Darth Vader: Shattered Galaxy
A woman stood before a pool, cloaked in darkness.
"Five years," she chanted as the waters rippled at her very voice, showing many images and shifting scenes.
Vader laying siege to the Jedi Temple and ending the Force Storm.
"Five years since the March and the Storm."
Vader speaking before the Jedi Council, Sidious dueling with Plagueis and killed by Maul.
"Five years since the Dark and the Light turned from one another, and onto themselves."
Vader giving Anakin the detonator to destroy.
"Five years since The One became The Two Who Are One."
It dissolved into an impossible kaleidoscope of scenes. From the pool echoed a chorus of screams and laughter, of joy and horror. And through it all, the faint whispers of marching feet, of explosions, or destruction.
"Ripple on to ripple. Time carries on carelessly, and the Force eagerly follows and guides the Two Who Are One."
The pool stilled and showed nothing.
"But where are you going, you who are both Child and Father of the Force? To what shared end can your twin paths reach?"
She chuckled as she crouched down and touched the surface, not a single disturbance formed by her hand.
"And are you prepared for the cost of what you have been given and what you have taken?"
She smiled, gazing at the stars within the pool.
"I doubt it."
He arrived as the rumors said he did; without warning, without fanfare, and without an entourage.
The soldiers, patriots dedicated against the corruption and tyranny of the failing Republic, were willing to give their lives to this cause. But his arrival, his very breath chilled them in ways he had never seen.
But Khorda would be lying if he said he didn't understand.
Into their humble base walked Vader, and none dared question just how he knew where to go, how he knew exactly where he, the General of these forces, would be.
"Ashaar Khorda," Vader addresed as he entered the small meeting room, empty save them both and the round hologram table.
"General, if you would, Lord Vader," Khorda requested, his four eyes tracking Vader, one predator sizing up another.
"You wished to speak with me," Vader said, his words impatient without changing the tone at all. "Speak."
"I've heard many tales of you, Lord of the Sith," Khorda remarked with a praising smirk. "You laid low the Trade Federation, humbled the Jedi themselves, and your battle left Coruscant scarred."
Vader tilted his helm forward ever so slightly, a signal that he did not care for the platitudes.
"There are rumors all over the galaxy these days," Khorda continued, with a wave of his two right arms. "After Naboo, people started looking into their own defenses. They don't say armies, but we all know that is what they are building. And the greatest rumors are about you. I dare not imagine which rumors are true and which are fantasy. But I do know that many are joining you. Preparing for the day the Republic falls apart."
"As I recall, your cause is to save the Republic, in your own manner," Vader stated knowingly.
Khorda nodded as his scaled visage rose. He stood above Vader in height but had no imagination that meant anything. "The Republic must either be saved or it must fall," Khorda answered firmly. "And if I had the means to see this through, I would…even if it meant my death. But Coruscant security has increased greatly since your...visit."
The Annoo-dat allowed a small smirk on his face and wondered if Vader was doing so as well behind that dark mask.
"You have found the Infant of Shaa," Vader stated bluntly.
General Khorda gave a start, his eyes wide. "You already knew," Khorda deduced in amazement before settling into another smirk. "Then you perhaps know my intentions?"
"You wish to use the power of the Infant to destroy Coruscant," Vader answered, noting the pleased look on Khorda's fanged mouth. "To destroy the rot in hopes that the Republic can start fresh, or be put out of its misery."
"If you doubt my resolve to this, Lord Vader, merely aid me in getting on-world and I will gladly do the deed myself," Khorda vowed.
"Your resolve is not in doubt, only your wisdom," Vader countered coldly.
Khorda narrowed all of his eyes, taking one step away from Vader. "You didn't come here to help me."
"No," Vader answered, saber leaping into his hand. "I did not."
The air grew tense as Khorda realized this was not a meeting.
With a roar of defiance, Khorda flung a chair at Vader with one arm, another reaching for the alarm on the underside of the table, the third went for the blaster strapped to his back, and the final arm went for a large combat knife.
To the chair, Vader merely deflected it with a flick of his hand. He made no effort to stop the general from sounding the alarm. But to the meager weapons the Annoo-dat brought out, Vader reached out with the Force and grasped Khorda by the throat, slamming him against the wall, hard enough to drop his weapons as he was held in mid-air by the Force-Choke.
