RETURN TO NABOO-PART ONE
The crowd lining the Royal Avenue of Theed surged forward as several Gian landspeeders slowly cruised by. Many had been waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of the famed occupants of the speeders. Not so much because of their legendary feats throughout the galaxy-the Naboo typically had little interest in galactic affairs-but because of their relationship to Naboo's beloved Padme Amidala-former Queen, Senator, and martyr of the Empire.

"Can you see them?" called one excited young woman.

The man beside her shrugged. "I couldn't tell." He watched as the speeders passed out of sight. "I'm going home and turn on the 'net. They'll be covering this all day."

Those closer to Theed Palace were more fortunate. The three speeders came to a halt before the grand staircase rising up to the Palace entrance. Security guards, easily identifiable in their dark red uniforms, stood at attention around the speeders and on the stairs. Their presence was superfluous, really. Naboo was a peaceful planet, had been for many generations. Except for the brief skirmish with the Trade Federation over thirty years ago, violence was almost unknown here. Most security guards served their whole careers facing nothing more dangerous than an irate driver caught speeding. Even in the unlikely event of a threat in the cheering throngs, the visitors would be able to protect themselves better than the guards could.

King Tripday, a heavysey, jowled man with thick, graying hair, emerged from the first speeder. He raised his hands in the air, waving to the crowd, who gave an obliging cheer. He wasn't the one they had come to see, but he was popular enough and they were in an agreeable mood.

The king and his bodyguards moved to the second speeder and an expectant hush fell over the crowd only to give way to even more enthusiastic cries as a small, dark-haired woman, hardly more than a girl, stepped out. She was dressed in simple, yet elegant white robes and wore her hair in a braided coronet. She immediately stepped to one side so her companion could stand beside her. He was a slender, but muscular young man, a few years older than she, with a relaxed manner and a roguish grin. He had dark hair, hazel eyes, and wore the gold and navy uniform of an officer in the New Republic fleet. He gave a carefree wave to the mob on the street.

More bodyguards crossed to the third speeder. A tall blond man came to stand by the stairs, followed by a younger man who seemed almost embarrassed by the commotion. He was smaller and more slightly built than his taller companion, but had the same fair hair and blue eyes. They were dressed identically in sand-colored tunics, pants, and boots, and wore brown Jedi robes.

"Luke, come on. They want to see us." As a diplomat, Leia knew how distinguished guests were to be received. She reached for her brother's hand. Luke allowed himself to be pulled over next to her. He was distinctly uncomfortable with this whole scene. He would have preferred to arrive on Naboo quietly, without all this fuss. But everyone in the galaxy knew who they were and the Naboo were beside themselves at the chance to see Padme's children. To refuse to acknowledge their adulation would seem ungrateful.

The twins, Luke and Leia Skywalker, Jedi Knight and Vice-Chancellor of the New Republic, climbed several steps and turned to face the crowd. They smiled and waved. Then Leia motioned for the other two members of their party to join them. Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo went to stand on either side of the twins. The four of them stood on the staircase of Theed Palace for several moments, acknowledging the adoring shouts of the people.

Every holonet channel on Naboo would replay the scene for days and the words 'joyous occasion' always used to describe it, but in truth the Skywalkers had mixed emotions about coming to this world.

Luke and Leia did feel joy and excitement at seeing their mother's home and having the chance to learn about her, but they also felt vague sorrow because they would never get to know Padme herself .

If the twins felt vague sorrow, Anakin felt deep loss and sharp pain. He was the only one of the group who had been to Naboo before, not counting the droid R2, and seeing again the lovely, quaint buildings, the excited people, and the majestic Theed Palace made him acutely aware of Padme's absence. It had been twenty years since her death, but his grief was still strong. Of course, he had never properly grieved for her before. Just flown into an insane rage and then turned to the dark side, thereby betraying everything she had believed in. He pushed those thoughts away. Luke had saved him from the darkness and he would make the most of his second chance at life. There was much to atone for, but he was working on it, and Padme herself would have been forgiving. He was sure of that.

