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Sith Lord Swell

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Ben hadn’t always been happy with his situation at uncle Luke’s Jedi Academy. The students would point and whisper at him no matter what his uncle did to diffuse it. As Luke had explained, children were wont to being children and Ben had the misfortune of being too mature for his years. Mature enough to notice it and resent it. He was different and being different was a way to get unwanted attention.

Excursions were one of the few times Ben could float away from the other students and pretend, just for a little while, that they weren’t so petty and obstructive. This one was close yet far from home. Ben couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something wrong about this place. One of their youngest found a vent in one of the side laundries that led to a basement. The basement in turn had flights of poorly maintained, crumbling stone stairs. Naturally, the students and their master set about repairing those before they made the descent into the caverns beneath their home.

Then in they went. Down and down, spiralling the whole way. Artoo was logging the whole time and his depth counter was plummeting. Ben really wasn’t looking forward to heading back up, but at least everyone had packed appropriate supplies and a notice of their location was left with Ben’s mother.

Ben’s mother who never knew what to say and that only caused another surge of resentment. His uncle was almost the same… but at the same time he wasn’t the same at all. Luke had a Sith Lord for a father and Ben had one for a grandfather. He had to know what it was like, right? To try to work out why their ancestor had been a Sith? To know what made it happen? To find the cause? Ben’s mother couldn’t care less about Anakin Skywalker and his uncle’s sad smiles spoke of nothing but pain.

But why was there pain? Why did no one talk about him? He was a war hero in the Clone Wars! He saved countless lives. Did being a Sith Lord really undo all of that work? Undo all of the lives saved? His mother and uncle had exchanged a terse look between each other when Ben had asked these questions.

“We don’t know, Ben.” Luke had been the one to answer. “Your grandfather was erased from history by the Empire as both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader. How he went from being a war hero to a war criminal isn’t an answer we have on the records.” At least Luke wasn’t lying about his lack of knowledge. It was well known that Luke’s upbringing hadn’t exactly fostered a deep interest in library and archive learning and that was years lost of valuable time. It also meant many archives had ceased to be by the time he had those skills.

Ben had been shattered anyway. “You… you never asked him?” Never asked his own father something that important? How could he not?

“Father was never on speaking terms with your mother and he was only on speaking terms with me not long before his death,” Luke sighed while Ben’s mother stood to the side and nodded, half in the shadows. “There wasn’t even any time to find out where mother was buried, let alone how his Fall happened.”

And that was all Ben had to go on. Luke was trying, he really was, but both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were ghosts. No records. No one who wanted to talk about them. No one who wanted to risk talking about for fear of being associated with a long memory. Mother outright refused to acknowledge that her father existed, even though she had clear knowledge of the man that neither Luke nor Ben knew about it. It came back down to politics like it already and always did. Ben liked to hope that his uncle was just as frustrated by the prospect of mother withholding information from them. It wasn’t a kind thing to do to either her brother or her son.

And that only made Ben broil more. The whispers in his head, the ones that had always been there, egging these thoughts on, were strangely muted during the descent. Ben couldn’t hear them at all and only felt a surge of pity instead of rage at his uncle’s abandonment by his sister. There were so many questions that she could have helped them answer. But no, she only cared about politics and dumped her son off with her brother when it became too much for her. It didn’t matter if she had no idea how to help. The problem was that she never tried to help. Not in anyway Ben appreciated.

If Ben’s mother was bad in that regard, his father was in a league of his own. Couldn’t settle down. Couldn’t stick to one planet. Couldn’t handle politics. Couldn’t refrain from criminal acts even while his wife attempted to restore a functioning government. Couldn’t hang around to raise his own son. Ben had a lot to say about Han Solo and absolutely none of it was flattering. There wasn’t anything really to know about apart from how he’d dumped his wife and son to shoot off into the wild black yonder without another thought for any of them. Luke was so much better than that for all his flaws.

It stung, it really did, to be so unwanted. To be the cause of his family’s splintering and Ben tried to contain it. Luke never said the feelings themselves were wrong, but even Ben at the tender age of twelve knew that having them in the middle of a suspicious ancient temple wasn’t a great idea.

“This was a terrible idea,” Luke echoed from behind Ben. “This appears to be a Sith temple of some sort.”

Ben did a double take. “A Sith temple? But… we’re below our temple. How can there be a Sith temple here?” Ben’s fellow students, with the subtly of a raging bantha, crowded in to listen to the discussion. For once, Ben couldn’t blame them. Dark Side temples were bad news at the best of times. Finding one somewhere beneath where you slept was something else entirely. It was also terrifying. These temples influenced people.

“That is a very good question, Ben.” Luke made hummed and scratched his beard. “I don’t sense anything overt down here, though the patterns are most definitely old language designs from Sith temples I’ve seen previously.” Luke spent much of his time cannonballing from temple to temple. Ben would expect him to know at least a little of their designs.

“Master… but why would the Jedi build on top of it? Sith temples are loci for the Dark Side.” A young togruta, though still older than Ben, stepped forwards. “Surely they would have known about the temple’s placement.” Alarnaa was one of the smartest of Luke’s students. She didn’t gossip, unlike many of the others.

“Not necessarily.” Ben’s uncle was shaking his head. “I’ve seen this before on Coruscant, or, the Imperial Center as it was once known. The Jedi temple there was likewise built on the remnants of a Sith temple.”

A rush of whispers went through Luke’s twenty students. “Really?” Jacen commented from behind Ben.

“Yes, it’s why I never settled there in spite of the convenience. It was one of Darth Sidious’ favourite stomping grounds.” Luke grimaced. “The old council room was his main place of business during the Empire’s reign.” His nose twisted unpleasantly. “His stench rather more stuck to that room. The deaths of all of the Jedi during the Purges echo through the halls as well.”

“How… how would you know?” Ben asked, dreading the answer when Artoo whistled sadly into the gloom.

“I was part of the sweeping team,” Luke confirmed, “I was there to help clear the place of any unexpected surprises before it was converted into a memorial.” Had his uncle slept there surrounded by ghosts? There was something about his uncle that felt aged.

“So much death because of one ego maniac. Well, come along.” Luke shook his head and they progressed further down the halls.

These halls were much brighter, red paint still showing on the walls where delicate traces of tongues ran in lines. His uncle’s green blade was held up to them, reading as he went.

“Be careful,” Luke called back along the line of students. Ben was almost pressed against him, the walls felt like they were closing in as the corridors narrowed. “This is an old Sith temple. Older than the Banites,” Luke added, almost to himself.

Banites. That sounded familiar. Where had he heard that before? “Banites, uncle?” Was it whispered in a dream?

“Followers of the Rule of Two. After Bane was the last of the Sith he resolved to only train one apprentice. There would only be two and the Apprentice could only become the Master by killing him.” Luke shrugged. “Not that it did much for them when Sidious was hurled into a reactor shaft by his apprentice who decided to retire from being a Sith after that was said and done.” It was mentioned so casually than Ben almost tripped over his grinning uncle.

“Wait, what? The Sith retired?” An outraged voice echoed from somewhere behind Ben. It sounded like Mara. She was one of the oldest of the students and most indignant.

“That would be Darth Vader,” Luke called back down the corridor.

“How did he just give up? I thought Sith Lords were fuelled by hate and suffering,” she argued through the echoes of the hallway.

“He allowed me to kill him,” Luke said quietly but it carried. Ben almost tripped over again. Luke… killed his own father? “He gave up and was too ill to continue. He didn’t want to suffer anymore.” Luke sighed.

For a few minutes, everyone was struck dumb. Ben included. Especially Ben. His uncle who killed his grandfather… his grandfather who wanted to die? That wasn’t what the whispers said. The whispers said Darth Vader was weak for turning back to the Light, but Luke was too morose, too empty for it to be anything but the truth. Darth Vader had given up with the death of his master. Both the Dark and his life. He persisted for so long, suffering the whole time, for what? For his master’s death? For his son to live? Ben had never been so at a loss and he really doubted his mother’s help here.

“Luke…” Alarnaa’s voice was unusually subdued. “Does that make you the current Sith Master?”

One beat. Two beats. Three beats. Then Luke couldn’t handle it anymore. Ben watched his uncle explode into a fit of cackles. “Me? The Sith Master?” Luke howled with genuine belly laughs, holding on the side of a wall as they made their way towards a red light. “Well, if all you have to do is kill one to take their title then I suppose yes I am.”

If one of his fellow students had called Ben slack jawed, he couldn’t have refuted it in the slightest. Not that they could accuse him when they were also dragging their jaws along the ground as they walked. Alarnaa herself was the most taken aback.

“Does that make us all Sith apprentices, then?” Jacen snuck in and Ben could hear the smirk.

“Just don’t introduce yourselves like that, it might caught a panic,” Luke chortled as they entered a square chamber.

In the middle of it sat a pulsing pyramid, glowing a soft red.

“That doesn’t look good,” Ben murmured. A Sith holocron? Maybe some other relic? It didn’t feel dangerous, but his uncle had told him previously that these artefacts like to reel people in.

Not that this one seemed to want to bother with those pretences. The moment the rest of the students and Artoo had entered the room, it exploded with a blast of red light.

 

It was too bright. Stars spotted his vision and Ben groaned. Artoo was whistling wildly which only made the sensation worse.

“Is everyone alright?” Luke was calling and there was an answering collective groan that Ben happily joined. “Yes, I thought as much.” The master of the new Jedi Order groaned with them. “Did anyone see what happened?”

“That thing exploded.” That thing that was now missing from its pedestal. Ben just knew that was going to come back to bite them.

“I’m starting to think Sith relics do nothing but explode. It owes me new robes,” Luke grunted, the slap of boots on stone as he climbed to his feet. “Let’s get everyone up.”

It was twenty minutes before everyone recovered enough to stand up.

It was forty minutes before Luke discovered a stash of robes and blood coloured lightsabers that weren’t there before.

It was an hour before Luke made a gesture and stomped back up the stairwell with Ben on his heels. Alarnaa and Artoo were left in charge of the others.

It was another hour before Luke, with Ben at his back, made the unpleasant discovery that attempted human traffickers had setup shop in the temple above, which was very much not their home. At least not anymore. Not with a holo blaring in what should have been a room for meditation. The architecture was the same, but the decor and everything else had been replaced by archaic, typical smuggling gear that… that they’d already removed the traces of years beforehand. What happened?

“Ben, I don’t think we’re at our temple anymore,” Luke calmly noted, levitating a slaver out the front door.

“I agree, this technology is so old.”

“Pre-Clone Wars old,” Luke nodded, tossing out another burnt corpse with less care. No one at the Academy had a terrible lot of fondness for slavers, least of all any heads of operations. Thankfully there were no slaves, at least. “I remember tossing out an old generator of that exact model out when he we were first clearing out the place.” Ben followed Luke’s hand to a sparkling new generator and was struck by deja vu. “In the exact same spot too.”

“Luke… do you think…?” That we’ve gone back in time, Ben silently finished.

His uncle was frowning. “Only one way to find out!”

Together, the both spun and marched back to the room with the blaring holo. Two voices stood out, even before they were in viewing range.

“The Jedi Council has been most insistent that the Trade Federation seek a peaceful resolution to their dispute over tariffs, but we all know how likely that is to conclude peacefully.” A male voice was snidely remarking. “When is the Republic going to do something about these brazen attacks on the freedom of Republic worlds?”

Ben and his uncle exchanged wide eyed expressions.

“There’s even been rumours of assassination attempts against the current Senator of Naboo, Padme Amidala and that she is seeking protection from the Jedi until the threat is resolved…” It was there Ben’s brain tuned out.

“We’re before the Clone Wars,” Ben said, feeling like he was about to faint.

“We’re only just before the Clone Wars,” Luke corrected, rather pale the whole time.

“I can’t believe it.” Before the Clone Wars. Before his grandfather’s Fall, before the Empire, before everything!

“Guess we don’t need to ask your mother about what she learnt in history, after all,” Luke blinked.

“Wait, what? Ben spun to stare. He wasn’t seriously suggesting that they take a romp through the past, was he? It was too dangerous!

“Please, worrying is Threepio’s job,” Luke waved a hand and Ben winced. That wasn’t fair. “You noticed it too, didn’t you?”

Yes Ben had noticed it. “There’s no artefact.” No way to go back. He’d never see his mother or father again. He’d never hear… the voices again and Ben felt his back straighten. No more voices!

Luke, oblivious to Ben’s thoughts, nodded with a far off expression. “No artefact, no way to get back. We’re going to have to leave sooner rather than later for supplies and our slaver friends left us so many ships that we can borrow.” More like they’d been relieved of their ships, not that Ben felt particularly sorry for them.

