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Sep 29, 2022 3:06 AM
Someone important is dead. Kina Skywalker takes this personally.
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"There's a tradeoff between stability and speed of response in any government.  2000 Senators ensure that the Republic continues on in all but monumentally unprecedented circumstances.  One despot can order mass executions at his whim.  Frankly, the problem I see in the Republic, that you have not actually addressed, is that it's actually both too weak and too centralized, if the situations of individual systems must be dealt with by desperate petition to a central authority who is swamped with the complaints of thousands more, regardless of the Republic not even giving that alleged authority any actual power to act.  And as far as the several decades of life expectancy...you're privileging the second-order effects of what you've built, over what you destroyed.  How many lives could a hundred Jedi have personally saved, let alone helped better via other skills?  How many lives has your apprentice taken, simply via Naboo?  I'll give you some credit for the medicine...but it's not outweighed by the costs."

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"We've only killed a dozen or so Jedi," Plagueis says, "but yes, I understand your point. Naboo contains a supermajority of the cost we've had to impose, but it was necessary for our success. Unfortunately, most of the numbers you're getting are deliberately masked - if I was able to give you a full list, you would see that we have saved more lives than have been lost on Naboo. But really, where the list is now isn't of much importance. Once I finish certain projects that have not been released, then I hope to save quadrillions from death."

"Yes, Skywalker. The goal is immortality. I already have the power to keep any Force-user safe from any natural damage to the body, permanently. Once I can generalize it to others, then the few deaths I bring will be the last the galaxy sees."

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"That's a legitimately interesting line of research.  What's giving you trouble with generalizing the technique?"

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"It's directly tied to the midi-chlorians, which most people contain only a small amount of. I'm hoping to either enhance the power of individual midi-chlorians or to artificially create substitutes, but I haven't found a way to do either to any sustainable degree. And of course if everyone in the galaxy became able to use the Force, there would be side effects, not all of them good."

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"...Hmm.  You know, this opens up some very interesting options.  Most of them, however, depend on your ability to conduct yourself according to your incentives, and that you are not simply lying to me about what your real goals are.

"So.  How would you propose proving your goal-alignment to me?"

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"If you want proof that I really am capable of curing diseases, the next time I develop something useful and drop it on someone's doorstep, I'll sign a note as 'back-alley surgeon with a hacksaw.' No, scratch that, it would give the wrong impression to everyone but you, I'll just abbreviate it 'BASWAH' and let them think it's a name. But it could take a month or so before I have something else good to release, and in any case, it's my motives you're concerned about. Hmm. There are ways to feel someone's motives through the Force, but I suspect I'd be able to disguise myself even from you. Still probably worth a try."

"Oh! Here's something I can do!" A knife emerges from Plagueis's sleeve without warning, and before Kina can even flinch, the small lock of her hair tied in the Padawan style has fallen to the ground. "That'll stay cut even once you wake up. Doesn't prove I have good motives, but it shows I'm not your enemy, seeing as I could have killed you but chose not to."

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"It does prove you prefer me alive."

She seems surprisingly unruffled by the knife's passing.

"But yes, let's see if we can discern your motives, shall we?"

And Kina practices the virtue of cooperation by not just probing Plagueis' mind by herself - she invites along every single Jedi in the room; all is one in the Force, and her bonds are not weakness but strength.

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The Jedi High Council isn't at its strongest. With several gone on various missions, and Yoda still somehow stuck, they don't have a lot of firepower compared to usual. But... given that their usual is one of the most powerful forces in the galaxy, they're still doing fine. Six Jedi materialize in the emptiness, several already drawing their lightsabers, but staying cautious, he likely has some tricks still up his sleeves.

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"Oh, so this is your plan!" says Plagueis. "Interesting, I don't seem to be able to leave. Kina, I thought we were having a polite conversation!"

The smile hasn't left his face, but he's letting his anger bubble up just beneath the surface, in case he needs it.

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"I think this is actually reasonably polite, considering the overall circumstances!  No-one's fighting yet!  Now, I do believe you said you could fool me if I were to probe your intentions...but can you fool me, and all of them?"

