Young Frank Palpatine walked quickly towards his destination. Although his pace was swift, he was careful not to jostle what he lovingly carried in his hands. For what could have been the hundredth time, he looked down to check on his pet fish. A miniaturized variant of the opee sea killer, Frank's little goober fish was not doing well. Its normally lush colors were subdued, and he listed to one side within his water bowl. Eager to seek help as soon as possible, Frank yet again increased his pace.
Frank had left his home earlier that morning to make his way to Naboo's largest city, Theed, home of his planet's government and royal family. Although humans mostly populated this planet, the Naboo had to share their home with the Gungans, an aquatic species who seldom interacted with the galactically recognized Naboo. The Gungans usually kept to themselves, but there were a few who braved the human bigotry, quietly making a meager living and losing themselves within the vast capital city. One such Gungan, an exotic pet vendor near the Theed waterfront, was the only alien Frank cared to ever seek.
Frank finally reached the wharf area and immediately set about the task of weaving his way though fishermen and street vendors, careful not to let anyone bump into him or his dying pet. Not surprisingly, the Gungan's small animal store was to be found at the least accessible wharf location, far from the main thoroughfare, and all but out of sight from the paying customers. Here in the narrow alleyway, what little sunlight that came through only served to intensify the putrid smells of stagnant seawater and rotting fish. Few Naboo cared to enter the area, so now Frank had little trouble maneuvering to the Gungan's shop.
As he entered, Frank paid no mind to the only other customer, a man in black whose presence was nearly invisible, as if he were adept at hiding himself. Instead, Frank went straight to the counter and demanded the Gungan's attention.
"My goober fish is dying, Pardass! What medicines do you have to cure him?"
The tall Gungan frowned at young Frank's brash attitude, but eventually peered into the fish bowl at its sickly occupant.
"Oooh, datsa bom-bad, boy," Pardass ticked. "Yousa can't save dat one. Hesa too sick. Yousa want to buy anudda one?"
"No, there must be something you can do," Frank said. "Please, I'd do anything to save him. Anything!"
"Hmmmmm?" Pardass stroked his chin and contemplated the young human in front of him. "Okee-day, there isa one thing, but?no, itsa too hard for Naboo toosa do."
"Oh, but I insist!" Frank demanded. "Tell me! I told you, I'd do anything!"
"Well?Deresa fish yousa gotta catch. Little jedd fish." Pardass held his hands apart only a few inches to show its size, then pointed at his eyestalk. "Yousa catch it and open itsa head. Gotta get da optic nerve to makes da medicine. Goober fish eata deese jedd fish. Dey have vitamins in da eyes goober fish need. Yousa must go deep inda planet core."
"What? That's impossible, even for a Gungan!" Frank said.
"Itsa not impossible! I youssta bullseye jedd fish with meesa mini-sub back home! Deysa not much bigger dan two meters!"
"Two meters? You said they were this big!" Frank held his hands apart like Pardass had moments before.
"Yousa want to save little fishy or not?"
"I can't do it," Frank said with a sigh. "It's too difficult."
"Dat is why yousa fail!" Pardass turned away from Frank with a grunt, happy to cause a little heartbreak in a human.
Anger welled up inside Frank. He knew at that moment he hated Pardass. He hated all Gungans. He wished someone would wipe them out. All of them! He decided right there that one day he would have his revenge. But something else told him that now was not the time.
Dejected, Frank left the store with his pet, unclear as to what to do next. He was so sure he was going to be able to save his pet. He thought he'd thought of everything. Yet despite his failure, he felt there was one more option available to him. He just couldn't place the feeling?
As Frank turned the corner on his way back home, he ran straight into someone, nearly dropping his precious glass bowl and goober fish. Just as he was about to admonish the stranger for his clumsiness, he recognized him as the shadowy figure from the Gungan pet store.
"Who are you?" Frank asked.
"My name is Darth Plagueis, Lord of the Sith."
"Darth? What kind of name is Darth?"
"It's a title, not a first name!" snapped the dark lord. "I could not help but overhear your situation, young one. You want to save this, don't you?" He tapped lightly on Frank's fish bowl, and Frank thought he caught a hint of a smile on the shadowed face of the stranger before him.