“We’re Jedi, that should count for something, right?” Then again, the Jedi had been Purged by grandfather for a reason. What was lurking in their history for that to happen? What was unfolding right now for grandfather to turn on them?

“We can’t be Jedi in this time period,” Luke lamented, watching the bootleg holo with more dismay than Ben had ever seen from his uncle.

“Why not?” There was going to be politics, wasn't there?

“Because the Jedi are keen on the idea that the only acceptable Jedi are their Jedi and I haven’t exactly been training all of you to old school standards,” Luke admitted in a rush. Not that Ben was surprised. If Luke had been an old school Jedi, he would have been kicked out of the temple in an instant.

“Why?” What was wrong with the old Jedi? Ben knew there was something else to it, but Luke himself was having problems with articulation that were clearly visible.

“The old Jedi weren’t big on emotions, or attachment. Or objective truth,” Luke added as an afterthought and Ben knew there was a story behind that one. He’d have to hunt for it later, when they weren’t at risk of starving to death.

“We can’t be Jedi… because they wouldn’t think we’re real Jedi?” Ben clarified.

“Precisely, we’re too emotional to be real Jedi as far as they’re concerned,” Luke was frowning and Ben had a sensation of Force unrelated dread. “Emotional enough that we might be mistaken for Sith…” Only there was no disappointment in that statement. The cogs were turning in a way they usually did when his uncle dropped in at unholy hours of the morning for surprise exams.

Not that it took long for Ben to realise that his uncle’s statement was more suggestion than speculation. “The robes and lightsabers below…” Ben allowed his sentence to carry.

“Perfect for a burgeoning new Sith Order, don’t you think? Palpatine has easy access to the Jedi and their information in his current position, which isn't something we want. So maybe it's best if we don't call ourselves Jedi this time around.” Neither of them should have been should have been smirking. It was deadly serious. But in light Alarnaa’s comment, Ben could find his uncle’s humour. So much for not being a Sith Master. Ben wasn't sure what being a Sith really entailed, but the Jedi Order mustn't either if Palpatine was running the Republic.

“Now what do we do?”

“Tell the others.”

And naturally, that went about as well as either of them expected. After being led upstairs with a pile of the robes and weapons found below, Luke gave the rest of his students the news while Ben kept a straight face.

“Cool!” Jacen shrieked.

“Idiot. We’re never going home again!”

“Who cares! This is more exciting! There’s old Jedi here!”

Artoo made a concerned whistle that almost broke Ben’s composure. Almost.

A flurry of whispers excitedly made their way around the room and Ben didn’t have the heart to correct them. He’d already discussed with his uncle what was to happen and he had to admit, it was an insane plan.

“We can’t associate with the Jedi because they see other Force users as heretics,” their grandmaster explained. “And if we go in as Jedi, they might roll over us under the suspicion of us being particularly stupid Sith.” Luke's Jedi weren't the same as the old Order's Jedi and that was painfully obvious from the pompous newsreel they'd just watched.

There was a collective groan that Ben didn’t participate in. There was a thrill of anticipation running through the air that not everyone had quite caught yet, but they would. What better a way to understand something fully, other than from an outside point of view?

“Then what do we do?”

“We give them what they want,” Ben spoke up. “The Jedi in this time period were already looking for a Sith, not a whole Sith Order.”

As expected, the discussion slid to a halt for precisely one second before it exploded. “We’re going to role play Sith Lords?”

“Kriffin’ hell.”

“Language!”

“Sith Lords use language!”

“No they don’t! Sith Lords are more pretentious than that!”

“Sith Lords just kill people. How are we going to work around that?”

“Some things are worse than death. We could always go the cruel and unusual route.”

"That's not good either!"

Luke took that as a cue to cheerfully hand out a bunch of the robes and and lightsabers to the group, only for them to recoil from the blades.

“Yes, I know they’re not pleasant to hold, but we’re going to have to get used to the overwhelming aura of pretentious evil overlords if we’re going to sell this to the Jedi and Palpatine.” Luke flicked open his own red blade. Yes, this show was mainly for Palpatine and the Jedi Order’s benefit. There was no way they could just tell them what was going to happen and they might not even need to do that much. So long as they were on alert. “Come to think of it, I think this one must have belonged to a Sith Master.” It was certainly emitting enough distilled evil for Ben to think so and enough to cloak Luke’s presence with an oily haze.

“Are you sure they won’t believe us about the future?”

“Of course they won’t. They’ll just think we’re crazy!” Or a threat to them, was the other unvoiced possibility, but if they were going to be seen as a threat, then they had to be seen as a threat with enough street credibility to keep everyone off their backs. It was in times like this Ben was thankful that his fellow students weren’t idiots, even if their behaviour sometimes left much to be desired.

"Well, looks like we're all Sith Lords, now. I hope you've all been practicing your most menacing laughter for our first run in with the Jedi Council.” Luke sounded entirely too gleeful about that prospect. His father and grandmother were still alive, so Ben guessed that was reason enough for him to be happy, even though he was inadvertently following his father’s discarded wishes. Maybe that's what he was really laughing about.

Still, Ben could only sigh and raise a distasteful eyebrow at the cross shaped, red lightsaber he was given. Down the line other students were also handling their new weapons and robes with a raised eyebrow. How on earth was he meant to hold this thing? Where was the grip and how was he meant to use this without taking his own arms off?

"Really, uncle?"

"Really. I don't want to compete with the local Jedi population. Sith are exotic, so let’s work with it.” If Ben died because of this idiotic lightsaber design, he was haunting his uncle to death and after.

Why did Jedi politics and time travel have to be so difficult?

 

A week of coaching later and Ben felt he had enough contempt on command to pass as a disinterested Sith apprentice. Alarnaa was left in charge, while Luke, Ben and Artoo piled onto a borrowed ship and made their way to Tatooine for what Luke referred to as the easiest and most moral source of street cred available. Masked and robed up, Luke certainly would have passed as an old school Sith Master to anyone unfamiliar with him. Unlike them though, Ben knew exactly what those slight tremors were in reality.

“We’re going to march into a Hutt’s palace and demand that he be a good boy?” Ben stared. Had his uncle always been this crazy? Or was it the temple? It had to be the temple. Luke wouldn’t have made it to adulthood if he was always this crazy.

“Of course we are,” Luke said superiorly, “Then, when he says no and attacks us, we can defend ourselves with extreme prejudice in the ensuing aggressive negotiations.” Luke patted his new lightsaber. “We’re Sith Lords, not savages.”

Ben blinked. “This is the most insane plan I’ve ever heard of in my entire life.” It really was. Was this what his mother, father and uncle had been doing in the Rebellion?

“It worked the first time around.” He did this before? Who was Ben kidding? Of course he had. This idea was his after all.

“Have you even picked a Sith name yet?” Last Ben had heard, his uncle was still undecided.

“I was thinking Darth Vader. Nothing quite like making Palpatine’s life more difficult." Ben’s uncle beamed and Ben had the feeling strangest feeling that the Force itself was laughing at him.

 

Anakin Skywalker bolted awake in his room at the Jedi Temple, the flashes of his mother’s screaming face were pushed out of his mind by a weight in the Force. A weight so pressing that Anakin was left gasping for air as it gleefully shot past him to places unknown.

Moments later, his master charged through the door. “Anakin, did you sense that?”

“Yes, master.”

Anakin wasn’t quite sure how to tell Obi-Wan that it felt suspiciously like the Force was laughing at him, so he kept his mouth shut while his master paced and postulated.

He had a feeling the Council would be discussing this in intense detail and sighed.

Chapter Text

Cliegg Lars didn’t know what to think when there was an insistent and furious knocking on his front door. There was tonnes of sand blasting the air at near sonic speeds. Who the hell was crazy enough to step outside let alone visit farmland? Even his neighbours weren’t that lacking in sense. At least it sounded civilised, even if it was in the middle of a sandstorm. Civilised but clearly also crazy. Still, with his rifle in hand he threw open the door in a splash of sand to find a masked man entirely in black. Around him was a pocket of air, as if the sandstorm had come to a temporary halt in the figure’s immediate vicinity. Cliegg gulped.

“Cliegg Lars?” The figure inquired, its deep, rasping tones nearly making Cliegg soil himself. Never before had Cliegg felt such overwhelming wrongness from a sentient being. And never so quickly, either. Even the bounty hunters at Mos Eisley didn’t give crawler vibes like this guy did.

“Yes,” Cliegg squeaked at the sentient appearance of Death.

“Excellent. I found your wife.” Without another word, the figure stepped to the side, revealing another, far shorter, cloaked and masked figure. Standing next to that figure and huddled partly in their robes was his wife. Battered and bruised, but his wonderfully alive wife.

“Shmi!” Cliegg lunged forwards. They made no effort to stop him.

“Cliegg!” Shmi called, but she didn’t move? Maybe the second cloaked figure was holding her up? “You’ll have to come to me, they did what they could.” Hells, she was still alive and that was good enough for Cliegg. They could worry about her injuries after they were away from the suspiciously still patch of sandstorm.

After lifting her far too light body, Cliegg had a sickening idea for an educated guess that he was going to keep to himself. No, he was going to bury it and never think about it. Still holding her, he made his way back to the doorway of his house.

“I’d advise for you to take your wife to a skilled physician. Here.” The masked figure tossed a credchip to Cliegg who fumbled and yanked it from the air. Before Cliegg had even registered to what was happening, Shmi was left in his arms and the two figures were stalking back into the sands.

“Who are you?” Cliegg shouted back to the retreating figures. No one did this! No one! This was Tatooine. This level of charity didn’t exist. The least Cliegg could do was spread the good name of his wife’s saviours.

There was a chilling, hacking chuckle that made Cliegg’s blood run cold. “Lord Vader, at your service,” came floating back across the winds. And they were gone in the sands, the bubble popping back into a full blown storm as they left. Cliegg slammed the door shut after them.

Cliegg stared between his shut door and his wife. “What happened?” How was she rescued by whatever the hell those things were?

“He appeared out of nowhere. At first… I thought he was a Jedi, but he had a red sword,” Shmi whispered. “I don’t think they’re Jedi, Cliegg.”

Cliegg shrugged. “Whatever works, I guess.” Cliegg didn’t know much of anything about Jedi and did it matter if Shmi was alive and well? He should really tell his son, come to think of it. “OWEN, YOUR MOTHER IS BACK!” He heard his son’s surprised shout echo back through the house.

Whatever those two were, they couldn’t been too bad if they took on an entire village of Tusken Raiders, won and didn’t sell the hostages straight back into slavery. Definitely better than the Hutts. He, at the very least, owed his Lordship a drink if he ever saw him again.

 

Ben couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. “What in the Correllian Hells was that?” Ben himself was emptying out a boot full of sand into the floor of the cargo bay in their appropriated freighter. How he hated sand. From his uncle’s intense boot emptying and mumbled profanity, he wasn’t alone in it either. Artoo chirped happily at them while they desanded.

“I was channeling my best Darth Sidious,” Ben’s uncle stated with royal prim and properness. “I was struck by inspiration. Palpatine had the best evil laugh. Father never laughed so I can’t use him as a model for that.” Well, that was a new point of information. Becoming a Sith Lord after being a Jedi killed your sense of humour in addition to your entire Order. Who knew?

Ben continued to stare, the incredulity only mounting. “You were delivering a hostage back to her family. Did it even require an evil laugh?” Was there a form of Sith etiquette for malevolent laughs? Did the Sith Code cover that? Did his uncle even care about the Sith Code? His uncle’s just felt unnecessary and mistimed, but Ben hadn’t actually met a Sith Lord before so maybe his uncle had knowledge he didn’t. Ben really doubted it, but there was a tiny possibility that his uncle just knew more. It was that or that knock to his head did more damage than anyone thought.

“Ben, we just wiped out a camp full of sadistic and morality lacking nomads who tried to torture a woman to death for fun.” Luke stuck his head up dramatically, his chest puffing out. “Of course it was required. All good Sith laugh and bask in the gratitude of their lessers. It’s why we’re in this galaxy. To lord over our inferiors!” That was just ridiculous. Luke had to be making that part up. At least Ben vaguely knew why they’d stopped in the first place.

They were drawn to the camp. Not that Ben even knew why they buzzed to it like moths to flame. Ben had’t even landed before Luke gleefully leapt from the ramp like a flying aspect of death and descended upon with the nomads with gusto. Maybe that was because they shot at him first and all bets were off.

“That woman was also your great grandmother and we need to set a good impression for when she talks to your grandfather.” Luke added and Ben’s brain slid to a halt. “If we’re going to change things here, we may as well be thorough about it.”

