- "That's right, Master Tachi. This will be a day the Senate will long remember. A bloodbath."
- ―Granta Omega to Siri Tachi
- "I have been tracking Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor, both of whom are familiar to you. What if they were behind this latest scheme? What if it is merely a smokescreen for their real plan?"
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Senatorial aide Tyro Caladian
In 24 BBY, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Siri Tachi and their respective Padawans, Anakin Skywalker and Ferus Olin, embarked from the Mid-Rim planet Romin, near the Perlemian Trade Route, in pursuit of Jedi arch-enemy Granta Omega and mad scientist Jenna Zan Arbor. Zan Arbor had, along with deposed Romin dictator Roy Teda, escaped from an uprising of the Romin people aboard a star yacht navigated by con-artist Roper Slam and his gang. The Jedi tracked the criminals to the Mid-Rim planet of Falleen, near the Corellian Run, where they hoped to find and apprehend Granta Omega, with whom Zan Arbor and Teda were rendezvousing, for they'd discovered that the malicious trio were plotting a major operation against the Republic.
Believing themselves to be on the brink of finding Omega within his secret drug-manufacturing and -testing facility on the outskirts of Falleen's capital city, the Jedi teams were unexpectedly summoned back to Coruscant by Jedi High Council member Master Mace Windu, who informed them that the Galactic Senate, based on a growing tide of anti-Jedi feeling among its members, was considering withdrawal of its sponsorship of the Jedi Order.
Windu and the Jedi teams met with Chancellor Palpatine, who informed them that leading the charge of the anti-Jedi faction was obscure Nuralee Senator Bog Divinian, husband of Kenobi's friend Astri Oddo. In speaking with Senatorial aide Tyro Caladian (also a longtime friend of the Jedi Knight), Kenobi began to believe that Granta Omega was behind the debate to withdraw Senatorial support of the Jedi and that the Senate argument was in some way connected to the major criminal operation the Jedi knew Omega had been planning with Zan Arbor. It was shortly thereafter that the Jedi found evidence suggesting that Omega and Zan Arbor were indeed planning a major treasury heist of crystalline vertex, to take place at the inaugural ceremony for the All Planets Relief Fund in the Bank of the Core Plaza.
Ultimately, however, the heist—carried out by the Slam gang—served only to divert to the plaza all Senate security personnel from a massive assassination attempt of Omega and Zan Arbor's true target—thousands of Galactic Senators with their top advisors, and Chancellor Palpatine, who was presiding over the full-Senate debate in the Galactic Senate Building on whether to bar the Jedi Order from further action on behalf of the Senate. Indeed, Omega proved to be the mastermind of the debate itself, for it was the result of a petition that originated with Omega's early sponsor, Eeropha Senator Sano Sauro and brought to fruition by Senator Bog Divinian and dictator Roy Teda. The conspirators hoped to eliminate both Jedi interference and Palpatine in a single day.
Although the evil plot was ultimately foiled by the Jedi, and Senate support of the Order was not only retained but strengthened, the attack on the Senate Building left 46 individuals dead, and Granta Omega and Jenna Zan Arbor managed, once again, to escape the reach of both the Jedi and Republic justice.
Flight to Falleen
- "They aren't all official security droids. As a matter of fact, most of them seem to be private droids. And they're armed."
"Omega? ... Looking for us, perhaps."
"Just as we are looking for him."
- ―Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, Siri Tachi, and Ferus Olin
Obi-Wan Kenobi felt as if he'd been chasing an elusive shadow for years. In fact, he had. A shadow in the form of one man—Force Blank Granta Omega. The Jedi Master had vowed each time that the encounter would be their last. Two Jedi teams had sped from Romin to the Mid-Rim world of Falleen in their pursuit of Omega. The galactic criminal's flight with mad scientist Jenna Zan Arbor and Romin's deposed dictator Roy Teda begged a showdown, which Kenobi felt was near. But like the other encounters with Omega, Obi-Wan sensed that it wouldn't come in a manner of his own choosing.
It had been a day since the Jedi had landed on Falleen and, dressed as travelers, they had continued their tracking of the three criminals through the booming center of commerce and industry that was Falleen Throne, the planet's capital city. Searching the three-tiered city packed with diverse beings, they could not pinpoint Omega's position, nor did they know why he was on Falleen. He seemed one step ahead again. Kenobi was in danger of repeating the scenario: bursting into an empty room, only to see an escaping transport take off. Obi-Wan's Padawan had somehow escaped this kind of haunting defeat, for Anakin Skywalker didn't contemplate the possibility of failure, though he was haunted by things so deep that they couldn't be shared at one time with his Master. Sometimes Kenobi even believed that Anakin's dark internal shadow had vanished, that he was finally at ease with his formidable gifts, and that he'd at last conquered his struggle to accept his role as the Chosen One.
Anakin had been able to confront and release many of his fears while on Romin, where he'd been under the influence of Zan Arbor's secret drug, the Zone of Self-Containment. It could make beings feel blissfully, if dangerously, content, allowing them to forget their cares, or any need to take action. Even so, the criminal scientist hadn't yet learned how to transmit the drug to more than a few individuals at a time. Now, Omega, Zan Arbor, and Teda, with the enlisted help of the Slam gang, were poised to execute a major criminal operation in the Core Worlds, and the Jedi suspected they would use "the Zone" to do it. Along with Siri Tachi and her Padawan Ferus Olin, the Jedi were now in the process of investigating the origins of Falleen's thriving businesses and major corporations, hoping to find any ties to Omega, but weapons merchants hid so often behind other companies that the Jedi weren't investing too much in actually tracing who owned what. Even so, they wanted to investigate a new factory—Blackwater Systems, beyond the city outskirts—already marked by a bad reputation among the Falleens because it had been built so quickly and was the worst on the planet for hiding its illegal practices and making bribes to the government to overlook safety violations and keep inspectors away.
Hopping on a cloud bus, they arrived at their destination, exiting at the last available stop, then walking the rest of the way in the bitterly cold wind that howled off the plains from distant mountain ice-sheets. They were in the Yellow District—so named for the constant haze of color that hung in the sky from factory-belched toxins. The Blackwater Factory, windowless and built of black durasteel and stone, was at line's end, more than two kilometers from the last cloud-bus stop. Almost immediately, Master Kenobi felt a surge in the Force: the Jedi were being tracked by surveillance droids. From the facility's main walkway, they darted into a narrow side alley and began to run. They had passed several smaller outbuildings when Skywalker's Force-sensitivity picked up something, and he bade the group follow him through a maze of gravsleds and durasteel bins marked as waste. The entire area was barren, void of life—no living creature would linger in such a place. A lofty stone wall brought the Jedi to a halt; they could hear a crowd of beings on the other side of it.
Activating their cable launchers, the Jedi scaled the wall and saw a female Falleen speaking passionately through an amplifier headset to a crowd of on-lookers. Jumping down, the Jedi moved quickly and covertly through the crowd. Having doubled back in their race to lose the droids, they were now outside the factory's main gate. They learned from the Falleen's interaction with the crowd that no one apparently knew what the wastes produced by the company were, nor how they were disposed of; that unknown experiments were being conducted in the factory's secret wing; that four factory workers, over a period of three months, had died without any reports filed on their deaths; and that the protesters were committed to making the company obey their world's laws, even if their planetary leaders failed to do so: they were prepared to enter the facility by force, if necessary, to obtain their evidence against Blackwater Systems.
At the Falleen's signal, a small explosive charge broke open the company gates and the crowd surged forward with a great shout. The Jedi were caught in the midst, moving forward with them. But suddenly, attack droids flew out of the facility, and the crowd—understanding that these droids were programmed to kill, not stun—retreated in a panic as the Jedi continued forward towards the droids. The Falleen leader didn't retreat but instead broke toward the alleys, pursued by two droids. Obi-Wan and Anakin followed; both understood the need to speak with the Falleen. Anakin moved with astonishing speed and took down the trackers with his lightsaber, leaving them in smoking ruins. Siri and Ferus joined them and they raced to the wall, where they saw the Falleen trying, without success, to scale it. Setting her at ease by telling her that they weren't from Blackwater, Siri reported that the pursuing droids had crashed into each other and were destroyed. The Falleen advised her mysterious would-be rescuers that they not linger, as Blackwater had her vitals and would soon find her. Admiring her bravery, they told her the wall wasn't a problem: within moments all four Jedi and the Falleen had scaled it with cable launchers and dropped to the other side.
Introducing herself as Mazara, the Falleen told the Jedi she knew a back way to the cloud-bus stop, which they then took behind the factory, having to scale the locked gates between properties to reach the un-monitored plains. Mazara stated to them her disgust of Blackwater, but also the disgust she felt for her fellow Falleen, who, while growing distressed with the situation, were not doing anything about it. Mazara wasn't a natural activist—she'd started out as a journalist before being fired for writing an article on Blackwater—but both sky and land were turning into dumping grounds, and she could not watch happen to her homeworld what she'd seen happen on other worlds. Mazara had targeted Blackwater because they were the worst offenders of all the planetary corporations. Whenever an investigation into a death was done, the results always put the worker at fault. When the Jedi asked Mazara if she knew who the company owners were, she said her investigations had come up empty—Blackwater was murkier than most when it came to the game of companies hiding behind companies.
Mazara, of course, was too shrewd to swallow their explanation about the crashing droids. She knew they weren't factory workers and guessed that they had taken down the droids themselves—that they were, in fact, Jedi. There was word on the streets, moreover, that those who identified Jedi would be paid for it. Now it was Mazara's turn to put the Jedi at ease, by telling them they could trust her. In reply to her query if they'd come to help the protesters' cause, the Jedi said that they'd come to investigate several of Falleen's factories. Mazara welcomed the news, as now the Galactic Senate might be informed of their plight. The Jedi knew that the Senate, of course, was ill-prepared to come to Falleen's aid, however, roiled as it was in its own problems with the new Separatist movement that frayed old loyalties as it created new alliances; legislative procedure was blocking petitions from needy planets in a bureaucratic quagmire of the Senate's own making.
Though she wasn't familiar with Omega's name, Mazara knew who the ousted Teda was, lamenting that her planet seemed to be attracting the galaxy's worst, these days. The deposed tyrant was staying at a reclusive hotel reserved for the ultra-rich, but no one was staying with him, meaning that he and Zan Arbor had probably parted ways, at least in the strictly physical sense. Beyond the deaths at Blackwater, Mazara also disclosed that there had been illnesses as well, which couldn't be diagnosed, but which resulted most likely because the Falleen were forced to work in the factory's water tunnels (their species had a natural ability to be submersed for long periods of time). The mention of water tunnels raised warning flags for the Jedi, as Zan Arbor was still working to perfect mass-transmission of her drugs through water, particularly her newest, the Zone of Self-Containment. The transmission experiments were reserved for the factory's secret wing; workers were forced to sign a statement of confidentiality in order to work there. Obi-Wan asked Mazara if she could get them inside the factory to examine the secret wing. She told them, with a Falleen working in the employment office, she could, but that after that, they were on their own.
- "I suspect that despite the laws, they experimented on the workers themselves."
"They did. Different levels of the Zone. The four worker deaths were from overexposure. They were trying to calibrate exact amounts for large crowds ... This factory is definitely Omega's. Zan Arbor can't be far off."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker
While Siri and Ferus went to investigate Teda's hotel holdout early the next morning, Mazara was able to get Obi-Wan and Anakin into the factory as workers. In the frigid morning air, Skywalker joked with Olin, asking him why he got to hang around a luxury hotel while Anakin had to freeze on a factory floor. Kenobi was encouraged by the Padawans' easy banter and exchange. While on Romin, Ferus had spoken to Obi-Wan and unburdened himself of his fears about Anakin. Though Kenobi had been both irritated and alarmed by Olin's insights, the mere expression of his worries seemed to have freed Ferus to relax a bit more around Anakin, and the tension between the two of them had eased considerably.
Obi-Wan and Anakin soon were off with the other workers to begin their day at the Yellow District factory. Their job interview with Wanuri, the employment officer, was a mere formality, and they were immediately issued passes to the main factory floor. Though they'd wanted assignment to the secret transmission wing, Wanuri told them he couldn't manage that even for Mazara; they would have to settle for their regular shift, which ended precisely at six, as the night shift had been canceled. As the last hire always swept the factory floor, Kenobi and Skywalker were to ensure that they locked the hydromop and repulsorbroom back in the utility closet and that they not stay, as the security droids made a sweep of the facility every fifteen minutes thereafter. But Wanuri's last instruction was, again, a stock formality, as he well knew why they were there.
Clipping their security swipe cards to their red unisuits, the two Jedi were split up by their assigned manager to different areas of the facility, with each area being sealed off from the next area. Kenobi could only guess that the canisters (for which he was checking injection levels) contained the Zone, but he had no way of knowing if it was packaged as liquid or gas or some other kind of suspended particle. Deeply carved troughs carried waste through the floors, which was then flushed to outflow valves: unfortunate was the worker who stepped or fell into a trough— without decontamination rooms like other factories had, there was no way to know if the substance was indeed toxic. The dull work was made less so by light supervision (the machines rarely made mistakes), but oddly, no central authority existed for work or quality control. This worried Kenobi somewhat, as it wasn't like Omega or Zan Arbor. At break he met with Anakin, who said he'd learned that all the managers had changed two weeks before, and the workers, to their relief, didn't have to work as hard. Obi-Wan's uneasiness continued until just before closing time, when he reunited with his Padawan to clean the factory floor. When the buzzer sounded for all to retire, the two Jedi headed to the utility closet to return their cleaning equipment, but then stayed inside the closet and didn't exit until they heard the last worker leave, the passing security droid complete it first round, and the building locks slam down for the night.
