For the fantastic RKB, the recommendation of a drunk Palpatine and Mace Windu was too good to pass up.
Short Story Challenge: Palpatine and Mace Windu
Theme: Drink Me
Timeframe: Between the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, before the Clone Wars
Palpatine stared down at the drink in the senator's furry hand and pondered the many strange pitfalls of the diplomatic stage. Refuse the drink, and he risked serious offense to the ruling family, whose members hovered on the edges of their thrones just beyond the towering senator's turned back. Take the drink, and he would be forced to appear intoxicated due to the known extreme potency of the liquor.
The chamber stayed silent as the cup hovered before him, then he lifted his blue eyes to King Grakchawwaa and smiled. The genial expression remained fixed to his face as he took the tall cup in hand and lifted it in acknowledgement to the massive Wookie monarch.
The king tilted his shaggy head and barked, pleased, as the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic tipped the cup back and took a long drink, ringed at a respectful distance by half a dozen of his red-robed guards.
Beside him, the protocol droid rotated its dark head and intoned, "King Grakchawwaa welcomes you gladly to Kashyyyk and hopes that the ensuing conversation will be beneficial to all."
Palpatine barely held back a grimace of disgust as the fungus-based accarrgm slid like molten fire down his throat. Under his confident smile, he gritted his teeth. Through his regular practice of the Sith alchemical arts, he faced no obstacle other than the drink's discomforting heat. However, the Wookie council and the Jedi master at his side could not be made aware of this.
He knew he had an hour at most before his best acting would be required, so he suppressed a hoarse cough and handed the cup to Master Windu. They shared a brief and mutual look of resignation before the Korun master took a deep draught as well.
The Wookies showed surprising purpose in this strange ritual that dated back thousands of years. They believed that an inebriated being held no malevolent secrets, and thus could be trusted in the process of forging alliances and friendships. One had to drink with a Wookie to gain a Wookie's confidence.
Windu had loathed the idea, respectfully arguing against their participation ever since leaving Coruscant. Palpatine bore his complaints with infinite patience, explaining the need to impress upon the Wookies the seriousness of the coming dissension with Count Dooku and his ilk. Already, he revealed, his intelligence agents possessed evidence that Dooku sought an alliance with Kashyyyk and its outlying moons. The need for securing Kashyyyk's loyalty to the Republic was imperative.
Windu folded at last, though he protested anew when he was instructed that he could not use the Force to purge his system of the alcohol's effects, or he would risk derailing the talks before they began.
"They may not look it," Palpatine had cheerfully informed him, inwardly delighting in Windu's indignant expression, "but Wookies are by and by a sensitive people. Such an action would indicate that you are unwilling to share your trust with them."
And so the Jedi had capitulated at last, with only a stern and foreboding, "I have a bad feeling about this."
In the present, the Wookie senator now took the cup back and carried it to King Grakchawwaa, who drained it to the bottom and released a low roar of approval. His family members carried the howl for several more minutes, then all stood together.
One of the guards beckoned them forward, to a smaller room adjoining the throne chambers. Here, the souls of all would be revealed, or so the Wookies thought. Only the king, the chancellor, and the Jedi master entered with Palpatine's protocol droid, the door sealing behind them.
His thoughts were drifting to the more macabre with time.
That was the first sign that something had gone wrong.
Sitting next to the stern Jedi master and across from the king, he'd put on a grand show of slow inebriation, until he realized with discomfort that his performance was only partially acting. Some unknown element of the powerful accarrgm had managed to override his preparations from the night before, and he found himself in an alarming position on the edge of drunkenness.
He also found himself growing progressively quieter as the meeting wore on, half afraid of what he might say at any moment to the irritating pests around him. He allowed Mace Windu to carry most of the conversation with Grakchawwaa and the protocol droid, chiming in with an occasional hearty encouragement or entreaty but shoving equally dark and sarcastic thoughts below the surface at the same time. Damage control.
Mace Windu struggled with his own challenges, his stern nature and uncompromising views slowly unfolding to reveal a gentler version. His hard brow line had softened, and he studied both the king and the chancellor openly, and sometimes the protocol droid as well. (Protocol droids were not usually capable of displaying nervousness, but this one had mastered an impressive mimicry over the course of the meeting.) Windu's words came slowly, with great weight behind each thought. Clearly, he loved the Republic, and he wanted them to feel the same dedication to the "herd."
Their goal to convince Grakchawwaa to come to the side of the Republic in the case of war faded into the background as the Wookie king skillfully redirected the conversation time and time again. Palpatine knew what he was doing, knew they were being set at ease only to be exposed and studied at leisure.
