Murder in the Old Republic

By Giles

Scifi / Mystery

Chapter 1

MURDER IN THE OLD REPUBLIC

Peace at last! After five long years the Galactic Republic has seen off the Mandalorian invaders, but at a terrible price. An entire generation is lost, countless young Jedi among them.

The Galactic Senate, divided on how best to rebuild, is riven with rival factions. Senators are turning up dead in the most mysterious circumstances, and now even the Supreme Chancellor is missing.

On the capital world of Coruscant, General Jaso Corona, hero of the Mandalorian Wars, arrives at the Republic Senate with his friends, in the vain hope of securing the fragile peace...


PROLOGUE

General Jaso Corona swept into the chamber of the Galactic Senate, an entourage of soldiers and senators swarming around him like flies. Although his hair was greying at the front, the general was a handsome man, if a little battle-scarred. He had the natural authority and bearing of a military man, and senators soon scuttled out of his way as he strode towards the Supreme Chancellor's podium.

The chamber, a large, echoing hall with giant columns of Selonian marble around the edges, supporting the public gallery, was a throwback to ancient times. Long wooden benches, said to be carved from a single wroshyr tree, formed a semi-circle around the chancellor's chair, a throne of Gallian firestone. The chamber was loosely based on the design of the old Senate Hall chamber, deliberately recalling it without copying it exactly: it was smaller, with wooden benches instead of stone, and a smaller, less ornate podium at its heart. And there was not one bit of modern technology in sight.

The chancellor himself was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Senator Janus sat on his throne, busy politicking. When he saw General Corona approaching, he stopped talking, but the general changed course at the last minute, making his way over to the nearest benches with his entourage.

"Janus is clearly pleased to see you," Senator Organa whispered, sarcastically, in the general's ear. General Corona glanced across the chamber, saw the Senator glaring back at him, and smiled.

Senator Janus was ten years younger than the general, but did not look it. "He's going to be a lot less pleased later," the general retorted, smiling.

The senator from Alderaan stared at his friend for a moment, confused, before his eyes lit up. "You're making the announcement today?" he asked.

The general smiled enigmatically, however, and said nothing. His eyes suddenly alighted on a figure in the doorway, silhouetted against the light outside the chamber. General Corona rose to his feet, a broad grin on his face.

"Jaso!" called the figure, stepping into the chamber. The general strode across the hall and embraced one of his oldest friends, Senator Kype Quinn, a tall man with long, flowing hair and boyish good looks.

"Junior," shouted the General, laughing and slapping his friend on the back. "It's been too long." His friend smiled too, though few others could have got away with addressing him like that.

The senator from Alderaan joined them, with the rest of the general's entourage. "Today's the day," Organa whispered excitedly, nudging Senator Quinn's elbow as he spoke.

"Really?" Quinn asked his friend. They had only just finished hugging each other, but Quinn at once seized the old soldier's hand and shook it. The senator appeared almost as excited as his colleague. "He won't know what hit him," he added, glancing across the chamber at Senator Janus and then at his friend, and laughing.

There came a loud cough from behind the general. Jaso Corona turned round, to find two Onderonians standing behind him: two brothers, Pavel and Kit Cascara.

"Senator Cascara," Corona said, politely enough, though as he spoke he turned his back on the brothers for a moment, facing his friends, and rolled his eyes. "And what can I do for you?" he asked, turning to face the brothers again.

One of the brothers held a scroll, a parchment, which the senators still used to conduct their affairs in the House. It appeared that the senator from Onderon wanted to talk business, but his words made no sense, and the general had twice to ask him to speak up because he could not hear the man over the din of the chamber, which was starting to fill. The senator's voice, however, kept getting quieter and quieter.

As he strained to hear the Onderonian's words, Corona felt a hand on his shoulder, none too gentle. "What is this?" he asked angrily, turning round again to see one of Senator Organa's allies with a dirty great hand on his shoulder.

All of a sudden, he heard a scroll bounce on the floor behind him, and felt a sharp pain in the nape of his neck. Instinctively he turned to face the Cascara brothers. He felt the back of his neck with the palm of his hand, glanced at his hand and gasped. There was blood on it, though not too much. The general stared Senator Cascara furiously. The senator was holding a makeshift blade, a shiv, in his hand, but the weapon went limp as soon as the general turned to face him. "Help me, Kit," he whispered to his brother, though little more than air came out of his mouth.

At that moment, Corona felt a searing pain in his back, far more intense than the first. Turning round again, he saw another of the other senators holding a bloodied blade in his hand. Senator Organa was holding a weapon too, but dropped it when Corona turned to face him.

The general felt another knife in his back, that of the other Cascara brother, and another. He reached out to his friend, Kype Quinn, who was standing nearby, watching. "Help me, Kype," he mouthed, but then, to his horror, he saw that his friend was holding a blade too. "Not you," he began to say, but as he opened his mouth to speak his friend drove the shiv deep into his body, the first blow from the front.

General Corona stared into his friend's eyes for a moment. Blood ran down the blade onto his friend's hands. Corona fell to his knees, a trickle of black blood, darker than before, oozing from his belly. The very last sight that the general saw, as he lay gasping on the floor, was that of his rival, Senator Janus, standing open-mouthed on the far side of the room, as agents from the Republic Strategic Information Service tried to drag him into the Senate Library.

At this point, other senators closed in on the hero, a small crowd, and started to stab him furiously, without mercy, and long after he was dead.

The general's friends had waited until the session was about to begin to strike. Many senators did not realise what was happening until Quinn leaped onto the chancellor's chair, hands dripping with his friend's blood, and screamed: "We saved the Republic today," at which point the rest of the senators also started to scream and streamed out of the chamber, fleeing for their lives.

Senator Quinn, Organa and the Cascara brothers pursued them onto the steps of the chambers, where they stood, holding the bloody weapons aloft.

"To the Temple", Quinn bellowed, pointing to the roof of the Jedi Temple in the distance.

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