Quietly exiting the closet, and with about eleven minutes until the next droid sweep, they headed for the restricted wing, where they were faced with a double-coded door lock; their cards would work if they could override the codes. Working at the keypad for several minutes with different combinations, the next security sweep was suddenly upon them, and, frustrated, they had to jump behind a gravsled before the droids swept by. Kenobi had studied codes with the great Jedi Master Nan Latourain at the Temple, but he now was faced by a lockcode beyond his abilities. Anakin made his own attempt at the lock, calling upon the Force; but as it grew, pulsed and shimmered around them, even with its added strength, the codes would not unlock. Suddenly there was Qui-Gon's easy smile in Obi-Wan's mind. Kenobi seized his lightsaber and slashed through the lock with one stroke, and the door swung open. Coming to another security door, Obi-Wan immediately buried his Jedi weapon in the durasteel until it peeled away in a glowing arc of light and smoke.
Finding themselves in a laboratory, they approached its consoles hoping to find the information files they needed. Seeing valves that led to tunnels large enough to walk in, Kenobi suspected that Omega and Zan Arbor, despite the laws, experimented on the workers themselves. Anakin, reading the files, confirmed the suspicion, but also that they were indeed standing in Omega's factory: there were different levels set for the Zone, and the four worker deaths were from overexposure when they were trying to calibrate precise amounts for large crowds—thousands at once. Although Zan Arbor had already perfected one-to-one transmission, she was now trying to infect a whole city. The science they were scanning was beyond their understanding and they realized they needed to get inspectors in. But their evidence was sufficient to go straight to the Supreme Chancellor with, which was, of course, the only way to get things done anymore, anyway. With six minutes left before the next droid sweep, they thought they'd check out the tunnel.
Opening the valve, they stepped inside the vented tunnel, using their glow rods to light the way. Peering into one of the vents, Obi-Wan could see ducts and hoses through which, he suspected, the Zone must be administered. Stepping over to observe a schematic that was lasered onto the plastoid wall, he viewed an extensive system of kilometers-long tunnels branching out from the main tunnel, approximating an entire small city, it seemed. It was so detailed that Anakin wondered if it was based on an actual city system. Suddenly, they heard the sound of rushing water and looked up just in time to see it crashing upon them. Swept up and propelled forward, their bodies smashed up against the tunnel walls and somersaulted wildly against the water's power. Seizing and fastening their aqua breathers, they continued to careen down the tunnel with the current's force. Kenobi remembered the laser drawing: the tunnel had seemed to end in bedrock, which meant that they'd be killed instantly. But a worse noise was now heard behind them. The tunnel was imploding and they'd be crushed in the collapse even before hitting the bedrock.
Struggling through the water torrent that had both Jedi tumbling end over end, they sought a way of escape besides the vents, which were too small. Anakin, too, remembered something from the schematic, though he'd only looked at it briefly: there was a larger vent that came roughly a quarter-kilometer before tunnel's end, but it was coming up fast. Obi-Wan had remembered it also and yelled at Anakin over the rushing water's sound to grab onto the vent, which was closing at about 500 meters to his left. The collapsing tunnel's roar was now deafening; dust and debris filled the air, and the ground underneath shuddered. Kenobi sent out the Force to his Padawan to assist him to swim against the water's force, to feel the spaces between the water drops as the waves broke over him, allowing him to make headway against the water and reach the tunnel's side immediately behind his Master. Using their cable launchers, they were able to hook the vent and pull themselves to it. As the water pressure held the vent in place, they pulled at the grating with all their strength, just as the water began cascading over their heads. Chunks of plastoid and durasteel sailed past them as the tunnel continued to collapse. The vent grating popped off with the gathering Force and bounced away on the rushing, churning water as the Jedi pulled themselves up and in.
Master and Padawan crawled swiftly forward through the violently trembling pipe toward a dim, grey light—it turned out to be a vertical ladder against the blackness. When they reached it, they began to climb, just as they heard the pipe beneath them collapse. They might be buried underground at any moment now. Stopping, they felt layers of durasteel above them, and Obi-Wan began to cut through with his lightsaber. Another stream of light joined his from above,as Siri,cut down towards them. The way now open, they scrambled up the ladder that was melting beneath them and were half-hauled up to the surface by the other Jedi. Speeding over the turbulent ground as it pitched and heaved, they reached the safety of the open plain, then turned back to look: the sight was astonishing as the ground swallowed the huge factory whole, caving in with a shower of fire and dust. The durasteel complex had completely imploded. Only a smoking crater remained where Blackwater had once been, with all evidence now sucked into the ground. Knowing Kenobi and Skywalker would be in the transmission wing, Siri and Ferus, seeing the collapse begin, and guided by the Force, had raced around the perimeter to find the glow of Kenobi's lightsaber.
Anakin rightly surmised that Omega had known the Jedi were there, and he destroyed his factory to silence them and cover his tracks. Since Teda had left the planet, Siri reported, she and Ferus feared Omega and Zan Arbor went with him. And since no flight plan was filed, they could be headed anywhere in the galaxy. The rising frustration was almost more than Kenobi could master; even his Padawan knew he was at the end of his control. Granta Omega had slipped from their grasp yet again. At that very moment, Kenobi's comlink signaled a message from Master Windu. Activating its holomode, Windu appeared in miniature holographic form, instructing them to immediately return to Coruscant.
Recall to Coruscant
- "On Romin, do you remember how Teda said they would be going to Coruscant? We couldn't decide if that was a diversion or not."
"We didn't think Teda was clever enough to create a diversion."
"Exactly. What is happening here ... it has the marks of Omega on it."
"Do you think Omega is involved in the movement to discredit the Jedi?"
"I don't know. Maybe not directly, but it's best to keep it in mind. It certainly fits his interests, doesn't it? Maybe returning here was not an end to our journey, but a continuation."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker
Master Windu, on his way to a Senate meeting with the Supreme Chancellor, could not meet with the newly returned Jedi teams in the Temple's High Council Chamber, but the four Jedi were briefed by him as he strode down the Great Hall on his way to the Senate Building. Mace informed them that for some time they'd felt among the Senators a feeling of distrust toward the Jedi Council. Though not overly concerned, they were aware that Senators like Sano Sauro undermined them whenever they could. False stories had been spread and events twisted, to make the Jedi appear disloyal to the Republic, or as interfering in galactic political matters by making them worse. Of late, however, things had escalated with an active, influential Senatorial faction, behind which they sensed an unknown presence. Sensing the Jedi's fatigue and frustration, Windu conceded that Senate power struggles were not unusual. But the mission they'd just returned from, while important, was only one of hundreds in the galaxy that involved peacekeeping, saving lives, helping governments, fostering alliances. They all would be compromised, and the strength and effectiveness of thousands of Jedi decimated if this determined faction achieved its aim: the withdrawal of official Senate support for the Jedi Council. ref name="JQ:TFP" />
Allowing Windu's words to sink in, the Jedi better understood the grave nature of the situation; operating without Senate approval would make them rogue diplomats, undercutting their authority. The Jedi contingent, arriving at the Senate Building, waited patiently outside Palpatine's private offices. Skywalker was quietly offering sincere condolence for his Master's disappointment that their crucial mission had been cut short, but Kenobi seemed lost in thought. Obi-Wan suddenly asked Anakin if he could remember Teda's comment back on Romin about his and Zan Arbor's plan to go to Coruscant; the Jedi had not been able to decide then whether or not it represented a diversion. Anakin remembered that they'd not been sure if the tyrant was clever enough in the first place to create a diversion—which was precisely Kenobi's point, as the current situation bore the hallmarks of Omega's style. Startled, Anakin asked his Master if he actually thought Omega was involved in this movement to discredit the Jedi. Unsure, but recognizing the need to be wary, Obi-Wan pointed out to his Padawan that the prospect certainly fit their arch-enemy's interests—and that perhaps the Jedi's return to Coruscant was not an end to their journey, but rather a continuation.
The Chancellor's senior aide, Sly Moore, entered from the interior room to usher the Jedi in. The Chancellor stood by a grouping of chairs when they entered. Anakin thought him imposing in his simple robes of muted colors. Skywalker suddenly realized that Palpatine was sacrificing his life to save the Senate from those intent on using it for their own ends. Thanking the Jedi for responding so promptly to his call, the Chancellor asked them to sit. Palpatine said that even the best of them had been unable to stop the growing tide of anti-Jedi sentiment. At a loss to explain it, he suggested that in their conflict-mired galaxy, some might turn to a scapegoat to advance their own plans.
Obi-Wan wondered if Sano Sauro was behind the machinations: he was, after all, a staunch enemy of the Jedi (and Omega had been his protégé as a youth). The leader of the anti-Jedi faction, Palpatine said, was a formerly obscure Senator from Nuralee by the name of Bog Divinian. Kenobi started at this, for Divinian, whom he'd met on Euceron while on a mission during the Galactic Games, was married to his dear friend Astri Oddo, the daughter of Didi Oddo. Though not a Senator at the time, Bog, in order to protect the Commerce Guild, had lied in his testimony to an official Games Council investigation. With the makings of a politician, it didn't surprise Kenobi to discover Bog had succeeded in his career, no doubt rewarded for his lies by a grateful Commerce Guild. Obi-Wan, glancing at Mace, suddenly knew another reason why the Force had called him to aid in this new peril—his acquaintance with Divinian as the husband of an old friend, which he disclosed now to those in the room. Palpatine thought it good news and appeared relieved: he urged Obi-Wan to make a direct, personal appeal to the Nuralee Senator. Silently doubting that it would help, Kenobi nevertheless inclined his head in agreement.
The Chancellor informed the Jedi of a recent development—the arrival of a deposed dictator, Roy Teda. The Jedi, of course, were involved in the recent coup of the planet's tyrannical government. Teda, who had lost no time, Palpatine said, in joining the anti-Jedi faction, had already given testimony that the Jedi were responsible for aiding and abetting the unlawful coup on Romin. Even so, the news was good news for Obi-Wan: it meant a chance to closely observe Teda, to learn more about Omega and how Teda fit into his larger plans. As Teda was not a bright creature, Kenobi had no doubt that such discoverable intelligence was within their reach.
The Chancellor, in conclusion, said that in the Senate hearing, Teda also made a claim that the Jedi were responsible for a factory implosion on Falleen—a claim Teda had managed to get the Falleen Senator quite upset about, for the presented evidence held just enough weight to make it credible. As Teda had the right to petition for asylum on Coruscant, it was up to the Jedi Council to refute the charges. When Mace asked if the charges were formal, Palpatine replied that they were—thus, the reason for the meeting. A hearing was set for that afternoon, and the Chancellor suggested a Jedi presence there was needed. When Windu officially appointed Kenobi to be that presence, Palpatine stated that such was a foregone conclusion, as Kenobi had been called as a witness, implying that Mace should perhaps also attend.
False friends and politics
- "Obi-Wan! So good to see you again! ... Oh, you didn't mind my questions, did you? Politics. A rough game, eh? I hope there are no hard feelings. After all, politics is temporary. Friendship is forever ... Astri! Astri! I found our friend! ... A perfect Senator's wife. She's involved in relief efforts, which is so important for my profile ... Astri, my dear, I fear that Obi-Wan is a little put out with me. You must tell him that each of us must follow our convictions ... You must tell him how I've struggled with my decision to throw my support behind this. But I've come to feel that the Jedi Council wields too much influence in the Senate and with the Chancellor. I don't want to make enemies, I'm just looking for a more balanced approach. Is that so strange?"
- ―Nuralee Senator Bog Divinian in a one-sided conversation with an incredulous Obi-Wan Kenobi
The Senate Hearing Chamber was smaller than the Galactic Senate Chamber, but it still held twenty tiers, repulsorpods for several hundred Senators, and seating for news correspondents and onlookers. The chamber was packed with an overflow crowd. Filling the pods, seats and tier aisles, beyond the Senators and their aides, were officials of the HoloNet news and curious Coruscant natives. Mace Windu and Obi-Wan sat together in a mid-level tier. Kenobi was surprised at the turnout, as meetings like this one were usually so dull that no one attended them. But Windu pointed out that the room was packed with Bog Divinian's supporters, all of whom had to secure a ticket in order to observe the proceedings; all Jedi supporters, on the other hand, were informed there were no seats.
Divinian called Roy Teda's pod forward to address the gathering. Teda greeted his captive audience with his usual flowery speech, but then began his tirade of lies. He accused the Jedi of coming to Romin to secretly plot with a rogue army to overthrow his government, of rampaging through the streets, and coincidentally being on-world when the planetary treasury disappeared. Kenobi found he could agree with Teda's last phrase, only because Teda himself had looted the Romin treasury. Windu, in full sympathy with the accused Jedi Knight sitting at his side, told Kenobi that truth had no place there, but that while this fabricated crowd didn't want to hear the truth, Obi-Wan must tell his truth anyway. Teda made a plea that Jedi interference be outlawed on every planet in the galaxy and that galactic governing be left to the Senate. Blocs of Senators roared their approval as the crowd hooted and stamped.
