Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Clone Wars: Clarified

NOTE: This was my concept of the clone wars PRIOR to any information on the prequel trilogies. Indeed, it was prior to much of the Expanded Universe stuff-thus, little or nothing was known about just what the the 'Sith' were-or even what the Emperor's name was (though I so use it in this post, retroactively). This is pieced together from various ideas I had while running my initial campaign- and some of which I admit don't work out nearly as well as some of the things shown in the movies. But here we have a more 'modern' version of what I thought some twenty years ago...

The Clone Wars were a series of conflicts fought against a seemingly "faceless" enemy known as the Clonemasters. This mysterious oligarchy operated in the shadows for years, building up the technology and numbers necessary to face the Republic directly and bring about its downfall. The initial surprise onslaught of the clone armies nearly succeeded in toppling the corruption-ridden Republic. Only through the selfless efforts of the Jedi were the attacking forces finally stopped. The Jedi Order itself was greatly weakened during over a year of bitter fighting, but managed in the end to force the Clonemasters into a ceasefire.

During a years-long lull in the fighting, both sides of the conflict tried to rebuild, even as a 'cold-war' settled over the Galaxy. The Jedi were hampered in their efforts by the continued political machinations of the Republic senate- many members of whom were secretly on the payroll of the Clonemasters. Even so, some great statesmen and soldiers rose to do what was necessary, whipping the shattered and defeated Republic military into shape. Among these 'heroes' were people like Bail Organa, Jan Dodonna, Mon Mothma and a young senator named Palpatine. It was also during this time that two young Jedi began to rise to prominence-Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.

It was the Clonemasters who broke the ceasefire, once again unleashing their hordes against the Republic. Though still outnumbered, the Forces of the Republic were ready for them this time. The fighting was bitter and lasted for years. Billions of beings perished across the Galaxy. Entire planets were laid waste. It was at this point that Senator Palpatine won the position of Chancellor- voted in as a 'reformer', someone who would root out corruption in the Senate and bring hope to those in despair. Through his bold actions during the war, the Senator had earned the respect of many of his colleagues as well as the love of many Republic citizens. Among the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker in particular was a strong supporter of Palpatine-seeing him a a force for order in an increasingly chaotic time.

In the end, however, the Republic won the Clone Wars (as they came to be called). But at what cost? The battle against the clonemasters was a costly one-in terms of lives and money. The ranks of the Jedi were decimated. The military was in a shambles. The Republic itself was driven to the brink of economic ruin. It appeared as though victory could very well lead to a new Dark Age and a collapse of the Republic itself.

But there was a ray of hope. Chancellor Palpatine seemed to be a man of his word regarding his election promises. The vital, young politician DID root out corruption in the Senate. He focused attention on rebuilding what had been lost-forging ties to many powerful corporations to assist in the effort. In particular, he set about modernizing and then expanding the Republic military. This was deemed necessary as the Jedi were too few in number to handle the job of defending the Republic at this time. Indeed, Jedi continued to die in some numbers as they struggled against terrorists, pirates and civil unrest. The military buildup was seen as a good thing-both for the security of the Republic and in terms of employment and economic stimulus. Military corporations in particular suddenly boomed, bringing many other industries along with them. Likewise, many idealistic youngsters joined the military-now portrayed alongside the Jedi as the guardian's of peace and order.

Despite all of these seemingly positive changes, and the rapid turn-around in the state of the Galaxy, some began to grow uneasy with what was happening. Bail Organa and some of the Senators became increasingly alarmed at the number of 'emergency powers' voted to the Chancellor and kept now even after the end of the War. In his efforts to 'root out corruption', Palpatine had created a great deal of power for himself in the legislative branch. Many Senators, even if they were not corrupt, began to tow his political line-afraid they might be subject to 'investigations' should they go against him. The continued and seemingly exponential build-up of the Military was likewise a cause for alarm. With the Clonemasters defeated, why did the galaxy need so many defenders?

Among the slowly rebuilding Jedi, a schism was gradually appearing. Some, like Anakin Skywalker, threw their support behind the Emperor. Idealistically, Anakin in particular approved of the way Palpatine 'did what had to be done'. The old-guard Jedi, such as Yoda and Ben Kenobi, were on the other side of the issue, urging that the Jedi not get tangled in the politics of the Republic- that they remain true to their calling. Yoda in particular was wary of the Chancellor. Though the old master's senses could discern nothing 'telling' about Palpatine, he grew suspicious of the man's ability to sway beings to his cause.