Vader ignited his lightsaber as he heard the door open behind him, guards rushing in. They barked in the Dot-an tongue, demanding that he let Khorda go.
He ignored them, prompting them to start firing.
Bringing his arm up to block over his shoulder, his red saber deflected every bolt aimed at his back, killing two of the Annoo-dats instantly. This shocked the remaining soldiers, prompting Vader to spin around, throwing his lightsaber in a spin.
Khorda could only watch in disbelief as his soldiers were cut down, lying as a pile of limbs and body parts, while Vader's weapon returned to his hand and deactivated.
Deeming that enough, Vader released the general, allowing him to slump to the floor.
"Why?" Khorda demanded with a growl. "I would have given you the Infant, without a fight, without a price!"
"I did not come to steal a weapon, General," Vader answered as he turned to face him. "I came for an execution."
"But why?!" Khorda roared. "I fight for the freedom of my world! Same as Naboo did! Same as others in league with you! What have I done to deserve your-!"
Khorda stopped suddenly as his own blade was stabbed through his mouth by some invisible hand, burying through his brain.
Vader released his Force hold on the knife, leaving it buried in the mouth and skull of the so-called general.
With that taken care of, he came over to the table and deactivated the alarm.
As the silence filled the room and the base, he glanced over his shoulder. "It has been some time, Yarael Poof."
The long-necked Jedi allowed his illusion to fall, smiling easily at the Sith. "Darth Vader. You look well."
Vader wondered if he was referring to his upgrades or just being sarcastic. "What business does the Jedi Order have here?"
"Officially none," Poof answered with a shrug. "But as you know, some of us have been more...proactive in recent years."
Vader knew that well indeed. "You were here to deal with this fool?"
"I've been helping the Annoo-dats search for him," Poof answered before huffing in amusement. "I certainly didn't expect an assassination."
"Assassination implies effort on my part," Vader said idly. "I take it you are interested in the Infant now."
"He planned to destroy the seat of the Republic with it," Poof pointed out bluntly. "So, obviously, yes."
Vader still pondered over the consequences of his meddling in the timeline, both good and bad. Yarael Poof died stopping Khorda's scheme from succeeding. Letting him leave with the Infant might be a way to test things, to see if the universe indeed tried to shift back the course of time, even all that had changed.
"I have no intention of using it, Master Poof," Vader informed.
The Quermian smiled ruefully. If Vader used both a Jedi's rank and name, that meant he respected them in some capacity. "Then what are your intentions?"
"I am unsure," Vader admitted freely. "Securing it was the priority. Returning it would only invite others to seek it out. If I could, I would have it unmade. Perhaps detonated on some lifeless rock."
"Valid solutions," Poof granted. "Though, where exactly-"
It was at this exact moment that the door opened and in walked a silver and blue Mandalorian, carrying a metal container. "Vader, the base is clear and- who are you?" he asked, instantly pointing a blaster at Poof.
"Yarael Poof, Jedi Master," Poof introduced with a mock bow. "And you would be?"
"Jango Fett, bounty hunter," Jango introduced dryly, still pointing his weapon.
"Both of you, enough," Vader said as he stepped between them, looking to Poof. "He is already aware he is not holding his blaster, you can drop the illusion."
Poof blinked, doing so and leaving Jango holding nothing. "But how did-"
"I know what my blaster feels like, Jedi," Jango said bluntly, twisting his wrist to reveal small rockets on his gauntlets. "I was going to shoot you with those."
"Except he is not where he appears," Vader informed bluntly.
"I'm not currently inclined to drop that illusion," Poof remarked, eyeing the bounty hunter cautiously.
"Fair enough," Jango said, lowering his arm. "I'm just going to assume that if Vader hasn't killed you, you're not an enemy today."
"Indeed," Vader said, looking down at the container Jango carried. Smaller than a briefcase, almost a metal cube. "The Infant."
"Yes, I have your statue. I'm not sure it can destroy a planet, but I have it," Jango remarked as he placed it on the table, opening it to reveal the small, golden, totem-like statue.
Sith and Jedi alike stared at the idol. It was indeed brimming with power. Unstable power, like a bomb in the Force.
"Was there anything else of importance in the base?" Vader asked without looking away.
"Nothing I could see," Jango answered casually. "So, what now?"
"Vader," Poof said with a curious look on his face. "I believe I can deal with this."
"What's he mean?" Jango asked with a frown beneath his helm.
