‘We’re not sure what happened…’ Admiral Block disappeared and after a few moments reappeared. ‘…the clones… ‘
“What about General Kenobi?” Mace asked, frowning at the holo. They had received the transmission, a few moments ago, a distress call to the Council. He wasn’t happy the Chancellor had been also notified, but under the circumstances, there was nothing he could do about it.
‘… no word. Separatists were …’ Block frowned, barking out orders to someone off screen. ‘The Commander …. ‘ He blipped out for another few moments. ‘ … ordered ….’
“What the kriff is going on!?” Anakin snapped, frustration evident in his tone and posture. He hadn’t stopped moving since the transmission came in. “Admiral, put on Obi-Wan.”
‘…coming in hard.’ Block jerked out of screen, two clones stepped into view, one hand reached out to shut down the holo.
“Admiral.” Mace called out, frowning when it was disconnected. He glanced over to Yoda who looked perplexed. “We’ll try and get contact back with the Negotiator, meantime we need to figure out what is going on.”
‘It would seem something with the clones.’ The Chancellor leaned back in his seat, pulling him out of the holo just slightly. ‘I mean could we really trust them, it’s why we asked the Jedi to be in charge, you should be able to sense these things.’
“I trust my men completely.” Anakin snapped, a rare show of anger at the Chancellor. “It’s got to be Grievous or Dooku.”
‘My dear friend we should be prepared for the worst. The fact General Kenobi wasn’t even seen, can indicate many horrible things.’ His tone was soft and gentle, trying to reassure his young friend.
“Master Kenobi is one of our finest, many things have tried to kill him. None have succeeded.” Windu pointed out, as he leaned back in his seat.
‘Yet, it only takes one act of betrayal.’ The Chancellor frowned, giving them a big sigh. ‘If you have a moment, my friend. Could you come by my office, we can discuss our next steps. If the Separatists somehow got the clones to turn against us, we’ll need to be ready.’
Anakin nodded, bowing slightly. “Once I finish with the Council, I’ll come by.”
‘Good. Good. You will keep me informed if more information comes from the Negotiator?’ He glanced back at Master Windu.
“Anakin will fill you in.” He gave one last nod then turned off the holo.
“I deserve an award for not jumping out the window!” Anakin’s whole body shivered. “How come I never saw just how creepy that was.”
Fives gave him a pointed look from his place in the back of the chambers. All the clones had stayed quiet and behind the holos, as not to be seen. Though every Jedi in the room felt their spike of righteous anger when the Chancellor stated they weren’t to be trusted.
Mace glanced at the five men, not wanting to think about the few seconds when … they had lost themselves. Weapons had been raised, tension had escalated in the room …
The Commander of the Coruscant Guard hadn’t flinched, even more important he had been ready to face down his vod if need be.
Then as quickly as they disappeared, they reappeared.
“What the kriff was that!?” Fives demanded, hand pressed against the side of his head.
Echo was shaking his as if trying to dislodge something deep inside, while their Captain had one knee on the carpet head in both of his hands.
“That was the Sith Lords backup plan.” Fox stated evenly.
He owed Cody, everyone did.
Before he could explain what he had meant, they were interrupted by Master Yoda calling an emergency council meeting. He stated he had felt a disturbance in the Force, and for everyone to convene.
Mace took the whole group to the Council Chambers. He now had proof of the Chancellor’s dark deeds, and they needed to figure out the next stage of action.
Senator Amidala bowed out of the meeting, stating this wasn’t her realm. She had a better chance of fighting in her playing field. Anakin looked about ready to panic, so Fox contacted Thire and Thorn and had them meet the Senator at the front of the Jedi Temple, with orders never to leave her side. He didn’t care what she said, what was going on, or if she ditched them. If something happened, they were dealing with Skywalker.
Yoda’s head tilt was his only response at seeing an agitated Skywalker, followed by his calm Padawan, and Torrent members ready to blow something up, followed by a resigned Mace. Ponds ignored all of them, taking his place next to his General. Fox stayed close to Vos, who looked like he wanted to jump out a window.
