Music spilled from the concert hall like cascades of a moonlit waterfall as Ben Solo mounted the steps and crossed the lantern-lit courtyard. He turned aside from the crowd and strode over to the balustrade to take in the panoramic view of the Naboo capital of Theed. He stood for a long moment, watching the concert-goers sweep around fountains and reflecting pools in the Palace Plaza and up the marble stairs to the university auditorium.
“What are you thinking?” Amanda Snoke said softly, coming up
behind him and wrapping her arms around the young Jedi Knight. At twenty-three, he’d surpassed his father in height, but in her stylish boots, she was taller yet and stunningly beautiful in a mid-length dress of electric blue, her long blond hair festooned with tiny jewels.
“My grandparents stood here,” he answered absently as he opened himself up to the Force. “I can feel them.”
She breathed in deeply, enjoying the scent of him, and kissed his cheek. “I’m sure your grandmother’s family will have lots of stories to tell. They’re excited to meet you.”
After a moment he said, half turning, “Are they?”
They had answered his contact warmly enough, but he sensed great fear in them. They know, he thought. They know the story of Anakin Skywalker. They welcome me only as the grandson of Amidala Naberrie. Of the Jedi Anakin, they will not speak.
“Of course,” Amanda laughed, coming around to give him a quick kiss on the lips. She straightened the luxurious cloth of his jacket over his broad shoulders. He’d eschewed his Jedi robes for formal attire suitable to the Naboo ruling class. “But that’s for tomorrow. Come on.” She gave him a little tug. “Let’s go see these musicians you’ve told me so much about.”
At the door, they were met by a finely appointed usher who greeted them at once. “Prince Organa,” the young man said, addressing Ben with a congenial bow, “We have special seats for you and your companion in the balcony.”
“But we have tickets,” Ben pointed out, producing the image on his datapad.
The usher smiled. “Consider it an upgrade, compliments of the Naberrie family.” He gestured towards an ornate staircase. “If you’ll follow me, please.”
“Well, this is a treat,” Amanda said in an excited whisper as she took Ben’s arm and followed the usher to seats the university reserved for royalty and visiting dignitaries. When they were alone again, she said, “Were you able to get a message through to your mother?”
Ben shook his head. “The subspace relays are down.”
Amanda sighed. “That’s a pity. I’m curious to know if she’s formally accepted the nomination to run for First Senator. I wouldn’t want to miss her speech.”
“We won’t,” Ben assured her, powering down his datapad and returning it to his pocket. He rose to his feet as the musicians took the stage and the audience gave them a standing ovation. Settling back into the plush seat again, he let his mind wander the soundscapes of mesmerizing grandeur and solemn beauty.
Halfway through the concert, the band suddenly broke off mid-tune at a signal from university officials.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a dour man in professorial robes, “we regret to interrupt this special performance for an important subspace broadcast from Hosnian Prime.”
Ben leaned forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Looks like they got those relays working,” Amanda commented in an undertone.
The holocams flickered to life on stage and brought up the image of Senator Ransolm Casterfo of the Centrist Party. The young politician looked grim and pale, bracing himself against his console, mid-speech.
“It’s the nomination gala,” Amanda said, squeezing Ben’s arm. “Casterfo must be the candidate the Centrists nominated. He doesn’t look so good.”
“The First Senator of the New Republic can only be granted supreme authority if we, the citizens feel that person deserves our trust,” Casterfo stated boldly.
Ben drew in a breath. “I don’t think he’s giving an acceptance speech,” he told Amanda gravely. He had a bad feeling about this.
“To my deepest regret,” Casterfo went on, “I have learned that Leia Organa does not deserve that trust.” He paused as murmurs began to swell about the Galactic Senate chamber. “Princess Leia’s lies have protected her long enough. Her deception cannot be permitted to endanger the entire galaxy.”
Amanda took Ben’s hand in hers. “What is he talking about?”
Leia’s son quickly got to his feet, pulling Amanda to hers. “We need to leave now,” he urged. He knew what Casterfo would say next.
“If people are considering electing her as First Senator, they have the right to know exactly who they’re voting for. Senator Leia Organa is none other than the daughter of Darth Vader himself!”
The auditorium erupted in a roar as Ben and Amanda reached the entrance to the box seating. Hearing the heavy footfalls of a security detail, the Jedi knight drew his lightsaber, pushing Amanda behind him as he ignited it.
“That won’t be necessary, sir,” the captain of the guard told him as the team came to a halt and fanned out. “We’re here to escort you safely to your ship. We can’t be certain how the crowd will react.”
“Your escort,” Amanda retorted with a lift of her chin as she stepped around Ben, “won’t be necessary. We have one of our own.” She inclined her head at seven grey-coated men that had slipped out of the box seats behind them. Ben had caught snatches of their conversation and assumed they were university students, but on closer inspection of their uniforms, he saw they bore the insignia of the First Order on their sleeves.
Ben Solo deactivated his lightsaber and allowed the Order to form around him and escort him out with Amanda Snoke proudly attached to his arm.
@MyKyloRen 18 October 2016
Casterfo’s speech excerpted from Gray, C. (2016). Star Wars: Bloodline. New York: Del Rey, p. 236-237.