Everyone, don't be surprised if this isn't too good. I've not writen any stories voluntarily in more years than I have fingers.
Knuckles rapped on an obsidian-colored door. "My lord?"
The voice was high, but the man was a enuch. He was a far less ambitious advisor of the Dark Lord's than his fellows were, which was precisely the reason he had been appointed to the Inner Circle. He wasn't as qualified as some of the others were, but loyalty and competence were so frustratingly difficult to find anywhere. Such a pity.
"My lord? There are matters that require your attention."
Devon was irritated. Bureaucrats were a necessary part of any government, but they could be so very annoying at times. And there was always another urgent matter that came up which required his attention as soon as possible. Which meant paperwork.
The idea was ludicrous. One of the greatest Dark Lords of the Sith of all time, doing paperwork? That was one thing which would have to be left out of the history books. Ever since the Grand Vizier was assassinated by an anarchist three days ago, Devon had discovered how truly grueling running the bureaucracy of an empire could be. There had been few people capable of taking up the now-vacant post of running the more tedious aspects of the system, and the few who were qualified enough could not be trusted. The other Sith Lords may have been subservients, and extremely competant ones at that, but they were treacherous to the core. They would have no doubt found some way to twist such a high post to their use.
So, Devon had taken up the job. He was the only person both capable and trustworthy enough to run the bureaucracy of the fourth Sith Empire.
"My lord?" The rapping continued.
The Dark Lord sighed to himself, and made a motion with his hand. The huge durasteel slab that acted as a door was lifted into the air, and set down behind one of the room's pillars. The idea behind it was simple, yet intelligent. The door was just a chunk of metal, so no slicers could access it. The thickness of the material would have required ship blasters at the least to destroy, which could not have fit in the hallways and corridors outside. The tremendous weight made it all but impossible to move, unless the person who wanted to possessed a strong affinity with the Force.
It was very protective against would-be assassins, though the tradeoff was the effort it took to just open the damn thing.
Devon pressed one of the controls on his chair, and it swiveled to face his visitor. "What is it, Vizier?" he snapped.
The man's voice carried a well-concealed tone of fear. "Ah, I did not, eh, realize you were meditating." He fidgeted with the collar of his robe. Such bravado this adviser possessed! Any other servant would have been groveling at his feet while babbling excuses for his intrusion.
Devon continued to stare, but said nothing.
The Vizier hid his emotions well, indeed! "Would you, er, like to discuss some recent matters that have come up?"
Devon stayed silent, but narrowed his eyes.
That was were the most qualified of generals could be reduced to sobs while reswearing their allegience. Any confessions would soon follow.
Sweat trickled down the advisor's bald head. He was truly adamant. "There was, ah, a rebellion in the Anaxes Sector."
Devon's gnarled hands grasped at the edge of his chair like a perch. He leaned forward, and his voice grew heavier. "Tell me. Tell me everything."
The Vizier absentmindedly scratched at an itch on his head he obviously didn't have. "Er, yes, my lord. The protests over the, ah, incident with City 19 several weeks ago grew out of control. The rebels, eh, overpowered the planetary garrison. It soon spread to several other neighboring systems."
Devon's grip on the chair tightened. "Did it, now? And was this rebellion utterly crushed?"
"It, eh, was." The last statement was added as if it were an afterthought. "My lord."
The Dark Lord's voice grew harsh, and his nails casually started tapping the throne's edge. "Did they learn how futile it is to defy the Emperor? Does my very name now strike terror into the hearts of any would-be conspirators and rebels?"
The Vizier quickly nodded an unnecessary amount of times, and beads of sweat trickled onto his robe. "Absolutely, my lord!"
Devon did not reply, and continued to stare at the advisor in front of him, who was trying to avoid eye contact by glancing at his hands. They're so wrinkled, the Vizier thought. So gnarled and old. As if someone had hewn them out of wood and thrown them into the sea for years. And the nails. Claws would have been a better word. They rapped the chair in Devon's traditional pattern. He focused on it. First the index finger, the middle finger, the pointer finger, back to the index finger and -
The Dark Lord's tone was overflowing with veanom, and its abruptness after the silence added to the effect. "Why?"
It was too much. The advisor collapsed. "Please, forive me, my lord! I only wanted to - "
"Kill me? Do you think I can't tell there's invisigas in the air just because my eyes can't see it? Do you think I can't sense the toxin filters newly implanted into your lungs? Did you think that something as basic as gas could kill a Lord of the Sith?"
