Darth Vader: Hero of Naboo

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"Well, that's definitely a lie," Branndor remarked bluntly before turning to the pilots, paused in the midst of starting up their ships. "All of you, go! We have a battle to win!"

"Are you certain Gunray is lying?" Gavyn asked skeptically.

"If he's not, he merely believes he's telling the truth," Padme remarked, turning to Panaka. "Which means he believes he has the queen."

"I don't see Vader letting her being stolen so easily," Panaka agreed grimly.

"But why does Gunray think he's dead then?" Gavyn remarked.

"Who knows," Padme said. "It's not important. What is important is capturing Gunray and putting an end to this."

"She's right," Panaka agreed, even if he was confused by this turn of events, watching as the last of the Naboo Starfighters left the hangar. "We need to move out, now."

"But where to?" Rellen asked pointedly as he looked between the humans. "This is your palace, where would he be? The throne room still?"

"He is not."

"Fucking Moons!" Gavyn yelled as everyone turned their blasters on the robotic voice.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was not a battle droid that was still operational, but L47. The medical droid lay on its side, tilting its head to look at the organics. "The Viceroy has left the Throne Room."

They all exchanged wary looks as Padme eyed the droid. "Why would you help us?"

"Simple, Fleshling," L47 answered flatly. "The damage has caused my loyalty programs to malfunction. Thus, I am controlled only by my self-preservation protocols. The Viceroy sees me as disposable. You, however, have a need of me."

"Why should we trust you?" Gavyn asked skeptically. "For a droid, you seemed very eager to torture us."

"By design, yes. I am program to both heal and torture, human," L47 reminded. "Do you wish to know where the Viceroy is or not, Fleshlings?"

Panaka shared a look with Padme, who nodded slowly. "How do you know this anyway?" Panaka questioned.

"Medical droids like me are independent of the Lucrehulk control. Neimoidians are rather fearful of medical issues," L47 explained simply. "But I am still connected to their communications. The Viceroy is heading to the rearmost watchtower of the palace, the one most isolated."

"He's hoping he can hold up there," Branndor remarked knowingly. "It'll be tough getting in there."

"He has not arrived there yet," L47 stated as a warning. "The viceroy is making an unknown detour. It does not specify where or why. Only that all remaining droids in and around the palace are to gather at that watchtower immediately."

Padme contemplated the information for a moment before nodding. "If we survive this, I will ensure your own, Droid."

"My designation is L47, Fleshling," he corrected. "But your assurance is appreciated."

"We're not helping you until the battle is over," Panaka warned. "After all, your loyalty programs are damaged."

"This is fair," L47 granted, allowing his robotic body to go limp, almost as if he was offline.

"...Are you playing dead?" Gavyn asked in surprise.

L47 either couldn't hear him or simply refused to acknowledge the question.

"Leave him be," Padme said firmly. "We'll have to move quickly to cut Gunray off. Everyone, grab whatever equipment you can. We're leaving now"

Panaka turned with her as they started walking to the main doors of the hangar. "Do you trust that droid?" Panaka asked skeptically.

"No, but in case he's reporting to Gunray, I want them to think we believe it," Padme answered simply.

Panaka nodded in acceptance, but both of them knew each of them was more focused on the bigger question at hand.

Just what was Vader doing?

Meanwhile

Vader's collapsed body lay limp against the wall, his body unmoving and his breathing silent as smoke rose from where the blasters had scorched his shoulder. The only sound in the hall was the fading clank of droid feet.

It wasn't until the droids were out of sight that Vader reactivated his breathing, rolling his shoulders before rising to his feet again. Playing dead wasn't a tactic he was fond of, and it felt almost insulting to use it against a group of B1 battle droids.

But then again, he was mildly sure that the B1s of this era were among the only droids stupid enough to fall for his attempt at pretending to be dead.

He didn't like it, but it was unfortunately necessary.

Not because it gave him the element of surprise, or because the droids holding Sabe would lead him directly to Gunray. He didn't need any of those advantages. No, there was something much odder about this situation that warranted his attention.

Why had the droids been here at all?

This hadn't been a mere patrol group, this was three dozen droids guarding one hallway. Gunray had to have already known by now that the palace itself was under siege, by a Sith Lord no less. The droids should have been running off to either fight him or guard Gunray.

It was only by sheer luck and terrible programming that none of the droids had remained behind to keep guarding it. The Queen of Naboo was a top priority to them, after all.

