Title: Rebel Choice Author: AngelQueen Timeframe: pre-ANH through ANH Characters: Pooja Naberrie, various OCs, minor Bail Organa, Leia, and Palpatine, etc. Genre: Drama, political Keywords: Imperial Senate, politics, rebels Summary: What happened on Imperial Center when the Emperor dissolved the Senate? Notes: I'll be posting parts here around twice a week, hopefully on Mondays and Thursdays, but that depends on how much I am able to work on this due to DRL. I would also like to thank the wonderful JediMasterRev for being such an excellent beta for this story! Prologue "Participating in the Imperial Senate, in those days, was akin to performing in a hideous play. Senators, once regarded as the noble representatives of the people, now played the parts of pitiful, corrupt bureaucrats. If the Emperor, in his wisdom, decreed that a new law should be passed, there was little they would say to stop it. Only a brave, hardy few dared to challenge this farce. Far too many of them lived in fear of losing their ill-gotten fortunes and thus they remained silent. Cowards, the lot of them. "But as time passed and the stirrings of discontent grew louder, the play began a new act. One that would alter the ending the Emperor had already written for us." -From the writings of Pooja Naberrie Lydonia, Senator of Naboo Many regarded Imperial Center as the greatest monument to the Galactic Empire. Though it had taken nearly a decade and a half, the planet was restored to its glory after the end of the chaotic, destructive Clone Wars. Buildings were no longer smashed by debris falling through the atmosphere. The view from the Senators? residence wing in the Imperial Palace was considered beautiful, breath-taking even. Pooja Lydonia, the Senator of the sovereign system of Naboo, considered it unnatural. The multitude of durasteel springing up from the surface, the long stretches of speeders and other transports slipping through the grey skies. It wasn?t pleasant, as all of it stood out sharply in her eyes. She sighed quietly and turned away from the window. Her thoughts always turned maudlin after leaving an Emergency Relief Committee meeting. The Committee?s problem was always the same: there were numerous worlds in need of governmental assistance, but not enough credits available in the Committee?s limited budget. Matters had only been made worse when, earlier in the week, the Emperor and his Senate cronies managed to vote down yet another request to allot more funds to deal with the overwhelming need for aid throughout the Empire. Pooja sank into the chair behind her large desk, shaking her head at the remembrance of those earlier events. The Emperor had dropped any faÃ§ade of caring for the people he ruled over many years before. Perhaps even before her appointment as Senator over eleven years ago. His anti-alien stance had become a normal fixture within Senatorial politics and had taken root within both civilian government officials and officers in the military alike. In Pooja?s view, really, the Empire had become as corrupt as the Republic had been in its final years, and it had not even taken as long. She had followed the politics of the Republic and the Empire since she was a girl, much to the hidden chagrin of the majority of her family. In her years as a student in the Royal Academy, her instructors had emphasized the importance of listening and considering all possibilities before proceeding to form her opinions. Pooja paused, her thoughts reverting back to her family. They had supported her from the beginning, despite their reservations. She could remember when her mother and sister stood at her side as she declared her adoption of the name Lydonia as her name of state. She easily recalled their pride when she had been elected Governor of the Lake Country at the age of twelve and then Princess of Theed two years later. Still, it had not been until Queen Kylantha had asked her to represent Naboo in the Imperial Senate that Pooja became truly acquainted with their real feelings about her career. In all fairness, her elder sister, Ryoo, had been sincere in her congratulations to her. Though Pooja often saw her only sibling as something of an enigma, the abstract, mysterious philosopher, they had always been supportive of one another when it came to the pursuit of their goals. No, Ryoo's reaction had not been shocking. It had been the other, older members of her family that had disturbed her. Grandfather Ruwee, who had always had a kind word of encouragement or a gentle smile ready in the past, said nothing at first. His brown eyes had flashed darkly as he finally offered his own best wishes in a flat, dead tone. After that he remained silent, his expression shadowed and stony. Her mother, Sola, had closed her own