The End of the Beginning (PG)

By : Andraya

Archived on: Sunday, September 19, 2010

Summary:
How does the galaxy react to the official news of the death of Emperor Palpatine?

Imperial News Network Broadcast Center, Coruscant

Kalib Gallager had been the voice and face of the Imperial News Network for over two decades. As such, he was the most trusted holo-newscaster in the Empire, and from the yearly odes celebrating the founding of the Empire to the first reports about the tragic loss of Alderaan, most sentient beings got their news first from his holocasts.

But in all of his years of reporting, Gallager never thought he would have to report this of all stories.

Sitting passively behind his news desk in his personal hover chair, Gallager allowed the makeup artist to finish the final touches as well as to rake her fingers through the strands of gray hair that they had been adding to his temples over the past few years. When she finished, he curtly nodded before turning his attention to the reports sitting in front of him on the news desk.

As he was looking them over, he heard the voice of the director who was standing behind the three holocams. "We're on in 20 seconds."

Gallager nodded and handed over the notes he was reading to the assistant who had rushed up to take them away. He then sat up straight in his hover chair and smoothed over his jacket.

"Ten seconds," called the director.

Gallager firmly looked into the camera directly in front of him. He watched as the seconds ticked down to zero and the red light above the center holocam lit up, indicating a live feed. After remaining silent for the first few seconds for dramatic effect, Gallager began.

"Citizens of the Empire," he began, his voice calm, not at all betraying the gravity of the news he was about to report, "we have just received an official bulletin from the Imperial government. Emperor Palpatine has been assassinated by the Rebel Alliance."

Gallager paused and let the news sink in.

"While the government has not released full details, it appears that a group of Rebel ships launched a surprise attack against the Imperial Navy in the Endor system. According to the government, this attack, against an unfinished naval research station, was a diversion. The real treachery lay in the dastardly plot to assassinate our emperor, whom they had learned was visiting the station to boost worker morale."

Gallager paused just long enough to stare deeply into the holocam, reaching out to the billions of sentient beings he knew were watching him.

"The loss of Emperor Palpatine is a grave blow to the Empire. His visionary prowess and leadership, from his time as a senator in the Republic to his benevolent reign as our emperor shall forever stand as the greatest epoch of our history. May his memory and his legacy continue to guide us."

Pausing one last time for effect, Kalib Gallager finished his monologue. "As more information becomes available, we here at the Imperial News Network will be honored to serve as your trusted news source. Until then," he said, winding up his broadcast as he did each night, "and as always, may the glory and strength of the Empire persevere. Good night."

Gallager continued to stare into the holocam until he heard the director call out, "Halt the cameras," and saw the red light above the central holocam turn off. There was a pause for a few seconds, as there was at the end of every broadcast, until someone from the control booth at the other end of the room waved his hand, indicating that the latest broadcast had been properly transmitted throughout the relay stations of the Empire. It was official now; there was no doubt that all over the Empire, the people had heard Kalib Gallager's words. . .


Director's office, Imperial Intelligence, Coruscant

To Ian Silver, responsible for domestic intelligence and security on Coruscant, meetings with Ysanne Isard, the director of Imperial Intelligence, were a necessary evil. And no matter how many times he met with her, he found her silent reveries, which often punctuated their discussions, eerie and unnerving.

Today was no different. Silver politely waited as Isard stared out the window of her office. Her face was passive and blank, and her mismatched eyes -- one ice blue and the other molten red -- gave away nothing.

Yet, today was different, just as yesterday had been different and tomorrow would be different. Nothing would ever be quite the same now that the peoples of the Empire knew what Imperial Intelligence and the Imperial Navy had actually known since the previous day.

Finally, Isard chose to speak, her voice low. "What has the reaction to the broadcast been so far?"

Hearing her speak made Silver stand up straighter. "Reports are just beginning to come in, ma'am. They have shown a mixed reaction among the peoples."

"As is to be expected." Isard turned around and stared inquisitively at her subordinate. Silver had long mastered not to flinch visibly under this scrutiny, although there was always a part of him on the inside that feared Ysanne Isard because he knew all too well what she was capable of.

So, he did what he always did. He relied on the facts and stated them as concisely as possible. "Most of the mourning has come from the human population, although there are a great number of alien species who have shown sympathy for the loss."

"Where are the pockets of dissent?" Her attention remained completely devoted to Silver.

"I am afraid, ma'am, that there has been some dissent within the city itself. One of the Emperor's statues, the one from his twentieth jubilee, has been pulled down." He tried not to gulp, but to remain as calm as possible. He knew that Isard's reaction to this news could go one of two ways, both equally fatal.

