Although it is serious, Land and Sky has the same overall feel and tone as my Stargate story, The Games People Play. There are elements of drama and romance here, but where my main Star Wars project, One Path, is often extremely harrowing, this fic endeavors to be more lighthearted. In some ways, although I didn't initially intend for this to happen, Land and Sky is a response to One Path. It incorporates several ideas, events, and plotlines that were simply not possible to accomplish in One Path.
As with One Path, my respect for the world created by George Lucas compels me to maintain the integrity of his characterizations here, and to follow the events laid out in the canon saga unless the single point of divergence which spawned the AU logically changes those events. In cases where changes occur, they will be approached in a way that is respectful of the intent of Star Wars and the characters created by Lucas. The major themes of Star Wars will be represented here, but in ways that are not quite so similar to canon events as I was able to do in One Path.
This fic explores the possibility that Qui-Gon Jinn was injured on Naboo while attempting to rescue Queen Amidala from the Trade Federation. As such, Qui-Gon is forced to remain on the ship while Obi-Wan accompanies Padme and friends to Mos Espa. See my Author page for the full notes and additional information.
Chronicler's Introduction by Inalia Kenobi
The Ka'andesi clans have a tradition about souls. They say that a soul
is made both of the Force and the land, because the Force shapes the
land, and then the growing things, the running things, and the birds of
the air in turn shape the Force. So when a creature is born, his soul
is the Force that mingles with the land who bore him. The land is in
his soul, and he cannot forget it.
The Ka'andesi also say that souls can be tied together. By returning to Inal, the place of belonging, a Ka'andesi may tie her soul to another and in doing so tie their lands together. In this way, marriages are made among the clan, weaving spirit to spirit and giving the wanderer a place to call his own. This is also the way that sisters can be made out of two who come from different mothers.
Yet there are those whose souls need no such tie. Among the Ka'andesi, these are called ktal'teanaki—beings whose souls are so closely linked that they might be called two aspects of the same thing. Each are unique, each are separate from one another. They are not the two halves of something, each alone and searching for completion. They are two of the same, like the clans themselves, and in finding one another, they find Inal within themselves.
In finding a mate, one finds completion. In finding a sister or a brother, one finds clan. In finding ktal'teanaki, one finds home.
All of these, together, mean Ka'andesi, and Ka'andesi means new hope.
Grasping hands are often cut off; giving hands are rewarded.
—The Collected Wisdom of the Ka'andesi Peoples, as told to Inalia Kenobi, Chronicler of the Ch'lliear.
Padme's pulse raced with a mix of fear and anger as she descended the palace steps, but thus far, careful discipline and the kick of adrenaline in her bloodstream had enabled her to remain clearheaded. Surrounded by battle droids, Padme and the handmaidens made their way silently down the palace steps behind Sabe, who was already in her role as decoy. Governor Sio Bibble walked alongside Sabe, putting on a commendably brave face in the midst of the invasion. Though she kept her eyes on the ground in front of her, she was keenly following the discussion between the governor and the Trade Federation's self-serving Neimoidian Viceroy, Nute Gunray.
"How will you explain this invasion in the Senate?" the governor demanded roughly.
"The Naboo and the Trade Federation will sign a treaty that will legitimize our occupation of Theed. I have been assured that such a treaty, once produced, will be quickly ratified by the Senate," Gunray replied without concern.
"A treaty?" Sio Bibble exclaimed. "In the face of this completely unlawful action?"
"I will not cooperate!" Sabe interrupted firmly.
"Now, now, Your Highness," Gunray purred. "Don't be too hasty with your pronouncements. You are not going to like what we have in store for your people. In time, their suffering will persuade you to see our point of view."
The very offhandedness of the comment sent a chill through Padme, but the Viceroy had already turned away, dismissing the Naboo as if the people and culture of the planet he was invading had no value to him whatsoever. In fact, they probably didn't. He beckoned toward one of his battle droids. "Commander?"
It stepped forward, narrow metal snout lowering slightly in acknowledgement as it awaited further instructions. "Yes, sir."
"Process them," the viceroy ordered coldly.
The droid signaled for one of its sergeants to take over, metallic voice directing that the prisoners be taken to Camp Four.