But what was their priority here, in this hall?

It was a matter Vader would have put little thought into, deeming it unimportant given the situation they were in, except…

Except that the Force was calling to him, drawing him to this spot. And he could feel the Dark Side calling him towards something…something alive.

The Palace of Theed was filled with many secrets. Every Monarch had built another tower or building onto it and made their own...internal additions. According to Padme, there was once a book passed down to the Monarchs of Naboo, detailing every secret in the palace's designs. It was little surprise that Gunray might have found a few extra hiding spots.

And that was his first instinct, to assume that Gunray was here, hiding in some secret chamber. Or another Neimoidian perhaps...whoever it was, they were very afraid.

He reached out with his hand, sending the Force over the surface, rippling across it like a gust of wind, before it ceased at a segment in the wall, completely plain and bare to better appear unassuming.

He stood before the area, staring at it intently. There was some hidden way to open it, Vader knew, but he didn't care.

Without even a gesture, he forced the secret door to snap off its locks, cracks forming on the ends of the door and wall. It slid open, revealing a dark room.

Vader expected a few things; A few droids or even a droideka, Gunray sniveling for his life, even just some servants or children that had hauled up in the room for their own safety.

Therefore, he wasn't surprised to see the trembling blaster aimed at him.

But he wasn't expecting to see who was holding it.

"W-what are you?" she asked in fear. Despite that fear, she stared him down, determined not to die defenseless. "Some droid designed to torture us?"

Vader decided the best response was nonverbal; his lightsaber leaped into his hand and ignited, illuminating the dark room in the red glow.

"A Jedi?" she whispered as she tensed, but didn't fire.

"An ally of your queen, Sola Naberrie."

Meanwhile

"Oh, Rancor balls," Nym grunted as he took in the situation.

The plan had been working wonders, thanks in no small part to the droids being predictable and uncreative. Presented with an enemy on open fields, the droids were bound completely focus on the enemy in front of them, especially with the giant shields to deal with.

And even though the OOM droid obviously was smart enough to know something was up, the plan still worked more or less as they wanted. True, they wanted to get the droids closer to the forest, but the distance created between the army and their MTTs had been more than enough for Nym and the kaadu cavalry to make their charge.

He had to hand it to the Gungans, their dome shields worked rather well. And despite the issues with the technology needing two pieces to function, they had lined them up just right so that the shields had created a proper path to the hill they expected the droids to be. They almost ran out of time though, even half an hour earlier and they wouldn't have had time to camouflage the shield generators. And even the droids wouldn't be stupid enough to ignore unhidden shield generators lying out in the fields.

Even with the droidekas emerging, they hadn't been fast enough to make a difference as Nym and the Gungans poured over the nigh unguarded MTTs.

Taking out them was more vital than the Gungans could understand. The amphibians weren't stupid, but they had no idea how important the OOMs units could be in a fight. Without the yellow stripped droids, the B1s would lose whatever sense of strategy and tactics the scrapbots could muster. Clearing out the MTTs removed them, the droidekas, and extra ammo for the droids.

Not to mention, it was necessary for the larger strategy. With the droids surrounded, they were free to strike at them with a pincer maneuver, pinning them between the shields and the cavalry. Then the cavalry could regroup inside the shields, and decide the best course from there.

There was only one problem.

One of the command droids either survived or sent out a last minute order to charge the shield. Why, Nym didn't understand, nor did he care. All he knew was that the battle had turned into a complete mess.

The droids had rushed through the shields, blasters blazing. The Gungans had been surprised by the sudden change, and suffered for it. Even with their personal shields, the droids had still manages to make several holes in their lines. Close range gave the Gungans an advantage with their spears, but it also meant that the droids didn't have to worry about accuracy. When they shot, they always hit either a shield or Gungan flesh.

More worrying were the ATTs. They had rushed through and immediately fell under focused bombardment of the Boomas. But before most of them went down, their main cannons managed to fire at the shield generators. Two of the shield generators were destroyed, leaving only two domes left.

One, actually, as the Fambaas carrying another set fell with a loud, dying groan from being shot at by droids.

Four ATTs were left, three on one flank and one alone on the other.

"Whatsa we do, General? Oursa in there too!" one of the Gungans asked in alarm.

