Sixty-Six

by Argenteus Draco

"So this is the score you wouldn't let anyone see before tonight?"

No verbal response from the woman standing before the orchestra pit, just a brief, curt nod as she scribbled a change onto her flimsiplast.

"About the Jedi executions?"

Another nod, followed by a weary sigh.

"Why do you do this to yourself, Asha? You'll only wind up banned by the Board of Culture."

Finally, a reaction. Although she does not turn towards him, he distinctly hears the smile in her voice. "Again? I don't think they can ban me twice, Morack."

v.v.v.v.v.

She was late, and there were more than a few startled glances from the people she passed as she raced through the halls of the Jedi Temple. Even with the war raging throughout the rest of the galaxy, life within those walls still proceeded in the same general fashion that it always had. Who was she, those glances seemed to be asking, to disrupt the serenity they so desperately clung to?

She brushed shoulders with Anakin Skywalker as he bounded up the Temple steps in the opposite direction. He seemed to be in an awful hurry too.

v.v.v.v.v

"You do remember that you said the same thing when you wrote Fallen, right?"

"Well, then they certainly can't ban me three times."

v.v.v.v.v

Asha had not noticed anything particularly strange as she took the stage with the rest of the orchestra that night, except perhaps that the Chancellor's box was empty.

v.v.v.v.v

"But they could arrest you, Asha. Is that what you want?"

v.v.v.v.v

She put more passion than ever into the legato movement during that performance, when it suddenly struck her how the haunting, weaving melodies could spin a story of fear and betrayal and death that was somehow far more poignant than the tale of star-crossed lovers it was meant to convey.

v.v.v.v.v

A fist suddenly connects with the podium, sending the carefully crafted sixty six pages of orchestral score fluttering to the ground. He raises it again, intending to frighten her, but before it can even come into a feigned striking distance she catches his wrist in a surprisingly strong grasp.

"I've waited long enough for this."

v.v.v.v.v

And then the third movement rose up in all it's fury, the dramatic fanfare of the approaching army sounding harsh and dissonant in her ears, yet all more realistic for it. The blasts of the horns were like cannons, the punctuating staccato notes in the low strings like laser fire. If she closed her eyes, she could see it as clearly as if the horrible visions were taking place all around her, and with a thrill of fear she wondered if maybe they were.

v.v.v.v.v

She turns away again. The pages of score are replaced in their binding.

"You should go, Morack. Something's going to happen tonight."

"What?"

No answer.

"Asha!"

v.v.v.v.v

Inside the familiar confines of the Opera House, nothing had changed. But outsideā€¦

Chaos. Everyone had gathered on the steps, craning their necks for a better view of the five spires of the Jedi Temple. Thick black smoke poured from the building, disrupting speeder traffic as the clouds drifted through the skylanes. People around her whispered in clipped, excited tones, and she caught only brief snatches of words, but it all amounted to the same message that played continuously over her comlink: The war is over. Return to the Temple. But how could she return when the melodies were racing through her mind, heavy minor chords that sang of treachery and the brave but ominous counterpoint that had to be hundreds, maybe thousands of beings joining the Force?

She had never been a particularly brave Jedi; this war had not turned her into a soldier the way that it had most of her contemporaries. She couldn't go back-- She needed a place to hide, needed safety--

--She needed flimsiplast, to put the music down on.

v.v.v.v.v

The doors open. Patrons begin to enter the hall. She turns, makes an almost imperceptible hand gesture.

"Go, Morack."

He hesitates for a long moment. Then he runs out through a back door.

v.v.v.v.v

At the end of the evening, every door to the Opera House bursts open simultaneously; she does not stop, even as white armored troopers pour in, the percussive rhythm of their footsteps completing the score in a way that she could never have outlined in simple notation. Through the music, she is hyperaware of being surrounded, of gauntleted hands reaching for her arms as she draws the orchestra to a final, sweeping crescendo--

From the Emperor's box, there is applause and thin, cold laughter. They lead her away as the last notes fade into the upper reaches of the grand hall.