The senate was silent enough to hear the buzz of the pods. The senators, their assistants, the Chancellor, they all had their eyes closed. All that is, save for a beautiful senator from Naboo. Padme Amidala hated to shut her eyes. Too many close calls, too many betrayals, and too much war had left her uneasy. At least, that was what she told herself while she studied the faces of the others.
They were faces she knew almost as well as her own. Over the past thirteen years she had learned to read them, to anticipate how they would vote and how she could sway them. Now they were blank as if attempting some semblance of sadness, but falling into boredom instead. It was not real for them. The Battle of Naboo had happened long ago, before the Clone Wars. It was far away from the current troubles of their constituents. Padme envied them and it burned dully in her like the ember of a fire that refused to die.
She had won the battle but at a cost. Not only so many of the royal guards and even the common people and her own dear Handmaids but also the Jedi who protected her were killed by something she could not explain. This moment of silence was for them, there were funerals and memorials every year. Senator Amidala could not keep her mind from the boy that only she and a slave woman knew to morn. No older than ten, he had been cold his first time in space. She shivered, cold thinking about it, even if she could not now remember his name.
Padme whispered a voice in her ear and she turned to see nothing. Always nothing. No matter how many times she turned, or switched on the light, or checked behind the curtains to find nothing there, the voice persisted as it had for nearly three years.
“Wow, quiet in here,” said a young and vibrant voice. “I thought there would be more shouting.”
A ripple of sound traveled through the chamber as the senators opened their eyes.
“Made for a great entrance though,” the voice laughed.
Padme leaned over the edge to get a better look.
A young Togruta female sat on the Chancellor’s chair. She was wrapped in smart black robes and smiling. She looked like an ordinary teenage girl, save for the decapitated politicians on either side of her. Two red lightsabers glowed in either hand, illuminating her face. Somehow the light did not reach her orange eyes.
The girl quickly learned what the counsel usually sounded like. The room was flooded with confused and fearful shouts. Padme sat back in her seat, something seemed to overtake her, an inevitability. It would always come to this, and yet the wrongness of the scene was so clear. This girl should not be here. This should not be happening. They were safe and well-guarded. Deep down, in her soul, Padme had not felt safe for years. So, while the others shouted for guards and assistance, she stayed silent.
“Senator,” she barely heard her attendant say. “We have to get you out of here.”
She was aware enough that it was strange to have the attendant take her hand, but the sound of blaster fire pushed it from her mind. The Tagruta girl started to laugh, deflecting every shot. Padme barely saw the figure of her handmaid fall behind her.
“We should help them,” she said.
“I have my orders, your majesty,” the attendant explained, tightening his grip on her arm.
“Padme!” someone shouted. “Get away from her!”
Padme turned to see Rush Clovis racing down the hall toward her, blaster at the ready. His dark hair was abnormally out of place and his clothes were ripped and wrinkled. There was a stain on the shoulder, red, but darkening by the moment.
Without a word, the attendant stopped and turned. His grip of Padme did not change, but from this new angle she could see the attendant had his black hood pulled fully over his face. The jaw beneath was hard and suddenly highlights in a red glow. His lips pulled into a cold sneer.
The blast from Clovis’ weapon hung in the air a breath from the stranger’s face. Nothing could keep it hung there except power, sheer, and terrifying power. The hand around her arm tightened as if it knew she was beginning to feel afraid.
“Please,” Clovis begged. “I’m sorr—”
His own blast shot him in the chest.
The man beside Padme lowered his other hand and smirked.
Padme looked at the smoking body of her old friend and the world around her snapped into place. Screams carried from every corner of the senate building. It smelled of burning meat and she was suddenly back in the palace of Naboo, fighting impossible odds. As if called from the reaches of her memory, the Tagruta appeared again. Instinctively, she reached for the delicate charm hanging around her neck as the floor of the senate hall seemed to fall away.
The last thing she felt was the arms of the stranger beside her wrapping around her to catch her fall.