained Jedi Knights.”

It was a promised that filled the two young Jedi full of hope, and one Obi Wan vowed to deliver on.

“I failed Anakin, I won’t fail these two.”

Obi Wan made his way back towards the cockpit and then began making course corrections. Within a few hours he and the two Padawan would arrive at the gathering of the burgeoning Rebel Fleet at Dantooine.

Obi Wan’s gaze began to turn hazy as a vision appeared to him. He was fighting Anakin, although he looked much older. Anakin’s red blade crossed with the blue of Obi Wan’s own lightsaber and the two bantered back and forth. Somehow, Obi Wan could sense that Anakin’s twins were involved, but the pace of events moved too quickly for him to discern them all. But one part of the Vision he could see with great clarity, the consequences of which nearly floored Obi Wan.

He shook his head, although he remained slightly dizzy, his vision had returned to the red tinted sensor displays of his life support helmet. But the memory still rocked Obi Wan to his core, the boy he once mistakenly referred to as “another pathetic life form” before their first meeting on Tatooine was of much greater importance than he ever could have dreamed.

The impromptu interrogation of Moff Tarkin was a farce. Vader knew that he could take whatever information it was that he wanted from Tarkin’s mind, but the Sith Lord was curious as to how much Tarkin would voluntarily reveal. Either way, his lifespan could now be measured in minutes.

“So you admit that you ordered the bombardment of that Rebel ship even though I had ordered my men aboard to take prisoners and collect information, and that despite the presence of hundreds of clone troopers, you still went ahead with the attack?”

Tarkin’s tears caused his cheeks to shimmer in the light of the bridge. “Yes…yes I do. I told you the operation was taking too much time! The Emperor needs this…”

Vader tightened his grip again. “Do not invoke His Majesty’s name in defense of your actions any more, or I will run you through the ship’s recycler and have your remains ejected into a star with the rest of our waste!”

Tarkin began coughing loudly, fighting to keep his vocal chords open. “General…I swear it was not my intention to…”

Vader’s anger grew, for the past several minutes he had been pulling the answers directly out of Tarkin’s thoughts. The news was disturbing; apparently his Master’s fear and paranoia had gotten the better of him, and now Vader and anyone loyal to him had become a target.

“Enough of this farce Tarkin! You’ve attempted to use the same bureaucratic dialogue to avoid answering a question as those fools in the Senate!”

Tarkin began to whimper, but surprisingly Vader relaxed his grip and released the man. The Moff could do no more than keel over on the deck, filling his lungs with oxygen unhindered at never felt so good.

Calmly, but coldly, Vader continued the questioning. “I’ll give you one last chance to answer a question truthfully, and if you do I promise to you that I won’t kill you.”

Nobody on the bridge was as shocked as Tarkin at the proposal, although there was a healthy measure of skepticism; Skywalker had been regaled for his honor repeatedly during the war, and was known for keeping promises.

“Of course General, thank you General.”

Vader smiled and lowered his head as he moved in and began pacing around the cowering Moff in a deliberately slow circular pattern. “Don’t be so eager just yet Moff Tarkin. There’s one part of your mind, one thought that you’ve closed off rather well. Simply reaching into your psyche and taking it would leave you a vegetable, which is something that neither of us wants, correct?”

Tarkin only nodded in agreement.

“Good,” Vader said, “now tell me Moff Tarkin, who is responsible for the death of my wife?”

Fear and anxiety overcame Tarkin, which Vader took a careful note of as he finally started giving an answer. What Vader did not yet realize was that Tarkin had been put under the strictest orders by his Emperor not to reveal that particular piece of information under any circumstance.

Unfortunately for the Emperor’s privacy, there was little difference between the fate Tarkin would suffer at his hands, and the fate he would suffer at the hands of Vader if he refused.

“I was ordered…my agents….” Tarkin said as terror robbed him of his speech.

“Answer the question!” Vader demanded, stepping forward and lowering his head towards Tarkin, correctly guessing that Tarkin would be less reluctant if the rest of the bridge crew could not hear.

“Em…Emp…Emperor Palpatine.” He whispered, “He was the one who ordered the death of Ambassador Amidala.”

Vader had thought that he had prepared himself for the revelation of the truth, but he underestimated his own anger. The betrayal had left an acidic taste in his mouth as Vader realized that he had been duped into believing that the Jedi were responsible.

Vader reached out with the Force and resumed crushing Tarkin’s neck. This time, Tarkin failed to scream or cry out, he writhed on the ground as he attempted to remind the General of his promise, hoping to gain any sort of aid from the crew on the bridge. Vader released the grip, and Tarkin attempted to beg for his life, but found that he couldn’t.

“I’ve crushed your larynx.” Vader said, each word the verbal equivalent of a heavy turbolaser aimed right for Tarkin. “As promised, I won’t kill you. However, that does not mean you will be escaping the justice you so richly deserve. Commander Bow, step forward.”

The armored clone stepped forward, uneasy but unflinching as he complied. “Yes General.”

“I hereby declare Moff Tarkin guilty of crimes against the Empire, and responsible for the deaths of your brothers. It is my decision that the 501st be allowed to administer his punishment, that is, if you can think of something creative enough for this filth.”

Bow turned from the Vader and looked down at Tarkin, watching as the now mute man attempted to speak. With a swift motion Bow’s foot came forward with a swift kick to Tarkin’s abdomen, causing Tarkin to grown in agony.

“That one was for Commander Appo.” Bow pronounced. “Don’t worry General, me and the boys will make sure he is dealt with. What do you want us to do with the remains?”

Vader did not take long to consider the request. “Dispose of him as you would any other garbage Commander.”

Bow saluted and ordered two of his men to drag Tarkin away, each man grabbed an arm and hefted the man up before carrying him out into the passageway, as the doors closed behind them everyone on board the bridge could hear the sounds of a scuffle as Tarkin attempted to resist, and the sickening pounding of clone trooper fists shortly after.

“Captain Vedij…” Vader said, quickly gained the Captain’s attention. Although the entire secne had caused Vedij to rethink renewing his commission, he was glad to no longer be under the unnerving scrutiny of Tarkin.

“Yes General?”

“Was there any indication of a small freighter leaving Telos’ atmosphere before it was destroyed?”

“Affirmative General, specifications matched that of a Barloz-class Tibanna Gas freighter, it left the system during the window between the bombardment of the Spaceport and the commencement of the Base Delta Zero. Moff Tarkin forbade any attempt at pursuit, but I did have their course noted in the event of your return General.”

Vader took a deep breath. “Fortunately Tarkin’s incompetence is not contagious.”

“Good work Captain. Signal the rest of the Task Force, give them the freighter’s escape vector and have them send every available probe droid and reconnaissance vessel they have to search. The Devastator will be returning to Coruscant.”

Vedij thought better than to ask why and simply complied, and as he turned he failed to notice Vader’s own tears welling up.

In the fateful days since the foundation of the Empire and the eradication of the Jedi, Darth Sidious had been trying to convince Vader that the Jedi were no longer the greatest threat in the galaxy. Sith Master did not intend to imply that he had taken that dubious distinction for himself, but that was how his student was beginning to interpret it.

The irony of Vader’s master fearing his disciple’s growing strength was not lost upon Vader. Even the great Dark Lord of the Sith, who had brought his order out of obscurity after a thousand years of silence to destroy the Jedi and conquer the Republic feared losing his power.

Vader thought back to his earliest Sith teachings, specifically the lessons on the usage and manipulation of fear.

“Perhaps his own fear is taking control of him faster than the old man expects. By playing his hand too early he reveals his weakness, handing me a weapon to use against him. It is too bad, there is much more I could have learned from him, but his time is at an end. I will take I what can from him, including my revenge.”
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
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"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 34: Students and Teachers

To put it simply, Darth Sidious was mad .

For the past two decades he had carefully crafted and nurtured his master plan to bring the galaxy under his rule, and for those two decades his delicate manipulation of events had transpired according to his design. His mastery of the Sith teachings garnered from artifacts and holocrons from across the galaxy had enabled the Sith Emperor to view possible futures with the Force, allowing him to guide events to the outcome that most benefited him.

He was loathe to admit it, but Darth Sidious lamented that he had perhaps, acted too hastily in dealing with his apprentice. But the history of his order had taught him that Sith Lords that failed to reign in apprentices in due time were subsequently replaced. Although the process was designed so that the next generation of Sith would be more powerful than the previous one, and that undeserving apprentices weren’t rewarded with the future of the Sith, it wouldn’t do for Vader to take control of the Sith at such an early stage in his training, not to mention the fatal effect it would have on Sidious’ own plans for immortality.

There was also the fact that Vader was no longer irreplaceable. Amidala’s pregnancy had been surprise enough when it had become obvious during its later stages; the fact that she produced twins was more than the Sith Lord could have ever hoped for. When the pregnancy became obvious, Sidious had utilized his Palpatine persona to quash all rumors and speculation, done in part to preserve his plan for Anakin Skywalker, and also to begin building his future plans for the Skywalker offspring. Their planned role in the Emperor’s ultimate plan would make his reign of the Empire a lasting one.

Vader’s impatience and headstrong approach were expected by Sidious when he had finally decided the time was right to offer the former Jedi a place in the Sith Order, but his prediction that Amidala would die pursuing him to Mustafar had failed, and Sidious was frustrated when the birth of the children began to supersede Vader’s commitments to Sidious and the Empire. He laid the framework for Amidala’s death by activating one of his last remaining assets with any knowledge of his double identity, and shifted the blame entirely to the Jedi almost flawlessly.

Upon seeing how distraught Vader was, and sensing his refusal to serve the Empire unless he was permitted to seek his justice, Sidious had made the decision to eliminate Vader and thus gave him free reign to pursue the Jedi Master Quinlan Vos, knowing that Vader would not pass up the opportunity. The distraction was designed to enable one of Sidious’ loyal and most ruthless servants, Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the chance to strike when Vader’s attention was elsewhere. According to the possible outcomes Sidious had foreseen, Tarkin was the most likely of his subordinates to succeed at the task, and that in a blind rage Vader would become completely vulnerable.

But, despite the overwhelming odds in favor of the Moff, Tarkin had failed . The pilot of Tarkin’s shuttle, an undercover COMPNOR operative posing as a Naval Lieutenant and trained to resist having his thoughts revealed by the Force, had sent a discreet tight beam warning from the Star Destroyer Devastator back to his headquarters on Coruscant, the contents of which were forwarded directly to Sidious.

“Tarkin is dead. Skywalker is alive. Quinlan Vos presumed dead. Devastator is en route to Coruscant.”

The message was lacking in specific details, but it wasn’t hard for Sidious to guess that, one way or another, he and Vader were about to meet face to face. Sidious knew that he had little chance in a straight up duel with Vader; his own duel with Mace Windu had confirmed that. The Jedi Master had pushed him to his limits with a lightsaber, and his unique talents countered Sidious dark powers effectively. Whether or not Sidious could have bested him was a question that even he could not answer, but it had never come to that. Regardless of the potential outcome, the whole point of the duel was to bring Anakin Skywalker into the Sith fold, by staining his hands with the blood of the Jedi. No matter whose side Skywalker believed he was on, Sidious had crafted the scenario so that Skywalker would have no choice but to kill Mace Windu in order to protect the only way he knew to spare the life of Amidala.

Briefly, he considered seizing Vader’s twins for use as leverage, but ultimately decided that such a gesture would only escalate Vader’s anger making him harder to control. There was also the fact that the 501st legion, walking a fine line towards treachery, had taken up the Skywalker Residence as a temporary barracks, turning the estate into a fortress to protect the children at Vader’s own request. The children could not be taken without a messy incident that would be too difficult to cover up. Such a distraction would only impede efforts to placate a turbulent Coruscant, still coping with the implementation of Imperial Rule.

There was but one flaw in Vader that Sidious knew he could exploit, Vader’s mental and emotional instability was uncharacteristic for a Dark Lord. What control he had learned could be easily undone with the proper exploitation.

Still seated in his throne, he watched as Sate Pestage, entered the room, responding to an earlier summons.

“Your Majesty, how may I be of service?” Pestage said as he bowed.

The Emperor cut right to the details. “Lord Vader returns from Coruscant, he will be seeking an audience with me. You will do everything in your power to delay him from seeking me out, but do not deny him outright.”

Pestage, still skittish from the last encounter he had with Vader, twitched at the order, but accepted the Emperor’s order without question. “I will do so to the best of my ability Majesty.” Pestage, sensing something was amiss, offered a suggestion. “Shall I also take the time to have troopers posted to your residence?”

“The troopers are tainted with loyalty to their General. However if you feel it is necessary you may allocate any ISB or COMPNOR resources as you see fit, but under no circumstances are they to engage in any direct or verbal confrontation with Vader, only you are authorized to speak on my behalf. I will deal with Vader personally.”

“Sir, I just wanted to let you know that Moff Tarkin’s remains have been atomized at your request. Nothing left to contradict the official report.” Commander Bow said as he held his salute.

Vader shook his head with approval. “At ease Commander Bow, excellent work as well. I’ve ordered Captain Vedij and the bridge crew to remain silent, but rumors tend to spread rather quickly. Have you finished the background check on the shuttle pilot Tarkin brought with him?”

Commander Bow handed over a data pad. “Nothing unusual, a second year Lieutenant who spent most of the war ferrying about politicians on Coruscant, this guy’s own commanding officer probably couldn’t even pick him out of a lineup.”

“In other words, the perfect cover for an Imperial Agent, have any unauthorized transmissions left the ship since we turned back for Coruscant?”

“Nothing that we’ve been able to detect General, but if he really is an agent then there’s a good chance we was able to conceal it completely. You want us to bring him in so you could have a look?” Bow asked.