Fox reached out touching the Jedi’s arm slightly, returning the comfort he had given to him. Vos gave him a rare soft smile and a nod. Quinlan took a few calm breaths, settling into himself. It was then Fox remembered there were rumors of him going dark, pushing the limits to try and save those no one else could. At that time, he had reminded Fox of a junky, strung out looking for a fix. Then about six weeks later, he was calmer – well as calm as Vos could ever be – and in some ways more centered. He was still an annoying ass, but Fox noticed a difference. Cody mentioned that he had stayed with the 212th for a while, that being with General Kenobi had calmed him.
Which as far as he was concerned made Kenobi a Saint, or just as insane as Vos.
Plo Koon had greeted each of the clones by their names. There was a reason he was known as General Buir, he showed his care for all of them, not just the wolf pack. Though Wolffe made sure, everyone knew, Koon belonged to the 104th and if they even thought about stealing him … well he left that to their imaginations.
“Skywalker.” Depa moved out of her chair to lay a hand on his arm. “I need you to take a calm breath, follow me. In. Out. In. Out.” She sent calming reassurance to the young Knight.
“Thanks.” He squeezed her hand, letting her know he appreciated the help. “So what are we going to do about the Sith?”
Fox and Mace rolled their eyes at the same time. Rex sighed, while Tano face palmed.
Yoda gave him a look. “Know this Sith, do you?”
“Yes, unfortunately.” He glanced at Mace, who took pity on the young man.
“We have evidence … ” Windu started to explain what they had been discussing in his quarters, when an emergency holo came from the Negotiator. When the Chancellor signed in, stating he had received a disturbing note … he thought Skywalker would jump out the window, followed closely by Vos. Ponds discreetly moved next to his vode, all them staying out of holo range.
Once the call ended, the Council looked over at Skywalker, then back at Mace. “Vos, see if you can get the Negotiator back online, find out what is going on. Discretion is a thing.”
“Never heard of it.” With a sloppy salute, and wink to Fox, he left the Council Chambers.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Fox asked.
“If there is one thing I’m sure of, Vos wouldn’t do anything to hurt Kenobi.” Mace assured him. “Now for the reason we’re all here.”
He took a moment to glance around the room. Plo Koon was a center of calm, he made a note to talk to him about the 104th and what happened earlier with the 212th, to make sure his men were safe. Kit Fitso, was at least in his robes, and despite the seriousness of the situation, those around him could feel his calm happy personality. Depa, sent strength to her Master, waiting patiently to understand what was going on. She, along with others, felt Skywalker’s low level panicking throughout the call. Yoda was quiet, contemplative, in all the years Mace had known him, for the first time he really looked old. The rest of the council was out on campaign, he couldn’t remember the last time they were all at the Jedi Temple.
“Sith revealed, has he not.” Yoda glanced over to Mace. “Mistakes made we have. Lap dogs to the Senate we have been for too long. Darkness has spread, blind to it we were. My own fault, I admit.”
“We all have made mistakes.” Mace took a deep breath, then told them everything that had transpired in his rooms. What they learned from Senator Amidala, Vos’ investigation, and then the moment they lost the clones.
“I don’t understand.” Plo sat forward in his chair. “How did you lose them?”
“They just disappeared.” Anakin spoke up from his pacing in the corner. “The unique force signatures muted, it was like the static you feel with a droid army.”
“For a moment we lost ourselves.” Ponds spoke up, though it had lasted only a second, he will not forget the horror of the moment.
“How is this possible?” Fit was taken back, disgusted at the thought of the men losing themselves, to be nothing but mindless droids. He had watched with pride as all his men had become individuals with unique tastes, personalities, and learned to be their own person.
“It’s a chip, sir. In our brains.” Fox took a step forward, taking off his bucket and tucking it under his head. “Commander Cody, contacted me … ”
‘What do you want.’ Fox didn’t really have time to deal with the drama, the 212th was likely going to drag him into it.
‘I need you to change to Private Secure Channel, 432. Now.’
Fox was tempted to just ignore the demand, but something made him pause. The tone, something he hadn’t heard in a while, that message wasn’t from Commander Cody, but Kote. He grabbed his comm, told Stone he was stepping out, then headed for one of the many audio and visual blind spots inside the Senate.
‘What do you want?’ He snapped the moment Cody answered.
‘I’m going to ask you to do something that will go against your hyper need to follow the rules. Before you argue with me, I’m not asking you to cover anything illegal, I’m asking you to investigate something illegal.’
