@mercurydancer
MercuryDancer

Currently in Star Wars Hell. F my entire life at this point. Mainly reblogs.Good Fucking Luck, Sheev, you Dumb Bitch. Found on Ao3 as HopelesslyLost

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2022-09-28 04:26:56
    artbyblastweave

    I’m not even joking- has anyone ever done lovecraftian eldritch abominations that, like, go out of their way to avoid bothering humans?

     Because if you want to run with the “we’re like ants to them” metaphor, most people who aren’t total assholes are making, like, an active choice not to stomp on anthills or squash random bugs. They step over or around. And it’s not the bog-standard indifference of the genre, there’s an active thought process of “You’re not bothering me so I won’t bother you.”

    I want a story about people exploring an eldritch horror-city like Ryleh, and eventually it turns out that all the bizarre psychological torture and warping environs and all that are an elder god’s equivalent of trying to shoo out a fly or a spider without killing it.

    I want a story about how the empathy of an elder god is just as dangerous as it’s wrath.

    An Unexpected Chance Pt. 18

    Technique 47

    -

    "Sidious had formed an almost filial bond with Maul." - Darth Plagueis pg. 427 James Luceno. "And my Apprentices? Darth Maul was a Loss, but Darth Tyranus...he was a Proton Torpedo. He served his purpose and was gone..." - Darth Sidious to Lord Vader (Darth Vader Comics #20 2016 Marvel)

    _

              Mace Windu could not breathe.

              Mace stared at the small child before him, the one that had been his Apprentice when he was older, the one that even now he had taken care of, his son in all but blood… And he stared at pure…and utter terror.

              Mace took in the fear in those eyes, feeling the flickering and above-all desperate grasps at Dark, watching the way they flickered between yellow and gold as Maul could not decide whether to fight or to flee… Maul cowered in terror, lowering himself down, falling into the position that he had been taught, bowing low, low…

              And then Mace stared at Chancellor Sheev Palpatine.

              Sheev Palpatine who was staring at Maul with simple…

              Horrified…

              Shock.

              And then, Mace watched…as that shock shifted, hardened, turned to something more confused…

              Concerned.

              And it was the most damning evidence of all.

              Mace’s lightsaber was in his hand before he consciously thought of it, for a moment the realization of who he was staring at overwhelming all other thoughts, all other feelings. Mace was staring at the man who had tortured his son. Mace was staring at the man who had broken his son.

              Mace was staring at the man who had been Maul’s father before him.

              And the rage that threatened to eclipse him, the Wodza that still beat in his breast was momentarily almost enough to overwhelm all else.

              But the sound of blasters, the sight of the Guards, taking in the way they had moved to close ranks was enough to get Mace to slowly…jerkily…breathe it out.

              And also led to the realization that he was not the only one who had drawn their saber.

              Plo, Eeth, Yoda, Yaddle, and Depa…all staring at the man…who had tricked them all…

              They could not attack blindly.

              They were Jedi.

              Mace took a breath.

              “This is your Chancellor?” the words were an immediate interruption, Mace turning to look to Savage, Savage who had bundled Maul close to him, Savage who had his arm around Feral, the naked terror in the eyes of the eldest slowly spreading to Feral, who was also realizing who he was staring at. Feral who was reaching for Maul’s shoulder, cringing close to him, a mixture of fear and desperation in his gaze. “A man who kidnaps children? Who rips them from their brothers? You would put a man like this as the head of your Senate?”

              And a dizzying slow relief filled Mace’s mind for a moment as he realized what Savage had just given them, watching the way the Guards hesitated, the slow lowering of weapons, the way shoulders tensed.

              There was truth echoing in every word of Savage’s, etched in every line of his face, even now visible in the way Maul had switched to desperately clawing at Savage’s shoulders, trying to pull himself further away… And there was no doubting the terror, no doubting the utter horror in that…

              It was not something that could be feigned.

              “Chancellor Palpatine,” Mace said, his voice low, his tone even – an anchor that they could grasp hold of, and he could see…could feel the way the brothers had focused on him. “You have been accused of kidnapping…and the torture of a child…”

              Mace watched as Palpatine’s gaze flickered to his, and then it went back to the brothers.

              Palpatine’s expression softened turned to something almost soothing, something… He took a step forward his hands opening as though to reach out and sooth, but the sound of Maul’s voice breaking as finally, finally…

              “Please,” Maul managed, his high-pitched child’s voice never sounding so… Mace’s mouth tightened, “please, Master, I didn’t know, I didn’t…” his voice did not so much break as it shattered, falling silent at the way Palpatine’s hands stretched out, the fingers curling as though to make a fist, or to…or to… The idea of Sith lightning, the idea of those hands lowering to point at the small, deceptively fragile body of a boy who was no more than six years old, to drive lightning into his body until he was screaming and raw, until even now lightning covered his skin… All of these images flashed through his mind just as he became aware of the way Savage’s brown tunic darkened, the utter terror in Maul’s gaze turning to something crazed, something desperate, the smell of urine and…

              The Guards had moved then, turning towards the Chancellor, and Mace was aware of Bail, Bail in their midst, and Padmé… Padmé’s face was a mask of stone, every inch the regal Queen that had been.

              Padmé’s gaze was sharp enough to kill, and she leveled it at the Chancellor, and she was not the only one. Bail stared at him as well, taking steps back from the man he had been standing next to, the shock and the horror turning to something like disgust.

              For a moment Mace thought that this would be it.

              This would be the moment when they would fight the Sith that had been hiding in their midst this entire time, this would be the moment that decided their future.

              And then Palpatine took a deep breath, and slowly straightened to his full height.

              “Guards,” he said, his voice full of the soft grandfatherly concern that had softened more than one heart, putting his hands behind his back, standing there with a look of what could only be described as profound misery on his face. “I stand before you accused in word and in deed as a kidnapper and a torturer of children, as our esteemed Master Jedi has already stated. It seems…as though the only thing to do…would be to arrest me for questioning.”

              Mace could hardly believe what he was hearing.

              But there was a part of him that was aware of the fact that this was a man who had been in their midst for years.

              This was a man who Maul himself as a teenager and an adult had spent time without realizing who he was.

              Maul had talked about not trusting him before, but they were words that were oftentimes spoken in jest, in tease…

              This…

              This was neither.

              And so, Mace found his lips firming, pressing together, as the Guards moved to follow through.

              Bail turned his attention to the Nightbrothers, Mace turning to look one last time at the child his Padawan had been.

              And looked back to the person who had broken him, the one whose destruction of the boy had taken years and years to piece back together, who even now was still full of cracks, would perhaps never fully heal… And knew that it was his duty to see to it that the man was either arrested…

              Or dead.

              Judging from the looks on his fellow Jedi…

              He was not the only one.

    -

              Chancellor Palpatine – Darth Sidious sat in a holding cell and Seethed.

              This was not a part of the plan, could not have been part of the plan, and yet…and yet here he sat. He had been questioned by many, letting his voice and the slightest glimmer of suggestion easily sway many of them as they came. No, Sheev had never seen the Nightbrothers before in his life, how could he have? Clearly the eldest – the one whose voice had damned him first and the one that would be the first to die – clearly he had mistaken him. They were Nightbrothers, after all, when had they ever seen another human?

              They had lived in Slavery all of their lives, clearly they would not recognize him properly, and the youngest…

              And even as the thought flickered through his mind the seething rage rose up, and Sidious desperately wished that he had killed him years ago, killed the boy that he had raised, the boy that had betrayed him… Clearly the child was traumatized, clearly he did not know what he was speaking of.

              And so, it had been, so it had gone, a quiet inquisition as a disruption at this juncture, with tensions so high in the Senate would not go over well…

              Sidious was a good actor, and a better liar, and he could see and feel the way their resolve was weakening.

              The only issue that he could see was with the Jedi, but they had not said anything, they had not even been in the room with him.

              Sidious did not trust it, but it was fine, their lack of presence at the moment was making it easier to sway them.

              And then…someone entered that Sidious had never seen before and had never expected.

              A jewel toned blue Rodian wearing the robes of a Jedi.

              And he was followed closely by the members of the Jedi Council.

    _

              Healer Tiq had taken the news that the likelihood that the Chancellor was the Sith Lord as well as he could have, he believed. Tiq had taken the information that Mace had given him, watched the footage the Guards provided, and for a moment he had not moved.

              And then Tiq brought out the File.

              It was a file that he had been working on for years off and on, after having worked with Maul, after having started to compile all that Maul knew of his Master…and all that Tiq had guessed.

              Tiq reread this file, this composite of all that Tiq had learned and heard of Maul’s Master, and slowly plugged in the equation of the Chancellor within its margins.

              And found that it fit.

              Tiq sat there for a moment, and took a deep breath, before finally standing up and first asking to be taken to the Brothers.

              Tiq found Maul, Feral, and Savage in a visiting room in the bowels of the prisons, next to the interrogation room where they were speaking to the Chancellor. Bail was with them, and Tiq could hear the defeated way Savage spoke, the anger in his voice as he asked, “what would our words matter? He is the Chancellor, surely we have no voice in this Senate, when we are not even your citizens.”

              Tiq watched as Bail’s face tightened, turning to look at Padmé who was sitting there as well. They had cleaned and redressed Maul, the little boy looking every inch his age in a way that he had not, wide-eyed and utterly petrified. Tiq felt it like a knife in his heart.

              Tiq finally left the room and walked to the place where they were watching the security feeds of the Chancellor and the interrogation, taking in the sight of the Council already there, listening to the gentle voice of who Tiq knew now to be the Sith Master quietly asking how he could have possibly kidnapped any child…and that was when Tiq took a breath, “I would like to speak to the Prisoner.”

              There was a pause as they turned to look at him, and Tiq stood silently, his hands behind his back, patient.

              “You will need clearance for it, Jedi,” one of the Guards said, and his expression was flat. Tiq took him in for a moment, late middle-aged, human, his helmet placed near him. There was a troubled and angry look on his face, “why should we let you in when we have our people?”

              “Because I have a doctorate in psychology and have previous experience in criminal behavior and have given guest lectures on the topic in the past at the local College,” Tiq answered plainly. “Though admittedly my experience is primarily in the field of trauma recovery and healing. If you wish to look this up my name is Tiq Nooz, and you will find that I am a Healer – though I am technically also a Doctor, and I have questioned many under your jurisdiction for you before. Though you may not know that as I do not recognize you, are you new?” He raised a simple brow the man left speechless.

              “That’s good enough for me, Healer,” another Guard said, walking forward. The Togruta had not been in the room initially, but as she approached Tiq straightened, and then smiled.

              “Olom, it is good to see you.”

              “And you, Tiq,” Olom said, “though I wish it was under better circumstances. I have heard the charges and listened to the accusations.” She paused, removing the ceremonial helmet from her head, and placing it under an arm. “They are rough,” she said, “I do not…” she paused. “I had never thought that the Chancellor could be capable of such a thing, but the stories…the way they speak. You cannot fake that kind of conviction.”

              “No,” Tiq said softly, “you cannot.”

              “You think he did it?” Olom asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said. “But I need for you to let me in there to talk to him. I believe…that the Chancellor has been lying for longer than we know.”

              Olom paused, “I trust you,” she said, “you had my back several times over the years, I think I can afford you this. Particularly…” she paused. “Tiq, I saw that little boy’s records, his file…what they show…it’s heinous…”

              “It is,” Tiq agreed.

              “If you can get him to confess, Tiq, do it,” Olom said. “No mind tricks.”

              “Not necessary,” Tiq said, waving a hand, “besides, you know I find it distasteful.”

              “I do,” Olom grinned, “do your work, Healer.”

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and turned to look at the feed. “If I may, I would like for Eeth, Plo, Mace, and Yoda to accompany me.” He turned to Yaddle and Depa, both looking to him. “Take care of them, please,” he said softly, and Yaddle and Depa both nodded, before they left to the holding room where the others sat and waited.

              Tiq stood there for a moment, mentally counting down the minutes, watching as the Guard that had been with the Chancellor finally left, taking in the way Palpatine’s features closed slowly, the way he drummed his fingers on the table… Impatient.

              Tiq was aware of the weight of the Council’s gazes on him, and he turned to look at them finally. 

              “You think you can get him to talk, Tiq?” Eeth asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said, “which is why you must be ready.”

              “We will have your back, Healer,” Plo said, his voice a low rumble.

              Tiq smiled at them, before turning back to look at the man who had been Chancellor. “It really is quite clever when you think about it,” he said. “It makes me regret the fact that I never did ask Maul who his Master was. I made an assumption that much like the older one, this one did not have access to the memories that were taken. I see now…that I was mistaken. We have made too many mistakes with this man…we cannot make another.”

              “No,” Eeth agreed, his voice low.

              “Well,” Tiq said, “I have one last request.”

              “Yes?”

              “Do not think ill of me for what I am about to do,” Tiq said, looking to them, and finally opened the door to the holding cell, the others following him in.

              Tiq’s first impression of the Chancellor had always been a man that was kind. A grandfatherly presence that radiated kindness. Tiq also believed that he was hiding something.

              From the very beginning, Tiq had not trusted him, mostly because that presence had not changed. A politician – particularly a career one – did not stay in business by being nice. There was a certain cutthroat intensity that came with the trade and generally made them very good liars. Now, what they lied about differed, and Tiq was more willing to accept and trust someone like Padmé, whose lies he knew and primarily revolved around how she kept herself safe, and similarly with Bail, whose lies tended to make his ideas more palatable at times…

              But Tiq had never been able to tell what the Chancellor was lying about.

              Tiq rather thought he had found out.

              Chancellor Palpatine looked up at them, recognition blooming. “Ah,” he said, “Master Jedi, hello,” he said, looking at the ones that stood there. There was a certain level of relief in his expression.

              It made Tiq sick.

              Tiq had no doubt that he was standing before one of the most powerful Force Users in the Galaxy. Tiq also had no doubt that he could get a confession out of him, and in fact, get him to confess to way more than just the kidnapping of a child.

              The mind was not as good at multitasking as most thought it was. It was good at changing tack quick enough to make it seem as though it was, but there was no doubt that every change caused further mental strain, and when someone was so focused on one aspect it was very difficult to pick at another.

              But Tiq had no need to multitask. His goal was simple – skim the mind of the man before him, and pluck the information and the strings that he needed.

              Tiq had studied his file for years, compiled it out of everything that Maul had told him, all that he had put together.

              Tiq was ready.

              “I cannot tell you what a relief it is to see you,” Palpatine said, “it’s such an awful business, is it not? The idea that I would have kidnapped that child…” he paused, looking at them. “Not that he truly is a child, of course…I do recognize those marks. It is amazing the things your wayward Apprentice got into, is it not?” he asked, looking to Mace.

              And that was enough.

              Tiq took a breath and made his move, spinning the seat that was before Palpatine so the back faced him, hitching his robes up enough, he straddled it, leaning forward, and with an accent that Tiq had not permitted himself in years, calmly hissed, “Shut up, bitch.”

              Palpatine froze.

              “I can understand if you’re a little slow – career Politician and everything – but I sincerely cannot believe that you’ve never had one of these little interrogations. Surely you’ve realized by now that I am the one asking the questions and making the little comments, hmm?” Tiq smiled and felt the mind before him bristle.

              Oh.  

              But Tiq was good at his job…

              “So,” Tiq clapped his hands twice, “since we need the reminder I am going to go through the rules, yes?” and even as he spoke Tiq began brushing the surface of those shields – impossibly tight, yes, but there were ways, particularly when pressure was applied.

    It was impossible to keep a lid on everything, particularly when the brain was bombarded with external stimuli, especially of the sort that Tiq was providing. The best part was Tiq didn’t even have to think about what he was saying. Most of it was thoughts he had had for years. The other part was born from intimate knowledge of the way the system did work.

              “Rule number one,” he said, “you only speak when spoken to, I know you…ah, Senate types have a problem with that, none of you seem to be able to wait your turns when speaking, but here we are… Rule number two you answer as truthfully as possible, since I know you types like lying~” Tiq winked at him, leaning further forward, and as he continued speaking he let his mind reach out gently, skimming the surface for the thoughts he was really after.

              All of the thoughts of Maul.

              There were…many.

              More than there ought to be…

              Strange…

              “Rule number three, as you have forgone a lawyer with the Guard you cannot ask for it now, I don’t know if they mentioned that or if you were aware, but them’s the breaks and now you have to deal with me. Charming, I’m sure~”

              Palpatine’s expression turned sour and Tiq’s grin turned extra charming.

              “Rule number four…” Tiq paused, “well, I don’t know that I can think of another rule really, outside of the fact that you have to answer after every question, or I will personally hold you in contempt. You are aware of the fact that you are being held in here for the kidnapping and torture of a child, yes? Do you think you can afford to be any more in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s expression tightened further momentarily seething at him, and Tiq found the source of the thoughts, and as he brushed it he realized what he was sensing.

              Palpatine had memories that were not his within his mind, and they were memories that recognized Tiq.

              Tiq had a bond with Maul, severed that it was currently, it had been within his mind for years, something used to check up on him periodically, something that let him know that the man was still alive. Palpatine had never created a bond with his Apprentice. It was something that Maul had both bemoaned and relished in over the years, but it was also something that Tiq could use – both to pull himself within the mind that the memories did not belong in, but also take those back.

              Tiq’s grin showed teeth.

             “Are you in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s chin rose, his expression showing he very much was.

              Tiq did not care.

              “No,” Palpatine said finally, his lips barely moving, “I rather think that I cannot say I am.”

              Tiq grinned wider, his eyes fixed upon the Chancellor, “You’re quite right, you can’t say you are,” he winked. “Now,” he said, “since we have gotten the rules out of the way I think it’s time to really play, don’t you? So, here’s the first question, I’m going to make it easy on you, are you ready?” Tiq’s eyes narrowed, even as he began slowly shifting his way back. “You’re not very good at this are you?” he asked when the Chancellor remained silent.

              “Yes, I am ready,” Palpatine hissed.

              Tiq was very aware of the fact that he may perhaps be pushing too hard, that he may wind up causing the Chancellor to snap before he was finished. Tiq didn’t care.

              He was having too much fun.

              “Very good!” he called out, giving a loud and very exaggerated clap, “that is ten points to the Chancellor of the Republic, you are very good at this, aren’t you?”

              “…Yes…I am.”

              “You are leaaaarning~” Tiq sing-songed, and slid his way in. “Now, tell me why you kidnapped a child.”

              “I…” Palpatine’s mind was a flush of thoughts, a wash of ideas of…of half-formed plans and a… Tiq traced the feelings that lay there, that tightened around the memories that did not belong to him. But they were memories that were hiding Tiq – recognizing him and letting him sink deep within their surface without reading them. Tiq was too good at his job for that.

              Tiq almost wished he wasn’t, recognizing the feelings of possessiveness and an almost achingly bitter fury, yes – but also recognizing the softer things, the pride, the modicum of warmth. There was a true affection within them, and Tiq was filled with a slow, boiling disgust.

              “Would never,” Palpatine finally said, “to kidnap a child? To take him from his family in such a manner is utterly heinous. A true contempt of everything that is good about the Republic.”

              “You do not have to explain that to me,” Tiq said, rolling his eyes. “I certainly have never kidnapped a child. Not even when we had moral superiority, do you think you have Moral Superiority, Chancellor? Do you think that you are better to raise the boy than his own family? Would you have taken him out of pity?”

              And as Tiq asked the questions he pried deeper, slipping into the thoughts of disgust and hatred, but also contempt. Tiq did not particularly care what the contempt was for, even as he said, “I do not presume to know more than the boy’s family. His culture is…barbaric, but it is his own, I would not take him from that, particularly when the boy has brothers.”

              “No, that would be a cruel thing indeed,” Tiq agreed softly, “which makes it all the more terrible when you consider the fact that you took him.”

              “You…have no proof of that!” Palpatine said, his voice hissing, true rage on his face. “I had no idea that…that…” he paused, “and you are going to just let him sit here and say this?” he asked, staring at the Council members around him.

              “Ah, ah, they don’t exist, you are talking to me,” Tiq said, tapping his fist on the table, deliberately fanning the rage that he could feel, whipping it up. “I do not know why you insist on changing the subject or the focus of the conversation when we are dealing with the kidnapping and molestation of a small child.”

              And there was shock there, pure, and utter shock, vicious and black, “I never molested him,” Palpatine said.

              “But you did tattoo him everywhere,” Tiq said, “that sounds like molestation to me.”

              “I tattooed him everywhere, yes, but his…” Palpatine fell silent, and Tiq beamed at him, his eyes practically slits.

              “Oh,” he said, “so you did kidnap him then.”

              The rage and the fury that built up before him was deeper than Maul’s, an oil-slick burn, and Tiq caught a brief whispering of thought, a… “What’s Order 66?” Tiq asked, and once again that shock cooled everything, and Tiq caught hold of the thought that came up, the thoughts of…

              Clones…

              And an Army…

              And…

              “Oh,” Tiq breathed. “Oh…Force…”

              Tiq had barely enough time to snatch the memories that had allowed Tiq to enter the mind before him and WRENCH before Palpatine’s face twisted into a snarl, and suddenly there was lightning.

              Later, Tiq would think that he had never felt anything that terrible. A mix of seizing limbs and an awful pain that not only seemed to stop his heart and his lungs, but rip through his nerves, and burn his skin. Everything was pain, all was agony, and for a single solitary moment Tiq wondered if he was going to die, and then he thought of Maul – Maul who had lived with this as his main form of punishment since he was a child…

              At the time the only thing Tiq could understand was pain and the feeling of falling backwards from the chair, and then the pain suddenly ended with the sound of an igniting lightsaber.

              Tiq had just enough awareness to watch Yoda catch the lightning in his palm, absorb it back, locking eyes with the Chancellor…

              And he closed his eyes and allowed himself a second to recover.

              Shit had finally hit the fan.

              He just wished it hadn’t hit him quite so hard when it did… But Tiq had gotten what he wanted…way more than what he wanted…

              He would just…rest his eyes…for a few minutes…

    -

              Yoda caught the lightning in his palm, registering the flash of blue and purple and green blades to either side of him, meeting eyes with the Sith that had been in their midst all along…and knew that he would stop at nothing to destroy him.

              Palpatine’s face had twisted into a mask of rage and hate, and Yoda wondered in that moment how he had ever seemed otherwise. It fit his face, fit him…

              And in that one moment Yoda knew that if he could the Jedi Order and the Galaxy with it would have been ground beneath Palpatine’s boot.

              This would not be so.

              And then Palpatine snarled, and with an explosion of Force and HATE the windows exploded out, sending the other Jedi back, and Yoda realized that he still meant to get to Maul.

              Palpatine leapt through the window, Yoda forced in place to catch the last of the lightning, leaping after him, only to catch sight of Depa landing a single solid punch to Palpatine’s face, mid-reach for her own lightsaber, the sound of it loud and thick in the air, outside of the shattering glass, the sound of screaming.

              Maul’s voice, Maul’s terror, and this should not be so, he had been put through so much, this could not be so…

              And then there was the hum of a crimson blade, and Palpatine struck at Depa.

              “RUN!” Yaddle’s voice cried, and the spell of that solid punch was broken.

              Savage picked Maul up under a single arm and bolted, Feral gripped tightly in his other hand. And then Palpatine was once again moving.

              Yaddle launched herself forward, her blade catching Palpatine’s before he could catch up, shoving him back with a cry…

              There was laser fire, the Guards forming up as they approached, Yoda almost wished they wouldn’t…

              Palpatine reflected their bolts back towards them with a casual elegance, only stopped from killing the Guards as Plo managed to regain his footing, sending the bolts to the side, all except for one that was sent directly towards Palpatine. He sent it to the ground with a snarl, before finally, quietly laughing.

              “Well, well,” he said, “I did not anticipate this, but I suppose it was inevitable. Tell me, Jedi, how does it feel knowing that the Lord of the Sith was so close to you? How do you feel knowing that I shall make it out alive, and you…”

              Yoda had only just seen the movement, watching as one of the highly uncomfortable and yet imminently practical metal chairs came out of seemingly nowhere, slamming into the back of the Sith’s head, and then Padmé, who had been stuck with Bail in a spot that could have been dangerous if they had not been so utterly beneath notice… Padmé dropped the chair, and ran.

