Time to Breathe
The sun was rising.
Rey watched it from the top of the steps. Before her was the ancient Processional Way, a long boulevard which lead from a large visitors landing platform, now a smoking ruin, and leading to the temple steps. Between the platform to the steps the scars of the battle could still be seen with craters, score marks and several piles of droid carcases scattered here and there.
In the distance she could just make out the Senate, untold trails of smoke rising from the mushroom shaped structure. The blooms of flame and the dulled explosions of battle had since quietened. News had reached them that the Senate had been retaken, and soon similar news came from other areas including the Republic High Courts, the Headquarters of the Planetary and System Defence Forces, the central hub of the capitals orbital defences and the Senatorial living quarters of 500 Republica.
The droids had been defeated.
Yet celebrations were short lived when the cost of that victory filtered through. The central government was gutted by the battle, with untold Senators and their retinues massacred in the halls and state rooms. The Senate Guard had been decimated, the Judiciary and PDF forces had been taken by surprise and had suffered heavy losses. The Jedi's losses were roughly over two hundred, with the number expected to rise. The civilian casualties were as yet unknown, but untold thousands had died in the crossfire.
A shadow fell over her. It couldn't be Obi-Wan or Aayla, all Jedi not injured in the fighting had been assigned to either guarding the Temple or bring order to the surrounding districts. Foe and Finn had been half dragged away by the Judiciary troopers they had arrived with to help keep order on the ruined streets.
She looked up to see her father peering down upon her with conflicted eyes, eyes which fell upon the metallic form of her new hand. He hesitated, unsure of what to do before he sat down beside her. For a long moment there was no talking, just them sitting on the top step, watching as the sun slowly rose over the jagged peaks of towering skyscrapers.
"What happened?" His words were soft. She had come to accept his tone of voice.
"We ran into a Sith Lord in the lower levels of the temple." Rey replied, looking down at her cybernetic hand and smiling in triumph when her fingers flexed on command. It was short-lived though, as she looked up to see a worried frown. "That terrorist attack on the Temple a week and a half ago. It was a diversion so that Sidious's apprentice could infiltrate the temple and destroy a ship that Poe and Finn had… well, acquired from them."
Rey blinked. "How did you know its name?"
"I've read through the same history files you have, and I know a Sith Infiltrator when I see one." Luke hesitated for a moment, thinking. "I also saw it. Poe was piloting it when they found me, and again on the way back here."
"I see." Rey replied, placing her cybernetic arm on her lap.
"It will get easier." Luke said as he placed a hand on her shoulder, his own cybernetic hand she saw. His smile had a hint of mischief when she noticed. "I know from personal experience."
Rey smiled and shook her head. "Yes, dad. I know."
"I can help you with the therapy." He added.
"I would like that."
"Well, let's see it then." Rey blinked, seeing Luke offer an outstretched hand and after a moment of hesitation placed her new cybernetic limb over it. Her father eyed the cybernetics, the wiring and the frame with a critical eye. "It's good work. Can you flex your fingers for me?"
She did, marvelling at how easy it was since when it was first grafted onto her wrist. "The Healers said it would take months of physical therapy to make it move like this."
"So it does, but events of high stress can push the progress along. It depends on the individual and their will in most cases, something you have in spades." Luke replied as he studied the cybernetics with a focused and knowing eye. "It doesn't seem to badly damaged, other than a little scuffing. Good. It looks like they've started you off with dulled sensors, probably to get you used to it over a period of time."
"Dulled sensors?" Rey asked.
"It's a typical technique to get patients used to new cybernetic limbs. They would dull down the sensors and wait until the patient gets used to the sensations, then they raise the tempo one level at a time until the sensations become the same as an actual limb. It helps patients get used to their new limb, kind of the same as how some martial artists use weighted clothing to strengthen their muscles." Luke explained as he pulled a bag over his head and placed it on the ground. He pushed it open and rifling through it. All while not letting go of her metal hand. "They did the same with my hand when I first got it. Though I never had to rush into a battle during my recovery. You were reckless."
There was no admonishment in his voice, but Rey felt like saying the next few words all the same. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Luke replied as he continued to search through his bag. "You are a silly little thing, always prone to getting into trouble. Just like I did when I was your age. Sometimes I dread to think how some of my misadventures would have turned out if Han, Leia and Chewie hadn't been around. Speaking of which, hi Chewie."
A grumble and a heavy tremor signalled the old Wookiee's arrival as he sat down on her opposite end, eyeing the two with wizened old eyes before uttering a low growl.
"Yeah, I see it too." Luke replied as he pulled out a plasma screwdriver from his pack. "Keep your hair on or you'll scare her."
"Scare me?" Rey asked, feeling a chill run up her spine.
"Nothing to worry about." Luke muttered, casting a half glare in Chewie's direction. "It's just that the fight you went through did a little more damage to your cybernetics than originally thought."
Rey raised a delicate eyelash. "You said it was fine."
