September 2008

Disclaimer: It all belongs to George Lucas; it ain't mine.

AN: Inspiration is fleeting at best for this story, so if it take awhile between chapters, my apologies! Yes, I know it's been... almost four years and I do apologize for that.

Terms Of Service

Chapter 10

The Senate hall hadn't changed in the year since Padmé had last been seen. Sabé didn't know that, having never seen it before with her own eyes. The trip was an eye opener. The large hall where the senate gathered to discuss the matters of the galaxy was at the heart of the building, the many floors of senatorial offices surrounding it like a honeycomb of bees.

And at the center was the Chancellor Palpatine. The calm in the hum of activity, he seemed unchanged and untouched by the war ravaging the galaxy, though it was his orders that had begun the process. Or rather, his order that had been the turning of the tide. With the republic committed to the fight, the Jedi still leading the troops whenever they engaged, there was some cause for celebration.

And yet the senate seemed oddly detached from the fighting. Perhaps it was because they were using clones, or perhaps it was simply that no one truly believed in the cause. Whatever the reason, in the year since the informally known clone wars had begun, the fighting had become fiercer on the fronts and in the senate hall. Yet the support outside the senate was fading and the Chancellors army, or rather, the part he had chosen for an elite force of bodyguards, were staying closer to home to ensure public support.

Or rather, that was their true function. Mostly, as the public story went, they were there to ensure the droid armies and the Trade Federation didn't place an assassin close to the Chancellor. Not even the Jedi, so embroiled in the fighting, had guessed the real reason for the crack troops, though Master Yoda and Master Windu had spoken out against keeping such skilled fighters from the fronts.

Regardless of the current political storm, the Senate hall had a civilized air to it that was missing among many of the other buildings where the Senators congregated. There was a sense of purpose, though convoluted and clouded, that seemed to radiate from the walls.

Sabé kept her hood down as she entered the first tier of the hall, passing several offices and senators she recognized from the days of Senator Palpatine. They were older, but didn't seem to be any wiser as she could hear them bickering about the same differences that had set them apart some ten years before. She blocked it from her mind, focusing instead on the task at hand.

Obi-Wan walked ahead of her, his senses outstretched, searching for any hazards or dangers that could threaten his wife. His hands stayed relaxed at his sides, however his lightsaber was never far from his grasp. They walked in silence, the Jedi her only escort as they made their way to the 17th floor and the speaking box of Senator Amidala. They weren't stopped, though they received many strange and unfriendly looks.

Sabé shifted closer to Obi-Wan, her eyes darting around under her hood. Something didn't feel right. As they neared the Nabooian Senator's box, the feeling increased. Increased to the point of warning bells going off in her head and she stopped.

Obi-Wan halted a moment later. "My lady?"

"This isn't right."

He didn't turn to look at her, but scanned the surrounding area instead. He didn't feel anything through the Force, couldn't sense any threat.

Sabé shifted closer to the wall, away from the senator's box and motioned for Obi-Wan to follow.

He side stepped reluctantly, stepping back to join her. "What is it?"

She stared hard at the entry way to the Senator's platform. "I can't describe it. Something doesn't feel right about this. We should have be challenged, stopped or welcomed. Something is seriously wrong, Obi-Wan. Can't you feel that?"

"I don't sense a threat."

"Not through the Force." she smiled faintly. "I'm talking about your other senses; the gut instincts of an experienced fighter. Surely you know something is wrong."

He nodded once, slowly.

"I won't go out to that box until someone has stepped on it first."

"Me, you mean?" His smile was faint.

She slanted a look at him. "A droid, preferably." She looked around for the senatorial aid bots that seemed to inhabit the senator hall like bees. It wasn't long before an aid droid appeared and she stepped into its path. "Your designation?"

The droid stopped. "1A-A8," the metallic voice chimed. "Can I be of service?"

"I require a beverage before addressing the senate. However, I cannot enter my tier without being seen. Be so kind as to retrieve it."

The droid chirped in acknowledgement and followed her directions to the box down the hall.

It hadn't crossed the threshold when the first explosion rocked the box. Obi-Wan spun, covering Sabé with his body as the floor undulated underneath them. Chaos erupted as the booby-trap was sprung, and the screams from nearby aids setting up for the council session filled the air. Sabé watched over Obi-Wan's shoulder as the entrance to the Nabooian box disintegrated. She turned her face down as a smaller, secondary explosion vaporized much of the debris in the box.