"Yes, I want to save him. He is the only offspring from another goober fish I bought. He, like his mother, is now mine! I'm trying to breed them. I want to clone them and create a Grand School for my Republic High biology class."
But then Frank once again thought of the difficult task the Gungan insisted was the only way to save his fish's life. "But it's too long and difficult an undertaking. I wish there were an easier way. I dreamt he would die, and I'm afraid that dream is now coming true."
"I happen to know a power that can save your little fish. It can be quick and easy. You can restore his life, even the life of others."
Frank immediately perked up. This was the elusive opportunity he had felt earlier. Completely intrigued by the Sith's suggestion, Frank eagerly asked, "Is it possible to learn this power?"
The dark man scowled an evil smile at the boy. "Not from a jedd eye!"
A dark mist floated throughout the chamber, but it did nothing to shroud the insight flowing between Master and Apprentice. Cloaked in their traditional Sith trappings, Lord Plagueis and his pupil, Lord Sidious, faced each other, their hoods hiding all but the lower portions of their faces.
Sidious bowed. "What is your bidding, my Master?"
"You should say 'thy.' It sounds more formal. Plus, it makes a great catch phrase," Lord Plagueis said.
"Yes, my master."
Plagueis waited and finally said, "Well, say it!"
"Oh, sorry!" Sidious cleared his throat and tried again. "What is thy bidding, my Master?"
"Much better! Come, it is time for another lesson."
The young apprentice hesitated. "But I was going to go to Moshie Station to pick up some power converters!"
"You can spend time with your Gungan friends later," his Master said.
Sidious spat. "They are not my friends. I hate them! I wish someone would wipe them out. All of them!"
Plagueis sighed. "Yes, yes, I know. I did read the last chapter, you know." The Master's face darkened. "We will deal with your Gungan friends soon enough. For now, follow me."
The pair walked down a short corridor until they reached a black, massive door. Plagueis paused as if waiting for Sidious to take action. The apprentice sensed his Master's anger rising, but asked the question anyway, "What are . . . thy waiting for, my Master?"
"Did you forget your key card, my Apprentice?"
Suddenly remembering it was his duty to unlock the inner study chamber, Sidious quickly searched his robes. All his secret Sith pockets were empty.
About to apologize to his Master, Sidious flinched when Plagueis reached out with lightning speed, thrusting his hand behind his apprentice's head. When the moment passed and he felt no pain, Sidious carefully opened his eyes.
"What's this hiding behind your ear, my Apprentice?" the Sith Lord said, suddenly holding the young man's lost key card in his hand. "You left it unattended and vulnerable to our enemies. You will pay for your lack of vision!"
"Yes, my Master." Resigned to his fate, Darth Sidious turned to the small table next to the entryway and began writing on a slip of paper. He quickly placed the "I.O.U." into the Swear Jar, and with his composure regained, turned once again to face his Master.
Plagueis' scowl faded as he used the key card to open the door, but he still shook a black finger at his apprentice. "Don't fail me again . . . Admiral!"
Not sure if he was promoted or demoted with the new title, Sidious simply bowed and followed his master into their study chamber.
Sidious held his eyes shut tightly, his face a mask of concentration. His meditation training was nearly complete, as objects in the room floated through his will of the Force. As the Apprentice rearranged various items throughout the room, he also focused his mind, seeking his destiny through the Dark Side.
"Tell me what you see, my Apprentice."
The young man took a moment to direct his task, feeling the flow of the Dark Side carry him away in waves of clarity.
"I see a city."
"Is it Bespin?" his Master asked.
"No, it is not in the Lando System, my Master. It is a planet. The entire planet is a city!" Sidious paused to smile. "And I am its ruler."
"Good! Good!" Darth Plagueis encouraged him. "Your insight serves you well. It is the future you see. What else does your destiny hold?"
Sidious searched further. "I see a woman, one day a mother-to-be. She will bear an apprentice . . . She will bear my apprentice."
