Scars of Mustafar

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Scars of Mustafar

Post by Darth Fanboy »

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Divergence

Mustafar, a world so scorched it was as scenic as hell itself. Molten fury coursed across the planets surface and ash clouded the skies. It was here, that the final actions of the Clone Wars were taking place, but as that saga came to a close a new era was about to be ushered in, heralded by an epic battle being waged against two former friends, friends that had been closer than brothers.

"It's over Anakin, I have the high ground!" Obi Wan looked down from the embankment overlooking the flow of molten lava.

Anakin looked back up at his former colleague; the only Jedi he thought would be there with him at the end. "You underestimate my..."

In that moment something happened. As if the entire course of the universe strayed from its predestined path and took a new course. Only one being alive was able to touch that moment, and seize it. In that fraction of a second Anakin Skywalker was given the briefest of opportunities. He knew he had the power to crush Obi Wan, he knew that this battle had gone on long enough, what he could not figure out was how the old man had managed to survive for so long, Obi Wan, who had participated in his betrayal along with the Jedi Council, who now sought to end his life.

The realization flooded his synapses and the insight was of immeasurable value.
Kenobi was goading him, leading him into a trap, using the fire that burned with Anakin to his own advantage. It was a tactic Obi Wan had been fond of employing over the years against skilled opponents. And if it wasn't for that pause in time he might have fallen for it. Instead of leaping at his enemy to deliver the killing blow, Anakin held back, looking to create an opportunity on his own terms.

"...intelligence! Do you really think I would allow you to bait me in such a way? I am a Sith Lord, I am the embodiment of power and strength and I control my own destiny!
And you, old man, are no longer a part of it!"

Obi Wan gritted his teeth as the sweat rolled down his face, his gambit had failed.
Skilled in the force as he was Anakin was more so, and stronger as well. Anakin had managed to overcome his arrogance. Obi Wan's mind began to go into overdrive, desperately attempting to formulate a new strategy. "Anakin..." he called out.

"That name no longer has any meaning!” Anakin yelled, “I AM DARTH VADER!” The anger in his voice thundered over the volcanic landscape.

The sheer fury of the attack caught Obi Wan by surprise and Anakin gave him little time to react. Instead of diving headfirst towards his prey, Anakin decided to let the world of Mustafar charge for him. With a great push of the force the lava spewed forth from the current and overtook Obi Wan. His force-enhanced reflexes were not enough, and within seconds Obi Wan began to burn. Falling to the searing rocks below him the Jedi Master screamed in agony, his former pupil now standing over him. Anakin looked down to the fallen Jedi. The sensation he felt was not what he had expected. Despite besting his former master, despite discovering the true potential within himself, Anakin Skywalker's hate still burned within him, eclipsing even the malicious joy that might be had from the sight of Obi Wan's flesh falling from his body.

"The price of betrayal is steep Obi Wan. You had followed the Jedi path your entire life only to end up broken and burning on a forsaken planet. Now you know the meaning of justice, the kind of justice only a Sith is capable of bringing about."

Obi Wan's could hear the sound of Anakin's footsteps trailing away and he could feel the dark shadow looming even larger over him. had arrived as well. The pain he felt was unbearable, he could still feel the Force although it faded inside of him, and he mustered every last reserve of strength that he had to preserve his mind, so that in his last hours of life he would not be afraid.

"There is no death; there is only the Force."

At the landing bay near Amidala’s shuttle, Palpatine had arrived with a contingent of clone troopers. The sensation of danger was gone now, Palpatine summoned the
Force to him, sensing his surroundings and fixating on the tremendous well of hatred that could only be his apprentice. The anger had grown even stronger within him now, perhaps a result of being allowed to confront disembowel Nute Gunray, who had attempted to assassinate his wife on many occasions. Palpatine expanded his vision, attempting to gain more insight was to what had taken place, but as his consciousness expanded he felt another strong flicker in the Force coming from inside the Nubian ship, Amidala was here, but he could not sense her familiar presence. Anakin strode into view, and he walked right toward his master, with a confidence and resolve unshaken by his near defeat by Obi Wan. In fact there was something different about him. It was as if his brashness had been replaced by a new kind of confidence, rooted in faith of his own power and abilities.

"Lord Vader, I trust there were no complications?"

"Nothing I could not handle Master, the betrayal of the Jedi has been avenged and Obi
Wan Kenobi is dead."

Kenobi had been here just as he had suspected. Aside from Yoda and possibly Mace Windu, Kenobi was the only Jedi alive capable of confronting Anakin despite his youth and inexperience. The thought of Anakin actually winning such a battle “Excellent news Lord Vader, I take it he came along with Senator Amidala?"

Anakin fell silent, nodding his head to confirm the question. Palpatine could sense the hate transform into fear within his apprentice. Sensing the momentary weakness Palpatine pressed his advantage. He had known Amidala was pregnant, that much was obvious to anyone. In his guise as Palpatine however he had to refrain from discussing it as befitting Naboo’s customs. Anakin however, had no such social restrictions, and the more knowledge about Anakin’s involvement Palpatine had the more control he could wield.

“The child is yours isn’t it Anakin? Obi Wan was a fool to endanger her.” The newly crowned Emperor spoke in that loving paternal voice he had used on so many occasions. Palpatine's attention turned once again to the Nubian cruiser, sensing once again the life gestating within her. "She is injured." Again Anakin was silent, it was apparent that he had been the cause of her injury. "I have brought with me a medical capsule, she will be fine. I am sure that whatever the cause of her pain, it was due to Kenobi's meddling."

Anakin nodded in consent. "She is aboard the cruiser with the droids, resting."

Palpatine ordered the soldiers he had brought with him to take the medical capsule and begin treating Padme right away. He issued another subtle mental command to search the ship for any and all witnesses, including droids. Any potential record of this event on that craft would be destroyed for good.

Threepio stood beside Amidala, monitoring her state as best as he could despite the nature and limits of his programming. “Oh I say R2, hopefully Master Ani and Master Kenobi resolve their differences so we can get Miss Padme to a medical facility.”

Artoo beeped in a low tone, which was recognizable even without translation as mournful. Threepio raised his hands in disgust. “What do you mean there is no chance of that? They’ve been friends for years!”

A trio of clone troopers entered the ship. R2 began to shake and maneuver nervously. “Oh for the maker’s sake,” Threepio attempted to reassure his counterpart, “this is exactly the sort of help we need! Over here! Sir! Sir! Senator Amidala is in critical condition we must hurry!”

“You saw what happened to her?” The lead trooper asked.

Artoo beeped frantically, trying to get Threepio to be quiet. Both droids were now trapped in the small area with no way out of the ship. Threepio ignored Artoo and answered. “Of course we did, I am still not exactly sure what happened but my counterpart has a holo-recording of everything, I am sure we can use that to figure out what….”

Before either Threepio or Artoo could react the two troopers in front had applied restraining bolts, standard equipment these days. Threepio and Artoo were led out of the ship and tossed over a nearby walkway and deep into a molten pit, never to function again.

A short time later, after fleeing Coruscant aboard the Tantive IV along with Bail
Organa, Yoda had asked that they travel to Mustafar, a dull throbbing pain in
Yoda's head lingering from his battle with the Emperor had been erased violently by a sharp stab in his heart. Obi Wan had failed, but perhaps he could still be saved.

When Yoda arrived on the planet, he fought hard to push back the agony of being unable to sense his comrade and friend. During his many years on the council, the death of every Jedi during that time affected him. He had always managed to move on past his grief and celebrate their return to the force, but on this day, the first Day of the Empire, there was no longer anyone else to celebrate with. Never had he thought that he would be the last of the Jedi, not after training all of the children for hundreds of years.

The children...all killed by the Chosen One, by Skywalker.

Scouts from the ship's crew dutifully searched the area, at least hoping to find a body as Yoda guarded his feelings and attempted to regain his clarity in the same conference room where Anakin had seemingly butchered the leaders of the Confederacy, leaving a testament to the five thousand year legacy of betrayal by the Sith. He was shaken from his meditation by some of the Alderaanian scouts he had arrived with.

"We found him."

Indeed they had found Obi-Wan, or what was left of him. Technically he was still alive, though how he had managed to stay that way was a miracle in itself. Yoda rushed to the scene, Obi-Wan had tethered himself to the Force, only by surrendering to it completely had he managed to put himself into stasis. The only thing keeping him alive right now was the living force. He had surrendered himself to the will of the Force, and the will of the Force was not about to let him die just yet.

But the Force could not repair the damage to his body. In an attempt to cover his face and chest from the lava his arms were now little better than burnt stumps, and his legs in similar shape having been unprotected at all. Yoda looked at Obi Wan, and was unsure of what to do. Every fiber in his being cried out to sever the link somehow and allow Obi Wan to die in peace, but the will of the Force was nothing to stand against. Bail Organa slowly approached Yoda from behind.

"Master Yoda, is he…"

"Live for now, Obi Wan does. However, beyond repair, his body his."

Bail turned his head towards Yoda and then back to Obi Wan. "Then we must take him to Alderaan immediately."

Yoda turned to the Senator. "A plan you have?"

"Alderaan is home to the Galactic Polysapient Hospital, I am quite close to the most skilled physicians there. We may not be able to restore his body, but I assure you his chances for survival will be far greater than if we remain here."

And so they left, with Yoda using the Force to levitate Obi Wan into the ship, and maintain his connection to the living force.

"Many Jedi I could not save today. Be damned I will be, if I cannot save you."
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2006-10-02 05:49pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter Two: Lies of the Shadow

Thousands gathered in the streets near what was to be the site of the Imperial Palace. During Palpatine's reign several influential senators favorable to the Chancellor had managed to piggyback legislation to accompany the security acts. That legislation authorized the rebuilding of the official Chancellor’s Residence, which last stood hundreds of years before the Sith Wars, and the construction had begun not too long before the Battle of Coruscant. The aerial battle between Republic and Separatist fighters had ravaged the building, making it unfit for work to continue. The building had to be demolished, and it was to be rebuilt as the Imperial Palace. In a sense, it represented the tearing town of the Old Republic, making way for the New Order that would lead the galaxy.

The Emperor would be present to commemorate this occasion, but the real reason for the vast turnout was the anticipated appearance of Anakin Skywalker, hero of the Clone Wars and arguably the most famous person in the entire galaxy. Even the isolated worlds in the outer rim knew of his exploits, thanks in part to the renamed COMPNOR organization. In the wake of the slaughter at the Jedi Temple, COMPNOR had worked feverishly to seize control of every piece of information, and manage every potential outlet for that information. What in reality had been the brutal massacre of Jedi led by one of their own had now become a heroic counterattack against the Jedi Rebellion, instigated by Mace Windu's assassination attempt on Palpatine. There were plenty across the galaxy, especially those who had known Jedi that would be hard pressed to accept that story as fact but there were many more who had accepted the Imperial presentation, some eagerly and some begrudgingly. The fact that Anakin Skywalker had led the attack gave it legitimacy; Jedi did not turn against each other without reason.

Upon returning to Coruscant, Anakin had made it his first order of business to ensure Padme’s health at the newly christened Emperor Palpatine Medical Center, so that both she and the children would be safe. That had come as a complete surprise to him, discovering that Padme was pregnant with twins was entirely unexpected, although not as unexpected as the pregnancy itself.

Thanks to Palpatine's medical capsule Padme had been stabilized. The pregnancy however was drawing rapidly towards its end; sooner or later even the stabilizing equipment would be unable to delay the birth of the twins. When that happened the doctors would have to remove Padme from her sleep and the next step was still in doubt. As soon as she awoke she would be close to death, and her weakened state put anesthesia out of the question. Anakin was a Sith now, but although he was able to embrace pain he could not bear to see it inflicted on Padme, and he expressed his concerns to each and every doctor attending her personally. The unspoken truth being that the doctors would share her fate.

In front of an enormous audience numbering in the thousands Palpatine took the pulpit, behind him stood the man the crowds had been so eager to see. In one of his few public appearances since defeating the Jedi Rebellion, Anakin Skywalker, known in secret to his master as Darth Vader, received a rousing ovation from the crowd. Not only did he have his fame, but an outpouring of support for the incapacitated Senator Amidala, nearly killed by a jealous Obi Wan Kenobi, had venerated him further among the masses. Where Palpatine was the voice of the Empire, Anakin Skywalker had become its face, and the citizens would have it no other way.

In the time since the end of the clone wars had passed, the public had become gradually aware of the connection between Anakin and Amidala as well. Reports had begun circulating that it was Padme herself that convinced Skywalker to abandon the Jedi Order and remain loyal to the government. Other reports suggested that Palpatine himself introduced them. Several widely discredited fringe reporters had written of their secret wedding on Naboo shortly after the battle of Geonosis, but this went ignored largely because most believed that such a thing could not be kept secret.

The crowds were teeming and growing anxious but order was being maintained thanks to the white armored troopers standing guard all over the plaza. The Grand Army of the Republic, now the Imperial Armed Forces, had replaced the Jedi as the guardians of order and stability in the galaxy. To embody this, Palpatine had chosen a new icon to represent the government. He redesigned the Jedi symbol, removing two of the spokes of the Jedi Emblem, removing the spokes representing the ancient Bendu ideals of serenity and pacifism. In the Empire, there would be no room for pacifism, for that is what led to the war with the CIS, and there would be no room for serenity. Passion was the key to Palpatine's rise to power. The fervor he could generate in the name of order, justice, and security was unmatched by any politician before him.

"Citizens of the Empire, let us take but a brief moment, to honor the sacrifices made by our armed forces. As we celebrate the end of war and as our forces return to the Core Worlds following the Outer Rim sieges. Let us remember that upon their sacrifices we are able to build a bridge to the future that will take the Empire further than the Republic has ever been!"

The crowed roared with its approval as Palpatine began reiterating a lot of the same rhetoric that had accompanied his career. Of the thousands of people in attendance, few of them were not straining their voices. One of them was Bail Organa, whose mind was occupied with events back home.

On Alderaan, a team of accomplished surgeons worked feverishly to rebuild a fallen Jedi master. At least one of them who had examined Obi Wan prior to surgery thought it was joke and asked why he had been summoned to operate on a cadaver. But there was a spark of life within him, and it would be all they would have to work with.

The limbs would be simple enough; cybernetic limbs had come a long way, ironically thanks in part due to advances in droid advancements made by the Techno Union and Trade Federation prior to the war. While Obi Wan would never again be as mobile as he was before he would have complete control of his new attachments. The damage to his internal organs and skin however was horrifying. His organs appeared charred as overcooked meat, their color consumed by the darkness of severe burns. His weak heart pumped slowly, and what blood that did flow was as oxygen starved as the void of space. His lungs were so fragile that they had largely turned to ash. But his brain still lived, and amazingly had suffered little damage; his face was recognizable through the collection of burns and gashes now accumulated.

The doctors had agreed that the only way to save Obi Wan's life would be a very radical and extensive operation that would place nearly every vital function of Obi Wan’s body under mechanical control, and exchange nearly two thirds of his body for cybernetics. Such operations were considered abhorrent by most people and unethical in the medical community. But Bail Organa had stressed that Obi Wan had to survive at any cost, and at any price. When Yoda had been informed the Jedi Master was visibly upset.
"The same science used, to create General Grievous, it was." He had said.

Bail had solemnly bowed his head. "I wish there were another way Master, but
Grievous was an abomination through his actions, not because he was a cyborg." Of course Bail knew there was nothing he could say that would convince Yoda that this was an entirely good idea. The reverence for life held by a 900 year old Jedi
Master did not coexist easily with the artificial life of high technology.

The operation had been in its final hours and there had been no serious complications, save for technicians struggling to program the central computer that would ultimately govern Obi Wan's vital functions. He would no longer eat, oxygen would be cycled through super medicating filters, his speech would have to come from a vocabulator, and his voice would never again have that gentle comforting tone that had endeared him to many.

There were a few improvements, optical imagery and audio-sensitive equipment suitable for the HUD of an elite clone trooper was integrated into his life support unit, essentially a suit of armor that protected him from the harsh reality of his condition. To soften the appearance, Organa's own tailors had begun crafting accessories made from bantha leather at the behest of the doctors, gloves that could be form fitted to resemble human hands, and armor-weave robes that would soften the appearance of the mechanical visage and provide some protection. Only the main life support panel would be entirely visible, as well as the expressionless mask. A skull conforming helmet with the wide eyes and breathing regulator composing the face would now be Obi Wan's image.

Yoda could not bear to watch the proceedings, electing instead to meditate in the
Force in a lounge nearby. Despite his reservations about the operation he could feel Obi Wan's connection to the Force strengthen, and as his new organs were installed and the remainder of his body stabilized Yoda felt the tether of the Force drift away from Obi-Wan as it was no longer needed. But the momentary relief for his friend allowed Yoda's mind to fill with memories, many of them pleasant, many of them bitter. Ever since his defeat something inside of him had been changed and he could not deny it. He could be of no help to his old friend, and he knew that he could not properly be able to cope with seeing Obi-Wan as a machine. It was part of the same prejudice that had led him to denounce Jedi Master Aquinos and his inorganic Iron Knights prior to the war.

As soon as this operation was over, Yoda would have to retreat and find sanctuary. As he pondered his exile a vision came before him in his mind, showing him a place of refuge. Yoda began picturing a solitary existence in this place, the swamp world of Dagobah. The isolation would allow him to clear his mind once again so that he would be able to thwart the Sith and bring light to the darkness. He had known this place for many years, and its location was known to few people.

Yoda’s vision began to change however as the vision reshaped itself, the dense swamps and the thick fog of the world was replaced with white sands and a pair of suns that illuminated the world while roasting its surface. On this world events had been set into motion years ago. And the voice continued to call out to Yoda, telling him that there was much to be learned. The voice belonged to Qui Gon Jinn. Now a part of the Force, yet maintaining his identity, Qui Gon insisted that the desert world would play a part in the events to come.

Yoda opened his eyes, and made his decision. As soon as Obi-Wan was out of surgery and Bail Organa returned from Coruscant he would depart, and go into hiding on Tatooine.

Within a small room, recently refurbished, stood two men. Both of them happened to be Dark Lords of the Sith, the only two in existence. Within the Emperor's chambers at 500 Imperia, Anakin and Palpatine were able to speak privately again as Vader and Sidious. For the first time since Anakin had made his decision and severed the hand of Mace Windu, he and his master could take time away from prying eyes, and discuss things as Sith.

"You have gained a tremendous following as of late my apprentice. The entire galaxy praises you; even your former enemies have no choice but to acknowledge your abilities."

"Such things do not concern me Master." Vader said, his gaze fixed on the Jedi Temple, which still smoldered over the city’s horizon.

"So it would seem." Sidious noted his apprentice’s fixation.

"With your permission my lord, I wish to enter the temple, and have access to the holocrons kept sealed away by the Jedi Council.”

Vader had been aching to have access to those holocrons the minute he had been nominated to the Jedi Council, brief as his tenure there was. He made no effort to hide his desires now though. While Sidious was more than a slight bit irritated at his apprentice's obvious expectation to have his request granted, he was pleased that he still sought deference to his master. No longer was he hiding his desires either, he was accepting the ways of the Sith quicker than expected.

"You have leave to do so Lord Vader, but I will have need for you again shortly."

Vader bowed in respect and exited the office where he had made his fateful decision, once again becoming Anakin Skywalker as he left. He finally had the chance to search the holocrons, and what little remained of the Jedi archives, in order to discover the way to save his dying wife. Sidious however was not quite ready to resume the persona of Palpatine quite yet though. There was business that needed to be attended to while there was time to spare. He walked as a shadow to a secret elevator not unlike the one leading to his former sanctuary in the works, although this one led much deeper and had required a far greater effort in order to properly conceal. Down the turbolift he went, until it stopped some ten minutes and several hundred meters later to a bottom floor in the deepest levels of Coruscant, in the place where he had murdered Darth Plagueis, in the place where he had been raised. The dwelling of his youth now served as a vault for his darkest secrets, one more critical to the grand design than even the secret of his dual identity.

He entered a sparse wide room of the small complex and gave his crooked smile.
Before him, chained to a table and bleeding, lay a man in tattered brown and tan robes. The man, tried to spit a curse at Palpatine, but his dry mouth was unable to muster the words.

"Greetings Master Dyas, still defiant to the end I see. If only your friends above could see you now.” Sidious paused as he circled the imprisoned Jedi with a deliberate slowness.

“Then again even I am surprised that you were able to outlive them all. Even your friend Dooku, although you and I both knew he wouldn't last much longer hmmm?"

Sifo Dyas struggled against his bonds, trying to summon the Force, but each desperate attempt to reach out with his feelings and give into the force failed.

"You can end all of this you know, if you reveal to me the knowledge I require."

Sifo Dyas wheezed a dry hacking cough as he looked to his captor. Speaking with his eyes, giving him the only answer he was capable of.

"A pity really," remarked Sidious, "I suppose then you should know that there is nobody left to save you now. As of but a few days ago the Jedi were wiped out, destroyed by the Clone Army that YOU ordered."

At first he did not, could not, believe what Sidious was saying was the truth. But in the years of his captivity he had learned that Sidious was a deceiver, but not a liar. Sidious used the truth as his weapon, and a powerful weapon truth was in the hands of the greatest manipulator in the galaxy. The grief in Sifo Dyas' heart was like a starship crashing into him.

Many years ago, shortly after the funeral of Qui Gon Jinn, Sifo Dyas had sensed the coming of a great conflict. He knew that nothing would stop the greed of entities like the Trade Federation, and that one day War would be the only answer for the Republic. However there was no way the Jedi Council would listen to his actions, and there was no way that one man alone, even a Jedi Master, could raise an army of the size necessary to defend the Republic when the time came. A few thousand Jedi would be no chance for a nearly limitless supply of battle droids.

He had traveled to Kamino, keeping his movements secret. He had placed the Order for the Clone Army in secret, using both the Force and his incredible guile to ensure secrecy. The Kaminoans had only requested a template for the clone and payment in advance. Beyond the order for an Army of Soldiers though, he had also placed a smaller order of his own accord, a clone of himself, which would be the demonstration as to the effectiveness of the process.

Sifo Dyas though had another idea in mind for this clone, an idea that if successful would allow him to further delve into the mystery of the Sith behind the invasion of Naboo, for Sifo Dyas had a special talent with the Force. He could transfer his consciousness into a new vessel, leaving a comatose shell behind. He had practiced on several non-sentient creatures at great risk and in secret, and eventually he had practiced on sentients as well. His training occurred down in the lower area of Coruscant, known as "The Works". Until one day he was prepared for the test. His clone prepared by the Kaminoans and all traces of the encounter forgotten via a trick of the Force, he made the transfer into his new body. The mindless clone, sequestered away across the galaxy, lay in wait. Sifo Dyas released his luminous being from himself, and traveled the vast distance along currents of the Force, finally arriving into his new host.

The experiment was a resounding success. Sifo Dyas was now free to investigate the Sith at his discretion, should his life become in danger he could now escape to his secondary body on Coruscant, and return to the sanctuary of the Jedi Temple.

But the Sith, had came for him sooner than expected, just as they came for Qui Gon on Naboo. When Sifo Dyas had first anticipated the assassin hunting him he had expected another being clad in the garb of a shadow, acting as silent killer. What he had encountered instead was his old friend, Count Dooku. They had battled and it was never even close. Dooku had him outclassed in every way. In the moment before his death, as Dooku gloated over him and raised his saber, Sifo Dyas had escaped through the Force, making his way safely to Coruscant.

But when he returned to his body, a surprise lay in wait. A menacing being of smaller stature but greater power than Dooku waited for him at the abandoned complex far below Galactic city's surface.

The being referred to himself as Sidious, utterly crushed Sifo Dyas. It was in a far different way though, instead of the lightsaber, Sidious had burned him badly with Force lightning, and then used the Force to break his bones. Sifo Dyas, giving in to his fear attempted to escape, but in his absence from Coruscant the shroud of the Dark side grew darker, and wider. No longer was he able to flee from his body.

That was the day that he had been imprisoned. The Dark Lord Sidious had discovered his great power. Using Dooku as a proxy, he forced Sifo Dyas' hand into what amounted to be a masterful trap. At first he was imprisoned with the help of a Sith torture mask that prevented him from concentrating enough to use the Force, however, after several days of unimaginable pain Sidious had finally removed the mask, revealing Sifo Dyas’ broken and battered face. Sidious then used an ancient technique once used by both the Jedi and Sith to disconnect powerful prisoners from the Force. That had not only ensured Sifo Dyas’ indefinite imprisonment, but added to his great despair.

Sifo Dyas had been promised that he would have the Force returned to him, if he would reveal the secret of consciousness transference he had mastered. And for almost ten years Dyas had gone without breaking, despite minimal sustenance and long periods of isolation in this underground dungeon. He knew in his heart that there was no worse torture than a Sith with the key to immortality. Sidious however, had refused to allow him to die, using knowledge stolen from his mentor Darth Plagueis, Sidious had prolonged Sifo Dyas life along with his suffering.

The plan to save the Republic had backfired. The Empire of the Sith was built upon the rubble of the Jedi's Republic. There was nothing left for him now, and he wanted desperately to touch the Force again. Even the strongest tree eventually broke under the strongest wind. Sidious cackled as the Jedi's spirit broke.

"Good, Good, I see you have finally come to your senses."

But Sifo Dyas was not without a last resort plan of his own, Palpatine's abilities were forcing his body to continue working, but in his many years of study into the Force. Sifo Dyas had learned that there was another, more permanent way to separate his essence from his body. Sidious watched on powerless to do anything as the physical form of Sifo Dyas disappeared, becoming one with the Force.

Angered, Sidious used the Force to crush the table that Sifo Dyas had laid upon. The power he desired continued to elude him, but not lost. In his position as Supreme Chancellor, and from information gained from Darth Tyrannus, Sidious knew that Sifo Dyas had worked closely with the Jedi Master Ashka Boda, who might still posess the secrets he needed.

But that hunt would have to wait. The Empire was still in its infancy, and there was still a great deal of consolidation to be done. However, the time when Sidious could exert with will with unlimited impunity was soon arriving, and the Sith Lord eagerly awaited that day.

Eager to return to his work above as Emperor of the Galaxy, Sidious decided it was time for his apprentice to have the knowledge he so desperately sought. Knowledge that wouldn’t come from the false holocrons in the Jedi Temple, but from the ways of the Sith.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-12-28 03:20am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter Three: Machinations

Obi-Wan regained consciousness about 8 hours after the surgery. At Yoda's request the doctors, medical technicians, and other staff were to wait outside and let the two speak in private. For hours Yoda sat in quiet before finally seeing his former apprentice begin to stir towards being awake.

The pale fluorescent lights were the first thing Obi-Wan noticed followed shortly by an odd sensation across his body. He felt no pain where pain should exist, and he found that he could not control his breathing, yet he inhaled and exhaled like clockwork. He shot upwards in bed, half expecting to be surrounded by the burning fires of Mustafar, all he saw though was Yoda, meditating peacefully in the corner of the room, he reached out faintly with the Force and realized he was not dreaming.

As he came further back into consciousness he felt a certain numb feeling in his extremities, they appeared to be there but Obi-Wan did not get the same feeling from his limbs he was accustomed to, as if they were no longer an extension of his self. When he finally spoke, he nearly went mute when he discovered that his voice was no longer his own.

"Master Yoda I..."

The once gentle tone of his voice had been replaced with the expressionless monotone sound more befitting a droid, accompanied by the sound of mechanical breathing, the realization slowly began to dawn on Obi-Wan. And in silent shock he noticed that his vision was different, as if he were looking through the lens of a holorecorder. He tore the gown from his body. There were no words he could come up with to describe his thoughts; the expressionless mask could not convey his reaction.

"The only way to save you, this was." came Yoda's voice as he hobbled over, wincing in pain from his own injuries sustained during the battle with Palpatine. "Reluctant I was to allow it, but to important you are to let die."

Obi-Wan looked up at Yoda, and the two remaining Jedi each began to sense what they had feared most. A Jedi allowed himself to be a conduit of the Force, through him the Force flowed and allowed the Jedi to serve the greater good of the universe. But the mighty river that once permeated Obi Wan had been reduced to a trickle. Obi-Wan could feel and control his limbs with the use of advanced bio-neuro technology, but the Force was empty within them. Within his chest his heart still beat, although several major arteries had been replaced with plastic tubules, the synthflesh which covered most of it even had artificial capillaries to give it a realistic feel and to help cover the mechanics within.

"How is it I survived?" Obi Wan asked.

"For dead you were left. When contact you we couldn't, came looking for you we did, followed your beacon. So close to death you were that the Sith abandoned you."

Obi-Wan's head lowered, a gesture of exhaustion combined with exasperation.

"Failed to defeat Palpatine I did, but saved you Senator Organa did."

Bail Organa, who had departed on a diplomatic mission to Corellia, once again proved why he was the only politician other than Amidala that he had ever fully trusted. Obi Wan closed his eyes beneath his helmet, and slowly began recalling the details of the battle to Yoda. How he had snuck aboard Amidala's transport, how he had learned of Anakin's child within her and how he and Anakin had crossed blades, fighting amongst the corpses of the Separatist leaders. The battle pushed both men to their limits, and when it was clear that Anakin's limits were much further than his own Obi-Wan had decided to try and end the engagement as quickly as possible by attempting to take advantage of Anakin's pride. The bait didn't take, and Anakin used the Force to end the fight decisively.

Yoda could feel his composure waning, hadn't he warned against the boy being trained all of those years ago? The resounding defeat of the two remaining Jedi by the Sith, now made worse by the inevitable result of Padme's pregnancy, had affected Yoda's once unbreakable resolve. Perhaps if Obi-Wan had managed to defeat Anakin, or if they had managed to save Padme themselves and spare her children from the Sith, things would be different. There could have been a light in the darkness that would have allowed hope to survive.

"Master Yoda, what troubles you?" Obi Wan asked weakly, cutting through the silence between the two warriors.

Even in his reduced state Obi-Wan was apparently still adept at determining feelings in those who hid them. Yoda fought to lie, he wanted to lie, and Obi Wan had been through enough already without needing to hear that his former mentor had given into despair. "Troubled I am not, as much as undecided I am, on what to do next. But into exile, I must go soon, for the good of the Jedi, to prepare, and to allow the Force to guide me."

”Then I will accompany you.” Obi-Wan said. Even if he were capable, Yoda already knew what his response would be.

"Remain on Alderaan until complete your recovery is. Decide your own path from there, guided by the Force. Too dangerous it is to travel together. Prepared for one thousand years were the Jedi, prepared to fight the war with the Brotherhood of Darkness and not against the Dark Lord of the Sith. Hidden, the Sith became, until their revenge could be complete. As the Sith went into hiding so till will the Jedi, until the time is right.

Yoda turned around; the sound of his walking stick the only sound left in the room, as he paused in the doorway for a second Yoda stopped, and said "May the Force be with you Obi Wan."

"May the Force be with you master" came the weak reply, Obi Wan raised a mechanical hand and clenched it into a fist, squeezing it tightly and wondering if Anakin had felt the same way upon receiving his. It was a maddening thing, to have a hand that could touch but could not feel, a sentiment that echoed Obi-Wan's feel of the Force as well.

"General Skywalker...please! There is nothing.... we can do at this point! If we keep her in stasis.....then the children will die!"

Anakin's outstretched hand rose in the air and his fist slowly clenched, preparing to kill the attending physician should his wife and children begin to suffer. Then Anakin would find someone that could save Padme. He was bent on squeezing the life out of his target, when the deep shadowy presence of his master drew closer, normally Anakin would have sensed him sooner, but the power of his emotions had blinded him.

"You can put the good doctor down General Skywalker.” He spoke, using Anakin’s formal title. “I have the knowledge you require to save your wife. Remember our conversation at the Opera House."

Anakin released his grip, letting the doctor drop to the floor in a heap. Two others pulled him away as both the Emperor and his servant gave them a glance that clearly indicated this incident was not to be spoken of.

"Lord Vader," The Emperor was confident they were in private, and he could address his apprentice using his true title. "The time has come it would seem."

Anakin lowered his head, gritting his teeth. "All signs indicate that the children are due, but there is still no change in her condition. I will not let her die, not even for the unborn children."

Palpatine's gaze narrowed, Anger was not the only thing that gave power to a Sith, there was also passion, and if anyone tried to do anything that would injure Padme, Anakin would kill them. Even Palpatine himself couldn't do anything about it. Although Sidious was still confident he could best his apprentice in an even match there was no way he could overcome the rage and the passion of an enraged Anakin Skywalker unscathed. Even then if he could manage to win the fight his long-term plans would be ruined, he needed Anakin, and he needed Anakin's children.

"It would please you to know then, that I have the knowledge of Plagueis. We can save her."

Anakin's eyes widened, and for but a split second the stone cold composure he had maintained since Mustafar wavered. "But how, you said that the power was lost!"

"What once was lost can be found my apprentice. Even knowledge can be reclaimed."

Palpatine turned towards the medical capsule and moved his hands toward the control for the stasis; Anakin resisted the urge to grab his lightsaber.

"I assure you, she will be fine. You will have to trust me, I have foreseen that your children will play a great role in the Empire Lord Vader, but they will need their mother and their father equally, in order to realize their full potentials." Vader removed his hand from the lightsaber, watching intently as his master deactivated the medical capsule, and as Sidious placed his hands on her, one over her heart and one onto her forehead.

"The greatest secret to obtain power is through strength. What is the importance of strength to the Sith?" Plagueis had asked many years ago, in the chamber deep within Coruscant.

"Through strength I gain victory." The young man had said.

"Recited like a true student, but to find the secrets of power itself you must look beyond our Code, and into the act of power itself. Tell me Lord Sidious, when using the Force in battle, what is your goal?"

"To defeat my opponent.” The young man had said. That had been an incorrect answer, and he had been punished appropriately with a burst of Force lightning.

"There are times when I begin to wonder why I took you on as my apprentice. Think for a moment before bothering me with your nonsense! You answer as a Jedi would. You see, when a Sith uses the force, for whatever purpose, he uses it to dominate and control his surroundings. Likewise, when using the force in conflict, you do not use the force to simply obtain victory. True victory lies within crushing your opponent, making him unable to fight back, or fight again for that mater. When you have broken your opponents you humble them before your power. Now finish reciting the code from where you left off."

The young Darth Sidious rose to his feet he stood as proudly as he did so, unwilling to show weakness.

“Through victory my chains are broken; the Force shall set me free." He had said; allowing the lesson to be forever burned into his memory.

That had been many years ago, and it was the day when the man who would one day be
Emperor learned what it meant to have power. Power was not simply strength, it was also control. Through the Force, a Sith Lord dominated those lesser than him.
This applied as much to the internal functions of the body as well as anywhere else. Plagueis had demonstrated to Sidious how one could manipulate the life energies of a person, how one could impose the will to live on someone where none existed. Plagueis had pursued that knowledge his entire life as a Sith master thinking that it would be the key to immortality that had eluded the Sith since the earliest days of their order.

Where Plagueis had failed though, Sidious had vowed to succeed. Plagueis had made one key mistake, while his ability could be used to manipulate life and increase the life expectancy of a Sith beyond his normal years, it did nothing to protect himself. One night, as Plagueis slept, his apprentice had decided that the time had come to ascend to his true place in the galaxy; Plagueis’ life preserving abilities required enough strength that using them left him feeling incredibly drained.. So deep into a trance was he that he didn't even react when Sidious' lightsaber carved neatly through his skull and into his chest.

It wouldn't be long after that the new Dark Lord of the Sith traveled to Naboo, murdering a minor nobleman with no family ties and taking his position and social status to become a member of the Republican senate. When he was not occupied with Senatorial functions he began putting his grand plans into motion, carefully constructed based off of his lessons, the most ambitious undertaking of the Sith in over a thousand years. Carefully, he spirited away a Zabrak child from the Jedi Nursery, one of two Zabrak Children with the surname Koth, though they came from different worlds. But there would be enough time to reflect later.

Channeling the Force into Amidala's body, Palpatine could sense the internal decay. There was nothing physically wrong with her, but her will to live had been broken. It was rather disappointing actually, for all the strength she had held as Queen of Naboo she let her will be broken over something so trivial as a broken heart? It was rather disappointing, and if it weren't for his apprentice, and the twins inside of her, he would have let her die. As the Force saturated her Sidious began to impose his will onto her, the will of a Sith to live was strong, that will could be imposed on lesser beings.

Within a few minutes Padme's life signs began to strengthen, and Sidious released his hold over her. There was no telling what sort of side effects would occur as a result, but she would live. Soon the doctors would be summoned again and the children would be delivered. Anakin would have his family, and Palpatine's Empire would be stronger for it one day.

"Absolutely not!" Bel Iblis yelled as he slammed his fist onto the table.
"What you propose is sedition and if it wasn't for the fact that I have the greatest respect for Senator Organa I would inform the ISB about you at once!"

"Are you aware of what is taking place here Garm? That tyrant has wiped out the freedoms we have enjoyed for thousands of years on a whim! Before long he will have absolute power and not even the senate will be able to intervene!"

"What I am aware of Mon Mothma, is that you have asked me to join this ridiculous Alliance of yours. An Alliance that you personally could contribute nothing to, you would have me bring a large number of Corellian troops, Corellian ships, and Corellian industry over to your cause, which you would of course, direct in security while people such as me fought the battles for you. But what does Chandrila do in all of this, the last I heard your world was as loyal to the Empire as any other."

"We're too close to the core to be anything else! The Imperial reprisal would be..."

"Quiet you haughty contemptuous bitch. Whatever reservations Corellia might have about the Empire, they are outweighed by our respect for it. General Skywalker is quite beloved in our system; no rebellion would even get off the ground. Plus, he's the last of the loyal Jedi, and his wife is one of the most peace-loving members of the Senate. So you see, your goal failed the moment you walked into my office, before that even."

Mon Mothma was about to raise her voice in protest, but Bail Organa stopped her.

"I think it is best that we leave, good day Senator Bel Iblis, please let me know if there is anything I can do to make up for your lost time."

Senators Organa and Mothma exited, escorted by the Alderaanian Guards that now accompanied him since the declaration of the Empire. Mon Mothma was irritated to the point that she had a constant scowl on her face.

"That rotten sand panther is a fool if he thinks things are going to get any better. Does he really believe that even General Skywalker and Amidala by themselves can keep Palpatine in check?" She spoke, rubbing her palms together nervously behind her back.

Bail placed a firm hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "You need to relax and get a grip on yourself. Senator Bel Iblis would have brought a lot of military might to our cause but insulting and aggravating him will bring him down on our heads as well. We will just have to remain patient and hope that our talks with the Bothans continue to go well."

Mon Mothma's scowl mellowed out and she regained a plain face but added a hint of malice in her voice. "There is another alternative to the Corellians."

Bail stopped and made a hand signal to his guards, signaling to them that they needed a moment of privacy. After a couple of moments a safe spot nearby was found. The guards escorted the two senators into a side conference room of the Senate building known to the staunch Republicans as a sort of haven from the prying ears of their supposed colleagues.

"Just what exactly are you talking about?" Bail asked.

"As Palpatine said, prior to the surrender of the Confederacy, Nute Gunray was forced by General Skywalker to deactivate all of the battle droids before the ambush attempt on Skywalker's life by the Separatists leaders and the supposed Jedi Rebellion.”

Bail nodded, although he knew that the official Imperial accounts of what happened on Mustafar were far from the truth. He couldn’t reveal that to Mon Mothma though, instead allowing her to continue.

“I have a source on a senatorial committee that is keeping a track of all the battle droids being picked up and collected, and locations of military equipment that haven't been taken care of yet. There are literally quintillions of droids out there, the Empire can’t possibly reign them all in."

Bail bit his tongue, careful not to lash out inappropriately, but he realized where the conversation was going and he did not like it one bit.

"With the Bothans on board we can invent new control programs, recalibrate every one of those droids, we might even be able to get a few ships and tuck them away." Mon Mothma exclaimed.

"You make it sound as if we were going to war."

"Don't you see? We've been at war ever since Geonosis and this is only a temporary peace. Eventually Palpatine will make his final grab for power and we must all be united. Isn't that why you wanted to help found an underground Alliance?"

"I want to oppose the Emperor that much is true, but what you are talking about is resurrecting the droid army, the same droid army that butchered billions upon billions of innocent people. There is no way we could use them in the name of freedom now."

Mon Mothma folded her arms and her expression was terse. "If you haven't got the stomach for sedition Bail then I suggest you follow Senator Bel Iblis' lead and play the role of lapdog. I for one am not about to let the Republic die so easily and I will do what it takes. There are a lot of former Separatists out there, some of them good people caught on the wrong side because of what planet they were from and nothing else. An army already exists out there ready to oppose Palpatine and I plan to point it right back at the Empire. It would be a fitting twist of irony if the designed to overthrow the Republic was what saved it from tyranny in the end.

"Would it be as ironic as it was that the army created to save the Republic now rules it with an iron fist? Or would it be even more fitting that in trying to lead a revolution, one becomes the exact kind of dictator they opposed to begin with?” Bail directed those words right at Mon Mothma.

The two friends, on the verge of ending their relationship, stared at each other in silence. No more than a couple of minutes later they left, taking their separate ways.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2006-10-09 04:41pm, 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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 4: New Paths Unfold

"Leia is an excellent name, but what makes you so sure our child is a girl?"

Padme rolled onto her side and looked over at her husband, pulling the comforter over her chest and smiling. "Call it woman's intuition."

"Is that anything like the Force?" Anakin had said, grinning back at her and running his hand through her hair.

"Mmm hmmm, and you don't need to have Jedi powers either, you just have to be a female."

"I can't say I qualify there, but maybe if I used the Force I could..."

"No,” Padme held up a finger to Anakin’s lips, “don't, I don't want to know until the day arrives."

Anakin nodded, he shared her sentiments. "If it's a boy, I think we should call him

Padme's face contorted slightly in a puzzled expression. "Luke? It sounds nice but where does it come from?"

"In ancient Jedi history, there are tales of a powerful Knight called Lucas. It was said that Lucas was so powerful with the Force he could create great beauty with the Force. The legend has it that late in his life his creations began to lose their luster, and people had begun wondering if whether or not his powers were beginning to fail him. But before he passed on he managed one final act, something that reshaped the galaxy into something better and brighter. If I have a son, I would hope that naming him after the legend would help guide him down an honorable path." Anakin hung his head, slightly embarrassed.

Padme had just smiled, kissed him tenderly and whispered into his ear. "I think it's a wonderful name."

The memory was clear, one of few happy moments he allowed himself to cling to. Gone were the days of his boyhood in Mos Espa and the Jedi Temple, gone were the days of learning and training in the Jedi Temple, gone even were the times he and Obi-Wan spent together on those long hyperspace journeys between assignments. Sure he recalled names, information, and outcomes of events but the feelings attached to those were gone forever. The boy had become a man, and the man had become a Sith.

Padme was resting again, she had finally fallen asleep on her own after seventeen hours of excruciating childbirth. It wasn’t a galactic record by any means but considering the ordeal of the past couple of days it was simply one final stretch of torment. Anakin had been there, staying by her side with his hand clasped over hers. He could feel her pain through the force, and he wanted to do anything he could.

But his master had ordered him to follow the physician’s advice and do nothing, for it may endanger the lives of his children. Anakin had noticed that Palpatine had started to take greater interest in his children. It seemed like the same sort of concern a grandfather would have on the outside, but Anakin knew that his Master always had motives that were not always altruistic. He vowed to discover whatever intentions Palpatine had for the twins.

Luke and Leia were resting comfortably as well. Luke named after a probably fictional character Anakin had first heard of when he was a youngling, and Leia from the Great-Grandmother of Padme Amidala who had been one of Naboo's most cherished ambassadors of years past and the inspiration for Padme to enter politics. The two children were taken to the newly christened Amidala Maternity Center, under red robed Imperial Guard. Padme would soon follow when the doctors certified her clear to be admitted as a new mother under reduced care at the Maternity Center.

Anakin, however, would not get to stay. His master already had a task for him to accomplish that would require his natural leadership and knowledge of war. The Separatist forces, reeling from utter defeat with no place to go and minimal droids still functioning, had founded a holdout on Enarc.

Enarc was an important target for the Empire. After the end of the war it had become the primary center for remaining CIS forces to regroup and rearm. Creating their sanctuary had sealed the fate of those in charge, but none of those who gathered at Enarc had much to lose. They would be killed by the Empire whether they fought or not.

Palpatine offered no support to any of the halfhearted negotiation attempts made by peace advocates in the Imperial Senate. Publicly, the Emperor called on General Skywalker, hero the Republic, to eradicate these rogue planets and granted Anakin the position of Supreme Military Commander of all Imperial forces, making him answerable to none save for the Emperor.

In secret, Darth Sidious had called upon Anakin to show no mercy, and to crush the resistance utterly so that the CIS would not rise again. Sidious wanted his apprentice to shock and awe the galaxy with strength so terrible that it would scare worlds into submission.

Unlike many of his battles fighting for the Republic, he would not go into battle with comparable or undermanned forces. In the age of the Empire, Palpatine had thought it best to respond to any situation with overwhelming and brute force. No longer stretched on hundreds of fronts all over the galaxy, the Empire could concentrate more forces on fewer hotspots.

Anakin's new flagship would be the HMIS Imperator , the first of two hundred new starships built, with hundreds more in production. The Imperator-Class Star Destroyer was one of many new weapons coming off of the assembly line after the war’s end that the Empire had at its disposal. Far more powerful than other ships, Anakin was certain that it would become a common sight amongst the Imperial Navy.

Anakin allowed himself one final visit to the twins before his departure. He sat between their beds, switching his attention back and forth between them and smiling. As he cradled the infants he could feel their strong connection to the Force, closed his eyes and reached out with his mind. He could sense the children’s awareness, uninhibited by the trappings of age and universal understanding. Their sense of wonder at their own surroundings fed into the Force. It reminded Anakin of his own childhood.

It also made him think of what would have happened had he not destroyed the Jedi. Would he have been excommunicated? It was a possibility. Would his children have been taken away from him? Would he have been tossed out of the Jedi order only to have his children raised by the very same Masters who had first rejected him?

The conflicting emotions welled up inside of Anakin, and the Dark Side swirled towards him. Both Luke and Leia immediately began to cry, causing Anakin’s focus on them to return, he allowed the anger to lift from his heart and the children were soothed almost immediately. A pair of nanny droids that had heard the commotion had stepped in to assist and Anakin allowed them to resume their duties. He could still feel the lingering effects of the encounter in his heart even as he boarded the shuttle that would take him to his latest command.

For the first time in his life, Yoda felt relieved to be alone. During his time at the Jedi Temple, the thought of exile would have driven him slightly mad. He had lived among several generations of Jedi for nearly eight hundred years and had imagined that by the time he became one with the Force that they would no longer require his service.

“Change in the last few hundred years, things have.” He thought to himself.

Yoda had been born, apprenticed, and elevated into Jedi Knighthood before the time the Jedi and the Republic instituted the mandatory and controversial Infant Force Sensitivity Test as a way to bolster the ranks of the Jedi Order. Midiclorian counts were the most efficient way to do so, as the small organisms' presence was an indication of Force potency. Many Jedi scientists believed that Midiclorians were a side effect of a being's force sensitivity, with the tiny organisms feeding on the natural Force produced by the being, colonizing the bloodstream, and helping to develop the connection.

In Yoda's time the Jedi simply wandered the galaxy at the whim of the Force seeking potential Jedi Knights. Yoda had been such a child, raised in the crowded warrens of his planet, rising from the obscurity of his family's den to become one of the greatest Jedi the galaxy had ever known.

In Yoda's time at the temple he had been surrounded by people close to him as well, his fellow Jedi were his new family and he had a bond with all of them that he could always rely on. Now they were all gone, and Yoda felt that in his heart he could bear loss no longer. Of course he could never be alone, not if the voice of
Qui Gon kept ringing in his ears.

"Tatooine, Master Yoda, the answers are on Tatooine."

It was the planet where it had all begun, where many years ago a slave boy with a
knack for racing started down a new path.

Yoda's arrival on Tatooine had gone unheralded. Swathed in robes to disguise him, he had spent only a short time in Anchorhead before happening upon a pair of Jawas, who immediately were quite friendly to the stranger as he was of their size. With a little careful wording and some unseen motivation, the two Jawas decided they would allow Yoda to stay with them for a while, until it was appropriate enough for Yoda to leave of course. Tatooine was outside of the Imperial sphere of influence for the moment and in several ways far safer than Dagobah, which was in an area of space currently within the boundaries of the former Republic. Yoda had imagined life in solitude before, and he admitted to himself that the lifestyle of a hermit was an appealing change of pace when compared to the lifestyle of a Jedi General.

Yoda boarded the Sandcrawler, using the Force to translate the Jawas intricate language for him. The two Jawas had introduced their new friend to the rest of the tribe, and Yoda had earned their affection by handing over what few technical items he had brought with him. A data pad, a light pen, and a small holo recording of a short play by Palleus Chuff. For a day Yoda began learning about the Jawas operation of scavenging material and reselling it to local merchants and to the moisture farmers, who were less picky when it came to obtaining parts. The ride had lasted barely a day when the crawler came upon a ruined settlement.

One of the Jawas Yoda had befriended explained that it was an abandoned Tusken Raider settlement, its inhabitants were all slaughtered about 'Three Anchorhead Annuals ago' which was how the Jawas referred to the galactic standard years adopted by the various offworlders that had gradually settled the planet. The Jawas occasionally stopped here because the Tuskens' well still functioned and they could gather a bit of water for their long stretch across the dunes towards Mos Espa.

When asked how the Tuskens' were murdered, the Jawa had explained that a great shadow had formed over the village, a punishment for the Sand People who murdered dozens of offworlders and Jawas alike. Another Jawa overhearing the conversation recalls how a human with oddly braided hair had been asking for the location of this particular settlement, and that if anyone had witnessed what had happened surely he was the one.

A spark went off in Yoda's brain, only three years ago they had fought in the
Battle of Geonosis and prior to that he had felt a great pain from Anakin Skywalker through the Force. He never fully understood what had happened, thinking it to be related to the troubles on Geonosis, but Obi Wan had mentioned that Anakin had been on Tatooine with Amidala prior to his rescue attempt. He was sure that if he investigated the site, he would be able to glean some insight as to what may have sent The Chosen One down the path of darkness.

As Yoda hobbled down the ramp leading back out of the sandcrawler and past the carcass of a long dead Bantha, one thing was for certain.

Qui Gon, even in death, was a know-it-all.

Obi Wan, now an unofficial resident in the Royal Palace of Alderaan, stood outside and extended his presence into the Force as far as he could. He was beginning to relearn a few things about himself, and how that with enough calm and serenity he could overcome his condition, and regain a lot of his function. It was doubtful he would ever regain his old mobility and combat prowess. But there was still plenty of work he was more than capable of as his mind was still intact.

"Master Kenobi, it is good to see you alive."

The voice had been Bail Organa's, and he was obviously frustrated and weary. Obi
Wan turned and gave a knowing nod. "It's good to be among the living Senator. Is there something that troubles you? I'd like to at least feel useful at some point during my stay here."

"It is nothing, I assure you."

"You know I'm still a Jedi. I can read minds you know."

"I thought that was just a bad rumor spread by cowards who wanted to sully the Order's reputation."

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't" Obi Wan said jokingly. Bail looked on him and smiled, but through his mind was a great awe and respect. Obi Wan, despite his condition, was cracking jokes with the gentle humor he had been known for amongst Jedi and politicians alike. He could have been the most resilient man Bail had ever met, which meant that he was perhaps the most qualified person to help him out.

"What I'm about to say, well I must admit it would be asking a lot of you, and if you don't even want to hear of it I can assure you I will never mention it in front of..."

"Bail, just say it." Obi-Wan had interrupted, hoping the Senator would speak his mind and get to the point, which would make both men more comfortable.

Bail smiled and scratched the back of his neck, almost laughing. "Maybe you do read minds. The situation however calls for someone with your expertise."

Bail explained how he and Mon Mothma had each been quietly gathering up factions, drawing support from the fringe groups and worlds most likely to suffer under Imperial rule and those who already had nothing to lose by defying the Empire. The chance to recruit Garm Bel Iblis had failed utterly and miserably, setting back the formation of a planned Rebel Alliance back by possibly years due to a lack of capital ships. Bail further noted his concerns that Mon Mothma would turn to former Separatists as a way of acquiring weapons for her war if people like Bel Iblis wouldn't help. Bail, knew that if she acted too quickly the hammer would be brought down on all systems, and if that time came he needed to be prepared to fight as well.

"We were planning on disarming entirely, hoping to stash our weapons away where they might be used in the future by the Rebel Alliance, but Alderaan is now an inevitable target. We cannot oppose Palpatine outright without being crushed but we cannot cooperate without betraying ourselves." Bail said, the frustration apparent in his voice.

Obi Wan turned to Bail, looking through his new eyes with the blank expression his is breathing mask. "Where exactly do I fit in all of this?"

Bail met Obi Wan’s look and smiled slightly, "It's simple for now really. I can give you a temporary commission as a General in the Alderaanian Defense Force, under an assumed name. Eventually you'll become chief of the Alderaanian military. If you want that is."

Obi Wan turned to look back out at the sky. Fighting in the clone wars had destroyed the Jedi, paying for their participation with their lives. Now there way no way out of the fight until it was over, and either the Sith or the Jedi stood alone in the universe. Obi Wan could think of no better way to join his fallen comrades, than by fighting one last great struggle to free the galaxy he had sworn to protect, so that the sacrifices made would not be in vain, but his spirit had been wounded along with his body and he was unsure of his ability to fully commit to the task.

The decision would not come lightly.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-11-19 07:44pm, 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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 5: The Battle of Enarc

In the Dune Sea, Yoda walked away from the Sandcrawler he had called home for several days, and moved into an abandoned hovel. Armed now with knowledge about local water sources he chose this spot through the Force as the best place for him to decide what to do next, and to commune with Qui Gon. It had taken hours and he had finally managed to reach his fallen comrade from beyond, but instead of new insights into the force or even a simple greeting, Qui Gon had only managed a warning.

"He is coming."