Kina is holding fast to the connection...and now, where once Plagueis had to push...Kina, hopefully with the Council's aid, is going to pull.

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"I truly do want to try to fool them, but I suppose you deserve to see a little. Do I have the word of the Council that once my terrible, awful goals have been revealed to be nothing but ending death and a few of the galaxy's other problems, I'll be allowed to leave?"

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"No," says Tiin. "Even, Eeth, watch him for any trouble, and help me hold him here. Yarael, Depa, Yaddle, break this Sith."

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"I don't really appreciate - " Plagueis pauses. "Oh, here we go."

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There's a stream of memories, locked behind Plagueis's control at first, but the Jedi force their way through it, each with their own tricks. And now -

- there's a boy at a funeral, clearly Plagueis at a younger age. He's sobbing as he sees the coffin going deeper into the ground, and there's a man kneeling down to comfort him. "I know you're upset, [----]," he says, "and I miss your mother too, but you have to - "

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"Go back!" says Yaddle. "The name, we need."

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Depa slams into Plagueis with her consciousness, and he falters for a moment. Yaddle tries to pull the threads of time back, but Plagueis continues to resist. Yarael tries another route, whispering to Plagueis in his own voice, letting him hear what seems to be his own thoughts saying that he can reveal himself now, it won't matter once he's killed the Jedi... no, that didn't fool him, did it.

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Kina, frankly, thinks that they can find out more if they continue onwards.  A puzzle with more pieces is better, even if they don't have the corner yet.  And she actually wants to know his motivations!  Maybe there's a chance!

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The vision flickers, then returns to where it was. "You have to accept that she's not coming back," his father is saying. "I know you didn't want this to happen. None of us did. But this is a part of the natural progression of life! Nobody can live forever!"

"I wanted her to," wails the boy. "Why does she have to go?"

"That's just how the world is," his father says. "There's no sense in fighting what you can't - "

And the boy pushes him away, throwing him to the other side of the field, over twenty people to land in a heap in the grass. "I will! I don't care if it's natural, I'm not going to die!"

He only realizes then what his hands have done. How did that even - he felt something happen, the second when he got so angry - he's running, not by any conscious decision, but because it's the only thing he can do. He finds himself in the hole next to the coffin, and he's touching his mother's body now, trying to pull her back with whatever this force is, but it's not working and he's only getting more and more furious and it's giving him more energy but he can't -

Then a shadow of a breath escapes his mother's lips.

Relief washes over him. Joy. He just has to maintain whatever it is he's doing, he can feel her returning... but just as he realizes that maybe she will come back, the power leaves him.

She doesn't breathe again.

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...Well.  She has a complaint to file with the Dark Side's management, someday, because that was, in fact, sands-blasted messed-up bantha dung, and she's sorry that it happened to him.  She keeps pulling in the stream of memories, finds the next link in the chain -

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He's older. Typing into a computer, looking over a hologram of a midi-chlorian, zooming in on the molecular structures inside, taking notes...

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All right, they've seen more than enough. After asking Yarael to weave a convincing distraction, Tiin draws his lightsaber again, calling Eeth Koth and Even Piell to his side, and swings downward -

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- and the Force she's still wide open to tells Kina that someone's about to be a kriffing moron so she yanks the Jedi that is about to try to stab the Sith Lord away, having to let her grip on the vision slacken for a moment to cover them in a snap-hiss of telekinetically-whirling saber interposed between that Jedi and the Sith for an infinitely long second as she shouts "Stabbing the Sith while we're digging around in his mind hurts us, you sunsscorched -" and recovers her saber and pulls again on that memory chain -

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The memory keeps playing for a few seconds, but not much comes through before Plagueis manages to wrench his attention from the mind tricks. Drawing his own lightsaber, he marches across the void towards Tiin. He's angry, not even a deliberate calling of the dark side, but a natural fury. "That was a mistake," Plagueis hisses.

In the back of his mind, buried because he can't afford to think happy thoughts right now, something is grateful to have a good excuse to kill Jedi.

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"So is proving them right."

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