THE JEDI TEMPLE, CORUSCANT
The Jedi High Council sat in session, gathered to discuss troubling events. The disapperance of one of the councils members.
Grand Master Yoda, representing the Consular disciplin on the council, turned to a holographic projection of another council-member. "Grand Master Kota, what news have you?"
The shimmering blue projection looked troubled. "There is no word on the whereabouts of Grand Master Sifo-Dyas I'm afraid. I have recieved updates from nearly all Rangers all across the galaxy and so far nothing of consequence."
The council-members found it disturbing. The disciplin of Rangers within the Jedi Order specialized in roaming the galaxy in search for plots and plans intent on undermining the stability of the Old Republic. Rangers had the most contacts, capable of retrieving the most reliable information on nearly any subject or situation. And yet, they knew nothing of what might have befallen a grand master of the Jedi who had not been heard from in little over a week.
"Could he be on a pilgrimage?" Klo Ploon said, the male Kel Dor recognizable thanks to his facemask.
Yoda nodded and hummed, closing his eyes. "I sense him not. In shadow, his fate is hidden."
"We should then en-devour to seek him out and ascertain the truth" the grand master of the Guardian disciplin, Kit Fisto, suggested rather demandingly, the nautolan jedi eager to volounteer.
"Master Windu" Ki-Adi-Mundi of the Sentinel disciplin said as he turned to the youngest jedi present in the council-chamber. "You are, as Grand Master Sifo-Dyas, of the Watchers disciplin. What are your insights?"
Mace Windu sighed and thought upon the matter. He was not a member of the High Council, not being his discplins grand master. However, with Sifo-Dyas missing, someone had to fill the grand masters seat on the council and the High Council and its members had elected Master Windu to represent the Watchers disciplin for the time being.
Windu eventually shared his thoughts. "Sifo-Dyas has for the past few years been secretive of his actions and suspicious concerning many matters in the Republic. As a fellow Watcher, I would say that he either grew paranoid because of insights into the Dark Side, or... Or he discovered something troubling. So troubling that he did not dare to trust anyone, not even his fellow jedi."
"He could have gone rogue... or even turned" Saesee Tinn thought aloud, the Iktotchi looking grim as he voiced the possibly.
Windu refused such theories. "Sifo-Dyas was a Grand Master of the Jedi Order. He was loyal and well versed in the ways of the Force. He would never betray our trust. I will begin to search for clues to his whereabouts as soon as we are done here."
"Find him we must" Yoda then said to ease the discussion. "A dangerous path, Sifo-Dyas had chosen, why else a grand master of the Jedi Order would disappear I do not know. For his disciplin, too perilous the path was. To his fate discover, another disciplin should be chosen. Master Windu, a Watcher you are and send a Watcher we can not."
Grand Master Rahm Kota's holographic projection was next to speak. "Let me select a Ranger to the task. We will find Sifo-Dyas, I promise the council."
Yaddle of the Scholar disciplin shook her head at the suggestion. Being of the same species as Grand Master Yoda, her way of speaking was typical of their kind. "On this matter, no use Rangers are to us. No news they have now, no news they will have later. Another disciplin, send we must."
Kota, while not pleased by the verdict, did keep his emotions in control. "Then may I ask that the Jedi chosen to depart on this mission at least has a Ranger as padawan?"
"I think I know whom to send" Ki-Adi-Mundi said and gained everyones attention.
Satele Shan, Jedi Knight of the Guardian disciplin, entered one of the many chambers dedicated to meditation in the Jedi Temple. She was accompanied by her padawan, a Twi'lek female named Kayo Kai Kahn who had already been accepted into the Ranger disciplin among the Jedi. In the large chamber they were greeted by Grand Master Ki-Adi-Mundi and Grand Master Saesee Tinn. The two younger jedi bowed low out great respect and then sat down with the two revered and experienced grand masters.
"Jedi Satele" Ki-Adi-Mundi said, a slight smile on his lips as he adressed his old pupil.
"Grand Master" Satele replied, a smile on her lips aswell. "You summoned."
"I did" Ki-Adi-Mundi nodded. "I have an assignment for you. One of great import."
"Of course" Satele said with a bow of her head.
Ki-Adi-Mundi glanced over at Saesee who replied with a nod. Ki-Adi-Mundi returned his attention to the two younger jedi. "Grand Master Sifo-Dyas has gone missing. His fate is uncertain and we must discover what has happened to him."
"Yes of course, grand master" Satele said, understanding the serious nature of the situation. "Are there any leads at all?"
