Having seen the speech at least a dozen times, Dr. Olivia Salazar focused on her students. She studied them as they watched a hologram of Palpatine speaking to the Senate for the first time as Emperor. It was clear by the fascinated expressions on their faces and the rapt gleam in their eyes, that the speaker and his words captivated them.
"...and the Jedi Rebellion has been foiled," Palpatine announced from the floating dais, his voice raspy from his then recent injuries. "The remaining Jedi will be hunted down and defeated."
The Emperor stopped and allowed the audience to applaud at his words. "Any collaborators will suffer the same fate." Another round of applause punctured the speech.
"These have been trying times, but we have passed the test.
" He paused for a brief second and appeared to be reflecting on his next sentence. "The attempt on my life has left me scarred and deformed,
" he said, his voice reaching a crescendo, "but I assure you my resolve has never been stronger.
Though unseen in this holographic program, the members of the Senate clapped yet again.
"The war is over," Palpatine firmly stated to the applause of his audience. The holocam capturing the image of the Emperor slowly rotated around him and presented him in profile. "The Separatists have been defeated." He waited, allowed the clapping to die down again. "And the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning."
The applause of the Senate became so loud that Palpatine had no choice but to remain silent. However, in this pause, the holocam shifted direction and rotated directly in front of the Emperor.
"In order to ensure our security and continuing stability," Palpatine announced, "the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years."
The speakers of the hologram projector in the classroom dimmed the volume so as not to overwhelm the students with the loud, sustained cheers emanating from the residents of the Senate. The volume only rose once the Emperor had resumed speaking.
"An empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body, and a sovereign ruler chosen for life."
Palpatine paused for effect. The holographic image showed him watching the reactions of the applauding senators. After a few seconds of observation, he finished his speech. "An empire ruled by the majority...ruled by a new constitution."
For a final time, the Senate enthusiastically showed their approval of the Emperor and his stratagem, but again, the holocam remained solely focused on Palpatine. It recorded him for a few more beats before slowly fading away.
With the speech over, the lights in the classroom automatically came up. Olivia glanced at her students, many of whom were still staring at the space where Palpatine had just been speaking.
Hearing the Emperor speak was hardly noteworthy for any of these students. Nor was this particular speech. All of her students had been alive five years ago, and most of them had lived on Coruscant at the time and had seen the original broadcast.
What had changed were the conditions under which they watched it, and that was Olivia's doing. It was not a coincidence that she ended her course with this speech. The class was, after all, on the decline and fall of the Jedi.
Olivia walked from the side of the classroom where she had been monitoring her students to the center of the room. As she moved, she said, "Historically speaking, this speech marked the end of the Jedi. During the following weeks, as the new Imperial government ended the Clone Wars, it also removed the last vestiges of their Order."
She now had the undivided attention of her students. "Imperial architects were sent shortly thereafter to demolish their main temple here on Coruscant. Any ancillary buildings throughout the Empire were subsequently captured and demolished. The entire process took less than a year."
Pausing to let the students finish jotting down her most recent words, Olivia began to walk down the center aisle of the classroom. She slowly swung her head from side to side and glanced down at her students, her human students. "Imperial authorities also confiscated the Jedi's records. They are now a part of the Imperial archives."
A rising hand caught her attention. "Yes, Tilish."
"Can anyone access those archives?"
Now standing in the back of the classroom, Olivia shook her head. As she made her way forward again, she verbally replied, "No. The government has deemed them subversive and has restricted access to them."
Again, Olivia paused and allowed her students to finish writing. As she waited, another voice spoke up.
"Dr. Salazar, why did the Jedi Knights betray us?"
Olivia resisted sighing as she turned to find the person who had spoken up. It was a question that she got every semester without fail, and truth be told, she knew there was no good answer, just the standard response which the Imperial government mandate she use. "We don't know why the Jedi turned, Pace," she replied to the pupil who had asked the question. "We simply know that our government learned of their treachery and safeguarded us from further harm."
The words, as always, left a bitter taste in her mouth. Still, she had no choice but to speak them.
"But Dr. Salazar," Pace continued, "didn't you once meet some Jedi?"