"The Idol is a receptacle of the Force, drawing vast amounts of energy into itself," Vader explained. "The Jedi believes he can bind the energies in a way to neutralize it."
"He's disarming it, in other words," Jango summarized. "Can't you Force-types be a bit blunter?"
"Is he that valuable or that familiar to be so casual with you?" Poof asked idly. "Regardless, should I assume you have no issue with this?"
"If you are able," Vader answered as he stepped back from the table.
Poof smiled as he placed his hands on the small idol, feeling the flow of the Force turning into a small but powerful sinkhole around it. Oh, what must have been done to create such a thing, Poof did not even try to ponder.
"Odds of this going off and killing us all?" Jango asked idly.
Vader was silent, save for his breathing.
"Thought as much," Jango murmured in resignment.
Poof visibly strained as he continued his work, and even Jango swore the statue tried to move in the Jedi's grasp. There was a brief moment in which all light in the room seemed to diminish before returning to normal.
"It is done," Vader said, sensing as much.
Poof nodded while looking tired yet proud as he placed the Infant of Shaa down. "Yes, it is...calm now. I believe this Infant will have a more peaceful effect now, if any at all," he said hopefully.
"I'll take your word for it," Jango said, not entirely convinced, but placing it back in the container. Just in case.
"I will take my leave now," Poof said, heading to the door. "Until next we meet, Darth Vader."
With that, he faded out of existence, like a ghost.
After several silent seconds, Jango tilted his helm towards Vader. "Is he gone?"
"He is," Vader confirmed. "Return the Infant to where it was stolen."
"Wasn't part of the job," Jango pointed out. Vader's lenses focused on him, and Jango decided it wasn't worth arguing over. "I got paid twice for this job anyway."
With that, they began their own departure. Vader was unsurprised to see it littered with more bodies. Not that the general had a great many under his command to begin with.
"So, why'd you kill him?" Jango asked with interest. "Madman or not, seemed like the type you'd try to recruit."
"That plan would have never left his mind," Vader remarked, stepping over various corpses. "And I will not allow Coruscant or any world to become a martyred planet for the dying Republic."
Jango stopped walking. "That sounds like experience."
Vader paused, glancing over his shoulder. "Ask your son if you wish to know."
Jango had no outward reaction, but Vader could sense the discomfort of that subject. Nevertheless, they continued walking and soon exited the base.
Outside was a barren wasteland of grey, dead soil. Off to the side, Jango could see the ruins of a once great city.
The planet Annoo. Or rather, the original Annoo, before the Annoo-dats abandoned it to conquer a neighboring planet, with them and the natives integrating surprisingly well. But the original planet Annoo was utterly abandoned, with nothing left to it. That it still had an atmosphere was either a miracle or artificial.
"The galaxy is getting noisy these days," Jango spoke up. "And busy. Work' was never exactly in short supply before, if you know where to work."
"But now there are almost more jobs than there are bounty hunters to take them," Vader deduced.
"Getting close to that," Jango said as they made their way to their ships. "Trade Federation has at least two sides it's ripping into. Not counting the planets trying to...evict them. The Techno Union isn't sure who to support. The Core Worlds are getting more criticism these days for their special treatment."
"I am aware of all of this," Vader said simply as they reached their ships.
"Just trying to figure out your next move," Jango remarked as the ramp to the Slave I came down. "You're on my list, Vader."
Vader, preparing to climb into his TIE Advanced, glanced at Jango. "Anyone else, I might take that as a very foolish threat."
"My list of people to never take contracts against. My son made it clear why I should avoid becoming your enemy," Jango explained calmly. "So if you want to "advise" me on clients or targets I should avoid, now would be the time."
"Only the obvious, Fett," Vader answered before moving into his ship.
"So, stay away from the Anti-Feds, got it," Jango summarized to himself before departing.
Anakin Skywalker lay motionless, his Padawan clothing smeared in mud and rocks with machine parts scattered around him.
"Having fun?" Qui-Gon asked with an amused look.
"I decided to try something else, Master," Anakin answered in annoyance.
"Oh? And just what was that?" Qui-Gon asked curiously.
"Listening to the Living Force," Anakin explained, his tone either serious or bored.
"Oh? And what is it telling you?" Qui-Gon asked, walking the line between playing along and taking Anakin at his word.
A splash in the waters caused Anakin to groan and sit up. "That our slippery friend isn't going to leave us alone."
