Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars. It belongs to Disney. I make no money from this story.
Chapter 10: Twilight
Perhaps, if the Bakura Incursion happened a few months earlier, it might have been different. That was a different galaxy, untarnished by the events on Geonosis. The Republic's golden age might have been at its end. Yet, against all odds, the Age of Heroes, the Age of the Jedi as guardians of peace, still prevailed.
That was the tall tale we told our younglings, and sometimes, we even believed it.
In that age, in that different galaxy, two bold Jedi might have been able to end the war before it could truly begin.
Before it damned and tainted us all.
I would love to live in that galaxy. Instead, we live in the real world, where the Age of Heroes met an abrupt end.
And we were all poorer for it.
One of the most powerful, influential, and wealthiest beings in the galaxy died on Bakura at the hands of the Jedi. His name was San Hill, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he was to a large extent the Confederacy's economic backbone in those early days of secession.
His death was a major victory for the Republic. Conservative estimates tell us, that without Hill and the others assassinated by either the Jedi or Republic Intelligence, the Confederacy would have been able to launch an all-out assault on the Core months before they historically would. If that were to happen, it is not a stretch to conclude that the Republic would have lost the war then and there.
Unfortunately, like so many other victories in that accursed war, for both sides, the Bakura Incursion came with a high price…
The Rise and Fall of the Jedi Order
Master Tholme could sense quickly approaching danger even through the pulsing miasma of the Dark Side that was Dooku. They were running out of time, yet the Jedi were no closer to finding an opening in the Sith's defense. Dooku was an old man. No matter what Dark Side perversions he subjected himself to, or decided to employ, his stamina should be limited and quickly running out.
He advanced with a flurry of heavy strikes, meant to give Sora an opening, only for the Sith to deflect his efforts, while keeping the other Jedi at bay with malevolent lighting.
If Dooku was running out of stamina at all, it wasn't happening fast enough. Tholme could hear the forceful impact of armored boots on the floor coming closer and closer with every rapid beat of his heart.
They were already out of time, he decided.
Dooku let go of the lighting and reposed, the deft motion nearly catching Tholme off guard. If it wasn't for the Force giving him a warning, he would have over-committed and paid for it. As it was, the Jedi Master had to rapidly jump back in gravity defying motion that would have done bad things to the spine of a regular human. As it was, he felt a dull ache as something that shouldn't stretch that way, did so, only for the Force flowing through his body to quickly soothe the ache.
Time was up. They wouldn't be able to get away now if that had ever been a realistic option, Tholme decided. It didn't matter. The prize was too great to avoid, even if it meant their death. A success, no matter how tall the odds, could have saved countless lives. Even a partial one would give the Republic and their fellow Jedi some sorely needed breathing space.
Sora engaged Dooku in single combat., It quickly became apparent to the younger Jedi that in swordsmanship, the Sith was his superior. Dooku had been one of the Order's best duelists when he left. Now, he was much better, deadlier.
Instead of rushing to help the younger Jedi, Tholme paused, studying Dooku for an edge. One way or another, it was all going to end shortly. Surrender wasn't an option, they wouldn't give the enemy weapons to use against the Republic and the Jedi.
All that was left, was to go on the offensive. It was against the mainstream Jedi teachings, but then, Tholme was one of the few rare Shadows the Order had left. He knew, that sometimes, the best thing you could do, was to strike your enemy down and make sure, they could no longer be a threat.
That was an unpopular view, and until recently, both the Jedi in particular and the galaxy at large were better without hearing it expressed.
Master Tholme let the Force guide him. He emptied himself of all emotion and did his best to clear his mind of all thought but his objective. Even as Dooku overwhelmed Sora with a rapid flurry of elegant blows, the Jedi Master focused, letting the Force built within him.