"Yes, I met many of them on several occasions while working on my dissertation. They granted me interviews and access to their records."
"And their treachery was not evident?" he pressed.
"No, it was not. The Jedi were, after all, skillful diplomats." Olivia kept the expression on her face neutral, knowing full well that what she meant with those words and how her students would interpret them were two separate things.
Continuing with her answer, she added, "Do not conflate the actions of the Jedi Order with the actions of individual Jedi. There were many Jedi who loyally served the Republic before and during the Clone Wars, Jedi who died to protect us from the Separatists." She knew this was a risky answer and she was toeing the line by openly saying it, but even the public archives of the Senate admitted that a minority of Jedi had remained faithful until their deaths.
"But weren't they just furthering their own cause?" a deep and skeptical voice from the back of the classroom called. "Didn't they just want to make the Republic weak so it would be easier for them to overthrow the Senate?"
Olivia did not need to look at the speaker this time to place the voice. Only Sten would have posed such questions, questions that put Olivia in a bind. There was the truthful answer to his queries and the politically correct one, and unfortunately, she had no choice but to give the latter. "Imperial archivists have found no proof within the Temple archives to substantiate the claim that the Jedi intended to overthrow the Senate. Their betrayal did not become evident until one of their council leaders attempted to assassinate the Emperor, who at that time was the Republic's lawfully elected Chancellor."
"How did the Emperor survive that attack?" Again, it was Tilish who made the innocuous inquiry.
"I know as much as you do: the Emperor was saved by a loyal citizen who slew the Jedi assassin."
Olivia watched as Tilish took in the answer, her eyes wide open as she nodded her head slowly. The student then asked, "Why does the Emperor keep the scars from that attack?"
After taking a moment to get her facts straight, Olivia answered, "Emperor Palpatine gave his first official interview to the Imperial News Network one year after the foundation of the Empire. One of the questions he was asked by the reporter was about how the Jedi had deformed him and why he had not sought any treatment."
She paused, again making sure she had her facts straight before she spoke. "The Emperor declared that he would never seek treatment for his injuries. He said they were a daily reminder to him, and should be a daily reminder to all Imperial citizens, of the perfidy of the Jedi."
Olivia quickly glanced at the chronometer on her wrist and realized that she needed to wrap the class up. She peered across the room, trying to make eye contact with as many students as possible. Gauging that she still had their attention, she asked them, "Does anyone have any final questions?"
While some students responded by shaking their heads, others began to pack up their things.
"Good. Then the next time we meet it will be for your final exam. Remember, this will be an essay exam, and you will be required to draw upon all of the material we have covered this term."
"Want to give us the question?" Olivia was not sure who had asked that question, but it did not bother her as it drew soft laughter from the other students.
She thought for a moment, as in reality she had not written their exam yet. Finally, she said, "How about this...over the past one hundred years, how did the Jedi Order epitomize the successes and failures of the Republic?"
"Is that really the question?" Tilish asked.
Olivia playfully shrugged her shoulders and allowed a teasing smile to creep on to her lips. "I don't know. It could be. You'll have to come back to find out." Sensing the frustrated mirth from her class, she finished with, "See you at the exam."
She watched her students file out of the classroom in a semi-orderly fashion. Only once they had left the room did she let out a loud sigh. One more semester safely done, and once again she had put to rest what she, as a historian, believed would one day be regarded as the greatest and most tragic episode in the history of their galaxy: the decline and fall of the Jedi Order.
Sitting in her office the next morning, Olivia placed the datapad she had been reading down and yawned. She closed her eyes and gently pressed a thumb into each eyelid, trying to ward off her exhaustion momentarily. She knew that it has been foolish to have pulled that all-nighter last night and then expect to be able to work early the next day. But at the time, she was too immersed in her latest research to care about the time of night...well, morning.
And now it was catching up to her.
Removing her thumbs from her eyes, she opened them and searched for her cup of caf. Finding the mug in the middle of her office desk, she reached for it. She took a big swig of the liquid and immediately scowled. The caf was tepid.
"Time for a refill," Olivia murmured to herself as she hoisted herself out of the chair, mug still in hand.
