Bringing Korriban up to speed with the rest of the galaxy took a lot of work. Doing so without the peeping eyes of the Jedi and the Republic was more work. Doing so as a runaway former Jedi and a few thousand fugitive clone troopers was even more work. Nevertheless, the new Sith Anakin and the former 501st were more than willing to put in that work.
Not that there were many who would put in that work besides them. No Jedi that Anakin knew would support them and those that did were young and largely untrained, being younglings that no master wanted or whose masters tried to return them to the temples they came from, or even untrained force-sensitives that hadn't been picked up by the Jedi and had lived life afraid of their abilities. No longer, however. Anakin would be their teacher, their master. Their freedom.
The 501st coming with him had at first surprised him. Then, when he really thought about it, his surprise dwindled. There were Generals who didn't care about their men, and his men knew that very well. They had always said that they were loyal to their General, while others said they were loyal to the Republic, a difference he should have noticed beforehand. A difference he was grateful for now.
By now, months after they started rebuilding, the only thing that still needed work was the upper half of the old temple, its grounds and training levels being completely cleaned and repaired and updated. Turns out the black market was good for something after all, including getting information on one felon: Bariss Offee.
Anakin didn't doubt that his freeing her would result in her joining him, but he did doubt how his new order would react to her. Many of the 501st were still fans of Ahsoka, even if she refused to join Anakin and the order again, and blamed Offee for her framing Ahsoka and ultimately causing her to leave. Rex especially.
Speaking of the Captain-turned-Sith-Commander, Rex was currently overseeing the training of new recruits, of whom he was going to lead in the mission to get Offee. These recruits were of all ages and species, opportunists who had seen the chance to change a galaxy they thought was dying. They saw they same thing Anakin had come to realize: the Jedi's stoicism was the last thing a galaxy filled with passion needed. It needed an order that would meet it with as much passion as it threw at them. It needed the Sith.
This isn't to say they agreed on what the new Sith Order should do once they revealed themselves. Some thought they should back the Separatists, some thought they should back the Republic, and all of them had different definitions of helping.
But if there was one thing Anakin didn’t want, it was to enter the war again. Not with an Empire of one planet anyway. Korriban was stronger now than it was when he was a Jedi, but it most certainly isn’t strong enough. As a desert planet, it had very few opportunities for trading, which meant virtually no money. No money meant no resources. There was no way they could do anything without resources. And he couldn’t ask Padme for help because their divorce had been finalized over a year ago now. He couldn’t ask Palpatine because, well, the old man was dead.
It took longer than Anakin would liked to admit, but two years Ahsoka’s exit from the Jedi Order and the death of Dooku, he discovered that Palpatine was Darth Sidious, master to Maul and Dooku both. The bastard tried to get him to join him, to wipe out the Jedi by using the clones. Making his friends mindless in order to kill his other friends. Anakin had managed to expose him to the Senate and Jedi, and for almost an entire day they fought, equal in their dueling. What wasn’t equal was their power. Sidious was practiced, but he was a fly when compared to Anakin’s power. He would leave the Order, taking the 501st with him, the minute he got word the Separatists would continue to fight.
He supposes Sidious would be bitter-sweetly proud of Anakin -- of Darth Vader. He managed to build what Palpatine couldn’t, though with the prospect of peace in mind instead of annihilation. He brought back the Sith, but to build instead of destroy.
“Vader.” He heard from his comm, quickly bringing his arm up to listen more closely, recognizing the voice as Rex’s. “The kid’s trying to get into the ring. Want me to send him up?”
Vader smiled, a small grin gracing his lips. “No, I’m coming down. Just keep him in your sight.” From his mid-level chambers he began to descend the stairs, his light-saber bouncing on his thigh to retrieve his new apprentice.
His Order had several levels of teaching, the first being general studies. That includes academics and non-Force combat. The next level was specialization. The Force-sensitive would learn how to use the Force and those who didn’t would learn how to combat the Force-sensitive. The third level would be an apprenticeship. The last level would be learning on your own, training to develop on your own style. All people got all levels at all times, Anakin believing to be the best way to build not only knowledge, but to also build community.
