Before Forceborn [AU; Sidious & Plagueis, et al.] (Updated 11/18!)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Sable_Hart, Nov 11, 2012.

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  1. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    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.
    Last edited by Sable_Hart, Nov 18, 2012
  2. Darth_Kiryan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2009
    star 4
    Well, this is different. So did Sidious just receive a warning through the force?
  3. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    Of a sort, yes.
    I hope you enjoyed it, comments and criticisms are as welcome as questions. The first chapter should be posted by Sunday the 18th.
  4. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    Chapter 1:
    Building Bridges

    65 BBY
    Far removed from the extravagance of Coruscant and the Core worlds, the planet Abridon lazed in serenity, accompanied only by a trio of unsettled moons and occupied by a relatively sparse population of some one hundred million creatures. To approaching spacers, Abridon appeared to be a water world not unlike the much more commercially- and politically-significant planets Mon Cala and Muunilinst—a cool blue orb hanging in space, swathed in layers of enduring white curls. Only after one had penetrated the cloud cover would one see the half-dozen continents that altogether constituted forty percent of the planet’s surface. Pleasant, if not entirely picturesque, what Abridon lacked in a multifaceted geography it made up for in charming consistency. The sum of its physical features included wave after wave of hills, the shallow valleys between them, and a lattice of thin rivers that seeped into the waters of contended oceans. To by-passers, it was one of a million ordinary worlds; to its own denizens, it was the Alderaan of the Outer Rim.
    Abridon’s temperance coupled with its lack of galactic recognition made it an ideal home for those who appreciated beauty yet nevertheless sought the benefits of a quiet life of luxury. As such, most of its inhabitants were inordinately wealthy—bankers, entrepreneurs, retired politicians, and even former giants of the Holofilm industry. It was the playground of the power broker; those who, for all their vast net worth and influence, had managed the impossible: to elude the all-seeing-eye of Coruscant.
    The second largest continent was neatly bisected by Abridon’s equator. Far removed from the other mansions that littered the surrounding landscape, the estate of Rugess Nome sprawled in the bowl between two uncommonly tall hills. Though palatial in size, it was not especially attractive among the great houses, lacking the ornate trappings and characteristics typically associated with regality. There were no columns, domes, or balconies in sight Rather, its resemblance was between a modern fortress or a neatly arranged pile of shoeboxes—an observation which, to many spectators, served only to emphasize Nome’s eccentricities.
    To the public, the reclusive Nome was an extraordinarily gifted starship designer whose creations might be found in great number on any civilized planet in the galaxy. He’d had professional ties to such conglomerates as the Techno Union and its web of subsidiaries—Baktoid, Haor Chall, TaggeCo.—among others; through substantial monetary cost, he had cultivated considerable influence in the InterGalactic Banking Clan. Nome’s labyrinthine circuit of finances, from investment to returns, would have flummoxed an army of accountants. It also made him one of the wealthiest individuals in the galaxy. But rather than use his vast fortune to assume center stage in the theater of starship manufacturing, Nome seemingly preferred a backstage role, eschewing the galactic spotlight, opting instead to apply the might of his credits in a more judicious manner.
    But then that was less an issue of peculiarity than it was one of practicality: for Rugess Nome was merely the alter-ego of Darth Tenebrous, Master of the Sith, who had come to understand that the shadows afforded more opportunity to thrive than the oppressive light.
    Tenebrous’s apprentice, Darth Plagueis, who had arrived on Abridon only an hour before, could not contradict the wisdom of the arrangement. Concealment had become a necessity for their order, which was believed to have been utterly destroyed over nine centuries ago. It was no exaggeration to say that the survival of the Sith, let alone their freedom, was contingent on the greater galaxy’s ignorance. And so, from Darth Bane on, each Sith Lord was forced to live a dichotomous life, assuming dual roles. Wisdom notwithstanding, Plagueis could not help but envy the enemy he was charged to loathe. There was an allure, he supposed, to the simplicity of the Jedi Knight who had no need for exhausting deception. But the circumstances were presently immutable and no amount of envy or wishing would change it. And so, to an even greater extent than his Master, Plagueis had dedicated the last twenty years to a most personal alchemy: creating some measure of truth from his life of lies.
    He sat in the regal but uncomfortable chair before a great wooden desk, gazing distantly out the window of his Master’s spacious study, disinterested in Tenebrous’s increasingly heated exchange with the hand-sized hologram of what was probably an outrageously rich financier or corporate suit—yet whose liberal use of foul language suggested a profession as a common spacer. The room was walled with bookshelves two-and-a-half times Plagueis’s own prodigious height, filled with ancient books, which were anachronistic in the age of holograms and datapads.
    Plagueis’s efforts to drown the conversation out were futile but his patience was rewarded when a fresh flow of curses was guillotined by sudden silence. He heard his Master’s brisk footfalls and turned in his chair as Tenebrous entered the room in an agitated pace.
    “Not a pleasant chat?” Plagueis asked lightly.
    Tenebrous scowled. “As if you have to ask.”
    A member of the Bith species, Tenebrous was certainly not representative of what the galaxy had come to think of the Sith—if any of them thought of the Sith at all. Whereas the more infamous members of the order had been known for their mostly intimidating, sometimes terrifying physicality—often rotted, scarred, and tattooed—Tenebrous’s appearance conjured fewer impressions of abject fear than it did bewilderment.
    He was tall for his kind, yet shorter than the average Neimoidian or a Muun like Plagueis by better than a dozen centimeters. He was trim and fit, unlike Plagueis, whose height made him appear morbidly thin. Like Plagueis, Tenebrous’s skull was hairless and deformed by human standards; unlike Plagueis, his cranium was disproportionately swollen, particularly above the fist-sized black globes that were his eyes. He lacked a nose and breathed through a series of fleshy folds that framed a puckered mouth that was further contorted by annoyance.
