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Emperor Palpatine had always considered himself a patient man. He had planned and worked for many years to bring about his empire, to ensure the unassailable consolidation of his power, and for nearly as long to corrupt the Jedi’s Chosen One. His patience would see him through this setback, as well.

But it rankled.

His apprentice was still kneeling, head bowed, at the foot of the steps leading up to his throne. Faint wisps of steam still curled up from lightly melted patches of black armor. Vader’s ragged breathing provided the staccato background to Palpatine’s thoughts, but he was otherwise silent.

At least, outwardly.

Almost casually, Palpatine examined his apprentice’s mind. Vader had never learned the skill of disguising or sublimating his emotions. He was better at mental shielding, but he’d too obviously learned his technique from the Jedi. There was no subtlety to it. His mind was protected by a massive wall, and for someone like Palpatine, who was intimately familiar with stealth and shadows, that presented no obstacle at all.

Now Vader’s mind was a wild riot of pain and anger and no little amount of disgust. The disgust, Palpatine was amused to see, was directed primarily at Vader himself.

And well it should have been. The destruction of the Death Star was without question the greatest disaster the Empire had ever faced. And Vader was singularly responsible.

“Rise, Lord Vader,” Palpatine snapped, his considerable patience at an end. Vader’s wheezing was becoming unbearable. “It is very unlikely that you can correct your mistake, but I do wonder how you plan to try.”

Vader lumbered to his feet, the dreadful sound of his breathing becoming even more audible. For several long moments, he said nothing. Palpatine reminded himself that he was a very patient man.

“My Master,” Vader said at last, “although the destruction of the Death Star and Governor Tarkin was…regrettable, the day was not entirely a loss.”

And he held forth a lightsaber.

Palpatine’s anger was hardly lessened by the sight, but this was an unexpected development. He could afford to humor Vader for now.

“That is Kenobi’s lightsaber, is it not, Lord Vader?”

“Yes, my Master,” Vader said. “I was correct: the Rebel informant Ekkreth was indeed a Jedi. It was he to whom Princess Leia sought to deliver the stolen plans.” Vader’s voice gave only a hint of the vicious satisfaction Palpatine sensed in him as he added, “And now, Kenobi is dead.”

This was news Palpatine had to admit he had not expected. Kenobi had been gone for years, and he’d believed the man too broken to be a serious threat.

And now Kenobi was dead. And more importantly, Vader was showing some spirit about it. It was just a hint of that spark that had made Anakin Skywalker so attractive as a potential apprentice, but seeing that anger directed once more at Kenobi was satisfying, in its own way.

But hardly enough to make up for the loss of the Death Star.

Still…

It would not do to punish Vader too severely. He was certainly aware of his failure, and would no doubt throw himself into a desperate attempt to appease his Master. He was utterly pathetic, but for now, at least, he remained too useful to dispose of.

There were others, of course. Inquisitors, agents, even a few children with untapped potential. But none who were outstanding, who showed anything like the promise Vader had shown in the beginning.

Vader himself showed that promise only rarely now, but he had other value. He was a living symbol, a trophy of Palpatine’s greatest victory over the Jedi.

And so the Emperor allowed himself to smile. “Congratulations, my friend. At last you have achieved your revenge.”

And severed his last tie to the Jedi. The failure of Yoda and his Order was now complete.

“Yes, my Master,” said Vader. “The Jedi can offer no more threat to us.”

Palpatine felt his mouth twist in a frown, but he contained his annoyance. For now.

“In this at least you have done well, Lord Vader,” the Emperor said. Kenobi’s lightsaber still rested in Vader’s open palm, extended for Palpatine’s inspection. The weapon of Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi Master.

For just a moment, a twinge of foreboding filled him. But it was formless and baseless, and Palpatine had not achieved all he had by chasing after nebulous feelings. He pushed it from his mind.

There was, after all, another way he could make use of this.

“Keep it, Lord Vader,” he said lightly. “You will no doubt appreciate a trophy to your victory.”

Vader’s emotions twisted and gnawed themselves like a pit full of writhing snakes. Palpatine held back a cackle, but only just.

“Thank you, my Master,” Vader said tightly.

“But do not think it excuses your failure,” Palpatine snapped, all trace of kindness banished. “The loss of the Death Star has set my ultimate plans back by several years.”

He half raised a hand, and was gratified to see Vader try and fail to hide a flinch.

“I am deeply sorry, my Master,” Vader said. His voice was entirely contrite, but his emotions churned with resentment and a deep-seated rage. Palpatine allowed himself a brief moment to luxuriate in the feeling.

“I am not without mercy, Lord Vader,” he said, turning from his apprentice to gaze out the window over the world that belonged entirely to him. “I will give you a chance to make up for your fault.”

Vader stood silently behind him, attentive and pathetically eager, awaiting his orders.

“The Rebels will believe that they have the advantage now,” Palpatine said. “But they will soon learn the error of their ways. Hunt them down, Lord Vader, and destroy them. We cannot afford to show them any lenience. The Rebellion will be crushed, and all its sympathizers. Do not return here until it is done.”

“Yes, my Master,” Vader said, and Palpatine both heard and sensed him bowing. He didn’t bother turning to look.

A moment later, the swish of a cloak and the faint snap of a door sliding closed marked Vader’s departure. Emperor Palpatine still did not turn.

The destruction of the Death Star was a significant blow, but it was one he would recover from. And now the Jedi were well and truly dead, and there was no one left who might be a true threat to him. It was only a matter of time. His power was absolute, and soon it would be assured forever.

He had only to be patient.