“Leave him be; whether or not my suspicions are confirmed does not matter. I’ll be going to meet with the Emperor either way as soon as we return.” Vader took a deep breath and then turned from the data pad to Bow. “What I’m about to engage in will be considered treason Commander. You and your men have served me beyond the call of duty, if it is your desire to avoid the coming confrontation I will not attempt to prevent you from doing so.”

Bow simply shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been talking to the rest of my men, here on the ship and back on Coruscant over the holocomm. Tarkin might have issued the orders, but he wasn’t the only one who wants to get rid of us clones. Without you General, we don’t really see ourselves being around much longer. We turned on the Jedi out of loyalty to the Republic and to the Supreme Chancellor, but if they can’t show us the same respect they can eat thermal detonators for all I care. I can’t speak for every legion, but the 501st will stand with you General.”

“It is good to fight alongside others with the same respect for loyalty as I do Commander. Together, we will deliver on the Empire’s promise to bring order to the galaxy.” Vader stood up, and involuntarily began flexing his mechanical arm, as he did whenever he sensed a conflict approaching.

“What’s the biggest transport that we have on this ship Commander?”

Bow sensed what the General was getting at. “There is one CR-25 troop transport in the barge hold that can hold around fifty troopers if we pack in real tight. It also holds eight gunships that can carry at least two dozen or so more men each."

It was a number not acceptable to Vader, thinking quickly, he thought of a solution. "I want every dropship and transport on the Devastaotr filled to the brim with your men Commander. If necessary, bring the rest down in ARC-170s.

Vader raised his artificial hand high and examined it, as if he were seeking an imperfection. “Have everything ready by the time we reach Coruscant. We’ll land it as close to the Senate district as possible and then march to Palpatine from there. Any rumors of my death that might have spread will be stopped dead in their tracks.” Vader then cracked a small smile. “For what it’s worth, Grand Vizier Pestage might even soil himself when he sees us heading towards him.”

“There isn’t a sane person in the galaxy that wouldn’t General.”

Vader laughed, but the happiness evident on his face was fueled by sadistic thoughts of how much pleasure he would take from destroying his enemies. Palpatine’s deception and Tarkin’s actions had revealed the last of his adversaries to him.

“I’m done striking at shadows my Master; it’s time for me to take everything from you that I desire, your knowledge, your galaxy, and then your life. One by one they will all be mine.”

Jambe Lu and Nam Poorf marveled as their ship reverted to realspace, pointed directly at the planet Dantooine.

For experienced galactic travelers, it was an unimpressive world, but there was nothing unimpressive about the fleet gathered around it. An assortment of capital ships circled the world, ranging in size from the massive Trade Federation ships all the way to smaller corvettes purchased discreetly from independent Corellian shipyards.

Obi Wan, lowered his head towards the ship’s communicator and begin broadcasting. “This is General Ben Cody aboard the inbound freighter,” he stopped, covered the transmitter and turned to Jambe. “What did Vos call this thing again?”


“Ah thank you Padawan.” Obi wan uncovered the transmitter and continued. “Freighter Shadower inbound from Telos.”

A few seconds passed until Obi Wan had his response. “General Cody, this is former Senator Garm Bel Iblis aboard the dreadnought Sand Panther , we need to talk. We’ve set up a base on the planet’s surface. I’m transmitting the coordinates to you right now. Meet me there in one hour.”

“Acknowledged Senator, but if I may ask, why the sudden change of heart? Senator Organa had said that you weren’t interested in our cause?”

There was a brief moment of silence. “Things change General, galaxies, governments, and especially personal opinions. I’ll fill you in planet-side. Bel Iblis out.”

Nam Poorf quickly picked up on Obi Wan’s befuddlement. “Is something wrong Master Kenobi?”

Obi Wan shook his head. “First of all, from now on it’s Master Cody, no matter the circumstances. Get that into your heads as quickly as possible. For the time being, the less people know about my real identity the better. I only told the two of you because if you are going to learn from me, then you have to trust me. Secondly, yes something is quite wrong. I spent a brief time on Alderaan after my injuries and from what I learned Garm Bel Iblis had no intention whatsoever on joining the rebellion.”

Nam considered the situation carefully, “It doesn’t make sense, why would he change his mind like that Master?”

“I have no idea,” Obi Wan said. “But one way or another we’re going to find out. I want you both to accompany me at all times for the time being. The only thing either of you have to worry about or concentrate on is the Force. That way, if anything happens, neither of you will be distracted.”

Obi Wan turned and made sure that Jambe was listening as well. “Consider this your first lesson from me, you are going to want to get more involved down there, but you need to push outside disturbances aside and keep a clear mind. A lot has changed within the Rebellion lately and we can’t afford to trust anyone yet, Imperial spies might be present as well so remain vigilant.”

The two young Jedi accepted their assignment unquestioningly. “Good,” Obi Wan replied, “try to relax in the passenger cabin while I fly us in. It may be the last chance you get for a while.”

Deep underground beneath the ever-expanding Imperial Capital, in an isolated section of the abyssal slum known as “The Works”, Yoda struggled to keep his sanity intact. His tortures had become more sporadic, and the Jedi Master constantly wondered if he had been abandoned to die. The Red Guards had stopped making rounds down below, which meant that Yoda’s one source of food and water was now gone.

Of course, Yoda had not done much to dissuade them from thinking that he was still alive. Each time the guards came, he had used what little of the Force he could gather to place himself in a trance, a precaution against the sadistic designs of potential torturers.

Sidious had to know that members of Yoda’s species were hardy. Yaddle, another member of his species and a former member of the Jedi Council, had survived imprisonment for nearly a century on minimal food and water before emerging from captivity underground.

Yoda did have one friend to keep him company though, although this would be their last conversation.

“The Sith Lord is well aware of your life expectancy my friend, but he believes your physical form will far outlast your sanity given the trying times, and he hopes to one day return to see you once your mind is completely gone.” Qui-Gon Jinn said, his spiritual form completely incorporated and standing beside the shackled Yoda.

The bright light was a stark contrast to the darkness of the cell, but even as it strained Yoda’s eyes it was welcome.

“Return to this existence only to tell me that Master Jinn? Thought the force is weak with me, still sense your essence fading I can.” Yoda said.

“It may seem trivial, but it’s best that you know so that you’re prepared. The time of your escape draws near my friend. It will be best if you are nowhere to be found during the coming storm.”

“Sensed a disturbance in the Force I have, but I am unable to discern what it means. The Dark Side is strong in this place.”

“Then you should know that Sidious and Anakin are about to have their falling out, the death of Padme Amidala had far greater ramifications than anyone could have expected. Not even the Dark Lord of the Sith could keep up with the shifting series of events, and now suffers the consequences of his failed predictions. Now he is left with no alternative but to destroy Anakin Skywalker.”

Yoda’s mind processed as much of the new information as it could. “The outcome matters not, for the winner can only be a Sith Lord, and the winner would control the Skywalker Twins.”

“Which is exactly why it is imperative that you leave this place, one day when the opportunity arises, the New Chosen One will seek out a Jedi Master for training, only this will restore balance to the Force. With my last act I will impart upon you what is left of my power, use it wisely my friend.”

Qui Gon’s spirit began to fade from sight as power from the Force began to percolate in Yoda, restoring the strength in his muscles and healing the damage to his psyche, and thus improving his connection to the Force. Yoda could still sense Qui Gon, but even the unseen presence was fading fast. “Grateful I am Master Qui Gon.”

“As am I to you Master Yoda. However, there is one last thing Master, there will come a time when you and the New Chosen One will have to part ways. When that happens, seek out Obi Wan. Although he does not realize it, his fate is more entwined with the galactic prophecy than any of us could have imagined.”

“Then alive Master Kenobi is, good news this is. You have my word that seek him out I will when the time comes.” Yoda said as he stretched and tested his restored body, satisfied with his strength and enlightened with the new knowledge, Yoda was prepared to take the next step towards fighting the Sith, and saving the galaxy.

“Then there is nothing left for me to accomplish, my time has come. May the Force be with you Master Yoda.”

“May the Force be with you, Master Jinn.”

No longer able to cross the boundaries between the physical realm and the netherworld where he existed, Qui Gon Jinn finally released his spirit into the Force, never to be heard from again. Now healed, Yoda had the power to loosen his restraints easily. He did so, knowing that Qui Gonn would not have prepared him for such an escape if such an opportunity was far from coming.

As he lay in wait, he was able to hear the footsteps of approaching guards in the distance. Yoda turned his head and concealed a small grin as he slowly began to gather energy for his surprise attack...

Author's note: apologies for the shorter length of this chapter, but it had to be done this way in order to properly set up the next one.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-06-25 02:46am, edited 2 times in total.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
-George Carlin (1937-2008)

"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
-Dr Roberts, with quite possibly the dumbest thing ever said in 10 years of SDNet.
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (New Chapter 6/21/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 35: Honor to the Dead, Woe unto the Living

The abundance of ship traffic in the skies above Coruscant weren’t as impressive to the trillion-plus residents of the galactic capital as they were to the millions of travelers that were making their first visits. Still, even the residents watching the skies near the Senate District took pause as an Imperial Star Destroyer took up and incredibly low orbit and hung slowly in the air, a violation of District Airspace that even the military refused to permit its own vessels to pass through except in emergency situations.

After it had held its position long enough for crowds to gather, a small parade of ships began to disgorge from the belly of the Star Destroyer, heading along a vector taking them straight to the largest landing platform in the area. The same one that had been made famous by General Anakin Skywalker’s impossible landing of the disintegrating Trade Federation flagship Invisible Hand .

A LAAT gunship led the charge under the direct command of Clone Commander Bow. Bow’s gunship and others were formed up around a larger transport that was carrying General Skywalker himself.

He leaned his head into the cockpit, his helmet underneath one arm and the other arm keeping him in place with his safety grip. “What’s the comm. Traffic sound like?” He asked the Gunship’s pilot.

“About as garbled as a Verpine Heavy-Isotope band sir, General Skywalker was right when he said that keeping the Star Destroyer over the city would wreak havoc with the air controllers. They’re diverting everything away from the Senate District, which will leave us plenty of room to land.”

Bow chuckled at the thought of the panic playing out at the nearby traffic control outpost. “Good work, but keep sharp, things are going to get very interesting once we touch down. I hope you had a chance to buff out your armor recently.”

The pilot laughed back, “Why Commander, is there going to be an inspection?”

Bow let go of his grip and put his helmet back on, taking a few seconds to check the seals. “I haven’t heard anything about an inspection, but the General did ask me before we left if the 501st was up on their parade skills.”

“Oh yeah?” The pilot said, “Did you tell him that we had plenty of time to practice in between battles, and the only issue we had is that we kept tripping over the droids we had just finished blasting to bits?”

Bow laughed, “I think I said something along those lines yes. But even I had to agree with his counter argument. He said that if we do this right that we will spook every one of those stuck up Coruscanti cloud-dwellers that never made it within fifty light years of a battle until the Seps tried to ambush us here. General says they’re so skittish right now we’re bound to get at least a few of them to ruin their trousers.”

“Sounds like a plan Commander,” said the pilot as he gave the thumbs up. “Just remind me which ways left and right are when you ask me to face. Oh, and I advise getting ready, because we’ll be landing here in less than a minute.”

The pair of Crimson Guardsmen, elite clones specially refined for the task of ensuring the safety of then-Chancellor Palpatine, stalked through the Works.

“I thought we weren’t bringing that old traitor anymore food.” The junior of the two guards asked.

“We aren’t, His Majesty has ordered us to dispose of him because there is no more benefit to keeping him alive. He is only prolonging the inevitable with those damned trances of his.”

The two troopers finally arrived at Yoda’s cell, readying their Force Pikes to dismember the body of the captive Jedi. The Jedi lay shackled and curled up, motionless with his hands on his belly as if he were weak from hunger.

“If there is any part of him left that still feels, it won’t be for much longer,” said the senior guard as he stabbed forward with the pike, aiming it directly at the back of Yoda’s head.

But the attack stopped jess than a millimeter away from the flesh on the back of Yoda’s skull, and the guardsman found himself facing an unseen resistance as he attempted to drive the blow home. Surprisingly to the guards, Yoda’s shackles undid themselves, and a heartbeat later, the senior guardsman fell backwards as the handle of his weapon flew backwards into his chest with great speed, knocking the wind out of him. The second guard jumped backwards, unsure of what had just happened. In that second Yoda leapt to his feet quickly and reached out with the force, taking the junior guard’s weapon.

By this time, the senior guard had begun to pick himself off the ground, but Yoda ended that by swinging the deactivated pike in his hand like a club. The attack, strengthened by the force, struck the guard on the side of his head and knocked him out cold. Yoda lifted his had towards the other guard.

“Kill either of you, I will not. But sleep now, you must.”

Yoda reached out with the force and seized the junior guard by his helmet and then slammed him face first into the duracrete floor. Abhorrent as it was to Yoda to use the Force in such a manner against a living being, it was still a non lethal technique, and his mission was paramount.

The guards would be unconscious long enough for Yoda to make his escape into the lower levels, the deepest parts of Coruscant where not even the Empire dared tread. Into the ancient warrens of lost city that held no purpose save to hold up the surface above.

A lightsaber would have been convenient, for illumination and for defense. But Yoda had the Force, and it was all that he believed he needed. The darkness of down below was even darker than his cell had been, but there was a key difference between the two that made the underground much more appealing.

Yoda was free, free to wait until the time was right to rise without the chains of the Emperor to hold him back, free to wait until the time to move against the Sith and fulfill a prophecy that had destroyed his family, and had nearly destroyed him.

“General Cody, glad you could make it.” Garm Bel Iblis said as he welcomed the Jedi and the two padawans into the makeshift conference room on the now growing Rebel base that had sprung up on Dantooine.

