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Untitled Document

Oasis Begins In Dawn's Azure Light Aisle.

Episode I: Azure and Gold

so blue, 't was a dream,
An impossible, unconceived hue,
The high sky of summer dropped down
Some rapturous ocean to woo.

Azure & Gold by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
From A Dome of Many Colored Glass.

Part 7: Core Passage.

Later, during the night watch, in her handmaiden garb of orange and yellow, Padmé entered the common room to access a communications port. She had heard the transmission once already, and the second viewing, with the addition of Governor Bibble's worry worn face as he appealed for her to contact him did nothing to assuage her fears. She knew the message was a trap which had traced their position, resulting in the strange being who battled with Qui-Gon, but there was still a part of her which believed the message's deception. After all, her planet was suffering under an invasion force, her people moved to camps, their supplies monitored and controlled. Largely a pacifist race, most Naboo were strangers to such hardships and would likely fear the invaders.

With a sigh Padmé reached out and pressed a button, ending the playback. It was pointless to dwell on such matters when she could do nothing yet to change them. Such logic however did not help to assuage her fears or concerns. Or quiet the voice inside her which argued that she should have remained with her people rather than deciding to appeal to the Senate, who would doubtless debate and delay matters, until the damage to her world was beyond repair. But what could she have done? Only an army could stop an invasion force and they had none. Not even the Jedi, despite the universal legends which made their reputation, could fight for her and win against such a mass of enemy.

Speaking of Jedi... she felt a warmth slowly wash over her as two arms embraced her from behind, wrapping themselves around her waist. Padmé let herself lean against him, surrendering to the comfort he offered through the Force and through himself, knowing that once they reached Coruscant there would be no more time for such closeness. A thought suddenly occurred to her. If the Senate refused to help, the Jedi would be obliged to withdraw theirs and she would never see Obi-Wan again.

"Don't despair, Padmé," he murmured softly, his clipped Coruscanti accent warm against her ear. "The future is always uncertain and changeable. Who knows what it may hold for us."

"Is that supposed to be comforting?" She asked in a light tone, erasing any sting in the query.

"Jedi wisdom takes years to understand and even longer to accept," Obi-Wan returned. "And a lifetime to learn," he added.

"Qui-Gon said you'll be a fine Jedi," Padmé remarked. "Whom it was an honour to train."

"High praise from him," Obi-Wan murmured, touched despite himself. "Did he say anything else?"

"He promised to tell you himself how highly he thinks of you before we reach Coruscant," Padmé replied. "And he cautioned the two of us against acting on our feelings while you're still a Padawan and I'm fourteen."

Obi-Wan stilled as he recalled her youth and the knowledge that his master knew. "I think I'll be having an interesting conversation with my Master soon."

"He offered a silent blessing," Padmé added. "No objection to realising our feelings for each other."

Obi-Wan smiled at that. "This is the one thing on which Qui-Gon and I think alike. He sees the Code as merely a set of guidelines with which to live the path by. If the Force tells him something different he obeys it."

"And you?" Padmé asked.

"I tend to follow it more strictly," Obi-Wan replied. "Masters have more independence than Padawans. I obey the Code in every respect except attachment, for I believe the Jedi doctrine contradicts completely avoiding emotion. But I don't openly rebel, not without cause, I have to have the Council's approval for my trials. And I feel I have to keep myself in check, so Qui-Gon is more cautious too, although such methods rarely work."

"It must put you in a difficult position when he does something they disapprove of," Padmé said.

"Frequently," he revealed, before sobering. "Padmé, if the Senate refuses, the Jedi will still help." A hand left her waist to caress her face. "You must not loose hope."

She met his intense blue grey gaze, then turned away before either of them could surrender to desires far more mature than them. To discover Anakin watching them from the end of the room, his small form curled up on the soft furnishing of the booth which half surrounded a circular table.

"Are you alright?" Padmé asked.

"It's very cold," he replied.

Immediately they were by him, Obi-Wan taking the brown Jedi cloak from himself to wrap over the boy, while Padmé placed an orange red blanket over his small shivering form.

"You come from a warm planet, Ani," she remarked comfortingly. "A little too warm for my tastes. Space is cold."

"You seem sad," Anakin said as he looked at them.

"The Queen is worried," Padmé replied. "Her people are suffering and dying. She must convince the Senate to intervene or else...." she let the sentence trail off, the ending already clear to the boy.

"And you?" He asked Obi-Wan.

