Maul had failed.
The useless fool. If he wasn't already dead, I'd have killed him myself.
All of that training wasted - my endless hours of molding the Zabrak into the perfect killing machine, of warping him into a ravening beast of corruption and death - gone in a single mediocre slice of antique weaponry and by a young, ill-trained Jedi at that. The thought was maddening.
But I could not let my fury show. After all, as newly appointed head of the Republic, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine would have nothing but the utmost regard for the oh-so-virtuous guardians of peace and justice, the most high Order of Jedi Knights. Those pathetic insects. Even now, they did not know that their greatest enemy was among them. Buffoons, the lot of them.
More annoying still, the greatest buffoon of them all, that old nert'e slime Yoda, was staring at me with those hideous eyes of his. His grotesque green face, too, was all frowns and puzzlement. He looked as if he smelled something bad.
I had to admit that he always looked that way. Perhaps it was that noxious goodness that he immersed himself in, the sweet cloying taste of righteousness that he kept prattling on about, intonations of how the darkness had been swept away in the Jedi's triumph over the powers of evil.
Simpering toad. If there was anything to smell, it was more the stench of death that hung like a smoky cloud here in the hallway of the Healer's ward: the metallic taste of blood in the air, the sulfurous odor of a cauterized lightsaber wound, the medicinal taste of bacta. Or perhaps, it was the way the Darkness swirled into dusty corners and waited for the right moment to strike. Delicious and so very satisfying.
If Yoda did not like the smell of decay, he should go back to his shining towers and green fountained gardens and leave the real universe to those with the power and intelligence to use it. Jedi scum.
But, instead of enjoying his death-throes at the end of my lightsaber, I had to stand here and listen to the green slug drone on and on and try to make him believe that I was on his side - or else he'd be watching me and interfering with my plans.
I certainly didn't need the head of the Order questioning my every move. It would make it difficult to arrange things. So it was time to push the old cretin in another direction.
Turning toward the Jedi, I put on my best politician's smile and, with a sweep of one hand and a showy bow, I was all sincerity. It was almost laughably easy to sound as if I was concerned. "Master Yoda, I must say once again that I am most humbly in your debt for saving my homeworld. Without the bravery of your Jedi Knights, it might have ended very differently."
I almost choked on my own lies, trying not to enjoy the smooth way they tripped off my tongue. But Yoda didn't blink, seemed to take in my honeyed words and believe them truth. He was really quite the fool.
"Their duty it was. Master Jinn and young Kenobi, give their lives they would to save the Republic."
I tried not to laugh. Instead, nodding sagely, I gave my best impression of someone who cared about the two who had destroyed my apprentice and ruined my plans. "Thankfully, they both survived the encounter with that disgusting creature. I know that Jedi Kenobi went unscathed but I can only hope that Master Jinn will recover from his wounds."
Yoda closed his eyes. I could feel him trying to search the swirling confused currents of the Force, looking for guidance. But there was no clarity here. The pain of those who suffered through the Trade Federation's invasion of their world had muddied everything, sending waves of Darkside debris to mingle with the Light - until all was a foul stream of contamination.
With that corruption darkening the Force, the head of the Jedi Order was as helpless as a trapped skank-toad in reading the strands of the future. But it seemed as though Yoda could not admit his weakness. "Grave were his injuries but recover he will. Be not concerned."
His deceptive platitudes were made to comfort a merely human Palpatine, but I was so much more. I was ready to trade lie for lie. "When he is well enough to receive visitors, I must thank him. It is the least I could do for saving Naboo."
Of course, thanking Jinn was not exactly what I had in mind. Roasting him over hot coals or cutting off pieces of his flesh one square centimeter at a time would be more to my liking. But it would have to wait until a more opportune moment. For now, baiting the old frog would have to do.
Before I could say anything further, the man who had bumbled his way into killing Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, limped out of Jinn's recovery room and hobbled over to us both. Trailing behind him was the young ten-year old boy I had met earlier, Anakin Skywalker. Kenobi looked terrible. It was thought that he was good-looking - my secretary had twittered on about the man for ages until I had finally killed her off just to shut her up. But now sorrow and pain had aged him a dozen years.
Bowing deeply first to me and then to the Jedi Master, he opened his mouth to speak but I was faster. With my best imitation of gentle concern, I said, "Let me thank you for all you have done to help our poor planet, Knight Kenobi. If there is anything we can do for you, please feel free to contact me. At any time."