“I shall always find time for allies Senator, though I’m surprised that you have changed your mind in such a short time. I had heard from Senator Organa that you and Senator Mothma were having quite a disagreement over her opposition to the Empire.”

Bel Iblis grit his teeth at the mention of his now deceased former colleague. “The last time I spoke with her, I had every reason to oppose her, and even were she alive right now I would think her too rash to consider the cost and logistics of waging an open rebellion with the Empire given the resources available.”

The Corellian sighed. “But, it is going to be a lot harder without her, no matter when we acted, and new information coupled with recent events has forced me to reconsider my opinion.”

“What new information?”

“You would have received it had the Neimoidians not betrayed out and assassinated Mon Mothma; there is upheaval on Coruscant, within the government and the military alike. Most of it is circulating around the Emperor and Supreme Commander Skywalker.”

Obi Wan’s heart nearly leapt out through his respirator. “He was the one leading the Imperial forces at Telos.”

“I know,” Bel Iblis replied. “I still have several reliable sources in the executive branch, There was in incident between Skywalker and Moff Wilhuff Tarkin after the battle ended. It appears Tarkin gave an order that killed hundreds of clones under Skywalker’s command.”

It didn’t take Obi Wan long to guess what had happened, “I take it that the General objected to the Moff’s course of action?”

“It goes deeper than that, but yes.” replied the Senator. “It appears as though Skywalker killed Tarkin, who rumor has it was acting on the Emperor’s orders, although I can’t confirm that part of it. It doesn’t make any difference because soon afterwards Skywalker left in a Star Destroyer right for Coruscant and if my guess is right he’s already there. Ever since the assassination of Padme Amidala there has been a surge in support for General Skywalker, and it has created a rift between those who support Skywalker, and those entirely devoted to the ‘New Order’ of Palpatine. It hasn’t had much effect because their goals until recently have been the same, but if someone on either side wanted to start a fight, it would not take much.”

“You could always count on Skywalker to start a fight.” Kenobi mused as he attempted to comprehend the situation fully. Coruscant was changing faster than he had expected.

Bel Iblis pounded his fist into his open palm. “That’s just what we’re doing! At first I had figured on Palpatine taking the time to consolidate his power while his support made him untouchable, but if Skywalker pushes the leadership issue on Coruscant, then that is no longer an issue. Mon Mothma was right for all the wrong reasons.”

“I hope for your sake Senator that guilt over Mon Mothma’s death isn’t the only reason you’re pursuing this course of action. While I welcome your assistance as much as anyone we need to make clear decisions now more than ever.”

Bel Iblis stopped, and was silent for a moment. “There may be some guilt in me General, I will admit that. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are being blessed with an opportunity to realistically fight back years earlier than we could have hoped, we can hurt the Empire in its infancy before they have a grip on the rest of the galaxy!”

The Senator moved towards Obi Wan and extended his hand forward. Obi Wan reciprocated and the two shook hands. “I concur Senator, and I think Mon Mothma would as well were she here.”

“We will honor her memory the day the war ends General, one way or the other. Maybe I’m just saying this because she is dead and will never have to hear me say it, but she was a true patriot. In the mean time why don’t you and your charges have some down time, we’ll start coordinating our assets tomorrow.”

“Thank you Senator, and please let me know if you receive any information from Coruscant. From the way you have described it, things are about to get awful ugly over there.”

For many of the clones in the 501st, they had not been part of any sort of parade march since they had boarded the Acclamators on Coruscant for the first time after Geonosis. Many of them had visible marks on their armor, from blaster burns to gouges from a vibro blade, each imperfection worn with pride as a badge of honor commemorating his service in combat across the galaxy. They were a group not unlike the hundreds of other legions that served the Grand Army of the Republic, now the Imperial Armed Forces.

But in many ways they were different. As the unit with the most surviving clones from their initial batch, the 501st was deeply mistrustful of other clones. It wasn’t that other clones were inferior in any way; it was that they did not feel like brothers. It took time for newcomers to be fully accepted, of having been through enough combat to “get the stink of nutrient bath off ‘em,” as some of the older clones had first put it. Some clone units had begun dabbling in the Mandalorian heritage of their progenitor, Jango Fett. But most members of the 501st rejected this to the point where such practitioners in other units were given the derogatory label of “Fettheads.” Clones of the 501st still remembered that, for whatever reason, Jango Fett had fought for the Separatists on Geonosis, and had fought against his genetic copies in the process. Instead, the 501st developed their own cultures, a culture based on one critical factor, survival.

Survival wasn’t just about living to see the next day; it was helping your brothers next to you do the same. The battle could be won, but if nobody made it home then there would be nobody to fight the next one. Clones of the 501st risked their life time and again, but never doing so for ridiculous concepts like honor and personal gain, but with the hope that his death would mean that his brothers would live. New clones, also known as “Shinies”, rarely understood this when they entered the 501st, but they would either live long enough to learn, or die on the battlefield anyways. Understanding did not help them live longer, but it helped them fight harder.

Only one being outside of the unit had ever really understood and been accepted, and that being was Anakin Skywalker. Were it not for his actions when fighting together, the 501st would not have any of its declining number original members, made fewer by the callous actions of Moff Tarkin in the space battle around Telos.

While bred to be obedient, the 501st knew that blind obedience would eventually destroy them. So they did what any practical unit of clones would do when they knew that the people they were supposed to be serving were plotting against them, they changed their loyalty.

It was startlingly easy for many of the 501st to rationalize. All they had to do was decide how to interpret their orders. Their loyalty was to the head of state, but what happened when that position was in dispute? Clones had always been taught to follow the chain of command, and the command code put the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces at the top of the pecking order, and it just so happened that in this upcoming leadership dispute that the Supreme Commander was one of the powers vying for leadership, and up until the dispute itself came out into the open, the clones could simply state that they were following orders, and would require a direct order from the Emperor in order to supersede their orders from the Supreme Commander.

Those were the reasons why hundreds of clones marched in formation behind Anakin Skywalker through the Imperial Plaza that day. No words were spoken or commands given, all the clones had to do was follow, and follow they did. The crowds parted and ground traffic stopped to make way for the ivory column.

What the clones did not understand, was the unspoken role being played by Anakin Skywalker, more specifically his Sith alter ego. Throughout the Senate District, his will was pervasive, those beings even remotely sensitive to the Force would have looked upon the man leading the troopers as a radiant furnace of energy, teetering on the brink of explosion. A Zabrak driving a freight carrying hovertruck stopped, but not because he reacted to avoid hitting anyone in the column, he stopped because Anakin Skywalker wanted him to stop; there was no other option available to him.

Those in the crowd with enough intelligence and enough power of will to resist being drawn in by Skywalker’s Aura made it a point to promptly leave the area in a quiet way, knowing that whatever it was building up in the plaza would soon engulf the entire area in a dangerous way.

Painful emotions and bittersweet memories continued to fuel the fire within Anakin every step of the way, not once during the entire march did he even think about what action he would take to get to his Master, or what he would even say when he arrived. One thing was for sure though, Palpatine’s actions had served to unify the conflicting emotions within Anakin’s heart, and Anakin seized that fact and used it to focus his hate as he had never before. Anakin believed that he was finally understating his hate and anger to a degree that he had never managed before. Sidious’ lessons had taught Anakin to focus his rage, but his betrayal had inadvertently taught Anakin how to turn that anger into true hate.

His first apprentice killed Qui Gon Jinn, and left me to the fate of a Jedi Order that didn’t care for me...

His armies killed my friends in the war, on battlefields all over the galaxy I watched them die…

Still, I was willing to fight for him, kill people I once cared about for him, because I thought he was right. No, because he was right!

Then his agent killed hundreds of my men needlessly, because they supported me…

Then his tried to kill me! Using my own ships against me while I fought the true enemies of the Empire…

Still, I would have fought for him, because such is the nature of the Sith Order, had I been killed, I would not have been a worthy heir to the Sith legacy…

But then I learned that he killed Padme…

As Anakin finished the thought, he looked up and saw that he was but a short distance from 500 Imperial, and in the midst of all of the chaos and emotion swirling about that his Master was there, waiting within. Anakin stopped, the clones behind him coming to a halt as well.

“Commander Bow,” the General said, his glare still fixated on the building before them.

“Yes General?”

“I am declaring a state of emergency; spread the word that a group of former Separatists is planning to assassinate the Emperor and that Jedi may possibly be involved. We will use the culture of fear and the same vague justifications used by the Emperor against him. I want your men to secure the perimeter of this building, but do not enter the building itself, I am guessing it is already seething with COMPNOR lackeys, and I can practically taste the stench of ISB as well.”

“Yes sir, General.” Bow acknowledged.

“There is one other thing, at some point I will transmit a message to you. I pre-recorded it onto my comlink. Once I send it to you, I want you to spread the message as far and wide across this planet as you can. At that point, I fully expect this place to turn into a warzone.”

The integration of droids into the Imperial military was incredibly controversial, especially among those who hailed from worlds devastated by droid army invasions.

But the opportunity to implement valuable technology forcibly acquired from the Trade Federation was too good to pass up for most of the military leadership, who were unconcerned with the political consequences and clamored for the tactical advantages that the new droids could give them.

The compromise was to take the old Trade Federation droids and re-design them into “Imperialized” versions, which would be built by corporations loyal to the Empire, notably those that also had tight connections to the Emperor.

Thus it was that Arakyd Industries was given the right to manufacture a new type of armed probe droid, capable of travelling through hyperspace and broadcasting their finds back to their controllers via the holonet.

These droids were put into production and use by the Empire as soon as they had rolled off the assembly lines, the first batch of these droids were given to Anakin Skywalker’s Death Squadron, as they hunted out fugitive Jedi. After an unknown freighter escaped the destruction of Telos, these droids were the first to deploy in pursuit.

Only one was required to locate the target for the operation to be successful, and in fact, one was. Programmed with one of a large number of escape routes and habitable worlds along that route, it was the only droid to emerge at the edge of the Dantooine system and notice the presence of numerous enemy ships orbiting it.

The message was sent back to its handlers, a coded transmission that sounded like meaningless electronically generated noise to human ears that was actually a rather detailed message, sending as much data as it could gather.

The Empire had found the Rebels on Dantooine.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (New Chapter 6/21/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 36: From the Streets to the Stars

Anakin was not more than two meters into the complex when he was attacked by the most infamous first line of defense in the history of either the Galactic Republic or Empire, the bureaucracy.

“General Skywalker, you’re back much earlier than we expected,” said the young man that greeted him. He lacked the disciplined features of a soldier, or the cool demeanor of an intelligence operative, leading Anakin to believe that he was a part of the COMPNOR organization. Originally the Republic’s propaganda machine; it had been gradually co-opted by Palpatine during his reign as Supreme Chancellor and transformed into one of the new Emperor’s most valuable tools in solidifying his New Order.

A quick glance around the room turned up little, but Anakin’s force senses told him otherwise. The entire palace was crawling with activity, ISB agents posed as office clerks, their identities betrayed by their thoughts.

“It looks like my Master is getting paranoid, and since I don’t see that slimeball Pestage anywhere he must be absolutely terrified, probably because he knows there is going a fight.”

The COMPNOR official interjected again. “Supreme Commander if I may, His Majesty is currently in conference right now, but he knows that you are here and will personally contact you when he is…”

Anakin’s temptation to swat the officer, and educate him on why the Supreme Commander’s reputation with deskbound government officials was less than amicable, was palpable. The lesson went unlearned however, as Anakin did not want to waste any time when the object of his ire was so close. The official just watched with a blank stare as the Hero of the Empire ignored the rest of his statement and walked right past him.

Ever eager to fulfill the wishes of his idol, Emperor Palpatine, the official turned to pursue the Supreme Commander. He was quickly held back by an older plainclothes Intelligence Agent who grabbed his shoulder at the last second.

“It’s not worth it son, leave it for the Guardsmen.”

Outside the building, their uniformed counterparts were faring little better. A handful of officers had stepped outside to gauge the commotion outside and saw the hundreds of troopers of the 501st standing watch and forming an armed perimeter around the entire building, more disturbing was the cooperation from the Coruscant Shock Troops in their customized red and white armor. The senior-most officer of the group spotted Commander Bow and made his way towards him.

“What is the meaning of this exhibition trooper?” The officer, a Lieutenant, said arrogantly as he was not used to clone officers in full armor, having experience only with the enlisted-level troopers providing security for the Senate District.

Bow turned to meet the Lieutenant, and looked at him, watching as the man’s face reddened as he noticed the rank insignia on Bow’s chest plate.

“You were saying Lieutenant?” Bow said trying to startle the officer away and end the confrontation before it began.

The attempt failed. “Despite the perceived disparity in our ranks Commander,” The young officer said with a sneer. “I operate under ISB authority, and the Senate District is under OUR jurisdiction.”

“Hah!” Bow could not help himself from laughing at the Lieutenant’s posturing. “Listen son, my orders come from Supreme Commander Skywalker. We received credible reports of an attempt on the Emperor’s life and the General has ordered the 501st to make sure that His Majesty is secured.

“We’ve received no such reports!” The Lieutenant proclaimed.

“That’s ‘We’ve received no such reports SIR!’ Lieutenant and you haven’t heard anything about this because you sit here in your sky towers playing spooks while we’ve been out in the battlefield killing Separatists. Now get back inside with the rest of your serpent-headed lot or they’ll have to surgically remove a plasteel boot from your upper intestines.”

Backing up Bow’s words were the clattering sounds of two nearby clone troopers, who not-so-innocently decided to choose that moment as the proper time to conduct an inspection of their blaster rifles. Sensing that he was at a decided disadvantage, the Lieutenant decided it was time for a strategic retreat.

“You will hear from my commanding officer about this.” He said.

