Whenever I was on Coruscant, I tried my best to stay out of the Senate building. Before Padme, I'd never cared much for politics or politicians. As a result, I had never had the opportunity to listen as she addressed a crowd; not since back on Naboo when she had literally begged the Gungans for help in overcoming the Trade Federation's attack.
That was over ten years ago, but I remember thinking how intelligent she was, and how carefully she chose her words.
The Jedi High Council was not Gungan royalty, but Padme spoke to them with just as much concern for the plight of the Gildans as she had for her own people.
"Under Count Dooku's tyrannical rule, the Gildans have truly suffered. A race once nearly wiped out of existence through Republic neglect is barely managing to scratch out even the most menial living. Because of Dooku, they have been forced to continue dangerous mining practices with no safety standards of any kind. They are in a constant state of exposure to toxic substances, which have not only diminished their value of life, but their actual life expectancy!"
"What would you have the Jedi do?" Master Mundi asked, his question directed at Padme.
"I am requesting an immediate investigative team be sent to Tosuna, including an economic recovery team, and that a Galactic Mining Corporation representative be commissioned. "
"Why the economic team?" The question came from Master Billaba, on our left, and Padme rotated to make eye contact with the Jedi.
"I would prefer the younger generation not be subjected to such a harsh working environment."
"And the older generation?" Master Billaba asked.
"I'm afraid it's too late for them. Their skin is infected with the stygium dust. They will have to continue to live out their lives below ground."
"But without the mines, how will the Gildans thrive? It's been my understanding, they've have always been miners."
"That's where the economic development team can help – by retraining them to run the Tosuna Resort and Spa," Padme answered Master Gallia.
"But I thought Dooku had provided an entire population of Falleen to run the place," Master Windu pointed out a component of Padme's earlier narrative summary.
"It's always been my belief, Falleen are not too keen on working in a position of service. It's simply not in their genetics." I provided the answer to Master Windu's question, stepping forward to speak. "I do not foresee a problem in asking them to vacate the premises. Without Dooku's coercion and mind control, they will be more than willing to go."
"So, Dooku has vacated Tosuna?" Master Gallia asked.
"From the information we've gathered," I replied, "he has apparently left the system entirely. There's been no trace of him in the Corporate Sector."
Up until this point, Master Yoda had been silent, but when he brought forward his gimerstick to take the floor, all eyes turned toward him.
"Listen I have, and agree I do. A job well done, Senator Amidala. Sent out at once, a Jedi team will be. "
"I volunteer," I spoke out, proud Padme didn't flinch when I said the words. We hadn't discussed it beforehand. I had assumed she would be supportive, and was hoping I was correct in that assumption. "I volunteer my Padawan and myself to go to Tosuna and begin the process of the Gildan recovery."
"No," Master Windu immediately denied. "You have done enough, Master Kenobi. You need to stay on-planet and allow your body time to recuperate. Your fracture hasn't even completely healed yet."
"Agree, I do." Master Yoda picked up his walking stick and shook it in my direction. "A holiday required it is, one week's time. Go now."
"And may the Force be with you." Mace Windu announced the traditional closing for a council meeting, following which, I escorted Padme, her handmaiden, and my Padawan from the room.
"A week off?" Anakin immediately repeated, sounding amazed. "I haven't even done anything to deserve a week off."
"A week off will give you time to catch up with your studies," I answered, momentarily forgetting about Dorme's presence. I hoped I hadn't embarrassed the young man.
The outspoken handmaiden, however, was quick to remind me she was now an official part of our group.
"Studies! Forget about that! We should all go somewhere together! I hear there's a new adventure park opening up on Rathis IV. We could stay a few days, maybe do some skiing or perhaps some…"
It had taken Dorme a few seconds to notice we had all stopped walking and were staring at her.
"No!" Padme informed her assistant, taking the word from my mouth.
"It was just an idea." Dorme's pout was exchanged for a smile when Anakin reached out and took her hand.
"Come with me," he suggested. "We'll figure out something to do."
The two women exchanged a strange wide-eyed glance and smile, which I couldn't interpret before my Padawan whisked Dorme away, leaving Padme and I alone in the hallway.
I slipped my good arm around her waist as we strolled slowly together in no particular direction.
"Is there something you'd like to do, MiLady?" I asked light-heartedly.
She didn't answer right away, but eventually stopped walking, tiptoed up and whispered a rather provocative suggestion into my ear, which rushed blood straight to my face as well as…other areas.
Once recovered, we continued our stroll while I promised to do my best to accommodate her.
Author's Note: Thus ends my longest and most eventful fic I've ever written! And I enjoyed every single syllable! (ok, some more than others!) Many thanks to reviewers who kept me going. I need to move on to Dark Temple now, but already have another story brewing in my head! (Will it ever end?) ;) Be seeing you all!