Sora couldn't keep up. He fell back, trading space for the illusion of time, yet Dooku was unstoppable. He moved much faster than even a Master Jedi of his advanced age ever should, and if it wasn't for the Force, the speed of combat would have been faster than the younger man could keep up with. As it was, all he was, all he could push forth, was merely enough to slow down his defeat for a bit.
Where was Tholme?!
Then it was over in a crimson blur. Heat flashed over Sora's fingers, more heat touched his left arm and swept through a leg. The Force belatedly warned him of danger, and the next thing he knew, he was flying, then struck something hard with bone-shaking force. The last thing he saw was a surge of bright, pure flame from behind Dooku, striking straight at the heart of darkness that was the Sith.
Sora's defeat was the opening Tholme needed. It was brief, lasting mere moments, yet it was enough.
It had to be.
The Jedi Master shot through the air. For those with correct senses, Tholme was like a Space Angel of legend. A corona of golden flames surrounded his frame like a halo. The reality of the situation was more mundane – that was merely the Force infusing him, and leaking from his form with every passing breath. He had gathered more power than his body could safely handle. It was only possible because the Force was eager to aid him in striking down the Sith abomination, and he was acting as its herald.
Tholme's charge rends the air. A thunderclap heralding his passage shook the building, and he fell upon Dooku. His blade struck true, and for all the Sith's inhuman reaction, it wasn't enough. Lighting exploded around the Sith in a corona of ill-formed desperation.
The Jedi's burning blade sliced through it, then burned through the expensive reinforced fabric to bite deeply into flesh and bone. A terrified, telekinetic shove obliterated half the room. It pulped all bodies it struck and shredded what little furniture survived until then. It was enough to shove Tholme back, even as Dooku reflexively jumped as far away from the sudden attack and pain.
The Sith's lightsaber fell on the cracked floor with a deafening clang. Dooku himself huddled in the far corner of the room, looking like a trapped animal. He was clutching his right shoulder, where his nearly severed arm hung uselessly.
Tholme staggered forward, acutely feeling the Light burning him from within. This was it! Just one more strike, and it would be all over!
The Jedi charged Dooku faster than any human had the right to be. Yet, it wasn't fast enough. Commando droids poured inside through the doors, filling right and left with their typical machine speed and precision. Heavy armed and armored locals followed suit. It took the quick response team a few moments to comprehend what they were seeing and open fire. If they were it, Tholme might have made it to Dooku and finished it then and there.
However, the droids entered first and they wasted no time in opening fire. Tholme had to slow down his charge, adjust his angle of approach, and deflect the hail of blaster fire falling upon him. It was well aimed and meant to kill, not disable and capture.
The difference was mere seconds. A few moments earlier, Tholme would have reached a Sith stunned by his sudden and unexpected wounding, dispatching him, even as security cut him down. Instead, the pain and surprise on Dooku's face morphed into a mask of inhuman fury. His eyes blazed golden, and his hale hand snapped up. Purple, nearly black lighting clawed at Tholme, halting his approach. The Jedi raised his own free hand, trying to absorb and deflect as much of the Force attack as possible, so he could reach Dooku – a feat that he might not have managed under the optimal circumstance.
The lighting blasted him back, charring his arm, spinning him in place. Over thirty blasters shooting on full auto did the rest. Within moments, Tholme turned into a human torch. Surprisingly enough, the only heat he felt was that of the Force.
"It didn't hurt?!" The Jedi thought and burned.
Many argue that the true fall of the Jedi Order began shortly after the war, with a string of now-infamous assassinations. The surprising part was that the Jedi weren't the targets, or at least their bodyguards. Instead, they were, and to a large extent still are, widely acclaimed as the assassins, along with black divisions from the various Republic Intelligence services.
Even today, this is a controversial topic. One that is all but guaranteed to raise tempers.
The only facts we've been able to corroborate for sure have been a public record for a long time now. Three Jedi carried out two assassination missions and were almost completely successful. First was the Backura Incursion, complete with multiple witness accounts, recordings from security systems, Confederate droid brains, forensics… The list is exhaustive, and topped off by a confession by a surviving and captured Jedi assassin.