Startled, Kenobi sent me a green-eyed stare before quickly bowing again. I knew he wanted to correct me but he was too much of a diplomat to do so. With his braid still flapping at his shoulder, it was clear to anyone who knew about the rules of the Jedi Order that he had not passed the trials - he did not deserve the title of Knight as yet. But he also knew that I was the Supreme Chancellor and if I wanted to call him initiate or bumbler or pathetic kitchen attendant, I could do so.
Beyond that, there was something else bubbling beneath the surface. It hurt Kenobi to be called Knight. I wondered why. But he did what I expected and said nothing other than, "Thank you, Supreme Chancellor."
He turned back toward Yoda and again I was the first to speak. "And how is your Master Jinn doing? Better, I hope." I tried to add an eagerness to my voice, to show just the right touch of compassion.
His eyes full of sorrow, Kenobi nodded, murmuring quietly, "As well as can be expected, Sir." Then nodding to the ancient toad, he said, "Master Yoda, my master is asking for you."
I interrupted once more. "Is he able to receive visitors, Knight Kenobi? If so, I'd love to..."
But apparently, Kenobi had had enough. He must have been very tired and not a little unsettled because he cut across my words with undiplomatic bluntness. "No, Sir, he is still quite unwell. He has some urgent business that he wishes to discuss with Master Yoda."
I stepped back, letting my hands flutter in the air in a gesture of understanding. "Ah, I'll let you go then. Master Yoda, perhaps we can meet later to discuss preparations for Naboo's recovery."
"When done am I, then contact your office I will, Supreme Chancellor." And with a clumsy bow and the halting tap-tap of his gimer stick, Master Yoda, head of the Jedi Order and my fiercest enemy, shuffled into Jinn's room and closed the door.
I turned toward the Jedi pair, the Kenobi menace and his young companion, and tried not to gloat.
Anakin stood there, uncertain and shy, fiddling with his ragged tunic and sending me wary glances. I suppose that he was like that around powerful people. His life must have been a hard one.
The boy was also brilliant in the Force. The light that surrounded him would have been almost too bright if not for the traces of darkness that clawed so beautifully at his spirit. He was very troubled, this slave child, and perfect for my plan to bring down the Jedi. But I would have to be patient.
I had heard rumors that he was the Chosen One of Jedi prophesy, that he would bring balance to the Force somehow, that he had been promised to be taken as Padawan by the troublesome Qui-Gon Jinn. But there had been problems. Knowing the Jedi as I did, they would see his unbelievably strong Force presence and fear his power. So they would use the excuse of his age and the fact that the ever-annoying Jinn was still Kenobi's master to turn him away.
However, now with his potential so very obvious and the first appearance of a Sith in a thousand years frightening them into the faintest glimmer of intelligence, it might be that the Council would accede to Jinn's demands for Anakin to be brought into the Jedi fold.
I would just have to get my hands on him first.
"Knight Kenobi, I know that you need your rest after that horrific battle. If I may be so bold, you look exhausted. Perhaps Jedi Skywalker here can fill me in on Master Jinn's condition."
The man looked thoroughly uncomfortable, but it was the boy who spoke up. "Ummm, it's just Anakin, Sir. I'm..." The blond head bowed down then, and he seemed to be watching his boot toe digging into the duracrete floor of the Healer's ward.
I could have crowed in delight. This might be easier than I thought. "Yes, son?"
The boy raised his head, his eyes glimmering with confusion and just a touch of anger. "I'm... not a Jedi, Sir."
Feigning surprise, I let fury and a pretentious paternal worry bleed into my voice. "Ah, but you are the Hero of Naboo. Blowing up the Trade Federation starship like that. The Force, what little I know of it, must be strong in you."
As I was talking, the child kept looking at Kenobi as if trying to get permission to speak. But the Jedi would have none of it. He just kept frowning down at the boy and shaking his head slightly as if to warn the youngster off. It was very amusing to realize that Kenobi had not yet learned one very important fact. Non-Jedi children could blurt out the most interesting things if pushed.
The boy started to protest but the pathetic fool of a Padawan just cut him off. "Anakin, not now." For all his vaulted diplomacy, Kenobi couldn't keep the exhausted annoyance out of his voice.
When the young one sent Kenobi a sullen, disgruntled look, it was merely shrugged away as the man said, "Supreme Chancellor, forgive me but that is Jedi business. I'm afraid that we cannot discuss it."