Obi-Wan met her gaze as they stood by the wall, small pieces of duracrete pelting his back. "I hate it when you're right." he murmured softly.

"So do I," she whispered back. They waited until the dust began to settle before separating.

Obi-Wan moved away from her as the senate hall guards moved in, Jedi Master Windu close behind. "Obi-Wan."

"Master Windu." He inclined his head slightly but continued searching the area as the guards moved to cordon off the area.

"Are you wounded?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, thank the Force, and neither is my charge. Someone set a trap to destroy the Nabooian Senator's box."

Mace Windu looked towards what was left of the box. "A rather lethal trap. You may use the Jedi Council's speaking platform for this session of the senate."

Obi-Wan inclined his head, "Thank you, Master."

Mace watched as the two left to the turbo lift, the doors closing behind them, and shook his head. He knew Senator Amidala was back on Coruscant, knew she was going to be addressing the Senate sometime in the not so distant future, however, he hadn't known Obi-Wan and Sabé were involved. But he should have. A frown found its way onto his face as he turned and left. Obi-Wan would have his hands full without distractions. Mace needed to speak with Yoda.

--

Obi-Wan watched as the Senate recovered from the bombing, the session having been pushed back as droid swept the area to ensure no other bombs had been planted. They came up clean, as expected, and the Nabooian box was sealed off for further investigation. Sabé stayed near him in the area the Jedi had for their exclusive use. The tension between them was high.

"Are you alright?"

He looked down at her, nodding once before going back to surveying the actions of those around.

"Talk to me, Obi-Wan." Her voice was soft, carrying no further than the space between them.

"I should have known something was wrong," he replied, not looking at her. "I should have sensed it."

She placed a hand on his arm, "Not all things are felt through the Force, especially if the person who placed the device was Force sensitive. You know as well as I do that there are ways of masking a bomb to Jedi."

"That's what worries me."

She fell silent and stepped back, his terse words telling her much of his state of mind. No matter what she said, he wouldn't listen; he was too obsessed with the recent failure.

She waited for the session to be announced. It took several long, quiet hours, but it finally begun, the Chancellor Palpatine speaking to the gathered with regards to the bomb. She only partially listened, waiting for the floor to be open to the senators to speak.

Finally, after many promises to find and punish the culprit who had dared to invade the sanctity of the senate building, the Chancellor opened the floor to general discussion and new business.

Sabé took a deep breath and stepped into the main area of the Jedi platform, hitting the number pad to indicate she wished to speak. Several Senators spoke before her, but finally the platform detached and the Jedi were announced into the arena. She left her hood up until it stopped a ways down.

"Master Jedi," Palpatine said calmly, "You have an issue to bring before the senate?"

Sabé reached up and removed her hood, feeling the sudden shift of the mood in the room as her features were revealed. "No, Chancellor, I have come to speak on behalf of the Senator from Naboo."

The Chancellor waited for a few moments before nodding his head once.

"The Lady Sabé, representing the Nabooian Senator, the chair recognizes you." Intoned the meeting hall's judge.

She inclined her head, feeling the tension mounting even before she opened her mouth to speak. "I have had repeated attempts on my life since returning to Coruscant for my Lady. This is unacceptable. Senator Amidala will be returning to the Senate in the near future to address the acts of war that have broken out in our galaxy. Acts which this body perpetrated and sanctioned. I beg of you, senators, do not allow war to tear this republic apart when we need solidarity more than division. If you allow war to create a division, the people will lose faith."

She paused for a moment collecting her thoughts before continuing. "This body is above this, it has stood for thousands of years as a symbol of strength and unity. War can do nothing but damage that. War on the galactic scale we're now facing or war between two senators. The attempts of assassination need to stop. The petty squabbling must stop if this body expects to accomplish anything of value and maintain it."

There was an uproar throughout the hall, the noise almost deafening as the senators either proclaimed their displeasure or sounded their agreement. Several senators made to come forward and dispute her statements, however, the Chancellor waved them away.

"The feelings of the Nabooian Senator on the matter of the war are well know, however, it's regrettable we could not avoid the outcome. My Lady, you present very valid points, however, for the personal wars to stop, everyone must have the same opinion. As you can see, this is not the case. You do bring up points of valid concern, and we will discuss them when the Senate meets next."

She inclined her head and the platform moved back to its assigned position against the wall. She stepped back into the shadows, looking to her husband as the Senate meeting continued. "Take me home?"

