“My queen, we must take a side,” Pooja Naberrie said emphatically. “To refuse to align ourselves with either the Rebel Alliance or the Empire is tantamount to inviting the criminals of the galaxy to overrun us!”
“And I’m sure you have no opinion about which side to take?” Moff Panaka asked sharply. “You’re concerned only with the welfare of the people?”
“First and foremost, yes,” Naberrie retorted. “You think me a traitor because I believe the Old Republic of a thousand years better than your young Empire of twenty. Should our queen decide to align our world with your interests, I will still gladly serve in whatever fashion I may.”
Queen Kylantha held up a hand, forestalling further argument. “Your opinions have both been made known,” she said firmly, then offered an exasperated smile. “Never has a meeting of the Advisory Council been so heated since I took the throne.”
Panaka narrowed his eyes. “Your Highness, never in the time you’ve sat on the throne has there been danger like this. With the disaster at Endor, the Empire threatens to fragment.”
“All the more reason to join the Rebel Alliance, your highness,” Naberrie chimed in. “The Republic will rise again. It is already happening.”
“What reason do we have to throw in with this lot of killers and thieves?” Panaka asked coldly. “Our beloved Emperor came from this very world. Has Naboo not been well-treated, protected, under the watchful eye of the Empire? Do I need to remind you that each and every outside invasion of Naboo came under the careless rule of the Old Republic?”
“Your point is made, Moff Panaka, thank you,” the queen said wearily. “As is yours, Pooja. I understand why you would align us with the Rebel Alliance, but you ask us to risk much for little gain. You cannot even speak on behalf of the Rebellion – you cannot make promises for them, only advocate. So I ask you both: what do the people want?”
Panaka and Naberrie exchanged looks.
“With the Emperor dead, it is entirely possible I will no longer sit on the throne,” Kylantha said slowly. “This is not a decision to be made in haste. Indeed, it may not be a decision for me to make at all.” She rose from her seat and offered a small nod to the seated Council members. “For now, the Council is in recess.”
She turned and walked with slow grace out of the Council chamber and into the private quarters of the palace. Out of sight, her pace quickened as she attempted to walk off some frustration.
She was so withdrawn into her thoughts that she almost missed the feather-like footsteps of another figure falling into step beside her. Kylantha glanced over and immediately stopped. “Did I not make myself clear when I banished you? You nearly brought disaster upon us once, and I do not wish to repeat the experience.”
The figure pulled back the hood of her cloak, offering a small smile that sparkled in her violet eyes. “It’s a new galaxy, your Highness.”
“Did you come to advocate on behalf of the Rebel Alliance as well, Kelta Rose?”
The red-haired woman shook her head, sending waves through the elaborate braids that fell around her face and down her back. “No, I am not here as an advocate.”
“Then what? Did the Alliance send one of their few Jedi to spy on my court?”
“I’d be an awful spy if I were standing here talking to the woman I’m supposed to gather information on. No, I came here to bring a message from the Rebellion.”
“Ah, the offer that Pooja Naberrie wanted to make but did not have the authority to do.”
Kelta laughed, but this time Kylantha thought she saw a speck of pain in the Jedi woman’s eyes. “No, I was sent with a message only.”
“Then you should deliver it, not make small talk.” The queen offered a small smile in return. “You should not be caught here.”
“Yes, your Highness.” Kelta’s face grew serious. “Alliance High Command has sent many like me throughout the galaxy after their victory at Endor. The message is this: war between the remnants of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance is inevitable. Those who choose to support the Empire will be targets for us – not because we wish any people pain or suffering, but because victory is necessary.”
“I do believe that is a threat, Rose,” Kylantha said stiffly.
“Not a threat, your Highness. A warning that war is coming. You may attempt to keep Naboo out of the war, but neither the Empire nor the Alliance will do the same.”