"I am worried for the same things as Padmé," Obi-Wan replied. "And about the being who fought with Qui-Gon. His presence makes the future clouded and uncertain, even for a Jedi."

"I'm not sure what's going to happen to me either," Anakin confessed. "I don't know if I'll ever see you again," he added to Padmé, before reaching into his pocket and drawing out a small craved piece of wood. "I made this for you. So you'll remember me. I craved it out a Japor snippet. It will bring you good fortune."

"It's beautiful," Padmé murmured as she took it from him. "But I don't need this to remember you by."

Anakin glanced from her to Obi-Wan, causing her to recall what he had said to her in Watto's shop. Aside from calling her an angel, he had declared that he would marry her. The sentence had both amused and startled her, for he had said it in a tone of such conviction, almost as if he had travelled to the future and seen such an event taking place.

"Many things will change when we reach the capital, Ani," she said softly, "but my caring for you will remain."

"I care for you too," he said, "only I miss...." he swallowed a sob.

"You miss your mother," Padmé finished for he could not.

Anakin nodded, allowing his tears to escape and causing Obi-Wan to wish that they had managed to free Shmi too.

"Your feelings do you credit, Ani," he said, turning the boy's gaze to him. "But you must learn not to give them power over yourself, else they could be used against you."

Anakin nodded and they stayed with him, comforting him with their presence until he fell asleep.

Qui-Gon was meditating when Obi-Wan returned to their quarters. After seeing Padmé to hers, he had retrieved the ship's sensor logs concerning the lightsaber skirmish, both for the report to the Jedi Council and for himself to study anew. Seeing his Master's pose however, caused him to slip the recording into his pocket and fall gracefully to his seat to mirror the motion. As he sank into the Force, he touched the training bond he held with him, detecting the light healing trance his Master had placed on himself. Sinking deeper, Obi-Wan tried to find the source of the mortal disease which was slowly killing his Master. It was a search he performed regularly, each time without success. He believed or rather hoped, that if he found the source he could heal his Master. But he never even came close to discovering which part of Qui-Gon's body was struck with the illness first. The damage and rate of decay never varied wherever he looked.

Qui-Gon opened his eyes. "It is the will of the Force, Obi-Wan," he said softly.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied, though in a tone which indicated that he was not prepared to concede that such was the case.

His Master sighed, for the disagreement was an old one, ever since the Temple physicians concluded that they could do nothing but delay the onset of his disease. "How is it, Padawan mine, that you have such faith in the Force to give it's blessing on your feelings for Padmé, yet you do not believe it when it comes to my fate?"

Obi-Wan blushed at this, then had the humility to look chagrined. Qui-Gon was right. He was treating the Force selfishly, emotionally, not with humility or compassion or logic or reverence as a true servant should. "I'm sorry, Master," he uttered, bowing his head in shame.

It was rare that he had to admonish his self-effacing Padawan on arrogance and Qui-Gon did not like doing it, knowing the damage it often did to his self-esteem. Rising from his seat he walked over to Obi-Wan and placed an arm round his shoulders. "Your feelings do you credit, Obi-Wan," he said, unconsciously repeating the words his Padawan had said to Anakin only minutes ago. "And you are right to believe them regarding Padmé."

He looked up at that. "I am?"

Qui-Gon nodded. "It has been an honour to have you as my Padawan, Obi-Wan. I have taught you all I can about the ways of the Force. Indeed there are times when your understanding of it surpasses mine. At the end of this mission I shall be recommending you for the Trials. Earlier if the Council reacts the way I expect them to concerning Anakin."

Obi-Wan went from pleased to concerned in the space of seconds. "You really believe Anakin is the Chosen One?"

"Yes, Obi-Wan, I do," Qui-Gon replied. "Did you not think so when you spent time with him?"

Obi-Wan wondered how best to reply without disappointing his Master who rarely gave such compliments or words of praise as he had just now. "He's a special boy who is very strong in the Force," he finally allowed.

Before Qui-Gon had too much time to examine his apprentice's answer, the com beeped, signalling that they were arriving at Coruscant. Master and Padawan rose from their seats and went to the cockpit.

Part 8: Test Politic.

The Nubian craft settled gracefully on to the landing dock where Chancellor Valorum's shuttle was waiting. Followed by the Queen and her Handmaidens, the Jedi along with Anakin and Jar Jar disembarked from the ship to meet the two men clothed in the dress of the Republican Senate who were waiting for them, along with a contingent of guards who served as security escorts.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan bowed before Senator Palpatine and Chancellor Valorum then stepped aside to allow the politicians to return the gesture to the Queen.