I was all offended astonishment. Well, that wasn't quite true. I couldn't believe that they were so hide-bound that they'd pass up a chance at such power. But apparently, they were mired in the past and I was looking to the future - a Sith omnipotent future, fueled by the idiocy of the bureaucratic mind set. It was just so delicious.
I pushed hard, showing the child that I could be his friend and protector, that he had at least one person who cared about his well-being among all these blind fools. "I had heard that Anakin was to be welcomed into the Jedi Order as Master Jinn's Padawan. Is this not true?"
"Sir, it is undecided at the moment. Perhaps if you talked with Master Yoda..."
Oh, the glare that Anakin sent Kenobi did not bode well for the pair should they ever need to work together.
Driving a further wedge into the sickeningly pure facade of the Jedi Order was wonderfully easy. I knelt down next to the boy and putting a warm hand on the child's bony shoulder, I asked gently, "Anakin, what do you have to say about it?"
The scowl Kenobi sent me would have frozen the hellish cauldron of Tatooine's primary sun. I had to admit that it was very difficult not to smile back at him in triumph.
The unhappy disappointment in the child's voice almost made me sympathetic to his plight. Almost. "I'm... Master Qui-Gon was going to be my master but the Council kept arguing...." He bit his lip, worrying at it as Kenobi cut him off with another brusque rebuke.
I stood up abruptly and folded my arms across my chest, glowering at the Jedi, looking absolutely thunderous at the interruption. It was all a facade, of course, but I had to play the part of the wise old uncle and defender of young, slave boys against the mean-spirited follower of rules and regulations.
"No, let the child speak. He's a hero today and deserves to be treated with respect." I looked down and sent the boy a slight smile, encouraging him. In a much gentler tone, I said, "Go on, son."
For a moment, I didn't think Anakin would say anything else; his eyes kept darting toward Kenobi and then away again in nervous confusion, his fingertips threading through the fraying hem of his tunic, and his feet shuffling in anxiety. But my encouraging nod broke through his restraint.
"The Council said that Master Qui-Gon already had a Padawan. I'm gonna be sent back to Tatooine unless Master gets better and can fix it."
Sending a deadly glare toward the Jedi, making sure that Skywalker saw the look and believed that I was on his side in this, I murmured, "And if he doesn't recover from his injuries?"
The child stuttered out his anxiety. "No one... no one else wants me and I'll go back to being a slave if Master Qui-Gon can't... I don't..." And then his voice faded away into silence. I could see that he was fighting back tears.
This was sounding better and better. But I could not let my satisfaction show through - after all, the benign facade of a caring mentor worked so very well and it wouldn't do to slip. Besides, having played this kind of game before, I knew just the right balance of fury and contempt to use in order to make my Jedi opponent look appallingly bad.
"Surely there is something that can be done."
Kenobi must have been teetering on the edge of exhaustion. Instead of trying to mollify the head of the Republic with platitudes of Jedi compassion, he only said brusquely, "It's an internal matter, Supreme Chancellor."
I was still human enough to feel the slightest twinge of sympathy for the child. I swung around and looked at the Jedi, cold contempt and astonishment in my voice. "An internal....our young pilot here should be rewarded for his bravery, not discarded like day-old trash. I will talk to your Council about it."
The boy had been watching us both battling over his future and now he spoke up, his young face still quivering with fear and the loss of his dreams. "Won't do any good, Sir. They don't like me much."
Ignoring Kenobi's protests, I turned away and bent down, cupping his face with my hand, gently wiping away the tears that had begun to fall. A soft smile and warm words - sympathy was a wonderful tool and I used it in full measure. "Well, if they decide to throw away such a treasure, you come to me, son, and we'll see about finding you a place here. It is the least that the people of Naboo can do."
The boy just stood there, looking at me with unwavering trust. "And my mom, too? She's still back on Tatooine, a slave. Master Qui-Gon couldn't free her but..."
I gave him a quick nod and a light tap on his cheek and then stood up. I reassured him, "Of course, my boy, of course."
Frowning, looking down at the child, Kenobi seemed thoroughly confused. "Anakin, I thought you wanted to be a Jedi."
Skywalker wiped at his face, his eyes full of wary concern. "I dreamed of being one but you... the Council.... they don't want me. If Master Qui-Gon dies..."
The Jedi looked toward the closed door and back down at the boy. Sighing heavily, Kenobi leaned against the wall, pressing one hand over his eyes as if to gather strength for another argument. But the last dregs of battle energy were leaching away, leaving him with little reserve.
