Chapter VIII – Padmidala
General Tarkin looked out of his office at the stunning weather that lay beyond the window with a look of utmost displeasure. There were very few things that he could say he truly despised. The unexpected was at the top of that list. His scowl deepened as he spoke to his second-in-command standing on the other side of his desk.
“When will the Jedi land?” Tarkin asked.
“Within the hour, sir. The transport will land at the Senatorial Spaceport. The girl is expected to be waiting for him when he lands,” Colonel Kinyon responded, still standing at attention in front of General Tarkin’s desk.
Tarkin had never anticipated that an eternally minor child in the world of politics would garner such attention this quickly. This was supposed to be a tightly controlled experiment and Tarkin felt like he was losing control.
Losing control of any situation was also on his list.
“No doubt, Colonel. Is there any further news from the Alderaanian Senate?” Tarkin asked.
“No more than the usual outcry. The problem is that minority is growing. Intelligence has counted transmissions from twenty-eight of the seventy-five senators that are opposed to how we have handled her investigations. Our analysts predict that the minority could become a majority within a week,” Colonel Kinyon began to place a digital tablet on the desk.
“Keep it, Colonel. I don’t need to see the reports,” Tarkin said with a hint of disgust. “Increase the daily patrols and double the guards around the new warehouses. Above all, tell the troops to relax in the presence of the locals. Remember, we have nothing to hide. Dismissed,”
Colonel Kinyon let his curiosity get the better of him. “Sir, if I may venture a question, what is in those buildings? I’ve seen enough equipment to go in there to fill a Star Cruiser, but as Senator Amidala points out we’ve received zero additional personnel,” Colonel Kinyon swallowed slowly.
He felt he might’ve gone too far in his question, but he had to risk it. The scuttlebutt on the base about the new additions to the garrison ranged from mild to insane.
Rumors flew about that the new facilities the military had annexed were to be used simply for training new recruits. Another rumor was that the Republic was operating a secret R&D laboratory where they had devised a method that would make super soldiers infused with Jedi powers.
General Tarkin slowly turned away from the window and looked at Colonel Kinyon. The devastating look he gave the colonel spoke volumes. “On the way out, Colonel Kinyon, advise Felic Ordon of the situation. Inform him that I need to discuss certain details with Senator Palpatine,”
Several minutes later, the image of Senator Palpatine appeared on his desk. “Yes, General?”
“The resistence is growing within our Senate. The girl is gaining momentum after the wonderful tour we gave her. I have even received a message from Viceroy Organa himself. She’s unpredictable and may find ways to expose us before we are ready,” Tarkin said.
“Your concern is unnecessary, General. Events will go precisely as I have foreseen regardless of her rash actions. Unless you believe that my personal guidance is required to ensure that everything goes according to plan,” Senator Palpatine’s gaze bore into General Tarkin.
“No, Senator. I can handle this. I just didn’t think that she would ask the Jedi Council to send a Master to mediate. He could complicate matters,” a single bead of sweat formed on Tarkin’s brow.
“The Council did not send him there. I did,” Palpatine said with a look of smug satisfaction.
“But Senator…” Tarkin stammered.
“He’s not a Master, General,” Palpatine growled. “He’s one of the freshest, greenest Knights that the Council had available. I specifically requested this one because of his inexperience. He will play the role of the typical Jedi fool with words like ‘mediate’ and ‘observe’ still ringing in his ears. This Knight of the Republic will not be a distraction and will only enhance our plans. He will dance to the tune we play just as Amidala will and his voice will only add credibility to hers,” Palpatine laughed.
“As you wish, Senator. Shall I order the standard observation on them?” Tarkin asked.
“For the time being, that will suffice. Felic said you have an update for me?”
General Tarkin removed a digital tablet from inside his tunic. He tapped in his password and the tablet sprang to life. A complicated display of charts and figures appeared. Tarkin placed the tablet into a slot on his desk and the same images jumped to the air between them, slowly revolving around each other.
“We are approaching 95% capacity,” he said, and some graphs came to the forefront of the display. “The latest additions have proven to be reliable, effective, and extremely capable. I don’t know exactly what your technicians did to shake the errors out of the system, but at the rate we’re proceeding, I predict we will achieve our optimum numbers within two weeks. They will never be substitutes for the real thing, but they should satisfy us in the short term,” Tarkin looked pleased and pulled the tablet from the slot on his desk. The charts and graphs vanished immediately.
“Excellent General. Your garrison’s progress is on par with the other sites. We are nearing our completion of this project and our timetable must be exact. While I set other events into motion, I trust you will find the best way to get Senator Amidala to dance,” Palpatine grinned.
Senator Amidala could hardly stand the anticipation. When her contacts on Coruscant sent word to her digital communicator that a Jedi Knight was on the way, she felt surer of victory than ever before. She would be able to convey their situation to someone with real clout that Tarkin could not ignore.
A week had passed since her initial inspection had ended in disappointment. She had spent that week pulling every political string, calling in every possible favor, and lobbying every political dignitary from the Regent down to the local Magistrate. Padme called upon friends of her mentor and even a few enemies she had made in the political arena. Twice each day she had sent urgent transmissions to Senator Palpatine’s assistant, Felic Ordon. When she received no reply, she had a fiery debate with her Chief of Staff about sending a transmission to Supreme Chancellor Valorum himself. All of these actions had netted her not one additional inspection of the garrison.
