NOTE: Got a new SW story out called "Alternatives to Canon"- might change that name one day. It's a collection of SW oneshots to get some plot bunnies out of my head.

Plagueis hummed as he held up his communicator. "I wonder what it is this time?" he wondered to himself as he activated it.

The small hologram of Vader appeared, his displeasure radiating across the transmission. "Why are you on Naboo?"

"Greetings to you as well, Vader," Plagueis said with an easy smile. "With your interest and investment in Naboo, I thought it best to place my public persona in support here. Give us all reasonable excuses and ease to meet in person if needed."

Vader was not appeased and it was obvious.

"If you must know, I have very little interest in Naboo itself. I'm not actually on the planet," Plagueis informed.

Vader titled his helm slightly in consideration. "The communications say otherwise."

"I'm on one of the moons, Rori," Plagueis specified. "In exchange for something of an alliance with the Queen, she allowed me to study these ruins."

There was a long pause, and Plagueis marveled at what he realized.

"You have no idea why I'm interested in these ruins," Plagueis acknowledged. "Is this line secure, Vader?"

"It is," Vader assured.

"There are ruins here, and on Naboo itself. A supposedly humanoid race of settlers that existed here before the humans of Naboo," Plagueis elaborated.

"Supposedly?" Vader noted curiously. He knew a fair amount of Naboo's lore and history, but not this. He recalled strange statues once or twice during his times on Naboo but never recalled learning the stories of them.

"There are almost no records of them, and very few made by the settlers themselves. We don't even know what they called themselves. Most just call them the Elders," Plagueis explained, looking away thoughtfully. "But the Gunguns call them Guds."

"The Gunguns worshiped them," Vader stated, rather than asked.

"Which is interesting, since the Gunguns claimed the Elders are what drove them into living underwater," Plagueis mused. "It would seem that they studied the Force in some capacity."

"Many civilizations did to degrees, why does this one interest a Sith Lord?" Vader questioned, and Plagueis could feel his presence swimming for answers.

"Because I'm a scientist," Plagueis answered plainly. "They had been here for thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years. But then they vanished roughly five thousand years ago, a thousand before the humans came to Naboo. Vanished. No bodies to be found, nothing. Just their ruins remain."

"...Sidious made no mention of any of this," Vader stated with a considerate tone. "And he would have known of these legends, surely."

"Which means either he found nothing of interest or, just as likely, he didn't care for what he found," Plagueis mused. "Fret not, Vader. I am simply busying myself in research while you and the Jedi have this dance around the crumbling republic."

Vader said nothing. It was telling.

Plagueis frowned. "You were calling me for another reason. What is it?" he asked in concern, because he was starting to suspect Vader was worried about something.

"I believe time may have caught up with me," Vader said vaguely.

Plagueis nodded firmly. "I shall be there in two days, one if I can be discrete. I'd rather not have your dear Queen suspecting anything after all the effort to assure her I'm a comrade in some form."

Time travel couldn't be spoken of too openly over a comlink, even a secure one like this. Many things Plagueis could handle being exposed, and so could Vader, but letting that particular rancor out of the pit wasn't something either of them wanted to deal with.

Vader nodded and the communication ended, leaving Plagueis to gaze up at the large statue of a humanoid. The stone eyes were closed as if in meditation and a circle on the forehead seemed to be a motif to represent a third eye. A concept Plagueis had seen in countless cultures, current and extinct. Force sensitives on primitive planets tried to experiment and understand the Force. Picturing the connection as an "extra" eye in the center of the forehead was a common practice.

Was that just a logical symbolism many people came to independently create across time and space or had there been a three-eyed race to start the trend in ancient time and others had crude visions of them in the Force and replicated the style?

The chicken or the egg?

To most, it amounted to the same, so it wouldn't matter. To Plagueis, it mattered. One was a coincidence; the other was something more deliberate.

Still, that was something beyond what these ruins could tell him.

Elders. Guds of the Gunguns. Were these statues even the Elders? The Elders had built them, yes, but was this their own likeness? If not, then why build them in the image of humanoids?

He'd have plenty to research here. But that was for later. Vader's call was more urgent. Anything involving time travel was urgent.

Plagueis had many, many complicated reasons for helping Vader. But watching over him and his "Death Squadron" was a long-term observational experiment.

