Thanks to blaze1992 for some quest concepts and spit-balling ideas.
To the backroom group for their help with SW related issues, arc ideas and betaing the chapter
To WarriorsCre3d for creating a custom image for the story.
You can find me on Discord at;
Heart of the Force: /UM89QfyQk3
Game of Kingdoms: /9Z8HqYAFBU (Still under construction, so not much there yet)
Shiro's Gaming Omniverse: /wd3tUYWVCd
Or on Pa-tre-on: /ussexplorer
(At the higher tiers you'll be able to see early drafts of future scripts, and on Discord, see into the backroom channels where the final drafts are sent for betaing and view the notes about the stories and future plans are stored.)
For all links, remember to remove the spaces (since FFN doesn't allow outside links).
Current date: 4 years until the Invasion of Naboo
(No Mando words in this chapter. Or at least none that you shouldn't already know ;)
I blinked once and coughed up sand as I regained consciousness. A hiss escaped my lips as I pushed weakly with my still working left arm to get myself to an upright position.
"Son of a…" I muttered with a grumble once I was on my knees.
The interface had a new red-flashing notice – replacing one of the orange ones – and as pain shot through my body, I looked at my right shoulder and hissed at what I saw.
The arm was hanging limply at my side, and the large burnt smoking hole just under the shoulder blade confirmed why I was in pain and what the red-warning notice was saying; my right arm was now fucking useless. There was a faint smell of charred flesh, indicating that it had been a high-powered bolt that had struck me, though thankfully not one powerful enough to sheer the arm entirely off, even if that would likely hurt less.
I blinked several times, trying to get the pain under control, before glancing at my status bars. My HP was now red – meaning it was now at less than fifteen per cent – while my FP was just over twenty per cent.
With knowledge of how bad I was fucked up, but not my exact situation, I activated Detection even as I reached over to prise the remaining bracer from my useless right forearm.
"Fuck!" I snapped as I lifted my useless arm onto my lap and my minimap showed just over a dozen targets approaching fast from the Jundland Wastes. "I fucking hate this mother-fucking planet!" I growled out as I tapped the codes needed to disable the bracer, only for the thing to blink and sizzle, sending a jolt of fresh pain up the arm.
"Fuck!" I shouted as the bracer failed to deactivate and my HP bar dropped a fraction more. "Bloody mother-fucking stupid arsed, fucking piece of god damn shit!"
"Argh!" I growled out as I ripped a strip off my robes and used it – with a very quick twist of Telekinesis to wrap it around my forearm – to secure my right arm against my side. It wouldn't stop it moving entirely, but it would have to suffice as the odds of the rapidly approaching sentients being friendly were really fucking low.
My knife was stuck in the brain of the now-dead greater krayt dragon, and with the skies still clear I knew that the Cin Vhetin would still be monitoring me. That made taking any weapon out of my Inventory an issue and had me cursing mentally at another thing that I could at least partially blame on this planet.
As I unsteadily rose to my feet, I felt my anger continue to flare, and as a desire to burn this world to ash came to mind – after I'd rescued Shmi and Anakin of course – I felt an inkling to latch on to that darker impulse and just let go. To burn and murder the fuckwits who'd attacked me barely a minute after I'd survived a mother-fucking greater krayt dragon.
Since they'd waited until I'd – rather miraculously, if I did say so myself – taken down the dragon to attack, it meant they were likely either here to kill me and take the dragon as their own, been hired to attack and kill or capture me, or just thought I was an easy mark after my narrow survival. Regardless of which it was, I wasn't going to go down without a bloody fight.
I felt the familiar presence of Fay touching against my mind via our Force Bond and gratefully latched onto it. [Master.]
[Cameron, are… how bad are your injuries?] Fay asked, after stopping herself from likely asking if I was well.
[Bad, but I can stand.] I replied with a hint of false bravado. [I don't suppose that the group that's almost on me were sent by Duke Adonai?]
I sensed her concern and worry before she replied. [No. This group is one of two that seem to have targeted you. The duke has launched several parties to deal with them, but the closest one to you is still several minutes out. The duke and I are a further five minutes behind.]
I harumphed loudly at having it confirmed that those closing on me – they were less than five hundred metres away now – were hostile. [Wonderful. Well I'll try and not get myself killed in the meantime.]
[That would be preferred. I have grown rather fond of you Padawan. May the Force be with you.]
I chuckled at her reply as I felt her presence leave my mind. Force Telepathy was a weird thing, but there was no denying the usefulness of it in situations like these. With the status of the incoming bodies being hostile, I began to quickly consider my options.
I considered activating Player's Mind but decided against it. Before I'd removed it from the default combat abilities that auto-activated – and thus why it didn't activate automatically while running for my life from the greater krayt dragon – I'd come to realise that even though it was countering my emotions during combat, it was also slowing my reactions. Emotions, and the chemicals a body created in tense situations, helped one focus if harnessed correctly. And while this body was still growing and maturing, I felt it was now time for me to begin to learn to handle those reactions so that there was less risk that an unexpected emotional reaction in the future overrode my control and cost me my life.
Plus, there was also the fact that if I relied on it to maintain control over my emotions, I was cutting myself from a part of myself, which would make my discussions with Serra regarding the Force and emotions completely hypocritical. And yes, not using Player's Mind was also cutting off a part of myself, but that ability was one no one else had and something I felt was disturbingly unnatural, thus to not use it was the lesser of the two evils when dealing with denying a part of myself.
However, I suspected that there were going to be times where using it would be advantageous; like dealing with the High Council when I didn't want to give any of them the satisfaction of getting an emotional response out of me.
With only one bracer running, and the FP penalty at four hundred per cent, I kept Detection active as knowing where exactly my attackers were and how they'd approach was going to be a huge help. Plus, with the lowered penalty, there was no overall FP drain having both powers active concurrently.
I glanced to both sides and noted that the dune trough I'd fallen into after being shot merged into another dune to my left but extended to my right. Ducking down, I headed that way, hoping to get some distance from where I landed before the hostiles were upon me.
A faint sound, likely a voice, carried to me on the wind, but the words were distorted enough that I couldn't make them out. However, whatever was said had me cursing mentally as the group approaching shifted their angles, adapting to my movement. That meant they must've had some way to track my location; portably a simple life-sign scanner that was locked onto me. Which confirmed they were after me directly and not the dragon.
If I had all my FP, or the remaining bracer would turn off, then I'd have used Teleport to re-establish distance between myself and the attackers, but with one bracer still, infuriatingly, active, and my FP being low, that wasn't an option. Though I still had a way to limit their ease to find me with Force Cloak, though I could only hope it would block me from their scanner.
I felt the Force shift around me, and turned quickly to sprint to a new dune, only for pain to shoot through my body. I fell to a knee as pain erupted from my back as if someone had lain a white-hot rod of steel across it while my useless arm slapped against my stomach.
Once the pain had abated enough that I could re-focus, I saw that the hostiles had stopped. Clearly, Force Cloak had hidden me from their scanner, which had made them pause. Sadly, that power didn't fully cover me from sight, and the one that did – Force Camouflage – was a power I hadn't spent time training up. An oversight much like what had happened with Force Heal before Serra's verd'goten. Then again, even if I could hide from sight, there were still ways to detect me, with smell and sound being the obvious two.
Still, Force Cloak had bought me a few seconds that I could use to move to disorientate my attackers, though that was difficult to do as pain flooded my system from my back and shoulder.
Even as I moved as quickly as I could without the pain overloading my senses, my minimap indicated that the hostiles were moving once more. Though this time, they were being more cautious; likely due to their scanner no longer having a lock on my exact location.
I quickly calculated that the first of the attackers would break the crest of the dune I was behind in about thirty seconds. That wasn't much time to prepare, never mind scamper away in my current condition, but a flare of hope grew inside as I saw a new group of targets enter the range of the minimap. Given that they were moving too quickly to be on foot and moving in a V formation, I had to assume these were the reinforcements Fay had mentioned.
Another quick calculation had the Mandalorian strike force arriving at my location just after the hostiles discovered me. Hopefully, I'd be able to find a way to sta-
I was interrupted mid-thought as Precognition flared and warned of a general threat and I caught sight of a small metallic object come flying over the crest of the dune. Reacting on instinct from over a decade of combat, I pushed the likely grenade back the way it came with the Force and scampered away from the dune crest as best I could.
A scream filled the air as the grenade re-crossed the dune crest, which was followed soon after by a loud and painful sonic blast that obliterated the top metre of the dune and had me wincing at the loud sound thundered around me.
As the shockwave dissipated, I noted that the air above me had been filled by sand, obscuring my vision, and likely that of my attackers. Yes, it would likely also prevent the Mandalorians coming to help from laying down covering fire, but any cover was better than none.
Ignoring the pain that shot up my spine as I scrambled up the remains to the dune, I broke over the crest to find visibility was less than half a meter. Though, thanks to my Force-boosted minimap, that didn't limit my ability to track my attackers.
A brief usage of the Force had the closest attacker lose their footing and come towards me airborne. They let out a startled yelp, though it was silenced almost instantly as they landed face-first in the sand at my feet.
