I stand in the Galactic Senate, in the seat for the Naboo sector, waiting for my moment - waiting to be sworn in. In the pod next to mine the honorable representative from Alderaan takes the oath of office as I watch. Cheers rise up around me. I am silent, clapping for him; but not truly caring. I have worked all my life to reach this point. From here, the seat of the Supreme Chancellor is within sight, almost close enough for me to reach out and touch it. From here, my path to rule the Republic is clear.
Though it has not been without pitfalls.
The Alderaan pod retreats to the chamber wall. Almost unwillingly, my eyes are drawn to a pod that floats towards the next senator to be sworn in. It is a pod that carries Jedi Knights.
Old anger and pain twists my stomach, along with a hint of fear. My skills are still virtually untested. Though I know from hard experience that the Dark Side is stronger, I also know the value of patience. The need for revenge burns strong, but it is a slow fire. I have waited long years already for my vengeance, and I can wait for years yet, biding my time. The Jedi are weak, weaker than they've been at any other time in the last four thousand years. But the time isn't yet ripe.
I let my emotions wash over me, the anger sending waves of dark power throughout my body, the fear adding an irresistible spice to the taste of my strength. One of the Jedi lifts his head and scans the room, and I know that he is seeking the source of the disturbance he senses, albeit faintly, like the faintest whiff of sulfur in these cloyingly perfumed halls. But he shakes his head, and turns back to the Senator being sworn in. That one is strong, stronger than the others. No matter. My disguise is perfect, and he cannot detect me.
I allow myself to smile as the pod carrying the Jedi floats closer, and I consider the dark and bloodstained path that led me to this point. I shrug off a shadow of regret. I am Adrik Palpatine, elected representative of the Naboo sector, and most importantly, I am the last of the Sith. My time is coming. The Jedi will pay.
I was born the eldest child of minor nobility, on a rather insignificant middle rim planet. It may surprise you to know that my earliest memories are happy ones, and if fate hadn't intervened I might very well have lived a normal, if spoiled, life. My family was very well off, with large estates on my homeworld's northern continent. I was denied nothing. The intelligence that was to be my boon later in life was evident even then, and when I was three years of age, I began my schooling.
I could read and write by the time I was four, and by my fifth birthday I had began to try to read J'erne, H'Gells, and other such authors. My parents, sparing no expense, bought me real books, with pages made out of actual paper. I preferred solitude to companionship, and was not very popular among my peers. My classmates preferred to play sports, though of course at that age there is generally little skill involved. I was small, smaller than they, frail, ill suited to such activities. It was within my books that I found comfort, devouring stories about mighty heroes and treacherous villains.
Despite not having any truly close friends, I was happy. Being so young, every day is a new experience, and the entire world is beautiful. One memory in particular comes to mind. I was perhaps five, and my parents woke me in the middle of the night, taking me outside. We lay on the grassy slope of a hill near our house, the night birds calling out their sad song, while above floated the perfect dome of the sky. Brilliant shooting stars fell from a meteor shower every few seconds.
The meteorites were fascinating, but what truly impressed me were the stars themselves. Remote, untouchable, they hardly twinkled in the clear sky. They were tiny pinpricks of light, shinning brilliantly amid the utter darkness of space, and I had never seen anything so beautiful. The galaxy spread itself out before me in all its magnificence, and I lay there open mouthed in awe and wonder.
Just as that moment came to an end all too soon, so too did my happiness and childhood. Shortly before my sixth birthday my planet exploded into civil war. The monarchists had fallen out of favor with a large segment of the population, who wished to live under a democracy. To achieve their model society, they were perfectly willing to kill anyone who supported the monarchy, be they man, woman, or child. As members of the nobility, my family was targets.
Being only six, I understood very little of what was going on. Mother was crying all the time; while father spent his time arguing with strangers who carried guns. I was left to myself, and in the new world that I was emerging into my books were of little comfort. It was only years later, when I first arrived in Coruscant, that I was finally able to find out exactly what happened to my homeworld.
The monarchists were the ones who lost the war, but neither side truly won. The fires of the revolution swept over the cities, burning them to ashes and ruins. Over fifty million people died during the fighting, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Nearly three hundred million refugees were created by the revolution, myself included. I, who am the Lord of the Sith and perhaps the most powerful person alive today, was once a helpless refugee.
When the armies of the rebels reached my ancestral home, my family had already fled, for to remain was death. My parents disguised themselves as peasants, and we departed with what few of the family treasures we could. When challenged, they declared themselves to be rebels; facing death, it is easy for the weak to humble their pride. Together, we traveled towards the nearest refugee camp. It was our only hope for getting off planet, away to safety.
It is the greatest irony that it was monarchists who killed my parents. Challenged on the road by brigands, not realizing the allegiance of the men, my father claimed that we supported the local rebel general. The monarchists took my parents prisoner and found the few small family heirlooms that we had been able to save. Naturally, they assumed my parents were thieves who had participated in the sack of my family's properties. Realizing his situation, my father protested, finally telling them the truth. He wasn't believed, and my parents were killed in a rather long and painful fashion.
My life was spared, probably because of my youth, but the monarchists were unwilling to keep me. I was left on my own, in the middle of the wilderness, alive, but directionless, purposeless. I remember crying over my parent's bodies, crying until I had no more tears left. The tears finally stopped, and I promised myself that I would never cry again.
I had no means of digging graves, so I covered my parent's bodies with leaves as best I could. I said goodbye, still sniffling, and turned my back on them to make my own way.
I would surely have died on my own, being so young and lost in a forest on the edge of a mountain range. With my parents, I had been malnourished in recent weeks as our small food supply dwindled. Now alone, I was slowly starving to death. I did my best to keep to the road, running back into the underbrush whenever I heard a vehicle approach. I wandered on my own for three days and four long, dark nights. The nights, which had previously been a thing of beauty to me, were now filled with menace. Off in the distance, I could hear the cries of animals, and I was even more chilled by their voices than I was by the quickly falling temperatures.
But even then, the Force was with me. An aid party from Naboo traveling between two of the refugee camps happened across me. Somehow knowing that this vehicle brought help instead of death. I didn't run, instead remaining in the middle of the road as they slowed to a stop in front of me. In a quiet, emotionless voice I told them what had happened. Needless to say, they were horrified. I was bundled up into the hovercar, and sped on my way towards the refugee camp.
The next few weeks were a blur. I cannot remember very much of them, except that I ate a great deal. Simple gruel that I would have turned my nose up at months ago was now a feast fit for a prince. I remember boarding a ship at the end of those few weeks, but I cannot remember why I was chosen. It was a ship to carry a few lucky refugees away to safety, to Naboo.
The Jedi pod continues to float serenely from Senator to Senator, droid holo cameras buzzing around it. One of them breaks off to fly in my direction, and I smile benevolently for it. I see the Jedi reach the pod belonging to the representative of the Trade Federation, and even fifty meters away I can sense the mutual distaste between the two parties. I spend a moment idly wishing that I had a weapon, a concussion rifle perhaps, that I could use to destroy both pods at once.
The moment passes, and I return to reality. While it might be satisfying to destroy two representatives of two of the organizations I hate most in the galaxy, it would be a poor revenge. There are ten thousand Jedi in the galaxy, and the Trade Federation is even larger. The damage I could do now with a weapon would be minimal; hardly even enough to notice, and it would give my intentions away. And so I smile for the holo's, biding my time.
My enemies are all around me, but if I possess one great advantage it is that they do not know that they are my enemies. When they wronged me, I was weak. I was no one, from nowhere. They don't even know that they've wronged me.. I will balance the scales, and then I will create a new order. An order that does look after every citizen, no matter how small and unimportant. And an army that will not hesitate to react with crushing force against those who try to disrupt the peace.
Naboo was one of the few worlds that cared about my planet's situation. They sent aid, in the form of food and medical supplies, along with the people necessary to distribute it. They asked for no reward, helping the people of my planet simply because it was the right thing to do. There are few other worlds that can say the same.
Alderaan initially sent troops and aid, but withdrew them due to public opinion and for reasons I shall explain momentarily. The Trade Federation was present, though their motives were by no means benevolent. They made a great deal of money selling weapons to both sides of the war, everything from rifles to atomics. The capital city of my homeworld disappeared into a radioactive mushroom cloud courtesy of a bomb provided by the Federation. They gouged both sides further by making sure that they were the only side capable of supplying the combatant's basic essentials of food and medical supplies. The rebels may have begun the war, but the Trade Federation intensified it.