"I lied. Now hold still." He replied calmly, placing her hand on his lap as he took the screwdriver in the other. "Now this is going to hurt a little bit but do not move."
Rey gulped, but nodded. "What's wrong?"
"A few of the screws and bolts have loosened." Luke replied. "You see cybernetics are made differently from the usual metalworking, for one the fibre is a soft metal which allows for a certain level of pliancy. It takes time to strengthen to the point where you would be able to move the hand like a normal limb and with your gallivanting around you've loosened them. What's your favourite colour by the way?"
Rey frowned. "You know that by nowwwaaahhhh Force be damned!"
"That's a normal reaction." Luke muttered as he turned the screw. "Chewie keep her steady. I forgot to mention that it'll feel like someone is digging a knife into your hand. Bear with it."
Rey gritted her teeth, managing to gulp down a whimper. "Yes, Father."
"From here on out you are going to do exactly what the Healers and Doctors tell you to do." Luke replied as he continued to work on the prosthetic. "You will do exactly what they tell you to do and no more than that. I know you can pull through this, you are my daughter after all, but you will need what we Skywalkers are known to lack, a bit of patience."
She couldn't speak without crying out, so she nodded.
"Good." Luke nodded, focus returning to the prosthetic. "Now centre yourself… breathe… that's it."
"How bad is it?"
Senator Iblis sighed, placing a cigarette between his teeth as he searched for a lighter with slightly shaking hands. They hadn't stopped since the fighting ended, like the adrenaline refused to ware off. "It's bad. We can't identify the corpses of the Supreme Chancellor nor the Vice-Chancellor from the wreckage of their transport, not even by their dental records. There are only a few hundred Senators left alive including us out of nearly ten thousand so there aren't enough to form even a transitional government."
A slender hand handed him a lighter, which Iblis took and used to light his cigarette. He took a long drag, letting it stay in his lungs for a long moment before blowing it out. He thanked the Senator, a middle aged woman he did not recognise, and turned back to the table.
"That settles it then." Senator Bail Antilles of Alderaan sighed, leaning heavily against the round table. "The Senate will be dissolved."
"That is preposterous." Aks Moe of Malastare countered, the Gran Senator slamming his fist against the table. "We are still here, and we are the elected officials of the Galactic Republic."
"Not anymore I am afraid, Senator." Tendau Bendon replied, the towering Ithorian taking a breath before continuing. "The Galactic Constitution states that at such a time where a crisis erupts and the government is made inoperable all powers and privileges are passed on to the Jedi Order until fresh elections are completed and a new Senate takes office."
"The Senate needs at least a third of its number to successfully operate, as such we are now obsolete." Antilles added, turning a baleful eye upon Moe. "I had thought memorising the Constitution was considered acquired reading, Senator."
"I completely understand the constitution, Antilles." The Gran countered angrily. "But this is unprecedented. There hasn't been an incident such as this in over a thousand years, not since before the Ruusan Reformation! A lot has changed since then. The Republic has become considerably more decentralised, Sector and System governments have more say in such things. They would never accept unelected officials taking powers away from the Senate!"
"They can and they will." Iblis scowled. "This is one of the Jedi's primary duties as guardians and protectors of the Galactic Republic. It is law and part of one of the original, most trusted documents that ties all of this together."
"And the Jedi have always acted in the best interests of the Republic, whether it was for or against public opinion." The woman from before spoke up, Senator Lotti Velandro of Pamarthe. "If there is one organisation which is trusted to uphold its mandate above all others it is them."
"There is no point in debating this. The constitution is clear in this matter." Antilles said firmly. "The Senate is dissolved. The best we can do is remain on as advisors until the Jedi are on their feet, and make sure that they fulfil their mandate by overseeing fresh elections for government."
"Agreed." Bendon nodded his large head.
"You can remain here if you wish." Moe said dismissively as he turned, stalking away from the chamber and the few dozen Senators. "I will return to Malastare and prepared for this election. I will not remain here and allow my seat to be taken by another."
A scoff from Polo Se'lab, Senator of Bothawai. "Running with your tail tucked between your legs, Moe?"
"Let him go." Iblis sighed, watching as the Gran marched out of the chamber with the surviving members of his retinue in his wake. "He's just scared, like everyone else."
"Then we are agreed?" Senator Deliah Zorel of Zeltros asked. "We have until the end of the day to confirm to the Jedi that they may take office."
The Senators looked amongst themselves, nodding in agreement. Iblis finally spoke, uncomfortably guessing that out of them all he will probably become the voice of this greatly diminished body. "Very well. We will meet with the Jedi High Council and confirm that they have permission to form a transitional government. We will stress the need to hold elections as soon as possible."
"Have you ever stopped to consider it all?"
Poe stopped for a short moment, eyeing his brother in arms before taking a long gulp of water from his canteen. "Consider what?"
"You know, how mad some of this stuff is." Finn replied as he laid back on his elbows, looking from their position upon the ruined plaza. "What convinced someone to write a program to make an army of droids go berserk in the first place?"
