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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Beyond - Legends A Profusion of Palpatines (Luke/Mara, Comedy)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Bel505, Apr 1, 2023.

  1. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Title: A Profusion of Palpatines
    Author: Bel505 (Admiral Byzantium) and DrMckay (Snubjockey)
    Timeframe: Variable
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Palpatine, Ahsoka Tano, Rey, Clones
    Genre: Comedy, Parody, Drama
    Keywords: Palpatine, Clones, Legends/Canon Mix (Mostly Legends)
    Summary:

    The cloning facility was secreted deep in one of the Empire’s most secret bases. Buried a kilometer under the ground, maintained only by droids, it had been built as a final safeguard: the place no one—not the Sith, not the Jedi, not the Rebels, not the Imperials—would ever find. From this hidden bunker the reborn Emperor would launch his revenge on the galaxy. Rising from the ashes of defeat, with all the powers that the Force availed him, he would step out of the cloning tank with his youth restored, his powers intact, and with wealth unimagined by most beings stashed away for his use. He would once again begin his conquest of the galaxy.

    That had been the plan, anyway.

    Something might have gone wrong.

    More than one thing, in fact.


    * * *​


    The Orphanage


    "Say that again?" Han Solo asked, staring across the kitchen table where Leia and Luke were in close consultation.

    The two of them were clustered together, whispering under their breath, and they looked up at Han with twinned twin-linked, guilty gazes.

    Han waved his hand at them, frowning. "I could have sworn that you just said that somehow Palpatine returned."

    The twins looked at one another again, then back at Han. Leia took a deep breath. "We've had a report of a man calling himself Palpatine, performing spectacular acts of Force power, on a small planet on the Outer Rim," Luke confirmed awkwardly.

    "I'll call Wedge," Han said decisively, reaching for his comlink. "Chewie can get the kids somewhere safe, we'll get the Fleet together and be underway before the day is out. I may be retired, but I still have some pull and I'm sure the entire New Republic hierarchy will agree that we have to—"

    "It's not that simple, Han," Leia said.

    Han stared at her. "Whaddya mean, it's not that simple?" Han sputtered. "You just said that Palpatine returned. Palpatine, Leia! We're not talking about some kind and cuddly old man who just wants to do party tricks for children. We're talking about the guy who masterminded a plot to subvert the galaxy and then ruled it with an iron fist! We're gonna take the fleet and we're gonna flatten his ass before he gets the chance to—"

    "Actually," Leia said awkwardly, fidgeting with clear discomfort, "as far as we can tell, we are talking about a kind and cuddly—but not old—man who just wants to do party tricks for children."

    There was a long pause.

    It lingered.

    Han's brain sluggishly tried to process this information.

    But for Han, gradual processing of surprising information had never been his strength. Eventually, his mouth leapt out ahead of his brain.

    "You have gotta be kidding me."

    * * *​

    As the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon had the signal honor of carrying Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and as many of Crix Madine's shock troopers as they could fit aboard. The shock troopers were uniformly huge and grumpy, but they were also disciplined and stayed out of the way, a fact for which Han was grateful. It was bad enough going off to confront Palpatine—he didn't care what the reports said, what they said was nonsense—but it was almost as bad carrying an army of strangers aboard his ship.

    But then, the real army was coming behind them. Home One and the rest of the New Republic fleet was armed to the teeth and loaded for Doemir-bear. When they'd left Coruscant Han had seen a dozen Star Cruisers and captured Star Destroyers preparing for battle, and Admiral Ackbar was leading them personally.

    "This is a trap," Han muttered.

    "That's not what New Republic Intelligence says," Leia reminded him.

    "I don't care! Palpatine doesn't just get to return from the dead—" Han paused and turned to look at Luke "—he is dead, right?"

    Luke nodded. "He fell down the Death Star's reactor shaft and exploded. And I felt his death. And then the Death Star exploded. He's dead."

    "Then Palpatine doesn't return from the dead because he's decided to be nice in his second life!"

    "I don't know," Luke replied thoughtfully. He had that mystic, looking-at-something-that-wasn't-there-somewhere-off-in-the-far-beyond expression that Han hated. "I don't feel like we're in danger."

    "Then your Jedi skills are on the fritz!"

    "It's a clone we're dealing with, right?" Leia speculated. "I mean, what else could it be? And clones aren't always the same as the original. Maybe that's why we're not feeling any danger in the Force."

    Han shook his head, unable to believe these two. "You're being naive. He pulled the wool over the eyes of the entire Republic government to take power. If we get there and he's running an orphanage and giving out hugs and pieces of fruit, I'll eat my boots!"

    * * *​

    Palpatine was running an orphanage and giving out hugs and pieces of fruit. They watched him from a distance as he wandered around the building, doing small bits of maintenance. It had been burned and blasted in a fight between the Rebellion and the Empire some years before, apparently, but the locals insisted it had been miraculously rebuilt overnight—one of them said he'd seen whole walls just rise up from rubble and restore the structure, just as it had been. Grass grew around the building and the mysterious redheaded man had planted bushes and trees (which had all grown much faster than they should have), and then gone around all the local systems finding war orphans and bringing them here. It was just about to open officially, its signage veiled behind an old tarp for the moment

    There were dozens, from toddlers to preteens, reading books, doing art, tending to the garden.

    It was idyllic.

    "I hate my life," muttered Han.

    Leia gestured meaningfully at his boots.

    "Oh shut up," Han grumbled.

    Luke smiled, and then blanched as he looked up and away into the sky.

    Moments later, the three of them heard the sonic boom of a snubfighter breaking atmosphere on a hard burn for the deck. The Falcon was fast, but Luke knew by the keening howl of the redlined Incom 2a sublights piercing the skies, that another ship was nearly as fast.

    Sharing a sympathetic wince with his sister and brother-in-law, he jogged off in the direction of the boom, because he knew those particular engines. He knew them because he had tuned them himself, and it had been quite a production to convince Mara to let him.

    Of all the people in the galaxy, Mara Jade was likely to be the most unhappy about this.


    * * *​


    Mara Jade bore several titles, hard-earned over the course of a traumatizing and scary career: Emperor's Hand, Imperial Assassin (former, thank you very much), Talon Karrde's Second-in-Command, Master Trader, Sort-of-Jedi, Luke's Frequently Long-Distance Life Partner, Terror of the Galley—she was not permitted to help in the kitchen unless the task involved knives—and had somehow managed to snag the coveted (by everyone except her, though Luke thought her angst was feigned) title of Auntie (Eventual) to the Solo kids.

    "Hi, sweetheart," Luke said with his best, most innocent look. "How was the flight?"

    Mara was grimly magnificent in a refurbished suit of Imperial armorweave. The New Republic Starbirds on the pauldrons had replaced Imperial wheels. Luke knew that she took particular delight in imagining Palpatine's annoyance at that.

    She also carried a blaster and two lightsabers, but it wasn't the weapons he could see that worried him. It was all the weapons he couldn't see but still knew were there.

    "Cramped," Mara complained as she gave him a peck on the cheek. "Do you have any idea how hard it was to fit all these things into a Z-95? I had to put the Lavanrok in the cargo hold!" Luke gave her a fond smile, which was overtaken by a queasy half-grin as her hard green gaze whirled over to track him like a warship's main battery. "I heard what you said, Skywalker, but I don't believe it. Any clone of Palpatine should be taken out and shot. That kind of evil doesn't just go away because it's in a new body."

    "Mara, we've investigated the orphanage thoroughly. None of us turned up any Dark Side anything. He hasn't even broken any laws."

    Mara recognized a weakness and attacked it. "No laws?" she pressed.

    Luke fidgeted. "He did violate the local zoning ordinance. But he paid the fine!"

    "He's fooling you. Trust me, he's good at that. The moment you turn your back on him, he'll fry you with lightning or stick a lightsaber in you." She shook her head decisively as they walked towards the city center, small crowds of people jogging along and passing them on their way to the central square. "He's evil through and through. He was born that way, he died that way, and if I have anything to say about it he's going to keep dying that way."

    Luke sighed. "Mara, I think you may be overreacting. Besides, he offered to hand over his lightsaber."

    Her ferocious glare had him genuinely concerned that she might stab him before she stabbed Palpatine.

    He shook his head. "You'll see," he warned her.

    "You'll see," she mocked him and marched off. "You squishy idiots left him alone with children," she tossed off over her shoulder as Luke struggled to keep pace.

