Darth Rakshas sat motionless upon the mandala that dominated the centre of his meditation room. The room was dark, and Rakshas was silhouetted against the glowing, auburn night sky of Coruscant as he gazed into the scrying-glass clasped between his hands.

There were things that Rakshas found unable to control, and this frustrated him. He had Senator Thraurrallgisc safely under lock and key, but then there were the Jedi. Most were blind to his existence, being passively led by his will as if they were sheep, but there were a minority that seemed to march to the beat of a different drum. These maverick Jedi repeatedly obstructed his plans. Fortunately, having defeated the Sith nearly a thousand years ago, they myopically believed the Dark Order to be extinct. The Jedi refused to believe in the Sith. This stubbornness would be their downfall.

Darth Rakshas considered things carefully. The Sith must not be revealed; the time was not yet right.

Rakshas viewed himself within the chain of circumstances that would destroy the Republic. Patience was of the essence. The Jedi would not know of the Sith until it was too late, and by then, the Dark Side would be unstoppable.

Darth Rakshas stared into his scrying-glass, exploring the nuances of the Force. He focused upon the small, green planet of Naboo, where his Hand was entertaining selected executives from his organisation.

Moving on, Rakshas noticed two figures trekking across the mountain range close to his mansion, and he knew precisely who they were. He was dealing with their employer, and soon he would deal with them. The two figures, human and Wookiee, had been joined by a third, small, weak animal concealed within the Wookiee’s backpack.

Rakshas knew exactly what they were planning to do, and he knew that they would fail. The travellers had no idea that they were being watched.

The Force seemed smooth in texture until now. Darth Rakshas concentrated upon the white sprawl of his palace. Here, the Force was corrupted, the disturbance crude, as if its source had attempted to conceal itself. The Dark Lord considered this. There was only one conclusion. "Jedi," he whispered to the air. "There’s a Jedi in my Mansion!"

Rakshas rose from the mandala. If the Jedi gained access to his private records, them his plans could be exposed and the Sith could face destruction. He considered Japhta Fett. He was the Master, and he needed an apprentice. Fett was perfect. She must be informed.


* * *


Japhta Fett dined with Minister Whyteleafe and their aides at a long, extravagantly laid table that dominated the centre of the Dining Room. The room was grotesquely over decorated, with architectural features from many different cultures all mixed together in a confused mishmash of mouldings, friezes and gold leaf. The ceiling was high, and from it hung a vulgar chandelier.

Polite conversation echoed around the table as Japhta and her guests ate. They were attended to by the Butler, underbutlers and an army of footmen who stood to attention, moving occasionally to replenish wine glasses and remove empty plates.

The Butler was a loud, larger-than-life man, whose demeanour had been suppressed by professional etiquette over the decades. He had worked here at Fort Myreion since it had been built, and was proud to be employed by whom he considered to be the First Couple of the Galactic Republic.

He was discreet almost to the point of invisibility; such was his professionalism. He saw everything and yet saw nothing. His job, with all of its intimacy, was a position of trust. As the Butler of Fort Myreion, Fil Goldby was bound by the rules of confidentiality.

As he gently laid a dish of roast wol cabasshite in liminj sauce before his Mistress, Fil felt a faint tingling in his left wrist. His calling bracelet had been activated. His attention was needed elsewhere.

"Excuse me, My Lady," coughed Fil in his rough-but-refined accent as he straightened up and left the room.

Fil returned a few seconds later and bowed to Japhta. "I beg your pardon, My Lady," he whispered, "but His Lordship requires you to make contact with him."

"Thank you, Goldby," said Japhta without looking up at him. She took one last mouthful of her meal before rising from the table. The chefs had excelled themselves today. As she rushed through the Long Gallery on her way to the Library, she decided that Adoum and Li would be commended.



Two guardtrropers flanked the reinforced door to the Library, accompanied by a Cyborrean nek battle dog. They moved silently aside as Japhta Fett approached.

Japhta raised her hand and the door opened, lifting into the recesses of the ceiling with a quiet scrape. She slinked through the doorway and into a short vestibule where a wall-mounted laser scanner extended out upon its pantograph, its lens coming to rest level with the top of Japhta’s head. A thin beam shone from the scanner as it tracked downwards, the lens module oscillating madly back and forth as it recorded every detail of Japhta’s face.

There was a pause before a soft, mechanical voice floated into the vestibule:

"Welcome, Lady Fett."

