A few months later.
Whatever happened, it's over, Senator Bail Organa told himself, hands folded in his sleeves as he waited in his home office for someone to step into the holoprojector field planets away. There's nothing you could have done. You know that. You knew it the moment that young Jedi gave his life to save you on Coruscant.
Leia's soft coo tickled his ears, followed by Breha's laughter. Bail smiled, even if his heart was still heavy. We had to move slowly. We can't draw attention to her. Not with that masked beast at Palpatine's side...
No. Not a beast. He had to remember that. More metal than flesh, and hopelessly corrupt - but the Emperor's mailed fist had once been a man.
One day, we'll have to tell Leia the truth about Vader. About everything. And then... I hope she will forgive us.
A harried older man in a Corellian Security uniform appeared in the projection. Stern, straight; hair cropped as short as any Imperial pilot's, though with rather more gray. "Senator Organa?"
"Agent Rostek Horn." Unclasping his fingers from each other, Bail gave him a courteous bow. "I hope not to take up too much of your time. But I have questions regarding the security of the Empire, and your superiors said you'd be the best person to ask for answers-"
"You want to know about the Jedi." Agent Horn grimaced. "They're dead, Senator. I assure you that danger to the Empire is ended."
Oh, Bail knew that pitch of voice too well. Usually only whispered in the shadows, by politicians too frightened to speak where Palpatine's agents might hear. Force willing, Horn would never get caught up in politics.
"I'm certain CorSec is enforcing Imperial law with all the attention to detail your system is known for," Bail said levelly. He should know. It'd taken him weeks of wading through holoforms even to get Horn's name. "I was actually looking for more basic information. As a Senator, I dealt with many Jedi during the Clone Wars, and made a few visits to the Temple on Corsucant." He paused, deliberately letting the silence stretch. "Imagine my surprise when I learned there was another Temple. On Corellia."
"The Green Jedi Enclave. We don't talk about that much, Senator. I'm sure you can understand why." Agent Horn's face was studiously neutral. "Yes, I was one of the CorSec liaisons with the Corellian Temple, before they turned traitors to the Republic. As you undoubtedly know from my record. What did you want to know?"
Everything, Bail wished he could say. Is there something we can teach Leia? Is there some way we can keep her safe? Her father was one of the most powerful Jedi the Order has ever seen; could she be Force-sensitive as well? How would we know?
Instead, he brought up a hologram of Coronet City, a few days after the Temple had been destroyed. The explosion of the hyperthrust engines had vaporized the hull and much of the surroundings, but the twisted superstructure of a Venator-class Star Destroyer still loomed over black desolation. "I wanted to know about... this."
Agent Horn grimaced. "Not much to say, Senator. A bunch of treacherous Force-users can make one hell of a mess."
"Obviously," Bail said dryly. If Palpatine can do this, then how can we ever hope to - no. Despair is of the Dark Side; Kenobi told you that a dozen times. There will be a way to defeat him. There has to be. "That's partly what's so odd." Careful; choose your words very carefully, Senator. The galaxy is full of fear, these days. "It's not well known, Agent Horn, but I was in the vicinity when the 501st Legion started their assault on the Temple on Coruscant."
Horn's eyes narrowed slightly. "That must have been a rather uncomfortable position to be in, Senator. Even for a man who's helped fight off more than one assault on his diplomatic courier ships."
So Rostek Horn had read up on him as well; and more than was in the standard HoloNews files. Interesting. "It was that," Bail allowed. "But the damage at the Coruscant Temple, after it was pacified, wasn't nearly so... extensive."
"The 501st is a crack legion," Agent Horn observed. "I doubt whoever was in place here was as quick off the trigger."
"Whoever?" Bail allowed himself a raised eyebrow.
"Ever seen a Venator's engines go up?" the agent said dryly. "We couldn't even find carbonized ash of most of the men. Hell, we still haven't sorted out how many citizens of our own died. We could have lost a million in that firestorm, and no one would know for sure-" He cut himself off, shoulders stiff. Shook his head. "My apologies, Senator. I still get worked up about that night. My grandson... my daughter-in-law was having a difficult time. I could have lost most of my family."
"I sympathize." Bail inclined his head. "This war has been hard on families."
"Then it's a good thing the war is finally winding down." Agent Horn unbent enough to smile. "May I express my congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Senator? It's good to hear of a family having joyful news in these dark times."