But it is the Jedi that I blame most for my planet's situation. Not because of any actions that they took, but because of their complete and utter inaction. There was a Jedi Knight on my world shortly after the revolution began, who was sent by the Jedi Council to report on the insurrection. Even at that point, thousands of people were dying. Not only soldiers, but innocents as well, people on both sides of the conflict. He could have ended the revolution, or at least done his part to keep the rebels from excesses.
Instead he reported back to the Council that the revolution was a good thing, progress in a backward planet. Even later, when the body count rose and the cities burned, the Jedi and their council maintained it was all an internal matter. They did not intervene, and did worse than not intervene. They encouraged other parties not to intervene either. Because of the Jedi Council's recommendations, Alderaan and Caamas both withdrew the aid that they had been providing. When they pulled their people out, what little restraint had been shown to that point had melted away. Only Naboo remained for a time, long enough for their people to find me and rescue me.
With the increasing violence, and no support from the intergalactic community, even Naboo was eventually forced to pull out of my homeworld. I had left the planet on one of the last of their Naboo ships to leave, and I was resettled on Naboo. Some would later say it was luck that I was chosen to go while so many others stayed and died, but I know differently. It was the Force, the bane and boon of my existence, saving me yet again.
I had been but a child, young and innocent, when the fires of rebellion swept over my planet. My innocence was long since gone by the time the ashes of my world were cold. My forging had begun.
My aide reaches out and hands me a glass of water. I thank her as I take the glass, drinking deeply. The morning has been long already, and it will be several hours before I am sworn in. The Jedi move slowly around the great sphere, from embassy to embassy. They now take the oaths from an insect race that I do not recognize. There are so many here that I don't recognize. I can't even put a name to all the human systems, much less their representatives.
The galaxy is huge beyond belief, and I am only one man. But I am more than a man. I must be more than a man. I have known this all my life. I will never be the physically strongest or the most skilled in works of the hand, but I can be the smartest, the most crafty, the best prepared. Physical strength means nothing over the long term. Even the best pilots and the most valiant warriors are nothing. They greatest of them might fight off perhaps five times their number, ten times, a hundred times. But eventually, they reach a point where they can fight no more, where the numbers are too great, and they die.
The mind is a greater weapon than any lightsaber or snubfighter. With the mind stratagems are planned, debates are won, treaties and alliances formed. These are the true strength of an Empire. And with the mind, the Force is controlled. There is no greater power in existence than the Dark Side of the Force. The Jedi floating towards me do not comprehend that, and so they shall fail.
From an early age, it was my mind that I honed to perfection. It was my intellect that I developed. I did not know what my destiny would be, but I wanted to be ready for it when it came.
I was accepted into the Coruscant Intergalactic University at age seventeen, on a full scholarship. But perhaps I should backtrack a few years before I speak of my time in university, the happiest and most tragic period of my life.
When I arrived at Naboo, I was put into another refugee camp. For better or for worse, unlike most orphans of the war, I was not adopted by anyone. Apparently not even one of the kindly Naboo families wanted to adopt a child that was perhaps emotionally scarred for life from his hellish experiences. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different if I had been adopted. If a loving and caring family had taken me in, I think it is almost certain that I would now have an entirely different worldview. But no one did, and it is fruitless to dwell on the universe's maybes. What good is it to ask, "What if?" Only reality matters, that which is true, and the strength to make a vision into the truth.
And so, after a few months (and once my innate brilliance became apparent to the aid workers dealing with me), the state provided for me an education. I was permitted to attend the Royal Naboo Academy, sponsored by the planetary government. At school, it mattered little that I had no family, as everyone was away from home. We all lived in the dormitories, and no one ever left except on holidays. During the holidays, my reality would come home to me when everyone else went to his or her families; I stayed behind and kept learning. I had always been a rather omnivorous and voracious reader, but now I discovered that history could be even more satisfying than fiction. But history just whetted my appetite, and I came to want to understand the why as well as the how. Economics and politics became my newest interests, and they were to serve me well later in life. However, history would remain my first love.
I excelled at school, which did not surprise me. Regularly at the top of my class in a school full of rich and privileged students, I was unpopular at first. So I took time away from my studies and "made friends." I helped people with their homework, I followed along with the pranks that my classmates pulled, and before very long I was planning them myself.
I was never the most popular child at school, but I was become almost universally well liked. And I must admit, there were a few people that I came to be quite fond of. But I never allowed myself to become close with anyone. It was a lesson I had learned early, and learned hard: If you don't truly care for anyone, no loss can truly hurt you. I only allowed myself to forget that lesson once, and it resulted it disaster.
Another important lesson I learned in those days was how to influence and manipulate people. It was perhaps an even more important lesson in the long term, as it helped me reach my present level of power and will hopefully allow me to rise higher in the future. I also must admit that the "friendships" I cultivated in those early days were to stand me in good stead later on in life, when I aspired to become senator for the Naboo sector. My "friends" had graduated in turn, and were now the rich and influential of the region. I doubt that I could have won my seat without them or their help.
In any case, I eventually graduated with the highest marks of any student in the two hundred and fifty year history of the school. I applied for the Coruscant Intergalactic University that year, and was shuttled to Coruscant to write the entrance exam. It is an exam that fully ninety percent of those writing it fail, but I found it rather easy. Most likely that was because I took the time to study for it. I wasn't the highest scoring applicant ever, or even the highest that year, but I did well enough to get into the program I wanted with a full scholarship.
I chose to major in political science, which was already my great passion. I took electives in economics and history, and it was history that led me to where I am now. One of my first year courses was "Themes in the History of the Republic," taught by a middle-aged human named Erebus. He was tall and well built, deeply tanned with hair as white as snow, and mischievous-seeming dark eyes. For various reasons that he never bothered to explain to anyone he always wore white gloves, and tended to dress completely in white at all times, from his polished white shoes to the white hat that he was never without, no matter what else he wore. He was the antithesis of what I had expected for a history professor. It was odd that such a distinguished professor was teaching such a lowly first year course, but he had requested the opportunity and the University didn't dare deny him the chance.
In that class on the first day, by fate or fortune I found myself sitting next to a rather attractive blond woman. She was no exceptional beauty, but she was obviously quite athletic, and the sparkle of her personality more than made up for any faults in her appearance. We were seated together in the back of the class, almost alone. I asked her why she sat in the back, away from everyone else. She told me that she had very little experience with being in a classroom, having instead received her lessons privately from various tutors. In my experience the people who sit at the back normally exude self-doubt or similar emotions, but she had a core of rock solid belief in her self. Her accent gave her away as being native to Coruscant, and I immediately assumed her to be the daughter of some rich and influential family. It seemed to explain her well, and it was months before I discovered the truth.
She asked me the same question in turn, and I gave her some glib response about preferring the softer lighting there to satisfy her curiosity. In truth, I was back there because in the back, you can watch everyone. I was already analyzing my classmates, putting them into mental boxes, evaluating each and every one of them as to his or her or its potential usefulness. I believe that she sensed I was lying, but she made nothing of it at the time. Perhaps because it was at that moment that the professor walked into the room.
He smiled as he walked into the classroom fully two minutes late, making a joke that I didn't hear clearly. The first few rows did, and laughter erupted. So apparently did the woman next to me, as she giggled helplessly for a moment. I leaned forward to look at him, and my initial impression was that he looked surprisingly like the woman next to me. I discounted it as coincidence. The professor pulled a datapad out of his briefcase and walked over to the podium. A hush swept the room as his eyes looked around the body of students in front of him. His gaze finally settled for a moment, and then he began his lecture.
In case you happened to be wondering, it was not on myself that his eyes settled. At that point, the Professor was not even aware of my existence. But the woman next to me seemed to stiffen in shock, blinking rapidly. "What's wrong?" I asked her, and she just shook her head, her face pale.
"I don't know," she answered, sounding shaken. "It was like someone walking on my grave."
"Are you all right?" I asked, painting a look of compassion and concern on my face, and she nodded slowly.
"I'm fine, really." And she did look better, color returning to her cheeks, the twinkle back in her eyes. "Thank you," she said, and I made a dismissive gesture, seeming nonchalant. "I wasn't quite sure what to expect from people out here, in the so-called 'Real World.'"
I laughed genuinely and stuck out my hand. "Adrik. Adrik Palpatine," I introduced myself. "The real world is a terribly frightening place. It might be nice to visit from time to time, but I wouldn't want to live there."
She took my hand hesitantly, but laughed quietly at my words. "My name's Phaedra Kempth, and I'm pleased to meet you." I might have said more, but the professor was talking and we had notes to take. Afterwards, I asked her which way she was going. Much to my delight, she was heading in the same general direction as myself. I had another class that day, while she had friends waiting to take her home. As we walked, we talked about the university experience thus far, and what we made of it. I found her witty; I think she found me charming.
