Chapter Two

Within hours, Obi-Wan and Anakin boarded the small Jedi shuttle to depart for Alderaan.

Entering the cockpit, Obi-Wan started going through the take-off checklist. "Did you send out our transponder code?"

Anakin merely looked back at him reprovingly as he slid into the pilots' seat. "No faith in me at all, Master."

"And who said you got to drive?"

"Sorry, Master," came Anakin's sarcastic, but good-natured reply. "I forgot how much you love flying through Coruscant, avoiding all the speeders and buildings, dodging around the traffic control freighters in orbit-"

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan sighed, as his Padawan was quite correct. Flying was, perhaps, his least favourite passtime. He did not, however, need to rub it in. "Just power up the ship."

Grinning, Anakin obliged. While Obi-Wan despised flying in every form, Anakin reveled in it. It was one of his few pursuits outside his training, and he had gotten quite good at it over the years.

"Did you remember to get two 'droids?"

"We have two astromech 'droids. An A2-M3 and an… an…" he searched his memory, which was clearly failing at that point. "I don't remember. But we have two."

"Alright. Just so long as we don't only have one like that disaster on Callus III-"

Anakin groaned, trying not to flush in embarrassment. "You had to drag that up again. I was fourteen when I did that. I haven't forgotten them since then."

"I know, Anakin. Your attention to detail has improved remarkably."

"Yeah, yeah." Anakin focused his attention on the controls and started to take off gently. "Restraints on, Master?"

"What? Why?" Obi-Wan's inquiry was cut short as Anakin abruptly sped up. "Anakin, none of your-" He was again cut off as the shuttle veered upwards at a nearly ninety-degree angle, narrowly missing several accidents as it made its way out of Coruscant's atmosphere. They ended up safely in orbit, and Obi-Wan was finally able to finish his sentence, "… usual stunts."

His Padawan's laughter was the only answer he had as the shuttle took off towards Alderaan, disappearing into hyperspace.

The Great Hall of Alderaan was the prime example in the galaxy of simplistic beauty. Where many planets would have opulent halls, richly coloured tapestries, and a show of the planet's wealth, the Alderaani philosophy was that nature was the greatest beauty. Instead of walls showcasing the paintings acquired over the millennia, They were made of transparisteel, separated by massive white columns so that the hall was naturally lit by day, and afforded an exquisite view of the plains and nearby Aldera Lake.

It was the only hall of its kind that Obi-Wan had ever seen, and he had to admit that the appreciation for such simple beauty was rare. Approaching the doors to the main chamber, he paused. "Anakin, you'd best let me do the talking. The Viceroy will not be pleased. Men like Organa like to believe they have complete control over their systems."

Anakin looked at him curiously. "But I thought that Alderaan was entirely peaceful."

"The majority are, Bail Organa included. But obviously someone slipped past them. He knows we are coming, this should not be a surprise for him, but still- it would be best if you remain silent." Anakin reluctantly nodded, and they entered the hall.

Viceroy Organa was seated at the far end of the room, attended by a small crowd of people. Organa rose as the Jedi approached, greeting them warmly. "Master Jedi, you do me honour. But I must confess I am surprised as to the necessity of this visit."

Both Obi-Wan and Anakin bowed respectfully. "I hope it will be but a small matter for your consideration, Viceroy. I am Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is my Padawan learner, Anakin Skywalker."

Organa nodded politely at them both and responded, "I am Bail Organa, Viceroy of Alderaan. These," he motioned to the small crowd behind him, "are my family and advisors."

Obi-Wan bowed once more to the small group, then turned back to Organa. "I trust you have had news of the disaster on Dantooine?"

"Naturally," the Viceroy responded easily. "And the Jedi know that they can always turn to us for assistance. What is it you, or the Republic, can require in this case? We keep exhaustive records and have plenty of men, supplies… do you need help in your investigation?"

"Thank you for your generosity, Viceroy. I will not presume to ask so much. I actually have but one question for you." He reached into his pouch and produced the blackened rose stem.

One of the group- a family member, Obi-Wan guessed, given that she looked too young to be an advisor to the Viceroy- interrupted as soon as she spied the stem. "Where did you get that?"

Obi-Wan glanced at her, amused but serious, and smiled. "Well, that answers it."

The Viceroy looked admonishingly at the young girl. "Padme." She blushed slightly, and withdrew. "I apologize for my sister, Master Kenobi. What was your question, sir?"

"I was going to ask if you knew what this was, and where it comes from. It is clear that you- or at least your sister- knows what it is."

Organa answered stiffly. "Forgive me, Master Jedi, but where did you come by that?"

"In the ashes of the room of Master Sifo-Dyas on Dantooine, Viceroy."

Padme looked up at the Viceroy in surprise. "How is that possible, Bail?"

Obi-Wan answered. "I was hoping you could tell me. The records say that regulation of your Flame Rose is strictly monitored."

"And so it is," Organa agreed. "No flower could have left the planet without our knowledge of it."

"Excuse my interruption, sir," Anakin spoke up respectfully, "but surely the record of every sale does not come to you directly."

Organa nodded. "Indeed not. The growth and regulation of the Flame Rose is the domain of Alderaan Biotics, and every person who obtains a Flame Rose is extensively checked before they are allowed to purchase a flower. The process takes years and is quite thorough."

Obi-Wan considered this for several long monents. "A theft-"

"Would have been reported directly to security and then to me." Organa shook his head slowly. "I can assure you in all honesty that there has been no such event. Had there been a theft, we would have contacted you for help, given the danger of these flowers."

"Can no other planet support this flower, my lord Viceroy?" Anakin inquired.

"I do not think so. No." Organa sighed. "Unfortunately, the stem that you hold must have been grown on Alderaan."

"Is there someone at Alderaan Biotics we may speak to?" Obi-Wan asked. "It is of critical importance that we find the man who killed Sifo-Dyas."

Organa heaved another sigh. "Of course. You may go there directly." He waved Padme forward, and she bowed to the Jedi. "My foster sister, Padme Amidala. She will take you to Alderaan Biotics and introduce you to Tobias Farsik, head of the guild."

"Thank you very much." Obi-Wan bowed respectfully. "We will depart immediately, and hopefully return with your sister by nightfall."

"Good luck, Master Jedi." Organa returned the bow. "To be honest, I think you will find it difficult to trace the flower. If the murderer managed to obtain it without our knowledge… well, I can only pray that Farsik will tell you something useful."