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Saga REPOST - The Price Of Freedom (RotS AU) TBAT Sequel

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by WITCH_KING_OF_ANGMAR, Mar 21, 2013.



    May 17, 2006
    Title: The Price Of Freedom
    Author: Witch_King_Of_Angmar
    Timeframe: ROTS
    Characters: Dooku of Serenno, Palpatine, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bail Organa, Mas Amedda, Padme Amidala, General Grievous, Yoda...
    Genre: Action/Adventure
    Keywords: AU
    Summary: Palpatine is dead and Dooku a prisoner of the Jedi. After a thousand years, the Sith have been finally defeated... But this doesn't mean that all is safe now, for other threats lurk in the shadows of the galaxy.

    Disclaimer: This is the fanfiction sequel of a fanfiction story, written by a fan for other fans. It is not intended as an attack against the legitimate copyright holders. Star Wars and all related characters and concepts are property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd.

    Foreword: This is the sequel of To Betray A Traitor, an AU for the Star Wars series. For those who have not read TBAT or don't remember the relevant details, the story is as follows.

    During the battle of Coruscant, Darth Tyranus has a vision of his death and understands Sidious' betrayal. He duels his master and kills him as a result of an apparent happenstance. However, Dooku has been taken to his limits in the fight and is forced to surrender when Kenobi and Skywalker arrive.

    Anakin almost falls into the darkness when he sees Palpatine dead and Kenobi barely snaps him out of it. When they are forced to leave R2-D2 in the Invisible Hand, Anakin goes berserk and Kenobi is forced to subdue him violently, much to his chagrin.

    Without orders from the Sith Lords, General Grievous orders a retreat of the Confederacy, but not before attacking Coruscant with heavy turbolasers that cause massive destruction. TBAT ends with Mass Amedda as the acting Chancellor, who offers Bail Organa the chance to become the next head of government, while Dooku becomes the secret prisoner of the Jedi Council, who fake his death.

    But with Palpatine gone, minor players such as a powerful darksider called Rokur Gepta, the last Sorcerer of Tund, are now free to further their own agendas. Only the Force knows what the future might hold... and it is not telling.


    I- Woes of the Fallen

    There were a great many things disliked about his present situation. He had lost his freedom, which was unfortunate but a small price to pay for his survival, yet he had failed to consider some small, irksome details when he had decided to surrender to Kenobi. He really should have anticipated that his connection with the Force would be blocked, for example.

    He had done the same thing with many unfortunate Jedi over the last couple of years. It had even been the usual procedure for dealing with dangerous Dark Jedi back when he was a member of the Order. But he hadn't anticipated it and, for the first time in many years, Dooku was feeling the full weight of his advanced age as a normal human would. It was not an enjoyable experience, particularly with the extremely unpleasant itch focused around his ruined right arm that lasted for several hours after each bacta bath.

    If his jailors weren't Jedi, he would have been sure that it was some kind of petty revenge.

    And the worst thing was that this was far from the only problem. His cell was woefully inadequate... although the Count was quite sure that he would have a long time to grow used to it. Mace Windu had been less than impressed when the prisoner had mentioned the possibility of different living arrangements, but at least some headway had been made in the matter of physical exercise.

    The Korun Jedi knew that now that the Count was unable to use the Force to bolster his dwindling vitality, his health might suffer so Dooku had been promised that "something would be arranged". The Thousand Fountains and the Twilight Halls were almost certainly out of the question, unfortunately, but even being allowed to move through the corridors of the prison complex would be a significative improvement.

    After that was solved, Dooku decided, the next step would be to do something about the culinary disaster that was his new diet. He had been over ten years away from the Temple and the excellent cuisine of his cooks might have spoiled him in the last decade, but he was quite sure that it took a very acute lack of talent to make cardboard flavoured cake. The food probably contained some rather exotic drugs, but those were supposed to be tasteless. In other words, whoever was guilty for the barely edible junk that he was being fed needed to find a new job. At once. Under duress, if needed...

    The sound of someone clearing his throat startled the old man, who turned. Mace Windu was standing there, inside the cell. Dooku had been lost in his thoughts and watching with some interest a documentary about the Stark War in the holocomp, but he had heard nothing. Neither Windu's approach, not the deactivation and reactivation of the force-field door of his cell. Oh yes, diminished senses. Yet another of those new things he didn't like too much.

    "Good day, Master Windu. How may I help you?"

    "Telling us all you know, those facts that you have kept hidden so far, would be helpful," commented the Jedi, sitting himself on the bed.

    "I have told you so much that you can't even deal with the information anymore on your own. You will have to look for help outside the Order soon and still you want more. Greed does not befit a Jedi."

    "Save the humour, Tyranus. The Council wants the information you have been withholding for the last week. I am here to procure it in any way I see fit."

    "In the last week, I have told you everything you might need to know about the key Confederate agents in around a thousand worlds, my own personal spy networks, and the Confederacy and its military. Secret shipyards hidden in deep space. Fortress worlds you hadn't even heard about, until I gave you their name and location. And Mustafar. Let's not forget Mustafar and what is hidden there."

    "It is hidden under a planetary shield of such power that the Republic would need to summon every single warship it can field and throw it against Mustafar. A direct assault is impossible at this point and even infiltration might turn out to be problematic. If we cannot gain access, the information is interesting, but ultimately worthless. And I am not here to ask you about the Confederacy, although we are sure that you have kept some secrets in this regard, too, but about the Sith."

    "About the Sith?"

    "Indeed. You have been flooding us with information about Grievous, the commerce guilds and the droid armies that was too valuable to ignore, but you have given up precious little information about the Sith. At this point, the Council is largely convinced that this is some kind of ploy and even Yoda..."

    "Chaos! Do you think that any Sith would accept being crippled like I have been for a ploy? Do you understand the mind of the Sith at all, Master Windu?" snapped the Count with sudden vehemence.

    "I'd say that I have a fair idea of how it works..."

    "Do you? Truly? Sincerely, I do not think so. You have emotions, my friend, I know you well enough to know this, but not even Master Yoda keeps himself under the level of emotional control you use. The truth, Mace Windu, is that the power of the style you created terrifies you and you have transformed yourself to stop the darkness that you fear in your heart of hearts. In that regard, you have won. You will never be captured by the shadows of Vaapad the way poor Sora Bulq was. But you will never be able to understand the Sith way, either."

    "Supposing that you are right, I can live with it. Now, let's focus, even if I am a fascinating subject of discussion," replied Windu, words laced with just the slightest hint of sarcasm. "The Sith, Tyranus. Particularly Darth Sidious, your master."

    "Not my master. Not anymore. He banished me and I renounced my Sith name. Call me Dooku, please."

    "Dooku was a Jedi, a good man and a friend of mine. And as far as I am concerned, he died many years ago, Tyranus. You are a Sith, anything but a good man and most certainly no friend of mine. Don't test my mercy. Give me the answers we want."

    With a sigh, Dooku nodded. "Ask. Maybe I will answer. Maybe I will not. Maybe I will ignore the information you ask for. But I will not lie."

    Feeling sincerity in this statement, the Jedi Master began. "Is it true that there are only two Sith?"

    "Interesting question. Only two Sith Lords. That is the Rule of Two, written by Darth Bane, the only Sith Lord who survived the battles of Ruusan, the first of a chain of eighty-four masters that has hidden in the shadows for the last thousand years."

    "And what are you willing to tell us about Darth Sidious?"

    "He was the last apprentice of Darth Plagueis, a long lived Sith scholar of the Muun species. Sidious murdered Plagueis, although I was never told the details. Darth Maul, the Sith killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Naboo, was his first apprentice."

    "Yes, we already know this. Or at least what we supposed," replied Mace Windu. Excluding the part about this Darth Plagueis, thought the Jedi. The name of a previously unknown Sith lord had just been revealed and that would have to be investigated. But there were more pressing concerns. "Give us something useful, Tyranus."

    "Darth Sidious is human. I know that you have had some very amusing debates about his identity, although I am not quite sure how much you have learned since the destruction of my listening devices. But I can confirm that Darth Sidious is a human male. Probably in his early sixties or whereabouts. I cannot be more accurate, because I consider that everything he ever told me is suspect. He is no member of Palpatine's Inner Circle, either, although he has an agent there."

    "Sate Pestage?"

    "Yes. I take it that he has escaped already?"

    "He disappeared in the confusion following the bombardment."

    "Of course, of course. He has been working for Sidious for a very long time and has some minuscule talent in the Force, particularly in the field of mental manipulation. He must have known that you suspected and now that his position as personal friend of the Chancellor is no longer useful..."

    "Does Mas Amedda work for you?"

    "He certainly doesn't work for me, but it is entirely possible that he has worked for Sidious. I know for a fact that he has a fine collection of Sith artifacts. I learned this after some of my agents were killed in a squabble with his relic hunters over a few jewels found in the Yavin system."

