Chapter 31: Revolution Jedi and Teachers (Part 2)
A/N: Last chapter before my holiday...
Holonet News Broadcast
After six months the situation on Arkania has almost reached boiling point. With the situation concerning the Senate, Jedi finally arrived on the scene led by Jedi Knight Mace Windu who, along with nine of his brethren, arrived to diffuse the situation.
There are conflicting reports as to why diplomacy failed but the fact remains that what some people call an insurrection and others a rebellion seems to have progressed to a fully fledged civil war.
Some of the most vocal detractors of the Senate's interference, such as the Senator of Onderon, claim that it has always been a civil war whereas others like the Trade Federation that support the Senate's intervention blame the Silver Commonwealth for the escalation of violence in the area.
For more information on the Silver Commonwealth click here.
For more on the debates in the Senate click here.
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The estranged (from his superiors at least) Jedi Master Aquinos was lost in his own musings as he stared down his turquoise hands and was flanked, as ever, by two of his faithful Iron Knights Ilum and Firkraan who were installed in twin and highly customised Uulshos Justice Droids.
The Council has never understood my views on technology and droids reacting instead with fear and scorn, he thought, I can't help but fear that they will see my Iron Knights the same way.
Coming from a species that spent the first fifteen years of their lives without any form of higher thought and being essentially mindless (until they created a cocoon only to burst out of it days later as an adult that was fully cognizant and therefore able to think clearly) he had an admittedly unique perspective on the nature of sentience.
From that knowledge he had developed the theory that droids, even though they started out as merely software, if not given regular memory wipes he theorised that they could become sentient and that if they did it would be sentience equal to that of any organic.
When he had argued that theory before the Council of Knowledge and even pointed out that, given the age of some droids especially in Hutt Space, it was likely to already be happening and that the advances in adaptive cognitive software made it more than likely they were less than thrilled.
They also recommended more stringent and more regular memory wipes across the Republic. When he protested that they were inhibiting the creation of life they branded him misguided to put it lightly.
So he had set off on his own to prove his theories and had even tried to imbue the Force into technology to speed up the process as well as provide proof that no Jedi could ever refute.
Though he was, as of yet, unsuccessful to attempt this he had travelled the known Galaxy to discover different techniques in the Force that may have been long forgotten and a form of technology that it could mesh with.
Instead of finding what he sought he had found the Shards on Orax.
These were sentient crystals that, with intense study, he could communicate with and though that in itself was hardly groundbreaking the fact that some of them were Force Sensitive was. Of those few, no more than a dozen at first, wanted to explore beyond their normal static crystalline existence.
He had taught them all that he knew of the Force after first carefully installing them in droid bodies so that they could begin to experience the world as fully tactile beings.
When he felt that they were trained enough he had dubbed them the Iron Knights and performed the knighting ceremony then and there at the place he had trained them like the Jedi Lords of old.
Then he had set off to prove their worth and contacted the Jedi High Council while helping in any world they came across in their travels. He fully intended to bring them to the Jedi Temple and forcefully open some closed minds as to their almost limitless potential.
Whether his original theory was right or wrong didn't matter in the end as it was clear that the Force and the balance was present in far more than the Jedi or the Republic currently believed.
However he was redirected (by the Force itself so it seemed) to Arkania and even before they had gotten close he could feel the gravity of the situation and the conflict between both sides of the Force.
It sent waves out for at least half a parsec so it was hard to miss though even with that rather strong warning he trusted in the Force as he always had.
He did acknowledge his own puzzlement that, as soon as he entered the system, he was greeted by the sight of a Commonwealth Centurion classBattlecruiser and from the readings he was getting there were many more around though there weren't there at this moment.
From the scant information that he had from the last Republic Intelligence packet he had received they were aware of the existence of the cruisers but that was about all that could be confirmed.
They had no clue when it came to their technical specifications or even how they would compare to the Republic's own navy (mostly comprised of beat up Hammerhead cruisers as well as old original Centurion class Battlecruisers) which dated mostly to just before the Reformation and technically now part of the Republic's Sector Defence Forces.
The only other information that they did have were third and fourth hand reports of how powerful those ships were despite having been originally based off of a fairly well known Republic design. The difference between what was known of their own and what was said about these Commonwealth versions was startling to say the least.
Though no spy could land on Commonwealth soil without being detected in short order (and the Republic Intelligence Service was still baffled over how) all of their first hand intelligence came from the captains and crews of ships that they didn't land or, if the crew did, they both did not know of the spy aboard ship and the spy did not go with them.
In this way the Republic (and unbeknownst to them the Sith) were able to gain tiny pieces of information and slowly form a picture of the Commonwealth's comings and goings. Thanks in no part to the nature in which the information was gathered their knowledge was hardly complete though.
It was a great embarrassment in some circles that any other method of intelligence gathering failed.
The Commonwealth maintained no embassy within the Republic citing that if they had that then, of course the Republic would demand the same in return. There was no way, they insisted, that they would allow Jedi into their heartlands.
Negotiations on that front continued but the Commonwealth remained firm on it's position.
Worse all indirect methods had also failed. Any electronic listening devices that they placed (for example in crates) ceased to function once they passed through customs and their data networks were far more encrypted as well as adaptive than any the Republic had ever seen.
Though they were working on it no one expected success any time soon and all of this information flooded through his mind even as his small ship was contacted by the much larger one in front of him.
"Calling the ship carrying the Jedi Master Aquinos...please respond" stated a youthful human voice and, despite himself, he was curious as to what they wanted. After all here he was in what was effectively a warzone and so he quickly flicked the switch on the armrest of his chair.
