The four starships skimmed past the great skyscrapers of Coruscant, weaving in and out
of the huge amber structures, artificial stalagmites rising higher and higher over the years, and
now obscuring the natural formations of the planet unlike anywhere
else in the known galaxy. Sunlight reflected off the many
mirrorlike windows of those massive structures, and gleamed
brilliantly off the chrome of the sleek ships. The larger starship,
which resembled a flying silver boomerang, almost glowed,
smooth and flowing with huge and powerful engines set on
each of its arms, a third of the way to the wingtip. Alongside it
soared several Naboo starfighters, their graceful engines set out
on wings from the main hulls with their distinctive elongated
One of the starfighters led the procession, veering around
and about nearly every passing tower, running point for the second
ship, the Naboo Royal Cruiser. Behind that larger craft came
two more fighters, running swift and close to the Royal Cruiser,
shielding her, pilots ready to instantly intercept any threat.
The lead fighter avoided the more heavily trafficked routes of
the great city, where potential enemies might be flying within the
cover of thousands of ordinary vehicles. Many knew that Senator
Amidala of Naboo was returning to the Senate to cast her vote
against the creation of an army to assist the overwhelmed Jedi in
their dealings with the increasingly antagonistic separatist movement,
and there were many factions that did not want such a vote
to be cast. Amidala had made many enemies during her reign as
Naboo’s Queen, powerful enemies with great resources at their
disposal, and with, perhaps, enough hatred for the beautiful
young Senator to put some of those resources to work to her
In the lead fighter, Corporal Dolphe, who had distinguished
himself greatly in the Naboo war against the Trade Federation,
breathed a sigh of relief as the appointed landing platform came
into sight, appearing secure and clear. Dolphe, a tough warrior
who revered his Senator greatly, flew past the landing platform
to the left, then cut a tight turn back to the right, encircling the
great structure, the Senatorial Apartment Building, adjacent to
the landing platform. He kept his fighter up and about as the
other two fighters put down side by side on one end of the platform,
the Royal Cruiser hovering nearby for just a moment,
then gently landing.
Dolphe did another circuit, then, seeing no traffic at all in
the vicinity, settled his fighter across the way from his companion
craft. He didn’t put it down all the way just yet, though, but
remained ready to swivel about and strike hard at any attackers,
if need be.
Opposite him, the other two fighter pilots threw back
their respective canopies and climbed from their cockpits. One,
Captain Typho, recently appointed as Amidala’s chief security
officer by his uncle Panaka, pulled off his flight helmet and
shook his head, running a hand over his short, woolly black
hair and adjusting the black leather patch he wore over his
“We made it,” Typho said as his fellow fighter pilot leapt
down from a wing to stand beside him. “I guess I was wrong.
There was no danger at all.”
“There’s always danger, Captain,” the other responded in a
distinctly female voice. “Sometimes we’re just lucky enough to
Typho started to respond, but paused and looked back
toward the cruiser, where the ramp was already lowering to the
platform. The plan had been to get the contingent off the exposed
platform and into a transport vehicle as quickly as possible.
Two Naboo guards appeared, alert and ready, their blaster
rifles presented before them. Typho nodded grimly, glad to see
that his soldiers were taking nothing for granted, that they
understood the gravity of the situation and their responsibility
here in protecting the Senator.
Next came Amidala, in her typical splendor, with her paradoxical
beauty, both simple and involved. With her large brown
eyes and soft features, Amidala could outshine anyone about
her, even if she was dressed in simple peasant’s clothing, but in
her Senatorial attire, this time a fabulous weave of black and
white, and with her hair tied up and exaggerated by a black
headdress, she outshone the stars themselves. Her mixture of intelligence
and beauty, of innocence and allure, of courage and
integrity and yet with a good measure of a child’s mischievous-ness,
floored Typho every time he looked upon her.
The captain turned from the descending entourage back to
Dolphe across the way, offering a satisfied nod in acknowledgment
of the man’s point-running work.
And then, suddenly, Typho was lying facedown on the permacrete,
thrown to the ground by a tremendous concussion,
blinded for a moment by a brilliant flash as an explosion roared
behind him. He looked up as his vision returned to see Dolphe
sprawled on the ground.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion for Typho at
that terrible moment. He heard himself yelling “No!” as he
scrambled to his knees and turned about.
Pieces of burning metal spread through the Coruscant sky
like fireworks, fanning high and wide from the wreckage. The
remaining hulk of the Royal Cruiser burned brightly, and seven
figures lay on the ground before it, one wearing the decorated
raiments that Typho knew so very well.
Disoriented from the blast, the captain stumbled as he tried
to rise. A great lump welled in his throat, for he knew what had
Typho was a veteran warrior, had seen battle, had seen people
die violently, and in looking at those bodies, in looking at
Amidala’s beautiful robes, at their placement about the very still
form, he instinctively knew.
The woman’s wounds were surely mortal. She was fast dying,
if not already dead.
“You reset the coordinates!” Obi-Wan Kenobi said to his
young Padawan. Obi-Wan’s wheat-colored hair was longer now,
hanging loosely about his shoulders, and a beard, somewhat unkempt,
adorned his still-young-looking face. His light brown
Jedi traveling clothes, loose fitting and comfortable, seemed to
settle on him well. For Obi-Wan had become comfortable, had
grown into the skin of Jedi Knight. No longer was he the intense
and impulsive Jedi Padawan learner under the training of
His companion at this time, however, appeared quite the opposite.
Anakin Skywalker looked as if his tall, thin frame simply
could not contain his overabundance of energy. He was dressed
similarly to Obi-Wan, but his clothing seemed tighter, crisper,
and his muscles under it always seemed taut with readiness. His
sandy-blond hair was cropped short now, except for the thin
braid indicative of his status as a Jedi Padawan. His blue eyes
flashed repeatedly, as if bursts of energy were escaping.