As the Weequay began to raise himself up, I let my body fall and drove my good elbow into the back of his neck, forcing him back down onto the sand. I heard the crack as his head snapped to the side on impact, snapping his neck due to the opposing forces. Landing like that sent a new wave of pain through my body, but as the now-deadalien slumped into the sand, I ignored my pain as best I could and rolled onto my good side.
While Player's Mind wasn't active, my adrenaline was pumping, and I felt I was still moving and reacting at a decent enough level to keep fighting; levels that I'd lose if Player's Mind was active and limiting my emotional responses. Of course, that was before Force Speed and Bullet-Time were taken into consideration as even badly injured, they still made me move faster than most normal sentients could track.
I reached down and pulled a knife from the belt of the dying Weequay and with barely a look, tossed it towards my next closest attacker. My shoulder flared in pain as I twisted to launch the knife with my good arm, but I ignored it, and as a faint grunt from that second target reached my ears, I was already pulling the Weequay's blaster pistol from his hand.
With another twist, and the expected burst of intense pain, I fired off two quick shots and the second target disappeared from the minimap as the target fell to the ground dead.
With these two down, I began to move, pivoting around with my good arm aimed at a target to my right. While it slowed me down to do that – I'd had to turn about two-hundred and seventy degrees instead of the normal ninety – with the Force boosting my reactions and overall speed, I was able to do so fairly quickly.
I raised the pistol and managed a single shot before it went to hell…
- -BOOM- -
As a massive sonic explosion ripped through the air around me, the pistol fell from my grasp as I lifted my hands to cover my ears; which only made me grimace further as my ruined right shoulder and useless arm didn't respond and instead sent a new wave of pain surging through me.
I wanted to curse at the fact my arm was now fucked, but since I was lying face-first in the sand and my already fucked up back had borne the brunt of the concussive blast, I wasn't able to do so. At least not unless I wanted another mouth full of sand.
I groaned in pain, only to get a mouthful of sand for my trouble as something scrapped against my back before it grabbed me by the back of my robes and pulled.
I was sent flying backwards, barely able to process what was happening as the pain from my back and shoulder was beginning to overload my ability to ignore or counter it. Even as that happened though, I was able to see that the thing that had thrown me was a yellow-scaled Trandoshan.
A new wave of pain washed over me as I crashed into the next dune, then bounced over the crest down into a new trench. As my unexpected trip came to an end, I hissed and blinked rapidly trying to clear the sand from my vision and to clear my head enough to keep going.
As my vision settled, and the blurred images came back into focus, the imposing figure of the Trandoshan that had thrown me came over the crest of the dune. He stared down at me as his long, lizard-like tongue flicked out and seemed to taste the air.
A deep, inhuman chuckle filled the air as he began to head down the dune towards me.
"The scorekeeper is smiling on me today." The giant lizardman muttered as he slid down the last of the dune between us. "A Jedi and a Mandalorian in one kill."
Precognition flared and I tried to move, but the pain from my injuries stopped me in my tracks as the Trandoshan dove a vibroblade into my gut.
I gasped out as the blade sunk into my flesh, cold fire spreading from my wound as it was twisted, ripping my internal organs even further. I coughed and felt blood surge up my throat. Spitting it out, I attempted to speak.
"You're damning yourself in her eyes," I rasped out, trying to buy time. "I thought she required hunters to make the kill unassisted. There's an overgrown lizard which gave you a pretty big assist." I coughed again as the blade ceased its twisting momentarily, likely more in surprise that I knew of the Scorekeeper than out of agreement with my words. "Of course, I mean the one lying dead over there, not the one here who's soon to be dead as well."
The blade twisted violently and resumed shredding my insides as I was reminded that Dun Möch didn't always turn out well.
"Yesss, indeed. A most impressive prize," the Trandoshan hissed as he glanced around at it. "I shall enjoy regaling my clutch with the tale of its fall at my hands. And now I'll get the bonus for being the one who killed you as well." His tongue shot out as he hissed again and flicked against my shoulder, seemingly tasting my blood. "Hmm. You will make a good meal."
As he chuckled at his comment, I frantically scrapped at his massive arm with my one good hand. The idea that after everything that'd happened, being reborn here, and given a charge to alter the fate of the galaxy that this was how it was going to end was… galling.
"I will be the most famous hunter in my clutch." He stated as he leaned in closer and twisted the knife once more. "Your death will help me find a good mate."
I grunted as the knife continued to rupture my insides. My HP bar was now flashing, meaning my HP had fallen below ten per cent, and my FP was all but gone. This new life, this new adventure, one that until less than an hour ago I was still treating as a game, was about to end, and my time here, my actions, would amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things; just as my old life hadn't mattered in the greater scheme.
I felt a rage begin to build as I realised just how fucked up this all was. How unfair, wrong and insane it was that after taking down something as massive and powerful as a greater krayt dragon that I was going to be taken out by a no-name overgrown arrogant bloody lizard.
This wasn't how I thought it would go, oh I knew that taking down Sidious, and preventing the rise of the Empire, was going to be a monumental task, but that I'd fail before the real game had even begun, that I'd be dead before Anakin even came into the picture…
I felt the ember of rage flare inside me, turning into a blazing fire that spread through my veins.
No, not like this.
This was not how it was going to end. Not like this, not on this mother-fucking planet at the hands of a walking handbag.
No, not like this.
Images flooded my mind. I saw Tedra, now in her late teens, fall to Grievous in a jungle, then Naz, grown into a beautiful young woman with her hair grown out and flying around her, dying from overwhelming blaster fire. I saw Dooku die to a blue blade that slashed him from shoulder to hip, then I witnessed Sia-Lan killed by another Jedi, his face blurred from my sight, the shock at what had happened clear on her face. Then Bultar was killed when a black hand drove a metal blade through her heart.
I watched Fay gasp as a blade of crimson was driven through her stomach then looked on helplessly as Serra fought valiantly, brutally against Anakin… no, against Vader as he led the assault on the Temple. Their fight was brutal, but it was instantly clear that while Serra was good, she was no match for the newly crowned Sith Lord and I felt my heart miss a beat I could scarcely afford as Vader smashed through her defences, sliced off her arm at the elbow then removed her head on his backswing.
My rage, my anger began to flare as the images of all those I knew, all those I held dear, were shown dying because of my failure here today. Because of my death at the hands of this inbred overgrown lizard on this stupid, mother-fucking shithole of a planet.
No, this wasn't how it was supposed to end, this wasn't how things were meant to go.
"Not. Like. This!" I growled out in a weak voice and somehow finding the strength to move my good hand to grasp the Trandoshan's wrist as he twisted the blade in my gut.
The anger and rage burning inside felt like the fire of a thousand suns as I glared up at the fucking waste of sentient life that thought he was going to kill me. The calmness I normally felt within, was gone, replaced by a maelstrom of rage that needed, no wanted, to lash out and destroy my enemies.
"What a pretty trinket." The lumbering lizard muttered as I felt its free hand move towards my neck. "This will make a good trophy."
No. Fuck no.
As the dirty unworthy claws of the small-brained moron closed around the gift given to me by Fay and Dooku, I felt my fury surge, flooding every inch of my being with a raw intoxicating power I'd never felt before.
"Any last words little Jedi?" The Trandoshan asked as he yanked his knife from my gut blood spurting out to steam upon the sand, my good hand flailing around as he did so. His other hand tightened its grip around the necklace, and I felt the phrik chain begin to dig into the back of my neck as he tried to wrench it from my body.
"Is the kill complete, Grogg?" A new voice asked, and I tilted my head enough to see a second yellow-scaled Trandoshan come over the crest.
"Almost brother." The now-named Grogg replied, his tongue flicking out and slashing the air. "I can taste his fear and anger. The Scorekeeper will be pleased with my kill."
"Y-you first!" I spat out as I tried to push the power now flowing through me, and every ounce of remaining FP I had, into my hand as I thrust it into his chest. "DIE!" I roared with all my remaining energy.
And everything turned a jagged blinding red.
Serra ducked under the whirling blue blade of her fellow Padawan, then thrust forward with the hand holding her shoto-saber in a reverse grip to drive the hilt into her chest.
"Oof!" Lorana Jinzler grunted out as she staggered back a little from the blow, but Serra didn't relent. She took advantage of the shift in her friend's stance to flick her blade up and around humming an inch from Lorana's exposed neck.
"Four to one." Master Drallig called from the side of the sparring ring where he was monitoring the spar and Serra felt his satisfaction with her performance radiate through the Force.
"When did you get this aggressive?" Lorana asked as she took stepped back to their starting positions.
"The objective in any fight is to win as quickly as possible, or if that cannot be achieved, to find a way to withdraw and regroup." Serra replied, repeating a lesson the Instructors at the Institute drilled into everyone's head. And something that was proven during her private training sessions with Bo-Katan, Naz and especially Rook Kast.