A face that was young, open and with striking and inquisitive eyes, was quickly formed by the blue light that sprang from the small device on the console before him and the small projectors in the walls nearest it.
"This is Master Aquinos" he said firmly "to whom am I speaking?"
"Captain Conner sir of the Hope, Princess Potter's flagship, and I send you her compliments. She asks that you come aboard sir".
"For what purpose?" He asked skeptically.
"Err.." said the young officer "..dinner I believe sir".
"Dinner? In the middle of an insurrection?" asked Aquinos disbelievingly.
"A minor point of correction sir...we are in the middle of a civil war not an insurrection" the young officer's voice was as hard as steel. "Your safety is guaranteed and not only does everyone have to eat but we are famous for keeping our word".
Aquinos thought it over. The young captain was correct in that however they were also famous for twisting their words so much that even the best Republic bankers and merchants were wary when trying to get the best deal out of them.
"I'd say that it is more like you enforce your contracts most scrupulously and to the letter" disagreed Aquinos mildly.
"I'd say" Conner replied shrugging as he did so "that it's the same thing. Our word is our bond and our bond is our word".
"Very well" replied the Jedi Master reluctantly. "I will be right over. Please send me your docking procedures" and even as he said it the ever helpful captain had already sent over the instructions for doing so.
As much as he hoped that both his dinner and subsequent meeting with Princess Luna would be both peaceful and centered around a mutually satisfactory end to the conflict he also sent a coded message to the Jedi High Council informing them of what had transpired and where he would be.
There was, after all, no harm in being cautious.
As Luna sat around the small antique table in her simple but expensive 'working clothes' she knew that this would end up being a very difficult conversation for her guest.
Her sharp eyes missed nothing as they both ate lightly of small delicacies and finger foods even as they talked of nothing important by confining themselves to talking of things like how beautiful such and such a world was or how the crop was doing on planet A and how plant B was recovering from an epidemic.
In short nothing of substance. It was all just the bland socially acceptable small talk that was filled with both double meaning and nothing tangible or contrary until Luna decided, with her usual forthright bluntness, to change that even as Aquinos was lifting another delicacy to his mouth.
"How is the training of your Iron Knights pogressing?" Luna asked innocently and the Jedi Master's eyes widened slightly even as the food that the man was eating almost flew out of his mouth. He was clearly caught off guard as he tried to formulate an answer to the question.
"You have well informed spies Princess. I haven't even told the High Council the exact nature of my news yet...only that I have some" he said at last. He was more than surprised then that her first response was an open and carefree laugh.
"We have no need of our spies for that piece of news" she said. Seeing his split second skeptical expression that was quickly hidden behind a bland mask she continued "You have Jedi focused on trying to discern the future at the Jedi Temple do you not?"
"Yes" he shrugged entirely comfortable with admitting that as, among certain circles, it was common knowledge after all. "But the future is difficult to see as it is ever changing. Besides that those that have a true affinity for communing that deeply with the Force in such a way regularly and understanding it are exceptionally rare".
"Because" added Luna "the future is often in flux as well as in fragments I am aware. I also know that seeing back is infinitely easier mostly due to the trouble of multiple possible futures versus the single straight line that is the past".
"You are a Seer then" Aquinos asked surprised at someone outside the Jedi trying their hand at such a difficult discipline especially given all the other duties that she must have had and she only smiled softly before speaking again.
"A little more than most Force Users though there are far more than just me in the Commonwealth". This was all true Luna having found that the discipline was much easier when you were able and willing to balance both sides of the Force although, given her position she did not have the time to fully devote herself to it. "Certainly more than any Jedi born since the restructuring of the Jedi Code".
With those words the Jedi Master was far from soothed and his face hardened even as his hand slowly, almost imperceptibly, inched towards his lightsaber. His entire demeanor became decidedly unrelaxed.
"Sith" he spat.
Luna couldn't help it, despite the blatant threat in his tone and with his hand, she really couldn't help it and let loose another full open laugh even as she held up her hands in a universal gesture of surrender and vigorously shook her head.
"Do I look like I'm consumed with petty vengeance to you? Do you see my eyes...are they yellow? The Sith seek to impose their brand of order on an 'uncaring' universe. The Jedi are no different in that regard though admittedly their aims and results are more benign….generally. I am different as I am either the first nor the second, depending on how you measure these things, Knight of the Silver. I serve neither the stunted Jedi or my own arrogance...only what is, what might be and strive to always protect against what cannot ever come to pass".
Her next words were like iron and blazed with her surety of purpose "My only loyalty aside from that and my bonds to my husband is to the Commonwealth itself.
While she was speaking the unorthodox Jedi Master began to relax, if only slightly, and watched her with a deep frown on his face though his hand hadn't moved further towards his saber.
Luna also thought that she saw a glimmer of renewed curiosity in his eyes.
"The Jedi have a calling that mirrors that in many ways. We serve the will of the Force and the Republic" Aquinos disagreed.
"I wish I didn't have to be the one to break your illusions" began Luna with a deep compassion emanating from her eyes. "But as I said...I serve what is...not what I would like. I am afraid that you are mistaken on both of your points. First in practice the Jedi serve the Senate not the Republic and there is a large difference between the two. Yes...yes I can tell from your face that you were about to point out all the aid work that the Order does without Senatorial interference but that is not a form of freedom but rather a sign of the Senate's apathy".
Aquinos clearly was not comfortable with the conversation but to his credit he did let her continue.
"If you doubt me remember that you and other Jedi are here and in a warzone that even your Council couldn't agree to send Jedi to before the Senate ordered it. The noble Jedi are now fighting on the side of a corrupt cause that otherwise they would never have touched".