About halfway to my next class, her friends found us. At the time I was surprised that they were able to pick her out of the crowd so easily, but I would later understand. She noticed them before I did, and ran over to them. "Qui Gon! Mace!" she called, and I took a long look at her friends.
Both were human, one light skinned, one dark. The light skinned young man I took to be Qui Gon, given that that was what she was calling him as they chatted. The other one, whom I naturally and correctly took to be Mace, simply looked at me. I met his glare evenly, crossing my arms against my chest. He had an intensity about him that I found unsettling even as I tried to stare him down.
Phaedra must have realized that there was something wrong, because she stepped up to put an arm on Mace's shoulder. "Come on," she said, "Lets go home." Leaving me with one last glare, Mace turned away in a billow of cloak. She frowned at his retreating back, and then smiled at me. "Well, I suppose I'll see you at the tutorial tomorrow."
"Count on it," I said, smiling.
Then she ran to catch up with her friends, and I continued on to my next class. I recall that as they turned to walk away I caught the eye of the one named Qui Gon. Immediately images of hot desert sands spreading out around me spun before my eyes, images that I could make no sense of. Yet I knew that these sands held both great opportunity and greater peril for me. It was gone in a moment, practically before I knew what had taken place. Considering it just a trick of the light, I shook my head and simply went on my way. I have yet to understand it. Perhaps the secret will be revealed, some day.
I look up at the Jedi pod, and I see Mace Windu standing there, already a Jedi Master at the tender age of thirty-five. He looks much the same as he did eighteen years ago, except that his once slightly gangly frame has filled out considerably. He stands with his arms folded serenely across his chest at Yoda's right side. I'm told he is somewhat of a prodigy within the Jedi Order. Supposedly he is already the greatest warrior alive, and has the lack of scars to prove it.
However, I do not worry about Master Windu. He truly knows nothing, adhering blindly to a three thousand year old code that has lost all relevance in today's galaxy. In the end, his fighting skills will go for naught. I think that perhaps he suspects that a Sith still lives, which is more than most of the Jedi can say, but I do not worry. He is too linear a thinker to threaten me, too bound up in tradition, not in touch with his emotions.
If any of the Jedi alive today worries me, it is the man standing to the left of Yoda. It is he who sensed a disturbance, to his credit. But even his power cannot overtake mine. Qui Gon Jinn is not as imposing as Windu, not so learned, not nearly so well respected. But he is the greater of the two. Since that first time that I saw him, I have feared him, not knowing what it is that I fear. He is not so strong as many of his fellows, nor so admired. But he has a quality about him, a sense of destiny that makes me nervous. I have watched him closely since I discovered what he was.
Nothing in this galaxy is truly luck or coincidence.
We met again at the tutorial, and shared notes back and forth, getting along well. After a few weeks I was surprised to realize that there was no duplicity in my friendship with her, none of the usual distance that I have always maintained betwixt myself and the rest of the world. I actually looked forward to seeing her every other day in class. I've never felt that way about anyone else, before Phaedra or since.
I find it funny in retrospect, how little I knew about her. We would talk about everything from the class to galactic politics to philosophy. I found she had some very strict ideas about some things, and tended to prefer logic to emotion. I can certainly sympathize and agree with that viewpoint, but emotion does have its place. Every day after class, one or two of her friends would always pick her up. But I never knew anything about her life outside of school.
I studied year round, and was pleased to discover that Phaedra would as well. We kept up our acquaintance through to the second year, when we took a course on the Ancient Sith. WE became the best of friends, but there was always a hidden reserve. We each knew that the other had barriers within them, barriers that we did not approach.
Here perhaps I shall need to elaborate on a point. Professor Erebus's field of expertise was the Ancient Sith. The conclusion that you may draw from this is almost certainly correct, though it was an excellent cover. Those few Jedi who ever had any thought at all about the Sith would often consult him, the galaxy's leading expert. I found the situation ironic when I discovered it, but that wasn't for a time yet.
I can remember my first class in that course quite clearly. Phaedra was in it, as she had told me she would be, but she was oddly apprehensive. I asked her why, and she hesitated for a long moment before she spoke. "The Sith are the most destructive force the galaxy has ever seen. Maybe some things should never be forgotten, lest they happen again, but I think in the case of the Sith the galaxy might be a better place if every trace of them was wiped out of existence."
"Don't you think that's a little harsh?" I asked, trying to draw out a smile.
She turned towards me, and I noticed the dark circles under her normally cheerful eyes for the first time. "I didn't want to take this course, but I need to," she said, giving no further explanation at the time. I started to ask her to elaborate a bit, but at that moment the professor entered the room. This was a much smaller class, and we were closer to the front. And so as he walked in I was able to clearly see him scan the room, looking for someone. His eyes rested on Phaedra for a moment, and then he proceeded to introduce himself to all those students who he hadn't met before, and warmly greet returning students.
He soon went right to business, showing us a few examples of Sith artifacts from throughout the centuries. I found the Lanvarok to be particularly interesting, thought I wasn't quite sure if I'd care to actually wield it in combat. There was an ancient lightsaber from a Sith Apprentice who had been dust for a thousand years, and I spent a rare moment daydreaming and wishing that I might someday wield one.
There is an old expression of which I'm sure you're aware, that I think of when remembering that day: "Be careful of what you wish for, because you just might get it."
After the class, I stayed behind, hoping that the professor would allow the chance to handle some of the artifacts, and provide more than just a superficial explanation as to what their purposes were. Also, I was curious as to just how the Lanvarok worked. Phaedra stayed with me, though she was a bit more leery about the artifacts. The professor smiled at my request, and let me handle a few of them. The last one he gave to me was a small black sphere, perfectly smooth and dark.
When I touched it, I was expecting it to feel cold and hard. Instead it felt almost alive, seeming to writhe in my hand. Phaedra gasped, and I moment later I realized why. The orb had begun to glow slightly. The light was odd, probably radiating mostly in the ultraviolet spectrum, just barely visible to the naked human eye.
Professor Erebus noticed this, and came closer. The expression on his face was odd as he walked over to us, a mixture of puzzlement and something else that I couldn't quite place. He raised an eyebrow as he came to up speak to me, asking if I was a Jedi Knight. There was a note in his voice that indicated that this was no idle question.
"No." My answer was as cold and to the point as it is humanly possible. He seemed slightly surprised at that, but already I could see wheels turning behind his carefully blank expression. I handed him back the sphere, glad to be rid of it.
"You could have been," he said. "That orb detects strength in the Force. You obviously have a great deal, and could have been quite the Jedi. Like Phaedra here." At his words, Phaedra flushed in embarrassment, but I looked on in horror. This woman I was a friend with, my only real friend, was a Jedi? She was a member of the order that had callously doomed my planet?
Erebus smiled slightly as he tossed her the sphere. She caught it reflexively, moving with preternaturally fast speed. The orb glowed a yellowish orange in her hands. The professor steepled his own gloved hands in front of his chest.
"Is that true?" I asked her. She flushed again, nodding, seeming almost embarrassed. I tried to say something, but no words came out. I stormed out of the class, into the hall.
"Adrik, wait!" she called, and I began to run, running away from her and from her words. I didn't want them to be true; it was like a betrayal. Recalling it now, having actually been betrayed on numerous occasions by individuals ranging from Black Sun's Vigo to Republic Senators (and the two can be more alike than they would like to admit), I would have to say that it hurt far worse than any petty betrayal. I heard her footfalls behind me, and I sped up. She caught me easily, a trained athlete, using the Force as a resource.
"Adrik, I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier," she said, taking my arm. "I didn't think it would matter. I didn't want it to matter."
I shrugged free of her grip and kept walking. "Adrik, why?" she asked, a note in her voice that made me stop and turn. In my anger, I told her of my childhood. I told her of how the actions of a Jedi had led to the deaths of millions of people on my homeworld. How the order that supposedly protected the rights of citizens around the galaxy allowed genocide, slavery, starvation, rebellion and worse. They lived in their ivory Jedi Temple, high above the rest of the galaxy. Even here on Coruscant, it was dangerous to be alone at night on most of the levels.
Her face tightened, but even though I saw pity in her eyes her words came out perhaps more harshly than she had intended. "The Jedi are not a galactic police force, and our mission isn't to stop every petty criminal. We devote ourselves to maintaining the balance of the Force, and acting for the greatest common good. We're scholars by nature, not warriors."
"Balance?" I asked incredulously. "How does genocide contribute to this balance? How about slavery? Because both are they're happening right now, and no one is doing anything about it. No one. Not the Jedi, not the Republic, no one. Genocide, slavery, apartheid; these are not petty crimes. Why don't the Jedi do anything?"