    The crowd had stopped ahead of them and was surrounding the central square of the village. There were dozens, hundreds of people, standing on the ground and on every balcony, staring and pointing and listening raptly. The sound of an incredible male baritone singing a popular Old Republic musical filled the square.

    Mara scowled her way through the crowd. Luke followed her wake, and in a matter of minutes they burst into the central square.

    There before them, on a little platform, was Palpatine. Twenty-something and red-haired, his arms out to either side, belting out the aria, with a crowd of children surrounding him providing the chorus.

    Palpatine twirled, his Force-reinforced voice staggeringly beautiful. "No one cares for you a smidge, when you're in an orphanage!" he belted out.

    Mara stood slack-jawed. She watched for about ten seconds, stretched out with the Force, and then turned around and started making her way back through the crowd. The music wasn't half-bad and Luke would have stayed to watch, but her grip on his wrist was iron.

    "I told you," Luke couldn't resist the goad.

    "I need a drink. I need several drinks," she muttered, glowering. "And you're buying."


    * * *​


    Four Nebula Sunbursts at a nearby cantina later, Mara was still belligerent, still armed, and angry in a way she had difficulty letting go of.

    It had taken her years to get out from under Palpatine's legacy. The oppressive weight the Emperor had laid upon her, compelling her will in ways she still occasionally felt. Now Palpatine was back—sort of, anyway—and while she didn't have a foreign voice in her head telling her YOU WILL KILL PALPATINE, she still thought it was a good idea.

    The fundraising was done, and as the crowd dispersed, with the assistants starting to line up the children under the tarped-off sign.

    Mara strode up to the clone, who spun, and regarded her with a saddened expression.

    The expression made a combination of hate and sadness bloom in her chest. She had been raised by Palpatine, by a man who had done such an effective job of convincing her he was good and just, kind and charitable. A man whose foremost impulse was compassion, and second impulse was fairness, and who needed special people like her to be his Hand, his silent dagger in the dark.

    But it had all been a lie, and Palpatine had been none of those things, and seeing his face here, good and just and kind and charitable, made the woman who had been his servant and ward want to burst into tears for all those childhood fantasies made real, and the woman who had spent years freeing herself from his true maliciousness want to stab him with renewed vigor.

    Palpatine sighed heavily, lifting both his hands in a gesture of surrender and understanding. "Miss Jade. My most heartfelt apologies for the actions of my predecessor. I can only hope that my dedication, and the name of my small establishment goes some way toward establishing my bonafides."

    Mara cocked her head. "Your what?

    "We were going to bring in the local holonews and send you a copy, but since you're here I'd appreciate it if you could do me the honor of officially opening the orphanage, by revealing its sign."

    Mara looked up and regarded the sign, covered in a flat, plain tarp. She flicked her wrist and a tiny vibroblade whizzed through the air, slipping through the cords that held it tarp fell away, revealing an amateurishly-done likeness of Mara Jade— in a fairy princess outfit—her red-gold hair coursing down her shoulders in a way Mara seldom styled it. A blue lightsaber sprinkled magical sparkles around the swooping font of the sign:

    MISTRESS MARA'S SAFE SANCTUARY FOR DESTITUTE YOUNGLINGS, it said.

    The kids immediately recognized the likeness. "She really does exist!"

    "Mistress Mara!"

    Mara forced her scowl back away, looking down at the children and trying not to let her spike of anger grow. She stomped over towards him, her voice dropping to a whisper. "I was a child left in your care," she hissed bitterly.

    "I know, child," Palpatine said, in that voice she remembered, and with all the somber sincerity of every lie he'd ever told her. "I promise I will actually be to them what I pretended to be for you. My conscience demands it."

    She knew better than to trust that voice. She knew better. Palpatine always lied.

    But she was surrounded by happy children. Leia and Luke and even Han—cynical Han—had concluded that this Palpatine was different. And there was a hand on her leg, owned by a child no older than five, tugging for her attention.

    "Mistwess Mawa, teww us a stowwy?"

    What else could she do but surrender? She backed away, stepping into the crowd of children; Luke replaced her at the clone's side, whispering seriously with him. As Luke and the clone spoke, Mara sat down amid the troop of small children, and began to tell them about a young boy just like them who grew up on Tatooine.

    After all, if they had to have a role model, better her Farmboy than Palpatine. No matter how not-evil this one may actually be.


    * * *​


    Mara relaxed, sun-soaked and tired. Her head rested on Luke's shoulder, and her pauldrons even more embellished by sickeningly cute stickers. While she rested, she tolerated the sound of Luke and Palpatine's voices in quiet, somber conversation.

    "Oh that's not the issue at all, Jedi Skywalker." Said the young, redheaded man in a kindly, patrician tone, "I'm quite content to stay here and run the orphanage. Someone has to, and after all those troublesome memories and secrets, I find it quite… Peaceful. It's just that I'm afraid," he paused for a dramatic effect that sent Luke back in time to that throne room on the Second Death Star, "or rather, I should say, I get the sense that I may not be the only clone of Palpatine out there. There's a sort of hum or echo in the Force whenever I touch it. Not unpleasant, I would go so far as to describe it more like voices in a harmonizing chorus."

    Mara froze. Luke froze with her, then she lifted her head off his shoulder so they could look at Palpatine together. "More than one?" she asked.

    "It would not surprise me," Palpatine confirmed. "Although, given that I am not evil, I believe you can hope that whatever other clones may exist, that they also will not have our predecessor's… lack of scruples."

    "It's my turn for that drink," Luke said in a weary tone. "Maybe several drinks before we start to track you all down."

    "Quite right, my boy," Palpatine said, and handed him a flask embossed with the Imperial seal that turned out to hold a quite exemplary brandy. "Oh, and please do take this with you," Palpatine added, handing over a second cylindrical object.

    Luke took the lightsaber and gazed at it.

    "I don't think I'm going to be needing it," Palpatine said, then took his own swig of the brandy.


    * * *​


    Mara still wasn't entirely sure that leaving Palpatine's clone behind on Botajef was a good idea. The Force, however, wasn't telling her that she had made a terrible mistake, and Luke seemed calmly confident that everything would be all right. Still, she turned the lightsaber the clone had given them over and over in her hand, as if it might provide some sudden revelation that had yet to present itself.

    Unfortunately, the lightsaber had done no such thing. It was, as far as she could tell, just a lightsaber, and without any of the legacy of menace that a Sith's blade could sometimes carry.

    She put it back on the dresser. Luke was sitting at his computer terminal, checking his correspondence with Wedge, while Artoo whistled happily beside him. She rested her hands on his shoulders and leaned down to offer him an affectionate kiss—a gesture that would have been utterly unacceptable in public, but in the private confines of their shared space was irresistible.

    Luke looked up at her and smiled. "Hey."

    Mara rolled her eyes. "Has our wayward clone called upon the humans of the galaxy to rise up and restore him to his proper place on the throne, proclaimed himself Emperor of the Remnant, or put out a HoloNet marketing campaign for a new apprentice yet?"

    "Not yet," Luke mused. "The newsies have yet to really pick up on the story, thankfully. When they do, there's going to be a media frenzy. I fully expect a full-blown panic in the Senate." He took her hand in his, rubbing his thumb affectionately over hers. "Leia is in pre-catastrophe bunker mode."

    "Luckily we're not politicians."

    "No, we're just Jedi," Luke laughed. He leaned into her side and she hooked an arm half around him. "You know they'll call us in sooner or later."

    "I know," she sighed. She was not looking forward to being interrogated about her past yet again, but that was definitely going to happen. It was unavoidable. "Especially if it turns out there is more than one."

    "I really hope not."

    The computer buzzed with the quiet, familiar alarm of an incoming HoloNet call. "Someone's paying extra for this to be live," she hummed thoughtfully as Luke reached to answer it, disentangling herself from his arm so as to not subject whoever was calling to any displays of excess affection. "Must be important. Usually people just leave a note."

    "More secure this way," Luke commented. On the flatscreen in front of him, static resolved into a familiar face—Mara's former boss and good friend, Talon Karrde.

    "Hello Mara. Luke," Karrde greeted them, with his familiar, perfectly polished voice. He was well groomed as always, though there was a bit more gray in his hair and beard than when Mara had first met him. "I'm glad to catch you at home."

    "We're home so infrequently we have to take advantage of it when we can," Mara said pointedly.

    "Of course," Talon said with a wry smile. "I am sorry to disturb you, but I've just received some alarming news."

