A/N: Because Obi-Wan was human, too! And love stories are grand.
Disclaimer: Really, don't own it. Just love it.
Everything conspires to silence us,
partly with shame,
partly with unspeakable hope.
- Rilke, Second Elegy
If the words of her first and most memorable teacher were to be believed, then there exists in the world an Order, a natural hierarchy that contains within it every living thing, that cascades down over all the articles of creation and weaves them together in a grand, cosmic narrative of purpose and destiny.
It was a long time ago, in the days of the old republic. On the core planet of Naboo, on a lovely summer's day the children of the state orphanage were led out from behind the high grey brick walls to go to the capital. The bus ride there was a spectacle of chattering and shrieking, with windows open and the new air pouring over like the wind weaves over the sea.
But, being orphans and by necessity better behaved than most children, they grew quiet as they proceeded down the white-marbled streets, and in the cool shadow of Theed's tall colonnades all fell silent. The children formed a ring around the sharp, tall shadow of their professor. Standard-issue maroon unifs – a few too short in the cuff or in the leg – stirred in the wind, while the long hair of the girls blew back in the high breeze of a medallion-gold day.
It was to be their first lesson in politics, in citizenship, and in obedience to a Law that was at once external to the individual and internal to the social organism. But at that time they only Professor Suo-Lan Kon, who at the age of twenty-seven had been banished from the higher circles of Coruscanti academia into the drudgery of the Naboovian state school system as the result of a few controversial papers. And indeed there was something in the tilt of his head that recalled the lean, hungry cats that patrolled the outlying mountains of the wilderness. But despair and intellectual frustration only made him more eloquent, and when he spoke to his miniature audience it was with the intensity of a man about to be struck dumb for all eternity.
To understand the truth of the state, Professor Kon said, one simply observed the working of the fountain. He waved his hand, as if he himself had, at that very moment, crafted the whole of it through his understanding, as if alone of all the world, he flung the light of the sun to illuminate that white-marbled, thousand-tiered fountain. The children squinted, and shifted their gaze under the glare of it; some had already lost interest, and were making faces at one another. Many had been here before, had stood at this very spot some years ago, had heard the same story told in a different tongue, by a different face. But it was another era, in a time when they still had parents, before the Pandemic.
The source of the fountain – he continued – where the water springs up, so very high up that it disappeared into the ether – that is like the source of the state's power. That is monarch, the water-spout, top-glimmering burst of spray. And see how the water then drifts, flows, steps gracefully down the many shell-like troughs like a lady descending in a grand ball gown. Each of those thousand tiers is capable of receiving a different cup of that life-water, each able to augment its flow in a singular, unique way, until the inspiration, the water itself – is transformed through the shape of its vessels into form, into action, into the creation of beauty and power and glory. The cycle completes at the very bottom of the pool where the water is charged, recycled and pumped through various hydraulic mechanisms, to spring out of the top once more.
The state gives, and we give back; the system fills the each trough, the singular empty cup that is each one of us, and we, flowing with its power, permit ourselves to be useful.
In hierarchy we find our use, in use lies our purpose. Through hierarchy, destiny; through purpose, harmony. Without this you wallow in turmoil; understand this, and you shall find peace. This he said, the sun blazing on his head while the children looked on in silence.
Even though she loved Professor Kon and often thought of his ideas of Universal Design, Sabé had to conclude as the years grew one into another that the grand moments of history, the moments of Destiny and Purpose had very little effect upon the making of her mind. It was the things unrecorded by history that impacted her, shaped her, and in some instances conspired to break her. For it seemed to Sabé a truth to say: in the small, insignificant, intervening moments, the ones rescued from history by virtue of their being forgotten, in them resided the whole of her life.
Ten years later
Captain Panaka was not a man known for his diplomacy, since pretty words were not his business on any sort day, good or bad. After an exhaustive journey across three provinces, with far too many abandoned leads, he had finally found the girl at this desolate little Abbey of the Sisters of Ailla in the town of Ranneth. His relief at seeing "NOVICE SABÉ VERUNA" in the register was incalculably greater, he thought, than even that of a parent finding her missing child after a decade's separation. His business, after all, was a matter of national security.