The far door slid open as the scanner retreated into its socket. Catlike, Japhta crept through, the door dropping shut behind her.

The Library housed the MHG Central Holocron, which linked with every department and subsidiary of this vast, galactic corporation, hence the heavy security measures at the door. Mandalore considered it safer to keep his records away from Coruscant and the eyes of potential computer hackers on the teleweb. The Holocron dominated the centre of the Library, a large, crystalline monolith set upon an altar surrounded by the tall shelves that displayed Mandalore’s priceless collection of books, documents that were older than the Republic itself. The books were printed in an age when ink and paper ruled supreme as the medium for the written word.

The floor around the altar was patterned with ancient symbols and geometric shapes. Plasma candles flickered in a circle around it, casting an eerie light upon the face of Japhta Fett as she knelt before the Holocron.

The Holocron began to glow, and the face of Darth Rakshas appeared within. Japhta smiled, a smile that was not acknowledged by her Master’s unmoving features.

"I’m missing you, my Lord," said Japhta in her soft voice.

"Good-good," said Rakshas, without emotion. Japhta was worried. Lord Rakshas seemed subdued, as if something was not going to plan. She feared that she might be at fault, that she might have failed in some way. She knew the Sith Code. There is no failure; there is death.

"There is a disturbance in the Force," announced the image of Darth Rakshas. "We must bring forward our plans to release the Black Rot."

"A disturbance, My Lord?"

"There’s a Jedi on Naboo."

"A Jedi?" said Japhta with slight disbelief and more than a little scorn. "I don’t think we should concern ourselves with a mere Jedi. Even that wrinkled old Yoda knows better than to cross our lawyers."

Rakshas scowled from within the Holocron. He did not expect such flippancy from his Hand. He was disappointed. "You seem to be forgetting your duties as the Hand of the Sith," he said coldly.

Japhta’s face fell, her gaze meeting the patterned floor. She had failed her Master. She was ashamed.

"You have been negligent, Japhta. This Jedi has infiltrated the Mansion."

Japhta’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. She had been careless, and there was no excuse for her failure. She closed her eyes and waited for her final punishment.

The punishment never came, and Japhta began to relax.

"You will hunt down and destroy this Jedi spy," said Darth Rakshas quietly. "My belief is that it is one of the servants."

Japhta frowned. "Which one?"

"That’s for you to find out," said the image of Rakshas as a gentle breeze flickered the plasma candles around the Holocron. "The Force will guide you."

"What of the spies we caught on Despayre, My Lord?"

"As you know, we also have the pleasure of their company on Naboo, and they are planning to raid our Hangar. They will fail."

Japhta smiled at Darth Rakshas. She was desperate to return to his favour. "I will do as you bid, My Lord," she whispered, gazing into his deep, black eyes.

"Good-good," said Rakshas. "You must remember that it is my love for you, and only that love, that has prevented me from killing you for your failure. You now have only one option. You will destroy this rogue Jedi."

"Yes, My Lord," whispered Japhta as she bowed her head. She knew that she had been redeemed, and she was grateful. She loved her Master.

"This Jedi is strong, Japhta; dangerously strong. Destroy it and I will grant you more power than you could possibly imagine. We will rule together as Master and Apprentice."

The Holocron began to fog in the manner of a scrying-glass, the mist engulfing the form of Darth Rakshas. The Library seemed to calm as the Dark Lord’s energy dispersed.

Filled with a renewed sense of hope, Japhta turned and glided out. She might have made a mistake in allowing a Jedi Knight to spy on Mandalore, but she had been given the chance to redeem herself, a redemption that was strictly against the Code.

We will rule together as Master and Apprentice. It slowly began to sink in. She had been offered the chance of Sith Apprenticeship should she destroy this Jedi spy. Japhta’s heart thumped in her chest, as if it were attempting to escape the confines of her ribcage to seek a more fulfilling life elsewhere.

Master and Apprentice— A new era was dawning for Japhta Fett, and she would have to think of a new Sith moniker for herself. She paused in the corridor outside the Library as the guardtroopers and their nek watched with respectful silence.

Japhta Fett vowed that she would carry out her Master’s instructions to the letter. This rogue Jedi, whoever it was, would be rooted out and killed. Nobody would jeopardise the goals of the Sith.

Forward to Chapter 23

Back to Chapter 21