    "That is... interesting. Why do you think that he might have worked for Palpatine without you knowing it?"

    "Because dependence is weakness and a worthy Sith apprentice cannot be weak. After becoming Sidious apprentice, I was forced to create my own organization, my own spy networks and my own plots. I seldom was allowed to glimpse Sidious' own. Anything else?"

    "A great many things, particularly..."

    The Jedi said no more. He closed his mouth and averted his eyes, ignoring Dooku's sudden interest. There was something in Windu's face, a mixture of emotions that had been boiling beneath the stony surface and that was finally coming to the fore. Struggling to keep his voice free of emotion, Mace Windu finally whispered.

    "Why, Dooku?"

    "That question is not easily answered, my friend. I wish you had not asked at all."

    "You owe us the truth. The blood of two thousand Jedi stains your hands. If there is anything left of the man you once were, you will tell me the truth, Dooku."

    It was perhaps the use of his name that finally convinced the Count, but after a long instant of silence, the old nobleman nodded.

    "You are right. I owe you, but I do not relish it. I will tell you my tale, but only once. I will reveal you a great many things in telling you this and I ask only one thing in return. Don't call me Tyranus ever again."

    "You have a deal."

    "Then, let's go back fifteen years to the snow-fields of Galidraan. I have had years to think about it and I think that everything began there."

    "Galidraan. A cold, remote world. With a small population, even smaller natural resources and nothing of interest for the galaxy at large. The kind of world that, when invaded by murderous Mandalorian mercenaries, could only call for the Jedi and hope for the best."

    "Dealing with a small band of mercenaries should be an easy mission, that a few dozen young Knights and a single Master should be able to solve without too much trouble. Or so the Council had considered. After all, the days of glory of the Mandalorian clans were long past now. The great warriors that had been able to stand against the might of the Jedi had been reduced to mere thugs with fancy armour."

    "Such overconfidence. When I look back and consider what might have happened... I still consider Galidraan one of my finest moments. Finding the Mandalorians was almost too easy. They were in a camp hidden inside a tiny valley... or rather a large hole in the snow. There were a few hundred of them, all wearing their traditional battle armour and with their weapons ready to fire."

    "I demanded their surrender. Then, Komari said something that I don't quite remember. And the Mandalorian leader ordered his troops to open fire. All hell was about to break loose, so I decided to try something."

    "I had spent the week-long journey reading about the Mandalorians, because I felt that something useful might turn out of it. And it turned out that I was right, because when I said 'Susulur, Mando'ad!' they felt such surprise that not a shot was fired."

    "Of course, it is possible that my Force-enhanced yell startled them a bit, too, but I think that deep down it was surprise. Not many of their enemies know how to speak Mando'a."

    During the tale, Mace Windu had regained his usual self-control, but his face showed some interest now and he used the pause to ask. "You served the Sith back then, too?"

    "No, no, no. I have said that everything began in Galidraan, not that I was Sidious' man back then. This Order has a great many shortcomings, but no Sith agent could possibly hide in your midst undetected. Not for long. And I was a respected, well known member of the Order for two more years, after Galidraan. But it was in Galidraan where the gates of the dark path opened for me."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I think... I think... Yes. I will show you, Master Windu. I do not intend to betray you, so enter my mind now if you want to see things the way I saw them."

    Windu blinked and then reached with his mind to touch Dooku's. As he had learned during the last week, it had a diamond-like quality: cold and precisely shaped. Usually, the thousand faces of the gem were perfectly opaque, but now one of them had disappeared. There was a very gentle tug and the Jedi Master allowed himself to be drawn in.
    CmdrMitthrawnuruodo likes this.


    May 17, 2006
    II- Under New Management

    To say that Nute Gunray was worried would be like saying that "water is wet" or "stars are hot". He was a Neimoidian. In their youth, Neimoidians were pitted against each other in competition for food, ensuring that only the strongest of each generation would survive. A cruel, albeit effective method of natural selection. It also ensured that Neimoidians were paranoid, unwilling to trust potential competitors and, in a great many cases, borderline neurotics.

    Still, there are levels of worry, even for Neimoidians. Nute Gunray was fast approaching rock bottom in the scale. The Viceroy of the Trade Federation had realized something many years prior to the Clone Wars. His appetite was a most excellent early warning system. Whenever he lost it, bad things were bound to happen shortly afterwards.

    In the days prior to the blockade of Naboo, during that Monchar affair, he had been unable to swallow his favourite dishes. Which should have been warning enough about all the trouble coming his way.

    Likewise, during the couple of days preceding the constitution of the Confederacy, he had suffered the same kind of anxiety. The trial and planned execution of Padme Amidala and the Jedi had improved his spirits, but the arrival of the Jedi and their clone army had definitely soured everything. He had needed months to recover from the panic he had felt in Geonosis.

    And while the Clone Wars had been no joy ride, he had never felt the level of dread he was enjoying now. Not for the first time in his life, Gunray wondered if he would have been happier if fate had chosen him to become one of the food starved, mentally retarded drones that did all menial labor in Neimoidian society.

    Probably not. But sometimes he had his doubts. The drones never would have to deal with the likes of General Grievous, for example.

    The members of the Council had been warned. Grievous' starfighter had been detected entering the atmosphere of Utapau. He would be in front of them in a matter of minutes. And then, perhaps, they would learn what had happened in Coruscant and why Grievous had felt the need to blow half the planet to smithereens.

    For the last week, the cyborg had refused to explain his actions through the hyperwave and he had taken his merry time to answer the orders to come to Utapau to explain personally. Maybe now they would be brought up to date in recent events.

    It was clear that something had gone horribly wrong. Darth Tyranus dying most certainly hadn't been part of the Sith master plan, so it was clear that Darth Sidious' scheme had come crashing down somewhere. Knowing where and when was...

    "What is the meaning of this?" demanded Poggle the Lesser. Nute Gunray saw the reason at once. Grievous had come. Along with a small army of MagnaGuards. The next sound answered the Geonosians question.

    It was the clicking of many weapons being readied to fire. All the battledroids and super-battledroids present in the room were aiming their blasters at the members of the Separatist Council. Most froze, shocked and terrified, and Passel Argente actually fainted.

    "This, Archduke, is what is known as a coup d'etat. A military coup, if you don't like the archaism."

    Sarcasm? From Grievous? Despite his fear, Nute Gunray couldn't avoid being interested. As far as the Viceroy knew, since his reconstruction Grievous had been limited to two emotions. Angry and angrier. Now, despite the tense situation, the cyborg seemed more... relaxed? At ease? Gunray was not quite sure of what this change meant, but it was obvious that there had been a change. A few of the more intelligent members of the Council had also picked this.

    "Are you following orders from lord Sidious, General?"

    "Hardly, Foreman Tambor. I have had no contact with Darth Sidious in the last week. I can only only suppose that he is either dead, like Count Dooku, or on the run. I know that the battle of Coruscant was the endgame of their scheme and at this point it is clear that it has gone horribly wrong. It is safe to state that we are on our own, at least until contact is renewed."

    Gunray had been in many negotiations in the past, although usually he had the position of strength. He knew at once the implications of Grievous' usage of 'we'. They probably weren't going to die today. But they were trapped in a boat commanded by the cyborg. After Coruscant that could be bad. Catastrophically bad, if he was right about the defeat of the Sith. And Gunray had the gnawing fear that the General was right, at least in that point.

    "Why are you doing this, if I may ask?"

    "Because if we are alone against the Republic, then we finally face a total war scenario. You have used and abused our military resources in the past for personal gain, with total disregard for the chain of command. That will not be allowed anymore. Also, I don't trust any of you. I am certain that at least some of you are considering surrender. I cannot have that. Turncoats and traitors will be killed. And that is a standing order for the entire droid army that I have just broadcast."

    "And why don't you kill us then?"

    "Do not test the limits of my newfound self-restraint, Chairman. This is the only warning you will get. However, if you really want to know, the reason is mere convenience. I wouldn't mind killing you. I might actually enjoy killing some of you. And the ancestors know that your deaths would mean no great loss for the galaxy. But things will be easier for me if you stay alive, particularly if I am wrong and Lord Sidious can salvage his plans."

    "Yes, yes. You are clear like a Corusca gem. What do you want from us, General Grievous?" asked Gunray, slightly comforted by the confirmation of his guesses. It was a very thin layer of protection, but...

    "Oh, Gunray! You finally found your voice? What I want is simple. To put it in terms that even you can understand, I want you to stay out of my way and to keep your civilians out the way, too. The Confederacy is built around a droid army that is largely automated and self-sufficient. I have been working for the last week in a new overall strategy that might be enough to recover the initiative in the conflict. It will not be easy and it might cost us the war if I fail, so I simply cannot be distracted by things like internal unrest."

    "In case you missed it... there is plenty of internal unrest in the Confederacy, general. The loss of the Count has led many worlds to proclaim their independence."

