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The Exile's Order: The Phantom Menace

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     When she finally found them, they were speaking to a Gungan, of all things.

     "Excuse me," the creature started once more as she fell into step beside the two Jedi, "but the safest place would be Gunga City. It's where I grew up," he explained, "it's a hidden city." Master Jinn halted at his words, turning to face the native as he glanced at his Padawan.

     "A city," he questioned, and the native nodded. "Can you take us there?" The other man gave them a wide smile, his agreement obvious, then paused. She watched as the creature's face fell, a mournful look replacing his former brightness.

     "Um," the native muttered, hesitant. He lowered his eyes, clearly uncomfortable. "On second thought... no. Not really, no."

     "No," the Jedi questioned, clearly waiting for the taller being to explain itself.

     "It's... it's embarrassing," the native spoke once more, his words slow as he glanced between the three of them. "I, um, I was banished. I forgot. The bosses would do terrible things to me, terrible things to me if I went back." As if on cue, rumbling sounded distantly, and Master Jinn gave its direction a thoughtful look.

     "You hear that," he questioned, gesturing in its direction with a meaningful glance at his Padawan.

     "Yeah," the Gungan responded, still hesitant.

     "That is the sound of a thousand terrible things heading this way," Master Jinn replied, stepping closer as his voice took on a dangerously smooth quality.

     "If they find us," his Padawan continued, keeping pace with his Master as they crowded the creature back, "they will crush us, grind us into tiny pieces and blast us into oblivion." How, she wondered as the creature took a shaky breath, could the Jedi make their own deaths somehow sound so damn threatening?

     "Oh," the native whispered, fear shining brightly in his eyes. "I... I see your point. This way," he declared, pointing to his left, "hurry!" Amara obeyed. Not ten paces in, however, the creature spoke again, his eyes sliding from the Jedi to rest on her.

     "So," and she nearly winced at the way the Gungan strung the word out, "who're you? Are you a Jedi too?" What? He didn't, he didn't know? The crest of the Exile's Order sat clearly upon her left shoulder, had he somehow missed it?

     "I'm Amara Varr," the woman replied, leaving the side of the Jedi to walk beside him. "I'm not a Jedi- I'm a member of the Exile's Order."

     "Exile's Order," he repeated, sounding interested, "what's that?" She looked him in the eye, baffled when she saw no signs of deception or ill intended amusement. He really didn't know?

     "It's..." How could she explain her Order's history in such short time, and in an active battlefield, no less? "How about this- if we see each other again after the Trade Federation has been dealt with, I'll explain everything. Deal?" The native nodded enthusiastically, his elongated ears flapping with the movement. It occurred to her, in that moment, that she still didn't know his name. "And who are you," she asked the Gungan as his yellow eyes met hers once more.

     "Jar Jar Binks," he answered, giving her an easy grin.

     "Then I greet you, Jar Jar Binks, in the name of the Dantooine Enclave. May you find victory in war, and prosperity in peace." Amara extended her left hand, giving the tall being a hopeful smile. He had been... nice, so far. And with no prior knowledge of the Exile's Order, he appeared to be completely nonjudgmental towards it and her. Neutral, she thought, and neutral would always be better than hostile. Yellow eyes flickered from her hand to her face, and he returned her smile, taking her hand in his own.

 

     If not for the threat of the Trade Federation's invasion force, Amara would have thought the fog covered lake a beautiful sight. Her boots squelched in the mud, and she fiddled nervously with her blaster as the native halted beside the water's edge.

     "How much further," Master Jinn asked, and the Gungan turned to them at his question.

     "We're going underwater, ok?" He answered, gesturing to the lake's still surface. "I'm warning you, though, Gungans don't like outsiders, so don't expect a warm welcome." The native turned from them, stretching his arms and legs as he eyed the water.

     "Oh, don't worry," Padawan Kenobi muttered. "This hasn't been our day for warm welcomes." Amara fought back a snort at the understatement, trying to focus on anything but the water before them. As much as she hated it, the woman had to admit that she had become a liability. As she was now, swimming would be near impossible, and without a breathing device? No, it would be suicide to even try. When they reached the edge of the lake, Jar Jar plodding without pause into the shallows, Amara caught the Jedi Master's arm. He turned at her touch, quirking an eyebrow as he looked up from her hand.

     "Master Jinn," she muttered, keeping her voice low as his Padawan started after the Gungan. "I'm in no condition to swim, and I don't have a breathing device. You need to go on without me, I'll-"

     "Amara," Jar Jar called out, and she started in surprise. He had heard her? "Don't worry- I can swim for you, we Gungans are fast! You just need to hold your breath!" His offer was an unexpected one, and she looked to the Jedi Master. Chancellor Valorum had been clear that all authority rested with the man before her, if he told her to accept the offer, she would have to obey. As if hearing her thought process, Master Jinn turned from her, wordlessly wading out into the lake to join his Padawan. So, the decision would be hers and hers alone then. Did she dare trust the native? If Amara did as he asked, she would be at his mercy the moment they left the surface. The thought of it made her skin crawl, but she looked once more at his guileless face. He hadn't displayed any disapproval towards her, hadn't shown that he favored the Jedi over her...

     "Ok," she whispered to herself, wincing as Jar Jar grinned at her agreement. She would have to remember that he could hear far better than any human could. "I'll do it," she continued, speaking louder for the sake of the Jedi. Master Jinn gave her a single nod of understanding, fitting his breathing device in as the Jedi turned from them. As the two men dove smoothly below the surface, Jar Jar reached for her, and she took his hand.