    "If you're referring to Palpatine's clone, we know," Luke said.

    Relief passed over Karrde's face. "Oh, I see. I wasn't sure what to make of the report I received, but I should have known you were already aware. I had just come back on a run out to the Corporate Sector when I heard that the clone had been found on Nar Shaddaa—"

    Luke sat up straight and Mara stiffened. "Nar Shaddaa?" she asked sharply.

    Karrde frowned. "That's what my report said. Just yesterday, a clone of the Emperor was found on Nar Shaddaa. Surprisingly he as yet hasn't done anything untoward… the report said—"

    "—he opened an orphanage?" Mara sincerely hoped that Karrde would nod.

    Karrde shook his head, frowning. "An orphanage? That would be even stranger than the report I received. No, I was told that he'd opened a bar and started an anti-slavery organization. He's already had repeated confrontations with the Hutts… none of which have ended well for them, I'm told. But from your expressions, I take it that this is not the first such report you've received. There are two of him, then?"

    "No," Mara muttered, dread descending over her. "It's much, much worse than that."

    "A chorus," Luke said resignedly.

    Karrde's tone was wary. "Then you believe there are more than two."

    Mara nodded grimly. "Almost certainly."

    "How many more?"

    Luke and Mara shared a look and said nothing.




    The Patisserie

    "Do you remember that bar we visited on our trip to Nar Shaddaa?" Luke asked warily as he reviewed the first of the stack of datapads. There were more than forty on the table in his Coruscanti apartment, which he shared with Mara. That was a relatively recent development, and still one that they were adjusting to.

    "The one with the pushy droid waiter and the bad lum?"

    "Apparently Palpatine bought it. It's the best bar on the moon now. Or it was until the Hutts closed it down." Luke frowned. "And that's not the only Palpatine on Nar Shaddaa. It turns out that the one who founded the anti-slavery coalition is a different Palpatine. The first one is suing the Hutts in their own courts for closing his bar because of the actions of his clone. Apparently he's winning. Did you know Palpatine spoke Huttese?"

    "Are you surprised?" Mara asked dryly. She tossed datapads one at a time onto their couch, reviewing each one swiftly. One of them drew a strangled groan from her.

    "What is it?"

    Wordlessly, she handed the datapad to him. "Shady Sheev's Sithin Speeder Shop," Luke read aloud. "Take a commemorative picture of yourself being 'electrocuted' after you sign a twelve-month lease." He shuddered as he looked through two dozen photographs of apparently satisfied customers, each signing a speeder lease while simultaneously being shocked with potentially-but-maybe-not-certainly fake lightning.

    "Read the interview," Mara said, her face in her hands.

    "Well, given the whole theme of the shady speeder salesman," Luke read, "I figured I should choose something appropriately skeevy. Or, should I say… Sheev-y."

    "Can I kill this one?"

    "Mara," Luke scolded. "I think we should check this one out, make sure that he's not selling any defective merchandise. You know what they say about used speeder salesmen after all."

    Mara's eyes narrowed into a fond glare. "In my experience, speed demon Farmboy idiots from backrocket worlds will find any reason possible to joyride in sport-speeders. Especially ones they don't own."

    "I'm offended that you'd think that of me," Luke said, pouting, "This is clearly a health and safety issue that we, as Jedi, should be taking an interest in. We'll have to make a trip to Jakku when we can." He handed her the datapad he'd been reviewing. "Your turn."

    Mara took the datapad reluctantly, turning it over so she could read it. Her expression grew increasingly baffled as she worked through each line. "I had to read mine," he reminded her.

    She gave him a venomous look, then sighed. "Palpatine's Holographic Spectacular," she read tonelessly. "A celebration of the holomusical art form."

    "Keep going."

    She wrinkled her nose. "Palpatine's production of Little Orphan Ani is a smash hit across the Mid-rim, and has already been optioned by three of the galaxy's largest holonet conglomerates. It's scheduled to air in primetime across the Core…" she took a deep breath, sighed, and continued, "and critics galaxy-wide agree that it is the best new production in at least three generations." She tossed the datapad onto the couch next to the last one. "I hate musicals."

    "You love musicals. Tionne took you to the one about the cannibal barber, the one about the Imperial assassins, and that one where two Jedi in hiding have to raise funds by putting on a play about Palpatine's own rise. You were smiling after all of them."

    "Not anymore." She shook her head, annoyed. "Here's one that's going to drive your sister to distraction." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Your turn to read, Skywalker."

    "Palpatine ousts Threkim Horm as Commissioner for the New New Alderaan Foundation Committee," Luke read. His voice faded as he read the document intently. Apparently, Palpatine had proven that Horm had been embezzling from the foundation funds in order to pay for a series of mistresses, and then offered to use his… administrative skills… to help the Committee identify a new candidate for an Alderaanian colony world (after the destruction of the last one). "He actually won the election among Alderaanian refugees?" Luke said, baffled.

    "Nobody ever said Palpatine wasn't an exceptional politician," Mara muttered.

    "Commissioner Palpatine has affirmed that New New Alderaan should not operate on a monarchical principle, but on the basis of fully democratic society, complete with checks and balances to ensure that 'no one like my antecedent could ever come to power there'," Luke read aloud.

    "This one seems pretty harmless," Mara said, holding another datapad in her hand. "Papa Palpatine's Patisserie."

    Luke was still processing Commissioner Palpatine. Papa Palpatine was almost more than his brain could handle. "What?"

    "It's even on Coruscant. Apparently they have some of the best pastries in the southern hemisphere."

    "I could eat," Luke said, standing and shrugging on a light coat. "Could you eat?"

    Mara just stared at him.

    "I mean, uh, such an uncharacteristically saccharine business clearly warrants more investigation," he amended.

    Mara rolled her eyes, stood, and donned her own jacket. "I could eat. But I'm bringing my lightsabers and both of my blasters."

    Luke considered saying that she would have done that even if they were going to a pastry shop that wasn't run by a Palpatine clone, but thought better of it.


    * * *​


    A young redheaded man worked behind the counter. He was spattered with food stains and flour and becapped with a puffy chef's hat. His hands were busy holding an enormous platter of cookies, which distorted the air with steamy freshness, and an incredible smell that beckoned anyone who encountered it towards them.

    Luke's hand eased from his lightsaber.

    Palpatine put the tray down, beaming, and then turned and spread his arms out wide. "Welcome, young Skywalker!"

    "Ah…" Luke hesitated— "Thank you… Palpatine?"

    "I know why you're here, of course," Palpatine reassured him. "Please, take a cookie!"

    Luke and Mara glanced at each other, then shrugged. Reaching for the cookies, Luke realized that each one had been carefully, painstakingly crafted to resemble a Jedi from the Old Republic era. Luke carefully picked up a green Yoda cookie, staring at it in sudden, amazed wonder. "Master Yoda?"

    "Size matters not!" Palpatine proclaimed. "Although the younglings don't agree. They prefer the bigger cookies. K'Kruhk is a favorite." He waved his hands. "Though the Baby Yoda cookies are selling better than I expected. Ah well, I suppose that's merchandising for you." At Luke's expression, Palpatine shrugged. "Oh, it's all a bit silly, I suppose, but I felt that if I could remind people of all the famous Jedi my… progenitor… murdered, then perhaps it could go a ways towards making up for the hurt that I… he… caused." He held up both hands. "I haven't done anything evil yet, and I don't want to!"

    Luke closed his mouth. "Would you tell me about all of them?" he asked warily.

    Palpatine misunderstood the question. Luke had been asking about the Jedi. "Well, I've got the assorted Jedi sugar cookies there. There are also bigger Kenobi cookies, Yoda brownies, and Windu hand-pies. I'm afraid the Skywalker Twin Sunrise got a bit caramelized, but that's the nature of fire for you." He pointed back at the kitchen. "Bevel is working on a few new concoctions. Poor lad is always bringing me superweapon designs instead, but he's starting to get the hang of baking."

    Luke blinked. "Superweapons?"

    Mara's response was fiercer. "Bevel? Bevel Lemelisk? You mean the man who designed the Death Star?"

    "Of course, dear girl," Palpatine said. "There were a number of Bevel clones in the same facility that produced me. Mostly dessicated corpses when I awoke, but there was one sealed away un-decanted. I seem to remember that my antecedent would kill them for sport… but have no fear, I mean him no harm. He's very interested in engineering, and quite skilled, but now he spends all his time designing reliable domestic appliances."