Nym frowned, readying his blaster as he held the reigns of his kaadu. "Follow my lead. We're going to attack where the droids are thickest, and try not to trample any of our own," he ordered sternly.

The Gungans looked a bit uneasy about the idea, but when Nym began the charge, they followed all the same.

Nym let out a great war cry as he began to fire at the droids, the Gungans roaring with him. Some of the droids began to fire at them, but the tanks were too preoccupied to be bothered to fire at them. Still, that didn't stop the blaster fire from killing many of the cavalry. It only took one shot to kill a rider, or the mount go tumbling from a sudden wound.

It was risky thing, riding cavalry against weapons like these, but it wasn't the first time Nym had to charge through a firing squad of droids and it won't be the last, he knew. It probably wouldn't be the last until the Trade Federation was dismantled for good and maybe not even then. That sort of clarity was something he only got in the rush of battle, in the moments before the attack truly began.

Perhaps he never wanted it to be the last time. He wasn't sure how'd he fit in a galaxy devoid of enemies to fight.

With that final thought, the charge impacted with the droids. Droids were sent flying or ran over, those that survived left easy picking for the Gungan warriors.

Nym turned his kaadu around as he came to a halt, scanning the battlefield quickly. The situation wasn't horrible, not by a long shot. The left flank was a wash, as that was where the three ATTs were. One more had been destroyed, but the droids and the two other tanks were clearing through the Gungans over there. The middle was mostly intact now that the charge had dealt with the major breach. The right flank was the only place with a shield generator still operating. The final ATT there was disab-

*BOOM!*

-stuck, the final one was evidently somehow stuck as its front end of its bottom was embedded into the dirt, but its guns were still firing. It was just outside the shield, which was ironically protecting it from the Gungan Boomas now.

More importantly, there was no new coordination or anything among the droids, just blindly shooting at the nearest targets. Still, about half of the droids were destroyed now. If they kept this pace, they could just destroy every single piece of federation scrap. But that would be very costly for the Gungans.

Thus, his next move was somewhat easy to make.

"Sol!" he called over his communicator. "I'm calling for a withdrawal! If you webbed bastards got any rounds for taking out ATTs, now's the time."

"Roger that. Try not to die out there," Sol answered back dryly.

With that, Nym turned his attention back to the battlefield. "Retreat! Back to the forest! Retreat!" he bellowed, several Gungan blowing war horns to spread the message. With that, the Gungans began to disengage and flee towards the forest.

"Binga!" he called to the Gungan that stuck closest to him this entire battle, the actual leader of the Gungan kaadu cavalry. "We're going to stall them while the rest get to the forest! Between us and the shield generator, they'll have enough time to get to cover!"

"Okey! Wesa with yous!" Binga called back, nodding with a brave look on his face.

Nym grinned savagely as he let out another war cry, gathering the kaadu-riders to him once more.

This battle was going their way, but it wasn't over.

Meanwhile

Not by a longshot.

"How long do we have?" Boba asked sternly.

"The good news is that we have one, maybe two hours before those two lucrehulks can gather at the closest location. Assuming they're both moving to a half-way point between each other," Cifo responded grimly. "The bad news is that the Clamator won't reach either of them in time."

"And fighting both of them at once would be almost impossible," Boba summarized grimly. "I have some tricks left; I can definitely take out one of them. But that final one is the real problem."

"Well, we have support coming in from the surface. The Queen and Vader are handling their end well, it appears," Cifo commented.

"That might be enough," Boba mused, thinking it over in his head. His charges would clear out more of the vultures, and their fighters should be able to handle the rest. "It doesn't matter which we go after first, just that we-"

"Attention Enemy Forces!" a voice rang over an open channel. "This is Captain Etrid of the Fooni Tiina! I wish to negotiate! Please, respond!"

Boba was neither moved nor impressed by the pleading voice invading his ship. "Are they begging or stalling?" he questioned idly.

"Both in all likelihood," Cifo remarked in distaste. "But there is no reason we can't advance and hear them out at the same time."

Boba supposed that was true, sending the signal to the others that they should aim course towards the Fooni Tiina. He switched his frequency, to hear how these "negotiations" played out.

"What do you want, Captain?" Cifo asked with distaste.

"Who are you all?! Identify yourself!" Etrid demanded, trying and failing to cover his fear with anger.

"Enemies of the Trade Federation. Again, What Do You Want?" Cifo pressed mercilessly.

