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Heretic Pride

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Jedi Master Dooku, former apprentice to Master Yoda himself, has an extensive file in the Jedi Archives. Count Dooku, honorary ruler of Serenno and leader of the Separatist movement against the Republic, has a far shorter career to chronicle, and his file contains nearly as many unanswered questions as verified facts, but it’s nevertheless an impressive record.

Yan Dooku, eldest son of the ruling house of Serenno, doesn’t exist at all.

The previous Count of Serenno, apparently Dooku’s younger brother, now deceased, was a man named Sertius Tyro. He succeeded his father Palinus Tyro. The Tyro family, according to the database, has held the county of Serenno for the last five centuries, under authority granted them by the ruling monarch of the Marollin system.

It still does, technically. Yan Dooku was born Arvanus Tyro. But at the age of two, he was inducted into the Jedi Order and, in the wording of the Archives, foreswore his former name and title in order to dedicate himself fully to the life of a Jedi and the will of the Force.

Aloo doesn’t know how long she’s been staring at that section of the entry now. The words seem burned into her mind. If she closes her eyes, she knows she’ll see them just as clearly.

She was born with another name, too. Ilaré Naberrie. She wonders if someday, when she’s been on enough missions to have an entry of her own in the Archives, Aloo Darie too will be listed as having foresworn her name and family to join the Order.

But no, Dooku’s birth name is only listed in his file because he left. Because there is no need to protect him from the danger of attachment anymore, but there might be a need for other Jedi researchers to understand why the county of Serenno chose to recognize him as Sertius Tyro’s heir, and why he chose to claim that inheritance.

She wonders how he came to know of his birthright in the first place. Had the Council informed him of his family connections as a matter of course following his resignation from the Order? Had he demanded the information before he left? Had he consulted his own detailed file in the Archives, a file only accessible to Jedi Masters, or perhaps asked Madame Nu to find the information for him?

Or had he acted earlier, in secret defiance, a knight or even a padawan seeking forbidden knowledge and holding it close and unspoken for years? Had he contacted his family in the years before he left the Order? Had he learned who Arvanus Tyro was, and had the name ever truly felt like his?

Aloo doesn’t like the direction of her thoughts at all, but she can’t avoid them. She can’t forget the name Ilaré Naberrie, or the way Jobal and Ruwee – her parents – stumbled, just briefly, over “Aloo” the last time they talked.

They’ve never called her Ilaré, though. Not even once.

She wonders if Dooku ever spoke with his family before he left. And if he did, what did they call him? Yan, or Arvanus?

Aloo has never spoken with anyone about her two names. Not with Miik or Palek or Ahsoka. Not with Padmé or Sola or their parents. Not even with Anakin, who holds her secrets as closely as his own.

But Anakin has always been Anakin. He came to the Order too old, with deep attachments to his mother and his culture, and he’s never let go. Aloo knows he should. She thinks he knows that, too, but then, they also both know that he won’t. If she were ever to ask him directly, he would probably just laugh and then say something about unconditional love and his mother’s stories.

Aloo doesn’t know any of her mother’s stories. Maybe Ilaré does, or would, but she is not Ilaré.

And Yan Dooku, it seems, is not Arvanus Tyro. Even now, nearly a decade after leaving the Jedi Order and seven years after laying claim to the Tyro ancestral seat, the Count of Serenno still calls himself Yan Dooku.

*

Wrangling ten people for a picnic is a much more complicated effort than Anakin would have expected.

The droids have decided to stay at the lake house. Artoo insists he needs to remain and monitor communications, while Threepio insists that he needs to remain and monitor Artoo. Shmi and Kitster, like Anakin, are a bit bemused but prepared to go without any fuss. The Naberries, however, approach the whole affair as though preparing for a complex mission.

Ryoo and Pooja attempt to dash out of the house the instant they hear the word “picnic,” but their parents catch them and inform them sternly they have to dress for the excursion. Apparently, this involves putting on particular shoes and clothing that “won’t get filthy,” as Sola says, though Anakin isn’t really sure what that means. Surely anything can get dirty?

Ruwee insists that he needs to collect any number of things, from blankets to holorecorders, and sets off to do so with the look of a man undertaking a vital and perilous quest. Padmé, still dressed in senatorial finery for the sake of her comcalls, frowns down at her dress and announces she needs to go change. Jobal recruits Shmi to help her pack the picnic basket, which is somehow still not complete, and shoos Anakin and Kitster unceremoniously out of the kitchen.

Kitster snickers as they go. “Naboo,” he says fondly, shaking his head. “We won’t leave for an hour at least.”

He says it jokingly, but Anakin figures he’s probably right all the same, and that leaves him with enough time to make one more comcall.

Jocasta’s image appears with a scowl, but it clears somewhat when she sees him. “I hope you have some information for me, young one,” she says without preamble.