The area had been cleared of Battle-Droids, currently being built into a large pile of metal appendages and debris in the corner. Judiciary officers, PDF soldiers and a few Jedi were moving around, convincing civilians that it was safe to come out of the ancient shelters and underground bunkers beneath the old buildings out into the open, to be moved away from the fighting to safer places.
"A madman that's who." Poe replied, placing his half empty canteen onto the ground beside him. "They lose their chance at glory and decide to ruin everyone else's day instead."
"I guess." Finn replied. "So what are you going to do now? The Sith are pretty much finished."
"Not sure what I am going to do. Probably try and convince the Jedi to rebuild their Antarian Rangers, failing that go off and build a force on my own." Poe replied.
"Build a force on your own?" Finn asked, surprised by his old friends motivations.
"It's a whole new world out there Finn, and if the droid army and navy of the Trade Federation has been affected by this then the Republic will need all of the help they can get." Poe was silent for a moment. "I don't like the idea much, but if my thoughts are right then a war is inevitable and its best to prepare and finish this fight as soon as possible."
"You're planning on giving the Jedi the designs aren't you? For fighter and bomber craft like the winged fighters and the TIE series." Finn asked. There wasn't a doubt that in this era anyone who had those designs and managed to begin major manufacturing would have an incredible advantage over their opponents. The technology was there even though the willpower wasn't. "If they decide to use it they will increase their weapons technology by at least thirty odd years."
"Exactly, and imagine if the Republic central military or the Jedi manage to get it." Poe smiled, reaching into his pocket to pull out one of the datpads. "They could build the ships they need and take out these droids in record time."
"Or if the Separatists get it, then they'd be able to take over immeasurable worlds before the Republic were in a position to stop them." Finn warned.
"Which is unlikely at this stage." Poe lamented. "Think about it. The Sith who engineered the whole thing are dead, and one of the main benefactors of the Alliance in the Trade Federation are on the quick route to becoming insolvent with their army and navy turning against them on a murderous rampage."
"There are other benefactors, like the Techno Union, the InterGalactic Banking Clan. They already used feelings and agendas which were already there. They just accelerated the results." Finn pointed out grimly. "Then there was the fact that at the time of the outbreak of the Clone Wars the Trade Federation was the weakest contributor to the Separatist Alliance. This only takes away an easy assembly of leadership and does not remove the original idea."
"We'll be fine." Poe replied. "This event will serve as a wakeup call to the galaxy. If they can't rally around this then they are doomed. They will see that."
"I hope your right." Finn allowed as he unplugged the cork and took a long swig of his canteen.
"So do I." Poe agreed, looking out over the carnage.
The High Council chamber held a sense of tension within it, and rightly so. It was the first meeting of the High Masters since the decision to arrest Chancellor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, and the moment all had confirmed attendance it was the empty seats which spoke volumes.
Ki-Adi-Mundi had died by the hands of Darth Sidious. Masters Eeth Koth and Saesee Tinn had perished during the Droids assault on the Temple. Masters Mace Windu and Depa Bilipa were undergoing surgery for their injuries, though it was to their relief that both would survive. Masters Oppo Rancisis and Evan Piell were too busy dealing with the aftermath of Naboo and communications with that Sector were near impossible because of the outages in close by Sectors.
That meant that seven of the twelve seats were not filled when Senator Garm Bel Iblis's form flickered in the centre of the chamber. Jedi Masters Yoda, Plo Koon, Yaddle, Adi Gallia and Yarael Poof watched the flickering image closely as the Senator cleared his throat and met the Grand Masters gaze.
"It has been confirmed by the surviving Senators." He said at last. "As of this moment we confirm the temporary dissolution of the Galactic Senate of the Galactic Republic and give the Jedi Order our full support and legitimacy to create a transitional government until fresh elections can be called for a new Senate and central branches of the central government."
Yoda hummed, nodding. "Thank you we do, Senator."
Iblis paused. "After some debate we have also decided that many of us will remain on to act as advisors and aids until your transitional government is on its feet. I hope that you will accept our help in this grave matter."
"We will, yes." The Grand Master agreed.
"Good luck." Iblis said, meaning it. His image flickered and died, leaving the Jedi alone.
Silence purveyed the chamber for a long moment, before Adi Gallia spoke. It was fairly obvious she didn't wish to, but she was always very forthright with stating what needed to be stated. Something her fellow Masters admired. "Well, it's official now. The first step is to confirm who within the surviving government will be remaining to help us, and where we need to place our people to keep it running."
Poof nodded. "I feel that we can rely on Senator Iblis and those he has been able to gather around him to aid us, and I am sorry to advise this so soon, but after the proper time of mourning we will need to fill the vacancies to this council."
"Agreed." Plo Koon assented. "There is also the need to choose two from among us to fill the vacancy of Supreme and Vice-Chancellor. I am sorry to say Master Yoda that such a responsibility may be too much for you considering your advanced age."
"Agree with them, I do." Yaddle said, turning to her elder. "Others you must choose."