"Didn't your husband order the same thing with the Knights of the Silver?" interjected the Jedi Master.
"No. The presence of the Knights is in response to the Jedi. Even if he had and somehow managed to get it past the Royal Council a Knight can still refuse if he is otherwise engaged, the Force is leading them in another direction or it makes them uncomfortable with no censure at all. The Grandmaster can also point blank refuse as he has his own advisors and, before you ask, the person who is the Grandmaster is not and never would be the Silver Prince".
"And" stated Aquinos with a face clearly showing his skepticism and his willingness to put it aside for the moment. "Your second point?"
"Is that the Jedi, while wise, seek to serve only a segment of the Force and only as far as their interpretation of it allows. The fact that interpretation has changed over the years to be far from the Order from which they sprang even before the 'Progressives' altered the code is conveniently ignored. All of this makes them close minded and the fact that you were sent away is further proof of that in and of itself".
Here she paused in her talk and, seeing that he was still skeptical and not really breaking past his natural resistance to her viewpoint she decided to do something that all of the Knights, her and Harry included, rarely did outside of Commonwealth space.
"It seems that you are still mistrustful of us" she stated "and that is because you have no true comprehension of what a Knight of the Silver really is. Allow me to enlighten you".
With that she fully dropped her clouding and allowed the distrustful Jedi Master to fully examine her aura in the Force with all of his senses for a few long moments before raising it again.
What he had seen in those seconds that felt like an age floored him.
He had seen Master Yoda in the Force before. The tiny green alien was literally dwarfed by the size of his own aura. The Light Side was like a pillar that formed a massive and glowing trunk that covered the man in a warm embrace. It was also at least five feet taller than Yoda himself.
Luna on the other hand had an aura that was almost as tall but was also somehow deeper than the Grandmaster's. Yoda's light was shallow, well meaning and peaceful, but still very very shallow and thin in comparison.
Luna was also not a Sith by any stretch as their auras were dark twisted and...well boiling.. but he had honestly not seen anything like her before. Where a Jedi, any Jedi sought to push away as much of the Dark Side of the Force as they could and minimize the effect of the rest she did not.
That act alone challenged the beliefs that he had held since he was a child as they were always taught that it was the only way to safely resist the darkness found in everyone whether they were a simple baker or the most powerful Force User alive.
At first he thought that her aura was akin to that of a grey Jedi (Force based not political) but then her presence would be either a swirling mass of grey that never stopped moving like an angry storm or light tinged with the occasional touches of darkness.
Instead she had somehow balanced the light and dark inside her almost as if the two sides were pieces of a great jigsaw puzzle that just had to be turned in such a way to balance each other out. All of the dark inside her was enclosed by thin but very powerful bands of light and effectively trapped and balanced by it and she had somehow managed to do this all throughout her Force Presence.
It seemed to make her connection deeper and somehow more complete, and as such she was more controlled and more connected than anyone he had ever seen. Before he was able to look more closely at it however his window into the impossible had ended just as abruptly as it began.
"Why..." he asked.
"Am I showing you this?" she finished for him. "It's simple really. I need you to understand a few things and believe me. First while the Jedi mostly mean well they have become progressively more arrogant and close minded as time has gone on. Second that just because we are not Jedi it doesn't mean that we are Sith or that we can't be trusted. Lastly I wanted to show you something.".
"What do you want to show me?" Aquinos asked even as she rose smoothly and slowly approached him.
He knew that he should have been concerned or maybe even frightened but, after everything that she had said and shown him in the last few minutes, he was almost paralyzed in shock. What he had seen and the disturbing conclusions that were beginning to take hold on the edges of his mind.
What Luna said and did next did nothing to help those conclusions from going away.
"I am going to show you something that was going to happen if the Commonwealth wasn't asked to intervene here" stated Luna even as she lightly touched her first two fingers to his forehead. "Even what I am about to show you took over six months to form into a coherent picture and even more than that to be certain that it was going to happen rather than simply likely to. Oddly enough it got easier to read once the Commonwealth began to change things".
With those words the Jedi Master was no longer sitting with Luna around a small dinner table.
Instead he found himself standing on a very different Arkania. There were no droids to fight here and no Knights of the Silver directing and fighting side by side with their troops. Instead there were cyborg monstrosities (some of which defied description) that were not only more diverse than the races that they were made from but, from the looks of it, exceptional killers as well
In short they were repugnant to him in every way imaginable.
There were also the infamous Arkanian Renegades as well as some 'free' Yaka who didn't want enforced alteration of what they were and they were caught in a great battle.
The battle seemed to rage for hours before his eyes and it took him a few moments to realise that their opposition was led (rather brilliantly he was pleased to see) primarily by Jedi escorted troops that were not cyborgs.
He did do a double take when he saw a version of himself fighting beside the Jedi Knights in this place though he was heartened that his Iron Knights were also there fighting with them shoulder to shoulder.
Even though the battle was long and bloody with the full forces of the Dominion, their Iron Fist, and the combined might of both the Jedi and his Iron Knights the Renegades were eventually defeated.
For a moment he wished he could cheer the cyborgs destruction but, the fact that he was only an outside observer and a Jedi prevented that.
Soon enough though he regretted his desire as he saw the Jedi leave and the remaining Renegades (those that were caught as very few managed to escape), far from being treated fairly, were unceremoniously killed.
It appeared that after all of the blood and death no lessons were learned. His spirit quailed as he saw many bodies of men, women and children dumped like so much waste into pits and the soldiers laughed and joked over their corpses.
It was an abject lesson on the idea of good intentions.