    "Only seventy-eight systems have managed to defeat their droid garrisons. All those systems will be recaptured in the offensive that should begin two weeks from now. Terror will be used to keep in line those who are unsatisfied with this change of leadership and death will be the punishment of betrayal."

    "This could destroy the Confederacy!"

    "A popular misconception, but the truth is that no matter how much the poets praise the strength of the mob, galactic history tells us a different tale. A great many empires, a great many dictators have lived and known victory, despite the hatred of the common people. All you need is a strong, loyal army. And I command the mightiest army that this galaxy has ever known. At any rate, one of the reasons for keeping you around is avoiding such situations. With your help, I am quite sure that I won't actually need to impose my rule through force of arms. If you don't help... then you will have outlived your usefulness. Am I clear enough?"

    "Very much so."

    "Excellent. Unfortunately, I cannot stay anymore here. There is a war to prepare and my presence is required in the new command center. Just remember my words. Obey my orders and you will live to see the end of this war. Cross me and I'll kill you personally with my bare hands. If I must I could make do without you, but it will be easier and better for everyone if you obey."

    Without further ado, the now uncontested leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems left the conference room, leaving the guild leaders under the unflinching vigilance of their own security droids.


    The captain of the Elores, Ulin Melerk, was a Munn. Like most of his species, Captain Melerk was about as passionate as a glacier, but for some strange reason he had a fairly friendly relationship with his chief engineer, the Quarren Commander Cuirded Epri. Said Commander was now sitting in front of his friend, who looked unusually troubled about something.

    The Quarren was more confused than anything else, but he had a bad feeling about this. He had been summoned with no explanation given, which was a very odd thing to do when the engineers were directing the maintenance droids in the midst of some hefty repair work. From the way the captain was looking at him, it had to be bad news. Maybe his attempts to have Lieutenant Laliar removed from the ship had backfired? That could be bad. Or it could be that...

    "I don't know why. I don't know how. But I have direct orders from the highest level to transfer you to the Invisible Hand, Cuirded. You are now a Senior Commander, Chief Engineer and 2IC of the flagship. Order effective immediately. There is a shuttle waiting for you. How in Hell did you get the personal interest of the Supreme Commander?"

    The flabbergasted Quarren was unable to answer the question, although he would have liked to know the answer himself. Well. At least, he wouldn't have to worry about an ambitious underling anymore, although a vicious psycho of a commanding officer wasn't exactly an improvement.


    The computer of the Invisible Hand send new orders and R2-D2 acknowledged them. He had to join a droid team in the repairs being done in the starboard turbolaser guns. As far as the computer was concerned, R2 was just another unit of its vast droid complement and for as long as he avoided crossing paths with the few biological passengers of the Separatist warship, who might just realize that an Industrial Automatons droid didn't belonghere, this was the perfect hiding place. For Artoo, who was a master slicer, it had been the proverbial piece of cake to include himself in the relevant files.

    If he ever managed to return home, he would bring a treasure of stolen data that he was putting together by slowly slicing into the most secure sections of the computer core. Avoiding the security was a bit more challenging in these levels, but his backdoor building had gone unnoticed so far and the astromech was quite sure that there was something extremely important just a little deeper in a particularly well protected archive. He had needed two days to bypass the first layer of codes and there were at least three more ahead, but he was sure that with some time he would do it.

    And time was something that he had in abundance. The Invisible Hand and a hundred other warships of the fleet that had attacked Coruscant were being repaired in a secret Separatist shipyard orbiting a blue giant located ten thousand years away from the closest Republic base. Although the Invisible Hand carried some shuttles with hyperdrive, those were short-ranged and even if R2 managed to hijack one, he would end two thousand light years short of his goal.

    No. For the time being, he would wait for the right moment to make his escape and he would learn as much as possible. After all, he was in the fairly unique position of being the first operative that the Galactic Republic had managed to infiltrate into the enemy flagship.


    May 17, 2006
    III- A Knight's Light


    "Senator Amidala."

    The door behind Anakin Skywalker closed. Ki-Adi-Mundi and Graku had left them alone. And the Jedi knight hadn't detected yet surveillance devices or foreign mental presences in the Force, so he was fighting with weak arguments against the overpowering desire to cross the small room and touch his beloved wife for the first time in months. It was a fight he was doomed to lose.

    Ignoring fear, throwing caution to the winds, Anakin did just that, crossed the narrow distance between them and hugged Padme Amidala Naberrie with all his heart. Apparently, the senator of Naboo hadn't been expecting such a sudden reaction and Anakin felt her body tensing. Both of them knew that if the door was opened and they were seen in such a compromising position, their illicit marriage would be discovered and both their lifes ruined.

    And it wasn't a baseless fear, considering that they were in the Jedi Temple itself, heart and seat of Jedi power in the galaxy. But Anakin had never been a very rational man and he refused to let her go, until he felt her tension ebbing away. The Force was telling him that his beloved had been in a great deal of distress very recently. Giving her what limited comfort he could offer was the very least he could do.

    "What are you doing here, Padme?" he asked after a silence that must have lasted several minutes.

    "Obi-Wan told me to come."

    At the mention of Kenobi's name, Anakin felt pangs of regret and pain. He still felt Obi-Wan's actions in the Invisible Hand as base treachery, in spite of understanding the reasons in a purely intellectual level. There was also a hint of jealousy. To think that his former friend hadn't been punished at all for his deeds, whereas Anakin himself was a prisoner in all but name, for as long as it took...

    He viciously crushed those thoughts.

    He was with his angel and this most definitely wasn't a moment for rage and sadness. Moreover, Obi-Wan Kenobi had told her to come to the Temple and for that alone Kenobi had earned an opportunity to gain forgiveness. It was likely that the bond that had been broken in Grievous' ship would never be fully healed, but that didn't mean that his former master was an enemy.

    "What did he tell you exactly?"

    "Not much. He made a short visit yesterday, just a few minutes before leaving for the spaceport. He told me that something had gone very wrong, that Artoo had been destroyed, that you will have to pass some Jedi test soon and that I should come to make a visit, because he thought that it would do you a world of good."

    "That's an... interesting way of describing the situation." Plenty of half-truths, but no outright falsehood. How Jedi of Kenobi.

    "You didn't know?"

    "I am about a week out of date," explained Anakin, picking words carefully. "It is because of this... test. The masters think that I worry too much about the outside, when I should focus in the inside. If I get things right, I should be able to improve my control. Stuff like that. The last I saw of Obi-Wan was when we were leaving the Invisible Hand."

    When he knocked me unconscious, he added mentally.

    "Really?" said a surprised Amidala. "You don't know? Obi-Wan has been given the task of capturing General Grievous and he left with a strike group last night."

    "Then let's hope that he doesn't find him."


    "You have to see the holovids of Grievous in action to undertand it, Padme. He is the deadliest killer in the galaxy and he can use the lightsaber better than any living Jedi, even if he cannot use the Force. If Obi-Wan really is trying to find that cyborg, he is going to need help or he is going to end in pieces."

    "Then why did the Council send him alone?"

    "Do you remember Tatooine, Padme? When I found my mother?"

    The long, uneasy silence was finally broken by a soft "Yes".

    "Well. Something similar almost happened during the battle. Twice. The first time was when we found the Chancellor's body. The second when Obi-Wan told me that we had to leave Artoo behind. I was very angry and the Dark Side energy was very heavy there, so I went a little crazy."

    "What did you do, Anakin?" asked Amidala, fearing the answer. Now she finally had the explanation for the intense anger and anguish that she had felt while the battle raged in the skies over Coruscant. The first time she had felt such a thing it had been shortly before the ill-fated journey to Geonosis that had marked the beginning of the Clone Wars, when her husband had killed every single living member of the Tusken tribe that had tortured Shmi Skywalker.

    According to Anakin, this strange connection meant that they were bonded through the Force, something that was not unknown, but quite unusual when one of the parts involved wasn't Force-sensitive. As it only worked when they were relatively close, most of the time it was just a pleasant little thing that allowed her to bask in the love that her soulmate felt for her. But sometimes, when his dark side emerged, it could become a truly disturbing experience.

    Cruel reality had darkened the soul of the bright boy that she had first met as a slave working in a junkyard in a backwater desert world. It was her duty to preserve all the light he had left, no matter the cost.

    "I don't remember very well. Obi Wan had to bang my head a bit to calm me down, but it seems that I might have killed Count Dooku. When we found him, he was still alive and he had surrendered..."

    "That is all? You killed Count Dooku?" asked the senator. After the Jedi nodded, Amidala kissed him in the cheek, before adding with definitely callous overtones. "Good riddance to bad rubbish! And may his soul burn in Hell for eternity! The man was a monster, a master of monsters and a maker of monsters. If I could return back to kill him and undo the last three years of war, I'd pay any price."

