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archive:sf:balanus
                                Star Wars
                          The Failure of Balanus
                              by Bill Menees
               Nincohn was long forgotten.  A remote planet on the
       farthest regions of the Outer Rim, it had been explored by
       the Republic at the height of their expansion.  Now, as
       their influence in the galaxy dwindled, so did their memory
       of the small, unresourceful planet.
               Only one Republic expedition ever contacted Nincohn.
       It carried a single Jedi and four crewmen.  The group's only
       report back to the Republic's Exploration division discussed
       the relative lack of life and resources on the planet.
       After this the ship was to leave for another system.
               But the ship failed to report in again, and after
       several weeks the Republic planned a search for the missing
       ship.  However, before the mission could commence, the first
       stirrings of the Clone Wars began, and the Republic's
       attention quickly shifted from a few lost men to protecting
       themselves.  In the process, Nincohn and it's only link to
       the Republic were forgotten as well.
  1. ———————————————————–
               "Well, sir, I've sent our findings to Exploration about
       the lovely planet we've found here.  They've given us orders
       to proceed to a new system about three weeks away.  Shall we
       get going?"
               The Jedi Balanus opened his eyes slowly as if awakening
       from a trance and responded, "No.  I have found someone that
       I must contact before we leave."
               "But how, sir?  We haven't seen a soul since we got
       here," said the crewman.
               "I have just seen a soul, son.  One that is strong with
       the Force and in desperate need of help.  He is being drawn
       closer to the Dark Side even as we speak."   Balanus paused
       momentarily as if shaken and continued, "Wait here until I
       return.  I must seek him out before it is too late."
               "Yes, sir,"  the crewman half-heartedly called out as
       he watched the Jedi leave.
               Balanus hurried to the nearby village where he knew he
       would find the soul he was seeking. Or rather the soul that
       was seeking him.  As he approached the village he could hear
       shouts and the cry of an angry mob of people.  When he
       entered he saw not only the mob but that they were
       surrounding the man he was looking for.  The people were
       shouting and circling tighter and tighter around the man.
               "Kill the Wizard!"
               "The Demon must die," the crowd began to scream.  "Get
       him!"
               And as the crowd rushed, the man in the middle went
       into action.  Huge arcs of electricity erupted from all
       around his body like an exploding sphere.  Those closest to
       him died instantly, and those further back suffered only a
       few seconds longer.  But like an explosion, the blast only
       lasted a few seconds.  The man knew danger still existed,
       and he mentally screamed for Balanus to help him.
       He knew, and Balanus knew, that he couldn't protect himself
       for long.
               The remaining crowd hesitated a moment but then began
       to rush the man again.  But before they could reach him,
       Balanus drew his lightsaber and cut the supports out from
       under the hut nearest him.  The resulting crash stopped
       everyone in their tracks, including the man in the middle.
               Balanus spoke to the angry crowd and used all his Jedi
       skills to calm them.  "Good people!  Please do not destroy
       this man!  I have seen his soul and..."
               But before he could finish someone in the crowd cried,
       "Then you must be evil as well!"
               "No!  I seek only to help you," Balanus said.
               But the mob was not convinced and more people turned on
       Balanus.  As he looked into their minds he knew that they
       had only hatred and fear for him.  As quickly as the attack
       on the other man had begun, so did the attack on Balanus.
               At first, he tried only to escape, but when it became
       clear that he was surrounded and faced certain death, his
       composure begin to fail and his Jedi training began to be
       forgotten.  With each slice of his lightsaber, Balanus'
       anger increased, and he journeyed one step closer to the
       Dark Side.  Balanus eventually managed to cut a hole through
       the crowd and run off in a maddened rage towards his ship.
       As he ran he could feel that the other man had also escaped
       the wrath of the crowd but that he too had killed many of
       them to do it.
               When Balanus arrived at the ship, he saw that the
       townspeople had beaten him there and had already killed its
       crew.  This was the last mistake they ever made.  His rage
       now at its limits and all Jedi values abandoned, Balanus
       disposed of his attackers in the swift, elegant, and lethal
       way that only a Jedi could.  Or rather, the way that only a
       Dark Jedi could.
               When the fight was over and all the townspeople were
       destroyed, Balanus fell to his knees and cursed all that he
       knew for bringing him to this destiny.  And just before he
       collapsed from exhaustion, Balanus became aware that the man
       who had gotten him into this in the first place was watching
       him from a distance.  And Balanus cursed him as well.
  1. ———————————————————–
               When he awoke, Balanus was inside his ship.  And so was
       the other man.
               "My name is Palpatine," the other man began.  "Welcome
       to the 'former' village of Nincohn-Agosha."
               "I am the Jedi Balanus.  As I slept I saw many things,
       many possible futures.  I saw that our destinies are
       intertwined.  You are strong in the Force, and I will train
       you to use your power.  In time we will achieve the greatest
       of power."