“And you tell whatever data-pushing, desk-racing, son of a gundark you call a commanding officer that we’re not doing anything unless we hear from General Skywalker or the Emperor himself. You might also want to get yourself some armor to cover that pretty little tailored suit, I hear the bad guys in a real fight carry blasters.

As the young Lieutenant marched up the steps, the junior officers around him noticed the foul expression on his face and attempted to avoid contact, save for one, a young Ensign stuck as the Lieutenant’s aide.

“Orders Lieutenant Somoril?” He asked meekly.

Somoril took a moment, unconsciously allowing his frustration with the Clone Commander to make his decision. “Call down to the techs and have them get our reserves ready.”

The young ensign nearly flinched. “But sir! We’re under orders from Colonel Sollaine not to use the droids in public view!”

“I will make Sollaine understand Ensign, but your job is only to follow my orders to the letter. Is that clear or should I just send you out there with a hand blaster to keep those clones from doing whatever the kark they please?”

The Ensign did not even bother to respond, and immediately began carrying out Somoril’s orders.

“Let’s see how tough you bucket headed traitors are when you find out the improvements we’ve been making to the Separatist’s hardware!”

Decades ago, as a youngling, Obi Wan remembered learning about how a Jedi in deep meditation could become so enmeshed with the Force that he or she could go days without noticing the world around them.

“Apparently these days all it takes is a good siren and an intercom system.”

Obi Wan exited the temporary quarters given to him and saw personnel scrambling all around him desperately, but he was at least pleased to see that his two padawans were already waiting for him.

“Master Cody,” Nam Poorf said, careful with his new Master’s instructions about his true identity. “The Empire has arrived in the system, we double checked the IFF data and it’s the same force that destroyed Telos.”

“Then they must have followed us.” Obi Wan said with some remorse. “We owe it to them to help however we can in the evacuation.”

“Senator Bel Iblis asked us if we could help with the fighter screen.” Jambe Lu replied. “Nam and I can’t fly starfighters but we’ll be serving as gunners with a squadron of bombers, the Senator reserved a fighter for you in the main hangar.”

Satisfied with his purpose, Obi Wan acknowledged the padawans. “Then that’s where we are heading, you two lead the way.”

In all of the battles he had fought in, Obi Wan recognized that he had fought in few such as this. The circumstances of fighting a rebellion were far different than fighting as one side of an open conflict between two nations. Obi Wan wondered if the Separatists in the Outer Rim had felt like this as the deactivated droid armies broke the stalemate that was the Outer Rim Seiges.

Starfighters still remained in the hangar, but it was emptying fast. Vulture droids were mixed in along with various piloted craft, including Z-95 Headhunters and their much older predecessors the C-73 Tracker, Cloakshape Fighters, and even a handful of Y-Wing bombers that appeared to have been stripped of their armor and other exterior fittings.

Jambe and Nam immediately headed for the Y-Wings, where pilots were already climbing into their cockpits.

“General Cody!” someone called out from across the hangar. Obi Wan recognized it as Garm Bel Iblis.

“Senator!” Obi Wan replied. “You should already be off planet by now, what are you still doing here?”

“Making you sure you got this…” Bel Iblis pointed over in the corner at a type of ship Obi Wan had seen before, but was not entirely familiar with. “That’s an Utapaun P-38, same as the ones used by Dooku’s droid guardsmen. Not inexpensive at all and I’m personally impressed with them enough that I had agents collect as many as possible. This one was actually taken from the Seps and the cockpit has been modified enough that someone like you will be able to fly it. If you’re going to die today General, they’re going to have to work for it. Besides, I’ve already appropriated your ship as my own transport. Unless you’d rather take that old Bespin Gascan into the fight and try and laugh the Imperials to death.”

Obi Wan looked over the ship and started climbing into the cockpit. “No arguments from me Senator, I’m not going to miss her at all.”

“Fine, well I know you Jedi don’t believe in it, but I’m too Corellian not to wish you good luck.”

The comment elicited a short laugh. “May the Force be with you Senator, and if somehow we both survive today maybe I’ll reconsider my position on luck.”

The monitors displayed around him told Darth Sidious nothing that he had not already gleaned from the Force.

His agent had failed miserably to deal with his former apprentice, and was now dead after revealing critical information in his weakness.

His finest clone legion had been corrupted, and had begun creating an atmosphere of fear and panic in the heart of his Empire, which would fuel dissent.

His palace had become a fortress, filled and surrounded with beings unable to properly enforce his will and thus forcing him to take all matters into his own hands.

His other minions were drastically escalating the conflict outside, ready to turn the tense situation into an unavoidable firefight that would be galactic news by the next day.

His apprentice was less than fifty meters away filled with a murderous hate, ready to end their arrangement and either take over or destroy everything that he had worked decades to bring to fruition.

Sidious had done everything possible to manufacture a way to deal with Anakin Skywalker without creating turmoil within his government. His meteoric rise in popularity with the armed forces and the public had been couple with an extreme dislike fostered amongst many of the influential figures in Palpatine’s New Order, a dislike fostered by the Emperor himself. Those who hated Skywalker saw him as the last symbol of what the Old Jedi Order represented.

Sidious did not care one way or another. His apprentice’s fate had been sealed as soon as Sidious recognized the dormant power resting within his children. In each of them he saw the opportunity to alter the future of the galaxy and by killing Skywalker and taking them into his care he would be allowed to mold that future by changing the destinies of the twins.

Now that the task was on his shoulders alone, Sidious was forced for this first time in ages to mediate on the martial aspects of his Sith training. Mace Windu and Yoda were the first two opponents he had actually fought in many years, not since a duel to test the worthiness of his apprentice Darth Maul had he raised his lightsaber in protection of his life. Lord Tyrannus had never even been given the opportunity to raise his blade against his master, and it pleased Sidious to no end when his arrogant and overconfident former apprentice had been struck down by his successor on board the Invisible Hand. Tyrannus had never been able to truly let go of his Jedi past, whereas Vader tossed his aside with ease and contempt.

Defeating Vader would be just as difficult, if not more so, but what Vader did not know was that Sidious had taken several precautions in case such a duel occurred. The time of this confrontation was most certainly not of his choosing, but the location assuredly was, and Sidious knew Vader’s blind rage would prevent him from becoming fully aware of what lay in store for him and his legion of traitors.

As he turned his throne towards the door, he felt Vader’s presence in the Force and knew that he had arrived. His timing almost perfectly timed with that of his overeager subordinates, as Sidious observed on one of his chair’s arm-mounted display projectors.

The skies were as clear as they had ever been on Coruscant, the city’s weather-control system kept it that way. But Commander Bow could not help but wonder what sound it was that he was hearing that reminded him of a low thunder. Then the ground started to reverberate beneath his feet, but not powerfully enough to be an earthquake.

“I want a sit-rep from all squad leaders right now!” Bow said over the comm as the thundering sound grew louder. “Something is happening and I want to know exactly what it is!”

Nobody bothered to respond to Bow over the comm when the walkways began to open up around the building in plain sight of everyone. As the doors retracted newly installed hidden platforms raised up from the depths below, each of the platforms carried their maximum weight in battle droids. Just as that happened, the doors of the building swung wide open, and more droids began to pour out as well.

As if the droid army wasn’t enough of a surprise, other parts of the walkway began to open up and disgorged a number of droids hovering in the air on repulsorlifts. Bow identified them as Protodekas, and they were armed to the teeth with enough firepower to take out fighter tanks.

Bow looked around and sensed that his troopers were beginning to feel a little intimidated. “What were you all decanted yesterday?” He yelled at everyone within earshot. “Don’t let these tinnies keep you from doing your job, this just means that those ISB spooks inside are scared of us, and so help me if anyone says that they have a bad feeling about this, they’ll be scrubbing latrines with their hygiene kit for a week!

Bow would never say as much, but privately he did have a bad feeling about the way things were going, and he hoped that whatever it was that General Skywalker had in store, it would do something to give them better odds against the number of droids they were facing. Just from where he was standing he was able to identify the airborne Protdekas, several droidekas including a new type that appeared to have mounted grenade launchers in place of the repeating blaster weapons, IG-100 Magnaguards armed with nasty looking blaster rifles of a sort Bow had never seen, and leading the way was an uncounted number of B-2 battle droids, painted black with silver imperial insignias emblazoned prominently on their front panels.

“We fought and died for years so that the same pieces of junk we destroyed time and again could replace us? Every clone worth his armor would be sick if they saw this.”

Bow expected some sort of taunt to come from the ISB agents inside the palace, but nothing was said.

“What do you think they’re up to Commander?” the trooper standing closest to Bow asked.

“Probably trying to put on a good face for the public, although everyone involved in this whole clusterspawn of a contest knows that those droids weren’t sent out to back us up the bureaucrats are probably telling everyone on the planet that this is all one big happy armed response to a terrorist threat not unlike the one that killed the General’s wife, and that they should rest assured the Empire has everything under control.”

The trooper stopped to consider Bow’s words, and then turned his attention back to the droids.

“That’s a lot of firepower Commander.”

“Trooper, I started fighting in this war less than two hours after I shipped off of Kamino and I’ve been fighting with the 501st for the better part of my life. And that is the biggest understatement I have ever heard.”

Obi Wan banked his fighter on it’s side in order to slip between the two V-Wing fighters that were challenging him head on, only narrowing splitting the gap without colliding. The V-Wings overshot him and flew right into a stream of fire from the Y-Wing Squadron Obi Wan was paving the way for out of the atmosphere.

Now that all of the ships were in space, Obi Wan could only scramble from one emergency to the next, already there were several dozen cargo ships carrying valuable equipment under siege from Imperial fighters. Obi Wan checked his threat display and saw a flight of ARC-170’s streaking towards a container transport, he immediately moved to intercept, coming in from the side in an attempt to avoid the rear guns possessed by the ARC-170s. Obi Wan’s fighter had no torpedoes, but the linked laser cannons were able to do enough damage to break up the enemy formation, and buy the transport a few more precious moments. The ARCs attempted to make a move against Obi Wan, but the speed and maneuverability of the P-38 was too much for their heavier fighters to engage in a dogfight.

Another alert flared up on Obi Wan’s HUD. A Nu class attack shuttle was attacking and about to begin boarding a freighter carrying passengers. Obi Wan attempted to intercept but was cut off by another pair of V-Wings who came in from above and behind. Obi Wan cursed as his starfighter was especially vulnerable from that angle, one of the downsides to having an especially low target profile otherwise.

He banked hard to avoid the blasts streaking towards him, and managed to evade most of the shots. His shields were enough to handle those that hit, but Obi Wan began to worry as more Imperial Fighters moved into the area he was working in, a sign that the Empire was having success in bringing down the Rebel fighters in other engagements.

Obi Wan managed to evade another volley of shots entirely and his looping maneuver brought him right behind the V-Wing pilots, who did not expect such a maneuver and were now about to pay for it. Linked cannon fire from Obi Wan’s guns destroyed one of the fighters, and the exploding ship managed to deal damage to his wingman’s ship, which was now veering away from the battle with a trail of smoke and sparks behind him.

The victory was short lived. Obi Wan’s ship rocked as he came under fire once more. His head darted back and forth in an attempt to spot his pursuer who turned out to be an Eta-2 Interceptor. Used widely by the Jedi Order during the Clone War, some Eta-2’s were piloted by the few elite clone pilots that had managed to master the difficult ship. The Eta-2 came around again, and Obi Wan was suddenly grateful that he no longer held food in his stomach the way he used to as he was forced to invert his ship, raising himself out of the interceptor’s attack vector just enough to avoid being hit again.

Obi Wan felt the presence of the clone pilot as he passed, which was unusual for him as he was more used to facing the droid starfighters of the Separatists. Although the Clone pilot was better than the standard pre-programmed droid pilot, the fact that Obi Wan could sense him in the Force made him a more susceptible target.

Obi Wan reached out with the Force and sensed the pilot’s intentions, he was going to swing back around and wait for the last possible moment to see which angle Obi Wan took and unleash a volley from his ion cannons. Obi Wan steer back towards the pilot, acting as if he was going to make an attack run on the Eta-2, and when the last possible moment occurred, Obi Wan shot up vertically instead of the horizontal maneuver the clone had expected, Obi Wan then reached out with the force and caused the clone to lean in forward on his throttle which spun him into an uncontrollable spiraling dive that did not end until the interceptor happened to crash into one of the Imperial fleet’s Venator Star Destroyers, crashing into the flight deck as the doors were opening to launch more ships causing great damage to the carrier, as well as the dozens of ships awaiting their deployment inside.

The P-38 veered back into the engagement zone just in time to see the column of flame bursting from the VSD. As it happened, the communicator one the console began beeping.

“General Cody! Don’t try and convince me that was anything but luck!” Came the garbled voice of Garm Bel Iblis, the result of the transmission barely making its way through layers of communications jamming.

“Senator!” Obi Wan screamed as loud has his electronic vocal cords allowed him. “What are you still doing here?”

“That’s why I’m calling, there’s a Star Destroyer on our tail and we’ve lost our Y-Wing escorts.”

Obi Wan’s mechanical heartbeat reacted to the increased adrenaline in his system, and fought against it to keep blood flowing at a healthy rate. “Jambe and Nam? Where are they now, are they in trouble?” Obi Wan said as he began to move to his next target.

“Our escape route had been cut off by an Imperial Dreadnaught, the Y-Wings used up their entire payload in order to help bring it down. The Dreadnaught was sunk but none of the Y-Wings survived the attack run. I’m sorry General, for what it’s worth they went out as heroes.

Obi Wan held back his grief. “I’ve been around too many heroes in my life Senator. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Do whatever it takes General. Bel Iblis out.”