He watched as the furry monarch pressed Mace Windu into accepting another glass of wine, a gentler potion than the accarrgm but still outrageously strong. Of course, coming into this diplomatic mission, he had foreseen that the Wookie king would resist a clear commitment. He would require a full and detailed courting before agreeing to serve them, and perhaps a tragic situation or two. Lord Sidious would need to speak with Dooku before too long.
After nearly half a standard hour of Palpatine biting his tongue and Mace elaborating on the joys of herd kinship, the Wookie king rose and bid his esteemed guests a good evening. Both Palpatine and Mace Windu rose with difficulty and followed the Wookie sentries to the guest chambers, a long series of rooms ranging from entire dining halls to individual bedrooms and baths. The whole organic complex was tightly secured by clone commandos and the Red Guard, every entrance monitored and sealed against intruders.
There would be more talking tomorrow. Leaving his guards at the entrance, Palpatine browsed down the long, dimly lit hallway, Windu stumping along beside. The Jedi master still held a half-full glass of wine in his left hand. "Doesn't he know we have the best interests of the Wookies in mind?" The Jedi asked, forlorn and unimpressed with the progress they had made. "The herd must stay together."
"I'm sure he does," Palpatine nodded, sick to death of the 'herd' and feeling that his smile had become rather stuck on by now. "But you know, I suppose Count Dooku is rather talented in the persuasive arts."
"You do?" Windu's eyebrows lifted high in befuddlement.
Palpatine worried for a moment before his confidence returned. "I would say so, based on the holofeeds he's been producing lately. More and more star systems appear to be drawn to him of late."
Windu stopped at the edge of a window overlooking the earthy courtyard in the fork of the massive tree below, took a sip from his cup, his previous resistance to the alcohol forgotten. "Didn't you speak with him before you became Chancellor?"
"Often," Palpatine admitted after a long pause. "But our talks tended toward the more philosophical. We stayed away from arguing too much politics, as you might expect." Mostly true, the philosophy was one of the aspects that he most enjoyed about his elderly apprentice.
"Hm," Windu hummed, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. "I used to admire him, you know, like I admire you."
That was news to him. The Jedi admired him…? How interesting. "Me? Really."
Windu turned unsteadily away from the window. "Yes, you know how to get things done for the Republic. Your office isn't extravagant, and unlike most of the…politicians I know," and here his voice dipped even lower with ill-disguised disgust, "you don't engage in the more questionable activities of the Senate."
Palpatine grinned. "Oh, those…"
Windu grimaced. "Yes, those."
"I can see how Jedi sensibilities might be offended," Palpatine carefully placed one shiny black boot in front of the other, picking his way down the long hall, which seemed to sway from side to side. Weren't Wookie treehouses supposed to be more secure than this? Behind him, he could hear Windu following. Go home. You're drunk. "Master Windu…
With little warning, the Jedi Master appeared at his left side. Even intoxicated, the Jedi were light on their feet. "Yes, Chancellor?"
"He won't give in easily."
Windu shook his shiny head. "We just need time. You'll talk him around. Tell him about the herd."
"I daresay he's already heard a fair bit about that," Palpatine blinked several times. Where was this sudden surge of confidence in the Chancellor of the Republic coming from? The lights flickered, or perhaps that was the alcohol making itself known. It was getting worse, he could feel the slow ooze of indifferent laziness setting in.
And he really was very tired of hearing Windu's drunken bleating about the sanctity of the Republic and the dedication each world carried to it. He wanted to tell the Council member exactly where he could stuff his beloved theories -
Oh. Not good.
Windu glanced at him curiously when his jaw snapped shut, and he spun on his heel to continue walking, nearly spinning himself straight into the nearest wall. Blasted equilibrium. See if he came back to this allergic fuzzball of a planet again...
Windu walked at his side and continued to wax philosophical in a way the Jedi Master would never do if sober. He talked of the holofeeds, how Dooku wasn't nearly the political idealist he thought he was, how Palpatine could lead the Republic back to the Golden Age – Ha! As if – how the Jedi were at his service in his selfless pursuit of justice and unity, and on. And on. And on. How long could a single hallway be?
Really rather sickening, the amount of sentimental mush for the Republic coming out of the man's mouth. Palpatine could count on one hand the number of times he had been well and truly drunk, and he knew his patience was close to running out. When Windu began to expound on the benefits of an austere existence, like the lifestyle exemplified by the Chancellor's office back on Coruscant, Palpatine's left eye twitched.
He rounded on the oblivious Jedi when they reached the door to the Master's living quarters.
"You know," Palpatine felt his words slurring together slightly, but he couldn't quite care, "you don't have to be drunk. You can do that Force…thing." He waved one hand vaguely, faintly surprised to discover that his eloquent vocabulary was rapidly disintegrating. And why on Korriban was he giving the Jedi master advice?