"It's a great relief to see you alive and well, Your Majesty," Senator Palpatine greeted her, smiling. "May I present Supreme Chancellor Valorum."

"Welcome, Your Highness," Valorum said. "It is an honour to finally meet you in person. I must relay to you how distressed everyone is over the current situation on Naboo. I have called for a special session of the Senate so you may present your request for relief."

"I am grateful for your concern, Chancellor," the Queen replied quietly.

Senator Palpatine led his sovereign, her security chief and her cadre of Handmaidens to the shuttle. "There is a question of procedure but I feel confident we can overcome it," he said as they walked away.

In her handmaiden robes Padmé spared one last glance at the Jedi before urging Anakin to join them on the shuttle.

When they had arrived at the Senator's office, Padmé shed her disguise and changed into the robes of her true position. She joined the Senator and Captain Panaka in the office.

"The Republic is not what it once was," Palpatine said, almost apologising for such judgement. "The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates who are only looking out for themselves and their home systems. There is no interest in the common good, no civility, only politics." He sighed as though weary of his role. "It is disgusting. I must be frank, Your Majesty. There is little chance the Senate will act on the invasion."

Padmé frowned inwardly, the makeup of her elaborate dress hiding any physical display. "Chancellor Valorum seems to think there is hope," she said, recalling Sabé's conversation with him after he had finished speaking with the Jedi and escorted her to Palpatine's office. Sabé had been very impressed by his deep concern and determination to help, secretly sending the Jedi to rescue her sovereign so she could make her case.

"If I may say so, Your Majesty," Senator Palpatine replied, "the Chancellor has little real power. He is mired in baseless accusations of corruption. A manufactured scandal surrounds him. The bureaucrats are in charge now."

"What options do we have?" Padmé asked.

"Our best choice would be to push for the election of a stronger Supreme Chancellor, one who could take control of the bureaucrats, enforce the laws, and give us justice," Palpatine replied. "You could call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum."

"He has been our strongest supporter," Padmé said in shock. "Is there no other way?"

"Our only other choice is to submit the matter to the Courts," Palpatine answered.

"There is no time for that," Padmé replied, her temper rising. "The courts take even longer to decide than the Senate. Our people are dying, Senator. We must do something quickly before it gets any worse."

Palpatine gave her a hard look. "To be realistic, Your Highness, I believe we are going to have to accept the Trade Federation control as an accomplished fact. For the time being, at least."

Padmé shook her head. "That is something I cannot do." It seemed as if her suspicions concerning the worth of this journey would prove to be true. A part of her questioned as to why she should even bother trying to appeal to the Senate if she was so certain what their response would be. She remembered what Obi-Wan had said about the Force; how to hear it speaking by learning to quiet your mind. That was what she felt now; a voice inside her, telling her that she must appear before the Senate, whether the outcome bore her people good or ill. The suffering of her world would be made known to the Republic, and who knows, perhaps their conscience would be awakened into reform and action, putting aside corruption and bureaucracy in favour of the common good.

At the Jedi Temple, in the one area of the core not dedicated to commerce or politics, another special session of Council had been called, before whom Qui-Gon delivered his briefing of the mission while his Padawan stood silently beside him, to observe and learn. His part in the mission was recounted by his Master, who dealt the appearance of his illness no more than moment's pause, conveying the impression that it was nothing more than a minor hindrance to an otherwise eventful journey from Naboo. Despite their numerous times of contention with his unorthodox methods, the Council still held a healthy respect for Qui-Gon, which was displayed by their silence on the illness as well, dealing it the same amount of attention Qui-Gon had. But when his Master reached the conclusion of his report, his judgement that the being he faced in combat was a Sith Lord, respect gave way to incredulity.

"A Sith Lord!?!" Master Mace Windu all but growled.

"Impossible!" Master Ki-Adi-Mundi added. "The Sith have been extinct for a millennia."

"Threatened the Republic is if the Sith are involved," Yoda murmured gravely, the one voice in the Council who did not doubt the veracity of Qui-Gon's claim.

The Korun Master calmed in the face of his fellow Councillor's acceptance. "I do not believe the Sith could have returned without our knowledge," he said however, his opinion still unchanged.

"Hard to see, the dark side is," Yoda half reminded all present. "Discover who this assassin is, we must."

Ki-Adi-Mundi nodded in agreement. "Perhaps he will reveal himself again."

"This attack was with purpose," Master Windu added, "that is much is clear. The Queen must be his target. He will try again."