Han was the one who felt the most relaxed. Of course, it took more than a few thousand cheering people to rattle him. And unlike the others, he had no emotional connections to this place. He was there to provide moral support and enjoy a well-earned vacation. In the three months since the peace treaty had been signed, they had all been running themselves ragged setting up the New Republic government and ensuring galactic stability during the changeover. When Chancellor Mon Mothma insisted that they take a few weeks vacation, Han had jumped at the chance for some rest and relaxation. Anakin and the twins had wanted to come to Naboo so Luke and Leia could learn about their mother, and Han had wanted to be with his family, especially Leia. The bond between them was something he had never experienced before. Leia was beautiful and generous and dedicated. She had changed him. She and Luke and Chewie. They had made him look beyond himself and care about others. Now he couldn't imagine his life without any of them. Especially Leia.

Not looking entirely pleased with the attention being lavished on his guests, King Tripday joined them on the stairs, gave a final wave to the crowd, and led them upwards toward the palace.

Luke glanced backward at the receding landspeeders. "Did anyone help the droids out?"

Anakin nodded. "Yes, but R2 can't manage the stairs so a guard took them to the hanger to come up in a turbolift." He smiled and reached over to gently squeeze Luke's shoulder, sending a wave of affection through the link that they shared. Beautiful, isn't it?

Luke smiled back at his father and simply nodded as they followed the king,, Leia, and Han through the palace forecourt. They all gazed about in awe at the giant statues lining both sides of the court. Anakin had told them the statues were made of rare cream-colored koska stone, same as the palace.

Leia complimented King Tripday on the beauty of the palace and Theed City. He gave her a rather self-satisfied smile. "Naboo is known as 'the jewel of the Mid-Rim,' " he stated as they entered the palace and crossed a foyer with marble columns and rich-colored tapestries hanging from the wall. "We have always been careful to preserve the pristine condition of our planet. Our art and architecture reflect our love of beauty."

Han barely restrained himself from heaving a sigh and rolling his eyes. In the brief moments he'd been around the king, Tripday's pomposity was driving him crazy. He wasn't sure if he could be polite and diplomatic for three whole weeks. He caught Luke watching him, and though Luke's face was perfectly serious, he sensed his friend was amused at the situation. Knowing Han as well as he did, Luke guessed the Corellian was dying to make a sarcastic comment.

Leia must have guessed, too, because she glanced over, ready to cut him off. Fortunately they were distracted by the appearance of a middle-aged man with close-cropped black hair and snapping black eyes. He was dressed in a fine gray linen tunic with black pants and the insignia on his shoulder indicated he was a personage of some importance.

King Tripday waved his hand in introduction. "This is my top aide, Zel Miret. He'll show you to your rooms and take you on a tour of Theed Palace this afternoon. I'm afraid I will be meeting with the Advisory Council the rest of the day. I'll see you again at dinner. Once more, let me express my pleasure at having such distinguished visitors."

Without waiting for a reply, the king swept off down the hall, followed by an assortment guards and assistants.

Zel Miret looked over the group. As their eyes met briefly, Luke felt a wave of strong feeling emanating from the man. Hostility? Pain? Whatever it was, it was smothered so quickly he couldn't identify it. A second later Miret gave a deep bow and when he looked up again he radiated only genial concern for their comfort. "I am very pleased to meet all of you. As His Majesty said, we don't get many off-world travellers, and to receive the family of our beloved former Queen is an honor I never expected to have."

"We thank you," Anakin replied graciously. "Naboo is as beautiful as ever. We're looking forward to our time here."

"With the strict controls Palpatine enforced on our trading and off- planet traveling, we have become more provincial and self-sufficient than ever. You will find little has changed since you were last here," Miret seemed to give Anakin an odd stare, but the older Jedi had grown accustomed to odd stares over the past few months.

