If the New Republic had thought that taking Coruscant had been relatively easy, then by comparison, establishing their foot hold on the planet was anything but because Coruscant was a mess. The Krytos virus was causing mass panic and the supplies of bacta had all but run out. Beings of all species were rushing to get off the planet and as far away as possible causing absolute chaos at all the star ports and shuttle terminals. There was no control because the Imperials had more or less stepped aside and the
Banks closed because just about everyone had tried to withdraw their money, unsure what would happen with the Imperial currency, food shopping was damned near impossible due to the line ups and the insane hording that was going on and the general infrastructure kept going down due to sabotage. I had never in my life experienced this sort of planet wide chaos before and it scared the hell out of me. It was Uncle Vahlek who kept me from going stir crazy. He took the entire situation in stride, remaining calm when everything around us was falling apart.
“Give it time Lei’lei.” He said, “Things will calm down once the majority of the planet realises the world is not about to end.” And because there was nothing much else I could do I followed his advice.
The first week had been bad and for a great deal of it Shiv and Ynyth stayed with us, sleeping in the guest room while my Uncle slept on the couch, but soon enough, just as my uncle had predicted, things slowly wound down and life began to get back to some semblance of normal.
The HoloNet schedule programmes returned, with a few exceptions, to their normal times and gradually the news of the Emancipation, as it was now being called, gave way to news of the Krytos virus and other, less catastrophic, things. I found it interesting to watch how quickly people settled down, accepting the new government once the essential things like power, food and commerce were all back on line. Thrawn had been right that as long as we were fed, warm and felt safe we were pretty easy going about who actually ran things.
Still, just because the majority of the populace had settled back into their routines did not mean the whole planet had and all over the place small resistance pockets were breaking out, causing havoc with minor acts of terrorism and vandalism. The worsening problem due to the Krytos virus was also not helping to stabilize the planet either. It became apparent very rapidly that the
It did not help matters much that many planets had banned all inbound travel from Coruscant for fear of the virus’s spread which only heightened the growing sense of planetary claustrophobia and panic. The unease which had settled over Coruscant was palpable and this tension was making me stir crazy, which in turn drove my uncle nuts. To counteract the cabin fever that had infected me, he had come up with a solution but I wasn’t especially happy with it.
I sighed as I put on my long heavy coat. “Why are we going to this thing again?” I asked.
“Because I think you need to get some fresh air and I wish to take a first hand look at the heroes who will no doubt be attending this ceremony.” He told me as he dressed for going outside. “Now get a move on, I want a decent seat. It’s going to be very busy.”
I was not happy about getting dragged to the memorial service being held for dead rebel pilot named Corran Horn. His name had been splashed all over the HoloNet as a hero who had given his life for the worthy and noble cause of retaking the Core planet. He had apparently been crushed to death when a building had collapsed on him. I thought that this was a somewhat ironic death for a heroic rebel pilot saving the galaxy from the evil empire. When word began to circulate about this memorial service, interest in attending it grew exponentially. It didn’t hurt that his face and his deeds were being touted at every single opportunity so that by the time the day of the memorial rolled around I was thoroughly sick of hearing about him.
My uncle, who had decided it would be a good opportunity to get to see the faces of the
The service was being held at the place where Horn had died. The building which had become his tomb was to also me his memorial. A large stage had been erected and large grandstands had been built up all around the rubble of the collapsed building and then, because of the huge amount of interest and the unusual amount of spectators expected, extra places to sit had also been added onto the surrounding buildings, walkways and all available areas of space. It was going to be exactly as Uncle Vahlek had said it would be: a spectacle of over blown proportions.
It was good that we had arrived early and managed to get decent enough seats, although I noticed with wry amusement the best seats closest to the podiums had all been taken up by what looked like dignitaries and politicians.
“They want to keep their new friends close.” Uncle Vahlek had said by way of answer to my comment.
