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Bid Time Return by Danielle

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Part 2: A Bold Spirit In A Loyal Breast.
(Richard II (1595) act 1, sc. 1, l. 177)

Obi-Wan Kenobi brought Jar Jar from the droid room into the conference room of the royal craft, to find a surprising sight.

The Queen of Naboo was no longer in her elaborately embroidered black brocade gown, but a padded blaster proofed red combat suit. Her hair was pulled back away from her now clean face, devoid of the feathered head dress and makeup she wore during the escape. She turned from fixing a pin into the hair of one of her handmaidens, whose face was made up and hair was styled a little more decoratively. He realised that like many of her counterparts on other planets, she made use of decoys for protection.

For the first time he was struck by how young she was, younger than him, yet already an elected leader of her people. A heavy role for one so young to assume, yet she seemed far older than her years, almost like a Jedi padawan or initiate often appeared to others who possessed similar prejudices. He admired her ability in coping with the plight of her system, and wondered as to what she had in mind that would put an end to the blockade, something which like her, he failed to believe that the Senate on Coruscant could do. Compared to his Master Obi-Wan had little patience for the political machinations that currently plagued the governing of the Republic. Neither the Senate nor the Courts were as effectual as they once were, choking under layer upon layer of corruption and regulation that even the hands of the Supreme Chancellor were tied.

"Your Highness, may I present Jar Jar," he began, for his Master was yet to arrive in the conference room. Obi-Wan assumed he was still in the cockpit assisting the pilots as they aimed to set the ship down undetected by the droid army of the Trade Federation.

"Thank you, Padawan Kenobi," Queen Amidala replied, surprising Obi-Wan with her use of the formal address for his Jedi rank. Few people were familiar with the term, using apprentice whenever they dealt with members of the Order. That she seemed confident with such a word was unusual.

"Jar Jar, we need your help," Queen Amidala began.

"Mesa, Your Highness?" Jar Jar queried.

"Yes," the Queen confirmed. "We wish to speak with your King, to ask for his help in liberating our planet from the armies of the Trade Federation. Your people have a grand army, do they not?"

"Yes, Your Highness, wesa have a grand army," Jar Jar affirmed.

"We ask you to have him meet with us when we land," the Queen continued. "Our people must overcome our differences in order to achieve our mutual desire for peace upon our besieged planet."

Obi-Wan saw the strength in her plans, the element of surprise, but also the weakness in choosing to ignore the blockade in space. "Your Highness, what of the blockade in orbit?"

"The pilots you rescued shall take care of the control ship," Queen Amidala informed him. "While we attempt to take the palace and secure the Viceroy, the Gungan army shall battle with the droids until the control ship is knocked out, rendering the droids inoperable. Without the army or the control ship, the Viceroy will have no choice but to remove the blockade, freeing my people from their suffering."

It was a bold plan, Obi-Wan judged, with good chance of success, provided all the beings involved performed their parts. He admired her bravery in choosing this method of rescue, as opposed to appealing to the Senate. He distrusted that any of the politicians within that body could be capable of stirring the Republic into taking action towards the Trade Federation. Chancellor Valorum had confessed such doubts himself to he and Qui-Gon when he called for them to be sent to Naboo to fetch the Queen.

Abruptly the ship dropped speed and he heard the thrusters fire as the pilots brought the craft back down upon the planet. A moment later the doors of the conference room slid back and his Master entered.

"Our return is undetected, for the moment, Your Highness," Qui-Gon informed her. "May I ask what is it you intend to do? My apprentice and I cannot fight a war for you, we can only protect you."

Queen Amidala proceeded to explain her plan to his Master, who listened carefully and silently until the end, whereupon he pointed out one of the weaknesses.

"A well-conceived plan. However, there's great risk. The weapons on your fighters may not penetrate the shields on the control ship."

"The ship will release smaller craft to try and fight our pilots," the Queen hypothesised. "For that they will have to open the doors to the hanger, allowing for a pilot to fly inside and destroy the ship that way."

It would be a bold move, Obi-Wan judged, but it could succeed. He offered his own concern. "And there's an even bigger danger. If the Viceroy escapes, Your Highness, he will return with another droid army."

"That is why we must not fail to get to the Viceroy," the Queen replied. "Everything depends on it." She stepped away from her handmaidens. "But first, we must speak with the Gungan King."

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon murmured as the Queen spoke with her security chief, "Accompany the Queen to meet with the Gungans. I shall protect everyone here until you all return, hopefully with the new alliance."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied. "Do you think the Queen's idea will work?"

"The Gungans will not easily be swayed, and we cannot use our power to help her," Qui-Gon replied. "But she has proven herself already as eloquent beyond her years. Perhaps her way with words will sway the King to ally himself with her."

Obi-Wan nodded and parted from his Master's side to let the Queen and her security know that he would be travelling with them to the Gungan capital.

"We shall be glad of your protection, Padawan Kenobi," Queen Amidala said when he finished, her gratitude causing him to blush. Out of the cover of her elaborate symbols of majesty, she was one of the most beautiful young women he had seen in his many missions since becoming a Padawan. However it was not just her beauty that made him admire her, for she seemed to possess an intelligence and foresight which was rare in threatened sovereigns. There was no concern in him that she chose not to obey the advice of a Jedi, something which a lot of beings they were sent to help did now, a result of the negative propaganda that was spreading itself about the universe lately, for her reasoning made good sense in the face of the stalemate that the Senate had reached concerning the Naboo.