              “Shut up, you must, hmm?” Yoda challenged, and then leapt forward.

              The crimson blade caught one of his own, and then there was a further hum, and another blade was ignited.

    -

              Padmé’s breath was rattling in her lungs, a mixture of fear and adrenaline and pure and simple rage burning in her chest, running alongside Bail as they left the bowels of the Senate and ran up the stairs. It was rare that the Senate holding cells were utilized, but in that one moment Padmé desperately wished that they had not.

    There were people in here, innocent people that could be hurt or killed…  But she needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, she needed to get more evidence, to find out what Tiq had been talking about… And then she caught sight of Savage and Feral, both of them trying to hold Maul, to comfort him, and… She veered towards them, Bail on her tail. “Please,” Savage gasped, “how do we get out, where are we?”

              And Padmé realized she had a more important job to do.

              “Bail,” she said, looking to him, and before she said a word more, Bail nodded.

              “On it,” he said, “you get them out,” and immediately began running to the other set of stairs that would take him to the main offices.

              “Come with me!” she said, and immediately led the way out of the prison levels, aware of the sound of an explosion behind her.

              They had to get out.

    -

              Tiq came to with an ache in his head and the scent of burnt flesh in his nose. While he knew that it was his it still surprised him how much it hurt to move.

              Tiq breathed it all in a ball deep within his chest, before breathing it out – a risky and generally ill-advised maneuver, pain was the body telling itself to rest – and crawled slowly to the windows that were blown out, ignoring the glass that cracked under his hands and knees. Tiq knew he was not in any shape to join the fight, but as he took in the fact that the fight was heading down the corridor in the opposite direction from the stairs, also taking in the bodies of the dead Guards with a pang, hoping that some of them were simply unconscious.

              But he had work to do. He needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, and luckily he knew a shortcut.

              Tiq worked himself upright and staggered towards the lifts.

    -

              Palpatine was not dead yet.

              Mace had let go of most of his anger years ago, knew because of the very man that Palpatine had thrown away years ago precisely what the Source and the Well from which his anger flowed, knew precisely what his Wodza was, and had learned to manage it even more with that help.

              And yet Mace knew he had never been more furious in his life.

              A part of it, Mace knew was the fact that there were so many Jedi. They were forced to attack individually, or from different directions and Palpatine was able to force himself into positions that limited their ability…

              The other, and the worst of it all, was the fact that Palpatine was good.

              Palpatine used whatever he could get a hold of, throwing rubble, lightning, and the worst was when it was people. There were still Guards coming, and Mace almost wished that they would run. Palpatine was not afraid to use the Guards’ confusion against them, taking the moment before they realized what they were seeing to grip them and twist their bodies into the worst sort of mangle, before throwing them towards the Jedi, or otherwise using them as temporary shields.

              It never lasted long, their bodies were usually either stabbed through or otherwise killed violently to get at them still.

             Mace hated it.

              And then Palpatine sent a support-strut crumbling to the ground, and Eeth broke off to hold the ceiling, and the situation became that much more dire.

              They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Bail felt the ground begin to crumble beneath his feet, immediately and perhaps even futilely attempting to run faster, to get away.

              And then the ground stopped its crumbling, and Bail did not even think of it anymore, focusing on running. He did not want to think of it anymore. As Bail ran up the stairs he could hear the panicked sounds of the Senators above him, and then the sound of the alarm began sounding, and then the screaming started.

              Of course, the screaming started…

              Bail ran faster, pushing through the flood of his fellow Senators and wishing he knew a better way.

    -

              Tiq slumped bonelessly in the back of the lift, having an argued conversation with a disembodied voice.

              Logically Tiq knew that the disembodied voice was technically a droid, and similarly he understood that it was only programmed to be a pain in the ass, but it was very difficult to think right now.

              “I need for you to bring this lift to the floor to the Chancellor’s office,” Tiq insisted for what felt like the thirtieth time. He knew he could not take the stairs, but he also knew that he needed to get up there.  

              “We are in Emergency Lockdown,” the Droid said. “Lifts are disabled, and if they were not I would bring you to the ground floor to get you out. I cannot take you to the Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Listen,” Tiq managed, rubbing his face, “I have just been electrocuted, I cannot use the stairs, but I must get to his Office.”

              “Lifts are disabled.”

              Tiq sighed, and then reached up, flicking his wrist casually and sending the hatch open.

              “What are you doing?”

              “Cutting out the middleman~” Tiq answered.

              “You are too hurt to use the stairs,” the automated voice said, “you cannot climb the elevator shaft.”

              “Mm,” Tiq agreed roughly, shifting, readying himself for a jump.

              …

              “To Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Oh, thank you,” Tiq smiled, and felt as the lift rose, flicking the hatch down. He leaned against the wall, bracing, letting his mind flow into meditation. He needed to get his body as well as it could get, and for that he needed to center, and for that he allowed his consciousness to drift, to feel out the minds that surrounded him, feeling the panic, the fear. Tiq breathed it all in, and slowly breathed it out, letting it drift away. He could also feel the heightened fear and the pain of the Guards that were in the fight below, the ones that were standing against the Sith…and he realized they were dying. “Do you have connections to the Security Guards?”

              “I do,” the droid answered.

              “Do not send more guards to the fight,” Tiq said, “they are being destroyed…there was also a massacre in the Holding Levels and there may be some survivors…”

              There was a pause as the droid processed this. “Sending Droids,” he said.

              “Oh,” Tiq said softly, “thank you, that will work.”

              “The Chancellor has violated his programming,” the droid said. “We will set it right.”

              Tiq smiled, “we will certainly try.”

              “Floor Reached,” the Droid said, and the doors swung open.

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and stumbled his way out, nearly being barreled into by what seemed like a wall of people all attempting to evacuate.

              Tiq pressed himself close to the wall and shifted his way along.

              Why was nothing ever simple?

    -

              Savage ran like his life depended upon it, following Padmé as she led them ahead, only to see a sudden crowd of people approaching, more women, and for a moment he froze, only for Maul to cry out, “SABÉ!”

              Sabé looked to him, and immediately she and the rest of the women beelined their way towards her.

              “Padmé,” she called out, “what’s happening?”

              “The Chancellor was Maul’s Master,” Padmé called out, “we have to get out! He’s fighting the Jedi, we…”

              The ground shook, caving down, and Feral reached out his free hand, grabbing Padmé and dragging her back before she fell into the pit that had suddenly opened, the ground cracking around them.

              They screamed, and Savage took a breath, and reached out with his feelings, reached out with his Anger and his Fear.

              Maul had taught him what to do with his Pain, both of them, the little boy in his arms and the Holocron that trained him…and he gripped the stone, feeling the way Maul’s tendrils of focus reached alongside his, the two of them wrenching it up together, and Feral’s brighter grip, the three of them holding it tight amongst them.

              “RUN!” Savage grunted.

              “What about you?” Padmé asked, and in her panic she was reaching for him, her hands on his arm, fear in her face…but it was fear for him, her hands ready to pull, to guide him along, not press, not restrain…

              “We can make it,” Maul hissed.

              “The quicker you get out, the less weight…” Feral managed. “Run!”

              They ran.

              For a moment, the three of them stood there, feeling the grinding weight of stone, of the way the building wanted to collapse beneath them… And then slowly, carefully, Feral and Savage took a step. And then they took another.

    -

              It was not supposed to be like this.

              Palpatine had worked so hard all of these years, so many plans, so many plots, so many opportunities allowed to slip, so much that he had not done all in the name of Temperance.

              He had waited, allowed the Clone Army to grow, played nice with the Jedi, sat in the room with them when all he had wanted to do… Palpatine had taken to keeping the lightsabers strapped in hilts hidden under his clothing, for his own amusement if nothing else. He had never planned to use them until it was time, never planned to let himself fall to the temptation of cutting them down one after another…

              And yet here he was.

              Here he was and the plan was slipping between his fingers.

              That Rodian…that… Palpatine would see to him.

              Palpatine would make him break.

              Palpatine caught the blade coming towards his face, the purple sparking inches from his skin and laughed.

              There were too many of them, they had not fought against anyone like him in years, and their sensibilities made them…weak.

              Sidious downed another pillar, watching as the floor crumbled alongside them, watching as Yaddle broke off to catch it, to contain it.

              There would be no containing it.

              Sidious would bring the entire thing down upon their heads.

              They had crumpled all of Sidious’ schemes, all of his desires…

              He would destroy theirs.

    -

              Bail ran into the office of the man who had been Chancellor, aware of the crumbling of stone, the screaming, and for a moment did not know what to do.

              He needed to find evidence, he needed to find this…Order 66, he had to find a way to stop all of this…he needed… Bail ran towards the desk, opening the contents and slowly working his way through, sweat trickling down his forehead as he heard the sound of further destruction, felt the way the ground shook.

              “I would look in the chair~!” a familiar voice called, an impossibly chipper voice for the situation, and for… Bail blinked, looking up to see Tiq leaning against the doorway, a gentle smile on his face, eyes partially slitted.

              “Tiq!” Bail called, and immediately ran towards the other man, recognizing as he did so that Tiq was slumping further and further towards the ground. He immediately caught the Rodian under the shoulder, forced to stoop to meet the other man’s height. He brought Tiq back to sit upon the very chair that Tiq had mentioned, the one that he only now noticed seemed to resemble more of a throne, more of a…

              “Thank you,” Tiq said brightly, “now…” he hummed, closing his eyes for a moment, his fingers on the armrests, and Bail took a step back as hidden compartments and panels flipped open from within the chair itself. “Remind me to thank Maul for teaching me Mechu-deru,” Tiq said brightly.

              “I’ll thank him myself,” Bail said, “now…what are we looking for?”

              Tiq hummed quietly, looking through the panels and then made a sound of delight when he caught sight of what looked like…a comm.

              Tiq pressed a button or two, almost idly, and there was a pause as it rang…and rang…

              And then there.

              Was…

              “Yes, my Master?” came the softly cultured voice, and Bail stared as Tiq did, at the sight of…

            Count…Dooku?” Tiq asked.

              The Count stared at him.

              Tiq stared at the Count. “You know…this is why I said you should have joined me for Therapy.”

    -

              Maul was afraid.

              So much had happened, so much…his Master was alive, his Master was… But they were fighting him, they had…

              His Master was going to kill him.

              His Master was going to kill his Brothers, was going to kill his family that he had found, all of his friends, everything…

              Maul took all of that fear, he took all of that despair and all of that certainty and wove his mental coils tighter, helping his brothers as they took step after step, still carrying him, still working on making their way across a floor that wanted to buckle.

              They would make it.

              There were people that had noticed them, people that were calling to them, encouraging, and their voices joined the medley of things that Maul desperately grasped…

              Please, he begged, please let them get out okay…

              And then the roof began collapsing.

    -

              The Senate Building was collapsing.

              Whatever else may be true the Senate Building was collapsing.

              Anakin had been in his lessons with Qui-Gon when the alert had been raised, Quinlan rushing in to tell them that they had to make their way, all of the Jedi joining in a mad rush to speeders and other means of transport, some just all-out running. No one knew what was happening, what the cause of the destruction was, all they knew was the Senate was on the verge of collapse, and they needed to help support it.

              Anakin ran along Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Ahsoka joining in as they reached the door, followed by D’una and Wan. Qui-Gon had initially just started running and so Anakin had followed, not expecting the way he bypassed the run towards the main hanger and instead headed out the doors.

              Anakin was not expecting for the cabbie to be at the end of the ramp, a Zabrak that was only familiar by word of mouth as he had not been invited to The Spot before, but was familiar enough with it…

              Joric.

              “GET YER ASSES IN HERE!” he yelled.

              Didn’t need to tell Anakin twice.

              They slid into the cab with little fanfare, Qui-Gon alongside the Zabrak as he threw the cab in gear and immediately took off.

              “What is the status?” Qui-Gon asked.

              “The Senate just started crumbling,” Joric answered, flying through the gears with a practiced ease and a talent for merging in and out of traffic that Anakin was immediately delighted by. “There was no warning, no idea what happened, rumors are circulating that it’s an attack. I was in the neighborhood when I started seeing it happen, and I immediately swung around this way. I can’t tell you more than that, no one even knows who’s doing the attacking.”

              “Are there enemies still living?” Obi-Wan asked.

              “Your guess is as good as mine,” Joric said, “I have the radio programmed to tune in if anything else is announced but so far it’s just been evacuations and a warning to keep your distance.” Joric laughed, “a bit of a laugh that one, but I suppose they try.”

              “Who would have tried to destroy the Senate?” Ahsoka asked, D’una leaning up alongside her.

              “Your guess is as good as mine, young missy,” Joric answered, “but I tell you this, it’s not falling nearly as quick as it should be. My guess? There’s some of your type already in it.”

              There was a pause as they took this in.

              “Maul!”

    -

              Yaddle gritted her teeth as she felt the weight of the Senate begin to crumble towards her, feeling the way the floor buckled, her focus even so trained directly towards the battle that was happening.

              Yaddle was a Jedi – and Jedi did not hate. But in that one moment…as Yaddle watched the footwork and the movements of a man that they had thought dead for nearly a decade, as Yaddle stared at the Sith that had lied in wait for so long…

              Yaddle could see in every movement, every step and twist and parry, the sheer revelry, the relish that even now…even now…Maul felt in every bone of his body.

              Yaddle could see the man who had trained a tiny…sweet little boy…and broken him.

               Yaddle stared at that man, stared at that being, and found herself as close to hating as she had ever been.

              She could see the movements, see the practice and the ease and in those moments when their feet were on the ground… That stance… Yaddle had trained many Jedi, had seen Masters and Apprentices fight as one. In those moments she knew who Maul’s Master had been, and similarly knew that he would slide into position alongside him with ease. This was the man who had trained him, had raised him, and the knowledge that as a united front they would be utterly seamless rose a sour taste in her mouth.

               Yaddle tightened her grip on the floor above, knowing that there were feet running across it. They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Tiq stared at Dooku, his mind reeling between everything else that had happened, the memories in his mind that did not belong to him and were not held as tightly as he wished, and the realization that whatever this was… Tiq rubbed his face for a moment.

              “Tell me,” he said, “am I to understand that you’ve known that Palpatine was the Sith Lord this entire time…and…” he paused, “Dooku, please, I know that Yoda keeps beating you in dejarik, but surely that’s no reason to betray the Order and everything you know?”

              Dooku stared down his nose at him, which Tiq would perhaps have found impressive if not for the fact that his nose was truly nothing compared to his own, and if he had not lost all respect for the man. “Jokes at a time like this, Healer?” he asked.

              Tiq laughed, “Well, with a punchline like this I find I cannot help myself. Tell me, are you the one that’s been helping to organize the Separatists? Have you been doing this the entire time? Are you aware of…” Tiq paused, staring at him, and his mouth slowly pulled down. “You are aware. You’ve been helping. Tell me, Dooku, what happens after the Jedi are destroyed? Where does that leave you?”

              Tiq was aware of the way Bail was staring at him, the shock in his expression, taking in Dooku who remained impassive before finally, with the slightest of movements as though brushing lint from his shoulder, “On the side of doing what matters. On the side that shall revolutionize the Galaxy. The Order has fallen, Healer, and you know I as well as I.”

              “Do I?” Tiq asked with a slow hum.

              “This entire Republic has fallen,” Dooku snapped, “and we are tied to it like an overgrown tumor. Its rot has spread, and we are left to pick up the pieces that we should never have carried to begin with. We are revolutionizing the Galaxy, placing the true minds at the helm, and we will create a better future.”

              Tiq laughed sharp and bright and grinned at him, “Oh, Yan,” he said softly, “tell me, how do you plan to work with this man when you have already seen what he does to the ones that are beneath him? Why would you work with someone who hurt the one that he was literally responsible for? Who depended on him for life and for love and received nothing?”

              “You are of course talking about Maul,” Dooku said, and scoffed, “clearly your attachment to that boy has superseded your clarity. Maul was and remains nothing more than a tool, something to be used and then discarded.”

              And that was the moment when Tiq laughed in earnest, bright and full, amusement burning within him. Because now Tiq knew.

              “You are wrong, Yan, Tiq said, “I was in his mind,” Tiq hissed. “I was inside of his mind, and I have seen all that it is that you are to himand that is utterly…beneath…notice. He had no thoughts of you at all, not a single glimmer of concern. But for Maul…oh I found great affection for him, Yan. I found a pride and a warmth that I did not glimpse anywhere else. I think, my dear friend…that you are being used. And I think you want to think about who and what you are truly willing to lose before activating Order 66.”

              And Tiq watched as Dooku made the connection, watched as the truth of Tiq’s statement rested in the air between them…

              And slowly…

              Allowed himself…

              To grin.

    -  

            Ahsoka was buzzing in her seat, Joric was only able to go so fast, but she could feel the rise of panic, feel the fear as they finally managed to edge around the building that blocked the view of the Senate from the Temple she felt her heart leap into her mouth. Leaning up between the two front seats she stared at the way an entire far-side of the building started to collapse…and then was immediately froze in place.

              There were more Jedi in there than Maul, she was certain, but she was also certain that she could feel him. He was in there somewhere, and the realization pounded in her chest, gripping her fingers tight onto the seats.

              She immediately was almost sent into the far wall when Joric was forced to suddenly swerve, the cabby barking out a few choice curses as he dodged a speeder that seemed unable to keep from staring at the destruction and drive at the same time.

              Surprising.

              Qui-Gon’s hands steadied her, as did D’una’s pressure against her side and she nodded at them in thanks, turning back to stare at the Senate again that was quickly filling the viewscreen of the speeder as they grew close enough for a landing.

              They were just close enough that she could begin to reach out her own senses, breathing deep in preparation for reaching out with the Force, for…

              There was a scream from below, her attention immediately falling to the sight of a different entrance that she knew led to the lower prisons, realizing as she looked that there were…

              Ahsoka was shoving the door of the cabby open before she could properly register what she was seeing, flying through the air and slowing her descent with the Force as she registered the figures below, took in the way they reached for the people inside still, and a small red figure that they were holding out to be grabbed…

              Obi-Wan was suddenly falling next to her, the sound of Joric’s surprised cussing in the air as Qui-Gon, Wan, D’una and Anakin all leapt out as well, but she wasn’t worried about the cabby. He was able to take care of himself, and more importantly they were needed here.

              Her thoughts snapped back to the present as she grew close enough to catch hold of the falling ceiling and floor, able to guide her own descent to the ground to something that barely jolted her, and immediately reached out to help Obi-Wan as he reached. Together they wound their Force with the three Nightbrothers working on keeping from falling into the hole that had opened up perilously close to them, from being crushed by the ceiling that fell.

              Sabé had managed to grab Maul and was pulling him to safety, and Obi-Wan had caught Feral…

              The floor crumbled beneath Ahsoka’s feet, and she let out a surprised shout, stumbling back, recognizing that they had worked to immediately grab hold of the floor and…

              There was a cry, surprised, hurt, and Ahsoka’s attention snapped over to watch as “SAVAGE!” she cried out, trying to reach…but it was too late, and he fell through the hole beneath. Ahsoka could only grip hold tight to the floor that had swallowed him and hope that she could keep it from falling atop him… He would make it out, he had to…

              And then she realized that Maul was screaming.

              Obi-Wan dove in after Savage.

              Qui-Gon and Anakin both worked to guide them out, Maul’s panicked and terrified tears spilling, as Feral grabbed him and held him close…

              Ahsoka gritted her teeth and helped to keep them safe and together, D’una and Wan taking them in before running to help to stabilize the Senate. She trusted Obi-Wan, she trusted that they could do it… There were other Jedi in the Temple, and as she watched more were continuing to land, more were continuing to help to support…

              What was going on?

             Obi-Wan caught up to Savage quickly, recognizing the man’s desperation, the utter fear that caused him to reach… Obi-Wan caught him, the two of them falling, “Remember your rage!” Obi-Wan called out, and felt the moment when Savage finally sparked.

              Together they managed to fall gently to the ground, though Obi-Wan immediately grabbed him and dragged him through further debris, feeling as Savage reached out with him to shove death to the side. Obi-Wan could feel other Jedi reaching out, could feel the structure stabilizing, even as he knew that it was only temporary.

              Not even the whole of the Jedi Temple could keep a building the size of the Senate from crumbling in upon itself, not without something helping to take up the added weight – eventually they would tire.

              It was too much for too long, so they had to act quickly… But as Obi-Wan ran he also realized he could sense…

              “Who is that?” Obi-Wan asked, looking to Savage who was running alongside him, “who all is here, what is happening?”

              “Your Chancellor kidnapped my Brother, your Chancellor is the Sith,” Savage said.

              Obi-Wan stopped running.

    -

              “How does it feel?” Palpatine asked, barely heard through the rushing of blood through Plo’s body, his breath burning in his respirator, his eyes focused. “How does it feel knowing that all this time I was right here? How does it feel knowing that no matter what happens you will not be able to save this Senate?” He laughed, striking out at them, whirling between Mace and Plo, Yoda attempting to launch himself forward and being sent back with a bolt of lightning.

              Always there was lightning, always there was judgement… And Plo’s own judgement was rising beneath his skin, something that he could feel burning at the tips of his fingers.

              Plo finally unleashed his own attack, lightning burning bright and yellow in contrast to the Sith’s own cruel blue…

              Palpatine cast his own through it, and Plo was forced to bring his lightsaber up, catching it upon its surface, dissipating it.

              “Ah,” Palpatine hummed, “I had often wondered what that would be like in comparison. Not much, is it?”

              Palpatine laughed, and he laughed, and he laughed…and this more than anything was the worst of it all. No matter what they did, and they did get hits, they were able to send him back, were able to throw him through any number of things, but he always…always…laughed.

              The perverse joy, the utter delight in every moment, and Plo knew that primarily it was because of the fact that it was true.

              There would be no saving the Senate.

              All that was left of the building would crumble, and Plo knew, could see how they were moving towards the very floor of the Senate itself. 

             And it may very well be the last time anyone ever did.  

    -

              Bail stared at Tiq, before staring at Dooku, utterly and completely blown away.

              Tiq raised his brows higher, and finally, quietly, “I will contact Kamino,” Dooku managed quietly.

              “Oh,” Tiq said, “thank you, please, keep on the line, I would like to talk to them as well.” He paused, “you know, I don’t know a Kamino…”

              “It was removed…from the Records,” Dooku said stiffly.

              Tiq laughed, “Oh, I am betting Jocasta would thank you for that, wouldn’t she, Yan?”

              Bail watched as Dooku actually winced and turned his attention back to the Healer who was smiling so pleasantly.

              Well.

              Maul had always admired the man, Bail supposed this made sense.

              And then Dooku stiffened, “and why would she? Why would she know any of this?”

              “Are you hoping to brush it all under the rug, Yan?” Tiq asked pleasantly. “I’m afraid it’s a little late for that. I think I would recommend not getting involved with a megalomaniac. I think that would actually make it easier.”

              “I will see to it you get a fair trial,” Bail said, the words sliding out with ease. They were wasting precious time and Bail could see that Tiq was at the point of collapse and it was making him edgy. “If you help us end this, if you help us destroy Palpatine’s operations, then I will see that you are noted as a defector. You will get a fair trial.”

              Dooku took this in for a moment and finally nodded. “Done.”

              There was a pause and then the comm was once again ringing and another hologram pulled up, and it was a being that Bail had never seen before.

    -  

            “The Chancellor?” Obi-Wan managed, his voice broken with shock. “The Chancellor is the Sith?”

              “The Chancellor stole my brother,” Savage snarled back at him, and Obi-Wan wasn’t entirely certain that the reaction was fair, but at the same time could not begrudge it. “I am going to kill him.”

              Obi-Wan could absolutely begrudge that, particularly when Savage immediately took off running, and forced Obi-Wan to do the same.

              “Wait!” Obi-Wan called out, “we have to get out, the entire place is coming down! How do you think Maul is going to feel when you die because you refused to leave!”

              “How will he feel knowing his brother was once again unable to protect him?” Savage called back, and his voice was thick with rage and despair, the sort that came from deep within, and was apparently something that he had been struggling with for years. Obi-Wan recognized it, knew it, and he also had a feeling that this was not going to be something Savage would be able to put down. It was too deep, too engrained…

              And if Obi-Wan was honest with himself he didn’t truly want to put it down either.