"None" the Iktotchi cut in. "None apart from nine days ago, when Jedi Jentun was the last to speak to Sifo-Dyas."
Ki-Adi-Mundi sighed and nodded. "Sifo-Dyas was according to Jedi Jentun on his way on urgent business. We have checked the data-logs and found that the grand master took a transport to Kramalg, a planet some thirty parsecs away from Coruscant. That is the last lead we have. What happened on Kramalg we do not know, nor why he went there."
"You will go there" Saesee muttered, "and start your search. Be wary, for the path you will walk will take you to a place where a grand master of our Order was found wanting."
"You are capable, Jedi Satele. The High Council sees this. May the Force be with you" Ki-Adi-Mundi said and offered a nod of respect to his former apprentice.
CITY OF THEED, NABOO
A shuttle of the Trade Federation flew in over the amazing landscape with its course set on Theed and the palace of House Amidala. In the palace court, the baroness and her advisors sat in wait along with members of other noble houses that acted as advisors to the baroness in her position as queen. The large doors opened and allowed a large retinue to enter the marble-floor of the Amidalan court, a squad of Federation soldiers in strict formation marching infront of two representatives of the Trade Federation, who in turn was followed by two full squads of armed securitydroids. A nabooan valet announced the guests.
"Sales Count Lo-Ama-Foyor and Sales Count Glu Nayron of the Trade Federation, here on behalf of Trade Monarch Nute Gunray of Neimoidia, viceroy of the Trade Federation."
"Your highness" Count Nayron said and offered the queen the slightest of bows.
"State your purpose here, count" Queen Amidala said, her voice sharp and to the point, and despite her young years, recently only turning twenty years of age, her posture and voice demanded respect.
Count Nayron straightened his back and studied the young queen. "I am here to offer you the chance to avoid further conflict by presenting to you a treaty, signed by Viceroy Gunray himself." The neimoidian count held out a datapad that was retrieved by Baron Sio of Lauron. "I suggest you sign it."
"We will see" Queen Amidala replied, not without sarcasm.
Baron Sio, who had retrieved the datapad, took a moment to read what it had to say. What he read made him red in the face with anger. "Are you out of your mind?!" he said in disbelief. Baron Sio then turned to his queen and explained briefly what she was being offered to sign. "The viceroy offers Naboo to join the Trade Federation, leaving its elected monarch as regent in name, with all real governing powers moved to a Federal Governor, appointed by the Trade Federation Directorate. To ensure stability, the Trade Federation will leave a garrison on Naboo of sufficient size and capability to make sure all aspects of society are kept safe."
"A most generous offer" Count Lo-Ama-Foyor cut in. "I suggest you sign it."
"My lords" Amidala said and gained everyones attention. "I can not agree to these terms, as I'm sure you can understand. The matter of joining the Trade Federation under these circumstances is unacceptable and further more will I never, under no circumstance, allow Federation troops to occupy Naboo and have a Federation beaurocrat govern over my people and steal this planets resources."
Count Nayron chuckled with amusement. "My lady, this is not that kind of negotiation. You will accept these terms and sign the treaty simply because it will spare your people a great deal of suffering. A great deal, my lady."
"I believe we are done here" Queen Amidala coldly stated.
The neimoidian and cerean lords bowed and then the two of them, along with their retinue of Federation troops, left the court to return to their shuttle and head back to orbit and rejoin the blockade.
"Absurd" Baron Sio sneered as the doors to the court closed behind the Federation party.
Baron Gelda of the city of Dulac was worried. "Perhaps, but signing that document would ensure peace and would save our people alot of hardship."
The Steward of House Palpatine shook his head, troubled over the situation. "They leave little room for diplomacy or negotiation. First they demand our moons and our lucrative spice-mines. Now they demand our entire planet. And this fleet in orbit? What purpose does it serve?"
"To scare us?" Baron Sio frowned. "Is that what we are reduced to? Frightened children cowering in the face of bullies?"
Baron Gelda grew tired of Sio's reluctance. "You would sooner see Naboo burn than have peace?"
"I would have her be free" Baron Sio argued. "Something your father understood, baron."
Before Baron Gelda had a chance to respond, the queen cut them both off. "Enough!" she harsly ordered. "This bickering is pointless. Now, open the channel to Senator Palpatines office."
In the middle of the court a holographic projection of Senator Palpatine appeared, the old man resting against his cane that was his trademark.
"My queen" Palpatine said and offered a respectful bow.
"Senator" Queen Amidala said with a smile. "Any news from Coruscant?"
"I am happy to report, your majesty, that Chancellor Valorum was furious at the news of our terrible situation and took it upon himself to journey to Cato Neimoidia and confront Viceroy Gunray."