So he must be excused for the haste with which he flashed his badge at the attending Sister and charged into their morning reflections. And perhaps he might be pardoned his disregard of social niceties when he spotted the girl, and pointed at her, and said quite simply, and indeed very loudly –
"That's the one."
Though perhaps there was less excuse for what the Captain said next, which was something to the order of her losing ten pounds and acquiring a proper wig to cover up that ghastly shaved head, which, in the Captain's own opinion, was not a hairstyle any girl should adopt. She was a girl, after all, and this was Naboo.
The girl blinked at him. Even doing that she was the perfect replica of their new Queen, Shiraya bless Her Royal Highness.
"Out of the question," said Sister Mabela, who had been keeping watch at the door when the Captain invoked homeland security and proceeded to charge into the abbey. She had half-run after him all this way and only caught snippets of an elaborate plan involving body doubles and people getting shot during tense negotiations with the Nemodians. This conversation was taking place some minutes after the Captain's initial comment, as the other sisters had to be cleared out of the room, most of them looking scandalized that a man had all but burst in on their sanctuary. Only the novitiate was left, looking – understandably – befuddled.
"It is completely impossible," Sister Mabela continued, working herself into the vein of negation as her white eyebrows danced, "this novice is the only mechanic we have running the Abbey; as such she is irreplaceable. We can ill-afford to lose someone with her dedication to the order and her level of expertise with mechanical matters, especially now with the Trade Federation blockade. Is that not right, Novice Sabé? "
The girl opened her mouth before abruptly shutting it again.
"And your observance of silence is quite beside the point now, when the Queen's head of security is trying to take you away from us for good," the Sister snapped.
But the restoration of the novitiate's speech did not come fast enough to beat the Captain's frustrated expletive – which he had the good sense to cut short, as he was not entirely immune to the atmosphere of piety. The swallowed word, however, transformed itself into a dismissive, bristling motion in his shoulders, after which the Captain sent the Sister a look of utter condescension and incredulous contempt that ranked military officials reserved especially for uncooperative civilians.
But Sister Mabela had not risen to become second-in-line for Abbess for nothing. Thirty years of meditation practice, strict observance of precepts, and frequent dealings with recalcitrant, food-stealing novitiates had given her an intricate understanding of the human organism. This Captain Panaka was only proving to be a particularly ornery specimen. She drew herself to her full 5 foot 2 inches, and glared at the 6 foot plus man in uniform, while the sunlight caught on the bristle of her shorn white head and glinted in her grey eyes.
"I'm afraid I must insist, Captain Panaka; you must realize how preposterous your situation is – barging into our Abbey to recruit for the security detail of the queen? Surely there is another girl in the whole of Naboo who can fulfill the simple purpose of jumping in front of a bullet?"
The queen's security chief shook his head in flat denial. The determined set of his face usually frightened lower-ranked officials into their respective apologetic stances, but the old woman was had age on her side. He was not a man used to getting everything he wanted; being a fanatic it was often his lot. But the captain's passion for security detail also motivated him to fight tooth and nail – with a nun if he had to – to claim every inch of ground.
For the idea of a decoy was a stroke of complete genius; genius of a sort for which he was rarely capable, and he was sure that he only needed to get the girl in question for the plan to work out. In fact it will do better that work out; he was convinced it would become a piece of strategic sleight-of-hand to surpass anything that Naboo security has seen since before the Long Peace.
And it was for this girl, this Sabé Veruna – a pandemic orphan, as it was the tradition to take the surname of the monarch when one had none of her own – that he had scoured the countryside.
He trained his lizard-like eyes on the girl, and felt that flash of recognition, of rightness, pass through him. She was the spitting image of the queen. Now if he could only get her to stand up straight, and stop that nervous gesture of her hands, and look him in the eye – what glory that would be.
"Sister Mabela," Captain Panaka said, "For reasons which I had so patiently explained to you already, I'm afraid I won't find another girl in the whole of Naboo, or even in all the core planets combined, who will do."