               Palpatine thought for a moment and spoke, "So it is the
       Force that I control, is it?  I have heard of this Force
       from others, and I suspected that it might be the source of
       my unusual powers."
               "You are referring to your ability to create electric
       fields.  That is only one power that a Jedi has."
               "I am referring to many other abilities I have besides
       that," Palpatine said.  "At times, I can move objects with a
       thought, read other people's minds, or even go for months
       without eating or drinking.  I am by no means an ordinary
       man," he said with a grin.
               "You said 'at times'.  I will teach you the ways of the
       Force, and through discipline and training, you will in time
       master those abilities and gain many others.  From this time
       forth, Palpatine, you will call me Master Balanus."
               "And if I choose not to follow you," Palpatine asked,
       "What then?"
               "Then I will destroy you and fulfill my destiny alone,"
       Balanus said.
               "So be it, Master Balanus.  Let us begin."
               As the months passed, Palpatine grew stronger and
       stronger with the Dark Side of the Force.  He quickly
       mastered the skills he had previously been able to use only
       momentarily, and he learned others with equal speed and
       ability.  It soon became apparent to both men that the
       student would eventually outgrow the master.
               "Your training is almost complete, Palpatine," began
       Balanus.  "You have only one skill left to master."
               "And what skill is that, Master Balanus?"
               "The lightsaber.  I have spent the last few months
       constructing you one, and we shall begin your training now."
               "Master, I do not wish to use such a clumsy and
       inelegant weapon as your lightsaber.  It's power is
       insignificant to my abilities, and I will not be burdened or
       weakened by depending on technology to fight my battles."
               "An arrogant opinion, as always, Palpatine.  When your
       training is complete, you may decide which skills you wish
       to use.  For now, I will be the judge of what you learn or
       do not learn.  If we are to be successful in my plans, we
       will both need to master all the skills of the Jedi."
               "For now then, Master Balanus.  But for now only."
               One month later, Palpatine's training was complete, and
       the two men were ready to leave Nincohn.  On the night of
       their departure, Balanus finally explained his plans to
       Palpatine.
               "I was a well known Jedi in the Republic.  I had many
       friends in high-level positions, and more importantly, I
       kept many secrets.  At one time, I was the personal guardian
       to the First Speaker of the Senate, and in that post I saw
       much deceit and betrayal.  He was a corrupt man, and I
       collected the evidence to expose him.  Unfortunately, he
       found out what I was doing.
               "Since I was a Jedi Knight, he couldn't just have me
       quietly killed off, so he did the next best thing.  He
       transferred me to the Exploration division and sent me as
       far away from him and the Republic as possible.  I have
       little doubt that he's the reason no search party was ever
       sent to look for our vessel.
               "The first thing we'll do when we return is get control
       of him.  I still have the evidence, and we'll use it to put
       him in our pocket.  He will help us get you a place in the
       Senate.  From there you and I will be able to control more
       Senators in time.  Many are corrupt, but few would suspect
       that one of their own ranks would betray them.  But you will
       betray them.  In a short time, I will control the Senate and
       you will be placed as its leader under my supervision.
               "Are you prepared to leave, Palpatine?"
               "Yes, Balanus.  Under one condition."
               "And that is?"
               "I will follow you, but I will no longer call you
       Master.  We have both foreseen that I can destroy you, but I
       do not wish to at this time.  As such, I feel it is
       inappropriate to call you Master any longer."
               "As you wish, Palpatine.  But remember, that is only
       one possible future.  I have seen others where I destroy you
       and still others where we are both destroyed.  What is
       important is that we fulfill our destiny and succeed in
       overthrowing the Republic."
               "So be it, Balanus."
  1. ———————————————————–
               The voyage back to the Imperial Senate in the heart of
       the Republic took almost a month from the remote planet
       Nincohn.  This time was used to educate Palpatine on some of
       the finer points of Imperial Senate politics.  Also during
       the voyage, the two Dark Jedi perfected mental fronts that
       would conceal their true purposes from any Jedi Knights they
       might encounter when they reached their destination.  But
       these fronts also served the dual purpose of allowing them
       to keep their thoughts from each other.  Thus the two Dark
       Jedi were reduced to verbal communication.
               One night, after several days without either one saying
       a word to the other, they began to discuss some of the
       things that had happened to them on Nincohn.  Eventually
       Palpatine began to retell what had been happening to him
       when Balanus had discovered him in the village.
               "It was the time for choosing a new leader for the
       village.  Although I had never been much a part of the
       village, I always knew that I would rule someday.  So I went
       to the festival where the new leader would be chosen.
               "When I arrived I told them why I was there, and the
       crowd mocked me.  They called me 'outcast', 'crazy', all
       sorts of things.  This, of course, angered me, so I
       challenged their newly selected leader to a dual for the
       title.  He agreed and instantly charged at me.  When he hit
       me it felt like I exploded, and when I looked at him I
       realized that in a way I had.