Fox frowned. ‘How about you tell me what’s going on, Kote, then I’ll decide if I want to help you.’
‘It’s not me you would be helping, but our vode.’
Fox listened as Cody explained about a chip that his medic had found, it wasn’t just in his head, but in every single clone. Using his authorization codes, and when that didn’t work used General Kenobi’s codes he discovered that the longnecks had placed them to curtail the clones aggressions, since everyone knew Madalorians were violent blood thirsty bastards.
‘Commander, have you met anyone from the 212th or the 501st.’ Fox pointed out.
There was a snort, and he could just about imagine the small wicked smirk that Kote used to get when he would instigate osik against the longnecks. ‘Just for a second imagine someone else in control of the 212th and the 501st.’
‘I don’t know what these do. I need you to find out.’
‘Why me?’ Fox asked, now curious what the Commander was up to.
There was a pause, he could tell that Kote was deciding what to say, contemplating if he could trust his fellow vod. It hurt. It actually hurt that his fellow CC would hesitate, but then he was always off to the side from the group. Not in the war, not assigned to a Jedi. His men didn’t see battle, but that didn’t mean they weren’t soldiers.
‘The longnecks told us the Jetii ordered us, they didn’t. Master Sifo-Dyas was already dead, there was no way he put in the order, let alone the one question no one has asked, how did he pay for it. I know you don’t work directly with the Jedi, but you know enough that their budget is reviewed by the Senate. Don’t you think some committee would’ve noticed that large amount of credits…’
Fox blinked a few times, mind racing in many directions, all leading down a path he wasn’t sure he liked. ‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m saying that whoever paid for us put those chips there. Now don’t you think it would be a good idea to find out who?’
‘And you want me to, what…’ Fox already had a good idea, but wanted to hear him.
‘Find out who paid for three million of us, and what they want to do with us. I will end this war, but I need your help to do it.’
‘Why now?’ He knew there was something Kote wasn’t telling him. ‘What has changed so drastic that you are skirting treason?’
‘I have one major reason, and three million small ones.’ There was a heavy sigh. ‘Fox, I do not ask this lightly, but know that if the Republic becomes a threat to what is mine, I will do what is necessary.’
‘And the vode is yours?’
‘Since when were they not?’
Fox leaned his head back, eyes closed for a moment. He took a few calming breaths, before answering. ‘I’ll contact you when I learn more.’ He hung up, made his way back to the office, grabbed Stone and Thire, then headed for the lower sections of Coruscant. The men were smart enough not to ask, but he could feel their worry and curiosity.
They entered a small clinic, one he had escorted senators to when they needed assistance away from the prying eyes and questions from the Senate Medical Services. He pulled off his bucket, looked the doctor in the eyes, and gave him one option.
‘I need to know if there is a chip in my head, if it is there you’ll remove it. If something happens to me, they…’ he nodded to his men ‘…will burn this place to the ground, and no one will care.’
The doctor nodded. ‘We know how to be discreet. It’s why you’re here and not 100 levels up.’
Fox’s posture was ramrod straight, as he finished rehashing his conversation with Cody. “After he notified me, I went to a trusted medical personnel, and discovered that yes, there were chips. I had mine removed, along with my immediate officers, and still working through my men. I was investigating where the chips came from, when Vos dragged me here.”
Mace leaned back in his chair. “And what have you found?”
He focused on the General, ignoring the horrified expressions that were crossing his vod. “That he was right, the Senate has review status over the Jedi’s budget, and someone would’ve noticed an order for 3 million of us clones. Whoever paid for us, would….”
“Have full control.” Mace nodded, seeing exactly where Commander Cody’s thoughts were going. “Since the discovery of the clones, we’ve been working to find out who actually put in the order, as we didn’t.” Windu gave the group that was with them, a rare small smile. “Though you have all been blessings to us.”
“That’s cause we’re awesome.” Fives really had no shame. Echo rolled his eyes, while Rex looked upwards contemplating his life choices.
Fox ignored them completely. “I found a papertrail, that led straight to the Chancellor’s office. It was hidden deep under at least three sub committees. It’s a subsidy that sends money to Serenno.” He noticed that Mace didn’t look at all shocked, actually no one in the Council Room looked shocked. “Maybe it’s time for us to compare notes.”