Enarc was the greatest remaining stronghold, and last great Bastion of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. After the apparent surrender of the CIS, acting Trade Federation Vizier Sentepeth Findos had declared that the the once powerful galactic cartel would surrender its corporate and military assets. However, Enarc refused to surrender. Led by Customs Vizier Marath Vooro. Enarc broadcast a bold message of defiance and began fortifying the system with everything it could muster.

During the war it had been relatively unthinkable to attack the planet, its value as a major shipyard was diminished by its location and it was relatively insignificant until Vooro's declaration of independence. With that statement Enarc had become the de facto capital of the Confederate Remnant, and the primary target for the newly christened Imperial Navy.

Vooro and his advisors immediately began consolidating every remaining CIS asset and assets of supporting organizations such as Baktoid Corporation and the Free Dac Volunteers. Their stated goal was to resist the Galactic Empire in the name of Free Planets. Unofficially, their goal was to provide a militarized haven for those who could be tried as war criminals by the former Republic.

His days once spent full of leisure and overseeing trade between sectors, Vooro now spent almost every waking hour coordinating a military effort that was full of bravado, but held little chance of prevailing.

A Muunilisti Admiral was reviewing the fleet strength "Three Hundred of our remaining Lucrehulk class battleships In addition to approximately twelve hundred supporting capital ships, including Providence class cruisers. I have elected to move the flag to Lucid Voice following the destruction of Colicoid Swarm during the failed reprisal against Utapau."

Vooru had already been briefed by lesser officials on his staff but the Admiral was Muunilisti, a banker by trade, and as such he felt it necessary to go over every excruciating detail. Vorru didn't care though,the Admiral would say nothing new and Vooru would dismiss him with a meaningless display of gratitude. Although his Admiral would paint a gloomy picture, Vooru was confident that this fortress system would hold out. The Remnant maintained a vigilant watch of the system and they had enough sources of raw materials to last for many years. Those former Separatists who still held out in the wake of their defeat believed that eventually the novelty of the Empire would fade and the Republic would finally rid itself of Palpatine.

Then the forces of Enarc would strike, making the consumer fodder of the galaxy pay for undermining those who had bartered hard for their right to rule.

Accessing some of his personal files, he recalled the last time he had spoken with Nute Gunray. In his heavily augmented voice, Gunray spoke of traveling to Mustafar and that if anything should happen to him that millions of isolated-signal battle droids and equipment were being stockpiled across the galaxy in secluded CIS holdings. A contingency based on the Viceroy's extreme paranoia in dealing with the Sith and one that would serve as a last ditch measure of defeating the Republic.

The Muunilisti Admiral was still rambling on about repositioning droid fighters to different locations, altering the locations of in-system chokepoints along hyperspace lanes and changing supply routes to fool Imperial ships from targeting essential convoys. When he quit speaking, Vooro considered it a relief and started to walk off before he was interrupted by the Admiral. He was oblivious to the transmission that the Admiral was recieving on his personal comlink.

"Cherished Executive, we have a situation that requires your immediate attention. Please accompany me to central command."

Now annoyed to the point of anger, Palladar sniped at his underling. "What is it now?"

"A Rep…” The Admiral corrected himself, “An Imperial fleet inbound, we currently tracking nearly one thousand ships inbound, confirmation of Acclamator and Venator class ships plus smaller support craft."

Vooro immediately switched from frustration to anxiety. The presence of the Republic's vaunted troopships and carrier ships meant that the Empire had finally decided to rid the galaxy of Enarc for good.

From the bridge of the ISD Imperator, Supreme Commander Anakin Skywalker gave the order over the holonet to all of the ships under his command. "Begin the attack."

The bloodiest battles of the Clone Wars were marked by the brutal fighting on the planet's surface as the Republic and Confederacy fought to control vital resources. Battles were fought on Geonosis, Kashyyk, Jabiim and thousands of other worlds for no better reason than to prevent the enemy from having them.

But the Imperial fleet currently under Anakin's command was not interested in the planet at all. The Emperor had now dubbed every Separatist a "Rebel", and decreed that all of their remaining refuges be destroyed. First on the list was the most productive

The bloodiest part of this battle would take place in the void surrounding Enarc. The Imperial fleet would have to overcome the challenges unique to three-dimensional combat. Defenses had been synchronized with the planets orbit so there were no gaps in coverage during any time of any day and the fleet was arrayed in a 360 degree pattern forming a defensive cocoon around Enarcl, the shipyards, and the surface mining facilities which provided the badly needed capital to keep the fortification up and running.

The Emperor had assigned Anakin to personally supervise the operation. Anakin’s popularity was soaring as word spread that his wife had given birth to twins despite the assassination attempt by Obi Wan Kenobi. The public face of the Empire smashing the fortress world of Enarc would send the populace and the Imperial Senate into a jubilant frenzy that would blind them to the truths behind the scenes.

Anakin was also chosen because Palpatine could entrust nobody else to decimate the rebels as thoroughly, and the new Imperator-class Star Destroyers and their heavier guns were more befitting to Anakin's style than the older ships of the line. But there was a touch of deception in the plan, something that could be attributed to Anakin's growing knowledge of Sith teachings and also to the newly appointed Governor Tarkin. Tarkin was especially well schooled in the ways of applying violence, and he and his methods had found favor with the Supreme Chancellor turned-Emperor.

“Is the fleet in position for the attack?” Anakin turned to the Grey uniformed Captain, who was down in the crew pit closely examining some of the latest sensor readings. He looked up at Anakin, who was made even more imposing by the added height he gained standing above the console. “All groups are in position; The Imperator task force is holding back as per your orders.”

Anakin turned his head to look out through the windows in front of him into the vastness of space. Although he couldn’t see his enemy, he knew he was within spitting distance of them. “Then send the order to all ships in the fleet. Commence the attack.”

The crew acknowledged his orders and within seconds the order had been transmitted to every ship in the vast Imperial fleet, from the mightiest Star Destroyers to the diminutive Carrack Cruisers and Corellian Corvettes making up their respective subgroups. The Empire was prepared to drop the heavy end of the hammer down upon the Separatist Rebels, and there would be no peaceful solution.

Vooro watched the display screen as the invaders began streaking towards the planet. The Imperials had chosen to attack the night side of the planet, probably hoping to catch the defenders in that portion of the defensive grid unawares. But it mattered little for the droids assigned to those areas had no need for sleep, and the sentient crews assigned to those areas were on constant alert. The planet's automated defense systems powered to full readiness and ships began deploying to meet the attack. Immense Lucrehulk class battleships led the formations and began coordinating swarms of droid fighters, while the smaller capital ships began training their guns on the Imperial Capital Ships, hoping to cause damage from long range before the Empire could unleash their fury from close range.

This was where Vooro and the other holdout leaders felt that they could prevail. The Empire's most outstanding ships were the Venator and Acclamator class ships while the new Victory Class Star Destroyers were tied up in engagementsall across the outer rim. There was no way the Empire could muster the firepower needed to fight this battle at this time.

"The arrogance of the Empire is that of the Republic! They send troopships and fighter carriers to overcome our fleet? Finally they will have a taste of their own blood streaming down their faces." Vooro screamed from within the control room, watching as the holographic displays of Providence class ships finally completed their formations and began firing long-range barrages at the incoming Imperials.

Soon both sides were at the fringes of the others maximum attack range, Star Destroyers were deploying swarms upon swarms of V-Wing and ARC-170 starfighters as fast as they could before the accuracy of CIS turbolasers could become a threat to the exposed hangars. Droid fighters, anticipating this, sped towards their targets hoping to catch them off guard. Their controllers though, underestimated the clone pilots. The durability of the Imperial fighters, along with the close support of the light capital ships, proved lethal as the droid squadrons began to suffer heavy losses.

Though both ships carried weapons that could rain death upon an unshielded planetary surface, the primary role of the Venator and Acclamator class was not to kill enemy capital ships. Anakin knew this full well when he sent in the bulk of his fleet ahead with only modest escorts. The Separatists had arrayed their forces in anticipation that the invaders would begin invading the planet at once, attempting to land their ships and deploy their fighters in an attempt to overrun the planet and gain control of the lucrative mines and facilities.

Instead, Anakin had deliberately held back the newest Star Destroyers, hoping to draw the largest guns of the enemy fleet towards the front, so that he could crush them utterly when he sprang his trap, leaving nothing left of the Separatist Fleet but scattered debris and painful memories. The first wave of Venators had begun deploying fighters and engaging the Trade Federation Battleships.

"Commence the second wave, target those droid control ships and battleships with our heaviest guns. Leave none left alive!" The order was given, and the thousands of clone pilots and soldiers roared with applause upon hearing the order from their hero.

From hyperspace the new Star Destroyers came, emerging right above the Venators thanks to sensor data being fed to their location. Within seconds they heaviest turbolasers had positive target locks on their adversaries and began firing. The heavy turbolasers of the ISD were unlike anything that had been mounted on a capital ship before and before long they were tearing the Droid Control Ships to shreds. Although heavily shielded, the constant volleys of fire from multiple Star Destroyers began overwhelming them and it was not long before Palladar heard the screaming coming from his commanders.

"Sir! Unknown ships overwhelming us in position three! Permission to..."

"Imperial ships have broken through the grid at... "

"Ion cannons have fried all of our droids! I can't control..."

Vooro shut off the loudspeaker. After that last transmission one of his battleships had plowed into a Banking Clan communication frigate that had been coordinating the message traffic. He turned to the Muunilisti Admiral, hesitating to shoot him dead with his sidearm and screamed "Divert forces from the day side of the planet! Kill those star destroyers at all costs!"

"But sir…that would leave us..."

"I don't care! Just do it!" Vooro screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.

The Admiral acknowledged, and began transmitting the orders via secure landlines on the planet. Before long, reinforcements from the dayside of the planet began shifting into new positions to engage the enemy invaders. The grid could be reestablished later once the Empire had been pushed out for good.

From his command console Anakin watched as dozens of ships began breaking their formation and heading towards his fleet. Despite the fact that these new reinforcements could very well bloody him he gave a toothy and sinister smile. He motioned towards his bridge officer.

"Send the signal to Tarkin over the Holonet, tight beam transmission, commence phase 3. Warn all ships in the fleet to prepare to engage enemy reinforcements."

The officer gave a swift salute and began sending the encoded signals through the holonet. Thanks to the galaxy-wide network of stations that provided the galactic access to the holonet, the signal reached Tarkin's fleet not far from the Maw cluster within seconds. Upon receiving the signal, Tarkin ordered his hastily assembled group of 15 Victory class Star Destroyers to enter hyperspace and prepare to engage targets. Skywalker had managed to open a gap in the fleet and the battle data attached to the transmission showed Tarkin a nice wide opening through which to take his Star Destroyers through. The Separatist Rebels, foolishly believing that all of the Empire's VSDs were tied up in the remaining sieges in the Outer Rim, had mismanaged their fleet out of desperation and cowardice. The only challenge would be to try and spin this battle in such a way so that Tarkin got the credit for the Victory for himself, without that brat Skywalker usurping him.

The VSDs charged through space and emerged to little resistance from several Golan-
I battle stations and a scant handful of Commerce Guild support craft that had been late in responding to Palladar's command to reinforce against Skywalker. The big guns obliterated their targets before acquiring locks on the essential facilities. Tarkin's ships began bombarding shipyards and annihilating them.

"Begin targeting the planetary shield at once." Tarkin quipped to his gunnery officer as he began analyzing the battle. Skywalker was more than holding his own against the Separatists who were already reeling from the losses of their orbital facilities. The gunnery officer began coordination with other ships in Tarkin's task force, aiming for those portions of the shield weakened by the falling debris from the shipyards. "Moff Tarkin Sir," spoke a slightly nervous and green bridge officer who was unsure of whether he should refer to Tarkin by his political or former military title. "There is an incoming message from General Skywalker." Tarkin repressed his emotions, maintaining his composure amongst lesser individuals was as much a part of being superior as anything else, but to those who knew him he was definitely annoyed. "Patch it through then." Tarkin had about as much admiration for Skywalker as he had for any other Jedi Traitor. Whatever it was about Skywalker that had made the Emperor spare him still did not allow the Moff to think him a worthwhile comrade.

"Governor Tarkin, you've destroyed the orbital shipyards, divert your ships to engage the enemy fleet at once We agreed on this before the battle began.”

Tarkin nearly scoffed aloud, feeling no need to explain himself to the brat before him. "General, in case you haven't noticed I have a clear shot at the planetary shield, Enarc will be ours within the hour if you would just quit..." Tarkin began to feel a tight grip around his throat but he did nothing, controlling his breathing instead by slowing his breathing and restricting his movements, but before he could speak Skywalker cut him off.

"Planetary shields do not concern me Governor, the Separatist fleet does. Your ships will begin engaging the rear echelon of the Enemy fleet now or I will see to it that the Emperor learns of your little mutiny."

The borderline blasphemy nearly burned Tarkin's ears. He had not expected the young man to be so forceful. The Emperor had ordered that the two cooperated but Skywalker had literally taken the entire situation into his control and appeared ready to kill him when his command was threatened. "I understand General; my ships will begin targeting the enemy momentarily.” Tarkin ended the transmission curtly and then gave the order to proceed along Skywalker's orders, attempting to save as much face as he could. Tarkin was now incredibly angry, A General, even the Supreme Commander of Imperial Military Forces should not be able to dictate orders to a high-ranking official such as himself. Skywalker's lack of political respect was maddening at times. For the time being there was no opposing Palpatine, at least, not until there was an opportunity great enough to equal the ambition.

It took the better part of five hours, but Skywalker's forces had laid waste to the bulk of the last CIS fleet. What few ships that had been able to retreat were scattered to the four winds loaded with fleeing Separatists in fear of the infamous Imperial War Crimes Tribunal. With the fleet gone Palladar was left with little to fight back with in space, and the Imperial bombardment was slowly wasting away at the energy shield that protected him. The Separatist holdout of Enarc had fallen. With one last exasperated sigh, Vooro raised his sidearm to his head, and fired it for the first time.

General Skywalker had begun touring the conquered planet the next day. Star Destroyer-based bombers had decimated what was left of the droid garrison, which was caught on the ground unable to resist against the massive Imperial Armada. Anakin had taken it upon himself to tour the command center of the Separatist base, where a helpful Muunilisti Admiral offered vital information in exchange for his life. The Admiral produced documents revealing that Enarc's supply convoys had been provided almost exclusively by the Hutts. Records also showed that the Hutts were involved in dealing CIS droids and weaponry on the black market, sometimes selling them back to their former owners on holdout worlds.

After a short investigation, he returned to his flagship, and upon returning he immediately contacted his master via a secure transmission. Before long, the image of Emperor Palpatine as Lord Sidious emerged, a blue ghost floating in the air before him.

"My Master, we have finally completed our objectives, Enarc is ours." Vader said as he knelt.

"So I have heard Lord Vader, I trust that this marks the end of the Separatist threat then?" Sidious said; a content look upon his face.

"What remains is nothing more than a scattered group of cowards who fear our justice my master."

"And you have discovered the source of Enarc's war material which allowed it to thrive despite the death of the separatist leaders on Mustafar?"

"I have my master. The Hutts supplied weapons and transported raw materials on behalf of the Customs Vizier Marath Vooro."

"Yet another treacherous Niemoidian who suffered a well deserved end. " The Emperor said. Sidious considered this new information and began letting his thoughts merge into the Force, within seconds the framework of a plan lay before him. "This works to our advantage, the Hutts have yet to yield control of their systems to Imperial authority."

"A simple display of strength my master, would subjugate them rather swiftly." Vader said as he involuntarily flexed his cybernetic fingers.

"You are correct my apprentice, and with the pre-existing agreement between us and the Hutts from your efforts to free Jabba's kidnapped son, we have a valid pretext to deal with the Hutts as we see fit. I am placing you personally in charge of bringing the Hutts in line, use whatever methods you deem necessary to bring them under our control."

The apprentice Sith lowered his head out of respect along with his reply. “Thank you my master, Jabba's betrayal will not go unpunished, and Hutt Space will no longer be of concern to you.”

"Know this, my apprentice, that my tolerance for any military action is quite thin. At this critical time in our Empire's development, I would prefer resources not be squandered.

Vader's flexing cybernetic fingers consolidated into a mechanical fist. "I had something much more personal in mind for Jabba. The power of our Star Destroyers is nothing compared to the power of the Force. Even scum like Jabba the Hutt should be made to understand that."

Vader's response was exactly what his Master wanted to hear, it pleased him to see that Vader was willing to develop more precise machinations rather than simply wielding brute force as he had done for much of his adult life.

Sidious acknowledged and was about to end the transmission when Anakin spoke up again. “Master, if I could ask but one more thing.”

“What is it Lord Vader?”

“Could you send a message to Padme, that I will be home soon?”

Sidious disguised his contempt, but kept his face straight and his expression emotionless. “Consider it done Lord Vader, now go and bring victory to our Empire.” Sidious made sure to emphasize Anakin’s Sith title. He then disconnected the transmission.

The image of Sidious dissipated and Lord Vader arose, extending the fingers on his mechanical hand and squeezing them into a fist repeatedly, a nervous twitch he developed shortly after Geonosis. He had already looked into the Hutt connection and he knew where he had to go, for his entire boyhood he had lived in slavery thanks to the Hutts, as well as thousands of others throughout the galaxy. As a boy he had dreams of wielding a lightsaber and freeing his mother and every other slave in the galaxy. OF course back then he thought he would be a Jedi. But reality can be much different, and far stranger than a dream. Instead he wielded the blade of a Sith, and his fight would be under the pretense of justice, but fueled by vengeance.

Anakin turned to a nearby Clone Commander, Appo. “Contact the Imperator and tell them to prepare a course for Tatooine. Release the fleet elements to their former duties save for our own escorts.”

Appo saluted, “It will be done General.”

It would be only the second time that Anakin had returned to Tatooine since the onset of the Clone War, he had not returned since he and his now departed Padawan had set out on a diplomatic mission for the Republic to curry the favor of Jabba the Hutt and rescue his son, a plot masterminded by the Confederacy, and with hindsight, Anakin surmised that it had all been just another scheme by his Master, manipulating both sides with his twin identities, to put the Hutt Clan into the Republic's pocket simply to bring them under the Empire's heel later on.

It was a brilliant plan, and Vader also guessed that it was not the only time that he had participated in a battle directly orchestrated by his Master without his knowledge.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-11-13 07:19am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 6: Return to Tatooine

"So this is it then Bail? You're just going to back out of the Alliance just as we are on the verge of establishing it?"

Mon Mothma's image projected onto Bail's desk at his residence on Alderaan. Seated herself, she was flanked by two beings. One of them was Senator Fang Zar of Sern Prime, and the other was a Neimoidian that Bail recognized as Lott Dod, The former senator who represented the Trade Federation in the Galactic Senate. Dod had been placed under house arrest in his residence on Coruscant shortly after Geonosis and was reinstated as the Senator of the “Loyalist” Neimoidians not affiliated with the Trade Federation, although his position was shaky at best. Prosecutors in the Imperial War Crimes Tribunal were calling for Dod's execution on charges of treason. Bail hadn't shed a tear when a subpoena was issued for Dod to appear in front of the Tribunal, his incessant use of loopholes and red tape to bog down the Senate had been a point of contention for years.

But without the support of Garm Bel Iblis or any other significant factions with military might, Mon Mothma had been forced to seek elsewhere for firepower that would arm her rebellion. There was only one organization in the galaxy remotely as well armed as the Imperial military, and these days there were plenty of former Separatists itching for a chance at revenge.

"I have told you repeatedly, the armed conflict you are suggesting directly contradicts what the people of Alderaan believe in." Bail said, his convictions unwavering.

"So you have said many times Bail, but just because Alderaan isn't a target yet doesn't mean you won't one day. How does the saying go? First they came for the Droids, then the Pacifists, then the Jedi, and then they finally come for you and there isn't a being left to speak up for you because you let them all be taken away."

"How did the saying go when the war broke out Mon?” Bail pointed out. “Palpatine said ‘I will lay down my powers as soon as this crisis has been averted.' You remember that line don't you? If you succeed and your rebellion overcomes the Empire how long will it take you to lay down your powers? The Empire is still a legitimately established government, if we are to stand by our principles we will have to win the fight on the Senate floor! Yours is the same line of thought that installed Palpatine into office and led us into one of the most destructive wars in galactic history!”

The accusations stung Mon Mothma hard, but not in the way Bail had intended. She was furious. "Well I am not going to just sit and let the Empire claim absolute control over our civil liberties. Senator Dod here feels the same way and he's willing to make up for his past transgressions to do something about it."

"Then consider this my heartfelt wish that you succeed Senator. I believe in the Senate and I believe in diplomacy, and I thought you did too. I cannot support a revolution though before all other options have been exhausted.”

There was a silence, interrupted only when Mon Mothma hung her head with an exasperated sigh. “I hope for your sake then Bail that time doesn’t run out before you’ve exhausted those options. Let this be the last we speak of this.”

Bail quickly switched off the holoprojector and stormed out of the office, Mon Mothma's impatience would set back any sort of resistance for years. The resounding Imperial victory at Enarc had caused her to act quickly, thinking that she needed to begin forming a network before pro-Imperial sentiment could grow any further. Anakin's Skywalker's glorified exploits were giving the COMPNOR propaganda machine heaps of new material. The birth of the Skywalker twins was widely heralded across the Empire as well but it had hit particularly hard at home on Alderaan, where Bail’s wife Breha was only months removed from her latest miscarriage.

That Mon Mothma actually followed through on her promises to align with former Separatists had been the final straw. She was genuine in her determination to win back the lost freedoms of the galaxy, of this Bail was certain. In critical situations, however, she would act without thinking and Bail felt incapable of being the moderating influence against her that might have lured support. He walked away from the administrative center of the Alderaanian government and into the adjunct building that served as the headquarters for the Alderaanian Defense Forces. On his way in, he passed one of the newest officers in the military who gave a gloved salute to the Senator that seemed just as friendly as it was professional.

"Greetings Senator Organa." the monotone voice spoke, mechanical but softened enough so that it wasn't as cold as a typical modulator spoke. General Ben Cody, formerly the Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi, had recently been named the top military official of Alderaan. With the help of some expert Bothan slicers and a few eyes blinded by credits Ben Cody's record showed him as a faithful soldier who commanded the Alderaanian flagship Liberty Belle as part of a Naval group that served in the lackluster campaign in the Drongar system. The Liberty Belle was destroyed and all hands lost, but thanks to the subterfuge however Ben Cody's record now indicated a miraculous escape that resulted in spectacular injuries, necessitating the use of an extensive cybernetic life support suit. With Ben Cody having no living relatives, the role was perfect for Obi Wan to assume.

In the previous days the adjustment to the suit had allowed for tailors to shape the suit to have a professional military appearance, much of the components were concealed beneath a gray suit stitched to allow as much mobility as possible. In private Obi Wan had managed to incorporate a small case for a lightsaber into his right arm, allowing him to carry it discreetly.

"Greetings General Cody, I apologize for my rudeness but there is a pressing matter I must discuss with you."

"Fair enough, but remember senator, your thoughts betray you far easier if you wear them on your sleeve."

Bail paused and reminded himself that despite his condition, Obi Wan was still a skilled Jedi Master, and keeping things to his self would take more than the standard "busy politician" dismissal he had been used to giving.

"Things are not going well my friend." The Senator finally admitted.

"Something is wrong within the former Loyalist Committee?” Obi Wan said, not needing his abilities to guess the source of Bail’s distress.

"Mon Mothma's convinced that if we don't do something about Palpatine soon that we're done for, she's already in position to start another war. The last thing the galaxy needs is another war right now, especially another large-scale civil war. The tighter we clench our fist in anger at the Empire, the more support we let slip through our fingers. War is not the answer, not yet."

"That is something you've been saying since Geonosis, I agreed with you then and I agree with you now. But you can't let your own reservations about her decisions change the fact that something will have to be done. Right now we have nothing going for us," Obi Wan looked around to ensure no one was eavesdropping ",and it was my own fault for failing on Mustafar."

Bail’s heart sunk, as terrible as he felt he knew his own difficulties couldn’t compare with the more personal failures Obi Wan was feeling. It was then that Bail remembered the reason for his seeking out Obi Wan. "I apologize for what I’m about to say General, but speaking of Mustafar there is some news about your former...colleague...that you might find worth your time."

The Imperator emerged from hyperspace unannounced in the Hutt-controlled system of Tatooine, the Republic government had never sent a ship representing the Federal level, although occasional unofficial visits had been made in the past. For thousands of years the Republic had generally left the Hutt Systems alone, abiding by an unwritten set of rules that allowed the two entities to coexist. Hutt Space was not officially part of the Republic, but free trade agreements made hundreds of years in the past allowed the two sides to conduct free trade.

Anakin looked down at the world of his birth, staring at the globe of sand. Many years ago, he had looked upwards from that desert towards the space he inhabited now, dreaming of a day when he would be able to travel amongst the stars. With modern technology, it was feasible to actually travel to a distant end of space and using powerful telescopes watch one’s self from many years ago as the light travels across the void.

The desert held many memories for Anakin, and although he could recall the happier times he could not feel them like he could feel the pain and the suffering he left behind. He wanted to reduce theworld to the same rubble that Enarc had become. After the battle, Anakin had ordered the surivors and battle droids of the enemy to be annhilated from space, along with the entire surface of the planet to serve as a notice of what would happen to other Separatist holdouts.

But Sidious had given him a task and Anakin had to accomplish that before proceeding with anything further. The Hutts had to be brought into line with the Empire, Jabba would be the key, and then he could attend to a few personal matters before finally being able to abandon this world for all time. At least on this return trip he wouldn't be stuck with an annoying Padawan with a foul smelling Huttling on his back while traversing the desert on foot.

Back on Coruscant, now officially renamed Imperial Center, Palpatine was finished with the day’s work of maintaining his Empire. Traitorous clone troopers on Murkhana had been dealt with by loyal soldiers in a public fashion. Rumors had it that Jedi had managed to escape from that world but it was unimportant, there was no point in sending the famed General Skywalker when other minions were capable of the task. Besides, Skywalker’s considerable reputation was needed elsewhere.

Sidious was able to continue his private machinations he had set aside elsewhere across the galaxy including the chain of events that would ensure Skywalker's loyalty to him, loyalty that would keep Anakin from turning on his master, giving Sidious the time to increase his power enough so that he would no longer have to rely on his apprentice to do his bidding.

In his own mind Anakin was a true friend, and a beloved apprentice, but it was also his duty as a Sith to one day rise up and overthrow his master just as it was Sidious' duty to train the most powerful apprentice he possibly could, replacing him as he saw fit and striking down any coup attempts so that the most powerful Sith Lord in existence is the master, as it had been since the time of Darth Bane, and the first true apprentice under the Rule of Two, Darth Zannah.

Vader was becoming more immersed in the dark side with each act of malice; Sidious knew that his apprentice may have avoided Tatooine entirely for the rest of his life unless ordered to do so or lured there otherwise. At first it had been simply a possibility, one that Sidious had been reluctant to pursue. But the eyes and ears of the Empire were everywhere, especially in the Outer Rim where sedition was beginning to rear its head once again, and when it had been confirmed it had been immediately brought to the Emperor.

Of course Yoda had not died during their battle, but there was no way he would ever live openly again either. Sidious had been content to let Yoda die a lonesome miserable death in exile on some uncharted world, but when the passenger roster for a transport heading to Tatooine listed a diminutive passenger of a rare species who gave no name, paid for fare in hard currency, and carried few possessions with him, red flags went up. Sidious had sought confirmation in the Force and received it. There would be no need to tell Vader, he would come to that conclusion on his own eventually.

The battle with the final great Jedi Master would cement Anakin's darkness, and erase that last string of the light he held on to. With that complete, there would be no one for him to turn to once the next stage of the grand design went into play. Ruling an Empire was but a minor accomplishment when compared to true immortality.

The natives of Mos Eisley rarely left their city, largely because moving to another planet was cost prohibitive and occasionally because the statute of limitations had not yet expired on past misdeeds. But Mos Eisley was full of travelers from across the galaxy as well, and many of them found quick fortunes in the Clone Wars. These were the beings that were familiar with the white armored Imperial troopers that were marching in a column in one of the city's largest plazas.

Commandos had already landed in order to secure a spaceport berth and clear the area of possible antagonists to clear the way for the symbolic gesture. On Anakin’s orders, a brigade of troopers would march through the middle of town and signify the coming of Imperial rule. Anakin as a young child had never been to Mos Eisley, but one Hutt City looked just like the next. Supposedly Anchorhead was a lot different, but it really didn't matter.

As soon as the demonstration was completed, Anakin himself landed along with a team of Clone Commandos. Amongst the clone forces of the Imperial military, it was the Commandos who displayed the greatest loyalty to the General that had led them in engagements all over the galaxy. Imperial ships then began deploying the prefab buildings in designated locations that would eventually become the new Imperial Garrison.

With that taken care of, Anakin and the commandos were transported to Jabba’s palace via LAAT gunship. Anakin felt no need to be subtle, nor a need to be cautious as he approached the great door of the palace. According to the background information he had been given, the palace was an old monastery created by the B'omarr monks ages ago, their unique practice of preserving their brains within small mechanized bodies allowed Jabba to simply assume the structure as his own. As he got closer Anakin sensed a slight disturbance in the Force and held his ground when he was interrogated by a long mechanized arm with a visual recorder, almost definitely part of a larger security system relaying information to some of Jabba's trusted lieutenants.

"Chuba ki aspa isti?" the arm asked. Anakin was already frustrated enough as it was without some bottom-rate thug or junk droid inquiring about his business. As soon as it was possible he would drop the false pretenses he was working under and allow himself a release of the anger brewing within him.

"I bring a message for Jabba the Hutt, on behalf of his majesty Emperor Palpatine, and on the behalf of the Imperial Senate." Using discrete hand signals Anakin ordered the commandos to begin doing a sweep of the area. High yield explosives were not out of a Hutt's price range, even one with a reputation for credit pinching such as Jabba. Nothing turned up though, and Anakin decided to proceed.

"Chuba ki naga ke ji isti?" The arm asked almost sarcastically. "Tolpa da banki danko."

"You can tell your master, that if he decides to ignore my request, then the Star Destroyer in orbit will reduce this palace and all of his assets on this planet into the deepest craters he has ever seen, that is, if he lives to survive it. Tell him that General Anakin Skywalker delivers this message personally. You have five standard minutes to open these doors or I will enter of my own volition."

On that final note two of the commandos hefted a pair of rocket launchers and the mechanical appendage wasted little time darting back into wherever it came from, it took less than a minute for the large doors to open. The rockets may not have been enough, but whomever it was observing must have noticed the LAAT off in the distance, LAATs had gained instant renown for their handling of departing starships at the battle of Geonosis. Between those rockets, and the beam turrets, the door would have proven as effective as a flimsi shroud.

Anakin called on the Force to guide him through the darkened chambers, as if he needed the extrasensory perception to tell that Gammorean guards were stationed along the route. He could smell their foul odor in the air and his hearing picked up barely muffled grunting sounds. Nothing in their demeanor suggested an attack; it seemed more like an attempt to make Anakin uneasy. Methods like these were more suited to someone like Count Dooku. Anakin summoned the Force and caused two pairs of guards to crash into each other, their thick skulls impacting with a sickening sound, a small gesture intended to give mild concussions, but enough of a gesture to turn the tables and make whoever was observing him think twice.

The clones followed in, using their HUDs to gain a tactical assessment of the situation and communicate with their comrades. Anakin paid them little attention, walking as he would down any other hallway while they acted as they would behind enemy lines, fanning out in groups of two, and logging every possible threat, including the various booby traps and ambush locations. The lead trooper, who had been given the name Shep, had initially planned on planting explosives over the entire compound, but Anakin had said that would not be required and that if it would become necessary to destroy the palace, a fighter strike would suffice.

Shep, however, wished he had still done so anyway, as he and his troopers watched Anakin stride confidently into Jabba's throne room. He turned his headset to the squad frequency.

"All right, while the General is doing his thing we're going to do ours. Any information we can gather we will take, any vehicles we find we will disable, and any hostile we encounter we will kill. Break off into pairs and maintain comm silence."

Within his hovel, Yoda felt the cold presence of Darth Vader, the man who had once been Anakin Skywalker. Although it was almost impossible that Anakin would be upon him so quickly, there was nothing Yoda could sense that a battle was impending, as if Anakin were on Tatooine for different reasons. His new residence was far from the larger cities. Through his connections with the Jawas he had befriended he knew that clone troopers, soldiers he once led into battle, were marching in the streets. Yoda found it almost humorous; the Empire was attempting to bring order to the most lawless region in space. If history stayed true to form, any attempt to impose law on fringe regions such as Tatooine would eventually end in failure as corruption and apathy set in amongst the occupiers. But history was a funny thing as of late, the thousand year history of the Republic and the thousands more years of the Jedi Order had been wiped out in one deft stroke.

"Of course the same thing had happened to the Sith at one point as well." Qui Gon had been quick to remind him.

"Enough of a mess we are in, because of prophecies." Yoda spoke to himself as he hobbled over to a small chest where he kept his lightsaber. Gripping the hilt of a weapon he had wanted to forsake so badly many years ago. Even before Geonosis, he had contemplated leaving the Council and focusing more on teaching. After Naboo however, he felt that he best served the Force as a member of the Council.

"They are all with the Force now Master, in time they will learn to join with the Force as completely as I have."

Yoda clipped the blade to his belt, knowing where Anakin would go next as soon as he finished whatever business he was attending to.

"Anakin remains the Chosen One, he will still yet bring balance to the Force."

Yoda pulled his robes over his head to shield himself from the inevitable gusts of and, and lowered his head.

"There is still good in him."

Obi Wan had also said that there was still good left in him. If there was then Yoda could not see it, whenever he closed his eyes he could only see the dead fallen all over the Temple. Luminous beings all of them had become, but Yoda still grieved for them, seeing Obi Wan covered in machines shattered his resolve utterly. There was still one-way however, that things could be made right. He closed the door behind him, following the directions given to him to the Lars homestead.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-11-13 07:23am, 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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 7: Power of the Dark Side

Padme, please understand.

I turned my back on the Jedi, and Obi Wan, so that you and I could have our future together, like I promised, so that we could grow old and happy along with Luke and Leia. I didn't want our children to know the horrors of war.

The joy I felt when the twins were born was beyond that of anything I had ever experienced as a Jedi. I would have never been able to celebrate such an occasion as a Jedi. I would not change any of this.

In saving you, I have stained my hands with so much blood I fear they will never come clean. It was the only way to save you, and I will never regret it. Perhaps one day, when the Empire has brought order and peace the whole of the galaxy, it will all be clearer. When that day comes I look forward to having my family there with me.

No matter what happens I will always love you and our children with all of my heart, our family will always shine brightly within me.


Teardrops fell from Padme's eyes, soaking the flimsi letter she had received handwritten from her husband, scribed shortly before his departure to Enarc. Even though her children and family members who had traveled far from Naboo surrounded her, Padme cried. Her children were safe, the war was over, and she was alive when she should have been dead. But it had been at the expense of her husband's soul. The love they shared had caused him to fall from grace, and she had wondered whether or not any love was worth the personal hell that both she and Anakin were going through right now.

And yet, as her children were handed to her and even as the tight sensation of remorse filled her chest, she summoned her courage. She knew there was still a light inside of him, a flame that could break through the darkness if fanned properly. Luke and Leia cooed silently in their mother's arms, and the serenity on their faces calmed her heart.

”I’m not the only one that can help Anakin. You two will have to help me.” She spoke to them silently.

Anakin remembered the moment he had written the letter to Padme, his duty had called for him before he had time to give her a proper farewell. The note had been written in advance during the delivery itself. He had never been good with words, and he remembered how awkward his courtship had been. But he knew he could express himself to her without fear.

However it was no longer the time for comforting thoughts. Now, as he entered the chamber of Jabba the Hutt, Anakin summoned some of his anger and the light inside of him faded as he pushed thoughts of her down into the depths of his psyche. This task required the raw power of Darth Vader and in order for Darth Vader to fully emerge another part of Anakin Skywalker had to die. The anger came forth easily, Darth Vader drew power from hate, and there was nothing in the galaxy that Darth Vader hated more than Anakin Skywalker. Palpatine would have been proud.

If Jabba had more time in advance to prepare for this meeting he surely would not have chosen his throne room. The Hutt himself was situated in his usual position at the center of the chamber, surrounded by Gammorean and Weequay guards as well as what seemed to be dozens of the worst scum in the galaxy. Vibroblades, blasters of various sizes, even grenades were trained on him. Yet, despite the seemingly overwhelming advantage in firepower, there was no other expression on Anakin's face other than disinterest.

"Ho Ho Ho Skywalker..." The unmistakable belly laugh of Jabba echoed throughout the chamber as he and his repulsors led emerged from the shadows. ”It has been a long time since you ventured into my court,” Jabba said in the grumbling Huttese language, “you truly are as bold as they come.”

Anakin refused to speak; instead he called the Dark Side to him. While the Light Side of the Force allowed a Jedi to expand his consciousness to extend around him, The Dark Side made a Sith the center of the universe to allow the Sith to dictate the course of action. It was a different experience, but Anakin had been walking this fine line for many years during the Clone Wars with Obi Wan. As thoughts of his former master crossed his mind again his hate grew stronger and the Force drew to him quicker.

"I take your silence as a sign of disrespect, but, it doesn't matter. While I remain grateful to you and to the former Republic for the return of our son, all of the treaties existing between the Hutt Clan and Galactic Republic expired the day the war ended and the day that your government changed. As soon as that happened, the Hutts became free to do business with whomever we decide to deal with."

Jabba had raised his voice significantly in an attempt to intimidate Anakin, it had the opposite effect as Anakin's anger only grew and the Sith Lord found it quite difficult to restrain himself from tearing trhough the entire palace in a blind rage. But he knew that would not do, a message needed to be sent.

The Hutt kept on talking, the thought that his words carried little meaning to his opponent never crossing his mind. "We will allow the Imperial Starfleet to continue to travel the Outer Rim unharried as a courtesy, but do not expect that we will tolerate any direct manipulation in our affairs."

Defiantly, Anakin drew his lightsaber, but did not ignite it. "I did not come here to negotiate with you Jabba, I came to deliver a message. The Hutts are to fall in line with the rest of this galaxy under Imperial rule, or they are to be dealt with as I will deal with you.

The denizens of Jabba's court roared with a mixture of laughter, some of it jovial, some of it nervous. Members of more timid species began searching for the back exits, while those bolder species attempted to gain a better of view of the inevitable fight. Jabba turned to his attendant, a cowardly looking Twi'lek by the name of Bib Fortuna. "Bring in the guards to deal with this Jedi brat."

"You scum obviously have no idea of what power really means." Anakin said in a cold and grim voice. "Lay down your weapons and surrender immediately or I swear I will destroy each and every one of you, and the Empire will have what it desires anyway."

Jabba laughed immediately after hearing that, although he did swat a nearby protocol droid out of frustration, drawing a loud laugh from the Kowakian Lizard Monkey at his side.

"Ho Ho Ho...The young Jedi is a fool to think that he can sway a Hutt with such parlor tricks. I think for that the Empire will have to pay us even more."

Those mercenaries that stood closest to Jabba, in the second before the fight broke out, all would have sworn that their bones began to shiver as unseen energy began to build. Not long afterwards, a blast of lightning burst from Anakin's fingertips and incinerated the Monkey Lizard. The crowd, Jabba included, looked on in absolute shock as the charred skin of Jabba's pet burned, creating a meaty smell in the room. His bones turned black, and his screams were muffled by the intense sound of the energy crackling around him. After a few seconds, Anakin lowered his hand and the body fell to the floor. What was left of him lay on the floor in a smoldering heap. Jabba's head turned from the remains, and then towards the cadre of guards that had surrounded Skywalker.


A blast rang out, but it did not go towards Anakin, but into the skull of a mercenary, then another, and another. One by one the mercenaries started to shoot each other at point blank ranges, stabbing each other with concealed vibroknives; Gammorean guards began bludgeoning each other with their axes. Weaker minded individuals and those sensitive to the currents of the Force fell in agony as their brains sent a neutralizing fear response through their body, crippling them. In the center of this storm, Jabba looked on in terror as Anakin flashed a vicious smile, the blade extended to its full length with a crimson hue.

It was the first time Anakin ignited his lightsaber since he had replaced the crystal in his lightsaber with a new one that Palpatine had given him, a synthetic crystal from the lightsaber of Darth Plagueis. It was part of a Sith tradition where masters would pass down the crystals of their masters to their students. The student would then claim the master’s crystal upon killing him and becoming the next Sith Master.

Jabba was desperate now, his minions were either slaughtering each other or crippled in fear. There was only one thing left he could do, he desperately fumbled with the switch to the trap door that Anakin stood over, for a second it looked as if the doors would open and that Anakin would be swallowed up and sent to his fate below. But the lever jammed, or at least that's what he had though at first. But Anakin was no idiot; he had walked into many traps before and knew exactly what he was doing.

"Do you really think I was going to fall for something as simple as a trap door Jabba?" Darth Vader said as he walked closer, the fat Hutt tried to slither away but there was no way out in between the walls behind him and the door, he would have to go through Skywalker to get anywhere. He looked to Bib Fortuna, who had sprinted away at the first blaster shots through the crowd and was probably prepping a skiff to evacuate by now.

"Listen, we can talk this over, just name your price Skywalker. The treaty is still valid! Do you want money? Slaves? More power? I have information! Anything you want!"

Anakin raised his blade. "I'm getting tired of slime like you offering me anything I want, when no one could EVER possibly give me what I want."


For a brief second Anakin's concentration slipped, Jabba's frantic pulling of the trap door lever succeeded, separating the doors for several centimeters before Anakin regained his composure. He deftly stepped to the side and regained his hold with the Force. Sorely tempted, he looked down into the maw of Jabba's dungeon, a massive subterranean den big enough to hold some of the largest animals in the planet. Judging by the blood curdling roars coming from below, it already did.

Anakin had never actually seen a Krayt Dragon before, but from all the descriptions he had been given this was definitely one of them. The legendary dragons were so few in number they were considered mythical to anyone except natives. Jabba had obtained one, for entertainment and to do away with the messes that carcasses tended to leave. Vader could feel the savage hunger of the monster, kept at the edge of ferocity with hunger and harsh treatment.

"Perhaps Jabba, it is time for you to feed your pet."

Vader adjusted his Force grip and locked the lever to open, walking off of the door as it slowly slid apart and unleashing the now deafening cries of the Krayt Dragon below him. The doors were locked open, and the fighting between mercenaries spilled over, with several of them falling to their demise. Some died upon falling to the ground, others instantly devoured. Using the Force, Vader sought out Jabba's stomach; even through the Force he could tell it was a vile and disgusting thing. Using the Force Anakin caused it to swell and bloat, popping it from the inside and puncturing the Hutt’s stomach lining. Jabba’s extremely volatile stomach acids which allowed him to digest almost any food in the galaxy were now eating away at his internal organs. Jabba cried out in great pain as Darth Vader levitated him off of his platform, dropping him into the pit below. The de facto ruler of Tatooine was only slightly cushioned by his girth. As his eyes opened he could not move and the fire in his belly had overcome his whole body. He could not breathe and blood was trickling out of his mouth. The irony was lost on him, as the Krayt Dragon loomed over him and opened its jaws…

For a brief moment, Vader wondered about the location of Jabba's son. Not that it mattered, Rotta was still quite young, and soon the word of Jabba's Death would spread to the other Hutt Lords and their capitulation to the Empire's demands would be inevitable.

Anakin called the Force back to him as he left the palace, sending the signal to the clone troopers to return with him.

"Sir," Shep replied. "We captured a Twi'lek leaving the palace on a Skiff. Shall we take him in for questioning?"

"Let him go, he will be the one to spread the word of Jabba's fate to the rest of the Hutt Clan," Anakin said without hesitation, "and before departing send a signal to the Star Destroyer to turn this entire area into a large crater. No one gets out of this building alive. We will return to base camp for a short while, but keep a gunship on standby; I have some personal business to attend to elsewhere on this rock."

"Yes Sir, General."

Across the sands in Mos Espa, Yoda had finally reached the Lars homestead, he dismounted the wild Eopie he had come across and sent it on its way. As he made his way towards the small complex of buildings he could feel the darkness in the air from Anakin's battle. Yoda leaned on his gimer stick as a strong wind combined with the gut wrenching feeling of the Dark Side to nearly knock him to the ground.

"Soon my time will be." He thought to himself as he sought out the homestead with the Force. As he reached the perimeter he was confronted by a pair of farm hands with weapons drawn expecting to find Tusken Raiders.

"To the head of the household I must speak." Yoda asked.

"To the head of the household he must speak." One of the farm hands said to the other, who seemed to agree with him.

"I'll go get Owen; he'll want to talk to this guy. Why don't you two go wait in the yard down where it's safe from the wind?"

Yoda sighed softly as the first farm hand led Yoda towards the protected area of the farm, a sort of pit dug into the surface which afforded protection from the heat and the wind. He was more than a little bothered by the fact that he now had to use the Force to manipulate people so he could meet someone face to face without worrying he would be discovered or killed.

"Your highness, as you can see construction of the prototype is underway. The additional labor being provided by the captured Wookies and Separatists will allow us to conduct our first test shots within a few months."

"Excellent work Tarkin. What will the status of the weapon be after that?”

"According to Bevel Lemelisk your majesty, as soon as we finish with the prototype and perfect the design of the superlaser itself we should be able to build a working model of the station within four to eight months, and he claims that once we finish perfecting the design for that we could have the much larger version that you requested available within six to twelve months. Scaling up the design should not be a problem at all with the resources you have given us."

Emperor Palpatine smiled and folded his hands, Tarkin was still growing accustomed to Palpatine's new appearance and the Emperor was not above using his new visage to torment his underlings slightly.

"Then I will leave you to your work for now. Remember, word of this project must not reach the Senate just yet."

"I assure you my lord, we are being as careful as we can. Already our forces have ‘removed’ the Separatists assigned to the initial development project, and the least skilled and least valuable workers are culled every few weeks."

“Good. Your work on this project shall be remembered Moff Tarkin.”

Palpatine shut down the power to the receiver on the holodisplay and laughed, the most powerful technology in the galaxy was within his grasp, and when it was finished there would be nothing in the galaxy that could defeat him. Not even his apprentice.

Uniting the Separatists had the benefit of also uniting some of the top corporate military research and development scientists as well as their budgets. The combination of Umak Leth, Bevel Lemelisk, and Palpatine’s own close friend Raith Seinar along with brilliant alien scientists under the employ of entities such as the Trade Federation was proving incredibly productive. The betrayal of the CIS by Darth Sidious had the added effect of bringing their combined project under Imperial control without much resistance, and those engineers and scientists disturbed by the change of benefactors were dismissed from their projects by blaster bolt.

There were other matters for Lord Sidious to attend to. Reactivating his communicator, he summoned Sate Pestage, his executive aide since his career began on Naboo. Pestage was a loyal minion, although he could not touch the Force he was a true believer, and he served his master faithfully. The task Palpatine was about to entrust him with was as much of a task as it was a reward for Pestage. His place and status within the Imperial Government was about to become much more secure.

Author's Notes

The revised chapters are almost complete and I am having a great time reworking some of the old dialogue. Soon i'll be able to start the brand new chapters, and perhaps even finish "Scars of Mustafar" in time for the holidays, so I can begin writing "The Dark Times" which is the ANH alternate fic that takes place after this one.

I'm trying really hard to fix continuity errors and fix wordiness. If anyone has any more pointers i'd sure like to hear them. I also have been using the old commentary from a year ago and it has helped me a lot in fixing this up.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2008-11-13 08:02am, 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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 8: Confrontation

Anakin's gunship had arrived at the Lars homestead not long after a quick stop at the base camp. With preparations in place to eradicate Jabba's palace and to establish a garrison he could divert his attention to more personal matters. Again he traveled alone, but this time he ordered his troopers to remain behind, giving the order in such a tone that not even the most battle hardened one of them would dare question it. Such was the added weight of the Dark Side of the Force.

Son, my place is here. My future is here. It is time for you to let let go of me. I cannot go with you.

The sight of the homestead, the heat of the twin suns, and the pain that would forever occupy his heart surged inside of him. He had never called this place home, but the emotions of this place and their echo in the Force could still be felt. As a powerful Force user, Anakin was able to manifest his feeling in such a way they could embed traces of the Force into the area surrounding where he had stood. Anakin’s imprint was evident to those who knew what to look for, and it was tainted with the Dark Side of the Force.

As he stood upon the ground where he buried his mother, tears he no longer thought possible welled up in his eyes. The Force had saved Padme, but it could never save his mother. Even the most arcane Sith teachings he could learn could never return her life, unjustly taken as it was.

"Now, be brave, and don't look back."

How brave could he have possibly been? One of the first things the Jedi Council had told him was that he was full of fear. Even on the brink of war as a Padawan all Anakin could do was dream of his mother, longing for the days when his fears could be laid to rest with a soft smile and a warm touch.

"Annie...? Is it you...?"

He had played the scenario in his mind many times, no matter how many times he had tried to envision it he always asked himself the same question. "Would she even remember me?" It had been many years and he had become a man, traveling across the galaxy as he had dreamt. But even on the brink of death and after so many years Shmi Skywalker had still recognized her boy in an instant.

"Annie? Annie? You look so handsome, my son... my grown-up son. I'm so proud of you, Annie... so proud... I missed you so much..."

How many years had it been that he longed to see his mother again, the only family he had ever known aside from the Jedi. Of them all only Obi-Wan had ever felt like family, and even he had asked Anakin to suppress his feelings and go against the Jedi teachings before attempting to assassinate him on Mustafar, using his pregnant wife to get to him.

"I love you."

The final words his mother had spoken as she had gasped in her final breath, forcing the words out with her last reserves of strength. He forced himself to wonder if she would still say those same things now that he had forsaken the Jedi she had entrusted her son with. He had won many victories, defeated powerful enemies, but even the powers his new master had promised him weren't enough. Keeping someone from dying was not enough to erase the terrible pain in his heart. Anakin had hoped that his anguish would make him even stronger as it fueled the Dark Side, but it had only brought more questions.

"Fall upon you, the shadow of greed has."

The voice of his mother was replaced by Yoda's ancient tone, only this time the vivid recollection was replaced by actual sound. A stunned Anakin turned to see his former comrade and teacher standing in the desert no more than ten meters from him, a gust of sand blowing over his cloak.

"Anticipate this when you were a boy I did, felt it I did before Geonosis, see it I did on Coruscant when sought my counsel you did."

"The typical arrogant observations of a Jedi, your omniscience didn’t help the rest of you Jedi traitors." Anakin snapped through clenched teeth. If his fury were a turbolaser he would have atomized Yoda by now, but his fury could something far more destructive than that. He wanted to ignite his lightsaber and attempt to strike him down right there, doing what his master had failed to do. But instead he applied the lessons of his success on Mustafar. The Jedi knew of his quick temper and would try to exploit it. “How did you find me here?” Anakin demanded to know.

"Typical of a Sith, the quick and easy path you do seek, for power and for knowledge. With your feelings reach out, and the answer on your own, you can find."

Anakin’s fingers twitched for his lightsaber again, wanting nothing more than to join Yoda with the Force as he had always preached and present the corpse before his master. Then Yoda could have the same peace that every other dead being supposedly enjoyed, including his mother.

"Enough, if a battle is what you wish however I would be more than willing to accommodate you. But I won’t be goaded into making stupid mistakes. Obi Wan tried that on Mustafar and he’s nothing but a charred corpse."

Yoda smiled, he was pleased that Obi Wan’s secrecy was intact. The facial expression though irritated Anakin who could no longer resist. The Sith blade flashed, the crimson bloodshine replacing the old the sky blue of his former blade, and if Yoda had felt there was any chance Anakin could be redeemed it was incinerated with the ignition of his new blade.

"STOP!" The two opponents stopped upon hearing the disgruntled voice from the homestead.

The voice was that of Owen Lars, who had come running out to the gravesite with a blaster rifle in hand. An older model better suited for scaring away the occasional Jawa or Tusken Raider than for taking on a highly skilled Sith Lord, but to his credit he refused to flinch.

Yoda had met with Owen, informing them of Anakin's impending arrival. Owen and most of his hands hated the Empire and readily evacuated, but something had kept Owen behind, and Yoda was worried that the farmer did not know what he was getting into. But it was his property and Owen had a stronger will than one might have expected. There was nothing he could do however, if he broke his concentration on Anakin for but a moment he could readily leap into action and strike him down, and it was not Yoda's place just yet to die.

"I'm sorry Master Yoda, but my brother and I need to have a few words."

Owen barely restrained himself when he spoke of how much he hated the Republic, especially since it had become the Galactic Empire. Cliegg had specifically ordered him to stay on the farm, so that his boy could not join the Separatists. But Owen had dreamed of overthrowing the government and establishing a real democracy and order on Tatooine and worlds like it, planets that had been ignored for centuries and allowed to languish under the control of scum such as the Hutts. But at least the Hutts gave residents autonomy so long as they didn't meddle with their affairs; the Empire however had begun nationalizing everything it could get its hands on. When Cliegg had died Owen had inherited the farm though, and his dreams of joining the Separatist Army died that day. Anakin did not even make a motion towards Lars, his concentration was fully on Yoda, and he didn't care about some pathetic farmer whom he was associated with by tragic circumstances.

"What gives you the right to set your dirty Imperial boots on my farm Skywalker!"

Anakin admonished himself for letting this irrelevant moisture farmer get under his skin. He wasn't worth the attention.

"Damn it! You scum, answer me!" Owen fired his blaster in the air in a display to show how serious he was. Anakin was now bothered enough to address his stepbrother's presence.

"This doesn't involve you Lars. This is between me and the Jedi."

“Well now it’s my turn. Yoda told me all about you, about the Sith. About how you manipulated both sides of the war, letting billions upon billions be killed just so you could wield the same power you accuse the Jedi of coveting. The hypocrisy in your voice is about a subtle as a sandstorm!"

Meanwhile, Yoda was radiating in the Force like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Anakin began to focus, he could feel Yoda's intentions through the Force, and attacking was not something his adversary was planning to do. Anakin smiled inwardly with great viciousness as he turned his head toward Owen. Yoda's gaze broke, as he realized what Anakin was about to do, but he had already committed to his plan and set it into motion. There was enough time for one last attempt though, to save Owen Lars.