Yoda was silent for a long moment, eyes closed as he centred himself. All High Councillors went quiet, waiting patiently for the Grand Master to make a decision. He opened his eyes and nodded. "Agree with you, I do. Delegation is needed in such a situation, yes."
"Then who do we choose as transitional Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor." Gallia asked. "The Republic is more divided than ever before. I doubt we can decide on every important government position even if the constitution allows it. In order to make the transition as seamless as possible I recommend giving key positions to surviving Senators."
"That would lessen the blow." Poof admitted. "It will also silence many critics, and solidify our intensions to return the Republic to democracy."
"Preparing an election will take time, and then there is making sure that it is free and fair and not suffering from rigging or corruption." Plo Koon added. "Then there are the multitude of worlds under attack by rogue Trade Federation droid forces. We will not just be spending our time in preparing elections, indeed for a time we will be all that protects the Republic and as much as I loath to admit it I doubt relying on the Planetary Defence Forces will be enough."
"Speak your mind, you will." Yoda admonished. "Hide it, you must not."
Plo Koon, for the first time that many had seen in living memory, seemed unsure and distracted. It worried the younger members of the council. He was one of the eldest and wisest. Finally he spoke. "I believe that in order for the Republic to live through this we will need to sanction the creation of a centralised army and navy with a structured chain of command. We will not be able to rely on the PDF as a compatible unified force to fight and reclaim those planets lost to the droids."
"I agree." Gallia nodded. "We all have gotten the same reports from Naboo. The PDF floundered the moment they were under direct attack, and if Master Dooku hadn't have defeated this Darth Janus and deactivate the central hub then we would be hearing very different news."
"It will not be easy." Poof muttered, leaning heavily against his chair. "I can see the media and the more separatist Planetary and System governments' response."
"We are Jedi, Master Poof." Gallia countered with a sardonic smile. "Since when have we cared how politicians thought?"
A chuckle from the Quermian. "Yes, I see where you are coming from."
"Afford to hold off on nominations, we cannot." Yaddle said, clasping her three digit hands together. "Nominate Master Plo Koon as Supreme Chancellor, I do."
"What?" Koon asked, taken completely by surprise.
"Agree with me, my brothers and sisters will." Yaddle continued, eyeing him speculatively. "That best for the job, you are."
"I do not see anyone else more capable." Poof admitted.
"I agree with the proposal." Gallia affirmed. "I don't see any of the absent Masters disagreeing either."
Plo Koon turned to Yoda. "Your opinion on this, Master?"
"Hmm," the Grand Master hummed, eyes closed and thoughtful. "Agree with them I do. Best choice, you are."
The one many had considered Third Chair of the Jedi Order was silent for a long moment, masked face peering at the ground before finally stirring. "I understand and will humbly accept the position."
"Our support, you have." Yoda nodded, followed by the agreement of all other High Masters in the chamber.
"Thank you." Koon bowed his head to his fellow Masters. "I will not let you down."
"We know you won't." Gallia replied.
"We will need to take a greater role in politics than ever before. There are many factions and organisation we will need to get on side." Koon said. "That means we as Jedi will have to forgo our usual neutrality concerning politics and delve headlong into it. We will not just need a Diplomatic Corps but also a Press Corps to deal with the news outlets. That will not be an easy transition."
"No, it will not." Poof agreed. "But it will be necessary, and another thing which I must advise as necessary is filling the empty seats within this very council, after a suitable period of mourning of course."
"A suggestion you have, Master Poof." Yoda surveyed.
"Yes Master." Poof replied. "These will be trying times, with many challenges and crises along the way which we will not be able to predict, as such I would recommend that we expand our pool of potential Masters to include those who would not be usually considered for active service."
"Who do you recommend?" Koon asked.
Yarael Poof hesitated for a brief moment before replying. "Jedi Masters with experience in combat and diplomacy. The likes of Master Dooku and his apprentice Qui-Gon Jinn."
"Absurd." Gallia frowned. "Master Dooku has declined previous requests that he join this council, and Master Jinn is such a wildcard that his ascendancy would be folly."
"Yet they will be what we need. Few living Masters have the battle experience of Master Dooku, and when it comes to running government we will need wildcards like Master Jinn to push for necessary measures we would not consider ourselves." Poof sighed at his fellow Masters scrutiny. "I am simply advising that if we are to carry the Republic to survive, and hopefully thrive, we will need differing opinions."
"Understand your opinions, I do," Yoda assented after a moment. "Consider this, I will."
Poof bowed his head. "Thank you, Master."
"Good, now move on we must." Yoda took a breath. "Consider positions for both our own and those politicians who wish to remain, we must."
Dooku cracked an eye open, peering down at the diminutive form of Evan Piell. The small Jedi Master was still a little shorter than him even as the old Human sat on a stool beside his student's bed. Qui-Gon, now garbed in a simple gown, placed the datapad on his lap and inclined his head which was returned.
