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The Exile's Order: The Phantom Menace

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     The city awed her. Amara had seen old pictures of the Gungan cities in the Third's archives, but to actually see it up close in person... Jar Jar slowed as they reached what she could only assume was the entrance to the city, strong arms shifting her from his back to his side. A single, powerful stroke forwards, and she shivered at the strangeness of passing through whatever material formed the wall they had breached. Her feet once again on solid ground, she took a timid breath- and very nearly gasped in relief. Jar Jar had not lied when he had declared himself a quick swimmer, but she could still remember the last few feet. The desperate need to breathe, the tightening of her lungs. Yes, Amara very much liked being able to breathe again. The Gungan moved forward to give the Jedi room, and a sudden tug made her stumble to his side. Amara realized, belatedly, that she still held Jar Jar's hand. The Gungan had taken hers to pull her through the door, and he had yet to release his hold. She opened her hand, fingers going wide in an attempt to let him know she was fine now, but the Gungan's grip stayed firm. He gave her a cheerful smile, his free hand gesturing up at the domes above them. Her gaze followed the movement, and she once more felt awe at the distant lights above them. It was like a midnight sky, she mused, yet under the sea.

     "It's so good to be home," Jar Jar declared, giving the three of them a wide grin. Gasps made Amara drop her gaze from the lights above, and she finally looked to the citizens before them. They retreated in the face of Jar Jar's leisurely advance, and she blinked in bafflement at their obvious fear. What were they afraid of? The Jedi? Jar Jar had recognized Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi as Jedi, surely the Gungans knew they would mean no threat. Movement caught her eye, and she looked to the strange creature that approached them, a Gungan sitting on its back.

     "Hey, you," the Gungan guard, she guessed at the sight of his armor, spoke. "Stop there!"

     "Hello, Captain Tarpals," Jar Jar greeted the man, giving her hand a little swing as they looked up at the Gungan. "I'm back!" He gave an enthusiastic wave, his grin widening.

     "Not again, Jar Jar," the other Gungan spoke, his voice shading into wariness. "You're going to the bosses. You're in big trouble this time!" Jar Jar made a small, wounded sound at the man's words, his ears drooping as he glanced mournfully at her. For a moment, Amara panicked. She had been taught how to lead, how to obey orders, how to fight- she had never been given any lessons on how to comfort another! Hesitantly, she gave his hand a squeeze, feeling the scales along his palm in a move she hoped would reassure him. The Gugan visibly perked up at her touch, giving a squeeze back as he cast her a nervous smile. It would have to do for now, she decided, as weapon heads swung menacingly towards them. To these so called bosses, they would go.

 

     She remained at the Gungan's side, her hand in his, as she watched the two Jedi before them. It had been a hard choice, to let them advance alone, but she was well aware that she would have little to contribute. She acted with only the authority of the Order, and such an authority could mean nothing here, in a place where no eyes looked at her Order's crest with recognition. Better to let the Jedi speak, for they carried far more authority than her.

     "You can't be here," the king of the Gungans spoke, his voice heavy with disapproval. "This army of Mackineeks up there is a new reason." Well, she thought pessimistically, negotiations had certainly gotten off to a hopeful start. Perhaps no one would attempt to kill them this time, one could always hope.

     "A droid army is about to attack the Naboo," Master Jinn explained, resting his hands on his hips as he looked to the king. "We must warn them."

     "We don't like the Naboo," the Gugan king retorted sharply. "The Naboo think they're so smart," he continued, voice filling with anger, "they think their brains are so big."

     "Once these droids take control of the surface, they will take control of you," Padawan Kenobi cut in, stepping forwards as he spoke.

     "I don't think so," the king replied, giving a dismissive wave of his hand at the thought. "They don't know of us." The Padawan glanced at his Master for support before he spoke once more, conviction filling his voice as he looked to the king.

     "You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other," he tried to persuade the Gungan royalty. "You must understand this."

     "We don't care about the Naboo," the king refuted him once more, shaking his head vehemently in disagreement. From behind, Amara saw the Padawan's shoulders drop. She felt sympathy for the man- the skill of persuasion was a hard one to master. Still, he had given his best, she hoped he knew there was no shame in failing.

     "Then speed us on our way," Master Jinn spoke, his voice edged with impatient sharpness.

     "We'll speed you way," the king agreed, giving the two Jedi an understanding nod.

     "We could," and she frowned at the tone that entered the Jedi's voice, "use a transport." And there, she caught the ending arch of his gesture. Force Persuasion, she thought with a chill, re-examining the king in an attempt to discover if he truly knew what was being used on him.