              Obi-Wan took a deep breath, searched his feelings of anger and fear and that slowly mounting resolve to end this. Obi-Wan did not doubt that there were Jedi, and he thought now that they needed help more than ever. They needed to end this, and Savage was a warrior from a warrior culture, one that had trained with Maul himself… But most importantly he would not be doing it alone. Obi-Wan would be with him, as would the rest of the Jedi.

              So, Obi-Wan felt his mouth set, and allowed his senses to reach out, catching hold of the emotion and the anger and the hate that boiled at the center of it all, and ran, soon catching up to Savage. Savage spared him a glance, and Obi-Wan took a breath.

              “We’ll kill him together.”

              Savage laughed, and Obi-Wan felt as the man changed his run to match with his.

              “I like that plan,” Savage grinned, and Obi-Wan gave a sharp nod.

    -

              Tiq hummed quietly as he listened to Dooku talking to a Kaminoan that was apparently named Lama Su. It was annoying Dooku he could tell, but Tiq didn’t care, it was one of the few things keeping him aware. The pain had grown as things had gone on and he rather thought that he might need to be submerged in bacta at some point…but not now.

              Not yet.

              “You wish the chips deactivated?” Lama asked, and there was surprise in his voice.

              “Indeed,” Dooku said, “it is…unnecessary. There has been a change of plans.”

              “He’ll pay you double~” Tiq cut in with a wide smile before Dooku could say another word, “for the hassle, of course,” he let his tone turn soft and cajoling, and when the Kaminoan’s eyes locked on his, Tiq let his own squint in a gentle grin.

              And then he looked to Dooku as Lama did, and proceeded to stare at him blankly.

              “That might be the best thing to do,” Bail said, “given the…circumstances.” Bail smiled at Dooku broadly, and Tiq felt a bright burst of amusement.

              Dooku paused for a moment, and finally, quietly, “Yes…yes, of…of course, for the…for the hassle.”

              “Well,” Lama said, his voice slow, and thoughtful, and above all…pleased. “I rather think that we can do this…easily enough.”

              “Thank you,” Dooku said, “we would like this to happen…as soon as possible.”

              “Of course,” Lama said, “right away as the customer demands…as soon as the money is deposited?”

              Dooku paused, for a moment pinned under the weight of all their stares. “You’ll get half…”

              Bail cleared his throat.

              “…You will get it immediately.”

              Tiq rather thought he liked Bail.

    _

              The Chancellor was throwing the Senate at them.

              Yoda leapt and twisted through the air, accompanied by Mace and Plo as Palpatine sent various Senate seats flying through the air at them, almost completely at random. That made them more dangerous, and Yoda was forced to keep moving. There was barely any time to catch their breath, and Yoda was once again reminded of the fact that it had been long since they had been forced to fight like this.

              They were separated, and it was dangerous, Mace already almost having his head sent off his body if he had not managed to duck in time.

              The walls were crumbling, the arch above their head shuddering and Yoda knew that they needed to end this quickly or they would risk being buried alive.

              Palpatine did not care.

              Yoda was realizing that Palpatine had absolutely nothing to lose, in too many ways he had already lost. Palpatine was a cornered animal, and that made him dangerous.

              And then all thoughts were lost when with a sudden explosion of duracrete and metal, Agen Kolar hurled himself seemingly from nowhere, kicking Palpatine in the back of the head and sending him falling, a loud surprised sound leaving him as he fell.

              But as Palpatine managed to flip and catch himself on another seat he only began to laugh harder. Agen stared down at him with his eyes flashing, and then he looked to them.

              They had time to regroup.

    _

              Feral was holding his little brother close to his chest, aware of the rapid beating of his hearts, aware of the fear that choked him.

              Savage was in there, Savage was deep within the Senate, and while he had help with him, while the Jedi were working together to hold the Senate up, Feral knew it was only a matter of time.

              As more people were evacuating the Jedi were allowing more and more of it to drop, able to move onto other sections that still had people within it, and Feral was terrified at the idea that they were doing it when there were only individual life signs, when the loss was considered acceptable. Feral thought the fear was unfounded…he nonetheless could not shake it.

              Maul was shaking in his arms, and Feral could feel the way his face was pressed to his chest and knew that he was almost beyond fear. The only thing left was shock and a sort of detached emptiness. Maul did not believe that Savage would make it out alive.

              Maul likely thought that all of the ones that were left were dead.

              But as Feral watched he realized that Depa had made it out, and Eeth with her, as well as Yaddle… Feral ran to them, breaking free of the barrier that the droids were making, the barrier that he had remained behind with Padmé and the others, hearing the calls to wait, to halt, but Feral could not.

              “Please,” he yelled as he got close, “please did you find my brother?”

              “Is he in there?” Eeth asked, immediately hurrying over towards him.

              “He fell, Obi-Wan is with him,” Feral said, and turned his attention back to the building, watching as it shook. “Please,” he said, “I can’t lose him.”

              The Jedi looked at him and then looked at each other, and it was a look that Feral recognized.

              It was a look that Feral dreaded.

    _

              Bail worked with Tiq to gather the last of the evidence, copying it in drives, sending it to news outlets, anything they could to reveal the truth of the matter.. This was after, of course, Dooku had also called someone who was apparently named…General Grievous…and…

              Bail had stopped paying much attention after that. The entire thing had been too much, and he had found watching Tiq that much more entertaining, mostly because Tiq had moved on from saying a word and just simply spoke in looks.

              They were the most devastatingly unimpressed looks Bail had ever seen. Dooku seemed to cringe under them more and more as time went on, and when he had finally hung up Tiq had buried his face in his hands. This was ample time for Bail to call his wife.

              They had not discussed much else, merely that Dooku had surrendered most of his assets – though the how of this surrendering went unsaid – and would be arriving by shuttle soon. Bail would be worried, perhaps, about the idea that Dooku might attempt to take his family hostage, but Alderaan had a few visitors that would be helpful. A number of Jedi that had been visiting as a special favor from Yoda.

              Bail usually was rather grateful to be friends with Yoda, but this was ridiculous.

              They had finally managed to amass all of the information that they could, and there was so much of it and so much of it was so horrifying that Bail had not truly allowed himself to process it. And then finally he was left with Tiq, who hummed thoughtfully, reached out once more with mechu-deru - and Bail would absolutely be thanking Maul profusely for teaching Tiq – and then he had nodded, before clapping his hands twice.

              “Well,” he said brightly, “that’s done. Now, Bail. I do not usually ask this question beforehand, but I find it necessary at this juncture. Do you trust me?”

              Bail laughed, unable to help it, “at this point I believe it would be rather unreasonable to not.”

              “Oh, well then good,” Tiq smiled, “because I’m going to throw you out the window.”

    _

              Agen Kolar had heard that the Chancellor had been the one to kidnap and torture Maul and had immediately decided that he was going to kill him.

                He had seen one brief glimpse of Maul trembling in the grip of his older brother, and it had been enough to rocket him into motion. It was too much, it had always been too much, from the very beginning when Maul had not known a damn thing about himself as a Zabrak, to now as he was learning what it was to be a Brother, too much had been done. It would all end now.

              Palpatine stood before them on a single hovering platform, wiping his mouth with his hand, and Agen was gratified to see blood. Apparently the Chancellor had caught himself with his face, and it made Agen feel rather smug. He stood next to Mace and Plo, Yoda two platforms over, and for a moment they stared at each other.

              And then Palpatine laughed, and the seats once again began their raining. But this time they were ready, their positions grounded.

              They caught a seat and turned its trajectory back.

    _

              Savage followed the sounds of electricity and destruction, completely able to hear it at this point, the sound of laughter echoing between, and it was a laughter that he knew. It was a laughter that he had heard in his nightmares since he was twelve, a laughter that had caused him to hold Feral all the tighter. The fear that the man would come back and finish the job, would steal the brother that Savage had left, and he would be alone…

              Savage would be a failure twice over, would have lost even Feral, who had relied on him for so much, who had loved him… Who Savage loved. Had cradled in his arms and felt nothing but the pure desire to protect and to teach, coupled with his brother. How proud Savage had been, how delighted he had been to be graced with Twins.

              And then the laughter had come, the laughter that had rang through the trees and froze Savage’s hearts and had stolen his youngest with it.

              And now here he was, and he was going to destroy that laughter, choke it in the lungs that it came from. Savage had waited all his life for this.

              He would not wait any longer.

    _

              Tiq had thought Bail had handled his proclamation better than expected.

              After the initial shock, Bail realized that the building was still coming down around their ears, and when Tiq had told him that he didn’t have the strength to come down with him, Bail had grabbed his forearms and told him that he would let them know he was coming.

              Tiq told him he definitely appreciated it, and then he had sent the glass flying from the window with a brief burst of the Force, the wind immediately whipping around them, tugging at Tiq’s and the Senator’s own robes, Tiq pulling Bail to the window where they stood for just long enough for Tiq to gather his strength, and then he had sent Bail into the air.

              The scream that the man let out was just the thing to catch attention, and sure enough Tiq felt the way another Jedi caught him around Tiq’s own influence, Tiq releasing him into the hold of…oh…who was…ah, yes, Anakin. Tiq leaned out the window then, watching as Anakin brought Bail down to land safely next to him, and then focused up on him.

              Tiq waved and watched as Anakin jolted in realization, immediately stepping forward, bracing himself.

              Tiq jumped out the window, caught in the net of Anakin’s hold, the teen slowly working to lower him down to his feet.

              Tiq brushed his robes off, smiling, “I think that went well!” he said to Bail, and then all he knew was dark.

    _

               You are the Chancellor of the Republic.

              But most importantly you are the Sith.

              You are the corruption at the bottom of the well, the poison that has seeped into the water supply since the beginning, and you have longed for this moment.

              But it had not come in the way that it was meant to. You stood facing the Jedi, full of a hideous strength that you had wanted to unleash for years…

              And it was not enough.

              It had not been enough, and the knowledge filled you with rage and with hate, and this in turn fueled you. And yet this.

              Was not.

              Enough.

              It had taken longer than it should have to realize that the memories that had belonged to your Apprentice had been stolen. It was a devastating blow, particularly in the midst of all of these other devastating blows.

              You refused to lose.

              You sneered at the Jedi, the enemies of your Order for Millenia, the very ones that you had allowed correct your many oversights with the Apprentice you had chosen… And you recognized that now, recognized that they had been oversights and moments of devastation… But they did not waver, and your hatred burned.

              The sudden appearance of another Jedi, an Obi-Wan Kenobi was nearly enough to send you into a frothing rage.

              He threw another senate seat at you, and you leapt out of the way, feeling the way you were suddenly hit from the side by a Push that could only have come from Yoda, sending you flying up and back and…

              Pain.

              You had almost forgotten…what it felt like.

              And then you felt nothing at all.

    -

              In the end it had been a simple matter to get into position.

              Savage had worked his way through the maze of flying senate seats, his fist gripping a durasteel pipe that he thought at one point might have been meant to hold duracrete in place. It would no longer serve that job, but it was good enough for the job that Savage had for it, and he had waited… When Savage had managed to get himself positioned properly, hidden from sight and sense, though that was not difficult.

              The man who had kidnapped his brother was fully focused upon the Jedi before him, all else beneath his notice, which meant that Savage was perfectly able to keep low, to draw his presence inward.

              But he was not beneath the notice of the Jedi.

              They had seen him, though not a single one of them had given it away, letting Savage creep…

              And then Savage was fully in position, and Obi-Wan leapt into view, spinning his lightsaber, robes flying in the air, all flash and threat and violence…

              And as the man that had stolen an entire life from Savage’s hold leapt to avoid him…

              Yoda, Mace, Agen, and Plo were able to shove him up and back, and Savage…who had been standing and waiting for this moment since he was young and knew enough to know that he would never hate another being as much as he did the one that had stolen his brother…

              Savage took that durasteel and drove it clean through the kidnapper’s spine.

              Savage lifted him slowly off his feet, watching and feeling with a grim satisfaction the way the lightsabers fell to the ground as he lost control of his limbs, turning off as they did and falling to the ground far below. He listened to the gurgle and the crunch as the body slowly slid back towards his hands, gravity pulling it down.

              Savage heard the gurgling breath and was just able to stare into the yellow eyes of the man who had stolen his brother from the corner of his own, and softly, his voice a low hiss, “You stole my brother from me. You shall steal nothing more.”

              And with a grim satisfaction shoved him off the edge of the senate box.

              Savage watched the man plummet to the ground far below, impaled and utterly unable to do a thing to break his own fall, kept from the Force, kept from help…and in that moment realized that he was not the only one watching.

              And then the body hit the ground.

              Savage watched quietly, grimly, and then looked to the men that had helped, the ones that had loved his brother when he could not and smiled.

              The sound of the building breaking further, the feeling of the ground shuddering below his feet was an immediate reminder that they were not yet safe.

              Savage needed to get back to his brothers.

              The Jedi were tiring, Maul was tiring, all of them doing their best to keep the last bit of the building up.

              They had managed to evacuate most of the Senators, and the droids had come up with more of the Guards, bearing them on stretchers. More had lived than Maul had expected, but he was still…

              Mace.

              Yoda.

              Plo.

              Agen.

              Obi-Wan.

              Savage…

              Maul had watched Agen dive through the wall himself after the realization that the man who had hurt him was the Chancellor, had seen the rage in his face and the way he had immediately dropped everything. It was the angriest that Maul had ever seen a Jedi, but it also meant that Agen was in there…

              Maul had seen Tiq collapse, though he had been assured by Anakin that he was okay. Though now…now all who could hold on were doing so, but Maul was weakening. Maul was weakening and he was furious about it. He knew that he was little, he knew that he was still learning, he knew that he could only do so much… But Maul desperately needed… He needed to know his brother was okay.

              He needed to know…

              And so, Maul held on.

              Maul held on even as his vision darkened, even as…

              And then, just as suddenly as though shot from a blaster, the familiar figures of the Jedi leapt from the building, and a single yell was heard of “DROP IT!!!” in his brother’s distinctive accent and voice as he leaps behind them.

              The Jedi let go of the Senate, those that still could grabbed the ones in the air, and Maul watched as his family was guided back to the ground, and then Maul heard it.

              The sound was deafening, a terrible crunch and crumble of grating duracrete and durasteel, as the last of the domed structure came to earth with a great and terrible explosion.

              And then came the wall of white, the flying debris, and once again the Jedi reached out, and sent the plume into the sky.

              The sun was gone.

              All was dark.

              But Maul saw two pairs of eyes.

              Eyes that glowed like his, eyes that he saw looking at him…

              And he knew that everything would be okay.

    imeverywoman420

    Things people who only like weird bad modern art say. This is about thomas kinkade btw. Modern art consoomer types HATE him with vitriol

    These are his paintings. Absolutely beautiful and stunning. These people think its Low Brow.

    Just bc u have a degree does not mean u know art… if all art school taught u was that a rothko is somehow more artistically valid than any of these beautiful paintings….. you would easily join scientology.

    earlgraytay

    okay so I had a whole longpost written out about this and I'm not going to rewrite it but uh tldr: you're missing context

    Thomas Kinkade was basically the lovechild of a Marvel CEO and Tumblr's version of Anish Kapoor. he trademarked his own goddamn name and the phrase "painter of light", made prints in assembly line fashion, and hard-sold his art in mall storefronts and on tv shopping channels. he exploited his workers and his franchisees, and used Christianity to do it. for gods' sakes, the man did a line of licensed disney paintings.

    just about any working artist today has more to say than thomas kinkade, because they're making art to say something, not just to make money. your random furry mutual-in-law is a better artist than thomas kinkade, because your random furry mutual-in-law has something they want to express. even if it's just "i really heckin' love dog people"- that's still more personal and from the heart than this shit.

    thomas kinkade's the poster child for everything that's wrong with how american culture treats art, and whether or not his work is beautiful or technically skilled is beside the point.

    derinthescarletpescatarian

    So you’re saying he’s the MCU of painters?

    madenthusiasms

    Kinkade’s images are pleasant, and nobody can determine what is or is not “Art.” Sometimes what Art says is “I have a commission and bills to pay.”

    That said, two things piss me off mightily about Kinkade:

    1) He treated his art like nfts before nfts were a thing. He’d run off a gazillion prints, have some wage serf put a single dot of paint in a different place (or a different color) on each, and hike the price because each one was now Unique Collectable Investment Art instead of print 4000 of 10,000.

    2) The Painter of Light bullshit was a direct and calculated insult to Maxfield Parrish. I have seen Parrish’s art with my own eyes and it glows. It’s lit from within.

    Look

    At

    This

    Kincade got jealous, added a bunch of lit windows, and bullshit himself into trademarking a title that had belonged to an earlier painter.

    image
    image

    The DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) just successfully slammed into Dimorphos, which is the moonlet of the asteroid Didymos (also affectionately called Didymoon). Over the next few days astronomers around the world will observe Didymos and Dimorphos to see if there has been a change in orbit from the latter. This is humanity’s first real attempt at altering the course of a “killer” asteroid, even if this one isn’t hazardous to us.

    image
    anarcho-skamunist

    If you went to a bar and the bartender was a mousegirl you could ask for a drink and she would balance it on her head and say "for you, it's on the mouse"

    omnybus

    She makes a mean whisker sour

    peachypupp

    Does she have anything non alcoholic?

    omnybus

    Just putting all these pics together in one post

    omnybus

    And, because this series wasn't cheesy enough:

    fantasysclerosis

    Okay, but, like, Amazon’s Rings of Power is so bad. They’re paying a billion dollars for five seasons that they’ve already committed to. The head writers biggest claim to fame is that they were uncredited Star Trek Beyond writers. There’s not a single big name actor on-screen. The CGI is so bad they don’t even integrate the lighting, which is basic 101 stuff. There’s basically no wigs. Their costumes have scale armor pattern printed on fabric. They’re not even shelling out the extra taxes for shooting in New Zealand. So…?

    We’re all in agreement that this is money laundering, right?

    fantasysclerosis

    Couldn’t even be bothered.

    marzipanandminutiae

    I found out yesterday that this has the same costume designer as fucking CRIMSON PEAK (aka Lush Victorian Gothic Masterpiece, Universally Praised- By Even Its Harshest Critics For The Costuming)

    and that dealt me unimaginable psychic damage

    aspiringwarriorlibrarian

    Bringing back that post about how film producers are increasingly overworking their costume department and shrinking their production schedules to the point where it’s a miracle (and lots of unpaid labor) that anything gets done at all.

    When Kate Hawley did Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro gave her the color palette, aesthetic, and characters straight off, and a month of prep time before pre-production even began. That’s why Crimson Peak looks gorgeous. And I highly doubt that Rings of Power gave her that time or consideration.

    mercurydancer

    An Unexpected Chance Pt. 18

    Technique 47

    -

    "Sidious had formed an almost filial bond with Maul." - Darth Plagueis pg. 427 James Luceno. "And my Apprentices? Darth Maul was a Loss, but Darth Tyranus...he was a Proton Torpedo. He served his purpose and was gone..." - Darth Sidious to Lord Vader (Darth Vader Comics #20 2016 Marvel)

    _

              Mace Windu could not breathe.

              Mace stared at the small child before him, the one that had been his Apprentice when he was older, the one that even now he had taken care of, his son in all but blood… And he stared at pure…and utter terror.

              Mace took in the fear in those eyes, feeling the flickering and above-all desperate grasps at Dark, watching the way they flickered between yellow and gold as Maul could not decide whether to fight or to flee… Maul cowered in terror, lowering himself down, falling into the position that he had been taught, bowing low, low…

              And then Mace stared at Chancellor Sheev Palpatine.

              Sheev Palpatine who was staring at Maul with simple…

              Horrified…

              Shock.

              And then, Mace watched…as that shock shifted, hardened, turned to something more confused…

              Concerned.

              And it was the most damning evidence of all.

              Mace’s lightsaber was in his hand before he consciously thought of it, for a moment the realization of who he was staring at overwhelming all other thoughts, all other feelings. Mace was staring at the man who had tortured his son. Mace was staring at the man who had broken his son.

              Mace was staring at the man who had been Maul’s father before him.

              And the rage that threatened to eclipse him, the Wodza that still beat in his breast was momentarily almost enough to overwhelm all else.

              But the sound of blasters, the sight of the Guards, taking in the way they had moved to close ranks was enough to get Mace to slowly…jerkily…breathe it out.

              And also led to the realization that he was not the only one who had drawn their saber.

              Plo, Eeth, Yoda, Yaddle, and Depa…all staring at the man…who had tricked them all…

              They could not attack blindly.

              They were Jedi.

              Mace took a breath.

              “This is your Chancellor?” the words were an immediate interruption, Mace turning to look to Savage, Savage who had bundled Maul close to him, Savage who had his arm around Feral, the naked terror in the eyes of the eldest slowly spreading to Feral, who was also realizing who he was staring at. Feral who was reaching for Maul’s shoulder, cringing close to him, a mixture of fear and desperation in his gaze. “A man who kidnaps children? Who rips them from their brothers? You would put a man like this as the head of your Senate?”

              And a dizzying slow relief filled Mace’s mind for a moment as he realized what Savage had just given them, watching the way the Guards hesitated, the slow lowering of weapons, the way shoulders tensed.

              There was truth echoing in every word of Savage’s, etched in every line of his face, even now visible in the way Maul had switched to desperately clawing at Savage’s shoulders, trying to pull himself further away… And there was no doubting the terror, no doubting the utter horror in that…

              It was not something that could be feigned.

              “Chancellor Palpatine,” Mace said, his voice low, his tone even – an anchor that they could grasp hold of, and he could see…could feel the way the brothers had focused on him. “You have been accused of kidnapping…and the torture of a child…”

              Mace watched as Palpatine’s gaze flickered to his, and then it went back to the brothers.

              Palpatine’s expression softened turned to something almost soothing, something… He took a step forward his hands opening as though to reach out and sooth, but the sound of Maul’s voice breaking as finally, finally…

              “Please,” Maul managed, his high-pitched child’s voice never sounding so… Mace’s mouth tightened, “please, Master, I didn’t know, I didn’t…” his voice did not so much break as it shattered, falling silent at the way Palpatine’s hands stretched out, the fingers curling as though to make a fist, or to…or to… The idea of Sith lightning, the idea of those hands lowering to point at the small, deceptively fragile body of a boy who was no more than six years old, to drive lightning into his body until he was screaming and raw, until even now lightning covered his skin… All of these images flashed through his mind just as he became aware of the way Savage’s brown tunic darkened, the utter terror in Maul’s gaze turning to something crazed, something desperate, the smell of urine and…

              The Guards had moved then, turning towards the Chancellor, and Mace was aware of Bail, Bail in their midst, and Padmé… Padmé’s face was a mask of stone, every inch the regal Queen that had been.

              Padmé’s gaze was sharp enough to kill, and she leveled it at the Chancellor, and she was not the only one. Bail stared at him as well, taking steps back from the man he had been standing next to, the shock and the horror turning to something like disgust.

              For a moment Mace thought that this would be it.

              This would be the moment when they would fight the Sith that had been hiding in their midst this entire time, this would be the moment that decided their future.

              And then Palpatine took a deep breath, and slowly straightened to his full height.

              “Guards,” he said, his voice full of the soft grandfatherly concern that had softened more than one heart, putting his hands behind his back, standing there with a look of what could only be described as profound misery on his face. “I stand before you accused in word and in deed as a kidnapper and a torturer of children, as our esteemed Master Jedi has already stated. It seems…as though the only thing to do…would be to arrest me for questioning.”

              Mace could hardly believe what he was hearing.

              But there was a part of him that was aware of the fact that this was a man who had been in their midst for years.

              This was a man who Maul himself as a teenager and an adult had spent time without realizing who he was.

              Maul had talked about not trusting him before, but they were words that were oftentimes spoken in jest, in tease…

              This…

              This was neither.

              And so, Mace found his lips firming, pressing together, as the Guards moved to follow through.

              Bail turned his attention to the Nightbrothers, Mace turning to look one last time at the child his Padawan had been.

              And looked back to the person who had broken him, the one whose destruction of the boy had taken years and years to piece back together, who even now was still full of cracks, would perhaps never fully heal… And knew that it was his duty to see to it that the man was either arrested…

              Or dead.

