The public airbus was slower with its many stops, but the authorities ignored it completely as it lumbered through Imperial City’s skylanes into the Legislative District. About an hour after two wayward Imperial cadets committed speeder larceny and escape from wrongful imprisonment, they exited the airbus and walked the short distance to the Imperial Executive Building.
It was a dome shaped building that could cover all of Mos Eisley if it could fit past the highlands of the Great Mesra Plateau. Lights gathered in bands around the building. The easiest band to see was at the bottom where Biggs and Luke walked along a thoroughfare for airspeeders coasting against the metal ground; the tunnel for the thoroughfare was lit as it continued through the building. The next two bands of light were probably from windows to the interior. The highest band was massive lights marking the hangar bays of tiered docking platforms. They looked large enough to handle smaller capital ships to Biggs’ eye. He guessed that politicians didn’t have to go through the spaceport like everyone else. Spotlights stretched up into the night sky and waved. The skylane traffic ignored the illumination and continued on its way.
The offices inside the Imperial Executive Building followed the same layout as the galaxy: sectors from the Outer Rim Territories circled the dome’s edge, sectors from the Mid Rim inside that ring, sectors from the Expansion Region nestled inside that one. The planets of the Inner Rim, Colonies, and Core all had their own senator but the regions still nestled around the building in that order. So once they reached the Core’s section, all they had to do was find the correct level. Alderaan’s office was on the top level next to Chandrila’s.
Biggs and Luke entered the reception area and stepped aside so two men dressed in blue tunics and tan trousers could carry a large crate out of the offices. The wall they moved closer to was a giant holovid screen showing rocky mountains covered with white. Beyond them, the shadowed spires of a city reached up past the peaks. Biggs blinked at the cost of a screen as large as the room, but it matched the furniture made of wood, a fountain splashing against the opposite wall, green plants in pots scattered everywhere, and the fabrics on the furniture and carpet colored a deep rich blue unfaded by time. One only saw that shade at the weddings of the wealthy on Tatooine. Alderaan takes care of its diplomats and then some, Biggs thought.
Luke was still staring at the holovid. “Just like my dreams,” he murmured.
“Gentle beings,” the protocol droid behind a waist-high desk at the other end of the room said. Biggs elbowed Luke and they headed to the golden-plated droid. “I am C-3PO, human-droid relations specialist. How may I assist you today?”
“We need to see Senator Organa,” Biggs answered.
“I see. Do you have an appointment?”
“It’s an emergency, so no we don’t,” Luke said.
“Unfortunately, the Senator is preparing to leave tonight for another diplomatic mission, so I’m afraid her Royal Highness will not be able to see you just now.”
Biggs frowned. “A diplomatic mission like the one to Ralltiir?”
“Oh dear, I hope not.” C-3PO leaned back. “So much blaster fire.”
“Threepio,” a female voice chided from the doorway behind the desk. The woman was shorter than Luke, but radiated a presence. And was more beautiful than her holovid had prepared Biggs for. She wore a white gown with a high neck and a strange fold of material from her shoulders. It wasn’t a cape, but that’s all Biggs could determine. A silver belt cinched her waist and her brown hair was coiled into buns over her ears.
“Oh Princess Leia—”
Biggs interrupted the droid. “Biggs Darklighter, ma’am, and this is Luke Skywalker.” He bumped Luke, who had forgotten how to talk around a girl again. “We’re sorry to barge in here like this.”
Her brown eyes appraised them both. “What emergency could send two Imperial cadets to me during arrival week? You’re not from Alderaan.”
“No ma’am,” Luke said. His face reddened. “Sorry, is that right? You’re a princess?”
“I’m a Senator here on Coruscant.” She smiled. It encouraged more details rather than shut them down.
“An alarm went off when Luke was getting his medical evaluation,” Biggs said. “Then they locked him up from the rest of us, locked his records so they couldn’t be read, and sent stormtroopers after him.”
“They shot at me when I was leaving with Biggs,” Luke said.
“By the Maker, how did you escape?” Threepio asked.
“Through the window.”
Biggs smirked. “We weren’t planning on a career with the Empire, but we did think we’d make it past the first day.”
Senator Organa’s gaze darted between them as she frowned. She finally stopped to look at Luke. “It happened during your medical evaluation? No disrespect to your ancestors meant, but is it possible you’re not fully human?”
Luke shook his head. “There’s no way my family could ever afford the treatments to create a hybrid baby.”