    "That was not the reaction that I was expecting. That was downright vicious," stated Anakin, after staring at his wife with a mask of sheer incredulity in his face for several seconds.

    "Naboo is a peaceful world, Anakin, and the laws that protect our way of life are very severe. Crime simply doesn't pay in Naboo. I understand why Obi Wan has gone alone and you are here, but I will not mourn for the passing of the greatest traitor that this galaxy has ever known. Nonetheless, you have to be more careful with your temper. Fighting fire with fire is always stupid and I don't want to lose you to the Dark Side."

    "You don't know what it is like."

    "I can guess. And if other Jedi can resist it, you should be able to resist it better, because you have more reasons than they do."

    "I have few reasons left."

    "You have the Republic. You have Obi-Wan Kenobi. You have me. You have our children. And more. Do you think that our friend Palpatine would want you to use the very power that corrupted Dooku just to avenge his death? Do you..."


    "You didn't know?"


    "I'll take that as a not. I supposed that you would know. The Force and..."


    "Enough is enough, Annie. I'm pregnant, but..."


    "All right. Let's see if this is good enough to reactivate that brain of yours."

    As it turned out, Amidala's rather passionate kiss with full lip contact was enough to break her husband out of the loop of repetitions. It also was enough to trigge a small supernova of joy, love and a hint of lust that propagated through the Force, spanning nearly half of Coruscant before disappearing. It brightened the day of those with even minimal Force sensitivity and, several months later, a small peak was detected in the number of births in Coruscant, particularly in the areas closer to the Temple.

    The Temple itself, however, suffered the worst of the effects. Even the masters that managed to shield themselves from the strange phenomenon, felt giddy for several hours afterwards. A crowd of younglings decided to throw a party in the Jedi Archives, much to the dismay of Jocasta Nu. A number of padawans were found in rather compromising situations by their teachers. Master Kit Fisto initiated what was later identified as a Nautolan mating dance in front of Aayla Secura in the Room of a Thousand Fountains. A short-lived recording of this and other incidents would eventually appear in the Holonet, where it became a massive success despite the best efforts of official agencies to bury it.


    A few hours later, back in the training room, Anakin was avoiding the stun beams of half a dozen training remotes, under the watchful eyes of Ki-Adi-Mundi. Much to Skywalker's delight, he discovered that he wasn't having any trouble to complete the exercise, in sharp contrast with the previous day. His connection with the Force felt stronger now. Amidala's visit really had done him a world of good. After several minutes of this, the time ended and the remotes returned to their sockets in the walls, awaiting for the next session.

    "And you say that you didn't feel anything?"

    "No, master," replied Anakin tiredly. He had already answered that several times amd by all indications his answer didn't satisfy the Cerean. And the funny thing was that he was telling the truth.

    His mind had been far too busy to detect the effects of Amidala's kiss, although it hadn't taken much effort to realize that he must somehow have caused all the chaos in the Temple. Not that he intended to tell anyone, because he already counted himself lucky for escaping detection. It seemed that the event had been so intense and massive that not even the masters had managed to pinpoint its source, although some were clearly suspicious. Chiefly, Ki-Adi-Mundi himself.

    Why exactly had the Council decided to appoint the Cerean as his master for as long as it took to retrain him to their specifications? They hadn't connected when Master Mundi had replaced Obi-Wan for a short while, shortly before Anakin's rise to the rank of Jedi Knight, and they most certainly weren't connecting now.

    "That's odd... No. Forget odd. Preposterous. You really should know better than to tell me such transparent lies, Anakin. I was less than ten meters away from you and the Senator."

    Sith****. With such a valuable contribution from the creative centers of his mind, Skywalker found himself unable to craft a convincing denial and waited for the second shoe to drop.

    "I had heard something about you and a certain senator being a couple, but hadn't given it much attention. Many Jedi have lovers, but considering that personality of yours I should have know better. What I felt today goes well beyond mere infatuation, doesn't it?"

    Obviously taking Anakin's nervous silence as confirmation, the older Jedi continued.

    "You hide many secrets and I don't think for a second that you confessed everything when the Council questioned you. You are prone to creating bonds of affection with those you consider your friends. You have attachments, more than it is healthy for a Jedi with your potential. If I were to describe your charming personality, I would have to use words such as headstrong, prideful and reckless. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but even a cursory examination of your career shows that you are intensely loyal both to the Republic and the Order as a whole."

    Anakin raised an eyebrow. This conversation certainly wasn't going the way he had feared, but Ki-Adi-Mundi hadn't finished yet.

    "You were an enigma and we Cereans like those. I have devoted a great deal of time to understanding you and now I finally have the answer, because you gave me the last piece of information. Yesterday, you were hit a dozen times by those same remotes. Today, you have dodged every single shot, although I had changed their program to increase their rate of fire."

    "It seems that what is useful for a normal Jedi, is useless for you, but that is logical considering that you joined us when you had already known life outside the Temple. I think that for all your faults you are a very good man, but that you aren't and will never be a good Jedi, because you gain strength from your attachments."

    "What are you trying to tell me, master?"

    "I am trying to convince myself of being right about the course of action I have decided upon. I feel that the Code should not be applied in your case and I will not report my suspicions about your relationship with Padme Amidala Naberrie, even if that goes against most of the things I defend. I remember how the world darkened for me when I heard that my family had been killed during the battle of Cerea and somehow I know that I will take away your light if I talk. I am positive that doing so would be a grievous mistake. It would be the cause of much pointless grief and suffering. I see no need to bear such a burden for no clear gain. Also, I'd like you to know that if you ever decide to leave the Order after the war ends, I will gladly give you my support."


    May 17, 2006
    IV- The Geometry of Politics

    Bail Organa knew that this was the Moment, with the capital M. The point in his life that would be forever remembered in history books. The event he had dreamed with for most of his adult life. He was about to become the single most powerful individual in a galaxy with a population of roughly one hundred quadrillion sentients.

    It was scary. It was exhilarating. And, for some reason, it also was somewhat underwhelming. The last week had involved frantic preparations for this and much haggling with some extremely unsavory Senators... Sincerely, after that, it wasn't a surprise to find that the glory of the moment already felt a bit tarnished.

    "I, Bail Prestor Organa of Alderaan, swear that I will devote all my efforts to the well-being of the citizens of the Galactic Republic, uphold the democratic principles of the Constitution and the laws of the Republic, heed the wisdom of the Senate, perform my duties to the best of my ability and capacities, and that I take this pledge willingly and without mental reservation. May the Force be with us all."

    "And I, Mas Amedda of Champala, Vice Chair of the Galactic Senate, do hereby pass on this staff to you. It is a symbol of the power and authority of the office that the Senate has entrusted you with. Use your new authority as Supreme Chancellor with courage and determination, but also with understanding and justice. May the Force guide you in all your decisions and labors."

    All in all, the proclamation of a new Supreme Chancellor was a simple thing. The Ruusan Reformation had done away with most of the ancient ceremonies used in the days of Tarsus Valorum, in a not-at-all subtle reminder of the diminished authority of the head of government after the New Sith War. Even the prescribed locale, the Chancellor's holding office, was chosen to emphasize Senatorial hegemony.

    The simplicity and relative privacy suited both Organa and Amedda just fine. The vote had been an unexpectedly close thing and after the nerve-racking tension of the last two hours, neither of them would have particularly enjoyed wasting several more hours with protocol-laden ceremonial. Fortunately, now that the oaths had been made and accepted, the official ceremony was over.

    Of course, the official reception was programmed to begin in two hours and there would be much talking with allies and opponents before the night was over. But at the moment, both politicians felt a very deep relief. Their alliance of convenience had been fruitful and the crisis that had threatened to paralyze the Republic had been narrowly averted.

    After a couple of minutes filled with idle chatter and congratulations, the senators and minor bureaucrats who had been there to stamp their signatures on the official document and assorted members of the background decoration left them alone. Even the Red Guards had vacated the room, leaving the alderaanian alone with the chagrian. After a little hesitation, the new Chancellor sat down and motioned Amedda to sit down too.

    "You might want to open the third drawer on the right, sir. I think that you will appreciate its contents," commented the Vice Chair before doing as instructed.

    "Corellian brandy?"

    "From the Selonian distilleries. Say what you will about Cos Palpatine, but the man knew how to indulge his guilty pleasures. You could use a shot or two, Organa, and so can I."

    "Be my guest," replied Bail, putting two small glasses and the liquor bottle on the desk. "A toast?"

    "To new friends?"

    "And a better future," finished the human, raising his glass. Their glasses touched and they drank the strong amber liquid, allowing its comfortable warmth to spread through their bodies. "Strong stuff."

    "Very. Maybe we shouldn't take a second. It would make a bad first impression if you are tipsy in your first public act as Chancellor."

