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Vader, Commander AppoPrompt:
The newly minted Darth Vader awaits Darth Sidious at the Jedi Temple.Instrument of Change
"Sir, the enemy has been neutralized."
He nodded his acknowledgment to the clone commander. In truth, he didn't need the commander's report to tell him that every Jedi on the Temple grounds was dead. He could feel it. Which was exactly the reason why he was standing outside the Temple walls, where the breeze of the Coruscant night would wash the stench of death from him. Or so he hoped.
"What shall we do now, sir?" Commander Appo prompted.
Do? Hadn't this been enough? But as the leader of the 501st, a General in their eyes as had been every Jedi Knight and Master, it was his responsibility to direct the troops. "Guard the perimeter and wait for the Chancellor."
Appo nodded crisply and trotted off, treating him as if he was still the same man he'd been before he led the troops up the Temple's long staircase. But that wasn't possible. He couldn't be the same, he just couldn't.Only then will you be strong enough with the Dark Side to save Padme'.
If this was the Dark Side, then he was unimpressed, because he felt no more powerful, no more free than before the neutralization
began. What if this had been all for naught, and he'd failed somehow in his first assignment as Darth Vader?
That he'd looked into the bewildered faces of Jedi he would have counted among his friends, saw their recognition and killed them anyway, just the memory was enough to restart the wild churning in his gut. Cin Drallig had been one of the few who had welcomed him into the Order, yet the swordmaster had been one of his first targets, for exactly the skills that he had taught so well. Others revealed their distaste for him at last, unveiling prejudice he had always sensed, just before the glow of his saber penetrated their bodies. But friend or critic, he had played no favorites, and spared not a one.Every single Jedi, including your friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is now an enemy of the Republic.
In that sense he hadn't failed; he'd defended the Republic exactly as ordered. And to make it happen he'd become the detached Jedi that they had always wanted him to be. They would have been proud of him, if they weren't all dead. In his most impressive display of focus, he had shoved away his revulsion and ignored the shouts of his heart to do what was necessary to save the Republic, and to save Padme'.
At least he hadn't failed her. No, he'd proven he had the mettle to be a good father. While some men could offer only empty promises to protect their wives and children, he'd shown that he would
do whatever it took to keep Padme' safe. She'd be proud too, except that he could never tell her what he'd done.
He'd thought of her in his greatest moment of weakness, when he faced the cluster of younglings hiding in the Council chambers. For a moment he was sure he couldn't do it, not when they looked at him for help, and in innocent confusion called him Master when no one else had. But Palpatine had been exquisitely clear in his directive, and so he reminded himself of the consequences of failure and turned to his Jedi teachings once more.Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not, miss them do not.
There was no death, there was only the Force. If he struck them down he was not ending their lives, he was assisting them in their transformation. And so Yoda's voice had guided him to accomplish the impossible.
Now if only he could rid himself of the nagging feeling that he'd done the deed but not acquired the power. Perhaps the detachment he'd used had prevented the Dark Side from flowing into him. Maybe there was more that Palpatine should have first taught him about being a Sith. He'd paid too dearly for that knowledge to let the debt go uncollected.
From the terrace where he stood the skylanes of Coruscant stretched into infinity, but in the Force one vessel distinguished itself from the others. He turned from the night sky and headed towards the Temple entrance to gather the troops for the display of ceremony that he knew the Chancellor would be expecting.
Commander Appo was at his shoulder when the theta
shuttle landed on the Temple grounds. Surrounded by red robed guards, Palpatine strode across the plaza with his hood over his head, as if to conceal his new appearance. Likewise the Chancellor's presence in the Force was cloaked as well, and he was unable to sense what lay beneath the surface.
He turned to Appo. "Did you fight at Geonosis, Commander?"
"So you fought alongside the Jedi then, but today we slew them as the enemy. Does that strike you as odd?" he said.
The commander shifted in his boots."Things change, sir. I just follow orders."
He thought of the first real order he had taken from Palpatine, saw Dooku's shocked face as Palpatine betrayed his former apprentice. But what if nothing changed? "Do you ever wonder if your orders are wrong?"
Appo stared at him. "It's best not to think about that, sir."
Wise words. What good did it do to have doubts now? There was no one left to share them with, at least no one who could do anything about them. He would have to trust in the future that he had made and believe that Padme' would now live and that the Republic would know peace. To think otherwise was more than he could stand.
At his master's approach he took the only path left to him and dropped to one knee, his hand braced against the cold, dead stone of the Jedi Temple.