Almost as bad for him personally he saw himself return to the Jedi High Council and their, in his view, pigheaded rejection and outright banishment of both him and his Iron Knights. As much as he didn't want to believe it he sensed not only no deception but also that both her words and this vision was the complete truth as she saw it.
Besides he could think of no real reason for her to lie nor did he believe that any lie like that would hold for long if she was trying to deceive him.
Then he was back on Arkania so suddenly that it would have made his head spin if he was still in his body. He saw that the exploitation of the Yaka not only continued but escalated, often by force, and the treatment was more horrific than the Jedi would think possible.
Finally he got flashes of the greater galaxy as a whole. War and death were coming and on such a scale that this wasn't even a blip on the radar and would, far too soon, be forgotten.
The conflict was like a fire in his mind spreading and reaching all corners of known space and, while the galaxy struggled against it he saw a dark stain grow from the core of the Republic... right from it's very heart. It seemed to move like a insidious fetid tide that ate and ate away at everything good with no rest and a hunger that was unending.
Then, with a strangled gasp that was torn from his suddenly ragged throat, he was back looking at the concerned eyes of the Princess of the Silver Commonwealth and he knew that just as her eyes were understanding his radiated a crushing pain.
"Would they ever accept my Iron Knights?" Aquinos asked and Luna was touched that, even after all he had just seen, the care and safety of his students was both his first thought as well as being so strong that it practically bled into the Force.
"I severely doubt it. It is a shame but this current incarnation of the Jedi Order like to think of themselves as peacekeepers but, from what we have observed, that has somehow transformed into being the keepers of the status quo. You and your Knights are both new and unknown and this makes you dangerous to that as well as, by extension, the Jedi themselves".
Her blunt response might have shocked him but, with the future of his students at stake, now was not the time for platitudes.
"Where will we go? What can we do against what is to come?" Aquinos rambled trying to collect his thoughts from the ashes that his dreams had become.
"You could all join the Commonwealth. You saw the darkness at the end of the vision...it is that we seek to fight not the Jedi. I will not lie to you as if the Jedi interfere with our purpose we will fight them and it will probably happen here...but we won't seek it out" she replied.
"Why me?" Aquinos questioned.
"Frankly...aside from anything else we are in desperate need of flexible and open minded teachers as there are still so few of us compared to those waiting to be trained and time is an enemy we share and all can understand. I think that, once you have unlearned some bad habits from the Jedi, you and your students could fit the bill nicely".
"And they will be accepted?" he half asked and half accused before adding "Can I continue my research without censorship?"
"So long as that research does no harm to any living being or endanger the Commonwealth we have no problem with it...in fact we encourage you to try. As for your students they would not only be accepted but we would provide state of the art customisable droid bodies for them at no charge".
"I will have to consider your offer" he said guardedly while being acutely aware of how generous the offer was as the Jedi would never have offered so much. "I will have to talk to the others as they should have a say in their future. I do think that we will soon have an agreement though".
"There is one final condition made by my husband and I" she said blandly and he was instantly back on his guard.
"Oh? You don't want us to fight the Jedi do you?"
"No… we understand how that might be...problematic...this early in our relationship. Simply put we just want you to get them to chose names other than those of lightsaber crystals as eventually, given the finite nature of their classifications, it will get very confusing".
Now Aquinos laughed softly, finding the Princesses slightly vexed expression as she said this highly funny, and privately very glad she hadn't asked for more.
"Agreed...provisionally" he answered simply.
"Then welcome to the Knights of the Silver Knight Aquinos….provisionally" she chuckled back at him.
And with that, as well as a little retraining in the nature of using the Dark Side of the Force, the Commonwealth gained more competent teachers to train the new generations of Knights.
I'm not often given the luxury of truly hating someone, thought Harry, but if I was then I'd really hate both the Republic and the Jedi right now.
From the reports that he had been receiving before the Jedi turned up the rebellion had been going well and, with the Iron Guard caught arrogantly flat footed, an early victory seemed in sight.
Then the Jedi had arrived reorganising the shaky troops and turning those that once relied more on ceremony and fear (and were losing because of it) into a much more effective fighting force.
Part of the reason for this abrupt change and subsequent stalling of the war effort may have been down partly to the fact that the Commonwealth had assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that Jedi Master Dooku would be assigned to lead the fight on the Dominion's behalf.
Indeed their high ranking army officers had thought it so likely that they had made many battle plans and countermeasures based off of Dooku's psychological profile. Instead they had sent Mace Windu and though they had begun to adjust they were still 'playing catch up'.
An understandable error perhaps but still a rather grave one.
The reason that Dooku had not been sent may have had something to do with his recent elevation to master but the fact remained that, by the time they had realised their mistake, it was too late to completely alter their plans and they had to make do with adapting them as much as possible (at least at first).
Though both men, as Jedi, were obviously trained in very similar ways they were still very different people and it showed especially in how they acted as commanders.
Where Dooku was largely defensive and preferred fortified positions and strong lines of supply both Windu and (somewhat ironically) Harry preferred lightning raids with very fluid lines of supply.
Both Harry and Windu liked to draw the enemy into a place where they could be crushed and sought to reach the prospective battlefield before their enemy (getting there far in advance of their opponent by using the swiftest means they had available to them).
What that translated to, in essence, were months of a long and very annoying game of cat and mouse that was lengthening the war considerably.
The only upside of this was that it was costing the Dominion a lot of money and though they were obscenely wealthy their pockets were nowhere as deep as the Commonwealth who, with the arrival of the Jedi, were able to take a much more active role than before.