eyes and bowed her head for a long moment. In a soft, sad tone, she said that they would all miss her greatly, but if Pooja felt that this was the right path for herself, then nothing any of them had to say would stand in her way for long. At first, Pooja had thought the obvious grief in her mother's countenance had to do with losing another family member. Pooja's father, Darred, had died only a little over a year before of heart problems. Her mother had been devastated, and thus was probably a little reluctant to let one of her children wander so far from home. It had been her grandmother's reaction that had frightened Pooja the most, however. For as nearly as long as Pooja could remember, Jobal Naberrie had been very emotionally fragile. When she was told that her youngest granddaughter would be going to Imperial Center to serve Naboo and the Chommell Sector in the Senate, she did not take the news well at all. Her grandmother had immediately started shaking and soon was screaming wildly that the Senate was going to kill another Naberrie; that Pooja would be dead within a week, a victim of some unknown curse placed upon their family. Grandfather Ruwee and her mother managed to lead the hysterical older woman out of the family sitting room, leaving Pooja to sit there with Ryoo, stunned to the point of speechlessness. In retrospect, Pooja knew she should have expected some sort of explosive reaction. Choosing a career in politics had always brought about mixed emotions within the family, especially given their history. Pooja had few clear memories of her Aunt Padmé, and given that it was something of a taboo to speak of her, she should have known that the family could not have been exactly happy with her news. That miserable day had been over eleven years ago. Grandmother Jobal had died four years later, Grandfather Ruwee following her only seven months after. Pooja's mother had been left as matriarch of the Naberrie family and moved into the home she had been raised in. Ryoo and her new husband, Mydrin, lived in their own home close by. Pooja had made it home for both funerals and after Grandfather Ruwee's, had returned to Theed, unable to bear the stifling, grief-stricken atmosphere of home. The night before she was due to return to Imperial Center, Pooja had quietly put on a dark cloak and slipped past the security checkpoints and into the streets of Theed. She walked the city with no particular destination in mind, but her feet eventually led her to the Street of the Fallen, the place where the greatest Naboo monarchs and public servants were laid to rest. Passing by many monuments with names like Bibble or Apailana inscribed on them, she came to a halt before the grand monument and sarcophagus that had been designed by the finest Naboo and Gungan artisans of the time. The epitaph was simple enough: Fate is cruel to quench a flame so young. Let the fires of justice burn eternally in her name. So few words to give meaning to the life of such a remarkable woman. In the years since her death, Padmé Amidala had been elevated to the hero-status of several ancient monarchs. She was held up as the equal of people like Queen Carii, who had defeated an invasion of off-worlders early in her life and then had gone on to negotiate Naboo's entrance into the then-fledging Galactic Republic. Pooja had remained at the tomb for several hours, even though she was not entirely certain why she had gone there. Her aunt was dead, along her unborn child. Only her memory and her many deeds could speak now. A series of beeps drew her out of her thoughts, and Pooja's gaze falling onto the control panel inlaid into her desk. The intercom channel had been activated in her reception area. Pressing the correct switch, Pooja asked briskly, "Yes?" "Milady," came the voice of her chief handmaiden, Niaé, "Senator Organa is here, requesting to speak with you immediately." "Of course," she acknowledged. "Let her in." Pooja straightened in her chair, unconsciously smoothing her gown with one hand. After only a few seconds, the door slid open, revealing Niaé, with both her form and face hidden by her somber blue cloak. She slipped silently across the room and came to a halt directly behind Pooja. Entering after Niaé was the Senator and Princess of Alderaan, Leia Organa, accompanied only by her bodyguard and personal aide. She no longer wore the green Senatorial gown she had donned during the Committee meeting, but rather, a simple white traveling gown with her thick brown hair wound into two buns on either side of her head. Apparently, it was a popular style among Alderaan's noblewomen. Inwardly, Pooja couldn't help but shake her head at the hairstyle of her colleague. It looked ridiculous. Naboo women had sported a similar