The Tomb That Shouldn't Exist
Obi-Wan observed the last of group of Republican troops enter the new ship they were boarding that would take them back to Alderaan. The Council and the Senate agreed that the Queen return to Alderaan with a small detachment of troops in advance of a larger fleet that would break the grip of the Federation over the embattled planet. At least that was the hope. The presence of the Sith Lords complicated matters. Anything could happen no matter what kind of military forces the Republic had at its disposal.
From a distance, he saw Anakin Skywalker watching the troops as they scurried down to join their comrades. The wind was hitting his hair and he had a forlorn look about him. Though he envied the attention the boy was getting, Obi-Wan couldn't help but feel a connection with him. He felt the presence of his master not too far behind.
"He followed us down…"
"The Queen's already on board?"
"She was the first one here…waiting for me to give the word." Obi-Wan couldn't help but smile. That sounded like Padmé. They turned back as the doors shut behind them. "I am going to go up and see how our pilots are doing." Qui-Gon stepped away as Obi-Wan lowered his hood down sat back. He felt another presence watching him closely.
"You can come out into the open. There's no need to hide." Padmé stepped out of the shadows.
"I wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm all right..."
"I heard you fought Darth Maul…"
"Yes." Obi-Wan's eyes widened. "Why your highness I didn't know you cared so much about the fate of a Jedi apprentice." He smirked enjoying the dig at her. He waited for the expected snarky retort, but it never came. Her expression remained serious yet full of concern.
"I was worried that's all." She looked away from him. He moved closer to her.
"I'm fine Padmé really. A few scratches and that's it, I am fine." He sensed that something else was troubling her. "I don't mean to pry, but you are thinking of Bail aren't you?"
"He's been stuck on Alderaan for weeks. He stayed behind and fought. What did I do? I ran away like a coward."
"No you didn't. Someone needed to bring this to the attention of the Senate. You had no choice."
"But at what cost? I have no idea what's going on back home. For all I know my brother could be dead…" She paused for a moment consumed with the worry. He could see the strain all of this had been putting on her. Her tough as nails demeanor could only carry so much weight. Obi-Wan reached out with the Force.
"He's all right, I can feel it." She calmed down. She believed in the powers of the Jedi. If he saw that Bail Organa was all right than that was enough for her. Before she knew what was happening she exhaled finding herself leaning against him for support.
"When this is over what happens to you apprentice?" It was her turn to smile now. He rubbed her shoulders gently.
"Most likely we'll be recalled to Coruscant and have to resume our duties going from one planetary system to another…"
"I don't suppose I could convince you to enjoy the hospitality of the Royal House of Alderaan for a few days more?" Her face turned to him seriously.
"Well, I'd have to talk to my master about that." She shot him a somewhat flirtacious yet playful glance.
"Do you always have to clear everything by him?" He smiled sheepishly.
"Yes." They stayed like that for a while. No words passed between them as the ship began taking off. The lights of the cabin dimmed. She followed her instinct and kissed the young Jedi softly on the cheek. When the lights turned back on again she was gone.
The Jasper Fist was a moderately armed Republic battleship. Though classed as a small frigate, it was tough enough to engage in battle maneuvers with much larger cruisers. As it made its way at sublight speed past the satellites and stations orbiting around Coruscant, Qui-Gon Jinn couldn't help but notice a much smaller vessel making its way slowly behind them. He turned to the pilot and said to him.
"I want you to alter our coordinates before we make the jump into hyperspace."
"Sir, we're not going to Alderaan?"
"Not directly. Set your course for the following coordinates." He handed him a small encrypted data pad.
"Are you absolutely certain you want to go here?" There was a note of fear in the pilot's voice. He knew exactly what system they were heading too and he didn't like it one bit.
"Yes I am."
"As you wish sir." Qui-Gon watched him as he punched in the coordinates then sat down and strapped himself in for the long trip ahead of them all. Though normally cool under pressure, even Qui-Gon was worried. He had no idea what to expect when they arrived at their destination, but he knew that only through pain and suffering would some of the answers they were looking for come to light.
"They made the jump into lightspeed, I know that for certain. But when I arrived at Alderaan I didn't see them." The voice of a gruff bounty hunter came through the static of a comm link. Darth Sidious didn't want this particular bounty hunter to see him. There was no need for more people to be involved in the conspiracy—at least not at this point in his plans.
"For someone with your reputation Jango, I expected you wouldn't have been noticed."
"No one's perfect. I was flying far away from their ship."
