Title: "The One in the Travella" (2/2)

Author's Notes: My beloved (yeah, right!) Vector Prime hardcover goes to first person to note where the line from Return of the Jedi is hidden and what it is.

Summary: Sabé tells her story during the events of Episode I, with some surprises that someone had to come up with.

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Once again, I was trembling. Once again, I was on the throne. And, once again, I was scared to death. Everything was set up for my nightmare to come true. Everything but the warrior.

Amidala had returned quite some time ago with Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, and the droid R2-D2. In our brief time together, she mentioned that she had quite a story to tell me. The open smile on her face signalled to me that it had been an experience not native to Naboo, or an infrequent pasttime to royalty. I couldn't wait to hear all about it.

Until then, I ushered her off to get cleaned up. I sat in the throne room and listened to Jar Jar tell our pilot, Ric Olié, about the "Poddyroose" while watching Obi-Wan replace the hyperdrive. I had never seen a mechanic work as fast as he was at the moment. No doubt he expected Master Jinn to return soon.

Boredom was beginning to eat away at my forboding mood. I knew there was a holoprojector in the throne room that could link to the forward visual sensor on the Royal Starship's bridge, enabling me to watch all that was happening outside. I could not, however, find this device. Rabé was in one of the staterooms helping Amidala with her hair, so I set out to find Eirtaé; she would probably know the entire schematics of the throne room anyway.

As I was making my way through the main cockpit, Obi-Wan was climbing from the repair level of the starship, complete with hydrospanner in hand.

"Your Highness," he called to me. "May I have a word with you?"

"Of course," I replied, turning to face him.

"I spoke with Captain Panaka," he began, "but he suggested I ask you."

I said nothing; a silent acknowledgement to continue.

"It's about the boy Master Qui-Gon found," said Obi-Wan gravely, "he wants to bring the boy to Coruscant to present to the Jedi Council."

That's where he went... "I see," I murmured, though I didn't, as usual.

"Is this all right with you, your Majesty?" he asked tentatively.

"Yes," I answered, as decisively as possible. I was sure Amidala would not mind the presence of one more passenger. "As long as you are certain we have adequate supplies for any extra person."

He nodded. "I am, my Queen."

"Good, then." I smiled faintly. "How are the repairs coming?"

"Very well," he informed me. For a moment he looked as if he was going to push a hand through his hair. A glance at the grease marring his fingers provoked him otherwise. "We warm up the sublight engines and your starship will be prepared for flight once more."

"Excellent." I nodded in approval. "You did not encounter any difficulties?" I inquired, although I knew I would not understand whatever he had to say.

"I had some problems redirecting a series of wires to the correct power supplies." He frowned. "The circuitry of this ship is unlike any I've ever seen. It's impressively complex."

"I am sure you handled it all correctly?" I raised my eyebrows coyly.

"I believe I put up a worthy effort," he said, shooting me a smile.

"That said," I began, remembering my initial intention, "could you spare a moment to assist me?"

"Of course," he practically exclaimed, wiping his hands on his long brown robe.

I walked past him, into the throne room, and quickly described the object I was looking for. Within a couple of minutes, Obi-Wan had located the button.

Resuming my position on the throne, the Jedi activated the built-in holoprojector and adjusted it so that I had a view direct from the forward visual sensor. He also found a comlink to the intercom at the end of the ship's nose, which I requested be turned on also.

Soon, we were watching a panoramic view of the dry Tatooine landscape. On the not-so distant horizon, two figures could be seen approaching the starship at a leisurely pace. After a few moments, I could easily make out Qui-Gon in his billowing robe and a young boy beside him, turning occaisonally to look up at the tall Jedi, in conversation, I assumed. Watching the hologram, I knew the boy with Master Jinn was the same as the one in my dream. He had sandy blonde hair that reached his ears and a simple beige tunic and pants outfit, apparently local clothing of Mos Espa.

I could feel the panic rise within me as I scanned the projection for the dark warrior. I saw none other than Master Jinn and the boy, and a lot of sand.

The two beings appeared to be enthralled in a close discussion, for neither of them looked up when a small landspeeder materialized from over the side of the mesa, racing towards them.

"Who is that?" asked Obi-Wan quizzically, though he seemed unconcerned.

My throat tightened. It was him.

Qui-Gon, turn around! my mind screamed as my fingers gripped the throne's armrests.

