Epilogue of the Light Side
Do not mistake Peace for Quiet.
Anakin was pretty sure that was something Darth Vader said. When and where he heard it himself, he wasn't sure, but it sounded like him. He didn't know why, but it came to mind when looking out the window of the temple, over the vast cityscape.
The former slave vividly remembered when he first laid eyes on the planet-sized city. It bustled with energy, hovercrafts flying about like swarms of endless flies, seas of people walking at all levels of the city. But things had been slow to recover, since the March happened and the Storm ended. At least, near the Temple. He was sure things were more...normal in other areas of the planet, but here? There was a lot less traffic, with many large ships and machines flying about to help move large chunks of debris. It was a steady thing, and Jedi could see it in the distance from the Temple.
The energy was dulled now, subdued. Just like having to rest after an injury, the center of the Republic was in a state of recovery now. Everyone wondered why this happened, and why it had to happen. The Jedi Knights and Masters tried not to let it worry the rest of the temple, but even Anakin had heard the talks going about. And he truly didn't have any answers. The March on the Temple, Vader was trying to make a point of some kind. He got that. Didn't entirely understand it yet, but he probably would when he was older, or so he hoped.
But the Storm, well, that was simple. A very bad man wanted to hurt a lot of people before he died. That was the simple way of putting it, he knew, but it was still the truth. He remembered when he was lost in the Force...and he had seen the red-hot hatred Vader had for the man causing the Storm. For a moment, Anakin had reached out and felt the Old Man in the Storm, surprising him even.
But something deep in Anakin told him that this was always going to happen. That Old Man would always bring a storm because he was like the worst kind of person on Tatooine. The kind that wanted to hurt people, just to hurt people; the ones that found enjoyment in that, somehow.
Anakin sometimes shivered in the night, knowing that this was not the storm the Old Man wanted to bring. Anakin couldn't and didn't want to imagine what huge and horrible thing the Old Man wanted to unleash.
He looked about, finding two of the younglings running towards him. "Assa, Claern," he called back as they raced up to him excitedly. "What's gotten you two running about?"
"Master Nannar sent us!" Assa answered eagerly.
"Master Yoda is looking for you," Claern finished.
Anakin tilted his head. He was...technically part of the Jedi Order. But what to do with him was...in flux? Undecided? Undecided was a good word. And Anakin understood why, somewhat. He was older than most of the younglings but hadn't been taught as they had. So he was a strange case for them.
And they were all busy dealing with...whatever had happened, with the Storm, with Vader. A lot of people had been hurt and a lot more were scared now.
"Thanks, both of you," Anakin said to them both before heading off, both of the younglings waving after him.
Ahsoka's group had taken a liking to him, after everything.
"Look, there he is."
"More like Sithpet."
Anakin stopped, tossing a look over his shoulder at the Padawans. He didn't glare, but he let them know he heard them. They looked taken back but kept their firm frowns. With their silence kept, he headed onwards.
On the other hand, he had earned a colder welcome from others in the temple for considering Darth Vader to be his...friend, for lack of a better word. Only the younglings and some Padawans seemed to be openly showing it though. On some level, he was almost happy about it. He'd take insults for being linked to Darth Vader any day over jabs and jokes about him being a former slave.
He reached the elevators, eyes scanning the temple up and down before he sensed where Master Yoda was and took a lift down to the ground level. The Grandmaster was a beacon of light and patience in the Temple. While Anakin couldn't say exactly where he was, it was easy to follow the general direction.
Anakin reached the outside of the temple and found the small, ancient Jedi looking out down the steps. The rubble was gone, but the stairs and statues had yet to be repaired from Vader's march. "You wanted to see me, Master Yoda?" he called curiously.
"Indeed, I did," Yoda answered, turning to Anakin with a smile. "And see you well, I can."
Anakin idly wondered, did people on Coruscant used to talk like that, hundreds of years ago, or had that always just been something the Grandmaster did?
"Feeling, how are you?" Yoda asked curiously. "Hard it is, to adjust?"
"It's not bad, Sir," Anakin answered with a bit of uncertainty. "It's bigger than what I'm used to. And cooler."
And no sand…wonderfully sandless, he never knew how nice it was to not live in an endless world of sand until he left Tatooine.