“THAT WAS SHMI SKYWALKER?” Ben yelled at his uncle’s shaking back as Luke dislodged another mountain of sand from his robes.

“Yes, uncle Owen always said she was a lovely person.”

Ben’s head was wonderfully empty. “Uncle,” Ben asked with more serenity than he’d ever experienced in his short life, “how is emptying an entire camp full of Tusken Raiders a good first impression for grandfather?”

“Come to think of it, it’s probably not. Father mass murdered all of them as a recreational past time.” His uncle frowned. “I let the women and children flee. Let’s leave that part out when we tell this story in future, yes?”

Why would grandfather be impressed by a mass murder? “What was grandfather even like as a Sith?” Ben queried and his uncle snorted.

“Absolutely terrifying. If you were on a mission and he appeared, you got the hell out of there as past as possible. Usually down a limb with him one ship length behind you, all blasters blazing. Ah, so many near death experiences,” Luke sighed contentedly and Ben’s ongoing concerns about his uncle’s mental health weren’t improving.

“But what was he like?”

His uncle blinked. “Oh ho, I see.” Well, it was the easiest solution, wasn’t it? If Luke was modelling himself on Palpatine, then that left one Sith for reference where Luke could help craft an identity. “Serious, committed to the Empire and always prepared with a pre-mortem one liner for those who failed him. He didn’t have time for politics or excuses or incompetence. He wanted the sort of peak performance from his men that he himself exhibited.” Luke was nodding. “He was also fanatically loyal to Palpatine as the old coot was the only thing father had left.” There was a healthy pause. “Then I came along and he straight up murdered the old bastard.” Luke shrugged and Ben held his head in the hands. He would not turn to the Dark Side because his uncle was touched in the head. He would not. If his mother had managed both her husband and her brother, then Ben himself could at least handle the latter.

Ben clasped his hands. “That should be simple enough. If you’re Sidious, then can I be Vader?”

Luke sneezed, showering Artoo in a flood of sand. “The Vader to my Palpatine, my young apprentice.” Ben watched his uncle draw himself up… or at least attempt it, before he fell apart with a motion that was halfway between a giggle and expression of revulsion. “That just feels wrong. Let’s do a deal. I won’t think too hard about being Palpatine and you don’t think too hard about being your grandfather. Deal?”

Ben shrugged.

The freighter came to a halt just out of the viewing distance of Jabba’s Palace and Ben rolled his eyes.

“So how are we going to do this?”

“We’re going to march in and demand that Jabba be a good boy or else.”

That wickedly curving grin on his uncle’s face was much more befitting of a Sith than any Jedi.

 

Anakin just had a feeling that today was going to be one of those days. He’d hardly stepped out the shower before Obi-Wan strode into the room with the grimmest expression Anakin had seen on his face. Well, not since that one time Anakin had accidentally used his master’s shaving cream as shampoo. That was taking him back.

“Anakin, we’ve been summoned by the Council,” his master gravely stated.

Anakin frowned. Nothing felt unusual in the Force. Maybe it was just the Council fussing again as they did. “Did they say what for?”

“Sith have been observed on Tatooine,” Obi-Wan nearly whispered and Anakin wasn’t sure what he felt. Part apprehension, part remembrance of Darth Maul and part horror when he remembered the dreams of his mother on Tatooine. Dreams that had abruptly stopped a few days ago. Anakin’s stomach sank. What were the odds of it being Tatooine of all of the spots in the galaxy?

“Sith! From where?” Anakin hissed back as they both skidded out the door, nearly sprinting to the Council Chambers. Anakin had known that there was a Sith Master left running around, by why expose themselves now of all times? Why Tatooine?

“I don’t have the full details. Presumably we are both being summoned because of our prior experience with them.” Not that Anakin had much experience beyond seeing Maul and feeling that slick, oily taint of the Dark Side around him. Nope, it was pretty clear it was mainly Obi-Wan who was being called and Anakin was there as a courtesy. As per usual.

They screeched to a halt in front of the Chambers, with an apology to a nearby cleaning droid for the scuffs, and made an attempt to at least appear presentable before they entered. Mace Windu was the first to greet them as they entered.

“Knight Obi-Wan, Padawan Skywalker.” Mace inclined his head, giving Anakin the distinct impression that he was eying bugs. “I see you’re prompt in your arrival.”

“Yes, Masters,” Obi-Wan intoned and Anakin nearly rolled his eyes. Why couldn’t they dispense with the pleasantries and get to the point already? “We came with haste due to the sensitivity of the subject.”

“Wise you are, Obi-Wan. Shifted, the Force has. Unveiled are the Sith,” Yoda’s unnaturally drooping ears said more than his face ever would. Mainly because Yoda’s face never seemed to change ever. “Evidence of the Sith, brought to our attention it has been.”

“You’ll find it speaks for itself. Play the recording,” Mace ordered and Anakin and his master stepped back to observe. “One of the patrons had their droid make a recording of this meeting between Jabba the Hutt and two unknown figures. We’re lucky this even came to us. We thought Padawan Skywalker would have some views given it's his homeworld.” It wasn’t quite a compliment, but it was the closest thing Anakin was going to get from Mace.

Blue images flicked into being. Two figures, robed and masked strode to stand before the Hutt, lightsabers hanging openly and freely from dark robes (though one lightsaber was oddly shaped in a way Anakin hadn’t ever seen before). One was taller than the other, but both wore the same stance. Their masks were elaborate, even if Anakin couldn’t determine their colour. He’d bet credits he didn’t have on them being red though. Sith were big on red and black.

“Jabba the Hutt,” the tallest hissed in a way that sent chills down Anakin’s spine, “I am finally pleased to make your acquaintance.” Affable, but at the same time not. The words were pleasant, but the tone was anything but friendly. Standard negotiation with a Hutt then.

“Who are you to intrude upon my palace?” Jabba demanded in Huttese, wobbling violently as he did so. Anakin rolled his eyes.

“I am Darth Vader and this is my Apprentice.” Vader hardly lifted a hand and his Apprentice inclined their head in the most minimal acknowledgement Anakin had ever seen. But both understood Huttese it seemed. Unusual or were they speakers of many tongues? “Your weak willed insect of a majordomo invited us in. How very kind of him.” Ouch. That level of disrespect had to sting. Jabba wasn’t used to people marching into his front door, mind controlling his staff and insulting him. If Jabba wasn’t such an unrepentant monster, Anakin might have felt slightly more sorry for him. Instead he was admiring the Sith Master’s technique from afar. Upsetting Jabba that quickly had to be a record.

The tentacled majordomo in question was still standing behind Jabba. “Fool, you have invited in Jedi!” Jabba shrieked at his majordomo who… took a prolonged gasp and collapsed to the ground. As if invisible strings had been snapped and he lay there like a broken puppet. That was another point to the Sith Master who was doing a great show of examining his gauntleted fingertips while the drama played out.

“Now, now, Jabba, the puppet was only doing as he was bid.” Anakin could almost hear the smile and was taken aback that Sith let the Jedi comment slide. “Perhaps the flaw is on you for retaining the weak willed and expedient instead of the forceful and competent,” the Master spat in a rushing hiss. No, Anakin took it back, the Sith was definitely insulted by the Jedi comment. Immediately, numerous blasters raised.

“I should kill you where you stand!” Jabba roared, only to be halted in his tracks by a rasping, menacing crack of laughter. Anakin half expected paint to start peeling from the walls of the Council Chambers from the coarseness of it. That was impressively evil sounding.

“As if you could, Hutt. These fools are too stupid to do away with you for fear of your imbecilic family, but rest assured that I have no such restraints.” It was a gentle caress of a whisper but it carried. Carried enough for the whole room to shudder. Jabba froze like a statue. “I suggest you think carefully with that bloated brain of yours.” Anakin had to hold back another tiny thread of admiration for the brazenness of this Sith Lord. The Sith had a point. Jabba survived because of a fear of retaliation… but if a threatening party had no fear then it was the end of the line. That was of course if the Sith could handle the entire room of bounty hunters. Anakin’s money was on the Sith. Not for any particular reason other than him disliking the Hutt far more than the mystery Sith. For now.

“What do you want?” Jabba instead demanded, his jowls trembling with had to be suppressed rage. If the Sith kicked in the front door looking for a fight, then he was doing an excellent job.

“I want a great many things, Jabba the Hutt,” the Sith Master inclined his head and slowly paced forwards so that his feet stood just over the trapdoor. The Apprentice was two steps behind him. “But first you are to call back your fleet of slavers, bounty hunters and miscellaneous filth from my systems, then we can work from there.” There was a troubling finality in the Sith’s words that raised the hair on the back of Anakin’s neck. Systems? The Sith already controlled whole systems? When the hell had that happened? All the while a tension was building in the room that felt too small for the Sith and Jabba alone, let alone Jabba’s court and the watching Jedi audience.

“You dare to tell me what to do with my assets?” Jabba roared, a lever was pulled and Anakin could have sworn he saw a spiderweb stretch across his vision. “Kill them!”

A trapdoor opened just after the Sith Master stepped back. The room doubled over in agony. Jabba the Hutt gracefully floated upwards from his dais without a single gesture and hung suspended over his own pit. He foamed and thrashed at the mouth, while the Sith Master inclined his head.

“Fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand.”

Then Jabba was slam dunked, screaming the whole time, straight into his rancor’s pit. The recording rocked and shrieks filled the Council’s Chambers. Anakin watched the Council’s collective wince, even though they had to have watched it before either Obi-Wan or Anakin arrived. Anakin had to hold in a whoop, because Jedi were detached. Jedi did not take joy in a slaver’s misfortune. Jedi most definitely did not approve of a Sith Master’s actions, which at an objective level, were a fundamental benefit to everyone. No he did not.

After a moment, the bounty hunters came to, lifting their weapons. Four of them were immediately sheered in half by a spinning blade Anakin hadn’t even seen the Master throw. Three more went down with vicious hacking motions from the Apprentice’s cross shaped blade. A mass of bodies attempted to flee, but were caught by an invisible hand that clawed them into the rancor’s pit after their employer. The Apprentice casually swiped with his blade at the fingers of the few that managed to grip the lip of the pit. Then they too fell screeching.

In total, it had been a minute and ten seconds since the Sith had entered the room. A minute and ten seconds was all it had taken for Jabba the Hutt’s entire court to cease to exist. The Sith Master casually spun his (red?) blade.

“I believe this concludes negotiations,” the Master spoke to the Apprentice. Anakin personally thought the Sith Master hit a diplomatic bullseye in more ways than one.

And the recording ended.

Anakin didn’t think he’d blinked less, even during the Boonta Eve Classic that he’d won. He turned to face the Council, forcing down that same whoop from before. Calm. He would not fist pump for a Sith.

“Well, Skywalker. What’s your opinion on this?” Mace asked, leaning forwards. “What could a Hutt do to upset a Sith Lord?”

Anakin knew he should have put more thought into his answer, but the answer itself was so straightforward Anakin really didn’t know how else to put it. “Do you want a list… or?”Anakin trailed off.

“Take this seriously, you should Padawan.” Yoda sternly waved his stick. Anakin heard Obi-Wan’s moan from behind him. "Not to be trifled with, the Sith are."

“Well masters, do you mean the slaving, bounty hunting, drug dealing, smuggling and other associated wrongs committed in the Sith Master’s territory? Or do you mean the Sith Master’s clear displeasure in sharing the same air as Jabba?” Anakin was trying, he really was, but he’d be dead of old age before he even got through a full list of Jabba’s potential wrongs.

“You think Jabba interfered with the Sith Master’s business?” Obi-Wan raised in a genteel manner.

“No master, I think the Sith Lord just didn’t like him and was looking for an excuse,” Anakin answered so bluntly he saw a Council member facepalm in the corner of his eye. That shut them up. Did the Council forget that Sith were all about passion? It’s not like Vader needed a reason with the power of pure evil fuelling him.

“And you, Obi-Wan?” Mace asked.

“Anakin’s suggestion is not without its merits. Sith are beings of passion and the Sith might have elected to dispose of him to fuel that passion. The Republic hasn’t detected any usual criminal activity from Jabba that would indicate a business relationship with new parties on any sort of grand scale,” Obi-Wan hummed, while rubbing his beard. Anakin basked in the praise.

“Investigate this, we must,” Yoda insisted.

Anakin perked up.

“To you two, this duty will not fall, for now.”

Then deflated. Of course it wasn’t going to be them. It’s like the Council was actively set on stopping Anakin from checking on his mother. Did they have any idea how rare it was for holo receivers to even last on Tatooine before they were stolen? Even the ones welded down didn't last a full day.