While the two younger girls had generally gone easier on her, Rook had certainly not. Serra had been forced to take those words to heart as in a straight fight, with her unable to call on the Force to help, Serra was badly outclassed by Rook. Still, even if the training from Rook had been brutal and aggressive, it had helped her immensely and Serra felt more confident if the situation ever arose where she was in a fight without her lightsaber.
Plus, being a better-trained unarmed fighter was giving her a further edge over her fellow Padawans at the Temple and helping her show that spending six months on Mandalore had been worth it. Though the lecture she'd gotten from Master Giiett about having to kill a sentient creature to prove herself to the Mandalorians had been disappointing. Master Giiett had always been more open-minded than most of the High Council and someone that Cam spoke well of.
"Did you learn that from the Mandalorians?" Lorana asked as Serra shifted her stance and readied her blades. "Do they always fight dirty?"
Serra smirked at how little Lorana understood. Then again, at this time last year, she'd have agreed with her friend. "No, they just th…"
"Aarrgh!" Serra screamed as she dropped her lightsabers and gripped the sides of her head as her mind was overloaded with pain, anger and suffering. As she fell to her knees, the world around her was lost as fury and hatred flooded into her through the Force.
Massive, white teeth
Large, broad shadow
Over and over, the images flashed through her mind until, what felt like hours later, the rage lessened enough that she could open her eyes. She discovered she was lying on her side, her knees pulled tight against her body as Master Drallig knelt beside her while Lorana and a few others stood just behind him.
"Serra? Serra, what happened?" Master Drallig asked slowly as she felt his hand against her shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze as their eyes met. His calming presence in the force was something she latched on to, hoping it would be enough to counter the still bubbling anger she sensed.
"I… I'm not sure. I…"
She stopped in mid-sentence as the rage surged into her mind once more. She squeezed her eyes shut in the vain hope it would keep the tidal wave of anger out.
Waves of yellow
As new images surged through her mind, she curled up into a ball. She didn't scream out this time, managing to keep it to a small whimper, and as the images repeated and merged with the earlier ones she gasped as she realised what it all meant.
"Cam!" She called out as she regained control of her mind, and used the Force to limit the feedback she now realised was coming from her best friend. As her eyes opened, she looked up at her master. "Cam's in danger!" She snapped, her eyes wide and with a hint of moisture in them.
"Are you certain?" Master Drallig asked his brow knitting at her words. Serra saw Lorana's eyes widen and a few of the others who were behind her turned to whisper to each other. However, her concern was on her friend and not the fools around her.
"Yes. H-he went to attempt his verd'goten and…" her hand came to her mouth as she realised that she'd just confirmed to her master, and those listening, that Cam was going to become a Mando'ade as she had done. This meant that when he returned to the temple, the High Council would likely haul him in front of them and discipline him; and likely his punishment would be worse than hers as many of them had it out for him.
Drallig's brow knitted further, and she could sense his growing worry underneath the calm he was projecting. "Do you know to which world he went for this… trial?" He asked quietly, probably concerned about revealing details to those behind him.
Serra opened her mouth to respond, only to pause. She did know, but revealing that she was aware that not only was Cam attempting a hunt but where might get them both into further trouble. While for her that would likely mean another month of helping Master Nu catalogue things in the Archives, for Cam it would likely make things much worse and drive more people into towards the frankly stupid idea that he was a threat to the Order.
"No. It's a personal thing and he didn't reveal where they were going the last time we spoke." That was technically true as their last holocall had been just before he'd left, but he had sent her a short message saying he was heading to a world near Hutt Space just over a week ago.
Drallig pulled his hand from her shoulder and rubbed his chin. "Hmm. Then perhaps, if you are feeling well enough to move, we should head to the communications centre and attempt to contact Masters Fay and Dooku. I am sure at least one of them is with the Padawan during his trial."
He stood and offered a hand to help her up, which she readily accepted.
She smiled at her master, pleased that he believed her fears, about what had caused her reaction, were genuine and that he accepted what Cam was doing. Oh, she could sense the faintest hints of displeasure from him, but not in the amount that would have her worried her master was losing faith in her, and her commitment to protecting the galaxy as a member of the Jedi.
Serra also knew that she'd have to talk with her master about the visions she saw. Many in the Order placed little stock in visions and prophecy, however, Serra wasn't one of them. Cam was sent from nearly four thousand years in the past to this moment in time. The Force had a plan for him, she knew that, and with the talk of him being the Chosen One, she had tried to learn what she could of the prophecy.
While Master Drallig had dissuaded her from pushing too hard to learn about that prophecy and others, he had admitted there may be something in it that explained Cam's arrival. That gave Serra hope that her master wouldn't just dismiss her when she mentioned what she'd seen when the Force had sent Cam's rage and anger to her.
After all, if the Force did not wish to help a Jedi, then would it provide them with glimpses of what was and might be?
It took most of Dooku's years of training to resist the urge to sneer as the doors to the bar where he was meeting this contact opened. The place was filled with loud, unruly patrons yelling at various sports on the multitude of displays lining one wall while something that no educated person would ever call music was pipped into the room at a volume that was barely below what Dooku would consider hazardous for one's hearing. And to cap it all off was the smell. The stench that nearly overwhelmed Dooku's senses as he stepped in had him promising to repay Rael for using this as a meet location; preferably by examining if his lightsaber skills were still to an acceptable level.
This… locale, was unbecoming of any Jedi, particularly one of his stature and refinement. To be forced to enter it was likely a private joke on Rael's part. After only a few steps, Dooku was already revising upwards how he would repay his former Padawan for selecting this place as the meeting point for the informant. And if the informant failed to provide any useful intel on the Bando Gora as Rael had promised, Dooku would make time to visit his former Padawan and spend several days helping him to refine his lightsaber techniques.
For nearly a year now – ever since his current Padawan, Cameron Shan, had helped him begin to see that the battle of Galidraan was not entirely his fault, nor that the Mandalorians held any true grudge for his actions that day – Dooku had felt a… whisper from the Force. One that centred around his only failed Padawan, Komari Vosa.
Part of the reason for her dismissal from the Order centred around the Battle of Galidraan. The Order felt that she was far too battle-happy for most Jedi to accept. Though Dooku never ceased to be amazed at the hypocrisy of the Jedi Order – he was aware of many others that were just as willing to draw their lightsaber at the first hint of danger – it was the additional issue of her unstable infatuation with him that persuaded him to go along with the High Council's recommendation that Vosa be reassigned.
Yet, while the Council of Reassignment was debating what to do with Vosa, Yoda and other members of the High Council had allowed her to accompany a Jedi strike team to deal with the Bando Gora cult on Baltizaar. That mission… well, even before the survivors returned, Dooku had considered it a foolish gesture as the High Council had not researched the situation or the cult in any great detail, choosing instead to just do as the Senate and Chancellor had wished without questioning them.
Vosa should never have been sent on such a mission when her mental condition was fragile after being removed as his Padawan, and the High Council knew this. Yet, in their infinite wisdom, they still allowed her to go. Though they covered their position by making her position in the strike team unofficial as if washing their hands of the Padawan. And in his arrogance, and the little remaining trust he had for the High Council, Dooku had allowed it to happen.
That mission had been an unmitigated disaster. Not only had most of the Jedi been killed, or were assumed to have been killed, but the image of the Jedi as some invincible force for the Republic was shattered once news broke about the battle. At the time Dooku hadn't been able to figure out who had leaked the report the High Council had submitted to the Senate, but now, thanks to the Coalition – something that centred around his current Padawan – he knew: The Sith. Only they had anything to truly gain from weakening the Jedi in the eyes of the average Republic citizen. Oh, Dooku was aware that many disliked the Jedi – or worse – but to move against them then not strike straight afterwards made little sense; not unless you were working from the shadows to slowly take down the Jedi and Republic. And only the Sith would be able to do something like that.
After the few survivors of Baltizaar had returned to the temple to report on the disaster, Yoda had sought out Dooku to inform him that Vosa was among those who had been killed. While Dooku had not wished that on his former Padawan, he had accepted the news. After all, if a Dark Side cult like the Bando Gora were able to defeat and kill several Jedi Knights and even the two Masters who lead the mission, what chance would a dismissed Padawan have against them.
At the time, Dooku had written off Vosa's death as an act of the Force removing someone unworthy from the galaxy and then vowed to never take another Padawan. Yet, that vow had lasted mere months as, heralded by a massive ripple in the Force, a child from the past had emerged. Cameron Shan, his current – and he knew in his heart his last and greatest – Padawan had arrived at the Temple and Dooku had felt the Force guide him to the boy.
It was thanks to the young man – Dooku felt it better to consider Cameron a man as he was far, far more mature than those his own– that Dooku felt his spirit revitalising somewhat, and had been gifted with a renewed sense of purpose about what needed to be done. Training the young man – the descendent of one of the galaxy's most famous Jedi and Sith – to the rank of Jedi Knight, then helping him guide the future generations of Jedi and the galaxy, would be his greatest achievement.