While he would love to send his apprentice to the training-ring, to see if the boy could keep up with the others, he knew that would be a terrible idea, given that the boy only just learned how to walk.
He entered the room, seeing that Rex was holding the boy on his hip while still somehow perfectly demonstrating a head-level kick that would surely break its victim’s neck. Vader startled Rex, grabbing the hip that was unoccupied by the child and kissed the side of the Commander’s helmeted face, grabbing the child out of his grip.
“Hey there, Ezra. Do you learn more about light-sabers with Master Vader?” Anakin asked the child, smiling grandly when the Bridger clapped his hands and his eyes lit up.
Fives groaned good-naturedly. “Our general’s become domesticated.”
Echo smiled beside him, a student looking between the two clones. “So’s our Commander. Though I have a feeling we should’ve seen this coming.”
The other students laughed, having pieced together Rex’s and Anakin’s mutual attraction ages before the subject of their theorizing had themselves. One of these students meekly walked towards the head of the class, head bowed and eyes shifting nervously. “Lord Vader?”
Vader sat Ezra on the ground beside him as he shifted down to meet the student’s level. “Yes, Caleb?”
Dume took a breath before meeting the Sith Grand Master’s eyes. “I found my new kyber crystal, sir.” He held it out for the older to inspect. Anakin grabbed it softly, eyes running over all the lines and edges of the orange-red crystal. It glowed a harsh burnt-orange color that matched Anakin’s own eyes. A quick evaluation in the Force told Anakin that this crystal and Caleb were, indeed, meant for each other, perfect reflects of the other.
“That’s an impressive crystal you have there, Caleb.” Anakin handed it back to the teen, who seemed to brighten at the statement. “I look forward to seeing it in action.” The child practically bounced back to his place in class, the kids next to him giving him encouragement. “Now, I do believe that Commander Rex was teaching you all something about the perfect kick, and that you should go back to that. Caleb, I will schedule a time we can get to building your light-saber.” With that, Anakin grabbed Ezra again and left the room, air around the area risen in happiness. Ezra’s own happiness and childish giddiness next to Anakin’s head was contagious, the child’s slightly-yellow and mostly-blue eyes glowed with their usual mischief.
Ezra had been from Lothal, his parents quick to realize their son’s power. But also quick to decide that they didn’t want their son to grow up destined to fight in the most lethal war the galaxy had seen in millennia. They went through back-channels and bounty hunters, scoundrels and runaways, in order to find Anakin, in hopes that he could save the kid from a fate they could never desire from their offspring. They discovered the new Sith before they realized Skywalker was the one running the who operation. They were pleasantly surprised when they met him, only having heard the name Darth Vader in their searches.
Anakin himself was pleasantly surprised when he met them too, their willingness to help and their courage to give up their son in order to protect him was inspirational. They had thought they would never see their son again, and had nearly cried when Anakin told them that wasn’t the case. They had agreed that they would holo-call every night at Ezra’s bed-time, and that if they wanted, they would visit, and that if they wanted to bring Ezra back home with them -- if they wanted to forget about the Sith and bring their son to the Jedi Order -- they could. As much as Anakin cared about Ezra, he wasn’t his son. He was theirs.
In all honesty, he hadn’t expected what they did afterwards: began an underground radio signal, telling the citizens of Lothal that they didn’t think the Republic or the Separatists were right, that there had to be a better way, a more compassionate way. Anakin caught the implication. They were advertising a more Sith way, without so much as mentioning the Sith, gently pushing their people towards the ideals Anakin had rebuilt.
He figured they would be calling soon, Ezra beginning to yawn in his tired state. Vader brought the boy to his nursery and held him towards the window to view the ocean of sand, regaling the lad with stories of greatness from the war, and smiled in content of his new home.