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Cloak of Deception (Star Wars)

Cloak of Deception (Star Wars) Cover




The four walls of Finis Valorum's office, at the summit of the

governmental district's stateliest if not most statuesque edifice, were

made of transparisteel, paneled by structural members into a continuous

band of regular and inverted triangles.

The city-planet that was Coruscant--"Scintillant Orb," "Jewel of the

Core," choked heart of the Galactic Republic--spread to all sides in a

welter of lustrous domes, knife-edged spires, and terraced

superstructures that climbed to the sky. The taller buil-ings resembled

outsize rocketships that had never left their launch pads, or the

wind-eroded lava tors of long-dead volcanoes. Some of the domes were

flattened hemispheres perched on cylindrical bases, while others had the

look of shallow, hand-thrown ceramic bowls with finialed lids.

Striations of magnetically guided sky traffic moved swiftly above the

cityscape--streams of transports, air buses, taxis, and limousines,

coursing between the tall spires and over the mesureless chasms like

schools of exotic fish. Instead of feeding, however, they were the

feeders, distributing the galaxy's wealth among the greedy trillion to

whom Coruscant was home.

As often as Valorum had beheld the view--which was to say, nearly every

day of his now seven years as Supreme Chancellor of the Republic--he had

yet to grow indifferent to the spectacle of Coruscant. As worlds went,

it was neither large nor especially rugged, but history had transformed

it into a uniquely vertical place, a vertical experience more common to

ocean than atmospheric life.

Valorum's principal office was located in the lower level of the

Galactic Senate dome, but he was generally so swamped by requests and

business there that he reserved this lofty perch for meetings of a more

private nature.

Pale hands clasped at his back, he stood at the bank of transparisteel

windows that faced the dawn, though daybreak was hours behind him. He

wore a magenta tunic that was high-collared and double-breasted, with

matching trousers and a wide cummerbund. Southern light, polarized by

the transparisteel panels, flooded the room. But Valorum's sole guest

had taken a seat well out of the light's reach.

"I fear, Supreme Chancellor, that we face a monumental challenge,"

Senator Palpatine was saying from the shadows. "Frayed at its far-flung

borders and hollowed at its very heart by corruption, the Republic is in

grave danger of unraveling. Order is needed, directives that will

restore balance. Even the most desperate remedies should not be


Although such opinions had become the common sentiment, Palpatine's

words pierced Valorum like a sword. The fact that he knew them to be

true made them all the more difficult to hear. He turned his back to the

view and returned to his desk, where he sat heavily into his padded


Aging with distinction, Valorum had a receding cap of shorn silver hair,

pouches under piercing blue eyes, and dark, bushy brows. His stern

features and deep voice belied a compassionate spirit and questing

intellect. But as the latest in the line of a po-litical dynasty that

stretched back thousands of years--a dynasty many thought weakened by its

uncommon longevity--he had never been fully successful at overcoming an

innate patrician aloofness.

"Where have we gone wrong?" he asked in a firm but sad voice. "How did

we manage to miss the portents along the way?"

Palpatine showed him an understanding look. "The fault is not in

ourselves, Supreme Chancellor. The fault lies in the out-lying star

systems, and the civil strife iniquity has engendered there." His voice

was carefully modulated, occasionally world-weary, seemingly immune to

anger or alarm. "This most recent situation at Dorvalla, for example."

Valorum nodded soberly. "The Judicial Department has re-quested that I

meet with them later today, so they can brief me on the latest


"Perhaps I could save you the trouble, Supreme Chancellor. As least in

terms of what I've been hearing in the senate." "Rumor or facts?"

"A bit of both, I suspect. The senate is filled with delegates who

interpret matters as they will, regardless of facts." Palpatine paused,

as if to gather his thoughts.

Prominent in a kind if somewhat doughy face were his heavy-lidded,

watery blue eyes and rudder of a nose. Red hair that had lost its youth

he wore in the provincial style of the outlying systems: combed back

from his high forehead but left thick and long behind his low-set ears.