    Mara just stared at him.

    "Did you know the major corporations have gotten into the habit of designing their appliances to fail after no more than twenty years, just to force their customers to buy new units? It's quite outrageous. There are whole worlds full of broken, barely-used appliances! We're testing his new designs right here in the back of the Patisserie." Palpatine's expression slackened slightly. "Unfortunately, all of his designs so far have had at least three fatal flaws, and his new toaster oven can also be used as a planetary irradiator. But!" Palpatine beamed, then vanished behind the counter. When he popped back up, he was holding something that looked vaguely like a smallish flamethrower. "Now, witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational brulee torch! Bevel! Bevel, you may fire when ready!"

    Something in the kitchen thrummed. The torch went FWOOM. Luke and Mara dove under the nearest table.

    After the two on-call firedroids had extinguished the remaining embers of flame, Luke and Mara returned to the counter and Palpatine presented them with two ramekins of seared sweets. Luke took a bite, and then ate both. Mara gave Luke, and Palpatine, an unhappy look. "I don't know about this," said Mara, just slightly accusingly, "You enjoyed that way too much."

    "Well my dear, isn't life best when you're having fun? We all must find our passion! Better perfecting pastries than ruling the galaxy in the name of the Dark Side, after all. Now, where did Bevel put that protonic toaster…"

    "I think," Luke whispered to Mara, "that we should get someone from New Republic Intelligence down here. And probably also planetary security."

    "You think we should arrest him?"

    Luke shook his head minutely. "No. But I do think we should probably confiscate all the superweapons in the kitchen."

    "Does the brulee torch count?"

    Luke pondered for a moment. "I think we need an evaluation from someone with a background in Imperial ops procedure and weapons technology to make a final determination. Someone who will owe us big time because we found her a new pastry spot."

    Mara sighed. "I'll comm Iella."


    * * *​


    Iella Wessiri wore many hats: Ace detective, New Republic intelligence operative, Mara's best friend, Wedge's partner. What anyone who knew her also knew was that she had a sweet tooth roughly the size of the second Death Star and an inveterate knack for finding the best bakery anywhere she ended up. She said it was because as a CorSec investigator, stakeouts demanded caf and pastries.

    She determined, through exhaustive research, that the brulee torch was a touch too powerful for a commercial bakery, and would instead be coming home in her satchel.

    Bevel, delighted, was scanning through datapads for the instruction manual.

    While he worked, Iella was currently hard at work eviscerating a giant sweetpuff in the shape of Beldorion, the Jedi Hutt, with the gusto of a Wampa encountering a platoon of disarmed Snowtroopers. Powdered sugar and frosting flew through the air in a chaotic display. "-sh really good," said Iella through a mouthful of pastry.

    Luke, Mara, and Iella were gathered around a table in Papa Palpatine's Passaterie. The establishment had grown somewhat since their first visit, opening a second and third floor for guests. Once New Republic Intelligence had been persuaded this Palpatine was no longer a threat, was never a threat—and been allowed to implement permanent surveillance of his kitchen—their panic over his reality had begun to wane, and they had even started showing up for caf runs.

    "Are we sure none of the Palpatines are evil?" Mara asked, refusing to get distracted as she watched Iella palm a Baby Yoda cookie.

    Iella made a sad noise and let her pastry fall for a moment, giving a shrug. "How sure can we be? Everyone thought Palpatine was a well-meaning person before he created the Empire, after all. But so far we don't have any reason to think that the clones are anything more or less than they seem to be. General Cracken has even allowed some of them to enlist in the New Republic military. One just joined Wraith Squadron and is now Lieutenant Palpatine, and I think they're having him star in anti-Imperial holovids. It's quite the propaganda coup." Iella swallowed, finishing her pastry. "Did you know that just in the last month the Imperial Security Bureau has reported an 80% personnel loss? Apparently they're leaving the Empire in droves. Their personal loyalty to Palpatine has them signing up to work as everything from clerks to stagehands. Anything that gets them close to a Palpatine."

    "And none of the Palpatines have gone to work for the Empire?" Mara pressed.

    "If they have, they've done it secretly," Iella said. "And with the collapse of ISB, I think it would be very hard to keep something like that secret for long."

    Luke was being very quiet. Too quiet. Mara's gaze tracked over to him; she waited until he noticed she was looking at him, then she lifted one questioning eyebrow.

    The non-verbal question was enough. Luke winced. "I was contacted by a Palpatine this morning."

    "Another one?"

    He nodded. "He wants to train as a Jedi. Also, he wants to be known as 'Consingus' Palpatine." Luke took a dainty sip of his caf. He was holding a pretzel that, on the menu, was called the 'Plo Koon', preparing to dip it into some kind of yellow sauce concoction.

    "What kind of name is Consingus?" Iella verbalized her question without thinking about it.

    "Let's ask," Luke suggested. He waved at Papa Palpatine, who had taken the confiscation of Bevel's toaster with aplomb.

    "What can I do for you, young Jedi?"

    There was something about either the phrasing or the way Palpatine said those words that gave Luke pause, but even as Iella watched, he pushed past the moment of discomfort. "We were just discussing another of your clones, who—"

    One second Iella was listening to Luke's question. The next, she found herself under the table, while the whirring humming of a spiraling lightsaber, flung through the air like a bolas, filled the air. The white blade spun through a transparisteel display, accidentally decapitating life-sized chocolate Luke and Anakin Skywalkers. The saber was followed by a tall Togruta female who dove, shoulder first through the window with another saber in a cool-looking reverse grip, screaming "YOUR REIGN OF DEATH ENDS NOW, PALPATINE!"


    * * *​


    Twenty minutes later, the combination lightsaber battle / confused conversation / pleading explanation / pastry taste test / second brulee torch explosion had left the Patisserie—and all of the people inside it—covered in a heavy white anti-fire foam that somehow tasted like frosting. Fire droids merrily sprayed everything down, including lightsabers, chocolate, pastries, and especially Jedi.

    "So let me get this straight," Mara said. "You—" she pointed at the Togruta "—were his father's—" she pointed at Luke "—Jedi apprentice. Before the burns and the suit."

    "Oh my, yes," said Palpatine. "I remember when Anakin told me all about his new apprentice. He was quite surprised."

    They all stared at Palpatine. The Togruta most of all.

    "Her name is Ahsoka," Palpatine continued. "Now, my dear, would you care for something? I have some Plo Koon Pear Tarts fresh from the cooling rack."

    "What?" said Ahsoka, saber still humming.


    * * *​


    It was a very long conversation. The revelation that Ahsoka had known Anakin as a Jedi—and that Palpatine seemingly remembered Anakin as a Jedi—had brought forth a thousand questions from Luke. Then once Ahsoka had fully processed that Luke was Anakin's son, that had brought forth her own set of dozens and dozens of questions.

    "So does that mean you're Padme's son?" Ahsoka speculated.

    Luke was starting to feel dizzy. "Who?"

    "Oh, Senator Amidala of Naboo," said Papa Palpatine. "My-er, my predecessor's talented young protege. And of course you are. It's quite obvious really. You look very much like her, and have many of her more admirable qualities."

    Luke definitely felt dizzy. "What?" he said.


    * * *​


    Two days later, they had fixed up the Patisserie and finished some of the stories. The entire experience was surreal for Luke, but he was beginning to think like a Jedi again. "So you've been in hiding for all this time?" he asked Ahsoka.

    She sniffed. "Hardly hiding. There are many threats out there in the galaxy, and with the Jedi gone someone had to deal with them. I knew it wasn't my place to deal with the Emperor—" she eyed Palpatine with a bit less skeptical concern than she had possessed at first "—but that didn't mean there was nothing I could do. And after the collapse of the Empire, it seemed best to keep my distance and let you find your own way."

    "So what brought you here now?"

    "Well I wasn't sure, but I felt as though I should be here. As though my presence was important somehow, like it would draw the right sort of attention."

    "Possibly from younger people who really know their Clone Wars History?" Luke said wryly.

    "Well, perhaps," said Ashoka.


    * * *​


    Luke, Ahsoka, Mara, and Tionne sat at a round table in the center of the Patisserie. Papa Palpatine was behind the counter, puttering to himself as he squeezed a gigantic tube of icing out over a large tray of Yoda cookies. Tionne strummed on her double-viol, occasionally humming to herself. Consingus Palpatine sat directly across from Mara, who glared at him fiercely—of all of them, she was the one most opposed, just on principle. Luke and Ahsoka sat on either side of Mara; Luke's expression was the most forgiving, while Ahsoka was carefully, deliberately neutral.