"Leave you must Owen Lars! Deal with Anakin I will!"

"And let you handle the Sith the same way you handled the Clone Wars? Like Bantha fodder I will.” He then raised the rifle and aimed it right at Anakin’s midsection. “Sith Lord or not I’m giving you the count of three to start walking off my property before I blast you into pieces!"

Yoda wanted to leap out, to use the Force to carry Owen away, to deflect Anakin's impending attack. But he could not risk it, he was needed alive, he had a job yet to do. Even if he could defeat Anakin and save Owen Lars he would prevent himself from accomplishing the task the Force had given him, and he would arouse the suspicions of the troopers on the planet. Through the Force he saw Tatooine being blockaded, so that he couldn’t leave, and the planet eventually being bombarded into a smoldering ruin. He hung his head and averted his eyes, keeping enough concentration to guard against Anakin.


Anakin turned away from Yoda, standing motionless. There was a brief pause before Owen shouted again.


Now Anakin was beginning to lift one of his hands, creating a gesture that would have looked silly to the untrained observer.


Anakin clenched his fist before Owen could fire his blaster as the Force crushed his spine. He could feel the vertebrae individually crack and shatter under the pressure and suddenly all was black. His body lifted into the air as he screamed. Anakin released his hold and the body fell to the sand with a disgusting smack. He turned back to Yoda, invigorated by the Dark Side energies that were flooding his synapses and replacing the doubt and sorrow he had felt earlier.

"Now, Master Yoda, you are the one who is afraid. You couldn't even raise a hand to save that insignificant worm. Could it be you value your own life more than those you are sworn to protect?"
Yoda sighed in what sounded like the entire weight of his years falling down heavily upon his shoulders.

"It is not fear that drives me young Skywalker. The Force is my ally, and a powerful ally it is, but also a comforting one. You would use it as an instrument of oppression and murder, rather than embrace it for what it truly is."

Anakin was unconvinced; to him Yoda was no better than senile. There was nothing to his words but cryptic references to vague teachings that had been antiquated over a thousand years ago.

"Well spoken for a fallen Master, only someone as foolish as a Jedi would treat that as the truth. The Force serves me now and I control it at my whim. I no longer need fear myself as the Jedi Council had tried to make me. The Force has freed me from the chains imposed on me, because I shape it to my will."

"Much to teach you Obi Wan still had." Yoda said with a vast regret. "Nevertheless, you are the victor. Wish to die I do not, surrender I do, so that the Jedi will live on."

Anakin's jaw nearly dropped. Yoda was surrendering without putting up any kind of a fight. "I never would have guessed that the great Yoda would allow the Jedi to survive in chains, rather than die with their freedom. The Emperor was right about you, all of you."

Yoda huffed, Anakin had no idea what it meant to be a Jedi. Of all the failures of the Jedi, it was teaching this boy in the first place that was the greatest. "My concern, that is not. All I ask, is that the bloodshed stops, that I do."

Anakin was sure that Yoda was covering up some sort of deception, but Yoda was a blank as a powered down display screen. "Very well then, my master prefers to possess rather than destroy. Your long lifespan will be to your detriment in his care." Anakin powered down his lightsaber, and raised his communicator. "Troopers, bring the Gunship to my location and take me to my Star Destroyer. As soon as we arrive in orbit have the Star Destroyer set course for Coruscant immediately. I have a very important prisoner for the Emperor."

Yoda nodded his head as the two stood in silence for the longest several minutes of his life. Eventually the troopers arrived, their shock at Yoda’s capture unseen by eyes through their helmets, but seen by Yoda and Anakin through the Force. Anakin placed his captive into binders and he was loaded into a LAAT for probably the several hundredth time or so since leading the Battle of Geonosis. Yoda knew Anakin would watch him like a hawkbat for the entire journey to Coruscant to prevent his escape. But escape was not in Yoda's plan. The only thing Yoda could do was meditate. To stay the course of his plan, and prepare himself for the inevitable penance he would have to suffer for his failures.

"General Skywalker, we’re all set to take you and the Prisoner back to the Star Destroyer." The Clone Pilot saluted.

Anakin returned the salute in acknowledgement. "Excellent work, continue to follow all standing orders. However I have a few additional instructions. Have medical teams round up every slave on the planet and remove any and all slave collars and transmitters. Furthermore anyone on this planet claiming ownership of a slave will be placed under arrest.” Those orders he gave out of Yoda’s earshot, but the last one though he spoke audibly and clearly.

Also, notify Commander Shep and have him demolish the Lars homestead, kill any survivors and witnesses."

Yoda nearly turned on his captors when he heard Anakin give that last order. "A deal we had! Safe the people would remain!"

"I no longer extend the courtesy of keeping my promises, to the Jedi Order that wouldn’t keep theirs."

Yoda was mad, but he didn’t give in to his anger as Anakin had hoped he might. He was no longer in a position to back out on his plan and do what came naturally to him, saving the lives of others. Perhaps this was Qui Gon’s concept of the living Force. Circumstances now restrained him when he could no longer do so himself.

The Star Destroyer departed for Coruscant. Anakin's fears had been replaced by the pride he felt within himself. Yoda was the last of the great Jedi, and his victory was complete. Soon his ties to this planet would be nothing more than a distant memory and he could move on with his plans for the galaxy.

But no matter how hard he tried the words of his mother flood his ears and his heart, adding sorrow to his anger and dampening the feeling of empowerment that the Dark Side had given him. Yoda was right about one thing, there was definitely a shadow over him. Not one of greed, but of regret that he hadn’t turned his back on the Jedi sooner.

You can't stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting. Listen to your feelings; Annie, you know what's right.

Anakin knew what was right, and soon the rest of the Galaxy, even Lord Sidious would as well.

"Things just keep getting worse all the time." Obi Wan had thought while going through the latest news reports. The Empire had been instituted by Senate with an incredibly lopsided vote, but Obi Wan suspected that even some of the die-hard supporters would have sided against Palpatine if they had foreseen some of the consequences. Not more than a few hours after the Imperial Garrison on Tatooine was established the Empire had begun assisting local authorities in extermination campaigns against the Sand People. While many people selectively ignored this massacre in lieu of the new anti slavery codes under the martial law instituted by General Skywalker, Obi Wan felt sick to his stomach that his former apprentice was now condemning an entire species to extinction. The Sand People were not alone however, on Naboo Gungans were being forced into internment camps after several Gungan demonstrators sparked violence in the capital city of Theed, protesting the new planetary government's imposing of taxes. Geonosians were being tried en masse as war criminals and being shuttled off to undisclosed locations to serve their sentences. Imperial Forces were blockading Kashyyk in response to aiding fugitive Jedi that had initially survived attacks by the clone troopers.

He was tired of hiding; so far he had contributed almost nothing towards unseating Palpatine, or even anything to Alderaan's defense for that matter. Obi Wan had come to embrace Alderaan as a pacifist world, unafraid to defend their beliefs but unwilling to compromise them by taking up arms. In a perfect galaxy, Alderaan would be far untouched by the conflicts that the Clone Wars had brought about.

Qui Gon had told him to allow the living Force to guide his path, he was unsure if it was the Force or his own instincts that were taking him in the direction he was going, but he felt in his heart it was the right thing to do for both himself, and for the legacy of the Jedi.

It was a short walk to the Capital Docking Bay; Obi Wan used his code clearance as General Ben Cody to gain access to the Shuttle bay. The fighter he had assumed from General Grievous on Utapau was still there, changed only in appearance with the colors of the Alderaanian Defense Force now painted on its hull. Obi Wan climbed into the cockpit and took off. Using the integrated hyperdrive system he quickly plotted his course to Chandrila, towards the Rebellion.

Author's Notes:

I'm now 2/3 finished with rewriting the original 12 Chapters and I've managed to do in my head what I couldn't do at all in the first incarnation. I know where I want this thing to go and how it should properly end. If you can't wait and demand spoilerage for 9-12 go ahead and read the original versions. There is a link in the OP. I'm much more proud of these versions i'm working on now though.
"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 9: Order 67

"Meesa officially protest! Weesa Gungans no do anything wrong!" Jar Jar was almost screaming the words as the squad of white armored clone troopers entered the Naboo consulate. Jar Jar Binks, Representative of the Gungans in the Senate, was currently the acting Senator of Naboo as Padme Amidala was on indefinite leave.

"By orders of the Senate Representative Binks." came the reply in the all familiar clone voice. "You are under arrest for crimes of sedition relating to the protests on Naboo." The clone troopers raised their DC-15 rifles, keeping a safe distance from the dim witted but exceptionally strong Gungan.

"But meesa only try to get help in Senate forsa my people! Gungans not do anything against the law! Yousa speak to Boss Nass heesa clear everyting up!" Jar Jar was now backing around his modest desk within the consulate, just outside of the office used by Senator Amidala.

"The Gungan leader has been convicted of Treason as well and has already been detained." More soldiers filled the hallway, bent on preventing any interference.

Jar Jar's head scanned across the room from left to right. "Then meesa surrender! Meesa request to be taken for trial on Naboo!"

"Since you are a Senator the jurisdiction belongs to the Federal Government, Senatorial Treason carries a minimum life sentence. An Imperial Tribunal has already convicted you in absence."

"Meesa was never told about no trial!" Jar Jar started opening drawers, praying that a blaster, or perhaps a thermal detonator was somewhere nearby. He found nothing except for a small ceremonial blade given to him after the Battle of Naboo. Then the idea flashed in his head. "Wait! Messa want to talk to General Skywalker! Heesa close personal friend!"

The clones paused, this situation had not been covered in the mission briefing. Suddenly, a Holotransmitter began beeping on Jar Jar's desk, the beleaguered Gungan pressed the button, hoping for an explanation to this mess, or perhaps even a way out. The gnarled and robed visage of Emperor Palpatine. "Chance....errr...Emperor Palpyteen! Youssa can essplain to the...."

Jar Jar's pleas were cut off as the Emperor turned to the Commander in the room. "Why haven't you dealt with him yet Commander?"

"Your highness, the subject has not yet surrendered, we are proceeding with the arrest but the Senator has demanded to appeal to General Skywalker." The reply was emotionless, crisp, flawlessy worded. Jar Jar knew there was no escape out of this one. If only Qui Gon, Or Obi Wan, or Ani would come through that door and save him as they had so many times before.

"Your orders come from me Commander, not from General Skywalker. Kill the Gungan and dispose of him and his effects." The transmission ended and Jar Jar's jaw dropped aghast. This time none of his friends would save him, not even Chancellor Palpatine, who had even admitted to Jar Jar in private when nobody else was around that he had owed Jar Jar a great deal for his support during the outbreak of the Clone Wars. The betrayal was one he had never expected, and as the clone troopers raised their rifles to fire, he was beginning to wonder to himself if maybe he had been used...

Mas Amedda sat in the customized Mon Calamari Ja’Kuzzi, a large heated bath, in his apartment flanked by a pair of Twi'lek dancing girls whose services he had purchased the night before. Life was good, a lot better than it had ever been under Valorum, whose incessant attention to the rules of office were as stifling as his own personality. At first, he had thought Palpatine would be no different, but the good Chancellor had been quite lax in his regulation of certain rules of office. Including rules about the use of taxpayer funds to fund the lifestyles of high ranking advisors. In fact, Palpatine himself had given his unspoken support for 'skimming the cream' so to speak, using the powers of his office and an excess of wartime funds to make incredibly opulent purchases. With the power and influence of the Chancellor's office and now the Emperor's throne behind him, the blue skinned Chagrian would be immune from prosecution for all time. To top all of that off, his position within the Empire had become even more important when he was named Grand Vizier of the Empire, much to the annoyance of his bureaucratic cohort Sate Pestage, Imperial Chief Auditor. Both men had competed for Palpatine's favor over the last ten years, and Mas Amedda had bested Pestage time and time again.

So it came to his great surprise when Pestage, flanked by troopers, burst into his residence armed to the teeth, rummaging through his belongings without permission. He hadn't even managed to get out of the spa and into his robes before they had already begun to carry away several expensive antiquities he had purchased, using public funds of course.

"What is the meaning of this Pestage?" His voice boomed. "How dare you charge into the home of the Imperial Grand Vizier like that! You will answer to the Emperor for this I guarantee it!"

Pestage's beady human eyes narrowed at the former Vice Chair and a nasty serpent's grin overcame his face. "The Emperor..." He snickered. "...has ordered this 'investigation' himself. Your office has been under scrutiny for some time. With the threat of the separatists isolated to the fringes of the galaxy we can now focus on more internal matters."

"Lies." Mas Amedda spat. "This is just another one of your tricks to discredit me in front of his majesty. What else could it be?" Amedda stepped closer towards Pestage when a pair of clones immediately flanked Pestage, aiming blasters in Amedda's face and warning him to step back.

"If it was a lie, then why are these troopers assigned to me old friend? I'm afraid the Emperor has found you to be of little use to the New Order. Your time with us has come to an end." Pestage rubbed his hands together and his sneer resembled that of a serpent.

Mas Amedda chuffed loudly, a Chagrian expression showing disdain. "Palpatine would be a fool to have me stand trial! I know enough to bring his entire government down around him! He should be begging me to keep quiet!" Amedda began waving his arms and baring his teeth in fury, causing another pair of troopers to step in front of Pestage and level their guns. Pestage held his hand in the air, keeping the clones from blocking his line of sight, laughing with that irritating laugh befitting a rodent.

"A trial? You still don't quite get it do you Amedda? I'm not here as head Auditor, I’m here as the Grand Vizier of the Empire. Here to remove my predecessor from office and to inform him of his impending execution." Pestage turned to the nearest clone trooper. "Kill him, kill the Twi'leks and any other potential witnesses."

Amedda took a more submissive stance and held his hands in front of his face, "Wait! Pestage it doesn't have to be this way, we can make a deal! You soldiers! I'll pay you, don't kill me! You're making a mistake, I'll give you a fortune!"

Unfortunately for the former Vice Chair, the Kaminoans had made sure to instill a steep sense of loyalty into their creations. Not even the largest sum would sway one of their clones from completing a mission. Mas Amedda continued to plead until the clones opened fire, shooting him and his companions into pieces.

Within his chambers on Coruscant, a pair of red robed Royal guards carried away the lifeless corpse of Sly Moore on the orders of their master. With the Umbaran aide dead there were fewer non humans left in Palpatine's inner circle, and none left that were not fully devoted to the new order. Moore had gone right to Palpatine's office upon hearing of Mas Amedda's death, along with the deaths of several other Senators she had courted personally during the Clone Wars. Now several other of her courted Senators had been bearing down on her as to why they were now being prosecuted by the government they themselves had propped up. Moore had gone to Palpatine asking for help, saving the Emperor's agents time in having to track her down.

In order to defeat the Jedi, Emperor Palpatine had enacted Order 66. When issued, the Order directed all of the clone soldiers serving under Jedi Commanders to turn against the Jedi, and for all of the forces within the Grand Army of the Republic to seek out and destroy any Jedi they would come across. Order 67 was a similar operation, but with different targets.. With the Jedi defeated and his political enemies curtailed Palpatine was now the most powerful man in the galaxy, and no longer did he require many of the underlings who he had used to consolidate his power and wrest control away from the tangled non-functioning mess that was the Senate. Using his loyal forces, anyone who knew secrets of Palpatine‘s origin and anyone who aligned themselves with dissenting movements was now an enemy of the Empire. Only the truly loyal servants, those dedicated to the New Order and to the Emperor would be spared. It was those servants who carried out Order 67.

From the view of his office high above Coruscant, Palpatine tracked the progress of his schemes as they neared completion. Those left from Valorum's old regime had finally been excised permanently, bribed Senators who were no longer useful were removed and killed now that the regional Governors were finally in place, and an old pain in the neck from Naboo had finally been tied up as should have been done years ago. The days of the Senate were now numbered, once Tarkin's group finished the construction of the new battle station he would no longer need the Senate to act as his proxy. His word alone would govern the galaxy.

The capital city of Chandrila, Hanna, had become a very paranoid place, as Mon Mothma continued to brazenly travel the line between dissenting opinion and outright treason. She had spent as little time on Coruscant as possible, and instead preferred to spend time on Chandrila, where she and several other like-minded senators began forming the foundations to their rebellion. This came at a time where her popularity on the planet was waning slightly, as citizens of the Core Worlds began to embrace the Emperor’s New Order, and its icon General Anakin Skywalker

She had counted on Bail Organa's help, despite being two different personalities they were of a common mind when it came to the tyranny of the Empire. She had hoped that he would agree that something had to be done soon, and was confident that if Bail had fully supported her and pressured Senator Bel Iblis more that he would have been inclined to join the cause, and bring with him soldiers and ships vital to fighting a revolution. After their falling out, she had fully expected to never speak with him again, especially after cutting deals with Lot Dod, former envoy of the Trade Federation, and others formerly aligned with the CIS.

So when a hyperspace capable fighter transmitting an Alderaanian IFF code, painted in the colors of the Alderaanian Defense Force, entered the system, there was cause for surprise. Ground Control has relayed the encrypted message from Alderaanian General "Ben Cody" and made sure that the Senator Mothma was informed.

"This is General Ben Cody of the Alderaanian Defense Force. I request an audience with Senator Mothma, there is a political situation on Alderaan I must discuss."

Obi Wan finished transmitting his message. He had drawn on the Force to guide his words, attempting to intrigue the Chandrilans enough to at the very least entertain his message. As he grew adjusted to his current condition, he found that he could still feel the Force and draw on it. Whether he would do so as easily or as powerfully as he could before was in question and would take time to answer, but there was no doubt in his mind anymore of whether or not the Force was still with him.

It took a few complete orbits under close scrutiny from a trio of V-19 Torrent fighters before Obi Wan was granted landing clearance at the Hanna spaceport. Although the Belbullab-22 he was flying combined with his force-enhanced piloting skill was more than a match for the outdated Torrents, he was more than grateful to land without incident.

Upon landing several members of the Chandrilan guard provided an armed escort, something that Obi Wan was becoming gradually used to no matter what. There was a lot of uncertainty these days, and even those who protested war felt much safer with a cadre of loyal weapons protecting them. Many of the guards were unnerved by Obi Wan's appearance, not that they knew who he was or who he had been, but the mechanical appearance of Ben Cody was unsettling, especially in a culture that frowned upon cybernetic enhancements such as that of the core worlds.

They continued walking until entering a modest conference room with a long table, seated at the table were several figures Obi Wan could recognize as Galactic Senators. Mostly former Loyalists who had supported the Republic after Geonosis who initially supported Palpatine but later confronted them as his power grew beyond that of his office. Chi Eekway, Terr Taneel, Fang Zar, Male Dee were among them, but seated in between those four was none other than Mon Mothma herself. A human woman who radiated confidence and determination, a woman who would do whatever it took in order to accomplish her goals. Obi Wan was grateful that she was on the side of democracy, and not of the Empire. She was finishing a short speech when Obi Wan caught her attention. She had been briefed of his impending arrival and had decided that she would speak to this man personally, Obi Wan wasn't entirely sure why but he considered himself fortunate that she did so.

"If you'll excuse me Senators I have to attend to a matter of business. Remember, we cannot allow our subgroups to know of one another just yet. Their independence will be vital as we begin to grow in strength. Senator Dod has already delivered the first few cargoes and we can begin distributing the battle droids within a few weeks once our shipping infrastructure is up. I thank you all for your attendance."

The Senators began to file out of the room, nervous at the outsider from Alderaan witnessing their act of sedition yet assured by Mon Mothma's apparent indifference to the unknown visitor. Mon Mothma stood and faced Kenobi, unaware that she had met him before during his days as a Jedi Knight.

"General...Cody is it? I find it very interesting that the supposed head of the Alderaanian Defense Force would arrive at this time, flying what appears to be a captured Separatist starfighter. Tell me, what did Bail think he could accomplish by sending you?"

Obi Wan held up his hand and spoke. "I assure you Senator my timing was a coincidence, and that Senator Organa did not send me. This is a mission of my own accord."

"Oh? What sort of mission would a member of a Planetary Defense Force have in an entirely different system and without the knowledge of the government he is sworn to serve?" Mon Mothma’s matronly appearance and outer demeanor hid the qualities that made her an effective leader. She was ready to get to the point and she was telling Obi Wan without speaking it outright that he had best be straightforward.

He wouldn‘t disappoint. "It has come to my attention that you and Senator Organa have had a falling out over your decision to go ahead and begin planning an underground rebel alliance."

"I would expect a high ranking official from Alderaan to know that, that isn't anything new."

"I've come to let you know that Alderaan is preparing to disarm and disband the Alderaanian Defense Forces. All of the weapons of the Alderaanian Defense Forces and Alderaanian Navy aside from what is necessary for the defense of Alderaan itself is being exiled into unknown space as a show of support and goodwill towards the Empire"

Mon Mothma seated herself. Although this was in new information it did not come as a surprise, Bail had become a coward as of late and the majority of Alderaan was as pacifist as a population could be. Discarding their weapons would show the Empire how little of a threat they could be while at the same time pander to the whims of the pacifist elite. A shrewd move by Bail to stay in power she assumed. Then the mysterious General Cody said something that caught her attention.

"I have recalibrated the slave circuits aboard the three ships so that they will be abandoned in an uncharted system known only to myself.” That was only a little white lie. It was one of several uncharted systems known only to members of the Jedi Council in case of emergency. “I will give you the coordinates of this system on one condition."

Mon Mothma placed her elbows on the table and clasped her hands, looking at this mysterious mechanized individual and trying to read his motives. "What would that be General?" She asked. Obi Wan held out his left arm, a small compartment opened up from within it, and from it he removed a lightsaber. He clipped it to his belt and spoke.

"Allow me to join your resistance."

Across the galaxy, the survivors of the Jedi Purge attempted to find their way in the new galaxy. Although many had survived thanks to various circumstances, many more had been killed. The Jedi Order once numbering over ten thousand, were now fewer than a hundred. Of those survivors, almost all had spent most of their entire lives within the temple walls. Masters who had lost Padawans ended their own lives out of shame. Padawans who had lost Masters abandoned their teachings to start a new life with their meager abilities, with some even falling to the Dark Side.

Imperial Inquisitors had discovered several Jedi attempting to rejoin the families they had been taken from long ago. The Jedi Temple records were Imperial hands however, and every one of these Jedi were captured and killed, sometimes with the help of their own relatives. As former Padawans hid in their cousins’ basements, as Jedi Knights hid in sisters’ attics, as children hid in their parent’s basements, they were betrayed by those they trusted.

Other Jedi were betrayed by friends they had made in the past. Bounty Hunters, mercenaries, and pirates with Jedi connections exploited them for profit. The Empire paid top credits for every one of them. There were fewer and fewer places for Jedi to hide with every passing day.

The galaxy was still a big place though. Jedi who had abandoned the order when the war began remained safely hidden. Those Jedi Generals who were skilled enough to beat back the attempts on their life were fighting with insurgencies.

Then there were the Jedi survivors who had other intentions in mind, with the Empire’s attentions focused elsewhere and without any sort of opportunity for legitimate aggression the Empire had been unable to move towards Kashyyk, already Jedi were gathering deep beneath the forest, under the great shadows of the wroshyr trees. A gathering that would not go unnoticed for long.
"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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 10: Allegiances

Mon Mothma looked at Obi Wan, and activated a small button on a nearby console. Without warning a pair of Super Battle Droids emerged from hidden wall panels, an additional security measure installed by Lott Dod's technicians, the Battle Droids were integrated into the walls and disguised as inner circuitry and sound proofing equipment.

Obi Wan sensed the danger, his reactions took a split second long to catch up but still managed to have his blade ignited in a defensive stance before either droid managed a shot. Obi Wan had never enjoyed war but something about the blue of his blade was reassuring to him. It helped him maintain his focus and control his altered feel for the Force.

There were only two droids but they had him pinned in the middle of an enclosed space, the longer this confrontation lasted the greater the chance that a stray blaster bolt would hit either Obi Wan or Mon Mothma. Obi Wan decided to end the conflict fast, calling on his telekinesis he hurled his blade with great speed perpendicular to the droids blaster fire. The length of the blade managed to cut into the droids armor at the torso and the droid fell to the floor. In a split second Obi Wan turned and used the Force again, pushing the droid under the door of the chamber it had emerged from and then unlocking the door mechanism, crushing it. Obi Wan turned again, half expecting another attacker, only to see Mon Mothma calmly calling in for guards to come and remove the debris.

"Is this how you treat all your guests?" He replied, his mechanical breathing and synthesized voice making it sound as if he expended no effort.

Mon Mothma smiled and clasped her. "Perhaps when I'm older and wiser I will fully regret this Master Jedi. Unfortunately there aren't many Jedi left these days. So when an unknown being with a masked appearance starts wielding a lightsaber asking me to employ him in treason, I expect a little proof. Surely you understand?"

Kenobi nodded simply to play nice. He didn't understand, he would never understand. If the people fighting the good fight in the galaxy began falling to the same levels of paranoia and anger of those oppressing them, then perhaps this wasn't a galaxy worth liberating. Obi Wan deactivated his saber and pushed that thought out of his mind. He would always be a Jedi, and even in these dark times he would stay true to the Jedi Code.

"Hopefully you won't require any more...demonstrations." Obi Wan quipped as he reclaimed his lightsaber from the debris.

"This was suitably impressive, again I apologize, however I cannot afford to have to deal with charlatans at this stage. We're too vulnerable at the moment, even with the generous contributions of the various Senators who risk everything. Those Senators who realize, as I do, that the events we ourselves set into motion all those years ago have made the Senate irrelevant, eventually the Senate will be disbanded and we'll be forced out into the open lest we allow the Empire to maintain their grip on our homes and liberties."

There was something about Mon Mothma that struck Obi Wan as unquestionably genuine, something that managed past his general distrust of politicians. Before the war if he would have overheard a wealthy Senator speaking about concern for individual liberties he would have scoffed at it, the powerful and wealthy always had liberty. Perhaps that was why he came to Chandrila though, to find out whether or not the next war would be fought by patriots, or bankrolled by those who sought more power like the Separatists before them. Perhaps this had been a demonstration for Obi Wan also.

"General Cody was it?" Mon Mothma asked.

"An alias, there are certain figures in the Empire who believe I am dead at the moment and I would rather it stay that way." Obi Wan was not one for distorting the truth, but he wasn’t above the omission of details as a way of keeping secrets. "For now Ben Cody will suffice."

"I can't say that I blame you General Cody, Bail proved more shrewd than I thought. Even the Bothans who ran your background check for me were inclined to believe the files they managed to access."

The two walked out of the room and into one of the grand foyers of the Chandrilan capital before stepping into a garden outside. "Jamming equipment and other anti surveillance devices are disguised in the foliage, it is safe here.” Mon Mothma pointed at a large fern. Obi Wan examined it in the force and sensed within the living organism small gaps as thin as the leaves that had to be some sort of technology. They stopped at a small table located within the center of the garden, the area that was most accommodating to visitors as well the most secured.

“General Cody before I put you in any kind of position within this organization, I need your total assurance that you can function with former Separatists. You may even end up serving with beings you fought against. I also need a guarantee that you will not object to using Droid forces in the upcoming conflict."

"You have the word of a Jedi, which I would hope even in times like this would mean something."

Mon Mothma smiled. "If you believe the news coming from Coruscant, then no, but then again I haven't believed anything Coruscant says for a while now."

Mon Mothma turned and stepped away for a few moments, looking up at the endless blue sky as if waiting for it to give her a response. Before long she turned to Obi Wan and smiled.

"General Cody, Welcome to the Rebel Alliance."

Oovo IV had a reputation throughout the galaxy for two different reasons. If one were to ask a member of the planetary board of tourism they would be most likely to discuss the championship podraces held. Because of the planet's low gravity, the events grew quite exciting as racers of different species compete for some of the highest prizes on the professional circuit. However, if one were to ask one of the galaxy's less reputable denizens, you would learn of the fortresses that make up the planetary prison complex.

The prison was one of several maximum-security detention facilities throughout the Republic, possessing an entire ward reserved for the most notorious of criminals. Rumored to be so tight with their security that not even The Hutts or Black Sun could operate on the inside. Oovo IV was the largest prison bloc in the Empire and the Republic that predated it, ironically many of the inmates had been brought to justice by the Jedi that were now enemies of the state. Soon newer facilities under construction by the Empire in the Despayre and Kessel systems would dwarf Oovo IV, even when those facilities would be built Oovo would still hold the distinction of having the most diverse number of specialized holding blocs in the galaxy. Hutts, Wookies, Quarren, and at one point in the prison's past it was used to hold Mandalorians. One wing in particular though was quite notable. The official name was Block TK421, unofficially it was known as "The Black Hole".

The Hole, as was the term used between guards, was a specially designed cellblock for the most violent prisoners and lethal beings. Rumor had it that it was designed specially by Jedi Architects. It seemed little different from the standard maximum-security isolation wing, but this part of the facility had a long history of interring Force Users. This created havoc in normal prisons as the dark side inmates had a tendency to create chaos amongst the general population even when in solitary confinement. Fallen Jedi who had killed in anger but spared out of mercy, Force Sensitive Non-Jedi attempting to gain power, even the occasional con artist who had a limited ability to read thoughts were deemed dangerous and would sometimes have to be killed in order to maintain order.

Only non-combat droids and armed guards were stationed in the wing. Armed droids had been considered too risky in Republic prisons even before the Clone War. The guards were of species naturally resistant to the Force and personnel specially conditioned to resist Force techniques.

In the hundred years prior to the Clone Wars there had been very few prisoners who qualified for The Hole, in fact the last one had died prior to the Stark Hyperspace conflict. The warden had converted part of the wing into a disciplinary holding area. Then the Clone Wars came, and Oovo IV once again held a prisoner strong in the Force, allowing the facility to be used as it was intended.

After an incident on the planet Devaron involving the murder of that world’s Senator, a Jedi Knight by the name of Aayla Secura had fought against the renowned Jedi Hunter Aurra Sing. Sing had been responsible for the murder of many Jedi, but Secura managed to defeat her and bring her to justice, justice that included a life sentence in the prison on Oovo IV. Within her cell, she sat alone constantly plotting her escape. No materials were available to her to scavenge any sort of useful weapon, and even if she managed to escape into the hallway the passage would flood with a mixture of paralyzing gases before she could get far.

The lights that lined the hallways fizzled slightly, every day during the local midnight the power to secondary systems would sputter slightly as the guards began their prison wide deep scan of the entire facility. At this time of night, it was most efficient to use the power hungry equipment that ensured the status of every inmate, but for Aurra it was the only way she had of keeping track of the days. Her meals were brought to her with irregularity so that she could not plan an escape around a certain time.

She looked up at the light; sometimes the soft glow was the only thing that kept her from truly going mad. Fenn Booda, the warden, had promised her preferential treatment in exchange for information regarding the Separatists. But before Booda had got around to any serious interrogation the war was already in it's twilight following the death of Count Dooku. The Republic had little need for information on the whereabouts of a dead man.

Minutes later, the lights flickered again. Aurra looked up, thinking to herself of how odd that was. It had been the first break in the monotony of her sentence. Even something as trivial as that was cause for consideration as the lights flickered again. Aurra's senses spoke to her, telling her that something was actually amiss. A normal person would have simply guessed something was wrong with the lights, but a normal person didn't have the insights of the Force to aid them.

Moments later, the faint sounds of blaster fire could be heard down the hall. Whatever was going on it was happening just down the long corridor on the side of the large blast doors and through the gauntlet of energy barriers that sealed it. Suddenly the barriers themselves began to flicker, until they fully dissipated. Suddenly, the only thing that separated Aurra Sing from freedom, and whatever was taking place in the prison, was a half-meter thick slab of transparisteel with a blast resistant transparisteel door. In desperation she applied the Force to the door, pressing all of her strength against it.

During her training as a youngling in the Jedi Temple every one of the teachers tried to impress in the students that size did not matter. Obviously none of them had ever actually compared lifting pebbles to knocking down a prison cell door. She bore down with everything she had, her body straining as more energy flowed through her. Her hatred of the Jedi fueled her, hatred towards the Dark Woman, and that Twi'lek that had imprisoned her in the Hole. If the Clone Wars hadn't yet claimed them, then she would.

The joints on the door finally began to give way, and Aurra pressed harder. But the pain was too great even with her added rage fueling her powers, causing her to collapse, but not before she managed to break several parts of the doors internal security mechanisms. Aurra cursed at herself, her failure would be her undoing. Within seconds the gas mix would begin flowing, and she was still trapped in her cell. She tore a shred off of her sleeve and put over her mouth, hoping to filter and delay some of the poisons as much as possible while using the Force to create any kind of resistance she could.

Smoke began to fill the room, but through the haze Aurra could make out a pair of red lights, possibly guardsmen coming to secure her cell. But the lights looked wrong, they were too long and narrow; they almost looked like lightsaber blades. Aurra nearly burst out laughing when she thought that, and she wasn't sure if the gas was entirely responsible. But the lights drew closer and suddenly Aurra realized that they could be nothing other than lightsabers, twin blades with a crimson hue.

She couldn't entirely recognize the bald woman who held the blades, but she recognized the look of a predator when she saw it. Fierce eyes narrowed in a determined gaze, a stance indicating that she was ready to strike down anyone who appeared hostile. From the darkness seeping from her it was obvious she wasn't a Jedi. Aurra wondered if she had come to kill her, perhaps seeking vengeance of a master she had killed long before. The irony was not lost on her as she tried to stand and face this new threat. But the bald woman did not approach her, instead she reached into a pocket and produced a small rebreather, Aurra recognized it as something a fair number of Jedi carried. Aurra didn't hesitate to ask who the woman was or how she possessed a Jedi rebreather. She lunged for it, put it in her mouth, and breathed the oxygen into her lungs as the rebreather's filters removed the toxins from the air around her. The captor switched off one of her lightsabers and tossed the deactivated hilt over to Aurra as well. Unable to talk and use the rebreather at the same time, she spoke to Aurra through the Force.

"Aurra Sing I presume. Don't even try and double cross me, I have gone to great expense to get you out of here but I will not be killed as easily like those Jedi Sheep. Understand?"

Aurra nodded and returned the favor. "The same goes for you...whoever you are."

Even with the rebreather in her mouth the predator smiled. "The name is Asajj Ventress, and we have much to discuss."

The Dark Jedi Femme Fatales worked together, methodically carving their way through the prison as the guards fought valiantly to contain them while at the same time quelling the near riot that was brewing in the cells. They managed to battle their way out of the prison itself and into one of the nearby facilities accommodating the prison shuttles and escort starfighters. Aurra was about to break for a grounded V-Wing fighter, but Ventress waved her off.

"You'll never make it out of the atmosphere, they've rigged every Shuttle to explode by remote in case of a breakout."

Aurra turned and angrily replied. "Do you have any other kriffing way off of this rock?"

At that moment a contingent of guards and clone troopers burst into the room spraying suppressive automatic fire, forcing the two women behind cover. From her crouched position behind a starfighter, Ventress shouted, "I've made arrangements, but we have to hurry before it’s discovered.” Combining their force talents, and taking advantage of the low gravity of Oovo they lifted a fighter from the ground and literally tossed it, scattering the pursuing clones across the hangar bay. Again drawing upon the Force they fled from the hangar at great speed to an outdoor landing bay where Aurra saw an incredibly odd looking fighter just touching down and landing, one she could only recognize from accounts and descriptions. It was distinctively Geonosian in design, but different from the narrow starfighters that had become familiar to people watching holographic accounts of the war.

In fact, this was similar to the sloop used by Count Dooku himself, an incredibly rare ship. Aurra and her benefactor climbed into the craft and settled in near the FA-4 pilot droid, who launched as soon as they were aboard. Fighters were scrambled, but not in time as the sloop deployed its unique solar sail and vanished into hyperspace.

The Star Destroyer carrying Anakin and Yoda arrived in Courscant space less than a day after departing. They were now aboard a shuttle headed right for the very airbase where Anakin had landed the crippled CIS flagship Invisible Hand , their route took them near the former site of the Jedi Temple, which was now a cordoned off area of wreckage monitored by clones and intelligence personnel who sifted through every bit of wreckage by hand. The Emperor had ordered the thorough destruction of everything, and the ruins had to be searched lest anything managed to survive. Yoda resisted the urge to look upon the rubble that had been his home for hundreds of years, and where he had fought to deactivate the beacon in an act that saved the lives of many Jedi. Throughout the entire journey Anakin had said nothing, not even the boasting Yoda would have expected in this situation. Yoda hadn't said anything either, as he readied his mind for the trial to come. As they began their final approach though Anakin did speak.

"Have you ever heard of the tragedy of 'Darth Plageuis the Wise' Master Yoda?" Anakin asked, with an emotionless but hardened gaze unlike his former self.

"Unfamiliar with it I am."

"I thought you might say that, it is the story of a powerful Sith Lord who gained the ability to influence life itself, so that he could save people from dying."

Anakin turned to Yoda, looking down at the shackled Jedi. "He was stronger than death, he could keep people he cared about from dying. Soon I will have that power as well."

Yoda finally began making the connections, and began developing a picture of how Anakin Skywalker had been corrupted. The premonitions Anakin had asked about after the Battle of Coruscant, the almost brazen desire for power Anakin had displayed during those final days after being appointed to the council, and the revelation to the galaxy that Padme Amidala, now revealed as Padme Amidala Skywalker, was pregnant. All this time the Chosen One had been living a double life, one of selflessness and one of attachment. A stronger recipe for the Dark Side there wasn't, a Jedi of great skill bound and determined to protect the ones they loved at all costs. Yoda had seen it before, for some Jedi, the price of turning to the Dark Side was nothing compared to protecting their loved ones or seeking out vengeance.

"Promised you were, this power, by Palpatine were you?"

Anakin finally faced Yoda, gritting his teeth and scowling. "Whenever I looked to the Jedi teachings for answers all I received were more questions. My new master has given me answers, not just how to save people from death, but how to restore order to the galaxy the Jedi have coddled for so long."

It was a disappointing thing for Yoda to hear. Anakin had embraced the quick and easy path out of a false necessity. Jedi were not supposed to be given answers, but to use their own wisdom to discover them on their own. Yoda had no intention of debating philosophy with Anakin at this point. "Nothing I can say to you there is, that would convince you, of turning from this path?"

Anakin ignored the question, instead asking one of his own. "Tell me, do the Jedi have a way of conquering death?"

"A way all Jedi have. In the Jedi code it is. There is no death, there is only the Force."

Anakin slammed his metallic fist against the wall of the craft with a loud bang against the metal. There were many things he wanted to shout at the top of his lungs. He regained his composure, and with an icy stare directly at Yoda he spoke. “It’s babble like that which left the Jedi vulnerable! Its outdated adherence to an ancient code that no longer applies in this galaxy! That is why the Empire now controls the galaxy!”

Anakin pulled his fist away from the wall, revealing a dent where his fist and the Dark Side of the Force had impacted. It would have crushed a living beings skull flat. "For your sake, you had better cling to your teachings as hard as you can when you have this discussion on Coruscant." Anakin ended his sentence just as the shuttle touched down on the duracrete runway. As they stepped out of the shuttle, Yoda took a long look at the sky, hoping that it wouldn't be too long before he saw it again.
"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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 11: Unlikely Partnerships

"Your highness, General Cody is nowhere to be found." came the almost nervous voice from the other end of the comlink.

Bail shook his head, almost dumbstruck at Obi Wan's departure. "Have you checked the hangar? He did say he was going to inspect the maintenance on his fighter last I spoke to him."

A short pause followed by an even more jittery reply. "General Cody checked out his fighter and left the hangar some time last night." There was another short pause. "Planetary sensor logs show a craft matching his specifications exiting into hyperspace sometime in the early morning hours."

Bail hung his head, Its not that he needed Obi Wan to be present at the Another Chance ceremony, but the strict pacifist bloc in the planetary government would have appreciated it if the new chief of system defense, a man they had barely even heard of, would have been present to mark the occasion. To them this represented the Alderaanian Navy’s scorn at having their military hardware taken away from them.

With the Another Chance taking off with most of Alderaan's weapons the Defense Forces were being reduced into spaceport security and planetary shield operation. Even monitoring of system traffic was being transferred to civilian law enforcement agencies. While Bail had approved of many of these reforms he did not entirely approve of the timing. The pacifists were counting on the Empire to provide much of their planet's security, but at the same time growing more vocal against the Empire's policies. They did not realize that they could not have it both ways.

It was these kinds of situations when all else failed that the wisdom of a Jedi Master was necessary, but wherever Obi Wan was he obviously did not want to be found.

Obi Wan found himself in the middle of a conflict once again, only this time he was playing the role of revolutionary. The current flagship for the fledgling Rebel Fleet was one of the few remaining Providence-class cruisers. Obi Wan was given overall command of the ship and its contingent of soldiers and battle droids. He had not been aboard for even a day before having to brief his commanders about their first mission.

"In two days the Another Chance, along with her three escort ships, will depart the Alderaan System at approximately 1900 hours Galactic Standard. The first jump is largely ceremonial, a short micro jump out of the planet's system close enough to the planet for everyone to get a suitable view from the skyhook stations. Alderaan selected Dantooine as the secondary jump point due to its proximity to the outer rim, and beyond it the edge of the galaxy itself where the ships would be doomed to the obscurity of empty space. Rather than destroy this equipment, the ships have all been outfitted with remote recall transmitters on the remote chance that the equipment is ever needed once again. One of the few concessions Bail Organa was able to coax from the hardliner pacifists. But the real jump will be made here, at the Aowi system."

Obi Wan, in his guise as General Cody, was addressing several key political and military leaders of the newfound Rebellion. He stood next to a detailed holographic display charting the path at The Alderaanian War Frigate and its escorts were going to take to unexplored space, along with their cache of weapons.

From the seating area, a hand came up, a Gotal whose rank insignia indicated he had served in an officer's position with the Separatists. "Why is it that the jump coordinates were changed from a secure and simple jump to something as risky as an uncharted system?”

"A good question," Obi Wan could feel the Gotal's senses attempting to reveal anything they could about him. Gotals were known for their ability to read emotions and discern truth, and a man such as Obi Wan hidden beneath a mask and synthesized voice was difficult enough to begin with. "Alderaan is currently loyal, but they would prefer that the weapons be handed over to no one at all, even the Empire. There are also people within the soon to be decommissioned Alderaanian Navy would rather see their ships go to a good cause than sit idle.

The Gotal nodded his head and accepted Obi Wan's explanation, that the empathic Gotal acknowledged him assuaged the others around him and bolstered their confidence in Obi Wan, still under the guise of General Ben Cody. He had chosen for the time being to keep his lightsaber concealed for now and from the looks of things he felt he had made the right choice. Mon Mothma’s proxies recruited a considerable amount of former Separatists to fight against the Empire.

Obi Wan now understood the frustrations Bail had felt, but accepted them for the time being. These were not the same Separatists he had fought against such as Count Dooku, but rather the soldiers that truly believed that they had to fight for their freedom from the Republic, innocent beings manipulated by beings such as Nute Gunray, Wat Tambor, Passel Argente, and others.

Obi Wan had fought hard to prove to preserve the side he thought represented freedom and triumphed, but was horrified later on when he found out he had been fighting and advancing the cause of the Sith. Silently he thought to his self, "Now the true patriots of the galaxy are aligned. There won't be anymore confusion as to which side I should be battling." Obi Wan continued the briefing, making sure to let the people serving below him have a chance to give their input, and after a few hours they had their plan hammered out.

Upon entering the Aowi system, the Another Chance would begin to make another controlled hyperspace jump towards the spiral arms of the galaxy under the control of the navigational computer. In order to further the secrecy of the ships' location the hyperspace jump would be partially programmed by a randomizing factor in the computer, which would then be double-checked with star charts to ensure safety. Obi Wan’s skills had been insufficient to remove the programming and prevent the tertiary jump without anyone noticing, but he was able to implement a delay of thirty minutes, as long as he could manage without tripping any red flags in the computer.

Obi Wan's task force would jump into the system and a shuttlecraft would immediately head over to the Another Chance and begin altering the coordinates in the navigational computer free of interference. When that part of the mission commenced the Rebels sole Droid Control Trip would begin deploying droid fighters and keep a close watch, especially on the hyperspace vectors coming from the nearby Imperial staging area of Muunilist. They didn't expect any trouble, but in these days expectations were a liability as much as anything else.

Just as he was leaving the briefing room, a B1 battle droid walked up to Obi Wan, Obi Wan almost instictively went for his lightsaber but managed to restrain himself. "Sir," the droid said, in a mechanical tone not much different from his own. "New Intelligence from Oovo IV." Obi Wan read over the reports, much more detailed versions of what had managed to make the heavily censored holonet news broadcasts. A dark feeling grew in his stomach as he read the details...

Within his chambers on Coruscant, Darth Sidious examined a short list of names, short yet infamous to those who fought on the side of the Republic. Sev'rance Tann, Sora Bulq, and Tol Skorr just to name a few. Darth Tyranus, though merely the Apprentice in the Order of the Sith, utilized a number of Dark Side adepts to further the chaos in the galaxy. These apprentices, powerful as they were, were nothing but disposable pawns to him. Sidious knew that if any of these dark adepts had been allowed to survive they would pose as much of a threat as any Jedi to the power of the New Order. While it was perfectly acceptable within the Rule of Two to use acolytes and other Force using minions, Dooku’s vision of a Sith Army flew in the face of Sidious’ teachings. Another reason that Darth Tyranus’ reign as a Sith Lord would be a pitifully short one

Dooku had also done a terrible job of cleaning up after his messes, and his handling of the cadre of Dark Jedi under his command was terribly inept. Too many promising warriors had been killed to soon and others had not been killed soon enough. Sidious' eyes narrowed as he opened two data files on two particular subjects that fell into the second category. Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing, the only two of the names on the list that were not confirmed dead. If Dooku were still alive Sidious would have killed him anyways for his incompetence in failing to deal with them. But soon it would make no difference, the last of Dooku's pawns would soon be dead, and in such a way that serve the Sith despite a record littered with defeats.

Sidious rose to enact his plans when a message indicator lit up on his private channel, it was Vader, fresh from his mission on Tatooine, Sidious used activated the holoprojector. In the background behind him, a variety of military craft were coming and going, meaning that Anakin was still at the spaceport.

"General Skywalker," security was not absolute on the other end of the terminal. "I am pleased by the reports of your success."

"Master, my success was far greater than we could have hoped for. Jabba the Hutt has been dealt with and the remaining Hutt Lords will soon fall in line when word reaches Nal Hutta. I have also captured an important fugitive that will advance our efforts to eradicate the Jedi Order permanently."

Sidious maintained a calm demeanor, but within his mind he cackled, the news he had been awaiting was finally about to be delivered. The image shifted towards a shackled Yoda, who was currently standing still, his shoulders hunched and his head hung low as a trio of clone troopers trained their blasters on him.

"He surrendered without a fight Master, he is as broken as his Temple." Anakin's voice was full of anger, which pleased Sidious greatly. Dooku would have been filled with a false pride at this capture, while Anakin was able to truly focus his hate. The hate would make him powerful, and when he finally learned to embrace his anger he would grow even more powerful. Sidious looked at the Jedi Master whom he had defeated in the Senate Chambers and began laughing, the schemes and designs in his mind replaced with thoughts of the incredible pain he would inflict on his nemesis. For years he had been cold and methodical in enacting his vengeance, in the last days of the Republic though the Dark Side had called to him, clamoring for pain and suffering, calling on Sidious to fuel the blackness of his heart and revel in it.

"Do not delay General, have him turned over to my guardsmen and personally escort him to my office. I will deal with him from there."

"Yes my master."

Sidious turned from the projector and let out a maniacal laugh as he summoned his guards to him, deep within the underbelly of Coruscant, where Sifo Dyas and Jedi before him had been made to suffer. So too would Yoda. There was no doubt that Lord Vader would return to his family, and in order for his transformation to be complete he could not be allowed to stay with them for long.

Padme rested; sitting upright with her children nestled in her arms as a droid servant brought in a holoprojector.

"A transmission from General Skywalker my lady." the droid said.

Padme's eyes lit up, though the smile and warmth that she used to wear when seeing Anakin no longer came to her, she still desperately wanted to see him. Ever since the children had been born he had been away from her, being sent around the galaxy in the name of this New Order. The doctors had promised her that soon she would be able to take the children and return home, and not a moment too soon.

"Padme..." Anakin was obviously lost for words, as she looked upon his face she could see something in his eyes that gave away his mental fatigue. The darkness that had covered his face on Mustafar was still there, and the light she felt in her heart for him was fading. But she could still feel it, there wasn't anyone else that could save him right now, it was her duty to try, both as his wife and as the mother to her children.

"Ani, I miss you."

"I have missed you too, I am due for a meeting with Emperor Palpatine in but a few moments, when that is done I promise I will come to your side."

Padme felt tears well up in her eyes. "You will? Is that a promise?"

Anakin nodded. "It is, and I will stay by your side, and with our children, for a long rest." Anakin took a breath; the darkness within him was pushed back slightly. "I'm tired Padme, I'm sorry..."

"Don't be sorry Anakin, the doctors say I'll be able to go home soon, then we can all go to Naboo."

"I have responsibilities here." Anakin's excuse sounded weak, as if even he didn't believe it.

"You haven't stopped fighting ever since Geonosis, Anakin, no one can fight forever even if they're fighting for what they believe in."

Anakin looked shaken, his robotic hand opened and closed almost uncontrollably. Finally, his head turned, as he tended to do whenever he felt ashamed. "I will see you soon my love." The transmission ended as he turned away. As soon as it did Luke began crying, a soft gentle cry that subsided slightly as Padme pulled him closer to her. Leia cuddled up against her closer as well. The infant twins soon fell asleep, with Padme drifting off not long afterwards.

"Dooku was always fond of these sort of antiques." Ventress mused out loud as her fingers caressed over the exterior of Dooku's Solar Sail vessel. "Even though he had been a Jedi for so many years, he had never been able to escape the pompousness associated with aristocracy. He cherished his possessions almost as much as he cherished himself. It's no wonder he chose to forsake the Jedi." As Aurra Sing watched Ventress looked up, almost wistfully, at the roof of the large cave she now called home.

They had fled to Bpfassh, not far from where Ventress escaped from Republic custody after her defeat on Boz Pity. It was in this small out of the way area that Dooku and Ventress had established a small hidden enclave for themselves and Dooku's other disciples as the Clone Wars raged on, by keeping this outpost secret they had a place to fall back to when secrecy was necessary or to hide away prisoners when no other place would do. Bpfassh was also ideal because few Jedi dared travel there after Bpfasshi Dark Jedi turned against the order many years past. The bloody conflicts waged between them and the Jedi had led to a general distrust of Jedi in general by the natives of the planet.

"Dooku was a narcissist, I gathered as much when I met him, so what does this have to do with me?" Aurra Sing gritted her teeth and kept her hand close to the lightsaber Ventress had given her on Oovo IV. She had never liked taking orders when money wasn't at stake and she had never liked being out of control of the situation, currently Aurra wasn’t in control or in position to profit at the moment.

"It has everything and nothing to do with you Aurra Sing. Have you heard of what has become of the Jedi order from your prison cell?"

Aurra's voice became louder as she grew impatient. "I was stuck in that hole! How was I supposed to hear anything?"

If the aggressive posture Aurra was taking bothered Ventress, Asajj didn't let on. "Then you might be pleased to know that the Jedi have been all but wiped out."

Shock exploded across Aurra's face. She had never thought it possible, she could grasp the deaths of many Jedi, and even members on the council, but the entire Jedi Order being wiped out was nothing short of impossibility to her. She was only able to stammer out one word. "How?"

"Apparently our Jedi friends turned on the beloved Chancellor Palpatine shortly after he declared himself Emperor, the Jedi were wiped out by the clone army, and one of their own. The famed General Skywalker. Now that is where you and I come into play."

Aurra was losing control of the situation again just as she had begun to assert herself. In all of her experiences with the Jedi she had never faced Skywalker before, how was it then that Ventress was connecting her to him then?"

"Shortly after my last battle with Skywalker and Kenobi, " As Ventress spoke the name of Anakin's mentor she became filled with anger, so much that Aurra could feel it through the Force. "I came here and I was done fighting. Count Dooku had betrayed me on Boz Pity and I wanted nothing more to do with him. I took his Solar Sailer and came here, when I heard over the holonet that he had been killed I managed to assume several small hidden fortunes of his and I was on the verge of living in deep obscurity for the rest of my days. Until recently, when my true master contacted me."

"Your true master?" Aurra asked.

"Dooku was a brilliant strategist and powerful warrior, but even he lacked the power and desire to conquer the galaxy. My true master, the true Dark Lord of the Sith, is the one responsible for the Separatists, and for the entire war. He told me that if I killed Skywalker then I could take his place and become a Sith at last.

Aurra tensed at the mention of the Sith. Even though she had embraced the Dark Side, she did not want to cross paths with the Sith Lords, dealing with a Sith usually meant ending up as fodder for one of their plots. Dooku was evidence enough of that. It was too late now though, she was now tied to a Sith even more powerful than Dooku and there was no other alternative but to obey at this point.

Ventress continued. "I was ashamed to tell Lord Sidious that I was unable to defeat Skywalker, that his powers were beyond mine. But it did not take him long to provide me with your location and your imprisonment status. He told me that Skywalker must be eliminated and that you would be of great assistance in this matter."

Ventress walked towards Aurra Sing and ignited her lightsaber blade; Aurra activated hers and matched Ventress strike. As the two locked blades and exchanged vicious glances at each other Ventress smiled.

"He was right, you do have a hunter's instinct." Ventress disengaged her blade and propelled herself backwards with the Force, smiling. "With your help, and with the Dark Side of the Force. You and I will kill Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi will be extinct for all time!"

Aurra had never taken on a job for free, but she was drawn into this now. Not only did she owe Ventress, but also the opportunity she was being presented with was too great to pass up. She had sensed no deception from Ventress in the Force, and her hatred of the Jedi was as strong as it had ever been after Aayla Secura had defeated her and severed her Anzati implant.

Ventress clipped the hilt of her blade to her belt. "Will you help me?"

