Naboo was a peaceful planet, one with a rich history – and if traced far enough back, a bloody one as well. There were very few who had access to the resources that detailed Naboo's violent past, and the rulers of Naboo were the full list. The full record of Naboo's history was kept in a secret chamber of the palace in Theed. A palace that, since its creation, had never yet been destroyed. Invaded once or twice, built upon and occasionally remodelled, but never had a shot fired by any weapon done true damage to the structure.
The reason for this could be found in the bloodiest part of the history of Naboo. A time called 'The Great Shinobi Era'. A time when Naboo had been a world filled with warriors, and with wars, rather than being a planet dedicated to the upholding of peace. The proof of that time was presented in a private ceremony between the out-going ruler and the in-coming ruler, after the official crowning.
Padme Naberrie, when she was elected at only fourteen to be the new queen of Naboo and assumed the royal title of Queen Padme Amidala, never expected such an incredible, impossible secret when King Veruna showed her how to access the secret passageway hidden (of all places) beneath the floor of the royal bathroom.
"A monarch may take their time in the fresher without being questioned," Veruna supplied with a rueful smile in answer to Padme's slightly incredulous expression. "Come," he bid softly, and led the way down the stairs that he had just revealed. "There are other exits," he said after a moment as they descended the spiral staircase he had revealed. "But this is the only way in, so far as I am aware. A security measure."
Padme nodded dumbly in understanding. "Who else knows of this?" she asked as they reached the bottom of the staircase.
"Only the kings and queens of Naboo's past have been told of this secret," Veruna answered. "And only kings and queens of Naboo will be told of it, as they come into office. It is a secret, Queen Amidala. One that we who have ruled Naboo guard. One we swear our lives to," he explained, and opened the door that waited before them.
Padme stepped into the room first, and was surprised by what she saw there. Two men, meditating in the middle of a large space. A space that included a kitchen, a garden that was full of vegetables and herbs, two sleeping mats against the further wall, a sectioned off space that could only be the bathroom, though it looked like the laundry had been combined with it. Carefully stacked on purpose-built shelves above the sleeping mats were strange scrolls, and all along the walls Padme recognised digital archives.
Behind her, Veruna coughed in that way that politely announces the presence of a person to those who are otherwise occupied – and who the person coughing doesn't actually wish to disturb.
Two pairs of eyes opened. One set was a shining blue that sparkled with the joy of life itself. The other set was red, and shone with the light of one who has carried a heavy burden and found someone who is willing to share its weight.
The bodies of the two men lowered a few inches, and it was then that Queen Amidala realised that they had been floating as they meditated.
"This is your replacement then Veruna?" asked the man with red eyes. He wore his brown hair swept back and long enough to reach his earlobes, he had a shadow of a beard that covered his upper lip as well as his chin and cheeks, and he was wearing robes that had clearly once been deep brown, dark red, and charcoal grey, before so many washings had seen them start to fade.
"Yes, Master Revan," Veruna answered with a bow. "This is Queen Amidala."
"Pleased to meet you," said the blue-eyed man to Amidala as he stood. His blonde hair was shaggy, but no longer than his shoulders, and his clothes – simply cut trousers and a gi shirt – were even more faded than those of the red-eyed man. Whatever colours they had once held, they were grey and off-white now. "I'm Naruto Uzumaki, this is Revan."
That simple introduction would cause greater change in the young woman's life than her recent coronation.
"Shall I take my leave?" Veruna suggested.
"Ah, please come and be seated before you go," Naruto requested, and gestured for Veruna to take a seat at the kitchen table. He himself grabbed up a thin little paint brush and a pot of red-black ink.
"We're not too terrible a secret," Revan said softly to the queen as she watched Veruna open his mouth and stick out his tongue for Naruto – who proceeded to draw on the appendage with his brush. "The secrecy is that I am roughly four-thousand years old, and Naruto is somewhere around a million. If you have any concerns, you may come to us. We keep up to date on what's going on in the galaxy," he added with a nod towards the archives and a screen that was set up with them, and which was connected to the holonet. "We would be terribly bored otherwise."
"Thank you, Master Revan," Amidala answered softly. "If I may ask, what is Master Naruto doing?"
"He is placing a seal that will prevent Veruna from ever speaking of us to anybody ever again," Revan explained. "As king, it was his prerogative to choose who he spoke of us to, though we advised him – as I now advise you – to speak of us to no one if it can be helped. As he is no longer the king, he no longer has that freedom to speak of us as he pleases."
Early in the second year of her reign, Amidala was faced with a trade blockade surrounding her planet. Official channels did little to remove the problem, and what little action eventually came saw the robot army of the Trade Federation marching up the main road to the palace.
It made no sense. The Trade Federation had no reason to be boycotting her planet's trade routes this way. Certainly Naboo was a great supplier of plasma to the rest of the galaxy, but that was not nearly enough of a reason for the Trade Federation to want to control her planet.
As she watched the regiments of droids march up the streets to the palace, Queen Amidala felt a horrifying epiphany strike.
Naruto and Revan. The power and knowledge they held. The ancient secrets of Naboo.
This, and nothing else, was what had brought these people to her planet with invasion in mind. None of the Trade Federation had come from Naboo though, so they would have no way of knowing about such precious and protected knowledge. This invasion had been orchestrated by someone else. Someone who had access, at some time, to the library of Theed. Someone who had never been elected as King or Queen, and so did not have access to the valuable records of the palace – but knew that they were there.