He pulled out a holograph of Queen Amidala from his breast pocket – he had kept it there day and night like a talisman on this long, potentially career-ruining search – and offered it to the novice. She took it with steady fingers, and astonishment came into her face as she studied the picture. Arching her eyebrows, she passed the holograph to Siste Mabela, as if to get her assurance that this in fact was the face of their Queen.
They didn't watch the holonet here, he realized with a shock. It was an abbey after all, but did they have to be so disconnected?
"Queen Amidala has been office for less than a month," The captain explained, and then exaggerated – "and there have already been death threats. I must guarantee her safety, and you would be a perfect double. I would train you in anything you need to know to protect yourself, provide for your every need for as long as the Queen is in office - if you come with me to Theed Palace."
The girl said nothing.
"Well, Sister Mabela, I am certain that some agreement could be reached between us," Panaka plowed on, "Her Royal Highness commands vast resources, and though I understand completely your objections to losing your best mechanic –"
" – and a fine Novice in the Order," interjected Sister Mabela.
" – and a wonderful Novice, of course," Panaka agreed, though it sounded rather insipid when he said it, "But through her service to the queen this girl will fulfill her debt to all Naboo. She will serve the greater good, to repay all that the state has done for her. At the end of it she may return to again to serve the gods at this Abbey – "
Sister Mabela rolled her eyes toward heaven, "We are not a theistic order, Captain, much less a pantheistic one. We serve no gods here but what gods one might find in the luminous mind –"
"Yes of course," as the Captain refrained from some eye-rolling of his own, "my abject apologies, Sister, but I am not very familiar with your order. And to continue in our discussion – the novice will only be needed for four years, and in the meantime I am certain that a professional engineer will be sent to you for any problems you might experience with the generator, free of charge."
"Captain Panaka?" the novitiate spoke before the bargaining for her person could take too vulgar a turn. Though her voice was hoarse from long disuse (how long was this vow of silence, he wondered – Months? Years?), the captain could distill in it something resembling the bell-like tones of the Queen.
The novice Sabé pulled her eyes away from the holograph, and made her voice steady to say, in the composed way that was the only proper way of the Sisters, "Captain, I accept your offer. I will go with you to serve the Queen Amidala for as long as she maintains her Majority."
And to the Sister, whose face was a strange mix of disappointment and expectation, she said, "I will return after I have served the Queen, Sister Mabela," and then, "this must be one of those fate things they talk about. Better to go along than avoid it, wouldn't you say?"
For that she received only a repressive look, for Sister Mabela was one who believed very much in a Universal Design, while Novice Sabé had been (when she still possessed her voice) one of its most vocal skeptics. Nonetheless, with a good dash of her long-acquired patience and practiced calm Sister Mabela came before Sabé and placed her thin, papery hands upon Sabé's temples, and leaned up to press a dry kiss on her forehead.
"I do not know such things, Novice," she said, "but we shall keep you in our prayers for as long as you are gone."
"I shall return, Sister."
"May it be so," the older woman smiled.
"Peace be with you, then," Sabé said, with a bow.
"And with you."
Thus Sabé would go, for the first time in her life, into the service of another.
The captain was pressed for time, and waited outside while Sabé collected her things. Her belongings all fit in an old canvas satchel from the Orphanage. Sisters Thessa and Kalare came in person for goodbyes. A quiet word, a smile, the offering of a pressed flower and a book. Their very practice was silence, and simplicity, thus at the end she had few things to take up the mantle of a thousand memories. It was a blessing, therefore, that the nature of her mind was not like most minds of young people, that only register the fire and flash. Indeed, she could hear something – if only faintly – of the deep pulsing of the human heart beneath them. This memory of the two quiet, grey-eyed women, would sustain her in years to come, in future joys and hardships.
But for the moment, on the steps of the abbey two figures stood poised in the stillness before a great journey. The once-novice had shed her habit and donned a plain dress of green cotton. The hot air of summer stirred the stubbles of her shorn head, and she looked about her at this end of her internment, and then glanced to the tall dark man sweating heavily in his leathers beside her.
He put out a hand to help her into the side seat of the landspeeder, and they began their crossing under the blue and golden skies of perfect summer.