Aurra did the same, and after a brief pause she met Ventress’ gaze with ice- cold eyes. "I will."
"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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 12: Uninhibited Anger

Obi Wan entered through the doors and received an enthusiastic salute from his crew. Dealing with the escaped Dark Jedi would have to wait indefinitely, Obi Wan was sorely tempted to take his ship and hunt down Ventress and Sing, but he was committed to this operation. He only had a few scant hours to go over his command ship and review the strength of his task force. It was a motley assortment than what he was used to. His own flagship would be the Providence -class ship known as the Battlehymn . The ship was one of the last to make it out of the Separatist shipyards and it pleased Obi Wan that he was commanding a vessel that wasn't tainted with the blood of his former comrades. Accompanying him was the Droid Control Ship Master Control , The Ccorellian corvette Slashcat , and a pair of unnamed Carrack cruisers temporarily designated Alpha and Beta that were covered gaudy paint jobs that looked as if they were second hand pirate vessels.

The only thing about this force that had Obi Wan worried was the lack of heavy guns. But the nature of this mission was such that if they did come into combat the last thing they would want to be doing is sticking around for a fight, and if everything did go according to plan then they would be leaving with nine instead of five ships.

One of the men, dressed like infantry and carrying a very large sidearm at his hip, charged up to Obi Wan. At first it appeared as if the man was looking for a fight, but through the Force Obi Wan could tell this man's actions weren't hostile.

"Hey!" The man yelled, obviously showing a great disregard for rank. "C'mere let's talk." He put his arm around Obi Wan's shoulder in a manner that directed the two back out of the bridge and into the corridor.

"Is there something I can do for you..." Obi Wan asked, looking for any sort of insignia to identify the man.

"Typical higher ups, you don't even know who's serving under you! If you didn't have that lightsaber clipped to your belt I'd be seriously thinking about cracking your metal skull! I'm the captain of this here rig, Captain Slayke at your service."

The name rang a bell in Obi Wan's head, a briefing from several months ago shortly after returning from a solo assignment he'd been given by the council. While he had been gone Anakin had attained his Knighthood by assisting Jedi Master Nejaa Halcyon in defeating the Droid Armies on Praesitlyn. One of the items in that briefing involved a Captain Slayke who was the leader of a Pro-Republic militia that had bravely fought against the Separatists.

"Slayke? Zozridor Slayke?" Obi Wan asked.

"My reputation precedes me yet again!" Slayke boasted as he performed a heroic pose made more in jest than arrogance. Listen, I know you Jedi can be stiffs but I just wanted to let you know that'll fight for you as hard as I can, and the crew aboard this ship is going to do the same, not like what those bastard clones did.”

Slayke and his men had reorganized and with a bit of funding, public and private, he had managed to rebuild his forces to nearly three quarters of what they once were. Slayke had gained prestige and earend great respect from the Jedi Generals. After the successful battle of Praesitlyn along with Nejaa Halcyon, Slayke had served alongside of a half dozen other Jedi Generals, most notably along with Jedi Master Kal Qangzi.

Master Qangzi had been granted command over a clone army that was involved in heavy fighting on the Aqualish home world of Ando, where the Aqualish had been constructing several droid foundries that if functional would have flooded the Core Worlds with droid armies. Knowing he would need every soldier he could get, Qnagzi incorporated Slayke's forces into his own and the Clone Army was able to crush all resistance.

"I don't what it was that happened, but it was late at night back at the encampment. Kal was holding court in the prefab mess hall telling stories of how he and a couple of his friends used to bust smugglers along the Kessel Run. I wasn't there myself," Slayke ground his teeth and looked down as if trying to force the painful memory out of his mind. "I was over at the hangar where we had been landing the shuttles. But one of my men came running over to me that night. Apparently an entire legion of clones burst into the mess hall, blasters firing. They didn't stop until Kal and all of my men were little more than shredded sacks of meat. Then the rest of my men were attacked, and about twenty of us managed to escape on the Plooroid Balkin."

Obi Wan put his hand on Slayke's shoulder. He vividly remembered the attempt on his life at Utapau, and the battles in the Jedi Temple at Coruscant. Slayke went on further to explain how he had later found out of the Imperial cover up. Apparently Master Qangzi and Slayke were guilty of collaborating with the Aqualish rulers to betray the clone army to allow the Separatist droid factories to become operational. Slayke himself was now a fugitive, and Imperial Moffs had placed a bounty of over ten thousand credits on his head. Obi Wan could sympathize, both of these men had pledged their lives to a cause that deceived and betrayed them, nearly taking their lives in the process.

"Captain Slayke, there's nothing you could have done. I assure you that I would want nobody else at the helm of this ship right now. I am sure Master Qangzi was proud to serve with you, as Master Halcyon was after Praesitlyn."

Slayke seemed overwhelmed for a moment, and then his expression changed immediately as he regained his composure. "Hah! Never though I'd have to have a Jedi stiff cheer me up! You're all right, just remember that we're all counting on you for this mission though."

Obi Wan nodded, then considered a question. "Captain Slayke..."

"You have orders for me already? If I had know that I would have..."

"No, no, I don't have any orders Captain." Obi Wan assured him. "I just wanted to ask you what it was like serving with Anakin Skywalker on Praesitlyn."

Slayke grumbled for a moment. "I should have busted his jaw when I had the chance, he was a great soldier and a smart kid, but after what he's done to my Republic I owe him a good beating. I'll bet underneath that calm robot Jedi facade you have going on you'd like to give him a good pounding too eh?"

Obi Wan sighed, but his respirator didn't catch the sound. "More than you could possibly know."

Both men headed back to the bridge, where Obi Wan would begin the official mission countdown and finalize his battle plans with the captains of his task force.

The Crimson Guardsmen along with Anakin took their prisoner along the prescribed route through 500 Imperial. To the discreet elevator that led down below the works, and into the lair of the Sith were Darth Sidious awaited.

"Master Yoda, we meet again." Sidious cackled, but Yoda did not even bother to reply, or meet his gaze. "Did you think you could hide until that excruciatingly long lifespan of yours ended?" Sidious drew closer to Yoda, and motioned to his guards to take him into the next room. The stench of death flooded Yoda's nostrils and even Anakin was taken aback.

"This room has seen the death of many a Jedi Master. Some were even taken right off the streets of Coruscant itself, but never a Master of your own stature.” Palpatine’s gruesome visage hovered over his captive before turning to his apprentice. “Lord Vader, bind him to the chair."

Anakin looked over at his Master and nodded his head, Yoda shut his eyes as Anakin picked him up from the ground and slammed him onto the durasteel table, which still had the dried blood of Sifo Dyas on it. Yoda was then shackled to the chair, and he resisted against his bindings to test their strength. Nothing he couldn't break out of with the Force at his side.

"Don't let the shackles fool you Master Yoda, I have a far more permanent way of ensuring your subjugation. Guards, leave us."

The Crimson Guards left the room, now it was only the two Sith and their prisoner. Yoda was beside himself with shock, Palpatine trusted Skywalker with absolute certainty now. From under his robes Palpatine pulled a small object that appeared to be made of some kind of leather, and lined with pins. Sidious placed the object over Yoda’s face, the leather stretched and the pins dug into Yoda’s skin, piercing the musculature of his face. Anakin recognized from Obi Wan’s debriefing of his captivity as a Sith torture mask. “I do hope it fits, Phaellus Chuff was not a very willing participant in having this fitted. At least, not until his head was removed. Yoda’s eyes bulged out as far as they could at the revelation that the mask he now wore was fitted over the decapitated head of a man who had aided him in the past.

Before Yoda could make even a basic attempt to calm himself and prepare his body Sidious raised his hands to the air and the familiar sound of his Force lightning scorched the air a split second before connecting. Yoda bit into his lip and resisted but couldn’t suppress a scream.

"You see my apprentice, the manifest rage of the Dark Side is more than just an instrument of murder. Can you feel it now? Train your thoughts on Yoda."

Sidious attacked Yoda again and Anakin could sense Yoda's presence slipping away. But despite the enormous pain that was obviously being inflicted. Yoda was not dead, or even unconscious. The Dark Side called out to Palpatine as he intensified his attack, craving the suffering and pain and imposing those cravings onto the Dark Master. For years Palpatine had enacted the revenge of the Sith through quiet manipulations and strategic maneuvering.

When the time had finally come to destroy the Jedi the bulk of the work had been quick, efficient, thorough, and undeniably effective. But that effectiveness had done little to satisfy the craving for vengeance that ached in Palpatine's black heart. In order to satisfy the hunger for pain within him, he was willing to keep Yoda alive as his prisoner, so that he would never again know another day without suffering.

"You are keeping him alive somehow. You're doing more than just attacking him." Anakin interjected

"Good, Good Lord Vader, you are realizing to nature of the power that I promised. Only with the strength of the Dark Side is one able to influence the life force of a being. To prevent them from dying."

Sidious blasted Yoda again, as he used his lightning Anakin could sense the different powers at work. The incarnate anger was focused into lightning to brutally attack Yoda's body. The other power, which Anakin could tell was taking up much more of his concentration, was in forcing Yoda's cells to resist the attack. Leaving no damage to the body but causing an immeasurable amount of pain. Sidious continued this in various bursts for nearly a half an hour. With each second that passed Yoda howled through swollen vocal chords, his resolve wavered and he nearly screamed out to beg for mercy. Before that happened, Sidious stopped.

The Sith Master walked over to the table where Yoda desperately inhaled air into his lungs, the taste of each breath was noxious and foul but nevertheless it fueled him. Sidious stood next to Yoda and placed his hands over his body.

"Now Lord Vader, watch as I show you the only way to break a Jedi. By taking from him the very thing that justifies his existence!"

Yoda was in too much pain to fight back, the torture mask had robbed him of his ability to focus on the Force. If he knew what Palpatine was about to do he would have tried, and if he had known what kind of unspeakable tortures the Emperor had in mind for him he may not have gone along with Qui Gon's plan after all.

Palpatine stood over Yoda, and slowly but surely began severing his connection to the force.

"The ability to cut off the Force to another was a Jedi technique from long ago." Palpatine explained to Anakin with a strained voice. "It was abandoned because the effects were not entirely permanent, if the subject is powerful enough they may be able to once again feel the Force with retraining. As what happened to Darth Revan over four thousand years ago."

Palpatine was visibly taxing himself as the glowing essence of Yoda rose from his body and dissipated slowly into the air. Inside his body, the midichlorians, the small organisms that were an indicator of a being's force potential, died as their conduit to the Force was cut off. The pain of the Sith Lightning had been sharp and brutal but this was a much different ache, a solemn dull pain that was robbing Yoda's powers while destroying his perception and consciousness.

Palpatine didn't seem to be faring much better, but he would be able to recover. Yoda opened his eyes and watched, as Anakin stood there, unmoving and silent and scariest of all learning from his new Master's teachings. After several more minutes Sidious finally stopped. Yoda could feel that a part of his strength had been taken away from him, but not completely. Yoda mustered what part of the Force he could and attempted t omend his body and psyche as best he could while Darth Sidious turned to his apprentice, weary but unharmed.

"The process is incomplete for now Lord Vader," Sidious said to his apprentice. But it is of no concern, I will continue again tomorrow. I do hope you have learned something from this."

"I have my master, I will contemplate this further tonight."

"Remember though Lord Vader, pain is not the only weapon of the Sith. The dark side is fed by anger, passion, suffering, and fear. Of those four things perhaps the most important one to cultivate is fear."

"But Master, A true Sith has no fear."

"It is the fear of others, your opponents, your enemies, those that are weaker than you. That is the fear you must take control of. It is where many apprentices have failed, but where you will succeed Lord Vader. The Sith are the masters of the Dark Side, no matter who you face always remember that their fear is your weapon. Once you have mastered that then no one will ever defeat you."

Sidious and Vader walked out of the chamber, leaving the unconscious Yoda alone temporarily. "He will be a tough one to break," remarked Sidious "but his prolonged agony will be the perfect end to his considerably long and considerably charmed life. For now though I have a new task that requires your personal attention.

Anakin felt as if he had taken a blaster bolt to his chest. "Master, I was hoping..."

"Yes yes I know, you haven't spent much time with your family since the birth of your children. However this assignment is directly related to their well being." Sidious stopped as Anakin stopped with him. "I take it you remember a Dark Jedi by the name of Asajj Ventress?"

Anakin crushed his mechanical fist and the Dark Side rushed to him. Sidious smiled at the display of anger. "It has been reported that she was the mastermind behind Aurra Sing's escape from the Oovo IV military prison. Intelligence indicates that she used a solar sailer not unlike the one Count Dooku used to escape from Geonosis." Another unimportant line but one that Sidious knew would get a rise out of Vader, and it did. When it came to his apprentice there were two things that he knew would immediately draw an angry response: commentary regarding his wife, and the battle that took his hand.

They had battled before with Anakin nearly killing her on Yavin IV and encountering her again on the Gungan colony of Oh’ma Dun. Shortly after returning from the Battle of Rendili, Anakin had encountered Asajj Ventress on Coruscant. Ventress had been there to assassinate the rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos but instead discovered Anakin's secret marriage. She threatened Padme's life and the two dueled, with Anakin sending her into the abyss of Coruscant. She had survived somehow and was in the process of being cybernetically restored by Count Dooku when Anakin had fought her and nearly killed her again in a ferocious battle on Boz Pity that had nearly seen Ventress, Grievous, and Count Dooku fallen on the same day.

Anakin was put off slightly at the news, he had thought Ventress dead for good at Boz Pity. "I will hunt her down and kill her master." he said in a grim voice.

His utter seriousness was met though with deflecting laughter from Palpatine.

"I have no doubt in my mind Lord Vader, but I have already saved you the trouble. Ventress and Sing are in the Alderaan system. General Skywalker is due to attend the demilitarization ceremony as the official Imperial Representative. They are there for the express purpose of killing you."

Anakin began to ask a question, and then stopped. He had wanted to ask how it was that Ventress knew where Anakin was to be in advance, but there was only one possible solution. His master had orchestrated the entire Clone Wars, he had manipulated countless soldiers and planets including powerful men such as Count Dooku and even the Jedi Council. He had also proven with Dooku that he wasn't above using his apprentices as bait either. It didn't matter, Obi Wan had used Anakin in the same manner several times before and Anakin preferred a combat situation rather than the ivory tower “behind the scenes” dueling that was Lord Sidious' specialty. Sidious examined his apprentice for any sort of objection but found none.

"I will destroy them both master, it would be my pleasure." Darth Vader said as he finally relaxed his fist.

"Then there is no need for further discussion. A shuttle will be waiting to take you to Alderaan in about twelve hours. You may spend a short time with your family but see to it that you arrive at the shuttle promptly. When you reach Alderaan, I will contact you with their exact location."

Vader bowed to Sidious and then immediately made his way towards the lift that would take him back up to the city, and to his family. The Emperor summoned his guards once again to his side.

"See to it that the Jedi is fully sedated," Palpatine handed the lead guardsman a small datapad. "Have the medical droids set up an intravenous flow triggered to his neural responses. Then while he's unconscious fit him with a slave chip." That was an order he couldn't give in front of Anakin, who was vehemently against the same devices that had enslaved him as a child.

Sidious laughed again. It had taken many years, and for the first time he felt completely and utterly victorious. But there was still work to be done in preserving that victory. He made his way back to his office flanked by a pair of his guards. There was one last transmission he had to make, one that could only be made by Darth Sidious. Soon Lord Vader’s transformation would be complete and a pair of Dooku’s loose ends would be tied up for good.

“Master Tholme, it is good to see you again.”

“It has been a long time Master Shryne, I see you’ve managed to uncover a fair number of our order. Were you all stationed on Murkhana?” The former member of the Jedi Council asked.

“Not quite, Master Chatak and Padawan Starstone were, but the others we found adrift in space with the help of a band of freelancers, whose captain just so happens to be my mother. Fortunately the Imperial garrison on Jaguada wasn’t informed of our whereabouts and we were able to use an old Separatist hyperwave transceiver without incident. We managed to sneak past the Empire and arrive here after slicing the Jedi temple database hoping to find Master Yoda. It was mostly my young Padawan’s idea.” Shryne was always one to give credit where credit was due.

General Roan Shryne was the commander of the Republic forces on Murkhana and was the only Jedi General who had been spared thanks in part due to the refusal of clone troopers to obey Order 66. He and his Jedi companions had escaped Murkhana and rescued several other Jedi fleeing from the Empire. Upon arriving at Kashyykk they had been permitted to search some of the surrounding areas that had been abandoned by the clones following the defeat of the Separatists. It seemed to be a miracle that they had found Jedi Masters Tholme, Tra’Saa, and Quinlan Vos, all hidden in a densely forested area not far from the Wawatt archipelago. After some short introductions and a sharing of stories, Shryne had brought the others up to date on the current political situation as best as he could.

“Yoda’s not dead,” the low and disgruntled voice of Quinlan Vos spoke. “At least, he did not die during the attack of the clones. I wish I could say the same for Master Luminara.”

“But you are alive Quinlan, which is very good considering the extent of your injuries.” The soothing female voice belonged to Tra’Saa. The fact that all of us Jedi have managed to gather is nothing short of extraordinary. It shouldn’t be happening at all.”

“But it is happening,” Tholme interjected. He was possibly the most senior Jedi left alive and he knew that the other Jedi would be looking to him for leadership, even Tra’Saa.

“Quinlan, Roan, I hate to do this to you but I am still not healthy enough to go out on a mission. But you two should work well together. With Quinlans stealth and tracking abilities and Roan’s ability to sense the Force in other beings, you two are the perfect choice.”

The two Jedi Masters had never even met before, but the exchanged knowing glances knowing that they may die at each other’s side. Tholme allowed them a second before continuing.

“There’s one other Jedi Master that may have survived whose help we will need. Her name is Shadday. If there are any other Jedi left in the galaxy she has already started to gather them. She is impatient, and may act on her own too soon, but if you tell her that I need her help she should join with you.”

Bol Chatak, silent up until this point, folded her arms and spoke. “Kashyykk will not be safe for long. When word gets out that surviving Jedi are coming here the Empire will use it as an excuse to take over Kashyykk. We need a new rendezvous point, someplace safer where we wont be putting anyone in danger.

“Agreed,” Tra’Saa nodded. “Perhaps we can rendezvous at one of the unused Jedi Academies.”

“Dantooine and Ilum are both compromised.” Tholme noted, "We can relocate to Telos for the time being but there is still a chance we might be discovered."

Quinlan was still skeptical about the plan. "And what if Telos has already been compromised. We don't know how much Skywalker knows, if he or any other Imperial has gone through the archives enough then Telos is already a death trap.

"There is Jedi knowledge that exists outside of the archives. There is an old temple on Telos beneath the polar ice caps that Jedi have used as a sanctuary for thousands of years. It will be secure for now."

"The Drunk Dancer, our ship in orbit, can give you passage to Telos. But I don't know how Master Vos and I are going to get around."

"I can take care of that Master Shryne," Quinlan said with a smirk on his face. "there's a Devaronian here on Kashyykk with a ship we can use. He's the one that saved me from the clones."

Tholme stood, absently rubing the cybernetic grafts on his leg. "Then it's settled, tomorrow at dawn we begin the process of restoring the Jedi Order."

Author's Notes:

I finished with the rewrites and i'm ready to work on the new content! If you check out the end of Chapter 12 you'll notice some entirely new material made possible by other EU sources that helped me get over a year long case of writer's block. I'm very glad I returned to this fic, comments and criticisms from a year ago helped me greatly, so be sure to leave any you might have currently as well!

Part the Second:

I decided not to go with the Dexter Jettster/Coruscant route at this point, I might even edit it out entirely. Further review has made me rethink a couple of plot points. Those concerned with the potential presence of Villie needn't worry that he will become overly important.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2006-10-09 05:18pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 13: Dark Currents

Anakin was now known across the entire galaxy as both “The Hero Without Fear” and as the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Armed Forces. But none of Anakin’s prestige nor his reputation would be able to spare him of his next task, telling Padme that he had to leave Coruscant yet again for another undisclosed amount of time. Since the birth of the twins, Anakin had spent two or three hours with his family before heading off to invade Enarc, and subjugate Hutt Space via his conquest of Tatooine. The Hutts were all too eager to rescind overall control of their systems to the Empire, without a sufficient battle fleet or a powerful ally to offset Imperial dominance they had little choice.

Now Anakin had less than half a day to spend with his family before being sent off again to another fight. Anakin might have been tempted to ignore the request, but this assignment had too much personal meaning to it all. Asajj Ventress had already threatened Padme’s life once, now that he was a father were born she would be a threat to his children as well. Her enlisting of known Jedi killer Aurra Sing added to this threat. Ironic how the fall of the Jedi meant that these two dark butchers would finally receive the punishment they deserved.

The fact that his master had arranged the trap using him as the bait was not lost on him, but it wasn’t of any concern to Anakin, his strength had increased significantly since the last time he battled Ventress, and Aayla Secura had managed to beat Aurra Sing on her own. Anakin caught himself several times actually looking forward to the battle. Although he would still have to serve as the diplomatic representative on Alderaan for the Another Chance ceremony and that thought bored him to no end.

From the complex where Palpatine had kept Yoda, it was an hour or so by skycab to Amidala’s new residence. Anakin had arrived in just under fifteen minutes with the help of the same commandeered speeder he had used to pursue the shape shifting bounty hunter who had nearly assassinated Padme. It was another gift from Palpatine, though how he had managed to obtain that exact speeder he wasn’t sure. Since the birth of the twins and the execution of the Representative Jar Jar Binks for treason, Naboo had chosen to elect a new Senator. That Senator now resided in the suite where Anakin and Padme had shared so many nights together, but Palpatine had secured them a luxurious estate near the ruined Jedi Temple, a reward for Anakin’s service. Although whether the reward was the estate or the breathtaking view of Anakin’s own destructive battle in the temple Anakin wasn’t sure.

Anakin arrived expecting to see a small army of droids performing household tasks but found the residence almost completely free of automated attendants save for a small floating recorder droid, an Industrial Automations Private Oral Data droid, commonly known as an I-POD, to be exact. Anakin had followed the sound of music up a staircase and into the room that had been set up for the children, with a pair of cribs dominating the center of the room. The I-POD was playing a soft melody Anakin recognized as a Naboo nature hymn. Padme had fond memories of them growing up as a child and it was obvious that Luke and Leia enjoyed them also as they were quite content in their mother’s arms.

A weary Padme Amidala looked up at her husband. Too weak to do anything else, she simply smiled in a way that let Anakin know it was his turn to hold the children. Taking a seat next to her, he brought the children over to him with the Force, levitating them gently so as not to disturb them. Leia remained fast asleep but Luke’s eyes opened slightly and he caught a quick glance at his father, who was smiling at him proudly, before his weary infant eyes closed again.

Padme leaned back in her chair and looked back over at Anakin, who was rocking slightly in the repulsor-rocker opposite the one she was seated in. This was her husband, a Lord of the Sith responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Jedi and Jedi younglings, the leader of the most feared army in galactic history, a loving father whose heart melted at the sight of his kids. Now that he was home, the healing could begin, and that was when she could start making things right, she couldn’t do it without him.

They sat together in a blissful silence for another fifteen minutes before Anakin laid the children to rest in their cribs. It was then that the happy moment was shattered.

“I have to leave again.” Anakin said with no trace of emotion in his voice/

Padme was too stunned for tears. “So soon? But you’re only just returning from your last two missions!”

Anakin shrugged his shoulders. “Is this any different from when I was stuck out in the Outer Rim sieges? With no end in sight, droids swarming all around me, and people dying everywhere I look?” He turned away, restraining his words. Memories of his temper on Mustafar came back to him, how he had used the Force and attacked her in a fit of anger. He banished those thoughts from his mind. It was Obi Wan’s fault, but now he was gone and it would never happen again.

Padme immediately regretted pressing further. She felt guily because while Anakin had been stuck on the Outer Rim she had lived a life of luxury; naively thinking that what she had been doing was part of the fight also and she feared that she had pushed Anakin further away.

But instead of him leaving, or lashing out, he had turned to her and embraced her, pulling her close to him. “It’s all right my love. You do need me here and the twins need me here, but the Empire needs me on Alderaan. If I don’t go I fear what might happen.”

“Why fear?” Padme asked, her own fear turning into curiosity. Anakin had been willing to throw away everything before and now suddenly official responsibilities had priority. She suspected Palpatine had something to do with it but dared not accuse him of anything in front of Anakin without proof.

Anakin thought for a moment before speaking again. “This stays between us.” Padme nodded her consent silently, relieved that he could still trust her implicitly. “Officially I am the representative of the Empire at the ceremony that will decommission the last ships of the Alderaanian navy. Unofficially, I am going to deal with a pair of assassins that are out for my head.”

Padme gasped, frightened at the danger he was knowingly walking into. There was one question she had to ask that was gnawing at her so much that she risked asking it. “Jedi assassins?”

Anakin’s head cocked slightly in an attempt to decipher why she had asked, but he quickly dismissed it. “No, worse actually. A bounty hunter named Aurra Sing, who knows the Dark Side of the Force, escaped from imprisonment. Rumor has it that her benefactor was none other than Asajj Ventress.”

“Ventress? But I thought you said that you killed her?”

“I’ve killed her three different times, and unlike Count Dooku and the clone of his that I dealt with years ago, it was her on every occasion. This time though will be much different.” Anakin’s voice dropped lower, and he seemed to become slightly more distant. “I won’t be held back now, and you and the children will be safe. Ventress will pay for threatening us.”

Padme remembered the story of how Ventress had discovered their relationship by stealing a holographic message she had recorded for Anakin, and how he had battled her on Coruscant after his brief return following the Battle of Rendili. She knew her husband, he wouldn’t stop until he felt that she was safe and that probably meant he wouldn’t stop until Asajj Ventress was dead. But Padme was also tired of the constant worrying and waiting, and she knew that she was doing herself a disservice by allowing herself to despair so much. Instead, she decided to do something she had always done for Anakin before.

She was going to believe in him.

“Ok, Anakin. I understand.”

That had thrown Anakin off visibly. He was definitely surprised at Padme’s reaction, almost as much as she was.

“I understand because you’re doing what you’ve always done. You’re doing what you think is right and there’s no way anyone can stop you. But I want you to make me a promise and I want you to keep it.”

His heartbeat quickened, and he held her hand. “Anything you want. Just name it.”

A pause, and then Padme was finally able to speak through a steady yet calm stream of tears. “Just come home soon.”

The galaxy’s most famous couple leaned into each other for a passionate kiss, their first since the day Anakin had killed Count Dooku. For but a few brief moments they were back at the lake on Naboo, and the entire universe around them was at peace.

The kiss went unseen save for one very concerned individual. Palpatine had given Anakin the estate but not before lining every room in the opulent house with the most advanced surveillance technology available, even more advanced than what was in current use by Imperial intelligence field agents. The image of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala embracing caused Sidious to lash out with the Force, destroying the terminal in front of him.

”That woman will ruin my plans for Lord Vader yet. I will have to move quicker than anticipated.”

It was of great importance, but little concern. For the plan to kill Padme Amidala was already in place, just waiting to be implemented. It would require yet another disposable asset of his though, that and the cooperation of Lord Vader himself.

Obi Wan’s fleet was less than a day away from the Another Chance recovery mission and already he was starting to feel like a general again. The preliminary planning had taken place in some of Mon Mothma’s secure compounds on Chandrila, but the actual staging area for the mission was the planet Toprawa. There was a miniscule Imperial presence in the area and the system’s inhabitants had no love of the Empire. They had a long history of supporting the Republic, especially the Jedi, but that respect had dwindled in the past hundred or years as corruption and perceived decadence created distrust of the Senate. Had the Toprawans possessed the resources of a system such as Corellia, they would have declared themselves independent many years prior to the Clone Wars.

It was the ideal location, and they had sufficient manpower and firepower for the task at hand. But spare parts and programming equipment necessary for the function of the droid starfighters was still in transit along hidden Neimoidian hyperspace routes when it should have already arrive. To make matters worse. Captain Zozridor Slayke had been involved in a verbal dispute with the Aqualish captain of one of the Carrack cruisers when the two beings had recognized each other from a particularly bloody conflict on Ando. Obi Wan had successfully mediated that conflict, but internal disputes were increasing in frequency as frustrations began to mount, one of the key problems when fighting an underground war.

“So now this Skakoan cyborg son-of-a-mynock is telling me that they can’t even get a simple shipment of proton torpedoes through because of ‘Increased Imperial Activity’ in his sector. You believe that General? I told him he could go kark himself. I know guys who used to haul ten times that much contraband with smaller ships across both Republic and Separatist lines! This is what happens when you put a bunch of Techno Union paper pushers in place of a real Quartermaster! We had a guy like that in Freedom’s Sons who did an amazing job on Praesitlyn, but not half as good as the guy Nejaa, err… Master Halcyon brought in. Best damn Quartermaster I’ve ever seen, went by the name of Mess Boulanger. Bastard clones got him on Ando, but I’m telling you if old Mess were here instead of these sithspawned seps…”

“I get the picture Captain Slayke, I can sympathize. However, if we’re going to succeed to restoring the Republic, we’re going to have to cooperate with people that we might have been shooting at months, even weeks ago.

Obi Wan had taken to listening to Slayke’s reminiscent monologues every now and then. The man was quite popular amongst the lower level soldiers in his command regardless of past affiliation and he had hoped that by keeping confidence in Slayke it would help boost morale. Sometimes though it pained Obi Wan to have to deal with Slayke’s grandstanding, and his obvious disdain for former Separatists. Fortunately for Obi Wan, Slayke had a built in respect for the Jedi though after serving along side of them through dozens of battles, on the ground and in space.
“I'm sorry General, it’s just so frustrating sitting around and waiting while the kriffing Empire does whatever it wants.”

“I understand Captain. This is one of the few times you’ll ever hear me say this but perhaps you could learn a little bit from the Neimoidians.”

Slayke’s mixed expression of confusion and disgust was nearly comical, but Obi Wan knew he had better have a good explanation. “Granted they’re as cowardly as a protocol droid but they spend their downtime before a fight doing one thing, they prepare themselves for the battle ahead so that when the battle is over they’ll have a better chance of coming home.”

“If they were real soldiers they wouldn’t fear dying. Don’t you Jedi have a saying about death?”

“There is no death. There is only the Force.” Obi Wan repeated almost instantly, the way he had been trained to do when he was an apprentice learning at the feet of Master Yoda. “You’re right. There is no reason to fear death, but let me as you this Captain. If we go into battle and you get yourself killed because of some manufactured need to release your pent up aggressions, what does that accomplish? You die for a noble cause but you didn’t do anything to advance it.”

Slayke hung his head in thought; Obi Wan wondered if this was the first time he had ever been told anything like that before. “It’s going to be hard to learn to cooperate with the Neimoidians, or the Skakoans, or the Muunilisti, or the Koorivar or whomever else fought with Count Dooku. But right now these species are being persecuted within the Empire and it won’t be long now before more steps against them are taken. They have put their faith in us by joining this alliance and we will honor both our commitment and our allies, just as you and Nejaa did.”

Obviously moved and at a loss for words Slayke simply saluted his General again. Obi Wan returned the salute as Slayke’s communicator was going off. He pulled the small device from his pocket and put it to his ear, Obi Wan couldn’t hear the conversation, but judging by his subordinate’s reaction it was good news.

“Yes! I don’t believe this! Turns out there’s a few disgruntled former members of the Banking Clan’s “loan enforcement division” with an extra load of torpedoes that we’re going to be getting within the next couple of hour. Them bald headed bean counters at the IBC decided to disband their department as a show of support for the Empire and these guys didn’t take kindly to losing their jobs. There should be enough for all of the fighters we need to load plus a handful of Hailfire droids. Never thought I’d be so happy to see any of those rolling through my front door.”

“Nice to know that even in times like these the Force still works in mysterious ways.” Obi Wan said, paraphrasing an old Jedi catchphrase. “You had better go deal with those shipments then Captain, we’ll be leaving soon. Remember what I told you though.

Slayke grumbled slightly under his breath but still managed a cocky smile as he looked back over his shoulder.

“Do I have to General?” Knowing full well what the response would be.
Obi Wan laughed. “Consider it an order.”

Roan Shryne and Quinlan Vos were both passengers aboard the Inferno, courtesy of the bounty hunter Vilmarh Grahk, better known in some circles as Villie. The two Jedi had never met before, and their careers had been much different. But they managed to get along well, and they found that they operated in similar manners. Each of them had significant connections and experience within the galactic underworld in many different regions. Each of them had their issues with the Jedi Order as well, yet still found theirs to be a worthy cause.

“So you turned down a job with acquisitions? I'm surprised, not too many Jedi ever turn down such an offer.”

“I'm surprised that so many Jedi would so readily accept such an assignment. I still get this gut wrenching feeling every time I think about it, and it’s only gotten worse since meeting my birth mother. It would have been especially awkward for you if the Order came around to you after the war wondering if they could sign Korto up.

Roan Shryne was probably one of three or four people left alive in the galaxy that could have gotten away with saying that to Quinlan’s face without suffering some form of injury. The political situation had gone from bad to worse at the worst possible time for the Kiffar Jedi. “I see what you mean.”

“Hey Jedi!” The heavily accented voice was Villie’s. “Inferno now entering Trigalis system. I still not know why Jedi would want to go there, mostly smugglers and vermin hanging around.”

“You mean beings like you?” Shryne quipped, eliciting a chuckle from Quinlan.

“Yes, like me, which is why you not really want to go there. Besides, much nicer on Borleias, southern hemisphere in summer right now you know, best resorts in the inner systems, many yum yums in skimpy outfits too ya?”

Villie was met with a pair of blank stares indicating that his attempt at humor had failed miserably. “Fine, fine, Villie would rather not get sunburned anyways. Still, I wonder what fugitive Jedi would be doing in New Coronet. After Jedi Kenobi bust up Xist’s stronghold the city be even less friendly than before, especially for Jedi.”

“That’s exactly why I’d expect to find Master Shadday there,” Shryne said. “Unless she has some suicidal ulterior motive then she’ll go wherever the Empire isn’t and wherever anyone wouldn’t expect to find Jedi. Before the Republic took Boz Pity, Master Secura had sent out a small note regarding Kenobi’s operation there. If I received it, then I'm sure Shadday received a similar briefing.”

Unknown to Shryne and Villie, the mention of the now deceased Master Aayla Secura tore through Quinlan like a knife, he kept his anguish hidden from his expression, but Shryne could have sworn he had heard Vos mutter something under his breath.

“Hokay, no more explanation needed. Just remember that not too many people in New Coronet like Villie, not many Devaronian females either. Better not spend long there.” Villie grumbled as the Inferno skimmed over the skies towards th New Coronet spaceport.

“We wont have to,” Shryne said with his eyes closed and a serene expression over his face. “I sense a presence in the Force, several of them.” He turned and looked towards Vos, “There are Jedi down there.”

Villie looked over at Shryne, who had moved over to look out at the planet through the main viewport, seemingly trying to pick out where to land in the city.

“How he know that?” Villie asked.

“Master Shryne is sort of a Jedi Kath Hound.” Vos explained in a low voice. “He can detect Force users better than anyone else in the Jedi Order.”

“Well why not anyone say so? If that is case then Villie no longer worried about this being a wild ibbot chase ya? Hokay, hokay, no more time for small talk is time to land the ship.”

With the Empire firmly in control of the galaxy and his New Order already entrenching itself deeply on Coruscant, Darth Sidious found it much easier to move about the world to his various strongholds. Already his office had begun requisitioning funds and properties within the capital, which would soon be rechristened Imperial Center by his own decree. No longer would he be forced to head deep underground into the works, utilizing improvised dungeons and storerooms. Now he could forward his schemes unquestioned and with the full might of his office behind him.

Since ascending to his throne and suffering his “disfigurement”, Darth Sidious could also avoid and deny his appearance to the endless throngs of Senators seeking an audience. That had been one of the biggest and most immediate benefits of the reorganization of the former Republic. Catering to those Senators regardless of their affiliation had been a test of even Sidious’ vast patience.

His shuttle took him to a little used platform high in the city skyline to the official Emperor Palpatine Surgical Reconstruction Center. Construction of this building had been slated for Jedi and clone troopers who would want to have their bodies restored to maximum functionality after the Clone Wars. But since Order 66 and the continuation of hostilities with the CIS Remnants, Palpatine had appropriated for his personal use to pursue some of his more sinister pet projects.

One of these projects he had hastily organized after it had become obvious that Darth Vader’s power was growing too fast to be kept fully under control and that his wife had become an obstacle to his Sith training. The Rule of Two prevented him from harboring another apprentice, but it did allow for Dark Side Adepts provided that they would eventually be disposed. Nor did it prevent him from pitting potential apprentices against each other either. One of Sidious’ personal assets had sat out most of the war on Coruscant after being taken out of commission early on. Before Sidious’ order to dispose of the incapacitated being had been carried out though, he reneged it, instead finding one last use.

Moving through the corridors past several unused surgical centers he came upon a more private room that was geared towards neural reconstruction. The medical had said that his charge showed no physical signs of trauma, and that there was nothing they could do. But the droids lacked the Force, and the specific knowledge of the subject’s condition.

The subject was in a healing trace, one far deeper than those used by the Jedi. While the subject remained in such a trace they would aware of their surroundings with the Force but unable to interact and sustained by extremely slowed life functions and the Force. The trace was so deep that it took another being powerful in the Force and with knowledge of the technique to awaken the user. Sith had used it for thousands of years to feign death, but the effect of this particular force technique drove users mad with isolation if they remained in isolation for too long.

Invisible tendrils of the force, saturated with the dark side reached into the subject’s mind and slowly but surely reactivated those parts of the central nervous system closed off. During the procedure, he was reminded of his lecture to Anakin in the opera house.

“The Dark Side is a path to many abilities some would consider unnatural.

The subject’s eyes opened for the first time in years, and even the dim lights of the surgical center were painful. But the time had come to be re awakened as the Dark Lord had promised all those years ago.

“We are successful my lord.” The voice spoke for the first time in years.

Sidious nodded. “You have served me well, Darth Cynyst, far better than that fool Tyranus. Thanks in part to your efforts the Jedi have been crushed and order is being restored to the galaxy. But there is still one more task you must complete before I can make you my apprentice.”

Darth Cynyst contemplated her master’s words. “Then there is a third after all.”

“By killing Tyranus, he rightfully took his place. However, you will have your chance to take Lord Vader’s place at my side.”

Cynyst clenched a fist, after sacrificing everything for the opportunity to become a Sith Lord and risking a potentially fatal encounter with the former apprentice Count Dooku, another had risen to take the prize instead.

“Who is this unworthy pawn my Lord, that I might crush him and claim what is mine.” Cynyst said, the Dark Side augmenting the threat with a venomous edge.

“He is known as Darth Vader, though should you attempt to discern his true identity I can guarantee that not only will I deny you the opportunity to become my apprentice, but I will also deny you a quick and painless death as well.”

Cynyst nodded, Lord Sidious never made idle threats. Satisfied with his potential apprentice’s obedience, he gave his order. “The Jedi may have been scattered but some of them are attempting to gather in secret. Divided they are of no concern but should they attempt to establish a hidden Jedi Order it would prove a dangerous threat to us.”

“I shall go then and disperse this gathering then my Master. The Jedi will be nothing more than fugitives across the spiral arms of the galaxy. I have craved the opportunity ever since my hibernation.”

Sidious gave one of his toothy smiles, revealing part of his gruesome features. “Your patience after all this time shall be rewarded. But we will allow the Jedi to gather for the time being. Tholme is a fool to believe that he can rebuild without my knowledge. He believes himself to be a great master of stealth and hiding, and his arrogance will doom him and anyone foolish enough to follow him. However your public identity will be enough to draw him out into the open. Wait here until I call upon you, and be sure to catch up current events. I have provided the necessary data to the computer terminal in this room as well as a legitimate cover story to explain your resurgence.”

“Yes my Master, I only have one question.” Cynyst waited until Lord Sidious nodded his approval before asking. “What was the fate of my former master?”

“Your concern about his fate is touching. Perhaps you feel some remorse at having betrayed him to entre my service?” Sidious enjoyed asking questions like these as a way of testing his follower’s intellect and loyalty.

“I only seek to satisfy my curiosity my Lord, in the end he could only be an obstacle to your plans for the galaxy. An obstacle I would gladly remove should it remain.

Sidious pondered his answer, hoping to cultivate the desired effect. “Your master was killed on the eve of the war’s end, by none other than Darth Vader. That was how he ascended to become my new apprentice and I will say nothing more. If for some reason you feel slighted at not having the chance to dispose of him yourself, then you can confront Lord Vader about it after you complete your next assignment. Then, and only then will you be given the chance to prove yourself once and for all”

Darth Cynyst bowed, “Your generosity is unmatched my lord. I humbly await your commands.”

Minutes later, Sidious was again in his shuttle traversing the air over Coruscant. As soon as his agents on New Coronet contacted him, he could put the wheels of Amidala’s death into motion.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-11-19 07:55pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 14: Games of Chance

“So far we’ve received confirmations from almost every invited government; however there have been some notable exceptions. Chandrila, Mon Calamari, and Kestos Minor have all declined to attend, their official refusals were all quite polite but when I personally contacted their governments I was treated as if I had insulted their family members. Sern Prime won’t even bother to respond and all attempts to contact Senator Zar have been futile.”

Bail Organa massaged his aching forehead. He was busy finalizing the preparations for the Another Chance ceremony in his office within the The briefing given to him by Raymus Antilles, commander of the Tantive IV and brother in law of Queen Breha, was disappointing but not unexpected.

“It appears that Mon Mothma’s recent disliking of me has grown beyond personal. Their refusal to attend only singles them out further to the Empire. Speaking of which, has there been any word from the Imperial Representative? Will Sate Pestage be attending?”

Antilles handed a small datapad to Bail. “Look for yourself; we received this message less than an hour ago from the Emperor’s office himself. It appears that Supreme Commander Skywalker will be the Imperial delegate.”

Bail hadn’t expected that particular bit of information. “Why would they send him? According to the holonet there are still Separatist holdouts all over the Outer Rim, not to mention the fact that the man’s wife just gave birth to twins.” Antilles remained silent, but even Bail admitted that it was plainly obvious that the presence of Anakin Skywalker on Alderaan was upsetting him; he took a moment and caught his breath. “Do you think he suspects anything? If Skywalker knows that we saved the life of Obi Wan Kenobi we, not to mention all of Alderaan, are in incredible danger.”

“Not a chance,” Raymus said, “Nobody knows of Master Kenobi’s operation and disappearance other than the operating physicians, Master Yoda, and us. We’ve already circulated reports than General Ben Cody has resigned his commission out of disgust and has retired from active duty, so if anyone comes looking for either individual they will find nothing here.”

Bail clasped his hands behind his back and turned to a nearby window, looking out towards the sky hoping for any sort of answer. “I think we should see that those doctors are out of the city for the duration of the festivities. Contact the chief surgeon over at Galactic Polysapient and see if those physicians wouldn’t mind an impromptu holiday at the hot springs in Crevasse City.”

“I will see what I can do. The director and I go way back. Is there anything else I need to take care of for Skywalker’s arrival?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary, make sure the Repub…” Bail caught himself. “…Imperial embassy liaison is fully informed and let them know we’ll be happy to lend them anything they might need. When his ship arrives in orbit let me know personally so that I can meet him.”

“But sir, aren’t you concerned that doing so might make it appear that the government is catering to the Empire? Won’t meeting with the Supreme Commander of the military stir some animosity with the pacifist bloc?”

Bail turned back towards Antilles. “It can’t be avoided. If I take the time to play planetary politics now I’ll be putting a lot of lives in danger. I know I’ll be putting House Organa’s and House Antilles’ credibility at risk, but if it means that I can keep Alderaan safe from the Empire I’ll do so time and again.”

“I understand, and I’m sure Breha understands also.”

The two men shook hands and made their separate ways. While Raymus Antilles had officials business to take care of, Bail Organa needed some time alone to think.

“By the black stars, of all the people Palpatine could send, why does it have to be Skywalker?

An old saying in galactic politics expresses the notion that since pacifist governments don’t possesses great military support, they would instead build the government so big so that their existence would be the justification for a bureaucracy to keep them in power. Alderaan’s planetary government did little to dissuade that stereotype.

Prior to the Clone Wars Alderaan had maintained an “open atmosphere” policy for incoming and departing craft. The only role of government was to ensure that economic laws were upheld and to prevent against allowing diseases to spread to the rest of their planet, this all took place within the spaceports of the major cities though. Traditionally this had been the role of Alderaan’s Defense Forces. When war broke out the ADF expanded their powers, with the permission of the government, to allow for the armed defense of the Alderaan system and for the purpose of inspecting suspicious starships in space.

When the war ended and the Empire was born the strict pacifist hardliners pushed for a disbanding of Alderaan’s military altogether, and eventually several new civilian branches of government were organized. In time for the Another Chance ceremony, the Alderaanian Defense Force had already ceded their control of the planetary traffic control to a civilian agency. The newly established Alderaanian Planetary Access Control promised that they would work with regional and city enforcement agencies to provide the most stalwart watch over their world.

But these new watchmen had not the trained eye, the necessary experience, nor the same vigilance as the soldiers they replaced. Those factors, combined with an impressive array of stealth equipment, allowed Asajj Ventress’ ship to easily arrive on Alderaan safely, docking in a deregulated spaceport that relied on private employees. A few paid fees later and both Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing were on their way to Relada, a small suburb of the capital city of Aldera.

They had been provided a safehouse by none other than Darth Sidious himself, who had provided them with a reservation at a modest inn near the city center. What the two didn’t know was that Darth Sidious was Emperor Palpatine, or that the reservations were made by agents of the Imperial Security Bureau.

Upon arriving at their suite Ventress unpacked an item that was part of Count Dooku’s collection, a mechno chair. The customized device held within it a hypercomm transceiver capable of reaching almost anywhere in the galaxy with a clear signal. It had been designed for the leaders of the Separatist Council, and it was how Sidious had managed to locate the errant Dark Acolyte after her disappearance from Republic custody. She keyed in a frequency, and before long the transparent blue image of Darth Sidious appeared before her. Ventress bowed, folding her arm under her chest and speaking in a humble voice.

“My lord, we have arrived on Alderaan as you commanded. We only wait for Skywalker to arrive so that we might tear him apart.”

“Your time will come soon. But the two of you are not enough to defeat Skywalker; even since the death of Lord Tyranus he has continued to grow more powerful.”

Ventress clenched the hand of her folded arm into a fist, drawing blood from her palm with her fingernails.

“Skywalker is a walking hypocrisy. His failure to kill me and his service to the Jedi makes him weak. When the time comes he will die.” Ventress growled. In the background, Aurra Sing stood out of sight, herself angry at Sidious’ comments that their combined strength would not be enough.

“Relax young one,” Sidious said, “You will not fail. I am sending my new apprentice, Darth Vader, to assist you. He will arrive in Relada on the eve before the ceremony. Lord knows of your presence, he will seek you out when it is the right moment.”

Ventress wanted to lash back, to draw her blade and cut through the image in front of her but wisely chose not to. She had suffered greatly at the hands of Count Dooku; she could only imagine what Sidious was capable of. “I hear and obey, my master.”

“Good, then I will hear nothing more of it. When the task is finished you and the bounty hunter will be allowed to deal with Lord Vader however you see fit. That is, if you still wish to become a Sith.”

The transmission ended and Asajj rose to her feet. Sing could tell through the Force that Asajj felt insulted, but that she was satisfied with the outcome. Not one to take risks, Aurra came up from behind Asajj and pointed a blaster at her ersatz partner’s head. “Is that what this is all about? You killing everyone in your path on your way to becoming a Sith? I wonder, when we have finished would you betray me as easily as you would this Lord Vader?”

“Only if you should give me reason to do so, I saw how easily Count Dooku betrayed his minions. He was an aristocratic coward without honor who was little better than the Jedi he claimed to despise. When Skywalker is dead you will be free to go, I will handle Vader as I see fit and that will be the end of our relationship.”

Placated, Aurra tossed the blaster aside but maintained her poise and reached for her newly constructed lightsaber. But Ventress never even reached for her dual blades as she moved out onto the balcony of their room and looked to the early evening sky. Soon the sun would set, and night would begin. Ventress felt it would make the perfect background for the death of her hated rival.

“I'm starting to think that your abilities are a little overrated Roan.”

The Jedi excursion into New Coronet had led them through a slew of nasty cantinas and questionable establishments unlike anything either of the two Jedi had ever seen. The trail Shryne and been following in the Force emptied into a deserted section of the city. The area’s automated services, including sewage and power, had cut out after years of neglect. Even the more hardened thugs and criminals in New Coronet avoided it, and many of the buildings were overgrown with various fauna.

The building Quinlan Vos and Roan Shryne had been abandoned even longer than most; even the insides were saturated with plant life. The abundance of life had made it more difficult to seek out the Force presences left by Jedi.

“If you’re so frustrated why don’t you check it out for yourself, you’re the Kiffar.”

Shryne was referring to Quinlan’s psychometric abilities, which gave him the ability to mentally read objects, it was present in all Kiffar but Quinlan’s abilities were enhanced by the Force. He crouched to one knee and placed his open palm on the ground, as he closed his eyes he began having a vision. There was only dim light, but he could make out the silhouettes of at least three beings. The three continued moving through the shadows and into the next chamber.

“You’re right, somebody came through here recently. I couldn’t tell exactly who it was though,” Quinlan said, his eyes opening and sight returning to him gradually.

“Here’s a clue.” Came a low and unsettling voice from the darkness behind Quinlan. Before he could react a powerful fist tore its way through the air and collided with his head, knocking him to the floor.

“QUINLAN!” Shryne yelled as his lightsaber came to life. Using the Force he propelled himself towards the now visible alien. It was a large blue hulk of a being at least a full head taller than either he or Quinlan Vos. In the split second before Shryne’s blade could reach his target the alien moved with surprising agility and sidestepped. Shryne recovered and adopted a defensive stance with his lightsaber, only to be shocked when his opponent ignited a double bladed green lightsaber.

Immediately Shryne knew that he had found one of the wayward Jedi and ceased his attack, but that didn’t mean the fight was over as the large blue Jedi charged forward. The bright green flashes weapon nearly blinded Shryne, who also struggled to match the raw power of the attacks. Shryne tried to use his agility to his advantage, but the confined room was hampering his efforts to evade and he found himself backed into a corner.

His opponent charged and Shryne braced himself for the pain when he saw the attacker tumble sideways. Another green blade appeared and its light revealed Quinlan Vos, who had just delivered a devastating kick to the unknown Jedi’s midsection.

“Oh good. I thought you were going to sleep through the entire fight.” Shryne quipped sarcastically.

Quinlan raised his blade and cocked his head slightly. “Well I was going to let you handle it, but as usual it’s Quinlan to the rescue.”

“I’ll remember that the next time you get blindsided and your head bounces off the duracrete.”

The three Jedi stood at the ready, with Quinlan and Shryne slowly circling and trying to find a flaw in their enemy’s defense. Before either of them could take the offensive however, another voice brought an end to the battle. The three fighters turned to see a petite human woman enter the chamber, adorned in flowing white robes with short and braided hair.

“It’s all right Master Farr, I recognize these two men and they’re on our side. If I may suggest that we deactivate the lightsabers please, they will be bound to attract unwanted attention.”
Quinlan clipped his lightsaber back to his belt and gave a small bow. “I recognize you from Tholme’s description. It is good to meet you at last Master Shadday.”

“Actually Master Vos, we have met before, but since it was before your bout of amnesia I'm willing to forgive you.” Shadday smiled and returned Quinlan’s bow. “Tell me Master Vos, how was it you were able to track us down?”

Quinlan simply pointed over at Shryne, who stepped forward and bowed his head slightly as well. “Master Roan Shryne at your service.”

“Ah of course. You know I spent a few years working in acquisitions and there was still at least one or two old masters that couldn’t understand why you turned down the job.”

Shryne’s expression soured, but Shadday was quick to reassure him. “I wouldn’t let it get to you. Every day I had to spend following up on hospital reports and midiclorian counts I wished I could get out of it. Unfortunately he only way I could do so gracefully was to agree to accept a commission as a General in the Grand Army. But that is a story for another time, come, I will introduce you to the others.”

Shadday held up her arm to point the way, and the four Jedi filed out of the room in silence.

Obi Wan remembered the last time he had been on the bridge of a Trade Federation capital ship, during the battle with General Grievous aboard the deteriorating Invisible Hand . Now Obi Wan sat in the same location where Grievous would have sat aboard his former flagship, carrying out the deaths of billions from high above. Obi Wan looked down at his body, the irony not lost on him that now he was the half mechanical leader of an insurrection against the legitimate government of the galaxy.

The time for idle thoughts was past him though as his task force emerged from hyperspace in the uncharted Aowi system. Obi Wan activated the switch allowing him to transmit orders to the ships under his command.

“Deploy all droid fighters, divide by half squadrons and initiate recon pattern theta. Keep the Vultures closer to the ships and have the Tri Fighters cover our z-axis. At the first sign of any Imperial ships, even if it’s just a patrol ship, we retreat. You’re all under orders not to engage unless any of your lives are actually threatened.”

Slayke shouted over his shoulder as he stood behind the navigation console. “Give ‘em hell general. Say, you sure seem to know what you want to do with them toy fighters.”

“I flew against enough of them to know how useful they can be.”

Slayke opened his mouth to say something again but Obi Wan was able to cut him off. “Save it for another time captain, we have business to take care of. You can ask me more about my part in the war over a couple of drinks afterwards.

“But how did you know what I was going to, oh yeah, Jedi. Sorry sir, I forgot about the whole mind…trick…thing.”

Obi Wan nodded and Slayke returned to his current task of monitoring the situation and keeping an eye out for any new developments. Although it would have been customary for Obi Wan to remain on the bridge, there was a nagging sensation Obi Wan felt in the Force and he needed some time alone to sort it out. HE felt confident in leaving Slayke in charge until things began to pan out. It was obvious that the former militiaman knew how to run the bridge of a starship and Obi Wan was going to let him do just that.

“Captain Slayke you have the bridge. If anything happens I’ll be in the briefing room, be sure to contact me immediately should you pick up anything noteworthy on sensors.”

