“When are they going to let us into our rooms?” A cadet with almond-shaped eyes threw himself onto the closest couch, jostling the cadet already sitting on the other end. “Our whole floor is compromised because of one contagious cadet?”
The other cadet on the couch rolled his eyes. “If he was contagious, we’d be swarmed with medics right now. I heard he is a Rebel infiltrator.”
Biggs didn’t dare breathe as he walked past the pair of them in the recreation lounge. No one knew the plan, no one but him and Luke and the sand dune they had parked on top of to work it out. And they hadn’t said anything since that day.
The first cadet waved off that suggestion. “If he was a Rebel, he’d go straight to prison. Maybe he faked his qualifications to get in.”
Biggs plopped down at the public terminal and ignored the rest of the cadets in the room. As they finished the check-in routine, the ones who were supposed to live on the same dorm floor as he and Luke were sent here to wait instead until the orientation meeting. Why the hell did the Imperials in charge of the Academy need Luke isolated from everyone else? Luke had given Biggs the code to get him out of this mess, but Biggs needed to know what this mess even was to plan something. It was just the two of them against the whole planet. Majority of people on Coruscant were civilians, so really just the two of them against the trained forces here at the Academy and whatever help they called in.
He shrugged his shoulders to loosen them and typed Luke’s name into the terminal. “Access denied.” He stroked his mustache. Luke was in the Academy database, something should come up for cadets to match faces with names. Biggs typed in his name. His record displayed promptly: image, bio information, and list of classes he was in. The dorm room number had been deleted and that sharpened his worry about what they were going to do to Luke, but it was a minuscule change compared to “access denied.”
What was needed now was someone who could access Luke’s file, slice into it if necessary. He remembered the comments on the airbus. Even a Hutt-sanctioned Senator could find out the why behind this targeting of Luke.
His search term only got as far as “Senator of Aurek” when the Senator of Alderaan populated the search feed. The holoimage available was a young woman—same age as Luke and himself—dressed in a white gown standing on a repulsor podium and arguing fiercely if her gestures were anything to go by. This terminal didn’t have speakers for the audio. The text snipped from political commentators underneath wasn’t kind. “The youngest Senator is pathetically idealistic. Senator Leia Organa of Alderaan condemns the policy of species segregation on Coruscant. Drost Elegin calls the Senator of Alderaan ‘Little Miss Inalienable Rights.’ ”
Biggs liked the sound of all that and she was pretty. People always overlooked what pretty people were capable of; something he and Luke used often on Tatooine. He opened up the file to her senatorial office. She was on Coruscant and her last diplomatic mission was to Ralltiir. He erased his search and leaned back.
The spacers had lots to say about Ralltiir while he and Luke traveled to Coruscant. Most of it centered around how Rebels had fought there and actually killed a Moff. He had a hunch—and Luke had taught him to follow his hunches—that this Senator was their chance to get where they’d really make a difference. Now to get Luke out of here before he took a pleasure cruise with Jabba.
No one in the recreation lounge paid Biggs any attention as he went to the door. It had been strongly suggested the cadets who couldn’t go to the floor Luke was being held prisoner on stay here until orientation. But no guards stood by the lounge door. He slipped out and strode down the corridor until he was far enough away to not be shoved back in there. Then he consulted the map of the Academy on his datapad.
The dorm room he and Luke were supposed to share was in one of the connected spires. He needed a skyhopper to get to the windows. Scowling, he pulled up a list of Academy locations. The scowled turned into a grin when he reached a location named “landing pad hangar bay.”
The landing pad that personnel used stretched out behind the Academy building about halfway up before the building narrowed as it went higher. The hangar bay wasn’t even locked. Imperials were a lot more trusting than spacers working out of Mos Eisley. Then again, maybe good Imperial boys never contemplated speeder larceny. Good thing Biggs had never considered himself a good Imperial boy.
The setting sun streamed into the darker space through the open hangar door. It looked like it was only secured by a force field. However, there were probably security scanners; he spotted one in the far corner covering nearly the whole bay. Now he had to move fast.
There wasn’t much inventory to tempt a professional thief. Mostly Sienar models with a few SoroSuubs mixed in. He’d rather have more speed for this. The Incom T-13 would have the same controls as his skyhopper, but no protection.
He shook his head and spied a portable welder on a tool cart parked along the wall. That would do to get the window open. Picking it up, he saw the perfect getaway speeder, a bright red Narglatch AirTech XJ-6. Biggs made a silent whistle in appreciation of the Clone Wars era vehicle. Someone on staff was a serious flyboy and he was thankful. Because those two oversized turbofan engines were out in the open waiting to be hot-wired. He set the welder on the passenger seat and got to work.
