"Palpatine is not Force sensitive," the Jedi Acantha Sul announced, returning the device to the pouch on her belt, "His Midichlorian count is as normal as that of any other youngling."
Maris progressed down the hallway, the heavy swish of fabric punctuated by the sharp click of a cane striking marble; the pace of a woman twenty years her senior. Bearing the child had been a risk to her life yet she loved Nilias enough to sacrifice herself for his happiness, just as Nilias loved her enough to let her.
He is so quiet, she thought as she approached the cradle that stood beneath the open window. Not like Chaliapin. He screamed every day of his life until he finally learned to speak, and once he could, he never seemed to stop talking. Briefly she closed her eyes drawing the moist evening air deep into her lungs. She tasted the scent of grass mingled with the fragrant /mangrine /flowers that flourished in the courtyard below; it returned her to peace.
"Will they come, Nilias?" she asked shifting her weight against the edge of the cradle. Her husband trod softly as always, but she didn't need to hear him to be aware of his presence.
"We cannot prevent it. If Chaliapin hadn't been one of them there would be no interest in us at all."
/If Chaliapin hadn't been one of them/, /we wouldn't have needed to have him/. But Maris left the bitter thought unvoiced, unwilling to begin the argument that would follow. She angled her head so that she could observe her husband's profile, but she saw not the greying hair and creased brow of the ageing bureaucrat. To her he was always the young man, confident and having ambition only to serve the government of the small planet of Naboo; the man destined to remove her from the employment of her own overly ambitious and acquisitive father. /What a relief it was to embrace domesticity/, she thought wryly, /Even if Nilias was more attracted by my father's bank balance than the prospect of marriage/.
"Is there nothing you can do?" she questioned, "You must be aware of the right people to speak to."
"We do not live in a society where payment guarantees success," he said irritably, "That may have been the way things worked beyond the rim, but here we have rules, and here we follow those rules."
"For a republic that calls itself a democracy the Jedi have a disproportionate amount of influence," Maris said, skirting the only subject on which she was incendiary.
"And without that influence hoards of pirates, conmen and freeloaders from the edges of the galaxy would be upon us, your family first amongst them."
Maris' teeth clamped on the soft interior of her cheek. "It didn't bother you when we wed," she said her tone betraying little of the annoyance his words caused.
"It doesn't bother me now, Maris," he replied as if he were addressing a simpleton, "I just think that after all these years you should begin to understand that things are different here. Fast talking. Bribery. They are not part of the status quo. We have order here."
"If I could see the cracks in that order less clearly perhaps I would be less critical of it," Maris responded tightly. He could call her family all the names he liked but her father's enterprise had been an unbounded success specifically because of the strict order he imposed on his employees. "Naboo's democracy is a second rate order within a weak republic, Nilias. Where is the stability in a coalition that daily expands its borders yet trusts the keeping of law to a group of quasi religious fanatics who seek to protect their own integrity above all else? Chaliapin is proof! See the truth in that if you cannot see it any other way."
And finally the reason for his tension was exposed. Maris had been too absorbed in her own worries to see it, too quick to lose her temper.
"I don't even want them near him," Nilias said weakly, his brow creasing as he exhaled "I don't want to risk him going to that place."
"It wasn't like that with Chaliapin." Maris laid her hand on his arm, the fabric ruched beneath her fingertips, "You were so proud, Nilias." /And, /she added to herself, /later, so sorrowful/.
"I have changed since then," he said, "How could I not? I regret the choices I made. Nothing would induce me to repeat them."
"This is not your choice to make," she continued taking his hands in hers, "How do you know that you will not feel the same pride if he is sensitive to the Force?"
"How can you ask that?" he snapped pulling away, "the Jedi order stood back and watched my son die. They killed him, Maris! If not for them he would be alive today."
/And how it broke you, /she thought with regret, steadying herself with her cane. "Nilias, we do not know yet even if he is Force sensitive. There is a chance that he is not. If you invite them here it will happen on your terms but if you wait they will come anyway and the pain will be greater."
"In that, you are right."
"Acantha Sul," the human servant announced before stepping out of sight to allow the Jedi to enter the room.
Maris' hands tightened around the arms of her chair as she glanced between the cradle and her husband watching as Nilias gave a curt nod of his head by way of greeting. Finally, her gaze settled on the Jedi; a human woman, compact and coiled. A loaded spring.
"Thank you for journeying to see us, Master Sul" Nilias said coolly, ignoring the restless cry that erupted from the cradle. "My wife, as you can see does not enjoy good health. She was unable to make the trip to Coruscant and she would not hear of having you see the boy outside her presence."
