I felt rather than heard my uncle’s deep voice rumble in his chest as he began to speak.
“When the Old Republic came to an end most people welcomed it. They saw in Chancellor Palpatine a man who would save them from the war that had been raging for several years. A war, incidentally that many felt the jedi had initiated when they had interfered with the Trade Federation’s blockade of Naboo. The downward spiral which began with that event and led the galaxy into the civil war which you know as the Clone Wars was the end of the Old Republic although most of its supporters would not see it this way. With the annihilation of the Jedi Order and the Republic senate in a state of chaos, Palpatine formed the Galactic Empire and took on the title as Emperor. I still recall his exact words to this day; ‘We stand on the threshold of a new beginning. In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society, which I assure you will last for ten thousand years. An Empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body and a sovereign ruler chosen for life.’”
“His speech and this decision were met by such applause that you would have thought the senate building would collapse under the sheer volume of it.” He spoke quietly, lost in the memory. “He did what he set out to do, he brought peace and he brought stability but it came at a price and that price was personal freedom and some civil rights. In the beginning many were willing to give up some of these things and, for the most part, in all honesty, many members of the Empire never noticed a massive change in how things ran on a day to day basis but as with all change it had its opponents and this was the start of the rebellion.”
“The rebellion has its beginnings in a group of senators who did not like this new change. They had created a petition, the Petition of the Two Thousand it was called, begging him to step back from the powers he had been granted in the Emergency Acts rule but he refused, stating that the issues which had brought about the need for extra powers to take care of the issues at hand still remained. He also maintained that their issues with the newly created Moff system, which they said destroyed the actual power of the senate, were baseless fears. Shortly after this he changed the Republic into an Empire and many of the senators who had signed that petition retracted their signatures for fear of reprisal. I don’t tell you this lightly, these were difficult times, and many senators whose names remained on that petition vanished without a trace or were killed under somewhat dubious circumstances.”
“But the Empire had senate rule as well, at least until the senate was dissolved.” I said, trying to recall my history lessons from school.
Uncle Vahlek nodded. “Yes it did, after a fashion, but the newly create Moff office actually did strip much of the senate’s power away although at first not many people noticed this right away. In the beginning it all appeared to work out well, but as the rebellion grew in size and strength, gaining sympathies and support and as the honeymoon phase of the new style of imperial government wore off, people suddenly began to realize just exactly what and how much they had given up.”
“Palpatine saw the need to switch the style of rule to an outright dictatorship. When he implemented the Tarkin Doctrine I suspect that was the beginning of the end. For many worlds and many people who had, up until that point remained loyal to the ideal of Palpatine’s empire, the idea that they were now under the thumb of a single governor or Moff was distasteful at best and terrifying at worst. While some of the governors were actually good people with good intentions many were mostly power hungry and tyrannical, Tarkin being the supreme example of this.” He paused.
“Ruling by fear, while effective for a time, has its down sides and you can only subjugate people to that sort of thing for so long before they will eventually get fed up and fight back. This added much needed fuel to the small fires the Rebellion had been starting from even before Palpatine actually declared himself Emperor. I think it was the creation of the Emperor’s Battle Station, that some smart ass dubbed the ‘death star’ which pushed things over the edge. With a weapon like that Palpatine ensured he could do as he wished and the peoples of the galaxy who opposed him feared not only sanctions but destruction as well. Alderaan was the prime example of this, despite the propaganda about what caused the planet’s destruction I happen to know for a fact it was destroyed by that battle station and that Tarkin was directly responsible. Had that incident not occurred who is to say how things would have turned out? And while the Emperor did a bang up job of covering the truth up, it was enough to push the Rebellion's cause from being one most people didn’t care about to one they suddenly did.”
I sighed. These words sounded so familiar to me and I recalled the many conversations Thrawn and I had had on this topic. It led me to another memory, one which sent a little shiver down the back of my spine. I pulled out of my uncle’s embrace and hugged my arms around my body, watching while he poured the water which had boiled into the tea pot. “Thrawn told me once that Palpatine feared a great threat from outside of the galaxy and that this was partly why he chose to create the Empire. He wanted the galaxy to be united so that its defences and military capabilities would be enough to fight off these far outsiders.”