"Sabe!" Amidala called to her handmaiden as she turned from the window. "Prepare to be a decoy!"
"Your Highness," the handmaiden demurred. "Where are you going?"
"To secure what the Trade Federation seeks here, and prevent them from obtaining it," Amidala replied, her voice soft, yet there was steel in her tone. Whoever was pulling the strings knew – she was certain – of the ancient secrets of the Naboo that were kept safely beneath the palace. She would not take the chance that the one who had instructed the Trade Federation to invade her planet might also know how to retrieve this knowledge.
Amidala hurried down the spiral staircase beneath her bathroom and burst through the door that, since the first time Veruna had brought her down, she had passed through regularly once a month – seeking advice, knowledge, and simple company.
"We are being invaded!" she declared a little breathlessly.
"We're ready," Naruto and Revan answered her stoically.
She had told them about the Trade Federation's blockade of the planet, and the two men had themselves made ready for this eventuality, just in case. Making themselves ready had mostly involved stripping their living space of the things that were stored there so that now it looked more like an emergency hidey-hole for the royal person – or a secret dungeon for a political prisoner.
"The only question is, are we fighting back or do we make a run for it, hoping to get reinforcements?" Naruto asked as they moved out and up the stairs.
"I'm not sure yet," Amidala admitted. "But I do know that they won't succeed in capturing me, if that is their goal," she added with determined fierceness, as she started to wipe off the royal make-up with one of her large red sleeves.
"How will you explain this invasion to the Senate?" Governor Sio Bibble demanded as he was marched, at blaster-point, down the hallway towards the palace throne room.
"The Queen and I will sign a treaty that will legitimise our occupation here," Gunray Nute, the Viceroy of the Trade Federation, replied calmly. "I have assurances it will be ratified by the Senate."
"Assurances from whom?" Sabe demanded from where she sat on the throne, playing her part as decoy. "Because you may have this assurance, Viceroy: I will not co-operate."
"Now now, your highness," Nute scolded, treating the queen as though her age (Amidala was a mere fourteen) were more relevant than her station. "In time, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view," he promised, and it was as much a smug threat as anything else. "Commander," he called, summoning a droid with yellow paint on its chassis. "Process them," he instructed it with a disdainful, limp wave of his hand.
"Yes Sir," the droid replied mechanically as it stepped up, only to turn to another droid. "Captain, take them to camp four," it passed on the order.
"Roger roger," answered another of the droids that was a member of the party, and it raised its blaster. "Move," the droid ordered the royal party, its blaster trained specifically on Sabe, who rose slowly from the throne.
The Queen of Naboo, along with her handmaidens, Captain Panaka, and Governor Bibble were marched out of the palace. Padme, Naruto and Revan were all hidden among the orange robes of the handmaidens. Padme had been surprised that neither man had objected to the deception, and even more surprised when they had each folded their hands in a strange way and somehow transformed into women. That Sabe had only demanded to know what names she would have to call the two new additions to the entourage, Padme had almost felt herself become dizzy at the number of surprises all in such rapid succession – really the least of which was that her planet was being invaded.
The captured party and their robotic escort had left the central palace by the main steps and seemed to be heading towards the outdoor amphitheatre that filled most of the space between the palace and the Theed Library.
"Would you like us to dispatch the droids?" Naruto whispered over to Padme as they walked – Padme was safely bracketed between himself and Revan, extra protection though she was already disguised and had her decoy walking ahead of her.
"Only when we can do the most good," Padme answered. "I would like to see more of my people freed than only us," she explained softly.
Naruto nodded in acceptance, and straightened once more.
Before they could reach the 'camp four' that they were being escorted to, however, they were ambushed. Two men in robes, wielding lightsabers, dropped down from an elevated, semi-enclosed walkway and proceeded to slice all of the droids into useless pieces. Jedi. The rescue was performed with with impressive efficiency, and as tense as the situation had made Padme, she was still surprised at the way her heart fluttered when the younger of the two flourished his lightsaber as he double-checked for any more droids once all the immediate ones had been cut down.
"We should leave the street, your highness," the older Jedi requested with a slight bow to Sabe and a gesture towards an alley, even as he moved to lead the way as an advance guard.
Sabe wasted no time in leading the group off after the elder Jedi, even as Captain Panaka instructed his men to collect the weapons of the downed droids.
"So much for rescuing more people," Naruto grumbled softly to Revan, mostly upset because he didn't get to join in the fight.
Revan only rolled his eyes at his old friend.
"We are ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor," the older Jedi said, beginning an introduction once they were off the street and had some small amount of cover.
"Your negotiations seem to have failed, Ambassador," Governor Bibble grumbled pointedly.
"The negotiations never took place," the Jedi corrected, his tone only vaguely aplogetic. "It is urgent that we make contact with the Republic," he added.
"In case you hadn't noticed, the Trade Federation have invaded our planet," Captain Panaka pointed out with the harshness of one who took offence at an insult that had not been directly – or possibly even intentionally – given. "The first thing they did was knock out our communications."
It looked, for a moment, as though the elder Jedi wished to curse at that. "Do you have transport?" the senior Jedi instead asked, a slight expression of hope in his dark grey eyes.
Panaka nodded slightly. "Her majesty's ship should still be in the main hangar," he allowed, and even pointed out the direction they would need to move in.
As they resumed walking once more, Revan bent to Padme's ear.