He quickly found out that she had chosen the more lethal route. "Have our agents monitor the situation. But," Isard sharply added, "they are not to intervene directly. They are to observe and report only."

"I understand, ma'am," Silver replied. And he did understand, all too well. Despite his unswerving loyalty to the regime, he still pitied the people of Coruscant. They should have only been so lucky had she ordered an immediate and violent repression of the demonstrations. Dissenters would have been quickly arrested and the rest of the masses would have fled home. But that would have been the end of it. Order would have been restored, and the violence would have been justified by keeping that order in the name of their fallen leader.

Now it was to be much worse. The people out there today had no idea what awaited them once Ysanne Isard and her agents had monitored the situation and subsequently decided their fate. But Ian Silver did, and it was a thought that could drive him mad if he let it.

Instead, he asked the one question which he knew had to be on the mind of every citizen in the Empire. "Ma,am," he continued, "who will lead the Empire now?"

Isard tilted her head subtly to the side and her eyes almost seemed to soften slightly. "Do not be concerned about that, Mr. Silver. Our job is to keep the Empire safe, not to rule it. And we will keep it safe." He nodded his head, but before he had even finished the movement, he saw that whatever momentary change had come over her seemed to disappear as quickly as it had appeared. "You have your orders."

"Yes, ma'am," Silver replied, clicking his heels together. He did have his orders, and in that regard, nothing had changed.


Theed, Naboo

"Good morning, Padmé."

With a tired smile, Sola Naberrie knelt down before the tomb of Padmé Amidala. She removed the remains of the toola flowers sprawled around at the foot of the tomb, delicately sweeping away with her hands the petals which had fallen from the flowers during the past week. Once she had removed the old flowers, she spread a new bouquet around the marble footsteps of the grave.

Satisfied with her efforts, Sola placed her fingers against her lips, kissed them gently, and touched her fingers across her sister's name etched into the marble. She then stood up and took a few steps back, as always thinking of her long dead, but never forgotten, sister.

Immediately after she had died and been laid to rest, Padmé's grave had almost become a shrine, not just among the people of Theed and Naboo, but among a great many beings throughout the galaxy. Most came to pay homage to her service and memory, but as the years went by, fewer and fewer people came to pay their respects. It was, Sola believed, as it should have been, as Padmé would have wanted it.

Still, Sola returned every week, and each time she brought a fresh bouquet of toola flowers. The flowers were not the most beautiful on Naboo, nor had they been Padmé's favorite blossom either. But they held a special meaning to the sisters, one only known to the two of them, a special secret from their childhood, and Sola could think of no better way to honor her sister than to lay a new bouquet each time she paid her respects.

"There is not much new to tell you," she continued, speaking in a hushed voice. "I am convinced that Ryoo will make Darred and me grandparents soon, but Darred thinks otherwise. Still, it would be nice to hear the pitter patter of little feet again." Sola sighed wistfully. "It has been far too long." She bowed her head for a moment of silence, as always feeling a part of her heart break anew at the loss of a sister who had been taken from her family all too soon.

Her vigil was normally accompanied only by the sound of the wind and of her own breathing, but today, the sound of pounding footsteps brought it to an end early. Sola turned around, looking down the walkway to see who might be approaching.

"I thought I might find you here," her daughter Ryoo said as soon as she came within a polite distance. She stood at the bottom of the stairs of the memorial to her aunt and extended a hand up to her mother.

Sola looked back at the grave and said, "Goodbye, Padmé." The words never got any easier to say, no matter how many times she had said them. Turning back to her own living flesh and blood, Sola took hold of her daughter's hand and walked down the three stairs to stand with her daughter.

"Something has happened," Ryoo stated. Feeling her mother tighten the grip on her hand, she continued, "Emperor Palpatine has been murdered."

Sola gasped, her chest tightening. "Murdered," she finally whispered, "but how?"


Star Destroyer Chimera, en route to the Annaj system

He had been present at Endor. He had seen with his own eyes the Super Star Destroyer Executor plunge into the second Death Star. And, following the death of the Chimera's commanding officer, he had taken command and had initiated the order for the Imperial fleet to retreat hours after the destruction of the space station. Yet, for Gilad Pellaeon, nothing in his decades of service for either the Republic Navy or the Imperial Navy could have prepared him for this moment.

The Emperor was dead.