As Kenobi struggled to reassure the boy, exhaustion and worry seemed to shadow his every word. "My master is going to be fine. He'll be up in a few days and we can talk about it then. Nothing is decided as yet."
The child began to protest but Kenobi just shook his head wearily. "Anakin, he's going to be all right. And if I know him, he'll be asking for you in the morning and harassing the Council by mid-day. He's very determined to take you as Padawan. But you have to understand. Officially he can't take on another apprentice until after my trials are over. So I can't promise anything right now."
Another long weary sigh and a half-hearted chuckle from the Jedi and he admitted, "But knowing Master Qui-Gon as I do, I'd be surprised if he didn't bully the Council into letting you stay with one of the clans until he's free to take you on. Trust me. You'll be a Jedi if my Master has anything to say about it... if that is what you want. Is it?"
"I think so." The Jedi scum wasn't the only one tired from the day's events. The boy's bony shoulders were beginning to slump in fatigue and I had work to do.
Time to end this part of the charade and move on to more pleasant things.
In a grand show of acceptance, I bowed to the boy, sending him a weary but indulgent smile. "If that is what you want, young one, I will support you with the Council. I may not be a Jedi but I do have some powers of persuasion."
So that Kenobi would not think I had given in so easily, I sent the Jedi another sharp glare. I wouldn't want him to become too suspicious. "Anakin, I look forward to discussing your future with Master Jinn when he is feeling better. But for now, I believe that you need your sleep and Jedi Kenobi has been fighting for Naboo all day and is probably very tired." Patting the boy's head one last time, I said, "Now off to bed with both of you."
It didn't take much persuasion. They were reeling with fatigue by the time I left. And I had decisions to make.
One thing was very clear, however. When I heard that Jinn would take the child when he had recovered, the old Master's fate was sealed.
I couldn't allow Skywalker to become a Jedi and, if that tiresome old septspider's death would pave the way for the boy to become my apprentice, so be it.
Not that I would object at his death. But the hardest part would be deciding how to kill him. The when was easy - it had to be tonight.
The morning dawned bright and clear and, as I strolled through the Palace gardens in search of one small boy, I knew it would be a lovely day. The chaotic birdsong and the romantic stink of hill-roses should have lightened the heart and lifted the weary spirit. But I was immune to such frivolities. Besides, I had to keep up the fa?ade of the humble but compassionate Supreme Chancellor and try not to look too pleased at the recent turn of events.
Still, I found it hard not to smile. It was all going according to plan.
Sometime during the night, there had been a great disturbance in the Force.
Death had visited the Healer's ward but that would be nothing new. It was a constant companion there and I often visited the local hospitals to give aid and comfort to those unfortunates who had little time to live. It was great fodder for the holovids in my rise as politician. And it had an added benefit - the suffering of those dying fools was so very pleasurable in the twisted currents of the Dark.
Now one more poor unfortunate had joined the Force, a little earlier than he had expected.
Jinn's death agonies had been particularly fierce. I don't like to leave things like that half done and since he was strongly Force-sensitive, he broadcast his torment so beautifully. When I hit the pain centers in his brain with little pops of Dark energy, his body writhed and undulated like some kind of demented droid, his arms and legs jolting chaotically. He was awash in pain as every nerve in his body fired all at once. Lovely.
Unfortunately, I couldn't prolong it too long, much as I would have liked to have him my plaything for a while. Jinn kept screaming, glorious music in its harsh bloody noise. I drank in his shrill cries, enjoying it most thoroughly, so much so that I lingered, listening to the delightful melody of prolonged torture.
But finally, I knew I had to end it. Someone was coming and fast. One quick twist of my wrist and his heart collapsed. The screams turned to gurgles and then to one final sigh and it was done.
Of course, I escaped just in time. The Jedi were quick to respond to one of their own being hurt but in this case, they were not quick enough. Bumbling idiots.
All in all, a thoroughly satisfying encounter.
Now after my little adventure, I needed to speed things up on the other front. Anakin Skywalker would be mine by the day's end.
I found him sometime later sitting alone in one of the smaller gardens, his young face wet with tears. It was clear that he had heard about Jinn and was mourning both the Jedi Master and the death of his dreams.
Sitting next to him on the stone bench, I put one arm around him and hugged him close. "Anakin, I'm so very sorry to hear about Master Jinn. He was a great hero and a fine Jedi." The words made me want to vomit but it was the right thing to say to the boy.
He swiped at his face, trying to be brave. "He was the only one who believed in me, besides my mom..." Then he sent me a tremulous smile, "And you, Sir."