               "I had been so startled that I had instinctively
       electrocuted him.  For several minutes no one said anything.
       In that time I reached out with my feelings for someone to
       help me, and I found you.  Shortly after, the crowd's anger
       began to swell, you arrived, and the rest is history.
               "But now I see that I was correct in my knowledge that
       I would rule someday.  With my seat in the Senate, I will
       rule far more than I had ever dreamed of back on Nincohn.
       For that chance I am grateful."
               Balanus corrected him, "'We will rule far more than
       you had ever dreamed of' is what I'm sure you meant to say.
       And that much is true.  Your gratitude, however, is
       unnecessary.  I need your loyalty only, just as you need
       mine."
               'But I only need you for a time,' thought Palpatine.
       'For a short time.'
               After that the two talked even less.
               When they arrived at their destination they were
       shocked to learn that the Clone Wars were already ravaging
       the Republic.  They were welcomed home by only a small
       greeting party and were almost immediately forgotten by the
       bureaucracy.  This only made it easier for them to execute
       their plans.  Within days they had used the evidence of the
       First Speaker's corruption to blackmail him, and a few short
       weeks later the First Speaker was able to secure a seat in
       the Senate for Palpatine.  He was at first passed off as a
       'temporary' replacement for the missing Senator from the
       remote and minor planet Epibionta.  When no 'permanent'
       replacement showed up for him, he was allowed to take the
       title himself.
               By very subtly using his Dark powers, over time
       Palpatine was able to not only secure more and more power
       for himself in the Senate, he was also able to draw more
       attention and control away from the First Speaker.
       Eventually, when the First Speaker was at his weakest,
       Palpatine stole Balanus' evidence against him and used it to
       expose the man and to exalt himself into an even more
       powerful position.  Palpatine was finally ready to show his
       hand and take his place as Master over Balanus.
               "Palpatine!  I'll have your head!" screamed Balanus as
       he stormed into the Senator's office.  "After all I've done
       for you, you betray me just so you can gain more power for
       yourself in the Senate!  You are a fool!  You could never
       rule this Republic without me!"
               "My short-sighted old friend,  I do not want to rule
       this Republic," began Palpatine.  "I will build a new empire
       with me as its sole ruler.  I will not answer to governors
       or senators.  I am only a few steps away from my goal as it
       is.  Why do I need you?"
               "You are not as powerful as you think.  The Clone Wars
       are almost over, and you will not have such an easy time
       securing power once the strong leaders and the Jedi return
       to the Senate.  You will need my influence more than you
       believe.  I have foreseen it!"
               Palpatine stared at Balanus with cold eyes for a few
       seconds and then responded, "I do need you, but not here.
       Not in my way, where you can mettle in my affairs and make
       pitiful attempts to gain power from me.
               "You know that you would never have been anything
       without me," Palpatine continued.  "Your destiny is to serve
       me.  As I see it, you owe me your allegiance.  In time you
       will call me Master," he finished with a grin.
               "Never," said Balanus coldly.  "Your destiny ends here.
       Now."  Then Balanus ignited his lightsaber and stalked
       towards Palpatine.
               "So be it, my old friend.  You will call me Master,
       but apparently you will do it the hard way."
       In the next moment, Palpatine raised his hands and filled
       the room with a ball of electric fire the likes of which
       Balanus had never seen nor heard of.  For a few seconds,
       Balanus was able to channel the electricity away from him
       through careful oscillation of his light saber.  But when he
       looked into the mind of his former student, he knew that his
       effort was wasted.  Palpatine was only growing stronger, and
       he was only getting weaker.  Finally, he succumbed to the
       inevitable and allowed the electricity to reach him.
               Palpatine continued his barrage of electric fire until
       Balanus was almost at the point of death.  And then he
       abruptly stopped.  "My old friend, it will take many weeks
       for you to heal.  In that time I will be in your mind day
       and night.  I will extract every bit of your knowledge, your
       hope, and your independence.  When I am finished and I allow
       you to heal, you will call me Master and will single-
       mindedly dedicate your life to serving only me.  You will be
       my Guardian and will live out your life protecting that
       which is important to me.  Do you agree?"
               Balanus used all his strength to look up at Palpatine.
       In a whisper, he cursed Palpatine and everything that had
       brought him to this destiny.  But as before, his fear of
       death forced him to do anything he could to stay alive.  He
       finally answered, "Yes..."
               "So be it," Palpatine concluded.
  1. ———————————————————–
  1. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Well, that's the way I think it happened anyway. Feel free to e-mail and comment, flame, critique, or better yet praise. For a few more weeks I can be reached at menees@utkvx.utk.edu.

Bill Menees

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