Obi Wan angled his ship again and set off at top speed for the Senator’s location, hoping that between now and then he would have the answer for how his small fighter would be able to take on a fully armed Star Destroyer.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-12-08 10:39pm, edited 2 times in total.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
-George Carlin (1937-2008)

"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (New Chapter 12/08/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 37: One War to the Next

Anakin was not surprised to see that his Master had his back turned to him, as the throne was turned around, allowing the Emperor to gaze out onto the Coruscanti Horizon. Especially since the force had assuredly revealed to him Anakin’s imminent arrival. Anakin kept moving until he was about three meters away and then stopped, pausing in order to gauge his Master’s silence and scan the room for signs of deceit.

Sidious broke the silence first. “If you are looking for traps Lord Vader, you are wasting your time. If I had any, do you think that I would be so short sighted as to leave them detectable even to a person with talent such as yours?”

“With all due respect Master,” Anakin said, not bothering to disguise the contempt in his voice. “I would be stupid not to expect such danger, especially in dealing with a being with a reputation such as yours. Besides that, you were foolish enough to think that Grand Moff Tarkin could deal with me, and now here I am with all of your dirty little secrets laid bare.”

The chair turned, and Anakin was faced with the bright yellow eyes of Darth Sidious, Emperor of the Galaxy. He was immediately reminded of the time when Sidious had ordered him to go to the Jedi Temple and execute Order 66. The positions the two men occupied now were nearly identical to where they stood on that fateful night.

“Believe what you want, whether I overestimated Tarkin’s abilities or underestimated yours, the fact remains that had you failed you would have been unworthy to be my apprentice. You have come a long way from your Jedi past, but there is still so much you could learn from me Lord Vader. With Amidala gone there was nothing left to get between you and true power!”

Anakin’s rage boiled. “So you admit responsibility for her death!”

Sidious flashed one of his dark and sinister smiles. “You would have never reached your full potential with her around. She was strong of will, but weakened by her misguided philosophies. You know as well I do that she never would have sat by as we crushed all resistance to our Empire. Eventually she would have tried to intervene on behalf of her former colleagues in the Senate, the very traitors who right now wage secret campaigns against us!”

Sidious stood firm, knowing full well that he was making his apprentice even angrier, but it was a calculated risk. Even the most powerful of the Sith could be subdued once they had lost their temper, and thus control of their actions. “The only thing that I failed to properly evaluate was Amidala’s corruption of you Lord Vader! Your heart has grown far too soft, while you have fully embraced the Dark Side, you lack the vision to ever fully comprehend the teachings of the Sith, my teachings!”

Anakin snorted as his hand went to his lightsaber, his hand pressing over the hilt. “Even if that is true, even if you did kill me, you’ll never have another apprentice as powerful as I am. Eventually, my Master, you’ll have to risk getting your own hands dirty and when that day comes your failure will transform from possibility into eventuality.”

But Sidious was prepared for such a response. “Arrogant as ever, especially when there are two replacements readily available to me as soon your life expires.”

It didn’t take any time at all for Anakin to realize that Sidious was referring to the twins. Those words had more power than even the Sith Master had realized, simply uttering them eliminated the last insignificant vestiges of loyalty Anakin had left for the man he once admired, whose friendship he had cherished, whose tutelage he had sacrificed everything to gain. The lives of his children, the last thing he had in this world to connect him to Padme, were now threatened. Anakin’s desire for vengeance grew two-fold. He took his lightsaber into his hand, and pressed his thumb down on the ignition switch, igniting the red blade.
“Your time is up Lord Sidious, I will not allow the galaxy to be ruled by a traitor such as yourself. As of this moment I am declaring myself the rightful ruler of the Empire.”

Sidious laughed at the gesture. “So this is how it ends between us? Then you and your clones will die today. All of you have outlived your usefulness and the Empire will forge on without them. I look forward to the day when I am able to enlighten your children of how much of a weak willed coward you were.”

Then Sidious saw it, a small device attached to the hilt of Skywalker’s lightsaber. The Sith Master snarled at his former apprentice’s treachery when he realized what the device was.

Commander Bow heard the words loud and clear as he listened in on the conversation between Skywalker and the Emperor via the small communicator Skywalker had given him, and he was about as amused as a rancor with irritable bowels.

“Then you and your clones will die today. All of you have outlived your usefulness and the Empire will forge on without them…”

This evidence was damning indeed, not only was it proof that the Emperor was planning on getting rid of the Clone Army, but other parts of the conversation had revealed him to be the mysterious Lord Sidious who was rumored to have directed the Separatists throughout the Clone War.

Bow wouldn’t have believed it, except that right now he and his men were staring down more battle droids than he had seen since the end of the war, and all of them had their guns pointed at his outnumbered and underpowered force.

He could always call Commander Vills with the rest of the 501st, but that would leave the children unprotected, and if he heard right and the Emperor wanted the twins, then leaving them under-defended was one of the worst decisions he could make right now.

The answer didn’t come immediately, and then a flash of inspiration hit. There were plenty of possible reinforcements on this planet. Millions of clones were stationed either on Coruscant or in the Skyhooks orbiting the world, thousands or so within the distance of a short range transmission.

But would they listen? Would they respond as Bow did upon hearing of what the Emperor was planning? Would they act on the threat of the active generations of clone troopers being exterminated in favor of more docile replacements? There was also the other part of the message that Skywalker must have carefully calculated. He had just declared himself the ruler of the Empire, and legitimate or not that simple declaration opened the door for the clones to choose who they would fight for, they could decide who was in command based on loyalty.

Bow sent the transmission, knowing that once it aired it would only be a short time before the ISB jammed the transmission and acted upon the threat of what he was about to do.

“All right you bucket heads get it together!” Bow screamed out to his men over the frequency the clones were using for their helmet communicators. “The excrement is about to hit the oscillator!”

At that moment, Bow had to do something he was not bred to do; something that Jango Fett and those moronic shiners who walked in his shadow would have called him insane for doing.

He hoped.

Bi Wan twisted and turned in the air as he evaded the onslaught from the Imperator-class Star Destroyer. The ship was too big, and his fighter too lightly armed, for him to be effective in diverting the Star Destroyers from bringing its heavy guns to bear on the approaching convoy. Desperate, Obi Wan dove in close hoping that a linked burst of fire from his cannons would be powerful enough to destroy or disable the gun emplacements, but the flak bursts were too much and Obi Wan’s shields were nearly depleted after one abbreviated pass.

“Iblis!” Obi Wan cried out over his communicator. “Change your vector! There is no way I can steer this Star Destroyer!”

No reply was received, and Obi Wan realized that his proximity to the Star Destroyer made communicating with the convoy impossible. Although Obi Wan had never believed in luck, he would not have objected to a miracle from the far reaches in space at that moment.

And a miracle is exactly what happened.

From behind the Star Destroyer, nearly a dozen small capital ships emerged from hyperspace. A mixture of older Marauder-class corvettes and modified Light Assault cruisers made up the bulk of the formation but taking the lead was an unfamiliar looking Corellian Corvette that Obi Wan was getting a strange feeling from.

Individually, the ships were no match for the Star Destroyer by a wide margin, but together, they posed a great threat, especially to the lightly protected rear of the ship. Maneuvering as fast as it could, Obi Wan breathed a sigh of relief as the convoy carrying Garm Bel Iblis made its way safely into hyperspace.

There was more good news. The small group of ships did not arrive alone, and they were aiding in escapes across the Dantooine system. Many ships were destroyed and lives were lost, but enough had escaped that the Rebel Fleet would remain a credible threat to the Empire.

Obi Wan swung his ship around, ready to engage the nearest Imperial starfighter he could find when he began receiving a transmission from the odd corvette.

“Unidentified P-38, this is the Corvette Custodian, break off your attack and rendezvous with us immediately for your evacuation.”

Obi Wan prepared his reply. “Custodian, I’m on my way.” Obi Wan had to resist from broadcasting it out in the open, but he finally recognized the ship. It could only have been the Tantive IV, now refitted and upgraded to handle the rigors of space combat. Voicing the transmission calling for Obi Wan to head for the ship was none other than Raymus Antilles.

If the former Tantive IV is being armed then Bail Organa has to be getting more involved! If the Empire find out about this link then he is putting himself in great danger. I have to find him!”

“What do you expect to accomplish with that?” Sidious demanded. Although he had expected Anakin to pull some sort of stunt involving the clones, he did not expect his former apprentice to do something so reckless as to try and plunge the very heart of the Empire into civil war!

“Simple really, I’m taking over the Empire while making sure that everyone knows where they stand with you, a courtesy that you never offered me.” Anakin retorted.

“Even if you manage to corrupt every clone in the Empire I will still prevail, all it will take to subdue them is your death and your remains mounted somewhere quite visible.” Sidious spat as he raised his hands in an all too familiar manner.

The first bolts of Sith Lightning flashed forth with great speed and were met with an equally quick parry from Anakin’s lightsaber. He had learned much since his first encounter with the attack on Geonosis, and was almost disappointed that Sidious had chosen it as his opening attack.

But the bolts of arcane energy was not the only ability that Sidious had in his arsenal, while maintaining the attack with his right hand, Sidious broke the attack with his left and made a quick gesture with the right.

Anakin had little time to react as Sidious’ own lightsaber sprang to life from its hiding place behind him. The red blade shot through the air like a blaster bolt right at Anakin’s back. Aided by the Force, Anakin shifted his mass to the left in a bur, allowing the blade to continue on its path towards Sidious, who then caught the blade in his free hand.

Ceasing the lightning attack, Sidious leapt over the table and began to attack Anakin directly with ferocity. Knowing that his opponent rarely was forced into defensive postures, Sidious continued to assail with quick attacks. He augmented his attacks with the force, using a series of deft, almost effortless pushes to try and throw Anakin off balance and leave him wide open for a fatal blow.

But Anakin’s strength was too great, and he managed to parry every attack, until he finally started to gain ground, pushing Sidious back towards the throne. Letting his rage fuel each strike, Anakin began to gradually gain momentum. A slash by Sidious nearly made it past Anakin’s defenses, but the Jedi was quick to dodge, causing Sidious to leave himself perilously overextended. He raised up his mechanical hand into a fist, and threw it forward in a tremendous punch that struck Sidious across the face, causing him to cry out in pain and jump back. Anakin noticed that Sidious had spat out at least two of his teeth.

The Dark Lord however, was not so easily defeated. He said nothing, but uttered an ugly sounding sneer before Anakin began to sense the danger in the force. A powerful wave shattered the glass of the massive window behind Sidious, the same one replaced after the duel with Mace Windu. But this time the reinforced glass hovered in place for a moment before being flung forward in a terrifying whirlwind of razor sharp edges towards Anakin.

With little time to counter, All Anakin could do was hold his artificial hand over his eyes and channels as much of the Force to him as possible, diverting as many of the deadly shards around him as he could. IT was over in a few seconds, and none of the wounds scored were fatal, but there were plenty of deep cuts all over Anakin’s limbs and chest and made it painful to move.

That attack was followed by Sidious hurling the entire desk at Anakin, who was forced to slice it in two with his lightsaber before it could collide with him. But Sidious was right there as the desk parted, blasting Anakin with Force Lightning before he could react, sending waves of terrible pain through Anakin’s body and causing the former Jedi to fall to his knees.

“For a time I was indeed fond of you, my young apprentice, but now you will join your Jedi colleagues in oblivion!”

Anakin continued to struggle with the Force Lightning, he already felt as if his bones were smoldering, and his skin charring even after just a few seconds of exposure. He tried to call upon his anger and hate, the same way he had done so against Dooku and Obi Wan during the war and against Ventress and Quinlan Vos afterwards. But Sidious was far more powerful than anyone had had ever battled before, and he was able to match Anakin’s efforts with equal intensity.

Trying to find a solution, Anakin realized that he was trying to beat a Sith Master with Sith teachings, and recognized the futility of doing so. Then he remembered the other part of the Dark Side that called out to him, far more than the anger and rage Sidious had cultivated. The true reason behind his fall to the Dark Side, and his subsequent quest for vengeance, was his passion.

Anakin thought back to his last memory of his family, sitting on the balcony on his estate with his children in his arms and his wife watching over him, and how he would never have that again.

With a terrible, primal cry Anakin built up his own energy and started to absorb it, channeling it into twin balls of energy in the palms of his hands. The energy built up to a critical mass, being fed gradually by an astonished Sidious as Anakin stood back up and forced the energy upwards into a majestic column of light that destroyed the ceiling above, and allowed the light of the Sun to pour in through the now gaping hole.

Exhaling deeply, Anakin reached out with his hand and made a taunting gesture to Sidious. “Is that all you’ve got?” He said, acting nonchalant despite the obvious pain in his voice.

Sidious responded by diving towards Anakin again and the two locked lightsabers once more, neither one giving an inch with each passing strike.

Bow and the other clones saw the explosion from the top of the building as it pierced through the sky in a manner reminiscent of the sapphire blue lightsaber that Skywalker used to wield.

His message had been sent out, along with a short call for any help from his brothers, but none had arrived. The droids had begun to stir, as if awakened by the explosion, and were beginning to start actively aiming their weapons.

“Don’t let them take the advantage! Thermal detonators, now!”

At once the clones of the 501st began tossing their grenades, and scattering for the nearest cover, which happened to be the abandoned vehicles left by a fleeing crowd when the droids started to arrive. The droids began to open fire the second the first detonator exploded, taking a handful of the modified super battle droids with it.

Bow had nearly made it to cover when the protodekas began firing their rockets, destroying several of the vehicles. What was once the only valid option for protection from the droids weaponry had turned into prime targets for the airborne attack.

“We can’t do anything with those floating tinnies up there supporting them! Shoot them down!” He ordered, the clones readily complied but the blue bolts of the DC-15s were doing little damage.