And yet, young Cameron had in the last year, made Dooku question several events in his past that, had come to define his later years. After the death of Vosa – which he now had reframed in his mind to be only apparent death –, Dooku had been heavily considering leaving the Jedi. Only his attachments to his other Padawans – Rael Averross, Qui-Gon Jinn and Keelyvine Reus, though the last was merely to complete her training when her former Jedi master was killed – and his few friends like Sifo-Dyas had stayed his hand. Cameron's arrival had quieted those thoughts and set Dooku on a new path, one that Dooku felt the Force wished him to travel, and one that he was slowly becoming glad he was on.
And thanks to this new path, and the young man that had set him on it, Dooku was now… less than certain that his former Padawan was dead. There were still… rare moments when he was in the deepest of meditations where he had felt as if she was still with him, yet he had never considered that those were hints that she was possibly still alive. Not until young Cameron had wondered aloud that 'if no body had been found, how could the Council be certain that Vosa was dead'.
With Cameron currently studying on Mandalore – and in the private recesses of his mind, Dooku found it a strange quirk of the Force that his Padawan would study with the very people that Dooku's strike force had massacred on Galidraan – Dooku had begun to discover as much as he could about the operations of the Bando Gora.
He had been able to shut down a few smaller operations in remote Inner Rim systems, but Dooku was no fool. He had no intention of going after their main bases of operation until he was sure if Vosa was alive, and only once he had a team with him that he could trust implicitly. However, even keeping his actions as quiet as he could, it had still drawn attention and on his last return to the Jedi Temple, Grandmaster Yoda has spoken with him and warned against him becoming stuck in the ghosts of the pasts.
Dooku's lips twisted as he considered the hypocrisy of his old teacher's words, if any Jedi was likely to be focused on days gone by, it would be one who remembered the true 'Golden age of the Republic' that had existed a few hundred years ago. There was no way any being could live for nearly nine centuries and not have their thoughts clouded by the past. That meant that Yoda was the primary source of the complacency and flaws that had taken over the Jedi Order since the Ruusan Reformations.
What had once been an order built on the ideals of honour and following the will of the force had become nothing more than the weak and loyal lapdog for a corrupt and failing Galactic Senate. Instead of acting to end the rampant slavery epidemic in the Outer Rim, the Jedi helped the corrupt Republic make peace with the Hutt cartels and crime syndicates that controlled that abominable practice.
And Grandmaster Yoda was the single biggest root of this failure of the Order. After eight hundred years serving the Jedi, and over six hundred of those on the High Council, the Grandmaster had grown uncaring to or unconcerned about the obvious flaws and failings of the Galactic Republic.
For Yoda to warn him about the dangers of the past, and pretend that he wasn't affected by his ghosts… It had taken all of Dooku's great control to not retort, particularly as Dooku had proof that even the most selfless of Jedi had ghosts.
Master Fay was the epitome of what a Jedi should be. She was devoted to doing the right thing, and while Dooku did not always agree with her choices or methods about how she'd resolved issues, it was clear to any who spent time around her that she was still haunted by ghosts. That many of her ghosts were, like his, linked to Mandalore and its people was… a curious quirk since both of them had been drawn there by their shared Padawan.
And so, after Yoda's so-called words of wisdom, and the completion of Padawan Keto's trial to become one of the warriors of Mandalore – a worthy title for those who followed ideals like Jaster Mereel had supported – Dooku had left the temple and the decadent capital of the failing Republic and if not for his friends there, like Sifo-Dyas and Sheev Palpatine – the rarest of politicians who seemed to have the good of the people at his core – he doubted he would ever return.
As the doors hissed closed behind him, Dooku stopped and took a long breath. He needed to calm himself, allowing his anger at the behaviour of Yoda and the majority of the High Council and Jedi Order to fester was a danger. He would meditate on the issue later, but he suspected that like the previous times he had done so, no easy solution to his anger and his future would become clear.
Returning his thoughts and full attention to the present, Dooku surveyed the bar. With just a cursory glance, he saw eleven instances of illegal activity, though none were beyond a minor infraction and this location was… remote. As intended. By the grace of the Force, he was able to spot the informant that Rael had arranged for him to meet.
A white-skinned Devaronian was relaxing in an alcove far from the screens and the screeching masses there enjoying a drink, but what had Dooku's attention was the large pin that was attached to the alien's jacket. The pin was of a small bird in flight coloured red. Dooku failed to see the humour in it as it linked back to an assignment Rael had gone on not long after becoming a Knight during which he'd spent over a year posing as a pirate to crack a group that was targeting civilian transports to and from various Mid-Rim worlds for slaves. Now, from what Dooku knew, Rael used that as a symbol to mark those he trusted or had a use for as from the look of the Devaronian, Dooku doubted his first Padawan used this being as anything more than a courier.
Slowly Dooku moved around the central bar towards where the contact was sitting. He made sure to keep looking around, taking note of anyone who looked at him for more than a second as a potential complication. While his clothing didn't immediately indicate he was a Jedi, the high quality of them drew attention as he was clearly far better off than the patrons of this delightful establishment. Hopefully, none would try to accost him and thus risking him revealing his true status to the masses.
Once he was close enough to be heard by the contact over the racket that filled the bar, Dooku spoke in a voice that would only carry to the Devaronian. "I believe you have something for me."
The alien smirked and gave Dooku the once over. "Probably. Doubt there's some other high and mighty Jedi that's going to walk into this place today. And certainly not one as rich as you. Rael did tell me that was how I'd know you were the contact."
"Quite." Dooku replied as he sat down opposite the Devaronian, making no effort to correct the being's misguided belief that Dooku had wealth.
While his family was one of the richest in the galaxy, and he preferred to wear robes more becoming of a powerful individual like himself, Dooku did not feel a need to directly acquire wealth. With his rank and experience within the Order, he was free to take credits as needed from the Jedi funds. Those accounts were not well known to most beings in the galaxy, and many would likely be shocked to discover they existed, and that they held quadrillions of credits within them. This was another thing that Dooku had begun to realise was flawed about the Order as with those resources, the Jedi could do more to actively help those in need. Instead, the funds simply sat there, metaphorically collecting dust, while the corrupt Senate made deals with races like the Hutts and the Pyke and groups like Black Sun.
Of course, they were not truly the sole funds of the Jedi Order, Dooku mused as he ordered a drink from a passing droid. The Order had integrated itself into the Republic so thoroughly over the last few millennia that their finances were inexorably linked. Should the Jedi start to make robust moves with those resources, it would then likely face inquiries from the senate. If there was one thing that corrupt politicians and establishments didn't like, it was a sudden uptick in the usage of 'their' funds, even if they had no direct access to it.
There was silence between the two, and Dooku frowned. "The information?" He asked once it became clear that the Devaronian wasn't going to begin the conversation. A conversation Dooku hoped was short as he had no wish to stay in this locale any longer than absolutely necessary.
The Devaronian chuckled and leaned back, his arms stretching along the top of the ring sofa that encircled most of the table. "I have it, but what's it worth to you?"
A wave of annoyance shot through Dooku, but he kept his face neutral. He had expected the contact to try to extort him for an additional payday – something that was common among those who lived on the edges of society – but to have his suspicion confirmed was aggravating. "I was made aware that you had already been compensated for this by Rael." He replied, making clear that this was not want was agreed.
"He did but seeing as to how this is to do with a death cult and criminal syndicate, I've raised my rates." The alien chuckled, exposing the first of the sharp teeth the males of his species were known for. However, if it was meant to use that to intimidate Dooku, then the Devaronian was sorely underestimating him.
"I see." Dooku replied, narrowing his eyes as he focused on the Devaronian while also reaching out with the Force. There was a chance that the alien had accomplices to help him shake down Dooku for more credits, or that someone was listening and planned to take advantage of their meeting to earn some credits. While the latter was more likely, it was reasonable to assume that any being willing to try the former would have support. "And how much is this increase going to cost me?"
"Five thousand." The Devaronian replied with another chuckle.
Dooku allowed a frown to appear on his face. "That is far more than I have with me. Perhaps we can come to another, mutually beneficial arrangement?" He asked, drawing out the conversation in the hopes that the Devaronian would relent, or that, if there was help, they became angsty and made a move early, allowing Dooku to simply take the data from the corpse of this being.
The Devaronian leaned forward, its smile growing as it sensed an opportunity. More of his sharp teeth becoming visible. "And what exactly would you be willing to offer to lower my fee?"
Dooku noted there was no chance to remove the extortion altogether, but he had expected that and that this contact would likely demand more than just what Rael had paid him to courier this data to Dooku.
"Perhaps, along with say, a thousand credits, you would be willing to consider accepting a favour from a high-ranking member of the Order?" Dooku offered as he gently reached out with the Force to guide the Devaronian to accept his terms.
In the past, he would have simply used the more common ability of a Jedi to convince someone to do what they wanted, however, that was prone to not working on those with stronger wills, so he used the more subtle approach that Fay had taught to himself and Cameron. He had felt Fay use it often and noticed that while it didn't instantly get the result desired, it was harder for a target to sense and resist.
"And what would this favour entail?" The Devaronian asked, clearly intrigued by the idea of a Jedi owing him a favour.