Slayke saluted and claimed Obi Wan’s seat as soon as the cybernetic Jedi had left the room. Obi Wan made his way towards the briefing room, knowing that he would be of little help until the time for action actually came about. Until then he could either make his bridge crew uneasy by sitting idly on the bridge, or he could use some of the down time to clear his head and be better prepared for the upcoming operation. As Obi Wan cleared his head and immersed himself in the Force, he improved his understanding of his condition. His ability to use the Force had not been diminished, and the damage to his body remained physical. He learned that his feel of the Force had been numbed. His power was undiminished, but his feel of the Force was not as strong, it had taken some work but Obi Wan had adapted to his new body and learned to compensate by refining his control.

As the Force drew to him, he began to have visions, most of them of the present. He could see the engineers working in the decks below him maintaining the great ship’s engines, he could smell food being cooked in the galley for those crewmen not on active duty, he could hear the bridge crew and Captain Slayke conversing back and forth as new readings came in and the task force finished its deployment.

Soon his thoughts began to wander to the past, to battles that had been fought by a much different man than he. The fiery end he nearly met on Mustafar, just as victory was in his grasp. The sound thrashing he had taken on Geonosis and the helplessness he felt as his Padawan was utterly beaten by Count Dooku, a beating that cost him a limb and helped steer him on the path towards darkness. The costly victory he had won on Naboo, the day his Master was killed by a Sith. Qui Gon Jinn was not the last Jedi nor the last friend of Obi Wan’s that would fall victim to the Sith, but his death still brought pain to his heart. Every day Obi Wan looked to Qui Gon’s wisdom for guidance, and some days he thought he could even hear the words of his old Master as if he were standing next to him.

"You've turned into a great leader Obi Wan, you should have more confidence in yourself."

Obi Wan felt incredibly strange, that time he could have sworn that he had actually heard Qui Gon’s voice, and not just a vision of the past.

"Focus Obi Wan, tune your mind and open yourself to the living Force."

“Master Jinn?” Obi Wan said aloud. ”That was more than just a vision.” He thought to himself. Obi Wan still felt compelled to listen though, and as he released his anchor to consciousness and allowed the Force to flow freely to him, the image of Qui Gon Jinn slowly began to materialize near him.

“Are you surprised to see me? Reach out with your feelings should you have any doubts.”

Obi Wan did have his doubts, but as a Jedi he had seen so many strange and inexplicable things throughout the galaxy he also found it very difficult not to believe. Reaching out with the Force, he sensed what seemed like a beacon of light right in front of him, and from within that beacon was the presence of Qui Gon Jinn. While it lacked that physical feel that would normally be emanating from a living being, there was no doubt to Obi Wan that it could only be his old Master.

Obi Wan had been a senior member of the Jedi Council and a teacher for a number of years. But once again, in the presence of the man who had trained him, he felt like a student again.

“I told you that you would become a great Jedi, and you should know that you have far exceeded what anyone could have expected from you.” Qui Gon said, his ethereal form moving closer to Obi Wan.

Obi Wan relaxed slightly, he was surprised that he could actually hear Qui Gons voice just as he remembered it from all those years ago. But that realization puzzled him slightly.

“It is good to see you again Master, but I'm not sure I understand.”

“You wish to know why your sensory equipment can detect me?”

Obi Wan nodded and Qui Gon raised his arms slightly, stretching them out. “Do not let your eyes deceive you Obi Wan, what you are interacting with is most certainly real, but that does not mean it exists.”

The words were well spoken, and Obi Wan started to understand. “You’re speaking to me directly through the Force, I only perceive you through the equipment because that is how my mind is interpreting you.”

“Qui Gon nodded with a smile, as he had always done when answering Yes to a question. “For the time being I can interact with beings so long as they have a strong connection to the Force.”

“For the time being?” Obi Wan asked, concerned.

“The secret to immortality, and to maintain one’s conscious self after death is not beyond the scope of the power of a Jedi Master. One day I will be able to show you how to achieve it.” The spectre of Quin Gon paused briefly and hung his head solemnly. “But to interact with the material plane of existence from where I am is but a temporary privilege. I can only guide you for as long as the Force allows, maintaining my presence any longer would be unnatural. The Force has a task for you Obi Wan, possibly greater than any task that any Jedi has ever undertaken.”

Obi Wan was beside himself, during his life he had constantly been in situations where things had gone from bad to worse, and just when it seemed one crisis was ending another one was brewing.

“Forgive me Master, I'm not doubting you. But are you speaking of the rebellion itself, or do you mean the rebuilding of the Jedi Order?”

“Ultimately I am speaking of neither, although those two goals might be sought in pursuit of the larger one. Tell me, do you remember what I told you about the nature of the Force?”

Obi Wan thought hard, back to some of his earliest memories upon earning the title of Padawan.

“The Force is the binding energy of the entire universe, it provides the universe with balance. What we consider the Light Side of the Force is that part of the Force which seeks to create balance with the primal and instinctual side of the universe, also known as the Dark Side.”

Qui Gon’s stood with his hands folded within the sleeves of his robes, assessing the responses of his Padawan, behind him were the great windows of the Temple providing a scenic view of the Coruscant skyline. “And why is this balance between Light and Dark important?” He asked

“The universe is inherently balanced, but life is inherently skewed towards the Dark Side of the Force. The overwhelming desire to survive is driven by the self. Although this desire is necessary for life it can have a negative influence on the world around it. The Light Side of the Force counters these desires by doing what it can to preserve life by creating order and harmony.” Obi Wan recited perfectly from his Master’s previous lectures.

Qui Gon looked down at Obi Wan, a look of disapproval on his face. “One day, Padawan, you will be faced with the meaning to the answer of the question. When the time comes I hope you can take this lesson to heart. The difference between knowledge and wisdom can’t be learned by simply remembering what you have been taught, but by gaining a fundamental understanding of the issue at hand and expanding on it.”

The memory was clear and vivid, and Obi Wan took a split second before realizing that he was an adult again, and confined within a life-preserving suit. “I remember Master. Palpatine has upset the balance of the Force.”
Qui Gon smiled again, beaming with pride. “You have remembered your lessons well indeed, you’re one of the few Jedi Council members I have ever met that still holds their teachers in such high respect.”

Obi Wan smirked behind his mask, “A maverick until the end.” he thought to himself. If Qui Gon had sensed that particular thought, he didn’t show it as he continued.

“The Sith conquering the galaxy is not a new concept by any means, but the way Palpatine has done it has shaken the fragile balance of the Force. The longer the balance goes without being restored, the harder and longer it will take to restore it. It would happen eventually, but until that day the galaxy will suffer. Dark times will fall upon every living thing under Sith rule. Anakin was supposed to be the one to restore that balance, but something has gone terribly wrong. I cannot explain any further, but this imbalance is the direct cause of your pain, and will be the cause of pain on a much greater scale.”

Obi Wans response was in his “matter-of-fact” voice, the one he had used so often when coming to solutions. “Then there is only one thing left that I can do Master, I swear on my life as a Jedi that I will restore balance to the Force.”

Qui Gon smiled and placed his hand on Obi Wan’s shoulder. It was not there, but Obi Wan swore he could feel it. “I know you will honor your commitment, and I know you will strive harder knowing fully what needs to be done.”

“Thank you Master Jinn, I am grateful for your wisdom. I will do whatever it takes, you have my word.”

“Beware Obi Wan, the Sith have always been skilled at manipulating people into making sacrifices. You may find yourself many times in a position where you or someone you know is willing to die for what they believe is right, but all they do is further the Sith cause. Do not make any such sacrifice until you know that such an act will have meaning in the end.” Qui Gon turned and walked away, stepping slowly.

“Master, wait, there is one other thing I must know.” Obi Wan said, his words reaching out through the air to prevent Qui Gon from leaving. Qui Gon did not turn around, but merely turned his head to the side as if to listen closer.
“Was Anakin…Is Anakin still the Chosen One?”

Qui Gon’s head hung low, and he turned his head from Obi Wan’s direction, facing directly away.

“Anakin…should have been, as I said something has gone wrong. He may still yet be the one to restore balance but the prophecy is now in doubt. There is one other prophecy though you might be interested in hearing.”

Without warning Qui Gon’s ghost began to fade, and Obi Wan‘s perception of him was fading with it. As he vanished Qui Gon spoke of the other prophecy.

“There is an ancient saying smongst the Whills. Those who look to the Sky, know that the Sun is higher and brighter…”

As mysteriously as he appeared, Qui Gon was gone. And Obi Wan was left beside himself force dto ponder the meaning of his master’s teachings. Some time had passed, and Obi Wan felt that he should head back towards the bridge, driven by a newfound urge to oversee the operation personally.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2006-11-26 11:29am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 15: Breaking Point

Although Bail Organa had tried his best, the Alderaanian media eventually received word that Anakin Skywalker would be arriving on the eve of the Another Chance ceremony as the official representative of the Galactic Empire. Speculation as to the source of the leak ranged from gossiping Palace guards all the way to high ranking Imperial Officials such as Sate Pestage. It didn’t matter; the reaction was the same either way.

Massive crowds numbering in the tens of thousands flooded the route between the main Aldera spaceport and the Royal Residence. The Defense Force could not adequately protect the route and were forced to bring in reserves drawn on local law enforcement, this had proved incredibly embarrassing to the recently downsized Defense Forces, and the Imperialist minority in the planetary government would later use the insufficient number of troops in support of a measure that would put an Imperial Garrison on Alderaan.

In the late evening the light of the sun was slowly being replaced by city lights. When the Theta class shuttle used by high ranking members of the Imperial government landed the massive crowd became frantic. It was divided almost evenly between fans of the famed General Skywalker, and anti-war protestors outraged by the reorganization of the former Republic.

Anakin emerged from the shuttle flanked by several troopers from the 501st Legion, which had been directly assigned to the General and given the nickname “Skywalker’s Fist.” Led by one of the most decorated Clone Commanders, also known as Appo, they were among the most recognizable elements of the Empire’s ground forces, especially after their legion had entered the Jedi Temple and emerged victorious.

“General,” Appo said, Anakin’s most recent military rank remained his current honorific, “Senator Organa’s caravan will arrive in a few moments and the crowd is growing restless. It might be best if we wait inside the shuttle, let me call for some more troops to secure the route.”

Anakin shook his head dismissively. “I appreciate your concern Commander, but this crowd does not concern me. More troops would only incite them even more.”

“Right sir, sorry sir.” Appo said in the all-familiar voice of Jango Fett.

“Do not apologize,” Anakin turned his head towards the commander. “I respect your insights, and I want you and your men to respect me without fear.” The former Jedi chuckled a bit. “Let’s save the motivational fear for incompetent fleet and intelligence officers now shall we?”

That roused a small laugh from Appo himself, which lasted shortly until the trooper was hit in the head by a rock, which harmlessly bounced off of his helmet but definitely caught his attention as he started swearing.

“What the kriff?”

Suddenly stones and other debris were coming from multiple directions and fighting began to break out between the mixed factions of the crowd. One dangerous and jagged piece of debris went flying right at Anakin’s head as his back was turned.

In the blink of an eye Anakin had drawn his lightsaber and spun one hundred eighty degrees, deflecting the rock away in an incredibly fluid motion that left onlookers stunned. With the few troopers accompanying Anakin dispersed and the Alderaanian guards desperately trying to maintain order, one man leaped over a roped off barrier, drawing a hand blaster from his robes and pointing it directly at Anakin.

“I don’t care who you are! You’re nothing more than one of Palpatine’s puppets! Down with the Empire!”

The man had somehow managed to get hold of a Blastech DLT-13. It was an older model currently out of service in any armed forces but widely in use by many private security forces across the galaxy. Heavily prized on the black market for their stopping power, most beings wouldn’t have a chance surviving an up close barrage without specialized armor or shielding. The unknown assailant pulled the trigger and a rapid burst of shots flew towards Anakin.

The crimson blade flashed brilliantly as Anakin’s arm moved with astonishing speed. Every one of the blaster bolts had been deflected harmlessly away from the crowd, except for the last one, which was, reflected right back at the attacker, catching him in the midsection. The attacker died painfully as the effects of the blaster cooked his internal organs and lit his robes on fire, creating a putrid smell that caused onlookers downwind to back away.

The crowd was now silenced save for sporadic cheers of approval from those who celebrated Anakin’s arrival. Many of the anti war protestors were shocked, and disgusted at the act of violence committed supposedly on their behalf. Those sections of the crowd began to partially disperse, what few that remained were far more docile than they had been when the shuttle landed. A pair of clone troopers carried the body away just as the first elements of the Senatorial convoy began to arrive. With the arrival of the Senator, who was also the planet’s Prince Consort, more guards were surround the area where the incident had took place, but by then it was too late to prevent anything.

Before he got out of his speeder, Bail cursed under his breath. “The media is going to have a field day with this, and our planet plays itself further into Palpatine’s hands.” He stepped out of the speeder and before he could react he was greeted with a very angry looking Anakin Skywalker, who was still clutching his deactivated lightsaber in his right hand. Bail held back his fear long enough, only slightly comforted by the fact that he knew Anakin could not kill him outright. Not while Bail Organa still appeared to be loyal to the New Order, and not while he was a friend to his beloved wife. “Master Skywalker, allow me to…”

“That title is no longer appropriate Senator, or did you require a closer look at the temple the night we were all betrayed by the Jedi Order?”

Bail’s anxiety grew, the clones had indeed reported him to their superiors and it was likely that Skywalker knew that Bail was witness to the murder of a Jedi Padawan, gunned down by clone troopers on a platform outside the burning Jedi Temple.

“Your explanations do not concern me Senator, what does concern me is the fact that your security forces failed to prevent an assault on my troopers and I.”

Bail was now completely intimidated, and Anakin knew it. Still, he used every reserve of courage he had to keep himself from losing his composure. “I do apologize General Skywalker. We’ve recently been forced to decrease the size of our ground based defense forces as well as the Alderaanian fleet. If we had been notified of your arrival sooner, we could have had more security in place.”

Anakin glared at Bail menacingly. “If I were you Senator I would quit making excuses for your planet and start making sure that everything goes according to your agenda tomorrow. I promise you that if your guards cannot keep the crowds in line for the ceremony I will personally oversee the construction of a garrison in this city.”

Bail was shocked at Anakin’s reply, and he was even more shocked when he found himself arguing with him. “You can’t do that! Palpatine would never allow it! What would Amidala say?”

Anakin did not move even one inch, but somehow Bail felt his neck in a terrible vice and the flow of oxygen to his lungs ceased. He wanted to reach his hands to his throat but he could not, they were locked to his sides as if he had been bound in chains.

“Do not mention her name!” Anakin threatened. “If it hadn’t been for people like you…” Anakin’s voice trailed off, and his grip on Bail relaxed until finally the Senator could breathe again. Anakin clipped his lightsaber to his belt and warned Bail. “Do not underestimate my resolve Senator; your position is far weaker than you would think. The Empire has brought the peace and order that your former sycophants on this planet have craved. If you want to remain in a position where you think you might be able to do good I suggest that you honor your commitment to the Empire by going over your security plans meticulously, or should I contact Coruscant and inform them that you are being less than cooperative?”

“No…that will not be necessary, I assure you that security will be stepped up tomorrow.” Bail stammered out.

“Good. When you have finished with your revisions see to it that Commander Appo has a chance to review them. He was struck by one of the protestors and I'm sure if there are any flaws he will be able to correct them, don’t worry about recalling additional soldiers to the capital though, I have more troops coming in from my Star Destroyer that will be more than happy to do the job once they found out that their brethren were pelted by rocks.”

Bail wanted to argue desperately, but he no longer could. Anakin had made it perfectly clear that he would have his way and nothing anyone on Alderaan would be able to stop him, there was no time to take it up in the Senate and anyone that might have supported his cause had followed Mon Mothma in alienating him. Bail Organa stood alone. There was only one thing that reassured him, the fact that Obi Wan Kenobi had left Alderaan for parts unknown, and that Anakin would not find him.

Less than an hour later Anakin was comfortably within the Imperial Embassy, with soldiers of the 501st guarding the perimeter and the sensors on the Star Destroyer in orbit monitoring the entire building carefully. The ornate interior of the embassy had been stripped of the old décor that prominently featured the insignia and colors of the Republic and were still in the midst of being replaced with proper Imperial furnishings.

Anakin’s suite was at the top floor with a balcony that had an amazing view of the Palace complex; in the distance Anakin could actually see the spaceport, and the late traffic that still poured through the city’s sky despite the late hour. It was still much different than Coruscant; it reminded him more of Theed. As they always had before, thoughts of Naboo always led back to Padme, and Anakin felt the emptiness inside of him for the first time since he had set foot on the planet.

Almost on cue came the chirping sound from the holonet projector inside. He walked in through the balcony gate and into the main living area of the suite, activating the projector display in the middle of the table at the center of the room. As the image came into focus, the image of Palpatine stood life sized before him. Within the security of the suite, and with the protection of some of the best Imperial holo-encryption, they could speak not as Skywalker and Palpatine, but as Sidious and Vader. “Greetings, my Master.” Vader said as he bowed on one knee.

“Arise Lord Vader.” The image of Sidious motioned.

“Yes my Master.” Vader rose to his feet and his tension eased slightly, he was not used to such displays of humility.

“I hear your reception on Alderaan was met with some difficulty my friend.”

“Nothing that I couldn’t handle Master,” Vader said, “Senator Organa is still desperate to try and convince you that he is as loyal as he claims to be.”

Sidious clasped his hands together, an expression Vader recognized as one of satisfaction/ “As well he should. Organa’s partners in treason have abandoned him completely; he has no other alternative but to give in. Soon Alderaan will be firm within our grasp and will no longer be able to rise against us. After all, it is far better to possess rather than destroy, wouldn’t you agree Lord Vader?”

Vader did not miss the subtle reference to his wife, but chose to ignore it; even Sidious wouldn’t dare and move against Padme. He was still growing stronger by the day and as soon as he had the knowledge he needed he would rise up against Palpatine, maybe even offering him a chance to abdicate out of respect for all he had done.

“I concur Master. But politics and traitorous senators are not why I am here.”

Sidious smiled. “Of course, I can sense the hatred within you. Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing are hiding out in one of the city suburbs, under assumed identities. I am transmitting their aliases and their location to you. You may dispense of them at your convenience. ” The order was given with Sidious knowing full well that Vader would pursue the assignment as soon as the transmission was over.

“It is my most fervent wish.” Vader said, his eyes possessing a sinister yellow glow.

“Then do what must be done Lord Vader, eliminate this threat and preserve the New Order.”

The transmission faded, and Anakin immediately began opening the files Palpatine had sent him and transferred them to a data card. When he had finished, he made his way out of his suite and outside where a pair Imperial military speeders lay dormant. After informing Appo of his temporary absence and ordering him not to reveal that fact to anyone who asked, Anakin sped off towards the suburbs, his rage feeding the Dark Side.

“I decided to come to New Coronet after our conclave on Kessel was discovered. The Empire moved much quicker than I expected.” Shadday explained. They had finally navigated the maze of darkened rooms and hallways using only the Force and now came upon the dim light of a glow-lamp in a windowless room. Inside were five other Jedi who had escaped with Shadday and Jastus Farr from Kessel.

“I am surprised. All seven of you managed to escape.” Roan said, impressed at his comrades survivability.

“Unfortunately we numbered eight on Kessel, Master Kofi Aranna was killed as we made our escape,” Jastus Farr said, his deep voice mournful as he spoke. “He suffered from terrible grief when the Clone Troopers betrayed us the first time. He was on Saleucami, with Master Plo Koon.”

Shryne and Vos were still a little puzzled; they had not known Master Aranna well or anything about his background. Shadday elaborated. “He was Padawan to Master Koon, but that was not the only reason for his distress. His first Padawan, who had just been elevated to Knighthood, was killed along with his current Padawan in the same betrayal. His last hours were full of sadness; we can only hope that he has found peace with the Force.”

That had explained it. The bond between teacher and student was a very deep one within the Jedi Order. That type of shock was not an everyday occurrence; even throughout the war no Jedi had suffered that kind of loss since Geonosis. Of those few Jedi that had suffered a similar loss at Geonosis, many refused to accept the order to return to Coruscant and become Jedi, some fell to the Dark Side.

Shryne himself had lost both his former Master and his Padawan in the arena, and he did his best to hold back his own feelings. “I know, what it must have been like.” He said, offering his sympathies.

Shadday put a hand on his shoulder. “His sacrifice was not in vain though. He managed to die while causing a massive cave in deep within the mines. The Empire may never even discover the body. As a result we managed to escape here. I read the reports of Master Kenobi and Master Secura’s mission here and noted that it could be an excellent place to go into hiding.”

The other Jedi were now more closely gathered around. Shadday introduced them. Master Roblio Darte, who lost his eye while leading his troops on Parcelus Minor. Sia Lan Wezz, a Knight who had only recently achieved that rank. Master Ma’kis’ Shaalas, a member of the Nikto species, Master Bultar Swan, who had fought in the arena on Geonosis and served with distinction throughout the war,. Master Tsui Choi, a small alien about the same size as Yoda and an Ataro master as well.

“…and you’ve already met Master Farr and I. Now the question is, why are you two here? Sneaking around in the shadows is unbefitting a pair of Jedi Masters.” Shadday asked.

“These are desperate times; we’ve had to work just as hard as you to stay in secret.” Shryne countered.

Quinlan pulled a small recording device from his belt, “Tholme thought you might be doubtful of us, considering my reputation and your unfamiliarity with Master Shryne we can’t really blame you either.” Quinlan tossed the recorder over to Bultar Swan, who was standing next to Shadday. As she caught it, her finger triggered the play function, and the image of Tholme sprung to life.

“To Whom It May Concern, this is Master Tholme. There is an encryption seal at the bottom of this device with an encryption seal used only by the Jedi Council.

Hopefully the two Masters acting as couriers for this message have survived their journey and delivered this to you in good health. Our group is small in number yet strong in will. We have established a sanctum at the Jedi ruins on Telos. Any and all members of the Jedi Order are welcome to join us.”

The wayward Jedi looked at each other, their hopes lifted by this sudden opportunity. Before discussion could begin Quinlan cut them off.

“Wait, there’s more.” Quinlan motioned towards the recorder with his hand as the voice of Tholme continued speaking.

“Should this message reach Master Shadday, it is imperative that I speak with her immediately regarding one of our contingency plans. Let her know that now is the time for Operation Exile.”

The message ended, Shadday took the recording from Master Swan and examined it as if she had been looking for it for some time.

“Regardless of what my colleagues decide,” She said. “I must travel to Telos.”

Tsui Choi moved beside Shadday, and placed a small hand on her back. “We all will, the Jedi will stand together even if we are the last of our order.” Tsui Choi’s words were met with agreement from the other Masters.

Shryne clapped his hands together; their mission had been a success. “Excellent. One question though Master Vos, how are we all going to fit on Grahk’s ship?”

Shadday dismissed that notion almost immediately. “That should not be a concern, I have a ship of my own that can accommodate all of us. It’s an old YT-1300, it doesn’t have much firepower and it has the same parts it did when it came off the line but it’s serviceable. I'm currently berthed in docking bay 49 at what passes for the New Coronet spaceport.”

“Sounds good,” Shryne spoke up and looked over to Quinlan. “You want to ride with them or with Villie?”

“You tag along with them,” Quinlan replied. “I’ll go on ahead and make sure everything’s clear, I’ve got this nagging sensation like we need to get out of here soon. When I reach the spaceport I’ll give you the clear sign and you can make your way through the city.”

It didn’t take long for Quinlan to get going, after the Jedi had exchanged parting gestures he had began making his way out of the abandoned complex and towards New Coronet, that terrible feeling growing bigger by the moment, gnawing at the back of his mind.

Amidala pushed the hover-stroller leisurely through the gardens at her new family’s new residence, which had been given the unofficial nickname “Skywalker Ranch” by local residents. The estate was sizeable even by Coruscant standards. Senator Viento had purchased the property and constructed the mansion itself late in his first term of office when it became apparent that he was going to win re-election, something he would do time and again despite allegations of corruption and money laundering. It had been ironic when he was assassinated, revealed to have given government secrets to the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

A protocol droid, purchased by Anakin before his mission to Alderaan and intended to replace C-3P0, soon came up behind her, emitting a small chime to announce its’ presence. Although it looked similar, it was far less obnoxious than the high-strung C-3P0 and rarely spoke. However, Padme had grown to prefer the unique quirks of her former assistant.

“My Lady, forgive my intrusion but there is a transmission for you on the holocomm. It is urgent.” The droid said, it was the same voice, but much more calm and in a slightly lower tone.

Padme stopped pushing the stroller and walked around to the other side, looking down at her children and lowering her head down to play with them. Ever since her being ousted from her Senatorial position she had been inundated with media requests for interviews, as well as social calls from some of Coruscant’s elite hoping to be able to attach their reputations to the famed Skywalkers. “Unless it’s an emergency please take a message and apologize for me. I'm with the children right now and I’d rather not be disturbed.”

The droid did not even flinch, and wasted little time replying. “Milady, the transmission is from Emperor Palpatine.”

The Emperor was on a short list of people that could demand her attention like that. When she had been replaced in the Senate, Palpatine (through Sate Pestage) had offered to allow her to reclaim her position, saying that he could make it happen regardless of the Queen’s decision on Naboo. Amidala had declined, believing that it was inn Naboo’s best interest if they governed their own affairs. Besides, she was quickly learning how demanding raising a pair of twins could be, even with a small army of droids maintaining the house and assisting with daily tasks. But Palpatine had made the first gesture, it would be rude of her to not respond to his call, not to mention it might be dangerous.

She dismissed those thoughts from her mind, even after everything that had happened she still remembered Palpatine as a good leader and a trusted advisor, and he was also Anakin’s friend. Her head began to throb and a buzzing sound filled her ears.

She was back in the Senate Convocation Chamber.

”We have become an empire in fact; let us become an Empire in name as well! We are the first Galactic Empire!”

She was back in her old apartment, on the eve of the war’s end.

“The war was never the Republic against the Separatists. It was Palpatine against the Jedi. We lost.

She was back on Mustafar.

Don’t you see? We’ll be heroes. The whole galaxy will love us, and we will rule. Together.”

The moment had seemed like an eternity, but less than a minute had passed when she finally regained her focus.

“My lady?” The protocol droid asked, confused by his owner’s lack of a response.

Her head much clearer, she nodded her head. “I will be there momentarily.”

Palpatine was not accustomed to waiting, and it was the rare moment when he was forced to wait on others. However, his course of actions depended on Amidala’s willingness to cooperate, and he exercised restraint. It did not diminish his desire to have her removed though, and the thought of finally cutting Lord Vader’s last ties to his Jedi past pleased him.

After a few brief minutes Padme’s holo-image finally appeared, her visage unchanged by war or childbirth.

“Greetings your Majesty, to what do I owe the honor?”

He admired her political tact and skill, despite being one of his most vocal opponents when he was Supreme Chancellor, she still set aside the differences and deferred to his new role. He could sense no deceit from her in the Force either, for whatever reasons she had decided to abandon her political quests. She was still naïve though, and still predictable, those qualities would make the job much easier.

“Lady Amidala, excuse me, Lady Skywalker…” the error on his part had been intentional, a subtle reminder of his connection to Anakin, and to her past as well. “You know that you owe honor to no one, especially another politician.”

“I would hardly call you just another politician, Majesty. But then again I am no longer a politician.”

“But you could be again. The Empire needs skilled representatives such as yourself to help preserve the peace of the New Order.”

Palpatine noticed Amidala repress something, probably a derogatory comment that she was aching to let loose but to disciplined to allow it. “I’ve already declined your offer to reclaim my position as Senator.”

Palpatine leaned forward into the projector unit, speaking softer, in the kindly old voice that had been one of his trademarks on Naboo. “Forgive me my Lady, but that’s not what I am about to offer you.”

Amidala’s expression widened into that of controlled surprise, Palpatine used the moment of silence to continue. “A person of your stature is far too important to waste as a mere Senator, likewise your reputation is well known across the entire galaxy. I am offering you a position, as the official Ambassador to the Imperial Senate. Not to just one world, or one sector, but to every member world of the Empire.”

Amidala broke eye contact and her gaze wandered off to the side, more than likely to look at her children. It had been a calculated risk offering a prominent position to an idealist like Padme Amidala, someone who could cause upheaval when the ideological differences between her and Palpatine finally came to a head. But even Palpatine had been surprised when she had wasted little time to give him an answer.

“I accept…on one condition.” She said nervously, absently biting her lip.

She was unreadable save for her anxious feelings, even in the Force. “Of course, I didn’t anticipate the offer in itself to be enticing enough, what are your terms?”

“All I want is for Anakin to come home, and when he does I want your promise that he will be allowed to remain home until he returns on his own volition.”

The Dark Lord of the Sith, hidden behind his guise as rule of the galaxy, leaned backwards so that only his toothy grin was visible in the dim light. “Consider it done.”

Authors Note:

The chapter starts with some good action, i'm trying to deliver the anticipated bouts as soon as possible but I have something planned for the next chapter that should partially whet some appetites. AS usual feedback is appreciated and I hope I can work on 16 as quickly as i've managed 15. This one was done fast but I had the benefit of a written outline to guide my work and there is still material left over for 16. ~DF
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-11-19 07:57pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 16: Vader Incarnate

Perched silently near a window, shrouded in a dark cloak to hide her infamous appearance, Asajj Ventress looked out into the night sky, storm clouds brewing beyond the horizon. Aurra Sing sat inside intently scouring the holonet, trying to get herself up to date on current events.

“I must say, although I'm disappointed in the Confederacy, this Grievous sounds like my kind of killer. He really cut a swath through the Jedi, I still can’t believe he was cut down by a weakling like Kenobi.”

Asajj spat. “Grievous was little more than a droid himself, albeit supremely fortunate. If his creation hadn’t cost so much money he would have been discarded quicker than I was. As for Kenobi…” She huffed. “Let’s just say that I owe him a thorough beating.”

“You won’t get the chance,” Sing quipped, her eyes still glued to the holonet. "The report was just declassified today, you might find it interesting to know that Skywalker killed Kenobi.”

“What?!” Asajj replied in absolute shock.

“Yeah, the Empire announced today that Anakin Skywalker traveled to the CIS stronghold on Mustafar and killed the entire Separatist Council. According to this, Kenobi was there to protect them.”

Asajj was thoroughly stumped. It didn’t make any sense at all. Skywalker turning against the Jedi she could believe, but turning against Obi Wan Kenobi? Even more mysterious was the nonsense that Kenobi was there to protect the Separatist council, Kenobi loathed the Separatists and many high-ranking members of the CIS, including herself, had personal grudges against Kenobi. Something stank of a cover up.

“I swear I will get to the bottom of this Lord Sidious, after I kill Skywalker and whoever this Darth Vader is…”

Still, perhaps it was for the best, she thought, her anger at being denied revenge fueled her hatred and made her more powerful. No amount of added power though could have prepared her for what she felt next. It was as if a great wave of dark side energy was rushing towards her, an ominous shadow covering her perception. Aurra Sing had finally stopped typing away at the computer terminal indicating that she felt it as well.

“This must be Vader…” Ventress said under her breath.

Anakin’s speeder came to a full stop outside of the inn. He looked over to confirm the address was the same as the one Sidious had given him. It was a match. Pulling his cloak over his head he walked into the lobby and past the front desk before taking the turbolift upwards. In only a few moments he would be face to face with his quarry, and he knew there would be no orderly solution.

His mouth curled at the corners into a feral smile, and his eyes flashed a sinister yellow. This would be his first actual duel against skilled opponents since Mustafar, and he was looking forward to it. What little training he had accumulated under Sidious had brought him great power, and he knew that this was only the beginning.

After only a few brief seconds he emerged from the turbolift, and made his way down the hallway, ready to bring justice to those who deserved it. Confident in his mastery of the Dark Side, he knocked on the door, poised to kill.

Little did he realize though that another battle raged on, one that was being fought inside of his heart. As he embraced the angry and vengeful spirit of Darth Vader, the man that was once Anakin Skywalker struggled to maintain his control, Vader fed off of the dark emotions that had taken root it Anakin’s mind. He had been pushed to the edge of oblivion and he struggled to hold on. Even as he edged closer towards falling to the Dark Side completely, there was still a light that kept the light inside of him from fading.

As long as he had Padme, he could never cease to be Anakin Skywalker. No matter how hard he tried.

Quinlan had been gone for nearly an hour and Shryne had begun to worry, although the possibility existed that Quinlan was just being extra cautious. Still, he kept his trust in his companion. Quinlan had nearly ruined his reputation during the War, but in their brief time together he had been nothing less than an exemplary Jedi.

Finally, he received a coded message through his communicator that indicated the “all clear” signal. It was now safe for the Jedi to head towards Shadday’s transport. They had stepped no more than ten meters outside of the compound though when a new signal came through, the signal that it was unsafe.

“What do you think happened?” Bultar Swan asked as the group began speculating.

They got their answer soon enough, as they looked into the sky through some of the swampy overgrowth a huge explosion shot up over the New Coronet skyline. It had the unmistakable sound and shape of a thermal detonator blast.

“I think he’s over there.” Shryne said, his deadpan humor lost in the tension of the moment.

It didn’t take any discussion or convincing before the group of Jedi took off at full speed, leaping and sprinting with the aid of the Force.

“Kark! I can’t believe I let a bunch of mercs get the drop on me!”

Quinlan had just set foot in the spaceport area when he had given the all clear, after meticulously scouting the entire route between the swamp and the spaceport he had prematurely told everyone it was all right. But his nonchalant approach to the Inferno’s docking bay had given him away. Apparently word had spread that Vilmarh Grahk was friendly to a few Jedi and he must have been tracked to New Coronet.

Before he could reach the Inferno, a trio of Rodians had jumped out from their hiding places and began firing what appeared to be flechette rounds coupled with fragmentation grenades. Only a last second warning from the Force gave Quinlan enough time to leap high into the air and use the Force to partially deflect shards of debris and razorblades away from him.

He ran out of the spaceport, hoping to find a dark corner to hide in somewhere until he could sneak back into the spaceport. But the Rodians weren’t the only ones chasing him. Every street corner he turned into there was another hunter, or group of hunters, waiting for him with weapons blazing. One of the more dimwitted bounty hunters, a particularly mean looking Shistavanen, had thrown a thermal detonator after narrowly missing with poison tipped dart fired from his gauntlet.

That tantrum resulted in the incineration of about four city blocks and about a dozen of Quinlan’s pursuers. But it also had the effect of drawing more hunters into the pursuit. It was everything Quinlan could do to stay out of the line of fire. Fortunately for him the Shistavanen wasn’t the only one who was inadvertently helping him. As more hunters converged they also began to take each other out as a way to eliminate the competition.

He took a moment on top of a Cantina roof to catch his breath, for a few seconds he had evaded any pursuit, but within seconds another bounty hunter had spotted him. He had heard Quinlan leap onto the cantina roof and went in through the stairs. One of them was holding what looked like an arc caster, and judging by the way the gritty human’s hair was standing on top of his head Quinlan knew that the weapon was fully charged.

He dove off of the roof back down onto the street, landing on a small strip of intact road in between a pair of craters. That drew the attention of about six or seven more hunters who all immediately converged on his position. Quinlan leaped back up into the air just as the rooftop pursuer fired the arc caster down towards the street, electrocuting the street level hunters that had been surrounding Quinlan, who was still airborne. While using the Force to slow his descent he tossed his lightsaber, it made a brilliant jade streak through the air as it impaled the rooftop hunter.

Quinlan landed safely back onto the street and was summoning the Force to retrieve his lightsaber when he heard a blaster fire and felt a terrible pain in his leg. A blaster bolt had caught him on his right thigh and he feel the ground in great pain.
“Don’t move Vos,”

Quinlan’s heart sunk as he recognized the all too familiar voice of the man who had shot him. He had never met him before but he had been introduced to others like him. When he turned his head he counted at least fifteen clone troopers, all pointing blaster rifles in his direction from close range.

“You’re under arrest for crimes against the Empire.” The lead clone said.

Quinlan held up his arms in the air as best he could. “Don’t worry, I’ll come peacefully.”

The troopers all raised their weapons and their leader spoke. “Of course you’ll come peacefully, you’ll be dead.”

Quinlan did his best to summon the Force to him, but he couldn’t muster enough energy as the clone troopers pulled the triggers on their blaster rifles.

“Enter.” Asajj said as she and Aurra Sing took places in the spacious living room of the suite, a part of their predetermined strategy for meeting this unknown Sith Apprentice. The room was luxurious but it did not offer ample room for any prolonged duel, especially when facing multiple opponents. If Darth Vader were planning on betraying them, he would have to do it outside of the close confines of the suite and force them into the open area. Even then he would still be at a disadvantage when considering the speed and swordsmanship of the combined tandem of Ventress and Sing.

The cloaked Vader strode into the room, his form was still obscured by the darkness of the small entryway and the bright light of the moon did not reach into the room far enough to illuminate any of his features. She tried her best to discern his identity with the Force but it was difficult to concentrate when the sheer rage of Vader’s aura was dimming her own perceptions. A quick glance over at her partner showed that Aurra Sing was feeling the same way.

Asajj did however notice the lightsaber hanging from his belt, small amounts of light gleaming off of a black polished finish. Its construction was familiar to a lightsaber she had seen before. Then the realization hit her. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped, she reflexively ignited her lightsabers and the glow lit up the dark room, revealing Vader’s almost demonic face, a face that was made even more menacing by the blood red glow of Asajj’s own lightsabers.


Anakin took the moment to strike. He clenched his hands into fists as Ventress took a step forward to charge him with Sing following her lead. He waited until they were almost a meter away before he shot his arms forward and released his fists. A powerful surge of the Force blasted through the room like a gale force wind in front of him. Ventress and Sing had no time to defend themselves against such an attack and both were hurled backwards with such force that they shattered the reinforced window behind them and hurtled over the balcony’s edge.

He drew his own lightsaber from his belt and moved outside; he looked over the rail as his opponents accelerated towards the ground along with a hail of glass.

The fall was long enough that Ventress and Sing were each able to partially cushion their fall with the Force, but they could do little to prevent shards of the broken window from tearing at their skin as they fell. Skywalker’s attack had caught them completely off guard.

But now things were starting to make sense to Asajj Ventress. Darth Sidious had lured Skywalker to the Dark Side.

“Skywalker must be pretending to be Palpatine’s lapdog for Sidious even as the Sith Lord manipulates Palpatine into helping him exterminate the Jedi, a brilliant plan. Now he must be trying to cut all of his ties to Dooku though to keep his involvement from being discovered. Sing and I each served under the Count.”

Although she didn’t understand all of the conspiracies fully quite yet, she was beginning to see that she was in great danger. She re activated her lightsabers and turned towards the sound of another being in the moonlight, it was Sing.

“This is why I avoid working with Sith.” Aurra Sing said as she picked herself up off of the ground a few meters from where Ventress had landed. “In the end they will always betray you.”

Ventress rose to her feet, “I'm beginning to understand your advice. You will still help me kill Skywalker though right?”

Sing activated her own lightsaber and snarled. “Of course.”

The instant she had finished making her promise, Vader landed behind them, and his lightsaber ignited with a snap-hiss .

Thunder crashed in the distance as the once distant storm filled everyone’s ears, and the Sith Lord raised his hand and beckoned his would-be assassins with a taunt.

“Then by all means…kill me…if you can.” Vader said as he raised his lightsaber to strike.

The clone troopers raised their blaster rifles to fire, but as they squeezed the trigger they felt their rifles suddenly pull away from them. Their shorts blazed over Quinlan’s head, missing him by centimeters, and several of the troopers were slammed to the ground by an unseen power.

Roan Shryne was leading the charge as the Jedi entered the small plaza where Quinlan had been cornered. With their lightsabers drawn they deflected nearly every shot fired at them, many of those shots redirected back at the clones that had fired them. Jastus Farr hoisted Quinlan up onto his back and began carrying him.

“Do you arms work?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Quinlan said through the pain. “It’s just my leg.”

“Then you’d better grab on tight. It’s harder to use one of these things if I have to use one of my own arms to carry you.” Farr said as he switched on his double bladed lightsaber. He charged towards the remaining clones alongside of Tsui Choi, who was leaping and maneuvering at almost impossible angles. The two Jedi masters reached melee distance with the clones and by the time they were finished not one of the clones was left alive and all of them were missing either heads or limbs.

The other Jedi that had held back were now coming under fire by clone reinforcements that had begun landing throughout the city, as well as a few remaining mercenaries who thought they might be able to collect an easy paycheck.

“My ship isn’t far!” Shadday cried out “The docking bay is only a few blocks North of here but we’ll have to hurry. Where there are clones there’s gunships…”

“…And where there’s gunships the Star Destroyers aren’t far behind.” Shryne grimaced, repeating the old adage that the clone troopers had adopted early on in the war after the first Venator -class ships had come off the line. “All right let’s go. Nobody’s getting left behind.”

“A noble statement,” Master Darte spoke as he maneuvered closer to Shryne, deflecting blaster bolts with his lightsaber. “But from one General to another you know as well as I do that there’s no way out of this unless one of us provides a distraction.”

Shryne cursed under his breath, realizing that Darte was probably right. He shouted as loud as he could to be heard over the sounds of blaster fire and lightsabers cutting through air. “All right then, I’ll start heading south and engaging as many as I can, you get to…” Before he could finish Darte cut him off.

“Forgive me Master Shryne, but I wasn’t referring to you. You’re needed with Master Shadday; Master Vos may not survive to reach the ship, that leaves you as the only one who can get the others to Tholme’s sanctuary.”

Roan shrine fought to argue, but he was cut off when a blast from a sonic weapon, ironically based on a captured Geonosian design, nearly hit its target. Shryne and Darte leaped out of the way. Shryne moved to follow Darte but Master Shaalas stopped him.

“Let him go,” Shaalas cautioned. “He’s already beside himself for letting Master Aranna die for him on Kessel. Honor his decision so that he might join with the Force in peace.”

Shryne conceded the argument. Darte’s strategy was having the desired effect, as he broke away from the spaceport clones and bounty hunters alike converged on him hoping to take down the isolated Jedi. The group was now freer to move towards the spaceport, which they did in great haste.

Shadday was in the lead with Jastus Farr close behind her carrying Quinlan Vos, who was struggling to maintain his grip on Jastus’ back.

“Don’t die on me Vos,” Farr warned. “I was hoping I could punch you in the back of the head again someday.”

Quinlan laughed as he fought back the pain in his leg. “If we survive this I’ll be sure to let you.”

“Just a little further!” Shadday yelled as they rounded the corner, she skidded to a stop right in front of the door to docking bay 49, frantically punching in the numeric code that would give them access. It opened on the first try. The rest of the Jedi soon caught up, save for one.

“Where’s Sia-Lann?” Tsui Choi asked as he holstered his lightsaber. “She was behind me just a minute ago.”

Shryne looked back out through the door, after a few seconds a bloodied and battered Sia-Lann Wezz rounded the corner of the outdoor passage towards their berth. She had been delayed after coming into close contact with a nest of troopers and Shryne could see that her arm was hanging limp at her side, badly broken.

“Go!” She yelled, “If I can’t make it leave without me!”

Shryne was about to run to her and help her escape when the sound of a LAAT Gunship cut through the air, running parallel to Sia-Lann on her left. As it rocketed through the air Shryne noticed that the ship’s starboard beam turret was taking aim, all he could do was turn his head as the bright green beam tore through Sia-Lann Wezz at her midsection, reducing the entire lower half of her body into a smoldering pile of burnt flesh. She crawled for about a half meter before she died.

“Shryne! We’re ready to go! Get in!” Bultar Swan yelled as she ascended the ramp into the unnamed Corellian YT-1300. Setting his grief aside he ran into the ship, making his way to the cockpit and taking a seat behind Tsui Choi, an accomplished Jedi fighter ace and the group’s default pilot. The ship took off only to be fired upon by the gunship that had killed Sia-Lann Wezz. Their gunners were no Master Choi’s expertise though, and the ship made it into orbit easily.

As soon as they had exited the atmosphere though, the blaring of an alarm klaxon nearly deafened Shryne, who happened to be sitting next to one of the klaxon’s audio-casters.

“ What happened? Did we get hit?” He yelled while covering his ears.

Tsui Choi looked to his left and tightened his grip on the controls. “We’re fine, for now. We took no damage but we’ve got about thirty fighters on our tail. Arc-170’s and V-Wings, and there’s a Star Destroyer coming into range.”

“I don’t get it,” Shadday said. “Why don’t they just use the long range flak guns and try to get in a good shot before the fighters get here?”

“That’s easy,” Shryne said. “They’re not trying to kill us.” Shadday turned to him to ask what he meant, but before she could Shryne finished his statement.

“They want prisoners.”

“During one of your assignments you may come across a Jedi of superior skill.” Dooku said in his aristocratic teaching voice, the voice he used when he demanded strict attention to his words. “Your first instinct is going to be to try and test your own meager abilities against him in one on one combat. That would be foolish.”

Ventress remembered the lesson well. A former Jedi instructor himself, Dooku occasionally held sessions like these to impart some of his knowledge upon his acolytes. Most of them were pointless ramblings that were barely even basic Dark Side teachings, but they were enough to entice beings such as Tol Skorr, Kadrian Sey, or even Sora Bulq, fallen Jedi whose understanding of the Dark Side was still hampered by their old ways. She hated working with them, and rarely even saw her counterparts amongst Dooku’s elite. She hated how Dooku doted on them, how he would use their connection as former Jedi to his own advantages.

But some of Dooku’s lessons had possessed meaning, and those were the ones she called upon when dealing with a powerful opponent such as Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader.

“Many of you, if not all of you, will never surpass the elite Jedi in strength and mastery of the Force. But they are far from invincible. You must use cunning, and tactics if you are going to overcome them. All of you will have to learn to cooperate with one another,” he had looked directly at Asajj at that point, “especially during battle. Combine your strengths and energies, and you stand a much greater chance of surviving, especially against Masters such as Yoda, or Mace Windu.”

At the time Ventress had scoffed, it didn’t matter in a duel what tactics were used if one side was simply more powerful than the other. Dooku had proved as much when he had soundly beaten Kenobi and Skywalker on Geonosis and again when he dispatched Master Tholme and then-Jedi Sora Bulq on Bakura.

After a series of partnerships with the Bounty Hunter Durge though, she began to realize her own effectiveness was enhanced when coupled with his tactics, and she slowly understood that she could do the same with another force user should the partnership prove opportunistic.
In this case the partnership with Aurra Sing was. The two women had much in common, and their styles complimented each other well. Aurra was a brute Force killer while Ventress was an incredibly agile assassin. The combination of strength and speed would have been more than a match for almost any opponent in the galaxy.

Except Darth Vader, after only two maneuvers into the battle he had beaten back each and every on of their attacks with but one hand. He was matching all of Aurra’s strength and countering all of Ventress’ speed. She could barely keep track of his blade, the only thing keeping either of them alive were their unrelenting tandem attacks forcing Vader to counter each time. Their goal against Skywalker was to try and overwhelm him and take advantage of any mistakes while wearing him down. But Vader wasn’t tiring and his technique was absolutely flawless.

The frustration began to take its toll on the two and Aurra Sing gave into her anger, attempting to carve her lightsaber through Vader’s shoulder with a high two handed chop brought down like a hammer. She had left herself open though, and Vader lifted his leg and kicked her in the solar plexus as she moved in to attack, knocking her aside as he defended against Ventress’ twin blades. Sing landed face first, her chin hitting against the hard duracrete of the road and her teeth cutting into the skin inside of her mouth. Ventress spared a glance over at her, and she was flat on her stomach, unconscious. With her partner downed Ventress was in the precarious position of fighting Vader alone.

She was now up against the man who had killed her master, the man who had taken the title she had desired above all other things and stolen her claim to the Sith teachings. Everything she had learned up until this point was being pitted against a fallen Jedi with a freakishly strong connection to the Force. The one thing that she feared more than anything was that he no longer had the same limitations he possessed before embracing the Dark Side. She kept it off of her face, but she was deathly afraid.

Ventress took a few steps back to try and put more distance between her and Vader, but the effort was futile as Vader surged forward to take the offensive. His blade roared through the night sky as the rain started to fall, drops of water sizzling off of his blade as he slashed at Ventress. She raised one of her blades to parry but the force of Vader’s cut was so great that it knocked the blade from her grip, sending it to the ground where it smashed into several pieces.

Forced into dueling with one blade Ventress gripped her remaining weapon with both hands to compensate for her rain-slicked palms. Vader was feeling no such effects however, it was as if he dominated the inclement weather and used it to his advantage. He strode forward and with a powerful flurry of cuts he pushed Ventress back.

With every swing Ventress was forced to give ground and her fear grew. As strong with the Dark Side as she was, she was growing desperate, and Vader was feeding off of that desperation. He was growing stronger with every step while Asajj was growing weaker. In a desperate attempt to surprise him she jumped into the air hoping to land behind him and strike. Vader anticipated the move perfectly and Asajj landed with her back to Vader, who took advantage of his position by cutting off her left arm at the shoulder, her limb fell to the ground with a wet “thud.”

From the corner of his perception Vader noticed that Aurra Sing had regained consciousness and was now crawling slowly towards her fallen lightsaber. Vader looked back down at Ventress and leaped high into the air. Ventress watched in horror as Sing finally reclaimed her weapon despite terrible pain, only to have Vader land on top of her, his boots shattering her spine and instantly paralyzing her. In the same motion he swooped with his lightsaber towards the ground and amputated both of Sing’s outstretched arms at the elbow. After sensing her presence in the Force faintly hanging on, he swooped his lightsaber again. This time, Aurra Sing’s head was forcibly removed from her neck, and it rolled across the ground before coming to a stop.

Aurra Sing’s torment brought a rush of energy to the Dark Side of the Force; although Ventress could sense it it was Vader who fed upon it. This was the true power of the Sith, and it was a fearsome sight to behold. With Sing permanently incapacitated Vader turned his attention left to his remaining prey.

“You didn’t think you could beat me with her as your ally did you Ventress? You really are as gullible and stupid as my Master says you are. You fell for every one of his lies as easily as you did Dooku’s.”

If Asajj had the power she would have reached out into the Force and crushed Anakin Skywalker right then and there. But even if she were fully healthy she now realized that she could have never beaten Anakin Skywalker. She knew her death was imminent. That didn’t stop her nemesis from taunting her further.

“This is what happens when pretenders try and learn the true nature of the Force. Only those with the power of will can look into the inferno that is the Dark Side of the Force and not be consumed by it’s fire. Anakin raised his hand into the air and the rain and gesture right at Ventress.

“This is for threatening my wife.” He said calmly.

The part of Vader that remained Anakin was pushed aside with little resistance as Vader’s need for revenge summoned Force lightning. Asajj wailed as her body sizzled and burned before Vader’s rage, with every angry thought the lightning grew more intense, until finally Asajj dropped her lightsaber and collapsed, unable to resist.

She coughed and blood began to trickle from her mouth. As she reached up and clutched her cauterized left stump, she offered one last thing to say.

“What, no revenge for Obi Wan? I should have saved you the trouble and killed him months ago.”

Anakin did not know why the comment infuriated him, but he didn’t take the time to speculate. Ventress had though she would at least get one last word in before she died before her body shut down, but she soon regretted it. Vader focused on her with the Force and sought out her mind. At full strength she would have been able to put up a defense, but now her mind was as unprotected as an open vault. Vader flooded her brain with his hatred and seized control of her mind forcibly.

Asajj suddenly found herself quite conscious, her senses kept extremely heightened by Vader’s dark power. Vader was surprised at how easy it was, as a Jedi he had learned how to manipulate the minds of others but he was now free of the limits imposed by his training. Her shattered body moved despite great pain and she could not stop herself. Her arm reached down to her lightsaber, as she picked it up she found that she was pressing the emitter to her belly. She struggled against Vader’s control of her mind and found that she only had control of her thumb, which was right on the switch of her lightsaber. That was when she realized she was going to suffer a painful death.

She had two options: she could activate her saber and allow the blade to puncture her abdomen. She would die slowly and painfully. Or she could simply wait until Vader did it himself. It wasn’t an easy decision, but she thought she could at least die on her own terms. She activated the switch and as she did she felt the heat of the blade impale her. Vader released his control on her and she slumped to the ground, unmoving. With her last look, she saw Vader standing over her, brimming with hate.

It took several painful minutes before she died.

His assignment finished, Vader deactivated his lightsaber and exchanged it on his belt for a communicator. Someone was bound to have noticed the commotion, even in this sleepy Alderaanian suburb, and it would not be long before the authorities arrived.

His master had arranged for the aftermath to be taken care of in advance, over a secure channel Anakin notified agents of the ISB, who on his orders would come and handle the messy details. He then notified Commander Appo, who would help in securing the area and creating enough of an Imperial presence so that their activities would go unquestioned.

His true mission completed, Anakin allowed himself to think personal thoughts, and it wasn’t long before he began thinking of returning to his family.

“We’ve got to do something! Shryne bellowed. Those fighters will chew us to bits before we can make it to hyperspace!”

“If you have any suggestions I'm all ears!” Master Choi said as he spun the YT-1300 into a barrel roll. “I can only outmaneuver them for so long!”

“Remind me to put a few quad laser turrets in this thing one day.” Shadday said sarcastically as she looked over the threat display on the screen in front of her. “Wait, there’s another ship coming in on our vector. I’ve never seen one like it before.”

“No, but I have…” Shryne said excitedly. “That’s the Inferno!

The slender profile of the Inferno flew over the fleeing Jedi and opened up with it’s powerful cannons, scoring direct hits on the lead V-Wing, destroying the vessel and showering it’s wingman with debris. Inferno continued firing on as many ships as it could but it was immediately targeted by the pursuing ARC-170’s, which pummeled the ship with heavy fire.

”Just like Master Darte, why is it that every time something bad happens anymore someone has to die because of it?” Shryne’s attention changed when the communications system started going off.

“Somebody is trying to call us, I’ll bet its Villie.” Shryne said to Shadday, who answered the signal.

“This is Inferno to Jedi ship. Where is Vos?” Villie demanded.

“This is Jedi Master Shadday, Master Vos has been badly injured and isn’t available right now.”

“Oh things is getting better and better ya? Then get me that other one he was with, Road Sign or whatever.”

