Forceborn is an unauthorized re-framing of the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis and the origins of Emperor Palpatine. It will incorporate ideas from James Luceno's fine (and canonical) interpretation of these events, as well as elements from extant EU: The Book of Sith, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and those from later time periods such as the Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series. It will also incorporate relevant characters from the time period as is necessary. Compliments and criticisms are equally welcome but I hope you enjoy. Prologue:Down the Rabbit Hole 42BBY It came hurtling out from the darkness between the stars, moving with such speed that, to the naked eye, it would have simply appeared out of thin air. (Figuratively, of course; there is no air to be found—thin or otherwise—in the oppressive vacuum of space.) Bursting forth from the realm of hyperspace, the object transitioned almost immediately to the observable but not inconsiderable sub-light speed, hurtling inexorably towards what any spacer with a modicum of sense would consider to be certain death: in the ever-closing distance, a cluster of massive circles of profound nothingness. Tears in the silky darkness of space-time, perhaps the persisting claw-marks of some eldritch god. This grouping of black holes lacked an official designation by the Galactic Republic, but cartographers and travelers far and wide simply referred to it as “the Maw”—which was only slightly less ominous than its second most popular name: Deadspace. (Though much less unsettling than its third most popular name, the Wells of Agony.) It was testament to the Maw’s fearsome reputation that the area was, for all intents and purposes, deserted; given the substantial surplus of cocky smugglers, arrogant space-jockeys, and all manner of impetuous glory hounds, it seemed inconceivable that such a nightmarish sector would want for challengers. Still, the Maw was the standard that separated the merely daring from the suicidal, and thus most danger-seekers were content to consign themselves to more pedestrian enterprises, like the Kessel Run. And so it was that no one was in the vicinity to witness the object’s brazen trajectory, glimpsing its pristine chromium reflect the far-flung starlight or admire the organic flawlessness of its almost missile shape. This fact elicited a sound that was as much annoyed exhalation as it was wistful sigh from the lips of Darth Sidious, whose sense of theatricality, too often repressed, had nurtured a restless appreciation for grand entrances. The object was not a missile, but in fact an H-type Nubian yacht, a luxury diplomatic shuttle manufactured for restricted use by the Royal House of Naboo, capital of the Chommell sector. Though sleek and small for an ambassadorial vessel, it was nonetheless an exercise of half-hearted minimalism; dimensions notwithstanding, the chromium plating (including its three unnecessary external fins) and sophisticated detection, navigation, and propulsion systems made the ship class one of the very most expensive for its size in the whole of Republic Space. Sidious was one of three passengers aboard the yacht, which had the distinction of being a flying gift; a present to the sector’s recently-elected Senator, Palpatine of Naboo, from the Nubian king. Nevertheless, the ship had been quietly appropriated by the Sith Order for its maiden voyage. It lacked an official designation, which would traditionally have been provided by the reigning monarch; however, so popular was Palpatine that the king forfeited this right to the senator, but not before extolling him to give the matter “a preponderance of ponderance.” Palpatine had accepted these terms graciously, but Sidious—uniquely and completely informed of the yacht’s rather complex origins—had taken to calling it the Tenebrous. Lamentation of their discreet arrival fell beneath the weight of cold amusement at the name and its implications; a rather cruel joke that was as private as the coming events of the evening. Releasing the yacht’s controls, Sidious pivoted his chair to regard the first of his two fellows. The occupant of the co-pilot seat was, like Sidious himself, a human male. But it could not be denied that Sate Pestage cut an altogether more imposing figure: ironic, given his utter lack of talent for Force manipulation. Taller than Sidious by several centimeters, Sate was also heavier by better than half a dozen kilos, with the weight distributed across a broad chest, swollen arms accentuated by a dark shirt with short sleeves, and powerful legs camouflaged by loose-fitting brown trousers. Younger, too: a hard, sculpted face that was less blemished than what one might expect of his occupation and black hair the color of starship oil that, though receding at the temples, was only sparsely flecked with steel grey. Only five standard years separated the two men in age and it occurred to Sidious that, once, he would have felt a twinge of envy at his operative’s persistent vitality. Alas, the luxuries of youth were beyond what Sidious could now afford, so taxed was he by his multitude of titanic burdens. He knew that acquaintances and colleagues were frequently surprised to learn his true age; but he also knew that that surprise would be much deeper—much more horrifying—if they understood just how much effort it required to appear as he did. The cost of maintaining some semblance of viridity. Of humanity. “What do you think?” When Sate answered, he did so without removing his eyes from the forward