Disclaimer: This is a fanfiction story, written by a fan for other fans. It is not intended as an attack against the legitimate copyright holders. Star Wars and all related characters and concepts are property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Foreword: It might contradict information from Revenge of the Sith and the novels Dark Rendezvous and Labyrinth of Evil (among others). At the very least, Dooku's personality has been substantially changed as a result of plot device overdose.

I- Loss of Trust.

"What troubles you, lord Tyrannus," asked a voice in a tone that demanded an answer. "I feel much doubt in your mind."

Slowly, almost grudgingly, an elderly man that had been watching the drama unfolding outside turned to face the man who had questioned him. His interlocutor was sitting upon a large metallic throne with his arms shackled to his seat. In such a position, few would have been able to control the conversation, but Palpatine of Naboo was one of that exclusive group. In a way that was hard to describe, he was majestic and impressive even now, despite his chains... That ability had been most useful during the long years he had needed to become what he was now. Supreme Chancellor of a Galactic Republic, supreme ruler of trillions upon trillons of destinies.

Dooku of Serenno, political leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, had the sophisticated demeanor he had gained from his aristocratic origins, but he lacked Palpatine's almost tangible aura. An aura that the Chancellor created with very little effort. Hiding his emotions with a carefully studied expression and meticulous movements, Dooku knelt in front of his master and lowered his head, attempting to avoid the piercing gaze that so often had extracted his darkest secrets from the deepest pits of his soul. For a moment he tried to fabricate an explanation that would satisfy his lord, but once again he felt those eyes drilling through his skull. Against his will, he gave the truth and nothing but the truth.

"I am tired, master. I am no youngling. I have not been one for many, many years. Death will claim me soon and she is an enemy not even the Dark Side can fend off. For many years I have felt her approach and I do not fear her anymore. But I fear oblivion. Memory is the one kind of inmortality I can aspire to. And sometimes I fear that I will be forgotten," confessed the former Jedi Master with a weak voice.

"From your words, it is clear that a part of you still clings to the Jedi Code. You disappoint me, lord Tyrannus. After all you have done, after all you have seen, after learning the weakness of the Jedi their mysticism still taints you," sneered the Sith master with clear disdain. Inside, lord Sidious felt scorn and anger. Tyrannus had grown soft in the time they had been apart. He had been an useful servant, yes, whose life would soon come to an end, but Darth Plagueis' heir was enraged by the open acknowledgement of such a weakness by one who had taken the title and mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

"It is not my Jedi past what makes me fear oblivion, master. History is unfair, cruel even, with those willing to do what must be done. Ours is a great and noble cause, an Empire of Man, free of the beastly corruption that throttles the Republic, but the sacrifices have been great. Trillions have perished in this war. Worlds have burned. Unthinkable nightmares have been unleshed. Sometimes...

"Be silent, lord Tyrannus. This war is about to end. Soon, we will receive our due. Have you forgotten everything I taught you? Have you forgotten Darth Bane's words a thousand years ago? There is no peace, there is fury. There is no fear, there is power. There is no death, there is immortality. There is no weakness, there is the Dark Side. Our code. The essential truths of this universe. Your weakness enrage me. Forget the lies your old master instilled into you. Feel the Force. Listen to its glorious music. Let it strengthen your resolve. Let its fire purify you."

"Your will be done, milord," droned Dooku. And in a kneeling posture, he followed Palpatine's instructions. Using his fears and hates as fuel for the fires of the Dark Side, he emptied his mind and let the Force flood him.

Sometimes Palpatine had hinted that the Force was not divided in two sides of a money. That the use one made of the power was the individual's choice, although few had the force of will needed to dominate it. Tyrannus had the secret and never voiced opinion that at least in that, his master was wrong. He remembered perfectly the way the Force had felt in the Jedi Temple, although he had been unable to sense it in the same way since the day he had begun to learn the lost Sith lore.

The soft and gentle force he remembered was not the toxic torrent that was the Dark Side. Using fear and other intense emotions to reach the Force you gained greater power than those resulting from a lifetime of meditation and tireless training, but there was a price to pay. An iron will was needed to resist, to avoid becoming a puppet ruled by the most base instincts. To explore the Dark Side was a risky endeavour, indeed.

At the moment, the Dark Side around Coruscant was in turmoil. It was small wonder, in fact. The battle around the galactic capital had started many hours ago and the Republican and Confederated fleets still fought. Despair, fear, hate. The deepest, most genuine emotions of all forms of life were firewood.

And from the millions crewing the warships and the trillions hiding in the planet below, hiding in deep shelters, they came in great abundance. It was likely, Dooku thought, that the oppressive darkness had blinded even the most powerful and experienced Jedi Masters

It was somewhat ironic that most of that darkness came from the Republican forces, the so called "forces of the Light". The Separatist vessels had small living crews, unlike their foes. Instead, they used powerful computers and droids. No matter how perfect their parody of life, the machines were no living beings and they weren't part of the Force. The Republic was weakening its own champions more than any scheme devised by lord Sidious.

