Part 10: There is no Virtue like Necessity.
(Richard II act I. sc. 3, l. 275)
Padmé rose from her bed, gathering a robe to cover her nightgown before exiting her chamber in search of relief from a troubled sleep. She could not rest, her mind was too full of the events that had graced her departure from Tatooine. Carefully wandering past her faithful attendants, she entered the empty and sparsely lit corridors of her yacht, the soft beams designed for night, attuned to the ship's chrono which had been set for Nubian time. With no particular destination in mind, she strode along the firm floor covering, far more concerned with marshalling her thoughts so she might not arrive upon Naboo bleary eyed and unprepared for the resumption of her sovereign duties.
When she chose not to leave with the Jedi following their rescue from the droid army of the Trade Federation, to avoid the events on Tatooine and Coruscant in favour of forming a union with the Gungans to relieve her homeworld of the Neimoidian Blockade, Padmé had hoped that such an advance of events would allow the Jedi to avoid encountering the return of the Sith. The events on Tatooine however had served to rid her of such hopes. Her only consolation was that Obi-Wan had faced the Zabrak, and managed to defeat it in the same manner as he had before, minus a fall into a melting pit and the death of his master. She was glad that she could at least spare him and Anakin that grief, a loss which the latter had taken to heart despite the brief time he had come to know Master Jinn, in comparison to the years Obi-Wan had spent under his mentoring.
It was a grief which Anakin would not come to endure this time, for she had left him and his mother behind on Tatooine, despite her previously held intentions to free them whilst she was occupied in forming the treaty with the Councillors of the Arkanis Sector. That intent had been abandoned when she set eyes upon Cliegg Lars and caught the love that lay behind his visit to Watto's shop, an affection which would remain unfulfilled if she had acted on her desires. Leaving Anakin behind was one of the hardest things she ever had to do, and she could only hope that it would prove to shield him from those who wished to corrupt his innocence, and pray that their paths would cross again, for a love which this time would not end in tragedy.
This change of plans had freed her from some of the tasks she had planned to do upon her return to Naboo, such as establishing roles for Anakin and his mother in her retinue that would protect them from her Senator while also bring her into frequent contact with them so Anakin would not forget her. But the encounter with the Sith could cause to bind her in other tasks, ones that she had done before, when the Zabrak lay in wait upon her homeworld.
Then, representatives of the Jedi Council had come to Naboo after the routing of the blockade, and when they had finished listening to her account of what impressions she had drawn from her brief encounter with the Sith, had told her of their conclusions and in return asked for her to treat such information as a secret for the time being. She had respected their wish for silence, wondering though what good would come of keeping the news from the Senate, only to realise why during the Clone Wars which followed. Then her Senator had used such information to his advantage, its release across the holonet in conjunction with reports of the civil war encouraging the Republic to raise the Jedi up, then cruelly rip them down and wipe them out.
She was spared the duty of informing her Senator about the Sith this time. The encounter had taken place after the signing of the treaty, when she was departing from Tatooine, so it need not be included in her report to Palpatine. Doubtless he would come to learn about it anyway, when his apprentice failed to return. Padmé hoped that he would not decide to travel to the Arkanis Sector to investigate the disappearance of his apprentice, or send Count Dooku to do so, if he recruited that Jedi into his teachings as he had done so before.
Events on Coruscant could keep him busy, for Chancellor Valorum was nearing his term limit. Previously the events of the Blockade Crisis had served to accelerate his leave from the highest office of the Republic, but he would have been obliged to call for an election if she had not proposed a vote of no confidence in his leadership, according to the laws set down by his predecessors. It was this which had decided her choice to speak to him upon her return from Tatooine, to warm him, if she could, of the dangers in speaking out too publicly against Palpatine. Valorum could not seek re-election, he had already served the two terms of office permitted, and while she desired to keep herself out of the wrangling that would concern his successor, Padmé hoped that something would prevent her Senator from succeeding to the executive office.
It was the core of her fears that for all her efforts to change things for the better, history would still have a way of repeating itself. She knew it was not wise to attempt such meddling, but she could not stand by and watch, nor did she believe that the Force had brought her back from the future simply to let her see everything fall apart before her eyes once more. Events were still uncertain, she could not afford to let herself despair or give up while it was still possible to do something that may effect a change for the better.
With this resolution in mind, Padmé reached the galley, from which certain sounds caused her to pause, as she realised that she was not the only one awake at this hour. Pausing at the threshold, she cautiously peered round the entrance, where the doors were parted in an effort to save switching the lights on within the chamber, and found that her company was a certain Jedi who had been in her thoughts. Obi-Wan had yet to notice her arrival, he was too occupied in retrieving a mug for something he was evidently brewing on the hob.
Padmé was glad it was him and not one of the officers or pilots who had been assigned to the night shift for this journey. She had been wanting to speak with Obi-Wan since the end of his duel, but had not found a moment to do so. Ceasing her caution against detection, she entered the galley and stationed herself nearby, waiting for him to finish searching before she declared her presence.