Despite the amount of beings that were gathering in this place I felt a sliver of unease ripple through me although I couldn’t put my finger on why. Jyrki was still a round and I wasn’t sure if he really had given up on me or if he was still in stalking mode. I was half afraid that someone would somehow recognise me from my days in the Imperial court and tell the entire planet about my past associations so I had worn and long heavy coat with a hood, my hair tied back in a braid and clothing I could easily move in. My uncle thought I was being a little paranoid and had shaken his head at my attempts of disguise.
“Lei’lei, trust me no one will be looking at or for you.” He had said not doing a very good job at hiding his amusement. I had just shot him a glare, but he was, of course, right.
By the time the ceremony was underway it felt as though half the planet was actually in attendance and the rest would be glued to the HoloNet watching live feed casts being sent across the galaxy. It was great publicity and a much needed opportunity for the shaky new government to show its face. They were playing on the equality of all beings and species bit, touting, not so subtly, their ability to work together against the xenophobia of the Empire. For the most part it was a lot of hot air and pretty words about a dead pilot and how he had become the symbol of hope in a world that had previously been blanketed by evil and gloom. I was amazed at how politicians could say little with so many words. My uncle remained silent as we listened to these speeches, ignoring me as I let him know though sighs and looks that I was bored out of my skull.
The last person to speak was Commander Wedge Antilles. As my uncle handed me the tiny pair of micro-binoculars he had brought with him so that I could get a good look at the man who had brought Coruscant down. He was older than his purported years and he looked exhausted although he was making a brave front of it. When he stepped up to the microphone a deep hush had rippled across the crowds as everyone waited for him to speak. His voice was gentler than I had imagined it would be and he sounded like a man who had lost too many friends in one too many battles.
I listened with interest to the speech he gave because it wasn’t like any of the others. He did not mince words or try to sooth ruffled feathers by speaking in terms that were metaphysical and almost unreal. To hear how some of the speakers talked about Corran Horn one would have thought the dead pilot was a god not a man. Instead of going this route,
“…You must do what Corran did: fight anything and everything that would give the Empire comfort or security or a chance to reassert itself. If you trade vigilance for complacency, freedom for security, a future without fear for comfort; you will be responsible for shaping the galaxy once again into a place that demands people like Corran Horn fight, always fight and eventually fall victim to evil. …”
I sighed. The Evil Empire. I wondered at how easy it was to stick simple descriptions on such a vast and all encompassing thing. I tuned back in to hear the last of Commander Antilles’ speech.
“…He has done everything he could to fight the Empire; now it is up to you to continue hi fight. If he is ever to know peace, it will only be when we all know peace. And that is a goal every one of us knows is well worth fighting for.”
He stepped back from the podium then and all around me the crowd applauded loudly but as I watched the officials and dignitaries who were seated closest to the stage I understood they had not been inspired by the commander’s speech, if anything he had pissed them off. That made me smile a little, this new government was already experiencing dissent and unrest. Good, I thought, serves you right.
Contrary to just about everyone else around me, Commander Antilles words had angered me, instead of inspired. This assumption that everything associated with the Empire was evil annoyed me to no end. It was the same old lies each opposing side told its allies and friends. We are right because they are wrong, but who defined right and wrong? The Emperor had often spoken on this very dilemma to me but only now did I begin to understand what he had been trying to get at.
Admittedly, I thought as I watched Commander Antilles speak with a Bothan who did not seem terribly impressed with the commander’s words either, there were things done in the name of the Empire which I whole heartedly disagreed with and Isard’s latest move had helped to improve that reputation but not everything which had been done during the Emperor’s rule had been bad.
Palpatine, for all his megalomania, had brought an entire galaxy more or less together at a time when it was about to rip itself apart. Many, many worlds had prospered under his rule, the might of the military and the navy could have challenged any threat from outsiders, spice dealing and smuggling had been drastically cut and commerce had flourished throughout the trading planets. It amazed me how quickly the good things were forgotten in favour of the negative, even though I knew that the negative was pretty major. Still, it was all about spin and good PR as well as who had the power to weave the glamour to cover up the unwanted truths.