Shryne leaned over Shadday’s shoulder and responded. “Shryne here, Villie you’re going to get chewed up out there. We’ll be fine, just get out while you can!”

Villie made what sounded like a sigh over the channel, “No can do friend Jedi, Villie has debt to pay to Vos, although if I happen to survive I will bring you the bill for repairs to my ship. Now, you make jump to hyperspace, but promise me you’ll take care of Chak, hokay?”

Before Shryne could respond the transmission ended. The fighters were jamming their ship-to-ship transmissions. “You heard the man Master Choi, lets not let his efforts go to waste.” He then looked over at Shaalas, who nodded his head.

After a few terrifying moments they freed themselves from the melee and began to break away, just as Villie’s shields fell and the Star Destroyer loomed over him. The Jedi looked forward through the cockpit into space and watched as the stars stretched out before them.

Author's note: Hooray! People get killed! I've been wanting to write this chapter for months, even weeks, but it took everything up until this point I think to get it right. It's longer than most of my chapters also, I generally make sure they're about seven full pages in MS Word before I edit them and post them, this one went nine. Hopefully this will draw some of the readers back and hook new ones. I'm not stopping here though, there's more intruigue to cover in this fic.

Who is Darth Cynyst? How will Obi Wan handle the responsibility Qui Gon has placed upon him? Will Anakin and Padme's marriage survive? Can the united Jedi rebuild the order on Telos? It's worth waiting and watching. I promise you.

One other thing, I think I'll dedicate this chapter to the upcoming Halloween, since I at least tried to make it evil. :twisted:


Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2006-11-26 11:33am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 17: Gambits

The days since the fall of the Republic had passed quickly, unless one ignored sleep. Sidious had discovered long ago that sleep was just another one of the body’s weaknesses that the Dark Side of the Force would allow him to overcome. Plagueis had chastised him on several occasions, reprimanding his apprentice for his lavish use of the Force when it wasn’t required. It was one of but several shortcomings that had spelled the end of Darth Plagueis, and paved the way for Darth Sidious to become heir to the Sith Order.

He had just received news regarding an incident in the Trigalis system, a group of Jedi had escaped from Imperial Forces and identifiable among them was Quinlan Vos. Vos’ survival had not been unexpected, but he wouldn’t have been at a loss if he had perished either. Still, his survival would further his own plans even though Quinlan had rejected Count Dooku and the Dark Side on Saleucami.

Even now, with his enemies extinguished or hiding in fear and the entire galaxy on bended knee before him, he refused to sleep. The late hours devoted to personal curiosities such as intense study of the Dark Side. It was in the darkness of the Coruscant night, that he felt a tremor in the force, a flash of hate that was unmistakably his apprentice. The feeling had been brief, but it was clear what had happened. With the rage-fueled deaths of his enemies, Anakin’s transformation to Darth Vader was almost complete, and the much-heralded chosen one of the Jedi had become their greatest nightmare.

“Darth Vader will become more powerful than either of us!”

He had cursed at Yoda in a fit of rage before their duel in the Senate building, but only now was Sidious beginning to realize the truth of his words. Anakin…no, Vader was progressing fast, almost too fast.

The audio-comm speaker on desk chirped, with the tone low and subtle indicating that it was from Anakin’s personal comm-line. He answered.

“Ah, Lord Vader, I trust you have been successful?”

“It is done, my Master. I await your further orders.”

The boy’s impatience annoyed Sidious, who wondered if Anakin wouldn’t be able to sit still until he had plunged a lightsaber through every one of his enemies in the galaxy. His displeasure was offset by his approval of the changes in Vader’s psyche.

“Your assignment on Alderaan is not finished yet Lord Vader. You must still oversee the Another Chance ceremony. Make sure that our presence on Alderaan is made permanent and see to it that any more ‘demonstrations’ are put down.”

There was a brief pause, and Sidious could tell that Vader wanted to argue the point of having to stay. Vader though better of it though. “Yes, my Master. As you command.”

“Good, I can assure you that when you have finished this assignment there will be nothing pressing to keep you away from your home. Make sure that fool Organa stays in line and you can return to Coruscant for as long as you desire. Return with haste, there is someone I have for you to meet who will aid us in strengthening the future of our Empire.”

“I would like that, my Master.”

“Then you had best take your leave Lord Vader. ISB will handle the necessary affairs regarding your victims. Sidious spoke with deliberate emphasis on that last word.

Vader gave a brief, barely audible acknowledgement and the connection was cut. Not one to waste time Sidious reactivated the communicator. After a brief moment, the emotionless voice of Darth Cynyst could be heard.

“I hear and obey my Master, to what do I owe the honor?”

“Darth Cynyst,” Sidious spoke in a deadly voice. “The time has come for you to resurface, you will make your announcement tomorrow at the steps of the Jedi Temple. When your preparations are complete you will kill Padme Amidala. Then, and only then, will you be allowed to challenge Darth Vader.”

“I will not fail you Master.”

Without words or further instructions Sidious simply shut down the power and returned to his meditations. Now that the mechanism was in place, matters would take care of themselves, just as the Emperor had foreseen it.

The Alderaanian dawn was not kind to Bail Organa.

The sun had barely begun to creep over the horizon when Bail had been summoned by Raymus Antilles, when he had dressed and exited the private residential area of the Aldera palace he found himself flanked by a pair of elite guards, two of the remaining few still retained for the protection of high ranking government officials. They were each wearing the informal uniform of the Alderaanian Guards, one of them being a hand span taller than the other.

“What is the meaning of this?” Bail demanded.

“I apologize sir, we know how you dislike escorts.” The shorter one said. “But Captain Antilles ordered us personally to see to it that you are guarded. There’s been a series of incidents in the past hour that are raising havoc all over the city.”

Bail could have been told that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and been more optimistic at the news. “What sort of events?”

“Sir, I think it would be best if you got the news from Captain Antilles.” The guard said grimly.

The three men took a shortcut along an outdoor elevated walkway reserved for royalty and high-ranking government officials. As they made way Bail was greeting with the early morning sun climbing over the city. The infant daylight gave way to swarms of Imperial landing craft ignoring the designated flight routes and airspace restrictions as they deployed their cargoes of white armored troopers. For all practical purposes, the city was being placed under martial law.

In that moment Bail had realized his arrogance. This was not supposed to happen on Alderaan, he had been doing everything he could to appease Palpatine and his government and his reward had been an invasion of his capital city. He still believed Mon Mothma’s stance was too aggressive, but she was closer to reality than he had thought.

Captain Antilles, the Vizier of Alderaan, and most of Bail’s staff were in attendance including the remaining Alderaanian Defense Force leadership. They rose from their seats as a flatscreen news feed played in the background. The image showed a human male wearing the uniform of an Imperial diplomat standing at a pulpit in front of the Imperial Embassy, clone troopers keeping the media at bay.

“…these two fugitives, a pair of former Jedi who were also in service to the late Count Dooku, attacked General Skywalker with the intent of murdering him.

Image of Aurra Sing and Asajj Ventress displayed over a scrolling news ticker on the screen. Bail recognized each of the images and clasped his hands together to try and contain his shock.

…a terrible reminder that even with the War’s end, Separatist and Jedi zealots still seek to disrupt the peace of our New Order. To contain the situation Imperial troops will be stationed in Aldera…

“Turn it off.” Bail said, his anger evident in his voice. One of his aides, Sheltray Retrac, quickly moved to switch off the power. “How did this happen? I want answers, not more questions!”

Another of Bail’s aides, Celana Aldrete, stepped forward. “From what our own investigators can gather at some point last night General Skywalker left the Imperial Embassy and headed for the suburbs, where the alleged attack occurred.”

There were a hundred questions Bail wanted to ask. Why was Skywalker leaving for the suburbs in the dead of night? How could two well known wanted criminals been allowed such easy passage and lodging on the planet? Why did they choose Alderaan? But Bail already knew the answers to those questions, and he knew he would never officially get the truth. Palpatine must have somehow orchestrated this. Bail wanted to focus on the present, not the subtle events leading to it.

“Was he injured?” Bail could only imagine the repercussions if Anakin had been badly injured.

“General Skywalker managed to subdue both of the attackers, both are dead. The General’s lightsaber skills are apparently as polished as they have ever been. Neither body was intact when they were delivered to the morgue.”

“The real problems began,” Raymus Antilles followed up. “, When the clones started landing their troops en masse even after we had finalized the security arrangements, they’re using the incident as justification for just about everything they are doing. We no longer have the manpower to try and deny them; they can literally bully their way anywhere on the planet. The worst part of it though is that every one of our complaints lodged with the Senate have been returned with a short message dismissing us outright!”

“I'm not surprised,” Bail said as he slumped into a chair, as depressed as anyone had ever seen him. “I see what is going on. I would bet that everything the Empire is doing right now is all perfectly legal, probably supported by some throwaway paragraph inserted into the Security Acts passed by the Senate. If I remember the wording of the legislation correctly, the Imperial government can override planetary authority for as long as their people are at risk, and that the military must be left in place to provide ‘additional security’ for a minimum of six months. Senator Ask Aak fought pretty hard to get that number raised from three.”

Bail looked around the room and tried to think of anything he could say to inspire some hope. But the future looked as dismal now as it ever had been, the only thing he could do was try and find some way to focus.

“The only thing we can do now is to get today’s events over with. If we can limit the damage done today then we can devise a strategy for peacefully removing the Empire. Until then, you all have your assignments, cooperate with the Empire but assume as much authority as you can before the Empire decides to intervene. They might have control, but this is still our world and our responsibility.”

As the individuals filed out of the room, Bail sat alone. He shut his eyes and concentrated hard hoping on the infinitely small chance that the Force would hear his words.

”Help us Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope.”

The ceremony in Aldera was set to take place in the public square which connected the Aldera palace grounds to the city’s own transportation network. Ground and aerial routes in and around the secure area were now cordoned off much to the distaste of downtown residents and business owners.

Anakin’s troopers, under the supervision of Clone Commander Appo, were working feverishly as the deadline neared. Many of these soldiers were veterans of some of the most brutal campaigns during the war and felt that they were above event security, some troopers privately joked with each other that they wouldn’t do anything if they happened to find an incendiary device planted beneath a seating section for diplomats. However, the dedication they held for General Anakin Skywalker provided all of the motivation any of them needed. There wasn’t any one being who threw their own person into the line of fire to protect clone troopers than him. There were former Mandalorian comrades of Jango Fett that had inspired loyalty in some small circles, but the vast majority of the clone army never associated themselves with that order. They were soldiers, vat-grown brothers created to serve the Republic, and now the Galactic Empire. To those that truly knew them, they knew that there were only three things a clone trooper really cared about: his brothers, his mission, and his nation. The unwavering loyalty to Palpatine demonstrated during the quelling of the “Jedi Rebellion” was through the troopers’ dedication to their government. Their dedication to Anakin Skywalker existed because they treated him as a brother.

This dedication spared no effort. Appo’s troopers checked and rechecked every detail of not only the ceremonial ground, but aboard the Another Chance as well. During an inspection of the ship’s programming, a step taken to ensure that the slave programming didn’t make any sudden course changes towards the city, one clone technician found several lines of code not in the original program. The report was forwarded to Appo’s command, where the Clone Commander, not wanting to share the discovery and lose credit to ISB, decided to take the matter directly to General Skywalker himself.

Anakin was packing what few belongings he had brought that would be transferred to his Star Destroyer so that he might depart immediately after the ceremony. He had not slept since the battle with Ventress and Sing save for a brief moment after he had spoken with his Master.

The prophetic visions had returned. He saw Padme, he saw Jedi, and storm clouds loomed over the horizon as a bright flash consumed everything. He didn’t know what to make of it; the message was far more vague than any others he had seen. It was enough though; to keep him from closing his eyes save for the occasional blink.

Anakin had just summoned the courier to take his belongings when Appo arrived at his suite within he Imperial Embassy.

“General, do you have a moment?”

Normally Anakin would be grateful for the distraction, but he was not in the mood nor the mindset to be disturbed if it could be avoided.

“Only if it’s important Commander.”

“I believe it is General.”

Anakin thought for a moment before nodding his head, allowing Appo to continue. Ever since his service with the ARC Trooper Alpha, Anakin had learned to trust the judgment of the experienced clone commanders. Appo, his expression of relief hidden by his helmet, gave his report.

“One of my technicians was double checking the navigational coding within the Another Chance slave programming. Everything checked out save for a few lines of code, but those few lines turned out to be quite significant. The destination coordinates have been altered to an unknown system not along normal hyperspace lanes. We haven’t been able to trace the access yet.”

Anakin’s interest stirred, his current responsibilities and concerns kept him restrained but his new position within the Empire gave him freedom to pursue some of his curiosities.

“Do the Alderaanians know of this?”

“It is possible, though the changes were made after their own technicians had already inputted the proper coordinates.”

“Then whoever did this has taken steps to make sure Alderaan isn’t implicated in case they were discovered. Bail Organa is too spineless to have made this move on his own. What is the closest ship we have to the Another Chance ’s new destination?”

Appo took a brief moment to connect his data pad to the Embassy’s secure computer core and pull up an updated fleet database. “A Victory Star Destroyer, the Sharpwyrm , is within three hours away. It will take at least that long to transmit the coordinates and the necessary hyperspace data before they can make that jump.”

“Then proceed, and tell Sharpwyrm ’s captain to report his findings directly to me. Excellent work Commander.”

Appo left just as Anakin’s escort to the ceremony arrived. Despite the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event, Anakin knew that what was taking place on Alderaan was nowhere near as important as what was happening in the stars above.

The ceremony went off without any further interruptions. The crowds stayed calm even in the midst of the obvious Imperial presence. On the request of Bail Organa, and much to the delight of all involved, speeches were kept to a minimum length. The formal affair lasted less than two hours, but the repercussions would last far longer.

The crowds that had gathered were finally rewarded as the silhouette of the Another Chance moved across the sky, the last in a line of ships sworn to protect the planet Alderaan. As it exited the atmosphere along the predetermined route, those with enough foresight to bring powerful macro-binoculars were rewarded with the sight of the Another Chance ’s last seconds near her home world before she jumped into hyperspace.

Anakin, whose presence was no longer required, wasted little time in returning to his Star Destroyer. He wasted even less time in orbit as the massive war vessel began the trip back to Coruscant.

“Home sweet home.” Shryne said in a sarcastic tone of voice as Shadday’s ship arrived at the Telos Academy. It had seen few pass through its halls since the time of the Old Republic, but the Jedi had made some scant improvements almost a thousand years before the last great war with the Sith. A concealed hangar and improved camouflage had kept the base hidden so well that over the course of two thousand years it had been forgotten by all but the most dedicated Jedi Historians. It was little more than an underground bunker with basic training equipment and a large stockpile of survival supplies kept at a temperature slightly above freezing beneath the snow above which hid the facility from prying eyes.

As the exiled Jedi descended the ramp they were greeted by Jedi Master Tholme, the highest ranking amongst all of the Jedi gathered at Telos. Known for his expertise in the art of espionage and of his mastery of stealth techniques learned from Anzati instructors, Tholme was one of the most formidable in the Jedi Order. His reputation was further enhanced, sometimes negatively, by the actions of his students that followed in his footsteps and adopted some of his more underhanded quirks. Flanking Tholme to his left was Jedi Master Tr’a Saa, a member of the Neti species same as legendary Jedi Master Ood Bnar.

“Master Shadday, it is good to see you among the living.” Tholme said, bowing his head. “Are you all right? Do any of you require medical attention?”

Shadday returned the bow and responded with a gesture towards the ship. “Master Darte and Sia Lann Wezz were killed on New Coronet, and the Devaronian that accompanied Masters Shryne and Vos was killed covering our escape. Master Vos was badly injured by clones in New Coronet. Masters Shryne and Farr are bringing him out, do you have a bacta tank here?”

Tholme shook his head sideways. “Unfortunately the facility here was constructed before the bacta tank became a common medical treatment. Fortunately though we have a supply of bacta bandages the Wookiees supplied us before we left Kashyyk, and Master Saa is an excellent healer herself.

Tr’a Saa stepped forward as Quinlan was being gingerly levitated in the force as he lay in a healing trance. She examined his wounds and motioned towards the entrance into the facility. “Let me show you to the infirmary, the damage is serious, but he should make a full recovery. The others are currently gathered in the mess hall should you wish to join them.”

The Jedi, save for Tholme and Shadday, filed out of the hangar and into the gathering area that had been converted into a dining area.

“Others?” Shadday asked.

Tholme nodded. “Tr’a Saa and I met up with Master Vos shortly after the clones turned on us. Eventually Master Shryne and his retinue discovered us while trying to find Master Yoda. The Empire does not quite have the justification it needs to attack Kashyyk, but we felt we had endangered the Wookiees enough already.”

“Indeed. Our gathering had been interrupted on Kessel, and then again in New Coronet before we could come to a consensus on a strategy. What is it that you have decided here on Telos?”

Tholme paused a moment, this was a test by Shadday to determine whether or not she would follow his course of action.

“We have not decided on any set course of action regarding the Empire, but we have decided to try and gather as many Jedi as we can. Yoda and Master Kenobi’s broadcast from the temple beacon told us to stay in hiding, they must have known something that we don’t right now and I intend to find out that that is before leading anyone out into the open.”

“A sensible course of action, and yet, it is an action we can take. I applaud you not simply sitting idle as the Empire tightens its grip on the galaxy.”

“Idle hands are the dark side’s playground.” Tholme smiled as he recited the old Jedi catchphrase, common amongst instructors with their padawans. “From what we have gathered, there are several battles going on right now on former Separatist planets where the Empire still hasn’t pacified armies still refuse to pledge their loyalty to the Empire. We have reason to believe that some of the battles involve fugitive Jedi. There are also plenty of former Jedi out there that refused to side with the Grand Army who are being targeted as well.

“We can only gather here for so long Tholme,” Shadday cautioned. “The Empire is too broad for a small focused group to take on alone. We will eventually need more specific targets.”

Tholme knew exactly what she was thinking. “You propose we assassinate Palpatine?”

“He’s the only individual we can target. We don’t have to kill him though, but remember the briefings Master Windu sent out shortly after the attempted attack on Coruscant.”

“I do remember that briefing; it was intended for council members only.” Tholme said.

Shadday grined coyly, “Master Adi-Mundi was never very adept at password protecting his files. The Council was being too secretive, I had to know what to prepare for.”

“I don’t question your intentions; I just want to know what you are getting at with your suggestion.”

“It’s simple really. We must get to Palpatine, if we have to kill him I do not know, but we need to get information from him. That Sith Lord who trained Dooku was on Coruscant just before Palpatine’s ascension to Emperor. That fact cannot be ignored.”

Tholme finally understood. “All right then, nobody here is going to stop you or anyone who chooses to follow you to Coruscant. Just remember what is at stake if you are captured or worse.”

“Thank you Tholme, I knew I could count on you.”

“If the Sith Lord is still there then the Force will be extremely clouded, you may not be able to rely on it. I will see if any of my contacts in the city are still in place to assist you, but for now you should rest.”

Tholme and Shadday exited the hangar, following the same path the others had taken. The Telos Jedi now numbered seventeen, and their future was beginning to look a little less bleak.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-11-02 05:23pm, edited 3 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."
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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 18:

Padme’ Amidala, still fresh to her role as Imperial Ambassador to the Senate, put on her ‘politician face’ as she dealt with the highly volatile and increasingly reclusive Chandrilan Senator Mon Mothma. Both women were seated at elaborate desks in their respective offices, connected by the hyperwave transmitters

“I assure you Senator, the Empire’s motives are legitimate. All I am asking is that you return to Coruscant for the next vote so that…”

“Do not insult me like this Padme. I am only taking up the reigns you once held on the fight to maintain our freedoms. DO you think that I would play myself into Palpatine’s hands so easily? You managed to convince Fang Zar to return from Sern Prime and he is already in Armand Isard’s custody! There is no telling what he is going through right now!”

Amidala nearly cringed, she had hoped to avoid that particular detail, but Mon Mothma was more well informed than she had anticipated. “I have been assured that Senator Zar is in good health and is not under any suspicion of wrongdoing. Imperial intelligence is trying to…”

Mon Mothma interrupted her again. “You toss around the word assure as if it were supposed to alleviate any and all of my doubts. You might still be so naïve as to trust the man who used to serve under you, but do not think for a second that I will be lured into Palpatine’s trap.”

“You have to listen to me!” Padme blurted out I an uncontrolled fit of emotion. Mon Mothma ceased speaking, as she was slightly startled, giving Padme an opportunity to speak. “Listen, I know you hate the Empire and Palpatine, but unless you and what is left of the opposition bloc show up and vote in force then the Imperial Directive Acts will pass easily. I know it’s a long shot that the bill can be defeated but you must try! If the bill passes then the Senate will essentially forfeit all military oversight.”

“That is something we haven’t had since Geonosis.” Mon Mothma smirked.

“That isn’t all” Padme said with a grave face. “Senator Ask Aak was able to push an amendment to the acts through a committee. The amendment would make abstaining from a senatorial vote a dereliction of duty, and give Palpatine the right to bypass planetary governments and replace abstaining Senators with an interim Senator of his own choosing.”

The realization dawned on Mon Mothma’s face. “I see. So I either return to Coruscant…”

“Or the Emperor will replace you, and you will be able to do no good. There is no other way, if you abandon your position now you will not longer be in any place to stop him on the Senate floor.”

Mon Mothma sighed and turned her head away from the holo projector. “You’re wrong Senator, you and I both know there is no realistic chance that the bill you speak of will fail. If I return now I may remain Senator as you say, but I would never be able to leave Coruscant and that is something that I cannot do. Though it pains me, I would not give the Emperor the satisfaction of replacing me. I henceforth submit to you my resignation. Refuse it if you may but I will not jeopardize my being in a futile effort.”

Amidala lowed her head; subconsciously unwilling to look at the woman she once called colleague and friend. “Mon…”

Mon Mothma, annoyed beyond the point where appearances where necessary placed her hand on the power switch to her console. “Good Day Ambassador. I hope you one day realize the true depths of the evil you serve before it consumes your children as it has your husband.”

The image dissipated, and Padme was alone in her office. Her inability to convince Mon Mothma to leave Chandrila was expected, but it still had an effect on Padme emotionally. The War had changed everything, especially the political landscape. To Padme, it appeared that no one was left to stand and restore liberty, but everyone was willing to fight for what was left of it. The Clone Wars were over, but Padme saw another Civil War looming in the distance that could be far more devastating.

She had accepted Palpatine’s offer to become Senatorial Ambassador, and her first order of business had been to contact as many of the influential figures in the Petition of the Two Thousand, now informally known as the 2000 bloc. Padme had convinced many Senators to return, and of those who did return few needed much convincing. Padme soon began to realize that this was an opportunity for many to gracefully bow out of the 2000 bloc without losing face while others simply feared retribution by the Empire against them or their world.

Padme also realized that she was more than likely not acting in the spirit of the New Order by contacting these representatives. Although she was doing the Empire a favor by bringing these wayward Senators back to where they could be easily spied upon, she was doing so with the hope that the remaining opposition in the Senate to the burgeoning Imperial war machine would not give up on a peaceful resolution. The Emperor had moved swiftly by announcing the Imperial Directive Acts, which would allow the Empire to build military installations wherever the Emperor saw fit. Locations of these bases conveniently included worlds such as Chandrila, Sern Prime, and even Naboo.

Although he could technically enact the legislation without Senate approval, Padme had hoped that a strong showing against the bill in the legislature would deter the Emperor from doing so until he could gain more support. But the staunchest of the dissenting Senators had refused to participate. Without those Senators, civil war was inevitable, only this time there would be no Jedi Order to take charge of the fight and no hidden army to come to the rescue.

Padme had convinced enough Senators to return however, that the informal political entity known simply as “the Two Thousand” would be dissolved and re-absorbed into the mainstream of the Senate. She knew that she would be praised by Palpatine, who would downplay the notable absentees and assure Padme that she had done her best. Then within a few months those former Senators would be rounded up like Fang Zar had been before being spirited away to an undisclosed location.

That was another issue that made Padme cringe. She had known Fang Zar well, and assured him that he would be safe in his return. He had trusted her, but had barely set foot off of his transport before being taken into custody by Imperial agents. They had all of the legal pretenses to hold him, for he had knowingly left Coruscant under suspicion and invited the negative attention upon himself, but his internment sent shockwaves through the Senate.

She rose from her seat and checked her messages. The day nurse she had hired for the children had sent no transmissions, a sign that everything was well back at home. With nothing left to occupy her time she stood up from her desk and exited her office, to inform the Emperor of her progress.

The operation was going so well that several members of the bridge crew found the process quite boring. Many of these young men, regardless of the banner they served under in the Clone War, were those who had been far enough away from front line action that the mere thought of combat stirred visions of honor and glory. One of these young men was currently serving as a junior officer aboard Obi Wan’s flagship, the Battlehymn.

“General Cody! Sensors are detecting an unknown mark coming out of hyperspace off to our port side, 25 klicks. Signature matches specifications for Another Chance .” Came a yelp from the young officer who had spent his entire duty shift staring at the monotonously blank sensor screen at his terminal.

“Right on schedule. Captain Slayke, send out the order to all recovery teams, we’re on a very short schedule. If the operation has been compromised we will have to move quickly.”

Within five minutes of the order being broadcast a trio of Sheathipede shuttles carrying Neimoidian technicians were streaking towards the Another Chance . The Alderaanian warship made more valuable due to the scarcity of capital ships not in Imperial hands, and due to the arms and munitions lying within the ships’ armories. Reluctant to sell her surplus arms, Alderaan chose instead to send their unused weapons into the void along with her last great warship.

There were other ships and equipment being exiled by Alderaan, but Obi Wan hadn’t the time to redirect all of the ships, nor did he want to do anything that would attract too much attention. Instead he chose the biggest prize, so that the rebellion might gain as much as it could.

Obi Wan suddenly felt queasy, a feeling that usually was accompanied by a bad omen sensed via the Force. Jedi Healers had told him that he was one of the few Jedi whose personality quirks and nervous tendencies were unintentionally yet so finely attuned to the Force. Although the healers had identified it as unusual, they also diagnosed it as a natural condition, but Obi Wan suspected it was the result of spending his entire Jedi career with either Qui Gon Jinn or Anakin Skywalker.

“Sir!” Came the yell from the same excitable sensor operator that had identified Another Chance . “A new mark appearing out of hyperspace beyond our operational perimeter! It’s a Star Destroyer, Victory class!”

“All ships prepare to retreat!” Captain Slayke yelled, aware of Obi Wan’s previous order to avoid confrontation.

“Belay that order.” Obi Wan said confidently. He stood from his seat and strode forwards, not entirely sure of what had come over him. His crew stared at him, frightened and aware that he was contradicting himself. “Even if we were to retreat now we’d be abandoning our operatives n the Chance . Captain Slayke how much time until they’ve finished their work?”

“Ten minutes.” Slayke replied, he warily said.

“Then signal Master Control to begin jamming the area and direct her starfighters towards our ships in a defensive screen. If the Empire who we were or knew what we were doing here they would have sent in an entire task force, not just one VSD.”

Slayke, renewed with confidence nodded in agreement. Obi Wan responded with words even more startling than his decision to fight.

“Besides, we need to show the galaxy that the Empire can be hurt.”

“She is where ?” Anakin yelled his question at the protocol droid answering his transmission to his residence.

The droid, lacking the necessary programming to phrase responses based on sentient emotions, failed to react to Anakin’s anger. “Ambassador Amidala and the children are currently at the Senatorial Convocation Center, presumably in her office.”

Anakin pressed his fingers against his throbbing temple. As soon as he got home he knew that he would likely end up dismantling that particular droid with his lightsaber, and casting the spare parts into the under-city. Even more upsetting than the droid was the fact that Padme was once again involved with the Senate. Accepting the position behind his back made it even worse.

He realized that somehow his new master was behind this, as part of a plan to manipulate her political skills for his own gain. It was a bitter reminder that his loyalty to Palpatine would take far more than the execution of his commands. His very life was now dictated by the whim of the one man left in the galaxy who could control him.

“Redirect my transmission to her office then. It is important that I speak to her.” Anakin demanded.

Fortunately for the droid he was programmed to serve his owner unwaveringly. “Certainly Master Skywalker.”

After several excruciating minutes Amidala’s holo image finally appeared. Her hair once again dressed with the delicate ornaments common to high status women of Naboo.

“Ani? Is that you?”

His anger melted. Her voice was as soft as ever, and the expression on her face as precious to him as the day they had met in Watto’s shop. Inside of his heart, Anakin Skywalker’s blue blade flashed through the darkness, pushing Vader back. The man was moving further away from the precipice of oblivion, and Vader’s once imminent victory was once again cast into doubt.

Anakin’s image nodded back at her, and he smiled slightly. “I go on one diplomatic mission to Alderaan and just before I get home I’m told that you’ve gone off and joined the government – again.”

Padme’s face was mournful, but she was not about to back down from Anakin. During the Battle of Coruscant and the aftermath she had been forced into sitting almost completely idle as the Empire rose to power. She was not about to sit down and do nothing when she knew that she could accomplish good works with the Senate. “I couldn’t just sit by Anakin. Emperor Palpatine approached me personally and asked that I represent the Empire to the Senate.”

His suspicions were confirmed, but he was at least glad that she had chosen to work with the Empire rather than against it. But Palpatine never made such tempting offers without a cost.

“How was it that he convinced you?” Anakin asked. “What could possibly convince you to take an assignment in such a way that I have to find out about it from our protocol droid?”

Padme looked away from him, her memory still haunted by his hate filled yellow eyes on Mustafar. “All I asked in return was that you be allowed to stay home.” Anakin was stunned and remained silent. “You’ve been fighting almost non stop for four years.” Anakin was still quiet, so Padme pressed her case. “You’re the one who told me that we needed to embrace the New Order. Besides, if I am successful with my goals in the Senate you won’t have to fight any more. If The Empire truly stands for what you say it does then a peaceful solution must exist. But until we make an honest effort to achieve peace, then those opposed to the Empire will continue to gather arms. At this rate civil war is inevitable.”

The words were familiar to what Palpatine had told Anakin just after the pair of Sith had sent Mace Windu hurtling to his death. ”The Jedi are relentless; if they are not all destroyed, it will be civil war without end.”

“I’m less than an hour away. I’ll meet you and the children at your office.” He grumbled in a vain attempt to make the topic at hand go away.

“That’s not necessary, the twins and I will be home shortly.” she said, her brilliant white teeth flashed as she smiled. “We’ll meet you at home just as soon as I finish reviewing some of the Force Regulation Acts.”

Anakin’s head cocked. “Did you say ‘Force’ Regulation Acts?”

Padme’s face turned sour as she realized that this was the first Anakin had heard of Palpatine’s proposed measure. “You mean you haven’t heard?”

“Heard what?” Anakin’s voice deepened. Vader’s red blade crossed with Anakin’s at the center of his heart.

“I think it would be best if you met me here at the Senate after all. I can’t believe that you haven’t been told.”

Inside of Anakin’s heart, the Dark Specter of Vader laughed his noble counterpart, turning the momentum back in his favor. “Told WHAT?”

For a split second Padme began to reconsider telling Anakin. For some reason he had been kept out of the loop and now she had to deal with his possible response.

“Palpatine is going to reform the Jedi Order, under the legal jurisdiction of the Empire.”

Anakin was stunned. Hadn’t he risked everything in a fight to eradicate the Jedi from the galaxy? Hadn’t he turned his back on the Jedi, and swore to destroy the Jedi Order? There was no way he could co-exist with the order he had betrayed.

His thoughts were broken off by Padme. “There’s more, the reformation of the Jedi is being led by one of the Jedi Council.”

”But they’re all dead!” Anakin’s inner voice screamed, he managed to suppress it though so as not to upset his wife. There was only one thing Anakin could possibly ask. “…Who?”

Padme told him, and the answer only added to Anakin’s bewilderment.

Darth Cynyst, hidden Apprentice of the Sith, finally received permission from Lord Sidious to leave the Medical center that Cynyst had called home for many days. During that time, it was all Cynyst could do to fight back the memories. Memories of a Jedi Knighthood long forsaken, of being approached by the Sith in secrecy within the Temple itself. Sidious had taught his apprentice much in the arts of deception.

“When Darth Bane liberated the Sith Order from Kaan and the Brotherhood of Darkness, he not only established the Rule of Two, but he also returned to the Sith some of the Dark Side’s most potent weapons. Turmoil and deceit were no longer used in the petty power struggles of Sith pretenders. Now the Sith are free to use those weapons against the Jedi. Deceit feeds turmoil, and turmoil clouds the Jedi perception and corrupts the serenity which gives them strength. Without their strength the Jedi Order will begin to tear itself apart at the seams, leaving it vulnerable to the Dark Side of the Force. Through the Dark Side, the Sith will at last have revenge.”

Despite the Rule of Two however Sidious had been careful to protect the Sith legacy. After the death of his first apprentice on Naboo, Sidious began training two apprentices simultaneously with the hopes of pitting them against each other to determine his ultimate successor. Dooku and Vergere had been trained separately, and when Vergere turned on her Master it was Dooku’s agents that had chased her out of the known galaxy. Dooku had won the day and that helped him in part to gain the title of Darth Tyranus. But Sidious was not satisfied and began training Cynyst in secret, knowing that Cynyst would be far superior to Dooku in the coveted Sith arts of deception that Sidious had mastered years ago.

Sidious had first titled Darth Maul, then Tyranus, and now Vader. According to Sidious each of these apprentices had been chosen for their raw power and hate, a way of complementing Sidious’ own deceptive nature. But now it was Cynyst’s turn to do the master’s bidding.

Stepping into the light, the hidden apprentice prepared to address the galaxy. Years of preparation and waiting had been put into this very moment, it was now time to gather the remaining Jedi and rebuild their broken Order.

Because when the time came, the extinction of the Jedi and Padme Amidala would be far easier if they were all in one place.

Seated on his throne, Sidious gave the order to Darth Cynyst and the technical crew to begin the broadcast over the holonet. The announcement of the Restoration of the Jedi Order was one of several contingency plans he had put into place if necessary. If he wanted to kill Padme Amidala without arousing the ire of Anakin Skywalker, it was a course of action he had to take.

If all was proceeding according to his design, Anakin was still in hyperspace. The broadcast had to begin before he arrived before his objections could be noted, so that the boy would be forced to support the Emperor’s decision. It would also have the effect of legitimizing the “rebuilt” order if Anakin Skywalker, Hero to the uncounted trillions of the galaxy, backed the idea.

Swiveling his throne away from his desk he turned towards table sized holodisplay to his right. Within minutes, the trap was set.

In the hidden Jedi haven on Telos, Jambe Lu was monitoring the holonet on an encrypted feed that allowed the Jedi access without the risk of anyone tracing their location. Unskilled in the Force but determined not to be useless, he had volunteered much of his time in monitoring Imperial News Channels. He was changing station frequencies when he noticed that many of the major news outlets were cutting away to a live broadcast from Coruscant. Curious, he continued to watch as Sate Pestage took the stand in front of a throng of reporters outside of the Senate Dome. ]”Oh great, yet another self-congratulatory speech from the Empire. What else is new,” he scoffed.

After a few minutes he had begun to turn his attention elsewhere when he heard Pestage mention the word “Jedi.” His interest sparked, he turned up the volume.

”And so without further ado, I present to you the new Grand Master and Imperial Liason of the Jedi Order….

“MASTER THOLME!” Jambe yelled. “You have to see this!”

Somewhere on New Plympto, fugitive Jedi General Dass Jennir watched along with Nosaurian guerillas under his command.

Within the walls of a dusty cantina in Mos Espa, A’Sharad Hett stared in disbelief at the main flatscreen.

In a reclaimed apartment in the lower levels of Coruscant, Jax Pavan watched alongside a protocol droid once owned by his deceased father.

All across the galaxy, Jedi were drawn to the holonet broadcast. They all watched intently as one of their former Council members stood up in front of the entire galaxy and declared that the Jedi Order would be rebuilt, and that amnesty would be granted to all Jedi no matter their crime.

Reacting to Jambe’s cries, Tholme had hurried into the conference room where the other Jedi had begun to gather. Tholme at first wondered why Jambe had been so upset. Sure reforming the Jedi Order was a big deal but Tholme recognized it as a vain attempt by the Empire to draw them out of hiding. But Tholme had not been prepared for what he saw on the display.

Depa Billaba stood at the podium, her arms reaching outwards making peaceful gestures.

“My fellow Imperial Citizens. We have all suffered greatly, none more so than the few Jedi that survived the conspiracy perpetuated by my former master Mace Windu. The attempt on the Emperor’s life that day will be forever known as the darkest day of our order.

But there is still hope! The Emperor recognizes the need for a stabilizing force in our ever changing galaxy. That is why he has entrusted me with the task of rebuilding the Jedi Order. I call upon all Jedi to come out of hiding and reclaim your pride as Jedi Knights! I call upon the Jedi to fulfill the oaths they have sworn to the citizens of the galaxy. Let us forgive the crimes of those at the top of the conspiracy and show that the name Jedi is still synonymous with justice and peace. To those Jedi who doubt my intentions. Indeed my association to Mace Windu has tainted me in the eyes of many. But you do not have to take my word for it, but I know someone else who can.”

Gasps of astonishment came from those Jedi who had survived the fighting in New Coronet as Roblio Darte stood next to Master Billaba.

“I am Jedi Master Roblio Darte, and I was taken into custody on New Coronet while attempting to flee from the Empire. At the time I had thought that my life was forfeit. But Master Billaba’s words are true! Thanks to her efforts my life was spared, and now I am honored to once again to serve the galaxy as one of her protectors, and I am also once again fortunate to serve alongside the valiant clone soldiers who provided the manpower needed to defeat the Separatists! I know there are still many Jedi alive out there. I beseech all of you to join us on Coruscant. The sooner we re establish the Jedi, the sooner we can resume our true duties of serving Peace and Justice, as we did before the Clone Wars.”

Depa, also know as Darth Cynyst, stood by and watched as Master Darte performed his duties admirably. It had been shamefully easy to convince him that her intentions were true. Never would he suspect that he was doing the biddings of a Sith. He had been all too eager to reveal the identities of the Jedi who had aided him on New Coronet, his desperation to restore the order had clouded his judgment. Sidious had been right; the Jedi had become vulnerable amidst the chaos built from war.

Darte had finally finished talking, and Depa knew that Pestage would handle the rest. For a non force user he was a capable minion, worthy of service to Lord Sidious. There was nothing left to do but wait for the Jedi to make the next move.

Author's Notes: Whew! Took me a while. Well the cat is out of the bag, Depa Billaba is Darth Cynyst, don't like it? Too bad I can't change it now! Feedback on this chapter would be good because I would like to begin the process of doing some editing perhaps while I flesh out the next few chapters.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 19: Question the Answers

Sidious could sense Vader’s march to the Senate Building like a planet wide thundercloud that threatened to devour the entire ecumenopolis whole. For the first time since the perilous escape from the Invisible Hand , Sidious was a little nervous.

Amidala had told Vader about Depa Billaba and the Imperial plot to reform the Jedi Order. That was easy to ascertain. Vader was a touchy one at that. Be he a Jedi or Sith, he was accustomed to being treated above all others. Fortunately for the Dark Lord of the Sith, he could cow his Apprentice far better than the Jedi Council had ever managed. He also held the bargaining chip that would forever be his trump card against Anakin, the power to save Padme. A power that even he admitted to not having shortly after bestowing Anakin the title of Darth Vader, but Vader still believed his master held some sort of Sith secret, and Sidious knew it. It mattered little, because there was no future for Amidala in the New Order.

Sidious had debated with himself time and again, sometimes contemplating within the Force and other times reaching out with his mind in an effort to tear the answer out of destiny’s grasp. At present Padme was the one restraint on Vader. She had to be eliminated in order for Vader to full realize his potential. Without her however, there had been nothing to keep Vader’s loyalty in check. Things had changed though, when the Skywalker twins were born…

The protocol droid duo tasked with greeting dignitaries to the restricted access level of the Senate Building never stood a chance. Anakin brought his right fist together without even breaking stride and the two droids collapsed and every weld and joint, falling into a pile of debris, clattering loudly on their way to the floor. A clone trooper standing guard reached for his blaster but recognized Anakin a split second before his fingers reached the holster, he froze, pretending not to notice. Anakin entered the reception area of the level of the building reserved strictly for elected officials, making his way past scattered crowds of bureaucrats and their guests to the adjutant’s grand desk at the center of the room. The Adjutant, a Gotal, did not recognize Anakin at first but could sense his power and anger with the extrasensory horns atop his head.

“G...g…greetings sir…” he stuttered in basic, “what may I…”

Anakin brought his mechanical fist down onto the desk, cracking it with a powerful metallic sound. Surprisingly, his voice was not loud, but nevertheless menacing. “Spare me the idle pleasantries and take me to the Imperial Ambassador’s office. You have ten seconds before Senate Resources finds they are in need of a new adjutant.”

The Gotal was visibly shaken has he climbed to his feet, Anakin…no…Vader took a slight pleasure and felt invigorated at the fear ridden underling he dominated with little effort. The Gotal managed his fear enough to escort the antagonized General to Amidala’s newly christened office for the Imperial Ambassador to the Galactic Senate. Upon arriving, the Gotal ducked his head and moved as fast as he could without breaking into a sprint away.

Anakin entered the door, where a pair of assistants left the room, sparing nary a glance at the man they passed. His eyes found her seated at her own desk, holding her head as if a great weight had been placed upon her. She looked up, tried to smile, and failed.

For the first time since Mustafar, Anakin’s anger clouded his eyes to her beauty, his focus was on another.

“Tell me everything you know.” Anakin demanded.

“Ani, you know as much as I do. I don’t know what you’re thinking but I had nothing to do with the decision, I only act as a liason between the Emperor and the Senate. I am not privy to any internal decisions that Palpatine makes! If anything, I should be asking you what’s going on!”

Anakin wanted to lash out with the Force and smash something, he relented though out of deference to his wife. “I knew nothing of this. Until today I thought Depa Billaba was dead, one way or another.”
“She wasn’t in the temple during the…Jedi Rebellion?” Padme struggled with the official version of the truth, but Anakin either ignored her or did not notice.

“She would have been, ever since a mission early in the war to Haruun Kal , she had been little more than a vegetable rotting away in the Temple. Mace Windu would brood over her almost every day like some pathetic watch hound.” Anakin pondered his words for a minute and decided he had thought long enough. He turned on one foot, cloak swirling about him, and walked straight out the door.

“Wait…Ani…where are you going? Where are the twins?”

“The twins are safe with the nanny droid at home. I’ve placed a detachment of troopers on the property too. I won’t risk their safety with the Jedi back on Coruscant.”

“Anakin, wait! Just listen!” Padme cried in vain, but it was of no use. Anakin stormed out of the office to a waiting speeder that he would take to the interim throne room, the same room where had joined the Sith.

I will not allow the Jedi any avenue of revenge against me. Anakin said to himself. Within his mind, Darth Vader placed his hand on Anakin’s shoulder, and for the first time the two personalities stood together as one.

Less than an hour into the fight, and already the Battlehymn had used the majority of her torpedoes. In an attempt to hit the incoming Star Destroyer as hard as it could Obi Wan ordered additional droids stationed to the launch tubes for maximum efficiency in keeping the tubes loaded. What followed was a spectacular broadside of missile fire not often seen in capital ship warfare. With a number of her guns tied up defending from the onslaught, the Imperials could not bring as much firepower to bear on the smaller rebel capital ships closing in. The Carracks and Corellian Corvette unleashed as much fire as they could on their target’s topside, battering the shield and undoubtedly giving the bridge crew of the beleaguered ship something to fuss about.

Meanwhile, droid starfighters under the direction of the Master Control were preventing the VSD from launching what few fighters she possessed. A smart move by the Imperial commander, the droid fighters carried little heavy firepower, but outnumbered the VSD’s fighter complements over sixty to one. Even Jedi pilots would balk at those odds.

“Except for maybe Anakin…” Obi Wan mused to himself as he directed the battle.

The Battlehymn closed in further to get a clean shot at her target without risking the smaller ships clustered around the Star Destroyer, pummeling it from multiple angles.

“Captain Slayke!” The excited communications officer bellowed with glee, as if he were at a party instead of a battle, “ Master Control has just informed us that all technician’s shuttles have been recalled.”

“All right, that ought to teach those Imp bastards a thing or two about justice! General! Permission to prepare a boarding party! We could loot that Imp ship for all its worth and come away with even more.

Obi Wan turned his head towards the man standing next to him and shook his head.

“Let’s not get greedy captain. We need to finish this as quickly as possible before the reinforcements arrive.”

Slayke threw up his arms, exasperated. “What reinforcements? We’ve been jamming them so hard they probably can’t even flush their refreshers! Nobody is coming to help them.”

“Standard procedure for Star Destroyers upon encountering hostile targets in greater number is to launch a probe droid before enemy fighters can overrun. Don’t believe me? Check the sensor logs and you’ll see that a small object went into hyperspace just prior to our attack.”

Slayke stormed over to the nearest sensor station, scanned through the logs, and huffed.

“Don’t be surprised Captain; it’s a policy we used against the Separatists to great effect later in the war. I should know, after all, I helped devise it.”

Grumbling, Slayke turned his back to Obi Wan. Obi Wan couldn’t allow Slayke, popular although disrespectful and undisciplined as he was, to hurt morale; he decided to sugar his approach to bring the disconcerted Captain over to his side.

“Captain Slayke, the Carracks and the Corvettte can’t afford to slug it out up close with a Star Destroyer. If we press the attack too hard we will suffer casualties on all three of those ships.

Slayke was a leader who thought of the well being of those under his command second only to Victory. He acquiesced, knowing that the Rebels had already won this battle. “Well then what next?” He asked.

“We finish disabling this ship and then break for home, I want the survivors on that ship to run home with tales of a group of Rebels who weren’t going to run away just because on of their big bad Star Destroyers showed up and tried to kick us around. Secondly, it’s against my nature to kill those who haven’t the ability to defend themselves. The ship is our target, not her crew.”

“You Jedi are a piece of work. Kark, all right boys, wear out those shields and signal the task force to start targeting propulsion and communication equipment. Then we can bug out of here and make break for the nearest cantina!”

Obi Wan shook his head and pressed his fingers to the temples of his helmet, a habit he had developed before he had been imprisoned in the suit.

“Err, sorry about the breach of etiquette sir…” Slayke said, believing he had offended the General.

“It’s quite all right Captain…just stay focused on the battle at keep watch for any reinforcements.”

“Something really bad is happening.” Obi Wan realized, as he clenched his scorched eyes tight. After a few seconds, he opened them, and saw not the red tinted world of his helmet’s imaging systems. But the vision of a terrible light, and the feeling coursing through him was not unlike what he had felt on Ohma Dun, after the Separatist massacre of the Gungan colony with biological weapons. Beyond the explosion, at the center of a destroyed battlefield charred black from cannon fire and littered with bodies and wreckage, was Anakin. Anakin clutched a red lightsaber in one hand, and suddenly the filtered air from Obi Wan’s breathing apparatus smelled of decaying flesh.

Only the Force held the nausea in check, but it was of little help in suppressing the fear. Fortunately for Obi Wan, the mask hid his expressions from the rest of the bridge crew. He sat up straight in his chair and regained his composure. He would see this battle out to the end, before focusing on the next one.

“This has to be a trap.” Roan Shryne mused.

Tsui Choi looked over at him from across the table in the makeshift conference room, once a training for Echani adepts thousands of years ago. “Either a trap, or Master Billaba has been coerced into making a terrible mistake.”

The Telos Jedi were gathering in deep discussion, with Masters Shryne, Choi and Shadday leading the discussion. Notably silent was Master Tholme, whose silence was uncharacteristic but not unexpected considering the state of Quinlan Vos, the only Jedi on Telos not present at the table. Quinlan was still deep in a healing trance that would hopefully mend his leg sufficiently without the need to risk leaving to seek medical treatment.

After much contemplation, Tholme finally broke his silence. “T’ra,” he turned to look at the Neti Jedi seated next to him. “You once had the opportunity to examine Master Billaba on Coruscant. Did she ever show any signs that she might have turned against us and the Republic?”

T’ra Saa tilted her head in a common humanoid mannerism normally associated with remembering the distant past. “

“Her mind was completely empty, like space but without stars. Master Windu was not very descriptive of how she came to be in that state, but it would appear that her brush with the dark side was far more traumatic than anyone could have anticipated.”

Shryne spoke up. “She plays her role too well. Even with our limited force perceptions it is easy to tell that there is an ulterior motive to her actions. Or maybe she only chose now to wake up because she knows that we are in no position to try her for crimes against civilization.”

It was Shadday’s turn to speak. “Regardless, the Empire is offering amnesty to all Jedi who come out of hiding. This could be the opportunity we have been waiting for.” The words hung in the air. “Whether or not the offer is noble or genuine, this is our chance to get out of hiding and put ourselves into the position where we can solve this mystery and discover the roots of what has happened to the galaxy.”

“The last transmission we received from the temple was from Master Yoda telling us all go into hiding, to disguise ourselves, to conceal ourselves from the Empire. Master Yoda had to have known what he was saying. We cannot allow the Empire to discover us.”

“And what would you have us do Master Shryne?” The voice of the towering Jastus Farr bellowed. “Would you have us scatter to the four stellar winds? Hiding in cantinas and refuse bins across the Outer Rim doing nothing while the Empire grinds the rights of all sentients under Palpatine’s fist?”

“I am not saying that we must ignore those we have sworn to protect Master Farr, but throwing our lives away is not going to help anyone! We need answers before we can move against the Empire.” Shryne pleaded.

Farr was quick to counter. “We are Jedi, the Force is with us.”

Shryne had already prepared his response to just such a statement. Still, it was painful to say. “The Force could not protect us from the clones, and besides, you have seen the news reports that the Chosen One has sided with the Empire. The Force is no longer our exclusive ally.”

The animosity being developed between the two could be felt by all of the Jedi present.

Tholme again broke his silence. “It matters very little if either of you two is right. If Depa Billaba has now joined with the Empire then we will all be forced into action very soon.”

Before Shryne could even think to ask how that could be, Tholme answered the question. “Master Billaba was a member of the Jedi Council, and it is almost certain that she knows about this location, amongst other safe-houses that we may have across the galaxy.”

“Then we have to leave now!” Shryne was nearly shouting at this point. “One orbital barrage and this facility is molten slag!”

“If that is your wish Master Shryne, then do so!” An angered Jastus Farr barked at his antagonist.

“Master Farr,” the soothsaying voice of Tsui Choi re entered the conversation. “Master Shryne knows that by taking one of our two ships he would be stranding a number of us here. He is only doing what he feels is right, as are you.”

That seemed to calm the big guy down. Shryne thought. “Thank you Master Choi.” He responded.

“Your Majesty, Anakin Skywalker is here to see you.”

The throne turned 180 degrees and the fearsome visage of Palpatine pierced into his subordinate as if his eyes were a pair of terrifying yellow lightsabers. “I ordered you that I wasn’t to be disturbed Grand Vizier Pestage…”

The emphasis his master put on his newfound title reminded Pestage of how easily his predecessor, Mas Amedda, had been replaced. “I know this my Lord, which is why I have not granted him access to your chambers. However, he is quite adamant about speaking to you. He has already torn apart both of my office’s protocol droids and I am quite certain that he will do more damage if further denied.

That blasted apprentice, his rage is a powerful weapon but I will have to stop his tantrums in a most painful manner if he is to be a suitable Dark Lord.

“Send him to my office then, and in the future it would be best to let Skywalker know that he is never to approach my chambers in this manner again, remind him that this is my command and that you are following my orders.”

“Yes majesty, and should he fail to heed those orders?”

“If that should happen I suspect that he will kill you.”

Palpatine smiled as he spoke and Pestage was forced to hide his fear as best he could. He immediately bowed towards the throne and then scuttled off to find the rampaging General Skywalker. A figure, unseen by the Grand Vizier, emerged from the shadows in a corner of the room.

“Lord Vader is most impatient; I would deal with him personally.”

“If you think you can defeat him Lady Cynyst, then by all means.” Sidious spoke.

Cynyst was quiet, her refusal to answer the question spoke volumes about her desire to face Vader in a duel. Darth Sidious had no use for unjustified idle posturing between his useful underlings, unlike his public face, Emperor Palpatine.

“Your fear betrays you Lady Cynyst, perhaps I have made a mistake in allowing you to be present.”

“No, my master, you have not.”

“Good. Then take your place at my side.”

“Won’t that antagonize Lord Vader?”

“Perhaps, but it will encourage him to cooperate with our plan far better than if he were to believe that you possessed an agenda of your own.”

Darth Cynyst was not one to argue with her Master, she had not survived all of those years deceiving the Jedi Order by disobeying him.

“It shall be as you wish, my Master.”

With that, the former Jedi Council member and Champion of the Light took her place at the side of the Dark Lord of the Sith, and together they awaited the approaching storm of Lord Vader.

Anakin had taken little, but at least some satisfaction out on the two droids in Pestage’s office when he had arrived. He would have preferred to Force push the bureaucrat’s head through the transparisteel window and out into the Coruscant streets, but he was a loyal servant to his Master’s New Order, and such wanton murder of competent minions would not be looked upon kindly.

Pestage had finally returned and said that the Emperor had granted him an audience. Anakin left without further incident but he made sure to remind Pestage of who he was dealing with by using the Force to tear apart the secure doors of his office. Rated to protect against bomb blasts and structural collapse of the floors above, it should have been impregnable save for anything besides the heavy cannons of a military gunship. Anakin tore them asunder with ease.

When he entered the Emperor’s Sanctum, and passed the Red Guards, he finally managed to sense the second presence within, overshadowed by the infinite Dark presence of Darth Sidious, was the presence of Depa Billaba as he remembered during his first visit to Coruscant years ago.

By the time this meeting is over I swear she will be dead, along with the rest of the former Jedi Council.

The offer of Jedi Amnesty had been a lure that proved sorely tempting, even for the strength of Jedi willpower. Within his cell, bound and chained, Yoda could faintly feel the presences of his comrades across the galaxy drawing closer to him. In his heart he was saddened, because only he knew the truth of the betrayal. He was one of only two Jedi who knew all of the details, of the Revenge of the Sith.