Qui-Gon silently admitted that was true as he looked around the swampy area. They had been on Dagobah for nearly two weeks, a stop after their last mission. And since their arrival, a particular young dragonsnake had been watching them, and even tried to eat Anakin once.
Ever since that day Sebulba attacked him, Anakin had made it a point to never be taken by surprise again if he could help it. A phobia of sorts that Qui-Gon knew Anakin had to deal with one day, but minor compared to everything else. And it gave Anakin a drive to learn certain things that didn't come as naturally to him.
"He is rather persistent," Qui-Gon agreed, glancing to where the creature lurked.
"Are you sure it's a he?" Anakin asked idly as he finally started to clean the mud off his face.
"Judging by the horns, yes, small though they may be," Qui-Gon remarked.
"I wonder what it would take to scare him off?" Anakin muttered, eyeing a particularly large rock.
Qui-Gon gave his apprentice a considering look. "Do you want to solve this purely with fear?"
"I don't want to kill it," Anakin answered with a frown. "But I don't think it understands anything except intimidation."
"Perhaps not," Qui-Gon conceded. "I must ask, why are you so wary of killing this dragonsnake? It's hardly the first animal that has tried to hunt us."
"Just feels...wrong. We just came here to train, and this is its home," Anakin answered with a frustrated sigh. "I don't know."
"You have a good heart, Anakin," Qui-Gon said with a small smile. "And you always seem to have a soft spot for the strangest individuals."
There was no need to clarify who he meant.
"You mind keeping an eye on the dragonsnake while I try again, Master? I'm pretty sure it's going to try and eat something of ours again," Anakin said, more as advisement than a request.
Qui-Gon silently complied, wondering what possessed a dragonsnake to try eating metal, repeatedly, only to spit it back out; sometimes launching the regurgitated equipment back at Anakin or himself.
Qui-Gon knew that speech was no sign of intelligence, so he was beginning to suspect this predator was intelligent enough to mock them.
Regardless, with his eye in the Force on their watcher, he turned his actual eyes to Anakin as the boy returned to his balancing practices, standing on his hands while using the Force to balance stones and other objects, including a rock on one foot.
Anakin had grown a lot in the past five years. The years of slavery still hung heavy on his shoulders sometimes, but it had grown lighter with every day.
It never dawned on Qui-Gon, or anyone for that matter, that training Anakin didn't just mean the normal ways one helps a Padawan as they grow as a person and Jedi. No, he had to teach Anakin what being free really was. Somedays, all it took was just an impromptu day off from training, a day to remind Anakin that he was actually free. On other days, Anakin needed the training as a way to focus or vent. And taking a page from Vader, Qui-Gon allowed Anakin to vent. The important part was that Anakin didn't linger in that state.
Thoughts of the Dark Lord took his mind to troublesome places.
To the Galaxy at large, Vader had disappeared after what happened five years ago. Only rumors of his shadow, of his breath were known. The Jedi and parts of the Republic's government were more aware of his sightings. But where he might stay, what he was planning, no concrete source was known.
The Dark Side shrouded the Sith still. Despite his bluntness, Vader apparently valued his privacy to not broadcast his location in the Force constantly. He was still there though, everyone that knew how to see and feel into the Force could sense Vader's might. Present but not boldly proclaiming itself. Like a mighty predator that had laid itself down to rest.
Until the next hunt.
Not that parts of the Jedi Order weren't hunting for him themselves.
Something broke. To Anakin's credit, only the rock on his foot fell as he glanced up at Qui-Gon from his upside-down position. "That wasn't me, right?" he asked in confusion.
"No, no it was not," Qui-Gon answered in a murmur as he trailed along the relatively dry land, climbing over roots and trees, mindful of anything else that might be lurking about.
He arrived back at the Rho-1 Limulus-class Courier they had arrived in, perched on what sizable solid land Qui-Gon and Anakin could confidently find. He smiled idly as he saw a familiar astromech banging its small retractable arm against one of the landing legs of the ship.
"R2, I see your audios are still on the fritz from your time in the swamp," Qui-Gon noted, causing the droid's head to spin in what he believed to be frustration. "What seems to be the issue?"
The droid rolled up the ramp of the small courier, causing Qui-Gon to follow along to the dual-pilot seats. There he found that they indeed had received a signal, someone trying to establish communications with them.
"And just who is calling us way out here?" he wondered out loud as R2D2 used the interface to open the lines.