Bow heard a loud explosion and saw that one of the protodekas had suddenly become engulfed in flames, while he wasn’t about to complain, he was clueless as to how it could have happened, none of his men were armed heavily enough to cause that kind of damage.

Just then another protodeka exploded, and another, and Bow began to hear the familiar humming sound of LAAT gunships as they cut through the sky, their missiles doing incredible damage to the droid’s air support.

A series of bright beams lanced out from the left of the droid’s position, and Bow then recognized the TX-130 Saber Tanks as they moved in, focusing their weapons on the shielded droidekas.

A BARC speeder pulled up next to Bow and the pilot dismounted, Bow recognized him by his armors red coloration and the rank insignia on his chest. “Commander Thire, I’m forever in your debt.”

“Don’t worry about it, besides you think I’m going to let a bunch of droids take over my job? I heard every word of that conversation you sent me, and it made me sick. The Coruscant took Padme Amidala’s protection very seriously. Her death was quite personal. I didn’t even have to ask if anyone in my unit had any objections.” Thire said, Bow could tell that his explanation was heartfelt.

Bow hefted his blaster rifle. “You did the right thing, and look! Now we have this wonderful battle on our hands, it will be just like fighting the war all over again!”

Just as Obi Wan’s fighter touched down on the deck of the Custodian, the ship was accelerating into hyperspace, escorted by the surviving ships it had arrived with, which now numbered seven. As soon as he exited the fighter and set foot on the deck, he was greeted by Raymus Antilles.

“General Cody, I thought that fighter might have been you.”

“Captain, it’s good to see you again. Where is Senator Organa?”

Antilles gestured towards the exit of the hangar, the two men talked as they made their way to the bridge. “I’m sad to inform you that circumstances have forced Alderaan to play a dangerous game. Ever since the theft of the Another Chance by an unknown group who later destroyed an Imperial warship, I assume that was your doing?”

Obi Wan did not know how to reply, but Antilles was reassuring. “It’s ok, it was better that way. The Empire’s so called reforms are starting to have dramatic effects on the worlds that do not demonstrate the utmost loyalty. Alderaan’s people may be pacifists but they are hardly thrilled with the idea of tolerating the restriction of freedoms Palpatine and Skywalker are imposing.

“I understand that, but this fleet could not have come cheaply. Someone must have committed either a lot of money or a lot of influence to put together such an arsenal.”

“Both actually, it was my brother in law’s idea.” Antilles responded.

Obi Wan’s curiosity grew. “What happened though? Alderaan’s situation was dire before but Bail had never taken such drastic steps?”

“Telos happened,” Antilles said grimly. “Information about the attack on that world has been ruthlessly suppressed, but watching a world get destroyed in a quest for vengeance certainly affected Bail. It affected him more when he found out that it was a massacre committed in Padme Amidala’s name, since it was part of an operation hunting down those responsible for her death.”

“Well you couldn’t have picked a better time to intervene, that battle could have been disastrous for us.”

“You Jedi can’t be responsible for saving the galaxy every day; someone has to watch your back.” Antilles joked as they stepped aboard the bridge.

A junior officer was quick to greet them. “Captain, Senator Organa is expecting you, I’ll put him on our main holo-display now.”

“Aren’t you afraid the transmission will be detected?” Obi Wan asked.

“We’ve recreated and rebuilt a sizeable portion of the CIS Shadowfeed, using our own encryptions and hidden relays. The Empire can’t listen in on us.” Antilles explained.

The shimmering blue image of Bail Organa appeared. “Good work Captain, were you able to locate General Cody?”

“Yes Senator, he’s here with me right now.”

“That is excellent news! General Cody it’s good to speak with you again!”

“It is good to speak with you too Senator, I regret that I departed your service with such haste.” Obi Wan sheepishly answered back.

“Don’t apologize for anything General, you did the right thing for the galaxy as a whole, and you made the choice that I couldn’t. But I won’t need to put you or anyone else in that position for long. Once I have finalized the details I’ll be joining you and the rest of our forces in the Outer Rim. I’ve resigned as Senator of Alderaan and the official record will also show that Breha and I are separating over our differing opinions on Imperial policy.”

Obi Wan was almost startled, Organa was making an incredible sacrifice. “Officially you say, and unofficially?”

Organa smiled. “We’re meeting for dinner next week. We do what we must for Alderaan and her people, but it is hypocritical to sit back and do nothing, when other worlds and peoples suffer far more. I cannot in good conscience sit idly by while others die in the name of protecting the very rights that Alderaanians clamor for once more.”

“You’re starting to sound like Mon Mothma, she would be very proud.” Obi Wan said.

Bail hung his head. “Her death was just as disheartening as Amidala’s. Too many good Senators die while the corrupt continue to occupy the Senate Hall. I hope to change that when this war ends, should I be blessed enough to survive it.”

“You and I both Senator, you and I both.” Obi Wan replied. Bails words had stirred his memories, and his mind was now awash in images of those around him who had died since the war ended, just so that Obi Wan could be standing where he was and still able to fight.

"Mon Mothma, Captain Slayke, Master Shryne, Master Vos, Jambe and Nam, all of those soldiers who died under my command. You all gave your lives in such a short time, never shying away from the coming battle even as the last war ended. I will honor your sacrifices, by never relenting until the Empire has been beaten. I promise you."
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-12-25 09:54am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (New Chapter 12/25/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

The One Left Standing

The Hutts referred to it as “obeyja”, the Rodians used the term “lutuk”, and the Shryiwook language of Kashyyk used a series of grunts and growls unpronounceable to almost every other sentient species known in the galaxy.

But Galactic Basic had a word for the increasing chaos in the Senate District as well, “pandemonium.”

The influx of Clone soldiers had been impromptu, but mercilessly effective. Although many clones were content to sit out the battle, there were enough commanders out there who felt that their existence was threatened enough that they joined in the fracas.

Soon the entire complex had been surrounded, and the initial gains made by the droid armies had been reversed one the droid air support had faltered and the clones had brought heavy weapons to bear. With a modest distance between them and the nearest fighting, Bow and Thire had taken a moment to attempt to coordinate their next move.

“The tinnies are getting beaten back,” Thire said, but the question remains, do we go in and help Skywalker?”

“I don’t see how we can do otherwise,” Bow replied. “We’ve hitched our repulsors sleds to Skywalker’s mag-lev and if he loses we’re done for sure.”

Thire was still not convinced. “ISB is still in between us and the fighting upstairs though. I know for a fact they’ve got nasty surprises in there that not even I was cleared to learn about when they started building the place. Every one of those natural born meatbags in there is more devoted to the Empire than even we are, and we were bred for it.”

Bow already had an answer to that dilemma. “We’ve got gunships, and we know Skywalker is in the top of that building, we can bypass all of the ISB traps and be to the General in minutes!”

“That’s risky; you know the General doesn’t like people getting in his way.” Thire said. “I’ll call the gunships and see if they can get us some recon from up there and maybe we can set something up.”

A massive explosion put the clones’ plan on hold. They rushed to the scene in an attempt to get a vantage point, and saw the smoldering ruins of a fighter tank, and scores of clones lying dead on the pavement. Thire and Bow were forced to flee themselves as the flaming wreckage of a gunship came hurtling out of the sky, nearly crashing down upon them.

“What in blazes…oh no…” Bow said, tensing up as the Annihilator droid came into view. Standing at three and a half meters tall, and bristling with powerful guns, the Annihilators were the most powerful weapons boasted by the Droid Army. They were shielded as well, and capable of destroying anything that the Clone Army had thrown at them. These droids were single handedly for many of the Confederacy’s final victories in the Outer Rim before they were shut down. When the Separatists surrendered, every clone who had survived those battles had hoped that no more would ever rise again.

Now they were facing one again, fielded by their own government at that. Bow’s body burned with betrayal, Thire had only heard of the droids, but their reputation preceded them. “You ever have to fight one of those things he said?”

“Once,” Bow said as he adjusted his helmet, saying nothing more and indicating to Thire that he was not keen on the idea of discussing it further.

A moment of uneasy quiet passed. “I’ll call the AT-RT’s,” said Thire. “Between them and the fighter tanks we’ll have enough to…”

“Keep them back!” Bow snapped. “They’re not armored enough; they’ll be ripped to shreds! I saw one of those things tear through an AT-TE like it was bantha butter, we need heavier firepower!”

“Commander Cody said he was bringing in an AT-AP, he shouldn’t be much longer. “ Thire countered, “We need to hit those things now though before they can rout the forces that we have here now!”

“And how do you propose we do that? There’s still too many of the Magnaguards on the ground to get in close to plant explosives, and even if we did there’s still the matter of those shield generators! The only way we could stop them right now if we were lucky enough to get bomber support and if we do that we’ll level the whole district with us and the General in it!”

“Then there’s nothing we can do except try to stall them until more firepower arrives, or General Skywalker ends things inside. But waiting is just going to get us killed!” Thire countered.

“But engaging those things head on is what those spooks inside want us to do. Even the AT-AP’s aren’t guarantee enough...unless….” The beginnings of a plan formed in Bow’s mind. “Where did you get that BARC speeder you came in on?”

“The bike? It was reassigned to us after the pilot was killed during the kidnap attempt on Palpatine, we’ve been using it for patrols, but the guns on that thing are weak.”

“Does it still have all of its kit?” Bow asked excitedly.

“It should, although I don’t know what a BARC trooper has that can take out a big droid like that.” Thire said, unsure of what his comrade was thinking.

“We just might have a chance yet. Let’s go make sure that it’s safe and fully stocked, and once we do, we’ll go help our boys in stalling that thing until Cody’s team arrives.”

The explosions outside of the building did not go unnoticed, but failed to break the stalemate in the duel raging within. Neither Anakin nor Palpatine were relenting, and with each passing effect both combatants were getting angrier, which boosted their connection to the Force.

Anakin had an advantage in raw power but he had seen little of his Master’s fighting technique, whereas Darth Sidious had the decided advantage of being able to witness Anakin fight on numerous occasions in person or via recording. Each time Anakin attempted to utilize a maneuver from his repertoire he was blocked, most notably when technique he used to amputate Dooku’s hands was parried deftly with a short sweep of the blade that had caused Anakin to lose his balance for a brief second. Anakin was then forced to counter with a parry of his own that saw his blade nearly deflected back into his own body, singing his clothing.

“You’re a far better duelist than your last two students Master; perhaps your teaching skills aren’t as sharp as you thought!” Anakin quipped as he unleashed a flurry of strikes.

Sidious was quick to respond. “You are bold Lord Vader, but you remain on the brink of your defeat! Those explosions outside are the sounds of your treasonous plot collapsing!”

At that moment Sidious broke off the attack and stepped backwards, Anakin noticed that he was near the edge of the shattered window, and he could not help but notice the Annihilator droid below, decimating the clone forces surrounding the building.

“Your loyalty endears you to those who fight with my young apprentice.” Sidious said, keeping his lightsaber activated as he crept closer. “But it is also your greatest weakness. The Jedi exploited it to suit their own plans, and because you failed to learn from your mistake it was simple for me to do the same. Accept your fate, and die with the satisfaction that your children will not grow up to be as witless as you!”

The comment had caused Anakin to snap, he gathered the Force to him, and released it in a powerful attack. The attack struck Sidious hard enough that the Sith Lord dropped his lightsaber to the ground, but strong enough to prevent him from releasing another bust of Force lightning. Anakin shifted his lightsaber to counter the attack again, but he was perilously close to the edge. The same edge that Mace Windu had been tossed over on the fateful night he had turned to the Dark Side.

With Both hands on the hilt, Anakin held his ground, but as Sidious drew closer the intensity of the attack threatened to overtake Anakin, and send him plummeting into the battle raging down below.

It had been some time since the war ended, but the Clone Commander known as Cody did not take long to readjust to the incredibly hostile environment of a battle, and after his failure to stop the fugitive Jedi General Kenobi on Utapau, he was eager to redeem himself to General Skywalker, whom he still had a great personal admiration for.

Cody’s men were back on Coruscant when the call went out, awaiting their next deployment and were thus scattered about the Imperial City with a brief shore leave. But Cody did find a couple of clones eager to help, and was thus able to crew one of the powerful All Terrain Attack Pods under his command.

“Cody, this is Thire, what’s your ETA?” came a voice over the comm. channel the clones were operating on.

“We’ll be there in a Coruscant minute,” Cody replied.

“Good, we’re getting the poodoo beaten out of us by an Annihilator Droid.”

That had Cody worried. “Thire, say that again? I thought you just said….”

“You heard me right, it’s a kriffing Annihilator. We need you here now, Bow has a plan but if you don’t get here in time then were all going to wish we were back in the vats.”

Cody sighed. “Here I thought I’d get to shoot something made out of meat for once. What do you need me to do Thire?”

“This part you’ll like, Bow is going to take out the shields on that thing, all you have to do is unload with everything you got and make sure it blows up!”

Cody’s dismay turned into predatory excitement. “Roger that Thire. But you better make it fast, We’re coming around the block now!”

“Did you hear that?” Thire said as Bow finished working on the BARC Trooper’s kit.

“Loud and clear,” Bow said with no hint of emotion in his voice.

Bow had found exactly what he was looking for in the gear left behind with the speeder bike. A full set of Reverse Pulse Polarity grenades normally reserved for commandos such as the ARC and BARC troopers. They were the most powerful handheld EMP weapons used by the Clone Army, and although they wre grenades they took slightly longer to detonate than the standard grenades used by clone troopers. Bow was now in possession of nearly a dozen of them. It was not a popular weapon, because it disrupted the Clones own weaponry just as well as it disrupted the droids it targeted.