Bog, rather than docking his pod as the presiding Senator usually did, allowed his to remain in midair, high above the witness pod, so that he might be in full view of the crowd. Bog ignored the signaling for permission to question by Alderaan's distinguished Senator, Bail Organa, who duly and loudly reprimanded him for it, maneuvering his pod closer to Divinian's. When Bog begrudgingly offered up the floor, Organa pointedly asked Former Ruler Teda if he had any evidence for his claims, to which Teda smoothly answered in the affirmative, saying, however, that the evidence was on Romin: because he was in exile, he couldn't reach it. Divinian pointed out that the Senate investigating committee on Jedi Order abuses had ruled that a subcommittee would be formed to investigate the charges. Organa then queried who exactly was to be appointed to said subcommittee. And when Bog answered that appointments would come from Bog's own committee, Organa balked that all its members happened to be enemies of the Jedi.
When Divinian countered that the committee-member selections would be done according to rules and procedure, Bail thundered that those very rules were currently being revised by a committee headed by Senator Sano Sauro, another enemy of the Jedi. Moreover, the procedure itself had been changed, Bail continued, by the same Senator who had been asked to investigate unfounded charges that suited his own agenda: it was the very definition of unfair, and an outrage. Organa, a shrewd Senator who extensively studied the bureaucracy, knew that the tedious work of keeping apprised of it netted real results. Injustice was often seeded when the powerful Senators who headed committees changed obscure rules they were confident no one would take heed of—no one, that is, except Bail Organa.
While Obi-Wan was impressed with Organa's authority, composure and courageous candor, the crowd would have nothing of it. Bog asked that Senator Organa yield the floor for the testimony of Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, who maneuvered his pod to the center of the chamber. Obi-Wan noted that Divinian didn't give the slightest indication that he recognized Kenobi or had met him before. When Bog asked Obi-Wan if the Jedi had secretly met with the resistance army on Romin, Obi-Wan said that members of the resistance movement captured two of their own, both of whom were Jedi. Kenobi was cut off when he began to explain that the Jedi presence on Romin was to pursue a galactic criminal. Bog deliberately shifted the discussion to the question of the legality of the Jedi presence on the planet. Kenobi explained that it was necessary sometimes for the Jedi to travel covertly. Even so, they were on Romin, contrary to its law, Divinian pointed out.
Bog next asked Kenobi if he had had dealings with the criminal Joylin who had seized power on Romin. Skirting Kenobi's assertion that the Senate had approved it, while implying that the Senate action was highly suspect, Bog conceded there to have been some in the Senate who pushed through the initiative, but that it was currently under investigation. Organa vehemently protested Divinian's statement, but Bog would not be deterred and called him to order, asking Kenobi again if the Jedi assisted the illegal takeover. Obi-Wan, hesitating because the Jedi help came only after the plans of Joylin's resistance were already in place, saw a flash of triumph in Divinian's eyes. Now in an impossible position to save the Jedi with truth, Obi-Wan had to answer the question affirmatively, and then face Bog's next question of whether the Jedi were involved in the reported factory implosion on Falleen. The Jedi had been in the vicinity, Obi-Wan said, admitting also to Divinian's incredulity that they were laboring there as factory workers. "
When Divinian next asked if the Jedi, in fact, sabotaged the factory, it was Obi-Wan's turn to interrupt: The Jedi were caught within the factory by the implosion—one deliberately set off by its owner to cover up factory violations. When Bog tried to counter by suggesting that the Jedi were the only ones there during the implosion they claimed not to have triggered, Kenobi again embarrassed Bog by frankly stating that he didn't know if they were the only ones there. What Divinian saw before him, he announced with contempt, was arrogance and an utter lack of remorse at the destruction of property. Obi-Wan could see the slim, dark figure of Sano Sauro seated in a pod that hugged a dark corner of the chamber; looking back again at Bog, Kenobi sensed that Sauro, like a puppeteer, was controlling him—feeding information and questions into Divinian's datapad. Obi-Wan remembered how Sauro had questioned him as a young Padawan, accused of murdering a fellow Jedi student at the Temple, twisting his words. He held Sauro suspect again today of crafting Bog's questions. Divinian promptly dismissed his witness, and the hearing adjourned.
Master Windu conceded that Obi-Wan had done the best he could under the circumstances. The Council had felt a darkness growing there, he said, surveying the chamber, but every time they looked again, they saw nothing at all. Mace wondered if the Jedi's real job needed to be there, with the Senate, rather than traversing the galaxy to keep the peace. Obi-Wan responded that he hoped not: standing and fighting in a Senate chamber was like shouting into the wind. Looking out over the crowded chamber, Obi-Wan wondered how it had come to this—how so many were willing to believe the worst of the Jedi Order.
After the hearing, Kenobi endured a painful reunion in one of the Senate reception areas with Divinian and his wife Astri. Though Bog tried in vain to have Kenobi believe their relationship was a friendship, professing himself to be good friends with Obi-Wan, the Jedi Master obviously felt otherwise: Bog was as false a friend as they came, but as true a politician, speaking words that were hollow. Kenobi could only stare at Divinian incredulously as he ranted on in a one-sided conversation that even snubbed his own wife Astri, who truly had been Obi-Wan's dear friend. But something was not right with her. Though she looked and carried herself regally, there was a disgenuine aloofness in her face that caused Kenobi's heart to fall. He was happy to hear that her father, Didi, was now a grandfather, that they'd been blessed with a beautiful boy named Lune, who'd just turned three. But this was not the same Astri he knew as a Padawan to save her father and Qui-Gon. She'd gone from run-down café cook to warrior. She seemed so different now, Obi-Wan felt he didn't know her anymore. Catching a glimpse of Teda leaving the area, Kenobi gave a crisp farewell to Bog, and followed the former tyrant out.
Anakin, meanwhile, had spent the time during the hearing with the Supreme Chancellor in his red-walled office, with Red Guards standing at attention outside.
When their conversation broached the topic of power, Anakin said that it wasn't power that he was interested in. Naboo's former Senator replied that Skywalker's was a very Jedi-like response but one that wasn't entirely true. For while the Jedi did not seek power, they still possessed it. When the Chancellor asked him why that was, Anakin responded that it was because the Jedi had the Force—a source of power, but one they didn't seek, it was simply there. Palpatine remarked it was a Jedi's choice to use it. As the Jedi Council's biggest supporter, the Chancellor sought a way to effectively fight those seeking to strip the Jedi of their power and influence. Anakin felt flattered that Palpatine took him seriously enough to talk to a mere Padawan this way, for the Chancellor usually dealt directly with the Jedi Council, with those who truly were powerful.
Palpatine explained to Anakin that the Senate's jealousy of the Jedi was rooted in the Jedi Order's inability to engage with them in the war of words—a disengagement which the Chancellor felt was a grave mistake on the Jedi's part. While Anakin believed that the Jedi's actions spoke for themselves, Palpatine stressed that the Senate required an interpreter to the Jedi's behavior; otherwise those who were hostile to the Order would continue to poison the Senate's opinion of the Jedi. Palpatine explained that even though he had not sought his office, he was responsible for carrying out the burden of leadership. One of those duties was to recognize that what the Senate needed was a strong hand, just as children needed firm guidance.
Anakin struggled to grasp what the Supreme Chancellor was telling him, for it seemed to go against what he believed. The Chancellor wanted the Jedi to recognize that they already, in fact, were politicians, whether they liked it or not—for power and politics were inseparable. Palpatine then praised Skywalker for the power he saw in him—his use of it. Anakin's connection to the Force gave to him clarity and boldness. The Jedi Order needed more like him. Then learn, Palpatine admonished, make the most of the opportunity he now afforded Skywalker to discover how to maneuver in Senate politics. For it might turn out to be the skill the Jedi Council needed most—not the glory of lightsaber battles, but crucial nonetheless. The Supreme Chancellor invited Skywalker, when Anakin asked how he might achieve such an aim, to accompany him to meetings where Anakin might watch, listen, and tell Palpatine what he thought. The Chancellor, in turn, would share his thoughts also. Anakin, of course, knew he couldn't pass up such an extraordinary offer.
- "I can't say this is a surprise. I expected that you would be behind any plot to discredit the Jedi Order, Sauro."
"As usual, you begin every exchange with rudeness. I don't know what I've done to deserve your contempt and I don't care, but it continues to be tedious to put up with it."
"You know very well what you've done in the past, and what you are doing now. You are the shadow behind these hearings."
"Senator Divinian is the presiding official over the hearings, not me."
"How odd, then, that you are meeting with the main witness against the Jedi."
"I'm merely holding out a friendly hand to an exiled ruler of a democratic government that was overthrown by Jedi aggression ... I have no hand in the utter demoralization of the Jedi. I am merely a witness to it."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and Senator Sano Sauro
Teda seemed to be too luxurious, for Kenobi, at the moment—in his dress, in how he strolled through the Senate corridors as if he belonged there, in his general ease and conscientiousness—considering the gross disparity between his life and those of the ragged and starving prisoners and citizens he'd left in the jail cells and slums of Romin. Compared to the suffering he'd pushed outside his capital city walls, the repugnant little man didn't deserve such ease as Kenobi saw him luxuriate in now. Teda finally came to a stop outside a small Senate café tucked into one of its hallway-flanking alcoves, looked around, and darted in. Obi-Wan followed as Teda went to a table in the far corner to meet with Sano Sauro. Leaving behind all pretense and efforts of concealment, Kenobi confronted the two conspirators directly, telling Sauro he wasn't in the least surprised to find him to be the shadow behind the plots and the hearings to discredit the Jedi Order. Though Sauro shot out his customary declamations of having taken offense at Kenobi's words, even as he adamantly professed that Divinian, not he, was the power behind the Senate's anti-Jedi faction, Obi-Wan would have none of it: he'd caught Sauro meeting with the central witness against the Jedi, and he warned him that, though the preferred company he kept of thieves and murderers had carried him far, they would one day ensure his downfall. With that, the Jedi Knight turned on his heel and hurried down the Senate passageways to seek out Senatorial aide and close friend Tyro Caladian—the one being with the most knowledge of Senate intrigue and the best political mind he knew—to convene a covert meeting of his own.
On the Senate Building's lowest level, at the descending end of a twisting corridor, he met with his Svivreni friend amidst his bins and boxes—the telltale marks of his friend's political acumen and industry. Tyro joyfully saluted his dear friend by first opening and closing his hand, then placing it against his heart and, afterwards, against Obi-Wan's. Kenobi mimicked the gesture, for with Tyro, he'd long since advanced to his friend's species' most affectionate codes of greeting and farewell (never "good-bye"). Caladian had been at the Divinian-led hearing and conceded that, though both Kenobi and Organa had done well, the house had been rigged to the brim with supporters of the anti-Jedi faction. Bog's questioning had, of course, been an outrage that manifested no inclination whatsoever to uncover the truth. While Tyro was ever anxious about the state of the Senate and the dispiriting devolution of the galaxy's moral consciousness, no matter how hard the Chancellor tried, he had never seen anything like the present uproar against the Jedi. Even for the Senate, it was ridiculous—an annoying and frustrating distraction from the real work they should be doing.
With Tyro's last word—distraction—a bell suddenly went off in Obi-Wan's mind, but he didn't know why. There had been another word earlier that had hit him similarly: demoralized—Sauro had used it to describe the Jedi. And it suddenly came to him: Disruption + Demoralization + Distraction = Devastation. It was the formula for orchestrating evil to take root which Granta Omega's father—Xanatos—had devised. He'd engaged the full force of its power at the Jedi Temple, hoping to destroy it forever. Could it now be that his son was using the same formula to destroy the Senate? Was this Omega's real goal? For if he was indeed behind this current Senatorial effort, he had already succeeded in disrupting the Senate, demoralizing the Jedi, and distracting everyone. But, more pointedly, if all of this were actually the case, what was the coming devastation he was planning? Obi-Wan didn't know, but what he could sense, irrefutably now, was a sureness of what was initially an instinct: Omega was behind this.
And if it were possible, Caladian now informed him, the situation had gotten even worse: Bog Divinian's committee had taken an unusual step, for instead of a recommendation, it had just entered an official petition to permanently ban the Jedi Order from further participation in Senate action. Even so, Senator Organa had discovered a clause that allowed him to appeal directly to the Chancellor in a separate closed-door session, which had already been placed on Palpatine's schedule for that afternoon: both Senators would be present, and the Supreme Chancellor would decide on the matter once and for all. That these new developments had all come about since the hearing, earlier that day, surprised Kenobi, as he knew the Senate to be ever slow in achieving any sort of effective action. But Tyro assured him that it was a phenomenon that could happen when real things were getting done: when it came to political maneuvering, Senators knew that they had to move fast.