"What brings you here, Master Piell?" Dooku asked, stifling a yawn. "I thought you were busy playing liaison between the Jedi and the PDF Commanders."
The Lannik hopped onto one of the empty stools and got comfortable, long bat-like ears twitching from the hustle of their surroundings. It wasn't anything too loud or obnoxious, with the chamber being set aside for the walking wounded. Low level whispering and chatting mostly. A few orderlies and medics surveyed the rows of patients, keeping some semblance of order.
The Palace had been transformed in the days since the end of the battle from a centre of government into the temporary headquarters of the Allied forces. Several large state rooms like this one had been converted into large scale hospital wards. Those in this large room were the lucky ones. The further one went down the corridor the worse the injuries of those within became.
"The orders have been handed out, troops are on the move and my Jedi know what they need to do." The High Master shrugged. "If anything untoward happens they can contact me directly."
"So we have news then, of the civilian populations?" Qui-Gon asked.
Piell nodded. "Most of the Concentration camps have been located, and it seems that the majority of the prisoners are alive and unharmed. A stroke of luck on that one. Whatever virus overran the droids programming had them target armed personnel only. As such those stationed as guards did not go on a killing spree."
There was a brief breathe of relief from both Jedi Masters, shoulders sagging as if a great weight had been lifted from them. Once the dust had settled ed many among them had prepared for the worst, that whatever virus effecting the droids had them commit indiscriminate massacres of unarmed, hemmed in civilian populations with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
"Troops are being dispatched to those locations with Jedi mixed in, mainly to provide food, water, medical attention that sort of thing. Eventually we will be able to begin moving them back into the cities." Piell continued, allowing his fellow Masters a few moments to breathe before continuing. "There is also the issue of the Gungans to consider."
"Our orbital squadrons saw movement in the forests south of Theed and flew low to investigate. It turns out that there is a reason why there were so few Gungans within the camps. Their leadership had arranged an evacuation of their underwater cities and had taken refuge amongst ancient religious shrines, hidden deep within the forests and swamps of the planet." The Master smiled. "The movement turned out to be an army on the march. Their leader, Boss Rugor Nass, had managed to quietly assemble a Grand Army with the purpose of taking the fight to the Trade Federation. He was apparently operating on ancient Gungan tradition to meet the enemy and defeat them in a pitched battle, and then as victor he would be able to dictate terms."
"Brave, but foolish." Dooku intoned. "If their army had defeated the first force they came across then Gunray would just send another, larger force to crush them."
"Agreed. It was a good thing we arrived when we did." Piell nodded in agreement.
"So where was this army heading?" Qui-Gon asked.
"It has already been stopped." Piell replied. "Commander Dumas ordered the squadron to hover over them and broadcast that the Trade Federation had been defeated."
"Was that all it took?"
Piell shook his head. "Not quite. The Queen has gone to meet them with a few Jedi bodyguards, one of the Battalions and a handful of her own Security personnel. That was two days ago, apparently one of the Gungan ultimatums would be to free the Naboo and allow them to return home, so she was able to calm this Nass fellow down and request his peoples assistance in providing security and rebuilding." The Lannik chuckled. "The relations between the Gungans and the Naboo have always been tense, but mainly peaceful and she seems to be using their intentions to try and foster a little good will."
"What of the droids?" Dooku asked, folding his arms.
"Being dealt with." Piell advised. "Our engineers have been busy removing the central processor chips and then disposing of them. The husks are being piled up in a few old warehouses until we agree on what to do with them. We have managed to clear out the Core Ship in orbit as well, though the droids up there were still active."
"I see." Dooku mumbled.
"The Commanders were a little infuriated when you nearly took the heads off a few of his Marines." Piell continued.
Dooku coughed awkwardly. "Yes, well… we were tired."
"Very tired." Jinn added for emphasis.
"And because of this fatigue our senses weren't what they should have been." The Count continued. "Isn't that right, Qui-Gon?"
"Oh, quite right." The younger Master agreed.
Piell sighed, hand reaching up to rub his temple. "I am not used to this."
"What this?" Jinn asked.
"This." The High Master returned, waving his right hand in their general direction. "I am used to you two being obstinate and difficult, not this good humoured banter. It is most unnatural."
"Oh, perhaps we should do it more often." Dooku replied, as if he had just had an epiphany. "Wouldn't you agree, Qui-Gon?"
"Sounds like an excellent idea, Master."
"In light of your efforts they decided to forgive you that little transgression." Evan Piell interrupted, regaining control, though his one good eye did twitch minutely. "Might have been a little different if you had actually harmed someone though."
"What about communications with the rest of the galaxy. Is this a one off occurrence, or is it happening elsewhere." Dooku asked.
"For now all that we can confirm for certain is that a similar incident happened on Coruscant. A droid army ten thousand strong attacked several key targets on the capital including the Senate quarter, Judiciary and PDF headquarters as well as the Jedi Temple itself." The three Masters turned to see Oppo Rancisis approach, Master Quinlan Vos by his side as the ancient creature continued to speak. Qui-Gon sighed, reaching up to rub his forehead, while Dooku remained silent. "PDF, Judiciary and our own forces managed to subdue them, but the death toll would be considered quite catastrophic."
