A/N: And here we have it! The sequel to Consequences! If you have not read Consequences- go back and read that first! This story will not make much sense without having read it. Very much AU by this point. To my followers- thanks for sticking with this! I hope you enjoy book two! My apologies for the cliff hanger ending of the last book and the delay in getting this up. I'm afraid the ending was necessary as the discussion which follows kinda is what makes the title of this. I'm not that evil I promise! ;)
The tension in the air was palpatable. The Rogues had all raised their blasters and held them at the ready, having formed a line in front of the Alliance leaders. On the other side of the clearing the 501st held their riffles trained on the Rebels. Each side waited for the other to make a move. Finally Mara stepped forward, keeping her lightsaber ignited lest the Rebels get trigger happy. Leia stepped forward as well despite the Rogues and other leaders who tried to keep her back. Only Han did not protest. He trusted her. "You set us up Mara!" Leia yelled.
"I didn't. I just needed to be sure you would listen and not shoot me down before we had a chance to talk." Mara snapped back.
"Really, then why is Vader here? And the 501st? I know for a fact you have the Executor pinning the Home One." Leia asked bitterly. Mara sighed.
"We all wish to negotiate… not just me. Actually this is Vader's idea… but I knew you'd never agree to meet with him." she explained. "Now can we please put our weapons away and hold a civilized talk?"
"Lower your weapons first." Leia insisted. Mara gave a resigned sigh and signalled the stormtroopers to lower the riffles, but kept her lightsaber ignited and in guard position lest anyone fire at them. Slowly. reluctantly the Rogues lowered and holstered their blasters. Only once the last weapon was away did Mara shut down her lightsaber. Vader and Luke followed suit behind her.
"Now… can we talk? Please?" Mara asked. Vader and Luke stepped up next to her. Luke wrapped a protective arm around her and Vader stepped forward to speak.
"We wish to negotiate a treaty with the Rebellion… all of us. Not just Mara." Vader explained.
"You are expecting me to believe the Emperor's top servants wish to join the Rebellion?" Leia asked skeptically, while simultaneously questioning her sanity for mouthing off to the Dark Lord.
"No." Vader answered.
"No to what? That you wish to join us or you expect me to believe it?" Leia asked.
"To both." Vader responded.
"Then why are you here? If it's not to catch us or join us…. then what is it you want?"
"To propose a treaty to join our forces while we oust Palpatine and his followers from power." Vader said. Leia fixed him with a glare.
"Palpatine is dead. Didn't you hear the news?" she asked. Vader and Mara exchanged a look and Mara spoke.
"I know. I killed him." she said. Collective gasps sprung up around the group. "But he isn't quite dead. I destroyed his body… but… powerful Sith can jump bodies. We are certain he has transferred himself into a clone body." Mara explained. With that a flurry of questions sprung up from all directions.
"How did you kill him?"
"Why did you kill him?"
"How is that possible?"
"If he's alive why is he not on the throne?"
Echoed all around her. Mara was glad for the moment for the ysalamiri she wore. It was confusing enough without hearing voices in her head as well. Luke gave her an understanding look. Finally Vader's booming voice broke through the chaos. "Enough!" he said. "We have much to discuss, but we need order." Vader said as an anxious hush fell over the group. "I will leave it to Mara's discretion to share the details of the how and why of the destruction of Palpatine's body later. That is not the issue at hand." he said. Leia sighed.
"He's right. The important question is why now? What changed?" she asked. There was a long pause and both Vader and Luke looked at each other, then Mara. Finally giving a huff Mara explained.
"It's me they want to protect… or more exactly my child I carry." she said.
"Luke's child? Vader's… grandchild?" Leia asked, much as the latter sounded strange. It was hard to imagine the monstrous Sith as a father… led alone a grandparent. Mara nodded.
"There was other things… Palpatine showing his true colours to me more… but… I knew I could never let my child fall into his hands. He made clear if my child were born in his Court… it would belong to him not me… to be groomed as an heir to the throne." she explained. "Vader and Luke… they agreed. They helped plan our escape… and here we are." As Mara spoke Leia tried to reach out in the Force as best she could without training to see if she could detect if she was lying or not. As she did she realized she could not feel Mara… or Luke or Vader for that manner.
"Why can't I-" Leia started to say then realized asking what she wanted to would mean revealing her Force sensitivity. Mara caught her eye and gave her a slight nod showing she understood. Shifting to something safer Leia asked "What do you mean by true colours?"
"Slave collars, force lightning assaults, being used as a reward, forced to dance til exhaustion…" Mara said ticking each one off on her fingers "Do I need to go on?" she asked bitterly. Leia shook her head no.
"I'm sorry Mara. I believe you I just… this is a very strange situation you have to admit." she said, and jumped as Vader began to laugh. "What's so funny?" she asked.