    "It would, wouldn't it?," acknowledged Organa, cracking a smile. "Let's focus in the important things, then. For example, what the blazing hells happened up there? For a moment, I thought that we were going to lose."


    "And seeing as how there are no further interventions, we shall now vote on the candidature forwarded by the corellian delegation. Members of the Senate, do you support the election of Bail Prestor Organa, senator and regent of Alderaan, as the new Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic?"

    The chagrian drank some water from a discretely placed bottle and began the recitation in alphabetical order of the fourteen hundred or so sectors with senatorial representatives, following a tradition that predated the battles of Ruusan by a good two thousand years. When their turn came, the senators had to press one of three buttons, which resulted in the light fixtures of their pod changing colour to show their position.

    Blue to show agreement and support.

    Green to declare neutrality in the issue. Traditionally used by those willing to vote blue in a second round in exchange for something. Generally that 'something' was outrageously expensive.

    And, last but not least, red to state outright rejection of a proposal.

    The first vote, from the senator of remote and unimportant Ablajeck, was blue. Hardly a surprise, really. It had been a long week of hard work, but it had been productive. Both Organa and Amedda had carefully prepared the political scene for this vote, smoothing possible complications -and the memory of all the underhanded deals he had been forced to make in order to do so still enraged the prince of Alderaan- and exerting their political influence to the fullest to ensure that nothing went wrong today.

    The next sectors were mostly part of the Outer Rim territories and weren't going to risk suspicion of harbouring Separatist sympathies in the current political climate. More blue. Thus, in a rare case of irony, the first green came from the alderaanian delegation (as per another ancient coruscanti tradition).

    The second came shortly afterwards, in the turn of Philip Santhe of Lianna, Senator for the Allied Tion sector. Who was the second son of lady Valles Santhe, major shareholder and president of the Santhe Corporation and its many subsidiaries, including Republic Sienar Systems... Yes, a meeting with the senator had to be arranged as soon as possible. The Santhe/Sienar conglomerate had been sitting on the fence for most of the Clone Wars, making a profit out of selling weapons to both the Confederacy and the Republic.

    But after the battle of Coruscant, this neutrality would no longer be respected by the Republic and if Raith Sienar didn't stop his...

    A bout of muttering derailed Organa's train of thought. Red had finally appeared with the vote of Ilvus Temior of Barma sector. Organa made an effort to remember, but he nearly got a blank. He had met the mousy woman half a dozen times in the last five years, at most, and he didn't recall any hostility in their past. Nor did Alderaan have issues with her remote sector in the Colonies. He made a mental note to arrange a meeting with her, if only to sate his curiosity.

    The dreaded colour reappeared fifty votes later, although this time Organa was more than prepared. Bormea sector. The sector of his close friend Mon Mothma, who had blanched when he had announced his decision to accept Mas Amedda's support, who had walked out of his office and who had insultingly refused to answer his calls for the last week.

    In a level, Organa understood her position. In the beginning she had been a rather enthusiastic supporter of the late Chancellor Palpatine, considering him a reformer destined to return the Republic to its lost greatness... And then those hopes had been dashed in the most cruel way possible, when Palpatine had allowed his newfound authority to corrupt him. But Bail Organa had no intention of following in Palpatine's footsteps, so in another level he had to fight with the urge to prepare some rather rude terms for their next conversation.

    The voting continued, the minutes passed and Organa began planning about everything he intended to do immediately after his proclamation as Supreme Chancellor, when his musings were disrupted by more surprised murmuring. The senator tried to focus. He had lost track just after the corellian vote, which meant that it was roughly the turn of...

    Nestor Romodi, senator for Coruscant. Whose pod now glowed with an angry, impossible red.

    Bail Organa paled. He didn't know why it had happened, but he didn't really care at the moment, because he was too busy cursing his luck. This was a disaster with great potential to grow into a full blown cataclysm in very little time. In two centuries, no Chancellor had been elected with the opposition of the senator representing the galactic capital. And this was one of those factoids that probably every single living soul in the Senate Building knew about.

    Organa turned his head towards the presidential pod, but it was evident that Amedda hadn't been expecting this, either. However, now that the voting had begun, the Vice Chair had no choice but to continue until the end. When said end came, Organa's candidature had managed to break two centuries of tradition, albeit just barely.

    Seven hundred and fifty three blues versus two hundred fourteen greens and four hundred and sixty eight reds made for an uncomfortably slim margin.


    "Sincerely, so did I. It is clear that somebody has been working very hard to sabotage your election and doing a fairly decent job of it. The votes against you have come mostly from human supremacists and the war dragons, so there are two individuals who might be behind this mess. We have Sate Pestage, who disappeared like roasted gultarr in a Hutt wedding right after Grievous' attack, or it could be Ishin-Il-Raz, who has gained a disturbing amount of influence in the last year. Whoever it is, though, we can be sure that Nestor Romodi is just a puppet and that his opposition isn't something he decided on the spur of the moment."

    "That puppet is the senator for Coruscant. You should have warned me if you thought that..."

    "Cut it, please. I knew that the humanocentrists were disgruntled, but that was all. As I've said, somebody has been doing some serious work under the table and I didn't realize how serious the situation was until we began piling red votes. By then, it was a bit too late to do anything about it."

    "Very well. In your opinion, who would be the more dangerous of the two?"

    "Pestage. The people who work here have a lot of skeletons in closets and Pestage was Palpatine's gravedigger. If there is dirt to be known about someone, odds are that he knows it all and has proof to back his word. Il-Raz is slime and has plenty of resources, but wouldn't recognize subtlety if it hit him in the head with a durasteel staff. Of course, there is always the possibility of an alliance between them. Their agendas are largely compatible and together they would be much more dangerous."

    "Charming. And suspecting as I do that you have some very big skeletons in your closet, why should I keep you around now?"

    "Because that is our deal, sir, and I know that you always honour your deals," calmly replied the chagrian, although the sudden flicking of his forked tongue showed his irritation. "Moreover, it would show astounding ingratitude in your part to give me the boot, right after making you the single most powerful man in the galaxy. And that kind of ingratitude could easily result in losing many of the votes I have procured for you. No, sir, I think that you will keep me around and that ours will be a long, cordial and mutually beneficial relationship."

    "Good points. Next thing, then. Do I have to worry about anybody else pulling a Pestage? I have every intention of putting a few new faces in the cabinet as soon as feasible, but..."

    "Yes, yes. Well, let me see. As you already know, Sly Moore has vanished without a trace. She wasn't in the Senate during the battle, so she might have died, but it wouldn't surprise me if we find that she has 'pulled a Pestage'. Greejatus and Il-Ranz are firmly against you and this is unlikely to change for as long as you are friends with 'alien filth', to quote Greejatus. In the other hand, Doriana might be willing to join your administration, I have gone to great lengths in order to ensure Isard's loyalty and the feelers I have launched suggest that the majority of the junior ministers are willing to work for you. I can have a written report about all this on your desk by tomorrow evening."

    "Do it."

    "Very well, sir. May I ask about those new faces you just mentioned?"

    "Garm Bel Iblis for the Spacelane Bureau, Mon Mothma as new head of the Commission for the Protection of the Republic, Giles Durane leading Homeworld Security Command and I want a Jedi in the High Command."

    The chagrian stared at Organa for a long time, as if expecting the Chancellor to shout 'the joke is on you'. When he decided that it was not a joke, after all, he sighed and hid his face behind his hands.

    "I think that I am going to need a second shot, after all. No offense intended, Organa, but are you trying deliberately the majority I have created for you?"

    "You do not approve."

    "No, I most certainly don't! I can understand Bel Iblis, although I would rather avoid putting a corellian in the Spacelane Bureau or you are going to set off some very loud alarms in Kuat and Fondor. I also think that a Jedi in the RHC wouldn't be too bad, despite the growing unpopularity of their Order. But Mon Mothma as head of COMPOR? Your agenda is downright moderate in comparison with hers, she doesn't come from a planet as prestigious as Alderaan and SHE JUST VOTED AGAINST YOU!"

    "We have discussed this before…"

    "Yes, we have. And you still have no valid argument, sir. You want her to realize that you aren't like your predecessor? Fine. Prove it with your actions. She is smart enough to realize this after a while. But do not invite her to join the executive council. Not at this point, at least. I have made promises and you have made promises. The presence of Mon Mothma in the Office of the Supreme Chancellor would destroy our credibility and make your position untenable. Mending a friendship is not worth the cost of two hundred votes in the Senate."

    "Again, you have a point. Sincerely, I didn't expect you to be so… vehement and convincing. I'll try to keep your words in mind before making the final decision. Now, I think that we should be going. My wife arrives in half an hour and if I'm not there to greet her, I think that this night I will have to sleep in the couch."

    "Of course, sir. One last thing, though, when you say that you'd want a Jedi in the High Command, do you have someone in mind?"