"We do what we can," she protested.
"Do you?" I asked. "How many Jedi ever leave the Temple to actually do anything?"
"Not many," she admitted. "But as I said, our mission is not one of violence."
"No? Then why do you carry lightsabers? That's a weapon if there ever was one. You venture out into the galaxy so rarely that you're almost becoming myths in your own time, but the stories say you can jump several meters straight up, that you can sense danger and react to it quicker than humanly possible, that you have telekinetic powers. If any of that is true, then it should be used for the betterment of the galaxy. It's wasted by lounging around in your ivory tower, sipping tea and discussing philosophy!"
"The enlightenment of self is the noblest goal," she said, but I could see I was getting through to her. The last had sounded like she was quoting someone else.
"You can keep lighting your candles," I said harshly. "But it's getting dark out here in the real world." I got up and tried to leave, walking down into the darkness of the night.
"Adrik, wait!" she called again, and I stopped, hearing her voice break. I turned, and I was surprised to see tears on her face. A streetlight was shinning over her, and she was standing in a pool of light.
I walked away from the dark, crossing over to her. I somehow found myself holding her close, her head resting against my chest as she sobbed quietly.
"You're my only real friend," she was able to say through her tears. "I didn't want to hurt you. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I should have the first time we met, but I didn't."
"Why not?" I asked her, suspicion still floating around my mind.
"You didn't treat me like a Jedi," she whispered. "We were just friends. Everywhere I go in the Temple, there are so many rules and regulations to follow, so much protocol to follow. Then when I leave the Temple, I'm not treated like a person. I'm a Jedi. People fear us. You know that, and you feel that yourself. Everyone expects something of a Jedi. Everyone."
"And why shouldn't they expect something?" I asked angrily. "You have the power, you should use it!"
"You don't understand," she said, her voice sad. "That's just it. People don't see us as anything more than power and responsibilities. But sometimes, I want to be a person. Sometimes I wish I were like everyone else. I wish that I could find someone to love, have children. I just want to be a real person."
And then the Jedi that I had suddenly seen disappeared, and she was Phaedra again, crying into my shoulder. I whispered to her, telling her that it was all right, telling her that I loved her.
The Jedi reach my Senate Pod, and Qui Gon Jinn greets me with some warmth, while Mace Windu is impassive. Yoda's ears perk up slightly, and I can almost see him rummaging through old memories, trying to remember where he has seen me before. I smile inwardly, doubting that he will be able to figure it out. Our encounter lasted only minutes, and I had been disguised.
The Jedi take my oath of allegiance to the Republic while holocams flash around me. Not so many as there might be, because I am still relatively unimportant in the Senate. I do not trouble myself over this. The holos will come, in time. Everything I've worked for, trained for, killed for, will come to me in time, everything but the one person I've ever loved.
I think back all these years later, and I am still surprised by my feelings for her. We had so little and so much in common, so much in contrast. She was a Jedi, I was to become a Sith. Both of our lives were hard, but she grew up in the Jedi Temple surrounded by her peers while I grew up surrounded by my inferiors. I had an edge on her intellectually, though she was far more intelligent than the average denizen of the galaxy. Being able to use the Force gave her an edge over myself.
We were both emotionally alone, and perhaps that is what was to draw us together. I never allowed myself to become close to anyone, she was not able to become close to anyone. But together we found some sort of sanctuary.
We became lovers.
If you expect me to elaborate, to spell out some of the sordid details of our lovemaking, you are mistaken. Suffice it to say that our liaisons were secret, that we told no one of what we did. We used a great deal of caution; if the Jedi had found out, Phaedra would have been harshly disciplined, and my would-be fate is better left unsaid.
Despite our precautions, I know for a fact that one person worked out what we were doing, though this was not confirmed until well after. The identity of this individual should be relatively easy to deduce. I also suspect that Qui Gon Jinn knew, but given the later rumors of his escapades, I believe that he understood.
Those were the best days of my life. I was young and I was in love. I was in one of the most prestigious universities in the galaxy, making top marks. Of course, even in those halcyon days I never stopped working, building alliances, becoming "friends" with those people that I saw as the heirs to the Republic. I approached Wilhuff Tarkin, Raith Sienar, Kuat of Kuat of Kuat of Kuat of Kuat, Il-Raz, and countless other such brilliant and ambitious individuals, knowing that one day they would be the power brokers of the galaxy.
But they have no real place in this story. At this point in my life I was more concerned with the present than the future, and Phaedra filled my present. We spent as much time as we could without raising suspicion. Every night she would return to her ivory tower, high up in the clouds of Coruscant, while I slept alone in my small apartment, halfway down to the surface of the planet. Even as one of the most brilliant students in the University, my scholarships barely covered my living expenses. Most of my fellows were from rich families, nobility on their homeworlds or heirs to great merchant families. They lived in opulent suites in the upper levels, money never a concern.
But that was peripheral. Though I never stopped working to better myself during this time, it was Phaedra that was the center of my life. One moment in particular I remember as clearly as if it had happened only moments ago, rather than well over a decade. Despite that blood and darkness that lie between this present and that past, it still shines through, unstained.
We were sitting at one of the fountains on the campus just before my final exams in my third year. The summer sun was hot, but a light breeze occasionally drifted a fine cool mist from the fountain over us. She was writing a term paper on Xim the Despot, I was studying for my political science exam. Her hand rested lightly on the small stone ledge surrounding the fountain, and I set mine lightly on top of hers. We continued our separate business.
In retrospect, that particular memory may seem to be an odd thing to cherish, but I do nevertheless. For me, that memory summarizes out entire relationship. We were together, yet we were apart. Bound together by love but separated by prejudice. It was a fleeting moment, gone before it could truly be appreciated. As the poets and philosophers say, all good things must come to an end.
There came a day when our paths diverged. Her master had arranged for her to take courses on the history of the Sith only so that she could better aid him in his quest to destroy them. When she finished her education she left with him, tracing down ghosts of clues scattered across the galaxy. Her master, a tall thin human named Jax, was obsessed with the idea that the Sith still existed. He had spent his lifetime tracking clues and searching out leads. He often came to consult with Professor Erebus about his findings, which I would later find rather ironic. Phaedra wasn't sure what she herself believed, but her loyalty was to her master.
Ironically, I did not believe that the Sith still existed in the galaxy. I believed that they were all destroyed over a millennium ago. I tried to persuade Phaedra to abandon her chosen path, to abandon the Jedi. But though she may have wished to leave (for I was a master of persuasion, even then), they were still her family. Like all Jedi she had been taken from her parents at a very young age, and her master was for all intents and purposes her father. She would not desert him.
She wasn't even able to stay long enough to graduate officially. One day, just after final exams, I had arranged for her to meet me in the library. But she simply wasn't there. Checking my messages, I found that she had left me one final message, which I was to watch dozens of time over the next few days, weeks, months.
She had been crying, I could easily tell. Dark bags still hung under her eyes. She told me that her master needed her for a secret mission, and that she had to leave. She told me that she would always love me, but that we would probably never see each other again. As she ended the message, I saw tears leak out of her eyes.
It rained on the day of my graduation. The ceremony was held indoors, in the great vaulted central hall of the university. I did not graduate at the very top of my class and was not the valedictorian; those honors belonging to a brilliant young Caamasi. But I wasn't far beneath him. When I ascended the podium to accept my diploma, printed on actual paper, I received a standing applause. I believe that it was Tarkin and Sienar who organized it for me, cunning planers both of them. But though grateful in an abstract sense, my heart was like lead. I forced myself to smile as I shook the deans hand and received my diploma.
Afterwards, I went out alone into the storm. I had been invited to all the major parties, and would have been considered a guest of honor at any of them, but I had no desire to go. Building the foundations for future advantageous alliances had no appeal to me. There was only one person in the galaxy that I wanted to be with, and I didn't even know where in the galaxy she was. I walked all over the university, lingering in the public and secret places that we had made our own over the past few years. Without her, they felt empty. I felt empty. I feel empty to this day.
Finally, I came to rest on the edge of the fountain, running my hand over the cold slick stone where she had sat an eternity ago, as if some of her warmth might have remained. The rain pounded down hard, chilling me to the bone, but I didn't care. I was learning just how painful love could be, though this was just a pale forerunner of what was to come.
A lightning flash illuminated a heavily cloaked man standing about twenty meters away, watching me. As the darkness returned he disappeared, reappearing intermittently as he walked towards me, backlit by the strikes. He stopped just a few feet away, and I looked up at him. His facial features were indistinguishable within the dark shadows of his hood, but I had a sense of foreboding and premonition, and I slowly realized who this was. Wearing black instead of his usual white, but his face and his presence were the same.