Time traveling was possible. Changing the past was possible. But what of the side effects? The consequences? Was it truly safe to do? How did people mentally cope with being flung into the past? Could they even come in contact with their past selves?

So many questions, so many theories, and possibilities.

It was fine though. He had time. The perk of immortality.

Meanwhile

"There were...sixteen of you?" Ki-Adi-Mundi repeated carefully.

"Each," Obi-Wan specified, trying not to visibly smile. His master's face wasn't smiling, but his eyes were cackling.

Qui-Gon had corrupted him, messing with the Council could be fun.

"Slay himself, Vader attempted?" Yoda changed course with a raised eyebrow.

"Vader might not be a conventional Sith Lord, but I doubt he's opposed to a battle to the death," Even Piell remarked with a frown.

"Ignore him, Masters, Knight," Eeth Koth said with rapid attention. "You say that this world... destroyed itself?"

"I have no word for it," the Dark Woman remarked. "It was as if the moon had died and aged before our very eyes, collapsing and tearing itself apart."

Mace Windu studied the three carefully. "Is it at all possible that Vader acquired what he was after? This weapon that destroyed a battleship?"

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan shared a curious feeling through the Force. So, the council wasn't going to address the subject of Vader's fleet for now.

"It is possible," Obi-Wan agreed with a hum. "Still, if we believe Vader- and I genuinely believed he was as confused and alarmed as the rest of us- then whatever happened on that planet was...new. It wasn't something that happened before."

"Your memories, clouded by this event, they are?" Yoda asked knowingly.

"Not so much clouded, Grandmaster, as unsorted," Qui-Gon answered with a tired look. "I am scarcely sure of all that happened. Much was spoken of in that forest, but it all rings together since it was, in the most actual sense, happening all at once."

"Our dear friends clearly need rest."

Heads turned to the hologram of Yarael Poof, smiling amicably at them.

It wasn't abnormal for Jedi Masters to be at the meeting via hologram, but it was plain to the three that there was some tension aimed at Poof, who ignored it all.

"Tell me, is Young Skywalker handling this all well? It sounds as if he had to do the lion's share of the work, through no fault of anyone of course," Poof questioned curiously.

Anyone else, and Obi-Wan would have been sure that was meant as an insult. But he genuinely believed Poof when he said he didn't believe it was their fault.

"Anakin knows himself very well, better than some adults know themselves," Qui-Gon said with pride. "But to answer your question, I believe he is about the same as the rest of us. A good night's rest and a day or two of meditation will help, I'm sure."

"Still, despite Vader's...disappointment, we are glad that the situation did not require a more bloody solution," Even Piell remarked.

"Is there anything else to report?" Mace Windu asked evenly.

Silence answered him.

"For the report, thank you, this council does. Dismissed, you are," Yoda said with a nod of his head before smiling at Kenobi. "Call my student, you should, Knight Kenobi. Annoyed he seems, by your absence."

Obi-Wan winced. "Well, I can imagine some "remedial" training coming my way for "old time's sake" or something like that," he muttered to himself.

There were some amused looks at that.

Only Yoda and Poof noticed the intense look the Dark Woman and Mace Windu shared before the three left.

"Vader has an army," Mace Windu summarized.

"He doesn't advertise it, but he's decidedly not hiding it now," Mundi agreed. "Which could be confidence in his ability to challenge the Jedi Order if he needed to."

"He was confident when he took us on by himself," Poof reminded. "Though, the question is, where did those ships come from?"

"He would need people, infrastructure, resources, credits," Mace Windu remarked.

"The Order of Bane planted themselves firmly in the galactic senate, the heart of the Republic," Even Piell reminded gravely. "Who knows where the Order of Vader might have entrenched itself."

"We never discovered who Darth Plagueis is," Eeth Koth said with a troubled look. "It's just as likely that the two Sith Lords are helping each other still."

"I imagine they keep tabs on each other at least," Poof agreed with a hum. "Vader ordered this truce against us and Plagueis has made no effort to break it. I'm sure they want to know if we make the first move against either of them."

"Is that what your covert operations have informed you, Master Poof?" Windu asked in a neutral tone. "Remind us again where you were investigating?"