    "As a matter of fact, I do. Master Shaak Tii is healing from the injuries she suffered trying to defeat general Grievous in 500 Republica, so a period of easy administrative work away from the frontlines is in order."

    "Not to mention that she considers you a personal friend after rescuing her in Metalorn and that most human males would find her… easy in the eyes? Good choice, I think. The PR folks are going to love having her around."

    "Very funny. So funny that I might be tempted to share it with Master Tii next time I met her. Do you know that the bite of the Togruta can be poisonous? At least, that's what I've been told."

    "Fascinating. Hmmm. Did you say something about the arrival of your wife, sir?"

    "Yes, I better call Raymus and tell him to take his merry time. If I'm not there when the Tantive IV lands, Breha is going to rip me a new one."


    May 17, 2006
    V- The Greatest Power

    Outsiders usually think the telekinetic abilities of Jedi to be the most powerful gift of the Force.

    Within the Order itself, the power to move things with the minds is largely considered either a handy little tool or a parlour trick that has been dramatically overrated by those who do not understand the subtler powers of the Jedi.

    Nonetheless, even the Jedi themselves disagree about which is their biggest strength. Some argue that the Jedi do not even have such a thing, that their supernatural powers simply balance each other to form something greater than the mere sum of the parts. In other words, this compromise states that all Jedi powers are equally important and that none is supreme.

    Unsurprisingly, this solution is the least popular among those Jedi who have been actively involved in this long-lived debate at one point or another, although it is accepted by the members of the silent majority who simply don't care enough to argue the point. Those who care argue that truth is not defined by consensus. And the debate goes on.

    For a long time, the supporters of the 'insight' -a catch-all term that includes both the enhanced senses and the precognitive powers granted by the Force- dominated this intellectual arena, but they seem to have lost much of their steam in recent years. It is undeniable reality that none of the thousands of Jedi in existence foresaw the impending beginning of the most devastating conflict in recorded history. Yes, it was a result of the darkening of the Force and the return of the Sith…

    But can an ability that is so easily hampered by the enemy be considered the greatest power of the Jedi?

    Hardly. At least, that's what the side that now holds the advantage is telling to anyone who bothers to listen. For the longest time, some of the most respected Jedi Masters have considered that the ability to touch the minds of other beings though the Force to be the most useful of all the different powers that the Knights of the Republic gain out of their connection with the Light Side.

    Not the ability to bend other minds.

    Just the ability to contact and communicate, mind to mind. Soul to soul.

    The form doesn't matter. The language doesn't matter. For the best Jedi, only the spirit counts, because beyond the crude matter all beings are the same.

    That's the ideal, at least. But it is still undeniable fact, so undeniable that not even the chief detractors of this philosophical school would bother to deny it, that mindwalking was a major part of the construction of modern galactic society, second only to the invention of hyperdrive itself.

    When there was no Galactic Republic and the very idea of a common language used by a million different species was preposterous, communication with strange creatures arrived from distant worlds was up to the Force-sensitives. The Ignotu of Alderaan, the Baran Do of Dorin, the Bendu of Thyton and a thousand other such groups that would eventually meet in the world of Ossus to create an organization of diplomats and peacekeepers.

    With such a background, Mace Windu's position in this ideological struggle was a given. Despite his exceptional precognitive abilities and love for battle, his almost obsessive loyalty to the Republic and its legacy was the kind of public secret that was far from uncommon in the Order.

    Maybe that was why he had just done something incredibly foolhardy. Entering the mind of a Sith? Without the knowledge or authorization of the High Council? ALONE? Yes, Windu decided, this one was going to cost him. Yoda was going to be upset, but if Master Saa ever… No. Not if. When. The Neti were perceptive by nature and none as much as T'ra Saa.

    And Mace Windu had the feeling that this time it was going to take considerably more than some Ithorian flower honey to calm down his former Master when she learned the full details of this.

    Well. The future was still in the future and right now he wasn't about to compound his mistake by giving Dooku the opportunity to try something. Windu reinforced his mental defenses and tried to see something now that he was beyond the outer walls of the Sith Lord's mind.

    No such luck. Beyond his own shields, everything was clouded by a veil of darkness and the only thing that he could feel beyond his mental projection was the force that guided him in a single direction. That Dooku had excellent control over his mindscape even without the Force was hardly a surprise, because with the proper training even those who lacked the potential to become Jedi could do this, but it was still concerning.

    After moving through the darkness for an undetermined length of time, the pull weakened and then Windu found himself returned to the light. Or the memory of light, at least.

    He was in the quarters that Dooku has used in his last years in the Temple and the Sith himself was already there, drinking slowly from a cup full of what probably was that bitter rose tea that he imported from his homeworld back when he was a Jedi. Mace almost gaped.

    Enough control over the mindscape to create a complete illusionary environment and then manifest himself in it. Without the Force. The Jedi Master knew no one, except perhaps Yoda, with the level of mental discipline needed for something like this.

    Exceedingly impressive, but ultimately futile. If he so wished, he could use the Force to fight his way out of Dooku's mind and, in doing this, it was guaranteed that he would cause his former friend terrible damage. This was just another move in the Count's game, revealing one of his secrets as a gesture of good will. Or, at least, the semblance of good will.

    Good enough for the time being. Reluctant cooperation was always better than outright coercion.

    "Do sit down, Master Windu. I have much to explain."


    May 17, 2006
    VI- The White Knight (part 1) - The voices of yore

    "Tell me, master Windu. Do you know anything about the Threefold Path?"

    "Yes, I do."


    "You seem surprised."

    "I... I am. It is a particularly obscure concept in Sith lore. I didn't really expect you to know."

    Mace Windu considered fighting the urge to smirk. In the end, he decided not to bother and replied with a voice full of acidic irony. "We Jedi are full of surprises."

    "So I have noticed. What do you actually know?"

    "It is a theory about the nature of Power, first formulated by one of the Dark Lords of the Old Sith Empire, that states that the many different forms of Power are only different combinations of three basic components: conquest, persuasion and murder."

    "The Sith terms are ilessu, suliersu and miuresu. And I think that the best translation to Basic would be 'dominion, deception and destruction'. Otherwise, you have a... singularly thorough understanding of the basics of this theory. How...?"

    "That is for me to know and you to wonder about."

    Seeing Dooku's rather miffed expression, Windu smirked again. However, his smile faded when he saw something that could only be described as a ripple of unreality coursing through the illusionary environment that the older man had created. Some petty amusement wasn't worth alienating the former Jedi, particularly not when he seemed willing to make some major revelations.

    "Why do you ask?"

    Dooku didn't reply immediately. Instead, he siped from his non existing tea and his brow furrowed, as if considering carefully what to say. "I was considering how to best broach some complicated issues in future lessons."


    "Yes, lessons," replied the Count, apparently unfazed by the stark disbelief in Windu's voice. "You should consider this as a learning experience, my friend."

    "I have no interest in what you have to teach, Dooku."

    "Then, why are you here, if I may ask?"

    "That is hardly the same."

    "No, it is not. You do not want my knowledge for selfish reasons, true enough, but you want my knowledge nonetheless. Hence, lessons."

    Mace Windu raised an eyebrow, but decided to let the matter slide. Obviously, the nobleman had strong feelings about this particular point for some bizarrre reason.

    "Call it as you will. When does this 'learning experience' begin in earnest?"


    And with that word, the illusion around Mace Windu shattered and the shards reformed into something completely different.

    The cabins in small spaceships are much the same everywhere in the galaxy, to the point that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. It doesn't matter if you are in the bright worlds of the Core or in the destitute stars of the Rim. Small ships means little space, little space means cramped quarters, fit to drive claustrophobics nuts, and that's an inescapable truth of space travel that all good spacers know by heart.

    Mace Windu was a very good spacer, having travelled well in excess of twenty million light years in his life, and knew that what truly makes a cabin different from the rest are the little touches left behind by the presence of the individuals who reside in them.

    There were few of those little touches in the cabin in which Dooku's mindscape had transformed into.

    A pile of studiously folded clothing atop the bed, a commlink at the top of the pile and a small cylinder of silver metal next to it. That was it.

    Until a male voice emerged from behind the closed door of the sanitary cubicle, humming an out of tune kuati song.

    Fortunately, the recital was soon interrupted by the shrill, angry beeping of the commlink. Something that might have been a soft curse came from the cubicle and, shortly afterwards, the door slided open and a man stepped out.

    He was a brown-haired human with a wrinkled face and quite a few white hairs showing already. Perhaps in his late fifties, although he was obviously healthy and still vigorous.

    Dooku as he used to be before leaving the Order. The face that Windu remembered from before that fateful day in Geonosis. Dooku the Jedi, instead of Tyranus the Sith.

    The facial expression of the man that had once been Windu's friend suggested that he was feeling a bit annoyed at the moment, probably because his ablutions had been rudely interrupted. Or perhaps it was because he was nearly naked, having abandoned the cubicle with only a small towel and some soap bubbles to hide his body.