He may not be comfortable being around me. Anakin realized. Many people did find it disconcerting to be around the former Darth Vader. He knew it would take time and a lot of effort to convince everyone he was indeed remorseful about his past and determined to make amends as much as he could.

You've already done a lot, Father. Luke spoke softly in his mind. Anakin glanced over at his son, surprised that the boy picked up on his thoughts so easily even when he was not deliberately projecting. He supposed he shouldn't be startled, though. The link between them was so strong, and Luke was exceptionally empathetic.

He smiled at Luke and gently sent love and appreciation to him. Then he realized that Miret was still speaking. "-can let me know if there are any places you want to visit since I'll be your guide during your stay."

"Thank you," Leia answered. "There are many places my brother and I wish to see. We're anxious to visit any place that has to do with our mother."

"The Naboo Royal Museum would be a good place to start," the aide said. "There are many holograms and artifacts of our monarchs there, and your mother was the most famous of all. But forgive me, I forget you must be tired. Let me show to your rooms."

Luke spoke up, "Excuse me, but we were supposed to meet our droids inside."

"Is that them?" Miret asked as one the ever-present red-uniformed guards came up followed by two familiar figures.

"That's them all right," Han commented as the guard and droids approached. R2 beeped happily and 3PO seemed right at home in the formal setting. He was, after all a protocol droid.

Miret nodded to the guard, dismissing him, and the now complete group continued on its way. The aide led them down a long hall, up a flight a stairs, and down another long hall before finally stopping by a pair of double doors. "I apologize for making you walk so far, but we thought you would find it more restful and would have more privacy if your rooms were away from the busyness of palace life. In any case, these rooms have the most spectacular view of the city. I think you'll be quite comfortable. I'll let you rest a bit, and give you a tour of Theed Palace in a couple of hours. If you need anything, there is a comm system button on the inside wall."

He pressed the admittance button, bowed deeply, and disappeared down the hall. The Skywalkers and Han entered and looked about. Their quarters consisted of a large, central living area graciously appointed with thick carpeting and soft, comfortable-looking furniture. Several doors on each side wall presumably led to bedrooms. A glass door leading to a balcony ran across the back of the room and the view of Theed was indeed eye- catching. Servant droids had already deposited their suitcases in the room. 3PO and R2 took the bags and headed into the bedrooms to unpack. Luke, Leia, and Han began looking about the place. Anakin's attention was immediately caught by the portrait hanging above the fireplace.

It showed a beautiful young woman with long dark hair. She wore a deep blue gown and was standing before a stone railing covered with vines and pastel flowers. A gentle smile lit her face and her dark eyes shone with life.

Padme.

After a time he realized his children had come to stand on either side of him. He wrapped his arms around their shoulders. Silently the three Skywalkers studied the missing member of their family. Han watched them quietly from the doorway.

"When was this made?" Leia finally asked, her voice almost a whisper. She was terribly moved at the picture of her mother whom she barely remembered.

Anakin had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could answer. "Probably sometime between our first meeting as children and when we reunited on Coruscant." He turned to his daughter. "She looks about your age."

"I wish I had known her," Luke murmured.

"So do I," Anakin agreed. "She would have been so proud of both of you."

Leia moved away to stand beside Han. She was very tired and emotionally drained all of a sudden. If she wasn't careful, she would start crying in a minute and she didn't feel ready to deal with her emotions right now. Besides, even though she had forgiven her father and was trying to form a loving relationship with him, she still wasn't always comfortable being in close proximity with him. She doubted she would ever feel as close to him as Luke did.

"I'm going to lie down for a while before Miret comes back," she said. "Oh, on the way here, King Tripday informed me that we'll be the guests of honor at a formal dinner this evening. Did anyone tell you?"

"Yes, our guard did," Luke replied.

Han was finally free to roll his eyes. "I can hardly wait."