Bow said nothing else as he jumped on the speeder bike and armed all of the grenades. He accelerated as fast as he could, knowing that he had to close the gap in time and hit the Annihilator with everything it had before the grenades detonated, which would disable the speeder bike while also electrocuting him.

The Annihilator was preoccupied with its destruction of the force of clones already engaging it. Some clones bravely attempted to get in close with their vehicles and grenades, and were cut down for their efforts. It did not notice at first as Bow made his way on a straight path towards it, ready to disable the droid and give Commander Cody the chance to incinerate it.

”Keep distracting it boys, just a little longer!”

Eventually the powerful droid did notice the speeder bike though, and it turned its powerful guns towards the bike as it shrugged off the attacks of the few clones that had survived its onslaught.

Knowing that he did not have much further to go, and knowing that if he failed then there would be little chance of beating that droid. Bow had no option left to him but to keep his foot on the accelerator, even as the distance between him and the droid rapidly disappeared. The droid opened fire, but its massive guns were too far apart to hit a small target at close proximity.

Bow heard the chirping sound of the detonators activating, and he began to feel a tingling sensation just as his speeder was within a few meters of the shielded droid.

Thire watched as the speeder bike carrying Bow plowed into the annihilator droid just as the EMP was detonating. The combination of the suicide attack and the multiple proximity EMP detonations overwhelmed the droid as expected. Thire looked back and saw the AT-AP. Cody must have noticed the explosion as well, because the AT-AP had already begun to open fire. With its third leg already bracing it for support, the pronounced heavy projectile launcher struck true at the center of the Annihilator’s mass, destroying it utterly.

The clones surrounding the wreckage threw their hands up into the air with a cheer. The EMP blast had done severe damage to the other remaining droids as well, and it was now much easier for the attacking clones to finish off their prey. Thire hefted his own rifle to join the attack, but not before snapping his arm up in a quick salute in tribute to Bow.

Sidious stepped closer, and as his confidence grew he intensified the blasts from his hands, focusing all of his power and concentration into the attack. With Anakin on the precipice, there would not be a repeat of his last counter.

“It’s over Lord Vader! Accept the futility of your efforts now and die with dignity!”

Anakin’s rage flared at the remark and for a brief second his blade pushed forward, but he could not gain ground as Sidious drew ever closer. He was forced to back up again, his right heel was now unsupported and he had to bring his foot up onto his toe in order to maintain his balance.

Sidious was now so close that Anakin could see his face up close in great detail, the old man’s yellow eyes burned with a psychotic light that Anakin had never seen before, and his mouth was twisted into an expression of demented glee. He was now seeing the true face of his Master, the most powerful schemer in galactic history, and saw none of the intellect that he had associated with Sidious. Anakin’s vision began to blur, and for a second his head was filled with terrible thoughts. His children, his beautiful and beloved children, were both adorned in Sith robes, with the same disfigured visages of Darth Sidious.

He could not allow that to happen.

Summoning all of his strength and energy Anakin released his right hand from his lightsaber, shifted all of his weight onto his left ankle and started to pivot. He released his energy and spun around on his left foot, whirling his body faster than Sidious’s eyes could track, the last part of Anakin to make the turn was his left hand, still holding the lightsaber. It was pulled away so quickly that Sidious failed to react in time. With the lightsaber no longer absorbing his energy the blasts coming from Darth Sidious shot out through the window, hitting nothing in particular. As Sidious struggled to regain control, he failed to anticipate what happened next.

Halfway through his spin Anakin’s right arm reached up to grip his lightsaber, with the lightsaber above his head, Anakin slashed down before Sidious could move out of the way. Anakin’s blade cut through Darth Sidious at the Dark Lord’s left shoulder just below his neck, exiting the right side of his body above his waist.

Darth Sidious, known to the galaxy as Emperor Palpatine, Dark Lord of the Sith and absolute ruler of the galaxy, was dead.

Drained from his expenditure of energy, Anakin slumped to his knees, and regarded the corpse of his one time friend. For so long he had regarded the man as an ally, and now he was dead. Dead because, like the Jedi, Darth Sidious had paid the price for abusing Anakin’s loyalty and used Anakin to serve his own ends.

The enormity of his situation was not lost upon him. Once a boy growing up as a slave on the sand blasted world of Tatooine, Anakin was now at the very center of the galaxy, and along with the title of Sith Master, it was his for the taking.

Anakin focused his senses, learning that the battle outside had ended he stood up and noticed the lightsaber of Darth Sidious on the floor, now deactivated and lifeless. He picked it up and regarded it for a moment, before clipping it to his own belt and making his way out of the room.

The fighting was over for now, but Anakin’s work was not finished. His vengeance upon Darth Sidious would not be complete until he had taken everything that Sidious had cared about, including the Empire.

Hundreds of meters below the surface of the city, in a dwelling long since abandoned, the death of the Dark Lord was noticed.

Yoda had just returned to his newfound residence, gathering small grubs and lichens for an evening meal, when his senses perked up. It was as if, all at once, his senses were reawakening from a long sleep. He immediately stopped where he was and sat, adopting a meditative position to concentrate his thoughts.

”Dissipated, the fog of darkness has. But remain, a cloud does. A cloud that one day will grow and grow until it becomes the fog again. Made his decision Anakin Skywalker has, forever will it dominate his destiny.”

Yoda stood again, brushing himself off gathering his things together for his dinner. However, he could not help a small smile, satisfied that at least the one responsible for his exile had been suitably dealt with.
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (*BIG TIME UPDATE* 12/28/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 39: Honesty and Loyalty

Anakin Skywalker regarded the body of his former Master curiously, as if half expecting him to arise once more and announce that this was just another one of his tests for Anakin. But the Force reassured Anakin that the former Dark Lord of the Sith had seen his last day.

“Now comes the hard part…” He thought to himself.

It was a rather subjective thought. For a warrior like Anakin, storming the heart of the Empire and killing one of the most powerful force users and history was not necessarily easy, but it was certainly easier to plan and enact than navigating the complicated web of politics and intrigue that would allow him to actually take reign of the galaxy.

There was however, a way to accomplish this quickly and decisively, but only if the former Jedi acted fast while the government was still in turmoil. Anakin activated his communicator, beginning his search for the man who would pave the way for Anakin’s ascension.

“Commander Bow, this is General Skywalker, how is our perimeter holding up?”

There were a few seconds of silence that immediately told Anakin something was wrong. The silence ended with the voice of a clone, but not the one Anakin expected.

“General, this is Commander Thire, my men and I have assumed control of the perimeter and it remains intact.”

In that moment, Anakin knew Bow was dead. “Commander Thire, I know there’s a long story, but give me the short one.”

Thire heaved an audible sigh as he recalled the death of his fellow Commander. “Annihilator droid shot us to pieces sir, Commander Bow managed to disable it so that we could take it down but he was killed doing so.

The loss stung Anakin. The loss of anyone under his command had always hurt, but Bow was the second Commander since the supposed end of the war that had been killed fighting for him. “Thire, I’m giving you command of the 501st in the area for the time being. Has anyone left the building since the fighting began?”

“Nothing at all has come out of that building save for the pile of scrap metal we’ve built up around it. Shall I send some men in?”

“I appreciate the offer Commander but I need every clone possible outside keeping this building secure, nobody is to leave without my authorization.”

“Understood sir. Errr…Sir? I take it by our conversation that your uh…’meeting’ with the Emperor went well?”

“Assume whatever you want Commander, but the only information officially leaving this building is the information that I allow to leave. If you even suspect that the troopers are going to start gossiping I want you to crack down with whatever means you have at your disposal. It only takes one overzealous civilian with holonet access within earshot of a couple chatty troopers to cause a galactic panic. Is that clear?”

“Loud and clear sir.”

Confident that he had gotten his message across, Anakin ended the conversation. “Very good, I will contact you with further orders soon, Skywalker out.”

Closing his eyes, Anakin sought out his quarry with the Force. Confusion and anxiety permeated throughout the building, but not of the sort that would indicate that the Emperor’s death was widely known. But Anakin knew that if anyone had witnessed his battle with Palpatine, it was the man he was looking for.

After nearly a minute, Anakin discovered one being giving off the pulsating sensation of fear, obviously far more terrified than anyone else in the vicinity.

“I have you now!”

The reverberation of Palpatine’s death woke Obi Wan from his sleep, and the Jedi Master felt as if the sun was shining straight through his eyelids. Of course that was impossible as Obi Wan was currently occupying the guest quarters aboard Bail Organa’s personal starship.

“Palpatine must be dead, could it have been Anakin?”

Obi Wan hoped with all of his heart that perhaps Anakin had come to his sense and redeemed himself, and that balance was being restored to the Force, but that hope was soon dashed.

“No, the shroud isn’t gone, but it has dissipated. I can only feel it at the very fringe of my perception, but it is there.”

Half expecting the ghost of Qui Gonn Jinn to materialize and begin explaining things, Obi Wan paused for a second, but he knew that his mentor was gone. Still, it didn’t take Obi Wan to come to the proper conclusion by himself.

“Palpatine may be dead, but unless Anakin can be stopped the shroud will one day return to what it once was. He must be defeated.”

Now Obi Wan realized what Qui Gonn meant when he said that Anakin was no longer the Chosen One, because Anakin was now the cause of the imbalance.

Obi Wan returned to his meditations, confident that Bail Organa or Garm Bel Iblis would provide an official confirmation later. His quest was now much simpler, while he would do his best to serve the Rebellion honorably and restore freedom to the galaxy, defeating Anakin was now his top priority.

The new insights though provided Obi Wan with a new conundrum though, if defeating Anakin was now the key to restoring balance in the Force, did that mean Obi Wan was the new Chosen One? Had his destiny changed? Or was he supposed to seek out the new Chosen One, and aid in that being’s quest to defeat his former pupil.

As a Padawan, it was frustrating to listen to Jedi Masters create more questions than answers from their wisdom. Obi Wan was now learning that for a Jedi Master, it was even more so.

Sate Pestage scrambled hectically, hoping to find one of the many hidden tunnels that his former master had in installed during the later days of the war. He knew that he was close, which made him even more frantic, and with good reason. With Palpatine dead, there was nobody who could prevent Anakin Skywalker from killing him outright.

At last he found what he was looking for, the Emperor was fond of concealing his passageways with elaborate artworks and sculptures from around the galaxy. In this case, it was an Alderaanian moss-painting of a trio of native thrantas in flight.

Delicately, Pestage pressed the heads of each thranta in sequence, activating the micro circuitry controlling the locks. The door began to raise slowly, and Pestage’s heart raced as he made his escape.

Just as he was about to reach the passageway though, something seized his foot causing him to fall forward. He flailed his arms, but could not restore his balance as his face smashed into the duracrete floor. The fall did not break the grip on whatever had Pestage, and the frightened Grand Vizier of the Empire screamed as he was dragged away from the door by his ankle.

After being dragged nearly ten meters, Pestage stopped. Although he could still feel a tight grip on his leg he risked standing up, as he made it to his feet he heard an all too familiar voice behind him.

“Going somewhere Pestage?” Anakin Skywalker said.

Escape was out of the question.

Stuttering, Pestage attempted to reply. “I was just…I just…”

Anakin cut him off with a firm voice. “Save it, despite what you might think about me Sate I am actually a very reasonable individual provided that those I deal with give me two things. Do you know what those two things are?”

Pestage shook his head in the negative, which did not surprise Anakin. “The two things that I expect from everyone I deal with are honesty and loyalty . In exchange for your honesty, I’ll allow you to live and we’ll both walk away fairly content. OF course I’ll be freezing your assets though and you’ll be on the run with whatever hidden funds you’ve managed to hide from Palpatine, which can’t be much. However, in exchange for your loyalty, not only will I allow you to keep on existing, but I’ll also allow you to retain your wealth, your social status, and your lofty political position and all of its associated powers.”

Suddenly the idea of running out through the secret door was far less enticing than it had been, and Sate was suddenly becoming quite loyal to Anakin Skywalker.

Exhaling deeply, and “Of course General, I am at your disposal.” He said, unaware that Anakin’s offer was being given added weight via subtle suggestion from the Force.

“Then let’s get right to business.” Skywalker said, as unseen tendrils of the Force reached out to gauge the sincerity of Pestage’s responses. “Tell me briefly what you know of the Emperor’s hidden identity.”

“I know that he was in fact, Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith. I also know that at some point, you became his apprentice and took the name Darth Vader.” Pestage replied promptly, divulging everything.

“Good, and how many others know of my fight with Palpatine?”

“Not a single being other than me, the feed was connected to my office, and can only be accessed by myself and the Emperor.”

Anakin smiled, knowing exactly how he could use this situation to his advantage. “Very good, you’ve proven your honesty this is what you will do to prove your loyalty. Take only your most trusted men, the ones that will follow your orders without question no matter what they see. Promise them whatever you must. You will gather for me every piece of evidence regarding Palpatine’s connection to the Separatists, and a holo-recording of our duel with the audio unfortunately unavailable. We will need to make a very convincing case for my speech to the Senate in order to legitimize my ascension to the throne. I know no mechanism for succession exists, or if there was ever a plan to implement one but I will offer the Senate the opportunity to vote on my claiming the throne as a gesture of goodwill. Before that is done you will speak to every Senator, and I mean every Senator that was directly in Palpatine’s pocket and do whatever it takes to ensure their support.”

Pestage bowed his head and clasped his hands in acknowledgement, reinvigorated by his newfound chance to retain his own power despite the daunting task he was being given.

“One last thing,” Anakin said. “How many Senators are being kept in check by Darth Sidious and not Palpatine of Naboo?”

Pondering the question, it took Pestage a few moments to come up with the answer. “No fewer than fourteen senators all of whom are fairly influential, and a number of representatives attached to the offices of others including Senators considered ‘dissidents’ to Imperial Rule but still active members of the Senate.”

