Bid Time Return.
O! call back yesterday, bid time return.
Richard II (1595) act 3, sc. 2, l. 69
William Shakespeare 1564-1618
Part 1: In The Remembrance Of A Weeping Queen.
(Richard II (1595) act 3, sc. 4, l. 104)
"There is still good in him." Padmé uttered. Her thoughts protested the moment the words were drawn out of her mouth, outraged with herself. How could she still defend Anakin after all he had done, not just to her, but to the Jedi Order, to the Republic?
"Padmé, you have twins who need you," Obi-Wan pleaded as he leaned over her bed, carrying her first born in his arms. "Don't give up, Padmé."
She didn't want to, but she could feel herself struggling to stay with him in the medical bay, the pressure inside her neck too great. Her larynx was bruised, the cartilage fractured by her husband's Force choke. Instantly she corrected her memory, for the man who had inflicted this injury was not her husband. He was a Sith who inhabited his body. Anakin was dead, not by Obi-Wan's hand, but by the Emperor's. If she gave up now, her children would be left orphaned in a nightmare universe. Opening her eyes, she gazed into those of the man standing beside her bed, holding her son in his arms and pleading with her to fight. She wanted to take up his call to arms, to take hold of her children and live for them, protect them from the horrors of an Empire that would surely kill them.
But she couldn't protest, nor could she stay. For the choice was taken out of her hands. She summoned her strength, but to no avail. The injury to her throat was too grievous, the damage too complete. Angrily she slammed her hand against the transparisteel before her, unconscious of what the sudden barrier meant.
"No, my children need me. Send me back!" she cried, before her mind realised what she had said and what her hand had hit. And then she frowned, puzzled, for there was no transparisteel barrier before her.
Or at least there had been none. Now as she opened her eyes, she found herself standing before a large window in Theed Palace. A familiar spot, one she recognised, for she had stood here thirteen years ago, watching the droid army of the Trade Federation slowly marching upon the stone courtyard as they invaded her homeworld. She focused her gaze on the view outside and saw that same army, still marching towards the city.
"What am I doing here?" she asked aloud. Involuntarily her hand went to her throat, surprised to feel the soft, unharmed skin, astonished she had the breath and strength for words after the injury she sustained. Her reflection stared back at her via the ancient transparisteel, unleashing yet another shock to her system. Thirteen years had faded from her body, reducing her to the young and rather naive Queen who believed she could change the Republic. She pinched the loose skin across her throat, the slight pain produced by such a motion confirming that this was no illusion.
But what of the years she had experienced? Were they an illusion? Had she dreamt all thirteen of them, or was there another explanation for her memories? The answer that occurred to her sounded too fantastical, too much like something from the plot of a book, impossible to believe. Yet the chance that it was true seemed irresistible.
For if she had truly travelled back in time, she could change everything. Right the wrongs she inflicted, prevent the damage others incurred as a consequence of her actions. Protect her future husband from the influence of the Sith. Ensure a safer, happier future for their children.
Don't give up, Padmé. Obi-Wan's words would now become her credo for this new future which she was about to make. If he and his master arrived, it would prove to her that her memories were not an illusion of her frightened mind, that she was indeed returned from the ashes of the Republic to the past. That she could change what happened to the Republic, to Naboo. With one move she could prevent the rise of a Sith, the death of a Jedi, the destruction of a Republic, the seduction of a slave. While it might not be enough to stop Palpatine for good, the move would delay many of his plans, and allow her time - inwardly she laughed at the irony - to carry out her own.
A series of footsteps coming from behind called her from her thoughts, and Sabé entered, dressed in the elaborate black mourning costume of her decoy. A protection insisted upon by her security chief, one which Padmé knew would soon prove unnecessary. Before, she had welcomed the anonymity of the handmaiden robes which her decoy carried over one arm, the safety that lay in being the attendant, not the Queen.
Now she had no need for such disguise, nor did she desire it. She was risking her life by assuming that Sabé's appearance was confirmation of her memories, but her plans for the rescue of her planet and her people left her little choice. The Jedi were here to free a Queen. An outspoken bossy handmaiden ignoring their advice would invite too many questions and possibly delay their escape, causing further danger to Naboo.
"Change into your combat suit, Sabé," she commanded, causing her decoy to halt in surprise.
"Milady?" Sabé queried. "What of Captain Panaka's orders? The danger to yourself?"
"I understand the risks," Padmé replied. "But what I have in mind does not yet need a decoy. So change and have the others change as well. Put your cloaks over them and carry mine for I shall have need of them. Hurry."
Sabé bowed as she realised there was no time to argue with her sovereign. "Milady," she acknowledged before leaving.