              Judging from the looks on his fellow Jedi…

              He was not the only one.

    -

              Chancellor Palpatine – Darth Sidious sat in a holding cell and Seethed.

              This was not a part of the plan, could not have been part of the plan, and yet…and yet here he sat. He had been questioned by many, letting his voice and the slightest glimmer of suggestion easily sway many of them as they came. No, Sheev had never seen the Nightbrothers before in his life, how could he have? Clearly the eldest – the one whose voice had damned him first and the one that would be the first to die – clearly he had mistaken him. They were Nightbrothers, after all, when had they ever seen another human?

              They had lived in Slavery all of their lives, clearly they would not recognize him properly, and the youngest…

              And even as the thought flickered through his mind the seething rage rose up, and Sidious desperately wished that he had killed him years ago, killed the boy that he had raised, the boy that had betrayed him… Clearly the child was traumatized, clearly he did not know what he was speaking of.

              And so, it had been, so it had gone, a quiet inquisition as a disruption at this juncture, with tensions so high in the Senate would not go over well…

              Sidious was a good actor, and a better liar, and he could see and feel the way their resolve was weakening.

              The only issue that he could see was with the Jedi, but they had not said anything, they had not even been in the room with him.

              Sidious did not trust it, but it was fine, their lack of presence at the moment was making it easier to sway them.

              And then…someone entered that Sidious had never seen before and had never expected.

              A jewel toned blue Rodian wearing the robes of a Jedi.

              And he was followed closely by the members of the Jedi Council.

    _

              Healer Tiq had taken the news that the likelihood that the Chancellor was the Sith Lord as well as he could have, he believed. Tiq had taken the information that Mace had given him, watched the footage the Guards provided, and for a moment he had not moved.

              And then Tiq brought out the File.

              It was a file that he had been working on for years off and on, after having worked with Maul, after having started to compile all that Maul knew of his Master…and all that Tiq had guessed.

              Tiq reread this file, this composite of all that Tiq had learned and heard of Maul’s Master, and slowly plugged in the equation of the Chancellor within its margins.

              And found that it fit.

              Tiq sat there for a moment, and took a deep breath, before finally standing up and first asking to be taken to the Brothers.

              Tiq found Maul, Feral, and Savage in a visiting room in the bowels of the prisons, next to the interrogation room where they were speaking to the Chancellor. Bail was with them, and Tiq could hear the defeated way Savage spoke, the anger in his voice as he asked, “what would our words matter? He is the Chancellor, surely we have no voice in this Senate, when we are not even your citizens.”

              Tiq watched as Bail’s face tightened, turning to look at Padmé who was sitting there as well. They had cleaned and redressed Maul, the little boy looking every inch his age in a way that he had not, wide-eyed and utterly petrified. Tiq felt it like a knife in his heart.

              Tiq finally left the room and walked to the place where they were watching the security feeds of the Chancellor and the interrogation, taking in the sight of the Council already there, listening to the gentle voice of who Tiq knew now to be the Sith Master quietly asking how he could have possibly kidnapped any child…and that was when Tiq took a breath, “I would like to speak to the Prisoner.”

              There was a pause as they turned to look at him, and Tiq stood silently, his hands behind his back, patient.

              “You will need clearance for it, Jedi,” one of the Guards said, and his expression was flat. Tiq took him in for a moment, late middle-aged, human, his helmet placed near him. There was a troubled and angry look on his face, “why should we let you in when we have our people?”

              “Because I have a doctorate in psychology and have previous experience in criminal behavior and have given guest lectures on the topic in the past at the local College,” Tiq answered plainly. “Though admittedly my experience is primarily in the field of trauma recovery and healing. If you wish to look this up my name is Tiq Nooz, and you will find that I am a Healer – though I am technically also a Doctor, and I have questioned many under your jurisdiction for you before. Though you may not know that as I do not recognize you, are you new?” He raised a simple brow the man left speechless.

              “That’s good enough for me, Healer,” another Guard said, walking forward. The Togruta had not been in the room initially, but as she approached Tiq straightened, and then smiled.

              “Olom, it is good to see you.”

              “And you, Tiq,” Olom said, “though I wish it was under better circumstances. I have heard the charges and listened to the accusations.” She paused, removing the ceremonial helmet from her head, and placing it under an arm. “They are rough,” she said, “I do not…” she paused. “I had never thought that the Chancellor could be capable of such a thing, but the stories…the way they speak. You cannot fake that kind of conviction.”

              “No,” Tiq said softly, “you cannot.”

              “You think he did it?” Olom asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said. “But I need for you to let me in there to talk to him. I believe…that the Chancellor has been lying for longer than we know.”

              Olom paused, “I trust you,” she said, “you had my back several times over the years, I think I can afford you this. Particularly…” she paused. “Tiq, I saw that little boy’s records, his file…what they show…it’s heinous…”

              “It is,” Tiq agreed.

              “If you can get him to confess, Tiq, do it,” Olom said. “No mind tricks.”

              “Not necessary,” Tiq said, waving a hand, “besides, you know I find it distasteful.”

              “I do,” Olom grinned, “do your work, Healer.”

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and turned to look at the feed. “If I may, I would like for Eeth, Plo, Mace, and Yoda to accompany me.” He turned to Yaddle and Depa, both looking to him. “Take care of them, please,” he said softly, and Yaddle and Depa both nodded, before they left to the holding room where the others sat and waited.

              Tiq stood there for a moment, mentally counting down the minutes, watching as the Guard that had been with the Chancellor finally left, taking in the way Palpatine’s features closed slowly, the way he drummed his fingers on the table… Impatient.

              Tiq was aware of the weight of the Council’s gazes on him, and he turned to look at them finally. 

              “You think you can get him to talk, Tiq?” Eeth asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said, “which is why you must be ready.”

              “We will have your back, Healer,” Plo said, his voice a low rumble.

              Tiq smiled at them, before turning back to look at the man who had been Chancellor. “It really is quite clever when you think about it,” he said. “It makes me regret the fact that I never did ask Maul who his Master was. I made an assumption that much like the older one, this one did not have access to the memories that were taken. I see now…that I was mistaken. We have made too many mistakes with this man…we cannot make another.”

              “No,” Eeth agreed, his voice low.

              “Well,” Tiq said, “I have one last request.”

              “Yes?”

              “Do not think ill of me for what I am about to do,” Tiq said, looking to them, and finally opened the door to the holding cell, the others following him in.

              Tiq’s first impression of the Chancellor had always been a man that was kind. A grandfatherly presence that radiated kindness. Tiq also believed that he was hiding something.

              From the very beginning, Tiq had not trusted him, mostly because that presence had not changed. A politician – particularly a career one – did not stay in business by being nice. There was a certain cutthroat intensity that came with the trade and generally made them very good liars. Now, what they lied about differed, and Tiq was more willing to accept and trust someone like Padmé, whose lies he knew and primarily revolved around how she kept herself safe, and similarly with Bail, whose lies tended to make his ideas more palatable at times…

              But Tiq had never been able to tell what the Chancellor was lying about.

              Tiq rather thought he had found out.

              Chancellor Palpatine looked up at them, recognition blooming. “Ah,” he said, “Master Jedi, hello,” he said, looking at the ones that stood there. There was a certain level of relief in his expression.

              It made Tiq sick.

              Tiq had no doubt that he was standing before one of the most powerful Force Users in the Galaxy. Tiq also had no doubt that he could get a confession out of him, and in fact, get him to confess to way more than just the kidnapping of a child.

              The mind was not as good at multitasking as most thought it was. It was good at changing tack quick enough to make it seem as though it was, but there was no doubt that every change caused further mental strain, and when someone was so focused on one aspect it was very difficult to pick at another.

              But Tiq had no need to multitask. His goal was simple – skim the mind of the man before him, and pluck the information and the strings that he needed.

              Tiq had studied his file for years, compiled it out of everything that Maul had told him, all that he had put together.

              Tiq was ready.

              “I cannot tell you what a relief it is to see you,” Palpatine said, “it’s such an awful business, is it not? The idea that I would have kidnapped that child…” he paused, looking at them. “Not that he truly is a child, of course…I do recognize those marks. It is amazing the things your wayward Apprentice got into, is it not?” he asked, looking to Mace.

              And that was enough.

              Tiq took a breath and made his move, spinning the seat that was before Palpatine so the back faced him, hitching his robes up enough, he straddled it, leaning forward, and with an accent that Tiq had not permitted himself in years, calmly hissed, “Shut up, bitch.”

              Palpatine froze.

              “I can understand if you’re a little slow – career Politician and everything – but I sincerely cannot believe that you’ve never had one of these little interrogations. Surely you’ve realized by now that I am the one asking the questions and making the little comments, hmm?” Tiq smiled and felt the mind before him bristle.

              Oh.  

              But Tiq was good at his job…

              “So,” Tiq clapped his hands twice, “since we need the reminder I am going to go through the rules, yes?” and even as he spoke Tiq began brushing the surface of those shields – impossibly tight, yes, but there were ways, particularly when pressure was applied.

    It was impossible to keep a lid on everything, particularly when the brain was bombarded with external stimuli, especially of the sort that Tiq was providing. The best part was Tiq didn’t even have to think about what he was saying. Most of it was thoughts he had had for years. The other part was born from intimate knowledge of the way the system did work.

              “Rule number one,” he said, “you only speak when spoken to, I know you…ah, Senate types have a problem with that, none of you seem to be able to wait your turns when speaking, but here we are… Rule number two you answer as truthfully as possible, since I know you types like lying~” Tiq winked at him, leaning further forward, and as he continued speaking he let his mind reach out gently, skimming the surface for the thoughts he was really after.

              All of the thoughts of Maul.

              There were…many.

              More than there ought to be…

              Strange…

              “Rule number three, as you have forgone a lawyer with the Guard you cannot ask for it now, I don’t know if they mentioned that or if you were aware, but them’s the breaks and now you have to deal with me. Charming, I’m sure~”

              Palpatine’s expression turned sour and Tiq’s grin turned extra charming.

              “Rule number four…” Tiq paused, “well, I don’t know that I can think of another rule really, outside of the fact that you have to answer after every question, or I will personally hold you in contempt. You are aware of the fact that you are being held in here for the kidnapping and torture of a child, yes? Do you think you can afford to be any more in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s expression tightened further momentarily seething at him, and Tiq found the source of the thoughts, and as he brushed it he realized what he was sensing.

              Palpatine had memories that were not his within his mind, and they were memories that recognized Tiq.

              Tiq had a bond with Maul, severed that it was currently, it had been within his mind for years, something used to check up on him periodically, something that let him know that the man was still alive. Palpatine had never created a bond with his Apprentice. It was something that Maul had both bemoaned and relished in over the years, but it was also something that Tiq could use – both to pull himself within the mind that the memories did not belong in, but also take those back.

              Tiq’s grin showed teeth.

             “Are you in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s chin rose, his expression showing he very much was.

              Tiq did not care.

              “No,” Palpatine said finally, his lips barely moving, “I rather think that I cannot say I am.”

              Tiq grinned wider, his eyes fixed upon the Chancellor, “You’re quite right, you can’t say you are,” he winked. “Now,” he said, “since we have gotten the rules out of the way I think it’s time to really play, don’t you? So, here’s the first question, I’m going to make it easy on you, are you ready?” Tiq’s eyes narrowed, even as he began slowly shifting his way back. “You’re not very good at this are you?” he asked when the Chancellor remained silent.

              “Yes, I am ready,” Palpatine hissed.

              Tiq was very aware of the fact that he may perhaps be pushing too hard, that he may wind up causing the Chancellor to snap before he was finished. Tiq didn’t care.

              He was having too much fun.

              “Very good!” he called out, giving a loud and very exaggerated clap, “that is ten points to the Chancellor of the Republic, you are very good at this, aren’t you?”

              “…Yes…I am.”

              “You are leaaaarning~” Tiq sing-songed, and slid his way in. “Now, tell me why you kidnapped a child.”

              “I…” Palpatine’s mind was a flush of thoughts, a wash of ideas of…of half-formed plans and a… Tiq traced the feelings that lay there, that tightened around the memories that did not belong to him. But they were memories that were hiding Tiq – recognizing him and letting him sink deep within their surface without reading them. Tiq was too good at his job for that.

              Tiq almost wished he wasn’t, recognizing the feelings of possessiveness and an almost achingly bitter fury, yes – but also recognizing the softer things, the pride, the modicum of warmth. There was a true affection within them, and Tiq was filled with a slow, boiling disgust.

              “Would never,” Palpatine finally said, “to kidnap a child? To take him from his family in such a manner is utterly heinous. A true contempt of everything that is good about the Republic.”

              “You do not have to explain that to me,” Tiq said, rolling his eyes. “I certainly have never kidnapped a child. Not even when we had moral superiority, do you think you have Moral Superiority, Chancellor? Do you think that you are better to raise the boy than his own family? Would you have taken him out of pity?”

              And as Tiq asked the questions he pried deeper, slipping into the thoughts of disgust and hatred, but also contempt. Tiq did not particularly care what the contempt was for, even as he said, “I do not presume to know more than the boy’s family. His culture is…barbaric, but it is his own, I would not take him from that, particularly when the boy has brothers.”

              “No, that would be a cruel thing indeed,” Tiq agreed softly, “which makes it all the more terrible when you consider the fact that you took him.”

              “You…have no proof of that!” Palpatine said, his voice hissing, true rage on his face. “I had no idea that…that…” he paused, “and you are going to just let him sit here and say this?” he asked, staring at the Council members around him.

              “Ah, ah, they don’t exist, you are talking to me,” Tiq said, tapping his fist on the table, deliberately fanning the rage that he could feel, whipping it up. “I do not know why you insist on changing the subject or the focus of the conversation when we are dealing with the kidnapping and molestation of a small child.”

              And there was shock there, pure, and utter shock, vicious and black, “I never molested him,” Palpatine said.

              “But you did tattoo him everywhere,” Tiq said, “that sounds like molestation to me.”

              “I tattooed him everywhere, yes, but his…” Palpatine fell silent, and Tiq beamed at him, his eyes practically slits.

              “Oh,” he said, “so you did kidnap him then.”

              The rage and the fury that built up before him was deeper than Maul’s, an oil-slick burn, and Tiq caught a brief whispering of thought, a… “What’s Order 66?” Tiq asked, and once again that shock cooled everything, and Tiq caught hold of the thought that came up, the thoughts of…

              Clones…

              And an Army…

              And…

              “Oh,” Tiq breathed. “Oh…Force…”

              Tiq had barely enough time to snatch the memories that had allowed Tiq to enter the mind before him and WRENCH before Palpatine’s face twisted into a snarl, and suddenly there was lightning.

              Later, Tiq would think that he had never felt anything that terrible. A mix of seizing limbs and an awful pain that not only seemed to stop his heart and his lungs, but rip through his nerves, and burn his skin. Everything was pain, all was agony, and for a single solitary moment Tiq wondered if he was going to die, and then he thought of Maul – Maul who had lived with this as his main form of punishment since he was a child…

              At the time the only thing Tiq could understand was pain and the feeling of falling backwards from the chair, and then the pain suddenly ended with the sound of an igniting lightsaber.

              Tiq had just enough awareness to watch Yoda catch the lightning in his palm, absorb it back, locking eyes with the Chancellor…

              And he closed his eyes and allowed himself a second to recover.

              Shit had finally hit the fan.

              He just wished it hadn’t hit him quite so hard when it did… But Tiq had gotten what he wanted…way more than what he wanted…

              He would just…rest his eyes…for a few minutes…

    -

              Yoda caught the lightning in his palm, registering the flash of blue and purple and green blades to either side of him, meeting eyes with the Sith that had been in their midst all along…and knew that he would stop at nothing to destroy him.

              Palpatine’s face had twisted into a mask of rage and hate, and Yoda wondered in that moment how he had ever seemed otherwise. It fit his face, fit him…

              And in that one moment Yoda knew that if he could the Jedi Order and the Galaxy with it would have been ground beneath Palpatine’s boot.

              This would not be so.

              And then Palpatine snarled, and with an explosion of Force and HATE the windows exploded out, sending the other Jedi back, and Yoda realized that he still meant to get to Maul.

              Palpatine leapt through the window, Yoda forced in place to catch the last of the lightning, leaping after him, only to catch sight of Depa landing a single solid punch to Palpatine’s face, mid-reach for her own lightsaber, the sound of it loud and thick in the air, outside of the shattering glass, the sound of screaming.

              Maul’s voice, Maul’s terror, and this should not be so, he had been put through so much, this could not be so…

              And then there was the hum of a crimson blade, and Palpatine struck at Depa.

              “RUN!” Yaddle’s voice cried, and the spell of that solid punch was broken.

              Savage picked Maul up under a single arm and bolted, Feral gripped tightly in his other hand. And then Palpatine was once again moving.

              Yaddle launched herself forward, her blade catching Palpatine’s before he could catch up, shoving him back with a cry…

              There was laser fire, the Guards forming up as they approached, Yoda almost wished they wouldn’t…

              Palpatine reflected their bolts back towards them with a casual elegance, only stopped from killing the Guards as Plo managed to regain his footing, sending the bolts to the side, all except for one that was sent directly towards Palpatine. He sent it to the ground with a snarl, before finally, quietly laughing.

              “Well, well,” he said, “I did not anticipate this, but I suppose it was inevitable. Tell me, Jedi, how does it feel knowing that the Lord of the Sith was so close to you? How do you feel knowing that I shall make it out alive, and you…”

              Yoda had only just seen the movement, watching as one of the highly uncomfortable and yet imminently practical metal chairs came out of seemingly nowhere, slamming into the back of the Sith’s head, and then Padmé, who had been stuck with Bail in a spot that could have been dangerous if they had not been so utterly beneath notice… Padmé dropped the chair, and ran.

              “Shut up, you must, hmm?” Yoda challenged, and then leapt forward.

              The crimson blade caught one of his own, and then there was a further hum, and another blade was ignited.

    -

              Padmé’s breath was rattling in her lungs, a mixture of fear and adrenaline and pure and simple rage burning in her chest, running alongside Bail as they left the bowels of the Senate and ran up the stairs. It was rare that the Senate holding cells were utilized, but in that one moment Padmé desperately wished that they had not.

    There were people in here, innocent people that could be hurt or killed…  But she needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, she needed to get more evidence, to find out what Tiq had been talking about… And then she caught sight of Savage and Feral, both of them trying to hold Maul, to comfort him, and… She veered towards them, Bail on her tail. “Please,” Savage gasped, “how do we get out, where are we?”

              And Padmé realized she had a more important job to do.

              “Bail,” she said, looking to him, and before she said a word more, Bail nodded.

              “On it,” he said, “you get them out,” and immediately began running to the other set of stairs that would take him to the main offices.

              “Come with me!” she said, and immediately led the way out of the prison levels, aware of the sound of an explosion behind her.

              They had to get out.

    -

              Tiq came to with an ache in his head and the scent of burnt flesh in his nose. While he knew that it was his it still surprised him how much it hurt to move.

              Tiq breathed it all in a ball deep within his chest, before breathing it out – a risky and generally ill-advised maneuver, pain was the body telling itself to rest – and crawled slowly to the windows that were blown out, ignoring the glass that cracked under his hands and knees. Tiq knew he was not in any shape to join the fight, but as he took in the fact that the fight was heading down the corridor in the opposite direction from the stairs, also taking in the bodies of the dead Guards with a pang, hoping that some of them were simply unconscious.

              But he had work to do. He needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, and luckily he knew a shortcut.

              Tiq worked himself upright and staggered towards the lifts.

    -

              Palpatine was not dead yet.

              Mace had let go of most of his anger years ago, knew because of the very man that Palpatine had thrown away years ago precisely what the Source and the Well from which his anger flowed, knew precisely what his Wodza was, and had learned to manage it even more with that help.

              And yet Mace knew he had never been more furious in his life.

              A part of it, Mace knew was the fact that there were so many Jedi. They were forced to attack individually, or from different directions and Palpatine was able to force himself into positions that limited their ability…

              The other, and the worst of it all, was the fact that Palpatine was good.

              Palpatine used whatever he could get a hold of, throwing rubble, lightning, and the worst was when it was people. There were still Guards coming, and Mace almost wished that they would run. Palpatine was not afraid to use the Guards’ confusion against them, taking the moment before they realized what they were seeing to grip them and twist their bodies into the worst sort of mangle, before throwing them towards the Jedi, or otherwise using them as temporary shields.

              It never lasted long, their bodies were usually either stabbed through or otherwise killed violently to get at them still.

             Mace hated it.

              And then Palpatine sent a support-strut crumbling to the ground, and Eeth broke off to hold the ceiling, and the situation became that much more dire.

              They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Bail felt the ground begin to crumble beneath his feet, immediately and perhaps even futilely attempting to run faster, to get away.

              And then the ground stopped its crumbling, and Bail did not even think of it anymore, focusing on running. He did not want to think of it anymore. As Bail ran up the stairs he could hear the panicked sounds of the Senators above him, and then the sound of the alarm began sounding, and then the screaming started.

              Of course, the screaming started…

              Bail ran faster, pushing through the flood of his fellow Senators and wishing he knew a better way.

    -

              Tiq slumped bonelessly in the back of the lift, having an argued conversation with a disembodied voice.

              Logically Tiq knew that the disembodied voice was technically a droid, and similarly he understood that it was only programmed to be a pain in the ass, but it was very difficult to think right now.

              “I need for you to bring this lift to the floor to the Chancellor’s office,” Tiq insisted for what felt like the thirtieth time. He knew he could not take the stairs, but he also knew that he needed to get up there.  

              “We are in Emergency Lockdown,” the Droid said. “Lifts are disabled, and if they were not I would bring you to the ground floor to get you out. I cannot take you to the Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Listen,” Tiq managed, rubbing his face, “I have just been electrocuted, I cannot use the stairs, but I must get to his Office.”

              “Lifts are disabled.”

              Tiq sighed, and then reached up, flicking his wrist casually and sending the hatch open.

              “What are you doing?”

              “Cutting out the middleman~” Tiq answered.

              “You are too hurt to use the stairs,” the automated voice said, “you cannot climb the elevator shaft.”

              “Mm,” Tiq agreed roughly, shifting, readying himself for a jump.

              …

              “To Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Oh, thank you,” Tiq smiled, and felt as the lift rose, flicking the hatch down. He leaned against the wall, bracing, letting his mind flow into meditation. He needed to get his body as well as it could get, and for that he needed to center, and for that he allowed his consciousness to drift, to feel out the minds that surrounded him, feeling the panic, the fear. Tiq breathed it all in, and slowly breathed it out, letting it drift away. He could also feel the heightened fear and the pain of the Guards that were in the fight below, the ones that were standing against the Sith…and he realized they were dying. “Do you have connections to the Security Guards?”

              “I do,” the droid answered.

              “Do not send more guards to the fight,” Tiq said, “they are being destroyed…there was also a massacre in the Holding Levels and there may be some survivors…”

              There was a pause as the droid processed this. “Sending Droids,” he said.

              “Oh,” Tiq said softly, “thank you, that will work.”

              “The Chancellor has violated his programming,” the droid said. “We will set it right.”

              Tiq smiled, “we will certainly try.”

              “Floor Reached,” the Droid said, and the doors swung open.

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and stumbled his way out, nearly being barreled into by what seemed like a wall of people all attempting to evacuate.

              Tiq pressed himself close to the wall and shifted his way along.

              Why was nothing ever simple?

    -

              Savage ran like his life depended upon it, following Padmé as she led them ahead, only to see a sudden crowd of people approaching, more women, and for a moment he froze, only for Maul to cry out, “SABÉ!”

              Sabé looked to him, and immediately she and the rest of the women beelined their way towards her.

              “Padmé,” she called out, “what’s happening?”

              “The Chancellor was Maul’s Master,” Padmé called out, “we have to get out! He’s fighting the Jedi, we…”

              The ground shook, caving down, and Feral reached out his free hand, grabbing Padmé and dragging her back before she fell into the pit that had suddenly opened, the ground cracking around them.

              They screamed, and Savage took a breath, and reached out with his feelings, reached out with his Anger and his Fear.