Sensing Kenobi was yet troubled, Caladian offered his ever-hopeful outlook: for though the Jedi Order was in trouble, yet they would find a way to fight. With more friends than enemies, the Jedi simply needed to remind their friends that they were still their friends. It was "the Senate way," Tyro said. "And what is that?" Obi-Wan challenged, rather cynically. Talk, deals, bribes, corruption. Caladian would not be swayed by Kenobi's candid observation. While certainly true, yet Tyro held onto his belief in the Senate, which was, after all, the living symbol of the Republic. Until the Galactic Republic was formed, the galaxy boiled in chaos. The Republic was their only chance to bring peace to the thousands of worlds that couldn't manage alone. There were many good beings in the Senate—like Bail Organa—and they would win in the end.
It was Caladian's most passionate defense of the Senate thus far, Kenobi realized, for he often railed against it. He expressed to Tyro his amazement that, no matter how many times his heart was broken, Tyro yet kept faith in the Senate, ever toiling to find ways to make it better. Tyro assured Obi-Wan that, though his heart broke from time to time, his will never would, and that in that way, the two of them were alike. When Tyro pressed Obi-Wan to please disclose what was bothering him, Kenobi confessed that it wasn't this newly created petition, but what that petition might conceal that continued to trouble him. For this recent action to discredit the Jedi could be a mere diversion to draw attention away from something worse that might occur. Obi-Wan then suggested to Tyro that the two galactic criminals he had been tracking—Omega and Zan Arbor—could very well be the driving force behind this latest anti-Jedi scheme. The scheme, in fact, might be simply a smokescreen for the criminals' real objective. Caladian felt compelled to concede that Kenobi's suspicion certainly meshed with the way Omega operated. It made sense, and was even likely, since Sano Sauro (Tyro's own personal enemy) was involved, for he was Omega's longtime patron. It seemed for them abundantly clear now why Sauro kept to the background, for he didn't want investigators to connect him with the anti-Jedi campaign, else he knew that they would immediately make the connection to Omega.
But Obi-Wan knew that they were still not seeing something. As the Chancellor was a great supporter of the Jedi, Tyro thought it highly unlikely that he'd approve the new petition. And while there was the possibility that Divinian and Sauro could manipulate that defeat into a call for a no-confidence vote in Palpatine, allowing them to propose Sauro as Chancellor (his ultimate ambition) and thereby give Omega control of the Senate, such a prospect was highly unlikely. Palpatine was far too powerful and skilled to be outmaneuvered. Besides, Caladian seriously doubted that Sauro could muster enough support for a vote of no confidence; for although he controlled the Viga alliance and the planets in the Commerce Guild, and could get several systems in the Mid-Rim, there was no way he could do so in the Core. Sauro was powerful, but he was actively disliked. Bail Organa's strong opposition faction, moreover, should not be discounted. And because Senators never engaged in such extreme measures unless they were sure of success, Tyro couldn't see the anti-Jedi faction attempting such a vote. But it was the tremendous popularity of Palpatine at the present time that, above all other factors, made the petition's success a virtual impossibility.
In fact, on the very next day, the Supreme Chancellor was scheduled to attend the inaugural ceremony for the All Planets Relief Fund, one of Palpatine's pet projects, and a good one, Tyro noted, for its purpose was to respond to petitions from worlds in peril for immediate funding that otherwise would be stalled in the Galactic Senate's bureaucratic quagmire. A huge group of its supporters—including many Jedi—would be in attendance. Perhaps the realization of Mazara's hopes for reform on Falleen was not so far-fetched after all.
Suddenly, Obi-Wan's comlink signaled. It was Siri: they needed backup, as she and Ferus thought they might have found Omega and Zan Arbor's hideout, and the criminals possibly were at that moment inside. Finally, some action, Obi-Wan thought, to replace all the infernal Senate meetings! Kenobi closed his comlink and placed his spread-fingered palm to Tyro's—the Svivreni farewell gesture, made only to those closest to them: "So go," Tyro said.
Discovery at Dex's
"What is it, Master?"
"That's Dexter Jettster's slider garnish. I'd know it anywhere."
"Congratulations. Our best clue is a garnish."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Siri Tachi
Master Kenobi took a vertical monorail down a hundred stories to the Coruscant business district, near the Bank of Aargau, where Siri and Ferus were waiting. He met his apprentice on the way, after he'd contacted Anakin by comlink. Joining Tachi and Olin in front of an interior mall of shops and restaurants, the Jedi learned from Siri that a tip from an informer had directed her and Ferus to a small white building across the way—to rooms within an old sim-voyage establishment (whose blinking and hand-scrawled signs read VIRTUAL HAPPINESS, and OUT OF BUSINESS) where beings could enjoy a simulated luxury-vacation experience. Their source told them that a couple, who claimed to be starting a business (though nothing yet had been done), had moved in a few days ago and, strangely, only exited at night, it seemed. Ferus had run a check on the parked airspeeders there and found out, from Coruscant Security, that ticket-records for illegally parked airspeeders revealed a standard Ralion B-14 recently bought at a speeder lot some 20 levels down. It matched one of the false ID docs found on the Slams' ship.
Not wanting to waste any more time, they strode right to the door, through which Kenobi plunged his lightsaber. Obi-Wan stepped inside the darkened house, when immediately alarms blared, lights blazed ... and rockets fired. The Jedi Knight fell to the ground to evade and position himself to deflect fire, while the others moved in to flank him. Meanwhile, bright colors and holoprojections of scenes from popular vacation spots flashed about them: the famous shooting stars of Nantama, the mountains of Belazura, Dremulae's Sea of Translucency. But the deafening sounds smothered the whir of the seeker droids that were soon upon them. Blaster-fire and leaping Jedi crisscrossed the space until a dozen droids were reduced to smoking scrap. Siri warned Obi-Wan too late, when he strode over to a panel to shut down the holoprojection system: a secret blast door opened to reveal three deadly droidekas (combat droids) as they wheeled out and clattered to life. Anakin moved quickly to disable them with three upward strokes at the precise spot where their generators lay, for he'd long studied them; the roar of blasters ended.
The Jedi searched the droid-littered house for clues. Siri observed that the only thing the criminals had left behind apparently were dirty dishes, which lay greasy on a table. Indeed, there wasn't a trace of the occupants to be found. The Jedi had come up empty again. But such was Omega's style, Anakin remarked. He knew how to leave without a trace. But then Obi-Wan noticed a puddle of sauce on a plate; bending in close to sniff it, he discovered that it was Dexter Jettster's slider garnish. Siri suggested that Obi-Wan and Anakin head over to Dex's Diner in nearby CoCo Town and ask some questions while she and Ferus studied the water delivery system there on Coruscant, to see what damage their enemies might do. As the monorails were packed, and it was faster to walk, Kenobi and Skywalker hurried through the crowded pedestrian ramps. They crossed the Bank of the Core Plaza on their way to Dex's Diner, which was crouched between large, dilapidated industrial warehouses. Pausing under the red glow of the diner's bright sign, they peered in through a window and saw, sitting alone at a booth, Astri Oddo.
Astri, of course, was surprised when the two familiar Jedi slid into her booth. So much had changed, she told them, from the old days, when she and her father ran the place, but Dexter had clearly made it profitable. Kenobi agreed that they had been good days. Things clearly had grown more complicated, like the fact that her husband was trying to destroy the Jedi Order. Anakin tried to lighten the suddenly tense situation and mood by engaging in easy-going banter, and Obi-Wan was relieved that his Padawan interfered so gracefully. But Kenobi was hurt and angry, for he'd expected better of Astri. She was at the present time, notwithstanding, engaged in relief work, because the economy of Nuralee, her adopted world, was failing. Kenobi surmised that it had probably fallen from its status of being prosperous when Bog took office. Astri was on Coruscant briefly, she said, to attend a meeting to request aid from the new All Planets Relief Fund and attend its inaugural ceremony. The Jedi team of Soara Antana and Darra Thel-Tanis were acting as couriers and protectors for a shipment of food and medical supplies to Nuralee, and Astri was set to return with them to her homeworld in two days, to ensure that it got into the right hands. She was anxious also to see Didi and her son.
Obi-Wan endeavored to remove his personal feelings from the situation and to focus on Astri simply as a being in need, so that he could see more clearly. When he did so, he discovered there to be something terribly wrong: he sensed deep fear. She was afraid. But of what? Anakin casually, and in a jovial tone, asked her if Bog had seen what Dex had done to the old place, gesturing to the red stools and curved counter. Kenobi thought Anakin's question excellent, for it would give them the information they needed to know: was there a connection between Divinian and the safe house they'd just come from? Astri answered that Bog had indeed been there, yes. Obi-Wan could tell, however, that she was clearly not interested in the subject of her husband, but the Jedi now had the answer they wanted. There was a link now: Bog had been the one who delivered the food from the diner to Omega and the others.
Because Astri was late for an appointment, she quickly excused herself, telling the Jedi it was always good to see them. Kenobi sadly noted Astri's posture and manner of walk: her hands thrust into the deep pockets of her tunic, her head down. She seemed so different now. When she'd exited the diner, Anakin noted precisely what Obi-Wan had, that Astri was afraid, but then added his own observation: but not for herself—for her son.
Kenobi found himself amazed that Anakin, so often now, it seemed, knew what secrets were inside others, what drove them to do the puzzling things they did. Anakin's sensitivity to others was growing and surpassing Obi-Wan's in some cases. It touched upon Skywalker's command of the Force, certainly, but it was more than that. And then he remembered Ferus' words on Romin—that Anakin wanted to control everything, and that his gift of seeing inside beings could turn dangerous if he tried to control the feelings he found instead of just observing them. But Anakin knew this, for it was a Jedi lesson ingrained in every Padawan.
Anakin spoke up suddenly to request Kenobi's permission to accept the Chancellor's offer to observe the proceedings Palpatine would attend over the next several days, to help Anakin gain insight into the political arena of the Senate. Kenobi thought the opportunity a great honor that Palpatine had bestowed upon his Padawan, and agreed, with no objections whatsoever, as long as it didn't interfere with their pursuit of Omega: Anakin might even learn something that could help them in their endeavor.
Dexter waddled out from behind the counter, delighted to once again see Kenobi and his "tadpole"—a descriptive he quickly repented of when Anakin stood up, for the boy had grown much since Dexter had last seen him. Offering the Jedi to freely select favorite dishes from his famous menu, including alarm chili, sliders, and bantha-meat stew, Obi-Wan insisted that they were there, rather, for information. They were on the trail of some galactic criminals and believed that they had a taste for Dexter's slider garnish. Dex couldn't dispute the attraction of his special sauce, slapping his knees with two of his hands in agreement: he knew he needed to bottle the stuff and make his fortune, and one day he would, just as soon as he had a free minute from the stove.
Answering the Jedi's questions, Dex knew the "nasty bit of work" that was Jenna Zan Arbor, though he was unfamiliar with the Slams. And he also knew Astri's husband, Bog Divinian, who'd been there often, for Bog loved his addictive sliders and frequently picked his meals up to take them back to his lodgings. But things had been busy at his diner, of late, Dex said, and would get even busier the following day, when the All Planets Relief Fund Ceremony took place in the Bank of the Core Plaza, across the way. Many were coming, Dex said, just to see a fortune being transferred. Just being close to vertex and looking at it made people feel richer. The mention of crystalline vertex gave Kenobi pause. When he inquired more about it, Dex told the Jedi that, with every planet in the Senate donating, vertex would fund the central account of Palpatine's new imperiled-worlds project. After presenting the vertex to the Chancellor, his personal guard would bring it to the vault inside the Bank of the Core. Dex could already tell, for he knew them so well, that the Jedi were concerned about the security surrounding the event, but told them not to worry, because there would be security like they'd never seen, with both the Chancellor's Red Guards and Coruscant Security. Officers would be placed around the cordoned-off plaza. A HoloNet news journalist had even paid Dex, he said, to keep her airspeeder in the back alley so that she could leave the ceremony quickly for her vidcam studio hookup. But she parked it in front of Dex's food-delivery doors, so he got his pal Acey to break in, so that he could move it behind a dumpster. At Dex's words, red flags flew again in Kenobi's mind: the words added up to something significant, but he didn't know what. But at their request, Dex agreed to show the Jedi the airspeeder.
Passing through Dex's loud, steamy kitchen and out through the diner's rear exit doors into the alley, Kenobi and Skywalker observed the long airspeeder—a fully fueled Ralion B-14—parked at an angle behind a dumpster, wedged between durasteel trash bins. It had been parked earlier over top the round cover to Dex's utility tunnel—for his water delivery, he told them. The Jedi exchanged glances: every bit of this was adding up. Dex excused himself to check on his stew, but told them to come back when they had more time—they knew, after all, how he liked to feed them. Kenobi guessed that the journalist must have been Valadon in disguise, that the airspeeder was for their getaway, and that the utility cover was one of the entry points for the Zone. As Obi-Wan opened the speeder's door to inspect it, a wisp of blue thread wafted down. Placing it carefully in his utility belt, he would send it to the Temple lab for analysis, though it certainly wasn't the septsilk or veda cloth that both the mad scientist and the gang members liked to wear. Further inspection of the speeder's secret compartments produced a palm-sized datapad, which contained a holofile map of the bank plaza, with notations of street closings, space lanes ... and water transport tunnels.
