Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9 (2 page)

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
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Yet part of Anakin Skywalker was there, too. Bail had hoped it wouldn’t be. In this galaxy, ability with the Force would be a burden to his child, not a gift.

So much to hide
, Bail thought. The Inquisitors would come, and they would walk the city, and they would comb through records, and they would invade the privacy of the citizens of
Alderaan, and if Bail had anything to do about it, they would find nothing and leave. The report of a toddler with an amazing pitching arm would be tossed aside, as well it should, lost among the
millions of tips the Imperial investigators received from those trying to curry favor, trying to move up in the system.

Bail sighed. He would have to cooperate. But he wasn’t about to make it easy.

Ferus Olin resisted the urge to tug at the collar of his Inquisitor’s robe. To him the robe was unnecessarily ominous-looking. The hoods were designed to conceal the
face. He had remarked to his fellow Inquisitor, Hydra, that it seemed counter-productive to wear such a frightening costume if you were trying to coax information out of reluctant subjects, but
Hydra had merely stared at him with her flat, expressionless gaze and said, “The Empire does not coax.”

Right. He knew he should really pay attention to this new Imperial lingo. They didn’t coax, they didn’t ask, they didn’t defer, they didn’t take into account that anyone
they came in contact with was in fact a living, breathing creature. Ruthless efficiency was the only way to go.

Ferus hated being a double agent. If the Emperor hadn’t given him this particular job, he would have dropped away and gone back to the resistance. But given the chance to head up the
Inquisitors who were tracking down rumors of Force-adepts, he couldn’t turn it down. If he could locate them, he could save them. And if locating them took being an Inquisitor for awhile, he
would do it.

But this robe…he’d been in two Imperial prisons so far and this robe felt like the third.

If it hadn’t been for Obi-Wan Kenobi, he wouldn’t be on Alderaan at all. All that solitude was making Obi-Wan even more of a mystery man than usual. Obi-Wan had his secrets, and he
was keeping them. That didn’t stop him, however, from issuing edicts to Ferus every once in awhile. When Ferus had listed the Force-sensitive prospects, for some reason this nameless toddler
on Alderaan had gotten Obi-Wan’s attention.

Imperial Inquisitor Hydra sat beside him, her expression neutral. She never said a word if she didn’t have to. Her hood shadowed her face, and it was rare that he caught a glimpse of her
expression. She didn’t seem to have an emotion about anything. They’d traveled together for two days now, and she had never complained about delays or bad food or the faulty engine
light that had grounded them for five hours at a decrepit spaceport.

She piloted the airspeeder, zooming through the space lanes of Aldera without regard to anyone else. The palace lay on a slight rise at the edge of the city, overlooking the vast lake. It was a
gracious complex of buildings surrounded by gardens and orchards. Terraces on various levels afforded the inhabitants plenty of air and light in Alderaan’s temperate climate. Hydra brought
the airspeeder down, releasing the repulsorlift motor so that the airspeeder crushed a plot of clover.

Ferus gathered himself for the encounter. Bail Organa was a personal hero of his. He had followed Organa’s career in the Senate, heard his speeches, read his writings. His passion for
justice was never an occasion for ego or grandstanding; his quiet resolve was, for Ferus, the essence of what a politician should be and rarely was.

And Bail would despise him.

Not only was he entering his house as an enemy, but Bail no doubt knew his background. He would accept the official Imperial line that Ferus had been a great hero of the Bellassan resistance
before seeing the error of his ways and joining the Empire. In other words, Bail would see him as a traitor to every ideal he held dear.

Ferus and Hydra approached the palace and walked through the gates. Ferus was surprised at the lack of security. It had to be there, but he sensed no hidden alarms or sensors. No weapons were
allowed on Alderaan, but still, he would have expected some sort of protection for the Queen and her large extended family.

They followed a winding path through ancient trees with thick trunks of dark golden wood. The gardens were in bloom, and all the flowers were bursts of color against the dense dark greens of the
foliage.

The path led them to a wide front door that was intricately carved from what looked like the massive trunk of one of the majestic trees that surrounded the palace. Bail Organa opened the door
himself as they approached.

Ferus gave a slight bow.

“We come as designates of the Emperor,” he said.

“You may enter.”

Bail turned and walked stiffly back into his home. Every muscle in his body told them how little he thought of them and how quickly he wanted them gone.

Ferus glanced at Hydra, but as usual couldn’t tell what she was thinking. She walked swiftly, her hands concealed in her robes.

Bail led them to what must have been the palace’s most formal room, used for ceremonial affairs. It was paneled with wood and topped by a domed ceiling. Inside, two women waited. Ferus
recognized Breha, tall and beautiful in her white gown of plain cloth. The other woman resembled her, but was taller, with a round, pretty face and coils of dark hair around her ears.

“My wife Breha, Queen of Alderaan, and my sister-in-law, Deara, advisor to the Queen,” Bail said shortly.

There was no furniture in the room, and they stood directly in the center just underneath a massive lighting fixture in the shape of a sun.

“What has brought you to Alderaan?” Bail asked.

“It is the charge of the Imperial Inquisitors to promote stability in the galaxy.” Ferus trotted out the words he had been told to say before any request for information. He forged
on despite the contempt evident in Bail’s expression. “In order to do this, the cooperation of Senators and rulers is expected. A report has been filed by one of your
citizens—”

“One of our citizens, you say,” Breha said. “I don’t think so. Alderaan citizens do not spy on each other.”