"At least two hundred Jedi are dead, including Master Mundi. The Supreme Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, their cabinet and ninety percent of the Senate." Piell continued grimly. "And that doesn't include the tens of thousands of Senate Guard, Judiciary officers, PDF troopers and scores of civilians caught in the crossfire. It has already been confirmed that the Senate will not be able to function in its current state, meaning…"
"Meaning that for the first time since the Russan Reformation the Jedi will have to take control of the Republic until fresh elections can be called." Dooku finished for the High Master.
"Correct." Rancisis nodded. "According to the constitution should an event which cripples the central government occur the Jedi would be given emergency powers to stabilise and restore the Republic."
"New elections will have to be called." Piell added, hand reaching up to rub his bloodshot eyes. When had the High Master last slept? "But in the meantime we will need to form a transitional government with the surviving Senators, and that means repositioning a large number of our own to take over the empty offices. It will mean at least a quarter of our number taken from the active roster, Force preserve me we may have to reactivate old retirees to fill in the vacancies."
"A new election could take between six to nine months to do properly, maybe even a year." Qui-Gon intoned, remembering what happened the last time an emergency election was called, with so many planets suddenly being told of a snap election it was near chaos. "If we can afford that amount of time."
"Which we won't." Rancisis grumbled.
"Indeed, considering large swathes of the Republic have gone dark we won't even be able to elect a full Senate. Reports are streaming in from any planet with a Federation presence from the Neimoidian Purse Worlds in the Colonies all the way out to the Tion Cluster in the Outer-Rim. Eight of every ten Systems between them has gone dark."
That was a big deal. The area they were mentioning was vast and dense with habitable star systems. At least a fifth of Republic worlds were situated between the Neimoidian Core Worlds and the Tion Star Cluster. Most of them also had a heavy Trade Federation presence, not just in their colonial planets but on their very home worlds. If eight of every ten were taken then it would be considered a colossal disaster.
"If those worlds are under attack, or have already fallen, then the Jedi will need to do so much more than simply hold the fort until a new Senate takes office." Qui-Gon pointed out. "We will need to retake those planets who have fallen to this Droid Revolt. That could mean a Military Creation Act, a rebuilding of a centralised Republic Navy and Army."
"Again not seen since the Reformation." The Count sighed, turning to the two High Master. "We will be walking on thin ice. If we push forward too hard too fast on creating a centralised military there will be uproar from the democratic, decentralisation, nationalist and separatist factions. They will say that we are overstepping our mandate as caretakers."
"I hardly think so, not with a fifth of the Republic under attack." Piell countered. "The member worlds will unite against a common enemy."
"Who would even be placed in command as a temporary Supreme Chancellor?" Qui-Gon asked, frowning. "I wouldn't want to place such a strain on Master Yoda, especially not with his advanced age."
"Agreed, we had thought Master Windu would be able to take over the role, but he was seriously injured during the battle." Rancisis sighed.
"How badly injured?" Dooku enquired.
"He has lost both of his hands." Piell replied. "He was in combat with this Darth Sidious, and lost."
That surprised the two Masters. Master Windu was the best combat specialist in the Order, not even Dooku could face him one on one and win. If he was defeated by this Darth Sidious then his power was greater than they originally thought.
"Master Koon is being considered for the role." Rancisis continued. "He is the favourite from amongst the council."
Dooku nodded, composing himself. "Wise, strong, not easily intimidated. He would be a good choice."
"Hmm," Piell agreed. "But he hasn't been placed in such a position of power before."
"No Jedi has, not in over a thousand years." The Count reminded. "All we can do is place one of our best, eldest and most experienced in the role, give him all of the help we can and hope for the best."
There was some more discussion, mainly on how they were going to aid in the restoration of normality to Naboo and once this was concluded the two High Masters took their leave. Masters Dooku and Jinn were left overwhelmed by the information they had received, contemplating on what their next move should be. It was a lot to take in, especially if their worst fears became reality in the next weeks and months.
It was then that Janus's last words struck Dooku, spearing through his mind.
One left, Master Jedi. One left.
Those words caught Dooku in a cold grip, a chill running up and down his spine. It could have been a ploy, one last jab of malice aimed by a despotic creature whose life was ending, but if that was the case then why did he feel such dread? Why did he feel such truth in the statement?
"Master?" Jinn asked. "Is something wrong?"
Dooku leaned back against his chair, a sigh escaping his lips as his mind rebelled and thought. Finally he relented. "Yes, something is wrong. Before Darth Janus died he told me something, a statement."
"What?" Jinn asked.
The Count hesitated. "One left, Master Jedi. One left."
Qui-Gon's eyes hardened. "Another Sith?"
"Possibly." Dooku allowed.
"Then we must tell the High Council."
