Hello, everyone! Chapter XIII is here. And this story is nearing its end; only two chapters to go yet… I know, sad… but it’s not the end of the world. Or the series, for that matter. 😉
[11/2/2013: Changed tagging to reflect current story status; aka, completed.]
Obi-Wan smiled quietly, to himself. Once he was away from Sidious, the rest was all fairly—almost ridiculously—easy.
And this time, he knocked before entering.
The cordon of guards would have been no challenge for a fully-trained Jedi Knight, and it wasn’t a challenge for a Padawan as experienced and well-versed in the arts of misdirection and deception as Obi-Wan, either. The streets were well-marked and unconfusing, and with Padme’s directions he quickly found his way toward her parents’ home.
Theed was a beautiful city. The well-kept streets were bright and airy—no close alleyways—and the scrubbed pavement shone in the sun. Fountains on the corner of a street played and chuckled, and children splashed happily in their basins.
“Are you sure this is the right way?” Siri asked for the umpteenth time.
“Do you always ask this many questions?” Obi-Wan challenged in return. Siri closed her mouth and dropped her head.
“Sorry. It’s just that—well, all these streets look alike to me.” Obi-Wan’s eyes softened.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that,” he said. “Yes, I do know where we’re going. At least it’s not like Coruscant, where we might get turned around and end up in some seedy, one-way-street district. Oh, here we are. First left after the Bejer Plaza fountain.” Confidently, Obi-Wan climbed the steps up to the neat, bright little row house in the old town section. He knocked briskly at the door. A young woman who looked rather older than Padme opened the door a crack.
“Yes?” she asked. Obi-Wan made a quick bow.
“I’m Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’m expected?” Instantly, the woman’s suspicious demeanor changed. She smiled briskly and opened the door wide.
“Welcome! Come in. Come in!” As they passed through the door, Obi-Wan nodded to Siri.
“This is my fellow Jedi Padawan, Siri Tachi.” The woman nodded to Siri, smiling.
“I’m Sola Naberrie, Padme’s older sister. Everyone’s in here…” She led them into a bright room, airy, open, with windows that opened on a sunny garden. Padme sprang to her feet with a glad cry.
“I’m so glad you got here safely!” she exclaimed. That started off a loud and complex hubbub.
“I’m Siri Tachi,” Siri introduced herself in the midst of all the confused chatter.
“These are my parents, Jobal and Ruwee Naberrie,” Padme introduced them. Obi-Wan made a graceful, respectful bow to them, then slipped off to one side toward the spot where Qui-Gon was standing, waiting for him.
“Master,” he said, sotto voce.
“Obi-Wan. I trust things went according to plan?”
“Yes, mostly.” Obi-Wan bowed his head. Qui-Gon looked at him, frowning slightly in concern.
“What is it?”
“There was an incident at Sidious’ meet and greet. Some… ill-intentioned…” He coughed politely, then continued. “The woman had the audacity to lay hands upon my person, and I guess I must have subconsciously sensed a less-than-savory intent. The next thing I know, she’s slammed back against a stone wall and falls with a broken neck.” Obi-Wan bowed his head, dropping to one knee. “I know that this is an example of excessive force, Master. I submit to your discipline.”
“So,” Qui-Gon said thoughtfully, “you unintentionally slammed someone into a wall?” Obi-Wan dropped his head lower.
“I don’t think this is serious,” Qui-Gon said, “if you had no prior intention of harming her. It only means we need to go through your control exercises again.” Taking Obi-Wan’s shoulder, he helped the young man stand up.
“All right,” Sola said sternly over the chatter in the room, “this meeting will hereby come to order.” She pounded with her fist on the side table, in lieu of a gavel.
Obi-Wan found himself sitting next to Ruwee on one side and Qui-Gon on the other. He leaned over and whispered to Ruwee, “Does she always control the floor like this?”
Keeping a straight face, Ruwee answered, “Yes. She’d a holy terror of a public servant if she decided to go into politics like her little sister.” Sola scowled darkly at them. Obi-Wan looked innocent, then changed his expression to contrite. Satisfied, Sola smiled.
“First of all,” she said, “I want to thank all of you for rescuing my little sister.”
“Thank you for aiding our daughter and keeping her safe,” Jobal said. Obi-Wan bowed his head slightly.
“We are here to serve,” he said, sotto voce.
“What about the political plans?” Sola asked. “Padme mentioned them, but didn’t say what they were.” Obi-Wan looked at Padme, who blushed. He sighed and shook his head.
“We were going to spring Padme on the crowds while Palpatine is making his condolence speech. Does anyone know of someone who might help us? Because I can’t be the one to introduce her. Obviously.”
“Sio Bibble might. He’s the governor,” Padme said. Ruwee frowned.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing, young man?”
“She was popularly elected,” Obi-Wan said. “And this speech will most likely go on the Holonet. Millions of people will see it. If the Queen were to disappear again, there would be even higher suspicions, and all of Naboo might rise up and protest, and be joined by other people on other worlds. Sidious views this as a small matter—Naboo isn’t that important, even though it is his homeworld—and won’t want to run the risk of you blackmailing him for kidnapping the Queen-elect—doubtless Padme has told you the whole story by now. Spread it to a few who you can trust, but no further. That way you will have leverage against Sidious. He’s too intelligent not to recognize the fact.” Obi-Wan looked down. “I’ve been thinking…” He passed a parchment to Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon quickly perused its contents and then looked at the Padawan, a smile perking on his lips.
“You certainly do have an innate, and perhaps intolerable, love of drama, Obi-Wan,” he said. Obi-Wan blushed and hung his head. Qui-Gon laughed. “But in this case, I think that’s a good thing.” He passed the speech to Padme, who inspected it thoroughly.
“You should go into politics, Master Jedi,” she said. Obi-Wan blanched, his face the picture of total horror.
“Heaven forbid!” he gasped, almost as if the words were being jerked out of him. Siri nearly fell out of her chair laughing.
“All right,” Qui-Gon said, joining in the burst of general laughter, “after that slight to the queen-elect’s avocation, I expect you to apologize, my very young Padawan.” Obi-Wan rose from his seat, face as red as a beet, and dropped to one knee in front of Padme.
“I beg your forgiveness, your highness,” he said, still blushing. Padme placed her hand on his head, trying to ignore the impulse to mess with his thick auburn hair, in the traditional Naboo gesture of forgiveness.
“I understand where you’re coming from,” she said, grinning. Obi-Wan regained his seat.
“I’ll need some Naboo-style clothes to get about unnoticed,” he remarked. “The tattoos on my face will be the hardest thing to take care of…”
“We’ve used paint before,” Qui-Gon noted. Thoughtfully, Jobal looked critically at Obi-Wan.
“I have some concealer from an old makeup kit—I haven’t used it in years. It should work to cover up the tattoos.”
“And I’ll go buy some clothes for you,” Sola said. “There’s no way Father’s would fit you. You’re taller than he is, and much slimmer.”
“Thank you, Sola,” Ruwee said. Padme giggled. Ruwee shook his head at her.
“Is this council of war over?” Jobal asked.
“I think so,” Qui-Gon said.
“It should be,” Obi-Wan added.
“Good,” Jobal said, rising. “Come upstairs, Master Jedi. We’ll see what we can do.”
“And I’ll go see about those clothes,” Sola said, leaving the room.