The Jedi now were certain that Omega, Zan Arbor, and the Slams were planning to heist the new Relief Fund treasury. That was their aim. It would give them a fortune to work with and embarrass Palpatine—a political victory as well as a personal one. The imminent blow against the Chancellor explained Sauro and Divinian's involvement, though there could be profit in it for them also. Using the Zone would permit a small band to get around the entire Coruscant Security Force. Omega, too, in his arrogance, expected the heist to defeat the Jedi, for if they allowed it to happen, the Order would be disgraced, which would help the anti-Jedi faction pass its new petition—or win a no-confidence vote against the Chancellor. The pieces were falling into place, and both Obi-Wan and Anakin felt, at last, that they were one step ahead of Omega, and had but to set the trap.
Most dangerous enemy
- "Capturing this Omega is important to your Master."
"It's important to the galaxy. He's a dangerous enemy."
"Yes, but not the most dangerous enemy. From my experience, the most dangerous enemy is the one you can't see."
- ―Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and 17-year-old Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker
Because Obi-Wan never wasted time, Anakin was surprised when his Master lingered, rather than exploding into action. But Kenobi wanted his Padawan to begin exercising the strategic skills that he would one day need not only as a Jedi Knight, but also as a Jedi Master. So he asked Anakin to decide, of the many things that needed doing, what should come first, and how they should order the rest. The many restless tasks, for only a brief moment, seemed to crowd and jockey for position in Skywalker's brain, but then everything became clear and he knew what they must do. It was critical to contact Siri and Ferus and tell them all they knew, so that they could focus their study of the water system on the area immediately around the plaza. Master Windu next should be contacted, Anakin said, as the Council needed to come up with its own plans to protect the vertex during the ceremony. Obi-Wan thought his Padawan's strategy sound. And they should also request a meeting with Chancellor Palpatine, Skywalker continued, for it was the only way they could convey the seriousness of what they were convinced would happen: security needed tightened and monitors placed on the water systems.
Anakin also briefly suggested the possibility that they do nothing and simply allow the criminals to sabotage the system with the Zone, to give the Jedi an advantage. For unbeknownst to the enemy, the Jedi wouldn't be affected, and the criminals would be lulled into the belief that they'd succeeded. The Jedi would thus give them what they wanted in the beginning, but the Jedi, ultimately, controlled the outcome. But that, Obi-Wan said, would mean exposing thousands of beings to the Zone. It wasn't toxic, Anakin countered: the beings would have an extraordinarily pleasant morning, that's all. That, however, was something, Kenobi stressed, they simply couldn't know, for Anakin had experienced it early on. They didn't know what Zan Arbor had done to it since then. Also, was Anakin forgetting the four workers who died? But they had every reason to believe the system had been perfected, Skywalker pressed. Anakin could see, however, that he'd displeased his Master. And he, of course, conceded that they didn't know that for sure, and so they needed to guard the entry ports to the system in order to ensure that the Zone would not be deployed. Kenobi was in accord now with Anakin's final assessment, and they headed for the Senate, with Obi-Wan calling ahead to request an emergency meeting with the Chancellor. Meanwhile Anakin brooded over his apparent error. Sometimes he'd make mistakes, but often not be sure why they were wrong. His Master's deepest desire was to capture Omega, and so he wondered—how much was it permissible to risk in order to accomplish that? How much risk was too much? And who was best to judge?
Arriving at Palpatine's office, the Jedi were immediately ushered in. After explaining the threat to Palpatine and offering the most sensible course, which was to cancel the ceremony, the Chancellor demurred. Because the fund had been the result of years of steady work on the part of many worlds and stood as a tribute to the very ideals the Galactic Senate was originally founded on—cooperation and benevolence—he felt that cancelling the event couldn't help matters in any conceivable way, which, of course, was not surprising to either Jedi. Security had to be increased, then, Kenobi insisted. Palpatine assured the Jedi that the best measures were already in place, and he had every confidence in the Order's abilities to forestall the villains. When Obi-Wan asked that the Chancellor order that the water system be shut off in the bank plaza quadrant, he again refused, for he would not disrupt thousands of lives by doing so: the system would be strictly monitored and guards placed on the Zone's schematic entry points. It would not be difficult to foil the criminal attempt.
Now, however, Palpatine was faced with "the distasteful task" of having to attend the procedural hearing with Senator Divinian, and he asked Kenobi if he could borrow his apprentice, as the experience could prove valuable. Obi-Wan consented, then left for the Temple to meet with Master Windu and Siri—Skywalker really preferred now to be at his Master's side, but he'd requested inclusion in the Chancellor's meetings and felt compelled to go.
The small, private Senate hearing room was furnished with a long table and repulsorlift seats that adjusted to the heights of many differing species. With Palpatine at the head, and Senators Divinian and Organa at the center, on either side, Anakin sat quietly behind the Chancellor, to observe. Bog, after spouting off his official title and authority as committee head, announced that his committee had entered its findings and also delivered an official petition to ban the Jedi from future Senate business: they requested now an override of Senator Organa's counter-petition to stall their petition in a separate committee. Divinian's faction believed the petition must be debated in the full Senate and acted upon immediately. Palpatine then asked for Senator Organa's response to the new Senate petition. Senators from 200 planets had signed a protest, Organa said, and requested to investigate the petition committee for undue bias in its deliberations: until that investigation was concluded, he said, the Senate could hardly debate the committee's recommendations, let alone vote on the issue. Immediately, without further ado, the Chancellor said he'd reached a ruling. Both Senators appeared shocked. As Bog began to stammer out his protestations that the Chancellor had hardly had enough time to consider, nor he himself a chance to dispute, Palpatine silenced him with a raised hand, telling him to relax, for he'd ruled in his favor: the Senate could enter, debate, and vote on the petition to bar the Jedi Order from any further action on behalf of the Galactic Senate. The Chancellor rose, as Divinian looked pleased and Organa looked stunned. The vote must be quick, Bog urged. Palpatine agreed: the debate and vote would take place the next day, after the All Planets Relief Fund ceremony.
Palpatine swept out of the room with a confused Anakin Skywalker in tow. Anakin, of course, expected to hear a spirited debate and witness the justly renowned Bail Organa in action, but never did he suspect that Palpatine would rule for Bog. "You look lost, Anakin," the Chancellor said with a slight smile. And when Anakin asked why he let Bog win, Palpatine told him he gave Bog what he wanted because he was sure he would fail. The boy was struck—for he'd suggested (to his Master earlier) that the Jedi do the same for Omega: let him, for he'll fail. Though Bog didn't know it, Palpatine said, he'd just destroyed his career. Then Anakin suddenly realized that Palpatine had just done what he had done back on Romin, when he felt that surge of power and realized that the Force could allow him to see into motivations and consequences: many beings were transparent in their ego and greed, like Bog. Thinking several steps ahead was not that difficult—and Palpatine had not gloated. He appeared simply to be rather ... satisfied. Did Anakin's Master understand this, like Palpatine? Obi-Wan was so cautious. Anakin looked at Palpatine, admiring his sure, confident stride through the Senate Halls. The Chancellor did not exaggerate his power, but neither did he diminish it: he accepted it and accepted the ways in which he would have to use it. How satisfying it must feel to simply wait for events to unfold as you have foreseen them ... How powerful to know the outcome before it happened. This was what Anakin could learn—and not from his Master. From Palpatine.
- "You don't understand, Obi-Wan. He's not as stupid as he appears. He is cunning. I didn't realize ... I didn't know ... the lengths he would go. He got one taste of power, and it corrupted him. He has aligned himself with the worst in the galaxy. It started so softly. A favor for the Commerce Guild. Then another. And soon he was approached by another Senator—"
"Yes. He sold his honor. Well, the honor I thought he had. And now there is someone else, someone so powerful he does not say his name."
"Granta Omega. And with Omega, Jenna Zan Arbor."
"Bog was never a strong man. How strange it is to fear him now ... Bog is involved in something terrible. It is more than scheming against the Jedi in the Senate. There is some kind of plot, a takeover that will net him more power. He can't resist boasting to me. Soon we'll be able to afford whatever we want. A luxury cruiser for our trips to Nuralee. A villa by the Sea of Translucency on Dremulae ... He has these grand plans."
- ―Astri Oddo Divinian and Obi-Wan Kenobi on her husband, Senator Bog Divinian
Obi-Wan Kenobi and his fellow Jedi, Siri Tachi and Ferus Olin, pored over the Bank of the Core Plaza water-system schematics at the Jedi Temple. The holomap of the targeted area in the CoCo Town sector of Coruscant was holoprojected as Siri, using a laser pointer, reported what she and Ferus had learned from the experts they'd consulted. She pointed out on the laser map the access points for the transmission of the Zone—the most likely places to strike—but also (bearing in mind they were dealing with Omega) the least likely places as well. They had undercover Senate security forces with the highest-level clearance at each point, to lend their strength to the patrolling Jedi teams. It looked good to Kenobi; they were prepared, had everything covered. Well, almost. Nothing had been uncovered in the lab by the droid analyst on the blue-thread mystery, except that the fabric it came from had thousands of uses and manufacturers—it was common throughout the galaxy. Looking back at the holoprojection map, none of them, oddly enough, felt entirely secure. Ferus doubted any of them would sleep that night.
True to form, Obi-Wan and Anakin spent the night patrolling the streets and skylanes. With watchers provided by Master Windu, they covertly ensured also that the water delivery system remained untouched. Not knowing when Omega's team would strike, but certainly knowing Omega's cunning, they trusted no one else to be fully prepared. Returning from their nighttime rounds as the Temple spires flashed the sun's first rays, Kenobi and his apprentice were awaited in the Great Hall by Jedi Master Soara Antana and her apprentice, Darra Thel-Tanis—Anakin's dear friend whom he'd scarcely seen since their last mission together, when she'd been wounded. Drawing Soara aside, Obi-Wan thanked her for coming so quickly. She told him, "They're having breakfast at the moment," and that Master Ali-Alann was with them. Kenobi told her to meet them at Dex's Diner at the prearranged time. Anakin shot Kenobi a curious look, raising his eyebrows in question. Obi-Wan told him simply that the fear he saw on Astri's face ... he wanted to make it go away.
Astri had agreed to meet Obi-Wan outside the diner, though it took some persuading. Before he could even say a word after she approached, she told Obi-Wan she couldn't, even for him, interfere with Bog: she was a Senator's wife now. Kenobi asked why she wouldn't meet his eyes, which she thought ridiculous, but her gaze kept moving, her eyes darted around, never settling on his. When he asked if she was afraid that she'd been followed, she said no, that she'd taken precautions, but then saw her mistake in making that statement. He put her mind at ease, telling her that they had Jedi watching her every move now, and yet she still couldn't meet Obi-Wan's eyes. All he could see was the close-cropped hair on the top of her head, which had once been full of dark curls that tumbled down her back; he remembered when she had shaved her hair off to impersonate a bounty hunter—Astri had never had much vanity, for she was pure spirit, and he had misjudged her. She was ashamed, she finally said, and that's why she couldn't meet his eyes.
Leading her to the shelter of the diner overhang, Obi-Wan told her softly that there was no need for shame, calling her "old friend" and saying that they'd been through worse together. No, they hadn't, she professed, looking up, her deep green eyes glistening with tears. Now she and Bog had a child, she said. And Kenobi guessed aloud that Bog had threatened Lune. Astri confessed her fear that Bog would take her boy away. So young still, she couldn't let that happen, no matter what. Even Kenobi's friendship, even the whole Jedi Order was nothing to her in the face of that, she said. She knew that making a choice for one life against so many lives was wrong, but she couldn't help herself. And this time she held Obi-Wan's gaze. He told her that her honest feelings were not a cause for shame, that she had his complete understanding. He understood that she couldn't help him? she asked. Nodding, he said that she must understand, however, that he must help her. When she replied that even the Jedi couldn't help her now, Obi-Wan took her by the shoulders and spun her around to face the inside of the diner, where her father, Didi, was comparing recipes with Dexter, and her son, Lune, was sitting on a stool, swinging his legs as Darra teased him, making him laugh ... and causing Astri to put a hand on her heart. Obi-Wan had asked Soara and Darra to bring Didi and Lune from Nuralee, and he promised Astri that he could easily have them back before anyone noticed, if that was Astri's choice—but he assured her there was another.
Drinking in the sight of her son, Astri heard Obi-Wan's words of salvation that she could leave Bog, that the Jedi would offer her protection. But no, she was sure that he would find her, that he would win in the end. She disclosed Bog's cunning nature, how power had corrupted him and aligned him with the worst in the galaxy, how he sold his honor and now worked for someone so powerful that he never uttered his name. Kenobi guessed it was Omega—the conclusion that Astri herself had come to, and yet she did nothing about it, she confessed. Taking her hand, Obi-Wan told her that she may have been alone once, but now she wasn't, and still had a friend in him. Knowing that Divinian never was a strong man, it seemed strange to Astri that she now feared him. Reaching into her tunic pocket, she withdrew several disks and gave them to Kenobi—they'd come from Bog's data recorder. The disks were for his eventual memoirs, and Astri had secretly made copies of them, hoping that Kenobi might find something useful in Bog's daily recordings of his activities and accomplishments. She'd felt guilty about their initial meeting in the Senate reception area and was wishing to, in some way, make up for that and to be of help, though she hadn't any idea that Obi-Wan had brought her son and father to Coruscant.