"It's too miserable a night to be here," he said, motioning for me to follow him. Like a zombie, I did. Soon I was within Professor Erebus' small office. I sat down on an overstuffed chair, my face buried in my hands. He busied himself by making tea. The power to this section of the city must have been out because he was using candles for light.
"Would I be correct in guessing that a woman is involved?" he asked, setting down the tea in front of me and sitting down on a chair much like my own. In the wan light of the candles his face seemed to shift. One moment he seemed grandfatherly, like a bastion of kindly strength. The next moment the shadows gathered his face lent him a chilling aspect, palpably evil.
A long moment passed. "Yes," I finally said. My defenses didn't seem to want to come up.
"Phaedra, I presume?" He took a long sip of his tea. Somewhere in the distance thunder rolled. I stared at the candles scattered about the room. "Yes, Phaedra." He laughed, short and bitterly.
"Did you know that you have no small strength in the Force?" This sounded like it might be a rhetorical question, so I didn't answer. "You do; I remember you holding that old testing device. I've never met anyone as strong in the Force as you are, and I've known quite a few Jedi in my time. The average person wouldn't be able to make it light up at all. Myself..." he reached behind himself and picked it up, and it glowed a pale orange. The use of the device was obvious to me.
"But do you know what?" he asked, obviously not expecting me to answer, "If you were to go to the Jedi Temple, they would refuse to train you. They would tell you that you are too old, that you are unsuitable."
My interest began to perk. "What are you saying?" I asked. I was already making the logical connections, but it would not hurt to be certain.
He either didn't hear me or he ignored me. The latter, I think. He continued as if I hadn't spoken. "When I myself was ten, it was discovered that I had considerable strength in the Force. I was certainly strong enough to train. But the Jedi did not train me. They told me, told my family that I was too old. They sent me on my way. And though I didn't know it, they still watched me.
"Eventually I met a woman that I came to love, and we were married. It was the same pathetic tale that you've likely heard far too many times. In due course, my wife gave birth to a child, a beautiful little girl. A girl that we named Phaedra."
I started in my seat. He was claiming to be her father! It seemed ludicrous, but then I remembered that like all Jedi she had been taken from her family at a very young age, that she had never known her real parents. I closed my eyes and pictured her face, compared it to the man standing in front of me. Yes, a resemblance was there. Not a remarkable one, but noticeable in hindsight.
He continued, and I set aside my thoughts and puzzling to listen to his story. "As I said, the Jedi did not forget. Within weeks of her birth, she was taken from me, taken away to become a Jedi. The law could not help me, as all those born with the ability to sense the Force are considered within the Jedi's jurisdiction. When my wife realized that the Jedi would take any child that I might have, she left me for a man that could give her children of her own.
"I was alone. There was a void that was created when my wife left me, when the Jedi took Phaedra. It was a void that was soon to be filled." He took another sip of his tea as the wind howled outside. It sounded angry as it beat against the windows, trying to get in. "An old acquaintance of mine, a successful stock broker, approached me, made me the same offer that I'm about to make you."
I took a sip of my own tea, shivering in my damp robes. Lightning flashed outside and for a moment it brightened the room far beyond the ability of the weak and guttering candles. "What offer is that?" I asked. It felt like I had to ask, that it was my destiny to ask this question, as if my entire life had been lived for the soul purpose of reaching this point. Perhaps it had.
Erebus stood and walked to the window, clasping his hands behind his back and looking out into the storm. "You know, I'd actually hoped to win Phaedra over. Do not take offense, but I would rather have had her as an apprentice. But I suppose that that would have been too perfect." He looked back over his shoulder at me. "I am the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Astaroth. I offer you the opportunity to become my apprentice."
I felt a sliver of fear in my belly, a feeling of dread. I remembered everything that he had said in his lectures on the Sith, that they were powerful and capricious, possessing all the strengths of a Jedi and few of their weaknesses. He might and could kill me as easy as he would kill an insect. Use his powers to snap my neck or drain my life force, or simply command me to kill myself. But it was that fact that I was not in control of this situation that frightened me the most.
"Why?" I asked, keeping a cool demeanor. I now know that he was surely able to see through it, but at the time I considered it a triumph to maintain a semblance of calmness.
He walked around behind his desk, running his hands absently over the beautiful and hideous artifacts scattered around the room. "I need an apprentice to carry on the Sith ways. I'm getting too old, too old for all of this. I have to begin training an apprentice soon, while I still have the time and the strength." He was now looking and sounding grandfatherly. Then lightning flashed and a single candle burnt out, slightly changing the pattern of light shifting over him so that he appeared demonic.
"That I could guess. Why me?" Actually, I hadn't really guessed. I was merely trying to take control of the situation. It was a mostly futile attempt. But also, I was slowly realizing that if the testing device was accurate, then I had immense strength in the Force. It was obvious why me.
"Why you? I have my reasons. As I said, my daughter was my first choice. But there was never a proper moment to reveal the truth to her, and in time I realized that she is committed too firmly to the Jedi. It's rather ironic actually. The same qualities and feelings that the Jedi try to train out of a person, those that generally attract initiates to the Sith, are those same qualities and feelings that hold her loyalty to the Jedi."
He reached out his hand and his teacup gently rose from the table and floated to where he stood. I watched it levitate, not speaking. This quenched any doubts that I might have had about the veracity of what he said. "It would have been deliciously ironic to have my daughter become a Sith, living in the midst of the Jedi. But I wasn't to be so lucky. And barring her, you are the next most logical candidate."
"What makes me a good candidate for an evil order?" I sneered.
"Evil? That is a lie. I would have thought you more intelligent than that, Adrik. Perhaps a common, ignorant individual might consider me evil, but he doesn't know or care about the truth. I believe that it is one of the great paradox of this existence that I am considered evil and the Jedi are considered good."
He crossed his arms across his chest and seemed to unconsciously assume the demeanor he maintained while lecturing a class. "We Sith have two main objectives. The first, and most important, is to bring law and order to the galaxy. To do this, we must pursue the second objective, to eliminate the Jedi, who wish their own hegemony to remain intact. We have historically been accused of trying to enslave the galaxy, but that is a distortion of the truth. We understand that peace must be enforced. It does not just happen. Real evils, petty greed and lusts, will always cause strife. Only by maintaining and enforcing harsh laws can we curb this path to self-destruction.
"The Jedi do not see this. They believe that they have no right to no interfere with the lives of others, not even to correct injustices. Consider the following: About four centuries ago a Jedi and her companion crashed on a backwater planet. Fortunately, the locals had the parts that the Jedi needed to repair her ship and were willing to trade them for some of the cargo on the Jedi's ship. Unfortunately, they were also cannibalistic. They kidnapped and ate the Jedi's companion when they had the chance.
"Now tell me, young Palpatine, what would you have done?"
My face was almost certainly twisted into a mask of disgust. "If I had been the Jedi, I would have destroyed the locals. They murdered her companion, and were a risk to other travelers as well. And then I would have taken the parts I needed."
He beamed at me, pointing a finger. "Exactly! That is exactly what I would have done, what any Sith would have done. But do you know what the Jedi did?" I spread my hands in a gesture of uncertainty. "I will tell you what she did. She traded with the locals to receive the parts she needed and went on her way. She did not even report the murder to the local authorities. She felt that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and so did nothing to stop them."
He was animated now. "That Jedi's example is now praised in their teachings! Praised! This is just one example I could name among hundreds. Look at the slave trade! Do you see the Jedi interfering with it? No, of course not. That is the business of the Hutts, and not their affair."
"But you would use the Hutts and their ilk, wouldn't you?" I asked, on a hunch.
"Yes," he said calmly, not bothering to evade. "I would. And I would use the functionaries, the Trade Federation, and any other power in the galaxy to achieve my ends. Power is power, Palpatine. What does it matter where it comes from? The Hutts will serve their purpose. When their usefulness has expired, they too will expire shortly. It is distasteful, yes, but necessary."
Fair enough. I didn't consider my own network building habit to be truly any different. "But according to your own lectures, the Sith, you, are a liar," I pointed out.
He snorted. "Everyone lies. You're old enough to understand that. Politicians, Jedi, Mercenaries, Priests. Everyone. We just happen to be the best liars. For over a thousand years we've survived through deception and misdirection."
It was of course clear to me just how far his misdirection's could go. As the galaxy's foremost expert on the Sith, a distinguished Professor beyond reproach, he'd have been able to feed the Jedi lies directly. "How do I know that you are not lying to me now?" I asked.