“Who is the Bothan that’s speaking to the Commander, Zte’sa?” I asked, switching from basic to minnisiat, a trade language mostly unknown in the Core. Once I had learned that Uncle Vahlek knew this language we had taken to speaking it while in public because so very few people actually spoke or understood it. I had not thought much of it when Thrawn had encouraged me to learn it but as with most things he had given me, it was a gift I silently thanked him for every day. I handed the binoculars back to my uncle so he could take a look.
“If I am not mistaken that would be Borsk Fey’lya.” He said carefully, “One of the main politicians in the provisional government although I am unsure of his exact role.”
“Well, who ever he is he doesn’t like the commander much at all.”
Uncle Vahlek turned to give me a glance and a small smile. “No, Lei’lei he doesn’t.” He said. “I see your ability to observe has greatly increased.”
“Navaari taught me well.” I told him with a nod.
For a moment he looked as though he wanted to say something about that but then changed his mind. My time with the Dantassi was something he was interested in but he never pushed for information. He nodded slightly. “So what did you think of the speeches?” He asked me, switching tracks.
“Lies and propaganda.” I spat. “A crass attempt at trying enlist sympathy for the
A slight smile pulled at my Uncle’s lips. “Perhaps it was at that, but you are now looking at the new government. One, I might add that has been formally recognised by many worlds.” He said. “They are no longer rebels, they are now leaders.”
His words hit home, like a knife through the heart. I opened my mouth to say more but a sudden, almost overwhelming sensation of panic engulfed me. Cold sweat prickled across my skin and my heart thumped with the surge of adrenaline that was so painful I gasped at it. I grabbed my uncle’s sleeve. “We need to go.” I hissed urgently.
“Hmm not yet,” he said still watching the stage, “I wish to observe the dignitaries as they leave….” My uncle explained.
The terrible sensation that crawled under my skin worsened. Agitated beyond normal I fidgeted and chewed at my pinkie nail. The memorial was over and people around us had gotten up and were leaving. When I could stand it no longer I, too, stood up to go.
“Lei’lei…” My uncle glanced up at me, annoyed. He had mistaken my persistence for impatience, thinking me rude for pushing to get my own way but I wasn’t having it. I knew this sensation and while I didn’t get it all that often I knew enough to pay attention to it.
I yanked at his arm violently. “Now, right now. We need to get away from this place!” I was still speaking minnisiat but the urgency in my tone and the volume at which I spoke made the people close to us stop and stare.
“Lei’lei, stop it you are drawing attention ….”
I shook my head with impatience and the terrible sense of danger that was crawling all over my skin like maggots on rotting flesh. I grabbed his collar and pulled his head close to mine. “We must get the hell away from here now.” I said slowly and quietly in his ear, “something very bad is going to happen very soon.”
It only took a second for him to suddenly understand that I wasn’t messing around with him and without further fuss or protest he followed me as I hurried my way across the crowded stands to get away from this place. The Memorial service had come to an end and I could hear the echoing words of the master of the ceremony as he officially closed the event by wishing everyone stay safe and vigilant.
I grew more and more anxious as the people leaving had surrounded us in a slow moving crowd that only went in one direction. Gripping my uncle’s hand in mine, I dragged at him as I wove my way through the throng annoying crowds. My persistence and pushiness earning me angry stares but I simply ignored their rude comments about my lack of manners. It was like trying to walk quickly through the snow fields on Hjal without snow-shoes and the slower we moved the more wound up I got. We were getting nowhere fast.
My uncle was about to comment when quite suddenly from behind us there was an enormous explosion followed by several more. For a split second nothing moved then the docile crowd had become a panicking monster. In the blink of an eye, my uncle had wrapped himself around me like a shield and moved us off to one side where we were safe from being trampled or hit from falling, flying bits of wreckage. I felt the wind from the shockwave of the blast but, with his arm curled around my head, my uncle protected my face from it. When some of the dust had settled I could see the damage that had been done and it made my heart stop cold.