“Thank you for your time,” Mace said with finality.

Anakin and Obi-Wan bowed and left.

The moment the door closed behind them, Obi-Wan spoke. “You may as well get it out of your system, Anakin.”

“Really, master?” Jedi weren’t big on feelings. Was it a trap?

“I won’t begrudge you it. After all, it’s one less slaver in the galaxy.” Anakin spotted a curled lip somewhere in Obi-Wan’s beard.

Whooping would be unbecoming of Anakin in public, so instead he skipped the whole way to the Archives, followed by a flock of likewise skipping younglings. Well, Obi-Wan didn’t exactly specify how it was to be expressed, did he?

 

“Well, I think that went shockingly well!” Ben watched his uncle hurl his mask aside and drain a full flask of water.

“You dropped Jabba the Hutt into a rancor pit,” Ben found himself repeating for the fourth time.

“Correction. I slam dunked him into a rancor pit. Last time your mother strangled him. With a chain,” Luke nodded intensely. “And after tossing Boba Fett into a sarlacc pit we blew up the sand barge with its own main gun and called it a day.”

If Ben’s jaw sagged any lower it was going to fall off. “Mother… strangled Jabba the Hutt with a chain.”

“Yes,” Luke said, scratching his beard, “it does seem to run in the family, doesn’t it? She accidentally blew up a planet too as well. Not that I’m not accidentally to blame for that one as well.”

“My mother accidentally blew up a planet,” Ben found himself faintly repeating. “You helped accidentally blow up a planet.”

“To be fair, it was more the Partisans than her or me, but she got given the credit anyway.” Luke shrugged as if an entire planet ceasing to be was an everyday occurrence. From the angry muttering from the politicians Ben had met, there was more than one planet that had been blown up during the Empire’s war with the Rebellion. He just hadn’t know one of them was his mothers idea and felt his personal bubble flex.

“Our entire family is insane.” Who were these people and how did he end up related to them?

“Of course we are,” his uncle indignantly shot back. “If we weren’t none of plans would ever work! It's not like I blew up the Death Star with any solid grasp of common sense or rationality.” Luke abruptly paused, as if he’d just thought of something. “Oh, Artoo, how did the message delivery go?”

Artoo spewed out binary indicating that yes, his recording of the Hutts had indeed been forwarded to the Jedi Council. They had probably watched it several times as of this conversation. More proof of his uncle's loss of touch with reality. They wouldn’t have any time to prepare for dealing with the Jedi with them becoming aware so soon!

“Relax, this is Tatooine.” Ben felt the impact from his uncle’s back slap as if it was from a planet’s length away. “We’ve still got work to do!”

“Like? Are we killing more gangsters in self-defence?” It was really looking that way.

“Of course not. Tatooine’s part of the Republic. We need to establish a formal government and elect a Senator!”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ben intoned out of habit. His uncle establishing a government. On Tatooine, the galaxy's largest hive of scum and villainy. What could possibly go wrong?

“You would. I’ll be running for Senator,” Luke chirped and skipped from the room. "Gotta keep my Palpatine impression authentic!"

Ben turned to Artoo. “Has he always been this devoid of sanity?”

His father was much worse, Artoo beeped back and Ben felt any respect he had for his grandfather melt away.

Crazy. Ben was the only sane man in a family full of lunatics.

 

Meanwhile, in Chancellor Palaptine's office, if any of his guards heard an inarticulate howl of rage, they ignored it. It must have been the holo. The Chancellor's voice wasn't that high or raspy.

Chapter Text

Anakin didn’t think he’d ever been so glued to the holo in his entire life. It wouldn’t be long now. Any hour, quite possibly. It was coming. Anakin knew it was coming.

“Anakin, you’re late.” Obi-Wan’s voice tutted from the doorway.

“It’sTatooine’selectioncoveragemaster,” Anakin felt rush out him without averting his gaze. If he looked away he’d miss it. He’d miss the candidate.

“Tatooine’s what?” Obi-Wan repeated, stepping into the room with Anakin. Slowly but surely, Obi-Wan’s expression morphed from taut impatience to flat face surprise. Then he too paused in front of the holo.

“Election coverage, master. Tatooine is electing a Senator for the Republic.” It was surreal to think about it let alone explain it. Not only had Anakin’s nightmares about his mother abruptly shorted out, but the news from the Outer Rim was pouring in. The Hutts, in addition to being no more, had been replaced with what appeared to be a benevolent dictator. For now.

A new system government was seeking to be elected after mopping up the mess the Hutts left behind. From the reports submitted to the Council, it was some extensive and extremely thorough mopping that left some of the most vicious crime bosses taken aback. Tatooine’s new candidate hadn’t just wiped out Jabba, but seemed to be perfectly content to provoke the wrath of the rest of the family as well. Then systematically slaughter them as well as they lined up at the Sith’s front door.

Provoking the rest of the family, picking fights with every other criminal in the sector, kicking the teeth in of those very same criminals and, most impressively, sauntering away from it without a single description of the sentients involved. Total annihilation of every single antagonistic party that mildly sneezed in their direction. It was very very impressive. Extremely violent too, but it was a Sith Lord. Presumably. It wasn’t like anyone could confirm it was a Sith Lord, but Anakin’s more wild experimentation left little doubt over what had happened to some of those boarded ships. Not that there was enough left of them to call them ships.

“So this is what you’ve been up to all week,” Obi-Wan remarked, his eyebrows raised. “I still can’t believe it’s happening.”

“I can’t believe Tatooine was freed by Sith Lords.” Uh oh, was that too blunt? Best not make it too apparent that the Sith trumped the Jedi in a major way. Complimenting Sith methodology tended to attract overtly interested inquiries from Jedi Masters. Anakin would, of course, deny everything, but he really didn’t need that in his life right now.

“You and the rest of the Council, Anakin. We’re still not sure it’s freedom, so much as a change of management.” Stroking his beard, a frown was set in his master’s face.

“Depends on how you define freedom then, since all of the slaves had their trackers removed according to the Senate election watchers who were sent out.” Casual. Keep it casual. No need to let Obi-Wan know he was… maybe a little bit too invested in the election. But hey! History was being made! Even if it was being made by a Sith Lord who clearly took a great deal of pleasure in his chosen profession of being a mass murderer. At least it was only the Hutts. For now. Maybe the Sith Master was open to dismantling other forms of criminal enterprise?

Obi-Wan did a double take. “Really? How remarkable.”

“The Sith Master also has a ninety-five percent approval rating,” Anakin casually added.

“You have been following this closely, haven’t you?” Anakin wasn’t sure if he was hearing a judging tone, but waved a hand to a towering stack of datapads currently holding up Anakin’s kaff table. The missing leg had gone to a better and far more useful place.

“I’ve been taking notes, Master. I have a suspicion that the Council will ask us to investigate.” At which point, Obi-Wan’s negotiating skills would spectacularly fail, lightsabers would be busted out and they would both be killed by the planet’s population in a fit of rage. Yep, sounded like a job for them alright.

“Your suspicion is correct.” Stroking his beard, Obi-Wan moved back towards the door. “The Council is considering sending us to supervise whoever takes government.” Whoever? There was only one candidate in the election. No one else had bothered to apply. Typically Tatooine, but concerning perhaps for the Republic. “It’s rather convenient that your research has been so thorough.”

Anakin resisted the urge to jump for joy. “I do know the planet better than anyone else in the Order.”

“So you do, my Padawan, so you do,” Obi-Wan mumbled. A compliment? Anakin was taking that as a compliment.

Anakin was struggling down a smirk in the meantime. If Anakin knew Tatooine’s underworld, and he at least knew its troublemaking remnant, after the election day itself was going to be an unmitigated battle between the old guard and the new rulers. For now the old hands would bide their time from the shadows, then it would erupt into a new conflict and the Sith would be fully exposed for all to see. What happened to Tatooine after that only the Force knew, but Anakin couldn’t see the Hutts standing much of a chance against the Sith Master.

Above it all, there was Obi-Wan, about to plant both of them right in the middle of it. Anakin nearly skipped from their quarters, his mother on his mind.

 

There was going to be a large scale war by the end of this election campaign. Not for the first time was Ben relieved that lightsabers had no physical blade to clean, because the amount of gore left on a physical blade would have rendered the blasted thing useless. How many people had they mowed down in the last month? It had to be in the thousands as an approximation. It’s not like anyone was really keeping count at this point.

“You’re still going to have to clean that hilt,” Luke remarked, cheerfully hoisting what was left of some slavers into the captured ship’s airlock. Luke hadn’t even bothered to drop the heavy Sith robes. Ben hadn’t either, but still. What his uncle did to them was nothing short of embarrassing. They came, they boarded, Luke promptly vented an entire deck with a well placed cut into the hull and they were off working their way through the ship. Limbs flew. Bodies flew. Parts of the ship flew. Some other ships flew in half from the vigorous amount of lightsaber tosses Luke was engaging in. At this point, Ben had seen everything.

Everything included his borrowed lightsaber’s hilt being gummed up with various bodily fluids. After Luke’s entrance, Ben wasn’t entirely confident that it was blood this time. Last time he needed a corrosive to get it off. Thank the Force gloves were a thing. And masks. Ben had come to greatly enjoy the protection from blood splatter that his borrowed Sith mask offered. Luke, in the process of refining his Sithly mannerisms, had refined the art of having blood splatter around him instead of onto him. He even broke it down into slow motion for the added effect. Ben was profoundly jealous.

“Hmmm, sixty-eight. Not a bad number.” It was a huge number considering the size of most criminals cells. Then again, Luke came from a time where mowing down entire battalions was considered standard practice.

“More for PR to work with,” Ben dully agreed. He was, after all, public relations. He would know. The organising of posters, the image management, the propaganda, the funding, the meetings that went for four hours… That was now Ben’s life, when he wasn’t with his uncle, terrorising the regional criminal enterprises. What would his mother think?

“Wait until we get to Nar Shaddaa,” Luke winked and Ben sighed. His mother probably would have been in on it.

At this point in Luke’s campaign, it was becoming rapidly apparent that this time around the Hutts were likely to reach Endangered status in the Republic’s Sentient Life Register. Them, anyone associated with them, anyone who looked like them and anyone involved in the same business as them. Naturally, that meant most of the Outer Rim was going to disappear in the name of self defence. Ben should have felt uncomfortable about this, but instead he could only think about the reports he had to review as soon as he returned to Tatooine.

“We wouldn’t be on this clanking pile of garbage if they hadn’t shot at us first,” Luke was complaining. He did have a point there, because the slavers attacked Ben and Luke first. “I can hear the hyperdrive motivator from here and that suboptimal clunk is on the other side of the ship. How this thing even flies when it’s in worse shape than the Falcon is anyone’s guess.”

Now there was a nostalgic complaint. Ben wondered how the Falcon looked these days… before his father took it apart blind then taped it back together again with all of the pieces in the wrong place.

“We’ll have to tow it. We can use it for scrap?”

“Pffft, scrap. This steamer will be fine for atmospheric travel if we get it back without it falling in two.” Which would be a small miracle with the amount of internal lightsaber damage it had sustained. Ben blamed the hilt blades, which seemed to serve no other purpose than to make the lightsaber itself impossible to hold and cause unnecessary property damage.

“How… about… a transport network?” Ben instead suggested. The ship was large enough to carry people as a sort of oversized shuttle. It just needed some… work. Work that would preferably hide the lightsaber scoring and blood stains and various other fluids.

“We could use it as part of a shuttle network,” Luke hummed, dragging another body towards the airlock. “That’d look good for the electorate. I remember how many times public transport caused riots on some of the planets I visited.”

“Booze and circuses, uncle?” A phrase from his mother, describing most politician’s approach to running a system.

“No, infrastructure and jobs. After we work those out, people can have their booze and circuses. You can’t have booze or circuses if there’s no way to get to the booze and there’s no room for circuses. Han would be appalled if there wasn’t a taxi service to evict him for being drunk off his eyeballs.”

In the interests of keeping the Jedi distracted from their other manoeuvre of making Palpatine’s life difficult, they had engaged in a policy of WWHSD. What Would Han Solo Do was a simple premise that operated on equally simple logic. If ever they were confronted with something that seemed too simple or too good to be true, they would ask What Would Han Solo Do? It was akin to a political cipher, which if any of the Jedi knew, was in fact disguising good government behind numerous layers of debauchery, irrationality and seeming stupidity. Ben wasn’t quite sure if his father was as smart as Luke made him out to be, but given the current implementation of that strategy was Steal Everything the Hutts have, Nailed Down or Not, Ben could only assume from his experiences with his father that it was accurate. That and jettisoning cargo at the first sign of a raid.