The Dominion was becoming desperate as they only had the resources of one world to draw upon and their supplies were dwindling. There were already riots over enforced curfews as well as rationing in several major cities and in a few martial law had even been declared.
Adding to the mixed bag was the fact that, before the Jedi's arrival, they were losing two droids to every three and that hadn't really changed as the droids could be repaired more easily and more quickly than organics.
If it wasn't for the almost obscene amount of repair droids he had brought it would have been an entirely different matter though.
It was also part the Commonwealth's technology, part the runes hidden in every droid, part their advanced and adaptive C.P.U's and part simply the good positioning of repair droids that allowed this and so they were not only wearing the people down (by proxy) but the Iron Guard as well.
Thanks to the advanced C.P.U's the other bonus for Harry's forces was free training of the rest of his armies.
It was Commonwealth practice that, at the end of every major conflict, the combat experience of the surviving units would be copied and then broken down and turned into new tactical algorithms thereby using the experience that had been gained to improve the rest.
They even scavenged as much data as they could from the fallen wherever possible and though the process wasn't instantaneous when they were ready the algorithms were downloaded to every droid connected to the Commonwealth's network.
There were always minor skirmishes and border wars on the edges of Commonwealth space with many of its official edges touching either Wild Space, the Unknown Regions or the Outer Rim.
Their armies gained from all of them as the more battles the droids had the more their software and minds (for lack of a better term) developed and learned. The more this happened the more seasoned and effective they all became.
By this point however Harry was tired of fighting on this one self important planet and by this point if it wasn't for the large percentage of the Yaka population that had eagerly joined the cause he might have found a way to call in the loan and left with every piece of Commonwealth tech that was on the planet regardless of the consequences.
One look at the pitious and hopeful faces of Yaka that simply wanted to be left alone always stopped him though.
Arkanians are so damned arrogant and self obsessed Harry thought while pouring over several maps of the area that were spread over a makeshift table. He was not alone in doing this as there were several leaders of the Renegades and two of his Knights doing exactly the same thing.
If it wasn't for the Yaka's burning desire for the freedom to choose their own fate then even the 'good' Arkanians would have been left to fend for themselves as he honestly thought that they all deserved one another.
"Are you sure that this will work?" Dolo Harta asked with the far too common undertone of condescension and haughtiness running through her voice.
It was so common in fact that, in the space of a long slow blink, Harry had to wonder if she was even aware of how her own voice sounded even as she asked the same question that she had been repeating (for at least the tenth time) for the last fifteen minutes.
"Nothing in life is certain especially in war" Harry said sharply while looking at the now de facto leader of the Renegades. Dolo's metaphorical star had risen with every single victory of his droids.
He then glanced at and mentally dismissed the others that were gathered around the table as if there was going to be any resistance to his plans then it would start and end with Dolo.
"Then why are we doing this? Why take such a risk?" she questioned abruptly.
"Because you wish your people to be more ethical... do you not?" Harry countered and, before she could answer that question, he continued. "We have more supplies and shipments coming in while they do not and, if that was the only concern, you would be right and we should do nothing. The problem with that is perception as the longer you wait the more like an illegitimate successor and conquer you will be perceived as and less as the bright new wave and liberators you wish to be".
"Is that why we do not simply get more combat droids sent to use from the Commonwealth but rather only building and maintenance ones?"
"Exactly" stated Harry though he was only partially telling the truth as he doubted that they wanted to hear how much he didn't trust them with more of his creations.
There was also the fact that if he did that not only would it lead to more people viewing them all as conquerors but it would lead to some very awkward questions from the Republic emissaries as they seemed to believe this was his only army.
He hadn't lied even to them as it was more simple than that. He hadn't corrected them when they assumed the fact that this was his only military force of consequence.
Harry was loathe to assume anything but he privately believed that the thing under threat was less this planet and more the Republic itself.
Though an admittedly bloated and decadent thing now it was not what it used to be. Once it had stood for and been founded on high ideals (though admittedly favouring humans a little too much). It even had Jedi Masters as the Chancellor's for the first few years of its existence and they had such fame and power that even now their names were whispered with a mixture of awe and respect.
If the wider galaxy had known of Harry's true history they would have known that one of his areas of self study while training to be a Jedi was the early history of the Jedi Order and then later the Republic itself (especially its founding).
The main problem with the Republic, in Harry's opinion, was the fact that it had been born with few checks and balances and those had largely disappeared or become ceremonial over time.
The other problem was simply that it had been the largest fish in a very small pond for a very long time and without a form of serious competition (at least regularly as thousands of years could pass between major problems) as well as the fact that the Jedi allowing more and more power to be taken from them it was no wonder they had rotted.
The Republic had become a caricature of itself with power not being held by wise men and women but rather politicians of at best dubious morals. Looking back on history it was clear to him and other members of the Commonwealth that it was sped up, if not started, by the Sith themselves.
And the Republic remain oblivious to that as they were to so much in these days simply because they had been the big fish so long that they had forgotten that there could not only be bigger ones but even the largest fish will die if hit in exactly the right place by a smaller one.
Because of his impending feeling of dread Harry had recently ordered, aside from a few surprises put in place centuries before, the construction of fifteen new factory worlds. These were not only fully automated but secret with their very existence known only to himself, Luna and the Lords and Ladies of the Royal Council.
Under the Council's secret direction the first five would begin to produce droids non stop and in numbers that hadn't been seen outside of the Geo Forge itself. The next five would produce the ships and equipment to carry them and the final five would create small batches of experimental designs of both droids and ships that (if successful) would supplant the models already on the other worlds production queue.
And those factory worlds, hidden in the furthest corners of the Commonwealth and far away from known trade routes, would be complete and begin producing within a month.