The stands where we had previously been seated were now a mess of twisted durasteel and duraplast. Half the concourse we had been sitting above was gone, swept down into the Coruscant’s deep along with the falling stands and all the people who had remained seated to avoid the rush of the crowds. If we had stayed there we would most likely have been caught up in the majority of the explosion and killed. Luckily, who ever it was who had done this had mistimed it. All the important dignitaries and New Republic members had already cleared the area and most people had already begun to leave as the memorial had finished, so casualties were not as high as they could have been but still, as I glanced all around, there had been casualties and it wasn’t pretty. I fought the wave of nausea that swept through me, gagging back the bile.
“Are you alright?” asked my uncle, his hands biting into my shoulders as his eyes swept up and down me, checking for any injury. I nodded noticing the cut on the side of his forehead where a piece of flying debris had caught him but it was superficial.
“I told you we had to leave!” I spat crossly, angry as well as scared.
Uncle Vahlek looked at me and drew a deep breath. “So you did.” He eventually said by way of acknowledgement.
Shaken up, I asked “Can we please go home now?”
He nodded absently, still looking over the area which had been blown to bits. “Well,” he said as he wrapped an arm around my shoulder protectively, “This is going to make things interesting.”
“Interesting?” I squeaked. “Your definition of that word definitely isn’t the same as mine Zte’sa.” I muttered under my breath.
My uncle smiled grimly and hurried up his pace so that I had to trot to keep up with him. “We can discuss semantics over a drink when we get home.” He said.
I wasn’t about to disagree with that.
We later found out that the Palpatine Counter Insurgency Front had claimed responsibility of the bombings at the memorial service. The HoloNews showed the captured scenes over and over again until I was numb from them despite the fact that I had been there.
“If they had wanted to kill the new government and its hangers on, they missed.” I snorted as a young twi’lek reporter wearing too much make up over emphasised the drama of it all.
“I don’t think that was the intent, Lei’lei.” Uncle Vahlek said as he curled his hands around the hot tea cup.
“Assassinating the heroes and government officials by such a cowardly act would only serve to swing even more people to sympathise in favour of the
“From gathering in public.” He answered. “These sort of acts of random violence create an atmosphere of fear which will make it harder for the provisional government to convince everyone that things are all nice and safe now.”
I sighed heavily. “Great, we swap one group of terrorists for another.”
“Maybe, but as far as I can recall the Rebellion never randomly blew people up as a scare tactic. They picked their fights quite carefully.”
“So who would then?”
“People loyal to the Empire, judging by the name of this particular group.”
“Great sarlacc’s teeth, no wonder people in this galaxy think the Empire was evil!” I snapped.
“Oh Lei’lei, the Empire itself wasn’t evil. But many of its leaders were at the very least, too power hungry to think straight and, at the very worse, megalomaniacs with xenophobic tendencies bordering on psychotic.”
“Like Ysanne Isard.”
My uncle gave me a small nod. “For example.”
I made a face. “I should have stayed on Hjal with Navaari.” I grumbled which made my uncle smile.
“I am quite certain, given enough time, this new government will find it has its fair share of problematic politicians out to serve their own purposes rather than the worlds they claim to care about. Power attracts the greedy and the corrupt and it doesn’t matter what side you are on in this regard.”
“In other words they will end up just like the last Republic.” I retorted.
My uncle just raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his tea. “Everything is cyclical, Lei’lei. History repeats itself all the time. You should have paid more attention in school instead of sneaking out to follow Jyrki around like a little love sick bantha.”
“Well, contrary to popular belief what I learned from Jyrki has actually saved my life on a few occasions…so far history from dull school lessons hasn’t.” I told him tartly.
He had no answer for that but the small smirk that tugged at the corners of his lips had not gone unnoticed.