"A single promise from me to help you with any… problem that you may encounter in the future." Dooku explained. "However, I would not be willing to help you commit a felony." He added, to help sell the idea he was serious. Which he wasn't, as he had no intention of owing a favour to anyone unwilling to honour an agreement. The Devaronian had proved he was not to be trusted by attempting to extort extra credits from Dooku, over and above the fee Rael had paid him. However, this flaw in the alien's nature was one that Dooku was more than willing to exploit to his advantage.
The Devaronian scratched the base of one of its horns. "Hmm. That is tempting, but I don't think it is a fair exchange for what I've got on this." He replied, pulling a datacard from a pocket on his jacket. "This is worth more than a thousand credits and a favour."
"While the information you have would be highly beneficial to my research, the favour of a Jedi is worth much." Dooku countered without the need to lie. "However, I am willing to also increase my price to fifteen hundred."
If this data was what Rael had hinted that it was, then it might provide Dooku with definitive proof that not only was Vosa still alive, but also where the main base the cult operated from was located, and where Dooku suspected Vosa and any other captured Jedi were held. Assaulting such a location would take a team of Jedi as the times when he'd dealt with smaller cult operations, and run into dedicated followers of the cult, and not just their hired guns, had informed Dooku of how well-trained the cult was.
While Dooku hadn't had any difficultly taking down those operatives, mainly due to there only ever being two or three cultists involved in such operations, they had fought surprisingly well and forced Dooku to adapt his style far more than he had expected. Indeed, if not for the time he'd spend training Cameron up to eventually replace him as the Jedi's foremost Makashi master – a position the Padawan was not yet ready or able to take – Dooku suspected he'd have likely suffered serious injury against the cultists.
To assault their main headquarters, or even a secure location that held Vosa – and potentially others – would need a strong team of at least five or six Jedi. Fay and Cameron would, of course, be two members of that team, as even if Fay did not use a lightsaber, his spars against her had proved that that apparent weakness was anything but. And while Cameron was young, Dooku had the utmost faith in his Padawan. Cameron would undoubtedly be challenged by the cultists, but Dooku knew the young man would adapt and overcome them.
The Devaronian tapped his horn again, clearly considering Dooku's offer. "Agreed. However, I will require some form of proof that you'll uphold your word."
Dooku tutted. "How sad it is that the word of a Jedi is no longer enough to convince a citizen of the Republic." The Devaronian chuckled as Dooku had intended.
"Sadly, in these troubling times, a verbal promise, even one for a Jedi as clearly as influential as yourself, is… insufficient."
"And what, pray tell, would suffice?" Dooku asked, curious as to what the Devaronian was going to push for.
"I would need to know your name and confirm that you are a member of the Jedi Order, before I could accept the terms."
Dooku considered the request for a moment. Offering a false name was likely out, as it appeared this being had access to the complete listing of Jedi held by the Senate – yet another sign of the corruption that festered at the heart of the Republic – however offering this being his true name was not something he wished to do.
There was also the issue that any deception here could blowback on Rael, however, Dooku planned to mention this extortion to his former Padawan once safely away from the bar and suggest not using the being as a courier again.
Suddenly, an idea formed in his head. One that would both prove the Devaronian with a true name and cause issues for a person Dooku was not overly keen of within the Order.
"My name is Mace Windu." Dooku said calmly, keeping his face neutral to keep the Devaronian unaware of his deception. By doing this he guaranteed that his name was not linked to this and that it would result in confusion for Master Windu. Dooku was almost regretful he would not be present when the Devaronian tried to call in the favour and Windu would have no clue as to what was happening. "When you wish to call in the favour, refer to yourself as the red swallow." He added, indicating the being's pin.
The Devaronian pull a communicator from another pocket. "Check the Jedi records for a Mace Windu." He stated in his native tongue, though Dooku was able to understand him thanks to the Force.
The pair sat in silence until the communicator beeped. "There is one. Sits on their council too." Came the reply from whoever had been contacted.
That brought a large smile to Devaronian's face, and he reached across the table with a meaty hand. "Deal."
Dooku shook the being's hand and begun mentally counting down the seconds until he could leave this… establishment. "The data?"
The Devaronian picked up the datacard, which he had put down to use his communicator, and slid it across the table. "Here. And good luck. That cult." He paused and shook his head. "There's something very, very wrong with them."
"I am aware." Dooku replied as he broke the handshake, picked up the datacard and slid it into his robes even as he began to stand. "Now if you'll excu…"
The blast of fury and pain that surged into him made Dooku fall back down onto the sofa. He lifted a hand to his head as images began to flash incessantly through his mind.
Large, broad shadow
The images that shot through his mind were broken and incomplete, yet thanks to his studies on the various prophecies the Jedi had, and many talks with Sifo-Dyas, he was sure of what this was. A vision, one that, if the now receding surge of fury and pain any indication, was happening right now, and to someone he was connected strongly to. Even with the broken imagery, Dooku was able to quickly determine who it was the Force was warning him about, and where they were.
Just over a week ago, Fay had contacted him to inform him that Cameron was attempting the Mandalorian trial of adulthood – something that Dooku was not sure the young man had to do, but he respected his Padawan's wishes enough to allow it – on the backwater world of Tatooine. A world that circled two suns. While the rest of the vision was unclear, there was enough that Dooku felt an urgent need to leave this establishment and contact Fay and Cameron.
"Master Jedi?" The Devaronian asked.
Dooku ignored him, as the vision and rage faded enough that he was able to stand. He turned, his cloak swirling as he did, and marched away from this pitiful excuse for a sentient and out of the scum-filled bar where he'd had to meet them.
With his Padawan – and someone he was only just realising meant more to him than he expected – in danger, Dooku would allow nothing to stop him contacting Fay and reaching Tatooine with all due haste.
Padmé sighed as she sat in her lesson, listening to the lecturer speak about the importance of recognising the warning signs of corruption in a political body.
While the lecture was important, the lecturer had given the same speech last week, and the week before that. Oh, words and terminology might change, but the meaning was always the same. Anyone who sought to be a politician was at risk of being corrupted by the very system they worked in.
While part of her understood the message, the greater part of her felt that was an extremely negative and distrustful approach to take. There were good politicians around, like Senator Palpatine of her home planet of Naboo, and her mentor in the Apprentice Legislature program, Silya Shessaun.
It was Senator Palpatine that first placed the idea of her heading into politics when he'd spoken with her father one day about the need for more people like her father in the Senate. People that truly had the interests of the citizens of the Republic at heart. While Miss Shessaun was her assigned mentor and was currently on Coruscant like the Senator – Padmé was attending the program at a centre on Naboo – they spoke every other day by holocall, something Padmé greatly enjoyed.
However, the main reason for her weariness with the lecture was not the repeated dour message, but the fact a signed copy of 'Return of the King' was sitting on her bed. Cameron had it sent to her as an advance copy for her birthday and while she had already read it twice, she wanted to read it a third time before placing it with the other two signed copies that were some of her most precious possessions.
Once they'd realised what the novel she was reading was, her room-mates had become jealous that she had signed physical copies from the author – particularly for the final novel in the trilogy that wasn't available to the public yet – and often bugged her about who the author was and what he was like. Sometimes that developed into them teasing her that she was in love with the author, but that wasn't true. Cameron was a Jedi and committed to protecting the galaxy by travelling far and wide much as Aragorn had done as a Ranger. Though she couldn't deny that she'd often dreamed that she was Arwen to Cameron's Aragon and of the family they'd raise.
"Daydreaming about him again?"
Padmé blinked as the question drew her attention from her thoughts, which seemed to focus on Cameron more and more, and turned to her friend and roommate Rien Stirr, a blonde-haired girl from Theed.
"Huh?" Padmé replied as the image of Cameron in the green ranger robes of Aragon flashed through her mind. Brown was so not his colour.
"Your author friend." Rien explained with a smirk. "If you hadn't told me was a young Jedi, I'd have thought you had the hots for an old man."
"Eww!" Padmé hissed, her lips drawing back in disgust. "Cam's not old. Well, he's older than us but he's still a Padawan and under the Republic's age of responsibility."
Rien shrugged. "Ok, but is he over Naboo's age limit?" She asked with a smirk. "I mean if he is…"
"Rien! It's not…"
Padmé paused mid-retort as she felt… something.
For a moment, she felt as though a distant voice was calling out to her in pain and anger and she swore the briefest image of… two large yellow balls – stars possibly? – flashed through her mind. Though almost as soon as it seemed as though something was there, the moment passed.
"Padmé? You alright?" Rien asked, her hand coming to rest on Padmé's forearm.
"Y-yeah." Padmé replied slowly. She wasn't sure what had happened, but she had this feeling deep inside that something bad had just occurred.
With her mind having been occupied mere moments ago by Cameron, her thoughts turned to concern. Had something happened to him?
She knew, thanks to Serra, that Cameron was off doing a Mandalorian trial of adulthood. While Serra had been reluctant to speak about her own experience, she'd finally confided in Padmé some of what had happened to her.