Obi-Wan turned and led her away without a word. The gauntlet had been laid at Palpatine's feet and Padmé would need to be informed of what was to come so she could prepare. Either way, there had just been a fundamental shift in the power struggle within the Republic. Those who did not want the war would continue to speak out against it, and with Padmé's return, it would make it that much harder to suppress them. Sabé followed Obi-Wan out of the Senate hall and back to their transport, her thoughts on what her coming duties would be. No matter what, she knew they would be difficult and trying. She looked to her husband, suppressing a smile; she wouldn't be alone this time.

--

"How did it go?"

Sabé looked up as they entered the residence they shared with the Skywalkers and smiled faintly. "Before or after the assassination attempt, Padmé?"

Padmé came quickly to her feet and embraced her friend. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for that to happen, I..."

Sabé smiled, cutting her off. "We both knew there was a danger of it happening. We knew to expect resistance to your rejoining the Senate. Obi-Wan and I are both fine and I did get my opportunity to speak with the Senate about your reappearance. Not everyone was thrilled, mind you."

Padmé shrugged. "It comes with being the leader of the opposition. Anakin doesn't like it, at least," she slanted a mischievous look at her young husband, "he pretends not to like it. I think he's an adrenalin junkie myself."

Anakin made to protest, causing the other three to laugh, relieving the tension that was thick in the air. He smiled faintly. "I'm glad you can all laugh at me, but this is serious. Now that they know Padmé is coming back, we're going to have to be more alert than ever. All of us. They may try to get to her through Sabé or Rabé."

Sabé returned his slight smile. "We're used to it; you're forgetting this is what we train for."

"How can you train for death?"

Sabé shrugged. "You train to protect, not to die, but if it means I have to put myself in the way of a blaster bolt meant for Padmé, I'll do it. She's more important on the grand scale of things."

Obi-Wan was quiet as she stated her view firmly and without rancor. He knew she believed it, and had accepted that, but it was still difficult to listen to her say it.

Anakin noticed. "What do you think, Master?"

Obi-Wan met Sabé's gaze. "I think she has the right of it. Sabé is important to me, but Padmé represents something bigger than all of us. Peace, tolerance and understanding. That is always worth fighting for."

"Even dying for?" Anakin asked pointedly.

"Of course." Sabé answered him with a smile. "You have to understand Anakin that people will always fight. Be it for land, or power or peace. Some things are more important than others and we have to learn where and when to pick our battles. Something you should know about."

Anakin unconsciously flexed his metallic hand and Padmé reached over to grasp it, pulling it into her lap. "It's something we've both learned the hard way," she said softly. Everyone knew she was thinking about Anakin's confrontation with Dooku.

Anakin squeezed her hands, "I understand what you're saying Sabé, but I think we're fighting because we feel we have to, not because we really want to."

Sabé met his gaze without flinching. "Then why are you here, Anakin? Because you feel obligated? Because Padmé made you come and you couldn't change her mind? Think carefully. If she had an enemy, wouldn't you place yourself and your lightsaber in its way? Wouldn't you want to reach out and strike them down before they could become a threat to her life?"

Anakin looked at his Master. "That is not the way of the Jedi," he replied hesitantly.

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I know your answers, Anakin. I know you would do everything in your power to keep Padmé safe, regardless of what consequences they would have. I think you would even give up the Jedi should the need arise."

Anakin flushed. "Never, Master."

"Never is a long time Anakin."

Sabé cut into their conversation. "Look, Padmé needs to prepare for the coming Senate gathering and you two need to cool it. Anakin would do anything for Padmé just as you or I would. We know that; his loyalty to her and the Jedi aren't in question here."

The others fell silent as Sabé finally recounted what had been said in the senate meeting.

The looks on Anakin's face were impassive, while Padmé's showed real concern.

"They can't just wait for the next senate meeting!"

"I'm afraid they're going to, Padmé," Sabé told her sadly. "The Chancellor was adamant. I remember him from when you were Queen; he hasn't changed much beyond aging. And even that is minimal. He wouldn't have listened if I'd protested and demanded an immediate resolution."

"And what did we accomplish by not requesting one?" Anakin asked, cutting into their conversations. "We're still going to have to put up with assassins and spies. We're never going to know peace!"

"Don't you think I know that?" Sabé demanded shortly. "I don't like it either, but by leaving the senators time to think they have to consider their positions carefully instead of just reacting. This could work in our favor. No senator wishes to feel like they're a target and bodyguards, especially Jedi bodyguards, aren't cheap!"