That made my uncle’s eyebrows rise up in surprise. “Is that so?” He said quietly.
I nodded slightly, “These aliens Thrawn spoke of, they must be terrible because even he was worried about them and it isn’t often he gets noticeably concerned about things like that so when he does, I get scared.”
“Well, that little piece of information sheds some interesting light on a few of Palpatine’s actions, but make no mistake Lei’lei, Palpatine wanted power as well. His motives were not purely selfless.”
That was an understatement, I thought. “Does it matter? I mean in the end, what if he was right? And what happens if there is such an invasion and this galaxy no longer has the superior military defences it once had?”
“Difficult questions to answer and I guess this new government will find itself in a rather precarious position should that ever happen.” Uncle Vahlek said quietly. “But I don’t think that it is something you or I have to immediately worry about just yet. If there were such a threat at the edge of the galaxy we would have heard something of it by now.”
I looked up at him and nodded but I wasn’t so sure he was right. Space was vast and, for the most part, pretty empty. It would be easy enough for an enemy to covertly sneak its way in, if it really wanted to, especially when we were at our most vulnerable, like now. I thought it was utter arrogance to assume that we were safe, tucked away in our own galaxy away from alien threats just because we couldn’t see them.
Perhaps my thoughts showed on my face because my Uncle gave me a tight smile and said, “Even if such an invasion force is on its way there is little you or I can do about it right now anyway.” He handed me a cup of tea and nodded in the direction of the sitting room. “So for now we will go into the living room, watch what the HoloNet news has to offer, drink this tea and get some rest. Invasion or no, neither you nor I will be of much use without sleep and you, child, are exhausted.”
I could not argue with this logic even if I had wanted to and, he was right, I was far too tired to try. We sipped our tea in silence as we watched the HoloNet unfold the edited, politically correct, play by play version of what had occurred. After seeing how the battle for the Imperial palace was portrayed when told by the winning side I wondered if I had stepped into an alternative universe. I was thankful for my uncle’s presence of mind to get us out of there when he did and I was never more grateful for Thrawn’s gift of this apartment than now. If I had still been residing in the palace I would have lost everything. I shuddered to think of it and marvelled, once again, at Thrawn’s uncanny ability to be prepared for any and every eventuality.
At some point in the middle of an interview with an eye witness who definitely had not seen the same things I had seen, I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I didn’t dream and when I woke up I discovered that I had been carried to my own bed with the Dantassi blanket I loved so much draped over me. I was a bit shocked to realize that I had slept for nearly fifteen hours straight, even more stunned when the memories of what had just happened came rushing back. In the space of a day everything I had known had changed.
Still groggy, I got up and went in search of my uncle. I wasn’t as surprised as I should have been to see him in the living room speaking with Shiv and Ynyth. I gave them a cursory wave and then decided I would not function properly until I had spent at least fifteen minutes under a very hot shower so that was what I did. By the time I reappeared stimcaf had been prepared. I accepted the cup I was offered gratefully and then sitting on my favourite chair, tucking my feet under me in a very jax like fashion, I let Shiv and Ynyth recount their versions of what they had seen and the latest news that had been spread by the HoloNet, then I told them about my suspicions about Isard and the Krytos virus.
There was a long heavy quiet after I had finished speaking and then Shiv asked me. “Do you think that Thrawn knew about any of this?”
I shook my head. “He would have found the idea of a biological weapon used in this manner …unthinkable.” I said softly. “I’d like to think if he had known he would have tried to prevent her from doing it at all.”
“What about the rebels taking Coruscant?” Ynyth asked, her normally cheerful eyes marred by dark circles and worry. “Do you think he knew about this?”
“I don’t think he would have been too surprised. Retaking the Core was the next logical step for the New Republic.” I answered thoughtfully. “When we got word that Borleias had fallen he told me Coruscant would be next.”