"You don't, of course. There is only one way for you to find out for certain." He didn't say it, but we both knew what he meant. His offer seemed to whisper through the shadows of the room and I felt a chill. I let nothing show on my face, but as I look back now I realize that he certainly would have been reading my flow of thoughts, and known. Telepathy, the art of reading and misdirecting thought, was always one of his greatest skills. Unlike most, he could even use it against large numbers of people at once, captivating an audience.
We dueled with words for some time. I was in as much danger then as I was all those years ago on my homeworld, as much danger as I have been in countless times since that night. But eventually I became sick of it. I was torn between my thoughts of the Order I hated and the Professor I respected and admired and my love of a young woman, who happened to be a Jedi.
I left his office, running from myself. I ran into the comparative peace of what turned out to be the worst storm that had swept over Coruscant in nearly fifty years, a freak weather phenomenon with ominous timing. I splashed though the puddles of the slums, trudged across the slick slidewalks of the upper class, with no idea of where I was running. But in the end, I found that I had come to the gates of the Jedi Temple.
Was it fate that brought me there? Or perhaps some deeply buried unconscious desire? I doubt that I will ever know.
I pounded on the gates, demanding to be let in. If those doors had opened, I would have told them everything. Fate hung on the thinnest of threads. But they did not. Perhaps the Jedi were cowed by the storm, huddling inside their tower. Perhaps they were reluctant to open the doors of their temple to such an obvious madman. Perhaps whoever was supposed to watch the doors had fallen asleep. Or more likely, they simply did not care. But truly, what use is speculation after the fact? The fact is that for whatever reason or reasons the doors did not open.
Defeated, I walked back through the city as the storm reached its peak. I paused for a moment at the fountain, and the storm calmed for a moment. My fists clenched, and for the last time I considered turning back. But then I continued through the halls to Erebus's office. The tea was out of sight, replaced by a small bottle of Corellian brandy.
"This should help warm you up," said the Professor, the Sith Lord, seeming dignified in some way as he poured me a shot. I took it silently, grateful for both the artificial warmth it imparted and the infusion of false courage. "You went to the Temple, I take it?"
There was no safe way to answer that. I schooled my face to blank steadiness and met his gaze directly. And for the first time, concentrating on keeping my thoughts my own, I felt something cold, almost metallic, sliding through my head. I focused my anger and rage, trying to burn it away. And as suddenly as it had intruded it was gone.
He smiled. "Very good, my young apprentice," he said.
I look back now at my training and am unsure as to what to think. It was certainly one of the better times of my life. I lived a double life; graduate student by day and Sith Apprentice by night. My grades suffered slightly, but remained very high by most standards. My most important lessons were learned at night. I learned of the true history of the Sith, not the false history that the Jedi promoted, but the true history. I learned of the Sith philosophy, like that of the Jedi but purified. Made stronger.
And I learned how to use the Force.
It was exhilarating, especially at first. To wield the power that drives the universe, power that I once could only have dreamed of. Before, I had had only Phaedra's descriptions of the Force. She had always told me that it was impossible to put the feeling of touching the Force into words. Touching it myself, I realized that she was correct. Her words, though eloquent, were only the palest shadow of a shadow of the truth of the Force. Therefore, I shall not waste words attempting to explain and describe what cannot be put into words.
Those days were less idyllic that those lazy afternoons with Phaedra. The discipline that Darth Astaroth maintained was strict. I was soon no stranger to physical pain and hardship. I was remade, forged into a potent weapon aimed at the heart of the Jedi. Perhaps the proudest day of my life came when I created my lightsaber. Activating it for the first time and taking upon myself my Sith name, I felt as my classmates must have felt at graduation.
I chose to name myself Darth Sidious. Translated from the ancient Sith language it meant something along the lines of "Dark Lord of the Sinister Whispering Shadows." Ancient Sith is perhaps an overly poetic language.
Early on I decided to enter politics when my apprenticeship was over. My goal was to become a senator, with the long-term goal of recruiting an apprentice willing to follow in my footsteps, to establish a political dynasty of Sith senators. But where I now stand, I am within mere meters of the Supreme Chancellors seat. From where I stand, becoming Supreme Chancellor myself seems like an attainable goal. It will take subtle manipulation of the entire Senate, and many resources that I do not currently have available to me, but I believe that it will be possible.
Just as the days with Phaedra eventually came to an end, so too did my days as Astaroth's pupil. Ironically, it was Phaedra reentering my life that brought that chapter to a close.
The end began innocently enough.
As a demonstration and test, Erebus took me to the Jedi Temple. We stole clothes from maintenance workers to disguise ourselves with. It surprised me that non-Jedi were allowed into the Temple on a regular basis, but I supposed that someone had to scrub the floors. The Padawans likely received some cleaning tasks as punishments, but contracted cleaners did most of the work.
We entered at night along with the "other" cleaners. A few were suspicious, but a slight touch of the Dark Side was enough to divert any untoward attention. And then we had the Temple virtually to ourselves. Outwardly, I seemed bored and disinterested by my surroundings. Inwardly, I was a bubbling cauldron of fear and excitement. Once we were inside, we would be unable to use the Dark Side of the Force without bringing the entire temple down upon us.
We walked its corridors, and I took great pleasure in imagining them torn and rent from fire and explosions. We passed by the rooms of the Padawans, and my feelings were mixed. On one hand, those children would one day become my greatest enemies. On the other, they were just children.
I decided then that when the time came, I would spare as many of those Jedi that I could. Those who were willing to aid me in my crusade would have their lives spared, and would receive positions of honor in my new regime. These children I would steal back from the Jedi, and raise them to serve the New Order I would create. That policy would both cut the Jedi off from young blood and would aid my own side in the process.
We moved into the upper regions of the tower, the high and proud spires that towered over the cityscape. I remember being awed at the beauty, but I couldn't help but think that some of the most wretched of poverty in the galaxy existed less than ten kilometers beneath us. I wondered just how many of the Jedi cared.
We came to the Jedi Council Chamber itself, the living, breathing heart of the Jedi Order and all its hypocrisy. Standing there, I vowed to myself that I would be the Sith who finally destroyed the Jedi Order and brought this Ivory Tower crashing down into the dark reality of the galaxy. My Master watched on, but said nothing. Looking back, I sometimes wonder how many young Sith have stood where I had stood and made that same vow.
We left the Council Chamber and made our slow and careful way back to the exit. You need not take long to guess who it was that we saw on out way out. As I said, little in life is coincidence.
Phaedra and her own Master were walking up a corridor that crossed ours. I saw them for a brief moment as they passed the junction up ahead, and then I changed direction to follow them. I seem to recall hearing my Master sigh and mutter something decidedly impolite concerning my ancestry.
He grabbed me by the arm, shaking his head in a gesture of negation. I shrugged him off angrily, jerking my head in her direction. "Idiot!" he hissed as I pulled myself away from him. This was by no means my best moment or the most intelligent decision that I ever made in my life, though at the time it seemed perfectly acceptable. Once I stopped to think, the magnitude of danger that I was placing myself in became apparent, but by that time there was no going back.
Ignoring my Master, I jogged lightly to the junction and looked around the corner, just in time to see Phaedra and her master step into a lift. Once again, I probably should have turned back. I would never do today such as I did then. While there is certain amounts of risk inherit in all things, this was most definitely pushing it. But then, if I had the opportunity to relive my life, even knowing what I know now I would likely make the same decision.
I checked to see which floor they were going to, and then took the next lift. I remember my heart hammering in my chest as the lift took me back up through the Temple, into the area where Knights and Masters had their quarters. I hoped that Phaedra and her master were going to the same floor, or else that she was getting off the lift first. After a painful but short eternity the lift stopped. I stepped out quickly, barely checking the urge to scout ahead with the Force. That would have brought my career as a Sith Lord to an abrupt and unmourned end.
I caught a flash of brown robes turning around a corridor up ahead and followed at a relaxed pace. A cleaner, a real cleaner, gave me an odd look as I passed him. I almost reached out to cloud his memory, but held myself back. I wondered absently if the Jedi would discover me on their own or whether I would be kind enough to simply hand myself over through such an obvious blunder.
I rounded another corner and saw Phaedra duck inside a room while her master waited outside, talking to her. I noticed that she now had a long scar running down the right side of her face, but in my mind it enhanced her beauty rather than detracted from it. I stepped back around the corner and slammed into a wall of air. I bounced back, too stunned to even think about reaching for the Force. That certainly saved my life.