She walked out of her office, not bothering to lock her office door as it shut behind her. Security was hardly a problem. There had not been a crime on the campus for over four years now. But, Olivia supposed, a safe campus was a benefit of working at one of the Empire's most prestigious universities.
The hallways were deserted except for a droid cleaning team. Olivia quickly reached the end of the hallway and stood in front of the door to the faculty lounge, which quickly opened and allowed her access to the room.
Olivia expected to be alone and was surprised to find another person in there: her longtime friend and colleague Aidan Wallingford.
Aidan was standing in front of the caf maker, pulling out what looking to be a fresh pot. "Refill?" he asked, nodding to her cup.
"Please," Olivia replied as she entered the room. The door slid shut behind her.
"Have you heard the news yet?" Aidan inquired as she walked over toward him.
She favored him with a sheepish, but sincere smile. "That would require me to have checked my messages."
He filled her mug with caf before filling one for himself and returning the carafe to its holder. They stood silent for a moment, each savoring the rush that came with the first sip of hot caf.
"The Board met yesterday." Aidan stepped back and leaned back against the wall. He bent one knee up and placed the sole of his shoe against the wall.
Olivia focused on her caf. A meeting of the university Board of Regents was hardly anything newsworthy. "Are we getting a raise?"
"Are they lowering class enrollment?"
Olivia took another long sip of caf. Keep her mug raised high, she glanced over its rim toward her friend. "Then what?"
"They're changing the name of the university."
She snorted softly. "To what? Palpatine U?" With any other person, such a flippant comment would have never been spoken. But with Aidan, it was safe. Besides, to hear other the faculty members, not to mention the grad students, speak about it, they were sleeping together anyway.
Aidan raised an eyebrow in response; he had always been the more cautious of the two. "The Imperial University," he answered.
"That doesn't sound too bad," Olivia admitted. "What about UC?" The University of Coruscant, their alma mater, was the other major university on the planet.
"I don't know. I've not heard anything."
"UC is innocuous enough," Olivia said with a shrug.
Aidan cocked one eyebrow again. "Unlike the Republic University," he replied, speaking the soon to be former name of their institution.
After sipping on her caf, Olivia said, "Well, what was it that President Kiesinger said the other day?" She puffed up her chest and tilted her head, in imitation of the president, before continuing. "Something like 'times are changing, and our university must remain at the forefront of educational progress in the Empire.'"
Shaking his head slowly at her ersatz impersonation, Aidan finished his caf, walked over to the carafe, refilled his mug, and then topped off Olivia's. "When did we become such cynics?" he asked as he placed the carafe back down.
Enjoying her refreshed drink, she replied, "Scary, isn't it? We've become our own professors. I can even hear Dr. K laughing about it. You know, that big belly laugh of his."
He nodded, remembering their doctoral advisor's unique laugh. "He would relish the irony of the situation."
They fell silent, each sipping caf and thinking of their deceased mentor, Adom Korais. A moment later, Olivia broke the silence when she asked, "Are we still on tonight to go over your manuscript?"
"Please. I need help with chapter three."
"Yes," Olivia said, pausing slightly between words, "yes, you do."
"It's not that bad," Aidan lightly protested.
"No, it's just not that good," she countered.
Aidan briefly held his hands up in mock defeat. "That's why you're my personal editor."
"Hey, it's not like you won't repay the favor in a few months." She winked at him, and he returned with a smile. Olivia filled up her mug with caf one final time and headed for the door, now feeling refreshed enough to return to the work at hand.
However, before she could trigger the automatic door and leave the room, Aidan lightheartedly stated, "Oh, by the way, Olivia."
She stopped, and a broad smile crossed her face. She knew that particular tone in his voice. Still, she remained facing toward the door, her back turned toward him. "Yes?"
"I hear that you have been providing my students with erroneous answers for my examination," he playfully rebuked.
Olivia turned around, the smile still etched on her face. "Whatever gave you that impression?"
Aidan walked toward her, taking careful, measured steps. He kept perfect eye contact with her as he said, "My students were telling me that the great Jedi reforms were directly caused by the Great Sith War." He stopped a half meter in front of her.
"I see nothing wrong with that answer," Olivia stated, continuing to play up her mock innocence.
"Well, you wouldn't, despite sources proving the contrary."