Stay away!

But the effects of the Sith Torture mask that he work, and the weakness from the uncounted days in imprisonment, had robbed Yoda of the power to call out to those who would hear him. He struggled more but could not, and he grieved for his friends. They were being led to the capital like nerfs to a slaughter.

”They listen to their own hearts, not to the Force.”

The voice in the dark was no longer his own, but that of Qui Gon Jinn.

“Abandon the Force do they? Failed so badly as a teacher did I?

“Despair not my friend, they do not abandon the Force, but they cannot hear it. These dark times all but blinded save for only those most attuned to the Force. Only the Chosen One can restore the balance.

“Reject our teachings, Anakin Skywalker did.”

“He is no longer the Chosen One.”

Yoda, still in great pain, could not understand. “What do you mean, Master Jinn?”

“I cannot reveal too much more, the only way to solve the mystery of the prophecy is to answer it on one’s own. My time in this form is almost at an end and I will no longer be able to guide you. There is still much work to be done. In time however, you will solve the mystery of the prophecy yourself and only then will you fully realize your purpose in this dungeon.”

Yoda chastised himself silently; he had hoped for a quick and easy answer something he had deterred thousands of Jedi Knights from doing in the past few hundred years. He did understand that Qui Gon would soon be no longer able to contact him, and that he would have to contemplate the solution to his predicament on his own.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 20: Learning the Hard Way

“Welcome Lord Vader.”

The fact that his Master used his Sith honorific instead of his public title suggested that Depa Billaba was aware of the entire façade.

So she was a minion of Sidious all along, I can’t wait to hear this explanation, although it will be too little too late to spare her.

“I see that Master Billaba requires no introduction. Splendid, then we can begin discussing your upcoming cooperation then.” Sidious gushed in an almost reptilian voice.

Anakin was beside himself in shock. “ Cooperation? Master I don’t understand, I have been fighting in part to exterminate the Jedi for weeks now! Why should I cooperate with one of them, a pawn of Mace Windu no less, to help them rebuild!”

“Master Billaba has proven both worthy and loyal to our New Order Lord Vader. You would do well to respect her counsel.” Sidious admonished.

“If I may your Majesty,” Depa interjected before Anakin would respond. Sidious nodded and allowed her to proceed. “Lord Vader, it has come to my attention that you were elevated to the Jedi Council prior to the misguided attempt by our fellow Jedi…”

Anakin interrupted. “I am not a Jedi! Do not associate me with your treacherous ilk.”

Depa nodded apologetically while mentally noting Vader’s overt disdain for the Jedi. “Forgive my indiscretion Lord Vader, but all I suggest is that you are technically the highest ranking survivor of the Order, what with my recent incapacitation. Once the Jedi are gathered and a new Order is established on Coruscant, your participation will prove invaluable.”

“What would you have me do, and what is keeping me from doing to you what I did to your former Master?” Anakin growled, his eyes focused with hate.

“As you know the outer rim is littered with the scum of the galaxy. Gangsters, Pirates, and of course former Separatists turned Rebels. If we can turn the surviving Jedi to our side, we will have an unmatched advantage in restoring the Rule of Law to these territories.”

Anakin was unconvinced. “The Imperial Armed Forces will be more than up to the task of pacifying the Outer Rim. I will see to it myself.”

“I understand and admire your resolve Lord Vader, but you must realize that military pacification in those areas is tricky at best. This Jedi Order would legitimize our efforts in those systems that remain loyal, but not true, to the New Order.”

Sidious, sensing Anakin’s defiance on the matter, decided to weigh in. “I have decided that this is a good plan, my apprentice. It will be a great victory if we are able to turn the Jedi into the servants of the Sith. Remember your lessons, it is better to possess than to destroy.”

Not if your possession has the power to destroy you.

“I sense that you have doubts Lord Vader.”

“Forgive me my Master, but I have killed a great many Jedi in your service. I find it difficult to believe that they could be controlled in such a manner.”

Depa Billaba’s voice chimed in, much to Vader’s chagrin.

“That is where your participation ends, and Ambassador Amidala’s begins.”

Instinctively, Anakin drew his lightsaber to his hand, before he could ignite the switch Sidious gestured with the Force and knocked the hilt of the blade across the room.

“Lord Vader, your temper displeases me. I would have you hear Master Billaba out.”

Anakin, furious beyond any measure, restrained himself from following through on his attack. He did not want to displease Sidious. Not so long as the man held knowledge of the power to save people from death.

“It is all right majesty; Lord Vader is only being protective of the people he cares about. Just as he cared for Obi Wan and the other Jedi he served with admirably during the war.”

That comment had stung Anakin hard, only the threat of reprisal from Sidious held Anakin in check now. He was not prepared to challenge his master in any way just yet. Billaba turned her shoulder to Anakin and continued to outline her plan.

“Ambassador Amidala was well respected by the Jedi Order, she will be vital in reuniting the Jedi Order under our control. I propose that she and I form a diplomatic team to meet with the remaining Jedi. She wouldn’t be in any danger surrounded by dozens of Jedi now would she?”

She might be if those Jedi found out what I did in the Jedi Temple.

“I understand your concern Lord Vader,” Sidious spoke. “But Amidala knows the importance of her posting, and she accepted the position on the condition that you take an extended leave of absence, a sentiment we both shared.”

Only Sidious could make such an innocuous statement menacing.

“Yes, my master, I shall abide.”

“Then return home at once and resume your studies Lord Vader. I trust that you will spend the time with your children most productively.”

Sufficiently humiliated and frustrated, Darth Vader knelt before his Master and turned to storm out of the room, where he would once again resume his role as Anakin Skywalker.

”Vader is a child, but a powerful child indeed,” thought Cynyst.

Lord Sidious had refrained from using her own Sith honorific, a sign that not only was Lord Vader unaware of her true background, but that Lord Sidious intended to keep it that way. Whether it was to placate the impetuous apprentice or to protect her from his wrath Cynyst could not tell. Either way, she preferred Vader’s ignorance.

”Let him think that I am still part of the Jedi. That way it will be much more surprising to him when my blade meets his throat.”

Sidious rose from his throne and moved to the large window behind him, the window offered possibly the most perfect view of the Coruscant skyline anywhere, but when one had the Force, looking out to the skyline of a planet-wide city was like using a high powered scanner to read a book.

“Do you see now Lady Cynyst, the irrefutable power of the dark side? Even a great individual such as Lord Vader must humble himself in the presence of true power.”
Cynyst moved to stand by her Master’s side, a derisive scowl across her face. “Lord Vader is an affront to the ideals of the New Order. Powerful as he may be, there is no place for a rabid beast such as him in the society we are building. What is power without the ability to control it?”

Sidious turned to her, and she met his gaze. Looking at the old man’s face was difficult and Cynyst was sure that Sidious knew full well that his visage was most disconcerting. “Ah, but what is power without the will to use it? This is where Lord Vader surpasses you by a great margin Lady Cynyst. There is nothing he will not do to achieve his objectives. He is the ultimate weapon of war incarnated in human form.

That rebuke had stung Cynyst hard. Still, Sidious was not done. “You had the opportunity on Haruun Kal to dispose of Mace Windu, and you let yourself be defeated.”

The Dark Lady defended herself. “He was too powerful my master. His physical strength and combat form were too powerful for my abilities. The induced coma was necessary in order to save myself.”

“Don’t be so sure, that sort of self doubt is unbecoming of a Sith Lord, you would be wise to refrain from making such mistakes in the future. Fear is a weapon of the Sith, not a hindrance.”

Cynyst bowed, which was the correct move for a contrite apprentice. “Yes, my master, I am grateful for your wisdom.”

“Apologies and promises do not interest me, if you seek to placate me then you should consider accomplishing the next stage of our plan.” Sidious moved away from the window, taking a few steps and pondering for a brief moment before turning back towards Cynyst. “Tell me more of the hidden Jedi Enclaves you were speaking of before Vader arrived.

Cynyst reached into a pouch within her vestments, and handed her master a datapad. “Of course my Lord, as I was saying earlier there are a number of hidden Jedi Enclaves scattered throughout the galaxy. Many of them are being scouted out by agents of Inquisitor Malorum using records obtained from the Jedi Temple. However there is one world not on the list whose location I was privy too, Telos.”

Sidious remembered the name of the world well, it was part of one of Plagueis’ more interesting historical lessons. Three thousand years ago, the Sith Lord Darth Nihilus had fought with the Jedi on the world.

“As you know, twenty years ago, the damage done to the environment by the Offworld Corporation has led to the abandonment of most of the planet’s population centers. There are still enough people that it is not unusual to see ships traveling in and out of the system, but it is of little strategic importance. Guarding the system and monitoring the incoming and outgoing traffic is a waste of time. The Jedi Council has covertly maintained the ancient Jedi Enclave on that world for many years now. It is the only enclave with the resources necessary to house multiple fugitives.”

“If it was such a classified location then how would any of the surviving Jedi be aware of it? We have killed or captured every last member of the Jedi Council after all.”

“I have referenced the list of Jedi whose whereabouts are unknown. Of those Jedi, only Master Tholme would know of the Telos Enclave.”

”A nuisance of the highest order.” thought Sidious. During his time as Supreme Chancellor, even he had a difficult time keeping tabs on his activities. Tholme was a master of utilizing proxies and concealing his agenda. ”He could have been an excellent Sith, were he not so attached to that pathetic Jedi Order of his”

“Lord Sidious, Tholme may be a master of espionage but to me he is predictable. By now he must have at least a small group of Jedi with him that he could utilize as his agents in rebuilding a new spy network. He is also the senior most Jedi alive in terms of his rank. Lesser Jedi will flock to him, making the task of eliminating him easier yet.”

Sidious drew the Force into him, and then refocused outwards. Gazing through time itself, he followed the ebbs and currents of the Dark Side to almost literally seize the future ahead of him.

“We do not need to kill Tholme, or any of the other Jedi yet. Instead, you and Senator Amidala will attempt to contact Tholme. Arrange for a meeting at a neutral world if you must, but make sure to gather as many Jedi as possible. We cannot allow a handful of rogues to delay our efforts across the galaxy.”

“Yes Majesty, it will be done.”

“And Lady Cynyst, remember what we spoke of with regards to your fear. After this assignment is over Lord Vader will most likely seek you out. If you restrain yourself in any way, you will never defeat him.”

Cynyst acknowledged, she bowed again, and followed the same exit as Darth Vader.

As soon as she exited the room, she decided to make a side trip to see an old friend, someone who Cynyst hoped might be able to expedite her replacement of Lord Vader...

Sith Masters are the most cunning, ruthless, and treacherous beings that the galaxy has ever known. By contrast, Sith Apprentices are among the most manipulable. For one thousand years Sith Masters have toyed with their apprentices as part of their training, few Masters ever trained fewer than two before finding one suitable for the title. Indeed, the Apprentice covets what the Master possesses and pledges his servitude to obtain. But the Master, always at risk of losing his power, will never relinquish his title. The Apprentice must make the conscious decision to take what they desire, and thus replace the Master.

”For all his faults,” Sidious mused, “Lord Vader will one day assume his role and take that which is rightfully his. Cynyst will never be more than a pawn, always too timid to rise to Mastery like that fool Tyranus, forever tainted by her Jedi training. Vader’s recklessness may be childish, but ultimately it is what helped him resist Jedi indoctrination.”

Sidious had been secretly hoping to pit his charges against each other, so that he might see how Lord Vader would adapt to Cynyst’s unique form of combat and skills of deception. But Cynyst had to this point shown a complete lack of interest in anything beyond apprenticeship whereas Vader's naked ambition was exactly what a true apprentice should have. Now, Cynyst's apprenticeship was drawing to an end.

The Victory Star Destroyer Sharpwyrm was listing badly. With her shields gone, and her defensive batteries unable to retaliate against her attackers, the Rebels had started the task of wrecking whatever parts of the ship they could to make her useless for the Empire.

Within an hour there was nothing left to do save to recall the fighters. The Another Chance and all her munitions were securely in the grasp of the Rebellion, and Obi Wan’s ships were all intact. The smaller ships had taken a beating but not enough to prevent them from escaping to hyperspace. As soon as the Master Control had finished recalling all of the droid fighters, the Rebels were off without further incident. The Empire would arrive only to find their comrades rendered useless.

Content with the damage he had dealt but profoundly disturbed by his vision from the Force, Obi Wan retired to his quarters in order to contact Mon Mothma via their secure feed. After the end of the war, the former Separatists on orders from Former Senator Lott Dod cannibalized and reorganized a sizeable portion of the CIS Shadowfeed. The Rebels had instantaneous holo-transmission readily available throughout most of the Core and Mid Rim with limited reception in the Outer Rim.

Obi Wan seated himself in from of his holo transmitter and punched in the exclusive key-code he was given by Mon Mothma in order to contact her. The transmission would take some time to connect, for security purposes the initial call was always disguised as a perfectly innocent message from relatives on Chandrila. A counter-espionage detection program piggybacked a background signal along with the call, if the transmission was free from outside monitoring then the call would connect normally. This was necessary in order to prevent Mon Mothma’s extra curricular activites from being discovered by the ISB while she was still legally the Senator of Chandrila. After ten minutes, a green light illuminated on the display of the transmitter and the transparent blue image on Mon Mothma, seated at her desk, came to life on the display.

“General Cody, it is good to see you, how did your mission fare?”

“All went according to plan Senator, the Another Chance is in our hands as well as all of her cargo. We encountered a Victory Star Destroyer during the operation but we disabled the ship before it could do serious harm. Minor casualties on our lighter ships and minimal losses of droid starfighters, but other than that we are doing well. We made our escape before any reinforcements could arrive.”

Mon Mothma’s lips curved upwards into a smile. “A small strike, but you have shattered the Navy’s delusion of invulnerability. Excellent work General. It pains me to think that I could lose you so soon.”

“Lose me, how so?” Obi Wan’s confused tone in his voice was the only thing revealing his surprise from behind the expressionless mask.

“Then you have not yet heard…”

“I did feel a disturbance in the Force during the battle, but out of precaution I have kept our ships running silent for the duration of our route back to port. We have neither sent or received transmissions of any kind save for this one since our departure.”

Mon Mothma’s hands clasped in front of her. “I see, so you are completely unaware that the Empire has offered a general amnesty to all Jedi regardless of their rank or status within the Order.”

Just when Obi Wan thought he couldn’t be any more surprised. The news was like an arcball thrown by a professional shockball player. “Was this General Skywalker’s doing?” Obi Wan was hopeful that perhaps his padawan might be coming to his senses.

“The announcement was made by Master Depa Billaba. Tell me, how does this affect your standings with us?”

The urge to laugh and chastise Mon Mothma for joking around was tempting, and Obi Wan might have done just that if he didn’t have the Force to aid his perception. The truth was more bewildering than any fiction, especially in these dark times.

“Well General Cody?”

Obi Wan had completely forgotten to answer her question. “Ah, I am sorry Senator. As much as I would like to get to the heart of this manner, there are those in the Empire who believe I am dead. As I have said before, the knowledge of my existence is best kept out of Imperial hands. I remain committed to the Rebellion.”

“That is good to hear. Rest assured that if there is any information to come of this I will alert you as promptly as possible. However, once the next set of legislative acts passes I may be forced to resign from my office, as well as forfeit my contacts on Coruscant.”

“I understand Senator; the Rebellion will still have my sword regardless.”

“I am sure we will need it before our next trial begins General. Good luck, and may the Force be with you.”

The transmission ended the rhythmic breathing from Obi Wan’s chest increased. He was nervous, almost shaking. Any Jedi who responded to this trap were taking the bait right back into Palpatine’s trap, against the coded transmission that he and Yoda sent out after infiltrating the occupied Jedi Temple.

Obi Wan closed his eyes and connected his aura to that of the Living Force, putting himself in meditation, desperate for a way to save his brothers and sisters from certain death.

“An Imperial ship has arrived in the Telos system, a Lictor class transport. They will arrive in orbit within the hour.”

Bol Chatak’s words were permeated with gloom. She, along with her Padawan Olee Starstone had been tasked with the latest watch. Making matters worse, Lictor class ships were specifically developed for prioner transport, especially Force sensitive prisoners. Their crews well trained in mental defense techniques, and armed with weapons suited for Jedi hunting. During the Clone Wars they had been used with great effect in seeking out rogue Jedi recruited by Count Dooku.

Master Chatak, along with her Padawan had immediately brought their findings to Tholme, T’ra Saa, and Roan Shryne, who were in deep discussion in the facility’s sickbay where Quinlan Vos was still recuperating.

“I cannot sense Master Billaba anywhere on the planet.” Roan Shryne quipped. “If she is here, she is deliberately disguising her presence.”

“That is a possibility,” Tholme said. “But it has not been long since her transmission from Coruscant. She has probably planned this from the start and wanted to send this ship in as soon after her press conference as possible in order to maximize the impact.”

“That was her style,” Master Saa noted. “A trait she picked up after years of studying under Mace Windu.”

Shryne fixed his eyes on Tholme. “Master, we are all in agreement that something must be done. I have decided to accompany you and the others to Coruscant.”

Tholme placed his hand on Shryne’s shoulder. “I appreciate the vote of confidence Master Shryne, but I think it would be more prudent if you remained behind for the time being.”

That had not been expected. The denial of Shryne’s request to accompany him was hurtful to say the least. “Do you not trust me Master Tholme?”

“It is not that Roan. Believe me, I trust your judgment and your blade as much as any of the others here.”

“Then why…”

“Easy, because if something happens then it will fall upon you to begin the process of rebuilding the Jedi Order. Your ability for seeking out Force users is unparalleled by anyone else here, even myself. Besides, Quinlan is in no shape to travel. I am leaving you in charge here while the rest of us meet with Master Billaba on Coruscant. Quinlan’s wife and child, and his young Wookiee charge will remain behind as well to see to Quinlan’s medical treatment. The two AgriCorps students will stay behind as well. I want you and Quinlan to each take one of them on as Padawan learners.”

“Do you really think this is the right time for these two to begin their training?” Shryne protested.

“We don’t really have a choice now do we? Besides, after what these two have been through, it is probably to the Order’s discredit that neither of them was apprenticed.” Tholme continued before Roan could say anything else.
“We will take both of our freighters up to rendezvous with the transport and then make contact with Master Billaba. Try to stay out of sight until you receive word from me. Until we can ascertain the Empire’s intentions, we will claim no knowledge of your whereabouts.”

“Understood, try not to get killed like me then.” Shryne sarcastically remarked.

Tholme laughed for the first time that Roan Shryne had ever witnessed “Were that my intention Master Shryne, I would never have made it to Telos.”

The man in the dark room sat quietly, as he had done so for over three years. Long stripped away of his weapons and his prestige, he had been tried and convicted for crimes against civilization. Left to rot beneath the Jedi Temple, he had gotten used to a life of extreme monotony.

Then, just when he had begun to accept his fate, the outside world revealed itself once again with the fires of war that he had grown accustomed to. His cell in the Jedi Temple was burst open, and he was then taken into custody by new captors. The uniforms were different, but they were still easily recognizable as clone soldiers of the Republic.

He refrained from resisting, as if a voice in his head was subtly telling him that this would not be another imprisonment, but an opportunity instead. After weeks in a new cell in the heart of the new Imperial City, he had started to think that the opportunity would never come. That is, until an old friend came to visit him.

“Master Billaba!” In his mind he could her himself shouting, but he spoke no words, the price of losing his voice in the jungles of his home world.

Using the Force, Depa opened the door to his cell, and led him into the corridor where they walked side by side for the first time in years. The prisoner felt relief that he could once again speak with a friend, even if it was the silent speech of those who knew the Force.

"The Jedi said you were dead."

“Reports of my death are quite false as you can see. I trust that your time in your cell has not atrophied your abilities too much?”

He smiled, even without opponents to test his mettle against, the Pelekotan in his mind was as potent as ever. “Not at all, which is fortunate, because now that I am free I am going to hunt down that filthy sack of ankkox droppings Mace Windu and remove his organs with my bare hands.”

“Your opportunity for revenge is lost old friend. Mace Windu is dead.”

The former prisoner stopped, and paused to spit on the ground. “By your hand I would hope?”

Depa shook her head in the negative. “I’m afraid not. Rest assured though that he met a painful end knowing nothing but sorrow and defeat. In fact, the man who killed him is the reason I have liberated you from your current accommodations.”

The native of Haruun Kal clenched his left hand into a fist before squeezing it with his right. “I am in your debt Master Billaba.”

“After you finish this task I can guarantee that I will be in your debt, Kar Vastor.”

Depa handed her comrade from the Summertime War a datapad, Kar Vastor opened the file already brought up on the screen and held it up to his eyes. “This should be no problem. I trust that you have weapons readily available?”

“New versions of your arsenal from Haruun Kal will be made available, with a few modifications that I trust you will utilize with full effectiveness. You will also be given access to an account here on Coruscant with no fewer than five thousand credits. Use them as you see fit, but do think for a second that I will not be watching you. When this is over I will see to it that you are granted passage back to Haruun Kal.”

Vastor flexed the fingers on his restored hands. “All the more reason I have to make sure this is done right then.”

Depa escorted Vastor out of the prison complex where he had been held. A transport arrived shortly and a pair of attendants unloaded a pair of cases fitted with repulsor sleds. Depa turned over the cases to the former Jedi prisoner and Vastor stood by himself on the busy street as Depa stepped into the transport as it sped off towards 500 Imperial.

Before leaving the scene with what was undoubtedly his new equipment, Kar Vastor took one more glance at the subject on his datapad and the subsequent orders attached to the file.

“Anakin Skywalker…you are dead.”
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-12-30 05:44am, edited 3 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."
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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 21: Trust No One

Amidala nervously bowed her head at the projected image on her desk. “I understand your highness, but if I may ask though, how did Anakin accept this?”

Palpatine’s face, obscured by his now trademark cowl, showed only a slight sneer. “You will see for yourself Ambassador Amidala. He will be at your door soon enough.” The image faded, and disappeared.

Sure enough, Anakin entered her office within seconds of the end of her conversation with Palpatine. She was at first startled, surprised at his apparent clairvoyance. “Back so soon from your meeting with the Emperor?” she asked.

But the visibly irritated General of the Empire ignored the question. “You can’t accept this assignment, not on my behalf.”

“But Ani…”

“The Jedi are not to be trusted!” He barked. “If they get between us, If I can’t protect you, then they will kill you and our children!”

“Master Billaba will be assisting me, as will plenty of troopers…”

“I don’t trust that witch! Don’t you get it?” Anakin growled.

Tired of her husband’s ranting, and pushed beyond the limits of her patience, Amidala verbally struck back. “That’s enough Anakin!” she shouted. Anakin stopped with his protesting, pausing long enough that Padme could seize the opportunity to continue. “I am tired of you always thinking that you have to protect me! Do you remember how long you were gone in the outer rim during the war? How many months and years did I have to spend alone without you here?”

Anakin stood quietly, his frustration growing. Padme stood from her seat, moving around the desk to embrace her husband, but remaining firm in her resolve.

“Did you have another vision?”


“Then why are you so worked up? I caught wind of a report saying that you completely destroyed Sate Pestage’s office, and that earlier you nearly frightened a few dozen Senators to death!”

“It’s just…the Jedi…”

The topic was quickly turning into something that Padme had long tried to avoid ever since the couple’s return from Mustafar. She had been a long supporter of the Jedi and of Anakin’s career in the Order. Padme knew only what the official reports offered, but she knew there was something Anakin was not telling her. Obi Wan had told her that he had led the Clone Army in the attack on the Jedi Temple. Whatever the Order had done to him, it had scarred him deeply.

“I am sure that whatever Palpatine has in store for the Jedi will work to the benefit of everyone involved. This galaxy needs the Jedi.” She said calmly, rubbing the palm of her hand on his back in an attempt to soothe him.

“The Emperor will win, that’s for sure.” Anakin quipped.

“Look,” Amidala pulled back but gripped Anakin’s hands with her own, “I have supported you through everything, and I have asked for little in return. Now it’s time that you supported me for a change. I may not be running into another arena full of the galaxy’s deadliest beasts but I need you behind me for this just as much.”

Anakin hung his head low, not even Palpatine could humble him the way Padme could. “You’re right. I’m sorry,” was all he could say.

Padme smiled, and leaned in to kiss Anakin on the cheek. At the moment her lips parted from his face a chime rang, it was the two way intercom from her office’s reception area.. Amidala leaned over to her desk and thumbed the switch. “What is it Sabé?”

Anakin recognized the name; Sabé was Amidala’s longtime best friend from Naboo and served as her primary decoy during the Trade Federation invasion. “You won’t believe this milady,” like most people of Naboo, Sabé still used the Royal honorific when addressing Padme. “But two Jedi have already arrived to speak with you regarding the Amnesty offer, they’re being escorted by troopers to your office right now.”

Anakin sighed. “I guess this means you’ll be busy for at least the next few hours. Is there any chance that you will be able to come home tonight?”

The Imperial Ambassador threw up her hands. “I’ll be here until tomorrow if necessary. The Emperor’s office only just transmitted my instructions and guidelines and I’ll have to sort through those while talking with these first two.”

“Great. Is there any chance that I…”

Padme anticipated his question perfectly. “Go home Ani.” Amidala placed her hand on his chest. “One of us should be there for the children. Just because their parents are public figures they should not miss out on having parents. That’s a big part of the reason the politicians on Naboo are so young.”

Anakin admitted to himself that seeing the twins would be rather uplifting, but he couldn’t resist being a little playful to help boost his spirits. “Is that an order Ambassador?”

“Well I don’t think I have any authority over the military, but in this case I think I can pull rank.”

They both smiled, and the Skywalkers shared a lasting kiss. After the short but blissful moment, Anakin turned and left, satisfied to at least be heading home. As he exited through the Ambassador’s reception area he saw the two Jedi being escorted by troopers, who were not shy at all about displaying the firepower at their disposal.

“Master Skywalker!” yelled one of the Jedi. Anakin recognized her as a young Padawan named Noirah Na, an enthusiastic young learner who he had only met briefly when she was apprenticed to Jedi Master Kai Hudorra. Hudorra and his Padawan had been sent to Toola as part of the Outer Rim Sieges roughly the same time Anakin had left to participate in the Republic’s campaign to take the Neimoidian Purse Worlds.

“You’re alive! We had been told that all of the Council had been killed by…”

“That’s enough Padawan.” The elder Jedi said, attempting not to provoke any soldiers

The instruction came from the Jedi Knight Dama Montalvo, a Jedi whose slight resemblance to Anakin Skywalker had led to a case of mistaken identity on multiple occasions. The situation was made more peculiar because the two had never formally spoken to each other save for passing greetings.

One of the clones holstered his blaster and approached Anakin before saluting him. Anakin returned the salute and then engaged the trooper in conversation.

“Trooper, state your designation and orders.”

“Sir, Trooper CC-4496 Lieutenant Gentti attached to the 65th Legion Shock Troopers reporting. These two Jedi turned themselves in to the guard at the 65th legion headquarters requesting Amnesty. Commander Thire ordered us to escort the Jedi to the Ambassador’s office under armed guard under the authority of His Majesty’s office.”

“Well, you are here aren’t you; perhaps you should wait outside while the Ambassador meets with the two Jedi.” Anakin was determined to help Padme out at least a bit. He knew she would appreciate it if the armed soldiers stayed out of her office and away from her and her staff.

“Sir, my orders from Commander Thire explicitly state to keep the Jedi under armed watch at all times. That includes the areas within the Ambassador’s workspace.”

Anakin was not used to clone troopers resisting his instructions.

“Trooper, tell me, when the Republic reorganized into the Empire, did the standing general orders of all military personnel change at all?”

“No sir, only minor alterations to reflect the name change sir.”

“Then remind me again what General Order Number Two is?”

The trooper stood up tall and recited the order, as clearly as he had after his decanting on Kamino. “In service to the Galactic Empire, I will obey the orders of all of my commanders prioritizing the orders of the most superior commanders above all else.”

“An excellent verbatim recollection Lieutenant, now with that being said wouldn’t MY instructions be worth more than Commander Thire’s?”

The trooper’s posture slackened slightly, Anakin could tell he was nervous, even without the Force it didn’t take much to realize that the trooper was sweating underneath his red and white shock trooper armor. “Yes sir!”

“Then you and your men will wait outside of the office, and afterwards you will follow the Ambassador’s instructions as if they were my own orders. Understood?”

“Yes sir!” The trooper was now eager to please; not wanting to be known amongst his brethren as the only clone that nit picked the revered General Skywalker.

“Good, then you are dismissed!”

Anakin looked over the two Jedi, who appeared somewhat bewildered. Before he left Anakin offered them a few choice words.

“You two are both fortunate that the Empire is offering this amnesty, but do not think for a second that you will be permitted the same luxuries that the Order had enjoyed before.”

Anakin turned on his heel and left.

“They’re safe for now, but soon the reckoning of the Jedi will be at hand, whether Palpatine and Billaba like it or not.”

Kar Vastor had heard of Coruscant’s underbelly even on far off Haruun Kal. The Works, the Crimson Corridor, the Underlevels. There was almost literally no end to the labyrinth of evils that could be found beneath the galactic capital. It was fitting in a way.

The apartment Depa had provided him was small, but adjacent to nearby abandoned buildings with ample space to unload and test his new equipment. His armor now covered most of his body and the outer layer was sheathed in cortosis. In addition, his vibroshields were also layered with cortosis so that the weapon could now negate a lightsaber as well as deflect it. He was also given a pair of repulsor lift skates; Depa had left a message recalling the skates’ effectiveness in the Battle of Jabiim.

Kar Vastor went over all of the equipment with great detail and care. After this, he repackaged the equipment and went back to his solitude to wait. Soon he would receive the call he had been waiting for, and his battle would begin.

The view aboard the Hammer of Wealth as it orbited over Chandrila was stunning to say the least. The ship was one of the few remaining ships of the CIS Navy once donated by Chairman San Hill and the Separatist elements of the Intergalactic Banking Clan. With San Hill’s death and the end of the war, the IBC unconditionally surrendered and offered its staggering wealth to fund the financial mechanisms of the infant Galactic Empire. The move was welcomed by the Empire, but those ships with IBC markings were no longer red flagged as Separatist Ships. The small number Munificent class of Star Frigates controlled by the Separatists would now be able to move freely so long as they avoided close inspection.

It was one of these ships, under the authority of former Trade Federation Senator Lott Dod, that had arrived on Chandrila to help evacuate Mon Mothma, and take her to the Confederate Remnant’s stronghold on Enarc.

“General Cody’s fleet is returning safely, they will be at the rendezvous point at the Lakteen Depot. The Another Chance and all of her supplies are now in our hands.”

“A success indeed Senator Mothma,” Dod said with his thick Niemoidian accent. “Indeed our efforts on Acherin will benefit most greatly from...”

“Hold that thought Senator Dod.” Mon Mothma interrupted. “I thought we had already agreed in principle to divert the Chance and her cargo to Ralltir and distribute the weapons to resistance cells within the Core Worlds and Inner Rim. Acherin is hardly relevant towards undermining the Empire.”

Dod turned toward her, although the Neimoidian’s frame was lanky and slender, he was taller than Mon Mothma and able to look down upon her.

“Why should we send badly need weapons to a planet whose government caters to the Empire, when Acherin remains free? Do you think the sacrifices made by my people are less worthy than those made by humans?”

It was ironic for a Neimoidian to play the ‘species card’, especially considering the immense wealth they had gathered at the expense of other races as leaders of the Trade Federation.

No wonder the Duros disassociate themselves from them. Mon Mothma thought. “I would never make such an assumption Senator Dod. Those beings fighting for the cause on Acherin are all champions of liberty.” Mon Mothma exhaled a sigh of relief, but she was quite annoyed that, even in exile, she was still forced to negotiate and pander as if she were still in the Senate.

“Your praise is most welcome Senator. You will see how necessary Acherin is; with Enarc gone it is our last refuge in the galaxy that the Empire cannot currently touch.”

Senator Dod excused himself while a silvery protocol droid escorted Mon Mothma to her stateroom, which wasn’t much but certainly better than most fugitives of the predominant galactic society ever received. She sat down at a desk, barren save for a small data terminal and closed her eyes.

In her mind’s eye she saw Bail Organa, and Garm Bel Iblis. She saw freedom fighters uniting in a just an even cause in order to restore the Republic that they had all believed in. The battle would be long but there would be no doubt in her heart about the outcome.

That dream was now in tatters, and Mon Mothma had to wonder if she had acted too hastily. By throwing in her lot with the Former Separatists, she was aligning her fate with dangerous war criminals that she had bitterly opposed at the beginning of the Clone War. Her ideals could never perfectly mesh with the greed of Confederates whose only ambition was to restore their own lost power so they could control the lives of free beings.

She recanted an old Chandrilan saying, “The rival of my rival is my ally.” Still, she now had to be on her guard when dealing with her benefactors as well as the Empire. There were very few people left that she could trust, and none of them were on Acherin.

“As soon as we reach Lakteen, I will speak with General Cody, he could be the only savior of this rebellion.

“It’s a tight fit.” Tholme remarked as the cadre of Jedi seated in the cabin area of Shadday’s YT-1300 squeezed tightly together in the available seating.

Shadday’s freighter had launched and was now making its way out of the atmosphere. Telos had little in the way of air traffic and the planet side traffic controllers only monitored incoming and outgoing traffic heading to and from the planet’s modest spaceport.

“Anyone who wants to complain about the facilities is more than happy to strap themselves to the outside of the cruiser.” Shadday remarked playfully over the intercom. “We’ll be out of the atmosphere within the next five minutes, and then you can move about freely. I will warn you though, that Imperial ship is going to be all over us the second it detects us.”

“The sooner the better,” said Master Shaalas, whose Nikto body was dwarfed and cramped seated next to the hulking Jastus Farr. “No offense Master Farr.”

“None taken, if you think this is bad you should have seen me in one of the old Delta 7’s.”

The ship shook slightly as it exited the atmosphere and into the cold void of space. Almost immediately the Jedi began unbuckling their restraints with most standing to stretch.

The Imperial ship that they had detected from the planet was just coming around the planet and into a direct line with the freighter. The urge to bolt and run was quite tempting for Shadday, but she remained firm in her co-pilot’s seat monitoring the situation.

“This is it,” Tsui Choi announced from his pilot’s seat. Even though he was the smallest, and would fit easily amongst the others, he was also the best pilot of the Jedi contingent. “We’re being scanned. I’ll patch the audio through to the rest of the ship so that you all can listen in.”

“……-3000 freighter, identify yourself. Repeat, this is the Imperial Prison Transport Akhabra to unidentified YT-1300 freighter, identify your self. Failure to comply will result in the destruction of your ship.”

Tsui Choi opened a channel to the Imperial Ship, not wanting to provoke them any more. “ Akhabra This is the…” he looked over at Shadday, who shrugged her shoulders. During her time with the ship she had never bothered to name the craft. Tsui Choi was forced to improvise a name on the spot. “…New Hope.”

New Hope, your records match those of an unnamed transport ship confirmed as under the ownership of the Jedi Council.”

“So that’s where you got the ship.” Tsui Choi whispered to Shadday as he covered the audio receiver with his hand. “That is correct; this ship is carrying Jedi bound for Coruscant to accept the Empire’s offer of amnesty.” Choi took a chance that the Jedi would be allowed to travel to Coruscant on their own terms. It didn’t work.

“Negative, travel in and out of Coruscant is highly restricted. All Jedi seeking amnesty must report to the nearest Imperial representative for transport in order for amnesty to be validated.”

Choi grumbled something in his native language, Shadday couldn’t make it out but she guessed that it was one of Master Choi’s rare curses. “Very well Akhabra, we accept.”

“Good. Dock in the starboard hangar and be prepared to surrender all weapons and other devices upon arrival. Failure to comply will be dealt with.”

Almost right on cue, a squadron of ARC-170 fighters came into sight and lined up in an attack formation. The YT-1300 would not last long against those odds.

“Understood.” Tsui Choi politely signed off the transmission before breaking into another diatribe of curses.

From his eat next to T’ra Saa in the back Tholme began to delve deep into the Force for guidance. Even deep into a trance however, the shroud of the dark side still blinded him as the paths of future events were closed to him. Only the most powerful masters had been able to look into the future at the best of times.

Hoping in his heart that he was not leading his fellow Jedi on a fool’s errand, Tholme put his brain to work, acknowledging that he would have plenty of time to dwell on the matter inside a cell aboard the looming Imperial ship.
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 22: Matricide

“Rise Lady Cynyst, you have news for me regarding our wayward Jedi?”

Depa Billaba rose from her knee and stood before her master. The light of the day had created a most ominous light from behind the Throne which engulfed Sidious in a complete shadow as the light burned into the eyes of those before him.

Using the Force to shield her eyes though, Cynyst was able to tolerate the blinding light with little effort. “The Akhabra reports that thirteen Jedi were taken into custody on Telos, Master Tholme among them. I suspect that there are more still on that world.”
Sidious inhaled deeply for a moment, and then made a dismissing gesture with his hand. “Do not concern yourself with Telos any longer my apprentice. Any remaining Jedi there are inconsequential. We will allow those Jedi who have surrendered themselves to their fate to live with their humiliation and be humbled at the feet of the Sith.”

“Yes my Lord.” Cynyst nodded with compliance. She had hoped to be allowed to send troops to the world so that their efforts would be complete, but a direct order from the Emperor she would not dare question. “Including those thirteen, we now have approximately sixty Jedi on or en route to Coruscant as we speak. Although the most worrisome, Yoda, is not among their number.”

Sidious laughed derisively at this apprentice. “You need not concern yourself with Yoda; he has already been dealt with.”

That had been a shock to Cynyst. She was certain that of all Jedi, Yoda would have been the one powerful enough to be a significant threat. “Was it by your hand my Lord, or by another?”

Sidious continued to laugh with the full intention of embarrassing and insulting his student. “Yoda evaded my wrath on Coruscant on the eve of Order 66. But he was taken into custody by your competitor.”

Cynyst’s embarrassment was swept aside at the realization. “Skywalker!

“Careful my apprentice,” Sidious chastised her, “do not let your emotions control you.”

“Yes my Lord.”

“Your awe of Vader’s power betrays you Lady Cynyst. Neither you nor your friend Kar Vastor will have any chance of defeating him if you enter battle from the subservient position!”

Billaba was taken aback at the mention of Vastor, had she not concealed her movements enough?

“You didn’t think I was aware of your designs?” The Emperor seethed as he stood up and spoke, his diminuitive physical presence became a towering unstoppable Force as the Dark Side expanded around him. Cynyst stepped back out of fright. “I am not mere politicians in an ivory tower, waiting to have information spoon fed to me? This is my Empire Lady Cynyst and you would do best to remember that.”

All of his words had been spoken quietly, but Depa could still hear the words ringing in hear ears as if they were a deafening roar.

“So this is the true power of the Sith Lords…” Instinctively she knelt, resisting the urge to display weakness and plead for forgiveness.

The Dark Maelstrom that was Darth Sidious took his seat on the throne again, his yellow eyes slightly visible beneath his cowl and watching his apprentice as if he were only waiting for the proper time to strike her down.

“Your plan will be allowed to continue, for it will benefit us to have Skywalker distracted while you and Ambassador Amidala deal with the Jedi. If Kar Vastor is able to beat Skywalker though, then you will have another rival to deal with if you want to be fully elevated as a Sith.”

Cynyst shook her head to affirm her understanding and then rose and exited the throne room quickly. She needed time to recuperate, and perhaps spend some additional time refreshing her training with a lightsaber.

It was late at night, but Padme was only now coming home. After an exhaustive day of processing the amnesty documentation for nearly two dozen Jedi while coordinating the Imperial diplomatic efforts across the Core Systems, she was ready to sleep.

The entire estate was darkened but she could hear something inside. She handed her things to the attending droid as she followed the mysterious sounds up the stairs and down the main hallway opposite of the direction of the bedrooms. When she reached the source of the noise she realized she was right in front of the reinforced training room that was built at Anakin’s request. The light on the keypad was red, meaning that Anakin was within; she keyed in her security PIN to the entryway’s keypad and nearly screamed as a CIS Battle Droid stared her right in the face.

Anakin used the Droid’s momentary distraction to cleave the entire droid in two while dropping to the floor to avoid the horizontal attacks of a pair of electrostaffs. At war’s end, Palpatine had presented him with a gift of three IG-100 Magnaguards that had once belonged to General Grievous. It was a welcome gift, as Anakin routinely destroyed any of his training droids beyond repair.

Anakin rolled sideways as the two remaining Magnaguards approached him, their staffs sparking with energy. Grievous had taught them to be aggressive in attacking Jedi opponents.

Anakin looked over his shoulder to see Padme and smiled. He waited for the right moment, feeling it out with the Force, and then rushed at the oncoming attackers. With his left hand, he cleaved one of the droids at the waist with the lightsaber swinging forward, while his artificial right hand tore into the other. With the droid impaled on his arm Anakin Quickly thrust his arm forward and tossed the droid across the room where it shattered into hundreds of small pieces. Anakin looked down at the other droid to see that his lightsaber had carved the internal power supply cleanly in half.

“I might be able to fix that one.” Anakin smirked as he looked back over at his wife, who had just noticed that Anakin wasn’t even fatigued in the slightest.

“I’m sure you could, it would be nice to see you do something constructive in your spare time these days. How are the twins?”

“Sleeping comfortably, you know Leia is a very big fan of The Little Tusk Cat?”

Padme smiled, the idea of the greatest warrior in galactic history reading one of her favorite childhood stories to their daughter was both hilarious and heartwarming. “We read that story together every night that we can, what about Luke?”

Anakin laughed. “Not interested in the slightest, He’s much more interested in his holo-mobile.”

“You mean the one with the starships?” Padme asked, grinning all the while.

“That’s the one!” Anakin smiled, beaming with pride. “He’s going to be a great pilot someday you know. He might even be able to show his old man a thing or two. I can’t wait until then!”

“Well you might not be able to wait, but I am going to enjoy these years with them while I can. They won’t be this little for long.”

“Well then perhaps you should stay out of the office tomorrow and come with us, I’ve decided to take your advice and I’ve booked a resort on the Western Sea…”

Padme blushed, but frowned. “It is quite tempting Anakin, but you know that Master Billaba and I are holding the first Jedi Reformation meetings tomorrow. Even if I wanted to, I have to follow the Emperor’s orders.”

”Don’t we all.” Anakin cursed under his breath. “I’m beginning to think that Palpatine doesn’t want us to have any time together.”

Amidala pushed the thoughts out of her mind; she didn’t want to think about Anakin’s words any more than he did. “Listen, after these talks I’ll be able to hand off a lot of the work on this project, then you and I and the kids will take a nice long retreat on Naboo. Queen Apailana is going to have everyone she can spare for us so that we can have some privacy. ”

“You don’t get it Padme, this isn’t just about us. I think Master Billaba is trying to lead us into a trap, I don’t trust the Jedi.”

It was a phrase she once thought she would have never heard him say, but it was now something all too repetitive in their home. “Have you had any visions?”

“No but…”

“Then you’re just being paranoid Ani.”

Anakin wanted to argue with her, he wanted to sit her down and tell her about his meeting with her and the Emperor. But he couldn’t, not while there was so much blood on his hands, not until he became the Emperor as he once promised her on Mustafar.

“You’re right. It’s just…”

“Stop,” she interrupted again. Instead of speaking, she coaxed him into continued silence with another kiss. The Skywalkers, now content with the time that they had, walked hand in hand out of the gymnasium and into the hallway. As they made their way to their master bedroom, they stopped briefly to look in on the infant twins, who slept quietly and comfortably, the problems of a troubled galaxy now far away.

The cells were tight, and cramped, but none of the Jedi on the Akhabra were mistreated. They had been relegated into the brig reserved for Force Sensitives and were always under armed guard though. If any one Jedi tried to break free of their cell, all of the others would be flooded with a mix of powerful nerve gases and the temperature of the cell increased to several thousand degrees. Any attempted escape could be quelled that much quicker.

With the aid of the Force, the confining nature of the cell vanished. Tholme could sense the other Jedi around him doing the same, save for the three Padawans who were having some difficulty in dealing with their own impatience.

“Perhaps we should have left them, with Master Shryne like the other adepts.” Tholme wondered.

“Do not forget Master Tholme,” came the spectral voice of his close confidant T’ra Saa, “These Padawans have come a long way in their training, they can only learn now by venturing forth into the galaxy just as we did before we became Knights.”

Suddenly the ship’s deck plates began to vibrate; Tholme stood up in his cell to react but quickly realized what had happened. The ship had emerged from hyperspace at the end of its destination.

“There is no sense on dwelling upon it anymore Master Saa. We’ve arrived and we’re about to learn the truth of our betrayal.”

The Lakteen Depot, located off of the key hyperspace route known as the Giju Passage, was one of several sanctuary worlds that formed a network of hidden bases for the fledgling insurgency. The base was discovered towards the end of the war as Mon Mothma’s agents scoured the galaxy for places to begin the building of their resistance movement. The planet Lakteen, a pirate nest cleaned out by the Republic many yeas before, was on the short list of worlds to examine. Fortunately the world boasted a series of undiscovered abandoned pirate barracks still suitable for the landing and storing of spacecraft and supplies. When the eventual time to escape would come, ships could easily escape to anywhere in the galaxy via the Giju Passage and escape into the void. Not even the vast Imperial fleet could cover all of space.

In transit aboard Hammer of Wealth Mon Mothma and Lott Dod officially signed the accords that formed the Alliance to Restore Galactic Freedoms. The new Rebel Alliance was much more streamlined and allowed for resources to be distributed more freely across the galaxy. The enemies of the Empire were now united under one banner.

It was not enough though, for Mon Mothma. With her former allies in the Senate opposed to an armed rebellion she had little choice but to seek out former Separatists in order to obtain the necessary weapons to fight a new war. Lott Dod had been serving a house arrest as had all Senators of those worlds and affiliates that defected to the Confederacy. Dod had fled from his house arrest when he learned of the droid armies deactivating, knowing that his own death would eventually come. Mon Mothma was disconcerted though, by the rapid pace at which her plans were advancing. Ideally she had hoped to build her organization over the course of several years. The meteoric rise of the Empire was quickened by the even greater rise of it’s invincible champion, Anakin Skywalker. Mon Mothma had felt trapped, she had firmly believed that it was time to move quickly while there were still systems who opposed the Empire at all.

It was Lott Dod who had actually sought out Mon Mothma, through his waning number of active contacts he learned of Mothma’s failures to attract new allies. Knowing that the Confederate Remnants could not sustain their scattered network of besieged worlds, he had brought Mon Mothma into the fold. But while Mon Mothma was hoping to recruit the droids of the Separatists in the fight for freedom, Dod wanted to usurp her underground network for his own purposes. He knew that the Separatist Warlords, at each others throats since the absence of General Grievous, would never unite for any cause unless they were elevated to the position of Supreme Commander. Dod’s plan was to create a supply network for all of the warlords so that their holdouts could go on indefinitely, and then leverage his position so he could control those worlds for himself.

The loss of Enarc, and the reported destruction of a Remnant fleet over Mustafar, was a debilitating blow to the Remnant’s efforts, but it furthered Dod’s own scheme brilliantly. He had influence with the leaders of the Separatists on Acherin and could use their world as a base of operations.

The foundation of Lott Dod’s carefully laid plan had finally been set in place. There was only one obstacle left to remove.

Obi Wan’s shuttle arrived aboard the Wealth along with the Niemoidian technicians whose efforts had allowed the Task Force to secure the Another Chance . The Banking Clan frigate carrying Mon Mothma had joined with those ships along with a handful of other Rebel ships circling the planet Lakteen.

He was scheduled to report to Mon Mothma, but “General Cody” found it unusual that he would be traveling to meet her aboard the Hammer of Wealth instead of the other way around. Normally the larger ship was the host ship for such formalities, however, it had occurred to Obi Wan that Lott Dod and other former Separatists would be present as well and Obi Wan’s flagship had most of its VIP quarters and creature comforts removed to make room for additional supplies. Even while running for their lives there were those Separatists who would never give up their luxuries, a flaw which nearly allowed Obi Wan to capture Viceroy Nute Gunray during the invasion of Cato Niemoidia.

The Sheathipede shuttle set down in the modest hangar below the command tower. The technicians were the first to step onto the deck, where they were immediately escorted by a waiting cadre of B1 battle droids. Obi Wan stepped out through the hatch, lowering his head slightly as he was not yet fully accustomed to his increased stature from his life support suit.

He looked out into the hangar, and saw Mon Mothma approaching him. The bright lights of the hangar had an adverse effect on his artificial eyes but he could tell it was her quite easily with the Force.

“General Cody, let me be the first to offer you congratulations! I had a feeling your abilities would be more than enough for this mission.” She took his hand, Obi Wan responded to the handshake, but felt a slight pain in his artificial limb as he did.

Obi Wan broke his grip at the feeling and offered a slight bow to compensate for the possible gaffe. “Our success lies wholly within the admirable cooperation between our two factions. It is unfortunate that it took a situation so drastic to bring us all together.”

“If only I shared your optimism. If you have the time I would like to speak with you regarding some of our Confederate benefactors.”

“Of course, maybe then you could share with me some more details about this Imperial Amnesty situation. I suspect that this is little more than a trap designed to seek out and eliminate surviving Jedi. There may be a way to bring more of them into our camp before they side with the Empire.

Mon Mothma shook her head in the affirmative; the prospect of having more Jedi on their side was certainly uplifting. “It seems I was wrong to hold any doubts about your commitment to the cause Master Jedi. Even I would find myself tempted by the offer, if only as a way of getting that much closer to the truth about the Empire’s doings.”

Obi Wan noticed a slight increase in the pace of his rhythmic breathing and an odd buzzing in his reconstructed ears, but could not figure out the cause. He made a note in the back of his head to check with a medical technician at his earliest convenience. “With your permission then I might take some time to investigate…” The sentence abruptly ended as Obi Wan’s breath quickened further and the buzzing sound began to roar in his artificial ears.

“General Cody?” Mon Mothma asked, worried that her ally’s medical condition might suddenly be deteriorating.

“I should have picked up on this sooner!” Obi Wan thought to himself. He was still getting accustomed to his new body, what he had at first thought were quirks of his life supporting suit, he now understood were the telltale warning signs of danger being sensed through the Force.

“Where is she?” Lott Dod demanded.

The Neimoidian warrior, in the full regalia of the Neimoidian Gunnery Battalion, pointed out through the transparisteel window overlooking the hangar from the concourse above. “In the hangar Excellency,” he said, using the Trade Federation honorific for those of lofty status, “she is with the Jedi General.”

“Splendid! Then we can eliminate two hawkbats with but one stone. We could never expect the Jedi to serve our purposes.” Lott Dod folded his hands with excitement as he walked closer to the window.

“Deactivate the blast doors; magnetize the floors; send in the battle droids…” Dod ordered, “…and depressurize the hangar.”

The shields that prevented the vacuum of space from penetrating the hangar dissipated and several living crew members of the Hammer of Wealth were violently torn from where they stood. Obi Wan tried to move, but found that his felt were now solidly magnetized to the floor through his boots. In a split second Mon Mothma was taken off her feet and headed into space. Obi Wan quickly reached out with the Force and caught her, drawing her gradually closer to him and straining to pull her back in against the unceasing grip of space.

Obi Wan noticed that the blast doors weren’t sealing, this was a deliberate assassination attempt. Mon Mothma had briefly mentioned her distrust of former Separatist’s intentions. There was no time to speculate though, because of the depressurization the oxygen was quickly pouring out of the hangar and Mon Mothma was almost out of air.

Finally, he managed to get the Chandrilan Senator down to him, and she wrapped her arms around his back as he carried her, using the Force to summon the necessary strength to trudge across the floor and to the hatch that would get them back into a pressurized section of the ship.

He was about twenty meters away when a squad of Super Battle Droids arrived to block his path, lifting his lightsaber, Obi Wan fought against the pull of space and magnets in order to deflect several shots back at the attackers.

“How is he still alive?” Dod cringed as the Uknown Jedi General valiantly struggled to somehow keep Mon Mothma from being sucked into space.

The Gunnery Battalion soldier checked the screen of a scanner on the concourse. “The Jedi’s magnetized, apparently his feet are artificial as well.”

“Demagnetize the floors!”

“Excellency, with all due respect that move will cost us an entire squad of B2s!” The soldier pleaded, knowing that the droids were a precious military resource.

“Obviously you were just a grub when two Jedi helped turn the tide on Naboo. Now do what I say!”

Obi Wan deflected another bolt that struck his attacker. Without warning he began to feel weightless as he realized that whoever was trying to kill them had deactivated the magnetizing effect in the hangar. Obi Wan tried to tether himself with the Force when he felt Mon Mothma hitting him on the back of his helmet. He turned his head to see hers, although she could not be heard he could see her mouthing the words “Lott Dod” right at him. The remaining Battle Droids flew past Obi Wan out into space, where they would likely fall into Lakteen’s atmosphere and burn up completely. Obi Wan held with all of his might, but eventually he could resist no more and both he and Mon Mothma shot out into space.

As they exited the hangar, Obi Wan sheathed his lightsaber and grasped his hands onto an exterior handrail normally used for maintenance. He turned his head to check on Mon Mothma again and cringed as he saw her lifeless body drifting in space, floating away from the ship to join the funeral pyres of the Battle Droids in the skies of Lakteen. Even with the sadness he now felt, the irony of his situation was not lost on him. The life sustaining armor that had been his hindrance was now his savior. Obi Wan still had a limited oxygen supply. Looking straight up, he saw the command tower looming over him, its transparisteel windows beaming light shining like a beacon.

Giving himself to the Force, Obi Wan released his grip and unsheathed the lightsaber. Using the Force, he propelled himself upward, almost flying as he moved closer to his target. With the lightsaber in his hand he waited until he was right in front of the windows leading into the bridge. He stabbed the lightsaber into the window as he passed. The bridge floor immediately magnetized to protect the droid bridge crew and subsequently pulled Obi Wan inside The blast doors sealed the bridge behind him and the magnetization turned off. Reacting quickly, Obi Wan began spinning his blade like an azure whirlwind of destruction. Droids began falling left and right as they reacted to the intruder on the bridge.