"Do you have any idea where they might be going?"
"It could be anywhere my Lord." Sidious ended the communication abruptly and slammed his fist down hard into his armrest. Darth Maul just stared at him for a moment. The younger Sith waited for his master to calm down before he spoke.
"We know that they are going back to Alderaan."
"Really? That's what they told the Council, Valorum, and the rest of those fools on Coruscant…then why aren't they there? Hmm? Qui-Gon Jinn is planning something. And for once we have no idea what he's doing." He looked angrily at Maul. "You couldn't wait. You had to engage Kenobi in battle to prove yourself. Worse still, you let that Jedi apprentice get the better of you."
"Wasn't that the plan from the beginning my master…For me to find them, fight them, and kidnap the Queen?"
"Yes…the plan was to do that and if that failed we would delay the Republican fleet and they would be destroyed by the Federation."
"But they aren't anywhere near Alderaan…"
"Which means they know a trap is waiting for them."
"You said it yourself that we shouldn't underestimate Qui-Gon Jinn." Sidious' fingers tapped on his chair somewhat lost in his thoughts.
"Precisely." He paused for a moment then stood up and walked toward his apprentice. "Perhaps the time has come for us to work more openly than we have been."
"What do you mean?"
"I want you to go to Alderaan immediately. I want you to take command of the Federation's droid armies…find Bail Organa and crush his resistance. He can help us draw the Queen and her Jedi protectors into our clutches." He paused for a moment. "I want him alive Maul, is that understood?"
"Yes my master." He bowed and left the room. They still had a chance to salvage this mess if Darth Maul succeeded in his mission.
"Why did you change the coordinates without alerting me first Master Qui-Gon?" Padmé was furious that they were not going directly to Alderaan. "My brother is depending on us to get there as quickly as possible."
"I understand your concerns my Lady…but we were being followed." That stopped the Queen in her tracks.
"There was nothing on the scanners."
"Whoever it was they were doing their best to fool the ship's sensors. They didn't count on a Jedi like me. I could sense them. I saw where they were."
"So you think they were tracking us?"
"No your majesty…I think they knew exactly where we were headed. If we had gone to Alderaan we would have been heading into a trap." The truth of Qui-Gon's statement dawned on Padmé. She exhaled harshly and sat back down.
"So where are we going?"
"To a place where I think we might find some answers…" He looked outside as the stars moved passed them as break-neck speed. "How well do you know your galactic history?"
"We had to study it at the academies back home, why?"
"Does the name Korriban mean something to you Padmé?" She shuddered. But Obi-Wan felt lost.
"Master, what are you talking about?" She came to her senses and exclaimed.
"You can't seriously consider going there Qui-Gon! That's insanity. There's nothing left there." Obi-Wan asked.
"Where?" Qui-Gon moved to the center of the room and sat down near a Sabacc table.
"In the Jedi Order we rarely speak of the old Sith Wars that rocked the Republic to its foundations. It's not something we want to teach to our padawans. Thousands of years have passed since anyone has heard of the Sith Empire and their ancient citadel at Korriban." Obi-Wan's eyes opened as he began to recall some of the lessons Yoda had taught him when he was just a youngling.
"We're going to the Valley of the Dark Lords, aren't we?"
"That place is filled with the Dark Side of the Force…no one is allowed to go there. The Republic still has space stations that guard the planet precisely to avoid people stealing Sith artifacts or worse…" Padmé spoke up.
"What are you hoping to accomplish by this insanity?"
"If Plagueis did have an apprentice that was unaccounted for, we will find out about it there." He paused. "Sith tradition dictates that the apprentice must bury the body of the master…which means that there should be a tomb that shouldn't exist on Korriban." Obi-Wan grew serious.
"Yes. That is where we have to go to discover who is really pulling the strings here."
The Jasper Fist exited out of hyperspace into an extraordinary sight if there ever was one. Korriban was a dark gray colored planet surrounded by thousands upon thousands of asteroids. Two old, somewhat decrepit Republican space stations orbited on the far side of the planet guarding the safest route through the asteroid field.
"Go through the field," Qui-Gon instructed the pilot.
"You don't want to go dock at one of the stations?"
"No." The pilot thought better than to ask any more questions of the Jedi Master. He navigated his ship cautiously, making it through the field without any hitches. Obi-Wan and Amidala moved closer to him. As they looked out the port window the planet came into sharper relief. The best word to describe it was dark and brutish. It was not an inviting world to say the least.
"Where are we going to land Qui-Gon?"