Still, in the here and now of the command tent, there was a lot more grumbling than Harry would have liked but they did eventually agree to his plan.
Mace Windu who was known as a calm and patient Jedi Knight was having his own problems only a few days later.
It was bad enough that he found himself both regularly reciting the Jedi Code in his head and muttering it under his breath far too often for his tastes but he also had to remind himself that Jedi never acted in anger no matter how tempting it was to simply punch the face of the obnoxious man before him.
In all fairness everything about the middle aged Arkanian before him offended the humble Jedi. The man had an almost constant sneer on his face and, though he wore the most expensive and stylish clothes, had a large paunch which told Windu that regardless of the widespread rationing on the planet the man ate very well.
Beyond how he looked he was also very dismissive of the Jedi and ignored the fact that it was only with the Jedi's intervention that they had as a group managed to stall the enemies attack.
Recently though (as far as he knew) the overall number of destroyed droids had risen Windu found himself questioning his purpose here and, if there was one thing that Mace detested, it was going along without a clear purpose and goal to his daily life.
To the Arkanian (and apparently his superiors) they should have done a lot more than that and because they hadn't they were failing.
The things that they should have done included, but were not limited to, magically solving the food crisis despite the fact there were Commonwealth Battlecruisers in orbit stopping all shipments, somehow breaking the aforementioned blockade despite severely lacking ships so that they could get food and mercenary personnel and most importantly crushing the Renegades as quickly as possible.
As the Steward of the Dominion droned on again in his dry and officious tone Mace had to give it to his enemy commander, the Silver Prince, for a well executed plan.
It hadn't escaped his notice that the two opposing forces were conspicuously well matched in terms of numbers and they had left it to the Republic to increase the stakes, making them the aggressor, by sending in the Jedi Knights.
Only to be matched impossibly quickly be an equal detachment of the Knights of the Silver with the Prince himself leading them and the fact that they hadn't simply used one of their ships, like the Silver Flame for example, to utterly decimate the Dominion from orbit was telling.
He was in the irritating position therefore of seeing clearly what his enemy was doing but being unable to stop it.
This trend of preplanning was reinforced by the fact that the Rangers were also well matched by the famous Sabre Battalion and it clearly meant that not only was there a leak somewhere in their lines of communication but that it was the Republic's actions, along with the Jedi and the Dominion, that was beginning to be despised throughout the Republic rather than the Commonwealth.
They had even managed to gain control of the Holonet transmission array in the earliest days of the conflict and whoever now controlled them clearly had some intelligence. Though some of what was now being broadcast was negative towards the Commonwealth's actions the majority of the transmissions painted the Dominion's forces in the worst light possible.
Granted, conceded Mace, the Commonwealth really didn't have to try that hard to make the Dominion look bad and they did just enough to cover that it was propaganda as well as news.
Sometimes, his thoughts continued, I wish the Jedi could be free of obligation to the Senate but then I remind myself that it is the most effective way to keep the peace of the Republic and we must keep the peace no matter how distasteful that task can be and at least the High Council is aware of what is truly going on as well as taking steps to counter the propaganda.
What wasn't known to Windu was that, soon after he had managed to 'hack' a small substation to send his coded messages, the missives that he was sending were being caught and then expertly altered so that the Jedi did nothing.
They believed that the transmissions were all fair representations of fact and that Windu had matters well in hand as it was almost childsplay for the Commonwealth Intelligence Service to change them as they did, after all, know the Jedi's secret codes.
"I don't understand" said the Steward (Mace didn't know his real name as they apparently weren't worthy to know it). "Are you refusing your orders or are you simply trying to mask yet another failure?"
"I am questioning" snapped Mace who was annoyed at the man's tone despite himself "why we must move against the enemy with undue haste. The rationing was implemented precisely to avoid such rash and tactically ill advised decisions".
"You will do as you are told" snapped back the Steward out of patience "because the Dominion commands it. You are their servant and it is not your place to question their wisdom".
"I serve the Republic as a whole" Mace answered with more venom than he intended or should have really ever come out of a Jedi's mouth but the irritating Steward brought out the worst in him.
"Of course you do" was the condescending reply "but last I checked we were a valued member of the Republic and therefore part of the body you serve so I suggest you obey your orders".
"Will you not just listen to me for one moment?" Mace asked, clearly at his wits end, even as the man looked at him with something akin to patronising amusement. "The majority of our forces are conscripted Yaka while the enemy not only has well programmed battle droids but ones that are easily adaptable due to their modular technology and, by and large, even easier to repair".
"All the more reason to end this quickly before too many are restored to join the ranks" interjected the Steward but Mace, after a moment, continued speaking and ignored the graceless interruption.
"Worse than all of that our enemy likes to confuse our reading equipment in the field so that we are never quite sure where they are. I came here with fifteen Jedi and thanks to surprises prepared in advance, out maneuvering and ambushes ten of them have been captured and taken, so far as we know, to one of the ships in orbit. All of the remaining Jedi bar myself and Padawan Kinning are out delaying in the field with the majority of our forces".
Mace half dragged the man to the center of the room that served as their command center and pointed to the massive holographic display that he swiftly turned on before the man could open his mouth and speak again.
"Here" said Windu pointing at a critical location "and here the remaining Jedi are harrying the enemy and won't be available for your plan...can you not at least wait for them to return?"
"No because it is not my plan but our orders and they will be obeyed. Besides it looks like we out number the enemy nearby by around ten thousand men".
"Those numbers are rough estimates only and, even if true, our men are mostly untrained and in case you forgot the Silver Prince has two Knights of the Silver presently under his command against one Jedi and one Padawan".
