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BRENDON WAHLBERG: STAR WARS ~ DARK EMPEROR

The signal that Urn Zelotes waited for did not come. There was no communication from the Eclipse at all. The HoloNet station in the clone lab was dark and quiet. Second by second, fear began to grow inside Zelotes, like a living thing that was born there and was eating his will in order to increase in size. There was no signal. What had happened? Were his allies dead? All dead? It was impossible. Their attack must have been delayed, or called off. But no - they would have let him know in that case, too. Dead. All dead. Was Palpatine dead too? Zelotes lost himself for a minute, indecision crushing down on him. The door to the clone lab shuddered and boomed. Heavy explosives had been brought in. That did it. There was no time left.

Zelotes faced his prisoners. "Show me another exit from this room!" he ordered them. Pestage still didn't seem able to rise, so Rollo Mon stood and walked, trembling, to a blank wall behind a row of Spaarti Cylinders. He put a hand through the wall, revealing that it was only a hologram.

"Thank you Constable. I have to leave you now because I'm not sure if my allies have succeeded in their mission. I have to get to a place of safety and anonymity if I am ever to have another chance. No one must know who I am, and unfortunately, that means you both have to die. Come here, Constable. I'll make this as painless as possible seeing as how you've been such a help to me."

Rollo Mon helplessly walked back towards the gaunt, lizard like adept, tears streaming down his face. But Zelotes had made the mistake of turning his back on Sate Pestage. The Grand Vizier had not been helpless. He had been fighting for some control over his own body. In his fear and distraction, Zelotes had missed it. Pestage grabbed up the long cylinder that had held the poison and swung it as hard as he could against Zelotes' head. The adept's wedge-shaped skull was battered to one side, and in that moment, Rollo Mon was free. "Go!" rasped Pestage.

The Constable spun and ran behind another row of tanks. Urn Zelotes turned on Sate Pestage and grabbed him by his jeweled cassock with strong, claw like fingers. He shoved the old man hard and Pestage collapsed in a heap. "Stay there," Zelotes grated and ran to look behind the tanks for Rollo Mon. But the Constable was gone. There was a third exit somewhere back there.

Gone, too, was any hope of keeping his identity a secret, if Palpatine was indeed alive to learn it. Sate Pestage had effectively killed him. Not bothering to coerce the Grand Vizier, Zelotes stood over him. "This has all been for nothing, if Palpatine still lives. His clones are dead, but that was just a necessary precaution. All for nothing."

Pestage smiled at Zelotes. "Don't feel too bad. Others have tried. Others have failed. The glory is his and no one can take it from him. He will always be the Master."

Zelotes scowled. Rage twisted his features. He knew he had to flee. Palpatine was still off planet. If Zelotes could get to Velarium, he might survive. He knew he wasn't rational anymore. It didn't matter. He stepped away from Sate Pestage. If he could not destroy Palpatine, then he would destroy a part of Palpatine. One of the last two Sentinels came over to the Grand Vizier, picked him up, and squeezed.

Sate Pestage only managed to gasp out a few words. "And he will always be my son -" There was a sound of brittle bones breaking and the once powerful Grand Vizier of the Galactic Empire died. The Sentinel dropped the body to the floor, then waited for its next orders. Zelotes stared crazily at the corpse, a still heap glittering with gemstones. The face was peaceful. Son? Had he said son? This was the Emperor's father?! The lab reeled around Zelotes. He left the Sentinels standing there like grave markers and fled through the door Rollo Mon had shown him.


"Anger, concentrated by will in the vital center of the body creates a portal through which vast energies are released - the energies of the dark side of the Force. Standing watch with the mind, in my meditation of anger, I have slain my enemies from great distances, through the dark side power that permeates the galaxy. I have created lightening and unleashed its destructive fire. Using this knowledge, I can unleash the dark side energies that are all around us, even to shatter the fabric of space itself. In this way, I have created storms."

-From The Book of Anger

- Espaa.

- Father?

- Thank the Force, you are still alive! I had to know before I departed.

- What's wrong? What's happened?

- I am truly sorry, Master, but I have died.

- What do you mean? Where are you?

- I have died, Espaa. I am going to become part of the All. I am within your mind. I was able to see your mind like a beacon and come to it. You have become powerful again. The Force has chosen you as it did before. When you awaken, my identity will be gone. I can feel the pull now. It is very beautiful, actually.

- Will I see you again?

- I...I don't know. You walk a different path. I'm not sure it will be possible. But you may yet learn. In life, I worshipped your glory, but now I see it has its limits. The Force, the All, is one, my son. You feel only a part of the whole.

- A Jedi myth. The Force is only a power to use, to pay the price for, to master.

- I'm not here to argue. I am here to say I have loved you. Now I go to be with Gemsaa, my wife, in whatever way that is possible

The insistent beeping of the HoloNet terminal finally reached Palpatine, and he awoke, groggy, grasping at the vanishing threads of a dream. He was on the deck of the crew pit of the Eclipse. All around him were dead bodies, his officers, Admiral Dal. On the upper walkway were several ash heaps. That sight brought the memory of his recent battle crashing back to him. The dream was gone. He could not remember it. No matter. He was alive! He had won. The Force was with him and he had regained much of his old strength. He began to heal himself as he limped over to the beeping station. Rollo Mon appeared there as a small hologram. He looked frantic.