"Annoo. General Khorda, the terrorist I was investigating? He's been slain. By who is hard to say," Yarael explained idly. "His base was destroyed, but whoever killed him did it with his own knife of all things."

"Infighting among his own?" Even Piell asked.

Poof hummed. "For now, the planetary government isn't too worried. They're hoping that with Khorda gone, any of his surviving followers will dispel and cease their activities entirely."

"Idealistic, but possible if they are disheartened or disillusioned enough," Mundi mused. "But we are off-topic now. What do we do about Vader's fleet?"

"What can we do?" Eeth Koth countered.

That was a good question, they all decided. What could they do?

Meanwhile

"Can I ask you something?" Obi-Wan asked curiously

"You already have," Vader retorted bluntly.

"We might be here a while," Obi-Wan said with a shrug. Vader didn't react, so Obi-Wan took that as a sign to continue. "What does the Light Side...feel like to you now?"

"Your meaning is unclear," Vader retorted, obviously intrigued now.

"I can...feel the Dark Side. Every Jedi can," Obi-Wan started, looking down with a thoughtful frown. "For most, it's the same. A constant whisper in the edge of what you can sense. Sometimes it gets loud if you let yourself lose control of your emotions. Like it's trying to provoke you. But mostly it's just these soft whispers of...temptation, for lack of a less cliché word."

Vader glanced upwards. "The Light is more similar than you imagine."

Obi-Wan looked up in surprise at that.

"The Dark Side tempts you with power. With freedom. With rage, and the satisfaction you might deny yourself," Vader continued. "The Light tempts you in other ways. It is not a voice, though. It is a feeling of peace and comfort. The Light Side's temptation is like the allure of being offered the chance to return to a home you have not been to in decades. To embrace someone you once cared for and know they forgive you for all you have done. "

"...Why would you resist a temptation like that?" Obi-Wan asked with disbelief.

"Both Sides have their appeals. The Light Side in the sense of returning to an old home, the Dark Side in the sense of carving one's own place in the galaxy," Vader explained. "I told your master years ago. Both sides can be like an addiction."

"He still doesn't like that analogy," Obi-Wan remarked half to himself. "We were always taught that no one can come back from falling to the Dark Side."

"Then allow me to enlighten you, Jedi Knight," Vader said sternly. "I have been freely able to return to the Light for many years now. I choose not to."

It wasn't a lie on Vader's part. He had felt the pull of the Light ever since the end of the Battle of Naboo. With Sidious dead and Padme safe, he had felt...free to do as he pleased, truly.

Obi-Wan looked deeply in thought now, contemplating and trying to understand that statement.

"...I have some wisdom for you, Jedi," Vader stated suddenly. "Of how to deal with the Dark Side."

"I hope it's not to just give it a try?" Obi-Wan asked sarcastically.

"Stop resisting it," Vader answered simply.

"...Vader, I was joking," Obi-Wan stated in alarm. "Look, I might be questioning many things I learned, but I'm not going to embrace the Dark Side just like that!"

"I would be disappointed if you did," Vader admitted in what might have been amusement. "I did not say embrace it, Kenobi, I said stop resisting it."

"...What is the distinction in this difference?" Obi-Wan asked with a pensive scowl.

"When you resist the Dark Side, when you try to push it away, you are engaging with it. In a small way, you are answering it," Vader explained.

"I've tried ignoring it, that doesn't work," Obi-Wan stated firmly.

"I was not finished," Vader said warningly. "All you must do is deny it. When it beckons you, you answer in refusal. And then you leave it be."

"And that works?" Obi-Wan asked skeptically.

"Not always. Just as meditating does not always help clear your mind," Vader answered. "But it will help, once you learn to deny without pushing away."

Obi-wan blinked as something clicked. "The Dark Side wants the struggle. Embrace it or not, it...wants us to struggle."

"Despite their claims, your Order trains you Jedi to fear falling to the Dark Side," Vader stated. "Learn to not fear the Dark Side, and then learn to deny it as a choice."

"...Why would you tell a Jedi that, warning them of how to not fall to the Dark Side?" Obi-wan asked curiously.

End of Flashback

"Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan!"

The Jedi Knight shook his head. "Sorry, got lost in a memory, what'd I miss?"