The two historians shared a knowing smile. During their graduate studies, they had agreed that the Jedi Order had seriously reformed itself after the Great Sith War, which had started 4000 years prior. It was the exact cause of the reforms that had always been a good-humored point of contention between them. Aidan asserted that the Jedi had plans to initiate these reforms prior to the war and that the fighting had postponed them. Olivia always argued that it was the war itself, specifically the threat of Exar Kun and his followers, which had persuaded the Jedi to make drastic changes to their order.
This ongoing battle between them served as a great source of amusement for their students every semester, especially as Aidan ended his early Jedi history survey at the beginning of the Great Sith War and Olivia began her modern Jedi history course with the war itself. Their endless m?l?e generally inspired their students to take sides and debate the topic among themselves.
The smile on Olivia's face became a smirk. "It's all a matter of perspective, and one day you'll see that my interpretation is right."
Aidan shook his head. "Well, when you find that cache of documents proving beyond a doubt that you're right, you know where to find me." As he finished speaking, a distressing realization overcame him and the smile quickly disappeared from his face. He glanced at Olivia and saw in her eyes the same painful recognition.
There would be no more documents. They both knew that any documents from the Jedi Temple which Imperial Intelligence operatives had not destroyed were archived and kept from the public. It seemed all that was left besides their previous research were older secondary works which the government had deemed non-subversive.
Olivia's voice sounded hollow as she replied, "Maybe, someday."
"Yeah, maybe." Aidan's answer was as halfhearted as hers. Trying to find a less unpleasant topic, he quietly said, "Don't forget: your five year review is today, after mine, at 17:00. There is a reminder message in your inbox."
Nodding her head, she responded, "Thanks." Her voice was still soft. "Anyway, I should get back to work."
"Right. I'll see you tonight." He tried to sound confident, but his usual conviction was missing from his voice and demeanor.
Olivia turned around to exit the room. The door automatically opened, and she exited the faculty lounge and headed back toward her office, grateful that the hallway was devoid of life. As she walked, she painfully realized that while it may have been five years since the end of the Jedi Order, it was only now that she recognized what a precarious and lonely position she and Aidan were in. It seemed as though they were the only ones left to convey the diminishing legacy of the Jedi Order.
Standing in front of the door to the dean's office, Olivia took a moment to compose herself. She was not nervous about meeting with the dean and her department director for her five year review; she knew she was doing her job well. Still, there was nothing wrong with presenting herself in a professional manner.
Taking a deep breath, Olivia reached out and tapped the chime next to the door. Instead of being greeted with a boisterous "Enter!" as Dean Chativly was prone to do, the door quietly slid open.
Olivia stepped into the room and immediately knew something was wrong. The glass of the windows had been tinted, which gave the room a dismal and almost eerie luminosity. Furthermore, she saw Aidan sitting in one of the chairs in front of the dean's desk. Her first thought was that she had arrived early and was interrupting Aidan's review. But when he wearily glanced in her direction, she knew otherwise, and her unease began to grow.
"Come in, Dr. Salazar," a smooth and unfamiliar male voice said.
Olivia moved forward and the door shut behind her, casting the room into an even darker shade. She stared at the unknown speaker, a man in a nondescript uniform sitting at the dean's desk; there was no sign of either the dean or the department director.
The man behind the desk carefully gestured with his hand toward the chair next to the one Aidan was sitting in. "Please, sit down. We've been waiting for you."
Not sure of what was going on, Olivia followed his directive. As she sat down, she glanced over at Aidan for a second time; it was obvious to her from the stricken look on his face that something was severely wrong. But she never got a chance to say anything to him, as the other man continued to speak.
"I'm Armand Isard, director of Imperial Intelligence," he introduced, his voice still smooth and strong.
"A pleasure to meet you," Olivia replied, though her normal conviction was missing from her words. His name and position were not unknown to her, but she had no idea why he would be on campus speaking with university faculty.
Isard leaned back in the chair, but his relaxed posture did not lessen the tense ambiance in the room. "Let me begin by stating that your work here as well as your studies at the University of Coruscant has been most impressive. It appears that you, along with Dr. Wallingford, are among the most popular faculty among the students. And your research is notable, if nonetheless unique for the time."