Patting his shoulder, I pulled out the paternal old mentor guise. "You are a very brave boy and would make an excellent Jedi but I fear that they don't see the potential that I do. They are not going to take you into their Order, Anakin."
When he just nodded, looking thoroughly miserable, I continued, "But you are one of our greatest heroes, son. I will see to it personally that we bring your mother here, set her up with a house, and find her some kind of work."
With every word his eyes were growing wider and his spirit seemed to brighten. Lying to the child was such fun but I didn't let my enjoyment show. That might ruin my real plans for his future. So, for now, spinning ridiculous tales of reward would have to do. "And when you are older, I'll support your application to the Piloting Corps on Naboo. We could always use good pilots and your skills are astonishing even now. I can only imagine what they will be in a few years. Who knows, perhaps you will rise to lead the Corps as General someday."
I smiled down at the boy, all indulgence and false warmth. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if you became King in time."
"King?" He blinked at the idea. Apparently, a slave boy doesn't think beyond the moment; planting the seeds of ambition was incredibly easy. "That would mean I could marry Padm??"
I tried not to laugh. The idea was so absurd that this child could think about marriage and to that annoying slip of a girl. But I merely looked confused. "The Queen? I suppose you could but you are young to be thinking of that right now, my boy."
"I know, Sir, but I dreamed that I'd marry her someday and my dreams always come true... well, until now." His delight at the thought of being a king and marrying a queen faded away. He kicked at the dirt under his feet, stirring up a little puff of dust; one small stone clattered against the bench. The child began to bite at his lip and I could see that his certainty of becoming a Jedi was fading into oblivion.
Seeking to reassure him, I said gently, "I think being King might be better than being a Jedi, anyway, Anakin. You get lots of beautiful things to wear and eat and people listen to what you have to say. Plus you'll have the power to make things right."
"Like freeing the slaves?" His eyes were shining again, radiant with eagerness and determination.
Oh, this was going quite well. I almost had him eating out of my hand. "We shall work together to help the less fortunate, my boy."
But before I could spin further fantasies about his bright future, the ever-annoying Kenobi showed up once more.
It didn't seem possible but he looked even worse than yesterday. Walking slowly toward us, carefully picking his way through the blossoms in the garden, it seemed as if he were holding himself together with sheer will. Eyes puffy and red, he looked like he had been crying, impossible as that might be. I knew that Jedi had emotions but they were trained from infancy to suppress them or "let it go" - their ridiculous philosophy of serenity over emotion.
But there was something else that was different about him and it took me a few moments to realize what it was and when I did, I was astonished. His braid was gone. The fools had promoted the bumbling idiot.
I guess they were really scraping the muck off the floor if they thought Kenobi should be a knight.
But I said none of that, just stood and bowed, "Knight Kenobi, my deepest sympathy on your loss. Master Jinn was one of our finest and he will be sorely missed."
Kenobi just nodded, his dull eyes blinking rapidly, "Thank you, Supreme Chancellor. My Master is with the Force now and at peace." He turned away for a moment, seeming to collect himself and then said, "I was sent to find you and young Anakin here. Master Yoda wishes to discuss Naboo's future at your earliest convenience, Sir."
"I would be happy to talk with him in a few minutes. I was just helping our young friend here to understand his options, now that Master Jinn is gone." I sent a gentle smile down toward the boy.
Anakin was quiet, frowning at Kenobi, and his eyes were starting to turn watery again. Children were such fountains of emotion that sometimes it was difficult to deal with them. But it didn't matter. Once I got my hands on him, I'd beat it out of him quickly enough.
Wiping at his wet cheeks, he murmured, "I'm sorry, Obi-Wan, about Master Qui-Gon. So sorry."
Hovering next to Skywalker, Kenobi said, "He wanted you to become a Jedi, Anakin. Last night, before he died, he asked that if something should happen to him, that I would take you as Padawan. If you would like."
Brightening up, Anakin was happy at the news. "He did?" But then his face shuttered again as he glanced down at the ground. "But you didn't want me to be a Jedi. I don't..."
"I believed in Master Qui-Gon. If he said that you should be a Jedi, then I believe that you should as well. But it is your decision, Anakin."
The fool actually thought that it was an honor to be one of those simpering idiots. He probably expected Anakin to jump at the chance. But it wouldn't hurt to stave off any thought of accepting it.