Qui-Gon's interest turned to a warm smile as he saw the face of his aging mentor. "Master Qui-Gon," Dooku greeted with an amicable nod.
"Count Dooku," Qui-Gon returned with a hint of teasing about the title. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"An old man can't simply inquire to how his old student is doing?" Dooku retorted before his face fell into a frown. "But yes, you are right, I do have a concerning reason for this call."
"What troubles you, Master Dooku?" Qui-Gon asked in concern.
"Our shared Padawan. As you recall, it has been two standard years since young Kenobi became a Jedi Knight. We have a tradition of sorts. We meet for a duel, to demonstrate the progress of his skills and my age," Dooku answered, ending with some self-deprecating humor.
"I'm aware, he mentioned you nearly breaking his elbow last time," Qui-Gon remarked knowingly.
"He did force me to earn that victory, yes," Dooku agreed with a chuckle. "The thing is, he was supposed to be coming to Serrano, but I have yet to see hide or hair of him."
"Are you sure something didn't come up at the Order? A mission or something?" Qui-Gon suggested, keeping his own concern at bay.
"Possible, but unlikely. I still have many friends in the Order. Jocasta told me that Obi-Wan had departed for Serrano last she saw," Dooku explained, stroking his beard. "By all accounts, he seems to be missing."
Qui-Gon frowned, his mind drifting back to his old Padawan. Obi-Wan was capable and wiser than he gave himself credit for, but the galaxy was increasingly full of surprises these past few years. Still...
"Why contact us, on the other side of the Galaxy?" Qui-Gon inquired with something close to suspicion. He trusted Dooku, but his old master sometimes took too much after Grandmaster Yoda.
Dooku sighed. "While I completed his training, he was decidedly your Padawan in all ways that mattered, including your bond. Ours never formed beyond a surface level. If something unfortunate had happened to our dear Kenobi, I believe the Force would ensure you were the first to know in some form or another."
Qui-Gon saw the point. Even here, with Dagobah being a hotspot for the Dark Side, he could still sense the old bond he had with Obi-Wan. Where he was or what he was doing, he couldn't tell obviously, but he was alive at least. But that didn't mean he wasn't in danger.
"We'll make our way to Serrano, and check on a few places on the way. Force willing, he'll have shown up before we even arrive," Qui-Gon remarked. "May the Force be with you, Master Dooku."
"May the Force be with you, Master Jinn," Dooku returned with more than a touch of pride.
With that, the connection ended. Collecting himself, he left the ship to inform Anakin, but to his surprise, he found his young Padawan trudging to the ship, his clothes dripping wet with swamp water.
"Did the dragonsnake pull you in?" Qui-Gon speculated.
"No," Anakin answered with some pride. "But he tried."
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "Then why are you...?"
"I went after him, Master. I wanted him to know I wasn't afraid to come after his scaly butt," Anakin answered, pulling some creature out of his robes and throwing it back into the swamp. "So, what was that about?"
"We're leaving," Qui-Gon explained simply.
"Okay," Anakin said, holding up his hand to ask for a pause. "But I need a moment to make sure nothing is trying to hitch a ride on me and drink my blood."
"Yes, you certainly do," Qui-Gon agreed with a headshake. "Jumping into a swamp you don't know so well isn't often a good idea."
"Master, with all due respect, I will gladly take this planet and all its terrible critters over having to try to get sand-free after a storm on Tatooine," Anakin said bluntly as he headed up the ramp to find some drier robes to change into.
Qui-Gon sighed. He supposed life on Tatooine would make Dagobah seem appealing in its own strange way. Sure, most of it might be trying to kill you, but at least there is stuff to eat and drink…however questionable those sources might be.
End of Chapter
There you all go! The start to the next edition of the Vaderline Trilogy. Unlike cannon, thisi s a five year jump instead of ten, and everything is changing. I any of you wondering who Khorda is and what the Infant of Shaa is, they're both the reason Poof died in canon- guy gave his life to stop the statue from destroying Coruscant.
Anyway, Anakin is growing up to be a less moody but still very...Skywalker padawan. Oh, and Obi-wan found himself in trouble. Is anyone surprised? Finally, yes, I am just going to ignore my own ominous opening, lol
Anyway, hope you all enjoy this as much as the last one.
Early viewing of chapters 2-3 avaliable on my pat-reon:
p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64