"Roger-roger," the sergeant replied.
With that, the battle droids herded Padme, her handmaidens, Governor Bibble, Captain Panaka, who was the head of the Queen's personal security force, and the remaining guards out of the room. The group hustled through the polished stone halls and outside of the palace to where a series of terraced steps led them through statuary and buttress work to a broad, flat, sunlit plaza. The plaza was normally bustling with people. Now, it was filled with Federation tanks and battle droids, and not a single Naboo was in sight. Padme forced herself to keep looking, though her most earnest desire was to close her eyes against the presence of the invading army which was set on destroying her home, her people, and their way of life.
The tanks were squat, shovel-nosed vehicles with their main cannon mounted on a turret above and behind the cockpit. Smaller blasters were set low on either side. They reminded the young queen distinctly of foraging beetles as they edged about the plaza's perimeter. Beyond them, the buildings of Theed stretched away toward the horizon, a vast sprawl of high stone walls, gilded domes, peaked towers, and sculpted archways. Sunlight bathed the gleaming edifices, whose architecture was in perfect counterpoint to the lush green natural beauty of the planet. The rush of waterfalls and bubble of fountains formed a soft, distant backdrop to the strange silence created by the absence of the populace.
No one spoke as the prisoners were marched across the plaza. Even Governor Bibble had gone silent, his gray- bearded head lowered in dark contemplation. They reached the end of the plaza and turned down a broad avenue that led to the outskirts of the city, where the newly constructed Trade Federation detention camps awaited them. STAP-2's hummed overhead, their menacing shadows flitting off the walls of the buildings, metal shells gleaming as they darted away. Padme tried not to watch them, or to think about what the presence of these invading machines would soon mean to the people that she had been elected to lead. She moved her eyes downward and kept her gaze focused on the ground in front of her, concentrating only on placing one foot in front of the other.
Suddenly, the procession halted, and she jerked her head up just in time to see two men leap from a walkway above into the path of the advancing droids. Her breath caught as the blue and green blades in their hands began to cut down the battle droids. They moved so fast that she could hardly follow their actions. They cut down the droids in a matter of seconds, then the older of the two gestured gallantly to Sabe.
"We should leave the streets, Your Highness," he said.
As the pair ushered the queen's entourage up another flight of steps and into the alleyway beyond, Padme heard Captain Panaka order his men to take the fallen droids' blasters. Once the group was safely hidden in the alley, Padme took a breath and allowed herself a moment to evaluate their rescuers. Both wore loose robes over belted tunics. The taller had long, graying brown hair, while the shorter one's hair was close cropped and cut to a thin braided pigtail. He was now standing directly beside her, close enough that she could have brushed his robe with her fingertips, and she felt oddly warm at the proximity. His blue-green eyes caught hers, widening slightly as he realized that she was studying him. She felt her cheeks flush and was glad of the hood, which at least partially concealed her face. Hurriedly, she turned her attention to his companion, who was already addressing Sabe.
"Your Highness, I am Qui-Gon Jinn. This is my Apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said with a gesture toward the Padawan. "We are ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor."
"Your negotiations seem to have failed, Ambassador," remarked up Sio Bibble.
"The negotiations never took place," the Jedi replied. "It is urgent that we make contact with the Republic."
"They've knocked out all our communications," Captain Panaka spoke up.
"Do you have transports?" Qui-Gon asked.
The captain, nodded quickly. "In the main hangar. This way."
He led the little group to the end of the alleyway, where they crossed to other passageways and back streets, encountering no one. They moved quickly and silently through the growing sound of alarms and the wicked buzz of STAPs.
A series of connected buildings dominated one end of a broad causeway, each one domed and cavernous, the central structures warded by arched entrances and low, flat-walled outbuildings. Battle droids were stationed everywhere, weapons held at the ready, but Captain Panaka was able to find an unguarded approach down a narrow corridor between adjoining buildings. At a side door to the main hangar, Panaka brought the group to a halt. After a quick glance over his shoulder for droids, he unlocked and nudged open the hangar door.
"There are too many of them," he said as he moved back.
Qui-Gon too eased back from the door. "That won't be a problem," he said as he turned to face Sabe. "Your Highness. Under the circumstances, I suggest you come to Coruscant with us."