    Plagueis intuited the source. “That was Kerred Santhe, I presume?”
    “None other,” his Master grumbled. “Obnoxious, presumptuous twit.”
    “What did he want?”
    “Nothing new,” Tenebrous huffed, waving a dismissive hand. “He’s desired exclusive rights to my designs for years. But recently, he’s become more aggressive, trying to hurl his newfound weight around.”
    “Perhaps you should consider it, Master,” Plagueis suggested. “A monogamous relationship with Santhe would mean that we’d have only one company to worry about.”
    His Master’s reaction was one Plagueis had thought reserved for more extraordinary moments—like spontaneously growing a second head. “And risk putting the totality of our finances at the mercy of that imbecile? I care not to have my eggs in one basket, thank you.”
    “It was just a suggestion, Master,” Plagueis said mildly, inclining his head.
    “Santhe,” Tenebrous hissed. “What he has in credits he lacks in brains. It’s a wonder he’s survived this long.”
    “His longevity owes much to your patronage,” Plagueis reminded him. “You did, after all, arrange for the merger with Sienar.”
    “Indeed,” the elder Sith Lord mused. “It’s a shame he’s forgotten that. It was difficult to resist the urge to throttle the ungrateful hack.”
    Plagueis set down his stylus. “Why didn’t you?”
    Tenebrous shot him a look. “Because I’m not a mindless brute. Do I look like Darth Malak?”
    Plagueis squinted in consideration. “Well, now that you mention it, you do have a similar jawline.”
    “If only your skills were as sharp as your wit, you’d be tormented by your own apprentice by now.”
    Plagueis bowed his head deferentially and turned back to the window.
    Tenebrous clasped his hands behind his back and moved to stand beside Plagueis. “Santhe is a fool, but one of my own making. Killing him, however cathartic, would transfer the control of the company to his son, who shares his father’s idiocy as well as his name. Worse, he lacks any experience. Killing both isn’t an option—”
    “You fear attracting the attention?”
    “That and more,” Tenebrous nodded. “Removing both Santhes would push control of the consortium back to Narro Sienar and that is quite possibly the last thing we want.”
    “Why is that, Master?” asked Plagueis as he watched a flock of birds pass by the window in a majestic V-array.
    Tenebrous blew out a forceful exhale. “Sienar is cleverer than Santhe, but has all the charm of a Trandoshan prostitute. He’s also, I’m told, a xenophobe of the highest order. He’d very likely try to renege on our business relationship. It is for this very reason that I urged Santhe to marginalize him. But now....”
    A cloak of silence fell over the room until Tenebrous sighed and turned to face him. “But these matters require some deliberation and you didn’t come all this way to hear my frustrations. What brings you out this way, Lord Plagueis?”
    Plagueis adopted a more professional posture. “My lord, I was wondering if we could revisit an old topic.”
    “There are many of those between us, my apprentice,” noted Tenebrous, before adding wearily, “Yet yet I suspect I know the one to which you refer.”
    “Your insight is impeccable, Master,” said Plagueis, with a nod. He squared his shoulders. “With your permission and, more importantly, your cooperation, I would like to explore the prospects of extending our reign indefinitely.”
    Tenebrous’s arms dropped to his sides and his shoulders stooped in disappointment. Shaking his head, the Bith turned away. “I regret asking.”
    “But you did ask,” Plagueis countered. “Now hear me out.”
    “Very well.” Tenebrous sighed, gesturing for Plagueis to stand up. When he did, the Bith lowered himself into the vacant chair and fixed his apprentice with an ambiguous gaze. “Continue.”
    “I have turned a corner in my own efforts,” said Plagueis, “and I believe I may have the answer that has eluded us for so long.”
    “Your own efforts?” his Master repeated, tone frosty. “By that you mean efforts you were discouraged from making?”
    Plagueis glanced at the floor before answering. “Yes, my lord.”
    Tenebrous exhaled deeply, the flaps beneath his eyes undulating with force. “You risk a great deal with this presentation, apprentice. For your sake, I hope it’s worth it.”
    Plagueis flinched, but rather than dissuade him, the threat galvanized him. “The answer is midi-chlorians.”
    The elder Sith Lord tipped his head in wonder. “What about them?”
    “It’s very simple,” Plagueis said. “As you told me, all those years ago, Jedi think midi-chlorians are messengers delivering the whims of the Force. You explained to me that the reality is a subtle difference: midi-chlorians are simply relays that enable living beings to draw—”
    “Given that, as you say, I explained this to you,” Tenebrous interrupted, an edge to his voice. “Why are you wasting time regurgitating it?”
    “One conclusion both Jedi and Sith draw,” said Plagueis, seamlessly skipping further into his mentally-prepared lecture, “is that biological life cannot exist without midi-chlorian presence. If so, then it is possible that midi-chlorians can also determine a being’s longevity.”
    “Possible,” his Master repeated. “But there are a number of alternate factors in a creature’s life expectancy: diet, level of activity, pre-existing medical conditions, environmental exposure—”
    “All true,” conceded Plagueis, “but adepts have been using the Force to counter the body’s limitations for years.”
    “Temporarily.”
    Plagueis nodded. “So then it is only a matter of extending the effects into permanence.”
    Tenebrous’s response was sarcastic. “Yes, of course: a trifle matter for someone of your gifts. And I suppose you’ve forgotten that attempts have been made to do just that?”
    “Yes, but foolishly,” Plagueis insisted. He shook his head. “I am not suggesting that we leech the Force from planets as some have done before. Inevitably, one’s persona is gradually sublimated by the excess energy. That is an unacceptable consequence: eternal life without my mind isn’t life at all.”
    He paused, his eyes shifting in consideration. After a moment, he returned his gaze to his Master. “Let us assume that midi-chlorians are bridges between the Force and the body. What the ancients did, by consuming Force energy so copiously, is attempt to convey a planet’s worth of cargo across a handful of rickety bridges.”
    “A rather blatant attempt to appeal to a Bith’s appreciation for engineering,” his Master said, dryly.
    “It’s working, isn’t it?” Plagueis asked, allowing a sly smile to curl his lips.
    “Continue,” Tenebrous granted, after a sour pause.
    “The result is that the overstressed bridges eventually collapse under their own weight,” Plagueis concluded.
    “Would you, speaking of bridges, be kind enough to build one to your point?”