              Maul had taught him what to do with his Pain, both of them, the little boy in his arms and the Holocron that trained him…and he gripped the stone, feeling the way Maul’s tendrils of focus reached alongside his, the two of them wrenching it up together, and Feral’s brighter grip, the three of them holding it tight amongst them.

              “RUN!” Savage grunted.

              “What about you?” Padmé asked, and in her panic she was reaching for him, her hands on his arm, fear in her face…but it was fear for him, her hands ready to pull, to guide him along, not press, not restrain…

              “We can make it,” Maul hissed.

              “The quicker you get out, the less weight…” Feral managed. “Run!”

              They ran.

              For a moment, the three of them stood there, feeling the grinding weight of stone, of the way the building wanted to collapse beneath them… And then slowly, carefully, Feral and Savage took a step. And then they took another.

    -

              It was not supposed to be like this.

              Palpatine had worked so hard all of these years, so many plans, so many plots, so many opportunities allowed to slip, so much that he had not done all in the name of Temperance.

              He had waited, allowed the Clone Army to grow, played nice with the Jedi, sat in the room with them when all he had wanted to do… Palpatine had taken to keeping the lightsabers strapped in hilts hidden under his clothing, for his own amusement if nothing else. He had never planned to use them until it was time, never planned to let himself fall to the temptation of cutting them down one after another…

              And yet here he was.

              Here he was and the plan was slipping between his fingers.

              That Rodian…that… Palpatine would see to him.

              Palpatine would make him break.

              Palpatine caught the blade coming towards his face, the purple sparking inches from his skin and laughed.

              There were too many of them, they had not fought against anyone like him in years, and their sensibilities made them…weak.

              Sidious downed another pillar, watching as the floor crumbled alongside them, watching as Yaddle broke off to catch it, to contain it.

              There would be no containing it.

              Sidious would bring the entire thing down upon their heads.

              They had crumpled all of Sidious’ schemes, all of his desires…

              He would destroy theirs.

    -

              Bail ran into the office of the man who had been Chancellor, aware of the crumbling of stone, the screaming, and for a moment did not know what to do.

              He needed to find evidence, he needed to find this…Order 66, he had to find a way to stop all of this…he needed… Bail ran towards the desk, opening the contents and slowly working his way through, sweat trickling down his forehead as he heard the sound of further destruction, felt the way the ground shook.

              “I would look in the chair~!” a familiar voice called, an impossibly chipper voice for the situation, and for… Bail blinked, looking up to see Tiq leaning against the doorway, a gentle smile on his face, eyes partially slitted.

              “Tiq!” Bail called, and immediately ran towards the other man, recognizing as he did so that Tiq was slumping further and further towards the ground. He immediately caught the Rodian under the shoulder, forced to stoop to meet the other man’s height. He brought Tiq back to sit upon the very chair that Tiq had mentioned, the one that he only now noticed seemed to resemble more of a throne, more of a…

              “Thank you,” Tiq said brightly, “now…” he hummed, closing his eyes for a moment, his fingers on the armrests, and Bail took a step back as hidden compartments and panels flipped open from within the chair itself. “Remind me to thank Maul for teaching me Mechu-deru,” Tiq said brightly.

              “I’ll thank him myself,” Bail said, “now…what are we looking for?”

              Tiq hummed quietly, looking through the panels and then made a sound of delight when he caught sight of what looked like…a comm.

              Tiq pressed a button or two, almost idly, and there was a pause as it rang…and rang…

              And then there.

              Was…

              “Yes, my Master?” came the softly cultured voice, and Bail stared as Tiq did, at the sight of…

            Count…Dooku?” Tiq asked.

              The Count stared at him.

              Tiq stared at the Count. “You know…this is why I said you should have joined me for Therapy.”

    -

              Maul was afraid.

              So much had happened, so much…his Master was alive, his Master was… But they were fighting him, they had…

              His Master was going to kill him.

              His Master was going to kill his Brothers, was going to kill his family that he had found, all of his friends, everything…

              Maul took all of that fear, he took all of that despair and all of that certainty and wove his mental coils tighter, helping his brothers as they took step after step, still carrying him, still working on making their way across a floor that wanted to buckle.

              They would make it.

              There were people that had noticed them, people that were calling to them, encouraging, and their voices joined the medley of things that Maul desperately grasped…

              Please, he begged, please let them get out okay…

              And then the roof began collapsing.

    -

              The Senate Building was collapsing.

              Whatever else may be true the Senate Building was collapsing.

              Anakin had been in his lessons with Qui-Gon when the alert had been raised, Quinlan rushing in to tell them that they had to make their way, all of the Jedi joining in a mad rush to speeders and other means of transport, some just all-out running. No one knew what was happening, what the cause of the destruction was, all they knew was the Senate was on the verge of collapse, and they needed to help support it.

              Anakin ran along Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Ahsoka joining in as they reached the door, followed by D’una and Wan. Qui-Gon had initially just started running and so Anakin had followed, not expecting the way he bypassed the run towards the main hanger and instead headed out the doors.

              Anakin was not expecting for the cabbie to be at the end of the ramp, a Zabrak that was only familiar by word of mouth as he had not been invited to The Spot before, but was familiar enough with it…

              Joric.

              “GET YER ASSES IN HERE!” he yelled.

              Didn’t need to tell Anakin twice.

              They slid into the cab with little fanfare, Qui-Gon alongside the Zabrak as he threw the cab in gear and immediately took off.

              “What is the status?” Qui-Gon asked.

              “The Senate just started crumbling,” Joric answered, flying through the gears with a practiced ease and a talent for merging in and out of traffic that Anakin was immediately delighted by. “There was no warning, no idea what happened, rumors are circulating that it’s an attack. I was in the neighborhood when I started seeing it happen, and I immediately swung around this way. I can’t tell you more than that, no one even knows who’s doing the attacking.”

              “Are there enemies still living?” Obi-Wan asked.

              “Your guess is as good as mine,” Joric said, “I have the radio programmed to tune in if anything else is announced but so far it’s just been evacuations and a warning to keep your distance.” Joric laughed, “a bit of a laugh that one, but I suppose they try.”

              “Who would have tried to destroy the Senate?” Ahsoka asked, D’una leaning up alongside her.

              “Your guess is as good as mine, young missy,” Joric answered, “but I tell you this, it’s not falling nearly as quick as it should be. My guess? There’s some of your type already in it.”

              There was a pause as they took this in.

              “Maul!”

    -

              Yaddle gritted her teeth as she felt the weight of the Senate begin to crumble towards her, feeling the way the floor buckled, her focus even so trained directly towards the battle that was happening.

              Yaddle was a Jedi – and Jedi did not hate. But in that one moment…as Yaddle watched the footwork and the movements of a man that they had thought dead for nearly a decade, as Yaddle stared at the Sith that had lied in wait for so long…

              Yaddle could see in every movement, every step and twist and parry, the sheer revelry, the relish that even now…even now…Maul felt in every bone of his body.

              Yaddle could see the man who had trained a tiny…sweet little boy…and broken him.

               Yaddle stared at that man, stared at that being, and found herself as close to hating as she had ever been.

              She could see the movements, see the practice and the ease and in those moments when their feet were on the ground… That stance… Yaddle had trained many Jedi, had seen Masters and Apprentices fight as one. In those moments she knew who Maul’s Master had been, and similarly knew that he would slide into position alongside him with ease. This was the man who had trained him, had raised him, and the knowledge that as a united front they would be utterly seamless rose a sour taste in her mouth.

               Yaddle tightened her grip on the floor above, knowing that there were feet running across it. They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Tiq stared at Dooku, his mind reeling between everything else that had happened, the memories in his mind that did not belong to him and were not held as tightly as he wished, and the realization that whatever this was… Tiq rubbed his face for a moment.

              “Tell me,” he said, “am I to understand that you’ve known that Palpatine was the Sith Lord this entire time…and…” he paused, “Dooku, please, I know that Yoda keeps beating you in dejarik, but surely that’s no reason to betray the Order and everything you know?”

              Dooku stared down his nose at him, which Tiq would perhaps have found impressive if not for the fact that his nose was truly nothing compared to his own, and if he had not lost all respect for the man. “Jokes at a time like this, Healer?” he asked.

              Tiq laughed, “Well, with a punchline like this I find I cannot help myself. Tell me, are you the one that’s been helping to organize the Separatists? Have you been doing this the entire time? Are you aware of…” Tiq paused, staring at him, and his mouth slowly pulled down. “You are aware. You’ve been helping. Tell me, Dooku, what happens after the Jedi are destroyed? Where does that leave you?”

              Tiq was aware of the way Bail was staring at him, the shock in his expression, taking in Dooku who remained impassive before finally, with the slightest of movements as though brushing lint from his shoulder, “On the side of doing what matters. On the side that shall revolutionize the Galaxy. The Order has fallen, Healer, and you know I as well as I.”

              “Do I?” Tiq asked with a slow hum.

              “This entire Republic has fallen,” Dooku snapped, “and we are tied to it like an overgrown tumor. Its rot has spread, and we are left to pick up the pieces that we should never have carried to begin with. We are revolutionizing the Galaxy, placing the true minds at the helm, and we will create a better future.”

              Tiq laughed sharp and bright and grinned at him, “Oh, Yan,” he said softly, “tell me, how do you plan to work with this man when you have already seen what he does to the ones that are beneath him? Why would you work with someone who hurt the one that he was literally responsible for? Who depended on him for life and for love and received nothing?”

              “You are of course talking about Maul,” Dooku said, and scoffed, “clearly your attachment to that boy has superseded your clarity. Maul was and remains nothing more than a tool, something to be used and then discarded.”

              And that was the moment when Tiq laughed in earnest, bright and full, amusement burning within him. Because now Tiq knew.

              “You are wrong, Yan, Tiq said, “I was in his mind,” Tiq hissed. “I was inside of his mind, and I have seen all that it is that you are to himand that is utterly…beneath…notice. He had no thoughts of you at all, not a single glimmer of concern. But for Maul…oh I found great affection for him, Yan. I found a pride and a warmth that I did not glimpse anywhere else. I think, my dear friend…that you are being used. And I think you want to think about who and what you are truly willing to lose before activating Order 66.”

              And Tiq watched as Dooku made the connection, watched as the truth of Tiq’s statement rested in the air between them…

              And slowly…

              Allowed himself…

              To grin.

    -  

            Ahsoka was buzzing in her seat, Joric was only able to go so fast, but she could feel the rise of panic, feel the fear as they finally managed to edge around the building that blocked the view of the Senate from the Temple she felt her heart leap into her mouth. Leaning up between the two front seats she stared at the way an entire far-side of the building started to collapse…and then was immediately froze in place.

              There were more Jedi in there than Maul, she was certain, but she was also certain that she could feel him. He was in there somewhere, and the realization pounded in her chest, gripping her fingers tight onto the seats.

              She immediately was almost sent into the far wall when Joric was forced to suddenly swerve, the cabby barking out a few choice curses as he dodged a speeder that seemed unable to keep from staring at the destruction and drive at the same time.

              Surprising.

              Qui-Gon’s hands steadied her, as did D’una’s pressure against her side and she nodded at them in thanks, turning back to stare at the Senate again that was quickly filling the viewscreen of the speeder as they grew close enough for a landing.

              They were just close enough that she could begin to reach out her own senses, breathing deep in preparation for reaching out with the Force, for…

              There was a scream from below, her attention immediately falling to the sight of a different entrance that she knew led to the lower prisons, realizing as she looked that there were…

              Ahsoka was shoving the door of the cabby open before she could properly register what she was seeing, flying through the air and slowing her descent with the Force as she registered the figures below, took in the way they reached for the people inside still, and a small red figure that they were holding out to be grabbed…

              Obi-Wan was suddenly falling next to her, the sound of Joric’s surprised cussing in the air as Qui-Gon, Wan, D’una and Anakin all leapt out as well, but she wasn’t worried about the cabby. He was able to take care of himself, and more importantly they were needed here.

              Her thoughts snapped back to the present as she grew close enough to catch hold of the falling ceiling and floor, able to guide her own descent to the ground to something that barely jolted her, and immediately reached out to help Obi-Wan as he reached. Together they wound their Force with the three Nightbrothers working on keeping from falling into the hole that had opened up perilously close to them, from being crushed by the ceiling that fell.

              Sabé had managed to grab Maul and was pulling him to safety, and Obi-Wan had caught Feral…

              The floor crumbled beneath Ahsoka’s feet, and she let out a surprised shout, stumbling back, recognizing that they had worked to immediately grab hold of the floor and…

              There was a cry, surprised, hurt, and Ahsoka’s attention snapped over to watch as “SAVAGE!” she cried out, trying to reach…but it was too late, and he fell through the hole beneath. Ahsoka could only grip hold tight to the floor that had swallowed him and hope that she could keep it from falling atop him… He would make it out, he had to…

              And then she realized that Maul was screaming.

              Obi-Wan dove in after Savage.

              Qui-Gon and Anakin both worked to guide them out, Maul’s panicked and terrified tears spilling, as Feral grabbed him and held him close…

              Ahsoka gritted her teeth and helped to keep them safe and together, D’una and Wan taking them in before running to help to stabilize the Senate. She trusted Obi-Wan, she trusted that they could do it… There were other Jedi in the Temple, and as she watched more were continuing to land, more were continuing to help to support…

              What was going on?

             Obi-Wan caught up to Savage quickly, recognizing the man’s desperation, the utter fear that caused him to reach… Obi-Wan caught him, the two of them falling, “Remember your rage!” Obi-Wan called out, and felt the moment when Savage finally sparked.

              Together they managed to fall gently to the ground, though Obi-Wan immediately grabbed him and dragged him through further debris, feeling as Savage reached out with him to shove death to the side. Obi-Wan could feel other Jedi reaching out, could feel the structure stabilizing, even as he knew that it was only temporary.

              Not even the whole of the Jedi Temple could keep a building the size of the Senate from crumbling in upon itself, not without something helping to take up the added weight – eventually they would tire.

              It was too much for too long, so they had to act quickly… But as Obi-Wan ran he also realized he could sense…

              “Who is that?” Obi-Wan asked, looking to Savage who was running alongside him, “who all is here, what is happening?”

              “Your Chancellor kidnapped my Brother, your Chancellor is the Sith,” Savage said.

              Obi-Wan stopped running.

    -

              “How does it feel?” Palpatine asked, barely heard through the rushing of blood through Plo’s body, his breath burning in his respirator, his eyes focused. “How does it feel knowing that all this time I was right here? How does it feel knowing that no matter what happens you will not be able to save this Senate?” He laughed, striking out at them, whirling between Mace and Plo, Yoda attempting to launch himself forward and being sent back with a bolt of lightning.

              Always there was lightning, always there was judgement… And Plo’s own judgement was rising beneath his skin, something that he could feel burning at the tips of his fingers.

              Plo finally unleashed his own attack, lightning burning bright and yellow in contrast to the Sith’s own cruel blue…

              Palpatine cast his own through it, and Plo was forced to bring his lightsaber up, catching it upon its surface, dissipating it.

              “Ah,” Palpatine hummed, “I had often wondered what that would be like in comparison. Not much, is it?”

              Palpatine laughed, and he laughed, and he laughed…and this more than anything was the worst of it all. No matter what they did, and they did get hits, they were able to send him back, were able to throw him through any number of things, but he always…always…laughed.

              The perverse joy, the utter delight in every moment, and Plo knew that primarily it was because of the fact that it was true.

              There would be no saving the Senate.

              All that was left of the building would crumble, and Plo knew, could see how they were moving towards the very floor of the Senate itself. 

             And it may very well be the last time anyone ever did.  

    -

              Bail stared at Tiq, before staring at Dooku, utterly and completely blown away.

              Tiq raised his brows higher, and finally, quietly, “I will contact Kamino,” Dooku managed quietly.

              “Oh,” Tiq said, “thank you, please, keep on the line, I would like to talk to them as well.” He paused, “you know, I don’t know a Kamino…”

              “It was removed…from the Records,” Dooku said stiffly.

              Tiq laughed, “Oh, I am betting Jocasta would thank you for that, wouldn’t she, Yan?”

              Bail watched as Dooku actually winced and turned his attention back to the Healer who was smiling so pleasantly.

              Well.

              Maul had always admired the man, Bail supposed this made sense.

              And then Dooku stiffened, “and why would she? Why would she know any of this?”

              “Are you hoping to brush it all under the rug, Yan?” Tiq asked pleasantly. “I’m afraid it’s a little late for that. I think I would recommend not getting involved with a megalomaniac. I think that would actually make it easier.”

              “I will see to it you get a fair trial,” Bail said, the words sliding out with ease. They were wasting precious time and Bail could see that Tiq was at the point of collapse and it was making him edgy. “If you help us end this, if you help us destroy Palpatine’s operations, then I will see that you are noted as a defector. You will get a fair trial.”

              Dooku took this in for a moment and finally nodded. “Done.”

              There was a pause and then the comm was once again ringing and another hologram pulled up, and it was a being that Bail had never seen before.

    -  

            “The Chancellor?” Obi-Wan managed, his voice broken with shock. “The Chancellor is the Sith?”

              “The Chancellor stole my brother,” Savage snarled back at him, and Obi-Wan wasn’t entirely certain that the reaction was fair, but at the same time could not begrudge it. “I am going to kill him.”

              Obi-Wan could absolutely begrudge that, particularly when Savage immediately took off running, and forced Obi-Wan to do the same.

              “Wait!” Obi-Wan called out, “we have to get out, the entire place is coming down! How do you think Maul is going to feel when you die because you refused to leave!”

              “How will he feel knowing his brother was once again unable to protect him?” Savage called back, and his voice was thick with rage and despair, the sort that came from deep within, and was apparently something that he had been struggling with for years. Obi-Wan recognized it, knew it, and he also had a feeling that this was not going to be something Savage would be able to put down. It was too deep, too engrained…

              And if Obi-Wan was honest with himself he didn’t truly want to put it down either.

              Obi-Wan took a deep breath, searched his feelings of anger and fear and that slowly mounting resolve to end this. Obi-Wan did not doubt that there were Jedi, and he thought now that they needed help more than ever. They needed to end this, and Savage was a warrior from a warrior culture, one that had trained with Maul himself… But most importantly he would not be doing it alone. Obi-Wan would be with him, as would the rest of the Jedi.

              So, Obi-Wan felt his mouth set, and allowed his senses to reach out, catching hold of the emotion and the anger and the hate that boiled at the center of it all, and ran, soon catching up to Savage. Savage spared him a glance, and Obi-Wan took a breath.

              “We’ll kill him together.”

              Savage laughed, and Obi-Wan felt as the man changed his run to match with his.

              “I like that plan,” Savage grinned, and Obi-Wan gave a sharp nod.

    -

              Tiq hummed quietly as he listened to Dooku talking to a Kaminoan that was apparently named Lama Su. It was annoying Dooku he could tell, but Tiq didn’t care, it was one of the few things keeping him aware. The pain had grown as things had gone on and he rather thought that he might need to be submerged in bacta at some point…but not now.

              Not yet.

              “You wish the chips deactivated?” Lama asked, and there was surprise in his voice.

              “Indeed,” Dooku said, “it is…unnecessary. There has been a change of plans.”

              “He’ll pay you double~” Tiq cut in with a wide smile before Dooku could say another word, “for the hassle, of course,” he let his tone turn soft and cajoling, and when the Kaminoan’s eyes locked on his, Tiq let his own squint in a gentle grin.

              And then he looked to Dooku as Lama did, and proceeded to stare at him blankly.

              “That might be the best thing to do,” Bail said, “given the…circumstances.” Bail smiled at Dooku broadly, and Tiq felt a bright burst of amusement.

              Dooku paused for a moment, and finally, quietly, “Yes…yes, of…of course, for the…for the hassle.”

              “Well,” Lama said, his voice slow, and thoughtful, and above all…pleased. “I rather think that we can do this…easily enough.”

              “Thank you,” Dooku said, “we would like this to happen…as soon as possible.”

              “Of course,” Lama said, “right away as the customer demands…as soon as the money is deposited?”

              Dooku paused, for a moment pinned under the weight of all their stares. “You’ll get half…”

              Bail cleared his throat.

              “…You will get it immediately.”

              Tiq rather thought he liked Bail.

    _

              The Chancellor was throwing the Senate at them.

              Yoda leapt and twisted through the air, accompanied by Mace and Plo as Palpatine sent various Senate seats flying through the air at them, almost completely at random. That made them more dangerous, and Yoda was forced to keep moving. There was barely any time to catch their breath, and Yoda was once again reminded of the fact that it had been long since they had been forced to fight like this.

              They were separated, and it was dangerous, Mace already almost having his head sent off his body if he had not managed to duck in time.

              The walls were crumbling, the arch above their head shuddering and Yoda knew that they needed to end this quickly or they would risk being buried alive.

              Palpatine did not care.

              Yoda was realizing that Palpatine had absolutely nothing to lose, in too many ways he had already lost. Palpatine was a cornered animal, and that made him dangerous.

              And then all thoughts were lost when with a sudden explosion of duracrete and metal, Agen Kolar hurled himself seemingly from nowhere, kicking Palpatine in the back of the head and sending him falling, a loud surprised sound leaving him as he fell.

              But as Palpatine managed to flip and catch himself on another seat he only began to laugh harder. Agen stared down at him with his eyes flashing, and then he looked to them.

              They had time to regroup.

    _

              Feral was holding his little brother close to his chest, aware of the rapid beating of his hearts, aware of the fear that choked him.

              Savage was in there, Savage was deep within the Senate, and while he had help with him, while the Jedi were working together to hold the Senate up, Feral knew it was only a matter of time.

              As more people were evacuating the Jedi were allowing more and more of it to drop, able to move onto other sections that still had people within it, and Feral was terrified at the idea that they were doing it when there were only individual life signs, when the loss was considered acceptable. Feral thought the fear was unfounded…he nonetheless could not shake it.

              Maul was shaking in his arms, and Feral could feel the way his face was pressed to his chest and knew that he was almost beyond fear. The only thing left was shock and a sort of detached emptiness. Maul did not believe that Savage would make it out alive.

              Maul likely thought that all of the ones that were left were dead.

              But as Feral watched he realized that Depa had made it out, and Eeth with her, as well as Yaddle… Feral ran to them, breaking free of the barrier that the droids were making, the barrier that he had remained behind with Padmé and the others, hearing the calls to wait, to halt, but Feral could not.

              “Please,” he yelled as he got close, “please did you find my brother?”

              “Is he in there?” Eeth asked, immediately hurrying over towards him.

              “He fell, Obi-Wan is with him,” Feral said, and turned his attention back to the building, watching as it shook. “Please,” he said, “I can’t lose him.”

              The Jedi looked at him and then looked at each other, and it was a look that Feral recognized.

              It was a look that Feral dreaded.

    _

              Bail worked with Tiq to gather the last of the evidence, copying it in drives, sending it to news outlets, anything they could to reveal the truth of the matter.. This was after, of course, Dooku had also called someone who was apparently named…General Grievous…and…

              Bail had stopped paying much attention after that. The entire thing had been too much, and he had found watching Tiq that much more entertaining, mostly because Tiq had moved on from saying a word and just simply spoke in looks.

              They were the most devastatingly unimpressed looks Bail had ever seen. Dooku seemed to cringe under them more and more as time went on, and when he had finally hung up Tiq had buried his face in his hands. This was ample time for Bail to call his wife.

              They had not discussed much else, merely that Dooku had surrendered most of his assets – though the how of this surrendering went unsaid – and would be arriving by shuttle soon. Bail would be worried, perhaps, about the idea that Dooku might attempt to take his family hostage, but Alderaan had a few visitors that would be helpful. A number of Jedi that had been visiting as a special favor from Yoda.

              Bail usually was rather grateful to be friends with Yoda, but this was ridiculous.

              They had finally managed to amass all of the information that they could, and there was so much of it and so much of it was so horrifying that Bail had not truly allowed himself to process it. And then finally he was left with Tiq, who hummed thoughtfully, reached out once more with mechu-deru - and Bail would absolutely be thanking Maul profusely for teaching Tiq – and then he had nodded, before clapping his hands twice.

              “Well,” he said brightly, “that’s done. Now, Bail. I do not usually ask this question beforehand, but I find it necessary at this juncture. Do you trust me?”