"And tell them what, exactly?" The elder Jedi asked. "That an enemy on the edge of death let slip that there were more like him in his final moments?"
"But they must know!" Jinn warned.
Dooku was silent for a long moment, conflicted, but then shook his head and sighed. "Yes, you are right. The council must be told."
Qui-Gon relaxed, leaning back against the pillows of his bed, looking up at the high ceiling with tired eyes. "Master, I understand your distrust in the council, but what happened on Galidraan was not their fault, and it wasn't yours either. We were given bad information by a corrupt official. That is all."
Dooku was rigid in his chair, arms folded as he eyed his apprentice. "Galidraan was just the beginning, my young apprentice. I do not fault the council with what has happened, only their decisions in the aftermath."
Most of the young Jedi of his taskforce has come away from that battle with scars. The Mandalorians they had fought were battle hardened soldiers, the elite crack troops of a faction fighting a Civil War in their home sector. Once the dust had settled and the screams stopped the Jedi had lost two thirds of their force, but the True Mandalorians had lost all but two of their own.
Dooku had been the senior Jedi Master during that mission, and the lines of dead brothers and sisters had followed him like a dark shadow. Then there were the survivors, and the lack of care afforded to them. Many of the Jedi under his command had suffered from shellshock and battle fatigue, several showed signs of touching the Dark Side of the Force to survive, including his now missing apprentice. As a result many of them were deemed unfit to undergo their trials.
Then there was the politics in the aftermath. The Jedi did not step in when certain Senators and politicians used it as an example of the Order being unfit for purpose, some even went as far as calling it a militaristic debacle. Those who took part, including himself, were vilified by the media, conveniently leaving out that the Galidraan government had requested their help.
The Jedi stayed silent.
Then the story broke of the Galidraan governments own interests in the True Mandalorians demise. That they were in league with their enemies, the Death Watch, and used the Jedi as pawns by petitioning the Republic for help, calling it an invasion of their planet. Once again the High Council had been silent, choosing to leave it to the Judiciary and the Courts.
It wasn't the only reason why he was going to leave, but it was one of the main reasons. Then Master Yoda had requested that he lead this mission to Naboo, and the only reason why he agreed was because it was supposed to be a diplomatic mission, no fighting involved. It was the right thing to do.
And it spiralled out of control, becoming a potential galaxy wide conflict all because of the madness of a deranged Sith Lord, who's Order was supposed to be extinct.
"I agree with you. Our response to a lot of recent events have been… inadequate to say the least." Qui-Gon replied, closing his eyes. "Galidraan, the Yinchorri Uprising, the Stark Hyperspace War. The latter two were situations where we needed to act, however we failed to prepare and we failed to deal with the aftermath. The Jedi have had a stance in the last century that they would not enter politics, leave such things to the Politicians. It did a lot to allay fears that we were going to create a military dictatorship, but at the same time we have lost touch with the peoples of the Republic. We have truly become those old Wizards hiding in our ivory towers."
Dooku couldn't help but chuckle, despite his morbid thoughts. "Then what do you suggest?"
"If we are to be forced to take the reins of government until a new Senate can be elected, then we need to take it a step further." Qui-Gon opened his eyes and looked at his former Master. "We need to take a greater interest in politics. We need a voice in the Senate."
"Oh, you wish for us to wade into the quagmire of politics?" Dooku asked, brow raised.
"We need to reconnect with the people." Jinn countered. "And a voice in the Senate would make for a good start but we will need to do more, so much more. We need to be what we once were, defenders of the weak and guardians of the law."
Dooku sighed. "You were always a passionate one, ever since I first met you. Always going against the status quo, always making a nuisance of yourself."
Now it was Jinn's turn to raise his brow. "And where do you think I learned that from?"
A chuckle. "Fair enough."
The sound of rapid footfalls echoed down the long corridor.
"Magister please, I do not understand the urgency!"
In the lead of the small procession was the Magister of the InterGalactic Banking Clan, Hego Damask. He was Muun, tall and lanky, cone shaped head and dark eyes focused straight ahead as he stalked towards his destination. His assistance, a Humanoid woman with long raven hair tied in a ponytail, blueish skin and maroon eyes easily followed his steps, also dressed in the robes of the banking clan with a large datatablet held against her chest.
Following the two was Del Tortil, a Director of the Techno Union and Head of the Research Facility. He was a Skakoan, a humanoid species whose home planet had such high pressure that to survive away from it they needed to contain themselves in pressurised suits. The Director was followed by four armed mercenaries, not the usual droid security which was common amongst Techno Union facilities.
"I am here to make sure that our shared project has not been unduly affected." Damask said at last as he continued to stalk down the corridor, his every movement somehow managing to remain completely straight and dignified. Hands clasped behind his back as he walked. "You have heard of this unfortunate business with the Trade Federation I take it?"
"Of course Magister," Tortil replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. "The moment we heard of the issues with the Federations droids we immediately shut down our own for a full diagnostic, and that includes our shared project. There is no need for such concern, I can assure you."