“Master Ti got one of her slicers to break into the Kamino’s databases, looking for information on who actually placed the order, all the information and accounts went directly to Serenno. Master Kenobi stated at the start of his investigation that Fett was hired by Tyranus, once it was realized Dooku had become a Sith, who went by Tyranus, we knew the whole thing was tied to him.”
“It was his way of starting the war. We knew Dooku had issues with the Senate and Council, but were surprised he would go to such lengths for revenge. Especially using Master Sifo-Dias as an excuse, they were good friends at one point.” Master Koon shoulders slumped at the weight of the moment. “It would seem we misjudged our old colleague on how far he had fallen.”
“Dooku paid for the clones, and the Chancellor has been sending him spending money?” Anakin stared at the Master. “And we never once thought, hey look a Jedi who went dark bought us an army, this is okay?”
“I’m with him.” Rex nodded towards his General. “No one thought this was odd.”
“We were at war.” Mace sighed, headache coming back in full force. “Suddenly all our Masters were Generals, Knights and Padawans in the middle of battles, the Senate demanding things we were not capable of handling. By the time we even got any bearing of what was going on, we were so wrapped up in it, that there was no way out, especially without abandoning the clones.”
“And now we find out that this whole thing is set up for a Sith Lord?” Ahsoka added. “So what do we do now?”
“I say we kill him.” Anakin said with ease.
“We can’t just kill the Chancellor.” Depa pointed out, though she was in agreeance. “We first need evidence to bring to the Senate, enough that his backers and cronies will have to cave to the will of the people.”
Everyone looked back at Fox. “I have a paper trail, but we’ll need more information and physical evidence of the chips.”
“We really need to talk to Obi-Wan and find out what’s going on.” Kit shook his head, not sure how to handle the whole situation. His main focus was on how to help his men, and he was sure Depa and Plo were feeling the same thing.
“Disturbing this information is.” Yoda’s ears showed his displeasure. “Know what is happening on the Negotiator, we do not.”
“I can feel Obi-wan, nothing’s happened to him.” Anakin finally sat down on the ground, worn out. He wasn’t surprised when Ahsoka joined him, he was comforted that she was by his side. “He’s obviously got some play in mind.”
“He’s going to trigger the trap.” Rex stated with certainty. He heard his vod rant about it enough times. “We all know this. He’s batshit, I blame all of you for that, and he’s going to walk right up to the Chancellor and call him out.”
Yoda’s ear lowered any further. “Reckless he is.”
“Your lineage he is.” Mace sent him a glare, even after all these years he still questioned Yoda’s insistence in Qui-Gon being Obi-Wan’s Master. If Yoda had wanted the young Dragon in his lineage, he should’ve trained him. “This is what we get for letting him wander the cosmos with Qui-Gon.” An eyebrow went up when the clones growled slightly. “Oh, I see you added that to 501st storytime.”
“Yeah and let’s just say it’s a good thing Master Jinn isn’t standing here.” Anakin shrugged, not really caring. “Cody would do damage.”
“Loyal Kenobi’s Commander.” Yoda huffed, then turned to Mace. “Contact Negotiator.”
“But they are having …” Ahsoka startled when the holo popped up, Master Kenobi in full sight, with the Commander, bucket tucked under his arm, expression stoic and unreadable, standing next to him as an equal, not in the usual two steps behind to the right.
She gave Skyguy a side eye, who gave one in return.
“Hello there. Anakin are you okay? I’m worried about the levels of anxiety I’ve been feeling.” He focused on his Padawan and grandpadawan, ignoring the rest of the council.
“Well Master might have something to do with the fact we kept getting messages from the Negotiator that something happened! Let alone the clones disappeared then reappeared, except Fox who was a smug bastard, and I have to be friendly to the Chancellor, even though I know he’s a Sith. I suck at undercover shit. You know this. I know this. Every person I’ve ever tried to lie or worked with undercover knows this.”
“I’m fine, my dear.” He gave him a small smile, one that Anakin knew was for him. It was always soft and full of love. With a deep breath, he calmed his anxiety and returned the smile back to his Master. “I had the good Admiral send those messages to set the trap.”
“The one you’re going to set off,” Rex blurted.
“All good traps need bait.”