Ferus wasn’t about to debate this. Breha was most likely right. But it infuriated Ferus that his level of security clearance did not extend to the names of Imperial operatives, even code
names. He didn’t know who, exactly, had turned in the report of the unusual toddler.

“A report has been filed,” he repeated courteously, “that makes it necessary for us to pursue an investigation onsite. We would like your permission to search the official
records of Alderaan, including security reports, domestic surveillance—”

“The royal court does not spy on its citizens!” Bail’s voice whipped out and echoed in the chamber.

“We leave that to you,” Deara added.

“—and any and all recorded communications and citizen registries,” Ferus finished. He kept his tone polite and respectful, but it did nothing to lessen Bail’s obvious
rage.

They all knew the outcome. Bail and Breha would give permission because they had to. They knew very well that even asking for permission was just a symbolic gesture. The Emperor had given
himself the power to open any planetary records that he wished. Ferus was sure that one day soon, even this meaningless exchange wouldn’t be necessary. For the present, the Emperor was still
concerned with appearances.

Bail’s eyes burned through him. “You don’t need our permission,” he said, spitting out the words. “So why put us through the hypocrisy of asking for it? Do what you
will. We have nothing to hide.”

As one, Bail, Breha, and Deara turned their backs on the Inquisitors and walked out.

As Ferus and Hydra climbed back into the airspeeder, Ferus said, “I think we should try the office of Official Records first.”

“You were deferential to Bail Organa,” Hydra replied, surprising him. “Why?”

“He’s a Senator.”

“He is the main opposition to the Emperor in the Senate. He works to destroy the Empire.”

“It’s easier if you avoid confrontation when you’re digging on someone else’s ground.”

“That is a curious statement,” Hydra said. “Alderaan belongs to the Empire. This is
our
ground.”

Oops
, Ferus thought. He had to be more careful. “I’m speaking of perception,” he said. “If we push the Senator too hard, he may close access to us in ways we
aren’t even aware of. We don’t have a lock on this planet…yet.”

She didn’t reply, and Ferus guided the airspeeder toward a cluster of official buildings in a central area of the city of Aldera. He’d have to dump Hydra somehow. She was too
watchful. His job here was to investigate the report as fast as possible and then close the book on it. He didn’t want her around. Obi-Wan seemed less interested in the possible presence of a
Force-sensitive child than he was in getting the Inquisitors off the scent. If Ferus found the child, he’d be honor-bound to make sure he or she was protected. It could be tricky.

He was anxious to get free of Hydra and contact Amie Antin. She was a doctor and scientist, and he needed her expertise. Just days ago he’d broken into EmPal SuRecon and was able to steal
some supply records. The Emperor’s private medical facility had to have been the place where Darth Vader’s suit had been constructed and fitted. No other place in the galaxy had that
expertise. Ferus hoped that after Amie Antin analyzed the records, she’d be able to give him a clue to Vader’s identity, or at least a place to start.

If his suspicions were correct, Darth Vader was a fallen Jedi. Not only that, Ferus had the nagging feeling that he’d known him. Perhaps even known him well.

If Ferus could discover the nature of Vader’s injuries, he might discover who he’d been. That might give him an edge in a battle.

Because they were heading for a fight.

Vader had killed his partner Roan Lands in cold blood. He had done it just to infuriate Ferus. He had taken a life just for his own amusement.

He had to pay for that.

Ferus knew that by giving in to his rage he was jeopardizing his rediscovered grasp of the Force. He had never become a Jedi officially; he had resigned from the Order when he was still an
apprentice. He knew his limitations. He wouldn’t be much of a match for Vader as he was.

He had learned detachment as a Jedi Padawan, but he didn’t feel detached. Not at all. A calm, steady fury was at the core of him now. It needed only a trigger to explode. He had been
taught all his life that avenging a death was wrong. But this didn’t feel wrong.

The Emperor had told him that he could teach Ferus about the dark side of the Force. He had told him that his anger would only make him stronger. Ferus had to admit he’d been right. You
couldn’t argue with results. The few times he’d tapped into his anger and felt the dark side of the Force, he’d been able to move objects at shocking velocities just by
concentrating his rage.

Before he’d left Coruscant, he’d met briefly with the Emperor. Palpatine had given him a Sith Holocron, small enough to tuck into his tunic pocket. He’d told him that if he had
the courage to access it he could gain great power.

He didn’t tell him what he’d see. He didn’t tell him what he’d learn. But the way he’d rasped the word
power,
the way he’d caressed the Holocron, had
told Ferus everything. If he wanted to beat Vader, this was the only way.

He hadn’t yet accessed the Holocron. He could feel it in his tunic, lending a weight out of proportion to its size. Sometimes it seemed to have warmth. Sometimes it was like an icy burn
that penetrated the fabric of his clothes. Sometimes it seemed to affect him in odd ways. It felt as though the world was fracturing along invisible fault lines. There was a curious doubleness to
his vision, as though he could see through things into their core underneath. Sometimes he felt a flash of contempt toward his fellow beings and their weakness.

Keeping it close felt dangerous enough.

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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