Ancestry

My name is Xerxes Palpatine. But there is so much difference between who I am and what I am named. How many years ago was it, when I was newly-christened Darth Sidious, apprentice to Lord Plagueis, in the twentieth year of my life?

I once sat outside a café on the world Iridonia, with the taste of caf in my mouth and the sun on my shoulder where it peeked in from above the cloth awning the café provided. I pondered my life, because I needed a respite from measuring the distances the galaxy is made of.

Distance is essential to politics and relationships. A stance outside one's target person or group is essential for accurate observation. However, in order to gain power, one must gain support of the people. A leader must be embraced and accepted by those he leads, those whom he controls, before the control can be complete. How paradoxical, like life itself. Like quantum physics, where to observe is to change, and participation is impossible. No scientist can shrink to the level of an atom in either mind or body to gain an accurate observation.

It became too much to think about some times, too much meaninglessness and inconclusiveness, and I turned to brief fantasy, to inner monologue like this one. There is no distance between you and I, because you do not exist. And so I am comforted.

I looked across the table at the familiar face of my teacher. The me of the outside, who ran a tanned hand over my head to smooth blonde hair rustled by the wind, is not the same as Darth Sidious, the clever snake within a human shell. Master Plagueis was not simply the black eyes or slash of a mouth in that pale Muun face. He has a name I have never found.

We sat, as I have said, under the awning of an outdoor café, drinks on the plastic table in front of us. On the other side of the rutted street, neon holograms advertised meat or travel or clothing. Convertible speeders floated by, following pack animals. Iridonia, I had found in my few days of observation, was a world of contradictions. The native Zabraks' early success at space travel meant that their colonies, like the ancient Sith empires, utilized both traditional cavalry and high technology.

We ate at the café and moved on. I did not know why I had been brought here.

"The Force," my Master said later, as we walked along a dirt road sprinkled with fallen yellow blossoms, "entitles us to arrogance. We can control the very lives of lesser beings, with or without clinical modification of the midi-chlorians themselves."

Being embroiled in political training as well as Sith lore and so slightly foolish at that time, I asked, "Why do we need to directly work with the midi-chlorians?"

"Take for example the ideal warrior," said Plagueis, in the droll voice I knew so well. Whether threatening someone's life or explaining a theory, he always sounded that way. "Take someone who is strong and has the instincts of a predator. He ought to have parents and grandparents who share those traits as well, developing them through the bloodlines. He ought be of a strong species.

That is why we're here."

It was with a wonder almost already dulled by time that I followed my master off the road and behind a copse of trees beside a field and a log fence. The round, tiled top of a barn could be seen over the curve of a distant slope. Earlier we had seen the road to the farm and a name on a stone marker beside it, reading 'Surin', a family name.

Someone, probably one of the Surin children, came trudging over the crest of the hill as I watched. He was a red-skinned Zabrak finishing up his teenage years, wearing white. There was no sense of destiny around him, none of the sparkling connection I sometimes felt between Darth Plagueis, myself, and the universe. Here, no foresight was utilized. This mission and lesson was instead a matter of observation, or of sciences like those practiced on lab animals.

I wanted to laugh. The sound bubbled up behind my lips, on a tide of power, of how easy it was to control unseen.

I glanced behind me at the approach of footsteps. Screened from us by the willowy branches of the flowering trees, and us from her by the Force, a female Zabrak in breeches and tunic climbed over a stile into the field.

"Their children will be genetically predisposed to labor, and to livid emotion," murmured Plagueis. "I have watched their families for a time, physically or electronically."

"Their children?" I was skeptical; the two were walking together away from the trees, but their emotions for one another were neutral, those of one farmhand to another.

"Love is a minor emotion," Plagueis whispered. "It is easy to work with, and to cue."

And there was a seed of attraction in the woman's mind, and as we watched them it spread, becoming love and the beginning of that obsession called devotion. She spoke his name, "Ciaran," and when he looked at her Plagueis took the reins of his emotions too.

I was wide-eyed as their lives changed.

They would forever think that they had simply fallen in love, like so many do.

When they were gone, Plagueis released a laugh like that which I had been holding, low and mirthful. "Return here in a generation, my apprentice. Breed their offspring with someone else who is strong, and you will have a child you can make in our own image, except malleable, able to be directed..."

"Stupid."

"Yes. It is often advantageous to breed for that also."

By this time, I was certain that I could extend my life to Muun-span and beyond, through the Force. The thought of manipulating generations of families was fascinating, exhilarating. I knew that I could use them in my career to come. But Lord Plagueis was not ambitious in the same ways I was, and so I asked, "Why do you mention these things, my Master? We are the two Sith the galaxy should hold, and we need no others."

His eyes narrowed and I realized I had overlooked something that I should not have.

"One can breed for whatever traits one wants, my young apprentice. And there are more subtle manipulations. If one breeds for midi-chlorians, one could, theoretically, reach a generation where no person is needed. The child of a woman and the Force would be more powerful than we can imagine. He would be the perfect Sith. I do not yet know when even the proper family will be revealed to me, but there are possibilities. For this I need your aid."

There was a sort of jealousy in me then. A fear that this constructed, perfect Sith would replace me or us. Was this the first time I pondered a takeover? In the end I would take my master's life and his two creations, the pinnacles of his far-reaching experiments for whom the galaxy was the lab. I thought it a sign of cosmic favor that the Zabrak boy, the first of the two experiments to come to completion, was Force-sensitive.