Disclaimer: Own these characters, I do not.

Warnings: Wartime rhetoric and manipulation.

Characters: Mace Windu, Chancellor Palpatine

Summary: Mace Windu faces a conundrum in the early stages of the war. Can the Jedi serve the Republic and remain Jedi?

Author's Note: Originally posted on livejournal. Follows on from the themes explored in Ascendant.

On the day of Palpatine's election to the chancellorship, Mace had seen that Palpatine was himself a shatterpoint of unimaginable significance: a man upon whom might depend the fate of the Republic itself.

- Revenge of the Sith, p. 146

The bonfire was hot on Master Windu's face, as flames scented with the pungent incense favoured by the Naboo carried Qui-Gon Jinn away into the firmament on acrid plumes of smoke. Shifting his attention away from Master Yoda, Mace's dark gaze drifted to the avian profile of the Republic's new Supreme Chancellor, etched in the firelight.

Those heavy eyelids drooped as if in pain and Palpatine turned away, his blue-robed figure disappearing amongst the shadows deepened by the height of the pyre.

Mace gave a solemn nod to Master Yoda and followed the line drawn by the Chancellor to a balcony overlooking the baroque serenity that was the city of Theed at night. Palpatine did not rest his hands on the marble, but simply stood, back straight, staring up at the constellations.

The man's presence was a contradictory fascination: Mace had first noticed it as he observed Palpatine reciting his oath of office: he was a shatterpoint of immeasurable importance, connected to so many threads of consequence that he evoked a spiritual wariness in Mace, who sensed what this homely Naboo senator would become to the Republic. The beating heart of the government cloaked in crimson protectors, the arbiter of untold trillions, wielding his voice like a lightsaber to check the raging tide...all of it blind, as the new chancellor was a being without a scrap of Force-sensitivity. For all his staggering prominence, Palpatine was a living-shadow, a gap where a man should have been in the eyes of the Force.

"Your Excellency," he acknowledged, inclining his head.

The Chancellor turned, his manner distracted, perhaps unused to his new honorific of office. He couldn't remember Mace's name. "Master – ah – Master...?"

"Windu," the Jedi finished, cutting short Palpatine's embarrassment. Mace moved to stand beside the politician. "You seem troubled..."

Lips quirking sadly in what could hardly be called a smile, the newly-elected Chancellor nodded. "What manner of being would not be, in my position? I am now the head of a government whose faults have just been drawn so precisely in the blood of my people... in the blood of your fellow Jedi knight."

"In that case, I would say that the Republic is in good hands," Mace's words were blunt, his expression threadbare, but under their influence Palpatine's features gained a steely glow that heartened the Jedi Master.

The Chancellor's hands curled forward to grip the masonry, "I promise you, Master Jedi, I will not let these sacrifices go to waste." It seemed less the fleeting promise of a politician and more an oath sealed over Master Jinn's ashes, so true did the words ring – they reached inside Mace's spirit with their grim determination and drew from him what was so needed to face the lengthening shadows: hope.

"I prefer the office like this," Mace half-nodded around the sweep of open floor. Austere. Unpretentious and uncompromising. To Mace, it was a window into Palpatine's character: the Supreme Chancellor lived entirely for the Republic. Simple in dress. Direct in speech. Unconcerned with ornamentation or physical comfort. "A shame he can't touch the Force. He might have made a fine Jedi."

- Shatterpoint, p. 10

We are keepers of the peace, not soldiers. The words seemed to silently echo around the red office with the sad rustle of dying leaves. In the arid landscape of Geonosis had been revealed the one thing that would call Jedi to battle as they had not battled since Master Yoda's youth: the Sith.

For it was now certain that Obi-Wan Kenobi had killed the apprentice and that the Sith master was still somewhere at work, muddying the currents of the Force with darkness so thick even Yoda could not penetrate it. Yet, for all this, Mace was confident of their success.

And part of this confidence rested in the man who stood by the window: a stark silhouette now invested with authority well beyond the traditional purview of his office. It seemed right in a way the Jedi couldn't possibly explain. There would be no more delays now, we will act!

The strength of that thought surprised him. He'd passed his adult life in the service of various chancellors – what made this one any different? And yet the only other being he could imagine conducting this war was Master Yoda. The Senate certainly could not – Naboo had shown the Jedi that.

"Master Windu," Palpatine turned, waving him over. Outside, clone troopers marched into a darkening sky. "Come gaze out at the Republic's failure."

"The Jedi support you, Your Excellency. You are defending the Republic." Mace wanted to reassure the man: you haven't failed. We will win. But he didn't say it.

Palpatine shook his head and gazed up at Mace as though he had just realised something, "You are a warrior, Your Grace. I did not see it before." Apropos of nothing as it was, the statement caught the Jedi Master off guard. He had not seen it before either.

"Perhaps…" was Mace's non-committal response.

"Well I am not. To think that Count Dooku too was once a Jedi..."

