Darth Vader in the Past
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Plagueis had to admit, this situation was rather beneficial to his student, from a tactical point of view. Most Force abilities, especially those of the Dark Side, required a firm and expert hold upon one's own raw power in the Force.
Sith Lightning, however, was an exception. Once one mastered the creation and launching of the attack, one only needed to control where it did NOT strike: namely themselves.
Thus the lessened control over emboldened powers was far less of an issue for Sidious than they were for Plagueis himself as he overshot a Force Jump at Sidious, using a Force Push to self-correct his path and allow him to attempt to strike a force Blast at Sidious from behind and overhead.
Sidious, however, was taking full advantage of all the handicaps this situation gave Plagueis while he could. With a rush of power to his legs, Sidous leapt away with such Force behind it that the metal floor dented where he had stood. Before his feet even touched the ground again, Sidious had spun about to face his master, with hands raised high as if to grasp something, before lurching his arms down.
Plagueis did not need to look up to know that the walkways above them were coming hurdling down from overhead. They both all but flew upwards, gliding along opposite sides of a falling and now vertical-catwalk: By the railing, he was on the top side, and Sidious on the underside. It was like a blind game of chicken, wondering who would try to strike through the thin metal separating them.
Sidious grinned savagely as he slashed his sabers through the catwalk, which turned to a scowl as he saw nothing where he had struck. An illusion?
Sidious hurled himself down, trying to outpace the suddenly accelerating higher-chunk of the catwalk, forced down tremendously by Plagueis's power as said Muun safely rode the falling debris down. With a great spin, Sidious launched himself across the room before he could be beset again. He bit his cheek in pain and throthing rage as he felt his leg muscles nearly tear from overexerting the Force enhancements. Jedi or Sith, one could only push themselves so far beyond their physical limits without at least some short term complications. It was a tender reminder that, even with the surging of the Dark Side, his power would destroy himself if he was too foolish and rash with it.
After bracing himself as his makeshift ride had collided with the floor, Plagueis hummed as he allowed Sidious to create some distance between them. He had a least another minute or two before his lightsabers would be functional again after being nullified by the cortosis. And as much as it would shatter Sidious's ego to deal with him without them, taking on someone of Sidious's skill with lightsabers and having none of his own to match was a foolish risk. No, there was no need to give his treacherous pupil any more advantages. That said, it was rather amusing and humbling how well Sidious was keeping him at bay. He was almost proud, despite the amazing spark of irrationality on the part of the Naboo-born Sith. The Son of Cosinga had truly grown well under his tutelage.
Such a waste of a Sith, but this battle had been a glorious display nonetheless.
"I don't suppose you'd accept an offer for surrender now, Plagueis?" Sidious called out, his exact location hidden behind some debris, his voice echoing all across the room.
Plagueis reconsidered that glorious commendation. "Unexpected, Sidious, but I will make your death quick and...almost painless if you no longer have the will to fight," Plagueis offered, however skeptical of such a thing from Sidious of all people.
"I meant your surrender, Master."
Plagueis felt the warning sirens rippling even as the words were spoken. With a wave of his hand, a dome of metal debris formed over his quickly conjured Force Shield, like an extra layer of armor. It was only barely formed as Palpatine's emergency ship exploded. The metal was not thick or reinforced, groaning and tearing from itself from the shock-wave of the explosion.
It was over in five seconds, by which point Plagueis dispelled his shield in a burst, sending scrap metal flying in all directions. It was a petty move, but he didn't care in this particular instance as he took in the damage. There was a crater around the scorched and still burning wreckage of the spaceship, blackened and warped beyond most recognition. The floor there was now treacherous, he sensed. It could collapse anytime. The wall it was facing, with the opening out of the building, was missing a good chunk as well. All around him the workshop was in ruins and covered in clouds of smoke and dust.
The yield of that detonation was far more than the one-man ship should have been able to produce on its own. Sidious had rigged his escape ship to be an emergency bomb, because of course he had. And of course the device was designed to also act as a smoke screen.
It was clever. Every act, every plan a potential part of a larger and ever growing scheme, parts brought together and used perfectly on the spur of the moment. Yet all of this was nothing more than a delaying tactic now. Sidious's craftiness was losing its charm as annoyance chewed at Plagueis. Not enough to interfere with this battle, but enough. His former apprentice could have been legendary, but it was obvious now that the Muun had overlooked and indulged Sidious's two major flaws.