Yoda must have sensed Anakin's thoughts if his amused look was anything to go by. "Complicated, things have been. For all, not just the Jedi. Leave you in limbo, we do not wish. Nor will we," Yoda assured, leaning on his cane. "Your master, Qui-Gon Jinn, shall be."
Anakin's eyes and smile lit up before being tempered by curiosity and concern. "What about Obi-wan? I thought Masters could only have one Padawan?"
Yoda nodded in several, absent bobs of his head. "A request, most unusual, has been made. Completion of his training, Master Dooku, shall oversee."
Anakin blinked. Transferring one Padawan to another master? He didn't have any basis to say it, but that sounded odd somehow. "Why?" Anakin asked curiously, the question off his lips before he even registered that maybe he shouldn't ask.
Yoda merely shook his head. "To tell, for me, it is not."
"So, that means...I'm a Padawan now?' Anakin asked hesitantly.
Yoda chuckled in an almost grandfatherly tone. "Indeed, Young Skywalker, you are."
Anakin tried to remain calm, but he was pretty sure Yoda could feel his bright mood at that. "Thank you, Master Yoda. But, um, where is Master Qui-Gon?"
Whereas Yoda was a beacon, telling everyone else apart was like keeping track of the stars in the skies. He was sure others could do it, but he was still nine.
"Good question, that would be," Yoda admitted, glancing out over the city. "Meeting he is, with the Supreme Chancellor. Returning soon, he will be. Late to return, in fact, he is."
"Oh," Anakin said in understanding. "I just have one more question, Grandmaster."
"Ask then, you should,' Yoda said.
"...Where is the nearest restroom?" Anakin asked sheepishly.
Yoda chuckled. "To memorize, first thing, that always is," he said in a knowing tone. Anakin was far from the first exception, and that was the one thing those new to living at the temple needed help with. "To your right, you must go. End of the hall, it is."
Anakin nodded and scurried away.
Yoda hummed as he watched him go. He had been very, very wary about Anakin becoming a Jedi. He was too old, too attached, and his future was hard to read. But then, the future was hard to read in general now. The Dark Side no longer flooded the planet, but Vader's March and Sidious's Storm had left this planet marred with dark scars in the Force. Not dangerous, not like a Wound in the Force, but unpleasant and unsettling.
Even disregarding that, leaving Anakin untrained was truly not an option for most of the council now. To do so would invite the Sith to take him and become one of their own. Even with the supposed "peace" between their orders, even with him having some cautious amount of trust in Vader, even Yoda did not relish the idea of leaving such potential to the hands of the Sith.
He sighed, rubbing a hand over his wrinkled head. That was a headache all on its own. Vader had left them all with a great deal to consider. His words were one matter; A Sith could lie, and he would assume as much until proven wrong. But that was it, the Jedi Order had been proven wrong. The Sith had aided them in taking down one of their own, "cleaning house" as Vader had put it. The one Sith that, supposedly, embodied everything the Jedi fought against in terms of the Sith.
It had cost them all greatly. So many had become one with the Force, and others near so. But the Sith had been a senator. It wasn't hard to imagine what the aim was, for a Sith in such a role: the Supreme Chancellery. How great and terrible would the damage be, if this Sidious had gotten such a chance?
The problem, however, was while Yoda now had much to meditate on and consider, many still saw Vader only as a foe they would inevitably fight…that the peace between them, ironically, was a lie. It was hard for old things to change, and harder still for those young that believe themselves right and wise already.
To seek out the Sith and destroy them, in these circumstances? That was not the Jedi way. Yoda only hoped that others would cool their nerves and see as much. In time, they would know if Vader was an enemy…him and Plagueis for that matter. Looking into who the Master of Sidious was known by to the galaxy at large, that was something there was more unity on, discovering the public identity of Darth Plagueis.
Chancellor Valorum sat at his desk, fingers steeped and head resting against them, as he tried to process everything he was being told.
"Let me make sure I have this in summary," he started warily, looking up at Qui-Gon Jinn. "This Sith Lord, the one accompanying the Queen of Naboo- Vader, correct? After a misunderstanding that turned into a brawl with him against many Jedi, he revealed to you that there not only are more Sith Lords but one in the Senate? Who just happened to be the Senator for Naboo?"
