Disclaimer: It's George's sandbox, I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Title: It's the Little Things that are Worth Saving
Characters: Padmé Naberrie
Summary: The "Padmé chose another profession" challenge – Padmé as a Smuggler
It's the Little Things that are Worth Saving
"Are you sure you understand?"
"Clearly, Senator." The cool, polished voice that came back across the Senator's communications link was confident. "This isn't going to come cheap."
"I'm willing to pay whatever you charge. Time is of the essence."
"Understood. I'll meet you at the rendezvous point. I suggest you come well endowed."
The transmission cut out and the Senator slumped back in their chair. It was done. Now, all they could do was wait, watch and hope.
"You are sure my frequent comings and goings today aren't going to be a problem?"
The customs guard posted at the docking bay near the Republic's Senate building shook his head at the concerned young woman before him. She was dressed conservatively, her voluminous skirts held in place by what appeared to be a Rancor-boned panier and hoop ensemble - one that looked heavy, but the guard knew to be very expensive. "For a lady of your station, it won't be a problem miss..?"
"Naberrie. Padmé Naberrie." She extended her hand with a smile. "Now, I've a note from my doctor so that you don't have a problem with my bio signature so I don't have to be searched upon my return. Will that suffice?"
The guard took the note, checking it over and then motioned to a female officer off to the side. "The note will suffice for me, but before we allow you into the city, are you willing to submit to a search?"
"Of course." She followed the female guard to a nearby station and watched as the various instruments for detection were waved over her body and gown. It took only moments and the female guard confirmed the Doctor's note with a nod. There was more than one life form; and the lady was being discreet about her pregnancy.
The male guard offered Padmé a charming smile. "We understand your taking supplies to various worlds that have been affected by the separatist movement."
"A mission of compassion. My own world of Naboo is so lucky to have a protector like the Chancellor. It is the least I can do." She stepped back to him and slid a credit chip across the counter. "For your trouble. I know my comings and goings are going to indispose you today, I just want you to know how much I appreciate your help."
The guard pocketed the chip, getting her message clearly. "Glad to be of service my lady."
She moved swiftly beyond him, her dress dragging heavily around her feet, hitting the ground with every step she took. Her pace was purposeful, steady, but graceful as she headed for the senate hall. Once out of sight of the docking bay, she hailed a speeder, slipping down into the seat with a sigh of relief. She was going to be expending a lot of energy today; she had best conserve it wherever possible.
Padmé's coming and goings through the spaceport security became routine through the day. She was back almost hourly to check on the loading and off loading that was happening with her ship, Blue Skies. She checked the placement of the cargo, ensuring it was being loaded accordingly, checked the schedule in her quarters and then departed again to continue her errands.
The guards, by the time shift changed, had recorded her coming and going over ten times. So much that they'd passed her information along to the next shift. She was stopped only once, to confirm her identity, and then allowed through without problems. Finally, as the sun began to set, the orbital mirrors moving the rays away from the planet, she returned one last time.
Her hair was sticking to the back of her neck, perspiration dotting her brow as she trudged heavily through the last gate at customs.
"Miss Naberrie, are you alright?"
She pulled a handkerchief from a space between her breasts and blotted her face and chest, offering the concerned young guard a smile. "It's been a long day, I'm afraid. Is my cargo loaded?"
"They're just loading the last of it now. Your ship sure holds a lot more than we'd thought she would."
She dabbed at her neck, her steps slow, but continuous, as she moved abreast the guard. "It's all in the packing, young man. Any cargo captain knows that their ship can carry more. That's why I've been in and out so frequently today - to ensure its being done proper."
"It must have played hell with your schedule."
She shrugged. "I just think about all those poor people I'll be giving these supplies to and I know a sacrifice like this is worth it. Thankfully, my tasks in the city are completed and I'm looking forward to trading my city clothes for something more casual."
"They're beautiful, but look awfully heavy, Miss Naberrie."
She smiled charmingly. "A precaution for one in my delicate condition. I can't have everyone speculating about my lack of husband, now can I?"
The guard flushed, turning his gaze away. "Clear skies, Miss Naberrie."
She pressed a credit chip into his hand and waited until he looked her in the eyes again. She carefully folded his hand around it. "I can't thank you and your people enough for all their help today. A little something to share around. You'll find me generous."
He opened his mouth to protest, but she placed one finger against it. "If you don't tell, I won't tell, and you can keep it all for yourself." She winked at him and then straightened her skirts about her feet and continued walking towards her ship.
The guard's gaze dropped to the credit chip in hand as Padmé walked with laborious steps up the ramp and disappeared from sight. She stopped at the top, hitting the retract button on the ramp, ensuring it was closed all the way before expelling a breath. She slipped a vibro knife from her sleeve and reached behind her, slicing the laces that held the heavy contraption about her waist.