The inferiority complex that had spawned under the harsh patriarch that was Cosinga Palpatine. A ruthless man, keeping his entire family in check through fear, and hating his eldest son for being so fearless and defiant of him, and so obviously intelligent. Truly Sidious's father, though the human Sith would never want to hear such a thing. Plagueis knew what that kind of environment could do to a young mind. It must have taken Palpatine years to realize his father would never love him. Years of not understanding why he was unloved, until one day realizing that his own accomplishments only added to the pyre that was Cosinga's hate for his own flesh and blood.
It was not Sidious's hatred for his father that was the problem, obviously. That was part of being a Sith. No, the problem was allowing how his father made him feel as a child to rule him now: It was good to strive to be better, it was reckless to always feel that one was never good enough in any instance, never advanced enough no matter how fast you had improved. Which tracked right into Sidious's other flaw. One that Plagueis believed they had made great progress in until today:
As one who had studied the biology of all types of creatures extensively as part of his research into the Force, Plagueis knew that there was actually a problem with trying to improve too fast. In the physical, the body needed time to adapt. Muscles had to heal before they could get stronger without tearing too far. With the mind, well, retention was like a bucket with a drain at the bottom; pour too quickly into the bucket and what you learned will flow over the edge as a mind takes in too much at once. But with the Force? One's abilities could grow unwieldy and dangerous to themselves as they grew beyond the user's control. It was almost analogous to cancer in a way. He supposed that was where the Jedi got their view of the Dark Side.
It was that same inferiority complex that would not allow Sidious to accept the idea of any kind of alliance with Vader. It was the impatience that led to betraying his master in such a paranoid fashion.
Darth Vader may have applied the pressure, but Sidious had done this to himself in the end.
With an eerie calmness, Plagueis grasped the mask over his mouth, pulling it down. With a soft, almost peaceful exhale, the dust and smoke began to push itself out the opening. As the room cleared more and more, smoke flowing out like a river, Plagueis affixed the breathing mask back on and watched for any sign of Sidious. Not just with his eyes, but with the Force. The human's signature had dampened itself during the explosion in a bid to hide his exact location.
With a scowl, he flicked his hand. From within the smoke, near the opening, Sidious went flying across the room to the other end. Did Sidious truly believe he could flee so easily?
Plagueis scowled harder when he saw Sidious skidded across the floor ungracefully, when he did NOT feel Sidious re-surging his powers now that he was uncovered. As the human Sith rose with a familiar yet uncanny growl upon his face, Plagueis was utterly baffled by how unfazed Sidious felt as opposed to how he looked.
"What are you playing at?" Plagueis asked under his breath as he watched Sidious draw his lightsabers once more-
Plagueis blinked as he realized instantly that those were not the same sabers Sidious had been using moments ago. They were a different design, subtly different coloring of the metals as well. Just enough for him to notice.
Sidious charged, but not fast enough. Nowhere near fast enough.
Plagueis held up his hand, just one, and clenched his fist. The Sidious before him flickered away, revealing a training droid with a crushed torso that had some amulet attached to it. One of Sith origin, he knew, with enough of the Dark Side surrounding it that it might be mistaken for a Dark Sider trying yet failing to hide.
Plagueis was not intimidated but he was very shocked all the same as he heard dozens of lightsabers igniting, seeing red glows illuminate no less than twenty copies of Sidious as they emerged from the fog. Each one possessing a Sith artifact to hide just who was the real Sith Lord among the impostors.
"I obviously have given you far too much free time, Sidious."
Just like that, they pounced.
As they closed in around him, time slowed for the Dark Lord of the Sith. He mentally calculated how long he had to avoid so many lightsabers before his own weapons were functioning again. They might work now, but these droids were assuredly programmed for lightsaber duels, and Sidious was certainly among them somewhere. The split second it took him to grasp and ignite his lightsabers could be deadly, more so if they were not in fact functioning.
That was his conclusion. Thirty seconds before even it would be beyond even the most prolonged known effect of cortosis on lightsabers. He could just take a lightsaber from these droids, true, but he would be surprised if they weren't somehow sabotaged or booby-trapped. He sincerely didn't trust anything from Sidious right now.