Anakin recoiled from her as if slapped and snapped his mouth shut.

Obi-Wan shot him a warning look, feeling the sudden spike in the Padawan's anger towards his wife. "She's telling you to think, young one. Don't take it personally."

Anakin took a deep breath. "My apologies, Master. I reacted."

Obi-Wan simply watched him as Sabé continued to speak. He tuned her out, carefully monitoring Anakin as he discussed the safety matter with Padmé and Sabé. He didn't like what he could sense. Reactions he could understand, they could be trained and focused into something new. Anakin hadn't reacted to Sabé's words. He was still simmering, very quietly, very slowly, but the matter was far from finished.

Obi-Wan excused himself at the next pause. "I need to speak with Master Yoda about this. Perhaps if the Jedi refuse to play bodyguard to every senator, there aren't enough of us, we can sway the vote some."

Sabé looked at him surprised. "That's a good idea. We'll wait here."

Obi-Wan cracked a half smile. "You don't have much choice in the matter, love. Be safe. Anakin?"

"Yes, Master?"

"Guard them with your life."

"Always, Master."

Obi-Wan could hear and feel the sincerity in his Padawan's tone and nodded. "I'll be back soon."

--

Obi-Wan arrived at the Jedi Temple to find it gearing up for the next offensive against the Trade Federation droid army. Masters and Padawans were being made ready; drilling, practicing and meditating, so that they'd be ready to face their inhuman foe.

He walked through several ranks, headed for the council chamber, only to turn away at a whim and head for the library.

The rows of books were eerily silent, more so than normal, and devoid of human presence. Even their Librarian, Jocasta Nu, had been pulled into service for this offensive. She might have been old, but any of the younglings could have told him she ialways/i knew things.

"Master Yoda?"

The diminutive Jedi Master turned at the sound of Obi-Wan's voice, looking up from the datacard in his hand. "Obi-Wan. A surprise this is."

Obi-Wan bowed to Yoda. "I apologize, Master. Have you heard of the problem in the senate today?"

Yoda nodded, tucking the datacard into his robes. "Informed, I was. Terrible this is. In danger Sabé is not to be."

"We haven't the choice, Master. Padmé can't stay in hiding for long and she's refused to let the attempts on her life sway her. She won't stay in hiding simply to save her own life when she's such a vocal part of the opposition. There is... another problem, Master."

"Another?"

Obi-Wan nodded. "I believe Anakin and Padmé are going to be parents. I have sensed another life force connected to Padmé since her return. It is similar to the feeling I am getting from my wife with her pregnancy."

"A problem this is." Yoda frowned, thinking. Finally he nodded once. "A solution too. In hiding she will have to go, her state, no one must know."

"I know master, but that day is a long way off. Sabé's condition will be more noticeable first."

"This must not happen." Yoda pointed one finger at Obi-Wan. "Responsible you are for them. When show Sabé does, all must hide. The Senator's safety we must consider."

"And what of the future senate meeting? It's not for a week now, with the Chancellor's instruction."

"Reestablish old contacts the senator must. Prevent this, we cannot. Assist her you will."

Obi-Wan bowed. "Of course master. It could be tricky though, Bail Organa of Alderaan is back on Coruscant. He's long made it known he'd like a more... formal alliance with Naboo."

"A problem this is not. A treaty they can sign, the Senator's safety we must consider. Suitors she cannot entertain on the order of the council. Wait, she must, until the threat is gone."

"Yes Master." Obi-Wan bowed. "One last thing."

"Hmmm?"

Obi-Wan smiled faintly. "Anakin has serious problems when anyone else plans the Senator's security. It could cause problems."

"His place, your Padawan must learn. Be here, I will, for the council meeting, my aid I offer."

"I gladly accept, Master. You'll forgive me if I don't inform my charges."

"Understand, I do." Yoda's voice held a note of amusement. "Return to them you must. Plan carefully, Obi-Wan. In your hands, their fate is."

Obi-Wan bowed low and turned to leave. He was on the threshold of the library when something prompted him to stop and look back.

Yoda, so indestructible, sat in the middle of the floor, a holo in his hands, carefully recording the names of the Jedi lost to the wars. Obi-Wan braced himself against the swift stab of regret for so many lost comrades. He turned to go, firmly telling himself that their sacrifices wouldn't be in vain. He wouldn't allow it.