When her attendant was gone, Padmé considered the contrast between the gown she wore and the one Sabé chose for when the Trade Federation captured her. Clothes were a symbol for many things on Naboo, and the difference between her costume and that of her decoy's could not have been greater. The red gown with the plasma gas illuminated sein jewels hem line which she had put on to confront the Viceroy, and talk with Senator Palpatine was a symbol of strong majestic sovereignty, impregnable via foreign powers and impervious to the blockade imposed upon her system as a result of the recent taxation of previously free trade routes.
Sabé's choice for their capture was a heavy gown of black embroidered brocade symbolising mourning for a national tragedy, with the rich royal decorations of Naboo reminding her people of her opposition to this invasion. It was an appropriate choice. But would Nute Gunray pick up on such symbolic language? Silently she reflected back on her dealings with him, recalling his skill in fiscal negotiations, his over confidence in the might and ability of the droid invasion army. How he deferred to Palpatine when she did the unexpected and his sending the Sith in response.
Colour and costume were important to the Naboo when it came to their sovereign, particularly at a time of national suffering such as this. Young monarchs were not uncommon and the elaborate dress had long become a traditional display of strength and expression to add to the intelligence of the elected sovereign. It was something which Palpatine should have been aware of, yet he had ignored it because he believed he knew how she would react to his actions concerning Naboo. To offworlders this might seem a silly insignificant thing to worry about now, but she wasn't sure if such a difference in dress would alter the future contrary to how she intended. Her death had sent her back in to the past; she, one girl in all the universe. If she could make a difference, it was just as possible for a dress to do so.
Outside the droid army began to pass under the arched doorway below her windowed view. Dress code decisions would soon be taken out of her hands. Hurriedly she rushed to her wardrobe and began to disrobe.
When Sabé returned to her Queen, this time without all the trappings to disguise her as a decoy, it was under the escort of Nute Gunray and his lackeys. Padmé turned from the window where she resumed her original position, allowing the full majesty of her black brocaded gown to show the Trade Federation who they had captured. It was their moment of glory and her moment of shame, something she could not deny them if everything was to succeed.
"Your Highness, you must come with us," Gunray declared.
"Must we?" she could not resist countering with. "And where do you intend to take the sovereign of Naboo, Viceroy? To a quiet back alley from which she shall never re-emerge?"
Even the droids seemed horrified by her suggestion, and the Viceroy blanched before gathering his composure to reply with a shake of his head. "No. Your Highness's death would serve only martyrdom. You will be escorted to a camp, where you will witness the suffering of your people until your conscience persuades you to sign our treaty, which will be ratified by the Senate."
"We have witnessed the suffering of my people ever since your Federation imposed this blockade upon my sector," Padmé informed him. "Every day we assist in handing out food and other necessities which your blockade has sought to deprive our people of. If you think more witnessing is required for our co-operation then you are gravely mistaken. We will not sign any treaty which demands that our sector surrenders to the rule of your Federation."
"We shall see," the Viceroy replied, before motioning his droids forward to take her into custody. "Take them to Camp Four."
Padmé fell into line, surrounded by her handmaidens, her councillors and Captain Panaka with his three guards. Not until they emerged into the temperate sunshine which caressed the courtyard of Theed Palace, did she turn her gaze from the other signs of invasion, such as more of the droid army herding her people away, and the sage grey green motorised tanks for bombardment, to survey the balcony from where the Jedi jumped to secure her rescue the first time she crossed the space, in the anonymous guise of a handmaiden. Before she had been ignorant of Valorum's efforts to effect a rescue, believing him personally responsible for the continued plight of her people, frustrated by the constant stalemate reports she received from the Senate. This time she would not be so quick to judge a man who was probably being manipulated just as she was by her ambitious Senator.
Jar Jar's lumbering figure was easily distinguished from the stone pillared archways which framed the cloistered passage way above the large courtyard arch which they were approaching. The desert shades of the Jedi robes were much harder. However, she knew what to look for now, and inwardly smiled as she descried the flash of blue and green lightsabers being ignited before their custodians jumped down to rescue them.
Four droids fell immediately, cut down by the Master and Padawan team. Padmé watched both of them as they dismembered and disarmed the guards until only a sergeant was left to attempt to flee, whereupon Qui-Gon used the Force to pull him back before dispatching him as well. Under his silent urging, they moved to the cover provided by two of the buildings of the Palace complex.
"Your Highness, my name is Qui-Gon Jinn and this is my apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Master Jinn began after he and Obi-Wan bowed before her. "We are Ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor."
"Your negotiations seemed to have failed, Ambassador," her Governor Sio Bibble observed.
"The negotiations never took place," Master Jinn clarified. "Your Highness, we must make contact with the Senate."
"They've knocked out all our communications," Captain Panaka informed them.
"Do you have transports?" Master Jinn asked.
Panaka nodded. "In the main hanger. This way."
Together they followed the Captain down the alley and into a passage way which gave access to one of the side entrances of the main hanger. Opening the door cautiously, Panaka gave his sovereign a chance to see the pilots and space craft within guarded by about fifty battle droids.