Meanwhile, through Tyrannus' mind flashed images, tiny pieces of the titanic struggle. Only a few were clear or lasted more than a heartbeat. He saw the ships, moving in their slow orbits through space, exchanging weapons fire with the power to level whole continents. A Neimoidian captain ordering defiantly a collision course for his damaged starship. A group of Mandalorian troopers leading a droid force in the assault of a great Republican destroyer. A young human, his forehead gleaming with sweat, in some enemy battery. In some of the images he saw the fleeting glow of a lightsaber. Finally, the confusing whirlwind stopped and the image of two starfighters moving through the battle appeared in the count's mind.

Without approaching his mind's eye, Tyrannus knew instantly who piloted both fighters. Even from a distance of thousands of kilometers, their presence in the Force was unmistakable. The culmination, the true reason behind the Separatist attack against Coruscant was approaching. The Sith withdrew from the Force and returned to his own body, in the Confederated flagship.

"The Jedi approach"

"Yes, they do, apprentice. It seems that at least your skills are still well honed. You will need them," commented Palpatine in a careless tone. It was clear that otherwise Tyrannus deserved a very grim fate. "Leave now and ensure that all is ready for their arrival. This is a risky gamble and we cannot afford mistakes."

After bowing, Dooku obeyed and left Palpatine alone in the Invisible Hand's viewroo. His quarters were close by and there he would have the opportunity to follow comfortably Skywalker and Kenobi's advance through the ship. Hopefully both his enemies would tire, while he rested and prepared. He had boasted before Sidious about his ability to beat both of them, but truth was that both were young and he was over eighty years old.

Skywalker was no great threat. The youngster was powerful, with an impressive potential, but as he had proven when their swords clashed in Geonosis, he had little control. Kenobi was the most dangerous. An exceptional example of Jedi. Skilled. Courageous. And with enough power to defeat Darth Maul even before his knighting. Although the previous Sith apprentice had been a beast lacking in subtlety, it had been a strong and well trained beast. A beast that had earned the title of Sith Lord.

It was clear that Maul had made the serious mistake of underestimating his enemy. Dooku had no intention of making the same mistake, particularly because he only expected the best from Qui-Gon's old padawan. In a sense, Dooku regretted the impending demise of the young Kenobi. It was a pity he had to die, particularly if his unworthy companion was to live. But those were Sidious orders: kill Kenobi, show Skywalker the true power of the Force and feign defeat. Three tasks, all of them extremely unpleasant.

Once in his room, sorrounded by the best art from a hundred worlds, Dooku turned off the lights with a gesture and knelt in the center of a rare Karalsian carpet. Each Sith Lord had his own style of combat and each Sith Lord followed his own ritual before battle whenever possible. Dooku's had intense Jedi influences, as pointed by Sidious sometimes. All doubts were vanished from his mind, allowing the count to become one with the Force and making his lightsaber an extension of his body.

With the weapon in his lap, Tyrannus closed his eyes. He caressed the refined lines of his lightsaber with a lover's kindness, stopping in the tiny irregularities created by many years of use... Slowly and with very unSithlike gentleness, he inmersed in the Force and became one with the weapon. He was the crimson scythe of death now.

However, this time there was a resistance. He couldn't reach the Void that protected him from his own emotions in the fray. His imminent treason of the Confederacy refused to leave his mind. What was happening? He despised the scum he had been working with in the last years and hated the mechanical and biomechanical abominations they created. Like Grievous. Moreover, treachery was the way of the Sith.

His thoughts stopped there. An intense unease had appeared. He probed deeper, making questions that he hadn't made since his training. He had always supposed that Palpatine shared his hatred of aliens. That the Sith master also considered them tools to be used, little better than animals and worse in many ways. If that was true, why had he taken Maul as his first apprentice? The Jedi Order didn't reach every world in the galaxy and it wouldn't have been impossible to find a human child with potential. In the worst case, Palpatine could have located a former member of the order, just as he had done with Dooku. But he had not done it.

A truth he hadn't seen appeared in his mind. What had prevented him from seeing through such a clear lie? The deception he had suffered angered him more than anything he had ever felt and that very fury powered the Dark Side. And then, in a blaze of rage turned power, Dooku extracted from the Force a vision of his future.

The revelation put out the fires of his anger. He knew with absolute certainty that all he had seen -his own execution, the destruction of the whole Jedi Order, a mad Palpatine devouring all life in the galaxy- would become reality. Unless he prevented it. A tremor coming from the hangar announced Skywalker and Kenobi's arrival. He had very little time.

He left his quarters and almost run the distance to the viewroom. He rested for a moment before crossing the door between his target and himself. It was essential to avoid Palpatine's suspicion until it was too late. He opened the door and knelt in front of the great spinner.

The Chancellor, engrossed in his own plans, detected inmediately a change in the flow of the Force around his apprentice, but was unable to interpret it. Whatever it was, the sudden change was an ill omen in such an important moment and might well be a problem in the conversion of young Skywalker. Palpatine raised his eyebrow and opened his mouth, intending to find out the truth.

He had no chance to ask anything. Tyrannus made his move. The lightsaber flew to the aristocrat's hand and activated with a red flash. Palpatine's widening eyes filled Dooku with satisfaction in the last moments before the lethal blow...

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