V

"Dark times these are, my friend," Yoda mused. He floated along in his hoverchair, Master Windu keeping the pace beside him. "Falters, trust in the Jedi does."

"Yes," Windu said, distracted.

"Where do your thoughts wander, Master Windu?"

"I have come to a decision I never thought I'd have to make. Until we get to the bottom of this, we should confirm the rogue Jedi story to the press."

"Add our late friend Ki-Adi-Mundi to this tale, you would?" Yoda asked disapprovingly.

"We would have to," Windu said gravely. "Saying Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were working of their own accord, to 'abduct' the Queen, and that Ki-Adi-Mundi tried to take her a second time, would take the heat off our backs long enough to investigate."

"So our dead brothers, dishonor you would?"

"You can't see it that way, Yoda."

"Treachery is the way of the Sith, Mace."

"Treachery is not what we're doing! I don't want to do this, either! But Yoda, imagine, what would happen if the galaxy no longer trusted us? Our beliefs would become heresy, and fear would fester."

"Fear," Yoda said simply.

"Fear leads to anger—

"Anger leads to hate—

"And hate leads to the dark side," Windu finished.

"Very well," Yoda said, giving in. "Go speak to the Chancellor. Inform the Council, I will."

The two Jedi Masters, the two best, went off on their errands of deception.


"You're holding back, Anakin!"

Anakin swooped in for another quick jab. "But your cut…"

"In a real battle, would you go easier on an injured opponent?" Maul growled.

"No, but…"

"Of course not! In fact," Maul landed a roundhouse kick to Anakin's face. Anakin soared through the air and landed on one of Sio Bibble's luxurious couches.

"A cornered opponent is more dangerous than a fresh and energized one."

Anakin wiped the blood from his brow. Every day their sparring had gotten a little rougher; Anakin had all manner of cuts and bruises. But he didn't mind—Lord Maul said that pain was a sign of progress.

They fought now in Governor Bibble's quarters, the furniture pushed to the walls of the spacious living room.

Anakin rose from the couch, wiped the blood on his shirt. He couldn't afford to yield any of his grip on the blade.

He rushed the Sith, swinging wildly. Maul prepared himself for a powerful but sloppy hail of strikes. Anakin had expected this.

He straightened his stance, spun, bringing the blade down in a slow but nearly unstoppable attack.

Maul blocked it, but only barely. The sheer strength of the blow took his balance for a split second—

Which was all that Anakin needed. He brought his foot to Maul's knee, then swooped it under his feet. The Sith Lord toppled.

He once again found himself with a nine-year-old boy holding a blade to his neck.

It was an interesting feeling to be proud of someone else.


Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum welcomed Master Windu into his spacious office in the penthouse of 500 Republica. He offered him a drink, Corellian brandy, but the Jedi Master, not to the Chancellor's surprise, declined. Still, etiquette must be observed.

"So," Valorum began, "what brings you here, Master Windu?"

"Queen Amidala's allegations, Finis," he replied.

"Ah…the fallen Jedi claim…Well, you know it isn't true, I sent them myself."

"We're going to confirm it."

"What? Confirm it?" Valorum was dumbfounded.

"We need time to investigate, Finis. Telling them what they want to hear will keep them from pressing much further."

"What do you need from me?" Valorum asked, hesitantly.

"I want to speak in front of the Senate, with a few HoloNet cameras in attendance. A press conference, if you will."

"Why before the Senate?"

"They need to be assured that they can still trust the Jedi," Windu said sadly.

"I suppose Ki-Adi-Mundi went rogue before his death, then."

"That's the story."

Valorum sighed. "Alright, Mace. I'll call a special session of the Senate. You'll have five minutes."

"Thank you, Chancellor." Windu got up to leave.

"Oh, and Mace?" Valorum called after him.

Windu turned.

"I knew Ki-Adi-Mundi. Don't drag his name too far into the mud. He didn't deserve that."

"I know that all too well, Finis. All too well."


The Senate Arena buzzed with the conversations of thousands of senators from every corner of the Republic. Chancellor Valorum stepped up to his podium. The chamber abruptly silenced.

"Esteemed members of the Galactic Senate, I have called this special session of Congress today because a shocking occurrence has happened that happens only once every dozen generations—Jedi have fallen.

"Queen Amidala of Naboo claims she was abducted by two Dark Jedi and later attacked by a third. Mace Windu, head of the Jedi Council, is here today to speak on the matter. Master Windu," Valorum hurriedly sat down as Windu stepped up to the podium.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate. I can assure you that these Jedi were operating completely free from the influence of the Jedi Council. These three Jedi attacked the Queen of Naboo completely for their own reasons, though these reasons remain unclear.

The three Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Ki-Adi-Mundi, had indeed left the Jedi Order in pursuit of something more. The last to do this was Dooku, who now holds the title of Count of Serenno. Dooku, however, lives his life peacefully on his family's estate.

It is unclear, as I've said, as to why this has happened. But I swear that myself and the rest of the Council will get to the bottom of the shocking attack on the Republic."

He meant that, too. "Thank you."

Windu stepped down from the podium.


--HoloNet Newscast, Transcript--

Jedi Master Mace Windu confirmed this afternoon allegations of three Dark Jedi attacking the Queen of the Sovereign World of Naboo. Naboo recently signed a treaty with the Trade Federation to become an official colony world for the technological giant. The second attempt on the Queen's life came during the speech following the signing of the treaty.

In related news, Galactic Senator Palpatine, also of Naboo, is still missing. Palpatine vanished from his office several days ago.

Now, for the weather with Oni Mar…