Yoda lifted his arm to place emphasis on his instruction. "With this Naboo Queen you must stay, Qui-Gon. Protect her, you must."

"We shall use the Sensor logs and all our resources to unravel this mystery and discover the identity of your attacker," Mace decided. "May the Force be with you."

The head of the Council echoed the phrase, a clear dismissal, and in obedience to the order, Obi-Wan turned to leave, but Qui-Gon remained, causing him to come to a halt. Knowing what was coming, Obi-Wan folded his arms into his cloak, and turned, a hard stare forming on his face, signalling his misgivings about what his Master was going to say.

"More to say, have you, Qui-Gon?" Yoda queried.

"With your permission, Master," Qui-Gon said, "I have encountered a vergence in the Force."

Yoda's eyes widened and Obi-Wan felt the tension rise within the room as once more they bore witness to unorthodox methods. "A vergence, you say?"

"Located around a person?" Mace asked.

"A boy," Qui-Gon revealed. "His cells have the strongest concentration of midi-chlorians I have ever seen in a lifeform. It is possible he was conceived by the midi-chlorians."

Obi-Wan recalled his own incredulity when his Master asked him to research the prophecy during a time when the illness had confined him to the healer's ward at the Temple, grounding his Padawan also. He wondered again why his Master was so determined to find the Chosen One, if perhaps it was related in some form to his mortal frailty, his last chance to champion a seemingly impossible cause into fruition. He could sense the same disbelief in his superiors now, all revered Masters of the Force, for only the best sat on the Council, all sceptical of Qui-Gon's claim.

"You refer to the prophecy," Mace said, half seeking to confirm what they heard. "Of the one who will balance to the Force. You believe it is this boy."

For once in his life, Obi-Wan saw his Master hesitate. "I don't presume..."

"But you do!" Yoda interrupted. "Reveal your opinion is, Qui-Gon!"

Faced with the usual level of objection and disbelief, Obi-Wan's Master found his resolve once more. "I request the boy be tested."

There was a pause as the Councillors reflected over everything they heard concerning the boy during the briefing, and Master Jinn's usual and legendary success when it came to championing lost, impossible causes.

"To be trained as a Jedi you request for him?" Yoda queried quietly.

"Finding him was the will of the Force," Qui-Gon replied. "I have no doubt of it. There is too much happening here for it to be anything else."

The Council only had option before them now; to grant this unorthodox request. Qui-Gon had once again forced their hands into action. Perhaps the result was under their control, perhaps not. Knowing the Jedi standing before them, few believed this.

"Bring him before us then," Mace directed with a barely perceptible sigh.

Yoda announced their reluctant consensus. "Tested he will be."

Part 9: Queen Takes Chancellor.

Padmé changed clothes again before her appearance in the Senate Hall, shedding the light cream mesh of lace work for something far more imposing; red and gold, broad shouldered and flowing to disguise her youth and height, extensions to her dark hair framing her face and most of her upper body in an elaborate style. Beneath the costume she wore the gifts from Anakin and Obi-Wan, the wealth of her impressive gown making them undetectable. From the latter she had heard nothing since their parting at the landing dock, but she had just said a brief and horribly formal farewell to the former who had been summoned to appear before the Jedi Council at the Temple. Padmé did not know whether she wished for the boy to become a Jedi, knowing how terribly he missed his mother. It seemed in this world that nothing desired came without a price.

She rejoined Palpatine and her security, a solemn procession to the Senate pod assigned to Naboo, the former still advising her of the soundness in his proposed actions.

"If the Federation moves to defer the motion, Your Majesty, I beg of you to ask for a resolution to end this session and call for the election of a new Chancellor."

"I wish I had your confidence in this proposal, Senator," Padmé replied quietly, unsure if the fate of her planet would be changed by unseating their strongest champion, the man who had risked two Jedi to rescue her to make this appeal in the first place.

"You must force a new election for Supreme Chancellor," Senator Palpatine persisted. "I promise you there are many who will support us. It is our best chance. Our only chance."

"You truly believe Chancellor Valorum will not bring our motion to a vote?" Padmé asked him.

Her Senator shook his head. "He is distracted, he is afraid. He will be of no help."

"The chair recognises the Senator from the sovereign system of Naboo," Valorum said now, calling the pod forward into the centre of the arena, allowing no further time for thought.

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate," Palpatine began, rising from Padmé's side to address the floor. "A tragedy has occurred on our peaceful system of Naboo. We have become caught in a dispute of which you are all well aware. It started right here with the taxation of trade routes and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation."