"Thank you for receiving me in your home, Madam," Acantha Sul said, lowering her gaze to regard Maris' seated form. Maris did not trust herself to speak, her fingers straining against hard carved wood. Instead she looked through her visitor to Nilias. Unperturbed, Acantha Sul continued, "When we identify one who is Force sensitive we take him with us for training in the temple on Coruscant. Often a child will be a year or two old before he starts to exhibit signs, but with a quick test we will have a reliable indication of whether or not he has the connection. It will be several years before we begin to understand just what poten ..."
"Master Sul," Nilias interrupted stepping toward the Jedi, "We heard this speech before when our first son Chaliapin was admitted to your temple. Please do not insult us by explaining again." Now Acantha did show surprise, elicited, Maris assumed by her husband's bluntness rather than a lack of knowledge of their circumstances. "I have sought no contact with any member of your order since the enquiry into his death." Nilias continued, "and it is with deepest reserve that I invite you here today. I believe though, that if he is sensitive to your Force then your order remains the best place for him."
Acantha Sul pursed her lips, then nodded, "It was an unfortunate incident, Sir," she said, "one greatly regretted by the Jedi order."
"Almost as unfortunate as the result of your investigation was convenient, for your order that is. Chaliapin was three years old when you took him from us and thirteen when you released his body. You aimed to sever him from us, we accepted that necessity, but whilst he was alive the distance you created was nothing. I could imagine him growing, becoming everything he was meant to become. You took that from me."
"Chaliapin was chosen to be my Padawan learner," Acantha told him. Fleetingly, Maris had the impression that the Jedi retreated deep into the folds of her robes as if fleeing her loss, then just as quickly, she returned composed. "When the council received your communication, I asked especially that I be the one to come. The Masters are encouraged that your invitation is a sign of forgiveness."
"Nothing you can say to me will absolve your order of blame for his death." Nilias said, implacable. "You have taken one son from me and destroyed him and now you come to take my second," beneath his concealing sleeves Maris knew that his fingernails drove hard into the soft flesh of his palms.
Perhaps aware that words would make no difference Acantha Sul moved directly to the purpose of her visit, "May I see him now?" she asked.
As he turned his back on the Jedi and moved towards her, Maris saw how faded Nilias looked but she knew that by the time he turned again he would look strong. She felt the vibration as he placed his hands on the high back of her chair but she did not turn to look at him, that was not what he needed from her now. As Maris straightened, gathering her resolve, the wooden chair creaked beneath her. Calm and with a focus she had not experienced since her youth, Maris swept her arm in an arc toward the cradle beneath the window.
"Nilias Palpatine," she said, and as Acantha Sul moved toward the cradle she added, "Named for my husband and for my own father."
The restless child calmed as the Jedi lifted him from between the crisp sheets. Maris tried to imagine what she was looking for as she stared into the pale blue eyes that were still barely able to focus on what was put before them. Placing him back the Jedi took something from a pouch at her belt.
Her view obscured by the Jedi's back, Maris could not see what was being done. Then as the boy gave a single shriek she felt her chair shift as Nilias jerked forward in response, ready to rescue his son.
"Stop," she hissed, hand darting out with unaccustomed speed to stop him interfering. She looked up at him, measuring his surprise against her own, "Stand calm," she pleaded.
They remained that way, eye to eye, hand to hand, frozen, until the Jedi turned back to them, "Nilias Palpatine is not Force sensitive," Acantha Sul announced, stowing her device, "His midichlorian count is as normal as that of any other youngling."
incitata @ livejounal.com
This fic is based around my personal speculations about Palpatine's origins and how he came to the Force and to the Senate. At the moment I have no beta so there are probably a few grammatical errors that I missed - apologies.
Feedback is encouraged and appreciated.
Alphabetised Points of Waffle:
/Extended Universe/: I am not familiar with the EU after ROTS. Aside from the OT and PT my sources are novels, the Star Wars Role Playing Game, wikipedia.org and the databank at starwars.com. I hope not to contradict the EU but ask your forgiveness for any minor infractions (and expect your thwapping for any major/avoidable breach)..
/Mangrine flowers/: are a fiction. I searched for some source relating to the flora of Naboo but found nothing. I wanted something a little more unique than some type of rose or of lilac, something unique to Naboo.
/Maris and Nilias/: The names are a nod to /Frasier /another favourite show of mine.
/Palpatine/: I have spent a lot of time trying to decide whether or not Palpatine is a surname or a given name. The usage Senator Palpatine/Supreme Chancellor Palpatine suggest that it is a surname. Emperor Palpatine, however suggests it is a given name. I lean towards the former though for the purposes of this fic it is a given name.