"Something smells good," she began by way of greeting when he had set down the mug. Beside it was another, causing her to realise that her arrival, rather than being a surprise, was expected, rendering her next words unnecessary. "Is there enough for two?"
"If you wish to sample my humble efforts at cooking, your highness," Obi-Wan replied, turning to face her. "I sensed your approach earlier and prepared sufficient, wondering if you were having a restless night just as I was."
"I am," Padmé replied, seeing no reason to conceal it from him. They had been friends for many years during her past, despite their differences concerning Anakin, and she had no desire to lose his friendship this time. "I was thinking about what had happened before we left Tatooine, my mind was too overwhelmed for sleep."
Obi-Wan busied himself with pouring the concoction into their mugs and handing one to her before he spoke. "I was thinking about it too."
"What was it?" Padmé asked, knowing she had to, even though she already knew the answer, for lack of curiosity would betray her knowledge and thus her time travel.
"Many things," Obi-Wan answered quietly. "On the outside, a Zabrak warrior, highly trained in the Jedi arts. But from what I sensed within..." he paused to sip his drink and perhaps calm his own turmoil, "something far more deadly than that." He turned to study her, silently considering how much he could speak of.
"What do you know of our history?"
"I studied politics and history during my years in the legislature," Padmé replied. "My mentors impressed upon the importance of understanding and knowing both before undertaking any office that serves the Republic."
"Then you know of the Ruusan Reformation?" He asked her.
Padmé nodded. "Yes, and the wars which preceded it." she took a sip of her drink, marvelling at the delicious and soothing flavour. A mixture of spices, herbs and honey wrapped in warm milk. This was a difference from her previous life, he had never offered her such a drink before. But then he had not been in a position to do so, it was always her that was host, when he came to her apartment, for visits to the Temple were rare. "This is excellent, I may have to acquire the recipe." She paused to take another sip, before adding, "is that what you think it was then, a sith?"
"I do," he replied. "Always two there are, a master and an apprentice. Though whether it was the master or the apprentice, I do not know. Only time will tell."
"Why did you give him a funeral?" she asked, remembering that during her time, the Sith had survived the blow which Obi-Wan had dealt him on Naboo, and sought out the Jedi Master for a rematch during the Clone Wars, only to be defeated once more.
"I did not want to leave him at the mercy of those which prey upon the dead on Tatooine," Obi-Wan replied. "And I felt it was only right, whatever his cause may have been, he was still a servant of the Force, like myself." He paused, taking a sip of his own drink, before turning to her, adding, "I thank you for yours and your retinue's assistance. And understanding."
"It was the least we could do after what you had done," Padmé said. "And I agree with you, whatever his motive in seeking us out, he should be accorded the respect that is due to any being of this universe."
"Something I hope the Council will understand when I make my report to them," Obi-Wan remarked.
"Is that what troubles you?" she asked softly.
"Yes," he confessed simply. "I imagine it will be a profound shock to them, not to mention something that a few will refuse to accept."
"But will they," she inquired, "given time?"
"I'm not sure," he answered honestly. "But the Council will be prepared, which is what matters the most." He took another sip of his drink, his sea shade eyes quietly studying her. "Why do you ask?"
"Recent events have made me realise that the Republic is in danger of growing complacent," Padmé replied, choosing her words carefully. "We have may have had the appearance of peace since the Ruusan Wars, but in reality the years have not passed without their struggles, and we must continue to adapt to the changes that come, however fearful we may find them."
She finished her drink, setting the mug down, and bade him good night before he a chance to reply. Already she felt the danger of talking too much with him. It was always so easy to talk to Obi-Wan, he had that way about him which made her confide in him things that she could never tell anyone else about.
She felt as if she was only words away from telling him about what had happened to her, and she had no desire to lay the burden of saving the Republic, of saving Anakin, upon him once more, even though she would have glad to receive his support, help and advice. Both had caused him such grief before, she wished to protect him from the danger of experiencing such grief again. Already he had the distinction of being the first Jedi to slay a Sith in a millennia. Confiding in him now would only increase his difficulties, not to mention the possibility that it might undo all she had strive to change so far.
Almost as soon as they had landed on Naboo, Obi-Wan took his leave of her, returning to Coruscant. His mission report was something that should not be discussed across the holonet, considering that it was to include mentioning the return of the Sith.
Padmé bade him farewell, then returned to her own duties. She sent her report on the treaty to her Senator, then contacted the Supreme Chancellor, who had accepted the request from Palpatine to call her upon her return to Naboo from the Arkanis Sector.
Finis Valorum looked very much the same as when she first knew, except that the defeated, shocked expression which she had seen crossing his face after her plea for a vote of no confidence was accepted by the Senate, that was gone. In its place was the politician she had come to know during her years as a Senator, a man who had been driven to the brink of defeat, but found the strength to come back fighting.