All in all, WWHSD had been… popular, Ben supposed. Their popularity shot up from zero to fifty percent almost overnight. There was almost a mystical quality about a game of Sabacc with a crime matriarch, her spoilt son, a table full of criminals, a casino heist disguised behind a failed vault heist and the fact that a Sith Lord had managed it and gotten away without a scratch while still being at the table. Luke was something of a folk hero. At least to Tatooine locals. Everyone who’d been in the casino that week would be wetting themselves for years to come after Luke’s best impersonation of his father in career form. So many strangulations. So many bribes. But still, the locals seemed to at least appreciate that every credit from that heist went straight back into Tatooine’s standard of living. A standard of living that started in the sand and was slowly elevating itself into air conditioned dwellings.

From there, Luke’s haphazard flying and criminal mopping up operations scored spacer street cred, military cred, political cred and, most importantly, a health dose of apprehension from the Jedi Council. Ben suspected there would have been a great deal less apprehension if Luke was in the habit of leaving people alive, but that was extremely difficult with the amount of incidents Luke seemed to bring upon himself in WWHSD fashion.

Take the diner complaint a system or two over for example. It was a simple complaint about food quality from a local. People ate the food, people died. It should have been simple, right? Send the health inspectors in and ensure the place was up to scratch. Except no. The battered inspectors had been sent back with a politely worded letter telling them where to take their complaints in a rather colourfully worded manner. Naturally, Luke took offence to their grammar, continuing existence and decided to personally investigate and, naturally, Ben was obligated to attend. It would have perhaps helped the case of the diner if the kitchen was not in fact the entrance to an underground spice mine.

It would have also helped if the drug runners were not storing mining explosives in the mine. It also would have greatly helped if slaves hadn’t been involved in the mining process. Naturally, this being Luke, the slaves were rescued, but what was left was a two kilometre long gash in the bedrock where an insurmountable amount of H.E. had prematurely detonated and obliterated every single shaft in the complex. Luke’s response? “It happens,” Luke shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve accidentally blown up something we shouldn’t have, but it’s a spice mine so who cares? They’re everywhere around here.”

Luke Skywalker shrugged and called it a day.

Darth Vader, on the other hand, asserted his superiority, swished his cloak in a menacing manner and left with a ship full of ex-mining slaves following a short conflict with dirty inferiors. Vader’s supremacy was paramount. At least that’s how Ben, the obedient and still nameless Apprentice was selling the ordeal.

Ben could only thank the Force that Luke’s Force assisted reflexes provided enough Sithly fear factor without lines, because at this point Ben was sure that Luke's decorum was only being maintained by his mask. The Jedi would have said the Sith Master was trembling with rage. Ben knew better.

And that was only a single instance of the mayhem that seemed to almost follow his uncle around like an obedient puppy. Other students would have said it was the Force, but Ben knew grudges when he saw them and if it was the Force, it was gunning for him more than any other entity in the galaxy. At the rate they were going, Force be damned, Luke was well on his way to becoming Tatooine’s first elected Senator in any timeline that Ben could think of. Maybe Ben’s mother wouldn’t be proud, so much as apprehensive and in a state of exasperation as to how Luke had managed to enter politics on a whim versus her years of alliance building.

It was an absolute farce and Ben was somehow fully on board with it. His mother would be mortified… and for the strangest reason, Ben was perfectly content with the thought.

 

There was a report about the Sith Lords. It was a frightfully detailed report that had Anakin glued to it in spite of the chastising drone of the Council members.

There was a tiny speck of a moon a few systems away from Tatooine. On this moon was a diner with numerous health complaints. For reasons only known to the Sith Lords themselves, they attended the diner. After twenty three minutes of them entering the premises, it had ceased to exist. In its place was an an ever widening hole two kilometres long and countless kilometres deep.

Twenty two minutes prior, the Sith calmly exited with a number of sentients trailing along behind them.

Twenty one minutes prior, screams were heard.

Nobody knows what happened from minute sixteen to twenty one as there was a deep and terrible silence that boded poorly for anyone still in what was left of the smouldering shell of the building.

Fifteen minutes prior, a ship full of nineteen weequay pirates bundled into one of the patron’s yacht made for five, and was immediately ripped from the air and slammed into the ground by an invisible hand.

Thirteen minutes prior, a weequay shot into the air above the diner and, by all witness accounts, spontaneously exploded.

Ten minutes prior a wardrobe containing a drug lord was hurled from the roof and splintered on the stone below. He never left the wardrobe, but a blood red blade flew after it with uncanny accuracy.

Five minutes prior, a body that resembled a lump of meat had been ejected through a window.

Two minutes prior, the majority of responsible patrons had evacuated the premises in a stampede that left twelve people severely injured.

Thirty seconds prior, there was a CLANG heard by passersby outside.

And after all of that happened, a resident proudly announced that he had been the one to make the complaint that resulted in a two kilometre long hole where the diner used to be. He also made the timestamps Anakin was now referring to and, through it all, not a single person had any idea what happened within the diner itself. Nor did anyone have any idea how such a large hole had been blasted into the bedrock.

The Jedi Council, too, were at a loss. Engineers had been dispatched to inspect the site while they pondered the cause of such destruction. Was it some Dark Side power? Had the diner owners done something to displease the Sith Master for such a furious attack? All questions with no answers.

Anakin, rather more privately, thought it was a waste of time. Clearly, the Sith Lords had found a spice mine disguised as a restaurant and detonated whatever stores they had of blasting explosives. It was the Outer Rim. What else was it going to be apart from pirates, business relations of pirates and the impoverished locals they were extorting? Business as usual. Beyond Sith Lords being involved, for reasons, but blowing up competing spice mines was a normal practice. Sometimes Anakin forgot that he was just about the only one in the Order that had these experiences.

The hard part was going to be explaining it to the Council. Anakin silently composed himself.

Masters, if I might interrupt. I have a hypothesis as to the extent of the damage. It’s well known in the Outer Rim that spice mines have been disguised as other other ventures, including restaurants. It could be that the Sith Lords, as per their current pattern in Tatooine, are currently asserting their territory and deterring other criminal elements from populating the area? It would seem to me that the Sith Lords detonated the explosive supply of what seems to be quite a large, in turning causing the damage recorded in the report. This would assert their territory due to Tatooine’s proximity to the system.

That sounded suitably detached. Excellent, now all he had to do was voice it and convince the wizened group of people before him that no, it wasn’t a Dark Side ritual fuelling the Sith Master’s powers, but a gang turf war. And the Sith Master wanted them off his lawn. And the Council were going to nod appreciatively and thank Anakin for his efforts and research.

Yeah right. Like that was going to happen.

So Anakin butted in midway through an argument and told them anyway.

Then it descended into another argument. And another. And another that branched into speculated Sith mysticism. And another that tangented from that.

Anakin saw Obi-Wan toss a glance in his direction and roll his eyes.

Three hours of politely worded insults later, Obi-Wan and Anakin returned to their quarters.

“Personally, Anakin, beyond the initial report, I rather think that venture was a waste of time.” Obi-Wan tossed off his boots in a distinctly more frazzled manner than usual. “You said it yourself, it was most likely the mining explosives. If it was a Dark Side ritual, then surely we all would have felt something. You don’t need engineers to know that.”

“I have never heard Master Yoda yell before,” Anakin commented in a dazed manner. Maybe it was more of an indignant squawk than a yell, but that would undignified sound and that would make its way straight back to Master Yoda. Hence, Anakin settled on a yell.

“Nor I, not at least for quite some time,” Obi-Wan grimaced. “Master Windu certainly seems convinced of some Dark Side mysticism.”

“It’s wishful thinking, Master. Why waste time on a Sith ritual when you can use explosives?” Anakin sighed.

Lazily, he reached for the remote. Then he flicked on the holo and swore.

Tatooine had a new Senator.

Lord Vader to be precise.

“I can’t believe we missed it! I was waiting all day for the results!” Anakin tried not to wail. He really did.

“Shhh! We’re missing it!”

They missed the election results for that ridiculous meeting of all things. Mace and Yoda could squawk each other to death next time for all Anakin cared, he wasn’t going to miss the coverage for their petulant arguments.

 

Sheev Palpatine forced on his most sincere smile. He was the Supreme Chancellor welcoming a new system into the Senate. He was. He was not a Sith Lord. He was most certainly not thinking about his racing heart as a nova of bleakness approached. He was not thinking about the large amount of heavily armed Jedi crammed into their pod. Anakin Skywalker in particular was almost hanging off the side of the pod in an extremely undignified attempt to obtain a better view. Sheev Palpatine was not thinking about how they were eying their pathway to the approaching pod the same way a gundark eyed a ship’s electrical wires. He was most certainly not thinking about the way the Darkness, through it all, merely stared back, tinged with amusement and contempt.

Sheev Palpatine most certainly was not thinking about these things.

Darth Sidious was and felt himself age a decade in a single wisp of air from the newcomer.

“I present to the Republic Senate, Lord Vader of Tatooine,” Sheev Palpatine struggled out from behind clenched teeth. Clenched because he was being crushed by some unseen Force. If the Jedi had noticed, they were yet to intervene. Skywalker was entirely fixated on the Sith.

“Greetings to the Republic Senate.” Lord Vader chilled the air with every rattling breath, his red and black mask’s gleam dulled by the pooling inky robes. “I will usher in a new age, free of corruption, purged of deceit, a cleansing of all inadequacy. There will be no mercy, no clemency, no forgiveness. I do not forgive, I do not forget. I remember all and all will be judged. I eagerly await my likeminded Senators allegiance in the resolution of these matters in an expedient manner. My sight is unclouded and my intent is set.” It was said in a sibilant hiss that drew around the room, seemingly without aid. Every word poked apart Darth Sidious’ fragile composure, exposed to an audience of trillions. Trillions, who if the Senate was any indication, applauded their new overlord. Then Vader bowed, every so slightly. It was more of a head tilt than a bow.

Darth Sidious felt every ounce of Vader’s crushing malice focus, out of all the lifeforms in the room, onto one solitary pinprick. Himself. Then he felt it smile.

“Thank you for your… unique words, Lord Vader,” Darth Sidious instead croaked with a throat that felt like a mailed fist was squeezing it shut.

Vader inclined his head, ever so slightly and withdrew, and the Darkness followed, like an obedient puppy. Vader’s pod retreated, with the Jedi Council’s pod speeding after it into the delegates below.

It was all Darth Sidious could do to continue proceedings and not rub at his neck. Indeed, everyone else was unbothered by the experience, by the speech, almost as if they were lulled by Vader.

It was in this moment, Sidious felt dread.

Chapter Text

They were in pursuit! Or the rest of the Jedi were, at least. Anakin wasn’t quite sure where he was; his boots lost traction on a carpet and instead of clearing the corner he’d skidded into an entirely different room instead.

Nay, not skidded, but coasted on bundles of the finest fur as he gracefully came to a halt with the greatest of finesse. Nothing less for the Jedi’s number one Padawan.

Not that he had long to recover from his unintended, alternative exploration of the Sith’s path of retreat.

“May I help you?” A dark haired boy asked, tugging at his sleeves and holding out an extended, precocious hand from above. Anakin had to hold back a coo, because Force only knew which set of rooms he’d stumbled into in his pursuit. Maybe the boy was an innocent nobody. But on the flip side he could also be connected to the resident evil overlord. Please it not be something related to the Trade Federation.

“Ah, erm,” Anakin instead flailed from the ground.

“Leave the poor Padawan alone, Ben. Clearly he’s lost,” a good natured voice remarked and Anakin watched a human perhaps slightly older Obi-Wan’s age step into view from around a corner. Blond, bearded and with the least pretentious clothes Anakin had ever seen on someone in a senatorial office. Anakin did a double take before hastily forcing down the response into a haze of casual blankness. This individual could’ve easily stumbled out from a cantina in Tatooine, booze still in hand… but here he was in a pretentious, stuffy Senate office. Anakin’s mind boggled and his eyes darted between dark wooden panels and the… comparatively exotic dress sense of the man before him. Maybe he was privileged enough for it not to matter if he dressed like a Tatooine drunkard?

The older man extended an arm and, with surprising strength, hoisted Anakin to his feet.

“Thank you,” Anakin sighed, dusting himself off. “These are the Senate offices and…”

“You didn’t want a potential galactic incident on your hand,” the man winked hugely and chortled while Anakin choked on his own saliva. “Don’t worry, it’s not like we’re not already used to making waves. Sometimes literally,” the man’s eyes happily crinkled and he chuckled.