In conclusion, Astri said she was certain that Bog was involved in something terrible—a plot much more serious than his scheming against the Jedi in the Senate: a takeover of some kind that would net him more power. He hadn't been able to resist boasting to Astri about it—that soon they'd be able to afford whatever they wanted. His plans were as big as his ego. What she had found strange or oddly amiss was that Divinian had grilled her, because she was on the event's planning committee, about the details of the Relief Fund ceremony, and she couldn't imagine what that meant. Kenobi, of course, could. And he promised Astri that after that day, she would not have to worry about Bog Divinian. Looking up into his face, her aspect was infused with some jolt of courage or certainly, and she nodded, thanking him. It was time, Obi-Wan said to her in a lighter tone, to greet her son.
Coruscant and Senate Security milled about the bustling plaza. Infrared sensors were on the gravsled with the vertex treasury, with extra guards in the Core Bank itself. Droids buzzed thick overhead. Bog Divinian's voice droned on in an earpiece Kenobi had secured to listen to Astri's disks, copies of which he had given to Tyro. The speeches being delivered upon the ceremony platform were only slightly more interesting than Bog's useless, valueless ramblings—everything from stating the time he took his tea break to the visiting ruler of Teevan's compliment paid to him, to his own misguided insights into Senate politics. Obi-Wan noted that Bog even planned how late to be for the Senate debate on the anti-Jedi petition set for later that day—six minutes: short enough that no one would be offended, long enough to demonstrate his importance, Kenobi guessed.
Standing off to the side, Kenobi watched as one Senator after another arose to thank the others and Palpatine, even while managing to convey that it was through his or her own early support that the fund idea really took off. Bog was now working on a speech in Obi-Wan's ear, admonishing the Senate that they needed, in this time of peril, grief and sorrow, a strong leader to unite and lead them through the valley of fear to the summit of solidarity. Kenobi switched off the recorder because Palpatine was now speaking, which meant the ceremony was nearly over. Accepting the treasury on behalf of the Senate, the Chancellor—with one hand on the armored repulsorlift wagon that held the gold-glistering boxes of vertex—thanked all the generous worlds that had contributed. Palpatine, Obi-Wan noted, had at least (unlike Bog) learned the value of brevity and modesty. Stepping back to enter his personal transport, the Supreme Chancellor sped off toward the Senate, with the other Senators in tow ... for there was a debate to attend.
The Blue Guard and the Red—Palpatine's personal guards—slowly guided the vehicle to the great open doors of the vault of the Core Bank. The crowd murmured and swooned over the huge fortune they saw pass before them. Dex had been right. Still not even a whisper, though, of the trouble they'd expected from the criminal contingent: Obi-Wan saw Siri through the crowd, and the two of them simply shrugged at one another at the realization of the non-action thus far. But Anakin had his gaze fixed on the vault. Just then, Kenobi's comlink signaled. It was Tyro. He asked Obi-Wan if he'd noted on the Senator's daily activities disk Bog's drafting of a Senate speech, and if he'd caught the subject of it. When Kenobi replied that he couldn't make sense of the speech, Tyro said that that was precisely what worried him about it. What was Tyro's point? Obi-Wan asked, as he watched the guards move into the bank building. The more pertinent question, Caladian said, was what was Bog's point. Now, what Tyro was about to say might be off-base, he told Obi-Wan, but ... Kenobi noticed that one of the Blue Guards had a torn hem. Unusual for these guards, for they took their position as personal guards to Palpatine seriously ... Torn hem. Blue thread. He immediately told Tyro "Later" and snapped his comlink shut, vaulting through the crowd. Anakin caught his movement. "The guards!" he yelled—and all moved at once: Anakin, Siri, Ferus, as the durasteel doors began to slide closed on the vault.
Kenobi and Skywalker, almost simultaneously, were able to slither through the doors just before they shut. Obi-Wan landed on the floor and tackled the Blue Guard immediately in front of him, knocking his helmet off—it was Roper Slam. "Not you again!" Slam groaned. The next guard tackled (by Anakin) turned out to be his sidekick, Valadon. Slam lamented to her that their current operation was supposed to have been easy! Valadon snapped back her query of whatever happened to the Zone, as neither of them were to have met any resistance! Sitting cross-legged on the floor while trying to rip off his robe in angry frustration, Slam said they'd been double-crossed. Just then, Siri and Ferus ran in from the bank's interior vault door, followed by bank and security force officials. Kenobi told them the criminals were free to be taken into custody. Siri noted that no attempt to hit the water system had even been made. They had been double-crossed, Slam muttered, slumping down. In mere minutes they'd have been gone with the vertex, Valadon said. Everything in their con operations depended on minutes, Slam told her: they lived and died on minutes. When Obi-Wan heard their banter about minutes, he thought of Bog and his pre-calculated, premeditated tardiness—Was his arriving late a ploy to make himself more important, or for some other reason? He then thought of Bog's elocutional "new leader" who would lead them to solidarity's summit, then of Tyro's confusion and worry about the senselessness of the speech's topic.
Truth blazed a path inside Kenobi's brain: Bog had been practicing a nominating speech, to be delivered sometime that day. The heist had been just another diversion ... a decoy. The nominating speech was for Senator Sano Sauro to take over as Supreme Chancellor, and the criminals' real mission was to assassinate Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.
- "Obi-Wan, I must meet with you. Where are you?"
"In the water tunnels. Tyro, I don't have time—"
"Listen to me. I've dug back, looking for links. And I stumbled on something. Something ... much more ... terrible."
"I know about the assassination plot on Palpatine."
"What? No ... can't talk about it over a comlink. We must meet. This involves the highest level ... great evil...."
"I know, Tyro! Sano Sauro!"
"... only you can truly understand...."
"Tyro? I can't pick up what you're saying! I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
- ―Senatorial aide and Jedi informant Tyro Caladian and Obi-Wan Kenobi, amid mysterious comlink interference
Obi-Wan Kenobi had vanished. One moment he was standing over Roper Slam, and the next—when Anakin's head whipped around to question his Master—he was gone. Charging out the door of the vault, into the Core Bank itself, he caught a glimpse of his Master racing out the front door. A Force-burst of speed got Anakin close to his Master, who had leaped over four security officers onto an unattended swoop while grabbing his comlink and starting the engine. Anakin, too, jumped onto an empty swoop, revved the engine, and in seconds had caught up to Obi-Wan. Even though both were madly going the wrong way down a skylane, Anakin asked casually, "What's up?" After barely avoiding a collision with a crowded airbus, Obi-Wan told Skywalker his suspicions that Omega's real goal was to use the Zone at the Senate and assassinate Palpatine. He couldn't get through to Security, however, as all were caught up in the ceremony. "Which was what he was surely counting on," Anakin noted. They literally, then, had to race to get there on time, looping, diving, and doing some highly illegal flying over the pedestrian walkways that led to the Senate, finally leaping off their swoops while the vehicles still moved forward, guiding them by the Force to a safe stop. Running past the enormous statues and into the Senate Building, Obi-Wan contacted Siri and told her what he suspected. She would notify the head of security who was there and contact the Temple, then head to the Senate—they'd need backup.
As they ran along the walkway leading to Palpatine's private office, Skywalker asked his Master how he thought Omega and Zan Arbor would execute their attack. Kenobi told him they'd use the Zone to impair the opposition Senators, perhaps just before the meeting began: that surely was why Bog was going to be late. Then the anti-Jedi faction would call for a vote and oust the Jedi Order. In the meantime, they'd assassinate the Chancellor—effectively eliminating Jedi interference and Palpatine in one day, as they raised Sano Sauro to the Supreme Chancellorship. Racing into Palpatine's outer office, Sly Moore gazed forbiddingly at them with her pale eyes. It was life or death, they told her. Palpatine had already gone to the Jedi vote in the Senate, she told them, shouting after them as they ran: "He took the South Corrider!" They raced down the hallways—they couldn't be late, neither could they let Omega win. They overtook Palpatine walking down a hallway and pushed him into an empty room. Obi-Wan was shocked at the thin man's strength when he touched his arm—it was like a braiding of durasteel. Some feeling or instinct clanged along Kenobi's nerves that made him want to recoil. Dread welled up inside him, and he felt confused—was he too late, after all? Was there something he hadn't seen? Had he missed something?
When the Chancellor (having moved his arm quickly away, to now readjust his high collar) asked Kenobi what was wrong, Obi-Wan advised him of the assassination plot against him—that Granta Omega was behind it, and that Bog Divinian would nominate Sano Sauro as Palpatine's successor. Of course, that would be the inevitable next step, the Chancellor said aloud, a wry, fleeting smile crossing his thin, bloodless lips. Kenobi and Skywalker were both somewhat surprised at Palpatine's seeming apathy about his own potential murder. But he brushed off his personal safety, saying it had ceased to be an issue the moment he assumed office: this, Obi-Wan thought a very odd thing to say, indeed, for a man who had developed his own security force, the Red Guard, whose masked members used force pikes as weapons. But what the Chancellor would do, he said, was order a lockdown, meaning that all doors would open only with a retinal scan. Kenobi guessed that Omega and Zan Arbor were already in the building, smuggled in past security by Teda. Palpatine did have monitors on the water system, he said, and there were no reports of sabotage. When Obi-Wan advised him to shut down the entire system to eliminate the high risk, the Chancellor notified Mas Amedda and gave the order. But then he declared his intent to proceed directly to the Senate assembly. When an alarmed Kenobi protested, Palpatine insisted, with a quiet albeit determined intensity that belied a hint of anger—the first time in Anakin's acquaintance with the Supreme Chancellor that he'd been able to sense something underneath Palpatine's composure, striking as fast as a serpent before it was gone again.
A red glow suddenly appeared on the Chancellor's comlink, giving a high-alert signal. Accessing it, he listened, and advised that it was probably nothing, but that a non-functioning valve in the water tunnel had been reported: Senate Security had noticed it when the water system was shut down. Palpatine gave the valve coordinates to Kenobi, who ordered his Padawan to stay with the Chancellor while he raced alone to investigate. Noting that Anakin's crest had fallen (to have been reduced to just a bodyguard), Palpatine told Anakin to go help his Master face Granta Omega. But Anakin couldn't disobey his Master, he couldn't leave the Chancellor alone. Palpatine's Red Guard could be there in three minutes, he assured the boy. Less. But finding that Skywalker would not budge from his commitment, he told Anakin to walk with him, then, for he was scheduled to vote on Senator Divinian's proposal. When Skywalker reminded the Chancellor that he had been told to stay, Palpatine conceded the fact, but told the young Jedi that, unlike Anakin, he did not have to obey an order of caution ... Indeed, Anakin thought, the caution of his Master that drove him crazy.
Palpatine explained to Anakin that the work of the Senate had to go on, and keep going on, no matter what the obstacles—it's what a leader did. They commenced walking again. Over the course of his political career, the Chancellor said that he had learned one important thing: he could not let anyone get in the way of his service. In the beginning, he said, he doubted himself, for who was he to decide fates, to make rulings? But the answer came to him that he had to do it because there was no one else who could do it better. He told Anakin that he wasn't saying that he was keeping the Republic together single-handedly, but that fate had thrust him into the position—and he would be untrue to himself as well as the galaxy if he did not utilize everything he had and everything he was to succeed at it. Anakin thought the Chancellor's serenity almost eerie, that suddenly Palpatine was somehow above this, looking down: as though criminals like Omega were merely toys to be observed. Where did he get that confidence? Skywalker wondered. Anakin was blindly reaching out now, trying to probe the powerful figure before him, but his own powers were not that developed, and he kept meeting a wall. What Palpatine wished, the Chancellor concluded, was that Anakin would realize this one day, too. That it was right to use every means at his disposal. Palpatine was sure that Skywalker's Master would agree. Anakin, of course, had his doubts.
Siri and Ferus came rushing down the hallway, asking where Obi-Wan was. When Anakin reported there had been a security breach that he'd gone to check out, she asked the coordinates, which he gave. Siri told Ferus to stay with the Chancellor, but that she'd contact him if he was needed. Olin accepted the order fully, without the conflict that Anakin had with it, and Siri raced again down the hall. Palpatine urged Anakin also to go, as one Jedi was protection enough. Skywalker yet hesitated, for he would be disobeying a direct order from his Master. Even so, it was an order given before Ferus showed up. And like Kenobi, Anakin felt strongly that the valve malfunction was indeed Omega, despite Palpatine's dismissal of it (as an actual security breach). The Chancellor emphasized that if it was Omega, he was too dangerous an opponent to allow to escape: the future of the Senate was at stake. Ferus, silent, watched the interchange between Palpatine and Anakin, knowing that whatever he himself said, Skywalker would not consider it. Turning decisively to Ferus, Skywalker told him that he had to go but to stay at the Chancellor's side. Anakin didn't allow himself time to wonder if Olin was perhaps annoyed that he'd given a fellow Padawan an order. But Anakin's mission was too urgent, and everything in him pointed the way to a showdown with Omega. Palpatine was right—only Anakin knew what Omega was capable of. Only he knew the right thing to do.