              Bail laughed, unable to help it, “at this point I believe it would be rather unreasonable to not.”

              “Oh, well then good,” Tiq smiled, “because I’m going to throw you out the window.”

    _

              Agen Kolar had heard that the Chancellor had been the one to kidnap and torture Maul and had immediately decided that he was going to kill him.

                He had seen one brief glimpse of Maul trembling in the grip of his older brother, and it had been enough to rocket him into motion. It was too much, it had always been too much, from the very beginning when Maul had not known a damn thing about himself as a Zabrak, to now as he was learning what it was to be a Brother, too much had been done. It would all end now.

              Palpatine stood before them on a single hovering platform, wiping his mouth with his hand, and Agen was gratified to see blood. Apparently the Chancellor had caught himself with his face, and it made Agen feel rather smug. He stood next to Mace and Plo, Yoda two platforms over, and for a moment they stared at each other.

              And then Palpatine laughed, and the seats once again began their raining. But this time they were ready, their positions grounded.

              They caught a seat and turned its trajectory back.

    _

              Savage followed the sounds of electricity and destruction, completely able to hear it at this point, the sound of laughter echoing between, and it was a laughter that he knew. It was a laughter that he had heard in his nightmares since he was twelve, a laughter that had caused him to hold Feral all the tighter. The fear that the man would come back and finish the job, would steal the brother that Savage had left, and he would be alone…

              Savage would be a failure twice over, would have lost even Feral, who had relied on him for so much, who had loved him… Who Savage loved. Had cradled in his arms and felt nothing but the pure desire to protect and to teach, coupled with his brother. How proud Savage had been, how delighted he had been to be graced with Twins.

              And then the laughter had come, the laughter that had rang through the trees and froze Savage’s hearts and had stolen his youngest with it.

              And now here he was, and he was going to destroy that laughter, choke it in the lungs that it came from. Savage had waited all his life for this.

              He would not wait any longer.

    _

              Tiq had thought Bail had handled his proclamation better than expected.

              After the initial shock, Bail realized that the building was still coming down around their ears, and when Tiq had told him that he didn’t have the strength to come down with him, Bail had grabbed his forearms and told him that he would let them know he was coming.

              Tiq told him he definitely appreciated it, and then he had sent the glass flying from the window with a brief burst of the Force, the wind immediately whipping around them, tugging at Tiq’s and the Senator’s own robes, Tiq pulling Bail to the window where they stood for just long enough for Tiq to gather his strength, and then he had sent Bail into the air.

              The scream that the man let out was just the thing to catch attention, and sure enough Tiq felt the way another Jedi caught him around Tiq’s own influence, Tiq releasing him into the hold of…oh…who was…ah, yes, Anakin. Tiq leaned out the window then, watching as Anakin brought Bail down to land safely next to him, and then focused up on him.

              Tiq waved and watched as Anakin jolted in realization, immediately stepping forward, bracing himself.

              Tiq jumped out the window, caught in the net of Anakin’s hold, the teen slowly working to lower him down to his feet.

              Tiq brushed his robes off, smiling, “I think that went well!” he said to Bail, and then all he knew was dark.

    _

               You are the Chancellor of the Republic.

              But most importantly you are the Sith.

              You are the corruption at the bottom of the well, the poison that has seeped into the water supply since the beginning, and you have longed for this moment.

              But it had not come in the way that it was meant to. You stood facing the Jedi, full of a hideous strength that you had wanted to unleash for years…

              And it was not enough.

              It had not been enough, and the knowledge filled you with rage and with hate, and this in turn fueled you. And yet this.

              Was not.

              Enough.

              It had taken longer than it should have to realize that the memories that had belonged to your Apprentice had been stolen. It was a devastating blow, particularly in the midst of all of these other devastating blows.

              You refused to lose.

              You sneered at the Jedi, the enemies of your Order for Millenia, the very ones that you had allowed correct your many oversights with the Apprentice you had chosen… And you recognized that now, recognized that they had been oversights and moments of devastation… But they did not waver, and your hatred burned.

              The sudden appearance of another Jedi, an Obi-Wan Kenobi was nearly enough to send you into a frothing rage.

              He threw another senate seat at you, and you leapt out of the way, feeling the way you were suddenly hit from the side by a Push that could only have come from Yoda, sending you flying up and back and…

              Pain.

              You had almost forgotten…what it felt like.

              And then you felt nothing at all.

    -

              In the end it had been a simple matter to get into position.

              Savage had worked his way through the maze of flying senate seats, his fist gripping a durasteel pipe that he thought at one point might have been meant to hold duracrete in place. It would no longer serve that job, but it was good enough for the job that Savage had for it, and he had waited… When Savage had managed to get himself positioned properly, hidden from sight and sense, though that was not difficult.

              The man who had kidnapped his brother was fully focused upon the Jedi before him, all else beneath his notice, which meant that Savage was perfectly able to keep low, to draw his presence inward.

              But he was not beneath the notice of the Jedi.

              They had seen him, though not a single one of them had given it away, letting Savage creep…

              And then Savage was fully in position, and Obi-Wan leapt into view, spinning his lightsaber, robes flying in the air, all flash and threat and violence…

              And as the man that had stolen an entire life from Savage’s hold leapt to avoid him…

              Yoda, Mace, Agen, and Plo were able to shove him up and back, and Savage…who had been standing and waiting for this moment since he was young and knew enough to know that he would never hate another being as much as he did the one that had stolen his brother…

              Savage took that durasteel and drove it clean through the kidnapper’s spine.

              Savage lifted him slowly off his feet, watching and feeling with a grim satisfaction the way the lightsabers fell to the ground as he lost control of his limbs, turning off as they did and falling to the ground far below. He listened to the gurgle and the crunch as the body slowly slid back towards his hands, gravity pulling it down.

              Savage heard the gurgling breath and was just able to stare into the yellow eyes of the man who had stolen his brother from the corner of his own, and softly, his voice a low hiss, “You stole my brother from me. You shall steal nothing more.”

              And with a grim satisfaction shoved him off the edge of the senate box.

              Savage watched the man plummet to the ground far below, impaled and utterly unable to do a thing to break his own fall, kept from the Force, kept from help…and in that moment realized that he was not the only one watching.

              And then the body hit the ground.

              Savage watched quietly, grimly, and then looked to the men that had helped, the ones that had loved his brother when he could not and smiled.

              The sound of the building breaking further, the feeling of the ground shuddering below his feet was an immediate reminder that they were not yet safe.

              Savage needed to get back to his brothers.

              The Jedi were tiring, Maul was tiring, all of them doing their best to keep the last bit of the building up.

              They had managed to evacuate most of the Senators, and the droids had come up with more of the Guards, bearing them on stretchers. More had lived than Maul had expected, but he was still…

              Mace.

              Yoda.

              Plo.

              Agen.

              Obi-Wan.

              Savage…

              Maul had watched Agen dive through the wall himself after the realization that the man who had hurt him was the Chancellor, had seen the rage in his face and the way he had immediately dropped everything. It was the angriest that Maul had ever seen a Jedi, but it also meant that Agen was in there…

              Maul had seen Tiq collapse, though he had been assured by Anakin that he was okay. Though now…now all who could hold on were doing so, but Maul was weakening. Maul was weakening and he was furious about it. He knew that he was little, he knew that he was still learning, he knew that he could only do so much… But Maul desperately needed… He needed to know his brother was okay.

              He needed to know…

              And so, Maul held on.

              Maul held on even as his vision darkened, even as…

              And then, just as suddenly as though shot from a blaster, the familiar figures of the Jedi leapt from the building, and a single yell was heard of “DROP IT!!!” in his brother’s distinctive accent and voice as he leaps behind them.

              The Jedi let go of the Senate, those that still could grabbed the ones in the air, and Maul watched as his family was guided back to the ground, and then Maul heard it.

              The sound was deafening, a terrible crunch and crumble of grating duracrete and durasteel, as the last of the domed structure came to earth with a great and terrible explosion.

              And then came the wall of white, the flying debris, and once again the Jedi reached out, and sent the plume into the sky.

              The sun was gone.

              All was dark.

              But Maul saw two pairs of eyes.

              Eyes that glowed like his, eyes that he saw looking at him…

              And he knew that everything would be okay.

    jgvfhl

    OH MAN OH MAN OH MAN HOLY SHIT 🤩 TECHNIQUE 47 MY BELOVEDDDDD I FUCKING LOVE THAT FOR TIQ

    FUCK HIM UP, PADMÉ!!!!!! GO TEAM!!!!! Absolutely impeccable and so dramatic!! The pacing was awesome! Tiq is a fucking LEGEND and so is YODA omigosh "shut up you must, hm?" AMAZING. And Dooku's aboutface lol that was hilarious, Bail is DELIGHTFUL 🤩 Oh and I absolutely loved the Palpy PoV. Raisin PoV. It was an interesting departure from the norm. Awesome chapter!!

    mercurydancer

    i am losing my fucking shit at this image. oh my god i'm weeping. thank you for gracing my life with this, i'm so glad you loved the chapter LOL ahahahahah, oh god.

    pleuvoire

    again i REALLY encourage everyone to go to settings and turn on the setting that puts timestamps on posts (and reblogs!) in dashboard view right under the url of the person posting/reblogging. it’s massively useful for seeing when a post that frames a piece of news as current and immediate is actually a few years old or when a fundraiser is long out of date or stuff like that, and i think the quality of general knowledge on this site would be improved if everyone used it. also it’s just fun being able to see when a popular post was made, at this point i’m so used to having that information i’d feel like a caveman without it

    sincerely-mrstranger

    It’s in “account settings”, in the dashboard “preferences section”.

    One of the things I like about Dracula is that Lucy is not a perfect person, neither by the standards of the time the book was written in nor those we have now.

    It’s a common trope, especially in Victorian literature, to have a character that is more or less morally perfect - unfailingly kind, compassionate, forgiving, and virtuous, incapable of being cruel or sinful, and just a glorious ray of sunlight in a bleak world.  And the role of these characters in the narrative is to die so as to motivate the other, less-perfect characters to rally and try and change things for the better.  The character was Too Good For This Sinful Earth, basically.  Think Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol or Beth in Little Women.

    Lucy is a subversion of that trope.   She is flawed, she has impure thoughts, she can be shallow at times and struggles to make choices of her own.  She is not the picture of saintly perfection.

    But she is loved, by the other characters and by the reader, and she is loved because she is a person, flaws and all.  And when she dies, imperfect as she was, the people who loved her still rally, to save her soul and the lives of others, because they live in a story where you didn’t have to be perfect to be worth fighting for.

    An Unexpected Chance Pt. 18

    Technique 47

    -

    "Sidious had formed an almost filial bond with Maul." - Darth Plagueis pg. 427 James Luceno. "And my Apprentices? Darth Maul was a Loss, but Darth Tyranus...he was a Proton Torpedo. He served his purpose and was gone..." - Darth Sidious to Lord Vader (Darth Vader Comics #20 2016 Marvel)

    _

              Mace Windu could not breathe.

              Mace stared at the small child before him, the one that had been his Apprentice when he was older, the one that even now he had taken care of, his son in all but blood… And he stared at pure…and utter terror.

              Mace took in the fear in those eyes, feeling the flickering and above-all desperate grasps at Dark, watching the way they flickered between yellow and gold as Maul could not decide whether to fight or to flee… Maul cowered in terror, lowering himself down, falling into the position that he had been taught, bowing low, low…

              And then Mace stared at Chancellor Sheev Palpatine.

              Sheev Palpatine who was staring at Maul with simple…

              Horrified…

              Shock.

              And then, Mace watched…as that shock shifted, hardened, turned to something more confused…

              Concerned.

              And it was the most damning evidence of all.

              Mace’s lightsaber was in his hand before he consciously thought of it, for a moment the realization of who he was staring at overwhelming all other thoughts, all other feelings. Mace was staring at the man who had tortured his son. Mace was staring at the man who had broken his son.

              Mace was staring at the man who had been Maul’s father before him.

              And the rage that threatened to eclipse him, the Wodza that still beat in his breast was momentarily almost enough to overwhelm all else.

              But the sound of blasters, the sight of the Guards, taking in the way they had moved to close ranks was enough to get Mace to slowly…jerkily…breathe it out.

              And also led to the realization that he was not the only one who had drawn their saber.

              Plo, Eeth, Yoda, Yaddle, and Depa…all staring at the man…who had tricked them all…

              They could not attack blindly.

              They were Jedi.

              Mace took a breath.

              “This is your Chancellor?” the words were an immediate interruption, Mace turning to look to Savage, Savage who had bundled Maul close to him, Savage who had his arm around Feral, the naked terror in the eyes of the eldest slowly spreading to Feral, who was also realizing who he was staring at. Feral who was reaching for Maul’s shoulder, cringing close to him, a mixture of fear and desperation in his gaze. “A man who kidnaps children? Who rips them from their brothers? You would put a man like this as the head of your Senate?”

              And a dizzying slow relief filled Mace’s mind for a moment as he realized what Savage had just given them, watching the way the Guards hesitated, the slow lowering of weapons, the way shoulders tensed.

              There was truth echoing in every word of Savage’s, etched in every line of his face, even now visible in the way Maul had switched to desperately clawing at Savage’s shoulders, trying to pull himself further away… And there was no doubting the terror, no doubting the utter horror in that…

              It was not something that could be feigned.

              “Chancellor Palpatine,” Mace said, his voice low, his tone even – an anchor that they could grasp hold of, and he could see…could feel the way the brothers had focused on him. “You have been accused of kidnapping…and the torture of a child…”

              Mace watched as Palpatine’s gaze flickered to his, and then it went back to the brothers.

              Palpatine’s expression softened turned to something almost soothing, something… He took a step forward his hands opening as though to reach out and sooth, but the sound of Maul’s voice breaking as finally, finally…

              “Please,” Maul managed, his high-pitched child’s voice never sounding so… Mace’s mouth tightened, “please, Master, I didn’t know, I didn’t…” his voice did not so much break as it shattered, falling silent at the way Palpatine’s hands stretched out, the fingers curling as though to make a fist, or to…or to… The idea of Sith lightning, the idea of those hands lowering to point at the small, deceptively fragile body of a boy who was no more than six years old, to drive lightning into his body until he was screaming and raw, until even now lightning covered his skin… All of these images flashed through his mind just as he became aware of the way Savage’s brown tunic darkened, the utter terror in Maul’s gaze turning to something crazed, something desperate, the smell of urine and…

              The Guards had moved then, turning towards the Chancellor, and Mace was aware of Bail, Bail in their midst, and Padmé… Padmé’s face was a mask of stone, every inch the regal Queen that had been.

              Padmé’s gaze was sharp enough to kill, and she leveled it at the Chancellor, and she was not the only one. Bail stared at him as well, taking steps back from the man he had been standing next to, the shock and the horror turning to something like disgust.

              For a moment Mace thought that this would be it.

              This would be the moment when they would fight the Sith that had been hiding in their midst this entire time, this would be the moment that decided their future.

              And then Palpatine took a deep breath, and slowly straightened to his full height.

              “Guards,” he said, his voice full of the soft grandfatherly concern that had softened more than one heart, putting his hands behind his back, standing there with a look of what could only be described as profound misery on his face. “I stand before you accused in word and in deed as a kidnapper and a torturer of children, as our esteemed Master Jedi has already stated. It seems…as though the only thing to do…would be to arrest me for questioning.”

              Mace could hardly believe what he was hearing.

              But there was a part of him that was aware of the fact that this was a man who had been in their midst for years.

              This was a man who Maul himself as a teenager and an adult had spent time without realizing who he was.

              Maul had talked about not trusting him before, but they were words that were oftentimes spoken in jest, in tease…

              This…

              This was neither.

              And so, Mace found his lips firming, pressing together, as the Guards moved to follow through.

              Bail turned his attention to the Nightbrothers, Mace turning to look one last time at the child his Padawan had been.

              And looked back to the person who had broken him, the one whose destruction of the boy had taken years and years to piece back together, who even now was still full of cracks, would perhaps never fully heal… And knew that it was his duty to see to it that the man was either arrested…

              Or dead.

              Judging from the looks on his fellow Jedi…

              He was not the only one.

    -

              Chancellor Palpatine – Darth Sidious sat in a holding cell and Seethed.

              This was not a part of the plan, could not have been part of the plan, and yet…and yet here he sat. He had been questioned by many, letting his voice and the slightest glimmer of suggestion easily sway many of them as they came. No, Sheev had never seen the Nightbrothers before in his life, how could he have? Clearly the eldest – the one whose voice had damned him first and the one that would be the first to die – clearly he had mistaken him. They were Nightbrothers, after all, when had they ever seen another human?

              They had lived in Slavery all of their lives, clearly they would not recognize him properly, and the youngest…

              And even as the thought flickered through his mind the seething rage rose up, and Sidious desperately wished that he had killed him years ago, killed the boy that he had raised, the boy that had betrayed him… Clearly the child was traumatized, clearly he did not know what he was speaking of.

              And so, it had been, so it had gone, a quiet inquisition as a disruption at this juncture, with tensions so high in the Senate would not go over well…

              Sidious was a good actor, and a better liar, and he could see and feel the way their resolve was weakening.

              The only issue that he could see was with the Jedi, but they had not said anything, they had not even been in the room with him.

              Sidious did not trust it, but it was fine, their lack of presence at the moment was making it easier to sway them.

              And then…someone entered that Sidious had never seen before and had never expected.

              A jewel toned blue Rodian wearing the robes of a Jedi.

              And he was followed closely by the members of the Jedi Council.

    _

              Healer Tiq had taken the news that the likelihood that the Chancellor was the Sith Lord as well as he could have, he believed. Tiq had taken the information that Mace had given him, watched the footage the Guards provided, and for a moment he had not moved.

              And then Tiq brought out the File.

              It was a file that he had been working on for years off and on, after having worked with Maul, after having started to compile all that Maul knew of his Master…and all that Tiq had guessed.

              Tiq reread this file, this composite of all that Tiq had learned and heard of Maul’s Master, and slowly plugged in the equation of the Chancellor within its margins.

              And found that it fit.

              Tiq sat there for a moment, and took a deep breath, before finally standing up and first asking to be taken to the Brothers.

              Tiq found Maul, Feral, and Savage in a visiting room in the bowels of the prisons, next to the interrogation room where they were speaking to the Chancellor. Bail was with them, and Tiq could hear the defeated way Savage spoke, the anger in his voice as he asked, “what would our words matter? He is the Chancellor, surely we have no voice in this Senate, when we are not even your citizens.”

              Tiq watched as Bail’s face tightened, turning to look at Padmé who was sitting there as well. They had cleaned and redressed Maul, the little boy looking every inch his age in a way that he had not, wide-eyed and utterly petrified. Tiq felt it like a knife in his heart.

              Tiq finally left the room and walked to the place where they were watching the security feeds of the Chancellor and the interrogation, taking in the sight of the Council already there, listening to the gentle voice of who Tiq knew now to be the Sith Master quietly asking how he could have possibly kidnapped any child…and that was when Tiq took a breath, “I would like to speak to the Prisoner.”

              There was a pause as they turned to look at him, and Tiq stood silently, his hands behind his back, patient.

              “You will need clearance for it, Jedi,” one of the Guards said, and his expression was flat. Tiq took him in for a moment, late middle-aged, human, his helmet placed near him. There was a troubled and angry look on his face, “why should we let you in when we have our people?”

              “Because I have a doctorate in psychology and have previous experience in criminal behavior and have given guest lectures on the topic in the past at the local College,” Tiq answered plainly. “Though admittedly my experience is primarily in the field of trauma recovery and healing. If you wish to look this up my name is Tiq Nooz, and you will find that I am a Healer – though I am technically also a Doctor, and I have questioned many under your jurisdiction for you before. Though you may not know that as I do not recognize you, are you new?” He raised a simple brow the man left speechless.

              “That’s good enough for me, Healer,” another Guard said, walking forward. The Togruta had not been in the room initially, but as she approached Tiq straightened, and then smiled.

              “Olom, it is good to see you.”

              “And you, Tiq,” Olom said, “though I wish it was under better circumstances. I have heard the charges and listened to the accusations.” She paused, removing the ceremonial helmet from her head, and placing it under an arm. “They are rough,” she said, “I do not…” she paused. “I had never thought that the Chancellor could be capable of such a thing, but the stories…the way they speak. You cannot fake that kind of conviction.”

              “No,” Tiq said softly, “you cannot.”

              “You think he did it?” Olom asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said. “But I need for you to let me in there to talk to him. I believe…that the Chancellor has been lying for longer than we know.”

              Olom paused, “I trust you,” she said, “you had my back several times over the years, I think I can afford you this. Particularly…” she paused. “Tiq, I saw that little boy’s records, his file…what they show…it’s heinous…”

              “It is,” Tiq agreed.

              “If you can get him to confess, Tiq, do it,” Olom said. “No mind tricks.”

              “Not necessary,” Tiq said, waving a hand, “besides, you know I find it distasteful.”

              “I do,” Olom grinned, “do your work, Healer.”

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and turned to look at the feed. “If I may, I would like for Eeth, Plo, Mace, and Yoda to accompany me.” He turned to Yaddle and Depa, both looking to him. “Take care of them, please,” he said softly, and Yaddle and Depa both nodded, before they left to the holding room where the others sat and waited.

              Tiq stood there for a moment, mentally counting down the minutes, watching as the Guard that had been with the Chancellor finally left, taking in the way Palpatine’s features closed slowly, the way he drummed his fingers on the table… Impatient.

              Tiq was aware of the weight of the Council’s gazes on him, and he turned to look at them finally. 

              “You think you can get him to talk, Tiq?” Eeth asked.

              “I do,” Tiq said, “which is why you must be ready.”

              “We will have your back, Healer,” Plo said, his voice a low rumble.

              Tiq smiled at them, before turning back to look at the man who had been Chancellor. “It really is quite clever when you think about it,” he said. “It makes me regret the fact that I never did ask Maul who his Master was. I made an assumption that much like the older one, this one did not have access to the memories that were taken. I see now…that I was mistaken. We have made too many mistakes with this man…we cannot make another.”

              “No,” Eeth agreed, his voice low.

              “Well,” Tiq said, “I have one last request.”

              “Yes?”

              “Do not think ill of me for what I am about to do,” Tiq said, looking to them, and finally opened the door to the holding cell, the others following him in.

              Tiq’s first impression of the Chancellor had always been a man that was kind. A grandfatherly presence that radiated kindness. Tiq also believed that he was hiding something.

              From the very beginning, Tiq had not trusted him, mostly because that presence had not changed. A politician – particularly a career one – did not stay in business by being nice. There was a certain cutthroat intensity that came with the trade and generally made them very good liars. Now, what they lied about differed, and Tiq was more willing to accept and trust someone like Padmé, whose lies he knew and primarily revolved around how she kept herself safe, and similarly with Bail, whose lies tended to make his ideas more palatable at times…

              But Tiq had never been able to tell what the Chancellor was lying about.

              Tiq rather thought he had found out.

              Chancellor Palpatine looked up at them, recognition blooming. “Ah,” he said, “Master Jedi, hello,” he said, looking at the ones that stood there. There was a certain level of relief in his expression.

              It made Tiq sick.

              Tiq had no doubt that he was standing before one of the most powerful Force Users in the Galaxy. Tiq also had no doubt that he could get a confession out of him, and in fact, get him to confess to way more than just the kidnapping of a child.

              The mind was not as good at multitasking as most thought it was. It was good at changing tack quick enough to make it seem as though it was, but there was no doubt that every change caused further mental strain, and when someone was so focused on one aspect it was very difficult to pick at another.

              But Tiq had no need to multitask. His goal was simple – skim the mind of the man before him, and pluck the information and the strings that he needed.

              Tiq had studied his file for years, compiled it out of everything that Maul had told him, all that he had put together.

              Tiq was ready.

              “I cannot tell you what a relief it is to see you,” Palpatine said, “it’s such an awful business, is it not? The idea that I would have kidnapped that child…” he paused, looking at them. “Not that he truly is a child, of course…I do recognize those marks. It is amazing the things your wayward Apprentice got into, is it not?” he asked, looking to Mace.

              And that was enough.