Padmé, after making entirely sure that Serra was fine now, had been shocked to hear the barbaric methods the Mandalorians used to define an adult, but Serra had explained it was a way to honour their history and that it generally wasn't that dangerous. Even if Serra's words had sounded… weak, Padmé had been willing to take her friend at face value. Though she'd still read up on the verd'goten trial.
Though the fact she and Serra had become friends was still a surprise to Padmé. The older girl held feelings for Cameron – which, even if she denied it publicly, Padmé knew she did too – yet they'd found the ability to talk to someone outside their normal social circles a relief. Plus, they shared many of the same values about the role politicians and Jedi should serve in the galaxy.
Yet, the idea that Cameron was now in danger on his hunt didn't fill Padmé with confidence. Serra had revealed that she'd killed a spark-dragon from Kiffu – Padmé had looked it up later and been both shocked and impressed that the older girl had taken one of those out without her lightsaber or the Force – and Padmé knew that Cameron had a… knack for getting into trouble.
She shook her head to clear the building fear inside her. It was likely just random chance that she'd been thinking about Cameron when… whatever that was had happened. Still, she made a vow that once her classes were over, she'd contact Serra and get an update on Cameron's progress.
While she could, just about, accept the hunt as part of Mandalorian tradition, the fact that so many of their people still followed such archaic and barbaric ways was not something she agreed with nor understood. From what little she'd read about the New Mandalorian group that the Republic stated represented the entire sector – and both Serra and Cam had stated that was far from the truth – she thought the group had gone too far to the other extreme.
To her, peace was always the best way for a people to grow, but to reject all your culture and history was a mistake. To become so anti-war that you have no way to easily defend yourself seemed foolish, particularly if the society in question was one that still believed that children had to hunt and kill something to prove themselves as adults.
"Miss Naberrie, please pay attention." The lecturer called out making Padmé jump a bit in her seat.
"Yes, sir." She replied.
She returned her focus to the lecture – even if the message behind it was becoming tedious – but sent a silent prayer to the Force to protect Cameron and get him away from the Mandalorians as soon as it could. Until that happened, Padmé suspected she wouldn't feel comfortable with Cameron's location.
Yoda frowned as the word, and the accompanying rage, reached out to him while he was deep in meditation. The voice was unclear, distorted, as was often the case with whispers from the Dark Side, but their anger, fury and pain were easy for the aged Grandmaster to sense.
However, with the Force now awash for the moment in the rage, Yoda was forced to break from his meditation. As his eyes opened, he saw Master Windu had also been forced out of his meditation. The Vaapad master's face appeared calm, but Yoda could see the subtle signs of irritation in his friend's expression.
"Someone powerful has tapped into the Dark Side." Windu stated solemnly as his forehead wrinkled. "A new Sith perhaps?"
"Powerful, yes, but a Sith, I think not." Yoda replied slowly as he moved his legs to restore feeling in them. Meditating for hours at a time often left his body stiff when he stopped. "Much pain and anger I sensed, but undisciplined it was, unfocused, desperate, in danger this person was."
After a moment, Windu nodded in agreement then rubbed his chin. "Yes. That is true. Still, a Force Sensitive has called on the Dark Side for help. A worrying development. Yet I do not think this was a Knight or Master within the Order. Perhaps a Padawan."
"A name you have, hmm?" Yoda asked as he shifted forward in the seat he used for meditation until his legs were able to touch the floor. "Young Shan perhaps?"
It was an open secret to the High Council that Master Windu led the group of Masters who were… concerned about the boy's development and power. Yoda did share some of their concerns, not least when it was discovered that his midi-chlorians had jumped to unheralded levels, but he did not feel the boy was destined to fall as his ancestor did.
Windu's frown deepened. "The boy is tainted thanks to his lineage. He is a threat to the Order, especially with the growing darkness in the galaxy."
Yoda shook his head. Windu was convinced the boy would bring trouble and while Yoda couldn't deny that the Padawan did seem to have a… habit of getting into situations, he had always found a way out. Even if sometimes the way he'd done so were not ways Yoda would've used. The fact that the boy had Master Dooku and Master Fay teaching him helped to counter any concerns Yoda held, but sadly that was not the case for Windu.
"Certain of this, are you?" Yoda asked as he leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "Know the future with certainty, do you?"
Windu sighed and shook his head. "No. The boy is… difficult to get a read on. The Force is centred around him, that much I do not deny."
Yoda nodded at that. He was aware that Windu often used his talent with the Force technique known as Shatterpoint to find pivotal moments in people and events. That the young Padawan was proving… troublesome to that ability, and that it was confusing Windu explained, in Yoda's mind, much of why his fellow High Council member was against the boy. Though the only concern Yoda had about Shan was his growing fascination with the very people that, from what the records say, were the cause of why Revan turned to the Dark Side.
"Faith, in the Force, you must have." Yoda began as he slid off his seat and looked up at the much younger Jedi Master. "Sent to us, for a reason Shan has been. Knowing the will of the Force we do not, but trust it, we must."
While Yoda said those words, his thoughts drifted to Mandalore. Historically they were one of the few non-Force sensitive people to be a threat to the average Jedi, and if they decided to return to their old ways… Well, Yoda knew the galaxy was in no shape to deal with such a threat and could only hope the Order was.
"The boy is born of darkness." Replied Windu, the wrinkling of his brow having made the creases almost touch his eyebrows.
"And of the light, is he. Touched by both sides of the force, Revan was. Bastila was. Yet, deny we cannot, the importance their family played in saving the Order, their family had. Hold secrets, they may still do." Yoda countered slowly, patiently.
"You speak of the holocron of Grandmaster Satele Shan?" Windu asked though Yoda suspected he already knew that was what Yoda was thinking of. "Of the fact it is withholding information that only the boy can potentially access?"
"Yes. Grandmaster Shan, among other things, rediscovered Tython she did." Yoda replied, his hand going to his heart. "Great pity I feel, that a second time, our Order would forget our birthplace." He sighed and looked out of the view at the flow of traffic that always dominated the skyline of Coruscant. Every time he gazed that way, it made him miss the more natural worlds like Kashyyyk or Dantooine where technology was not as rampant. "With the growing darkness, the chance to rediscover our Order's homeworld, we cannot overlook."
Once more, Windu nodded though Yoda was certain he wasn't convinced. "True. We've lost contact with three Jedi we sent to try to rediscover the route to Tython and another searching for Ossus and Ruusan."
"For a reason, lost, these worlds were. Misplaced they would not have been, if easy to travel to they were." Yoda replied as he used the Force to pull his repulsor chair to him. "Still, stray from our worry we did. In pain and danger, a young Jedi is, reach out we should. Determine the cause we must."
"I'll ask Master Yaddle to contact Master Fay." Windu stated as he stood and Yoda climbed into his chair. "Should we also ask Master Sifo-Dyas to contact Master Dooku?"
Yoda frowned at the mention of their fellow Council member. "No, Distant Master Sifo-Dyas has become. Concerned with visions, his and others, he has become. Enamoured with a prophecy he seems to be."
Windu rolled his eyes as Yoda's chair floated upwards. "I do not see how any can believe Shan is the Chosen One. I suspect he lacks faith in the ideals of the Republic we serve and while I don't deny he is powerful, more so than either of us in his connection to the Force, he lacks the control of a true Jedi and our dedication to the Republic."
Yoda kept his face neutral. In a different time and place, Windu's dedication – which was almost a devotion – to the Republic would've been a problem. Thankfully, that time had long since passed, yet there was always the chance that Windu was right about Padawan Shan. However, Yoda placed his faith in the Force, and it did not hint that the boy would be a threat.
"Chosen One or not, I cannot say. Yet, a path for the boy, the Force has chosen. Observe it, observe him, we must. Guide him, we may have to. Keep him in the light, we will." Yoda stated.
Twice before, when the Republic and the Order had been in peril, had one of the Padawan's blood come to prominence. With the rising tide of darkness that Yoda could sense in the Force, the Jedi could not afford to lose one of Shan's potential to the Dark Side. Yoda knew that if that happened, if the boy turned to the Sith, then it would spell doom for the Republic and the Jedi Order.
"And if we fail?" Windu asked as the doors to the meditation chamber they'd been using opened.
"Then ready, we must be." Yoda answered as they exited the room. "Fail the Jedi will not."
Sidious was barely able to conceal a snarl as the holocall with Senator Antilles ended. The Alderaanain was a nuisance to deal with at the best of times, but for him to have the gall to call and but demand that he, Darth Sidious, use his public persona to support Antilles attempt to unseat Valorum so Antilles could become Chancellor was ludicrous.
Antilles, while perhaps useful to further the unrest and loathing of the Republic in the Outer Rim – the man was entirely Core-World centric in his views – was too much of an anti-corruption campaigner to be allowed near the Chancellorship, particularly when the current Chancellor was someone that lacked the spine to challenge the various interests that had helped become elected; interests that the Sith had influence over. Additionally, having someone who pushed those views, and would likely work to fix problems Sidious and his master had subtly created, would undermine the plan in place for when Palpatine assumed the Chancellorship.