It was only then did Anakin’s eyes find the crest hanging above a distant doorway in the spacious suite. An extremely familiar crest which had populated more holo political coverage than even the Trade Federation’s recent incursions. “This is the Tatooine delegation’s room?” Anakin blurted out and the man only laughed harder, his teeth glinting.

“It certainly is!” He waved a hand. “Come over, take a seat. We’ll have something to eat, it’s been a long day. Ben, grab our guest an extra plate.”

“Do you know where the Tatooine Senator is?” Anakin rushed out, even while the bureaucrat not so subtly lead him into another room with a dining table. Usually, being gently shoved along was considered a prime sign of an ambush. Unlike every other ambush Anakin had been party to, the potential ambusher was cheerfully whistling what sounded like a Corellian drinking song as they swaggered through the suite. An Ode to Booze, Beverage and Brawls if Anakin wasn’t mistaken. That was a classic, right up there with My Ship is a Lady and She’s Mine.

“Occupied, I would presume. Lord Vader has had an exceptionally busy week filled with Hutts, pirates, slavers and an irritating weequay that doesn’t know when to shut up,” Vader’s paperwork monkey happily explained. “I’m Luke, by the way and that terror who ran by is my nephew Ben.”

Oh. Right. Introductions. That was an idea. “I’m Anakin Skywalker, Padawan of Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Anakin squeezed out before the young boy shoved a plate of tantalising meat into his hands. “Anyway, the Jedi are looking for him,” Anakin explained, even as he was seated and another plate of steamed vegetables set in front of him.

“What for?” Ben asked around a heaping of salad.

“Erm…” What to do? The average person didn’t really know anything about Sith Lords. “They have questions about his conduct with the Hutts,” Anakin instead offered as slowly, ever so slowly, it occurred to him that his hosts were bureaucrats and the floor opened up to consume him. It was like Jabba’s rancor pit, only more effective in creating the anticipation of being devoured by a ravenous carnivore.

“That’s odd, I would’ve thought they had more questions about the spice mine he blew up,” Luke idly commented around a sip of water. Anakin nearly inhaled a shred of some sort of seafood.

“I’m sorry, what?” Anakin coughed, sending a chunk of tentacle flying out his mouth. The moment of truth!

“The spice mine in the Outer Rim,” Luke was enthusiastically nodding.

“Yeah!” Ben added most agreeably. “They stored all of their blasting explosives in the one chamber and well…” The boy made an excited and exaggerated movement with his hands. “That was a big explosion,” the boy said rather solemnly after the dramatic motion. “At least he managed to free all the slaves. The slavers weren’t so lucky.” Explosives? Ha! Eat that, Master Windu! Anakin fist pumped beneath the table, well out of sight. As Anakin glanced back up, he caught Luke’s eye and the scruffy man nodded in a far too knowing manner.

The line repeated in Anakin’s head. At least he managed to free all the slaves. Lord Vader the Sith… freeing all the slaves on Tatooine. Obi-Wan was going to have an aneurysm if Anakin didn’t have one of his own first.

“This is going to sound tactless,” because it is, Anakin silently added to himself, “but why was the Senator freeing slaves in the Outer Rim? It’s not really…” Anakin let the words wander as he once more stumbled over the S-word sticking point. One could not demonise a Sith to those who knew nothing about the Sith. Not only would it come off as unfair, but the galaxy at large was loathe to call anything pure evil at first glance, unless it was a lawyer, insurance broker or speeder salesman.

“It’s not something ninety nine percent of the Core Worlds care about or give a single thought to while they’re digging their fat fingers into luxury dinners like this,” Luke suggested and Anakin almost fell out of his chair. Oh no. Luke was a realist. If Luke was a realist, then what was Vader?

“Uhhhh….” Anakin carefully restrained a nodding motion of his head. It would be used against the Jedi. He was a representative of the Jedi searching for a Sith Lord. He was not here to agree with a Sith Lord’s servants about the Republic’s manifest incompetence in dealing with slavery. This wasn’t happening under Anakin’s watch!

Luke carried right on. “Slavery is illegal. The Republic doesn’t want to deal with it because it costs money.” He waved a hand in a majestic motion. “Fortunately for the Republic, Lord Vader takes pride in his craft and has graciously chosen to complete security patrols of his sovereign area free of any cost to the Republic.”

Anakin swallowed a swoon of approval. “So for Lord Vader it’s because…”

“Lord Vader’s very good at removing people from existence,” Ben happily answered. “If slavers, pirates and criminals make people miserable, Lord Vader makes them reconsider their life choices.” Like their choice to continue remaining alive, Anakin added to himself. “He’s supremely gifted in aggressive negotiations conducted with a lightsaber.” Aggressive negotiations with a lightsaber… sounded like the go to Jedi strategy for any breakdowns in communication. With how poorly the Council and Masters were at communicating it was a wonder there was a Jedi Temple still standing after all these years.

There were some doubts about Ben’s offered explanation about Vader’s motives. From the millions of credits in damage done to the Hutt’s criminal empire, Vader didn’t seem to so much take pleasure in his work so much as he was engaged with it in a passionate and fiery relationship. Given Sith in particular drew power from passion, it was more probable that Vader was using the massacres to feed his connection to the Dark Side… but… at the same time, most Sith didn’t wait for acceptable targets. In not one reported instance had Vader ever struck first, even in the Hutt matter his ship had been attacked first from the Order’s investigations. Vader, if anything, was somehow, through what could only be political sorcery, acting only in self defence. Naturally, him acting only in self defence posed a problem of the Jedi Council.

How exactly did the Jedi Council go about taking down a Sith Lord who technically hadn’t broken any laws? Kicking in front door and subduing him was hardly an option with the complete lack of illegal behaviour and, rather more importantly Anakin thought, his public relation polls. Vader hadn’t so much risen in opinion as he’d breached the atmosphere and collected an orbiting satellite on the way out of the sector. If the Jedi Council wanted to take Vader down, they needed to bring more to the Republic than “we don’t like him because he solved slavery in Tatooine overnight when we refused to lift a finger for hundreds of years”. Solving the issue of slavery wasn’t also wasn’t an issue any member of the Republic could comfortably complain about when those implications alone would be in the career ending category of abject stupidity. Vader was acting beyond politics and nothing upset a politician more than being reminded that their existence was entirely irrelevant in the real world.

“The Council is struggling to understand how Lord Vader has become so popular with the local criminal population of the Outer Rim so quickly,” Anakin instead ventured, mentally patting himself on the back.

“I suspect it’s because he’s had to kill most of them in self defence,” Luke languidly responded and Anakin choked on a guffaw. “What’s he meant to do when a bunch of idiots rock up with blasters and attempt to board his ship?” An entirely reasonable response to the problem, or it would’ve been if it wasn’t a Sith Lord hacking whole boarding parties plus ship to pieces with a lightsaber. Not that the Jedi handled the matter any differently, but it was a Sith Lord. A Sith. Why did Sith have to make everything so difficult?

“There were prior provocations, then?” Anakin asked around a leaf of green.

“If by prior provocations, you mean they attempted to sell his students into slavery, then sure.” Luke waved a hand and Anakin attempted to drink his water without inhaling it.

“Students? The Senator has students?” But what about the Rule of Two? Sith were only meant to have one apprentice, not multiples.

“Lord Vader’s a scholar and teacher,” Ben interjected. “A lot of parents sent their kids to his Academy to help them develop life skills beyond what traditional schools could offer. Having Lord Vader accept tuition is very prestigious.”

Anakin’s squinted and caught a word. “Sent? They aren’t sending them anymore?”

“No, Anakin, not anymore,” Luke grimly shook his head. “Not with those two idiot Sith Lords running around killing everyone and trying to start a war. No respect for anyone, let alone Lord Vader’s humble work.”

Sith Lords.

Sith.

Lords.

The plural. There were more than two! Vader at least, plus two others. Why would there be three Sith? Why was the servant of a Sith complaining about other Sith? Sith were known to fight amongst themselves, but why now?

He should’ve asked more but he couldn’t. This was beyond him. Beyond his knowledge.

Anakin distantly remember thanking his hosts, before he hitched up his robes and sprinted towards the hangers.

He really hoped no one saw him trip on that accursed rug a second time, as he slid halfway down down the corridor before finally finding his feet.

 

Shmi didn’t have a lot of questions for her new employers. Lady Alarnaa was positively saintlike despite her ritualistic face paint and voluminous folds of black fabric. She had softly explained that it was part of her Apprenticeship and once she had “graduated”, she would be able to strike her own path through the Order. Gentle, with the grace of a lady fit for any court with her most strenuous orders being phrased as the most delicate of requests, neither Shmi nor any of the other workers really had any complaints towards Lord Vader’s students.

Complaint was too strong a word, though words were had about Jacen and his ever growing stockpile of weapons, ships and explosives that had been piling up around the palace (or Planetary Department, as it was now known). If it weren’t for the volatility of his… interests, Shmi would’ve been tempted to call it teenager clutter. If the teenager in question had a taste for weapons of mass and imminent destruction. Then again, her son had a keen interest in podracing as a human no less, so she supposed she couldn’t be too judgemental towards him.

The others were not so much meek as they made themselves scarce, quietly and dutifully carrying out Lady Alarnaa’s orders and requests. When those were finished they made themselves available to the other ground staff attempting to wrangle the carnage Jabba’s political departure had left behind. Often, it involved a great deal of “lightsaber diplomacy” as Jacen had delicately phrased it, while he disposed of a rather large pile of scorched limbs and associated bodies of visiting bounty hunters.

One of the students was still missing from Shmi’s acquaintance, the boy by the name of Ben. Ben, the children told her, had been sent with Lord Vader to Coruscant to attend to him while he conducted his Senatorial duties. Shmi was sure, that like the other children, that Ben would have no problem advocating his own personal form of lightsaber diplomacy along with Lord Vader. It was self defence, after all, and nothing to lose sleep over.

Though, Shmi did have to wonder about the ages of Lord Vader’s students. They were all children, clearly, but from what they said, Lord Vader had offered to hone their unique gifts and the parents had willingly sent them for teaching. There were no signs of coercion that she could sniff out. From what she could tell, Lord Vader was much beloved by his students, even if they did occasionally complain about his quirks and profound, sometimes excessive, love for his academic field. If it wasn't for the variety of species taken under his wing, Shmi could've mistaken him for a doting parent.

Not that Shmi could blame the man for his... passion in dealing with the criminals surrounding their system more expediently. She was beginning to see his point of view as yet another small fleet of Hutt retained bounty hunters descended on their position. A message drowned in static filled the screen and Core tinged Basic. “Surrender Vader or we’ll blow your palace to hell and back!” Unimpressive, if Shmi did say so herself. They didn’t even seem to realise that Vader wasn’t even on the planet and hadn’t been there for some time.

Lady Alarnaa smiled beatifically as she gazed over Shmi’s shoulder at the transmission. “Kill them all.”

One Hutt ship took a single ion pulse from the newly installed cannon mounted on the ex-Hutt palace and immediately plummeted from the sky. Perhaps if they had been slightly higher in orbit when they’d hailed Lord Vader’s student, they would have drifted and perhaps regained enough power for an emergency landing. In atmosphere though, they had no prospects and Lord Vader’s secretarial office collectively winced as the security mics truncated the explosion as it bounced off distant canyon walls.

And, as the cannon recharged. More followed. Explosion after explosion. Ship by ship fell from the air and Shmi could almost swear she heard Jacen’s distant cackle.

All in all, it was another peaceful day on Tatooine. The suns were bright and Tatooine was littered with valuable scrap as the Hutts generously donated their resources to the Tatooine natives.

Not quite the reparations Shmi had in mind, but she would take them anyway.

 

It was a perfectly standard day on Coruscant. Dirty, dripping with sentient excrement from the bowels of its own underbelly. From what Uncle Luke said, this was Coruscant’s perfectly average day of affairs. Or would have been if sautéed Hutt employee hadn’t whistled past the nose of a passing Jedi. Said Jedi was now a vaguely green colour. Ben made a mental note to himself for future intimidation purposes.

“My apologies, Master Jedi, I’m afraid I’ve been remiss with my janitorial duties,” Luke drawled in a threatening tone Ben could only aspire to match in the most whimsical of his dreams. “I will be more careful in future.” And without another word, Ben followed his uncle’s lead and stalked past the still gormless Jedi. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t pause. Don’t give them an in. Don’t give away that no one here is actually a Sith Lord. Not that Luke seemed to be having any trouble with the lattermost requirement. Luke stepped into the role like an old pair of shoes. How unfortunate for grandfather that his son’s desire to be a Sith Lord was decades too late. Luke clearly excelled at the field. No wonder grandfather was so disappointed by Uncle Luke's refusal.