"That's correct so far, Chancellor," Qui-Gon agreed calmly.
"This part I don't understand, so forgive me," Valorum stated, waving his hand in a vague gesture. "This...Shroud you say Vader pulled back? What is it, exactly?"
"It is a way the Sith can cloak their powers from us," Qui-Gon stated, rubbing his beard. "It's something we don't entirely understand ourselves. Some say they created it, others that it was simply an aspect of the Dark Side they learned to enhance. Either way, it makes it easier for them to conceal themselves and use the Force without us noticing."
"Okay, I suppose that makes sense enough. And that Vader was able to pull it back, being a Sith Lord himself," Valorum stated. "Was that when you believed him, about Senator Palpatine being a Sith Lord, this Sidious?"
"Not entirely. It was a strange lie to make otherwise, but we didn't fully believe it until we confronted Sidious," Qui-Gon stated. "It was him, Chancellor."
"I've seen the feeds, I believe you," Valorum assured, eyeing his own desk in thought. "And this...Force Storm? That's something the Force can do?"
He was unnerved, greatly so. Qui-Gon didn't need to be a Jedi to know that.
"In the same way a scientist might create a planet-ending bomb, sir," Qui-Gon elaborated, prudent but firm.
"I'm not worried about the Jedi creating something like this," Valorum stated, and Qui-Gon wasn't sure if he was being entirely truthful that time. "Just how I even explain this to the public. People are dead, Master Jinn, and people want answers. Nuanced and complicated answers will do little good for grieving hearts."
Qui-Gon bowed his head briefly in agreement.
"This Vader said he was attempting to officially end this ancient war the Jedi have with the Sith. And he helped take down Sidious, along with another," Valorum stated idly. "In short terms, a rogue, not much different than a Dark Jedi?"
Qui-Gon hummed in thought. "Not a false comparison, at the least. May I ask what you're thinking, Chancellor?"
"Master Jinn, I have little idea to make of this matter between two Orders of the Force. But I do know that if they are offering you some form of peace, it would be in the Republic's best interest not to antagonize these Sith. Call this Sidious, Palpatine what he was. A vile creature seeking power, who turned traitor to his own people: the Republic, Naboo, and apparently the Sith."
Qui-Gon decided not to correct the Chancellor in that killing the master was an expected part of being a Sith. It was probably best to let him spin things as he needed to for the common people to understand.
"In regards to the Naboo Crisis and Palpatine's supposed hand in it," Valorum stated with a frown. "That must be kept in the dark. There are dark implications there that I don't think should reach the wider galaxy."
Qui-Gon frowned. "That may be out of our hands, Chancellor. I hear that the Queen of Naboo has been rather silent towards transmissions from the Republic Government since the Trade Federation was pushed off her world."
"I can't even fathom the ripple effect that might have on the galaxy," Valorum stated. "We're still too backed up on dealing with repairs and helping those affected by this tragedy. The Senator apparently had many holdings we weren't formally aware of. We don't have the resources to investigate them all just yet."
Qui-Gon frowned. He knew that by the time anyone had the chance, any places of importance would be cleaned of anything they could use to find out anything significant about the Order of Bane, or Plagueis himself.
"Clear! It's clear!"
Windu took a short breath, personifying the relief of those around him. Bomb defusing wasn't a normal duty he undertook, but in the case of exploding lightsabers leftover from the battle, he made an exception. His skills with shatterpoints had aided him greatly in detecting which ones weren't bombs and aiding in disarming the ones that were.
That was why he was helping out in the Works, or what was left of it. Other Jedi, those better trained in healing, were helping deal with the more populated areas. Still, that didn't make this area any less of a priority. All the dangerous materials in the region from long abandoned factories had been tossed about, as had defective droids that might erratically attack people. Not to mention the strange creatures that had made this place home.
"Master Windu, we found another, but it doesn't look like the others," a relief worker stated, coming up to him and cautiously handing over the device.
Mace took one look at the device and his face changed minutely. "This belonged to a Jedi."
Just by the tone, they knew what he meant, and why he said it in the past tense. "We're...sorry, Sir. We didn't find a body."