Olivia was really not sure what to say; she felt unbalanced, and so politely replied, "Thank you."
"It is because of this service and experience that Imperial Intelligence is requesting your assistance."
Requesting your assistance... that was a euphemism if there ever was one.
"Of course," Olivia cautiously answered, noting how Isard watched her every word and move, "but I'm not sure what I can do. I'm just a university professor." She quickly looked over at Aidan, who still appeared apprehensive.
"Quite simple," Isard smoothly replied. "I want you to tell me the present location of Adom Korais."
If it were not for the severity of situation, Olivia might have laughed. Or been upset. Or even cried. But all she could do was keep a straight face and calmly state, "You must know he's been dead for three years. Surely, Dr. Wallingford told you that we attended his funeral."
"Yes, he did. But neither one of you saw his dead body," the director countered, unphased by her response.
Olivia shook her head. "That's not true. His late wife called the two of us an hour after he had died. Dr. Wallingford was off planet, but I immediately came to their home. I saw his dead body lying in bed."
"Were you there when the physician pronounced him dead?"
"No, and I never thought to question that he wasn't dead."
"Did you see his dead body removed from his home?"
"Did you ever see his embalmed body?"
"No, the casket was closed." Olivia now felt as if she were under severe scrutiny. The rapid succession of Isard's questions unbalanced her. Trying to shift the conversation, she asked him, "What makes you think he's alive?"
Isard paused, and it was clear that his silence was intended to show that he controlled the situation. He then handed a thin document to Olivia.
She took it and, glancing down, recognized it as an intelligence scandoc. She had seen various types throughout her research career, though she had never seen one from Imperial Intelligence before. Olivia recognized the names of the document as pseudonyms and suspected that Erus Susceptor was probably one of Isard's many aliases. She then read the short message in the document.
From: Proditor Cato, Intelligence: Sedition
To: Erus Susceptor, Bureau of Imperial Intelligence/1
Confirmed: SEND; TRAN259/264; RECV
Context: 6E99; AADV; IMMD; ROPT
Phasecycle: PSEG133622478281381; SCAN; 99.87BMUT; 75.67RMUT
Subject AK, code name MAGISTER, sighted after a three year interval. Still principal figure in Jedi underground, code name SODALITAS. MAGISTER known to have abetted at least one dozen Jedi fugitives before disappearance. Number of Jedi aided since then: unknown.
Request any further intel on MAGISTER. Request support in ferreting out MAGISTER and any accomplices in SODALITAS. Request confirmation that mission to eliminate SODALITAS is in compliance with ORDER 66.
From the context of their conversation, it was clear that Magister referred to her old doctoral advisor. The true nature of Sodalitas and how it fit into the context of whatever Order 66 was, however, remained murky. Still, Olivia found this document and Isard's accusations hard to believe. Korais had had his unconventional peculiarities, but faking his own death and working in an underground movement to help the few remaining Jedi who were rumored to be alive still seemed too farfetched even for an old and eccentric man.
Olivia handed the document back to Isard. "One document does not prove he is living."
A thin and cold smile crossed Isard's lips. "If 'one document' were the only proof of his existence, we would not be having this conversation."
"You clearly want something from us." Aidan spoke for the first time since Olivia had entered the room. His voice was low and subdued, indicating his displeasure with the situation.
Isard directed his attention toward Aidan. After pausing for a few beats, he directly made his point. "You will personally relate to me any information you may receive by or about Adom Korais."
It was a simple order, but it was one that did not sit well with either of them. "But we're professors, not spies," Aidan protested, the shocked look on his face indicating that Isard had not broached this subject when the two of them had been alone.
"You cannot seriously believe that if Adom Korais is still alive and has managed to evade detection by you for three years," Olivia added, "he would now be foolish enough to risk calling one of us."
"Adom Korais is simply one facet of your usefulness to me, Professors," Isard admitted. There was no respect in his voice, and his tone underscored his ruthless nature in pursuing this, or any, matter to its most destructive end. "You will also provide me with a complete listing every academic term of any student who shows more than a passing interest in the Jedi Knights. For the future security of the Empire, we must root out all impiety before it can take hold."