As if he had heard me, the Jedi Master whirled around just in time to see the speeder bearing down on him. He yelled something to the boy, most of which I could not understand, except for "drop!" Instinctively and immediately, the boy plopped down into the warm sand beneath him. In result, the dark warrior's landspeeder whizzed right over him.

The warrior vaulted off the still-moving speeder bike and began to close the distance between him and Master Jinn. A strong wind picked up, blasting sand into the warrior's red-and-black tattooed face and pushing his black robes against his lean, muscular form. He whipped an unusually long sword hilt from behind his back, thumbing the lightsaber to life with a decidely evil snap-hiss.

Reflexively, Qui-Gon brought his own neon green lightsaber to a battle stance before him. He yelled something to the boy, causing the boy to pick himself out of the sand and run towards the starship. His legs were short, his back-pack heavy, and the sand hindering, but he struggled his way across the dunes as Master Jinn and the warrior tangled their lightsabers in a fast and furious duel.

I felt hope rising within me. My nightmare had not come true; the boy would soon be boarding the ship and Master Jinn was fending off the warrior with a skill and precision I had yet to witness before. As I watched the hot sand rise in a cloud around Qui-Gon and the warrior, the minutes ticked away and I sensed Obi-Wan leave his position beside me. The ship lurched moments later as the J-47 Nubian sublight engines revved up and the midship loading ramp locked open.

Small footsteps pattered up the ramp and I could feel the ship take off almost immediately afterward. From what I could tell from the visual sensor projection, the Royal Starship was floating towards Master Jinn via repulsorlifts.

There was quiet throughout the ship then, and I could no longer see the battling warriors. Faint clashes of lightsabers drifted to my ears, and abruptly ended seconds later. The sounds of running filled the main cockpit then, followed by the closing of the loading ramp.

Before I knew what was going on, the holoprojection was filled with stars as we roared away from desolate Tatooine, and the dark warrior of my nightmare. The pinpricks stretched into starlines and suddenly, we were in hyperspace.

¤-~-¤-~-¤

Several hours later, Master Jinn requested to meet with me in the Queen's private quarters. Amidala suggested at least a dozen reasons why he would do this, from wanting to know my Senatorial speech, who the dark warrior was and his intentions, to the Queen's thoughts on the extra passenger. She informed me of how I should act around the Jedi Master, including how I should not think about how I wasn't the Queen. Something about mental shielding.

I laughed easily and told her I had the disguise down pat. She looked edgy, and the feeling was contagious, but I would sooner calm her frayed nerves than my own.

Now, I sat on a small couch in the Queen's stateroom, watching Master Jinn take a seat at the conference table at the center of the room. He appeared as preoccupied with his thoughts as I was with mine.

"Thank you, Your Highness, for agreeing to speak with me." For the first time since he had come in, he met my inquisitive gaze with a blue- eyed stare.

"We owe you our lives, Master Jedi," I told him, laying on the reverence. "How could I not meet with you?"

The question was rhetorical, and he only smiled faintly in response.

"I trust you were not injured earlier?" I asked, attempting to fill the silence.

"Only a few bruises, my Queen," said Qui-Gon. Though the anguished expression that had surfaced as he sat proved otherwise.

"Very good." It was the only thing I could think of to say. Why was he so quiet? It was, after all, his bidding to meet with me. I return his previous smile with a similar one, adding that delicate touch.

"As a matter of fact," he began, finally, "what I came to see you about acts in accordance with those preceding events."

"Please," --I held a hand out to my side-- "continue."

"Your Majesty, when did you notice the presence of the warrior I fought?" the Jedi asked tentatively, leaning forward on his knees and lacing his long fingers.

I tried not to look surprised at the question. "Your Apprentice and I were watching your approach on the throne room's holoprojection," I replied. "The moment he appeared over the side of the mesa I noticed him."

Qui-Gon nodded thoughtfully to himself. "Do you remember saying anything during that time period? To Obi-Wan, perhaps?"

Where was he going with this? "It was not necessarily spoken," I admitted. I tried to push away that niggling feeling of forboding that unwillingly returned.

"Can you elaborate on that?"

"It was... this one thought that seemed to be of terrible urgency and importance that it felt as if it was spoken." Momentarily, my voice did not seem my own, and the foreign tones added a razor's edge of fright to the inexplicable panic already welled within me.

"But it wasn't?" He reminded me of a political psychologist, those people that are paid to ask Senators why they conspire and act illegally.