At that moment the pod assigned to the guilty party rushed forward, it's Senator anxious to protest. "This is outrageous. I object to the Senator's statements."

"The chair does not recognise the Senator from the Trade Federation at this time," Valorum declared, causing the pod to float back to the docking clamp.

"To state our allegations, I present Queen Amidala, the recently elected ruler of Naboo to speak on our behalf," Senator Palpatine continued, stepping aside to allow her forward.

"Honourable representatives of the Republic, distinguished delegates, Supreme Chancellor," Padmé began. "I come to you under the gravest of circumstances. The Naboo system has been invaded by the droid armies of the Trade Federation. As I speak before you now, my people are being taken from their homes and herded into camps. If it had not been for the actions of the Jedi, I would not be standing here, forced instead to sign a treaty legally endorsing this unlawful occupation."

Once more the pod from the Trade group floated out from it's moorings to object. "This is incredible. We recommend a commission be sent to Naboo to ascertain the truth."

"Overruled," Valorum decided.

Another pod travelled to the floor now, it's occupier speaking in favour of his guilty colleague. "The Congress of Malastare concurs with the honourable delegate from the Trade Federation."

"The point," Valorum began, before breaking off to consult with his aides.

In the interim Palpatine crouched beside his Sovereign. "Enter the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the Republic and on the pay role of the Federation I might add," he murmured. "This is where Chancellor Valorum's strength will disappear."

Sure enough, the Senator was correct in his judgement. "The point is conceded. Queen Amidala of the Naboo, will defer your motion to allow a commission to explore the validity of your claims?"

Padmé fought to contain her anger, however some of the emotion leaked through her tone. "I will not defer. I have come before you to resolve this attack of our sovereignty now. I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee." She paused here, wondering if this was the right thing to do, wondering if her actions here would be questioned in the future. Not for the first time did she feel that there was a greater significance to this than just the fate of her planet. But what choice did she have? If Valorum was prepared to concede on such an flimsy excuse for procedure, then it was her duty to prevent other worlds from suffering the same fate as Naboo.

"If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed. I call for a vote of confidence in Chancellor Valorum."

The Senate arena, previously so quiet, now erupted into a chorus of voices, so many as to make the words indistinguishable from the canopy of noise. Padmé's gaze turned to the Chancellor, who had collapsed into his chair, a look of utter disbelief across his suddenly weary brow. As his Vice Chair called for Order, his eyes returned Padmé's eloquent stare, recognising the apology contained therein, and silently assuring her that he did not hold it against her.

Silence was eventually restored in the arena the last to speak seconding Queen Amidala's motion for vote. The Vice Chair called for a recess as Palpatine leaned forward to speak to her once more.

"You see, Your Majesty, the tide is with us. Valorum will be voted out, I assure you, and they will elect a new Chancellor, a strong Chancellor, one who will not allow our tragedy to continue."

Later, with the dubious gift of hindsight, Padmé would swear that she could detect a note of deadliness in the Senator's tone.

While the Republic suffered this political upheaval, Obi-Wan cautiously rejoined his Master upon a balcony at the Jedi Temple. The sun had just begun to set on the city which never slept, barely imperceptible among the many lights from the numerous skyscrapers which littered the horizon. Since the decision by the Council to test the boy, Obi-Wan had only seen his Master once, during the brief and tensely filled silent journey to retrieve Anakin and escort the boy to the Council. While the test was conducted, Qui-Gon was called to the healers, leaving Obi-Wan to his own devices. For a time he had gone to the training salles, practising his lightsaber skills in readiness should they encounter the Sith again.

Despite all his frustrations and embarrassment directed towards his Master however, Obi-Wan met with him as soon as he emerged from the healer's ward. He knew already what the Council's decision would be. The Code was clear about the risk in introducing a child to the ways of the Jedi after their first year of existence. From his time with the boy, Obi-Wan could see the potential within him which his Master saw. But he could also see the dangers, such as the boy's attachment to his mother, to adventure, to glory. Anakin's background as a slave on a harsh Outer Rim world also tell against him, for while it inured him to the sacrifices being a Knight would demand, it also had an impact on his emotional development.

Initially Obi-Wan had been willing to forward the boy's cause as much as his Master, but faced with the Council's doubts as well as his own misgivings concerning the prophecy, Obi-Wan felt obliged to caution his Master before he faced a further drop in his reputation before the Council and the Order. Already he had gone further than Obi-Wan believed was wise, by proclaiming his belief that the boy was the Chosen One before the Council, who, try as they might to avoid it, would judge Anakin with that impression in mind, increasing the possibility that Anakin would learn of Qui-Gon's expectation, and feel burdened by it, if he was accepted into the Order.