    "I hope that you have good reason to show me this, Dooku."

    The Dooku of the past didn't react to his voice, but the Dooku of the present –the real one- appeared out of nowhere in front of the Jedi with a mirthless grin in his face.

    "I have no interest whatsoever in challenging your sexuality, master Windu. If you happen to hold some kind of deeply buried attraction to myself, I dearly hope that you will keep repressing it. I have excellent reasons to begin my tale at this point and I think that you should try to listen to what is about to be said."

    Windu rolled his eyes without bothering to acknowledge the crude riposte, focusing instead in past-Dooku who was now holding his commlink and had just pressed one of the buttons.

    The alarm stopped immediately and a tiny, blue hologram shimmered into existence.

    Windu was surprised to realize that he was seeing his second ghost of the day. The hologram that past-Dooku was facing was none other than the late master Yaddle.


    "Master Dooku," said the small Jedi, making a small bow. "A… situation, in our hands we have."

    "Master Yaddle."

    No comments about his lack of clothing? None at all?

    Force! The situation had to be bad, indeed, if Yaddle of all people was letting this rare chance of teasing him pass.

    They might be distant acquaintances at best, but Dooku knew full well her reputation. She was an extremely compassionate creature with a mirthful heart, as well as an unrepentant practical joker, who became a warrior only when forced to.

    Yaddle's long imprisonment in an underground oubliette in a remote world somewhere in the Outer Rim that had transformed her so was the stuff of legends, even among her fellow masters. Alone, considered dead by the order and deprived of all contact with the outer world. For nearly a whole century. Just thinking about it was almost enough to make Dooku shudder.

    Most would have simply gone mad and ended their suffering. Some would have used the power of anger and hate to try to escape. Not Yaddle. Never Yaddle.

    She hadn't given up and she had resisted the lure of the dark. She had learned on her own how to extend her senses farther than any other living Jedi and how to use what little happiness was to be found in that remote planet to maintain her Light. She had been captured and imprisoned as a padawan, but when her chance to escape had finally arrived she was a master among masters.

    Of course, the ordeal had changed her in more ways than one, but she had resisted as few others could have managed. The experiences of a lifetime, both good and bad, leave their mark in the soul of a jedi and those who are sensitive enough can learn much about the true nature of a given jedi by reading his aura.

    Windu's, for example, exuded tension and a tightly leashed bloodlust, like a half-sheathed sword. Yoda's was big, serene and, for want of a better word, ancient, somewhat like a great library of days long past that contains the wisdom of the ages and where silence reigns. In stark contrast with both, Yaddle's was warm and comforting.

    Dooku had never experienced it himself, but he remembered overhearing a couple of younglings compare Yaddle's presence with a mother's embrace.

    "In Calaron sector, a world is under attack and a distress call has been launched. Answer it we must, as soon as we can. Of all the Jedi in the quadrant, you are the closest and most experienced, master Dooku, and decided to put you in command of this operation, the Council has."

    "How many of us can be gathered?"

    The most pressing question and the only one Dooku was going to make. The hyperwave connection with the temple carried more than Yaddle's hologram and he wasn't about to lose time asking for trivia when everything that the Archives had about his new destination was already being downloaded into the databanks of his commlink.

    "Twenty, perhaps thirty. In thirty minutes, know how many we should. Some important missions, there are. Obligations that ignored cannot be. Contact you again I will, as soon as we know."

    "Very well. May the Force be with you, master Yaddle."

    "To you the same, my friend."


    Roughly twelve minutes after the sixth most embarrassing moment of his entire life, Dooku –now cleaned up and dressed- started reading the situation report that one of the clerks back home had hastily thrown together.

    Mission Type: Red-Senth-Three. Ouch.

    High humanitarian impact. No political importance beyond local level. High probability of hostile encounters with high-threat enemies. Charming, just charming.

    Theater of operations: Galidraan. A level three protectorate. Population just below the ten millions line. Minimal economic value. No heavy industry, at all. Negligible military, barely a police force, in fact. However, its astronomical position was close enough to a minor route into Hutt space to have some potential importance, at least for smugglers and 'free-traders'.

    Master Dooku made a note about this. It was a potential explanation for the current mess.

    Oh. And the planet was a cold rock, deep in a glacial period, and no one had ever bothered to do any kind of climatic engineering in Galidraan. Meaning near zero temperatures, even in the equatorial settlements, blizzards and potentially worse. At least, even the worst case scenario included with the rest of the info outlined climatic conditions that should prove survivable enough for anyone with Cold Environment Training. In the short term.

    No wonder that the authorities of nearby Jerijador had decided to leave solving the unrest in their colony in the hands of the Jedi. Simply put, the whole damn place wasn't worth the money and the effort that would be needed to solve the crisis through conventional military means.

    Which left the Jedi Order as the last, best hope of the millions of innocents in Galidraan who had been abandoned by the rest of a galaxy who didn't care about them enough to lift a finger.

    Well. Enough about Galidraan. He could read later the rest of the information about yet another depressing nowhere –just the latest one in a career full of visits to similar places. He found and activated the file that contained the emergency transmission that had been broadcast by the planetary government.

    The image of a mid-aged human, tall and thin like a stylus, appeared from the holoprojector of his commlink. The man was trembling, although that probably had more to do with fear than with simple cold –although he was wearing a heavy, fur-lined cloak-, considering the look of his face.



    "I am Enok Faer, appointed governor of the world of Galidraan in the Galid system, Calaron sector. This is an Emergency Relief Request under the terms defined in articles 1,245b and 2,932a of the Galactic Constitution.

    "We are being attacked by unidentified forces and we lack the means to defend ourselves. If somebody is listening, I beg you to save us from these criminal invaders who threaten our lifes and property.

    "There was no warning or provocation. Our first contact with the invaders was thirty nine standard hours ago, when our scopes detected the arrival of fourteen ships in the outskirts of our system. They didn't answer our hails or tried to contact us themselves. We ignore their identity or origin, although their arrival vectors suggests that the enemy ships jumped from somewhere beyond the border of Hutt space.

    "When visual contact confirmed that we were dealing with warships of several different types, one of our patrol ships was launched to intercept this fleet and ascertain the reasons for its presence in our system. The last transmission from the patrol ship warned us that they were being boarded by hostile forces. We have no further information about the condition of our people, but we fear the worst.

    "Mere minutes later, the enemy vessels deployed around our planet and started destroying our orbital assets, including weather satellites and our lone hyperwave transceiver, leaving the emergency subspace emitter that is being used to send this distress call as our only way to communicate with the rest of the galaxy.

    "At the moment, the warships haven't yet attacked any targets in the surface, but all attempts to breach their blockade have ended with the capture of our ships. Also, thirty hours ago the invaders launched dozens of landing craft that carried hundreds of battledroids and an unknown number of humanoid soldiers.

    "Our security forces have managed to destroy most of the battledroids at high cost, but several targets, including our energy network, have suffered extensive damage and it seems that the droids were only a diversion meant to soften us up for the real attack. The rest of the enemy troops have banded together in half a dozen groups that are rampaging through our settlements.

    "We don't know who they are, what they want and why they have attacked us. We know that thousands of our citizens have died already, that precious equipment worth millions of credits has been ruthlessly destroyed and that the very survival of this colony is at stake.

    "Please help us."


    "How cheering," muttered a grim-faced master Dooku after the message ended.

    Obviously, Enok Faer had tried to make a tearjerking message and, if even half of what he described was true, he could hardly be faulted for it.

    But Dooku had walked through the corpse-strewn battlefields of Troiken and seen friend and foe alike devoured alive by insectoid monsters released by a glory hound, who had later been declared a hero. After that, he had precious few tears left to spare for the woes of yet another Force forsaken world.

    Duty was duty, though, and his mission as one of the sworn protectors of the Galactic Republic was clear enough here. At least, protecting innocent lifes was a more dignified mission for a Jedi than babysitting the fishmen of Maramere in their dealings with the Trade Federation.

    It was almost certain that there was a lot more going on than what the message reported. Fourteen warships? The message had identified two Invincible class battleships, three heavily modified Besadii class frigates and a hodgepodge of escorts of half a dozen different types. A substantial amount of naval power, even for the standards of the Core World, and an utterly bizarre level of overkill against a defenceless backwater like Galidraan, particularly considering the sheer cost of putting that many warships on the move.

    They didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle. Not yet. But there would be time to discover the missing piece during the next few days. It would take some time to form the taskforce and some more to turn it into something resembling a cohesive unit. Time enough to make some preparations and discover hidden secrets.


    May 17, 2006
    VII- The White Knight (part 2) - Rendezvous

    Nothing bigger than some small asteroids moved around the red dwarf star. It wasn't too far removed from the Triellus trade route, but its system contained no resources of interest, planets for settlement or any strategic importance whatsoever. So utterly unremarkable it was, that instead of an actual name it had only a catalogue designation formed by two dozen characters that had been assigned by the automated scoutships that had first prospected the area.

