"The Rebellion has come to us seeking peace, and together we have risen above our differences to perserve the galaxy, save lives and restore order." -- Chancellor Palpatine
Those who had to work filled tapcafes, crowded public areas and gathered outside the Senate Chambers where portable video screens had been set up to give anyone who wanted to watch history in the making the opportunity to do so.
More than 75 planets in the Core had declared the entire week one of celebration, thus the holonet’s largest news channels had been setting records for viewership all week long.
None more so than today, as more than 150,000 vidbots swarmed, crawled and hovered around the outdoor platform where the Accords of Peace, as the media had dubbed them, were to be signed under a brilliant Coruscant mid-day sky.
Up on said platform, the two most most influential political powers in the known galaxy sat on high-backed chairs and chatted like old friends reuinited over a casual meal. Palpatine’s aide, Coruscant’s reigning governor, Kaj Defino, was addressing the media throngs, answering more basic questions -- when they could see the exact wording of the treaty, when Count Dooku would be available for individual interviews, how open the Chancellor’s schedule would be for awards and honors in the near future.
When Palpatine stood and approached the podium, polite applause turned into the overwhelming roar of a tidal wave. Palpatine appeared taken aback by the ovation, letting his lips crinkle up into a slow smile, then turning and beckoning the elegantly-dressed Dooku to join him.
Dooku appeared equally hesitant, moving slowly to stand next to Palpatine, his broad shoulders slightly dwarfing the Chancellor. The applause staggered for a moment, then buiilt to a crescendo as the two politicians grasped hands and raised them as one.
When the applause has abated, Palpatine moved to the podium while Dooku retook his seat.
"My friends, this is truly a great day for us all. Through turmoil and tragedy, we have emerged victorious, and again peace is at hand."
Palpatine stood back for another standing ovation, feeling power surge through him that only his mastery of the dark side of the Force surpassed. The adulation of the masses was like a narcotic.
"We are here in this legendary place to sign a document worthy of our surroundings. The Rebellion has come to us seeking peace, and together we have risen above our differences to perserve the galaxy, save lives and restore order."
"As you know, both the Republic and the Rebellion suffered massive losses at the Battle of Ponscii. While the esteemed Count’s lossess were mostly in ships and resources, the Republic lost its noblest band of protectors, the Jedi Knights."
Palpatine bowed his head slowly, as if giving last rites to the fallen Jedi. Those who were particularly detail-oriented noted Dooku making much the same motion in his chair.
"I would ask the Count to come and take up this part of our story now, so you might in part understand the pain he has suffered and the progress he has made."
Dooku slowly ascended the steps to the podium, and this time there was no applause, barely any sound at all save the crackle of the vidbots that maintained the minimum distance to the new speaker.
As Dooku surveyed the first several rows of media members, none returned his glance. All knew of his background as a Jedi Master and ultimately, a self-proclaimed Sith Lord. Few of the media members were enough of historians to know anything regarding the history of the Sith, and their epic internal battle a thousand years ago, but all had heard stories of the mysterious powers of such a warrior, including those that could kill a being without laying a hand on him.
Unlike Palpatine’s trained command of his own voice, Dooku started off slowly and deep within his throat, causing some of the media representatives to lean forward unconsciously to hear what the former villain was saying.
"A long time ago, I set out into this galaxy as a Jedi Knight, sworn to protect and serve the peaceful, law-abiding citizens who inhabit it. But I found, as many do, that that galaxy does not exist. As my internal conflict grew, so too did my power in the Force, as I assumed the title of Jedi Master."
He sighed deeply, as if calling up memories buried far too long.
"As the wheels of government ground slowly to a halt, my frustration with the inequalities of the galaxy consumed me, and led me to believe I alone could make it a better life," Dooku continued, his voice rising slowly. "It led me to make alliances with those who had the resources to fuel my vision, of a separate society where I would govern, using the Force to insure order, justice and equality."