“More questions than answers, I’m afraid,” Anakin says with a sigh. “But I do have enough to reconstitute our entry on Kamino.”

He tells her all about their research, and sends her a copy of the Naboo database’s entry on Kamino, which Padmé assured him he has permission to share. Jocasta accepts it with poor grace, though he understands why. The Jedi Archives are the most extensive in the galaxy. Planetary governments and Republic agencies alike come to them for thorough, accurate information that will be accepted as authoritative everywhere.

The files deleted from the Archives represent far more than the loss of that data alone. They are a direct challenge to the integrity of the archive itself, and therefore a challenge to the neutral authority of the Jedi Order and the Republic it serves.

“Grandmother,” Anakin begins hesitantly. He knows she doesn’t particularly want to discuss this, and maybe there’s no point so long as the Council refuses to investigate, but… “We need to know who deleted this information. Now more than ever. And I know the Council doesn’t want to consider it, but –”

“But only a Jedi Master should have access to alter the Archives,” says Jocasta with a sigh. “I know.” Her eyes harden. “So we’re dealing with a security breach at best, and at worst…”

At worst, a traitor. A double agent within the Order. Or, perhaps worst of all, one now outside the Order. A former Jedi.

That’s what Anakin fears most, and it’s the one possibility he’s never suggested to Madame Nu. But it’s also the theory that increasingly seems to make the most sense of the facts.

Who would stand to benefit from destabilizing the Republic and the Jedi Order? That’s the question they’ve been asking, and it’s the question the Council has considered, to the extent they’ve addressed the issue at all. It’s a question that can never really be answered, because the seemingly endless variety of possible answers renders it meaningless.

But are there many criminal operations or extremist political movements that would be capable of both accessing and altering the Jedi Archives, and could do so without once triggering any of the many security protocols built in to the Archives? Anakin doubts it. In fact, he can think of only one movement that would fit that description.

The de facto leader of the Separatist movement is Yan Dooku, a former Jedi Master. And one of Madame Jocasta Nu’s closest friends.

He is also someone who might conceivably want the senator most known for her opposition to the Military Creation Act gone from Coruscant.

Of course, Count Dooku insists that his movement is not a violent one. He speaks eloquently about the peaceful withdrawal of the Separatist worlds from the Republic, about his desire for a diplomatic approach to what could be an amicable divorce, if only the Republic would agree to negotiate in good faith.

He’s quite convincing, Anakin will give him that. Convincing enough to fool the Council and most of the Order, in fact. Count Dooku is an idealist and a former Jedi, more than one Master has said in holonet news interviews. His goals may be wrongheaded but they have no doubt that he is committed to a peaceful resolution.

Perhaps, if Anakin had been raised in the Temple, he would believe that too. And perhaps the Masters are right in their assessment, and he is simply being paranoid. But he can’t help thinking that he’s seen Dooku’s strategy before, even used it himself.

Once, when he was seven years old and had just lost his tenth podrace, Sebulba caught him in the garage looking over the remains of his pod. The Dug had only intended to frighten him with words, Anakin’s pretty sure, but Sebulba had always been easy to goad and even easier to read. Anakin left that garage with three broken bones and five witnesses, and the next day, Sebulba was forced to pay Watto a not inconsiderable fee for damage to his property. It was weeks before all of Anakin’s scrapes and bruises faded, and his wrist never did feel quite the same, but Sebulba never touched him again.

Dooku says he doesn’t want war with the Republic, and Anakin can easily believe he doesn’t – or, at least, he doesn’t want to be the one to start it. But a war initiated by the Republic? That could only further serve his purposes. And Padmé is right in her assessment: if the Military Creation Act is approved, the Separatists will see it as tantamount to a declaration of war. Anakin’s not sure they would be wrong.

There’s some connection between the missing information in the Archives – the information that led Obi-Wan to Kamino – and the attempts on Padmé’s life. He can feel that, a clear and immediate sense in the Force that leaves him absolutely certain. Anakin doesn’t want to think that Dooku himself is the connection, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the possibility.

And yet he still can’t bring himself to voice his thoughts to Jocasta. She’s always been so indignant in her insistence that leaving the Order does not make Dooku a heretic or an enemy of the Republic. And, troona, he wants to believe that, too. He wants to believe that’s possible, that he – that someone could leave the Order and still be a good person, still follow the will of the Force. Jocasta is the only Jedi he’s ever heard say anything like that, and Dooku has always been the shining example of her point.

He hopes desperately that he isn’t right. It would break her heart.

So he doesn’t mention anything about Dooku. Only a Jedi Master could alter the Archives. They both know that. But everything else is just speculation without further evidence. Until there is evidence, Anakin can afford to keep it to himself.