“Wait!” The man called, his dreadlocks flying through the air as he turned and hurried after them. “That blade! Are you Lord Vader?”

Luke wasn’t bothering to slow his stride. “And if I am?” Ben marvelled at the vocal execution. The smooth snap of indifference that may as well have physically slapped the Jedi from how the man recoiled. Pure perfection.

“The Jedi Council have summoned you to a meeting!” The man blurted out, now hurrying after them.

“What the Jedi Order wants or does not want isn’t really my problem, Master Jedi.” Another blaster bolt hurtled towards Luke from a balcony only to impact and fade away on a gloved hand. In response, Ben watched his uncle haphazardly toss the red blade and moments later heard an echoing scream and a soft splat of impact. The blade returned and Luke sheathed it with an entirely unnecessary flourish.

The Jedi’s jaw was once again firmly hanging open.

“It-it’s of a matter of importance!” Ben almost felt sorry for him at this point. Luke had absolutely no intention of making life easy for the Jedi.

“Important to whom, exactly? It’s certainly of no importance to me. I have no need of any Jedi or their assistance,” Luke sneered. “To the contrary, I would rather Tatooine’s trade partners leave our negotiations without lightsaber wounds or other forms of grievous bodily harm.”

“That’s not-”

“-How about the nine year old who came to the rescue of Naboo because the attending Jedi lacked sufficient engineering credentials to understand the operation of a droid command ship?” Luke queried. As he stepped through the alley, he twitched and another sharpshooter was dragged to their doom. “So many assassins, Master Jedi! The centre of the Republic and it's overrun by filth and weaklings.” A bit much in Ben’s opinion, but they were Sith Lords and Sith Lords, according to the Sith Temple, were all about… well force (though Ben rather personally thought the Sith took “use the Force!” Far more literally than anyone’s teachings could have suggested). That suited Ben and Luke perfectly fine while they were negating the final years of a failed galactic government. Certainly, they’d need a great deal of force to derail Palpatine’s plans for galactic domination.

“Do you have to kill all of them?” The Jedi snapped, stepping to the side as a body landed where he’d been standing. Luckily, he hadn’t noticed that Luke had levitated said body to his exact position for that express purpose.

“All of those men were already sentenced and given death sentences in other parts of the Republic, Master Jedi.” Luke flourished, neatly decapitating a man with a vibroblade who’d lunged at him from around a blind corner. “Unless of course you are suggesting that the sum of the Republic may ignore its constituent parts?”

The Jedi flailed, before he ducked and Luke’s blade neatly sailed through the air where his head had occupied to bisect the bounty hunter behind him. “What is this!?” The Jedi snapped, igniting his own blade.

“I believe, Master Jedi, the phrase you are looking for is thank you. Unless of course the Order has been remiss in teaching its Padawans elementary courtesy.” In a billow of black, Luke stalked even further away from the speechless Jedi. “Though given the Order’s new predication toward slavery of its unworthy, perhaps you’re merely taking a leaf from our book of educational learnings.”

Carefully a step behind Luke, Ben rounded the alleyway’s corner with his uncle and withheld a low whistle as a truly phenomenal cackle emerged in response to the Jedi’s scream of outrage.

Ben had so much to learn.

Chapter Text

Padmé watched.

An explosion that was no longer an explosion. A ball of superheated plasma sat suspended in the space her cruiser once occupied. Sat patiently while Cordé and her escort hurriedly evacuated from the area. Sat patiently while they rushed by a hooded figure who nonchalantly flexed a mailed hand into a fist and the ball of plasma disappeared into nothingness. As if it never had been in the first place.

Lord Vader was even more fearsome than his debut Senatorial address would have him appear. Fearsome and, seemingly, terribly bored by an entire delegation almost being obliterated by assassins. After the burning ball vanished, his easy and unnatural strides brought him into step with the fleeing delegation. “Senator Amidala, I see you have made yourself ever popular with the warmongering dregs of senatorial society.” Except Lord Vader wasn’t speaking to Cordé, his elaborate masked features were entirely on Padmé’s own even in her dress of an aide. Tatooine’s newfound Senator gracefully inclined his head in what might have been a bow towards her. Padmé did her best not to trip over the gawking Panaka. Panaka whose security training at no point had ever contended with a cordial Sith Lord. The Jedi certainly hadn’t and she’d been contacted in a mad panic as they informed her that her security should make preparations in the event that Lord Vader was linked to Maul. To the contrary, Padmé had little doubt that Maul would’ve keeled over dead if Vader merely glanced disparagingly in his direction, such was the difference in their raw demeanor.

“Lord Vader,” Padmé gasped as they entered shelter. “I’m surprised to see you as our greeting party.” An understatement, of course, but she doubted Vader needed any elaboration as to why devouring an explosion would be surprising. Perhaps Jedi she would have expected given the upheaval over the Military Creation Act, but not Vader with his own bloody war against the Hutts. Vader was not who she was expecting on this landing pad. Unless she happened to be a Hutt, then she was sure Vader would’ve been an eager recipient of their arrival. Followed by Lord Vader granting an infamous priority departure to the clan member.

The infamous Lord Vader, who by all estimates, had a military of his own on the cusp of removing Nar Shaddaa from the painful throes of existence in a storm of fiery plasma. Though Padmé imagined the cusp to be rather literal, given that Vader had somehow managed to blockade the entire system in the space of a Centaxday. How much of that was due to his military presence and how much was due to the sheer amount of debris from the constant stream of reinforcements minced by plasma fire was pure speculation. The fact remained that nothing would be coming or going if it wasn’t affiliated with Vader’s fleet. Where the fleet had come from was a mystery for the ages, because the designs of the ships had many an engineer scratching their heads in a manner considered unprofessional. Lord Vader’s fleet was as much of a mystery as the man himself.

“You’ve been making waves, Senator. When the Military Creation Act was proposed, one could hardly imagine that it referred to the militant attitude of its proponents.” In spite of Vader’s reputation, there was a certain amount of respect Padmé held for Tatooine’s Senator as sarcasm positively dripped from him. “It’s almost as though they’re unwilling to engage in discourse. Whoever would have suspected the Senate was not entirely honest in their demands for a peaceful resolution.” Respect because Vader was at the forefront of any and all discourse across a variety of topics even while he slowly snuffed out the fading embers of the Hutt empire. While the man’s violence and recordings of him showering entire worlds with the blood of his enemies, Padmé could in no way say he wasn’t equally dedicated to his diplomatic duties.

Padmé nodded shortly. “My rivals in the Senate are eager to see a swift resolution to the Separatist crisis, regardless of the cost to life.” The sooner she was dead, the sooner they had one last advocate stalling the procurement of an army.

“More eager to fill their silk lined pockets with the bacta, blasters and other war profits,” Vader drawled and Padmé outright stopped to stare, feeling Panaka slam into her back with a grunted curse word. “I doubt that life of any kind factored into their considerations unless it’s a form they can sell.” She outright turned to stare as Vader’s thinly concealed contempt for slavers washed over their party.

“You oppose the Act, Lord Vader?” Padmé arched an eyebrow. It was difficult to imagine that someone of his reputation would oppose an act that would, presumably, see him granted even more power in resolving the crisis. Then again… why would he have any need for the military of the Republic when practically overnight he’d recruited a formidable fleet of his own? They called it Death Squadron in hushed, timid whispers and indeed it brought death to all who dared trade slaves in the domain of Vader. Death Squadron, Vader’s personal avatar of destruction blotting out of the sky of all those who dared to oppose him. No, the Republic gathering their own naval might would indeed to be contrary to his own interests.

“Certainly, Senator.” Vader casually waved a hand and in a comfortable diplomatic dead spot, Padmé allowed her metaphoric jaw to drop. “I fail to see the need for a dedicated military when I alone am more than capable of resolving this… diplomatic irregularity. More specifically, I lack confidence in the Jedi and their capabilities in enacting a suitable military campaign.”

“What is your issue with the Jedi?” She did her best to conceal the defensive edge that threatened to overtake her. The Jedi had helped save her world and were peacekeepers on many others. While the Sith inherently had conflict with the Jedi, Vader was a different breed of Sith. Not at all like Maul who relentlessly hunted her. Maul hunted. Vader merely provided a noose and patiently awaited it tightening around the necks of his opponents as he slowly smothered the life from them. Or he took the literal path and simply strangled them without so much as lifting a finger. That too was in his nature.

“Ah, Senator, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Jedi as peacekeepers.” Vader’s hissing crackle made Padmé hair stand on end. “Though their record in this area is… regrettably lacking in much keeping of the peace. They are simply not equipped to manage the logistics of large scale conflict. My expertise in this area affords more permanent and expedients methods of dispute resolution.” Such as glassing planets from orbit and laying waste to entire battalions on his own, Padmé could only assume.

“Yes, Lord Vader, your methods of dispute resolution have been a source of much discussion within the Senate.” And the military. And the criminal underworld. And the general public. And especially the Jedi who were frantically attempting to arrange a meeting with the Sith Lord who, by all accounts, was booked out a full decade in advance. It’d take a miracle for the Jedi to arrange a face to face of any kind with Vader, unless it was one he himself arranged. It didn’t take precognition to know that such an event would end poorly for the Jedi.

“I am pleased that my Apprentice and myself have brought peace and order to so many chaotic patches of Republic space,” Vader practically purred. “Considering his less than desirable upbringing, his progress has been remarkable.” It was all Padmé could do not to trip over an ornamental vase while her delegation murmured behind her. Unless she was mistaken… that sounded suspiciously like pride for his apprentice who was just as much a bane of Hutt existence as his master. It was rather peculiar when Padmé had been led to believe that an Apprentice was merely a servant, instead of… instead of whatever emotion it was that hovered around Vader. It certainly hadn’t been part of the warning provided by the Jedi.

Instead, she settled for the old fallback. There was a phrase much used in politics for these situations. “You must be very proud of him.” Tactful, to the point. At no risk of causing offence.

“Indeed, I’m proud of all of my children. We have achieved much together.” Padmé nearly buckled under the force of Vader’s fondness.

And Padmé felt the air leave her lungs in a rush of air while she forced herself to stay relatively in step with the Sith.

Children.

Children, a plural.

There was more than one child.

The Apprentice was a child.

Lord Vader had more than one child.

Were they all his?

Did the Jedi know there was more than one Apprentice?

She dragged herself back to reality as Vader, ever the gentlemen when not mulching his enemies beckoned for her to proceed ahead of him. “Come to think of it, Lord Vader, where is your young associate?” The Apprentice who was never far from Tatooine’s representative was again almost more of a mystery than the senator himself. No one could recall the boy ever speaking or communicating with another sentient. He was there, a background shadow to Vader’s conduct within and outside senatorial walls. Until his shadow took form and then the link between them was clear.

“My Apprentice is undertaking a short chore. He will be with us momentarily.” Lord Vader concluded with a quiet chuckle that made her entire delegation recoil.

Yes, Padmé was quite sure that anyone who ran afoul of the Apprentice’s blade would be quite short by the time he was done. And inexplicably, as if he could read her mind, Vader began to laugh.

 

Chancellor Palpatine was elated by the survival of Senator Amidala and offered his heartfelt sympathies. How terrible it was for a Senator so dedicated, so young, so gifted a speaker to be targeted by nefarious forces who strived to squash down her vote. He would investigate thoroughly and bring the wrongdoer to justice.

“It’s such a shame that the assassin wasn’t found by security,” Palpatine simpered. And with the amount he paid them he demanded perfection. Fett was the idea candidate for the plan to finally bring down the Jedi Order and was paid appropriately for his role within it.

Darth Sidious on the other hand quivered as Vader’s attention focused again on him alone and a mailed fist coiled itself around his ribcage and squeezed. An abyss edged with amusement and highlighted with a delicately waggling finger.

Oh no, Lord Sidious, the hissing, poisonous drip whispered. Perhaps the Jedi Order fell for your insipid, simpering display, but you’ll have to do better than that here.

Sidious withheld a whimper as the Dark honed itself into a locus around the unknown Sith. A whirlwind of whispers of the suffering to come at the hands of the other Sith. The other Sith who made no attempt to hide his nature. Who was accepted, who held power the Jedi couldn't ever hope to touch.

Then three bodies fell from the ceiling that' was empty only moments earlier. Two with a THUD and third landing casually on his toes. His bounty hunters lay there moaning, hearts still beating but the stench of burnt flesh and the blackened streaks of lightsaber wounds were unmistakable. They had taken on the Apprentice and suffered a calamitous loss. But they lived. Lived so that Vader may make use of them to his own ends. Sidious bristled with a rage that would spell instant death if it was ever released.