"The boy will not pass the Council's tests, Master," he uttered quietly, "and you know it. He is too old."

Qui-Gon remained impassive, observing the sunset. "Anakin will become a Jedi, I promise you."

"Don't defy the Council, Master," Obi-Wan almost pleaded. "Not again."

"I will do what I must, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied. "Would you have me any other way?"

Yes, Obi-Wan was inclined to reply, but he withheld the word within. "Master, you could be sitting on the Council by now if you just follow the Code. You deserve to be sitting on the Council. They will not go along with you this time."

Qui-Gon smiled. "You still have much to learn, my young apprentice. And you should know what I will do if they refuse."

"Master, if you do, they are unlikely to accept my readiness for the Trials either," Obi-Wan pointed out. "You know how stubborn they are when they are forced into doing something they disagree with."

"And you know how stubborn I am in championing a cause I believe to be good," Qui-Gon replied.

"I do," Obi-Wan conceded, bowing his head. "It doesn't stop me from worrying though, Master."

Qui-Gon laid a hand on his shoulder. "I know, Padawan, and I value it. Just as I value your honesty, even when we disagree. Whatever happens, you will be a fine Jedi, just as I intend to see Anakin become."

Padmé Naberrie Amidala stood before the large window in Senator Palpatine's office, deep in thought. The Senate had been recalled from recess, where the process to elect a new Supreme Chancellor had begun. Nominations followed by votes, meaning even longer before the invasion of Naboo was considered, let alone overturned, even if it could be by then. Appealing to Coruscant had brought her planet nothing and herself only a reprieve. She had to go back and save her world before it was too late.

Jar Jar came to stand beside her. "Mesa wonder why da guds invent pain?" he asked, quietly respectful.

"To motivate us, I suppose," Padmé replied.

"Yousa tinken yousa people gonna die?" Jar Jar asked.

"I don't know," Padmé answered.

"Gungan's ganna get pasted too eh?" Jar Jar asked.

"I hope not," Padmé said.

"Gungans do die'n without a fight," Jar Jar assured her. "Wesa warriors. Wesa gotta grand army. Dat why you no liken us, methinks."

Padmé stilled, no breath escaping her as she suddenly realised that her escape had indeed given her people something. Now it was up to her to prove that they were right to have faith in one so young as her.

There was a rustle of noise as the door opened, announcing the return of Captain Panaka and Senator Palpatine.

"Your Highness, Senator Palpatine has been nominated to succeed Chancellor Valorum as Supreme Chancellor," Panaka informed them.

For some reason, the news did not cheer Padmé as much as she thought it should.

"A surprise to be sure," Senator Palpatine added, "but a welcome one. I promise, Your Majesty, if I am elected, I will bring democracy back to the Republic, I will put an end to corruption. The Trade Federation will loose its' influence over the bureaucrats and our people will be freed."

"Who else has been nominated?" Padmé asked.

"Bail Antilles of Alderaan and Ainlee Teem of Malastre," Panaka informed her.

"I feel confident our situation will create a strong sympathy vote for us," Palpatine added. "I will be Chancellor, I promise you."

"I fear by the time you have control of the bureaucrats, Senator, there will be nothing left of our cities, our people, our way of life," Padmé remarked.

"I understand your concern, Your Majesty," Palpatine replied. "Unfortunately the Federation has possession of our planet. The law is in their favour."

"With the Senate in transition, there is nothing more I can do here," Padmé continued. "Senator, this is your arena, I feel I must return to mine. I have decided to go back to Naboo."

"Go back!?!" Palpatine cried. "But Your Majesty, you could be in danger. They will force you to sign the treaty."

"I will sign no treaty, Senator. My fate will be no different from that of our people," Padmé replied. "Captain, ready my ship."

"Please, Your Majesty," Panaka pleaded. "Stay here where it is safe."

"No place is safe, if the Senate doesn't condemn this invasion," Padmé replied. "It is clear to me now that the Republic no longer functions as a democracy. If you win the election, Senator, I know you will do everything possible to stop the Federation. I pray you will bring sanity and compassion back to the Senate."

Palpatine bowed as she passed him and returned to the dressing room to prepare. She must keep her true role until they landed on Naboo, where the next phase of her plan would begin.

Volume Four

© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2021. All rights reserved.