    “The solution is obvious,” Plagueis said. “You can either reinforce the bridge....”
    “Or build more of them,” finished Tenebrous, lifting a finger to his chin.
    “Precisely,” Plagueis agreed, his smile now genuine.
    “Intriguing,” the Bith drawled. “You mean to increase the number of midi-chlorians in our cells.”
    “Yes, my lord,” Plagueis said, bringing his fingertips together and tipping his hands in the elder Sith Lord’s direction. “The only question is: will you help me?”
    “That depends,” Tenebrous replied, leaning back in his chair. “Do you have any ideas on how exactly we might do that?”
    The question was entirely fair, Plagueis understood; he pondered his answer for a dozen heartbeats before answering. “I believe the key may lie in prior research, Master.”
    “Whose?” Tenebrous glowered.
    “Darth Ramage.” Plagueis again fell silent as his Master’s head inclined calculatingly. “My lord, what do you know of bota?”

    ---

    Hopefully this chapter isn't completely terrible; it underwent last minute revision. The original version was almost 3x as long and included a fight scene I was very proud of. But I was afraid it risked overloading the reader with too much information for one chapter or, equally unpleasant, threatened to shunt you all off to boredom. So, flaws and all, I forced myself to post it. Enjoy! Feel free to review, criticisms are always welcome.
  5. Darth_Kiryan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2009
    star 4
    You might want to separate your paragraphs. It's practically a wall of text and hard to read.
  6. Sable_Hart Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2009
    star 4
    I tried when I copied it but it didn't take. My apologies. [face_blush]
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