"Over there…" He pointed out a large open plateau leading into a blackish valley. "That is where we will land." Within minutes they had made it to the planet's surface.
"This place is a graveyard…" wrecked ships—most of which were older model Republican dreadnoughts or Centurion-class battlecruisers—dotted the landscape. Padmé was amazed by the sheer amount of vessels. Then she saw massive statues of imposing Sith Lords, ruins of temple structures, and once formidable archways and plazas. Beyond a row of crumbling columns, she could swear she saw the outlines of a library.
"I've heard stories and learned much about the large galaxy-wide battles fought over this world…but to see it with your own eyes is something else." Qui-Gon nodded his head. Kenobi said nothing. He was no less fazed by the site than Padmé.
"The tombs shouldn't be too far from here." They walked cautiously. Obi-Wan felt the coldness of the place. A light breeze picked it. Even the weather felt ominous. He looked up at the dreary sky. They passed more statues along the way.
"Look at that…that's the tomb of Darth Malgus." They passed several more and Obi-Wan spoke up again. "Darth Bane…Qui-Gon we need to go…the deeper we enter this valley…the more the shadows linger."
"Hang in there…just a few more moments...I need to see it for myself…" He prayed with all his might that he didn't find a tomb for Plagueis. But he knew that wasn't the case. Suddenly, Qui-Gon Jinn stopped. A large metallic structure occupied the very end of a row of mausoleums. It stood out so much not because of its color—it was just as black as the rest of this tortured burnt landscape—it stood out because it was new—it had to have been constructed recently. The inscription above was written in Aurebesh. It read as follows:
Here lies the Dark Lord,
Plagueis the Wise,
Creator and Destroyer,
Lord of Death and of Life.
He who holds the key to immortality that pierces through the shadows.
Obi-Wan Kenobi gazed at the inscription that appeared to have been burnt into the metal by someone using a lightsaber. The amount of time it would have taken to get that right required patience and dedication.
"We have to enter, don't we?" His master didn't say a word. He was too saddened by the reality that Plagueis had not been the last Sith Lord. In the recesses of his heart, Qui-Gon wanted to be wrong about Maul and the Federation. He ignited his green lightsaber and plunged the sword into a hole in the large door and grunted with all his might as he slammed it in three times. Then he extinguished his blade as the doors pulled back to reveal a massive stone statute of Plagueis perched above the tomb of the Dark Lord himself. Obi-Wan noticed a large metallic structure, almost circular in nature, to the far right of the statue. "Master…it's a holocron."
"Come…we have to see what our old friend has to say." There was a sense of bitterness in his voice as he slowly switched the projector on. The image of the fierce Dark Lord appeared.
"You disturb my slumber Master Qui-Gon…" Though the voice and image came from the Holocron, it was clear that a Force-ghost was doing the talking. "Have you come to gloat over your victory?"
"No Plagueis. I long since accepted things as they are and have moved on with my life. I am not here over what is past. Your sorcerous ways don't frighten me. You are already dead and in the netherworld of the Force, but you cannot leave the comfort of your own death chamber. Isn't that a pity that one who was once so powerful is now restricted to the confines of these soulless walls?" Plagueis let out a cackle which quickly subsided as the truth of Qui-Gon Jinn's words sunk into to him.
"Only my apprentice can see my plans…why would I allow you to see my innermost thoughts?"
"You give yourself too much credit. I don't want to see your thoughts. I knew them well before we met on Dantooine. You think yourself different from all the other Sith Lords…but you are all the same…filled with malice, unbridled ambition, and anger to the core."
"You are a fool indeed Qui-Gon Jinn. You really believed that by eliminating me you would finish with the Sith once and for all?" The ghostly image cracked a smile for a moment.
"The thought had crossed my mind." He paused for staring at Plagueis's face.
"Fear can be such a powerful ally. You know that better than anyone Master Jedi…You remember the last time we met don't you?" Qui-Gon looked away the memory of what had occurred on Dantooine came back to him. He saw it all playing out in front of him. Plagueis dressed in his coal-black colored armor—Shaak Ti's lightsaber in his hand—he had a cruel smile on his face as they locked eyes. Qui-Gon stared in Shaak Ti's eyes. The look on her face he would never forget. She was hurting. He could sense her pain rippling through the Force. The vision disappeared as the Jedi lit his blade and pointed at the ghost that stood in front of him.
"You took away the one that I loved…your legacy will end soon. I promise you that." Plagueis cackled a bit.