"No," I said, my voice insistant and my tone forceful. "It was loud in my mind, but in my mind nonetheless."

"What was that thought?" inquired Master Jinn. He had an incredibly soothing voice, and for a moment in time I wanted to tell him how unhappy I was. About the blockade, the lack of action in the Senate, my deception-- No! my conscious screamed. Mental shielding, mental shielding...

What was the question again? Oh, yes. "I believe the thought was along the lines of... 'Qui-Gon, turn around,'" I told him, though the phrase was far less powerful and definitely more casual the second time around.

Another nod from the Jedi, and then all was quiet, prompting me to question, "Why do you ask?"

His head came up slowly, and he regarded me speculatively. "Are you familiar with the Jedi's gifts from the Force, Your Highness?"

Gift? What gift? "Not particularly," I replied, adding a reluctant sigh. This had thrown me off, but my ease of recovery and acting ability was the reason why I was here and Rabé was not. She would have probably asked the Jedi what shampoo he used, anyway.

"Well," he began, and I could almost see switch to storyteller mode, "all Jedi share a common bond with the Force. Through this link, Jedi can communicate within each other."

He looked over at me again. I nodded in reply, showing I understood thus far.

Satisfied, he continued. "Oftentimes, it is difficult to make out who is sending this telepathic message, depending on how far the message is being sent." I nodded once again. "It is my belief, after much thought, that you sent me one of these 'Force calls,' warning me of the warrior's arrival."

Oh, Sith.

Eirtaé would have scrubbed my mouth out with Aquilarian reef bittersoap for that remark. I was just thankful that I had not said it aloud. However, with a Jedi approximately three feet in front of me, I was not so sure it hadn't been heard. I lost control of my voice and kept still for a couple handfuls of seconds. Well, maybe it was a couple dozen handfuls of seconds, but I just sat there. Had he implied that I was Force- sensitive!?

"Have you, Master Jedi, implied that I am Force-sensitive?" I could not find a better way to voice my thoughts at the moment.

Master Jinn cleared his throat somewhat surreptitiously, as if he had accused me of giving birth to a Gamorrean child. I did not mean to appear above the Force, but I knew that Amidala was not sensitive to the Force, and if Qui-Gon dragged the real Queen to be tested... No. She would not go. Jedi were not needed on Naboo, therefore children on our planet were not tested for their midi-something-or-other count.

Presently, I tried to slow my thoughts and listen to what the seasoned Jedi had to say. Surely it couldn't be like that...

"There is no reason to be alarmed, Your Highness," he tried to assure me. "I thought you would like to be notified of this. Such a gift from the Force is highly valued." He beamed with blatant pride.

Again, the gift... I did not know what to say. What could I say? "Are you certain it was me?" I questioned. Obi-Wan had mentioned that his Master had found a highly Force- sensitive boy in Mos Espa, perhaps Qui-Gon happened to sense the Force strongly in many things. Like little slave boys, handmaidens impersonating queens, eopies, house plants...

"I heard your voice."

I couldn't deny it. I had thought it, he had heard it. Why had I been so stupid? Mental shielding! I could have slapped myself. However, I simply tried my hardest not to slump down into a slouch. I had no options left, no misdirections that would cause Qui-Gon to question himself. I had to stop playing games and understand that this issue was significant to me.

"What am I to do now?"

Master Jinn looked surprised with my question, and took a moment to ponder it. "No immediate action is necessary," he said. "If you do not wish to expand on your ability, it is your choice. I believe you could learn a few interesting tricks from my Apprentice, however." He smirked at me; well, as close to a smirk as I thought possible of him. "It could be helpful to your role as a political leader," he continued, opening his arms. "An advantage."

The idea of poking around in Senators' heads was not wholly appealing, yet I had to agree its usefulness at sequestering the lies from the truth, not to mention enhancing my own effectiveness as the Queen's bodyguard. But the Master Jedi did not know that part of me...

"Well," I began, centering my thoughts (mental shielding!), "I will have to consult my advisors before steps, if any at all, are to be to taken."

"Of course, Your Highness," he concurred, rising from his seat.

"Will you be returning to the bridge?" I asked, looking up at him.

"I believe I will." He straightened his robes and prepared to exit. "If you need any--"

I interrupted him, holding up a pale hand. "I will call. Thank you, Master Jinn."

He bowed his head to me in a rather noble fashion, then turned and left the room.