"What is that?" he asked, looking at the orange-skinned being that had followed them. It had yellow eyes on stalks that lengthened and shortened, large flaps of skin that hung down from its head to its back, and while humanoid, was also distinctly amphibian-like.
"A Gungan," Padme whispered back.
Naruto winced. "The product of some people being very kinky with the Toad and Salamander summon contracts," he added unhappily. That was something that had happened a couple of hundred years before his time, but the children of those vaguely disturbing unions had settled down into a proper race in their own right some hundred and fifty years after he'd first met Gamabunta.
Meeting the Gungans had actually turned Naruto's stomach that first time, mostly because he couldn't help the horrific mental images of Ero-Sennin getting kinky like that with Ma. The thought still made him shudder, and both of them had been dead for a long time by now – Gamakichi's grandson was the Boss Toad these days. Time certainly moved on.
The group had (mercifully) reached the hangar where the royal ship was kept without being spotted by any of the droid army now infesting the city. Not that they had entered the hangar, but they'd reached it.
Captain Panaka peeked through the doorway briefly before ducking back, his breath suddenly coming faster than it had moments before. Apparently, he'd forgotten that avoiding the enemy during an invasion wasn't actually all that easy.
"There are too many of them," Panaka declared – both unhappy and reasonably cautious. It was his job to make sure nothing hurt the Queen, after all. He couldn't guarantee her safety if they walked out there. In fact, he was fairly certain of imminent harm coming to all of them if they went out into the hangar.
"That won't be a problem," the older Jedi countered confidently before he turned to Sabe. "Your highness, under the circumstances, I think it best you come to Coruscant with us," he entreated politely, it could almost be mistaken for something that wasn't actually an order. Considering the man had no right to give orders, even such a pretence on his behalf was important.
"I thank you, Ambassador, but my place is with my people," Sabe objected, doing her best to give an answer on behalf of her queen when she couldn't see her to take cues.
Padme, aware of this, did her best to move forward subtly, so that she at least stood beside her decoy. If such a shift also brought her closer to the younger Jedi, then that was only a pleasant coincidence. A brief touch to Sabe's arm let her know of Padme's new position.
"They'll kill you if you stay," the Jedi warned. Though he hardly knew her, he expressed a true (if slightly detached) concern for her life in his expression and tone.
"They wouldn't dare," Governor Bibble asserted, offended by the very suggestion.
"They need her to sign a treaty to make this invasion of theirs legal," Captain Panaka added. "They can't afford to kill her."
"That doesn't make remaining any safer for her majesty," the younger Jedi pointed out softly, only to blush mildly and duck his head when his master turned his gaze on him briefly. The look a censure for having spoken up at all.
Revan and Naruto both frowned at that. The two of them had been making their own opinions known on far greater matters at much younger ages than they guessed this Jedi to be, and he was supporting his master's advice besides. What reason then for censure?
The two friends locked gazes and subtly raised their closed fists between them. The fists were pumped three times, Naruto's first two fingers coming free, while Revan's hand flattened. They lowered their hands. Scissors beat paper, Naruto got to pick which of them he would speak to, when they got the chance.
He canted his head slightly towards the elder of the two, and Revan nodded in understanding and acceptance. Naruto would question the elder Jedi, later. Revan would tentatively probe the younger, at the same time if possible.
At the same time as this silent communication was passing between the two, Padme was surprised to feel her stomach flutter at the sound of the younger Jedi's voice. It was not a feeling that she was familiar with at all, at least, not with such a cause. Why should her stomach flutter at the sound of his voice, when the last time it had done so was the day she had been crowned Queen of the Naboo?
There was no connection between the two scenarios. It didn't make sense.
Padme forced all thoughts on the matter to the back of her mind. This was neither the time, nor the place, for such contemplations. There were much more urgent matters at hand.
"There is something else in this your highness," the elder Jedi declared, though his voice was kept low so as not to draw attention from the enemy. "There's no logic in the Federation's move here," he asserted, though he most certainly didn't know all the facts and history of Naboo.
If he had known, then he would have suspected – as Amidala had done – just what the logic was: that someone was after the ancient secrets of Naboo, that they were after Naruto and Revan.
"My feelings tell me they will destroy you," the elder Jedi tagged on.
Revan scowled at Naruto slightly, letting his blonde friend know that he wanted a chance to talk to this Jedi that threw around those sorts of airs to get his way. Especially since he was directing that comment to a decoy, and didn't seem to be able to pick up on the fact that the real Queen of Naboo was the girl in orange at her side. Especially since Revan himself had a great deal more experience with the 'feelings' the Force granted those sensitive to it, and he could tell that the elder Jedi wasn't nearly as aware of the Force as he portrayed himself to be.
Naruto rolled his eyes and nodded in answer, agreeing to a trade. That didn't mean he wouldn't take a chance to have a few choice words with the man himself though, providing he found an opportunity – and Revan knew that too.
"Our only hope is for the Senate to side with us," Governor Bibble admitted unhappily, and his eyes ghosted over Sabe to land on Padme. He had not spent as much time with Queen Amidala and her handmaidens as Captain Panaka, but he could still see the subtle differences between Padme and her decoy. "Senator Palpatine will need your help," he stated firmly.
"Either choice presents great danger," Sabe replied, and turned to check with the true what their decision would be. "For all of us," she added, as an excuse to have turned to check on 'her' handmaidens.