No, Valorum was the perfect fool to place in the Chancellorship for now. The native of Coruscant had the name and the reputation but lacked the spine to truly enact the ideas that he had wanted to, not least as his Vice-Chancellor was from an opposing camp within the Senate and worked – often with hidden help from Sidious – to undermine any initiative that Valorum attempted to enact that would make the Chancellor and Senate look competent. Well, save the friendly and well-loved Senator from Naboo.
Then there was the fact Valorum was all but owned by various interests in the Republic, with the biggest of those being the Trade Federation. This had been orchestrated by Sidious' master's public persona of Hego Damask arranging a meeting between the Senator and the newly installed Viceroy of the Trade Federation, Nute Gunray.
The other big supporter of Valorum had been the Tarkin family from Eriadu. The Tarkin's were very much pro-military and Sidious saw a use for the family, particularly a young Wilhuff, who Palpatine had 'befriended' along with Raith Sienar.
While for now, these various interests were useful in keeping Valorum propped up, Sidious knew that he would have to break them apart, though not before it was almost time to enact the plan to have him, a Dark Lord of the Sith, assume the Chancellorship of the Galactic Republic. That day would be a delicious irony for Sidious as while the Ruusan Reformations assured that no Jedi could ever again lead the Republic, they had failed to consider that a Sith would one day rise and try to do so.
Still, that was a matter for the future, and with his meetings for the day finally over, Sidious stood and walked out of his private office in his apartment. He had more pressing business to attend to; business relating to his true identity as a Dark Lord of the Sith.
"Sate, ensure that no one else attempts to bother me this evening. I have other business to attend to." He stated to his senior advisor, Sate Pestage, as he left the office. While appearing to be nothing more than a servant, the man was useful for handling things that Sidious' public persona could not be attached to and acted – like the other members of Palpatine's entourage – as cover for his true nature.
"Yes, my Lord." Sate replied, bowing deeply as Sidious strode past him to a private, hidden turbolift.
This particular lift had originally been used by maintenance workers and droids, but Sidious had arranged for it to disappear from the schematics of the building. This allowed him quick and quiet access to the sub-levels of 500 Republica, where a speeder was always waiting for him to pilot to his private retreat.
While the Works was a good distance away, the district had been all but abandoned by the citizens of Coruscant since an incident that happened centuries ago. Nearly seven hundred years ago, an accident at the Headquarters of the now-defunct LiMerge Power in Dacho District had flooded the whole area with harmful chemicals. While those had long since been cleaned up, no one wished to return, which made the whole area, and specifically the former headquarters of LiMerge, the perfect place for Sidious to base his Sith operations centre. Plus, all the death and chaos that had occurred from the accident lingered in the Force, providing a natural camouflage from the Jedi for Sidious.
As he stepped through the outer doors, a simple gesture with the Force was enough to deactivate the first layer of defences that guarded this passage then lights embedded in the floor engaged, bathing the room in a gentle red light that always remained Sidious of his lightsaber blade. Sidious however, was not a fool, and there were other layers of defensive measures at random points throughout the facility, ones known only to him, that had to be deactivated before someone could reach his sanctum.
While most of the defences were no match for a Sith, they served to keep out any potential scum that attempted entry to the building, and only the last few layers would trigger a self-destruct of his inner sanctum and the various artefacts within. While he did not want or expect that to ever be needed, to not have such a plan in place was stupid and unworthy of a Sith.
The walk to his private sanctum took less than five minutes, most of that time lost to having to slow and disable each set of security measures before he reached the ominous black doors that protected his most important of possessions within the sanctum.
As those doors opened, Sidious inhaled deeply, drinking in the familiar, all-empowering taint of the Dark Side, and the lingering pain and suffering that had happened here centuries ago.
The walls of this sanctum were coated in a nullification resin that blocked whatever was inside from being sensed by the Force, and once inside the privacy of his sanctum, Sidious stopped reigning in his power and let the darkness and power that he held over the Force flow out from him.
A smile that would make almost every being and creature in the galaxy recoil in fear crept over his face as he basked in the power of the Dark Side of the Force, as he once more bent it to his will, reaffirmed that he was the one in control.
A beep from the main computer in the room broke him from enjoying his domination of the Force. Quickly he regained control of his emotions, inward and outward, then pulled a black robe over his head to obscure all but his mouth from view.
As he opened the channel, he bowed. "Master."
It galled him to have to admit it, but for the moment, he was not ready or able to replace his master as the Dark Lord of the Sith, which meant he had to continue to play servant to the Muun that appeared in the holocall.
"Sidious." Came the reply from the ruling Dark Lord, Darth Plagueis. Like Sidious, Plagueis' features were concealed by a hood, though it failed to hide the transpirator that the Muun Sith needed to breathe. "How is the plan proceeding?"
The chances that anyone would be able to break the encryption on the signal the Sith were using was slim. It was routed across various relays in multiple systems and hidden under regular communication signals of the Holonet – thanks to a previous Dark Lord being one of the people helping to fund the expansion of the network across the galaxy – so even if, on the off chance, someone did crack the signal, they wouldn't be able to tell who was speaking. However, Sidious suspected that Plagueis' mask would be linked to his alter ego of Hego Damask; or at least Sidious would ensure it was to weaken his master.
"Valorum is all but assured of being re-elected as Chancellor, my master. Both he and the Vice-Chancellor are in contact with the various entities and individuals that we also influence. The plans to weaken Valorum heavily and place our puppets in positions of greater power are in the works. I have also been selected to be the vice-chair of the Internal Activities, Intelligence Oversight, and Budgetary committees." Sidious replied and he sensed his master's approval.
"Good. With Valorum securing a second term, we can begin to push the final stages of the Grand Plan into action. The Yinchorri are unlikely to be suitable for the army we considered, but perhaps they can serve another role." Plagueis began, and Sidious had to drive down the thought of killing his master the moment the plan had placed him in charge of the Republic. The exact details were still unclear, but Sidious felt that would be the perfect moment to remove Plagueis from Sidious' path.
"With their immunity to the Force, coupled with the Jedi's lack of training to fight without it, I postulate that an uprising by the Yinchorri, and attacks against various worlds near their homeworld, could be used to kill several of their Order." Plagueis continued, either not having sensed Sidious' desire to replace him, or encouraged to see the student was still a true Banite Sith.
Sidious thought about the idea for a moment before replying. "That would only allow us to kill a few stragglers, master. Why not arrange for the Yinchorri to directly attack the Temple? Showing that the Jedi could be attacked on Coruscant would undermine the public's faith in them and allow operatives in the Senate to push for a Core-focused redistribution of resources."
Plagueis was still as he considered the idea and Sidious, as was normal, was left waiting for a reply; one that hopefully would not involve being Forcefully reprimanded. "While it is unlikely the Yinchorri could kill many Jedi, the psychological damage caused by an attack on their vaunted temple is certainly something we could use to our advantage."
A moment of silence passed before Plagueis spoke again.
"How is the training of the Zabrak progressing?"
Sidious took a moment to centre himself. "He is progressing rapidly. While he has some distance to go before I feel he is ready to be unleashed, his skill with his chosen blade and his ferocity will make him a match for most in the Order already."
"And he is aware of his purpose?" Plagueis asked as Sidious felt a gentle push through the Force as Plagueis tried to probe his mind for any plans Sidious had for Maul. However, Sidious' mental barriers had always been sufficient to keep Plagueis out – at least when he wanted to not show his master a false memory – so Sidious was confident that Plagueis wasn't aware of Sidious' true plan.
Maul was being trained as an assassin, but he had the potential to make a fine apprentice to Sidious once Plagueis was removed. Of course, for that to happen, Maul would have to prove himself by killing Cameron Shan. If the Zabrak failed, then he wasn't worthy, and Sidious would begin to ingratiate himself further with the child of Revan to see if the Jedi's suspected Chosen One could be turned to the Dark Side.
"Yes, my master." Sidious replied honestly.
Plagueis gave a nod and Sidious kept down the sneer he felt at his master's need to try and treat him as a friend. They were not nor would they ever be friends. Plagueis was the master that Sidious had to kill. To do otherwise would invalidate the Rule of Two.
Thinking about the Rule of Two had Sidious' thoughts drift back to Cameron Shan.
While he had contact with the boy and one of his Jedi Masters in Dooku, the boy seemed to be avoiding Coruscant. Though Sidious couldn't blame him as the reports he had seen from the Jedi Temple hinted at a divide in the High Council over how to handle Shan.
Sidious always scoffed at the reaction of a large element of the Jedi who seemed to fear what the boy was capable of while at the same time not knowing how to deal with him. Like always the Jedi were weak-willed and unable to make a decision that would upset their order, and thus a split was developing in the Order. One that Sidious felt he could exploit to weaken the Order before the final stage of the Grand Plan was enacted and the Jedi were scattered far and wide fighting a war he would control.