"Yes, thank you," Bail said graciously. He's hiding something.
But what? And more importantly, was there any way to pry further without risking someone who might be an ally?
No. Not over the HoloNet. This is risky enough as it is.
"I suppose I was just trying to explain the inexplicable," Bail said, thinking fast. "I can't imagine what it must have been like on the ground, watching a Star Destroyer fall out of the sky."
"Oh, I can show you the holos, if you like."
Instincts honed in negotiating the highest of stakes sat up and bit him, hard. "There are holos?" Bail said carefully. "I didn't find any when I searched."
"Well, of course not!" Agent Horn looked mildly affronted. "It's a matter of Imperial Security. Why should we give the Separatists any more information on how to bring our ships down?"
Bail had to sit on the urge to applaud. The party line, masterfully performed.
"But since you are on record as voting for Chancellor Palpatine as Emperor-"
As Padmé asked me to do, Bail thought bleakly. Give up my vote to save my life; so that those of us who know what Palpatine is might survive.
"-and since you're head of the Senate Security Committee - you are, of course, set up to receive secure data, sir?"
"Of course." Bail set his codes, and nodded. The console beeped, warbling with a long transmission.
Horn settled back into a parade rest as the console fell silent. "Is there anything else I can do for you, Senator?"
"Not tonight." Bail smiled. "Thank you for your time, Agent Horn. And if you're ever on Alderaan - I can speak for my wife when I say we'd love to meet your family."
The holo went dark. Bail checked the file he'd received, and sighed. Raised his finger over the button to play-
Breha was at his side, Leia tucked against her shoulder. "You don't have to see this," Bail said softly.
"But I do." His wife gave him a determined smile. "Of course I do. You can't bear this all alone, hotshot."
No. He couldn't. Maybe he should be stronger, less afraid...
They called Skywalker the Hero Without Fear. Where did that get him?
Bracing himself, Bail activated the holo.
It wasn't long. Mercifully.
He'd seen the damage Master Yoda had wreaked to protect Coruscant. The green alien might be one of the quietest, most peaceful souls Bail had ever met - but to defend the Senate, the head of the Jedi Order had pulled starships from the sky.
Whoever had acted on Corellia hadn't been nearly that powerful. But it was enough.
As cannon after cannon flashed in explosions, and the Star Destroyer hammered down on the Enclave in fire and ruin, it was more than enough.
Fires still burning, Bail switched it off. "Space..."
Breha was wiping her eyes. "Oh, Bail. What a horrible revenge."
"...It doesn't make sense," Bail said slowly. There was something off in that holo; or maybe something Horn had said. "Jedi don't believe in revenge."
Breha shook her head, pacing the room as Leia roused with an upset cry. "Shh, shh... the troopers were coming to kill them, Bail. Of course they-"
"No." He rarely interrupted his wife, but he was sure of this. "Master Yoda, Master Kenobi - they didn't blame the clones. The troopers were following what they believed was a lawful order. The Corellian Jedi would have fought to their deaths. They would have killed the clones if they had to, to survive. But bring down an entire Star Destroyer on their own people, when it wouldn't change anything? Jedi don't believe in revenge." Bail took a breath, thinking hard. "Even if they didn't know about Palpatine, they knew a Sith Lord was out there. Killing a ship like that - Force, wiping out part of a city! - it feeds into all the lies Sith have spread about Jedi. Space, it practically seals Palpatine's story about the Jedi as traitors to the Republic in carbonite! No one's going to ask questions about whether they were betrayed after this..."
"No one's going to ask questions," Bail said softly. Reached blindly behind him for a chair, and sat down.
Breha's hand settled on his shoulder. "You know something."
"Know?" He had to laugh, at least at himself. "I don't know anything." He leaned back against carved wood, recalling happier days. "Did you know Master Kenobi compared me to a Corellian bartender, once?"
"He does have a sense of humor." Breha shifted a chair to sit by him, knee to skirted knee. "What don't you know, then?"
"Well, I had to ask around after that." Bail smiled at her. "Can't call a man out for slander if it's true, after all. Imagine my surprise when I found out Master Kenobi wasn't exaggerating. Much." He paused. "Though Corellians are much better at smuggling than I've ever been."
"Better at-" Breha sucked in a sharp breath.