"We are brave, your highness," Padme replied, her voice light and soft as an extra counterpoint to the deeper, stronger voice of the 'Queen'. With these few words, Padme conveyed that she intended to go to Coruscant and present Naboo's case to the Senate herself, if such was truly a viable option.
"If you are to leave, your highness, it must be now," the older Jedi said, his gaze still focused on Sabe, urging a decision that needed to be made fast, but still as politely and gently as he could.
"Then I will plead our case to the Senate," Sabe declared firmly. "Be careful, Governor," she bid as she, Padme, Naruto, Revan and the other handmaidens, as well as Captain Panaka followed the Jedi through the doors and into the hangar beyond.
Everything seemed to suddenly happen much faster and in slow motion at the same time as they marched through the hangar and towards the ship.
"We'll need to free those pilots," Panaka stated, and pointed out the group that was under droid guard.
"I'll deal with that," offered the younger Jedi as he gently waved off the offer of Panaka's stolen blaster and broke off towards the captured pilots.
"Halt," commanded a droid as their group reached it.
"I'm Ambassador to the Supreme Chancellor," the elder Jedi declared. "I'm taking these people to Coruscant."
Padme frowned, while Revan resisted the urge to slam a palm into his forehead, and Naruto struggled against the wish to physically pick the man up by his ankles and beat his face into the floor.
"Where are you taking them?" the droid questioned.
"To Coruscant," the Jedi repeated blandly.
Were the Jedi now so arrogant that they stated their intentions to the enemy? Even if only a droid? If the Viceroy were able to retrieve that information from the droid, then he would know where they had gone! Okay, so their destination might be a bit obvious given the circumstances, but did he really have to spell it out like that?
"Er, Coruscant, that does not compute, er wait er, you're under arrest!" the droid decided, and even pointed at the elder Jedi.
The raised arm, as well as a good portion of the droid's torso, was promptly sliced through by the Jedi's lightsaber.
The rest of them ran for the access ramp, and were soon enough joined by some (though not all) of the pilots that the younger Jedi had freed from their droid guards.
"Is everybody alright?" the younger Jedi asked when he came up the ramp a few heart-pounding moments later, the second-to-last of them to board the ship.
"Yes," Naruto replied demurely – he was currently under a henge to look like a young woman, after all. "Thank you, Master Jedi."
"Oh, I'm not a master," he protested humbly, a flattered smile on his face. "I'm still just a Padawan. Obi-Wan Kenobi, at your service," he said, introducing himself at last. "I apologise for not making proper introductions earlier, but there didn't really seem to be the time."
"I'm Naruto, this is Revan, and Padme," Naruto presented. "Body-guards to the Queen, as are Dane, Rabe, Sache, Yane and Eirtae, who are also handmaidens and with the queen right now."
"Body-guards?" the Jedi repeated, clearly impressed and not at all disbelieving, which all three of them appreciated as his eyes shifted in admiration between the three. "What sort of training to you require for such a position?" he enquired curiously.
"No time for small-talk now Obi-Wan," the elder Jedi ordered his student he marched in and as the ramp was raised behind him, not having even taken the time to learn what they were discussing, which was possibly better for them.
The Padawan Jedi grimaced at the reprimand all the same, bowed in apology to the trio, and went to follow after his master.
Naruto turned to Padme.
"Did you know, I can smell your body's reaction to him?" he asked the girl lightly. "I bet you don't even know yourself what all the strange reactions you're feeling mean."
Padme tucked her chin into her collar, still hoping to avoid thinking about the strange sensation elicited in her by the younger Jedi, and more than that hoping to avoid any mockery from the Naboo ancient.
Revan raised a curious eyebrow and extended a sort of 'blanket' of the Force around the young queen. He smirked as he allowed it to dissipate.
"This should be interesting to watch unfold," he quipped to his friend over Padme's head.
Naruto chuckled in agreement. "Indeed," he confirmed, then slid an arm around Padme's waist. "Alright you, time for us to rejoin the others before they start to really worry about you."
Padme nodded silently in acceptance of this, and let herself be guided to where Sabe and the others were waiting.
Leaving the atmosphere, and getting past the blockade that was in orbit around the planet, was somewhat easier said than it was done. The ride was a bumpy one, and they lost all but one of the ships astromech droids when they had to be deployed after the ship was hit.
That lone surviving droid was presented to the Queen once they were clear of the Trade Federation's blockade, and had reached the relative safety of open space.
"Padme," Sabe called forth. "Take Revan and Naruto, and clean little Artoo-Deetoo up as best you can," she instructed, knowing that her queen would also take the opportunity to learn more of their situation, while the task itself would keep Padme out of too much mischief – and Naruto and Revan would keep Padme safe, even as they also used the opportunity to sticky-beak about. Sabe didn't know these two save the few words they had exchanged when introduced to each other, but they had Padme's confidence and trust. That was enough. "It deserves our gratitude," she added, in-keeping with the mannerisms and behaviour of the true Queen Amidala.
Padme, Naruto and Revan all moved to stand by the droid – which incidentally put Padme in Sabe's line of sight, and would allow Sabe to take her cue more easily.
"Continue, Captain," Sabe instructed, keeping half an eye on her queen for guidance as she played her role.
Instead of answering continuing his report, however, Captain Panaka turned to the Jedi, both of which were present, though their Gungan companion was absent from the meeting.
The elder of the two Jedi, the one who had still yet to introduce himself, stepped forward. Clearly, whatever the issue was, he would be the one to tell her.