Sidious had observed Shan at close range a few years ago and quickly concluded that he would never fit in with the narrow-minded fools of the Jedi. He questioned things, was easily better than those around him and was unafraid to question what Jedi all took at face value. And after watching the spar young Cameron had fought against Grandmaster Yoda, Sidious was certain the boy had the potential to be the most powerful Force user in centuries, if not millennia.
Witnessing that spar – and the fact Shan had realised he'd overplayed his hand against the Grandmaster too early – had done more to confirm Sidious' belief that Shan was destined to leave the Jedi than any report he'd browsed from the Jedi Temple. The trick for Sidious was going to ensure that Cameron was aware that not all on the Republic Capital were unworthy of his loyalty while subtly guiding the boy to see that if he wanted to change anything, he was going to have to take the power to do so: setting Shan down the path to the Dark Side. And likely bringing several members of the Jedi with him.
The only downside of that spar, and the later reveal of Cameron's incredible increase in midi-chlorians, was that it had drawn the attention of Plagueis. Thankfully, Plagueis' interest was centred around how Cameron had increased his connection to the Force and not the potential the Heir of Revan had for the Sith, nor as a replacement for Sidious himself.
Sidious regarded Plagueis interest in the science of the Force as misguided and a distraction. However, Sidious did not vocalise those feelings as it would only lead to infuriating his master, and likely lead to his master finding a suitable way of chastising him; likely involving Sith Lightning.
"Excellent. I admit that I was concerned about your training of the Zabrak but I now see that your idea of creating a weapon we can deploy to attack the Jedi was a wise one."
Sidious clamped down on his anger at Plagueis claiming Maul was his to command. Maul was under the control of Sidious, and Sidious alone. When the time came for him to finally remove Plagueis and claim his right as Dark Lord of the Sith, he would enjoy explaining the Munn's failures to him as his life slowly drained away.
"Thank you, my master. While Maul is…"
Sidious was cut off as the word flooded through the Force; accompanied by a wave of pure rage and power that almost made Sidious heady as the Dark Side of the Force reacted.
The sheer power that burned in the Force was intoxicating, but Sidious didn't allow himself to indulge in the chaos the power sent through the Force. Instead, he focused on the voice, the demand for another to die, until he could sense the source of the fury.
Something had happened to young Cameron, something so painful that in his desperation the boy had revealed his true power and taken control of the Force, and for the briefest of moments before the voice and the rage begun to fade, had embraced the Dark Side.
It may have only been a single fleeting moment, but the fact that the boy had such power to be able to reach Sidious in a location shielded against the Force spoke volumes of the true potential and power the boy possessed. And made Sidious seriously question the sanity of the Jedi for thinking of removing the boy from their Order.
"Sidious?" Plagueis' voice drew Sidious from his thoughts about what had happened to Cameron, and as he refocused on the here-and-now, he wondered how much Plagueis had felt.
"Forgive me, master. I sensed… an event within the Force." Sidious replied, trying to stay vague about who the event had been centred around. Having Plagueis become interested in Cameron's potential for the Dark Side wasn't something Sidious desired.
Plagueis nodded, which in the deepest recesses of his mind, annoyed Sidious. "Yes, I felt it too. And while the source was unknown to me, I sense that you know who it came from."
Sidious seethed internally. He did not want nor need Plagueis to be drawn further into investigating Cameron. Yes, the fact the boy had somehow altered his midi-chlorian count was impressive, but Sidious felt that it was less important than Plagueis, who seemed to consider the ability to control midi-chlorians and the Force more important than seeing the Grand Plan succeed. A sign that Plagueis time as a Dark Lord of the Sith was drawing to a close.
"I suspect it came from Cameron Shan." Sidious responded, trying to introduce some vagueness to limit any growth in Plagueis' interest in the boy. "While I cannot be certain of this, the voice and Force signature were remarkably similar."
"Voice you say? Hmm." Plagueis paused and lightly tapped a long, narrow finger against his transpirator. "That one so young, even one with Shan's potential power, could call out via the Force like that. And reach us in our sanctums… Most unexpected. Have we heard anything from our contacts on Mandalore?"
Once more, Sidious seethed internally at Plagueis' assumption that Sidious' contacts were his, and that Plagueis was now interested in young Cameron. "No, my master. All I am aware of is that the boy has left to attempt the hunt that marks the coming of age for a Mandalorian. The exact details of where that is taking place are known only to the boy's Jedi masters and those closest to Duke Adonai."
"Hmm." Plagueis tapped at his mask once more. "Perhaps we should investigate more closely what drove this young and powerful Jedi to lash out with such delicious venom."
"While I agree master, it is proving… difficult to discover information about the Padawan apart from the official Jedi reports. Master Dooku has… distanced himself from both myself and the Order, though I am aware he is investigating the Bando Gora while Master Sifo-Dyas has withdrawn from most people; myself included."
"Interesting. Hopefully, this does not affect our plans regarding him." Plagueis added, irritating Sidious once more as it was his work with both Dooku and Sifo-Dyas that had allowed him and Plagueis to consider using them as fronts for the clone army and the war they planned to initiate for the culmination of the Grand Plan. "Perhaps I should consider hosting a new Gathering."
Sidious was only just able to keep his shock and worry from his face. Plagueis – as Hego Damask – hadn't called a Gathering since before the attack that left him wearing a mask. To call one now, and arrange for a Padawan to attend would send ripples that could alter everything the Sith been working for since Bane took the order into the shadows.
Yes, an invite to a Gathering called by Hego Damask would be hard for Master Dooku and Sifo-Dyas to turn down. However, if Damask suddenly reappeared on the galactic scene, after over a decade in seclusion, it would raise questions that Sidious would prefer were not asked. Questions that may come from the Jedi as well as the Senate. And make it harder to plan out the removal of Plagueis and his ascension to the position of senior Dark Lord.
"No. That has too many issues attached to it for the hassle of arranging a Gathering to be worth it." Plagueis said, dismissing his idea before Sidious was forced to offer an opinion. "However, I recall that Mandalmotors recently approached the IBC for new financing. The proposal is under consideration, and while it is unlikely that they will accept the deal, this may be of use to us."
"I should be able to arrange for an operative to visit Mandalore to discuss the proposal with the head of Mandalmotors." Plagueis continued, as Sidious sensed a subtle shift in the Force, one that made him question the full truth of his master's words. "That operative should be able to use the time on-planet to observe the young Jedi and the reaction of the locals to him."
"I can have someone from my staff suggest the idea to the Banking Committee." Sidious offered, trying to claw back control of the situation before Plagueis' newfound interest in Cameron became a threat to Sidious.
"No. I believe it is better if this is handled without any Senate involvement. Mandalmotors are renowned for being… adverse to Core World oversight." Plagueis replied, rejecting the suggestion. Sidious had expected that, but it didn't help his slowly growing concern about the shift in Plagueis' focus regarding the boy.
"Do you have anything further to report?" Plagueis asked, abruptly ending the discussion, which was both a relief and a concern to Sidious.
"The new program that was uploaded to the cleaning droids in the Temple was a success, master. It will allow us to circumvent the new security protocols the Jedi have added to their Senate reports." Sidious stated, trying to redirect Plagueis away from Cameron.
How and why the Jedi had suddenly grown suspicious of the fact anyone in the Senate building with sufficient clearance could read their reports was not something Sidious knew. It had, however, forced him to remove a small re-routing program that forwarded those reports to this retreat and arrange for a new way to monitor the Jedi's reports.
However, if not for the Jedi spotting the security flaw, he wouldn't have been present to witness Cameron spar with Grandmaster Yoda. That had made the inconveniences of having to hire slicers to develop a new program for the Jedi Temple's droids – and then silence those slicers – worthwhile as it proved the boy had potential and power. Regardless of who prevailed between Shan and Maul, Sidious knew he would have a worthy apprentice when he removed Plagueis from the picture.
"Good. Even if the Jedi still show no sign of being aware of our manipulations, it is better to be prepared. Continue to lobby for Valorum's re-ascension to the Chancellorship publicly while I arrange subtle financial support from Damask Holdings."
"Yes, my master." Sidious replied with a lowering of his head.
The signal cut out without any word to end the conversation, but that was a trivial concern. The Sith did not need to obey the social niceties of the witless masses.
Sidious tapped a few buttons at his console, and once satisfied that Plagueis had not attempted to upload a tracker to his computer – something that Plagueis rarely did but Sidious was taking no chances – he allowed his anger to urge outward.
While Plagueis had danced around the issue, Sidious could easily sense that his master was now very interested in Shan. He snarled at the dual idea that Plagueis planned to steal Sidious' potential apprentice and likely checking if the boy could replace Sidious himself.
A durasteel canister behind him creaked and groaned as it was crushed under his rage, as Sidious realised that he'd need to start more carefully tracking his master's movements and actions. If it turned out that the old fool planned to replace him, then he'd have to accelerate his plans for removing the Muun.
A/N: And with that, we reach the end of this arc. Though the next arc will still deal with stuff on Mandalore, Cam's time is drawing to a close there, with only a few things to deal with, and unexpected events to handle.
Also, there's a new doc for Cam's stats/skills/etc in the relevant "story".
May the Force be with you. Always.