“Perhaps this new information will be enough to induce the Council to act,” Jocasta is saying with a distinct scowl. “If Master Kenobi’s investigation –” She cuts off abruptly, her head craning to one side to peer sharply at something Anakin can’t see. Her frown deepens.

“Grandmother?”

A snort of annoyance escapes Jocasta. “Well,” she mutters. “How very like him.” Her eyes flash back to Anakin, and he sees just a hint of apology amid the irritation. He almost wants to ask who she’s talking about, because there are very few people who can infuriate Madame Nu simply by stepping foot in her Archives, but before he can say anything, she sighs. “Duty calls, young one.” She fixes him with a sharp glare and snaps, “Contact me the moment you learn something new.” And without further warning the connection goes dead.

Anakin allows himself a faint sigh as he slips the com back into a pouch at his belt and heads toward the kitchen. He doesn’t have much hope that the Council will change their position, no matter how Jocasta presents it. But there’s little else he can do from here.

And nothing at all he can do right now. So he does his best to pack his worries away with the com. It doesn’t really work, but a moment later, Padmé reappears, dressed now in a flowing golden gown strewn with flowers, like a living breath of Naboo spring given human form. She beams at him, and Anakin smiles back helplessly. Suddenly, the Council is the very last thing on his mind.

*

Aloo has nearly finished reading the Archive’s entry on the Tyro family when her com pings with a request for assistance. She allows herself a slight groan before rising from her seat, her back popping as she stretches. The stern face of Palinus Tyro stares out at her from the terminal screen as she turns to leave, and without quite understanding why, she pauses to close down her search and erase her history before making her way back to the statue-lined main vestibule of the Archives. Dooku’s portrait seems to stare after her as she passes, and she quickens her step.

Most younglings would say that assisting patrons of the Jedi Archives, whether they be fellow Jedi or the rarer visitors from the Senate or government agencies, is the least tedious aspect of Archive duty. Of course, no one would ever say it in the hearing of a knight or master, and certainly not in a place where their opinions might be overheard by Madame Nu, but they all know it’s true. Aloo herself would have said as much before today.

Now, though, she’s a bit surprised to realize that she just wants to get back to her research, and not even because Master Mundi’s assignment is due in two days. She can practically feel Dooku’s bronze eyes burning into her back, and she hopes that whoever the visitor is, they’ll be quick.

But all thought of her research is pushed aside when she catches sight of the two red-robed guards standing to either side of the great arched entryway. Two more guards are waiting at the assistant’s desk, and between them is the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.

Aloo glances quickly around for Madame Nu, and then for any other master, but there’s no one to be found. Distantly, she thinks that’s quite odd. Surely the Chancellor would have alerted the Council if he planned to visit the Archives?

However that may be, she’s the only one here now, and so it’s her responsibility to represent the Order well. She stops a moment to catch her breath and smooth down her robes and tries to tell herself she’s not nervous.

“Ah,” says the Chancellor as she approaches. “I was beginning to wonder if I’d come at a bad time.” He says it easily, and there’s something like a teasing glint in his eyes, but Aloo thinks there’s just a slight edge to his smile, too. It does nothing for her nerves.

She bows quickly, remembering her etiquette, counting off three seconds in her head before straightening. “I apologize, Chancellor,” she says, and the words sound stiff even to her. “It seems all of the masters are, uh, previously engaged.”

That edge disappears, and the Chancellor’s smile turns warm and indulgent. “That’s quite all right, my dear,” he says with a light chuckle. “It’s likely my own fault, in any case. I really should have commed ahead.” He sighs. “But the life of the Chancellor is so very structured, and I’m afraid there’s a part of me that’s a bit rebellious, and every now and then there is a certain thrill in discarding protocol and schedules.”

His eyes twinkle, and Aloo laughs politely, feeling just a bit more at ease. She can certainly appreciate his reasons.

“I’m sure Madame Nu will be available soon, Chancellor,” she says. “But in the meantime perhaps I can assist you?”

“Thank you, my dear,” he says warmly. “But first may I ask the name of my assistant?”

“Aloo Darie, sir,” she says, glad to give him something else to call her. She’s sure he means “my dear” kindly, but the endearment sits oddly with her, though she can’t say why.

The Chancellor’s reaction, however, is much more animated than she might have expected. “Aloo Darie,” he says, seemingly delighted. “That’s a Naboo name, is it not, my dear?”

Well, Aloo thinks, a little sourly. So much for that. She manages to keep the wince off her face. “Yes, sir. I was born on Naboo.”

Chancellor Palpatine fairly beams at her. “It seems my unannounced arrival has been fortuitous after all,” he says. “Do you know I’ve never before met a Jedi who hails from my home planet? I am quite delighted to meet you, Aloo.”