"Your highness, with your permission, we're heading for a remote planet called Tatooine," he stated, and though he had said 'with your permission', it was quite clear that there would be no discussion on the matter.
With the queen's permission or not, Tatooine was where they would make their next stop. The little astromech droid had saved the ship, and their lives, but the hyper-drive was damaged and they did not have enough fuel to make it to Coruscant. They would have to make a stop along the way to make repairs as well as to refuel. Any stop they made could put the Naboo monarch at risk of being captured by the Trade Federation.
"It's in a system far beyond the reach of the Trade Federation," the elder Jedi assured her before Sabe could enquire as to the safety of making such a stop, however needful it might have been.
"I do not agree with the Jedi on this your highness," Panaka spoke up, tension radiating from the line of his shoulders and the set of his jaw.
"Why?" Padme mouthed to Sabe, even as the elder Jedi insisted that his judgement should be trusted – without giving a single reason why it should so be. Granted that on Tatooine they would supposedly be safe from the Trade Federation, that did not take into account the many other possible dangers the planet could potentially offer them.
"Why exactly should I trust your judgement, Master Jedi?" Sabe asked, her tone as polite as it was pointed. "I am well accustomed to trusting the judgement of Captain Panaka, and he disagrees with you on this matter," she continued, and her eyes flashed dangerously for a moment. "I have been Queen of the Naboo for over a year already," she gave firm reminder. "Do not think that my age may be equated with foolishness or naivety."
"Tatooine was the suggestion of my Padawan," the Master Jedi admitted, which gave no answer to the question asked of him, and was a clear attempt to divert the queen's ire from himself – and everybody knew it, even the Padawan, as his blue eyes grew wide in his face with a faint expression of fear and betrayal in their depths.
Padme frowned at the diversion, all the same...
"Come forward, Jedi Padawan," Sabe commanded, a little more gently. "Explain your reasoning for choosing Tatooine as our destination."
Obi-Wan swallowed nervously, but he stepped forward all the same.
"If it please your highness, I have been to Tatooine before," he began, and though he had displayed nervousness prior to being called forward, none of that was apparent in his tone or bearing once he started explaining himself. "With my previous Jedi Master," he added with a glance to the elder Jedi when he received a curious, confused look from the man. The expression did not fade with that explanation.
"While Tatooine is small and generally out of the way, it is quite near to our current location, and we will have fewer repairs to make to the ship if we make those repairs sooner, rather than later," Obi-Wan explained.
Sabe nodded regally to display that she understood and conceded this point.
"Tatooine is poor in many ways, but there are a number of parts dealers there," the young man elaborated. "I am confident that we will be able to find the parts we need to make the necessary repairs."
Captain Panaka frowned, and somehow the expression was loud, though he made no noise.
"The Hutts that control Tatooine may be gangsters," Obi-Wan conceded with a glance to Captain Panaka, "but even gangsters have a code of their own. So long as we do nothing to draw the attention of the Hutts, you would be safer there than you would be if we went to a planet where the Federation has a foothold."
"And what would draw their attention?" Sabe questioned, mostly for Padme's benefit. Sabe herself actually spoke Huttese and knew a little of the culture, though she rarely had occasion to use that knowledge – and it was unlikely that she would have a chance while they were on Tatooine either, since she was presently disguised as Amidala.
"Acting as if we do not want to be discovered on Tatooine would rouse suspicion from the natives, and should we find ourselves unable to pay any debts we may incur," Obi-Wan answered, "it would be a matter brought before the Hutts."
"Debts?" Sabe repeated.
"Generally gambling debts, your highness," Obi-Wan admitted. "Tatooine has a large gambling culture, but any other matters of financial dispute as well. The Hutts run their planets on money, rather than laws," he explained.
"Will Republic Credits be sufficient for the purchases we require?" Sabe probed. Some planets controlled by the Hutts would not take Republic Credits – she knew this, even if others present did not – and she wanted to know if Tatooine was one such planet.
Obi-Wan winced slightly. "It is... unlikely," he admitted. "Republic Credits don't go very far on non-Republic planets."
"Then how would we be able to pay for the parts that we needed?" Captain Panaka demanded harshly. "You recommend the place because we'd be able to make repairs without getting caught, but if we can't buy the parts, how are we going to make repairs?"
"To be completely honest?" Obi-Wan offered. "With your highness' permission, I actually thought that the best course of action might well be to abandon the very fine Nubian craft in exchange for another that is less likely to be recognised as your personal vessel."
"We are unlikely to be able to make much of a trade for a ship that may well need its hyper-drive replaced," Sabe pointed out softly.
"With permission, your highness, I know a few dealers on Tatooine," Obi-Wan admitted, and privately hoped that none of the dealers he'd made friends with had died since he had last been to the planet. "Even if turns out that the hyper-drive does need to be replaced, I can think of at least one that would still be more than happy to make the trade."
Silence reigned through the ship's small throne room as the Queen considered the matter. The elder, Master Jedi was looking at his apprentice as one coming to the realisation that they do not know a person as well as they had thought they did, and was not pleased with this discovery. The younger, Jedi Padawan was somehow both relaxed and confident – and tense as a bow-string. Captain Panaka looked very much like he wanted to hit both of the Jedi.
Padme finally subtly signalled to Sabe that she agreed with the plan presented to them – but that she wanted to be present as it was carried out.