Deep within the Senate utility tunnels now, examining the valve that caused the alarm, Kenobi was almost certain—by its deep, fresh scratch, and also by a portion of it that appeared bashed in—that the warning resulted from the heavy blow of a tool. Had Omega and Zan Arbor failed to open the valve? Was its damage from their frustration, or miscalculation? No matter, they were here. But the tunnel branches were extensive and he wasn't even sure where the main tunnel ran. Slightly disoriented, Obi-Wan knew he'd never find the criminals at the rate he was going. The Senate complex was as large as a mid-sized city on some planets. If the criminals had hidden themselves, it would take some time before he could find them.
Suddenly, Kenobi's comlink signaled: it was Tyro. The reception was poor, oddly, and the com-line crackled. Tyro needed to meet with Obi-Wan, but the Jedi Master didn't have time. Tyro was insistent: he'd dug back looking for links, and stumbled across something far more terrible than they'd ever thought. Kenobi, hearing the fear in Caladian's voice, tried to put his mind at ease by telling him he already knew about the assassination plot on Palpatine. Tyro, annoyed and impatient that Obi-Wan had failed to grasp or sense the import of this grave new discovery of his, told him that he couldn't discuss it over a comlink and that they had to talk immediately, for he'd uncovered a great evil that involved the highest level of galactic governance. Kenobi, himself exasperated, at both the poor com-connection and the utter urgency of the moment, told Tyro that he already knew about Sano Sauro. Caladian pressed on, as if what Obi-Wan had just said meant nothing or had no bearing on his finding, saying that only Kenobi could truly understand what this dark new truth meant. Obi-Wan told Tyro he couldn't pick up what he was saying and that he'd get back to him as soon as he could, terminating the transmission.
Coming upon a wall-embossed laser schematic, Kenobi studied the interactive blueprint of the Senate's 572-quadrant tunnel system—it was exactly like the blueprint at the Falleen factory, except that the Blackwater tunnels had vents. Shifting, then, his focus from water to air, he noted that the Senate's air and water tunnels were stacked on top of one another: linked passageways allowed workers to commute between the two systems. Pressing a key for the air tunnel quadrant nearest to him, he discovered it mirrored the very grid he'd seen on Falleen. Not only could he now discover where the criminals were going, but he'd also discovered a terrible new truth—what he should have realized on Falleen: Zan Arbor had failed at her attempts to transmit the Zone through water to a large population. Track A Experiment VOIDED. Track B Experiment BEGUN. Track A had been the failed transmission through water that had cost four lives; Track B was the transmission through air. The sickening logic that flooded Kenobi's brain was overwhelming: the criminals knew he was expecting them to attack through water. The water tunnels were their way in, and they wanted them shut down! While the Jedi vainly, uselessly, searched the water tunnels, they would release the Zone into the air.
Whipping out his comlink, Obi-Wan ran toward a pass-through corridor link to the air tunnels. He was so deep within the system now, however, that he couldn't get his communication to go through. Crossing into the linking passage, he jumped on an ever-moving platform that took him up to the air transport system. The blueprint was perfectly etched in Kenobi's mind, and he knew the path to the central air tunnel that led to the main Senate chamber. As he shot silently down the passageway, a faint humming noise was heard—a swoop. Taking the next turn, he saw them: Zan Arbor and Omega, traveling at low speed through the tunnel. Accessing the Force, he leaped, throwing himself through the air, straight at the speeder bike.
- "It really gets tiresome to be continually underestimated. Do you really think you have foiled my plans, simply by showing up here? If you cut through that door panel, Obi-Wan, you will kill thousands of Senators."
"He has a transmitting device."
"Ah, better. Let me explain. I have programmed hundreds of seeker droids with the vital information to key Senators as well as to Palpatine. All I have to do is push the button."
- ―Granta Omega explains his assassination plot to the Jedi, as Anakin Skywalker warns his Master of the transmitting device in Omega's hand
Hitting the end of the vehicle, Obi-Wan grabbed on to the edge of the backseat, the speeder lurching with the impact and colliding with the wall in a shower of sparks. Granta Omega, taking a backward glance at Kenobi, was enraged. A struggle then ensued, in which Obi-Wan, protected by the Force, deflected blaster-fire from Zan Arbor, who was trying also to blast open a vent to a tunnel that was on a direct line to the main Senate chamber. Time slowed for Kenobi, leaving him space between the seconds to exploit, so that he was able to knock Zan Arbor off position from succeeding at her shot while unbalancing Omega, who lost control of the speeder. As it careened toward the bottom of the tunnel before slamming against the wall, Omega and Zan Arbor leaped from the swoop, leaving Kenobi behind to contend with a dozen miniature seeker droids hammering blaster-fire at him (having been released by Omega from a swoop compartment before the vehicle crashed). The first dozen were, to Obi-Wan's dismay, eventually joined by three dozen more—stopping his pursuit dead, as he was forced to defend himself against these elusive little droids that separated him from two of the galaxy's greatest criminals.
After Zan Arbor urged Omega to get on with their "exit plan," he paused, telling her that he wanted to see Kenobi die—for not even a Jedi could escape that many seekers. Zan Arbor told him to cease being a fool, as Security would be all over them if they delayed a moment longer, and she began to run. Taking one last look at Kenobi, Omega grinned, telling the preoccupied Jedi to "have fun" before turning to join Zan Arbor. Forced to retreat back to the speeder, Obi-Wan threw himself beneath it. He waited until he had heard several rounds of blaster-fire penetrate the fuel tank, then leaped through the air away from the speeder at the last possible moment, before it exploded. The resultant fireball took out 28 seeker droids at once. Obi-Wan slashed the remaining two as he shot through the air, propelled by both the Force and the broiling air cast from the explosion. He hit the ground running, for he knew where Omega and Zan Arbor were going: to the Senate landing platform, to escape. The two had mapped out a plan that would get them inside the air tunnel and then out of the Senate as fast as possible. As Kenobi doubled his speed, he tossed away his comlink that had been fused by the heat of the blast.
Reaching the dangling air vent, Obi-Wan crawled through to traverse the few meters of space that separated him from the landing platform. The platform itself was kilometers long, big enough to park space freighters in, but most often it was used for the Senators' smaller transports and those of important guests—all of which were parked in orderly rows. But Kenobi saw no evidence of the two criminals. They were clearly racing to their transport, and he could well waste an hour searching for them, without success. Omega was bound to escape again. While the thought sickened Kenobi, he tried to reassure himself that he had prevented the Zone from penetrating the Senate, and had stopped the assassination of the Chancellor—he hoped. Omega was leaving again in defeat. And yet, he was still leaving, defeat or not. Gathering the Force around him, for he'd never needed it more, Kenobi felt it move, to his surprise, like a gathering storm—already powerful but hinting at the greater strength to come: Anakin. His apprentice came with Siri, moving out from a transport aisle and racing toward him (they'd tracked Obi-Wan through the tunnel). Kenobi immediately asked Anakin concerning Palpatine, to which Skywalker replied that he'd left him with Olin. Obi-Wan had given him a direct order! Sure, the situation had undoubtedly changed when Ferus arrived, but he'd wanted his Padawan to remain with the Chancellor because, if Obi-Wan had missed something, Anakin would yet have a chance to foil the attack.
But as Skywalker turned, his eyes raking the platform, Obi-Wan felt the Force build. Looking at the landing area, he reached out, searching for the dark Force that was there, concealed but trying to hide. Anakin suddenly pinpointed the villains—third aisle over, thirty-seven transports down—and they raced down a parallel aisle, hoping to surprise them. Stealthily, they at last moved around a transport to see Omega and Zan Arbor, across the aisle, already seated in the cockpit of a sleek space cruiser. Omega was finishing up with takeoff procedures and there was no time to spare, no time for a plan: the Jedi charged. Accessing the Force, Anakin leaped straight onto the transparisteel screen, making a startled Zan Arbor scream. Kenobi and Tachi leapt to the roof, their lightsabers at the ready to pierce its panels below, when Omega's voice was suddenly heard transmitting outside the cockpit. He began by telling the Jedi how utterly tiresome their continued intrusions were becoming for him. But even as he spoke, Kenobi was beginning to cut into the cruiser's plating with his lightsaber. Omega warned Kenobi that, if he persisted, he would be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Senators. Siri uttered Obi-Wan's name, in warning, which Omega heartily approved of, telling Tachi that, indeed, that particular day would be one the Senate would long remember, for at that moment it was set to become a bloodbath. Again a warning came, this time from Anakin, who revealed to his Master that Omega was holding a transmitting device. Compelled now, Obi-Wan stopped his lightsaber-cutting—an action that apparently mollified Omega. The arch-villain then explained to the Jedi that he had programmed hundreds of seeker droids with the vital information not only to key Senators, but also to the Supreme Chancellor himself: all he had to do was push a button.
Kenobi felt rage surge within him. He would not let Omega blackmail him into letting him escape. But, at the same time, there was no reason to think Omega was lying, for it was similar to the way he had orchestrated the death of Jedi Master Yaddle. The Force moved in a boiling mass that caused the two Jedi Masters to jump to their feet on top of the cruiser, as Anakin hung in midair for the split-second it took him to slash through the viewport directly in front of a shocked Omega. The melted material that Skywalker jumped on top of (too hot to stand on) fell into a screaming Zan Arbor's lap. Kenobi, who found himself unable to track his apprentice's movement, had never seen such speed. Faster than sight, Anakin had, while balancing on the lip of the cruiser, reached in and grabbed the transmitter from Omega's clutches. Whoops, no more button, he hissed. Omega, crying out in rage, immediately triggered the powerful engines—taking off in a burst of speed that caused the Jedi to slip off the cruiser and onto the ground. Clipping a wing as he exited, Omega knocked over a row of swoops and disrupted traffic in the nearest skylanes. Obi-Wan was again left stunned, forced simply to look on, when Anakin suddenly announced that the villain had lied: the transmitter was locked in position—Omega had already programmed the droids.
The fastest way to the Senate chamber was through the tunnels, Siri said. But they didn't know the way, Anakin reminded them. Ferus would know, Siri said. They all ran back to the vent, crawled through, then raced down the air tunnel. Siri comlinked Ferus, quickly filling him in. Olin hadn't seen any sign of trouble so far in the grand chamber, he reported. Tachi told him to stay with Palpatine and to contact Master Windu for reinforcements. But first, as he'd previously loaded the Senate utility tunnels onto his datapad, she needed Ferus to guide them through the tunnels to the chamber: she wanted him to bring them in on its middle tier. Once Ferus had relayed the instructions, the Jedi took off at top speed—kicking in vents, as they swiftly navigated through the tunnel-maze, and using their cable launchers to vault a sharp upward stretch of two hundred meters. Kenobi took that opportunity to reprimand Skywalker for leaving the Chancellor, for now there were hundreds of seeker droids heading to the Senate and only one available Jedi to protect Palpatine and the Senators. Skywalker's mouth simply tightened: he'd grown less and less open to correction from his Master. It had been just the opposite for Obi-Wan: the longer he and Qui-Gon were together, the more he welcomed his Master's remarks, even when they were critical.
Siri heard unwelcome sounds coming from the vent ahead—blaster fire, shouts, the random, terrible noise of violent chaos. Bursting out on a mid-level tier of the grand Senate chamber, they could see the seeker droids everywhere, searching for their pre-programmed targets. Bodyguards sought to protect their charges as Senators marooned in pods dove to the floor. Siri noticed that Palpatine was not in his repulsorpod.
The Jedi didn't know where to start, so they began where they were, leaping from pod to pod and tier to tier, deflecting blaster bolts, and slashing at the droids as they sought to protect the thousands who had come for the debate. But the droids had the advantage, for they could fly. Kenobi could see that the Jedi needed an edge to even have a fighting chance. Leaping down to the next tier, he found a terrified Senatorial assistant hiding among the opulent drapery of planet Belazura's pod, which was still tethered to its docking point. Kenobi asked the aide where the main pod controls were. Hearing the durasteel in Obi-Wan's voice, the hesitant assistant quickly let him board, then dropped the pod 10 levels to show him the central controls for the repulsorpods (which overrode all individual-pod controls) that were set in a wall-panel on tier-level 125. Pushing several diagram indicators, Kenobi formed the pods in a schematic, shaping large blocs of them to take on a stepping-stone effect throughout the Senate chamber. Telling the trembling aide to remain where he was, for safety, Obi-Wan raced back to the tier entrance, where he could already see he'd been successful. Able now to cover more airspace, the Jedi were jumping from pod to pod, steadily decreasing the number of droids that were zeroing in on the terrified Senators. And Jedi reinforcements from the Temple, including Shaak Ti and Coleman Trebor, were now charging out onto the Senate floor.
Palpatine stood facing the melee on a tier far below, being protected by Ferus Olin. But the Supreme Chancellor hardly noticed the Jedi protecting him, his bleak gaze instead sweeping the chamber and its dark chaos. Roy Teda, running for his life, was on the same tier as Palpatine: that a droid was tracking him was proof that Omega had betrayed Teda and wanted him dead. Kenobi was so far from the tier that he knew he'd never make it in time, but he had to try, never allowing his lightsaber a moment's rest as he made his descent. When he'd approached close enough to see, Obi-Wan guessed the murderous intent on Teda's snarling face: if the ex-tyrant was going down, it was clear he wanted to take the Supreme Chancellor with him. All around, the chamber was filled with shouts and screams, the smoke of blasters, and the unmistakable smell of fear. Teda was just steps from Palpatine when Ferus moved to take out the lead seeker droid that had been targeting Teda. Olin then turned to the other droids, Force-leaping upward, the bronze glow of his lightsaber a constantly moving presence. Of the concentrated droid squad, only one droid remained now, as Kenobi leaped the final meters toward Ferus. Teda drew a blaster to take out Ferus, but the droid Olin was fighting dipped suddenly, firing at Teda. Smoke rose from the exit wound in Teda's back as Ferus bent over the former dictator. Though Teda was an enemy of the Jedi, and despite Kenobi's expressed thanks for Olin's valiant effort, Ferus judged himself to have been too late, to have failed. But the Jedi could see that the tide had turned.