Qui-Gon shook his head. "We really do need to rest and meditate."

"And you, Master, weren't lost in thought plenty on the trip here?" Obi-Wan mock-challenged.

Qui-God held up his hands in surrender. "I said "we" already."

The Dark Woman ignored their banter as she made to leave.

"I suppose you're done with us, Dark Woman?" Obi-Wan called out.

She stopped, glancing back at them. "You have my thanks, Knight Kenobi, Master Jinn. I hope the Force leads you well."

With that, she left.

"She's not going to stop hunting for those two," Obi-Wan mused knowingly.

"Definitely not," Qui-Gon agreed grimly. "But she's hardly the only one that thinks like that."

Obi-Wan frowned at that. "I had hoped the Council would have been able to soothe the disharmony in the order after all these years."

Qui-Gon shook his head slightly. "They might have if it hadn't spread to them too."

Obi-Wan ran a hand through his hair. Things weren't...THAT different in the temple, at least in his own mind. It was just that certain topics were best not talked about in supposedly like-minded company. Mostly that was the topic of the Sith, and the "peace" or "truce" Vader had all but imposed on them all.

Even now, Obi-Wan could see it. It was common knowledge that he and Qui-Gon had actually "defended" Vader during his march on the Temple. Which was less to protect Vader and more to stop everyone else from getting hurt by Vader acting in self-defense. But many didn't care for that. Padawans, Knights, and even some Masters gave them untrusting looks.

Those were the ones that Obi-Wan labeled as the Stubborn Faction, the camp of the Dark Woman and Mace Windu.

But this wasn't their universal reception. Many still either took no note of them or greeted them politely. Treated them as fellow Jedi through and through. Some were neutral on the entire situation, but most in this group were those who tentatively believed in the truce Vader gave them. More importantly, they took deeper consideration into Vader's words.

These Obi-wan deemed to be the Considering Faction, the camp of Yarael Poof and Yoda.

He deeply wished someone had come up with actual names for both groups because he was horrible with naming things.

"To name them would be to make it real," Qui-Gon opined.

Obi-Wan looked to him in surprise. "Please tell me you just heard that through the bond and I wasn't mumbling to myself."

"Most of it," Qui-Gon said, patting him on the shoulder. "Come on, let's find Anakin."

"Just follow the screams," Obi-Wan said in amusement.

He wasn't exactly joking, it turned out.

"You're making that up!"

"No, Telloti, I Did wrestle a baby Rancor," Anakin said with a grin. "So little, it didn't have fangs. Still could throw me though, right into what I'm still not convinced was a mud pile."

That garnered a series of laughs from the younglings gathered around.

"Please tell me you burned those robes," another asked, making a mock-sickened expression.

"Of course not! I left it behind. Otherwise, the mother could have followed us," Anakin explained matter-of-factly.

"So on some backwater planet, is the "mud" stained robs of Anakin Skywalker?" Telloti asked with a weak smile.

"Oh, that's hardly the only thing he's lost on missions," Qui-Gon spoke up, getting their attention. "Hello, Younglings."

"Hello Master Qui-Gon," they answered in kind.

"Master Nannar," Qui-Gon greeted the rabbit-like Jedi, who bound up to the back of one of the chairs to be near eye level with them.

"Master Qui-Gon, Knight Kenobi," she greeted warmly. "It's good to have you and young Skywalker back."

"I'm sure my Padawan is regaling you all with mostly true stories of our adventures," Qui-Gon mused. "Did you tell them about that time on Aleen Minor yet?"

"No, because despite deep meditation with the Force, I can't figure out a way to convey to these tiny minds how great Podracing is," Anakin said, mock glaring at all the younglings, who all leaned away with large grins.

"They don't need to know Podracing for this," Qui-Gon said with a twinkle in his eyes. "I'm sure that Anakin has told you all about the last race he had on Tatooine?"

One youngling shook her head. "Only about three hundred and fifteen times."

A Bith youngling held up two fingers. "Seventeen, you were gone for two."

Anakin was trying very hard to look annoyed and not laugh, but it just made the younglings laugh more.

"Well, while we were on Aleen Minor, Anakin ran into a fellow racer from that day, one Ratts Tyerell," Qui-Gon said in amusement, quirking an eyebrow at Anakin. "I look away for one minute to talk to the locals about their local pirate problems, and you run off with him to have a speeder race."