"We're not our students' keepers." It was Aidan who lodged this complaint.
"Failure to do so," Isard continued, ignoring Aidan's comment, "will result in your dismissal from the university."
"This is not fair!" Olivia was starting to lose her cool, and even a harsh glance from Aidan could not keep her from exclaiming, "The law is on our side."
Again, Isard paused, and the silence was deafening. Finally, he said, "For the two of you, I am the law."
Aidan reached over and laid his hand on Olivia's arm, hoping she would calm down. "We don't agree, but we understand," he quietly replied for both of them.
"Let me make this perfectly clear," Isard emphasized. "Your previous, and numerous, encounters with the Jedi Knights, now fugitives in the Galactic Empire, have put you at grave risk. Association with a known traitor to the Empire, Adom Korais, has also endangered your credibility and reputations. And continuing to speak publicly of the merits of the Jedi Knights and attempting to convince young and impressionable Imperial citizens of these merits puts you at my mercy."
Olivia now spoke, her voice soft. "And when our students realize we have betrayed the faith they have placed in us, what then?"
"For your sake," the director icily stated, "they best never make that discovery." Isard stood up and straightened his uniform. He gathered his documents and walked around the desk. Standing in front of the two professors, he handed each of them a document. Neither moved to read what he had given them. Again, with little deference, he added, "Congratulations, professors, on your successful five year reviews for the Imperial University. May you both have long and prosperous careers serving the Empire."
Walking directly between them, Isard confidently marched out of the room. The door slid shut behind him, leaving Olivia and Aidan alone in the dimly-lit office.
The two remained silent for several minutes until Olivia asked, "Aidan, what are we going to do?"
"Exactly what he told us to do. We've just been coerced into becoming informants for the Empire." He sighed. "A perfect, textbook conscription."
"We are not a case study, nor a historical example."
"But, Olivia, we are. Isard intentionally chose this method to get our cooperation. He wanted us to recognize his technique." He shook his head, both impressed and dismayed with the trap they had fallen into.
"Why? So we could see the futility of resistance?"
"Who's the perfect spy?" Aidan asked her. "Not the ideologue. Nor even the paid informant. Both are useful..."
"...but not as loyal as someone with a personal motivation, or something to lose," she finished.
Shaking his head, he reflected, "The fall of the Jedi Order was merely the precursor to the decline of their very memory."
Instead of evoking sadness, his comment actually brought to mind a more pleasant memory, prompting Olivia to inquire, "You remember the first day of Dr. K's Intro to the Jedi Knights?"
He nodded. "I remember meeting you."
"Besides that. Dr. K started the class by saying that history has proven time and again that governments come, and governments go, but the Jedi always remain."
Aidan fondly smiled, and a look of relief washed over his face as he made the connection. "Isard wouldn't have conscripted us if there weren't some truth to the survival of the Jedi."
"Right. And as long as that remains true, there is hope that the Jedi may rise again."
"Well, stranger things have happened."
A playful smile crossed Olivia's lips. "Yeah, like you believing that Exar Kun and the Great Sith War were not the cause of the Jedi reforms."
Despite the fact she was trying to ameliorate their situation, Adian still groaned. "Oh, Olivia, not again."
She stood up and looked down at him. "Oh, yes, again, because I'm right. I'm so right, you're going to buy me dinner and listen to me explain how right I am."
Now he stood up. "I'll buy dinner, but not because you're right-you're not-but because we're going to have a long night reviewing my manuscript."
She shrugged her shoulders and headed for the office door, Aidan following. "Corellian food?" she suggested.
"Nah, too heavy."
"There is a new place across from the Caf Stop," he replied.
A contented look crossed Olivia's face. "Oh, a warm cup of caf."
"Then we have a plan."
Olivia nodded. "Caf, then dinner, and then your manuscript, which will still leave plenty of time for me to prove you wrong."
"If you say so, Olivia," Aidan said, blithely placating her, "if you say so." They exited the office; behind them, the office door quietly shut, temporarily confining their concerns and allowing them a moment of respite from the sordid affairs in which they now found themselves intricately entwined.
Original cover by Andraya. HTML formatting copyright 2008 TheForce.Net LLC.