              Tiq took a breath and made his move, spinning the seat that was before Palpatine so the back faced him, hitching his robes up enough, he straddled it, leaning forward, and with an accent that Tiq had not permitted himself in years, calmly hissed, “Shut up, bitch.”

              Palpatine froze.

              “I can understand if you’re a little slow – career Politician and everything – but I sincerely cannot believe that you’ve never had one of these little interrogations. Surely you’ve realized by now that I am the one asking the questions and making the little comments, hmm?” Tiq smiled and felt the mind before him bristle.

              Oh.  

              But Tiq was good at his job…

              “So,” Tiq clapped his hands twice, “since we need the reminder I am going to go through the rules, yes?” and even as he spoke Tiq began brushing the surface of those shields – impossibly tight, yes, but there were ways, particularly when pressure was applied.

    It was impossible to keep a lid on everything, particularly when the brain was bombarded with external stimuli, especially of the sort that Tiq was providing. The best part was Tiq didn’t even have to think about what he was saying. Most of it was thoughts he had had for years. The other part was born from intimate knowledge of the way the system did work.

              “Rule number one,” he said, “you only speak when spoken to, I know you…ah, Senate types have a problem with that, none of you seem to be able to wait your turns when speaking, but here we are… Rule number two you answer as truthfully as possible, since I know you types like lying~” Tiq winked at him, leaning further forward, and as he continued speaking he let his mind reach out gently, skimming the surface for the thoughts he was really after.

              All of the thoughts of Maul.

              There were…many.

              More than there ought to be…

              Strange…

              “Rule number three, as you have forgone a lawyer with the Guard you cannot ask for it now, I don’t know if they mentioned that or if you were aware, but them’s the breaks and now you have to deal with me. Charming, I’m sure~”

              Palpatine’s expression turned sour and Tiq’s grin turned extra charming.

              “Rule number four…” Tiq paused, “well, I don’t know that I can think of another rule really, outside of the fact that you have to answer after every question, or I will personally hold you in contempt. You are aware of the fact that you are being held in here for the kidnapping and torture of a child, yes? Do you think you can afford to be any more in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s expression tightened further momentarily seething at him, and Tiq found the source of the thoughts, and as he brushed it he realized what he was sensing.

              Palpatine had memories that were not his within his mind, and they were memories that recognized Tiq.

              Tiq had a bond with Maul, severed that it was currently, it had been within his mind for years, something used to check up on him periodically, something that let him know that the man was still alive. Palpatine had never created a bond with his Apprentice. It was something that Maul had both bemoaned and relished in over the years, but it was also something that Tiq could use – both to pull himself within the mind that the memories did not belong in, but also take those back.

              Tiq’s grin showed teeth.

             “Are you in contempt?”

              Palpatine’s chin rose, his expression showing he very much was.

              Tiq did not care.

              “No,” Palpatine said finally, his lips barely moving, “I rather think that I cannot say I am.”

              Tiq grinned wider, his eyes fixed upon the Chancellor, “You’re quite right, you can’t say you are,” he winked. “Now,” he said, “since we have gotten the rules out of the way I think it’s time to really play, don’t you? So, here’s the first question, I’m going to make it easy on you, are you ready?” Tiq’s eyes narrowed, even as he began slowly shifting his way back. “You’re not very good at this are you?” he asked when the Chancellor remained silent.

              “Yes, I am ready,” Palpatine hissed.

              Tiq was very aware of the fact that he may perhaps be pushing too hard, that he may wind up causing the Chancellor to snap before he was finished. Tiq didn’t care.

              He was having too much fun.

              “Very good!” he called out, giving a loud and very exaggerated clap, “that is ten points to the Chancellor of the Republic, you are very good at this, aren’t you?”

              “…Yes…I am.”

              “You are leaaaarning~” Tiq sing-songed, and slid his way in. “Now, tell me why you kidnapped a child.”

              “I…” Palpatine’s mind was a flush of thoughts, a wash of ideas of…of half-formed plans and a… Tiq traced the feelings that lay there, that tightened around the memories that did not belong to him. But they were memories that were hiding Tiq – recognizing him and letting him sink deep within their surface without reading them. Tiq was too good at his job for that.

              Tiq almost wished he wasn’t, recognizing the feelings of possessiveness and an almost achingly bitter fury, yes – but also recognizing the softer things, the pride, the modicum of warmth. There was a true affection within them, and Tiq was filled with a slow, boiling disgust.

              “Would never,” Palpatine finally said, “to kidnap a child? To take him from his family in such a manner is utterly heinous. A true contempt of everything that is good about the Republic.”

              “You do not have to explain that to me,” Tiq said, rolling his eyes. “I certainly have never kidnapped a child. Not even when we had moral superiority, do you think you have Moral Superiority, Chancellor? Do you think that you are better to raise the boy than his own family? Would you have taken him out of pity?”

              And as Tiq asked the questions he pried deeper, slipping into the thoughts of disgust and hatred, but also contempt. Tiq did not particularly care what the contempt was for, even as he said, “I do not presume to know more than the boy’s family. His culture is…barbaric, but it is his own, I would not take him from that, particularly when the boy has brothers.”

              “No, that would be a cruel thing indeed,” Tiq agreed softly, “which makes it all the more terrible when you consider the fact that you took him.”

              “You…have no proof of that!” Palpatine said, his voice hissing, true rage on his face. “I had no idea that…that…” he paused, “and you are going to just let him sit here and say this?” he asked, staring at the Council members around him.

              “Ah, ah, they don’t exist, you are talking to me,” Tiq said, tapping his fist on the table, deliberately fanning the rage that he could feel, whipping it up. “I do not know why you insist on changing the subject or the focus of the conversation when we are dealing with the kidnapping and molestation of a small child.”

              And there was shock there, pure, and utter shock, vicious and black, “I never molested him,” Palpatine said.

              “But you did tattoo him everywhere,” Tiq said, “that sounds like molestation to me.”

              “I tattooed him everywhere, yes, but his…” Palpatine fell silent, and Tiq beamed at him, his eyes practically slits.

              “Oh,” he said, “so you did kidnap him then.”

              The rage and the fury that built up before him was deeper than Maul’s, an oil-slick burn, and Tiq caught a brief whispering of thought, a… “What’s Order 66?” Tiq asked, and once again that shock cooled everything, and Tiq caught hold of the thought that came up, the thoughts of…

              Clones…

              And an Army…

              And…

              “Oh,” Tiq breathed. “Oh…Force…”

              Tiq had barely enough time to snatch the memories that had allowed Tiq to enter the mind before him and WRENCH before Palpatine’s face twisted into a snarl, and suddenly there was lightning.

              Later, Tiq would think that he had never felt anything that terrible. A mix of seizing limbs and an awful pain that not only seemed to stop his heart and his lungs, but rip through his nerves, and burn his skin. Everything was pain, all was agony, and for a single solitary moment Tiq wondered if he was going to die, and then he thought of Maul – Maul who had lived with this as his main form of punishment since he was a child…

              At the time the only thing Tiq could understand was pain and the feeling of falling backwards from the chair, and then the pain suddenly ended with the sound of an igniting lightsaber.

              Tiq had just enough awareness to watch Yoda catch the lightning in his palm, absorb it back, locking eyes with the Chancellor…

              And he closed his eyes and allowed himself a second to recover.

              Shit had finally hit the fan.

              He just wished it hadn’t hit him quite so hard when it did… But Tiq had gotten what he wanted…way more than what he wanted…

              He would just…rest his eyes…for a few minutes…

    -

              Yoda caught the lightning in his palm, registering the flash of blue and purple and green blades to either side of him, meeting eyes with the Sith that had been in their midst all along…and knew that he would stop at nothing to destroy him.

              Palpatine’s face had twisted into a mask of rage and hate, and Yoda wondered in that moment how he had ever seemed otherwise. It fit his face, fit him…

              And in that one moment Yoda knew that if he could the Jedi Order and the Galaxy with it would have been ground beneath Palpatine’s boot.

              This would not be so.

              And then Palpatine snarled, and with an explosion of Force and HATE the windows exploded out, sending the other Jedi back, and Yoda realized that he still meant to get to Maul.

              Palpatine leapt through the window, Yoda forced in place to catch the last of the lightning, leaping after him, only to catch sight of Depa landing a single solid punch to Palpatine’s face, mid-reach for her own lightsaber, the sound of it loud and thick in the air, outside of the shattering glass, the sound of screaming.

              Maul’s voice, Maul’s terror, and this should not be so, he had been put through so much, this could not be so…

              And then there was the hum of a crimson blade, and Palpatine struck at Depa.

              “RUN!” Yaddle’s voice cried, and the spell of that solid punch was broken.

              Savage picked Maul up under a single arm and bolted, Feral gripped tightly in his other hand. And then Palpatine was once again moving.

              Yaddle launched herself forward, her blade catching Palpatine’s before he could catch up, shoving him back with a cry…

              There was laser fire, the Guards forming up as they approached, Yoda almost wished they wouldn’t…

              Palpatine reflected their bolts back towards them with a casual elegance, only stopped from killing the Guards as Plo managed to regain his footing, sending the bolts to the side, all except for one that was sent directly towards Palpatine. He sent it to the ground with a snarl, before finally, quietly laughing.

              “Well, well,” he said, “I did not anticipate this, but I suppose it was inevitable. Tell me, Jedi, how does it feel knowing that the Lord of the Sith was so close to you? How do you feel knowing that I shall make it out alive, and you…”

              Yoda had only just seen the movement, watching as one of the highly uncomfortable and yet imminently practical metal chairs came out of seemingly nowhere, slamming into the back of the Sith’s head, and then Padmé, who had been stuck with Bail in a spot that could have been dangerous if they had not been so utterly beneath notice… Padmé dropped the chair, and ran.

              “Shut up, you must, hmm?” Yoda challenged, and then leapt forward.

              The crimson blade caught one of his own, and then there was a further hum, and another blade was ignited.

    -

              Padmé’s breath was rattling in her lungs, a mixture of fear and adrenaline and pure and simple rage burning in her chest, running alongside Bail as they left the bowels of the Senate and ran up the stairs. It was rare that the Senate holding cells were utilized, but in that one moment Padmé desperately wished that they had not.

    There were people in here, innocent people that could be hurt or killed…  But she needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, she needed to get more evidence, to find out what Tiq had been talking about… And then she caught sight of Savage and Feral, both of them trying to hold Maul, to comfort him, and… She veered towards them, Bail on her tail. “Please,” Savage gasped, “how do we get out, where are we?”

              And Padmé realized she had a more important job to do.

              “Bail,” she said, looking to him, and before she said a word more, Bail nodded.

              “On it,” he said, “you get them out,” and immediately began running to the other set of stairs that would take him to the main offices.

              “Come with me!” she said, and immediately led the way out of the prison levels, aware of the sound of an explosion behind her.

              They had to get out.

    -

              Tiq came to with an ache in his head and the scent of burnt flesh in his nose. While he knew that it was his it still surprised him how much it hurt to move.

              Tiq breathed it all in a ball deep within his chest, before breathing it out – a risky and generally ill-advised maneuver, pain was the body telling itself to rest – and crawled slowly to the windows that were blown out, ignoring the glass that cracked under his hands and knees. Tiq knew he was not in any shape to join the fight, but as he took in the fact that the fight was heading down the corridor in the opposite direction from the stairs, also taking in the bodies of the dead Guards with a pang, hoping that some of them were simply unconscious.

              But he had work to do. He needed to get to the Chancellor’s Office, and luckily he knew a shortcut.

              Tiq worked himself upright and staggered towards the lifts.

    -

              Palpatine was not dead yet.

              Mace had let go of most of his anger years ago, knew because of the very man that Palpatine had thrown away years ago precisely what the Source and the Well from which his anger flowed, knew precisely what his Wodza was, and had learned to manage it even more with that help.

              And yet Mace knew he had never been more furious in his life.

              A part of it, Mace knew was the fact that there were so many Jedi. They were forced to attack individually, or from different directions and Palpatine was able to force himself into positions that limited their ability…

              The other, and the worst of it all, was the fact that Palpatine was good.

              Palpatine used whatever he could get a hold of, throwing rubble, lightning, and the worst was when it was people. There were still Guards coming, and Mace almost wished that they would run. Palpatine was not afraid to use the Guards’ confusion against them, taking the moment before they realized what they were seeing to grip them and twist their bodies into the worst sort of mangle, before throwing them towards the Jedi, or otherwise using them as temporary shields.

              It never lasted long, their bodies were usually either stabbed through or otherwise killed violently to get at them still.

             Mace hated it.

              And then Palpatine sent a support-strut crumbling to the ground, and Eeth broke off to hold the ceiling, and the situation became that much more dire.

              They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Bail felt the ground begin to crumble beneath his feet, immediately and perhaps even futilely attempting to run faster, to get away.

              And then the ground stopped its crumbling, and Bail did not even think of it anymore, focusing on running. He did not want to think of it anymore. As Bail ran up the stairs he could hear the panicked sounds of the Senators above him, and then the sound of the alarm began sounding, and then the screaming started.

              Of course, the screaming started…

              Bail ran faster, pushing through the flood of his fellow Senators and wishing he knew a better way.

    -

              Tiq slumped bonelessly in the back of the lift, having an argued conversation with a disembodied voice.

              Logically Tiq knew that the disembodied voice was technically a droid, and similarly he understood that it was only programmed to be a pain in the ass, but it was very difficult to think right now.

              “I need for you to bring this lift to the floor to the Chancellor’s office,” Tiq insisted for what felt like the thirtieth time. He knew he could not take the stairs, but he also knew that he needed to get up there.  

              “We are in Emergency Lockdown,” the Droid said. “Lifts are disabled, and if they were not I would bring you to the ground floor to get you out. I cannot take you to the Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Listen,” Tiq managed, rubbing his face, “I have just been electrocuted, I cannot use the stairs, but I must get to his Office.”

              “Lifts are disabled.”

              Tiq sighed, and then reached up, flicking his wrist casually and sending the hatch open.

              “What are you doing?”

              “Cutting out the middleman~” Tiq answered.

              “You are too hurt to use the stairs,” the automated voice said, “you cannot climb the elevator shaft.”

              “Mm,” Tiq agreed roughly, shifting, readying himself for a jump.

              …

              “To Chancellor’s Office.”

              “Oh, thank you,” Tiq smiled, and felt as the lift rose, flicking the hatch down. He leaned against the wall, bracing, letting his mind flow into meditation. He needed to get his body as well as it could get, and for that he needed to center, and for that he allowed his consciousness to drift, to feel out the minds that surrounded him, feeling the panic, the fear. Tiq breathed it all in, and slowly breathed it out, letting it drift away. He could also feel the heightened fear and the pain of the Guards that were in the fight below, the ones that were standing against the Sith…and he realized they were dying. “Do you have connections to the Security Guards?”

              “I do,” the droid answered.

              “Do not send more guards to the fight,” Tiq said, “they are being destroyed…there was also a massacre in the Holding Levels and there may be some survivors…”

              There was a pause as the droid processed this. “Sending Droids,” he said.

              “Oh,” Tiq said softly, “thank you, that will work.”

              “The Chancellor has violated his programming,” the droid said. “We will set it right.”

              Tiq smiled, “we will certainly try.”

              “Floor Reached,” the Droid said, and the doors swung open.

              “Thank you,” Tiq said and stumbled his way out, nearly being barreled into by what seemed like a wall of people all attempting to evacuate.

              Tiq pressed himself close to the wall and shifted his way along.

              Why was nothing ever simple?

    -

              Savage ran like his life depended upon it, following Padmé as she led them ahead, only to see a sudden crowd of people approaching, more women, and for a moment he froze, only for Maul to cry out, “SABÉ!”

              Sabé looked to him, and immediately she and the rest of the women beelined their way towards her.

              “Padmé,” she called out, “what’s happening?”

              “The Chancellor was Maul’s Master,” Padmé called out, “we have to get out! He’s fighting the Jedi, we…”

              The ground shook, caving down, and Feral reached out his free hand, grabbing Padmé and dragging her back before she fell into the pit that had suddenly opened, the ground cracking around them.

              They screamed, and Savage took a breath, and reached out with his feelings, reached out with his Anger and his Fear.

              Maul had taught him what to do with his Pain, both of them, the little boy in his arms and the Holocron that trained him…and he gripped the stone, feeling the way Maul’s tendrils of focus reached alongside his, the two of them wrenching it up together, and Feral’s brighter grip, the three of them holding it tight amongst them.

              “RUN!” Savage grunted.

              “What about you?” Padmé asked, and in her panic she was reaching for him, her hands on his arm, fear in her face…but it was fear for him, her hands ready to pull, to guide him along, not press, not restrain…

              “We can make it,” Maul hissed.

              “The quicker you get out, the less weight…” Feral managed. “Run!”

              They ran.

              For a moment, the three of them stood there, feeling the grinding weight of stone, of the way the building wanted to collapse beneath them… And then slowly, carefully, Feral and Savage took a step. And then they took another.

    -

              It was not supposed to be like this.

              Palpatine had worked so hard all of these years, so many plans, so many plots, so many opportunities allowed to slip, so much that he had not done all in the name of Temperance.

              He had waited, allowed the Clone Army to grow, played nice with the Jedi, sat in the room with them when all he had wanted to do… Palpatine had taken to keeping the lightsabers strapped in hilts hidden under his clothing, for his own amusement if nothing else. He had never planned to use them until it was time, never planned to let himself fall to the temptation of cutting them down one after another…

              And yet here he was.

              Here he was and the plan was slipping between his fingers.

              That Rodian…that… Palpatine would see to him.

              Palpatine would make him break.

              Palpatine caught the blade coming towards his face, the purple sparking inches from his skin and laughed.

              There were too many of them, they had not fought against anyone like him in years, and their sensibilities made them…weak.

              Sidious downed another pillar, watching as the floor crumbled alongside them, watching as Yaddle broke off to catch it, to contain it.

              There would be no containing it.

              Sidious would bring the entire thing down upon their heads.

              They had crumpled all of Sidious’ schemes, all of his desires…

              He would destroy theirs.

    -

              Bail ran into the office of the man who had been Chancellor, aware of the crumbling of stone, the screaming, and for a moment did not know what to do.

              He needed to find evidence, he needed to find this…Order 66, he had to find a way to stop all of this…he needed… Bail ran towards the desk, opening the contents and slowly working his way through, sweat trickling down his forehead as he heard the sound of further destruction, felt the way the ground shook.

              “I would look in the chair~!” a familiar voice called, an impossibly chipper voice for the situation, and for… Bail blinked, looking up to see Tiq leaning against the doorway, a gentle smile on his face, eyes partially slitted.

              “Tiq!” Bail called, and immediately ran towards the other man, recognizing as he did so that Tiq was slumping further and further towards the ground. He immediately caught the Rodian under the shoulder, forced to stoop to meet the other man’s height. He brought Tiq back to sit upon the very chair that Tiq had mentioned, the one that he only now noticed seemed to resemble more of a throne, more of a…

              “Thank you,” Tiq said brightly, “now…” he hummed, closing his eyes for a moment, his fingers on the armrests, and Bail took a step back as hidden compartments and panels flipped open from within the chair itself. “Remind me to thank Maul for teaching me Mechu-deru,” Tiq said brightly.

              “I’ll thank him myself,” Bail said, “now…what are we looking for?”

              Tiq hummed quietly, looking through the panels and then made a sound of delight when he caught sight of what looked like…a comm.

              Tiq pressed a button or two, almost idly, and there was a pause as it rang…and rang…

              And then there.

              Was…

              “Yes, my Master?” came the softly cultured voice, and Bail stared as Tiq did, at the sight of…

            Count…Dooku?” Tiq asked.

              The Count stared at him.

              Tiq stared at the Count. “You know…this is why I said you should have joined me for Therapy.”

    -

              Maul was afraid.

              So much had happened, so much…his Master was alive, his Master was… But they were fighting him, they had…

              His Master was going to kill him.

              His Master was going to kill his Brothers, was going to kill his family that he had found, all of his friends, everything…

              Maul took all of that fear, he took all of that despair and all of that certainty and wove his mental coils tighter, helping his brothers as they took step after step, still carrying him, still working on making their way across a floor that wanted to buckle.

              They would make it.

              There were people that had noticed them, people that were calling to them, encouraging, and their voices joined the medley of things that Maul desperately grasped…

              Please, he begged, please let them get out okay…

              And then the roof began collapsing.

    -

              The Senate Building was collapsing.

              Whatever else may be true the Senate Building was collapsing.

              Anakin had been in his lessons with Qui-Gon when the alert had been raised, Quinlan rushing in to tell them that they had to make their way, all of the Jedi joining in a mad rush to speeders and other means of transport, some just all-out running. No one knew what was happening, what the cause of the destruction was, all they knew was the Senate was on the verge of collapse, and they needed to help support it.

              Anakin ran along Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Ahsoka joining in as they reached the door, followed by D’una and Wan. Qui-Gon had initially just started running and so Anakin had followed, not expecting the way he bypassed the run towards the main hanger and instead headed out the doors.

              Anakin was not expecting for the cabbie to be at the end of the ramp, a Zabrak that was only familiar by word of mouth as he had not been invited to The Spot before, but was familiar enough with it…

              Joric.

              “GET YER ASSES IN HERE!” he yelled.

              Didn’t need to tell Anakin twice.

              They slid into the cab with little fanfare, Qui-Gon alongside the Zabrak as he threw the cab in gear and immediately took off.

              “What is the status?” Qui-Gon asked.

              “The Senate just started crumbling,” Joric answered, flying through the gears with a practiced ease and a talent for merging in and out of traffic that Anakin was immediately delighted by. “There was no warning, no idea what happened, rumors are circulating that it’s an attack. I was in the neighborhood when I started seeing it happen, and I immediately swung around this way. I can’t tell you more than that, no one even knows who’s doing the attacking.”

              “Are there enemies still living?” Obi-Wan asked.

              “Your guess is as good as mine,” Joric said, “I have the radio programmed to tune in if anything else is announced but so far it’s just been evacuations and a warning to keep your distance.” Joric laughed, “a bit of a laugh that one, but I suppose they try.”

              “Who would have tried to destroy the Senate?” Ahsoka asked, D’una leaning up alongside her.

              “Your guess is as good as mine, young missy,” Joric answered, “but I tell you this, it’s not falling nearly as quick as it should be. My guess? There’s some of your type already in it.”

              There was a pause as they took this in.

              “Maul!”

    -

              Yaddle gritted her teeth as she felt the weight of the Senate begin to crumble towards her, feeling the way the floor buckled, her focus even so trained directly towards the battle that was happening.

              Yaddle was a Jedi – and Jedi did not hate. But in that one moment…as Yaddle watched the footwork and the movements of a man that they had thought dead for nearly a decade, as Yaddle stared at the Sith that had lied in wait for so long…

              Yaddle could see in every movement, every step and twist and parry, the sheer revelry, the relish that even now…even now…Maul felt in every bone of his body.

              Yaddle could see the man who had trained a tiny…sweet little boy…and broken him.

               Yaddle stared at that man, stared at that being, and found herself as close to hating as she had ever been.

              She could see the movements, see the practice and the ease and in those moments when their feet were on the ground… That stance… Yaddle had trained many Jedi, had seen Masters and Apprentices fight as one. In those moments she knew who Maul’s Master had been, and similarly knew that he would slide into position alongside him with ease. This was the man who had trained him, had raised him, and the knowledge that as a united front they would be utterly seamless rose a sour taste in her mouth.

               Yaddle tightened her grip on the floor above, knowing that there were feet running across it. They needed to end this quickly.

    -

              Tiq stared at Dooku, his mind reeling between everything else that had happened, the memories in his mind that did not belong to him and were not held as tightly as he wished, and the realization that whatever this was… Tiq rubbed his face for a moment.

              “Tell me,” he said, “am I to understand that you’ve known that Palpatine was the Sith Lord this entire time…and…” he paused, “Dooku, please, I know that Yoda keeps beating you in dejarik, but surely that’s no reason to betray the Order and everything you know?”

              Dooku stared down his nose at him, which Tiq would perhaps have found impressive if not for the fact that his nose was truly nothing compared to his own, and if he had not lost all respect for the man. “Jokes at a time like this, Healer?” he asked.