"I respected Dooku's idealism, but now he has revealed himself as a Sith Lord…? My only regret is that I failed to kill him in the Geonosian arena. Make no mistake, Chancellor, this is not a crusade for independence. It is a dark plot aimed at the heart of the Republic." At the Jedi.

"A... dark plot?" The Chancellor said the words slowly, testing them sceptically on the air. "Surely what we're discussing belongs to the realm of legend? You may not be aware of this, but I once counted myself as a friend of Master Dooku; we spent many hours in political discussion. He is in criminal error, undoubtedly, but evil? "

Mace Windu took a breath, his brown eyes candid. "The Sith are as real as you are and, make no mistake, they are evil, and they are ones behind this war. They wish to revenge themselves on the Jedi and the Republic, and take what they perceive as rightfully theirs." His dark features might have been set in stone.

Palpatine's blue eyes gave a slow, crinkling blink. "Rightfully theirs? But Dooku was a Jedi. I don't understand... Are you sure that the Count isn't merely a rogue Jedi resurrecting old demons to enhance his... mystique?"

"Very sure, Excellency.," Master Windu shifted his stance, crossing his arms and folding his hands into the sleeves of his tunic, suddenly cold. "The Sith worship power. Do not doubt that Yan Dooku wishes to usurp your authority… the authority of the Senate."

"Hah! I do not doubt that." Palpatine spat the words out and then paused, seeming to remember himself. His next words were tentative: "Senator Amidala seems confident that we can still negotiate, however...?"

"Sith do not negotiate, Chancellor."

A bitter smile: "So there will be no quarter given and we will show none in return," the politician's expression congealed into controlled purpose. "I thank you, Master Jedi, for this elucidation." He stepped forward and touched the transparisteel, his reflection shimmering under the lamps, which illuminated his silver hair. "Very well," he mused, almost to himself. "Very well, Your Grace."

A warmth stirred in Mace's soul – a consolidation of will both of them shared. Master Windu bowed.

Because Mace, too, has an attachment. Mace has a secret love.
Mace Windu loves the Republic.

- Revenge of the Sith, p. 309

The way of the Vornskr is a dangerous path. It requires a certain control – a certain... satisfaction... which is too close to the Dark Side for many Jedi to tolerate. One must allow passion to flow in, before letting it flow out of oneself. The seventh form was one of the most dangerous of lightsaber styles – for the wielder as well.

"In some ways," Master Windu confided, "I think this war is much like Vapaad."

One of Master Yoda's sleepy old eyes cracked open. "Like Vapaad, you say?" He shifted his small form on the meditation pad toward Mace, long ears pricking up.

"We have let this fight flow into us, we have accepted it. What remains is to exhale, and the longer it stays within us, the harder that is to do. I feel it, Master, in myself."

"Fear for the young ones, I do; those who have not your wisdom... But allow the Sith to win we cannot. Of the Dark Side, this war certainly is."

No, Master, spoke the creeping voice of the deadly jungles of Haruun Kal, this war is the Dark Side. For that is what Vapaad means: to allow the dark tide in and to flow back out. The Dark Side drove his beautiful padawan Depa Billaba mad in that deep, guerrilla-torn jungle – the Dark Side turned her into a creature of atrocity. This war was turning them all into creatures of atrocity.

It was impossible to tell Master Yoda this – good, pure Master Yoda who had no need of Vapaad. It was Mace Windu's great fear: for what was the galaxy without the Republic? And how could the Jedi allow the Sith, their ancient enemy, to take that without a fight? Impossible. There was only one answer for Mace Windu: cut off beast's heads and its body will fail. Kill Darth Tyranus. Kill Darth Sidious.

"The shroud of the Dark Side... blinds us, it does. Mindful, all Jedi must be."

Mace Windu closed his eyes: every second, every day, every Jedi inches closer to Depa Billaba.

Time was running out.

"The best security, Master Yoda once said, lies in creating a society nobody wishes to attack."

"Of course! But having somehow failed to convince the Trade Federation, we must play the cards as they have been dealt," the Chancellor said."This is not a perfect world and not all our choices are easy ones."

This was obviously true, and the kind of hard truth Mace Windu found more comfortable than the Chancellor's little sallies into gallantry and compliment.

- Dark Rendezvous, p. 150

"May I ask," Supreme Chancellor Palpatine said softly, "if there has been any change?" It was at the end of a meeting of the Jedi Council and the Loyalist Committee.

Mace was surprised that Palpatine even remembered Depa Billaba. She had once stood, etched in his memories, on the marble steps of Theed – the twin Beads of Illumination set into her forehead; his protégé, his padawan; two strands of oiled, black braids behind her head. Now she lay, never to wake, scars biting into her golden skin where her Chalactan marks had been.

"None," Mace enunciated stiffly, lifting his chin. Once, he might have appreciated Palpatine's inquiry, now it was an unnecessary reminder of the dangers which beset them all.