"Lost, are you?" a voice asked. I steadied myself and looked around, trying to determine where the voice was coming from. "Down here, am I. Lost, are you?" the voice repeated. I looked down, seeing a diminutive green alien wearing Jedi robes, clutching a staff in a gnarled hand. Judging by the descriptions that both Phaedra and my Master provided, I had just bumped into Yoda. Almost literally; the wall of air I had walked into had been hastily erected to keep me from stepping into him. Irreverently, I couldn't help but think he looked more like a puppet than a Jedi Master.
It was time to think quickly. "I'm not exactly lost," I said. "This is one of my first nights here though, and I decided to make use of my break time to go exploring. Better to know where everything is before I actually have to be there." Yoda cocked his head to the side and I could feel him lightly probing my mind. Gambling, I let him through my first few layers of mental armor before tightening my mind and offering him harmless surface thoughts of nervousness and boredom. He studied me for a moment longer before nodding, sure that I was no threat.
He wandered back down the hallway, chuckling to himself. "Growing paranoid, I am..." he said as he rounded a corner. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and almost missed hearing a door slide open around the corner up ahead.
I rounded the corner to see that Phaedra and her master were walking back down the Hall, away from me. I was just barely able to catch the edge of their conversation.
"You shouldn't have taken the map from my quarters," Jax was saying.
"Well you weren't going to be using it anytime soon. I thought that it wouldn't hurt to memorize it and make a back-up copy in case something happens to it. Unless you know of other copies?" At the sound of Phaedra's voice my heart quickened and my gut tightened. "After all, what happens if something happens to you and the map, and I'm stuck in the bottom of this place? I'm just being sensible."
"Yes, I understand your point, and in retrospect, I agree that you were correct to do so. But. If I were sure that this was the only copy in existence, I would destroy it to be sure that no one will ever again find that cursed place. But we can't know for certain that is the sole remaining copy, only that this is the sole copy that the Jedi possess. And I was very worried when I could not find it."
"So why just the one copy? If you don't dare destroy it, why not make more copies to preserve the knowledge?"
"You seem to be missing a small but trenchant fact, my Padawan. This is a Sith Temple that we speak of. It isn't something we want to preserve. Quite the opposite."
A Sith Temple?
"You're impossible," she sighed. The hissing of turbolift doors cut me off from the rest of their conversation.
I quickly puzzled out what was happening based on what I knew. It was no great leap of logic to understand the significance of the partial conversation I had just heard. Desire to be with Phaedra warred with my desire to do my duty to my Master. Fortunately, I was able to come up with a way to do both.
Backtracking, I stole my way to Phaedra's quarters and was mildly surprised to find them unlocked. I realized to my surprise that none of the Jedi had locks on their doors. "Trusting fools," I muttered reflectively. I quickly found the map that Phaedra had mentioned. I switched on the computer on her desk, and was gratified to find that like the locks, the Jedi did not password protect their computers.
I uploaded the file onto my own account at the university, and then cleared out all evidence of my actions. I returned the disk to exactly where and how I found it, then sat down on a hard chair to wait for her.
I picked up a book to read while I waited, and was surprised to see that it was a battered old J'erne novel, 'Journey beyond the Edge of the Galaxy.' I smiled, remembering how I had started her on reading those classics. To a one, they were stories of possibility, stories of freedom and adventure. She had adventure in her life, but did she have freedom?
When I heard the door opening I set the book down where I had found it. Her reaction came in three stages. First came surprise, as she realized that someone was in her quarters. Then suspicion, as she realized that the person was wearing a cleaners uniform. She likely thought for a moment that I was a dishonest cleaner, caught in the act of robbing her.
Then came amazement as she realized whom I was. "Adrik! What are you doing here?" she whispered tersely. But the fear in her eyes was for my safety, the huskiness of her voice from her love for me.
A Jedi Knight, in love with a Dark Lord of the Sith.
"Shhh..." I said, putting a finger to her lips. I gave her a glib explanation for how I had come, and the stolen uniform filled in the rest of the story for her. That night was possibly the last truly happy night of my life. Nothing that I have done since has made me feel so whole as I did at that moment, though I hope that I may recapture some feeling of completeness when I eliminate the last of the Jedi.
I now enter a grand reception, and I pose for the holos with my fellow Senators, with celebrities, and alone. I mingle with the crowds, and I am pleased to see old friends like Tarkin are present, and we are reacquainted with each other. And then my path crosses that of Qui Gon Jinn, and we draw aside from the crowds to reminisce for a quiet moment about Phaedra. He speaks of a new apprentice that he has taken, one Obi Wan Kenobi , and I express the appropriate congratulations.
Speaking about Phaedra, my memories are once more drawn back to that night, over a decade ago. I remember all of it, the joy and the pain alike, both like it was yesterday and as if it had happened millennium ago. We had talked and made love until the early hours in the morning, and almost I told her.
But the words never came out. I look back now and wish that I had told her the truth. Perhaps she would have turned on me then, drawing the wrath of the Jedi down upon me. Perhaps she would have joined me on the Dark Side, and we might now be planning to rule the galaxy together. Or she might have even turned me. A million possibilities spiraled out from that night, but it is not given to mortals to know the What Ifs of theirs fates. I made my choices then, she made her own choices later, and I must live with the consequences.
In the morning I left, before the rest of the Temple awoke. When next we were to meet, it was to be as enemies.
I returned to my master, bringing him Phaedra's map. Needless to say, he was pleased. We quickly prepared for the trip, knowing that we would be racing the Jedi to the Temple. It was to be a contest of sorts, though the Jedi did not know that. It was a race that we were most determined to win. As we always did when on business, we disguised ourselves in dark robes. Only our eyes were visible through the wrappings on our faces.
As things turned out, my Master had known something of the Temple already. He knew its history, but had never been able to pinpoint its exact location. It had been built by the Ancient Sith nearly five thousand years ago, during their Golden Age. Assuming that it hadn't been broken into, the artifacts that it contained were priceless, both in Academic terms and in terms of the power they might offer. According to my master, its was built to hold some powerful artifact captured from the Jedi.
The Temple was located on the planet Azazi III, located in the Azazi system. We arrived first, but found seals upon the Temple, seals set with the Light Side of the Force. My Master wasn't surprised, and was only slightly discouraged. I confess, I thought this barrier impenetrable. But my Master had a certain artifact with him, and was able to weaken the Force barrier to the point where it could be sliced through with a Lightsaber.
Beyond the Light Side seals were Dark Side seals. I realized that the Jedi had been unable to enter the temple at all, due to these seals. This was a very good sign. The Jedi had been forced to simply set up wardings of their own and leave. The Dark Side seals did not impede our passage in the slightest.
The booby traps did.
I made an almost fatal mistake of overconfidence, nearly losing my head to whirring saw blades that emerged from the wall. Only the superhuman agility that Force users can draw upon saved my life, the blades having failed to appear on my danger sense. After that, I let my bemused master take the lead.
After the saw blades came spear traps, a collapsing floor, statues animated by the Dark Side that wielded lightsabers, gigantic spiders, and other, equally unpleasant, dangers. But we eventually won through, reaching the center of the Temple, and the artifact that we had come to take for our own.
A Jedi Holocron rested on the central alter, a shaft of light touching upon it. We walked across the main chamber, stepping gingerly around the traps. From our long, often-painful trip through the Temple, we had a very good sense of the signs that told us where the traps were. When we inadvertently set one off as we moved across the main chamber, quick lightsaber work was enough to destroy the poisoned darts that flew out towards us. We reached the altar, and my master picked up the Holocron.
It certainly should have occurred to us to check to see if the altar itself was trapped. Our eagerness almost proved our undoing.
By picking up the Holocron, we inadvertently triggered a rather devious and ingenious trap, one that did not use the Force, and so went undetected. The removal of the Holocron ignited oils that flowed through the walls of the temple. Fires leapt out of the altar, the walls, and the very floors, racing towards us. Prize in hand, we acted logically. We ran for our lives, not caring that we were setting off virtually every other trap as we went.
The blazing inferno chased us, two of the most powerful Force users alive, all the way back through the Temple. I doubt that anyone without strong Force ability would have been able to perform a similar feat and live to tell about it. We leapt from the mouth of the Temple, the flames licking at out heels and singeing our robes. I landed heavily, and found myself looking at four booted feet.
The Jedi realized what we were, if not who we were, and immediately went for their Lightsabers. My Master and I quickly regained our feet and drew our own lightsabers. The Holocron dropped to the ground and then flew into the hands of the Jedi Master, who stuffed it quickly into his robes.
"I'll take the Master, you have the Apprentice," said the older Jedi, vicious pleasure in his voice. I immediately recognized that voice, and it was then that I realized that Phaedra was one of the Jedi. Her Master had finally found the Sith, and now we were on opposite sides. But while I suffered from a sudden moral and emotional dilemma, she had no such troubles, not knowing who I was. The robes that my master and I wore effectively concealed out identifies. Two blue lightsabers clashed with two red.