"I never took the great and oh so powerful Jedi Order for cowards" snarled the Steward.
"It is not cowardice but rather prudence. Aside from anything else that will happen I can sense that many things of importance will be decided when we eventually meet in battle. Where we are likely to meet them" with a few taps of a console he brought up an image of a plain stretch of ground "is so full of shatterpoints that I can feel them from here though I cannot discern their meaning".
"I should have known that the Jedi would cloak their weak wills in silly mysticism" replied the Steward not believing Mace's warning for a single second. "If you are so concerned then I suggest that you, like that thrice cursed Potter, lead from the front".
With those bitter and haughty words the Steward stormed away from Windu.
The plain of Gillesh was tense as the two armies faced each other in relative silence, neither willing to risk the first move, and behind Mace's force of 35,000 a deep river hissed its eternal might against the otherwise deafening silence.
On the other side of the field of battle stood Harry's 20,000 along with not only the man himself but two Knights of the Silver and, as a part of that force, five hundred of the Sabre Battalion (specifically made up of non magical species and droids).
Harry knew that with a tall, wide and dark forest behind them and a raging river behind his foe there could be no easy retreat for either side.
Hopefully what I have planned will be enough, Harry thought, as if not it will be a very short battle indeed.
Mace, for his part, had realised the exact same thing standing in the center of his own forces even as Squire Kinning took up his place on the eastern flank and awaited his orders while the Steward stood next to Windu impatient as always.
Like Harry he knew that the battles would end here, if for stronger reasons, as there were so many shatterpoints over the battlefield that he had to actually focus on not seeing them as they were so layered all over the ground that if he did not he would be effectively blinded by them.
"Why have you not attacked? We outnumber them and they cannot escape" whined the Steward.
"It would appear so but...something is not right. The Commonwealth did choose the site of this battle and I assume they have something in those woods just for us" replied Windu and, while the Steward snorted in disbelief, he continued to study the battlefield.
"My patience is wearing thin Jedi and my people are the ones starving" chided the Steward.
At that he turned away from studying the battle site and pointedly looked at the Steward's midsection giving him both a critical look as well as his own snort of disbelief.
"Your masters are only concerned because they are losing money from off world contracts that they cannot fulfill and hate being away from the source of their precious test subjects" Windu said harshly to which the stewards face hardened.
"Regardless" spat the Steward "you must attack. If you do not order the attack then I will".
Windu sighed and prepared himself, as much as he could, for the unknown.
Harry watched Windu's forces moved slowly towards him and, as he would have done if their positions were reversed, his enemy divided themselves into three parts. The first was led by Windu and was not only the most numerous but headed straight for Harry in the center.
They fired as they went even as the other two branches of the army, made of lighter and quicker units, sought to overwhelm and flank him in a classic pincer movement.
Without needing to be told the front line of Harry's droid front line activated lightweight shields that unfolded from their left arms while firing back with blasters though, at this distance, neither side scored many hits.
Harry stood in the middle of the front rank while his lightsaber almost lazily knocked back the few blaster bolts that were on target to hit him and his entire body conveyed a look of almost detached relaxation.
As his enemy moved closer and within a much more reasonable range Harry watched them like a hawk waiting for the moment to strike with his own lines, while firing, standing firm.
"Initiate Jack-in-the-Box" he said quietly to the droid next to him who nodded and then sent a small signal through its own internal communication array even as Harry moved forward to meet the frontal charge with his droids following him with every quick step.
Well timed and hidden explosives tore into both sides of the Dominion armies flanks having been placed into the ground long before Windu had even arrived and only waiting for the signal from Harry for them to begin their grizzly work. They turned from a well disciplined force into a disorganized and crying mess of flesh and blood within seconds.
Only a very small group managed to survive on one side and still have the heart to keep going rather than fleeing in panic. The fact that one of the few was Padawan Kinning was not lost on him though the blazing lightsaber was a strong clue.
Even as he ran towards his enemy with his own lightsaber buzzing angrily the second and almost final surprise rose from the woods to meet Windu before Harry could their jetpacks roaring.
These HP's, almost one thousand of them, not only had the jetpack mod installed on their backs but also had their right arms replaced with rocket launchers and their left with long adjustable blades.
This was unfortunate for Windu as his ranks had closed almost to a spear like point no doubt expecting to punch through Harry's front lines and deep into the enemy. Instead they were perfect targets for the rockets that rained down upon them.
Squire Kinning was about to face his own troubles as the Silver Knights in Harry's group peeled of with a small detachment of one hundred troops to capture the young Jedi.
In short the battle was going well… at least for Harry.
Mace Windu cursed so strongly and loudly that, if Yoda were here, he would have been scolded to within an inch of his life to say the least.
Why, Windu thought with irritation, did the Steward have to be so pig headed and order an attack despite his warnings.
Not that the man would be pig headed anymore as when the rockets had rained down it was only his Force enhanced reflexes that allowed him to survive and the Steward was not so gifted and was now only so much mush on the bloody ground.
That happened when you stared directly at a rocket and it landed on your face.
They had known that the enemy should have had around 25,000 but they had only found twenty. With the good cover that the woods had provided it was clear that there was some kind of trap in store but the Steward would not listen and had paid for it dearly.
The Steward's successor and now apparently the new Steward was watching with a small group of his people out of the the fighting and simply observing them die. Nevermind that if they lost here then there was a clear route to the Dominion's capital city and nevermind that it was a risk that they didn't have to take.
No he, his former master and all of his superiors, wanted a clear decisive victory and had ordered an immediate attack on the well prepared Renegades.