In dress, too, he demonstrated singular allegiance to his home system,

favoring embroidered tunics with V-shaped double collars and outmoded

cloaks of quilted fabric.

A sectorial senator representing the outlying world of Na-boo, along

with thirty-six other inhabited planets, Palpatine had earned a

reputation for integrity and frankness that had set him high in the

hearts of many of his senatorial peers. As he had made clear to Valorum

in numerous meetings, both public and private, he was more interested in

doing whatever needed to be done than in blind obedience to the rules

and regulations that had made the senate such a tangle of procedures.

"As the Judicial Department is certain to tell you," he began at last,

"the mercenaries who assaulted and destroyed the Trade Federation vessel

Revenue were in the employ of the Nebula Front terrorist group. It seems

likely that they gained access to the freighter with the complicity of

dockworkers at Dorvalla. How the Nebula Front learned that the freighter

was carrying a fortune in aurodium ingots has yet to be established. But

clearly the Nebula Front planned to use the aurodium to finance

additional acts of terrorism directed against the Trade Federation, and

perhaps against Republic colonies in the Outer Rim."

"Planned?" Valorum said.

"All indications are that Captain Cohl and his team of assassins

perished in the explosion that destroyed the Revenue. But the incident

has had wide-ranging repercussions, nevertheless."

"I'm well aware of some of those," Valorum said, with a note of disgust.

"As a result of continuing raids and harassment, the Trade Federation

plans to demand Republic intervention, or, failing that, senate approval

to further augment their droid contingent."

Palpatine made his lips a thin line and nodded. "I must confess, Supreme

Chancellor, that my first instinct was to refuse their requests out of

hand. The Trade Federation is already too powerful--in wealth and in

military might. However, I've since reassessed my position."

Valorum regarded him with interest. "I'd appreciate hearing your


"Well, to begin with, the Trade Federation is made up of entrepreneurs,

not warriors. The Neimoidians, especially, are cowards in any theater

other than commerce. So granting them permission to enlarge their droid

defenses--slightly, at any rate-- doesn't concern me unduly. More

important, there may be some advantage to doing so."

Valorum interlocked his fingers and leaned forward. "What possible


Palpatine took a breath. "In exchange for honoring their re-quests for

intervention and additional defenses, the senate would be in a position

to demand that all trade in the outlying systems would henceforth be

subject to Republic taxation." Valorum sat back in his chair, clearly

disappointed. "We've been through all this before, Senator. You and I

both know that a majority of the senate has no interest in what happens

in the outer systems, much less in the free trade zones. But they do

care about what happens to the Trade Federation."

"Yes, because the shimmersilk pockets of many a senatorial robe are

being lined with graft from the Neimoidians." Valorum snorted.

"Self-indulgence is the order of the day." "Undeniably so, Supreme

Chancellor," Palpatine said tolerantly. "But that, in itself, is no

reason to allow the practice to continue."

"Of course not," Valorum said. "For both my terms of office I have

sought to end the corruption that plagues the senate, and to unravel the

knot of policies and procedures that thwart us. We enact legislation,

only to find that we cannot implement it. The committees proliferate

like viruses, without leadership. No fewer than twenty committees are

needed just to determine the decor of the senate corridors.

"The Trade Federation has prospered by taking advantage of the very

bureaucracy we've created. Grievances brought against the Federation

languish in the courts, while commissions belabor each and every aspect.

It's little wonder that Dorvalla and many of the worlds along the Rimma

Trade Route support terrorist groups like the Nebula Front.

"But taxation isn't likely to solve anything. In fact, such a move could

prompt the Trade Federation to abandon the outlying systems entirely, in

favor of more lucrative markets closer to the Core."

"Thus depriving Coruscant and its neighbors of important outer system

resources and luxury goods," Palpatine interjected, seemingly by rote.