If Lott Dod was allowed to win, there would be nothing left between Palpatine and Galactic Domination. The entire Rebel efforts, and those of Mon Mothma, would be wasted as part of some petty businessman’s scheme.

Obi Wan opened the doors, and then began making his way down the corridor, keeping an eye out for any more nasty surprises that his attackers might have in store for him.
Last edited by Darth Fanboy on 2007-12-17 03:08am, 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 23: Dual Nature

There was an old saying that “Jedi never needed a locksmith,” and it had never been more true than it was on the sealed bridge of the frigate that Obi Wan was about to single handedly take on.

The doors on the bridge had been sealed and power cut to the compartment as control of the ship was shifted to the auxiliary bridge. Obi Wan had elected to use the Force, rather than risk showering his life supporting equipment with sparks from cutting the doors open with his lightsaber. With one outward shove the door began to buckle, a second burst enough of the metal away that Obi Wan could climb through. Looking to his left, he could hear the low rumble of a destroyer droid heading right for him.

Destroyer droids, or droidekas as they were referred to by their Trade Federation handlers, were one of the most lethal anti personnel weapons in the galaxy, and were strong enough to give all but the most elite Jedi a run for their money.

But Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker though, had discovered the perfect counterattack.

Obi Wan gathered the Force to him and waited until the destroyer droid rounded the corner, one of the few weaknesses the droid possessed was that it wouldn’t move into attack mode until it had a direct line of sight with the target. Most times the target would use the additional seconds to run or find a defensive position. But during a hard fought battle in the Outer Rim, Obi Wan and Anakin learned that the droids were highly vulnerable in their mobile, rolling form.

Before the droideka could react, Obi Wan reached out with his gloved fist and clenched it tight. The Force did the rest of the work, enveloping the oncoming droideka and crushing it in on itself. The once lethal automaton was now little more than debris, at least to everyone except Obi Wan. Lifting the useless pile of scrap in front of him, Obi Wan sent it back in the direction that it came from. The round pile of junk was now a projectile which rounded back along the corridor, gaining speed as it moved closer to terminal velocity.

Then it crashed in to a squad of Super Battle Droids. Caught completely off guard with an attack that their programmed had not enabled them to anticipate, over a dozen droids were smashed into junk with such strength that the corridor was now a complete mess of exposed wire and bulkheads.

Obi Wan was moving with purpose, and he was as one with the Force as he had ever been since the Battle of Utapau. Moving past the droid wreckage, he continued further into the ship, seeking out his quarry and a working communications terminal.

“If I can contact Slayke I just might be able to get out of this mess.” Obi Wan hoped.

Lott Dod stood from his desk in the secured VIP Lounge he had retreated to after his order had been put inot action. “The Jedi is still alive ? That’s impossible!” The former Senator’s skin color drained into a sickening bright pink. “You said they were both dead!”

“Both of the targets were spaced Excellency, neither of them could have survived.”

Dod walked over to the flustered soldier and grabbed him by the head, almost slamming it into the console in order to put the surprised soldier’s eyes in front of the screen. “Does this Jedi look dead to you?!” Dod screamed as he forced the soldier to watch a recorded from the various security cameras near Obi Wan’s position. The soldier’s silence was answer enough for Lott Dod, who fumbled with his own fingers.

“Send in the Brutes.” Dod ordered.

“But Excellency!” The soldier protested, “That would risk destroying us as well as the Jedi!”

“The Jedi destroyed our last droideka. Battle Droids are useless, what other options do we have? Send in your troops and lead the Jedi into the holding area. We will deal with the brutes after they’ve killed the Jedi.”

A pair of early model battle droids opened fire on Obi Wan as he entered the main transceiver control room. Walking slowly towards the two droids he deflected every blaster bolt carefully so that it couldn’t damage the vulnerable control panels. When he was close enough, he cut the droids down with a quick flurry of strikes that decimated both droids.

The Munificent class of Frigates all carried a powerful hyperwave transceiver that helped to build a powerful communications network for the Banking Clan. When San Hill defected to the Confederacy, he brought enough of the ships with him to build a military network for the Confederacy. It was powerful enough to send transmissions halfway across the galaxy, more than enough for what Obi Wan needed to reach his crew onboard Battlehymn .

He worked with the controls, but the transceiver was locked down as well.

“Looks like I’ll have to find Senator Dod first.” No sooner had the thought crossed his mind when it was struck with a peculiar sensation. Obi Wan sensed the danger of more attackers coming from behind him, but he could also perceive his attacker’s intent, and judging by the incredible amount of fear emanating from them, they were unquestionably Neimoidian.

A trio of Neimoidian Warrior cut off Obi Wan’s route out of the room and took aim with their blaster rifles. Ever the Jedi, Obi Wan backed into a defensive stance and halted his offensive against the living targets. Emboldened by what they thought was initial success the Neimoidians pressed forward, with two more joining the attack. After several volleys Obi Wan completely lost his patience and began reflecting the shots back at the Neimoidians in an attempt to scare them off. Four broke and ran but one of the Neimoidians decided to try one last time to take his shot at bringing down the Jedi. He fired a short burst that Obi Wan sent right back at him, killing the attacker and injuring one of his fleeing cohorts who was just a step too slow in exiting the room. The injured Neimoidian dropped face first onto the deck, his weapon slid across the floor at impact.

Obi Wan moved over to the still breathing soldier and used his toe to turn him over; he was cursing and pleading in his native language, Pak-Pak, which was a series of guttural tones Obi Wan couldn’t even begin to understand. As much as he abhorred violence, time was of the essence and fear was an excellent motivator. Obi Wan pointed the end of his blade at the soldier’s head close enough so that the heat of the blade’s tip singed the skin on his forehead.

“Tell me where Lott Dod is.” Obi Wan demanded. Spoken through the vocabulator, the words were immensely threatening.

“He…..he….if I tell…” The soldier cried.

Obi Wan retracted the blade and placed his hand on the soldier’s head. Through the Force, Obi Wan could tell that he was dying. The bolt had penetrated his armor and the stench of ozone and cooked flesh was unmistakable.

“I can ease your suffering if you would like.” Obi Wan told the Neimoidian softly. The Neimoidian offered no resistance, bracing himself for what he believed would be a swift decapitation. Instead, Obi Wan clutched the soldier’s hand. He drew from the Force and allowed it to soothe the dying soldier. It would not save his life, but the Force had already set to work disconnecting pain receptors and increasing the flow of endorphins.

The Neimoidian took a deep, labored breath and smiled. “Dodd is in the tank room…but you can’t....”

“Easy, save your strength.” Obi Wan pleaded.

“Too late for that Jedi…beware the brutes…” Obi Wan bowed his head, and reached his fingers down to close the Neimoidian’s eyes. Obi Wan pondered the meaning of the fallen soldier’s last words but with little avail.

“I’ve never heard of a ‘tank room’ on any Banking Clan ship…”

A few seconds passed until Obi Wan felt a spike in the force, a sudden burst of rage and unbridled anger appeared instantly.

“I guess that must be the brutes.”

Obi Wan made his way towards what he assumed would be the tank room, using the center of the hateful disturbance as a homing signal. When he was about one hundred meters away he was besieged by another group of Neimoidian Soldiers. There were twenty of them, and Obi Wan could sense that they were far less excitable than their colleagues from before.

With a heavy heart Obi Wan reignited his lightsaber, hoping that he wouldn’t have to kill too many of them.

Their own ship impounded, the Jedi in custody aboard the Akhabra were instead transported to the surface of Coruscant aboard a Kappa class shuttle. The ship descended into the atmosphere, and before long they were safely docked at one of Coruscant’s millions of sky platforms. Led by Tholme, they filed out of the shuttlecraft under the close watch of stormtroopers, each of them holding powerful sonic weapons that were effective crowd control, and anti-Jedi weapons.

Waiting for them at the other end of the Platform was a LAAT Gunship, and standing before it was Depa Billaba herself. To her right was the Jedi Master left behind on New Coronet, Roblio Darte.

“My friends,” Master Darte called out as he stepped past Master Billaba, “It is good to see you all alive and well! But where are Masters Shryne and Vos?”

There was a brief panic from some of the Jedi, but Master Tholme took control of the situation. “Master Vos’ injuries were too great, even if he still lives he could not have made the trip. Master Shryne declined the offer in part to tend to Master Vos’ injuries, for which he feels responsible.”

“A lie,” thought Depa Billaba, who was keeping her keen ears focused on Darte’s blundering questions in order to detect useful pieces of information. “But a passable one. ” Considering Tholme’s incredible talents with the more subtle aspects of the Force, she could not be completely certain he was lying and she had no evidence to prove it even if she were certain.

“I see,” Master Darte’s head hung solemnly. “It was a fierce battle that we fought, but in the end it was worthwhile. Because of events like those on New Coronet, the Empire is beginning to see our true worth.”

“You mean our potential threat.” Master Shadday countered as she stepped towards the front of the Jedi in order to place herself in the middle of the conversation.

Master Darte dismissed her comment with a wave of his hand. “The Empire now realizes they cannot keep the peace without us. Hundreds of systems are in turmoil right now, and they require wisdom, not force, in order to restore peace.”

Shadday remained unimpressed. “The Empire is lacking in wisdom, on that we can agree.”

Master Darte turned to look behind his shoulder for assistance from Master Billaba, but he did not need to. She had already walked to the forefront to meet Shadday’s stare head on.

“Master Shadday, I can certainly understand your skepticism. But you must realize that we are the ones in the precarious situation here.” Depa looked around to address the entire group. “I’m sure you are all aware of the nature of the ‘Jedi Rebellion’ which precipitated the order to terminate all Jedi?”

The group nodded their heads with acknowledgement, Depa continued. “Master Windu made the mistake of attempting to remove Chancellor Palpatine from power without first consulting the Senate. The audio recordings from the Chancellor’s office clearly indicate that Master Windu had made it his own personal duty to end the fighting at all costs. Unfortunately, in his quest for peace, he chose violence over reason. Fearful that the entire Jedi Order was complicit, Palpatine turned the clone army against us.”

“That doesn’t explain what happened to Master Windu though; I doubt that Palpatine could have handled a Jedi Padawan, let alone four members of the Jedi Council.” Shadday scoffed.

Depa Billaba’s voice turned sour. “The Four Jedi Masters were all defeated by Anakin Skywalker, upon learning of Master Windu’s intentions General Skywalker immediately renounced the Order and took it upon himself to stop Master Windu.”

The news that the Chosen One had forsaken the Jedi and sided so closely with Palpatine had unsettled most of the Jedi Masters. Tholme lamented that one of Yoda’s greatest fears had come to pass.

“However,” Master Billaba added, “General Skywalker has stated in private to me his intentions of rejoining the Order based on the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting with the Ambassador.”

“And who might that be?” Shadday remarked, her impatience evident.

Depa offered the information freely, knowing it would only serve the Jedi with more discord. “Imperial Ambassador Padme Amidala Skywalker will be conducting the meeting, and I suggest that you treat her with the utmost respect, General Skywalker is quite protective of her.” Depa Billaba turned to Roblio Darte and offered him a short bow. “Master Darte, if you would please take Master Tholme and the others to the skyhook. Ambassador Amidala and I have preparations to make.

“Of course,” Darte returned the bow, and motioned back towards the shuttle. “Master Tholme, we have been granted a currently unused Seinar Systems skyhook for as long as it takes. When we arrive I will let the other Masters aboard know that you have arrived.”

“Of course Master Darte, but do not let our sudden good fortunate cloud your judgment.”

Darte was taken aback. “Your distrust is unwarranted. Master Billaba personally lobbied for my release and the restoration of our order has come about almost entirely from her efforts.”

“I only ask you to be mindful. Convenience is treachery’s greatest disguise.”

Obi Wan entered the dimly lit chamber. The edges of his clothing were slightly scorched from blaster fire but Obi Wan and his life supporting equipment were entirely unharmed. The same could not be said for the score of dead Neimoidians in his wake. Their determination to kill Obi Wan had forced the Jedi Master to end their lives in self defense, much to Obi Wan’s chagrin.

The “tank room” was little more than the secondary cargo hold, crudely converted into some sort of laboratory. Obi Wan recognized the large cylindrical equipment as similar to the cloning tanks he had seen on his first trip to Kamino, but much larger.

Clanging footsteps thundered behind Obi Wan, and he turned expecting to come face to face with some as yet unseen type of battle droid, until he noticed that the approaching targets were the source of the intense anger he was sensing with the Force.

The Neimoidian Brutes were elite members of the Neimoidian Gunnery Battalion specially selected for their ill tempers and genetically altered to be bigger, stronger, and even more violent. Standing over a full head taller than an average human, and wielding a two meter vibromace that could smash a living being into pulp, the Brutes were among the most uncontrollable weapons in the Trade Federation military, so uncontrollable that they were used only in very desperate situations. Obi Wan Kenobi was now set to face three of them.

Obi Wan knew nothing about the brutes other than that they were scary enough that Neimoidians would rather rush headfirst into battle against a Jedi Master with a lightsaber than risk running into a Brute. Obi Wan almost hoped Lot Dodd was watching this, and he was sure that he was, because Obi Wan knew that defeating these brutes would surely frighten the duplicitous Senator beyond belief.

His theory was confirmed almost immediately. Lot Dodd’s unmistakable whimpering made itself heard over a loudspeaker somewhere in the room. “That’s the Jedi! Kill him! Kill him!”

The Brutes acknowledged with a trio of battle cries, one of them immediately turned to Obi Wan, bringing his vibromace down right where Obi Wan stood. Obi Wan anticipated it perfectly and stepped to the side, the impact of the strike was so great that it damaged the reinforced flooring. Before Obi Wan could respond in kind the other two Brutes were all over him, swing their weapons in tandem with great speed. It took all of Obi Wan’s concentration to avoid their attacks.

Another huge downward strike nearly connected as the third Brute joined in the attack and Obi Wan realized that the Brutes were attempting to back him into a corner. He knew that his counter attack had to come quickly.

With his lightsaber in hand He swiped it across the floor in front of him, creating a wave of sparks that momentarily distracted the Brutes, he then leaped straightforward, accelerated by the forced, and knocked the Brute directly in front of him onto his back with a crash that shook the room. The other two Brutes, sensing an opportunity attempted to finish the fight permanently by splattering Obi Wan all across the deck. Their attacks missed a rolling Obi Wan, and instead struck their comrade in the center of his chest. The armor caved in and Obi Wan could see blood and bile oozing out from cracks in the armor as the injured Brute gasped for air that his lungs could no longer provide. Enraged at their error, the two remaining Brutes charged forward, only to be met with a concussive blast of the Force. Only one of the Brutes faltered at the attack, and the other continued the Charge and took another swing at Obi Wan.

But the Jedi Master was far from done with his offensive. He brought his blade upwards and met the Brute’s Swing head on, lightsaber and vibromace smashed together with great force and it was the Brute who was forced to give ground. Obi Wan attacked again, this time splitting the mace into two. His follow up attack beheaded the Brute. The final Brute stood, seething, and caught Obi Wan off guard as he threw his weapon. Obi Wan had little time to react and the best he could do was turn to the side to protect his breathing equipment. The blunt end of the mace hit him in the side of his ribcage and knocked him to the ground, the armored helmet preventing an almost certain concussion.

Obi Wan attempted to get back to his feet when the Brute came up from behind and grabbed him by the back of the neck, intending to snap it with his massive hand. As the brute squeezed hard on the armor around Obi Wan’s neck, Obi Wan reached out with the Force and seized the sundered vibromace. He propelled the blunt end of the Mace towards the Brute with speed. The Brute dodged the attack, dropping Obi Wan in the process, but failed to anticipate the other half of the mace. The handle coursed right for the Brute’s face and impaled the behemoth through one of his eyes, lancing back into his brain and quickly ending his life.

The anger of the Brutes was now gone, replaced by a blossoming feeling of fear. Obi Wan picked up the trail of the fear, knowing it would lead him directly to Lot Dodd.

Darth Cynyst, Lady of the Sith, bowed before the image of her master, brimming with confidence. “All of the preparations have been made my Lord. Tomorrow we can finally end all of the charades.”

The image of Darth Sidious flickered slightly. “You are not the first apprentice of mine who has made such a statement Lady Cynyst.” Sidious held back the specific fact that similar statements had almost immediately preceded the deaths of two of his previous apprentices: Darth Maul on Coruscant before his failure in the Battle of Naboo, and Darth Tyranus aboard the Invisible Hand.

“I speak only of the truth my Master. Tomorrow will see the end of our enemies.”

“So it shall. For your sake I hope that your other enterprise is as fruitful.”

Cynyst was still dumbfounded as to how Lord Sidious had learned of her plan to use Kar Vastor to assassinate Lord Vader, but his refusal to oust her intentions to her rival allowed her to continue as planned.

“I assure you of its great success Master. With Amidala dead and the Jedi to blame the Order will be hunted down even without our forces pursuing them throughout the galaxy. People will rally to the Imperial cause for justice and peace!”

The Dark Lord of the Sith had little else to say to her. “See to it then; because others are rising to take your place Lady Cynyst, and I will not hesitate to replace with a more capable apprentice should one arise.”

The transmission ended abruptly. Sidious had to be distracted by something important if he wasn’t in the mood to be indulged with the shameful displays of loyalty he usually commanded from his subordinates before ending a conversation.

She found herself already dialing in the frequency of the transmitter she had given Kar Vastor. Due to his inability to converse normally, she sent only a short text file with the details necessary to carry out her instructions, the time of her departure, and the beginning of the actual talks among them. These times were important, because the attack had to be timed so that Anakin Skywalker could in no way perceive any danger to his wife. A failsafe in case Kar Vastor were killed.

As night fell over the center of the Imperial City, Darth Cynyst began envisioning her eventual ascension as a Sith Lord.

“He’s coming! There’s no time left! Get my shuttle ready!” A panicked Lott Dod began gathering some of his prized possessions into his arms, hoping to make his escape.

Dod’s attaché, the Neimoidian Gunnery Officer, was melancholy in his response. “Excellency, your shuttle was spaced during your first attempt to kill the Jedi.”

“Then find me another one!” Dod was still scurrying around, frantically attempting to hide evidence of his schemes from his pursuer. “What about the escape pods?”

“The Jedi will reach us by the time we reach the nearest pod. Besides Excellency, you have a bigger problem to worry about.” The anxiety had drained from the officer’s voice and Lot Dodd ceased ransacking his own apartment to berate his minion. It turned out to be a futile gesture.

The strong sense of fear Obi Wan had been using to track Lot Dodd was suddenly gone. Perplexed at the meaning of this, Obi Wan proceeded down the final hallway and opened the door to the private suite in the adjacent section of the ship to the cargo hold. It was favored location for executives who loathed being far apart from their personal possessions. It had been strangely quiet since the fight in the Tank Room, he had advanced from that point on undisturbed, but the quiet at Dodd’s location was even stranger.

Obi Wan opened the door and saw the corpse of Lot Dodd slumped over a desk next to an open data terminal, a pile of statuettes and credit chits lay on the floor as if they had been tossed without regard. Obi Wan turned the body of Lot Dodd over to find that the former Senator had a gaping blaster wound in his chest. Obi Wan sensed another presence nearby and he turned to see the Gunnery Officer on a sofa in the adjacent room, his blaster on the table in front of him

“Former Senator Dodd was hoping to assume former Senator Mothma’s underground spy and supply network”, the Officer explained, “the gauntlet you faced was also entirely of his design. I used all of his command codes to unlock the ship’s systems. You can contact your ship at any time.”

Obi Wan tried to read the Neimoidian with the Force, but his will was strong and not easily read or manipulated. “Was it necessary to kill him?”

“I did it, because I know that you could not. I saw your kindness to my brother in the transceiver room, and I saw how my former superior callously sent more of my brothers to die by your hand. I felt it was time to enact the justice he deserved. Do what you will with me.”

Obi Wan considered the Neimoidian soldier for a minute. “Very well then I’m placing you in charge of this ship.”

“What?!” the Officer leapt to his feet with surprise.

“You’re the senior most Officer left aboard this ship are you not? If I am going to annex this ship into my task force I need someone to serve as acting Captain.”

The Gunnery Officer pulled the helmet off of his head and tossed it to the side; he then gave Obi Wan a crisp salute. “What is your command sir?”

“First things first, contact the Battlehymn and have them send over a shuttle to get me. While you’re waiting for further instructions, change the IFF signature of this ship to match her new designation, and update the crew as well.”

“Very good sir, may I ask what the new designation is?”

Obi Wan considered it for a moment; he then looked his new comrade right in the eye and found his answer.

“This ship, from now on, shall be known as the Hammer of Retribution.”
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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 24: Tranquility's End

When an entire city covers a planet, daylight was nothing special; the calendar would not change to the next day until the sun was directly above the Galactic Timekeepers Bureau along the planet’s Prime Meridian.

To the Skywalker family though, the appearance of Coruscant Prime in the morning sky was of great importance. Unlike most wealthy families, who allowed droids to handle much of the child rearing grunt work, Anakin and Padme wanted to be true parents to their twins. A balcony on the third story of their home provided an excellent view of the sun rising over the Manarai Mountains, and a trio of housekeeping droids had prepared and served an excellent breakfast.

Life was perfect.

With a Sigh, Padme rose from her seat and delivered Leia over to Anakin, who was already cradling Luke in his arms. “It’s time Ani.”

“So soon?” he frowned, “It’s not even mid morning yet.”

“The sooner I start, the sooner I can come home. Then we can talk more about our vacation.” She paused and held her hands up around Anakin and the children as if they were a frame for a wall mounted holo image. “I want to remember you three just like this while I’m gone.” She smiled.

They said their goodbyes and only minutes later, a waiting Speeder arrived to take Padme to her next destination. The children began to cry as soon as their mother had departed, and Anakin devoted all of his concentration into soothing them.

A chime rang out on his communicator, he examined it. It was from one of the Clone officers he had assigned to keep him informed regarding the follow up mission monitoring Another Chance. He ignored it, confident that it was handled to his satisfaction and far more concerned with enjoying the rest of his day.

Anakin was far too distracted to notice the dark surge in the Force, a surge that threatened to sweep over his new estate and wash everything away towards oblivion.

Tholme had finally managed a few hours sleep aboard the Skyhook but the nagging sensation of danger tore him from his slumber. The Force seethed with an ice-cold power that caused the Jedi Master to shiver. It was a rare, but not unfamiliar feeling.

“I’ve never felt the Dark Side so prevalent on Coruscant before. Something is very wrong”

He had just finished dressing when he heard a knock on the door to his quarters. He opened the door and looked around for a second before noticing the shorter Padawan in front of him. He recognized the young girl, but could not immediately recall her name.

“Ah…Esterhazy is it?”

The girl scowled for but a brief moment, and then relaxed. “It’s ok Master Tholme, it happens to me all the time. Everyone calls me Scout.”

Tholme nearly hit himself in the head, he remembered the young girl as a previous winner of the Apprentice Tournament. Her cunning had attracted Tholme’s notice, but his involvement with the war effort kept him from following her career more closely.

“Well then, Scout it is. I take it you didn’t just come to my quarters to introduce yourself though?”

Ever the child, Scout cursed under her breath and attempted to jog her memory. “Oh! Yes, sorry Master, my apologies! Master Shadday wanted me to let you know that some of the Masters have already begun preparations in the executive lounge.

Tholme smiled. “I appreciate the consideration, you can tell the Masters that I will join them shortly, and be sure to thank them for letting me sleep.” Scout turned to walk away but Tholme stopped her.

“Padawan, wait one moment,” Scout stopped and turned as Tholme asked his question. “May I ask how it is that you managed to make it all the way to Coruscant?”

Scout held her head down, it was evident on her face that the memory was painful but shedid not hesitate to recall her tale.

“I had been assigned on a mission to Vjun along with Master Jai Maruk…”

Scout explained her participation in the mission to Vjun in support of Yoda, who was planning to meet with Count Dooku. Along the way Jai Maruk had been killed, the second of Scout’s teachers to die in combat during her training. Briefly, she recalled her return from Vjun with Masters Yoda, Kenobi, and Skywalker, along with the Padawan Whie Malreaux.

“After Master Maruk died, all I could think about was completing the mission and honoring his memory. But when I made it back to Coruscant, I was back in the same situation I had been in before, there weren’t enough Masters left to take on all of the remaining Padawans.”

“Master Yoda however noticed that, despite my weakness in the Force that I did have a good sense of precognition. I was immediately transferred to Kamparas.”

Things started to make sense to Tholme. “The Jedi Pilot’s Academy.”

Scout nodded her head. “Master Yoda said that I had a good future as a fighter pilot, and that Padawans at the academy on Kamparas could reach Knighthood without the exclusive tutelage of one Jedi Master, but that it would be a lot more difficult. I was doing quite well there, and I was about to receive a Commission as Commander of a fighter wing. Then…” Scout was beginning to get choked up, “…a Star Destroyer showed up just as the news of General Grievous’ death was reaching us. My training squadron was doing a practice reconnaissance mission as the entire Academy was slagged from orbit. The Hyperspace rings on our Delta 7’s were in orbit above the planet and we tried to make a run for it but we were caught by a swarm of V-Wings and ARC-170s.” She was openly crying now and tears flooded down her face. “I was the only one who managed to dock with a ring before the others were destroyed, two of my friends died covering me as I plugged in the coordinates for hyperspace.”

Tholme repressed a gasp, this girl was tough and had survived as much combat and tragedy as a Padawan as any other student before her.

They remained silent for a time until Tholme dried the tears from her eyes with his thumb. “Thank you Scout, I know it must have been difficult, I am sorry to have put you through that.”

She sniffled. “It’s okay Master Tholme, really. Master Yoda taught me that being honest and celebrating the lives of those who have fallen is better than holding back grief and being consumed by anger.”

“A wiser Master there never will be,” Tholme said, trying to reassure the girl. “I hope that one day we will learn of his whereabouts. In due time, I am sure that he will return from hiding and lead the Jedi once again. ”

Scout’s face broke into a small smile, and her spirits lifted. With a short bow she took off at a jog down the hall, continuing with her errand.”
It had been a terrifying, yet optimistic tale of survival that had allowed Tholme a brief respite from the cold that had by now permeated his veins. He would discuss this feeling with the other Masters.

“A pity that as a Jedi I do not believe in luck, because I could sure use some good fortune just about now.”

“Has the ambassador arrived yet?”

Depa Billaba remained on her knee, bowed to the image towering over her. The Emperor had recently taken a liking to having his image projected from the neck up at a monstrous size. Annoying as it was, Depa knew that he controlled the lives of every being on the planet, including her own.

“Ambassador Amidala is on her way; our shuttle will be departing within the hour for the Seinar Skyhook.”

“Excellent, I trust you have prepared an expedient death for her, one easily blamed on the Jedi?”

“Yes my master, there is no death more identifiable than that by lightsaber. There are enough Padawans aboard to easily manipulate into a murder suicide. Even if the Jedi suspect outside involvement, they will not have a shred of credibility.”

“You have done well Lady Cynyst, but there is one more thing I would have you do.”

“Anything, my Master.”

“I want Quinlan Vos implicated as Amidala’s assassin.”

Cynyst held back the shock from her face. “But my Lord, Quinlan Vos is…”

“I realize that Vos is nowhere to be found, it suits our intentions perfectly. When your puppet Kar Vastor fails to bring down Lord Vader, the search for Amidala’s killer will carry him to the ends of the galaxy to hunt down Vos, rather than looking back at Coruscant at you and I.”

Irritated, Depa raised her haid to persuade her Master of her plot’s merit. “Master, I assure you that Kar Vastor will not…”

“Do not presume to be able to question my decisions Lady Cynyst.”

She flinched; it had been an unwise move to attempt to question her Master. “I am sorry my Lord, I only live to serve your will.”

“You may yet die at my will Lady Cynyst. Do not speak to me again until either Padme Amidala is dead or until you decide to forfeit your life.”

The image faded, Palpatine’s displeasure was evident to Depa based on his abrupt departure. Depa stood and moved back to the communications terminal, sending a small text only message via the keypad. As she completed the message transmission, a clone trooper arrived to inform her that Padme Amidala was aboard the shuttle, ready to depart for the Skyhook.

“I look forward to ending this miserable charade, one Skywalker at a time. Once the parents are gone, I’ll take care of the children. The secrets of the Sith will be mine.”

The message she sent had been short, but it’s contents were far from unimportant. It was only one sentence, but it was enough to ignite a firestorm of events that would accelerate her ascension to Dark Lady of the Sith.

The time has come, kill Anakin Skywalker,

“Master Tholme, you’ve decided to join us.” Shadday smirked as Tholme entered the room. “While you’ve been catching up on some badly needed beauty sleep, we’ve begun working out the intial terms we are going to ask for from the Empire. We think we can restructure the Order just enough to… ”

“There will be no restructuring.” Tholme said.

Visibly disturbed by Tholme’s words, the assembled Jedi Masters suddenly began speaking inhushed tones to each other with many of them giving Tholme a wary eye.

“Troubling news indeed Tholme,” Shadday had locked her state on him and was not even blinking, “do you have any reason for such a statement or are you having second thoughts about returning to Coruscant?”

Tholme went right to the point. “I felt a tremor in the Force, a terrible upheaval emanates from Coruscant’s surface. I fear that it targets us; we need to consider a contingency escape plan immediately.”

Another Jedi Master spoke up, Tholme recognized her as Fy-Tor-Ana, a skilled Jedi who wasone of the Jedi Temple’s most prominent instructors. “Strange then, that none of us have felt such a tremor Master Tholme. Is there something that you are not telling us?”

“There is nothing I withhold from any of you. I am not suggesting that we abandon our hopes of rebuilding the Order, only that we prepare in case of…”

Tholme’s mind was suddenly disconnected from his body. His view of the others in the room around him faded to white, his vision was slowly adjusting to what felt like a bright light, and he could only make out vague images. He could see the Skyhook, and a great explosion, an intense wave of suffering rippled outward from the station, and Tholme tried to close his eyes as he saw the images of young Jedi burning and writhing in pain.

“Tholme!” A voice shouted, but was quickly drowned out by a large explosion that thundered in THolme’s ears, deafening him.

Suddenly Tholme was again able to close his eyes; he blinked several times and looked back around the room again. He was back in the executive lounge with a dozen or so other Jedi Masters once more.

“Tholme!” He could recognize the sharp, feminine voice of Shadday. “What is the matter?”

Tholme rubbed his hand against his forehead; a dull throbbing ache was slowly taking over his senses. “A vision…something is going to happen to the station.” He reached up to his ears, they felt wet. He pulled his fingers away and noticed that blood had trickled onto his fingertips.

“We need a ship…soon.”

After the success of Operation: Knightfall, and the high accolades placed upon them at the conclusion of the war, Anakin Skywalker had personally placed the 501st Legion under his own command. Dubbed “Skywalker’s Fist”, the 501st responded to the honor in kind by attaching one regiment of the Legion in a rotating assignment as General Skywalker’s honor guard.

Clone Sergeant Fox and two of his troopers stood watch at their post at the front gate. Such a watch was necessary because of Ambassador Amidala-Skywalker’s insistence against remote defenses and shield generators. The troopers liked to joke about how marrying a General was the best way to advance in the chain of command, but did not complain about the additional work. Commander Appo though, had adopted General Skywalker’s concerns about Jedi assassination attempts, and instilled upon each regiment serving as honor guard to stay vigilant with their duty, soft as it may seem. The trio of clones had taken up a very visible position at the front entrance of the estate to discourage paparazzi and trespassers.

“Hey Sarge,” asked one of the troopers. “Why aren’t we being posted to escort Mrs. Skywalker?”

Fox tapped on his helmet indicating that the trooper should use the comlink in his helmet, best not to let any passers by see they were being slightly less than diligent at the moment. “Beats me 523, probably because you and 692 over there haven’t taken on any names yet and they don’t want to go around reciting your service number whenever they need you.”

“I’m telling you ‘Five Two Three’ is my name! I’m part of the DV batch until the day I die. Besides, look what taking a name has done for those Mando-clonian deviants who spend too much time in the history books. I can’t understand half of the kriffing words they say.”

DV-523 was referring to the clone trooper “fad” of embracing their template’s Mandalorian background. “Jango Fett might have left us a little heritage, but you can blame the commandos for all of the Mando’a.” Fox replied in a tone that clearly indicated agreement. “It’s funny how they bred the commandos for increased independence, yet they’re the ones slavishly adhering to an outdated doctrine. If I had been the template, I guarantee you my clones would be trained to be soldiers, not bounty hunters.”

Six Nine Two chimed in, “What I want to know is what idiot on the Holonet saw that there were 3 million units of clones when the war started and thought that it meant that there were only 3 million soldiers? Don’t these karking hacks know it takes more than 3 million soldiers to prosecute a galactic campaign against…what the…?”

Fox and Five-Two-Three looked at Six-Nine-Two and waited for a second for his punch line, when they saw that he was looking into the distance behind them, they each turned and configured their helmet displays accordingly. Several hundred meters down the thoroughfare was a high speed object, coming in fast.

Sergeant Fox was the first to react, letting the instincts he developed from countless battles take over. There was no doubt that whatever this was it was heading right for their position. “Grab your DC-15s and get ready, Six-Nine-Two, call the guard and get everything they have over here. Looks like we’re in for a fight…”

The target was now well within range of the naked eye. It continued on its path and single handed knocked a passing speeder out of its way on two different occasions. Each time the wrecked vehicle was deflected towards the buildings lining the street, scattering crowds and creating a panic.

Five-Two-Three was the first to get off a shot as he let loose with a burst of fire. A short burst of purple shots from his advanced rifle flew through the air towards their mark. Normally it was enough to take down a Super Battle Droid dead in its tracks, but this time the shots were deflected away quickly. Fox joined in and the two attempted to lay down a blanket of fire while Six-Nine-Two keyed in the distress signals to his comlink as fast as he could.

The target closed the distance before Six-Nine-Two could finish, the communicator was smashed before the clone could notify General Skywalker personally. Fox screamed for his men to take cover, but the words failed to escape his mouth. The target rose up one of his heavy shields and crushed Sergeant Fox’s helmet with a violent strike, creating a huge caved in dent at the top of his skull. Five-Two-Three looked over to see blood oozing down Fox’s collar, and he knew that there was no way he could have survived.

The stranger, whom Five-Two-Three identified as a human, as the target stood over Sergeant Fox he raised his DC-15 at close range, intending to fire a hole in the stranger big enough to fly a Star Destroyer through. Before he could though the target turned around with amazing speed, Five-Two-Three took a step back and took aim but the blaster rifle was torn from his grip by some mysterious power.

“Kark! Is he a Jedi? He doesn’t look like a of Count Dooku’s acolytes maybe?

The clone attempted to raise his arms in a defensive posture, but the target brought one of his twin shields high up until the air, still covered in the blood of Sergeant Fox.

Six-Nine-Two however, was just in the nick of time. He began firing his gun on full auto, and the target was forced to break off his attack. The target held his shields up in front of his body and face, giving Five-Two-Three time enough to get to his feet and unclip a small device from his belt.

The blaster fire was no longer preventing the target from pressing his attack, but it was long enough for Five-Two-Three to jump onto the targets back, clutching him as tightly as possible while holding the round silvery object.

Six-Nine-Two instantly recognized what his brother was doing and stopped shooting as he turned his back on the action and ran. No words were exchanged between the two, but the message was clear and Six-Nine-Two knew that for as long as he lived he knew that if the roles were reversed, that Five-Two-Three would do the same.

He had to reach General Skywalker, and he couldn’t do that unless he was far enough away from Five-Two-Three’s thermal detonator when it exploded.

Anakin Skywalker had just heard the alarm klaxons begin to sound off, the twins screamed in his arms as he sat out on the balcony. He handed the twins to the nearby nanny droid, who began playing music in an attempt to soothe them. Anakin reached for his comlink and noticed that the beginning of a message was sent from the front guard but abruptly halted, as if the sender did not have time to finish the message.

Then, a ferocious explosion erupted, and Anakin could see the force of the blast pushing smoke and flame into the sky , pieces of debris that were flung into the air came crashing down all around.

The blast had been terrible, and Vastor had not expected the faceless clones of the Empire to make such a sacrifice. But thanks to the jet boots that he wore, he was able to break the clone’s grasp and be far enough from the center of the explosion that his shields could deflect enough of the blast to where he had little more than superficial scratches.

Complete surprise was now lost though, and Vastor knew that his fight with Skywalker would be a duel between two warriors and not the ambush that Depa Billaba had ordered. But that suited Kar Vastor just fine.

“This battle just got more interesting Skywalker; let’s hope you have half of the courage of your lackeys.”

Vastor trudged through the crater created by the blast in front of the Skywalker Ranch and smashed open the doors in front of him. He had not felt the thrill of searching for prey in years, and he drank in every possible second.
"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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Post by Darth Fanboy »

Chapter 25: An Angel, Condemned

Depa and Padme had just began boarding the shuttle when the detonator went off, although they were far out of normal human earshot, Depa’s Force-aided senses picked up the disturbance and panic created by the explosion. Satisfied that she could head for the Skyhook with her plans firmly underway, she boarded the shuttle, seating herself right next to Ambassador Amidala.

“May I Ambassador?” Depa said, gesturing at the empty seat next to Amidala.

“Oh, by all means please Master Billaba. I would be honored. I was meaning to ask you a few questions anyways.”

Depa took the seat, puzzled; Amidala was difficult to read clearly. “Questions about the talks with the Jedi I assume?”

“Oh nothing about that,” Padme replied. “I was just wondering if I could ask for some advice regarding Anakin. He’s been rather distracted over the idea of the Jedi Order being reformed; I just don’t understand what could have changed him so much. The Order and becoming a Jedi Master meant everything to him until that day…”

Depa sensed that there was a part of the story Amidala was reluctant to talk about, but it did not matter. Depa was less concerned with giving her sagely advice, and more concerned about finding the most efficient way to dispose of her, and for some reason unbeknownst to anyone in the galaxy except for Darth Sidious, implicate Quinlan Vos in the assassination.

“Betrayal can cause deep wounds, especially in those who value friendships and loyalty. General Skywalker will require lots of time if he is to ever again trust the Jedi. But if we do our job well enough, it might give him a reason to trust in the Jedi yet again.”

When the attendants overseeing the launch area had finished loading the necessary equipment into the shuttle they signaled to the pilot, who began the pre launch sequence. Because of Amidala’s status, the shuttle would require an aerial escort of at least a pair of fights. Two V-Wings from the planet’s defense force would handle that role, with the shuttle status monitored constantly from the ground.

Within minutes, the shuttle was in the air.

Six-Nine-Two swore up and down the hallway as he sprinted towards the veranda adjacent to the main dining hall.

“I don’t care how kriffing respected he is, nobody needs a house this big!”

He finally caught up to the General, who was hurriedly taking his children towards the Master Bedroom, arguably one of the most secured residential rooms on the planet.

“General Skywalker!” He called out, as he did, the General turned.

“What is it trooper? What was that explosion?”

“We have an intruder sir, and he’s…”

For the second time of the day, Kar Vastor interrupted Six-Nine-Two, but this time he did it much more effectively. Vastor burst through the wall to the side of Anakin and Six-Nine-Two. Anakin threw up a shield with the Force at the last possible second while the Clone was forced to rely on his army to protect him from much of the debris.

Anakin reached for his lightsaber and then spat out a curse. He had left his blade in the bedroom and there was no time to retrieve it. Vastor took advantage of the situation by slamming the Jedi to the side with one of his Vibroshields, he followed that attack up by calling on the force to send Six-Nine-Two face first into the ground, knocking him unconscious.

Vastor looked out of the corner of his eye and saw the nanny droid, desperately trying to reach the secured Master Bedroom, his eyes lit up and he readied himself for an attack when he was halted in mid stride.

“Don’t even LOOK at my children!” Anakin growled. Vastor struggled and started to break free of the grip, but Anakin pushed out with the force and tossed Vastor through the opposite wall, sending Kar Vastor careening into the courtyard outside and crashing into a bronzium statue commemorating the end of the Clone Wars. Vastor hit the statue hard, but stood up immediately after hitting the ground.

An angered Anakin Skywalker stalked through the hole he had made in his own home and called upon the Force again, attempting to topple the statue on to Vastor. Vastor noticed the attack and evaded it with a counterattack of his own, utilizing his jet boots he shot forward at Anakin and leaned forward with a Vibroshield. Anakin leapt high into the air but Vastor’s Force-enhanced anticipation helped him leap upwards at the last second as well. He followed Anakin into the air and grabbed him by the ankle, tossing him to the ground and causing the General to crash in a heap below. Attempting to the end the fight quickly, Vastor used the Jet boots to shoot himself downward, hoping to crush Anakin beneath his shields.

Anakin’s hand shot upwards into the sky from where he lay, he was experienced at dealing with Jet Booted warriors from his time on Jabiim. His Force grip crushed one of Vastor’s boots and twisted the leg around, sending Kar Vastor into an almost unctrollable spiral. Vastor crashed into a wall, but instead of crashing through it he hit it with a metallic clang. The build that wall was part of had been specially reinforced so shuttlecraft could land atop of it. Despite the pain Vastor picked himself up again. The Jet boots were ruined, but he still had his Vibroshields, and he still had the Force,

The two fighters picked themselves up and stood staring at each other for a brief second, no futher than 20 meters apart. They charged at each other, each of them seemingly wanting a close in confrontation. But when they were about five meters apart, Vastor unleashed one of his shields at full speed with a throw that would have decapitated anyone in the galaxy had it hit. The throw was made impossibly quick, too quick for the human eye to track.

But, with even more impossible speed, Anakin dodged. He leaned to his right out of harms way and came to a dead stop even faster than the shield had been thrown. Vastor was still running, and he didn’t stop until Anakin’s knee firmly connected with his stomach. Anakin reeled back with his leg to kick his bowled over assailant and nearly connected with his enemy’s face, but Vastor brought his arms in front of his face quickly enough to deflect the kick to the side. Anakin, now slightly off balance, called upon the Force to toss his opponent aside, Vastor counterattacked by using his own power to shield himself from Anakin’s attack and then telekinetically tossing his second shield. The shield shot forward standing straight up, which gave Anakin more surface area to evade and the former Jedi was only able to partially dodge the attack. Part of the shield caught him in the shoulder and hit him hard, turning him around. As his back turned, Vastor advanced and brought his foot up to Anakin’s spine, which sent him sprawling to the ground.

With Anakin lying face first on the ground, Vastor reclaimed his shield and prepared for the killing blow, he moved in as fast as he could, just not fast enough to prevent Anakin’s recovery. Too fast for KAr Vastor to track, he rolled onto his back and shoulder kipped to his feet. He then moved forward with a series of Force assisted punch/kick combinations he had learned from Jedi Master Ilena Xan.

Known as “The Iron Hand,” Xan was the temple’s hand to hand combat instructor, and Anakin Skywalker was one of her most dedicated pupils. Known for his swordsmanship, Anakin was equally determined to learn to fight without his blade, and he augmented his already impressive array of combat skills with martial arts.

His right arm went forward into Vastor’s face, his knuckles slamming against the bones hidden beneath his assailant’s face. His second strike was the key to the maneuver as it struck the midsection right in the middle of Vastor’s abdomen. The increased power from the Force Anakin was able to knock all of the air out of Vastor’s lungs. With his opponent stunned, a leaping roundhouse kick was able to easy hit its mark and knock Vastor to the ground. The counter attack had taken barely a minute, but already the roles were reversed with Anakin standing over a prostrate Kar Vastor.

“I know who you are Kar Vastor.” Anakin said threateningly. “I remember you being locked away beneath the Temple, and how you were convicted of crimes against civilization.”

The last part of his statement, Anakin did not say “And I know how your partner in crime is now competing with me for the favor of the Emperor.”

Could Depa Billaba be behind this though? Certainly Sidious’ trust in her was not great, she had her uses but not even Palpatine would control someone and utilize their talents unless they were under his control. “Sort of like me…”, Anakin thought.

“Who sent you Vastor, surrender and I might see to sparing your life. I know you can’t talk, but you already know that I can hear the Force as well as anyone, as well as Depa billaba, and certainly better than your foolish relative Mace Windu.”

That had gotten under Vastor’s skin; his revenge on Windu had not been complete and his fury at Anakin for robbing him of that vengeance ran deep. The brute regained his feet and turned towards Anakin.

“You’re dead Jedi scum!” Vastor charged like a crazed Reek, and Anakin was confident that he could end the fight now quite quickly. It would only take one simple move. Anakin set his feet and prepared himself.

But his body completely froze, his heartbeat slowed to a crawl. The world slowed around him until time stopped. He turned cold, unbearably cold. Even more so than his first trip away from the desert sands and into space. His body went numb, but the pain in his mind was like a supernova, expanding rapidly until the fear had consumed his whole being.

A tear trickled down his face, and he no longer noticed Kar Vastor charging at him with murder in his eyes. Something terrible had happened.


The Shuttle was in visual range of the skyhook when Depa Billaba suddenly felt a terrible heat, at first she had thought that the shuttle had caught fire. But as she looked around she realized that no one else was noticing any kind of disturbance and it was then she realized that she had just perceived something with the Force.

“What is going on?”

She emptied her mind, focusing on the Force for an answer. She unseated herself, and followed the ethereal guide to the rear of the shuttle, where she noticed a large stack of cases of equipment. Sabé, the assistant was standing next to them doing a final inventory check.

“You, what are in these boxes?” Billaba ordered.

Sabé was taken aback at the curt order that came from the Jedi Master, “Mostly recording equipment, some data storage equipment and remote holonet connection, and of course your personal items.”

“My personal items?” Depa was shocked and now incredibly nervous. She had not brought anything with her save for the robes that she wore and the lightsaber clipped to her belt. “Where did they come from?”

Sabé was really confused now. “An attaché from Grand Vizier Pestage’s office arrived with them shortly before takeoff. He said that they were supposed to have been delivered earlier for you, but that the belongings were temporarily misplaced. Fortunately they were located again before we left, and brought to the shuttle immediately on the Emperor’s orders. I’d thought you’d be happy to see your things intact Master Jedi.”

Depa reached up and touched her forehead. She was sweating profusely, but the heat from her premonition had disappeared completely.

“Is this…fear? What is going on?”

In her confusion, she recklessly pushed a stack of equipment aside, eliciting a cry from Sabé, who was running towards the front of the shuttle now. Depa located the case that supposedly belonged to her and opened the latches.

It was a bomb.

Given time it was one she could possibly disarm, but the detonator was unfamiliar to her. A small sensor relay connected to the initiator that appeared to be hooked to some kind of communications antenna, but keyed in for a very specific signal that could only come from a singal exactly like it.

Then she recognized it. A proximity detonator! It must be calibrated to go off when…no!” She stood and raced forward to the cockpit of the shuttle, nearly knocking one of the armed escorts aside.

In her rush to avoid death, she had completely missed the irony of her speech to Padme Amidala about treachery. Her bid to become the next Dark Lord of the Sith had failed, and her own master was responsible

“Pilot!” she yelled, “Break off our approach, don’t get any closer to the skyh….”

The antenna connected to the bomb laid dormant in wait for its sister signal, somewhere aboard the Seinar Skyhook was the other transmitter. As soon as the shuttle reached the outer edge of the antenna’s range, it was triggered. A second signal less than thirty seconds later consigned the shuttle to its fate as the powerful explosion ripped through the craft. Incinerating everyone aboard instantly and leaving no remains as the white hot energy of the blast scattered debris onto the city below.

Resting comfortably at the time of her death was Padme Amidala, who was in the final minutes of a nap where she had been dreaming about her family and their promising future together. She died happy, with love in her heart for her husband and children that was beyond anything she had ever experienced.

Her final moments were untroubled, and full of happiness.

“Your majesty, your order has been carried out. Jedi Master Billaba and Ambassador Amidala Skywalker are both dead. There were no survivors.”

The three dimensional image of Sate Pestage knelt before Palpatine on the armrest of the Imperial Throne. “Very good Vizier, you have done well. Use every fighter squadron you can muster and interdict the Seinar Skyhook and then wait for General Skywalker; he will deal with the Jedi.”

“My Lord, the entire 501st Legion has emptied their barracks and is rushing to his aid as we speak, but we have not had any word of General Skywalker’s condition.”

“Fear not,” Palpatine’s voice sounded amazingly confident, “you will hear from him very soon. The battle he fights now has served its purpose of distracting Skywalker so he could not interfere with my design. I anticipate that the death of his beloved wife will only hasten the end of Depa Billaba’s pitiful ambition once and for all.”

Anakin had failed to react, and Vastor had taken advantage. Unable to move, Kar Vastor had advanced close enough to strike Anakin with a powerful head butt. As Anakin reeled, Vastor kicked Anakin’s legs out from under him, and then stomped once hard on Anakin’s ribs.

He reclaimed the nearby shield had had thrown at Skywalker and hefted it with two hands, looking to bring it down onto Anakin’s neck and behead him. Anakin was on his back, his eyes closed and his limbs unmoving. His death was assured.

Or so it seemed to Kar Vastor, as the Vibroshield neared Anakin’s neck Anakin’s eyes opened and the shield stopped less than a centimeter away from his neck. Vastor struggled to try and Force the shield down, but his powers were no match for Anakin’s.

Without warning, the cortosis-alloy shield began to crumple as if it were an old piece of flimsi. Vastor tossed it aside before the metal would curl upon his own restored hands and crush them. Like a spirit arising from the grave, Anakin rose to his feet. His eyes had an unworldly yellow glow, and Kar Vastor was stunned when he reached out into the Force, only to find that the darknees far greater than his own stood before him.

Nowhere even in the forsaken jungles of Haruun Kal did Kar Vastor ever dream he could see darkness like this, not even when entire families succumbed to flesh eating sicknesses or starvation, or even in the chaos of wars fought against the Balawai, or other enemies.

With a deep sorrow born from his extreme passion, Anakin lashed out at Kar Vastor with Sith Lightning. Vastor fell to the ground, the lightning burned so hot that it seared his throat within seconds, preventing his screams.

“"I'm not afraid to die...I've been dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life."

Anakin saw that Vastor’s skin had begun to sear away, the stench of his flesh filled his nose but he did not stop. Although his body ached, his emotions continued to feed the lethal blasts of energy from his hands.

“Anakin come back, I love you!”

Anakin wanted answers, he wanted revenge and he wanted whatever being that murdered his wife to know that he was not going to rest until he had found them and taught them a lesson in pain.

“I want to remember you three just like this while I’m gone.”

But most of all he wanted to see Padme again, just one more time.

The Sith lightning crackled and faded, and Anakin’s eyes burned with hot tears as the smoke cleared away from the skeletal remains of what was Kar Vastor. In his heart, Anakin knew that this was part of a plot to distract his attentions.

“I could have saved her...if only I had not been distracted I could have saved her.” He could hear footsteps behind him, but he did not feel the ominous sense of danger. When he turned to meet the new arrivals he saw well over three dozen clone troopers with their weapons at the ready, standing in what Anakin sensed was complete awe. The Clones had been there to watch Anakin cremate Kar Vastor alive and none of them had ever seen anything quite like it.

Stepping forward from the group was Commander Vills. “General Sir, Commander Appo informed us of the tragedy regarding the Imperial Ambassador. Fighters are already moving to surround the Jedi Skyhook. Apparently the shuttle’s escorts noticed a strange transmission prior to the blast, likely some kind of remote detonator.”

“General,” Anakin recognized Six-Nine-Two with the Force and saw that the Clone’s arm was outstretched towards him, “your lightsaber sir. Recovering it was the least I could do for the man who avenged my brothers.”

Anakin took his lightsaber in his hand and studied it for a moment before returning it to his belt. He looked out at the Clones, turned to completely face them all, and spoke at the top of his lungs.

“Someone has killed Imperial Ambassador Skywalker, whomever it was sent this assassin to kill me as well. Now I’ve just been told that this criminal has stolen part of your family as well.”

Many of the troopers hung their heads, few legions were as close knit as the 501st and Anakin knew this.

“That’s why you and I are going to bring a war to these butchers! We will smash them the same way we smashed the Separatists and we will never relent until we have our justice! Who is with me?”

In unison the troopers all cried out, raising their weapons into the air. Anakin stood with his face steeled; the only semblance of emotion coming from his was the still steady stream of tears coming from his eyes.

“Commander Vills, leave one regiment here and secure my home. My children are vulnerable right now; protect them as if they were your own I beg of you. Send the rest of the men back to their barracks and make sure that they have time to rest. It could be the last time any of them will have the opportunity to do so for a while.”

“It will be done General, you have my word.” Vills acknowledged and then crisply saluted. “Commander Appo wishes to let you know that he and some of his men are already on site near the Seinar Skyhook, he assumes that is where you’ll want to go next.”

Anakin paused and considered his next course of action, the hate in his veins had cooled to ice and his anger had become more focused as a result of his Sith training. Anakin had become a warrior who commanded devastation with both power and precision. “Tell Commander Appo that I will meet him there soon; have him send a speeder for me immediately to take me to the Emperor.”

Within Anakin Skywalker’s mind, the blue and red blades of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader crossed together. But this time, there would be no stalemate.

Vader was now far stronger than he had ever been, and it took all of Anakin’s power just to keep his dark counterpart from striking him down. But he was weary, and full of sorrow. Vader commanded the passionate side of the mind that the two personalities inhabited, and his power surged beyond measure with the death of Padme Amidala. The blades crossed again, but the blue blade had been overwhelmed for the final time, the blade feel into the abyss, and the crimson light of Darth Vader cut down his opponent, leaving him in sole control.

The transformation, begun in a Tusken Camp on Tatooine, was finally complete.

A group of Jedi had assembled near one of the Skyhooks panoramic windows, surveying the damage. Among them was Tholme, whose warnings had finally come to pass. A squadron of V Wing fighters was now slowly circling around the installation high above, and Tholme could spot the rising shapes of LAAT gunships head out in the Jedi’s direction as well.

Their peril had grown when they heard the dark cry from Coruscant’s surface. Although not even most of the Masters had felt the impending destruction of the Imperial Shuttle, even the Padawans had been deeply frightened by a beacon of naked and malevolent anger that had followed shortly.

Tholme slowly paced across the room and found an empty seat, suddenly he became tired and took the chair before his legs gave out on him.

“I fear we are all doomed,” he said to himself.
"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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