"You are correct, it is indeed a strange situation. I realize now just how absurd my proposition sounds." he explained. "However, you can understand my desire to keep my grandchild away from such evil."
"Last I checked, you were evil." Leia levelled at him.
"I was." Vader said, not bothering to deny it. The truth was what was needed here, however painful it was. "You must understand… Palpatine swayed me to his cause promising he could save my wife from the death I saw for her in my nightmares. She died… and I believed my children died with her. Now I know the truth… that it was all a lie to force me into serving him." Leia considered that. Was it possible Vader had been a prisoner as much as anyone in the Empire?
"You tortured me… held me back and make me watch as my home world was destroyed. How can I trust anything you say?" she asked. Vader gave a deep sigh.
"And I regret it… more then you know…" he said. Leia was stunned to hear genuine sounding sorrow and regret lacing his voice.
"What about you Luke?" she asked, turning to face the thus far silent blonde. Luke kept his eyes downcast, ashamed.
"I know what I did was wrong… he forced me to choose to kill the girl who tried to poison him… or have Mara ripped away and locked up forever where we could not reach her or rescue her." he explained. "I had just learned she was carrying my child. I knew what would happen to that child if I didn't get her away. I know it doesn't make it right, but I hope you can understand." Leia nodded.
"I understand." she said. Of course Luke had been acting to protect someone else. It was just like him to throw himself to the rancor to save someone else… literally at times she thought remembering their last meeting. Turning to face Vader, now more confident the group of Imperials- or former Imperials rather were not a threat, she asked "What are the terms of your treaty?"
"I wish co-operation and co-ordination between our forces to wrest systems from the Empires control." Vader said.
"And when systems are free of Palpatine's control, what then?" Leia asked "You said you have no desire to join the Rebellion, so I am to assume you wish to form an Empire yourself." Vader inclined his head.
"That is indeed correct." he said.
"Then why would we help you? We want a free galaxy."
"But do all systems want to be freed and part of a democratic system?" Vader challenged "I saw the failings of the Old Republic. They were crumbling long before Palpatine stepped in… systems suffering while democrats bickered over process. I do not agree with Palpatine's rule by fear… but I see the merits of an Empire." he explained.
"You'll never know unless you give a system the chance to be free." Leia shot back, and Vader nodded.
"Precisely." he said.
"What?" Leia asked.
"My proposition is this… any system freed can chose to become part of my new Empire and enjoy the stability that comes with that, or join your New Republic… and enjoy freedom at the sacrifice of stability." Vader said. Leia was stunned. It made a lot of sense. This actually had huge potential to bring peace to the galaxy once and for all. However… she also needed to follow that democratic process for now.
"We must discuss this and bring it to a vote." she said "If you would allow the Home One to land that it can be a vote made by all.. also our missing Rogues?" Leia queried. Vader nodded.
"They are aboard the Executor still… one is in the med bay, the other I can have transferred to the Home One." he said.
"Med bay? Who? What happened?" Leia asked.
"Ysanne Isard tortured both of them… I have had those wounds healed with bacta.. but your one pilot… Wedge, was hit with Force lightning, I gather when he insulted Isard in front of Palpatine. His recovery will take another day or two. If you would prefer him transferred to your med bay that can be arranged." Vader said.
"If he is stable enough to be moved… then I wish him moved to the Home One." Leia said.
"Very well, I shall command my ship to transfer both men and a supply of bacta for him" Vader said. Leia nodded still stunned at the events which had occurred.
Grand Admiral Thrawn stared out the viewport of the Star Destroyer Chimera. He disliked having to pull so many of his ships from their guard posts in Chiss and Wild Space, but was thankful the Death Star was not so far from Wild Space he could not send ships back if it were needed. The other admirals had laughed at his worry over the nearly complete Death Star, but he knew they were fools. He would have to do his best to defend the battle station from Rebel assault. He had considered asking the Emperor directly, but such would be a breach of protocol for now. Furthermore he was rather loath to interrupt his recovery time with Isard. There were certain aspects of the Emperor's life he was content not knowing about. As he studied the forest moon of Endor a voice broke his thoughts.
"Grand Admiral Thrawn sir?" Commander Pellaeon said as he approached.
"Yes?" Thrawn asked.
"There appears to be several large ships sighted landing on Jandur… do you think we should follow up on it? It sounds like the Rebel fleet is gathering there." Pellaeon said. Thrawn stood silently thinking for a moment, his glowing red eyes unnerving Pellaeon slightly, but he didn't flinch away.
"It is of no matter for now. I do not doubt that is indeed our Rebel fleet, but we call wait them out." Thrawn said "If we try follow them there we will end up always one step behind. By waiting at an obvious target… it is only a matter of time before they engage us." he explained. Pellaeon nodded.