Luke was all that was left of his family and only had the credits left in his pockets after paying the entrance fees for the Academy and passage to get here. Biggs figured they didn’t need to get into the slavery in the Skywalker family’s past. Slave masters wouldn’t pay for treatments to make hybrid babies either.
“Okay, now I have to see what they’re hiding about you. Come in.” The Senator led the way into the next room and Threepio brought up the rear. The room was an office for an aide containing a desk with a built-in terminal, but it was still richly decorated in white and blue like the lobby. A R2 astromech droid was parked next to the desk. “Artoo, I need you to search the Imperial Academy database for Luke Skywalker’s records.”
Its blue and silver dome swiveled as the droid let out an inquiring warble. The photoreceptor aimed at both Biggs and Luke as they reached the desk and stopped on Luke.
“Yes, that is him,” Threepio answered. “Now search quickly, Artoo, before stormtroopers follow them here.”
Biggs crossed his arms. “I’m pretty sure we lost them. There’s a lot more people here, makes it easier.” They probably had a search going for the airspeeder if they hadn’t found it already. And since he left it on a parking platform in the same direction as Westport, hopefully they’d aim the search that way.
Artoo beeped and extended a scomp link into the port in the side of the desk under the terminal. Senator Organa sat down at the terminal and motioned for Biggs and Luke to come closer. Biggs didn’t hesitate looking over the brunette woman’s shoulder. Luke looked over her other shoulder just in time to see ‘access denied’ flash on the screen. “Oh come on, you can get past that,” she said.
Artoo warbled, the scomp link spun, and the screen flashed. Luke’s biography and image finally appeared on the screen along with two extra blocks of red text across the top. Biggs frowned. His record hadn’t looked like that.
Senator Organa gasped. “Those are the Emperor and Lord Vader’s priority codes. The stop everything and obey these orders codes.”
Biggs focused on the instructions after the codes. “Detain for retrieval by my agents. This doesn’t make any sense. Why would the Emperor of the galaxy want Luke? Or this Lord Vader?”
“What can you tell us about these alerts?” Senator Organa glanced at the droids.
Artoo’s electronic warble was complicated. Threepio waited until he was done before translating. “Both alerts hit Master Skywalker’s record seconds apart. The Emperor’s originated at the Imperial Palace. Darth Vader’s originated from the Star Destroyer Devastator, his flagship.”
The line after the top code, the code from the Emperor, expanded, adding a new line of text. Luke read it out loud. “Kill this target if he escapes Imperial City!”
“What did you do?” Senator Organa asked.
“Nothing!” Luke stepped back to throw his hands out. “Why does the Emperor want to kill me? I’m a nobody from the Outer Rim.”
Artoo whistled and beeped. Threepio tilted his head at the shorter droid. “How can you know? We have never met him before.” Artoo warbled in response.
“What did he say, Threepio?” Senator Organa asked.
“He says that General Kenobi knows why the Emperor wants Luke Skywalker to cease functioning.”
Biggs looked at Luke over the Senator’s head. “Kenobi?”
“And how do you know that?” Senator Organa focused on the barrel-shaped droid.
Artoo’s answer was full of complicated whistles, beeps, and trills. Threepio translated. “He says it is based on a memory fragment dating from during the Clone Wars that pairs Kenobi with Skywalker. Unfortunately, he cannot say anything further about it.”
“That’s convenient.” The Senator’s tone was as dry as the Western Dune Sea. She twisted in her seat to look at Luke. Biggs stepped around her to get closer to Luke for support and to jostle Luke into speaking if he needed it. “You’re from Tatooine,” she continued. “My father just asked me to go to Tatooine and recruit General Obi-Wan Kenobi. Do you know him?”
“I’ve never heard of an Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Luke said.
Biggs shook his head.
“There’s a Ben Kenobi, a hermit who lives near Anchorhead. Maybe he’s related.”
“You’ve had interactions with him?”
“Not really,” Biggs answered. “He’d watch our races through Beggar’s Canyon and never told our parents what we were up to. Fixed Tank up when he took that spill. But your uncle thought he was crazy.” He turned to Luke.
“No, Uncle Owen said he was dangerous. But right now, I’ll take dangerous that I know. If you can get us off Coruscant, we’ll take you to Ben on Tatooine.” Luke’s blue eyes bored into the Senator’s brown ones.
“And sign up ourselves,” Biggs added.
The door to the reception area slid open and an older man leaned in. “Your Highness, Tantive IV is ready to depart.”
“We have two guests traveling with us, Captain.” She held out her hand to Luke. “You have a deal.” He shook it firmly.