Boba granted this, Cifo wasn't anywhere as cowardly as the average Neimoidian, but he certainly had some of their crueler traits.

"W-we wish to negotiate for a truce! Gunray has clearly gone mad! My crew and I can be part of this scheme no more!" Etrid declared, as if his life depended on it. And, to be fair, it did.

"You mean, you want to save your own skins," Cifo countered coldly. "What are you offering, besides your surrender?"

"I-I can convince the captain of the Krannut that this is a lost cause! With both of us in agreement, we can shut down the droid army!" Etrid offered quickly.

Well, that was a tempting offer if Boba ever heard one. The trouble was, could they trust the Neimoidians to not backstab them and reactivate the droids when they were vulnerable? Not really.

"Contact your fellow captain. Let us hear what he has to say before we agree to anything," Cifo instructed.

Boba wondered now if Cifo himself was just stalling as they flew towards the Lucrehulk.

"O-of course, right away!" Etrid answered, barking orders to his command officers in Pak Pak.

"He's telling the truth," Cifo murmured while Etrid was distracted.

"How can you tell?" Boba retorted, only vaguely surprised.

"Because he's talking about needing to get the other captain to agree to this," Cifo answered with a snort.

Right, Cifo knew the native language of his kind. Boba knew enough, but he could hardly hear Etrid's words on his end. "You think we can trust them?"

"There is no profit in backstabbing us, only more risks," Cifo mused, grunting to himself.

"I am Captain Rorn of the Krannut. To whom am I speaking? Are you the enemy leader?" a new Neimoidian voice called.

"I'm in charge of deciding if we blow you out of space, you'll have to settle for that," Cifo answered bluntly.

"I'm...not convinced I can trust any deals made with you, an unknown enemy," Rorn said defensively.

"Rorn, for the love of all the money in the galaxy, don't be stubborn with our lives!" Etrid insisted, pleaded to his fellow captain.

"That procedure was only to be used in case the droids stopped responding! Not as some mass surrender!" Rorn protested.

"Because we do not have a procedure for surrendering!" Etrid pointed out. "Rorn, you know that this is fruitless. Why else would Gunray cut off all communication with the rest of the galaxy, including the rest of the Trade Fe-GAH"

His ranting was cut short as the sound of blaster fire filled the communications line, along with the screams and cries of those being attacked. Boba frowned, his head having snapped to the audio that indicated either a problem, or a very, very bad problem.

"I am designated as OOM-8 of the Trade Federation," a droid's voice spoke up over the silence. "I am assuming command of the Lucrehulk designated as Fooni Tiina."

"...May I ask, droid, why you just gunned down every Neimoidian on the command deck?" Cifo asked, trying to maintain his calm, but clearly not expecting this...development.

Meanwhile

Plagueis was very meticulous and very careful when he felt the situation warranted it, as a Sith and a Scientist.

Disposing of Sidious's body was one such situation.

It had nothing to do with the exposure of Sheev Palpatine being a Sith Lord. No, that cat was out of the bag. His primary concern was the virus he had infected Sidious with. True, yes, he had engineered it to target Sidious, and Sidious alone. But that was before his former apprentice had literally torn open a hole in space-time and unleashed a Force Storm, flooding the planet with the Dark Side; The planet and his body.

The Dark Side promoted change, adaption in all who used it. It was not unquestionable that the virus could have mutated from such an unexpected event. Or even still be mutating. Death of the host did not mean death of the disease, after all.

Still, he felt safe in his belief that the virus had not spread to anyone as of yet. He checked his midi-chlorian levels thrice daily now, and kept Sidious's body contained: Both with the Fore and with technology. It wasn't the first time he had to use the Force like a decontamination field, and it likely wouldn't be the last.

Now Sidious's corpse and head lay in a sealed incinerator. It was a private little lab of his on one of the Moons of Muscave, a gas giant in the Coruscant system. Close enough to be able to sense Coruscant, far enough away that the Tear in the Veil didn't leave him exposed. As long as he didn't do anything overt with the Dark Side, the Jedi wouldn't be able to notice his presence.

He would have done this days ago, but he had a more important task: Sleeping for a full twenty-four hours.

He had been using the Force as a substitution for sleep for far too long. It was a mundane addiction he had fallen into, the allure of not needing to slumber for a third of a day; An appeal to every mortal with such cycles, to have more time in the day. But even the Force, even the Dark Side had limits to how well it could be used like that without detrimental effects…side effects like his stamina, or lack thereof. Without willing the Dark Side to keep his body awake and moving, he had essentially gone into a coma.