It fell to the floor in circles, followed by muffled giggles and cry of pain. She stepped out of the fabric, and crouched beside it, clearing it away from the large lumps in it. Two small heads popped out, both sporting buzz cuts, both with small braids hanging down over their shoulders. A third head popped up, green skinned with opaque eyes set wide apart in an elongated face that ended in a snout. Their eyes were guarded, cautious as they looked about.
She motioned for silence with her finger.
They nodded, crawling out of the large pile of fabric and following her through the narrow corridor. She paused by a bulkhead, and then hit a concealed switch. The floor plates pulled back to reveal a large compartment that was almost full of other children dressed in similar style, with hair done in the same cut, save for the aliens. She motioned the three in and then hit the switch again, closing the compartment.
Padmé headed for the cockpit where her co-pilot, Typho, was already confirming their clearance codes and had the ship prepped for launch.
"Tower, this is Blue Skies. Our cargo is loaded, our hatch sealed, request final clearance for takeoff."
The comm. crackled and a bored voice came back. "Blue Skies, this is tower. Clearance is granted. The airspace is yours."
Padmé buckled herself into the pilot's chair as Typho acknowledged the call and brought the ship's engines to full power. Padmé slid her headset over her ears and took control of the ship, pushing the switches to half throttle and blasting them off the landing pad.
They cleared the busy space port without incident, making it into the Coruscant skies without challenge as Typho inputted the coordinates for their rendezvous. Once they were clear, the ship hurtled into hyperspace.
Padmé sat back, expelling a breath and rotating her shoulders as the ship entered hyperspace. "Any problems?"
"I think that's my line for you." Typho told her amused, slanting a look at her. "You look exhausted."
She slid her hands down to the small of her back, rubbing the muscles to release the tension. "Can you blame me? I've been ferrying children to my ship for the last ten or eleven hours. I didn't realize there were so many. They get awful heavy after a while."
"You didn't you the stims?"
She smiled wryly. "Not initially. I told you I could handle it. Besides, our Senator will be paying a pretty penny to see that these little darlings at the rendezvous."
"He'd better." Typho turned back to the ship's read outs, checking their power levels. "Getting those droids to malfunction wasn't easy with their security. I had to waste one of those ready-made slicing kits you obtained."
"Then we'll include it in the price." She dismissed the comment with a shrug. "I want a shower, a stiff drink and a change of clothing before we do anything else."
Typho waved her away. "I'll call you if anything happens, Captain. You might want to let the kids out of those compartments too."
"One thing at a time, Typho, one thing at a time." She pushed out of the chair and headed for her quarters. She was going to shower and change first; then she'd see about those kids. They were fine where they were, safer in the hidden compartments than anywhere else; she simply didn't want to deal with them anymore.
Their rendezvous point was a Corellian corvette named Tantive IV. Padmé let Typho deal with their pre docking procedures as she did a head count. They'd managed to get the youngest out of the temple three or four at a time. All in all she had thirty five children on board her ship. They were well behaved, withdrawn, and sat huddled in small groups in the various common areas of her ship as Typho handled the docking procedures.
Padmé turned away, hitting the secure transmission switch and bringing up the face of her Senatorial contact.
"I have your goods, Senator Organa."
"Excellent. How many were you able to get?"
She swore she saw his eyes widen in surprise. "I've been informed you're docking shortly."
"In the process now. Do you have my fee?"
"Never fear, my dear, you will be well paid. Name your price."
"Fifteen thousand a head. Plus expenses. Round it up to an even six hundred thousand, Senator, and they're yours."
She saw his throat work convulsively, and his reluctant nod. "You drive a hard bargain, Captain Naberrie. We'll see you when you land. Organa out."
Padmé flipped off the comm. transmission and turned back to find Typho maneuvering the ship into the docking port. She grabbed the stabilizing thrusters as the ship listed a little, and fire a brief burst, pushing the ship gently up against the magnetic port. Typho engaged the seal. "Docked and ready for transfer, Captain."
"Try not to crash the ship next time, mister." Her tone was dry. "Stay here and monitor the situation. I've a contact on board that ship I'm to meet to get our fee."
Padmé waiting by the ship's hatch as the sound of her ship's pressure equalizing with the Tantive IV's and opened her mouth to prevent her ears from popping. A tall, stately looking man walked through the hatch, a cape billowing out behind him. He swept into a courtly bow. "Captain Naberrie, I presume?"
"Senator Organa." She smiled, extending her hand and shaking his firmly when he responded in kind. "The pleasure is all mine. Would you like to see the children before we begin moving them to your ship?"
"I trust you my dear; you've been marvelous in acquiring the strange and unique items we've been requesting. I must ask. However did you manage to get so many of them out?"
Her eyes sparkled with dark humor. "Trade secret."
Organa looked taken aback for a brief moment before inclining his head. "I understand. I've a Jedi here who wished to meet you, to say thank you for all your hard work in helping secure the longevity of the order."
"I'm being well paid, Senator, the thanks is unnecessary."