    This Palpatine's saber was green. He had apparently swapped out the crystal for something from the family estate on Naboo.

    "And you believe that the right path for you is to become a Jedi," Luke asked.

    "My skill in the Force is undiminished," Palpatine said. Many of my … fellows … have decided to take paths unrelated to their abilities, but I find the Force speaks too strongly for that path to be mine as well. I think I can do more good as a member of the Order—and I know much about the Force that could be taught."

    "So you think your role would be as an instructor, at the Yavin Temple perhaps?"

    "Yes, ah, Ahsoka. At least to start. I am also well-versed in the diplomatic arts, and…" Palpatine hesitated, then continued, clearly knowing that what he was about to say would be controversial, "I am very familiar with the machinations of the Senate, and its uses and abuses of the Jedi Order."

    "The return of altruistic Senator Palpatine," Mara mocked. "The champion of the oppressed and the needy, the warrior against corruption, the outsider who will bring stability and order to the Core."

    "I believe we all know quite well that I will never be permitted to return to the Senate," Palpatine said wryly. "That path is well and truly closed… as it should be. Which is why my dear brother Co Palpatine has aspired to serve the non-profit sector. But the Jedi will need to maneuver through the Senate. I could be an advisor to Leia, perhaps, helping her navigate the competition between the various factions and personalities. I would never need to be in the forefront, but just having my knowledge would be of value." Palpatine folded his hands in his lap. "Please. I just want to help."

    Luke and Ahsoka looked at each other. Luke's expression was questioning, but Ahsoka just offered a subtle shake of her head. "I think," Luke said, "that we should start slowly. Bringing you to Yavin might be controversial. But you could accompany Tionne and Kam, perhaps, as they search for new candidates, and help them train their apprentices."

    "That would be quite acceptable," Palpatine said.

    "Are you sure this is a good idea?" Mara asked Luke after Consingus Palpatine had departed.

    "No," Luke said honestly. "But I don't feel any particularly acute danger through the Force."

    "Neither did the Jedi of old," Ahsoka said, her tone warning. "And look at what happened to them."

    "The difference in this case is that we know to be wary," Luke said. "So far, none of the Palpatines has done anything that could be considered dangerous. And I won't condemn a man for the crimes committed by another, even if they do share both genetics and memory. And think of what he knows and could offer us—not politically, but just his knowledge of the Force."

    Neither Mara nor Ahsoka liked it very much. But in the end, neither of them challenged the decision either.

    "Then will I be accepted?" Consingus asked when they brought him back into the room.

    "You will," Luke stated calmly.

    "And as your first task," Tionne said, her first words since she had arrived, "you will help me write lyrics for my next ballad of the ancient Jedi."

    Consingus nodded and left with an irrepressible spring in his step.

    Tionne looked at the others. "I'll know for sure if he's evil or not in a week. The music never lies. Bad ones always dive straight into the minor key reprises and fourth-wall-shattering audience addresses. They can't help it!"

    Luke and Ahsoka looked at one another, and then at Mara.

    "What do you think?" Luke asked.

    "Honestly?" Mara said, hating herself intensely, "Tionne has a point. You can always tell a good director from a bad director in the first few minutes of a rehearsal."

    Tionne grinned, interrupting the discussion with improvisation on her double-viol. "Maybe we'll have to have an interpretive dance! I think all the new apprentices would enjoy it!"

    "Maybe?" said Mara skeptically.

    "I'm sorry," Luke said in a muttered whisper to Ashoka. "This is probably far less serious than the Jedi you're used to, but rest assured that nothing is friv—"

    The Togrutan waved a hand in a quelling gesture, both of her hands over her mouth to hide her amusement. She took a breath, schooling her expression carefully. "Oh hardly. You should have seen Obi-Wan and your father. They were WAY crazier than this!"




    The Speeder Shop

    Shady Sheev's Sithin Speeder Shop was 'shady' and worn down, but in that artificial way that was intended to attract members of the upper crust who wanted to feel dangerous without actually being in any danger. The Palpatine who ran it was an enthusiastic young man, who wanted two things to be absolutely clear. First, that he never ripped off a customer, never ever, no matter what. After all, someone had to restore the good name of used speeder salesmen in the galaxy, and it was going to be him. Second, his name wasn't actually Sheev.

    "You have to understand, with a name like 'Sheev', anyone would feel obligated to fall to the Dark Side. How could you not? My parents made a number of … questionable decisions … raising me, but certainly the worst was the name. So my name is Cosinga. But 'Shady Cosinga's Sithin Speeder Shop' just doesn't have the same ring to it. My customers really like 'Shady Sheev.' It's been quite the hit with the middle-income set who fancy themselves swoop-jockeys."

    Luke's eyes strayed down to the lightsaber at the younger man's belt. Palpatine offered him a guileless smile. "Oh that's just a fancy beckon call for the lot. I keep the real one in a safe in case we actually do get unruly swoop jockeys. I'm not some sort of insecure rocket jockey who needs to walk around with it dangling like some sort of…" His eyes strayed down to where Luke had his saber suspended. "Ah. Quite. Would you like to take that holo with the electricity effect even if you're not going to buy a speeder? It'd be great for the shop."

    He debated for a moment. Then Luke gave a head-bobble, smiled, and submitted to the will of this Palpatine.


    * * *​


    "I'm still amazed you're taking this so well," Mara said, "I mean the original zapped you with sith lightning and warped your father and raised your wife-to-be as an assassin and you're still so friendly with all of them."

    "Honestly?" Luke said, and as Mara met his gaze, his blue eyes grew stormy, "It's the single best revenge I could have on the Emperor. All I have to do is welcome it."

    "Revenge?" Mara asked, considering all of Luke's layers anew.

    "Think about it, Mara. The original Palpatine takes over the galaxy and causes untold misery, just to get chucked down a reactor shaft by my father. Then his army of evil clones decide they just don't want to be evil. They want to go out and help other people laugh, or make their day a touch sweeter or sell them reliable modes of transportation at bargain-basement prices—"

    Mara's eyes narrowed. "You didn't buy another speeder."

    "I did!" Luke said brightly. "This one is red to match your hair! And it has multi-vector fine maneuver thrusters!"

    Mara grumbled fondly, not entirely certain if he was joking or being serious.

    Regardless, Luke's tone grew more serious. "It's almost like I can feel the Force balancing, swirling in a pattern of Light as each one of the clones discovers a new purpose, and all I have to do is help them."

    "And this is revenge exactly how?" Mara asked.

    "Think about exactly how much 'ol Wrinkles' would hate even one clone with his face and Force essence doing what they're doing. Then multiply that by a factor of however many we've dug up so far."

    Mara considered that, then shook her head. She couldn't help but laugh softly. "He'd hate it even more than ordering me to kill you, only for me to marry you instead."

    Luke took her hand in his. "My love, isn't that just the best revenge we could ever have on him? Revenge that doesn't require anger, but forgiveness and hope?"

    When he put it that way… "But revenge nonetheless," she said firmly.

    "Absolutely."




    The Support Group

    In the Imperial Remnant, finding funds for veteran support groups could sometimes be difficult. The Remnant was not the behemoth the Empire had been, and much of its wealth was controlled by the Muuns, who were famously reluctant to part with any of it through taxation (to the point where the citizens of the Remnant often wondered why they even let the Muuns stay in the club). Finding funds for clone veteran support groups was far more difficult, but in this case the funds had come from a multiplicity of sources. In a surprising-to-most-Imperials move, the New Republic had thrown in additional funding, as had the Jedi Order.

    Honestly, it rankled, but the Remnant shut up and took the money.

    Bastion was out of the way, so Luke and Mara had to travel in. They were greeted by a dour-faced Gilad Pellaeon, who gave them a brief tour of the planet's orbit and made sure to serve them the best food his Star Destroyer had to offer before handing them off to the diplomatic corps, in the form of a promising young man named Ephin Sarreti. A small, luxurious shuttle ferried them to the surface, where after another extended tour they were finally ushered into a small suburb, many miles away from the starport. From the landing pad they caught a repulsor-train, which took them inland to an even smaller, more remote town—but this one clearly catered to tourists. From there they endured yet another tour—by this point Mara was miserable and had loosened the strap holding her sleeve-blaster securely in place—before finally being brought to an enormous convention center which sat on the side of a large, snow-capped mountain. Inside were huge transparisteel windows with amazing views of the mountains.