Everyone heard the low growl coming from the Commander, though his face expression hadn’t changed. Rex stared at his ori’vod for a few moments, a low whistle escaping. He glanced around to see everyone staring at him, he ignored them and focused on his vod. “Kote, it’s good to see you.”
Rex nodded, he was getting his shebs kicked later.
“Kriff.” Five’s eyes went wide, as did Echo’s.
Pond shook his head, he had known something was different with his fellow Commander but couldn’t put a finger on it, until Rex called him by his true name. What the hell had been going on with the 212th, and what wasn’t his vod telling him. “After this whole thing is done, we’re having words Kote.”
“Once that traitor is put down.” The Commander focused on Fox. “How many of your men have been de-chipped?”
“Over half.” Fox answered easily, impressed at what he was seeing. He never thought he would see a clone stand equal with anyone let alone a Jedi. “I’m surprised you hadn’t removed it, before this.”
“It’s out now, and we’re working through the 212th.” Kote answered, he was already annoyed with himself that he hadn’t demanded Snap take it out the moment they discovered it. There had been so much going on, he made the mistake of being complacent.
Never again will he make that mistake.
“What’s your plan?” Mace stared at Obi-Wan, knowing he was going to hate it, but go along with it, because it would work. “I already know I’m going to hate it, so just get it over with.”
Obi-Wan gave them a cheeky grin, which made everyone in the room, including the Council, sigh. “I think the Captain put it best.”
“He’s going to walk up to the Chancellor and say hi.” Kote took a deep breath. “At least he’s not doing it alone, the full 212th will be behind him. Fox, I’m sure you can figure out how to get your men into position.”
“Well as the Crosuscent Guard, it’s our duty to protect the Chancellor.”
“He’ll want Anakin with him.” Obi-Wan wasn’t surprised when his Padawan hopped back onto his feet staring at him incredulously.
“Why would he, I feel as if I’m missing something.”
“He’s setting you up to be his next apprentice.” Obi-Wan wanted desperately to reach out, when he felt the panic and fear slice through their bond. “At this moment, he fully believes the clones killed me. What better way to get you to Turn, than having your Master killed by the very people you trusted. He’ll convince you this is all Dooku, you’ll be so enraged you’ll hunt him down and kill him.”
“Taking out the apprentice so you can become his next one.” Mace shook his head, seeing the ploy. “And he probably wouldn’t be upset if you killed most of the 212th in the process.”
“Can I just stab him?” Anakin crossed his arms over his chest. “No really. Can I?”
“Evidence we need.” Yoda tapped his glimmer stick against his chair. “Then stab him you can.”
The whole room stared at the older Jedi, it was Fives who broke the silence with choked off laughter. “I’m not even sure what’s real anymore.”
“Well you’re still ugly, vod.” Echo’s shoved him slightly. “We could escort the General, we’re immune to the whole Order.”
“If you go with Skywalker, he’ll be suspicious.” Obi-Wan pointed out. “Having the Coruscant Guard nearby, can be explained away. That’s their job.”
“Considering there’s a question about the 212th, wouldn’t it be normal for the 501st to accompany his General?” Koon asked. “Matter of fact, in theory the Council should be intercepting the Negotiator not the Chancellor.”
“Skywalker, this will be painful for you, but…” Mace tried not to laugh at the over exaggerated sigh, especially in such a serious situation. “When you go to meet with the Chancellor, have Fives and Echo escort you, state we were concerned about the lack of information from the 212th. You two stay outside, act normal.” They both gave him a viscous grin, which would work perfectly. “While meeting with him, state that the Jedi Council will be meeting the Negotiator – see what happens.” He pointed back to Fives and Echo. “You two need to be recording everything, and the moment he comes out you bring him here, instantly. Ignore whining, pissyness, or over violent tantrums.”
“You think he’ll do something.” Anakin crossed his arms, not liking this situation at all.
“Yes. And you’re going to convince us that it’s best that The Chancellor and you meet the Negotiator.” Depa answered, giving her Master a small smile, seeing where he was going with this plan. “We’ll be off to the side, so when he declares himself a Sith Lord we’ll be ready.”
“You think he’ll actually just announce that he’s a Sith and has been plotting the demise of the Jedi for years?” Rex frowned, hating this plan even more, and now understood why Kote hadn’t really stopped growling.