"No one's going to ask questions," Bail said again, a curious mix of fear and wonder churning in his heart. "It fits exactly what Palpatine wants people to think. The Jedi were traitors. The Jedi were murderers. There could be a million Corellians dead in a mass grave.
"Or... there could be less."
Breha glanced at the deactivated projector, face pale. "You think...?"
"I don't know," Bail admitted. "If you asked the man on the street who lived in the Temples, he'd say Jedi. But I walked their halls on Coruscant." He had to pause, fighting a pang of grief. "Most of those inside the walls were children."
Breha brushed back dark strands of Leia's hair. "We can't ask Agent Horn."
"No, of course not," Bail agreed. "CorSec's diligently upholding the official version of events-"
"Bail." His wife arched dark brows, fondly exasperated. "We can't ask him." She held their daughter closer. "Or do you think we're the only brave family in the galaxy?"
"I could have lost most of my family."
He'd read up on Rostek, just as the Agent had researched him. Official records claimed the man had a wife, a son, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson a few months younger than Leia.
"Oh." Bail took a deep breath, and reached out to his wife. "Thank you, my dove. I can overlook what's right under my nose sometimes, can't I?"
She tapped him on that nose. "With luck, you won't be the only one."
Bail had to chuckle at that. "Jedi don't believe in luck."
"Then we'll just have to believe in it for them."
He knew that voice. That wasn't just his wife. That was his Queen, sovereign ruler of Alderaan, who'd come to a decision. "My lady?"
"Master Yoda said the Dark Side clouded everything. But Palpatine never missed a step." Dark eyes gave him a solemn look. "What if the Dark Side only clouds the future for Jedi?"
And the darker the war had become, the tighter Palpatine had woven his net. "You think the Light Side might cloud the Sith?"
"If the Sith draw power from anger, hatred, and fear, then Alderaan must become a place that gives no shelter to the darkness," Queen Breha Antilles-Organa declared. "We will set an example for the galaxy; for all those cowed and dismayed by the declaration of the new Empire. We will be just and upright beings, a planet where all species are welcome, and those cast adrift by the tides of war might find refuge." She drew a breath, and put away that sense of majesty. "We have to be careful, Bail. We can't draw too much attention. But we must never surrender who we are." A tear slid down her cheek. "I remember Padmé. She loved so deeply..."
Rising, Bail reached down and held her.
"We need to show Leia a better way than the Emperor's," Breha said at last. "And if she's... like her parents... it can't be a show. We have to believe. We have to hope. We have to laugh, even when everything seems darkest."
Laugh, Bail reflected. He hadn't had much to laugh about lately. "I take it you have some ideas?"
Breha leaned her forehead against his a moment, braid pressing against his hair. Tilted her head back, and smiled. "As a matter of fact... your sisters have been commenting that I don't get out enough."
Rouge, Celly, and Tia. Sometimes he thought all his problems could be solved if he ever managed to lock Palpatine in the same room with them. The Antilles and Organa families had strong women.
Breha chuckled at the look on his face, and smiled down at Leia. "I don't mind, little one, but now that you're old enough to be a little sturdier... would you like to see animals? And acrobats, and people doing amazing things?"
"Animals?" Bail felt slightly adrift. "Acrobats?"
"Tia's maid Kasteen says there's a new transgalactic circus in the system." Breha winked at him. "Their main ship is still in orbit, but they shuttled down the tents and performers two days ago. Tia says Kasteen can't stop talking about them. High-wire acts with no repulsors. Magicians. Even a petting zoo of animals from across the galaxy for the children."
A circus. Bail thought of that, and a seared scar on Coronet City, and the pain of Padmé's funeral.
I'm sorry. The dead are dead. We have to care for the living, now.
He gave his wife a smile. And if it was a little sad... so was hers. "So who are these paragons of Mistress Kasteen's virtue?"
"They call themselves the Flying Thantas."
A/N: This story was inspired by a few bits from the Clone Wars cartoons, The Force Unleashed (games and graphic novels), and stumbling on an odd fact about Jedi Archivist Jocasta Nu's apprentice in the Extended Universe. Apparently, Padawan Jin-Lo Rayce managed to survive Vader's assault on the Corsucant Temple by being lost in the stacks.
...He then managed to elude the whole Purge and establish an entire order of Force-Adepts, the Agents of Ossus. Librarians rule!