"Certainly the Neimoidians will see taxation as a betrayal, if for no

other reason than the Trade Federation blazed many of the hyperspace

routes that link the Core to the outlying systems. Regardless, this

could be the opportunity many of us have waited for--the chance to

exercise senate control over those very trade routes."

Valorum mulled it over briefly. "It could be political suicide."

"Oh, I'm well aware of that, Supreme Chancellor. Proponents of taxation

would suffer merciless attacks from the Commerce Guild, the Techno

Union, and the rest of the shipping conglomerates awarded franchises to

operate in the free trade zones. But it is the appropriate measure."

Valorum shook his head slowly, then got to his feet and moved to the

windows. "Nothing would cheer me more than getting the upper hand on the

Trade Federation."

"Then now is the time to act," Palpatine said.

Valorum kept his gaze fixed on the distant towers. "I could count on

your support?"

Palpatine rose and joined him at the view.

"Let me be frank about that. My position as representative of an

outlying sector places me in an awkward situation. Make no mistake about

it, Supreme Chancellor, I stand with you in advocating central control

and taxation. But Naboo and other outlying systems will undoubtedly be

forced to assume the bur-den of taxation by paying more for Trade

Federation services." He paused briefly. "I would be compelled to act

with utmost circumspection."

Valorum merely nodded.

"That much said," Palpatine was quick to add, "rest assured that I would

do all in my power to rally senate support for taxation."

Valorum turned slightly in Palpatine's direction and smiled lightly. "As

always, I'm grateful for your counsel, Senator. Particularly now, what

with troubles erupting in your home system."

Palpatine sighed with purpose. "Sadly, King Veruna finds himself

enmeshed in a scandal. While he and I have never seen eye to eye with

regard to expanding Naboo's influence in the Republic, I am concerned

for him, for his predicament has not only cast a pall over Naboo, but

also over many neighboring worlds."

Valorum clasped his hands behind his back and paced to the center of the

spacious room. When he swung to face Palpatine, his expression made

clear that his thoughts had returned to issues of wider concern.

"Is it conceivable that the Trade Federation would accept taxation in

exchange for a loosening of the defense restraints we have placed them


Palpatine steepled his long fingers and brought them to his chin.

"Merchandise--of whatever nature--is precious to the Neimoidians. The

continuing assaults on their vessels by pirates and terrorists have made

them desperate. They will rail against taxation, but in the end they

will tolerate it. Our only other option would be to take direct action

against the groups that are harassing them, and I know that you're

opposed to doing that."

Valorum confirmed it with a determined nod. "The Republic hasn't had a

standing military in generations, and I certainly won't be the person to

reinstate one. Coruscant must remain a place where groups can come

together to find peaceful solutions to conflicts."

He took a breath. "A better course would be to allow the Trade

Federation adequate protection to defend itself against acts of

terrorism. After all, the Judicial Department can't very well suggest

the Jedi dedicate themselves to solving the Neimoidians' problems."

"No," Palpatine said. "The judicials and the Jedi Knights have more

important matters to attend to than keeping the space lanes safe for


"At least some constants remain," Valorum mused. "Just think where we

might be without the Jedi."

"I can only imagine."

Valorum advanced a few steps and laid his hands on Palpatine's

shoulders. "You're a good friend, Senator."

Palpatine returned the gesture. "My interests are the interests of the

Republic, Supreme Chancellor."

Product Details

Luceno, James
New York
Science fiction
Science Fiction - Adventure
Science Fiction - Star Wars
Star Wars fiction
Science / Adventure
Science / Space Opera
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Random House Hardcover
Star Wars (Random House Hardcover)
Series Volume:
no. 5
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.50x6.50x1.10 in. 1.39 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Adventure
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Film, Television, and Media Tie Ins
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Star Wars

Cloak of Deception (Star Wars)
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Product details 352 pages Del Rey Books - English 9780345442987 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In this prequel to the entire "Star Wars" saga, bestselling author Luceno goes back in time to just before the events of "The Phantom Menace". He tackles the truth behind Chancellor Valorum's fall from power in an adventure with enigmatic Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
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