hairstyle nearly twenty years before, but it had been much more smooth and graceful, having often been adjusted to conform to the shape of the wearer's head. No such allowances had been made for the Alderanni version. Quickly shrugging off her inane thoughts, Pooja eyed the younger woman. She had known Bail Organa ever since she had been named Senator. He had been Chairman of the Emergency Relief Committee and had inducted her into it. Over those ten years of serving together, he had become a trusted friend and mentor, one of the few people within the Senate that she had been able to trust. When Bail had announced his intention to resign as Senator and appoint Leia to take his place, Pooja had been wary of the idea. Though the girl was the same age Pooja had been when she took the position of Senator, the princess had no true political experience. She had only been instructed by tutors. Pooja, by the age of sixteen, had served two political terms on Naboo, one as Governor of the Lake Country and one as Princess of Theed. In the year since, however, Leia Organa had taken on the burdens and duties of an Imperial Senator, she had proven herself to have the same shrewd sense and passion of her father, both of which made her an excellent politician. "Senator Organa," Pooja greeted formally, bowing her head slightly. She gestured with her hand towards the chairs in front of her desk. "Please, take a seat." Leia bowed respectfully and replied, "Thank you, Senator Lydonia, but I cannot linger long." She paused and glanced about warily, then asked in a low tone, "Is this room secure?" Immediately on guard, Pooja nodded. "My Head of Security has a team that does constant sweeps of my office. You may speak as freely as you wish." "Good. I am leaving Imperial Center in less than an hour." Pooja frowned in concern. The Senate remained in session for six months out of each year and during that time, the Senators very rarely left Imperial Center. Only a grave emergency could or would compel them to depart. She inhaled sharply. Could something have happened to Bail? Leia continued to speak, unaware of Pooja's growing apprehension. "I've received word from a confidential source on a matter that will be of great concern to the Senate. I am going to retrieve the information and then I will travel to Alderaan to meet with my father. We will then both return here to meet with the Senate." Pooja considered Leia's words, her initial relief fading quickly. She was nearly certain that the younger woman was involved with the growing Rebel Alliance. Leia's convictions against the growing corruption and injustice within the Empire as well as her ideal longing for the greatness of the Old Republic would demand nothing less from her. Truly, she was her father's daughter. Along with the rest of the Imperial government, the Senate officially condemned the "terrorists" that had chosen to rebel against the Emperor's rule. Still, Pooja was no fool. She had been in politics long enough to deduce that a sizable number of the Senators were secretly involved in supporting the Rebels, or at least had Rebel sympathies. Pooja counted herself within the latter group. She understood the Rebels' aims, and even agreed with much of what they were saying. For all that she identified with the ideals of the Rebellion, though, her first concern had to be the welfare of the Naboo. She would do nothing to jepordize that. Hesitantly, Pooja asked, "Leia, is it wise that you go personally? Whatever this information is, it must be important. No doubt there will be attempts to keep it from the attention of the Senate and the people. It could be dangerous, both for you and for Alderaan." Leia met her gaze steadily, and with determination. "That is why I must go myself. This is too sensitive to entrust to anyone else." She bowed again and turned to leave, but then stopped. Pooja watched her warily, waiting. "Pooja," she said quietly, no longer meeting her gaze, "Be careful. Something is going on… something big. And it gives me a bad feeling. Be ready." Within seconds, she was gone, her aide and bodyguard with her. Pooja kept her eyes on the door, even long after it had slid shut. Pooja had learned over the past year that Leia Organa's instincts served her well and they were usually correct, to one degree or another. If she felt something was going on, then she would heed her warnings. "Niaé," she said aloud. "Yes, milady?" "Summon Captain Peoly and the others. I have new tasks to assign to each of you," Pooja ordered as she rose up from her chair. "Meet me in my sitting room." As she moved to leave her office, she could feel Niaé's gaze on her, eyeing her from within the confines of her hood. But she did not question her and replied only, "As you wish, milady."