"Very well," Sabe declared. "We shall go to Tatooine – however, Jedi Padawan, I wish for you to take Padme, Revan and Naruto with you. I wish to learn more of what it is like on these outer planets, but know that I cannot go myself without drawing attention. I will not send only one of my handmaidens with you alone though."
Obi-Wan bowed to the queen in acceptance of these additional instructions, while Captain Panaka bowed in acceptance of the decision to go to Tatooine. The elder Jedi did not bow at all until they were dismissed from the chamber, and even then it was not very deep.
Some might think that Queen Amidala, young and idealistic as she was, would also be naïve. Those people would be wrong. They would also most likely learn that the hard way. She was not naïve, nor was she foolish. She certainly wasn't stupid. Padme Naberrie had the benefit of an excellent education in many areas, and her education had only expanded when she became Queen Amidala of the Naboo – and had been presented to Naruto and Revan.
Revan enjoyed tinkering with robotics. Naruto enjoyed tinkering with pretty much anything. Then again, Naruto had plenty of time in which to learn the ins and outs of pretty much everything. They, therefore, opened up the astromech droid R2-D2 and made sure that all of his circuits were undamaged while Padme saw to the matter of simply cleaning it.
Padme enjoyed cleaning up R2-D2. She didn't have the gift with machines that her companions were displaying or that her elder sister had, but she still enjoyed the work now and then – and she was genuinely grateful to R2-D2 for doing such a good job saving them all. Sabe had not been wrong about that when she expressed the Royal Gratitude towards the little droid.
"Hallo," a voice greeted, distracting all three of them from their work. It was the Gungan. "Sorry," he said, most probably for surprising them. "Who-sa are you-sa?"
"I'm Padme," the girl replied, returned to scrubbing the little droid's outer coverings, though she still kept her eyes on the Gungan. "These two are Naruto and Revan."
"Me-sa Jar-Jar Binks!" the Gungan presented himself with a smile.
"And how did a Gungan come to be on the royal ship?" Revan questioned politely, though he also returned to his task as he talked.
"My no know," the Gungan, Jar-Jar, replied. "My-sa day startin' pretty okie-day with a brisky mornin' munchin', then boom! Gettin' berry scared, an' grabbin' that Jedi, then pow! Me-sa here," he explained, walking around her and making large gestures as he told his little tale. "Me-sa gettin' berry berry scared," he admitted, a hand over his chest to indicate how much the whole adventure had affected him.
Padme couldn't help but laugh a little at this Gungan and his way of telling a story.
"You... grabbed one of the Jedi?" Naruto checked, bemused. "How did that happen? I thought Gungans hardly ever left their city."
Jar-Jar's head dropped down, and he started to fiddle with his fingers. "My had been banished," he admitted sheepishly.
"What for?" Padme asked, equally curious and cautious. Surely the Jedi wouldn't have brought a criminal with them?
"It-sa long-o tello, but a small part of it would be me-sa, ah, clumsy," the Gungan admitted sheepishly.
"And the Gungans are warriors," Naruto noted. That had not changed about the peculiar descendants of the summons, even if the people of Naboo didn't so much as remember the days when a large part of the population were shinobi. "A clumsy warrior would cause problems on a battlefield."
"Me-sa causing maybe one or two-y little-bitty accident-ys," Jar-Jar tried to tone down, only to sigh despondently. "Yah," he agreed. "Clumsy isn't safe in Gungan City, not for anybody."
"If I remember right though, the Gungan City is a long way from Theed," Revan commented, looking at Naruto, rather than Jar-Jar to check if that was right.
"Oh yeah," Jar-Jar replied. "We go through the Planet Core to get to Naboo City. It was nutsy! That Jedi was all 'not in trouble yet', but with monsters out there, and leakin' in the bongo, I wanna know when he's-a thinkin' he's-a in trouble!" Jar-Jar ranted, the panic of that moment returning to him as he recalled the trip.
Naruto and Revan shared a Look. Revan nodded, and quietly excused himself. He was going to Talk to that Jedi Master before they reached Tatooine. The only reason said Talk would not be continuing after they landed was because he'd been designated as one of Padme's guards while she got a look at how people lived outside the Republic.
"Hey," Naruto called softly as he leant on the door-frame. Time to see how much he still deserved the moniker 'number one unpredictable knuckle-head' – and to see how much he could surprise the Jedi without going so far as to pull out any actual shinobi techniques.
The young Jedi jumped in his seat, caught completely by surprise, and turned quickly to see who had managed to sneak up on him.
"Oh, Naruto," Obi-Wan greeted. "You startled me."
Naruto chuckled. "I noticed," he quipped, and stepped properly into the room. "In advance, I apologise," Naruto offered.
Obi-Wan frowned. "For what?" he asked.
Naruto chuckled. "Revan," he answered simply, then shook his head, knowing that he would have to elaborate. "My friend is, as we speak, hunting down your master to give the man a Talking To."
Obi-Wan chuckled at that. "I wish her luck," he offered.
"Him," Naruto corrected. "Revan and I are only disguised as handmaidens," Naruto explained when Obi-Wan snapped around to stare at him, again surprised by the blonde. "We've got the wrong parts. A little bit of extra security for her highness, not that we're really needed," he added thoughtfully, deliberately ignoring the way his conversation partner's eyes were growing increasingly wide. "Captain Panaka made sure all the girls, the Queen included, were thoroughly trained in all the things a bodyguard would need to know. Actually, the presence of Revan and myself among the girls has put Panaka a bit more on edge than he usually is, and then there was the invasion on top of it."