"You're alive! Then they didn't succeed! Master, There was an attack here at the Citadel. Adept Zelotes fought his way into the clone labs and destroyed all your clones. I'm ashamed to say he controlled me, that he had my help. And Master -" Rollo Mon's voice caught. "How can I tell you this? He also controlled Grand Vizier Pestage. He was going to kill us both but Sate Pestage attacked him, so that I could escape. He gave his...he was killed. He gave his life for me. Zelotes escaped. I don't know where he went. Master? How will we find him?"

Palpatine took a step away from the terminal, as if he could deny its message with distance. He shut his eyes. His head tilted back. Rollo Mon left his awareness. His hands became fists. Sate Pestage. Dead. His friend, his Grand Vizier, his faithful servant, a man once his father, dead. Murdered. Palpatine raised his arms, his fists held high. His teeth clenched as his face filled with violence. Dead. Murdered by Urn Zelotes. The only one who had come into his isolation and stayed there. The man who had saved his life. Murdered. Anger was there, in that moment, ravening, demanding release. He held it in, stoked its fire. The anger flared into rage, but he held it in, concentrating it deep within, at his center. Rage. Power. Power was everywhere, waiting to be used. It only needed an outlet. The rage was like a cold iron gate within him, closed against the power. He began to make the gate larger.

Urn Zelotes had tried to kill him. Zelotes had destroyed all the clones and his allies had nearly murdered Palpatine as well. He had been so close to final death and its unending chaos and he had not even known it. Now fear at that thought poured in with the anger, swelling the flow. The gate holding back the power grew. It now felt like it was meters thick, and yet it shook massively.

Zelotes was one of his older adepts. Palpatine had taken the exiled Thaarnian in and shared his knowledge. He had been repaid with betrayal, assassination, and murder. The murder of Sate Pestage. Betrayal and loss, fear and anger. Aggression must follow, but not yet. Palpatine found himself drawing more power than ever before. The pain of his loss had opened up untapped sources that he had not previously imagined. All men lost those close to them, and many cried out in rage. The universe did not care. But other men were not the Master of the dark side of the Force. The Master cried out in pain and rage...and the Universe answered!

The gate felt like part of a towering wall, a black fortress made of iron and stone. The power screamed and beat its fury against the gate, hammering relentlessly, a million voices yammering for release.

Palpatine opened the gate.

And a new thing was born into the galaxy.

Outside the Eclipse, a vortex of time and space began to grow. It spun ponderously, and soon, it had become a huge funnel like storm. Palpatine was struck with awe. The storm was his, and it wanted to destroy. Could he control it? The image of Urn Zelotes filled his mind. His links to his adepts had been restored. Zelotes was on Byss. He had gone to the city of adepts, perhaps to hide, perhaps to try to escape. There would be no escape. The storm responded to his hate. It whirled into hyperspace and burst forth over Byss. The great vortex roared down through the atmosphere, tearing defense satellites apart, rending ships and small fighters unlucky enough to be in its path. The automated defense systems of the Imperial Control Sector sent energy skyward like an inverse rain, but the storm only seemed to pick up velocity. In moments, it was above Velarium.

Urn Zelotes had made it back to his rooms. There is still time, he had told himself, over and over. Zelotes had mostly lost the capacity for planning. He had not reasoned that the Emperor's forces might already be at his quarters, waiting to take him prisoner. He did not know where he would go afterward, once he had retrieved his most important belongings. There hadn't really been a plan for failure. Maybe there could not have been one. Zelotes only knew he had to keep moving, to hide wherever he could. He gathered his books and talismans together in a tough sack. They were his last links to his homeworld of Thaarn and his old way of using the Force. Palpatine had taught him new ways, and Zelotes had tried to use those teachings against him. But perhaps there was something in his sacred books that he could use to survive the failure of his coup.

Hurrying to escape the room, Zelotes overturned the table holding the Book of Anger. It clattered to the floor on its side and activated. Palpatine's hologram projected horizontally and resumed its lecture. "- or its consequences. When the Dark Empire is complete, the followers of the dark side will share my power of being able to observe each other. Betrayal will no longer be practical."

Palpatine had more to say, but Zelotes was already gone.

The Force Storm descended upon Velarium. As it enveloped the city, buildings were torn up whole and went soaring up into the vortex, fragmenting as they rose. The Emperor's punishment claimed many lives that day. Dozens of adepts, innocent of any conspiracy, were swallowed up by the storm and lost. Urn Zelotes, too, met his doom in that merciless chaos. His building was pulled from its foundation and lifted towards the vortex of annihilation. It shattered under the stress on the way, and Zelotes suddenly found himself cast from the wreckage into mid-air. The greatest horror was that he did not fall. Fully aware, he rose toward the enormous whirlpool in the sky. He thought he could hear the Emperor laughing and laughing. Then his body was taken apart by the storm, and the unending chaos of the dark side took the rest of him.

A little while later, the storm began to recede. Witnesses spoke of how it seemed to do so reluctantly, as if, given the choice, it would have ravaged the entire Imperial Control Sector. Left behind was a small city in rubble, with nothing moving in it. But only a few kilometers away, the Imperial Citadel was untouched.

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