It was a nice room, this dorm room he had been escorted to. The part of Luke that was trying to stay calm and rational could compare these surroundings to what he had grown up with. The door to the corridor was flanked by two wardrobe cabinets made of smooth painted metal without any dents or chips on them. The pair of loft style beds with built-in desks underneath them were pushed against the other two interior walls to leave the center of the room free. He hadn’t covered the protected mattress with the sheets and blankets folded in a stack on the desk, but he had tested the spring of the padding. It dented around his hand. The room ended with three windows framed together in an attempt to be a larger sheet of transparisteel. At least the windows opened, which Luke had discovered as soon as the guards locked him in here. He had plenty of fresh air while he sat and fumed that he was too high up to climb out. Not without gear he didn’t have.
Back on Tatooine, furniture was carved from the bedrock that the homesteads burrowed into or cast out of pourstone and made comfortable with cushions and pillows. Undoubtedly, whoever had designed these cadet quarters would think that was rustic. He wondered how this nice room with conforming seats and mattresses compared to other dwellings on Coruscant. He looked out the open window at the darkening sky. The windows of the distant tall buildings glowed with interior lights. People going about whatever their daily routines were on this planet with no inkling of the predicament he was in. There was no noise from the neighboring rooms. That didn’t make any sense; the walls weren’t thick enough to block all noise. Had they decided to not let anyone on the floor other than him until the alarms were answered?
His stomach growled. He figured the free time between medical check and orientation was supposed to cover getting food. Which he had missed, getting brought straight to this room. He slumped further in the desk chair he sat in. Could he ask the guards to get him something? Or would it be better if everyone forgot he was in here?
“Blast it, Biggs, where are you?” Luke muttered. They should have brought comms, no matter what the approved items list said. It was time for the orientation. Maybe he got swept up into that?
The traffic noise drifting in through the open window grew louder, like it was coming closer. But that couldn’t be right. Traffic in Imperial City was constricted to the skylanes. He headed to the windows.
A bright red Narglatch AirTech XJ-6 rose up even with the window. Biggs grinned from the driver’s seat. “It’s later. Ready to go?”
“You better believe it.” Luke snatched his duffel bag off the desk and slung it across his body before he pulled himself up into the window. The dorm room door slid open behind him. Luke glanced over his shoulder at the white-armored stormtrooper framed in the doorway and his blue eyes widened.
“What the‽” The stormtrooper pulled up the BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle hung from his shoulder. “Get down from there!”
Luke leaped from the window into the passenger seat. “Punch it!” He yanked the restraint harness into place as the blaster bolt hit the window frame.
Biggs already had the airspeeder in motion by the time Luke got the restraints on. “They shot at you?” He glanced over his shoulder as he circled the massive skyscraper.
“They sent stormtroopers after me!” Luke’s feet hit something metal on the floorboard of the seat but he just shoved it away. He looked back up at the window and saw the helmet shape still there. “He’s still there as an observation post.”
Biggs twisted around the tower and the larger building it was attached to. “There’s some traffic.” He accelerated the airspeeder, causing their hair to fly back as the wind whistled past their ears. The skylanes were stacked on top of each other between the buildings.
“Did you find out anything?” Luke asked as he twisted back to look for pursuit. Nothing appeared flying out of the Academy’s building yet.
Biggs dove the airspeeder through three skylanes of traffic before joining the flow of the fourth. “They locked up your record. I couldn’t see anything.” Luke clenched his fists. He had counted on Biggs finding something. “But I think I found someone who can help,” Biggs continued. “A Senator who’s a loud mouth against Imperial policies should be able to access your records.”
“Arkanis sector has a senator?” Luke asked.
“Don’t know, I stopped on the Senator of Alderaan.” Biggs shifted the airspeeder to the skylane exit. “We’ll dump this on that public landing pad over there and take a public airbus. That’ll keep them looking in the wrong place for a while.”
That made sense, but Luke saw a flaw in Biggs’ reasoning. “Alderaan’s a Core world. Why would its senator help us?”
Biggs set the airspeeder down on the docking clamps and shut off the engines. “I’ve got a hunch she’s a Rebel. Come on.”
Luke snapped his mouth shut while Biggs paid the droid attendant of the landing pad. Whatever made Biggs think that was good enough proof for Luke without being told what it was and they didn’t need to discuss it in the heart of Imperial City. Instead, he looked down at his navy blue jumpsuit, the uniform worn by all the cadets. He dug into his duffel. “Put something else on.”
Biggs pulled his new tan jacket out of his own duffel. All Luke had was his desert tunic, but it worked as a jacket over the jumpsuit. The docking clamps lifted the airspeeder off the platform and added it to a stack of airspeeders on the side of the platform closest to a building. He would like to see how the droids worked the machines to get an airspeeder out from the middle of the stack, but he wasn’t curious enough to risk his freedom. They hurried to the public airbus landing pad.