“Just to lengthen our time in hyperspace a bit,” he explained.
“We’ll come out closer to the planet.”
Obi-Wan gave a great and resigned sigh and sat down at the
console, noting the coordinates Anakin had input. There was little
the Jedi could do about it now, of course, for a hyperspace
leap couldn’t be reset once the jump to lightspeed had already
been made. “We cannot exit hyperspace too close to Coruscant’s
approach lanes. There’s too much congestion for a safe
flight. I’ve already explained this to you.”
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan said pointedly, as if he were scolding a
pet perootu cat, and he tightened his wide jaw and stared hard
at his Padawan.
“Yes, Master,” Anakin said, obediently looking down.
Obi-Wan held the glare for just a moment longer. “I know
that you’re anxious to get there,” he conceded. “We have been
too long away from home.”
Anakin didn’t look up, but Obi-Wan could see the edges of
his lips curl up in a bit of a smile.
“Never do this again,” Obi-Wan warned, and he turned and
walked out of the shuttle’s bridge.
Anakin flopped down into the pilot’s chair, his chin falling
into his hand, his eyes set on the control panels. The order had
been about as direct as one could get, of course, and so Anakin
silently told himself that he would adhere to it. Still, as he considered
their current destination, and who awaited them there,
he thought the scolding worth it, even if his resetting of the coordinates
had bought him only a few extra hours on Coruscant.
He was indeed anxious to get there, though not for the reason
Obi-Wan had stated. It wasn’t the Jedi Temple that beckoned to
the Padawan, but rather a rumor he had heard over the comm
chatter that a certain Senator, formerly the Queen of Naboo,
was on her way to address the Senate.
The name resonated in young Anakin’s heart and soul. He
hadn’t seen her in a decade, not since he, along with Obi-Wan
and Qui-Gon, had helped her in her struggle against the Trade
Federation on Naboo. He had only been ten years old at that
time, but from the moment he had first laid eyes on Padmé,
young Anakin had known that she was the woman he would
Never mind that Padmé was several years older than he was.
Never mind that he was just a boy when he had known her,
when she had known him. Never mind that Jedi were not allowed
Anakin had simply known, without question, and the image
of beautiful Padmé Amidala had stayed with him, had been
burned into his every dream and fantasy, every day since he had
left Naboo with Obi-Wan a decade ago. He could still smell the
freshness of her hair, could still see the sparkle of intelligence
and passion in her wondrous brown eyes, could still hear the
melody that was Padmé’s voice.
Hardly registering the movement, Anakin let his hands return
to the controls of the nav computer. Perhaps he could find
a little-used lane through the Coruscant traffic congestion to get
them home faster.
Klaxons blared and myriad alarms rent the air all about the
area, screaming loudly, drowning out the cries from the astonished
onlookers and the wails of the injured.
Typho’s companion pilot raced past him, and the cap-tain
scrambled to regain his footing and follow. Across the way,
Dolphe was up and similarly running toward the fallen form of
The female fighter pilot arrived first, dropping to one knee
beside the fallen woman. She pulled the helmet from her head
and quickly shook her brown tresses free.
“Senator!” Typho yelled. It was indeed Padmé Amidala
kneeling beside the dying woman, her decoy. “Come, the danger
has not passed!”
But Padmé waved the captain back furiously, then bent low
to her fallen friend.
“Cordé,” she said quietly, her voice breaking. Cordé was one
of her beloved bodyguards, a woman who had been with her,
serving her and serving Naboo, for many years. Padmé gathered
Cordé up in her arms, hugging her gently.
Cordé opened her eyes, rich brown orbs so similar to
Padmé’s own. “I’m sorry, m’Lady,” she gasped, struggling for
breath with every word. “I’m . . . not sure I . . .” She paused
and lay there, staring at Padmé. “I’ve failed you.”
“No!” Padmé insisted, arguing the bodyguard’s reasoning,
arguing against all of this insanity. “No, no, no!”
Cordé continued to stare at her, or stare past her, it seemed
to the grief-stricken young Senator. Looking past her and past
everything, Cordé’s eyes stared into a far different place.
Padmé felt her relax suddenly, as if her spirit simply leapt
from her corporeal form.
“Cordé!” the Senator cried, and she hugged her friend
close, rocking back and forth, denying this awful reality.
“M’Lady, you are still in danger!” Typho declared, trying
to sound sympathetic, but with a clear sense of urgency in his
Padmé lifted her head from the side of Cordé’s face, and
took a deep and steadying breath. Looking upon her dead friend,
remembering all at once the many times they had spent together,
she gently lowered Cordé to the ground. “I shouldn’t have come
back,” she said as she stood up beside the wary Typho, tears
streaking her cheeks.
Captain Typho came up out of his ready stance long enough
to lock stares with his Senator. “This vote is very important,” he
reminded her, his tone uncompromising, the voice of a man
sworn to duty above all else. So much like his uncle. “You did
your duty, Senator, and Cordé did hers. Now come.”
He started away, grabbing Padmé’s arm, but she shrugged
off his grasp and stood there, staring down at her lost friend.
“Senator Amidala! Please!”
Padmé looked over at the man.
“Would you so diminish Cordé’s death as to stand here and
risk your own life?” Typho bluntly stated. “What good will her
sacrifice be if—”
“Enough, Captain,” Padmé interrupted.
Typho motioned for Dolphe to run a defensive perimeter
behind them, then he led the stricken Padmé away.
Back over at Padmé’s Naboo fighter, R2-D2 beeped and
squealed and fell into line behind them.
Copyright © 2002 by R. A. Salvatore. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.