Jar Jar took the lead with Queen Amidala in the middle and Obi-Wan behind her after they disembarked from the royal craft. All three were alert and cautious to the far off sounds of the invading droid army, their movements echoing from the capital. Obi-Wan kept his hand near his saber as he followed the Queen's form, ready to ignite at the moment his Force skill failed to divert a search party. Amidala was also armed, he noticed the bulge of a waist holster which encased a small yet deadly blaster. He remembered learning somewhere in his research for the mission that her security had made a point of teaching her as well as her attendants forms of self defence and that the newly elected Queen was the best shot out of all the young women based at court since her accession. Another useful skill to her bow, unusual in these times not for the acquired ability; for most of her corrupt colleagues were equally proficient, but in the face of her planet's reputation for peace. He could not name many beings who had been so active in quelling violent disagreements within the Republic.

They reached a clearing surrounded by a large body of sea water, and Jar Jar turned nervously to the Queen only to see her already prepared for the next stage of journey, her hand moving from her mouth to reveal a breathing device similar to the one which Obi-Wan and his Master made use of during their foray into the Nubian oceans. One by one they waded into the water, following their guide until they could no longer keep upright, whereupon they stretched out their arms and legs for swimming.

Creatures of a natural rather than mechanical persuasion were a potential threat to them during this journey, so Obi-Wan drew level with the Queen as they followed their guide. She was equally proficient in the water as he it seemed, causing him to wonder if she had a Mon Calamari as a friend. The Force was a powerful ally to any talent, but without a foundation for it within those who trained themselves to use the ancient power, such talents required serious dedication and or a desire to acquire such an asset. He felt a fascination for her that seemed to go beyond natural curiosity, so much so that he could hear certain parts of the Code he swore to obey echoing through his mind, making him alert to the fact that he had been admiring this young woman from the moment he met her, and that he better put a hand of restraint on that tendency before it caused him to question those vows. Qui-Gon was a liberal Master, unconventional within the ranks of the Order, allowing his Padawan the occasional indiscretion during their years together, but now that he was approaching his trials, further indulgences would not be regarded so.

Especially with a young sovereign in charge of a besieged system. There was a time and a place for such indulgences, but this was neither. Perhaps when he was knighted, and she was free of her duties, not to mention willing, the possibility of such a relationship could be explored. But such an event lay in the future, and as his Master reminded him only a few hours ago, he must focus on the here and now, not that which was to come. Obi-Wan silently rebuked himself into obedience until the emotions were suitably quelled, just as he and his companions reached the outskirts of the Gungan Capital.

Otoh Gunga was unchanged from the last time he had seen the sprawling transparent domed city, causing him to give each half sphere of civilisation no more than a cursory glance for threats to the Queen beside him. She was regarding the city with great curiosity, doubtless as much of a stranger to it as he had been when Qui-Gon and he came to the place.

They reached the transparent dome of the throne room, and Obi-Wan took care to step through slightly ahead, silently showing the Queen what to do. She soon levelled with him and they waited for Jar Jar to finish apologising for his return from exile, then introducing the companions he brought with him this time.

When Jar Jar turned, the Queen stepped forward, the regal bearing of her rank falling upon her, making her seem wise beyond her years. "I am Queen Amidala of the Naboo, and I come before you in peace."

"Naboo biggen," Boss Nass commented. "Yousa bringen da Mackineeks. Dya busten uss-en omm. Yousa all bombad. Yousa all die'n, mesa tink."

"Although we do not always agree, Your Honour, our two great societies have always lived in peace," the Queen replied, "until now. The Trade Federation, with all its tanks and maccaneks, has destroyed all that we have worked so hard to build. When my people are contained in camps, the armies will come into the ocean, forcing you and your people to go into hiding. If we do not act quickly, all will be lost forever. I ask you to help us," she finished, before adding, "no, I beg you to help us."

To the surprise of almost all present to hear her, she dropped to her knees before the Gungan King. "We are your humble servants, our fate is in your hands."

Silence fell across the throne room while Boss Nass considered her words. He had been uninclined to help the Naboo, due to their long history of mutual ignorance. The lands above them were threatened, but he doubted that his oceans would be explored by the Mackinneeks. Her decision to bow before him however, swayed and charmed him. "Yousa no tinken yousa greater den da Gungans. Mesa like dis. Maybe wesa bein friends."

Amidala smiled and rose from her knees. Obi-Wan followed suit, silently observing their surroundings as she laid out the battle plans for the Gungans whom Boss Nass declared ready to do their part. He called his troops to arms and escorted them back the way they came, before separating from the Naboo to present themselves ready for battle on the grassy plains situated within the outskirts of Theed, their show of strength calling the army of the Trade Federation out from the safety of the capital, allowing for a small party of Naboo to enter the palace walls and capture the Viceroy.

Obi-Wan took a moment to brief his Master on what took place. Qui-Gon smiled at the Queen's unusual move of pleading for Gungan assistance.

"She appears to be well skilled in reading other beings'," Qui-Gon remarked. "What do you make of her, Padawan?"

"For one so young and newly elected she cares deeply for the welfare of her people," Obi-Wan answered cautiously, aware that if he revealed too much of his admiration, his Master would descry those emotions he was trying to quell. "Her plans are well conceived, especially compared to the inaction of the Senate."

"And this is why I shall never introduce you to my old Master," Qui-Gon murmured as he sensed the mild disgust with which the last word was imbued. "Five minutes alone with Dooku and your low opinion of politicians would be fixed for life."

Obi-Wan didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that his Master had taken the misdirection as read, for a part of him would have liked to hear Qui-Gon's advice. But now was hardly the time and place for such a conversation, not on the eve of battle.

And afterwards, assuming all went the way Queen Amidala intended, he and his Master would return to the Temple. Chances were, he would not see her again, for his missions would take him to other planets, to meet with other beings.

No, his feelings must limit themselves to admiration, he resolved, before turning to the rest of their party, preparing himself for battle.


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