     "We'll give you a bongo," the Gungan royalty agreed again, and she felt a flash of relief as none of his advisors reacted with recognition. It appeared, for now, that they knew naught what the Jedi was doing. "The fastest way to the Naboo," he continued, "is going through the planet core." And wow. That tone of voice, that knowing grin- if the king thought he was being even slightly subtle about the danger he was happily sending them to, he was greatly mistaken. "Now," scaled fingers waved once more dismissively, "go."

     "Thank you for your help," Master Jinn spoke, both Jedi bowing simultaneously, "we leave in peace." They turned, retreating from the perched throne. The sudden clench of Jar Jar's hand made her look to the man in confusion, wondering why he seemed so upset.

     "They're setting you up," he spoke in rushed tone, leaning towards the Jedi as they neared. "Going through the planet core? It's dangerous." Master Jinn gave a nod at his warning, and Amara loosened her hand once more, turning to follow the Jedi- Only to once again be pulled back to the Gungan's side as he kept his grasp firm, the man looking from her to the Jedi. "Any help would be hot," he muttered to the man, desperation tinging his words. Master Jinn's gaze turned considering, and he placated his Padawan's objection with the truthful claim that they would need a navigator. His mind clearly decided on the matter, the Jedi strode once more to the center of the room.

     "What is to become of Jar Jar Binks here," he asked.

     "He'll be punished soon," the king replied, and she frowned at the unpleasant smile that curled across his face.

     "I saved his life," Master Jinn objected, "he owes me what you call a 'life-debt'. Your gods demand that his life belongs to me now." She flinched as he yet again gave a subtle wave of his hand, wishing dearly that the Jedi would stop using the Force to persuade the king to his side. The Gungans knew of the Jedi, that much was clear, how many more times could he use it before they finally caught on?

     "Binks," the royal Gungan slowly spoke, turning his gaze to Gungan beside her. "You have a lifeplay with this man?" At his words, Jar Jar gave a cautious nod, his gaze flinting uncertainly between the two. The king made a strange sound at the confirmation, loathing clear is his eyes. "Begone with him," he commanded, angered at being cheated out of whatever foul plans he had made. She followed beside the Gungan as they started after the Jedi, glad that he had been spared.

 

     The Gugan ship was a marvel of technology, even if it was a tight fit. Its movements were smooth and graceful, and she turned to watch the receding glow of the city's lights as they descended.

     "This is nothing," Jar Jar confidently reassured her, and she jumped as he then plastered his face against the side of their transport, his voice going childlike as he pointed at a passing fish. "Gobberfish," he declared with excitement, using what she could only assume was the native term for the species.

     "Why were you banished, Jar Jar," Padawan Kenobi asked.

     "It's a long tale," the Gungan replied, "but, um, a small part of it would be that I'm... clumsy." What? She turned fully at his odd words, wondering how clumsiness could have possibly caused him to be banished. Padawan Kenobi agreed.

     "You were banished because you were clumsy," he questioned, his disbelief clear.

     "Uh, you might be saying that," Jar Jar hedged, yellow eyes shifting between the three of them. At their expectant looks, he faced away from them, looking to depths of the sea. "I caused maybe one... two little accidents, yeah? You'd say, I might have hit something, and that something might have crashed on the boss's house, then I was banished." Crashed onto the house? What could the Gungan have possibly done to result in such an accident? Still, the man clearly did not wish to discuss it, so she turned to once again watch the sea around them. Amara had never been under the sea before, the Head Teacher of the Path of the Third would mob her for details. She smiled at the thought, settling back in silence as they moved ever forwards.

     "Where are we going," Jar Jar asked, pulling Amara from her thoughts. The water around them had darkened considerably, and she wondered just how far they had descended since the Gungan's story.

     "Don't worry," Master Jinn reassured the native, "the Force will guide us." Reminded once more that she traveled in the presence of two who devoutly believed in it, Amara turned once more to look beyond the their ship. Ignoring the Gungan's reply, she focused of the fish that leisurely passed by. Without the Force, freedom. A scaled hand brushed her fingers, and she looked to Jar Jar in confusion.

     "Are you cold," he asked her, and she hid a wince of discomfort as the Jedi glanced at her.

     "Yes," Amara lied, giving him a strained smile, "I'm just cold." She sat in silence for the rest of the trip, breathing a small sigh of relief when Master Jinn ordered the ship to ascend.