Obi-Wan chuckled at that, finally overcoming his shock in the face of the teasing mention of the very serious Captain of the Guard.
"So, now you know, and I hope you won't mind talking to me man-to-man," Naruto requested with a smile. A smile that he'd learned and perfected when he'd been training to become Hokage – a position which ultimately was taken from him when Konohamaru proved himself to be a 'better' candidate in the view of the Daimyo. No, he wasn't bitter. Konohamaru had been a great Hokage, and Naruto had realised during the training period just how much paperwork the job involved, as well as how little real action.
"Too many handmaidens?" Obi-Wan asked with an amused smile of his own.
Naruto shook his head. "Nah. Revan and me, we've been part of the Palace since before the current administration. Worked with King Veruna before Queen Amidala, and King Taplo before him. Having a girl in charge is a nice change, even if it does mean we're dressing up as girls when we join the security detail," he replied easily. "But we've been together, just the two of us, for a long time – and no, not that way, before you even think of it. New conversation is to be appreciated," he continued. "So satisfy an enquiring mind, if you would?"
Obi-Wan chuckled, but nodded in assent.
"Tell me about being a Jedi?" Naruto requested.
Obi-Wan scoffed lightly, without a hint of derision. "That's a rather vague request," he pointed out easily. "What do you want to know?"
Naruto scrunched his face up in thought – the way he'd used to back when he hadn't even hit his second decade, let along his second century. "This Master-Padawan thing," Naruto began after a moment. "How's it work? You've mentioned having a different Master before What's-His-Name you're currently saddled with."
Obi-Wan coughed in shock at the phrasing, but nodded in acknowledgement that Naruto was not wholly wrong in what had been said.
"Er, yes," Obi-Wan said. "I was given to Master Bergoglio when I was really still just a Youngling and should have been having lessons in the Temple with the other Initiates. I mean, I still did have lessons in the Temple, and I had them with the other Initiates, but I was also taken off by Master Bergoglio fairly regularly."
Naruto smiled at the wistful expression that settled on the young man's features as he spoke of his first Master. "What was he like?" he probed softly.
"Compassionate," Obi-Wan answered instantly, "and practical... and frail," he added, his bright blue eyes going a little dim with the touch of a sad memory. He shook it off quickly though. "Because Master Bergoglio was so frail, no one was intimidated by him, even when they learned he was a Jedi. He was much respected, and on every planet and system he took me to, Master Bergoglio was respectfully called upon by some new stranger to mediate a matter, if he could spare the time." Obi-Wan smiled to himself as he lost himself once more in a happier memory. "He always could," he recalled.
"Why is this Master Bergoglio no longer your master?" Naruto asked as delicately as he could.
"Master Bergoglio was frail," Obi-Wan repeated quietly. "His heart collapsed in his sleep when I was fourteen. As that is the age most Initiates are given to Jedi Masters to be Padawans, it was a simple matter to the Council that I should be likewise given to another Master. I am not certain that Master Qui-Gon knew that I even had another Master before him," Obi-Wan admitted.
"And what's your current Master like?" Naruto questioned. "To you, I mean," he clarified. "He seems arrogant and high-handed to me."
"Master Qui-Gon is a stern taskmaster, and has taught me a great deal since I was given to him as a Padawan," Obi-Wan said. "He is... very different to Master Bergoglio. Master Bergoglio had an aura around him inspired and encouraged kindness. Master Qui-Gon rather seems to inspire frustration, and something of a burning desire to prove the man wrong whenever he offers criticisms."
Naruto chuckled at that. He could still, somehow, remember a time when the driving force behind all of his actions had been to prove so many people of Konoha wrong. He had too, even if he hadn't ever been granted the title of Hokage, and now here he was, still kicking even when the civilisation he had been born into had long since disappeared.
"Master Qui-Gon believes in living in the moment," Obi-Wan continued, this time without any prompting, and gave a frustrated, heaving sigh. "Which makes him very frustrating, and sometimes seem very cold. Master Qui-Gon doesn't think on the past at all, so far as I can tell, and gives very little thought to the future."
Naruto nodded slowly. "I can see how that would make the man a pain in the rear," he allowed.
"The man is also an arrogant, bull-headed, senile old fool, and I am sorely tempted to break his jaw on my fist," Revan declared with a low growl as he swept into the room and helped himself to a chair.
Naruto raised an eyebrow at his friend. "Your Talk with him didn't go well?" he guessed.
Revan scowled. "He uses Force Suggestion to get his way half the time, and his 'I am a Jedi and therefore know best' airs the other half the time," he answered with a snarl as he crossed his arms over his chest and slouched down in a huff. "And he learned that habit from his stupid Jedi Master," he added. Then he shifted his burgundy gaze up to fix on one of the sets of blue eyes that were watching him.
"If I ever hear of you behaving in that manner, I shall be very upset. It's that sort of thing that turns whole cultures against Jedi. That entitled, holier-than-thou attitude," Revan stated firmly.
Obi-Wan blinked in surprise at that. "Well," he said after a moment. "I suppose that might explain why Master Qui-Gon is so rarely sent off on a mission to a planet where he's been before, as compared to Master Bergoglio, who regularly returned to the same communities to check up on the friends he made there."
Revan and Naruto both snorted in amused agreement at the Padawan's observation.
"There it is," the pilot declared as the desert planet loomed large beyond the cockpit. "Tatooine."