She attacked, not holding back. The same woman that I had made love to only days before now struck at me with deadly precision. I was pushed back onto the defensive, only able to block her strikes. I heard the soft whirring and harsh clash of other lightsabers nearby, and knew that my Master was fighting for his life as well. But while from him I sensed pure hard Dark Side rage, I was unable to bring my own powers to bear.
My Master fought the man who had stolen away his daughter, taught her to hate him. He fought his own most hated enemy, and his focus was crystal clear. The Jedi Master was in turn struggling to control his own emotions. Unwilling to tap into Dark Side powers, his already weak Light Side powers were crippled by the mix of cold hate and glee he felt at finally seeing and fighting a Sith.
Phaedra was focused where her Master was not. Her face was tight, her eyes cool, her composure complete. It occurred to me that she might kill me. I found my rage. Not at her - never at her! - but rather at the universe in general and the Jedi in particular, for putting us into this position.
Her eyes tightened as I attacked, but she gave no sign of panic. One strike after another was parried, and she counter-attacked in turn. I almost succeeded in knocking her out when I used the Force to pick up nearby rubble and throw it towards her head, but she was too wily for such an obvious move. She dodged away, and I had to leap several meters into the air to avoid the log that she launched at me like a giant javelin.
I cannot really say for certain who would have won that day, and how, if it had been just us two fighting. We were too evenly matched; she had the greater skill and training, whilst I had the raw power my master had awakened in me, power unmatched by anyone alive. But we were not fighting alone. My Master won his battle, quite handily. As the Jedi died, his soul reached out, trying to find a host. He slammed into me, assuming that I would be weaker than my Master.
I attacked his soul without the restraint I had shown against Phaedra. This sort of battle that I now fought was not one in which skill or experience mattered. Only raw willpower and strength in the Force had any bearing on the outcome. And so, though he was a Master and I was but an Apprentice, I crushed his soul utterly and completely.
While I was thus distracted my Master took up the flight with Phaedra. I recovered myself and became aware of the world again as my Master slammed the butt of his lightsaber into his daughter's temples, knocking her unconscious. I was at her side in an instant, checking her pulse, making sure that she was all right. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. She was alive, and would recover swiftly.
My Master took the Holocron from the dead Jedi Master, and then went to touch the face of his daughter lightly. I realized with a sudden shock that this was probably the first time he had touched his daughter since she was new born. I thought I saw tears in his eyes as he turned away, heading back to the shuttle, though I cannot be certain. If so, his next words stunned me. At the edge of the clearing he stopped. Without turning around, he told me to do what had to be done.
I lit my saber, but was unable to commit. I could not kill her. I would not kill her. I was certain that I would never do anything to hurt her. I brushed hair from her face and kissed her forehead, leaving her behind unconscious, but alive and unharmed. She would soon awaken on her own.
During that long trip back to Coruscant, neither my Master nor I spoke of what had happened.
I leave the reception, taking the hovercar that is provided to me as a Senator. The route to my apartments, in the uppermost stories of Coruscant, passes by the Jedi Temple, gleaming pearly white where the lights of the city land upon it. From the shadows, it is a bastion of pride and strength, secure in its invincibility. But not even Jedi are omnipotent. Far from it; they can be all too mortal by times.
After years of effort, open and covert, the moment is come, and then the moment is gone just as quickly. I have been sworn into the Republic Senate, and only the final stage of my journey remains. It has been a long, blood stained road, but the ends justify the means. They must.
I look back now, and I wonder what Phaedra would have thought of my path.
It was three days after returning from Coruscant. The morning dawned bright and cheerful. The rising sun seemed full of hope, and I felt the burden on my heart rising. I find it bitterly amusing how quickly such a day can turn into something so dark. I had spent the past few days worrying about Phaedra, debating whether or not I should try to sneak into the temple again. And there were times when I felt a cold hand clench around my heart, and wondered had I made the right decision to let live. She would live, but the Jedi would know that the Sith had returned. Was it worth it? I thought so at the time.
I went to see my Master in his laboratory, expecting to once again try to help him crack into the Holocron's secrets. Instead I found a nightmare.
Phaedra was there.
To this day, I am unsure of exactly why she came there first, rather than go to the Temple. Maybe she wanted more information before she reported to the Jedi Council. Maybe she had somehow recognized my Master during our short battle. Or maybe, as I like and hate to believe, she came to find me. I would like to know that she had such faith in me, and I fear that I am responsible for her death.
Phaedra was there, as was my Masters body. She must have seen the Holocron, and had evidently leapt to the appropriate conclusion. She'd attacked him, killed him. His lightsaber was in his hands, but there was no evidence that he lit it. He had been struck down because he couldn't bear the thought of fighting and killing his own daughter. He'd died because of his love, and I was without a Master. Phaedra's own lightsaber was still lit, humming gently.
But I'm slightly ahead of myself; before I saw Phaedra, I saw my Masters body. My lightsaber leaped into my hand, realizing that danger was present. And Phaedra saw, and knew, and I saw her, and despaired.
"No," she whispered, the small sound carrying across the silence of the workshop. "Not you too, Adrik?"
There was no way to deny it. The evidence of what I have become was in my hand. I lowered my head, feeling strangely ashamed. Raising my head again, I tucked my lightsaber back into my robes. "Phaedra, let me explain," I said, walking towards her with my hands raised.
She raised her lightsaber, light blue shadows tracing around the room. "Get back," she said, her voice almost breaking. Love and hate warred in her eyes, love for me and hate for what I was. Her hands shook slightly, causing the lightsabers tip to dance.
"Phaedra," I whispered, stopping just inches from her glowing azure blade. "Please, listen to me." For a moment, I thought that she would yield. For a moment, I dared hope that things would turn out well.
"Adrik..." she said, tears in her eyes. Her face scrunched up in conflict, and then she swung.
I evaded it easily, my lightsaber coming into my hand. Once again we dueled. This time, we were both in conflict with ourselves, and I had a slight edge. As we dueled, opportunities to kill her appeared, but I ignored them. I did not want to kill her; I loved her, as I have never loved anyone before her and have never loved since. The dark side flowed eagerly, and I let my hatred for the fate that had forced us into this situation fuel my efforts.
A slight opening appeared in her guard and I ignored it, instead hammering away at her blade itself. I looped my saber around hers, trying to disarm her, but she reacted too quickly for that to work. She was skilled, in many ways more skilled than I was at the time.
And then I finally had the opening I was looking for. I saw what I would do. A strong overhand slash from my right, forcing her to parry or die. I would use the reverse momentum from the parry to swing about into a spinning roundhouse kick to her head, knocking her unconscious but causing no permanent damage. I would take away her lightsaber, and I could explain my actions. I saw my opening, and acted without hesitation.
But she did not act as I anticipated. Instead of parrying, she lunged for my heart. We would have both died. She would kill the last of the Sith at the cost of her own life. We would both die together. As I realized this, I felt a sort of peace come over me.
But she hesitated. She held back at the last instant, her lightsaber halting before it reached my heart. Pushed to the brink, her love overcame her hate. I tried to cut short my own swing, but too late. Perhaps it was always too late. Her left arm and her lightsaber clattered to the ground; a moment later her body fell to the stone floor with another sick thump.
I was down next to her in a heartbeat. Our last words I will keep to myself. I shall only pass on that she died with love and pity for me in her eyes. A moment after life left her eyes, her body faded away into the Force, leaving me alone in the darkness.
And so my story (or rather our story, as it was as much about Phaedra as myself) comes to an end. I could go on further. I could relate how I smuggled a few choice artifacts out of the workshop, including the Holocron, before I set a fire to destroy all evidence of what transpired. I could speak of the long years I've spent clawing my way into power. I could speak of my battles with other Jedi since then. I could speak of my new Apprentice.
But I feel no need to. There is no need to. The past is gone, gone beyond any hope of retrieval. I write this with the hope that someday, whether I succeed or fail, someone will look back and remember a Jedi Knight who was worthy of being a Sith Lord. For myself, I shall take my lessons from my past, and then leave it behind. The Jedi are still in their temple, growing ever more closed off to the rest of the galaxy with each passing year. But in the shadows of the ivory tower, I wait, and I plan. My day is coming, soon...
I look back now and I realize how and why we failed. My Masters love for his daughter killed him, Phaedra's love for me killed her. My love for Phaedra kept me from telling her what I was, and perhaps led her to her death. I have learned that there can be no greater weakness than love.
I fear that love will yet prove to be the fatal weakness that is the downfall of the Sith.
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