“Let them know that the new Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, will continue to reward them if they support Anakin Skywalker as Emperor, and tell them that Lord Vader will meet with them personally as soon as Skywalker takes the throne. Schedule the meeting somewhere discreet and have them all killed. I don’t want there to be even a single shred of evidence of the Sith.”

“But sir…err…My Lord!” Pestage protested. “If I gather the evidence you asked for to present to the Senate showing your battle with the Emperor, wouldn’t that reveal your Sith identities?”

Anakin dismissed Pestage’s fear with a wave of his hand. “That is why I’m having you erase the audio portion of your recording, all that evidence will show is the Palpatine of Naboo was a powerful Force user, and coupled with the tale of betrayal I am going to present to the Senate it will prove far more damning than outing him as a Sith Lord.”

As Pestage bowed again, and left to perform the tasks given to him, Anakin looked down the hallway to where the secret passage was. He was set to seal it shut when he realized that the passage led straight into the tunnels which would eventually lead to the Works, where Palpatine had once conducted training sessions in secret with past Sith Apprentices, and where a certain Jedi Master was being imprisoned.

Confident, that his Master had imprisoned Yoda sufficiently, and unable to sense the old Jedi through the Force, Anakin was content to leave him to die. There was no time for him to go and check, and the only others who could do so would be the Royal Guardsmen. But Anakin knew the Guardsmen were not to be trusted, and he headed off to deal with them.

“They should be looking for me by now. If the old traitor were as smart as he believed himself to be he would have had them present at our battle rather than thinking he could lull me into a false sense of security.”

Regarding the door, Anakin finally went about sealing it, destroying the moss painting for good measure to keep the door sealed permanently.

Anakin turned around to see a crimson wall of armored warriors standing before him, blocking his path. Anakin regarded the Guardsmen with contempt as he unhooked his lightsaber from his belt. “I was wondering when you’d show up…”

The Guardsmen looked on with an unseen surprise as Anakin flashed a smile and activated his lightsaber.

Sequestered on Averam, Bail Organa hid safely under the hospitality of a noble family friendly to House Organa and secretly sympathetic to the cause of the building Insurrection. He was seated at a desk, making an encrypted transmission to Garm Bel Iblis using the co-opted communications network for the former CIS.

“I’ve just received confirmation from your informant in ISB Garm, although we can’t know if Skywalker’s coup was successful or not, we do know that it has officially taken place. The transmission was cut off just as the fighting broke out. There hasn’t been a word leaked from Coruscant yet save for the Senate District still under martial law and the Clone Army imposing curfews in the adjoining districts. That was hours ago.”

“If it’s been that long with no official Imperial response then there’s a chance Skywalker succeeded. COMPNOR is usually very quick to squash negative rumors about Palpatine.”

“It won’t change much either way. Skywalker will be far better than Palpatine in some regards, but I fear that he will militarize the Empire far more. The Outer Rim will be neck deep in Star Destroyers with him in charge of the budget.”

“It’s still a big galaxy, there are plenty of places to hide, I’m not convinced he’ll actually be able to legitimize any claim of leadership should he make it.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Bail admonished. “Skywalker’s reputation is far from diplomatic, and his demeanor nothing less than blunt. But he is incredibly powerful, even amongst the Jedi he was regarded as such.”

The image of Bel Iblis sighed. “Which brings us to my next point, I haven’t been able to dig up anything on Ben Cody whatsoever save for what little I have gathered from meeting the man. The only information in his background is that he served under you in the Alderaanian military and there is nothing in those records about any Jedi abilities.”

Bail was annoyed at what Bel Iblis was implying. “I will personally vouch for General Cody until every star in the galaxy is cold and dead. “

“How can you be so sure? If he was once a Jedi like Skywalker was then the two could be working together! This kind of deception isn’t unheard of. For all we know the entire Battle of Dantooine could have been a ruse to gain our trust!

A tight feeling caused a knot in Bail’s gut, he had to be careful not to betray Obi Wan’s trust. “I wish I could do more to reassure you Garm, but for his own safety and for Alderaan’s safety I have to keep General Cody’s true identity a secret. But what I can tell you is that Anakin Skywalker is the reason that he’s in that armored life-support system and that he certainly has no love left for what his former colleague has done to him. If this information came to light, then Skywalker would bring nothing but death and destruction to my planet, whether he has the Empire with him or not.”

Garm Bel Iblis’s adamant posturing had turned somber. “I see. You’ll have to forgive me Bail, I’ve been rather paranoid as of late.”

Bail was quick to adopt a conciliatory tone. “With good reason, I understand. But we must never forget that there are still people in this galaxy we can trust, and if we don’t trust those who have earned it then we’ll self destruct long before the Empire ever has a chance to finish us off. General Cody has sacrificed more than anyone I have met in the brief history of our struggle, and he sacrificed even more during the War with the Separatists when he thought he was fighting for the right side. In time he will tell you everything you want to know, but for now it’s best to leave that sleeping gundark lie and…hold on, I’m getting another transmission.”

Iblis’s hologram watched as Bail regarded a data terminal on the same desk, after a few moments, the Alderaanian turned his attention back to his Corellian counterpart.

“It’s just been announced that Anakin Skywalker will be addressing an emergency session of the Senate later today. It looks like you were right.”

Anakin deactivated his lightsaber as he regarded his handiwork. A few of the corpses were missing their heads and limbs, a few had visible blaster wounds on them, and the rest were still smoldering from the Force lightning. He mused for a moment if Grievous was as efficient in his slaughter of the Guardsmen during the Separatist raid on Coruscant.

“All too easy.” He said as he made his way down the corridor, spying a pair of COMPNOR officers frozen in fear having witnessed the fight.

Anakin noticed them. “Don’t just stand there,” he barked at them. “Get this mess cleaned up.”
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2009-01-14 11:05pm, edited 1 time in total.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
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"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
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Re: Scars of Mustafar (*BIG TIME UPDATE* 12/28/08)

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Epilogue: Anakin Ascendant

The following is a transcript of Anakin Skywalker’s speech to the Imperial Senate following the death of Emperor Palpatine.

“To the esteemed members of the Imperial Senate, I appreciate your attendance on such short notice. It is to my great regret that I must inform you of the death of the First Galactic Emperor, Palpatine of Naboo.”

“Understand however, his death reveals a dark truth, that coupled with the dire circumstances surrounding the events that took place less than a day ago here in the Senate District require nothing less than a full explanation to you and to the uncounted quadrillions of beings you represent.”

“As part the recent campaign to seek out the traitorous Jedi responsible for the death of my wife, the Imperial Ambassador Padme Amidala Skywalker, Imperial Forces engaged a Separatist battle cruiser over the planet of Telos. During the battle, we uncovered evidence that the Jedi were indeed working with the Separatists, as the fugitive Jedi Quinlan Vos was seen using a Separatist Gunship as his personal transport. Indeed, Vos was the one responsible for the murder of my wife and it was one of his operatives who attempted to kill my children shortly afterwards!”

“But as I set out to personally apprehend the Jedi, I was nearly killed as Imperial ships bombarded Telos, destroying the world utterly.”

“Understand that the bombardment of that planet was not carried out under my orders! In an attempt to assassinate me, Moff Wilhuff Tarkin had boarded my flagship without my knowledge and gave the order. Some of you will be happy to know that Tarkin has already been executed for his crimes against the people of Telos. The wanton massacring of Imperial Citizens will never be tolerated as long as I am alive!”

“Before his punishment was carried out, Tarkin revealed that he was acting under orders. As a Moff, Tarkin only answered to one individual, his majesty the First Galactic Emperor, Palpatine of Naboo. It was only then that the pieces began to finally come together. Between the Jedi luring me to Telos, and Tarkin taking advantage of it in order to kill me, the pair of betrayals finally began to make sense. That was when I began suspecting that Palpatine and Quinlan Vos were in collusion.”

“I immediately raced back to Coruscant in complete shock, faced with such a terrible revelation I needed all of the evidence I could find so that I could ease my mind and clear the name of our Emperor from the seeming blasphemy spouted by Tarkin, who would have said anything to spare himself from his own fate.”

“When I confronted the Emperor though, all I found was the darkest confirmation of all of my fears.”

At this point, Skywalker procures a small data drive, and begins playing a holo-recording for the audience to see. A large flickering image of Skywalker locked in a lightsaber duel with Palpatine plays as the audience gasps in shock.

“Honored Senators and Representatives, it is to my great dismay that I must tell you that Palpatine of Naboo was secretly a Jedi Master.”

“Along with the former Jedi known as Count Dooku, he used a series of surnames in order to seduce the leaders of industry and finance across the galaxy and create a droid army while their allies on the Jedi Council raised a hidden Clone Army. Their aim it appears was to create a galaxy-spanning war that, no matter who won, would leave the Jedi with total control of the galaxy.”

“Some of you might be asking, ‘What of the Jedi killed during the war?’ ‘What about the Jedi Rebellion?’ and ‘Weren’t you a Jedi General Skywalker?’ Well the answer to those questions has a frighteningly simple explanation.”

“The collusion was between the Jedi Council and Palpatine, in fact, over the course of the war, none of the Jedi involved in the collusion were killed until the war’s final days. The reason for this is because the Jedi Council got greedy and turned on their ally Palpatine. Their battles were fought hidden from the public view until I was eventually drawn into the conflict, and I was forced to step in as the Jedi Council finally made their move directly. I was completely unaware of Palpatine’s own Jedi training until yesterday.”

“With the council out of the way, Jedi Master Palpatine was now unopposed in the galaxy, and with the Clone Army holding a decided advantage in the war, he made his move to transform the Republic into the current Galactic Empire, as he would have done to the former Confederacy should they have been victorious.”

“My own involvement in the whole affair turns out to be that of an uninformed pawn. From the first days of my training I was ostracized by the Jedi, the result of my joining their order late in life. Of course this was in no way justified save for the fact that I was not as easily indoctrinated as those raised in the temple from birth! Eventually I was involved in the power play, and I became convinced as you were by Palpatine’s argument that the Jedi were attempting to take over the Republic. While that part was true, the rest of his deception is far more painful to me.”

“Bringing us back to recent events, it was Palpatine who ordered his agent, the supposedly ‘fugitive’ Jedi known as Quinlan Vos who escaped arrest far too often for it to be coincidence, to kill my wife and set in motion the events that would lead to my downfall. If you are unconvinced, I refer you to the evidence I have provided. Provided with the help of Grand Vizier Sate Pestage, who remains in Imperial service despite the betrayal he felt after learning of the Emperor’s treachery.”

“Palpatine feared me, but not because of my powers, he feared me because of my ideas. H would have transformed the entire galaxy into his own dictatorship with the continued existence of countless sentients at his whim; I want to create a society free of fear from war, slavery, and death. While Palpatine secretly fostered the corruption he so publically condemned, I have aspirations to actually provide a solution.”

“While our Empire was founded under false pretenses, that does not mean we should abandon it! Palpatine may not have believed in the ideals that you and I share, but we believed him because we thought he shared in our ideas for a safe and secure society! We thought he believed in the protection of our civil liberties.”

“Ladies and Gentlebeings of the Senate, as of this moment I am now asserting my claim to the now vacant throne. As a gesture of good will though, I will allow you the chance to vote, to approve or deny my claim. I do this because this galaxy needs strong leadership, but a strong leader cannot rise without the support of the people he seeks to lead!”

“As Emperor I plan on restoring many of the freedoms of all Imperial Citizens, and relinquishing some of the executive powers granted to this office by the Senate during the War, executive powers unjustly retained by Palpatine. I seek not to oversee every detail of our legislative process, or issue decrees and whims like a tyrant.”

“My only wish is to assure the continued safety and ongoing protection of Imperial citizens. We have seen that the Republic was wholly unprepared to do this at the onset of this war, and that Palpatine was more interested in his own aims.”

“I beseech you all, do not give up on the ideals that we founded the Empire upon. Palpatine may have made us an Empire in name, but he could not have done it if we did not support the fundamental truths that united us in opposition to the Separatists during the war.”

“I ask this of you with a heavy heart, I move forward now a widowed father of two. It is my greatest hope that, although they will never know their mother, my children will know peace and security throughout their lifetime. That hope extends to your children and families.”

“I await your decision with humility and respect.”

There was little debate, and although some political commentators and even some senators would draw eerie comparisons between this event and Palpatine’s own rise to power, the decision to approve of Anakin Skywalker as the Second Galactic Emperor was overwhelmingly in favor.

The response of the citizenry of the Empire was a mixture of disbelief and reassurance. While Palpatine had been beloved to many, the word of the “Hero With No Fear” was unimpeachable to more.

Anakin’s rise to power was unprecedented in Galactic History. He had risen from poverty and slavery to become the ruler of the entire galaxy.

But no matter how powerful he became, he still plunged deeper into darkness, a course chosen by Darth Sidious long ago. Even with his concessions, Anakin’s insistence on the continued militarization of the Empire scared and enraged many, and the Rebellion continued to grow.

At the center of that Rebellion, in the far reaches of space, Obi Wan Kenobi still lived. He vowed to fulfill the mission he failed to carry out when he had the chance. Anakin Skywalker had to be stopped, true democracy had to be restored to the galaxy, and the force had to be restored to balance.

Even though the former friends had become mortal enemies, and now travelled different paths, they still shared one undeniable legacy.

The scars left on both men at Mustafar would never fade.

~The End~

Look for a sequel to begin sometime within the next year.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2009-01-16 04:07pm, edited 1 time in total.
"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."
-George Carlin (1937-2008)

"Have some of you Americans actually seen Football? Of course there are 0-0 draws but that doesn't make them any less exciting."
-Dr Roberts, with quite possibly the dumbest thing ever said in 10 years of SDNet.
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