"How does the neimoidian senator respond to all of this?" Baroness Verona wondered.
The image of Senator Palpatine shook his head. "Senator Nueb is adamant in his claims that the Trade Federation has broken no law and that this blockade is completely legal."
"What help can we expect from the Republic?" Amidala then asked.
"Hard to say, your majesty" Palpatine regretfully informed his sovereign. "The news are so fresh not many have yet had time to react or respond to it. It still needs to be officially confirmed by the Senate that this blockade does indeed exist."
"Baron Palpatine" Baron Gelda said as he adressed the holographic image of the Naboo senator, "we were just now presented with a treaty where the Federation offers to include Naboo as a member in order to end this blockade."
"Unthinkable!" Baron Sio voiced his opinion aloud.
"Most troubling" the senator admitted. "If the blockade is indeed deemed legal, then the Federation could cut us off from the rest of the galaxy until they are satisfied that what ever demands they place upon us are met."
"I will never yield" Queen Amidala said, her voice cold and dark. "This is our home and I will not be forced to hand it over, along with my people, to become a pawn in the service of the Federation."
"My queen" the Steward of House Amidala said, "is it not dangerous to deny so strongly any chance for a mutual agreement?"
"I must agree with your sister, your highness" Senator Palpatine admitted. "For diplomacy to work, all sides must be prepared to sit down and discuss and negotiate. I suggest you offer the Federation a counter-proposal. It would at the very least buy us time to gather allies in the Senate."
"Prudent advice, your majesty" the senators brother added.
"Very well" the queen said, almost reluctantly. "Diplomacy will be allowed to run its course."
Hedna was a planet of farmlands, of homesteads, ranches and praries. Great herds of beasts graced the grasslands and farmers plowed their fields. Communities were simple, efficient and without extravaganz. The people who lived here were hardworking, honest and simple folk who toiled the land and took care of their livestock, supporting a hundred other worlds with food.
The Eta-class shuttle, its wings folded up next to the dorsal wing, stood on its landing-gears up on a ridge covered in grass. From its position, one had a perfect view over the dozen or so farms located in the shallow valley bellow. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn pulled his robes tighter around him as the winds grew in strength, the flat plains unable to restrain the winds and gales.
A small farmstead was located at the base of the grassy ridge and the family living there stood huddled in tears as their youngest, a mere infant, was carried away by a young man wearing the robes of a Jedi. Qui-Gons padawan kept his composure while the baby screamed and cried, needing the comfort of its mother, but Qui-Gon could sense that his apprentice had difficulty being comfortable about taking the child. As the padawan came up to his master, Qui-Gon moved his hand over the babys face and instantly calmed it by gentle persuasion with the help of the Force.
"It needs to be done" Qui-Gon said as the baby smiled at the padawan.
"I know, master."
"Control your feelings, Obi-Wan. This is the final test before the trials. Retrieving a prospect and being calm, passive, is a true indication that you are ready."
Obi-Wan Kenobi nodded and found inner peace and had complete control over his emotions as they boarded their shuttle. Qui-Gon sat down by the controls while his padawan fed the baby with nutrient-fluids in the back and the Jedi Master had the shuttle take off and head for space. Behind them, they left a distraught family who had to give up a child, a daughter, for the good of the Old Republic. For the good of peace and justice. For the Jedi.
Hours later, the shuttle was hurtling through hyperspace, the phenomena of travelling through a tunnel of pure blue energy filling the entire view from the cockpit. Qui-Gon appeared the true father-figure as he walked over to his sleeping padawan, child in his arms still, and removed the nutrients-bottle from his apprentice hand. Returning it to its proper place, the jedi master carefully lifted the sleeping baby from Obi-Wans embrace and gently put it down in small sleeping-pod where it would rest more safely and secure.
Qui-Gon glanced at the baby and his padawan and smiled with a sigh and then headed for the cockpit and took his seat by the communications-console situated behind the pilots chair. Retrieving from his belt what best could be described as a small memory-card, one inch by three and a third of an inch thick, Qui-Gon studied the transmit-matrix as he held it up before him. Eventually he decided to use it and secured it in the proper socket on the communications-console and activated the signal. Once the lights were flashing, he sat back, closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Two hours later, Qui-Gon woke up as an incoming signal was registered on the console. He double-checked the nature of the signal and recognized it, mage a gesture with his hand and using the Force the jedi master activated the dial that sealed the airlock between the cockpit and the habitat-compartment. Once he was on his own, he let the signal through and the consoles holo-projector activated and created a blue holographic image of an eldery mans head, face covered by a well looked after beard.