"Ever the confident Jedi Knight. If only you knew what Sidious and I truly set in motion you would not be so confident. Everything that has happened so far has done so according to the designs I set forward nearly a decade ago. There is nothing you can do to prevent what is going to happen. The Republic, the Jedi…you have grown too accustomed to peacetime. You have fattened with the arrogance and pride that comes with victory. Even if you stop my apprentice do you really believe that the Dark Side of the Force won't compensate for his defeat?"
"I am willing to take that risk Plagueis."
"Ah…but are your friends willing to do so?" Plagueis's eyes rested on Amidala's face. She turned away from his sight. "How far are you willing to go to destroy the Sith Qui-Gon? Are you willing to risk your own soul to defeat me? You came so close once before to letting the darkness overcome you…by now you must know that any Jedi can turn in an instant if given the right stimulation…"
"Enough of this!" Qui-Gon ignited his blade again and pointed it at the image. "Go back to where you came from and leave us now!" He struck the image with the blade and it quickly dispersed into smoke. Obi-Wan slowly turned a coil on the holocron, and it activated. This time it was clearly a hologram they were seeing in front of them. The Force-ghost of Plagueis had returned to his slumber greatly chastened.
"Master, someone looked at this recently."
"Play it now Obi-Wan."
"…Sidious you must deal a deathblow to the hope of the Republic. If I falter, you will send your apprentice to Alderaan…there you shall begin the Sith resurgence and restore our shattered empire to its former glory. I trained you well Darth Sidious…now you must make sure that neither the Republic nor the Jedi ever liberate Alderaan. You will use your position in the Republic to delay the defense forces that the Senate will inevitably send to challenge your occupation of the planet. From there on…you know what must be done…" Qui-Gon stopped the holocron. Padmé turned away trying desperately to hold back her tears.
"This is a game to them. The lives of my people, my family…they are setting their plans in motion right now! We have to stop them."
"We will stop Darth Sidious and his apprentice. I promise you that your majesty." He paused for a moment and shut-down the holocron. "The fact that we were followed indicates that Darth Sidious knew of our plans. Plagueis is talking to an apprentice who he planted in the very bureaucratic heart of the Republic. Whoever this man is, he is highly connected…I have no reason to doubt that he has delayed the fleet we requested. We know for certain that he was laying a trap for us at Alderaan."
"Our strike team alone won't be enough to deal with Maul and the kind of firepower the Federation has at its disposal. We need something more my master…"
"We need a warship…one more powerful than anything the Federation can muster…" Qui-Gon's eyes lit up as he saw a gigantic bridge of a Centurion-class battlecruiser jutting out from behind one of the windows of Plagueis' mausoleum. Without saying another word he ran out there and saw that it was partially buried.
"Master what are you doing?" Padmé spoke up.
"The ships here are all rusted hulks…they haven't been active in thousands of years. We have to get back to Republic space and…" Qui-Gon didn't even turn back when answering her.
"It's too late for that Padmé…and it will be too late for your brother and your people if we do that…this is the only way." He extended his hands and closed his eyes. "Have faith in the Force your majesty…just have faith…" Suddenly, the land began to quiver and shake. It felt like an earthquake was breaking out over the land. Padmé stepped backward as she and Obi-Wan Kenobi saw the full power of the Force gathering in front of them. Slowly the buried cruiser began to move ever so slightly. Then it moved faster…finally with one gigantic burst of movement it rose out of the ground dropping piles of metal and dirt over the land. The battlecruiser spun around for a moment and remained in the air as Qui-Gon opened his eyes and summoned the Force to his fingers. Suddenly, green Force-lightning flowed from his fingertips into the giant hull of the ship. Neither Padmé nor Qui-Gon's apprentice had ever seen such a potent display of power before. The ship lurched to one side and then to another until finally its sublight engines activated and it began to hum with life. Qui-Gon exhaled deeply and pulled his arms back to his side. He knelt down on the floor gasping for air. Whatever he did had drained him significantly. Padmé and Obi-Wan ran to his side immediately.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm…fine…" He paused and pointed at the ship. "We will run the Federation blockade with this ship…. Padmé...gather your finest men and the troopers we have on board. Move the Jasper Fist into the docking bay of that cruiser…we need all the help we can get to man that ship to fight for the freedom of Alderaan…" With those words he managed to rise to his feet and walk toward the behemoth of metal and energy that was flying in front of him. Padmé was astounded by what Qui-Gon had unleashed. There was hope for her planet now. She believed they had a fighting chance.