Meanwhile, in his personal life, Anakin Skywalker had taken a wife (we’ll call her Padme, though at the time, I had no idea of a name) and eventually became a father of brother-and-sister twins. His concern for his wife (and later family) became a driving factor in his judgment. He saw the order Palpatine offered and remembered the horror that was the Clone Wars. He resolved to never again allow that kind of danger to harm his family-or indeed the Galaxy. Working closely with Palpatine, Anakin came more and more to his way of thinking. The Jedi who followed Anakin formed the foundation of a secret Inquisitorial 'corps', rooting out threats to the Republic and dealing with them however they saw fit. This shadowy organization became known as the 'Sith' and while carrying out operations, Anakin disguised his identity and went by the name Vader.

As Palpatine grew more and more powerful, concerned Senators like Bail Organa and Mon Mothma strove to work within the system, but found themselves stymied by the Chancellor's immense political and popular clout. And as he gained more power, Palpatine took more liberties with it. Rumors began to circulate of 'enemies of the state' simply disappearing. Any opposition to the Chancellor's rules were quashed-sometimes with propaganda, but increasingly with force. The purpose of the enlarged military soon became clear as planets who spoke out found themselves under martial law-for their own protection.

The old-guard Jedi did not remain idle all this time. Though spread thin in their daily duties (now increasingly supplanted by the military), the order began to see Palpatine for what he was-and began to suspect that some of their own might be working with them. In secret meetings, some Jedi even began to push for removing Palpatine from power before things got worse. Though Yoda and Kenobi counseled against it, the threat revealed to Anakin was too much for him to ignore. And so it was that he, as Vader, began to hunt and eliminate these Jedi conspirators. Part of him hoped that by eliminating the ‘troublemakers’, he could protect his old comrades. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Investigations undertaken by Kenobi and Yoda finally turned up the truth about Palpatine. He was no mere senator. Rather, he had developed his own innate Force powers outside the bounds of any known Force-using sect like the Jedi. As his power grew, so too did the darkness inside him. Palpatine used his powers to manipulate people and (increasingly) to enhance their fear of him- to keep them in line. And there were signs that the Chancellor was delving into even darker studies. And so it was that the Jedi finally decided to act. Thinking Anakin would turn to the Jedi cause once they revealed the truth to him, Kenobi sought to recruit him in their effort to bring down the Emperor. But by this time, Anakin was too far gone. His own skewed convictions about the ‘security’ of the Republic- urged on perhaps by Palpatine’s subtle use of the Force, caused him to act. As the Jedi went to arrest the Chancellor, Anakin and his Sith opposed them. Backed by soldiers loyal to Palpatine- and the dark powers of the Chancellor himself- the Sith prevailed. Yoda, Ben and a few other Jedi escaped- but not before discovering that the mysterious “Vader” that had been killing their comrades was none-other than Anakin.

Across the Galaxy, Palpatine acted quickly, ordering the capture or death of all the “rogue” Jedi who had tried to seize power. His propaganda machine soon had the entire galaxy believing in a conspiracy of the Jedi to become absolute rulers of the Republic. The Jedi, few in number and scattered with their duties, were hunted down one by one in a great “purge”. Anakin, as Vader, personally led his Sith in this endeavor. The Jedi resisted, of course, but were hopelessly outnumbered and those not killed or captured were being forced into hiding.

Meanwhile, Anakin’s wife, Padme grew increasingly alarmed in the changes she saw in her husband. He was, through his increasingly blind and brutal devotion to the Chancellor, becoming a monster. It was the announcement that the Republic was being dissolved that finally spurred Anakin’s wife to take action. Even as the grand “New Order” of the Galactic Empire was announced, Padme confronted her husband. In the argument that ensued, Anakin lashed out- demanding her obedience and her trust that what he was doing was right. Shaken, but not cowed, Padme sadly resolved to do what she had to do. Her children were her first thought. The twins, Luke and Leia, were not yet two years old when she went into hiding with her good friend, Bail Organa.

Anakin, now operating ‘full time’ as Vader, flew into a rage at this betrayal by his wife. He became even more brutal in pursuit of the enemies of the Empire. And as reports of his atrocities reached her, Padme sunk deeper into sorrow. Her health began to fail.

Eventually, Vader’s pursuit of the Jedi lead him to face his old friend, Ben Kenobi. The two squared off on some unnamed volcanic world. The clash was titanic, but Kenobi’s skill won out versus Vader’s rage. Vader fell, seemingly to his death, within the volcanic wastes. Kenobi fled, taking the brief respite afforded to visit Padme and tell her the news. By this time, however, Padme was in a bad way, stricken by illness and crushed by the loss of the man she loved. Before her death, however, she planned with Organa and Kenobi- the twins would be split up to help prevent their discovery by the Empire. Leia would remain with Bail, to be raised as his daughter. Luke would be sent with Kenobi- to grow up with distant relatives of Anakin’s.

But even as Padme breathed her final breath, Vader- his broken body recovered by agents of the Emperor, was rebuilt into his ultimate, twisted form.

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