    Then they were brought to the basement. It was dusty. Well-lit. But dusty.

    "Enough money for the convention center but not enough money for the view?" Mara muttered.

    Sarreti made a noise of noncommittal acknowledgement

    The basement was also crowded with numerous, very familiar faces. Very repetitive faces. Ahsoka was there, clustered with a group of elderly clones who dated all the way back to the Clone Wars, some of whom Luke had met previously. There were also many, many Baron Soontir Fel clones, all of whom had Fel's height but besides that had an assorted selection of builds, hairstyles, and clothes. There were still other clones, many who had been created during Grand Admiral Thrawn's campaign against the new Republic, some of whom Luke recognized and others he didn't.

    And, of course, there were Palpatines. So many Palpatines. Palpatines talking animatedly about how to layer pastry. Palpatines talking animatedly about how to modify speeder bikes. Palpatines listening attentively about flying or ground combat tactics or art school or any other of a thousand different topics. Every group had at least one man with Boba Fett's face (and that had been quite a surprise when Luke had discovered that), one with Soontir's face, and one with Palpatine's face.

    They all had nametags, too, with so many permutations of their names that it was dizzying.

    "Wouldn't it be easier if they just chose their own names?" Mara muttered. "Instead of all having almost the same name?" She looked at him. "C'baoth called your clone Luuke, but from now on I'm just going to call him Jook."

    "Jook Skywalker?"

    "It's a soupy food dish, he was kind of assembled from a DNA soup. Anyway, it's better than Luuke," Mara countered. "How do you even pronounce that anyway?"

    "Be grateful he only made one," Luke said. "Or you'd be trying to pronounce Luuuuke. And hush, they're almost ready to start."

    Palpatine stepped up to the podium. "Greetings everyone. Welcome to the first annual clone convention. We'll be dividing into groups—some all of the same clone, some of different clones—to share our thoughts and experiences. As we all know, being a clone can be difficult… some treat us as if we're expendable, others blame us—perhaps not without reason—for the misdeeds of our predecessors. We'll be discussing all this in more depth during the breakout sessions, but first—" Palpatine smiled "—It is very important to establish trust! I want to involve everyone here today!"

    Mara's holdout cleared its holster. Palpatines paled as a space opened up around her.

    "Er, except the lovely and talented Trader Jade, of course."


    * * *​


    There were a lot of trust exercises.


    * * *​


    "Now that we're all better acquainted and positive no one's going to take over the galaxy," Palpatine continued, as a few Palpatines rubbed bruises from where the Fett and Fel clones had dropped them, the entire room a bit red-faced, "I am obliged to thank all of our sponsors. For primary funding of the First Annual Clone Support Convention, we foremost thank the Government of the Empire." There was a round of polite applause. "Also for primary funding, we equally foremost thank the Government of the New Republic." There was another round of polite applause, after which Palpatine leaned in, lowering his voice to a microphone-enhanced whisper. "The debate between the two about whose name would go first lasted an entire week, and that was the language both deemed acceptable." He straightened. "Then we have the Smugglers' Alliance, the Sentient Rights Committee of Mon Calamari, the Jedi Order, Administrator Calrissian and the Miners of Bespin…"


    * * *​


    There were a lot of names.


    * * *​


    "... and Booster Terrik—who wanted to specifically be named 'the very angry captain of the Errant Venture, and don't think these good deeds come free'." Palpatine took a deep breath. "We also have our individual donors. At the five credits a month level, we have…"


    * * *​


    There were a lot of names.


    * * *​


    "And finally at the five hundred thousand credits a month level we have the Kuat of Kuat." Palpatine took a breath. "Now, if you'll all scan your nametag, it'll guide you to your assigned breakout room." There was a rustle as a room full of people scanned their tags and began the shuffle to find the room. Luke and Mara, not having one, gravitated towards Ahsoka. The clones—wearing large, bold name tags that said REX and CODY—were muttering to one another about the lack of good order. The Palpatine with them seemed in much better humor. "Isn't this exciting?" he said. "What's our session going to be about?"

    "Clone autonomy and self-determination," said Rex.

    "We're going to be discussing how much choice a clone can really have, given that they're created for a particular purpose and already knowing pre-determined skills, depending on the orders given to the cloner," said Fel.

    "I would say that my perspective is unique," mused Palpatine, "but obviously—" he gestured at the rest of the room, full of Palpatines "—that is clearly not the case. But I do know what it is like to both specify the order the creation of a clone army and to be a clone myself."

    "That makes this very weird for the rest of us," pointed out Rex.

    "Yes," Palpatine said seriously. "But I, er, we just want to help out in any way that we can. After all, we didn't ask to be cloned either."

    "I have a feeling that's the real reason for this gathering," Luke said. "To let all the other clones come to terms with the Palpatine clones in a safe space. Maybe with a few failed trust exercises to get some of the immediate anger out of the way."

    "Why young Skywalker, you just may make a political Jedi after all."

    "Perish the thought," Luke said. "My sister is the politician. I don't know politics at all."

    Mara elbowed him gently. "I'm still amazed that Lando and Booster kicked in for this. They're usually not ones to invest without a plan for return."

    "My dear Miss Jade," Palpatine said warmly, "Who do you think negotiated for the Holonet distribution rights and branding?"

    "What?" said Mara.





    The Speeder Shop, Part II

    Rey spent most of her days collecting scrap. There was quite a lot of it, as one of the last battles of the Civil War had been fought above her homeworld. It was a good living, and she managed to collect plenty of pieces that would be useful for an antique speeder bike. The shop was doing very, very well, and bikes which had been constructed out of Imperial scrap were especially in demand.

    She lugged the junk into the shop with a heavy sigh, then smiled broadly at the men behind the counter. "Hello, grandpas!"

    "Hello Rey!" the trio of Palpatines said in reply. Cosinga was the one she really considered her grandpa—he was the one who had raised her, after all—but they were all Palpatines, after all. "What brings you here?" she asked the two she didn't immediately recognize.

    Their expressions were unaccountably serious. "Somehow Palpatine returned," said Palpatine.

    She frowned. "Yes, he had droids set up cloning facilities all over the galaxy, and—"

    "No, Palpatine," one of them said insistently.

    It took Rey several long seconds of looking at their serious expressions to figure out what they meant. "The evil one?" Rey couldn't imagine an evil Palpatine. That was some kind of mythological figure, an evil bogeyman, long in the past. "That can't be."

    "I'm afraid it is, young one," said Cosinga. "Or it was. My two fellows were telling me that they joined a Palpatine strike team that went to deal with our… evil clone."

    "So he's dead?" Rey asked, more cheerfully.

    "Oh yes," said Palpatine.

    "He was a pitiful figure really," said Palpatine. "Something went wrong with the cloning procedure. His fingers were all burnt and missing."

    "Quite dreadful."

    "Well," Rey said. "No need to worry about that then." She smiled at Cosinga. "I'll be in the shop working on the bikes, grandpa."

    Cosgina smiled. "Of course. No need to worry yourself over it. It's all been taken care of."



    The Bunker

    Mara and Luke crept down the tunnel, the walls around them rocky and wet. There was a loud background hum of a power generator coming from somewhere above them, deep in the bedrock above the hidden passageway. At the end of the passage they could see light, from somewhere beyond; as they got closer, it became clear that the passage ended with a large archway and a well-lit room.

    "I was right," Mara murmured from Luke's side. "I knew he'd have a place like this stashed away. Even in his own fortress, hidden away from his own people. I just knew it."

    Luke nodded silently, gazing into the chamber. It was roughly circular, dome-shaped at the top. The outer ring dropped down to a main floor, connected only by awkward railings, and the entire circle was lined with electronic equipment. In the center was a ring of consoles that was attached to a large database library.

    But in a separate room, attached off to the left, there was a large cloning cylinder, wrapped in nutrient tubes and flash-learning cables, surrounded by support equipment and linked directly to the humming fusion generator. They approached it cautiously… but it was empty.

    "Artoo, go plug into the computer and start downloading everything you can," Luke said.

    The little droid warbled acknowledgement, but stopped. His whistle drew both Luke and Mara's attention.

    "What is it?" asked Mara.

    Another whistle sent them both reaching for the translation datapad. "He says there's another room down the hall, and there's someone alive in there," Mara murmured.

