,()()()!


into view. Aryn could not have missed it. Its lights glowed like a galaxy.

One of the larger structures on the planet, the spaceport was really a series of interconnected structures that straddled fifty square kilometers. The main hub of the port was a series of tiered, concentric arms that twisted around a core of mostly transparisteel, which locals called the bubble. It was very much a self-contained city, with its own hotels, restaurants, medical facilities, and security forces.

From above, Aryn knew, the spaceport looked similar to a spiral-armed galaxy. It could dock several hundred ships at a time, from large superfreighters on the lower-level cargo platforms to single-being craft on the upper platforms. A tower for planetary control stuck out of the top of the bubble like a fat antenna.

Due to the late hour, most of the upper docking platforms were dark, but the lower levels were bright and busy with activity. As Aryn watched, a large cargo freighter descended toward one of the lower platforms, while two others began their slow ascent out of dock and into the atmosphere. Shipping firms often did much of their work at night, when in-atmosphere traffic was reduced.

Watching it all, Aryn was once more struck with the oddity of the fact that life for everyone else in the galaxy went on as it had, while the Republic itself was in grave danger. She wanted desperately to scream at all of them: What do you think is going to happen next!

But instead she kept it inside, an emotional pressure that she thought must soon pop an artery.

Dozens of speeders, swoops, and loader droids flew, buzzed, crawled, and rolled along the ports many docks and in the air around the landing platforms. Automated cranes lifted the huge shipping containers carried in the bays
  






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