Suddenly Sidious frowned. "No! She is trapped! There is danger all around . . . A pit prevents her escape!" No longer focused, the Apprentice's voice raised to an angry shout as the objects in the rooms began to fly carelessly about the Siths' heads. "Heat! Fire! She will be burned alive! No! My apprentice! The fire . . . The fire! MY APPRENTICE! NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
The intense emotion finally broke the last of his concentration. Sidious opened his eyes to see an empty water pitcher Force-held and upturned over his Master's wet head.
"Control, control! You must learn control!"
With a wave of his hand, Sidious pushed the pitcher aside and apologized to his Master.
"My Lord, I saw my destiny!" The young Sith could not hide the excitement in his voice. "I am to train a son, but I must first prevent the death of his mother! What does this mean?"
"Yes, I have forseen it." Proud of the progress of his Apprentice, the Dark Lord made his decision. "You have studied the ways of the Dark Side and the history of the Sith. You have researched our technical manuals on the Holonet. Only one step remains for you, my young Apprentice. You must construct your Sith weapon, and take your place by my side!"
Sidious rose to face his Master and bowed respectfully.
"Go to the Sanctuary Room to complete your task." Plagueis commanded. "There you will find everything you need. I will check on your progress after I change out of these wet robes."
Sidious stepped away from the table and admired his work. Polished and chromed to his exact specifications, he basked in the gleam of his creation. The circle was now complete, so he affixed the hemispherical cap onto its final position. Although his creation was somewhat shorter than most, the young Sith was confident that it would serve his purposes well.
"With this, I shall wield the Dark Side to do my bidding," Sidious whispered to himself. "It shall lie in waiting until I decide it is time to execute my plan. This is now the ultimate power in the universe, and I intend to use it."
"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed," Darth Plagueis said as he brusquely strode into the room, hoping to be intimidating with his sudden appearance. "The ability to destroy a tauntaun's belly is insignificant next to the power of the Force!"
Sidious did not reply. Apparently, the Master's grand entrance failed to stir the young Sith who was so intent on finishing his task. Or did he already sense my presence? thought Plagueis to himself. Strange that I did not sense him sensing me sensing him . . . sensing me.
Plagueis brushed aside the thought and moved forward anyway in an attempt to maintain control of the situation. "I sense your task is at an end, my young Apprentice. Demonstrate to me the fruits of your labor."
Anticipating the red glow and comforting hum of his Apprentice's newly constructed lightsaber, the Dark Master was shocked when his apprentice revealed his work. Lying prone on the table, a stocky droid with a domed head turned its single eye toward the Dark Master and whistled a friendly hello.
"That's an astromech droid! I thought I told you to make a lightsaber!"
Sidious smiled, knowing that he'd surpassed his Master in the ways of manipulating the Dark Side. "I plan to watch this droid's career with great interest. It is the key to the future of the Sith! This alone will save the mother in my vision."
"How is that possible?" Plagueis said.
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true!" Sidious went on to explain, "I will innocuously insert this droid into the infrastructure of Naboo's capital city. There it will wait until I am ready for my plan to commence. Everything will proceed exactly as I have foreseen. It is its destiny!"
With an evil laugh and visions of his future nearly blinding his vision, Sidious turned back to his shiny blue creation. With quick and able hands, the young Sith attached unique hardware to the droid's legs, finally completing his task.
"Its official designation will be R2-D2, but I have chosen a proper Sith title for my disciple."
Darth Plagueis looked on with ever-growing curiosity, cautiously peeking over his apprentice's shoulder. Never before had he seen such devotion in an apprentice, nor such special modifications to a droid. He began to worry that perhaps this "Rule of Two" thing was going to come back to bite him in his royal Sith robes.
At that moment, the table began to move, interrupting the Dark Master's contemplation. The table raised its occupant to a standing position, and Sidious stepped back with satisfaction to show off his accomplishment.
Lord Plagueis eyed the droid warily, focusing on the short protrusions that stuck out on the sides of the droid's legs. It looked as if they were thrusters of some kind. "What's so important? What's he carrying?" Plagueis said.
Darth Sidious smiled and croaked out a reply to his Master's question. "Lord Waiter . . . flies!"
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