The second incident unfolded in the Argente Tower in Murkhana City, the administrative heart of the Commerce Guild. There, one Kadrian Sey, a Jedi Knight missing since shortly before the battle of Geonosis, went after Passel Argente.
Those two instances are the only two confirmed times the Republic and the Jedi Order employed Jedi as assassins at the beginning of the Clone Wars. To this day, data surrounding other assassination attempts carried against the Confederate leadership in a single concerned campaign remain classified, and thus subjected to countless rumors and theories.
Ironically enough, the apparent success of the assassination operations, sharply increased the public support for the Jedi, arguably for all the wrong reasons. Soon, calls for more such operations against the enemy came from all corners of the Republic political and military community, worsening an already tenuous situation.
The Rise and Fall of the Jedi Order
The city was a dump, Kadrian Say decided shortly after her arrival. She slipped through customs flaunting an expensive purple dress covering a bodysuit of the armored weave. Sey's credentials tagged her as an important Confederate functionary. She was here for talks with the Commerce Guild. Those were real enough, it was just that, the real representative they belonged to had no idea she would be visiting Murkhana. An inevitable investigation at a later date would point fingers at several of Count Dooku's political rivals within the Confederacy, discrediting, and perhaps condemning them as Republic sympathizers and traitors.
The Jedi offered a severe nod at the gaggle of security personnel two flagged her party through with indecent haste. Said party consisted of six Super Battle Droids acting as a very visible, and more importantly, shinny, honor guard.
It was all very audacious and braze, certainly not Jedi-like, a thought that had Sey fight a smile. While Jedi did go undercover often enough, they didn't do so to violently and visibly murder people. Then again, she was no longer a Jedi, even almost no one else was aware of that fact. That, of course, was why this plan had a shot at working.
Kay sniffed the air and scrunched her nose. She put forth her best derisive mask, and it wasn't at all forced. On the surface, what she could see of the city looked decent enough. The spiraling towers held a kind of alien beauty, especially when the local sun gleamed off them. The clear bay the city had grown around was outright mesmerizing. Due to something in the water and the angle the setting sun hit it, it looked like a rippling sea of fresh blood.
A flushed attendant led Kadrian's party to the waiting high-end cars. Soon they ascended above the bay, flying parallel and above kilometers long bridges connecting the city proper with the Commerce Guild's spaceport. Air and old-fashioned ground traffic, including trains, streamed in all directions carrying people and goods.
What Sey saw outside the window was monumental proof that Count Dooku was right. The status quo was untenable. The Outer Rim had grown too rich, too populous, and industrialized in the centuries of the long peace enjoyed by the Republic. It was only a question of when, not if, a credible secessionist movement would form. This time it didn't need Mandalorian invaders or the return of the Sith Empire to band around for a fighting chance.
With the way the Republic had disarmed itself and abandoned any pretense about caring for the Rim beyond what it could exploit, the collision course was set. The only questions had been how long it would be before the inevitable crash, and who would lead each side.
The surprising reveal of the Republic's Clone Army, one apparently created and led by the Jedi… Kadrian closed her eyes at that thought and bit the inside of her cheek. It wasn't enough for the Republic, and Jedi, to betray their principles as Dooku so eloquently pointed out. This was a fresh betrayal, a personal one.
Where were resources for an army when warlords and pirates ravaged the Outer Rim, while people like her did what little they could to pick up the pieces? Where were those resources and the willingness to use them when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo?
They appeared only now when the Confederation was a fact, and for the first time in a thousand years, the Core felt threatened, Sey thought with contempt.
The Republic and the Jedi were a lost cause. Her only solace was that soon enough, the Confederacy would stand high and proud as a worthy alternative, purged of the internal rot that strangled everything good in the Republic.
Kadrian didn't expect to feel pride in this assignment, yet there it was, slowly but surely rising within her. This was what the Jedi Order should have done centuries ago, while it still could.