At least not with his own hands.
He leapt forward, conjuring a destructive Force wave that disintegrated the torsos of four in front of him. Dissipating the attack, he used the Force to grasp five droid arms that still had ignited lightsabers, bringing them up as a defensive wall against the remaining Sidiroids.
It only stalled them for an instant, five locking blades with the floating sabers with the rest went around or even leapt over the wall. They fought with Sidious's style, but they certainly couldn't think or plan like him. He released the limbs, using his powers to crush two more of the droids before throwing both into a third.
He conjured up a Force Shield, scowling as he tried to hold back ten, no, fifteen lightsabers pushing against his defense. It would not hold, but it would not have to. He pulled the body of the first Sidious-droid to him, scrapping it across the floor until it was in front of him. He dispelled the shield with a pulse, stunning them for an instant. An instant in which he brought the broken droid up in front of him and clapped his hands, unleashing a Force-empowered sonic wave that tore the droid apart and sent the metal flying, turning the small pieces into deadly projectiles that ripped through his foes. Yet only two more were truly brought down, while another three of the dual-wielders lost one of their lightsaber arms- along with them and four others losing their hologram capability.
Six had fled around before his attack to try and encircle him. Three on each side, but more importantly, these were the last that were still cloaked to look like Sidious. Unless his wayward student was not even among them, that meant about a seventeen percent chance that one of them was him. Having no time to consider that possibility further, he found himself dodging and using the Force to repel the lightsabers of the six, even causing two droids to stab one another with a twist of the Force. He kept his defenses tight, realizing that Sidious had programmed them to target his oxygen tank. He could survive without it, for a while, sustained only by the Force. But it was one more weakness he could not afford at the moment.
The seven decloaked machines joined the fray and Plagueis found himself growing weary of defensive close combat. He leapt away from the Fake-Sidious bots, but towards the decloaked ones. There was an instant in which their programming altered, having not anticipated his sudden charge. The best combat droids have a reaction time often faster than the average organic, yet falling short compared to one tuned to the force. In the imperceptible gap of time, Plagueis placed his finger tips on the chests of two droids as they swung an instant too slow to touch him: finger tips charged with Sith Lightning.
As he flew by, the two droids falling with fried systems; he knew the rest were now all right upon his trail. He leapt high, pieces of debris floating up to give him perches to leap further up. He didn't need to look to see that the droids were following him. Which he was counting on. It was only after eight leaps and make-shift platforms that he neared the ceiling.
He looked back down, the gap between him and the mechanical hunting pack rapidly closing. With one final leap, he sent all the floating debris shooting down. But while the droids could not sense the Force, they could detect their precarious perches giving way, giving them just time to jump upwards towards Plagueis, as high as their servos would push them.
Plagueis's lightsabers shot into his hands.
His feet touched the ceiling.
The sabers ignited.
As a wind of death and destruction, he glided through them, among them as he fell. Like a ghost, no blade ever had a chance of touching him, regardless of distance. The broken shells were still rising from their own momentum as limbs were served, torsos cleaved and heads destroyed each with single scorching slashs.
Plagueis landed in a crouch, distinctly hearing the many metal parts clanking and banging as they landed. A leg nearly fell on him before he casually moved its trajectory to his right. He savored a moment, taking a deep breath of oxygen, before turning to confirm his suspicion. He knew the difference between a lightsaber cutting through metal and flesh: the smell of materials burning, the feel in his lightsaber from the different types of resistance, the sound of metal melting and flesh burning. He knew them well.
There was no flesh among the droids, only scrap. And one lightsaber that refused to deactivate. He eyed that one oddly. Was this another trap or a simply malfunction? Sith or Jedi, lightsabers were designed to automatically turn off without a proper pressure of a grip on the hilt. It just wasn't a good idea to have those things accidentally burning through floors and damaging something important- like breaking the hull of a spaceship. But some things occasionally don't work right, even lightsabers, and he doubted Sidious put great care into making the lightsabers for these decoys of himself.
Deciding to just be done with the situation, he Force-flung the saber out of the building, deactivating it mid-flight. It didn't blow up, but he didn't take that as proof of anything. Sidious had definitely been given too much free time to be able to manage all of this. He was objectively impressed he found the time between his political persona and their works as Sith Lords.