    They climbed back up, creeping around the room until they reached the hallway Artoo had indicated. Luke kept his hand on his lightsaber; Mara had her blaster in her hand. The hallway was well-lit, and the walls were covered in paintings—none of which Mara recognized.

    "An art gallery?" Luke said questioningly.

    Mara just shrugged. They stepped through a second archway and—

    "Who dares disturb the sleep of the Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo?"

    The voice boomed from speakers just above them, making both Luke and Mara jump. They spun, looking around for sources of danger. In front of them, a section of the ceiling was undulating like some sort of rocky fluid slowly formed into a giant face that peered down at them, with giant, angry eyes. "Who dares disturb the sleep of the Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo?"

    "That's a nice trick," Mara murmured. "Well, go ahead—answer it."

    "We're friends," Luke called. We mean the Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo no harm."

    "Who dares disturb the sleep of the Syndic—"

    "Terminate security programs," said a cool, professional voice that was instantly recognizable. Luke and Mara spun once again, Mara's blaster pointed straight at the voice, which belonged to the calm face of Grand Admiral Thrawn. "Welcome, Jedi Skywalker and Trader Jade," Thrawn greeted them. "Please, come in."

    Mara's blaster didn't waver. "I wasn't expecting to see you again."

    "That, I cannot doubt," Thrawn agreed. "The report of my death at Bilbringi was not inaccurate."

    "I should hope not," Mara ground out through clenched teeth.

    "It was very artistically done," said the clone.

    Luke was beginning to get a distinct feeling of deja-vu. Now that the surprise had passed, he turned and looked around slowly, getting a feel for the room. There were easels scattered all over, every wall and vertical surface festooned with an eclectic array of artwork ranging from still life to street art. Thrawn was holding a paintbrush, sitting on a painter's stool, and the white he was wearing was a paint-splattered smock, not a Grand Admiral's uniform.

    "Let me guess," groused Mara. "You just want to open a gallery."

    "Hardly," Thrawn said. "I wish to visit every world I can, to learn their art, to be able to understand their art. Perhaps, once I am satisfied I have achieved mastery of my desired mediums, only then will I open a gallery."

    Luke and Mara shared a look. Mara's was incredulous. Luke knew how she felt.

    "I haven't yet decided. I'm also considering a doctorate in xenosociology. But there is one thing I should tell you," Thrawn continued.

    "What's that?" asked Luke warily.

    "I have reason to believe that I am not alone," said Thrawn.

    Luke sighed, but the corner of his mouth tugged upwards with a small smile.

    Mara scowled. "Please tell me you have something to drink in your art cave."





    Authors' Note: Hey, so you know how we have that alternate universe story where Palpatine had no clones? This is where they all went. April Fools!

    Also, Interregnum III is now being posted weekly over on AO3 and fanfiction.net. At some point I'll get around to posting it here, but it may be a while.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2023
  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oh @Bel505 this is such a smart and riotously funny story to poke fun at the "somehow Palpatine returned" line! I could quote virtually all of it, but since it's a bit long I'm going to go for a few highlights.
    This was the moment when I started grinning. I had a good feeling about this already at this point.

    Han's reaction to the news, wanting to take action and call the fleet etc etc etc was very much in-character – which was one of the reasons the entire story worked so well, EVERYONE was in-character except Palpatine himself – and of course it had to lead to this:
    I just about died here, and that was only the first time. I almost died again when Luke said he'd paid the fine for violating the local zoning ordinance, then when he was belting out an aria, then when he got Mara to unveil the sign for the orphanage...

    ... and then of course:
    And this was the moment I really, really settled in for the ride. I went and poured myself a glass of wine, and I came and sat at the computer instead of reading on a tablet, and I got a bowl of pistachios, and I just made sure that I was taking sips or swallowing in-between reading, because this is dangerous business for my keyboard.

    I loved Talon Karrde's appearance and the fact that he's so phlegmatic about the whole thing. Of course, we wouldn't want to spoil that composed image, would we? But then the Palpatines started pouring in, from pub owners to advocacy workers to used speeder sellers to musical artists to politicians, you name it. And the Pâtisserie, the Pâtisserie WITH JEDI SHAPED COOKIEES AND COOKING TOOLS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!
    [face_rofl]
    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    And Iella! Iella and her sweet tooth, her news of desertions from the ISB and Pilot Palpatine Propaganda – again, so perfectly in-character!

    Of course, there would have to be a Palpatine who wants to be a Jedi. I mean, why not? And this was yet another aspect that made this story work so well: you dropped from time to time a few hints that one or another of the Palpatines might be up to no good, but then it turned out that it was all good.
    I know that I haven't reviewed Interregnum II yet (even though I finished reading it ages agi, it's on my to-do list, sorryyyyyyyy!) but I want to note here how much I loved your feisty, bubbly Tionne. She's one of those Legends characters that I found rather bland in profic, and I feel that you did a great job at making her a full-fledged, interesting character.
    Fair point!

    The entire "Support Group" section was yet another riot, so I forced myself to pick a single line, and this is it:
    This is very much, in the end, a story where Palpatine takes over the galaxy. Just in an entirely different way.
    NOOOOOOOOOOO! I swear, I'll never be able to look at that meme with the same eyes after this.

    So when I got into the final segment, The Bunker, I thought in the beginning that Luke and Mara had found the cloning base that was churning out all the Palpatines. But then that whole description began to feel familiar, and then there was a familiar cave with a cloning cylinder, and ...
    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl] Well, I know what story I'll be asking Santa for Christmas now.

    Thanks so much for sharing this story Bel, it made my day!
     
  3. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    [face_love]

    I love the narration of your reading experience! The first scene was a ton of fun, but for me it was always building to the end: the revelation that this first clone was not alone, that there were more. Then we go into what really is probably my favorite little bit: Luke and Mara reading about all the Palpatines!

    Cooking tools of mass destruction! I really want to know what they did with that toaster that was also a planetary irradiator... how do you even make that mistake? Bevel...

    I always have to make sure to point out that the initial character design for Tionne in Interregnum came from DrMckay. He put the spring in her step and gave her the manic energy. I just took the idea and helped run with it! But yes, she's definitely one of our favorites too, which is why she ended up on the cover.

    I had not thought of that.... but you're not wrong!

    So, this particular story was originally scheduled for LAST April 1st. We were working on it as a "between Interregnum 2 and 3" little palate cleanser project. Obviously we didn't finish it in time, but we managed to crank through it this year! I doubt we'll ever follow up on it, but you never know!
     
  4. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Okay, so I am incredibly late with this feedback - and later still with Interregnum III - but between the Kessel Run and the Festival and a particularly busy and draining spate of adulting, I have fallen behind in pretty much everything, and I'll be playing catch up for quite a while. I'm working on it, I promise! But as for this:

    I love it :D

    This is just a beautifully structured little section, I love the lingering pause

    Haha, yes, that's my girl :cool: :mara:

    They're so great together, I love them so much [face_love]

    He knows her so well :p

    I have always firmly refused to watch Annie (a side effect of being a little girl with curly red hair in the '80s and having "Tomorrow" sung at me for years), but yup, somehow I recognized that line :p The idea of Palpatine having a beautiful singing voice is somehow both unexpected yet also right; additionally, I always forget he was a redhead :p

    [face_rofl]

    There's nothing about this paragraph that I don't love :p

    She sees right through him [face_love]

    I really should have seen that pun coming, but I didn't :p

    HEADCANON ACCEPTED

    (Okay, Sweeney Todd and Assassins? What's the third? All I can think of is The Producers, but I'm not sure I'm right...)

    This is a brilliant detail :cool:

    lololol

    This whole thing just keeps getting better and better :p

    [face_rofl]

    Hey, someone has to look out for public safety :cool:

    Aw yeah :ahsoka:

    *chef kiss*

    I really like TCW, but it does honestly raise the question of whether or not there was anyone at all who ever ran into either of them who didn't know that Anakin and Padmé were a couple. Subtlety was not their strong suit

    I love every single word of this with all my heart and soul [face_love]

    Truer words were never spoken

    Yet again, every single word is a winner :emperor:

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    Of course Luke has multiple speeders, and of course Mara isn't even surprised he bought another, and of course he points out that it matches her hair, because that makes it totally an acceptable purchase, right?