The decoy shook her head, already knowing what her mistress's response to that statement would be. "Thank you, Ambassador, but my place is with my people."
"They will kill you if you stay," Qui-Gon replied with such calm dispassion that a chill traveled up Padme's spine. He spoke the words as if he were saying that the sky was blue or that the sun was warm this afternoon. She shifted her gaze from him to the younger Jedi, Obi-Wan, seeking confirmation, and she found it in the resolute set of his jaw. Oddly, his expression seemed to be both a mirror of Qui-Gon's calm and the exact opposite of it. His countenance was cool and without fear, like his Master's, but beneath the calm, she detected an intensity that the other lacked. Hurriedly, she moved her eyes away again, but she felt him look at her, and the touch of his eyes warmed her skin as if it were the brush of his fingers…or his breath.
She shook away the thought, bringing her mind back to the situation at hand. Sio Bibble and Captain Panaka were already arguing with Qui-Gon's assertion that the Trade Federation would kill their queen. Logically speaking, she agreed with them. The Federation needed Queen Amidala to sign their treaty in order to legitimize the occupation of Theed.
Qui-Gon remained resolute. "The situation here is not what it seems. There is something else going on, Your Highness. There is no logic to the Federation's actions. My feelings tell me they will destroy you."
Sio Bibble began to waver, but Padme had made her decision even before the governor began to speak. Something in the manner of both Jedi was too certain to dismiss, and Qui-Gon was undeniably right that the invasion made no real sense from a political perspective.
"Your Highness," the governor was saying. "Perhaps you should reconsider. Our only hope is for the Senate to take our side in this matter. Senator Palpatine will need your help--"
"Getting past their blockade is impossible, Your Highness—even if we were to get off the planet! An escape attempt is too dangerous!" interrupted Panaka.
"Your Highness, I will stay here and do what I can," Sio Bibble countered, shaking his head briefly at Panaka. "They will have to maintain the Council of Governors in order to keep some semblance of order. But you must leave--!"
Sabe held up her hand, silencing the debate with a silently regal command. "Either choice presents grave danger," she began, turning toward Padme. "To us all."
"We are brave, Your Highness," Padme replied, her eyes flicking ever so slightly in the direction of Qui-Gon Jinn.
"So be it," said Sabe, turning again. "I will plead our case before the Senate. Be careful, Governor."
The Jedi moved through the side door and into the hangar, leading the way at a fast clip. Panaka strode beside them, jabbing a finger as they moved.
"We'll need to free those men," he said, indicating a group of Naboo being held captive in a corner of the hangar. By their uniforms, Padme could tell that they were a mix of pilots, guards, and mechanics.
"I'll deal with that, Obi-Wan said smoothly, veering toward them while the rest of the group continued toward the ship.
"Halt!" commanded one of the battle droids just before they reached it. A group of them clustered in front of Qui-Gon, blocking their path, but he was undeterred.
"I'm an ambassador for the Supreme Chancellor, and I am taking these people to Coruscant," he said calmly.
"Where are you taking them?" asked the droid, obviously confused.
"To Coruscant," repeated Qui-Gon.
"To Coruscant," the droid echoed. "That does not compute…wait…um…you're under arrest!"
Almost as quickly as it uttered the statement, it was a pile of red-hot, glowing scrap, decimated by Qui-Gon's green blade. The others near them rapidly followed suit, but more rushed toward the ship, firing blasters at the escaping Naboo. Captain Panaka and the rest of the guards closed ranks around Sabe and the handmaidens, shielding them with their bodies as they raced up the boarding ramp.
Padme turned and looked over her shoulder as they moved, trying to keep the Jedi in view. She saw Obi-Wan launch himself at the droids on the far side of the hangar, cutting into them with ferocious determination. He had the prisoners free in a moment and was running back toward his Master with them by the time Padme reached the top of the ramp. Qui-Gon meanwhile was battling back another rush of droids, his lightsaber moving in an amazing show of skill as he deflected their blaster bolts back at them. Then, two of the red bolts flashed past the Jedi's defenses, and the last thing Padme saw as she was herded inside was Obi-Wan leaping to defend his fallen Master…