He turned his suspicions to the rest of the room, scattered and disarrayed from the explosion. With a glare, finally done humoring this game, every item on the floor went skidding across to one side of the room. Just as he suspected, below where a pile of debris had hidden it, was a hole in the floor. It was obviously made by lightsabers, Sidious having used the ship's explosion as cover to make his escape.
"My surrender indeed, Sidious," he murmured in distaste. The Naboo-born Sith was no doubt far away from this spot now, But he was done chasing Sidious through the maze that was their secret base. No, he'd much rather be where Sidious was going rather than follow where he had been.
His eyes traveled over to the opening, recalling how one of the droids had tried to escape. If they were a distraction, why head that way? Lead him away as their master scurried inward to some other predesignated escape room? No, no, that was exactly what Sidious would want him to conclude. Of course, there was another reason the droids might be trying to get out of the building. Just one other reason.
Plagueis leapt up onto the opening, peering down over the side down to the Works below. His keen eyes in the Force saw it rather quickly. The black streak rapidly leaping down the building. If Sidious escaped into the maze that was the old abandoned industrial section of Coruscant, Plagueis knew he could easily slip through his fingers and eventually into the vastness of space. Oh, he could find his former apprentice again in time but the damage Sidious could do to his plans, either out of spite or to usurp Plagueis's power over time, was unacceptable and intolerable.
Below, Darth Sidious gritted his teeth. He was fleeing. There was no other word for it, he was running away with his tail between his legs. He had struck at a king and failed to kill him. There was no point during this entire exchange that he truly had a chance. All of the traps that would surely kill the Muun had been noticed and side stepped. The ones that he had been able to use had only briefly slowed down Plagueis. No, it was obvious now that his now-former Master would not fall today to Sidious's power or his cunning. He would have to flee and wait, to hone his abilities until the gap between their respective might had been reduced.
He wasn't sure what he would do just yet. He couldn't remain as Senator Palpatine. No, that persona surely died tonight. Remaining on Coruscant was essentially a death sentence, and Plagueis would cover up his disappearance well before Sidious could relay his fabricated story. He'd have to weigh the pros and cons later of reaching out as the senator, hiding from assassins. Could he destroy Hego Damask's reputation and public power without exposing them both as Sith? Could he expose Plagueis without exposing himself?
All questions with complicated answers, further tangled by the sheer existence of Darth Vader.
Oh, how that man's name wracked his body with rage. He had been played, so thoroughly. Vader knew who he was, knew his intent, and had knowingly goaded him with his sheer presence. Provoked him to misstep, to betray Plagueis prematurely. It was infuriating. And admirable, Sidious had to privately admit. The Third Sith Lord had wielded the unknown nature of his existence like a weapon, as much as any lightsaber. A saber that cut through the walls and shields of the mind and of the self. Because Vader knew, surely, how his emergence would disturb all around him: The Jedi who believed the Sith gone, the Order of Bane who thought themselves alone, and the Galaxy at large that had no idea how take him.
Darth Vader was a Sith Lord, Sidious conceded. He saw every stumble, every misstep of all around him and seized the opening they didn't know existed.
If he wasn't so wrathful about being the one who stumbled the most, he might have actually smiled. That thinking, that planning was very much like himself in a way. Mercilessly yet seamlessly opportunistic. Oh, if Sidious hadn't suspected treachery from Plagueis, he might have enjoyed a rivalry with Vader, a secret war between two Siths, one hidden and the other exposed. Not an alliance, no. Vader was correct in that, they could never coexist as allies, as equals. Sidious could never tolerate working with one who thought similarly enough to himself to know Sidious so well, to see who Sidious really was, yet be so dissimilar in goal and means. Only as a servant could one tolerate the other, and Sidious would never pretend to serve another after Plagueis. And while Sidious could not deduce the source, the connection between himself and Vader, the cyborg had made his hatred for the Apprentice of Plagueis obvious.
But these revelations only made his hate overflow more! Everything he had built and planned for years! All the connections he had made, the loyalties he had fostered, the potential he had found and cultivated in others! All ground work for HIS Galactic Empire! And all toppled by this one man in such a little time with so very little effort. Because Vader knew how to make people destroy themselves in fear of him, in fear of what he might represent to a given person. The Return of the Sith for the Jedi, and the Secret Replacement for Sidious.