Senators were being herded to safety, others were being protected. Gaining now the upper hand, Jedi teams and security forces were destroying the last of the droids. Obi-Wan suddenly heard his named being called—it was Tyro Caladian. Half-shrouded in darkness, the Svivreni Senatorial aide darted forward from the back of his tier, straight into the path of a seeker droid homing in on Palpatine. Kenobi yelled for him to drop as Olin leaped, but just as the droid fired; Ferus deflected the fire from Palpatine, but it was too late for Caladian, who fell to his knees, riddled with blaster fire. An anguished cry ripped from Obi-Wan's chest—this was a death he could not bear, not Tyro, not him, not this ... The Jedi shot forward toward his fallen friend, even as dread welled up inside him for what he knew the next moments would bring. An infinite sadness pooled in Tyro's eyes: unable to speak, his gaze spoke infinite regret. Lifting his trembling hand, he moved it toward Obi-Wan, allowing his opened palm to close into a fist, which he placed gently against Kenobi's heart. Looking up—past Obi-Wan's shoulder, behind him—toward the Chancellor, fear flickered briefly in Tyro's eyes before they went cold. And then he was gone. Opening and closing his own hand, Kenobi bent over Tyro and placed it against his beloved friend's chest, bowing his head in grief. He then murmured the words every Svivreni told a loved one before embarking upon any path or venture: "The journey begins ... So go."
- "So what will you do?"
"I'm not sure. Didi wants to return to Coruscant, but I don't know ... It has changed. I don't like it here anymore. I'm fearful here, but I don't know of what."
"I know what you mean ... My advice is to pick a pleasant world with a genuinely democratic government. Raise your son. Keep Didi out of trouble. And always remember I am here for you."
"As you have proven time and time again ... I see the sorrow in you. I can't take it away. But you have saved me and those that I love. Know that, at least."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi and Astri Oddo
The Senate vote on the Jedi Order's fate, with respect to its future Senatorial involvement and support, was held the following day. But the anti-Jedi faction's proposal to bar the Jedi from any future action on behalf of the Senate was soundly defeated, with no debate. Even Sano Sauro voted against Senator Bog Divinian's proposal. The two Senators—it was noted, however—arrived at the Senate Building well after the previous day's events. Disgraced on his own planet, Divinian found himself without supporters—and those who once were demanded his resignation: everyone except Bog, it seemed, knew his political career was over. Of course, the stature of the Supreme Chancellor, because of his exquisite calm on the day of the attempted massacre, only increased—he was more powerful than ever. The casualties of that fateful hour included 21 Senators, 14 aides, and 10 Senatorial guards, plus Romin's ex-dictator Teda, all murdered. Knowing, however, that thousands had been targeted, it was considered a miracle that the numbers weren't higher. And, for the next day or so, the Senators seemed genuinely affected—bound in a common grief. But, then, the political tirades of blame began once more, after the memorials and the speeches were ended. Who had allowed the attack to happen? What committee had not foreseen it? What faction had secretly approved of the vicious slaughter? Who had not yet condemned it loudly enough? More charges and countercharges, but Obi-Wan Kenobi was sick of it ... and sick at heart.
The weary Jedi Master had returned to Tyro Caladian's cluttered office after attending his dear friend's memorial service that had brimmed with friends and associates: the congregation had spilled out into the hallways, many of them unable to participate or hear, but still needing to be, in some fashion, present. Kenobi had clearly seen that his friend had been loved by multitudes. But it was among Tyro's beloved files and documents that Obi-Wan felt closest to him. Thinking himself incapable of bearing this particular death, yet he had, and he somehow knew that there would be many more to bear in the future. For the galaxy's growing darkness, which Master Windu had warned of, was now in his heart—a darkness he could feel with each breath he took. The foreboding shadow Obi-Wan felt encroaching had even intruded into the last words Tyro had spoken to him. But he had searched now through Caladian's datapad and holofiles—indeed, through everything he could think of—and there was no record of what his friend had so desperately tried to tell him. Kenobi could not make sense of it. What were you going to tell me? He asked silently of his deceased comrade. What had truly shocked Obi-Wan to learn, however, was that the seeker droid that he'd assumed was heading for Palpatine had been programmed, that very morning, according to the Senate investigator, to hit Tyro instead. That was another thing that didn't make sense: why would Omega want to kill a lowly Senate aide? Another question that Obi-Wan may never know the answers to.
Madame Jocasta Nu, archivist at the Jedi Temple, would supervise the investigation of all of Tyro's files, which were to be moved there. For there could have been things that Kenobi had missed. By evening, Caladian's office was set to be cleared, and the room would be filled the very next day, if the demand for Senate space was any indicator. Any memory of Tyro would be swept out with the dust. Obi-Wan lingered, reluctant to leave, when he suddenly heard in the outer hallway soft footsteps approaching. It was Astri Oddo who appeared in the doorway. She had been told that she might find Kenobi in Tyro's office, and she offered her condolences for Obi-Wan's loss. And how was Astri doing? Kenobi queried. For her part, Astri and her precious two—Lune and Didi—were all good: thanks to Obi-Wan, she said in genuine gratitude. Bog had been stripped of power, useless now to both the Commerce Guild and Sano Sauro, which meant he was also powerless to hurt Astri and her loved ones ever again. When Kenobi asked her what she planned to do now, she was unsure, although she knew Didi wanted to return to Coruscant. But Astri, who hugged herself and shivered, said that the galactic capital had changed, that she didn't like it there anymore—because she felt fearful while there, but didn't know exactly of what. Obi-Wan sympathized, saying he knew what she meant. Preparing to join Astri in the hallway, Kenobi switched off the lights in Tyro's office, feeling something break inside when he did: Tyro was gone forever.
As they walked down the hallway together, Obi-Wan advised Astri to choose a pleasant, genuinely democratic world on which to settle and raise her son (and keep Didi out of trouble also). Kenobi told her to always remember that he would be there for her, whether on Coruscant or elsewhere in the galaxy. As he, in fact, had proven time and time again, Astri reminded him. Placing two hands upon Obi-Wan's shoulders, Astri's dark eyes searched his: she could see the sorrow in him. And though she couldn't take it away, Kenobi had literally saved her and those she loved. She wanted him to know that, at least.
Indeed, it was, for Obi-Wan, the small moments, he thought, as he laid a hand over Astri's: though they couldn't measure up against the times of sorrow, they had to be enough.
Aftermath: Dark shadows
- "I don't understand. You gave Senator Sauro the position of Deputy Chancellor. We are certain that he was in on the plot to assassinate you."
"I offered it before the vote on the Jedi petition, knowing he could not refuse. I knew he would betray Bog. The assurance of a powerful office would be enough to abandon a risky scheme."
"But you rewarded Sauro for betraying you."
"I have made my enemy my friend ... His fate is now linked with mine."
- ―Anakin Skywalker and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
Sitting alongside the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic inside his office, Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker gazed with Palpatine at the temporary garden in the exterior courtyard outside the Galactic Senate complex. There, towering above the colorful, exotic flowers that ran in a square around the silver-barked trees, were twin horns of the bloodred claing bush, native to Sano Sauro's world—and the ominous-looking thorns spawned young Skywalker's inquiry. He wondered why the Chancellor had awarded Senator Sauro the newly created position of Deputy Chancellor when the Jedi were certain that he was part of the plot to assassinate Palpatine: Anakin simply couldn't understand. The position was offered him, Palpatine professed, before the vote on the Jedi petition took place, and he therefore knew it was an offer Sauro couldn't refuse. Palpatine claimed foreknowledge that Sauro would betray Divinian: the assurance of a powerful office would be enough to abandon the risky prospect of staying true to a scheme that effectively had already been crushed by the Jedi's impressive thwarting of Omega's Senate Building attack. But Skywalker still couldn't grasp how Palpatine could have ever found it within him to reward Sauro for betraying him. Palpatine explained to the very talented, strongly Forceful Jedi Padawan that his generous gesture to Sauro had, in effect, made a friend of a bitter enemy, forever linking the Senator's fate with his own. Beyond that, the Chancellor would always know what Sauro was up to: Palpatine's action was done to keep this enemy of the Jedi Order and of the Supreme Chancellor close, as on a leash.
Skywalker, nodding, was beginning to understand: the shadows of his mind broke, albeit to a different kind of light. Anakin thought Palpatine a great teacher, and he would miss his talks with the Chancellor. He felt that he was learning, even though he had not yet been able to sift through the nuggets of wisdom he'd received. Palpatine told Anakin that he had asked him to his office to thank him for his efforts on that dreadful day of Omega's attack, wherein the Galactic Senate came very close to being utterly destroyed. Palpatine had intently watched Anakin's performance and was, quite frankly, surprised that the Jedi High Council failed to fully appreciate what he did that day. He hoped that Skywalker would not fault him for such candid disclosure, but Palpatine himself had witnessed how many lives Anakin saved. And he thought it outrageous and unfair that Ferus Olin was given a special commendation for what he did, whereas Anakin wasn't awarded anything. It was now Palpatine who didn't understand. But Anakin was incredulous: "You don't?" For Ferus had saved the Chancellor's life. "Good of him, of course," Palpatine conceded, but it was no more than what Olin had been asked to do, whereas Skywalker always did more. Palpatine felt it a pity that the Council didn't see that, and suggested to Anakin that perhaps a Chancellor's talk with Master Yoda was in order. Anakin, of course, quickly declined the offer, for he knew well the Jedi Council—and Yoda, in particular. He was certain that the venerable Jedi Master would think that Skywalker himself wanted the Chancellor to speak to him about his performance, that Anakin was seeking approval. And Jedi did not seek approval, he told Palpatine.
As counterbalance to young Skywalker's thoughts, Palpatine asked the Padawan, then, to tell him—from a Jedi's point of view, and since it was sometimes difficult for those outside his order to understand it—why Ferus Olin received special notice, and Anakin did not. "Because he did his duty," was Anakin's response, tasting, even as he said it, a bitterness in his mouth. "Ferus obeyed his Master and stayed at his post," Anakin confirmed again, as much to himself as to Palpatine. Olin had saved the Chancellor's life and dozens of other lives. But Skywalker, Palpatine astutely observed, saved more. It was not a contest, Anakin countered. "No, it was a battle," Palpatine said. Sighing (as much to himself as for Skywalker), the Chancellor gazed back at the garden below, when suddenly, through the transparent screen that separated them, Anakin saw his Master enter the Chancellor's office. Seeing the two outside, Obi-Wan politely waited, not wishing to interrupt. "I see your Master has arrived to fetch you," the Chancellor said, rising. In his parting words to the young man, Palpatine hoped that Anakin felt free to visit him from time to time. Recognizing Skywalker would have other missions, in which Palpatine knew he would perform splendidly, he confided to the young Jedi that he, for one, was glad that Anakin was on his side. Young Skywalker said that he was honored by Palpatine's praise, and he bowed his goodbye.
Once Anakin had joined Kenobi in the hall, Obi-Wan announced that, though they didn't know where Granta Omega was, they did know where he'd been. Looking back at Palpatine, Skywalker suddenly realized that studying the Senate had not been as bad as he'd initially thought. He'd been close to great power, the greatest in the galaxy, and he felt he was just on the verge of learning more about it. Even so, Anakin Skywalker did not feel himself tailored for power struggles and intrigue—at least, not yet. Neither did he like dwelling on why the Jedi Council was so hard on him, on why Ferus always seemed to earn recognition from the Council, when he did not. But these were feelings Anakin did not want, preferring that they fall utterly away, to leave him peaceably with his core—one that was not threatened by what other beings thought or said. On the bright side, as they allowed him relief from his own dark thoughts, Anakin realized that on missions, everything else did fall away, and he was able to concentrate and focus. Turning back to his Master, he realized that he was, indeed, ready to go.
Behind the scenes
- Jedi Quest: The False Peace (First appearance)
- Jedi Quest: The Final Showdown (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: Underworld (Mentioned only)
- The Last of the Jedi: A Tangled Web (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- Jedi Quest: The False Peace
- Jedi Quest: The Changing of the Guard
- Shadow Games
- Jedi Apprentice Special Edition: Deceptions
- Jedi Quest: The Master of Disguise
- Jedi Quest: The School of Fear
- Jedi Quest: The Shadow Trap
- Jedi Quest: The Dangerous Games
- Jedi Apprentice: The Deadly Hunter
- Jedi Apprentice: The Evil Experiment
- Jedi Apprentice: The Dangerous Rescue
- Jedi Quest: Path to Truth
- Jedi Apprentice: The Captive Temple