The Vizier was qualling in fright. "I - I only wanted what was best for the empire - "
"You only wanted what was best for yourself!" Devon snapped. "Do not assume I cannot see through your feeble plots and deceptions! People have been trying to oust me from the throne the minute I first sat on it!"
His hands were clapsed together. "P-p-please, your-r h-highness, your l-lordship, ha-ha-have p-pity on me... "
"If I had an ounce of it I'd have been dead decades ago, and a fool like you would be Emperor!"
The Vizier was trembling in terror, and choking between sobs. At this point he would reveal anything.
"But perhaps if you tell me anything about your fellow conspirators, I will reduce the harshness of your inevitable punishment." Devon said evenly. His glare turned into a gaze, and he began to stroke his chin. "Would you like to talk?"
"M-m-my l-lord, I d-d-don't-t k-know a-a-anything!"
The Dark Lord's nostrils flared. "I am not stupid, you fool! Either you will tell me of this poor conspiracy, or the interrogation droids will!"
"A-a-an h-heir to t-t-the throne, m-m-my l-lord... Your c-condition h-has..!"
Though hidden behind a hood, Devon's eyes widened. "My condition? How do you know of this? And speak without stuttering, you fool! Would you like your tongue removed?"
This was supposedly one of the most well-hidden secrets in the galaxy. The Emperor had never shared this with a single living thing, and the people who'd known it were long dead. When he had been born, his body had been afflicted with a rare condition that decayed it and accelerated the aging process. Only his sheer will to live and power over the dark side held off the ravaging effects of the disease. Any cells taken from him would rot within moments, since he could no longer control them directly. That meant there could be no clone bodies to possess like Palpatine had millenia ago. His days were numbered.
The Vizier wet himself then, and stained the marble floor. Devon's nose wrinkled and his tone in response was sour. "I do not like your bodily fluids contaminating my chambers, but it is an improvement over your stammering. Speak!"
"S-some of the Prophets, m-my lord. Y-your former Prophets."
"That splinter group? I thought I'd had them wiped out decades ago. But no matter. What have they seen?"
"A-a prophecy, m-m'lord. But n-not of the future! T-the past!"
"Y-yes. A-an heir to the throne. A-an aprrentice!"
"How long ago?"
"T-t-two millenia from n-next week, my lord!"
Devon frowned. "That long? Hmm... And why did you want this apprentice? To manipulate him and have a puppet ruler?"
"H-her." Corrected the advisor. "I-I did. It is thought you w-will die soon. I-I only wanted t-to prevent civil war!"
The Dark Lord paused. "You have given me all the information I need, Vizier. You will not be punished for this offense."
His face split into a wide grin of relief. "My lord is merficul! My lord is just! My lord - "
"Lies through his teeth." A simple flick of his wrist, and the advisor's head was rent from his body. Blood splattered across the clean marble floor, and stood in stark contrast to its black. The man's severed head still bore a smile of relief.
"Hear this!" Devon shouted into the small earpiece in the Vizier's ear. "Fellow conspirators of this dead fool, I am not amused. This was your first example of my displeasure. It will be your last as well. Another will result in your deaths."
He shorted out the earpiece, and pressed a control on his throne to summon a comdroid. A minute passed, and one floated into the room. "I want contact with the Captain of the Guard."
The machine paused for several seconds, and a hologram of an extremely fit young man was soon projected. "My lord asked for me?" The voice implied he was a professional soldier who knew his job well. After the grueling trials of both body and loyalty to reach his post, the man couldn't even comprehend that treachery, himself, and his master could all be part of one event.
"I did. Do you know of the Vizier who recently visited me?"
He nodded. "A member of your Inner Circle, m'lord. He lives in the 182nd governmental district, along with his allies."
He hadn't even asked why. Devon so very liked the faithful commanders who never questioned anything. "I am glad you know. Take several ships and virus-bomb all life from there. I want no survivors. Let the media catch all the details, and kill anyone who protests. I want a public example."
"And next, conduct another investigation of the Inner Circle members. Hang any who are not loyal enough. That must be public as well."
The soldier saluted. "I do as my lord bids."
"See that you do." Finished Devon, and turned off the comlink. He told the comdroid to summon something that could dispose of the mess on the floor, and sent it away. He started toward the docking bays in his palace, and pondered the information he had just learned. There was only possible scenario it could fit into, and only one way to reach it. He had never practiced such a technique on himself before, but the need was dire and it would not be as lethal as the holocrons said.