The Mystery of Vader was likely far more dangerous than the truth. A truth would make him certain, finite, and known. Even if that truth was false, it was something to label him as, to quantify him. But a mystery was terrifying. It could be anything, with every vague hint leading to a greater unrealized nightmare than the last.
A true phantom menace, in a way.
Sidious finally reached down past the roofs of the Flats, into a path down between the LiMerge Building and the other buildings, and found a hatch that would lead deeper into the maze of factories and power plants. Many still running on automatic systems long after they were abandoned, the district overrun with gangsters, malfunctioning droids, smugglers and the homeless. A perfect place to disappear.
He stopped, however, feeling something was off. Had this hatch always had this design on its surface? Had ripped electric wires hung from the decaying walls like that last time he ventured here?
His eyes widened as the hatch opened on its own.
And the hand of a Muun shot forth, the Force flinging Sidious off his feet. He growled as he stood, seeing Plagueis jump from the hole and land on the-
-surface of the Flats?
Something cold washed through Sidious as he gazed over his new surroundings: the vast district, the night sky overhead dotted with the lights of various ships entering and leaving the atmosphere. He had never been in the pathways below the top of these buildings. He had been moving "down" for far too long, and had started leaping forward without ever realizing it. There had never been a hatch. Plagueis had never leapt from it, he had been standing right in front of him this whole time.
Plagueis tilted his head as Sidious glared at him, as if he didn't know what the question meant. But Sidious knew his former master was perfectly aware of his intent. He was just forcing him to elaborate.
"How long have you been using your illusions on me?!" Sidious spat with hatred and fury and- something. Something he tried to push away and smother, but it was eating him alive from the inside out.
Plagueis's eyebrow quirked, acting as though that were answer enough, but Sidious wouldn't accept just a nonverbal declaration. In response, Plagueis held up a lightsaber with the force, unlit. Sidious's lightsaber, to be exact. The younger Sith instantly summoned both lightsabers he knew were on his own person, looking at one of them.
One that was exactly the same as the one Plagueis held.
The same one he had taken back from Plagueis.
The same one he believed he killed Plagueis with.
But that had been an illusion.
An illusion Plagueis created at his weakest, after relinquishing his hold on the Dark Side for Vader's March.
Sensing Sidious's dawning comprehension, Plagueis waved his hand, the saber in the Muun's grasp vanishing like smoke and ash.
The lightsabers in Sidious's hands never felt so meaningless as they did now.
"When, exactly, Sidious, did you believe I wasn't using my illusions on you?"
Sidious stepped back. He couldn't help it. It wasn't true, not likely. But the mere fact it could be, that he wasn't sure how much of this battle had been real? That left him bare to those icy tendrils.
Plagueis smiled, and it was the smile of a teacher whose student was finally catching onto a valuable lesson. And the smile of a sarlacc catching its latest victim. "And at last you understand, my former apprentice. Fear can only be properly taught through despair."
Sidious's gaze remained on him, and for a fragment in eternity, Plagueis could feel Sidious's violent pressence grow still in the Force.
End of Chapter
Okay, well, there we go! The bulk of the Plagueis V Sidious fight. And yes, that was an Aizen reference. Couldn't resist. And yes, Plagueis, you definitely gave Sidious too much free time. Though, I'll be honest, I came up with the robots having sith artificats on them off the top of my head for this fight. Rather fun to write.
And no, Plagueis is NOT being paranoid about not using Sidious's lightsabers. I do NOT want to know what kind of bomb a lightsaber can be turned into! Well, I do, just not first hand, lol. I also made up the thing about a grip-sensor thing in lightsabers as my headcanon for why they turn off when dropped or when their user dies- which makes sense, those things could do a lot of damage if left on, sinking and slicing through anything. If that's actually canon, I never came across it, but wouldn't be surprised.
Anyway, not much else to say. Was kind of nice to write Sidious giving some credit due to Vader, albeit hatefully. Though, I think he is correct in general- Vader always has weilded his pressence and mystery like a subtle weapon, even in canon. It also showed that Sidious is still intellegent and cunning under his fury.
Hope you all enjoyed this. Almost to Chapter 20! As always, if you want to, please consider tipping to my pat-reon or my Go Fund Me. If not, I understand. Especially in these times. Stay safe in this coronavirus mess everyone!
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