The aircar procession landed in a private hangar near the top of the Argente Tower. A gaggle of servants, most of them robed droids, awaited to take care of Sey's luggage. There was a lot of it, and almost all were expensive trash meant to sell an image. While she didn't care what might happen to any of it, Kadrian fixed the closest flesh and blood attendant with a withering stare.
"Make sure your crude machines don't damage my luggage. You can't pay for the contents of a single suitcase with your life's wages!" Sey's haughty voice struck like a whip and got everyone moving.
"My Lady, I'm Attendant Tremo Vrotsk. Do you want to refresh yourself and rest first, or meet with Chairman Argente?" A tall, green-skinned Koorivar greeted her. He wore expensive robes covering most of his body. His spiraling horn gleamed with silver etchings.
"Lead me to your Master. There is much to discuss the war and the profit opportunities it represents. A visit to the fresher can wait."
"This way, My Lady," Vrotsk bowed deeply and led her deep within the tower.
The visible security was light – just the odd corporate guard outfitted in standard Corporate Alliance gear – not the cheapest there was, but certainly not top-of-the-line military gear. That wasn't saying much. From what little Kadrian saw from the Clones on the holonet, they certainly didn't enjoy the start of the art weapons and armor.
Those were expensive, and the Republic was still cutting corners where it could, Sey bitterly thought.
Finally, they reached a large anteroom. A Koorivar female sat behind a gleaming metal workstation, furiously working. A pair of functionaries sat on a nearby roll of chairs. It was all very simple and functional, which only made the large richly engraved wooden doors beside the secretary look that much more impressive.
The secretary quickly announced Sey's fake name, while glancing between her and the Droids.
"They will wait here, won't you boys?" Kadrian asked in a voice that was all milk and honey.
"By your command!" Her gleaming retinue chorused as one. They had their contingency orders ready and would act accordingly.
The wooden doors opened, revealing a well-lit opulent office. Colorful carpets covered the floor. Various pieces of art, likely priceless originals flanked a road to supplication leading to an antique wooden desk.
Kadrian flounced inside, sashaying her hips and acting as if she was on a fashion podium, showing off to the masses, instead of stalking towards her prey.
Passel Argente stood up to greet her with a crooked smile. That was him all right. One of the reasons, Sey was the one going after the Chairman was that she had met him in the past and knew his Force signature. This wasn't a double or expensive life-like hologram.
The former Jedi ignored her target's babbling. Instead, she counted down the shrinking distance and with every closing step, gathered more and more Force energy. Argente had to die before he knew what hit him, that much was imperative. That was an assassination mission, and Sey had no intention of play with her food. She sensed Argente's mild confusion and worry when she kept approaching without speaking.
Kadrian was close enough anyway. One moment, she was the perfect image of a noble lady – smiling, composed, and as haughty and arrogant as appropriate her station. The next, she exploded out of her frivolous dress in a pulse of speed and Force. The Dark Side bubbled within every cell of her body, strengthening Sey, making her more than mere flesh and blood could ever hope to be alone. Shards of ripped fabric flew in all directions. A hand was almost black from the energy focused around it, connected with Argente's face. Sey closed her fingers around it with enough force to crack bone.
She didn't stop and instead kept going, until she was in the far end of the office, right in front of the armored metal serving as a window overlooking the glimmering bay. Kadrian smashed her victim into the window, channeling all the Force infusing her arm into his head.
If the sharp movement hadn't been immediately fatal,
this was. The practical effect of a powerful telekinetic strike at point-blank range, with metal behind the target turned out to be as gruesome as Sey expected. Argente's head splashed all over his office's window, painting it with blood.
"The Jedi Council sends their regards." The assassin announced loud and clear before all hell broke loose.
The only question now was if she could make it off-world safely or not. Either way, no matter what happened now, Dooku was that much was closer to uncontested control of the Confederacy, and the Jedi were to blame.
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