Organa waved it away. "The Jedi has agreed to pay half your fee. Surely you don't do business with someone you haven't met face to face. Is that not what you told me?"
She nodded, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "If this is a double cross, Organa..."
Organa laughed. "Call me Bail, my dear. I foresee a long and fruitful working relationship so long as my coffers remain full. Come, come. One doesn't keep a member of the council waiting."
She followed him, but only after making a show of strapping her blasters on her hips, making sure they were within easy reach. She hadn't dealt much with Jedi beyond her occasional job for them through Bail, but she'd heard enough about them to be cautious.
Bail led the way through the corridors of the Tantive IV towards the briefing room. "If your co-pilot is willing Captain, perhaps we can begin transferring the children to our ship? I have a staff standing by ready to assist him."
Padmé inclined her head, tilting her head to the side. "Did you copy that, Typho?"
"Loud and clear Captain. The hatch way is open, awaiting the Senator's people."
She arched her eyebrows at Bail, daring him to comment. He simply smiled magnanimously. "Resourceful as ever." He stopped near one of the closed doors and palmed it open.
The Jedi waiting for them was tall, his hair falling in a wavy length about his shoulders, standing with his back to them in a careful stance as he stared out the view port. "Thank you for bringing her, Senator."
"My pleasure, Master Jedi. If you'll excuse me, I need to see to the transfer." He pressed a chip into Padmé's hand and departed, leaving her alone with the Jedi.
The Jedi didn't turn, made no move to look at her. He simply stood quietly, calmly, his hands folded behind his back, his feet shoulder width apart, his presence filling the room so that it appeared smaller than it was. She tapped her toe impatiently, waiting for him to turn as the seconds turned into minutes.
Finally, Padmé crossed her arms over her chest as she stared hard at the back of the man's head. "I don't trust a man who won't look me in the eye; and that includes Jedi."
His soft chuckle was the last thing she was expecting. "Always straight to the point, Captain Naberrie. Senator Organa recommends your services most highly."
"The Senator and I have a long standing agreement. I refuse to talk to the back of your head, Jedi. Either you turn, or I walk out of here and talk half those children with me."
He finally turned. His face was handsome and far younger than she'd expected. He was younger than she was. His eyes were ice blue, calm, balanced, and met hers with an almost wry humor in them. "Master Skywalker, Captain Naberrie. I worked hard to ear that title."
"Fine then, Master Skywalker. You want to tell me why I'm whisking Jedi Padawans out of the Temple with the utmost secrecy?"
He flinched. "It is a... delicate matter. You see, another Jedi, one of my former Masters, has gone to the darkside. I had a vision about him. In it, he returned to the temple and slaughtered everyone; the younglings included."
She took a step back, shocked without intending to be.
Anakin continued. "I felt it prudent to employ the help of Senator Organa in having you retrieve the youngest and most defenseless of the younglings."
"What about everyone else at the temple?"
Anakin returned his gaze to the viewport. "They're all dead by now. Palpatine was a Sith Lord, but he was defeated in anger by Jedi Master Mace Windu. Mace has fallen prey to the very darkness that he sought to destroy. He is consumed by it, driven. The attack began shortly after you entered hyperspace." He turned his gaze back to her. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda are the only other fully trained Jedi left. These younglings will help us rebuild the order. We're in your debt, Captain."
He pulled a credit chip from one pocket of his robes, shifting them enough for her to glimpse a bandage wrapped around his ribs, and offered the chip to her. She shook her head. "I can't accept that from you."
"You said yourself that you expected to be well paid."
Padmé shrugged. "Bail will pay me; he always does. Keep it, Master Jedi, you'll need it to rebuild your lost order; or hide until it's safe for Jedi once again."
She stepped towards him, took the chip, slapped it into his other palm and shook his hand, fighting the feeling that she'd stepped too close to a live wire at the touch. She pushed it away as she dropped his hand. "I've made a bargain, Master Jedi. I believe the supplies on my ship are also for you. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ensure my first mate, Typho, hasn't killed anyone yet."
"You're not pregnant."
She paused on the threshold. "Pardon?"
He smiled faintly. "I have… contacts on the surface who monitored your progress through the day. They saw you enter and speak with the guards. How did you dupe the bio scans?"
She smirked. "Let's just say I have my ways. Trade secrets, Skywalker. You have yours, I have mine. Bail knows how to get in touch with me if you need me again."
She departed the room, her feet moving almost reluctantly as she turned her attention to the credit chip Bail had pressed into her palm. She checked it in her datapad, pushing away the image of Skywalker's clear blue eyes, and nodded in satisfaction.
One million credits. Cost of services, fees and delivery. She snapped it off, picking up her heels as she strode purposefully back towards her ship.
Her relationship with Bail Organa was always a profitable one. Her thought traveled back to the young man in Master's robes sitting in Bail's conference room.
Very profitable indeed.