What she had accomplished, however, was independent pressure being placed on General Tarkin. Other representatives within the Alderaan government were asking questions, and asking them loudly. More impressive was the grass roots movement that had started among the people. It was now becoming clear that the citizens of Alderaan wanted to know what was so important behind the walls of Republic Garrison Three-Two-Eight.
As the transport descended from the sky and slowly came down on Landing Pad Number Four, she rocked on the balls of her feet. General Tarkin might be able to delay a ‘girl’ in the Planetary Senate, but a Jedi Knight of the Republic could not be ignored. With the people of Alderaan behind her and a Jedi at her side, now would be the time for answers.
As the ramp lowered, technicians began to attend to the ship’s needs, checking it for damage from its violent re-entry and moving fuel hoses into position. Crewmen dressed in Republic uniforms came out of the ship, chatting among themselves about their journey. Padme patiently waited until two men appeared.
One was taller, although not much older than she was. He was dressed in simple, brown robes, but walked with a sense of confidence. The second man could hardly be called a man at all. Standing a head shorter than his companion, he appeared to be about the same age as she was and dressed in shabby, stained, sand-blasted clothes. He had an air of energy and eagerness around him, but she couldn’t help but wonder when the Jedi Knight would come down. The two approached her and she couldn’t hide her stunned expression when the taller man introduced himself.
“Senator Amidala, I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight of the Republic. I would like to thank you for receiving us. I am here at the request of the Galactic Senate and the Jedi Council to hear the dispute your planet has with the local military garrison and mediate a settlement,” he placed his hands inside his robes and waited.
Padme was floored. This was her savior? The man the Republic had sent to lead the charge into the garrison and finally force the truth out from behind the walls was here to mediate? Her investigation was going to be condemned to a conference table.
“Jedi Kenobi, I think you misunderstand my intent. While I am more than glad to have you assist my investigation, please let there be no doubt as to what I plan to accomplish. The people of Alderaan aren’t asking for a photo op with General Tarkin, they are demanding answers. If what I suspect is true, then this will go beyond a simple ‘mediation’”, she glared at the Jedi.
“The truth is dependent on the facts at hand while suspicions and speculations are best left to journalists. I have already arranged a meeting with General Tarkin and his aide, Colonel Kinyon in the morning. Believe me Senator, this problem will be resolved in short order,” he said.
When her expression remained unchanged, Obi-Wan decided to indulge her a little. “What exactly do you suspect, Senator?” he asked.
“You simply do not have this much space unless you fill it with something. I need to know what is in those buildings before they are allowed another square centimeter of Alderaanian soil. If you and I do not share goals, then our agendas may lead us down different roads. Who is he?” She had just now noticed that the boy was still standing behind Obi-Wan with eyes that were locked on her.
“I apologize for not introducing him, Senator. This is Anakin Skywalker, a…traveler from Tatooine and this is his first visit to Alderaan. He is my companion and will not be a burden to our situation. Anakin, this is Planetary Senator Padme Amidala,” Obi-Wan stepped to the side.
Anakin wasn’t sure if he could handle the shock of seeing the most beautiful thing in existence twice in twenty minutes. First it was the planet Alderaan itself, but now the planet paled in comparison to Senator Padme Amidala. Her soft, brown hair was coiled neatly and securely into a single braid down her back. She was shorter than Anakin, but her confidence made her appear to be tall enough to stand toe-to-toe with anyone regardless of rank and position. To Anakin, it was her eyes that held him prisoner. Her eyes were radiant and alight with a fire that seared his heart. He almost held his breath, but managed to extend his hand and stammer to her.
“I’m Anakin and I wish to greet you, Senator Padmidala,” he blushed as she shook his hand.
“I think you just did, Anakin,” she giggled and smiled at him. “Anakin Skywalker, welcome to Aldera, the Gem of Alderaan and the capital for the Shining Star of the Core Worlds.
He couldn’t see why this group was so special that it required his talents. There was a boy, a man in robes, and a girl all chatting to each other. Standing on top of the building across the street, Lieutneant Jango Fett increased the magnification another few clicks on his electro-binoculars.
The taller one was clearly a Jedi, despite his pitiful attempt to look inconspicuous. The boy was clumsy, awkward, and of absolutely no importance. He was staring at the snow-capped mountains in the distance like a tourist. The girl was identified by the display on his electro-binoculars as Planetary Senator Padme Amidala. Her height, weight, heart rate, residence, and route she took to her office appeared on the display as well. Jango fingered the modified blaster at his side.
Pressing a few buttons, he linked his blaster’s computer to the electro-binoculars and began recording the images. The girl was clearly not pleased as they walked away from the ship and toward the express elevators. His natural instinct was to hit them now and be done with it, but he had to be patient. So far, his orders were to observe and not to execute the kill.
Jango knew that the kill order was only a short time away, so it was best to be prepared. Perhaps a common soldier can make the mistake of going in half-cocked, but a Republic Commando was never that careless. He strapped on his jet pack and prepared to leave his observation post.
While waiting for his communicator to establish a link with Commander Rethian, a thought occurred to him. When stalking your prey, you wait until they make a mistake before you strike. Jango was very, very good at waiting.
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