“Master,” the mild sounding boy bowed to Vader. “I have retrieved the would be assassins for you.” For they hadn’t managed to assassinate anyone, had they? Not with the other Sith Lords ready, waiting, expectant, aware of what was to come. As if they already knew how Sidious wanted it to end.

“Most impressive, my Apprentice,” Vader clasped a proprietary hand around his Apprentice’s shoulder in a manner that had Sidious cursing his own Apprentice's lackings. “I take there are no objections to me questioning your would be assassins Senator?”

“None from me, Lord Vader,” that accursed girl curtseyed to the Vader and Vader returned it with a graceful bow befitting royalty more than a Senator.

“Excellent, I am much obliged.” Light. Casual. As if nothing could touch and at this moment in time, nothing could, not even Sidious himself.

And the Dark Side merely laughed while Palpatine stewed and watched helplessly as the core template for his clone army and his subordinate were constricted by Vader’s telekinetic grip and floated away, gasping for breath. Cackled while Palaptine was forced to smile at his own impending demise.

 

It didn’t escape Padmé that years ago during the invasion of Naboo that she’d criticised the Senatorial committees that waffled while her planet burned. Stuffy old men who cared more for their wealth than the facilitation of the Republic. Now, it was only becoming more obvious in other committees she sat upon, but this one was free of those familiar faces. Instead Bail and Mon’s face’s were angled into careful expressions of capitulation fitting for the Senate Intelligence Tabular Hearing which was newly formed and, oddly, only opened to a select handful of Senators who’d been invited to the committee. Naturally, being so select, all of them had immediately agreed if only to see the purpose of such a secretive committee.

The reasoning became clear when Lord Vader and his apprentice swept into the room and the committee’s three nominated members fell into a hush as the fourth joined them.

“Fellow Senators,” Vader greeted in a hissing whisper and bowed in a manner that lifted the hairs on Padmé neck. “I am pleased to see you all answered the call of duty. Today we attend to discuss a… fringe matter, but an important matter no less.”

“I confess that the name of this committee is non-indicative in its purpose,” Padmé allowed. “I take it we are here for explanation of its purpose?” Whatever purpose it had would be aggressively pursued. Lord Vader wasn’t one for half measures or platitudes as Chancellor Palpatine had discovered. Vader preferred to hang his problems from the nearest available set of rafters as an example to everyone else.

“To commence, an explanation of the purpose of this committee,” Vader waved his hand and Padmé was greeted with a holographic explosion of plotted data, graphs and numbers that screamed forensic accounting. “The purpose of this committee is to conduct an audit into the finance provided to the Jedi Order through Republic channels and to determine the efficacy of this funding.” Padmé held it together, but beside her Bail and Mon’s jaw’s were hanging open. “If they are to act as peacekeepers on the public purse, then the public should expect a degree of reassurance that their funding is being used effectively.”

Three jaws dropped.

“You can’t be serious,” inched out of Bail, almost without his own consent. “Auditing the Jedi? Why would the Senate be interested in such a thing?”

“Oh, rest assured Senator Organa, that my commitment to this task is greater than the Jedi’s own. Perhaps if they had engaged upon these matters with more interest, my involvement wouldn’t be required,” Vader coldly assured Bail and Padmé had the strangest impression of sincerity. “For you see Senator Organa, the Jedi Order has not been audited or risk assessed since the Ruusan Reformation. For so long as they dine on the public purse, they too must be held to public account. I submit my expenses for public perusal and so too should they.” Ah yes, Lord Vader’s distressingly blunt expenditure outlays were documents of proverbial legend for Padmé own accountants. There wasn’t a single cent not accounted for and spoke of a spartan existence wholly dedicated to Vader’s… unique form of employment that put the entire Jedi Order to shame. Vader was the leading example for expenditure disclosures and not a single member of the Senate was unaware of this fact.

The proposed audit of the Jedi Order though was uncalled for, it was outrageous, it was unheard of and unfortunately for everyone present it was also long overdue. Vader’s data streams spoke for themselves and everyone present was in fact familiar with the budget details that cycled through, data points neatly aligning themselves. There were discrepancies in the data that the Senate had long been ignored because the Jedi had their own utility that defied a casual cost benefit analysis.

Who could say with any honesty that they could divine the needs of a collective of entities connected to the supernatural whims of the Force? Who could call them out of inefficiency, waste and the irresponsible waste of credits when they were mere agents of a higher power? There were no auditors who had knowledge of the Jedi or the Force to even begin such an analysis. It was now a problem of the past when Vader stepped out from the darkness to reveal an entity that was equally as capable of strangling his way through bureaucracy of myth and legend as he was pirates and slavers. Lord Vader was connected to the Force and that alone was the most difficult part of the audit complete with the candidate volunteering for the arduous role.

Unfortunately for the Jedi Order, Lord Vader was just as personally connected to reigning in the Republic’s haemorrhaging budget as he was the Force. What a pity for them all.

 

Obi-Wan had a bad feeling about this and much to his consternation, Anakin didn’t seem to take any heed of it whatsoever. In fact, Anakin had an unbecoming spring in his step as they made their way towards the offices of Tatooine’s rooms. Nearly a skip at they made their way to the entrance.

“Anakin, when I warned you about the interests of politicians this isn’t what I had in mind.” Anakin had hardly anything to do with Palpatine these days, much to Obi-Wan’s relief. No, no, instead his young Padawan made “friends” with the two chief bureaucratic servants of Darth Vader and was now formally invited to dinner or lunch (paperwork permitting) at least once a week. Usually more if Vader himself was occupied. Yet, through the mercy of the Force, Anakin never had the misfortune of encountering Vader himself in the darkness addled halls of this part of the building. Obi-Wan thanked the Force for small blessings… and had a distinct feeling it was laughing at him, which did nothing to help his unease.

“Don’t be like that, master. Luke and Ben are perfectly nice people.” Anakin’s optimism was uncharacteristic and Obi-Wan could only do his best to manage those misplaced expectations.

“Keep in mind, Anakin that both of them work for a Sith Lord,” Obi-Wan gently reminded him as Anakin tapped the buzzer and they waited for entrance.

Only to be interrupted as a man around Obi-Wan’s age peaked out from around a violently opened door. “If you saw my job prospects you’d happily work for a Sith Lord as well,” the human male snorted and Obi-Wan resisted the urge to blanch. He would not be complicit in feeding the Sith’s appetite for fear. “You must be Obi-Wan!” The man beamed. “I’m Luke and the sprog you’ll see running around with paperwork twice his size is my nephew Ben.”

“Uncle, I am not a fish!” Came back a high pitched voice and Obi-Wan blinked.

“You’ll be swimming through enough of that paperwork to be one if we don’t hurry up,” Luke called over his shoulder as he gestured for the Jedi to enter. Anakin bounded over a precarious stack of documents with a practiced leap and Obi-Wan followed.

“You are busy here, aren’t you?” Obi-Wan stroked his beard, thinking of Nar Shaddaa and Vader’s ever growing blockade. Certainly, these two wouldn’t ever be short for work under Vader’s employ it seemed. Though their prospects of a social life also seemed purely limited to who could visit while they worked as he watched a young, dark haired boy who could only be Ben speed past holding a stack of flimsi twice his height.

The chief bureaucrat snorted. “You’d think this is from the wreck at Nar Shaddaa, but no, no, Lord Vader had to-,” Luke’s face twisted in a manner that triggered immediate sympathy, “-have an audit into the Republic’s expenditure.” Followed by an immediate and profound roll of his eyes that had Anakin wincing. Oh dear, yes, that would cause some unhappiness for everyone involved.

“Didn’t your boss just release his expenditure reports? I mean… I heard accountants waxing poetic about it on the holo just last week,” Anakin frowned and turned to Obi-Wan in clear confusion.

Obi-Wan did a double take. Since when had Anakin ever followed Senate expenditure reports? And perhaps a lingering expression of disbelief gave him away when Anakin glanced back over with a bob of his head. “Really, Anakin?”

“Well, ever since we had a Sith Lord elected to the Senate I figured someone should keep an eye on what he’s doing with his credits,” Anakin explained. “It’s good practice, especially since the Order thinks whatever he’s doing has to be illegal.” Because, to the shock of the Order, simply being a Sith Lord wasn’t enough to arrest someone. With the history of the galaxy it was unthinkable to Obi-Wan that it wasn’t already a law. With Lord Vader being so understandingly popular with the Outer Rim and its constituents, the opportunity for it being made into a law was long gone. No, the Jedi Order couldn't arrest someone for simply being a Sith Lord, especially not when the Sith Lord in question was a one man war waged against all of the galaxy’s slavery. It would’ve been admirable, if Lord Vader wasn’t the galaxy’s current foremost expert on brisk genocides.

“Weren’t we already keeping an eye on his finances?” Obi-Wan instead wondered aloud as he was led to a sitting area.

“Nope,” Luke cheerfully answered, dumping down one of the saddest and most well loved teapots Obi-Wan had ever set eyes on in his life. What a misshapen creation, as though it’d fallen out of its mould while hot and been given a healthy kick on the way down for good measure.

“Not that we know about,” the boy added. “And we know a lot.” With the entire Senate eating from their palms, Obi-Wan would’ve been more surprised if there wasn’t intelligence on what the Jedi were or weren’t doing.

“Why aren’t you at school?” Anakin shot back in a friendly manner. It almost felt like an in joke.

“Homeschooled,” and the boy stuck his tongue out then turned to Obi-Wan. “Uncle pays me a king’s ransom so he doesn’t have to take calls.” At least boy was receiving an education of sorts, even if growing up in a Sith Lord’s senatorial office was hardly the norm. Ben seemed better adjusted than Anakin, who admittedly, had a far harsher upbringing and clearly a lingering trauma to which he was still attached.

“And I don’t regret a single cent of it going towards that higher cause either,” the uncle in question insisted, dolling out four teacups, saucers and a healthy amount of marble cake that had Anakin drooling. “I made the cake myself, it’s excellent,” the man beamed and Obi-Wan, in spite of himself felt some of his reservations fade away. If Vader’s servants baked their own cakes and practically lived in their office as a home space, then what could the Order expect from Vader himself? Surely this had to be a trap.

“And to save time for the Nar Shaddaa audit?” Obi-Wan slipped in.

“No, we’ve been assigned a more specialised task unfortunately,” Luke sighed, fork in one hand and a pencil rapidly moving through rows in another. How very strange. Usually droids were used to audit finances, so what was it about this task that required a living person? “Not gonna have any off time for the next decade at this rate. I’ll be dead, buried and still working,” he grumbled and Obi-Wan thought of Vader’s equally dense schedule and could only agree.

“Of doing what exactly?” And the Force screamed. A shrieking wail that rent it asunder. The Force was crying out in pain. But why was it screaming? Vader was nowhere near and the tainted slime of the Dark was likewise absent. Why couldn’t Anakin hear it screaming? Anakin whose eyes widened with concern as Obi-Wan crumpled and reached out a steadying hand.

“Are you alright?” Anakin mouthed at him, but Obi-Wan only had eyes for Luke. Luke who had yet to answer. Luke who couldn't see what was happening.

“Auditing the Jedi Order of course,” Luke answered blithely, completely unaware of Obi-Wan’s escalating distress. Simply oblivious. There was no way the man was Force sensitive. It was impossible. “Lord Vader’s been pushing through reforms on transparency for more efficient spending of public moneys. He figured that the Jedi should also be doing their part in the public interest.” Pausing, Luke almost seemed to hesitate. “Lord Vader also expressed some dissatisfaction at the state of the Temple’s security and felt a review and potential reinvestment into its framework would do it some good, especially with the amount of children present if anyone were to attack the Temple.” And the Force’s keening abruptly terminated in a whimper.

“How very generous of him.” It was a trap. It had to be a trap. The event itself made the Force writhe in agony. The Council had to be told. Had to be warned.

“Someone had to do it,” Ben added, forcing a glass of water into Obi-Wan’s hand. “No one else was willing to volunteer to take care of the paperwork. It stretches all the way back to the Reformation.” Twenty five millennia of documents to sort, enough to cripple any droid without prior sorting. And Vader had inflicted it upon himself and his staff. A being that revelled in suffering.

“I would have offered to purchase you a new teapot in thanks for Lord Vader’s concerns, Luke, but I fear that too may end up as an unreasonable purchase for the Order in your audit,” Obi-Wan faintly stated.

Luke shuddered. “If it makes you feel any better Master Jedi, his Lordship is reviewing the documents as we speak and I can assure that any gifts of teapots would be duly declared.”

Obi-Wan, in a haze, heard Ben giggle and felt a distant event that would never be shatter into pieces that may as well have been grains of sand.