Fox snorted. “The man hides his enormous ego behind fake humility. ‘I’m honored, thank you. Yes I will work hard to make sure that your planet will be protected. It’s what I do, but it helps that I can count on your support.’.”
“Well that is normal for politicians.” Kit Fitso smiled brightly, bringing a calm back to the chamber. “Though I do agree, he’s been playing the game for a long time. My instincts tell me that some of his plans aren’t working, so he’s pushing harder at Skywalker.”
“What do you mean?” Anakin turned towards him. He had worked with Master Fisto, a few times during his apprenticeship. He had always made Anakin feel at ease, made him laugh, and taught him how to view things slightly different.
“I remember the angry teenager, there were reasons I tossed you into the pool.” He chuckled softly at the memories of the flailing Padawan, he at least never tossed him into the deep end, and always had Bant nearby. Desert rats never did well with too much water, but it was a lesson learned.
“I thought you were teaching me to swim.” Anakin threw his arms up, a small smile on his face, enjoying the laughter from Kit.
“Well that too, but it did calm you down. Kenobi wasn’t the only one to notice your anger got worse after visiting the Chancellor. I wasn’t on the Council when they agreed to him mentoring you, and I wouldn’t have agreed to it. You were not to be a politician so why be mentored by one.” Kit tilted his head slightly, as if thinking back over the years. “Then suddenly you were a lot calmer, first thing I noticed you weren’t visiting the Chancellor as much, but it was more than that, something changed. It was like suddenly you understood what being a Jedi was about.”
Plo glanced over at his fellow Council Member. “This is very accurate.” He glanced over to Anakin. “You suddenly understood the need for discretion and what being a Jedi was about, it wasn’t about how powerful you were, but how you used the power to protect others.”
“Suddenly you went from an angsty teenager to a stable young man. If he couldn’t keep you angry he needed to find other ways to control you.” Depa gave him a soft smile.
“Explains why the Senators birth control disappeared.” Fox shook his head.
Depa blinked a few times, then stared at Fox then back at Anakin. “Tell me…”
“I can hear the ‘I’m not pregnant!’ all the way from the Senate building.” Rex answered with a small laugh. “So what you’re saying is the Chancellor is trying to get her knocked up, for what? I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to me.”
Fox looked heavenward, hating he was having this particular conversation again. “It would remove her from the playing field, Skywalker being the good dutiful father would go…”
“No, I wouldn’t.” Anakin shook his head, seeing where Fox was going, but duty came first. “Yeah. if we messed up and she got pregnant, I would be there for her, but she knows my duty is to the Jedi. As her to the Senate. Have you met Padmé? She would give birth in the Naboo pod, yelling at some idiot.”
Fox bit back the laughter, trying not to imagine Stone being the one to catch the kid.
“That’s not the issue.” Obi-Wan spoke up startling everyone, almost forgetting he was still there. “The goal isn’t getting Anakin off planet, it’s getting him to rely on the Chancellor, and only the Chancellor. He would start dropping hints that the Jedi would kick him out, and that she would have to hide the pregnancy – causing more lying and deceit. Then slowly start planting fears that she would die in childbirth. Getting Anakin paranoid over everything, that his only option was to rely on the Chancellor. Especially, as I would’ve tragically died at the hands of my men, because of some elaborate trap by Dooku … then when the time was right turn the rest of the clones against the Jedi.”
“I’m slightly disturbed how your mind works.” Depa gave her friend a look. “Do you have an evil plan to take over the universe we should be concerned for?”
“Doesn’t everyone?” Obi-Wan shrugged, a little too innocently for her sake. “I’m two steps ahead of the Chancellor. I got Kote and the 212th.”
Mace stared at Yoda. “I blame you entirely for this.”
Yoda smiled slightly, everyone could feel the pride in his lineage. “Plan, I do not like, but work it will. Before Skywalker leaves, mediate we should.”
“But what’s the actual plan?” Fives still wasn’t sure what they were doing.
“My di’kut General is going to piss off the Chancellor to such an extent that he will go full Sith, and try to kill him in public.” Kote didn’t hold back the glare he had for Obi-Wan.
“You’ll be there to protect me, my dear.” Obi-Wan gave him a loving smile.
“So it’s a normal plan, same as everything else we do.” Echo nodded just as he turned to head for the door. “Okay I’m going to visit the weapons depot and stock up who’s with me.”