“Do you think he will come and try to take this planet back?”
I went to speak but it was my uncle who answered. “That is unlikely at this time.” He said. “And it would be unwise.”
I nodded my agreement with his assessment. “Thrawn doesn’t have the man power or the ships needed to launch such a full scale attack and to do so undermanned would invite the risk of letting all the other factions out there who would gladly have Coruscant for their own to come out of the woodwork. It would mean a dirty war that would go on forever between multiple factions. That’s not his style. If he were to retake Coruscant he would want to do so swiftly and decisively. If it meant high civilian casualties and an unacceptable loss of men and ships he would not take the risk.”
There was a long, heavy silence while everyone digested this. These were uncertain times and none of us, except for my Uncle had even the slightest inkling how to cope with the massive and violent change.
“Do you think we should start hiding or destroying all our holo-captures of the Emperor or Lord Vader?” Ynyth asked timidly.
I looked at Ynyth. “Why?”
“Well… I heard that the rebel army was searching people’s homes and looking for evidence of those still loyal to the Empire and… doing things….” She said, managing to look both embarrassed and scared all at the same time.
My uncle looked a little puzzled. “Doing what?”
She swallowed, “I heard that they were arresting people to put in to labour camps or worse….”
The expression on my uncle’s face softened a little and his tone of voice was the same with which he used to sooth nervous banthas. “Ynyth, there are nearly one trillion beings on this planet I am certain the New Republic has neither the man power nor the inclination to search every single home nor,” he added, “do they have the facilities to intern every single being who has holo captures of the Emperor sitting on a bookshelf somewhere. I don’t know who has been filling your head with this nonsense but I can assure you this won’t be happening on this planet this time.”
‘This time?’ My glance asked, catching his eye but the subtle shake of his head said don’t ask.
“I wonder if they even know about Thrawn.” Shiv said looking at me. “He is the last of the Grand Admirals.”
That made me shrug. “I don’t know.” I said. “His promotion to the Circle of Twelve wasn’t that well advertised and then he all but vanished from the Imperial spotlight. I am not sure that anyone really knows about him outside of the inner High Command circle which is a good thing because if they knew he was still out there or had any idea of just how brilliant he is, they would go after him with everything they have.” I sighed. “Honestly, I think that anyone who actually recalls his existence will just assume he is dead.”
“Well you should get rid of any holo-captures you have of him in his white uniform.” Shiv cautioned.
I shook my head, not voicing that I thought he was being a bit paranoid. “The only capture I have of him is on Nirauan and he’s not wearing his uniform in it. Besides in the Imperial computer system almost all traces of him have been purged. I read in a back issue of Coruscant weekly which said he was thought to have been killed at Endor and most people believed it.”
Shiv’s mouth tightened in a thin line. “It is a sure bet if they connect him to you, it would be a bad thing for you.” He said pushing his point.
“That has been taken care of Siavaan.” Uncle Vahlek said in a tone of voice that brooked no more discussion on the matter.
Shiv stared at my uncle, lines of annoyance and frustration marring his usually handsome face but when my uncle did not back down, he then glanced at me.
My eyes flicked to my uncle who gave me the tiniest of nods. “We erased most traces of me and my position as Lord Vader’s assistant from all of the archives. All anyone will think if they searched for my name was that I, like so many others, was just a courtesan in Palpatine’s court.” I explained. “I don’t exist in the Imperial Records any more as Lord Vader’s office girl.” It felt weird to say that out loud and it made me sad, as though a valuable part of my life had suddenly vanished.
The relief on Shiv’s face was almost comical. He sighed and sat back against the couch. “So now what?” he asked.
“Now we wait and see what happens next.” I said echoing my uncle’s words.
Shiv snorted, “Well I know one thing for sure….”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I’m damned well not going into work today and if they don’t like it they can fire me!” he said and that made us all laugh, breaking the uneasy tension that had wrapped itself around the room.