"I agree sir." he said.
"There is a but in there." Thrawn said. Pellaeon sighed and nodded.
"Pestage has ordered us to focus our efforts on tracking the Rebel fleet." he said. A slight smirk crossed Thrawn's face.
"I would suggest he follow his own advise and send his ships after the Rebels if that is what he desires to do. We will stay here. I would also remind him he gave me permission for this task force." he said.
"Yes sir." Pellaeon said, giving a salute. "He wished me to comm him once I spoke with you. Shall I do that now?" he asked.
"Yes. I shall go with you and inform him personally of my decision in the matter." Thrawn said. Pellaeon had a hunch this would be a very interesting conversation to watch indeed. While many within the Empire did not question Pestage as acting Emperor while the real Emperor recovered in a secret facility, he knew Thrawn did not have the same respect for the man most did. In interesting conversation indeed.
Wes was breathing hard. All his muscles hurt. They felt like he was on fire… except his arms. He could no longer feel those, chained to the wall as he had been for hours… or maybe it was days. He didn't know anymore. He'd been kept chained upright even when Isard was not toying with him after the last time she unchained him he had tried to bolt. Kriff, he just wanted to die. He needed to really provoke Isard, because he knew it would only get worse. Maybe he should just try piss Palpatine off. He'd come to learn the man had even less control of his temper then Isard at times. He discovered that after a few off handed remarks that led him to be hit by a blast of Force lightning. At first he had hoped to maybe escape somehow, since there were so few guards around… but the guards that there were were far too trained. His only escape would be death… before Lumiya came for him. Still, he flinched when he heard familiar booted footsteps.
"His Majesty is bored and wishes some amusement." Isard said by way of greeting.
"Yeah, so where is he?" Wes asked.
"In his quarters… you will be going to him today." she said. Wes tried to laugh and ended up coughing violently.
"Yeah, like I can walk." he said bitterly.
"Your legs are still attached and as per orders I have not damaged them irreversibly. So you will walk when I say to walk." Isard said sharply as she closed a slave collar around his neck. "Every time you disobey or struggle this collar will shock you- as will it if you try run. Should you try leave the facilities… it will deliver a shock large enough to render you unconscious."
"Don't those usually kill you if you try run?" Wes asked. Isard nodded.
"They do, but this one has been modified for… suicidal prisoners." she said. Wes frowned at that.
"How- why would you think that about me?" he asked. He thought he'd been careful never to reveal his intent to her, even under the influence of her drugs.
"You forget, his Majesty can read minds. Not just surface thoughts like the weak Jedi you have seen… but anything within your mind he wishes, he can see." Isard explained as she unlocked the chains holding him. Wes landed with a hard thud on the duracreet floor. "Now get up and move." she ordered. Wes tried, but his limbs refused to cooperate. Exhausted he gave up slumping to the floor. As he did the collar sent a painful jolt through him. Isard grabbed the leash on the collar and hauled him upright.
"Kriffing woman, give me a break. I've been pinned to a wall for who knows how blasted long… let my muscles wake up." Wes grumbled. Isard chose not to respond, jabbing his thigh with some for of electric prod instead. "Shavit!" Wes cursed as the jolt hit him, leaving a burn no doubt. He hazarded a glance at the device in her hand and realized it was a prod for herding nerf.
"I said move." she barked at him, raising the prod to strike him again. Deciding it was nothing which would kill him, Wes sighed and relented, lurching forward on painful legs as the circulation returned to them.
"So what is it going to be today? Beatings? Chemicals? Slavery?" Wes asked motioning to the collar he now wore. Isard gave a cruel smirk.
"You'll see when we get there. I believe you will figure it out quite quickly." she said as they walked through the hallways to Palpatine's private quarters. Entering the room, Wes realized she was right… he knew exactly what was going on today. Standing to one side of the room was a med droid and a bacta tank. A fenced area was in the centre of the room and to one side of the fence was several cages. Each cage contained a large, vicious looking animal.
"A bit of nostalgia." Palpatine said.
"Nostalgia?" Wes asked disgusted.
"Geonosis… the battle arena for executing prisoners. Such a grand show it always was." Palpatine said wistfully. Turning to face Isard Palpatine asked "Shall we get started my dear?"
"Let us." Isard responded with a smile as she led Wes into the cage and unclipped the leash. As she walked around the other side to open the gate for a gaunt looking nexu he knew he was not going to like this at all. As the gate opened he braced himself and charged the creature, figuring it wouldn't be pretty… but maybe he could take himself out in a bloody battle if Isard wouldn't kill him. Maybe it was crazy, but his captivity had made him insane. If there was any way out he would take it