"There are too many of them," Panaka declared.
"That won't be a problem," Qui-Gon answered confidently. "Your Highness, under the circumstances, I suggest you come to Coruscant with us."
"Thank you, Ambassador, but my place is with my people," Padmé replied, the words she had coached Sabé into delivering coming naturally to her lips.
"They will kill you if stay," Qui-Gon predicted.
"They wouldn't dare," Governor Bibble countered.
"They need her to sign a treaty to make this invasion of theirs legal," Panaka added. "They can't afford to kill her."
"The situation here is not what it seems," Qui-Gon added. "There is something else behind all this, Your Highness. There is no logic in the Federation's move here. My feelings tell me they will destroy you."
"Please, Your Highness, reconsider," Governor Bibble pleaded, swayed by the Jedi's words. "Our only hope is for the Senate to side with us. Senator Palpatine will need your help."
"Getting past their blockade is impossible, Your Highness," Panaka protested. "Any attempt to escape will be dangerous."
"Your Highness, I will stay here and do what I can," Governor Bibble informed them. "They will have to retain the Council of Governors in order to maintain control. But you must leave."
"Either choice presents great risk to all of us," Padmé replied, but this time without a searching glance directed at her decoys.
"If we are to leave, Your Highness, it must be now," Qui-Gon advised.
"You are right, Ambassador, there is nothing I can do here," Padmé declared. "We shall leave the capital." Her wording had been deliberate, and she hoped her court would realise it as such. Certainly Panaka seemed to glance at her with a searching expression, as if he had an inkling of what she meant. She turned to the Governor and cautioned him to be careful, before she followed her handmaidens, Captain Panaka and the Jedi into the main hanger.
"We'll need to free those pilots," the Captain added as they walked toward the royal space craft.
"I'll take care of that," Obi-Wan murmured as he moved away from his Master's side towards a group of Naboo seated upon the floor, surrounded by droids.
Padmé kept watching him as Qui-Gon fought to secure the royal space craft, remembering the last time she saw him, holding her son in his arms as he pleaded with her not to give up. She could not help but wonder how her decision would effect him, his relationship with his Master, his promotion first to Knight then Master, then a seat of the Jedi Council. She remembered hearing an account of his first encounter with the Council from Anakin, when Qui-Gon had declared that he would train her husband and Obi-Wan was ready for the trials. She had felt angry then at the Master's dismissal of his Padawan, whilst all Anakin could think of was his fear that the Council would not allow him to be trained at all. She recalled the silence between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan after they returned to Naboo, the tension which hinted to a disagreement. She remembered seeing them talking to each other before they met with the Gungans, managing to heal that rift before they helped her in taking back the planet from the Trade Federation.
After the funeral of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Anakin had been granted a little leave from the Order to allow them both time to adjust. They spent it on Naboo, working with her and her people to clean up the damage done from the blockade then the invasion. Padmé remembered having a few conversations with the newly promoted Knight, despite Anakin's desire to have her beside him every second of his waking hours. They had both confided in each other over their mutual uncertainty at their readiness for the duties granted to them. Both of them had tried to reassure the other that they were capable of proving the hopes and expectations thrust upon them, and she parted from him to remember the time fondly in the ten years that passed before she saw them both again.
Now her actions would delay the one and postpone the other, possibly forever. She did not blame Obi-Wan for Anakin's fall, he had taught her husband to the best of his ability. It had been Anakin himself and Palpatine's influence which led him down the path of the darkside. To warn Obi-Wan would alter nothing, but if she prevented his master from encountering Anakin now, it would avoid the rift in their relationship and might give Obi-Wan the chance to experience some years as a knight without the burden of an apprentice. There would be time to find Anakin later, a meeting which also should avoid an encounter between him and her Senator.
To Captain Panaka's surprise she joined him and Qui-Gon in the cockpit of the royal space craft. At the controls were two of the freed pilots, who were currently tasked with taking the ship out of the hanger towards the blockade of Trade Federation ships in orbit above the planet.
"Gentlemen," she began, "we are not going to fight through the blockade and travel to Coruscant."
Her words caught all of their attention, even that of the pilots as they manoeuvred the ship to avoid the blaster fire directed at the craft by the droid army.
"You must plead your case to the Senate, Your Highness," Qui-Gon reminded her.
"We have been, Master Jinn," she pointed out. "From the moment this blockade began we have pleaded our case, as has our Senator. For months now the Senate has debated the plight of the Naboo, to no avail. It is obvious that we cannot rely on them to put an end to our plight. We must explore other options."
"What is your plan, then, Your Highness?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Evade the patrols of the droid army and set the ship down in a sheltered spot of the swamps surrounding Theed," Padmé ordered the pilots, who began to manoeuvre the ship in accordance to her commands. "We shall need to talk with the Gungan you brought with you, Master Jinn. We have a treaty of our own to create."