A pale hand reached up to touch Mace's shoulder. As though the Chancellor could sense what was on the Jedi's mind. "Soon this war will end." His voice was unusually soft – compassionate, hypnotic. For a second, Mace understood what drew Skywalker to claim this man as a friend.

But the Jedi Master stepped away, irritated at the Chancellor's certainty; this soft civilian's certainty. Irritated at himself: "This war will end when we have defeated the Sith, not before." For a second, Master Windu saw something oddly bloated in Palpatine's slight aura – strange flickering in a void.

Palpatine shrugged, dismissive. "The Sith. Do you Jedi think of nothing else?" Master Windu observed the smaller man with deep, careful eyes. It seemed almost as if the less certain Mace became, the more imperious the Chancellor grew. I dislike him, Mace realised suddenly. "I'm afraid I must focus on the more... secular aspects of this conflict, Your Grace." Palpatine turned away in a swish of black shimmersilk and quilted Naboo velvet, his voice sleek with command. You are dismissed, was his silent message. A Jedi Master had just been sent on his way by the Republic's Force-blind dictator. What am I thinking? I am a servant of the Republic – a servant of its leader. But part of him wondered whether this ancient arrangement was truly wise.

He put the thoughts from his mind: "The Council believes we are close to locating the elusive Sith Master... we suspect he may be on Coruscant itself." Master Windu addressed the words to the Chancellor's back, intending to provoke a reaction. That will make Palpatine listen.

"I'll thank you," Palpatine said distantly, summoning a secretary, "not to trouble me with suppositions, Your Grace. I have no time for them. Send Moore your official report." There was something mocking lurking in that tone which set Mace's teeth on edge. Nevertheless, his report was dispatched to the Chancellor's aide.

Mace stared out the window. "The Chancellor loves power, if he has any other passion, I have not seen it."

Obi-Wan shook his head with a trace of disbelief. "I recall that not so long ago, you were something of an admirer of his."

"Things," Mace Windu said gravely, "change."

- Revenge of the Sith, p. 150

Anakin Skywalker's words numbed something in Mace. Yet, for the first time in years, everything became simple again. The great, complex maze of shatterpoints was now one lethal faultline. So too, was the morality of the war reduced to a single, shining purpose – he would kill or be killed.

The second man he had once admired had now revealed himself to be evil – an enemy of everything Mace Windu stood for. There would be no more internal conflict. It was not treason: a cancer needed to be removed from the government of the Republic. Masters Windu, Kolar, Fisto, and Tin would do so without delay.

The Sith would fall, and the Republic – the Jedi –would be delivered. No more darkness.

"This is another Jedi rule," Mace took a couple of steps to one side, to find a space on the floor where he didn't have to fear tripping over a body. "If you fight a Jedi, you've already lost."

- Shatterpoint, p. 399

"You are under arrest, my lord." Mace grated the words out, as if he were fouling his mouth with them; the beam of sizzling amethyst energy centimetres from the Chancellor's chin. Palpatine was winded, muttering meaningless pleas at Anakin Skywalker like the coward he was. The rain licked Master Windu's smooth scalp and caused his lightsaber to hiss.

"The oppression of the Sith will never return. You have lost." Barely contained fury was leashed tightly to each word.

"No... no... no! You have lost!" Palpatine snarled, his face scrunching into the mask of a demon. Searing bolts bled from his fingers in a stream of agony which Mace only just managed to deflect. He didn't know how long he endured that barrage of fury, only that when it finally halted, the Chancellor was unrecognisable.

"I am going to end this once and for all!" Master Windu found he had no need to exhale. The galaxy would be scoured of this disease.

"You can't," the voice of the Chosen One was distant, as if underwater. "He must stand trial."

"He has control of the Senate and the Courts! He's too dangerous to be left alive." Kill him, kill him now!

The helpless, suppliant creature that was once Palpatine had the effrontery to beg for mercy: "Don't... don't kill me, please..." He is defenceless! Strike, strike now!

"It's not the Jedi way! He must live!" Again, that voice. Master Windu ignored it. Treason be damned. This wasn't treason, this was–

"Please, don't–"

Palpatine looked from Yoda to me, his face a mask of compassionate concern. "Who would have thought that fighting a war could have such a terrible effect on a Jedi? Even when we win," he murmured. "Who would ever have thought such a thing?

"Yes," I could only agree, "who would have thought it, indeed."

"Wonder, one must," Yoda said slowly, "if that might be the most important question of all?"

- Shatterpoint, p. 409

Lord Sidious was thoughtful, gazing into the mirror, his hood off his face, loose around his shoulders. One vein-shot hand rose to touch the bisected ripples of flesh that made up his abnormally weighted forehead.

It had been a close thing, but his long-dead Master's teachings had never yet failed him yet: tell me your greatest strength, so I will know how best to undermine you; tell me your greatest fear, so I will know which I must force you to face; tell me what you cherish most, so I will know what to take from you...

Yellow glared into yellow. What was it Yoda had once said? Once you start down the dark path...

A guttural laugh issued from the Emperor's old throat. So much for the peace-loving Jedi!