Mace Windu must have wondered the same. He stared at him blankly. "The what?"
He pointed at the lightsaber on Windu's belt. "The Force?"
By the Old Sith Empire, the Wookies liked it warm in their dwellings! He pulled quietly at his high, tight collar as Windu kept staring at him.
Suddenly, the Jedi master started. "The Force! I have the Force." A childlike expression of wonder crossed his stern features. "I'm a Jedi."
Palpatine barely suppressed an insane urge to cackle. He was sure the malevolence would be quite impossible to hide. "Yesss, yes you are. And I am…am…certain that I should take my leave before we say something we might both regret."
Like how I want to decorate this hallway with your internal organs. Your eyes would look lovely on the ceiling, and I do enjoy a crimson wallpaper now and then. He coughed to camouflage the dark joy that bubbled up in his throat.
Windu was still staring at him, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Chancellor, I thought you were making a very bad mistake when you accepted this invitation, but now I see." He stopped.
"See what?" It was Palpatine's turn to be confused, and highly disturbed by that smile.
Windu leaned close, the accarrgm on his breath almost overpowering. "Everything," the Jedi master breathed. Then he rocked back on his booted feet. "Everything, the universe, the Force, we are all one." Was that a tear in his dark eye? No, please not that… "The ultimate herd… By the Force, we're all one, Chancellor," and abruptly he was reaching out and catching the politician up in a fierce hug.
The six gates of Chaos!
Palpatine finally managed to squirm loose, shuddering with the disgustingly light aftereffects of Windu's drunken benevolence. He turned the Jedi by the shoulders and pushed him firmly through the door of his quarters. "Whatever you say, Master Jedi. Just get some rest, for all our sakes."
Windu stumbled inside without protest, the door swishing shut behind him, and Palpatine sagged against it momentarily. He ought to be more alarmed that his alchemy had not accounted for all the effects of the alcohol. He ought to return to his quarters and purge his own system with his newly gained knowledge.
He ought to follow up on the insights of the conversation with King Grakchawwaa…
But he was so warm, and the door felt incredibly comfortable, and he really was quite tired after all. He would stay only a moment longer, then he would move along.
The Force was his ally in many ways, Mace Windu reflected the next morning as he washed his hands and face in the wooden serving bowl. Perhaps the greatest service it would lend him today was a masking dullness over the headache that threatened to split his skull. He felt like a Padawan again, and half feared that Master Yoda would appear in the doorway with a disapproving smirk.
How embarrassing for himself, and potentially the Jedi Council, if word of this fiasco got out. He could not even remember how he had arrived at his suite the night before.
He dried his hands and moved to the door. He would need to locate the Chancellor and discuss the disastrous diplomatic situation of yesterday. It swished open, and he nearly fell on top of his quarry, the leader of the free worlds lying in a boneless pile of expensive veda cloth and shimmersilk, fast asleep.
Palpatine groaned as Mace's boot caught him in the ribs.
"Chancellor!" Horrified, Mace Windu reached down and helped the older man to his feet. "Are you all right?"
Palpatine blinked against the morning light. "What do they put in that drink?" he grumbled, squinting and wincing. He eyed the Jedi master with something akin to suspicion. "You're looking none the worse for wear."
"The Force is my ally," Mace told him, wondering what it might be like to face the world when Force-blind, as Palpatine was. Perhaps it took a strange sort of courage of its own.
"And a powerful ally it appears to be," the Chancellor muttered, shuttering his eyes from the morning light with a pale hand. "You were right. This was a mistake. If King Grakchawwaa continues to waffle after this, I'll not be held responsible for my actions," but he smiled briefly to show that his claim held no weight. "Not a word of this to anyone, Master Windu, do I have your assurance?"
"I serve at the pleasure of the Chancellor," Mace bowed his head, solemn and courteous. He watched the Chancellor tenderly weave his way down the hallway to his own quarters, every step cautiously taken. Not a word, Mace nodded, but the memory of this moment might bring a smile now and then, when no one else could see him.
When RKB suggested this, I thought immediately of the rituals and traditions that our own world leaders participate in when they visit other nations (sometimes quite undignified according to the homebase culture), and I imagined that much the same happens in the GFFA. Being the leader of the Republic, Palpatine no doubt experiences his fair share of awkward rituals and presentations.
Also, in the Shatterpoint novel set during the Clone Wars, Mace Windu is practically a Palpatine fan-boy, so when he's drunk a bit of that slips out. Seriously, check it out, Mace is all impressed and even thinks Palpatine would have made a "fine Jedi" and admits that he admires him. Poor clueless Mace. :)
Apologies for any typos or errors within. Leave a review if you would like. :)