Although he and his stalwart men had been in the battle less than a day ago and had seen firsthand the destruction wrought to everything they believed in, reality was only now sinking in. It was a reality which threatened to crush Pellaeon, to break whatever mettle remained inside of him.

Only his duty to preserve the Empire which still stood and his commitment to the men who served under him kept this reality from engulfing him, but even now, especially now, the barrier between him and this great overwhelming force was a fragile one.

So, he simply stood at attention, near the bridge, but not actually in it. He stood at the viewport, watching as the stars streaked by, aware of the work going on behind him, but not particularly attuned to what was going on around him.

But he was not so far gone from reality that he did not hear Lieutenant Pytor Rangali approach him from behind, come to a complete stop, and, despite the sheer exhaustion, which Pellaeon could see due his subordinate's reflection in the glass viewport, stand at perfect attention.

"Sir," Rangali bluntly stated.

Knowing that above all he had to serve as a role model for everyone else, Pellaeson crisply turned on heel to face Rangali. He tried to speak, but found his throat choked up; outside of the fatigue which everyone was suffering from, it was the only sign of weakness showing. After taking a second to clear his throat, he replied, "Report, Lieutenant."

"We have received a transmission from Coruscant." Rangali held out a datapad for his commanding officer to accept.

Pellaeon took the pad, but did not look at it; with a curt nod of his head, he indicated that he wanted Rangali to continue.

"It did not come from the Imperial Center, or even Navy HQ. It was an Empire-wide broadcast from the Imperial News Network."

"Everyone knows." It was a statement of fact, one which Pellaeon stated as plainly as possible, but one that needed to be articulated nonetheless.

"Yes, sir."

"Anything else?"

"No, sir." There was a hint of disappointment and anticipation lacing Rangali's voice. It was the same hint that permeated the ship and most likely the entire retreating armada. They wanted confirmation of their report, acknowledgment from some official body on Coruscant that their transmission outlining the battle had been received.

This news broadcast meant that their report had been received, but a lack of a direct response meant that there was not a unified front among the various political, military, and intelligence factions on Coruscant. No one was in charge there, at least not yet, and that was of grave concern to Pellaeon, but it was not his primary concern; it could not be, at least not for the time being.

For the time being, he had to think of those around him. "Signal the fleet," Pellaeon ordered. "As soon we have arrived in the Annaj system and completed the minimum repairs to the ships, we will return to Coruscant."

"Yes, sir. And if Admiral Harrsk refuses to acknowledge your decision?"

Pellaeon took a deep breath; Blitzer Harrsk was the highest ranking officer to have survived the battle at Endor, and by all accounts, he should have been the one making these decisions. But instead agreeing with Pellaeon's order to retreat the day before, Harrsk had shown dissent and refused to cooperate in their most dire hour. The split with his nominal superior was a burden that Pellaeon had to carry, and it was one which he did not assume lightly.

Looking firmly at Rangali, he stood at full attention before his subordinate, his years of service and experience clearly marking his bearing. A military man he might have been, but Pellaeon still knew that this was a case where what was right and what was proper did not intersect, and he knew what he had to do. "The Empire still stands. The capital remains on Coruscant. You have your orders to carry out, and I have mine. If Harrsk wishes to reprimand or court martial us upon our return, then so be it."

"Yes, sir." Rangali replied. He did an about face and marched away.

As Pellaeon watched him leave, he noticed a renewed vigor in the man's step. It was one that he could not currently share, but it was a signal of something greater. That one step had shown that Rangali had just placed his complete faith and trust in Pellaeon, and in short time, so would the rest of the Chimera's crew. It was a formidable responsibility, Pellaeon knew, but it was one he was honored to accept. They were beaten and they were down, but they would survive, and so would the Empire.


The Millennium Falcon, above the forest moon of Endor

"It's over, kid." The exhaustion of the last day was still etched into Han Solo's face, but even that could not keep him from flashing a rogue smirk to the young man -- no, the young Jedi -- sitting across from him as he snapped off the Falcon's communication relay.

Luke Skywalker stared at his trusted friend and contemplated his statement. Part of him agreed with Han. The death of Emperor Palpatine certainly meant the end of a great many things. Luke then turned his attention toward the other person currently on the ship with them, his twin sister.

While just as worn out as every other being on and above Endor, Leia Organa appeared to be the most at peace among their group. She said nothing, but simply smiled warmly at Luke, and that was all the reassurance he needed.

"No, Han," Luke countered, thinking of the future and its infinite possibilities, "it's only just begun. . ."

Original cover by Andraya. HTML formatting copyright 2009 TheForce.Net LLC.