Summary: During an investigation of two missing Jedi, Padme discovers a Dark secret.
Warnings: Adult sexual situations, some scary Dark stuff
lodestar: (lohd-stahr) noun – something that serves as a guide
"Padawan, there is Darkness here."
"I feel it too, Master."
"Be on your guard. I have a bad feeling about this."
The dull red Republic cruiser named the Radiant VIII rumbled its way through Bothan Space, her passengers traveling relatively comfortably, although one had begun to wonder.
Galactic Senator Padme Amidala pondered the choice of the vessel's namesake. It was old, rusted, smelled of mildew, and its red paint was anything but radiant.
As the bulky vehicle shimmied yet again, Padme expelled a sigh. She missed her Royal Cruiser with its luxurious white leather seats and steady thrusters. And the entire time she drove it, it always had that new cruiser smell. However, when she resigned the throne of Naboo to her successor, she had given up her ship along with the position.
Not even the thought of having to travel aboard a flying 'fresher was going to dampen her spirits, however. Not today! She had just completed her annual open forum in Naboo's capitol city of Theed. Visiting her home planet and its people always improved her mood.
The pilot of the Radiant apparently noticed the smile that had crept over the young woman's face. "It's good to go back home, isn't it?" Ric Olie asked with a grin of his own.
Padme glanced over to the older man, recalling the warm embraces from her family and friends whom she loved so much and saw so little of. "You have no idea how much I needed that visit," she replied. "Coruscant may be my home now, but Naboo…" Once again memories of laughter and the comfort familiar surroundings warmed Padme's heart.
"I understand," her faithful escort replied.
Padme grinned yet again. If anyone understood how she felt, it was Ric. The man had served as her personal pilot ever since her reign on Naboo, and that was seven years ago.
Seven years. It doesn't feel that way to Padme, but neither does she feel twenty-one. "Not the years is it, but the mileage," Master Yoda had quipped to her once, and now Padme understood exactly what he meant. She was tired. Maybe it was time to take a holiday – relax on the shores of Lake Naboo for a week, or more.
Lost in thought, Padme failed to hear the com chirp, and missed the beginning of her pilot's conversation. However, having heard the name "Master Kenobi," her attention was brought into focus.
"Thanks for the information, Miss Dorme," Ric was saying. "I'll be sure to inform the Senator. Olie out."
Padme expectantly, if not a bit impatiently waited on her pilot's explanation. For some reason, the happiness, which had filled her just moments before was being eclipsed by a dark cloud of worry.
She had a bad feeling about this.
"Apparently," Ric began, not nearly as speedily as Padme had hoped for, "Master Kenobi and his apprentice have disappeared."
"What do you mean 'disappeared?" Padme interrupted, anxiety coloring her words and furrowing her brows.
"The information provided by Dorme claims they were investigating a disturbance on Vergesso…"
"That was over a month ago," the Senator murmured aloud to herself, recalling the conversation she had had with Obi-Wan before he and Anakin had left.
The mission involved investigating a classified situation on a planet, which resembled more of a moon or asteroid. It's topography consisted of nickel-iron rock formations and very little else. Years ago, a shipyard had existed there, but now the only thing which survives is a small number of native beings – the Barri. Hunchback, scaly lifeforms, their acidic saliva dissolves the rock – the only staple of their diet.
They are a solitary sentient race, choosing to exist in the dark caverns and caves of Vergesso. They have no economy, no judicial system, and no space travel capability, which made it difficult to understand what type of "disturbance" they could possibly have.
According to Obi-Wan, the asteroid-like planet was considered one of the sources for the Darkness, which was slowly spreading throughout the Galaxy: the Darkness, which the Jedi had become aware of during the Naboo Occupation.
"I have never experienced so much hatred before," he had told her concerning the Sith who had killed his Master. "The evil emanating from that thing was…stifling. It literally took my breath away."
It was one of the few discussions she and Obi-Wan had had about the death of Qui-Gon Jinn. A few times, in the early years of their friendship, Obi-Wan would come by for a visit, but he would not speak. He would simply sit on her couch, hold onto her hand and weep.
Over time, Obi-Wan had become busy training Anakin, and his visits had lessened, but their friendship had continued to grow. And now the worry in her heart was growing.
"Where exactly are we?" Padme asked, already making plans.
Ric consulted the nav system. "Just inside the Expansion Region, a couple of parsecs from Triffis."
A slight pause was all that was needed. Padme had made up her mind. "Turn around." It wasn't a request. The order was announced with as much authority as she could muster, and Ric did as he was told, although not quietly.
"Mi-Lady, may I remind you we are returning from a diplomatic mission and are currently without security escort?"
"We're so close Ric, and if I can help Master Kenobi, then I must."
The pilot's eyebrows asked the question of, "How?" but wisely, he remained silent on the subject, his attention returning to the ship's controls, as the Radiant VIII rumbled on.