“Uh, thank you, sir,” Aloo mumbles, uncertain how to reply. She’s suddenly very aware of the fact that the Chancellor knows her sister well, has worked with her for years, has met her parents and older sister, maybe even considers himself a family friend – and that she shouldn’t know any of that.

Does he know about Ilaré? Does he know that Senator Amidala has a sister who’s a Jedi? Does he – does he know that Ilaré Naberrie became Aloo Darie?

There’s no real way for her to guess the answers to those questions. As chancellor he has access to even the most sensitive of Jedi records, and he could certainly have learned the identity of Padmé’s Jedi sister – if he knew to look for her, and chose to do so. Those are big ifs. And Aloo can hardly ask him without admitting that she knows far more than she should herself.

But there’s something in the way he’s looking at her, something almost like mischief mixed with the warmth in his eyes, that leaves her feeling just a little on edge. She isn’t sure why. Would it even really matter if he does know? And yet… His blue eyes twinkle, friendly with a flash of that something else, and she feels oddly transparent before him.

“Is – is there something I can help you with, Chancellor?” she asks, squaring her shoulders and fighting the urge to look away. “Or maybe –”

“Chancellor Palpatine!” a voice snaps behind her, and Aloo starts, her words forgotten.

She turns to find Madame Nu standing there, her mouth twisted in a frown she’s making no effort to hide, her eyes sharp and surprisingly cold as she regards the Chancellor. Aloo blinks in surprise. She’s never seen Madame Nu like this before.

“I don’t believe I received any communication from your office, Chancellor,” the archivist says severely. “Our Archives are of course at your disposal, and I might have arranged to meet you here had I known to expect you. I hope you’ve not wasted too much valuable time.”

Aloo might have been stung by that comment, had she not been watching Madame Nu’s face so closely. But she is, and there’s simply no way she or anyone else could mistake the old woman’s meaning. She’s made no attempt to school her expression, and she hasn’t apologized for failing to meet the Chancellor herself. That would be the expected nicety, Aloo knows, regardless of who was really to blame. Instead she’s all but stated that the Chancellor is at fault for failing to com ahead, and for the resulting waste of time.

And Aloo can’t help but note that Madame Nu hasn’t indicated whose valuable time was wasted. The rules of etiquette say it should be the Chancellor’s, but she doubts that anyone could look at Madame Nu’s face and believe she meant that.

“Not at all, Master Jedi,” Chancellor Palpatine says smoothly. His expression is open and easy, even a bit apologetic. But no one calls Jocasta Nu “Master Jedi,” and he certainly knows that. “I’m afraid that a situation requiring your expertise arose rather suddenly, and I neglected to speak with your Council before coming here. I do hope I haven’t caused any difficulty. But I’ve hardly been waiting long, and Aloo here has been excellent company.”

He offers her a warm smile, one Aloo doesn’t quite manage to return. Over his shoulder, she catches a glimpse of Madame Nu’s narrowed eyes.

“Thank you, young one,” the archivist says briskly. “You may return to your duties now. Chancellor, if you’ll follow me, I will do my best to assist you.”

But she doesn’t sweep away as Aloo might have expected. Instead she moves slowly, looking pointedly back at the Chancellor, who favors Aloo with a bemused smile and says, “Ah well, duty calls. I do hope we’ll have a chance to speak again, my dear.”

“I’d like that, Chancellor,” Aloo mumbles, not entirely certain if she really would or if that’s simply the proper thing to say.

He smiles fondly and reaches out to pat her once on the head before hurrying after Madame Nu. The silent red-robed guards file after him.

Aloo doesn’t move for several long moments, her mind replaying the strange episode. The Chancellor had seemed nice enough, if perhaps a bit odd, but Madame Nu’s reactions had been decidedly strange, and they leave Aloo unsettled.

She wishes Anakin was here. He knows Madame Nu much better than she does, and, she remembers suddenly, he’s friends with the Chancellor too, isn’t he? Or at least they talk fairly often. Is that what Palpatine meant in saying he’d like to speak with her again? That he’s interested in following her progress the way he does Anakin’s?

She’s not quite sure if that thought is flattering or unnerving. Maybe she can slip away after the evening meal tonight and com Anakin. He always seems to know just what questions to ask when she’s trying to sift through her own feelings.

And maybe Padmé can help, too, or Sola and their parents. That thought brings a warm smile to Aloo’s face. She has a family, people she can contact who will listen, and maybe they’ll offer advice or tease her or maybe they’ll share their own stories about Chancellor Palpatine, but at least she can be absolutely certain that none of them will tell her to meditate and seek the will of the Force.

For now, though, the Chancellor is gone and she has her research. Aloo crosses the atrium as quickly as she can without breaking into a run, but she still feels the weight of Dooku’s bronze stare as she goes.