"As my power grew, so too did my ambition, until I found myself consumed by the dark side of the Force, using it to bend others to my will, and ultimately manufacture the soldiers I needed to break away from the Republic. So consumed by the dark side was I, that I committed the greatest atrocities without a moment’s thought. I murdered beings and ordered the slaughter of thousands more. I created clones for the sole purpose of warfare, and plundered planets of their natural resources."
He shook his head slowly again before continuing. Behind him, Palpatine stared at him with rapt attention.
"I was not alone in my wrongdoings, as many of you already know. The Trade Federation had financially backed many of my tasks, as have members of the Senate, the Galactic Banking System and others. All of these organizations have agreed to sign the treaty along with me, however it is not they who worry me."
He stared out across the crowd now, his eyes burning intensely.
"The question has existed ever since the Battle of Ponscii of how my forces knew when and where to intercept the Jedi shuttle. We knew because you were betrayed. Betrayed by renegade Jedi bent on regaining their places of power in the Republic."
"When the Jedi shuttle was destroyed, I felt as if I had been torn asunder with it. On board were so many souls familiar to me, I had not felt their presence in so long. For the first time in decades, the word ‘friend’ came to me, and for the first time in a long time, the dark side could provide me no solace. When the brave Jedi aboard that shuttle died, the evil within me went with them."
"The information of the shuttle’s course came to my intelligence agents anonymously. It was traced back to a shipboard computer. The ship, a shuttle owned by former Council member Mace Windu."
The shock was audible from the media members, but Dooku pressed on and the media took the bait, drawing even closer to the stage.
"Master Windu and his fellow council member, Yoda, have both plotting against the Chancellor’s best interests for some time. Both are now fugitives from justice, neither responded to my overtures to end this senseless conflict and bring order back to the galaxy."
"But the former council members are not the most treacherous parts of my alliance, I am sorry to say. After the destruction of my apprentice on Naboo a dozen years ago, I secretly began training a new Sith Lord to help me achieve my own twisted goals. For more than a decade, he rose to prominence in plain view, with no one the wiser of his true intentions. He in turn, tried to twist his own apprentice to the dark side, and when that failed, he murdered him."
"If I live one thousand years I could not restore the damage I have caused and the lives I have stolen. I can however, help bring another to justice. My former apprentice, is known to you as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was he who stole into the Jedi Temple late one night, and murdered the heroic young Anakin Skywalker. I attempted to detain him upon his return to Ponscii, but he eluded me. For this, I feel I have failed again."
As Dooku bowed his head, appearing to be on the verge of losing control of his emotions, Palpatine was there, murmurring words in his ear too silently for the phonics system to register.
The two men spoke quietly for a long moment, then Dooku returned to his own chair as Palpatine retook center stage.
"As you can see, my friends, the Count has suffered long and tremendous pain for his wrong-doings. You can also see the difficulty we have faced in announcing the reaching of a peaceful settling, when such dangerously powerful traitors remain free somewhere in our galaxy. Imagery of all three of these beings will be made available on all planets, and we shall offer generous compensations for anyone who can provide information as to their whereabouts. We must caution you not to try and apprehend these traitors yourself, no more lives should be wasted on them."
"These traitors have sullied all that the good name of the Republic has long stood for. With the uniting of the Republic and the Rebellion, we have approved a new beginning, and thus we are reborn. From this day forth, you are all citizens of the Galactic Empire, and I am your loyal servant as its first Emperor."
Palpatine smiled broadly and turned to beckon Dooku back to the platform with him.
"And now, loyal citizens, the moment you have waited for."
Defino moved forward wtih ceremonial writing tools from ages gone by, and a parchment of paper with highly-stylized writing that rendered the details of the Accords of Peace on it.
First Dooku, then Palpatine scrawled their signatures on the parchment, and then sealed their respective governements’ signets on the data pad that put the treaty into effect.
Applause erupted yet again as both men stood together while the vidbots whirred back and forth overhead. For days to come, the celebrations continued and scenes of good will were broadcast across the Core.
The Clone Wars were over. The Galactic Empire was born into peace.