I patted the boy's shoulder, turning him toward me. "Anakin, it is a hard decision to make. Knight Kenobi is overly generous to promise to take you and it does him credit. But you need to know a few things about the Jedi Order before you make such a momentous decision."
"Supreme Chancellor, I think it would be better coming from me..." The now-Knight tried to interrupt but I would have none of it.
Sitting back down, I put my arm around the boy in a brief hug and then said, "Knight Kenobi, I believe that I have some knowledge. You can correct me if I'm wrong."
When he bowed in acquiescence, I said, "Anakin, you have told me about your mother and about Padm? and your friendship with her. It would be difficult to keep in touch with either of them if you go to the Jedi. They have a most important rule and it is strictly kept. No attachments."
When the boy only looked puzzled, I explained. "It means that you could not see your mother again. Ever. And any friendship with the Queen would be discouraged. Certainly you could not get married when you grow up. Is that not so, Knight Kenobi?"
Kenobi was quite unhappy about this but I was telling the truth, the unvarnished non-Jedi truth. There was nothing he could say but, "Yes, that is true. But our purpose is one of service to all, Anakin. We are asked to have compassion for those less fortunate. It is a hard life, true, but one with the greatest of rewards - knowing you are helping others."
"But I don't understand. Master Qui-Gon said that he couldn't free the slaves. They are less fortunate. Isn't that a Jedi thing to do?" The boy sounded like he didn't believe Kenobi, at least not much.
I had to speak up. "The laws of the Republic are quite specific. The Jedi are required to do what the Senate tells them to do. They have no power to free slaves. But as a leader of the Naboo, you would have the power to change things. And I will help you." I smiled back down at him. "Now that I am Supreme Chancellor, I'll work towards changing the laws. You could help me do that, Anakin. You have experience that none of us have. It could be the break we need to free those in chains. But I would need you here, not a Jedi but a free agent to do what will need to be done."
The Jedi was getting more and more agitated. "Supreme Chancellor, the Jedi serve all. There is no higher calling. Anakin should understand this."
With my most imperious look, I glared at him, "That is true but is it enough for this talented child?"
I could feel the boy wavering. This would never do. I suppose I could kill off Kenobi if Anakin decided to join the Order but it would be an annoyance at the very least - although it would be thoroughly enjoyable to torture the scum.
"Anakin, it is really quite simple. What Knight Kenobi said was true. There is reward in service but you never really get to do what you want, only what the Jedi tell you to do. And you must give up any idea of ever seeing your mother or Queen Amidala again. It's up to you, son."
The child mulled it over for a moment, and then bowing to Kenobi, he fell into my plans. "Thank you, Obi-Wan but I want to see my mother again. I hope you aren't too mad at me."
Kenobi looked completely stunned, the fool, and his eyes glittered with sorrow. It was clear that he honestly wanted the boy as Padawan and never even considered that the answer might be no. Blinking rapidly, he drew a deep breath and let it out. "I will honor your decision, Anakin. If you ever have need of my assistance, please let me know." Looking away for a moment, he bowed once more, "I hope you will attend Master Jinn's funeral tonight. I know he would have wanted you to be there."
I spoke up. The sooner I could get Skywalker away from the Jedi, the better, "We will both be there, Knight Kenobi. And you might want to tell Master Yoda that I will be there directly."
It was a clear dismissal. The fool's mouth flattened in anger and then I could see him deliberately letting that emotion go. He bowed first to me and then to Anakin, murmured a soft "May the Force be with you" and left us to the silence and beauty of the gardens.
"Anakin, I have to go to a meeting with Master Yoda in a few moments. Why don't you go see how Padm? is doing? I'll talk to you later about making arrangements for your mother."
The boy looked uncertain for a moment, still watching the Jedi walk away, perhaps wondering if he had made a mistake, but then he brightened up at the thought of Padm?. Giving me a brilliant smile, he scampered away and I was alone.
So the Jedi fools let the Chosen One slip out of their fingers with nary a ripple in their precious Force. So much for the Light. So much for their future. They had sealed it with bureaucracy and rules and blindness.
I now held the key to their total annihilation.
Soon I will begin his training. The most powerful Force-user ever discovered and he was all mine - to torment and torture into the most sublime hatred, the deepest fear, to shape his very will so that, in time, he would see that pain was pleasure and pleasure pain, to train to enjoy the terror that was the Dark.
To grow into the perfect Sith Lord.
And when that time comes, in blood and betrayal and death, together we will wipe out the Jedi.
Original cover by Diane Kovalcin. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.