His first thought was, did the Light Side have a similar detriment for such a use, or did it simply not work as a multi-day sleep-replacement?

Obviously, the scientist in him had awoken before the Sith.

His second thought had been: Where Was Darth Vader!?

Because he was clearly gone from Coruscant. Not dead, he realized quickly. Vader was somewhere out in space, but he couldn't guess where. The chaos of gathering the Dark Side to Coruscant, letting it flow away, ripping the Veil, and the Force Storm? The Force was a mess around Coruscant. Plagueis had no idea how long it would be like this. The Dark Side would undoubted hold strong on the Works, where Sidious had died. But how much would that fade, and how fast?

An interesting thing to study, for both himself and the Jedi, but not important.

No, what was important, was again, where was Darth Vader?

That cyborg had needed more than just repairs, he needed healing and rest, much of it too. He needed a dedicated medical center to treat the many problems going on beneath that suit. But he was definitely not on Coruscant, which meant that he left. And he wasn't dead, so he had found medical aid elsewhere.

Found, or been found?

Plagueis wasn't surprised by the possibility, likelihood even that Vader had more allies in wait. But where was he going?

It took Plagueis another day to figure that out, but mostly because he was making sure that Sidious's corpse wasn't about to turn into a Force-killing plague on the galaxy. Between scans and careful testing done on the body, Plagueis kept tabs on Coruscant.

Naturally, his agents- as in the actual people in the legal employ of Hego Damask- had already been offering sympathies and aid in his name. Which was good, he paid them to make him appear as an upstanding citizen with a great deal of wealth. He went the extra miles of keeping said employees rather happy and well paid. After all, the best lies were the ones spread by people who fully believed them.

Through them, he learned of the aftermath that resulted from Sidious's Death. Everyone knew Palpatine was involved, but everyone was focused on rescue efforts right now. There were plenty of people in the levels just below the Works that had been trapped by cave-ins. Not to mention the Force Storm had played havoc on the Weather Control Systems.

Naturally, very few were still talking about the Crisis on Naboo, or that the Queen had left in the wake of the disaster drawing the full attention of the Senate.

In other news, the vote of no confidence against Valorum had been postponed indefinitely due to the emergency. With his end of term soon in the future, it was unlikely they'd bother to go through with the vote. It was a mild problem in the grand scheme of things now.

But if Vader had left, and the Queen had as well? That certainly made the mystery much less mysterious. The Sith Lord had gone off to help the Queen retake her home world.

It was just as well, Plagueis decided. Gunray had been Sidious's puppet. Severing the strings and cutting his loses with the Viceroy was for the best for now. He'd scheme and manipulate the Trade Federation later.

And thus, with all his tests and musings done, Plagueis found himself starring through the safety glass at the corpse of his former apprentice. So much time and energy, wasted. If only Sidious could let the Rule of Two go. Immortality could have been theirs.

Now it would only be his.

Pressing a button, he watched dispassionately as the body was reduce to ashes, and even those were being incinerated and cleansed to the point that no one would even be able to tell the remains had ever been of a lifeform.

It was a strange time right now.

Vader had "officially" ended the war between the Sith and the Jedi. Not that Vader had any authority to really do so, but it was a novelty in itself. Yes, he could continue his plans, he could just keep on plotting to kill all of the Jedi, but...

He glanced out and away, through the walls and into the Force.

He was a scientist at heart, and a scientist loved to see interesting situations play out, to see questions answered.

And it was a very interesting question to test: Just how long could any kind of peace exist between Jedi and Sith? How long until the Neverending War began again?

It'd be a bit boring if the answer came from his own plots against the Jedi.

Besides, even the Sith in him was wary of such a move, if only because of a very important factor:

Just what was Vader plotting, now that Sidious was dead? What were his goals for the galaxy?

Well, there was only one way to find out...

End of Chapter

And there we go. Yes, Vader played dead and look who he found. Meanwhile, the droids killed all the organics on one of the Lucrehulks. Not a lot else to say. Everything is progressing with little turns and twists as both sides struggle to come out on top. And, to top it all off, a little mention of Plagueis, who obvious had to carefully dispose of Sidious's corpse, while musing about the future and things to come.

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