I leaned heavily against the side of the couch, sighing heavily once the door slid to a close. Gods... What would I tell Amidala? She would certainly be disappointed that I could not keep my cool in a time of crisis. I rested my elbows on my knees and laid my head in my hands, suddenly extremely exhausted.

"Sabé!" Someone hissed my real name from a corner of the room and I brought my head up, searching the chamber for the owner of the voice. Soon, Amidala, now sporting the fiery travella handmaiden's gown, emerged from a hidden door at the back of the stateroom. She promptly arrived at my side.

"What did he say?" she asked the obvious question, sitting on the sofa next to me.

I recovered my face, not yet prepared to let her see how upset I was. However, I replied through my hands, forever obedient to her bidding. "He said he heard a telepathic warning from me, and that I'm Force-sensitive," I mumbled morosely.

"What's so bad about that?" she inquired, astonishingly carefree.

Letting my hands fall away, I stared at her, shocked. "B-but... But you're not Force-sensitive." Amidala shrugged. "If he senses it in me, and not you," I continued, "he'll know there's something wrong somewhere."

Amidala touched a careful finger to her chin, appearing thoughtful. "Sabé," she began slowly, turning her body to better face me, "has Master Jinn ever mentioned your alleged sensitivity to you before?"

"Of course, not! But he-- oh." I fell silent, pondering her point. "You're saying that I'm not sensitive enough to the Force to be noticed on a regular basis, but when I'm..." I gesticulated wildly, searching for the right word.

"Maybe you're heard when the Force wills it so."

I stared at her with blatant disbelief, again. "Amidala, are you turning Jedi on me?" She let out a small, appreciative laugh. "I thought you didn't believe in that."

"Well, I don't," she replied, her gaze leaving me to focus on a potted flower on the conference table. "Not a lot, anyway. But if Master Jinn believes it..." She left the comment open, glancing back at me.

I sighed heavily. "Point. Well, what should we do when we land on Coruscant?"

She frowned. "I was initially planning to go as Padmé, but I am beginning to find it more beneficial if I speak with Valorum directly, in person."

"Why?" I asked her.

"First of all, we'll be on the Supreme Chancellor's private landing platform," she said, smiling. "I believe the area will be secure. Secondly, I kind of missed having people listen to everything I said."

"Are you sure?" I inquired, skeptical. She had to have inhaled too much Tatooine sand or something. "I can--"

"No, Sabé," she assured me, laying a hand on my shoulder, "It will be all right."

I exhaled loudly in resignation, then looked at her again, matching her smile. "To tell you the truth, I didn't really enjoy living in a constant state of paranoia, having everyone's eyes on me all the time."

She laughed at the comment; I knew she found privacy hard to come by as of recently.

"So," I began again, growing serious, "when we get to Coruscant, we assume our true roles and just... let fate take its course?"

She nodded. "Precisely."

"As you wish, my Queen," I replied, bowing my head in the well- remembered loyal manner.

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Half an hour later, the true Queen Amidala and her entourage presented themselves to the Supreme Chancellor Valorum and his retinue. I stood behind and to the right of Amidala, keeping my head low and eyes up in a semblance of obedience, awareness, and indifference.

Master Jinn and his apprentice, Obi-Wan, trailed behind us with Jar Jar Binks, the Astromech R2-D2, and young Anakin Skywalker. As the Supreme Chancellor greeted Amidala, Anakin turned and grinned at me in a particularly endearing fashion, believing that I was Padmé. Poor boy, I thought, he doesn't even realize that Padmé doesn't exist. It sounds cruel, but I bet that the expression on his face would be priceless when he finally learned that his handmaiden girlfriend was a queen. Presently, I felt a smirk struggling to surface on my face. I chided myself for being such a conniving little girl.

I composed myself as the introductions ended and the Jedi stepped forward to inform the Queen of their next plan of action. I heard them say that they were to report to the Jedi Council immediately. Soon thereafter, they left the docking platform, heading back the way they came.

Obi-Wan brushed by me especially slowly. For a moment, I thought he had recognized me and risked a stupidly revealing smile. However, I had been wrong, he had not noticed me, and exited the platform without so much as a glance over his shoulder.

I knew he was not supposed to notice me, considering the sudden change in appearance. Yet for the first time since I had resumed my position as handmaiden to the Queen, I was horribly disappointed that someone had failed to see me. I was back in the role I knew and was born to know my entire life.

Once again, I was simply the one in the travella.

¤-~-¤ completed 3-20-00