Mace Windu nodded his thanks. All but two Jedi corpses were accounted for. While burning the body wasn't required to become one with the Force, it was a tradition he hoped not to break today. But that was a far hope.
He glanced around once more at the destruction. He could see where Vader had pelted the ground with plates, turning it into a maze of metal…or where Sidious had tried to send Vader into a pit of acid. Much of it was destroyed, the plates bent or flung away by the storm, the acid long gone. Even the building he and his fellow Jedi had confronted Sidious in was barely recognizable, if not for it being the sole building towering over the factories in this area.
The very ground, the roofs of the facilities of the Flats, were hazardous now. He saw workers marking off dangerous spots with small polls that had orange flashing lights on the end. Good, he could see where that entire place might collapse. They didn't need any more deaths added than absolutely necessary.
"Master of the Order."
He turned his head, as did several others, seeing the approach of a cloaked woman.
"If you're here to help, Dark Woman, there is plenty to do," he stated stoically.
"Master Windu, might I have a word with you?" she asked evenly.
Mace frowned at the request but nodded all the same, turning to the nearest head of the workers. "I won't be long. If there is an issue, I will return."
With that, they departed, leaping down the sides into one of the narrow paths below. Others glanced down after them before shrugging it off as Jedi business.
"Is something amiss?" Mace Windu asked pointedly.
"The other two Sith still remain at large, three if you count the Zabrak," she reminded. "I understand that Darth Vader forced our hand in that somehow."
"When the Force screams at you that you are about to die if you take another step, it is wise to heed that warning," Mace stated simply.
"I am not debating that," The Dark Woman assured. "But leaving them to run loose is a mistake."
"You state things I am well aware of," Mace remarked. "But for now, our duty and responsibility are to help Coruscant overcome this tragedy."
"Your duty, perhaps, but not mine," she said solemnly. "My skills are of little help here."
"And you would have left already if you planned to go off and gather information on them," Mace Windu said knowingly. "Why are you here then, Dark Woman?"
"Officially, I am here to ask if you would be willing to ask Yarael Poof to aid me in training," the Dark Woman stated coldly.
Windu considered that, both the request and its wording. "You wish to train yourself for when you encounter the Sith again."
When, not if.
The Dark Woman's face became hard at that reminder. "I don't know what Darth Vader did to me. Or if it wasn't in truth the powers of this Darth Plagueis the council encountered. All I know is that I was not ready to face that power."
"Then why is this only an "official" request?" Mace retorted with narrowed eyes.
"I already made the request to Master Poof in person. He declined," she explained pointedly.
"And his reason, if any?" Mace inquired, sensing there was more to it.
"He was rather vague. But if I had to guess, I would assume he sees me as a threat to this "peace" with the Sith that some believe we have," she explained.
Mace stared at her, several things becoming clear to him. "Are you here to ask where I stand in all of this, Dark Woman?"
"Rifts and doubts are growing in the Order, Master Windu. I simply wanted to make sure what page the Master of the Order is on," she stated, nodding her head in respect. "I believe it is the right one."
Mace Windu said nothing to that. "What will you do?"
"I will follow the Force, in hopes that it will lead me to hone my skills. I can do so freely, knowing the Sith have not laid seeds of doubt in some that I trust will guide the Order," the Dark Woman answered solemnly. "Until we meet again, Master Windu."
With that, she vanished, her presence fading away, leaving Mace Windu alone and with much to consider.
"May the Force be with you," he said to the empty air, as he looked up to the sky above. "May it be with us all."
...Dear gods I can't believe we're here. The end of Her oof Naboo. This is...a strange feeling, I'll admit. I hope you've all enjoyed this ride, even if it slogged here and there.
So, yes, there WILL be a sequel. I will post the first chapter to that in two months, at the end of March. This coming month is just for Hero of Naboo to have its moment in the spot light, finally finished and the top fic in Star Wars.
I'll post a notice here when the fist chapter goes up.
Beyond that, thank you all for everything. I was always nervous about writing in a setting as big and complicated as SW. I honestly didn't think I could pull it off.
See you all next time with EPII. Still working on a name. Shattered Galaxy is a canidate, but I'm still thinking about it.
Dark or Light, May the Force Be With You All.