"Never the less I wish to see that the prototypes are unharmed with my own eyes." The Magister replied, beady eyes turning upon the Director. "With the amount of resources and retinue we have placed upon this project can you blame me for wishing to make sure?"
"Yes, Magister." Del Tortil replied. "However please be made aware that I will have to contact the Foreman to bring him up to speed with such a surprise visit."
"I would expect no less." The Magister replied, stopping before a large set of blast doors. "Well, shall we?"
"Of course." Tortil agreed, stepping ahead of the InterGalactic Banking Clans leader. "If you will excuse me."
He inputted an eight digit code into the panel to the side, and then leaned forward for a facial recognition scan. The great doors opened with a groan of huge metallic joints, both the Magister and his assistant gliding into the room beyond with the Director and his bodyguards quickening their step to keep up.
Within was a large empty chamber, lighting coming on and expanding from where they stood until it enveloped the entire hall in a harsh white light. At the far end of the chamber was a series of tubes, and within those tubes were twelve droids, humanoid in design, coupled to cables and wiring within their pods.
"As you can see the Droids have already been shut down and are currently undergoing maintenance checks to make sure that the virus has not affected them. Early results have been positive." The Director explained, stepping ahead of Damask and his assistant. "There is no need to worry, Magister."
The Magister walked forward until he was before the central liquid filled tube, and the droid floating within. "Well done, Director. Well done."
Suddenly the assistant dropped her datatablet, the device crashing to the floor. In each of her hands were small hold-out blaster pistols, extended from hidden holsters in the sleeves of her robes. Her first volley of shots quickly downed three of the four guards and the Director watched as she rushed forward with blurring speed, getting within the last mercenaries guard before placing the barrel of her weapon against the bottom of his chin and pulling the trigger.
"Director!" Tortil exclaimed, alarmed as he turned. "Your assistant has gone mad!"
"Really, how frightening." His eyes were met with Damask, another hold-out blaster in hand and pointed right at him. He squeezed the trigger, and the Directors suit was unable to stop the bolt of crimson blaster fire which cut through him. He fell face first onto the floor with a mechanical thud, steam rising from the burn mark on his chest. "How frightening indeed. My dear if you would be so kind as to close those monstrous doors?"
She did as told, dropping the hand-held blasters as she walked over and pressed a few buttons on the controls. The towering doors closed with a squeal of metal and a whine of joints. The two surviving beings were alone, and Damask sighed as he looked at the blaster in his hand distastefully.
"They are useful I suppose, but oh so uncivilised." He hissed as he dropped the blaster to the tiled floor.
"Yes, Master." His assistant nodded in assent. She reached up to rip the hair tie away, allowing her long black locks to fall freely, perfectly framing her face. "I so agree."
Damask turned back to the droids, reaching out with a long fingered hand. "Lady Menouthis, the chip if you will."
Darth Menouthis was soon by his side, placing a small computer chip in his hand. "But off course, Master."
The old Sith Lord turned abruptly, stalking towards the main semi-circle of computer consoles in the very centre of the chamber. There was a sudden tremor as he walked, the lighting above flickering as he ascended the few steps.
"It looks like they have taken the bait." Menouthis murmured.
"Yes," The Magister agreed as he placed the chip into the main console and pushed a few buttons, downloading the programming into the twelve T-Series Tactical Droids before him. "The distress beacon we placed on that transport has served its purpose most perfectly."
"What are you planning, Master?" The Dark Lady asked.
"Planning?" He contemplated his answer for a long moment. "I suppose I am simply completing the Monster my former Shadow has created, and allowing it to serve a greater purpose. Our purpose."
Darth Menouthis stepped forward, eyeing the prototype droids for a few moments. "What are these droids, Master?"
"They are called Tactical Droids my dear, and with the data within this chip they will become so much more. They will become grand strategists able to think for themselves, and extend this war from a few years to a half a decade, maybe a decade if we are lucky." The old Sith Lord replied. "They will prolong the war which is right in the Republic's lap, giving them no time to think and no time to breathe."
Another explosion above made the entire chamber shake, followed by blaring alarms.
Darth Plagueis hummed to himself as he watched pieces of the ceiling come away and fall to the ground. "Time to go I think."
This chapter, for all intents and purposes, just allows the characters who survived to breathe. It is a moment when the opening battles end and they have just enough time in the eye of the storm to catch their breath before the next wave starts.
The Jedi and the Naboo have survived, but the Republics central government and innumerable worlds across the Galactic Republic have not. The Sith Lords are exacerbating the situation by setting some emergency plans into action to turn this war from a series of heavy engagements into tactical conquests of attrition. The Droid Revolts won't be as simple as they think, and the Sith not so easy to remove as a threat. Darth Plagueis and his new apprentice are still out there, and they have not given up yet.
I hope that you have enjoyed this chapter, as always review and favourite, and stay tuned for the next chapter of this project. I look forward to your opinions, whether they be praise of constructive criticism.