Obi-Wan could hear the hum of the engines of the republic cruiser as the group made their way to Naboo. Obi-Wan was quite distressed. He'd approached Qui-Gon before they'd taken off concerning the boy. When he told Qui-Gon that he felt the council was right and he was wrong, Qui-Gon had become angry. Now, the two weren't even speaking. Though Obi-Wan still felt the anger, it was small compared to the sorrow he felt at the chasm that had seemed to form between him and his Master. He watched his Master out of the corner of his eye. He was talking with Anakin, showing him things in the ship, explaining more about their mission to him. Anakin listened intently and Qui-Gon seemed to be charmed with him. He seemed to look upon Anakin with the same affection with which he'd often looked on Obi-Wan. He was sorely jealous. He didn't even try to fight it this time. At the Temple, Jedi apprentices are taught to understand themselves and to never deny their true feelings. He didn't need a lesson to help him accept his jealousy: There was no denying it. As he stood there in anguish, another Temple lesson found its way into Obi-Wan's consciousness: Do not let emotions cloud your judgement.* * * * * * * * * *
In her private chambers, Amidala now let her handmaidens see the stoic side of her crumble. She could be strong, but not forever.
"I don't know if I can do it." Amidala whispered. "I have the weight of an entire planet on my shoulders. My actions today could determine the fates of thousands of lives that hang in the balance. How will I make the right decision?" She looked into Rabe's face imploringly.
Rabe knew in her heart that her Queen was stronger than this. The Queen she knew would be storming off the ship and back into the fray in a matter of hours.
"My Queen", Rabe said as she knelt in front of Amidala, "I have only known you for the past year, and in that time, you've become like a sister to me. We elected you Queen. And by that election, we told you that we believe in you. I have no doubt that whatever decisions you make today, they will be selfless and in the best interest of Naboo."
Amidala looked down at the angelic form kneeling in front of her and a teary smile broke across her face. Before she could speak, Sabe entered and, upon seeing her Queen in distress, rushed over and embraced her. Amidala lingered there for a moment, then pulled back from Sabe and looked into her eyes. She could see the fear.
"Don't be brave for me, dear Sabe." Amidala whispered.
"Oh, but I must Your Highness. I would do any..."
"Please" Amidala interrupted her.
The rest of her handmaidens entered now and croweded around her.
"I want you to understand. " Amidala said to Sabe. Then she turned to everyone. " I want you all to understand." She said, her voice rising, steady and assured. "Today will be no ordinary day. The situation on Naboo will be no ordinary situation. It is certain that we will be returning to our planet to find it overrun with the Trade Federation's droid armies."
The thought of this made Amidala's cheeks blaze with fire. It was evident, for behind closed doors, she did not mask herself behind her cool white visage. The overwhelming dread she felt a few minutes ago turned into angered determination.
"You must fight. " She spoke the words almost as a challenge. "Today, think of me not as your Queen, but as your comrade, your ally, and your confidant. Fight beside me."
The handmaidens faces were ablaze with bewilderment. Was she actually asking them to forget their sworn duties, to act as though the Queen were another civilian?
"Your Majesty!" Eirtae said as she fell to her knees.
Amidala rose swifly. She put her hand beneath Eirtae's chin and lifted her face until she looked into her eyes. She could hear the quiet sobs of Yane. She realized that not only had she illegitimized , if only temporarily, their loyal duty, but she'd frightened them. She realized that did they feared for her and also what would rebuke would befall them as well if she were to fall in battle.
"My dear Eirtae." She said gently. "Do not be afraid for me. Today we will be united not as Queen and handmaiden, but as citizens and protectors of Naboo. In the battle that surely will ensue shorty, rank makes no difference."
"But it does, Your Majesty!" Sabe cried. "If anything should happen to you while we were not there to help, we would never forgive ourselves."
Amidala smiled slightly. "And did you not consider the tremendous grief I would feel should one of you fall protecting me when your duties at the moment lied elsewhere?"
The room was completely silent.
Before anyone could speak again, someone gently knocked on the chamber door.
Rabe jumped to answer it, but Amidala waved her back and moved to answer it herself.
When she opened the door, the form of Qui-Gon Jinn filled the entranceway.
"We are approaching Naboo, Your Highness." He spoke in the soft, serious tone he always used.