Well, thought Mace as he had just a moment to look at the carnage around him, they wanted a slaughter and they were getting it just not in the way they expected.
Then he was swept up in the battle once again and, as he drew closer to Harry Potter, he knew that his only chance of turning the tide was capturing the leader of the enemy.
He thought that the surprises were over and that, though it would be a difficult fight, there would be no more surprises for him and he could hopefully capture the Silver Prince and in short order bring an end to this needless carnage.
He was wrong. He learned a valuable lesson then as he realised slightly too late that a lightsaber would not deflect the small rocket coming his way and though he was unharmed as he managed to use the Force spread the damage around him rather than taking the brunt of it with his flesh.
That the men around him could not do so saddened him even as he felt many of them die and, just as bad, it allowed the enemy troops to pick more of them off. Thankfully for Windu that was the last of the rockets fired at his men as they were now far too close to not hurt their own troops.
On the downside the rocket troops now landed and went to work with their long and deadly blades all throughout the battlefield and his own losses mounted higher and higher.
Soon enough he was back on track in his hunt for Harry and, right before they clashed, the final surprise was sprung and 4,000 droids rose from the roaring river behind the new Stewards contingent and proceeded to slaughter them all.
Mace felt desperation then especially as he saw Padawan Kinning fall, alive but missing at least one limb, and be taken from the combat in short order by the enemy. He was now trapped on all sides and he sank more into the Force both to stay alive and hopefully snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Forcing a victory by bargaining the captured leader of an enemy was hardly the noble act of a victorious Jedi but he was really out of options as far as he could tell. This 'easy' battle had turned so very quickly into utter ruin but he was not done for yet.
He was considered, quite rightly, one of the finest blades of the Order and people had waited with baited breath to see how far his skill would take him and so he believed that he could subdue Harry Potter in short order
He ducked under one droid and his hand lashed out slamming it violently into another while his purple blade easily dispatched two more before he finally found himself before Harry Potter.
He moved smoothly, in a perfect Juyo stance, and a small part of his brain idly regretted that he hadn't yet found the time to make his vague ideas of a new lightsaber form a reality yet.
But before he could do much more than make a few opening probes at his enemy his saber was blocked by the deep blue blade belonging to his enemy and it finally dawned on him that capturing the Silver Prince might be very dangerous.
This close Windu was almost bowled over by the strength of the man's Force presence alone.
Still he had a job to do and quickly increased his attack while trying to use the Force and the now littered environment to his advantage. He assumed that his opponent would naturally go on the defensive against such an assault but Harry instead met Force with Force and did it well.
Every single Force attack he made was easily, even contemptuously, countered. Most of his lightning quick blows were not blocked but rather deflected and met with equally fast Form VI counter attacks that, when he blocked them, made his bones scream in protest.
He put the pain out of his mind. He put the dull burning of overtaxing his body with the Force to keep up out of his mind too. In fact his world became very small and it was almost as if the two of them were in a deadly dance as the whole world almost fell away under their combined focus.
Both men were using the Force so much in fact that not only were many objects rising and countering each other in a dull symmetry of motion but they were moving so fast that any one not gifted with the Force could only see blurs of movement and the flashing and hissing of their blades.
There was a very good reason that Force Users tended not to do this for very long as, apart from the massive drain on their power and focus, the body was not meant to do that and both men could feel the damage they were doing to themselves as the fight continued.
Mace realised then and there that he was going to lose and that fact was a rather bitter thing for him to accept. His opponent was just as fast as him, clearly much more powerful and much more experienced. If he didn't do something drastic then he knew that he would end up being dead or a prisoner very soon.
So he did something very unJedi like and underhanded. He called dust, blood and other loose detritus from the ground in a desperate gambit and as soon as he could whipped it round the man like a striking snake launching it at Harry's face and open eyes.
Then he darted in with his lightsaber leading the way trying to land a quick and final blow as quickly as he could. Unfortunately he did leave himself momentarily open to attack as he did so.
He didn't even have time to realise that Harry had been testing him and holding back all of this time as, instead of a feeling of victory, all he knew was that he had twin waves of burning with one quickly following the other before he was mercifully hit on the head and blacked out.
The two Jedi on the field were captured and with that Harry knew that the Dominion had essentially lost. Despite the backroom deals with the Trade Federation and Republic intervention the Renegades and the Commonwealth had beaten the invincible Jedi and the only thing the Jedi Order gained from it was a heavily tarnished reputation.
As Harry looked down on the unconscious body of Mace Windu who now had cauterised stumps where his arms and legs used to be and then over to the bound Squire Kinning who was also missing a limb (an arm taken off at the shoulder joint) all Harry could think was how stupid and pointless this had all been.
The rumoured invincibility of the Jedi was now forever broken and the opinion that the common people of the Republic had for them was now lower than it had been in decades, perhaps centuries, with their famed Knights going home in both shame and disgrace.
All because the High Council wouldn't tell a corrupt Senate where to shove this ridiculous mission and when the effects of what had transpired here were fully accounted for the Commonwealth would have another ally in the Republic to boot.
The Knights had been kept sedated until the Commonwealth was ready to leave the planet after the Dominion had quickly collapsed before the strength of their enemy. It was too soon to tell whether the Renegades would be better than their predecessors but, quite frankly, it would be hard to be worse.
Soon the Jedi would be delivered home in a few smaller ships, still unconscious, ready to wake and be treated for their injuries in the Jedi Temple itself.
Once this happened the Sith would be happy as they could use this discontent and breed more of it for and among their hated foes but, on the downside for both Harry and the Commonwealth, they would only grow more and more interested in the Commonwealth's droids.
For the war that would soon begin.