"We need to make for this settlement," Obi-Wan said, his voice quiet as he sat beside the pilot. He never really enjoyed flying at all, but he felt better about it at least when he was behind the controls of the craft. This particular craft required more than one person in the cockpit at a time, so while Obi-Wan wasn't permitted to pilot the ship, he could be involved – and right now, he was the one giving directions.
The pilot leaned over in his seat to check the on-planet co-ordinates of the settlement Obi-Wan indicated, and with a nod, he began an entry sequence.
"The hangar will accept Republic Credits for their docking fee," Obi-Wan added. "They do enough inter-galactic trade that they can send off the credits again without worrying about their profits."
"Alright then," the pilot muttered in agreement and contacted the space port, requesting a docking bay or hangar for use.
"You should have called for a hangar a week ago," the voice on the other end of the line answered. "I got no room for the rest of the week that hasn't been booked a month in advance because of the Race."
On a hunch, Obi-Wan checked the date and sagged a little. "The Boonta Eve Classic," he moaned, and it was a moan of loss. So close – and yet the general hope on board the ship was to be off-world again before twenty-four hours had passed. Another year that he wouldn't get to watch the races.
"I guess we'll have to land on the outskirts of town then?" the pilot suggested, the words reaching both the young Jedi and the person who had just denied them a berth at the space port.
"Normally, I'd direct you to one of the other space ports on this rock," started the voice on the other end, "but this time of year, this is the place to be, so sure. I'll put in the register that you're landing just out of town due to a full hangar here."
"Much appreciated," the pilot replied, and closed the link. Then he turned to Obi-Wan. "Okay, what's the Boonta Eve Classic?" he asked, having heard his companion groan the words.
"The biggest pod-race in the galaxy," Obi-Wan replied. "And it's tomorrow, provided no sand-storms delay it. Pilots and spectators will have come from all over Hutt-space, and very possibly a few Republic planets as well, to take part in this."
"Do I dare ask what pod-racing is?" the pilot asked with an amused smiled.
"Madness," Obi-Wan replied instantly. "Edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, thrilling madness. The ultimate adrenaline rush for any pilot, provided they can keep up. I'll see if I can get a recording of last year's Boonta Eve Classic while I'm dirt-side, if you like," he offered.
The pilot smirked, and jerked his chin out in an appreciative nod. "Sounds interesting," he declared. "I'd appreciate it."
"You're going out in your robes?" Qui-Gon asked, surprised, as he stood by the ramp to see them off.
"Yes Master," Obi-Wan answered easily. "I've never hidden who and what I was when I was on Tatooine before. I see no good reason to start now. Besides, the cloak will keep some of the sun off."
At that moment, Padme, Revan and Naruto joined Obi-Wan, and they headed down the ramp, R2-D2 trailing behind with the full schematics of the ship. Qui-Gon got to stay behind and baby-sit the Gungan and the rest of the royal entourage.
"Can the hyper-drive be fixed?" Padme asked. "Or are we going to have to trade in the whole ship just to get off the planet?"
Obi-Wan shrugged uncomfortably as they walked. "It probably could be," he allowed, "but not with the equipment we have on the ship, nor the funds. As I said before, people who take Republic Credits out here are few and far between."
"I could hunt down some local bounties," Naruto offered eagerly. "Get a little cash, hit the gambling dens, multiply our funds a few times over. I'll have us cashed up to get us equipped before the sun goes down."
"I will judiciously ignore the part about hunting down a person, and simply make comment as to your clearly supreme confidence," Obi-Wan quipped, even as his eyebrows rose towards his hairline in surprise – but not scepticism. He could feel how strong Naruto was in the Force, now that they were away from the ship and Naruto wasn't actively hiding it any more.
Obi-Wan hadn't known it was possible to hide one's presence in the Force, but Naruto and Revan both had done that, only lifting the shields or cloaks that hid their power once they were away from the ship – and away from Qui-Gon.
Naruto grinned. "I have yet to lose a game of chance," he said happily. "Even when the dice were loaded against me."
"Really?" Padme asked, eyes wide.
Revan scowled. "Really," he confirmed for his smiling friend. "I learnt that the hard way when we first met."
Naruto laughed loudly some more, and Obi-Wan's quiet chuckle hesitantly joined in.
"Around here, you may very well be faced with loaded dice," the young Jedi allowed freely. "If the one you're betting against thinks you're dumb enough to let him get away with... it... Hmm," Obi-Wan hummed as a thought struck him. He shot a look over at Naruto. "You're sure of your luck?" he asked.
Naruto nodded. "I have never lost a game of chance," he reaffirmed, more seriously this time, since he could tell the young Jedi was planning something.
Obi-Wan smiled. "Then I know just how to get a better deal for us," he said. "Whether you are still interested in trading the ship for a different one or not, your highness," he added to Padme.
Chocolate brown eyes widened fearfully, and Padme swallowed tightly. "How -? When -?" she choked.
"You should have asked 'what', your highness," Obi-Wan corrected gently. "And I guessed, based on what I managed to learn about Masters Revan and Naruto the other day when we were talking."
"Oh," Padme said softly, and a little fearfully.
Obi-Wan smiled gently and wrapped an arm around her shoulders comfortingly. "I swear, your highness, your secret is safe with me," he promised.
"Then you'd better continue to call me Padme," she reminded him, her own voice weak as she made the protestation.
"Of course Padme," Obi-Wan agreed with a solemn nod.