He tried not to show it, but he was slightly irritated with the youthful queen. Only hours before she'd defied the logical suggestions of himself and Captain Panaka when she insisted on returning to a battle droid -infested Naboo, even when they had no army. Her only reply was that she inteded to "take back what's ours." He still had no idea how she intended to do it.
"I thought you'd want time to prepare yourself for our landing." He said.
"Indeed. Thank you, Master Jedi." she said.
Qui-Gon had never seen her without her regal attire and white mask. Now she wore a wine colored suit with high black boots and a matching overcoat. Her hair was pulled back tightly from her face. She was ready for batte. He saw her more human side now, and in it he saw fear and determination. He immediately gained a little more respect for her.
He bowed respectfully and turned and walked back to the cockpit.
Amidala watched him until he disappeared from sight. Though he did not know it, she had put much faith in the Jedi Master. She was counting on him, possibly more than he knew.
She turned back to her handmaidens, still confused and a little panicked. Still, she could see they understood her.
"We are brave, Your Highness." Sabe said, mirroring the words Amidala had used earlier when they'd escaped from Naboo.
Amidala looked at her, relief showing in her face.
"We will fight beside you, brave Queen." Rabe said, taking Amidala's hand.
Amidala smiled, tears filling her eyes once again.
"Brave, dear, loyal friends, " she started emotionally "I will never be able to thank you enough. Today, together, and as equals, Naboo's people we defend."Chapter Four
From the balcony of his Coruscant retreat, Darth Sidious watched a hologram of his apprentice, Darth Maul. He'd sent Maul earlier to Naboo, where he might engage in battle with the Jedi.
"Have they arrived yet." Sidious said.
"No, my Master. But we have their approaching ship on our scopes. The Nemoidians have no doubt that the droids can protect Theed. Amidala will certainly be killed and her small forces driven back. The Jedi, though, will be left to me."
Sidious smiled to himself. In his mind, there was no doubt that the old man Qui-Gon and that foolish young Padawan would easily fall at the hands of Darth Maul.
He'd never seen a Sith apprentice like Darth Maul: Ruthless, cunning, devoted, and in superb physical condition. He was extremely proud of Maul; he felt it reflected favorable upon his skills as a teacher.
"Good, my apprentice." he said. "And remember..." he said lowering his voice to a hiss "This is the moment we've been waiting for. Your success will send a clear message to all the Jedi: Their time is over. It is our turn now, and the Sith will not be stopped."
Darth Maul smiled. "Indeed we won't. I will strike them down, but not before they get a glimpse of all our terror."
Darth Sidous frowned slightly. He wanted the Jedi punished. He wanted Darth Maul to terrify them, but not to muddle things up.
"Do what you must, Darth Maul, but do not fail me." he emphasized the words.
Darth Maul had complete and utter confidence. "That would be impossible." he said.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Obi-Wan stood in the lush Naboo forest. They were hidden away; for the moment. The party led by Queen Amidala had landed about a half hour ago. The Naboo security officers had gone to try and gather other official. Amidala was consulting with her handmaidens.
Obi-Wan needed time to think. He took a seat on a fallen tree and meditated. He had only begun when Anikan came running up behind him.
"What are you doing over here alone?" he asked, cocking his head to the side.
"I'm just doing some concentration excercises." Obi-Wan forced a small smile. He didn't really bear any personal grudge against Anakin. He was a charming young boy. It was just the whole idea of a new apprentice in the picture that bothered him. Especially one Qui-Gon was so eager to train.
"You seem sad." Anakin said, sitting down on the tree beside him.
Obi-Wan could feel Anakin looking into his mind, peering there to see what he was feeling. It wasn't a deep probe, but he could feel the Force flow from Anikan. Qui-Gon was right: the boy was indeed strong with the Force.
He quickly cleared his mind of everything. "No" he said with a slight laugh. "I'm just concerned with what might happen today. That's all."
Anikan nodded. He looked at Obi-Wan again. "I think Captain Panaka will be back soon. I'm sure Qui-Gon will want you there to help them decide what to do."
Obi-Wan was touched by Anikan's concern. He had sensed Obi-Wan's disinclusion and had made an attempt to make him feel welcome again. Obi-Wan could feel the good around the boy.
"Thank you for the notice, Anikan. I'll be there shortly."
Anikan looked proud. He stood up straight and puffed out his chest.
"You're welcome, Jedi sir." he said. He bowed, an unnecessarily formal gesture for the situation, and ran off into the forest.