              Tiq laughed, “Well, with a punchline like this I find I cannot help myself. Tell me, are you the one that’s been helping to organize the Separatists? Have you been doing this the entire time? Are you aware of…” Tiq paused, staring at him, and his mouth slowly pulled down. “You are aware. You’ve been helping. Tell me, Dooku, what happens after the Jedi are destroyed? Where does that leave you?”

              Tiq was aware of the way Bail was staring at him, the shock in his expression, taking in Dooku who remained impassive before finally, with the slightest of movements as though brushing lint from his shoulder, “On the side of doing what matters. On the side that shall revolutionize the Galaxy. The Order has fallen, Healer, and you know I as well as I.”

              “Do I?” Tiq asked with a slow hum.

              “This entire Republic has fallen,” Dooku snapped, “and we are tied to it like an overgrown tumor. Its rot has spread, and we are left to pick up the pieces that we should never have carried to begin with. We are revolutionizing the Galaxy, placing the true minds at the helm, and we will create a better future.”

              Tiq laughed sharp and bright and grinned at him, “Oh, Yan,” he said softly, “tell me, how do you plan to work with this man when you have already seen what he does to the ones that are beneath him? Why would you work with someone who hurt the one that he was literally responsible for? Who depended on him for life and for love and received nothing?”

              “You are of course talking about Maul,” Dooku said, and scoffed, “clearly your attachment to that boy has superseded your clarity. Maul was and remains nothing more than a tool, something to be used and then discarded.”

              And that was the moment when Tiq laughed in earnest, bright and full, amusement burning within him. Because now Tiq knew.

              “You are wrong, Yan, Tiq said, “I was in his mind,” Tiq hissed. “I was inside of his mind, and I have seen all that it is that you are to himand that is utterly…beneath…notice. He had no thoughts of you at all, not a single glimmer of concern. But for Maul…oh I found great affection for him, Yan. I found a pride and a warmth that I did not glimpse anywhere else. I think, my dear friend…that you are being used. And I think you want to think about who and what you are truly willing to lose before activating Order 66.”

              And Tiq watched as Dooku made the connection, watched as the truth of Tiq’s statement rested in the air between them…

              And slowly…

              Allowed himself…

              To grin.

    -  

            Ahsoka was buzzing in her seat, Joric was only able to go so fast, but she could feel the rise of panic, feel the fear as they finally managed to edge around the building that blocked the view of the Senate from the Temple she felt her heart leap into her mouth. Leaning up between the two front seats she stared at the way an entire far-side of the building started to collapse…and then was immediately froze in place.

              There were more Jedi in there than Maul, she was certain, but she was also certain that she could feel him. He was in there somewhere, and the realization pounded in her chest, gripping her fingers tight onto the seats.

              She immediately was almost sent into the far wall when Joric was forced to suddenly swerve, the cabby barking out a few choice curses as he dodged a speeder that seemed unable to keep from staring at the destruction and drive at the same time.

              Surprising.

              Qui-Gon’s hands steadied her, as did D’una’s pressure against her side and she nodded at them in thanks, turning back to stare at the Senate again that was quickly filling the viewscreen of the speeder as they grew close enough for a landing.

              They were just close enough that she could begin to reach out her own senses, breathing deep in preparation for reaching out with the Force, for…

              There was a scream from below, her attention immediately falling to the sight of a different entrance that she knew led to the lower prisons, realizing as she looked that there were…

              Ahsoka was shoving the door of the cabby open before she could properly register what she was seeing, flying through the air and slowing her descent with the Force as she registered the figures below, took in the way they reached for the people inside still, and a small red figure that they were holding out to be grabbed…

              Obi-Wan was suddenly falling next to her, the sound of Joric’s surprised cussing in the air as Qui-Gon, Wan, D’una and Anakin all leapt out as well, but she wasn’t worried about the cabby. He was able to take care of himself, and more importantly they were needed here.

              Her thoughts snapped back to the present as she grew close enough to catch hold of the falling ceiling and floor, able to guide her own descent to the ground to something that barely jolted her, and immediately reached out to help Obi-Wan as he reached. Together they wound their Force with the three Nightbrothers working on keeping from falling into the hole that had opened up perilously close to them, from being crushed by the ceiling that fell.

              Sabé had managed to grab Maul and was pulling him to safety, and Obi-Wan had caught Feral…

              The floor crumbled beneath Ahsoka’s feet, and she let out a surprised shout, stumbling back, recognizing that they had worked to immediately grab hold of the floor and…

              There was a cry, surprised, hurt, and Ahsoka’s attention snapped over to watch as “SAVAGE!” she cried out, trying to reach…but it was too late, and he fell through the hole beneath. Ahsoka could only grip hold tight to the floor that had swallowed him and hope that she could keep it from falling atop him… He would make it out, he had to…

              And then she realized that Maul was screaming.

              Obi-Wan dove in after Savage.

              Qui-Gon and Anakin both worked to guide them out, Maul’s panicked and terrified tears spilling, as Feral grabbed him and held him close…

              Ahsoka gritted her teeth and helped to keep them safe and together, D’una and Wan taking them in before running to help to stabilize the Senate. She trusted Obi-Wan, she trusted that they could do it… There were other Jedi in the Temple, and as she watched more were continuing to land, more were continuing to help to support…

              What was going on?

             Obi-Wan caught up to Savage quickly, recognizing the man’s desperation, the utter fear that caused him to reach… Obi-Wan caught him, the two of them falling, “Remember your rage!” Obi-Wan called out, and felt the moment when Savage finally sparked.

              Together they managed to fall gently to the ground, though Obi-Wan immediately grabbed him and dragged him through further debris, feeling as Savage reached out with him to shove death to the side. Obi-Wan could feel other Jedi reaching out, could feel the structure stabilizing, even as he knew that it was only temporary.

              Not even the whole of the Jedi Temple could keep a building the size of the Senate from crumbling in upon itself, not without something helping to take up the added weight – eventually they would tire.

              It was too much for too long, so they had to act quickly… But as Obi-Wan ran he also realized he could sense…

              “Who is that?” Obi-Wan asked, looking to Savage who was running alongside him, “who all is here, what is happening?”

              “Your Chancellor kidnapped my Brother, your Chancellor is the Sith,” Savage said.

              Obi-Wan stopped running.

    -

              “How does it feel?” Palpatine asked, barely heard through the rushing of blood through Plo’s body, his breath burning in his respirator, his eyes focused. “How does it feel knowing that all this time I was right here? How does it feel knowing that no matter what happens you will not be able to save this Senate?” He laughed, striking out at them, whirling between Mace and Plo, Yoda attempting to launch himself forward and being sent back with a bolt of lightning.

              Always there was lightning, always there was judgement… And Plo’s own judgement was rising beneath his skin, something that he could feel burning at the tips of his fingers.

              Plo finally unleashed his own attack, lightning burning bright and yellow in contrast to the Sith’s own cruel blue…

              Palpatine cast his own through it, and Plo was forced to bring his lightsaber up, catching it upon its surface, dissipating it.

              “Ah,” Palpatine hummed, “I had often wondered what that would be like in comparison. Not much, is it?”

              Palpatine laughed, and he laughed, and he laughed…and this more than anything was the worst of it all. No matter what they did, and they did get hits, they were able to send him back, were able to throw him through any number of things, but he always…always…laughed.

              The perverse joy, the utter delight in every moment, and Plo knew that primarily it was because of the fact that it was true.

              There would be no saving the Senate.

              All that was left of the building would crumble, and Plo knew, could see how they were moving towards the very floor of the Senate itself. 

             And it may very well be the last time anyone ever did.  

    -

              Bail stared at Tiq, before staring at Dooku, utterly and completely blown away.

              Tiq raised his brows higher, and finally, quietly, “I will contact Kamino,” Dooku managed quietly.

              “Oh,” Tiq said, “thank you, please, keep on the line, I would like to talk to them as well.” He paused, “you know, I don’t know a Kamino…”

              “It was removed…from the Records,” Dooku said stiffly.

              Tiq laughed, “Oh, I am betting Jocasta would thank you for that, wouldn’t she, Yan?”

              Bail watched as Dooku actually winced and turned his attention back to the Healer who was smiling so pleasantly.

              Well.

              Maul had always admired the man, Bail supposed this made sense.

              And then Dooku stiffened, “and why would she? Why would she know any of this?”

              “Are you hoping to brush it all under the rug, Yan?” Tiq asked pleasantly. “I’m afraid it’s a little late for that. I think I would recommend not getting involved with a megalomaniac. I think that would actually make it easier.”

              “I will see to it you get a fair trial,” Bail said, the words sliding out with ease. They were wasting precious time and Bail could see that Tiq was at the point of collapse and it was making him edgy. “If you help us end this, if you help us destroy Palpatine’s operations, then I will see that you are noted as a defector. You will get a fair trial.”

              Dooku took this in for a moment and finally nodded. “Done.”

              There was a pause and then the comm was once again ringing and another hologram pulled up, and it was a being that Bail had never seen before.

    -  

            “The Chancellor?” Obi-Wan managed, his voice broken with shock. “The Chancellor is the Sith?”

              “The Chancellor stole my brother,” Savage snarled back at him, and Obi-Wan wasn’t entirely certain that the reaction was fair, but at the same time could not begrudge it. “I am going to kill him.”

              Obi-Wan could absolutely begrudge that, particularly when Savage immediately took off running, and forced Obi-Wan to do the same.

              “Wait!” Obi-Wan called out, “we have to get out, the entire place is coming down! How do you think Maul is going to feel when you die because you refused to leave!”

              “How will he feel knowing his brother was once again unable to protect him?” Savage called back, and his voice was thick with rage and despair, the sort that came from deep within, and was apparently something that he had been struggling with for years. Obi-Wan recognized it, knew it, and he also had a feeling that this was not going to be something Savage would be able to put down. It was too deep, too engrained…

              And if Obi-Wan was honest with himself he didn’t truly want to put it down either.

              Obi-Wan took a deep breath, searched his feelings of anger and fear and that slowly mounting resolve to end this. Obi-Wan did not doubt that there were Jedi, and he thought now that they needed help more than ever. They needed to end this, and Savage was a warrior from a warrior culture, one that had trained with Maul himself… But most importantly he would not be doing it alone. Obi-Wan would be with him, as would the rest of the Jedi.

              So, Obi-Wan felt his mouth set, and allowed his senses to reach out, catching hold of the emotion and the anger and the hate that boiled at the center of it all, and ran, soon catching up to Savage. Savage spared him a glance, and Obi-Wan took a breath.

              “We’ll kill him together.”

              Savage laughed, and Obi-Wan felt as the man changed his run to match with his.

              “I like that plan,” Savage grinned, and Obi-Wan gave a sharp nod.

    -

              Tiq hummed quietly as he listened to Dooku talking to a Kaminoan that was apparently named Lama Su. It was annoying Dooku he could tell, but Tiq didn’t care, it was one of the few things keeping him aware. The pain had grown as things had gone on and he rather thought that he might need to be submerged in bacta at some point…but not now.

              Not yet.

              “You wish the chips deactivated?” Lama asked, and there was surprise in his voice.

              “Indeed,” Dooku said, “it is…unnecessary. There has been a change of plans.”

              “He’ll pay you double~” Tiq cut in with a wide smile before Dooku could say another word, “for the hassle, of course,” he let his tone turn soft and cajoling, and when the Kaminoan’s eyes locked on his, Tiq let his own squint in a gentle grin.

              And then he looked to Dooku as Lama did, and proceeded to stare at him blankly.

              “That might be the best thing to do,” Bail said, “given the…circumstances.” Bail smiled at Dooku broadly, and Tiq felt a bright burst of amusement.

              Dooku paused for a moment, and finally, quietly, “Yes…yes, of…of course, for the…for the hassle.”

              “Well,” Lama said, his voice slow, and thoughtful, and above all…pleased. “I rather think that we can do this…easily enough.”

              “Thank you,” Dooku said, “we would like this to happen…as soon as possible.”

              “Of course,” Lama said, “right away as the customer demands…as soon as the money is deposited?”

              Dooku paused, for a moment pinned under the weight of all their stares. “You’ll get half…”

              Bail cleared his throat.

              “…You will get it immediately.”

              Tiq rather thought he liked Bail.

    _

              The Chancellor was throwing the Senate at them.

              Yoda leapt and twisted through the air, accompanied by Mace and Plo as Palpatine sent various Senate seats flying through the air at them, almost completely at random. That made them more dangerous, and Yoda was forced to keep moving. There was barely any time to catch their breath, and Yoda was once again reminded of the fact that it had been long since they had been forced to fight like this.

              They were separated, and it was dangerous, Mace already almost having his head sent off his body if he had not managed to duck in time.

              The walls were crumbling, the arch above their head shuddering and Yoda knew that they needed to end this quickly or they would risk being buried alive.

              Palpatine did not care.

              Yoda was realizing that Palpatine had absolutely nothing to lose, in too many ways he had already lost. Palpatine was a cornered animal, and that made him dangerous.

              And then all thoughts were lost when with a sudden explosion of duracrete and metal, Agen Kolar hurled himself seemingly from nowhere, kicking Palpatine in the back of the head and sending him falling, a loud surprised sound leaving him as he fell.

              But as Palpatine managed to flip and catch himself on another seat he only began to laugh harder. Agen stared down at him with his eyes flashing, and then he looked to them.

              They had time to regroup.

    _

              Feral was holding his little brother close to his chest, aware of the rapid beating of his hearts, aware of the fear that choked him.

              Savage was in there, Savage was deep within the Senate, and while he had help with him, while the Jedi were working together to hold the Senate up, Feral knew it was only a matter of time.

              As more people were evacuating the Jedi were allowing more and more of it to drop, able to move onto other sections that still had people within it, and Feral was terrified at the idea that they were doing it when there were only individual life signs, when the loss was considered acceptable. Feral thought the fear was unfounded…he nonetheless could not shake it.

              Maul was shaking in his arms, and Feral could feel the way his face was pressed to his chest and knew that he was almost beyond fear. The only thing left was shock and a sort of detached emptiness. Maul did not believe that Savage would make it out alive.

              Maul likely thought that all of the ones that were left were dead.

              But as Feral watched he realized that Depa had made it out, and Eeth with her, as well as Yaddle… Feral ran to them, breaking free of the barrier that the droids were making, the barrier that he had remained behind with Padmé and the others, hearing the calls to wait, to halt, but Feral could not.

              “Please,” he yelled as he got close, “please did you find my brother?”

              “Is he in there?” Eeth asked, immediately hurrying over towards him.

              “He fell, Obi-Wan is with him,” Feral said, and turned his attention back to the building, watching as it shook. “Please,” he said, “I can’t lose him.”

              The Jedi looked at him and then looked at each other, and it was a look that Feral recognized.

              It was a look that Feral dreaded.

    _

              Bail worked with Tiq to gather the last of the evidence, copying it in drives, sending it to news outlets, anything they could to reveal the truth of the matter.. This was after, of course, Dooku had also called someone who was apparently named…General Grievous…and…

              Bail had stopped paying much attention after that. The entire thing had been too much, and he had found watching Tiq that much more entertaining, mostly because Tiq had moved on from saying a word and just simply spoke in looks.

              They were the most devastatingly unimpressed looks Bail had ever seen. Dooku seemed to cringe under them more and more as time went on, and when he had finally hung up Tiq had buried his face in his hands. This was ample time for Bail to call his wife.

              They had not discussed much else, merely that Dooku had surrendered most of his assets – though the how of this surrendering went unsaid – and would be arriving by shuttle soon. Bail would be worried, perhaps, about the idea that Dooku might attempt to take his family hostage, but Alderaan had a few visitors that would be helpful. A number of Jedi that had been visiting as a special favor from Yoda.

              Bail usually was rather grateful to be friends with Yoda, but this was ridiculous.

              They had finally managed to amass all of the information that they could, and there was so much of it and so much of it was so horrifying that Bail had not truly allowed himself to process it. And then finally he was left with Tiq, who hummed thoughtfully, reached out once more with mechu-deru - and Bail would absolutely be thanking Maul profusely for teaching Tiq – and then he had nodded, before clapping his hands twice.

              “Well,” he said brightly, “that’s done. Now, Bail. I do not usually ask this question beforehand, but I find it necessary at this juncture. Do you trust me?”

              Bail laughed, unable to help it, “at this point I believe it would be rather unreasonable to not.”

              “Oh, well then good,” Tiq smiled, “because I’m going to throw you out the window.”

    _

              Agen Kolar had heard that the Chancellor had been the one to kidnap and torture Maul and had immediately decided that he was going to kill him.

                He had seen one brief glimpse of Maul trembling in the grip of his older brother, and it had been enough to rocket him into motion. It was too much, it had always been too much, from the very beginning when Maul had not known a damn thing about himself as a Zabrak, to now as he was learning what it was to be a Brother, too much had been done. It would all end now.

              Palpatine stood before them on a single hovering platform, wiping his mouth with his hand, and Agen was gratified to see blood. Apparently the Chancellor had caught himself with his face, and it made Agen feel rather smug. He stood next to Mace and Plo, Yoda two platforms over, and for a moment they stared at each other.

              And then Palpatine laughed, and the seats once again began their raining. But this time they were ready, their positions grounded.

              They caught a seat and turned its trajectory back.

    _

              Savage followed the sounds of electricity and destruction, completely able to hear it at this point, the sound of laughter echoing between, and it was a laughter that he knew. It was a laughter that he had heard in his nightmares since he was twelve, a laughter that had caused him to hold Feral all the tighter. The fear that the man would come back and finish the job, would steal the brother that Savage had left, and he would be alone…

              Savage would be a failure twice over, would have lost even Feral, who had relied on him for so much, who had loved him… Who Savage loved. Had cradled in his arms and felt nothing but the pure desire to protect and to teach, coupled with his brother. How proud Savage had been, how delighted he had been to be graced with Twins.

              And then the laughter had come, the laughter that had rang through the trees and froze Savage’s hearts and had stolen his youngest with it.

              And now here he was, and he was going to destroy that laughter, choke it in the lungs that it came from. Savage had waited all his life for this.

              He would not wait any longer.

    _

              Tiq had thought Bail had handled his proclamation better than expected.

              After the initial shock, Bail realized that the building was still coming down around their ears, and when Tiq had told him that he didn’t have the strength to come down with him, Bail had grabbed his forearms and told him that he would let them know he was coming.

              Tiq told him he definitely appreciated it, and then he had sent the glass flying from the window with a brief burst of the Force, the wind immediately whipping around them, tugging at Tiq’s and the Senator’s own robes, Tiq pulling Bail to the window where they stood for just long enough for Tiq to gather his strength, and then he had sent Bail into the air.

              The scream that the man let out was just the thing to catch attention, and sure enough Tiq felt the way another Jedi caught him around Tiq’s own influence, Tiq releasing him into the hold of…oh…who was…ah, yes, Anakin. Tiq leaned out the window then, watching as Anakin brought Bail down to land safely next to him, and then focused up on him.

              Tiq waved and watched as Anakin jolted in realization, immediately stepping forward, bracing himself.

              Tiq jumped out the window, caught in the net of Anakin’s hold, the teen slowly working to lower him down to his feet.

              Tiq brushed his robes off, smiling, “I think that went well!” he said to Bail, and then all he knew was dark.

    _

               You are the Chancellor of the Republic.

              But most importantly you are the Sith.

              You are the corruption at the bottom of the well, the poison that has seeped into the water supply since the beginning, and you have longed for this moment.

              But it had not come in the way that it was meant to. You stood facing the Jedi, full of a hideous strength that you had wanted to unleash for years…

              And it was not enough.

              It had not been enough, and the knowledge filled you with rage and with hate, and this in turn fueled you. And yet this.

              Was not.

              Enough.

              It had taken longer than it should have to realize that the memories that had belonged to your Apprentice had been stolen. It was a devastating blow, particularly in the midst of all of these other devastating blows.

              You refused to lose.

              You sneered at the Jedi, the enemies of your Order for Millenia, the very ones that you had allowed correct your many oversights with the Apprentice you had chosen… And you recognized that now, recognized that they had been oversights and moments of devastation… But they did not waver, and your hatred burned.

              The sudden appearance of another Jedi, an Obi-Wan Kenobi was nearly enough to send you into a frothing rage.

              He threw another senate seat at you, and you leapt out of the way, feeling the way you were suddenly hit from the side by a Push that could only have come from Yoda, sending you flying up and back and…

              Pain.

              You had almost forgotten…what it felt like.

              And then you felt nothing at all.

    -

              In the end it had been a simple matter to get into position.

              Savage had worked his way through the maze of flying senate seats, his fist gripping a durasteel pipe that he thought at one point might have been meant to hold duracrete in place. It would no longer serve that job, but it was good enough for the job that Savage had for it, and he had waited… When Savage had managed to get himself positioned properly, hidden from sight and sense, though that was not difficult.

              The man who had kidnapped his brother was fully focused upon the Jedi before him, all else beneath his notice, which meant that Savage was perfectly able to keep low, to draw his presence inward.

              But he was not beneath the notice of the Jedi.

              They had seen him, though not a single one of them had given it away, letting Savage creep…

              And then Savage was fully in position, and Obi-Wan leapt into view, spinning his lightsaber, robes flying in the air, all flash and threat and violence…

              And as the man that had stolen an entire life from Savage’s hold leapt to avoid him…

              Yoda, Mace, Agen, and Plo were able to shove him up and back, and Savage…who had been standing and waiting for this moment since he was young and knew enough to know that he would never hate another being as much as he did the one that had stolen his brother…

              Savage took that durasteel and drove it clean through the kidnapper’s spine.

              Savage lifted him slowly off his feet, watching and feeling with a grim satisfaction the way the lightsabers fell to the ground as he lost control of his limbs, turning off as they did and falling to the ground far below. He listened to the gurgle and the crunch as the body slowly slid back towards his hands, gravity pulling it down.

              Savage heard the gurgling breath and was just able to stare into the yellow eyes of the man who had stolen his brother from the corner of his own, and softly, his voice a low hiss, “You stole my brother from me. You shall steal nothing more.”

              And with a grim satisfaction shoved him off the edge of the senate box.

              Savage watched the man plummet to the ground far below, impaled and utterly unable to do a thing to break his own fall, kept from the Force, kept from help…and in that moment realized that he was not the only one watching.

              And then the body hit the ground.

              Savage watched quietly, grimly, and then looked to the men that had helped, the ones that had loved his brother when he could not and smiled.

              The sound of the building breaking further, the feeling of the ground shuddering below his feet was an immediate reminder that they were not yet safe.

              Savage needed to get back to his brothers.

              The Jedi were tiring, Maul was tiring, all of them doing their best to keep the last bit of the building up.

              They had managed to evacuate most of the Senators, and the droids had come up with more of the Guards, bearing them on stretchers. More had lived than Maul had expected, but he was still…

              Mace.

              Yoda.

              Plo.

              Agen.

              Obi-Wan.

              Savage…

              Maul had watched Agen dive through the wall himself after the realization that the man who had hurt him was the Chancellor, had seen the rage in his face and the way he had immediately dropped everything. It was the angriest that Maul had ever seen a Jedi, but it also meant that Agen was in there…

              Maul had seen Tiq collapse, though he had been assured by Anakin that he was okay. Though now…now all who could hold on were doing so, but Maul was weakening. Maul was weakening and he was furious about it. He knew that he was little, he knew that he was still learning, he knew that he could only do so much… But Maul desperately needed… He needed to know his brother was okay.

              He needed to know…

              And so, Maul held on.

              Maul held on even as his vision darkened, even as…

              And then, just as suddenly as though shot from a blaster, the familiar figures of the Jedi leapt from the building, and a single yell was heard of “DROP IT!!!” in his brother’s distinctive accent and voice as he leaps behind them.

              The Jedi let go of the Senate, those that still could grabbed the ones in the air, and Maul watched as his family was guided back to the ground, and then Maul heard it.

              The sound was deafening, a terrible crunch and crumble of grating duracrete and durasteel, as the last of the domed structure came to earth with a great and terrible explosion.

              And then came the wall of white, the flying debris, and once again the Jedi reached out, and sent the plume into the sky.

              The sun was gone.

              All was dark.

              But Maul saw two pairs of eyes.

              Eyes that glowed like his, eyes that he saw looking at him…

              And he knew that everything would be okay.