    Perfection, just perfection [face_love]

    LOL

    LOLOL

    I really should have seen this coming too, but I didn't

    Somehow the idea of an evil Palpatine becoming an unbelievable myth is just absolutely hilarious

    [face_rofl] You know he would, too :p

    Beautiful writing from beginning to end, I love it so much [face_love]
     
  5. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    This is potentially the funniest thing I have read since...

    Oh, the Vader Monologues.

    This is sublime, I will be sending it to everyone I know. [face_laugh]
     
  6. Silvertough

    Silvertough Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 19, 2018
    This.. Might be the best thing I have ever read. Full stop.

    Incrediblis *Chef's kiss*
     
  7. SnubJockey

    SnubJockey Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 23, 2009
    Well spotted across the board, and it IS The Producers! Had to get my Sondheim and Brooks fix out somehow. Happy you enjoyed it and don't sweat catching up!
     
  8. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    A funny begin to start my day. Palpatines everywhere
     
  9. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    [face_love] Thank you so much, Gabri! I still owe you so many reviews. Once I'm done writing Interregnum III I'm going to make my priority catching up on my reading, I promise! (Only been working on this story for a year and a half...)

    Thank you so much! Feel free to send it everywhere!

    That was one of the last parts written. It felt a little indulgent using the line twice, but I couldn't resist the urge to have Palpatine say 'somehow Palpatine returned.'

    And Thrawns too!
     
  10. UltramassiveUbersue

    UltramassiveUbersue Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2022
    I started pulling quotes, but I quickly realized that my review would consist entirely of laugh emojis. This is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time, and I hope you make more forays into silliness when you need a break from your epics.
     
  11. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    We wrote this as a palate cleanser, so we could well do more comedy in the future if we are inspired to. The basic idea for this was Snubjockey's, and from there we just ran with it. It did take us a year to finally sit down and do it though... we had so many ideas for scenes that the project seemed a bit overwhelming in combination with Interregnum. In the end, we dealt with that by having the "Luke and Mara go through the list" rather than a different scene for every one of those different ideas.
     
  12. scienfictionfan

    scienfictionfan Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 1, 2020
    I just found this story and can't stop laughing. It's too funny and I can imagine Mara's sheer confusion and the sheer rage Palpatine would feel at all his clones doing good. I especially loved Rey's confusion at the idea of an evil Palpatine and how it's inconceivable to her. I can't help thinking its proof that the Force itself has a sense of humor and this is its punishment to Sidious for his actions that all his clones do good.
     
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  13. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess and Champion star 4 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    This. Was. Hilarious.

    Sorry it's taken me so long to come back and leave a proper review, but you have to know that this was just the best thing to read on April 1st. [face_laugh] Fair warning, don't expect any intelligent commentary; this is mostly going to be me quoting my favorite parts and giggling like a five-year-old. :p

    I was already grinning at this. :D

    [face_tee_hee]

    [face_rofl]

    lolll the over the top litany of titles is the best [face_laugh]

    Seriously, A+ comedic instincts throughout. :D

    Annie! [face_rofl] Or I suppose I should say, Little Orphan Ani [face_tee_hee]

    Why, hello there, trauma. Mara’s reflections on her relationship with Palpatine are truly heartbreaking. :( I do love the little moments of genuine pathos sprinkled in throughout this story. It’s my favorite sort of crack!fic.

    I nearly did a spit-take the first time I read this. [face_laugh]

    [face_mischief]

    And it only got better from here… [face_devil]

    I love how the number of known Palpatine clones grew exponentially after this; the absurdity of the situation (reflecting the RL absurdity of certain storylines? [face_whistling]) made it all the more hilarious.

    [face_rofl]

    I’m nowhere near well-versed in musicals, but I did recognize Annie and Sweeney Todd, so that’s something. :p And I enjoy Mara being a closeted musical lover. [face_batting]

    Now there’s a twist I didn’t see coming! [face_laugh]

    Papa Palpatine [face_rofl]

    I just can’t even with this perfection. [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    And you brought in Bevel Lemelisk! [face_laugh]

    lolll :ahsoka:

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    Poor Luke! [face_laugh]

    [face_rofl] [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    I’m sure I would better appreciate this if I was more of a musical fan, but it had the ring of truth nonetheless. :p And now I kind of want a series of ballads produced by the Tionne and Palpatine team-up.

    Fact. :p

    lol, seriously, how could you not?

    *wheezes*

    Honestly, that probably is just about the best revenge. [face_mischief]

    If the clone support group isn’t an actual thing in all versions of the GFFA, it needs to be. [face_thinking]

    lolol it was a surprise for us all, Luke :p

    Jook, eh? o_O :p

    Well, only one that we know of… [face_whistling]

    Yep, that sounds like Booster all right. :p

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh]

    I was not expecting you to bring in Rey! [face_laugh]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    An evil Palpatine as half-mythological bogeyman is perfect. [face_mischief]

    Thraawn! (Or Thraaawn. Or Thraaaawn, whatever. ;))

    [face_rofl]

    Of course! [face_devil]

    Perfect, no notes. [face_rofl] [face_love]


    That was truly delightful to read (again), and I’m so glad you posted it here. :D In addition to being a hilarious meta commentary on some of the EU’s quirks, this also read in some ways like a companion to the post-FotJ “epilogue” Zahn wrote for April Fool’s years ago; I’m curious if that inspired you at all? Regardless, masterful work to both of you, and thank you for sharing! =D=
     
  14. SnubJockey

    SnubJockey Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 23, 2009
    @ViariSkywalker Thank you for the review! The last play is The Producers, and I've never seen the Zahn Epilogue, but I'm sure it's funny.

    This started as a crackfic and grew from there, so thank you and we hope you enjoyed it.
     
  15. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess and Champion star 4 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I remember reading it around the time it was written, but I'd honestly forgotten about it until @Gabri_Jade reminded me of it recently. So, if you need a laugh: An Apology
     
  16. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    I definitely read this. It may have been somewhere in my mind, though I wasn’t thinking of it precisely while working on Profusion. Still, the basic essence of what he was doing matches…
     
  17. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 10

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    Yup. This is definitely one of the funniest and weirdest things I’ve ever read. My favorite was the palpatine with a fine brandy in his hip flask.
     
  18. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Wow. I don't know how you managed it, (maybe it was an accident?) But weirdly, even though this is completely off the wall hilarious, it somehow manages not to be complete crack.

    I love it.
     
  19. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
  20. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    @Bel505: I just stumbled over it when I tried to post my own stuff with a mean wrist tendonitis. (Luckily, it´s the left hand and not my right one!)

    Your story is funny, sweet and imaginative, just as the toddlers that I am usually working with. Unless I am forced to stay at home with a severe tendonitis.

    Thanks for distracting me from my pain, because due to my reflux sickness I get no pain killers.

    I would love to comment more, but much more clever people have already written something about your gorgeous text and my husband @DarthUncle reminds me with a stern face it´s "D&D" time. His twin (NOT his clone!!!) is waiting in the far away Czech Republic (not the New Republic!!!) that "madame" (obviously me!!!) gets on-line here in the capital (not Coruscant, but the German one!!!) for the session. I feel like giving them a "Dutch treat" (since they are both Dutch) and continue to look for more fan fic of yours, but somehow I am very important for the current "D&D" adventure.
     
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  21. ColeFardreamer

    ColeFardreamer Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 24, 2013
    This is incredible! I love it!

    Guess now we know how the Jedi Prince series would have ended lol

    They should adapt the Patisserie with Bevel into a video!!!

    Can i request a Sequel set in the Legacy era with all Kemp Clones and imposter crisis after FotJ?

    Given clones takeover of everything, imagine few years down the galaxy faces serious problems:

    -a minority of non-clones will unite and fight for their rights

    -inheritance lawyers will get trouble as the original will have to divide any inheritance between himself and each clone

    -not to speak of the chaos of tracking who you are related to or not and thus can marry/procreate with or not... Family history checks becoming mandatory


    PS: now imagine Human Replica Droids becoming popular and affordable as during NJO thx to Guri and Dash Rendars company adding a whole other layer of droid rights.

    Somewhere somehow Splendid Ap laughs hard...

    Gesendet von meinem FP3 mit Tapatalk
     
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  22. LLL

    LLL Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 16, 2000
    OK. this was funny. All these sweet red-haired Palpatines ... and a convention!! LOL

    Somehow I laughed the most at the Palpatine reforming all the planned-obsolescence appliances. Can we get one of those?
     
    Kahara and Bel505 like this.
  23. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Oh I wish.
     
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