"Your highness, it is a pleasure to meet you once more," he began once the formalities were over. "I only wish it could be in person. I wanted to congratulate you on your sterling actions in relieving the slavery that is so widespread in the Arkanis Sector."
"Thank you, Chancellor," Padmé replied. "We hope you did not mind me making use of your kind assistance in sending the Jedi, in a different manner than perhaps what you originally intended. At the time, we felt that if I took the case to the Senate, the longer it would take to relieve the situation, and the longer those in slavery would suffer. We do not mean to bring yours or the Senate's authority into question, we just felt that swift action was required."
"I agree," Valorum assured her, "and you are right, an immediate response was the best course. If I may be frank with you, your highness, the Senate had been bogged down in so much filibustering since the Eriadu Crisis, that it is often impossible to achieve anything. When the blockade was in place over your system, I sent you the Jedi because I believed that with their help, you might be able to resolve the situation in a fashion that would provide the Courts and the Senate with something that would move events forward."
"I hope that they have," Padmé remarked.
The Chancellor appeared to sigh a little. "That remains to be seen. As you may heard from your Senator, I am coming to end of my term of office. This matter will soon be left in the hands of a new Chancellor."
"We have heard," Padmé replied. "Infact, if we may be just as forthright with you, your Excellency, we were hoping you could let us know if your recommendation counts in any way during these elections, or even who you think we may be dealing with."
Valorum received her words in silence, as he thought carefully over how much he could say, even across a secure channel such as this. "In truth, I have lost much of the weight that I once had, but I believe my opinion does still count for something in certain circles. I had considered recommending your own Senator, if you think he could do well in the office. He has been a great help to me recently."
Padmé took care to remain unmoved by his response. She had expected such would be the case, though a part of her had hoped that Valorum had come to realise earlier than he revealed in public, that he no longer trusted Palpatine as once he had. "As much as we are honoured by your words, your Excellency, as much as we are sure our Senator will be also, we hope you will not take offence if we ask you to chose to favour another candidate. I am a young Queen, and Senator Palpatine's advice is invaluable. We fear we would lose that advice if he were to take the worries of the Republic under his mantle."
"I understand, your Highness," Valorum replied. "I will not put his name forward, nor give him the slightest indication that I had designs in doing so."
"Thank you, your Excellency," Padmé remarked. "We hope that when you have the time, you will come and visit Naboo again. We feel that there would be much to talk about."
"That feeling is mutual," Valorum concurred. "I shall speak with you again, when I have more definite plans."
As she settled back into the routine of her sovereign duties, Padmé found her inner restlessness increased steadily. Every day she checked the list of those who had chosen to relocate to Naboo from the Arkanis sector, and each time became disheartened as she discovered the Skywalkers and the Lars were not on it. She was pleased to see that there were some families who preferred to start afresh on her lush, green planet, rather than remain on the harsh desert climate of Tatooine and other outer rim planets within that sector, but the non-appearance of the Skywalkers or Lars troubled her.
Most of the tasks which occupied her now, were ones that she had done in the past, and must do again in the same manner as she had before. Aside from the Blockade Crisis, her two term reign had been largely uneventful, and it was up to her to make sure that it was just so this time around. There was however a pleasure and a discomfort in repeating the events, a slight dissatisfaction, to which she could only attribute a lack of helpfulness, for none of the events concerned did anything to alter hers or Anakin's future, as far as she could tell.
Another matter which she checked on daily were the polls for the election of the new Supreme Chancellor. The result would be decided by the members of the Senate and several candidates from that esteemed body had put themselves forward. Bail Antilles of Alderaan, Ainlee Teem of Malastare, and Palpatine. The candidates were supported by various Senators and Representatives, from which two factions had evolved, the Core Faction, who supported Bail Antilles, and the Rim Faction, who supported Ainlee Teem. The latter was commonly held to be the front-runner in the elections, which were being watched with great interest.
When her Senator had informed her of his desire to run for Supreme Chancellor, Padmé had done her best to appear both concerned at the potential loss of him from the Senate seat, and hopeful at the prospect of what Nubian interests could be advanced from him succeeding to such a high office. She could only pray that Palpatine had not seen through her carefully constructed guise.
Who she wanted to succeed Valorum was certainly not Palpatine. Either of the other candidates would have received her vote, if she had been in the Senate, but she was not and Padmé was relieved because if she were, her voting stance would be a matter of public record, making it far more difficult to keep it from her Senator. However, she was wary of voicing her private interest and support to the other candidates, because she knew that there was a risk it might come to the ear of Palpatine.
The thing which troubled her most about the election was that this was the one event which she desperately desired to change, and yet was prevented from doing so. There was nothing she could do without publicly declaring her support and distrust, which would only bring her into danger. Such a risk to her own safety she would willingly disregard, if she was assured that it would be a means to an end and procure the results of the election. But she did not believe that such actions would do so, therefore she had to restrain herself, hold her peace, and trust that their would come a time when she could voice her warnings to the right beings, who would take the action required to change the future.