"And I won!" Anakin said proudly.

"Yes, because you both wrecked your speeders and decided to leg it the rest of the way," Qui-Gon said accusingly before turning to the younglings. "Just so you know, Ratts is an Aleena. They're humanoid and smaller than Master Nannar."

"Only if you count Master Nannar's ears," Anakin defended. "Besides, it was Ratt's idea. It would have been worse to let him win. Trust me, it's a racer thing."

"I'm sure you were quite honorable about claiming your victory, Padawan," Phara Nannar said with a chuckle. "Now, younglings, I believe it's time for lightsaber training."

Some groaned, others jumped at the prospect, but all got to their feet and headed out of the room to get their training equipment. Ahsoka was the last to leave, giving Anakin a final hug before heading away too.

"Master Nannar, how is he doing?" Anakin asked quietly.

"Telloti Cillmam'n?" she asked with a sad, knowing tone. "Nightmares again. They've been persistent lately, but he's starting to work through them. Thank you for asking, Skywalker. I'd say your master trained you well, but I can safely say you've always been like this."

Anakin gave a half-smile as she hopped away after her clan of younglings.

"You okay, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked as he took a seat next to him.

Anakin looked to him sharply. "Obi-Wan? Have you been here this whole time? I hardly remember you being this quiet."

"Yes, well, I leave the adoring fans to you. Younglings might eat me alive," Obi-Wan said with a smile.

"Probably. They would never get your humor," Anakin mused. "I feel kind of bad, leaving on a long training trip when I could be helping them here."

"It's noble and kind that you try to help them cope with the scars from five years ago," Qui-Gon said, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You'll be a great teacher one day. But you have to let them learn to handle things on their own without you, or they might need your help forever."

"Yes, yes, be careful of attachments and all that," Anakin acknowledged half-heartedly with a sigh as he leaned back. "Either of you remember what Vader asked us about Coruscant?"

Oni-Wan and Qui-Gon shared a bewildered look before glancing back at Anakin between them. "No? What did he ask?" Obi-Wan inquired.

"I was actually asking, I don't remember either," Anakin answered with a frown. "He said something about Coruscant. I just don't remember what about, at all. The Temple? The Senate? The devastation left by the storm? "

"Was he asking us or telling us?" Qui-Gon questioned.

"Sithpits, I'm thinking about it now too and I don't know," Obi-Wan said, rubbing his eyes. "Why did you bring this up?"

"We're here? If it was important, we should probably remember it before we leave," Anakin pointed out.

"He makes a fair point," Qui-Gon admitted. "Are you even sure we were both in that group?"

"Let's see, me and Vader, obviously. Dark Lady was there. Obi-Wan was there. And...Oh, no, you weren't there, Master," Anakin recalled in surprise.

"Then it sounds like you two should get a head start on meditating and resting," Qui-Gon said with a chuckle before turning serious. "You have no idea of how important this information was?"

"No. I want to say "not that important" because we can't place it, but I don't know how this "sixteen sets of memories" thing really works," Anakin explained, rubbing his hands over his face.

"I don't think it was about the Order? It felt unrelated to us, at least directly," Obi-Wan mused to himself.

"And I wasn't dozing off, so I don't think it was about politics," Anakin opined with a tired but amused look. "We're not going to remember until we really need to, are we?"

"It's hard to argue with the Will of the Force," Qui-Gon said in amusement.

His former student and current student both groaned at that, to his own enjoyment and amusement.

End of Chapter

Well, information is being shared and things are moving. This turned mostly into a Jeid chapter, partially for the Council reactions, partially to show Anakin with the younglings. Vaderline Anakin is still a lot like Canon Anakin- he cares a lot and tries to help too much sometimes, and beasts himself up when he can't do more to help.

Fun fact: the story about Anakin meeting Ratts Tyerell was put in for a reason; it's another ripple effect! Ratts died during the race in Ep1. Here he lived to race Anakin again. Not something a lto would know, so thought I'd explain it.

Hope you all had a great thanksgiving!

Early viewing of chapters 10-11 avaliable on my pat-reon:

p a treon . com (slash) akumakami64