viewport and his tone was absent, as though enthralled by the rapidly approaching event horizons. “It certainly matches your description: dark, empty, scary as hell....” “You mean to say you’re frightened?” Sidious asked lightly. Sate shifted to look at him, scowling. “I’d prefer ‘cautious’.” Sidious chuckled. “I’m sure you would.” Sate snorted derisively, but Sidious’s keen eyes detected the pattern that his companion’s calloused fingers were gently tracing along the smooth handle of the Swiftkick blaster rifle strapped to his thigh—one of his tells. When afraid, some men tapped their feet, others bit their fingernails, and Sate Pestage reached for the nearest gun. “You’ve been in far worse situations, I assure you,” Sidious offered. “True,” Sate replied. “For all of which I have you to thank.” “If you wish to hold me accountable for imbuing your life with excitement and thrills, so be it.” “Sure,” conceded Sate, dryly. “As long as you accept responsibility for the various wounds I’ve suffered on your behalf over the years.” Sidious waved a dismissive hand. “Occupational hazards; you knew what you were getting into.” Sate’s eyes returned to the viewport and his words were distant: “I really didn’t.” Sidious opened his mouth to issue a sharp retort when pressure blossomed like an unpleasant flower from the base of his skull. He turned back to the controls. “Check on our guest, will you? This will require my full attention.” Aware that he was being dismissed, Sate sighed and released himself from the chair’s safety harness. “As you wish. I’d rather not see it when we fly into one of those things.” As the clang of his companion’s footsteps receded, Sidious closed his eyes and inhaled deeply; he drew in breath and the Force at once in an inextricable life-weave. Briefly swollen with energy, his awareness was now magnified to encompass the Tenebrous in its entirety; in a very real sense, he and the vessel were one. His five senses were enhanced to extraordinary levels: he could hear the manifold thums and whirls of the yacht’s constituent parts; could taste the acrid tang of chromium and durasteel; could feel the coarse fabric of the third passenger’s tunic as he was hauled to his feet; could smell a sudden burst of sharp repugnance; could see Sate’s expression of shock morph into one of livid rage. And Sidious absorbed this reality-bending influx of stimuli with scholarly poise; this was apotheosis, he knew. He transitioned from man to god with each breath. He opened his eyes—which were, he noticed in the viewport’s reflection, wreathed in a demonic yellow that had long ago ceased to unsettle him—and exhaled. The borrowed energy burst out of his body in an omni-directional spray; the Force washed out over the floor, ceiling, and hull; then outward still, as if in some sort of metaphysical osmosis, through the dense plating and out into space. His slender fingers gripped the controls and began to move in negligible, at times almost-imperceptible twitches; nudging the Tenebrous left and right and down and up as it passed through the contorted corridor between the black holes. This would have been impossible for the galaxy’s mundane denizens—some hundred quadrillion denizens, if the most recent Republic census was any reasonable estimation—as even the most skilled pilot would be destabilized and crushed beneath the ferocious waves in an ocean of gravitational disturbance. But to Sidious, in this state, those waves were nothing more than the ripples of a rain puddle. A miniature lightning storm erupted in the cockpit as the swirling rings of ultra-hot, super-dense gas that constituted the black holes’ accretion disks wreaked havoc on the sensors. A chorus of alarms and klaxons burst into discordant melody. The light burned with blinding intensity; it was as if he were staring into a sun. Suddenly, he felt a cold spot on the center of his forehead—as if someone had placed there an aurodium coin retrieved from the arctic wastes of Mygeeto. The sensation should have felt foreign to him; inappropriate, out of place. But it was neither. Reflexively, he lifted a hand from the controls. The moment his fingertips made contact, Sidious’s vision exploded in a kaleidoscope of images: a corpse-white face with what might have been streaks of blood cascading from bright red eyes; a fair-haired woman of middle age whose bearing and beauty conjured thoughts of an elaborate ice sculpture; a dark gray, almost purplish countenance smoothed in an impassive expression; a richly-dressed man of medium build whose features were contorted with anguish; a squirming, pudgy infant with crimson flesh and a crown of jagged horns; and then others too, indistinguishable in a cyclone of color. This miasma of shapes, distant and yet so very familiar, coalesced into a single form: pale flesh pockmarked with blemishes, stretched over the comically-elongated, almost rectangular skull of a Muun. Shock lanced a well of dread in his heart and fear began to pump through his body as surely as blood. Entranced, Sidious did not—could not—divert his gaze. The Muun’s eyelids sprang open to reveal orbs flaring a blistering white and the thin lips curled into a familiar grin of contempt. “Mine.” Horrified, Sidious’s hands snapped up, fingers clawed, and in desperation tugged on the Force like a child seeking refuge from a nightmare in his blanket. Reality broke; the Muun’s head vanished; the images disintegrated into streams of light like stars in hyperspace; and Darth Sidious tumbled into the Force like a lone sailor swept into the depths of an angry sea.