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a young palpatine finds a different sith master - somewhat literally
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It takes her years, it feels like. Years ever since that first whisper, the first little hint in the margins of another record - years since Palpatine's keen instincts, the ones that make her teachers love her with an exasperated fondness even though she never just obeys 

Palpatine is a curious girl on the cusp of becoming a curious young woman. A frustrated girl, chaffing against the chains her father sets on her - one who knows she has potential smothered by those around her, though she can't quite name it -

A lifetime as a delinquent with daddy's money, a long habit of cultivating bonds and debts like a magpie squirreling away golden chains - it comes in handy when she gets enough of a clue that the itch rises under her skin. 

She cashes in a lot of favors. It isn't easy to move under her own power, won't be for years yet until she's twenty one and free of her father's yoke, but there's gaps in every security and she's able to play nice long enough to get on a Youth Legislature field trip -


And from there, stealing a ship is child's play. Flying alone through hyperspace settles something in her, an itch under her skin, and this ship's specs say it needs two pilots but she's very scornful of the pilot who needs a helping hand to fly this thing - she always knows exactly what switch to flip, how to lean, when to move.

(One of the few times she's at peace, really. Such a pity her peace is illegal.)


Her heart's fluttering in her chest a bit as she lands on a grassy plain outside the ruins, more as she carefully enters - 

This isn't a temple, she realizes. 

It's better. 


It's a storage facility.


Palpatine explores rather like a kid unleashed into a toy store she's been told might have booby traps but that anything she can carry out is hers to keep. 

(She's tempted not to go home. Keeping all this away from her father would be hard, and she's just found something she likes so much more than daddy's money. An entire library of things.)


She does, reluctantly, force herself to actually look around before trying to figure out removing any specific items. Is there a main control room anywhere - ?

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The facility seems to be modular. Each room has its own circuits for lights, doors, traps. The technology is old, nearly impossible to recognize but for the fundamental behavior of electrons. Whatever civilization built this left only the barest trace on the lineage of development in the Republic. The walls are periodically inscribed with strange sigils that give her a shiver to stare at for too long, but the doorways are labeled in plain Aurebesh- Aurek wing ahead, turn left to Cresh, Esk section second right.

Nothing so helpful as 'Master switch this way, push this button to turn on holodirectory'. No beating heart to uncover. Though, come to think...

Towards a certain section, she feels something like a pulse. A subsonic rhythm of breath that washes across her without physically affecting her, almost a trick of the mind. And comparing the size of the room to the length of the hallway-

Space is missing. There's a hidden room behind one of these walls.


Has her life day come early?

This is the best puzzle, and Palpatine takes detailed notes on the map she's making, kicks herself about not bringing more bags at first and then not more supplies to camp out here - 

And there's a hidden room. 

Palpatine sets out with a mixture of calm methodology and following her instincts to get into it.


Her instinct is that it's something to do with those sigils. They're all over the facility, but a close examination (pushing past the strange shiver) will reveal that the ones in the corner of interest are of slightly different style than the rest, and spaced oddly.

(It's a boundary, a border, a wall. To pass the wall you must pass the gate to pass the gate you must find the gate to find the gate you acknowledge the extent of the wall. To acknowledge is to know is to define is to exclude, by excluding invert and become inclusion. Or the possibility thereof. Worth is proven, not given. Worth is the combination of power and knowledge, demonstrated. A sacrifice is required.)


- They're spaced oddly because one's missing.

She doesn't know this writing system (yet), but she is clever and good at patterns and had that same phase where she got really obsessed with codebreaking and decoding ancient lost writings that most Naboo girls do. 

She circuits the facility a few more times to confirm her hunch, to fix in her mind what exactly she should do - 

And then she cuts her finger and draws the missing sigil in her own blood. 


It glows with unearthly light, the power sucking through like a rushing wind-

(The deep-felt pulse, a constant badum-badum in the back of her mind this whole time ticks up in tempo.)

And there is the doorway, the same as all the rest. Written above in plain letters, The Sleeper.


Her heartrate matches the pulse in her mind. 

And she opens the door. 


Banks of computers, a pedestal with a length of gleaming metal cylinder atop, a generator, data readouts, medical equipment, the most elaborate bacta tank she's ever seen-


And in the tank, a woman opening her eyes.


Oh wow she's pretty. 

Palpatine steps just inside the doorway, watching with fascination. 


A flick of her wrist, and the fluid in the tank begins draining. The glass walls retract and she steps out with a motion that is either a flourish or a well-disguised stumble.

(To say this was not how she expected to wake... would not be the entire truth. She was not expecting to wake at all. This girl feels untrained, but she opened the vault. There are no other presences nearby.)

"...Who- are... you?" she asks. (Her voice is not rusty from disuse, thanks to the kolto, but remembering how to move it takes a moment.)


...She feels a weird, deep set revulsion to claiming the name Palpatine here. 

"A researcher," is what she says instead. "Who are you?"


"You opened the door without knowing?"

"Foolish." Another twitch of her hand, and the metal cylinder flies smoothly from its pedestal into her grasp. She holds it like a weapon.


"I wanted to find out."

(Her eyes dilate a bit. That was the Force, indisputably, probably a lightsaber in the woman's hand.)


"That instinct will get you killed. You have no training."

"What year is it?"


She gives the year. 

"Training in what?"


(...Significantly longer than planned. Hm. Potentially problematic.)

"Archaeology. Or the Force."


(Soft, wanting breath.)

"Are you offering?"


"You still haven't told me who you are."




"The names I've been given don't matter."


Hum. (What would her own teacher say...)

"I am Lord Sicaria, a Sith of the Empire who kneels at the foot of the Pyramid of Ancient Knowledge, a silent blade, a shadow in the night. Slayer of Ilum, Oricon, Ziost."

"You, nameless and wandering. Child. Researcher. Fool. Tell me why I should spend my effort on you."


She lifts her chin - eyes nearly flashing as she examines Lord Sicaria, and she'd been immensely hard to read in the Force already, only not mistakeable for a Force null because she was too perfectly innocuous - 

And. Well. 

It's not exactly that she's suddenly easy to read, nor even necessarily any harder. Her emotions are that same placid naive inoffensiveness, that same braggado - but Sicaria can see now the mask as the darkness coiled under her skin slips past the edges. (She isn't doing it on purpose. She's posturing, is how she thinks of it. Adjusting her mask. Projecting confidence, will - )

(She's definitely untrained. It's almost like the Force doesn't care.)

"Children grow," she says, "And they remember their teachers well."


She's going to have to posture a lot harder to make an impression on Sicaria. This is... cute.

"True enough. But I wonder..."


She is beginning to loom without looming, a shadow creeping taller as the sun sets, a dizzy shift of perspective pulling the world into new focus. The nervous sensation that one should be checking for her presence behind their shoulder rather than in front of them. The icy drip of sweat down the back from the assured knowledge that the target of the hunt has been cornered. "...if you know what it is you are asking for."


"That's what I'd like to find out."

(She is Zero Intimidated. Either in terms of what she's projecting or in terms of what she feels at any layer of her selfhood. From the look in her eyes she can't quite control, that isn't just arrogance. Foolishness, perhaps, but the foolishness of someone who looks at a soaring mountain peak and immediately starts planning her eventual climb.)


In the time it takes to blink, Sicaria crosses the distance between them and has her lightsaber at Palpatine's throat, one crimson blade hissing an incautious breath from burning a streak across her throat. Not that she can move that much; Sicaria has her locked up tight with the Force, secure in her grip.

"As I said. Foolish."

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