"Qui-Gon, it has been too long, old friend."
"Master Dooku" the jedi said, smiling at his old tutor and masters holographic transmission.
"Please, you surpassed my teachings long ago. And I left the Order many years ago at that. No need to be so formal, Qui-Gon."
"The bond between master and padawan is strong" Qui-Gon smiled.
"That it is" Dooku nodded. "How is your own young apprentice? I remember him being a prodogy as a youngling before I decided to leave the Order."
Qui-Gon chuckled and nodded. "He is reckless, with a longing for excitement, always with one eye on the horizon, the future. I constantly have to remind him to pay focus on the present, to listen to the living Force."
Dooku grinned as his former apprentice described his padawan to him. "A Ranger, I suspect."
"Actually, no. Sentinel" Qui-Gon said. "Headstrong, eager and quick to judge and quicker still to trust his instincts."
Dooku seemed pleased by this. "Good! The Order needs more Jedi of that calibre. Too many Scholars, Mystics and..."
"And Consulars?" Qui-Gon said with a smile at the corner of his mouth.
Dooku did not deny it. "I have always been of the opinion that the Order spends too many hours discussing rather than acting. The only way to rid the Republic of corruption is through action, not lengthy sessions of debate. The galaxy needs a strong Jedi Order, the galaxy needs jedi that are involved, not umpires at the sidelines."
"Power corrupts as surely as greed" Qui-Gon pointed out. "A jedi should not seek power."
"No he should not" Dooku agreed. "But like it or not, the jedi are powerful. And have it in their power to bring peace and order to the galaxy. But instead, Yoda and the High Council will have us sit idle as the Old Republic crumbles before us. Do nothing as the Dark Side grows in strength each year. That is not leadership, Qui-Gon. That is indifference. And I suspect that you share my hesitation towards the current situation in the galaxy."
"I do" Qui-Gon said with a sigh. "As a Consular, I come face to face with alot of the corruption that has crippled our society. It has been allowed to take root for too long. We can not rid the galaxy from it Im affraid. We are too late."
Dooku stroked his beard as he considered his options. "What if I told you that there is a way."
Qui-Gon seemed hesitant. "How?"
"I have gained the trust of the Trade Federation" Dooku explained. "They have made me one of their Sales Counts and I am the personal advisor to the viceroy himself."
Qui-Gon found it odd to say the least. "The Trade Federation? I would think they are the source to much of the problems in the Republic and the galaxy."
"Greed can be a powerful ally" Dooku reminded his old apprentice. "Through them, I will make sure that the Republic gets the chancellor it needs. The chancellor we all need." Dooku smiled at his former padawan. "I can not deny that I could use your help, old friend. Together, we could create a new republic that we could be proud of. A republic of strong leaders and lasting peace. I have forseen it, Qui-Gon. Join me and we will succeed."
"I sense conflict in you, master" Qui-Gon said. "Are you alright?"
"Such is life outside of the Order. Almost unavoidable. But I have my emotions under control and I am free to engage the enemies of the Republic as I see fit. Not constrained by Yoda and the council."
"I must confess that I don't always see eye to eye with the council" Qui-Gon admitted. "They are so eager in preserving peace that they completely ignore upholding justice. The Republic is no longer a pursuit to create a safe galaxy, only to fuel greed."
"Then join with me, Qui-Gon" Dooku urged the Jedi Master. "Together we can end the corruption that has ravaged the Republic. Together we could create a prosperous and secure society."
"With the help of the Federation?"
Dooku nodded. "They have the resources and the contacts I need. I will put their wealth and influence to good use and place a chancellor of my choosing to lead the senate. A strong chancellor with integrity and dignity. A chancellor capable of creating a new republic, one of law and order and stability." Dooku paused, but Qui-Gon did not voice his own thoughts, something that told the former Jedi that he had managed to reach through to his old padawan. "Your thoughts betray you, old friend. Your feelings dwell on the child your apprentice will bring back to the Order."
"It is an unfortunate necessity" Qui-Gon said, trying to sound as confident as ever.
"Abducting children from their families?" Dooku asked, clearly of a different opinion. "Is that what you truly want to do? Protect traditions that allows the kidnapping of infants? You don't have to destroy families, Qui-Gon. I could not stand it and nor do you. Join me, Qui-Gon, and we will change the galaxy."
"I will consider it" Qui-Gon eventually said, smiling at his old masters tenacity, "as soon as Obi-Wan passes the trials. I make no promises."
Dooku grinned. "Again your thoughts betray you, my apprentice."