    Uninteresting and out of the way, perfect for the discreet gathering of a Jedi task force. In the end, thirty two Jedi -including Dooku and Komari- had been contacted and commanded to proceed at best possible speed towards the rendezvous coordinates, which was a few more than Dooku had expected for this operation. Unfortunately, he was the only master among the thirty two, which was less than he had hoped for. Alas, all the other masters close enough to join the task force in time were involved in sensitive matters that couldn't be postponed and they would have to make do with what they had at hand, since Galidraan couldn't wait.

    Indeed, according to the known facts, the planet had been under attack for close to thirty seven hours now. Despite the last knights being expected to arrive within the hour, it would take at least one hundred and fifty hours to reach Galidraan itself, since the gravity distortions in the proximities of the Maw supercluster made hypertravel an exercise in frustration. Much like arranging a briefing for thirty individuals (some of them of distinctly larger than human size) in the meeting salon of a Consular, which was designed to accomodate half that many people. Fortunately, the six knights and padawans who hadn't arrived yet were present only in holographic effigy which made the thing difficult and uncomfortable instead of downright impossible. Which was, master Dooku mused, a good description of life as a Jedi. Oh well, time to begin.

    "May the wisdom and peace of the light be ours. May this be a moment of thought and words, mutual respect, nobility and unity of purpose. May we work together in trust, free from the restraints of ego and jealousy, in this hour and all others to come. Let us sit together, as equals, and may the Force be with us all."

    Technically speaking the formula was a variation of the recitation uttered by the masters of the High Council before a meeting, which echoed in turn the words first uttered by the forebears of the Jedi in Ossus, but it was a nice declaration of principles and highly effective in reminding the gathered Jedi what they were here for. The ongoing conversations stopped and the younger Jedi kept their silence. All Jedi are equals, but some are more equal than others and Dooku was the most senior, the highest ranked and the one in charge of the mission.

    "Good afternoon. We meet to discuss the specifics of the operation we are going to undertake and particularly inform everyone about some very grave complications that have arisen in the last two hours. I cede the word to Quinlan Vos, who learned of these particulars through his contacts and in doing this has rendered us a great service."

    A young human with his face painted with yellow markings grew visibly uncomfortable when all the attention zeroed in on his person. After shifting uneasily on his chair for a moment, he finally started talking with his gaze firmly on the table.

    "That was actually master Tholme's doing, master. It is just that the attacking fleet seemed too much to be piracy, smuggling or slavers, so I..."

    "You asked your former master whether he could learn something about this matter, because no living Jedi knows the going ons of the criminal side of the galaxy quite as well as he does. And your question yielded important answers that we wouldn't have learned in time otherwise. Let that be a lesson for all of us. Wisdom can be found in unconventional places, sometimes. Now, please, repeat what you explained to me earlier."

    "Yes, master. Does everyone here know what is a Trial of Supremacy?"

    Some nods, coming from Jedi who had grimaced upon hearing the words, but most of the faces around the table showed polite incomprehension.

    "I'll explain, then. A Trial of Supremacy or Kafowya Suska is a ritual way of solving disputes between Hutt clans which is arbitrated by the Hutt clan heads, what they call Council of the Ancients. Both clans in conflict choose a champion or champions that fight to the death in a battlefield chosen and belonging to the challenged clan, while mercenaries that answer directly to the Hutt council ensure that there is no outside intervention until there is a victor. The defeated clan then cedes a third of its assets to the victorious clan and a formal acknowledgement of inferiority. Of course, the defeated clan heads usually suicide or are murdered shortly afterwards."

    Understanding and grim foreboding had replaced confusion in the face of all the Jedi. No one liked the direction that the explanation had taken.

    "This invasion of Galidraan is a Trial of Supremacy. Worse, the clans in conflict appear to be Desilijic and Besadii, which are the second and third largest kajidics in the galaxy. They used to be allies of sorts to counter the influence of the Anjiliac clan, who have been the dominant players in Nal Hutta in the last half a century, but relations soured some years ago over a dispute concerning spice distribution channels and it is rumored that there were assassination attempts that made things personal. But I digress. The important part is that we probably are about to intrude on something that the Hutts consider an internal matter of the greatest importance. Why they have decided to hold the trial outside their boundaries we don't know, but we can assume that the local government is bought and paid for by one of the clans, since that's the only way that the Hutt elders would regard the planet as property of one of kajidics in conflict."

    "Thanks for the concise explanation and once again thanks for your foresight, Quinlan. This is indeed a serious matter and I shudder imagining what could have happened if we had gone in blind. Now..."

    "Excuse me, master, but has the High Council been informed?"

    Dooku focused on the questioner. It was a young umbaran knight, pretty enough by human standards in spite of her baldness... With a little effort, Dooku managed to remember her from the dossiers he had glimpsed prior to the meeting. Bien ti Vigolio, formerly padawan to master Cho Leem who inducted her into the order in unknown circumstances. Skilled practitioner of Soresu and a competent healer, but no combat experience worth speaking of. Observed to retain slightly worrisome attitudes born out of traditional Umbaran social mores. Including, of course, pathological reluctance to act openly without the express approval of those in positions of authority.

    "We have informed Coruscant, of course, but the masters can do no more than suggest caution. We have been issued a mandate to protect the lives of the people of Galidraan and, Force willing, we shall carry it out or die trying. That said, we will have to be extremely careful in every action we take once we reach the planet, since the consequences of our intervention could be far-reaching. We most definitely do not want to destabilize Hutt space or make two of their largest clans openly hostile towards the republic, if it can be helped."

    "There is a discrepancy," grunted somebody from the far end of the table in heavily accented Basic. "If outsiders are not supposed to butt in in these things and we think that the local gov is in the Hutt's pocket, why have they called for us?"

    And that would be... Neriel Urkus, one of the most experienced knights of the hodgepodge group with a Jedi career of twenty five years of service. Master level skills with a personal form of Ataru, modified to suit his non-standard Dug body shape, and above average psychokinesis. Noted to favor the brute force approach whenever possible.

    "To be honest, we do not know. The leading theory is that one of the clans is cheating to invalidate the whole process, but there is too little information to give some kind of definite answer. Coruscant might be able to give us some answers before we reach Galidraan or they might not." Dooku stopped and folded his hands under his chin, before continuing. "Regardless, we must plan assuming that no new information will be gained. Our mandate requires us to safeguard the safety of the civilian population, but it does not demand us to put an end to the fighting. Ideally, we will be able to talk our way through the blockade and convince the mercenaries and whoever they are fighting against to kill each other without harming innocents."

    A sound suspiciously similar to a loud snort came from the right. Dooku looked from the corner of his eye and waited, but the culprit apparently had decided to keep his silence after the outburst. Maybe it had been the Wookiee knight, Kirlocca? He was reputed to be wise beyond his years and disciplined, but if Dooku had learned something from his friendship with Tyvokka it was that no amount of Jedi wisdom could completely eradicate the savagery that the Kashyyykians carried in their blood.

    "As we all know too well, this is likely to fail. And fail badly. Though mercenaries that are being paid by the Hutt high council are unlikely to open fire against consular ships, they might well decide to detain us or prevent our landing until matters in the planet are resolved to their satisfaction. So rather than play into their hands, what we are going to do is..."


    "What is the point of showing me this?"

    Mace Windu's words cut the explanation of past-Dooku. The true Dooku arced his eyebrow and snapped his fingers, freezing the mindscape around them both.

    "The answer should be obvious, my friend. You have asked me 'why' and I am trying to explain, but just as I warned you this is a most complicated question to answer. Crude as it is, the saying that states that you need to put yourself into another person's shoes is correct."

    "This is not what I wanted."

    "But it is what you asked for. Did you think perchance that I woke up one morning and decided that betraying something that I had previously lived and bled for sounded like a fine idea? I had my reasons. Reasons that even with the hindsight I have now are still compelling. Some Jedi fall. I walked down the dark path and while I did not know where it led, at the beginning, I stayed the course when I could have turned back."

    "Explain those reasons, then, and spare me this parade of ghosts."

    "If you are to accept my reasons as valid, you must understand..."

    "There. Are. No. Valid. Reasons!" growled Windu, invading the Count's personal space with an angry scowl in his face. "In this memory of yours, I see seven Jedi who have died in this war, two of them by your own hand, and two more you dragged to the darkness to make them your servants. I do not know what justifications and rationalizations you have come up to quiet your conscience, but I shall never accept them."

    "Is that so? Or do you fear that there might come a time in which you might change your mind, master Windu? Because when you look into the abyss, sometimes the abyss looks back."

    "You contradict yourself."

    "But of course. Oh well, enough of this for now. Let us resume the lesson."

    And before Windu could reply, the frozen tableau returned to life.